Here’s the thing about Yuuri Katsuki: everyone underestimates him.
It’s not really their fault, and in his healthier moments he’s able to acknowledge that it isn’t his fault either; it’s just how anxiety warps the world around him, like a miniature black hole or the world’s shittiest invisibility cloak. It coats him in a shimmering mirage of shyness and insecurity, and more often than not it’s basically impossible to remove.
It’s not a problem with him, not at his core. He’s just driving a damaged model, and he’s always painfully aware that the whole world can see every dent and scratch and crust of dirt. But there is a part of Yuuri that isn’t shy or introverted or self-loathing, but is instead all the things which make him awesome—a ball of flirtatiousness and confidence which takes pleasure in realizing his own potential. Being underestimated means you get to surprise people, given the chance, but doing so with all the anxiety is something of an uphill battle. The lump of flesh called Yuuri Katsuki—the one with the blue-rimmed glasses and the propensity for chubbiness around the middle and the infuriating ability to cry at the drop of a pin—is saddled with over two decades of emotional baggage. It’s hard to shine your brightest when you’re dragging all of that around.
So the masquerade is kind of a no-brainer.
Phichit, ever the social butterfly, is the one who invites him. The party is thrown by a complete stranger and details spread by word of mouth; this fact would normally mean a hard pass from Yuuri, but the idea intrigues him. It's not a fundraiser or a networking event or a banquet; there’s no need for him to go and be himself. It's a lavish party thrown for its own sake, promising food and drink and entertainment and dancing, with one strict rule: masks are required.
Yuuri doesn't own a mask, nor does he own any clothing fancy enough to wear to such an event. He buys a ticket anyway.
The anxiety spikes, abates, and ebbs. He lets it come and go like a tide, getting lost in his work and very nearly forgetting that he and Phichit went for tuxedo rentals until the day before, when his roommate drags him to go pick up their suits .
At the tuxedo rental place, Yuuri lets the clerk fuss over him as much as she wants; it’s not until he steps out of the change room and catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror that the wave of possibilities hits him. Because holy cats.
It’s not that he doesn’t know he’s attractive; Yuuri’s a perfectly decent-looking person, if a little on the plain side, and he ordered a plain tuxedo, but somehow the two plains are adding up to make a brand new and extraordinarily spiffy whole. He can hardly believe it.
The clerk cracks up when she sees his face. “First tailored suit, huh?”
“ How could you tell?” Yuuri can barely drag his eyes away from the mirror.
She leans over to adjust his bow tie. “You look like you’re at your first prom, my lad.”
That yanks Yuuri out of his reverie, and he blushes furiously as Phichit emerges from his own dressing room, clad in a red-trimmed jacket that accents the warm tones of his skin. Yuuri lets the two of them chatter, musing and sneaking glances at himself in the mirror when he thinks no one is looking. His mood remains stoic all the way to the costume shop, at which point the sheer onslaught of sparkle and colour causes him to lose track of why he’s feeling so pensive. For the first few minutes he’s completely overwhelmed by the choices on display.
“ What kind of mask are you going to wear, Yuuri?” Phichit asks, his voice muffled, and Yuuri looks over to see his friend glancing out from underneath a comically bizarre demonic visage. He cracks a smile.
“ I’m not sure,” he says, letting his eyes wander over row after row of sightless eyes. “I’ll know it when I s—”
There . That one. Yuuri stands on tiptoe to gently lift the mask from its peg, and he knows it’s just his imagination but he swears that a tiny spark of electricity jolts through his fingertips as soon as he touches it.
In contrast with the outrageous amount of jewel tones and gold trim which surround it, this mask seems offensively plain at first. But as Yuuri looks closer, he sees that the piece is actually divided cleanly down the middle, and purposefully asymmetrical: one is an inky blue-back, plain except for three bands of silver that slash across the top corner of the mask, almost like the mark of a knife. The other side is even more stunning; the eye hole sweeps to a slight upward point at the outer corner, and the colour is more charcoal, studded all over with tiny black and silver jewels that resemble the night sky. The colour slowly blends into dark red at the very bottom corner, so subtly that it’s hard to notice except from the right angle.
With only the barest pause, he lifts the piece to his face and turns to look in the mirror.
This is the one.