Chapter 1: Of Dahlias and Deadlines
Chapter by ingthing, ingthing_YOI (ingthing)
Victor Nikiforov, renowned wedding planner, is a dead man.
"What do you mean, the delivery date has been pushed back a week?" Victor doesn't need an apology, he needs these flowers now for Khloe and Brad's wedding. The sales rep on the other end isn't helpful at all. "We paid a premium to have the dahlias in by tomorrow. Fresh flowers won't last a week in whatever warehouse you have them in."
It takes some more exasperated back-and-forth and the naming of an astronomical (and utterly ridiculous, even for fresh flowers) expedited shipping cost before Victor bites that he'll be expecting a refund, and pushes the button on his earpiece to end the call.
Khloe will not be happy about this new development.
He's called up every big name floristry from Avenue A to 11th, and none of them, none of them, stock Camano Pet dahlias. The sun's already gone down when Mila kicks Victor out of the office for moping around too much.
"You're killing everyone's productivity, Victor." She'd complained, pushing him out with his briefcase in hand. "Go home and rest, and we'll have it sorted by the morning."
Rest? At home? Victor scoffs. He absolutely will not rest. Not until he secures those flowers.
Okay, maybe he's a little fatigued. He barely makes it off the train on the right stop because he's too wrapped up in his thoughts. But Victor's weddings are nothing but perfect. His clients demand it; Victor himself demands it. Some missing flowers aren't going to ruin this wedding.
(Except they will, because he's chosen the entire color scheme around those dahlias.)
He's trudging to his apartment, feet dragging on the pavement against the chilly wind, when his eyes catch on a store window and his breath catches.
Haloed by overhead sun lamps stands a lush display of yellow dahlias, tinged with orange striations at the edges, glowing like miniature suns: the very flowers that Khloe had demanded at their first meeting.
He opens the door with a violent chime of the doorbell, and rushes in as if his life depends on it. Narrowly missing a brush of long fronds in his eyes, Victor ducks, and lets his sight adjust to the light.
He doesn't remember this florist being in his neighborhood, but it's quaint, if not a little crowded. Wooden stands holding vases upon vases of flowers line the sides of the shop (Victor estimates at least 60% of the floor space here is occupied by flowers) and the long wooden counter at the back holds an antiquated cash register to the right, where the counter is aligned against the wall.
"Hello," Victor calls, making his way deeper through the jungle of flowers flanking him. "Hello, anyone here?"
"Yes, sorry," a muffled voice replies, from under the counter. A mess of black hair pops out from under the surface, and the shopkeeper sits up, adjusting his blue glasses frames. "How may I help you?"
Victor's back is turned to him, staring at the dahlias like they'll disappear if he takes his eyes off them. "The Camano Pet dahlias. How big of an order can you take of them?"
"When for?" The shopkeeper replies. There's the sound of a pen being put to paper, and Victor turns to face him, smile at a million watts.
"Tomorrow, preferably before noon." Victor grins, as though he's not dropping a humongous short notice order. "We'll be needing, oh, a hundred or so small table displays, and four large bouquets for displaying at the altar. Not to mention a bridal bouquet and corsages and boutonnieres."
The poor shopkeeper's jaw drops as Victor points out what he wants from pictures on his phone. "That's a lot. I'll have to see if our other orders are filled out yet."
Victor makes notice of the name badge on his apron before putting on his best smile. "You see, the flowers we initially ordered can't be here till next week, so I was really stressing. What a stroke of luck that you happen to have them, Yuuri!"
Surprisingly, Yuuri doesn't respond to Victor's cooing, instead clicking away on an old laptop that he'd pulled out from under the counter. He's quiet and concentrated, and Victor raises an eyebrow at the silence. Strange. He'd normally be signing off on the receipt by now; Victor's very generous with his smile.
"Okay, yes." Yuuri smiles adorably, and he closes the laptop with a click. "You're in luck; we don't have any orders going out tomorrow morning, but there'll still be a hefty late notice fee. We usually take advance orders of around two weeks, but this is an exception."
"Anything to satisfy my clients." Victor nods, pulling out his credit card. "I'll invoice them later."
Victor rests his elbows on the high counter as Yuuri rings his card up, and Victor can't seem to tear his eyes away. He wouldn't brag of being a casanova, but Victor could usually use his looks to wrap others around his finger. Natural charisma is a gift in his line of work, but it's like Yuuri is impervious to his.
He signs the receipt as soon as it's placed in his hands, and he requests a second for his clients. The weight of the flower issue sags from his shoulders, and Victor messages his office work chat with the good news.
"So, Yuuri," Victor asks, turning his phone off and sliding it into his coat pocket, "will you be making the delivery personally?"
"Yes, unless Mari would rather. She helps out, too." Yuuri slides a stack of notepaper to Victor, noting that he needs a contact number and the address for delivery, and Victor writes them in easily, along with his own name in a flourish at the top.
"Then I suppose I'll be seeing you tomorrow," Victor winks, putting his card back in his wallet. "Thank you."
"Y-yeah, no problem." Yuuri nods, and Victor thinks he sees the faintest hint of pink dusting his cheeks.
Victor walks briskly back home, warm on the inside from more than just solving the dahlia dilemma.
Yuuri pulls his battered Katsuki Flowers van up to the foot of a big, grand, white cathedral the next day and gawks.
This wedding venue had to cost a lot— and he'd thought that the fee for last minute flower delivery was expensive. He had the right place, right? Unfolding the memo from the previous day from his pocket, Yuuri dials Victor's number and waits.
A few moments later, Victor picks up. "Hello?"
"Hi, this is Yuuri from Katsuki Flowers. I've arrived at the venue with your order, but I might need some help getting it up all these steps."
"Got it, I'll come down with help in a moment."
No sooner than Yuuri had ended the call did Victor, followed by a few others, burst from the open doors of the cathedral and rush down the steps.
"Oh, thank god you're here. Khloe's been on my case all morning." Victor sighs, and Yuuri can't help but gulp at the sight of him. He's dressed in a really nice suit and looks flawless despite all the running around he must be doing in preparation for the wedding. He was really kind of disheveled last night, so it's a drastic change when his hair is lightly gelled and he smells like nice cologne. "Mila, Georgi, Yuri, let's take the flowers inside."
They all end up making two trips while Victor flits around inside, fussing over minute details.
As soon as Yuuri sets the last of the bouquets down in the entryway at the center of the cathedral, he looks up, and his breath stops.
It's light and airy, with the dappled light from stained glass windows staining the ivory chiffon draped columns vibrant hues. The pews are lined with green vines and satin, and there's a long carpet rolled out down the center to the altar. But it's the lively flowers Victor had ordered from him that make the venue whole, bringing freshness and vitality to the space.
Victor disappears for a moment to a side room, and comes back, looking much more relaxed.
"I told Khloe the flowers are here, and she's ecstatic." He says, sidling up to Yuuri where he stands in awe of the cathedral.
"I can see why," Yuuri gapes, trying to tear his gaze away from the room. "This is... Something else."
"A happy bride makes for a good wedding." Victor laughs. "And you helped make this happen on such late notice. Thank you, again."
Yuuri simply nods, and offers the clipboard that'd been sandwiched under his arm to Victor. "I, um, need you to sign below." Victor does, easily, and smiles, genuinely this time. Yuuri has to look away to avoid blushing again, and he takes the clipboard from Victor.
"Tha-Thanks for your business, again."
"I look forward to working more with you," Victor shakes Yuuri's extended hand, and nods, turning back to his preparations.
Yuuri makes the rest of the day's orders with his chest thumping wildly every time he thinks of the handsome wedding planner he'd met by chance.
It's not until a week later that Yuuri's mother shrieks happily, gripping the latest issue of some wedding magazine in her hands.
"Yuuri, Mari!" She calls, ushering her children in to look at the page she's opened the magazine to. "W-We were given a feature in this magazine!"
Yuuri scoffs, rubbing his eyes blearily (he liked to sleep in on his days off.) A wedding? That couldn't be. They hadn't taken orders for a wedding since...
Since that wedding a week ago.
Yuuri's awake instantly, and he focuses his gaze to see a stunning full page photograph of the cathedral he'd delivered to. The flip side shows a picture of the happy newlyweds— Khloe and whatshisname, Yuuri couldn't remember, but apparently they're a big deal, if they're getting an entire spread in the magazine.
His eyes fall on the subtitle to the article.
Sweethearts Khloe and Brad had their wedding organized by wedding planner legend Victor Nikiforov, through his company Weddings by Victor. Stunning flowers provided by Katsuki Flowers.
"Yuuri, you didn't say anything about this! This is huge!" Mari gapes, straightening enthusiastically. "The Victor Nikiforov ordered flowers from us! The guy is a legend in the wedding world."
"I, uh, I didn't know he was such a big shot." Yuuri murmurs, just as Mari hooks him in for a bone crushing hug.
"Well, he is." Mari assures, putting her hands on her hips. "No wonder we've been getting so many emails about weddings today! This is why."
Yuuri's already dreading all the complications that come with catering to weddings when his phone beeps, and he sees a text from Victor's number, of all things.
Victor: Did you see weddings weekly today? I made sure they featured your floristry, too
Honestly, Yuuri just wants to drop back into bed at the mere thought of the influx of orders they'll be getting. Instead, he sighs and smiles, tapping back a reply.
Yuuri: The venue looked amazing, thanks for the feature
Victor: No, it's thanks to you
Victor: The flowers made it!
Victor: I'll be dropping by later to discuss my next project
Yuuri sends a simple "ok" before wandering back into his room, dropping his phone on his pillow and lying next to it in shock.
It'd been a hurried delivery, and Yuuri could still feel the butterflies in his stomach from when he'd fretted, but his heart beats in anticipation of the possibilities working together could bring.
He sits back up, slaps himself awake with two firm hits of his cheeks, and slips on his apron.
There's new work to be done.
Chapter 2: A Welcome Visitor
Chapter by ingthing, ingthing_YOI (ingthing)
Victor's in a good mood this morning. Today, there's a wedding, and another wedding means another flower delivery from his favorite florist.
Victor on the job!
It's yet another glorious weekday in Manhattan. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and sewer gas isn't wafting up in thick clouds from nearby manholes, for once.
Actually, Victor doesn't know any of that, because he's very occupied with being in love.
He beeps his keycard and enters the Weddings by V offices, wearing too big a grin for nine in the morning.
"Good morning, everybody!" He sing-songs, almost prancing into the room.
Mila, Georgi and Yuri look up from their desks, wearing mixed expressions.
"Good morning, Victor," Mila replies, smiling. Good old Mila. Victor could always count on her to be enthusiastic in the morning. "You're in a great mood today."
"Never been better." Victor grins, briskly walking over to his own work area and hanging his bag on the bag hook under his desk. His dove gray suit jacket and pink scarf follow, hanging crisply on the back of his ergonomic office chair. "We have a wedding today, don't we?"
Mila nods, glancing at her computer screen. "Jamie and Derek's, at the pier. We should be leaving for that in half an hour."
Victor hums in acknowledgement, and sits himself down, scrolling through his instagram notifications. He's been taking lots of flower photos recently. There's nothing wrong with that; he just happened to frequent the florist.
The very same florist who would be delivering twelve tiger lily arrangements and matching boutonnieres to the pier later that day.
Yuri's disgusted scoff tells Victor that a sappy smile is plastered across his face.
"You can't even try to hide it?" The teenager mutters, loud enough for Victor to hear from his makeshift workspace at the office dining table. "We get it, you've got a crush."
"Oh, Yura." Victor tuts, looking up from his phone for a moment. "Someday, you might understand. Love works in mysterious ways."
The clunk of Victor's coffee mug on his tabletop directs his attention to Georgi, who's standing next to his desk holding his own cup, looking petulant. "Yes, Yuri. Very mysterious ways." He turns to go back to his own desk, but not before taking a desperate-looking glug of his own drink.
"Georgi, what did I tell you about being so moody in the morning? You can't arrive at a wedding looking so morose."
"Can't you tell?" Yuri interrupts, bringing his hands up in frustration. "He's still brooding over Anya."
"Don't say that name," Mila hisses, too late. Georgi drops his forehead to the nearest surface with a loud thunk, groaning incoherently.
Mila sighs, getting up to push Georgi's mug inward so it's not threatening to fall off his desk.
Victor offers her a thankful smile before starting his desktop up to look through his inbox. Yet again, it's overflowing, but he answers most of the emails dutifully, if only so he doesn't have to later. His schedule is booked up till October; he's surprised there are still clients willing to wait.
The clock strikes ten, and he's up and out of his seat.
"It's 10, everyone. Let's go!" Victor grabs his bag and jacket, putting his computer to sleep and walking up to the door. He waits, almost vibrating with excitement as the others grab their belongings. They call a car from Mila's phone, and they're well on their way to the pier for the morning's preparations.
They're stuck in a terrible traffic jam when Victor's phone buzzes with an incoming call.
He picks it up without much thought, anxious enough from the traffic.
"Hello, Victor speaking."
"Victor? Hi, it's Yuuri. From Katsuki Flowers?"
"Oh, Yuuri," Victor smiles, turning his head to peer out the window. "Sorry, I know we must be late for the delivery. Can you hold on a while longer?"
"It's no problem," Yuuri's voice sounds tinny through the receiver, "but I think the, er, your clients are really nervous."
Victor frowns, and relays the information quietly to the rest of his company. They'd sent messages to all the clients' contacts, but it would be tough to calm them down. A look at his watch reveals that they're almost half an hour late, and he sighs.
"Sorry, yes. Derek said he was the nervous type." Victor apologizes. Mila is asking the driver if there's any way they could take a shortcut, to which the driver grunts a no, and Victor bites his lip. It wouldn't do to have the grooms so anxious. An idea strikes him, and he sits straighter.
"Victor?" Yuuri asks, after a moment of thoughtful silence.
"Yuuri, could you show them the flowers?" Victor brings a knuckle up to his lips, resting his thumb on his chin. "They might just relax if they're distracted. They had expressed some concerns about the flowers, and I told them they'd be beautiful, but seeing is believing."
Victor can almost hear the other man nod, and he smiles when Yuuri replies that he'll try doing that.
"Thanks so much, Yuuri. You're a lifesaver." Victor purrs, and touches his phone screen to end the call. He feels much lighter and he exhales, sinking back into the seat with a sigh. Mila turns to Victor from the front of the car, putting a hand on the shoulder of her seat.
"Is that the guy you've been crushing on?"
"What makes you think that?"
"For one thing," Yuri cuts in, arms still crossed sourly, "you said his name three whole times in a call that lasted under five minutes."
"Oh?" Victor blinks.
"It is pretty clear," Mila admits. "You only use that tone of voice when you really like whoever's on the other side of the phone. Or when you're dealing with a difficult client." She adds, nodding.
Victor chuckles helplessly. "What can I say? I'm very open about my feelings."
Yuri grumbles a sarcastic "tell me about it" as Mila grins and turns back to the front of the car. It starts to move again, and they all sigh in relief, save Georgi, who's staring out the window in a world of his own.
They'll arrive at the pier soon, and Victor smiles confidently. His faith might be misplaced, but he has total trust in Yuuri.
Victor knows Jamie and Derek will love the damn flowers.
Rushing into the pier building just ten minutes shy of eleven, Victor puts on his best smile as he approaches the couple, who are standing by the unmistakeable Katsuki Flowers crates sitting next to the wall.
Yuuri, standing next to them, perks up when he sees Victor coming, and he waves quietly.
"I'm terribly sorry about the delay, gentlemen." Victor sighs, coming to a stop in front of Jamie and Derek. He looks as perfect and poised as ever, in direct contrast to Yuuri's faded old apron and mussed hair. Yuuri can't help but feel a little self conscious, but he keeps a straight back since he's in front of customers.
"That's okay, Vic." One of the men smiles, turning enthusiastically from the crate holding a pair of lapel flowers. Yuuri has gathered that this is Derek, from their earlier conversation and Victor's note. The poor man had been near tears at the wedding planners' delay, and Yuuri felt a little sympathetic for him.
"These tiger lilies look amazing, though!" Jamie gushes, holding one of the pins up to his chest. "Can't wait to see them all set up."
"I'm so glad you think so," Victor replies, grinning blindingly and winking at Yuuri, who averts his eyes bashfully. "I've received notice that all the necessary deliveries have been made, so all that's left to do is put everything in its place. We factor some extra time into the scheduling just in case, so it'll be smooth sailing from here."
Mila comes over to tap the couple on the shoulder and bring them to their dressing rooms, and they follow after her, nodding at Victor and thanking Yuuri for the flowers.
Once they're gone, Victor peers into the crates, grinning when he sees the bright orange blooms.
"They do look spectacular," he praises. "Just the way I imagined." Yuuri nods in agreement.
"Well, you drew up the designs for these arrangements. I can't take total credit with my gardening magic." He quips, taking two bouquets in his hands and placing them on the closest two wicker stands alongside the rows of audience seats. Victor watches him, uncharacteristically quiet. It's a little unnerving, if Yuuri's honest, and he jumps when he turns and Victor's there, facing him.
"Hey, Yuuri," His grin softens, eyes narrowing with the more genuine smile. "Thanks for taking care of Jamie and Derek earlier."
"It's no problem," Yuuri shrugs. "I had time between deliveries." The later delivery had just conveniently been delayed, since their customer called and said they wouldn't be home till later.
"Still, you didn't have to do that." Victor shakes his head. "I really appreciate it; thank you."
It's such a sincere thank you that Yuuri doesn't really know how to react beyond nodding and humming a reply. Victor's gaze is always piercing, but the warmth in his teal eyes makes Yuuri want to melt into the ground.
"I should really get to making this wedding flawless," Victor breaks their silence, tilting his head, "but I'll bring coffee to the shop later. Cappuccino with one shot ristretto, right?"
"Yeah." Yuuri blinks. "Thanks."
Victor raises a hand in farewell and smiles before running off to do his job, leaving Yuuri with his empty crates. He loads them easily onto his van, Victor's young intern (Yuri, he thinks his name was,) coming over to help him. He's a helpful, if not a little moody.
Through the rest of the day, and the sputtering of the old van's engine, Yuuri smiles at the thought of Victor's promise of coffee.
It was shocking enough that Victor had remembered his order, but when the man is so clearly busy, it makes Yuuri feel all the more special.
He isn't the hopeful type, but this time, Yuuri hopes Victor stays and talks a while.
Chapter 3: Of Dahlias and Deadlines
Victor's become a regular visitor to the Katsukis' Flower Shop, and Yuuri is curious.
I just... really love this AU, okay?
Victor begins to stop by whenever he passes the Katsukis' flower shop at a decent hour.
Yuuri has trouble adapting to it at first. Beyond the aging clientele to the store and occasional passerby, business was quiet until Victor came along and (figuratively) broke down the door. Yuuri couldn't complain: the new customers help, and the whirlwind of events had pulled Katsuki Flowers up by the bootstraps.
The shop is always filled with all kinds of fresh flowers, vibrant and earthy in the way only fresh flowers can smell, but Yuuri has come to prefer it when Victor's musky cologne joins the mix. He's more than self aware enough to notice that he perks up when the door jingles and Victor walks in with an exuberant greeting, and he's pulled up a tall stool at the front of the counter; it's for customers, he says, but his sister keeps giving him a knowing look. Yuuri doesn't need another reminder that "for customers" means "for Victor" in his mind.
Yuuri can't help but feel a little selfish.
But the quiet moments are quieter, now. Hours drag by when he doesn't have good company in the shop. Not to say that Mari or his mother or father aren't perfectly good conversation partners, but, well. They certainly aren't Victor.
"This must be some kind of plan of his," Yuuri mutters, pushing a rose into the vase sitting on the counter.
"Some kind of plan of whose?" Mari pokes her head in from the side room, making Yuuri yelp and nearly drop a flower.
"Don't do that!" He sighs, glaring at his sister where she leans on the doorframe.
"Do you mean Mr. Wedding Planner? He's been visiting often."
"Mari, I swear to god, if you don't shut up about him—"
Mari laughs and throws her hands up in the air in feigned innocence. "All I'm saying is that you seem like you have fun when he's around."
"Fun?" Yuuri frowns, pausing as he positions another rose above the vase.
"Yeah, you take longer with arrangements when you're chatting, but you were always too hasty with them anyway. I like your recent ones better."
Yuuri glances down at the simple yellow roses in the square vase on the counter. They're accompanied by sprigs of tiny green buds and delicate white flowers, and Yuuri has to admit he's progressed since he first began making bouquets.
"O-oh. Thanks." He mumbles in reply.
Mari disappears into the back room again with a nod of her head, and Yuuri is left in the shop, working slowly on the single vase with soft music playing from the old speakers sitting on a back shelf.
Alright, Yuuri muses, so he enjoys himself when Victor comes around. But he must have better things to do than run over to the local florist after work for a chat. Really, a man of his fame and success should be living it up on champagne with friends or watching movies on a flat-screen TV or going to dinners parties every night. Was it a discount that Victor wanted? Fat chance. Yuuri wouldn't give it to him— flowers are hard work. Did Victor want to become a regular? He might as well be, with how often he's been stopping by.
The doorbell jingles, and Yuuri looks up to see Victor entering the store with his usual grin on his face.
"Hi, Yuuri!" He sing-songs, making his way past the flower displays to the counter where Yuuri is seated. "Oh," He pauses, motioning at the bouquet in Yuuri's lap, "Doesn't that vase look a little overstuffed?"
A quick glance downward proves that Victor is correct, and Yuuri curses under his breath as he pulls a rose out and feels a twinge of pain in his finger.
"Shit," He hisses, pulling his hand out and letting the offending rose fall to the counter. "Guess I missed a thorn. Should've worn gloves." Yuuri rises from the counter and turns to the sink behind it, running cold water over the prick and making sure to soap his hands up well.
"Yuuri, did you hurt yourself?" Victor presses, eyebrows furrowing in concern. He leans over the counter in an effort to see over Yuuri's shoulder. "Let me see."
"It's nothing serious," Yuuri sighs, drying his hands with a few paper towels and checking to see that there's no broken skin. "I got my tetanus booster last year, so I won't need to get it checked out."
"That's a relief," Victor smiles softly, but his eyes sharpen when his gaze lands on Yuuri's injury. Hoisting his leather tote into his lap, he rummages through and takes two band-aids out, letting his bag sit on the floor as he motions for Yuuri to come closer. "Let me help you put this on."
"We have a first aid kit back here, it's alright." Yuuri protests, shaking his head.
"Please? I distracted you; I feel responsible for this."
Yuuri looks at Victor with a little hesitation. The other man's already unwrapped a bandage, holding it out and ready.
Yuuri sighs in defeat and holds out his hand. There's no sense in wasting a perfectly good bandage.
Victor takes his hand and instantly, Yuuri is struck by how warm and rough Victor's palm is. He would have expected it to be smoother, with how polished the man's appearance is. With Victor's head ducked in concentration at wrapping the band-aid precisely around Yuuri's finger, he gets a hit of Victor's shampoo— it's different from his cologne, smelling faintly of bergamot, but Yuuri holds his breath. It'd be weird if Victor noticed him sniffing his hair.
"And, done." Victor looks up, pleased by the clean bandaging job he's done.
"Thanks," Yuuri nods, willing the light blush on his cheeks away. He takes his hand out of Victor's palm and rests it in his lap, feeling a little awkward. Casting out for a topic of conversation, he thinks back to how quickly Victor had whipped those bandages out. "Do you always have band-aids on you?"
"Well, you never know when a client's stilettos will chafe too far," Victor murmurs, clearly remembering past incidents of similar nature. "You know what I always say: A happy bride makes for a good wedding, whether it's the day-of or not. And apparently," He adds, a smile spreading across his face, "they're good for helping clumsy florists, too."
Yuuri has no response to that but to drop the thorned rose into the compost bin and feel the burn of his blush up to his ears. Victor grins, and rests his jaw on one propped up hand.
He simply watches as Yuuri places the yellow rose arrangement in the shop window and settles back behind the counter, taking a long sip from his water bottle.
There's still Yuuri's earlier thoughts nagging at the back of his mind, though, and he blurts his question out before he can stop himself.
"Victor, why do you come here so much?"
Victor's grin drops, expression slackening in surprise. "Oh, am I distracting you? I'm sorry-"
"No, I mean, don't you have other things to do?" Yuuri elaborates, scratching his cheek absentmindedly. "Not that I don't like having you here, but you must have, I don't know. A social life beyond this shop."
"I guess there are other things I could be doing," Victor exhales, propping both elbows up on the counter and bending so his cheeks rest in both hands. He tilts his head with a wistful smile, bright blue eyes piercing Yuuri's gaze. "But I'd much rather sit here and chat with you."
Yuuri gawks, clearly unprepared for Victor's honesty.
"I love being surrounded by all these flowers, too," Victor continues. "It's nice, after being stuck in an office all day. The cathedral from the other day isn't my workplace, though I wish it was. And here, I get to know this neighborhood better. I'm never really around, so coming here gives me incentive to come home and rest every night." Victor nods, as though his words are decisive. "So don't worry about my social life, because I'm perfectly happy visiting you after work."
Yuuri nods. That's more than enough of an answer. He busies himself by looking through the cash register, pretending to take down the day's earnings. Is it wrong to be so happy about Victor actually wanting to spend time at the shop? A grumble of his stomach betrays his silence, and Yuuri's eyes widen, surprised. "Sorry, I must be hungrier than I thought."
"No, I... Think that that was me," Victor chuckles, holding his own stomach embarrassedly. "I haven't eaten since breakfast, now that I think about it."
Victor looks like a bashful kid, glancing away and clutching his belly, and Yuuri can't help but snort at the sight.
"Okay, come on." He laughs, looking at the clock and seeing that it's closing time. "If you wait a little, I'll close up and we can grab something for dinner." Victor perks up at the notion, and Yuuri tilts his head. "You said you're not familiar with your own neighborhood, so why don't I show you my regular place? Chen's should still be open, and it's just Chinese takeout, but..."
"No, I'd love to." Victor interjects, quickly pulling his tote onto his shoulder.
Yuuri nods, and he closes up quickly, saving floor-sweeping to tomorrow's Yuuri.
Chen's isn't an eat-in place, and after some confusing back and forth, they decide to stand outside the restaurant and eat. There's an early spring chill to the air, but they stay warm with greasy fried noodles and pleasant conversation anyway.
It's the most fun Victor's had outside of work in ages, and he can only hope that Yuuri feels the same way.
Victor unlocks the door to his apartment, closes and bolts the door, and wanders inside, flopping onto the sofa with a huge grin.
For once, he's excited at the prospect of enduring the cheap takeout induced indigestion, if only because it means he gets to remember the dinner he got to share with Yuuri.
He pops a few antacids after showering and before diving into bed, dreaming of roses and the warm weight of Yuuri's hand in his own.
Chapter 4: What's Love, Anyway?
Chapter by ingthing, ingthing_YOI (ingthing)
Yuuri knows his life has changed since Victor entered it three weeks ago. His family knows it, his roommate knows it.
It's just Yuuri's own doubts that are weighing on his chest.
This is a longer one!
After writing about Victor on the job, I wanted to write more about Yuuri!
It's been three weeks since Victor Nikiforov barreled into Yuuri's life.
He came in one day with an outrageous order, asking that it be delivered in under twenty-four hours, and Yuuri had delivered.
It had been a rough week for their business, so Yuuri knew they needed the job. It had taken an all-nighter and the collaboration of his entire family to complete. They even pulled the Nishigoris in from next door; Yuuri is glad that their neighbors (and long-time family friends) are so good-willed. They completed the order, had Yuuri rush it down to the cathedral, and could breathe easier that night, looking at their account books for the week.
The following week, the magazine article applauding their arrangements for Khloe and Brad's wedding was published, and Victor began dropping by with more orders, now thankfully with reasonable time frames.
Two weeks ago, Yuuri would never have expected the frequent afternoon visits in which Victor, attractive heart-shaped grin adorning his clean-shaven face, would breeze past the door of his family's flower shop and perch on the stool at the counter like it's meant for him.
(It is, but Victor doesn't need to know that.)
Victor doesn't stop by every day and it only makes the quiet moments, like today, quieter.
Yuuri slouches, no customers there to see it at the odd post-lunch break hour, and he rests his cheeks in his hands with both elbows propped up. He's already gone over their inventory twice, and his parents and Mari are in the back or the rooftop garden preparing the next day's orders. There's nothing for him to do but scroll through his barren facebook feed and sigh.
His phone buzzes on the counter, yet another notification from his roommate popping up. Yuuri considers Phichit one of his closest friends, but even Yuuri draws the line at "liking" every social media post he makes. He's pretty sure that's an inhuman feat, Phichit posts so often.
Yuuri opens the post anyway. The dog videos Phichit uploads are always a welcome saving grace from slow work days.
Yuuri's loud exhale when he enters his and Phichit's apartment overpowers the noisy slam of the door, and Phichit looks up from the sofa with a curious blink.
"Hey Yuuri," He calls around a bite of food, crumbs falling from the corners of his mouth. "Rough day?"
Yuuri shakes his head, kicking off his shoes and shedding his hoodie. "Nah, it was just long. Had another taste test at work?" Somewhere in their year and a half sharing an apartment, Phichit had fallen into the habit of eating whatever culinary travesty he'd happened upon at work leisurely on the sofa in the evening. Whatever Phichit's "pop culture and lifestyle journalism" job entails, Yuuri doesn't really want to know after being subjected to the odd food combinations it produces, but he's glad his friend seems to enjoy work.
At the question, Phichit lifts a flimsy donut box from the coffee table. "They always have extra! Dunno why. Today was fusion donut day."
Donuts do sound good to Yuuri right now, and he peers into the box with some interest. He's met with the sight of several questionably decorated donuts.
"Is that thinly sliced beef and cilantro on top of that one?" He frowns, confused.
"Oh, that's a phonut."
"A phonut. You know, like pho? But as a donut!" Phichit explains, as though the combination of noodle soup and a donut makes perfect sense. "There's like, jellied pho broth and chopped up rice noodles inside it. Wanna try?"
Yuuri doesn't, so he shakes his head with a weak smile, looking up from the donut box and feeling his hunger dissipate. "I'll stick to yesterday's pizza, thanks."
He really should eat, so he goes over to the fridge, plonks a slice of the leftover pie onto a clean plate, and sinks into the seat next to Phichit on the sofa. Yuuri's always preferred cold pizza, so it's no surprise to Phichit when his roommate takes a sizeable bite. A few moments of quiet chewing and observation later, Phichit swallows loudly and sits up.
"Ahh, I can't take the suspense any more!" He whines, tossing the remnants of his donut back into the box melodramatically and turning right to Yuuri. "Nothing happened with that guy you've been talking about from work? You have to keep me updated, it's in our roommate agreement!"
It really isn't, but Yuuri lets his plate rest on his lap and he drags a hand down his face, ready to make a fool of himself yet again. "I told you, he doesn't come in every day. And besides, he's just a regular customer."
"You wouldn't be gushing over him if he were just any regular customer," Phichit notes, waggling his eyebrows.
"So I said his eyes are nice once. Lots of people have nice eyes."
"Yeah, but not that you usually notice." Narrowing his eyes, Phichit points out. "If I notice someone has nice eyes, you're usually all 'oh, I guess' and go back to your phone and look at more poodle pictures or whatever." He moves his hands around, voice mimicking Yuuri's speech pattern. "And he comes by so often. You really don't think there's anything more here?"
"Well, sometimes, he comes by with coffee, but—"
"He buys you coffee?" Whistling, Phichit leans back, propping an elbow up on the arm of their sofa and resting his head on one hand with an incredulous look. "Yuuri, I'm sorry, but... There's a limit to how dense you can be."
"— he's a wedding planner. Our jobs kind of go hand in hand, so it makes sense he's around so much." Yuuri finishes, with a shrug. "Besides, I'm sure he just wants to make sure we have a good business relationship. It's not unusual to bring people coffee if you want to be better friends with them."
"Yeah, but it sounds like he wants to start another kind of 'relationship.' He doesn't bring coffee for anyone else, right? There's four of you back there." Phichit is almost vibrating with tension in his seat, and Yuuri simply offers a smile.
"I'm behind the counter most of the time, so there's no way he'd know that." He takes another bite of pizza.
"Yuuri, dude. He totally wants to ask you out." Phichit pauses and gasps, "maybe he already has and you're just too stubborn and dense to realize!"
The prospect makes Yuuri splutter on his mouthful, and he swallows it quickly, turning to Phichit with a scandalized look, light blush rising on his cheeks. "There's no way that's happened. This guy is light years out of my league!"
Leaning back and crossing his legs on the coffee table, Phichit twines his hands behind his head.He grins wickedly, knowing he's won the conversation. "Oh, so you've thought about him that way?"
Yuuri groans and covers his face, and Phichit pats his silly roommate on the back. "Hey," he consoles, taking another bite of his egg tart donut, "plenty of people find love through the workplace! You just gotta-"
"Ignore my family in the background, show unprofessional customer bias, and slack off during work?" Yuuri interrupts. Phichit was always the more outgoing, opportunistic one in their friendship. "I'm not flirting at the shop."
"But how else are you going to find true love?" His roommate says in dismay, clenching a fist in the air dramatically. "Your entire life is work."
"And yours isn't?"
"I'm a lifestyle journalist. That at least has the word 'life' in it!" Phichit retorts, poking Yuuri's cheek. "Whatever. You're gonna come crawling back to me saying I was right all along when you guys start dating."
"Okay, Phichit." Yuuri dismisses, standing and heading to his room, pizza in hand.
"I'll even plan your wedding!" Phichit calls back, just as Yuuri eases the door closed. "It'll be the best ever!"
Yuuri pokes his head out the door-frame, wearing an incredulous look as he deadpans, "thanks, Phichit."
He lets the pizza plate clatter onto his desk and he falls into bed, burying his face in the pillows with a drawn out sigh.
These conversations are never good for his heart.
Yuuri trudges into work the next morning feeling fatigued from the simple weight of the previous night's conversation. He hadn't even allowed himself to think about it, choosing to occupy himself with the mobile MMORPG he's been playing on and off, but it feels like a stone in his chest nonetheless.
His parents usually take care of the morning prep, affording Yuuri an extra two hours of sleep, and he's grateful for it this morning. But later starts mean later ends, and Yuuri is not looking forward to the long shift ahead.
Around three, Victor saunters into the shop.
"Hi, Yuuri," he lilts, placing a fancy looking paper bag on the counter. Yuuri looks up, blinking the drowsiness from his eyes, and sits straight, greeting him in reply.
"H-Hey." Yuuri smiles, hoping he doesn't sound as tired as he feels. Victor tilts his head to the side in a motion Yuuri's learned means he's noticed something.
"Yuuri, did you not sleep well?" He asks, looking concerned. "You've got dark circles."
Yuuri's hand flies up to feel the skin under his eyes, and he frowns. He never could see things clearly in the bathroom mirror without his glasses. Taking said glasses off, he looks down embarrassedly, rubbing the lenses with the microfiber cloth he keeps in his apron. "Are they that noticeable?"
"I'm just observant. They're really not that prominent." Victor assures, waving his hands in supplement. He turns his attention to the paper bag he'd brought, reaching into it and pulling out a paper box. He pushes the now empty bag to the side, making sure it folds flat, before opening the narrow box to Yuuri and revealing a row of vibrant macarons inside. "Do you like sweets?"
"Huh?" Yuuri slips his glasses back on, blinking owlishly down at the box.
"Well, we got a lot of these from a client who runs a pâtisserie, but we can't finish them at the office." Victor explains, putting the box down in front of Yuuri. "I thought you might like to have some."
"You couldn't finish them, even with a teenager there?" Yuuri asks, taking the leftmost macaron from the box.
"It might come as a surprise, but of all the sweet things Yuri likes, macarons are not among them." Victor chuckles. "Actually, I've been thinking this for a while, but it's a little confusing to refer to him as 'Yuri' when I'm talking to you, isn't it? Your names sound the same." Victor holds his own chin in thought.
"I don't mind," Yuuri shakes his head. "Names are names, and I know you're not referring to me."
"Yurio!" Victor snaps his fingers, looking up at the ceiling as though looking into his own mind. He nods decisively, and Yuuri raises an eyebrow in confusion. "I'll call him Yurio around you from now on."
Yuuri doesn't know where the nickname came from, but he laughs at the thought of the teenager's reaction to this development. "Don't do that, he'll hate it and me!"
"Nonsense! You're the older one, after all. You have seniority privilege. And how could anyone ever hate you?"
Falling silent at Victor's last question, Yuuri hopes his ears aren't as red as they feel. How is he supposed to respond to something like that?
Sensing the other man's confoundedness, Victor takes a macaron himself, and holds it up to his mouth with his thumb and index finger. "Try them," he encourages, referring to the treat still in Yuuri's hand. "They're very good."
Yuuri looks down at the milky brown macaron in his fingers, and pushes the memory of the stomach-churning macarons Phichit had brought home a month ago out of his mind as he takes a bite. The rusk gives away crisply between his teeth, and the dark chocolate ganache sandwiched inside melts on his tongue immediately. So macarons could be like this? Yuuri sighs around the mouthful, mm-ing happily at the rich cocoa taste.
Victor's chewing his own raspberry-red macaron happily, v-shaped smile returning as he watches Yuuri's reaction to the food.
Yuuri savors the taste a little longer until he's struck with an idea.
"Hey, Victor," he asks, putting the macaron onto a tissue from the box on the counter, "do you want some tea? To go with the macarons." He clarifies, to Victor's wide-eyed surprise. "It's nothing fancy, but we have some black tea."
Victor's eyes soften, and the biggest grin spreads across his face as he nods. "That would be lovely." He puts his own macaron down and watches as Yuuri disappears into the back room of the store.
Taking the two nicest mugs he can find from the small kitchen area against the back wall, Yuuri drops tea-bags into them and fills them with hot water from the boiler they keep there. His own mug is the novelty one Phichit got him for Christmas, but he grimaces when the 8-bit heart on it turns red with the heat of the beverage inside. He tries to push the thought of hearts and love out of his mind as he returns with the tea.
It's a little hard to, with Victor looking radiant against the warm backlighting from the shop windows. It's worse when Victor looks at him, smiling again when Yuuri puts the mug on the counter.
God, he kind of wishes Phichit was wrong last night. If he was, then Yuuri wouldn't have to deal with this gurgling anticipation.
"Thank you," the unfairly attractive man across Yuuri murmurs, taking the mug between his hands. His macaron is gone, and Yuuri picks his own back up, biting a small chunk off and letting it sit on his tongue before sipping some hot tea. It's rejuvenating, and Yuuri feels some tension leave his shoulders.
"Wow, you can drink really hot things," Victor remarks. His own mug is still sitting on the counter. "I need to wait for things to cool, or else I burn my tongue."
"I'm pretty sure it's just years of having piping hot miso soup every morning that got me used to the burn." Putting his mug down, Yuuri replies. He laughs when Victor picks his own drink up and gives it an experimental taste, only to recoil from it, mouth agape.
"Ah, hot, hot, hot..." Victor winces, blowing across the liquid in an effort to cool it to a drinkable temperature. His eye catches on Yuuri's mug, and he peers at it curiously. He points to it and looks back up to Yuuri. "Is that a video game heart?"
"Oh, this?" Yuuri looks at his mug. "Yeah, it is. It was a gift from my roommate."
"It's cute, I like it." Victor puts his cup back down. "I did a video game inspired wedding, once. Quite an unusual request, but we did research and we made it happen."
"That sounds interesting. I wonder what it was like," Yuuri murmurs.
"Would you like to see?" Victor pipes, retrieving his rather large phone from his pocket. As he navigates to his photo library, Yuuri shuffles closer, leaning across the counter to see the screen. A small thumbnail of brown dog catches his eye, and he taps Victor on the shoulder, stopping him from navigating away.
"Is that a poodle?" Yuuri inquires, pointing to the album cover.
Victor instantly lights up.
As if Victor hadn't already piqued Yuuri's interest, of course he'd be a poodle person. Of course he would be.
"Yes! That's my dog, Makkachin." He opens the folder, revealing over a thousand pictures of a beautiful silver-beige poodle. "She's a standard." Scrolling down to the most recent photos, Victor opens up the latest one and offers his phone to Yuuri to swipe through. Yuuri takes the phone, almost mesmerized by the dog onscreen.
"Wow," He murmurs, looking through the many photos. A lot of Victor's photos of Makkachin are taken someplace with wooden floors, or sleeping in a cushy looking dog bed. The further back in the album he goes, the more is revealed of Victor's pet, pictures of Makkachin in grassy parks and out on the streets beginning to pop up. Victor must really love his dog, to have this many photos.
"She's getting a little old for walks, and has some joint problems, but Makkachin's been around for a long time." Victor explains, the earlier they go in his dog photos.
"I'm a little envious," Yuuri admits, handing the phone back to Victor. "We used to have a toy poodle- a brown one, named Vic-chan."
"He was named after a cartoon character from a Japanese show Mari and I liked." Yuuri explains, flushing when he realizes his old dog's name sounds suspiciously like the first syllable of Victor's name. "He died a couple of months ago."
"I'm sorry to hear that." Victor comments. "But if you would like to meet her, I can bring Makkachin to the shop once it gets a little warmer."
"Are you sure?" Yuuri tries not to seem too eager at the prospect, but Victor seems to catch the twinkling of his eyes. He smiles, nodding surely.
"Absolutely. I'm sure Makkachin would love to come by on a short walk. She's a people-pleaser." Victor winks, putting his phone onto the counter. "I'm always glad to meet another poodle enthusiast."
"Me too," Yuuri agrees. "My roommate's into hamsters, so I don't have anyone to talk about poodles with."
"I can recommend some good instagram profiles too," Victor grins, clicking into the app quickly. "Assuming you use it, that is."
"Phichit, uh, my roommate, made me get it. I'm always open to more dogs, though." Yuuri declares, taking his own phone out. They compare instagram feeds and laugh when they discover they follow some of the same accounts, and they both come away from the exchange with some new gems to follow, as well as each others'. Yuuri protests that he doesn't post much onto his own instagram, but Victor shakes his head and follows anyway.
"This has been a great afternoon," Victor brings up, after glancing at the time on his phone, "but before I forget, there is a new wedding I'd like to place orders for."
Yuuri nods, sliding his phone back into his apron pocket and grabbing a new order form. "Alright, give me the details."
Once the order is filled out and Victor bids Yuuri goodbye, insisting that he keep the remaining macarons and share them with his family, Yuuri notices the sky is changing colors outside and the sun is beginning to set.
It's not unpleasantly quiet in the flower shop as Yuuri gathers the mugs and washes them in the back room sink, propping them on the drying rack. It's like Victor's visit cleared the air and dislodged the heavy weight that had been on Yuuri's chest the entire day. He pulls his hoodie on after handing the macarons off to his mother and taking two for himself and Phichit, putting them in a sandwich bag and tucking them securely into his jacket pocket. He cups one hand over them so they don't get crushed as he boards the train, letting the hum and jostle of the subway roll off his back all the way home.
There would be no massive sigh as he enters the apartment today.
Chapter 5: That Aching Feeling
Chapter by ingthing, ingthing_YOI (ingthing)
It's been a terribly long day, and Victor's feet feel just as heavy as his heart.
Hopefully, a visit to the florist can help.
I feel like I punched Victor's heart with a ton of happy couples to remind him how lonely and thirsty he is and kissed it a little better. But just a little.
I named Christophe's boyfriend Markus and his cat Jolie.
With every wedding comes a first consultation, and today, it's Victor's turn to meet another lucky couple.
This couple happens to be late.
It's already almost half-past one, half an hour past their scheduled meeting time, and Victor drums his fingers on his knee. His gaze flits between the café entrance and his watch; he could never complain about spending time at the Avenir Boutique Hotel's dining establishments— the food and drink are always first rate— but as good as the Avenir's café au lait is, smooth on his tongue and just the right level of bitterness, Victor wishes that punctuality were more valued. He could be brainstorming wedding themes by now, or even be well on his way to visit Yuuri at the floristry.
He puts his cup down daintily on its saucer, and taps his phone awake to check for messages. Really, if JJ and Isabella intended on being late, the least they could do is send short notice.
"You look annoyed, Victor." A rich, deep voice comes from the side of Victor's table. Looking up, Victor raises his eyebrows, recognizing the suited man standing there.
"Chris." Grinning playfully, he slips his phone back into his jacket pocket. "What a coincidence that we would meet here!"
"Oh, stop it." Christophe retorts, giving Victor a joking nudge. "You're well aware I'm the restaurant manager."
He is very well aware of the fact. Chris is a longtime friend of his, dating back to when they still both worked in the wedding industry. Chris had decided it wasn't for him at some point, but, as the close friends they are, they still keep in regular contact. It's thanks to him that Victor's company gets complimentary after-coffee petit fours for having their numerous client meetings at the Avenir's café.
"Anyway, congratulations again on moving in with Markus!" Victor enthuses, patting Christophe's sleeve because he's unable to reach up to hug his friend. "I must admit, I'm jealous. You're absolutely glowing." Christophe does look healthier now than when he lived alone; it isn't that he wasn't healthy before, but living with one's lover yields certain benefits. It's been many years since Victor's last experienced it, and there's a weak squeezing in his chest at the realization.
"I can't believe it myself. It's already been three months, Victor— how time flies," Chris sighs dreamily, in his own world for a moment. "Well, I should check on the kitchen. We have some new trainees who need some extra care and attention." He exaggerates, with a quick roll of his eyes, and squeezes Victor's shoulder out of support. "You and your florist boy had better be next, and I expect updates."
"I'm working on it," Victor assures. "Say hello to Markus and Jolie for me!" It had been a long time since Victor had seen Jolie, Chris' Persian cat, but he's sure she's as well as ever, lord knows that cat is spoiled to death.
Chris nods, winking in reply as he turns and walks away in the direction of metal double doors; they must lead to the kitchen.
Alone again and clients yet to be seen, a full forty minutes after their meeting time, Victor exhales, taking another gulp of his coffee. Catching up with Chris is fun, but as with anything that reminds him of his pining, it leaves an ache in his chest. Luckily, he doesn't have to wait long for a distraction from his woes, because a young couple enters the restaurant shortly after Chris' departure, looking quite out of breath; it must be JJ and Isabella.
Victor stands up, smiling amiably at the couple as they're guided over by the host.
"JJ, Isabella," he extends a hand out to shake both of theirs. "Hello, I'm Victor."
"Sorry we're so late," JJ apologizes loudly, making Victor hide a wince. "You just can't predict traffic in New York City, eh?" He laughs, another boisterous sound, and Isabella's eyes narrow with her smile.
"That's right, JJ," Isabella lilts, glued to her fiancé's side. "The subway might be faster, but what matters is that we're here now." Victor could argue otherwise, his time having been wasted, but he smiles and stays silent as the young couple shuffle into their seats across from Victor. JJ pulls a chair out for Isabella, who grins and takes it. Once they're situated and their orders are taken, including a glass of water for Victor to chase his caffeine down with, Victor twines his fingers together on the table and looks at JJ and Isabella pleasantly.
"It's very nice to meet you; it's a great honor to be the planner you consider for your special day," he says, voice defaulting to his genial business tone. "Have you heard of us before? Through other wedding celebrations, perhaps?"
"My friends here have had weddings planned by you, and they say you're the absolute best." Isabella replies, nodding excitedly. "JJ and I were at Lily and Matthew's wedding in April, and it was wonderful."
"Ah, yes, at the converted industrial warehouse with the rustic decorations." Nodding in recognition, Victor takes out a small notebook and pen and jots the information down. "That was a beautiful day."
"We want a wedding just as beautiful, no, even more beautiful than that!" JJ proclaims, puffing his chest out.
Isabella giggles, leaning closer to JJ. "Only the best for the king of the rink!"
Rink, Victor notes down. JJ must be a figure skater or a hockey player, judging by his Canadian accent. His mind is already at work thinking of possible associations to the ice.
"Don't worry, we'll be able to make your dreams a reality." Victor decrees. "Tell me, when are you lovebirds planning to be wed?"
"I've always wanted a summer wedding, and we're thinking of getting married June of next year." Isabella explains. "It'll be off-season for skating, and we'll have plenty of time for a long honeymoon afterwards."
"If I could, I would even elope with you right now!" Putting his iced tea down noisily, JJ declares. "But I'd wait twenty years if it meant having the perfect wedding for you."
Letting the sweethearts coo at each other for a while, Victor pulls out a periwinkle-colored folder (custom printed with Weddings by V emblazoned in silver foil on the front) from his satchel, and directs his attention to the email print-out clipped to it.
"I see from your email that you're planning on a wedding of around 200 attendees."
"Oh, we've upped that to 250." JJ interjects, "can't forget my aunt's son's in-laws."
"Or the lovely people at Skate Canada." Isabella adds. "They've been so supportive of you."
Victor nods, mentally noting the large wedding size. If it were his own wedding, he'd prefer a smaller, more private affair with under 60 people, and combed silk table runners, and rose boutonnières for himself and Yuuri—
He shakes his head before he can get too carried away. They hadn't even begun dating, for heaven's sake.
He gets through all the necessary questions, learns just enough about the couple to begin brainstorming, and bids JJ and Isabella goodbye with the gift of a box of bonbons and a Weddings by V brochure.
As much as Victor loves his job, it can be suffocating at times, and the bittersweetness in his mouth— whether from the coffee or the couple's interactions, Victor isn't sure— just makes his heart clench all the more.
He has an exhausting rest of the afternoon spent hand-writing thank you notes to clients, promptly discovering his fountain pen is out of ink, and briefing his unruly team of a teen-angst ridden Yurio, a heartbroken Georgi, and a fed-up Mila on JJ and Isabella's plans. Victor leaves as soon as possible, dragging himself down to the subway, through one line change, and up to the peaceful streets of his neighborhood. It would be more convenient to drive to work, but parking is hellishly expensive in Manhattan and taking the subway ensures that he passes by the florist on the way home.
It's more like Victor's aim is to get to the florist, actually, instead of to his apartment. He can't keep Makkachin waiting too long, but surely, just for a while, he can pop in to Katsuki Flowers and regale Yuuri with his gripes.
He pushes the glass-paned door open with a jingle of the bell, not even noticing the sign turned "closed" in the window. He blinks confusedly when most of the shop is dark, save a bright lamp by the counter that illuminates a dark mop of hair bent over a large notebook. Victor sighs in relief. Yuuri is still here.
"Hi," He calls, loud enough so Yuuri looks up. "May I come in? If you're okay with it."
"Oh, Victor." Yuuri stands up, rushing to the door to open it fully for the taller man. Victor looks like he's drooping, shockingly, though his crisp shirt and impeccable suit are as dapper as ever. What could possibly have happened at work that caused him to feel like this?
"I'm sorry, I know it's late and that you're closed." He sighs, following Yuuri to the counter. He sits on the tall stool in front of it and drops his bag beside himself, rolling his shoulders to stretch out his tense muscles and get the crick out of his neck.
"No, that's okay. I was just finishing up with the accounts." Yuuri yawns (adorably, if Victor does say so himself,) and half-removes his glasses to pinch the tiredness out from between his eyes. "You look really worn out. What happened today?"
For a second, Yuuri thinks he's crossed too far into Victor's personal life, and is about to apologize when Victor smiles the softest smile Yuuri thinks he's ever seen.
"I'm better now." Victor replies, leaning his weight onto his elbows on the counter. "It was simply," his mind races, trying desperately not to blurt out that he'd been yearning for love (Yuuri) the entire day. "It was simply a long day."
"Yeah," Yuuri nods, closing the accounts book with a loud clap. "It was a pretty long day here too. It's always like this when it's not the holidays."
Victor doesn't think Yuuri's "long day" is the same as his "long day," but he rolls with it, in part because he wants to let what little hope resides in his heart survive.
"We have a new client," Victor announces, for lack of better conversation, "A Canadian couple, I think. They're being wed in the summer."
"This summer?" Yuuri angles his head forward, a concerned look crossing his face. Of course Yuuri would be concerned; it was already late March.
"Oh, no." Hastily, Victor clears up. "Next summer. You won't be getting any more rogue flower orders, I can promise you that."
"That was pretty crazy," Yuuri chuckles to himself, and Victor blushes embarrassedly, remembering the insane order he'd placed at their first meeting.
"I admit that must have been a terrible first impression."
"It's alright," Yuuri shakes his head, propping his chin up with one hand. "You've more than redeemed it." The acknowledgement makes Victor's shoulders relax with relief, and he smiles wearily.
"I'm glad, then." He mumbles. It is impressive, the absolute calming effect Yuuri has on him. Just a few words is all it takes for Victor to feel the weight on his limbs and back and mind lift, though the one on his heart only lightens slightly.
"Oh, right. I was going to give you something." Yuuri stands, shelving the accounts book on the rack next to the counter and stepping around his stool in the narrow space behind the counter. "Wait here."
Yuuri disappears into the back room without another word, and Victor blinks confusedly, still slow from fatigue. There's the sound of footsteps ascending stairs, some commotion above Victor, and then the same footsteps coming down the steps, and Yuuri reappears, a flat rabbit shaped plush in his hand. Victor's awake now, curiosity overtaking tiredness.
"We were cleaning the other day, and I found this toy we never gave Vic-chan." Yuuri explains, holding the toy out to Victor. "I figured Makkachin can't really play with toys now, but this one's soft enough that it might be nice- um, maybe it would be good as a pillow or a cuddle toy for her." When Victor proves too shocked to take the toy, Yuuri places it insistently on the table, sliding it to Victor's side.
The thought of Makkachin, a big standard poodle, cuddled up with this tiny-in-comparison rabbit plush brings a grin to Victor's face, and he picks it up with a hum, staring quietly at the toy's blue gingham patterned canvas and beady embroidered features. There's a rather cute mint-green bow sewed at the rabbit's neck, and Victor wonders if it would be selfish to prop the rabbit— Yuuri's gift to Makkachin (and by extension, to Victor himself)— up on his bookshelf instead of letting Makkachin play with it. It would certainly match his decor.
"That's very thoughtful of you, Yuuri." He holds the rabbit to his chest, looking up to smile appreciatively at the rosy-cheeked florist in front of him. "I'll make sure Makkachin gets it; thank you." Yuuri nods, looking pleased that Victor accepted the gift.
Yuuri settles back onto his stool and picks up his phone, checking the screen as Victor closes his eyes and drinks in the quiet tranquil of the flower shop. The grassy, fragrant aroma of the flowers surrounding them has quickly become one of his favorite smells. When he opens his eyes again, Yuuri is across him, looking a little awkward, with a pink flush blossoming on his cheeks. God, his eyelashes look so dark, shadowing his cheeks like that with the harsh light on them. Victor has to lean away to resist gravitating forward and pressing a kiss to Yuuri's browline.
"Anyway," Victor murmurs, noting that it's almost seven. "Have you eaten yet? There's a little Italian place nearby that has the absolute best carbonara."
Yuuri looks up from his phone, blinking at the mention of food. "We can go." He stands, stashing his phone in his back pocket and picking up the messenger bag on the floor behind the counter. Victor watches as he turns the corner around the counter and walks to the door, standing by it and waiting for Victor to follow.
"Yuuri," He says, motioning at his own chest and feeling a wicked grin stretch across his face. "I think you've forgotten something."
Yuuri looks down at himself confusedly, and runs back behind the counter when he realizes his apron is still on. Victor laughs helplessly, and the smile's returned to his eyes when Yuuri reemerges from the back room, apron now taken off and hanging safely on the hooks next to the break area.
"By the way, Yuuri, I'm treating you to dinner as thanks for Makkachin's new toy, and I won't take no for an answer." Victor states as he holds the door open for Yuuri.
"I'm not letting you pay for my dinner, Victor." Yuuri retorts. "That's not fair."
"It is if I'm willing. Just take the carbonara and enjoy it."
It takes a little more bickering before Yuuri begrudgingly sighs and concedes defeat, and Victor leaves for his apartment after dinner with his wallet two pasta dishes lighter, a warmth in his chest, and a smile on his lips.
Perhaps there's some merit to being in love after all.
Chapter 6: That Fluttering Feeling
Chapter by ingthing, ingthing_YOI (ingthing)
Victor finally asks the question he desperately needs an answer to.
It's a kiss sweeter than Victor's ever known. There's the fresh scent of flowers and the warmth of the sun in the lips that meet his own like a breathtaking duet; with certainty, he knows it's Yuuri, sweet Yuuri. He lingers, infusing Victor with enough— Victor can't name it, is it elation, affection?— to fill his chest, and he breaks away for breath, unable to lose any more, wanting to look into the face of the man he loves and who loves him back—
And then the hole in his heart is ripped open again, stinging like a band-aid, because Victor wakes, and his bed is large and empty.
This dream, this infuriating dream, Victor knows, is simply his subconscious mind screaming at him to do something, anything, to get Yuuri to love him.
He presses both hands to his face, exhaling self-pityingly.
That's a feat easier said than done, Victor thinks, chiding himself for this desperation. Rolling onto his side with a tired grunt, he stretches an arm out from under the covers to see that his alarm clock reads seven-twenty, and he slumps back into the pillows. There are ten minutes for him to restlessly nap before he has to be up, before he has to brush his teeth, assemble his outfit, grab breakfast, and go to work.
All the while, he'll have to push his loneliness and his thirsty heart aside, feigning pleasantry in front of his employees and clients. He doesn't want to pretend. It's less genuine that way, but being genuine will do nothing for him now; it'd end up with Victor finding himself outside the inviting little flower shop, itching to fling the door open and rest, perfectly happy, on the hard wooden stool by the counter.
But no, Victor Nikiforov is a responsible adult, he thinks to himself with searing peppermint toothpaste tingling on his tongue. He spits it out, and reaches for the cup on the edge of the sink to gargle.
Pulling on his nice baby blue pinstriped dress shirt, definitely not chosen because it draws attention his eyes, Victor nods at himself in the full length wardrobe mirror. He won't spend another day dwelling on the thought of what could be, and be a responsible wedding planner who certainly isn't so affected by a crush that his dreams for the past week have been about nothing but said crush. No, Victor definitely doesn't give the dog toy gifted by his crush a second glance every morning where it sits on his bookshelf.
In Victor's defense, Makkachin isn't fond of the rabbit plush. When he'd brought it home, she'd sniffed it and promptly ambled off in favor of the old chew toy that sits in her bed.
Victor pulls his colorful socks on (one of his favorite pairs, featuring a print of Monet's Water Lilies in the knit,) clipping them to his sock garters, laces up his dark leather semi-brogues, and ruffles Makkachin's fur before he leaves, shutting the door quietly behind him and leaving it unlocked for the dog sitter.
The early morning rush hour ensures that the subway is packed, and Victor shoves the last bite of his vanilla-almond granola bar into his pocket as he joins the stream of people descending into the station. He doesn't get to pass by Katsuki Flowers to peek in, unfortunately, since the train going uptown has its station entrance on the opposite side of the street, but it won't stop him from peering over the sea of heads to catch the figure of Yuuri's mother setting up their outdoor flower display. He met her, once; she's a lovely woman, and Victor knows she's where Yuuri gets his good looks from.
He nearly stumbles down the steps to the platform, but he makes it unscathed into the train eventually.
The lull of the train and the quiet of headphone-equipped commuters staring down at their phones or reading gives Victor a chance to let his mind clear of early morning frustration.
It takes a long inhale of fresh air for Victor to turn the corner from the station after disembarking, and he make his way down to his office building with a feigned smile.
It's already noon before Victor notices, he's so listless.
The entire team notices that something is off.
"Oi, Mila." Yuri stage-whispers to Mila, who's sitting in her executive office chair trying to behave like Victor's acting completely normally. "Is it just me, or is Victor actually quiet today?"
"Maybe more than usual." She murmurs back, after sneaking a quick glance at her boss, who's sitting and thumbing very seriously at his touchscreen phone.
"Yeah, but this is just creepy."
"I can hear you both." Victor calls, standing, and he walks over to Mila and Yuri. He balances filled periwinkle-colored folders on their heads, watching with a forced smile as they drop into Mila and Yuri's hands, and stalks back to his desk to hide behind his computer monitor.
"What happened? Did florist guy reject you?" The teenager sneers.
Yuri really can't take a hint.
"Not at all," Victor grins, popping his head up from behind his computer and trying to keep his voice light despite his internal screaming. "I wouldn't come into work for at least three days if that happened."
"Oh god, it's serious." Mila groans, all on one breath. "Listen, Victor, I know crushes can be distracting, and you're... An emotional guy, but we're really bu-"
"We're really not that busy today." Georgi interjects, swiveling around in his chair to face his coworkers, arms crossed as though he knows what he's talking about. Mila gawks at him, jutting her head out and looking at him like he's crazy.
"Georgi Popovich, whatareyoudoing?" She protests, looking back and forth between her ridiculous boss and even more ridiculous colleague. There's so much to do today, Mila's eyes nearly popped out of her head at the tasks she'd written down when she arrived that morning. Rolling his chair over to the space between Mila and Yuri, Georgi tents his fingers in front of his lips, which are pursed in intense concentration.
"Look at him," Georgi instructs, under his breath. He motions for his coworkers to come closer. "Do you want to know what that face is?" Pointing his chin towards Victor, all three of their heads turn to Victor, who's pouting and slumped back into his chair. It's rolled backwards, and he's moving his computer mouse around pitifully with an outstretched arm.
Mila makes a confused noise, and Yuri scrunches his nose in distaste.
"That, my friends, is the face of a lovelorn man." Georgi declares, as though it isn't obvious enough.
"Of course you would know." Yuri mutters. Georgi simply tuts, throwing Yuri a flippant look.
"I've never seen him like this. What do you say we let him have the afternoon off?"
"The clients will be expecting Victor." Mila replies, worrying her bottom lip with her teeth.
"Everyone has off days." Shaking his head, Georgi says. "No client would want to see him like this."
"Oh, so you do know how we feel when you're all moody."
Georgi exhales slowly, like he was taught to in Monday night's pilates session. He resists the urge to give the sarcastic teen a good talking-to— this moment isn't about his pent-up gripes; it's about helping Victor.
"You know what, Georgi?" Mila straightens, nodding with determination. "You're right. Let's give Victor the rest of the day off."
They sit back up from their hunched-over pow-wow, turning to face Victor.
"Victor," Georgi says, watching as Victor's unfocused gaze rises up to meet his. "Listen, why don't you go home for the day?"
"But we have the meeting with Casey and Lola, venue-hopping with Jo and Iris, and a business dinner with Ryden, Andy, and Doris later." Victor manages to mumble, shifting up his seat, picking up a folder from his desk and waving it weakly. "I've got work to do."
"We'll take care of that, don't worry." Mila pipes. "You answered your emails this morning, didn't you? It's fine. Just email them and let them know we'll be meeting with them instead." The assurance seems to hearten Victor, who's staring very intensely at his desk clock.
Victor walks himself backwards in the chair, a small smile returning to his face as he sits upright. "Well, if you insist." Taking the stack of folders on his desk and handing them to Yuri, who's closest to him, Victor agrees. "Thank you, everyone. Call if you need anything, okay?"
He's walking straighter when he leaves through the office's glass door, leaving Mila, Georgi, and Yuri to stare after him.
Even Yuri seems shocked that Victor barely put up a fight. He's the last to finish gawking as he turns back to his phone and remarks, "man, Victor's really got it bad."
As soon as he exits the elevator, Victor has called Christophe on speed dial and is making his way down to the Avenir, which is a few long blocks away.
Chris can't even finish his lilted greeting before Victor interrupts him urgently.
"Chris, I need you to have the café prepare two bottled lemonades and two chicken pesto paninis for me to go. I'll pay when I get there."
"Wait." Victor pauses at a crosswalk, furrowing his brow. "Yuuri might not like chicken pesto. Add a croque monsieur and a grilled summer vegetable panini to that." He decides, and crosses the road.
"Victor, you can't just call me to make orders for you. There'd better be a reason why you need these so fast."
"I'm going to see Yuuri," Victor announces, breathlessly. "And I'm going to ask him out."
Pursing his lips in confusion, Chris falls silent, but smiles when he puts two and two together.
"Is that your florist boy? It's about time."
"It is." Agreeing, Victor nods, then pauses. "Did I never mention his name?"
"You have not." Chris affirms, writing down Victor's order and handing it to a café staff member. They scan the order over, then write a small note on the bottom, showing it to Chris. He leans over to see it, and goes back to his call. "The paninis— hot or cold?"
"Cold is fine. Thank you, Chris; I'll be there in a few minutes."
"Pas de problème. I'm sure he'll respond well," Christophe adds, reassuring Victor. "You're Victor Nikiforov. Anyone would be thrilled to have you take interest in them."
Victor laughs, but the sound is short and nervous, and there's tightness in his voice. "He's not just anyone. That's what I'm afraid of," he confesses.
It's shocking to hear his friend so vulnerable, but Chris hums in sympathy. "I understand completely. Now come get your sandwiches so you can go down there and prove your fears wrong."
Victor laughs, glad for Chris' support, and tells him he's turning onto the street the Avenir is on before ending the call.
Sandwiches and drinks in a purple bag in hand, Victor leaves a thank you message for Chris with the waitress who brought out his order, and he goes briskly to the subway.
A quick glance down at his watch shows that it's nearing one o'clock, and Victor curses, swiping his metrocard at the turnstile and scrambling to refill it when it shows his balance is under the fare. Time is so of the essence, and if he doesn't hurry downtown, he'll miss Yuuri's lunch break. He releases a held breath when his metrocard finally swipes through, and he raises the bags in his hands as he crosses the barrier.
MTA, don't fail me now, Victor pleads internally, checking the darkness at the end of the station tunnel to catch any hint of light from oncoming trains.
A piece of paper tagged onto a nearby column catches his attention, and Victor's face instantly falls.
"No downtown trains at this station?" He exclaims in dismay, eyes widening at the black print.
He's out of the station as quickly as he entered it, wasted fare be damned, and he flags down the first taxi he sees.
The flower shop isn't quite as quiet today as it was the previous day, but Yuuri is surprised all the same when Victor comes right up to the shop window and pauses, resting a hand on the thin section of wall between it and the door, catching his breath. The florist only notices because of the thudding noise the motion makes, and he stares at the older man as he stands outside, doing what seem to be… deep breathing exercises. It's a strange sight, and Yuuri snorts amusedly.
Victor is still doing odd breathing exercises when Yuuri opens the shop door, and Victor yelps at the noise, nearly jostling the paper bag he's holding.
"Hey, Victor," Yuuri says, wearing the remnants of a mean grin at having caught Victor by surprise. "Were you going to come in?" The other man looks like he's gone for a run in his suit, now that Yuuri's closer. Sweat matts the bangs at his forehead and his skin glistens where it's hit by daylight. It's unusual for Victor to be so ruffled, but Yuuri thinks to himself that it's a little endearing, after weeks of seeing him so composed and professional.
"Ah, yes." Victor clears his throat, straightening back up. Yuuri holds the door for him as he walks into the air-conditioned shop, and Victor sighs at the coolness. It might be the lighting, or whatever exercise Victor had been doing before coming here, but Yuuri swears there's a pinkish tinge to Victor's cheeks. His gaze is flitting around like he's nervous; it's unnerving, and Yuuri settles behind the counter, watching as Victor sits at the stool across him.
"Did you run here or something?" Yuuri asks, after a few moments of restless silence. "You're not usually out of breath."
"The taxi was stuck, so I had to run the last few blocks here." Victor explains, lifting his paper bag onto the counter.
"You don't have to run to get here. I'm always here." Raising an eyebrow, Yuuri points out.
The other man pauses, raising his eyebrows and blinking. "Right, yes. You're right. That was silly of me." Smiling, Victor leans his elbow onto the counter, carding the fingers of one hand through his bangs and closing his eyes. The gestures shouldn't get to Yuuri as much as it does, but breath catches in his throat, and he swallows thickly. He is so, so gay.
He barely registers it when Victor asks if he's had lunch yet, but he wakes from his daze long enough to shake his head.
"You haven't?" Victor perks up, straightening. "I was worried I might miss you having lunch; I brought some sandwiches."
"Don't you have work, Victor?" Yuuri questions, eyeing the clock. It's only two in the afternoon, and Victor usually stops by around six on weekdays— Yuuri sincerely hopes he isn't skipping work just to come eat lunch with him.
"My colleagues told me to take the day off." Victor replies, perfectly honestly. It still sounds sketchy to Yuuri— who has coworkers as nice as that? All Mari ever does is ask him to stay overtime (which he does, because he's nice and a good younger brother, but it's a little often for his tastes.) It does allow him to catch Victor at later times, but it's still an unfair employee policy.
"You do seem a little off your game today." Yuuri admits, and Victor seems to be taken aback.
"How honest of you, Yuuri." He laughs, clutching his chest in mock offense.
"It's true! You always show up looking so… perfect." Yuuri waves his hands in front of himself, a blush forming on his cheeks. "Sure, I've seen you tired sometimes, but this disheveled? That's new."
"I'll groom myself before coming, next time."
Yuuri shakes his head at Victor's statement."It's okay! It's kind of nice, somehow. S'like you're really… just another guy." The last phrase comes like a revelation and Yuuri seems a little glossy eyed; Victor frowns lightly, confused by it.
Before Victor can reply, Mari appears in the doorway behind the counter.
"Yuuri, I'll do counter duty—" She cuts off, staring holes into the unusually unkempt wedding planner in front of Yuuri. "Oh, hello, Mr. Nikiforov."
"Victor is fine, Miss Katsuki." He nods to her, raising a hand in greeting. Mari retorts and tells him to call her Mari, and Victor agrees. Satisfied, she turns back to Yuuri.
"Hey, you haven't had lunch, right? Take a break. If you two are having lunch together," Mari instructs, pointing at the bag of food, "bring Victor up to the roof. The weather is nice out."
Yuuri mumbles an "okay," glaring at his sister as she throws him the most suggestive look. Does she really need to act as his wingman? And so completely obviously?
To his surprise, Victor seems enthusiastic at the idea.
"The roof?" He inquires, looking between Yuuri and Mari. "What's up there?"
As Yuuri is about to explain that it's nothing special, just an old, small greenhouse, gardening equipment, and a creaky wooden bench swing, Mari interrupts him. "Yuuri can show you."
Yuuri sighs and gets up, taking the bag on the counter with him, motioning to Victor to follow him.
"C'mon, you want to see, right?"
Victor leaps off his stool, eager at the prospect of finally being behind the counter. He says a quick "see you" to Mari, and catches up to Yuuri on the stairs.
Four flights of steps later, Yuuri pushes the metal door out to the rooftop with his shoulder.
"The door's kind of jammed," he explains, and walks out before Victor. Victor has to duck his head a little to get through the doorway, but he smiles when he takes in the view.
The adjacent buildings are a storey taller than the Katsukis' building, providing shade from the far end of the roof where a small toolshed with bags of soil against one wall sits. A few gardening boxes are set up with what looks like various greens, root vegetables, and tomatoes in front of a simple peaked roof greenhouse, the interior of which is colorful with various flower varieties. The loveseat swing set up alongside the nearest wall, however, is where Yuuri is headed, and Victor joins him on it, appreciating the shade offered by the faded sun cover on top of the bench as the seat groans under their weight. The rooftop is adorable and very fitting for the family of florists.
Setting the bag of food between them, Yuuri stands, retrieves an empty plastic crate, and turns it upside down, setting it in front of the bench as a makeshift table.
"Sorry to keep you in suspense earlier; the roof might not be meeting your expectations." He apologizes, placing the paper bag on the crate.
"I love it." Victor declares, turning his head to give Yuuri a sincere grin. "It's like an island getaway."
"Except without palm trees, or sand, or the ocean?" Yuuri points out.
"Like an island of flowers in a sea of rooftops." Victor clarifies, turning his attention to the paper bag. He pulls the two bottles of lemonade out, offering one to Yuuri who takes it gratefully. As Victor's opening the metal cap on his drink, Yuuri peers into the bag to take the sandwiches Victor had mentioned out, only to notice there aren't just two in the bag.
"Victor, why are there four?" They're contained in individual rectangular paper boxes, with clear cellophane windows that reveal the boxes' contents. Two of them are the same, with sliced chicken covered in some kind of green sauce and vibrant tomatoes peeking out from under the grill-marked bread. The other two look like they have cheese and multicolored vegetables in them.
"I didn't know what you would like, so I got two more options." Victor admits. "But you can take more than one if you want— there's chicken pesto, ham and cheese, and grilled vegetable. I can't finish them all by myself."
"One is fine," Yuuri assures, as he takes the tempting-looking chicken sandwich. Victor is a pretty considerate person, Yuuri knows, from watching him hustle around wedding venues and mumble about orders and clients in his off hours. Still, looking down at the foil stamped logo on top of the box, Yuuri thinks that these sandwiches must have been pricy. And for there to be four of them, just because Victor didn't know if he'd like what he chose— Yuuri takes the sandwich out and takes a bite when he feels a bashful smile threatening to spread across his face.
Instead of stopping his smile, it only widens around the flavorful filling, and Yuuri chews happily, finally realizing how hungry he is. He hasn't eaten since eight, after all, so it's to be expected.
Victor's hungry too, but he's distracted by the expression Yuuri is making. He's noticed it before; any time Yuuri eats something delicious, the corners of his eyes lift, and he looks completely content, like he's in another world where only he and his food exist. It had happened again with the macarons from the other day. Victor might be bringing food not only for Yuuri's benefit, but also his own selfishness. Sharing a meal with Yuuri means he gets to see these expressions, and they're so very captivating.
Victor's bravado had dropped when he approached the flower shop earlier, heart thumping from both exercise and anticipation, but it's encouraging to see Yuuri so comfortable in his presence. Biting his own sandwich halfheartedly, he starts to daydream.
Yuuri, on the other hand, is wondering why, exactly, Victor is staring at the inside of his knee so intensely. He's not even eating; his hold on the sandwich is low, and there's a bitten piece of chicken threatening to fall out. It's funny to see the attractive man like this, yes, but Yuuri angles his head to try and meet Victor's eye.
"Um, Victor? You're staring at my knee."
Victor's head snaps back up, and he swallows his bite before sheepishly replying. "Was I? I'm sorry. I'm kind of out of it." Trying to hide his embarrassment despite the flush on his cheeks, he takes another bite of his lunch, only to cover his mouth when the large bite proves too ambitious. He curses himself mentally— spinach and sun-dried tomato are sticking out of his mouth in front of his crush. He's about to totally call off asking Yuuri out today when he hears an amused snort.
Yuuri only laughs harder when Victor turns to him, cheeks still full and the spinach stem wiggling between his lips with each labored chew.
"Oh my god," Yuuri guffaws, nearly choking on chicken. "You look- You look so funny right now. Just like one of Phichit's hamsters."
Victor stops chewing, totally enthralled by the sight of Yuuri laughing so freely. He manages to swallow down some of his food, if only to smile shyly. "As if you don't either, chewing so happily." He teases.
"Hey, it's not my fault you bring yummy things so often." Yuuri puts his near-finished sandwich down, bringing both hands up jokingly. "I just like food."
"I know." Victor nods, resting an arm on the swing's armrest. "I've noticed."
Yuuri falls silent, blinking at the unexpected statement. It almost sounds like Victor brings food just to see him eat— which is an odd prospect, but considering how much of a thing Yuuri has for the guy, it makes his heart pound. He hums absentmindedly before turning back to his food, finishing the sandwich in slow bites as he ignores the heat radiating off his cheeks.
Yuuri's blushing, right? Victor wonders, trying to see if he's mistaken in the shade of the swing cover. It's not his imagination; Yuuri is blushing because he said he noticed that he likes food. It's a tiny detail, but it makes hope stir in his stomach. He wraps up his unfinished sandwich, puts it back on top of the crate, and takes a glug of lukewarm lemonade, leaning back onto the swing and making it jostle. Closing his eyes, his mind swirls a mile a minute. How on earth is he supposed to ask what he wants to?
His mind doesn't offer any definite answer, so he decides to solve the problem the best way he knows: by doing.
"Yuuri," He begins, turning to face Yuuri. Oh, god, he's a mess— his pulse is racing, his entire face feels hot; he's distracted by the sunlight reflecting up into Yuuri's features and his wide, honest eyes, and they sear right down into the pit of Victor's stomach and he feels like coiling away and keeping things safe, the way they are now.
But Victor will never know if he doesn't try.
Yuuri makes a confused noise, fidgeting under Victor's direct gaze. Victor's never silent.
"I know we've only known each other for a few weeks—"
"A little over two months, I think." Yuuri corrects, since he's had many quiet shop hours to count.
"Time flies," Victor smiles nervously, and steels himself for his next words. "And I think we get along well."
Yuuri nods slowly, unsure of where the conversation is headed. His brain is kind of just mush in post-lunch stupor. Yuuri's expression is impossible to read, as much of a people person Victor is, and he furrows his brow trying to decipher it.
"What I'm trying to say is, would you consider going out with me if I asked?" The suggestion out in the open, Victor breathes deeply, upturning his lips in some semblance of a smile.
Yuuri's first response is to freeze.
He's spent so long denying the possibility of this happening (despite Phichit's endless rallying and Mari's loaded side-glances.) He should be elated, but he just can't respond.
What's with that roundabout way of asking? He thinks, frowning to himself. "Are you… Are you asking, then?"
"Yes." Victor replies, nodding. "I like you a lot, Yuuri; I don't know if you can tell."
Yuuri lowers his head. He did have a little hunch, but he's always been terrible at hunches. "I guess I could, but… I don't know. I thought I shouldn't read too much into your coming into the shop so often." He laughs awkwardly.
"Whatever you thought was probably right." Victor admits. "But do you like me? That's what matters."
"I… Yeah, I guess I do." Pushing the swing back to make it go back and forth, Yuuri focuses his gaze on his legs, which are swaying with the movements. It's all a lot to process right now, when blood is pounding in his ears.
Victor's eyes widen, blinking hopefully. "So…?"
Yuuri doesn't respond until the swing comes to a slow stop, the repetitive swinging no longer a distraction from Victor's looming proposal.
"I'm sorry, I need a little time to get used to the idea." His hands are clenched into fists on his knees, and Yuuri doesn't meet Victor's eyes, though there's a blush on his face.
"Okay." Victor murmurs, giving Yuuri's closest hand a quick squeeze. "I won't come to the shop tomorrow, but you have my number. Let me know."
Yuuri simply nods, and they both stand up, clearing up their half-eaten lunches. Victor ends up taking the two leftover sandwiches with him as he exits the flower shop, and they say an awkward goodbye as he does.
There's no new messages on Victor's phone when he arrives home.
That's alright. It's not a no, Victor thinks.
It's not a no.
He'll wait for as long as Yuuri needs.
When he gets home, Yuuri walks straight past the living room, into his room, and flops face-first onto his bed.
Phichit had probably greeted him, but Yuuri really just can't right now. And it's no fault of Phichit's— it's entirely his own. Victor had asked him out, and Yuuri couldn't do anything but get too caught up in his own head to say yes.
He's the worst. The absolute worst.
Knocking on his door interrupts his thoughts, and he goes to open it groggily.
Phichit (ever-energetic and bright-eyed, bless him,) peers at Yuuri curiously. "Dude, what's up with you? You don't usually ignore me completely when you have bad days."
"Sorry, Phichit." Yuuri mumbles, hanging his head. "Just… a lot happened today."
"Yeah? Like what?" Phichit pats Yuuri's back comfortingly, already in consolation mode.
"You're going to yell at me if I tell you."
"Yuuri," Phichit tuts. "How can I help you if you won't tell me?"
"I got asked out. By the wedding planner guy." Defeatedly, Yuuri reveals. Phichit's jaw drops and he holds Yuuri's shoulders an arm's length away.
"That's great!" He exclaims, eyes glittering. "But then, why do you look so dead inside?"
"You said yes, right? Did he turn around and say 'SIKE!' or something? Just tell me who I need to beat up." Phichit nods, completely serious.
"No, he was really sweet!" Yuuri waves his hands. "I'm just," He sighs, rubbing a hand down his face. "I'm just being stupid. I told him I need time to get used to the idea."
"But you've been pining over him for months!" Phichit whines. "Like, two months!"
"It's different when suddenly the guy likes you back and asks you out in the same two minutes." Yuuri mutters. "You know I have trouble warming up to stuff like that."
"Yuuri Katsuki." Sighing, Phichit pauses to take a breath. "Listen. You like him, right? And he likes you?"
Yuuri nods. That, he knows for sure. "Yeah. He told me earlier."
"Then what's the problem?"
"Me. I'm the problem." Shoulders dropping in reluctance, Yuuri says. "I just don't want to mess up, you know? This is really new."
"Nothing's ever comfortable that's worth going after, dude." Phichit imparts, like a wise sage teaching a disciple. "I was super nervous going into the pet shop to buy that deluxe three-floor hamster cage. I didn't know if my hamsters would like it!" When Yuuri laughs, smiling for the first time that evening, Phichit continues. "But I got it, and my hamsters and I are totally happier now. I guess if I had to compare it to your situation… You're me, and the deluxe cage is dating… and the wedding planner guy is a hamster? Kinda weird, but you get the idea."
Yuuri nods, still chuckling at the analogy. "Yeah, I guess I do. I should stop thinking and just try it, huh?"
"Ab-so-lutely." His friend puts his hands on his hips, making his agreement as clear as possible.
Phichit gives Yuuri a thumbs-up as he leaves the room.
As Yuuri lies back on his bed and whips his phone out, Phichit's voice comes, groaning, from the living room.
"You'd better be texting that guy right now! I just missed some major drama on Meeting Up With The Melissas because you needed my help."
The complaint makes Yuuri laugh more than he should, and he types out and sends a message to Victor before he can second-guess himself.
Victor finds himself up inordinately early the next day, because he and Yuuri had agreed to meet at a local café at eleven. He's had maybe five hours of rest, which isn't his usual eight hours of beauty sleep, but he feels more awake than ever.
He goes for a run, even carries Makkachin around the apartment a bit, and fidgets on a bar stool in his kitchen as he tries to concentrate on his muesli. There's too much anticipation wound up in his body, but there's nothing he can really do about it.
He fusses over his outfit for a while (oh, god, Yuuri's never seen him in anything but work suits; is a casual button-up and slacks okay?) before showing up half an hour early to the café.
Surprisingly, Yuuri is already there, perched on a high stool with a black-covered book and a near-finished cup of coffee.
Victor approaches him slowly, and taps him on the shoulder when he's close. Yuuri pulls his notebook to his chest as he turns to look at Victor, and his startled face is equal parts adorable and amusing.
"Good morning," Victor greets, with a bashful smile. "I almost didn't recognize you without your apron." It's not just the apron; Yuuri has his hair slicked back, a few strands falling in front of his forehead and glasses— it looks damp, like he'd taken a shower and left it to air dry. He's also wearing a warm gray gridded button-down, dark denim jeans, and a simple cardigan. It's different from what he wears at the shop, and Victor likes it.
"Hey there," Yuuri murmurs, watching as Victor hops onto the stool next to him. "You're really early."
"I thought I'd get a head start, but it seems you beat me to it."
"I was just... a little restless. Had to stretch out my legs, and then I found myself here." Yuuri laughs embarrassedly.
"I'm going to go order a drink, but I'll be right back." Victor motions towards the counter, and Yuuri nods and watches him go. It's so different to see the other man dressed down.
Soon, Victor returns with a cup in hand, and he scoots back onto the stool. "Sorry for making you wait. What did you want to talk about?"
"What? I should be the one apologizing—" Yuuri pauses, realizing Victor is probably talking about his coffee. He shakes his head. "Uh, what I meant is… I really should have told you my answer yesterday. I'm sorry."
Victor's sitting straight, blinking at Yuuri's apology as he cups his coffee in both hands. "No, it's perfectly alright. I know it was a sudden question." Victor reassures.
"I want to go out with you." Yuuri blurts, like he's been holding it in. "Sorry to leave you in suspense."
Instantly, the tension in Victor's shoulders dissolves, and he leaves his coffee in favor of pulling Yuuri into a tight hug, leaving the other man to yelp as his arms, holding his notebook, are constrained in it. Almost as quickly, Victor remembers himself, and releases Yuuri, bringing his hands into his own lap like a scolded puppy. "Sorry, I… I get overexcited." He giggles, v-shaped grin as wide as Yuuri's ever seen it. They've barely been more than friends for a minute, but Yuuri already wants to kiss his smile. Is that wrong?
In his surprise, Yuuri lets go of his notebook and it clatters to the ground. He's about to pick it up when Victor, faster and legs longer, picks it up for him. His eyes dart across the page, filled with handwriting, and Yuuri covers his face.
"Yuuri," Victor asks, eyes wide at the writing. "What's this?"
"Oh my god." Yuuri mumbles through his palms. "I'm sorry, that's… I don't journal much, but I was writing about all the things that could go right or wrong with this conversation and I even had a weird speech thing planned, but it's not anything like what I actually said, oh my god please don't look-"
"You, Yuuri Katsuki, are by far the most endearing person I have ever had the privilege of falling in love with." Victor admits, a sentimental smile spreading across his face to join the redness in his cheeks. He hands the notebook back to Yuuri, who's blinking, shocked at Victor's confession.
"I, um, you're pretty endearing too." Yuuri says, wordless as he takes the notebook, closes it, and wraps the elastic securely around the pages.
Victor is still smiling at him, and Yuuri has to down the rest of his coffee to distract from his overwhelmingly sappy gaze. He puts the cup down on the counter, collects his bearings, then turns back to Victor.
"So Victor," He clears his throat. "I know you asked me about going out, but where do you want to go? If you have time right now, that is."
Victor seems caught off-guard now, but he replies with a smile. "I'm free for the rest of the day; it's Saturday. Is there anywhere you wanted to go?"
"That's not fair, I'm asking you." Yuuri grins, mock-huffing. "But if you must know… I was thinking we could walk around down by St. Mark's Place and Third Ave, maybe see whatever show's on at the Cooper Union. If you're hungry there are a bunch of great Japanese places, too."
"That sounds lovely." Victor nods, and he's glad he followed Yuuri's lead and got his drink to go. Yuuri nods with conviction, and he steps off the stool, throwing his cup in the nearby trashcan and waiting for Victor to follow him.
Later, when Yuuri's off in the bathroom of the udon restaurant they'd stopped at for lunch, they send messages off to their respective best friends and get some form of "told you so" in return. Chris' message makes Victor laugh, and he's rejoined by Yuuri at the door.
"Ready to go?" Yuuri asks, pulling up his sleeves mid-forearm.
"I am." Victor replies, watching Yuuri. He pauses as Yuuri begins to walk. "You always have your sleeves up like that, don't you?"
"Huh?" Yuuri turns back, glancing down at his sleeves and moving to pull them down. "Oh, yeah. Force of habit, I guess."
"Keep them that way." Victor sidles up to him, lacing his fingers between Yuuri's. "I like it."
They hold hands all the way through the art exhibition they visit and through the subway ride home.
Victor's had extravagant dates, certainly. He's had expensive dinners of all kinds and been gifted fancy ties and watches— but this date, simple, sweet, full of Yuuri, is by far his favorite yet, and he can barely sleep for the gravity of being someone special to his florist boy.
1Pas de problème: No problem, French.[return to text]
2MTA: Abbreviation of Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which manages public transportation in New York.[return to text]
Chapter 7: Under the Blossoms
Chapter by ingthing, ingthing_YOI (ingthing)
Victor and Yuuri go for a date under cherry blossoms, and they allow their hearts to soar.
Yuuri shouldn't be this frustrated on a Saturday afternoon.
Saturdays are lazy. Saturdays are when Yuuri can sit at the flower shop's counter in peace, knowing that the Friday rush has ended and that, even though it's not technically a free day for him, he doesn't have to rush around filling orders or deal with customers for a short while.
At least, with the exception of one.
Gaze flitting down to his phone when it vibrates in front of him, Yuuri's furrowed brow softens. Victor had to attend to a client's wedding, so they'd been messaging each other on and off all day.
They've been dating for an entire thirteen days (almost two weeks; Yuuri can hardly believe it.) For the most part, their interactions haven't changed that much; Victor still visits the shop, wherever he can find the time. He's much flirtier now, or at least, now that Yuuri realizes. Yuuri's even surprised himself a few times, throwing back a playful remark or two at Victor's teasing. It always makes his boyfriend (can Yuuri call him that?) laugh and blush, or even better, renders him completely speechless. The florist is quiet, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a dirty joke or two up his sleeve.
Sliding his finger across the screen to unlock his phone, Yuuri opens the notification. It's a picture of the decorated venue, stunning as always, and a message saying "wish you were here," and a little crying face emoticon to accent the sentiment.
Victor had been grumbling since the morning because his clients had opted to use one of their relatives' floristries for their wedding today. It isn't the quality of the arrangements Victor is moody over— it's more like Victor wants to take any and every opportunity he can get to see Yuuri, whether at work or in leisure, and Yuuri is okay with that.
Which reminds Yuuri— after he snaps a photo of the empty shop, types out a "Miss you too!" and sends both in reply— of why, exactly, he's so frustrated.
Beside their very first date (the memory of which still warms his heart) and their various visits to each others' workplaces, they haven't had time to really go out with each other at all. True, Easter flower orders got in the way and Victor was busy with the preparations for today's wedding, but it's not like they can really do anything when they're in the shop or around clients. They can't hold hands or sit side by side at the shop with his family around, and definitely not during flower deliveries in the city. Another date sounds great right about now, especially because… Well, they'd only held hands and hugged last time.
Rolling a piece of leftover cut stem between his thumb and forefinger and staring at it absentmindedly, Yuuri colors at the thought of doing more; it's not like he has experience in this type of thing.
As though on cue, his phone buzzes yet again, making him jump— Victor's message is simply a string of little red hearts, and Yuuri sends a smiley face back. It had been difficult to get used to how flagrantly affectionate Victor could be, but he feels like he's eased into it a little now.
Victor's affectionate nature just makes Yuuri wonder all the more if they should already have gotten to "first base" or whatever people call it nowadays. Phichit had certainly seemed scandalized when they'd come across the subject.
"What?" He'd squawked, staring at Yuuri with more disbelief than he'd worn when Yuuri confessed he didn't know who Beyoncé was. "You guys haven't kissed yet? Not even on the cheek?"
"We're both pretty busy," defensively, Yuuri had explained. "Besides, what if he just wants to take it slow?"
"There's slow, and then there's slow." Phichit had seemed more distressed than Yuuri himself at the time. "C'mon, you're madly in love with each other and you're finally together! Why not bring it up?"
Yuuri didn't really have an answer for that beyond that he didn't know. "Wanting to date and do romantic stuff with someone else never really occurred to me, I guess. And I wouldn't call us madly in love."
"Okay, but you're in love. Just bring it up, I'm sure he thinks you're cute and wants to tongue-tango as much as you do."
Yuuri had scoffed at Phichit's silly euphemism, but his roommate did have a point.
There's no denying that Yuuri really wants a next date, and maybe a few more after that— and preferably soon.
His mother's voice calls him back to earth after a few calls of his name, and Yuuri snaps to attention.
"Yuuri, have you put out the new Sakura Matsuri flyers?" She peeks her head in from the break room, where Yuuri assumes she's been sitting and watching some old Japanese romance movie. He can hear the credits music faintly through the doorway.
"Are they here already?" Yuuri blinks.
"Silly, I put them right on the counter earlier." Motioning to the stack of glossy pink flyers next to Yuuri, Hiroko chides lightly. Yuuri takes one from the top of the pile and studies it. It certainly doesn't feel like spring is here, but it's already late April, and there'll be cherry blossom viewings happening at the end of the month at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Yuuri's been to almost every one; family friends often had booths there, so that, combined with their floristry business and their traditional Japanese family-bonding activities, brings them to Sakura Matsuri yearly.
"I'll put them up in a moment," he places the flyer back on the stack and reaches for the tape roll to the side of the cashier.
"Ah, Yuuri? I forgot if we told you, but we're not having a booth this year, so feel free to make other plans!"
"Really?" Yuuri's eyes widen.
"Mm. Your father wanted to go for the ikebana displays and crafts fair this year, and Mari says she's going to have plans on that day too. So it'll just be us grown-ups." Hiroko explains, looking very cheery. It's nice to see his mother so excited for the festival— the past few months have been so hectic with work that Yuuri's glad his parents can have a weekend to themselves. Even though he and Mari are technically grown-ups too, Yuuri nods and smiles.
"Okay, I'll see."
Before she goes back to her TV, his mother winks at him; maybe Yuuri should take going on a date with Victor on that day as a lead-in to introducing him as his boyfriend.
Mari had guessed something had changed within the first few days they'd started dating. Yuuri will never forget the way she'd taken one look at the both of them and started clapping in congratulations. For the life of him, Yuuri would never know how Mari's so-called "big sister senses" had noticed there'd been a change in their relationship, but he's still glad there's one less family member to introduce Victor to.
Victor, in response to Mari's clapping, simply stood up, walked to Mari, and took both of her hands in his own, assuring her he'd take very good care of her little brother as Yuuri covered his face and groaned in the background.
He smooths tape across the corners of the posters he's putting up in the flower shop windows with a little smile, and stands back to make sure they're straight before misting the display flowers with a spray bottle.
It really wouldn't be such a bad idea to invite Victor to a hanami. It would still be a little chilly out, but they could have a picnic and sake to warm them up. Sitting and laughing together, sunlight dappled by thousands of little pink blossoms… Yes, they'd have to go. Flowers are temperamental: Yuuri knows that better than anyone— but the blossoms had been on time last year, and they should be this year as well, according to his father. He tends to ramble on about hanami whenever April rolls around; Yuuri's fairly certain it's his favorite event, placed higher than any other holiday, though all it consists of is drinking, eating, and looking at flowers. Yuuri understands why. This is the only "holiday" that comes with flowers they don't need to rush around preparing, and his mother's bento boxes are always delicious.
Yuuri could probably make bentos for the both of them, but he's honestly more confident with making dango than anything else his mother might have up her sleeves. It's one of the hanami prep jobs he had growing up, so he's very familiar with the process. As for the rest of the food, though… He'd hate to disappoint Victor on a romantic picnic. Maybe he should ask his mom if she'd be willing to make bento for both of them.
Before he can overthink the idea, he types out a quick text to Victor and sends it, shoving his phone back into his apron pocket when he's done. He's just sat back down behind the counter when his phone rings, and he picks it up when he sees that it's Victor.
"Hey, Vict-" Yuuri can barely get his greeting in before Victor, sounding breathless but very happy, interrupts.
"Yes, I want to go flower viewing with you. Is there ever a question?" Hearing the grin on Victor's lips even through the phone, Yuuri laughs, glad that his invitation is well received.
"I just wanted to make sure in advance." He explains, twirling a pen between his fingers. "Sorry to distract you at work."
Victor hums, and Yuuri knows he's probably shaking his head. "No, no, that's exactly the motivation I needed! I'll work very hard and come to the shop later so we can think about this date together."
"Okay, sure," Yuuri replies easily, eager at the prospect of seeing Victor after their work is done. "I'll see you later."
Victor says goodbye too, and Yuuri ends the call, already feeling much better than before.
This time next week, they'll be sitting under sakura.
Despite the fact that they agree to meet and go from the flower shop, Yuuri is still late.
His text messages are very apologetic, and Victor chuckles. It's just like Yuuri to apologize for being even five minutes over schedule, and Victor stands outside the shop in the early spring breeze, waiting, since the flower shop is closed.
When he'd visited the shop later the day Yuuri asked if he was interested in going to see cherry blossoms, Yuuri had insisted that he wanted at least some of the visit to be a surprise.
Soon, the bell hanging on the door jingles, and Yuuri bursts out, looking winded from running around upstairs and carrying two large canvas bags. His hair isn't slicked back this time, to Victor's slight disappointment, but he's wearing a navy bomber jacket and a striped v-neck that shows off his collarbones and neck; Victor can't take his eyes off him.
"I'm here!" Yuuri gasps, straightening up and offering Victor a sheepish smile. It widens, along with his eyes, when Victor smiles back and walks up to him, offering his hand to take one of Yuuri's bags.
Yuuri gives the lighter of the two to him, and Victor clasps their free hands together at their sides, squeezing Yuuri's lightly. "You look great. Ready to go?"
Yuuri nods, and they walk to the subway shoulder to shoulder.
It's quite a long ride up to their date spot, but Yuuri leads the way; they take the NQR line, then the L, and get off at last after the long uptown ride (spent leaning into each other seated on the brushed metal seats and holding hands) on the 123 at 116th Street. Victor doesn't have a clue what could be up here that Yuuri was being so secretive about. He'd refused to tell him where they're going, stating that it would be a surprise.
They walk for a few more blocks before Yuuri leads him up brick steps that open on the most beautiful secluded park, with lush grass and cherry blossoms all over the lawn. It's quiet, save a few other families sitting beneath the trees, and Victor has to take a moment to simply look around. The weather is on their side today, and Manhattan never ceases to surprise him with hidden treasures like this. "Oh, this is gorgeous." He sighs, following after Yuuri as he heads for a free spot near the park's gazebo.
"I'm glad you like it. I came here a couple of times with my family when I was a kid ."
"Not more often? Hanami is a yearly thing, right?"
"We're usually down at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens for their festival." Yuuri explains. "We usually have a booth there, but my parents wanted to take it easy this year."
Victor nods, helping Yuuri roll out the straw mat he'd brought underneath the shade of one tree. "I see." Just as quickly as he'd knelt to help Yuuri with setting up, he's ushered to sit down.
"Hey, I invited you; let me handle this." Yuuri instructs, patting the portable floor cushion he's put down for Victor. Victor crawls onto it, sitting with crossed legs as he watches Yuuri take a triple tier lacquered box, a large thermos, and two plastic mugs from his bags. No wonder the totes are so large. Victor had asked if there was anything he should bring, but Yuuri had insisted on taking care of their entire date. Utensils— chopsticks and spoons— join the rest of the items, and Yuuri unveils the bento, undoing the cloth wrapped around it and laying the layers side by side in front of Victor and the second floor cushion beside him.
Pointing to each beautifully placed and sectioned dish in the open box, Yuuri explains their contents. "There's onigiri, which are the triangular rice balls, mentaiko— spicy cod roe— in potato salad, tonkatsu— that's fried pork— with mayo, tamagoyaki— rolled egg, inari sushi— sushi rice in tofu pouches, soy marinated tuna, spinach in dashi, and pickles." Exhaling after the long string of labels, Yuuri shuffles over next to Victor, who loved every second of hearing Yuuri slip into Japanese to name the foods. He'd done it during their first date, too, at the udon shop. He'd even ordered everything in Japanese, leaving Victor in suspense about what he'd ordered for him, but it was lovely nonetheless.
Victor reaches for a pair of chopsticks, mouth already beginning to water at the sight of the bento, and hands the other pair to Yuuri, who's picked up one of the boxes and is offering it to Victor. Graciously, Victor takes a piece of— what is it called, inari sushi? The rice is tinged pink, black sesame seeds speckling its surface, and Victor hums happily at the sweet-salty taste of the tofu and tangy rice unraveling in his bite. Yuuri grins to see Victor's enjoying the food, and reaches for a piece himself. They enjoy the food silently for a while; Victor had forgone breakfast that morning, and he's hungrier than he realized. Everything is delicious, though Victor doesn't care for the spicy mentaiko.
"I don't think we can finish all this food, Yuuri." Victor laughs. "It's a lot."
"Well, my mom and I made it early this morning, and you know how moms are. The bento was just two layers at first, and then she decided right at the end to add the onigiri." Yuuri remarks, gesturing to the half-devoured box. "Speaking of which, she told me that in exchange for helping out with today's picnic, I need to bring you over for dinner."
Victor chokes, then swallows his bite of pork cutlet as he hears Yuuri's words, and he snaps his head up to look at Yuuri with sparkling eyes. "To your parents' place?"
"O-only if you want to. I know it's not even been a month since we started going out, but I want to introduce you."
"I want to." Breathily, Victor nods, putting his chopsticks down to grip Yuuri's free hand. "Does this mean…" It's probably silly for Victor to ask at this point in their relationship, but it would be nice to know for sure.
Yuuri casts his eyes down a little, flushing, and he squeezes Victor's hand back. "I can introduce you as my boyfriend, right?"
Oh, how Victor wants to tumble down with this man and lie with him for all eternity.
The excited hug he gives Yuuri, arms thrown around his boyfriend's neck and cheek pressed right up his, will have to do for now. "Of course you can," Victor gleefully chimes, sounding even happier with his breath so close to Yuuri's ear. Yuuri's arms are around him, hands falling just under his shoulder blades, and he nearly melts into the warmth, leaning some of his weight onto Yuuri as the younger man squawks and scrambles for leverage.
"Victor- Victor, I'm falling." Yuuri protests, exhaling in relief when Victor leans back. They simply gaze at each other for a few short moments as Victor marvels at the brightness in Yuuri's captivating eyes; he hopes Yuuri sees that his own eyes are bright too, because there's no way he's not smiling up to them with his cheeks aching like this.
"Yuuri, my boyfriend." Victor sighs sappily, settling back on his knees and brushing an errant lock of hair behind Yuuri's ear. It makes Yuuri feel the heat across his cheeks and at the tips of his ears acutely, and he places one hand over Victor's, chopsticks abandoned to his side. Yuuri hasn't truly looked at Victor all day, or maybe not even since they started dating, but it's impossible not to in this moment. The blood is rushing loud in his ears at how incredibly beautiful Victor looks with petal-filtered daylight flecking across his features and shining through his pale hair. The thin red patterned scarf draped in a loop around Victor's neck makes his pinkened cheeks and nose and lips look even brighter, and Yuuri forgets to inhale for breath.
"You're mine too," He murmurs, eyes softening in delight. Maybe the wording is loaded, but he's taken Victor by surprise yet again; Victor's jaw is dropped and he's staring like he's stunned.
Victor really has no choice but to take Yuuri by the shoulders and press a good, long kiss to his cheek. It's noisy, sure, but Yuuri looks even more shell-shocked by the end of it, and that's all Victor needs.
It's all he needs until Yuuri has his palms on both sides of his face and their lips pressed together, like they're both music notes falling together into the sweetest harmony Victor's ever known.
It's tentative and scant, but it feels right; it ends too soon for either of their likings. Yuuri just really needed to breathe, but his face still so close to Victor's their noses are almost touching.
"Was… Was that okay?" It's probably too late to ask, and Yuuri's mind is swirling around in shock at himself, but he does anyway, . He lifts his hands off Victor's face, only to have them clapped right back in place on Victor's burning cheeks with Victor's own chilly hands. They're shaking a little, and Yuuri finds himself transfixed in Victor's astonished gaze.
It flits down to Yuuri's lips for just a moment, coming back up to his eyes with enough warmth to make his mouth dry. "Can we… another?"
Yuuri slips one hand away from Victor's cheek and brushes his bangs out of his face, and they manage to meet each other halfway this time. Victor must be able to feel his heart thumping where his hand is rested at the center of his chest; his must be too, from what Yuuri can tell with the fast rise and fall of Victor's chest. He's kissing back, so different from Yuuri's impulsive kiss moments before. This is a first kiss, soft and warm, the gentle force of their lips sliding together with the knowledge that they both want deeper connection. In fact, there'd almost been a tinge of desperation to Victor's plea. Yuuri's cheeks burn with heat, and slender hands creep up to twine behind his neck, making him grunt at the cold on his nape and pull Victor in by his waist; he only faintly registers the clatter of plastic that accompanies the motion.
Victor pulls away when he hears the noise, much to Yuuri's disappointment, and they peer behind Victor to see that his foot is close to kicking over a bento box layer and making a huge mess. Victor turns back to Yuuri, lips a little reddened and pulled into a fond smile. "We should probably clean up first, yes?"
"I guess so." Yuuri murmurs, releasing his hands from behind Victor's back to allow the man free. They have the box and all their utensils packed up in record time, and everything is placed back into the canvas bags before Yuuri spots something he'd been too nervous to remember earlier. Victor raises an eyebrow when he pulls an insulated wine bag out, and Yuuri slides the bag partway off to reveal a modest brown bottle with blobby Japanese calligraphy on its label. "My dad gave me this saké if you want to try it; it's a junmai ginjo, so it's a little lighter. It might be too cold out for a cold drink, but..."
"Junmai ginjo? Isn't that of high quality?" Victor blinks, observing the packaging. Yuuri's surprised that, besides Victor's near-perfect pronunciation, he knows about different kinds of saké. It might simply be because of the rise (or so he hears) of saké in the US in recent years.
"I don't know much, but my dad insists on it for hanami and special occasions." Turning the bottle around in his hands, Yuuri scans the text on the bottle. His Japanese reading comprehension doesn't get as much use as it probably should, so it's a little odd to trip over characters he's certain he used to know. "Do you want some? I don't really drink, so…"
"That's very kind of your dad, but there's no way I can finish it all by myself." Victor waves his hand, declining the offer. "I prefer drinking in the evenings— maybe it can be saved for that dinner your mom requested."
Yuuri nods bashfully, humming at the promise of them having dinner with his parents. He reaches for the large thermos at the edge of the picnic mat and pours some hot sencha into the two mugs they'd brought. Victor takes one mug of tea gratefully, holding it in both hands and feeling the heat radiate into his chilled fingers and face with a sigh. The first sip warms him up already, and he relaxes, even if the liquid had scalded his tastebuds a little. Yuuri, meanwhile, has already finished most of his tea, and he lowers the mug from his lips with a happy exhale.
He watches as Victor finally manages to drink the rest of his tea, and he places their emptied mugs on the side.
"You know, I once heard that the best way to enjoy cherry blossoms is to lie down and see them from below." Victor says, already lowering himself onto the mat with the floor cushion behind his head. "I've always wanted to try, but I never found the time or anyone to do it with."
"No harm in trying now," Yuuri replies, following suit. It's nice to lie on grass sometimes, with the earthiness and fresh sweetness around them. The cherry blossoms are beautiful from below, a canopy of blossoms shadowed by dark branches and bright against the sky.
It's strange, Victor reflects, but he hasn't felt so contented in silence for a long time. How often in his life does he truly pause like this and simply bask in the moment? His thoughts sound like a clickbait testimonial from a meditation ad he might find on Facebook, he realizes, but it's just true. There's nothing else he'd rather be doing, truly relaxed for the first time in ages, and the thought brings an uncontrollable smile to his face as he looks over at Yuuri.
Victor often has sentimental moments, but they've increased tenfold since he met Yuuri two months ago. None of those moments could compare, however, for the surge of tenderness he feels at the pure joy of lying here with Yuuri. He turns on his side to reach for Yuuri's hand rested beside him, and Yuuri turns his attention to Victor, blinking curiously.
"What's up?" Yuuri asks, turning on his side to face his boyfriend.
"Nothing much." Victor lilts, rubbing his thumb over the top of Yuuri's hand. "I'm just happy we're here."
Victor closes his eyes as Yuuri brushes his bangs back again, letting the long strands fall onto the pillow supporting Victor's head, and Victor opens his eyes to see Yuuri's sweet smile. "You like pushing my bangs back, I notice."
"I didn't really get to see under them before." Yuuri admits, hand hovering to the side of Victor's face. "Kind of always wanted to. Since the other half of your face is so nice."
Victor chuckles, mouth forming that beautiful heart shape that Yuuri adores. "Well, I hope the whole picture has met your expectations."
"It has," Yuuri murmurs, blush rising to his cheeks again as he kisses the side of Victor's mouth to hide his embarrassment.
They don't get much flower viewing done before the sun starts to set and they leave the park, walking down to the station hand in hand.
Victor's body is still a little chilly from being outside so long, but his heart is warm as they exit the subway. They had only parted hands twice their commute, out of necessity because the station turnstiles aren't built for two.
"Are you sure you want to see me back? Your stop is two more away, isn't it?" He asks, squeezing Yuuri's hand subconsciously in hopes that Yuuri hasn't suddenly changed his mind.
"It's alright, I need to drop everything off at the shop anyways, and you should see to Makkachin. The dog-sitter only stays till six-thirty, right?"
"You're only dating me for my dog, aren't you?" Victor gasps in mock-shock, and Yuuri laughs.
"Of course not! But I do want to see her, since you've talked about her so much."
Victor's satisfied with this answer, and he's smiling wide as he waits for Yuuri to drop his bags off in the flower shop. Victor would offer to go up with him, but on the train, Yuuri had told him that he wants to tell his parents more about Victor before they meet him for the first time.
Victor's okay with that; and he's a little glad for the delay. It wouldn't do to meet his boyfriend's family as his boyfriend for the first time with messy hair and reddened lips.
Yuuri returns quickly, and they make their way to Victor's apartment complex.
It's a modern looking building with large balconies and a nice entryway, and Victor nods "hi" to the doorman as he walks in. The ride up in the elevator is pleasant, nothing like the jolts and sudden stops of Yuuri's creaky apartment elevator. When they finally reach a six-paneled door with "6B" in brass cut letters and Victor unlocks the door with an exuberant "я дома!" Yuuri's heard snippets of Victor's Russian before, but it's always interesting to hear how different it is from his English. Victor's greeting earns him excited barking and slow footsteps coming from the small, modern living room inside, and Yuuri watches at the door with Victor as his poodle trots over and an older, bearded man shuffles to the door.
"Добрый вечер, Victor," he says, nodding at Victor, who's crouching and ruffling Makkachin's fur, and he notices Yuuri close behind him. "Who is this?"
"Yuuri is my boyfriend." Victor chimes happily, as Yuuri takes Nikolai's outstretched hand and shakes it. "Yuuri, this is Nikolai, a longtime friend of mine. I used to work with him, but now he helps me dog-sit."
"Yuuri, hm? Just like my grandson." Nikolai remarks with an accent, giving Yuuri a stern once-over. Yuuri's heard tell of the other Yuri, a teenager who helps out at Victor's company— he didn't think he'd be meeting his grandfather. "Treat Victor right; he's actually very lonely."
"Nikolai," Victor grumbles, and launches into a short, very fast chiding in Russian. Yuuri simply nods shyly after he's done laughing at Victor's embarrassment, assuring Nikolai that he'll do that even without being asked. The answer brings a grin to Nikolai's face, making him seem just a little less terrifying. Yuuri breathes a quiet sigh of relief as Victor converses with Nikolai, and crouches to look at the elderly dog sitting prettily at Victor's feet.
"Hey, Makkachin," Yuuri says, yelping when the dog jumps onto him and begins licking his face. "It's nice to finally meet you too! Or, I guess, I don't know if Victor's talked to you about me at all. I have to go soon, but I'll be back sometime."
Victor catches the end of Yuuri's one-sided conversation with his dog, and he looks down at Yuuri in a little dismay. "You're not staying?"
"Mm." Yuuri shakes his head. "My family always prepares a dinner for all four of us the day of the flower viewings. I need to be there."
"Well, okay, I guess." Victor sighs, turning to face Yuuri and taking his hands. "I've been hogging you all afternoon, so it's only fair."
"I'll text you, okay?"
Victor nods reluctantly, looking like a put-out puppy. Seeing that Nikolai has turned to go back inside the apartment, Yuuri chances a quick peck to Victor's lips; it takes Victor by surprise, but the smile returns to his face.
"Good night, Victor," Yuuri says, letting go of Victor's hands and waving as he goes back down the corridor to the lift lobby.
"Good night, Yuuri."
Victor watches until Yuuri enters the elevator and the doors close, and he sighs wistfully.
Nikolai is right, he really does have it bad.
Yuuri collapses on the couch after the dinner of the foods his mother couldn't fit into their hanami bento boxes. He's glad for the home-cooked food, because he and Phichit are sub-par cooks. This time, it isn't childhood memories that arise from the taste, but memories of earlier that afternoon: the way Victor's eyes had crinkled at the edges at that first bite of inari sushi, or his enthusiastic praise for his mother's onigiri.
"How can something as simple as plain rice wrapped in seaweed taste so good, Yuuri? Your mother must be a magician."
The memory brings a stupid grin to Yuuri's face. So much had happened today— from the success of his first planned date to their first kiss, to officially becoming boyfriends and meeting Makkachin and Nikolai.
It makes his heart flutter to remember, and knowing that this is just the beginning is the most staggering realization of all.
The thought warms his chest through the chilly night walk home, and he'll be very talkative when Phichit asks how the date went tonight.
1花見, hanami: Flower viewing, a Japanese custom celebrated with outdoor parties beneath sakura trees.[return to text]
2弁当, bentō: a Japanese style boxed lunch, often made more elaborate or stacked for celebrations such as hanami.[return to text]
3団子, dango: a sweet Japanese rice flour dumpling, firmer than mochi but very similar. Hanami dango are tri-colored, pink, green, and white.[return to text]
4The NQR, L, and 123 train lines are all New York subway lines! Stops are labeled by street names or landmarks, hence 116th Street station.[return to text]
5純米吟醸酒, Junmai Ginjō-shu: Sake that's made using rice that's milled 40%, with 60% of each grain remaining. Considered a premium sake that's good for food pairing.[return to text]
6煎茶, sencha: A Japanese whole leaf green tea.[return to text]
7я дома, ya doma: I'm home.[return to text]
8Добрый вечер, dobriy vyecher: good evening.[return to text]
9おにぎり, onigiri: rice balls.[return to text]
Chapter 8: Selfies and Brunch
Chapter by ingthing, ingthing_YOI (ingthing)
Yuuri is absolutely in love, and Phichit wants to meet Victor.
Phichit, eating popcorn while listening to Yuuri talk about his boyfriend: "The most wholesome reality entertainment is reality."
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Yuuri's really not sure whether Phichit genuinely likes hearing his sappy recounts of his relationship or if he lives vicariously through Yuuri listening to them. They've been chronically single for the past few years, after all, even through undergrad in Detroit; nothing truly changed when they decided to move in together a little over a year and a half ago. Phichit had moved to New York after graduating and proposed that, since Yuuri kept grumbling about living with family again after graduating two years before him, they should find an apartment and split the rent.
Even if his commute is longer now, Yuuri vastly prefers living with Phichit to living with his family. It had been stifling to sleep and work with his family at the flower shop; Yuuri may be a homebody, but he appreciates work-life separation.
It's only natural that Phichit, Yuuri's roommate and best friend, wants to meet the boyfriend Yuuri's been, in Phichit's words, "totally fawning over" since they've been together. Whenever Yuuri comes home late, having gone for a meal with Victor, Phichit turns to the entryway with sparkling, expectant eyes.
Today's no different. Yuuri shuts the main door and sheds his sneakers, balancing with one hand on the wall as he looks up to meet Phichit's inquisitive gaze; he's draped his arms over the back of their sofa and his phone is dangling from one hand.
"Had a good time?" He lilts, grinning wider as Yuuri rolls his eyes, smiling.
"You know I always do," shucking his jacket off and hanging it up, Yuuri goes to their kitchen to make a mug of tea. Some jasmine tea sounds good right now, to cut through the creaminess of the pasta he had earlier.
Phichit watches him from the couch, surprisingly quiet. He's usually bursting with curiosity after Yuuri's day, eager to hear any juicy details that Yuuri has to offer. It's not an unpleasant change, though to be able to hear the hot water dispenser dispensing for once without the chatter is weird.
"Hey, Yuuri?" Phichit says, breaking the silence. Yuuri turns to him with his drink. "Listen, you don't have to come home every night. I'm a big kid, I can spend a night or two alone."
Yuuri splutters on his sip and lets the mug land on the kitchen counter with a clunk.
"What? I'm just saying you can spend the night somewhere else if you want." His best friend raises his eyebrows, clearly feigning innocence. "Oh— but just so you know, I expect details afterwards."
Yuuri sighs, throwing Phichit a scandalized look as he picks his mug back up and sits on the couch next to him. "It's really not like that yet-"
"Yet." Phichit repeats after Yuuri. "Listen, I know you're on the ace spectrum and everything, but, like, wouldn't it be nice to at least cuddle without having to worry about, y'know, coming back at night? You like hugs, right?"
"They're nice, I guess?" Yuuri furrows his brow, coloring at Phichit's directness. "But he doesn't wake up as early as I do. I don't want to wake him and be rude."
"If everything you've told me about this guy is true, he'll consider it a blessing to be woken up early by you. Doesn't he come into the shop every chance he gets?" That does sound like Victor to Yuuri, and he smiles at the thought. Phichit catches his grin immediately. "Ah! See, you're smiling just thinking about it!"
Forcing the smile down, Yuuri shakes himself out of his thoughts. "Okay, but I've only been over once. And it wasn't for long; just to see him home after hanami."
"Is that what you did? Oh my god," Phichit groans. "He didn't invite you in?"
"I had to go back to the shop for dinner with my family, so I didn't stay."
"Are you kidding me right now?" Phichit pauses for breath, picks up a patterned pillow off the couch, and buries his face in it for a few seconds before jerking his head back up again to glare at Yuuri. "He invited you in and you left to go eat dinner?"
"Well, yeah." Yuuri shrugs. "I got to meet his dog, Makkachin, though. She's a beautiful poodle."
"Oh my god. You couldn't have made the excuse of feeling sick after being outside so long for flower viewing? You couldn't just have told your family that you got distracted by a poodle and couldn't get to dinner?"
"Like they would believe that second one." Gulping down a little more tea, Yuuri scoffs.
"Yuuri, I'm pretty sure your parents are dying for you to be a little selfish and just skip a day or two of work already. Live a little!" Phichit throws his hands up,smacking the pillow in his lap as they come down. "Go on more dates. Sneak out at lunch. Heck, go make out in one of your big flower freezers!"
"That last one we're definitely not doing." Yuuri mutters. "But I guess you have a point."
"He's gonna cry with joy if you suggest staying the night." Phichit nods. "I just know it."
Yuuri hums noncommittally. "Maybe not soon, but sometime."
"Oh, but before that can happen, I need to make sure he's a good person. Tell me again when you're going to introduce him to me?" Immediately, Phichit's exasperation seems to fade away. Yuuri's envious of how chipper the younger man is.
"I don't think you need to worry about his character, but I'll have to ask him about meeting."
"Do that! Maybe this weekend? There's an awesome brunch place I've been wanting to go to." Phichit nods enthusiastically, swiftly bringing up the bookmarked cafe website on his phone and sending it to Yuuri's phone.
Yuuri gets up with his mug and stares at his own phone screen, silently taking in the details. It's a nice looking restaurant, and there's a beautiful shot of a plate of eggs benedict gracing the front page; it looks and sounds good already, and Yuuri heads back into his room. "Okay, yeah. Let me ask."
To his nervous excitement and Phichit's delight, Victor readily agrees to meet them for brunch on Sunday, two days away.
The anticipation mixes with doubt in the back of Yuuri's mind, but he pushes it away through the rest of the work week.
It's 11:03AM when Yuuri and Phichit, panting, speed-walk up to the tall windowed cafe.
"Yuuri, slow down! It's only a couple of minutes-"
"You know I have lateness anxiety." Yuuri hisses back, pushing back his jacket sleeves to stop the stifling warmth on his forearms. They pause at the door, taking a moment to collect themselves before straightening back up again.
"Okay, okay. Hold on—" Phichit says, motioning at his own hair to get Yuuri to brush the bangs on one side of his head back. Yuuri does, confusedly; the locks fall behind his ear in place and Phichit gives him a strong thumbs-up. "Good to go, and I already checked twice that I'm selfie-ready this morning."
"Yeah, that's why we're late," Yuuri murmurs under his breath, leading the way in pushing the industrial-looking cafe door open and peering around to spot Victor's face at any of the tables.
"Shit, Yuuri-" Phichit whispers, voice hushing as he grips Yuuri's arm tight. "Is that- look over there, is that who I think it is?" Yuuri looks in the direction Phichit's pointing in, and he catches Victor, who's sitting at a square table towards the back of the brick-walled interior, looking at his phone. He glances up to see Yuuri and Phichit standing by the doorway, and offers a grin that Yuuri returns.
"Victor's over there." Yuuri mentions to Phichit, making a small wave to his boyfriend as he starts walking over.
He's suddenly yanked by the arm back towards the entrance and through the cafe door.
"What- Phichit!" Yuuri yelps as he stumbles back onto steady feet on the pavement. "What the heck?"
"That's Victor Nikiforov. Victor Nikiforov." Phichit mumbles, like he's in a trance.
"Hey, you said his name right." Yuuri blinks, surprised. "I had trouble with it before."
"You're dating Victor Nikiforov?" Phichit asks in complete disbelief. "You've been dating Victor Nikiforov for a little over a month and you never said anything?"
"Did I not mention his name before? I'm pretty sure I've told you his name is Victor at least— and you know he's a wedding planner."
Phichit gapes at Yuuri like a fish. "Well yeah, but I didn't know it was him! He's on all my favorite bridal shows! He's like, practically a household name!"
"I didn't know he was that famous." Yuuri replies, and Phichit covers his face with both hands in an effort to calm himself. As oblivious as Yuuri is, surely he'd caught a glimpse of his now-boyfriend on the big tv screen in their living room. Phichit rewatches the particular seasons of Boutique Weddings and Venue Veneration Victor appears on religiously. Somehow, all that had just bypassed Yuuri? Phichit is happy for him, but what the hell?
Yuuri's phone buzzes— it's a text from Victor, asking if everything's ok. "I know you're still in a state of shock or something, but can we go back inside, Phichit? Victor's worrying."
Phichit takes a deep breath and takes his hands off his face. "Yeah. Yeah, let's go inside. Do I still look good? Is my eyeliner still on point?"
"Yeah, yeah." Yuuri nods absent-mindedly, tapping out "Phichit's just being silly, we're coming back inside now" to Victor before slipping his phone back into his jacket pocket.
They make their way back inside, and Phichit tries and fails to suppress his excitement after Victor notes his pre-brunch selfie prowess. Victor likes Phichit, thank god, and Yuuri listens happily as they hit it off on the topic of recent food trends.
After the pleasant meal, Phichit excuses himself to go somewhere, and he waves as he runs towards the nearest subway station. It's probably a front to give Victor and Yuuri some time alone, which Victor mentally thanks the lifestyle journalist for.
"Well," striding easily together with held hands swinging by their sides, Victor says, "that was very fun. Phichit seems like a very good friend."
Yuuri nods. "He's a very big fan of yours, too. I forget sometimes that you're…" He trails off, making Victor cock his head to the side in confusion. "That you're kinda famous, I guess?"
"I wouldn't say I'm very renown." Victor replies gently. They come to a stop at a crossing, and Yuuri sticks a little closer to his side. "I don't do shows anymore, I'm so busy."
"Do you wish you could?" Yuuri asks.
"Hm, well…" Victor murmurs, bringing a hand up to his chin in contemplation. "I suppose there's one idea for a show I wouldn't mind doing."
They cross the street and into the fenced park on the other side, and they settle on one of the park's benches. Yuuri inquires what that idea might be.
"Alright," Victor clears his throat and sits straighter, holding his hands out in two "L" shapes, mimicking a frame. "Picture this: Boutique Bouquets, a show focused on the complicated art of bridal floristry, featuring Katsuki Flowers, a family owned floristry that makes only the most beautiful arrangements."
Yuuri laughs bashfully, leaning his head onto Victor's shoulder. "That'd be a show about the flower shop, not you."
"Don't worry, I'd be the eye-candy wedding planner always seated at the counter." Victor announces, nodding definitively. "In front of, of course, his equally, if not more handsome beau and co-host, Yuuri Katsuki of Katsuki Flowers."
"You know I'm not really the TV type," Yuuri smiles as he readjusts their hands in their laps.
"True, but we'd be the best boyfriend-boyfriend team to ever grace the screen." Victor sighs, daydreaming at the thought. Letting go of Yuuri's hand, he brings his arm behind Yuuri to hug him close, pressing his lips to Yuuri's forehead, exposed where his bangs are brushed back on the side. "I don't think I'll do television again for a long time, but if I do, it'll have to be with you."
"Being with you is generally... what I want right now." Yuuri admits softly, turning his head to look at Victor. It catches Victor by surprise, but his surprise melts into an absolutely adoring expression before it's too close to tell, caught between the sweet kisses they exchange before it's time to go home.
This time, Victor brings Yuuri home.
Chapter 9: Restless
Chapter by ingthing, ingthing_YOI (ingthing)
Victor wants to learn more, and Yuuri wants more.
There was so much I wanted to cram into this chapter but I think it worked out nicely!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It makes Victor proud to know that he's met almost all of Yuuri's closest friends and family, and they've only been dating a little over a month.
Yuuri retorted, when Victor mentioned this happily to him, that he doesn't have that many family members or friends for Victor to meet anyway— not that Victor having met them isn't a big deal. When Yuuri's not working in the front of the shop, maybe off making deliveries or downstairs helping in the basement, Victor converses with whoever's at the counter. It's usually Mrs. Katsuki (as Victor calls her, though she insists on just "Hiroko",) or Mari, or the high schooler with striking red and yellow hair who's part-timing for the duration of his summer break. His name is Minami, Victor thinks, and he's quite lively.
Yuuri's texted him that he'll be back to the shop in around half an hour, and while he doesn't dislike Minami's company, it's certainly not Yuuri at the counter— and, if Victor's honest, it's a little unsettling seeing Minami fumble with tools and drop things every ten seconds. There's another distinct thud of an object falling to the ground as Victor exits the flower shop, and he heads for the little Japanese bakery two doors down after wishing the flustered teenager good luck.
Although he loves Yuuri's company, there are simply some things he cannot learn about his boyfriend directly from him.
The bakery's doorbell chimes quieter than the one at the floristry, and the auburn-haired woman at the bakery cashier turns towards him with a smile.
She's unusually chipper for the late Friday afternoon— this must be Yuuko, one of Yuuri's childhood friends he mentions every so often. Victor smiles back, and he takes a moment to glance around the store. It's small but clean, a central bread case guiding the flow around the space. There's a small sitting area currently filled by three little girls towards the back by a refrigerator filled with bottled Japanese drinks, and Victor notes that they're busy chattering over three small smartphones— kids these days are so technologically advanced.
"Hello," Victor lilts, walking right up to the counter. "Are you Yuuko?"
She nods, eyes widened curiously. "I am. What can I do for you?"
Victor comes forward and takes one of Yuuko's hands, shaking it enthusiastically. "Yuuri's talked about you, but I haven't actually come into your bakery before! I'm usually at the flower shop, you see." He's babbling a little, and he pauses with an inhale to get to the formality of introducing himself. "I'm Victor, Yuuri's boyfriend."
Yuuko's jaw drops, and she can't contain her voice. "Yu… Yuuri has a boyfriend?!"
Victor's about to say he thought Yuuko knew about their relationship when a man pops his head out the door behind the counter, a similar expression of shock on his face. He's clearly heard Yuuko through the wall.
"Takeshi! Yuuri has a boyfriend!" Yuuko repeats, taking Takeshi by the shoulders and shaking him. The three children— triplets, now that Victor has a closer look at them— have run up to Yuuko, speaking over each other and inquiring Mama! Yuuri has a boyfriend? Is it the cool guy at the counter? Are they getting married?, making Victor blush and grin before Yuuko claps her hands loudly to calm everyone down.
"Yes, I'm dating Yuuri," Victor declares proudly. "It's been a over a month, now."
"And he never told me?" Yuuko gasps, putting her hands on her hips. "I'm going to find him later and give him a piece of my mind. "
"I'm meeting him when he comes back to the shop in a while," Victor laughs. "Speaking of Yuuri, I wanted to ask you about him."
Turning her head to face Victor, Yuuko tilts her head in question. "Oh? What's up? It's not Yuuri's birthday anytime soon."
"No, that, I know— it's in November." Victor explains. "We're meant to go out for dinner tonight, so I was wondering if you know what Yuuri's favorite food is. I'd like to surprise him, is all."
"Oh, he loves tonkatsu." Yuuko reveals, emphasis on loves.
Victor nods. He recalls having had tonkatsu in the hanami bento Hiroko had packed for them when they went cherry blossom viewing a few weeks ago. Yuuri had asked if Victor wanted the last piece. When Victor declined and offered it to Yuuri instead, the brunette had smiled and taken it without question.
"We do a tonkatsu sandwich that Yuuri happens to really like, if you don't mind having a sandwich for dinner." Yuuko suggests, pointing at one of the shelves in the bread display. There are two clear plastic boxes there, showing that the rest of the display is nearly cleared out, and carefully cut sandwiches are lined up inside each one, revealing the fillings. "Not to boast, but they're really pretty good! I may have gotten some tips from Hiroko."
"Consider me sold!" Victor fishes in his tote bag for his wallet. "How much do I owe you for both boxes?"
"I can't charge you! Hiroko would be so mad if she found out."
"No, I insist!" Victor pushes. "It's only fair, since you've worked hard to make them."
Yuuko thinks for a few moments, and then arrives at a compromise. "Okay, how about this: You can pay for Yuuri's portion, and I'll give you the other one free. That way, you're still technically treating him, right?"
Victor agrees to this, and he pays for a little box of yummy-looking mini daifuku that are sitting by the cash register too— He's acquired a taste for red bean recently, possibly from trying Yuuri's snacks.
He heads back to Katsuki Flowers to wait for Yuuri to return after waving to to the Nishigoris, promising the triplets that he'll visit again soon.
On the other side of town, Yuuri is standing, holding a rather large bouquet in his arms, at the front desk of an apartment building. The doorman is on the phone, staring unblinkingly into the computer monitor in front of him as he waits for the apartment owner to pick up the call.
"And who did you say the delivery was for again?" He mutters, hunched over and moody.
Yuuri's the one who should be disgruntled. He's been standing here for over ten minutes— all he wants to do is deliver the flowers and leave. He glances at his clipboard again, just to make sure his memory is right. "It's for Sara Crispino in Apartment 7C."
Yuuri's about to ask if he can just leave the flowers with the doorman when the receiver picks up. The grumpy doorman listens intently, nodding and writing notes on the notepad in front of him.
"Alright, go on up."
Sighing in relief, Yuuri nods to the doorman as he walks past the front desk and to the elevators.
It's pretty noisy when he exits the elevator on the seventh floor, and, just as he fears, all the clamor is coming from Apartment 7C.
He's as far as he can possibly get from the door with his hand still able to reach and knock on it, and he can still make out angry voices from inside— or, actually, just one angry voice.
"Listen, Emil, if you so much as touch Sara while I'm getting this delivery, you're gonna have me to answer to."
There's some muffled talking— a disapproving feminine voice, and then the voice of another person— Emil, Yuuri supposes, who laughs to dismiss the angered man's threat. Yuuri gulps and prays this delivery is over and done fast with so he can be on his way.
He knocks pretty firmly, and waits in anticipation.
The door opens a few seconds later, after some jostling of the door chain, and a pissed-off looking young man is at the door, sneering at Yuuri.
"Flowers, huh?" He takes the bouquet of calla lilies, eyes narrowing at the small sticker-sealed envelope tucked into the arrangement. "Let me sign for them."
"I, uh, actually need Miss Crispino's signature." Yuuri says, holding the clipboard up to show the recipient field at the bottom of his order sheet.
"Oh, flowers?" Sara comes up behind the man at the door, latching her fingers onto his shoulder to peer over him. "Get out of the way, Mickey, let me sign."
Mickey moves out of the way begrudgingly, and Sara moves in front to take Yuuri's pen and sign with a flourish.
"Who's sendin' you flowers?" Mickey interrogates. "Is it Emil? Or some other dude I don't know about?"
Giving the pen back to Yuuri, Sara throws an indignant glare at Mickey and launches into a frustrated lecture. "If you must know, I bought these flowers myself. And why does it matter if people send me flowers? You're only my brother. Get over yourself." She snatches the lilies out of Mickey's hands, and storms back inside after thanking Yuuri curtly.
"Sara— wait, Sara!" Mickey panics, and the door slams shut in Yuuri's face.
Well, that was eventful.
The traffic congested drive back to the flower shop is tedious and gives Yuuri a lot of time to think.
Not only did the ordeal with Sara and Mickey (Mickey? Who names their kid after a Disney character?) drain him, but it's also making him late to his Friday night with Victor. That's what he's more upset about, really— he hates making people wait, and being with Victor has just shown him that he hates making himself wait even more.
His relationship with Victor is going well, and he really can't ask for anything else than for his love to be returned, and it is. Victor is a great boyfriend, too. He comes by the shop all the time, texts Yuuri when he misses him or wants to know how Yuuri's day is going, and he's ecstatic with even the shortest of hugs or the faintest brush of their hands.
Therein lies the problem.
Yuuri must be crazy to not be satisfied with all Victor does and how unabashedly happy his boyfriend makes him. But the fact remains that he isn't satisfied, and the only way Yuuri can reconcile that in his mind is that he wants more.
It's a scary thing to think, especially because being in a relationship, holding hands, kissing— all of it is new. The thought that he might want "more" from another person one day would never have crossed his mind half a year ago. He wasn't sure calling himself demisexual was exactly right, given that, well, he's never formed enough of a bond with anyone to know for sure. But then Victor came along, and while Yuuri can't say he'd be comfortable with crossing into sexual territory at the moment, there's no denying he likes intimacy, and he would love to just… be closer to Victor. It would be nice to maybe spend more than a few stolen hours with each other at a time, to maybe see each other more than once on any given day.
It's nerve-wracking that he even wants those things, but it makes his heart swell to see the platinum-haired man seated inside the store in front of Mari at the counter as he pulls up to the curb outside Katsuki Flowers around seven.
As he enters the store, he sees that Mari's holding in laughter as Victor sweats over something.
"You mean I shouldn't give flowers to a florist??" He exclaims in dismay, replying to whatever Mari said before Yuuri walked in. "I didn't know it was a faux pas—"
"It's not. Mari's just teasing you, Victor, don't worry." Yuuri interjects, raising an eyebrow at his sister as he comes up to the counter. Victor completely lights up when he turns and sees Yuuri's returned, and it makes Yuuri's heart thump harder in his chest to see the thousand-watt smile that spreads across Victor's face.
"Yuuri, you're back!" Spreading his arms to invite Yuuri into his arms, Victor hugs around Yuuri's waist when the brunette walks into his hold, resting his head against Yuuri's torso. "Your sister is a terrible person," he jokes, voice light.
"Believe me, I know," Yuuri replies, rolling his eyes. Past memories of Mari teasing him are all too vivid in his mind— sometimes, Yuuri thinks all the cynicism he has stored inside is a result of having his trust betrayed over and over as a child. He hands the delivery clipboard over to Mari as she sniggers at Yuuri's incredibly gullible boyfriend.
"Well, I guess I'll leave you two to your date night— I'm going to go help dad." She pats Yuuri on the shoulder as she walks out from behind the counter and to the nearby stairwell, waving at Victor before disappearing downstairs.
Looking up at Yuuri happily, Victor's chin digs a little into Yuuri's belly, but it's not enough of a discomfort to make Yuuri want Victor to stop hugging him. The sensation is funny when Victor asks about his day, jaw moving against his shirt, and Yuuri looks amusedly down at him.
"Fridays are always longest. The last delivery was…" Trailing off, Yuuri grimaces at the memory of the stressful conversation he'd witnessed.
"Clients are interesting sometimes, aren't they?" Victor says, nodding sympathetically. "But isn't Minami taking your shift tomorrow? You won't have to deal with them until Sunday."
Fiddling with Victor's hair, Yuuri smiles. Tomorrow is his first Saturday off in ages— it'd been just their luck that Yuuri usually has to work on Saturdays and Victor typically is called to venues on Sundays, completely contradicting each others' free days. Yuuri doesn't know when he'll have another opportunity as perfect as this.
"Oh yeah, Yuuri— I got us some dinner!" Victor lets Yuuri go, reaching instead for the plastic bag sitting on the counter and holding it out to his boyfriend so he can see its contents.
"Tonkatsu sandwiches?" Yuuri notes, peering inside the bag. They're his favorite, though he never usually has tonkatsu sandwiches for dinner. How did Victor know?
"I visited the Nishigoris' bakery while I was waiting for you, and Yuuko told me you like these. Are you ok with them for dinner?"
"Yeah, of course." Yuuri nods, handing the bag back to Victor. Just as he begins to take the food out of the bag and put it on the counter, Yuuri stops him. "Hold on, let me close up shop first, and then maybe we can go somewhere else?"
"Somewhere else?" Victor repeats. "Where should we go?"
Yuuri ducks his head and latches one hand on his nape. "Well, I haven't really been to your place beyond the door, and I'd love to see Makkachin again."
The suggestion makes Victor light up even more (how is that possible?) and he stands up excitedly, only to sit right back down when Yuuri laughs and reminds him that he has to prepare for closing first. He waits patiently as Yuuri locks up, going upstairs briefly and returning with his messenger bag, and they're soon on their way down the block to Victor's apartment.
Makkachin is just as enthusiastic to see Yuuri as the last time, and Nikolai pats Victor on the back, nodding to Yuuri as he ambles out of Victor's apartment after another day spent dog-sitting. After a few moments spent just seated together on the floor of Victor's entryway as Makkachin clambers all over Yuuri, they get up, take off their shoes, and Yuuri takes in the interior of Victor's apartment for the first time.
It's airy, with chic minimalistic furniture and blue accents. There's a cushy looking gray sofa with a black throw blanket opposite a wall-mounted flatscreen TV, with a low wood and iron coffee table stationed between them. A corner near the glass balcony door is ajar, Makkachin's dog bed and some toys scattered around it in front of the kitchen and dining area; it's admittedly small, like many New York apartment kitchens, but it looks clean and well equipped, backed with white subway tiles and counters sided with metallic panels. They head towards the dining area, which consists of an oval shaped marble table and four molded-plywood chairs.
Yuuri thinks that the three identical standing studio lamps near the sofa and the dining table are kind of silly, but he's sure Victor has much better taste in interior design than he ever will. He glances around curiously, amazed by how stylish but homey Victor's apartment is. It's definitely a far cry from his and Phichit's.
Victor pulls a chair out for Yuuri theatrically, making him laugh, and Yuuri takes his bag off and hangs it off the side of the chair before sitting.
Suddenly, the bookshelf across from him catches his eye. The blue rabbit shaped dog toy he'd given Victor for Makkachin so many weeks ago is unmistakeable against the dark wood of the shelf, and he looks to Victor confusedly, pointing at it. "Victor, isn't that the dog toy I…"
Looking back at where Yuuri's pointing and back to Yuuri, Victor opens his mouth silently, giving an answer a few moments later. "Oh, that? Makkachin didn't end up liking it. I thought it looked cute on the shelf."
Yuuri nods quietly, chewing on a bite of sandwich. How long has it been sitting there? They hadn't even started dating when Yuuri gave it to Victor, and he colors at the thought. He really should have taken more initiative with asking Victor out.
Time ticks by as they finish dinner, moving to the sofa with Makkachin after the sandwiches are done.
They go from sitting shoulder to shoulder, to leaning, to reclining with their legs nestled together with the drone of the television forgotten around them. The soothing weight of Victor's hand is resting on Yuuri's nape. Victor's breathing is deep and peaceful, and Yuuri is afraid his boyfriend's fallen asleep when he raises his head from where it's tucked beside Victor's face; but Victor's eyes crack open, and he offers a fond smile at Yuuri's curious expression.
"It's getting late, isn't it? I'm falling asleep." He laughs, blinking slowly. "Do you need to go?"
Well, here goes nothing.
"Actually, about that," Yuuri murmurs, repositioning himself to face Victor better, "is it okay if I… sleep here?"
Victor's droopy eyes shoot wide in an instant, smile disappearing and reappearing wider than ever out of surprise. "You want to stay the night?"
"Just to sleep!" Yuuri clarifies. "I brought a change of clothing from the shop, too, if that's okay."
"It's more than okay." Victor breathes, craning his neck to press a smooch to Yuuri's cheek. "You're always welcome here."
It's easier than Yuuri anticipated to get Victor to let him stay over, but he's glad it was. Relaxing atop of Victor, he scoots upward to catch Victor's lips, and Victor gives them up willingly. They stay like that until the clock by the TV strikes ten, and an opportune yawn escapes Yuuri, forcing him to stop making out with Victor.
"Come on, let's prepare for bed." Victor suggests. "I'll get you some towels. Did you bring a toothbrush?"
Yuuri forgot to, so Victor runs off to the cupboard in his small hallway and gathers whatever he thinks Yuuri might need as Yuuri retrieves his clothes from his bag. It turns out that Victor's bedroom is just as nicely furnished as the living room, but it looks more lived in and smells more like Victor, since the luxurious king-sized bed in the center of it is still unmade. They take turns showering, and when they finally make it to bed, Victor revels in the smell of his shampoo in Yuuri's damp hair, snuggling closer to Yuuri and relaxing against his body.
He's so completely content sleeping in Yuuri's arms that Yuuri almost doesn't want to brush the hair that's fallen into Victor's eyes back, afraid that he might disturb him. As he does, Victor catches his hand, brushing his lips against Yuuri's palm and murmuring something about walking Makkachin and having breakfast in the morning.
Yuuri wants all of that and then some, but it'll have to wait.
Enveloped in each other, they sleep.
1豚カツ, とんかつ, tonkatsu: Deep fried breaded pork cutlet, also found in Katsudon.[return to text]
3大福, daifuku: Japanese rice cakes stuffed with sweet filling (often, sweetened red bean paste or anko.)[return to text]
Chapter 10: Rose Gelato
Chapter by ingthing, ingthing_YOI (ingthing)
Victor has a summer's day surprise planned.
I apologize for any oncoming ice cream related innuendo, but honestly, it's probably all in your head and they're just eating ice cream!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
When Chris' phone vibrates several times late one dinner service, he reads the name repeated down his screen of notifications and heads to the bathroom after slipping the device into his pocket.
He locks the door, sits on the covered toilet seat, and props his elbows on his knees, scanning over the messages on his touchscreen. There are quite a few from his best friend, and he sounds desperate.
Victor: Chris, I need help.
Victor: I don't know what to do.
Victor: Is dinner service done?
Victor: Text me!
Chris frowns, noticing Victor's hurried tone. It's long past midnight, but the messages are recent; what could Victor need? Quickly, Chris types out a reply.
Chris: What's wrong? You're not often up so late.
Victor: Just in bed with the boyfriend ♥︎♥︎♥︎♥︎
Victor sends a picture after the text, and Chris sighs, some tension releasing from his shoulders. It's a picture of a bleary but contented Victor, face half-covered with a mop of said boyfriend's dark hair and the collar of his t-shirt peeking from the bottom corner of the photo. It looks rather large— one of Victor's shirts? So that's how far they've gotten since Victor last updated Chris.
Regardless, it's not nice to make your best friend have a misleading text induced heart attack at work, but before Chris can chide him, Victor shoots him another few messages.
Victor: I do need your help though.
Victor: Have any café suggestions?
Chris sighs again, back leaned against the toilet tank as he racks his brain. Victor is often impulsive, and love only exacerbates his spontaneity, so Chris has become quite used to sudden quizzing. He recalls a gelateria Markus had brought him to recently; ice cream is perfectly seasonal, given that it's now mid-June.
Victor gushes that Yuuri loves sweets when Chris brings ice cream up, and it's only when Chris has to close up the restaurant for the night that Victor turns off his phone to sleep.
The next morning, Victor is up before Yuuri is, despite having slept much later than him, and Yuuri grunts in dissent as his boyfriend coaxes him awake minutes before his alarm is due.
"Yuuri," Victor lilts, resting a warm palm on his upper arm and nudging him. "It's seven; don't you have work?"
"Your place is closer to the shop. Let me sleep." It makes Victor grin to see Yuuri burrow his face deeper into his pillow in an effort to escape the morning light bleeding through his curtains, and his next nudge is playful.
"Come on, how does breakfast sound?" He persists, remembering he bought some groceries yesterday. "We're both up, so…" The idea is tempting, and Yuuri feels a growl of hunger in his gut. He doesn't usually have time to eat much in the morning— Victor knows Yuuri too well.
They're up and groomed fairly quickly at the promise of food, and they're having scrambled eggs on toast when Victor asks Yuuri whether he'll want to go out the following weekend.
"Sure," Yuuri replies easily. "Where to?"
"Well," Victor hums, slice of toast mid-air en route to his mouth, "that's for me to know and you to find out." Taking a large bite and chewing smugly, Victor silences himself. He absolutely wants to keep what he has planned a surprise. He and Yuuri have a habit of trying to best each other in that respect.
Yuuri doesn't grumble too much, concentrating instead on finishing off the food in front of him before brushing his teeth and running out the door. It's always too easy to leave at the very last minute when he sleeps over at Victor's place, where even early monday mornings become a little indulgent, and Victor waves him off with a scant forehead kiss.
It's incredible how fast they've fallen into this rhythm.
Yuuri still does go home to his and Phichit's apartment on weekdays, but as soon as Friday comes, Yuuri has a weekend bag ready. The toothbrush was just the beginning of Yuuri's belongings that have been creeping into Victor's apartment, and though Victor openly encourages Yuuri to take the bottom dresser drawer Victor has cleared out for him, there's still ample space left around the few t-shirts and underwear Yuuri has in it.
Victor near-vibrates with excitement through the rest of the week, smiling wider through consultations and cake tastings, thoroughly perturbing his employees.
They go out the next Saturday, after Yuuri's morning shift at the flower shop.
Victor remains secretive even as they board the subway, and he squeezes Yuuri's hand with a coy grin. "Don't worry, love. You'll be pleasantly surprised, I know it."
"I mean, I wouldn't expect you to invite me someplace I wouldn't like," Yuuri murmurs, glancing at the panels above the train seats to see what direction they're headed in. The rumbling of the train makes it hard to concentrate on the far away map, but it looks like they're going uptown.
Victor just smiles knowingly, tugging Yuuri up with him when the train comes to a stop at the next station. It's a little annoying being strung along as Victor pulls Yuuri up and down the swelteringly hot street and frowns at his phone, clearly disoriented by whatever maps search he's got up.
The heat and exasperation start to wear Yuuri down as they romp past the same NYU building for the sixth time, and as much as he loves that Victor is trying so hard to surprise him, he'd really rather just get to wherever they're meant to be. "Where are we going again?"
Victor throws Yuuri a look over his shoulder, wearing a less enthusiastic smile than earlier that day, sweat matting his hair a little. "I told you, Yuuri, it's a secret."
"Clearly, since it seems like it's a secret from you, too." As soon as Yuuri mutters the sarcastic comment, he regrets it when Victor pauses in his stride, pursing his lips and lowering his phone as Yuuri stops beside him.
"I'm just directionally challenged. There's no need to be so mean."
"Then just tell me where we're going." Yuuri insists bluntly, pulling out his phone and opening it to the maps app. "If you give me the street address, I won't know where you're trying to bring me."
Victor glances around. "We're close, I know it."
Yuuri sighs, feeling a little sheepish for snapping at Victor when he's just trying to surprise him. Just as he's about to apologize, Victor gasps, and he turns to look in the direction Victor's facing.
On the opposite side of the street, shadowed underneath heavy metal and plywood scaffolding, is a peek of a warmly lit café.
"Oh my god." Victor's shoulders slump immediately, and he motions towards the cafe. "There it is."
"Well, we should probably cross the road, then, right?" Yuuri suggests, relieved that they're finally in sight of their air-conditioned destination.
They cross and go into the gelateria, and Yuuri offers to watch their table while Victor goes to the counter to order. While the shop looks pretty elegant, it doesn't look too out of the ordinary, so Yuuri's still confused about why it had to be this particular store instead of, say, cheap popsicles from the roaming Washington Square Park vendors.
The reason becomes clear when Victor returns to their table with two cones in his hands, tri-colored gelato roses perched on top each one. Yuuri's eyes widen in surprise as Victor hands him his, and there's a great deal of excitement laid bare in Victor's face.
"I know your sister told me I shouldn't give flowers to florists, but she never said anything about ice cream." He grins, holding their cones next to each other to snap a picture of them.
They're already starting to melt, so as soon as his phone is back in his pocket, he gives his cone a few broad sweeps of his tongue to salvage the drips. Yuuri tucks into his gelato too, and predictably, it gets all over his mouth. It's at times like these that Yuuri is envious of Victor's wide lips, and he licks his own. The tangy mango and raspberry flavor is welcome after being parched in the sun.
Out of reflex, Victor swipes his thumb across Yuuri's cheek after noticing a smear of vanilla on it. Laughing when Yuuri frowns at him with a blush starting on his features, he licks the sweetness off his thumb and watches as Yuuri turns redder.
"Yuuri, your gelato is melting in the back." Victor notes, and Yuuri ducks his head to catch it, making sure no more immediate dripping happens before retorting.
"Well, if you'd stop distracting me, I could concentrate on eating," he glances over at Victor's cone as he replies. "You should probably pay attention to yours, too."
Victor hadn't even felt it when pale green gelato started dripping across the tops of his fingers, and he quickly transfers the cone to his other hand, holding it gingerly and cursing under his breath as he wipes his fingers on some napkins. Taking pity on his ridiculous boyfriend, Yuuri holds his half-finished cone in his teeth as he wipes the stickiness away from Victor's fingers, only mildly aware of how silly he must look with the cone sticking out of his mouth. The sight is silly, and Victor would laugh.
If only he weren't so entranced by Yuuri (or preoccupied with sucking his melting dessert down.) He tilts his head back to drink the rest of the melted gelato before crunching through the cone, but his patterned t-shirt doesn't make it through the ordeal unscathed.
"Yuuri," He whines, looking down at the chocolate ice-cream smack-dab in the middle of his belly. "You made me drop some."
"You deserve it." Yuuri huffs, after removing his cone from his mouth. His lips feel a little dry after the moisture-sucking waffle cone. "You weren't paying attention, anyways."
"Maybe if someone stopped being so adorable, I would be able to." Victor shoots back jokingly, offering a wink when Yuuri looks up at the compliment.
If there's anything Yuuri has learned over the past months, it's that it's hard to stay mad at Victor for long. Whatever gripes he had earlier when they were wandering all over looking for gelato have dissolved completely, and Yuuri isn't sure whether he should be concerned or not that a single person has such command over his mood. It just so happens that Victor is an incorrigible tease, and Yuuri his unfortunate victim.
Reasoning through it doesn't dispel the blush that's strong on his cheeks, though, and Victor reaches out to see if Yuuri's cheeks are really as hot as they look.
"Wow," Victor muses, hand rested on one side of Yuuri's face. "You're really blushing."
Yuuri brushes Victor's hand away embarrassedly and gets up to throw their paper cone sleeves away, leaving Victor to stare after him. Victor tends to be cautious about teasing Yuuri too much; did he push a little far this time?
Apparently not, because Yuuri walks back from the trashcan right up to Victor with determination, plants a good dry kiss on his lips, and leans back triumphantly. "There," he states. "Now you're blushing too."
Victor doesn't know where this confidence came from, but he's delighted it's here.
The gelateria is getting a little crowded now, and Yuuri glances back at the crowd at the counter. "Let's go home," he requests. "Did we have anywhere else to be?"
The words make Victor's heart beat out of his chest, and he gapes at Yuuri.
"Ah, um, your apartment. Not 'home,' sorry."
"Well, it can be, if you want it to." Victor replies hopefully. At some point, Yuuri's hand had creeped into his own, and he gives it a little squeeze. "You know how much I love having you with me."
Yuuri's mind is reeling at how easily Victor has accepted the possibility of actually living together. Yuuri's still getting accustomed to the space— waking up in a different bed, to a different room, to Victor— it's been wonderful so far, but the idea of moving in completely now makes him hesitate. "Maybe… Maybe someday."
Victor nods understandingly but doesn't seem upset, and Yuuri is grateful for it.
They're walking up to Union Square when Phichit calls Yuuri.
"Hey Phichit, what's up-"
"Did you and Victor go to the rose gelato place? I've wanted to go forever!" His best friend gushes.
"How did you know?" Yuuri blinks, glancing at Victor, who's scrolling through his phone notifications.
"I follow your boyfriend on instagram! Duh!" Phichit says. "He put a picture of your cones up and they look so good."
"Wait, so he's been posting photos he takes?"
"Yuuri," Phichit gasps. "He only posts all the time. Never photos with your face in them, but it's pretty clear to everyone that he's totally in love. I mean, he suddenly started posting lots of closeup shots of flowers. It was mostly food and clothes, before."
Admittedly, Yuuri hasn't been paying attention to the app at all recently, so he's shocked at the news.
"After we had brunch last time, everything makes so much more sense! You're a florist, he posts flowers, you have a hanami date, he posts pics of cherry blossoms… I really should have realized." Phichit continues. "So on weekends, I basically can tell what you two are doing from Victor's insta story, since someone doesn't text me."
Yuuri thanks Phichit quickly, saying he has to go, and hangs up to turn his attention to Victor.
"Oh, was that Phichit on the phone? I wanted to thank him for commenting on all my recent photos." Victor says, leaning against the side of a nearby building.
"How much have you posted?" Yuuri asks. The cogs seem to click into place in Victor's head, and he immediately looks like a chastised puppy.
"Just once or twice every time I see you." He answers apologetically.
"Isn't that almost every day?" Yuuri mutters, opening instagram up on his phone and logging in. Unsurprisingly, there's a long stream of pictures- the ice cream from earlier, the carnations from Wednesday, the eggs from Monday— with little heart emojis in the descriptions of Victor's posts.
"I understand if you don't want me to post so much," Victor sighs. "I just like to share things that make me happy; recently, that's been anything I do with you."
Some of the replies to Victor's posts are desperate to know who Victor's "mystery lover" is, dreaming that whoever it is must "be perfect like Victor" and "really like flowers." It's odd being this strange entity unknown to Victor's followers. He does love flowers, but neither of them are perfect. More than that, though, it's replies to some of the commenters that catch his eye. Any questions requesting Victor take pictures with his boyfriend are brushed off with noncommittal words, "maybe"s and "next time"s paired with winking emojis.
Yuuri has never heard about this. Victor's never asked him for a selfie, nor have they taken many photos together.
"Victor, if you wanted a photo with me, why didn't you just ask?" Yuuri questions, looking up at his boyfriend from his phone.
"I didn't know if you would be comfortable being displayed on my social media." Victor murmurs, after a little while spent silent.They take a seat together on a park bench. "I do have a lot of followers and fans. It would be very public."
Victor's arm is draped over Yuuri's shoulders, and Yuuri can't get a proper read on his expression. Like Phichit says, Yuuri really does live under a rock— and that means he doesn't go on social media a lot of the time. A selfie shouldn't hurt, and it would make Victor so happy…
"If you want, we can take one and you can post it." Yuuri offers. "I know you're worried, but it's not like I use instagram much anyway."
Instantly, Victor seems to brighten. "Really? You're sure?"
"I sort of want them to know. Not that they'll know me," Yuuri clarifies sheepishly, "but so they… know I'm your boyfriend, I guess. It's sort of silly."
"No, I would love for them to know!" Victor grins, sitting up straight. "Can we take it now?"
"Um, sure. What do I…" Yuuri holds his hands up, unsure of what to do. He doesn't take photos like this often.
Easily, Victor brings one hand to the other side of Yuuri's waist and pulls him close, holding his phone with his other outstretched hand. "Say cheese!"
Yuuri's still grinning awkwardly as Victor turns his head to press a wet smooch to Yuuri's cheek, distracting him from the lens and making him laugh.
As soon as the phone is out of the air, Victor swipes to view all the photos with a huge smile on his face. "Look at these!" He cooes. Yuuri peers over at the screen, which is open to the last photo they took, with Victor smiling mischievously into Yuuri's cheek and Yuuri mid-chuckle with eyes squinted.
"Should we take another?" Yuuri mumbles. "I can try and make a better face."
"No," Victor shakes his head, sharing the photo before Yuuri can change his mind. "They're perfect. Thank you, Yuuri." Yuuri can only nod in reply to Victor's enthusiasm, a little anxious to see what the response will be.
That night, as he walks out of Victor's bathroom freshly showered and dressed for sleep, Victor hops off his bed, phone in hand, to show him his screen.
"Look," Victor smiles, handing the device to Yuuri. "People are talking."
The screen is open to the comments on their picture, and Yuuri scans over the words, eyes relaxing when all the comments are positive. "So different from forums." He murmurs, recalling some of his teenage experiences on MMORPG websites in the past.
"Oh, and I posted a few of the other ones, too. I hope that's okay." Victor sing-songs, exiting out of the post to reveal six other posts, all variations of that first photo.
"Victor!" Yuuri blurts, as his boyfriend takes his phone out of his hands with a coy smile.
"I told you I like posting things that make me happy." His eyes twinkle in the dimness of the room, and the fondness in his expression is unmistakeable as he lands back on the mattress. Yuuri takes it as his cue to join him, crawling onto the high bed and into Victor's open arms.
He sighs, curling into Victor's side. They'd taken Makkachin out for an evening walk earlier, the poodle surprisingly spry, and the rest of the night on the whole was slow and warm. The summer heat just has that effect on people, Yuuri guesses. He's drifting off when his eyes shoot open suddenly, and Victor looks down at him curiously.
"Oh my god," Yuuri whispers. "I'm gonna have a million texts from Phichit in the morning."
Their resulting helpless laughter might elicit a noise complaint from Victor's oversensitive upstairs neighbor, but it's a perfect way to ease into sleep, legs tangled together and breathing falling in sync.
Chapter 11: Every Step
Chapter by ingthing, ingthing_YOI (ingthing)
Yuuri actually doesn't know much about Victor's friends, but he's determined to find out, starting with Christophe.
This one was a little harder to write than usual, but I hope you'll find it just as fulfilling to read all the same!
Thanks so much again for all the amazing support for this AU! It really keeps me going!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It suddenly occurs to Yuuri, sitting at the counter of the shop one day, that he doesn't know that much about his boyfriend.
Victor already knows most of Yuuri's immediate social circle— his parents, his sister, the Nishigoris, and Phichit. That's his family, friends, and his co-workers bundled into one. Victor just happened to be at the shop so often that things trickled over. Yuuri will never complain about having Victor around, but he does wonder whether things are a little one-sided; not on the side of their feelings, but in how much they know about each other.
Yuuri pushes the pen he's holding back into the cup sitting next to the register. He's been calculating a quote for a large order, and even if he has a computer to help him, it still feels better doing it by hand. It gives him a considerable headache, though, and he takes his glasses off to massage his tired eyes with the heels of his palms.
"Hey, Yuuri," Mari greets, appearing from the stairs leading down to the basement. "Tired of desk work yet?" Yuuri grunts weakly in reply, and Mari laughs. "We can switch if you want."
"Well…" Though he'd take readying bouquets over math any day, he's about to decline, seeing as it's nearing six.
Mari must see that he's hesitant, so she adds, "I'll just send Victor downstairs to find you when he arrives. He's coming soon, right?"
Yuuri's never felt more seen-through in his life, but he nods sheepishly anyway, muttering his thanks as he slides off the counter stool and past Mari to the stairs.
He's not usually downstairs unless there are lots of orders to get through or if he needs to be there early to take over morning preparations. It's where Mari and his dad spend most of their time in the shop, carting racks of flowers into the two large refrigerators in the back and putting arrangements together. As always, Yuuri sees his dad at the worktable in the center of the room, thick-rimmed glasses perched bookishly on his nose as he inserts a few flowers into a glass centerpiece vase. Several identical centerpieces are lined up beside him, and he glances up slowly when he hears Yuuri enter the basement.
"Hi, dad," Yuuri walks up to the table and takes a seat across Toshiya, where Mari's work is stationed. A quick glance over the order form attached to a clipboard tells him what he needs to know about the pile of lavender-pink peonies on the table.
Yuuri's grown more distant from his dad since hei left for college in Detroit, but at the very least, the silence as they work is comfortable; he recalls middle school afternoons spent like this, quietly helping his parents with the next day's orders.
A while later, crisp footsteps clack down the stairs and Yuuri turns to see Victor peeking curiously through the basement entryway. Although he gives the spacious room a quick look-over out of curiosity, his gaze locks onto Yuuri at the worktable almost as quickly, and he crosses over to him in a few strides with a wide smile. As per their usual greeting, he wraps his arms around Yuuri, making Yuuri lean back into his chest. "Good evening, Yuuri!" Victor lilts, squeezing Yuuri's shoulders close.
"Hi," Yuuri murmurs back, still holding a cut flower stem in the tub of water in front of him. He's just about done, and he slots the flower into another tub filled with the rest of the cut peonies. Resting his florist's shears on the table, he brings his free hand up to pat Victor's forearm.
It's then that he realizes that his father is blinking inquisitively at him and Victor, and he colors, remembering that he hasn't exactly introduced his family to Victor as his boyfriend yet— he expects that his mom's already told his dad that he's dating someone, though. Victor gives Toshiya a quick hello as well, finally noticing he's there after beelining for Yuuri at first sight.
"Oh, who's this, Yuuri?" Toshiya murmurs, adjusting his glasses. "A friend?"
"Um," Yuuri balks. He'd expected to introduce Victor with a little more formality, but since it's come up, now is as good a time as any. "He's… We're dating."
Victor and Toshiya look at Yuuri in surprised silence for a little while before something seems to click in Toshiya's head.
"Oh, I see. Is that who you went with for hanami this year? Did you like the sake?"
"We didn't drink it, but it was very thoughtful of you, Mr. Katsuki!" Victor releases Yuuri, leaving his boyfriend to gape as he walks over to Toshiya to take and shake his hand. "We've met once or twice before, but I'm Victor."
Dazedly, Toshiya nods, hand being vigorously shaken by the younger man. "Ah, yes, er, Toshiya is fine."
Yuuri gets off his stool to cart the cut flowers into the cooler as Victor continues to charm his father— he's a little glad it isn't him in that position, since Victor is far more charismatic than he'll ever be. His dad, just like him, isn't that outward with emotions, but he can tell that his dad likes Victor to some extent— that's really all he can ask for. His mom's going to be annoyed when she finds out Toshiya met Victor before her, but that's just another reason for her to badger Yuuri into inviting Victor over for dinner.
After the work is done and cleanup is over, Yuuri follows Victor home, where they have some ingredients ready for a fast dinner.
Yuuri's lounging on the couch with Makkachin draped over him as Victor rinses and places dishes in the small drawer dishwasher underneath the sink; he'd insisted on doing the small pile of dishes alone after tutting over the small cut on Yuuri's finger from cutting flowers earlier. Yuuri could melt into the sofa and drift off like this with the sound of the running tap and the warmth of the poodle on top of him, but he keeps himself awake with his thoughts.
Yes, Victor's met most of the people in his immediate circle. But what about Victor's friends and family? Surely Victor wants to introduce Yuuri to them at some point.
The tap is turned off and there's the quiet clink of glasses before Victor comes over to the sofa and settles on the sliver of space next to Yuuri and Makkachin, handing Yuuri a cup of water. He sips on his own as he ruffles Makkachin's fur, brushing his thumb over the dog's brow lovingly as Yuuri takes a drink and perches the glass carefully on the coffee table nearby.
"Hey, Victor?" Yuuri lifts his head to face Victor better, forming what he wants to say in his mind. "You know your best friend, Chris? Who you always talk about?"
"Mm," Victor nods. "What about him?"
"Well, I was thinking that," Yuuri pauses, casting his gaze to the side, "you've already met Phichit, so I… When could I meet Chris?" Victor looks surprised at the prospect, jaw dropping after a few moments, and Yuuri hastily adds on, "only if you want and if he's okay with it, of course. It's okay if you don't want to yet."
"No, of course I want to!" Victor rests his hand on Yuuri's forearm where it lies on top of Makkachin, and he looks anxious. "I just… God, Chris is going to kill me for not introducing you sooner! How many months has it been since we started dating, three?" He pulls out his phone from his sweatpant pocket, heading straight for Chris on his contact list.
While he's glad that Victor's excited enough about him meeting Chris to contact Chris immediately, Yuuri can't help but wonder what Chris might think of him. Victor's world seems very different from his own— it sprawls all over New York, composed of social butterflies and creative professionals; it's made up of people generally unlike Yuuri himself. He stays comfortably inside his own bubble, never truly expanding it.
He can't quite get at what this feeling of unease is, so he doesn't know how to convey it, pushing it away even as he slips into bed beside Victor, who's lying completely still with a floral-smelling anti-ageing mask slathered on his features, eyes trained up at the phone held above him with both hands.
It amuses Yuuri to see Victor's hair pushed back with a headband and weird goop all over his face, but it's not enough to relax him into restful sleep.
They'll meet with Chris for lunch that Sunday.
After Yuuri leaves the apartment to do his Saturday morning shift at the flower shop, Victor puts his feet up on an ottoman as he sips at a cup of tea, hitting the dial button on his phone screen and putting it up to his ear.
"Hello, Chris?" He starts, once his best friend picks up. "Are you free to talk right now?"
"I am now." Chris mumbles, sounding like he's just woken up. Victor constantly forgets that Chris works later hours than he does, and calling him at nine in the morning probably isn't the best idea. Victor laughs apologetically before continuing.
"Anyway, I don't know why, but Yuuri seems very nervous about meeting you tomorrow." He leans an elbow onto the arm of his sofa, noticing that Makkachin's sauntered up to lie next to the ottoman and lowering a foot to stroke her fur. "Maybe he's worried you won't like him. I don't see how, though."
"Weren't you worried when you were going to meet Yuuri's best friend a while ago?" Chris points out. "He probably feels the same way."
"Well, yes, but that's because he's known him for so long. And I wasn't sure if he'd been talking about me at all." Victor reasons. "Yuuri knows I talk to you about him in only the best possible ways." Chris snorts amusedly. Victor tends to be very expressive, and Chris is both pitying and glad that Yuuri has already been subjected to this transparency.
"Then maybe that's the issue." He suggests, stifling a yawn. "Maybe he's worried he won't measure up to the knight in shining armor you've told me about."
"I haven't talked him up that much, Christophe." Victor retorts.
"Oh?" Chris says. Victor can hear Chris' incredulous eyebrow raise through the phone. "Then what about the time he 'saved the day' when you got stuck in traffic going to the pier? Or the time you gushed over his giving you a dog toy? Or the time he brought you on 'the best date you've ever had' and kissed you under cherry blossoms, 'like in a perfect romance movie?' You even ate Chinese takeout because of this boy. Doesn't that give you indigestion?"
"You don't often rhapsodize over having your hand held, mon ami." Hearing the smile in Chris' voice, Victor has to grin, loving how blatant it is to Chris that he'll sing Yuuri's praises time and time again. But Chris could be right. Maybe Yuuri is feeling intimidated about living up to the rose-tinted image he's painted of him— though Victor feels it's totally justified.
"I see what you mean." Victor admits. "I'll talk to him later— thanks, Chris, see you tomorrow."
Victor hangs up, determined to assuage Yuuri that afternoon and until they meet up with Chris for lunch the next day.
The next morning, Yuuri is exhausted.
Victor had been unexpectedly clingy the previous night, barely leaving his side for more than a minute (except for showering and bathroom breaks,) lavishing praise and (for some reason) reassurance on him. Normally, it would be nice, but it does nothing to unfurl the anxiety nagging in his mind. Yuuri loves being with Victor, but it would be nice to be alone at times like this. The one bedroom apartment with its open floor plan leaves little room for privacy, and he resorts to staying under the covers of the bed feigning sleep until Victor finds coaxing him awake unfruitful. The mattress heaves as he rolls off to go to the shower.
It's only when the sliding bathroom door clicks shut that Yuuri sighs, opening his eyes and grabbing at his phone on the nightstand to check for the time and new messages. It's just past ten, around an hour and a half before they have to leave to meet Chris, so Yuuri snuggles deeper into the sheets and opens his messages. He'd texted Phichit a little in the middle of the night, passing out before reading any of Phichit's replies, and Yuuri replies, saying he's going to be fine today. Knowing Phichit, he probably stayed up really late binge-watching a show, so there's no way he's awake yet. For more instantaneous consolation, he crawls out from under the sheets and crawls over to Makkachin at the foot of the bed, lying on his belly and hugging the poodle, who offers a few languid licks up his cheek.
Victor emerges from the bathroom in a robe moments later, towelling his hair and holding a large hairdryer in his hand. Seeing that Yuuri is up, he sits at the edge of the bed, smiling at Yuuri and Makkachin. "Good morning, sleeping beauty." He keeps his voice light, noting the tiredness in Yuuri's eyes. "Did you sleep late?"
Yuuri hums listlessly into Makkachin's fur, closing his eyes as Victor brushes his bangs back. His fingers are warm from the shower, and it feels nice.
"Do you want some tea? I'll bring it to you." Victor offers, a worried crease forming between his eyebrows.
Caffeine doesn't agree with Yuuri when he's anxious so he shakes his head, muttering that just water is fine. Victor leaves the room, hair still damp, to fetch their drinks.
Yuuri hates feeling like this.
They're headed to lunch behind schedule, not because Yuuri got out of bed late, but because Victor spent too long finding his white linen suit jacket that, apparently, is so essential for a casual summer lunch date with his best friend.
The tardiness does nothing to aid Yuuri's already spiraling thoughts.
Unlike the previous night, Victor seems lost for words as they ride the subway in relative silence, opting to hold Yuuri's hand gently, like he doesn't know what to do. The fact that he can sense Victor worrying over him just exacerbates Yuuri's mood. If Victor's so sure Chris will love Yuuri, then Yuuri shouldn't be nervous. But this is just the way his mind works sometimes— irrationally, with dread spreading to the tips of his fingers from a source unknown.
The café they're going to turns out to be inside a fancy-looking boutique hotel. It's not the Avenir, where Victor says Chris works, but it wouldn't matter, even if it were— they're just steps away from meeting Chris, and Yuuri stops dead in the middle of the lobby, suddenly unwilling to go further.
Victor turns to look back when Yuuri falls out of stride, and his expression is tight with worry. "Yuuri?" Taking Yuuri's hand, Victor comes up close. Yuuri's staring holes into the marble under his feet.
Victor takes Yuuri by the shoulder, guiding him to the seldom-used payphone area one hallway down from the lobby bathrooms.
"Yuuri, are you okay?" Victor says, rubbing his hand soothingly across Yuuri's back.
"I will be. Sorry. I know we're already late," Yuuri replies curtly, still refusing to meet Victor's eyes.
"It doesn't matter if we're late or not." Victor sighs. "Chances are, Chris is late himself."
Victor purses his lips frustratedly, watching as Yuuri casts his gaze aside. "How can I help you? I won't know if you don't tell me."
"How am I supposed to tell you if I don't know how myself?" Yuuri replies bitterly, feeling tension pulsing behind his eyes. This entire day was supposed to be enjoyable, and he's completely ruined it. He was the one who asked to meet Chris. He shouldn't feel like crying.
But then he does cry, and Victor freezes in place.
"Yuuri," collecting Yuuri in his arms, Victor murmurs, letting Yuuri's face drop into his shoulder. "If you were so upset over this, why didn't you tell me?"
"Couldn't." Yuuri offers up in a choked voice, muffled by Victor's jacket.
It's all Victor can do at that moment to squeeze Yuuri close, confused but sympathetic. After a few seconds, Yuuri's breaths are coming calmer, and he pushes off Victor's chest, sniffling.
"Feeling better?" Victor offers, taking his napkin from his jacket pocket and pushing Yuuri's glasses up to dab at the wetness around his eyes. "We can always reschedule. I'm sure Chris will understand."
Yuuri shakes his head "no," and blinks a few times to clear his vision, glasses falling back into place a little lower than usual. Victor's face is close and he looks worried, but Yuuri can't help but snort when his gaze falls on the two wet patches staining Victor's jacket shoulder. "S-sorry, guess your jacket's incriminating now." Victor glances down where Yuuri's staring, and he gives Yuuri a soft peck on his forehead.
"At least the jacket was useful for something, right? Even if it's the middle of summer."
Yuuri nods with a little chuckle, and Victor's expression relaxes a little. His phone buzzes in his pocket, and Victor pulls it out to see the notification. "Oh, Chris says he's just arrived. See? We're not so late after all."
Yuuri nods, sniffling again. "I must look like a mess, though."
"We'll go to the bathroom and clean up first— let me tell Chris."
Ten minutes later, they make their way to the café. There are things that a little tap water and tissues can't fix, like the redness around Yuuri's eyes and the blotchy stains on Victor's jacket, but they manage to find Chris in the café looking decently presentable.
Chris blinks, surprised, and without even greeting them first, turns to Victor, hands on his hips and reprimanding Victor with a scandalized tone. "Victor, did you make this poor man cry before coming here?"
Yuuri can't help but laugh at that, sliding into the booth seat next to Victor as his boyfriend tries to find some explanation for their sorry state. "It was just some, uh," He begins, before Yuuri interrupts.
"I got anxious. Sorry to make you wait," Yuuri admits. Fortunately, Chris looks pretty friendly, expression open and long eyelashes batting in attentiveness.
"Oh, I understand," Christophe murmurs, bringing a hand up to hold his chin. "My boyfriend is exactly the same way."
"Really?" Yuuri says, surprised.
"You should have seen him when I brought him to meet Victor for the first time." Chris scoffs. "His nose turned red and his eyes stayed watery the entire night."
"I didn't think I was that intimidating," Victor professes, swirling the mineral water in his glass idly.
"Markus is sensitive; you know this. And inviting us to dinner at one of the hottest new restaurants in town? That's a lot of pressure, and totally uncalled for."
Victor hangs his head sheepishly as Yuuri smiles amusedly. Victor really can be insensitive from over-excitement at times, and he's glad he's not the only one who sees that.
"Anyway, Victor told me you like the macarons from our shop." Chris brings up, retrieving a paper bag from beside him and handing it over to Yuuri. "I thought you might like to try them again. We've created some new summer flavors."
"Oh, thank you!" Yuuri bows his head, receiving the bag and peering inside at the vibrantly colored sweets. "I'm sorry, I didn't bring you anything."
"Just continue taking care of this silly man," Chris gestures at Victor, who raises an eyebrow at Chris' dismissive tone, "and I'll be happy to continue feeding your sweet tooth."
Regardless, Yuuri thanks Chris again, assuring him that he will; he makes a mental note to ask Victor where he can send a small bouquet of flowers as thanks to Chris later.
Yuuri is visibly relaxing into the conversation now, and Victor is grateful that he and Chris are getting along swimmingly— even if it comes at the cost of a few embarrassing stories.
"Oh, yes." Christophe nods definitively, swallowing down a bite of veal to address Yuuri's surprised look. "Victor's just a hopelessly romantic idiot. Really, you should have seen the texts he sent me just four months ago."
"Four months? You mean, around March?"
Victor groans, resting his fork and knife on his plate. He knows exactly where Christophe's thoughts are headed.
"Yes, March. Victor texted me late one night, very much drunk." Chris recalls, scrolling through his lengthy message history to locate the evidence . "Look, here it is."
Victor leans over to see the screen presented in front of Yuuri, and Yuuri grins as he scrolls through the chat log.
"Oh my god," Yuuri chokes as he scrolls through the twenty or so messages consisting entirely of Victor whining, he likes poodles, Christopheee! He's so cute, Hes good at flowers, and he look ss good in an apron, how can he pull it off??? I couldn't pull an af p rn off even if I got it tailored. And he used to hav ea poodle but it died isn't that so SAD…
Victor throws Chris a dirty look from over his phone, and Chris simply grins back. It's much needed payback for when Markus met Victor— revenge can be so sweet.
Yuuri's silent as he scrolls to the end of the conversation, and he looks up at Chris very seriously afterwards, a teasing grin spreading across his face. "If it's not too much, could you take screenshots of those and send them to me?"
"Don't you dare, Christophe," Victor warns jokingly. Chris takes his phone back and navigates to his contacts list, and winks at Yuuri, promising to send him that conversation, as well as many others, if they exchange numbers.
By the end of the meal, Yuuri is very glad he got to meet Christophe.
They're warm inside from more than just the summer heat and food as they saunter along, and Yuuri thinks he can articulate why he was so anxious earlier.
"I guess I just got carried away worrying over if your friends will like me." Yuuri murmurs as they walk back to Victor's apartment after emerging from the station. "They just seem so different from everyone I know."
"I think it's impossible for anyone to not like you. If I love you, which I do, then everyone I know will, too." Victor declares, arm draped over Yuuri's shoulders. "I guarantee it."
Yuuri doesn't think Victor's even aware of the indirect confession he's just made, but it makes his cheeks turn pink and he pauses in stride, tugging at Victor's lapel and rising on the balls of his feet to kiss him; it's scant, but they can continue in the privacy of the apartment soon. "I'll trust you, then." Yuuri agrees, rocking back onto solid footing again before taking Victor's hand bashfully and continuing on their way.
It's beautiful to see Yuuri's confidence growing with every new step they take together, and Victor can't help but beam as he's pulled along.
A few days later, Chris receives a large bouquet of flowers at work, with a card signed by both Victor and Yuuri.
Victor was right. Yuuri is rather good "at flowers."
1花見,hanami: Flower viewing, a Japanese custom celebrated with outdoor parties beneath sakura trees.[return to text]
Chapter 12: Expressions of Love
Chapter by ingthing, ingthing_YOI (ingthing)
Victor is a hopeless romantic, so Yuuri enlists his employees' help to surprise him.
Yuuri knows that Victor is a romantic, but it's never been more apparent than it is now as they walk out of the cinema, having watched the year's most popular romcom. Judging by how excited Victor was as they walked into the theater, he'd definitely been watching trailers and cast interviews, but the only reason why Yuuri even knows about the movie is because it's impossible to walk two blocks without seeing the lead couple plastered on a telephone booth or a passing bus covered in movie review quotes.
The movie hadn't been amazing, but Victor seemed to really like it. His arm is hooked around Yuuri's, and he's looking off into the distance and sighing happily while they leave the theater. "What a beautiful story," He gushes, leaning into his boyfriend. "I can't believe Logan showed up in the middle of that hurricane to declare eternal love! And with a big bouquet of flowers, too!"
"Yeah, I can't believe that either." Yuuri remarks, with less wonderment than Victor's gushing with. "I just think that she showed up at, um," he pauses, trying to recall the other protagonist's name from his memory, "under Kendall's balcony with an digital piano and a speaker set up just to play their song, that was kind of silly. I mean, a guitar, sure, but a piano, a piano stand, a bench, a speaker, and a battery? I mean, what if Kendall wasn't home?"
"What matters is that he was, and now they can live happily ever after." Victor concludes, pulling Yuuri with him as he heads into the bathrooms.
Yuuri simply hums in agreement, a little too distracted by his bladder to do anything other than head into a toilet stall. He'd had too much soda during the show.
It's evident by the third day after the movie that Victor is a totally hopeless romantic.
It's evident because, in the three days since the movie, Victor has sent more text emoji hearts than usual, stared wistfully at the rose display at the shop (with sighing) more than twice, and attempted to create "romantic ambience" throughout his apartment with scented candles, nearly setting off his smoke detector.
It was difficult to air the conflicting summer rose and patchouli scents out of the apartment, and they got it done eventually, but not before the fragrance had seeped into their clothes and their hair. It's still on Yuuri's hoodie, at the very least, and when he holds his collar to his nose, he gets a deep whiff of it. It's tinged with Victor's cologne, but it brings back the frantic window-opening and fanning that took place yesterday evening. Yuuri would take a moment to laugh at the memory, but the shop door swings open, chiming the bell above it, and he looks up to see a hoodie-clad teenager make their way to the counter.
Yuuri bites his tongue to stop himself from asking why he's wearing a zipped-up hoodie in mid-August, and the customer peels the hood away to look down at Yuuri with one piercingly blue eye.
"Are you Yuuri?" He says brusquely, leaning on the counter. Yuuri blinks confusedly at him from his seat.
"Um, yeah. Can I help you?" He's not the best at dealing with rude clients, but he'll do his best.
"Victor sent me to deliver this. He said it was 'important.'" The teenager retrieves a periwinkle folder from under his arm and tosses it across the counter. Catching the folder, Yuuri opens it up to find a little note stuck to the documents inside. There's a little message in nice handwriting on it apologizing for sending "Yurio" instead of coming in person. Yuuri smiles at the little "xo"s and hearts above Victor's signature, only looking up when he hears footsteps heading away from the counter.
"Hey, uh, Yuri— hold on!" Rising up from his stool to stop the teen from leaving, Yuuri relaxes when Yuri turns to face him, hand already on the doorknob.
"You're the Yuri who works at Victor's office, right? This is my first time meeting you." Yuuri babbles. "It's a long subway ride up to the office; do you want a drink?" When Yuri tilts his head in suspicion, Yuuri adds carefully, "it's hot out."
Even with Victor's stories from work, he hadn't been fully prepared for the teenager's bluntness— but the way the younger man hesitates, gaze fixing on the empty juice carton Yuuri had set aside on the counter for recycling later, is almost child-like.
"Do you have another of those?" He mutters, pointing his chin towards the drink.
Yuuri nods, and he runs to the fridge in the back room to grab an apple juice as Yuri hops onto the stool by the counter. As soon as the straw is poked into the box and in his mouth, he takes a hasty gulp, relishing the cool juice.
While Yuri sucks enthusiastically on his drink, Yuuri attempts to distract himself from laughing by busying himself with misting the flowers on display.
It's strange to have someone else seated at the counter while he works— and especially someone he's heard so much about. Victor always comes from work with fresh stories about the prickly intern, and despite all "Yurio's" griping, Victor seems to genuinely like him. His grandfather, who dog sits for Victor, seems nice enough, from the one time Yuuri met him.
"So, um, Victor's told me a lot about you." Keeping his voice light, Yuuri attempts to make some conversation.
Yuri drains his juice box before scoffing, "oh, he's told us a lot about you." He rolls his eyes. "It's all he does now."
"He's been weird ever since he met you." Yuri grumbles. "He used to stay late a lot more, and he was a quieter at work. Now he sighs all the time."
"Bad sighing?" Yuuri asks, turning to frown at the teenager out of concern.
At the question, Yuri furrows his brow and grimaces. "He smiles so hard his cheeks should fall off. It's sickening." Yuuri comes back to the counter and sets his spray bottle down, unable to help a grin at the mental image; it makes Yuri narrow his eyes and look away. "Ugh, not you too."
"Sorry, it's just… So he's like that at work, too?" Yuuri inquires amusedly, bringing a hand up to cover his smile. For all the endearment Victor displays in private, Yuuri doesn't know much about him in the office— he's seen Victor at wedding venues, yes, but not in his actual workplace.
"All the time. He's been kind of moody the past two days, though."
"Oh." Yuuri bites his lip. "You can tell?"
As if it's the most natural thing to notice in the world, Yuri tilts his head. "His sighs are different."
It's admittedly still hard for Yuuri to read what Victor's thinking at times, even after spending countless hours together. He'd just always assumed that Victor didn't want to bring work into his leisure time, and he always seemed happy to just have Yuuri around, so he didn't give it much thought. But if Victor's co-workers— or at least Yuri— have noticed something he hasn't, then Yuuri wants to know what that something is. Is work not going well? It's late summer, so the summer wedding season must be waning— no, that can't be it. The flower shop's demand hasn't gone down too much. Maybe Victor is struggling with another client. Or maybe, Yuuri frets, it has to do with them.
It's totally irrational, considering how happy (he thinks) they've been together. But this is the first he's heard of any difference.
Taking another petulant sip of his juice, the teen adds, "and he keeps playing the soundtrack to the same movie over and over. Get him to wear his stupid expensive earphones."
"I'll work on it." Yuuri shrugs. The mention of a soundtrack piques his interest, though. "Wait, from which movie?"
"It's that new super cliché romance film." Yuri replies. "We've heard the main theme a hundred times and it's only been two days."
"We watched it on Sunday— he's been humming it around me too." Yuuri sympathizes, sitting and resting his elbows on the counter. "It's not a bad song, but I wouldn't mind hearing something else."
"I don't care what he listens to as long as he does it with earphones on." Yuri hisses, crushing the now-empty juice carton in his fist.
Teenagers are fearsome, sometimes.
Suddenly, everything clicks together in Yuuri's head. The hearts. The roses. The candles. The soundtrack related workplace disturbances. Victor's so enthusiastic about the movie that Yuuri just brushed it off as Victor really liking it— but it isn't just the movie, is it?
"Hey, Yuri?" He muses, staring at the silver embossing on the folder in front of him. "Do you think I should… send Victor flowers at work, or something?"
"I think he just wants some of those cliché romantic things to happen to him," Yuuri explains. "I don't know. I could probably do more stuff like that. Do you think that would be okay?"
Yuri scrunches his nose. "Don't ask me. I don't want any part in this."
"Then is there anyone else at the office who can help?" Yuuri presses. If he's going to surprise Victor at work, he's going to have to get the address from someone other than Victor.
It looks like the teenager in front of him has lost interest completely, tapping around on his phone instead of listening, and Yuuri's about to dismiss the idea when Yuri puts his smartphone to his ear and, a few moments later, shoots off a gruff string of Russian. He holds out his phone to Yuuri, and motions for him to take the call. "She can help you."
Still processing Yuri's sudden actions, Yuuri nods quickly and takes the phone with both hands, putting it to his own ear and hesitantly greeting the person on the other side.
"Um, hello!" A higher-pitched voice comes from the receiver. "This is Weddings by V, Mila speaking. How may I help you?"
"Oh, this isn't— I mean, it's not for work." Yuuri clarifies, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth. "Is Victor there?" A short silence ensues.
"He's out, actually, but you can leave a message." There's a click of a pen in the background, and Yuuri shakes his head, even if Mila can't see it.
"No, no," he sighs, trying to form words. "I'm… I'm Victor's boyfriend. I wanted to-"
"Oh! Wait, so you're…"
"I'm Yuuri." Yuuri states, a little nervous. "Sorry. I'm sure you're busy."
"No, it's okay! He talks about you a lot, that's all; what did you need?" Mila asks.
"I… want to surprise him with flowers. Tomorrow, preferably. What would be a good time to come by?"
"Maybe around one? We usually have lunch around then." Mila answers. Yuuri takes note of the time; it should be okay to drop by around then between deliveries. Suddenly, Mila gasps. "Wait a second! Are you Yuuri from Katsuki Flowers?" Yuuri replies that he is, and Mila snaps her fingers. "I guessed right! No wonder. The boss used to jump around different florists, so his sticking to your shop makes total sense now." Yuuri makes a confused noise, and Mila rushes to clear up her statement. "Not that that's a bad thing! The flower arrangements you guys do are incredible. I'm sure even if you weren't dating he'd choose your floristry."
"He did even for the couple months before we started dating, so I'm pretty sure that's the case." Yuuri points out, nodding to himself assuredly. "Anyways, I meant to ask: do you know anything about flower meanings? I could use some help."
"Oh, Victor has me research that stuff all the time," Mila laughs. "Are you trying to convey something to him?"
"Yuri— uh, the other Yuri, the one who works with you— mentioned that Victor's been moody the past two days, so I want to do something romantic. To cheer him up, you know?"
"That's so sweet!" Gushing, Mila begins typing something, the loud clacking of her keyboard picking up on the call. "Okay, I have just the thing."
It's only a while later, after Yuuri and Mila iron out the plan to surprise Victor, that Yuri snaps that his phone will run out of battery. He takes another apple juice Yuuri offers him as thanks, and the florist waves the teenager off, feeling hopeful about the next day.
Victor, on the other hand, wakes up in a cold sweat the next morning, way before his alarm is set to go off.
God, what a terrible dream.
It's all fuzzy now, but Victor remembers having hay fever in it. Hay fever. And he was sniffling and crying, eyes stinging and nose itching from pollen. Yuuri refused to get close to him, and that devastated Victor most of all.
"Victor, I'm going to keep hurting you. Pollen sticks to all my clothes... I don't think I should stay."
"Yuuri, please— we can work this out! All it takes is a shower. I have clothes you can wear!"
"There's no washing away what will hurt you most."
"I can take medication! I'll wear masks! Goggles, if I have to— just stay with me."
Victor's tearing up just thinking about this dream. It's ridiculous. What he needs is a glass of water, and he swings his legs off the bed to go grab one, giving Makkachin a fur ruffle before heading to the kitchen. Just to be sure it was just a dream, he takes an experimental sniff of the vase of tulips sitting on his dining table— when it doesn't result in any sneezes, he breathes a sigh of relief.
No, that'll never happen, Victor thinks as he saunters along the block with Makkachin trotting ahead. It's just an irrational dream, one that his mind made up to remind him he has insecurities. It's not that he doubts their relationship, but Victor likes to make his love clear through action, and Yuuri is very quiet. His quietness lends itself to wonderful surprises, at times, but it would be nice to get reminders that are a little more concrete.
Shaking off some of the tension from the dream, he hands Makkachin off to Nikolai and makes his way to work. As is customary with their mornings, he texts Yuuri a "good morning" and peers over at the shop's window to catch a glimpse of him. This morning, Yuuri's nowhere to be seen, but the text he receives in return, explaining that he's in the basement preparing orders, is an adequate substitute.
It's a miracle that Victor doesn't notice something is up from how odd Mila and Yuri are acting. From his desk, Georgi can see Mila fidgeting at the desk next to him, and Yuri keeps glancing at the door from his laptop, and Victor— well, he can't see Victor's face from behind his monitor, but he seems as carefree as always.
Is there some secret that he isn't in on? Georgi hates surprises. The last surprise he got was Anya throwing an empty cardboard box at him and telling him to take his things and leave, completely shattering his heart and leaving him to weep on the curb and cancel their nonrefundable couple's pilates session that Monday—
Okay, maybe he just hated that surprise. Not all surprises are bad. Some surprises involve ice cream cake or presents. But it's nowhere near his birthday, so whatever surprise they have planned probably doesn't include either of those things.
It's very suspicious when Mila answers her mobile phone and bends to answer it with a hand over the receiver. It's even more suspicious when Yuri flashes her an unreadable look; his looks are never ambiguous, they're always very specific.
"Mm, it's time for lunch!" Victor remarks, stretching in his office chair and beginning to rise out of his seat.
"Ahh, wait!" Mila yelps, stiffening and glancing at the wall clock above the door. Gathering a couple of folders in her arms and charging up to Victor's desk in the back, she drops them on the table. "V-Victor, can you look over these planning timelines with me before you go to lunch?"
"Right now?" Victor replies, scanning over the stack. "It can't wait till after lunch?"
"Yes, right now. I need to send these off by one-thirty." Smacking her hand on the gloss-finished folders, Mila demands. She walks around Victor's desk to perch on the cushioned chairs in front of it and watches Victor intently as he sits back down, defeatedly taking a pen out to mark the documents.
Mila glances at her phone a few times, always bringing her gaze back up right as Victor's doing the same and motioning at some other field that needs checking.
Suddenly, the office doorbell chimes, and just as Victor's reaching for the phone to listen to the intercom, Yuri grabs the phone off Mila's desk, to Georgi's surprise, leaving Victor to gape.
"Oi, Apples. The door's unlocked; just come in." Yuri mutters, putting the receiver down as soon as he finishes speaking.
"Apples?" Georgi mouths, perplexed, as a bespectacled man opens the glass door into the office from the small waiting area. He looks around, standing aimlessly in front of the bathroom door, holding a bouquet of flowers, a bag, and two coffees in his hands. It's a wonder he managed to open the pull door.
That's when Victor drops his pen, letting it thud dully on the papers on his desk. He stands up, staring in disbelief before bursting out the glass door of his private office to greet "Apples."
It's only a few yards between Victor's office door and the entryway, but he's already breathless, or rather, more speechless than Georgi has ever seen him, stopped in front of the visitor with his hands raised like he's holding back from a hug. Probably a wise decision, considering the coffees and flowers in "Apples'" hands.
"Hi," Victor murmurs, still processing the shock of his boyfriend's presence.
"Hi," Yuuri says back, looking up at Victor bashfully, already feeling his face burn red with three other pairs of eyes trained on them. "I brought you some flowers. And lunch." He holds the sizable bouquet out to Victor, who takes it from him with a grin spreading from cheek to cheek.
"You… Oh, this is so sweet, Yuuri," Victor marvels, admiring the hydrangeas and roses for a moment before putting them down on the coffee table in the sitting area to his left. He takes the coffees and bag of food from Yuuri and sets them next to the flowers just as quickly, not wasting a second in bundling his adorable, amazing, caring boyfriend up in a hug. Feet coming off the ground as Victor swings him around, Yuuri yelps, and Victor releases him a moment later, looking as giddy as ever and nearly bouncing on his heels. "We're having lunch together?"
"If you want," Yuuri nods. "I got us some Vietnamese food; I hope that's okay."
"That sounds perfect."
Nodding to himself, Yuuri glances behind Victor and sees a red-haired woman walking up to them.
"Oh, I should probably introduce you to everyone!" Victor gasps, turning to stand beside Yuuri, one hand anchored on Yuuri's waist. "Everyone, this is Yuuri! We're dating."
"We know," Mila chimes. "From Katsuki Flowers, right? He delivers flowers to our weddings."
"Yeah, and you won't shut up about him. You even sent me to his shop yesterday, old man," Yuri scoffs with a full mouth, looking up from his lunch of dense-looking pirozhki.
Victor tilts his head. "But he's my boyfriend now. Doesn't that warrant another introduction?"
"No." The teenager retorts quickly. "Just go do your mushy romantic stuff and get it over with."
How Yuri had automatically assumed they'd be doing any "mushy romantic stuff," Victor has no clue— that is, until things start to make sense. "Yuuri," he tuts, turning his head to look at Yuuri. "You planned with Mila and Yurio to surprise me, didn't you? For our four month anniversary?"
Yuuri looks remarkably like a fish with his reddened face and gaping mouth when he admits, "I, uh, actually didn't know it's been four months. I did ask Mila and Yuri for help, though."
"That's okay." Victor shakes his head before clinging even closer to Yuuri, wrapping his other hand around to meet his other hand, locking Yuuri in his embrace. "I love you all the same." He lands a quick peck on Yuuri's forehead, making the other Yuri curse under his breath and put his earphones back in.
"L-Love you too," Yuuri replies honestly, though it's muffled in Victor's shoulder.
It makes Victor pause, and he releases Yuuri's waist to take his hands instead, smiling completely helplessly with his eyes crinkling at the edges. Yuuri doesn't think he's ever seen Victor so fond, and he's been fond dozens of times before. What a difference one word can make.
"Did you just confess to me in front of all my employees?" Victor laughs, swinging their hands from side to side.
"What? I…" Yuuri trails off momentarily before admitting defeat with a soft smile. "Okay, I guess I did." It was easier than he thought to say, to be honest; and Victor's reaction was more than worth it.
A pat on Yuuri's shoulder from Mila alerts them that she, Georgi, and Yuri are walking out of the office.
"We're going to eat now," she states. "Enjoy your lunch date!"
"Ah, alright. Thanks Mila, Yuri!" Yuuri slides a hand out from Victor's grip to wave curtly. "It's nice to meet you."
"See you later!" Victor lilts, waving along with Yuuri.
Georgi and Yuri are already outside the office's glass doors when Mila closes the entryway door behind her, and she breathes a sigh of relief. "Well, Victor looks happy."
"He's going to be unbearable when we get back." Yuri grumbles. "I should never have helped."
"Oh, come on. It's better than having him mope all day, right? At least this way he'll be in good spirits— and I think it's really cute of his boyfriend to go to that trouble." Mila replies.
Georgi's silent through this exchange, staring holes into the stainless steel of the elevator doors as they wait for the elevator to arrive.
Wasn't everyone in this office perpetually single? Was he the only one who hadn't noticed Victor had begun dating someone? This is the first he's heard of Victor's dating anyone in a long time. An impromptu visit at work with flowers, lunch, and coffee? How infuriatingly lovey-dovey.
"Say, Mila, Yuri?" Georgi says, keeping his voice light. "What do you say we go to the Avenir for lunch today?"
"The Avenir? That's pricey, though." Mila sighs. "Unless you're treating us?"
"No, not me." Shaking his head as they enter the elevator and press the lobby button, Georgi smiles. "We'll put it on Victor's personal tab."
"Let's do it." Yuri narrows his eyes, nodding decisively. "He deserves it for putting us through that sap fest."
Although Mila protests, they end up going to the Avenir anyway, to Christophe's surprise. Once they explain the situation, however, he laughs heartily and agrees to send the charges Victor's way.
The delicious food almost, but not quite, makes up for Victor's disgustingly doting look and reddened mouth when they all return from lunch an hour later.
Mila wisely turns a blind eye, but Georgi, whose desk is stationed the closest to Victor's office, wants to stick his head in the nearest trash can and scream from all the happy sighing coming from behind him.
Georgi hates love.
It's really too bad that Victor's just learning how addictive it can be.
See the side story that comes after this part here!
Chapter 13: Absence
Chapter by ingthing, ingthing_YOI (ingthing)
It's their first weekend apart, and Victor is especially distraught.
(...makes the heart grow fonder.)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It starts with the news that Victor has to travel to a wedding professionals' conference in Washington for a weekend.
Although the conference is over a week away, Victor seems incredibly dismayed. He'd sent Yuuri a flurry of upset messages when Mila reminded him of the trip that morning, and he'd arrived home just as troubled.
"It's only two nights, Victor." Yuuri sighs, standing beside and resting his palms on the arm of his boyfriend's couch. Victor is laid on it front-down, burying his face in a broad-striped pillow and emitting a muffled noise of displeasure with his legs dangling off the other armrest. Makkachin's sniffing around his face, offering licks wherever she can find Victor's cheek behind his bangs. She's probably been dealing with Victor's moods for a long time; Yuuri sighs and wishes he had that experience. "And it's not like you'll be alone," he points out. "Aren't your coworkers coming?"
"Just Mila and Georgi." Victor mutters, lifting his head to pout. "Yurio told me to go to hell when I asked if he wanted to come."
"I mean, I don't think a conference is any teen's idea of fun." Reaching out to poke the part of Victor's hair in light reprimand, Yuuri replies. Victor grumbles in begrudged agreement, narrowing his eyes as he drops his chin to the pillow.
"Still. You should be consoling me!" Victor whines, rolling over to face upwards and meet Yuuri's gaze, letting one arm drape off the side of the seat and brush against Makkachin's fur. "I'm in distress."
"Because," Victor murmurs dolefully, "this will be our first real weekend away from each other."
Yuuri hadn't thought of that— he's also pretty sure being apart for a little while isn't as devastating as Victor makes it out to be. After all, it's just a couple of nights. It's not as if they'll be apart for an entire month, and Yuuri doesn't usually stay over on weeknights, anyway. Still, with Victor looking teary-eyed, he guesses there is something he can do for him after all.
"Okay, well…" He stalls, kneeling in front of the sofa and leaning onto its cushions; Makkachin obediently moves out of the way, and Victor's hand comes up to Yuuri's back instead, resting on his shoulder. "If you're really so upset over being away for the weekend, I'll just… I don't know. I could stay over during the week instead of going back to my apartment every night."
"You're sure?" Eyes going wide, Victor seems cheerier at the offer already.
"Um, yeah. It's technically closer to the shop, anyway."
Victor thrusts his arms out to pull Yuuri into them, squeezing him tight as well as he can from his reclining position, and he laughs and lands a few good kisses wherever he can reach on Yuuri's face.
Yuuri's just relaxing into it when, abruptly, Victor releases him, holding Yuuri's arms instead and looking surprised, or more likely, alert.
"Then you should go grab your things!" He gasps, looking over at the clock on the TV stand across from them and tugging at Yuuri's t-shirt sleeve. "Come on, let's go!"
"Now?" Yuuri protests when Victor swings his legs off the sofa and sits up.
"No sense in time wasted!" Victor grins, standing and letting Yuuri hold his hand as he gets up. "We can get dinner on the way back."
Yuuri can barely retort that he's got enough clothing there for at least two days before he's pulled out the door with unlaced sneakers on, which, Victor says, he can just do up in the elevator.
For all of Victor's excitement, he's surprisingly docile when they reach Yuuri and Phichit's apartment. It's his first time over, even if just briefly, and Yuuri is a little embarrassed when he comes out of his room hoisting a duffel bag onto his shoulder to find Victor glancing around the room quietly from the sofa. Their apartment definitely pales in comparison to Victor's nicely furnished condo.
"Phichit isn't here?" Victor asks, noticing that the energetic lifestyle journalist isn't around.
"I think he's at work— He goes in on Saturdays because he likes it so much."
"You go in on Saturdays too, when it's not the summer." Victor points out.
"Well, yeah, but that's when Minami isn't there to take over my shift." Yuuri shrugs, slipping his shoes back on and Victor following suit. "Okay, let's go."
Victor sticks to Yuuri like they're glued through the subway, through their pit stop for sushi, and all the way up to Victor's apartment and through the door, but Yuuri can't find it in himself to request a little space when Victor looks so simply happy just clinging to him as he sets their food on the kitchen counter.
An entire week spent here instead of going home for the night is a little daunting, if Yuuri's honest. That's a lot of time to be spending together— but if nothing else, he wants to see to Victor's needs, and if staying over the week before his short business trip helps, then at the very least, Yuuri can do that.
The rest of the weekend passes as it usually would, with sleeping in and walking Makkachin and lounging around the house.
By Wednesday, Yuuri's actually excited to be going to work in the morning.
Phichit had taken the news that Yuuri wouldn't be coming back for a week with much enthusiasm, sending about a hundred texts filled with "OMG!!!"s and various supportive emojis and calling Yuuri to make sure he isn't just stalling on telling him he wants to move in with Victor. Yuuri wants that, at some point, but this week is a test drive and definitely not a final decision.
Especially not after spending four nights with Victor and feeling restless and tired after them.
"I know I promised," Yuuri mutters into his apple, crunching into it and chewing before swallowing and continuing his thought, "but it's a lot to suddenly be with him 24/7. And when he's upset about the trip and super clingy..."
"Super clingy? Who, Victor? I couldn't tell." Mari quips sarcastically, entering the room and giving Yuuri a teasing grin when he glowers at her for eavesdropping.
"Aren't you supposed to be downstairs doing stuff?" Yuuri grumbles, resting one elbow on the counter and putting the apple down.
"Well, yeah, but why are you talking to yourself?"
"It's not a crime," Yuuri replies, turning away. "It's nothing."
"It doesn't seem like nothing. What happened with Victor?" Mari presses. "If you really don't want to tell me, then okay, but if you're frustrated enough to mope about it…"
"It's really nothing— I'm staying with him this week, and it's just different."
Giving a low whistle and walking over to lean on the counter, Mari raises her eyebrows. "Oh, congrats. I guess you guys have been dating for a couple of months now. How long has it been, half a year?"
"Just over four months," Yuuri mutters back. "And it's not like I've moved in or anything."
"Why not? Isn't his place a lot closer to the shop? You stay there every weekend; you're practically living together already."
"Ugh, not you too." Yuuri sighs. "That's what Phichit said."
"Do you not, like, like Victor anymore?"
"That's not it at all." Yuuri sits up, frowning at Mari. "It's just… He has a business trip soon so he's really- and I mean really- clingy."
"You always did love your personal space," Mari murmurs. "But if you need space, why not just say so?"
"He looked like he was going to cry just thinking about being apart during work this week. I can't do that."
"Yes you can. And haven't you been at his apartment all weekend anyway? He'll understand."
"Mari, he would literally cry if I suggested going back to my own place for tonight."
"It's your decision," Mari states, leaning off the counter and turning to go downstairs, "but I think he would appreciate it if you told him."
Just like that, she's gone again, footsteps heading away the only buffer for Yuuri's frustration. Maybe Mari is right, but all Yuuri needs to do is hold on for two more days, and then he'll have all the quiet time he wants. He can do this.
By Thursday, Yuuri, in fact, cannot do "this."
"This" is letting Victor drape himself over Yuuri when he's in Victor's only armchair or in other seats clearly made for one, and chattering idly about nothing with his arms wrapped tight around Yuuri's waist or shoulders. "This" is trying not to squirm and hiding his discomfort when Victor's too close too often, and being sandwiched between Makkachin and Victor every night is stifling in the August heat. Sure, they keep the air conditioner on, but it doesn't help when he's between two deadweights.
Yuuri rubs his face as he sits on the toilet, elbows on his knees. The toilet cover's not up; he's not even there to pee. It just feels like the bathroom is the only place he can escape to.
A soft knock comes from the door, and Yuuri doesn't even look up.
"Yuuri, are you feeling alright? I can get you some antacid." Victor asks in a concerned tone.
"Y-yeah, I'm okay." Yuuri calls back, feeling more terrible than ever. "Sorry, did you need the toilet?"
"No, take your time." Victor replies. "Tell me if you need anything, okay?"
Space. I need space. Yuuri thinks to himself, not really noticing when the waiting silence from outside the door changes into footsteps headed away from the bathroom. Victor isn't at the door. He can take a deep breath and process things now.
There's definitely not even a question of if he loves Victor or not. He does, he really does. So why is he so bothered by spending a few extra nights over or being literally shoulder to shoulder with Victor all the time? That's the kind of stuff you do when you're in love, isn't it? And especially now, with Victor so upset about staying away for all of two nights— Yuuri should be more receptive to that closeness than ever. But if Victor is really asking if he needs anything, then...
He flushes the toilet for show and washes his hands (even if he hasn't had to wipe anything) before unlocking the door and emerging into the living area.
Victor turns his attention from his phone to watch Yuuri come out of the bathroom and he offers a worried smile. "Are you feeling better?"
"I guess so." Yuuri lies, settling on the sofa next to Victor. "It was just my stomach."
Victor nods in understanding, reminded, with fondness, of memories of his experiences with Chinese takeout. Undeterred by thoughts of bowel movements, he stretches his arms out to Yuuri requesting a hug, but Yuuri doesn't move into his embrace, instead patting his knee and looking nervously away.
"Um, well, can I talk to you about something later?" Yuuri mentions, blinking up at Victor through his glasses, and Victor lowers his hands curiously.
"I was just going to go take a shower," Victor says. "Are you sure you don't want to talk now?"
Victor takes a long time in the shower, Yuuri knows— and he desperately needs that time to think about how he should phrase this. He shakes his head, urging Victor to go to the bathroom, and stares holes into the floorboards underneath his feet once Victor is gone.
There really would be no easy way to put this. How, exactly, is Yuuri supposed to tell his boyfriend that he wants space when that amounts to not wanting to spend time with him? It's not that, it's really not— Yuuri loves Victor and likes being around him— but that's exactly what it sounds like.
His mind is still spinning with no clear answer in sight when the sound of flowing water comes to a stop and Yuuri knows he's out of time.
Minutes later, Victor comes out from the bathroom in his bathrobe with a towel in one hand, and he musses his hair with it as he walks back to Yuuri.
"So? What did you want to talk about?" He asks lightheartedly, blinking curiously at Yuuri and sitting across from him.
Yuuri's completely frozen to the spot, his gaze darting down from Victor's face to his knees. What if he wrecks their relationship over such an insignificant thing? Victor looks like he has no idea what Yuuri might have in store, and that just makes his pulse race faster. It's getting hard to breathe.
"I don't know if I should." He admits, wringing his hands in his lap.
"How can I help if you don't tell me?" Shuffling forward to sit at the very edge of the armchair, Victor reaches out to place a gentle hand on Yuuri's knee. The gesture would comfort him at other times, but Yuuri just stiffens, pursing his lips together before deciding, against the nagging insecurity in the back of his mind, to speak freely.
"I… I think I need space."
If he had looked up then, he would have watched Victor's heart drop to the bottom of his stomach.
Yuuri steps into the stream of the hot shower with a wince. He doesn't change the temperature setting— his skin will get accustomed to the temperature after a few seconds under the stream, and it's a welcome (albeit uncomfortable) distraction from the conversation he just had.
He'd explained it all, of course. How his words came out wrong and how he's not used to being clung to so much and how he's just being stupid and no, Victor, I didn't mean to make it sound like I'm breaking up with you!
The edge of Victor's dismay only softened into sadness, the alarm in his eyes turning into anguish.
Yuuri closes his own eyes in the stream of the water, willing the hot droplets to reach deep inside and wash away the tension. He'd done it; he'd told Victor he needed space.
But showers don't work like that, and he'd hurt Victor— and now here he is, drowning his sorrows in Victor's shower, in Victor's bathroom, in Victor's apartment.
It feels selfish, and his fingers are already starting to prune when he realizes he hasn't even touched the soap. A cursory lathering is all he can really muster before rubbing the soap on himself.
After all his (empty) explanations, Victor had simply nodded once in understanding and cast his eyes down with a brow furrowed so deep it made his forehead look even larger. He'd said something to apologize for making Yuuri feel uncomfortable, and he'd taken Yuuri's hands, letting them go when he'd suggested Yuuri go have a shower with a small smile.
It hadn't come up to his eyes, so Yuuri knows that he's upset Victor deeply.
The soap is washed off quickly under the unrelenting waterflow, and Yuuri rubs his face with a cleanser and a washcloth and rinses it before supposing he should really leave the shower.
It takes another two minutes for Yuuri to conjure up the will to switch the shower off and dry himself with a towel— his towel, next to Victor's larger towel on the rack— he ruffles his hair semi-dry and pulls on underwear, a shirt, and some shorts before brushing his teeth and staring wearily at himself in the vanity mirror.
With a deep sigh, he hangs the towel back up and opens the door into the bedroom.
The light is already dimmed when he steps out, the only light remaining in the room the table lamp next to the empty side of the bed. Victor's back is turned towards him, and Yuuri glances around the room, looking for the dresser to put his clothes on but fixing his gaze on the dark leather duffel bag sitting on the armchair in the corner of the room.
Of course, Victor had packed for his trip tomorrow while Yuuri was in the shower.
Yuuri places his folded clothes on the dresser before tiptoeing to the bed and slipping under the covers. Victor's broad back is turned to him, and only when Yuuri hoists himself onto the bed does he notice that Makkachin is in his arms. Victor's chest is already rising and falling with the pacing of sleep, and Yuuri almost misses the wadded up tissues on Victor's nightstand, shadowed by their bodies.
The tissues are arranged in a haphazard clump right at the edge of the nightstand, and a glance over Victor and Makkachin reveals that a few have fallen on the ground. Victor's eyes are reddened from the sliver that isn't buried in the poodle's fur and Yuuri can see.
So Victor had cried.
It's official: Yuuri Katsuki is the absolute worst boyfriend.
The sheets that were so comfortable on his skin just the night before feel stifling and unfamiliar tonight; but Yuuri pulls them over himself anyway as a micro-punishment, resting his head on the pillow and staring up into the darkness of the ceiling.
Yuuri had wanted space, and he'd gotten it. But the expanse of mattress between them, even though it must only be a foot or so wide, feels like too much space.
Frustrated mostly at himself, Yuuri manages to fall asleep from sheer fatigue a few hours later.
He's woken by the sound of something dropping on the floor and Victor's under-the-breath cursing.
It's startling, so Yuuri sits up blearily, and when Victor gets up from retrieving his watch from the floor, their eyes meet.
Victor looks soft in the dim morning light that trickles between the curtains (drawn shut still— Victor probably intended to let Yuuri sleep) and he blinks, his surprise ebbing. "Good morning," he greets quietly, slipping his watch on and fastening it.
"Morning," Yuuri replies, lowering his gaze and taking his phone from the nightstand. It's not charged— he'd forgotten to plug it in last night— but its battery is full enough to tell Yuuri that it's just past six in the morning— he remembers that Victor's supposed to be at Penn Station at around eight. He swings his legs out off the bed; the covers are messy and pushed back already, and he sits at the edge of the mattress as he watches Victor adjust his collar in the mirror next to the bedroom door.
Yuuri gets up and trudges to the kitchen for a cup of water. His mouth feels like it's coated in sawdust after the bad night of sleep, and he sees that Makkachin's already in the living room, lounging in the morning sunlight by the floor to ceiling balcony windows. The poodle doesn't seem to notice Yuuri— or maybe she knows that he upset Victor and doesn't want anything to do with him.
Guilt gnaws at him when Victor emerges from the bedroom, hauling his duffel bag through the door.
Yuuri watches quietly as Victor pours a water bottle for himself, stuffs that in the side pocket of his luggage, and pulls on his shoes. He puts his mug down on the kitchen counter and approaches Victor slowly, staring down at the parting of his hair as he ties his shoelaces.
Victor notices him coming, and he looks at Yuuri as he stands.
This close up, Victor looks tired. He's as well groomed as ever, smelling like aftershave and cologne, but his eyes show evidence of tears— evidence even the strongest depuffing creams can't get rid of. His smile is tired, too.
"Well," He breathes, standing by the door expectantly. "I have to go."
Yuuri nods, taking a deep breath. "Yeah. Wouldn't wanna be late."
This isn't awkward at all. Victor's not turning to leave, and Yuuri has his hands together at his stomach, unsure of what to do. Not that Yuuri wants him to leave, but the way Victor's looking at him makes him want to do something. At a loss for words, he outstretches his arms, and Victor takes his invitation, setting the duffel on the floor before coming into Yuuri's embrace.
"I'm sorry about last night," Yuuri's voice wavers, clutching at Victor's back.
"That's okay," Victor murmurs, letting his hands rest on the small of Yuuri's back. "What matters is that you're still here."
The tightness in Victor's back doesn't melt away as it usually does when they hug, but Yuuri has to shut his eyes against the watering after Victor's honesty. God, he doesn't think he deserves this amazing man.
They leave the hug soon after, and Yuuri leans up to give Victor a kiss before coming back down on his heels and straightening Victor's jacket a little. "H-have a good trip," he wishes, offering up a wobbly smile.
With another quick peck and a ruffle of Makkachin's fur, Victor leaves. Yuuri does too, for work, once he's handed Makkachin off to Nikolai, who she's staying with for the weekend.
That she would be staying with the older man was determined a week before, but it's probably better that Yuuri doesn't take care of her instead— he doesn't deserve the dog's love right now, no matter how insistently she tries to lick his face.
Phichit can tell something's up when Yuuri returns to their apartment after work.
Of course he does, having lived with Yuuri for so many years. Phichit stares intently at him from the couch, giving him a once-over.
"Y'know, for someone who just spent an entire week lovey-dovey with their boyfriend, you don't look very happy." He states, as Yuuri kicks his sneakers off and heads into the apartment.
Yuuri drops his bag in his room before coming back out to the kitchen for a drink— the beer he put in the fridge is still there, so he takes a can out and downs a first gulp as Phichit watches him, looking very confused.
"Did something happen with Victor?" He asks, rising from his seat to join Yuuri at the refrigerator.
"I happened." Yuuri laments, taking a seat at their small kitchen table. "I hurt Victor."
Phichit gasps, and takes the seat next to Yuuri. "How?"
"I told him I needed space."
Yuuri rubs his face in his hands as Phichit processes his words, and he clasps his hands around his beer as Phichit seems to come to some kind of realization.
"Wait, you broke up?"
"No, of course not!" Yuuri clarifies, before doubling forward to rest his forehead on the table. "Ugh, he thought that's what I meant too. Why am I so bad with words?"
"I mean… you are a private person. I can see why you might need space, but you couldn't wait until after the trip to ask him about it?"
"He told me to say something if there's anything I need…" Yuuri trails off. "While I was in the bathroom, sure, but I didn't think he'd be so upset over what I said."
Phichit gawks. "Yuuri, isn't clinging to you, like, the number one thing he likes doing? That's why you stayed with him all week, isn't it?"
"Well, yeah, but-"
"Of course he'd be upset, he wanted to spend time with you!"
"Have you at least texted him?" Phichit asks, taking Yuuri's beer and taking a sip before wincing and passing it back. "How you drink beer I'll never understand."
"He's at the conference right now, but we texted while Victor was on the train and a little bit after he arrived."
"Okay, at least you've been doing that." Phichit sighs. "Did you apologize?"
"This morning, before he left."
Phichit nods to himself, crossing his arms in contemplation. "So… I mean, that's pretty much all you can do right now, right?"
"Yeah," Yuuri says, rising from the table and propping his elbows on the surface. "But I still feel terrible about it."
"Good luck, man." Phichit whistles, getting up to pat Yuuri on the back. "But hey, at least you have some space now, right?"
Yuuri grunts affirmatively as he rises too, bringing his drink with him to his room. He'll admit that it's nice to be on his own for the first night in a while, and he turns his computer on to play some games. Time passes quickly that way, the screen pulling him away from his life momentarily. But once he's rubbing his eyes from staring for hours and yawning, he turns his computer off, and the room is just… eerily quiet.
He takes a shower in their combination shower-tub, brushes his teeth at the pedestal sink, and thinks that the mirror seems much smaller than the one at Victor's place.
Victor's bathroom mirror covers a strip of wall, and in the mornings when they're both hustling to get ready, Yuuri will be at the sink and watching from the corner of his eye as Victor flits in and out, grabbing hair products and lotions as Yuuri preps himself for the day. Victor makes pit stops behind Yuuri along the way, pressing soft kisses to his cheek or hugging him and commenting on how attractive Yuuri looks even though they both know he's just rolled out of bed a mess.
Yuuri puts on a pair of old sweats and crawls into his narrow bed. It's just as squeaky as he remembers, and the indent in the middle is still caved to the shape of his butt. His phone is already plugged into the cable he keeps on his side table, and he reaches for it, reading a few missed texts from Victor when he turns it on.
Victor went to bed about an hour and a half ago, and missing his goodnight text gives Yuuri a sinking feeling. He quickly writes back that he was playing games and is just getting to bed before sighing and setting his phone back down. It buzzes before Yuuri can shuffle under the sheets, and Yuuri sees that Victor's sent back a couple of hearts.
After sending some of his own in reply, Yuuri sleeps.
He wakes up late the next morning, grunting when the near-noon sunlight hits his eye with sniper accuracy. There's nowhere to hide his face, not a shoulder or another pillow or even dog fur. There is, however, a wall, and he realizes he's in his own bed today.
It's been a while since he's been home for the weekend, and he hasn't been in his room for a solid week.
The odd thing is that, rather than being like a vacation where you leave for a week and return home because it's home, his and Phichit's apartment doesn't feel that way anymore. It's still someplace he lives, sure, but it doesn't feel the way it used to when it was just him and Phichit. Somewhere in living with Victor for six days, he'd settled.
Maybe Phichit was right about his wanting to move in with Victor, but the man isn't around for him to talk it out with— it's Saturday, which means he's off in Brooklyn somewhere collecting information on hot new restaurants for his job.
Yuuri is well and truly alone for the day for the first time in ages, and it's a quiet that he's kind of forgotten.
He spends a couple of hours online watching videos and scrolling idly through social media. There are a few posts from Victor at the conference, and he smiles wistfully. Victor's schedule is packed for the day, as his 7:38AM text bemoaned, so Yuuri's messages are quite empty.
Phichit comes home with pizza (normal pepperoni pizza without "exotic" toppings, thankfully,) and they have a pretty good evening catching up with each other and playing with Phichit's hamsters. He manages to catch Victor before bed, chatting a little bit before his boyfriend's messages stop, and Yuuri wonders if he's just fallen asleep with his thumbs on the keyboard.
He sighs as he sends the nerdy glasses emoji to Victor before plugging his phone in for the night.
This would have been an ideal Saturday just a few months ago, but now, it just doesn't feel like enough. Like he wants something else, and Yuuri knows what he wants involves Victor, whether he likes it or not.
He wants their weekend cuddling and dog walking and easy conversations. Yelling at the TV because a contestant on Minced left the gummy bears out of their dish is their Saturday night thing now, and they always laugh over how silly it is that they're sitting there eating takeout while critiquing the culinary experts on screen. It doesn't ever stop them from doing it, but the point of reality television, as Victor once mused, is simply to entertain.
It's way past the broadcast time for the show and Victor's asleep, but Yuuri misses both those things.
Sunday can't come soon enough.
Sunday does come, and Yuuri spends most of the day just trying to articulate what he wants to say to Victor.
His apology from Friday was by no means insincere, but it was rushed. He and Victor haven't really talked about that night, and it wouldn't feel right over the phone anyways.
Around six, Victor texts him to let him know that he's about to board the train back, and Yuuri gets comfy on the sofa to talk to him while he's on the ride. It feels wonderful to chat at length, but it's nearing the end of Victor's ride and Yuuri's wondering how he's going to see (and talk to) Victor later.
"So," Yuuri types, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth. "Are you taking the subway back?"
Victor sends a reply moments later. "That's the plan."
"Isn't my place closer from Penn?"
The little dots that dance to indicate that Victor is typing stop for a moment before they jump back up again.
"I think so. Why?"
Yuuri takes a deep breath as he types his next reply.
"Sooner is better than later, right?" Yuuri pauses, before adding, "but I can come over if you want to get Makkachin."
"It's ok. I'll ask Nikolai to keep her for another night." Victor writes. "Sooner it is <3"
Yuuri sends a heart back before embarking on the question of what Victor might want for a very late dinner, and they talk until Victor says his phone is low on battery and he's forced to conserve it.
About two hours later, there's a knock on his and Phichit's front door, and Yuuri yells to his roommate that he'll get it before stumbling over his own feet to get his hand on the door handle.
And there Victor is, wearing an uncontrollable beautiful grin and Yuuri doesn't think he's been more ecstatic to see someone's smile, ever. They collide into each other, arms wrapping around each other and standing together in the doorway hugging like it's been months since they last hugged.
Somehow, they get through the door and Victor manages to crouch and grab his luggage without letting go of Yuuri. They only part once the front door is closed and Victor has to let go to take his shoes off.
Yuuri halfheartedly invites Phichit to sit with them anyway, but, like a good roommate would in the presence of his roommate's partner, he declines and disappears into his room with a wink. Victor smiles in relief— he can always trust Phichit to read the social mood and give them a little privacy.
They spend the rest of the evening (night, really— it was already ten when Victor arrived at the apartment) on the too-soft sofa, with their legs tangled together and the TV on low like they'd been missing.
It's nearly midnight when Victor kisses Yuuri awake (he'd dozed off around twenty minutes ago) and rubs his back warmly, coaxing him up. "Yuuri, let's get to bed. And maybe shower."
Blinking and yawning, Yuuri nods, reacquainting himself with his limbs and getting off Victor to let him stand. He pauses, frowning for a moment. "Oh, towels…"
Stumbling off in search of fresh towels for Victor to use in his closet, Victor brings his duffel inside and follows Yuuri through the short corridor to his room. His heart is pounding. This is his boyfriend's room— sure, he'd been to the apartment a week ago, when they came here to collect Yuuri's things, but he still hesitates at the doorway, looking at Yuuri and opening his mouth to ask if he can come inside- and Yuuri laughs as though it's a silly question, letting Victor inside without issue.
It wouldn't have been so trivial a question just days before, but Yuuri's come to a few realizations since then.
Victor's first impression of the room is that it's very Yuuri. It's practical, simply decorated and relatively clean. It's not the smallest of rooms, with a built-in closet and enough space for a desk and an extra seat, but it's definitely smaller than Victor's bedroom, which can fit a king sized bed with room to spare. Yuuri's bed is much smaller than that, consisting of a long twin mattress covered in a gray duvet and dark blue sheets. It looks a little small for both of them to fit on, and he notes as much to Yuuri.
"Oh, um… I didn't think that through, did I?" He admits, scratching his head. "I can take the floor."
"No, we'll fit." Victor declares, a big smile spreading across his face. "We'll make it work."
Two showers and some tooth-brushing later, they're staring at the bed, trying to make the narrow mattress work for them.
"Well, do you want to be on the inside or the outside?" Yuuri asks, referring to the side of the bed closest to the wall.
"I don't mind either." Victor shrugs. "Where would you rather I be?"
"Get in bed, then." Yuuri murmurs, nudging him.
"Ooh, how demanding," Victor jokes, pulling the covers back and sliding in. After turning the lights off, Yuuri crawls in with him, and he finds that the mattress is slanted to Victor's side, making him roll right into him with an "oof."
"Well, this isn't so bad, is it?" Victor murmurs, grinning so much that Yuuri can feel him smile in the dark. Long fingers run idly through his hair, and Yuuri nestles closer, breathing deeply. "It's intimate."
Victor's hair-stroking is coming to a slow stop when Yuuri remembers that he completely forgot to talk to Victor at all about their conversation on Thursday. It should be alright to bring it up now, right? He glances upward to see if Victor's fallen asleep yet, and Victor's eyes open when he feels Yuuri move.
"Victor," he whispers, "about Thursday—"
"It's okay. I know you need space." Victor mumbles.
"Thanks, but I was going to say… I've been thinking a lot since you left." Yuuri swallows, resting his forehead on Victor's chin. "I know I said I wanted space. But this weekend was terrible."
Victor's breath halts for a moment, and he cranes his head down in an attempt to make eye contact in the dark. "It was?"
"Yeah." Nodding imperceptibly, Yuuri admits. "I thought I needed space, but even coming back here didn't feel right. I thought… I thought this was home. But it wasn't." Victor remains silent, instead gliding his hand along Yuuri's upper arm as he speaks. "I guess what I'm trying to say is," Yuuri pauses for a short while, "I don't feel at home without you."
"But I hurt you." He mutters bluntly, feeling his eyes start to water. "I made you cry. I saw the tissues."
Victor simply sighs, hugging Yuuri by the shoulders and pressing his lips to his hair briefly. "I was upset. I didn't know I was making you uncomfortable— that's the last thing I want to do."
"I know, I know. And it's okay now. " Yuuri reassures, curling one hand against Victor's chest. "I just don't want to make you cry ever again."
"Well, I don't know if I can guarantee that, Yuuri."
"It sounds to me," Victor begins slowly, sounding a little gleeful as he brings his hand up to rest gently under Yuuri's jaw, "like you just admitted that you feel at home with me. And I feel the same about you. I just can't guarantee there won't be some happy tears if that's true."
Yuuri gapes a little bit before clamping his arms around Victor's torso and shuffling up so their heads are level. "It's true," he confirms, brushing a stray lock of hair away from the side of Victor's face and beginning to grin. "Are you going to cry now?"
"No, too tired." Victor lilts into Yuuri's lips, closing his eyes. "Remind me so I can cry in the morning." This time, Victor sinks happily with his nose to Yuuri's shirt, clutching around his midriff and relaxing deeper into the mattress. Yuuri snorts quietly at his response, and ducks his head to Victor's hair, blinking slowly.
"If I'm going to move in with you, I'll need to give Phichit two months' notice." He murmurs, the logistics of moving already beginning to swim in his head.
But Victor is already asleep, judging by the depth of his breathing.
Yuuri closes his eyes and sleeps better than he has in days, because they're finally home, and he never wants to leave.
Y'all are lucky that I hate seeing (or writing) Victor and Yuuri fighting and feel the need to resolve conflicts within the same chapter :')
I hope this was an okay change from the usual!
Chapter 14: Changes
Chapter by ingthing, ingthing_YOI (ingthing)
The day after Victor's return from his business trip, they come to some realizations.
Something pretty light and fluffy to lighten things up after last time!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Victor opens his eyes to a mess of dark hair prickling his face, and it's the best wake-up call he could ever imagine.
Though his back is a little achey from the less than ideal mattress, Yuuri is right there in Victor's arms, having shuffled downwards during the night to put his forehead to Victor's chest, and if Victor didn't desperately need to get to the bathroom, he would happily stay and oversleep with him. Yuuri would get mad that he'd have to rush to work, but they would get a few extra morning kisses in.
Though it's usually Victor that does the clinging in the morning, Yuuri has him pinned to the wall with his body weight, which is inconvenient for his impatient bladder. Easing himself up and taking Yuuri's embrace with him, Victor delicately replaces Yuuri's arms onto the mattress beside them and smiles when Yuuri makes a displeased noise.
"I'm just going to the bathroom, it's not time to get up yet." Victor murmurs, brushing Yuuri's bangs from his forehead to quell the little frown Yuuri makes as the bedsprings creak under Victor's movements. He successfully climbs over Yuuri and heads to the bathroom, trying to remember how his legs work.
He flushes a few moments later and, after washing his hands and brushing his teeth, takes his facial cleanser from the toiletry bag he left on the bathroom counter the previous night. He clips his hair back before splashing his face, and after he's cleaned, toned, serum-ed and moisturized his skin, he realizes that this is Yuuri's bathroom. When he arrived, he'd been too focused on having his boyfriend in his arms again to look around— but a person's home is so telling of their personality, and Victor will take any chance he gets to learn more about Yuuri.
He'd normally be naked save his underwear after waking up, but out of respect for being in another person's space, he's in a loose t-shirt and old sweats. Both were items Yuuri had pulled from his own closet when Victor worried over not having something to wear to bed. Um, these might fit you, he suggested, handing the old university tee and well worn pants to Victor. When Victor came back dressed, surprised that the clothes fit him despite his boyfriend's shorter stature, Yuuri revealed sheepishly that he used to be much chubbier in school. Stress eating and exams, he explained. Victor would have to request some pictures from Hiroko or Phichit later, but for now, he's making his way into the living area.
Bathed in early morning light, the apartment looks completely different, like a wash of unfamiliarity has been painted on top of it. Its furnishing is simple, with a dark color scheme and a few knick knacks strewn around the room— functional and basic furniture, so telling of when exactly in life Phichit and Yuuri had bought it.
Yuuri, of course, hasn't been here as often anymore with his now frequent stays with Victor, but it's still his space, established long before they ever met each other. He and Yuuri don't talk often about the past, but Victor is so curious. Who was Yuuri Katsuki before Victor stumbled into his life that fateful February evening? Victor certainly couldn't remember who he was before that night. He's never given much thought to the past, dwelling more in the present and preferring to take things as they come. Six months ago, he would never have thought about the future, but by the time they began dating, he had already daydreamed about their wedding countless times. He's embraced their inseparability so quickly and with such zeal that it feels odd that there was a time in his life without Yuuri. Victor sentimentally walks to the kitchen to sentimentally get himself a glass of water. When mildly sleep deprived, he's aware, he has a tendency to be soft-hearted.
He successfully finds a clean mug in one of the upper cabinets of the kitchen after a few moments of searching, and a little after he sits at the kitchen table to sip at his drink, Phichit emerges from his room with a dramatic grunt and stretch, blinking blearily in Victor's direction before rubbing his eyes, walking into the bathroom, and shutting the door behind him.
Well, it's refreshing to know that Phichit's not a morning person either— but then again, what New Yorker is?
Suddenly, Phichit leans out of the bathroom with his eyes wide, looking completely awed at Victor. "Oh my god. I didn't recognize you without my contacts on! Good morning!"
"Good morning, Phichit. Sorry for coming so late last night," Victor replies, giving Phichit a smile.
"Oh, don't worry about it," Phichit waves his hand as he opens the refrigerator and takes out a jar. It looks like a superfood pudding of some sort, and although Victor's not usually a fan of trendy health foods, he is a little hungry.
Victor looks at the clock, excuses himself from the table (even though they're not having a meal together,) and runs into Yuuri's room.
There, he finds Yuuri still in bed, and he kneels by his bedside and crosses his arms as support on the mattress.
"Yuuuuuuuri," He lilts, "you should get up."
Throwing an arm over his eyes and nearly smacking Victor in the process, Yuuri grumbles and turns his head to squint at him. "What time is it?"
"It's seven," Victor informs him, slumping to rest his chin on his forearms. "And I'm hungry. What can I have?"
"Uh…" Yuuri mumbles, brain still booting up from sleep mode. "I think there's milk and cornflakes. And… chia something that Phichit has."
"Okay, thank you. You'll be late for work if you don't get up soon. Want some tea?"
Victor gives Yuuri an over-exaggerated kiss on the cheek as he requests five more minutes, and to make sure that promise is kept, Victor sets a timer on his own phone so that Yuuri can't turn it off. He'll have to bring Victor his phone if he wants that, meaning a grumpy (but awake) Yuuri.
He closes the door gently behind himself and heads for the kitchen again, pulling a bowl out from the cupboard and finding the cutlery in a drawer underneath the counter, where Phichit took his spoon out.
"Need help?" Phichit asks, looking up from tapping around on his phone. "There's more chia coconut almond pudding in the fridge, if you want it! Better than cornflakes, I promise."
Victor pauses, cereal half pulled out of the cupboard. He is in the mood for something more filling. "Well, if you're offering, then okay," he replies, sliding the box back in and putting the bowl away.
The pudding is actually rather delicious, to Victor's surprise, especially when garnished with some blueberries, and Phichit is halfway through explaining the recipe to him when Yuuri teeters into the kitchen with his hair all over the place and a noisy vibrating phone in his hand.
"Yuuri, good morning!" Victor chimes, grinning over a mason jar filled with something off-white and creamy, Phichit sitting across from him and giving his own amused greeting.
"Turn it off." Yuuri mutters, handing Victor the phone and frowning without any real malice. "That was mean."
"I didn't want you to be late for work, sweetheart." Victor laughs, pulling Yuuri down for a quick peck as he presses a finger to a button and the timer silences itself. "Also, you didn't say what tea you wanted."
They decide on some chai when Phichit discovers it in a drawer, and while it steeps, Victor washes and dries the finished pudding jar and goes back into Yuuri's room to get dressed; as soon as the door is shut, Phichit turns excitedly to Yuuri.
"Sweetheart?" He repeats, raising his eyebrows.
"I guess so," Yuuri murmurs, blushing a little. He can't remember Victor having used that pet name before.
"You two are so married." Phichit remarks, looking between the door and Yuuri. "Is this what it's like all the time?"
"Yeah, this is pretty normal." Yuuri admits. "Is it weird?"
"No, it's amazing!" His best friend blurts, looking about ready to burst from excitement. "I've never seen you this comfortable around anyone. It's kind of hard to believe you guys had an argument just a couple of days ago!"
"We talked a little last night, but I don't know if it's totally sunk in yet. I mean, I don't know if I even understand myself."
"But you're talking. That's great!" Phichit exclaims. "You have a tendency to close up sometimes, y'know. Even around me."
"Yeah," Yuuri murmurs, nodding in understanding, "sorry." He knows he gets in his own head too much at times— and that brings him to another issue he should really bring up.
It might be too fast. Maybe deciding to move in with Victor and telling his roommate and best friend the very next day is a little hasty. But the more Yuuri thinks about Phichit, the more he knows he should be more open with him; he looks down at his hands on the near-empty mug in front of him to steel himself for whatever Phichit's reaction might be.
"Hey, Phichit?" He says slowly, taking Phichit's attention from his phone.
Yuuri pauses, taking a breath. "I was thinking about… I mean, I decided last night that I want to move in with Victor."
"Today?" Phichit sits straight up and drops his phone on the table, startling Yuuri with the clatter.
"No, no! I'm just telling you in advance. It'll be at least a month or two."
"Aww." Phichit sighs, leaning back on his dining chair. "And here I was thinking I could finally try out that new moving service app! I've heard really good things."
They both laugh, and Yuuri is really, really glad that Phichit is such a supportive friend.
Victor drops Yuri off at the flower shop after they get off the subway, having officially decided that, as the boss of his company, he'll exercise his privilege of tardiness in favor of reuniting with Makkachin and taking her out for a long walk.
Just before Yuuri has to go inside, Victor takes his hands and squeezes them. "Well, this is your stop. It was nice walking you to work."
Before Yuuri can say anything to that, Victor comes forward to kiss his cheek— the one hidden from the floristry window's view, since Yuuri's expressed discomfort about being affectionate around his family— but it still makes Yuuri feel self-conscious all the same, even if the kiss was no longer than a second. "Victor!"
"I couldn't resist, I'm sorry," Victor grins teasingly, letting go of his hands. "Have a good day of work! Hi, Mrs. Katsuki!" Yuuri whips his head around to see his mother waving at them from the window, and he wants to shrink into the sidewalk. She must have seen that.
Feigning a grumble, Yuuri shoos Victor away, and Victor finally leaves, having caused enough embarrassment for Yuuri's cheeks to burn on for the next few hours. Yuuri pushes the door to the shop open, and his mom looks so pleased that he thinks she might smile her face off.
"How sweet of Victor to drop you off, Yuuri!" She coos, making Yuuri's cheeks burn harder.
"Mom," he groans, walking past her and into the back room to put his things down and get his apron on.
"What? It is. Your father used to walk me to school all the time. How many months has it been now?"
"Nearly five, I think?" Yuuri says, tying his apron back.
"Time flies so fast," Hiroko notes, sticking some fresh freesia into a display vase. "it feels like not so long ago that we were rushing to get those dahlias done."
"Dahlias…? Oh, yeah, those. Those were frustrating." Hopping onto the counter stool, Yuuri remembers. "If he tries that again, I'll stop kissing him for a week."
Yuuri's filter isn't the best in the mornings, and he snaps his mouth shut as his mother smiles fondly at him and his unexpected statement. With a defeated noise, he rubs his face with his hands.
"I'm glad you get along so well. You seem much happier!"
"Phichit said something like that earlier. Did I seem really unhappy before?" Yuuri frowns.
"Not at all," Hiroko waves her hands. "You were just… different."
Different, huh? Yuuri isn't sure how to feel about that, but he can't deny he has changed. A couple of months ago he'd never consider trying to make drastic changes to his life, like moving in with someone he's barely known for half a year. Apparently, Victor just has that effect on him.
Shoot, the moving in thing. Does he have to tell his parents? It's not like he's living with them or anything, but it still feels like he should. He doesn't even know if they know that he's been staying over at Victor's place, though Victor's near-daily evening visits must at least clue them in with that fact.
It's a few hours later that Yuuri decides that he really should inform his mother, at the very least, that he's going to live with Victor. She's probably upstairs making lunch, alone, in the kitchen.
He calls for Mari to get her to take his place at the counter and waits till she comes upstairs before leaving it himself.
Judging by how delighted she was that morning when Victor dropped him off, he probably has nothing to fear in terms of her response, but he won't know until he actually breaks the news. He walks up the narrow staircase to his parents' apartment and takes a deep breath before walking in.
He does, in fact, have something to fear.
"Yuuri!" She scolds, putting her hands on her hips and abandoning her bowl of beaten egg. "Do you mean to tell me that you're moving in with Victor when we haven't even invited him over for dinner yet?"
Yuuri had forgotten all about that promise, but if he remembers correctly, his mother had told him to invite him over in April, after the flower viewing picnic. And it's already the end of August. "I'll invite him today!" He replies frantically, putting his hands together apologetically in front of himself. "I promise."
"Yes you will." Hiroko huffs. "And you're going to bring him some dinner from me, too, because I'm sure you've been living off take-out again."
Yuuri agrees and thanks her politely before sneaking back downstairs. His mother is scary when she's trying to be hospitable.
It's a surprise to see Yuuri with the wrapped lacquer bento box from their hanami date in his hands again when Victor comes by the shop, but neither of them can complain about the abundance of food Yuuri's mom had given them.
"Honestly, this is too much!" Victor sighs, observing the spread out contents of the layered bento in front of them, chopsticks poised in hand but unsure of where to start. "Yuuri, give me your mother's phone number. I need to call and thank her."
"Um, before that," Yuuri interrupts, making Victor tilt his head in interest, "earlier, I brought up that I'm going to move in with you to her-"
Victor's expression completely drops into one of surprise. "Wait, you're moving in?"
"What? I thought we-"
"No, I don't remember! Did we talk about that last night? Maybe I fell asleep."
"Didn't we?" Yuuri asks, panicking. Did he get it wrong? He thought Victor knew what he meant when he talked about all that sappy "home" stuff. Maybe he has it all wrong and Victor doesn't actually want this. His brows come together in a deep furrow. "Sorry, it's okay if you don't-"
"You know nothing would make me happier." Victor beams, grabbing Yuuri's anxiously wringing hands and holding them to himself like a cherished treasure. He places a loud kiss on Yuuri's knuckles, then looks back up with glittering eyes. "Just try not to walk me through the details while I'm asleep, okay?"
Yuuri laughs wetly, feeling a little overwhelmed at just how happy Victor seems despite the confusion.
"Not immediately, though. I'm giving Phichit two month's notice," Yuuri pauses, noticing Victor's peeved pout, "don't look at me like that. It's only fair."
"You'll still stay here on weekends, right?" Victor asks, although it's a silly question.
"Of course I will. I need to get used to living here, right?" Yuuri murmurs, moving his hands so they rest more comfortably in Victor's. "I'll need to start spending more time here to… acclimate myself, I guess."
"So we'll work our way up from two days, to three days, to four days, to five-"
"And then I'll be here, and you won't be able to get rid of me." Yuuri says bluntly, to avoid choking up. There's still a little doubt in him, though, and he has to entertain it. "That's okay, right?"
"Oh, no, whatever shall I do? My sweet, smart, handsome, incredible boyfriend is saying he'll move in with me," Victor lilts sarcastically, earning him a chuckle and the beginnings of a blush on Yuuri's cheeks. "Of course it's okay. It's more than okay."
With that understanding, Yuuri nods, and he feels much calmer than he has all day. He picks up the chopsticks beside his plate before remembering the point of the conversation in the first place.
"Oh, right. My mom- uh, I guess my family wants to invite you over for dinner sometime. Probably soon, before I move in."
"Hm." Victor looks upward, seeming to be in deep thought. "Sure, but on one condition."
Yuuri's thoroughly confused— Victor usually would drop everything at the chance to hang out with his family. "What's that?"
Victor smiles slyly. "I'll go, but only if you let me ask your mom for pictures of you in college."
No, they won't move in with each other quite yet! I hope this was still a satisfactory read, though!
Next time: a Katsuki family dinner!
Chapter 15: Roots
Chapter by ingthing, ingthing_YOI (ingthing)
Yuuri brings Victor to dinner with his family, at his mother's insistence.
Victor gets nervous sometimes, too! I hope this lives up to what y'all imagined for this dinner :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Even though Hiroko often doesn't reply to the Katsuki family group chat for hours, they manage to negotiate scheduling for the dinner with record-breaking efficiency. For her, apparently, any day is a good day, so it's really up to him and Victor to decide.
"Hm, let's see," Victor mutters, opening the calendar on his phone and thumbing through his appointments. "Today's Monday, but I'm afraid I'm booked up all week. How does Friday sound?"
Yuuri raises an eyebrow, but types out the message anyway. It's unusual that Victor's busy, considering they usually have dinner together on weekdays no matter their schedules. A reply pings back quickly, followed by a few blushing and smiling emojis. It's easy to imagine his mother's expression mirroring them.
"She says Friday sounds good, and is 7 o'clock okay?" Yuuri pauses, frowning at his screen. "Wait, that cuts into closing time. Hold on."
Yuuri: But the shop closes at 7:30?
Mom: He always shows up at 7 anyway!
Mom: Will wait for you :*
Mom: We can get to know each other
Just what he needed. Victor wants photos of him in college, and his mom wants to "get to know" Victor. A perfect storm. They'll hit it off right away, to Yuuri's humiliation.
Victor makes a questioning noise, and Yuuri begrudgingly relays the information. Predictably, his boyfriend lights up at the idea of spending some quality time with his mother.
"Oh, I'd love to!" He grins, leaning on Yuuri's shoulder and making the sofa creak to glance over at his phone screen. "Tell her it's a date!"
"Are you sure? You could always wait till I close up before showing up."
"Yuuri," Victor tuts, "you agreed to the photo already. Delaying dinner by half an hour isn't going to change that."
"My mom gets carried away with photos." he grumbles, but tells his mom that 7pm is fine anyway. "You're going to laugh."
"Of course I won't. I'll be too busy cooing over how cute you are." Resting a hand on Yuuri's shoulder for support, he twists his body to pinch Yuuri's nose, making him grunt confusedly.
"What was that for?"
"For thinking I'd laugh at your old pictures just because of a little body fat." Victor brings his hand down to rest on the sofa, using the one on Yuuri's shoulder to lean in and kiss his cheek. "You worry too much."
"Mm, I guess. But I'm drawing the line at college." Yuuri states, looking at Victor pointedly. "No childhood pictures."
Victor's expression immediately turns pleading, and he tilts his head downwards with a puppy-like demeanor. "But what if your mother wants to show me? I wouldn't be able to say no."
"Can't we take it one embarrassing photo album at a time? It's a lot."
"You'd better tell her in advance, then. But no guarantees that I won't sneak a peek if she lets me."
"Yeah, yeah," Yuuri murmurs, sliding down in his seat as he hastily sends a message in Japanese. Victor watches his fingers intently. It's fascinating to watch him type—so different from English or Russian. Yuuri is about to put his phone away when Victor perks up.
"Ah, wait! I need to thank her for all the food tonight!"
Once Yuuri's phone is in his hands, Victor sends a voice message doing exactly that, and Yuuri sighs when his mother shoots back a message remarking how polite Victor is. Victor's beaming by the end of the exchange and Yuuri takes his phone back from him. "Well, at least she likes you."
"I always strive to make a good first impression, Yuuri," Victor says, leaning back on the pillows on the other side of the couch. "Especially with my boyfriend's mother."
"You've met already."
"I know, I know…" Victor trails off, leaning back forward to drape himself over Yuuri's lap. "But still." Yuuri looks down at Victor's back in his lap and his hair, fanning over a pillow, and he puts two and two together.
Yuuri slides his phone under another pillow. "Wait, are you nervous?"
"Perhaps," Victor says slowly, turning his head and staring into the sofa. "It's your mom."
Victor doesn't get nervous for anything, but he's nervous now, for a dinner with his family? It's… "So is that why you wanted to have dinner on Friday instead? Because you're nervous?"
Victor rolls over in his lap and sends him an eyebrow raise. "Who says my schedule isn't really filled up all week?"
"You schedule everything for before six-thirty." Yuuri scoffs.
Victor's jaw drops, and he props himself up on one elbow. "How do you know that?"
"Mila told me," grinning, Yuuri reveals, holding up his phone with a flourish. "We talk, sometimes."
"And why do you think I do that?" Victor huffs, feeling a little betrayed.
"Because you want to spend time with me?"
"Because I want to spend time with you." Victor confirms, sitting up and smiling at Yuuri. "And because I like having dinner with you after work."
"So romantic." Yuuri says, turning around to hoist his legs onto Victor's lap and lean against the arm of the sofa before Victor can lean in for a smooch. Yuuri laughs when Victor pouts and holds his arms out for a hug instead— it's an adorable side to Victor that he's grown to know and love.
Makkachin trots up to them and sits patiently with her head rested on the sofa and doleful eyes trained up on Victor, who makes the mistake of meeting her gaze after a well timed whine. He laughs and pats the sofa cushion beside him, even if there's technically no space for the poodle, and she jumps right into their laps and knocks the wind out of them.
When they're done squirming around and figuring out the best configuration for two grown men and a standard sized poodle on a loveseat, there's still something that feels off, despite the smile Victor puts on.
He's definitely still nervous— that much, Yuuri can tell. But it should be fine; Victor isn't like Yuuri, who can't even get words out when his nervousness gets the best of him.
Reassuringly, he pets Victor's hair, letting his head loll back onto his chest. It's not like his parents will suddenly strike fear into Victor's heart. Mari might, but not his parents.
"There's nothing to worry about," Yuuri murmurs. "They already like you."
"What if they hate me after the dinner? I've never shared any meals with them."
"That's about as ridiculous as me hating you after a meal. I'm directly related to them, you know. And my mom's cooking always leaves everyone in a good mood."
"Her cooking is delicious." Victor admits, closing his eyes as Yuuri runs his fingers through his hair. "You're right, I shouldn't worry so much."
Yuuri hums in agreement, glad that Victor doesn't seem so on edge anymore.
Victor points a finger in the air. "But you have to help me pick out a gift to bring over— a box of chocolates or wine or flowers."
"It's a little pointless to buy flowers for a family of florists, isn't it?" Yuuri laughs, as Victor gasps at the realization. "I guess I can give you some hints though."
"The fate of my reputation in your family lies in your hands, Yuuri. It comes down to a box of chocolates." Victor groans, putting the back of his hand to his forehead dramatically.
Yuuri simply laughs. Truth be told, he's a little nervous too, but that certainly takes a backseat to how Victor seems to be feeling. He knows what it feels like to be meeting a partner's best friend for the first time, and he'd been so anxious at the thought of meeting Chris, he'd cried when they arrived at the café.
He's determined to help Victor through the next week, not just because he loves him, but because feeling that way is terrible. Yuuri's used to feeling that way on occasion, and he can deal with it— but if meeting his family makes Victor just as anxious, then he's going to do everything in his power to help.
Contrary to Yuuri's fears, the rest of the week passes pretty uneventfully.
Maybe it's being on the other side of the situation that makes it seem like Victor is acting completely fine. Or maybe he is. Or maybe he really isn't. It's hard to tell, when he hides his misgivings so well.
Victor handled the purchase of a gift pretty well; Yuuri recommended he get baked goods or a cake, to cater to his parents' sweet tooths and Mari's distaste for chocolate, and Victor had come home on Thursday with a big box full of cookies. They look yummy, so Yuuri is sure they'll be a hit.
And now, it's Friday, about half an hour before Victor's due to arrive, and Yuuri's fiddling with the end of his apron neck strap. He's ringing up a customer when his boyfriend saunters in, looking about to burst with nervous energy. Yuuri raises a finger to signal to him that he'll be just a moment, and wraps up the customer's flowers. It's interesting to see Victor so… demurely standing in the corner, waiting his turn to greet him. If it were any other day, he'd waltz right up and kiss him on the cheek. It makes the fact that Victor is truly nervous sink in deeper.
As soon as the store door swings closed, Victor comes up to the counter and sets his bag down, reaching over to give Yuuri a clumsy hug.
"You know you're allowed behind the counter, right?" Yuuri grins as Victor leans away looking uncharacteristically bashful.
"Maybe I wanted to hug you from across the counter." Victor retorts, opening his bag to pull the box of cookies out. "Anyways, I wrapped it; do you think it looks okay?"
Yuuri has to stifle a laugh when the full package is revealed- it's wrapped crudely in striped light blue wrapping paper, with a ribbon tied haphazardly around the box. "It- What matters is that it comes from the heart," he manages, smiling too wide and making Victor frown. "But I guess it could use some work."
"I knew it," Victor mutters, digging around inside his bag and taking a plastic stick-on bow out. It's pink and holographic, and honestly kind of tacky. "Do you think this would help?"
"Maybe? Try it." Yuuri suggests, and Victor removes the wax-paper backing of the ribbon before sticking it on the top right corner of the gift. It does add a certain… something to the gift.
They're still staring quietly at the ribbon when Yuuri's mom comes in from the stairs.
"Yuuri, is Victor- oh, you are here!" Hiroko nods and clasps her hands together. She's still wearing an apron, but it's not the green Katsuki Flowers apron— it's shorter and a dark mauve color, with a plum blossom pattern dotted all over. Yuuri's seen the apron enough to know that she's been up to some serious cooking upstairs, not even letting his father into the kitchen when he wants to get a glass of iced barley tea. Toshiya had grumbled as much when he came back downstairs after trying.
"Hi, Hiroko, thank you for inviting me to dinner!" Victor smiles, extending his arms to offer a hug, which Hiroko takes. If she looks small hugging Yuuri, who's half a head taller than her, she looks tiny when hugging Victor, who's much broader and a little taller than he is.
"Of course! I would have done it sooner, if Yuuri didn't forget!" Cheerily, Hiroko remarks, making Yuuri shrink. "But you're here now. Come, come upstairs!" She motions for Victor to follow her, and Yuuri shrugs helplessly at Victor when he throws him a nervous smile.
"Go on. I need to keep watching the shop." Yuuri says. "I'll be up in a bit."
Victor nods and squeezes his hand before trailing after Hiroko up the stairs to the apartment.
No— Victor thinks to himself as he takes each step— being alone with his boyfriend's mother, who already likes him, is not going to blow their relationship up in his face. This is an opportunity: an opportunity to get to know Yuuri's family better and maybe learn something about Yuuri in the process. He's been in plenty of nerve-wracking situations before— though, admittedly, none that involved meeting a partner's parents alone.
He's done a lot of thinking in the days prior to this dinner.
His previous relationships had never taken root like this; they were old seeds of potential that could never sprout through the intensity of his work or the invisible walls either partner put up. And even when Victor thought something more was there, things never got serious enough. They were relationships, but they were empty, compared to this— he used to ease tensions with alcohol when things got rough, and, well, physical compatibility, shall he say, never hurt. But never has he faced a partner's mother alone, and definitely not while in a partner's childhood home. Anticipation bubbles up into his throat, and he swallows it down in favor of following Hiroko through the door to the apartment.
The first impression Victor has, beside the mouth-watering smells emanating from the kitchen, is that the space has an undeniable warmth to it. So this is how Yuuri grew up.
He takes Hiroko's invitation to join her on the faded faux leather couch and almost forgets himself as he takes the room in.
"Victor, you've been to the roof, but not here, right? Welcome," Hiroko beams, reaching to the low coffee table to pour some tea for them both.
"Yes, I have," Victor confirms, taking the tea she offers before setting it back down on the coffee table and turning to grab the gift on top of his bag. "This isn't enough to thank you for all the times you've cooked for us already, but it's a start."
"No, I should be thanking you," shaking her head so much she nearly spills her tea, Hiroko replies, putting her cup down to receive the box. "You helped our floristry out."
"It was bound to happen eventually," Victor laughs politely, handing the gift to her. "Yuuri suggested I get you cookies— I hope you like these."
"We'll open them up after dinner to have with tea," Hiroko decides, smiling at the thought. "Thank you, Victor."
Victor simply nods and picks his cup up to hold it in his hands. "You're very welcome. And may I say that it smells amazing in here? Your food is really the best."
"Ah, I made Yuuri's favorite for tonight," Hiroko reveals proudly, "he gets fat easily so he only gets it on his birthday— katsudon!"
"Katsu? Like pork cutlet?"
"Yes, yes. But on rice with egg, onions, and peas."
Victor nods, imagining the dish, but pales suddenly. "It's not Yuuri's birthday today, is it? I thought it was in November."
"His birthday is in November, yes, but we haven't properly celebrated you yet!"
Victor doesn't think he's hearing correctly. "Me?"
"Of course. You don't think I knew something was going on when you kept showing up every day?" Hiroko says, raising her eyebrows. "Yuuri even started asking if he can work in the front instead of Mari."
"So… he doesn't usually work at the counter?"
"No, he used to work downstairs with Toshiya. You didn't know?"
"I didn't." Victor murmurs dumbly, feeling himself blush.
"That boy…" Hiroko trails off, sighing exasperatedly but transitioning just as easily into a fond smile. "You know, he never brings anyone home. That he has you and that you make him happy is… We have to celebrate it."
Victor really hopes that Hiroko doesn't look up from her lap, because he's certain he looks like he wants to cry just hearing her words. "I'm- You're so kind."
Hiroko laughs, like what she said was the most casual thing in the world. She lifts her head up and sets her gaze on Victor. "I like to see Yuuri happy."
"I do too," Victor admits, because it's the truth.
Hiroko seems to like that answer, breaking into a cheery grin as she opens her arms to coax Victor into a hug. The hug is short but comforting, and almost instantly, all of Victor's fears are just blown away. He didn't know he needed this hug, but his heart feels ten times lighter from it.
"Now," Hiroko smiles, eyes crinkling behind her glasses, "I bet you want to see old photos of Yuuri!"
Oh, Victor wants that desperately.
A fast half-hour later, Yuuri opens the apartment door to find Victor and his mother gasping and cooing at old ring-bound photo albums, and he isn't even surprised. No, this was inevitable, the way Mari scrolling idly on her phone at the dinner table and his father knocking back a glass of saké were inevitable. Yuuri's about twenty minutes late to dinner, and the only reason why Victor looks up is because Yuuri walks over to the sofa and joins him on the couch, asking in an accusatory tone what, exactly, he and his mother are looking at.
"Oh, Yuuri!" Victor grins, eyes shining with excitement, as he gestures to the open album. "Your mother was just showing me some photos of you in college."
Yuuri mentally curses his mother (and apologizes to her in his head immediately) before taking a better look at the photos. "Really? I don't know why you're so interested in them."
There aren't a lot of photos from his short college years, but there are enough. There are some from his winter and summer breaks, spent back in New York helping out at the shop, and there are a few from Detroit; though Yuuri isn't the biggest fan of having photos taken, Phichit had ensured that some would make it back into his parents' hands. Nothing incriminating, like the impromptu selfies taken during his late night gaming sprees or the sometimes risqué photos of his rare drunken evenings. He was definitely more… plush than he is now, with rounded out cheeks and a bit more of a gut (which he has the dining hall pizza counter to thank for.)
It's apparent that Victor delights in these photos, for whatever reason, as he makes adoring noises and observations. They finish poring over each photo after a few minutes, after which Mari has already brought covered bowls to each placemat at the table.
Yuuri raises his eyebrows in surprise, recognizing the bowls and lifting the lid on his bowl to carefully set it aside. "Katsudon? But it's not my birthday."
"We're celebrating the fact you finally brought Victor home for dinner," Hiroko declares sharply, making Yuuri sigh.
"How many months has it been? Four?" Mari teases, grinning at Yuuri's look of annoyance.
Before he can reply, Victor cuts in. "It's been nearly five months," he mock-pouts, to Yuuri's scandalization.
"Victor, you're supposed to be on my side!" Yuuri mutters, turning to frown at his boyfriend.
"Your mother showed me your baby pictures. Your baby pictures," Victor moans, hugging Yuuri's arm pleadingly. "I'm only a man."
Yuuri shakes his head, wondering why everyone in the room seems dedicated to embarrassing him into oblivion.
"Oh, Hiroko, you showed him all the photos? That was quick." Toshiya says, looking up from eating.
"No, no, that's impossible! I only showed him two of the albums. There's still more- they can wait till after dinner."
As they eventually move onto other topics (mostly questions directed at Victor, who the rest of the family haven't really been acquainted with,) Yuuri can breathe a big breath of relief. Even if he's been thoroughly embarrassed by old photos of himself, it's entirely worth it to see Victor so… dare he say it— at home with his family. He doesn't look out of place, sharing their food and talking easily with his parents and sister.
It's an utter relief and he finally takes a bite of pork cutlet. Even if it isn't his birthday, he considers today a small victory, and he'll enjoy his katsudon despite all his embarrassment, dammit.
Later, on the walk home, Victor is practically bouncing with joy.
Yuuri's family likes me, he thinks, swinging their hands back and forth.
"You look happy," Yuuri smiles tiredly, meeting Victor's gaze.
"I was just thinking that that went very well," Victor lilts back, letting his elbow bump into Yuuri's.
"You got your college photos and then some, of course it was a success."
"And they liked the cookies." Victor nods, smiling sweetly. A few quiet moments later, he comes to a sudden stop, eyes widening with shock and sucking in a breath.
Yuuri tilts his head in confusion. "What's wrong? Did you forget something?"
"I forgot to take photos of your college pictures." Victor murmurs breathily, like he's been struck by lightning. "I need to do that next time."
Yuuri's boyfriend is ridiculous. He's completely ridiculous, and he laughs as Yuuri gives him a joking disapproving look and walks ahead, leaving him to catch up and beg for forgiveness.
Yuuri can never stay mad at Victor for long (not that he really was mad,) and Victor expresses as much as they hug on the elevator up to Victor's condo.
When Victor opens the door and lets Yuuri in first with a cheery "welcome home," Yuuri has to agree— it is home. It's not home the way his childhood home is home, but it's home nonetheless, and he smiles secretively, leaning up to give Victor a kiss.
He just can't wait to move in.
I love Hiroko Katsuki with ALL MY HEART AND SOUL... And I hope this chapter did everyone justice!
Chapter 16: Moving In
Chapter by ingthing, ingthing_YOI (ingthing)
It's moving day, and Yuuri sees that he's not the only one having a hard time going through changes.
Yuuri finally moves in!
(But I guess you could probably tell that from the title.)
Good luck to anyone in finals like me, and I hope you're suffering less than I am! I hope this is a nice little reprieve :)
Hopefully you woke up on friday to see this update notification! A little pickmeup before the weekend!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Victor wouldn't say that time flew between Yuuri's decision to move in with him and packing his boxes today, even if it did fly.
It didn't fly the way other times fly, like when you realize on your birthday that another year has passed, or when you look up from your book and realize three hours have gone by since you started reading.
No, time flew the way a train speeds along its tracks, with intermittent stops to remind Victor that this— Yuuri moving in with him— is truly happening. Yuuri had given his landlord notice a month and a half ago. He'd wondered aloud if he could use the flower shop's van for moving his things. He'd asked if it was really okay for him to use Victor's guest room for all his stuff and his computer, since he sleeps in Victor's room whenever he's over.
Yuuri genuinely wants to stay.
The thought never fails to pull the edges of Victor's mouth into a dopey smile, and he doubts it'll ever fail to.
He finishes taping up the cardboard box in front of him before kicking it along the wood floor to the hallway, where Yuuri nearly walks into it.
He yelps and falls forward, steadying himself on the box before looking up at Victor. "You scared me!"
"I'm sorry, darling," Victor grins, bending to peck Yuuri's cheek and offering him a hand up. "Want to help me push this out?"
Yuuri smiles back, blushing adorably before gripping the edges of the box closest to him. "Sure, okay."
By some miracle, they manage to shuffle out through the narrow hall and into the living room and slide the box neatly next to the rest of Yuuri's things without stubbing anyone's toes. Phichit is paying for takeout at the door, and he watches them come in rather comically as he waits for his change.
"Food's here, you guys!" Phichit announces, thanking the delivery person before hip checking the front door shut with two plastic bags heavy with food in his hands. "It smells so good, oh my god."
"How much food did you get?" Staring at the two bags as they're placed carefully on the dining table, Yuuri sighs. Trust Phichit to go overboard when left to order dinner— since he started his job, he's been on the lookout for all kinds of potential food trends.
"Oh, you know. A sampling." Phichit chirps back, not even looking up from the bag as he takes out the plastic boxes of food. A "sampling" in Phichit's dictionary must mean "enough food to sustain a grown man for upwards of two days," if the overabundance of food on the table is his idea of a sampling.
Victor seems to be just as enthusiastic over the food, though, and he dusts his hands off as he walks over to the table to peer at the spread. "Wow, it all looks good! Cuban food?"
"You know it! They make a lime-roasted pork that's to die for."
"I can't wait."
They set about removing the lids from the containers, and the smell finally coaxes Yuuri over from the stack of his things. He didn't realize how hungry he was until the aroma hit him hard. He'd worked nearly a full day at the shop, after all, and even if there's not really that much he needs to bring over to Victor's (and now his) place, it's still moving, a feat universally known to be exhausting. He takes a seat at the table and moves the emptied plastic bags to the floor for use later.
They're halfway done with their plates before Yuuri glances around himself and realizes that he's really moving out.
To his left is Phichit, and to his right is Victor. They've had meals together, sure, but never like this— now attached to their relationships are the titles of "roommate" and "former roommate," and it feels weird to be seated like this with all his belongings piled in a corner, ready to up and leave. Even if they're happily chatting, there's an undeniable gravity that can't shake from the forefront of Yuuri's mind.
"Yuuri, what's wrong? You're staring at your beans." Victor asks, tilting his head in question as Yuuri's daze dissipates.
"Nothing, nothing's wrong. It just feels…" Lost for words, Yuuri trails off, looking between Phichit and Victor and smiling reassuringly, picking up his cutlery again. "I was just thinking. "
The beans suddenly taste less aromatic as he chews, turning pasty in his mouth, and Yuuri sighs. Shouldn't he be ecstatic right now? He's moving in with Victor, with the enthusiastic support of his best friend and his family, he's technically already settled into Victor's apartment, and things are better than ever.
Maybe he needs to take a breather to think.
"I'm going to the bathroom," he informs, standing and replacing the cover on his food.
"Okay, have a good time!" Phichit grins, and Victor laughs at the joke.
Yuuri's heard that one many times before— in fact, almost every day since Phichit began telling it.
He doesn't usually spend his peeing time on the toilet embroiled with a vague sense of nostalgia, but that's exactly what he's doing, sitting, not standing, and glancing around the dingy tiled room around him. He'd moved in with Phichit, what, two years ago? They never ended up fixing the off-kilter toilet paper holder, but knowing that he's officially moving out that same day changes the way he thinks about it. It's not just a passing glance, anymore; it's "wow, we never fixed that wonky toilet paper holder," and somehow, the past tense makes it unsettling.
Things didn't feel this way when he moved from Detroit after graduation, or when he moved out of the dorms there.
There's a quiet knock on the bathroom door, and Victor's muffled voice asks, through the wood, "everything okay, Yuuri? Should I get some antacid?"
"No, it's fine— I'm done." Yuuri calls back, hastily pulling his pants back up and flushing the toilet. He must have been in there longer than he thought, if Victor came to check on him. His hands are washed and dried before he unlocks the door and steps back out to find Victor alone at the dining table, waiting patiently with his phone in his hands. Noticing that his boyfriend's back, he puts it away and smiles softly, making Yuuri's heart leap.
"Phichit said he had to do some vlogging," Victor tells him, resting his jaw in both hands as Yuuri sits down in front of his (now cold) meal.
"It's already eight?" Yuuri says, turning his phone on to check the time. Sure enough, it's just before eight o'clock, when Phichit goes live every Friday. It's a ritual now, and Phichit even vlogs outside the house with his phone, a selfie stick, and three portable chargers, two of which Yuuri helps carry in his bag because Phichit's pockets are always too small.
He probably won't be helping out as much anymore, and he frowns down at the table.
"Yuuri," Victor murmurs, after a few moments of quiet observation. He crooks his fingers into Yuuri's hand warmly. "What's the matter?"
It's still difficult to be completely open with Victor— and especially now, when Victor's so excited about his moving in and might doubt Yuuri after hearing about his conflicting emotions. But there's no other option than to at least try and be open. Yuuri's told himself this for weeks— he owes Victor that much, for everything he's doing for him.
Yuuri inhales deeply. "I don't know. I think... the fact that I'm really moving out didn't hit till just now. I've been living with Phichit since Detroit. And it feels weird that my stuff is packed up, ready to leave."
"You two are very close." Victor notes.
"Yeah, we are." Yuuri agrees. "I know it's not like our friendship is suddenly over because I'm moving in with you, but it's just… not the same. We've always been roommates."
Victor's thumb stops rubbing the back of Yuuri's hand, and he purses his lips before commenting, "I don't know what to make of that, Yuuri. Are you saying… Isn't it too late to-"
"Victor, don't even think that," Yuuri interrupts, furrowing his brow and looking up at Victor. Oh, there's that tiny wrinkle in his brow— he's unsure. He takes hold of Victor's hand more properly, and squeezes it. "Listen, okay? I love you, and I'm moving in with you because I want to," Yuuri declares. "Don't you want me to, too?"
"I do, but-"
"I chose this, Victor, for myself. All I'm trying to tell you is that it's going to take some time to get used to." Yuuri's voice softens, tilting his head as he meets Victor's eyes. "Okay?"
It takes a few seconds for Victor's expression to move from surprise to the vee-shaped smile that Yuuri's become so fond of, but his delight speaks volumes to Yuuri— it's trusting and warm, and the tension in Yuuri's gut releases at the sight.
"I love it when you're assertive," Victor sighs contentedly, twining his fingers with Yuuri's. "I'm sorry I almost doubted you."
"I almost doubted myself, too." Yuuri smiles back and moves to give Victor a kiss on the cheek, just as Phichit emerges from the corridor with a long stretch and a yawn.
"Hey, is there still food left-" Phichit begins, stopping as Yuuri turns to look at him in surprise still inches from Victor's face. "You guys, you're not even home yet!"
"It was just a cheek kiss, Phichit." Yuuri mutters, flushing and settling back in his own seat. "And yes, there's still food left."
"Nice! Vlogging works up my appetite." Phichit beams, as he grabs a cold tostón.
When dinner is finally finished, cleaned up, and stowed away in the refrigerator for the next day, Yuuri goes into his old room and looks around.
It's interesting, the things you find out when you're packing your life up.
The last time he did this, in Detroit, it was right after graduation and Yuuri couldn't wait to get out of the campus. And, like last time, Yuuri found long-lost ankle socks and charging cables in the weirdest places— he didn't even know there was space behind his bed until he moved it out of the way to get his old sheets off the mattress.
He sits down on the stripped-down mattress, taking in its pathetic squeak for a last time.
Or, so Yuuri thinks, because a couple of moments later, Victor walks in and sits right next to him, making it squeak again.
"It feels totally different, doesn't it?" Victor notes, observing the empty room. "I think I might miss this."
"Miss this?" Yuuri scoffs, gesturing around them. "It's not as nice as your bedroom."
"I wouldn't mind living in something like this," Victor grins, falling back onto the bed and jostling Yuuri with the movement. "Cuddling in this bed was lovely."
"You like to starfish. You can't lie to me."
"And you like to cling." Victor retorts, crossing his hands behind his head and closing his eyes. "But these springs are atrocious. If we ever hypothetically get a twin bed, it'll have to be memory foam."
"Okay, then when we hypothetically get a twin bed, you can just hold your bladder while I cling to you."
"That's meannn, Yuuri."
"So we're keeping the king sized?" Yuuri jokes.
Victor laughs heartily. "Indefinitely, yes. I do like to 'starfish.'"
Eventually, they get off the bed and the three of them lug Yuuri's things downstairs to the Katsuki Flowers van. They'd borrowed it after the shop closed— Yuuri just has to return it the next morning.
The last box is piled into the back with a heave, and Phichit stands back to admire his handiwork. "That's the last one! Man, you have more stuff than I thought you had."
"Right? It's weird how I didn't notice until I had to pack. Why did I even have my old ice skates here?" Yuuri replies, closing the van's back doors.
"Ice skates?" Victor perks up. "I didn't know you could skate, Yuuri."
"Well, it hasn't really been season appropriate." Shrugging, Yuuri says. "Summer, and all that."
"We'll all have to go when the rink at Bryant Park opens this winter! I was rather good at skating when I was a child."
"I'll bet." Yuuri nods, trying to envision a young Victor on ice. It's weird to imagine, but cute. He wonders what Victor means by "rather good."
"Oh, we can go to the winter village! They have the best hot chocolate there, we have to go this year." Phichit seems to drool at the mere thought.
"Maybe after pumpkin spice latte season." Yuuri laughs.
Phichit goes to the curb by the driver's side and Victor gets into the van through the opposite door, but Yuuri hesitates.
This is the end of four years of roommate-ship. It's a little sad, but having his best friend's support makes it much better.
"Hey, Phichit? Thanks. For everything." Yuuri smiles, watching as Phichit blinks in confusion.
"Dude. We're not even close to being done with 'everything.' We're just getting started!" Phichit grins, though there's a little bittersweetness there.
"Yeah," Yuuri agrees, sniffling from either the threat of tears or the October chill. "You're right. I still owe you lunch next week."
"And I need to get my hamsters set up in their new room! I'm gonna, I should just…" There's a little wobble to Phichit's lip, and Yuuri sighs and opens his arms for a hug. It's accepted gratefully, and Phichit lets Yuuri know under no unclear circumstances that he's going to be missed.
"Yeah, I'm gonna miss you too," Yuuri murmurs back, feeling his eyes sting. "Text me whenever."
"Yeah, man, of course." Phichit pats Yuuri's back before looking up to address Victor, who's looking on them from inside the van. "You better be an even better roommate than I was, Victor! I'm gonna ask for progress reports!"
Victor throws him two thumbs-ups and a vigorous nod, and if Phichit wasn't rubbing Yuuri's back with one hand, he'd send two thumbs-ups back too.
Finally, Yuuri gets in the van and they drive away, Phichit waving them off into the distance.
Yuuri's parents graciously gave Yuuri the day off on Saturday, so as far as he's concerned, once they get the boxes upstairs, the van returned, and through the apartment door, he's done for the night.
He celebrates by flopping into bed after a much needed shower and a nice welcome from Makkachin, who definitely is on some kind of high from the commotion of cardboard boxes coming in.
Neither his boyfriend nor his dog, however, are in the bedroom— Yuuri decides to go investigate.
He finds them quickly, because Makkachin is pulled into Victor's lap on the floor by the sofa and the man is talking to her pretty loudly.
"That's right, Makkachin! Aren't you excited Yuuri's going to live with us? Yes? We love Yuuri!" Victor coos, rubbing Makkachin's torso as she pants happily at him.
Makkachin probably doesn't understand the full concept of moving, even as intelligent as she is, but Yuuri understands Victor perfectly. He goes over and joins him on the floor, and Victor seems to realize Yuuri heard him, because a shameless smile overtakes his face when he looks over to see that Yuuri's cheeks are on fire. He might melt just hearing Victor talk to his dog.
"So cute," Victor marvels, bringing one hand up to brush a damp lock of dark hair away from his forehead. Yuuri hums in acknowledgement, bringing his knees up and leaning into Victor.
"I think Makkachin already knows I'm moving in." Yuuri says, stretching a hand out to scratch behind the poodle's ear. "I've been staying here all the time; she must know."
"I know! She's a smart girl. I just wanted to say it again now that it's official." Victor lilts, patting her twice on the back to tell her it's time for bed. Once she passes Yuuri, she turns to face him and noses at his arms, and Yuuri loosens his grip with a surprised noise. The next thing he knows, his face is being attacked by frantic licks, and Victor grins so hard his cheeks might fall off. There's no doubt Makkachin absolutely loves his boyfriend— maybe not quite as much as he does, but still a significant amount.
Makkachin finally yawns after another few minutes of belly rubs, and trots over to the dog bed by the TV, turns around few times, and settles on the cushion.
"That's surprising. I haven't seen her sleep there." Yuuri notes. Makkachin usually takes full advantage of her long legs by jumping onto Victor's high mattress and lounging in the sheets with them.
"She'll find her way into the bedroom later," Victor replies. "Worried you won't get fur in your face tonight?"
"I don't know, it might be nice to be able to breathe while I sleep for once." Yuuri jokes, shrugging lightly. He's nervous sometimes, when he makes sarcastic jokes like that, but Victor's giggles are reassuring.
The clock stationed on the TV stand across from them reads… Well, does it matter what it says? Yuuri has full intentions to sleep in till at least ten the next morning— that is, if he's not rudely awakened by morning-person Victor or morning-dog Makkachin. Those two are made for each other. Most weekend mornings, Yuuri prefers his deep, serious relationship with their bed, though it's nice to be softly awakened.
And that's how his weekend mornings will be from now on. Their weekends used to be more urgent, like savoring all of the full 48 hours they have together every week, testing the waters and trying to keep things fresh by romping all over Manhattan. That hadn't been boring by any stretch of imagination, but he's going to go to sleep here and wake up here and they don't have to try and up the ante anymore. He doesn't feel like an intruder like he did at the beginning— but that might not even be the biggest difference.
He began to realize this almost two months ago, when Victor came home from his business trip to DC: gradually, his definition of "personal space" had grown to include the two of them (three, if you count Makkachin, but dogs have always been welcome in Yuuri's personal space bubble.) That weekend away had confirmed it, and somewhere along the way as Yuuri "acclimated" himself to living with Victor, Victor had taken deeper root in that space. Now, he seeks their contact, even on bad days and even when he might not want to talk. He likes their small touches, like when the bedroom is too hot but their palms are still right next to each other, or when their shoulders bump as they walk with full hands.
Does Victor understand that? He should probably make sure.
"Hey, Victor," Yuuri breaks the comfortable silence, and Victor blinks at him drowsily. "Do you remember that… conversation we had in August? When you stayed over after your business trip?"
"I remember. What about it?"
"I think I can… express myself better, now. About the whole 'needing space' thing."
Victor shuffles closer and nods, urging him to go on.
"Well, you know that I'm pretty private. And I recharge by spending quiet time alone."
"Well, it doesn't have to be alone." Yuuri suggests, hoping that Victor catches on. "I… well, I wouldn't move in if I didn't feel like I could relax around you. But I do relax around you now. I just want quiet time sometimes."
Victor nods, trying to put everything together. "Okay. So… Is there anything I can do? How will I be able to tell?"
"I'll tell you." Yuuri announces, nodding decisively. "That, or I'll put my headphones in and you'll be able to tell. I'm not the best at… being up front. I'm sure you can tell. But hopefully that makes it easier— I'm sorry."
"Never be sorry for asking for what you need, Yuuri," Victor says, taking Yuuri's hand. "I don't want you to worry about a thing."
"Doesn't that just mean you'll worry? I know you need a hug sometimes-" Yuuri pauses, before correcting himself, "okay, a lot of the time. I don't want you to hold back on my account. Just ask me if it's okay."
"I don't want to make you uncomfortable." Victor murmurs, sounding like a kicked puppy.
"I like cuddling with you." Stubbornly, Yuuri wiggles more of his body weight onto Victor and looks up at him to prove his point. "I'm comfortable like this. So just ask." He pauses, and a smile creeps back onto his face before he continues, "it feels like you're more nervous about my moving in than I am."
"Of course I'm nervous!" Victor retorts, burying his face in Yuuri's hair. "I was so excited about it I realized that nothing here is really yours. It's my apartment, ours, now, but I didn't know if you were just going along with my enthusiasm or not. Maybe you hate my coffee table-"
"Why would I hate the coffee table?"
"-or maybe you think the bed is too firm-"
"I decorated this place myself and nothing here is from you." Victor finishes, looking a third relieved, a third out-of-breath, and a third anxious after finally letting all that anticipation out. "I want this to be our home, not just mine."
God, this man is the silliest- Yuuri thinks, stifling a snort as he sits up to look at Victor in disbelief. "That's what you were nervous over? There's the dog toy on the shelf, isn't there? And now all my stuff is here."
Victor looks petulant, and Yuuri pulls him in for a good kiss. His boyfriend is so… How can he even describe him? Worrying over the fact that the furniture was already here before he moved in— it's adorable.
"Okay, well," Yuuri says, after Victor's shoulders relax, "we'll unpack tomorrow before lunch, and then we can go out and see if we need to get some storage. Your closet's already full with your clothes, and I don't think trying to shove my stuff in is wise."
"Mm, okay. I like the sound of that." Victor smiles tiredly, taking a deep breath with his head tucked into Yuuri's neck. "We can start there."
He lets out a spectacular yawn, then, and they decide it's probably time to sleep.
The next afternoon, Victor stands back to proudly observe the modestly sized, slightly out of place dresser perched next to his nightstand. It's just as nondescript as the furniture had been in Yuuri's old room, in dark wood and a lacquered finish, but their bedroom finally looks and feels a little more like them.
Victor just can't wait for more.
Victor is the weeniest weenie to ever weenie. But everything is going swimmingly for them both! Hopefully that one dresser doesn't start a chain of purchases!
There may not be a main fic update next week (finals, after all) but the next update will most likely be a side fic!
Make sure you're subscribed to the series to get that notification!
Chapter 17: Muse
Chapter by ingthing, ingthing_YOI (ingthing)
Yuuri tries something new after a frustrating client interaction, Victor decides to hire someone new, and Minako returns.
Wow, it's been a while! I've been busy getting over jet-lag and figuring out the best direction for this chapter, which is why it took so long, but I hope this longer chapter makes up for it!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It's been a full week since Yuuri moved in with Victor, and things are going well. He'd been staying with Victor weekly for ages before officially moving in, so it was to be expected, but it's the officialness that makes things different this time.
Yuuri feels like he's floating on air with both feet planted firmly on the ground— how is that possible?
As cheesy as it is, love is definitely changing him; choosing to uproot his personal life and merging it with Victor's shouldn't be such a huge deal after the past few months, but Yuuri knows it is. It's in the way he breathes deeper in sleep, the way his toothbrush looks at home on the bathroom counter, and the way he flops onto the sofa after a long day, letting his limbs sprawl over its edges. It's even in the way they say good morning, and hi, and how was work today, with the hugs and kisses in between.
It's only been a week and Yuuri already knows they've grown closer.
What else could lie ahead, if a single week could make such a difference?
"Honeymooners," Mari groans from the back room doorway, and Yuuri snaps out of his smitten reverie to gape at his sister.
"We're not married." Yuuri protests, not even daring to imagine it. He doesn't need to blush and give Mari any more teasing material.
Mari grins, leaning on the doorframe."Could've fooled me. Anyway, switch with me. You can't serve customers when you're daydreaming about your boyfriend."
Yuuri grumbles, but Mari has a point. He's been in his thoughts a lot today, as he has been the past week. Like it or not, he's distracted, but putting arrangements together is usually more occupying than waiting for someone to come by at the storefront.
It's a little chillier in the basement in the winter, so Yuuri grabs the extra hoodie he keeps around the shop before heading downstairs. Predictably, his dad is working there too, swathed in a thick cardigan with rolled up sleeves and gloves as he cuts flowers in the sink. Yuuri greets him before looking over the order sheets Mari left for him.
After a quick visit to the freezer, Yuuri's ready to start putting things together.
This bouquet calls for orange roses and yellow ranunculus flowers. It's from their catalog, and normally, Yuuri might not think deeply on a catalog bouquet, but somehow it's impossible not to now. Maybe it's the sudden cold weather— his mood shifts a little when the temperature changes.
Flowers are usually ordered as decorations or gifts, and while the price and size of a bouquet matter, there's probably a lot of thought put into choosing one. Plenty of people get friends bouquets; they tend to be pretty colorful, with daisies, freesia, and tulips. But roses are apparently the most romantic flower, as proven by their Valentine's Day orders every year. Maybe the bouquet he's making is an anniversary present or just a sweet gesture. Whatever it is, it was important enough to this customer that they ordered flowers. Victor would probably be happy to get a bouquet like this from him out of nowhere— he should do that sometime.
He's about to finish collaring the bouquet when the phone attached to the wall next to him rings— a call redirected from their main phone in the shop. Yuuri picks it up.
"Hi, this is Yuuri speaking. How can I help you?"
"Cancel my order. I don't want it," the caller begins. Yuuri can hear the scowl that must be on his face.
"Sorry, uh… Can I get your name?" Yuuri readies his clipboard with the table of all their orders and clicks the top of his pen.
"Lee. Seung-gil Lee," Seung-gil says curtly, "it's a vase of orange roses."
Orange roses? Yuuri frowns, glancing back and forth between the clipboard and the almost-finished vase sitting in front of him. "Mr. Lee, we need 24 hours notice for cancellations. Your bouquet is scheduled to be delivered in four hours. Cancelling your order now is nonrefundable."
"That's fine," Seung-gil agrees, though just as monotone as before. There's a little pause before his next request. "Can you send dead flowers instead?"
"Yeah. Doesn't matter what kind, as long as they're dead."
"I… I'm sorry, we can't do that." Yuuri stammers, looking at the big trash can full of trimmings and imperfect flowers in the corner.
"Why not?" Seung-gil continues, persistent. "I did pay for the original flowers."
Yuuri swallows. He's not very good with irritated customers. "It's store policy. If you want, I can have the flowers sent to a different address-"
"No thanks. I'll go somewhere else."
The call ends before Yuuri can say anything else, to his equal relief and bewilderment.
He fills the last few orders for the day with a furrow stuck in his brows, and brings the finished arrangements up to the shop's van with his dad before Toshiya drives off to deliver them.
When he gets back downstairs after helping load the van, Yuuri sighs and crumples onto the worktable. Sure, it's his lunch break, but he's not hungry. He halfheartedly gnaws at a granola bar even though he knows that if his mother catches him doing it, she'll scold him for having an inadequate lunch. And yes, Yuuri likes her cooking, and he would normally love to sit down to a hearty home-cooked lunch, but he can't stop thinking about that call from earlier.
The ease with which Seung-gil had asked for dead flowers after cancelling the (perfectly good, half-finished) bouquet is a mystery to Yuuri. The abandoned vase is still pushed to the side next to a few loose roses, and Yuuri almost pities it.
Well, no sense in letting a near-finished bouquet go to waste. Maybe if he finishes it, they can put it in the shop as display and someone will buy it. He pulls the vase back over, stretching out across the worktop to get it, and lands back on his stool with a huff. Picking a rose up, he begins to slot it in through the stems already crowding the vase.
It's not like he hasn't dealt with weird requests before, nor is handling difficult customers new— it's just that humans are confusing. Yuuri hasn't had a lot of experience with relationships, but he's pretty sure that on a scale of one to ten, one being the worst, dead flowers probably rate negative twenty in best breakup gifts. The very idea of suddenly hating someone you intended to send a nice gift of flowers to is… Yuuri can't even imagine himself in that situation. It feels too much like "reality" TV to actually be happening in real life— but then again, those shows must get their material somewhere.
And anyway, isn't it incredibly disrespectful to him and the flowers to ask for that? Sure, Yuuri's a great florist in his own right and requests that customers stick to the store cancellation policy, but knowing these roses and ranunculuses no longer have anyone to go to makes them feel a little upset. Like instead of being fresh and glowing, ready to be presented on their lucky recipient's dining table, they've been scorned and they're pissed about it. It could just be Yuuri's imagination or some kind of self-projection, but he's dealt with plenty of flowers before, and these are probably the angriest-looking flowers he's seen.
Maybe they don't want to go into a neat circular arrangement. It definitely feels weird to try and confine them. These flowers just won't lay down; they're not going to stick to the rules or the catalog— and neither is Yuuri. Some of the stems are already cut to the vase's size, but there are longer ones lying around— oh, and there must be some greenery and branches that he can use lying around the basement. The trash can, Yuuri thinks, getting off his stool to peer into it. Sure enough, there are some branches and eucalyptus there. No one would miss them if he took them, so he grabs a few relatively unmarred pieces and sees how flexible they are. A little time in water should help refresh them, so he sits a bucket by the rest of the flowers and sticks them in with some flower food.
Time passes fairly quickly after that, and Yuuri is startled back to his thoughts long after his lunch break by footsteps coming down into the basement and up to his workspace.
"Oh, Yuuri, you're still here?" Toshiya says, pausing by the table and raising his eyebrows at Yuuri's creation. "Are you thinking of doing ikebana?"
Yuuri glances down at the vase in front of him, mouth dropping open when he takes the whole thing in. He'd been so focused on details that he hadn't noticed that the arrangement has taken on an… avant-garde shape. It's a far cry from the refined, minimalistic ikebana pieces in his dad's old books, but… sure, Yuuri supposes that this could be called some kind of flower arrangement. "Maybe," he replies, "I was just experimenting."
"Well, tell me if you want any help," Toshiya nods, taking a moment to scrutinize the arrangement before going to their equipment cabinet and taking something out. He places it in front of Yuuri— it's a small circle of ceramic covered in holes. "Next time, you should use a floral frog."
If Yuuri had planned for this to happen, then sure, he would have used one, but this was impromptu— he nods anyway, accepting the tool. "Okay, yeah. Next time."
A glance at the clock reveals that it's already six. And while the arrangement's definitely no longer suitable for the shop, maybe he can at least bring it home and… Yuuri doesn't know what else. He's not even sure if it's good or not. At least it'll make for a conversation starter.
He lets his parents know that he's taking the flowers from Seung-gil's cancelled order home, and he looks down at his phone to find that Victor texted him several hours ago, apologizing in advance for having to work overtime.
Huh. Well, maybe that'll give him time to decide what to do with this arrangement.
He helps Mari clean up for closing and goes home, struggling the entire short walk to keep the vase steady with its outstretched foliage.
Victor presses the "off" button on an impromptu video call a frantic bride made over twenty minutes ago after assuaging her the best he can. He frowns with his finger rested on his lower lip, arms crossed.
Adding another guest or two to the banquet, changing the theme from barnyard chic to modern rustic, or changing the order of the schedule just weeks from the wedding, Victor can do. But adding fifty guests, changing the theme to beach vacation, and requesting the entire affair be shifted an hour later? That's months of hard planning down the drain and utterly unrealistic. Victor doesn't have a so-called "bridezilla" clause in his contracts, but for clients like these, he's considering it. His charisma can usually quell the most anxious of couples, but it's exhausting.
It's been a long day, and an even longer one with the addition of this meeting. What's more, his text to Yuuri informing him he needs to stay overtime has been left unanswered, though Victor knows his boyfriend must just be busy. He's busy too, and his mind is swirling even with Mila and Georgi's help. Yurio had to stop working there part-time because his schoolwork is keeping him busy, so Victor's at a loss.
Clearly, they need an extra hand.
"Mila, Georgi," Victor calls from the door of his office, having shuffled over on his chair. "Could you come here for a second? I want to ask you both something."
Georgi looks up from the spreadsheet he's been poring over for the past hour and Mila's already out of her chair, relieved by the chance to abandon her frustrating email chain. They file into the small room and sit on the leather chairs in front of Victor's desk.
"What's up, boss?" Mila asks, weaving her fingers together in her lap. She sounds chipper as usual, but there's a noticeable edge of tiredness in her expression— and if even Mila is feeling fatigued, then they definitely need to reevaluate their workloads. And Georgi? Well, Georgi always looks weary, thanks to his troubled love life. Victor's offered to take him out for drinks and see if they can find him someone new, but Georgi always declines. It's odd, given that Victor tends to do well for himself at bars and Georgi could probably use the help, but Chris has told him he has a tendency to outshine others.
"I know the past few weeks have been demanding," Victor says, assuming his "authoritative" upright seated position with his hands together in front of him. "I think we've been pushing it, so I've been thinking about hiring another event manager."
"Oh thank god," Mila breathes, crumpling over Victor's desk. "That's exactly what we need. Well, that and a vacation."
"Definitely." Georgi seems to come back to life at the thought of a lighter workload. He tents his fingers on the table and agrees vigorously. "There's too much for just the three of us."
Leaning back, Victor runs a hand through his bangs and nods slowly to himself. "Alright, it's decided. I'll put a listing up on our website and a few job sites. And Mila, you know you do have paid leave saved up."
"I know, but I'd feel bad leaving you guys to do everything yourselves." Mila admits, smiling. "Besides, I'll just take a longer vacation once our new hire comes through! Speaking of which, I have a friend who might be the perfect addition to our office."
"They'll still have to do our full interview process and submit a cover letter and a resume, but I trust your judgement." Victor says. It might be nice to find someone Mila's already familiar with so that they come together as a team more easily— and if Mila's making a suggestion knowing the intensity of work here, then her friend must be capable enough to handle it. "Just have her send all her documents to my email."
"Okay!" Mila nods, typing away at her phone. "If you get an email from Sara Crispino, then that's her."
"Thanks, Mila. I'll look out for that."
After another quick check-in about their current projects and affirming that yes, they all really do have to work overtime so that the next week doesn't become hell on earth, Georgi and Mila go back to their workstations.
It comes as a surprise as, right before Victor packs up to leave for the night only two hours later, a new email from Mila's friend pops up. That was fast.
Victor's far too brain-fried to peruse the application documents or the actual content of the email at the moment, blinking tiredly at his bright phone screen in the darkness of the empty office, but he does type a reply to let Sara know that her email's been received.
She seems to be a prompt emailer, proven by the quick thank-you note that drops into his inbox a few minutes later— an important thing, in the event-planning business, Victor thinks to himself.
Still, right now is no time to be making snap hiring decisions, so he texts Yuuri all the way home in the taxi through nighttime traffic.
It's no sooner than Yuuri arrives home and puts the troublesome vase down that his phone, open to his messages with Victor, starts buzzing madly with a call from mari. His shoes are halfway off as he takes the call and sandwiches his phone between his shoulder and ear.
"Hey, Mari— what's up?" Yuuri asks, stifling a yawn with his words.
"Where are you?" Mari's voice comes booming over the receiver, making Yuuri jerk it away from his ear. Ouch.
"What do you mean, 'where am I?' I just got home." Makkachin bounds happily up to Yuuri, and he scratches behind her ear as he replies.
"Minako-sensei got back from Australia tonight— mom and dad are asking where you went," Mari explains hurriedly. "We told you last week."
"Yes!" Mari says, their mother's familiar laughter filtered in the background of the call over the top of excited chattering. "I know Victor's apartment is two blocks away, max. Get your butt over here."
"Okay, okay. I'm coming."
"See you later," Mari greets, and she ends the call.
Well, that throws a wrench into Yuuri's plans of vegetating on the sofa for the rest of the night. Maybe Yuuri can bail out. say he forgot and he really has to clear out the fridge, or do laundry, or something. But he's already stepping back into his shoes and clipping a leash to Makkachin's collar. The poodle twists around with excited panting at the prospect of a walk, and Yuuri slings his bag back over his shoulder as he pulls the door open. Yuuri's filial piety wins this round.
It was warmer outside before he got home, the last of daylight giving way to night. It's thankfully a short walk to the flower shop— any longer, and Yuuri would have to go back upstairs to grab Makkachin's sweater.
Come to think of it, none of his family members have ever met Victor's dog— no better time than the present, Yuuri supposes as he unlocks the door to the shop, closes it behind them, and follows Makkachin as she makes her way slowly up the steep stairs. There's unmistakable warmth and conversation from inside the living room, and Yuuri cracks the door open to peer inside, holding Makkachin back from bounding inside by sandwiching her between his calves.
He can barely get a word in edgewise before Minako's up out of her chair and swinging the door open to look Yuuri up and down with an exuberant grin.
"Yuuri! How have you been?" She greets in Japanese, examining Yuuri's face. "Have you gained weight? You look more rounded."
"Welcome back, Minako-sensei. How was your residency in Sydney?" Yuuri replies sheepishly, absentmindedly letting Makkachin slip out from between his legs. "Makkachin, no-"
"What a big dog!" Minako marvels as Makkachin brushes past her. "You didn't tell me you got a new dog, Hiroko. So soon after Vic-chan?"
"No, no," Yuuri's mother replies, lighting up as the poodle noses at her leg and licks her hand. "You must be Makkachin, yes?" She coos at the poodle, ruffling her fur. "This is Yuuri's boyfriend's dog."
There's a palpable silence as, like clockwork, Minako turns her head slowly to gape at Yuuri.
"Katsuki Yuuri," Minako grits out, to Yuuri's terror. He shrinks back, but there isn't anywhere to retreat in the narrow stairwell. "Tell me everything."
He's halfway through recounting the entire story of his recent— well, not so recent— relationship status change over the remnants of dinner when he gets a call from Victor, and he apologizes to Minako before looking at the screen and taking it.
"Oh, Yuuri," Victor audibly smiles, sounding tired. "Did you bring Makkachin out for a walk? I was surprised when I came back and neither of you were here."
Yuuri's eyes fly to the clock sitting underneath the TV— shoot, it's already almost eight-thirty. "Uh, sort of— a family friend came back to the States today and I forgot I had to be at my parents' place to catch up with her. I brought Makkachin along because I didn't want to leave her in the apartment alone. Sorry."
"No, that's okay, I was just wondering. Are you going to be back for dinner?"
Yuuri stares down guiltily at his half-finished plate of food. "I, um, actually…"
"Tell Victor he can come and eat too!" Hiroko calls from the kitchen, peeking her head out to meet Yuuri's eyes. "You're talking to him, aren't you?"
Yuuri nods hastily. "Uh, okay- my mom wants you to come over for dinner. You don't have to if you don't want to, though."
"No, I'd love to. Besides, I haven't seen you or Makkachin all day— the sooner I get to, the better. See you soon." Victor agrees, sounding pleased at the invitation.
"Okay," Yuuri smiles, glancing up to see Mari on the floor rubbing Makkachin's belly. "See you soon."
Minako is leering at Yuuri over her pint of beer when he ends the call, and Yuuri throws her a look, knowing full well that she's going to tease him over his relationship. "I'm nearly twenty-five, not fifteen. It's not such a big deal that I have a boyfriend," Yuuri mutters.
"It is for you. You were so shy as a child." Minako recalls amusedly. "I was wondering if you'd ever pick up the guts to ask anyone out!"
"Minako-sensei," Yuuri groans.
"Me too," Mari supplies, looking up from the floor and Makkachin. "You always played too many video games to worry about that stuff."
"Like you're one to talk, Mari." Yuuri retorts. "I don't see you going boy-crazy or girl-crazy or anything."
"Hey, I'm a strong independent woman. I don't need a relationship to be happy." Mari declares, to Minako's nodding.
"Riiight, because you're still stuck in your mid-2000s J-pop boy band phase. I get it." Yuuri jokes, making Mari gasp. She puts a hand to her chest in mock shock.
"Wow, low blow, bro. At least Takao will never let me down."
They're still bickering, Minako declaring that she's too busy and successful with her career for a romance, when the tinny music from the doorbell downstairs chimes some digitized version of the ABC song. It must be Victor— Yuuri's about to get up to go downstairs and let him in, but his dad beats him to it.
"Sit and finish dinner, Yuuri, I'll get Victor." Toshiya waves his hand at him. "It's not good to move around while you eat."
A few moments later, Victor comes through the door with a happy grin. "Hi, everyone!" He greets, crouching at the doorway to receive Makkachin's lively licks and pouncing as the dog leaves Mari in favor of him.
"Hey there, lover boy," Mari raises her hand in greeting.
"Good evening Mari, Hiroko," Victor nods to them both before coming up to his boyfriend, "and especially Yuuri." He punctuates this point with a loud peck to Yuuri's forehead, right in front of Minako. No doubt, she's watching amusedly as Yuuri flushes.
"Victor, this is Minako Okukawa. Minako-sensei, this is Victor, my boyfriend." Yuuri introduces, gesturing back and forth between Minako and Victor with a blush.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Okukawa." Victor takes Minako's hand and shakes it respectfully. "Your name is familiar— have we met?"
"Are you a fan of ballet?" Minako raises an eyebrow, a prideful note in her voice. "You may have heard of me if you follow it."
"Minako Okukawa of the Tokyo Ballet?" Victor's mouth drops open as he takes the seat next to Yuuri at the dining table. "Of course! My parents saw you perform Swan Lake at the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow."
"Well, now, that was a long time ago!" Minako laughs, a pink tinge to her cheeks (from the beer, maybe, or getting to talk about her illustrious ballet career.) "I've since retired, but that's me."
At this point, Yuuri had expected for Minako to be interrogating Victor about his lifestyle and their relationship. This is a surprise— Yuuri didn't know Victor knew about ballet, but it massively helps the mood.
"Moscow… Are you Russian, Victor?" Minako asks.
"Yes, I am. My family came to America shortly after my tenth birthday. How did you guess?" Victor lilts, tilting his head. He's very good at engaging in conversation— Yuuri could probably learn something from him.
"Let's just say I've had my share of Russians," Minako murmurs mysteriously, winking at Victor and Yuuri over her third pint of beer as Victor chuckles. "Yuuri, how did you land such a looker? He could model."
"I told you earlier, we met through work," Yuuri reminds, and he can feel Victor beaming even though he's not looking at him. "Victor's a wedding planner."
"Well, I did model a little bit in my teenage years," Victor reveals, to Yuuri's surprise. "I never found it very fulfilling, though."
"You're showing me proof when we get home." Yuuri turns to Victor, taking in his boyfriend's infuriatingly coy expression. "How have I never heard about this?"
"It's never really come up before— I'll dig some old magazines out when we get home." Victor offers, taking Yuuri's hand. Hiroko sets a steaming bowl of rice and a fresh side dish in front of Victor, and his face lifts back into surprise again. "Oh, you didn't, Hiroko!"
"I can't serve a guest food that's already gone cold, can I?" Hiroko states, putting her hands on her hips. "It's not much, but eat up! I remember you ate a lot of this last time you were here."
"Ginger pork, right? Thank you!" Victor gushes, putting his hands together at his chest in thanks. "Itadakimasu!"
Hiroko laughs, pleased— maybe it's a little late to realize, but having spent more time apart from his family recently has given him an appreciation for how happy it makes his mom to cook for others. He should probably do something with that— maybe come over with Victor more often, given how close they live to his parents. Or maybe even have a dinner party at his and Victor's place as thanks for all the times his family has fed them— too bad neither of them can really cook the way his mother does.
Victor must be ravenous at this point, after such a long day, and he has two helpings of rice as Minako catches up with the rest of the family. It feels comfortable, not like the initial nervousness surrounding Victor's first dinner with his family, and it feels so whole that Yuuri doesn't know if he can imagine it any other way.
After Victor and Hiroko wash the dishes together (Hiroko insisting on having guests relax, and Victor stubbornly refusing to allow Yuuri's mother to do all the work after being so hospitable,) he and Yuuri bid everyone goodnight, taking a small tupperware box of leftovers with them for the next morning.
Yuuri has nearly forgotten about the sprawling vase of flowers sitting on the sideboard table in the entryway by the time they get home, and Victor eyes it as he slips his shoes off.
"I was going to ask earlier, but did you make that, Yuuri?" He asks lightly, pointing at it with his chin.
"Um, yes." Yuuri replies carefully. The vase looks painfully out of place with the sleek decor around it; it's wild and unrestrained. "I can get rid of it, if you want. I know it's kinda weird."
"No, Yuuri, that's not it." Victor says, kicking his remaining shoe off and facing the arrangement with his hands outstretched in two "L" shapes, framing his view. "How do I say this? It's one of a kind."
"Thank you…?" Yuuri murmurs, confused. "So you like it?"
Victor's tilting his head at weird angles, like he does when he's at a wedding venue and the decorations need finessing. "I do! I think it's very avant-garde."
"Avant-garde?" Yuuri repeats, crossing his arms and leaning with his side against the wall.
"Yes! It's very evocative. I feel… It gives me a sense of discord. Like the flowers are rebelling."
"That was sort of what I went for, yeah."
Victor nods, approaching the flowers to move a ranunculus a little bit to the right. "There. It's a little more balanced in the center, now. What inspired you to make this?"
"I was in the middle of making a bouquet with those flowers in it when the customer called in and canceled his order," Yuuri explains.
"And then- get this- he asked for dead flowers."
"Dead flowers." Victor's eyebrows raise in shock, and a curious smile spreads across his face. "Really?"
"Really!" Yuuri scoffs, shaking his head. "So I made that," he points to the bouquet, "with the flowers leftover from the bouquet and went with the flow."
"I think you should be asked for dead flowers more often, if masterpieces like these are what come out of that." Victor praises, picking the vase up carefully and transferring it to the oval-shaped dining table. "You should do more floral design, Yuuri."
"Me? No, that's… I'm not that great at it."
"But you could be." Victor states, and he sounds so sincere that Yuuri's taken aback by it. "Really. I've worked with a lot of florists, and none of them ever produced anything as artful as this. I think you could be amazing. And I don't say that just out of love."
There's still a lingering doubt in Yuuri's mind, but it's dampened by tiredness, and Yuuri yawns before replying. "If you say so. I guess I can try more with it— it could be a selling point."
"Text me photos if you do— or better yet, I'll come by the shop so I can see your efforts! I would love to see your work more often." Victor suggests, excited at the prospect.
"Okay." Yuuri consents, putting his messenger bag on the hall chair. "No guarantees, but I'll try."
"I know you can do it," Victor smiles, coming forward to hold Yuuri by the shoulders. "Just think of it as a creative outlet, like today. Even if all the arrangements you made were inspired by annoying customers, I think that'd be amazing to see."
Yuuri grumbles, rubbing his face. "I'll try. But can we just go to sleep? It's been a long day— leave the flower designing to tomorrow."
"Sorry, yes." Victor laughs, hugging Yuuri and planting a couple of kisses on his mouth and cheeks. "Let's go to bed."
So they do, after collapsing tiredly in a heap on the mattress. And Yuuri has to admit, as sleep lures him, that it was kind of fun to make that avant-garde arrangement.
It wouldn't hurt to at least try more.
Lots got cram-packed into this chapter, and I hope the pacing felt okay!
Next chapter: Yuuri's Birthday is coming!
1生け花, ikebana: the Japanese art of flower arrangement. Transliterates to "arranging flowers."[return to text]
2Floral frog: A round tool with holes or needles used to hold flower stems. [return to text]
Chapter 18: Bonds
Chapter by ingthing, ingthing_YOI (ingthing)
It's Yuuri's Birthday in one and a half weeks, and Victor is not ready.
This was a massive effort for no apparent reason other than that I had so much I wanted to cram in! I didn't get to everything, but I think this is the best it could have come out. It's also my second largest chapter, after That Fluttering Feeling!
I've been busy doing lots of things, including more art and more writing (yay!)
I've started a new Victuuri AU fic set in Hong Kong: Skyscraper Hearts! it's a romcom with some explicit content, if you're into that!
I hope you enjoy this chapter- Yuuri's birthday, at last!
Not beta'd, so please tell me if you catch anything!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Victor Nikiforov, renowned wedding planner, is perplexed for once in his life as an event coordinator.
"Christophe, you must help me." Victor pleads, plopping down on his friend's designer couch after tossing his cashmere scarf onto the backrest. "I have no one else who I can ask on this matter."
Jolie, Chris' cat, meows as her owner closes the front door and picks her up, turning to address his jittery best friend. "Settle down," Chris replies. He had received little notice that Victor would be visiting— half an hour before Victor arrived, Chris' phone had pinged relentlessly with too-fast-to-be-read text messages and distressed emojis from the man. "What on earth is so urgent that you needed to come out of the blue?"
"I came, because—" Victor sighs, clasping his hands together in his lap as he looks up at Christophe, "because I don't know what to do for Yuuri's birthday."
"I'm sure it can't be so hard." Chris remarks, sitting on the suede armchair beside Victor. "Did you ask him what he wants like I told you to?"
"He said he doesn't know, and to 'surprise' him. I know I'm supposed to know how to do it— I plan amazing weddings. I should know, but I don't."
Chris crosses his legs and places Jolie in his lap, resting his hand in her fur. "Of course. It's different when it's someone you love."
"Yes, but I pride myself on giving my clients the weddings of their dreams. I don't understand what it is that's stopping me from coming up with a great birthday party for Yuuri." Victor tuts, crossing his legs and propping an elbow up on his knee. He rests his chin on his fist. "I spend more time with Yuuri than I do anyone else. This should be easy."
"Come now, Victor. You can't expect to know everything about him, even if you see each other every day."
Victor makes a noncommittal noise and grabs the bold red pillow to his right to hug it to his chest. It still feels off, to have been dating Yuuri for almost half a year but not knowing what to do for his birthday. It's only one and a half weeks away. One and a half. That's Victor's very definition of last-minute— too close for comfort. He bites his bottom lip, frowning as he tilts his head back onto the sofa.
"At first, I thought he might like a big party with all his family and friends— you know, really make it an unforgettable gathering. But when I talked to Hiroko about it, I found out that they have a family party planned every year." Victor pauses, registering Chris' slight head tilt at the mention of an unfamiliar name. "Yuuri's mother," he adds, clarifying who he's referring to. "She's the sweetest, most generous soul, and she cooks wonderfully— I would hate to infringe on his family's plans."
"Mhm?" Christophe nods, listening to Victor babble. He gets up, letting Jolie jump off his lap as he picks up a bottle from the bar trolley nearby and offers Victor a drink. Victor declines with a shake of his head and continues with his story.
"Then, I wondered if I could plan a romantic night out for the two of us. Maybe dinner at a nice restaurant and a Broadway show, or even a dinner harbor cruise. But so many critically acclaimed shows are sold out the night of Yuuri's birthday, and Yuuri told me that he gets seasick easily when we watched Titanic together." Victor frets, gesturing with one hand and casting his gaze to the side. "Do you see why I'm at a loss?"
"I do," Chris says, after taking a good sip of Port. "I feel for you. But it's nothing that I haven't been through before— you know that before Markus, I was fond of partying. You remember the first of his birthday parties I invited you to? The one at Roto."
Victor remembers the club well- it's a classy uptown venue. "I do— you had a DJ come in. We invited everyone. Even Yakov, though he didn't come." He chuckles, remembering the drunken night of planning they'd had before the event. They were both working at Yakov and Nikolai's event planning company at the time, and Victor had thought it would be funny to invite the man, if only because they could laugh later at his deadpan declination.
"Well, there's a good reason his birthday parties since have been much quieter. Markus hated that party." Chris reveals, swirling his glass with a nostalgic sigh. "He thought it was tiring."
"Just tiring?" Victor repeats, shocked. Markus had seemed so enthused by his surprise party— they'd even had a selfie booth and an open bar set up, the way Chris had envisioned. "I thought everyone had fun. I didn't know that."
"Neither did I. I put my all into that party. But he likes small dinner parties and picnics, instead. They're nice, but different. I didn't think he was the romantic type, but here we are, living together and having date mornings. To make up for my working late nights." Chris muses, smiling a little. "What a strange twist of fate."
Victor's fallen uncharacteristically silent, and he doesn't quite seem to be looking at Chris, though he's where his gaze falls. Christophe knows that look. He's seen it many a time, seated next to the man as coworkers during company meetings. Victor's plotting, and the slow smile that spreads across his features has Chris uneasy— perhaps due to reflex.
"Christophe, I know what to do!" Victor sits up, grinning. "I think I know how Yuuri would like to celebrate best."
"Oh? That's good," Chris replies. "What do you have planned?"
Victor reaches forward, placing his hand on Chris' shoulder with a charismatic smile. "You, mon ami, are going to teach me how to cook."
Chris can't even begin to comprehend Victor's request, but the man is already explaining his grand scheme— it's more by force of habit that he listens, but he has to agree that Victor's plan is improved.
Victor left home in a hurry, and Yuuri is thoroughly confused.
Yuuri doesn't think anything is out of the ordinary. It's just another weekend afternoon, and they were spending it together as they always do. But after Victor asked him what he wanted for his birthday, he looked confused and off guard, taking off with the excuse that he'd promised to meet up with Chris.
Okay, so maybe telling Victor to surprise him was a little much. But what else was Yuuri supposed to do? It's not like he actually knows what he wants for his birthday, or how he wants to celebrate it.
Every year has been pretty much the same. Save the few years he was in Detroit for his birthday, his parents always had a small party for him— more just a gathering, really, of their family friends and a couple of his own. It's nice enough, and he'll get birthday money in little envelopes sometimes, but birthdays are just that— birthdays. They're not that special. They just mark another year passing.
But to Victor, they seem to mean a lot. Maybe it's the culture difference, or the fact that the man is so excited by the idea of celebrating even the small things. Yuuri wouldn't be surprised if he took Makkachin out for a walk, came back, and found that Victor had organized a "welcome back" party for them both, complete with confetti and the doggy cupcakes they saw at a specialty bakery when they went on a lunch date near Union Square.
Yuuri doesn't know what to expect from Victor for his birthday at all, and that's the start of his worries.
Sometimes, even though they live together and spend lots of time together, it feels like Victor is worlds away, in his fancy life surrounded by rich clients and glamorous things. It doesn't feel like a stretch at all to assume that when Victor celebrates, he goes big, because Victor plans weddings— huge, grand weddings. And he's great at it, from what Yuuri knows. But if the birthday surprise Victor plans is anything like those weddings, Yuuri might want to hide under a table the entire evening.
Maybe the right answer to Victor's question is something small, but it's a little late for that now.
Yuuri sighs as he hoists Makkachin up with him on the sofa.
"What do you think Victor will do, Makkachin? What are his birthday parties like?" He murmurs aloud, though he knows Makkachin can't reply beyond a reassuring lick of his face.
Whatever it is that Victor does, even if Yuuri hates it, is definitely going to come from his heart— but what if Victor's feelings are hurt when he brings up his concerns? Yuuri doesn't want that.
He'll just live with whatever banquet or dance party Victor has in store.
Time flies by and when Victor awakens the morning of Yuuri's birthday, he's fully awake almost immediately.
Oh, there's so much to do. They need to walk Makkachin and have breakfast— but not too much breakfast, because they'll be going to the shop in a few hours to celebrate with the Katsukis, and Hiroko will no doubt pull out all the stops for that. Victor told them he'll have to leave early to prepare for his own plans, so he'll do that, and then…
Well, first, he needs to wake Yuuri up. None of that can happen without Yuuri.
"Yuuri," Victor eases up onto his side, nudging Yuuri's shoulder with his free hand as he coaxes him awake. "Yuuri, guess what day it is?"
"St. Patrick's Day." Yuuri deadpans, not even opening his eyes.
"Okay, fine," Yuuri slurs, rolling onto his back to blink blearily up at Victor. "Happy birthday to me."
Victor beams, leaning forward for a morning-breath laced kiss. He should probably save all his smiling for later since he's going to be doing a lot of it but it's Yuuri's birthday. He doesn't care if his cheeks will hurt.
To some people, birthdays are insignificant because there are so many of them. Victor can't disagree more— isn't it special to think that, on this day years and years ago, Yuuri came into the world? That day triggered everything that brought Yuuri to him. Birthdays are important, and never more than now, when Victor has the privilege of waking up and showing Yuuri how much he appreciates Yuuri's in particular.
Yuuri laughs, breaking Victor from his sentimental musing.
"Your hair," Yuuri says with a big grin on his face. He reaches up to pat the haphazard strands, amused by how they refuse to stay down. "It's sticking up everywhere."
Patting his own hair experimentally, Victor frowns, ducking his head. It gives Yuuri the perfect opportunity to poke his hair parting, and Victor pokes the whorl at the crown of Yuuri's head in retaliation.
They do get out of bed eventually, with just enough time to groom, get dressed, and feed Makkachin before all three of them head over to the Katsukis' home for Yuuri's birthday lunch.
For this special occasion, the shop is closed today, and Yuuri smiles fondly as they make their way up too-silent steps.
"I don't know why they act like it's a surprise every year." He murmurs to Victor, Makkachin bounding up ahead of them with her tail wagging.
"I think it's cute," Victor notes happily, excited for the fanfare that's sure to erupt once they open the door. "They care."
Yuuri turns the handle of the door slowly, bracing himself for the worst; sure enough, Mari has a party popper in his face and it bursts with a loud noise, spraying rainbow confetti all over him. A comical chorus of hand-clappers, horns, and noisemakers blare around them, and the party guests crowd around the new arrivals.
"誕生日おめでとう！" Hiroko chimes, running over after setting a final plate of food down on the dining table.
"You're just in time." Toshiya nods to Victor and Yuuri, ushering them inside and smiling at Makkachin as she goes around sniffing at the other people in the room. "Mama just finished in the kitchen."
"All your favorites!" Hiroko says proudly, bouncing a little. Yuuri can see that, from the feast spread out.
"Ah, thanks, mom." Yuuri nods, brushing confetti off his coat shoulders. Victor smiles when he sees a telltale gleam in Yuuri's eyes— he may not be smiling much, but Yuuri's clearly looking forward to the meal.
Victor takes Yuuri's coat as he slides it off, and Yuuri sends him an appreciative look. Their jackets and Makkachin's leash are hung up on the coat stand next to the door as everyone gathers around the table.
There are just enough seats at the dinner table to accommodate Yuuri's family, Victor, and Minako, but the placemats and floor cushions around the coffee table suggest more people are to come. It's a good thing, considering that there's just so much food— and as he thinks it, there's a knock at the door and it swings open to reveal the missing guests, the Nishigoris.
"Sorry we're late." Takeshi calls over the racket of Axel, Lutz, and Loop filing into the room. "Lunchtime is always busy for the bakery!"
"Oh, it's no problem! Come in, come in!" Hiroko answers, leaving her seat to lead the family inside. "Sorry there's no room at the table. Is this okay?" She gestures to the coffee table.
"Don't worry, this is great!" Yuuko replies, taking all three of the triplets' jackets in her arms and draping them over the sofa as Takeshi hands Hiroko a cake box. "Yuuri, happy birthday!"
As Yuuri replies to Yuuko, the triplets trot over to the dining table, stopping next to Victor's chair. Axel points up at him. "Ah, it's Victor!"
"Hi!" Victor smiles down at the girls, shifting his chair back so he can turn to them. "Are you here to wish Yuuri a happy birthday?"
"Yeah!" Lutz pulls at Victor's sleeve so he'll lower his ear for her to whisper into. "We got him a cake."
"Really?" Victor gasps dramatically. "What kind of cake?"
"Um…" The triplets can't seem to remember, so they turn in unison to Yuuko, who's just making her way over to usher them back to the sofas.
"Mama, what cake did we get Yuuri?"
"It's a fruit and cream cake!" She replies, resting a hand on the back of Yuuri's chair next to Victor's. "We bring one every year."
"Yeah, it's a tradition." Yuuri adds, joining the conversation. "It's good cake."
"It better be," Yuuko teases, "or else we'd be in trouble!"
"I look forward to it! But first, Yuuri, shouldn't we eat?" Victor points out. Yuuri looks back to the table of people waiting for them to turn their attention to the meal, and Victor grins when his boyfriend colors and nods apologetically at them.
"Better hurry, or Minako-sensei and I will finish these ourselves." Toshiya chuckles, placing his hands on the two tall bottles of saké on his end of the table.
"It's a special occasion, so Toshiya brought the good stuff out!" Minako agrees, raising her glass.
"Okay, just a little." Yuuri agrees, and takes one of the bottles from his dad to offer to Victor.
Saké glasses follow shortly, and the clear alcohol is served. After toasts are made with a resounding "乾杯," Victor takes a tentative first sip and grins at the crispness. Toshiya smiles knowingly from across him, and they finally get to the food.
Yuuri's family is charming. Victor learns a lot from Toshiya's extensive saké knowledge and coos along with Hiroko at retellings of stories from Yuuri's childhood. He's never had a sibling, but poking fun at Yuuri with Mari is what he imagines it's like to have one. Minako shares her recollection of Yuuri's past enrolment at her ballet studio, which Victor is all too eager to hear about.
"So that's why your legs are so strong!" Victor marvels to Yuuri, and he chokes on a bite of crispy pork as Minako cackles.
As the eating dwindles, Victor looks at his watch; it's nearing three o'clock, and Victor sends Hiroko a look. She nods, glancing around the room to make sure everyone's just about done.
"Okay, let's get the cake out!" She claps, and Victor rises to collect the dishes for washing. "No, no, Vic-chan, sit down! I'll take care of it."
The nickname only makes Victor even more determined to help. "You've worked hard enough today! Let me at least bring the dishes in."
Toshiya and Mari get to work clearing up the coffee table as Hiroko fills the sink. The triplets, to their credit, bring their sets of colorful plastic dishware to the sink and Victor helps stack them beside the rest of the plates. As soon as everything is soaking in sudsy water, Hiroko returns to the dining table with some cute square plates and small forks, Mari trailing behind her with the cake box. Yuuri feels a little useless as they prepare, and Minako congratulates him on having a polite boyfriend as he wonders where his mom's nickname for Victor came from.
Finally, the cake is propped on the table for a photo and the chairs are moved away for a group photo. Victor takes the first photo with the Katsukis' digital camera and then his phone, and Takeshi takes the next, insisting that Victor has to get in the picture too.
Everyone takes mercy on Victor and they choose to sing the birthday song in English, and Victor promises he'll get Yuuri to teach him the Japanese version for next year. Yuuri smiles at the thought, hugging Victor with one arm behind his waist, and he steadies himself with one hand on the table as he stares the candle on top of the cake down.
A birthday wish, Yuuri wonders. He hasn't given it thought this year considering that for the past few years he hasn't really made wishes. He didn't think he needed to, since his life was pretty okay.
What he couldn't have predicted was Victor entering his life, and it doesn't take too long for Yuuri to think of a wish and blow out the candle.
They're all seated with slices of cake when Victor taps Yuuri's shoulder, his dessert half finished.
"Yuuri, I need to go and… run some errands." He explains, smiling pleasantly. Yuuri knows that smile— Victor has something in store. "Phichit is coming soon to bring you out— but not home."
"Uhuh?" Yuuri murmurs, swallowing his bite. Sure enough, his phone buzzes on the table and there's a text from Phichit asking if he can come up.
Victor sees the notification too, and he nods assuredly. "There he is."
Yuuri stands to help Victor with his coat and Makkachin's leash. There's a chorus of goodbyes from Yuuri's family and the rest of the guests, and Yuuri can't hide a nervous smile. "Okay, I guess I'll see you later."
Victor reaches up to tug once at both of Yuuri's earlobes with a peck to his cheek. "See you later, солнышко. I'll leave the rest of the ear-pulling for later!"
"Ear pulling?" Yuuri echoes confusedly, but Victor's already halfway down the stairs, Makkachin in tow.
He's still confused when Phichit comes up after Victor leaves, and Phichit laughs and asks why Yuuri's holding his ear.
"Victor pulled my ears and left." Yuuri says dumbfoundedly.
"Must be some kind of Russian thing." Phichit shrugs, following him into the living room and greeting all the other guests. "Okay, ready to go wherever-you-want-that-isn't-home, birthday boy?"
"Yeah, sure." Yuuri nods. "Let's go."
Yuuri and Phichit have a laidback afternoon— they took the subway up to Union Square, checked out the comics shop and the bookstores in the area, and sat in the coffee shop across from The Strand with lattes.
When Yuuri confessed that he wasn't sure he was going to like Victor's surprise, Phichit told him he wouldn't have to worry— does Phichit know what's going on? Is it something worth worrying over?
"Dude, you're going to love it! Scout's honor." Phichit had assured him, placing a hand over his heart. Yuuri had replied, curtly, that Phichit hadn't even been a boy scout, and Phichit laughed. His phone had pinged and Yuuri's had buzzed, and they'd taken them out to show a message from Victor saying it would be okay for Yuuri to return home.
Without getting any real answers, Yuuri's back in front of his and Victor's apartment door, staring holes into the small brass letters glued just above the peephole. Even without knocking, he's sure Victor knows he's there— Makkachin has a habit of watching the entrance with either of them are out, and she gets excited when it sounds like there's someone just outside the door. She must be able to smell Yuuri.
He takes his keys out with an exhale, but Victor beats him to the punch, twisting the handle and pulling the door open a crack to see who's there.
"Yuuri!" Victor smiles, and Yuuri can see that the room behind him is dim. He can't see much more, because Victor's blocking most of the view, and that's when he sees the change in Victor's clothes.
"You're wearing an apron." Yuuri says, surprised. "Why are you wearing that?"
"Whoops, forgot to take it off." Victor looks down at the striped apron, pulling it over his head and draping it over his arm. "You'll see why— can you close your eyes for me?"
Yuuri nods, closing his eyes. There's the brush of Makkachin against his leg as Victor pulls him into the apartment, and he resists the urge to open his eyes to watch his step. His coat is slipped off along with his bag, and he slips his shoes off when Victor murmurs for him to. He nearly trips on the rug in the living area, but Victor holds him steady. Something smells delicious.
He's guided back onto the sofa cushions, the soft give of the sofa cushions telling him that Victor's sitting too.
"Okay, open your eyes." Victor instructs, and Yuuri does. Once he readjusts to the candlelight, he can see two plates of food in front of him, complete with placemats and cutlery.
"You cooked?" Yuuri murmurs, observing the food. It actually looks good.
"I had Chris teach me." Victor explains proudly. "He said I might be a lost cause, but I proved him wrong!"
Yuuri leans forward to admire the dish. There's a piece of salmon topped with lemon slices at the center of the plate, surrounded on one side by some kind of slaw and carrots on the other.
"Try some," Victor urges. Yuuri breaks off some fish with his fork and takes a bite, brightening when he discovers it tastes as good as it looks.
"Thank you, Chris." Yuuri remarks with his mouth half-full, and Victor gasps in mock dismay.
"No compliments to the chef?" He asks, pouting as Yuuri laughs and puts his fork down.
"Sorry— of course I'll compliment the chef: You look nice in an apron." Victor snorts at Yuuri's joke, and Yuuri tilts his head towards the food, pleased. "Let's eat?"
Nodding, Victor picks up his plate and rests it in his lap and Yuuri follows his lead. In his typical fashion, Victor explains each element on the dish with detail. Yuuri doesn't think he's had brussel sprouts or walnuts in a salad before, and definitely not together, but it works surprisingly well.
Victor takes their dishes once they're cleared, giving Yuuri a kiss on the forehead as he gets up. Makkachin's rested next to Yuuri's thigh, and Yuuri smooths his hand along her back as he waits for Victor to return with dessert.
"Not home-made?" Yuuri teases, seeing the slice of picture-perfect cake Victor places in front of him.
"I thought that if I messed dinner up, dessert would redeem it." Victor admits, smiling. "This is Mille crêpe— Crepes layered with cream. I thought you'd want something lighter after lunch."
Yuuri nods, reaching for the plate, but Victor stops him hurriedly. "Hold on, let me…" Victor trails off, reaching behind himself and holding up a striped candle and a lighter from his pocket. "I know we did this earlier, but can we?"
"Yeah, sure." Yuuri sits back, watching as Victor pokes the candle into the top of the slice and lights it carefully.
The flame makes Victor's eyes shine in the dim light, and Yuuri senses something in his expression. Sitting next to him again, Victor clasps his hands together in his lap restlessly.
"Should we take a picture?" Yuuri asks, making Victor brighten immensely.
Victor turns to Yuuri, looking surprised, for some reason. Yuuri isn't the biggest selfie-taker, but he's not opposed to it. "Can we?"
"Let's take a few." Yuuri smiles, and Victor leaps for his phone.
The blue candle wax is threatening to fall onto the top crepe by the time Victor's finished taking photos of Yuuri, the cake, Yuuri with the cake, and himself with both. He even pulls the discarded apron over his head again just for the photo, making Yuuri snort— in Victor's defense, the apron is crucial to show he put real blood and sweat into their dinner. Yuuri can imagine Phichit's texts to him in response to the pictures now: they involve lots of exclamation marks and emojis.
Phone stored away in his apron pocket, Victor gasps when Yuuri decides the melting wax is too close to the cake for comfort and extinguishes the candle's flame. "Yuuri, I didn't even sing you the birthday song yet!"
"You did earlier." Yuuri points out, plucking the candle out of the cake by its tiny plastic holder. "Besides, the cream's going to melt."
"I'll sing it to you later." Victor decides, taking his slice from the table and watching as Yuuri takes his first bite. His reaction doesn't disappoint— Victor was hoping to see the way Yuuri closes his eyes and hums softly whenever he has something delicious.
"Why do you always get the best desserts?" Yuuri mutters after chewing lengthily. "This is so good."
"I like them, you like them— it's a win-win situation." Victor says happily, cutting a piece off the cake and eating it. "Ah, before I forget," he mentions, mouth full as he puts his plate and fork back on the table. He brings both hands up, one on either side of Yuuri's head, and gently takes hold of both his earlobes.
"Oh no." Yuuri murmurs, bracing himself.
Victor laughs. "Oh, yes. It's a Russian birthday tradition. One pull for every year— you're twenty-five today?"
Before Yuuri can confirm it, Victor's already started tugging in quick succession, counting off each pull with decisiveness as Yuuri sits, helpless.
"...Twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five."
"Wait, you pulled them once earlier! That's twenty-six." Yuuri protests, fork clattering against his plate.
"An extra, because you weren't born Russian and never had your ears pulled as a child." Victor reasons, smiling fondly. "Congratulations, you're officially twenty-five now!"
"I was already twenty-five when you woke me up this morning."
"So you were a morning baby? I would never have guessed from the way you sleep in."
Yuuri's groan is undercut by his smile as he turns his attention back to the cake, and they're both finished in a matter of minutes, racing against the melting cream that jeopardizes the cake's structural integrity.
Victor insists on getting the dishes once again and returns with cups of tea for them both. As Yuuri gingerly takes a sip, testing the temperature before deciding it's acceptable, Victor turns and reaches behind the sofa cushion. He retrieves a wrapped gift from it and holds it out to Yuuri, who blinks in surprise.
"Was that there the entire time?" He asks, glancing over and noticing that all their pillows have been relocated to Victor's side of the sofa. So that's why Yuuri's side felt suspiciously spacious.
"I had to hide it somehow. С днём рождения, любовь моя."
"What does that mean?" Yuuri takes the parcel, scouring his mind for the little Russian he's learnt. "I know that last bit, though."
"Happy Birthday, my love." Victor supplies eagerly, emphasizing the last two words, and Yuuri's cheeks pinken at the endearment. "I hope you like your gift."
The gift is wrapped with dotted silver paper and tied with a dark blue bow, and unlike the box of cookies Victor had brought to the Katsukis' for his first dinner with them, it's decently wrapped. Yuuri undoes the ribbon and pulls the taped folds of the wrapping away to reveal a white box, and he opens the lid to find…
"Victor, this is-"
"The fortieth anniversary blu-ray disc of the cartoon you used to watch with Mari as a kid— the one you got Vic-chan's name from." Victor smiles. "I asked her. I thought we could watch it later— anything you want!"
Just seeing the characters on the cover is nostalgic, and Yuuri traces his fingers over the colorful graphics. "I can't believe you remembered that." Even Yuuri doesn't remember telling him that, it must have been so long ago.
"I remember lots of things." Victor replies, nodding towards the box. "There's more underneath."
Removing the DVD case and setting it aside, Yuuri holds his breath at the sight of the dark purple photo album nested in baby blue tissue paper at the bottom of the box. There's a square cut out at the center of the cover, and a glossy print of one of their earliest photos together peeks up at Yuuri through it.
"Phichit helped me with the photos." Victor tells Yuuri, pursing his lips expectantly as Yuuri lifts the book from the box and places it in his own lap. Curious, he opens the album. He's greeted by Victor's handwriting in gold gel pen, neatly spaced and slanting a little to the right.
"On My Love." Yuuri reads aloud, tilting his head as he continues onward.
"It's a memory book." Victor explains, leaning into Yuuri and looking at the book with him. "These are all photos I've been taking ever since I met you."
They're more than photos, really— they're photos that mean something to Victor, and he's written exactly what they mean on the pages opposite them. Victor watches as Yuuri flips through the book with an emotional glint in his eyes.
Exactly how much Victor posts on social media is likely lost on Yuuri, but it's a lot. He posted a lot before meeting Yuuri, mostly pictures of Makkachin, his meals, or his outfits. Never has he been more excited to share the happenings of his life than during the eight months he's known and loved Yuuri. It was difficult to whittle down his photo library to the fifteen images he had printed, and he hopes they're as meaningful to Yuuri as they are to him.
The first photos are easy: the camano pet dahlias from the first time they met, the tiger lilies from the day Victor was running late to a venue, and the yellow roses from when Victor visited Katsuki Flowers and Yuuri pricked his finger on a thorn.
"You hate Chinese takeout." Yuuri recalls. "I can't believe you still went with me to get some."
"I really liked you." Victor admits, chuckling at the memory and leaning into Yuuri a little. "I still do."
The photos of flowers transition into photos of food— macarons from the day they found their mutual love for poodles, their first date udon, the hanami bento, and Yuuri feels his face heat up at Victor's written commentary. Okay, yes— it's no secret that he likes food, but Yuuri had no idea his facial expressions were so explicit about it. Apparently, Victor delights in that honesty. There's even a photo of the brunch they had with Phichit the first time Victor met him.
Yuuri pauses at a picture of the rose gelato they'd had in June, confused. "Why'd you put this here?"
"That was the day we took our first selfie together." Victor grins, and Yuuri laughs. Victor revels in the small things.
"That, and…" Victor snakes his left hand behind Yuuri's back and joins it with his right hand in front. "It was also the day you called my apartment home for the first time."
That day seems so long ago, to Yuuri. He squints, trying to recall it, and Victor takes his confusion as a sign to elaborate, nuzzling his cheek into Yuuri. "That made me so happy— you have no idea."
"And then I basically started sleeping over more and more, and now you're stuck with me."
Victor snorts amusedly. "That's because I want to be."
The next photos are more recent: the bouquet they gifted Chris after Yuuri met him, bringing bittersweet memories of the first time Yuuri actually cried in front of Victor, and the hydrangeas and Vietnamese food Yuuri had brought to the Weddings by V offices as a surprise. But the picture after them eludes Yuuri.
It's a picture of a cream-colored tablecloth with a pristine place-setting on top of it. There's a white china plate with quiche and a salad on it— did he and Victor ever have quiche before, and in such a fancy setting? Yuuri's been to quite a few restaurants with Victor, but he really doesn't remember this one.
"Victor," Yuuri points to the picture as well as he can with Victor's arms wrapped around his waist. "Where is this from?"
Victor sits up, resting his chin over Yuuri's shoulder. "That…" He trails off, scanning over the text on the opposite page. "That was lunch in Washington the afternoon after I left for the conference. In the hotel."
Yuuri nods softly, frowning. That wasn't exactly a happy day.
"You're wondering why that's here, aren't you?" Victor murmurs, taking a deep breath. Yuuri looks back at him, inquiring, and Victor nods imperceptibly. "That was when I realized that there's still much that we don't understand about each other."
Not quite knowing how to respond, Yuuri searches his expression.
"It's not a bad thing." Victor hastily adds, squeezing Yuuri a little tighter. "It means we have room to grow. I mean what I said: that you're still here means everything to me."
After a few moments of staring down at the caption Victor wrote beside the photo, Yuuri murmurs, "we're growing, aren't we? Together."
"I think so." Victor replies quietly, pressing his lips softly to the side of Yuuri's neck.
Yuuri nods in return, turning to guide Victor's jaw up as he misses on his first try aiming at his lips. He manages to meet them a moment later, and he kisses Victor softly. Victor lets go of whatever tension resides in his chest and the weight of him on Yuuri feels like they can't get closer than this. Yuuri didn't even know Victor was so nervous until moments ago when he hesitated to say, yes, we're growing together.
Not once this evening has Victor stopped being nervous, and Yuuri feels awful for not realizing sooner.
"I was honestly a little scared you'd throw some huge party for me." Yuuri confesses, shifting so they lay more comfortably together on the sofa. The album is placed safely on the coffee table alongside the discarded box and gift-wrap.
"I almost did, but Chris helped me there." Victor smiles, making a mental note to thank his best friend later. "I wondered what you would want for yourself and this was the answer. You liked it?"
"You put so much thought into everything. How could I… Of course I did!" Yuuri assures Victor, voice growing louder to match his tone. "I loved it."
"I loved it too." Victor concludes, and even in the candlelight he's beaming, smile all the way up to his eyes. "I love making you happy, my Yuuri."
The endearment is new— one Yuuri's never heard before, but it feels right.
"I'll work hard next month, um," Yuuri pauses, trying to make sense of returning the sentiment in his head, "my Victor."
The best birthday gift he's gotten all day is the way Victor reacts to those two little words. His giddy laughter, his lit-up face, his breath-taking hug— all manifestations of just how much Victor really cares for Yuuri, alongside the innumerable gestures he's made during their time together.
They don't quite make it to watching the DVD that night, deciding to prepare for bed when they yawn in succession, breaking their liplock.
For once, Makkachin decides to sleep in the bathroom— heated floor tiles, apparently— and as Victor drifts off, clearly exhausted from all his hard work, Yuuri blinks sleepily and traces the lines of Victor's brows with his thumb.
He's going to pull out all the stops for Victor's birthday.
This chapter took so long to write! Thanks for being patient, everyone.
We're not done with birthdays yet! Victor's is (predictably) coming up, so stay tuned.
(In case you didn't see it above: I've started a new Victuuri AU fic set in Hong Kong: Skyscraper Hearts! it's a romcom with some explicit content, if you're into that! I hope you check it out <3)
1誕生日おめでとう, tanjōbiomedetō: "Happy Birthday" in Japanese.[return to text]
1乾杯, kanpai: "Cheers" in Japanese.[return to text]
3солнышко, solnyshko: "Little Sun" in Russian.[return to text]
4С днём рождения, любовь моя, S dnom rozhdeniya, lyubov moya: "Happy birthday, my love" in Russian.[return to text]
Chapter 19: Rift
Chapter by ingthing, ingthing_YOI (ingthing)
Yuuri begins planning for Victor's birthday.
Hey guys, it's been a while!
I've been working on lots of things (including my Big Bang on Ice fic), and it was so difficult to write this chapter that I ended up putting it off. Then, whoosh, I finished almost all of it in one day! Who'dve thought.
You might notice that I've added the tags Victor Nikiforov's Mother, Massages, and Emotional Hurt/Comfort to this fic. That's pretty much because this chapter's going to take you for a ride.
And yes, Victor's mother makes her first appearance here! I've named her Nadia, and Victor's father is Dominik.
This isn't beta'd, as usual, but I hope you enjoy it!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Yuuri Katsuki, complete greenhorn birthday party planner, is hopelessly lost.
Of course, he's well aware that event planning isn't his forte— his boyfriend is way more talented in that respect. But Victor had given Yuuri an amazing birthday. It would only be right to repay Victor with one of his own.
However, like with many other things that are easier said than done, Yuuri is stumped. He scratches out another item on the list in his journal— at this rate, he's going to have an entire page full of ink scribbles and not productive brainstorming, which was not the plan when he sat down at the desk in their apartment's guest room with his laptop. It's been two hours since then, and the whole ordeal is beginning to feel more like writing college essays than coming up with fun activities Victor would enjoy for his birthday.
Yuuri hates writing essays.
He glances up from his notebook, eyes glazing over at the browser tabs open on his screen. There's no way he's ever going to salvage anything from the hundreds of links there. Yuuri puts a hand on his wireless mouse, ready to click on the little red button at the top corner of the window— but no, what if he closes the perfect site? What if he exits out of all those tabs and misses something Victor would really like? No, closing tabs is definitely too risky.
There's a headache in Yuuri's future— he can practically hear it coming.
When Victor told Yuuri he would have to work that weekend, Yuuri lept at the chance to have the apartment to himself. Not because he doesn't want Victor there, but you just can't plan a surprise birthday party in the presence of the birthday person. It's common sense.
Making a frustrated noise, Yuuri shuts his laptop lid and picks his phone up from the far side of the desk. So much for reducing distractions.
There's a couple of texts from the phone company and from Victor— the latter, he responds to, sending encouragements as Victor sends a selfie of himself with the rest of the team. Oh, that must be the new person, Yuuri thinks as he notes the dark-haired woman next to Mila in the frame. They all seem to be having more fun than Yuuri's having at home planning Victor's birthday party— Yuuri should get some tips from the professionals.
While he might not be able to ask Victor's employees for help— Victor could look over their shoulders and ruin the surprise, after all— it might be a good idea for Yuuri to ask for help from someone. He needs to find someone who knows parties. Someone who knows fun.
Typing out a plea and sending it to his friend, Yuuri snorts when he responds not even a minute later as Yuuri's typing out his dilemma.
Yuuri: Phichit I need help
Phichit: What? Why!? TELL ME WHO TO PUNCH!
Yuuri: No, not like that!!
Yuuri: I need you to help me with Victor's birthday
Yuuri: It's in three weeks
Phichit: IM CALLING
Yuuri waits for his phone to ring and takes the call when it buzzes in his hand. Phichit's face appears on-screen, and he looks like he's about to burst.
"You want me to help with Victor's birthday party?" Phichit gasps, excited beyond belief.
"Um… yes?" Yuuri murmurs. "Is that okay? I really don't know what I'm doing."
"Say no more. Can I come over?"
Yuuri worries at his bottom lip. If Victor has the time to take a selfie with the entire crew, he must be nearly done at the venue. "Can I come over instead? I don't want Victor to overhear if he gets home early."
"Of course." Phichit nods sagely, looking very serious. In a moment, his expression shifts and he beams. "But can you bring some snacks? I can't think when I'm hungry."
"Barbecue flavored chips?"
Phichit considers the option, then shakes his head."I think it's a sour cream and cheddar kind of day."
Yuuri agrees, and Phichit gives him a wave as he ends the call, warning that Yuuri should text him when he exits the subway so he can get pants on.
Maybe Yuuri will throw in some barbecue chips in, too. A bag of chips or two is a small price to pay, especially when it's Victor's birthday on the line.
Phichit swings the door open before Yuuri even rings the doorbell, and Yuuri is left standing there with his hand raised dumbly.
"Hi." Yuuri says, surprised by Phichit's sudden greeting.
"Hi! Come on in!" Phichit says, stepping aside to let Yuuri inside. "Mi casa es su casa."
"Well, I did use to live here." Yuuri snorts, kicking his shoes off. The apartment he used to share with Phichit feels simultaneously familiar and different— familiar because he used to live in this space, but different because… well, the decor is certainly new. There's a new grid of framed photos on the wall and a stylish throw blanket on the sofa. And in the corner—
"Is that the super-deluxe hamster cage you sent me pictures of?" Yuuri marvels, putting his plastic bag of snacks on the floor before going up to the large plastic and wire cage in the corner of the living room. "Wow, it has four floors."
"Right? And just look at the big exercise ball at the top! Kim loves it."
Yuuri nods, watching the dark-haired hamster run in the clear plastic ball. He's never going to understand why Phichit named that particular hamster after a Kardashian. Yuuri surveys the other hamsters, who are huddled inside a log and don't seem to be making great use of their expansive home. Honestly, they should appreciate having a 4-storey house in the middle of New York— and with free rent and utilities? Any New Yorker would leap at the chance.
"They're the best." Phichit gazes at his hamsters alongside Yuuri, looking very much like a proud parent. "But anyway, I can catch you up on all the hamster talk later— you have a birthday party to plan!"
Yuuri stands, grabbing the snacks as he does. "Yeah, I do." They make their way over to the sofa, and Yuuri sits down as Phichit settles on the floor, rifling through the plastic convenience store bag.
"So." Phichit says, once he's taken a swig of the soda Yuuri bought him. "What do you already have planned for Victor's birthday?"
"I like that you think I have something planned." Yuuri replies, resting his cheek on one hand. "I don't have anything."
Phichit tilts his head incredulously. "Okay, but what were you thinking of planning?"
Yuuri munches on a chip and swallows. "I was thinking of what Victor might like to do for his birthday— he likes dancing, I'm pretty sure, so I thought maybe that I could organize some kind of big party with a dance floor. But it's only three weeks before his birthday, and you have to book most venues at least a month in advance." He sighs, leaning into the sofa and looking up at the ceiling. "Doesn't help that his birthday's on Christmas, either."
"Victor's birthday is on Christmas? Whoa." Phichit says, clearly sympathetic. "You should have started planning this in like July."
Yuuri groans weakly. He knows that. There aren't many clubs that are willing to take event bookings on such short notice, and they charge exorbitant fees for everything from open bars to DJ service. Most places were booked out regardless— Christmas is a popular holiday, after all.
"What else did you think about?" Phichit urges, noticing Yuuri's lapsed into silence.
"I know he likes, uh, romantic stuff. Things like bringing him flowers at work." Yuuri says, furrowing his brow. "I looked up some romantic tours and dinner packages, but they're either sold out for Christmas or too expensive to even think about."
"Yeah, it's always expensive around the holidays." Phichit confirms, leaning against the armchair behind him. "But there's plenty of other stuff to do! What about ice skating? You guys talked about that the day you moved to Victor's place."
"It's going to be too cold. Bryant Park is bound to be packed, anyway." Yuuri murmurs, putting his feet up on the sofa and lying back. "I just feel like I have to go big. Victor would like that."
"Big…" Phichit mutters, tapping around on his phone with his ring finger since his forefinger and thumb are covered in chip flavor dust. "So you want to throw a big party for Victor… with romantic stuff… and dancing?"
"I guess." Yuuri shrugs, putting another chip in his mouth. "It's vague, I know."
"Want me to put the Phichit twist on it?" Phichit says cheerfully, "I think I know just the thing."
"Please." Yuuri relaxes a little, lifting his head to blink tiredly at his friend. "Give me your guidance."
Phichit's face lights up in glee, and he dusts his hands off before running into his room and coming back with a notepad and pen. "No better way to brainstorm than the old fashioned way! Okay, let's see…"
Yuuri takes his own notebook out too, laying it flat on the coffee table alongside Phichit's notes. It helps to have Phichit there to guide him on the best deals and places, and, having written down some helpful links and phone numbers, Yuuri leaves feeling much more assured.
Whatever he did to deserve Phichit's friendship and help, he doesn't know, but Yuuri is grateful there's someone in his life who's much better at planning parties than he is.
By sunset, the Weddings by V office is quiet— after a long day managing a wedding, the entire team had come back to the office exhausted. Victor could see on Georgi, Mila, and Sara's faces that they were ready to drop, and they'd gratefully left the office early at his suggestion.
The only thing that's more satisfying than a job well done, Victor knows, is the rest that comes after that job well done. He yawns at his desk, stretching his arms out and rolling his wrists.
The past few weeks had gone swimmingly despite his busy schedule, and Victor might attribute that to the new addition to their office. Hiring Sara was a good idea, judging by how much more lively the office has become. Everyone seems more motivated, Mila most of all— Victor hadn't really considered it before, but she must have felt isolated without a friend or another woman around to talk to. Victor has known Georgi for a long time, dating back to his days working for Yakov and Nikolai at F&P Event Management, but Mila has always seemed a little distant to Victor. It's nice to see her opening up more with Sara around.
As Victor places his leather briefcase on the table to pack his things, his phone buzzes on the dock connected to his computer. Victor smiles a little when he sees the photo of his mother pop up, and he plucks his phone off the dock to put it to his ear.
"Hello, Mama." He greets, leaning back into his office chair.
"Oh, you answered!" Nadia says in surprise, voice smooth over the phone. "Vitya, how are you? You don't call often enough."
"I'm good, I'm good." Victor chuckles. "Did you think I wouldn't pick up?"
"You don't have a good track record of it, no." His mother points out cheerfully, and Victor can almost feel her pinching his nose in joking reprimand. Victor certainly doesn't get his bluntness from his father. "You haven't called in almost two weeks."
"I've been busy with work. I send you messages, don't I?"
"Ah, but text isn't the same. I need to hear your voice to know how you're doing. It's the weekend— don't work yourself too hard."
"Yes, of course." Victor says absently, swiveling his seat back and forth. "We had a wedding to oversee today, so we had no choice."
"It's always the weddings," Nadia murmurs, her voice holding an endearing tone. "Well, as long as you're happy and have good meals, that's enough. How is Yuuri? Good, I hope?"
"Yes, things are going well." Victor perks up at the mention of his boyfriend, a smile spreading across his face unconsciously. "It was his birthday last week, and I threw him a little surprise party."
"I cooked dinner and made a photo album for his present." Victor says proudly. "I think it was a success."
His mother's answering hum on the other end of the call is approving, but a little distant. Victor listens carefully— this usually means she has more to say.
Finally, she breaks the silence. "You cooked?"
"Salmon and some sides. I bought dessert just in case."
"Amazing." In awe, Nadia wonders. "You won't even make coffee for your dear mama, and here you are cooking full meals for your boyfriend."
"To be fair, you say I never get the ratio of milk to coffee right, and that you'd rather make it yourself." Victor points out, amused. "What can I say? I like him."
"A little more than just 'like', I'm guessing." She teases, her smile clear over the phone.
Suddenly, it's quiet, and the smile is gone. Victor frowns, not sure why.
"Victor Dominikovich." Victor's mother says slowly. To anyone else, her tone would sound cordial, but Victor's heard it enough times to know it's anything but— especially with the use of his patronymic at the end. "When exactly did you plan on introducing your boyfriend of six months to us?"
"Seven, actually." Victor replies automatically, and immediately he knows he's said the wrong thing.
"Seven months. Seven months, and for all you sing his praises on our calls and in texts, you haven't introduced him to us?"
"Haven't I?" Victor says innocently, a sheepish flush growing hot under his collar. "I could have sworn I have."
"You have not." Nadia confirms bluntly, clearly peeved by Victor's aloofness. "Honestly, you talk about Yuuri's family so much I think they've adopted you as their own."
It's basically true— Victor has a good relationship with Yuuri's family, by virtue of their mutual love for Yuuri and their close proximity. Katsuki Flowers has become such a huge part of Victor's daily routine that it's become impossible not to love the people there. There's Mari, who's so supportive of he and Yuuri and who can always be counted on to tease Yuuri with him. There's Toshiya, who teaches him about saké and soccer (even if Victor doesn't follow it.) And of course, there's Hiroko, who welcomes Victor like her own son and makes sure both he and Yuuri are full and happy. Just thinking about Yuuri's family makes Victor smile, and his (real) mother clears her throat, aware of her son's tendency to let his mind wander.
"Vitya." She sighs, the edges of her annoyance fading fast. "Listen. Don't you think it's strange that you know so much about Yuuri's family and yet he doesn't know much about yours?"
"You haven't told him much about us. Isn't that right?"
"I-" Victor pauses, thinking. "He knows of you."
"And what does he know of us?" Nadia asks. "You know so much about his parents, and he knows so little of yours. Don't you think that's wrong?"
Wrong? No, not wrong— imbalanced, perhaps. Victor frowns, taking his mother's words in. Certainly, he and Yuuri interact and speak with the Katsukis more often, and Victor doesn't not talk about his family because he's ashamed of his family or distant from them. Victor's simply been so engrossed with learning everything about Yuuri that he's never stopped to return the favor.
"You're right." Victor gasps, shocked by this revelation. "You're absolutely right. This won't do."
"Silly boy." Exhaling fondly, Nadia murmurs. "It's no rush, and I'm sure you won't be coming to visit us in Florida this year, with your work and all. Ask Yuuri if he'd like to meet us on video call."
"How about on my birthday?" Victor suggests, eager to remedy the situation. "I'll ask him first, of course."
"I think we can make some time on Christmas just for you." Nadia jokes, and Victor relaxes. "Message your father and I so we can schedule a chat. You know his ears are like a sieve— everything goes in one ear and comes out of the other."
"Yes, I will." Victor says, scribbling a reminder to himself on his desk notepad. "I'll do that after I ask."
"Alright, that sounds good." His mother agrees, pleased. "I'll talk to you later, Vitya. I must go start dinner."
"Okay. Thank you for calling, Mama. Good night."
Nadia returns Victor's goodbye before ending the call, and Victor slips his phone into his coat pocket before winding his monochrome pinstriped scarf around his neck.
As Victor flips the office's master light switch off and leaves through the front glass door, he wonders if Yuuri is just as curious about him as Victor has been about Yuuri. Has Yuuri been waiting for Victor to say something- anything- about his family? If so, then Victor will willingly tell him everything, even down to the time when he ate his mother's lipstick as a toddler and got a stomach ache.
It's only fair and it's only right— Victor rushes down to the subway, dying to talk to Yuuri the entire way home.
It's been a week since Victor asked Yuuri about the video call with his family. To his relief and joy, Yuuri had agreed, timidly wondering if Victor's parents would like him or not. Victor, of course, knows for a fact that his parents will love Yuuri, and Victor makes sure Yuuri knows. After all, they've heard so much about him— Yuuri is certain to be much more charming in person.
In response to Victor's suggestion that they call his parents, Yuuri had told him to leave his schedule free that day. It was thrilling to realize that Yuuri was making plans for Victor's birthday, and that he wasn't told what they were. So many of Victor's birthdays in the past have been bundled with Christmas celebrations— after all, his birthday is December 25th— that Victor doesn't give much thought to his birthdays. But with Yuuri so earnestly requesting he leave his birthday open, Victor can't help but anticipate whatever Yuuri has in store for him.
The only thing marring Victor's excitement is the way Yuuri has been acting.
It's strange. All of the sudden, Yuuri has started avoiding Victor. Instead of going home with Victor after the florist closes each day, Yuuri's been citing busy evenings, requesting that Victor head home without him. If Yuuri's work is busy, Victor understands— he's busy as well, after all. They make concessions for each others' schedules.
But now, when they're at home together and have nothing to do, surely Yuuri could come to the living room and lounge around with Victor. Instead, Yuuri has holed himself up in the spare room (now Yuuri's room and their storage space) and the door is closed. Victor knows to respect Yuuri's personal space and his privacy, but this… This feels like more than just the need for personal space.
"Sorry, girl," Victor murmurs, gently moving Makkachin off his lap and onto the sofa. Loneliness gets the better of Victor at times, especially now that he's grown accustomed to Yuuri's presence and noises in his immediate surroundings. Even when Yuuri is silent it's calming, with the even cadence of his breaths there to set the rhythm of Victor's heartbeat.
Victor comes face to face with the white paneled door and knocks on it lightly. "Yuuri?"
There's the slam of a laptop lid and the "whap" of what Victor thinks is a notebook being flipped face-down onto a desk. The door clicks open a few seconds later, and Yuuri seems to be fighting to keep a neutral face.
"Yes, Victor?" Yuuri asks, only opening the door enough to show himself.
"I was wondering if you wanted to have dinner soon." Victor says lightly. "Do you want to help me with the food?"
Nodding, Yuuri steps out from behind the door and closes it behind himself. "Yeah, okay. Let me go wash my hands."
Victor accompanies Yuuri to the kitchen and they wash their hands in tandem, allowing each other time under the tap until their skin is clean. It's pleasantly domestic, as Victor always delights in. Chancing a side-glance at Yuuri, he wonders what could be eliciting this behavior. Yuuri doesn't seem that different from usual, but his isolating himself in the guest room is certainly peculiar.
As they eat reheated take-out, Victor notices the tension in Yuuri's shoulders, how they square without Yuuri knowing as they eat the leftover pasta. Perhaps work has been taxing the past week— Victor certainly knows the feeling.
When the dishes are placed in the sink to soak for later cleaning, Victor reclines on the sofa as he waits for Yuuri to come back from walking Makkachin. What could Victor do to help Yuuri in such a time of stress? Yuuri doesn't seem to be in the talking mood, nor does he seem to want Victor to know about his hardships.
When Yuuri returns and sheds his coat, hanging it and Makkachin's leash up, Victor outstretches his arms to invite Yuuri onto the sofa with him.
"Yuuri, come here?" Victor requests, opening and closing his hands in what he hopes is an endearingly childish act. "Sit with me."
Victor catches the split second of hesitation that stretches before Yuuri agrees and joins him. His back pressed to Victor's front is a good, comforting weight, and Victor tucks his chin in Yuuri's shoulder as he wraps his arms around his waist. It's the closest he's held Yuuri all day, besides their morning entanglement in bed and their hip-bumping at the kitchen counter and bathroom sink. Some of the worry clouding Victor's mind eases and he settles deeper into the cushions behind him. This is good— Yuuri isn't shying away. This feels close to how they usually are.
Moving a hand up across Yuuri's torso, Victor rests his palm just above Yuuri's pectoral, fingers falling on the tight muscle of his shoulder. It's very knotted, like a big stone wedged uncomfortably at the base of Yuuri's neck.
"You're so tense." Victor says, pressing the muscle lightly.
"I'll take a bath later." Yuuri replies, taking a deep breath.
"If you want, I'll give you a shoulder rub afterwards." Victor suggests. "I want to help."
He does, in more ways than just this. He wants Yuuri to say what's on his mind, to confide in Victor about whatever has his shoulders so wound up. Heck, Victor would go to the shop and literally help Yuuri, if there's anything he can do to aid the Katsukis. It doesn't seem as though business is dropping for them, and it certainly doesn't sound like there are any problems elsewhere. The tiny doubt in the back of Victor's mind that says their relationship is what's stressing Yuuri out manifests, holding his heart hostage until Yuuri relaxes a little, tilting his head back onto Victor's shoulder.
"That would be nice." Yuuri says, offering Victor a small smile. "Now?"
"Now is good." Victor agrees, returning Yuuri's smile and pressing a kiss to Yuuri's temple. "Go take a nice bath, and call me when you're done."
Victor sends Yuuri off that way, jokingly asking if Yuuri would like him to join him in the tub. Yuuri simply blushes at the idea, and Victor laughs, telling Yuuri to enjoy the bath.
In truth, there's so much more Victor could ask from Yuuri. "Tell me what's on your mind," or "is everything alright?" But he's fine like this, suspended in a state of unknowing. Victor knows Yuuri cares about him, and the sentiment is shared between them. Despite Yuuri's silence, Victor would rather not know and do what he can to help rather than say something to jeopardize it all.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, Victor's aware this sounds like desperation, and maybe he is desperate to make sure this— he and Yuuri— lasts. Yuuri not telling him what's going on must mean Yuuri doesn't want to worry Victor. It's likely that there's nothing wrong, and Yuuri just has some built up pressure.
Regardless, Victor will worry. The least he can do to help Yuuri's unspoken burden is to offer him a good massage.
Victor is worried about him.
Yuuri sinks lower into the water, even if it's a little too hot.
This isn't good— he's letting his distress over Victor's birthday show. Submerging his face up to his nose, Yuuri blows a couple of troubled bubbles into the water. What can he do? It's not as though he's great at acting.
When his fingers start to prune and the heat of the water starts to feel like too much, Yuuri rises and dries himself down. The last thing he wants is for Victor to worry that Yuuri is stressed over his birthday party, so the least Yuuri can do is let Victor take care of him.
Stepping out of the bathroom in just boxer-briefs and an old t-shirt, he sees Victor resting on the bed with a book and the lights dimmed down. Victor notices Yuuri enter and smiles, closing his book softly and resting it on the nightstand next to him.
"Hi," Victor says, sliding off the bed and walking up to Yuuri. "Are you feeling a little better now?"
"Yeah, the bath took some of the tightness away." Yuuri nods, looking to his shoulder and pressing at it with his own fingers. Victor watches him carefully, as though assessing how relaxed Yuuri's muscles actually are. Yes, Victor definitely knows Yuuri's feeling tense.
"That's good." Victor says, instead of asking Yuuri what's wrong. "I got you a glass of water in case you were thirsty after the bath. It wouldn't do if you got dehydrated." Victor explains, taking the drink from Yuuri's nightstand and offering it to him.
Yuuri takes the glass, thanking Victor quietly for it. It's a tall glass, but he manages to gulp it all down— it might be the nerves that make Yuuri do it.
At Victor's instruction, he gets on the bed with a pillow under his arms, propping him up and giving Victor access to his back. There's the soft give of the mattress as Victor straddles his hips, settling with his knees on either side of Yuuri.
"Is this okay?" Victor asks, resting some of his weight on Yuuri.
"Yeah," Yuuri replies. "Yeah, this is fine."
Humming in response, Victor skims his palms down both sides of Yuuri's spine. "Tell me if it hurts or if I should go softer."
"I'll tell you if I want you to go harder, too." Yuuri mutters, attempting to lighten the mood.
Victor's amused exhale is good to hear, and Yuuri rests his head in his crossed arms as Victor begins working in earnest.
It does feel good to have Victor's hands kneading his tight muscles. Being given a massage is intimate and restful, with the slow but strong way Victor thumbs against all Yuuri's sore spots.
So Victor's good at giving massages, Yuuri thinks to himself. That's new.
The past week has definitely been one for reflection on how much Yuuri truly knows about his boyfriend.
It began with his conversation with Phichit on the day he began brainstorming for Victor's party. Yuuri had gone home and thought, and thought, and thought. It wasn't awful, at the time. At the time, Yuuri had had some semblance of an idea of what he'd do for Victor's birthday. He'd find a place with a nice view to hold the party, and he could ask Phichit's friend to help with catering. He'd find someone to play the music, and—
And then Victor had asked if Yuuri wanted to video call his parents on the night of his birthday.
It was so sudden, so out of the blue, that Yuuri said yes without thinking too much of it. Victor doesn't— he never mentions his parents. The last time Yuuri recalls Victor bringing his parents up was when they were talking to Minako and she mentioned the Bolshoi Ballet. If not for that mention, Yuuri would have assumed that Victor didn't talk about (or to) his parents at all.
That's what made it so shocking when Yuuri realized he doesn't actually know that much about Victor.
There are some things he does know. Yuuri knows that Victor is kind and loving, but very blunt. Victor runs a wedding planning agency, wears fancy suits, and color coordinates his socks. He's Yuuri's boyfriend, who can't resist the urge to pet dogs he sees on the street to the point that Makkachin gets suspicious when he comes home smelling like other dogs. Most of all, Yuuri knows that Victor loves him, and Yuuri does love him back.
There's still a lot that he doesn't know about Victor. Yuuri knows Victor is Russian, but he doesn't know where in Russia Victor is from. He doesn't know about Victor's family, even though Victor knows so much about Yuuri's. He doesn't really know what Victor's hobbies are beyond spending time with him and Makkachin or reading, and he doesn't know what Victor wants for his birthday.
He doesn't even know what Victor's favorite color is— his favorite color. That's the third thing all "getting to know you" worksheets in primary school ask, which means Yuuri is less competent at getting to know his boyfriend than a printed handout for six year-olds. But he can't just hand Victor a worksheet and expect to learn about him that way. Yuuri should have learned all this months ago, long before he ever started coming over to Victor's place.
Victor hits a particularly tender spot and Yuuri winces, grunting in protest. Immediately, Victor's hands draw away from the spot, rubbing gently to soothe Yuuri.
"I'm sorry— did I hurt you?" Victor asks, working the heels of his palms in circles along the planes of his upper back.
"No." Yuuri mumbles, eyes closed. "No, keep going."
From then on, Victor uses a little less strength, careful not to disturb Yuuri as he relaxes into the sheets.
Yuuri wouldn't call this relaxing— it's more like his muscles have given up being so tense and let everything fall away under the added pressure of Victor's touch. Yuuri wants this birthday to be good for Victor— so, so good— but the two weeks that remain until it look just as hopeless on the planning front as the past week. Disappointing Victor is the last thing Yuuri wants, and he's determined to deliver.
At some point, his mind just fades out, the lethargy dropping away as the rest of his body stills with tiredness. There's the faint brush of Victor's hand across Yuuri's forehead, the removal of his glasses from his nose, the sudden enveloping warmth of the duvet— and then just sleep.
Another week is over, and Victor hates it.
Naturally, as the entire event planning industry gears up for the holidays, Weddings by V is busier than ever. No doubt, Katsuki Flowers is busy too. It makes the scarce time he and Yuuri have together between work precious, and therein lies the problem.
Things just keep getting more and more awkward.
It might not sound so bad to others— he and Yuuri still manage to have breakfast and dinner together each day, and they still send each other messages all the time, but Yuuri has become so distant.
This distance is why Victor has grown to hate the guest room that lies next to their actual bedroom. It's a stoic space that separates him from Yuuri, increasingly so, because Yuuri spends every spare moment in it. Victor still has no idea what goes on in that room, except for the snatches that he can see when Yuuri's not around. Yuuri's computer and journal are ever-present, and Victor won't breach his boyfriend's privacy by inspecting them. It would be disrespectful and invasive, and not something Victor will consider even though he's dying to know what has Yuuri so preoccupied.
It doesn't feel as though Yuuri notices Victor's unease, even though it feels clear as day to Victor. He found acne— acne— at the edges of his hairline just days ago, after maintaining flawlessly clear skin for nearly the past decade. Thankfully, Victor can hide that with his long bangs, but the fact that the pimples are there is concerning.
Even Yuuri noticed, yesterday. They were standing together in the bathroom preparing for the day ahead when Victor pushed his hair back with a headband and Yuuri stared at him. His brows furrowed and he reached out to feel the lumps, remarking that Victor was breaking out. Victor had swatted Yuuri's hand away without thinking, and Victor's heart seized. He apologized quickly, weakly supplying that the last thing one should do with pimples is touch them, but Yuuri had turned back to the sink, mumbling his own apology.
Sure, they'd made up just twenty minutes later over breakfast, but the ordeal still hurts to think about.
Today, Victor is tired of it all. He wants to know why things changed so quickly and how to fix them again— he can't change how busy work is, but he might be able to change how strange things between he and Yuuri have become.
It's with this conviction that Victor puts his fork down during dinner that night, looking up to catch his boyfriend's attention.
"Yuuri." Victor says in a careful tone. "Is there anything bothering you?"
Yuuri stops chewing and stares at Victor, swallowing before responding. "Bothering me?"
"Yes, bothering you." Victor repeats. "Don't you think things between us have been… strange, the past two weeks?"
Yuuri is silent, gaze flitting down to the table. That's a yes, in Yuuri's body language. "It's just work," He explains. "More orders than usual. You know, nothing big."
"I know that in both our lines of work, the holidays are a busy time, but that's not what I asked." Victor points out, feeling tension build up behind his eyes. "Yuuri, if something's wrong, please tell me."
"There's nothing wrong. It's just stress."
"You can't expect me to believe that 'work' is the only reason we're like this." Victor frowns, attempting to read Yuuri's expression. He looks conflicted, fully alert despite the dark circles under his eyes— Victor knows Yuuri's been staying up.
"But-" Yuuri begins, before pursing his lips. Victor waits for him to speak. "Victor, you don't have to worry. The holidays will be over soon, and we won't have as much work. It's just a seasonal thing-"
"You've been avoiding me." Victor says quietly. He knows he looks just as crushed as he sounds, the pressure of acting as though things have been okay for two weeks finally escaping through the cracks in Victor's control. And he can't care, not when Yuuri is giving him flimsy excuses. The dread wells up in Victor's chest again, cold and heavy.
"Victor." Yuuri murmurs, eyes going wide.
"If you need space, that's fine. But you've been locking yourself up in that room for hours and hours each day, without even telling me why." Victor continues, heart beating fast. "I want to give you space and privacy, Yuuri, but do you see why I'm concerned?"
"I'm sorry." Yuuri replies, after a short pause.
Sorry? That's it?
"That doesn't fix anything, Yuuri." Victor states. "At the very least, tell me why you're stressed, or how I can help you. I want to get you through whatever you have going on."
"It's enough for you to just be here by my side." Yuuri says nervously, his voice rising. "Really, you don't have to worry about me."
"How could I stop worrying about you? I have no idea what's going on in your head."
Yuuri purses his lips again, staring hard into the table through his glasses. His silence only makes Victor's stomach twist.
"I'm… planning your birthday party."
"I've been trying to plan your birthday party, okay?" Yuuri's voice cracks, and his eyes shine with emotion. "That's why I've been holing myself up in that room. I can't plan it in front of you."
Victor had braced himself for the worst— a devastating heartbreak, or upsetting medical test results, or a sudden bankruptcy— but the thought of birthday planning had never crossed his mind. If he weren't so shocked, he might laugh.
"That's why you've been so stressed recently?" Victor asks in complete disbelief. "You've been planning my birthday party?"
"I don't have experience with event planning like you do, Victor."
"But that's…" Victor trails off, dumbfounded. "That doesn't really matter."
"It does." Yuuri retorts, looking very serious. "You deserve to have a great birthday!"
Victor stares at Yuuri. His boyfriend is so deathly serious that Victor can't help but crack a smile. "Oh, Yuuri. Can I hug you?"
"It's important, Victor." Yuuri frowns, looking at Victor like he's grown an extra head.
Victor furrows his brow. "No, no. Not if it's stressing you out. I love your earnestness, but you know that I'm happiest when you're happy, don't you?" He says, reaching across the table to cup his hand over Yuuri's. "I… the thought is enough."
"No, it's not." Yuuri stares indignantly back at Victor, but he doesn't reject Victor's touch. "You gave me a great birthday. It's not right if I don't do the same for you."
"Is this what you've been so stressed about? Giving me as good of a birthday as I gave you?" Victor marvels. "I can tell you one thing, right now, that would really make my birthday special."
This piques Yuuri's attention. "What is it?"
"Your being there to celebrate with me." Victor admits readily.
Yuuri looks taken aback. "That can't be all."
"I promise you, it is."
"That's not enough."
"No, it is." Victor insists, squeezing Yuuri's fist under his palm. "You are enough, Yuuri. Why can't you see that?"
Yuuri takes a breath to reply, then closes his mouth again. He's searching Victor's expression warily, almost with a tinge of fear— why, Victor has no clue.
"I don't…" Yuuri speaks again, after a brief silence. "I won't let you settle for less than you deserve."
The workings of Yuuri's mind are nothing but a complete mystery to Victor. What could Victor deserve more than what he already has and loves? He loves Yuuri, he loves Makkachin. The world could be on fire outside and he would be content to stay, just the three of them, without a care. He would save his family and Yuuri's from the inferno, of course, as well as some of their friends, but the point is that Yuuri means the world to Victor.
Yuuri himself can't seem to comprehend that.
"You're all I want. Can't you understand?" Victor asks, thoroughly confused.
"I can't." Yuuri responds bluntly. "I just can't."
The slow fire of annoyance that's been smoking in the pit of Victor's stomach sparks, making true irritation flare up to replace the fear that's dissipated from his chest.
"Fine." Victor says coolly, collecting his half-eaten dinner and bringing it to the trash can. "Plan your birthday party."
"No, I'm sure it'll be fantastic. After all, you worried me sick to plan it." Bitterness is fueling his words now, but Victor can't bring himself to care. "I had no idea Yuuri Katsuki could be such a selfish human being."
This truly stops Yuuri in his tracks, his dismay shocked into something much deeper. Anguish, maybe. Yuuri's hands shake on the tabletop, and Victor bites his lip in regret. He's definitely gone too far.
"Sorry." Yuuri murmurs, defeated, and guilt floods Victor.
"Yuuri, I should be apologizing. I'm so sorry, I shouldn't have snapped at you." Voice softer, Victor abandons his plate in the sink and rushes to face Yuuri. "It's just— it's been a trying week, and-"
"It's okay, Victor." Yuuri lifts his head. "I worried you."
"No, it's not okay. I should never have said… what I said." Victor finishes, for lack of better words. "You're doing this on my behalf. That's the very opposite of selfish. Could you ever forgive me?"
"Well," Yuuri ponders, tilting his head in thought. A wobbly smile appears on his face. "Maybe, if you let me continue planning your birthday party."
Victor hesitates, affronted by Yuuri's cunning. "I… I suppose. If there's just a week left, you must already have something prepared." The event-planner in him would protest at even the proposition of cancelling a booking so close to the day-of. It's only fair that he allows Yuuri to continue. "But I'm going to make sure you get a good night's sleep every night— no more staying up." Victor declares. "You shouldn't go into work sleep deprived."
"Yeah, okay." Yuuri replies, softening at Victor's agreement and standing to meet his gaze.
They simply stare at each other for a moment. The relief doesn't really hit Victor until Yuuri comes forward to meet him in a kiss, his arms tight around Victor's waist as Victor gets his own arms around as much of Yuuri as he can.
They'd just fought. They'd just fought, but everything is okay, and Yuuri is still here. The strain of the past two weeks seems to melt, soothing like a cathartic balm over the thin walls of Victor's heart.
It's not as though everything has been totally resolved. Yuuri could still push himself too far in the week before Christmas, and they might argue again, trivially or not. But with this fight as proof, Victor knows with certainty that Yuuri is staying, and will probably stay for a long time.
Yuuri still apologizes to Victor a few hours later, when they've slipped under the duvet with their furnace of a dog at their feet.
"I'm really sorry for making you worry." Yuuri whispers, then yawns. Victor pulls him closer to fit Yuuri's face into his shoulder with a mumble, too exhausted to form coherent words.
It's a good dream that Victor has that night.
I hope you enjoyed this!
I feel like some of this is Pre-beach scene Ep 4, the Carpark scene, and the Barcelona hotel conversation rolled into one. It gave me a nice feel for Victor and Yuuri's characterization!
Let me know what you think :)
The next chapter probably won't be up for a while, but rest assured it will be happier than this! Next up: Victor's (actual) birthday.
1Mi casa es su casa: Spanish for "My home is your home."[return to text]
2Patronymic: A part of a person's name that originates from their father's name, used in Russian for familial or formal address. Victor's dad's name in this fic is Dominik, so Victor's patronymic/patronym is Dominikovich.[return to text]
Chapter 20: Under the Snowfall
Chapter by ingthing, ingthing_YOI (ingthing)
Victor's birthday (and Christmas) arrives, whether Victor is ready or not.
Hey everyone- it's been a couple of months! I hope you've all made it through 2017 relatively unscathed. It's nearly over- yay!
I wanted to get this out for the 25th as a little holiday gift for all you lovely people, but the story ended up getting away from me and demanded more time than expected
That said, a lot of things have happened in my life since I last posted. I wonder if my writing now reflects that— perhaps for the better? I don't know, let me know if you find anything different!
I hope you enjoy this chapter. It was a long time coming!
(As usual, this isn't beta'd!)
Here's some amazing art by @uncoolly for this chapter! Maybe look at it after you read so you don't get spoilers, though!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
When Victor wakes, Yuuri isn't in bed— for a brief, irrational moment, Victor's heart seizes with dread.
It's the sound of the toilet flushing a short distance away that eases the sudden tightness in Victor's shoulders.
Yuuri is still here.
Sitting up with a sigh, Victor rubs the tiredness from his eyes and pats the sheets beside him to summon Makkachin. Victor pets her there for a while, with her head rested on his thigh and the slow, steady glide of warm fur under his fingers. It helps, but there's still unease that rests in the pit of Victor's stomach and refuses to leave.
There's the slow turn of the bathroom door handle and the creak of hinges as Yuuri steps back into the bedroom; he looks surprised to see Victor up.
"Hi," Yuuri says softly, voice still sleep-roughened and a little croaky. He turns the bathroom light off before easing the door closed behind him. "Did I wake you up?"
"No, I woke up on my own— good morning, Yuuri." Victor says. There isn't the usual chipperness to his voice, but it'll have to do. "Have you been up long?"
"I just got up to use the bathroom." Yuuri replies, taking a seat next to Victor at the edge of the bed. Idly, Yuuri exhales, resting his hand on Makkachin's side to join Victor in petting her.
Victor watches Yuuri carefully, watches the way Yuuri's eyelashes lower as he casts his gaze down to their dog and the thoughtful set of his brow. Yuuri's glasses are still on the nightstand on his side of the room, but it's hard to read his expression all the same. So instead, Victor follows Yuuri's lead in looking down at Makkachin and focusing on the repetition of scratching through her fur.
It's Yuuri who breaks the silence as his hand stops mid-motion, his tone quiet but resolute. It's clear to see that he's done some early morning thinking.
"Victor," Yuuri begins, looking up to meet his boyfriend's eyes. "I'm… I know I said this last night, but I'm sorry. About your birthday, I mean."
The apology makes Victor's stomach churn. The blame couldn't rest entirely on Yuuri— no, he's to blame too. Yuuri's strange behavior had been going on for some time now, and he didn't confront Yuuri about it until it became too much to bear. If they'd talked earlier, maybe things would have turned out differently; maybe Yuuri wouldn't be apologizing over and over now. He shouldn't feel the need to do so.
"I'm sorry, Yuuri. I should have said something earlier, but it's alright. I understand now— you were trying to surprise me. You don't have to apologize anymore."
"Okay." Yuuri says, slowly, as though he doesn't quite believe Victor. "I'll still try to surprise you though. Just in a way that doesn't make you worry."
"That would be appreciated," Victor agrees, a smile tugging at his lips. "I'm sure I'll love whatever you have planned."
Yuuri nods quietly, considering Victor's words as he gives Makkachin a good belly rub. After a moment, he remarks, "I don't know how you do this event-planning stuff for a living. I can barely handle a single birthday."
"Well, I've had practice, and it's not all sunshine and roses— though I suppose in your line of work, it is."
"Not all the time!" Yuuri points out. "At Christmas, we get poinsettias."
There are grins on both their faces now, and it's so good to see and feel. That they can joke like this is reassuring, is grounding— and when Victor spreads his arms wide in invitation, Yuuri comes close to hug him back. Tension bleeds from Victor with a deep breath; it's muffled against Yuuri's neck, and Victor knows, with certainty, that they'll be fine.
When Victor's alarm goes off moments later, Yuuri yelps, tearing himself from their embrace, and apologizes as he scrambles through a severely abridged version of his morning routine and makes it out the door late.
Victor smiles helplessly as he and Makkachin send Yuuri off— at the very least, Victor will let Yuuri apologize for ending a good hug too early.
Yuuri arrives at the flower shop to see Mari sitting in his spot by the cash register.
“Wow, you’re late.” She remarks over the doorbell’s jingling. “About time. I’m missing breakfast.”
Mari tilts her head as Yuuri stops in front of the counter, completely out of breath and doubled over with his hands on his knees. “Sor- Sorry,” he pants, straightening up to shed his jacket. Despite the winter cold, he’s worked up a sweat from near-sprinting to get here. He probably would have arrived sooner if snow hadn’t melted all over the streets— Yuuri may have lateness anxiety, but he’s not a daredevil.
"I've already spritzed the flowers for you, so don't do it again till later." Mari says, stepping off the stool and moving towards the doorway behind it. "I'm gonna go eat."
Yuuri's stunningly well-timed stomach-growl is audible over the white noise of the shop's heater, and Mari's surprise turns into an amused grin as Yuuri flushes.
"Okay, I guess I can bring something down for you."
"Thanks," Yuuri murmurs sheepishly, hanging his coat up as his sister disappears up the stairwell.
He pulls his Katsuki Flowers apron over his head and gets back to his post with a thermos of hot tea— he hasn't totally woken up yet, and the hot water boiler in the back room had fresh water in it.
Yuuri likes the morning lull of the shop, when passer-bys are more concerned with getting to work than buying bouquets and he's left alone downstairs while his family eats after sorting out the early deliveries. They do get the odd customer or two at this time of day but usually, it's time for Yuuri to think.
His conversation with Victor last night had totally turned Yuuri's birthday plans for him around— in truth, Yuuri had spent much of last night sleepless because of it. Under Phichit's guidance, Yuuri's made bookings and called people he would never have thought to call. Victor might enjoy the party he had planned— it was pretty amazing, if Yuuri did say so himself. There was going to be a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant with a table for twelve to seat all the people Chris had drawn a guestlist up from for him. There was going to be a party cruise that night on the Hudson, courtesy of Phichit's work connections. They'd get to come pretty close to the Statue of Liberty— despite having lived in New York for ages, neither he nor Victor had seen it. Yes, Victor might enjoy all that Yuuri had planned… but Yuuri had swiftly scrapped it all last night. He'd have to apologize to Chris and Phichit later, but this plan— Yuuri's new plan— would hopefully outshine all that.
Footsteps alert Yuuri that someone's on their way down the stairs, but instead of Mari, his Mom enters the room with a plate of neatly rolled eggs and a steaming bowl of rice.
"Good morning, Yuuri!" Hiroko says in Japanese as she hands the food to her son. "Let me know if you want any more, okay?"
"Okay, thanks." Yuuri nods, accepting the meal gratefully. "Wait, Mom?"
Hiroko turns just as she's about to exit the room, a curious look on her face.
"There's something I want to do for Victor on his birthday, but I need to ask you something."
"Oh, it's Vic-chan's birthday soon, isn't it?" She lights up, clasping her hands together. "When was it again, the 25th?"
Yuuri can practically feel the cogs turning in his mother's head. "Yeah, it is— but I have something planned."
Thankfully, Hiroko is excited by his idea and readily agrees to lend Yuuri what he needs— but not before warning him against freezing to death.
"We won't, we'll have the heater out- can you tell Dad, too?" Yuuri says, mixing his rice to cool it down.
"Of course! Want me to cook you something?"
"Actually, I was wondering if you could teach me how to do it. Cook, I mean."
Even if Yuuri's plan for Victor's birthday flops, seeing the exuberant smile that breaks out on his mother's face has already made the process worth it.
How well he'll actually cook on the day of, however, is an entirely different story.
The week that leads up to Christmas and Victor's birthday are hectic, and a little tinsel and bauble covered tree sits on the coffee table as proof that they tried to be festive.
But this morning has been a good morning— for once, they don't have to worry about alarms. Though Yuuri is partial to sleeping in on weekends, Victor tends to be up early whether he wants to be or not. But it's his birthday and Christmas, so even if he wakes at just past seven in the morning, Victor can ignore it, turning his face back to the pillow instead. Yuuri's back is ahead, and it rises and falls gently with rhythmic breaths; Victor presses his forehead to it and lets the warmth pull him back to sleep again.
By the time he wakes up again sunlight is pouring through a crack between the curtains, and it casts a stripe across the wrinkled duvet. For once, he's slept in past Yuuri, and the jingling of Makkachin's leash outside the bedroom tells Victor where his boyfriend is. Despite the heating, the apartment is chilly; Victor puts his robe and slippers on before heading into the living room.
There, he finds Yuuri unclipping Makkachin from her leash, a dusting of snow melting rapidly on Makkachin's quilted coat. Yuuri stands up to see Victor approaching him.
"You slept for a long time." He remarks, accepting a hug. "I even started breakfast."
"Brunch, now." Victor replies into Yuuri's shoulder. He can see the analog clock on the TV stand— it's well past ten already. Victor can't remember the last time he slept in past eight. As though to punctuate that point, he yawns, one hand coming up to cover his mouth.
"Well, that's okay." Yuuri laughs, setting the leash down on the foyer sideboard to take Victor's hands in his own. "Remember what day it is?"
Victor hums as though he doesn't, tilting his head in feigned ignorance. "Is it Easter? Or the Fourth of July? I don't have a grill, though."
"Not those?" Victor grins. "Then it must be Christmas."
"It's your birthday." Yuuri says, taking his boots off at the door and stripping out of his jacket. "So I made french toast. I hope that's okay."
"Yes, it's okay. That sounds perfect." Victor grins in excitement, following after Yuuri as he goes to the kitchen and retrieves their breakfast from the oven where he left it to stay warm.
As he watches Yuuri, Victor's suddenly struck with a realization.
"Yuuri, I'll be right back." Victor hops off the kitchen stool in haste, and Yuuri watches him go.
Victor takes off for the bathroom— one look in the mirror makes him gasp. He'd greeted Yuuri with remnants of his overnight skincare mask peeled up all over his face.
A while later, after freshly grooming himself, Victor sits down with Yuuri to enjoy their decidedly decadent brunch. Somewhere, Yuuri had found berries and cream, and he'd used brioche instead of their regular whole wheat bread. Makkachin seems to enjoy their breakfast too, if her reaction to being fed a piece of crust is anything to go by.
"I'm being spoiled already." Victor says happily, though he winces when he leans back with some discomfort. He may have eaten a little too quickly.
"That's the point." Yuuri shrugs, taking a last bite before setting his utensils down. "You don't have any plans for the rest of the day, do you?"
"No. You asked me last night, too."
"I'm just making sure." Yuuri explains. "I need to go… run some errands, later. Which means I'll be gone for a few hours— but I'll be back afterwards. Then we'll go at around five-thirty."
"Errands? On Christmas?" Victor asks, genuinely confused. "What errands? I thought we took care of groceries on Tuesday."
Yuuri hesitates for a moment before clarifying. "For your birthday. Not the groceries."
"Oh." Victor raises his eyebrows as he replies. "Oh, I see."
In truth, the idea of Yuuri's birthday surprise is still daunting to Victor. As promised, Yuuri has been sleeping at regular hours every night since their argument, but the actual surprise is still… well, a surprise. Victor knows he'll love anything Yuuri has to offer, but whether Yuuri has taken his advice to heart is yet to be seen. What Victor said that day is true— all he wants is for Yuuri to celebrate his birthday with him.
"I thought we could do something together before I have to go." Yuuri suggests over the sound of water running. He'd brought their dirty dishes over to the kitchen sink for washing while Victor was lost in thought. "Maybe we can see a movie or go to the winter market. Whatever you want."
Absentmindedly scratching Makkachin behind the ears, Victor considers his options, but the choice is obvious— especially if he wants to show Yuuri how much he really treasures his company.
"Let's stay in, Yuuri. It's so cold outside." Victor says, coming up to Yuuri and hugging him from behind. "Maybe we can find something to watch online."
As soon as Victor's settled on the couch, Yuuri comes over and sits between his legs, as they've become used to doing… And immediately punches "puppy video compilation" into the search bar on the TV.
"Yuuri." Victor frowns, wrapping his arms around his boyfriend's waist. "Are you trying to make me cry on my birthday?"
"Mm, not yet." Yuuri murmurs, transfixed by the search results on screen.
Yuuri throws Victor a coy grin in response before clicking on the first video listed.
Fortunately, Victor doesn't cry despite the heart-burstingly adorable footage. Although he woke up so late— or perhaps because he woke up so late— he's ready for a nap by the time Yuuri gets up to leave a few hours later. Though Victor would prefer to be hugging Yuuri, Makkachin is a welcomed alternative, and he feels the brush of a warm hand over his temple before he sleeps again.
"Victor, it's five."
Yuuri's voice comes just as Victor is on the verge of waking, and he opens his eyes to see Yuuri looking down at him from behind the sofa.
"Wow-" Victor's cut off by his own yawn as he sits up; he doesn't even bother covering his mouth. At some point, the knit throw blanket they normally kept folded on the ottoman had been draped over him. "How long was that?"
Yuuri leans on the backrest, arms crossed over it. "It's been a little over three hours. Have you been sleeping all this time?"
"I had to go to the bathroom about an hour in, but I must have been so comfortable I fell asleep again afterwards."
"I could tell." Yuuri says. "You should get ready— we're going out in a while."
"Mm." Victor hums, falling back onto the pillows and smiling as he closes his eyes. "But it's so nice and warm here."
Yuuri exhales fondly, a familiar noise now that Victor's playful, petulant moods have become more common. But instead of more words, Yuuri's lips are suddenly soft against Victor's, lingering for a little while before moving away again. Victor opens his eyes, a little surprised.
"Don't you want to go for your birthday surprise, Victor?" Yuuri asks, tilting his head. There's a seriousness to his gaze, though it's not pushy or desperate.
Perhaps Victor's still reluctant to see what Yuuri had planned for him. Maybe, he's scared to see what might happen. But he can't deny the earnestness in Yuuri's actions, and as much as he wanted to give Yuuri the time of his life on his birthday, Yuuri must want to do the same for Victor.
(Not that Yuuri needs to make any improvements in that regard. The past few months have already been wonderful.)
"Of course I do, Yuuri." Victor looks up at his boyfriend, offering a bright smile. "Just let me get changed and I'll be right with you."
It takes a few minutes of deliberation at his wardrobe for Victor to settle on what to wear— he doesn't know what they're doing, so he errs on the safe side with a comfy sweater and slacks ensemble— but they make it out the door soon, after Victor nearly forgets the bag of presents he's prepared for the Katsukis.
The wind bites a little through the wool of Victor's winter coat; an extra layer would have been ideal. He tucks his face deeper into his scarf as they walk against the current, his gloved hand warm in Yuuri's as Makkachin trots beside him. There are a thousand places in the city they could be going, and even more things to be doing— Victor would know, he's an event planner. (There are restrictions placed against having dogs at certain venues, certainly, but Victor stays away from those for the most part.)
For some reason, he's totally caught off-guard when they stop in front of Katsuki Flowers.
"Okay, we're here." Yuuri reveals, muffled through his scarf. He retrieves a key from his pocket and opens the shop door to allow Victor in before him, and then shuts and latches the door quietly.
So this is where Yuuri has Victor's birthday surprise in store, literally. It's a pleasant revelation, but Victor's sure there must be more to it than the dark storefront.
Whatever Yuuri has planned must lie upstairs.
They've created some amazing memories in this place— not only is it the place where he and Yuuri first met, but Yuuri's family is delightful. Victor loves every moment he spends in their company. They've had many dinners here, and on Yuuri's birthday, they had a family celebration that Victor will never forget.
"Victor?" Yuuri says, bringing Victor back from his speculation.
"The flower shop." Victor smiles, beginning to remove his scarf with his free hand. "Of course."
"Wait, you should keep that on for now."
"Oh?" Stopping mid-motion, Victor blinks at Yuuri.
"You'll see." Yuuri says cryptically. "Didn't you want to drop those presents off for my parents and Mari? They want to wish you a happy birthday too."
Venturing upstairs as smoothly as two grown men and a large dog can, Victor is surprised to see that, on the first floor, there's no party setup to be seen. Seeing Yuuri's family is always a bright point of Victor's day, and he gratefully accepts the well-wishes and hugs they offer before handing each family member their gifts. Makkachin is just as happy— they all laugh as she runs straight into the apartment and makes herself at home on the living room floor.
"Yuuri worked very hard for today, Vic-chan!" Hiroko informs Victor as she beams proudly at her son. "I hope you like the-"
"Mom," Yuuri interrupts. "It's supposed to be a surprise."
"I was going to say 'surprise'!" She huffs, frowning at Yuuri. "Anyway, have a good night, you two! We'll look after Makkachin for you."
"Thanks, mom. Merry Christmas!" Yuuri turns to go up the stairs again, and Victor follows after giving his own holiday greeting.
It becomes clear very quickly that they're headed for the roof. The surprise is already perfect— Victor loves it, and he isn't even up there yet.
When they reach the creaky metal door at the end of the stairs, Yuuri opens it, pulling a gust of chilly air inside; he was right to tell Victor to keep his scarf on. He's prepared for the cold, that way.
What he isn't prepared for is how perfect his surprise is.
Victor can feel Yuuri's gaze on him as they step out onto the freezing rooftop, but Victor's eyes are fixed on the greenhouse in front of him. It glows in the darkness from the dim lighting inside, and Victor can't seem to breathe, whether due to the weather or the sight.
"Come on." Yuuri says, squeezing Victor's hand to prompt him.
They arrive at the front door of the greenhouse, and Yuuri opens it for Victor.
Victor has never been inside the greenhouse before— when he was invited to the rooftop in the past, the weather was warmer, and he and Yuuri opted to sit on the swinging bench to the side in the balmy spring sun. It was where he'd asked Yuuri out for the first time, and the memory of that day makes Yuuri's surprise even sweeter.
Nestled between the sturdy wooden tables on either side of the translucent glass structure is a carefully spread-out blanket, framed by the strands of twinkling lights strung around the greenhouse from its hanging plants and surfaces. Against one table, a board is propped up, familiar pillows assembled against it— Victor realizes they're some of the same ones Yuuri had brought to their blossom viewing earlier that year. Though they don't have cherry blossoms to add to the ambience this time, vibrant red poinsettias and cream-white lilies rest in their pots on the floor and tables, lending a faint floral scent to the air. A small floor heater radiates orange in the corner, and it warms Victor's feet as he steps into the greenhouse.
"This is…" He trails off, at a loss for words. There's a squeezing sensation in Victor's chest, and he gapes, taking the room in.
Yuuri closes the door behind them and takes his jacket off, slipping out of his shoes and leaving them at the edge of the blanket as he steps onto it. "I didn't know what to do for your birthday," he explains, sitting on the blanket as Victor remembers himself and follows suit. Yuuri reaches up to take Victor's hand, guiding him down to sit next to him. "I asked Phichit what I should do at first. I started planning so late— I really panicked because booking anything for Christmas Day is a nightmare, especially when it's already November."
"You can say that again." Victor remarks, smiling sympathetically. Yuuri smiles back, looking a little bashful.
"I didn't… realize how little I knew about you until I was deep into planning. And then we had that argument, and you told me, and I didn't believe you. I'm sorry."
Victor opens his mouth to tell Yuuri not to apologize, but Yuuri continues before he can say anything.
"And after we talked," Yuuri pauses, as though he's considering his next words, "I stayed up all night thinking— I know you told me to sleep, but I had to. I didn't know where I went wrong."
Resting against the pillows behind them, Victor furrows his brow. He hadn't noticed Yuuri had stayed up; perhaps it was due to his own exhausted relief.
"It took a while for me to realize that I do know a lot about you. For one thing, you like big romantic gestures, like when I brought you flowers at work or the stuff from that movie we saw a while back— but what I really want is for you to smile. The real kind, when your eyes crinkle and you blush a little." Smiling ruefully, Yuuri wrings his hands together in his lap and looks down in embarrassment. "I was just such an anxious mess I forgot you do that most when we're alone together. I really should have believed you when you told me that's what you wanted for your birthday."
"I'll make it more clear in the future," Victor determines as he shifts, "starting now."
Yuuri looks up, curious, as Victor leans in. He has to get up onto his knees on the cold concrete floor to come nearly nose-to-nose with Yuuri, but it's well worth it; he feels the anticipatory flush burning up Yuuri's cheeks as he meets Yuuri's gaze; Yuuri's eyes gleam in the dim light.
"This is what I want, my Yuuri— us." Victor says plainly. "That's everything I'll ever ask for."
"That, and calling breakfast 'brunch' if it's past ten a.m." Yuuri murmurs. But his teasing is edgeless, paired with the sweet smile on his lips and the look in his eyes, which are dark but sparkle with joy.
Victor really has no choice but to kiss him. He licks his lips once before he does, but Yuuri doesn't need any warning. Yuuri's arms come around Victor's neck as he inhales deep through his nose, the tension releasing from his muscles as he pulls Victor close as well as he can without getting off-balance. And it's warm— so warm. It's not want or need fueling each slide of their lips— it's security, the sureness of having something and knowing it can and will work. Victor can even taste it— there's a telltale tinge of peppermint on Yuuri's breath that informs him his boyfriend isn't as uncertain as he seems.
Victor chuckles breathily when they break for air, his forehead against Yuuri's. "You knew I would like this."
"Kind of, yeah." Yuuri admits, with that shy confidence of his.
Victor loves it— loves him. He tells Yuuri so, and Yuuri tells him too, immediately. Victor won't forget it.
Eventually, he sits back down, and they lean shoulder to shoulder with the thick blanket Yuuri hauled up from his old bedroom over their shoulders. Watching as Yuuri rubs his fingers idly, Victor's mortified when his stomach rumbles.
Yuuri doesn't laugh— he just smiles triumphantly, produces a stacked bento box from somewhere to the side, and asks Victor if he'd like to eat.
It turns out that all the late days Yuuri had spent at the flower shop were, not, in fact, spent arranging flowers, but learning how to cook instead— a fact that Victor simply gushes over, because the resulting meal is incredible.
"Yuuri, this is delicious! You're amazing— I have to thank your mother!" Victor says with his mouth half-full, disregarding proper etiquette.
"Why? I cooked it." Yuuri points out, frowning.
"Well, she made you and taught you how to cook. I think she deserves some credit."
Yuuri concedes Victor's point, because his mother's secret recipe for fried pork cutlet really is life-changing.
They're almost finished feeding each other bites of the adorable santa-topped strawberry cream cake Yuuri had in the cooler at the back of the greenhouse (it held up through several hours of waiting, thankfully) when Victor's phone, discarded to the side in the dark, lights up with a rhythmic buzzing.
"Ah," Victor remarks, craning his head to peer at his screen without actually moving. Yuuri stops his fork mid-motion, bringing it back down to the plate.
"Who is it?" He asks, watching as Victor picks the phone up.
It's almost nine-fifteen— fifteen minutes after the time Victor had agreed to video call his parents at— and his mother's face is on screen as the phone rings.
"Shoot." Victor murmurs, looking from the phone to his boyfriend. "It's my mom— I completely forgot."
"I didn't." Yuuri says, blinking at Victor. "Aren't you going to answer?"
"You're fine with video calling them now?" Victor asks, just to make sure. "We could always go home first."
Yuuri nods. "It's fine. We shouldn't make your parents wait."
Victor holds back on telling Yuuri that he’s already made his parents wait. Instead, he holds the phone in front of them and presses a button on his phone screen to receive the call. As the screen loads, he glances at Yuuri, who seems to be pursing his lips.
"Remember, they already love you." Victor reminds Yuuri, taking his hand in his own. "You don't have to be nervous."
"I'm still going to be-" Yuuri mutters, but he's cut short when the video call comes to life, Victor's mother appearing on screen.
"Hello? Hello?" She says to no-one in particular.
"Mama? Can you see us?" Victor replies, looking closer.
"I can see you." She looks around, as though trying to extend her vision beyond the scope of the front-facing camera on Victor's phone. "Where is he— where’s your boyfriend?"
"He's right here! Yuuri, this is my mom— Nadia." Victor turns the phone to Yuuri, who holds his hands out, not quite sure whether Victor is handing him the phone entirely or just facing it towards him.
"H-Hello!" Yuuri greets, waving one hand. "It's nice to meet you."
"Hi, Yuuri— Nadia is just fine, really." Nadia smiles prettily, reminding Yuuri of Victor's smile— so that's where he gets it from. She frowns, suddenly, and Yuuri tenses. "Vitya, why are you sitting so far apart? Get closer, so we can see you both."
(Vitya. Yuuri hasn't heard that nickname before. He'll ask Victor what that means later.)
"Oh? Oh, alright." Victor says, caught off-guard. He and Yuuri scoot closer, although it's hard because of their corresponding arms and shoulders.
"No, closer," Nadia insists. "I can't see either of your faces this way— Victor's is simply so big!"
Victor and Yuuri quickly make a few adjustments to their position; Victor mutters that his face isn't that big under his breath. They manage to squish their faces as close together as they can with Yuuri's leg hooked over Victor's and Victor's torso angled so Yuuri's shoulder is in front.
"Is that better?" Victor asks, raising an eyebrow.
"That’s perfect.” Victor’s mother says, before turning to address someone off-screen. “Dominik. Dominik! They’re here.”
“You couldn’t wait until I finished making the tea?” A deeper, accented voice replies, getting louder as its owner, Victor’s father, approaches. Two mugs come into view on the surface of the table that the phone (or tablet, considering the view from the camera is so large) is propped up on, and Dominik comes into view beside Nadia.
Victor’s parents make a striking pair. Although Victor bears stunning resemblance to his mother, with her pointed jawline and fair features, his nose, light hair, and blue eyes are evidently from his father. They’re both dressed fashionably, in deep reds and greens for Christmas— oh god, is Yuuri even presentable in his old button-up? He’s been running around all day, he could have at least brushed his hair down—
“So this is Yuuri?” Dominik says, making eye contact with Yuuri through the camera. His speech is a little slower and calmer than Nadia's, and Yuuri is struck by the difference. “It’s nice to finally meet you. Vitya has told us a lot about you.”
“I’ve heard.” Yuuri replies, nodding. He’s at a loss for things to say. “I… can’t say the same of you, but it’s great to finally meet you both.”
Yuuri wants to dig a hole into the ground and live in it immediately after realizing what he said— but before he can do so, Victor's father bursts into hearty laughter and his mother throws Victor a knowing look.
"You must have thought his parents lived in Siberia, since he never brings us up." She remarks cheerily, still boring holes into Victor with her eyes. "But we're much closer than that."
"Florida is basically another country." Victor jokes. He's seemingly impervious to her steely gaze, and he bears its weight with a bright smile.
"Oh, yes," She retorts, without missing a beat. "The weather is much nicer down here. You should have visited, Vitya, and brought Yuuri with you."
"Now, I'm sure he's busy with work, Nadia." Dominik says, placing a hand on his wife's arm. "As he was last year… And the year before that."
"Papa." Victor groans, leaning his head on Yuuri's.
Yuuri is quickly learning that the Nikiforovs are quite the straightforward family.
"Maybe we can visit next year." Yuuri suggests. Suddenly, he feels the family's eyes on him. "I mean, of course, only if you'll have me—"
Victor lifts his head to blink surprisedly at Yuuri. "Yuuri. You want to visit my parents?"
"I mean, why not?" Yuuri shrugs, a small smile spreading across his face. "You see my parents all the time."
"Preferably, you would come along as well, Vitya." Nadia chimes, to Yuuri's amusement. "You can't wait for us to visit New York all the time. Come down here and get some sun."
"I'll visit, I promise." Victor concedes, beginning to smile too. "But we really are busy with work."
"Floristry, was it?" Dominik addresses Yuuri, eyebrows raised.
"Yes, my family has a shop. Katsuki Flowers." Yuuri explains. "I work with Victor for a lot of his weddings."
"Oh, we know— Victor sends us photos of your work. It's beautiful." Victor father nods, bringing a hand up to rest a knuckle on his lip. "He really does talk about you a lot."
"Ah." Yuuri feels his face turn red, and Victor watches happily as it does. "R-Really?"
"He wouldn't stop if we asked." Nadia agrees. "He tells us you like poodles— that's very important, in this family."
"I love poodles." Yuuri says, completely lighting up. “Do you have any?”
“Not since we moved down to Florida, unfortunately. Makkachin was the family pet, but, well… she’s Victor’s dog more than anyone else’s.” Dominik explains. “I remember when she first left with Victor to live with him at his apartment— she looked sad, wistful, almost. As though she knew things were changing. Well, they were, and we moved a week later. Poodles are such intelligent dogs.”
“Vic-chan was the same when I left for college.” Yuuri agrees, smiling at the memory of the toy poodle. “I was sad, and he sensed it somehow— he clung to me for the entire summer before I went. He continued to mope for weeks afterward.”
“What a good dog.” Victor says emphatically, leaning his head against Yuuri’s again. “I wish he and Makkachin could have met.”
“I’m sure he lived a good life, with you as his owner.” Nadia adds. “Makkachin loves you almost as much as our son does.”
“Well, that might depend on who has the treats that day.” Yuuri replies, grinning. “But Makkachin is amazing, and so well trained.”
Nadia nods slowly. “Speaking of which, where is she? It doesn’t look like you’re home, Vitya.”
“No, we’re not home.” Victor confirms. “We’re on the roof of the Yuuri’s flower shop, inside the greenhouse. Look at all this!” He turns the camera view around, moving it around the room to show his parents all of Yuuri’s hard work.
“Is this for our Vitya’s birthday?” Nadia gasps, clearly pleased by what she sees. “Oh, how sweet. That looks so cosy!”
“He cooked, too! His mother’s recipes.” Victor beams, his cheeks rosy. It’s almost as though he’s gloating about Yuuri’s efforts for him. “It’s been an absolutely perfect day.”
“What else did you two get up to today?” Dominik inquires. “Maybe you can give me some pointers.”
“I made Victor breakfast,” Yuuri begins.
“French toast! With brioche!” Victor cuts in, as excited as Yuuri’s ever seen him over bread.
“And after that, we didn’t really do much. We stayed in and watched, um, dog videos. For a few hours.” Yuuri says. “Then, I left to make preparations for tonight, and Victor had a long nap.”
“Hold on.” Nadia pauses Yuuri. “He took a nap?”
“Y-yes. Why, is that bad?”
“I’ve never known Vitya to be the napping type. He’s always kept busy.” She continues, seeming deep in thought. “I’ve been telling him to take a break for ages. Maybe you’ve helped convince him he should… what's the saying?”
"Stop and smell the roses?" Victor supplies, contentedness making him smile up to his eyes. "You might be right. I'm feeling better than ever, and it's all thanks to Yuuri."
"I don't think I deserve all that credit." Yuuri murmurs, eyeing Victor suspiciously. "I mean, you take care of yourself pretty well."
"Yuuri-" Victor sighs, before his father interrupts.
"You make him happy, Yuuri. That's what we care about." Dominik says, a smile turning up underneath his moustache. "I hope you'll continue to take care of Vitya in the future."
"Of course I will." Yuuri sits straighter when he nods. "I mean, he takes care of me too. It's only fair."
Victor hums in agreement.
"I'm sure you'll do a fine job. Vitya's face has been looking a little more filled out recently— probably because you love food so much as well." Nadia remarks. “When you visit us, I'll cook up a feast for you. I’ll bet you haven’t had home-cooked Russian food before."
“What?” Victor and Dominik exclaim, surprised. Yuuri glances back and forth between them, astonished by their reaction.
“She won’t even cook for us, most of the time.” Victor says. “The most she usually does is reheat leftovers.”
“But I do know how to cook.” Nadia sniffs, tilting her head up into the air. “And I can do it well.”
“That you can.” Dominik admits, smiling proudly at his wife. She smiles confidently, yet again reminding Yuuri of his boyfriend— who, next to him, is looking a little impatient.
“Sorry to interrupt,” Victor says pleasantly, commanding his parents’ attention. “But my phone is running out of battery— I’ll have to end the call soon.”
“Ah, of course! We’ll let you get back to your celebration. Happy holidays and happy birthday, Vitya. And don’t forget to call next week!” Victor’s mother reminds, pointing a finger to the camera.
“Thank you, Mama, Papa. Happy Holidays to you too.” Victor waves.
Yuuri follows suit with his own greeting. “Ah, Happy Holidays! It was good to meet you, even if it took too long for it to happen.”
“See? Even he thinks it was too long.” Dominik gestures to Yuuri and scoffs. “Take care, the both of you. Happy Holidays.”
“Alright, goodbye!” Victor switches the call off with a little urgency, and he lowers his arm to massage it. His phone drops onto the blanket beneath them, face-up. “Ahh, my arm is sore. That was a long call.”
Yuuri can read the screen from his seat, and as he untangles himself from Victor into a more comfortable position, he notices something.
“Victor,” he frowns, looking closer at the screen to confirm his suspicion, “you have over half of your battery still left.”
“Call me selfish,” Victor smiles not-at-all apologetically as he turns to Yuuri. “But I want to be spend all night with my boyfriend on my birthday— not talking to my parents. You have no idea how long they can keep going.”
There’s almost an eye-roll in Victor’s words, and Yuuri grins. He’s never heard Victor talk about his parents this way. “Okay, well… let’s do that, then.” Yuuri agrees, setting the cake and their utensils on the tabletop across from them before shifting down into the pillows. He stretches his hands out to receive Victor in his arms, and Victor nestles into him with ease.
Lying down, Yuuri can see the tiny snowflakes beginning to accumulate in the corners of the greenhouse frame— they’ll have to leave soon, because spending the night in an unheated glass box in snowfall isn’t ideal— but this moment is theirs to keep.
Victor has just finished posting a photo from the day's events when Yuuri stirs at his side in bed, shifting so his forehead is pressed against his hip.
It's rare for Yuuri to sleep before Victor does. It's proof that he's absolutely exhausted, and for good reason— Yuuri just gave Victor the best birthday surprise he's ever had. It might even be on par with the year he received Makkachin as a gift.
Both Yuuri and Makkachin are with him now, one curled up against his side and the other at the foot of the bed.
How fast time flies? This time last year, there was still so much he couldn't have known.
Victor couldn't have known that, a year from now, he would be living with someone. He couldn't have known it would make him happy to come home each day, instead of just fulfilling routine. He couldn't have known what it's like to love someone enough to feel that— Victor's always been on his own, just he and Makkachin.
This time last year, Victor couldn't have known that a mere few months from now, he would stumble upon a flower shop and meet someone who would change everything about his life and what joy can be found in it.
Does Yuuri realize that he's flipped Victor's world around? That he's transformed Victor's life just by being in it, and by loving him?
Surely, he must know. After all, Victor can say with some confidence that he's done the same for Yuuri.
There's a smile on Victor's lips as he plugs his phone in at his nightstand, slides down into the sheets, and turns on his side to take everything in— Yuuri in front of him sleeping restfully, Makkachin's soft snoring beneath them, even the incessant drip of the bathroom faucet and the pale glow of moonlit snow creeping through the slit in their curtains.
He wouldn't have it any other way.
Before you go, don't forget to look at this amazing art by @uncoolly for this chapter!
Happy Holidays, everyone!
Thank you all for your patience and for all your support this year- it's been an amazing journey starting to write and draw in this fandom, and I can't wait to see what 2018 brings.
As always, I hope you enjoyed this- let me know what you thought of this chapter, too!
Next up: I don't really know, but it'll be fluffy!
Chapter 21: A Summary of The Rest
A summary of ODAD: what I wish I could have written, as an act of closure.
It's been an awfully long time!
If you were, by any chance, following me on Tumblr or Twitter a year ago, you'll know I stepped away from all of that, and you'll know why this fic never got finished.
(Fandom is intoxicating, but it leaves you with quite the hangover.)
After I fell out of love with Yuri!!! On Ice, I took a lot of time to reevaluate why I was creating, and a year and a half later, I think I'm enjoying myself again.
I had a lot of unfinished plans for ODAD- it was, essentially, the story that taught me I am a writer. For my own closure and potentially yours, I'll summarize what I intended to write but never will in full.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
After Victor's birthday in the previous chapter, the pair return to work in the new year feeling refreshed. Things get wilder when Yuri accompanies Victor and Mila to a photographer's studio for a wedding shoot, while Yuuri visits the local flower market and reacquaints himself with flower supplier Celestino to gear up for Valentine's Day.
On Valentine's Day, the pair are swamped with work (that's probably the busiest day of the year for romance-geared businesses) but they manage to have a good time that evening.
Yuuri then begins to train himself in floral design in earnest, Victor providing ideas for inspiration and the many museums in New York providing fodder for Yuuri's sense of aesthetics.
On the anniversary of their first date, they go on a dog park date accompanied by Makkachin.
On their second Hanami festival, they go along with the Katsukis, the Nishigoris, and Phichit to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and have a boisterous but entertaining day.
Chris gets engaged that spring (though he doesn't put the responsibility of planning the wedding on Victor's shoulders), and a tipsy Victor reveals his long-concealed marriage daydreams as he and Yuuri watch an old rom-com:
From my notes:
Lazy evening in with Victor sitting between Yuuri's legs on the floor while he's on the sofa + hair playing. They're tipsy and watching some old movie, and Victor is a tad sappy. He starts musing about venues and banquet arrangements and flowers and cake and he's just getting to what he'll make Chris and his groomspeople wear when Yuuri can tell he's about to doze off, because playing with his hair just does that. Yuuri manages to get them into bed with some stumbling, and just when he's gotten the covers up over them both Victor mumbles something to the effect of wanting to marry him— with a pause, then a "someday."
Yuuri can't process information at that moment, because he's drunk, but he kind of understands and brushes his bangs back against the pillow and pats Victor's forehead because it's too far away across the bed to kiss.
He probably doesn't remember till Monday when his mom asks about his weekend.
Victor's wedding dreams include having a smaller, private wedding, combed silk table runners, rose boutonnières for himself and Yuuri, and walking matching poodles down the aisle.
Later that week, Victor asks Yuuri to help him with a client's request- a prestigious and trend-setting bride wants a totally unique bridal shoot (taken by Otabek, a young up-and-coming photographer), and Yuuri pulls the project off, though he leaves exhausted and with some frayed nerves. He ends up having an anxiety attack shortly after, during which Victor soothes him. The shoot turns out to be a huge success, attracting new clientele to the Katsukis' flower shop.
In July, Victor and Yuuri take a rare week off and take a trip to France, visiting Honfleur and Paris. Alongside sleeping in, taking scenic routes, and eating lots of great food, they also visit Monet's house in Giverny, where they both love the robust gardens and famous water lilies.
(This is probably around when Yuuri starts thinking about actually marrying Victor.)
A few months later, Victor gifts Yuuri an official AIFD (American Institute of Floral Designers) textbook, believing that Yuuri has the skill and talent to become certified. It's daunting, but Yuuri dives into the material with gusto, curious to see what others have been doing with their skills.
After another quiet birthday for Yuuri, he and Victor go to Florida for the holidays, meeting Victor's family and their friends (including Yakov, Yuri, and Nikolai). Yuuri finds out he doesn't really like pickled beets.
In the flurry of their second, even busier Valentine's day, Yuuri gets sent the application for the AIFD's Professional Floral Design Evaluation program.
After the second anniversary of their meeting, Yuuri wakes up before Victor and is suddenly struck with the idea of proposing. He'd bought a ring while Victor was busy romping along Rue Saint-Honoré in Paris. He slips the ring onto Victor's hand before Victor wakes up with a soft smile and a yawn. Victor doesn't actually notice the ring until he's brushing his teeth, when a golden gleam on his finger in the mirror alerts him it's there.
(It's definitely not the best flying kiss they've ever had, but it's certainly the mintiest.)
The answer is a "yes", of course!
A few months later, after Chris and Markus' ski resort wedding and lots of hard work, Yuuri passes his PFDE evaluation.
After a time skip, Victor and Yuuri have a wonderful, love-filled wedding with their matching poodle grooms'-dogs, and the story closes on the two entering a gallery for Yuuri's first solo floral design show two years later.
I hope this brought you as much closure to read this as it did to me to write it!
This fic, along with my other YOI fics, is now attached to the Pseud ingthing_YOI, because I don't want to get anyone's hopes up- I don't foresee making anything for YOI again. But I know these stories were loved, and although I've moved on and need the ambiguous internet separation from that chapter in my fandom experience, I'm immensely grateful that I was able to connect to you all through my fanwork!
If you would like to follow my new adventures with my original Victorian Romance visual novel, Of Sense and Soul, and newfound love for Good Omens, my Twitter is ingthing (my YOI twitter is now ingthing_old) and my Instagram is ingthingthings.
See you next level!