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Meeting You Halfway

Chapter Text

Yuuri, how have you been? It should be around finals week now. I hope that you're doing well. We're setting up camp on Mars as I'm typing this. The photographs in the slideshows that we watched in science class truly don't do the planet justice. It's mostly ruins and wasteland and nothing short of being completely inhospitable for humans to live on, but there's a certain charm to its rough edges. Do you remember the time we went to the aquarium and you saw a stonefish for the first time? Do you remember what you said? I do. To be fair, you'd be much older than me -- like, a whole three hours -- as I'm telling you this now so it's okay if you've forgotten. You said that the beauty of its existence was that it wasn't beautiful. Tomorrow, I'll be getting into my very own Tracer for the first time. I don't think I have to tell you how excited I am about this. You know that I've always been a huge fan of  Gundam. All the best for your exams. I know that you'll crush them. 

Yuuri was hardly an impatient person. You would need a certain level of patience to be Viktor's friend. The boy was more excitable than a puppy on his worst day. The problem was that Viktor's messages were getting few and far between, and there were only so many times that Yuuri could reread the old ones. The void that Viktor left in his heart was getting larger by the day.

He had always been good at compartmentalising his emotions. When he was at school, or he was studying in his room, his attention was devoted to his work. When he was out with his friends, he never once checked his phone for incoming messages. When he was on the skating rink, jumps and spins occupied his thoughts. He would never dream of letting the contents of any of the boxes get mixed up.

When he was close to drifting off to sleep, there was nothing that could take his attention away from how much he missed Viktor. 

Yuuri was hardly an impatient person. He rarely lost his temper, and he had never yelled at anyone in his life. Even as a child, he never once raised his voice. However, when his classmate, Jean-Jacques Leroy, said that he'd rather be aboard the Lysithea like Viktor because Viktor didn't need to take finals exams, Yuuri comes very close to doing something that could have gotten him suspended. He didn't let his anger surface, but oh boy, did it bubble inside him. He was lucky that his best friend, Phichit, was there to place a hand on his shoulder and stop him from doing anything that he'd regret. 

Perhaps what made him so angry was the fact that JJ was probably right. Viktor was an exceptional student and athlete, and a lot of it came from natural talent rather than through hard work. Viktor was lucky. Anyone else in his position would have jumped at the opportunity of being recruited in the UN Space Army. It was probably the ambition of every person who grew up in Hasetsu. It wasn't Viktor's though. He had all the potential to be anything that his heart desired, but he only wanted one thing -- to have a family. Fighting Tarsians in space was as far from that as he could possibly get. 

 


 

"Viktor, what are you still doing here? The lunch bell rang ten minutes ago!"

The platinum-haired teenager jumped as soon as he heard the voice. He spun around on his chair and saw that it was someone from his training group. He racked his brain trying to remember what his name was.

"Ah... Thank you..."

"Chris."

"Chris," he repeated to himself, trying to commit it to memory,"Sorry about that. I'm bad with names."

"Hey, no problem. Ready for lunch?"

"Definitely."

He followed Chris down the hallway to the cafeteria. He knew that they were late because he couldn't find a single empty table. He wasn't even certain that there would be enough food left for the both of them. As he crossed the cafeteria to get to the ration collection counter, he returned a few smiles and waves that some of the people offered. He wasn't sure why, but he was relatively popular on the Lysithea

Finally, a table freed up and Chris rushed over to make sure that no one else could take it. It was a window seat. Viktor hesitated before joining him.

If he squinted hard enough, he could see Earth. It looked so tiny from Jupiter. 

"Yuuri," he thought, "When you look up at the sky do you search for me?"

 


 

"Yuuri, please, don't get mad," Viktor pleaded.

"You knew. You knew this whole time that you were going to space and you didn't tell me. You didn't-," Yuuri's words were cut short by a wave of emotions washing over him. It felt like his head was trapped in vacuum -- there was nothing but nothingness itself.

"I didn't know how to tell you. I'm sorry, Yuuri. I was afraid that if I told you, it would just make everything we shared less... real."

"What do you mean?"

"I didn't want you to be my friend just because you took pity on some charity case who had his life carved out for him before he even made his first friend."

"Viktor, I-," he stopped himself to allow himself time to regain his composure, "Viktor, you're not a charity case. I wouldn't be your friend if I didn't care about you. I care about you. Not Viktor Nikforov, the academic and figure skating prodigy, just you, Viktor."

"Yuuri..."

"You still should have told me sooner."

"I know."

 


 

Viktor never knew his parents. He barely had a family. He had a foster father who was always away on business, and he had a foster mother who soon left him after the divorce. Yuuri grew up completely differently from him. He always had a large family to support him, even if they did occasionally smother him with too much love. He used to get jealous of how independent Viktor was. He knew how to cook, clean, sew, balance budgets, and pay taxes. If Yuuri had to take care of everything on his own as a teenager, he would have probably collapsed from the pressure. Viktor always knew what to say and do.

Happy Birthday! I wish I could send you gifts through text messages, but I guess you're going to have to settle for an emoji. I hope your training has been going well and you're not overexerting yourself too much. I know you have a tendency to do that. Please don't let your excitement overshadow what your body needs. Finals week went well, thanks for asking. All that's left is the dreaded wait for the grades to be released. I'll be applying to Kyushu University next fall. I wish you could be here. Remember our promise to go to university together? We can still make that happen if you start moving to get your butt back to Earth. The rink isn't the same without you. Take care of yourself, Viktor.

Yuuri placed his phone on his night stand and crumpled himself onto his bed. Pressing his face into his pillow, he let out a muffled scream.

"He'll be back before you know it," he whispered.

He curled into a fetal position. Suddenly, he heard his phone message alert ringtone and he immediately reached out for his phone.

You have 1 new message.

He felt a bead of sweat run down his cheek as he waited for the messaging application to open.

Rink at 7pm? -- Phichit

Yuuri sighed before typing out a response.

Sure. -- Yuuri

 


 

"Yuuri!" Phichit exclaimed as he put his arms around him, "How have you been?"

"You just saw me this morning at school, silly."

"I know, but how have you been since then? You looked a little... down."

"It's nothing..."

"It's Viktor, isn't it?"

Yuuri sighed. There wasn't any point hiding it from his best friend.

"I just... I never got to tell him that I didn't really fix his sunglasses. I just bought him a new pair from a night market. They looked similar enough and I... I didn't want him to know that I failed after I promised him that I'd fix it."

"Yuuri, he probably doesn't even care."

"But I-"

"Yuuri," Phichit was making his best "stern" face which made Yuuri want to laugh, "If it matters so much to you just tell him, but I'm pretty sure he would still like you all the same."

Yuuri sighed again. He walked over to the bench and started putting on his skates. He thought of how they used to do this together -- him, Viktor and Phichit. Viktor was always much better than him and Phichit, but he never let it get to his head. Their coach even told him to go professional, but Viktor said that he just wanted to be on the rink skating with his friends. Yuuri wondered whether he really meant that or it was because he knew that even if he tried to go professional, he would still have to leave Earth by the time he turned seventeen.

Yuuri walked over to the rink entrance and removed his skate guards. He skated along the circumference of the rink twice before he started practicing spins and jumps. As he tucked his legs into his chest during a sit spin, he thought of the time he first managed to pull it off. Viktor had gotten it down on his first try and it took a week longer before Yuuri managed. He came close to quitting after the lesson for that particular element. He wanted to hang up his skates, but Viktor wouldn't let him. He came to Yuuri's house every evening and dragged him to the rink to practice until he finally learnt it. 

"Yuuri, your phone!" Phichit called out to him.

Yuuri snapped out of his thoughts and rushed over to the edge of the rink. He took the phone from Phichit with trembling hands and an unsteady heart.

Thank you for the birthday wish! It's the only one I've gotten. I didn't tell anyone here when my birthday was because I didn't want to remind them that it's Christmas and they aren't spending it with their family. Don't worry about me, Yuuri. There are nutritionists and health care professionals here that will make sure that I'm healthy if it's the last thing they do. I'm enjoying my lessons here and I've learnt so much more than I ever could on Earth. I wish you could be here to see it all, but if I'm wishing for stuff I much rather be skating with you. 

Phichit reached out and squeezed Yuuri's arm.

"I'm fine, I really am," Yuuri mumbled.

"Okay," Phichit said as he pulled him into a hug. 

 


 

"Viktor, I'm going to the cafeteria to get a hot drink. Do you want anything?"

Viktor looked up from his book and saw Chris wearing his varsity jacket for the first time. He knew that Chris was older than him but he didn't think that he was already in university.

"Chris, you're from Kyushu U?"

"Of course! It's the best university there is!" Chris was beaming. He was normally a positive person, but Viktor never saw him as happy to be talking about something before, "I used to be on the baseball team when I was there. Man... I really miss my team mates."

"I know someone who's going to apply for Kyushu U next fall."

"Oh, yeah? Maybe I can ask my friends to look out for them when they get there. What's their name?"

"Yuuri, his full name is Katsuki Yuuri," Viktor knew that Yuuri always had a hard time meeting new people so he thought that it would be good to have seniors taking care of him so he wouldn't be too lost in a new school.

"All right, I'll tell them," Chris took out his phone and typed 'Katsuki Yuuri' for good measure, "Is he your boyfriend or something?"

"He's a friend. A special friend."

Chris glanced at his phone to check that he got the name right, then he cursed under his breath. They were both running late for a briefing. He looked at Viktor who, from the anxious look on his face, must have come to the same realisation.

"You know... We're going to get into trouble anyway. What do you think about you and me taking the day off to explore the Lysithea?"

Viktor didn't need to consider his options.

"I'd like that."

They snuck past the briefing room with stifled giggles. They ran down the hallway towards the elevator and took it to the observation deck. Viktor gasped when he got off the elevator.

"What's wrong?" Chris looked concerned.

"Ah... No... I've just never been here before," he stepped forward till he reached the window and touched the glass pane, "It's so amazing, what we can see out here. We aren't allowed to send photographs, are we?"

"Fraid not, pet. You know we have bandwidth restrictions. Even the lowest resolution photograph would exceed it. Not to worry, I'm sure Yuuri would love to hear about it through your eyes," Chris reached out and tousled Viktor's hair, "We'll be home before you know it. We just have to stick it out for a while longer. Keep telling yourself that."

Without thinking, Viktor put his arms around Chris's chest. Chris didn't push him away. He pulled him closer.

"You know, you're so good at everything that I keep forgetting that you're just a kid. I have a younger brother your age and I can't imagine him being here with me."

Their embrace was interrupted by the sound of the elevator doors opening. One of their instructors stepped onto the observation deck.

"What are the two of you doing here? You should be in the briefing room."

"Crap," Chris said only loud enough for Viktor to hear him.

Chapter Text

"Look, it's a freshman. Hey fresh face, come over here!" someone called out at Yuuri. 

Yuuri was too engrossed in reading the recently-published journal on the findings by the crew on the Lysithea to notice that there was a group of seniors trying to get his attention. They looked like ruins, but they were still beautiful. They were exactly how Viktor described it in his text message. Except, it probably looked better up there than in photographs.

"Is this what you saw, Viktor?" he whispered.

Before he could defend himself, the journal was ripped out of his hands and he was pushed onto the ground. He groaned as he rubbed the part of his head that he landed on. A woman was standing over him, back by a group of people. 

"How can I help you?" he said dryly.

"I was trying to get your attention for a whole five minutes. Do you realise how humiliating that was for me? Shall I return the favour?"

"Please, I'm just passing through."

"Give me your phone."

"What? No."

"I said give me your phone, fresh face!"

The woman was reaching for his pocket. He froze. He couldn't let her take the phone. In the time it would take for him to get a new one, he could have missed a message from Viktor. Their texts were already taking months to reach each other. He wouldn't be able to forgive himself if he made the waiting time even longer. He sobbed as he pleaded for her to leave him alone.

Before she could take his phone, a furry brown creature threw her off-balance and caused her to land in a puddle.

"Makkachin?" Yuuri gasped.

"Oi, don't you have anything better to do than to pick on someone like him? Does it make you feel good that he won't defend himself because he doesn't want to hurt you?"

Yuuri knew that voice. It was Viktor's cousin, Yuri. 

"Stay out of this, kid. This is none of your business."

"Actually it is my business. He's someone who's very important to my cousin. But if you'd like, I could always ask your professor to prove it to you and your friends. I'm acquainted with his TA."

A hand wearing leather fingerless gloves was offered to Yuuri. He looked up and saw an unfamiliar face. Yuri didn't have many friends if any at all, so this must have been the Teaching Assistant he was talking about. He took his hand and was pulled up to his feet.

"You okay?" he asked.

"Yeah, thank you. Um, you are?"

"Otabek. Pleasure to meet you."

Yuuri looked over at Yuri and saw that the group had already left. He heaved a sigh of relief. 

"Katsudon, how have you been?"

Yuuri blinked. He didn't expect Yuri to ever ask how he was. Makkachin was poking his leg with her nose and he bent down to plant a kiss on her head. 

"I've been okay," he said, not looking away from Makkachin, "Some days are better than others."

"Learn how to take care of yourself, you idiot. I won't always be around to save your sorry butt from people like that."

"I know. Thanks, Yuri."

 


 

 Viktor's phone rang in the middle of his nap and he woke up almost as soon as it started ringing. He looked around in a daze.

"Yuuri!" he gasped as he groped around in the dark searching for his phone.

I wonder where you are right now. I've been going back to all the places that we used to go to; our high school, the skating ring, the dog park, that restaurant that sells katsudon hoping to find traces of you. Sometimes, I see you smiling in my dreams, but it's never more than for a second before you disappear. I wonder if that's how our friendship really is. I've always thought of you as a person who changed my life in a way that removed all the familiarity I had grown used too. I used to be scared of getting on the ice, and now it's the only place I want to be. I've always thought that I'd never find someone who knew what I wanted without me saying anything. I feel like I've known you forever but you only came into my life the day high school started, and you left before high school ended. I can only imagine how it was for you -- to have an expiry date lined up for every bond you've ever formed. University is tough, but I've always expected that. I should probably ask Yuko to check the temperature settings at the rink. It seems to be getting colder each time I go. Phichit and my family sends their regards.

Viktor checked the time before replying. Earth time no longer meant anything to him anymore, but he was given until 5am to sleep. It was 4:55. He typed out a reply as fast as his fingers could manage but before he could finish, he was interrupted by his Tracer flight instructor, Lilia.

"Viktor, time to get ready. We have a lot of ground to cover today."

"Yes, Ma'am."

He grabbed his toiletries bag and towel from his shelf and headed to the bathroom. He had combat training and emergency drill training for the rest of the day. He wasn't sure if he'd even have time to catch his breath or talk to Chris. Life was moving so fast on the Lysithea and he wanted desperately for it to slow down. He was used to filtering out of the fast lane into the slow lane. He didn't get a choice anymore.

He didn't get time to complete his message to Yuuri until later that week.

 


 

 

You have no new messages.

Yuuri almost flung his phone across the room in frustration. It had been six months since he last heard from Viktor. He took a deep breath and placed his phone gently back on the table. There was no use in breaking electronic devices. Even less use in breaking it in the middle of the lecture theatre. He stared languidly at the board, trying to at least look interested. If he could trick his mind into paying attention, maybe he could trick his mind into understanding. It didn't work. All he heard was Viktor's voice from when they were in high school.

"You're amazing. Why don't you want to compete? I would if I were as good as you at jumps," Yuuri had said.

"Yuuri, skating isn't only about competing and competing isn't only about jumps. There is so much more than those two things in life. I don't want to compete. I want to skate with you and Phichit. If you want to compete, you can."

"I don't. I want to get into Kyushu U. I heard that they have a skating club that's under the tutelage of a retired three-time ISU Worlds champion, Yakov Feltsman. It would be an honour to train under him. Plus, I wouldn't have to pay for the training fees out of my own pocket."

"That's amazing! Maybe I'll get into Kyushu U too!"

"I'm sure you could get in easily! You're brilliant and talented. I guess some people do have all the luck," he teased, nudging him in the ribcage.

Viktor winced, "Yeah, lucky."

"Yuuri?"

That wasn't Viktor's voice.

"Yuuri?"

He saw a face come a little too close for comfort to his and he was so startled that he jumped out of his seat with his hands ready to push her away.

"AH, I'm so sorry! It's just that, we've already been dismissed and you don't seem to have realised that."

"I'm sorry I had something on my mind. Thanks for telling me."

Yuuri started scooping all of his things into his bag, making sure not to accidentally drop his phone. He placed it in his pocket and started to make a move towards the door.

"Uhm," she said, leading him to stop walking, "My name is Chihoko."

"Yuuri," he turned around and smiled, "Thanks again."

 

Chapter Text

The doors of the examination hall burst open from the barrage of candidates who were beyond relieved that their last exam was over. There were "woohoo"s and "finally"s screamed out as Yuuri pushed his way through to retrieve his belongings from the side of the examination hall, his heart finally steadied after all the anxiety that he had to deal with in the weeks leading up to the exam. Finally, he would have time to relax. He squinted, even with his glasses on, around the area where he left his bag before the start of the exam. It was difficult to find it in the pile where he last saw it, but he managed. He practically threw all of his stationery into his bag. Biting his lip, he switched his phone on.

You have no new messages.

He knew that he would be a hindrance to everyone else looking to leave the examination hall, but he still sat on the floor and started searching through his phone. He checked through every single mail box that he had, even his outbox. There had to be a reason why Viktor's message still hadn't arrived. He checked the signal on his phone to see if his service provider was down for the day. He checked if he left his phone in airplane mode. He even found an unread message from his sister wishing him good luck for his finals buried under the texts from Phichit and his skating club junior, Minami. Everything looked right to him.

Except for the fact that Viktor's message still wasn't there.

 


 

Yuuri sat in bed eating his sandwich as he watched Phichit sleep. Phichit's schedule was mainly made up of afternoon classes while Yuuri's was mainly morning classes. As a communications major, Phichit often had to talk to people in different time zones to bounce of ideas so he stayed up almost till daybreak and was always sleeping when Yuuri was about to leave the dormitory for his classes. They had both fallen into a nice compromise of Yuuri being the one to buy breakfast and Phichit being the one to come home with dinner. In the evening, they usually went to the rink together. 

After taking the last bite out of his sandwich, he downed his latte in record time. He wanted to get to class early to get a good seat. He pulled up Phichit's blanket that had fallen off his shoulders in the night. It was a cold morning. He didn't want him to get sick.

Even with a coat, a scarf, and a pair of gloves on, the cold still shook him. He rubbed his forearms with his hands, trying to create some semblance of warmth to no avail. He was sure that it was still in the middle of autumn. He wondered how he'd survive the winter. As he followed the path from the dormitory to the engineering building, he heard a familiar voice.

"YUURI, WAIT!"

Yuuri froze. He turned around and saw Phichit running after him in his pajamas and bedroom slippers. He had his phone in hand.

"Yuuri," he panted, "You left your phone."

"Oh. Just leave it in our room."

"But Yuuri-"

He pat Phichit twice on the head and smiled, "I'll see you at the rink later."

Without waiting for Phichit to respond, he kept walking to class. 

 


 

The positioning of his legs had to be correct. His speed had to be up. He had to enter the sit spin with confidence. He never did well when he was thinking too hard about something. Any trace of doubt would leave him crashing onto the ice. He took a deep breath and tried to clear his thoughts. 

"That's it, Yuuri, you're doing great!" Coach Yakov called out to him.

"Go Yuuri!" Minami shouted.

He lifted one leg off the ice and pulled it into his chest. He was conscious of the angle that the blades attached to his supporting foot was grazing the ice. He was carving circles on the surface of the ice. There was nothing in his world except himself, the ice, and his skates.

"Yuuri! Yuuri!" Phichit cheered.

"Yuuri, you've grown into such a beautiful skater. You use your body as a way of showing your true self. It's so hard for people to look away."

"I could never do the things that you can, Viktor."

"And I could never show the same artistic flair as you. Believe in yourself."

His foot slipped.

He clicked his tongue as he tried to lift himself off the ice only to slip and fall back down again. Phichit skated over to help Yuuri up. He put an arm around Yuuri's waist and tried to support him. He was about to pull him up onto his feet when Yuuri placed a hand on his shoulder.

"Let me go. It's okay."

"I'm just helping you up so you can-"

"Phichit, please." 

Phichit stared at him for a second before gently releasing him and backing away and going back to marking his own elements. From the corner of his eye, he watched Yuuri get up and skate to the side of the rink before getting off the ice. He clenched his jaw to stop himself from reacting violently when Yuuri yanked off his own skates and threw them onto the floor.

 


 

"Something something current something something ampere," was all that Yuuri heard during his class on electronics. Everything seemed to be a slow-motion blur to him. Nothing he saw or heard made any sense apart from the fact that it did, and Yuuri was just too numb to accept it. Everything was just too blunt to grab his attention. The only thing sharp in his life was the pain of not hearing from Viktor. His professor said something about pair work. Pair work. Thirty percent of his grade. Pair work. Grade. Someone tapped on his shoulder. He looked around the room and saw that everyone else was already paired up and discussing their projects. He didn't even know what the project was about. 

"Yuuri?" Chihoko whispered to him as she squeezed into the seat next to his, "Do you want to work with me? I don't have a partner and it seems that you don't either."

"Sure."

Chihoko hums a delighted tune as she passes him her phone to key in his phone number. He quickly types it out then gives it back to her. He didn't look at her once. 

 


 

Yuuri entered his room and started unraveling his scarf from the haphazard mess it was piled on his neck. 

"Katsudon, you finally came back. You made me wait for so long."

Yuuri turned to Phichit's side of the room and saw Yuri sitting on his bed. Phichit was slumped against the width of his own bed, not even looking in Yuuri's direction. Yuuri left his coat on. 

"What brings you here, Yuri?" his tone is so flat that it barely sounds like a question.

"Phichit called me and said that you've been acting weird lately. So let's hear it, what's wrong, Katsudon?"

"Stop calling me that. It's rude."

"Yuuri," Yuri's voice softened, "What's going on? You haven't been at the rink in months. You stopped taking your phone along with you. If there's something wrong, please, please just tell me so I can try to help you."

Yuuri had never seen Yuri look so earnest and vulnerable before. He parted his lips a quarter of a centimetre before biting down on his bottom lip and turning away from Yuri.

"Why are you acting so pathetic, Yuuri? Do you think Viktor would be happy seeing you like this? Do you even remember Viktor?" if sincerity wasn't working, Yuri was going to use some tough love.

After a minute or two of silence, Yuuri finally said, "Get out."

"What?"

"I said get out."

Yuri glared silently at Yuuri, who still wasn't looking at him. The air around them started to feel thicker. He didn't particularly like Yuuri, and the part of him that did also did everything not to show it. But watching him behave like this, it hurt every part of him. He sighed and walked to the door.

"Fine."

"Yuri, wait, please don't go," Phichit was pleading and Yuuri heard the strain in his voice. He must have been crying. 

"Beka's taking me to meet people from different faculties to help me decide what I'm going to major in when I get here. I can't stay here any longer even if I wanted to. At least one Yuri will be getting on with his life like a proper functioning human being."

Yuri slammed the door as he left.

"Yuuri, I-" Phichit started.

"You live here so I can't tell you to leave... So I'm going to go."

"Yuuri," he croaked.

The door was slammed for the second time in the time that Phichit and Yuuri had been living there as roommates.

 


 

A cup of bubble tea was placed on the table in front of Yuuri. Yuuri looked up from it and saw Chihoko smiling down at him.

"They ran out of hazelnut syrup. I hope chocolate is okay with you."

The truth was, Yuuri hated chocolate milk tea. He had nothing against chocolate, but he never liked it mixed with tea. But he didn't want to upset her so he crinkled the corners of his eyes and deepened the smile lines on his cheeks.

"That's fine, Chihoko," Yuuri lied, then offered, "You said that you wanted to meet me to talk about something."

"Before that, can I ask you why you never answer any of my calls and text messages? I only seem to be able to contact you through your school e-mail."

"Uhm," Yuuri bit his lip as he tried to think of a plausible story, "Some of my friends have been bugging me to attend this concert, but I'm not a fan of big crowds. I've been keeping my phone turned off to avoid them."

The truth was that since the day Yuuri deliberately left his phone in his dorm room, he stopped bothering to charge it. It had been a year since then, so his phone should have run out of battery. Chihoko calling and messaging him was new information to him. He thought of all of his friends and family members who must have been worried sick from his lack of response. 

"B-b-but there are read receipts."

"What?"

"Really!" Chihoko pulled out her phone, opened her messaging application and showed it to Yuuri, "See, all these messages have been received by you."

Yuuri couldn't even begin to come up with an explanation. If he kept up with the lie, he would be implying that he was avoiding her on purpose. If he told her the truth, well, he didn't even know what the truth was. Nothing about the situation made sense... 

Before he could reach a conclusion, he felt tremors in the diner booth they were sitting in. He faced the window and saw Otabek, who was slamming his fists against the glass. Otabek still looked as stoic as usual, but it must have been important for someone like him to act like that. Yuuri ran out of the diner to him.

"What are you doing?"

"Phichit has been looking all over for you. He called Yura and me to help. Hang on," he replied as he started scrolling through his address book to look for Phichit's number, "Phichit? He's at the diner down the street from campus."

It didn't take five minutes for Phichit to appear before him, running faster than Yuuri had ever seen him run. His face was flushed deep rouge and he was heaving his breaths. He stopped in front of Yuuri and bent over to compose himself, almost keeling over in the process. Fortunately, Otabek caught him by his arm to steady him. It wasn't long after that Yuri came running down the street too.

"Phichit, what's wrong? You're really scaring me."

"Yuuri," Phichit choked out before lifting Yuuri's phone to his eye level.

You have 1 new message.

Phichit had been keeping his phone charged this whole time.

Chapter Text

"Viktor, avoid right!" Chris yelled into the intercom

Viktor steered his Tracer to the left, barely missing the swing of the Tarsian's arm. He started pelting it with laser bullets, hoping to deter it from coming closer to him. Much to his relief, it seemed to have worked. Then, he started doing what he was he was instructed to do prior to being dispatched for the mission -- set up the energy beam. He frantically typed in the commands into the programme, redirecting the energy consumption from the deflection shields and rifles into the the head of the Tracer, where the beam blaster was located. His finger hovered over the red button.

"Viktor, now!"

The red button remained untouched. His hands were shaking.

"Vitya, what's wrong?" Lilia shouted.

"I-I-I can't," Viktor was sobbing into the intercom.

Even after multiple encounters with the Tarsians, he still had yet to deliver the finishing blow on one. He stared into the Tarsian's eyes and he started to panic. He couldn't do it. They just looked too much like humans. They had two arms and two legs. Hell, they even had eyes. How could he participate in killing off an alien race that he was starting to think had the capacity for complex thought? The inside of the cockpit started to spin around him and he felt like throwing up.

"VIKTOR WATCH OUT!"

All Viktor remembered after that was looking up at the display and seeing a Tracer in front of him get sliced into half by the arm of the Tarsian.

"CHRIS!"

 


 

"Is he going to be all right?" fear was rising in his voice but he tried to keep his intense worry under wraps so as to not place unnecessary pressure on the medical officer. 

"We're not sure yet. We'll need to give it a while for his condition to stabilise before we can come to a conclusion," her every word seemed to have been deliberated thoroughly.

"How long is a while?" 

"Could take a few minutes, or hours, even days. Hang in there, kid," she tousled his hair before running off with her clipboard to the intensive care unit.

Viktor was drowning in guilt. None of this would have happened if he had just done as he was told. He should have never have entertained the notion that Tarsians were capable of intelligent thought. They were uncivilised, just as he was told so many times by his instructors. Their human-like forms were meant for deception -- for tricking someone as soft-hearted as he. If he had just pressed the red button, Chris wouldn't be in the infirmary. The mission wouldn't have failed. They could have been on their way back to Earth on schedule. He could have been able to see Yuuri sooner.

He ran to the stairwell at the end of the hallway. As soon as he closed the door behind him, he let out a blood-curdling scream. He paced on the minimal floor space that the landing offered him, chanting the word 'stupid' under his breath. Frustration was building inside him and he let out another scream to quell it from overtaking him. His breathing was heavy, and he was getting tired. He stopped pacing and stumbled over to the stairs to sit down.

He pulled his knees into his chest, letting a few more tortured screams leave his lips uninhibited. He had never cried like that before. It felt oddly satisfying.

"Yuuri," he sniffed, "Yuuri..."

The door to the stairwell burst open, and in walked in Lilia. Seeing her cadet in a crumpled mess, she sat on the step next to him and pulled him into her embrace.

"It's not your fault, Vitya. You are allowed to cry. You are allowed to let it all out."

 


 

The Lysithea was in bad shape after the battle with the Tarsians. All of the manpower and resources were diverted to rehabilitating the injured and resuscitating the Tracer pilots that were in critical condition. The food and water were heavily rationed to prioritise the needs of those in the infirmary. Everyone else aboard the Lysithea were deeply demoralised and many of them stopped leaving their cabins for anything other than their biological needs. Viktor was one of those people. Chris had been well-loved and respected amongst the crew members and word on what happened that left him in such a vulnerable state must have spread. Viktor didn't want to have to deal with the added guilt of being responsible for the the loss of someone everyone else cared so deeply about. He was already dealing with the fallout of his own loss.

A knock landed on his cabin door.

"Viktor, may I speak with you?"

Viktor didn't recognise that voice, but he walked over and opened the door anyway. Who he saw was a tall redhead, only about half a head shorter than he was, with bright blue eyes looking back at him.

"Uh, I'm Mila. You probably don't remember me but I used to skate at the same rink as you back when we were on Earth."

"Now that you mention it, you do look a little familiar," he said, giving her a gentle but fake smile, "What do you want to talk about?"

"Well, it seems to me that most of the people who aren't medical officers, nurses or engineers don't have much to do with their time and I was thinking that we could put on a little show for them," she bit her bottom lip and avoided eye contact with him. 

"What a great idea!" this time his smile was genuine, "What type of show do you have in mind?"

"We both skate so maybe a dance routine? I mean, you don't have to if you don't want to. I just thought that it would lift everyone's spirits," she was looking right at him now, eyes filled with hope.

"Actually, that sounds lovely. Let's get started right away."

Mila threw her arms around his neck, squeezing so hard that he was left gasping for air. He let out a nervous laugh as he tried to get her to loosen her grip. She whispered a 'thank you' before releasing him and running off. They hadn't even started practice, and already his heart felt a lot lighter than before.

 


 

Viktor was running to the lounge to meet Mila to practice their dance routine when he almost ran right into Lilia. She caught him by the forearms just before it would have been too late.

"Why in the world are you running around here like a child?" she asked in jest. 

"Oh, someone who I used to skate at the same rink with asked me to help her choreograph a dance routine to cheer everyone up. Would you like to watch it, if you're not too busy?" he was bouncing as he said it.

"Dancing, eh? I may know a thing or two about that."

"Oh, you dance?" this was news to him but it would explain why she was always so graceful in her movements, "Would you like to give us some feedback?"

"When I was a lot younger, yes. I'd love to. If we were back on Earth, I would have been able to give you feedback on skating too."

"You skated too?" he could barely contain his excitement. His flight instructor only seemed to be getting more talented and accomplished by the minute.

"I didn't," she laughed, "My ex-husband did. I'm sure you're familiar with the name Yakov Feltsman."

"YOU WERE MARRIED TO YAKOV FELTSMAN?" 

A stern 'shh' from someone in one of the rooms they were passing by on the way to the lounge grounded him, but it didn't take the awe and admiration out of his eyes. Lilia shook her head as she tousled his hair. She looked fondly at him, which he appreciated. His own parents never looked at him that way. Suddenly, his eyes darkened.

"Lilia," his voice was devoid of the joy and excitement that it had earlier, "Did you get divorced because you were conscripted to join the UN Space Army?"

"No, it was a while after. We tried to make it work, but the longer I spent away from him, the less I wanted to return to Earth. I started to feel like everyone was moving on with their lives and I was getting left behind. So I volunteered for the next expedition, and the next, until here I am, on the same one you got conscripted to join," she hesitated before proceeding, "Does your question have anything to do with the boy you used to send messages to frequently?"

"His name is Yuuri," a blush spread across his face, "I met him when we were in high school. We used to skate together. Sometimes... I..."

"Sometimes?"

"Sometimes I miss him so much that I don't feel anything. I don't cry, I don't get mad. I just feel empty. I don't know what to do with these feelings."

"Channel them, Vitya. When you don't have words to express how you feel, speak with your movements -- speak with your dancing. I know I always feel better once I've let it all out on the dance floor. Come, your friend is waiting for you. Let me watch you dance."

He grabbed her wrist and pulled her to the lounge to meet Mila.

  


 

The audience of crew members cheered as Viktor and Mila performed arabesque jumps side by side. Viktor was thinking about what Lilia had said to him about speaking with his movements. Without completely thinking it through, he started to improvise. If Mila was taken aback by this development, she definitely went through great lengths not to show it. Almost instantaneously, she picked up on his movements and did what she could to compliment the story he was trying to tell. He reached out for her from across the makeshift stage, and she did likewise in return. When he did a pirouette, she did the same half a beat later and intentionally fell out of her turn half a beat earlier. She didn't know the context but she understood. He was searching for someone. So she mirrored his moves to let him know that even though she'd probably never be able to help him the way he needed, she would be willing to try if he let her. She knew what it was like to be desperately searching for someone.

"Did it reach you, Sara?" she mumbled as they bowed before the audience, "I hope it did."

Mila turned to Viktor and pulled him into a hug.

"Thank you. Thank you so much," she let her happy tears dampen his shoulder.

"No, I should be the one thanking you."

It was only when Lilia ran into the lounge and called out his name did he realise that she hadn't been in the audience watching him. Mila quickly released him and they stood in shock as Lilia, their normally calm flight instructor, spoke so quickly and intelligibly that they couldn't catch what she was saying. Everyone else in the room quieted down as Viktor strained to listen to her. His eyes widened in astonishment when he finally heard what she was repeating over and over again.

"Chris is awake."

He stayed transfixed where he stood, wanting to see Chris but also not wanting to see Chris. It took Lilia pulling him by the arm for him to finally start making his way to the infirmary. When they arrived at the infirmary, he hesitated entering the intensive care unit. Lilia shoved him in and held the door shut.

"Chris, I'm so-"

"Viktor," he groaned as he pushed himself up to look at him, "I'm so glad that you're safe."

A knot formed in Viktors chest as he saw the sorry state that Chris was in. His legs were in casts and he had multiple stitches on his arms and chest. He wanted more than anything to hug him and beg for his forgiveness, but he wasn't sure if that was the best decision when Chris had so many open wounds. Instead, he kept what he thought was a safe distance away from him.

"They're sending me back to Earth. They said that this is the best that they can do for me here. I need better care -- care that they aren't able to give me here."

"No..."

"Vitya... Can I call you that yet?" Viktor nodded, "Vitya, I know you'll be fine without me."

"Please, I know I'd be fine without you," Chris laughed heartily at that, then squirmed because he started feeling pain in his chest, "I just don't want to be without you."

"Well, it's not really your call to make. Anyway, there was a reason I asked for you. The doctors are saying that it'll take about a month to get me back to Earth since we wont be taking the scenic route. I was thinking that I could deliver a message for you to Yuuri."

It only registered that he was crying when he saw Chris start crying too. Chris reached out for his head, but he gently pushed his hand away.

"Stop. I've had enough with people playing with my hair. I'll go bald at this rate."

"Write it down for me, okay?" he laughed through his tears, "I swear I'll track him down and give it to him. Er, maybe you should still send it by text message in case I don't make it."

"Thank you," he was frantically trying to wipe away his tears but they wouldn't stop flowing.

"No problem, dear. I won't forget you."

"And I, you."

 

Chapter Text

Phichit sat at the edge of his bed, scanning Yuuri's melancholic expression for any clues to help him anticipate what conversation was so important for him to have had been dragged out of his Advertising through Social Media lecture. He couldn't find one clue. He started to wonder if he really could call himself Yuuri's best friend if he's had such a hard time understanding him in the past two years. Yuuri had changed, and Phichit wasn't sure it was for the better. Yuuri parted his lips and inhaled sharply, before exhaling. He did it again, then once more. Phichit's worrying only got worse watching Yuuri act that way. 

"Phichit," Yuuri said softly, "I really appreciate all that you've done to support me all this time. You're the best friend that I could have ever hoped for. I know that I haven't been the easiest person to love, but you stuck by me. I really... Thank you"

"Hey, anytime," Phichit mumbled in return.

"Uhm," tears were forming in Yuuri's eyes, "I've decided to put university on hold."

"What?" Phichit jumped off his bed and took a step towards Yuuri's, grabbing onto his shirt, "Yuuri, you can't be serious now. You're less than a year away from graduation and you're choosing to quit now?"

"I've... I've decided to follow my heart..."

"Whatever it is, surely it can wait half a year. Yuuri, you are so close to accomplishing something that you've dreamed of since you were a kid. You wanted to be an engineer, remember? You wanted to fix planes? Why are you doing this?"

"Phichit, I..."

"Why, Yuuri?" Phichit was getting choked up and his hands were trembling so hard that he released Yuuri's shirt, "I tried so hard to help you move on."

"This isn't your fault," Yuuri was hugging Phichit, "I thought this through thoroughly. This isn't an impulsive decision, I promise. I... I can't just forget Viktor."

"No one said that you have to forget him. We all know that you couldn't forget him in a million years. He isn't like the rest of us to you, I understand that. We understand that. We were never trying to get you to forget. Not me, not Yuri, not Otabek, not-" he was interrupted by the sudden release of tears of frustration.

"I know."

Phichit stared at Yuuri. He was still struggling to process what Yuuri had just told him. He knew that if he were being honest, he was more upset at himself than he was with Yuuri. He honestly thought that showering Yuuri with love and always being there for him would be enough to help him get over Viktor, but he was mistaken. Phichit didn't like being wrong, but he liked feeling like a failure to his friend far less. For the past few years, he had only wanted one thing -- and that was to be able to help Yuuri recover from his loss. 

"Yuuri," he said, pulling away to kiss Yuuri tenderly on the forehead, "Take care of yourself, you hear me? I don't want to hear any rumours about you ending up in the hospital for not eating or sleeping properly. You're going to do everything that's good for you and then some, got it? Got it?"

"Yes, dear."

"I love you, but I think you're making a huge mistake."

"I love you too, Phichit."

 


  

By Viktor's estimate, it had been about three months since Chris had been sent back to Earth. It was difficult to know exactly how long it had been since they were so far away from the sun, and the days were longer than Earth days. He was worried about Chris's safety, but if he were being honest, he was more worried that his letter wouldn't get delivered. Chris had told him to write the exact same thing as a text message, but Viktor couldn't do that. When he got back to his cabin to write the letter, he found that his phone was quickly running out of battery power. If he had tried to type it out, given how long it had been, his phone would have died before he even got halfway through. He tried to plug it into the electrical appliance socket, but it wouldn't charge.

He left his cabin to look for Lilia. As he approached the lounge, he found her. 

"Lilia, I can't seem to charge my phone."

"Oh, it completely slipped my mind. They've been trying to get the back-up generator to tide us over until the rescue team comes, but it still may not be enough. They told us in a meeting that all the cabins would have their power outlets turned off to conserve power."

"But Lilia, I-"

"I know. There's really nothing I can about this," she looked away when she saw Viktor's eyes starting to water, "I'm sorry Vitya."

Viktor looked down at the battery charge level display that was labeled "7%". He turned it off immediately. It would take at least a month for the rescue team to arrive, and even longer before he could get his phone charged. He wasn't about to let it die before he could message Yuuri again.

"Hey V, you okay?"

He turned and saw Mila approaching him. He wiped his tears off his face on his sleeve, "Oh, uhm, I only have 7% left on my phone. That's all."

"Do you want to use mine? I think I have-" she retrieves her own phone from her back pocket and glanced at the display, "I have 10%. Here you go."

Viktor was stunned by her generosity. He looked at her incredulously, then he started laughing.

"What's so funny about that? I wasn't joking. Here, take it!" she said, waving her phone at him.

"Mila, do you realise how ridiculous this is? You only have 3% more charge on your phone than I do on mine and you think you're in a position to go around letting other people use it?"

Mila's expression darkened, "I don't have anyone to contact anyway so you may as well have it. I don't need to get past the next level of Candy Crush."

"Oh," Viktor said, "I'm sorry I shouldn't have...I didn't know that you... I'm sorry."

"Huh, oh no, it's not that I don't have anyone back at home. My girlfriend doesn't have a phone. It kind of blew up from excessive use and she wasn't been able to afford a new one before I left Earth, so I don't know her new contact number if she's gotten a new one. At any rate, even if she managed to get a phone anytime soon it would take years for me to receive anything she sends me... so take it," she said, shoving the phone at him again.

"What about your family?"

"We've never been that close."

"Huh. That's one more thing that we have in common."

Mila reached out to run her fingers through Viktor's hair, then pulled away while sporting a grin that suggested that she knew about what he had said about people touching his hair to Chris. She let her hand fall to his shoulder and pat it. Suddenly, her legs buckled and her instinctual response led her to grab him by the bicep. They were both thrown off balance and they fell into a pile of people as they slid across the floor. The Lysithea was being shaken from side to side. Everywhere Viktor looked, there were panic-stricken faces.

"Lilia?" he called out.

"Vitya!" he heard her respond barely audibly amidst the frantic screaming.

It wasn't long before she appeared before him, falling right into him and Mila.

"Lilia, what's happening?"

"I think... I think we're under attack. Let's go to the-"

Viktor held his hands out in front of him, just in time to block couch from hitting them in the face. With all the strength they could muster, they pushed off the couch and let it land in the corner of the room. Holding both Mila and Lilia's hands firmly, Viktor scaled the incline towards the hallway. Fortunately, there were handrails along the hallway that they could use to help them climb up towards the bridge.

They somehow managed to make it to the bridge in one piece, and entered the room, only to be flung onto the captain's chair. 

"What's going on, Captain?" 

"Thanks for coming so soon, Instructor Lilia. We were just about to page you," the captain didn't take her eyes off the monitors, "There are five Tarsians out there. We're going to need pilots in Tracers to fight them off. How many Tracers do we have that are still functional?"

Lilia hesitates, "Two, Ma'am."

The captain let out an exasperated gasp, "Two... Are the pilots fit to fly?"

"They're both here with me."

The captain finally turned her chair around to look at them. She flashed them a grave look.

"I won't force you, but-"

"We're ready for instruction, Ma'am," Viktor and Mila said in unison.

 


 

"Do you both have you're helmets and safety gear?" Lilia asked.

"Yes, Ma'am!"

"Are you both ready to be dispatched?"

"Yes, Ma'am!"

Lilia looked at Mila, then Viktor, her face gradually turning red. Her eyebrows were pressed together and her lips were pursed. She was starting to cry.

"I'm sorry I can't be out there with you. Your Tracers are the only ones left and to reprogramme the settings to suit me... It's time we don't have. You're the only hope we have..."

"Lilia-"  

"I'm so proud of the both of you. I'll be observing from the bridge and I'll make contact with you if there's a need to. We'll be watching your back, don't worry. I'm... I'm sorry that such a large responsibility rests on your shoulders. Look at you," Lilia said as she squeezed Mila's forearms, "You're both so young."

Then it was Mila's turn to cry. She threw her arms around Lilia and both of them held each other in a trembling embrace, "You were the best flight instructor I could have ever dreamed to have. I've learnt so much from you. Thank you."

Viktor took a step back to disengage himself from the situation. He was never good with dealing with people crying, especially if he needed a head that was clear of emotions and doubt. He knew what he would be risking the second he stepped into his tracer. Without looking back, he walked straight to his Tracer and started climbing in. He switched on his phone when he got inside the the cockpit and typed out two words before quickly pressing send.

Goodbye, Yuuri.

The opening to the cockpit started to close. Viktor looked up at the screen and saw the display of the internal camera from Mila.

"Hey, V," she said gently. She was still teary-eyed.

"Hey," he responded, "Thank you for everything."

 


 

"Yuuri!"

Yuuri turned around and saw Chihoko running towards him. He stopped to put down the bags of his things that he was taking home from the dormitory. Massaging his hands, he waited for her to reach him. There was a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes plastered across his face. 

"Yuuri, where are you going? I saw you leaving your building. We had a date planned, remember?"

"... Date?"

"Oh, you forgot? We were supposed to meet to study together. That's all right-"

"Yeah, I did forget but... a date? I thought it was just a group study session."

"Oh."

Chihoko's large dark eyes were practically ransacking his soul. She had the same look that Phichit had given him back in their dorm room. It was a look pleading him to help them understand why he was acting so erratically. He couldn't give them an answer even if searched the whole world for it. The past few years had been a blur and through it all, he was starting to honestly believe that he could move on with his life. That was until the text message that he received while he was out with Chihoko the other day, the one that had set off the chain of events that led him to his final decision. 

My dearest Yuuri...

"Chihoko, I... I'm leaving school. There's something else more important for me to do right now and it can't wait," his assertiveness left no room for discussion.

"Can I ask you something?" Yuuri nodded, "Does it have anything to do with the person you've used to keep checking your phone for? I... I noticed when classes first started in our first year."

...There are many things in this world that I still don't understand...

"Yes."

"I...," she had had her suspicions but she hadn't been prepared for them to be confirmed, "They're really lucky. I wish I had known you sooner."

"I'm sorry, Chihoko."

He walked away from campus and made his way back home. Before reaching his neighbourhood, he took a detour to include his high school and the skating rink in his passage. He stopped at the foot of the stairs leading up the skating rink and looked up at the sky as the sun was going down.

"I can't wait any longer for you to come home, so I'm going out there to search for you," he whispered, "I'm meeting you halfway."

Chapter Text

"Viktor Nikiforov. Tracer 13. Ready for take off."

"Power levels at maximum. Runway clear. Tracer 13, please go ahead," called the combat commander.

His Tracer zipped off the runway and took off as the port was opened. For a moment, his view of space was completely free of Tarsians, but not of stars. He started to think that if he stared at them long enough, he could identify all of the constellations that he was taught in school.

 

My dearest Yuuri,

 

"Mila Babicheva. Tracer 19. Taking off."

"Power levels at maximum. Fitted with beam sabres. Runway clear. Tracer 19, please proceed!"

Even after years of training and experience, the weightlessness and the lack of sound in space still left Viktor and Mila slightly unnerved whenever they piloted their Tracers. Depending on their relative proximity with a nearby planet, it could mean that their Tracer would be less responsive or more responsive to movement commands due to gravity pull fluctuations. It was akin to driving a car that kept changing gear. Viktor steered his Tracer to the right, and Mila to the left. They had already discussed their strategy before they had gotten ready for combat. 

 

There are many things in this world that I still don’t understand. I don’t understand why it’s so important for us to study Tarsians or why we need to kill them when we could be finding ways to communicate with them.

 

"Mila, ready?"

"Yes."

Viktor flew in front of the Tarsian closest to the Lysithea and started shooting laser bullets into its eyes. It started moving towards him and he stayed where he was. Mila flew behind it and sliced it into two with her beam sabre. One of the Tarsians had been annihilated, but they didn't have time to celebrate. The other four were much further away from them, but they were approaching quickly. Viktor flew away from them, this time leaving Mila as the decoy. Mila's Tracer was excellent for fighting one-on-one in close combat but it wasn't as good at taking down long-range adversaries as Viktor's Tracer. With the remaining Tarsians so close together, he couldn't afford to question his perceptions of Tarsians any more. His own kind was in danger and that was all that mattered in that moment.

 

There are still so many things for me to learn, but there’s one thing that I’ve always been sure of from the moment that I saw you, and it’s that I love you.

 

Viktor prepared his beam blaster for attack. He took aim at the Tarsian that was closest to him and furthest away from Mila to minimise the impact on her Tracer.

"Mila, I'm about to shoot. Move away on my command."

"Okay."

"Now!"

Viktor slammed onto the red button and watched as the red beam formed a path between him and the Tarsian. He imagined that if they weren't in space it would have been harder to do -- he would have to hear it scream in pain.

 

I have always loved you. I love the way your eyes twinkle when you tell me about the latest book that you’ve read on plane mechanics or the way you blush when I compliment you.

 

One of the remaining Tarsians was closing the gap between itself and Mila fast. 

"Viktor!" Mila shrieked.

Viktor knew what that meant. As advanced as the technology for the Tracers were, there was one glaring flaw of the system -- it had long intervals for recovery between attacks. It was fine if the attacks had relatively low energy requirements such as the laser bullets that Viktor's Tracer was equipped with. But when it came to attacks with high energy consumption such as the use of Mila's beam sabre or Viktor's beam blaster, there was a lag period that would leave them terribly vulnerable to attacks.

The Tarsian was about to strike Mila with its arm when Viktor managed to speed up to her and push her Tracer away. He wasn't fast enough to ensure that both of them dodged that attack unscathed. Part of his Tracer's leg was smashed by the Tarsian in the process.

 

I don’t understand why fate brought us together, then tore us apart, but I understand that I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way if it meant that you never became a part of my life.

 

Viktor stared at the monitor that had all the system statuses littered across the display. The energy recovery system was still functioning well. His energy levels were increasing gradually, but it was still too slow for comfort. It would be enough to escape the Tarsians, but not enough to fight them off, let alone kill them. It wasn't enough to protect the Lysithea.

"V, I'm at 50%," Mila shouted into her intercom.

50% was just enough for Mila to light up her beam sabre once more. It was cutting it close, though. Ideally, the beam sabre would only require 40% of the energy capacity. The problem was that 10% wasn't enough for her to move, have the deflection shields and phase shifts activated, and maintain optimal cockpit conditions. It was a risk if he ever saw one, but there was no room for them to hesitate. Either they die or they die trying. They didn't have any other options.

"Okay, go for it," he finally said.

 

Out here, I’m always frightened that I’m going to lose the people that I’ve grown to care about or I’m going to die in my Tracer and no one will remember my name. I’m usually able to shake off those fears by reading your messages and thinking of you, but I can’t get over the fear that I may never see you again.

 

Mila diverted most of the energy consumption to the beam sabre. If she had been vulnerable before, she was now terrifyingly close to the likelihood of being crushed. She no longer had her deflection shields and phase shift to protect her, and the energy that she had left was barely enough to dodge five more times. The commands and systems that she did an override of resulted in settings that would kill her if there was a chance that she wouldn't be able to reset them right before her Tracer completely gave out. 

"I'm not going down!" she yelled, more at herself than at Viktor, "I'm not giving up!"

 

It’s rough out here, I won’t sugarcoat it. I don’t think that I’ll be able to survive, but I’m going to do everything in my power to live so that I can see you again,...

 

She sliced through another Tarsian. There were only two left. Somehow, Mila had managed to accomplish the improbable. 

"Mila, step back until your energy levels are replenished. No negotiations," Viktor warned.

"You don't need to tell me that, V," she was slamming her fingers against the keyboard so hard that it was audible over the intercom. 

 

. ..and skate with you, and maybe someday hold your chin in my hands and tell you that you evoke feelings in me that I thought I had long locked away.

 

The last two Tarsians were up to Viktor to defeat. His energy levels were at 60% thanks to the risk that Mila took. That was just enough to set up the beam blaster one more time and kill one of the Tarsians. He hadn't decided what he would do about the last one. He positioned his Tracer so he was facing one of them directly and calmly inhaled, then exhaled before pressing the red button.

 

I love you. I always have and I always will. Even if it takes forever and a day to reach you, I will love you still.

 

Only one Tarsian remained. He decided to go all out and approach it. Except, his Tracer was no longer responding to the commands that he was inputting. He tried tapping on the keys harder, but it simply wouldn't budge. The internal lights went off. He smashed his fists against the sides of the cockpit in frustration. Then, he remembered what Lilia taught him.

"Lilia?" he said as he pressed on the emergency contact button that had a direct line to the bridge, "Lilia, I think there's something wrong with my Tracer. Nothing is working. I can't move."

"What do you see on the screen?" 

Viktor looked up and stared in horror.

"Nothing. The screen is blank. Lilia, I don't know what to do," panic was rising in his voice.

He glanced over at the monitor that was supposed to show the captures of the close circuit cameras from multiple angles, but he screen was entirely blank. Without the ability to hear anything outside of the Tracer, he couldn't even estimate where the Tarsian was coming from. He had no way of knowing what was happening outside. He couldn't ask Lilia to contact Mila because she would still be in recovery mode and he didn't want to risk setting off her impulsive tendencies and put her in danger as she tried to save him. Then, he started to worry that the automated systems to maintain optimal conditions in the cockpit would fail. His eyes were widened, even in the darkness, for he knew he would surely die. 

 

Yours in every planet, galaxy, dimension, and life, Viktor.

 

He muttered a prayer as he squeezed his eyes shut.

 

"Viktor?"

Viktor winced as he slowly opened his eyes. He was surrounded by light. He wondered if he had already reached heaven. It did look a lot like what he imagined it would be like; not that he would have any way of confirming his assumptions. He got up from the ground and walked around, trying to find the source of the voice. It was echoing, and it was getting louder. He took it to mean that he was getting closer. He lifted his legs higher, made his strides longer, allowed his heart to pound harder.

Then he saw him.

"Yuuri!"

He ran into Yuuri's outstretched arms, putting his hand under his head to stop him from getting hurt as they collapsed onto the ground. They may be in heaven, but he didn't like the idea of Yuuri hitting his head in any reality.

"Viktor, what are you doing here? You don't belong here."

"Yes, yes, I do. I belong wherever you are!" his whole being was shaking as tears ran down his cheeks. He tightened his grip around Yuuri, "Please let me stay. I'll never leave you again."

"I don't belong here either."

"What?" he peeled himself off Yuuri and raised an eyebrow at him.

"You have to go. It's not too late to leave," Yuuri said as he pushed Viktor off himself entirely and stood up, "Go. I need to go too."

Yuuri was running away from him.

"Yuuri, wait!"

 

"VIIIIIKTOOOOR!"

"Mila?" Viktor responded instantly before realising what it meant, "Mila! Mila, can you hear me?"

"Oh, thank God you're still there. I thought the worst," she was panting, "Okay, stay there. I'll get you once I hit 40%. I'm at 37% now."

"Is the Tarsian near me?"

"No, no, the Lysithea managed to get it in range and shoot it down with the blaster cannons. You can relax now."

"I'm so glad that you're still alive," Viktor said between sobs. 

"You too, V," Mila laughed, "Okay, I'm at 39%. I'm just going to go ahead and get you because I don't trust your Tracer as far as I can throw it."

"I'd like to see you try."

Viktor wasn't sure what he was feeling. He was relieved that they survived the mission, but there was a bittersweet feeling that came along with having to leave Yuuri, even if only in his hallucinations. But that only meant that he would still be alive when the rescue team finally arrives to take them back to Earth. He wondered if he would even look the same. It had been years since he last saw him. He wondered if Yuuri was longing for him as much as he was for him.

"Viktor? Something isn't right," Mila's voice had an edge that startled Viktor, "I think my Tracer's system is shutting down."

"No!"

"I'm sorry, I don't know what's-..."

"MILA?"

All he heard in response was static.

The monitor that showed the close circuit camera captures switched on again.

He let out a guttural scream as he watched the lights from Mila's Tracer flicker before going off completely.

Chapter Text

Viktor groaned. His body felt heavy, so very heavy. He opened his eyes but everything looked grey-toned, as if he were looking through a low quality filter. His eyes finally adjusted to the light, but he had no idea where he was. The room he was in looked close enough to his own cabin, but it didn't feel like his room at all. He turned on his side and saw a jewel blue and black rucksack leaning against a desk. That definitely was not his bag. 

"MILA?"

He gasped sharply and started to hyperventilate, suddenly acutely aware that his memories weren't from a dream. Mila's Tracer system was crashing and she couldn't reach him. He remembered that his own Tracer was malfunctioning. Somehow, he had managed to get back safely onto the Lysithea. They must have left him in the wrong room amidst all the chaos of trying to get him back. He squirmed as he pushed himself up into a sitting position, then slid off the bed and onto his feet. He had to know if Mila was okay. His feet faltered below him, but he miraculously stayed upright. Swaying almost precariously, he stumbled into the door and opened it. The hallway was quiet. Something didn't feel right. He made his way to the infirmary. 

In his hurry to find Mila, he almost pushed over a brunette wearing a medical officer uniform. He took a step back and was about to apologise, then his eyes narrowed. He had never seen her before. 

"Sorry, I'm looking for Miss Babicheva."

She recoiled slightly, but stood her ground, "Uhm, Mila is in the intensive care unit."

He was sure that he hadn't had anything to drink in hours, but somehow he felt his throat go drier than it already was. 

"What happened to her?" his voice came out coarse. 

"Well, uh, her Tracer started to malfunction, which meant that the pressure optimisation levels were off... Basically, a monitor exploded. Fortunately, she managed to turn away from it so it didn't get her in the face but... It doesn't look good. She hasn't regained consciousness."

"Oh," his face fell, "Maybe this isn't the right time to ask, but have I seen you before?"

"Probably not. I'm from the rescue team," her face suddenly lit up, "I thought I recognised you! You were the other pilot stranded in space that had to be fished out by Private K! I was meaning to check on you. We didn't have any more empty beds in the infirmary and your case seemed the least critical, so we told him to look after you. You've met him, right?"

"Private K? No, I haven't."

"Odd, he was told to stay with you. He's an interesting character -- he didn't say much, but was always really sweet. We call him "Private K" because he hasn't told us his name, but someone called Chris apparently knew him from somewhere and started calling him that."

"Chris? Chris is here?"

"I'm not surprised that you recognise his name. He did say he was from the Lysithea but was sent back to Earth to get treated for injuries."

"Can I see him?"

"Not at the moment, dear. He's with all the other pilots, fixing up the Tracers. Don't worry, you'll meet them all when they're done. Right now, I just need to do a quick check up on you so you can go back to your room and rest."

She led him into one of the rooms and behind a set of curtains. There were many such dividers within the room, which his assumed were put up because they were trying to maintain a certain degree of privacy for all of the patients, even in such dire straits. His respect for the medical officers only increased tenfold.

"Why are there so many people here? What happened?"

"You know that the Lysithea shot down the last Tarsian, right? To do that, they had to steer her sharply towards it, which led to a lot of injuries. None of them were too critical. The only one that's in really bad shape as a result of that is the Lysithea. That's why we evacuated everyone to the rescue ship," she gestured towards the chair before leaving the makeshift room. He sat down and waited for her to return.

She came back, wheeling in a steel trolley with a blood pressure monitor, a blood glucose meter, and a few other things that he had seen many times but never cared to learn the names of. She wrapped the blood pressure band around his arm and set the machine to start. It started beeping as the band expanded and pressed against his skin. It hurt a little. He wasn't sure if it was because of muscle fatigue or an injury. 

"Dr Crispino?" a voice called out.

"Over here!" the medical officer who he was with answered.

"She's awake!" the voice replied.

Sara's jaw dropped and she looked up at Viktor, apparently unsure of how to act.

"Go, I can wait," he laughed.

"No, it's Mila. It's Mila! You're coming with me!" she yanked off the blood pressure band and took hold of his wrist, pulling him along with her.

She released him when they arrived at the door of the intensive care unit. She took a deep breath and pushed the door open.

"Sara?" Mila said when she saw her, "What are you... You came... Come here!"

Viktor looked at Mila, then Sara. Both of them were crying.

"I thought I lost you," Sara said softly as she approached Mila's bed, "I heard that you were being reckless out there. You never learn, do you?"

"Never," Mila giggled, "Is that okay with you?"

"I don't care. You're alive. You can be as reckless as you want if you stay alive," Sara wrapped her arms around Mila and held her head close to her chest. She kissed the top of her head gently, so full of fear that she might shatter. She only remembered that there was a bandage pasted on the side of Mila's head when she ran her fingers through her hair. She burst out laughing.

"You have an undercut, Mila."

"What's so funny about that?"

"Nothing, nothing at all! I think I'm delirious."

Viktor took a step back and walked away from the room. As relieved as he was that Mila was safe, and as happy as he was for her that she was reunited with her girlfriend, he couldn't keep up the pretense anymore. He was unbearably envious. He didn't want to ruin their moment with his negative feelings.

 


 

They were on their way back. They were moving slowly because they were using a lot of power in the infirmary, but it was happening anyway. In about a month or so, he'd be back on Earth. His fingers brushed one of the glass panes of the observation deck. For the past few years, he's had to wrap himself in a blanket of faith to keep himself sane. But now, the blanket had already been soiled by loneliness, and he had to decide whether or not he still wanted to keep it on.

He heard the sound of the elevator doors opening behind him.

"There you are! I was so worried. I got back from the bathroom and I couldn't find you in our room. I thought you went to the infirmary for something. I checked there and... Viktor, are you listening to me?"

"...you were the other pilot stranded in space that had to be fished out by Private K..."

"...K...Chris..."

Viktor turned around to face the interloper and a single tear fell from his right eye when he saw that his guess was correct.

Katsuki.

"Yuuri," he breathed, "It's you. I'm not dreaming. I'm not hallucinating. It's you."

"It is," Yuuri was chuckling but his eyes were also moist.

Yuuri stretched out his arms in front of him. Viktor ran to him and collapsed into them, knocking Yuuri off his feet in the process. He was crying forcefully into Yuuri's shoulder, his fists pulling his shirt into bunches of fabric. The tension in his muscles slowly eased as Yuuri rubbed his back and whispered the words "it's okay, I'm here" over and over until he believed them. When his sobbing stopped, he rested his cheek against Yuuri's chest and breathed deeply.

"We just sent for a rescue team a few days ago. How are you here so soon?" he said softly.

"One of the bridge operators detected a fault in the engine about a year ago. It wasn't major, but he contacted the UN Space Army headquarters just in case anything went wrong. I heard about a call for volunteers and... I wasn't going to let you die here all alone," he turned away trying to conceal a blush, but Viktor caught him. 

"Thank you," he whispered as he poked Yuuri's cheek, which was only getting progressively redder.

"Let's go home, Viktor."

"I am home."

"Well then," Yuuri said as he tightened his embrace, "Welcome home."