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NEXT LEVEL: Nights After Dreams

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CHAPTER ONE

-Go go go! The Grand Prix Final Exhibition Gala!-

"It's not a Gold medal, but..." Yuri started, holding his head down a little despite still being happy he'd won a medal at all. He held the Silver in his hands by the lanyard, letting the round, glimmering disc dangle beneath it. His coach stood ahead of him, proud all the same, even if a little disappointed deep down.

Tousling that silver hair, the Russian quirked his head to the side a little and smiled, "I don't feel like kissing it unless it's Gold."

Yuri blanched, the medal wavering as he took half a defensive step backward.

"Man... I really wanted to kiss Yuri's Gold medal..." Victor whined, mostly to himself, but then took a step closer to his student, "I'm such a failure as a coach." He walked right into the younger man's space, forcing him to back up, almost to the point of putting him right on the ice again. A mischievous look grew on Victor's face as he leaned over his student, "Yuri, do you have any suggestions?" His right hand came up to his chin, the gold on his finger gleaming under the lights high above, as his face took on a more serious expression, "Something that would excite me?"

Half a dozen truly inappropriate things ran through Yuri's mind in that instant. He just stammered nervously in response. It was all he could do to avoid toppling over where he stood.

"What did you think just now?" Victor purred.

Cherry-hazel eyes clamped shut even as Yuri's cheeks flushed, but he opened them again and looked at the man looming over him, trying to maintain some semblance of composure, "Oh...uhwell..." He stuttered incoherently. Mentally, he took a moment to regain himself, and then rose up, forcing the Russian back and pushing him down to the ground; the Silver medal was forgotten, and fell to the floor nearby. "Victor!" Yuri called out resolutely, perched on the heels of his skates over the man's right leg. He leaned in close to hug his stunned coach tightly, "Please stay in competitive skating with me for one more year! Next time, I'll win Gold for sure!"

Slate-blue eyes widened in surprise as Yuri pulled back, and Victor could do little more than stare at the man with hope and anticipation, "GREAT!" He suddenly chirped, eyes getting watery with excitement, bringing his own hands up close to his face, "But keep going!"

"Eh?" Yuri choked, leaning away where he was kneeling, caught off guard a little by the Russian's overzealous response.

Victor turned to the right and grabbed the forgotten medal with his ringed hand, "Even I'm worried about making a full comeback if I'm staying on as your coach." He said as he pulled the lanyard through his fingers and held it properly, lifting it up to place it over his student's head, settling the colored ribbon gently around shining shoulders, "In exchange, I'll need you to become a five-time World Champion, at least."

The sentiment was overwhelming. Tears suddenly fell from Yuri's eyes, sliding down his cheeks to drip off his chin. They fell past where his gold ringed hand clung to that Silver disc, "Okay." He said weakly, trying to stay coherent. He leaned forward again and wrapped his arms around the man's shoulders, and cried.

.

['He Must Go On' - Luke Garret]

The arena had gone appropriately dark. Music was playing overhead for the Pair Skaters already on the ice. The Grand Prix Final Exhibition Gala was officially underway, and Yuri was to be the second of three from Men's Singles to get to go out. He stood at rink-side with his coach, butterflies rising in his stomach, his limbs feeling hot despite the cold of the ice nearby. He felt a hand come up and squeeze his shoulder, and he turned his head to meet its source.

"Knock it out, Yuri." Celestino said, giving him a thumbs up, "I can already tell what you're about to do."

The medalist nodded excitedly, "Thank you!" He bowed his head, his cheeks a bit pink, "It's been a long journey... I...I hope I make you proud tonight."

"You always made me proud." Celestino corrected, patting that shoulder again before letting go, and turned his eyes towards the man who'd replaced him as coach, "He's finally starting to live up to the potential I always knew he had. I guess you're not a half-bad coach after all. "

Victor huffed, but smiled innocently anyway, "He just needed a different kind of motivation."

Yuri glanced back nervously, seeing the knowing grin on the Russian's face, "...You would say something like that, Victor..."

The silver affectionately leaned in to cling to his athlete's arm, and perched his chin on one shoulder. Hands came up around the front, and he batted his eyes slowly, deliberately, "Are you saying you didn't appreciate my unique approach?"

The younger figure just chortled in embarrassment and pushed the man away with a hand against his grinning face, smiling despite it all as Victor laughed at his reaction. Once standing normally again though, Yuri saw his coach give a happy sigh. He tried to get serious again after that, "It's almost my turn."

"Mh." The Russian agreed, nodding, "It's time to bring it all home. I skate the way your friends and fans have always know you could."

Yuri nodded as well, his skate-guard thunking against the ground as he took a step forward. He wrapped his arms around the man who'd gotten him back into the Grand Prix Final after such a close brush with retirement, "This is as much for you as it is for Celestino. For everything you've done, for bringing me this far...for helping to give me what I lacked...Victor, arigatou gozaimasu."

Returning the hug easily, Victor nuzzled his student's cheek, "You always had it in you. But I'm glad to have been the one to bring it into the light." He said, patting Yuri's back before pulling up again and looking him in the eyes. He pressed his palm to the younger man's cheek, and rubbed his thumb across it adoringly, "Go show the world how much you've grown. I'm proud of you, Yuri."

Hazel eyes got misty as he heard the words, and he buried his face against the Russian's shoulder a second time, eyes watering again for the happiness of it all. It was serendipitous that the audience started to clap and cheer at the exact same time; the Pair Skaters ended their Exhibition and came off the ice nearby.

"Ladies and gentlemen," The announcer said high above, "Please welcome to the ice...your Grand Prix Final Men's Singles Silver Medalist...Yuri Katsuki!"

Anxious, Yuri pulled back and rubbed his eyes on the back of his sleeve, pulling the track-suit coat off to reveal the costume beneath it. The gradient of black-to-blue flames on the stomach, rising up the chest to end in a short white turtle-neck. The sky-blue lapels to either side that came down to a point at the bottom. The royal blue sleeves that ended in white ruffles over gloveless hands. Yuri gently handed his jacket over to his coach and reached down to pull his blade-guards away, giving them over as well.

As Victor took the guards in his left hand, he reached with his right to pull Yuri's ringed hand up, kissing the gold thereupon and smiling, "I'd say 'Davai,' but I don't think you need to hear it. Go have fun out there."

Yuri nodded excitedly, the butterflies fluttering about with even more energy, "Mh."

Cheers and screams rose again, louder than before, when he finally set silver blades to white ice and started moving out into the rink.

"Some members of the audience may recognize this outfit," Newscaster Morooka was saying, though only the TV and streaming audiences could hear it, "The last time Skater Yuri wore it at an international competition was at last year's Grand Prix Final in Sochi, Russia, where he suffered a catastrophic defeat and came in 6th place. Many worried he would retire from the sport after such a crushing humiliation, but thanks to his coach, Victor Nikiforov, he not only returned to competition, but surprised us all by setting a new World Record for the Men's Free Skate, and won Silver in the process. From the bottom of Japan's heart, and the world's...Coach Victor, thank you!"

Yuri pulled to the center of the rink, mesmerized by the whole thing; the cheering, the adulation, the screams of his name and well-wishes. He knew when and where he was, but seeing himself with that costume from what he still considered his 'dark past' made him a little anxious...but for the first time, it was in a good way. He finally knew what he was capable of, and every muscle in his body twitched to show it off. He looked at his hands, his ring helping to ground him in the present. He set his feet apart, kissed his ring, and crossed his arms over his chest, one hand on each shoulder, and drew one last long breath.

['Firebird Suite Finale' by Stravinsky - found on YouTube channel PrimroseMagic]

The music was quiet, peaceful.

Yuri spun around on the spot in an inside spread-eagle, rotating out again to skate further from center, his arms spread out, descended in front of his chest, and then out again like wings flapping. As the music grew louder and more intense, so did his turns and twists.

He leapt into a flying camel-spin, moved upright into a scratch-spin, and then lowered himself into a sit-spin as the music got quieter again. The world was a blur all around him, even in the dark; lights twinkled from the void where the audience was hidden, looking like shooting stars as he spun. He rose again and pulled away backwards, skating with his eyes nearly closed.

Victor watched intently, practically without blinking. He'd remembered the last time he'd seen the performance himself, and the pity he'd felt for Yuri even back then.

.

"What's wrong with him?" Victor had overheard someone critiquing the performance in the prep area, "He did well enough to place in the Final and now he's just falling apart."

"Is it first-time GPF jitters?"

"Who knows? His Short Program was pretty good though...held onto 3rd despite having only made it here for the first time."

Victor stuffed his hands into the pockets of his half-zipped track-suit coat; the black pants and sheer magenta tips of his Aria costume were still visible, but he'd taken his skates off a little while earlier. He had already done his Free Skate and was just waiting for the last handful of competitors to do theirs before claiming his Gold medal. The large screens in the prep-area made it easy for him to see every detail of every performance, but this one caught his attention more than the rest.

"Something happened to him." Victor said to himself quietly, pulling a finger up to his chin in thought, "This isn't like how he was before."

"What do you mean?" Chris asked, suddenly stepping up next to him and watching as well, "Didn't think you cared that much at this point."

"I don't care?" Victor repeated, looking at him side-ways, "That's harsh."

"You've never really paid that much attention to other skaters before, at least not like this. You always seem to get a bit aloof with the rest of the competition once you've gotten your final score and know how far ahead of the pack you are." The Swiss skater pointed out, "What do you see that's gotten your attention?"

Victor pulled his hand down and crossed his arms, "Yuri's Short Program the other day still had some excitement in it. This...even though we've all seen it half a dozen times leading up to today, it's different. There's a weird sort of melancholy to it. You're his friend..."

"I am."

"...Did he say anything to you that might explain it?"

Chris thought about it, "No, but...he didn't seem like himself this morning. He's been looking at the ground since he showed up for early morning practice. If something happened, it was last night, after we'd all left already."

Victor nodded, and then turned away from the screens, heading out to the rink-side area quietly. The Swiss skater watched him go with a ponderous expression on his face, but decided against following. Stepping out into the seating area, the silver legend looked out quietly, standing near a railing that guarded a ledge. A few people recognized him and called his name, but he was focused and paid them no mind.

'...Here comes the triple toe-loop...' He thought to himself, and winced as Yuri collapsed, sliding nearly into the rink-wall before struggling to get up again and continue on, 'This is painful to watch...'

.

Quad Toe-loop followed by a triple-loop. Yuri was in top form, spinning with ease as he entered into his step sequence.

.

"Come on, Yuri...shake it off." Victor whispered to himself, "Forget whatever is going on outside this place and just skate."

Yuri Plisetsky was in the lower level seats of the arena, feet propped up on the empty chairs in front of himself as he gawked at the skater in the rink. He seemed fixated. The jumps were embarrassing to look at, but the spins and step sequence would frequently grab peoples' attention, even that of the Russian Punk, 'He obviously knows how to move...but it's like he forgets what to do when his skates leave the ice.' The blonde thought to himself.

.

Quad Salchow, single Loop, triple Salchow. The audience was cheering, and the energy fed into Yuri's body and soul like fuel. He was in the zone now.

Yurio stood at rink-side, watching just as intently as he had the last time the show had been put on. Otabek stood quietly next to him, just as interested in the redemptive performance as anyone else.

This is exactly what I wanted to see back then, Katsudon.

.

Yuri's enthusiasm for the Free Skate was withering, and Victor could see Celestino at rink-side, watching like he was a hair's-width away from complete nuclear meltdown. There was nothing the coach could do at that point though, so Celestino crossed his arms and hoped for the best.

.

Quad Loop, and the crowd roared with approval. Yuri pushed on into a low sweep, rising into a series of two butterfly jumps before finally sliding into a triple-Flip, double-Salchow combo.

.

Victor turned his eyes back to the ice; Yuri's only quad for the Free Skate was coming up. He'd changed the program up to emphasize less-difficult combination jumps in favor of more difficult solo jumps. The Russian Champion wondered if Yuri would even try it at that point...but...he did...and again, he fell. Unlike Celestino though, who had since put his hands over his face to hide himself from his skater's collapse, Victor's eyes were wide open and analyzing.

.

Yuri spun a few more times, but then burst out in reverse to build up speed for his final major jump...and he threw himself into the air with a click of his toe-pick against the frost. He spun four times, and landed on the opposite blade...the quad Flip he'd admired; the audience screamed through the dark, and Yuri couldn't help but cheer for himself as well as the glided on.

.

He was utterly exhausted, but Yuri pushed himself up again from where he'd fallen and skated quickly to regain his previous momentum. He'd had to cut a few elements from the end of the program due to lost time, and so the entrance into his final spin sequence looked unpolished.

.

Yuri moved into a camel-spin variant, and hopped to the other foot to continue on. He lowered himself into a sit-spin variant to gain momentum, raising one arm above his head for added difficulty. Ice crystals flew off his blades as he carved his mark into the rink. When he rose up again, he 'stepped' a few steps backward before rotating one last time, and reached up with both hands for the final pose. The rising crescendo and ultimate finale of the music was a perfect analogy to the way the skater himself felt; he'd finally risen above his past defeats - victorious - and stronger than ever.

Born again like a Phoenix from the ashes of its own Death. Blue flames instead of red, burning three times as hot as any normal fire.

Victor had thought the same thing, a look of proud determination on his face as he heard the audience go wild. He clapped his hands along with the rest, but soon found himself unable to maintain the cool control he was trying to hold onto. He jumped up with his hands over his head, cheering wildly, "Yuri~! Amazing~!"

Yuri was panting heavily in the middle of the rink, but the feeling of having pulled off that program...especially with the difficulty having been raised so much higher than the last time he'd done it...made him feel like he'd won Gold after all. Tears ran down his face and he bowed to the audience in each of the cardinal directions, waved, and finally turned to head back to rink-side as the spotlight high above cut out, plunging the rink back into darkness. He rubbed his eyes again like before, but when he raised his face again, this time, he saw not only Victor there clapping for him; Yurio, Phichit, Chris, Celestino...even Otabek and JJ...they were all clapping. It was such a departure from the last Grand Prix Final that Yuri almost fell to his knees before even making it to the rink wall. Instead, he collapsed into his coach's waiting arms, and drank in the sweet sound of his own revival.

.

The Exhibition had ended, and everyone piled back to their hotel rooms to get ready for the Banquet. Yuri was starting to feel tired after the last few hours of adrenaline pumping through his system, and when he finally saw where the two twin beds were mashed together, he threw himself face-first across both of them, the Silver medal squished under his chest, arms flopped out to the sides.

Victor huffed a laugh where he saw from the hall, letting the door quietly click closed, and removed his long-coat, "You're going to fall asleep and miss the fun later if you stay like that for too long."

Yuri just waved his left hand lazily where it partly hung off the foot of his own twin bed, his words muffled against the sheets, "Just wake me up in an hour. I need a nap."

Blue eyes half-lidded in amusement, but the Russian moved off without answering, leaving the skater to his own devices while he plotted his own next move. Turning on the shower was the first order of business, and he discarded of all his clothes. He stuck his hand into the stream of water and found it acceptably warm...but then, instead of getting in, he left the bathroom entirely and padded softly across the carpet with bare feet, moving close to where Yuri's hung off the side of the closest bed.

The younger skater was easily asleep already, and didn't notice the figure looming behind him. Victor just observed carefully, a finger over his mouth as he contemplated things. He closed his eyes and smirked to himself as both hands went down to Yuri's feet, put a finger on the back of each heel, and pushed down, just enough to get each sneaker to slide off.

It was only when Yuri felt the weight of another body coming to rest along the entire length of his back and legs that he finally awoke. His eyes went wide, and he stammered incoherent protests as half-conscious confusion reigned. Pale hands went under his chest, one grabbing hold of the medal to pull it free, then lifted the glinting metal in front of Yuri's right shoulder, holding the trophy in front of them both.

It was enough that Yuri could see that his coach's arms were bare, but what made his cheeks go to a darker shade of crimson was feeling where the man wedged his knees between his own, "...You're naked, aren't you?" He finally managed, a look of amused but embarrassed surrender on his face.

Victor nosed his student's cheek affectionately, and curled his knees back behind himself, "What difference does it make if you aren't?"

Yuri took the point as it was and stayed quiet. Instead, he turned his eyes to where Victor was holding the Silver disc ahead of him, turning it slightly to glimmer in the light of the setting sun through the window. His eyes closed a little as he looked away, and despite his earlier pride and excitement, the stark truth of the night's events suddenly hit him...harder than before, like it was a bad thing, "He took it from us by less than a quarter of a point."

"It looks like Gold right now though, neh?" The legend asked, making Yuri look up to see how the silver-chrome finish reflected the golden color of the light outside.

"Yeah...but that doesn't make it Gold."

"You'll win it next time, like you said."

"You're not disappointed in me, deep down, are you?" Yuri wondered, turning his eyes as he lowered his chin down to the sheet, "After everything you did...in the end, I let you down..."

Victor's brow furrowed, and he set the medal down on the blanket to free up that hand. He moved to cross both arms under his student's chest, and held him close, "You could never disappoint me. I firmly believe you'll get your due in time...and really, you broke my Free Skate record yesterday, which I set during a Gold Medal performance of my own once. You should be proud of what you did here."

"I am...I just..." Yuri said, but let his words trail, pausing only enough to wiggle out from under his coach and roll onto his side next to the man instead. His eyes were low, staring at the ring on Victor's hand where he was holding up his head, "...I-"

"...-wanted to get me something round and golden." Victor finished, echoing the words from the days prior. He reached out his free hand and gently trailed a finger down Yuri's jawline, stopping just under his chin and making him look up with a gentle nudge, "You got that for me, and it's more precious than any medal could ever be."

Hazel eyes looked forward, seeing the Russian there as though for the first time all over again. Yuri rolled onto his elbows, and looked down as he pushed himself up onto them, feeling where his arm and shoulder pressed against Victor's chest. He felt the Russian's arm settle across his lower back, one knee sliding over the back of his leg, but only barely. A moment passed in silence before Yuri reached out to pull the medal up again, looking at his own reflection in its mirror-like surface before noting the gold band around his own finger; the matching ring that Victor had given to him at the Sagrada Familia.

...He must've realized what I'd done when I dragged him into that jeweler's store, and got this while I had my back turned. I can still hardly believe it...but...

He turned his eyes from his reflection on the mirrored disc, and found it again in the blue eyes that were watching him.

Victor waited. For a brief instant, it looked like Yuri was leaning closer...but then turned away again. He smiled despite feeling a little disappointed, but said nothing to question it, simply waiting quietly for Yuri to make the next move.

"Whatever happens..." He started, "Don't let me hold you back."

"Eh?" Victor quirked a brow in confusion, "...Hold me back?"

"You said you were worried about making a full comeback. If it's..." Yuri bowed his head low, turning only enough to see his idol's elbow in the blankets, "If it's because of me...don't feel obligated to stay on as my coach. You sh-"

"Yuri."

He went quiet, a little embarrassed by his words.

"I know. You're going to say that I should do what's best for me..." Victor started, bringing his left hand up a little bit to stroke the skater's back gently, "But that might not always be what's best for my skating. I have to really think about what's going to happen... I'm turning 28 before the month is out; by figure skating standards, I'm a fossil. Staying on with you for one more year...that might be all I can manage."

The words made Yuri's heart pound in his chest.

"But you've thrown me a life-line." The Russian went on, drawing Yuri's attention back again, "You told me at Fukuoka Airport that you wanted me to be yours until you retire...and then after the medaling ceremony, you agreed to win five World Championships... That means I'll be able to stay in figure skating for another four more seasons after this. If it's as your coach...or as your competition...the one thing I know for sure is that I'll be there because I'm with you." He said reassuringly, and leaned close to kiss the figure's shoulder. He held for a moment, and twisted to sit up again, reaching back to pat the back of Yuri's leg, "Come shower with me. It's more cramped than the wash-room at Yu-Topia, but I'll do your hair again. Okay~?"

.

The hall leading to the Banquet was bright, just like Yuri's vague, beer-goggled memories of Sochi. Victor had snickered a few times as he'd gone through the photos again while they walked, each time offering to let Yuri see, and each time being turned down. Victor had honestly felt a little déjà vu at the constant rejection, but vowed that he wouldn't go to bed with tears in his eyes that time. Makkachin wasn't there to console him anyway. He huffed to himself and put his phone away in defeat, but slipped his arm over his athlete's shoulder as they approached the party. He felt a little better about the whole thing though when he noted Yuri's arm coming up behind his back in return, a hand settling gently over the crest of his hip. The longer he felt it there, the more he found himself smiling.

The pair strode into the Banquet Hall through massive wooden double-doors, and those within seemed to go a little bit quieter at the sight of them. The pause soon changed to clapping, and within a few seconds, practically everyone in attendance was adulating the pair's arrival.

Victor beamed under all the attention, and squeezed his student's shoulder where he held it, laughing happily as he brought his free hand back up out of his pocket to wave graciously. His pride as a coach of a medalist was withered only as those gathered decided to focus their attention on a certain rumor they'd heard, rather than on the star skater he'd taken time off to train.

"Victor!" Someone had called out, "Are you really going to skate at Russian Nationals!? That's only two weeks from now!"

"It's true!? You're coming out of retirement!?"

"Does that mean you're going to stop coaching!?"

"Victor!"

Chris' eyes peeked up where he'd been standing in the crowd, a champagne glass already sitting in one hand, "You are coming back? I'd heard the rumors, too, and as much as I want you back, it seems a bit ambitious to say you can do so in time for Nationals."

The Russian's name, and various other comments, echoed throughout the room. Yuri could feel the man's fingers tighten a little around his left shoulder, and he looked up nervously. To his surprise, Victor actually looked a little annoyed; eyebrows twitching despite his desperate attempt to keep the smile he'd born. But, true to Nikiforov-style, Victor quickly turned his sour-tinted expression to one of jovial excitement. He stepped forward only long enough to quiet the inquisition and return attention to where he thought it should've been all along, "Yuri skated a perfect redemption-program today, especially with the flawless Quad Flip at the end!" He explained, pulling attention entirely off the rumors, and back onto what really mattered, "And I hope he continues improving for his own Nationals, and Four Continents after that. By the time the World Championships come up again in March, Yuri will have a lot of competition! Wish him the best of luck! He'll need it!"

"So you ARE coming back!" The crowd erupted, much to Victor's chagrin.

"Victor..." Yuri whispered, speaking in such a hushed voice that he could barely hear himself. Not knowing what to say or do, he softly rubbed his thumb back and forth against his coach's hip, trying to soothe the man's nerves as well as he could.

"So, he's decided to keep skating then after all." Yurio's voice came from the background, rising above the clamor of the rest of the crowd, "How does it feel, Victor? The only Gold you're going home with is the meaningless band on your finger, just like I told you. Looks like it was fool's gold all along, just like its owner."

Yuri could hardly believe the words, but hearing them from the Russian Punk, it almost didn't surprise him either. He practically hid in Victor's shadow, not wanting to be part of the confrontation, even if it was about him.

The crowd parted, and several coaches and skaters alike commented on the offensive language.

Yurio's Gold medal hung proudly around his neck, and Coach Yakov whisper-growled some choice words to the teen, but they went unheeded.

Victor breathed in a quiet sigh, and pulled free of Yuri's shoulder, stepping forward and facing the teen squarely. He pointed his right hand forward, and pressed hard against the medal dangling in front of the blonde's chest; he stared intently, but spoke softly, "There's more gold in this band than there is on your prize. It's 100% pure gold, just like the man who got it for me." Slate eyes focused on emerald, each of them unblinking, "If it bothers you so much that I have it, then try to steal gold from me at the next competition. You still have a long way to go before you're Russia's sole Champion, Yurio."

Hearing the nickname set the teen's teeth on edge, but he challenged the finger-poke against his chest with a jab of his own, and got right up into his counterpart's face, "Tell Katsudon that I'm glad he isn't quitting. I'll crush him, over and over again, until the day he finally gives up and retires for good. Maybe by then you'll regret putting your faith into the wrong Yuri."

"That's enough." Yakov finally said, pushing the two skaters away from each other to defuse the situation, "Yuri, he's your rinkmate again, show some respect." He scolded, then turned then back to his reinstated-student, "When are you coming home then, Vitya?"

The room finally went back to its previous tempo, calmed after the bustle of the conflict.

"Aha~!" Victor laughed meekly, trying not to let the Russian Punk get under his skin, "Pretty soon, probably."

The conversation seemed to go on as though it were the most obvious thing, but to Yuri, still standing a bit in the background, it was a hard pill to swallow. He gave a nervous look as his eyes went to the floor.

All the time he spent with me in Hasetsu, the plan all along was that he'd move back home after the Final. He still talks about it like nothing has changed. ...How can he keep being my coach if he leaves though? How can he talk about leaving at all after how upset he got on Friday when I said we should end things...? What's he thinking...? He's so impulsive. He probably has no plan at all. Stupid Victor...

Chris stepped up with Phichit just as Yuri turned his back to go towards the banquet display, leaving both skaters with their mouths half-open in planned-but-cut-off conversation, having no idea they'd even been there. They blinked at him quietly as he went off, seeing curiously as he held his head low. Chris just rubbed his chin, "Despite winning Silver this time, he still has that look on his face like last year. I wonder if this'll turn into another Strip Tease?"

Phichit wasn't sure what to think of it, "Maybe we should stop him if he plans to drink."

"He's a happy drunk though." The blonde shrugged, holding up his flute of bubbly, "Maybe it'll lighten his mood."

Looking a bit nervous at the idea, Phichit shook his head, "Drunk Yuri always regrets what he does though once he's sober again."

"Not if he forgets again, too." Chris put his free hand on his hip and sipped the drink a little, casting his eyes aside to spot his rival, "I still can't believe they went that whole year and the Sochi banquet never came up. Victor really spent that whole time in Japan thinking Yuri knew all about what happened." He laughed quietly to himself, "It's no wonder he chose to choreograph a super-sexy program after that. He got a taste of Yuri's sweet Eros and couldn't help but ask for more."

The younger skater just gave him a look, watching where Chris had a hand up against his cheek while he daydreamed, "I can only wonder what horrible things you're imagining right now."

"Yuri's special training. One more minute and I think I might cum again..." He sighed contentedly, closing his eyes to 'watch' the show in his mind.

"Youcandothatjuststandingthere!?"

"Yuri!" Victor's voice suddenly called out. The Russian had turned from the conversation with his coach and realized his own student was missing, lost somewhere in the crowd.

The ominously absent skater had slinked off to where the food was on display at the far end of the room. He saw a bottle of champagne in a bucket of ice, and a dozen or more glasses already full in front of it. His hazy recollection of the previous year started with champagne, and he didn't want to forget again, so he snubbed his nose at the alcohol and turned it instead to the carefully-arranged hors d'oeuvres on a different table nearby. Before he'd even managed to put a single piece of prosciutto-wrapped cheese in his mouth though, Victor had wrapped both arms around his waist from behind, and rubbed a cheek against the side of his neck.

"Yuri! Found you~"

The morsel fell from his hand, but his cheeks flushed and he forgot all about it. Just as quickly as he'd calmed from the surprise of having someone clinging to him unexpectedly though, Yuri's mind went back to the whole reason he'd moved off on his own in the first place.

"It's going to be so weird to train under Yakov again after spending so much time in Japan." The Russian was saying, heedless to his student's apprehension, "Reverting back to an athlete after being a coach for so long will be exciting!"

"Yeah..." Yuri mumbled, fingering for another hors d'oeuvre to replace the one he'd lost. He half bit-down on it, not quite focused enough to eat the thing even though he meant to. It was enough to taste the salty flavor, and everything else faded away.

Victor blinked at the lackluster response, and pulled off the man's back to turn him around. It was only then that he saw the anxious look on Yuri's face, those brown eyes cast down towards his tie rather than up into his eyes like he wanted. A gentle hand went under the skater's jaw, pressing the tips of two fingers to the underside of his chin, and lightly pushed the man's gaze up.

Hazel irises resisted the move, but Yuri couldn't help it, and reluctantly looked to his coach's face. His brow furrowed as the nerves coiled in his stomach, but he said nothing; he kept on biting down on that prosciutto-wrapped cheese, using it as an excuse to stay silent a little while longer so he wouldn't have to voice his worries out loud.

"Why do you look so nervous all of a sudden?" Victor wondered, snaking his hands forward to rest them on Yuri's waist, "Is it because of what Yurio said? Don't worry about him. He's always been vulgar like that. It might even get worse once you've beaten him for Gold at Worlds. You should look forward to it more."

Yuri still had no answer. Worlds was months away. Victor returning - leaving - to St. Petersburg was around the corner.

Victor was perplexed, staring down on his silent companion. For lack of knowing how else to make the man speak, he leaned forward with parted lips, and gently bit down on the end of Yuri's snack. Though Victor had closed his eyes, he could feel Yuri's stunned gaze, and all but kissed the man right there. The tips of their noses lightly brushed together as Victor held still there for a while, but eventually bit off his half of the snack before pulling away again.

Yuri blinked in embarrassed amazement, watching in continued silence as his coach finished the piece off. Reluctantly, he finished his own half as well, sighing and setting his forehead to the Russian's collarbone.

"What's wrong?" Victor asked again, feeling the younger man's arms come up around his sides, hands clinging to the back of his suit-coat, "Yuri...?"

"You're moving back to St. Petersburg." He finally said, doing everything he could to avoid letting his voice crack from the pain rising in his throat.

"Of course." The silver answered; it was as obvious as anything, but Yuri's response to it was mysterious as ever, "Aren't you excited?"

"Why would I be? You're leaving."

"Oh! I'm not leaving without you." Victor clarified, "We're moving to St. Petersburg. Together."

Yuri pulled his head up, shocked, "...But...what? ...Really?"

"Yeah. Wasn't that obvious from the start?" Victor asked as he offered a confused smile, "It wouldn't be the first time you've trained abroad, after all. Did you really think I was going to leave you behind? How was I going to coach you? Through FaceTime at 4 in the morning?" He laughed nervously, perplexed at the whole thing, reaching both arms around those trembling shoulders, and rubbed his cheek against the man's ear, "Yuri..."

"Well...I didn't...want to just assume..." He stammered, though his cheeks flushed all the same, ...Me...moving to St. Petersburg!? He thought in a panic, Living with Victor in his own home!? It'll be so different from Yu-Topia...there was always a whole resort between us, and a dozen or more people. In Russia, we'll be alone... He drew in a nervous breath, feeling the euphoria of that unexpected realization. He anxiously clung a little closer, eyes wide.

Victor seemed to enjoy it, and whispered quietly, "I know that we'd planned on me leaving after the Final, but we've exchanged rings now, Yuri." He started, speaking the words against the skin of that bare neck, "Plans will have to change. Having you follow me home is just the natural choice. Unless you don't want to come for some reason?"

"...Unless I don't!?" Yuri echoed in horror. He craned his head back to look at his coach squarely, "I... How could I refuse!?"

Victor offered a smile, calm and reassuring as he'd always been, "So you'll come?"

"Of course I'll come!"

"That's just what I like to hear." He mused, leaning in a little closer.

Chris chuckled into his champagne glass and elbowed the stunned figure next to him, "We won't have to imagine it for much longer, the way they're going."

Phichit had to fan himself with one hand as the other was up and clicking away on his phone, camera shutter noises resounding with every thumb-tap, "Yuri, you know not what you're doing..."

Yurio blustered quietly to himself, watching the spectacle from further away, "Someone should pull the fire alarm. The way they are now, it could get gross if no one stops them."

Mila put a finger on her chin as she looked at the pair, "So their matching rings..." She wondered, the thought lingering for half a second longer. She saw how precariously close the two had gotten, and how flushed Yuri's face had grown. She pointed at the both of them and utterly ruined everything by yelling her realization out loud, "Those rings aren't good luck charms AT ALL! You guys are ENGAGED!"

Yurio, Yakov, and half the people in the immediate vicinity, all turned to gawk at the red-head, but only the Russian Punk spoke, "Jesus, Mila...wasn't it obvious? Victor even said they'd get married if Katsudon won Gold." He turned his head slightly and muttered the rest under his breath, "Which he didn't...so they won't."

"When did he say that!?" She turned to him and grabbed his shoulders adamantly, leaving the spoken-of pair in confusion.

"O-On Thursday!" He answered frantically, though something clicked in his head and he deadpanned the woman instead, "Oh right, you weren't there."

Mila suddenly hefted the hapless Gold medalist over her head, and started marching around the room with him in spite of his flailing and protests, "I can't believe this! Why didn't anyone say anything!? This is going to be huge news back home!"

"PUT ME DOWN, BABA!"

Otabek and the Russians just watched quietly, eyes following the teen as he passed by them in the air.

Victor sighed and turned back, the moment lost, seeing the modest and reluctant expression returning to Yuri's face. Realizing there was no chance to go for it again, he reached instead behind Yuri's back and lifted two champagne flutes from the table, looking over to Chris and Phichit as though in invitation to come closer. The pair did as suggested as Victor handed the second flute to Yuri, and then held up his own into the center between them all, "A toast, then. To Yuri's Silver medal, to my officially announcing that I'm coming back to competition, to the move to St. Petersburg...and all the fun and challenges of the season yet to come."

"Here here." Chris agreed, holding his own glass up as well.

"To Four Continents for Yuri and I, and then, to Worlds!" Phichit added.

"To Worlds." They all agreed, clinking their glasses together.

The Banquet went off without a hitch after that; photos were taken of the various groups, cakes were cut, gifts given from the ISU to the various winners. Yuri made sure never to have more than that first glass of champagne, wanting on pain of death to remember the night. Victor had gotten plenty toasted though, ending up in a rather brief - if comparatively mild - dance battle with Chris. Event staffers quickly mobilized and pulled the two apart before more than just their shoes and jackets had come off, though many commented on how 'those two never change,' leaving Yuri flustered and wondering what had happened that he still didn't know about.

The opportunity seemed to present itself at that point though. While Yuri was trying to get the Russian's jacket buttoned up again, despite Victor's overtly affectionate drunken antics making it difficult, Mila came up behind him. She put her hand softly on Yuri's shoulder, getting his attention just long enough to turn his head back and feel his coach come slithering up all over him again.

"V-Victor!" He protested.

"If they won't let me dance with Chris then you should dance with me!" Victor called out with a slur, "It'll be just like last year, except this time I'm drunk! It'll be fun! We can do that bull-fighting thing again!"

The red-head laughed, sighed, and shook her head, reaching forward to help untangle her rink-mate's arms from around his helpless victim's smaller frame. She managed to get hold of Victor's wrists and pulled them up, giving Yuri a chance to escape, though the Russian continued to play grabby-hands in his direction even as he moved away.

"Yuuurrriiii! Yuuurriiii~!" The silver genius whined.

The younger skater huffed a nervous laugh, but then turned his completely-sober self towards the lady who'd plucked him out of the situation, "Sorry about that..." He held his hands together in front of his head as he bowed it in apology, "Did you need something?"

"Just him." She answered, maneuvering the hazy Nikiforov towards a nearby chair until she could dump him into it, "Can I have a word alone?"

Yuri blinked at her, "I don't know that much of it will stick..."

"Victor is Russian. He can drink all night without blacking out. This is just champagne." She explained politely, "It'll only be a minute."

"Oh... Okay." Yuri nodded anxiously, reaching up to adjust his glasses before stepping away, but glanced back over his shoulder as he moved off. His only relief from the growing swarm of butterflies in his stomach was hearing Phichit calling his name out to distract him.

Mila smiled and waved, waiting until he was out of earshot before turning back to Victor and giving him his wrists back, as well as giving him a strange look.

"What a scary face." The silver quipped, slouching where he sat.

"Victor...what you're doing is reckless."

"You just said yourself that it's only champagne." He defended, "I've had harder liquor before without problems. I drank all night in Hasetsu a bunch of times!"

"I'm not talking about the drinkingstupid." Mila corrected, "This thing you have with Katsuki...it won't be welcomed in Russia."

"Russia's opinion doesn't matter." He said simply, shrugging in his drunken haze and still looking quite merry, "The fans at Rostelecom didn't seem to mind when Yuri showed them his love." He leaned in close to whisper behind his hand, "He asked me later if I thought Russia would be mad at him for taking me off the ice...and when I told him 'no, they'd be jealous,' he got excited, like he was so proud of himself. It was so adorable."

"They didn't mind you guys because they're fans. Not everyone in the Motherland is so understanding. This is dangerous." Mila clarified pensively, "You could get hurtHe could get hurt. Don't you know what's happening back home? If people find out that you, Russia's Hero, are engaged to another man-"

"I can protect us." He cut her off, speaking with a bit more mental clarity than before.

"Victor..." Mila argued, quieter than before, but also more worried than before, "There's video online...a number of people have declared an open hunting season on same-sex couples or those seeking such relationships. They post fake ads on match-making sites and lure single men to hotel rooms, and beat them half to death for fun-"

"How could they bait me like that? I'm not a single man anymore," He interrupted, holding up his ringed hand for a moment before setting it back down on his leg, "...And I'm not going to let anything happen to either of us."

"You're not taking this seriously at all! They're beating people up in the streets, like it's a game!" She whisper-yelled, taking Victor's arm with one hand, "With you being such a high-profile character at home, you could be walking into a death trap as soon as you get off the plane. Too many people will see your relationship with Katsuki as something that needs to be erased. You'll both be torn apart, if not by the media, then literally... I can't watch that happen. Promise me that you'll keep all this on the down-low while in Russia. I don't want to find out that you won't make your return after all, because some gang on motorcycles broke both of your legs."

Victor could see the terror in her eyes as she spoke those words of warning, and he took her more seriously than before, feeling himself sobering up unwillingly. Quietly, he nodded, and laid the woman's concerns to slighter ease, "I understand."

Mila wasn't sure about it, but at least she'd seen the man accept her caution rather than brush them off. She nodded and reluctantly let go, and the two parted ways again, leaving Victor to sit quietly in his own head for a little while. His slate-blue eyes looked down at the floor as he crossed his arms, his rink-mate's words rattling around in his mind like echoes off a canyon wall. Something seemed to stir under all of those thoughts, and his left eye twitched slightly under his bangs, but just as soon as he felt it, he shook his head and rose to stand again. He scanned the room for his athlete, and started walking over to where he saw Yuri standing with Phichit and Chris.

Yuri saw him coming, and noticed the sour look on his face, like he'd been kicked in the gut, "Victor? You okay?" He wondered quietly, reaching an arm out to put his hand on the Russian's lower back as he neared.

Victor nodded quietly, trying his best to put on a smile again, but it was just a façade and Yuri knew him better than that. Chris and Phichit could tell that something was off as well, but no one dared broach the subject. Instead, they focused on Yuri, as Victor had previously requested, and let the former Champion be with his thoughts until he was ready to return to the party. He just quietly slipped his arms around the younger skater's smaller frame and held there quietly until the night ended.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWO

As the end of the night drew closer, sleepy skaters and coaches started taking their leave.

Victor had never quite come out of his cerebral silence. He hadn't let go of Yuri either though. He just listened quietly to people saying their goodbyes all around him, trying his best to acknowledge those who'd waved or spoken to him, but not really feeling like it mattered anymore. What Mila had told him was sobering and unwelcome, but deep down, he knew it was true, and it gnawed at him terribly.

"Please come to Bangkok one of these days, Yuri!" Phichit asked, "I don't want to have to wait until Four Continents to see you again."

"I'll try. Victor can be a bit of a slave-driver." He joked, his tone slightly subdued given how his coach continued to cling on him, "He won't wait around and let me get fluffy on katsudon before then."

The two clapped hands in farewell, and Phichit vanished like the rest, meeting with Celestino along the way and heading back to the hotel. Chris winked in his characteristically sultry way, bidding his own farewells and poking at his long-time rival in an attempt to get the man's attention.

Victor glanced up briefly, and he managed a smile, but there was a sadness to it that he couldn't shake. For a brief moment though, he let go of Yuri so Chris could get a hug in, and felt the man pat his shoulder reassuringly. Chris whispered something into his ear, and the Russian nodded quietly, but said nothing in response. The blonde turned his attention then to the youngest amongst them, and reached over to give Yuri a farewell hug as well, using the opportunity to slide a hand down and playfully grab the skater's backside. Yuri squeaked and pulled his hands back, rubbing the spot after Chris let go, being chased off by Victor.

"Careful, there! That butt's engaged now!" The silver defended, though with a tease in his voice, "And I claim exclusive rights to it!"

"Oh, sweet Victor..." Chris pouted comically, "I'll always find a way."

Yuri waved nervously with his free hand, still feeling his heart pounding in his chest. His attention was grabbed rather abruptly by the feeling of a boot against his back though, which sent him flying forward in a tumble. When he landed, the butt that Chris has just groped was sticking up in the air, and his glasses were disheveled on his face, eyes swirling in dizziness behind them.

"Victor," Yurio's voice boomed defiantly, "If you really plan on being at Nationals then you shouldn't piss around in Japan for very long."

"I don't expect to be there for very long." Victor answered dryly, moving over to help pull Yuri up from the floor, "When are your Nationals anyway?"

"...They'reintwoweeksjustlikeyours..." The dazed skater answered nervously, "We didn't sign me up because I thought I'd be done after the Final...remember?"

The Russian blinked at him, "Sure I do."

Yuri gaped at him, but suddenly it all made sense.

He forgot  again ! No wonder he was so eager to say he was going to his own! He's never had to think about how Russia and Japan always hold their National Championships at the  same time !

"Then which one are you going to?" Yurio demanded.

"You know as well as anyone that spots for later competitions are given out at Nationals, Vitya." Yakov added, "But you can't coach at one and compete at another at the same time. Katsuki is going to have to go without you."

"...Without...?" Yuri repeated, still sitting on the floor where Victor had flipped him over. He turned his gaze to the aforementioned Russian skater, looking for some sign of an answer.

"...Then I can't." The man said simply, rising to his feet and pulling Yuri up with him, casting slate eyes over to his own coach, "Maybe it's for the best. Two weeks isn't that long at all...I wouldn't really have time to get my shows and costumes together." He rationalized, much to Yurio's annoyance, "Euros then."

Yakov shook his head, "There are only three slots for Euros, and all three are taken by people going to Nationals. I can't cut one of them to let you go if you're not going to Nationals."

Victor just stared in annoyed silence, I'm the one who won those three slots though...

The back and forth was stressful to watch, and Yuri saw no alternative, "Victor, you should g-"

"No." The Russian cut him off and shook his head defiantly, then turned back to look into those hazel eyes, "What's the point of saying I'm your coach if I'm not there for you at competition? I'll just wait and go to Worlds. It's last year's scores that count the most for spot selection, so the RSF would be crazy not to send me, Nationals or not."

"You're really just going to give up your spots because of the pig?" Yurio wondered, incredulous, "It might be your last year, old man. Why are you throwing it away like this?"

"I'm turning 28, not 60." Victor smiled bitterly, "But for now, I'm still a coach first, and a competitor second. Yakov is right...I can't just announce my return and then expect to get everything handed to me because I'm a five-time consecutive World Champion." He said, a slight taunt in his voice as he eyeballed the Russian Punk, "Better make the most of this opportunity, and get as many Gold medals as you can before I take them all for myself again."

"Try not to switch teams while you're loitering in Hasetsu, Vitya." Yakov grumbled, shrugging as he and his ex-wife strode past, "We'll see you when you're back home then." He said with finality, leading the small group towards the doors. Mila looked back quietly as they stepped away.

"We won't be long." Victor waved at them as they vanished, and soon thereafter, turned back to dust Yuri's shoulders off, "You need to learn to stand your ground against Yurio. He'll kick you off a pier one of these days if you aren't careful, and the waters of Russia are unforgiving."

Yuri adjusted his glasses, hesitating a moment as he thought on the discussion about Nationals a while longer. He shook his head though, letting it go for the time being, "Yurio's so strange." He commented, "One minute, he's kicking me, then in the next, he's giving me pork-cutlet pirozhki that his own grandfather made...then he's back to kicking me."

"He's like that. You'll get used to him in St. Petersburg." Victor explained, "But stand your ground, even if he catches you off guard. He won't take you seriously otherwise."

Yuri noticed that Victor's eyes had returned to their mostly-normal affect, and he was glad for it. The entire previous conversation seemed to slip right out of his mind as he felt the Russian's hand sliding around the back of his arm, seeking for his own hand. Feeling a moment of bravery, Yuri helped the process along, splaying his fingers to let the others find their places between them.

When their fingers locked, Victor glanced over at him, seeing Yuri's cheeks going pink right before his eyes, and all the prior anxiety in his heart melted away.

.

It didn't take long for them to get back to the hotel room; Yuri was ready to just flop on his face again and pass out without even changing. He could already hear the lecture about taking care of his suit though, so he made sure to change into his night-ware, the usual t-shirt and shorts, before doing so. Still, once he was changed, he took off his glasses and flopped face first on top of the bed nearest the window. It was only seconds before he was on the edge of sleep, only to be roused again by the sound of Victor climbing into the other bed right next to him. Quietly, Yuri turned from his right side to his left, and watched as the Russian tried to get comfortable, lying on his back and staring straight at the ceiling.

Without his glasses, it was nearly impossible to see if there might've been a bug or something that the man was so fixated on. Up close though, clearly able to see Victor himself since he was only a few feet away, Yuri could tell there was a nervous look on his face. He wasn't sure how or whether to ask what was on the man's mind though, since it could've been any number of things from just the Banquet alone, so he did the only thing he could think of...he reached across the cleft between their mattresses, where blankets and sheets were pinched between their beds, and nervously took hold of the hand nearest to him, pulling it closer and settling it over the gap.

Azure eyes turned towards him, and Victor seemed to take some solace in the gesture, "Sorry."

"Why?"

He turned onto his side as well to face the conversation, and let his head fall back down onto the pillow, silver hair flopping down all over the white fabric, "I made all these grand gestures about timing my come-back with Russian Nationals...but for some reason, it never occurred to me to wonder about the timing conflict with yours."

"You were excited." Yuri excused, "It's not your fault our competitions are held on the same weekend."

"I should've known though. ...Rather, I should've remembered." The Russian lifted his head again, propping himself up onto the side of his shoulder as he looked at where their hands were clasped together, bridging the gap between their two twin beds.

"I could've made it easier by saying I'd go to mine a lot sooner than now." Yuri offered, "I'll bet the JSF will be annoyed enough to see my ultra-late, last-second entry."

"How can they say no to their best skater?"

"The same way Yakov did to Russia's earlier."

"Well..." Victor shrugged a bit, moving to slide his free hand nearer to clasp over top of where Yuri held to the first, "It's done. If they let me go to Worlds, then that'll be my first and only competition this year. If not, then I'll just have to do everything next year instead. Georgi can rest easy knowing that I won't just throw him off the Euros team even though everyone knows I score better than he does..." Victor lamented, "It's fine though, really. Like you said...I got excited, and made grand declarations about stuff without thinking first."

"...Can I do anything? If not for me..."

The Russian's cool eyes peered over, and he huffed a smile, "Yuri, I chose to abandon Nationals...it's not your fault."

"...I'm already starting to cause conflict with your competitive side. Even if you freely decided to do this, you wouldn't have had to do it at all if I didn't have to go to my own Nationals. I was worried this would ha-"

"I'm the one that said you should go for five World Championships." Victor mused, cutting off that line of thought before it could go further, "Let me accept responsibility for myself. I chose to come be your coach, I chose to take time off from competition...and I'm choosing to be by your side at Japanese Nationals. I'll go to mine next year."

Yuri wasn't sure how to contest it anymore, so he nodded quietly, feeling the warmth of the man's hands around his. He drew in a breath and twisted away, reaching far to click the light off on his side of the room before returning to where he'd been before. Victor did the same on his side, and the space plunged into darkness soon after. There was quiet for a while, though they hadn't let go of where their hands originally clasped together...and as their eyes adjusted to the lack of light, they realized they were still looking towards one another.

We're moving in together... Yuri thought to himself again, I'm going to St. Petersburg to be with Victor...

"It's a house, by the way." The Russian said, as though he could read the young skater's mind, "It's a small one...and I took over the second bedroom for my skating stuff, but it's still nice. All modern."

"...Then it seems like you'll finally get what you wanted since the beginning." Yuri commented, finding himself oddly relaxed with what was coming.

"...That's a long list." Victor purred, "You'll have to be more specific."

"You said right from the start that we should sleep together."

"We are. We have been...at least, as far as I meant it back then." Victor explained, watching quietly as the younger figure pushed up to sitting, and then withdrew his hand from the space above the gap, "Hard to avoid me when we share hotel rooms together at events."

Seeing the golden glint on Victor's ring-finger, Yuri drew in a breath, and resigned to his choice. The butterflies in his stomach started to flutter again, but for once, they were buzzing around in excitement and hesitant wanting, rather than because he was purely scared. All those 'near misses' floated through his mind; the unexpected kiss in China, the rink-side flirting in Moscow, and how close they'd become in the intervening weeks. He swallowed, and reached for where the blankets and sheets of their individual beds were still clamped between the two twin frames. He tugged them upward, and laid them down to weave them together, setting the thin flat-sheet of his bed down over the Russian's side first, then bringing the second flat-sheet to lay across his own, doing the same with the thick fleece comforter that came next, and then finally with the thick blankets on top. When he was done, it looked like they were sharing a single King-size bed, but with ill-fitting covers. The butterflies were flitting around like wild horses in Yuri's stomach, but he saw where Victor had just quietly been watching him, and leaned down to his elbow again. Pulling the inter-folded sheets up to make room, Yuri crossed the tiny mattress-gap, and then rolled over onto his right side, putting his back towards the older skater.

Victor blinked at him curiously. For once, he was nervous as well, rolling a bit closer where he'd been halfway onto his back. He slowly nestled in against the curve of the younger man's body, deftly sliding his left arm over Yuri's side, curling it up to put his hand against the younger man's chest. He could feel that heart pounding thunderously even through the fabric of his t-shirt. For lack of being able to think of anything to say, the Victor wedged his right arm under Yuri's waist as well as he could, and dared to pull him closer against his chest.

"There." Yuri said finally, curling his left arm so he could thread their fingers together where Victor's still pawed at his heart, "...See?"

"I do." Victor answered, trying not to sound over-excited, but nuzzling in closer and looking on adoringly, his heart soaring, "This is even better than what I meant back then."

Yuri's face was red, but it was impossible to see in the dark. He could feel his whole frame shaking, and he didn't doubt that Victor could feel it, too. Still though, like had been the case since 'Hot-Springs on Ice,' when he felt his idol's arms around him, he felt secure and safe. The trembling gradually faded, and the feeling of the man's warm breath against his neck - and the slow stroke of his thumb against his chest - helped him to relax.

"Are you worried?" Victor asked suddenly.

"...Worried?" Yuri echoed in confusion, turning his head a little, "...Well, I mean...I don't think this is quite what you meant when you said we should do stuff that would excite you, but..."

"Oh, I'm excited." The silver purred, his tone entirely different at that point, making his partner's face even redder than before. Though he couldn't really see it, he could feel it in the way Yuri's entire frame tensed up, and he laughed quietly against the back of one shoulder, "Relax. I won't do anything. Not tonight, anyway. ...I meant, are you worried about moving to St. Petersburg."

"...Oh." Yuri blanched, trying to organize his thoughts again. He twisted slightly, rolling onto his back, and turned his head. The hand that went under him pulled back a little, and he felt fingers curling around his waist, holding gently as the one on his chest continued the slow thumb-stroke, "...Well, it'll be weird training at the same rink as Yurio...it'll be easier to see what tricks he's planning, and he'll be able to see mine, too. Then, you'll be practicing, too...for your own programs, not just helping to refine mine... I'll get to see the creation of something new with my own eyes."

They were all valid points, but they were all miles away from what Victor had meant.

Still, that was an answer in itself.

"...I guess I'm mostly just worried about how things will change between us." Yuri admitted anxiously, "The scenery, the skating rink...the fact that we'll be on our own, rather than in the resort with my family."

Victor looked on him for a moment, but then smiled and settled in closer, resting his chin on the shoulder closest to him, "All good changes. I can't wait."

"You're that excited to go back to Russia...?"

"Only because I get to take you with me." He answered, bringing the hand up from Yuri's chest to settle it on the side of his jaw, tilting his face closer and leaning forward to give him the faintest of Eskimo kisses, "A thousand Russian bears couldn't get me on a plane if I wasn't."

The butterflies were back in full force at that point, but Yuri couldn't help smiling to hear the words. He twisted again slightly where he lay, facing the man evenly, and nuzzled in closer so he could get his head just under the Russian's chin. He kept his left arm folded against his chest, but slowly, nervously slid the right over his idol's side, letting his elbow curve around it. He felt that larger body settling in as well, both arms around him to hold him against that pale, bare chest. What surprised Yuri though was feeling where Victor had wedged a leg between his, practically hooking onto one to pull it forward between his own.

"All good changes." Victor purred again, rubbing his cheek affectionately across spikes of soft raven hair, "I think you're going to like St. Petersburg...and me."

.

Their flight back to Japan was peaceful. Being an earlier flight, Yuri had no interest in sleeping again to pass the time. He even unbundled from his winter garb to get comfortable...and closer. With nothing to do the hours at a time except try to entertain themselves, finding things to do or talk about was somehow far more interesting than it had been.

Watching the in-flight movies, they leaned against one another over the seat-divider, and held softly to one another's hands. Fingers slid deftly past each other, slowly, savoring every moment of velvet-warm touch. Every so often, Victor would lift their hands up between them and press those fingers to his cheek, or kiss the ring on Yuri's finger. In one particular moment though, Victor kept his lips softly on that ring for a longer while than he had before. I nervous exhilaration, Yuri approached their clasped hands from his own side, and slowly neared to kiss his idol's knuckles.

Victor half-opened his eyes when he felt it, seeing those cherry-hazel orbits looking back at him from so near. They both looked up at one another, locked into each other's gazes for what felt like an eternity, all the while, lips pressed gently to fingers. For half a heartbeat, when they lifted up, Victor was certain Yuri would finally come to him...but at the last moment, got cold feet and recoiled into his seat, looking away with his skin nearly glowing red. Victor could feel the tremble, and though somewhat disappointed, he smiled anyway.

After a layover in Tokyo and another quick flight to Fukuoka, the end of their Grand Prix journey was almost in sight. JSF reporters and fans were waiting in a huge crowd to see the two athletes return from abroad. They both looked down to the public waiting area from the upper level, and though nervous, Yuri gathered the courage to wave. The throng of people cheered, and he showed them his shiny new Silver medal, lifting it up high before they finally came down to meet the gathered. Yuri answered a few questions, confirmed Victor's return to skating - and their plans to move to Russia - and after a thousand or so photos, they were allowed to head for the trains for that last leg to Hasetsu.

Arriving back home felt strange after being in Barcelona. With the revelations of the Sochi Banquet still fresh in Yuri's mind, not to mention the fact that he hadn't once let go of Victor's hand since they'd clasped them together on the plane...the air just felt different. Stepping off the train and onto the deck of the station, Yuri's fingers clutched a little tighter. He could feel the pressure returned, and he glanced up to that smiling face that had come back with him.

"There's nothing quite like coming home a victor." The Russian mused.

"Coming home a victor or with one?" Yuri asked back.

"Yes."

That brought a relieved smile to Yuri's face, and he started to head for the escalators that lead down into the main part of the terminal. He could hear the crowd at the bottom long before he saw them, but it didn't change his awe when his eyes beheld the sea of people waiting for him and Victor. Though, in its own way, just as Yuri had expected - and half-feared - Minako and the triplets were waiting with half the town to congratulate their local champion. There were dozens of signs with Yuri's name on them, and even though not many expected Victor to return so soon, if at all, there were a few signs for him as well.

It made Victor happy that there was a place in the figure-skating fandom that appreciated his pupil the same way he did. He'd worked hard to get Yuri back up from the crushing defeat at Sochi, and at least in Hasetsu, people recognized it.

But that made the competitor in him itch. The posters that had been on the walls when he'd first arrived were still there, some covered only by newer posters advertising the 'Hot Springs on Ice' event. So much about being there made him want to get back on the ice as fast as he could, but he knew he'd have to wait. Still, the anticipation of what would come next was ever-present, and his artist's brain simply couldn't sit still.

For once, Yuri was happy to be home. He'd spotted his family in the parking lot as they came outside the train station, and realized that they'd had to shut down the resort just to be there. His eyes welled up with tears, and as he moved closer to get to them, he couldn't help but drag Victor behind him, still holding to that hand.

Victor shuffled along with pride though, simply happy that Yuri wouldn't let him go, even to make a break for it like he had. They made their way through the glass doors and back into the outside world, and only then did Yuri finally slow down. Minako and the triplets caught up just in time to see the reunion...and the ballerina caught her first clear sight of that hand-holding that she'd missed earlier.

She blinked at it, almost as surprised to see that as she had been to see the kiss in China. She pointed at their threaded fingers, then looked to Victor, but he just shushed her with a smile and a wink. Even she blushed when she realized what it meant; the kiss could be written off as a celebratory moment of craziness, but not this.

"We're so proud of you, Yuri!" Hiroko chirped, clapping her mittened hands in front of her face as Toshiya and Mari nodded beside her happily, "How about some katsudon to celebrate?"

Yuri's stomach growled like a lion even just at hearing the word, but his father laughed and pointed at him before a thing could be said in answer, "You just won a big competition!" The older man had said, "But don't sit on your laurels too long or you'll gain weight again!"

Clenching his eyes shut, Yuri could feel the blood drain from his face, but he had no come-back.

"We have to get ready for Nationals in two weeks," Victor said, saving him, "We get one katsudon per medal, and I think Yuri's earned it."

"Are you even ready for Nationals, Yuri!?" Minako asked pensively, "You'd been saying all this time that the Final might be your last competition."

He nodded nervously, "Y-Yeah... But Victor says he's coming back. How can I stay on the side-lines when he's competing again?" He pointed out, feeling a thumb-stroke gently across his own, "It's going to be complete madness when he steps out again for the first time."

"One step at a time..." The Russian interjected, "Let's get back to the resort. We've been traveling for 22 hours straight. In Economy. And the mention of katsudon is making my mouth water."

The ballerina pointed at him and laughed, "I got bumped to Business class for the trip between Paris and Tokyo! Bet you're jealous!"

Those blue eyes went wide, and practically looked to fill with tears. Victor dropped his face to his partner's shoulder, "When we start competing out of St. Petersburg, we're traveling my way. I'm never flying Economy again!"

"...I fit into Coach seats just fine..." Yuri mused, reaching up to pat the man's head.

"I'm taller than you are!"

"By like 3 inches."

"Three inches makes a world of difference in a lot of places!"

Yuri stared blankly for a moment, but then went bright red, much to Victor's amusement.

"Come along then," Hiroko called, starting to wander off already, "We brought the van to drive everyone and everything back to Yu-Topia!"

.

Makkachin bounced with excitement to see his human again, and just as he'd gotten done jumping at Victor, he made for Yuri and bowled him over. Victor was tugged slightly down as Yuri hit the ground, being mauled with poodle-love in a helpless heap of laughs and pleading for the pup to let him up again.

Hiroko looked back after taking her coat off, and saw the one ring on Yuri's finger where that hand was visible outside the fray, "The announcers were saying you had matching rings for luck." She commented warmly, "But these don't look like cheap good-luck charms."

Victor glanced up, but then back down again and bent to pull his dog off his student, all the while holding onto that one hand.

Finally free to stand up again, Yuri's eyes went from where his mother was watching them from, and drifted over to his sister and Minako. Mari still had that 'wat' look on her face from the group dinner when the rings were first pointed out, but Minako had already confirmed what was going on, and smiled slyly without saying anything.

"They're real." Victor chimed in, setting his poodle down before raising his ring-bearing hand up to hold it on display. A moment later, he used that same hand to help get Yuri back up onto his feet, and once the man was standing, hugged him adoringly, "We're engaged."

Hiroko immediately fawned over the idea, both hands up on her cheeks in excitement. For the immediate moment though, Toshiya wasn't sure what to think, and just watched in surprised, yet confused quiet as his wife beckoned everyone through the empty resort. Food was on everyone's minds, so luggage was stacked up on the wall just around the corner from the hall that lead upstairs.

Once those well-anticipated bowls of katsudon were finally presented, the two skaters were like ravenous hyenas, gobbling everything up and making a mess in the process. Rice stuck to their faces, and the family around them marveled at how quickly they demolished their dinners.

"Since the resort was shuttered for the day, Yuri, the place is empty." His mother said in her usual happy way, "But I wouldn't expect it to stay that way. Ever since Victor promoted the town during the 'Hot Springs on Ice' event, there's been more tourists than ever. We might actually have to hire help soon!"

"That's great!" He answered, still somewhat famished, but feeling better since starting to eat.

"Would you mind signing some cards and banners before you leave for Russia?" Toshiya asked pointedly, "We could make a killing on Victor's autographs."

"That again..." Yuri grimaced, "I couldn't ask him to sign a bunch of things to make money for the family business..."

"I'd be happy to." Victor interrupted, reminding them that he was sitting there at dinner with them and not in some far off land where he couldn't hear the conversation, "I'll be family soon enough anyway, right? I want to help." He set his chopsticks down across the edges of the bowl in front of him and reached over to his partner's hand, setting his own gently over it, the gold glinting on his finger.

It was easier to reveal such things in front of a small group, especially since two members of it had been there when the whole thing had originally been revealed, but it still made Yuri a bit jittery to admit it in front of his parents. He looked down at the Victory Katsudon his mother had made, and then turned his hand to better clasp at the fingers curling around it, "No...you're already family."

"You must've gotten those sometime this past weekend." Hiroko said excitedly, looking at him from the other side of the table, "Or were you hiding them from us since China?"

"No...we got them in Barcelona." Yuri explained, feeling a bit anxious again, though supposing that moment was as good a time as ever to ask the question that had been bugging him since the whole thing happened, "I got one ring, to give to Victor as a Christmas-Birthday-Thank-You gift... At first, it was just my way of getting him some gold, in case I didn't win Gold...but then, he surprised me, and had the matching ring in his pocket. I'm still not sure how he managed it."

"That's easy." Victor laughed, leaning over slightly to rub their shoulders together, "I got it right after you bought yours."

"But...how did you do it without me noticing?"

"Oh! Tell the whole story!" Hiroko asked happily, "I want to hear all the details!"

Victor smiled, "Well... After Thursday practice, Yuri surprised me by suggesting we go sight-seeing. We spent the whole rest of the day being tourists around Barcelona, taking a thousand pictures, buying a bunch of interesting souvenirs and different local foods, and having a lot of fun. But then Yuri started looking around for something specific... At the time, I wasn't sure what he was looking for, but then we passed in front of this fancy jeweler's store, and he insisted on going inside."

"...It was a really impulsive thing..." Yuri admitted sheepishly, "I wasn't even really sure what I was looking for."

.

"I'll take this one." Yuri confirmed nervously, pulling out his wallet and handing over the credit card, "I'll pay in installments."

Victor watched quietly from behind him, a bit surprised, though not sure what the man had just done. When Yuri got the tiny black velvet box, it was placed inside a fancy tote-bag and passed across the counter, and he took the handles with a shaky hand, passing in front of the Russian to head back towards the door.

"I'm done...we can go now..." His voice said, though Victor barely heard it, a finger on his lip as he gazed back down into the glass case to see if he could figure out what was missing, "Victor?"

"I'll meet you outside." He said with a smile, "I want to look around a little bit."

"Oh...okay." Yuri answered, blinking once in surprise, but then turning to move towards the exit. He looked down into the bag, his cheeks red, but smiling to himself anyway.

When he was outside, Victor turned back to the case, looking it over quite seriously.

"Is there anything I can help you with, sir?" The clerk on the other side asked, putting back the small red-velvet display cushion, one gold ring absent from it now.

Blue eyes opened wide in surprise, and the Russian glanced back towards the door, standing fully upright, "...Yuri...? You..." He turned back to the clerk and pointed at the small cushion, tapping his fingernail on the glass, "Miss, did my friend just buy the matching ring?"

"Yes, sir."

"Let me have the other one." He said resolutely, smiling even more than before as it truly dawned on him was had happened. He pulled his own wallet out after that, and grabbed for the credit card inside.

"Victor, why are you taking so long?" Yuri's voice returned, the door chiming again as he came back inside.

The silver swiveled so quickly on his heel that his jacket and scarf flared out to the side, but he gave nothing away, "Sorry, Yuri! You know how much I like gold though! I'd kiss everything in this store if I could!" He feigned, hands behind his back, waggling the card between his fingers so it wouldn't be seen. The clerk took the hint and grabbed the card discreetly, hiding it behind the display as she walked away with it and the second ring.

Yuri gave a skeptical look.

"I'll be just a minute! Wait outside?"

"...Okay?" Another skeptical look, but the anxious skater let the door close again.

Victor slowly turned back around, signing the bill for the near-800-Euro gold band, and put the small black-velvet box into his coat pocket, "Spasibo."

.

"We went to the Sagrada Familia after that... Yuri pulled my glove off and slipped the ring on my finger." Victor explained, reminiscing fondly, "There was a freelance Christmas choir there, singing a hymn...it was all really nice."

Yuri's face was red at the memory of it, but he wasn't quite so nervous about the responses or judgment as he had been earlier.

"I wish I could've been there to see the look on his face when you pulled the ring out of your pocket." Hiroko mused, looking at her embarrassed son.

"His face was almost as red as it is now." Victor laughed, leaning his head over to rub the side of his forehead against the man's cheek and ear.

"Your face didn't go red at all." Yuri pointed out, "Do you blush?"

"Well, I already knew what was going to happen." The Russian explained, rubbing his thumb back and forth gently over those nervous fingers, "Why do you think I was so excited while we walked over there?"

"I thought it was just the hot wine you drank before..."

"Nope!"

The relief was something Yuri could feel in his gut, though the whole thing was still nerve-wracking. He glanced across the table to meet his mother's eyes, but was surprised to see tears there, and for an instant, he felt a pit in his stomach, "Mom...why are you...? Just a second ago..."

"When you came home from America and said you'd never found a girlfriend there, I was so sad for you. A young man like yourself, 23 years old and still single... For a woman, that would be a social catastrophe!"

Yuri blanched at his mother's explanation. Minako had much the same look on her face, sitting on the opposite side of the table.

Mari grimaced as well, "Mom..."

"You'll get there, honey, don't worry!" Hiroko reassured, "You just need to put yourself out there more!" She turned back to the 'couple' on the other side of the family table, "After all the time you boys had been together, I was starting to worry that nothing would ever happen. But when Victor jumped at you in China, I thought that maybe you're not so hopeless after all!"

"I'mnothopeless..." Yuri sighed quietly.

It was only then that the 'prodigal son' realized that his father hadn't said a word about any of it yet. The topic had never really come up before. Coming home from a skating tour at age 24 with a fiancé would be one thing...but a male fiancé...that was something else entirely.

"How did this happen?" His father finally spoke up, almost too sternly, "He just came here to be your coach."

At that moment, Yuri was glad to have Victor next to him, still holding solidly to his hand. He adjusted his glasses and spoke calmly, "It just...happened. Over time. Victor helped me grow and be more confident in myself, and as the days and weeks went by, we got closer. At some point along the way, I realized I couldn't do all this without him, and when I told him to stay with me, he…"

"...It was a wedding proposal, don't lie!" Victor mused, brushing back raven hair affectionately with his free hand, trying to lighten the mood, "The ring you got me in Barcelona just made it official."

"I see." The elder man said quietly.

"You're not...angry, are you?" Yuri's gaze remained fixed on his father, and he felt like he was being slowly crushed by the guilt, even though on the surface, he didn't feel like he should be guilty for anything. Being with Victor made him happy, and the thought of losing him...well...he'd already made his peace with that once before.

"I support you in everything you do." The elder finally answered, "Just don't fool around in earshot of everyone. I wouldn't want to hear that even if Victor were a woman. You're still my child."

"We won't, sir." Victor said all-too-politely, looking aside to see Yuri's face go bright red at the thought of it.

.

After finally getting away from the rest of the family, Yuri couldn't wait to get into the hot spring. Just as they'd been told, the place was entirely empty.

Victor was pulling off clothes next to him, sitting back on the bench to get to his socks, "Hurry up, Yuri! I want to get into the water!"

"Okay, okay...I'm going..." He answered, slowly reaching to pull at his own socks...but Victor suddenly took him by the shoulder. Yuri turned his head, cheeks flushed, and looked at the half-dressed figure in front of him, seeing the man stepping out of his slacks as he used his shoulder as a support. He turned quickly away again, looking at the floor.

"What's wrong? Why are you so anxious all of a sudden?" Victor wondered, giving the shoulder a gentle squeeze, "You've seen me naked a thousand times just because of the onsen alone. What's one more time?"

Yuri wasn't sure how to answer. He felt a little paralyzed, but he managed to shake his head and look to the side, seeing the edges of those pale fingers, "I don't know, it's just...different now."

"Why, because of your parents?" The silver mused, stepping towards the corner that lead to the main bathing room, "I don't see why that should change things. It's not like we're different."

"...No..."

"Well, don't wait too long to come out." Victor called, a hand already on the door to the next room, "I might fall asleep before long!"

Yuri glanced back, seeing the same fingers as before holding to the corner of the changing-room wall, and caught a glimpse of the gold as they pulled away. The door opened and closed again before Yuri moved, setting his eyes down on the band around his own right ring-finger. He held his hand up in front of himself, practically able to see his own reflection in the glinting metal.

Is he really serious about this engagement thing? He thought to himself quietly, lowering his hand, resting his elbows on his knees, Maybe he's just messing with me. Getting the ring was so spontaneous... It was just a present. It's not like I asked him to marry me. He didn't even suggest it until Phichit-kun mistakenly thought that's actually what we'd done. But, then again...

.

'We'll get married after Yuri wins the Gold Medal. Right, Yuri?'

'V-Victor...!'

.

But he way he's been explaining it to everyone...he can't just say he's kidding now. Yuri lifted his head, looking at the wall in front of himself, I wonder then if this is just some joke that got away from him? Maybe he only meant it to motivate me to try harder to win Gold. I won Silver though... He can say we're engaged all he wants since he doesn't have to follow-through with the rest...

By the time he'd gotten changed and stepped into the next room, the sound of the showers was off. Victor had already moved through to the onsen outside. Yuri moved into one of the open stalls and sat on the short stool in front of the water nozzle, yawning to himself quietly as he reached for it. The hand that covered his mouth brushed against his lips though, and he hesitated when he brought the shower-head forward.

...Victor openly wondered if he should kiss me to help me feel better in China, and then he actually did it... Would he really be messing with me now if he was able to do that back then?

He lowered the fingers away from his mouth and pulled the shower-head up above his hair, clicking the button on the handle to let the water gush down over him, trying unsuccessfully to wash away the thought.

He hasn't kissed me since though. Maybe he only did it for shock value...after all, he did say it was the only thing he could think of in the moment to surprise me. But then, the way we were last night...and all the way back home...

He could feel the nervous sweat rolling off his almost as thickly as the water, and he made a face at the shower-stall.

I really can't tell if this is serious or not! What should I do!? If I go to him and it turns out he's just messing with me, I'll die! Everything between us will be broken and shattered! Nothing will ever be the same again!

The shower was brief, though it felt like a lot longer than it had been. When he was done though, Yuri reached for a small white towel to wrap around his waist, and headed for the last door to the outside., moving past the massive indoor bathtub along the wall. He could see the huge red demon-mask hanging on the wall just outside, and pushed through the slightly-foggy glass door, stepping onto the stone deck and out into the open winter air.

"There you are." Victor's voice spoke, gathering up his attention.

Yuri glanced up, seeing the man sitting in the water on the opposite side of the spring from himself; his usual spot.

"How did I say it before?" Victor wondered with a smile, reaching his hand out towards the younger figure, "Yuri...starting today, I'm your coach."

Hazel eyes watched, and he listened intently, keeping a hand around the towel clinging to his small frame.

"I'm going to make you win the Grand Prix Final." The Russian finished, giving him the wink again, but staying seated that time, "Maybe that all wasn't entirely true though." He brought his pale hand back to his lip in thought.

"...It wasn't your fault I didn't win." Yuri pointed out, slowly stepping into the water from his side of the spring. He gradually pulled the towel away before it could get wet, and quietly folded it to set on his head as he meandered through the mineral-bath to get closer.

"I've already told you that I'm happy with how things turned out." Victor explained, "I meant the part...about being your coach."

"You did that, too." Yuri said, gawking in confusion, pausing in front of the silver legend with just his head poking out of the steaming liquid.

"No...that's wrong now." The Russian smiled, "Yuri, starting today, I'm your fiancé."

Yuri could feel his hackles raising even under the water, though he knew he should confront it, "...Wouldn't that be true since Thursday though?"

"Yes...and yet, no," Victor pointed out, reaching a hand out to put a finger under the younger man's chin, "You've been playing along, but you haven't entirely been taking it seriously." He saw the nervous, worried look on his partner's face and smiled anxiously, "I've been watching you fidget and squirm every time it's come up in front of people you know, like you're scared of what they might think if you said it was true."

"...Victor..."

"It is true though, right?" The Russian wondered, nervously in his own right, "You're not just playing along to spare my feelings..?"

Cherry-hazel eyes opened wide at the idea, "...I've been wondering if you've been doing that to me!" Yuri said anxiously, rising up a bit out of the water, bringing his hands up to gesture at the man with one, the other hand on his chest, "Since this all started during competition...I've been worried that you were just doing it to surprise people... Every time we got back to Hasetsu, it was like things went back to before the Grand Prix started... I didn't..."

Victor blinked those blue eyes in hurt confusion, "...You didn't what...?"

"I didn't...want to get my hopes up..." He finished, looking away again as he sank back down.

"...Ah." The silver legend realized, "I see."

Yuri groaned quietly where he sat, all but blowing bubbles to distract from his embarrassment, "Even now, I'm just...not sure..."

"This whole time, I've felt like you were avoiding me." Victor explained, "I'd reach out to you, and you seemed interested, but then you'd back off again. Or you'd say things and then nothing else would happen. When I realized you'd gotten the ring, I thought that maybe this would be the moment where you'd finally stop running away...but you didn't even try to kiss me when you put it on my finger..."

"We'd planned since the start that you'd be going back to Russia after the Final though." Yuri explained, feeling guilt and shame all over like a dye that stained his skin, "The closer it got to the end, the more nervous I got. That's...why I said we should end things...so you could go back to focusing on your own skating, before it got too serious..."

"Yuri..." The Russian said quietly, reaching a hand out to touch a single finger under the man's chin, "Do you still have so little faith in me...? Do you really think I'd be able to just leave? After everything we've been through?"

"...I didn't want you to think that you were tied down by me." He answered, keeping his gaze averted for the shame of it, "I already took so much away from you. I just didn't want you to leave without some kind of gold from me...in case it wasn't the medal..."

"My plans started changing a long time ago." Victor said, reaching his hand up to run his wet fingers through that black, damp hair, "That's why I kissed you in China. That's why I asked you to never retire." He explained, brow furrowed for the worry of not being understood, "So I could stay close to you, even if only as your coach, if that's how it had to be. ...Stammi vicino..."

Brown eyes finally dared to look into blue, but Yuri didn't know how to answer to that.

"But it's okay now, right?" Victor went on, "Because you've agreed to come back to St. Petersburg with me. We can be together for real now, not just as coach and athlete. ...That's what you want, isn't it?" He paused, looking for some answer, but hearing nothing, "...That's why you finally let me hold onto you, right?"

"Isn't that what you want?" Yuri finally let himself ask.

Nervous lips offered a sad smile, "I've wanted to since Sochi."

"...Eh?" The words took Yuri aback, "...Why since Sochi?"

"You've refused to look at the pictures and videos, b-"

"I get stupid when I'm drunk." Yuri explained, cutting him off, "I'd rather not know how stupid. Celestino dragged me to that Banquet against my will. I drank myself into oblivion so I'd get a break from feeling miserable."

"Yuri..." Victor huffed a dejected laugh, reaching for the pile behind him on the ledge of the deck where he'd kept his towel...and his phone hidden within it, "Sit next to me. It'll make more sense if you let me show you what happened."

Nervously, he did as bid, sliding forward to sit on the submerged stone bench. He extended his legs out and crossed his ankles, not noticing at first as Victor slid an arm behind his back, a hand carefully setting onto the crest of his hip. His heart skipped a beat to feel it, but he let it happen, and allowed himself to be pulled in closer as his idol unlocked the phone. He fidgeted a little, watching as the Russian went through the huge photo gallery list until [SOCHI GPF] came up. That pale thumb clicked into it, and dozens of images popped up. Yuri looked away, even though he only saw the tiny thumbnails.

"People started taking pictures as soon as they realized you were drunk." Victor explained, remembering it all quite fondly, scrolling through a slideshow of the pictures; many were taken by other people, but as Yuri started to look over, he could see a few of himself apparently dancing with Yurio, and where it looked like Victor was slowly creeping into the shot from the background.

"...What...were you doing?" He wondered, intrigued now, "And why was I dancing with Yurio...? He'd screamed at me to retire after catching me in the bathroom the day before..."

Victor gave him a puzzled look, "He did...?"

"Yeah." Yuri nodded, "Said he didn't want there to be two Yuris when he got into Seniors, especially since I had bombed so badly."

"...Wow." The Russian gave an almost exasperated sigh, "Well, you challenged him to a Dance Off after asking me to come here and be your coach. I hadn't even answered yet, b-"

"Whoa whoa, wait...I...asked you to be my coach? Back then?"

"Yeah, actually. I have a video of it." Victor answered, much to Yuri's surprise, "Why do you think I came?"

"I don't know! It was months later!"

"I was still on a winning streak at the time! And you yourself said to wait until after the season was over!" The Russian exclaimed, "Besides, we barely knew each other back then...and I was still kind of surprised by how insistent you were with your request. I didn't even realize the impact you'd had on me until after the Banquet anyway. Makes me really regret not trying to reach out to you somehow afterwards."

The video pulled up quickly, jumping into the middle of a situation that had already started. Yuri had lost his pants at some point, and his tie was around his head. Yurio was snarling in the background, unbeknownst to the Victor on the screen. Yuri was rubbing himself against him in the middle of the crowd, drunk as all get-out, and speaking with a drunken slur. Chris was next to him, naked but for his underwear, apparently calming down from some big exertion from moments before.

"Victor... After the season ends, my family runs a hot springs resort, so please come! If I win this dance-off...you'll become my coach, right? Be my coooooach, Victoooor!"

A moment of silence passed, and it seemed like Victor was about to answer, but-

"He's not going to be your coach, crybaby!" Yurio barked, smacking the man to get him off his rink-mate, "He already has plans for next year that don't involve GPF wash-outs!"

"That not nice..." Victor had tried to calm the situation.

Yuri had been too drunk to be embarrassed, or to even back down from this Russian Punk. He stood as tall as his inebriation would allow, "...Then how about it... You and me... Whoever wins, Victor will coach them!"

"I don't have to do shit!"

"Are you chicken!?"

"WHAT WAS THAT-"

The video went on for a half-second longer before being stopped by the presence of a crowd. Too many people were in the way to get a good shot. Victor clicked out of it and turned to look at Yuri's reaction.

"I had...no idea..." Yuri said quietly, "I...I didn't even..."

Victor smiled and held him closer, nosing at the side of the man's head fondly, "You were drunk back then, but it planted a seed. One that would haunt me for all the days and weeks to come." He said, opening another folder labeled [WORLDS TOKYO.] At the very end were two thumbnails that looked remarkably similar, except one was Victor in full 'Aria' regalia, and the other was Yuri in just his practice clothes.

Yuri recognized the thumbnail and watched in silence as the viral video of his imitation of 'Stay Close to Me' started to play. He was still confused though, "Minako-sensei told me that you'd seen this video of me, and that it sparked your imagination, so that's why you came to Hasetsu. But...why? I've wondered for a long time...how could have done that? You're a genius... I'm just...Katsuki Yuri..."

"You bombed out at Sochi so badly, and no one could really understand why. It was hard to watch you after you'd made it into the Final Six." Victor explained, "I was already struggling with figuring out what to do moving forward with my own career. So when I saw your imitation of 'Aria,' and how perfectly you'd pulled it off while thinking no one was watching...I thought that, maybe, it was my perfect chance to fulfill your request from before." He laughed softly and clicked the phone off, setting it back down onto the towel behind him, "It was the most perfect excuse to see you again. I had hoped to run into you again at the next competition, so I was pretty heartbroken to hear that you'd cut Celestino loose and moved back home."

"...Why didn't you just call me then? We're both friends with Chris; you could've just asked him for my number."

"You blew me off during hotel check-out." Victor said quietly, "I thought you were mad at me for not agreeing to be your coach at the Banquet."

"...I did what...? I don't remember that..."

"Yeah." The Russian nodded, "I saw you leaving with Celestino to go to the airport. The sad look on your face reminded me of when you turned down the photo with me after the Free Skate..." Victor looked out over the steaming water, thinking back on it, "I tried to get your attention, but just like before, you turned your back on me without saying a word. That's when I realized I'd already started to fall for you...because my heart shattered to see you walk away."

"...I don't...remember hearing you say anything to me in the hotel lobby... I don't even remember seeing you." Yuri stammered quietly, "I was so hung-over from the night before that I just kept my eyes down, and followed Celestino around like a robot."

Victor hummed quietly to himself, "Yurio would tell you how miserable I was the entire way back to Russia after that. I was even worse after I heard you bombed again at Nationals and retired. I poured all my sadness into 'Aria' after that. The song became so much more personal because of you."

"...Because of...me?" Yuri felt like he couldn't keep up. The whole thing was too much.

"Yeah. Haven't you ever listened to the lyrics?"

"Sure I have..."

"And you know what they say?"

"Of course I do, I've looked up the translation."

"Not just the translation...the original Italian."

"I don't speak Italian," Yuri grimaced, "The original words didn't mean much to me..."

Victor smiled sadly at that, "Italian is a Romance language, like French or Spanish, so many words come in male and female forms, depending on who you're talking to." He tried to explain, "Anche tu, sei stato forse abbandonato?" He spoke the lines quietly, "You know it?"

"Yeah, that's from the beginning, but I still don't..."

"StatO and abbandonatO are masculine forms of the words. There'd be an A in place of the Os at the end if it were feminine." Victor went on, "Always do the opposite of what people expect you to do; that's my motto, right? So, I thought, with all the female fans I have, why not make a program where my song calls out for another man instead of a woman like they'd all expect?"

"What!?" Yuri practically squeaked.

"The entire rest of the season, when I did Aria at Euros in Budapest, and Worlds in Tokyo...even at my own Nationals in Moscow before all that." He was listing them off on his fingers, "I had switched the meaning around in my head. It wasn't just some faceless, nameless figure anymore...it was a lament for having lost you. I didn't know how else to deal with it. So...when your video went viral, and I saw you doing the same program..." Victor had to lower his eyes a little, and pinched his fingers over the bridge of his nose for a moment, "...I thought you were calling back to me...that you'd forgiven me. I watched the video on my phone, and made up my mind right then. I came to Hasetsu so fast, Yakov must've thought my ass had caught fire. He barely caught me on the way to the airport, too...even tried to stop me. I was on a mission, though."

"After Nationals, I quit watching figure skating competitions outright..." Yuri sighed, feeling his eyes and throat starting to ache, "Seeing all my friends competing without me, and seeing you...I just...couldn't stand watching it all go on without me." He could feel the tears starting to build up, seeing his reflection on the water starting to blur behind them, "And yet, all that time..."

Victor reached a wet hand up from the water and cupped it around the man's cheek, turning his head to face him evenly. Slate eyes were half-lidded, and he spoke softly, "Yuri... When I came here, I'd been heartbroken and in love with you for three months already. I had no idea if you'd reciprocate those feelings, so I vowed that, at very least, I would show you my love by being the best coach you'd ever had. I didn't even dare to entertain the idea that you'd meet me half-way until I saw the smile on your face after I kissed you. I got so many mixed signals after that though...I thought, maybe you were trying to reconcile things in your head, or were trying to talk yourself down from it...but the longer it went on, the clearer it became that I'd never be able to leave you. As your coach, as your friend...as your lover...it didn't matter...as long as I could stay with you, I could find happiness."

Tears flowed freely down Yuri's face, but he couldn't bring himself to look at the man next to him. He reached a wet hand up out of the water to dry his eyes, though that wasn't the greatest idea he'd had, since it just made everything even more wet than it already was.

Victor found the sight somberly endearing, so he reached for the towel on the ledge behind him, setting his phone down on the tile to pull the white fluff away in its place, "So...to answer your question from earlier about whether I actually want this..." He said, dabbing the towel against that sad wet skin, "...Yes, I really do."

"T-Then why...did you let me think you were going to leave...?" Yuri stammered, "If you kn-knew this whole time, that you weren't going to go without me... You c-could've just, said so...and avoided this whole thing..."

"You never once kissed me back." Victor answered simply, catching the man off-guard. He gave a nervous smile, "And I didn't want to risk scaring you away by kissing you again myself...so I just went back to default, and decided to let you come to me instead. But you never did."

"I...I didn't...I don't..."

Victor just sighed, "Why are you still so afraid of me?"

Hazel eyes opened wide, "I'm not!"

"...Then...?"

Yuri could feel his heart throbbing in his chest, pounding so hard and fast that it practically vibrated inside him. His idol's expression was anxious, wanting but worried, but all Yuri could think of was all the lost opportunities, "...I've...wanted to, so many times..." He stuttered, twisting a little where he sat, feeling the man's hand sliding across his lower back as he moved, "Right after you knocked me over, I wished you'd kept on kissing me, so the whole world could see. I wanted to kiss you when you left in the middle of Rostelecom, but I got cold feet...so I thought I'd do it when I came...only to fall apart again at the airport. The whole two weeks between Rostelecom and the Final, when we were trying to nail my quad Flip... At rink-side before my last Free Skate... In our room before the Banquet, then at the Banquet before Mila yelled at us... On the plane when we kissed each other's hands at the same time... I've wanted to..."

"Yuri...I'm right here. What are you still waiting for...?"

He squeaked nervously, noticing only then how close the Russian had gotten to him while he was busy babbling. All he could see was the one slate-blue eye peering at him, Victor's face already slightly tilted before him, but holding a few inches away. He could feel his lips tingling, even the warmth of every breath against his skin...but the noise in his mind was holding him back. He felt his hands twitch where he held them together in his lap, but then all the voices suddenly stopped. He felt clarity and peace, blissful silence in his anxious head, and he let himself lift the leg that had pressed up against his idol's, moving his knee just over that pale thigh so he could twist himself inward more comfortably. Water dripped from his fingers and wrist as he brought his trembling hand out of the water, hesitantly sliding it forward until he could feel the skin of the man's chest against his palm. He held still for a moment, looking on into that one visible blue eye...but when he saw Victor close it, he knew the moment had come. Yuri drew in a quick breath, and leaned that final inch forward, closing the gap between them...

...only to realize he hadn't moved his lips at all, and he'd effectively just squashed their faces together awkwardly. Embarrassed, Yuri pulled back again, keeping his eyes clenched shut to avoid the judging look he was sure to be getting.

"I'm so sorry." He whined into the palms of his hands, "This is why I've always been single; I don't know...how to do anything right..."

"Yuri..." Victor said softly, "You're getting yourself too worked up. Is there something wrong...? ...Is it because it's me?"

Nearly sobbing but holding it in with every ounce of strength Yuri still had, he nodded and peered out between his fingers, "Everything about the idea of us makes me so happy, but I just... I can't...understand... Why me...?"

"Why not you?" Victor retorted, trying his best to soothe his terrified partner, "Are you too good for me?"

Yuri pulled his hands down instantly and gave quite the look, "Of course not! You're the one way out of my league!"

"If that's where we have to begin things..." Victor sighed, but tried to smile anyway, "Then let me reassure you. Whatever league you think I'm in, I've still been in love with you for a year now, waiting and dreaming that you'd come to me some day. Yuri Katsuki, you're the only thing I've been hoping for all this time. You'll break my heart if, after everything we've been through, you still think too highly of me to want me back."

Hearing those words broke Yuri's heart, and the tears let loose from his eyes, rolling down his cheeks.

The sight of it was startling, and at first, Victor felt a pit drop in his stomach. The personal fear he had, knowing he didn't know how to handle people who cried in front of him, made him worry he'd really messed everything up. However, even though it seemed like Yuri had been crying for hours in those few seconds, he watched one hand peel away from the younger man's face and reach for him. Victor took it gently in his fingers, and guided it over one shoulder, and soon, the other came with it.

Yuri kept his face down towards the water, but inch by inch, he made his way closer, until he could feel his side press against Victor's under the surface. He turned in place, feeling that continuing gentle guidance of fingers on his arms, moving down the lengths of them until he could feel palms cupping over his waist. He practically clung to Victor's chest then, keeping his head tucked under the man's chin, and swallowed the hard knot in his throat, "I wish...you could know how hard this is for me... To want something so badly, and be too scared to reach out for it at the same time, even when it's reaching back." He said, voice cracking slightly as he pressed his eyes to the crook of neck and shoulder, "To have looked up to you for so long, having always been too scared to even say hi to you...but always trying to catch up to you anyway..." He went on, digging deep for every ounce of courage he had just to lift his face, "...And maybe...it's because it is you... My hero, my idol, someone so precious to me that the idea of being with you makes me worry that I'd drag you down..."

"Let me lift you up then instead." Victor offered, "To take this further than just being your coach. You've impressed and enthralled me all this time... All I want is to spend the rest of my life with you... Is that too much to ask...?" He wondered, feeling a bit of hope as Yuri snuffled a laugh at that, even though he was still crying a little, "Let me be your first and only love. The one you share all of your firsts with; I already got your first kiss, didn't I?" He asked, seeing Yuri nod as he fought his tears, "Let me have all the rest then...and we can grow old together... We can share every sunrise, every sunset, as our bodies give out and we can't even skate anymore...we'll always have each other."

The pain in Yuri's throat intensified, but it wasn't from sorrow or shame anymore...it was from hope. He kept his hands on those broad shoulders and leaned back slightly, finally managing to look directly into those blue eyes, "I don't...even know what to s-say..." He stammered quietly, snuffling some, but smiling anyway, "Maybe I should...just ask you to..." He went on nervously, pausing for a moment to catch his breath before going on, "...Teach me how to kiss properly first...?"

Victor exhaled a relieved laugh, leaning forward to touch his brow to Yuri's, "It would be my pleasure." He answered easily, pulling one hand back from where he'd had it on the younger man's side that whole time, and brought it above the water. Thought it was dripping wet, he moved it closer, and cupped his palm over Yuri's cheek, using his thumb to gently wipe away the lingering tears. Those brown eyes with their faint reddish tint looked back at him, nervous but wanting, then closed, and Victor leaned in to close that last small gap between them.

Bliss.

The warmth of those lips was unlike anything Yuri had ever known. He'd gotten the most fleeting sample of it when Victor had bowled him over in China, but it was nothing compared to the moment he had now. Soft, patient, completely selfless; it was the most beautiful thing he'd ever known. All he wanted was for it to go on forever. Every slight turn, starting a new kiss from a different angle without ever really ending the first one; it was all so perfect. Victor backed off after a while just to give him a chance to catch his breath, but sitting in that warm water, with the feeling of velvet-soft skin brushing against his own, Yuri looked on that face with new eyes.

"Starting today...I'm your fiancé." Yuri said, his voice barely above a whisper, mimicking those words he'd heard nearly a year before.

Victor smiled brightly, his own eyes watering a little as the joy and relief of it all finally settled in. His hand went back under the water and maneuvered Yuri's legs over his lap to make the angle more comfortable, then replaced his fingers under the man's chin to draw him nearer, "That's just what I want to hear... But now," He said quietly, his trembling worry settling down finally, "Let me kiss you some more."

Yuri smiled, and all his nerves finally melted away...and he let himself become one with his fiancé's taste.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER THREE

-Riding the high of Victory! Yuri faces his biggest challenge yet...dating!?-

Green robes were thrown on, and the enamored duo slowly made their way upstairs. Makkachin squeezed his way between them and the wall to race them up, and was sitting quite happily on Victor's big bed when they finally arrived. With their doors being only a few feet apart, Yuri glanced inside his own room for a moment, and a thought struck him.

Victor felt the hesitation to go in, and turned back curiously, "What is it? Forget something?" He wondered, coming back the way he'd come. He slid his hands over his partner's waist and gently kissed his neck as he nestled in against the younger man's back, "Or do you want to squeeze onto your bed instead?" He teased.

"No, I just..." Yuri started, rubbing his cheek against his fiancé's brow, "It's kind of weird to think of how useless my own room now is. I've slept in a room by myself every day of my life; even when I was training in Detroit with Phichit-kun, we had our own rooms."

"It can sometimes take a little while to get used to sharing a space with someone, but..." Victor explained, hands roaming around his partner's front to hug him back against his chest, "I think you'll like it."

"I like it already." Yuri answered, turning in place to face his silver love, and started to nudge him backwards into the repurposed banquet hall, "I pushed you away for such a long time, and then..."

"...You were the one to come to me in the end." Victor finished, nose to nose until he felt the bed on the back of his legs.

"Bridging the divide between us...literally and figuratively." Yuri described, watching those blue eyes lower as the Russian sat down. Makkachin eagerly came up and hopped up against Victor's back, panting happily over one shoulder as his human laughed. "Ever since those first days," Yuri started again, loosely curling his fingers around the hands that slid into his own, "My heart would pound in my chest... I thought at first that it was out of sheer terror and disbelief...and I'm sure that was part of it, but..." He added, looking down at that longing face, "When I let myself realize that it was because of how happy I was, I could hardly imagine that it would ever get any better than that. How could it?"

"How indeed?" Victor wondered, slipping out from under his dog's affection, and started to scoot back on the bed until he found his pillows at the head. Yuri came up alongside on his right, and sat on the edge.

"Did...you ever wonder what happened to me...?" He wondered, looking down at first as he contemplated his next move, "I mean, after seeing how physical I was with you at the Sochi banquet, and knowing how I was with you over the first few months of you being here...there must've been a moment where you wondered what was wrong with me."

"Wrong? No..." Victor shook his head, and lifted the hand he still had hold of and kissed the fingers there, beckoning his partner closer, "You were pretty drunk back then. I thought maybe you were just more open when you had some liquid courage; your distance afterwards was just the difference between being sober and being sauced."

Yuri made a face at him, but pulled his legs onto the bed and under the covers as he shuffled nearer, "I went from dry-humping you in public to running away in private."

Victor laughed at the pointedness of that truth, and flopped back down into the pillows, drawing in a happy breath as he looked out through the big window behind him, "Alcohol makes brave men of us all." He said, looking down and to the side again as Yuri fidgeted with the blankets, "So what do you want to do?"

"Do?" Yuri echoed in confusion, slumping over his outstretched legs, looking on that pale face and exposed chest. His cheeks went pink and he looked away again, smiling nervously, "...Well, get used to things, I guess. I'm going to wake up in this bed tomorrow morning, but I'm still going to wonder if what's happening is real. This is all just...so fantastical... I could never have thought this would happen, even in my dreams."

"Is there anything I can do to help?"

Yuri looked back, then forward again as Makkachin rolled onto his back in front of him. He squished the poodles cheeks as that big pink tongue licked at his wrists, "...Be patient with me..."

"I waited a year for you," Victor pointed out, rubbing his right hand across his partner's back, eyes following the gold glint on one finger, contrasted by the green of the fabric behind it, "I don't intend to scare you away by getting overzealous. I'm in this for the long-haul."

"...Is there anything...I can do...?" Yuri asked nervously.

"Don't be afraid of me." The silver answered simply, turning his head on the pillow, bangs slipping over his half-lidded eyes, "All of me is yours. There's nothing of me that's off-limits; there's nothing you can't ask."

"Oh... Uhm...well," Yuri stammered, his cheeks getting a bit pinker by the second.

"What is it?" Victor purred, seeing that anxious mind getting to the very edge of a request, and dying to know what it was.

"It would sound absurd to you, after everything..." Yuri went on, fingers still weaving through the curly brown for on Makkachin's cheeks.

"What is it?" Victor asked, curiosity eating him alive.

Those nervous eyes turned back again, looking at that perfect physique, "If I... I..." Yuri stammered, practically choking on the request. He clenched his teeth and drew a breath, holding it tightly until he felt that hand moving across his back come to a stop, and he let it go in exhaustion, "...I want to...see you... I mean, I've seen you, but not up close; not really. But I don't..." He started, swallowing a nervous breath, "I mean, because I've never been with anyone before, I need...t-time...to make my way through everything regular couples do..."

"I'll never do anything you don't want me to do." Victor reassured, "You can tell me to back off if I'm going too fast, and you can ask me to do things for you."

"...Can I..." Yuri struggled, lifting his knees under the blanket to bury his mouth against, as though the sheets might filter any stupidity that might come out of him, "Can I touch you without...making it seem like I want it to lead to anything...? I mean, I'm just-"

"An artist trying to figure out his subject?" Victor finished, pushing up onto his elbows until he could wiggle out of the sleeves of his robe, and laid back down again, "Getting a mental picture, like a blind man learning about what something looks like with just the use of touch."

Yuri let out that breath, and nodded, "Y-Yeah..."

"Of course." The silver answered happily, "I am your canvas."

Relieved to hear that understanding, spoken out loud in a way that Yuri couldn't even describe coherently in his own head, he twisted around where he sat on the bed, and let his eyes roam over the exposed skin above his fiancé's navel. He watched every rise and fall of the Russian's chest, the way the muscle moved under pristine skin, and how tightly it clung to that athletic frame. Every abdominal was so sharply defined, the intercostals, pectorals, even the ridges of muscle under the deltoid, curving around the edge of each shoulder before turning into biceps. Those cherry-hazel eyes drank in every inch of that perfect body, but something struck him, "...You don't have a mark on you."

Victor tilted his head slightly, silver strands of hair tousling lightly over his cheek, "I have one or two, but I'll never tell where they are." He teased, "If you ever find them, though, I promise I'll tell you what they are."

"...Can you at least let me know if I would be able to see them, given what I can see of you right now?" Yuri wondered, brows raised.

"You would."

"I see..."

"You can touch if you want, too."

Another nervous lump was swallowed, but Yuri nodded, and moved a bit closer, lifting his right hand up over his fiancé's ridged tummy. Victor twitched slightly when skin met skin, and Yuri pulled his hand back.

"It's okay," Victor laughed, "Your fingers are cold, that's all."

"Oh..." Yuri blanched, and brought his hands up to cup over his mouth, breathing a lungful of warm air against his skin. He then tried again, and he heard Victor hum a happy sigh. Those cobalt eyes closed as Victor savored every brush of that hand against his body, moving slowly from stomach to ribs, tracing the line of every muscle, creating a 3-D picture in Yuri's mind. He roamed over that whole trunk, from abdomen to chest, and pressed his palm to the spot right above his fiancé's heart, feeling the organ beat beneath his skin, "It's so strange..." He commented, earning one eye half-opening in curiosity at him, "How different it is to touch someone...through clothes or on skin... Whether as just friends, or as...lovers..."

"You've done some things that narrowed the gap between the two." The silver commented, "Like after you got your medal and knocked me over."

For a moment, Yuri couldn't think of what it was, and his brows wrankled in confusion, "...I only remember you leering at me as you suggested we do something inappropriate." He said, only to laugh at it anyway, "What do you mean?"

"You sat on my leg."

"I did?" He echoed, thinking back and looking up, "Oh! That! When I said you should stay in with me for another year!"

"Mh."

"Yeah..." Yuri felt embarrassed again, but then did something that surprised his partner. Keeping his hand on the Russian's core, Yuri lifted up from where he sat, came out from under the blankets, and sat across his fiancé's thighs, "...It was something like this..."

Victor watched very carefully, and rolled the rest of the way onto his back, looking up at the man straddling him, "...You've being brave."

"I'm...balancing on that wire." Yuri commented, putting his other hand on that pale hot skin to join the first, and spread his fingers out, "Even though it's not even an inch, there's...something safe about there being clothes and sheets and blankets between us. It's like watching something on television...you can be interested in it, knowing that no matter how terrible, or dangerous, or...intimate...it was...none of it could ever reach out and do something to you."

"We're not exactly separated though." Victor pointed out, arms casually laid out beside him, hands relaxed close to his head, "If you wanted, things could go very differently."

Yuri nodded, but gave a knowing smile, "If I wanted..."

"What are you thinking about right now?"

"...About how...surprised I am...that I feel so at ease, despite how strange this all is." He answered, "And how lucky I feel...that in spite of how far away you always were from me, that now...you're right here. Closer than I ever imagined, and...being so patient with me. Letting me figure out how brave I want to be, and just...letting me look, or touch, and not making me feel like I owe you anything for the privilege."

"...Owe you anything?" Victor repeated, "I don't follow."

Yuri nodded, and carefully started letting his hands slide forward from their perch on the Russian's stomach. Fingers grazed the crest of each pectoral, and came together where thumbs and the first few fingers pressed between those two muscles over Victor's sternum, "My view on all this is pretty biased, seen only from the perspective of someone who's never done it before. But... It always seemed, at least in America, where if a girl went out with someone, she felt like she was obligated to do something physical for her date. Some of the guys seemed to think that was an unspoken rule; he buys her dinner, and she..." Yuri's words trailed, and his hands stopped moving, the tips of his fingers just under Victor's collar-bones before he pulled them back again, gripping the edge of the blankets where they came over the man's frame, "She would have to go down on him for it."

"Have to?" Victor asked, incredulous, "Why would she have to?"

Yuri shrugged unknowingly, "The rules of dating are a bit different out there, I guess. No good deed goes unpunished."

"Apparently some folks forgot how courting is supposed to go." Victor supposed, reaching for the hands that had pulled away from him. He threaded their fingers together, and rubbed his thumbs against that nervous skin, "That's not how I operate. I would never even think to keep track of that sort of thing. If I buy you dinner, it's because I want to make you happy, not because I want to trap you into something you don't want to do. I'm looking for your smiles, laughter, and joy. You should never feel like you have to do anything for me. That would make me unhappy."

"I don't know why, but...I feel like that's something I already knew about you." Yuri answered, "Though my anxious mind is always churning out dark ideas, my heart seems to be completely at ease with you. I...can sense that you're a generous spirit. I mean, there was this image I had of you in my mind from before you came into my life, when I had to put together your personality based on what I saw of it at competitions or on television. There was always this worry at the back of my head, this doubt I had over the things that, maybe, I was missing about you. But you never deviated from the imaginary boundaries I had about you."

"Well, there's a saying..." Victor explained, getting cozy under the weight over his legs, "'I want to be the person my dog thinks I am.'"

Makkachin lifted his head briefly, as though understanding that he was being referred to, and his tail thumped lightly on the bed-spread.

"But in truth, I just want to be the person you think I am," Victor added, "And I want it to be because I am that person, not just some construct that isn't real."

"Are you worried...?"

He nodded slightly, "Truthfully, having gotten this far with you...to finally be able to share aspects of myself with you that I couldn't before... I worry that you'll think less of me, because you'll be seeing things that don't show on television, and have no place at competition."

"...What do you mean?"

"Even though I've been with other people before, I don't think I've ever been as close to them as I feel to you." He explained, "I have my private fears that there are quirks about my personality that even I don't know about, because I've never been in this position before. As nervous as you may feel about being with me, for all the reasons that you have, I'm nervous, too. So I just hope...that if I mess up, you'll forgive me."

"I think we both have that fear." Yuri affirmed.

"Don't ever think that you can't tell me something." The Russian added, "That you can't ask me to back off or reconsider what I'm doing. I want you to be completely at ease with me. ...But keep in mind, as we learn about one another in this new way, there's going to be times where each of us will make mistakes. It's bound to happen."

"Yeah..." Yuri agreed, slouching somewhat where he sat, brow furrowed, "But...let's try not to let that little dark cloud get in the way of things. The only brakes I want on this thing we have, is me getting comfortable with it all. I have enough anxiety to keep us occupied for a while."

Victor smiled at that, "I think that's one of the things I'm looking forward to most; watching you grow into us. I'm super excited to see where we go together."

Smiling, Yuri nodded, and sallied up a little bit of courage to act on that excitement. He held his fingers a little tighter where Victor held them, and moved them up towards the pillows. He came down over top of his partner, his thumbs grazing the edge of silver hair. He reminded himself of their union in the onsen, and how much he learned just from those minutes, and did his best to act on that new insight. A gentle nudge of noses started things, and he slid the tip of his own upwards, into the dip at the bridge and up onto Victor's brow, where he kissed that forehead. He came back down though, and tilted his head, feeling the butterflies in his stomach before finally letting himself lower down to those soft, warm lips. He could feel that kiss returned, lips pressing into him, and breathed a happy sigh. He attempted that morph between the end of one kiss and into the start of another, and pressed a little harder into the second. Victor lifted his face a bit higher, and smiled as Yuri rose up again.

"Would you mind if I did a little touching?" The silver wondered, feeling the tickle of loose black strands against his cheek, "Nothing below the belt...just the same as you did to me."

That hue of pink darkened, but Yuri shook his head, and lifted to sit upright again. He wasn't surprised by how easily Victor's hands pawed at his chest, sliding under the open folds of that green robe still clinging to him. When it slid higher though, and pushed the fabric away from his left shoulder, Yuri couldn't help but notice something. He'd known it already from their days in the hot-spring, but having that direct correlation between hand and body, it just seemed more stark than ever.

"What is it?" Victor purred, fingers sliding along the back of his partner's left arm as that sleeve came further away, "You look really nervous."

"It just...occurred to me." He started, "I'm so much smaller than you."

"...Does it bother you?" The silver asked carefully, sliding his fingers back up again.

"No..." Yuri answered, though hesitantly, "I guess I just never really considered it. To be the smaller one in a relationship."

"What would you have thought if it were the other way around?"

"That I could use my size to keep my partner safe. That I'd have to be vigilant so it never seems like I would use that extra strength to overpower anyone."

"Mmmh... That is a fine line to dance along." Victor agreed, "That's my responsibility now though. I must protect the cinnamon roll."

"Cinnamon roll?" Yuri balked, "Is that what I am?"

"As close as you can get." Victor laughed, sitting fully upright so he could wrap his arms around his partner's lithe frame, and kissed at the side of his neck with a nibble for good measure, "You're sweet and perfect and amazing~ And I want you all to myself. No sharing."

"V-Victor..." The younger man gasped quietly, realizing that the soft and warm attention on his neck gave him a weird tingly feeling all over.

"Oh~ Is this a sensitive spot for you?" The Russian purred, nibbling a bit more just under his partner's ear, "I think I just found my second favorite place to kiss you." He mused, feeling every muscle in Yuri's core get tight as he helped turn the man to lay him down in the blankets again. All the while, he stayed on that perfect neck, kissing and tasting that skin, and loving every gasp he got as reward for his attention. When Yuri's knees started to come up though, he backed off a little, and offered a nuzzle against his partner's nose. He set his hand gently over Yuri's waist and looked adoringly into those over-stimulated eyes, "I'm really going to enjoy learning about all these buttons you have." He said, stroking his thumb across bare skin, "This first one is going to be a real pleasure to tease."

Yuri practically had to catch his breath, and gave a nervous smile, "I didn't even...know that was one until now..."

"This will be rewarding for us both then."

.

Catching up from the loss of sleep after traveling, combined with having that velvet-soft body pressed behind him, Yuri slept like a log. It was practically a sandwich, with Makkachin in front of him, and Victor behind, keeping him warm from both sides. He woke briefly as he thought he heard an alarm, but it was gone again as he fell asleep right away. The next time be woke up though...

It was almost noon when Yuri finally roused for good. He was still in Victor's room, but as he sat up and looked around, he realized Victor wasn't there anymore. He reached for his glasses, and then for his phone to turn the buzzer off.

...Where'd he go? I could've sworn he was still here on the last snooze alarm...

He checked his email first, then Instagram. A few posts down, he balked to see a photo on Victor's feed that showed a selfie of the man, with himself - albeit unconscious - in the background.

v-nikiforov
[picture]
v-nikiforov All tuckered out from his first major win at a big international competition. My lovely Yuri Katsudon~
#Hasetsu #GPFSilverMedalist #SleepIsRequired

He shook his head with a nervous smile to see the thousands of Likes already, and checked the time-stamp...nearly 2 in the morning. Butterflies flew around in his stomach...at least until the growling of hunger scared them away. He barely registered the tease of a few posts expressing how jealous many followers were that he was getting to sleep with their skating hero.

Quietly, Yuri made his way downstairs. He stopped briefly to take a look in his own room again, feeling that same strange sensation as he had the night before. That odd realization that the room was no longer necessary; that he'd effectively moved out of it as he moved on to a new and unknown part of his adult life.

His ears perked up the sound of people talking further inside the resort though, and he snuck closer to the source, climbing down the many flights of stairs until he found the first floor. Soon, he could tell that the voices were coming from the kitchen area, and he peeked his head in to see Victor there learning to make pork cutlet bowls from Hiroko.

He taste-tested what they'd made so far, and he let out a happy sigh, "Vkusno~! You're so good at this!"

"You're a natural at cooking, Victor! This is all you!"

Yuri was in awe of how well the man blended, even after the many months they'd spent there to train. Now, it really was like he was family, not just a guest to entertain.

"Frankenstein's Monster finally rises to mingle among the commoners." Mari said jokingly from behind, catching Yuri severely off guard. After he'd peeled himself off the wall, the terrorized skater heaved a sigh.

"You scared me half to death."

"You need a job that gets you up in the morning." She pat his head as she passed to go into the kitchen with a few orders for lunch, "The resort's back open, so you should help, or find something to do outside."

"Oh! Yuri~!" Victor finally took notice, holding up his new prize, "Good morning-afternoon-time! Hungry?"

"You're letting me have katsudon again already? But haven't won anything since yesterday..." Yuri wondered.

"Last night was for your Silver Medal, but this one's for beating my Free Skate record! I think it's a good excuse to have your favorite food!" He beckoned his fiancé to the next room and placed the bowl on the low-sitting table, proud of his handiwork and hoping Yuri would like it. When the younger figure finally sat down, Victor looked eager, "Eat quickly, but not too quickly. We're going to go run after this. Every bite is another hundred yards."

Yuri balked, "Every bite!?"

"If we're going to Japanese Nationals after all, we need to make sure you don't get a squishy tummy." Victor quipped, and headed back to the kitchen.

Yuri gaped as the Russian moved off, and he looked down at himself...parting the folds of his robe just to make sure his athletic core hadn't become a marshmallow overnight somehow. Seeing that he still had abs, he layered the pieces together again and heaved a sigh of relief...and looked at the katsudon skeptically. He pulled a pair of chopsticks into his fingers and held them over the steaming food, picking up one of the breaded pork cuts. Brown eyes looked at it with lust, drool starting to slip down out of the corner of his mouth...and he succumbed.

By the time he was done, and given half a chance to digest so he wouldn't cramp up in the middle of the afternoon's first round of work-outs, the sun was at its apex. It turned out that the run was just a ruse though... They did run, but in the end, it was just one way Victor employed to away from the resort.

The cold winter weather made running less strenuous, making it easier to go farther or faster than it would be in the middle of Hasetsu's summer months. Victor ran them up the frozen rocky beach, Makkachin at their heels the whole way, only to walk back along the nearby road with their fingers laced together.

"I noticed that you don't wear gloves anymore." Yuri said sheepishly, "How come? You used to always wear a pair. Aren't your hands cold?"

"Can't see my engagement ring with gloves on." The Russian pointed out, "But you knew that."

Yuri's cheeks were a bit pink, but he stepped a little closer, rubbing his shoulder against his fiancé's, "I just wanted to hear you say it."

"Is there anything else you want to hear?" Victor wondered inquisitively, leaning his head down so he could look at his partner more evenly, "Yuuuuri~?"

"Say things in Russian." He suggested.

"Hah? Like what?"

"Anything."

"Čto-nibud'."

"What's that mean?"

"Anything."

"Victor."

He just laughed, "Then tell me what you want to hear."

"I don't know, pick something interesting...some common saying or phrase from back home." Yuri suggested again, looking for him to be creative.

"Okay..." Victor lifted his free hand and put a finger on his lip as he thought, but then picked something, "Ne ošibaetsja tot, kto ničego ne delaet."

"That sounds ominous." The younger figure teased.

"It means, 'He who makes no mistakes, makes nothing at all.'" Victor answered, slowing down a little as he felt Yuri do the same, "It's fitting, right? Net ničego nevozmožnogo, Yuri. Nothing is impossible."

Hazel eyes just watched him, as though the words had hit some deeper level that he hadn't anticipated. Eventually, Yuri nodded, his visage gaining a happy smile, "Not anymore."

They eventually made it to the yard outside Hasetsu Castle, moving to sit at the same bench they'd been on shortly after Victor had originally arrived. Yuri brushed the snow off of it with a bare hand, shaking it and putting those frosted fingers into the armpit of his coat to try and warm them up again as they sat down, only to feel his partner taking it back and put it between both of his own hands.

The Russian blew a warm breath between them, making Yuri's skin feel better rather quickly. With his lips still against his skin, Victor looked past their hands, watching his fiancé closely. Seeing the flushed cheeks and the nervous, but willing eyes, he reached his right hand forward and gently brushed it against one cheek, "I can't tell if you're blushing for my sake, or you're just cold."

"It's probably way colder in Russia anyway." Yuri pointed out, halfway avoiding the question as he gave a goofy anxious smile, It's going to take a while to get used to this... Even when he does something so simple like warming my hand up, it makes my heart beat so much faster than normal...

Makkachin flew by after that, kicking up more snow as he dove into a large pile that had been shoveled aside to clear the path earlier in the day. That drew Victor's attention away suddenly, and he reached down with a laugh to scoop some snow into his hands, tossing it above at the big brown dog. Makkachin jumped into the air to bite at it, and at each successive snowball that got tossed his way after that, until he finally bolted off again in another direction to dive into another snowpile.

Yuri had flopped down into a snow-bank while Victor was having his fun, and calmly looked up into the white-grey sky; the clouds that would no-doubt drop even more snow onto Hasetsu later on in the afternoon.

Suddenly though, the Russian was blocking his view, looking down on him from above, "Daydreaming? I wonder what about."

"Hm?" Yuri hummed, blinking a few times as he watched the man descend to lie down next to him in the cold white fluff, "Oh, I was just thinking about how it's going to snow again later." He turned his head slightly, "It had been pretty warm last year before you came...but then you literally brought winter back with you, arriving at the head of a rare April snowstorm. It's kind of poetic, in a way, considering that you came to get me back on the ice."

"I guess you guys celebrate Christmas here, too, since you mentioned it before." Victor said simply, reaching one arm back to settle it under his head, keeping his hair off the ground; his other hand went in search of Yuri's, finding it easily and clasping around it fondly, "Right?"

"Well, a little bit... We don't do it like in America." He explained, "The first Christmas I spent in Detroit was really weird."

"Really? How so? I bet it's different from Russian Christmas, too." Victor wondered, turning onto his side..

"Well... In America, it's this...awkward...almost disjointed celebration, where half the people think it's a religious thing and the other half think it's a gift-giving thing. One family might have a Christmas tree and Santa Claus decorations, and the family next door would have a manger out. But...here in Japan, Christmas is more like...a time where people just spread happiness around, if that makes sense." Yuri did his best to explain, seeing his fiancé nod and smile, "And Christmas Eve is...well...it's...uhm..."

Victor caught on, "What is it?" He teased, leaning in closer to set his free hand over his partner's chest, lying closer next to him, "Christmas Eve is...?"

"Well..." Yuri continued to stammer, "It's...a romantic day, where couples give each other presents and spend time together."

"Oh? Interesting." Victor hummed happily, leaning in a little closer, fingering the edge of his fiancé's chin, "I'll have to get you something special then." He was looming directly overhead, inching his way closer, his fingers moving further and further up. He gazed into those brown eyes for a moment...and he lowered himself down to meet the man's lips with his own. He held there for a while, brushing his fingers against Yuri's pale but rosy cheek, moving them down to cup against Yuri's side. He brushed the tips of their noses together lightly and smiled, "Though I don't know what I could get that's more special than what you've given me." Victor said, pulling his partner's hand out from where he'd been holding onto it between them, and kissed the ring on it before settling his chin on Yuri's chest, feeling it squish down against the winter jacket. He paused for a moment, just looking at the man adoringly, "You've given me my L-words."

"...L-words...?"

"Life and love." He answered easily, "Things I've been ignoring for a really long time." He shifted a little, moving his right leg to settle it gently between his fiancé's, "Look at us..." He said, quieter, closer, "...It's almost like we're making love already..."

Yuri wasn't sure how to answer that, or if he even should. Instead, he raised his left hand up from where it had been lying uselessly in the snow until that moment, and brushed the back of his knuckles against the Russian's cheek, "You keep saying stuff like that...and then it happens."

Victor huffed a laugh, "Really? What else have I prophesied?"

"You suggested we should sleep together...and now we do. You asked if you should kiss me...and then you did. You said my request at Fukuoka Airport was like a marriage proposal...and then it turned into one." He said, cupping his hand around the man's head lightly, fingers combing through soft silver hair, "Maybe you can tell the future."

"Then I can't wait to see when my latest prediction comes true." Victor mused, leaning down to kiss him again before helping to pull Yuri back up to his feet, "Let's head back to Yu-Topia. We can grab our skates and go on to the Ice Castle. We need to make sure you're ready to take Gold at Nationals next weekend."

Yuri paused, but then nodded, "...Actually..."

"What is it?" The Russian wondered, looking over the side of his shoulder as they started walking again.

"Well..." He muttered nervously, "The last time I went to Nationals, I came in 11th place. Minami-kun wiped the floor with me. But this time...I'll be going in with a score that completely eclipses any of the other competitors. Even if I mess up somehow, I'll still probably come away with Gold..."

"That's a good problem to have." Victor joked, reaching to settle his arm over his partner's shoulders and hold him close, "But you sound like it's one you'd rather not have."

Yuri returned the gesture with his own arms around his fiancé's back, but he kept his eyes low to the scarf in front of him, "I'm going to be the oldest skater in my bracket, and the most experienced. If skating at Nationals is just a repeat of Regionals, then it'll be less of a competition and more like...a joke." He said pensively, turning his head up to look at his partner warily, "If I win Gold there, I don't want you to kiss it."

"Really?"

Yuri nodded, "It won't feel like I had to fight for it. So...unless someone got shockingly good over the last year… I'd rather wait until I win Gold at an international event."

Victor kept his eyes on the man silently, seeing how serious Yuri was...and sighed, "Well, okay..."

"Promise?"

"I promise."

.

The following days proceeded much the same way the first few had. Getting up sometime around noon, working-out until the Ice Castle was free, and then skating until the later part of the evening. Yuri focused as much as he could on mastering the quad Flip, and even started practicing the even-harder quad Lutz.

"You're letting the Flip become muscle memory too soon, Yuri." Victor scolded comically, sliding around where the younger skater was quietly cursing himself, "You keep turning the Lutz into a Flutz."

"I know."

"Just do it like you did when you skated to 'Aria' last year."

"It's not like I don't know how it goes." Yuri chided, "I just feel like I should keep working on the Flip for now, until I can get the 3+ GOE on it like I said I wanted after Rostelecom. The Lutz is harder for me to pull off. I've never even done it in competition."

"You keep trying to do it without the right set-up." The Russian pointed out, "The Flip is easy because all you have to do is skate backwards in a straight line. Maybe you should just turn the Lutz into a pattern, and always go into it with the same connecting move, rather than just trying to force yourself to remember what edge you're on. All that effort means you're thinking about it too much, and that inevitably leads to you falling."

"A pattern? Like what…?"

"Well, you do your Axels from an outside spread-eagle… Do your Lutzs from a deep 3-turn. Make that your muscle memory, so you always know you're on the correct edge when you toe-pick." Victor skated up close, leaning over his partner's back, hands coming up under the man's arms to gently pat his chest, "The less you have to think about it, the better. So...deep breath, relax, and try again."

Yuri nodded and slipped forward, moving around the short end of the rink to line himself up with one of the opposite corners.

"Go deep on your outside edge," Victor suggested, "Force it low so you can't accidentally slip onto the inside edge right before take-off."

Blades scratched along the frosty white surface of the rink, and Yuri started building speed. He eyeballed a part of the colored logo within the ice, marking a spot to take off from, and then changed directions with quick footwork; left forward inside edge, swiveling 180* to glide into a left backwards outside edge...low dip, right leg out behind, but not too high...kick down, vault off the toe, spin four times...and to his great relief, landed with only a slight wobble.

Victor clapped, "Amazing, Yuri~! You'll do that perfectly in no time!"

.

"So what kind of food do you have in Russia anyway?" Yuri wondered, following his partner through the grocery store, watching him browse the meager selections of the International aisle.

"Nothing that's here." Victor answered, "Oh well. Only a few more days." He pulled away and started walking back towards the main aisle, reaching to hold Yuri's hand between them, "Even if I found something here, it probably wouldn't be the same anyway. I'll get you something authentic when we get to St. Petersburg."

"Still hard to believe I'm actually moving there." Yuri said, that 'seeking' look in his eyes that his partner enjoyed so much, "I always had this goal of skating on the same ice as you… But soon, I'll be training at the same Skate Club as you...with you."

"Hey, I'm looking forward to this too you know." Victor pointed out, bumping his fiancé's shoulder with his own.

"It's a little different for me..." Yuri explained, "You haven't exactly worshiped the ground I walk on since you were 12."

"Maybe not." The Russian agreed.

"What were you doing when you were 12 anyway?" Yuri wondered suddenly, "I only caught onto you when you were 16 already, and you had just taken the Junior ISU by storm, since you hadn't been in it that long beforehand. Maybe only two or three years."

Victor hadn't answered. The mood shifted a little; his left eye twitched a little under his bangs, although Yuri couldn't see it from his side.

Hazel eyes glanced up curiously, "...Did I say something?"

"Huh? No. It's nothing." Victor smiled, going back to his normal affect again, kissing the side of his fiancé's head lightly, "I just wasn't doing what I love yet. Call it 'Pre-ISU Victor.'"

"Oh..."

.

"Tadaimaaaaaa." Yuri called out, pushing open the front sliding doors of the resort; Makkachin barreled in beside him, shaking the snow off his fur as Victor came in as well. The big poodle barked twice and then bounded off out of sight.

"Okaeri, Yuri, Vic-chan." Hiroko called back, waving from the doorway of the far hall, "How was skating?"

"Good. We're gonna go upstairs and watch a movie or something." Yuri answered, pulling his backpack off as Victor did much the same, "Holler if you need anything."

"Haaaaaai."

"It's always so interesting to hear you guys talk to each other in your own language." Victor mused, putting his shoes away into one of the cubby-holes near the door, "I should try to learn it more. Most people here already speak English so they all kind of defaulted to it when I showed up. I hardly hear any Japanese at all."

"That's my fault." Yuri said, smiling nervously as they started heading towards the hall to the stairs, "Since this town isn't really known for anything but my skating, everyone automatically knew to use English once you got here. They'd probably just respond in English anyway even if I spoke to them in Japanese first."

"Then I'll have to learn it from the Katsuki Clan," Victor winked.

"You'll be learning the Kyushu dialect then." Yuri informed proudly, "We talk differently here than in other places in Japan."

"Fascinating~"

Making their way to the upper corridors, Yuri pushed aside the door that lead to the family's living-room on the second floor. After getting a few things set up, Yuri surfed through a dozen or more channels before the Russian had come back with snacks and drinks. Each of them had changed into resort fare by then, intending to go soak in the onsen before the end of the night.

"Find anything interesting?"

Yuri lifted his head a little, but then buckled down with the remote in his hand, "A million channels on satellite and I can't find anything I want to watch."

"Well, come and get comfortable then. You can keep channel surfing until something catches your eye." The Russian pointed out, moving to sit within the 'nest' of pillows and blankets Yuri had made. He reached back for the bottle of sweet-potato shōchū he'd swiped from the wine closet, and poured two small glasses. By the time Yuri had turned around and sat on the blanket close by, Victor was holding the second glass out in offering.

"Oh, thanks." He said wuietly, taking it in hand and then turning back to the television. Yuri clicked a few more times on the remote, and didn't even notice as Victor was sneaking one long leg around him. He yipped in surprise as the unseen leg suddenly curled around him and pulled him closer, squishing up the blanket where it slid across the hardwood floor and turned him slightly. By the time the slide stopped, Yuri was half-facing the Russian, holding his glass up close to himself reflexively.

Victor just clinked the glasses together, "Kanpai, Yuri."

"Y-yeah, kanpai."

Victor downed his pretty quickly, and reached back for the bottle to fill it a second time, "One of the many things I'm glad about having come to Hasetsu for is this shōchū." He said happily, pouring the glass and setting the bottle back on the low table behind him, "Every place I've been to has its own unique drink, but I think I like this one the best."

"...Really? You're not just saying that because I live here?" Yuri wondered, giving him a curious, if not skeptical look, "You can get shōchū all over Japan."

"But this stuff is made here. In Kyushu." Victor pointed out, taking a sip before setting the glass down and reached again for the man in front of him, "I like Japanese plum wine, too, and I've gotten some ever since I first came here, years back." He paused, looking up and away suddenly, "Oh look, there's a dog on TV that looks like Makkachin."

"Eh?" Yuri's head turned, seeing nothing of the sort, but abruptly felt hands go under his arms to spin him the rest of the way around. Half a second later, his back was against the Russian's chest, and Victor was snickering to himself where he'd set his chin behind a shoulder. Yuri side-eyed him, "You tricked me."

"Only to get you to turn around." He purred, moving his hands a bit further up his fiancé's chest, taking full advantage of the loose-fitting garment, and let his fingertips slip in underneath to touch skin, "I think it's better like this."

"I would've gotten here eventually." Yuri insisted, taking the tiniest sip from the shōchū glass still in his hand, paying no mind to those roaming fingers.

"You still get nervous." The Russian pointed out, "It's not just because it's me still, is it?" He leaned forward a bit and set his chin against the top of Yuri's shoulder instead, brushing his cheek against the man's neck, "I'd thought you'd gotten used to me by now."

"Mmmhhh..." The tense figure mumbled, and brushed his own cheek against silver-grey bangs, "It's...not that..."

"Then what?"

Yuri hesitated, feeling a bit ashamed of himself, "Remember when you asked about my past girlfriends?"

"You had nothing to say about the issue."

"That's because there was nothing to say."

"I know." Victor answered pensively, "That's why I said I would get all your firsts, remember?"

"...Well, er, yeah...but..." Yuri stammered, "The longer this goes on, the more anxious I get that...eventually you're going to want to do other things...and I'm just..."

"Oh." Victor answered, and he lifted his head to look at the man more evenly. Fingers came out of the younger man's clothes, and set down flat on top of them instead, "Well...I guess that's true... I'm not making you uncomfortable, am I?" He worried.

Cheeks got darker, and Yuri looked back up to the television screen, "No... I just... I have this nagging feeling that I'm not the dominant one in this relationship, I guess? And before you came along, it had never crossed my mind what it would be like to be with...another guy... Our options are somewhat limited, and...so..."

Victor gave a reassuring squeeze with both arms, "Like I said before, I'll never do anything you don't want me to. It's still early days anyway. It would be a bit unfair to expect you to go through all that when you're barely a week into your first real relationship."

"Victor..."

"I have to ease you into it." He went on adoringly, much to Yuri's embarrassed chagrin. The Russian leaned backwards, and looked on those rose-hued cheeks as Yuri tilted his head back to see him, "It's actually something I'm really looking forward to." He commented seductively, eyes half-lidded, lifting one hand up to play with a few strands of raven-black hair, "Some day, I'll get to be the first and only person to know you, Yuri. What do you think of that?"

"...That it's kind of sad that I'm 24 and still entirely oblivious to this sort of thing."

"That's not what I meant at all!" Victor laughed, "I was thinking more along the lines that...it's as though you've been saving yourself just for me." He went on, arms going 'round his partner's thin frame again as he hugged tightly. He hummed a few kisses against Yuri's bare neck, "So it's still okay if I use my hands for now, right?"

A thousand things and more went through Yuri's mind; responses he could've given to what he'd just heard...but all he could do was rub his cheek against his partner's head, and pat the other side with one hand, "Thank you...for not being annoyed at my inexperience..."

"Never. Your innocence is actually quite endearing." The silver answered, daring to take part of that non-answer as something of an answer in itself. He partly unwrapped his arms from that last hug, and moved one hand up to the bare skin over his partner's heart, gently rubbing his thumb over it as he felt Yuri's frame try to relax. The television continued to play; he wasn't even sure what Yuri had landed on when his channel-surfing had been interrupted. He wasn't aware either of the fact that Yuri wasn't watching it anyway.

Yuri felt where the Russian had started to lean back against the table again - and himself with it - the blanket shifting a little where it had been loosely pulled over the man's shoulders. He heaved an anxious breath, but let himself settle against his partner's chest, taking solace in the protective warmth of his arms where they held around him.

...No matter what we do or where we go, whenever he holds me like this...I feel safe...

He took another sip from his shōchū before he set the glass onto the floor, just past the edge of the big blanket, and brought the remote control back up again to continue where he'd left off. He clicked through a dozen different news channels before finally bringing up TV Guide, and looked at the giant list of channels. He was aware of the fingers going into his robe again, but didn't mind at all.

Victor just continued on with his soft and inconspicuous teases, and moved up some to nibble on the edge of one ear as he slid his fingers further inside the green spa-robe. He'd already managed to wiggle the knot loose that held it together with his other hand, and suspected Yuri hadn't noticed. It was only when the right side of the robe fell away, that Victor sensed Yuri realize what had happened.

A slight twitch, but nothing else... Victor thought, smiling to himself where his mouth deftly touched to skin just under his fiancé's ear, I wonder how far he'll let me go? His smile turned a bit mischievous, Let's find out.

With Yuri sitting between his outstretched legs, Victor crossed them under the man's knees. He lowered his attentive nibbles down the side of his partner's neck, and kissed at the top of one shoulder, then made his way back up again. Yuri just kept scrolling through the TV Guide listings, holding up the remote like nothing was happening. Victor nosed at his ear a bit, and nibbled at the earlobe as he slid his hand under the remaining fold of the spa robe. There was a slight flinch, but Victor moved his hand down, felt across Yuri's abdomen, playfully traced a fingertip around the younger man's navel before sliding that finger up the center of his sternum.

Yuri twitched again slightly when the hand came to rest over the center of his chest, knowing full well that his heart was pounding like a jackhammer just a short distance under his skin. He didn't doubt that the Russian could feel it, and indeed he could. Wandering fingers curved to go flat against the contour of his frame, and pressed down against it.

Shh...relax... Victor thought, holding his hand still for the moment, and continued the light kisses on Yuri's neck, It's only me...it's just my hands...

He watched Yuri's legs came up a little, and the remote fell from his hands to the blanket; Yuri could no longer pretend to ignore everything. He felt a pressure against his chest as Yuri pushed back against him slightly, head tilting back against his shoulder, head tilting away to open up more space for attention. Victor was delighted at the gesture, and made good use of the moment, his kisses becoming a bit wetter as he licked at the skin as well. He smiled wide when he heard Yuri gasp, trailing the tip of his tongue from shoulder to ear. His fingers felt the arousal of one particular nub under the folds of green fabric still clinging to Yuri's frame, and decided to help it along.

Yuri twitched again, even vocalized a nervous breath as he exhaled, but gave no indication he wanted to stop, so Victor took his task a bit more seriously. He extended his middle finger to circle around the nub, occasionally pressing over it on purpose. Yuri gripped at the blanket, and Victor could feel that whole frame started to tremble a little, though Yuri did his best to keep still.

"You okay?" Victor wondered, kissing the words against his partner's skin, "I can't tell if you're shaking because you like it or because you want me to quit."

"Nn-ngh..." Was all the answer that came.

The right hand continued gently, especially when Victor felt his partner's grip on his knees, in one moment holding tight, in another, sliding up his thighs and down again to start the process over again. Victor half-opened one eye, peering through his bangs, and watched as Yuri's legs rubbed against one another where his knees had been bent upward. He knew that there was only one reason Yuri would be doing that, and gently moved his left hand over towards them. Fingers went between Yuri's knees, and he was surprised to find those legs parting as easily as they did, even if they didn't part that far. It only took half an inch for his fingers to get between them, and he traced them down the inside of one thigh. A few seconds at a time, a few inches at a time, he eventually got to the bottom of those legs, and felt the edge of the thing that had made his fiancé so squirmy. Even though it was only the side of his hand that felt it, he knew what it was...and he didn't doubt Yuri felt it, too.

The kisses and rubbing continued, and the television continued to play, forgotten, adding a weird background noise to their little session. With a few slides up and down those tense but permitting thighs, Victor turned his hand around, and moved his palm down again, careful to keep a feel on something so Yuri would know where he was the whole time. When he got low again, this time it was the side of his hand with a thumb, and he extended it out, taking a chance to feel the length of the aroused flesh he'd brought out to temptation. He pressed his thumb down against it, and Yuri clenched his legs together, pinning that hand where it was, and squeaked a surprised breath.

"Shh..." Victor calmed, kissing that sensitive spot under one ear, and cupped his hand around the thigh that had captured it. He rubbed his thumb gently, and soothed those tense muscles until the vice relaxed and he was free again. There were still a few pulses of tension, as though those legs pressed against themselves with the pounding of Yuri's anxious heart. But, Yuri hadn't given any indication he was ready to push that hand away, and Victor slowly moved it back down again. The first test of his fiancé's resolve came then, and Victor slid three fingers very deliberately from well-between Yuri's legs, up the length of that hidden flesh, and then back again, this time with his palm pressing down to the tip. When he pulled his fingers back again, he felt for the edge of the green spa-pants, bu paused there, "Oh...it's wet."

Yuri's whole body clenched up suddenly, and his knees clenched tight. He practically seized in the middle of a gasp, but Victor breathed a quiet laugh against his bare neck.

The small finger went under the edge of Yuri's clothing, barely feeling the subtlest beginnings of throbbing flesh and coarse hair, "You should let me help you with that."

"NONO NO." Yuri yelped, his face redder than ever before, and his glasses fogged up. He flailed and protested, and his hands clenched around the blanket under them, yanking on it so hard that it pulled the whole thing right out from where they both had been sitting on it. Yuri fell forward with the massive comforter, thinking it would come down over top of him and shield him from sight, and it did...but so did Victor.

The momentum of the pull had forced the Russian forward, coming down over his partner's back, and landed his hips right up against Yuri's backside, even as the blanket finally came to rest on top of both of them. Still amused by the whole thing, Victor took it in stride, and brought his hands up to the crook of Yuri's legs, "Oh, is this what you wanted instead? I thought you meant you weren't ready..."

"EEEEAAAAHHHH." Yuri flailed again, pushing away just as he felt the Victor press hard against him. The blanket finally came down over his legs as he escaped the man's clutches, and he glowered at the man dubiously, but only got an amused wink in response. Saying nothing, Yuri held the blanket tightly around himself and literally caterpillared out of the room, sliding forward where his arms were curled under his chest, then bringing his knees forward in turn, and repeated it until he was out the door.

Victor watched him go, propping his head up in the palm of his hand, elbow lazily set on the table where he'd twisted around, "I'll have you begging for it one day! Just watch!"

"Not today...!" Yuri called back, his voice muffled equally from the blanket as it was from the fact that he'd gotten out into the hall and around the corner already.

The Russian laughed again at the whole thing, drained the last of his shōchū and rose up to go after the spooked skater. He had a good idea where his young fiancé had escaped to, and indeed, found him stuck at the bottom of the stairs to the 3rd floor. Victor crossed his arms as he leaned against the wall, smiling to himself where he saw the burrito with its 'head' pressed to the first step, "It's going to start to hurt if you don't do something about it." He teased.

Again, Yuri twitched at the suggestion, "What, so you're going to stand there and watch me?"

"Well, if you won't let me finish what I started..." He continued to tease, shrugging up his shoulders, "What else can I do?"

Yuri could do nothing but listen to the sound of bare feet coming up on either side of him, and felt two arms wedge under his sides. He squeaked in surprise as he was hoisted upward off the floor. In disbelief, Yuri found himself slung over Victor's shoulder, staring at the corner of the wall, "V-Victor...!"

"Back to our room we go." He mused, starting up the flight, "That's where you were trying to go, right?"

It was already awkward enough to be hefted up like a sack of potatoes, but Yuri's face just went red again when he spotted his sister come into view at the bottom of the stairs.

She blinked at him, "...Yuri? Were you the one that screamed?"

"M-Mari-nee-chan...Tasukete...!"

"Why are you being carried around like that?"

Victor suddenly turned around up, comically banging Yuri's head against the wall as he went, "It's fine! I'm taking care of him."

Mari just leaned and crossed her arms, giving smug look at her brother's expense, "You bagged a big one there. You look like you're about to eat him."

One finger over the Russian's lips, but he just laughed, "That's not a bad idea!"

"VICTOR-" Yuri barked in terror, and started flailing again. He couldn't wiggle far given how he'd wrapped himself up in the blanket, so all could do in the end was whack his head against the wall a second time. He went limp, having rendered himself half-unconscious, and flopped against the Russian's back, eyes swirling.

Mari was almost in tears laughing, and she waved as they disappeared behind the wall on the upper floor.

Yuri finally came around again as Victor heaved him onto the big bed in the old banquet hall, dropping him with a soft thud against the blankets, and curled up behind him right after. He was still practically shaking with embarrassment, even as his partner was adoringly rubbing one hand up and down his back.

"You should let me finish-"

"NO." Yuri protested from within the sheets.

"But you let me already for so long..."

"NOOOOO."

"So what are you going to do then?"

"NOTHING."

"How sad..." The Russian continued to tease. He wrapped his arms around the blanket-burrito and pressed his cheek to his partner's back, "Maybe next time."

Chapter Text

CHAPTER FOUR

It was the day before Japanese Nationals would start...and it was also December 25th.

Yuri was doing his best to perfect the quad Flip, still desperately wanting the 3+ GOE modifier on his score-card. The more he did it, the better he felt about the whole thing...and soon, he was landing it without the slightest wobble in his landing blade.

Victor had spent the entire day avoiding having anyone remind him it was his birthday. Thankfully, it seemed like only two people knew it was the day, and at least one of them was close enough to him that he could put his hands over their mouth to stop them from uttering the words.

Yuko, on the other hand...

.

"Happy birthday, Victor!" She said excitedly as the pair strode up to the Ice Castle.

Yuri was shaking his head emphatically, standing just behind his partner, but it didn't do any good and she'd said the words anyway.

Victor just smiled stiffly, "...Thank you."

.

Getting onto the ice as quickly as possible was all Yuri could do to get Victor's mind off of turning 28. Working on the Flip was an easy fall-back. He initially did a bunch of triples just to get into the swing of things, but soon, the quads were coming out again, and he practiced them relentlessly.

"You had enough stamina to do four quads in the GPF Free Skate..." Victor noted, watching him from the center of the rink, "Watching you here in practice...I think you could easily have six at Nationals."

"W-What!?" Yuri balked, "Six quads in one program!? That's two more than you've ever done! Only JJ was ever insane enough to set that bar and even he messed it up in the end."

"You have more stamina than I do, and more sense than he has." Victor answered with a smile. He skated a slow circle around his partner, skates pointed sideways in a lazy, wide inside spread-Eagle, "Do 'Aria' for me. You remember how it goes, don't you?"

"How could I forget?" Yuri wondered sarcastically; he measured the strength left in his legs, and resolved to try it despite himself. Victor gestured to the center of the rink, and Yuri moved into position, drawing a deep breath as he arrived in the middle of the Ice Castle logo. He closed his eyes, and tilted his face down, setting one toe-pick behind the opposite heel. He drew in a second, slower breath to compose himself, trying to remember how the music began...and slowly, quietly heard it playing in his mind.

He raised his head, then his right hand beside it, and dipped to the left to begin the dance.

Victor watched in silence, sliding along the ice to keep close without interfering. After Yuri cleared the quad Lutz, Victor found himself twitching at the same moment, as though his body had intended to jump as well, with only his coach's mind reminding him not to. He watched a moment longer though, and with the quad Flip cleared as well, Victor started to skate a little faster. Yuri was caught off guard as he skated past, only to find him joining the dance, moving in time a slight distance away.

Yuri could tell the cogs were moving in Victor's brain, and continued on with the program without saying anything. By the time they were done, he was too tired to comment anyway. He finished the final scratch spin, raised his crossed-arms above shoulder level to enter the final pose, and quickly slumped to sit on the ice. He gasped for breath, and rocked back on his skates to lie down. His legs trembled, and he felt like his lungs would burst into flames, but behind his thrumming heartbeat, he could hear Victor laughing, and he turned his head around to look at man.

Victor was off in his own world though, looking at him and yet through him at the same time.

What are you thinking right now, I wonder?

"I just had this idea." The Russian said, as though he'd read Yuri's mind, "Stay here. I'll be back in 30 minutes."

"Huh?" Yuri blanched; he had no time to react, and watched...or rather, heard as Victor's skates clacked along the ice to slide him to the rink's exit. There was nothing he could do but continue to heave breaths as he lay on the ice. Soon thereafter, he heard more skates on the ice, but this time, the face that looked down on him was Yuko's.

"You going to make it?" She teased, and offered her hand to help him up. Yuri took it and hobbled back to his blades.

"I've thought for a while that Victor's a slave-driver...but I didn't realize how true it was until just now..." He answered, only to suddenly spaz and look around, "Wait, where are your kids!? They're not recording me are they!?"

Yuko laughed, "They're not here right now." She thumbed towards the exit, "They went to video Victor riding off on his bike. Where's he going anyway?"

"Not sure; he said he'd be back in half an hour though, so I'm sure we'll find out." He answered, rubbing the tingling sensation from his thighs before he started to slide around again. "Can you believe he just made me do like 15 quads in 10 minutes?"

"He only made you do the last four, technically...but you did it though." Yuko pointed out, "Last year you could only do the Flip and Lutz when almost no one was looking. Now look at you. You can land four of the five quads in competition, you're an international Silver medalist, you own the world record for the Men's Free Skate, and you're engaged to your childhood hero. Millions of women and men around the world are cursing your name right now."

Yuri blushed and looked away with a nervous smile, "You probably understand what this is like for me more than anyone, Yu-chan...how completely impossible and unbelievable it is."

"We both grew up practically worshiping the ice he skated on." She agreed, "You even got that poodle and named him Victor."

"Vic-chan..." Yuri repeated, suddenly finding himself feeling a slight pain in his throat at the memory of his dog. He skated over to the rink's edge where a water bottle was waiting for him, and took a drink to try and calm the cramping. "No one ever really asked why I screwed up so bad last year."

"I knew." Yuko said quietly, and reassured him we well as she could, "Your parents should've waited to tell you until after the Final was over. I guess they just..."

"...Didn't understand..." He finished. "Maybe they thought they were doing the right thing by telling me as soon as it happened. But...even before the Short Program, I was getting nervous. I binged on food like an idiot. The SP turned out okay in the end, but then finding out about Vic-chan... It was like I mentally forgot my routine... My body tried to compensate... I could hear myself screaming that I knew the moves, that I'd done them a thousand times...that I'd done them enough, and well enough, to be one of the Final Six, but all I could do was twist and flail and fall." He paused for a moment, "I talked to them on the phone after my last event. They told me there had been a public viewing and everything, but that...I'd just done so badly, no one wanted to look. I guess they were just trying to be honest, but they were so blunt...I couldn't take it. When I got home, I didn't even want to watch skating anymore. I was so ashamed that I skipped Victor's Free Skate at Worlds..."

"That's because you were here, doing it for yourself." Yuko smiled, "Then the video of it went viral, and then he saw it, and came to help you. He could see that you still had that fire of determination inside you that wanted to skate, and he came to fan those flames."

"That's basically what he said, too..." Yuri looked up and smiled, "For all the humiliation of those early days...I'm glad everything happened the way it did..."

It would still be a while before Victor would be back. The childhood skating-pair took to the ice and skated loosely, like they had back in their youth, not trying anything too adventurous. Yuri gushed about his experiences on the competition road, all the people he'd met and sights he'd seen, and Yuko drank it all in to live through him vicariously.

"And up next...St. Petersburg!" She finished.

"Yeah!" Yuri huffed a nervous breath, "It's still so hard to believe!"

And with that...the lights went out all at once, sending the entire arena into pitch darkness, their eyes slow to adjust.

Yuri was stunned. They could hear the sound of numerous little feet running around them, but said nothing even as he heard his friend calling out for her kids to turn the lights back on. They seemed to be running with purpose though.

"This is all really weird." He finally muttered, "What are you three fiendish skating-otaku doing?"

With that said, a spotlight finally cracked on above them, bearing down and searching the surface of the ice until finally coming to stop near one of the rink-wall doorways. Through the light, the duo could barely make out the darkened shadow of a tall figure. It was Victor...wearing a long-coat again, looking rather much like how he did while acting as a coach...except for his hair. It had been styled like he was about to do a show. The soft thump of his skates on the floor became clacks as they set down on the ice, and the light followed him a few feet before thye both stopped.

Yuri's eyes squinted against the spotlight in the dark, "...Why are you being all mysterious?"

The Russian finally reached up to pull his coat off, slowly revealing a particular costume from a previous Grand Prix series. Black pants, black thumb-gloves, white shirt, golden cords across the front and on the left shoulder...and a translucent wine-pink coat, shining like stars in the night.

"...Victor..." Yuri was entirely perplexed, but in a good way. I've never actually gotten to see this costume up-close like this before... Why is he wearing it though...?

Yuko had her hands over her mouth and nose, trying to prevent a gush at the sight of the man.

"It's only appropriate that we do this properly, don't you think?" The Russian finally said, starting to skate towards his fiancé with the grace of an angel. He reached out his hands and gently touched Yuri's face as he passed, heading towards the center of the rink. A second and third light flashed on from above, and their beams converged on him as well, "I hope half an hour was enough time for you to recover." Victor mused, tossing the long-coat towards the rink wall as he took his position, "Ever since you told me about how Christmas in Japan is like a celebration for couples, I've been wracking my brain for what I could give you. I was really worried this day would come and go, and I'd have nothing to show for it. So...I'm so glad I got inspired, even if it was at the last second. Come, Yuri..." He said, and raised his hand out, just as he'd done in the onsen that first day, "Skate a duet with me."

Yuri was blank for a moment, but his eyes suddenly shone brightly and he nodded. He quickly pushed forward, looking back excitedly at Yuko before she turned and made her way to the wall. He felt that welcoming hand take hold of his own, and Victor pulled him close.

"Happy Couples Day, Yuri." He said quietly, and leaned down the small distance to find a kiss. Yuri's hands held to his waist, and he turned them around in place as the kiss went on happily. They only stopped when the sound of frantic camera clicks and fangirlish screaming echoed from all sides, and the two nervously laughed, knowing all-too-well that those photos would be going online by the end of the hour. Victor shook his head and smiled, but turned away from his fiancé to wave to the walls, "Girls! Focus!" He called, and the shrieking immediately stopped, followed by a trifecta of apologies from the dark. Blue eyes then turned back to Yuri, and he smiled, "Let's taken position."

Yuri could only wonder how Victor had made such elaborate plans on such short notice, but remembering that Yuko had said her triplets followed the man out had quickly answered that question. The music started to play loudly overhead, and Yuri lifted his head with the cue, feeling his heart trilling in his chest as he spotted Victor doing the same just beside him.

Sento una voce che piange lontano
(I hear a voice crying far away)
Anche tu, sei stato forse abbandonato?
(Have you been abandoned as well?)

In tandem, they landed the first of several quads; a Lutz, any semblance of their skate feeling like a regular practice was quickly out of Yuri's mind. The dark made the whole thing feel official - it felt like a real Exhibition - and Yuri steeled himself for the second side-by-side quad.

Orsù finisca presto questo calice di vino
(Come now, let's empty this glass of wine soon)
e inizio a prepararmi
(I'll start getting ready)

Yuri followed in swiftly, and heard Victor's toe-pick in time with his own. The pink and black blur spun around in the air next to him, and they landed that signature quad Flip together, gliding off perfectly.

Adesso fa' silenzio
(Now be silent)

Another jump. Their synchronization was perfection.

Con una spada vorrei tagliare quelle gole che cantano d'amore
(With a sword I wish I could cut those throats singing about love)

Camel spin.

Vorrei serrare nel gelo le mani che scrivono quei versi d'ardente passione
(I wish I could seal in the cold the hands that portray those verses of burning passion)

Flying sit-spin. They both had their left arms up above them as they turned.

Yuko watched in awe of it; she could imagine her girls were recording every second from all different sides of the darkened rink.

Yuri could almost hear the cheering of the crowd, and part of him stepped outside himself to watch the performance. For a moment, he felt like he could understand what Victor saw; ideas coming to life, inspiration becoming reality.

Questa storia che senso non ha
(This story that makes no sense)

The song got quieter after that, and they rose from the spin, reaching for the sky in longing, and turned backwards in a slow circle. There was a pause where they both stood still on the ice before using their toe-picks to push off, left arms out, reaching for something intangible on the horizon.

Svanirà questa notte assieme alle stelle
(Will vanish tonight along with the stars)

They followed it with an inside spread-eagle, and moved off to build up speed again.

Se potessi vederti dalla speranza nascerà l'eternita
(If I could see you from hope eternity will be born)

Quadruple Salchow. The music was about to enter a new crescendo, rising up with power that could be felt in their bones. More than all that, though...Yuri could really see what the music meant to Victor now. It wasn't just a tease at his legions of fans anymore, nor just words, spoken on the edge of tears while sitting in the onsen...

It was their song.

Stammi vicino, non te ne andare
(Stay close to me, don't go)
Ho paura di perderti
(I'm afraid of losing you)

Step sequence.

Le tue mani, le tue gambe,
(Your hands, your legs,)
le mie mani, le mie gambe,
(My hands, my legs,)
e i battiti del cuore
(The heartbeats)
si fondono tra loro
(Are fusing together)

Triple Lutz.

Triple Flip.

Partiamo insieme
(Let's leave together)

Quadruple toe-loop, triple toe-loop combo, then the final combination spin, and as the last line of the song was sung, drums banged loudly like thunder overhead.

Ora sono pronto
(Now I'm ready)

Yuko had watched it all, and was mesmerized by them. She could already sense that this impromptu performance would probably go viral, maybe even moreso than when it had just been Yuri the year before. But for once, that probably wouldn't be such a bad thing. Yuri had gotten used to the idea of having eyes and lights on him from the competition circuit, and with Victor already there, it would probably even make him happy to see their skate seen by so many.

It's like this whole thing has come full-circle for you, Yuri... She thought, smiling fondly at the pair, You skated this alone before, but now, you're getting to skate it here together.

The final few scratch-spins brought the pair back to their feet, and they rose into the final pose with their arms crossed, hands on opposite shoulders, elbows raised high. Slowly, the song faded out, and Yuri panted heavily as he stood there, his legs threatening to give under him again; they felt like jelly under him. He forgot about them though as the lights started to come on around them, one section at a time, and he saw Victor skate past...no, around him; circling several times, clapping happily as he went.

"That was just like I'd hoped." The thrilled Russian finally said through panted breaths, "I think we can work with it."

"Why do I get this weird feeling you're plotting something?" Yuri wondered aloud finally, and wiped the sweat from his face with the sleeve of his right arm. Again, he flopped onto the ice to sit, and leaned back on his hands as Victor continued to skate wide circles around him.

It didn't last long though, as the silver-haired man skated straight at him, and scooped him up by his arms, dragging him along the ice until he managed to get his skates back under him.

"Victor, what are you-"

"Pair skating." He finally said.

Yuko's eyes went wide and she gaped at the duo.

"P-Pair what?"

"The two of us, skating together. Not just a solo program with both of us on the ice at the same time like a second ago, but one program featuring the both of us. I thought I'd see how it felt in the best way I knew how."

"...But I thought you meant my five World Championships would be in Singles...?" Yuri was perplexed, trying to go along with Victor's moves but terrified he might just trip them both up with one wrong twist of his blades. He'd never seen Victor fall on the ice and he wasn't about the be the reason it happened now, "I don't think the ISU would let two guys join the Pairs bracket anyway...all the rules are for a man and woman..."

"I've got my eye on an Exhibition Gala. Something unofficial, something that isn't being graded or scored. An announcement performance, to give people a taste of things to come since I'm not going to Nationals or Euros after all." Victor repositioned Yuri in front of himself, spun him 'round to put them chest to chest, one on his partner's hip as he held Yuri's left hand out ahead of them, and they slid across the ice in wide arcs, "Are you up to it?"

Yuri's legs finally gave out and he dripped like water from Victor's arms, splaying out on the ice, face-down in a nervous sweat. He hated not being able to answer right away, but he hated even more the thought that he'd say something he'd regret when he was so tired.

Victor went down on one knee and poked him, "Yuri...?"

"My heart...can't take it..."

"Yuri!" Yuko called out. She hopped back onto the ice and slid over to him with his water bottle, and handed it over to the Russian's waiting hand. Together, they flipped the young figure-skater over to sit him up straight, and Victor poured some of the water over Yuri's head.

"Have I finally found the limits of your boundless stamina?"

Yuri pushed his messy wet hair back with one hand and shuddered under the cold, "Oh yeah...a while ago...! I don't think I have bones below the waist right now...it's all jelly..."

His partner could only smile, always enjoying the sight of Yuri's eyes coming up to meet his, "I've pushed you to the edge today, I know. Forgive me. You surprise me every day." Victor rose to stand again, and held his hands out to pick his fiancé back up off the ice.

When they'd finally managed to change and get ready to leave, Victor found himself having to carry Yuri on his back. The youth's legs were really a ruin by that point. He could feel them trembling where he held them up against his sides, with Yuri's arms dangling over his shoulders, hanging in front of his chest.

Yuri turned his head from the road to look out over the water, seeing the sun starting to set at the horizon.

"Things will be ready in St. Petersburg by the time we're done with Nationals." Victor suddenly mentioned, bringing his fiancé's attention back around, "I know you've been wondering about it."

"I'd started to think you'd forgotten. You haven't spoke a word about it since we got back..."

"There's been a lot to do." Victor confessed, "I didn't want to bore you with the details."

It piqued Yuri's interest though to think that it would take a week to get ready for a simple move, "What're you having done out there? It's not like my whole family's moving with me."

"Oh, plenty of things, don't worry. You'll find out soon enough."

"Victooooor!"

"I only just decided on the last details today. Besides, I didn't want to leave Yu-Topia too quickly. Once we leave, we won't be able to visit anymore hot-springs until or unless we come back. As much as I want to get back on the ice back home, I want to enjoy the time I have left in Hasetsu, too. You own a little piece of paradise, you know? I like it here."

"...Paradise?" Yuri repeated. He lifted his head to look around, not really seeing it the way Victor did. "I've lived here my entire life. All I see is the same boring town that's almost never changed." He thought on it a moment, "Well, I guess it has a little; the train has a raised track now...but most of the changes happened only after you first showed up."

"Wow. Have I changed things that much?"

"I don't mean that the roads were repaved and the maps redrawn, but the energy here...it's different. People take interest now."

"The grand tour of Victor and Yuri on Ice."

"Maybe." He agreed quietly, blushing slightly at the nod to his previous program.

"This is your place, Yuri. Don't ever forget that. No matter how long you're gone or what changes before you return, this is always home." Victor said pointedly, and shuffled a little to get him in a higher spot on his back, "I've just touched it a little bit, that's all. Just like I've touched a little bit of you...or at least tried to." He quipped, and flicked his head back a little to nudge the man.

Yuri blinked, puzzled, but then the memory of their attempt at Movie Night was at the front of his mind, "I'msorryI'msorry..."

Victor could only laugh though, "Don't worry so much. We've only been officially engaged for a few days. I'm content with where we're at right now."

Still, Yuri kept his face hidden, "I'm holding you back."

"Nonsense." Victor huffed, "We'll eventually look back on these days with fondness, and be glad that we took the time to figure things out. For me, this is just the natural next step in helping you build confidence; that's actually part of why I asked you to skate 'Eros,' even though Yurio was asking for it. I don't know that you would've ever come out of your shell if I'd let you do 'Agape' instead." The Russian said, looking back over his shoulder again, and watched how Yuri was contemplating his words.

Finally though, Yuri brought his arms up a bit and hugged closely to the back of his partner's head, "...Back then, when you asked me what I wanted you to be to me. You weren't just kidding around when you said you'd act like a boyfriend."

Victor huffed a laugh, "No way. After everything I've told you? That was no act. I was determined to seduce you, even if it took the better part of a year."

They arrived back at Yu-Topia a little while later, and true to Yuko's suspicions, video of Victor and Yuri's secret 'Aria: Stay Close To Me' performance was already online. Minako had practically run the pair of them over when they came through the dining area, holding her phone out with the recording playing as Victor let Yuri stand on his own feet again.

"I knew you were up to something when you barged in here and then took off again, Victor Nikiforov! You're going to break the internet if you keep this up!" She barked at them, "Look at this; there's already an account just for you two as a pair! See!?" She pointed at the username of the person who'd posted the video to begin with, "Victuri! They even combined your names like you're some kind of celebrity couple!"

"We are a celebrity couple." Victor happily stated, dutifully helping get his partner out of his heavy winter coat and scarf.

Yuri was doing all he could just to stay standing. His legs trembled beneath him, "That's probably Yu-chan's girls." He pointed out, "Victor had them help set the whole 'Aria' thing up. I didn't even know what was going on until it happened. Yu-chan probably got them their own account so they'd stop posting on hers."

Minako seemed to be, comically, on the verge of tears, and she wedged her way past Victor to cup Yuri's confused face in her hands, "You're growing up so fast all of a sudden. I remember when you were still a little boy in my ballet class-"

Victor mercifully pulled Yuri away, and started heading to the men's changing rooms with something of a penguin-waddle. Yuri's feet dragged between the Russian's, but Victor smiled anyway, "Growing up fast, and in dire need of a soak after all of today's hard work."

.

Back in Russia, Yurio saw the pair-skate video as well, reposted by Victor himself. He glared at the screen of his phone with an expression that couldn't decide if it was jealousy or rage. He didn't bother to throw the phone at the window this time though; he simply turned it off. His feline flufferbutt seemed grateful not to be woken up.

Snow was descending in sheets outside in the night.

Emerald-green eyes traced over to where his Grand Prix Gold medal hung with his historical trophies; there were boxes around him where he'd been unpacking.

'I'll win gold and prove to you that its owner is incompetent.' He recalled saying about Victor's ring, standing on that cold Barcelona pier.

It didn't even matter in the end. He decided to come back to competition before I even won the fucking thing, and then barely acknowledged that I'd won it at all, Yurio thought grimly, fingers clenched over his arms where he'd crossed them, "I broke your record, asshole, and all you do is slink back to Hasetsu with the piggy? Disgusting..."

.

Yuri and Victor both sneezed. Victor had already gotten settled into the onsen by then, but Yuri was still on the deck, and as he wrankled his nose to clear the itchy feeling, he couldn't help the feeling that another sneeze was coming, "I guess...someone's talking...about us." He managed, but the second sneeze came anyway, and Victor seemed to do the same.

"...Eh?" The Russian tilted his head slightly, and pressed the back of one hand against his nose, "What do you mean?"

"It's an old Japanese joke that if you sneeze for no reason, it's because someone's talking about you. We both sneezed at the same time, so it must be that someone's talking about us both." He explained, and slowly lowered down into the warmth of the spring, but then gave an uneasy smile as he waded closer, "...We sneezed twice each though, so it must be something bad."

"Psht," Victor scoffed, "Yakov, probably. Cursing us both for me not being in Moscow right now."

"...You're sure you're okay with this?" Yuri wondered, feeling the soft probe of fingers sliding between his own as he got closer, "You sounded so excited before about coming back in time for Nationals..."

"My mouth often goes before my brain." Victor pointed out, tracing his fingers down each of his fiancé's arms, light as feathers, until he could cup them loosely around the back of his partner's head, and nosed him fondly, "You've seen that happen pretty often. Yakov knows it from a lifetime of experience."

Yuri nodded and smiled nervously, but the feeling of gentle pressure on his brow helped calm those anxious beans that lived inside him. He slid his hands forward and over his partner's shoulders, and closed his eyes, floating weightlessly in the mineral-rich spring. He could feel that Victor was slowly turning them in place, and his body curled and swayed in the subtle wake left behind.

Eventually they came to a stop on the rim of the spring, and Victor anchored his lower back to the edge of the underwater bench - just enough that they wouldn't float off again - and held his partner close. With his shoulders just above the water's surface, it made the perfect perch for Yuri's head, and the younger man slid partly off to the side, letting lean legs float beyond his knees. All was quiet in the onsen; peaceful, even. The bubbling of the fountains, and the subtle sway of naked winter tree-branches on the other side of the walls. It was sublime in its serenity.

Yuri felt the soreness in his overworked muscles melt away, and let himself have a moment to just be in the moment. The silky softness of Victor's arm where it curled around his back to hold him in place, the heat of the man's neck against his brow, and the fingers that wove together over his right hip. Yuri held to the Russian's frame lightly, suspended on the edge of one shoulder as his legs swayed with the subtle current, floating them over those pale legs. Feeling a little brave, Yuri pulled his right hand back from where it was holding to the opposite shoulder, and slid it softly over his partner's chest, watching the warbled image of his fingers under the water as they treaded gently over every curve. Each side was meticulously charted in Yuri's mind, distorted as it was to his eyes by the ripples of the water. He felt everything though, one or two fingertips at a time, slowly moving up until he could feel the water cresting on his skin. He wondered if Victor was watching or just feeling him as he went, but was too wrapped up in his process to look. Warm water cooled and dripped from the heel of his hand, and his fingers traced up and across the ridges of each collar-bone, then back again, and up the Russian's neck.

"This is the first time you've taken a moment to really look me over," Victor pointed out quietly, lifting his chin up as those fingertips made their way up under his jaw, "I can only hope this means you're starting to get more comfortable with things."

"I spent my whole life thinking I was supposed to be with a girl eventually," Yuri pointed out, though keeping up his dawdling exploration of that neck, "...This whole last year, I kept trying to figure out why you were getting so close to me. I thought it was just an extension of how flirty you always seemed with everyone, and that I wasn't just seeing something that wasn't there."

"You started to play along though."

"I was nervous about letting myself get carried away with it." Yuri explained, tracing his fingers along his partner's jaw, then nudged that chin around, and brought those cool blue eyes with it, "I started to emulate you a little bit, I guess... Pretty soon, I couldn't separate the game from what I really felt. That's when I started to get worried."

"Worried?" Victor echoed, giving a nervous laugh, "Why worried?"

"We were still planning on your return to St. Petersburg after the Final. That's why I backed off a little."

"I see..."

"I've had to let myself come down from that anxious high I had the whole time we were in Barcelona." Yuri went on, barely touching the edge of his partner's lower lip, "I guess I got through that phase on the plane back here. Playing along, a little bit more seriously, given that I knew I'd be going with you at the end of it...but still nervous that the engagement was just some joke that got away from you."

"I wouldn't joke about something like that."

"Shh..." Yuri cooed, moving his fingers aside for one last brush against those lips with his thumb, and moved his palm to rest against the side of his partner's neck, thumb sliding against the cheek, "I trust you...but I'm still new to all this. All I know is that we managed to skip some steps between being friends and being engaged...I'm trying to catch up."

"I guess I did jump the gun a bit." Victor smiled, "But I did say I'd be like your boyfriend right from the start."

"Yeah..." Yuri could feel his skin redden, "But I wasn't really yours..."

"Putting it like that just makes me feel sad."

"I still have trouble reading you sometimes. I'm...trying to get better, at a pace that makes sense to me. The idea that I can even get this close to you..." Yuri pointed out, deftly speaking those words against the silver's lips, "...Is still something I have to get used to, even if my heart's wanted it for a long time already." He finished, and ended the torment of his tease by giving his partner the kiss he'd been holding back. He hummed a contented smile against the soft warmth, and helped to continue that string of kisses, rather than leaving it all to his more experienced partner. The half-lidded eyes that gazed at him when they pulled back again said plenty on their own.

"You're starting to get really good at that," Victor teased, "But, there's something uniquely special about the way you do it."

"Oh, do other people do it differently?"

"Every kiss is different...I guess I just happen to like yours the best."

"You waited a really long time..."

"What's a year to the rest of our lives?" Victor pointed out, and gently touched their noses together, "This is just the beginning of things. There's still so much more we can do."

.

Yuri pushed open the lid of his suitcase, set on the bed in his old room, and went over to his closet. His costumes were hanging there as they always had been, and he pulled them down, folded them over one arm...and spotted a familiar sight in their place.

Oh...it's all my old posters...

He put the two garment bags into his big rolling suitcase, and went back to the closet, lifting the stack to look at them after such a long time. He knew the details of each photo, almost as well as if he'd been there to take the pictures himself. Victor walking in a park, with that same puffy black jacket and grey sweatpants that he'd worn in Hasetsu. Victor sitting on a proverbial throne, decked out like a Victorian era rockstar..or maybe a subdued Anne Rice vampire. Victor in the black, leather-looking Short Program costume from the year before, with the chains that hung around his core. All of them.

"Yuri?"

He looked up and put the posters away quickly, spotting Victor there in his doorway, a towel over his head and that characteristic green spa-robe over his pale frame. He squashed the papers into the closet again and grabbed a few empty coat-hangers before he stepped out again, pushing it closed with his heel as he went back to his suitcase, trying to look natural, "Oh, h-hey!" He stammered, dropping the load on top of his clothes.

Victor blinked at him, "Do you need that many coat-hangers at Nationals...?"

"W-well...uhm, I mean...in St. Petersburg?"

"Oh... Okay." The Russian managed, "Don't take too long. We have to get up early for the movers tomorrow."

"They're not gonna be here that early..." Yuri said, and made a face.

"Anything earlier than 11am is early."

Brows were raised, but Yuri watched him leave the room again, and listened to the three or four steps it took to get to the banquet hall. He swallowed a breath of relief and looked back at his suitcase, took a mental tally of everything in it, and closed it, "...I think that's everything."

In his own room, Victor pulled the towel off his head, and stringy strands of steely hair stuck out in every direction. He shook the mess out, and ran his fingers through it like a comb, turning around just in time to spot Yuri pulling that big suitcase into the room, "Ah, got everything?"

"Think so." He answered, setting travel-case by the door, and pushed the sliding panel closed. Like Victor had, Yuri combed his damp hair back out of his eyes, and looked around the room as he approached the foot of the big bed to sit down, "It's really weird to think this is going to be our last night here."

Victor smiled, and went to sit beside him, "We've been abiding by this routine, in this place, for so long...even I'm starting to get anxious about going back home again." He commented, and placed his palm over his fiancé's nearest thigh. He gave it a reassuring squeeze, as much for Yuri as for himself, "I know St. Petersburg really well though...I'll show you all the amazing things that are going on. This is a spectacular time of year to be all touristy out there. You'll see."

With a happy nod, Yuri put his own hand over the one pressed on his leg, turned to find a kiss, and pressed his brow to his partner's fondly, "I can't wait."

Victor smiled, and nuzzled adoringly for a moment before he pushed up from the bed to stand again. Hands went to the loose knot at his hip, and he peeled out of the resort robe, "I can still feel 'Aria' in my legs... I must've gotten out of shape being a coach these past months."

Yuri followed suit, untying his own robe as he moved to the other side of the bed, and pulled his arms from the green sleeves, "You must have a great metabolism if you're still thin despite it all. Unlike me..." He huffed, and smacked both hands to his bare tummy, "I get fluffy if I even thinkabout taking a break."

"I won't let that happen." The Russian reassured, folding the short pants to go with the jacket, and put them both onto the edge of the blue corner-sofa nearby, "We'll both get right to work when we get to my home rink, and push harder than ever to be ready for Four Continents and Worlds."

"You're sure they'll even let you go?" Yuri quipped, and slung his own clothes over the headboard on his side, "The RSF was pretty mad that you left in the first place."

"They'll forgive me. They always have." The silver answered with ease, "Even Yakov is warming up to me again. He only called me an idiot twice in his last email."

"...Only twice...?" He gaped, finding it hard to believe that the two were close when Victor's coach was so vulgar with him.

"I wonder where Makkachin is?" The Russian suddenly asked, putting a finger on his lip as he looked towards the closed door.

"It's still pretty early, all things considered. He's probably still downstairs with Minako-sensei."

"Ah...yeah, you're probably right. Should we not leave the door open a crack so he can get in later?"

Yuri watched the man go, words caught in his throat. The door shifted slightly to the side, only a few inches, enough for Makkachin the nudge his way through if he stuck his nose in, and Victor walked back to the bed.

Covers were pulled up, and lamps turned off on that side, and the exhausted five-time World Champion slithered into the coolness of the sheets with a happy shiver. Blue eyes turned, "What'er you waiting for? Come in~ I need a good cuddle before sleep."

"Oh..." Yuri muttered nervously. He pulled his eyes from the crack in the door and reached for the two long-necked lamps on his side of the bed, and pulled the blankets back...only to pause.

"What's the matter?"

He hesitated, but a flutter inside him made him go back towards the door, and he pushed it closed.

"...How's Makkachin gonna get in...?" Victor asked blankly, confused. He followed Yuri's footsteps back, but the man stood on his side rather than his own, and blue eyes looked up, "...You're acting weird suddenly."

"Uhm..." Yuri stammered, his face red despite there having been literally nothing obvious to inspire it.

Thoroughly perplexed, Victor pushed the blankets off his legs and pulled his knees up, and gestured through the open path, "...So you can get to your side...?"

The look on Yuri's face made it seem like his brain broke. He drew a breath in through his nose to gather his courage, and made a really weird face - probably one of determination - and he leaned down to grab the Russian by his shoulders, twisted him slightly, and leaned in to a less-than-graceful kiss.

Victor's eyes stayed open in confusion, even as he felt himself being pushed over. Yuri had managed to keep contact in that kiss as they tilted, but it felt incredibly awkward when the younger man tried to get on top of him, given that the rest of him was still twisted to face the foot of the bed. Though on his back, sort of, when Yuri started to lift off of him again, Victor tried to smile, but he could sense it wasn't convincing.

"...Jeeze, that didn't work out at all like I'd hoped..."

"Y-Yeah..." Victor stammered nervously, "I feel like you meant for that to go differently." He added, pushing up onto his elbows as Yuri moved to sit on the bed a small distance away, "...What were you...trying to do...?"

Hands went to cover Yuri's face, and he shook his head into his palms, skin glowing red under them, "I was...trying to give you a good birthday, Christmas, and Couple's Day present, but I...don't know what I'm doing..."

"Oh!" Victor realized loudly, only to feel relieved, and then elated, "That's so amazing~! Yuri~!" He cooed, leaning forward to wrap his arms around his partner's nearly-bare frame. He gave a bit of a seductive look then, and spoke tantalizingly close to one ear, "...Let me help you."

Yuri blanched a bit behind his hands, but spread his fingers just as he felt his partner's words turn into a breathy nibble, and the arms that were wrapped around his small frame pulled him further onto the bed. His heart ramped up, and he could feel it fluttering in his chest as he was practically deposited onto the blankets, and Victor loomed over him, and the realization that something was going to happen made his coherence falter. All he could do was sputter his partner's name in confused protest.

"Relax; deep breath." Victor suggested, simply lying down next to the man, stroking his hand across that pale chest, "I think I kind-of understand what you were going for."

"Idon'tevenknowwhatIwasgoingfor!"

Victor huffed a laugh, "And that's okay, too. Just the idea that you were willing to try is incredible. When I said earlier that there's so much more we can do...I didn't think you'd be wanting to start so soon."

Yuri just breathed out an exasperated breath, brows furrowed in dubious reconsideration, "I'm...suddenly not sure this was such a good idea..."

"You're over-thinking it. I'm not going to do anything you don't want me to. This first bit is really just more of what we've already been doing..." The silver explained, hoping to ease those suddenly-frayed nervous, "We can still do that stuff, right?" He asked, spotting a timid nod, and leaned down the last inch or so to press into a new kiss. The hand he had on his partner's chest could feel the rise of a full-body clench, and the thrum of an anxious heart thumping away just below the skin. He held there though, offering light, gentle kisses, and innocuous strokes of his thumb over that bare skin, waiting patiently for his partner's anxiety to fall away. Kisses moved from lips to cheek, chin, and down Yuri's neck, walking a few nibbles down to the younger man's collar-bone.

That's as far as he's ever gone... Yuri thought, swallowing nervously as he wondered whether the Russian would go further this time. It almost wasn't a surprise when he felt those lips press down on the center of his chest, and felt the tickle of damp hair drag lightly across his skin where it was starting to collapse into its usual place over the man's left eye. He drew in a quick breath, but then realized it wasn't a scary feeling at all, and with the exhale, he let the rest of himself relax. He knew Victor could feel it; the nibbles on his skin began anew, and started to explore uncharted territory.

Victor followed those physical cues like a dance, knowing when he had to improvise and go off-plan. Muscles tensed as he neared the edge of his partner's chest, coming dangerously near a pink spot that carried with it plenty of societal taboos, so he veered from it for the moment, and the tension faded again. He walked his kisses across the other side of his partner's chest instead then, and slowly made his way back up. By the time he'd reached his fiancé's lip again, he'd tilted his own frame over, and pressed the front of his larger figure against Yuri's side. Like in Barcelona, he bent a knee over the man's legs, but unlike in Barcelona, where Yuri had stayed still throughout it, Yuri actually twisted onto his side...and pulled that overlapping knee between his own.

Hazel eyes looked forward for approval, and Victor gave it in spaced, smiling wider as he felt one hand move forward, slipping between his arm and ribs. The pressure he felt drew Yuri nearer, and Victor could feel that his partner was more at ease than before.

This is still familiar enough... Victor thought, I've teased him with this since Rostelecom. The only difference now is that we're skin to skin...

It surprised and delighted the Russian to feel the hand move from the side of his back, down to his waist, small finger barely grazing the edge of the one piece of clothing he still had on. He returned that touch in kind, and moved his own hand down along his fiancé's frame, familiar kisses easing the tension. He cupped his hand around the younger man's hip, then strokes his hand upward again, and continued that way until one finger, two fingers...all fingers were touching that thin black fabric. Yuri only flinched the tiniest bit as those fingers cupped around the round of his back end, and so Victor continued on, stroking his hand all the way around that curve, and gave it a gentle squeeze.

Yuri pulled back from the kiss when he felt it, and looked into those blue eyes.

Victor just smiled brightly though, and nuzzled the tip of his nose, "You have a very nice butt."

"I...erm... Uh...ehhh..."

He offered a gentle laugh, and moved his hand back up again, "This is going pretty well, I think...you're not near as tense as you were before."

Yuri stammered in his thoughts, but he knew somewhere in his head that Victor was right. Nervous as he was, and as little physicality he'd allowed in his short life, the attention that the Russian gave to him was far more pleasant than anything he'd gotten before, even by accident. He shook his head to clear the torpor, and tried to rationalize the concept, "...It...I...uhm... It's...really nice...what you're doing."

"Is it?" Victor purred, drawing in closer as he slid his hand back down again, this time moving his fingers under the fabric to feel gently at that unseen skin. He could hear the stunned gasp, and felt the slight clench of that muscle, but the more he felt at it, and the more he kissed, the more he felt it relax. Yuri clung to him a bit tighter, and the one leg started to crawl up the outside of his thigh with each new squeeze. Victor playfully started groping for more, laughing a few kisses against his partner's neck, but a few fingers suddenly went a bit too far around the curve between those two cheeks and Yuri practically thrust his hips forward with a yip. Victor kept his hand where it was though, hoping the surprise would fade, but that flesh stayed tense, and Yuri's face was brighter red than before.

"I...I didn't..." He stammered, "I'm not r-ready to...go there..."

"Ah...I wasn't going to do that, but I understand." Victor answered easily, sliding his hand back to safer territory. With fingers back over the fabric, he slid his hand down towards the leg that had raised up over his own, and gave it a gentle pull, "Where did you want to go?"

The higher his knee went, the more Yuri could feel the leg that went between his, and his nerves kicked up again. He clumsily pulled free of the whole thing, only to warily lift that same leg over his partner, and to Victor's surprise, actually sat down there. Somehow, someway, Yuri hadn't expected to feel anything out of the ordinary when he lowered down, but his expression went gaunt as soon as he was there, "Uh...oh, I...I can feel you..."

"I hope you can. You're sitting on me." Victor teased, and moved his hands to rub them up and down the tops of the thighs that straddled on either side of his waist.

Yuri just groaned, "You know what I mean."

"I do know what you mean." The Russian mused. It pleased him to no end that Yuri had gotten up on top of him on his own, but it was still endearing that Yuri was so embarrassed about it, pulling the palms of his hands up to cover his face, "This is actually my favorite spot," Victor reassured, and rubbed those legs a little more, "I can touch you with both hands like this, rather than needing one or both to hold myself up."

Yuri parted two fingers to peer through them, and gawked at the man under him, "I don't even know what I'm supposed to do up here. I feel dumb now."

"Don't," Victor reassured, and gently started to move his hips, "Let me show you why this is the best spot."

Yuri was momentarily mortified by the feeling. He knew innately that there was no way to avoid arousing his partner, but still, feeling it was so much different than imagining it. Feeling it here, like this, he corrected in his mind, I've felt it before, but...Victor was always asleep...or just barely waking up... There was no intent behind it; that's just how it is...but now... "Nhg..." He grunted quietly, not even really aware that he'd done it, feeling that length of hardened flesh moving under him, up against him. He drew a sharp breath, and lowered one hand to his partner's stomach, holding himself steady with it as the gentle rocking continued. There was no way to change course now though; Yuri could feel himself starting to respond, and the direction it started to take, still confined in his clothes. He wasn't sure if Victor could feel it the same way, or if he could see it instead, but the indirectness of that arousing touch was starting to become a torment. Despite his nerves, Yuri wanted something more direct, even if he was too terrified to say so, move himself to change where the rocking rubbed, or touch the spot himself.

Mercifully, of the many things Victor had learned over the eight months since his unexpected arrival, reading Yuri's willingness to engage in things was top among them. He knew how to get Yuri to skate 'Eros,' and work him up from thinking about food to thinking about him. He knew when Yuri was willing to accept a full hug rather than just a pat on the shoulder. He practically knew the instant that Yuri was receptive to the idea of a kiss...even if he'd said no to it at the time. The concept was still tested and true. He knew what he could do...and one of those moments had come.

Victor pushed up onto one elbow, then sat up, still rocking his hips as well as he could. One hand cupped around his partner's hip, the other around a cheek, and he leaned up into a kiss before dragging the younger man back down with him again. Yuri went easily, and he gasped a whined breath against those lips as he felt everything between them so much more prominently. There was no way to stop either of them from breaching the confines on their meager clothes, and elastic gave way to the pressure.

Feeling the obvious different between fabric and skin, Yuri's eyes opened wide in surprise, but the kiss went on, and so did the rubbing. It was hard not to think it felt good. Every time Victor's back arched just right, his abdomen lifted, and the pressure of having that sensitive flesh squeezed between them was enough to send the first few tingling jolts through Yuri's frame. The only thing that inevitably spooked him into sitting up again...was feeling that sudden cold spot where that bit of liquid had escaped him and cooled on his skin.

Victor was stunned, and blinked hard a few times as Yuri pulled away too quickly. He took a moment to regain his bearings, arms flat to the sheets beside his shoulders. He gave a severely puzzled look to his partner, "...What's wrong? I thought...you were starting to like it."

Yuri's face was as red as Victor had ever seen it, but the odd thing was that even though Yuri had pulled away, he hadn't gotten up and off. All he did was look mortified, and pinched his knees together over his stomach.

"Ehh...I'm sorry... I-I'm doing it again...this is horrible..." The younger man complained bitterly, his tone making it seem like he thought he'd ruined everything, and still, he squirmed like he didn't want to stop.

"Yuri...whatever it is, it's fine, I assure you-"

"I'mleakingeverywhere! Nothingisfine!" Yuri harped, trying to wedge himself between Victor's legs so he could twist and make an escape off the side of the bed without being seen.

"Leaking?" The silver echoed in persistent confusion. He looked down to his stomach and saw the barest glimmer of shine where something had dripped onto his skin. Thinking nothing of it, he put his fingers to it, just as Yuri was desperately trying to twist around between his knees. Realizing that this was the same 'wet' spot that Yuri had panicked about before, Victor crossed his legs around the man's seat and pinched him in. Yuri could only squeak in surprise, and Victor leaned over his back, "Why are you so worried about this?" He wondered, hands sneaking under the younger man's arms until he could hold him against his chest, "You're reacting like you think you're defective somehow."

"D-Don't make me say it out loud-" Yuri begged, squishing his knees upright and tightly together again, "I've already made a mess-"

Victor tactfully slid one hand back over his panicked fiancé's stomach, and felt even more of the cool liquid, but he just rubbed his fingers together and looked at the strands that stretched between as he spread his fingertips apart, "This is normal."

"H-heh!?" Yuri guffawed, looking back over his shoulder.

"It's fine, really. It's a good thing, actually."

"But I've read about it online and people always seem to be complaining about it-"

"Who's opinion do you care about? Those faceless goons on the internet who don't know what they're talking about? Or me? The man you're making love with?" Victor posed, kissing the back of that shoulder as reassurance.

"Well, you, obviously, but-"

"What are you so worried about? Does it hurt? Does it burn?"

"N-No...it's just..." Yuri stammered, the panic going down even if the shame hadn't budged, "It's...a lot..."

"At some point in the future, Yuri, we're going to be buying this stuff on purpose." The silver explained, rubbing his free hand across his partner's chest, and made a subtle pull to get him lean back again, "There's nothing-at-all wrong with how you make your own. I'm actually a bit jealous now."

Yuri grit his teeth anyway, but slowly let himself be pulled back, even though he kept his knees up. One finger from Victor's right hand came up and nudged them down, forcing them away, and making it practically impossible to 'hide' himself as he had been. Yuri gulped nervously as he felt the cooler air rush in again, but nothing made him more self-conscious than feeling Victor's hand press against his stomach, dangerously close to the source of his anxiety.

"Let me help you this time," The Russian asked quietly, stroking his thumb across that tense skin, "It shouldn't worry you so much more because it's my hand..."

The feeling of those fingers slowly going down his stomach made Yuri clench up a little more, but the further back Victor leaned, the harder it was to keep his knees pinned. He hissed a breath at the first sensation of pressure against him, even if it was just one finger, and it slid down gently over the fabric. Three fingers pressed down on the return slide, traveling over the elastic band and over the super-sensitive exposed tip. He gasped a breath, hands clenching to the bedding on either side.

"...Is this okay?" Victor asked, nervous at the toll it seemed to be taking.

"D-Don't stop-" Yuri finally managed, "I w-want to... I just can't help... being this nervous the f-first time..." He said between haggard breaths, "I'm not pulling away, I s-swear..."

It was a huge relief to hear those words, and Victor nodded. He pressed his mouth to the back of that shoulder again and eased his hand to its task, moving softly, slowly, and let Yuri himself decide how far to open up. He didn't need the man's knees parted anyway...but whether Yuri did or not was a good way to know how comfortable he was. Victor went about his purpose with diligence and care, letting his partner get used to the slide of a few fingers before adding his thumb, giving a soft squeeze through the fabric. Yuri pressed back hard against his chest, gasping a breath every few seconds like he was holding it between strokes. When those fingers finally took hold though, and wrapped around that aroused flesh, Yuri practically leapt straight into the air.

"Shh..." Victor cooed, keeping his fiancé where he was, but taking meticulous mental notes about tension of every muscle, and the gasp of every breath. He didn't expect his partner to be all that vocal - at least not yet - but every whimper and grunt was key to the 'sexy time' lexicon he was building. Slowly but surely, as Yuri got used to the feeling of someone else's hands on his tender parts, his body became less like a fully-drawn bow, and more like one that was merely nocked. Breaths became more regular, and came easier, without the sense of needing to hold it in like he'd drown otherwise. And his knees - even his knees - became a bit lax, coming apart only a few inches...but even that was a huge difference. With every subtle change, Victor felt more at ease with their newfound intimacy, and the guilt of making his partner so anxious melted off. The excess of fluid that Yuri had been so worried about was an afterthought by then, and for Victor, he considered it their perfect normal.

Yuri twisted in place after a while though, his arousal fully engaged, and pressed his left shoulder to the side of his partner's chest. No longer as red as he'd been, Yuri could look at the man again, and as he slid his left arm around his partner's back, the right came up to press palm to cheek. All the while, Victor kept up his rhythm on the member in his grasp, the sound of the strokes amplified by the slickness Yuri had given them. Still, he gasped a few breaths, and then pulled his idol close for a new kiss. Soon after, he was completely turned around in the man's encircling legs, with his own draped over one side as that heavy petting continued, "What about you...?" Yuri finally let himself ask.

Victor blinked at him as though he'd entirely forgotten what the words meant, but before he could translate it in his head, Yuri had already pushed him onto his back. Feeling the fabric against his skin brought him back to the moment, and he let himself stretch out the cricks in his legs and back. His limbs dropped back down as he relaxed, and he drew in a long breath, keeping watch on his emboldened partner, "Is this more in keeping with what you imagined?" He wondered, and closed his eyes to savor the feeling of his heart's desire sitting down on his hips again.

"It's getting there..." Yuri whispered back, and lowered down until he could feel the rise and fall of that pale chest against his own.

Victor hummed a smile, and moved his arms back down alongside himself. Thumbs hooked into the strip of black elastic on either side of his waist, and with a quick wiggle upward, he pushed the fabric down a few inches, revealing an equal measure of himself in the process. He smiled at the color coming back on his partner's cheeks, but there was no doubt that they each thought the same thing.

Skin felt better.

Yuri leaned down to find another kiss, and Victor's hands went up, sliding under the waistband around his partner's thin frame, and pushed them away as far as he could. They each hummed a note into their kiss as Yuri pressed down again, putting them into unblocked contact with one another. Victor slid his hands up and down his partner's body with zeal, and as a reward, felt that thin frame starting to rock against him. It was subtle at first, barely noticeable even, but Victor could feel the sheets moving at his sides where Yuri's knees pushed further out, and in doing so, pressed even heavier onto his hips.

Even just a little of that precious self-made lube was enough to make the slide that much more titillating. Victor pushed his hips up, and Yuri slid back against them, then in reverse until they'd found a rhythm. Even when the pressure was enough to put Yuri near his limit, Victor did whatever he could to prolong the moment. Yuri pushed up on his hands, and Victor's went between them, taking hold of them both between his curled fingers, and continued to buck his hips upward. Blue eyes watched closely for his partner's creeping edge, and slowed for a moment...but as soon as he felt his own nearing, the delicate work of trying to make them hit it at the same time was key.

Of course, even the best-laid plans can have a few hiccups, and Victor could do nothing to curtail his partner's climax coming first...though he did relish in watching it. The desperate gasps, the whined gasps, the whole-body shiver, as well as the drip of hot white liquid onto his fingers; just witnessing it was enough to push Victor to his own ends. Silver hair tousled on the comforter, and he pressed his head back, trying to keep quiet for his partner's sake. He could feel Yuri's thin frame tremble as it came to rest on top of him, and then his own subtle shake as he lifted his arms to wrap them around, but found it harder to do than before. He hummed a laugh into his beloved's hair though, "Happy Couple's Day."

Yuri lifted his head, though the effort it took was significant, and then dropped it down again. Still heaving for breaths, it was all he could do to not fall asleep right there and then, "...H-Happy Couple's Day."

"This was a really great idea," Victor mused, stroking the length of his partner's back as Yuri lay near-catatonic on top of him, "I've gotten to touch you in a way no one else ever has or ever will." He whispered, "That look of the first time in your eyes...that will always be mine."

"I'm...glad it was you." Yuri answered quietly, his heart still pounding in his chest.

Victor smiled at that, and gave one more squeeze around the younger man's trembling frame, "Me too."

Chapter Text

CHAPTER FIVE

"Yuuuuri!" Hiroko was calling from downstairs, "Yuri! Vic-chan! Get up already!"

The younger of the two grumbled a little as he stirred, rubbing his eyes...but then fell back asleep again.

"YURI GET OUT OF BED."

"AH."

His mother's voice sounded much closer that time, though still distant enough that she was at least outside their shared room rather than in it. He was up with a start either way, pushing himself up so quickly that he saw his partner's arm get tossed where it had once been draped over him, landing in the meager heap of blankets that they'd been sleeping on. Seeing the arm land, Yuri suddenly realized the man next to him was naked...and he was naked as well. Clothing was still where he'd remembered them being placed the night before; Victor's on the couch, his own on the headboard.

Ohmygod we really did it last night. He thought in a slight panic, feeling his heart jackhammering away...only to slow down again almost as quickly as it had gotten started. Wait...why am I so freaked out? He reached over to gently comb the silver-grey hair out of his fiancé's face with his fingers, I agreed to marry him...to share everything with him; body, mind, and soul. It would've been inevitable...and I liked it anyway...

Victor stirred just a little, rolling from his side to his back. He hummed a little something to himself in a sleepy haze, but appeared to go right back to sleep.

Yuri smiled at it, scooting closer until he could rest himself across his partner's chest, one arm curled under himself as the other laid flat, fingers curled just in front of his nose. He listened quietly to the man's breathing, the beating of his heart, and savored in the warmth of his skin. He only turned his head a little as he heard the sound of scratching at the base of the sliding door...and then - even worse - footsteps thumping up the hall just beyond the walls.

"YURI."

"I'm awake!" He called out, hoping beyond all reason that his mother wouldn't just barge into the room, but braced for it in the event that she did.

"Is Vic-chan in there?"

"Of course he's in here; it's his room."

"Is he awake?"

"...I dunno, maybe?"

"It's nearly 10am. You two should be awake already! The movers are going to be here soon!"

"Nearly 10am!? Why didn't you wake us up sooner!?" Yuri was up right after that, scrambling for the pieces of his green spa-robe as he hobbled for the sliding door.

"I tried! I was hollering for you an hour ago!" Hiroko said, "Did you at least finish packing?"

"Yeah, yesterday, before we went to the Ice Castle." He answered. He pulled the robe closed over his chest as he neared the exit, and opened it just enough to get out; Makkachin wormed his way between his legs to get inside, and Yuri just watched the pup go. With a heave of a sigh, he looked at his mother, who just gave him 'that' look, "What?"

"You're not finished at all are you?"

"...I think we are!" He insisted, "All we left unpacked were the things we need to take with us to Nationals, or that we're using before we leave. I made sure of it last night."

"I hope that includes your soap and shampoo." She pointed out, "You stink."

One eye twitched furiously at the sound of those words, and Yuri just backed up through the doorway again, and fell in without another word, closing it with one foot.

"I'll make you boys breakfast after the movers are gone. For now, go clean up!"

"Haaaaai." Yuri heaved, looking up at where he still had a foot on the doorframe. He waited until he could no longer hear his mother's footsteps, heading towards the stairs at the end of the hall, and descended. Once the sound was gone, he flopped down the rest of the way down to the floor...only to tilt his head back and find Victor smiling back at him, holding his chin up in the palm of his hand. Makkachin was up on the bed next to him, and they both looked at the frumpy heap on the floor.

"Ohayo, koibito." The Russian mused quietly, his Japanese spoken with the added spice of his own native accent, "O genki desu ka?"

Yuri hadn't expected to be spoken to in Japanese by the man, so it was confusing for a moment, but when he finally understood what his partner had asked, he rolled onto his stomach and pushed up onto his hands and knees. He crawled over the few paces between them, pushed himself up onto his knees to make-up for the height difference of the bed, and answered the inquiry with a kiss and a nuzzle, "Genki desu."

"What did I miss?" Victor asked, nosing his partner back affectionately, "I only really woke up when you fell into the room a minute ago." He explained, reaching up to cover a yawn.

Cherry-hazel eyes watched quietly as Victor pushed up on his hands and sat back in the blanket pile; as usual, caring nothing for being completely exposed. Yuri shook his head, "It's nearly 10am. Movers will be here in the next 30 minutes. We should get cleaned up and get out there before they show up."

The Russian stretched, and let his arms slump at his sides lazily. He nodded though, and rubbed his face a little, "Are you ready for this? It's a big change for you."

"Mh." He answered, "I was only nervous about a handful of things, but after last night..." The words trailed as Yuri's face got pink, but he found no need to finish the sentence as he felt a warm hand come up under his chin.

"No more worries then?"

Yuri barely shook his head, smiling, "I'm ready for just about anything now."

"Perfect." Slate blue eyes half-closed, "That's just what I like to hear."

.

By the time the pair were ready and headed outside, Makkachin was already barking up a storm, tail flailing back and forth excitedly as a huge CedEx box-truck turned into the small parking lot in front of the resort. Yuri pulled on the dark blue coat that Victor had gotten for him just before their trip to Barcelona, and threw a scarf around himself as well.

Victor was close behind, yawning again where he stood shoeless just inside, but perked up as the cold winter breeze brushed across his face. Wearing only a loose-fitting thin sweater and sweat-pants, he clearly wasn't about to go all the way outside like his partner was.

Yuri did all the talking, hearing the workers speaking in Japanese rather than English for once, and did the same in turn so everything went smoothly, [Yeah, everything is in boxes with your shipping logo.] He explained, pointing in though the open sliding doors, [There's a few more boxes upstairs still, but we'll bring them down for you.]

[Sure.]

There were three workers that went by them after that, one of them stopping to get a signature from Yuri to confirm the destination address, and then followed in after the others with a label-gun in his other hand.

"Well, I...I guess that's it then." Yuri said in English again, turning to look at where Victor was leaning against the doorframe, and approached to stand close by, "You can stay and watch, or..."

"I'm hungry." The Russian said simply, an aloof smile on his face, "Let's eat something."

The first boxes were starting to get hoisted out through the doors on hand-trucks, wheeled through main entrance-way and under the resort arch towards the waiting mechanical lift at the back of the truck. Seeing their things being stowed away made butterflies rise into Yuri's gut, but Victor wouldn't let him dwell on it, putting an arm lazily over his shoulder.

"Hungry." He said again.

"Mom said she'd make something for us once the movers were gone..." Yuri explained, stepping inside just long enough to push his fiancé towards the common room, "Maybe she'll take pity on you and feed you early. I'll get the boxes from upstairs and join you soon."

"But I want to eat you." Victor said hazily, still half-asleep apparently.

"...Eh?" Yuri stopped dead in his tracks, snow crunching under his shoes as his face turned red, remembering the crude jokes that had passed between the Russian and his own sister the previous week, "Don't you mean you want to eat with me?"

"Silly Yuri." Victor said, still giving him a sly look, "You're the tastiest pork-cutlet fatale in the whole world, and I've barely gotten a sample..."

Yuri quirked a skeptical brow.

Victor turned around and stepped closer, though cautious of where the warm inside floor changed to the frozen cold step. One hand went onto the front of each of Yuri's shoulders, then he leaned in close, giving him fiancé a quick peck of a kiss by one ear, "I meant exactly what I said."

Glasses fogged up, but all Yuri could do was stand there and listen to his partner having a good laugh at him as he stood back upright.

Victor waved as he turned around to go to the common room finally, "Come eat when you're done."

When he was gone, Yuri reached for his face and pulled his glasses off, grumbling as he used his scarf to clean them off. As he set them back in place, he spotted a henna-pink blob out the corner of his eye, and turned to spot his older sister there snickering at him, "Mari-nee-chan..." He said dully.

"I wish you guys were staying a little longer, little brother." She teased, "It's so funny watching your reactions to everything. You're such an innocent."

The aforementioned younger brother just grabbed the scarf again and wrapped it fully around his head until nothing but the white glare off his frames could be seen, "I'm going to get the boxes from upstairs."

Mari just pat his shoulder as he walked by.

.

By noon, the CedEx truck was finally pulling away from the resort, and the skating duo stood on the street to watch it go. They had with them all their remaining belongings; backpacks with Yuri's skating gear, both of their skates, travel supplies and changes of clothes. It was all they'd need to leave for St. Petersburg right after Nationals.

"I'm a bit nervous about sending Makkachin ahead with all our stuff, but...it wouldn't be easy to sneak him into the hotel."

"Yeah... It'd be hard to have a dog to take care of while competing."

"Let's head to the Ice Castle." Victor said, holding Yuri's left hand with his right, "Yuko said there was a class until 1, so they should be done by the time we get there if we start walking now."

Yuri nodded, and the pair started heading towards the road bridge. The winter winds were colder as they crossed, and Victor stuffed his hands into his coat pockets, taking Yuri's with it where he held on.

"So how much colder is it than this in Russia?" Yuri wondered aloud, his nose and ears getting a bit red from the brisk afternoon air.

"Oh, much colder." He answered, "I'll buy you some proper winter gear though once we get there."

Yuri pondered those words for a moment, "You probably make so much more money than I do."

"Probably, but it's not just from prize money. Russian athletes are sponsored by the state, so I get to keep a lot more of it than skaters who have to pay out-of-pocket for everything." Victor huffed a laugh, "My mailbox will be overflowing by the time we get there. No doubt my return to the ice will be profitable. Then I can shower you with gifts~!" He nuzzled closer affectionately, "Now that you've been on the GPF podium, you'll probably see more, too. So keep going, and pretty soon, people will be sending you invitations for all sorts of opportunities."

"How soon do you think you'll know if the RSF is sending you to Worlds?"

"Pretty soon after Nationals. Knowing I'm not going to Euros will give me plenty to time to get ready."

"How are you going to get ready? Do you have programs in mind? Costumes?"

"I'll just use one of the programs I arranged before deciding to be your coach. 'Eros' and 'Agape' were only two of the four programs I was mulling over last year."

"Oh...there were four?"

"Yes...the Four Loves." Victor explained into his scarf, snow crunching beneath their feet as they continued on, "Eros, the erotic love. Agape, the unconditional love. Storge, the empathy bond, like with family members, and Philia, the love held between close friends. I was working on Eros and Agape mostly, but I had Storge at the back of my mind...I just wasn't really feeling it yet. You know as well as anyone that you can't properly tell a story on ice if you aren't invested in it. Yurio's 'Agape' always lacked a little because he couldn't keep his greed in check."

"Storge...the empathy bond..." Yuri echoed, thinking on it, "Like the bond between mother and child, or siblings. What was holding you back...?"

"To me, family meant impatience, loss, suffering, and amnesia..." Victor answered curtly, "But by the time I practiced it here in Hasetsu, my mind wasn't on that page anymore. My understanding of the 'family' bond changed drastically because of you and your family."

Yuri balked, surprised by the dour admission, "Why would family mean something so dark for you...?"

"It just does...and because it was so different from Eros and Agape, it put me in a rut." The silver answered with a shrug, "Not really true suffering, I know, but as an artist, I was in anguish." He squeezed Yuri's hand where he held it in his pocket, "Which is why I'm so glad your friend's kids posted that video of you. Being here with you has given me so much inspiration~! I could plan programs for the next 10 years if I thought I'd be in the game that long!"

"You do tend to be pretty impulsive when you've decided on something." His partner agreed, stepping closer to hold to Victor's arm with his free hand, "Is that what happened yesterday with 'Aria'?"

"Sort of." Victor said cheerfully, "It was just so much fun to skate it beside you, after telling you what it meant to me. It just...seemed right."

"I wish I could keep up with you," Yuri sighed, though he tried to smile anyway, "You're so at ease with everything...but I'm playing it all back in my head like it's some recap of a sporting event."

"You don't regret it, do you?" Victor wondered anxiously.

"Huh? No. I didn't mean it like that." Yuri answered, stroking his fiancé's hand with his thumb where he held it, "Japan is...really conservative, that's all. My mom joked about how women would be seen as hopeless if they aren't married by my age, but it's kind of true. It's just seen as pathetic if a man isn't, but at least we have the benefit of being seen as career-minded, so the judgment isn't as severe." He paused slightly, not sure how to phrase his thoughts. He shook his head, "Everything is so structured and binary here. Fiancés are supposed to become husband and wife, not husband and husband...you know what I mean?"

"You're worried about being seen as less than what you are?" Victor asked, hearing Mila's words on the wind, like her warning was haunting him.

"No...I don't see the wife-thing as being 'less.' It's just 'different.' But if we had to define things, we both know who between us is the more dominant personality. By default, the stronger one is the husband; the leader. So that makes me...not a husband..."

"Well, you're not a wife either though. Do you think you'd be seen as not-a-husband if you married a woman instead of me?"

"Well, no...but..."

"Would the woman be the husband if she had a stronger personality than yours?"

"...No..."

"Then what are you worried about?"

Yuri grumbled to himself, not sure how to reply.

"The only person whose opinion matters, other than you own, is mine, and I say that I'm taking you as my husband. Not as my not-a-husband, not as my wife, not as my domestic partner. Say it with me, Yuri. Hus..."

"Husband."

"Say it over and over, until it loses its meaning when you speak it out loud, and it doesn't look right anymore when you write it down." Victor went on, "Say it so often that you have to start saying it in Japanese so you know what you're even talking about. ...What is the word anyway?"

"There's a bunch, actually... 'Shujin' is one most men use when referring to themselves, but that implies 'lord' or 'master.' Most young people go with 'danna' or 'otto' now. What's the Russian word?"

"Muž." Victor answered happily, "And we will be muž'já."

"...Moosh...mooshya..." Yuri tried, his attempt at a Russian pronunciation falling flat.

"Exactly!"

.

Half a hundred pictures were taken by the triplets when Yuri and Victor arrived at the Ice Castle. Yuko was a bit emotional, knowing that Yuri wouldn't be coming back to Hasetsu after Nationals, but her husband was all encouragement and well wishes.

"We wanted to see if we could skate one last time before we leave." Victor said, "If it's not too much trouble."

"Never!" Yuko said enthusiastically through her tears.

The whole bunch of them ended up on skates after that. The 'event' itself was incredibly casual; sliding along in wide circles at a leisurely pace. Yuri held to Victor's hand for most of it, and the girls held to a corner of Victor's long coat, dragged around the ice rather happily. A few times, the pair broke off to skate a bit faster, but they were never far apart from one another.

Yuko noticed how well they synched, able to execute several complex maneuvers without so much as speaking to one another. She supposed they each knew what moves were coming based on the position they were in when entering them. Once in a while, she recognized a few short cuts from different programs the pair knew. Victor even started performing 'Yuri on Ice' for the fun of it, which inevitably brought tears to Yuri's eyes, even without the music. Yuko consoled him on the sidelines as the girls recorded it. Never to be outdone, Victor performed the program flawlessly, including that signature move at the finale, with one arm raised, reaching for his fiancé.

The thought then occurred to Yuri though, "Being able to do my program so well, you could've outdone your own record, too. Do you plan on trying to retake it at Worlds?"

"Of course." Victor purred, pulling Yuri back out onto the ice as he caught his breath, "I won't go easy on you just because I hope you win Gold. My fans and sponsors won't be happy if they think I'm pulling punches."

"No, that makes sense." Yuri agreed, "It's going to be a really rough season. With you coming back, Yurio already a Gold medalist, and probably JJ getting his nerves calmed...never mind all the other talent."

"You were in warm-up mode until almost the very end." Victor pointed out, "The others were really trying. Yurio even had to start taking risks to beat you. Imagine if you started taking risks!"

Yuri's mind went on to do just that, but all he saw was the rink wall when his face collided with it at the Japanese Qualifiers. He shook his head, and pinched the bridge of his nose, "Maybe."

"We should probably start packing it in..." Takeshi said, rubbing the fatigue from his eyes as he went to round up his kids, "You guys should be getting to the train station."

Yuri looked at the time on his phone, "Wow, almost 7 already. Is there anything left to do before we leave?"

"We're missing one person to say goodbye to."

"Minako-sensei..." Yuri said, worried they'd miss her somehow, "She said she'd meet us at the station. I can tell her we'll be there in half an hour if you can't think of anything else we need to do."

"You left your 'Aria' costume here yesterday, Victor." Yuko pointed out, coming onto the ice again, "You probably don't want to leave without it."

"Oh wow, no, thank you." He said, surprised at himself, receiving the suit bag with care, "I'll just have to bring this as a carry-on, I guess." He folded it and clipped the bottom of the bag to the hanger-hook to make it as small as possible, then turned back to Yuri, "All that's left then is saying your final goodbyes to your family."

As they all started to head off the ice, packing their skates away for the last time, Yuri's anxiety started to creep up again. It wasn't a fearful sort at least...it was a happy and excited form. He was last to leave the Ice Castle though, before Takeshi turned from where he held the door open to lock up once they were gone.

Yuri and Victor stood in front of the Nishigori family, smiles all around, "Thank you all for everything you've done to help get us to the GPF."

"It was our pleasure." Takeshi answered proudly, "Ice Castle Hasetsu is always happy to welcome you."

"We're going to miss you, Yuri!" The triplets chanted together, stepping forward to give him their goodbye hugs and well wishes. They then turned to the Russian, and Loop nervously asked on all their behalf, "Can we call you Uncle Victor? Since you're marrying Yuri."

"I'd love that~!" He answered enthusiastically, kneeling down to embrace the three of them. He kissed them each on the cheek in turn, "Do svidanija."

"Mom, take a picture for us!" Lutz begged, waving her phone excitedly for Yuko to take.

Victor pulled Yuri into the picture, standing in front of the lights of the Ice Castle as they picked up the girls for a better shot, and all five of them smiled brightly. Victor even pulled out his own phone and had Yuko take the same photo for his own sake.

"Let me take one of just you two." She offered, and the triplets quickly vacated the spot to clear the frame. They clambered to their mom's legs with their own phones out, ready and eager to take pictures for their Instagram page.

Victor pulled his fiancé closer, holding both of his hands in his own for something of a formal photo. When that was done, he pulled Yuri against his chest and threw his arms over him, rubbing their cheeks together for another photo to post on his own Instagram. He held his fingers out in a V-shape and smiled brightly, "Yay! Hashtag #JapaneseNationals and then #BackToRussia!"

Yuko laughed and gave Victor his phone back, "You two are adorable. I can't wait to see what you have planned for your big comeback."

The group could see the lights of a taxi coming towards them, and they knew that time was up.

"Yuri..." Takeshi started, holding out his hand to the younger man. When the skater took it, he pulled him forward and patted him firmly on the back, "You've come a long way since you were a chubby little kid. Broke a world record and scored a good-looking foreign fiancé, too. But you still have so much more that you can accomplish. Don't come back until you have Gold, okay?"

Yuri blushed, but nodded, "I'll do my best."

Yuko then stepped forward, and hugged her life-long friend tightly, "He's right. You've achieved so much since we used to copy Victor together here at the Ice Castle. I want you to win Gold, but more than that, I want you to have fun and enjoy yourself. If you can't say you like what you do anymore, then it's a waste, right? Love what you do, and love those you do it with. You'll go far."

Yuri actually started to tear up at her words, and rubbed his eyes with a free hand as he hugged her goodbye, "Thank you, Yu-chan."

As the taxi parked, Victor started moving towards it, taking Yuri's hand to pull him along. It was bittersweet to be leaving the Ice Castle, and Yuri felt rather somber then. He took one last long look at it before getting into the back seat behind Victor, and waved to the Nishigori family as the car started to pull away.

"Take care, Yuri! Take care, Uncle Victor!"

"You tooooo~!"

When they were out of sight, Yuri pulled out his phone, just waiting for the triplet's fanpage to update. Instead, and perhaps because it took less time, Yuri spotted something else.

v-nikiforov
[picture]
v-nikiforov One last skate at Ice Castle Hasetsu before going back to St. Petersburg. I'm sad to be leaving these amazing hot-springs, but so relieved I'm taking a special souvenir home with me! #LeavingHasetsu #LifeAndLove #SkateHusbands #JapaneseNationals #BackToRussia

The formal photo of them just holding each other's hands came up with it. Yuri's eyes welled up as he looked over at his fiancé, seeing him with his phone out as well, the glow of its light illuminating his face in the dark cab.

Victor reached over and squeezed his hand, "You're a very emotional person. It's quite endearing."

"I told myself I wouldn't cry while saying bye to everyone, and then this gets me." Yuri muttered, wiping his eyes with his free hand, "I thought you'd post the other picture; the silly one."

"I will later, but I liked this one better in the moment. It's like a wedding photo."

The cab driver suddenly piqued his head up, "I'd heard you two were getting hitched. It's news all over town."

Victor beamed and proudly held his ring-hand up for the man to see in the rearview mirror, "Yep!"

"Congratulations."

"Spasibo!"

Yuri looked over nervously as Victor sat back in his seat again, "Are you really going to make me wait until I win Gold somewhere important before we can have the wedding?" He asked, "I might not even win one. We could be waiting for years before it happens, if it ever does. You know I'll get nervous competing against you."

"You broke my record, and I had won Gold when I set it to begin with," Victor pointed out, "I think that's cause enough to go ahead and make plans."

Yuri's face lit up, "Really?"

"Naturally."

"Where will we go?"

"I was thinking of going back to Barcelona. It seems the most natural place, unless we come back here."

"Will one of you change your names?" The cab driver wondered.

"Hmmm..." Victor thumbed his lip, "I hadn't thought of that~!"

"Yuri Nikiforov..." Came a whisper.

Before Victor could really respond, his phone started buzzing loudly in his coat pocket, catching him by surprise as he pulled it out, "I wonder who'd be calling this late at night?" He asked himself, looking at the Cyrillic text on the faceplate, and suddenly got really excited, "Zdravstvujte! ...Da. Da. On gotov?" He paused only long enough to hear the answer, and somehow looked even more excited, "Dostavit' ego v moj dom. My budem tam vo vtornik. Spasibo bol'šoe! Do svidanija." He clicked out of the call and put the phone back where it had been, only to turn his head and grin at his partner, "Now I can't wait to get back."

"What was that all about?"

"You'll see." He answered coyly, "You were saying, though?"

"Oh...I was saying...I like the sound of Yuri Nikiforov..."

Victor smiled, and then reached his arm over his fiancé's shoulders to pull him close, "So do I."

By the time they pulled up to the resort, the snow was starting to fall again. Goodbyes to his sleepy family were easier than they were with the Nishigoris, and with the last of their luggage stowed in the taxi's trunk, the pair were soon on their way again. It was only a few more minutes before they arrived at the train station.

Minako was waiting for them, looking a bit disheveled - like she'd gotten out of bed to be there - but it turned out that it was just because she'd been drinking a little. Yuri knew she'd taken a taxi herself to get there, so he put his hand on Victor's shoulder to have their own taxi wait a moment so their driver could take her home again. Victor paid the man and asked that he wait, which he was happy to do since Victor prepaid for that trip as well.

"Yuri..." Minako said proudly, though with an air of sadness to her tone, "You're leaving this town to go train abroad again. It may be another five years before you come home."

"Maybe." He answered sheepishly.

"I'm counting on seeing you at Four Continents, okay? To show me what you've learned, since I won't be able to make it to Nationals on such short notice."

"Mh!"

Minako nodded, and then turned to Victor, "You've been a bachelor for years. I remember all the days you were so liberal with your flirtations to the millions of fans you have around the world. But even with all that, you came to Hasetsu and claimed this guy as yours." She thumbed at Yuri like he wasn't there, which made him blush again, "What are you going to say to all of those ladies and gentlemen whom you've spurned?"

"I love all my fans." He answered easily, "I can only hope they continue to cheer me on, and Yuri, too. They all cheered loudly enough when I knocked him over at Cup of China."

The tired ballerina smiled, and then reached out with her right hand to cup the Russian's pale cheek. She rubbed it lightly with her thumb, and nodded again in approval before pulling it away, "Take care of him."

Victor smiled, and leaned in to kiss her on the cheek in turn, "I promise. Do svidanija."

"Davai. Both of you. I'll be cheering you on from Yu-Topia."

The Russian pulled Yuri close with an arm over both shoulders, carrying his costume bag over the other, "Spasibo! Our cabbie will take you back home, so don't worry about calling another."

"Bye, and thanks for everything, Minako-sensei. I'll keep in touch!"

"You better!" She waved, watching them go until she could no longer see them through the train station doors. Once they were gone, she got into their cab, and gave the man her address for home. She settled in for the quick drive, but pulled out her phone to check Instagram. First on the list was a post from the triplets' account.

victuri
[video]
victuri Victor Nikiforov skates 'Yuri on Ice' 
#YuriOnIce #VictorOnIce #IceCastleHasetsu

She watched the video, not even realizing the music hadn't originally played when the footage was taken; Victor was so cued in to the song that he skated it in perfect time even without the beat. Smiling as it finished, Minako could hear the sound of Yuri starting to cry off screen. As she scrolled on, she saw a photo of Yuri and Victor with the girls in front of the castle, and then finally below that, Victor's own photo post. That image brought happy tears to the ballerina's eyes.

You two are so perfect.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER SIX

-Think quick and rise high! Dominate the Japanese Nationals Short Program!-

A quick train-ride from Hasetsu to Fukuoka, and the duo were waiting in the terminal of the airport. It was nearly 10pm by then, and Yuri was trying to get a little sleep, leaning against his fiancé as they sat near the connecting tunnel. The plane hadn't taxied in yet, so there was still a little while yet to wait, but it was soon enough to boarding time that most of the other passengers were already there, waiting alongside them.

Victor toyed around on his phone with one hand, reading all the comments on the various posts they'd made earlier in the night. With his other hand, he held to Yuri's, slowly stroking his thumb back and forth across his partner's skin. It was still a bit surreal to him, even though it had been two weeks already since Yuri had purchased the ring that started it all.

'We'll get married after Yuri wins Gold. Right, Yuri?'

Victor pressed his cheek against his partner's head, and gently rubbed it back and forth on that soft, dark hair.

So much has changed in just the last few weeks, He thought, eyes still on his phone screen even though he wasn't really looking at it anymore, We had all that time over the summer to figure each other out, but you always kept just enough distance that I couldn't find a way in. I wonder if it was just being at a competition again that changed things for you? He huffed a sad laugh and closed his eyes, How did it never occur to me that he'd forgotten the Sochi Banquet? His distance makes so much sense in that light...

He turned slightly to kiss the man's crown, but stayed there, breathing in the sweet smell of Yuri's hair.

Everything started happening so fast once he opened up... It's hard to believe we've already made it this far. I thought it would take him months to get comfortable enough with me to let me touch him. Yuri... Victor thought, and let out a long slow breath as he hummed a smile into black hair, You're so much stronger than you give yourself credit for.

Brown eyes opened slightly, and Yuri looked up sleepily, only to close his eyes again as he felt warm lips on his own. He held still for the moment, even as the feeling changed from a kiss to just having their faces close together, "Getting anxious yet?" Yuri wondered, lifting his head up slightly.

"A little." Victor answered quietly, and used the opportunity to sneak another kiss.

Yuri wiggled a bit in his seat to sit up a bit higher, and gave the hand he still held a light squeeze, "I remember how it felt at the end of my last Free Skate." He admitted, "Not wanting to go to the kiss and cry, because I thought it was going to be the last time..."

"Mh..." Victor hummed in agreement, "I thought it might be the last time, too. You hadn't yet decided that you'd want to keep going, whether with me or without. And the way you spooked me the night before the Short Program..." He shook his head lightly, "I swear, if you ever tell me we need to talk again, I'll have a heart attack..."

Yuri dwelled on those words, feeling them rattle around in his mind like a rock had been thrown into his skull. To Victor's surprise, after a moment, he moved his left leg to set it gently over his fiancé's right, and nestled in as close as he could with the arm-rest between them. He sighed a little, his mouth against the side of the Russian's jacket, feeling it get warm against his breaths. Hazel eyes turned up, seeing the man trying to look back at him, "...I thought it would've been selfish of me to suggest you keep on being my coach..."

"I faintly recall saying you were being selfish anyway, by not even giving me a chance to tell you what wanted."

"Mh...my last act as the man who'd stolen you from the world." Yuri nodded slightly, "I was thinking that you were getting too normalized to the idea of being retired from competitive skating for good. I..." He paused, but then pulled up, looking down at where he'd set his knee over his partner's, "At Rostelecom, I was excited about the idea that I could get the whole world to hate me for being the one who pulled you off the ice. But when you said you would consider coming back, I thought...keeping you as my coach would just strangle you as a skater. I thought...the only thing I could do, was to retire from skating after the Final and just..." He slouched a little, "...Give you back."

"You can't get rid of me that easily, Yuri. Someone else did that to me once before and I learned from it." Victor said, and twisted in his seat so he could put his free hand over his partner's knee.

"...Someone else?"

"As soon as you gave me this ring, I knew I wouldn't be leaving you..." The silver went on, ignoring the comment, "It just hadn't occurred to me yet how I'd manage it. That's why I got so mad at you. You weren't giving me any time to think." He kneaded that knee gently, looking down at it as he did so, "I never considered that coming back to competition meant I had to stop being your coach. If there was a problem with bringing you to St. Petersburg, I guess I just thought I'd just stay in Hasetsu with you."

"Really?" Yuri wondered, a bit surprised, "You'd have trained for next season without Yakov?"

"How much do you think he really does these days to help my skating?" Victor teased.

"I guess not that much. You don't exactly need pep talks before you skate." Yuri answered, "Anytime I watched you skate before, you only ever spent ten seconds on the rink wall before you went out. I could only imagine what you and Yakov told each other in such a short amount of time, especially since you and I talk so much."

"He'd mostly just say things like 'good luck' or 'don't hurt yourself.'" Victor explained, "The last two years have mostly been him worrying I'd injure myself." He huffed a quiet laugh, "The way he talked, you'd think he was expecting me to fall apart on the ice at any moment, as though at age 26 I was already about to drop dead."

Yuri felt the hand on his knee creeping higher, and though his cheeks reddened a little, he didn't protest. Instead, he halfway let himself wish they weren't in such a public space. He shook his head though, the memory of Christmas Eve fading quickly with the thought of that gruff old coach, "Yakov seems like something of a father figure to you..." He said, looking down again as he realized those fingers were starting to sneak between his thighs, getting closer, "...This is weird topic to be on when you're doing that..."

The Russian stifled a laugh, giving his fiancé's thigh a squeeze where he could, "I want to get to Nagano so badly already..." He sighed dramatically, and fell back properly into his seat, taking that creeping hand with him, "...Four hours just to fly from here to Matsumoto...then we have to wait another few hours for the first train to leave there...then another hour and a half train ride from Matsumoto to Nagano... The wait is torture. By the time we get there, we'll both be too tired to do anything other than sleep. Then the Short Program starts right away..." Slate-blue eyes turned, looking at the visage that was watching him, "You have such a kissable face...I bet other parts of you are kissable, too..."

Yuri's cheek went bright red at that, but all he could do was stammer, "It was your idea to do this thing overnight..." He pointed out dryly, "We could've left Hasetsu earlier and spent the night in Nagano..."

Victor smiled triumphantly, and leaned his head back contentedly, knowing what he'd just put into the hapless skater's mind, "Making plans on short notice doesn't leave me the benefit of being flexible with time." He explained, "Arranging the pick-up with CedEx to get all of our things from Yu-Topia, making sure my place in St. Petersburg is ready... Suddenly deciding to go to Nationals after all kind of threw a wrench in all that, and having to wait for confirmation that the JSF would even agree to let you come on such short notice..."

"...Sorry." Yuri grimaced.

"What? No, don't be, I'm glad we're going. It just made things crazy for a bit." Victor reassured, "I'm excited to go to Japanese Nationals as your coach. I didn't think we'd still be doing this after the Final." He tilted his head to nose at his partner's ear affectionately, "You had me convinced right up to the end that you weren't going to keep skating...so the inconvenience of last-second changes is a happy consequence of the fact that you changed your mind."

"...Is the RSF mad at you?" Yuri wondered suddenly.

"I have no idea." Victor answered with a laugh, and slouched in his seat so he could set his head on his partner's shoulder, "I'm sure Yurio is mad enough for all of them though." He huffed, thinking that at least a little funny, "He claims he doesn't care if I'm competing or not, but I bet does."

Yuri nodded, then glanced towards the huge floor-to-ceiling windows to see the outline of their plane finally coming forward through the dark, "...There's our ride. They'll be calling us soon."

.

Just as the Russian had stated, the plane ride, the wait, then the train ride...nearly 14 total hours of traveling and waiting since leaving Hasetsu...but, they were finally at the event hotel in Nagano. It was early morning when they finally stumbled into their room and dropped their things in the front hall. The Men's Singles Short Program wouldn't start until closer to 4pm, but trying to sleep during the day would still be an exercise, and they'd be missing the Official Practice before noon, too.

Dark circles under Yuri's eyes made it impossible to go though. His coat and scarf hung off his shoulders idly, and he stood at the foot of the Queen-sized bed in front of him.

"...We've never had just one bed in the hotel room before..." He noted, almost absent-mindedly. He barely noticed as Victor moved in behind him to pull the coat away, unwrapped the scarf, and stowed them away in the hall closet with his own things. Yuri just reached up to pull his glasses off and rubbed his eyes on the back of his wrist, yawned, and hazily stepped over to the side of the bed to set his frames and phone down before collapsing on top of the covers.

Victor saw him drop, not even bothering to get under the blankets. He stepped out of his shoes and up onto the clean floors of the main room, walked the short distance to the other side of the huge bed, and crawled on top of the covers as well. As he usually did, he wedged his right arm under his partner's waist, draped the left over the other side, and pulled the man close to his chest. This time though, he slid his hand into his partner's clothes, and flattened his hand against the warmth of that lean chest.

It was around 2pm when Victor slowly started to wake up again. By then, Yuri had rolled over completely, arms wrapped around his silver-haired head, one leg draped over his side. He had his own leg wedge up as far as it could go between his partner's thighs, arms around Yuri's smaller frame, both having found their way into the man's sweater somehow. He could feel where Yuri's other leg crossed between his, just below the knee, and how his body twitched a little when he slowly started to wake up.

Yuri looked around the room a little to get his bearings, and reached up to rub his eyes before dropping his arm over Victor's head again to try and go back to sleep. Victor wasn't about to let that happen though. Yuri peeked his eyes open a little as he felt a bit of pressure between his legs, realizing Victor was pushing up a little with his own thigh still between them. The pressure faded, but only for a second before it came up again...over and over like that until the hands that had been against his back suddenly came around to his sides. Victor was already starting to kiss at his neck by then, and he drew in a quick breath.

Hearing it told the Russian everything he needed to know; his fiancé was awake, aware of what he was doing, and was, even if only vaguely, interested in what was going on. The leg that had been draped over his side raised up a little higher against him, and Victor could feel Yuri's frame twitch a little as his right hand went from waist to chest, brushing deftly over one pink nub as he was still nibbling at his neck.

"I can't wait any longer." The Russian whispered quietly, "I want you again. I need to feel you..."

Yuri's face was bright red already, "...But...we just...just yesterday..."

Victor looked up, pulling away from the pale neck in front of his eyes. He looked down into nervous hazel irises and smiled, "We should do it every day." He said softly. Both hands moved down to the small of Yuri's back, pulling on him, and he pressed his leg against the man's center even harder, hoping to stir interest.

Though the kiss that followed was welcome. it hadn't really occurred to Yuri that they would do something like that so often. But, the more needy Victor's body became, the more his own seemed to want it, too. Having been intimate once before made it easier to fall into it a second time, and Yuri let go of his nervous surprise. The leg rubbing up and down between his thighs was starting to excite him, and the feeling of Victor's bare hands against his skin made his heart race. Nothing got his attention quite so quickly though as feeling the man twist away from him, pulling out of that kiss he was enjoying.

Victor rose up onto his knees, and pulled one of his partner's legs up against his chest and shoulder; he pinned the other down, sitting on it where it had been between his thighs before. Eyes gazed down on the disheveled figure before them, and the small bits of exposed skin where wandering hands had pushed clothing away.

Yuri gasped quietly as that subtle grind started; it was familiar enough to the night before, but with their legs scissored together as they were, it felt uniquely new, too. He could see his toes flexing within his sock, his leg sticking up straight into the air where Victor still pinned it to his chest, cheek pressed to his calf. Yuri watched his partner's face - relishing in the freedom to move as he did - but when slate eyes met his own, their position changed again, and Yuri swallowed a nervous breath.

The leg held against one shoulder came down against Victor's side, and the one he sat on was released, pulled up against the Russian's other side. Yuri could feel how excited his partner had become already, even through their clothes, and his heart jumped a few beats. Victor leaned down over him though, and that arousal became less obvious for a moment, only to feature prominently as the silver pushed against his hips, lowering down to nibble on his neck.

Hands slid up against the front of his figure, sliding under the rumbled edges of his already-messy clothes. The fabric pushed up, hooked on Victor's wrists, until it was piled up at the top of his chest, moved as much out of the way as it could be for the moment. Victor's hands slid down slightly, freed from the material, and thumbs quite-deliberately rubbed across those sensitive pink nubs on either side of him. Yuri hissed a breath as he felt them, and both arms and legs wrapped around the Russian's frame.

Victor hummed a laugh as he pulled back, the space at Yuri's neck being taken back with those arms raised up over his shoulders. He pressed his brow to his anxious partner's, and looked into those hazel eyes. All the while he kept rolling his hips, and his thumbs rubbed back and forth, palms holding to Yuri's ribs, "Mh...you're sensitive..."

"H-How do you k...keep finding those spots...?" Yuri asked breathlessly, and pressed his head back into the pillows, eyes clenched shut.

"Touch is different when it's done by someone else." The silver purred, "You can't tickle yourself, after all...you expect it..." He said, and sat upright, pulling his teasing thumbs away from those raised bumps on his partner's chest. He quickly crossed his arms over himself and lifted his shirt and undershirt off in one pull, casting it aside on the big bed. It wouldn't do to leave Yuri half-clothed still, and so Victor moved his hands up to the wrinkled pile still pinned under the younger man's arms. With a gentle tug, those clothes came away as well, joining the heap nearby. With all that newly-revealed skin, Victor couldn't help himself, and he went down to taste it.

Yuri gasped a loud breath when he felt the wet hot trail, and his back arched, pressing his chest to the one right above him. He felt hands go under his sides, holing him in that new place, and the pressure of a rolling grind began anew. Victor's moist attention lifted to his neck, and Yuri felt a light suck on his skin. The feeling traveled up under his ear, held for a moment, and then came higher. He looked on nervously, felt the tip of that warm tongue on his lips, and after the initial flutter in his chest, Yuri welcomed that heat in. He hummed a sigh into that new feeling, odd as it was at first, the sensation of a tongue in his mouth that wasn't his own, and slid his hands up and over his partner's back.

When Victor inevitably pulled back, he looked down into those brown eyes, seeing the flush on his partner's cheeks. The fingers that clasped to his back came back around his ribs, and slid over his chest as he lifted further up. The hands he'd planted in the sheets to lift himself, lifted around to return the gentle stroke across his partner's frame, but then came further to pull one of those hands away from his skin. Softly, he kissed those fingers, and the gold band one carried. He carefully moved those hands down to the pillows by Yuri's head, and slipped his thumbs through their palms before tracing fingertips down the man's arms, over his chest, and down the front of his stomach. He paused over his partner's waistband, one fingertip circling the brass button before releasing it.

Yuri listened - and felt - as the zipper as pulled down, and those soft, warm fingers slid along the rim of his jeans to the sides of his waist. With a gentle tug on each side, denim and elastic came away together, and Yuri watched the last bits of his clothes get pulled up and off of his legs. All that remained were his socks, but they were quickly forgotten as Victor pulled his legs back around his waist like before. Yuri swallowed an anxious lump in his throat, and he brought his hands up - almost defensively - over his chest.

"Something wrong?" Victor wondered quietly, eyes drinking in the look of that pale figure before his eyes, "You look worried all of a sudden."

"Er...uhm, it's just... The way we were last night..." Yuri stammered, pulling his legs back a bit as well, knees pinching together, though his ankles were still pressed to his partner's sides, "I mean, I know you...felt everything...but it's weird... To be seen like this..."

"I've seen you naked a thousand times."

"Not aroused you haven't." Yuri clarified through an embarrassed smile. He squeaked a sudden shudder as he felt his fiancé's hand slide between his guarded legs, and straight up the length of the arousal he'd hidden from sight. He pinched his legs together harder, clamping down on the wrist stuck between them, not that it did anything to stop that tantalizing feeling. Four fingers circled around him, lifting that length of flesh from where it had been set against his stomach, and the fifth pressed down against its opposite side. Yuri gasped a breath, legs practically pulsing together in response to each gentle squeeze. He knew his body was giving in to the need for that touch, as the friction of that thumb rubbing against his skin soon slid across it easily. Too absorbed in the electric jolts of pleasure from his fiancé's touch, he didn't notice the man's other hand working to free his own flesh. It was just a weird addition to the already-odd feeling of foreign fingers around his member, but Yuri dared to crack open one eye to look at exactly what it was...and in his sudden embarrassment, pulled both hands up onto his face to cover it.

Victor smiled in amusement, but didn't relent in his movements. Instead, he sat up a bit on his knees and lifted up a little higher against the back of his partner's hips. With those legs pinched together, it offered a tantalizing tightness, and he started rocking his own hips against it, pressing his length through the small gap, sliding against his partner's delicate arousal on the other side.

Each desperate gasp was a response to the feeling of that member sliding along his own length, and though it felt good, Yuri couldn't bring himself to look. He read his partner's movements merely by feeling his position, and imagined the rest. He felt the way Victor rose up against him, and when his hand slipped back between his legs, leaving just that aroused member in its place. That hand came back around from the other side though, fingers curling under him again as his thumb hooked around his own flesh, keeping the two aligned with one another for each precious thrust. The strength in Yuri's legs started to give way though, and his knees started to come apart, making it easier for Victor to wedge his way through.

And he did, spilling between Yuri's parted legs like water. With hands still pressed over the younger man's face, Victor kissed at the back of them until Yuri pulled them away, and welcomed him closer with a new kiss. Victor let his weight ease him down, until he could feel the front of their bodies come together, and he could withdraw his hand. Both went under his partner's smaller frame, and they hugged into one another with that kiss. Victor let simple friction carry them on from there, wanting nothing more than to hold his fiancé close.

With all the heat, the rubbing, and the repeated pressure against center by his partner's rolling thrusts, Yuri was put close to the edge quickly. He pulled out of the kiss to catch a needed breath, and pressed his face to his fiancé's shoulder, fingers pressed hard to the man's back. His breaths became more ragged, gasps more vocal, until finally, his whole body clenched and grasped, and he uttered out a reluctant cry against his partner's skin.

Victor slowed his pace as he felt the pulses of that release between them. He gave a few gentler, softer kisses between his partner's desperate drags for air, before pulling up again. He eased the younger man's legs out from around his sides, and hugged his knees together in front of his chest, ankles resting over his shoulders. Like before, he pushed himself through the small gap between his partner's thighs, and kissed on pale calf as he felt the release of his own climax.

Yuri let his legs slide down, limp, around his idol's waist, and Victor slumped down over his chest between them, breathing quick gasps against his skin. He hugged his arms around the man's head, and gently stroked back stray strands of silver hair, "You...you really didn't...hold back this time..." He said quietly, still trying to catch his own breath.

Victor shook his head a little, and lifted up under the wrap of those arms, kissing his beloved's chin when he found it, "Oh, I did..." He mused, huffing a few tired laughs, "But not as much..."

.

The Nagano Wakasato Tamokuteki Sports Arena, otherwise known as the "Big Hat" arena, was once an Olympic venue, and most frequently hosted hockey events. Every once in a great while though, it served as host to speed skating and, of course, figure skating. In previous years, it had hosted the NHK Trophy, and presently, it was playing venue to the Japanese National Figure Skating Championships.

Skaters from all over the country descended on the locale, all wearing the same team jackets that Yuri was wearing. Victor looked around excitedly, decked out in his black suit, holding to Yuri's pinky finger so as not to get distracted and wander away.

"Look at all these local skaters!" He commented, "I wonder why too many of them never go to the Grand Prix or anything?"

Yuri leaned in close, "Remember what I said about not wanting you to kiss the Gold if I win it?"

"Sure."

"There aren't that many other 'top skaters' in the JSF that score as high as I do anymore. Before you came along, my Personal Best in the Short Program was around 85. That was still pretty high for my team, but it's really a wonder that I ever made it to Sochi in the first pla-"

"YUUUUURI-KUUUUUUUN."

"Uh oh..."

A short and bubbly teenager came bounding out of the crowd, yellow and red hair as spiky as ever. He rushed right up to the pair before pausing, eyeballing the pair enthusiastically, "YOU MADE IT!"

"...Mh." Yuri answered stiffly; he could feel Victor laughing behind him.

"CONGRATS ON GETTING SILVER AT THE GP FINAL!" Minami went on, full-on going into fangirl mode, "That Russian Punk stole Gold right out of your hands though! I can't imagine how crushed you were!"

"Oh I was crushed..." Yuri said, side-eyeing his fiancé, "Under a great deal...of weight..."

The teen blinked brown eyes at him, and tilted his head, only to spot Victor behind the older skater snickering. Eyes went down after that and suddenly spotted where the two skaters were holding each other's hands, and those same eyes suddenly got rather wide.

"You're a lot heavier than you think, Victor." Yuri was saying, turning back and teasing him by pointing with the other hand...the one with the ring on it.

Minami's eyes couldn't get any bigger to see the gold there, and in his mind, math equations were floating by as he pieced together what was going on. He quickly reached out to grab the hand and brought it close, mashing it against his face to get a better look, "SO IT IS TRUE."

"Huh?" Yuri turned back at him, giving the teen a look as he tried unsuccessfully to get his hand back.

"When Newscaster Morooka announced that Victor was saying a prayer for good luck over your matching rings, I nearly died!" Minami was saying excitedly, almost hyperventilating from it all, "I thought, there's no way those two are engaged, but why would they have matching GOLD RINGS if they aren't!?" He had Yuri's fingers splayed, one hand grabbing the index and middle fingers, the other holding to the pinky, singling out the ring finger between them as he lowered it from his face, eyes wet with happy tears, "WHO POPPED THE QUESTION!?"

Others were starting to look over at the spectacle. They'd known Yuri was there already so none were too surprised to see him. Most were just too modest to say anything, and many others still were too busy fawning over Victor. Minami, however...

"YOU HAVE TO TELL ME!"

Yuri finally clawed his hand back, holding it protectively close as he massaged his sore fingers, "...Technically Victor."

"...Technically? What's that supposed to mean?"

Yuri got a bit anxious, making a weird face like he wasn't sure how to explain it.

"Yuri bought one ring." The Russian explained, "As a birthday present and thank you gift for me, but I saw what he was up to and bought the other one without him seeing. After we'd exchanged them, one of Yuri's friends thought the rings meant we were married already, so I just jumped on it and said they were engagement rings." He slouched over his fiancé's back affectionately, arms wrapped around him warmly.

Yuri's face was flushed by then, but he leaned back into the hug and gently put his hands over his partner's, turning his head to nose the man's cheek a little, "I guess I should've thought how it would look to others when I decided a golden ring was the best idea for a present..."

"Nonsense," Victor teased, "If you'd gotten anything else, we probably wouldn't have come this far!"

Minami's brain was breaking to see them so physical - especially since the last time he'd seen them that way, Victor had only gone so far as to rub a fancy, expensive balm onto Yuri's lips with his own finger - and he reached out and put his hands close to their heads, "...Now kiss!"

"Eh? Here?" Yuri asked, confused, looking around and seeing more eyes on them.

"Okay~" Victor mused, and pulled off his partner's back. He reached instead of the man's hands, and held them fondly as he stepped inward, "Yuri."

The younger man's face was flushed, but it did no good to resist. Every other skater, their coach, choreographer, even some members of the audience that were still there from the previous show were watching them, eager to see what would happen.

The Eros inside Yuri's soul was begging to be let loose, and he slowly allowed it. He slid his arms over the Russian's shoulders, wove a few fingers together at the limits of their reach behind the man's silver-haired head, "Victor."

Looking into one another's eyes, the gaggle of gawkers quickly disappeared, and it was just them again. They leaned in close to each other and kissed fondly, and for a while. When they finally came back out of it again, it was to the sound of clapping and cheering all around. Yuri's cheeks got a bit redder, but he held close to his partner, feeling where the Russian pressed their cheeks together as he hugged him. Despite the embarrassment, Yuri could feel himself starting to relax into the excitement of being known as Victor Nikiforov's love-interest...and he turned inward, one hand set on his fiancé's chest as he stepped up onto his toes to kiss the man's cheek, to the cheering of many.

Minami cried as he clapped, long streams dripping from his wide-eyed face, "That was so beautiful. I always knew you were meant for each other." He managed, snuffling back a drip from his nose.

"Always?" Yuri echoed skeptically, "What do you mean...?"

"The minute I saw Victor putting balm on your lips at Regionals, I knew!" The teen explained. He pulled one arm up, and buried his eyes against the crook of his elbow, "I knew all this time...!"

"I didn't think you were so emotionally invested in this, Minami-kun..." Yuri blanched.

"I'm your biggest fan, don't you remember!?" Minami blurted out, lifting up his messy face from his sleeve, "And you'll be able to watch my version of 'Lohengrin' this time! I've been practicing really hard, and I can do a quad Toe-loop now! ...Sometimes! I'm not as good as that monster, Yuri Plisetsky, but I'm trying!"

"He is a monster." Victor agreed, still perched over his partner's shoulder, "And we'll definitely stick around for your version of Yuri's 'Lohengrin.' Right? Yuri~"

Though anxious about it, Yuri nodded and smiled, "We'll watch it. Let's go figure out what order we're going in."

.

[First to take the ice, hailing from Hasetsu, Saga Prefecture...skating to 'On Love: Eros'...Katsuki Yuri-san.] The announcer called in Japanese.

"...Ahhh shinjirarenai..." (I can't believe this.) Yuri sighed, leaning against the rink wall as he pulled the rubber guards off his blades.

Minami was chortling with laughter in the waiting are, "GANBAAAA...YURI-KUUUUN!"

"Hai hai..." (Yeah yeah...) He answered, waving at the teen dubiously.

Victor rested on his elbows on the rink wall rather casually, drinking in the excitement from the crowd, and looked over at all the signs that were cheering his fiancé on as well as congratulating their Silver Medal victory at the GPF. He turned slightly to find the blade-guards being held out to him, and he took them in one hand, "The home crowd is pretty excited to see you, Yuri. I don't really understand more than a word of what they're saying though."

"Yeah... After last year, I'm not surprised." He answered, looking around with bright but nervous eyes, "Hopes are high that I'll do better than 11th this time." He sighed, reaching for a tissue from the Makkachin-plush just next to Victor's elbow. He cleared his nose and crumpled the tissue in his hand, handing it off casually like normal, "But I think I can do better this time."

"I think so, too." The Russian nodded, going back to his casual slouch on both elbows, "Are you going to go for the Flip at the end again?"

"Mh." Yuri nodded, a fire in his eyes, "We've been practicing it a lot over the last few weeks, so I think I can land it cleanly. So...I'm off." He held up his right hand in a fist, feeling confident.

"Go do what you love." Victor answered; he cupped his hands around the loose fist, and pressed his lips to the ring in front him.

"I already did that earlier." Yuri retorted, turning his hand around to put a finger under his fiancé's chin.

Victor was not to be undone though, and he held fast over that upturned digit, only to pull back slightly and lower down unexpectedly.

Yuri's face went bright red instantly, feeling the man's tongue and lips sliding against his finger until it was out again, and Victor pressed it to his cheek, "I said do what you love, not who you love. Good try though." He reached to tap that red-hued nose, "I'll give you points for it."

"Add them to my Short Program. I want to score over 100 again." Yuri said back, finally taking off across the ice to present himself to the crowd...even though his finger felt especially cold, still wet from his fiancé's unorthodox attention.

That was so embarrassing...! I guess I haven't seen even half of Victor's true Eros yet either...

He held his arms out and felt the wash of adulation, moving in circles around the ice until he took his place in center. One gracious bow towards the judges ended his introduction, and he took his position, drew in a deep breath, and closed his eyes.

The guitar began, and Yuri brought up his arms to just above shoulder-level, descending them palms-down in front of himself. he brought them up again to rotate around himself, and dug his left toe-pick into the ice. He blew a kiss to his fiancé for good measure before he took off.

Though the stands weren't half as packed as they had been at the Grand Prix Final, Yuri still did his best to give a performance at least as well as he'd given in Barcelona. There was only one person whose approval he was seeking for anyway, and that person was watching him from the rink-wall.

This is the first time I've skated this program for competition since... He thought, though the words in his mind trailed. Moving on through his program, he caught a glimpse of Victor watching him, and he felt a flutter in his chest, seeing a flash of the man in a much different situation. His cheeks reddened again, ...Since Victor helped show me what real Eros is like... I'm not the same person I was before...I know what erotic love feels like now...

Their earlier romp was prominent in his mind's eye then, and Yuri could feel the warmth of that embrace towards the end.

...I know...what Agape feels like, too... I don't have to look for inspiration anymore, because I have these things now...

'The time for thinking about katsudon and girls is over now, Yuri.' Victor's voice echoed in his head, and he remembered that soft smile.

He's right... Because now, I can freely think of him...

Most of the Short Program felt like a happy blur after that. The first half was packed with all the artistic elements; spins, moves in the field, exquisite choreography. Yuri's mind was everywhere but on the ice though, completely immersed in the flashes of his real-life Eros.

I feel like I can skate this program so much differently now... I'm not just acting out something I've been told about anymore. I wonder if Victor can see the difference...? I wonder if anyone else can...

The Usual Suspects from Regionals were all lined up on the rink-wall near Victor, and just like back then, were enamored by Yuri's skill on the blades. Victor looked at them out the corner of his eye for a moment, but then looked back out to his fiancé, and slumped against his hand with a happy sigh.

It's like watching the change in his program for 'Onsen on Ice,' He thought fondly, How different it was, simply because Yuri change the point-of-view, and asked Minako to teach him how to move. This though... Ah, my lovely Yuri, you're really letting your Eros fly freely and unhindered. You're not the timid little thing you were when I found you last year. I'm really excited to see how much more you can grow.

The music had slipped into something of a lull, playing more softly. Yuri slid into the level-4 sit spin, charging forward into the basic rotation, and hopped mid-rotation for added difficulty. He reached to grab at where the right leg stretched out ahead of himself, and the world became a blurry streak all around him. Soon, he let go of the leg, spinning with his arms slightly out from center before moving off again into a third variant, holding his right skate by the blade where it came underneath his left thigh, then finally rose up again to skate away.

It's still so strange to think that we're like this now though... Yuri's mind went on, feeling himself slipping into autopilot, It only been a year since I turned my back on him in Sochi...too ashamed of myself to face him. Even when he came to Hasetsu, and I asked Kami-sama to give me just a little bit of Victor's time...

He sped towards the short end of the rink, and leaned back into an outside spread-eagle, feeling the cold, brisk air as it flowed all around him. At the end of the curve, he lifted his right leg, and thrust it forward for his favorite jump; the triple Axel. He landed it as he usually did, and slid off in reverse to head back down the rink, the sound of the thin audience's cheering following him. He flew down the rink, and kicked into a quad Salchow, triple Toe-loop combo.

It's almost like it was Victor himself who heard my plea, and answered it before I even thought to ask. If it's true that he's been keen on me since that Banquet last year...

Yuri slid down the ice on one knee, then rose up, twisted around, extended his leg out behind him...and kicked his toe-pick down as hard as he could.

...Then it's no wonder he's so eager with me, now that he has me... And after all this, in St. Petersburg...

He spun four times and landed, but the sound of the audience's shock was all he processed. He was still sliding, but he suddenly realized he could feel the cold on his thigh and right hand.

Shit! I fell!

Victor slid his hand up, and covered his eyes for a moment as he shook his head. When he looked up again, Yuri had gotten back onto his feet and was trying to catch up to his place in the program, ...I wonder what got to him just now? He was doing so well before.

The skater had already moved into the final required element, starting with the camel spin, left arm hanging down at an angle towards his knee.

There's still so much more of Victor's Eros that I have to learn... He thought, kicking off to descend into a sit-spin twist variant, I've barely seen the tip of the iceberg in his vast ocean... He switched feet before he rose up again, picking up speed as the move finished with a swift cross-foot spin, I...can hardly believe he actually wants to share this part of his life with me... Of all the people in the world, me...

The spin ended, and Yuri broke away, thrusting his arms forward together. The music above was at its peak, the entire wicked orchestra singing its lustful tune. Yuri pushed through the last inside spread-eagle, and took his place in the center of the rink, arms up around himself as the song climaxed and cut out. His eyes focused on the rink wall, staring straight at the black-clad Russian.

Victor... Yuri heaved, catching his breath, I want you to show me everything...! I want to know your hopes and dreams, the things that scare you...your true Eros and Agape, and your Storge... I want to know it all!

The audience, sparse as it was, cheered wildly. Yuri recognized Minami's voice hollering louder than the rest, and he bowed towards the different ends of the rink. Plush sushi, nigiri, and poodles were thrown to the ice alongside flowers and whole bouquets, but as Yuri was moving through, heading towards the exit and the kiss and cry, he caught sight of a single, coral-colored rose. He clicked a toe-pick down to hold him still while he knelt down, and let his cold fingers clasp around the bare stem to pick it up. He held the petals up to his face and breathed in the sweet smell, and only then, finally, let himself get through the opening in the rink wall.

Happy, but slightly concerned, Victor slid his arms over his partner's shoulders, "I can tell that your recent new experiences have changed the way you move," He commented quietly, brushing his lips across that nearest cheek as he spoke, "But I can't help wondering if my earlier tease spooked you a bit. The quad Flip..."

Yuri shook his head, nuzzling his face to his coach's shoulder and neck before he pulled back, "No...I..." He started, unable to stop from smiling at the idea of it, "I wasn't spooked at all. I just got caught up in a thought and I stopped paying attention. Guess I can't auto-pilot the Flip as well as I hoped."

"Maybe next time."

[The score for Katsuki Yuri-san...106.45.]

"Not bad." The Russian mused, his tone somewhat sarcastic, "I guess the judges didn't appreciate your new...artistic expression."

"I'll skate it better at Four Continents." Yuri said, looking again to the coral-colored rose in his grasp, "And then, I'll skate it even better than that at Worlds."

"Oh~?"

"Mh." He nodded, "I'm sure you'll teach me all kinds of new moves by then. Right?"

Victor blinked, surprised at his partner's words, "...Y-Yes, absolutely. Lots of new moves. Very advanced stuff." He managed, watching the younger man rise up from the bench.

Yuri couldn't help but smile, and gave a gentle tug on the hand that held to his coach's, "Sorry, did something inappropriate go through your mind just now?"

"Oh absolutely." The silver laughed, and stood up finally, "I think I just fell in love with you again, too." He added, and bent his arm where Yuri took hold of his elbow.

"Again?" Yuri echoed, and took a few quick steps as he felt Victor start to walk, "You can do that?"

.

Inoue Hiroki - 66.34
Hashimoto Takeo - 74.15
Okamoto Masanori - 71.98
Takaki Kichiro - 69.73

[Next on the ice, from Hakata, Fukuoka Prefecture...skating to 'Lohengrin,' Kenjirou Minami-san.]

In the competitor's section of the stands, Victor leaned a little, and nudged his fiancé's shoulder, "Neh, Yuri...you said last year that this was a show from your dark past. Do you still think that now?"

"Mmnnnnnh..." The younger skater sighed, "...Sort of."

"Minami scolded you thoroughly for it." The Russian went on, his tone sounding more like a coach again than a lover's, "He said he'd never forgive you if you didn't try your best during the Free Program."

"I remember."

The excited young skater went out onto the icy stage, waving at Yuri especially as he went by.

Yuri waved back, "GANBAAAAAA, MINAMI-KUUUUN." He hollered, trying not to let the dread of the anticipation seep into his tone.

"He came in 3rd at last year's Nationals, right?" Victor went on, clapping dutifully, but staying seated where he was, "He scored in the 60s for the Short Program at Regionals though, and totaled out at only 214. You've scored more than that in your Free Skate alone at this point."

"Now you're just trying to give me a big head, Victor." Yuri scolded, "And how is it that you remember scores so well but nothing else?"

"Whaaat? I remember plenty of other things!"

"What was my Short Program called last season?" Yuri posited, giving a challenging look.

The music above started, making the raven-haired skater twitch a little.

['Lohengrin: Morgenröte' - version found on YouTube channel TerminalEpistaxis - end at 2:23]

Victor blinked at him, "Uhm..."

Minami was off like a shot, the music carrying him off as though taking part in the battle-charge of some massive cavalry.

"Your programs last season were 'Scheherazade' and 'Aria.' You had a different Exhibition for every event."

Straight-line into a triple Axel; the bane of Minami's existence, but he pulled through.

The Russian paused, but then smiled and booped his fiancé's nose, "Your SP last season was 'Dark Eyes' by Yevhen Hrebinka, but I only remember getting to see a single Exhibition."

This time, it was Yuri blinking, eyes crossed where he looked down the tip of his nose.

Victor just laughed a little and pat his partner's hand where it was resting between them, and laced their fingers together fondly, "I really ought to scold Celestino for holding you back. He picked all your performances, right?"

"...Yeah."

"Why did he never give you more than one Exhibition? I feel like that's been a pattern throughout your career. One Exhibition per season, and that's it."

"Why bother with more?" Yuri wondered, leaning in a bit closer as flashbacks to his earlier skating days dazzled before his eyes, seeing his old self wearing the same outfit that Minami was wearing on the ice before him.

Back then...the triple Axel was already my favorite jump, but that was in part because it was the hardest jump I was capable of at the time. Unlike Yurio, I didn't come bursting into my Senior Premiere with a bang...it was more like a sad whimper.

"Why bother?" Victor repeated in confusion, "Why not bother? The Exhibition is the most fun part of the whole thing... No rules to hold you back, no structure you have to follow... The ice if your canvas, and you can do whatever you want."

"I only skated in one Exhibition last year." Yuri pointed out, a dour tone to his voice then, "Just like this year, I only scraped my way into the Final by a technicality...and I only got on the podium one time." He sighed and shook his head, "Having to pay a fee to skate the Exhibition in place of having earned a spot... There was never any point in learning more than one show when I'd only skate in one show."

Minami vaulted into the quad Toe-loop, landing with a hand on the ice, but then jumped immediately into a camel spin.

The silver Russian watched his partner carefully, feeling where the man's fingers were getting a bit tight where he held them. He gently rubbed his thumb over it to try and help it relax, "Sorry, I must've hit a nerve."

Yuri just glanced at him out the corner of his eye, feeling the caress, and took it for what it was. He leaned his head to the side and set it on the edge of his idol's shoulder, reaching over with his free hand to hold to the man's forearm as well, "...At Regionals, when Minami-kun said he was doing this for his Short Program, part of me was relieved I missed it, because it would've gotten me down to be reminded of it back then, too." He admitted quietly, barely audible over the music, "I want to be able to look at it and think, 'wow, look how far I've come.' But that wasn't really my spring-board. 'Lohengrin' for me was just the sad skip of a small flat rock across a boring pond. There was nothing particularly amazing about me or my skating back then."

Triple Salchow, double Loop. Slight over-rotation on the Loop, but the teen didn't fall.

"Seeing Minami-kun dressed up in my old outfit..." Yuri went on, eyes fixed on the young skater, "He seems to get the same kick out of it that I do dressing up in your old costume," He explained, looking down to the leggings of his Eros costume, "...And I'm happy for him in that way. But..." He sank a bit lower against the man's shoulder, "I feel like he's celebrating mediocrity. When you last wore this outfit, you were winning the Junior World Championship. When I last wore that one?" He pointed a finger over the Russian's forearm, discretely aiming it towards the performer on the ice, "I was barely a blip on the local radar. I was considered a top skater in the JSF only because most other skaters were even worse. Going to competitions against Russia or Canada...really made it clear that I wasn't the top of anything."

"No one becomes a Champion overnight, Yuri." Victor finally said, "It takes a lot of hard work and determination. You need to want something bad enough that you'll do whatever it takes to get there. You make sacrifices, and push yourself harder than anyone else ever could. Sometimes it feels like you're going it alone, and sometimes you can get help from people around you...but in the end, you're the sole architect of your own destiny." He leaned over to kiss the top of his partner's performance-styled head, "You have to look at every show as a stepping stone to something better, not a skipping stone. How else can you learn from your past if you're never willing to look back on it and see where you made mistakes, so you can fix them later?"

"What kind of mistakes have you made?" Yuri wondered cautiously, "You always seemed like you knew exactly what you were doing, and that you meant every step."

"Everyone fights a different battle. Mine was never on the ice." The Russian answered quietly, keeping his eyes fixed forward, "Skating was my refuge; my confidant, my best friend. Nothing bad ever happened out there. I felt more comfortable dancing on the blades than I did walking in shoes."

"Really?" The younger skater asked curiously, "...What were your battles then?"

"Nothing you should ever have to worry about; they were fought long ago." Victor said, his tone one of finality, "Oh, look...Minami finished. I wonder how his score will compare to your last 'Lohengrin'?"

Yuri side-eyed the man next to him, quietly adding it to a slowly growing list of things his fiancé didn't want to talk about.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER SEVEN

-Slowing it Down!? Japanese Nationals Free Skate!-

By the end of the afternoon's Short Program, no one else had come close to challenging Yuri's 'high score.'

Despite Victor's pep-talk, and doing his best to seem enthusiastic about Minami's performance when the teen came up to him later, Yuri still felt rather disappointed by everything. He couldn't shake the feeling even after they'd left the event, gone back to the hotel to change, and were already out looking for things to do until the night ended.

Victor had completely lost his mind when they found their way to the Nagano Jigokudani Monkey Park, and he could see the infamous macaques where they bathed in the natural hot-springs.

"YURI LOOK." The Russian was pointing over-enthusiastically, "COME TAKE A PICTURE." He was rifling through his jacket to pull out his phone and grabbed his partner before finding a place to stand. One arm extended forward to hold the phone while the other was out behind Yuri's head with his fingers giving a V-sign. He smiled much more enthusiastically than the other figure did as he took the picture, "This is so great! Hashtag #MonkeyBusiness!" He laughed as he posted it to Instagram.

The monkeys barely paid the silver man any attention, going about their business in the winter water as they did every day.

Victor wouldn't let his fiancé mope too much, and immediately took his hand to start walking again, "So what are you going to do about tomorrow then?"

"Huh?" Yuri looked up, taken aback by the sudden 180 on the conversation, "Tomorrow?"

"With the Free Skate."

"I dunno what you mean. What about it?"

"Are you going to change your jump schedule?" The Russian clarified, "Bring down the difficulty rating so your program is on the same level as everyone else's?"

The younger skater thought on it, but then shook his head incredulously, "I don't think I've ever heard of you doing that before."

"Me? No." Victor shrugged up his shoulders and huffed a laugh at himself, "If I changed up my program so soon after the Grand Prix, I'd be booed out of the competition. People expect me to have a high-difficulty program. Maybe it'll be different for you."

"Why would it be different?"

"This is Japan." He explained, practically waving one arm out to put the countryside on display, "People here are different than they are in Russia; more considerate and less cut-throat. If you lowered the difficulty of your program, you might be seen as a good sport."

"Or I'll be scolded." Yuri offered instead, "I don't know... I'm already in first place by a huge margin. If I did anything to handicap my Free Skate now, they might think I'm being arrogant, especially if I win the competition anyway."

"So then you're going to leave it as it is?"

"...Yeah, I think that would be best."

"Oh. ...Okay."

Cherry-hazel saw the look on the older figure's face changing, getting less excited as they spoke. So, Yuri did the only thing he could think of that he knew would cheer him up in a hurry; he stepped out in front of him, wrapped his arms around the man's sides, got up onto his toes, and kissed him. When he felt his partners arms come up to rest around his shoulders, he knew he'd succeeded, and hugged him back a little tighter, holding on a little longer.

"Sorry, I'm being a downer." He finally said, looking into those crystal-blue eyes, "...I just never thought I'd score 20, 30, even 40 points higher than anyone else. The Free Skate gap will probably be even more massive. You'd think it would be exciting, but I just...feel bad now. I'm skating against a bunch of rookies. The rest of the veterans have either retired by now or they've never even qualified for the Grand Prix before."

"I know." The Russian answered, putting his forehead down on his partner's, "It's not so much fun being a top contender when you're competing against everyone, rather than a small group of pre-selected top athletes. There are times where I don't even want to go to Nationals back home because I can see others giving up when they see me go by. At least here, people still get excited about their scores, even if they're far below yours. You haven't been burying them for so long that only the fans are happy to see you." He slid his right arm a little lower on his partner's shoulder, gently setting his palm against the man's face, fingers touching lightly to his hair, "But that's part of what makes what we have now so special."

"...What do you mean?"

"It's lonely at the top." The Russian said quietly, "So I'm glad you're here with me. You can see everything with the same eyes that I do, looking out from the same vantage point, rather than from somewhere beneath it."

.

Going first during the Short Program meant Yuri would be going last during the Free Skate. The new perspective he'd gained from his partner the day before made watching the event a bit less intolerable, but it was still difficult. With so many younger skaters, inexperienced in putting on a good show and lacking the capacity for power-house moves like quads and high-level spins, it was almost...boring to watch. 'Minami's Boogie' had gotten the audience riled up again like at Regionals, and a few other up-beat choices in music broke up the monotony of the rest, but easily half of the participants were so green that it felt like only family or friends would be all that impressed. The pair still clapped dutifully, occasionally pulled out of their daydreaming by an interesting show put on by a more seasoned athlete, but by and large, it was nothing to write home about.

And then it was Yuri's turn. Most of the audience had waited the entire afternoon to see him go up, so when he set blades to ice, the chorus of cheers were, by and far, a separate thing from how they had been earlier on.

Victor fingered some balm onto his fiancé's lips, hugged him, and sent him on his way to the center of the rink.

'There's nothing wrong with lowering the difficulty.'

Yuri raised his arms up and presented himself to the audience, waving appropriately towards the judges, and took his place. He looked down at his hand, seeing the gold shine on his right ring finger. He didn't raise it up to kiss it though; he just thumbed it a little where he could and waited for the music to start.

Victor sighed as he saw it, though he understood it well enough.

The piano began, and so did the skater, raising his hands up in front of himself, lifting his eyes to the ceiling as they went, then letting them fall out to the side. His performance was as good as it ever was, though a bit muted for lack of enthusiasm. Though he kept the Flip at the end, he dropped one of the other quads, and by the end of it, his reach towards Victor was comparatively limp. None but that self-same Russian could tell that Yuri didn't really have his heart in it, and the young skater had to force a smile when he saw his 207.52 score at the end of it. He broke 300, and to Yuri's chagrin, it was 50-70 points higher than the next 2 skaters after him in the ranks. When he stood on the podium to accept his first official Gold under Victor's coaching, he had the same bored, albeit stoic look on his face that Yurio had at the end of the Grand Prix Final.

It didn't even matter when he'd been handed the oversized, chrome-plated, wood-mounted chalice that was awarded to each discipline's Champion. He just looked down into his reflection in its curved surface and felt miserable.

I should be proud of this...but... I only came to guarantee my spot at Worlds. Would Victor be upset if I filed this under 'skipping stones' and forgot about it? It's not my first win here, but it means so much less to me now than it used to...

He couldn't really hear how Minami was cheering for him to come back to rink-side. Yuri had something of a vacant expression in his eyes; even hiding his medal from Victor's greedy hands did little to arouse a more normal affect.

"But I want to kiss it!"

"No..."

Yuri had his hand out against the man's face, keeping him at the end of his reach while the medal hung from the other hand, hidden behind where the trophy-cup was wedged against his side, well beyond the Russian's grasp.

Victor flailed and fussed for a good long time, "But it's the first Gold you've won since I got here!" He insisted, still reaching, still denied, "I HAVE TO-"

Abruptly, Yuri let him go, and the Russian flew forward to crash into him instead, hands still clambering towards the gold. Victor moved his arms from going around the skater to trying to go over the shoulder, but every which way he tried to get a better reach, the target was still too far away. Eventually, he saw blank brown eyes side-glancing at him, and he paused.

Thinking the man had finally abandoned his quest, Yuri let his arm down...but quickly found the medal swiped from it as Victor launched a quick-attack. The silver man spun around triumphantly and held the prize up by its colored lanyard, "I got it! And now, I kiss it-" He grabbed the disc with both hands and held it in front of his enthusiastically-puckered lips.

Yuri said nothing, barely turning his head to watch the spectacle, a disappointed look on his face.

You promised...

The Russian was suddenly acutely aware of his fiancé's dead-eyed stare, his one visible eye going wide as the younger man turned away from him. He frowned and let the medal drop away, dangling at the end of the lanyard where it hung from his hand. A few steps forward, and Victor was behind his perturbed skater, putting the prize against Yuri's palm...unkissed.

"Okay. You win." He said, feeling a bit defeated, "I won't."

Hazel eyes descended as he felt the metal against his skin, and he grasped at the circular disc as the Russian let it go. Slowly turning around, Yuri held it in both hands, and gradually brought his eyes up to meet the man in front of him, "Next time I win Gold...will be at Four Continents." He said quietly, "You can kiss that medal all you want. For now tho-"

Victor cut him off, putting one finger over Yuri's mouth to stop him from speaking. When the skater blinked at him, one blue eye just winked, "Well, if you don't want me to kiss your Gold Medal, I'll just have to kiss something else then."

"...Some...thing else...?" Yuri stammered.

Slate eyes gave a knowing look, but the Russian gave out a quiet laugh and slid his hand from lips to chest, then around his fiancé's lower back, "Something I haven't gotten to kiss yet."

The cogs were turning in Yuri's brain...and suddenly, his face went bright red.

"Oh my, Yuri, what just went through your head?" The silver Russian smirked, reveling in the younger man's reaction.

"You'resoinappropriate!" He said quietly through clenched teeth.

Victor just hummed an amused chuckle, sliding his hand a little lower as he tilted his head to nose his partner's ear. He could feel the younger figure tighten up a little as that hand parked itself on his rump. The Russian just smiled though and closed his eyes, "I'll only let you stay innocent for so much longer. Soon enough, you won't get all embarrassed by me, so I have to enjoy it while it lasts. Right? Yuri."

The younger skater made a strange face, something of a confused mess between coy and reluctant, but he eventually turned to face his partner straight-on, set the heavy trophy-cup on a nearby chair, and lifted his arms over the man's shoulders.

Victor blinked at him in sudden confusion, feeling where his fiancé put their foreheads together and drew in a deep breath, "...What is it?"

"Everything is still so new and fresh, so sometimes, I can hardly believe we're actually like this." The man answered, eyes closed, the palm of his right hand gently touching at his partner's neck, thumb feeling the first strands of silver-grey hair, "But then...I think back on the things you said in Hasetsu, when you were telling me about the Sochi Banquet, and I start to wonder... What were you thinking, all that time? Not knowing I didn't remember anything? Was it hard for you to watch me, being so close that whole time, yet being so distant, too?"

"Of course...but I've never been the type to give up easily." The Russian hugged his partner a little tighter and huffed a laugh against his neck, "Ah...if you could've seen the look on my face when I first saw the link to that video of you doing Aria..."

.

Makkachin was trotting through the living-room, heading towards his water bowl as his human surfed through the local television networks, trying to find anything at all that would pique his interest. The man's phone was on his stomach, face-down, but blinked and vibrated as a new text message suddenly came through. Lifting it up, Victor saw that the sender was one of his rink-mates, Mila, and the preview of her message was that of a YouTube link.

Unlocking the device, the Russian read the full text, eyes barely registering the words for a bored moment.

[Neh, Victor, you might get a kick out of this. That kid from Japan who bombed at the Final replicated your Free Program! He's gotten a bit fluffy, too, by the look of things... You better come back to practice before we pick HIM up to replace you!]

The link to the video was on display beneath the message, and Victor was suddenly sitting upright in shock, pulling his feet off the foot-stool and setting them on the floor. He clicked into the link immediately, seeing the face-plate go white as the page loaded too slowly.

Makkachin's toes clacked along the hardwood floor, sensing the shift in mood and whining where he sat next to the man. Victor hadn't taken his eyes off his phone though, the music of 'Stay Close to Me' starting, and Yuri beginning the dance at an unknown rink. The poodle nudged at his human's knee before hopping up to sit next to him, wedging his head under the Russian's arm as though trying to see what he'd been looking at. The big ol' woofer laid down where he sat, soon finding himself pinned in as the silver skater turned to prop his feet up in the pillows at the end of the couch, studying the performance as though it were he himself skating to it.

By the time the program ended and the video went to black, Victor had already made up his mind. He clicked his phone off and ruffled the poodle's head, "Makkachin...we're going to Japan. You start packing. I'll tell Yakov."

"ROWF!"

.

"Remembering what you said at the Banquet," Victor went on, kissing the man's neck lightly before pulling back to see him better, "It almost seemed like destiny. You wanted me to be your coach anyway, and I needed a good excuse to go see you so it wouldn't seem so arbitrary...becoming your coach was the best possible reason! It was only a matter of time before I'd get close to you after I arrived."

Yuri's face was still a bit flushed from before, but he smiled and nodded quietly to himself.

"You don't know how happy it makes me that we've come this far, Yuri." The Russian went on, "Being your coach has been fun and rewarding...but getting to be your fiancé? I can't even put it into words."

"Victor..."

"Anyway though..." He said suddenly, kissing the man's nose before turning to stand next to him, facing the curtain to the prep area, "Even if you won't let me kiss your medal, you've still won your first competition since I became your coach. We should do something to celebrate. This will be your last chance for a decent night's sleep before the Exhibition tomorrow, and then the long flight to St. Petersburg."

.

Lacking a variety of formal attire, their celebratory dinner out was more casual than Victor would've wanted. But, to the Russian's surprise, one of the best places in Nagano City was actually set up like a mom and pop shop, so high-class attire wasn't necessary even if the food was apparently rather classy.

"...This place...?" He said skeptically, looking at the tiny establishment from the sidewalk.

The front of the building made it look especially tiny, built within the ground-floor level of a much larger structure. It had several potted plants lining the main front window, a blue awning overtop, and a single-wide door on the left. On the glass was a flower-like iconograph, and the words 'NOEL Bistronomic Nagano' beneath it in white English letters.

"The reviews say it's one of the 'Top 10' places in the city." Yuri explained, looking at the page on his phone with his free hand, the other held to his fiancé's between them, "The pictures of the food make it look super high-class. They even have a whole plate just for a decorative display of rock salt. At least I think it's rock salt...maybe it's small chunks of ginger root. I can't tell." He said, holding up a picture.

"Hm." The Russian hummed, a finger on his lip as he looked. Smiling then, he started moving towards the door, "Reminds me of Yu-Topia. Humble and rustic, but hiding a gem inside!"

The interior was largely made of wood displays; counters, shelves, flooring, chairs and tables. Above the bar-area was a chalk-board featuring the menu, beneath it, a long hanging-wine-glass rack, and opposite the bar, a few small tables lined up against the wall. It seemed like the entire place could only seat some 20 people at a time.

Waiting just inside the doorway, Yuri glanced around casually, reading over the menu while he waited for someone to notice them. It didn't take long. Patrons and staff alike immediately recognized the tall silver Russian standing next to him.

The slender foreign skater waved politely, but it was becoming plainly obvious that no one knew Yuri, who was looking quite plain and humble just in front of him. So Victor did the only thing he could think of, given how he didn't really know any Japanese...and yanked his partner's glasses off, set them on his own head, and reached around the man's face to pull that spiky black hair up and out of the unrecognizable skater's eyes. He smiled and leaned over one shoulder, looking at the folks just behind the counter, "...Kore wa...Katsuki Yuri da yo! Mitte ne?"

Yuri side-eyed him as best he could, "...V-Victor, what are you...?"

The patrons suddenly realized who he was, and all but a few of them suddenly rose from their seats to start clapping. Those who didn't followed suit soon after.

"Kin-medaru omedetou!" Many of them were saying.

Victor finally let his partner go, giving him his glasses back as soon as he had properly messed his hair back up, "No one recognizes who you are when you're in ultra-normal mode. I'd hate to think they only know who I am when we're both standing here...I'm not the one who just won the All Japan Championship, after all." He explained, seeing staff quickly rummaging around to set up a table for them; one that had already been empty, but hadn't been reset for the next guests yet. He smiled and lead Yuri over once they were done and let him sit before taking his own place, "I may not know much Japanese yet, but even a foreigner like me can see all the adverts around town for the Championship event. Pretty soon, people will be calling you a national hero!"

"...Psht, I'm no hero. I'm just a skater." The anxious athlete smiled nervously.

"Don't sell yourself short." Victor insisted, reaching across the table to lightly caress his partner's cheek before letting that hand slide down to where Yuri's was already clinging to the edge of the wood, taking hold of his fingers and bringing that arm to rest in center near the wall, "You'll win gold at the FC and then at Worlds. Once you've won all of them enough times, you'll be coming home to a hero's welcome."

"...I dunno, 'home' is about to be St. Petersburg. I doubt the RSF media will be breaking any doors down to interview me even if I win a bunch of events."

"Why not?" Victor posed, holding his chin up on the back of his free hand, elbow on the edge of the table, "The JSF did it to me when they found out I was in Hasetsu."

"You're a little different."

"This is only the beginning, Yuri." The Russian insisted fondly, sliding his fingers within Yuri's fist to loosen up his grasp a little, fingering the golden ring with his thumb, "We all start small. I believe in you. But... If you're so convinced that no one will notice you in Russia even when you do start bringing back Gold...you could just join the RSF!"

"What!? No way!" Yuri was practically on his feet then, "Yurio would murder me!"

Victor laughed at that, "Then think about it like this. I'm already spoken of as a hero at home. You're the first person I've taken on as a student. If I can take a skater who got utterly crushed and came in last place, and turn him into a Gold Medalist over the course of a single season...then you'll be the hero student and I'll be the hero teacher!" He explained, thoroughly proud of himself.

Yuri just gawked at him with an awkwardly critical smile. I feel like I should be offended again. "...Don't pat yourself on the back too hard, Victor, you might hurt yourself."

.

It took a bit of effort to get the sauced Russian back to the hotel room, but Yuri did his best, and was eventually able to drop the man onto his back on their bed. Thankfully, unlike in China, Victor hadn't gotten to the point where he was stripping yet, so Yuri didn't have to go around looking for clothes to put back on him.

"Kanpaaiii Yurriiii...!" The awkwardly-buzzed silver legend was saying in a slur, waving an arm into the air above himself before letting it fall like a rock to the sheets just above his head, and seemingly falling asleep.

Yuri watched the whole thing unfold curiously, blinking at the man as he slipped away into drunken dreams. He shook his head and laughed, moving off to peel out of his things and get in a quick shower before going to bed as well. He rummaged through his carry-bag for his clean clothes and then stepped off.

With the hot water spraying down on the top of his head, Yuri put his hand on the tile wall and drew in a deep breath. It was really starting to hit him how things were going to be changing.

...This will be the last time I shower and sleep on Japanese soil for who-knows-how-long, unless a competition brings us here...maybe NHK... He thought, looking on as the water cascaded over him. I wonder how different things are in Russia? ...My only experience there was in Sochi...and the Russians really cleaned that place up to give a good impression.

He briefly thought on that weekend; the room he and Celestino had been put into by the ISU, and the view from the hotel window overlooking the coast of the Black Sea. It was a beautiful memory, even if the aftermath of it was still painful to recall.

When he'd dried off and changed, he wandered back into the main room, seeing Victor there on the bed where he'd left the man, though turned onto his side by then. The younger figure stepped over to the foot of the bed and pulled the Russian's shoes off, then moved to the side to peel the comforter from where it had been neatly folded into the thinner blanket and fitted sheet under it, tossing it over his coach's unconscious form as well as he could. A few tugs at the remaining blankets, and Yuri was under the cool fabric, turning off the lights and then wiggling his way under the sheets to get closer to his partner and hug against the man's back.

Victor seemed to stir a little when he felt it, moving his head up a bit as though he could sense the presence behind him, bringing one hand up to where the other had gone around him...but he never opened his eyes or said anything.

Yuri waited a moment, then decided the man hadn't woken up at all, and moved to wedge his right arm under his partner's neck to let it act like a skinny pillow. He kissed the top of the man's full head of silver hair, and closed his eyes.

When he awoke again, he wasn't sure how many hours had passed, but the previously-dim light of the room had entirely vanished by then, so he guessed it was some time in the middle of the night. He blinked a few times and glanced around, seeing little and less through the blackness, but hearing everything he needed to know.

"Victor...?" He asked quietly, almost mumbling the words.

"Sorry, did I wake you up?" The Russian answered, half-whispering. It sounded like he was changing out of his evening-wear somewhere at the foot of the bed, "I thought I was being quiet."

The younger figure rolled onto his back and rubbed his eyes on the back of one arm, "You were. I think I just noticed you'd moved away. I guess I've just..." He started, though pausing as he felt the weight of his fiancé getting back onto the bed from the opposite side, this time under all the same sheets he himself was under, and tossing the folded blanket over to its original place. He first felt warm arms coming around him, then the man's chest against his shoulder, chin resting above it as the Russian slid in to put his head on the same pillow.

"You were saying?" Victor purred, nestling in closer, nearly naked for all Yuri could tell.

"Oh..." He stammered, turning onto his side to face the man, feeling as cool hands came around him, "...I just... I'm so used to us sleeping together now that I guess I can sense when you're not there...and I woke up to figure out where you were..."

"Hmm..." The Russian hummed, twisting onto his side to get a little closer, and feeling the smaller body next to him do much the same, "I think I know what you mean." Hands moved a little further down and slipped under the edge of the t-shirt, savoring the feeling of skin against his arms, "I'd almost forgotten what it was like to share a bed with someone that I could touch, and cuddling with Makkachin just isn't the same." Victor went on, nosing his fiancé's lips in the dark, "This is much better."

"Makkachin liked being in my room a lot." Yuri pointed out with a bit of a smirk, "I think he spent half his nights with me. Though...I guess that...does kind of make me wonder..."

"...Wonder what?"

The younger skater could feel his partner moving in closer, discovering that he actually was entirely naked, and was excited as well. He knew where that would lead, and was surprised to find himself wanting to let it happen. It was a shock to find his body practically moving on its own after that, rising up once the silver skater was comfortable and sitting right over his hips, hands going palms-down on that pale chest. Slender hands came up over his thighs, and fingers went under the edges of his baggy night-trunks.

"Yuri?"

That voice cut through the fog of sensation floating through the skater's mind, and he shook his head to reclaim his thoughts, "...Sorry..." Brown eyes opened, and he looked down on the man, his face flushing again at the sight of his fiancé's perfect physique; slender, strong, and his, "...How is it even possible that someone like you was single for so long? You could've had anyone you wanted."

"Sure...and I did, a few times. The reason I was single after that was because I was tired of becoming single." Victor answered simply, shrugging his softly-carved shoulders against the pillow under his head, "So instead of letting myself rebound again and again, I broke the cycle, and focused on skating." He paused for a moment, gazing up adoringly at the man sitting over him before raising his ringed hand to stroke a rosy cheek, "But then you came along."

"Uh oh..." Yuri gave a nervous look, slouching where he sat, "I made a mess of things for you."

The Russian legend just smiled fondly, "No... You put things into perspective." He explained quietly, stroking his thumb back and forth slowly, "I didn't know what I was doing anymore and I had no plan. How can I keep on skating? How do I stay inspired? What should I do with my career? What comes after I retire? What place will I have in the world? ...In the end, all the questions and doubts I had about myself...were solved by the same thing."

Hazel eyes peered into azure, and the young skater lifted his hand, reaching it over the one that still caressed his face.

"You don't know the things you do to me, Yuri." Victor said quietly, his tone tinted with the hint of a lament, "If this is a dream, I never want to wake up. I'll die before I go back to a world that doesn't have you in it."

The words were something quite a bit more profound than the young figure was ready to hear, but as soon as the last sound of them echoed around him, he could feel his throat seizing up. By the time he'd moved his hand over to soothe it, he could feel the Russian's own hand pulling back again, and he watched as Victor used it to rub the back of it against his eyes.

"...Hm...I've probably cried more in the last 2 weeks than I have in the last 10 years. Look what you've done to me." The older figure noticed, having a bit of a sad laugh at himself, and looked up in time to watch the spiky mess of black hair descend towards his chest. He brought his arms up over the younger man's back and held him there for a moment, not quite sure if the warm, wet feeling against his skin there was a kiss, or tears.

"...Victor..."

The right leg came up under the skater and nudged him forward, pushing Yuri's hands out of place, forcing them past sculpted shoulders and into the pillow behind them, bringing their eyes together in the process. The silver Russian smiled softly, leaning his head up to nuzzle his fiancé affectionately as his hands slid down to hold at the man's waist.

Yuri leaned in the close the gap between them, drawing in a sharp breath where his kiss was rewarded with a hip-roll under where he sat. Wanting to feel more, he swiveled his legs around from where he'd still been sitting on his knees, extending them out behind himself to lay in tandem with his partner's.

Victor savored every moment, holding gently to his partner and kissing him adoringly, hands tracing the edge of the fabric and slipping just under the edge of the back of the man's shorts. Fingers slid under the wrinkles of the elastic band, palms curving over his partner's rump, only one layer of material between them, and caressing softly at every inch of him until he could feel arousal bearing fruit between them. He moved his kisses from lips to neck, slowly pushing himself up onto an elbow until he could tilt his young lover onto his side. His free hand pushed away at the fabric still clinging to his fiancé's waist, wanting it gone so he could have free and easy access to every bit of skin. He could feel where Yuri bent his legs up under the blanket to push the material away, losing it somewhere in the sheets and forgetting about it immediately after. Still lying partially on his side, the Russian pushed his partner onto his back and twisted in over him, leaning on one elbow as a leg went between two thighs, his free hand moving back under the t-shirt. He could feel Yuri's hands on his chest, sliding up to his neck to hold him close and kissing him more eagerly than before. It was exciting to feel his young partner wanting him.

I didn't think he'd get comfortable with this so quickly. Victor thought, sliding his free hand down the other skater's thin, lithe frame, maneuvering it under the edge of the t-shirt that still clung to the man's form, Maybe he's wanted this longer than even he realized. I wonder how far he'll let me go now...?

The Russian twisted a little further, getting fully on top of his partner, kissing at that pale neck as he went, and feeling eager hands against his upper back. He rubbed and rocked in a steady rhythm, guiding each leg until they parted loosely around his waist. It felt like Heaven, but Victor wanted to hear it, too.

Slowly beginning the descent, the silver legend kissed his partner deeply one last time, then moved down to his neck, and nibbled at the man's chest, hands roaming over his sides, but then continuing down lower than he'd gone before. He could feel the body under him tensing up again, holding in a gasp as he dipped his tongue into the man's naval.

Yuri could tell where it was going, and brought both hands up over his mouth, his breath caught in his throat.

Is he...really going to do this...? He wondered in a panic, He's been teasing me since before we even got here... Is it weird that I want him to...!?

In the dark, it was difficult to tell what was going on, but the young, frantic athlete could still see a dim glow against his partner's skin where the light from outside came in through the windows. Yuri could feel his heart pounding in his chest as hard in that moment as it had the first time he felt the man's hand pawing at his center. The feeling he'd been so eager for came sooner than he expected, and he gasped aloud as he felt the warmth and wetness sliding from root to tip, pushing up onto his elbows in surprise. It didn't stop though, feeling his partner kissing the length of it, going back down and then up again, licking once more before using thin fingers to lift him up, taking the tip into his mouth. Yuri's legs were pinned straight under the man, so all he could do was drop down to his back again and clench his hands into the sheets, crying out quietly against each new sensation. Eventually, he managed the presence of mind to bring one hand back up to his mouth as he always had, stifling the sounds he would otherwise be uttering loudly into the darkness.

Still, he couldn't help but cry out against his hand...at least until he couldn't anymore. He pulled the hand away as he felt the Russian moving around, arms coming to rest across the sides of his hips, one hand grasped around him as the man's mouth continued to lick, kiss, and suck at the head of his arousal. With every dip and bob, he could feel the Russian's silver bangs brushing against his skin, dragging slightly and then lifting off again. He felt goosebumps rising up all over his body the longer it went on. One hand slid up the front of his core, settling palm-down just below his chest as the warmth left center.

One hazel eye crept open to figure out why Victor had stopped, but just as his vision came back into focus, is was plain to see and feel that nothing had stopped...it had just changed. Victor had only withdrawn so he could lick and nibble at the sides again, traveling up and down the length of it, trailing his tongue over every part of it until it glistened in the pale light, then took it wholly into his mouth again.

Yuri dropped his head down against the pillows, his hands clawing at the t-shirt still clinging to his frame, biting at it where he could and whimpering with each twist and suck. He gasped louder as he felt himself inching towards release, fearing he'd do so directly into the Russian's throat, and reaching a shaky, trembling hand down towards the man's head to make him stop before it happened.

Victor was well aware, however, and had no intention of letting it all end so soon.

Before Yuri could touch a single finger to a single strand of that silver hair, he felt the man getting between his knees, wedging his own under the back of his legs, and slowly moving back up again, kissing at his stomach and chest as he went. It was almost torture that the warmth of that mouth was gone by then, but just as Yuri glanced down past the edge of his stretched-out shirt, he felt the man's hand take hold of him again, and all thought escaped him. He dropped his head back down to the pillow and let his fiancé do as he wanted. The kisses returned to his neck, hand pumping quickly, slowed only when the Russian brought himself against him, but then picking up again. Yuri's hands were up around his partner's back like before, almost clawing at his skin, careful to keep his palms flat and fingers straight despite how intense the pressure was getting.

It was almost like Victor could read his mind, holding himself up on one elbow as his other hand continued at its task between them, hips slowly starting to rock. He touched their nose-tips gently, whispering against his lips, "Do whatever you want."

"...H-hah...?"

"Don't hold back." Victor answered, "I can feel how hard you're trying to resist. Scratch me...claw at me... I want to feel you, even when we're apart again..." It was hard for him to see, but the silver Russian could tell his partner had an anxious look on his face. It was getting harder and harder to resist though, and he could feel the man's form pressing up into him, his back arching slightly where his hips bucked gently under him. Victor could sense when his fiancé's confidence shifted a little, hooking one arm around the back of his neck and shoulder as the fingers on the other hand raked across his skin, forcing him to gasp out in surprise.

The younger man's legs wrapped around Victor's waist after that, and he pushed up onto the elbow of his free arm, pressing himself harder against his partner's center until he could push himself up onto his hand instead. The arm over the Russian's shoulder gentled, hand cupped against the man's cheek, putting their foreheads together as the pumping between them continued uninterrupted. Victor's other hand came around the small of his partner's back and helped to hold him up, and the first soon joined it as Yuri's came down to take its place. Legs held tighter around the Russian's frame, hands pumping harder as the younger figure felt himself close to release again.

Perhaps a bit selfishly, or perhaps because of a lack of experience, Yuri couldn't stop himself from finishing when he felt himself on the edge, even though his partner was far from it still. Thankfully, as the silver genius quickly noticed, once spent, Yuri just let himself go and continued the pulls and squeezes on that remaining adamant flesh.

Victor held his fiancé closer, breathing harder with each tug. Soon, he could barely hold himself up, let alone his partner, and he lowered Yuri down to his back again. He held himself up on his hands for as long as he could, head dipping low between his shoulders, though finding his forehead against the man's chest as his strength waned. He pushed his hands against the fabric and slid them under his partner's back, fingers clambering at the younger man's skin as he felt himself getting closer.

Hips pushed against palms and fingers, slowly at first but then more forcefully, until all Yuri could do was hold his hands still, feeling his partner slide through his grasp. He pressed his cheek against the side of his fiancé's head, knees up on either side of his toned core, feeling as every push brought the man closer to the edge, until finally, the pale figure's body clenched up and he cried out against his shoulder.

Victor pushed through his partner's fingers a few more times before he slumped down to his side, breathing heavily against that favorite spot on Yuri's neck. He rolled onto his back after that, heaving breaths raggedly, his whole frame shaking slightly such that he didn't notice when the blankets were pulled back of them both. He felt wisps of raven hair gently tease across the skin of his chest, the head if belonged to settling against him soon after, and he brought his arm up to curl around his partner's back.

They each caught their breath in their own time, the sweat that had beaded on their skin drying against the sheets and cool air of the room. Yuri blinked in confusion when he heard his partner huffing a few quiet laughs at seemingly nothing.

"...What's with the chuckles...?"

"I just...remembered...how I once told you that you'd be begging for it one day." Victor answered, smirking in the dark, turning his head to kiss the top of his partner's, "I think we're one step closer to that day, right?"

Again, Yuri's face went a deep crimson, but it was impossible to tell without the lights on.

Victor could feel it though as the younger man settled in a bit closer, bringing his hand up close to his face where it settled against his skin. The Russian cooed at him and brought his own hand up to run his fingers through sweat-matted black hair, "Did you like it?"

"I liked everything."

"I meant, more specifically...when I used my mouth." He explained, "I've never done that before...so...was it okay?"

Yuri stammered a little, trying to force himself to be a bit more coherent than he felt, "..I-If that was the first time you've done it...I couldn't tell..."

The Russian nosed the top of his partner's head then, "Of course, that was the first time you've ever felt it, but...that's not what I asked."

The younger skater struggled to find words through his embarrassment, turning his face towards the man's chest to press his mouth to skin as he thought. He shook his head after a moment and lifted his face again, "...I-It felt amazing..."

"I'm glad then." Victor answered quietly, turning onto his side so he could hold his partner closer to his chest, wrapping both arms around the younger man's smaller frame, "I'll get better at it just for you."

.

After the finale for the Pair Skaters and Ice Dancers ended, there was a brief intermission before the Exhibition started. It was fun and light-hearted despite Yuri's disappointed affect going into it from the results of the day before. He performed Firebird again for the sake of his home-front redemption, and also for lack of a new program, since he hadn't expected to still be skating...and then sat back excitedly to see how people would react when he let slip that Victor had 'accidentally' brought his Aria costume and skates. There was some brief talk by the JSF event coordinators, but in the end, they decided to throw him out there as 'thanks' for bringing their top skater back to the Grand Prix Final...and humbly take credit for being the first event the Russian would perform at after announcing his return to competition.

"Yakov is going to have a heart attack to hear that I skated at a JSF event, considering he just told me not to get ideas about switching teams." Victor pointed out, quietly laughing at the absurdity of it all, holding one finger along his jaw as he came back from the changing room, "I'm never going to hear the end of it when we get to St. Petersburg..."

"It's not like there isn't precedent." Yuri pointed out, his team jacket hanging off his shoulders as he walked alongside the man, skate-guards thunking along the floor with each step. He carried the bag with Victor's skates for him in one hand, "And they already knew you were going to be here because of me, so..."

"I guess it was fortunate then that I had to leave this outfit at the Ice Castle when I carried you back to the resort." The Russian added, "It's kind of an honor to get to perform just for your crowd."

When he finished warming up, he swapped dress-shoes for skates, handing off his long-coat to his partner. Yuri held to it dutifully, but paused when Victor looked down at his own hands, and then up and around himself.

"What's the matter?"

"It's just...twice in a span of a few days, I'm wearing this again to go out onto the ice. I never actually thought I'd perform 'Aria' again, either because of retirement or a number of other reasons. Kind of makes me feel like I'm 26 again." Victor answered, sliding his hands down his front to smooth the sheer jacket against his chest, "...Hard to accept that I just turned 28. I don't really have that much time left anymore."

"It's a shame how short the years are that we skaters are actually competitive." Yuri agreed, putting his hands into his pockets, and lifting his head to hear the end of the music that had been playing before, "We give the sport everything we have and then it just...kind of stops one day."

"For most people, yeah." Victor nodded, reaching to slip his own hand into the younger skater's pocket, sneaking his fingers between his fiancé's where they rested within, "I had hopes that I wouldn't be one of them."

They started moving towards the curtain that lead to rink-side, and the Russian felt a nudge against his elbow, "You're not going anywhere anytime soon." Yuri said, smiling, "Not if I owe you five World Championship gold medals. And even if not for that...you're Victor Nikiforov...I doubt the world would just let you ride off into the sunset without giving chase somehow."

Blue eyes blinked at the younger skater, stopping the advance of gold-bladed skates along the floor. Yuri stopped and looked back when he felt the tug, seeing where it seemed like Victor was almost dumbstruck by what he'd said.

"...What?"

"Do you really think I'd just disappear...?" The taller man wondered, as though it hadn't occurred to him.

"Well..." Yuri said nervously, "To hear you say it, sometimes it feels like that's what you think would happen... Is that not what you meant?"

Victor shrugged and tried to put on a smile, "I hadn't really let myself think about life after skating. For the last 20 years or so, that's all my life has been about. I...can't even imagine..."

"Then don't." Yuri said suddenly, cutting off that whole line of thought, "You've already agreed to stay with me in this gig for one more year, and to keep being my coach until I retire. Who knows what will happen over the next few years? Approach each season like a new beginning and anything is possible."

The Russian just blinked at him again, a bit surprised. He tilted his head and smiled, reaching up with his free hand to cup the side of the man's face affectionately, "It's like you know how to get into my head. What did I ever do to deserve you?"

"Me?" The younger skater echoed, gently taking the hand and kissing the ring thereupon, "I ask myself the same question about you."

Victor huffed a laugh at that, moving then to get through the curtain. The skater who had just finished her Exhibition was coming off the ice, and the spotlights moved around rink-side until they fell upon the Russian coach and his student. Cheers and applause rose up as people started to see the trademark costume through the crowd at rinkside, and the pair started making their way to the edge of the ice.

Once there, the Russian held his hand to his fiancé's shoulder as he leaned to pull the guards from his blades and handed them off. He drew in an anxious breath, and looked from the ice to hazel eyes, "This is the first time I've skated for a real audience since the last World Championship. I don't think I've been this nervous in years."

"You're nervous?" Yuri echoed, a bit surprised, "We just did this program the other day."

"It's not that I'm worried I've forgotten my own choreography, Yuri." Victor pointed out, reaching with one hand to boop his partner's nose, "But it's like I said before...I'm skating just for your crowd today. No one else like me has ever gotten to jump into someone else's National Championship and skate, even just for fun. This is kind of a big deal for me."

"...Really?"

"Mh." He nodded, "Wish me luck then, I'm off." Victor pulled up the younger man's hand and kissed the ring on it before sliding out onto the ice, raising his arms up to the cheering and screams of the fans on all sides.

[Ladies and gentlemen...] The announcer overhead said in Japanese, [The final performance of today's National Championship Exhibition Gala...special guest, representing the Russian Skating Federation from St. Petersburg as a returning competitor, and representing Japan as coach to our own Katsuki Yuri...performing last season's 'Aria: Stay Close to Me,' please give a warm welcome to Victor Nikiforov!]

The roar from the audience exploded at that point, and Victor couldn't help but clap happily along with them, bowing his head as he made his way around the rink a few times to acquaint himself with the ice.

Yuri could tell the presentation wasn't typical, and he leaned onto the rink wall to watch.

Victor used to greet the audience like a King, taking the cheering on as though it were his birthright. But here...

The Russian finally found center, hands up over his mouth like the cheering had been more emotionally overwhelming than he'd anticipated. He drew in a deep breath, kissed his ring, and then let his hands go down to his sides, bowing his head and folding one skate behind the other.

Yuri watched closely, pulling the man's coach-jacket over his shoulders and leaning forward against the rink wall.

...It's completely different from before; he's grateful . This is really important to him...

The quiet hum of 'Aria' began above them, and the Russian lifted his head, bringing his right hand up to his face and dipping forward to begin the first official dance since announcing his return to competitive skating.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER EIGHT

Victor hadn't waited long to introduce his fiancé to the luxury of Business Class, having refused to fly Economy even one more time after their return from the Final. Yuri, of course, was entirely thrown off by the whole thing.

"...I feel so out of place here." He commented quietly as they passed the water fountain behind the check-in counter, walking nervously into the Emirates Lounge in the Tokyo Narita International Airport. It was about the size of a two-person hot-tub, with lights mounted on the bottom to shine at the centerpiece; two fused rectangular pillars about 4 feet high, with a flower arrangement on the top. All around them were single-person upholstered leather seats, some colored orange and others off-white, clustered into groups of 2 to 4, with lamps on various wood-laminate tables set between them. The walls were a dark taupe, and covered with fabric to buffer the echo of the airport, making the area feel rather homey and quiet. There was even a small 'business center' area along the wall as they went by, with two computers and a fax machine on the end.

"You'll get used to it." Victor explained, rubbing his thumb gently over where he held to the man's hand between them, "Once you've done it like this enough times, it's unbearable to fly any other way."

"...Yeah, that time you asked for champagne when we were flying to China was really weird. Is that...standard in First Class or something?"

The Russian was walking them slowly through the first lounge area and into a second, where the decor changed slightly. The chairs were all the same, but there were marble-stone dividers between the groups, making them seem like each group of chairs were nestled in their own separate alcoves. It was a bit darker in that area as well, especially closer to the wall, where it looked like other passengers were trying to catch a nap before their flights.

"On First and Business Class, yeah." Victor answered, slowing his pace slightly to let the younger figure get a better look around as they made their way towards the dining area, "You want some dinner? We won't land for the layover in Dubai for another 12 hours."

"...Tw-twelve hours!?" Yuri balked, though trying to keep his voice down.

"...Yeah, then the layover is 10 hours, then we fly another 7 hours to St. Petersburg." The Russian didn't understand what the fuss was about, "...I gave you the itinerary days ago."

"...I...didn't look at it." The other skater sighed, "I thought I'd leave it all as a surprise for myself, so I'd pay attention to my surroundings rather than the time." He grudgingly pulled out his phone and went to his email, letting his amused partner pull him along into the dining area.

...10pm from Tokyo Narita, landing in Dubai at 4:55am...then leaving again at 3:30pm and landing in St. Petersburg at...8:45pm.

Brown eyes looked up, a bit exacerbated and flustered, "...What a long flight..."

"Isn't that how you flew to Sochi?" Victor wondered, letting go of the skater's hand to reach for a plate near the buffet display.

"Of course not. We didn't even fly like that to Moscow."

"I guess that's true!" The Russian laughed, offering a second plate to his partner, "We flew with a different airline then though, and it was in Economy. I'd rather it take longer and be more comfortable though...being squashed into those tiny Aeroflot sardine-can seats for 10 hours can feel like eternity."

"...They're really not that bad..." Yuri contested quietly, taking the offered plate and moving down the line, collecting a few bits of bread and rice as he found them, "Are you claustrophobic or something?"

"Claustrophobic?" Victor echoed, looking back, "No... Maybe I'm just used to being in open spaces. On the ice, in the hot spring, even the banquet hall...everything's always big."

"You barely covered a single year of your life." The younger skater huffed a laugh of disbelief, trying to decide between Japanese curry sauce and the chicken shahjahani, indecisively glancing back and forth between the two white-ceramic hot-plates, but eventually reaching for the spoon for the latter.

"I guess it goes all the way back to the beginning." The silver Russian admitted tacitly, "Where I came from, there wasn't any light-pollution from the big cities...so on some nights, you could go outside and see the Auroras, and there were so many stars...more than you would've ever imagined being visible."

"Oh wow." Yuri paused for a moment, trying to imagine it, "So you come from a small town? I can't believe I never really asked you about that stuff the whole time you were in Hasetsu." He found himself thoroughly distracted from the buffet then, "Now that I think about it, I have so many questions! How old were you when you started skating? What kind of rink did you go to? How did you decide to get into competition? Have you been training under Yakov since the start or was it someone else at first? Did you ever train abroad or overseas like I did? Were you ever able to convince your parents to go to competition or were they oblivious to it all like mine were?"

The questions went on like bullets from a machinegun, but the silver Russian just watched in silence, blinking once or twice in surprise before Yuri finally stopped to catch his breath. He looked on to see those desperately-inquisitive brown eyes glancing at him, so he shrugged and smiled, "...Yes, technically since I was 5, an old one, I liked it, in a way, and sort of."

Yuri was the one blinking that time, trying to recall the questions he'd asked so he could match the answers to them, only to realize Victor had started to walk off again, "Wh-...hey! You only answered half of those!" He caught up quickly enough, taking the seat opposite the older skater, "Victor...?"

Cool blue eyes were looking down at the items on the plate beneath them, but then rose quietly.

"What about the rest...?"

The Russian feigned a smile, sticking a fork straight through the center of a small, grape-sized green fruit, "It's more fun to talk about the stuff after I joined the ISU." He lifted the fork and bit the fruit in half, glancing at the core and smirking, spinning it around so the other figure could see it, "Look, Yuri! It's a kiwi-berry! It's like a kiwi but berry-sized!" He turned it around again though and looked at it more seriously, putting his free hand on his chin to keenly observe the morsel, "Not quite as tart though...it's more...sweet than anything, like an over-ripe kiwi..." He ate the other half after that and picked at the rest of his plate, keeping his eyes down even though he reached his feet under the table to wrap around his fiancé's nearest ankle.

The whole time, Yuri was just staring at him, tilting his head a bit in a gaze that was equal parts confusion, amazement, and stunned silence.

...He blew off the rest of my questions like they were dirt on his shoulder. I wonder what all that was about...?

.

Stepping onto the Emirates plane, the naïve traveler thought immediately to turn to the right, but Victor's hand guided him to the left, taking him down one of the aisles of Business Class. The Russian was glancing at the center array of seats, where they were arranged into pairs. On the walls of the cabin, more of the same kinds of seats, but set apart on their own for solo travelers.

"There are ours." Victor then said, stopping about 2/3rds of the way towards First Class and pointing to the two seats on the inside aisle. He turned to stuff his travel-case and suit-bag into the overhead compartment, then shuffled in to take the seat on the far side, letting his partner follow in after to take the seat he'd passed to get there.

Yuri found himself oddly shocked to see the seats once he got there, his eyes glaring dubiously at a thick plastic divider between them, "...Hm."

"What?" The Russian had paused where he was, half-way to sitting, with a hand on each arm-rest.

"Don't the designers of these fancy planes know that couples travel together?" He wondered idly, moving to tilt forward and grab the assorted items that were waiting on his own seat; a bag with socks and an eye-mask, and a larger bag with a thin blanket inside.

"Aww!" Victor cooed, fully sitting and resting a chin on the back of one hand, "You've already gotten so comfortable calling us that."

The young skater's cheeks flushed, but he glanced around a little before stepping slightly to the side, stuffing the bags under one arm as he reached the hand of the other under his fiancé's chin and leaned in close. Two fingers barely touched the man's skin, and he looked solemnly into those blue eyes, speaking quietly, "I've gotten comfortable with a lot of things."

"Do I still make your heart race?" The silver legend wondered, gazing adoringly with eyes half-lidded, leaning casually forward on his elbows, fingers laced together over his lap.

"Every day."

The Russian smiled, especially as he felt the kiss, and his own heart skipped a beat for it. To relieve his fiancé's annoyance, he lifted one hand as Yuri sat and gently pushed the divider down into its thin alcove between the seats, "...It doesn't go all the way down, but I think it's enough. Maybe one day I can take you on my favorite flight and we'll have a whole private cabin just to ourselves."

"Really?" The other skater wondered, taking his place and starting to examine the contents of the bags, "What kind of flight has private cabins?"

"The expensive kind going into Paris."

.

When they'd finally landed for their Arabian layover, it was an easy thing to go to the next First Class Lounge and get a little more sleep. Though the rest area was open, each pair of curved, reclining chairs was set between dividing posts, making each 'cubby' area in the hall feel parsed and secluded. There weren't many other travelers there at that time of morning though, so when Yuri sat in the first one he saw, dropping his bag next to it and pulling the eye-mask from the flight out of his coat pocket, he knew what he'd be doing next.

Victor checked his phone one last time, looking at the clock's reading of 5:43am and huffing a quiet sigh to himself. After setting an alarm, he clicked it off again and spotted his partner trying to get comfortable, dark circles under those eyes where the hapless traveler was desperate for sleep. He smiled and pulled his long-coat off, letting it hang from his hand as he made his way down to join the man, making sure the length of the coat stayed over him as he nestled in closer. He could feel the twitch of sleepy surprise, and the wiggle as Yuri tried to back up into him, hand reaching back to grasp at one arm and pull it over. Victor let the tired skater have it, nuzzling at the back of his head fondly.

.

"Yes, we're about halfway back; there's only some 7 hours left before we're there." The Russian spoke quietly, sitting on the edge of the curved seats with his ankles crossed ahead of himself, "We should be landing in St. Petersburg around 9 tonight. ...No, would you mind? Has he been causing you any trouble? ...Oh, haha, so the usual then, he's a nutcase. ...Ah okay, perfect. ...Thanks, see you soon." He hung up, and then leaned way back to cradle his head against the curve of his partner's waist, "You awake?"

"Yeah." Yuri answered quietly, "Who were you talking to?"

"Yakov."

"What time is it in St. Petersburg right now...?" He followed, turning onto his back and letting his coach's head slide onto his stomach in the process, reaching a hand up to play with his hair.

"It's only an hour behind this place." The Russian explained, tilting his head a little to see the younger figure more clearly, "He's going to come pick us up when we get to the city. I left my car at home since I knew I'd be gone for a while."

"...Wow, yeah, I hadn't thought about that." Yuri said, looking up at the vaulted ceiling, combing his fingers through silver bangs, "You haven't been home in almost a year. Your place is probably all dusty."

"One more reason why I'm glad we went to Nationals before coming here." Victor explained, "I had time to hire some people to clean the place up and get my utilities turned back on. Had to ask a mechanic to go check on the car, too...it was probably in rough shape after sitting there for so long." The Russian suddenly laughed nervously, "I kind of dropped everything and left, and I wanted to be sure it was perfect before I brought you to see it. After all, it's your home now."

Cheeks flushed a little at the mention of it.

"So, what do you feel like eating? It's close to noon now."

It wasn't much, to the silver figure's surprise. Yuri nibbled on a small fruit salad and had a coffee, but that was basically it; Victor started picking at what was left so it wouldn't go to waste. The younger man was so scattered that it was hard to maintain conversation after a while, so Victor surmised it would be better to wait. Yuri was occuping the time with some photo-taking, completely enamored by the imagery of the Dubai airport. There were massive palm trees in the halls, as well as a huge white pillars holding up the 3-story ceiling.

"I noticed that you never post anything online." The Russian mentioned a little while later, casually standing in the boarding area as their block was called to rise, "I know you have an account at least."

"Oh..." Yuri said, distracted, "Yeah, I usually don't post anything. I'm on so many other peoples' posts that I never thought it was worth making my own."

"I'm sure lots of people would like to follow you without having to hunt down who you're with first." The silver genius pointed out, stepping forward to give their tickets to the clerk behind the counter, "I mean, they know you're with me these days, but still. My posts are about my life. I can only speak to yours so much before there are gaps in the narrative."

They moved down the long ramp to where the tunnel connected with the side of the plane, entered, and followed to where their next set of assigned seats waited. Yuri flopped back into the plush chair, finding it more comfortable than the first plane they'd been on, and sat in silence while the rest of the plane filled up, scanning Instagram for last-minute updates while he still had the chance. Victor was putting his suit-bag and their backpacks into the carry-on compartment above his chair.

One passenger stopped with a startled gasp, looking down at the pair as though she'd seen a ghost, "...Y-Yuri Katsuki and Victor Nikiforov! I...I don't believe it...!"

Yuri blanched, unwillingly sucked out of his focus, but Victor was all smiles, "It's us~!"

The young brunette woman felt a shove from behind and pulled out of the line to step into the small alcove, apologizing for interrupting them, "Is there any chance I could get a...a photo with you two? Please!"

"Of course!" The excitable Russian answered for both of them, pulling his partner up with him as the woman got her phone out and set her camera to selfie-mode.

They crammed in together so their faces were all in the frame, and when the flash went off, Yuri felt like he was seeing stars. But, it was over...or so he thought.

"I was so inspired by your Free Skate. It was extremely moving." The woman was saying, though the dazzled skater was sure she was talking to Victor because...well, why wouldn't she? "It was like night and day compared to the previous year in Sochi. Can I ask what happened? You'd been doing so well before that...and then you just seemed to fall apart."

Yuri then realized she was actually talking to him, and coughed uncomfortably, "I...er..." He felt Victor's hand on the small of his back, and it helped ground him, "M-my...my dog died suddenly, and it messed me up. I couldn't focus."

"...I'm so sorry. I had no idea." The woman was taken aback by the answer.

"Thank you...it's okay now." He explained quietly, moving to sit back down. Victor followed suit, and the woman started to get back into the shuffle into the area further back.

"Good luck in Gangneung, Yuri! And congratulations on your first GPF medal!"

"Spasibo!" Victor answered, watching her disappear again with a wave, smiling to himself as he saw her fangirling over her phone. He turned back to his fiancé and reached for his hand, patting it gently, "That wasn't so bad."

The Japanese youth grumbled, "I'm so bad with fans."

"It gets easier." His partner reassured, "I'll protect you from the crazy ones. She seemed nice though. But you see? I bet, if you posted to Instagram once in a while, she'd be one of your followers. Maybe she already is and wonders why you never post anything."

"Maybe." Yuri said with a sigh. The flow of people boarding the plane had reduced to a trickle by that point, "But you remember when I told you about that girl once that tried to hug me and I pushed her off?"

"Sure."

"Posting photos of my life online...I think it would feel like that... Like someone is intruding."

Victor looked on at him curiously, but then simply clasped the man's anxious hand a bit tighter where it was sitting on the arm-rest between them, "Is it okay when I post photos of us?"

"When you post?" The smaller figure was perplexed, looking at the silver-haired man with a start, only to turn his head again, "I hadn't...considered that. When I see myself in other peoples' photos, I just see it as a nod that I'm a part of their life. Like you said, it doesn't really say much about me on my own. Phichit-kun used to post a lot of photos of us together when we trained in Detroit."

"Oh, really~!?" The Russian was excited, whipping his own phone out again to go digging up the Thai skater's archive, "I want to see!"

Yuri could only smile, leaning over to rest his cheek against his coach's shoulder while he skimmed through hundreds of old photos. Phichit was a prolific selfie-taker, so there were more photos on his account than on probably most others. It took about 30 minutes before they really found anything that Yuri recognized, having to troll through nearly a year of newer content, but by then, the plane had started to taxi.

"It's a shame that the wifi on these planes is so appallingly slow. I could look at all these photos for hours, I bet." The silver skater commented, though smiling on several amusing shots from the Detroit Skate Club; many were obviously from practice, but there were a lot more of just Phichit's daily life, including a few he'd taken of Yuri in the apartment they'd shared while training together. Victor squinted his eyes at one photo in particular, "...Was that your bedroom?"

Yuri glanced at it, "Yeah."

"...Is that a picture of me on your shelf?"

Hazel eyes shot open, and the petrified man swiped the phone right out of his partner's hands, "N-No! Don't look!"

.

It was just after 9pm local time when the pair were finally at Pulkovo Airport in St. Petersburg, going past the luggage carousel to pick up Yuri's one suitcase, and then moving towards the doors where people could leave the airport. Victor scanned the area just in front of the exit and spotted Yakov from a distance away, easily visible in the late-night sparsely populated terminal.

The coach wasn't alone.

A certain blonde teenager was with him, to the mutual surprise of both skaters, "Yurio!"

"It's about goddamn time you got back here, Victor." The Russian Punk barked quietly, "Took long enough. The RSF folks were livid when they heard you weren't coming home straight from the Final. They've been putting off the post-event conference until after you got back."

"Nice to see you, too." Victor mused.

The bristling figure grimaced, turning from his rink-mate to the Asian skater holding the man's hand, "Katsudon."

"Hey, Yurio." The Silver Medalist waved nervously, "How's your grandpa?"

"Tired. He moved to St. Petersburg after the Final to lighten the load, but there's still unpacking to do. Getting ready for Russian Nationals meant I wasn't around much to help him, because I was down in Moscow, where he had just come fromAt Russian Nationals." The teen was glaring heavily at his older counterpart.

"Did you bring Makkachin with you?" Victor wondered, completely ignoring the blonde and redirecting his attention to Yakov, who to that point had said nothing.

"He's outside with Mila." The elder answered, "But Yuri is right, it's about time you got back. It's unheard of for the commission to wait for a returning skater when they have a Gold Medalist to talk to. I'm surprised they didn't go ahead and host it after you were caught skating for Japan this weekend."

The silver Russian blinked and made a face, "I wasn't skating for Japan. I was skating in Japan. It was arbitrary...just for fun. I hadn't even planned on doing it."

"You were full and ready for it."

"Oh Yakov, you're talking like you think I cheated on you." Victor laughed, "I forgot my 'Aria' ensemble at Yuri's home rink, so I had to carry it with me for the trip to Nationals and then here. See?" He grabbed lightly for the suit-bag his partner was carrying, "It was all kind of an accident. I didn't join the JSF, if that's what you're worried about."

"Some would think you were considering it after all the time you spend out there."

Yuri felt himself sinking where he stood, every word sounding like it was a hair's width away from being made his fault. He soon felt a tug against his hand though, and shook his head, seeing his partner there trying to get his attention.

"Hey, we're going...are you with us?" The man smiled.

"...The RSF is mad at you, like I worried they would be."

"Yeah...seems so. I really didn't think they'd wait for me." Victor shrugged, "Let's go then. We can tell them that I'm back and we can do what should've been done 2 weeks ago." He turned then to pull playfully on the Russian Punk's team jacket sleeve, "Congrats on Gold at Nationals, Yurio."

"It was too easy."

Yuri felt an awkward sense of déjà vu to hear him.

The group started heading to the exit, and as Victor spotted that telltale brown poodle, he broke away and rushed outside. The dog recognized him immediately and pulled Mila to get to him, barking and yipping desperately as the woman yelped in surprise. The woofer licked his human's face and jumped all over him in greeting, and Victor loved every second of it.

Yuri and Yurio slowly pulled up from the back, coming out after Yakov.

"Thank you for looking after Makkachin for me." Victor said excitedly, standing up and taking the leash from Mila, who was entirely unimpressed with the dog's sudden energy.

"You should've had him ride the same planes as you." Yakov scolded, "Spending the weekend at my place was crazy. That dog was a nervous wreck the entire time you were gone."

"We were departing from different airports by the end of things, and I couldn't exactly keep him in our hotel room while we were at competition. I had to choose between sending him early while I was still in Hasetsu, or asking Yuri's family to put him on a plane after we left so he wouldn't be waiting for us too long to get here. I just wanted him to be here already when Yuri and I arrived, so we could go straight home." Victor explained, smiling happily as Makkachin went over and greeted his second human with the same enthusiasm he himself had received.

Yuri got down on one knee to pet the poodle, happy to see him again, too. Unlike Victor though, Yuri was easy to bowl over, and before long, the dog was licking his face while he flailed on his back on the ground like an upended turtle.

Yurio had to wedge his leg between them to get the dog off long enough for the older skater to get up again, and looked annoyed the entire time, "Let's go already, it's boring here."

"You didn't have to come." The older skater pointed out, letting his partner help him back up to his feet, and using his sleeve to wipe the drool off his face.

"I just wanted to be sure I saw Victor arrive with my own eyes. Now I have. So let's go."

.

The drive to the house was cramped and fairly quiet; Yuri was wedged in the back seat of Yakov's black Mercedes between the two Russian skaters. Mila sat in the front passenger seat, talking about the usual things that happened while Victor was gone, up to and including Georgi's reaction to having Gold taken away from him at Nationals by a kid almost half his age.

"He was so convinced he'd get Gold this year since you didn't make it!" She said with a laugh, "You should've seen the look on his face when Yuri outscored him by such a huge margin!"

"Mila, it's not professional or sportsmanlike to make fun of your rink-mates." Yakov scolded.

The redhead huffed and crossed her arms, "But it's Georgi! He's been coming second to Victor since he started skating. Even Georgi's birthday comes the day after Victor's. I think the only thing Georgi ever did first was joining the Skating Club, but it's all been seconds after that. It's a huge joke!"

"Not to him."

"Alright alright..." She turned to look out the window, scratching at Makkachin's fluffy head to distract herself. The dog had nowhere else to sit but in the footwell by her feet, and he stared at his human the entire drive.

Yuri felt entirely out of place, but since he was holding Victor's costume bag on his lap, he at least felt like he had some purpose.

Victor, of course, kept his arm protectively over his fiancé's shoulders, making it feel more like he was keeping him close on purpose, rather than because the man was being shoved over by Yurio.

The drive took nearly an hour, and Yuri looked out the windows in silence as the Russian team conversed amongst themselves about official skating business. He took in the sights of St. Petersburg with rapt curiosity, hoping that he would someday know those roads and buildings as well as he did Hasetsu's. They even got to pass the skating rink where they'd be training.

"Yuri." Yakov suddenly said.

"What?" Yurio answered naturally, though both of them lifted their heads at the mention.

"The other one." Yakov corrected, "Katsuki."

"Y-Yessir?"

"Tsh." The teen scoffed and looked back out the window bitterly, slouching where he sat and spreading his knees even further apart just to take more space from his older counterpart.

"What plans do you have for your next competition? You scored Gold this weekend in Japan, so there's no doubt you'll be getting chosen by the JSF to represent Japan at Four Continents and Worlds if you want to go."

"I'm going to Four Continents next." Yuri answered, "I wasn't at the FC or Worlds last year, so I went to Nationals just to cover my bases. I'm not Victor...I wasn't around secure my spot, and had to earn my place again."

"That's fine." The coach pointed out, "My reason for asking is just for the sake of ISU expenses for traveling. If you're staying here to train under Vitya, and he's training under me, then it would just be easier to have everyone coordinate things together."

"Is that okay? I mean, I'm not on the Russian team...I don't want to impose."

"It's just traveling," Yurio said curtly, elbowing him in the ribs hard where they sat squished together, "You're not joining the Russian team just because you'll be flying with us."

The middle passenger just grunted and cringed with each jab, at least until he felt a set of fingers getting between the side of his chest and the pointy elbow trying to grind into it.

"Cut it out, Yurio, you're going to mangle my cinnamon roll."

The teen just gave him an incredulous look, eyes wide open for a moment, but then narrowed again with simmering rage. He clapped his knee to the side and hit his 'rival's' leg painfully with it as he turned, then crossed his arms and moved to glare daggers out the window instead, grinding his teeth angrily.

The abused skater just reached a hand out to rub the spot where it stung, "...Yurio...?"

Why is he so mad at me...?

.

It was only a few more minutes before they were starting to pull into a residential area, and Yuri marveled at how...normal it looked. Normal, anyway, for a higher-end neighborhood that wasn't in Japan's cramped foothills. Yakov eventually stopped in a driveway, and Mila let Makkachin out as soon as the car was completely parked. The dog went ballistic, running around familiar territory and smelling everything that once was his. Mila brushed her leggings off and stepped out as well.

Victor pushed the driver's-side passenger door open and Yuri followed after him, but Yurio stayed in the car.

Yakov looked to the taller man, "We'll be at the rink in the morning if you feel like joining us, otherwise we'll see you there whenever you get over your jetlag."

"Sounds good." The skater answered, pulling his partner with him as he waved the group off, "We'll probably come tomorrow afternoon sometime. I have no doubt that I'll have a ton of stuff to deal with here once our luggage shows up, and I'll want to get away from it for a bit."

"Da, da...come whenever." The coach waved him off and went back to the car.

"Byyye~! And welcome to Russia, Yuri!" Mila called, stepping back into the car again and waving, "Stay out of trouble!"

The pair nodded, waving as the vehicle started to pull away again.

Victor waited for the car to be out of sight before turning to his fiancé, "Welcome home, Yuri."

Chapter Text

CHAPTER NINE

My name is Yuri Katsuki, and I'm one of the dime-a-dozen top figure skaters certified by the JSF. I'm 24 years old, and the last year has been one of the most incredible in my entire life . After a disastrous 6th place finish at the Grand Prix Final in Sochi, Russia, and a close brush with retirement...my childhood idol, five-time consecutive World Champion, and legendary figure skater, Victor Nikiforov, suddenly turned up at my family's Hot-Springs Resort to be my coach!

With his help, I was not only able to get back into the Grand Prix Final again...I was able to win the Silver Medal, too! I even somehow managed to break Victor's long-held World Record score in the Free Program in the process! I still can't believe it!

But the best part...isn't even the skating success he's helped me find. It's the 'Life and Love' in our engagement rings.

Today is December 29th...and I've moved to St. Petersburg, Russia, to be with him. It's the eve of a brand new year...and our whole new life together.

.

Yuri looked at the house with wide eyes. He wasn't sure if he was hallucinating or not, but it seemed a lot bigger than he imagined, even though it was dark and snowing lightly. The neighborhood had decent lighting, so he could see the outline of the house where the snow glowed on the roof and iron-wrought fence. His head swam from the trip still, despite how much he'd tried to sleep, and it only added to his awe of what was in front of him.

"What do you think?" He heard Victor ask, one arm draped over his shoulder casually.

"...Is it still technically Tuesday right now...? Or is it Wednesday...?" Was all he could think of to say.

The silver Russian just laughed and started stepping towards the walkway that lead to his front door, opening the metal gate and pulling his sleepy partner along with him to make sure he got inside safely, "It's Tuesday night, late...almost Wednesday morning."

When the door was unlocked and pushed open, Makkachin rushed inside, barking excitedly. Victor shuffled in and hit the lights, careful to avoid two rather large packages sitting on his front step.

Yuri was ahead of him, still marveling at the whole thing, so Victor turned back to try and figure out a way of getting the big boxes inside himself. The smaller one was easy enough, so he tucked it around the door, and then scratched his head at the bigger one, which was more like a large crate than a box, reinforced by wood paneling, "Yuri...come help."

The younger skater was mesmerized though and hadn't heard him. Yuri took in a deep breath, drawing in the smell of this place that had been his idol's since before they'd ever known each other. It smelled much as he expected...like recently-used cleaners. Looking around, he saw walls filled with skating memories, dating back to when the Russian skating legend was still a rising star in the Junior ISU. He even saw a photo of the man's 16 year old self, where he wore what would eventually become the 'Eros' outfit, and his face flushed a little to see the teen so proud in that ensemble, having no idea back then what would happen in the years to come.

"Y-Yur...Yuri...!"

Five golden medals hung inside a large wood-framed rectangle, labeled at the bottom as World Championships, suspended on a wall in an adjacent room, protected from dust by treated glass. More medals from other events were behind glass on other parts of the wall, many of them gold as well, and even more trophies sat on the mantle and on shelves than Yuri realized Victor had even won. There were even a few newspaper articles clipped and framed. Oddly, Yuri never saw any photos of anything normal. Like family, friends, or anything else. Only a few shots of Makkachin here and there, or Yakov.

"Yuri!" Victor said again, louder than before, finally getting his attention.

"Huh?" The younger man turned around, seeing his partner still in the doorway, unable to lift the large wooden box high enough to get it over the lip of the last step to the indoors, "What's that?"

"My mail from the last few months, I think." He answered with a huff, looking a bit red in the face from his efforts, "I don't have a wheelie-thing to get it off the ground, so help me get it onto this ledge so we can push it inside."

"Just the last few months?" Yuri repeated in disbelief, setting the costume bag down on a nearby hall-table before going back to the doorway, "Is there more somewhere?"

"Probably. It just piles up! The post office probably heard I was coming back and wanted to get rid of it."

"No kidding."

Between the two of them, they were able to get the huge crate over the 8 inch step-threshold, pushed it along on a rug, got it in far enough to make clearance for the door, and then closed said door behind them.

Victor huffed a breath and turned around to sit on the crate, kicking his shoes off and heaving a relieved sigh, "It's good to be home, but now there's so much work to do~!"

"This place is incredible." Yuri was looking around again, "I don't even know where to begin." He pointed at the wall with the most photographs on it, "You don't have pics of family up there. Do you have any in St. Petersburg? Will I get to meet them?"

"Our stuff won't arrive until tomorrow morning, so if you want to rest, the bedroom is down that hall." Victor leaned back on one hand and pointed with the other, completely ignoring the questions, then twisting around with one knee on the box still as he leaned against his partner's back, "Make yourself comfortable."

Yuri could only pause and turn his head, looking at the Russian with a strange look on his face.

"Something wrong?"

"Is that a no?"

"Is what a no?" Victor asked, looking innocent.

"...Never mind." The younger man shook his head, turning back around again to look at the house all around him, "It's better than I could've imagined. I just...can hardly believe I'm really here." He fidgeted down to his hand and rotated the ring around on his finger a few times as he spoke, "I'm not dreaming still, right? This is real."

"After the last year, you think you might still be asleep?" Victor wondered curiously, crossing one leg over the other.

Yuri lowered his head a little, "I know it's real...it's just... It's more than I deserve. I feel like I'm going to wake up tomorrow morning and it'll still be the day after last year's Nationals. This house will be gone, this ring will be gone...you'll be gone...and I'll have to start all over again without you."

Victor's expression changed from curiosity to bewilderment. He raised an eyebrow and then settled to resolve the issue, "Close your eyes, Yuri."

"Close my eyes...?" The younger skater echoed in confusion.

"Just do it." Victor repeated, getting back up to his full height as the confused younger skater stopped second-guessing what was said and finally did as he was told. The Russian grabbed him by his shoulders, turned him around several times, making him even more dizzy than before, and then stopped him back in his original position. He put his hands over both ears for what seemed like a full minute. All Yuri could hear after that was his own heartbeat.

"...Victo-"

"Ssst."

Yuri went quiet again, and endured another minute of awkward silence. He could sort-of hear the sound of Makkachin's claws tapping against the wood floor in the kitchen, followed by soft panting as he came closer. Victor just stayed there, making him steep in his uncomfortable silence.

"I told you before that you're stuck with me." The silver legend purred quietly, "Now, on the count of three, you're going to open your eyes. You're going to be in St. Petersburg, Russia. You're going to be a Silver-and-Gold-medal winning, world-record-breaking top figure skater with the JSF, training under your coach, Victor Nikiforov. You're going to be engaged to him. You're going to have a golden ring on your finger, and he's going to have a matching ring on his finger, too...and he loves you more than skating and life itself. Ready?"

The younger man's cheeks were flushed, but he nodded.

"Okay. Ichi...ni...san...!"

Yuri awoke with a start, his eyes shooting open. A brown poodle was startled next to him, sleeping on top of the covers where the skater had been under them. The room was dark, the walls practically invisible on all sides. Eyes went down where the man realized he'd had his arm over the dog when he woke, and pat the poor creature on its head, "Sorry, Vic-chan, I didn't mean to scare you." He said quietly, his expression changing from mild concern, as he pushed to sit up, to near-crying disappointment as he turned around to hug his knees, "...It was all a dream after all. I knew it..."

There was a moment where the distraught figure just hugged his knees, pressing his eyes against them where the blanket folded over him. He drew in a deep, though shaky breath, and lifted his head to rub the side of his forearm against the burning feeling that was creeping up. As the wet feeling slid across his skin, however, he turned his hand and rubbed his face...and felt the brush of warm metal on his cheek. Stunned and confused, he pawed in the dark for his phone, confused even more for why the edge of the bed was so hard to find.

This bed is huge...I've never had one this big...what's going on?

When he finally moved far enough, he felt at the soft edges of a wooden night-stand, and found a phone there with a charge-cable plugged into it. Not even considering to look at it, he pulled the phone free and clicked it on, using the light to shine onto his hand...and saw the shine of gold on his finger. His eyes were wide in disbelief, turning the phone over to see the time...only to find that the wallpaper on the phone's Lock screen wasn't the image of Vic-chan he'd had there for so long. It was something else entirely...not even a dog.

...This...is me...and Victor Nikiforov...!? I won Silver...? And Chris and Phichit-kun are there, too...? When did that happen? Wait...Vic-chan is here...and I know who Phichit-kun even is...haven't I moved to Detroit yet...? Where am I...?

The blankets came flying off himself after that, and the shaken young skater flew towards the dim glow of light under a door that he'd only just-then noticed. The door burst open, phone still in-hand, and a dull glow greeted him from the hall and the next room. Yuri's heart pounded and raced in his chest, and his eyes darted from one unrecognized wall to the next, each step forward feeling like it took too long.

"V-Victor...!?" He called out, a panic in his voice.

The silver-headed Russian twisted his head around, unseen by the fear-stricken man coming towards the livingroom, not having spotted him yet. In a mad dash, he gathered up a bunch of clothing that had been set out in front of himself and quickly stuffed them back into the cardboard box they'd come from, only to hear his name be called again in a different tone. He barely had time to turn before he caught sight of his fiancé falling to his knees in front of him with a hard thud against the wood-flooring, and then leaning forward, arms going around his sides.

Yuri collapsed against him, all but sobbing for the relief of it all, arms pinned under the man's back where he'd pushed Victor down. He could feel a leg pressed up against his side where the other was lying straight under him, parted slightly to go around his own legs where he'd slid down on the polished hard-wood.

"Y-Yuri...? What's the matter?" The Russian asked, worried beyond words, trying to push himself up onto his elbows to avoid squashing his partner's arms, "...Why are you so upset?"

The younger man's voice was ragged, but he refused to lift his head from where he'd buried his face against the older figure's chest, "I woke up suddenly and it was dark, I couldn't see but I could feel Vic-chan sleeping next to me like he always used to...I thought everything before was a dream and that I was still at Yu-Topia before I'd ever moved to Detroit in the first place, but then I grabbed your phone by accident and saw your Lock screen photo and used the light to see my ring...so it wasn't Vic-chan at all and this isn't even Yu-Topia and I jus-"

"Yuri." Victor cut him off, lifting his legs out straight to use as a balance to try and sit himself up, laying one arm after another around the rattled figure's small frame, "...It's okay, it was just a dream." He stroked his hand gently up and down against his partner's shoulder where he'd twisted slightly against his chest, "You were delirious from the trip, so I put you to bed when we got here." He explained, rubbing his cheek gently across his partner's hair, "You've been anxious about this move since before we even got on the first plane...you tried to sleep on every flight, but even after all that, you never did seem to get any rest, except for that brief time during our layover. Is any of that ringing a bell?"

The younger man still seemed too overwhelm to process it all, and his fingers clenched a bit harder around the silver Russian's t-shirt.

"...We're at home in St. Petersburg now. We got here a few hours ago."

The big brown poof strode by as the man spoke, nails tapping the floor as he passed, passing the long blue couch on his way to the kitchen.

"The poodle that was sleeping with you was Makkachin..."

Yuri's quick, shallow breaths finally started to mellow out, calming to a normal pace even as he still clung on for dear life. Eventually, his panic melted away, making room for the normal anxiety he seemed to always have simmering at the back of his mind...though that on its own just lead him to feeling guilty and ashamed. He pulled back from the Russian's chest and tried to hide his eyes behind the fingers he pinched to the bridge of his nose, "...S-Sorry...I...don't know why I did all that..."

"Do you feel better now at least? You really had me nervous. The last time you had a melt-down like that, at least I could understand why...this just came out of nowhere..." Victor reached his arms forward again to pull the anxious skater's shoulder back down against his chest, "Did you have a nightmare or something?"

"B-Before...I feel asleep..." He tried saying, still feeling his heart thumping, "I didn't say anything weird or stupid before that, did I?"

"Well, you said you were worried that you'd wake up and all this would be gone...so maybe you managed to set yourself up. Never go to bed worried or mad or it'll stick with you all night." The Russian lifted a hand so he could point a finger up to emphasize the point, then looked down to see if his fiancé had any sort of reaction.

Yuri's expression changed a little, letting himself have the benefit of the doubt that he wasn't somehow still dreaming. He turned his head, trying to glance around the room some, finally taking in the sights and the small semblance of familiarity from his arrival. The more he saw, the less his mind got away from him, and soon, he was able to twist fully around and lie down on his back, sinking down against his fiancé's core such that his head was against the man's abdomen. He held there a moment and drew in a deep breath, feeling where the Russian pulled both hands up his front, coming to a stop against his chest. Cherry-hazel eyes lifted to look at the figure, but then closed again lightly as he felt the forward lean.

Lips met where Victor curled over his partner's head, fingers clasping around one another when he felt Yuri bring his hands up. Silver-grey bangs brushed against pale skin as the Russian finally pulled back again, "Maybe this is all a bit more overwhelming for you than I thought it would be. You say that you've gotten comfortable with things...but deep down, you're still the Yuri Katsuki who ran away from me for all those years, too scared to even say hello, and who could only get over those fears when you were drunk." He stroked his thumb back and forth slowly, soothingly, "I once said that you and Yurio should be more self-aware, but here I am completely unaware of some really important things."

"...It's...it's not your fault..." The younger skater sighed, letting himself be washed over with the feeling of his partner's arms around him, "Crippling self-doubt is something I've dealt with for years."

"...Self-doubt or doubt of me?" Victor wondered skeptically.

Brown eyes lifted again, but then turned, "Maybe...the doubt about what you see in me..."

"Let me assuage those doubts then." The Russian purred, pulling one hand away so he could reach to the side of himself, "I wanted to wait to show this to you until tomorrow...but I think now is better. You'll really like this." Victor was saying, still holding his fiancé close as the sound of plastic crinkling under a hand-grip resonated around the room.

What landed in the confused young skater's lap was a confusing sight; a neatly folded blue and black garment with numerous crystal inlays, making it shimmer and sparkle before his eyes. The upper parts, on the shoulders of what Yuri could identify as the front of a jacket and shirt, were thin-braided silver epaulettes, and over the left shoulders were two silver cords.

"I don't get it." He shook his head a bit in utter confusion, then tilted his head back against his partner's front and looked at him skeptically, "Why did you get your 'Aria' costume redone? Are you going to use it for an Exhibition...?"

"This outfit isn't for me." The Russian answered with a huffed chuckle, reaching for the bag with both hands and pulling it open, withdrawing the garment and shaking it out before setting it down properly over the younger skater's frame, "I'm too tall to fit into it, just like how I'm too tall to fit into the black costume you wear for 'Eros' now." He waited a moment for the realization to settle in, but it seemed like Yuri was still a bit slow, "This is your costume, for 'Duetto: Stay Close to Me,' the Pair-Exhibition performance I've been thinking about."

The almost-deliberately confused figure rose to sit up, taking the outfit with him as he went. He turned his head back and looked from the sheer-blue and solid-black costume jacket, to the man who'd given it to him, "...What...are you saying...?"

Victor smiled proudly, but it was the wink after that finally allowed the man 'permission' to accept the reality of the gift.

"...EHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!?"

It was a while before Yuri could compose himself enough to even look at the costume again, clutching it tightly to his chest with both arms wrapped around it like it might slip through his grasp if he didn't. Victor held him where he stood, patting his head gently as he sobbed, "Breathe, Yuri. Breathe."

"But look at it!" The Japanese youth cried out, finally holding it out in front and gaping at it like it was just too precious to be real, "It's just like yours!"

"I know."

"But it's blue!"

"That's what I asked them to use."

"And you said it was for me!"

"It is for you."

"Because you want to do a Pairs version of 'Stay Close to Me!'"

"Everything on ice is a display of love, and this is how I want to show my love to you. Call it a late Lovers' Day gift." The Russian explained dutifully, stepping out in front of the man to hold his hands where they still held to the jacket in turn.

"...Lovers' Day?"

"You said that Christmas Eve in Japan is more like a special day for lovers, right? Where couples give gifts and spend time with each other." He smiled brightly, "I would've given this to you sooner, but my tailors are all here in Russia. Remember when I took that call in the taxi before?"

"...Sure, but-"

"Those were the tailors, saying the outfit was ready. I was asking them to deliver it here!" Victor explained excitedly, "That's why I didn't want to say a whole lot about what was happening out here while we were getting ready for Nationals. I didn't want to risk spoiling the surprise!"

"...Wow..." Yuri sat back on his haunches, eyes looking at the shimmering material in his hands again, "...I don't...even know what to say. This must've cost you a small fortune, and I...didn't really get you anything at all..."

"You got me the most of all!" The Russian corrected, spreading his arms out to the sides, "You gave me my ring, a new perspective on things...and...on the day itself, you made love to me!" Even Victor Nikiforov couldn't stop himself from getting a bit of color in his cheeks at the mention it.

The younger figure was, of course, rather pink for it as well, bringing the blue jacket closer to himself as he cast his eyes down and smiled sheepishly, "...Y-Yeah...I...I guess I did, didn't I?"

"Mh!" The silver legend nodded enthusiastically, "And 'Aria' was the thing that brought us together! I want the whole world to see it now." He pulled back a moment and reached into the cardboard box everything had come in, grabbing a second carefully-wrapped garment, this one black, and handed it off as well, "Go on, Yuri. Try it on."

The young skater was still in disbelief of the whole thing, but he nodded and scooted forward on his knees first, leaning into the man and sliding one arm over a shoulder, "Thank you thank you thank you!" He cried, though trying his best not to cry as he pulled away again. He returned to sitting where he'd been a moment before and started to unpack the rest of the outfit, finding the second bag to contain the pants, and pulled them on quickly. The jacket went on next as Yuri rose back up to his feet, tucking the bottom of the black inside shirt and carefully fitting his thumbs into the solitary thumb-gloves at the end of the sleeves.

Victor stepped in to help settle it properly on his partner's shoulders, moving his fingers down to clasp the silver cords across the front, then looking the whole thing over carefully for the tiniest of flaws.

"Is it ok?" Yuri asked, his face as red as it had ever been.

The Russian nodded, but reached forward to run his fingers through that mop of raven-black hair, slicking it back into show-fashion. As he held it there, keeping the skater's bangs from getting back into his face, he looked into those deep hazel wells and smiled proudly, "Perfecto! You look fantastic."

Yuri's face lit up at the sound of those words, but he could do little to stop the tears in his eyes that time. The happiness was too much for him to be able to think of anything else to say, so he just stepped into the silver legend's frame and kissed him where he stood, a hand settling on the crest of each hip.

Victor moved his arms over his partner's shoulders in return, kissing him back quite happily, beaming over his pride and joy. He had to huff a breath when they parted again, "...Hah...you'll have to practice every day."

"I will!"

"You'll have to land all your Flips and learn to land the Lutz."

"Quad Flip and quad Lutz!"

"Nothing but the best from now on, Yuri."

"Only the best!"

"No more 'warm-up mode.'"

"Not warming-up anymore!"

"And you're going to win the Gold at Four Continents, and every competition after that."

"...And I'm...going to try my hardest to win Gold!"

"No, no...Yuri...let's do that again. You already promised. So say it with me." Victor started, "'I'm going to win Gold from now on.'"

"I'm going to win Gold from now on."

"Do you believe it?"

"Ican'tbelievethisisreallyhappening." Yuri's eyes were welling up again, "Iloveyousomuchrightnow!"

Victor just sighed happily and laughed.

.

It felt like hours passed as the young skater practiced as many moves of the program as he could right there in the living room. His joy was contagious, and the Russian genius watched him dance, slate eyes following every move through perfection. Before long, Victor stepped into the fray as well, and moved to hoist his fiancé into the air like he would if they were on the ice. The Japanese youth was thrown off guard by it, but when Victor set him back down on the ground again, it made sense.

"Then I'll do this..." Victor explained, stepping his right leg around the back of his partner's feet, pulling him down with one arm as he held the other out on display, then backing up to let Yuri stand again, "And there's another lift a few seconds later...and then we do a move from the original program..." He stretched an arm forward, with one leg sticking straight out behind himself, motioning with his hands down his face and towards his chest. Yuri knew which moves Victor was referring to, and mimicked him in turn, the both of them reaching high up towards the ceiling and then pulling their hands down again as though in anguish, until it came time for them to do the single reverse flip and they ran out of room to jump.

Yuri was about to burst out of his skin with excitement, and they flopped back onto the long blue couch, clasping each other's hands between where they sat, "How long have you been thinking about this? Neither of us has ever done pair skating before, but you seem to know what to do already...!"

"Since you asked me to skate with you for one more year." The silver-haired skater answered, "You said 'with' and I thought about it literally, and it just poured into my mind like a movie after that. I hadn't solidified which program though until after I had you skate to 'Aria' with me at the Ice Castle; it just made perfect sense. This is the last program I skated before taking a break, and I want it to be the first one that I skate when I come back. It'll be my come-back announcement performance, featuring you as the centerpiece."

"Really?" The younger skater blinked, tilting his head on the couch's backrest, "...The centerpiece? How?"

"I'd like you to skate this as your next Exhibition. I've choreographed it so that it looks like a solo program at first, but at a point, you'll pause and hold your hand out towards where I'll be joining you from rink-side." Victor explained, giving the hand between them a gentle squeeze, "I left the ice to coach you, so I think it's only fitting that you get to bring me back onto it...neh?"

Hazel eyes were misty again, but the skater nodded, turning his gaze back towards the ceiling, and the light-and-fan fixture that hung from it above the center of the room, "...This is really going to be incredible."

"I'll have to make some calls to see if the ISU will allow a pair-skate Exhibition Program when we're still going to go on competing in singles, but I don't think it would be a problem. The Exhibition isn't judged, after all." The Russian went on, "But if they say no, then I'll just have you perform 'Aria' as your regular Exhibition when you win Gold and I'll just join you on the ice anyway!" He was too proud of himself for thinking of the contingency plan.

"Weren't you the one who said I should do more to take charge of my own programs?" Yuri side-eyed him skeptically, even though he had no hesitation to agree to the plan.

"Sure." Victor answered happily, like he didn't see the contradiction, "And you should freely choose of your own free will and without pressure to do 'Aria.'"

The blue-clad skater gave him a strange look, but then laughed and turned his head, "Let me think long and hard about that."

The Russian watched as his partner tapped his head, as though deep in thought, "Such a difficult decision!" He twisted where he sat on the couch, pulling one leg up to half-cross it in front of himself, draping an arm over the backrest.

"I just don't know, Victor." Yuri played along, pretending to be frustrated with the nonexistent conundrum, "It's such a tough program, and I don't know where I'll get the time to practice this routine that I've never done before."

Victor gasped emphatically, "Yuuuuuri! Whatever will you do!?" He turned around fully and draped himself over his partner's lap with tremendous flare, one hand up to graze the side of his forehead, "The fate of the world depends on your choice!"

"Calm down there, Georgi." The younger figure laughed, pushing the older one off of himself to sit on his own again, then raised his right hand up with a finger extended, "That's it! I've decided. I'm going to skate 'Aria: Stay Close to Me,' and we'll turn it into 'Duetto' to officially announce your return to competition." He reached with that hand to put that finger under his fiancé's chin gently, "May the God of Skating favor me."

"He does every day." Victor purred, touching their noses together lightly before unexpectedly being pushed down to his back, leaning against a few pillows at his end of the couch. He watched with rapt fascination as his fiancé reached around to unsnap the elbow fastenings, freeing the sleeves of the sheer jacket from the button-down it fit over. More snaps came undone from under the black decorative bits onto the front of the shirt, then the three silver cords that hung across it. The sheer blue material came loose then, and Yuri set the garment gently over the back of the couch.

Before the Russian even realized what was happening, the young skater slipped forward between the his legs and pressed into another kiss, slowly descending to lie on top of him, pressing his chest down, then the rest, a hand sliding down each side. Victor settled his arms around his partner's shoulders, hands cupping around the back of the man's head, fingers weaving through jet-black spikes of short hair...but it was the push against his hips that made him draw in a light gasp, "Yuri...this is unexpected..."

"You said once that there was an eros in me that no one, not even me, had ever seen. I want to show it to you..."

Victor could only raise his arms up excitedly, "Wow~!"

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TEN

It only took a few days before the Russian branch of the ISU had gotten itself together for the press conference that Yurio had been denied. Cameras were clicking with a fever pitch as reporters from across the country were clamoring for a good spot at the front of the conference hall, others stacking along the walls on either side of the room.

At the table on the raised platform in front of them all, Yakov was seated at the far end dressed in his usual coach fare, with Lilia next to him, Yurio next to her with his Team Russia jacket and black hoodie, Victor after that in up-class casual-wear like from Barcelona, then Mila in business-casual, and finally Georgi, looking more formal like his coach...the entire St. Petersburg Skate Club.

Yuri watched quietly from the audience, a surgical mask over his face, wearing the most boring and normal clothing he could find, keeping all of it unrelated to skating or the JSF. The conference, however, was being spoken in Russian, so the whole thing was beyond him. He only knew a smattering of basic Russian, and nothing short of subtitles on his eyeballs would help him understand it any better. The energy in the room was all he could read, and he guessed well enough that Victor had just confirmed his return to competitive skating when everyone started cheering.

Yurio was bristling where he sat, but didn't dare have an outburst in front of so many cameras. He eventually had his turn anyway, and Yuri could see the teen calming down significantly as he received the attention he deserved.

They're probably asking him how he feels about competing against Victor. Yuri thought to himself, able to pick out the word 'Worlds' from the Russian dialogue. One of the reporters asked about 'European Championships' but the team shook their head, likely mentioning the same rationale as had been given when Victor himself asked the question at the GP Final Banquet.

"Hey...are you not Katsuki Yuri...?" Someone to the young skater's right suddenly asked. He glanced up from his phone and turned to look at the source of the voice, pulling his mask off his nose to hook it under his chin, and saw a complete stranger there; some reporter covering the conference. The man's broken English was rough, but Yuri could understand it.

"Ah...yes, I am."

"Why not at table with others?"

He was taken aback, unsure if his answer would be understood, so he spoke simply, "I'm not Russian."

"However, Mr. Nikiforov is coach of yours, yes?"

"...Yes, but..."

"Èj každyj! Katsuki Yuri nahoditsja zdes'!" The reporter called out, yelling above the clamor to get the crowd's attention.

Yuri flew out of his seat, ready to cling to the ceiling if it was the only way out, as all eyes suddenly turned from the Russian team to him. He staggered into the walking-space between his chair and the reporters that were huddled against the wall nearby. If looks could kill, Yurio would've been a serial killer by that point, staring death at everyone who dared turn their attention away from the main table to stare at the hopeless Japanese skater instead. The crowd was unsure how to proceed after that, speaking amongst themselves as more photos were taken to prove that Yuri was there as claimed. The young athlete simply balked, groping for space, looking past a few people to Victor and silently begging for salvation.

The Russian team-members were whispering amongst themselves; Yakov seemed slightly annoyed, but Victor nodded in apparent agreement and waved for Yuri to join them at the table. The foreign skater rushed through the crowd for safer territory, wanting nothing less than to put Victor between himself and the ravenous mob.

He didn't make it gracefully though, as Yurio stuck his leg out and tripped the Japanese skater as he was passing behind their chairs, causing him to land face-first behind his coach's seat. Victor looked back to see if he was okay, but it didn't do any good, as the Russian Tiger had already turned on his chair to put his boot on Yuri's backside where it stuck up in the air.

"Idiot, this isn't for Japanese skaters!"

"Yuratchka, leave him be." Yakov instructed calmly, "We should never have left him in the audience in the first place."

"But-"

"Leave. Him. Be. We all know you won the Gold Medal and him Silver. You don't have to keep proving it. He's Victor's student though, so that makes him part of us, even if unofficially."

As the coach reigned in his rising star, Mila busied herself with getting another chair pulled up to the table. Victor had stood up to get behind his own chair, helping his fiancé to stand up again just as he spotted the redhead bringing a new seat closer. He reached across the table to take it from her, setting it between their existing seats, and positioned Yuri to sit in it.

The anxious foreigner sat low and awkwardly, wanting to be as small as possible. However, the smaller he tried to appear, the more he stuck out, and Victor could tell. The silver legend put a hand on the small of his partner's back to force him to sit upright, and then shoved the chair in closer so he couldn't slouch again.

"Don't try to be so inconspicuous." The Russian said in a whisper, leaning close.

"But I don't even speak Russian...I have no idea what's going on..."

"Victor," One of the reporters down front started; a woman with straight-cut black hair and bowl-cut bangs, "Since we're on the topic now, it seems...is it because of Yuri Katsuki that you skipped Russian Nationals and lost your shot at Euros?"

The young skater could've died and rolled under the table, if he were allowed to, banging his face against the top of it instead and holding his hands over his head. He groaned quietly for the shame of it before his hands slid off the table-cloth and went limp at his sides.

Victor just glanced between him and the RSF reporter, "Actually, it's because of Yuri that I'm hopefully going to Worlds. I hadn't planned on being at Nationals or Euros to begin with." He explained simply, moving his arm up from where he'd been rubbing his partner's shoulders to rest it over the backrest of the chair. Yuri lifted his head as he felt it, rubbing the sore spot on his forehead as his partner's voice continued, "Georgi will be representing the RSF at Euros alongside Yuri Plisetsky. They're both perfectly capable of bringing medals back. They wouldn't be training under Yakov if they weren't good. He hand-selected everyone one of us and he's never been wrong about the quality of his team. We consistently rise up to represent Russia on the world stage, in spite of dozens of other reputable Skate Clubs across the country."

"We've heard it said that you had meant to go to Nationals." The woman went on, "There's footage from an interview at the Final, where your voice is caught in the background stating, and I quote, 'For now, I'll time my come-back with Russian Nationals.' Isn't that right?"

"I'm glad you included the part where I said 'for now,' because things changed before the end of the weekend. I had obligations that I couldn't bail on."

"You mean Japanese Nationals."

"Da. I couldn't send Yuri on by himself. As his coach, I'm responsible for him."

"Even he hadn't planned on going to the All Japan Championship until after the Final was over. Everything you both did was last-second."

"Sure." Victor had no problem admitting it, nodding as well, "I told Yuri I'd make him win the Grand Prix Final, not the World Championship. Our original plans were that I'd coach him through the Final. We had no inclination that either of us would continue on with it after the Final was over. But we both managed to convince each other to keep competing." He shrugged, "If Yurio hadn't decided to make his Senior debut this year, I'd be going to Euros as well as Worlds, in spite of missing Nationals. But, it is what it is."

The blonde seethed from where he sat next to the silver skater, [You can't blame me for your stupid choices!] He barked in Russian, [I more-than-earned my spot on the Russian team at Euros! If you'd come to Nationals like you were supposed to, this wouldn't even be an issue! You'd already been putting together programs for this year before you were in Hasetsu last year. You have no excuse for bailing.]

Yuri bunched his hands together in his lap, looking even more nervous as the argument went on.

He's talking in Russian so I don't know what he's saying. He's not even doing it because we're in Russia...he's doing it because he wants me to feel like an outsider... As if he even needed to do anything for me to feel that way...

"Yeah, and I gave one of those programs to you." Victor retorted, specifically doing so in English, "I spent a week finishing the choreography so you'd have a winning Senior debut, and you won Gold with it. I'll need a little more time to create something new from scratch, as well as getting my gear together for it, practicing it, and all the rest."

[I put together my Exhibition for the Final in a single night; costume, choreography and all. What's your excuse?]

"Perfection takes more than a night." The older skater said with a smile, setting the younger one's teeth on edge again

Yuri listened to the back and forth, trying to piece together what he could from just his partner's responses. The reporters ahead of him were doing much the same, though it was likely that most of them were trying to do so from Yurio's statements rather than Victor's. It gave the young skater's anxiety something the cling to, and he brought his hands up onto the table-top to lean against them and take the weight off his back.

[My Exhibition WAS perfect!] The Russian Punk argued loudly, getting up from his seat and ignoring petitions from Lilia to sit down again, [I'm not the sad pig who had to had to skate a redemption performance!]

Victor had reached across the table with his left hand for one of the many water bottles as he tacitly listened to the whines of a jealous teenager, but conspicuously set it down again just in front of his student's right hand when he was done with it, not having even taken a drink from it, "What are you really mad about? You were clapping for him just like the rest at the end."

Green eyes went wide, but then narrowed again. He opened his mouth to speak, only for Yakov to cut him off.

[Yuratchka is just eager to compete against Victor.] The coach explained, whether or not it was true, and gave time for Lilia to wrangle the teen back into his seat, [They were rink-mates for a long time before Victor took time off. It just happened to be at the same time Yuri joined the Senior division. The delay in Victor's return to competition is unfortunate. We were all hoping to see them compete against each other in real time, not retroactively.]

[Victor, were you really considering joining the JSF?] A different reporter asked, catching the skater's attention.

[I never considered it at all.] He answered, turning his eyes away from the blonde next to him, [I skated their Exhibition as a guest. It was unplanned, and they basically offered it to me as a thank you for getting one of their own to the podium.]

Yuri could sense the shift in the direction of the inquiry, but it didn't make him feel any better. The whole thing felt more like an interrogation than a conference, and it made his throat dry. He pulled up the same water bottle that Victor had set in front of his hand a moment before and took a sip, but held onto the plastic after that, curling his fingers around is anxiously.

[How can you possibly return to skating with the RSF though if you're coaching someone from another team?] Someone said pointedly, [Isn't that a conflict of interest?]

Victor tilted his head and smiled like he always did, [I don't feel that way.] He reached his left hand for a white RSF coffee-mug after that, taking a sip of it...and again, set the cup directly in front of Yuri's right hand, [Until I took time off, I was Russia's reigning Champion. I expect to continue that trend even as a returning competitor, despite staying on as Yuri's coach at the same time. I've been teaching him everything I know, so to me, it means there'll be two skaters in the field who want to surprise and impress the audience. The better Yuri gets, the more I'll push myself in turn. I want to win Gold as badly as he does. I'm not just going to let him have it because I want him to win, too...he still has to work for it, just like everyone else.]

[Don't you feel any shame for taking on a foreign athlete when your own team could use your experience?] Someone else asked, [Your talents would've been better served by coaching another Russian athlete, not a Japanese one. Now he poses the risk of taking medals for his own team.]

[Shame?] The skater echoed stiffly, [Why would I be ashamed? I choreographed Yurio's Short Program and he took Gold with it. His record-breaking SP score is the only reason he won.]

Lilia bristled and gave a dirty look. Yurio did the same, but for entirely different reasons.

[Yuri had scored over 100 at both the Cup of China and Rostelecom. The fact that he didn't break the triple digit barrier again at the Final was ridiculous, especially since he did the quad Flip at the end.] Victor went on, almost angrily, but tried to keep a level head about it, [But the point is, coaching Yuri doesn't mean I won't be available to my own countrymen. Being back at my home rink will make me more accessible than ever. I don't think there will be any problems. I'm actually hoping that both Yuris will use the opportunity to push each other, so maybe Yurio can score even higher in his Free Skate and try to take that record, too. I'm sure the RSF will be very happy about having a 15-year-old who can score as well as I do at the end of my career. He's an exceptionally talented athlete, and I have no doubt that he'll be breaking records and setting trends long after both Yuri and I retire for good. Maybe he'll even let me choreograph something else for him in the future.]

[And the fact that you're engaged to marry your own student won't be a problem, either?] Another different reporter suddenly asked, causing the room to quiet down a little bit, [Many may question whether your presence at the St. Petersburg Skate Club might undermine the ability for the rest of your team to focus.] The figure went on, staring straight at the skater, [How can you even maintain credibility when you're going to marry a man? You can try to hide his ring with cups and water bottles all you want, but we all knew about it long before either of you ever sat at that table. You made all that exceptionally clear when you knocked him over in China, and kissed him for all the world to see.]

Yuri felt the energy change around him again, and he looked to see Victor's expression change again along with it.

[You've embarrassed the Russian team, and Russia itself.]

[That's uncalled for.] Yakov finally interrupted, standing from his seat and pointing at the figure, [We should be celebrating Victor's return to the ice, not lambasting him for things that have nothing to do with it.]

[President Putin signed an order banning the propaganda of nontraditional relationships ahead of the Sochi Olympics. It's not uncalled for to question the mental stability of an athlete who claims to represent Russia, while at the same time flouting this nation's values.]

Voices and murmurs echoed throughout the room, and the energy was becoming oppressive. Victor was briefly speechless by the whole thing, but then he narrowed his eyes, [Fine. Then I'll quit the RSF and join Yuri on his team, and take all the Gold Medals for Japan instead.]

[DON'T YOU EVEN SUGGEST IT.] Yakov barked.

Yuri nearly jumped out of his seat to see things devolving so quickly; people were starting to shout questions from the floor even as athletes and coaches were arguing at one another at the table. Instead, all he could do was watch as it all turned dark; a pair of unexpected hands had gone over his glasses, pulling him back and away from his partner.

"Try not to react." A woman's voice said, "They get like this sometimes."

"M-Mila-san..."

[WILL EVERYONE JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP ALREADY?] Yurio finally interrupted, catching all of their attention. He turned those piercing green eyes on the reporter who had instigated it all, [How dare you question the skill of one of Russia's top skating talent. Can you skate his programs better than he can with just the power of your raging heterosexuality?]

Mila lowered her hands from Yuri's eyes, and he looked up to see where Victor and Yakov both were staring at the teen in shock. He turned his head slightly towards the woman still holding him back, though he kept his eyes forward, "What's going on?" He whispered.

"...I'm not sure yet...the reporter asked some really rude questions."

[IDIOTS. This is figure skating.] Yurio barked on, [We dance on ice and wear flashy costumes! The only thing more gay than that is grappling in MMA, and I don't see anyone complaining about how homo that is even when one guy's got his nutsack in some other guy's face, or even worse, if they're grappling balls to balls. It's absurd that any of you are wasting your time on this. Victor brought home 5 consecutive Gold Medals from the Grand Prix, Russian Nationals, Euros, and WORLDS, and the thing you're worried about is how he gets his rocks off when he's off the ice? How about worrying that he might tear a meniscus or rupture a disc or something? You know...REAL THREATS.] The blonde was standing with one foot up on the table by then, the other on his chair, both hands stuffed in the pockets of his track-suit coat, [You should be on your knees thanking him for coming back! We have TWO CHAMPIONS in Russia now! But go ahead and be stupid! Make Victor want to leave again! I don't think Japan will care if they suddenly have two Champions on the roster! They sure didn't care when Katsudon declared his super-gay love for Victor on national television a few months back!]

The room was silent after that, and Yuri could see that his coach was a bit slack-jawed at the outburst.

Yurio stepped on top of the table and then kicked off, landing in front and looking back at his team, then at the lone Asian in their ranks, "Let's go. The conference is over. ...What a clusterfuck."

Victor was quick to stand after that, pulling his partner with him and grabbing his coat from the back of his chair as the rest of the team disembarked from the table. Slate eyes caught sight of the Russian Tiger making a threatening gesture at the offending reporter while they passed, lunging unexpectedly just to make the man jump. The silver skater just pulled his fiancé to his opposite side, putting himself between the media and his heart.

"What just happened? What was that all about?" Yuri asked desperately, "Why did Yurio get so angry all of a sudden?"

The Russian's terse expression gradually softened as the whole thing sank in, and they'd escaped the clamor of media mob into an adjacent hallway. Yakov and Lilia had both started lecturing Yurio about his outburst, but he just looked annoyed and ignored them.

"He stood up for us...sort of." Victor explained quietly.

"Stood up for us...?" The younger skater echoed in confusion, "From what? Why did that whole thing turn into a yelling match?"

"Same reason you left the onsen that time after we did 'Aria' at the Ice Castle, among other things..."

Yuri looked down and away, clutching at his ring-hand nervously, "...I told you I should've stayed home."

"But I wanted you to come." Victor retorted quietly, looking up towards Yakov, and watching briefly as Yurio rolled his eyes from the continued double-sided lecture.

"And I wanted you to come to the JSF conference when they made me do my theme announcement earlier in the year, too, but you wouldn't."

"I didn't want to take attention off of you again like I did at your Regional competition." The silver figure said, drawing in a sharp breath as he slid his arms into his long-coat

"Like I just did to you?"

Yakov stepped closer after that, looking up at his reinstated student, "Don't think too much into what they said, Vitya." He advised, "It's not worth it. Just prove them all idiots by taking Gold at Worlds again...it'll be your 6th year running, so they can't complain."

"If they even let me go at this point."

"You're going." The coach said stiffly, "So plan accordingly. They might not give you the same kind of press coverage as they used to but they can't ban you from going."

"Yeah..."

Yuri's brow furrowed to hear it, looking between the two coaches anxiously.

"Let's just get the Hell out of here already." The Russian Punk said suddenly, "We all have better shit to do than get our pants in a twist over one guy. I have to go buy food for Potya anyway." He turned on his heel and gestured down the hall with a nudge of his head, "Well?"

"Yurio..." The black-haired skater said quietly, looking over at him. Before much else could be said or done, Yuri had latched both arms around the teen from behind.

Yurio was dead silent for a moment, but then shrieked, "I DIDN'T GIVE YOU PERMISSION TO-"

"Spasibo."

The pair were quiet, but the blonde continued to glare over his shoulder, barely visible to the Japanese skater past the rim of his dark-colored hood.

"I know it was hard on you for Victor to leave Russia so suddenly last year. You came all the way to Hasetsu to make him come back home, only to leave again empty handed anyway." The older figure stated solemnly, letting Yurio free again so as to look at him straight on, "You had years of expectation that you'd get to compete against him when you finally entered the Senior bracket, and I inadvertently took that away from you by getting Victor to be my coach the very year you got there. It wasn't intentional, but I am sorry for it."

"Forget it." Yurio said curtly, "I don't need to compete against him directly to score better than him. I'll surpass all his records before long. I already told him that it didn't matter if he was around."

"I know." The older figure answered, "But in a way, it does. Your relationship with Victor was different from mine because you both skated for the same team, and all I did was admire him from a distance. But I can tell that he's important to you in some way. I don't want to come between you guys just because I'm here." He explained nervously, but then bowed his head a little, "My...my mom taught him how to make katsudon before we came to St. Petersburg. Maybe you can come over some time and he'll make you one."

Yurio was a bit surprised at those words, but his acknowledgement was short-lived and barely earned a grunt in response. He turned and started to walk away, "You can thank me by giving me a good challenge at Worlds. If you don't or can't keep up, I'll be pissed that you bothered coming to St. Petersburg in the first place and wasted all our time."

Chapter Text

CHAPTER ELEVEN

January 7

Though Yuri had been awake for over an hour already, leaving the comfort of two big blankets, and the warmth of his fiancé, was unthinkable. He quietly pushed to sit up against the headboard with a few pillows behind himself, letting Victor's arm slide down his front to rest against his lap, the other still under his lower back, and brought his knees up to rest his right hand against while looking at his phone. His left arm slid over his partner's head and upturned shoulder, setting gently on his back, thumb stroking back and forth slowly. His coiled-up ear-buds were clicked into the phone soon after, and he quietly listened to some music while he checked the Instagram feeds.

He deadpanned the screen when he started seeing video-posts featuring the melt-down at the Russian Skating Federation conference from the day before, and he nervously clicked into one when he saw that it featured subtitles. One hand slid up to the center of his chest, trying to calm his heart since he knew what was coming already, to some degree, but he clicked Play anyway.

Footage was shot from somewhere in the center of the room, giving Yuri a clear view of the back of a certain reporter's head. He found his prior assumption correct about what was being said prior to the RSF noticing he was in the room, but it was surreal to watch the entire thing fall apart after he was told to join the team at the high table. It was especially weird to still see Victor putting the water bottle, and then the coffee mug, in front of his hand, but when the offending journalist started talking, and Yuri was able to read the translation of what he'd been saying, as well as his partner's responses, it made a pit grow in his stomach.

The last thing I ever wanted was to cause Victor trouble in his efforts to come back to competitive skating, but this whole time I was only thinking about the way he'd have to divide his time between me and himself. If us being together is going to rock the boat like this...then...

When Yurio finally made himself known in the midst of it all, Yuri's eyes were wide, and all the angry butterflies in his stomach were scared away. He watched in wide-eyed amazement at the things the teen was yelling, though he balked a little when hisown 'super-gay' declaration on Japanese National television came up. He'd twitched forcefully enough that Victor stirred next to him, pulling his arms inward in a tight, cat-like hug around his core, but then released again, and the Russian buried his face in the space between Yuri's side and the pillow just beneath him with a half-groaned sigh.

The young skater was unsure if his partner had actually woken up in that moment and was just trying to go back to sleep, or if he had just moved in his sleep. He wasn't about to go poking and prodding just to find out, in any case. That would be Makkachin's task, and the big fluffy woofer came in almost as if on cue then...with his food-dish in his jaws.

Yuri's eyes went wide yet again, and he frantically tried to shoo the dog away by brushing his hands through the air, but those soulful brown eyes just looked back at him in confusion. Makkachin lowered his head down and set the dish on the carpet...then rose his head back up again and sat down. The skater was petrified, seeing the drool hanging down from the pupper's mouth.

Then the bark came.

Victor didn't budge.

Another bark, followed by a pitiable whine, and the dog leaned down to pick up the dish again. He took the two steps forward to get his front paws on the edge of the bed and nodded the bowl around before dropping it on the bed behind his human's back and barked again. The silver Russian groaned quietly and cringed in his half-sleepy haze, but Makkachin reached a paw out and poked at his person's back clumsily through the blankets and whined again.

Yuri just watched in amused silence, pulling the ear-buds out to wrap the cable around his phone and set the whole thing aside, "I think he's hungry."

"...Whattimeisit...?" The older skater mumbled.

"Nearly ten."

"AH!" Victor was up with a start, and sent the metal bowl flying from the blankets to land on the floor and roll away, bouncing lightly off the nearby wall before rolling to a stop upside down, "We should've been up a while ago!"

"I was." Yuri mused, leaning forward to wrap his arms around his legs, resting his cheek over his knees since his partner had let him go, "I didn't want to wake you up though."

"But everything starts today!"

"...Everything...starts?" The younger figure lifted his head again, his smile turning to a glance of confusion, "What are you talking about?"

"CHRISTMAS STARTS TODAY."

Yuri gave an incredulous look, "...Christmas was like 2 weeks ago. It's your birthday? We were in Hasetsu still?"

"NO, ORTHODOX CHRISTMAS." The Russian's arms were up in the air for dramatic effect, but he gave a look anyway, "...Don't you know...?"

"...No?"

Blue eyes blinked, but then got watery from excitement, and the silver skater reached under the blankets to retrieve his fiancé's hands, pulling them forward and dragging Yuri around in the process, "This is perfect, then! Orthodox Christmas is a HUGE DEAL here! I can spend all week showing you around! It'll be easy to forget about everything that happened yesterday!"

"...All week?" Yuri echoed, "Christmas is a whole week here?"

Victor smiled brightly, getting more excited as the seconds passed, happily leaning in over where he held their hands together to kiss his partner, "Mh. Until Orthodox New Year! This is going to be amazing! I can't wait to show you!"

"...There's an Orthodox New Year?"

"Yeah!" The Russian started stretching his legs towards the edge of the bed, getting Makkachin excited in his own right, and pushed up to stand, "Let's get ready and go! The Christmas markets in St. Petersburg make that one in Barcelona look like a kids' show! And you'll be able to try the hot wine this time!"

Yuri was still surprised at the whole thing, watching his partner hop up and leave the room, utterly naked, but with something of a bounce in his step, stopping only to collect the dog's food bowl on the way.

He was pretty upset after the conference yesterday. Seeing him this excited about Orthodox Christmas will be a nice change of pace.

.

The excitable Russian practically had a whole ensemble just for the occasion; a dark silver suit with a thick white long-coat overtop. He wrapped a woolen white scarf around his neck and shoulders, and topped his head with a fluffy white ushanka. Black gloves went onto both hands, and while probably not the most weather-appropriate thing, black leather boots on his feet.

"The party technically started last night." He was explaining as Yuri was putting his own cold-weather gear on; his same jacket and scarf from Barcelona, but with a thick grey hoodie underneath, the hood poking out to cover his head, much like Yurio usually did but not intentionally mimicking him, "But that part of the celebration is super churchy, with Masses held all around the city to wait for the first star to appear. The New Year's party is the really big deal around here, but I like to have fun for the whole week leading up to it. It's usually the only mid-season break I take."

The younger figure pulled on some gloves as well, flexing his fingers to make sure they were on right before turning to his partner, "Where do we go first?"

.

Pavlovsk Park was a ways south of the city, but it was well worth the wait to get there. By 2pm, the pair were sitting in the back of a Troika; a sledge drawn by three horses...quickly. Snow slid under them at a break-neck pace, the wind leaving their noses and cheeks pink as it whipped past. Yuri was absolutely terrified, but at the same time, thrilled. He held the top of his hood down to keep his ears protected, but before long, felt the warm fluff of a hat being squished down on top of it. When he turned aside, silver hair was lashing in the wind, perfectly accenting crystal blue eyes and pale-but-rosy skin; Victor was having the time of his life.

The horses' hooves thundered against the snow, galloping at full speed. The perfectly aligned trees along the wide roadway went by like huge pegs in a geometric maze, passing through one another as the sledge slid by.

The inside of Pavlovsk Palace was no less impressive, although significantly less adrenalin-pumping. Every wall held a painting; some huge, others in clusters where they were much smaller. Fireplaces dotted random walls, pillars between rows of innumerable windows held up elaborately decorated vases or candelabras. Golden chandeliers hung from the ceiling in prominent locations, flanked by candle-mounts held up by arrays of delicate chains, which in turn were separated by the presence of floor-to-ceiling green-marble pillars.

By the time they made it to their third and final stop for the day, the cruel winter sun was already setting. However, in lieu of daylight, St. Petersburg shone on its own; a dazzling array of Christmas lights coming to life along the streets, many even suspended in the air above sidewalks. The sound of music and revelry was coming into earshot as the pair walked along, and soon, the full sight of the Pionerskaya Square Christmas Market was visible.

"There's a few different set-ups like this around the city." Victor explained, eyes up at the glittery display, a backpack hanging off of one shoulder, "But this one has a skating rink."

A knowing expression cast across the younger figure's face, "...I was wondering why you packed our blades. Ikimashou!"

The rink was rather small, maybe only a quarter the size of a competition rink, but it was still smooth ice, and that's all it needed to be. A pair of gold blades set down on it first, followed by standard chrome-silver, the duo making their way out normally like all the other revelers. Under all their winter gear, it was hard to tell who either of them was, especially since Victor had taken his hat back and all his silver hair was hidden under the white fluff, save a tuft that came out over his left eye.

Yuri saw groups of other people linking up arms or holding to each others' hands for support, many being new to the ice and needing the balance. So, he took it upon himself to use it as an excuse to do the same with his partner, who to that point had not taken his hand since leaving the house.

"I'll just pretend I can't skate or something." The younger figure suggested quietly, sliding his gloved hand into the inside bend of his partner's elbow, letting the silver Russian pull him along, "No one will make a fuss again like yesterday if everyone thinks you're just making sure I don't end up on my butt."

Victor had still glanced around nervously when he felt it, but hearing the words made sense, and he nodded, letting himself enjoy the contact for what it was. His nervous expression changed over to the happy, fun-loving look he normally had, and he relished in the game of tugging his partner along the frosted glaze of ice, surrounded by hundreds of other people who had no idea who either of them was.

They skated easy laps around the makeshift rink for about 15 minutes before the sound of a familiar voice called out their names from somewhere in the crowd.

"Victoooor! Yuuuriiiii!"

"Uh oh..." The Russian lifted his head, "...Baba Yaga cometh."

"That's not nice!" Mila barked from the other side of the rink-wall, practically clambering over it as she shook a fist at the laughing skater.

Yuri let himself be pulled along as Victor went over to where the red-head was trying to get onto the ice, dragging a toe-pick to slow down as they got nearer.

"I suppose it was only inevitable that we'd run into someone we knew." The Russian mused, offering his other elbow to her so she could cross the wall without falling off of it, "Are you on your own?"

"I was with Yuri, but he vanished around 30 minutes ago." She explained, taking the arm and gliding onto her blades, "Nice hat, by the way."

Victor waved his head back and forth, as though tousling his hair, "Setting trends all across the city."

The woman laughed quietly to herself, but then reached up to snatch it off his head, sticking it on her own instead, "Thanks for keeping it warm for me!"

The silver Russian just blinked a few times in surprise, his ears getting pink quickly where the cold air could get at them suddenly. His hair was disheveled and unkempt...but that didn't stop the domino effect behind them as they slid around the ice. Yuri heard the first gasp, then the shriek, a yell, three people collapsing on the ice, then a group of four after that as he turned around to see what was going on. More novices were falling on their backsides in an attempt to stop before colliding with the growing pile, while slightly-more-seasoned skaters managed to get around it.

"O bože!" They all heard, the trio now stopped to look back at the train-wreck in their wake, "O Gospodi, éto Victor!" Someone else called, pointing a shaky hand at the rough-looking silver skater from where they'd all fallen on the ice. Someone nearby was trying to push themselves up onto their hands and knees, but were still looking at the trio, "Alkash!"

"What are they saying?" Yuri wondered, leaning in and holding his free hand up to shield his voice.

"Everything from 'oh my god,' to calling someone a drunk, though I don't know if they're referring to me, or us, or one of the people they ran into." Victor answered, lifting his right hand briefly to set his hair back into place.

"...Is this my fault?" Mila wondered suddenly, holding both hands to the silver skater's arm as she watched the group starting to clamber back to their blades, "I pulled your hat off and suddenly everyone freaked out."

"Maybe that makes it my fault then." Victor shrugged, turning fully around to face the flustered group, "Allo~"

"AHHH! Èto dejstvitel'no Victor!" One of the ladies on the ice shrieked in disbelief, grabbing for a male companion right next to her and hugging him so tightly that he struggled to get free again while she giggled incoherently.

"I guess the jig's up." Yuri huffed, "Are you going to do a little dance so we can carry on, or...?"

Someone else in the skater-pile gasped after that, pointing straight at the Asian, " Èto tože Yuri!"

"Only if you do, too." Victor laughed, slipping forward on the ice to start helping people back to their feet.

Once the seething mass of fangirls, fanboys, and assorted collateral damage were back up on their blades and moving away, the silver skater moved backwards towards the center of the rink where it was clearest. He could see the eyes of most people on him at that point, even people who were beyond the rink wall and who'd only heard the screaming and come running. Only one blade scratched across the frost as he watched and listened to the murmur all around, moving backwards as though practicing the most basic moves in the field, one arm wrapped around himself while the other balanced an elbow on it, a finger on his lip. After a moment, he shrugged and smiled, deciding to give them a little taste as recompense for the pile-up his recognition caused. His free leg swung out a little further from himself as a silent gesture that he was going to do something, and people started making more room, keeping their small kids closer to the edge of the rink so they wouldn't wander across and get kicked.

Yuri had moved off with Mila to watch from the crowd, and he leaned closer to her, "Does he get recognized a lot here, too?"

"This place might as well be called St. Viktorsberg." She laughed, "He's been on television here so often, either as part of some RSF documentary about skating, or as the feature of any given news station's sports headline. A lot of networks around here are run by the state, too, and since professional skaters are sponsored by it, they kind of own him. They tell him to jump, and he asks how high and in what direction."

"That sounds kind of depressing..."

Victor had built up a bit of momentum by then, and leaned far over to show off a basic camel spin.

"It's not all bad." Mila turned slightly and took the older skater's arm like she'd done with her rink-mate a few minutes before. The silver legend had twisted into a low sit-spin variant, one heel gliding out from center while an arm went up above himself, "He gets exposure from the state events he's dragged into, so then private companies see him, and they want a piece of him, too. By the end of it, all the stuff he basically has to do for free comes back as profit somewhere else down the line. Call it the 'reverse Victor Nikiforov loyalty card'...he'll do one thing for the RSF for free, and get 3 paid opportunities for his trouble."

"...I guess that explains how he has so much extra income. I was starting to wonder how he was going to afford all the expensive stuff he says he wants to have...like flying first class everywhere, instead of taking the ISU's voucher for tickets to fly Economy."

Victor moved up into a tall scratch-spin, both arms up above himself as he became a white and silver blur on the ice.

Mila just chuffed a laugh, "Yeah...he's high maintenance, that's for sure. But at least he lives within his means. He doesn't even have credit cards...just his one bank card."

"Have you known him a long time?" Yuri wondered, eyes moving from his fiancé to the woman standing next to him.

"A bit longer than our Yuri has, at least, but not by much."

"Does he have family in St. Petersburg? Or anywhere in Russia?"

The crowd around them had started moving again as they clapped and cheered, so the two skaters pushed off to avoid becoming speed-bumps. Victor was still in the center of the rink, giving a bit of attention to some fans who'd approached.

"Family?" Mila echoed, putting a finger on her lip and looking up in thought, "I'm not sure, actually. I'm guessing not though, since none has ever turned up for any reason. It's always been just him."

"He's been really evasive when I've asked about it." Yuri explained, "Acts like he doesn't hear the question."

"He's aloof like that. Sometimes I think he plays dumb so people don't expect much of him, but then he creates these masterpiece performances, and I can't help but be reminded that he's still a genius in his own way." The redhead said quietly, passing by the front of the Russian as they went around the tiny rink, then turned her head to face forward again to watch where she was going, "He may not be an intellectual, but he's smart in a lot of other ways. He's got a huge heart, and he cares a great deal about the people around him, even complete strangers...but he's pretty secretive, too. If he doesn't want you to know something, you won't."

"He's given me nuggets here and there, but nothing that really makes any sense." The older skater said, "The best I ever got out of him was him saying that 'family' meant a lot of negative things to him. I've been wondering if something happened to him in the past, but he just...refuses to discuss it."

"That sounds like him." Mila mused, "He resets himself every so often so he can approach problems with a fresh perspective, and he does that with everything, not just skating." They were coming around the small rink again, and Victor was getting closer with every blade-scratch forward, "I wouldn't worry too much about it, Yuri." She offered, looking straight at him and patting his arm where she held to it, "If you didn't know anything about it this whole time he's been coaching you, then he won't think you need to know later, either. He's already packed up that box and put it away on a high shelf somewhere. Maybe it's a box of bad stuff, or maybe it's just mind-numbingly boring...who knows? He doesn't think it's important. The memories he's making with you now mean way more to him than anything that happened 20 years ago."

"Hey!" Victor called out suddenly, waving a hand as he skated to catch up, and slid an arm around his partner's back as he got closer, "We should go get that hot wine now!"

.

Victor's little red Audi came to a stop in the attached garage, snow trailing in with the tires as it moved up the driveway and dragged it onto the concrete floor. Yuri pushed the passenger-side door open, but found it close on him again suddenly, and his toasted mind didn't notice until he'd banged his forehead against the window. The slender Russian laughed and moved to pull the door open from the outside, watching the garage door close when he clicked the button on his keys, and then pushed the car door closed again once his partner was clear of it.

"Let's get you inside."

"Let's get you inside." The blitzed young skater echoed, stumbling in with an arm barely holding onto the figure, and a dumb-happy look on his flushed face.

Victor did his best to get his fiancé out of his cold-weather clothing, even with Makkachin bouncing around them excitedly, "Hang on, hang on...I'll feed you in a minute." He laughed, settling his inebriated lover on the big blue couch before reaching down to ruffle the poodle's ears affectionately, "Come on, then. Dinner time for Mah-kah-chiiiiin~!"

The flufferbutt barked and bounded around the side of the couch, heading for the kitchen just behind it, tail wagging frantically as he paced by his food dishes. When food and water were finally replenished, the silver skater cleaned up the mess...but then heard a loud thud, and a quiet moan after it.

"...Yuri?" Victor wondered, an eyebrow raised slightly as he came up behind the couch, seeing just beyond the edge of the seats where his partner had rolled off of it and landed face-down on the floor, feet in the air where his knees had been bent, but otherwise flat. The Russian gave half a laugh, shook his head, and moved around to the front to help the man up again, reaching down to settle a hand on the skater's back as he crouched on one knee, "You okay?"

"...Floors are...hard..." He answered tepidly.

"Yes indeed." The older figure laughed, moving his other hand down after that to grasp under the man's shoulders and hoisted him up, pushing him back until he could sit on his knees and hold himself up, "Oh, you have a red spot on your face where you hit the hardwood." He grinned, pointing at it and then booping it with one finger.

"Ow...quit it..." Yuri whined incoherently, only to look up with those drunken eyes and laugh as well, "...Did you know...that...you're really hot...?"

Slate eyes blinked at the sudden bluntness of the younger skater's words, but as Victor looked on and smirked, "You're really drunk."

"I'm not that drunk." The younger skater contested, "I just had a really good time."

"You rolled off the couch."

"I only had two glasses."

"They were kind of big and you hadn't eaten before you drank them."

"Oh c'mere I wanna look atchu..." Yuri slurred, leaning forward and tossing both arms over the Russian's shoulders, squishing their faces together in what might've been meant as a kiss, but hadn't quite managed to become one.

It all reminded Victor of the drunken escapades of the Sochi Banquet, especially when the drunken figure started rubbing against him rather insistently. All the hapless skater needed was to lose the pants and get a tie to wrap around his head. Unlike back then, however, the Russian wasn't just looking on in confusion, arms pinned to his sides by a tight hug. His arms were free, and the man's gyrating was causing something to stir in him. Two more rolls and the Russian couldn't force himself to be the voice of reason anymore, letting his partner push him onto his back on the floor.

When they were down, Yuri paused, lifting his head and looking down with those hazy brown eyes, "Be my coach, Victor..."

"I am your coach..."

He lowered down a bit on his elbow, a few fingers weaving through disheveled wisps of grey hair, the other sliding down the Russian's chest and over to his side, curling around his waist, "Noooo...I mean...be my coach...in love...!"

The look on Yuri's face was identical to his drunken-Sochi-face...the face that the silver legend fell in love with; tired, messy, giving a half-incoherent look...but at the same time, honest, needy, and longing for him. Blue eye shut for a moment, and Victor shook his head briefly, looking up again after, "...Are you sure?"

"I thought about it...during my last Short Program..." Yuri insisted, moving to get one leg over his fiancé's slightly-parted thighs, "I want..." He went on, slower than before, pushing off the elbow that held him up above the floor, and crawling in over top of his partner, settling over his hips deliberately, "I want you...all of you... And I want you to have all...of me..."

Victor just huffed a nervous laugh, "...You don't know what you're saying."

"Vicctooorrrrrr!" The younger figure whined, rocking side to side where he was perched on his fiancé's lap, only adding to the friction, "You hardly drank anything at all earlier!"

"I had to drive."

"Have some fun with meeeee!" Yuri pleaded, fingers moving down towards the dark-grey suit-pants were buttoned, and undoing them, "I can tell you want to!"

"Of course...you're doing things to me..." The Russian huffed, only to feel his laughter catch in his throat as an eager grip took hold of him. His voice changed to giving out quiet gasps, his head turning slightly against the floor, bringing up one hand to put a knuckle to his lip, "Y-Yuri..."

The younger skater leaned forward, setting his left hand palm-down on the hardwood next to his fiancé's side, just under where the man had brought his arm up, and gazed down on him affectionately, "Victor..."

Each pull and gentle twist sent a warm, almost electrical pulse through the silver legend's core, rising up to his heart to encircle it, then fading again. His breathing became more ragged, and quiet gasps were turning to more emphatic moaned grunts of pleasure. He could've lost himself in the feeling, if not for his partner's words still rattling around in his brain, so he tilted his head around again to look forward. Sultry eyes gazed back at one another...and Victor was convinced. His hands went up around the man's head, cupping gently as they pulled him back down into a deep kiss, hips starting to roll under where Yuri still had a hold on him.

Clothing couldn't come off fast enough. Victor pushed up to sitting, reluctantly stopping everything else so he could undo the buttons of his suit-coat and shrug out of it, hands then moving swiftly at the smaller buttons of his regular shirt. All the while, Yuri had one hand set gently on his cheek, continuing the string of kisses as his other hand worked at center. The button-down shirt was gone a moment later, pants and underwear barely being pushed far enough away to be out of the way. Victor fell back down to the floor again, dragging his partner with him, hands moving between them to start working at the second set of clothes.

Reluctantly, Yuri stopped for a moment to undo the zipper on his hoodie and cast it off, leaving just a t-shirt between his partner and his own skin. That didn't last long; Victor abandoned his query to pull the t-shirt away, sliding his hands from front to back and then to front again, still rolling his hips as though for dear life. When he'd gotten enough of his partner's bare chest to sate him for the moment, he pushed back up to sitting, and slid his hands down to the man's waist, moving to guide him up and off his lap.

The younger figure found himself pushed forward against the seat of the blue couch, and scrambled to grab at one of the pillows to his left, holding it tight in his crossed arms as he felt the Russian doing the rest. A belt-buckle clinked as it was undone, the cord rustling quietly as the leather was pulled through, then a button clicked, and a zipper was undone. Fabric jostled and was pushed away, and a few seconds later, Yuri could feel his fiancé's desperation pressing up against him. Arms went around his smaller frame as the Russian clung to his back, panting already, one hand going down between his legs to massage at that newly exposed flesh. Yuri gasped as he felt it, biting down on the edge of the pillow. With every squeeze and pull, he could feel his partner's length sliding up behind him, then down again, not quite trying to get in yet but wanting to. The Russian's hands continued to roam and squeeze, silver hair dragging against his skin as Victor kissed the back of his shoulders.

But then the moment came, and the length became the tip, prodding gently while trying to find the right spot. In that last, brief moment before he felt the push, Yuri suddenly wondered what he'd gotten himself into. It became painfully clear in that moment that neither of them really knew what they were doing, and with barely half the tip inside, Yuri yelped like a kicked dog and clenched up, pushing up onto his hands against the edge of the couch and pulling himself off of his partner in the process. He twisted where he'd risen onto his knees, faced his perplexed fiancé, and comically dropped to his side with a petrified look on his face.

"...Y-Yuri...?" Victor's voice was asking, though the stunned skater on the floor could barely hear it, "Yuri."

The moment was utterly and completely lost...especially when Makkachin came running over to find out why he'd suddenly screamed. The dog even started to lick his face to make sure he was okay, and with it, Yuri found himself stone-cold sober. Eyes were wide open and unblinking, but turned slightly to look past the dog, seeing the confused look on his partner's face, "...Sorry...sorrysorrysorry...!"

"Hah?"

"Sorry! I can't! I couldn't! I thought I could but I can't!"

Victor blinked incredulously, watching his fiancé cringing there on the floor where he'd fallen, all but crying for the embarrassment of having gone so far only to bail at the last second. He sighed and moved to sit on the side of his leg, reaching over to set his hand against the younger figure's ribs, speaking to him quietly, "...It's fine..."

The hapless older skater spent the next 30 or so minutes consoling his inexperienced young partner.

"Maybe next time."

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWELVE

January 8

It was a strange feeling to wake up alone in bed for once, as it was a particularly rare thing at that point, but that's exactly how Yuri found himself. Not even Makkachin was around. He grumbled and rose to sitting, only to feel a slight discomfort as he did so...and remembered the night before. Hands went up to cover his face after that, "...I can't believe I did that..." He whined quietly. Fingers parted, and the anxious skater looked through them to see the lumps in the blanket where his feet were, "...Victor must be really upset with me..."

The big brown fluffer raised his head from where he'd been snoozing on the couch, and glanced up at where Yuri was starting to come out of the bedroom. The dog gave a low whine and a quiet bark, his tail starting to thump against the upholstery as the skater came closer. The anxious figure came up and scratched the poodle's head, and Makkachin leaned against the man's hip, eyes closed and savoring the attention.

"Ah, there you are." Victor's voice came, drawing the skater's attention.

Nervous brown eyes lifted to the sound, and Yuri saw his partner in the corner of the kitchen, a newspaper folded in front of him that he was reading. A slow-cooker was on behind him, and the sweet smell of red wine and orange peel filled the air. A pale hand came up and waved the man over, and Yuri reluctantly stepped closer.

"I...I'm really sorry about...yesterday..." He said quietly, stopping a few feet away and looking down, one hand reaching across himself to hold pensively to the opposite arm, "I just..."

"Huh? Why are you apologizing?" The Russian wondered curiously, wedging the folded paper under one arm and moving closer, clad in just a fluffy bathrobe and slippers, "Yesterday was a lot of fun! I can't wait to it all again with different stuff today!"

"But...I... I mean, after we got home, and I..." Yuri fidgeted nervously where he stood, keeping his eyes low.

Victor wouldn't let it go on though, and stepped into the younger figure's space, one arm going around the man's back as the other came up to place a gently hand loosely under his chin, lifting his face up. His thumb stroked at the skater's pale jaw-line, gazing adoringly into those brown eyes before closing his own and leaning forward to kiss him. Once, twice...then for a long time on the third pass, long enough for Yuri to finally let his guard down and put his own hands on him in turn. Crystal-blue eyes opened again and the Russian smiled, "Don't worry about it. You can say no at any time, even if we're in the middle of something. Don't ever forget it."

The younger figure's cheeks were still pink though, and his brow still furrowed, "I know, it's just..."

"It was probably for the best anyway." Victor mused, pulling the newspaper out from under his arm and flipping it over until he got to the page he was looking at before, "I hadn't thought about it until after you fell over, but we didn't have any lube at the time so it would've been a bit painful, even if you were really relaxed from the hot wine. I don't want to hurt you, especially not on the first try."

Yuri had no answer to that, and simply drew in a sharp breath against his partner's neck, holding to him quietly.

"Look." The Russian said, changing subjects and holding up the newspaper, "Let's go here first."

"What is it?" The younger figure wondered, seeing Cyrillic writing everywhere, but noting an advert for something that looked like a jeweler's shop.

"I've worked with this shop for some of the accessories I use on my skating outfits, and I've known the owner for years." Victor explained, setting the paper down and reaching for his fiancé's right hand, holding it out to expose the ring, "I saw their ad in the paper and thought, we should go down there and get our rings engraved."

"...Engraved?" Yuri wondered, incredulously, "Aren't they okay as they are though...?"

The Russian gave a sweet smile, and turned to face his partner more evenly, "They're perfect...but you only bought the one yourself. We should do something with them together. Something we can both agree on, maybe the image of skates or a snowflake or something, on the inside of each band, but that crosses over to both of them so they'll be a one-of-a-kind matched set."

"...Your guy won't give us grief, will he?"

"She will be over the moon about us."

.

"OH MY GOD VICTOR YOU'RE FINALLY GETTING MARRIED I CAN'T BELIEVE IT I THOUGHT YOU WERE GOING TO WASTE AWAY AND BEING SINGLE FOREVER I WAS SO WORRIED." The older woman was saying loudly and quickly, practically hopping up and down on her side of the counter.

Oh good, she speaks English... Yuri thought nervously, smiling through the waning anxiety of their arrival in the shop. Her accent's super-thick but at least I can understand what she's saying.

Victor held fondly to his fiancé, "I had to wait for someone perfect, that's all! And I found that someone!"

"HOW DID YOU MEET? HOW DO YOU KNOW EACH OTHER? HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN TOGETHER?" She went on.

She reminds me of Yuuko-chan and Minako-sensei, but in one person... Brown eyes turned up to the man next to him, wondering how he'd tell the tale.

"We've actually known of each other for years and years and years, but we never officially met until more recently. We've been engaged for just about 3 weeks now." He started, pulling Yuri closer to the counter to speak more casually, "He asked me to be his coach last year, so I decided to go ahead and do that. That's why I've been gone for so long."

"Oh! So he's the skater you coached?" She beamed warm green eyes at him and reached out her hand, "What's your name?"

"K-Katsuki Yuri." He answered nervously, bowing politely, "Er, I mean...Yuri. My name's Yuri. Not Katsuki. That's my last name."

"He's Japanese. They say their names in reverse order out there." Victor explained happily, "He won Silver at the Grand Prix Final, but he's going to win Gold at Four Continents and Worlds! He's amazing~!"

"I'm so excited!" The shop-owner turned on a heel, "But now you have to tell me! What brings you in? Are you putting in a new order? Things have been so busy around here since the fall, I've had a hard time keeping up. I didn't even hear that you'd come home again until the other day! I heard you were going back to competition!"

"Da. Yuri convinced me to get back into it for another year. But I'm actually here for something else today." The Russian said, moving behind his partner to hold their right hands up together, "We were wondering if you could put an engraving inside our bands."

The woman's eyes got huge and her expression lit up, "Anything! What do you want in there?" She started reaching under the counter for ring cases and order papers.

"We were thinking something like this..." Yuri chimed in, pulling a small piece of paper out of his coat pocket, and unfolded it on top of the glass display case. Thereupon was a drawing of two rings stacked together, Victor's slightly larger ring on top of his own smaller one, with three small pictographs traversing over both. One big 6-pointed snowflake that had one half crossing each band, and two smaller snowflakes, one to the right of the bigger engraving on Victor's band, and to the left on Yuri's.

The woman held herself up on an elbow as she examined the drawing, "Mh, yes, this should be a simple thing. We could have these laser-etched in an hour or so. Do you want to wait, or pick them up later?"

"We'll wait." They said at the same time, without hesitation.

It was nerve-wracking, but Yuri pulled his ring off and handed it to the woman once she was done filling in the carbon-copy paperwork, and watched as she immediately tied a thin line of wire around it, attaching it to a name-tag securely, and placed it into the first of the two velvet ring boxes. Victor's came off second, and she did the same to his, then took the drawing and both rings behind the counter and into the workshop behind the store's front-wall.

The horrible weird-feeling of having a naked finger was driving Yuri slightly stir-crazy, but he let himself be distracted by the banter between his partner and the shop owner. By the time their rings came back, Yuri felt like he knew the woman's entire life-story. A gruff, but thin older gentleman with a short-cut salt-and-pepper beard and waxed-to-points mustache came from the back room, carrying a small tray with the two velvet boxes on them, and opened them to proudly show off his work.

Victor beamed to see the etching on each individual band, but he quickly pulled them both out and held them together to see how the markings lined up, "Look, Yuri...!"

The younger skater leaned in close, holding fast to his partner's arm and leaning his chin against the man's shoulder, looking down at the two golden bands with their snowflake engravings, "Wow...! That looks really great!"

"And no one but the four of us will ever know about these." Victor went on, watching as Yuri reached over to take the top, bigger band into his fingers, and as he himself curled his fingers around the smaller one to bring it closer. They turned to face each other, and the Russian reached forward to take his fiancé's right hand, "These snowflakes are a symbol of the ice that brought us together, and will serve as a reminder in all the days to come."

Hazel eyes watched brightly as the gold was slipped back onto his finger, sliding into place in the slight groove that it had already made in his skin. When it was in place, Yuri reached for the Russian's right hand in turn, and slowly started putting the ring back into place there as well, "Everything on the ice is love."

The fingers of each hand wove together after that, and the two looked at one another adoringly, stepping into the kiss that they'd both so desperately wanted to have in Barcelona, but had denied themselves for reasons neither of them could truly put into words. The shop owner was clapping excitedly, stopping only to dry her eyes on a handkerchief, only to continue again as she watched them hug each other afterwards.

Victor turned to face the woman even as he held on, swaying Yuri back and forth gently, "I'm sure I'll be back soon. We're taking the week to celebrate Christmas with the city, but after that, I'll need to start putting together ideas for my come-back outfits. I'll need some razzle-dazzle from you guys for sure."

"You know where to find us!"

The silver Russian nodded, and let go of his fiancé only long enough to give the woman a friendly kiss on the cheek, "Da. Uvidimsja pozže."

.

Watching St. Petersburg's ballet performing 'The Nutcracker' wasn't quite enough to get Yuri's mind off the day's earlier events. He couldn't stop the small smile he let himself have even as they walked side-by-side through the streets to get to the Hermitage Imperial Theater, still a bit too nervous to touch once they'd left the jeweler's shop. But, within the intimate little space of the ages-old theater, once the lights were low and the performance in full swing, they let their guard down a little.

There were only 6 rows of curved seats in a half-circle around the stage, with red velvet cushions and back-rests on the off-white wooden stands. In the center, two rows of individual chairs, and in front of them, two more rows of red-velvet benches leading down into the orchestra area. The stage was flanked on both sides by two massive orange-granite pillars, many more of which went around the circular room, and hanging above them all in the center of the ceiling, a massive crystal-and-gold chandelier.

The performance had entered into the second half, and Victor had huffed a laugh to himself, leaning over slightly to where he'd held his arm over his partner's shoulders, "Did you know that I used to do ballet stage shows?"

"Eh? Really? When? What shows?" Yuri wondered, turning his head slightly, one hand on the Russian's leg where it was next to his, "I had no idea! It was never mentioned in skating magazines!"

"Da." Victor nodded, keeping his voice low as the orchestra went on around them, "Back during Juniors, right before I got really good with skating competitively. I played a few roles in this show, Sleeping Beauty, and a few others, as part of the ballet lessons Yakov had me do. It was required as part of my training."

"...Wait...so when you did 'The Sugar Plum Fairy' for the Junior World Championships...?"

The Russian smiled and nodded, "I did it as a thank you to my former instructors." He leaned in a bit further to kiss the man's neck while he was there, then pulled back again, "The last time I did ballet on stage, actually...uhm...10 years ago I think? I did this show, in this place, and I've come back to watch a few times, too."

"Wow!"

Victor laughed and was about to explain more, but someone next to him suddenly whopped him good on the side of his arm, making him yelp and cast his eyes aside. Yuri pulled his hand back immediately, watching nervously as his fiancé loomed over their audience-neighbor darkly, "Dlja čego èto!?"

"SHH."

Blue eyes blinked, seeing a well-dressed elderly woman gesture with both hands towards the stage, then held one finger in front of her mouth, an incredulous look on her face like she couldn't believe he'd still be talking. The silver Russian sat back down after that, feeling a bit sheepish, and coughed to clear his throat, "Prosti, požalujsta..."

"...Sorry, I'll shut up..." Yuri whispered nervously, balling his hands together on his lap.

Victor just tugged lightly on the man's thin wrist and got those fists to unravel, then pulled the one hand out again and set it on his leg where it'd been before, "Don't worry. I thought someone was going to give us grief again like at the conference. Was about to take them outside. I'll tell you about this ballet stuff later."

.

"VICTOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORR!"

They both lifted their heads at the sound of the shriek, pausing where they were trying to leave the theater after the show had ended. When they saw a small herd of dressed-down ballerinas rushing their way, Yuri blanched, but Victor seemed excited. It looked like no less than 10 ladies, and at least 2 men, tried to bowl the man over with an onslaught of affection.

Other members of the small audience that were nearby when the 'assault' took place were trying to get away before being dragged into it, but Yuri found himself pressed up against a wall in surprise. He watched in shock as Russian words were thrown back and forth from the mass of performers, and then up to Victor himself, who seemed entirely too happy with his situation.

[Well well, look what the cat dragged in.] An older woman's voice rang, piercing the adulation with authority. The ballerinas and other dancers quickly made room, but were still excited, cutting a path between them and the instructor they all owed their skill to, [Victor Nikiforov.]

"Katya!" The silver Russian called out, trying to adjust his disheveled clothing, but then stepped forward through the crowd and kissed the immaculately dressed and primped instructor on each cheek, [I haven't seen you in years!]

[You've always known where to find me. What's your excuse for being gone for so long?] She asked, smiling but serious as she leaned forward for each kiss.

[You know, the usual...proving to the world why Russia is the best at everything.] He laughed, taking both of her delicate hands into his, but then taking one back to reach an introductory palm for his fiancé, "Yuri."

The nervous young skater pulled himself off the wall, but stepped through the crowd of ballerinas to take his partner's fingers and be brought forward.

[Who's this?] The woman wondered, folding one arm over herself, the opposite hand going up to touch her cheek inquisitively, [It was big news all over Russia when you vanished last year. Is this the morsel you fled the Motherland for?]

The silver legend nodded enthusiastically, [His name is Yuri Katsuki. He's going to continue training under me here in St. Petersburg.]

[Is he worth your effort?]

[Oh definitely. We're planning a Pairs performance right now, actually! You know I wouldn't share the ice with anyone unless it was for some big team event, or I found someone worth dancing with.]

Yuri's confused brown eyes went between them, but he stayed quiet. As long as Victor looked happy though, he knew there was nothing to be worried about, even if he couldn't understand a lick of what was being said.

[You have always been selfish that way.] Katya agreed, [But he has that look on his face like he has no idea what's going on.]

[He doesn't speak Russian.] Victor laughed, "Right? Yuri."

"...Uhh...?" Was all the young skater could manage, "...Yyyyesss...?"

"Ah, English. I should have known." The ballerina huffed, uncrossing her arms and holding her hand out to the Asian, "I am Ekaterina Chudov, but everyone calls me Katya. You may do the same."

"Oh." Yuri stammered, unsure what to do with the hand held out to him, since it was pointing out to him with the fingers facing down, instead of sideways like a handshake. He reached a nervous hand out and held to the fingers, but then felt Victor's hand under his elbow nudging it up, and he suddenly realized he was meant to kiss that hand rather formally...and he nervously did so, "I-It's very nice to meet you, Miss Katya."

"How did you ever get yourself wrapped up into being a coach, Vitya?" The woman wondered, casting her eyes over at the man standing next to them with an amused expression on his face, "You never seemed the sort to want to do such a thing."

"I had to. He called to me." He explained with a shrug, but then turned to hold his partner by the sides of his shoulders from behind him, "Yuri, this is my old ballet instructor! She taught me everything I didn't know I needed to know to be good at figure skating!"

"Oh, wow!"

"Did you ever take ballet instruction, young man?" Katya wondered suddenly, eyeballing the shorter figure softly.

"Y-Yes ma'am...I learned from Minako Okukawa."

"Oh! Minako!" She seemed to light up at the name, "I should have suspected, given that you are Japanese! How is she?"

"She's well. She has her own ballet studio in our hometown. I just refreshed my lessons with her a few months ago."

"Ah yes, she had said once that she wanted to make a school of ballet back home. Goodness...the last time I saw her was in Moscow, when she received her Benois de la Danse award some years ago. It is good to hear that she succeeded with her goals."

"Small world!" Victor mused.

"Indeed." Katya nodded, turning back to him, "So why did you decide to become a coach suddenly? You were doing so well as a competitor. I thought someone would have to drag you off a podium somewhere, and put you in a box so others would finally have a chance."

The silver Russian laughed nervously at that, "It's a long story...but Yuri copied one of my recent programs, and I just couldn't help myself. I went to Japan as soon as I saw it so I could teach him how to do it perfectly. You should've seen the look on his face when he realized I was there."

"Wait..." The ballerina stopped, putting her hands into a time-out formation, "You're telling me that...last year, when the news was going ballistic about you leaving Russia...you did so immediately after seeing a video of him dancing, and were already moved into his house before he even knew you were coming?"

Yuri chortled, but Victor got a weird look on his face, as though being reminded of something he'd forgotten. He smiled innocently, "When you put it that way, it sounds terrible...!"

"That's about what happened though." The young skater huffed a laugh, waving his hands around anxiously, "It's okay though...my house isn't a regular house. My family runs a hot-springs resort, so his staying there wasn't really that big of a shock. We have guests there all the time. It was just surprising because he's Victor Nikiforov, and Hasetsu is a long way away from St. Petersburg."

"I see." Katya eyeballed the young skater, seeing the gold band on his finger suddenly, and reached to take his hand in both of her own to look at it. She pulled up the thin glasses that had been hanging from a silver chain around her neck, and inspected it like an appraiser. She then let it go from her left hand, holding it only with her right, and turned her left palm up towards the tall Russian next to her, "Vitya, hand."

He just smiled like an idiot and held it up, "They're a matching pair!" He explained excitedly, turning his hand to offer it forward.

The ballerina nodded and looked back and forth between the two rings, "Mhm, mhm... Well..." She started, letting them both go. She then removed her glasses, and reached her right hand out to pet it against Yuri's shoulder, looking at him squarely, "You trained under Minako Okukawa, and caught the attention of this fool..." She thumbed towards Victor, "...I expect big things from you."

Oh boy... The young skater could feel himself starting to sweat under his shirt, and gave an uneasy nod, "Y-Yes ma'am...!"

January 13

"Here we go." The silver Russian was coming back from the kitchen with two steamy mugs of mulled wine, and handed one off to where his partner was already sitting on the big couch. Victor quickly reclaimed his spot in the one corner, three pillows behind his back, and brought one knee up as Yuri moved in closer behind it, wedging himself between the man's side and the back-rest.

"I almost feel bad drinking it. You've been making this stuff for hours."

"Then you better drink it!" Victor laughed, sipping at the mug himself, "...Some mulled wine is quick and easy, but some take way longer. Depends on the mood I'm in."

"What's your record?" Yuri wondered, breathing in the sweet and spicy smell before letting himself taste it. Cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, honey, orange peel, and a small wedge of fresh orange that floated on top.

"...Fourteen hours? Started at dawn and went to after dusk. I must've made some 20 different kinds."

"I can't even imagine what called for that much wine-mulling."

"I just felt like it." Victor mused, letting one hand go of the mug so he could play with his partner's hair a bit, "I've pulled all-nighters at the rink before, too. When inspiration strikes, you just go with it...be it skating routines, or mulled wine recipes."

"Have you thought anymore about your new routines? For Worlds?" The younger figure asked, tilting his head back against his partner's chest.

"A little bit." The Russian shrugged, "I've been putting it off."

"Really? You said in Hasetsu that your inspiration was overflowing."

"I guess my brain decided to do other things with all that energy." He mused, "This last week has been a lot of fun. Doing all this same stuff by myself or with rink-makes is okay, but doing it all with you...it's been like a dream."

Yuri's face flushed, but he smiled and nodded in agreement, "Deshou? I don't think there's been a single thing we've done all week that hasn't somehow blown my mind. St. Petersburg is amazing."

"We'll do Moscow sometime, too. New Year's in the Red Square is pretty intense."

"So what's up with Russia celebrating Christmas and New Years twice anyway? Everything is doubled-up and backwards compared to what I'm used to."

"Yeah? Maybe you only celebrate half as often and on the wrong day." Victor teased, "I dunno, it's been this way forever to me. Catholics get their stuff in December, Orthodox folk get theirs in January...Russia's church follows a different calendar and the dates are later. When I first realized the discrepancy, I sat around for days wondering how so many people could get the date wrong on something they thought was so important. Then there was the difference between Santa Claus and Grandfather Frost, and how the rest of the world gave presents on Christmas but how Russia gave them on New Year's, and of course how Russia has a New Year's fir tree rather than a Christmas evergreen tree. Now a days, I just look at it and think...'oh well, 4 parties instead of 2.'"

"What about your birthday?"

The Russian paused, a lip on the edge of his mug of mulled wine as he thought. He gave another shrug and took a sip, "Up until I turned 25, it was still fun to celebrate it. Ever since though, it just feels like time is slipping by." He turned and kissed the black fluff of hair on his partner's head, but then dropped his own back down to the arm-rest and pillows, "When I turn 30, I swear, I will disown anyone who mentions it."

Yuri just gave a look, "Yeah, I remember the look on your face when Yuuko-chan said happy birthday before. I tried to tell her not to, but I don't think she saw me until after she said it."

"It's okay. I know most people don't see birthdays and think, 'yeah, that guy's one year closer to being dead.'"

"That's...morbid."

"It feels like a morbid occasion sometimes." The silver Russian sighed, "All that lost time."

"What do you mean? You've done pretty well for yourself, I'd say."

Crystal-blue eyes turned down again, and gazed on the young skater with fondness, but a sadness as well, "We've passed each other a hundred times over the years, and neither of us had any idea what we could be. We could've been together and married for years already." Images of competitions past were floating through his mind, imagining his partner there in place of someone else who had medaled.

Yuri turned his head and set it down against the man's chest, holding the mug of win precariously on his stomach, "I don't know...that it would've worked out the same way under different circumstances."

"You don't think so?"

"It's impossible to know for sure."

Victor looked on for a moment, but then moved to set his mug on the floor, and reached for his partner's to do the same before wiggling down a bit to face him more evenly. He twisted onto his side, back towards the big television as it showed live coverage of the nearly-midnight affair in Palace Square. His free hand settled on the younger figure's side, and he nosed his face forward until he could feel tufts of spiky black hair against his skin, "You really don't think we would've worked out any other way...?"

Yuri's left hand came up, touching gently to his fiancé's worried face, "I think about all the reasons why we've worked out so far at all...and I think...if you had never found a reason to come and stay in Hasetsu, there just wouldn't have been enough face-time between us for anything to happen. Meeting for a weekend now and again...it's okay for having competition friends, but not...for what we have now."

"You underestimate me." The silver legend mused, nuzzling in closer.

It didn't take much more than that to convince the younger skater to let the man in, one leg going over the Russian's hip as his fingers touched gently to his partner's chin. He felt the older skater's leg trying to get between his own, stopped only by the back-rest behind him. Undeterred, Victor slid his hand up his partner's thigh and pulled the man closer, tilting just enough onto his back to make room to get his knee up all the way. Hands moved to the silver man's shoulders, kisses gentle but eager, moving from lips to neck as hands continued to roam. Shirts were starting to pull up, fingers seeking at newly exposed skin, the leg between the younger figure's thighs moving gently in a circular motion.

Victor nosed at his partner's blue frames, but then smirked quietly, kissed the man's forehead and started to move down. He twisted around carefully, holding deftly to the smaller man's side to set him down onto his back against the arm-rest, kisses continuing to trail down the man's neck and to his chest. He stayed there for a moment, giving attention to one pink nub as his hands moved down to free his partner from the tortures and confines of fabric, smiling as he heard the hiss of a sharp breath being drawn in once he'd gotten that flesh free. Mercifully, since neither of them had gone outside that day, all that stood between them and fun-time was the thin, stretchy material of sweat-pants and t-shirts.

Yuri was helpless to the man's touch, his senses overwhelmed by the attention more often than not, and all he knew to do as Victor went lower was to paw at the man's shoulders or arms where he could still reach them. When he felt the hot, wet warmth of a mouth around him though, his hands came right back up again. It was just a few kisses at first, moving up the length of him and down again, then a tongue trailing back to the tip before a few fingers helped to lift him up for better access.

Nervous, half-whined breaths spurred the silver Russian on, determined to get his partner to be louder on every new occasion. He'd already made substantial progress on that end, especially in seeing how the anxious young skater didn't completely ball up into himself whenever he was touched. Arms that once clamped down on his chest, hands held over his mouth...Victor had seem them slowly come away, leaving the lithe figure more open and relaxed.

He bobbed and stroked against that stiff length of flesh, his free hand trailing across his partner's stomach, feeling for every twitch and twist his partner made. After a time though, both hands were moved to a single united front, one helping massage while the other struck for new territory. He knew his efforts were noticed when the leg pinned between his shoulder and the couch's back rest suddenly clamped against him rather tightly, and Yuri himself gasped differently than before. A finger gently rubbed at the skin just under his tender bits, pressing against it like a soft button. Within seconds, there was a slightly different taste in his mouth, so he pulled back a moment to see what had happened...and his curiosity was confirmed. A clear fluid was coming out; something he'd known before, but not so early in their romps.

"Wh...why...did you stop...?" Yuri asked between breaths.

"Oh...was it good?" Viktor wondered, his attention redirected as the fingers working at the apparent fun-button went up to gather the fluid up on them, "I thought I'd try something different."

Dazed eyes looked on in confusion, "What...what you do is always good..."

"I want to try something else then." The Russian mused, moving to sit up a little straighter where he'd been lopsided against the seat-cushions.

"What do you want to do...?" Yuri's voice was sounding urgent, like he couldn't stand the gap in attention.

"Be easier to let me try it, and tell me if you like it or not."

"Oh, o-okay... Nhg...ekh!" The younger figure's body clenched up as he felt it; a finger had gone well below where he'd normally expected them, feeling at a spot that had been unhappy with the last attempt. But it didn't go in, it merely pressed and circled, stroking slowly, but then was lost in the return of all the previous sensations resuming. His voice quaked under the overwhelming pulses of warmth from his core, and although it still surprised him, feeling the finger go inside didn't spook him as much as their first attempt had. He cried out against it, the leg that pressed against his partner's shoulder hooked over it after that, his other leg pinned under the man's free arm, an elbow against his thigh where that hand was still working at center.

It went on like that for a moment, but Victor pulled back, continuing on only with the 'come hither' motion of his finger, "Is it okay?" He asked.

"I...uh..."

I can feel it... The Russian thought, Am I not touching it right? ...Or is he one of those men that gets nothing out of it? He wondered nervously, "Yuri...feedback..."

"I don't...I don't know...it feels weird..."

"Does it feel good-weird?"

"...W-what...is it supposed to feel like...?" He was gasping still, but wasn't trying to pull away like last time.

"Everything should feel much more intense than normal." The silver skater explained pensively, Please react... If it doesn't feel good then how can I justify wanting to go all the way later...?

"O-Oh...is that...what happened...?" Yuri finally acknowledged, "I didn't...realize that was...was it..."

Relief washed over the older figure, and he went back to giving his fiancé his best; mouth, both hands, and the gentle sweep of his bangs across the man's skin. When the moment finally came, the silver Russian could tell he'd achieved his goal, as his fiancé did everything short of scream when it happened. The man's entire body trembled terribly, and continued to do so for nearly half a minute, though by then, Victor had moved back in over top of him, wedging his arms under the lithe figure's back to hold him close. He kissed at his partner's neck and chest, feeling desperate but weak fingers clambering at the skin of his back, twitching as he joined their centers together again and started rocking his hips.

"V-Victor..." Yuri panted, nuzzling cheek-to-cheek with his partner, his right hand coming up to weave through the Russian's silver-grey hair as his ragged breathing went on.

The older skater pulled back a moment, and nosed his fiancé affectionately, only to be surprised by how the man pulled himself up to kiss him. Slate eyes were wide, even as the weight pulled away again and he was able to gaze down at his flushed partner, "Yuri... I didn't think you'd...want to do that after I-"

"I don't care." He answered, still trying to catch his breath, even as his body continued to twitch with each soft and gentle thrust between them, "I just want to kiss you, all the time."

The surprised look changed to a loving smile, and the Russian found his cheeks flushed to hear the words. He lowered himself down again, holding his partner tenderly, pressing close against his frame, "I do too."

Chapter Text

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

January 19

Quadruple Salchow...single Loop...triple Toe-loop...

Combination spin...

Single-knee slide...twist...quad Flip...

Yuri quietly cursed himself, landing the Flip without a problem and wishing he'd done the same when it mattered most.

If I hadn't touched down with my hand, I'd have scored higher in the Short Program and would've won Gold despite Yurio's higher GOE modifiers... Why did I score so low in the SP anyway!? Where did I lose 10 points from!?

He lifted his head and glanced around, trying to get his mind off the torment of that one mistake, "No one from the Russian Team is out here today. I wonder if something's going on that even Victor doesn't know about?" He shrugged and moved on, practicing some of the harder combination moves, trying to imagine being at Four Continents or Worlds. More often than not, he found himself thinking back on his previous events...Cup of China, Rostelecom, the GPF itself, Nationals...even the Japanese Qualifiers that preceded all of it.

Things were so much easier when I had Victor as just my coach...but with him coming back to competition, it's like I can't focus. I'm anxious to see him skate again, but so scared that I won't live up to his expectations... How can I though? He's the greatest skater of our generation. How can I possibly compete against that?

"Yuri!" He heard the man's voice calling from rink-side, "Bring it in!"

Nodding, he clicked his heels and started skating for where the silver legend was standing in one of the rink's many exits, and noted that he had a notepad in one hand, "So you've finally put your program to paper?" Yuri wondered, coming to a stop just a step or two away.

"Oh, this?" Victor held it up, "No, I was tracking what you were doing. What was all that, anyway? You started and stopped half a dozen times. I saw bits of both your programs out there but nothing consistent."

"I know, I'm just...distracted."

"You know where that leads." Victor mused, reaching out to ruffle the shorter skater's hair a little before sliding his finger along the man's jawline, tracing to his chin, "What's wrong? You're not still upset about the RSF conference are you? That was almost 2 weeks ago already."

"That does still get under my skin a bit, yes...but..." The younger skater sighed, "Just now, it occurred to me that Four Continents will be the last time you come to competition with me as just my coach, before we're both at Worlds and start competing against each other again. I mean...I know that's what I wanted, but...maybe it just took a while for the fact to really settle in. I'm nervous about competing against you. I don't know if I'll be able to live up to my end of the bargain, and win Gold...not when you're there trying to win it, too. I can't come close to beating your scores."

"You beat my Free Skate record! Plus, you're not the only one that's nervous." Victor said, trying to reassure him, using that finger to draw him closer to the rink wall, "Both of my records were shattered at the Final. It's not like I can just step onto the ice and be like, 'oh hey, it's me, Victor Nikiforov, I've already won this thing 5 years in a row so you can just go ahead and give me my Gold Medal because we all know I'm going to win it anyway.' You've gotten so good in such a short amount of time...it scares me a little to think about how high your scores can go, moving forward."

Yuri's face flushed, but his brows furrowed like he didn't want to hear it, "...Please don't say something like that."

"Why not? It's true. You and Yurio are really forcing me to step up my game." The Russian moved to put his hands on his fiancé's shoulders and turned him around, pulling him right up against the wall with a hug around his chest, "Close your eyes."

Yuri did as told, and the silver genius put his hands over them for good measure.

"Four Continents is a competition where you won't have to worry about my being in the roster, but I'll still be there like always. Imagine winning gold there. You blew away all the other competition at the Grand Prix Final...and on the non-European circuit, you practically have my reputation, and hopefully soon, you'll even have my surname. Think about that. Next to take the ice, representing Japan...Yuri Nikiforov..."

The hopeless young skater's cheeks flushed, and he opened his eyes behind his fiancé's fingers, "Are you sure I didn't have a heart attack and die when we got to your house? It's all too perfect, like my ideal afterlife."

Victor gave him quite the look, one eyebrow raised, but then huffed a laugh and licked the back of his partner's neck.

Yuri's whole body flinched when he felt it, and he had to bring his hands back up to his mouth to prevent himself from shrieking.

The Russian just laughed at him and held him tighter, resting his chin on the man's shoulder, "That works better than a pinch, I guess. Have I convinced you that you're alive and awake now?"

"...O-oh sure...fully awake..." He answered from behind his hands, lowering one to hold where Victor's were flat against his chest, while the other went back to rub at the spot where the man had left a wet trail on his skin, "No doubt about it."

"So...are you nervous about Four Continents or just Worlds?" The Russian wondered casually.

"...Mostly Worlds, but...only because of what I said before, about it being your first event back in the saddle." He leaned back against his partner's embrace, tilting his head to rest against the Russian's shoulder, "I don't really feel intimidated by the skaters who will be at Four Continents. I'm fairly confident I can win Gold there. Maybe not as easily as I did at Nationals, but I still out-scored all of them by a huge margin... JJ will be the only other person there who's broken 300 before, but even then, I scored 319. I can fix what's wrong with my Short Program and aim for beating Yurio's 118, and then I'll be-"

Victor looked at him with wide eyes and a slightly slack jaw, surprised to hear those words come out of his mouth.

The oblivious skater realized what he'd said and quickly covered his mouth again with both hands, blushing for having spooked himself with his own sentiment and pulling away from the rink wall before turning around, "...I...er..."

The Russian suddenly burst into laughter, descending to rest his elbows on the divider, chin cupped in the palms of his up-turned hands, "Yes, Four Continents will be a cake-walk. You won't have anything to worry about. No one else can come close to touching your high scores."

"I didn't mean it like that!" Yuri was flailing his arms around defensively.

"But you should." Victor explained, "If you don't actually think of yourself as a superior skater, how will you perform like one?"

It still didn't sit right with him, and Yuri shook his head, "I have no right to think of myself that way. I'm no skating genius like you are. I didn't even get to where I am because of my own efforts. It took a lot of help. I mean...I feel good about my odds, but I'm not 100% certain of them. To lift up my nose and go to Four Continents like I think I've already won...I'd just look full of myself. I'd look like..."

"Like?"

"JJ."

Victor huffed, "Yeah, I can see that. Well, it's up to you how you think of yourself, but regardless of how that turns out, I'll be with you." He then pulled back and reached down to his feet, pulling off the protective rubber bars from the blades of his skates, and set them aside before stepping out onto the ice. "Come on, let's practice while it's clear."

Yuri nodded, taking his partner's hand as they headed out towards the center of the rink, and let go again only to take his position. The Russian skated off a small distance before signaling to start.

Perhaps unknown to the pair, or maybe even in spite of it, Yurio was gawking at them from the rink's edge, slouching motionless over the wall like a can of frozen paint. He watched them quietly as Yuri performed the first part of 'Aria,' completing his two initial quads, though stumbling on the Lutz. Emerald eyes skimmed over to where Victor entered the stage after the second jump, touching Yuri's face briefly before they clasped fingers and started skating backwards together in an arc. Yurio couldn't decide if the display was weird or fascinating, so he reserved judgment for the moment.

A few seconds later, Yuri pulled out in front of his partner, and the Russian held fast to his waist, hoisting him up into the air before flipping him around, and then held him low against his side to drag the lighter figure's feet behind them. Yuri held onto Victor's left shoulder with his right hand, letting himself hang as low as he could before being pulled back up again, spinning over the Russian's back until he was upright and they could skate on their own again.

Unfortunately, just in that moment, Yuri's skate caught a fissure in the ice, and he went tumbling down with a crash and a shriek as Victor kept on moving.

Yurio's eyes went wide with perplexing concern, but just as he was about to holler at them to see if Yuri was even okay, he thought better of it and backed off. It just reminded him of the moment he wanted to call out 'good luck' to Yuri at the Rostelecom Cup, only for JJ to make fun of him for it. He could see Victor coming back around again anyway.

"What happened? Are you okay? You were doing really well."

"Someone must've cut the ice pretty deep...felt like my skate sank into a crevasse."

"You're not hurt, are you?"

"Only my pride. ...I'm just glad you didn't catch it." Yuri said, shaking his head, "We both might've gone down if you had."

"Tsh...Victor doesn't fall." The teen grumbled quietly, pushing up to start heading towards where he knew a spray-bottle and a hockey puck were tucked into the viewer's side of the rink wall.

"You sure you're not hurt?" Victor insisted, helping his fiancé back to his feet, "I saw how hard you went down...it was like you were pulled."

"I caught the crack just right." He retorted, brushing the ice dust off his backside and thighs, then looking around at the ice, "...Now that I look at it, it's like the ice hasn't been resurfaced in a while."

"That's because the zamboni was down this morning." Yurio said indifferently, approaching them in sneakers instead of skates. He carried with him a bucket of shaved ice, the spray bottle, and the puck he sought for earlier, and approached where he remembered Yuri getting snagged. Finding the crack, he packed it solid with the shaved ice, smoothed it down with the puck, and misted it for good measure. "That's why I'm not skating right now. Only you two idiots went this far out...the rest of the team stayed to the far side of the rink. We don't plan on breaking our legs before going to Euros."

"Weren't you planning on taking a break at some point anyway?" The older Russian wondered, standing a bit more casually then, "You were all worried about a growth spurt before."

"I'm still worried about a growth spurt, but I'm not going to stop skating until I can tell it's happening." The teen retorted, "But anyway, I wouldn't recommend skating on this thing until tomorrow. The ice is pock-marked. The next time you end up on your ass, it might be because you broke something."

Yuri wasn't sure how to handle the back-and-forth of the blond...one sentence he's concerned, then he's making threats, then he's offering advice again. He shook his head and looked back at Victor.

The silver-haired figure nodded, "Yurio, you want to come over tonight? I'll make you some katsudon."

The teen paused, shifting his eyes towards the sound of Victor's voice from where he was standing facing away. Before he knew what he'd even said in response, he realized he was following the pair outside the skating arena and was crossing the bridge with them. He was walking on Victor's side of the sidewalk, while Yuri was on the other, holding onto Victor's hand like a duckling-toy being lead along with string. He couldn't help but gawk at their hands.

"You two turds don't make any sense." Yurio finally said. "You know that?"

"What do you mean?" The oldest of them wondered, looking over at him.

"You two." He waved one hand at where they held theirs together, "That. This...thing you have going on."

"You mean our relationship?"

"Call it whatever you want; it's weird. I never expected you'd play on that side of the fence."

"Truth be told, there isn't really much of a fence for me." Victor explained, squeezing Yuri's hand a little to reassure him that what he was about to say was just that...an explanation. "I've had girlfriends before, as you know. I appreciate beauty in all its forms."

"Katsudon wasn't exactly beautiful when he did 'Aria' last year. He was just some fat, depressed quitter."

Yuri blanched, but said nothing.

"Even diamonds start as coal. Kobuta-chan just needed a little pressure to shine."

"Aw c'mon, don't go back to that..." Yuri begged, "I lost the weight just like you wanted..."

"And you're the tastiest little pork cutlet bowl in the whole world right now, don't you worry, Yuri." Victor mused, pinching the shorter man's cheek a little, much to his chagrin, "I won't let you get a squishy tummy again."

"Ugh gross." Yurio stuck his tongue out like there was a bad taste there, "Are you gonna make me listen to that crap all night? If so, I'll just go see if my grandpa will make his katsudon pirozkhi instead."

"Don't worry." Victor reassured, "I'll only be eating the food tonight."

Yuri dropped face-first into the snow, needing to be dragged along from then on.

Yurio nearly jumped off the bridge.

Victor just kept laughing.

.

Rice.

Eggs.

Breaded pork cutlet.

Katsudon was fairly simple as a dish, but that special something extra that only Yuri's family did made them taste even better.

Yurio practically vacuumed his out of the bowl as his older rink-mate put it in front of him, "This isn't half bad, Victor."

"Spasibo~!" He answered cheerfully from where he was on the other side of the kitchen island.

"So you really have a new routine already to take the place of Agape?" Yuri wondered, surprised to hear it. "When did you come up with it?"

"After the Final. I'm just not feeling it with Agape." He explained, "But it's not like it's a bad program. It's just not my style. I asked Victor to arrange a program that would get me gold at my senior premier, and it did that, so it served its purpose."

"What are you going to change it to?"

"A song you've probably never heard of." Yurio answered curtly, going back to his katsudon.

"Ehehe...probably..." Yuri said meekly, eyeballing the bowl of food like a starving animal. On his own plate, after all, was not katsudon. By comparison, it looked like rabbit food, at least to him. His stomach growled, begging for the pork cutlet...even just a bit of rice that had fallen from Yurio's plate would be enough. 'Just one...little...piece...!' Drool dribbled from the corner of his mouth, and his eyes were wide like saucers.

"Quit gawking, fatty!" Yurio barked, whapping him across the hand with his fork, "BACK!"

"I wasn't anywhere near your food!" The Japanese skater protested, coddling his hand, "You attacked me from halfway across the table!"

"You're hovering!"

"No I'm not!"

"No fighting, kids, or you're both grounded." Victor said, cleaning up the dishes he'd been using.

"BUT VICTOOORRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR." They both argued.

"I won't hear another word." He said with finality, only to find Yuri practically crawling onto his side of the kitchen like an emaciated snake.

"Victor...I'm so hungry...please let me have just one pork cutlet bowl...I promise I'll go running after...I'll run twice as far...!" He begged, "This is torture!"

"You did this to yourself by rejecting the fact that you won gold at Nationals." Victor insisted, "So the sooner you win gold at Four Continents, the sooner you get your katsudon."

"But it's still weeks awaaaayyyyyy!" The younger skater was practically a puddle on the ground now, grasping at his coach's leg in desperation, "I won't make it!"

The silver figure sighed and picked him up.

Yurio just glared at them in disgust, turning his nose up and scoffing, "God, you're so domesticated, Victor. You really are dead."

"You never came over before now, so how would you know?" The elder mused, setting the wet rag previously known as Yuri Katsuki back into his chair.

"Tsh..."

"When are you leaving, anyway?" Victor wondered, sitting down at the table now with his own food and a cup of hot mulled wine, "Euros is this weekend."

"Yakov booked our plane for tomorrow. Didn't he tell you?"

"No, why would he?"

"Why wouldn't he?"

"I'm not competing? We all agreed at the RSF conference that it was too soon. I don't even have my new outfits yet."

"But you're part of the team, you should be there to support the rest of us." Yurio explained, "It would boost everyone's morale if you came to cheer us on instead of keeping it all for Katsuki over there."

"We were both cheering for you before." Victor pointed out, "You just got all mad because you thought we were being condescending." He had that knowing smile and winked at the teen.

"You were just making out with his skate!" Yurio protested, using his fork to point at Yuri, "What was I supposed to think you meant? You were trying to get me all worked up so I'd make mistakes."

Yuri could watch the pair for hours, he suspected, and neither would ever bring him into the conversation, even though he was half of what they talked about. He was fine with that, though, for the time being. His attention was half-grabbed by his fiancé's cup of hot wine anyway. It smelled of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

"You were already worked up." Victor continued, pulling off a piece of bread from the heel in a basket between them, "Maybe it's for the best that you part ways with Agape. You have too much spunk for that still." He nibbled on it a little.

"Too much spunk!?" Yurio was half on the table at that point, "I can do Agape all I want!"

Victor leaned against the counter, "But you don't feel Agape when you dance it, Yurio. That's my point. You're still shockingly unaware of yourself. Look at how you're practically bouncing off the walls with energy. Maybe you need to visit a temple again?"

Yurio grumbled and got back down off the table, practically tamed by the memory alone, "No, it's fine."

"A polar-bear dip might even work better for you."

"I'm not jumping into an icy lake." The blond finally sat back down, tossing the fork into the bowl casually, and knocking a bit of rice onto the table...right in front of Yuri.

The older skater eyeballed it carefully, practically trembling at the temptation. But...Victor was always on top of things, and before Yuri could try and grab the morsel, the Russian had already wiped it away, moving behind the pair's chairs to clear Yurio's dishes away, then taking it all to the other side of the island to the sink.

The blond just grumbled, sitting sideways in his chair with one leg bent up so he could hold his knee close to his chest.

"I'd go cheer you on if I could." Yuri said quietly, "I'd really like to see your new short program in person. We'll be watching the LiveStream for sure."

"Do whatever you want." Yurio huffed.

Yuri lowered his eyes away at that point, feeling a little defeated.

Everything we do on the ice is a display of love...

He narrowed his focus, remembering the training they did together before the Hot Springs on Ice event.

Maybe that's all he knows how to do. He's such a blow-hard, but his skating is unlike anything most people will ever see. If he pushes himself this hard to keep one step ahead of me, then...his skating says more about what he thinks of me than he could ever put into words.

"...I'm going to win gold at Four Continents, Yurio, and then again at Worlds."

The blond turned his head, as though not sure he heard correctly. Even Victor had to turn his head over his shoulder to hear what else was going to come flying out of his fiancé's mouth.

"And then, I'm going to win gold at the Grand Prix Final in the fall next year." Yuri leveled a stare at the Russian Tiger, straight in the eyes. So if you have any respect or affection for me whatsoever...then try and stop me! He thought, so loudly he thought Yurio could hear it.

.

Victor eventually left to drive Yurio back to the new house that he and his grandfather had moved into. When he didn't come back in the time frame that was given, Yuri started to worry. He started pacing around the house, holding onto his phone, waiting for a call or a text or anything. Makkachin watched him go...sometimes following, sometimes not.

"I should message him..." He said to himself, opening the text window to do just that.

[Victor, where are you? Everything ok?]

He sent the message, but none came back immediately. In fact, it was another 10 minutes before something finally came back. He stared anxiously at the little Delivered icon under his words, pleading for it to change to Seen. When it finally did, Yuri sat upright, seeing the three dots appear on Victor's half of the window.

[1s]

1s? What does that mean? Yuri wondered.

A moment later, the phone rang in his hand, startling him. He answered it quickly, "Victor!"

"Sorry." His voice wasn't normal, "I meant to call you sooner, but everything just got so crazy all at once."

"What happened? What-...Victor, what's going on!?" Yuri had to hold both hands to the device for fear of dropping it.

"We got to Yurio's new place, and he went inside. I waited for him to let me know everything was good before I left, but he came running back out in a panic. His grandfather...he found him on the floor in his kitchen. We're at the hospital."

"...Do they know what's wrong?"

Victor looked from where he was standing at the nurse's station to the doors of the ICU. Yurio was standing close, and Victor held him in place with one arm across his chest and shoulder, "We don't know a lot. The doctors are still doing what they do. ...Oh, wait, here comes someone now...hold on."

Yuri held the line, trying desperately to hear anything, but whatever words were spoken, they were Russian, and he realized again that it made no difference whether he heard them or not. He sat back down at the kitchen table, propping his phone-arm up on a knee while his other hand held at his cheek with worry.

"Yuri."

"Yes!" He sat upright with a start.

"Get some bedding ready from the hall closet. Yurio will be staying overnight. His grandpa had a heart attack."

"A...heart attack...?" Yuri repeated with disbelief, "Is he going to be okay?"

"They're taking him to surgery. The doctor said he was stable for the moment but they need to find where the blockage took place and fix the damage. He'll be in there for a while...there's nothing more we can do, so I'm bringing Yurio home now."

"Be careful coming back, okay?"

"I will. Don't worry."

Yuri could feel his throat clenching, "I love you."

Victor paused a moment, surprised to hear those words. They'd been tossed around in conversation prior to that moment, but never said so directly. He smiled despite himself, "I love you, too. We'll be home soon."

The younger skater pulled the phone away from his ear and watched the window change from an active call to the text message window he'd been looking at before. He closed the device and watched the screen change to black, and tried to calm his shaking hands.

Victor did much the same, putting his own phone back into his pocket before turning his attention to the teen trembling in his one-armed embrace.

Yurio looked blank, unblinking. He just stared ahead at the doors to the ICU, imagining all the horrible things that might be happening beyond his line of sight. He could feel Victor tug on him in an attempt to get his attention, but he couldn't really find the energy to react. Tears welled in his eyes and started to roll down his cheeks, dripping off his chin. Victor saw that much, and turned the teen around, pulling him close to his chest in a tight hug.

"Yuri..." He whispered, "It's going to be fine. He'll be okay. We found him in time."

"He could've been on the floor like that for hours." The blond finally said, staring blankly ahead as Victor held his head protectively, "If I had gone straight home when I found out the zamboni was down, or if I'd gone back when you guys left, instead of...instead of..."

"Don't think about it like that. You had no possible way of knowing this was going to happen." Victor explained, desperate to prevent the teen from blaming himself, "There's nothing you could've done differently. You did everything right." He leaned down a little and held the blonde's shoulders, looking straight into those emerald eyes, "This is not your fault. Listen to me. Nikolai is a strong man, but he needs you to be strong for him right now. Can you do that?"

Yurio was still blank, staring ahead at nothing.

"Yuri!" Victor barked.

That seemed to snap him back to reality, and his glossy eyes became shiny again. He blinked a few times and looked around, but soon the energy of awareness escaped him, and he fell against Victor's chest, pulling him to kneel on the floor with both hands clinging to him desperately.

.

It was nearly 3am when Victor finally pulled into the garage, and helped escort his charge back inside the house. Yuri had done as asked, setting up a makeshift bed in the living room for the teen to hole up in for the night.

"Thanks for doing this, Yuri." The elder Russian said, unburdening the blond onto the couch.

By that point, Yurio had cried himself out and was exhausted, falling into the heap of blankets and pillows like a corpse. Victor pulled the teen's shoes off and hoisted his feet up into the comforter before pulling the blankets over top of him and making sure they were snug. Even Makkachin came up, sniffing at Yurio's face, licking his nose once to acknowledge what was going on.

Yuri felt helpless, watching everything unfold while trying to keep out of the way.

Eventually, Victor came up and put his hand on his partner's hip, "I'm going to sleep out here tonight and keep an eye on him, okay?"

"Yeah. Sure thing..."

The silver Russian could feel the worry in Yuri's voice, and placed his hand gently over the back of his neck, kissing him lightly, "It'll be fine."

Yuri nodded, "I know, but..." He lowered his voice, "What about the European Championship? He can't go like this...he'll bomb like I did in Sochi..."

"I'll call Yakov in the morning. We'll sort things out. The best thing for him right now is rest, and to know that he's surrounded by people who care about him. I'll find out tomorrow how the surgery went and, who knows, if Nikolai pulled through, Yurio may not suffer too much of a loss from this blow. He just needs the night to recover from the shock of it."

"Right..."

"You get some rest, too, Yuri. There's no sense in everyone losing sleep tonight. Makkachin will keep you company." Victor insisted, trying to reassure his fiancé as best he could, "He's good for cuddles."

"I wish there was something more I could do. I feel like such a lump."

"Wait for me." The Russian suggested, "Let me take care of Yurio. There's nothing anyone can do about what happened, so there's no point lamenting it. But, I'll need you when this is all done...so, wait for me."

Yuri nodded, and Victor turned back to the teen, who appeared to have fallen into a dead sleep by that point. He watched as his partner moved to lift the teen's feet and sit down where they'd been before, setting them on his lap so he'd be immediately in sight if Yurio woke up in the night. Yuri then turned back to head towards the bedroom, with the big brown poodle trotting close behind.

.

By mid morning, Victor had already been on the phone with the hospital and their coach, just as he said he would be. With Nikolai making it through surgery, and stable in the ICU, Yakov decided it would be fine for Yurio to go to competition if he felt up to it.

"If Yuratchka decides not to skate because he's worried, then he can't blame me for not letting him on the ice." Yakov said, "At least he'll be there and he'll have the chance. That's the best anyone can do to that end."

"Agreed." Victor nodded, "Do you want to come get him or should I bring him to you?"

"I'll get him."

"Alright, we'll make sure he's ready when you get here. Do svidanija."

Yurio still looked partly catatonic where he was lying on the couch, the blankets pulled up near his head. Everyone in the house had dark circles under their eyes from lack of sleep, particularly Victor, who had taken the bulk of the responsibility for the night's events unto himself. Yuri could sense the fatigue pressing down on him, but did as told...and continued to wait.

By noon, Yakov had arrived with Lilia and collected the young skater. The former Prima Ballerina did her best to console her young pupil, but he couldn't hear her. He sat in the back seat of the black Mercedes and waited to leave in silence. By the end of the day, Yurio would be in Ostrava, Czech Republic. With any luck, there would be better news of his grandfather before he was set to compete.

Victor found himself looking up at the sky and saying a small prayer for the teen as the car pulled away, and then hesitantly closed the door. He slumped into the living room and took in the sight, now that it was calm and the tension had been breached. Yuri had already started picking things up to wash or put away, and while Victor had intended to help, he ended up just falling into the pile of blankets on the couch, exhausted.

Yuri saw him go down face-first, and shook his head, "You're going to bed properly." He said, moving over to help hoist the half-conscious Russian down the short hallway.

When he finally tumbled to the side and landed on his back, Victor let out an audible sigh of relief, spreading out on the covers as though he'd never known such comfort before. Yuri went to draw the blinds and pull the curtains closed, just as the Russian had done for him after they'd first arrived. When he went back to see if his partner needed anything, it looked like he'd already fallen asleep. So, not wanting to wake him, Yuri smiled and went quietly for the door.

"...Wait..." Victor mumbled, getting the younger man's attention, and raising his left arm to reach for him.

Yuri stopped and looked back, seeing the hand rising up, and moved back to return the gesture. As he felt the Russian's fingers against his skin, he sat on the edge of the bed, "What is it?"

"I need you." Victor answered quietly, barely louder than a whisper, "I roughed it last night and I'm all sore."

"Aww..." Yuri cooed, "Poor Victor, all tuckered out from being responsible."

"It's such a difficult thing to do..." He pouted, only one eye visible through his silver bangs, "Help me be irresponsible again." He raised his hand and pulled the younger man up with it, guiding him to sit over his stomach. He already seemed in better spirits just with that, "It seems I can't sleep right unless I'm with you. Look what you've done to me, Yuri."

"I couldn't sleep well either. Makkachin's a nice cuddle buddy and all, but he's not you." Yuri agreed, trailing his hands down his partner's chest until they reached where his thighs parted over the man's abdomen. One hand came up to pull his glasses off, and the silver Russian took them to set them on the nightstand. Just as the younger man was wiggling out of his t-shirt and it was coming over top of his head, Victor stopped him. Hands came up as the older figure sat up, trapping the man within the garment, leaving him unable to see or lower his arms again, "V-Victor..."

"Shh... It's no fun if I don't get to help get you undressed." The Russian whispered, laying his eyes on every inch of skin now revealed to him. His hands came from around Yuri's back to his sides, and then up to his chest, then down again, and he leaned forward to trail his tongue from sternum to collarbone. The sensation gave Yuri goosebumps, and he shuddered under it, squirming all the more to get the t-shirt untangled from his arms.

Victor allowed his fiancé the freedom to move again, and as the man finally pulled the garment off and tossed it to the floor, Victor did much the same with his own; he was still wearing the same sweater from the day before. That went quickly enough, and so did the undershirt beneath it.

When the cool air touched his skin, the older skater breathed another sigh of relief, falling back to the pillows with his arms up above his head. His face was tilted slightly away, but he looked up at his fiancé with one slate-blue eye, "Take me, Yuri..."

Yuri instantly balked, "EH?"

"Take me."

The younger skater was petrified, and Victor could feel him starting to tremble a little where he sat. Yuri's fingers curled where they'd been flat against the Russian's chest, turning into scared fists instead, "Butwe'venever... Imean... I'venever..." The words came out in a jumbled slur, but it was all he could manage.

"I want you to seduce me." The Russian instructed, still looking at him with half-lidded eyes, "I want you to make me feel like the last day hadn't happened. Give me all of your Eros, Yuri... I may not be like this again for a long time."

"...Like...this?" The younger figure repeated in his confusion. The look on the man's face was enough to explain it though.

...He's letting himself be vulnerable. He's always been so strong and commanding before...but now he's too tired to worry about appearances. Is he being serious right now...? Wanting me to do that to him...? ...Can I even manage...?

"Are...are you sure? We don't have any-...I mean, it might hu-..."

"Shpffbt..." Victor stopped him, then twisted over to the nightstand and opened the bottom drawer, "What do you want? Lube?"

Again, Yuri managed to turn a shade of red that he hadn't thought he was capable of, "...Y-yeah..." Two small bottles got tossed at him almost immediately after that, bouncing off his chest and landing on the bed near his knees, "...You had a stash of this stuff this whole time?"

"I got these almost as soon as we were in town." Victor said with a cocky smirk as he went back to neutral, lying on his back again. He saw the look on Yuri's face, "What? I mentioned it at Nationals, didn't I? Yuuuri...~"

"Eh? When did you..." The younger man stammered, "When did you even have time? We're always together."

"It's easy to sneak things by you here since you can't read Cyrillic." The man explained, then tilting his head, "But you're stalling." He peered at his partner through those bangs like he could stare straight into Yuri's mind, "The bigger one has a warming sensation."

The younger man got suddenly curious, "Oh, really? Neat." He picked it up and looked at it, but the idea that he might spend a minute actually trying to read the ingredients made Victor impatient, especially since the man had just pointed out that he couldn't read it.

"Yuuuuuuurrrriiii, you're killing me..." The Russian wiggled under his fiancé desperately.

He just laughed, as though making Victor squirm was the entire intention. Deep down though, he was just stalling.

Victor really wants me to do this... Yuri was still trembling, feeling his grip a bit weak around the small bottle, But why would he want me to...? Wasn't it enough, what we were doing before? I thought for sure, if it ever got to this point, he'd be the one to do it...never me...

It took two tries, but he pressed down the cap and opened the bottle, turning it upside down to let the warming liquid dribble down onto Victor's chest.

Slate blue eyes watched quietly, ...Is he doing it this way on purpose? Victor wondered, He obviously knows what the stuff is for, and yet...

"So sorry, did I spill it?" Yuri's voice came up quietly, forcing the Russian's eyes from the liquid on his skin back to the man who'd put it there, "I guess my hands just...slipped..."

One hand glided forward, spreading the clear fluid in its path. Victor's eyes watched intently, wholly surprised that his partner would play along so almost-willingly.

If Victor is going to show a side of himself to me like this, then I can't disappoint him, no matter how much this whole thing freaks me out. Yuri thought to himself, watching his own hand continue slipping forward, until that pale skin glistened from abdomen to collar bone. For the moment, it still felt enough like previous times that it wasn't too awkward, If I fail now, he may never let himself be like this again... I guess, I should consider it an honor? He trusts me enough to be like this...to ask for this...even knowing I have no clue what I'm doing...

Cherry-hazel irises looked on to see Victor's own eyes closing, as though relishing in the sensation quite literally being slathered all over him.

But I'll do it... Yuri decided, drawing in a breath to try and inflate his confidence a little, Or...at least...I'll do my best... That's all I can do, right?

"Mhh...I can feel it starting to tingle..." The Russian mused, peaking through one half-lidded eye.

But, there it was, the Eros look on Yuri's face. A switch had been flipped, and the younger man straddling over him was now the one that was determined to win no matter what... To be the tastiest pork cutlet bowl, to declare he'd win the Grand Prix Final, to intimidate all of Russia...all of it. This rare version of the young Japanese skater that was, even if only for a fleeting moment, fearless and driven.

"Was there someplace else you wanted me to put it?" Yuri asked quietly, bringing his hand back down towards himself, "You'll have to be veeerry specific..."

Blue eyes closed as the Russian felt Yuri's hands moving all over him. He kept them closed and let his other senses take over, feeling as his fiancé lifted off his hips to pull the remains of their clothes away, and then, even if hesitantly, pulled his legs astride his waist, effectively reversing their prior positions. Their skin was slick with the warming liquid, and it started to tingle all over as Yuri slid over top of him.

Still, even in that moment, despite knowing what was expected of him, the younger figure felt the situation was familiar enough that it wasn't terrifying yet. After all, it had been almost a month since the move, and he had gained a lot of experience in that time. Victor had still been in control of 95% of whatever they did, but Yuri had allowed himself to reciprocate more than he had in the beginning, and he had, one at least the one occasion, been the one to initiate a romp.

Victor had been pretty-well ready to go since he pulled Yuri on top of him, but he savored the event-delaying foreplay all the same. This would be the first time they'd gone all the way, and he wasn't going to waste a second of it. Every moment would be cherished, memorized, and replayed for days and years to come.

It was a while before Yuri even had the confidence to put himself in position, even if he didn't do anything after that except close his eyes and try to stall it even more. Victor could feel the reluctance...it'd been there with every anxious shudder since he'd first uttered those words.

"It's okay, Yuri." The Russian said, getting his fiancé to lift his face and open his eyes a little, "I want you to."

Those hazel eyes just looked aside though, "...I know, I just..."

Victor gently slid his knees up against his partner's sides, reaching forward to cup the man's face in his hands, "I'm not expecting you to break my brain. I just want to be part of you...be lost in you for a little while." He stroked his right thumb across a pale cheek, seeing the lingering fear under the Eros mask, "But if you want, I can do it."

"...Huh?"

He huffed that single quiet laugh, and pulled one arm away to push up onto his elbow. Yuri watched him with wide, confused eyes. They were fixated and unblinking, even as the Russian flipped their positions, setting him gently down onto his back where the blankets were still warm. The 'take charge' Victor had returned in that moment, and Yuri knew he'd lost his chance.

...I couldn't do it. Not on my own. Not like this. Victor, forgive me...

His thoughts were evaporated by the feeling of the man's lips on his own, as Victor came looming over him. He felt the Russian's weight on his hips, sliding back just a little bit before reaching with one hand to take him in his grasp, stroking lightly for a little while.

It was only when Victor was sure that Yuri had relaxed enough again that he even bothered to position him. He kept on with the kiss though, trying to keep the man a little distracted until the moment finally came.

"Yuri...I'm going to be selfish now, too..."

Hazel eyes opened again as the younger figure felt the descent, or at least what would've been the beginning of it. Victor's guiding hand had come back to rest by Yuri's side, mirroring where the other had been planted on the opposite side. Victor held his head low, silvery bangs hanging to hide his eyes...but Yuri could feel the expression on his face even if he couldn't see it.

"You...okay...?" He asked, his own face red, his voice haggard from the tightness he felt.

"...Da...yes, it's fine..." The Russian answered, almost curtly, rising up just a fraction of an inch and then trying to go down again...but stopped just like before.

"No, Victor, you looked like that hurt..." Yuri was starting to feel a heavy guilt, but just as he was about to sit up and try to fix things, Victor's right hand planted itself firmly in the center of his chest and pushed him back down again.

The young skater felt a pit in his stomach...but the Russian just shook his head gently.

"What, you thought I'd been like this with other guys before?" He actually kind of laughed at that and fully lifted his head to show that the painful expression was gone.

Yuri just blustered where he was pinned, "No, I just, I mean...er...the thing is...I thought..."

"No." The older figure smiled in his usual way, trying to hide the discomfort he felt, "It's just like at Nationals. I gave you another one of my firsts. All is fair in life and love, and I owed you a few of mine after taking so many of yours."

His fiancé still had 'the look' on his face, chiding but uncertain at the same time. It was only when Victor had finally inched his way all the way down, and finally exhaled a sigh of relief, that Yuri felt it was safe to stop pretending that it didn't feel good. Their romp was a bit more successful after that, even if it was awkward and short-lived.

The younger man had finished first, as Victor had anticipated, his first time being inside another person overwhelming his senses. Yuri tried to make up for it by building up some courage to use his mouth to please his partner, but as soon as he'd gotten down low enough to try, his nerves got the better of him and he stopped after one hesitant lick, too embarrassed to go on. Victor noticed, but didn't say anything, simply moving his hands down to help guide his fiancé's to the inevitable end.

...Maybe I should've given him more time before suggesting this? Oh well, it's done... I know what it's like now... Yuri, I promise I'll make it feel better for you when you're ready...

Yuri twisted onto his side and grabbed for the pillow just above his head, clutching at it tightly as he stared at the door to the hall just ahead of him. He felt a sight rustle behind him, but then felt Victor's arms come snaking around his frame, one wedging underneath of him to do so, and pulling him until his back was against his partner's chest. The Russian kissed the back of his neck and shoulder before setting his cheek against his skin.

"I hope I didn't go too far just now." Victor said quietly, closing his eyes and holding his partner a little tighter.

"N-no...it's okay." Yuri answered tepidly, but then realizing his answer wasn't that convincing. He pulled his right arm from where it held to the pillow and put his hand over his partner's, pressing in until he was able to lace their fingers together over his chest, "I just...never imagined we'd ever..."

"It'll get easier. I know it's different for you...but I promise, it'll get easier."

Chapter Text

Yurio hadn't said much of anything since being taken back by Yakov and Lilia. His mind was stuck on his grandfather, and the image of finding him on the kitchen floor.

.

"Grandpa!" He called out frantically, rushing into the room and skidding to a halt on the floor, "GRANDPA!"

The old man was clutching at the middle of his chest with his right arm; his left seemed paralyzed. He was breathing with a lot of difficulty.

"VICTOR!" Yurio screamed, "VICTOR, CALL 112!"

No answer came though, and Yurio could only guess that the older man was still in the car waiting for a signal that he could leave. He didn't want to leave his grandfather alone though. Torn for what to do, he touched his grandpa's forehead.

"I'll be right back, I'm getting help!"

He ran past the edge of the kitchen wall, leading into the short hall to the front door, grabbing the wireless phone from its charger as he went. In his panic, he entirely forgot about his cellphone. He kicked the door open as he pushed buttons, and Victor saw him immediately, practically bouncing off the inside of the car door in his effort to get it open. Yurio was struggling with the antique device in his hands when Victor finally came up to him.

"What's going on!?"

"My grandad! He's on the floor! I can't get the phone to work!" Yurio panicked, "Call an ambulance!"

.

"Yuri!"

His eyes fluttered a little where he'd been leaning his head against the car window, and he glanced up at the sound of his name. Everything was such a blur though. He couldn't tell who'd called to him or even if anyone was still talking now. His eyes eventually trailed over to the window again, looking at the world as it passed him by.

They were entering the parking lot of the airport. It wouldn't be a long flight to the Czech Republic.

Yurio could see people trying to talk to him. Their mouths moved, and he thought he could hear the far-off sound of muffled voices, but he was too numb to care what they were trying to say.

He pulled out his phone and looked at its black screen for a few minutes before finally turning it on, going to his contact list and seeing Victor's name there. The thought occurred to him to FaceTime his rink-mate, but the longer he hovered his thumb over the touch-screen, the harder he found it to rationalize why he should press it.

I wish you were coming... You're the only one who really understands... The rest of these people, they're just...I can't even hear them anymore.

He became aware again when they were on the plane, and it was just starting to gain that final burst of speed before lifting off the ground. It all sounded so terribly hollow.

I wanted to stay under that pile of blankets forever.

.

.

.

Yuri looked up from his phone and glanced at the sky, seeing a plane flying overhead on a westward trajectory. He wondered if that was the plane his Russian counterpart was on.

Makkachin was rushing around the back yard, catching snowballs as Victor made and tossed them.

The Japanese skater returned to his phone, checking the listings for the European Championships, seeing the final roster for men's singles.

"Looks like Chris will be one of the first to go on the ice." He reported, "Yurio's in the second group."

"We should call Chris and wish him good luck." Victor suggested.

"Yeah." Yuri nodded, checking through his contact list to find that particular name. A few seconds passed before the screen switched over, showing Christophe's face, happy to receive the message.

"Yuri!"

"Hey, Chris. You ready?"

"I'm always ready." The Swiss skater said with a wink, "So it's true then."

"What true?"

"You convinced Victor not to compete until Worlds. His name isn't on the listing." Chris shook his finger at the camera-phone, "I was sure he'd be at the EC after he said he was coming back to competition for Nationals, but this will be the second event he's shunned."

"I actually had nothing to do with that." Yuri said, smiling nervously, "Victor doesn't have everything ready yet. His new outfits still haven't arrived yet."

"That's a shame. After hearing him say he was going to time his come-back with Russian Nationals, I was really hoping he'd step on the ice right away." Chris sighed, "Now I'll have to wait until the end of March." He moved his phone to prop it up against something, freeing up his hand so he could cross his arms and rest his chin on them, "I don't think I ever got to congratulate you on winning gold at Japanese Nationals."

The younger skater just sighed a little, "It wasn't much of a competition. I only really went to secure my invitation to Worlds. No one else in Japan has even made it to the Grand Prix Final in a few years, and with the scores we saw, it might be a few more years before that changes."

"Well, it's good that you're going." Chris went on, "I missed you at least year's Worlds. In either case...I guess you're going to Four Continents next, right?"

"Yeah." The raven-haired skater nodded, "It'll be the last chance I have to win gold before Victor comes back to competition."

"You'll win gold at Worlds, Yuri! Quit saying otherwise!" The Russian hollered from off-screen.

"You should be in bed!" Yuri called back.

"...Isn't it mid afternoon in St. Petersburg...?" Chris wondered idly.

The younger skater sighed with a laugh and nodded as he looked at the screen again, "Yeah, but Victor was up all night being responsible. He only took a short nap afterwards though. He's going to be delirious by night-fall."

"Being responsible, huh?" The Swiss skater echoed, "What's the occasion? Normally, if he's up all night, it's because he's drinking."

"Mhhh..." Yuri hesitated, lowering his eyes a little, but then looking back up again, "The Russian Yuri...his grandpa had a heart-attack yesterday. Victor was up all night making sure he was okay after they got back from the hospital. He spent the night with us."

"Plisetsky? His name is still on the roster for Euros though."

"That's because he's still going. He's on a plane heading there now." The Asian skater explained, "Coach Yakov is hoping there will be good news in time for Yurio's performance, so he isn't bogged down by worry."

"I see..." Chris nodded, unsure what else to say on the matter given how he had no relationship with the teen, "Well... In either case, how do you feel about Four Continents now? Considering the lack of competition there, I expect that'll be an easy gold for you. Don't you think?"

"Phichit-kun is going to be there. He's won more real gold medals than I have so far." Yuri scratched his cheek idly, "Besides...looking at all the scores, Phichit-kun would've won bronze if he'd been at Sochi with those same numbers. He scored even higher than JJ did back then."

"Really? I hadn't noticed that!" The blonde laughed, "But in all seriousness, Yuri...you'd have won silver at Sochi if you scored the same there as you had in Barcelona. You need to have more faith in your own abilities."

"That's what Victor keeps saying."

"Sound advice."

"How's Czech Republic? Are you already there?" Victor suddenly asked, popping up unexpectedly in the background behind his partner, waving happily at the Swiss skater on the screen.

"Not yet. My plane leaves late tonight." Chris waggled a finger at his rival, "I won't be able to take it seriously without you. I was really hoping you'd come."

"Such is life." Victor mused, crouching down and leaning his elbows across the back of Yuri's shoulders, looking aside the man's mess of black hair, "I'd have gone if I had my outfits already. I know what programs I'm doing. Been planning them since last year...I just hadn't picked which ones I'd be using until after Yuri convinced me to come back."

Chris made a light-hearted but sour expression, "Skipping Nationals and Euros...you're letting your legacy slip through your fingers, Victor. These kids are making it look easy."

The Russian shrugged and smiled, "It's not as though I'm going to let them continue like this forever. I intend to take my record back." He set his knees on the step on either side of his partner's waist, "I can't retire unless I do so with the record and the gold."

Yuri blinked and looked up from where he'd been teasing Makkachin while the other two skaters chatted, "...But...?"

"You'll have to work harder than ever. You've trained up your own worst rival." Chris pointed out, casting a casual finger at Yuri where he was barely still on-screen, "And you're 28 now."

Victor tossed his head back in dismay, "I only just turned 28 last month, Chris! Give me the year before you start making it sound like I'm about to get older again!"

The Swiss skater smirked, "And I'll be turning 27 during Four Continents. Even I know I can't push my limits much farther. You should take your post-skating career more seriously. If you get hurt because you got greedy at the end...you might not even be much of a coach to Yuri for his own final years."

Yuri's brows furrowed at that, "He's too good for that. He'll know when it's time."

"This is so depressing!" Victor lamented, "I thought coming back to competition would be more exciting than this...but all anyone has done so far is give me grief about my age and coaching Yuri on top of it all."

"Ahhhhh yesss..." Chris purred, "I think everyone on the circuit has seen the RSF press conference footage by this point, where they asked about that very thing. That was quite a speech Plisetsky gave at the end, too."

Yuri lowered his gaze away. He'd gotten to see a subtitled version of that event in the days since it happened.

"I'm actually still a little surprised Yurio would say the things he did." Victor admitted, huffing a single chuckle, "But I guess he's more offended by the idea of the Russian team being insulted than he is by the idea of my being involved with Yuri."

"Speaking of which, have you two tied the knot yet? Since Yuri won gold finally." Chris wondered, "I never got an invitation."

"Not yet." Yuri explained, his cheeks pink, "We've been so busy getting ready for Four Continents and Worlds that we haven't really had time to go over any wedding plans."

"I'm still surprised at you, Victor." The Swiss man pointed out, tilting his head a little where he still held his chin over his crossed arms, "It was one thing to surprise the world with dropping competition to be Yuri's coach, but the rest... It seems so out of character for you. You're not just trying to shock people now, are you?"

Yuri's stomach dropped at the very mention of it, and he turned to glance at Victor with a worried look on his face, "You wouldn't..."

"Of course not." Victor answered immediately. He swiped the phone from his fiancé's hands and glowered at Chris, "That was a cruel thing to suggest. Now he's going to worry about it until I can somehow prove myself."

Yuri found himself slouching against the lower metal bar of the railing, Chris' words repeating in his mind like a ball rattling in a tin can.

"Sorry." Chris said, worried now what he might've done, "I didn't mean it like that. You've just never been the sort to worry that much about others. To suddenly drop everything and do all this...being his coach, getting engaged...even at the expense of your own career and reputation..."

"See? Do you think I would go that far if I didn't mean it?"

"I suppose not." The blonde slouched, propping one hand under his cheek.

"Well, anyway, we wanted to wish you good luck this weekend." Victor said stiffly, finding himself bowled over a little as Yuri pulled out from where he'd been sitting to stand up again. He held one hand to the railing to prevent from ending up on the cold wet concrete with his arse, "Davai."

Chris could tell he's ruined the mood, "...Mhm..."

Yuri went back inside the house without a word.

Victor was gritting his teeth at that point, "Great..." He clicked off the conversation and pocketed the phone, pushing to stand and following his partner as quickly as he could. Makkachin was quick to follow.

He found his fiancé slouching deeply in the couch, practically lying down instead of sitting, his head propped up against the back of it. He looked kind of empty.

The Russian moved quickly to kneel in front of him, putting his hands on the man's knees to look at his face, "Yuri..." He then reached one hand to cup the man's cheek, "Forget what Chris said, please..."

"Why would he even say something like that?" Yuri wondered, looking defeated, "And with me right there, it's like he was trying to..."

"I know, it was rude." Victor agreed, moving to wedge himself between Yuri's knees so he could wrap his arms more easily around the man's waist, "He's always been a bit selfish of me."

"Is he interested in you?" Yuri wondered pointedly, "Do I have to compete with him for your affection?"

"You don't have to compete with anyone for my affection." Victor affirmed, "You're the most important thing in my life. No one could ever hope to replace you." He reached for Yuri's right hand to remind him of their bond, "These rings symbolize our commitment to each other, right?"

For whatever reason, Yuri couldn't find the words to answer. He looked at their rings, the golden shine under the lights above glinting brightly, but his mind was blank.

"Yuri!" Victor repeated desperately.

"...Sorry..." The Japanese youth finally whispered, "I shouldn't let what he said get to me."

"...Do you really harbor such doubt about me?" Victor wondered, holding Yuri's ringed hand with both of his, kissing the ring in front of him, "What can I do to make that disappear? I'll do anything..."

Yuri could feel the tears falling onto his skin, and as he refocused his eyes on Victor in front of him, the sight of his slight tremble broke his heart. He pushed himself up with his free arm and loomed over the Russian, taking back his ringed hand just long enough to wrap both arms around the Russian's head, his fingers lacing through that silver hair.

"It's not that I doubt you." Yuri explained, holding him tight, "It's that I doubt myself. I always have. You've always been so far out of my league... I mean, I've been looking up from the bottom of the barrel for so long...and then you reached down with your shining hand like God to pull me up. I worry sometimes that I pulled some of the muck up with me, that I've never quite been good enough...to be in the light, or to be with you in it...or worse, that I might just drag you back down with me."

"I'd rather be in the muck with you than in the light without." Victor answered, wrapping his arms around Yuri's waist again, rubbing his cheeks on the younger skater's coat to dry his face before looking him in the eyes again, "We'll crush him at Worlds for this. It'll be our revenge."

Yuri nodded and smiled, pressing his forehead against Victor's, "He'll be so jealous."

Chapter Text

Group 1 had already finished their morning on the ice, and Group 2 was getting ready to start their short programs that afternoon. It was Day 1 of the European Championships. Chris was in the lead so far, as could be expected for someone who'd frequently scored Silver whenever Victor was in the lineup.

Emil was first on the ice that afternoon, scoring 86.17 for his Short Program. Michele came on after that, scoring 87.20 for his own. They were still well behind Chris' 92.73.

Yuri and Victor had managed to connect to the LiveStream of the event, and were watching it on Victor's bigscreen. Yuri was sitting cross-legged on the couch, thumbing through the night's roster on his phone as Victor made sure the settings on his laptop were working where they connected to the television. It kept stopping to buffer though, much to his dismay.

"I guess this is the trouble that everyone was having while trying to watch the Grand Prix series." He muttered, refreshing the stream a few times, "Sad that there isn't a dedicated channel for live international viewers."

"I'm sure satellite users get a channel." Yuri commented.

"I should've agreed to go with them." Victor sighed, "Then we'd both be there and this wouldn't even be a problem."

"Would you be content to just sit in the audience?" Yuri wondered with a wry smirk, looking over his phone at the man, "Everyone who saw you there would be asking why you aren't on the schedule."

"Of course I wouldn't be content to watch." Victor replied, pushing to stand up again, "But at least we'd be there."

The signal finally stabilized, and Victor felt sure enough about leaving the laptop that he went to join Yuri on the couch, leaning against the arm-rest to get comfortable as Yuri leaned against him in turn.

"Yurio will be going up after this next guy." He explained, "I wish we had something to tell him about his grandfather."

"I updated Yakov this morning, so Yurio should know there's been no change. We'll just have to wait and see."

The Spaniard who took the ice ahead of Yurio scored 84.67, and cursed himself alongside his coach when he heard it in the kiss and cry.

"Next on the ice, representing Russia, Ladies and Gentlemen...Yuri Plisetsky."

Yurio then finally took to the ice himself, and it was obvious that he wasn't as energetic as he normally was. He stood by the rink's edge to briefly listen to Yakov and Lilia giving him last-second advice, probably telling him to try to focus on his performance.

The camera finally panned close enough for the television viewers to see Yurio in detail. He was wearing the famous white and silver see-through outfit from the GPF.

"Oh, he's going to do Agape after all...!" Yuri said, surprised.

"...This might be the one time we actually see what it'd look like to be skated properly..." Victor said, "I guess he's seeing the silver lining to this whole situation."

"Or maybe he just doesn't want to ruin the premier of his new Short Program." Yuri suggested flatly, earning him a mussed-up head of hair as his partner ruffled it as 'punishment.' He laughed despite it and settled in again.

Yurio took to the center of the ice, not bothering with the crowd acknowledgements before taking position.

Victor pushed off the arm-rest, feeling anxious, and holding a bit tighter to Yuri than before.

Yurio began his dance.

Sic mea vita est temporaria... Cuprit ardenter cariatatem aeternam...

The first jump would be a Triple Axel...

...and then it wasn't.

Victor winced, "It was just a double...this doesn't bode well."

"The flying sit-spin is one of Yurio's signature moves...that should be fine..." Yuri pointed out.

...and then it wasn't. Yurio spun out entirely and ended up flat on his back.

Victor buried his face against Yuri's shoulder, "It's hard to watch."

"C'mon, Yurio...get it together." The younger man sighed.

The next set of jumps were well regarded at the GPF after Yurio had started putting one or even both arms in the air, but this time he decided not to. He finally landed something without messing up. Yurio then entered into his step sequence.

Yuri watched with a worried look on his face, "He's just going through the paces. He's not even trying."

The audience could tell that something was wrong, but there hadn't been any kind of announcement about Yurio's grandfather, so they didn't know what it was. The announcers were kind enough not to speculate as they spoke aloud the moves that Yurio was meant to try, only to then correct themselves to reflect what he'd actually ended up doing.

"Skater Yuri seems to be having a hard time out there today." Morooka was saying.

Oda agreed off-screen, "It's reminiscent to JJ Leroy's GP Final Short Program. I wonder if he'll be able to recover and make it onto the podium at the end as well though?"

Hanc felicitatem aeternam esse oro...

When the music finally ended, Yurio held his pose for a few seconds longer than normal, then slouched and skated right for the rink's edge without even bothering with a final address to the audience. Yuri's Angels were cheering him on despite the collapse.

Yurio sat with his face in his hands in the kiss and cry, and stood up to leave without a word when his score was called out.

72.63.

Victor sighed, gawking at the screen with an exasperated look on his face, "...I should've been there for him."

The competition moved on after that, with a German skater coming on next to perform so spectacularly that people almost forgot Yurio's upset. 98.32 was his score, eclipsing that of the Russian and Chris alike.

Victor leaned back on the couch and pulled his phone off the footstool ahead of him, dialing up Yakov since he knew Yurio wouldn't have his phone on him at that moment.

When the elder coach answered, he looked despondent, [Vitya...you really should've come.] He said in Russian.

[I know, I know...] Victor answered regretfully, [Put him on, please...]

Yuri watched the television, seeing as Yakov was handing Yurio the phone on the screen. Yurio took it, looked around a little, and then ducked into the stadium's underbelly where it would be quieter.

"Victor..." The blond was barely whispering, and he sat with a heavy thud on the benches where his team had set up their gear, [I can't do this...]

[Yes you can, just forget about everything else. The ice is the only thing in the world when you've got your skates on, remember?] Victor said, his voice calm, like a big brother, [Nikolai would want you to do your best and stop worrying about him.]

[How can I do that though?] Yurio's eyes were dark, [He's all I have, and I nearly lost him.]

[But you didn't. He's fine, and he's going to be going home soon.]

Yuri couldn't understand the conversation again, and simply kept his eyes on the television screen, watching the next few skaters in silence. He leaned against Victor's leg where he propped it with his knee up, wrapping one arm around it as the Russian kept talking.

[Your granddad and your cat will be waiting for you when you come home. Potya's going to be so happy when you get back. She rubs all over me when I go check on her.]

[Did Katsudon see me just now?]

[Of course, we're watching it together.]

[...Put him on.]

Victor's brows furrowed with surprise, but he agreed, [Sure, here he is.] "Yuri, Yurio wants to talk to you."

"...He does?" The Japanese man was perplexed, but took the phone all the same, "Hey."

"Izvinite."

"Huh?"

More words were spoken, but Yuri couldn't comprehend what was being said, so he turned to look at Victor, waving one hand out in utter confusion. He then put a finger on the mic and whispered, "He's talking in Russian. I have no idea what he said."

Victor quirked a brow and took the phone back, then put it onto speaker so he could hear as well, "You'll have to say all that again so I can translate, Yurio."

"I SAID I WAS SORRY FOR YELLING AT YOU AFTER YOU BLEW IT IN SOCHI, IDIOT."

Yuri had been bowled off the couch by the outburst, and he looked up in confusion from the floor, "...What...in the world..."

"Ah, he hung up..."

"Figures..."

Victor set the phone aside and looked down at Yuri with an amused smile, "He almost never apologizes for anything. You should be honored."

"We need to do something..." Yuri insisted, trying to finagle his way back to a sitting position, since his feet were still on the couch when he fell off of it, "We can't let him screw up his Free Skate, too."

"What do you suggest? It's not like we're still in St. Petersburg or anything."

Yuri finally set himself upright, "I have an idea."

.

.

.

The next day came too quickly for anyone's tastes, but it came all the same. The line-up was the same as the previous, with Group 1 going on in the morning, and Group 2 in the afternoon.

Victor and Yuri weren't watching this time though. They had piled into Victor's car and were traveling across the city.

Yurio was sitting on the benches again, staring at the black fabric that covered his skates. He leaned over his knees, hands dangling close to his ankles, and he flicked the pink and red fluff where it sprung up from the inside of each skate. Like a cat that couldn't care less about the birds just outside the window, Yurio only paid attention to what was in front of him. The scores of the other skaters didn't matter. Their successes, their failures, the cheering of the crowd...it was all meaningless.

Mila tried to console the younger skater, but he brushed her off like always, calling her a hag and ignoring the rest. He couldn't even be bothered flailing like before when she hoisted him above her head, simply demanding to be put down with a flat tone.

Yakov appeared through the doors with his ex-wife, and they beckoned for Yurio to get ready to get on the ice for his turn. It was nearly 6:45 in the evening by that point.

As Yurio passed them, his hands stuffed into his coat pockets, Yakov felt a familiar vibration in his own pocket. He pulled out his phone and saw a FaceTime request from Victor. He wasn't used to such things though, and even though he accepted, he held the device up to his ear like a normal phone, "Vitya, what is it? Yuri's about to go on."

"Yakov, pull the phone away from your ear." Victor said with a laugh, "Let me talk to Yurio really quickly before he starts."

The Russian coach sighed, and went to catch up with Lilia and the skater. Yuri had already made it to the rink's edge though, and pulled his coat off along with the rubber guards on his blades.

"Yuri!" Yakov called out, being ignored like he mostly had been since the event began, watching as the skater got on the rink, "Yuratchka, Vitya wants to talk to you again. Come back over here!"

Yurio glowered at the man, sighing and coming back as instructed, "What does he want now?" He took the phone from his coach, seeing not Victor, but Yuri there on the screen, "What is this? Where's Victor?"

"Hang on a sec, Yurio." The older skater said with a nervous smirk, "Ready?"

"Next to skate tonight, representing Russia...Yuri Plisetsky..."

Yurio couldn't hear what was going on in the background, but when Yuri flipped the phone around, he could see well enough. His green eyes went wide, and tears immediately started to form in them. Yakov and Lilia both noticed the change, and went to glower at what he'd just been exposed to on the phone.

It was his grandfather, with Victor, at the hospital.

"Grandpa..." Yurio could hardly believe it.

"Good luck tonight, Yuri." Nikolai said, smiling despite his current predicament, hooked up to machines and an IV drip, "Do your best. I'll be watching."

"Davai, Yurio!" Victor said happily.

"Davaaaaai!" Yuri said in the background.

The blond had his hand over his mouth, still in disbelief, but he moved it up to rub the tears from his eyes, "Spasibo...Victor, Katsudon, grandpa...spasibo..."

Chapter Text

It wasn't enough to get Yurio on the podium at the European Championships, but he came within two points of setting a new Personal Best for his Free Skate. In the end, Chris took gold, the German skater silver, and Georgi the bronze.

The crowd roared their appreciation for the skate that they knew Yurio could perform. Yurio himself felt almost rejuvenated by the applause, as though it had somehow brought him back to life.

He felt like he was allowed to breathe again.

The fanfare upon his return to Russia was well deserved, and for once, he even gratefully took photos with the Yuri's Angels group. He hadn't quite lost his mind yet though, so he resisted letting them put cat ears on his head, though a pair ended up there eventually anyway.

Victor and Yuri had been waiting for him at the airport, agreeing to take him to the hospital where his grandfather had been staying. Fortunate timing meant that Nikolai would be discharged that same day, so Yurio would be able to go home with him, rather than having to leave him there and go home alone.

The black and white flufferbutt greeted him enthusiastically, rubbing against Yurio's legs until he picked her up, "Potya..." He cuddled the feline affectionately before turning back to the door to let Victor and Yuri help bring the rest of his things inside.

Yuri looked around curiously, seeing this tiny slice of his Russian rival's life. Like Victor's house, there was almost no sign of anything outside of skating. At least Yurio had his grandfather though. He turned his eyes to his fiancé and gave a subtle look, but only briefly, I wonder why he won't talk about his family...? I've asked twice now and he ignored me entirely both times.

As he left the small household to go back to the car, he noticed that Victor had stayed behind a moment. Looking back to see the tall man standing just inside the doorway, he could only bet that Yurio had a few last things to say.

"I can't thank you enough for what you did." The blond was telling him, still holding the cat, "If you had just left, instead of waiting like you did..."

"It's fine. You don't have to thank me for all that." Victor insisted, "Any decent person would've done the same thing."

"All the same." Yurio said, "Thank you."

"We'll see you at practice in the next few days. Take care and relax until then, okay?"

"Sure."

"Do svidanija."

"Da..."

.

.

.

Practice for the pair intensified after that, as there were only a few short weeks left before Four Continents. Polishing their coordinated Exhibition skate was weighing heavily on Yuri's mind.

"What if I mess it up?"

"You won't."

"But what if I doooooo? I haven't had a chance to practice a quad Lutz in competition yet, and we've been keeping to doubles while we work out the kinks..."

"You haven't even messed up the program yet in practice. Well, other than that time with the crack in the ice, but that wasn't even your fault." Victor explained, "Don't be so nervous. It's the Exhibition Gala, not the GP Final. You're supposed to have fun doing it. So...from the top."

Victor watched as Yuri skated back out to the center of the rink and took his position, lowering his head with one leg crossed behind him. The Russian hit the play button on the audio controller, and Yuri started the program.

A double Lutz and a double Flip later, Victor himself entered the dance. There were two other jumps to perform after Victor joined, one of which was done at opposite corners of the rink from one another, and the last was closer to the center, where they passed each other in mid-air before landing to skate backwards, sliding away from one another, right hand out, reaching to the other as though they were being pulled apart after just nearly, finally, coming together. In the end, their dance had them come back together in the center of the rink, pulling each other closer together with their left hands as they circled, and stopping with each of their right hands up near the other's face.

Despite being out of breath, Victor clasped Yuri's ringed hand and kissed it, "That's it. I can't wait for the Gala now. It's perfect."

Yuri's eyes shone with excitement.

"We should do a dress rehearsal next time, with proper quads and everything."

The younger man nodded, but as he wiped the sweat from his brow, he looked up in realization, "Did you ever contact the ISU about us doing the pair program?"

"Oh, yes actually." Victor affirmed, "They're fine with it. They even agreed to keep my participation on the down-low, so they'll announce it like you're going to do it by yourself."

"You sure do like to surprise everyone." Yuri smiled, "I can't wait to hear their reaction."

"Right!?"

"So what about your new costumes? Are they going to be ready in time? It's been weeks since you sent in your request." Yuri wondered, starting to skate casually as Victor followed.

"They should actually be on the way now." The Russian answered, "It's a shame I'll only really get to use them for one event before the season's over."

Yuri put his hands on his hips as he continued to coast forward, and he wondered if he should open his mouth about another possibility.

Victor could tell something was on his mind though, "...What is it?"

"Well, there's always the International Adult competition in May..." He dared suggest, "...You're...old enough...to qualify..."

Victor's face went pale, and slowly but surely, melted until he was little more than a Victor-shaped puddle on the ice, "...Old enough? ...I can't...recover from this..."

Yuri skated around and went back over to him, "Victor..."

"That's a competition for old people..."

"Masters."

"OLD MASTERS."

Yuri nervously scratched the side of his jaw, looking at the weepy older man as he stayed flat on the ice, "It's not that bad...it's for anyone who is 28 or older by the specified time."

"I'VE BEEN OLD ALL ALONG."

"I didn't mean it like that!" Yuri pleaded, bowing over and over in apology, "I'm sorry! You're not old!"

"Promise you'll come visit when they put me into the old people home..." Victor pleaded, "Don't let me waste away all alone...!"

"You're not going to waste away in an old people's home!" The younger man insisted, "You're not even half-way old enough to be an 'old people'!"

"My tombstone should read 'Here Lies Victor Nikiforov...former world champion, gold medalist, died with a full head of hair...'"

"Victoooorrrrrr..." Yuri begged, "You're not that old... You don't even have a bald spot..." He stuck his finger on the top of Victor's head to prove it, "See? Can't you feel all that hair?"

"AHHHHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA..." The Russian wailed.

"Get off your asses before someone skates over you!" Yurio yelled from the other side of the rink, "You're both old! Get over it!"

Yuri promptly joined Victor in being a puddle on the ice, "But I'm only 24... Why does it hurt so much?"

Victor turned his head to the younger man, "Did you hear something?" He looked up and around, almost dramatically, "It almost sounded like there was a BABY speaking."

"Heh...BABY YURIO...the Russian Kitten!" Yuri agreed, buffering the taunt for everyone to hear.

Yurio just grit his teeth at them, "IDIOTS."

The raven-haired skater finally sat up on the ice, still laughing at the whole thing, "Glad he's back to his old self again."

Victor had pushed himself up to his hands and knees, looking sideways at his fiancé, "Agreed. He's more fun like this."

Yuri rested his elbow on the Russian's back for a moment before using him to get back to his feet, then offering his hand to pull Victor up as well.

"You should go through Eros and YoI a few times." The older skater suggested, "Maybe we can spot some areas for improvement or to make things more difficult for more points. You still want to get a 3+ GOE for your Flip, right?"

"You think I should raise my arms up for some of the jumps?" Yuri wondered nervously, "I don't know if I can just yet...but tano jumps are worth more than regular ones..."

"Well, that's why we're practicing now and not the morning of competition, right?"

"Shouldn't you practice your routines, too?" The shorter skater wondered, turning to skate backwards in front of the Russian, "I haven't really see you do your stuff in a while. It's just been Duetto this whole time."

"I've had my programs memorized since before going to Hasetsu, don't forget." Victor pointed out, "I'll go through them later."

"You sure?"

"Yes! I have all the time until Worlds to work on them!" Victor insisted, shooing the Japanese skater off, "Go take your position!"

"Okay!" Yuri sped off with a start, heading back to center, "Which one should I do first?"

"Eros. You've done YoI fairly recently."

"Alright..." He nodded, taking his stance.

.

.

.

That very night, the mail finally came in with Yuri's official invitation from the JSF to be part of the group that they would send to Four Continents and Worlds. Each participating country could send up to three entries per category, provided the skaters themselves met the standards of the ISU in previous international competition. Yuri had met that requirement by qualifying for the Grand Prix Series, and secured his position with the silver medal at the Final and gold at his Nationals.

Still, when he saw the official document, he let out a sigh of relief and fell back onto the floor in a heap, the letter falling to rest on his face.

"I don't know why you'd be worried about not getting picked." Victor said with a taunting smile, holding up his own invitation from the RSF to represent Russia at Worlds.

"I wasn't...I mean, not really..." Yuri fumbled for words, "But after bombing so bad and missing the cut last year, I still had that knot in my stomach."

"You'll get used to it." The Russian mused, "I'm actually pretty excited about getting to go to Four Continents. It's been forever since I had any reason to go to South Korea for an event, and never in Gangneung. Plus, obviously, I've never been to the Four Continents competition before."

"Another plane ride that feels like eternity..." Yuri grumbled, closing his eyes as he remembered the proverbial death-march from Japan to St. Petersburg. Going all the way back to South Korea would be 90% as bad. Soon after though, he could feel Victor sliding in overtop of him, and he opened one eye as he lifted the letter to see the man grinning down at him, "What's with the look?"

"I always get excited when the official invitations arrive."

"It's not like you've ever had to worry about it." Yuri grimaced, smiling nervously as Victor lowered himself from his full height on hands and knees to hovering just above Yuri's chest.

"There was a time where even I wasn't sure I'd make it, you know." The Russian explained, sitting on his knees as he pulled Yuri's legs up on either side of his waist, trailing his nose along his chest until he was hovering over Yuri's abdomen, "I wasn't born with skates on."

"You did kind of take the RSU by storm when you did get your skates on though." The younger man pointed out, picking up the letter, and reaching up to put it on the floor far above his head, then dropping his arms there in relaxation. He could feel Victor's bangs brushing against his skin as he started to push his t-shirt up, "How did you get discovered anyway?"

"Wow, something Yuri Katsuki doesn't know about me?" Victor said with an amused chortle, "Maybe I shouldn't tell you, just so there's still a little mystery left."

Yuri lifted his head, "Maybe I do know and I just want you to tell me like I don't."

The Russian pulled up again, moving forward on his elbows until he could press his hips to Yuri's, sliding his hands over the Japanese man's arms until he could lace their fingers together where he held them over Yuri's head. He looked Yuri straight in the eyes, calmly, "You should tell the story then."

"It was a dark and stormy Russian night..." Yuri started sarcastically.

"Ohh, mine's a horror story, is it? Well, it was only a few years after the USSR fell apart..." The Russian quirked a brow, nosing Yuri's lips lightly, "Maybe you do know more than you're letting on."

"All right...it was a bright and clear summer day..."

"It wasn't that bright...and it wasn't summer..."

"Victor..."

The Russian just laughed quietly, pulling his right hand away and stroking his fiancé's side as he slid it down between them, "I guess you really don't know... I'll keep it that way for a little while longer."

Chapter Text

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

It was already February 12th, and Yuri could hardly believe it.  Bags were packed, routines memorized, music on CD, ready to go.  Four Continents would be starting officially on the 14th, Chris' birthday, but the Men's Singles competition wasn't until halfway through the competition. 

Yuri looked on his phone at the schedule for the 500th time, "Men's Short program on the 17th, then the Free Skate on the 19th...then the Gala at the end of that same day..."

"You ready?" Viktor asked, coming into the bedroom from behind, having already started taking some of their things to the shuttle that was waiting outside.

"Getting nervous, as always."

"Why would you get nervous before you even get there?"

"Because if I don't get a medal at this thing, then I might not get to do the Exhibition Gala, that's why." Yuri grimaced, looking over his shoulder at the Russian, "The pressure's on."

"You'll get a medal.  You're too good not to at this point." Viktor wrapped his arms around Yuri's waist from behind and hugged him close, resting his chin on Yuri's shoulder, "And don't forget, you'll be allowed to have some katsudon if you get on the podium."

The shorter man started to drool at that thought, and Viktor smiled, patting Yuri's abdomen once before pulling away again.

"Come."

"You packed your modded Aria costume, right?" Yuri asked nervously.

"It was the first thing I packed."

"And mine is-"

"I packed that one second.  I made sure to mash them together so it's like they're making love the entire time we're traveling."

Yuri went red as he said it, which amused Viktor for hours.

As they were taking the shuttle to the airport, Yuri's family had called to wish him luck.  He was in better spirits after that, not being quite so nervous, but still feeling the exciting tingle in his stomach.  Viktor kept one hand on Yuri's leg as they travelled, rubbing his thumb back and forth slowly as the airport loomed ever closer.  He even leaned over onto Yuri's shoulder to greet his soon-to-be in-laws, and they were, of course, happy to hear him.

Soon after, Yuri went to check his emails one last time before he knew his phone would no longer have internet access, and he saw a message that surprised him.

"Oh, it's from Minako-sensei..." He said to himself, opening it up to read that she would be at the competition to cheer him on.  Surprisingly, Mari was going to be there as well.  "Mari-nee-chan is going to be at Four Continents, too?"

"Why wouldn't your sister come?" Viktor wondered casually.

"Well, she came to the GPF because of Yurio mostly..." Yuri admitted, "Heck, even Minako-sensei said once that she wished I hadn't bombed at Sochi because, with me as a competitor, she'd be able to find out all the hotel rooms that the others would be staying in at later competitions.  I sometimes wonder if they come to cheer me on at all." Yuri sighed nervously.

Viktor laughed loudly at that, "Of course they do!"  It suddenly reminded him, and he whipped out his phone again, pulling Yuri close for a sudden selfie before fast-tracking to Instagram to post it, "Hashtag #FourContinents!"

Yuri noticed then that Viktor's phone case had changed.  No longer was it a caricature of Viktor's Aria costume...it was his own Aria costume now.  He blushed lightly at the recognition.

"MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!" Axel called out, the triplets looking at Viktor's post only a minute later, "They're on their way!"

Yuuko came rushing into their living room a moment later to check the post, "Go Yuri!"

"We should set up another public viewing at Yu-Topia!" Loop suggested, with the other two agreeing excitedly.

.

.

.

By the time the skating duo arrived at the Dong-hae Medical Spa Convention Hotel, Yuri was once again severely jet-lagged.  He made it far enough to get into the hotel room, and immediately made for the sanctuary of sleep.

Viktor almost wouldn't allow it though, "Yuri!  We should go look around first!"

"Look later.  Sleep now."

"But you slept the entire way here!" Viktor protested feebly.

"I prefer to call that 'recreational dozing.'" Yuri corrected, turning his head to make his point, "I don't know how you can be so awake after such a long trip..."

"I never feel more alive than when I arrive for competition!"

"But you're not competing..."

"It's not just me, Yuri!" The Russian was still acting rather dramatically, "The energy of this place...it's intoxicating!  I want to go out and see everything!"

"My events don't start for another couple days...we can go sight-seeing tomorrow..." Yuri suggested, "For now...sleep..."

Viktor shook his head and sighed, moving over to at least push Yuri into bed properly.  It was  early afternoon and bright outside, so he rummaged in their bags until he found the face-mask Yuri needed to be able to sleep normally within all the light. 

Handing it to the raven-haired skater, he pat Yuri on the head, "I'm going to go take a look around then while you sleep.  I'll come back in a few hours.  Message me if you wake up before I return, okay?  I won't be far."

Yuri nodded, but before Viktor could leave, the younger man sat up in the bed and rose up to his knees, barely coming up to Viktor's collarbone as he leaned forward to hug him, "I'm sorry I get so jet-lagged after these flights...I want to come...I really do, I just..."  He was looking at the man from under one side of the sleep mask, but he was clearly on the edge of passing out as it was.

"Yuri, it's fine.  Really!" Viktor insisted, "Get your rest.  I'll scout the arenas and see who all has arrived.  I'll show it all to you once you're awake again."  He moved to let Yuri lie back down again, and stroked his cheek before kissing his forehead and pulling the blanket over top of him, "I'll see you later."

"See you..."

Viktor quietly left the room after that, pulling his coat close, looking rather official again in his coach regalia.  He headed down to the administration desk in the Press Building to check himself and Yuri in with the ISU delegates, getting their passes, and entering into the arena proper.  He looked around curiously, looking at the information packet that the ISU had provided.

"All Championship events, as well as some official practices, will take place at the Gangneung Ice Arena, with an ice surface of 30m x 60m.  The remainder of the official practices will take place at the Gangneung Ice Arena Practice Rink with an ice surface of the same.  Both facilities are in the same venue, indoor, air-conditioned, and heated.  Hmm..."  He looked over the pamphlet and saw the location across the street, "This place is going to be used in the next Winter Olympics." He looked back at the pamphlet, "I wonder if Yuri would want to try out?"

He hadn't yet noticed the small crowd that had gathered around him, or the photos that were already being taken.

"Is that...Viktor Nikiforov?"

"Is he here to compete...?"

"I don't think he can, he's part of the European group..."

Whispers were rising all around, and he finally turned his head back to see the people grouping up nearby.  He was bewildered for just a second, but then fully turned around and gave them all a casual wink, "Hi there, everyone~!"

"It IS him!!" The crowd cheered.  Camera flashes went off like fireworks.  Viktor could hardly move 10ft from that location for the next two hours, as wave after wave of surprise skating fans took notice that he was there.  It was unheard of for a skater to turn up at a competition that they weren't participating in, but they quickly remembered that Viktor was playing coach to someone who was, and his presence started making more sense.  He asked that they all wish Yuri good luck.

Phichit and Celestino arrived soon after the biggest crowds had already disappeared, and shook their heads at how Viktor was still drawing such numbers at a venue where he wasn't even supposed to be.

"I wonder where Yuri is if Viktor's here without him...?" Phichit wondered, looking around as though hoping Yuri would just be somewhere else nearby.

"Probably sleeping." Celestino suggested, "He never did travel well."

Phichit sighed, "Oh well, I'm sure we'll see him around soon.  I'll call him later."

Viktor hadn't seen them as they passed, but soon, he found himself wanting to leave the area anyway.  He'd given enough time to fams and was eager to scout the ice rinks.  He politely bowed out from the next requests for photos, and high-tailed it across the road to where the newly-finished ice arena loomed overhead.  He put in his ear-buds for music, hoping to be able to use them as an excuse for not hearing any other people wanting to distract him.

It worked well enough, and he skirted passed several large crowds without much notice.  He showed his pass to the security guards at the door and was let inside.

The arena was enormous, at least 3 times larger than most venues he himself had performed at in the past.  He whistled in admiration.

"Well well, if it isn't Viktor Nikiforov, come to grace us Continentals with his shining presence." Came a voice, one that Viktor only barely heard.

He turned around cheerfully, but his expression stalled as he realized Jean-Jacque Leroy was standing there with his fiancé, "Oh, hi JJ."

"Too good for your own Championship?"

"I'm not here to compete." Viktor explained stiffly, "I hope that'll spare you more final-round jitters."

"You're not the one to beat anymore." JJ retorted.

"I suppose that's true, for now anyway.  I'll be a competitor at Worlds."

"That's what I've heard."  JJ pulled his sunglasses off his nose and settled them on top of his head, "But you'll have to outdo your own record if you want to get on the podium again."

"I don't see why I won't.  I'm the one that set the record in the first place.  I can always do better than I did in previous seasons." Viktor casually put his hands in his pockets, cocking his head to the side, "You've never been able to beat me before."

"Not yet, but my time's come.  I'm a prime contender for gold at Worlds."

"You were a prime contender for gold at the GPF, too, and you barely coasted to bronze by the grace of other peoples' shortcomings." Viktor retorted playfully, "Yuri and Yurio will be ones on the podium with me at Worlds, I guarantee it."

"We'll see, old man." JJ laughed, turning back with his dark-haired fiancé to continue their tour of the facility.  He raised his hand sarcastically in a taunting wave, "Pretty soon the only gold you'll see is the gold on your finger!  We'll see how long that lasts after one of you quits skating!" 

Isabella at least had the sense to scold him for being so mean, but she was saying so quietly, so no one really heard her.

Viktor just scoffed a little and rolled his eyes as he watched them leave, turning again to look at the ice.  His legs itched with longing, but he knew he had to have patience.  If Yuri didn't bury JJ's ego himself by getting top scores at Four Continents, then he himself would at Worlds.  He knew he could.  JJ's arrogant program, listing 4 quads in a single show to make it as difficult as his own and Yuri's programs, didn't mean anything if he didn't have the stamina to make it to the end without short-cutting himself.

Some other skaters he recognized started showing up to do the grand tour as well.  Guang Hong of China was there with his American skating friend Leo de la Iglasia, Otabek of Kazakhstan sulked around alone as he always did, Seung-gil of Korea seemed more at ease on his home turf, among many others.  There were even a number of female and pair skaters he knew, taking photos with them happily, and giving his well wishes in their own competitions.

It was strange to be at an event where he knew so few people though.  It was a sad realization that most of his competition friends were part of the European bloc.  He'd have to wait until Worlds to give Christophe the proper skate-thrashing he'd earned from the FaceTime chat they'd had prior to the European Championships.  He smiled and kept on walking.

Fairly soon, the sun was starting to set, and Viktor knew he would need to head back to the hotel to check in on his athlete.  He opened up the text message window and typed away.

[Yuri, are you awake yet?]

A moment later, a reply came.

[Working on it.]

Viktor smiled, imagining the poor man still half in bed.

[Take your time.  I'll bring coffee.  You're going to love this place!  Maybe we'll both compete here together soon.]

[We will?]

[This is where the next Winter Olympics are being held.  Don't you remember?]

[I guess I do...]

Viktor raised a brow, but then shrugged.

[I'll be in the hotel in about 30 minutes.]

[Okay, see you soon.  LY.]

[LY2.]

He put the ear-buds back in place and started making for the exit, thumbing through the map packet to find the nearest café. 

Chapter Text

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

Yuri was sitting up in bed when he heard the sound of the door lock unlatching. He'd been sleepily looking through the skaters' Instagrams when Viktor finally managed to squeeze in through the door.

It sounded like people were hounding the Russian from outside, begging for photos or an interview and any number of other things. He closed the door with his backside and leaned against it as he caught his breath, holding up the coffee cups he'd promised to bring.

Not one word need be said between the skaters as the cacophony outside slowly dwindled. Yuri gave the 'mobbed again?' look, and Viktor huffed a nod, smiling. He glided forward to set the coffees down on the dresser opposite the bed, then slowly peeled off his long grey-blue coat, setting it on the back of a chair before sitting on the foot of the bed to unlace his shoes. When he looked back, he saw Yuri just...quietly watching him, hugging his legs over the blanket, "...Something on your mind?" The silver legend wondered.

Yuri blinked at him, "Oh...uhm, well... The usual." He admitted sheepishly, "I was just thinking, after this week, it might be a long time before we're like this again."

"Maybe not as long as you're worried about. There's a lot of places we could end up at during the next Grand Prix Series. With the ISU officials knowing our professional situation, they might even make it so each of us goes to different events from the other, so we'd end up at four competitions instead of just two. I mean, even though I wasn't in the last Final, I've taken Gold at past Finals often enough that they should consider placing me appropriately."

"I guess that's true. Still..." He pointed at Viktor's two lanyards, "Next time, yours will be a Competitor's pass...and you'll be in full costume when I get my scores in the kiss and cry. But you'll be with Yakov when you get yours."

"I don't see why you'd even be worried about something like that." The Russian pointed out, sitting sideways now, with one leg dangling off the end of the bed, "Even Sara sits with her brother in the kiss and cry sometimes."

"Sara isn't competing in the same event as her brother though. Maybe it'll be different with me, since I am, and I'm not your coach." Yuri explained, setting his legs out straight as he leaned back against the headboard, "It just occurred to me that I might not be able to share in your successes the same way you get to share in mine. Makes me a little sad."

Viktor's brows furrowed in a worried glance, but then softened into a weary huff of a laugh, "Is this the sort of stuff you think about when I'm not around?"

"I had a dream about it. I couldn't help it." Yuri shrugged, "If I could control my dreams..."

"What would you dream of then?"

The younger skater leaned his head up and smiled brightly, "I'd dream of endless bowls of katsudon, and that I'd never gain an ounce of weight from it...so I'd never have to hear anyone call me 'Kobuta-chan' or 'Debu' ever again."

The silver legend's smile faded in that moment, and he looked away a bit sheepishly, "Sorry."

Yuri glanced forward, but wasn't sure what to say. Part of him was glad that his fiancé recognized his own part in that minor torment, but another part was sad that he'd had to say something about it at all. He crossed his arms over his chest lightly and rubbed the side of one arm, "I guess you only said it to try and motivate me to lose the weight. I don't...hold it against you."

"You did end up working your butt off. I don't think I've ever seen anyone get on top of an issue like that in such a hurry."

"Hm..." The younger figure tilted his head a little, but laughed anyway, "I guess there's something to be said about getting myself in gear when 'Viktor Nikiforov' shows up at my doorstep offering to be my coach. So what would you dream about?"

"Eternal youth. A full head of hair. To skate forever." The Russian then sat up straight, and brought his arms up in a familiar pose, right hand close to his heart as the left reached out ahead of him, "...And a wedding."

Yuri flushed deeply at the mention of it, but nodded, and reached forward to clasp his fingers around those extended towards him, "...I dream of that, too."

"What do you see in your mind's eye?" Viktor wondered, pushing closer to where his fiancé sat, then leaning back between the man's legs so his head would rest against that formerly-squishy tummy, looking up at him for his answer.

"I picture twilight..." The younger skater started to explain, "...Vibrant color in the sky as the sun sets, like a painting. Floating lanterns let out like birds, to be carried up into the air by a soft wind. Trees with leaves the color of fire. I dream that my Vic-chan is there, and..." His voice got a little softer, "...still alive..." Yuri reached up with one hand to rub his eyes, "That's always when I wake up."

The silver Russian reached up and put both hands around his partner's head gently, just enough to make him look straight down into his eyes, "You carry too much guilt for one person to bear alone, Yuri. It's not like it's your fault that your pup died."

"But I wasn't there for him." Yuri explained, "I was gone for five years."

"I can see what you're doing, you know." The Russian said, trying desperately to pull his love out of the pit he'd thrown himself head-first into, "But you're not going to go anywhere without me. In the unlikely event that the ISU actually does say you can't be in the kiss and cry with me for my scores...you'll still be close, right?"

"As I can be."

"And I'll be right there with you when you get yours." Viktor said reassuringly, pulling him down to kiss him lightly.

"Only one of us can win Gold at a time though."

"You know I'll be cheering for you, Yuri." The Russian explained, "But I won't give it up easily. I'm a like a dog with a bone when it comes to that thing. Baowrow!"

Yuri couldn't help but laugh through his nerves, dropping his head down to Viktor's chest before finally toppling to the side, where the Russian could turn and look at him somewhat normally, "I'm so glad I don't have to go up against you at this competition... At least I have a fighting chance here."

"You're a bigger challenge than you give yourself credit for." Viktor said, brushing his fiancé's bangs from his eyes, "I'm going to have to break a record all over again just to catch up to you."

Yuri couldn't help but feel a sense of pride at the idea, and a determined look crossed his face, "...Bring it."

Crystal-blue eyes opened wide in shock at those words, and the older skater quickly brought his fingers up to frame the man in his line of sight, "And that's the moment Viktor Nikiforov knew Yuri Katsuki was going to win gold at Four Continents. Hashtag #goldmedal!" He winked for good measure.

The anxious young athlete held on to that feeling as long as he could, energized anew for competition.

.

The following few days before the event actually started, passed in what felt like a blur. Opening Ceremonies came and went, and Yuri had started going to official practices. Aside from Otabek, who had won Bronze at the previous season's World Championship when Viktor had won his last Gold medal; JJ, who'd taken Bronze somehow at the last Grand Prix, and Phichit, who had taken Gold over himself at Cup of China and whom Yuri took seriously no matter what, there really wasn't any serious competition that he could identify. There was an air of intensity and admiration as other skaters watched him practicing with Viktor, and he ate it up like manna from Heaven.

"They're intimidated..." He whispered between rounds.

"All animals recognize when an alpha is in the area." The Russian quietly replied , "Use that energy to launch yourself ahead of all of them, like wind in your sails."

"Jump higher, fly farther..."

"Set the bar for what people should expect to see throughout the entire event. The earlier you go out onto the ice, the longer your program will have an impact. Use that to your advantage."

Their attention was grabbed by the far-off sound of a different, albeit smaller crowd cheering, and when the duo squinted, they could make out the green blob known as JJ Leroy taking to the ice. His fiancé had a boom-box with them and was playing JJ's 'King' theme. The gathering that stayed on their own side of the rink seemed to find the new crowd a bit conceited, and many of the fans were looking across the ice, muttering to themselves about how JJ seemed to have something to compensate for if he had to make such an entrance to try and steal attention as he had.

Yuri sighed, but turned away from the other group, "...I felt bad for him when he collapsed under the pressure of the GPF, but he doesn't seem to learn..."

"He's a paper tiger." Viktor explained, "All threats and ego...but when it comes down to it, he won't be able to go all the way. The judges don't like arrogance, Yuri. Be humble, show humility, and they'll respect you. Whether or not the judges like you can go a long way to how highly they grade your performance." He leaned forward against the shorter figure's left shoulder, wrapping his arms around Yuri's frame to lace his fingers together on the man's opposite hip, "Back a few years ago, when we still used the 6-point system, it was a well known fact that American judges scored Russian skaters poorly, and vice versa. Don't give them an excuse to do the same to you. It's a handicap you don't deserve."

"Mh...I remember. Your fame shot through the roof when you scored perfect 6s. It says a lot that you could pull that off even while being Russian." The younger figure turned his head and nosed his partner's cheek affectionately, "You can charm anyone, no matter who they are or where they come from."

"It's a skill I should impart onto you, too." The skater-coach mused.

"YUUUUUUUUUUUUUUURI-KUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUN!" Came a sudden shrill cry, one that immediately drowned out the crowd and music on the other side of the practice rink.

Both Viktor and Yuri had to check their ears afterwards, thinking they might've gone deaf from the shriek. Yuri looked around behind them though, and spotted a particular blond-and-red hairdo that was practically, unmistakably, "Minami-kun...!"

"Yuri-kun!" The teen called again, this time at a much more acceptable volume, "I made it!"

The older Japanese skater smiled, seeing Minami and his coach there touring the grounds. Viktor waved politely as he pulled off of his fiancé's shoulder. Yuri himself stepped forward to greet his younger counterpart with a one-armed hug, "You did! Are you competing? I know you've already made your Senior debut but you haven't gone to anything international yet."

"Not this time, but I wanted to come so bad...so my family footed the bill to let me come anyway." The teen explained, "My coach said it would be a good way to see how bigger competitions are held, that way it's not so crazy when I finally do get to compete myself!"

"It's good to get your feet wet before you jump in." Yuri agreed, "What do you think so far?"

"It's amazing! There's so much more energy here than there was at Nationals!" Minami was getting over-excited, "I can't wait to see you compete tomorrow! You'll win Gold here, too, I can feel it!"

"Anything's possible." The older figure answered casually, "There are lots of other good skaters competing for the same medal though, so don't underestimate anyone."

Viktor listened quietly, smiling as he took note of how much better his partner was at talking to his fans now.

It may just be because it's someone he sort of already knows, but this is still much better than before.

Minami huffed a laugh and pat the man on the shoulder, "Well, if anyone can take Gold this weekend, it's you, Yuri-kun. I don't envy anyone who has to compete here. I'm actually kind of glad that I'm not!" The teen looked a bit sheepish even as he grinned, "Nationals was enough for now! I have a lot of work to do if I ever plan on being on the same level as you! Don't stop now, though! Keep getting better and show people like JJ how it's done."

Yuri nodded, more determined than ever, "I will. Thank you for your support!" He bowed deeply to the younger skater, "I'll win Gold, if it's the last thing I ever do."

Chapter Text

CHAPTER NINETEEN

Lots were drawn, and Yuri was grateful not to be first.  He'd actually pulled a number quite late in the roster; third to last.  Minami congratulated him later on having that much luck for once.  The rest of the afternoon was a nervous cacophony, as Yuri jogged laps and did his step-sequence training on the Olympic yard near the skating arena.

"You'd better eat something before it's too late, Yuri." Viktor advised, "Don't want you to get sick as you take the ice."

"Yeah..." He agreed, "Something light..."

Before he knew it, it was time to don his Eros costume and get ready to skate.  He slipped into that famous costume, let Viktor brush and style his hair, and pulled his black and light-blue-stripped track coat overtop.  Viktor carried his skates as they headed over.

When he arrived, it was the first time he'd actually gotten to see Phichit in person since they'd all arrived.  Despite being in contact via phone, they were never in the same place at the same time until that moment.  'Ciao Ciao' gave Viktor the usual grief about pretending to be a coach, and that it was good that he was 'going back to what he knows' for Worlds.

"I coached Yuri to silver at the GPF, so I can't be that bad as a coach..." He lamented.

"You're too young to coach other skaters, Viktor." Celestino explained, "Coaching is for old farts like me and Yakov."

Too young to coach.

Too young to coach.

Too young to coach.

The words echoed in Viktor's mind over and over, and it brought tears to his weary eyes, "I'm too young for something!  Yuri!  Did you hear that!?"

"Hear what?" Yuri wondered as Viktor was practically gyrating against him.

"I'm too young to be a coach!  I'm not an old people yet!  Ciao Ciao said so, so it has to be true!  He's a coach, he knows things!"

Phichit was third to go on the ice after that, and his short program earned a respectable 96.92, even higher than the 95.73 he'd gotten for it at the Grand Prix Final.  And just like at the GPF, his music had the audience singing along enthusiastically, even more so than when JJ took the ice 4 competitors later.  JJ had redeemed himself though and his short program earned him 102.53, nearly 15 points higher than his bomb-out at the last competition.

The high scores were making Yuri nervous as he watched from back stage.  He was trying to shake off his anxiety by doing short laps up and down a nearby hall.  He put in his earplugs like Viktor suggested and tried to ignore the clamor.  After all, his own short program scored 97.83 the last time he'd done it officially, and that time, he'd dropped his hand to the ice coming out of the quad flip near the end.  He knew he could land it now.  Some of his other jumps had even been modified to get a higher base score.  He'd heard some other competitors and coaches talking about it before JJ had gone up to skate.

"STOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOP!!" He heard Leroy yelling from the kiss and cry as his score was called, "IT'S...JJ STYYYYYLE!"

The crowd roared with applause.  Not even plugged ears could block that chorus of cheering.

"He's certainly risen to the challenge and met it." Yuri said quietly, looking over to where others were watching the show on a closed circuit tv.

Viktor patted him on the small of his back reassuringly, "You could beat his score just by landing the quad flip at the end."

"I'm not going to miss this opportunity.  I'm better than I was at the Grand Prix."

"You are." The Russian agreed, trying to instill more confidence, "I'm certain you'll break 100 tonight.  You have everything you need.  You have the best program in the house.  You're ready for this."

It felt like an eternity, and yet also an instant, before it was Yuri's turn to skate.  He pulled the rubber guards off his silver blades and slid across the pale white ice, rounding back to where Viktor stood behind the rink edge with the poodle-plush box of tissue.  Like usual, he blew his nose to free his airway and clear his senses, and leaned close for one last pep-talk.

"Skate for fun, Yuri." Viktor told him, rubbing his shoulders where they connected to his neck, then cupping his face gently, "Forget the competition and cameras.  Ignore the crowd.  Skate how you want to."

Yuri listened closely, putting his own hands over Viktor's.

That's when the Russian touched their noses together, earning cheers and whistles from the crowd, although the clamor was drowned out like the pair of them were under water.

"Seduce me, Yuri." Viktor said longingly, "Skate like you want me to come out on the ice and make love to you in front of everyone in this arena tonight."

Yuri's heart pounded at the sound of that, "I might be disappointed if you don't." His eyes shone brightly, pulling Viktor's ringed hand to his lips and kissing the gold around his finger, "Keep your eyes on me alone, Viktor.  I'm about to become the embodiment of Eros just for you."

Blue eyes blazed with excitement, and Yuri pulled away, greeting the roar of the crowd with the gusto of a true celebrity.

He thinks of the banquet anytime I skate.  Yuri thought to himself as he went back around to the center of the rink.  I've probably seen the photos and videos a hundred times now.  I feel like I can see blurs of the night from my own memory.  Could I really have seduced Viktor in that state, as depressed as I was?  Do I have it in me to keep seducing him every time I take the ice?

He clicked the front of his skate down to come to a stop, and spun around slightly to take his stance.

Of course I can.  He said to himself, the heat rising inside him.  I'm the only one who can make Viktor feel the way he does.  I'm the one who took him off the ice in the first place, and I alone am the reason he's coming back.  Viktor's fire burns with the flames of my love.

He drew in a calm, slow, collected breath...and waited.

That passionate, spicy Spanish guitar started to play, and Yuri brought his arms up to begin the dance.  His moves were perfect after that.  Even with most of the hardest technical elements of the program shoved into the second half for higher points, he focused his attention on the dynamics of his presentation.  That's what he'd been known for before Viktor came into his life...the spins and step sequences.  His program already had two step-sequences, one more than was even actually necessary, so why not add more jumps?  It wouldn't be harder to do than the Free Skate.

The camel spin was next on the agenda though, completing the foot change and amping up the speed, then flying off again. 

The first jump was a triple axel from an outside spread-eagle at the GPF, and Yuri found that one easy to land cleanly, so he decided to up the ante a little. 

I know I can pull that one off...so if I do it now for normal point value, I can change what it would've been later into something harder for even more points, plus the second-half difficulty bonus...

The audience and announcers recognized the challenge he'd risen to.

"Outside spread-eagle...into...a triple axel...good finish!  Big point bonuses for a difficult entry!  And how unexpected, too!  That jump was planned for later!  What does Skater Yuri have in mind to replace it!?"

He twizzled out with flare, then brought his arms back out to add interest.  The flying sit-spin was coming up, and that would officially send him into the second half of the program.  He'd be free to see what his changes would feel like.

Yuri abruptly changed directions, heading for the center of the rink from the edge where the axel had left him.  He could see the Exhibition Skate practice in his mind...Viktor had drilled him until he was practically doing the jumps in his sleep.  The 3-turn came up, and he threw himself into the air...

"Unbelievable!  He swapped out the axel with a quadruple Lutz!  That's a new jump for him, too!  Will he have enough energy for the Flip at the end!?"

Yuri landed on the ice hard, but refused to drop, and forced his hands to stay up as he slipped backward into the next move. 

Viktor was wide-eyed at the success of it.

Ever since Hot Springs on Ice, I never doubted for a second that Eros was meant for Yuri all along, even if I created it for myself originally.  He's perfected it to a point where I don't think even I could do it better...

The young skater pulled into his second step sequence, spinning around as his arms rose into the air, moving across the ice from one corner to the other, then peeling into a wide arc around the shorter end of the rink to come back around.

"He's coming up to a combination jump..." The announcer said, his voice embodying the image of being on the edge of one's seat, "Quadruple Loop...triple toe-loop!  He nailed it again!"

Viktor's hands clenched at his chest.

 ...So why do I still feel like it isn't enough...!?

Phichit and Celestino were practically mesmerized where they watched Yuri's performance on the television.  JJ was watching, too, but he was reserving his judgment...he wouldn't let others see him sweat. 

He still has time to mess up.

"His coach's signature move, the quadruple flip, is coming up...it's very similar to the Lutz, which Yuri cleared just moments ago!  But Yuri touched his hand to the ice at the GPF when last he performed this routine...here it comes..."

Viktor clasped his fingers together tightly, looking over where his knuckles were white under his gloves.

.

.

.

HE CLEARED IT!

Viktor threw his arms up, then brought them down again hard into fists.

"VERY CLEAN!"

The audience was out of their seats to cheer for him.

Yuri was entering into the final few moves of the short program, and he felt hot and tingly all over despite the cold air on his wet brow.  He rose from his combination-spin into the last maneuver, and as the music came to its climactic end, he stopped, his final pose perfect.

Viktor had his hands over his mouth in shock.

The skater heaved exhausted breaths, looking around at the audience until he finally spotted Viktor, who was running at full speed towards the kiss and cry.  Yuri started to skate over, trembling from excitement, and as he came to the rink's exit, found Viktor reaching for his chest to grab him by the costume.  The Russian yanked him off the ice and kissed him hard, running the fingers of his free hand through his fiancé's dark hair.  Yuri wrapped both his arms around the man, practically deaf from the cheering crowd's uproar, not wanting it to stop...the kiss, and for once, the cheering, too.

Mari and Minako were in tears from where they sat, holding up their Viktuuri signs enthusiastically.

Minami cheered as well, the same red tie around his head that he'd worn when attending the GPF public viewing at Yu-Topia.

Yuuko, Takeshi, the girls, and the rest of Yuri's family cheered at the television.

Viktor finally let Yuri catch his breath, "I'd rip these clothes off of you right here and now, if I didn't think it'd make things complicated for you at Worlds."

"Viktor..." He heaved, his hair a bit disheveled where the Russian had mussed it up.

They made their way breathlessly to the kiss and cry bench, and Viktor held tight to Yuri's hands as he waited for the score.

"The score for Katsuki Yuri..." The announcer began with a knowing pause.

Viktor held Yuri's hands tight like a vice-grip, biting his lip.

Yuri's heart pounded.

.

.

.

.

"...115.54!!"

"KATSUKI YURI BROKE THROUGH AND SCORED OVER A HUNDRED!!"

"...115...54?" Yuri repeated, as though he hadn't heard it right.  He squinted at the score card displaying on the screen in front of him, but it still didn't seem real.

Viktor pulled him back up again and squeezed him excitedly, "So close!" He was saying, "You're within 3 points of beating Yurio's record!  You're unbelievable, Yuri!!"

Yuri was starting to feel faint, and his fiancé noticed him starting to go pale, holding him close to his chest until he could shake it.

"...I don't think...I can be more Eros...than that..."

The Russian team was watching the event at their training arena, and for once, Yurio was front and center, watching earnestly.  He was just as much in disbelief at the score as everyone else was.

"He came within 3 points of beating me..." He said quietly, "He could go beyond that so easily if he wanted..."

No other skater that night came close to breaking that number, and none of them beyond JJ even got past 100.  When Yuri's sister and ballet mentor finally caught up with him after the fact, they were still over the moon for his performance.

"You really knocked it out!" Minako was saying, hugging the man eagerly, "I couldn't be more proud of you!"

"You were great out there!" Mari agreed.

Dinner that night was a celebration in itself, and Viktor made sure to buy the best champagne available.

Yuri eyeballed it cautiously, "Are you sure I can drink this...?  You...know how I can get..."

"Only one glass." Viktor winked, pouring it himself before setting it in front of the man, "Last thing I need is for you to stumble and hurt yourself, never mind forgetting what happened tonight...or what will happen..."

The younger skater flushed nervously, "...What are you planning?"

"I made a promise earlier, or as near as could be..." Viktor said seductively, though quietly enough that Mari and Minako couldn't hear, nuzzling close to Yuri's ear, "...I intend to get you out of your clothes one way or another."  His hand went high on Yuri's leg, nearly groping between them but for the fact that they were in public, "Nothing could be more exciting right now."

Yuri dared to challenge that, "...How about me scoring higher on the free program than I did at the GPF?"

The Russian had to fan himself and sit back down, "Ufuu...My heart couldn't take it."

Even one glass of champagne was enough to get Yuri started, and in his buzzed excitement, convinced Viktor to let him have a second.  Then a third.  Viktor was drinking right along with him, and that probably didn't help, as the both of them were starting to lose clothes as it went on.  By the end of it, Mari was the one who had to stop him, as Viktor had let the man polish half a bottle despite what he'd said before.

The two women made sure to get the skaters back to their room without incident, and the two were quite ripe by the time they were shoved inside.

"Don't come out till you're both sober." Mari instructed them, hanging the DND sign on the door handle before letting it close as she and Minako waved them goodnight.  Mari had a good idea what was about to follow behind that door, but for the sake of one of them being her little brother, did her best not to imagine it.

Viktor was way ahead of her though.  He was already pushing Yuri's suit-coat off, shuffling the man backwards towards the foot of the bed with kisses and little nudges.  Yuri paused only as he felt the blankets brushing the back of his knees.  The Russian pushed him down to sit, looking down at him past his nose with half-lidded eyes, one hidden behind silver bangs as he moved to pull his own coat and vest off, throwing them aside and pulling the button-down shirt from where it had been tucked into his slacks.

Yuri held Viktor's waist as one knee came up against his side, pushing him down to his back on the bed.  The Russian was on his lap soon after, pushing against him with all the passion that had built up since the score was read aloud.  He could hardly contain himself.  He rose back up, pulling away from a suffocating kiss, and gazed into those brown eyes. 

The younger skater traced his right hand up Viktor's front, ending with a palm flat on his chest, lightly touching at the nearest button on his shirt.  He looked up into those eager pools of slate blue, "...Do it."

The silver-haired skater's eyes widened a little, and his cheeks flushed, and a ripping sound came soon after.  Yuri's button-down was shredded, and Viktor eagerly started licking at his chest, the flesh newly exposed to his sight. 

He was going to have that man every which way he wanted that night.  Once, twice, ten times...a hundred times if he could.  Yuri was his life, his love, his prodigy, his rival, his everything...and he was going to enjoy every, last, second.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWENTY

It was probably 4am before Viktor finally let Yuri sleep, and the exhausted skater fell into a blissful oblivion.  His body was sore from toes to scalp, but it was a good hurt, he thought.  He'd skated harder than ever and he knew he'd feel it when he was done.  When he roused again and saw that it was 7:25, he thought for a moment that he'd slept over 12 hours and shot up, stiff as a board, frantic that he might've wasted the day...only to realize that the little glowing dot on the alarm clock that lit up for "pm" was dark...so he'd actually only slept for just over 3 hours.

He fell down to his back again in the mess of tangled bed sheets, turning his head to look over at his partner.  Viktor's back was to him as he slept on his side, and the younger man saw the scratch marks where he'd raked him.  The Russian's heavy breaths, cries, moans, every sound...they replayed in Yuri's mind again.  That's when he remembered he had scratches of his own, and his cheeks flushed a little. 

He supposed he should be grateful that Viktor had 'trained' him properly before they'd ever left St. Petersburg.  He could only imagine how badly he'd compete in 2 days' time if he'd gone back onto the ice as 'hurt' as he had been after that first time Viktor took him.  That was a good hurt too, Yuri felt, but it still stung a little for how much Viktor teased him over it.  He absolutely would not have been able to compete in that state.  He wouldn't let Viktor touch him that way again for 3 days straight after that, although Viktor had let him be for a week. 

He brazenly wondered how Viktor had been able to tolerate his own first-day-after ache as well as he had...it's like he hadn't been bothered at all. 

But, Yuri thought, he was probably just really good at hiding it.  Or maybe I wasn't that good...

Too awake from being startled by the clock to go back to sleep, Yuri fumbled to the edge of the bed, pulled the one free blanket up and set it over Viktor, and stepped into the shower.  The hot white rush of water poured over him, and thoughts of 'YoI' started flooding through his mind.

I can make it better...I can make it harder, get more points for the jumps... 

He knew the other competitors would be wracking their brains over how to improve their Free Skates just to try to catch up to him, especially JJ, Otabek, and Phichit.  Yuri was confident he could keep a spot on the podium no matter what he did, but whether he could keep gold or not...that nagged at him.

I have to stay 2 steps ahead of everyone, no matter what...

By 8:30am, he was down in the hotel's restaurant area, nibbling on a wedge of honeydew melon as he went over his jump schedule for the 5th time.  He thought back on the days before leaving Hasetsu, when Viktor had made him do so many quads in 10 minutes that his legs had turned to jelly for it.

'You may not always listen to me, but at least believe me.'

'You're not going to mess it up.'

Yuri thought back on the things Viktor had said, but no matter how hard he tried to avoid it, thinking of things that had been said that influenced him the most inevitably reminded him of the worst thing Viktor had ever said.

'If you mess up the Free Skate and miss the podium...I'll take responsibility by resigning as your coach.'

He pinched the bridge of his nose and tried to shake the memory, but it lingered like many things did. 

This will be the last time he's with me as just my coach...

Mercifully, he wasn't left alone with his thoughts for much longer, and he saw Phichit coming up to the restaurant a few minutes later.  Happy to see his Thai friend again, Yuri raised his arm to wave him over and join him at the same table.

"I didn't think you'd be up this early, Yuri." Phichit had commented, resting his hands on the back of the chair he intended to sit in soon, "But it's good to finally see you outside the lineup."

"Go get something to eat.  We have all day to get properly caught up!"

"Where's Viktor?"

"Oh, he'll probably be unconscious till noon." Yuri nervously rubbed the back of his neck, "I wish I could sleep like he does, but competition makes me edgy."

"I know the feeling." The other skater nodded, then broke off to head to the breakfast bar, "I'll be right back."

Yuri held out his hand to grasp Phichit's as he went by, then turned back to his notepad. 

I don't know what I can do other than turn my show into a program of nothing but quads...but wouldn't that be boring?  People would see it and think I had stopped telling the story.  It's just a bag of tricks.  What else can I do to bring up the base score though...?

He thought again on how Yurio had started raising his arms.  Nervously, he wondered if he could pull such a thing off.  It was practically muscle-memory that he pull his arms in when he went for a jump.

Viktor and I tried for a little while when I mentioned it in St. Petersburg, but no matter how often I did it, I kept pulling my arms in.  Can I really untrain myself so fast...?  Especially without Viktor's help...

By the time Phichit had finally come back, Yuri had decided to give it the old college try.   There were a few hours yet before Viktor would be up, so if he couldn't manage it, it wouldn't embarrass him in front of the legend.

"It's going to be hard to keep up with you if you keep advancing like you have been, Yuri." Phichit had started saying, setting his plate and utensils down so he could sit without dropping everything, "I can hardly believe you're the same skater I trained with in Detroit."

"Yeah..." Yuri agreed, setting his notepad aside, "I had no faith in myself to do well back then.  Now...I feel like greatness is right there in front of me, and it's so close, I can touch it..."

"What kind of training does Viktor give you that makes you so good in such a hurry?" The Thai skater was eager to know, "You're the first person he's ever coached, but whatever it is...it's working!"

Yuri laughed nervously, "...I don't think I'd be able to tell you all the things he does to make me better..." He clasped his hands together and wedged them between his legs anxiously, "But mostly, he made me start to believe in myself.  The more confident I got, the better I performed.  I would never have achieved any of this without him."

"Yeah, he definitely brought you out of your shell." Phichit agreed, breaking up the eggs in front of him, "So what are you going to do for your Free Skate, now that the bar's been set?"

"...I have a mind to try and do the easier jumps with one of my arms up."

"Oh, like the Russian Yuri!"

"Yeah...that one simple change made a huge difference." Yuri nodded, reaching up to adjust his glasses, "Don't tell anyone though.  I haven't even been able to pull it off in practice yet.  I don't want to look stupid if I decide not to do it later."

"No worries!"

"What about you?"

The Thai skater seemed a bit defeated with that question, averting his eyes a little, "There's no chance I'll win gold, no matter what I do...so changing my program won't really help."

"No chance to win gold?  Are you kidding?" Yuri was really surprised, "Look who you're talking to."

"Yeah, the Come-Back King." Phichit pointed at him, "And the one most likely to stand on the top of that podium tomorrow."

"Oh come on, JJ could sneak it out from right under me just like Yurio did..." Yuri protested.

"You're the one that broke the Free Skate record though." Phichit was pointing a fork at him, "JJ's was high, but it wasn't high enough."

"My 221.58 broke Viktor's record..." Yuri reminded himself, "But-"

"And Yurio barely got over 200."

"He shattered me in the Short Program."

"And you caught up again.  You were within 3 points of his new record.  You'll break it at Worlds...and you'll break your own record again here at Four Continents."

Yuri slouched back into his chair and crossed his arms, "I don't know what more I can do though.  I already brought my Free Skate program up to the same difficulty as Viktor's last performance...I don't think I can go any further, at least not by tomorrow..."

"Stop doubting yourself so much!" Phichit practically jumped out of his own chair, "You could break 225 if you believed in yourself!"

"...Mhh..."

The Thai man wasn't done yet though, "Yuri, how can you stand to put your skates on when you still have so little confidence?  Do you know how much that insults the other skaters, when you score so high despite the crushing weight of your insecurity piled up on top of you like you do?"

"...In...security...?"

"All this 'oh I can't do any better,' 'oh don't tell anyone what my plans are because I don't want to look stupid if I can't pull it off,' and everything else.  But then you go out there and you completely kill it!  Plisetsky only stepped up his game because you were there.  JJ lost his mind at the GPF because of you!"

"I don't think that was really what ha-"

"IF YOU DON'T WIN THE GOLD TOMORROW, I WON'T FORGIVE YOU."

Yuri had pushed away from the table a little as Phichit yelled at him.  He had no idea what to say in response anyway.  The intensity of his friend's outburst had left everyone in the restaurant speechless, gawking in their direction to wonder what in the world was going on.

Phichit had noticed the awkward side-eyes though and sat back down, muttering an apology under his breath as he looked down at his half-eaten plate.

"...I'll...do my best..." Yuri finally said, keeping his distance.

They finished breakfast in awkward silence, until Phichit finally took back what he'd said, realizing how much it weighed on his friend.  They parted ways after that, and Yuri decided to walk around the as-yet-still-under-construction Olympic grounds alone, thinking about what he should do.

He looked up timezones on his phone, checking what time it was back in St. Petersburg.  Realizing that it wouldn't even be dawn there for another couple hours, he decided against trying to FaceTime with Yurio...though he wondered if he should really call the teen even if he was likely to be awake.

"Yurio helped me learn to land a quad Salchow..." He said quietly to himself as he kept on walking, "But what could he possibly do to help me do jumps with my arms up when he isn't even here?" 

He scrolled through Instagram again, checking in on the last thing everyone had posted. 

For some reason, he couldn't focus on the posts though.  He'd look at one...or rather, through each post, and then scrolled on like nothing was there.  It was only when he stumbled onto a random pic from Yuri's Angels that he realized what he could do. 

He looked around anxiously, checking how many people were around...and then ducked down a more secluded path.  When he finally found a bench to sit on, he started scrolling through the Yuri's Angels archive.  True to his hopes, they eventually posted galleries of freeze-frame images featuring every one of Yurio's jumps.  He analyzed them carefully...the build-up, the entry...when he'd finally raised one or both arms up, how he balanced...then how he made the landing.

A determined look crossed Yuri's face...

A few hours passed, and the sun was high in the cool February sky.  The skater had worn himself out, practicing as much as he could.  His arms felt like they were on fire, but not nearly as much as his legs did.  Practicing off the ice was exceptionally tiring...but there was nothing he could do about it.  When at competitions, the practice rinks were reserved for different groups at certain times, and he couldn't just hog the ice because he'd gotten a great idea.  He'd have to wait until it was his turn.

It was just after 2 when he finally stumbled back into the hotel room, and to his surprise, Viktor was somehow still asleep. 

Yuri had found himself starting to get tired again though.  The 3 hour nap, followed by the morning's impromptu practice, had left him exhausted.  He kicked off his shoes and set his jacket on the unused bed, put his glasses on the night-stand, and then lazily crawled onto the bed Viktor was still snoozing in.

He looked down at the Russian in his sleepy haze, and the sight of him there reminded Yuri of the morning Viktor had shown up at Yu-Topia all those months ago.  In only two more months, it would be a year since that day.  He could hardly believe how far they'd both come in such a short period of time.

Back then, it was all he could do to sit quietly and stare at Viktor as he slept on the floor of the dining room.  Now though...Yuri crawled closer and wedged himself next to the man, one arm folded neatly between them as the other was draped over Viktor's stomach.  Yuri set his head against the Russian's chest, listening to his heartbeat.

Ba-thmp...

Ba-thmp...

Ba-thmp...

Zzzzz...

.

.

.

"...Yuuuuuri..."

Zzzz...

"Yuri...!"

He opened his eyes in a blur, practically seeing bubbles and stars as light washed over him.  The fuzzy shape of a grey-haired figure came into focus soon after that, and Yuri mumbled something that might've once sounded like Viktor's name...but now, wasn't even close.  He fell back asleep again.

When his mind finally allowed it, Yuri started to wake up again on his own.  It was after 7pm by that point.  He could hear the quiet whisper of the television playing, and when he lifted his head, he realized he'd been propped against his fiancé's legs.  His head had been on Viktor's lap, one arm draped over the man's nicely dressed and crossed legs, and the rest of him splayed out over 2/3ds of the rest of the bed. 

Viktor gently stroked his black hair, "Finally awake, Yuri...?"

Yuri dropped his head back down again where he could feel the warmth of where he'd been lying for the last several hours, "...I completely wasted the day for both of us..."

"Not completely." Viktor corrected, "You got a much earlier start than I did."

The Japanese skater's eyes shot open, and he immediately lifted his head, gawking at Viktor accusingly, "What do you know!?"

The Russian was surprised at him, then smiled mischievously, "Wow~!  What should I know?"

Yuri backed off suddenly, "...Er...what...do you mean?"

"You were dressed when I woke up." The silver-haired skater pointed out, "That would only be the case if you'd gotten up before me and then came back to bed after.  Your shoes also had dirt on them.  Were you doing things without me, Yuri?"

He backed up to the edge of the bed, hearing the same tone in Viktor's voice as he used to hear back in the early days of their coach-athlete relationship...it was a voice that was ominous, secretive, and yet somehow all-knowing. 

"...I...might've...gone for a walk...type of thing..." Yuri admitted cautiously.

"Oh?  A walk?" The Russian leaned forward a little, lifting one knee to rest an elbow on it, "Where did you go?"

"...Around..."

This guilt is killing me...!!  I have to tell him!!

"Were you practicing arm-up jumps on your own?"

Yuri balked, looking both dejected and worried all at once, but then calmed and sulked, lowering his head, "Yes, Coach Viktor..."

"Why didn't you ask me to help you?"

Yuri felt like he was shrinking under Viktor's gaze, "I didn't want to disappoint you if I still couldn't do it.  You tried so hard before..."

"And?"

"...And?"

"Did you manage this time?"

Yuri looked aside, "I think I can do it, but only on doubles...  I lose my balance on anything higher than that."

"Balance on the ground is harder to maintain than it is when on blades, since you can't build up the same momentum to launch yourself up." Viktor said, reaching over to touch his fingers lightly under Yuri's chin, "Events for today are over, so the practice rink should be available.  Show me."

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWENTY ONE

The final night of Four Continents had arrived faster than Yuri had wished.  His second late night in a row had ended sometime around 3am, and he still wasn't sure if he was ready.  Thankfully, the Men's Free Skate wasn't until 11am, and he was late on the roster, so he wouldn't take the ice until sometime closer to 3:45pm.

He felt more nervous for the Exhibition Gala after that though, at 5:30pm.

In true Nikiforov fashion, Yuri slept until it was practically his turn to go skate.  Viktor gently woke him up, and they proceeded to get ready and head over to the skating arena. 

They took with them all of the things they'd need for Yuri's Free Skate...and the rest.

He felt eerily calm.  His skin felt cool despite his layers.  He thought he could see more clearly than normal, even without his glasses.  Colors seemed more vibrant, even sounds were richer, tastes more sensual. 

He looked up from where he sat in the staging area, "Am I dying...?"

Viktor gawked at him, "...Are you what?"

The skater shook his head and looked back down again, "I read once that people who are consciously aware of the moment of their own death, will experience the world around them so much more intensely than they ever did before that moment.  I kind of feel like that's happening to me right now."

"You'd better not be dying." Viktor pointed at him, "You haven't skated yet.  We haven't skated yet!"

"I've never felt like this before." Yuri said quietly, moving off the bench to sit on the floor and stretch.  He spread his legs far apart and moved to reach as close to the left foot as he could.  Viktor crouched behind him and helped push him down, just like Takeshi once did in Hasetsu.  "I think I'm too calm."

"This is good!" Viktor encouraged, "Go onto the ice with a clear mind."

Yuri agreed to try, finishing his stretch and then getting back up again.  It was about 3:23pm by then, and he decided it was time to get his skates on. 

When the laces were done, and he'd pulled the bottom of his costume pants over the heels, he paused...seeing Viktor kneeling in front of him unexpectedly, "What's wrong?"

He put his arms on the bench on either side of Yuri's legs, and brought those azure eyes up to meet Yuri's, "It's almost time."

"...Yeah."

"Do you think it's strange that I'm probably more nervous than you are?"

Yuri tilted his head a little, but then smiled, bringing his hands together under Viktor's chin to toy at the knot of his tie affectionately, "Be nervous for me so I don't have to be."

Viktor nodded, and rose to stand, pulling Yuri up with him before heading over to the viewing area.  Most other skaters had already had their turns and were just waiting to see what their final ranks would be. 

Phichit's Free Skate score was 192.45, earning him a final score of 289.37, similar to his GPF final score.  He was happy, but disappointed at the same time.

JJ managed a reasonable 214.89 with his own Free Skate, just under-shaving Viktor's old record, and bringing his total to 317.42.  He was much happier with that score than he'd been with his just-barely-300 at the GPF.

According to the ranks, JJ was sitting on the gold medal at that point. 

When Otabek finished his program, JJ still held on, with the Kazakhstani skater holding firmly to silver.  An American skater held bronze for the moment.

Viktor felt a vibration in his pocket, and pulled out his phone to see a FaceTime request from Yurio.  Tilting his head, but smiling, he accepted the call and saw the blond on the other end of the camera, "Hey."

Yuri was practicing a few moves from his step sequence in an adjacent hall when his coach rounded over to interrupt him and hand him his phone without a word.  Getting a weird look on his face, Yuri glanced from him to the blue device being held out to him, screen down, and grasped it close.  When he flipped it over and saw Yurio there looking back at him, the Japanese skater got excited.

"Yurio!  Hey!"

"Davai, Katsudon." The blond said simply, his face as still as stone.  To Yuri's surprise though, his Russian counterpart gave a thumb's up, "Give us all the show we want to see."

"Don't look away, or you might miss something." Yuri said eagerly, hoping Yurio would catch the subtle challenge. 

The Russian Punk turned his head slightly, but then cocked a smirk and closed the conversation.  It told Yuri all he needed to know, and he happily gave the phone back to his fiancé.  At least...he meant to.

Viktor held the top of the phone with his fingers as Yuri kept holding onto the bottom with both hands.  He was looking down at the phone, and then abruptly changed the position of his feet.  Still holding to the phone, Yuri set his right foot behind the left, and then looked up into the eyes of his taller coach...then let go of the phone as he descended to the left with his right hand up near his head.  He spun around, and then reached his fingers out to touch the side of Viktor's face before turning away again.  Another spin, and Yuri was down on one knee, then rising again to throw his hands up and out to the left above his shoulders.

Viktor suddenly realized what Yuri was doing, and backed off to give him more space, watching gladly, even as Yuri only half-spun around for what would later be two quad flips.  Viktor then joined in the dance as Yuri held out his hand to bring him in, and they continued with their Duetto right there in the staging area.

At least, until JJ sauntered through, a trail of skating reporters following him as he did a walking interview.  He spotted the duo and immediately chortled at them, "Aren't you practicing the wrong program, Yuri?"

The Japanese skater paused, and Viktor sadly did as well, but Yuri put his hand on his coach's arm gently and looked at the Canadian square in the eyes, "You were looking at the last program I do before I leave this place with the gold."

The reporters were all excited about that challenge, and looked to JJ for his response, but in his usual cocky manner, the Canadian brought his hands up to form his own initials, "Good luck in the attempt.  You'll have to break Viktor's record a second time in a row to catch up to me.  Considering how quickly you crash and burn..."

"I'm not the same skater I was in Sochi." Yuri cut him off, "And considering how hard you crashed and burned in Barcelona, you're the last person I'd expect to be giving me grief about that sort of thing."

JJ shrugged, "I still made the podium at that event.  That's more than you did."

He started walking off again, the crowd of reporters following after to continue haranguing the man over how he felt following his flawless Free Skate.

Yuri just bitterly watched him go, the high of his euphoria long gone.  He felt Viktor snaking an arm around him though, pulling him close and leaning over, slate blue eyes staring deep into him.

"...Crush him."

The younger man was a bit thrown off by the vulgarity of Viktor's request.

"I want to see the light leave his eyes when he watches you take center stage.  I want him to know that as long as either of us has skates to wear, he will never touch a gold medal from a major ISU event.  Winning at Skate America or the NHK Cup will never mean anything so much as winning here, or at Worlds, or even the Grand Prix Final."  Viktor continued, soon reaching up with his free hand to trace a line over Yuri's heart, "The FC gold medal will be sitting right here in an hour."

"...No pressure..." 

"There's nothing beautiful about JJ's attitude." Viktor explained, "He doesn't know how to be humble.  It disgusts me."  He moved the free hand from Yuri's chest to his chin, stroking his lower lip with his fingertips, "And since I can't compete here...I'm counting on you to be my proxy.  So...Yuri.  Go out there and show him what a real champion looks like.  You want to do that, don't you?"

The raven-haired skater nodded, and pulled himself upright by yanking on Viktor's tie, pulling close to his face, "I do."

They heard the cheers of the previous skater's show concluding, and smiled at one another.

"It's time."

.

.

.

Yuri held to Viktor's shoulder as he leaned over to pull the rubber guards from his blades, and then handed them to his coach so he could get his track coat off.  He could feel the energy in the stadium, and it filled him with excitement.

Viktor looked at a list of the current top scores, and showed them to Yuri despite his better judgment.  He felt the skater could handle it this time.

"You scored higher than all of these people at the GPF.  319.41, remember?"

"I'll have it on my tombstone," He said, "Next to yours, with your full head of perfect hair."

Viktor smiled and tossed his head a little to wave that very hair around, letting it fall to conceal one eye, "All you have to do is exactly the same as you did at the Grand Prix Final, and you'll still score higher than before.  You've been boosted a lot by your Short Program...so don't take any risks if you don't 100% think you can pull it off."

"Next to take the ice...representing Japan, Katsuki Yuri." The announcer said overhead.

He took a deep breath and stepped through the gateway, feeling his blades slide on the ice beneath him.  He turned back around to face Viktor one last time, but found that there wasn't really a lot to say.  Viktor held his hands with his own, bringing them together to clasp them between them, kissing Yuri's fingers gently. 

The skater watched as it happened, and looked up at his face when Viktor pulled away again.  Unable to help himself, he propped himself up by his elbows on the rink wall and kissed him lightly.  Viktor smiled through it, and brought up his right hand to deftly, barely touch his fiancé's jaw.  After that, Yuri was off without a word, heading for the center of the rink with the roar of the audience propelling him forward.

He took his position, and took one last deep breath.  Soon, it would be over and done. 

The sound of the piano rose into the air, and the audience quieted.

The soft scratch of blades whispered beneath him as he started to move.

On the ice, he felt like he was home.

"Katsuki Yuri is opening his program with two consecutive quads again...the first one is coming up...a combination.  Quadruple toe-loop...dou-...no, triple toe-loop!"  The programming announcer was saying, surprised. 

Not that Yuri could hear what was being said while he was skating, but he could feel the excitement.  He had already increased the difficulty of his program and he'd barely even started.

"Quadruple Salchow!  Beautiful!  Followed by a triple-flip!  AND HE HAD BOTH OF HIS HANDS IN THE AIR!"

Yuri felt a wobble as he landed, but recovered from it without anyone noticing, and skated on. 

The calmest part of his Free Skate came up.  He slid forward on the ice for what seemed like forever, twisting only when it was time to complete the wide outside spread-eagle, following into a flawless Ina Bauer. 

Viktor had one hand over his mouth as he held onto the poodle-plush tissue box.  The whole display was like déjà vu.  Yuri was going to put it all out there and go for the highest possible score with his current skill, and as it stood, it was even more difficult than his own last Free Skate.

The skater rounded back, and threw himself into the air, one arm over his head as he completed the triple axel.  The crowd screamed its approval.  They were even louder when he finished the quadruple toe-loop after that.  He didn't dare raise an arm for that one though.

.

"I think the triple is all I'll manage this time." Yuri had said, breathlessly slouching on the practice rink's wall at the end of their experiment the night before.

Viktor scraped ice shavings from his gold-plated blades, "Even a single with an arm in the air gets a higher score than one without.  But are you sure you want to do this?  You don't need all this extra stuff to win."

"It's not about winning anymore..." Yuri answered, stretching his arms before rubbing one shoulder, "It's about seeing how far I can push myself while I still have this chance."  He looked at Viktor and put his hands over the man's hips, "I may never score this high again.  Either because of nerves when you start competing again, or because I myself will start to wear down...this is it."

.

"Triple Lutz...triple toe-loop...!  Very clean!" The announcers continued.

.

"I don't want you to think you're not allowed to try your hardest just because I'm on the roster alongside you." Viktor scolded, resting his arms over Yuri's shoulders in turn, "You've more than proven that you're my equal.  Don't short-change yourself so much."

"I'll never be your equal, Viktor." The younger skater insisted, smiling up at him, "You've been my hero for more than half my life.  I'll always look up to you.  So...don't ever stop trying to surprise me, okay?"

.

"He's going to try for his coach's signature move again, the quad flip!"

Excitement rang high as Yuri entered the final loop before leaping into the jump.

Shards of ice flew off his blades, and the world spun around him.  He felt the ground come back up at him, landing on the opposite foot from the one he jumped off from, and the wind blow by as he moved backwards, away from the final quad of his Free Skate.

It was over.

He'd landed all his jumps.  He didn't slip, fall, or touch the ice with his hands...nothing went wrong.

The crowd was already cheering as he entered into the final spin series, then rising up calmly to put his right hand over his heart, and extend the left out towards the man for whom that heart beat.

Yuri was panting from exhaustion, but instead of a bewildered, tired look as he'd normally given, he had a smile on his face.  He was proud of the show he'd just finished.  The score...almost didn't even matter to him at that point.  He raised both his arms to the audience and bowed, clasping his hands together in gratitude before finally pushing off with his toe to head for the rink exit.

Yurio watched the event intently from his grandfather's house, his fluffy cat snoozing next to him. 

Viktor took Yuri's hands as he came off the ice and hugged him, patting him on the back as he pulled the skater towards the bench in the kiss and cry.

Yuri felt as calm at that moment as he had when he'd been waiting in the staging area.  He couldn't understand how it was possible.  Sitting on that hot-seat had always been so terrifying before, yet now...

As they sat, Yuri slouched against Viktor's left arm, holding it to his chest as Viktor clasped their hands, lacing their fingers together.  He was beaming at his pupil, and moved his free hand to push a strand of hair from Yuri's eyes as they both heard the voice on the overhead speaker echoing through the stadium.

"The score for Katsuki Yuri..."

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWENTY TWO

Yuri felt like he'd gone deaf. The cheering of the crowd was gone, Viktor's voice was gone...his own heartbeat and breathing were all that he could hear. His vision blurred as he looked ahead at the screen that displayed his Free Skate and total cumulative score.

"This is a nice dream." Yuri said to himself whimsically, "I don't mind this. This is fine."

He wondered if he was actually unconscious on the ice somewhere. That he'd fallen coming out of one of his stupid-complicated jumps and rammed his face into a rink wall again. He felt that weird dizziness at the front of his head, just like the last time he'd hurt himself. He was certain he was about to wake up and be in a world of blazing pain. He set his elbows down on his knees and rubbed his brow nervously.

"This is just ridiculous." Yuri muttered to himself, crossing his arms and then lifting one to gesture at the screen, "That score can't be real. Viktor, tell it to me straight, what did I really get? I must need a new prescription for my eyes...or maybe that number is just some cruel joke."

"That is your score." Viktor answered flatly, "Why would they punk you?"

Yuri continued to eyeball it, even as the blinding flash of cameras pulsed all around him.

"...It's just not right." He said firmly, "How in the world could I have gotten a 219.24? That puts my new total right under your last Grand Prix victory..."

Viktor deadpanned him, "Mh..."

"This is actually kind of funny, now that I think about it." Yuri continued, "I guess I can let myself laugh. In a minute, I'm gonna wake up in a pool of blood and there's going be emergency techs all around me, waiting to carry my broken corpse off the ice. I've really died, and gone to skater paradise...where impossible scores happen for every average, run-of-the-mill, dime-a-dozen top figure skaters in the JSF..."

"...What are you talking about?" Viktor was perplexed, and Yuri's reaction was actually starting to annoy him. He lifted one hand and knocked on his head with his knuckles, hard, "YURI. That's your score!"

The skater winced under the cracks to his skull, "Ow, Viktor, why'd you do that?"

"Get yourself together. This is real."

"Eh?"

Viktor's eyebrows crinkled with a worried look, but he smiled anyway.

Yuri's mind finally came back around, and he snapped.

"EHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!?"

"YURI KATSUKI HAS MAINTAINED HIS PLACE ON THE LEADER BOARD! WHAT AN INCREDIBLE COME-BACK! FROM DEAD-LAST AT LAST YEAR'S GPF TO FIRST PLACE AT FOUR CONTINENTS! With only two more competitors to go, can he hold on, or will the gold be snatched away a second time!?"

The skater was panicking when he finally made it to the staging area. He paced back and forth frantically, heaving fast breaths to the point of nearly fainting. He leaned back against a wall and clutched at his chest, feeling like he was about to have a heart attack.

Viktor followed him with his eyes, not really sure what to do. Phichit, Otabek, Leo, Guang-Hong, Sueng-gil, a dozen other competitors, their coaches, and even some of the arena staff, all had stopped to watch the panicking Japanese skater go through his paces. All but JJ. He hung in the background, gritting his teeth. Interviewers couldn't even get close because Yuri was so anxious that he couldn't hear them asking for his time.

The Russian finally decided he should probably step in, and moved to put himself between the crowd and his skater, "Okay, that's enough everyone...Yuri isn't ready to talk to all of you just yet. Please come back once the competition is officially over. It will only be a few more minutes."

The music for the last athlete had begun beyond the doors, and slowly, the crowd dispersed. Viktor looked back to see Yuri sitting on the far end of a bench next to a wall, and was clutching to the corner like a rat on the last exposed planks of a sinking ship. He sat behind the younger figure, and gently put his hand on Yuri's back. Yuri heaved when he felt it, so Viktor set it down again, eventually finding the man not cringing under his touch.

"Yuri..."

"I'm...I'm so sorry, Viktor..."

"What? Why?" The older man wondered, truly confused, "You just skated the best performance of your life. What could you possibly have to apologize for?"

"...I'm...creeping up on your old scores... I didn't mean to..." He answered, holding his head over his knees, "The judges must've marked something wrong. There's no way I could've scored as well as you do...I'm no genius..."

Viktor sighed, scooted closer on the bench so he was right behind his partner, and wrapped both arms around his trunk. He rested his head against the back of Yuri's shoulders, and rubbed his thumb back and forth slowly where he held his student, "Shh..." He suggested, "Deep breaths."

The young anxious skater just continued to stew, fingers clasping, trembling where they held to his coach's arms in front of his chest.

"You may not think of yourself as a genius, but regardless of all that...wouldn't it make sense for you to achieve the same kinds of scores that your coach gets?" Viktor went on quietly, "I'm teaching you everything I know, and I know what it takes to score in the 330s. The rest is all your own hard work and determination. You should be proud of yourself, not ashamed. It makes me feel bad that you're punishing yourself over your success."

Hazel eyes turned a little, and he clenched his fingers down a little harder where he held to his fiancé's arms, "...I'm sorry..." He whispered, then leaning back, setting his head against the silver Russian's shoulder, "...It's just...still so hard to believe..."

It took half of the last skater's program before Yuri started to calm down, though he still huffed a few half-choked breaths. Viktor just let him breathe though, staying where he was, continuing the slow, rhythmic stroke of his thumb, thinking it might help ground his partner and give him some support. He turned his head a little where he'd kept it on Yuri's shoulder-blades, peering over to where one of the only visible televisions in the hall was showing the final skater's program ending, and followed him to the kiss and cry.

"...with a free skate score of 178.3, his final score is 265.2!"

"It's over, Yuri." He explained quietly, "They'll be announcing the medalists in a few seconds. We should get up there for when they call your name."

Yuri nodded weakly and moved to stand, wobbling a little where his skates came under him.

Viktor put his arm under his partner's and held him close for support, starting to walk the delirious man to the ramp that lead back up to the skating rink. He looked at the TV again as they passed, seeing the official, final list of scores. It brought a smile to his face.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the judges of the International Skating Union are proud to present the following athletes with their medals for this year's Four Continents Men's Singles Figure Skating..." The announcer's voice boomed overhead.

Awards music started to play in the darkened arena, and blue and white lights gently glowed down where black carpets had been rolled out onto the ice. A group of 6 warmly-dressed women starting heading out to walk onto that black carpet, holding crystal-quartz trays in their hands. The three in front carried the trays supporting a skating medal, while the other three carried handsomely wrapped bouquets of flowers. The lanyards swayed back and forth as the women stepped forward together, until they finally arrived at the center, where the announcing judge stood waiting with the microphone. They passed in front of the triple-tier podium, with the medal-carriers stopping at the far end, paused as they lined up behind one another, and then turned about-face together to look out at the bulk of the skating rink and audience.

Viktor patted Yuri's chest a few times to get his attention, "It's time. I can't carry you out there."

"The winner of the gold medal..."

Yuri stood at the edge of the ice as Viktor untangled himself.

"...with a final score of 334.78..."

He finally woke up again.

The world felt new.

"...Representing Japan...YURI KATSUKI!"

A calm settled over him, and as the lights above shone down to bask him in the glory of his first championship victory...Yuri stepped onto the ice, and skated to the center of the rink to the sound of a deafening applause. He spun to a stop with a little flare, performing a mini inside-spread-eagle, and then raised one arm towards the crowd in front of him, bowing to them, and then doing so again to each of the other cardinal ends of the arena.

He could hear the calm part of his 'Yuri on Ice' theme playing above him, and tears started to form in his eyes. He refused to let them fall so soon though, and skated over to the podium, looking at the ladies on either side of it, and then...one skate at a time, stepped onto the central platform. The highest of the three. The pinnacle.

His music kept playing, and the audience continued to cheer, clapping and crying as many of them were. Yuri clasped his hands together as though thanking some intangible higher power for that moment. But for him, that higher power was something real.

...Viktor... I would never have come this far without you.

"...Coming in second place, and winning the silver medal...with a final score of 317.42...representing Canada, Jean-Jacques Leroy!"

'Partizan Hope' started to play overhead, and Yuri watched as the man stepped onto the ice, stiff with annoyance, but trying not to show it. The audience was screaming his name, and eventually, after acknowledgements were made, JJ skated his way over, and gingerly stepped onto the 2nd place podium. Yuri refused to look his way though, worried it might ruin the moment.

"And finally, coming in third place, and winning the bronze medal...with a final score of 303.29...representing Kazakhstan, Otabek Altin!"

'Symphony No. 9, 2nd Movement "Advent"' played just like the previous two skaters' Free Skate themes did, and Otabek came out onto the ice to give his thanks as well, taking his place on the bronze podium...just as he had several times before. Yuri could only wonder if the constant bronze was starting to burn the man.

With all three skaters on their marks, the music changed again to a more uplifting tune, and the head judge walked onto the black carpet to address the winners. One of the medal-carrying ladies from before came around, with the gold, and the judge took it from her kindly. She turned to look up at Yuri, smiled, and beckoned him to bow down his head.

Around his neck, she placed the gold medal, and she took Yuri's hand to shake it briskly. Her voice of congratulations almost drowned out by the music. To his surprise, she then moved to put her hands on the sides of his face, and kissed each cheek, patting his right shoulder proudly before letting him back up again to take in the weight of the moment. He almost didn't notice as she moved on to reward JJ and Otabek with their own medals.

A man came out onto the ice after that, stepping earnestly over the carpet, carrying authority on his shoulders. Another high level representative of the ISU. Just like the previous judge, this man came up to each of them and shook their hands in congratulations, and offered them the items on the crystal trays from the second group of young ladies. A richly fragrant bouquet of flowers, and to Yuri's amusement, a plush toy featuring the Four Continents mascot. He accepted them happily, and memorized the scent of the flowers as he stood back upright again, bowing his head in gratitude.

Several more ISU officials came out to shake all their hands. The announcer overhead was saying their names, but Yuri couldn't understand it all anymore. He was too overwhelmed. It wasn't long before he saw the Japanese, Canadian, and Kazakhstani flags being raised on the other side of the rink though.

"Ladies and Gentlemen...please rise...for the national anthem of this year's champion..."

It was his. It was the Japanese anthem.

For the next several minutes, the audience was paying him tribute, and he found himself mouthing the lyrics to the song, even though it was just the instrumental version that played.

The judges and officials stepped in front of the podium, and photos were taken of the whole group. Soon after, Yuri found Otabek and JJ both coming up onto the 1st place platform to take closer shots without the judges. Yuri nervously realized the other two were holding up their medals for the picture, and he went to reach for his, finally getting his first real look at the gold hanging around his neck.

It's just like Viktor said. In an hour, the gold medal would be sitting here on my chest.

'You may not listen to me, but at least believe me...'

'Say it with me, Yuri...'I'm going to win the gold.''

"I won the gold medal, Viktor..." He said quietly to himself, the tears finally starting to drip from his eyes.

It was only when he was finally allowed down from the podium, and skated over to the open, waiting arms of his coach, choreographer, partner, idol, hero...and soon-to-be husband...that he finally broke down. He presented Viktor with his gold medal, as though it was the most precious gift he ever had or could offer. The Russian smiled proudly, taking both of Yuri's hands, and the medal, in his own, and leaned over to kiss it. He then stood back up to his normal height, pulled Yuri close to kiss his forehead, and started swaying him back and forth in a tight hug like only a Viktor could. Yuri buried his face in Viktor's suit coat and sobbed, clinging to him desperately.

"We did it...Viktor, we did it...!"

.

.

.

The arena had become dark after that, and the audience finally quieted down.

The Exhibition Gala was beginning.

Yuri, his eyes still a little red from crying, stepped into the barely-visible rink-side waiting area, in the blue-form Aria costume that Viktor had commissioned for him. It had taken him until that moment to realize that his Eros outfit was missing for a while because Viktor had sent it ahead to the costume designers in Russia. They'd been using it as a measuring guide to craft his new costume.

You'd been planning it all that time.

Phichit had managed to find him despite the dark, and gave him a big hug to congratulate him on his victory.

"So your Exhibition program is Viktor's old Free Skate?" He guessed, "That makes sense. That's the program that got your journey to here started."

Yuri nodded proudly, and made his way over to the gateway that would let him onto the ice. He held to the door for a moment, taking a deep breath, feeling the butterflies rising in his stomach and chest...and then he went on the pale white lake of frost. He skated to the center, spun lightly, stopped, bowed his head, set his right skate behind the left...and waited.

"Four Continents Gold Medalist...and men's singles Silver Medalist at the Grand Prix of Figure Skating...Japan's Katsuki Yuri." The announcer started. Lights shone down on Yuri from above, illuminating him as he stood alone on the ice. "His exhibition is the free skate program of his coach, Viktor Nikiforov, who's just announced his comeback...last year's "Aria: Stay Close to Me."

The music began, and Yuri began as well.

Sento una voce che piange lontano

Viktor approached the rink with the classic thunking sound of skates on his feet. Other skaters were surprised to see him there, thinking he'd be on the other side of the arena with some of the other coaches. They were even more surprised when they realized he had his skates on, but not only that, skates that had no rubber guards on the bottom.

JJ was standing nearby, looking at the man awkwardly as Yuri's performance went on.

Anche tu, sei stato forse abbandonato?

He ignored the cheers of the crowd as the gold medalist landed the first quad of the program. He realized, under Viktor's tan-brown trench coat, a particular magenta and black outfit was shimmering lightly in the dull glow of the arena.

"...What are you doing? You can't go out there...this is for the non-European bloc." He said, mostly to himself.

Orsù finisca presto questo calice di vino

It seemed like Viktor heard him though, and he turned his head, twisting just enough of his torso in the process that JJ got an eyeful of Viktor's own Aria costume.

E inizio a prepararmi

"...You...can't be serious..."

"My fiancé already told you what was going to happen. He wasn't lying." Viktor said simply, then pulling off the coat to casually set it over the rink wall.

Adesso fa' silenzio

The Japanese skater finished the final jump before the cue, and as the audience was clapping for the success of the maneuver...the lights flashed onto Viktor. Yuri held his hand out and waited...and the stadium completely lost its shit.

Viktor skated out and went for Yuri's outstretched hand, stroking his cheek gently as he came closer, and the two began their exhibition skate.

Together.

 

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWENTY THREE

Viktor had just entered the ice, and the crowd was still screaming in disbelief.  They'd spun around each other quickly as Yuri gently stroked the taller man's face, and Viktor reached his own hand out to touch his fiancé's waist.  They quickly broke off with their hands held together between them to quickly continue the program, skating backwards as the cheers carried them onward.

Yuri spun around to let Viktor's hands get onto his waist from behind, and as the song's next verse was heard overhead, the Russian lifted him into the air.

Stammi vicino,

His skates were back on the ice, but Viktor moved him around and he descended backwards, Viktor's right hand under his back as his left held to the man's shoulder.  It was once terrifying to do that maneuver with his eyes closed, but now, Yuri trusted his partner implicitly, and it was easy, only opening them again as they spun around one another.

Fully upright again, Yuri could feel Viktor's fingers gently under his chin, and he returned the gesture, deftly placing his left hand on the man's cheek. 

Non te ne andare

Viktor leaned into it, closing his eyes briefly to savor the moment of that touch with all the lights and cameras on them together.  They moved around one another gracefully, and the younger skater again leaned his back to Viktor's chest, feeling the man's hands around his waist.

Ho paura di perderti

He felt himself be lifted off the ground a second time, this time spun around twice before coming back down again.  They quickly unraveled from the maneuver, and parted from one another, skating in a wide arc with their right legs straight out behind them, left hands reaching out ahead.  As the arc waned, they brought their free leg down again, almost dragging their hands down the front of their necks and chests before reaching both hands up desperately towards the heavens, and flipping back around with a single reverse jump. 

They came back around, this time with Viktor's back to Yuri's chest.  He dipped a little to compensate for Yuri's height, feeling the man's hands along his forearms, turning his head to only just nearly kiss him right there on the ice before pulling away again.

Le tue mani, le tue gambe,

They took each others' right hand and skated away facing each other, twisting around each other until Yuri was behind again.

Le mie mani, le mie gambe,

They kicked out one leg each, skates scratching along the ice with intricate, delicate footwork, rotating around one another so closely that the audience thought they'd collide.

E i battiti del cuore,
Si fondono tra loro

They had skated apart, out into arcs at opposite ends of the rink, each completing a triple toe-loop, triple lutz combination before quick-stepping their way back towards the middle.  As they spun their way around one another, they entered into a wide outside-spread eagle, swirled, spun back towards their opposite corners, and then headed back to the center again.  Gaining speed on their left blades, they flung themselves into the air, beautifully passing one another with a quadruple Salchow before landing on their right feet to skate backwards away from one another, arms extended in longing as they parted.

Returning to their opposite corners, they slowed down into a combination spin, much like the set Viktor had choreographed into the original program shortly after the second quad.  When they rose up, they reached out again to one another, skating in wide circles around one another; triple axel, single toe-loop, followed by triple flip, then spinning outward again.

In a risky maneuver, they skated blindly backwards towards the center of the arena, spinning around to pass only a second before they might've collided.  A quick burst of energy brought them back around to the sides of the arena, and their paths converged again.  Yuri took Viktor's hand, and was spun closer to him for a moment before they started to drift again.  But they didn't let go...their eyes locked, and Viktor slowed them down.  Yuri's skates went out ahead of him as his body started to tilt backward, and Viktor slowly started to lower himself into a wide rotation.  Yuri felt himself descending so low at the end of Viktor's reach that he could feel his hair skimming the surface of the ice.

They spun three times before Viktor pulled him back up to his feet again so they could skate off into the final part of the program. 

Partiamo insieme

They held to each other's hands for a few simple kicks and twists, until Yuri pulled Viktor closer and lowered him in turn.  The Russian balanced on one skate, the other propped up on top, as Yuri leaned over him until he was nearly horizontal, holding the man up with one arm under his back, the other arm displayed out behind him.  He lowered his face enough that he could practically touch his nose to the open part of Viktor's shirt.  Yuri lifted him back up again though, and they spun away from one another to once again return to opposite ends of the rink.

Ora sono pronto

The music was coming to its end though, and so must the exhibition skate.  They pushed off from their corners to slide slowly forward, nudging their advance with the toe of their back-facing skate.  When they were finally within reach of each other, they held out their left hands to lace their fingers together, and slowly circled their way closer together. 

When they finally stopped, and the music was over, they were facing one another, their faces lowered, left hands grasped tightly, right hands up by the other's face, but not quite touching.

Some members of the audience were in tears at the sight.  That's when they could hear the low rumblings of a chant.

...Viktuuri...

...Viktuuri...

...Viktuuri...

...VIKTUURI...

...VIKTUURI...

...VIKTUURI...

...VIKTUURI...!!

Yuri and Viktor held their final pose for several seconds.  They panted heavily from the exhaustion of their dance, the lights intense above them as darkness surrounded them on all sides.  The roar of the stadium's chant was enough to make the very ice vibrate with energy.

When they finally broke out of the stance to acknowledge their fans, they continued to hold each other's hands between them.  At least, until Viktor spun Yuri around to pin his back against his chest, leaning over from behind Yuri's shoulder to nuzzle his cheek.  They looked ahead together into the pitch darkness, the black velvet sea coming to life with the flash of a thousand shimmering stars.

"This is even better than winning the gold." Yuri said, still catching his breath.  He turned his head to the right so he could see Viktor there, "You made one of my craziest wish come true.  You don't know how much this means to me...!"

"The feeling is mutual, Yuri." The older skater said, smiling brightly.

Yuri was starting to tear up again, and Viktor did his best to corral the younger skater towards the exit; their performance was done and the show had to go on.  The audience was entertained by it though, seeing Viktor skating off with Yuri clinging to his back, being pulled off the ice like a dog being reluctantly dragged to a waiting bathtub.

The crowd cheered for them with one last big wave of applause before they slipped out of the light, and into the darker rink-side staging area.

Phichit and Celestino were there waiting, clapping enthusiastically for the pair and handing them their blade guards as they came off the ice.  Viktor reached after his coat once the rubber guards were in place, and moved to put his arm over Yuri's shoulder as he met the crowd of skaters.

Congratulations, applause, fanfare, gratitude, jealousy, envy...all of it was there, like a soup bubbling over. 

Before long, the duo had stepped back into the staging area where there was more light, and almost expectedly, a swarm of skating reporters was there to greet them with eager questions.  A few dared to wonder if Viktor was getting their hopes up for a return if he was going to do pair skating instead of singles. 

"This was just a treat." He explained, still holding Yuri close, "I've been wanting to do this with Yuri since I first saw the viral video of him doing it alone.  The next time we skate at competition, we'll be rivals in singles again." He lovingly moved his hand over Yuri's hair, pressing the stray bits down into place again.

"Let me savor my victory a little longer before you crush me utterly." The younger skater protested, smiling through the anxiety.

"You're both going to be at the World Championships, correct?"

"Naturally." Viktor answered.

"Will you have new material ready in time?"

"I already had my programs ready before I became Yuri's coach.  I'm just a little sad that I'll only get to use them in one competition before the season's over!" Viktor shrugged casually at the group, looking a little despondent, "Then it'll be time to get ready for the GP Series again, and the Russian Nationals.  Look forward to it!" He ended the interview mob by winking at them all, pulling Yuri through them to return to the darkened rink-side viewing area.

They stayed and watched the other Exhibition skates for a while, FaceTimed with Yurio about the final scores, and then changed back into their normal clothes.  It would only be another hour or so before the Four Continents Banquet, and they were eager to get back to the hotel room to get ready for it.

.

.

.

Yuri held up the tattered remains of his button-down shirt with a worried look on his face, "...I forgot..."

"Just wear the button-down shirt from your Aria outfit." Viktor suggested, texting someone as he slipped behind the man, touching to the small of his back with a free hand, "I promise not to rip that one off of you later."

"You can't let me drink tonight!" Yuri pleaded, "Mari and Minako-sensei won't be there as backup!"

"Don't worry, I'm saving that for later." Viktor winked at him as he disappeared around the corner to look at himself in the bathroom mirror, making final adjustments before they were ready to leave again, "I brought something special."  He set his phone on the vanity and checked the lapels of his shirt.

Yuri pulled off his sweater and rummaged back through his costume bag, pulling the silky black shirt out and holding it up, "...It's so revealing though...it doesn't even button up the front all the way..."

"That's why I suggested it~!"

"I almost feel like you planned it this way." Yuri balked at him, "Neglecting to remind me I needed to buy another one and all..."

"It was the back-up plan in case you forgot." The Russian leaned against the corner and smiled at him, "But you really should show off a little more, you know?  The competition arena isn't the only place where you can look good."

The way he nitpicks my formal attire...I sometimes feel like I should be offended...but the way he looks at me when he says it... Yuri blushed and looked at the shirt in his hands again, then slipping it over his arms and shoulders, ...It's just like when he called me out on eating so much katsudon when I hadn't won any competitions...

Realization awakened in him, and he rushed around the corner, seeing Viktor texting someone again.  He grabbed Viktor's shoulder to pull him around, demanding his attention.

"...I just remembered...I won gold, so you owe me a bowl of katsudon!"

Viktor gawked at him in surprise, but then his expression softened with the memory of it, "Oh yeah, I do, don't I?  I'll make you some when we get home, okay?"

Yuri realized the man seemed somewhat aloof, even distant, "...Everything okay?" 

"It'll be fine."

"It will be fine?"  The younger skater cocked a brow as he repeated the words, "...You don't have to tell me what's wrong if something's happened, but please don't lie to me something has."

The Russian looked a bit perplexed, but then looked down at his phone when it vibrated to tell him another message had come through.  He glanced at the screen to see the Cyrillic text and then clicked the phone off.  He set it face-down on the vanity again, turning his back to Yuri.  For a moment, there was nothing but silence, but then he lifted his head to peer at his partner through the reflection in the mirror, only one eye visible to the dark-haired man.

"...Viktor..?"

"I'm not sure if anything's wrong." He answered, "I don't know if I should be sad or happy or...indifferent."

"I don't get it."

"Have you ever wondered..." Viktor started, though his words trailed off into a distracting thought.  He had to shake his head a little to return to the moment, "...Have you ever wondered, truly, how would you feel if someone you were supposed to care about, but hadn't even seen in years, suddenly came crashing back into your life?"

A pit grew in Yuri's stomach, "...I don't know, I've never really been that close to someone that I'm not still close to now.  Small town problem, I guess."

"Mh..." Viktor nodded, lowering his gaze a little, "It's hard to describe."

"I want to know..."

The Russian realized a tear had dripped down his face, falling into the sink below him, but he refused to acknowledge it.  He turned his head a little to look away from his reflection, "I've been texting Yakov."

"...Okay?"

"Someone with the ISU had given his phone number to someone I used to know.  Years ago.  Someone related to a person I once cared for deeply, but had a falling out with." He explained, his fingers touching the blue case on his phone, "The thought of this person was so far removed from my mind by competitive skating that I hadn't considered it in ages.  I haven't talked to her in years."

Her?  Yuri's gut-pit grew even deeper.  Is this an old girlfriend of his?

"My skating career has always been important to me." Viktor continued, "To the point where I put off everything else.  Heh...at one point, when we were in Barcelona, I even thought about how much my skating had caused me to neglect both the 'life and love' in my existence.  I had no life, I had no love...I just had the ice.  And I was always such a hypocrite, skating to the themes of these ideas when I had no idea what I was talking about anyway."  He finally lifted his head and turned around, reaching out to lightly put his fingers on Yuri's chin, gently touching his index and middle fingers to his lip, "You reminded me how much I'd been neglecting such important parts of myself.  I can't even imagine myself without you by my side anymore.  Even when we're both so old that we can't even walk without help, never mind skate."

"Viktor..."

"Yakov sent me a text message because he wasn't sure how I wanted to go forward with the information he had."

"It couldn't wait until we were back in St. Petersburg in a week?"

"Unfortunately, no." Viktor shook his head, "I'm afraid I'll have to go straight back.  You'll have to go on to Hasetsu without me."

A sad look crossed Yuri's face, "...Everyone was looking forward to seeing you again..."

"I know.  I'm sorry." The Russian really did look disappointed about that prospect, "I was really wanting to enjoy the onsen with you, too."

"This thing Yakov told you must be pretty important."

Viktor's eyes half-closed as he looked down and away, though his hand moved forward to cup Yuri's cheek, then slide down his neck to rest on his shoulder, "Even before I'd asked you to marry me...I started to really think of your family as my family.  Mom, dad, sister...your friends became my friends...all these things that I never really had for myself back home in Russia.  My life off the ice was a void.  To the fans...and to me."

"You're not making any sense."

"My mother is dead." Viktor said abruptly, his fingers tightening on Yuri's shoulder where he held it.  The Russian held there in silence for a moment, but then moved to pull Yuri to his chest and held him close, breathing in the smell of his freshly-washed hair and light cologne.

"...Viktor...?"

"I just found out my mother was killed, and...I feel worse about the fact that I don't care than I do about the fact that she's gone." He squeezed Yuri tighter, burying his face against the crook of the man's neck, "Forgive me...I'm a horrible person."

"W-...No you're not!" Yuri insisted, "Don't say that!"

"Let's just go to the Banquet.  I don't want to think about this anymore."

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR

It was surreal to watch him after that.  Yuri was sure that he himself looked more out-of-sorts than Viktor did, even though it wasn't his own problem that made him feel that way.  He spent more than half the banquet just looking at his fiancé in silence, barely muttering a few grunts to people who asked him questions.

I can't understand any of this.

Viktor seemed entirely normal.  He laughed and joked with people, took photos with practically everyone who asked, even pulling Yuri into several if he was within arm's reach before the flash went off.  The Four Continents group was an entirely different menagerie of people and cultures from the European Championships though so it was quite bit more subdued than any party that took place anywhere else.  It was like a 30-year high school reunion, where people were there because they felt a formal obligation, but not everyone entirely wanted to be there. 

"Did you guys get into a fight...?" Phichit wondered, slowly sauntering over to where Yuri had been idly standing alone for a few minutes, "You've barely said a word all night and you're acting like a wallflower like you used to."

Yuri looked at him, and then back to where Viktor was socializing with some of the other coaches.  He shook his head, "No, nothing like that."

"Then why are you acting like this?  You're not yourself.  I mean...you came off the Exhibition Skate so excited, and now look at you." The Thai skater pointed out, even offering some of his champagne to lighten the mood.  Yuri refused though.  He watched as a small group of people approached the gaggle already around Viktor.

"It's hard to explain." He said, trying anyway, "Viktor told me something unsettling before we came over here, but it seems to bother me more than it does him.  Is that weird?"

"Maybe...depends on what it is."

"Hmm..." Yuri fumbled, "I don't think it's my place to say."  He looked back to see Viktor waving at him, as though beckoning him over, but he shook his head and stayed put.

"If that's the case, then it sounds like you're upset over something that's his problem." Phichit said, nudging his friend's shoulder, "But if he isn't bothered by it, why should you be for him?"

"I don't know." Yuri said with a sigh, "I just suddenly feel like it's the Sochi GPF banquet all over again.  Viktor's over there, I'm over here...and I'm just staring at him like I suddenly don't know anything about him all over again." 

"The Sochi thing again?  Yuri, this is Gangneung...and Viktor's only at this competition because of you.  So why are you giving him the cold shoulder?  He's been trying to get you involved in stuff all night."

"I'm not-" Yuri paused, "...Did I?"

"A minute ago, he waved you over to where he's talking with those officials, and you completely blew him off."

The Japanese skater banged his own head twice in frustration at himself, "I'm so stupid.  I should go over there..."

"I wouldn't." Phichit said, holding his hand out to make sure his friend stayed put, "He's probably already apologized to for why you refused them.  It could embarrass him if you changed your mind.  Those people he's talking to...they're the core organizers for all official ISU events.  They're not the kind of people you just refuse to talk to."

Yuri felt even worse, "Then I really should go over there...!"

"No.  If they come to talk to you themselves, then you should, but at this point, stay here.  It's not that out of character for you to seclude yourself, so I don't think they're offended that you didn't want to go over to them." Phichit explained, trying to reassure the man, "They probably think you just got stage fright or something."

"Probably!?" Yuri was trying not to panic.

He saw Viktor turn again and usher him over with a bit more urgency on his face than the last time, and Yuri shot over there like an over-stretched elastic band.  He practically stood at attention like he was in the service, looking at the group of 7 like they held his future in their hands.

"I was just telling them about how you need more sponsors." Viktor explained, "Now that you've won medals in two major events, you should be getting support from more mainstream entities."

"Will you be making St. Petersburg your home rink from now on?" One of the ISU organizers asked, "I know of several Japanese organizations that want to be part of your skating future, but they don't know whether to send their representatives to Hasetsu or Russia."

"Oh...uhm, I'll be staying with Viktor, so St. Petersburg, yes ma'am." He bowed his head politely.

Viktor patted him on the back as he nodded with approval.

"You've really shocked us all, Yuri." She continued, with gestures of agreement from the other officials, "We were really upset when you collapsed to last place in Sochi.  You'd pushed yourself so hard to make the final six and then you just imploded on yourself.  When we heard that Viktor was taking a break from skating to coach you...we were all excited to see what would come of it, even as we were sad to see Viktor leave."  She put her hand on Yuri's right shoulder, "We're very impressed with the results.  He's done a good job getting you back into shape.  We see promise in your future, so please continue skating for a few more years, okay?"

"Y-Yes ma'am, I plan to."

"Excellent." She beamed, then looked back to Viktor and extended her hand to shake his, and he took it, "We'll have Yuri's new sponsors send all the information to St. Petersburg then.  Thank you for everything you've done to make him shine, and welcome back to you as well.  We look forward to Worlds and next season."

"Thank you, Chairwoman.  We do as well." Viktor bowed his head, much like Yuri had, and smiled as the group moved on to talk to other skaters and coaches.

Yuri finally felt his heart-rate go down as the group turned away, and he heaved a deep breath.  He barely had a moment before he felt Viktor hugging him by his head, stroking his hair and tipping his glasses off center.

"My little katsudon is finally getting recognized." He cooed, "Pretty soon, your mail will be as difficult to manage as mine is.  Thank goodness the ISU doesn't require us to wear the logos of all our sponsors...otherwise we'd look like those ridiculous American racecar drivers."

"NASCAR ISN'T RIDICULOUS, VIKTOR." Leo called from where he'd heard the comment.

Yuri blanched at the whole thing, smiling anxiously where Viktor continued to hug him.

The rest of the night felt like a blur.  There was a small ceremony where the medalists were all called to help cut into an enormous cake, and Yuri did so happily, albeit with that nagging feeling at the back of his mind, weighing on his heart.  More photos were taken; he was sure he looked awkwardly uncomfortable in most of them, if not every one of them.

It was a relief when the banquet was officially over and people started to trickle out to go back to their hotels for one last night's sleep before flying back to their home countries.  The walk back to their own hotel room was pretty much done in silence. 

Viktor kept his fingers interlaced with Yuri's as they walked, and didn't try to force a conversation.  He looked up into the clear February night sky and admired the stars.  His attention was brought back down to terra firma only when he felt Yuri leaning against his arm.

"Have you already bought your ticket?"

"Yeah."

"Mh..." Yuri sighed, walking in silence for a few more minutes.

Viktor wasn't sure what to say anyway.

"It'll be a week before I can go back to St. Petersburg, following the original plan." The younger skater finally said, "I wish you'd said something before you made all your plans."

"It's...a family thing," Viktor tried to explain, "I don't want to drag you into the middle of it.  Remember when you jokingly tried to make up a story about my life before skating?  I wasn't joking when I said the 'dark and stormy night' thing wasn't that far off the mark."

"Why didn't you tell me about it then?"

Viktor huffed a little and looked away, "I didn't want to.  It's not a fun conversation."

.

.

.

Yuri pulled off his formal clothes and started putting them away, grabbing his shorts and t-shirt as he got ready to slip into bed.  He brushed his teeth, combed his hair back, and shuffled across the carpet to the foot of the bed.  Viktor watched him crawl up on top of the covers from where he'd been standing as he pulled off his own formal attire, hanging the articles in suit-bags in the closet and zipping them up before closing the doors.

He heard the familiar buzz of an incoming text, and picked up his phone from where he had put it on the table.  Thankfully, it wasn't Yakov this time, and he heard the 'new text' jingle from Yuri's phone a second later.  It was an official SMS from the ISU, thanking the participants and wishing them all a safe voyage home.  Dozens of messages populated the group chat after that from all the other skaters, coaches, and officials who were still awake after the banquet.  Viktor made his obligatory reply, saying thank you and looking forward to seeing them at Worlds, but he saw Yuri just set the phone to silent and close the screen down, setting the phone face-down on the nightstand with his glasses soon to follow.  His back was to the room though as he looked out the dark windows, seeing the countryside beyond the last edges of the Olympic town.

Wordlessly, Viktor stepped into the bathroom to turn the shower on.

He let the hot rush of water cascade over him for what felt like an hour.

He's taking the news harder than I am.  He thought to himself, staring at the water as it whirled around the drain by his toes.  How could I have ruined tonight for him like this?  I should have told Yakov to wait until after the banquet to finish telling me what happened.  How can I make it up to Yuri now?

When he finally came out again, one towel overtop his head as he was tying a bathrobe around his waist, he looked over to see that Yuri hadn't moved.  He couldn't even tell if he was relaxed where he was lying...he was just stiff as a board, staying firmly on his side with his back to the rest of the room.

To him.

Slate eyes scanned the area for anything at all that he could use to distract his partner from the news of earlier in the night, but nothing inspired a solution.  So, he did the only other thing he could think of.

He turned the main lights in the room off, leaving only the one dimly glowing on the nightstand, and then slipped onto the bed behind the younger figure.  He spooned the anxious Japanese skater gently, slipping his still-damp hand under the front of his t-shirt, folding the other against his back, nuzzling against the side of his neck.  Yuri didn't say anything, but Viktor could feel him twitch and tense up, and he became more determined than before to help him relax.

The Russian kissed the back of Yuri's neck as his hands gently rubbed his chest and abdomen.  His muscles were hard and toned, completely unlike the flabby mess he'd been a year prior, and Viktor could feel them sliding beneath his skin.  His hand went lower, slowly but gradually, until he felt certain it was safe to slip it under the elastic band of Yuri's shorts.  Yuri gasped when he felt the man take him in his hand, and he brought his own hands up to cup over his mouth to stop from making any more noise. 

Viktor moved his lips up Yuri's neck, and gently nibbled at an earlobe as he started to massage him down below, feeling the younger man responding to his touch.  It went on for a few minutes, until Viktor twisted to loom over top of his partner and pull him from his side to his back so he could kiss him more easily on the lips.  He slowly moved down from there, kissing Yuri's neck, using his free hand to pull up the t-shirt so he could lick at the man's chest.  His tongue encircled one nub and then the other, giving each loving attention before moving lower still, until he was kissing Yuri's stomach.

It was only when Yuri could feel the man's hot mouth around him that he finally lurched up to sitting and pushed him away in a panic, "...No!!"

Viktor was astounded, one hand on his shoulder to push him up, blue eyes staring back into brown...startled.

"No..." Yuri said again, this time calmer...sadder.

"What's wrong?  I've done this before...you seemed to like it..."

"It's not...that I don't like it..." Yuri said between desperate, ragged breaths, "It's just..."  He had tears in his eyes, try as he might to stop them.  He lifted his head and looked at the man, "After what you told me before, how can this be on your mind?  You just said your mother was killed and all you want to do is party and fool around?"

"I also said we haven't talked in several years.  Ten years, to be precise.  I barely know the woman."

"But she's still..." Yuri was trembling.

Viktor sighed and pushed himself a bit more upright, watching quietly as Yuri finally collapsed back down to the pillow, still exposed where the Russian had left him. 

"...I haven't lead the same life as you." Viktor said quietly, "I've been estranged from genetic relations for over a decade.  I left home and married the ISU when I was 12, and I've been faithful to her ever since.  I gave her everything...my body, my blood, sweat, tears...my soul...  The actual woman who brought me into the world wasn't interested in being part of it after a while."

"What about the rest of your family?"

"My father was a drunk who thought I was a queer for skating, and wrote me off before I ever won my first medal in the Junior ISU.  I had no one else.  Not until Yakov, anyway.  I had been skating without purpose for years when he found me, so it was only because of him that I got into competition.  The ISU offered me my life and freedom.  So I left, and became everything my father hated me for.   I let my hair grow long, I got a poodle, I created programs that blurred the line between man and woman, and I danced about love and romance and broken hearts..."

Yuri wasn't sure what to say. 

"My father was the one that reached out to the ISU to track me down through Yakov.  Apparently, after my mother wrapped her car around a tree on the opening night of the Four Continents...he thought it a decent thing to try and let me know about it.  Yakov at least waited until the competition was over before mentioning it.  He didn't want you to worry about it, and blow your shot at the gold."

The Japanese skater was still speechless.  The tears just welled in his eyes, stuck as he looked up at the ceiling.  He turned his head to let the pools dribble away, and then finally propped himself up on one elbow, pinching the bridge of his nose with the other hand, "...So you're going to go back...and face your father at a funeral?  With everything that's happened in the last year...?"

"I don't even know if he knows about anything I've done." Viktor explained, "He probably doesn't.  He would have to show interest and go looking, which he would never do.  The very idea of figure skating offends him."

"You literally just said he wrote you off because he thought you'd get interested in other guys because of skating...and look!  This is where we are!  Even though you'd have lady friends before, it doesn't change the fact that, in the end, you're engaged to me.  I can't let you face this alone...!"

Viktor shook his head, "I can't put you at risk."

"Maybe we'll get lucky and he won't even know about it!  We...I'll take off my ring and just be your skating friend for a while...!  You can say your ring is matched to one on some woman's hand somewhere else!  I don't mind..!"  He pleaded...though he clearly said the last words with a pained tone in his voice.

Viktor looked extremely offended at that, and glowered at the man, "Don't ever say something like that again, Yuri."

The raven-haired man was stunned, and lowered his head, feeling horribly guilty and ashamed.  Tears fell from his eyes freely after that, and he looked up again only to put one hand aside Viktor's face, "Don't leave me behind to deal with this by yourself...I'm begging you...  I'll worry myself into an early grave if I don't know what's going on."

The Russian was bending under the pressure, but the threat was still enough that he couldn't voice his consent.

"The vows we're going to say soon..." Yuri was saying through trembling breaths, "This man, I marry...No matter what the health situation is, I will love this person, respect this person, console this person, help this person, until death, protecting fidelity.  This I swear."

"I..." Viktor started.

"SWEAR IT!!"

"Yuri..."

He couldn't take it anymore.  He could see how his own vision was starting to blur behind the tears forming in his own eyes, and he reached his fingers up to rub them away.  When he looked again, Yuri was still desperately waiting for an answer.  He took in a deep breath, and finally nodded.

"This I swear."

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE

Yuri buckled down and made the unfortunate phone call home to tell his family that Mari and Minako would be returning without him and Viktor.  He didn't go into much detail about what had happened, but apologized profusely and promised they would visit after Worlds instead.

He looked over to where Viktor had been waiting with the two women in the departures terminal, clicked the phone off, and put it in his pocket as he walked back to meet with them.  He reached into Viktor's coat pocket to take his hand and stand next to him.

"It's done."

"Sucks you can't come back with us." Mari was saying, "But, it is what it is."

"I sent Yuuko-chan an email late last night so she'd know to tell her girls to cancel any kind of fanfare that they might've been planning." Yuri replied, "I'll try to call her before our flight if she doesn't email me back before then."

"How long do you guys have to wait?" Minako wondered.

"...Seven...eight hours?" Yuri couldn't remember.  He looked to Viktor for help.

"Seven." He confirmed, "Which is better than having to wait a few days.  We got lucky.  There were still enough seats available that Yuri could tag along without having to be smuggled into cargo."

"Sounds like you're in for a pretty long day regardless, little brother." Mari said.

They all lifted their heads to the sound of a familiar announcement.  Even though it was in Korean first, they heard the name of their destination city in Japan and knew it was the boarding call for their flight before the announcement repeated in Japanese. 

Yuri reluctantly pulled his hand from Viktor's and moved to give his sister and teacher a hug before they left.

"Thank you both for coming out to support me." He said, bowing deeply, "I'm glad I could win gold for you."

"It won't be the last time!" Minako announced happily, "We expect you back home after Worlds so we can celebrate!"

Viktor was kissing Mari on the cheek as the ballet instructor gave Yuri her farewells, and then switched to give the same to her, "Do svidanija, Mari-nee-chan, Minako-san."

The two women waved and departed from the skaters, heading to their boarding area for their flight home. 

Viktor and Yuri silently began their vigil after that, slowly walking over to what felt like the complete opposite side of the airport where their own flight's boarding area was located.  There were three other boardings ahead of them though so there was no sense yet in taking up space where other passengers would need to sit.

Incheon International Airport wasn't an unpleasant place to spend a day at least.  It was relatively new, another wing (Terminal 2) was being built and slated for grand opening the next year, possibly in anticipation of the Winter Games.  Yuri had looked at a map of the place and realized that not only was there a skating rink, but a sauna/spa, cinema, a Korean Cultural Museum, Sky Garden, and if they felt they needed it, a Rest area.  Yuri wondered if that meant it had those airport sleep pods he'd once heard about.

Viktor was unusually quiet.

Maybe not unusually quiet, but...expectedly somber.

The first hour of their wait, Yuri had seen the man pull out his phone and look at the black faceplate no less than 30 times, but each time he did, he seemed to put it away again without so much as clicking the screen on.  Once in a while, it was because he had received a message, but he rarely replied. 

Yuri held to his arm where they'd finally come to rest in the Sky Garden.   The bubbling sound of the air pumps in the artificial ponds was relaxing, though Yuri could tell it wasn't helping Viktor any.  He just slouched against the wooden bench, staring at his knees blankly. 

The younger skater put his right hand on Viktor's thigh and leaned close, "Is there anything I can do to help...?"

"Can you speed forward in time so we can get to the part where it's over?" Viktor said, keeping his eyes low.

Yuri's brows furrowed, and he moved to put his left hand on the opposite side of Viktor's face to turn him and force him to look into his eyes.  He held there for a moment, gently stroking his cheek where his thumb rested just under that pale blue eye, and then leaned forward to kiss him.  Viktor relaxed a little, and when Yuri pulled back again, Viktor leaned to rest his head on the man's right shoulder.  Yuri rubbed his ear against the top of Viktor's head where he settled, and the pair dozed there for about an hour.

Yuri eventually convinced Viktor to go with him to the indoor ice skating area, thinking being in his element would help cheer him up a little.  There were even a few people standing on the sidelines that recognized the pair and cheered them on.  Viktor smiled and waved like he always had, and gave them a little show, doing his signature quad flip and a few spins.  They all clapped happily, and Viktor went back to skating next to Yuri.

The skating rink was crowded, with 4 massive pillar-like decorative structures poking out on the ice.  Yuri thought they looked like enormous 20ft high ice trees.  Directly above the rink were two tube-like structures, each containing the indoor rail system, and the 'trees' hid the pillars that held the tracks overhead.

There was a billboard panel at the far end of the rink, with a big display that welcomed tourists and guests alike for the Four Continents event.

There were a few families on the ice with their young kids, each wearing the signature blue rental skates and yellow helmets that the airport provided.  Yuri and Viktor had kept their own skates with them for their carry-on luggage.  A few times, some very young child, new to the rink, would skate past them without being able to stop, occasionally nearly colliding with them.  Each time, Viktor would lean down to gently stop them by putting his hand out for them to reach out to, and he'd turn them back around to push them towards the waiting arms of their parents or older siblings.  It was probably for the best that only a handful of people recognized who he was, as it might've been difficult to handle fanfare from a nuclear family right then.

Viktor suddenly felt a surge of energy, and pulled out in front again, skating backward in a wide arc, disappearing behind the huge 'ice plants' periodically before reappearing again on the other side. 

Peaks and valleys...moments of low and high energy.  He's practically losing his mind with how long this is taking.  Yuri thought to himself as he watched the Russian practically speed-skating laps around the arena.  This must be what Hell feels like to him.

Viktor eventually slowed down when he caught up to his partner for the 4th time, and Yuri spun around to meet him.  It felt like ballroom dancing to Yuri after Viktor took him by one hand and put the other around his waist, pushing him backwards with the remains of his previous momentum.  His eyes were out ahead of them though, and Yuri could only wonder what had gotten him so focused all of a sudden.

"What kind of program should I do next season?" He suddenly asked, answering that one question with one of his own.

"Eh?"

Viktor spun Yuri back around again so he'd be facing forward as they skated, and he lazily draped himself over Yuri's back, "If I did a program just for you, what would you want to see me do?"

"I've never really thought about that before." Yuri admitted weakly, "Do you want me to think of something...?"

"What song would you pick?"

The younger skater thought on it for a while, but then gestured for Viktor to guide him as he skated blindly so he could check the music list on his phone for something he liked.  He flipped around and wrapped his arms around the Russian's torso, effectively sitting on the leg bent between his own, letting Viktor coast them along as he looked at his phone.  There were a few possibilities as he scrolled through the playlist, but eventually, he stumbled onto one song, buried deep in his archive, and he pulled the earbuds out of his pockets to let Viktor hear. 

They continued lazily skating along as Viktor listened, and Yuri could tell he was starting to like it, as he bobbed his head a little to the beat of the music.  As the song started to repeat the main part of its tune, Viktor pulled away, taking Yuri's phone with him, spinning a few simple moves as inspiration started to hit.  As the song came to an end, Yuri watched Viktor go back and put the song on repeat, practically mapping out a new program right there in front of Yuri's eyes.

He didn't see the Russian do any complex jumps though.  That would come later.  For the moment, he just saw the choreography percolating through Viktor's mind, slowly but surely evolving into something tangible on the ice.  At one point, probably on the 5th or 6th go-through, Viktor developed a move that loosely reminded Yuri of the end of his own Free Skate.  Instead of one hand coming up to his chest as the other reached outward while he was standing still, Viktor skated slowly forward, descended to one knee, and thrust his right hand out ahead of him, reaching out at Yuri. 

Yuri could practically hear the music playing as he watched, enamored by the performance even as it was barely being created.  When Viktor finally thought he had enough to start, he came back over to give Yuri back his phone and ear-buds, beaming down at him.

"I'm going to use this for my next short program, Yuri."

"Eh?  Really?  But you only just heard it..."

"I have to take it now before you decide to use it yourself." Viktor said, stroking Yuri's hair back affectionately, "I'm surprised you never suggested using it to Ciao Ciao."

"...It's too long for a short program and too short for free skate, so..."

"What, you've never considered editing it for time?" Viktor was surprised, "Your conservatory friend, the one who made your 'Yuri on Ice' composition, she couldn't pare it down for you?"

"I never thought to ask."

"Which makes me lucky then." Viktor smiled, "It means I can dance to this song for you."

Yuri flushed a little, "What about your Free Skate?"

"I haven't thought about it yet.  I wanted to dedicate my time to finishing this season before I got too worked up about it.  I have to focus, and pretend like I've done my old programs a thousand times more often than I actually have, so my performance at Worlds is equal to what it would've been had I not taken so much time off."

"I did tell you that you should practice them..." Yuri deadpanned him, "Remember?"

"...Maybe." Viktor huffed a laugh to himself, "But I wasn't competing at Four Continents, so it didn't matter if I practiced my own programs or not.  You needed my attention more than I did."

Yuri was just relieved that Viktor had finally found something to be happy about again.  They skated in lockstep for another 30 or 40 minutes before the growling in Yuri's stomach demanded dealing-with.  So they packed up their skates again and started heading towards the restaurant area, trying to find something to eat.

The time passed more quickly after that, and things seemed to feel a little more normal.  For the moment, it felt like they were just getting ready to go home, like nothing was waiting for them in St. Petersburg but an anxious poodle.  The upcoming 9 hour and 20 minute flight didn't seem like such a bad thing.

When it was finally time to board, however, Yuri could feel Viktor getting anxious again, walking slower than he usually did to get onto the plane.  Other passengers passed them in the boarding tunnel, and Yuri had to stop and go back to help coax the older skater along.

"...Come on, Makkachin is waiting." He said, taking Viktor's hand.

The Russian finally let himself get on the plane.  Their seats weren't far on board; he'd reserved a Sleeper Ottoman for himself originally, and was glad that the one next to him was still available when he had to go back and order the second ticket.  If nothing else could be said about First Class, the fact that it was somewhat cost prohibitive to most non-business travelers made it possible to luck-out and have seat availability right up until the moment of take off.

When they were finally, safely in the air, and the seat-belt light turned off, Yuri peeled out of his own Sleeper seat and moved over into Viktor's.  No words need be said between the couple, and Viktor started lowering the seat down to its horizontal position, and squeezed over so Yuri could wedge himself in next to him.  Once they were well tangled into each other, Viktor tossed his long coat over them like a blanket, and wrapped his arms around Yuri's head to pull him close to his chest.  He clung to the younger man desperately for most of the flight.

Thankfully, as long as they were asleep, none of the flight staff bothered them.

Nearly 10 hours later, with one break in between for an in-flight meal, they landed in Moscow.  With the time-difference, it was almost 9 o'clock local time, and there was still another 3 or 4 hours on the Sapsan train to get to St. Petersburg, so it was after midnight when they finally got into the city.

The same sort of shuttle that took them to the airport had gotten them back to Viktor's front door after that.  Exhausted and travel-weary, Yuri collapsed on the bed, even though he wasn't sleepy.  He longed for the family hot-spring back in Hasetsu.  After a minute of dozing, he pulled himself back upright and went to where he saw a light near the kitchen.  Viktor had been stirring the red-purple contents of a small sauce pan as it came to a very low simmery-boil. 

"...You're going to be up that long?" Yuri wondered, "Mulling wine always takes you a few hours, at least..."

"I don't think I'll sleep tonight." He answered, stirring with one hand as the other rested on his hip.  He huffed a laugh, "And I really, really need this."

"This whole time, you haven't told me when anything is supposed to happen." Yuri pointed out, leaning over to put his elbows on the counter, "Is it tomorrow?  Er...Later today?" He corrected, remembering it technically already was tomorrow.

"The funeral is tomorrow-tomorrow at 3." He answered, pulling the small cook pot off the stove to pour its steamy contents into a slow cooker next it.  He tossed in his favorite spices, some orange juice, and orange hull, then covered it with the lid and set it to low heat.  He set a timer for 2 hours and cleaned up the small mess.  "But I have to meet him before that just to get the address for where the funeral's even being held...and that's later today."

"And that's the part that's keeping you up tonight?"

"Da."

"I feel like...you haven't actually talked to this man yourself yet." Yuri wondered cautiously.

"No, Yakov's been doing that for me." Viktor explained, "I don't want my father to have a way of contacting me directly.  Yakov knows to filter things out that I don't want or need to know about."

"Couldn't your father just find out where you train and show up there to give you the info?"

"He could, but he's not exactly ambitious.  He's just..." The Russian started, but then paused, reaching up to rub his forehead, "...I can't even think of the right word.  Sorry."

"Spiteful?" Yuri wondered, "Like...really scornful, judgmental, that sort of thing...?"

"No...well, yes, but..."

"...Vindictive?"

"Yeah."  Viktor brushed his hair back, feeling his left eye start to throb with the memory of a distant incident, "Whatever it is that's driving him to reach out to me now, it's not enough to go out of his way to make it easy for me.  He's going to make me work for this.  He probably doesn't even actually want to talk to me, but something's forcing him.  If there was something else going on, some ulterior motive, Yakov would've found out about it and never told me about Konstantin ever making contact with him in the first palce."

"Yakov must be very protective of you if he'd go this far." Yuri wondered, reaching over to touch his hand to Viktor's, "It's well above and beyond what I think Celestino would've ever done for me."

"He was there when the falling out happened." Viktor explained, "He's going to be there later today, too."

"Do you expect it to go that badly...?"

Viktor huffed a laugh, and twisted his hand slightly so he could put his thumb over where Yuri's fingertips overlapped his, "The last time I saw my father, he knuckled me in the eye so hard, it bled for 4 days.  I thought I would go blind, and I think my father meant for it to, thinking it would keep me off the ice.  That was before joining the ISU though, so no one but Yakov knows.  And you, now."

"...There's no way he would try to hit you again though...right?" Yuri gripped a little harder, worried now more than he thought he'd need to.

"I have no idea what he's doing to do." Viktor shrugged, "It's been 16 years since I last saw him.  My relationship with my mother became strained after that and we only occasionally talked on the phone after Yakov pulled me.  After a while, she stopped returning my calls, so I stopped making them.  I'm not even sure if she was still married to my father when she died.  It doesn't really matter anyway."

Yuri wasn't sure how to respond to that. 

Viktor was right...his life is completely backwards compared to mine.  I could never imagine being so alone like he's been.

He drew in a deep, wordless breath.

Viktor turned his eyes towards him and tried to smile, "Promise you won't do anything stupid if he tries, Yuri."

"I can't just do nothing."

"If the years have been kind to him, he's bigger than both of us put together.  You could say he was once the poster-child for Russian bear wrestling.  He could break us both in half if he wanted."  He turned to face Yuri and put his hands aside his neck, "I've let you follow me this far...please, Yuri, don't make me regret it."

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWENTY SIX

Viktor had eventually succumbed to sleep after dawn that morning, eased into it with the help of his mulled wine.  He was awoken only by the sound of barking outside, car-doors closing, and Yuri being bowled over again in the front hall as he opened it to the elder gentleman who'd just arrived.

"Congratulations on winning your first gold, Yuri." Yakov told him, "You have our Yuri sweating over Worlds already."

Yuri laughed as the dog continued laying on the love, jumping around like a hot bean, "It's going to be one hell of a competition."

"Where's Vitya?"

"I'm here." Viktor said sleepily as he emerged from the side hall, holding his arm up to shield his eyes from the bright sun, "Thanks for watching Makkachin again."

The dog was leaping up to try and lick Viktor's face, so the man caught him in mid-leap to hold him against his chest.  Makkachin wriggled and licked, then licked and wriggled, unsure what order to do things in.  Viktor eventually set the dog back on the ground, and the excited creature fell onto his back to demand belly pets, to which Viktor quickly obliged.

"Were you up drinking all night?" The coach wondered, an eyebrow quirked under the brim of his hat.

"I was up all night, and I was drinking, but only one glass." Viktor assured him, "I wouldn't be hung-over for something like this."

"And you told Katsuki what's going on?"

"More or less."

"More or less...?" Yuri repeated, "How much more could there be?"

"Sixteen years leading up to it." Viktor winked at him, as though it were some big joke.  His partner didn't really find any humor in it though and worried all the more.

Yakov wasn't sure it was such a good idea to bring the younger skater, and Viktor had to assure him that there was nothing he could do at that point.

[I already told him it would be okay if he came.  He got really upset when I originally told him to go back to Hasetsu alone.  I can't just leave him at home now.]

[He doesn't speak or understand Russian, and your father doesn't speak or understand English.  This whole thing is going to go right over his head.]

[It's not about whether he understands, he just wants to be there.]

"Vitya..." Yakov sighed, [He's a sensitive kid.  I don't know if he can even handle this.]

[A skater with a heart made of glass.] Viktor said aloud, smiling, [I won't let anything happen.  Konstantin won't get within 10 feet of me.]

Yakov grumbled to himself, but then nodded, and headed back towards his car, "Get ready and then let's go."

Viktor agreed, closing the door to go back to the bedroom and do as told.  Once finished, he moved to grab his coat and scarf, and went to join where Yuri had been waiting outside.  Yuri piled into the car as the older skater was locking the door.  The dog watched them go from the front window, looking on as though heartbroken.

"Poor guy..." Yuri mused sadly, seeing the brown poodle disappear as the car moved on, "We just got back and now we're leaving him behind again."

"He's in his own house though so it'll be fine.  He'll go to sleep until we return." Viktor said, "This shouldn't take long anyway.  We're only going to get an address."

"Your father couldn't just give it to Yakov?"

"He refused to." The coach answered, looking back at them in the rearview mirror, "He said he'd only give it to Vitya personally.  Believe me, I tried.  I wanted to avoid this as much as anyone."

"I told you he was going to make me work for this." Viktor interrupted, leaning over to kiss him lightly in reassurance, "Remember?"

Yakov noticed and grunted a little to himself, "If you do that in front of him, he may knock Katsuki's block off as well as yours."

"Jeeze, is he really still that bad?  He hasn't calmed down at all?"

"This is Russia." Yakov said flatly, "Most of the older generation is deeply conservative.  Putin's revival of the Russian Orthodox Church has made a lot of people all too happy to stoke the fires of their old intolerances.  Mila told me that she warned you in Barcelona to keep your situation quiet.  She wasn't just saying that to worry you."

"...I know, I know."

"The only thing protecting you from the worst of it is the fact that you are what you are, and you've honored Russia with your talents." Yakov explained, "But Katsuki isn't famous, and he isn't Russian either.  And if either of you end up in a situation where you're surrounded by people who don't know anything about skating, you could both get seriously hurt."

Yuri was nervously turning his ring around on his finger, moving it up to the knuckle and then back down again as the two Russians went back and forth.  He felt like a fly on the wall, as he often did when Viktor talked to anyone on the Russian team when he was around.

"We're not going to be dealing with this for very long.  I'm just getting an address and then we're leaving."

"Ah Vitya..." Yakov lamented, "The fact that he insists on giving it directly to you himself means this isn't going to be just a quick exchange."

Viktor dropped his head back and grumbled, "...I want today to be over already..."

It was a horrible 35 minute drive, but when they finally pulled up to stop, it had felt like eternity.  A block away was the entrance to the Summer Garden in the center of the city.  There were a few dozen people wandering around, but most of them were on the move, so it didn't look like anyone was waiting...for them, or anyone else.

"Konstantin said he'd be waiting at the Ivan Krylov Monument." Yakov explained, "You won't see him from here."

Grudgingly, the two in the back seat finally emerged, and the group made their way to the park.  For such a dour circumstance bringing them there, Yuri still thought it was a nice place to see.  They passed along the long sidewalk with the massive wrought-iron fence, black of bar and trimmed in gold, until they passed within its huge gates.  Inside, Yuri marveled at the fountains, and walkways decorated with marble statues, even though the landscape was blanketed in snow and nothing was turned on. 

"The statues were brought here from Italy by Peter the Great." Viktor explained, seeing the sparkle of wonder in his fiancé's eyes, "But most of them are modern replicas.  The real ones were moved into a building somewhere else to protect them."  He leaned closer to point to their left, "Over there is Peter the Great's Summer Palace."

"This place makes Japan look..."

"Different." Viktor said, cutting him off before he could say anything else.

"Yeah."

"You said that Hasetsu Castle was just a tourist trap with no historical value." Viktor continued, "Maybe we should go touring the real historical Japan one day?"

"We should come back here during the summer, too." Yuri suggested.  He'd almost let himself forget why there were there in the first place.

"I can see him." Yakov said, stopping where he'd been leading the duo previously, "Wait here."

Viktor abruptly turned around, keeping his back to the direction his coach was walking.  Yuri watched him quietly, but then looked past, seeing where Yakov was going, and hoping to catch the first sight of this relic from Viktor's past.

It was hard to see from their vantage, but Yuri thought he could see a dark blob rising from a bench near the monument.  He squinted to try seeing better, "...Well, I think he's bigger than Yakov...but it's hard to tell from here..." 

Viktor's half-hidden eye twitched under where his bangs covered them, "That's nice."

A minute or two passed in tense silence, and Yuri failed to notice as Yakov was walking back with the larger man until they were practically within earshot.  He could see that Viktor was trembling a little, not wanting to turn around even as he could hear their footsteps crunching on the snow behind him.

"Vitya." Yakov started.

Yuri looked at the man with terrified curiosity, wondering how in the world he and Viktor could possibly be related.  That's when he saw it.

Their eyes.  He thought to himself, Viktor has his father's eyes.

Easily over six feet tall, the man looked half an ox.  Thick, wind-burnt, a closely-cut beard that was dark as coal, but salted with grey...and those pale, slate-blue eyes peering through it all.  He wore a long, dark, smoke-grey coat and a brimmed hat similar to Yakov's, and a clean but obviously-long-owned suit and tie.

"Viktor."

Yuri could see his partner cringe at the sound of the voice, and he slowly turned his head to peer back over his shoulder.  He refused to say anything in response though.  He could only manage a half-turn, keeping his side-face to the man, his hands clenched in his coat pockets as the wind swirled in short gusts, whipping scarves and coat lapels all around.

[Who's the runt?] Konstantin asked the shorter gentlemen.

[Yuri Katsuki, a skater from Japan that Vitya's coaching.] Yakov answered.

[Why's he here?]

[I asked him to come.] Viktor answered for his coach, [Let's get this over with.]

The large, husky man took a step forward, and Viktor instinctively took one away as well.  Yuri could feel the tension rising like water in a sinking ship.

[Scared?]

[You nearly blinded me last time we met.  I'd rather not try that again.]

Konstantin laughed at that, [I bet you would.  King Queer and all, you need both eyes to keep on dancing.]

[I didn't come here to trade insults.  You said you would only give up the address to my mother's funeral if I showed up myself, so here I am.  Let's have it.]

[You refer to her like she's some alien.] The older, gruff man said sharply, [Do you even really want to be there when we put her in the ground?]

[The Bible says to honor thy mother and father.  I don't have to like either of you, but I'll do my duty.]

[You were never much of a believer, Viktor.]

[The address.]

Konstantin held up his right hand, pulling an envelope from the inside pocket of his coat, [It's in here.]

Viktor's eyes twitched in bitterness at the gesture, realizing he'd have to get closer to his father to get the information.  Yuri could see it, and stepped up to his partner's side in a gesture to continue moving forward.

"Do you want me to...?"

"No." The Russian said firmly, pulling his left hand out to keep Yuri behind him, "You stay there.  I don't need you getting involved in my fights."

[The hell are you saying?  Talking in Moonspeak now?]

[It's English.  How else do you think I can coach a foreign athlete?  We all speak English.]

[That's nice of you.]

Viktor's eyes narrowed, "Détestez-vous que je parle couramment le Français, aussi?"

His father bristled a little, [The weak language of fairies.  I recognize that one.  I'm not surprised you know it.]

[Put the envelope on the ground and leave.  You'll see me again at the funeral, if you're even there.]

[I wouldn't be the one giving you the address if I wasn't going.] Konstantin pointed out, but refused to move his hand, or the envelope, one inch, [You'll take it from me if you want it.]

Viktor grit his teeth, unsure how to proceed.  His father took another step forward, and he himself took yet another step back.  The envelope was right there in between them, held at the limits of Konstantin's arm's length.  Instead of cautiously stepping closer though, Konstantin just barreled forward, closing the distance until he rammed the envelope into the center of Viktor's chest with a speed that surprised all three of them.  Viktor had his hands out of his pockets then, the right one up defensively as he stumbled over his own feet in shock at the sudden advance.  He didn't fall though, and held his ground.

"...Viktor!" Yuri blanched.

"STAY WHERE YOU ARE." The Russian barked, not taking his eyes off the huge man in front of him.

The younger skater was on edge, but for the next few seconds, no one moved.  Even Yakov was unsure what to do, so he stayed put as well.

It only took a second or two for Konstantin to notice the gold shine on one of his son's fingers, and his eyes glanced over to where Yuri had his hands up as well, seeing a matching ring there.  The huge pale hand that was flat to Viktor's chest, with the envelope pressed between them, suddenly clenched, grabbing the front of Viktor's sweater in turn and yanking him unexpectedly closer.  The strength of the man was enough to make Viktor, despite being 5'11", look like a small child.

Yuri acted on instinct after that, jumping into the fray to tray and put himself between his fiancé and the man who'd grabbed him.

"Don't hurt him!!" Yuri pleaded, "Let Viktor go!"

"Yuri!" Yakov called.

It was too late though.  Yuri's flailing was like a fly on a horse's backside, and it just annoyed the larger man.  He reached his left hand under where his right had grabbed his son, and yanked Yuri clean under it to hold him up again on the other side.  Cold slate eyes glared at him, like they could stare straight into his skull and bore a hole into his brain.

Konstantin just sneered, and literally threw Yuri away.  The smaller figure landed with a crunch in the snow and skidded several feet more before coming to a painful stop.

"Yuri!"

[I thought I could forgive you for wanting to be a dancer instead of a man.] His father was saying, his voice quiet and deep, [Since you had apparently done so well, and become King of all the Fairies for 5 years straight.  But this...]  His huge left hand grabbed Viktor's right arm by the wrist and yanked it up, glaring past the ring, [...this is unforgivable.  This is exactly what I said you'd become if you skated.  You shame us all.]

Viktor thought the man's grip was so tight, it was like to break his arm.

[Konstantin, I'll call the politsiya if you don't put him down.] Yakov warned, [You swore you wouldn't lay a finger on him if I gave him the message and brought him here.]

[I'm not going to hurt him.] The gruff man snarled, doing everything he could not to crush Viktor where he held him, [But our Father commands that men who lie with other men should be put to death.  He also commands us to beat our children if they are disobedient.  I should kill him.]

[Konstantin Nikiforov!  That's enough!]

Viktor's father shoved him back so hard that he couldn't stay on his feet, collapsing backwards, spinning over himself before finally landing on his stomach in the slush and snow.  The crumpled envelope fell into the walkway between them, and Viktor's left eye twitched nervously behind his bangs.

[Come to the funeral tomorrow, or don't, I don't care.  My son died when he was 12, but Tatiyana deluded herself into thinking you were him in the flesh.  For her, I give you this last gift, but that's it.  After tomorrow, if I see you again, I'll end you.]

Yuri finally collected himself and slowly struggled over to Viktor's side.  Viktor just cringed as he tried to push himself up to sitting again.

His father snarled at the both of them, spat a wad at Yuri, hitting him in the face, and then kicked snow over the both of them before finally leaving.  He passed Yakov without another word and without looking back.

Yakov scrambled over to Viktor after he was sure Konstantin was gone, "Vitya, are you...?"

The skater was too busy using his cold, wet scarf to wipe the spit off his fiancé's face to answer.  He shook terribly as he did so, and Yuri tried to avoid letting him get his own clothing even more dirty for his sake, trying to rub the wet spot off on his sleeve.

"I should never have let you come." Viktor finally said, dropping his arms to his lap, "You didn't need to see that."

"Are you okay!?  Are you hurt!?" Yuri was too worried about physical harm than his own emotional state, and he grabbed Viktor's shoulders to try and shake him out of his stupor, "Viktor!"

The Russian just looked at his hands where they'd fallen to his lap, his clothing wet from the snow, the cold seeping in.  His fingers were turning pink from exposure, but all he could think to do was use them to grasp at Yuri's coat and pull him close, burying his face against the crook of his neck. 

Yuri wrapped his arms around the man and held him for a while...and Viktor cried.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN

Viktor was still choking on the occasional breath even as they were finally getting him back home. Yuri was helping get him onto the couch while Makkachin ran back and forth around them, sensing the tension and unsure how to react, given he was still excited everyone was back to begin with.

Yakov closed the door behind them, and stepped quietly into the room, "Vitya, do you want me to look through this before you do?"

The skater nodded, unable to form coherent words. Yuri had gone to the linen closet to find towels, trying to get Viktor as dry as he could until the man was willing to change.

Yakov pulled the crushed envelope from his jacket's inside pocket, and used a letter-opener on a nearby desk to start ripping it open. Inside was a single sheet of torn notepad paper with an address scrawled in Cyrillic text, which the coach set aside, knowing it was the location of the next day's somber event. He also found another, normal-sized mailing envelope, which was sealed with old, faded tape, and a few photos. The handwriting on the sealed envelope was different than that which was on the notepad paper, and Yakov could only assume it was Viktor's mother's.

He set that aside as well to look at the photos, trying to flatten them out again to get a better look in the dim light of the room. It was obvious that the photos were 20 or so years old; worn and faded, and showing a much younger woman than the one that had died in the preceding days, with a young child. They both had silver-grey hair, though it was hard to tell with how faded some of the colors were.

Yakov started setting the photos on a shorter table where Viktor could see them, and the skater glanced past where he held his face in his hands, elbows on his knees, to see what was in store.

He recognized them.

"Is that...your mom?" Yuri wondered quietly, looking at the picture Viktor picked up first to get a closer look.

"Da." He rubbed his nose and snuffled a breath, "She was probably...33, maybe 34 here."

"It's easy to see what side of the family you got your good looks from." Yuri said, trying to lighten the mood, and Viktor did smile despite himself.

"These are all from before I really got into skating." Viktor pointed out, looking through the 5 photos before him, "There's nothing from after I turned 10, for sure. My father was never the sort of man to take pictures, so these ones of me and my Mama when I was really young were probably taken by my Un-"

Yakov was reading the letter that had been separately sealed, but glanced an eye aside when he heard the words. Viktor had stopped and shook his head, moving on without finishing the thought, so the elder coach went back to the letter. It was easily three pages long, and Yakov had one hand over his chin as he scrolled through the hand-written text. When he was done, he realigned the papers so they'd be in the right order and folded them back into the smaller white envelope, putting it on the table with the pictures.

"Wait to read this until you've had some time to decompress, Vitya." He said, keeping his hand over top of the folded paper until Viktor looked at him, "I imagine you won't be interested in skating for a few days either, so I don't mind if you don't come to practice while this all settles down." The coach went on, rising back up to his full height, "But you know where to find me if you need anything."

"Thank you for everything, Yakov, and sorry for dragging you back into this mess. I'm sure you had enough of it back when it first started...now it's all coming up again." Viktor aded quietly, rising to stand and show the man outside again. They exchanged a few more words in Russian before Viktor closed the front door, keeping his hand flat on it as he heard the Mercedes turning on outside, fading away in the seconds after. He then slowly shuffled back to the couch where Yuri was still looking at the pictures. He grabbed the envelope with the three folded pages and sat down, damp and cold, and pulled the papers out to read them. He slouched and pulled one knee up to half-cross his legs, looking at the papers without unfolding them just yet.

Yuri reached over and stroked some of that silver hair, "You don't have to read it now if you don't want to."

"Yeah..." The Russian agreed, too anxious to look the letter over for the moment, "All I want right now is to get out of these clothes and warm up."

"...Can do anything to help...?"

"Go pull a bath, would you?" He asked, tilting his head back to look at his partner, "It's not Yu-Topia, but we can still soak for a while, right?"

"Yeah!" The younger skater answered, kissing the man's forehead before standing to go do as he'd been asked. He was barely around the corner when he seemed to turn about-face and come back again, looking at Viktor, and swiping the letter from his mitts before he had a chance to unfold it.

The Russian didn't argue, though he was a bit dumbfounded that Yuri would take it from him either way. But, he smiled at the understanding that Yuri was just trying to protect him.

Before long, he was submerged up to his chin in hot water, and the memory of earlier in the afternoon was starting to melt away. Yuri was tossing the wet clothes into a separate hamper for later, and came back to sit on the edge of the large tub. He reached for a washcloth, folded it, dipped it in the water, and then flopped it on top of his fiancé's head with a squish.

"It's not exactly Yu-Topia, but I guess it's close." Yuri said, "At least here you can put the towel in the water."

"...There is one thing missing, for certain." Viktor pointed out nonchalantly, pushing himself up a little bit so his arms and shoulders were above the water. He propped his elbows up onto the sides of the basin and laced his fingers together, giving Yuri a bit of an elementary look, "Can you guess what it is?"

The younger man started listing things off on his fingers, "...Mood lighting, stone masonry, that fountain in the middle, the giant red kabuki demon-mask on the wall, a bunch of old men in small towels, uhh..."

Viktor huffed a laugh and then leaned over, wrapping one arm around his partner before dragging him, fully clothed, down into the tub with him. Though there was an initial protest, mostly because Yuri wasn't ready, the younger figure eventually simmered down and let Viktor hold him there. He managed to keep his socks dry though, and set his feet to dangle over the edge of the tub.

"There," Viktor said proudly, "Now it's perfect."

Yuri settled in and relaxed in the man's grip, and things once again started to feel like they were on the mend. But, Yuri had gotten suddenly accustomed to the idea that normalcy was just the eye of a series of storms, and it was bound to get worse again before it got better.

True to his fear, Viktor brought it all back around again.

"I'm not taking you with me tomorrow."

"Bu-" The water splashed a little where he whipped his head around so fast.

"No. I forbid it." The Russian said flatly, not moving a muscle, "I should have fought harder to prevent you from seeing what happened today, too. I'm sorry that I didn't. If you want to help me...the best thing you can do is to let me do this alone. I don't want to taint our relationship with a problem that hadn't even existed until now. I don't need you to remember me the way I was earlier. That's not me."

Yuri wanted to fight it, but in that moment, he felt he didn't have a horse in that race. He just furrowed his brow and tilted his head against his partner's shoulder, even with the water there making his hair wet. It mattered so little compared to everything else.

"Yakov and I will deal with this last thing tomorrow, and then I want to go back to how we were before. Whatever questions you might once have had about my family...forget them. You're my family. You already know the only important bits about my past that matter anyway."

"...Can Yakov protect you from that man? You alluded to him having had a hand in something like this before, but..."

"If my father tries something, I don't think anyone can stop it." Viktor admitted, "But that's not going to be an issue. I'm ending things tomorrow. Whatever happens...it'll be the last thing that happens. I promise."

"You forget promises sometimes..."

"Never something this important."

.

Yuri felt uncomfortable and helpless all day and night afterwards. Viktor had done everything he could think of to put his mind at ease, but it wasn't enough. Even the hard-won pork cutlet bowl seemed like a bitter victory when presented under those circumstances. Viktor upped the ante after that, claiming the man on the floor of the livingroom unexpectedly, thinking maybe that would finally get Yuri's mind off the next day...but it was only a temporary solution. Once it was over and Yuri could catch his breath, he still spent half the night awake worrying.

It truly didn't help that Viktor had finally gone to read the letter, and was gone for the better part of 2 hours, dead in the middle of the night, unwilling to return to bed or even discuss what it said. Yuri later watched him burn it, as well as the photos, and the envelope everything had come in. Even the address was rendered to ash, though Yuri supposed it was because Viktor recognized it, and wouldn't actually need it anymore to know where to go.

He must really want to forget. Yuri thought to himself, crossed arms as he was leaning against a wall, watching in silence. To erase even the good memories from before everything went so wrong... This is all a side of Viktor that he probably never thought he'd have to reveal to me. But even with everything that I've seen, he still refuses to explain what happened that caused it to be this way...I know his father hates the skating, but why?

When it was finally time to go, Viktor took his partner to the ice rink to leave him with the rest of the Russian skate team. He knew Yurio would be there at least, if no one else was. The last thing he wanted was for Yuri to be by himself while everything was coming to a head.

[...You want me to babysit your boyfriend?] Yurio was incredulous, [Do I get paid for this?]

Viktor huffed a laugh and shook his head, [No, but I'll really appreciate it?]

Yuri just watched the pair exchange comments in Russian, and sighed to himself, "I really should learn their language...it's too easy for them to talk about me when I'm standing right here."

When it seemed like they'd finally come to an agreement, Viktor pulled his fiancé aside. He took the man's hands in his own and squeezed them reassuringly, waiting a moment before doing something Yuri had never thought would ever happen.

"I know I chastised you fiercely for even suggesting this before...but..."

The Russian reached for his finger and pulled his ring off. Sighing, he kissed the gold, looked at the half-snowflake engraving on the inside of the band, and put it carefully into the palm of Yuri's hand, cautious to close his partner's fingers overtop of it before encapsulating the whole hand with both of his own.

Yuri was entirely confused, and his chest and throat started to hurt immediately.

"I need you to keep this safe for me." Viktor finally explained, "The last thing I need is for my father to try and take it away, and throw it into the woods...or to make me stumble, and have it fall out of my pocket without me knowing. I would never forgive myself if I allowed that to happen when I knew I could protect it, and you're the only one I trust to hold onto it until I'm back. You understand?"

The younger skater nodded, though he shook as he did so, "I understand..." He moved to take the ring and put it onto his middle finger, right next to the ring he himself bore, "I'll keep it here until you come to collect it."

Viktor smiled, the same sad but joyous smile he had born when asking why Yuri was still in warm-up mode during the GP Final, before both of them cried on the rink wall together. His heart felt heavy with the guilt of having to leave the ring behind, but he knew...he rationalized...everything said it was the right thing to do. He noted the odd perplexity of hoping his father would try to take the ring now, just so he could have the justification in his own mind for having put it into safe keeping ahead of time.

"Please don't get hurt." Yuri pleaded.

The Russian nodded, "I don't plan on it." He leaned in close to kiss his fiancé lightly, brushing his cheek with a thumb.

Yurio watched quietly from where he'd previously been standing, but turned his head abruptly to avoid getting an eyeful. The sight of their affection still made him uneasy.

When Viktor finally started to leave, seeing Yakov pulling up just outside, Yurio held his ground. Yuri stepped up next to him silently, watching the pair entering the car. He snuffled a little.

"You're not going to cry, are you?" The blond wondered pessimistically.

"You don't even know what he's about to do."

"I know that whatever it is, it bothers him less than it bothers you, so you crying doesn't make any sense."

"...Phichit-kun said the same thing at Four Continents."

"Fit-bit-coon?"

"Phichit Chulanont. The Thai skater I used to train with when I was in America." The older skater answered, "He was at the GPF. How can you forget it? He's the only Thai skater that ever did 'Shall We Skate' as a figure skating performance."

"I don't watch most of the other skaters." Yurio shrugged, "I only really watch the ones that I have to worry about being contenders for the podium."

Yuri deadpanned, "That's cruel."

"Still doesn't change the fact that you're bawling over someone else's problems."

"It's not that uncommon for people to share in each other's burdens when they care about one another." Yuri gawked at the younger skater, "Like how Viktor helped carry your burden when your grandpa was in the hospital."

"That was different."

"It's not entirely different." Yuri looked through the glass doors to see Yakov's car pulling away, and the butterflies started to rise in his gut. He hated that he only knew the 'event' started at 3, but not having a clue when it would end or when he could expect Viktor to return...that was killing him.

"Let's go skate." Yurio said suddenly, pulling Yuri from his thoughts, "There's no sense worrying about it until there's something to worry about."

Sighing, Yuri followed him back through the locker rooms, put on his skates, and went out onto the ice.

By 7pm, there was still no word, and Yuri had done basically nothing other than skate slow laps since 5. Yurio had even done his entire new Short Program, but Yuri was so distracted in his mind that he'd missed it completely.

Then 8 o'clock rolled around, and still nothing.

Then it was 9 o'clock, and Yurio was having to offer to let Yuri come back to his place for a while, "Unless you want to spend the night alone or something." When the older figure didn't answer, the teen rolled his eyes and stepped out of the locker-room to wait in the foyer.

Yuri was moving at a glacial pace to get his skates off and organize his backpack.

"YOU SURE ARE TAKING YOUR SWEET TIME IN THERE." He'd heard Yurio yelling from the exit.

The Asian got a fire under his butt after that and started to hurry, throwing the pack on and rushing to the doors. As they were rounding the last corner before leaving the arena, Yuri looked outside to see the familiar headlights of a Mercedes pulling up. He barreled out the doors and ran up to the sidewalk's edge, happy to finally see the car. When it stopped, and the engine turned off, Yakov was the first to get out.

He could see Viktor's outline in the front passenger seat, but for the most part, he was covered in dark shadows from the car, and he didn't move right away.

Yurio came up next to Yuri, curious, "Why isn't he getting out?" He looked to his coach, "Yakov...?"

"It's been a long day." Was all the tired older man could say.

Yurio noticed his coach had something of a scrape on his chin, and his long-coat had what looked like dried mud, and raised a brow at it, "Did you fall...?"

Yuri went around the other side of the car and moved to pull open the door for his fiancé, anxious to give him back his ring and go back to how things were, just as the Russian had said. Then he looked at the man's hands where they were still held on his lap, and saw the cuts and scrapes on his right-side knuckles, "...Viktor...?"

The silver legend's face, from that side at least, looked entirely fine, and it added a certain air of mystery to what was already a mysterious situation. Then the Russian finally started to move, reaching over to undo the seat-belt from its buckle, and got out of the car. When he leaned down to avoid hitting his head on the door-frame, Yuri could see that something was weird about his hair. It looked like it had been made wet and then dried without being brushed. There were a few red streaks in his bangs as well, especially at the tips, which were darker red than elsewhere.

Yakov looked uneasy as he watched as Viktor rose back up to his full height, even as Yuri threw both arms around the man in greeting, saying all the expected things to welcome him back. When Yuri finally looked up again though, finally able to see past the bangs that covered the opposite side of his fiancé's face, he saw true 'rewards' of the afternoon's events.

The skin behind those strands of red-tinted silver-grey hair was red, shiny, and swollen. Further inspection lead Yuri to see that there were a few deep cuts around the eye socket and cheek, black in the dark of the night, and a single slate-blue eye looking back at him through a slit where the eyelid could barely open, surrounded by a pool of dark red where the sclera should have been white. Whatever had gotten Viktor's hair wet earlier had smeared the blood around his face and left faded, crusty red streaks down his chin and neck, vanishing under the edge of that stained scarf.

The gentle skater couldn't handle it. He could hear the ringing in his ears just micro-seconds before the edges of his sight started to go dark. The world faded, and he felt the strength leave his legs. Everything became black, and he dropped where he stood.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT

It was a two hour drive north of St. Petersburg; his hometown was more like a hamlet than an rural pocket of modern civilization.  Viktor barely remembered it, but he wasn't surprised that the funeral would be held there.  He felt a little silly for thinking it would be held anywhere else.

I almost could've gotten away with not meeting Konstantin at all.  I should've known the funeral would be there.  The whole family is buried there.

Viktor was entirely unaccustomed to that kind of scenery.  People stared as the Mercedes pulled through.  It looked like a time capsule with a futuristic wonder-machine heading by.

The funeral was being held on a small farm a minute further behind the town.  There were several cars there already.  Some were more modern, coming from other nearby cities, but most were old and worn down.  Some people had even arrived on horseback, and their mounts were tied to fences or trees at the end of the dirt road leading to the small, dilapidated house on the hill ahead of them.  There was one singular modern vehicle aside from their own, a hybrid even, bright blue and sticking out like a sore thumb amidst the browns, greys, blacks, and whites of everything else.

From the look of everything, Viktor's lifestyle was miles apart from where his family had come from.  He didn't doubt that this humble beginning is what made it possible for his mother to tolerate the ultra-conservative ideas of home-life that his father had forced onto them. 

Dogs barked and ran around them as they parked and got out of the Mercedes, taking in the smell of the countryside like they'd just found themselves on another planet.

"Hard to believe these are your roots." Yakov said quietly, stepping out ahead of the vehicle to walk with his athlete up the small, wet hill.  They could see a small crowd of people past the edge of the tree-line, where a small clearing gave way to what looked like a family cemetery.

Viktor was too busy scanning their surroundings for his father to notice anything else.  He eventually spotted Konstantin coming out of the hovel with two other men, though thankfully, neither was near as large as he was.  When the two of them caught sight of each other, Konstantin started calling for the group to gather around.  A scruffy Russian Orthodox priest was quick to follow out of the house shortly after that.

The hole had already been dug, and a simple, white-painted wooden box was next to it.  There was a framed picture sitting on top of it with flowers all around.  The photo showed Viktor's mother from years ago.  There probably weren't many photos taken after he'd left the family.  Tatiyana was a beautiful woman in her youth, and probably into her elder years as well.  Long, wavy, silver-grey hair cascaded over her shoulders and framed her face.  She had warm green eyes and a pale, soft complexion.  Truly a song-bird that married a monstrous wild boar.

There were simple benches set up, and people started to sit down as Konstantin gave his little speech.  Viktor kept his eyes down, hearing the words but trying not to listen to them.  People sitting nearby were whispering about him, turning their heads over their shoulders to gawk at him.  He wasn't sure if he was seen as some morbid curiosity returning home, or if they were  even sure who he was.  He could only hope that his silver hair was enough to reveal who he was in relation to the woman about to be buried.  There were enough people around with similar hair to make it clear that he belonged on some level.

Yakov kept himself between Viktor and the rest of the attendees, acting as a buffer in case there were problems. 

Most of the whispers Viktor heard seemed to be about the days prior, and insulting remarks about how the 'ungrateful son' hadn't bothered to come during that whole time.  He wanted to tell them that he didn't even know where everything was taking place until just a day and a half prior, but he knew it wouldn't make any difference.  They would've already done the washing and dressing of the body when he was still at Four Continents with Yuri. 

What was I going to do from Korea anyway?  I wasn't going to leave my fiancé alone in competition over the body of a dead woman that I haven't even seen since I was a child.

He hadn't had the courage yet to look at the head of the coffin, where he could barely see the fluff of the blankets and pillow that made-up the 'new livingroom' his mother was to be interred in. 

They must've done the funeral procession this morning.  Viktor thought on, Usually those things take hours...how long had they been finished and waiting for me?  Did Konstantin deliberately give me the wrong time so I'd show up when it was inappropriate?  Or maybe he just wanted to be sure I'd be here for the least amount of time.

People started to stand and approach the coffin, placing things inside it as they passed and started to wail.  When it seemed like it was Viktor's turn, he stood and followed the line.  Anxiously, slowly, he approached the coffin, and for the first time since he was 12, looked upon the face of the woman who had given him life.

He barely recognized it.  The accident had done extensive damage.  But her hair...washed, combed, set with flowers...he knew it well.  Silver-grey just like his, long and wavy, it framed the battered woman's head, neck, and shoulders before disappearing under the edge of the blanket. 

Hidden in his pocket, Viktor withdrew a small gift.  A small wedge of brie and a bag of candied pecans.  He placed them near her right shoulder, alongside dozens of other gifts of food, money, and precious heirlooms that other members of the family had already left behind.

He noticed that the priest was giving him dirty looks though and he moved on, going back to sit with Yakov while the 'seeing off' ceremony began.  The priest put the paper crown on Tatiyana's head, and Konstantin returned with the two men from before to nail the coffin lid down.  A few minutes later, the coffin was in the pre-dug hole, and people started coming up to toss dirt and coins down onto it, symbolically uniting the deceased with the earth, and paying for her transit into the next world.

A horse whinnied at the bottom of the hill, and Viktor lifted his head, realizing most of the ceremony was over at that point.  Several people were lamenting loudly, sobbing openly...be he couldn't bring himself to evoke anything close to that level of sadness.

He thought back on the contents of the letter.

Viktor...

I don't know that we will ever speak to one another again, but if it ever comes to pass that you get this letter, you should know that I still love you as any mother could love her only son.

There was mournful singing all around him; songs of family life, leaving to ascend to heaven, and other such melodies.  If nothing else, Russians were loud at funerals.  Most of them, anyway.

Viktor stood to approach the mound of dirt that had replaced the hole.  He kept his hands in his pockets as he looked down at the freshly turned earth, trying to think back on the happier times from his long-gone childhood.  There were a few years, after all, before he developed his love for skating, where his family seemed relatively normal.  It hadn't really occurred to him until years after his departure that things were so specifically structured as they had been.  His mother stayed home, his father did manual labor, and their life was simple.

One particular winter, the ice had frozen rather smoothly at the local pond.  He was 6, maybe a little younger, and had found the slippery surface to be the greatest thing he'd ever known.  Even with the snowdrift and only his boots to slide on, it was tremendous fun.  At the time, when his father had condemned his mirth and made him get back onto the banks, he thought that it was because the ice was dangerous.  He would sneak out with his mother to play on it though anytime Konstantin was gone for the day.

It was his mother that got him his first make-shift skates.

His mind had gone blank after that, and he closed his eyes, trying to push the memories out. 

He heard footsteps behind him, but for some insane reason, he thought it was Yakov, since no one said anything.

"Vitya...!" Yakov's voice rang up, further away than Viktor had presumed the man was standing. 

His eyes went wide with realization, but then half-narrowed when he felt the cold trickle of a liquid being poured over the top of his head.  His left eye twitched nervously, feeling the...whatever it was dribbling down the sides of his face, behind his ears, down his neck, and into his clothing.  He was paralyzed though, aside from how he trembled. 

The pouring continued for a while.  When the last drips finally ended, the cold had made its way half-way down his chest, making everything bitter cold.  He turned his eyes a little to the left see the shadow of Konstantin standing directly behind him.

[You made us wait.]

[We were here an hour before you said to show.  Whatever tardiness you're accusing me of is your own fault.]

[At least you had the sense to leave your wife behind.] Konstantin chortled.

Viktor snapped.  The world was red.

He felt a searing pain in his right hand as he turned on his heel to cram his fist as hard as he could into the older man's face.  He felt the crunch of cartilage under the impact, and saw the droplets of blood that flew away from the site as Konstantin wobbled a little.

"VIKTOR!" Yakov yelled, "What are you thinking!?  Get out of there be-"

Konstantin was too large to put off balance by a little peck like Viktor's sucker-punch, and he easily reached out with one hand to grab him by the throat as the other came up to set his nose back into place.

Viktor's coach came scrambling up to try and pull them apart, but Konstantin backhanded him in the jaw and sent him sprawling to the mud, then turned his attention back to the man in his grip.  He put his thumb over one nostril, blew a snort to clear it, and then did the same with the other.

[So at least you had some balls in the end.] He taunted, holding tight even as Viktor was trying to hit his arm for release, [But maybe it's just that, between you and your girlfriend, you had half a ball between you.  Did you borrow it to come out here?]

[...Yuri...is a better man than you ever were...] Viktor said, trying to draw breath when he could, [You're just...an animal...!]

Konstantin shrugged, and used sheer brute force to push Viktor down to his knees by his neck.  That massive bear-arm came up after that, and Viktor would only watch in horror as the world turned to slow motion.

He felt the first crack against his eye socket, but not the second, and he went sprawling to the ground after that.  Searing pain shot through his entire body after that, and he felt a kick to his ribs, pushing him a few feet further back on the grave mound.  His vision spun as he quaked, trying to see if anymore assaults would come.

Konstantin just looked at the broken heap in front of him, and moved to pull the large flask from his coat pocket again, taking a sip before pouring the remains onto Viktor's head again.  The alcohol made Viktor's eye burn, and he moved his hand up to try and protect it, pulling it away only to see blood everywhere.

[What do you want from me!?] He barked, refusing to look up at the man.

[Nothing.]

[Do you get some sick pleasure from watching me suffer, then!?] The skater tried to push himself back to his feet, but found it difficult with his head spinning like it was, [Do you like inflicting pain on others!?]

[Only on those deserving punishment.]

Viktor was incensed, [...I never did anything to deserve this!]

Konstantin just howled with laughter at that, [You never did anything?  You've spent every day of the last 20-something years insulting this family with your ridiculous prancing about on the ice.]

[So what!?  So I can't knock down trees with my fists or scare wolves away with my presence.  Who cares!?]  Viktor finally found his feet, putting his hand up over his eye again, [I love what I do and I'm more successful than you ever were.  My name is recognized around the world!!  I have enough money that I can retire today and be well-off until I'm too old to care anymore!]

[And what have you done with all that success?] Konstantin wondered odiously, [Kept it to yourself.  You come back here with all your nice clothes, chauffeured by a man in a black Mercedes, showing off to all these people who've broken their backs to put food on the table for their families...and all you did was, what...dance?  Strippers do the same thing, selling their bodies for the world to gawk at.  There's nothing honorable about what you do.  Nothing noble.]

Viktor grit his teeth, [I'm not a stripper.  I'm an ATHLETE.  Figure skating is an Olympic sport for fuck's sake!]

[You perform for visual appeal, not skill.  People throw money at you so they can look.]

[So this is about the money then.]

[I don't want your money.]

[What then!?]

[I already told you.  I don't want anything from you.  Tatiyana asked me once that if anything ever happened to her, that I would find a way to tell you.  I'm a man of my word and I did ask she asked.  That's all.]

[I'm sure she'd be proud of you for what you've done since getting me here.]

[It doesn't matter what she thinks anymore.  She's gone.]

[I wish it was you instead...] Viktor said quietly.

Yakov knew that was the end of it, and he moved in to gather his skater and push him back to the car before anything else could happen.  Konstantin just watched them without a word.  As Yakov was corralling Viktor away, the skater planted his heels, and turned once more to glare hatefully at the man who had sired him.

[I never want to hear from you again.] He said stiffly, [Don't ever find a reason to contact me.  Don't contact Yakov, or even the ISU for that matter.  I don't even want to hear about it when you finally die.]

[Just go back to your queer lover, Viktor.  You're not welcome here.]

Viktor's brow furrowed at that, but for some reason, all he could do was laugh at it.  Yakov thought the man had lost his mind and was trying to shove him down the hill again, but still, Viktor laughed.

[His name is Yuri Katsuki...and soon, it's going to be Yuri Nikiforov!!  HOW DO YOU LIKE THAT, HUH?]

[Viktor I swear to God if you don't shut up and get in the car-] Yakov protested.

[He's going to be my husband and we're going to do all kinds of unspeakable things to each other!]

"VITYA!"

Konstantin just glowered at them, keeping his hateful slate-blue eyes on the man he knew was, but refused to accept as, his son. 

A thin, silver-haired older man watched quietly from the door to the small house, grey-green eyes following after Viktor until he was too obscured to pick out from the trees anymore.

Yakov shoved the skater into the front passenger seat and slammed the door closed after him before heading to the other side.  Despite the clamor, he pulled out calmly, not wanting to cause a scene in the little town as they practically fled from it.

It was a few miles down the road before Viktor finally let himself accept that it was over, and he look at where the skin on his knuckles had been slashed where he had punched his father's nose.  Yakov pulled over briefly to pull a travel-size wrap of tissue from the glove box and threw it in Viktor's lap.  No matter how much he tried to dry his face though, the alcohol that saturated his hair continued to drip for a long time after, drawing new, faint red lines down his face and neck until he finally gave up.

He felt tremendous guilt and worry as they pulled back into St. Petersburg.  The weight of not knowing how badly Yuri would react was crushing him.  But, when they finally got back to the ice skating arena and the younger skater had fainted, Viktor knew it was going to be okay.

He moved to pick the unconscious man up in his arms and carried him inside, back the way Yuri and Yurio had just come, and set him down to rest on the benches just within the doors.  Yurio had wordlessly moved off to find the first aid kit and came back shortly thereafter, giving it to their coach so he could tend to Viktor's wounds.

"I'm not even going to ask what the hell you got yourself into." Yurio said stiffly, "But please tell me you at least popped the other guy."

Viktor smiled and looked at his ravaged knuckles, "...Well, I got him once, at least."

"That'll do."

Yakov was cleaning the blood away with gauze and some isopropyl alcohol, "The cuts aren't too deep, so you shouldn't have any scars."

"That's good to hear."

"But your eye..." He said, turning away to get some skin closures from the kit, "You won't be able to use it for a while.  It's the same side he hit last time."

"I know."

"Do you want to cancel your spot at Worlds?"

Viktor shook his head, gently stroking Yuri's where he held it in his lap, "No, I'll be fine by Worlds.  I'd rather go and be in last place than skip one more competition."

The younger skater seemed to finally be rousing again, and he slowly opened his eyes, looking up blearily to where Viktor was looking down at him.  The sight of his swollen, red eye made Yuri blanch again, but he pushed himself to sit, and really looked at it.  Viktor's hair had been pulled back so Yakov could more easily clean and dress the wounds, so it was more striking than before, but at least Yuri expected it so it didn't shock him as much as it had previously.

There were a thousand things Yuri wanted to say, but words weren't forthcoming.  All he could think to do was drape his legs off the opposite end of the bench and wrap his arms around his partner, leaning in to put his forehead on Viktor's chest, clinging like he thought the man would slip through his fingers if he didn't.  Viktor just held him in turn, quietly consoling him as Yakov finished putting the last skin closures on the few cuts around his eye and cheek.

"It's fine now." He said in a whisper, "It's over."

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWENTY NINE

Yakov only tenuously allowed Viktor to drive himself home after everything that had happened, and he only did that after checking his vision several times with the good eye closed.  Grumbling the whole while however, he watched as Viktor took Yuri back to his own car and started the drive away from the ice rink.  Yakov drove Yurio home himself.

The drive back was relatively silent.  Yuri still had difficulty believing the injuries Viktor had sustained.  Every time he glanced over at the man, he was looking at the right side of his face, and he looked perfectly normal...but then he'd see his right hand on the steering wheel and saw the cuts and red scrapes on his knuckles, and he'd be reminded of how real it all was. 

Unable to reach the hand while it was in use though, Yuri settled for resting his left hand on Viktor's leg as he drove. 

The Russian glanced up as he felt it, looking to Yuri briefly.  The younger man had already turned his head around to look out the passenger side door though and didn't see his sad smile, but he switched hands on the wheel and lowered his right to Yuri's.  He gave his fiancé's hand a gentle squeeze and continued the drive.

As they came to pause at an intersection, Viktor tapped on Yuri's hand with one finger to get his attention, and the Japanese skater looked back at him curiously.

"You have something of mine, I believe." The Russian said coyly, keeping sure to hide his left eye.  He rested his elbow on the compartment between the two seats and waggled his ring finger.

He saw Yuri's eyes light up, and he immediately went to pull the ring off his finger and slip it back onto Viktor's, where it belonged.  Viktor could tell a little tension had been released with that, and he leaned over to kiss Yuri's own ring before the light turned green and he had to look forward again.

Makkachin was barking furiously when he heard the car pull up in the driveway, and then into the garage.  Yuri was ready this time though and caught the dog when he lunged out the door at them, carrying the heavy poodle back inside with Viktor huffing a light chuckle at them as they went.

Bypassing the kitchen, Viktor went over to the front door to put his coat and scarf away in the coat closet, only to realize how filthy they were and stopped.  He sighed at the mud and blood stains he saw there in the light, and closed the door again without hanging them.  Instead, he went back to the kitchen, found a garbage bag, stuffed them both inside and discarded them by the back door without a word.  He wouldn't even consider sending them to be properly cleaned.

It would just remind me of this day every time I see them.  I'll get rid of everything I wore today.

That done, he went back to the front door to collect a box that he'd seen sitting there as they arrived.  Checking the Cyrillic on the label, he realized the box was from his costume designer, and his spirits were lifted a little, pulling it inside and moving to shut the door with his heel.

Yuri had finished putting dinner down for the poodle when he looked back and saw Viktor with the box, pushing in where the tape met the folded parts of the lid and yanking the tape off to open it. 

"What's that?"

"The two outfits I need for this season...all one competition of it, anyway." Viktor answered, checking the top of the pile within to see a hand-written letter from the tailor's shop.

Yuri moved to sit on the edge of the big blue couch behind the man and watched as he opened the envelope.  The text was in Cyrillic as well though and he was hopeless, "What's it say?"

"To Mr. Viktor Nikiforov," Viktor started, "We want to thank you again for your business and wish you well in your skating career.  We hope these costumes suit you well and look forward to seeing you on the ice with them.  Everyone here was so excited to get your order.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for coming back!"

The pair smiled at that.

"Also," Viktor continued, realizing there was more on a second page.  That text was all hand-written by the people who worked in the tailoring shop; seven signatures, and a beautiful calligraphy heading that read '...Congratulations On Your Engagement, From Everyone Here!'

Yuri squeezed Viktor's right shoulder happily when he read it aloud, and then gestured for him to put on a show, "Let's see them!"

"Ah...a little later, if that's okay." Viktor said sullenly, putting the letter back into the envelope and packing the box away.

"...You don't want to show off?"

Viktor turned back to him and leaned against the foot of the couch, resting his elbow on the edge of it, "I'm covered in blood and alcohol, and I probably reek.  I don't want to get these outfits dirty before I've used them."

"Oh...right..." Yuri remembered, seeing past Viktor's head for the first time since he took his coat and scarf off, and seeing a rather large blot of blood and dried liquor over his collarbone and chest. 

The Russian folded the panels of the box's lid together and shoved it into a corner of the living room for later, then headed down the hall for the bedroom, ruffling Yuri's hair reassuringly as he passed.  Dubiously, Yuri followed soon after, practically being as nervous and reserved about going into the bedroom they'd shared as though he'd only been a nervous friend, seeing the house for the first time all over again.  He saw the bathroom light was already on and heard the showed being started, but when Viktor came back out again, in the middle of pulling off his filthy blood-stained shirt, Yuri squeaked a gasp and pulled his hands up to his mouth.

Viktor looked over at him, not having expected him to be idling in the doorway as he had been.  He looked down at himself, thinking it was just more of the blood that had stained his skin under the shirt, but he realized he'd been covered in bruises.  There was a larger one on the front of his chest by the left side, and he put his hand over it tenderly, remembering the moment his father had kicked him.  The impact had moved him 3 feet across snow and freshly-turned earth.

But, in the end, he was more surprised at how little it hurt at that moment.

"I guess it's a good thing that I was able to forget all these." He said warily, trying to find a silver lining to the whole mess.

Yuri was still in shock though and was at a loss for words.

"...I'll be fine, I promise." Viktor tried.

"You should be telling the police." The younger man finally managed, "He should be in jail for what he did to you."

"I can't prove he laid a finger on me, and no one that saw it happen will say a word against him." Viktor explained, "It would be pointless."

"Did he hit you as a kid, too?" Yuri was starting to get angry about the whole thing.

"No." Viktor said simply, "The worst he ever did before today was the hit in the eye I told you about, when Yakov and I told him that I would be leaving home to skate professionally."

"I just don't understand..." The shorter man said, crossing his arms and approaching warily, "What's his big problem with skating?  Why does he hate it so much that he'd take it out on you physically for it?"

"No idea." His fiancé shrugged, wincing as he felt a sharp pain from the biggest bruise, "I think the fisty-cuffs these last two days was inspired by realizing you and I had a relationship, because he didn't clench down on me until after he saw my ring, and then probably saw yours.  Konstantin is a very conservative and deeply religious man.  I don't know how much western religion has influenced Japanese culture, but here in Russia, if you go against The Word then you might as well be holding up a sign asking for problems."

Yuri sighed in understanding, "Maybe we should move to Hasetsu instead."

"Because of my father?" Viktor laughed, "That would be fleeing.  I'm not about to let him screw up my life...our lives...because of a span of two days out of thousands that we're going to be together."  He didn't give Yuri a chance to reply to that though, crumbling his bloodstained shirt up into a ball and tossing it into a wastebasket by the nightstand before removing his slacks to send them the same way.  He checked his legs briefly to find a few more bruises on his hips, probably from where he'd actually hit the ground, and a few scuffs on his knees from when Konstantin had forced him to kneel, "Jeeze...I bruise like an apple."

He looked over at his silent partner, and saw the worried look on his face, eyebrows furrowed.

"Your face is going to get stuck like that, you know." Viktor mused, turning back into the bathroom as he saw the mirror fully fogged from the steam.

Yuri watched as Viktor's hand disappeared beyond the edge of the doorframe where he'd held it as he entered, and then drew in a deep breath. 

...I'm never going to be able to sleep, knowing the condition he's in and how nonchalant he's being about it...

He turned to leave the bedroom and headed back to the kitchen.  He knew there was a jar of previously-mulled wine that Viktor had made after their return from Four Continents, and he poured a cup before warming it briefly in the microwave.  As the cup turned on the glass disc inside the machine, Yuri watched it pensively, raising his hands up to rub his temples where he felt a headache coming on.

The microwave beeped and went dark, and he reached in to grab the cup, swirling it a little before smelling its sweet aroma and taking a little sip.  Makkachin had come up after that and whined a little for attention, so Yuri scratched the pupper behind the ears before making his way back to the bedroom.

He set the cup on the nightstand on his side of the bed, and crawled on top of the covers to look at his phone.  Instagram was awash with new content, and Yuri was pleased to see a gallery of photos from his and Viktor's Exhibition show on the triplets' Viktuuri account.  He went through each photo slowly, mesmerized by their performance, and in disbelief all over again that it had even happened.

I'd been trying to catch up to Viktor for over half my life, and in the end, he surprises me more than ever by not only dancing with me for a real performance...he even says we're equals.  But...

His eyes narrowed a little as he looked down.

He's done so much for me...and what have I really done for him?  Can I really make him happy when it's always him making plans?  I feel like I'm just reacting to most everything.  The one time I ever really surprised him was by doing his signature quad flip at the end of my Cup of China Free Skate...and then he one-upped me again a second later anyway...

He remembered that first kiss like it had just happened; how his heart practically stopped beating in his chest, how soft Viktor's lips had been, and how happy he'd been when Viktor confirmed that it wasn't just a positional accident from the lunge-hug.

'It was the only thing I could think of that would surprise you more than you surprised me.'

As was usual for the younger man, when his mind wandered, it wandered far.

'I'm not good with people crying in front of me.  ...Should I just kiss you?'

'NO!!  I just want you to stand by me!  I need you to believe more than I do that I can win!!'

He'd cried so hard after that moment that his whole face was red when they finally got back from the parking garage.  He then tricked Viktor into leaning over the ice by dropping his tissue too far for him to reach as he'd planned, and then he stuck his finger into the supposed thin spot on the crown of Viktor's head, patting him lightly once and then skating off without a word.

Yuri realized that was probably the only time he'd even halfway been able to console his partner.  The next time he'd even had the opportunity, Viktor was inconsolable.

And this time...I wasn't even there at all.  What kind of husband am I could to make if I can't do anything to help him?

He heard the shower turn off after that, and soon, the man was coming out again.  He worried all over again when Viktor finally opened the door where it had just been cracked before, and he saw the bruises again.  Without the dirt and blood to cover him, some bruises looked worse than before, whereas others weren't quite so bad.  The one on Viktor's left chest, however...he knew that would be quite ripe by the next day, and Viktor wouldn't be able to hide how much it hurt even to breathe.

For the moment though, he tried to hide it all by pulling a bathrobe over his arms, tying it over where he'd pulled on some sweat pants, and ruffled the towel over his head to try and dry his hair a little.

"Much better." He said aloud, moving towards the bed the sit on the edge of it.  Yuri's side had been the one closest to the two legitimate doors in the room, whereas Viktor's side had been with the full-length windows to his right, and closet door by the foot-end of the bed.  He liked to look outside as he roused from sleep. 

Viktor had intended to just fall down to his back after sitting down, but he found that Yuri had other plans, and had quickly swept in behind him to catch him as he tilted.  When he stopped, a little surprise where he'd landed, he looked up from Yuri's chest and smiled, "Yes?"

"I can't undo what happened today, but I can help you forget it, right?" He wondered.

"You can do whatever you want."  Viktor said, reaching up with one hand to stroke Yuri's cheek, pushing up a little so he could kiss the man's neck before sitting fully upright in front of him, "What'd you have in mind?  I'm a little tired for a fashion show right now, mind you..."

"No, you've done plenty today...you deserve to relax." Yuri pointed out, leaning back a little to cross his legs and reach behind him to grab the cup of reheated wine, offering it to Viktor, "It's not as hot as it was when I made it, but..."

The Russian waved his hand over the cup to draw up the aroma, and found it still pleasing, so he accepted the cup and took a sip.  As he did so, Yuri went to stick his head in the bathroom briefly to grab a comb and come back, resuming his place, cross-legged, behind his partner.  Gently taking the towel on Viktor's head into his hands, the comb held in his lips, he did his best to dry the man's hair without touching the tender flesh by his left eye.  When he pulled the towel away, he found that the grey pattern in the fabric had a light red tint in a few places, but it wasn't too bad, so he drew a deep breath and set it aside.

He quietly took the comb in his hand and started to brush his partner's hair back, as Viktor had done for him half a hundred times.  Viktor leaned back on his left hand to make it easier for him, and continued sipping at the lukewarm wine.

"You'd warn me if you got hit in the head anywhere, right?" Yuri suddenly wondered, thinking about how it would hurt if the comb's teeth caught the edge of a cut that was hidden under that silver hair.

"He only hit my face." Viktor answered, sounding half-asleep as he said it.

Yuri grimaced, supposing that was a good thing, but...not really.  But he continued combing until that half-damp hair was soft, straight, and shone like platinum.  He set the comb aside after that and moved his fingers down to Viktor's neck, deftly rubbing from nape to shoulders with slow and rhythmic circles.  Before long, Yuri uncrossed his legs to get closer, folding them under himself and putting his knees aside Viktor's hips where he sat. 

Even though Yuri knew why Viktor was wearing the bathrobe, he slipped his fingers under the edge of it near the top and started pushing it away so he could see skin beneath it.  Now exposed again, Yuri went back to his previous mission, rubbing away knots and tension in his fiancé's flesh.  He slowly went down Viktor's back and sides, reaching the point of the fabric-pile around the man's waist, and then moving back up again.  He could feel Viktor melting little by little under his touch, and he was grateful to be able to offer even such a small gesture to the man as this.

As Yuri leaned in to kiss Viktor's shoulder blades, Viktor himself started to lean back against him, coming to rest in a slouching position like when he'd originally been caught half-falling a few minutes prior.  Yuri gently kissed the man's right shoulder where it was set in front of him, and Viktor reached up to pull the glasses away, then tilted his head to the left to give his partner more access.  Yuri was emboldened by it, as hoped, and warm fingers slowly started sliding up under Viktor's arms to his sides as his mouth moved up towards his ear.  Careful not to touch the bruise, Yuri held the man close, hands flat against his chest as he kissed Viktor's neck higher and higher.  Hands then started to go lower, and Viktor let out a quiet hum of bliss as he felt their travel.  They didn't go too far though, and the tease only excited him more.

Yuri's left hand began the ascent again, drawing circles and other patterns idly on Viktor's chest, and the right went down to stroke at his leg.  The Russian then propped himself up suddenly, drained the last of the mulled wine, set the cup on the nearby nightstand with Yuri's glasses, and then settled in again with his back to his fiancé's chest.  He reached for Yuri's hands and put them back where they'd been a moment ago, happily nosing Yuri's own neck now that he was sitting up high enough to do so.

The teasing began anew after that; fingers rising up Viktor's leg just enough to brush against center before moving back down again.  He held Yuri's hand against his chest with his left hand, lacing their fingers together as his right hand was up to cup Yuri's cheek, reaching back periodically to run through his dark hair.  Viktor turned his face and then pulled Yuri's to meet him, kissing him lightly just as that teasing hand finally found their mark.  He drew in a hissed breath against Yuri's lips as he was drawn out from the folds of clothing.

The younger skater pulled their left hands up to his lips to kiss them before unlacing his fingers to help his other hand, and Viktor twitched with delight at the extra attention.  His own hands moved down to grip where Yuri's knees were pinning him, practically bracing himself for what was to come.

Yuri set his lips against the man's neck again gently, closing his eyes and beginning to focus on his task.  Every quiver, every arch of the Russian's body was a cue for him, and he read them like a map.  Every breath, gasp, hum, and moan was a sign.  The pinnacle was hearing Viktor whispering his name, and it was even better if he couldn't say the whole thing without his voice quaking in the middle. 

Three times, he nearly brought the man to climax, only to back off again and slow down, diverting attention to less sensitive parts to ease into the build-up again.  He liked to see Viktor on the edge.  The breathless whisper of a whimper against his ear, only to gasp and cry out a little as he was denied release. 

He could feel Viktor's heart pounding through his skin, and decided he would unburden his fiancé of his tension finally.  He twisted out from behind him and leaned down to the right, propping himself up on a folded elbow before taking the man in his mouth.  Viktor practically latched onto Yuri's side as he did so, fingers clutching at fabric as he pressed his forehead and cheek against the man's hip. 

Still a little unsure of himself, Yuri did his best.  He kissed and licked at the tip, the sides, every inch, rolling his tongue across it when he took it fully inside.  After the teasing and stroking from before, the sudden change of texture and warmth was enough to get Viktor over the edge quickly.  He cried out and bit down on the thick outer hem of Yuri's jeans as he finally felt release, his entire body shaking after that.  To his surprise, Yuri swallowed.  He twisted a little to bring his knees up and let his fiancé use his legs as a pillow, just as he was using Yuri's hip in turn, and he breathed heavy breaths of satisfaction. 

"That's only the second time you've been willing to do that." Viktor said quietly, touching his fingers to Yuri's chin affectionately, "You were so embarrassed the first time, I didn't think you'd want to again after that.  Not for a long time, anyway."

Yuri's face was red with remembrance, "I..." He started, then moving his own hand up to lightly grasp at Viktor's wrist where it was closest, "I wanted to help you feel better, without you thinking you needed to do anything for me in return.  I'd do anything to-"

"I know." Viktor touched his thumb to Yuri's lip, "And I love you more every day because of it."

The raven-haired youth's eyes practically shimmered as those words were spoken, and he kissed at the palm of the man's hand in gratitude. 

I'm not so useless after all.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER THIRTY

Sleep came easy after the tension was released. Yuri barely managed to grab his night mask before passing out. When the light of the next morning started creeping through, the mask would protect him from being woken up too soon...but Viktor, well...he liked to bask in it like a snake on a rock.

At least, he usually did. That particular morning was different from others. No alarm sounded, the light didn't come in, and when Yuri started to wake up, he realized his t-shirt felt tight. He reached one hand up to put a thumb under the edge of the mask and peek around, only to find a big lump under his shirt, barely visible in the dimness of the room, and giving him a bit of a start. He quickly realized it was Viktor though; he'd put his entire head under that shirt and settled his cheek against Yuri's upper abdomen, right arm draped over him, and both holding onto him tightly.

Yuri dropped his head back down, settled the hand that had lifted his mask onto where Viktor's head was under his shirt, and tried to go back to sleep. For once, he didn't even care what time it was. They had nowhere to be and nothing to get up for in particular.

It was only after Makkachin came trotting into the room and jumped up onto the bed that either of them admitted it was probably time to get up for the day. The dog had actually brought his food bowl with him, dumping it on Viktor's legs before lying down behind him proudly, panting lightly as he always did.

"Meggershin...goway..." Viktor mumbled drearily, raising the hand that was draped over Yuri and trying to wave the dog off. He found the food bowl right behind his back where it had rolled after landing on his hip, and moved to drop it off the edge of the bed somewhere on the other side of his partner.

The dog would not be dissuaded though, and barked once loudly as the bowl hit the ground, causing Viktor to jerk with surprise and finally pull his head out from under Yuri's shirt, "Makkachin I swear...! You know the rules, one bork per day and none before noon!"

Makkachin seemed to understand, as he whined pitifully and rolled onto his back for forgiveness. Viktor patted the dog's belly twice and then reclaimed his head-space inside Yuri's shirt.

"Hey."

"Mmmhhh..." Viktor grumbled feebly.

"It's probably late."

"Don't make me get up yet."

"It's probably late."

"Quit playing, you don't know what time it is."

Yuri raised one hand lazily into the air and pointed, "That is correct, sir." And then dropped it behind his head.

He could feel Viktor turning under the shirt, his breath hot against his skin, "...Five more minutes..."

The younger skater hummed a breath in agreement, and fumbled to reach for his phone on the nightstand. When he was sure he finally had it, he gathered it up and reached back up with his free hand to pull the night mask off one eye. When he clicked the phone on, he was a bit surprised to realize it was barely 6:15am.

"Well, I guess that explains why there's hardly any light..."

"Less talking, more sleeping." Viktor mumbled, settling his chin against Yuri's sternum to keep dozing.

Yuri realized he could see a little of the man's hair through the neck-hole in that shirt, and as he lowered his phone-hand down, he used the other to pull the opening up a little to glance within, seeing one slate-blue eye peeking back at him, the other covered by silver-grey bangs, "Cozy in there?"

The eye closed as the Russian smiled, "This is my house now. I live here."

"I'm afraid I'll have to evict you."

"What?" Viktor's eye opened again, "Noooooo..."

Yuri started to push himself up on his elbows, slowly forcing Viktor down and out, try as he might to stay where he was. Eventually, the raven-haired man was successful though and he was able to twist his legs off the side of the bed, even as Viktor was still holding onto him with both arms around his waist. Yuri looked back down at him from where he sat, and patted the mussed-up hair on Viktor's head, "You can stay here a bit longer if you want." Finally detaching from the man, Yuri headed for the door, stretching his arms as he walked through.

Viktor watched him go, rolling himself up into a blanket-burrito as he whined about being left homeless.

The poodle jumped over him and ran for the door as well.

"You've taken away my home and my dog!" Viktor called out pitifully, "Makkachin, you're a traitor...!"

All he got was a second bark in return...and he finally rolled himself off the foot of the bed and into a heap on the floor. Unexpectedly, he felt the wind get knocked out of him as he landed that largest of bruises directly on top of where one of his fists had been balled up against his chest, and he felt as though he was deflating like a balloon right there under the pile of blankets.

Yuri managed to get into the kitchen as Makkachin ran up behind him excitedly, sitting next to the one remaining dish that was on the floor and wagging that big poofy tail happily. Remembering where the actual food bowl was though, Yuri told the dog to sit and stay, and headed back to the bedroom to get it. When he arrived, the pile of blankets on the floor was unmoving. He could see Viktor's feet poking out the other side though, and after collecting the dog's bowl from the floor, went over to kneel next to the head of the 'nest.'

"Is this your house now?" Yuri asked, poking at the top of it, "Viktoooooor...are you home?"

"I think I'm dying." He answered, his voice muffled from under the comforter, "In fact, I'm pretty sure I am..."

"Hehhh...?"

"I rolled off the bed and fell and now everything hurts."

"You fell like half a meter onto a down-feather blanket."

"...I landed the biggest bruise right onto my balled-up hand...I regret everything..." Viktor whined, rolling a little until he could get his knees under him, "I'll bet I brought my mother's ghost back with me..."

Yuri cocked a brow, "...Whaaaat are you talking about?"

"I came back home with all the blood and tears from the funeral. I should've discarded everything before coming inside." He tried to explain, "Everyone else did...they threw the tissues away before going home..."

"I literally have no idea what you're talking about right now. Are you suggesting you should've stripped naked on the front lawn just to come into the house?"

Viktor started to push himself up to sitting on his knees, but kept the big blanket pulled around him, "Russian tradition says you should leave your tears behind at a funeral, otherwise you invite grief and bad spirits into your home. Maybe even the ghost of the person who died!"

"You think your mother's ghost is haunting you because you fell out of bed?"

"No!" Viktor replied, finally pulling enough of the blanket off that his head poked through so he could actually see the man in front of him, "Because I can't see out my left eye!"

Yuri gawked at him, but realized he couldn't even see the slightest hint of that clear blue eye under his hair like he normally could, and he reached out to push Viktor's silvery bangs aside. He sighed when he saw what was under them.

"How bad is it?"

"It's totally swollen over. You should see a doctor."

"...I thought so."

"You're going to hurt a lot more today than you did yesterday." Yuri explained, "It's going to suck for you for the next week or so."

"...I can't even practice skating without both eyes." Viktor grumbled sadly, "This isn't looking good for Worlds."

"You can still drop out if you don't feel up to it."

The Russian finally pushed himself to standing, "I refuse! It isn't for more than a month and I'm going to compete even if it kills me."

"At least go see a doctor about your eye before you do?"

Viktor reluctantly agreed...but not before burning the clothes he'd worn the day before. He got dressed and gathered up the articles he'd heaped into trash cans all over the house, and headed for the back door. Makkachin was out like a shot, and Yuri followed close behind as Viktor carried the bags of coats and shirts and pants. Not even the socks were overlooked.

He kicked away the snow with his boot and emptied the bags into the muddy pit, pulled some matches from his pocket, and tossed them down into the pile, lighting them one at a time. It wasn't long before the fabric caught fire, and black smoke rose into the sky. Viktor watched closely as the fibers singed and curled, taking to flame and withering away into black dust.

Yuri watched quietly from the concrete stairs behind him, leaning over the bottom railing like he had when they'd FaceTimed with Chris before the Euro Championship.

"Everything on the ice is a display of love." Viktor suddenly said, getting his attention away from the billowing smoke, "Except when it isn't."

"When it...isn't?"

"The opposite of love is hate. I'm going to create a program that no one's ever seen me do before, and I'm going to show the world all the hate I have trapped inside me."

"That's a bit intense, don't you think?"

"It's the one thing that keeps holding me back." Viktor explained, "I need to channel this negative energy into something productive. So I'll skate your song for my Short Program to show my love, and then I'll skate to this." He pulled out his phone from his inside coat pocket, pulling up the music player as he turned his back to the fire, slowly walking closer until he stood right in front of his fiancé. He connected the ear-buds and cable to the audio jack and offered them to Yuri, "Tell me what you think of when you hear this song."

((Look up 'Evoke' by After Forever.))

Yuri accepted the device and put the ear-buds in, tapping the play button on the touch-screen.

The song started out calmly...Yuri wasn't sure how this could be what Viktor had meant if he was serious about skating to the theme of rage. But then the guitar riffs banged into his ears, and he felt like he could see the dance Viktor was planning in his own mind.

"There's so much energy..." He said, listening closer as the lyrics began; an operatic-style chorus featuring a woman's voice. She sang of the forces of nature, the elements, its viciousness but also its beauty and serenity. He thought he could feel the moments when certain jumps would be used in time with the beat, where skating would be slow or when it would speed up as quickly as blades would carry. He even thought he could see the step-sequence in his mind's eye, "Are you sure you can do a program to this? It's even more demanding than I thought it could be."

"Yurio's Free Skate worked because he channeled his greed into his composition...his jumps were energized by envy and lust. A performance is only as good as the emotions behind it. With everything that's happened since we got back from Four Continents...I feel like this is the best time to think of a program that would channel all the anger and frustration I have inside me. A high-intensity Free Skate with a song like this to match it...I think it would be perfect. It would be the complete opposite of the hopefulness of your song."

The music finally came to an end, and Yuri pulled the buds from his ears to hand them and the phone back to Viktor, "Then I can't wait to see it."

Viktor held Yuri's hands where they cupped the device, and Yuri rubbed his thumb over the blue Aria case affectionately before his fiancé finally took it back.

"There's also another thing I want to tell you about."

"Huh?" Yuri lifted his head, worried something bad was about to come up, "What is it?"

"We should..." Viktor started, putting the phone back into his coat pocket before reaching out to take Yuri's hands in his own, "...after Worlds...or maybe even before...we should have our wedding."

The younger skater's heart skipped a beat, but his eyes lit up, "Before! We should do it before! I want the whole world to know about it when they announce my name at competition!"

For the first time in days, Yuri saw the happy smile he knew Viktor had somewhere inside him, dying to get to the surface again, and he felt Viktor gently squeeze his hands.

Viktor leaned in to touch his nose to Yuri's as well, "Taking to the ice next, representing Japan...Yuri Nikiforov."

Yuri could feel butterflies rising in his stomach from the excitement over it, "I can't wait!" A few tears of joy started to drip down his face.

"Me neither."

The day pressed on after that, and Yuri finally shoved Viktor into a clinic that could look at his broken orbit. X-Rays were taken, eye drops and mild pain meds prescribed, and an eye patch given, along with instructions not to touch his eye, rub it, or even use it for at least a week.

"And the blood?" Yuri asked.

"It should be gone within 2 weeks." Viktor explained, looking at his pitiful reflection in a pane of glass where they'd stopped outside, seeing where the physician had put a loose bandage wrapping around his head for the time being, "I have to wear this horrible thing for the next 3 days...the doc says the eye patch would put too much pressure on the screwed-up area around my eye, and I would be even more miserable than this..."

"Konstantin did wallop you pretty good."

Viktor turned away from his reflection indignantly, "I told them it was a car accident."

Yuri sighed, his hands in his coat pockets to hide them from the cold, "It's like you're protecting him. I'm telling you, you really should file a report...at least put something on paper with someone."

"And what good would it do?" The Russian asked back, "If I press charges, then I have to see him again. If I don't, then he's out of my life for good."

"You don't want to punish him for what he's done to you? At all?"

"I already punish him." Viktor said glumly, "My very existence is a punishment for him."

"That's not fair to say."

"What father could possibly hate his son so much?" The elder grumbled, "He hates my career choices, he hates my romantic choices...he might as well hate my wine choices, too."

"He poured vodka on your head. He probably does hate your wine choices." Yuri quipped, reaching over to pull Viktor's hand into his pocket and held it there.

Viktor just looked at him incredulously, but then realized the humor in it and smiled a little, "Yeah, probably..."

"You still haven't told me about your program plans for Worlds, you know." The younger skater pointed out as they started walking back to the car, "I haven't gotten to see the outfits you commissioned either, and I only ever saw your new programs when you turned Eros and Agape into mine and Yurio's new Short Programs, but none of the others."

"Yeah." Viktor agreed, thinking on the point, "I guess we can go home and I can show you the outfits at least."

Yuri got excited and skipped a few steps, "And the themes? The songs?"

Viktor allowed himself to get a little excited despite his predicament, "The Short Program is called 'On Love: Phillia,' and the Free Skate, at least for now, is 'The Prince of Winter.'" He explained, feeling Yuri eating it all up eagerly, "'Phillia' is in keeping with Agape and Eros...it speaks to the bonds between people who are not related, friends and comrades. In my head, because I want to do something epic and memorable, I want the music to be orchestral with a choir and all that, so the bond I'm focusing-in on is the kind between soldiers; brothers in arms. That kind of attachment and love is the most unnatural because there's nothing about friendship that adds to a person's capacity to survive, so in a way, it's the most altruistic and deep."

"What's the song name?"

"'Sol Invictus.'" The skater answered proudly.

"Ooooo... And the other one?" Yuri felt like a kid again.

"The song is 'A Winter's Wish.' It's kind of slow, melodic, like 'Yuri on Ice' was. I'm not sure I'll be keeping it though, since I created that program as something of a goodbye-piece when I was thinking this year would be my last. Knowing I'm in it next year kind of makes a farewell show a moot point. So, we'll see."

Chapter Text

CHAPTER THRITY ONE

The car ride back home was at least a short one, given how Viktor didn't feel comfortable driving with only one eye. He drove slowly and deliberately, taking way longer to get back than normal. Yuri wasn't about to complain though. The last thing he wanted was more trouble...especially since he was finally about to see the outfits Viktor had planned for Worlds.

Aside from the tailors, he alone would be amongst the first who got to glimpse what was to come.

Someone honked at them repeatedly from behind, and Viktor was starting to get a little flustered, cursing in Russian as he tried to change lanes.

"Is it clear?"

Yuri looked back between the seats to check the rear, "Yeah."

Viktor powered on through, kicking up snow and slush behind them as the car moved ahead. Other cars honked, but no one collided, so they quickly sped off to rejoin the normal flow of traffic.

By the time they got back, Yuri felt like he'd told the Russian no less than 7 times that, no, he didn't know how to drive, because he lived in a major Japanese city that had good public transport and had no reason to learn, and that he couldn't take the wheel for him.

But, they made it back in one piece, and both dropped down onto the big blue couch with a huge sigh of relief.

"Well, at least the ice rink isn't that far away..." Viktor said with a huff, "I don't want to drive on a major highway again until I get my sight back."

"No comment." Yuri heaved.

The Russian raised his hand and dropped it onto Yuri's dramatically where it was clasping the cushions between them, "It's okay, you can say it..."

"We made it back...so let's get started already!" Yuri offered instead, sitting up excitedly, "You said you'd show me the new costumes!"

The Russian huffed a laugh, "Alright, alright...give me just a minute then..." He rose to stand and went to grab the box from where he'd cornered it the other day. Yuri watched him go happily, but sat patiently. A few anxious minutes passed, and soon, the Russian came back from the bedroom hallway bedecked in the first of his two new outfits.

This one was, Yuri guessed, for the Short Program. While the Eros costume had been black, and the Agape had been white, this new costume for Phillia was grey. Unlike the previous two outfits though, this one was not merely an older outfit that Viktor had used in his youth. Keeping in line with the theme, however, the Russian's outfit was made in keeping with the idea of war; Phillia was a nod to friendship bonds, and Viktor had wanted to return to competition with an epic score to remind everyone why he was famous in the first place, so he'd chosen to reference the bonds made between soldiers...brothers in arms. The costume looked somewhat ratted, as though it had been worn through the rigors of battle a few times already. The mantle was comprised of several sheets of torn-up and generally shredded grey and black material, with a gunmetal-grey loose-fitting bodysuit beneath it, tied at the calves and ankles with dark-colored rope. There were numerous straps that went around the legs and across the hips and torso, with the forearms and wrists wrapped in black material and silver rope. There weren't any embellishments or crystals embedded in the material, leaving the entire thing looking 'dull' compared to some other outfits, but Yuri supposed that was somewhat the point. What soldier runs through a battlefield shining and shimmering anyway?

"Wooow~!" He fangirled anyway, "That looks amazing!"

Viktor started mimicking a few of the moves from the Short Program right there in the living room, like when they had both once started performing parts of Aria when Yuri had first received his blue-form version of the costume. The motion of his arms looked more like martial arts this time though, with wide, sweeping motions that drew the eyes to center, and quicker motions that were too fast to follow. Yuri could only imagine how intense the footwork would be on the ice when Viktor was ready to get back onto it...never mind all the other elements that might've changed since he and Yurio had set a new standard with their own new world records.

The second outfit was another beast all together. Referring to the program as 'The Prince of Winter' was apt, as the Prince himself looked to be made of ice and snow. Black gloves and skate-covers like the bark of winter trees, fading into darker, then lighter blues, and finally crystalline white. Frost seemed to etch across the darker parts of the outfit, like the streaks left by skating blades on new, clear ice. Stiff, custom-colored feathers rose along the collarbone and up over the shoulders, rising in a cascade like vertically-facing icicles. Beneath them came a small 'cape' of softer feathers, more like the consistency of a feather boa, resembling the texture of freshly fallen snow rather than hard ice. More of the stiff icicle-like feathers came out along the sides of Viktor's forearms, and even up from his heels to half-way up the calf on each leg. There was a sheer part to the collarbone and neck area that faded from the white of the bulk of the costume to looking more like Viktor's pale flesh, rising up to just under his chin where it looked like the ice-tracks were creeping up his actual skin. The entire thing shimmered with crystalline luster, and there were traces of gold within the shine, making the outfit look like it was perpetually reflecting the brilliance of molten sunlight.

That one left Yuri somewhat speechless, just staring at the Russian like he was some kind of god. But, one thing did come to mind, and he slouched against the arm-rest, "Ahhh...it's really a shame you're only going to use this at one competition... You can tell the tailors put a lot of work into it..."

"Right?" Viktor agreed, looking himself over, "Maybe I should do some unofficial events..."

"What about that Adult Competition I told you about before...?"

"No!" Viktor insisted, "...Besides, I looked into it, and if I go to Worlds, I'm disqualified from the Adult competition anyway. Plus, it seems like they don't allow quad jumps at all, regardless of skill level...so that kind of kills it for me."

"So it's basically the back-up competition for those who don't qualify for anything else for whatever reason."

"Seems so."

"Well, I guess that's fine..."

"I'll have to do my best to make this one performance of the season worthwhile for everyone." Viktor said, "And I'll do it by taking back my claim on the world records." He winked at his fiancé daringly.

"Yeah!" Yuri cheered, only to pause, "Wait..."

The Russian hummed to himself, then moved forward to put a finger under Yuri's chin, "You don't get to start raising your hands during jumps without me doing the same thing."

"How come you hadn't before, anyway?"

"Didn't need to."

"So you've been holding yourself back this entire time."

"Four quads in a single program isn't exactly what I'd call 'holding myself back.'" Viktor explained, "Most skaters can barely manage 2 or 3, tops. Those who make it all the way through the GP Series are basically going on to the GPF as the Quad finalists."

"I never really thought of it like that...but I guess you're right."

"But, since you and Yurio are pushing me to do more, I kind of have to. So, get ready to see some skating that you've never seen before." Viktor mused, touching Yuri's nose with his thumb before practically spinning back into the bedroom to change back into normal clothing.

Watching him go, Yuri sighed to himself, "...Jeeze...he's just been messing with us all along... He's gonna destroy Yurio and I at Worlds..." He slouched so far on the couch that he was basically lying flat, staring at the ceiling, "...Well, I guess it wouldn't be so bad to win the silver to Viktor's gold..." He threw his arms up over his head though, "...But he said I have to win at least 5 consecutive gold medals...! Ahhh!"

.

Days went by, and Viktor was able to take the bulky dressing off his head, only to replace it with the eye patch he'd been given instead. But, with his bruises healing, he felt like it was time for him to get his skates back on again, and brave the training arena despite not having both eyes to see still.

"Yakov is still the only one besides us who knows what really happened." He explained as they walked along the long bridge that lead to the rink, "So if anyone asks what happened..."

"It was a car accident..." Yuri grumbled.

"I know you don't like lying, but..." He continued, "I don't need anyone else getting into my business. What's done is done."

"I'm a terrible liar."

"It's not like you have to tell the whole story...the color of the car, what seat I was sitting in, whether I was a driver or not..." Viktor tried to alleviate the pressure, but knew he was failing, "Just..."

"I knoooowwwww..." Yuri cut him off, "I won't tell anyone what really happened. I'll just tell them to ask you about it if they really want to know, and we both know no one will."

"What? Why wouldn't they?" Viktor was confused, "People ask me stuff all the time."

Yuri side-eyed him comically, "Because you're Viktor Nikiforov, five time consecutive Gold-medalist at the GPF, World and European Championships, Russian Nationals and Gold medalist at the last Olympics. You have this weird untouchable quality." He tried to explain, looking forward again, "Pestering you about how you got hurt would be like someone was trying to tarnish your grandeur and drag you down. It just seems disrespectful."

"Hah, the concept of disrespecting me never stopped Yurio."

"And yet even he hasn't actually asked you what happened." Yuri pointed out.

"...Hm, that's true." The Russian put a finger over his lips as he pondered it, "I guess I hadn't thought about it since he'd asked if I at least got the other guy."

"Oh...he did?"

Viktor pulled his finger away from his mouth and held it up, smiling, "Yup! You were still fainted though, so that's why you didn't hear it."

Yuri's face went red at the mention of it, "...Ahhh...I still can't believe I dropped like that..."

The Russian just draped his arm over Yuri's shoulders and pulled him close, "It's okay, I caught you, and then I carried you over the threshold into the arena."

"How dramatic." The shorter man laughed weakly, moving his left arm to wrap around Viktor's lower back, and they continued their walk to the skating rink.

The training arena was fairly well packed when they arrived, but they'd expected it to be. It wasn't used exclusively by the Russian skating team, after all, and they couldn't wery-well hog the thing all the time. But, the entire team did happen to be there, so when Yuri and Viktor entered the building, they were the first to recognize them.

"Oh my God it's true." Mila said suddenly, pointing at them, though mostly pointing at Viktor, "Someone beat you up!"

Viktor narrowed his eyes...eye..., "...I...can't even..."

She came rushing up to him and grabbed him by his shoulders, "Who did this!? I'll hurt them ten times worse! I did warn you this would happen! I told you in Barcelona, didn't I!?"

Yurio and Georgi were glancing between the two skaters, unsure what to say, if anything.

Viktor tried to calm her, waving one hand in a downward motion like he wanted to turn her volume down if he could, "Relax, it's fine, nothing happened."

"You're wearing an eye-patch like a damn pirate!" She argued, "Someone punched you in the face and I mean to break theirs for it!"

Yuri watched quietly, giving Viktor a knowing look.

"Enough already, both of you." Yakov's voice interrupted them, "Viktor says he's fine, so he's fine. That's the end of it."

Mila was forced to drop it, and she let go of Viktor's shoulders reluctantly. She did turn to eyeball him straight-on though, wishing she could read his mind to find the face of the one who'd hurt him. That failing that, however, she just went back out onto the ice and skated off.

"Vitya," Their coach started up again, approaching so as to speak more quietly and still be heard, "How does it look?"

The silver-haired skater huffed a sigh and reached up to lift the eye-patch a little, showing that the sclera was still blood-red, but that at least the swelling around his cheek had gone down considerably, leaving just an ugly purple-green bruise and a few dark-red cuts to hide beneath the covering.

"Can you see?"

"It's hazy, but it's getting back to normal." He explained, putting the patch down again and straightening his bangs out to cover it, "It'll be fine in another week or two, I'm sure."

"That's good. You have a lot of work to do for Worlds and not a lot of time to do it."

"I'll wait until the ice clears a little before I go practice. I can still skate, I just don't want to risk someone being in my blind spot while I still have to wear this stupid thing."

"That's fine. Do what you have to." He patted Viktor's shoulder before heading towards the rink's edge, "I'm going to put some cones down so people know to stay off this side of the rink."

"Da." Viktor nodded, pulling his backpack up a little as he turned to look back at Yuri and gesture him over to the team's prep area.

They pulled off their heavy winter garb and set it aside, with each wearing their country's tracksuit coat underneath. They both put on their skates in relative quiet, listening to the scratch of blades on the ice and kids crying out in excitement...and occasionally in despair when they fell. Viktor was done lacing his first, and moved to stand up and step over to the rink wall, slouching over it to look out at the arena.

It feels different today for some reason. He thought, Coming here to practice the programs I choreographed a year ago...it's like I'm right back where I started, to the day before I saw the video of Yuri doing my Free Skate.

Yuri finally joined him, shrugging out of his aqua-blue coat and nudging him with his shoulder as he put his hands on the rink edge, "You want to put me through my paces for a while?"

"Go skate some laps and warm up. I'll think about what to have you practice first."

"All right..." The younger skater nodded, moving to shrug out of his coat and take his glasses off. He set them gingerly on the bench where he'd just been sitting, pulled the rubber guards off his blades, and then plodded of to the rink entrance.

Viktor watched him go, and then moved to do a little stretching of his own, holding onto the rink ledge as he leaned far back. He held there for a moment, feeling the pull in his back and shoulders, and when he came back up again...a certain pair of green eyes were staring him straight in the face. from the other side of the wall

"Oh." He started, "Hey, Yurio." He kept on with his stretching like before.

"You shouldn't skate with one eye even if no one else is on the ice." The blond warned, "I won't forgive you if you get hurt and can't compete at Worlds."

"Why so worried?" Viktor mused, pushing back to lean down on the benches, pushing up on them with his arms at a 90 degree angle behind him as he pivoted on his skates where he set them ahead of himself, "If I overdo it, then you'll have one less person to worry about."

"I've had enough of waiting." He explained stiffly, "You've been out of competition for most of the season. If you don't go to Worlds then you'll be done until fall when the GP Series starts again."

"So you're telling me not to skate?"

"Not until you can use both eyes again at least, dumbass."

"Glad to see you care." Viktor teased, standing upright again to circle his arms around, first forward, then back again after a few spins, "I didn't think you did."

"Hmmh..."

"How's your grandpa?"

"...He's good." Yurio answered warily, "I've been keeping him on top of his meds."

Viktor nodded, pulling himself back up to the rink's edge again, leaning against it right next to the blond and looking out over the ice to find Yuri, "That's good to hear. Having a strong support structure is important for any athlete looking to go the distance. It's hard to go it alone. I'm glad he decided to move up here from Moscow."

The Russian Tiger silently agreed, thinking back on his abysmal performance at the European Championships. He scuffed the ice with the barbs on the front of his right skate, "I'm going to redeem myself at Worlds."

The silver legend smiled at that, "That's exactly what Yuri said about the GPF when I first became his coach." He ruffled Yurio's hair affectionately, "You and him are more alike than you realize."

"We're nothing alike." He protested indignantly, spotting the Japanese skater on the far side, gearing up to practice the very quad Salchow he'd helped teach Yuri to land properly in the first place, "I don't cry to myself while sitting on a public toilet." He turned to lean his back against the wall; Yuri pulled through the Salchow as though it was nothing and even turned it into a triple-jump combo, adding a single Loop and a triple toe-loop before skating off again casually.

The older skater reached over and settled his hand on Yurio's shoulder, "You don't have to keep picking on him just because you both share the same name. You beat him fair and square at the Grand Prix Final and he's been sweating about how to beat you at Worlds ever since."

"Don't kid yourself. He's more worried about beating you than he is about beating me."

"He hasn't competed against me since he fell apart in Sochi, that's true." Viktor agreed, "But...you scored over 118 in your GPF Short Program, and he still hasn't reached that height himself yet."

"He scored higher than me in his Free Skate."

"He has more stamina than you do. He gets more points for putting bigger jumps closer to the end of the program. But unless he can catch up to you in the Short Program, he's still going to struggle a little."

"Tsh..." Yurio grumbled, twisting his head around to gawk at his superior, "I don't need you telling me-"

"VIKTOR." They both heard Yuri suddenly screaming from the far side of the rink, having fallen for some reason.

Yurio jerked his head around, seeing the man collapsed on the ice, "What'd that idiot do now...? I hope he didn't twist an ankle or someth-"

"VIKTOR!" The downed skater screamed again, this time with more urgency and panic than before.

The elder Russian practically tripped over his own feet in his attempt to get the blade guards off in a hurry, literally jumping over the rink wall and taking off across the ice like a black, red, and white blur. Yurio pulled up the rear after that, but was a bit less excited about it. When Viktor finally arrived, he dug his heels in and sent a flurry of ice up as he braked, coming to rest directly in front of his partner with one knee down on the cold hard surface, "What is it!? Are you hurt!?" He barked his questions, grabbing the man and looking for blood through his black clothes. Finding nothing, though still seeing Yuri shaking like a leaf, he leaned closer, "Yuri! Say something!"

The younger skater could only look through him, past him...and pointed straight at him, to where something had caught his eye behind Viktor's line of sight. The Russian turned his head to look 180 degrees back, and saw something on the rink's edge that he hadn't expected. His heart practically seized in his chest, and he froze in place, unsure what to do.

"The hell is wrong with you two?" Yurio asked as he finally caught up to them.

Mila had finally gotten there as well, wondering what was going on.

They all looked in the direction Yuri had pointed, and were confused when they saw nothing that looked out of the ordinary. At least, aside from how practically everyone had stopped what they were doing to look over at the foreign skater with the random-as-hell blood-curdling scream. There were people on the ice, off the ice, and nothing looked odd.

Except for the huge, hulking mass of a man that was staring straight back at them.

"...It's...it's Konstantin...!" Yuri finally managed to say, "Why is he here!?"

"Who the fuck is Konstantin?" Yurio growled, "And why are you shitting yourself over it?"

Viktor finally pushed himself to stand, holding his hand out to Yuri to pull him up as well, though keeping his one good eye on the brooding Russian man-bear that hadn't blinked since they'd each caught sight of one another. When he felt that his fiancé was finally on his feet again, he let go of his hand and stood about-face to glare at his father straight on.

Why  are  you here...?

Chapter Text

CHAPTER THIRTY TWO

I can do it... Yuri thought to himself, flipping from a forward-skate to a backward-skate, then picking up speed, I can do it!

He leapt, spun four times, landed deep into the Salchow...and cursed himself quietly...

I psyched myself out...! I'll never get the higher GOE if I don't raise my arms up more consistently!

He came to a halt and went through the initial move again, slowly sliding forward on the ice and trying to remember how his body moved at Four Continents, how he'd used the momentum of his arms to throw himself higher into the air, and kept his arms up in the process.

If I use my arms to get more height, then bringing them down again early will just change my center of gravity...I have to keep them up and only bring them down again for the landing to keep my balance...

He looked over to where Viktor was stretching and chatting with Yurio. They were both looking at him before, probably watching his jumps, but now they were looking at one another again. He pushed off with his toe, deciding to give the arms-up Salchow another attempt. As he lifted his head and twisted his body to change direction, knowing he had to enter the jump from a backwards-facing position, he caught sight of something dark on the other side of the rink.

That's weird...I thought Yakov was just here...?

And he was. The gruff older coach was barely 20 meters to Yuri's left, setting down the last of the small orange cones to cordon off the official practice area from the public area. He was wearing his usual dark duster, matching hat, and blue scarf, affirming that Yuri had at least remembered what the man was wearing and why he thought the 'dark shape' might've been him to begin with.

Yuri turned his head back around, thinking maybe he'd seen something that wasn't real, but when he looked...the dark spot was still there. Slate blue eyes were glaring at him from under the brim of a dark grey hat. Yuri's knees buckled under him and he dropped to the ice in a panic, "Vik- Viktor...!"

Yakov looked up, having seen the young skater fall out the corner of his eye, "Yuri?"

"VIKTOR!" The skater cried out, trying to scramble backwards, clicking his heel-picks into the ice in a desperate attempt to gain ground towards safety, "VIKTOR!"

The elder Russian coach was perplexed, looking from where Yuri had collapsed over to where he'd looked a moment prior, and when he saw the same dark entity standing there, his jaw clenched, [What the hell is he doing here? How long has he even been standing there?] Yakov dropped the remaining two cones and was heading for the nearest rink exit when he heard Viktor gouging a crevasse in the ice as he stopped in front of his partner, calling out for Yuri to answer his questions.

When everyone had finally realized what made the raven-haired skater drop, the air became tense. They all looked to Viktor, who to that point had said absolutely nothing. He'd only risen to stand up straighter and looked to the source of his partner's fear.

"Viktor, what should we do?" Yuri asked pensively, lightly touching his fiancé's arm like he wasn't sure he was even allowed to at that moment.

No words even needed to be said for Yurio and Mila to pick up on what was going on. The more Yuri sweated about that dark man's presence, the more obvious it became that he was a source of contention for the pair...and that could only mean one thing.

"That's the ass-bag who hit you?" Yurio blurted out, "Is he a stalker? We'll take care of him-"

"Absolutely not." Viktor said sternly, unblinking, unmoving.

"Why?"

"Just stay here." He said with finality, breaking off from the group to skate forward alone.

Yuri watched him go, but the man's body language clearly stated this was his fight and not to follow. The entire population of the skating arena seemed to feel the rising tension in the air, and when their Nation's Hero skated into their midst, they parted for him and left the ice, seeing he had a purpose.

Bearing the big red R and U on his chest made him look somewhat official, and he knew the sight of it would make the dark figure bristle, so he held his head high as he finally came to stop about 10 meters away from the rink's edge. He drew a quiet breath, and spoke the name, "Konstantin."

He felt a weird serenity fall over him...the fear had gone. Unlike before, the man-bear was on his turf now, not the other way around.

[What do you want?] Viktor asked simply.

Konstantin said absolutely nothing; he just stood there like a statue, hands in his coat pockets, glaring straight ahead with an unblinking stare.

[Shit, you went ahead of me!] Came an unfamiliar voice, [I told you to wait outside until I got back!]

Viktor was deflated at the sound of it, and peered his one blue eye to the side where he thought he saw someone coming up behind his father. Finally, the new figure was fully in sight, and Viktor gawked at him awkwardly.

[I said I was going to get coffee! I wasn't gone for more than 20 minutes!] The voice continued; it came from a man of perhaps 55 years of age, thin but not skinny, pale complexion, and grey-green eyes barely visible from under the edge of a furry Chapka hat. When Konstantin refused to respond to him, the smaller man turned his gaze over to where he'd been looking, and thought he saw a ghost, "VIKTOR!"

"...Huh?"

[You've gotten so big since we last saw each other, face to face...] The older man continued, much to Viktor's chagrin, [Sorry to pop up like this all of a sudden. I wanted to say something to you at the funeral, but you seemed all weird, so I decided to keep my distance.]

[Seemed all weirdThat's what you thought? Who are you?]

Everyone around was confused...but none more so than Yuri, who couldn't even understand what was being said.

[It's probably been 25 years since you last laid eyes on me in recognition. I apologize for that.] The unknown man continued, approaching the rink wall with the aforementioned coffee in his hands. He set the cup down on the wall's edge and reached up for the edge of his hat, pulling it off...and revealing a head full of silver-grey hair, bangs fluttering down evenly on either side of his face, [I'm your mom's brother. Uncle Mimi, remember?]

Viktor turned his head a little to the side, confused beyond all reason, but a vague memory started to creep in, and there was a dawn of understanding. Not that anyone behind him could see, but for a brief moment, the slender Russian skater's face contorted from confusion to brief rage. He had to shake his head, clenching his eyes shut, to shake the feeling, and tried to look on normally again before anyone could question why he'd looked that way.

"...Uncle...Mimi?" Yurio repeated quietly in stunned surprise.

Yuri glanced over at him, but then turned back to watch things unfold, "...I think Viktor was about to mention him before." He whispered, "But he stopped like it was painful to think about."

[You look just like her, you know.] The elder Russian gestured for Viktor to approach, [Well, other than having the bear's eyes, anyway.]

The skater was still unsure of the whole situation, and he twisted back to his fiancé and fellow athletes, shrugging helplessly before turning back around again. Viktor pensively started to skate forward, extremely wary of Konstantin standing maybe 5 meters behind and to the side of this supposed Uncle. He caught sight of Yakov coming up from the other side of the rink, rounding the big curve where the rink turned, and he held his hand out for the coach to stop. Yakov paused where he stood, glowering at Konstantin, but silently agreeing not to intervene for the moment.

[Do you remember me?] The supposed Uncle asked.

Viktor continued to look at him curiously, side-eyeing him with his one good eye, and getting within 2 meters of the rink-wall. He finally raised his hand though, and pointed one finger to the ice, [Look down.]

[Huh?]

[Prove something to me. Look down, and I'll hear you out.]

The man shrugged and did so, bowing his head over the edge of the rink and looking at Viktor's skates for lack of anything else to see. He felt silly for it, but a moment later, he felt a finger being poked down on the crown of his head...and the full fluff of hair that covered it.

Yuri saw it, and the relief was palpable, so he started skating forward.

"Hey!" Viktor called back to the group, sliding backwards a bit to reveal the man properly to them, "Come meet my Uncle!"

"Oh, you want to speak in English then?" The silver elder asked, trying to keep his coffee from being knocked down, "I can do that." His accent was hardly tinted by his Russian heritage.

Yuri was surprised by it, His English is as good as ours. His accent isn't even half as thick as Viktor or Yurio's...I wonder if he's been living in America or something?

"I thought you were in the Ukraine." Viktor was saying, letting the man regain his upright position, his attitude shifting quite to the opposite end of the spectrum suddenly.

"I did originally, though I left for a while. I was back again recently, but, well...you know, Putin started bombing it, so I came back here."

"How long have you been back in Russia?"

Yuri finally arrived, but kept his distance anyway, and Yurio followed suit with Mila not far behind.

"About a year. I was in Moscow when I got the message that Tatiyana had passed. She'd told me years ago that you'd left home, but I couldn't remember what it had been for...but then when you and your father got into it at the funeral, I remembered."

"You saw what happened and you didn't try to stop him." Viktor was getting bitter again, "You didn't even say anything."

"What was I going to do, Vivi?"

"Don't call me that." The silver legend said curtly, surprising everyone with his bluntness, "You have no right."

The elder blinked, but nodded anxiously, "...Viktor. You and I are of a kind. I'm staring at my 28 year old self and you're looking at your 57 year old self. He'd have just beaten the crap out of both of us if I interfered. The best I could do was stay out of it and hope it didn't get worse."

The group was anxious as they heard the report of events, but green and blue eyes shifted over to where the behemoth Nikiforov patriarch was standing, and they glared with a desire for vengeance. He finally moved, causing Viktor to twitch and back off again, but Konstantin just turned on his heel and headed for a table and bench nearby, pulling out a newspaper and sitting to read it. The bear acted as though nothing was happening around him, and continued to stay silent.

The silver Uncle reached over the wall, and cautiously held that hand lightly to his nephew's shoulder, "...Don't bother worrying about how to explain your world to him, Viktor. He'll never understand you or what you do that way. This is all just noise; he's been tuning it out since we got into the city. Best not waste your breath on those who won't listen."

"So you know." The skater twisted to pull himself free of the man's touch.

"I've learned it all rather recently. You're a National Treasure." He answered, "As soon as I remembered that you were into skating, I went looking you up. Unlike some members of the family that prefer to live like it's still the 1800s, I live in the present, and I happen to greatly enjoy the internet and all its wonders. I know a lot of things about you now."

Yuri heard the words, and dared to do what he thought the man was alluding to knowing about. He slipped in under his fiancé's blind side, wrapping his arm around the man's waist and keeping the man's left arm over his shoulder, behind his head.

Viktor was a little surprised, but reached up his right hand to put it over where he felt Yuri's settle on his hip.

"Ahhh you must be Yuri Katsuki." The thin elder said, confirming that aforementioned knowledge, and reaching a hand forward in greeting, "A pleasure. I'm Mikhail Rozovsky, Viktor's Uncle."

Yuri reached out his left hand to take it gratefully, "It's nice to meet someone in Viktor's family that speaks a language I understand...and isn't obviously crazy."

"Oh, I'm crazy," Mikhail laughed, "Just not that kind of crazy." He looked at his nephew again, and saw a mild look of relief spreading across his face, "I expect an invitation, you know."

"Just as long as you don't bring any guests." Viktor said firmly, "Why is he here anyway?"

"I couldn't find you on my own. When I reached out to the ISU, I was told that I wasn't allowed to find out where your home rink was, or even how to get hold of your coach. Apparently the whole family got black-listed after what happened between you and your father...and I don't blame you."

"He couldn't just give you an address then?" Viktor was skeptical.

"He burned all the information he had on you after the funeral and couldn't remember what it said."

Yuri huffed a nervous laugh at that, "Guess that's where you picked up that habit..."

Viktor just smiled venomously and pinched the younger skater's arm unexpectedly, getting a yelp, "Don't say things like that."

The older man shrugged, "Konstantin said he remembered how to drive here by landmarks and visual cues, but couldn't give directions...so I was stuck with having him bring me here himself. It took 2 days to convince him to do it, so don't say I wasn't eager to come find you. Why don't you come off the ice and sit with me? We have so much to talk about."

Yuri was anxious at that statement, "If your father knew how to find the rink by looking around, then it means he's driven by here before..."

"Mhm..." The silver genius was dubious, "...The same thought crossed my mind as well."

"He came by while you two were in Korea." Yakov explained, "I saw him pass by myself, once or twice, but I didn't recognize him at the time. Not completely. He must've been looking for you so he could avoid going through me. It seems he's taking what you said at the funeral seriously though."

Viktor looked over at the dark cloud at the table near the exit, "...Yeah, maybe."

Yakov shooed Mila and Yurio off after that, realizing that the entire rink had been cleared by that point, and there was no longer any need for the dividing cones. Georgi had been quietly watching from the team's bench area, and rejoined the group once they skated by. Yuri and Viktor exited the rink together, going for their blade guards before slowly making their way over to the table and chairs nearest to where they were...and farthest from Konstantin.

Mikhail sat first, on the opposite side of the table from the skaters, and Yuri sat second. The two of them had their feet under the table, but Viktor was still a bit hesitant, so he sat sideways, with only one leg under the table, deciding instead to lean forward against his partner, resting his chin on the man's right shoulder as his arms snuck around the man's small frame, clasping his fingers over Yuri's left hip.

"So why'd you want to find me anyway?" He wondered curiously, "After more than 20 years."

"Out of sight, out of mind...I'm sorry." Mikhail explained, nursing his cooling coffee, "I got a bug to reach out to you after what I saw at the funeral. I'm not even sure if most of those people had the slightest idea about who you are or what you've done with your life since leaving that little shit-hole town, but it killed me all the same to see how they looked at you so scornfully. I didn't get the welcome-mat either, if it makes you feel better, but it was likely for very different reasons."

Viktor wasn't sure what to say. He sighed and turned his head where he had his chin on Yuri's shoulder, looking back out to the skating rink, and watching Yurio go through his quad repertoire.

"Viktor..." Mikhail was trying to get his attention back, and the skater turned his head again to look at him, "The last couple weeks have been really hard on you. It doesn't take a Roscosmos Engineer to figure that out. I want to try to make it up to you...maybe even try to help you understand why it happened. You left when you were so young...you probably don't know anything."

"What are you talking about? Understand what?"

Yuri could feel the man getting tense again, and reached up his hand to squeeze Viktor's fingers where they clenched on his waist.

"Why your father hates you so much."

"Isn't it obvious?"

"Maybe not as obvious as you think. It's not Yuri that pisses him off, not entirely anyway."

The aforementioned skater blanched a little.

"Yeah, he hates skating, I know." Viktor said bitterly.

"It's not so simple." Mikhail went on, sipping at his drink, "Kon didn't just decide one day to pick skating as a thing he hated for no reason. There is a reason."

"I don't think it really matters much. Giving me some clue as to why he hates my profession won't make me forgive him for breaking my face twice over it."

"Twice!? This has happened before!?" Mikhail was stunned and sat more upright, like he was about to slam his hands down on the table and storm off in a rage. He stopped himself though and cleared his throat, glaring over his shoulder towards the man-bear before sitting down again and drawing in a deep breath, "...Ahmm...maybe not, but gnaw on this a little. When he was a kid, he fell on the ice. The rest of the village kids made fun of him for weeks because he tore his pants on his skates, and his ass hung out the entire way back to his family's house. He never recovered from the shame."

Yuri would've laughed if it wasn't so pathetic, and Viktor felt the same.

"My point is...you've become exceptionally good at something that once humiliated him, so he doesn't want you to succeed, because that's humiliating to him, too. This whole thing you have with Yuri was just the cherry on top for him."

"He still didn't have to hit me over it." Viktor growled.

"He learned that from his own father. It's a cycle. I hope you break it."

"Viktor's never hit anyone or anything in his life." Yuri defended, barging into the middle of the conversation.

"Is that what he's told you?"

"Viktor broke his old man's nose." Yurio chirped from behind, having overheard the conversation and remembering that Yuri couldn't have known because he was still out when it was stated.

The Japanese skater was stunned, turning from the blonde's voice and looking to his partner, "You what?"

Viktor wasn't proud of it, so he avoided the man's gaze.

"Viktor...!"

"Konstantin had it coming." Mikhail said, draining the last of the coffee from the Styrofoam cup in his hands, "But you did swing the first punch. He may not have hit you back if you hadn't."

"He poured vodka on my head and called Yuri my wife. I felt like I had to defend both of us."

Yuri's face was a little red at the mention of it, and he lowered his head, I'm male...that makes me a husband...eventually...

"It was degrading what he did, believe me, I get that...but..."

"Never mind." Viktor ended that conversational piece, "It's over and done. I broke his nose and he broke my eye socket...we're even."

"I think you can get him on your side."

"Why would I even want that? Even if he suddenly stopped hating skating today, I'd still have to worry about him taking his rage out on Yuri next time. I'd never trust him to be around us."

"I've seen people change their tune when it's their own kids who go through it. You may never convince him with your words that what you do is an honorable thing, but maybe you can show him. What it means to you, your teammates, and to Russia as a whole. You can show him the kind of blood, sweat, and tears that go into it...that it isn't just some 'dog and pony show.'" Mikhail tried to explain.

"No." Viktor said with finality, "I don't care that he hates skating, and I don't care that he hates me for being a skater. His opinion hasn't mattered to me for nearly 20 years, and I'm not going to start thinking it matters now." He stood up from where he sat on the bench and pulled his leg out from under the table, moving back over to the team's prep area, "Thanks for coming to see me, Uncle. I'm glad to be related to at least one person who isn't disgusted by me. But...I really need to go practice now... Come on, Yuri, you need to practice, too."

Yuri looked at where Viktor held out his hand, and rose from the bench quietly, looking back at the silver-haired elder. He bowed his head to the man, as was his custom as a Japanese person, and then turned to take his fiancé's hand to go back out onto the ice.

Mikhail watched them go without saying anything to try and convince them to stay. Instead, he turned his head back to his nephew's father and sighed, grumbling something in Russian under his breath before rising to stand and join the man.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER THIRTY THREE

Yuri could easily tell that the encounter with Mikhail had unsettled Viktor. His skating was haggard, rough, even amateur...but he supposed that might also be because of the eye-patch handicap. He didn't want to add to the problem though, so as long as the Russian skated casually, still holding to his hand, he said and did nothing to upset that.

Their pair-skating had always been rather cerebral anyway, so no matter what Viktor did, Yuri inevitably felt like he knew what he should do in return. That was true in the minutes that came, as Viktor finally spun around to gain a little speed, and pulled Yuri into a long arc, using him as a balance as he skated into it backwards with one leg held out straight behind him. It felt like ballroom dancing...and it briefly reminded the younger skater of how Viktor had supported and guided his own skating when they were screwing around at the Incheon Airport rink, and he'd been looking up songs on his phone instead of watching where his blades were carrying him.

He kept following Viktor's lead, acting as a balance in one moment, a rudder in another, or as just a buffer for his blind spot. Viktor would occasionally break off to do some step sequence or another, but he'd come back again a few seconds later anyway.

Yuri felt uneasy as he could sense Viktor tipping off balance now and again, realizing Viktor was putting his chin on his shoulder as often as he was because it was the easiest way to stop being dizzy. But, he continued to say nothing, vowing not to be the one to break the silence between them.

Yurio had gone back to practicing his Free Skate, polishing his jumps with one or both arms raised. His problems came down to lacking stamina, Yuri realized, watching the teen heaving ragged breaths at the end of each round.

"Are they gone yet?" Viktor finally asked.

The younger skater lifted his head a little to check past his partner's shoulder, seeing that Konstantin was indeed leaving the arena. Mikhail had stayed behind a moment and was talking to Yakov about something. As Konstantin was exiting through the main series of doors, Yuri caught sight of Lilia coming in. The two passed each other without looking at one another.

"They're leaving right now." He answered, "Konstantin is already outside."

"Finally." Viktor heaved a sigh of relief, pulling off of Yuri's support to spin off towards the rink's edge on his own. There was a weird moment where Yuri felt like something had happened, but he wasn't sure what it was, so he just kept his eyes on Viktor. The air had changed again...but maybe it was just the last vestiges of the tension from earlier finally dissipating.

Yurio was catching his breath on the sidelines as well, and on the other side of the arena, Mila and Georgi were practicing triple-to-double jump maneuvers.

KLOK...KLOK...KLOK...

Yuri looked up. So did the others, hearing a sound that they hadn't heard in almost a year. It was coming from Viktor's area on the wall. He'd kicked the rink's edge with his skate as he was tossing his track-suit coat towards one of the nearby benches...and then his eye-patch went with it.

It seemed to be something of a universal signal, and pretty much everyone cleared the ice at that point. Even Yakov looked up from where he'd finally parted ways with Mikhail.

Yuri was the only one who hadn't gotten to the edge of the rink though, and Yurio barked at him, "Move off, Katsudon!"

"What's going on?"

"Viktor's about to put on a show. That's what he knocked on the wall for. Duh."

Beneath the track coat was a form-fitting maroon shirt, matching well with the black pants, and the gold gleam on his custom blades. Viktor stretched his arms one more time before cricking his neck and ruffling his hair, hoping it didn't look too silly after the strap of the patch was removed from around his head. With grace and expertise like Yuri remembered, Viktor pushed off, flying across the ice like the legend he knew the man was.

Yuri made it to the rink's edge near Yurio, having finally taken the hint, and watched in silent awe.

Viktor seemed to dawdle a little, probably getting his bearings now that he had both eyes again. His bangs whipped around, stinging his face, but he didn't care anymore. He needed to skate. He needed to do it right. When he finally took his mark in the middle of the rink, he could feel the eyes of everyone in the arena were on him.

Can I even do this right now?

The Russian went down on one knee, holding both hands together on the knee that was still propped up. He took a deep breath...the song started to play in his head...and the dance began.

['Sol Invictus' - Audiomachine]

Still on one knee, the Russian began to turn, hearing the strings and horns in his head. He elegantly rose up to both feet, rotating as he went, and pushing off to skate backwards in a half-figure-8. He could hear the first set of drum-beats, and he hopped to face forward as they banged. The scratch of his blades on the ice was like the melody itself come to life.

The intensity of the music rose in his mind, and he hopped through the next set of drum-beats, each time getting higher. When the piano came into the orchestra, Viktor's pace picked up again, leaping into his first jump-combination; the quad Salchow, triple Toe-loop. He moved like fog over the frozen ground, twisting and turning until he could hear the thunderous addition of deep-bass horns.

The music's power grew, and the Russian's grew with it, moving faster, waving his arms in a stronger sweep, kicking higher and turning more tightly than before. The drums were pounding even heavier then, and Viktor moved to line himself up with the long-side center of the rink. Pushing forward, the thunderous orchestra raging in his head, he waited for the moment the music entirely faded out, slipping around to skate backwards for a moment, arms out and head bowed down...and as the music boomed back to life, the choir joining in, a toe-pick cracked down onto the ice, and Viktor vaulted into a quad Flip.

.

By the time the hour came when they were supposed to leave, they had all almost entirely forgotten about the earlier events. Viktor had reluctantly put the eye-patch back into place after finding that it was starting to throb from over-use, and went back into coaching-mode for lack of being able to practice himself. It wasn't long before he'd whipped Yuri's arm-up jumps back into him. Satisfied, they made their way outside into the dark of the St. Petersburg night, greeted by a storm of falling snow.

The icy white fluff fell in chunks, glowing in the light of tall lamps in the parking lot and along the streets. Yuri adjusted his backpack as Viktor went back to talk to his own coach. Unable to hear what was being said from his distance, he saw Yakov giving the skater something...too small to see what it was, but something that made Viktor rather happy. He clasped it protectively in his hand before finally pocketing it, and then went to rejoin his partner.

"Katsuki." Yakov said, forcing Yuri to stop mid-step and turn around to look at the older man.

"What is it?" Viktor wondered, having made it about halfway between the two when the coach had spoken.

"Vitya, wait there, this is just between him and I."

Viktor was perplexed, but nodded and waited where he stood, watching as Yuri walked by him nervously to speak with the man. He turned his head away from them as he heard Yurio calling out for his grandfather, who'd made an unexpected appearance in his old, beat up, turquoise car.

Yuri had turned to see them all, and smiled to himself as old-man Plisetsky got out to see Viktor and greet the two of them.

"Yuri." Yakov said, quietly, getting back the younger skater's attention.

"Y-Yessir?"

"This Uncle of Vitya's that came earlier today. He seems a decent man...I know a little bit about him. Viktor thought rather highly of him, at least at one point." The Russian had started, "Mikhail gave me his contact information in case Viktor wants to stay in touch. Viktor and I have an agreement though that I would never just give him that kind information, but I worry he might just forget about it and never ask." He held up a gloved hand and waited for Yuri to raise his before putting a small piece of paper in his palm, "Take it. Don't let him completely forget about today. Both Nationals and next year's European Championship are being held in Moscow...I think it would be good for Vitya to have family watching him for once. It would be a whole new audience for him to try and surprise."

"Are you sure?" Yuri was cautious, "What if Konstantin..."

"He was just a middle-man today, and took no part. If Vitya is in direct contact with Mikhail then Konstantin doesn't even need to be part of it. But I leave it up to you...Vitya never listens to me anyway, but maybe he'll listen to you." Yakov explained, "You know his heart better than anyone. If you think he can handle it, then I think he should try."

The Japanese skater nodded, pulling out his phone to take a picture of the paper before giving it back to the older man. The last thing he wanted was for the info to fall out of his pocket or something and for Viktor to find it unexpectedly.

They all parted ways then, with Yurio going home with his grandpa, and Yuri and Viktor walking to the far end of the parking lot where the little red Audi was parked.

Yuri noted that Viktor had more energy than before, and actually walked along with something of a half-smile.

"You sure seem pleased with yourself." He pointed out.

"Oh, I am." Viktor confirmed, "Quite pleased."

"What'd you do?"

"I'm a fox with the keys to the hen house." The Russian answered coyly, giving the younger skater a wink.

"What does that mean...?"

Viktor laughed and reached up to his sore eye, stopping mid-step to look out over the railing of the bridge. He pulled the covering off his face and looked down at it, then back at Yuri, "This is the spot where I told Yakov I was going to Hasetsu, and asked him to take me to the airport. He spent the whole drive trying to talk me down from it, but I've done random trips before, too, so maybe he thought I would be back right away." He explained, "I surprised everyone by taking most of a season off, and again by coaching you to GPF Silver and FC Gold. But now that I'm coming back again...I really have to step up my game."

'Surprising the audience has always been his top priority.' Yuri recalled the Russian Punk's words, 'He had the whole world in his hands. But now, how matter what he does, no one's surprised anymore. He knows that better than anyone. If you don't have any inspiration left, you're as good as dead.'

Yuri kept watching him in silence.

He has so much weight on his shoulders to impress everyone with his come-back. If he doesn't win Gold or re-break the records Yurio and I did, people will start to think he's done-for...and he doesn't seem the sort who would be willing to blame an injury for his short-comings. He might even quit entirely if that happens, just so he doesn't have to deal with a slow decline from Gold to Bronze, and off the podium entirely as time goes on... What in the world are you planning?

"There are going to be times where I won't be able to practice with you." Viktor explained, "And when I won't want you to come watch me when I go on my own."

"...Hah...?"

The Russian pulled his hand from his pocket and held up a single key, "Yakov gave me this. It's the key to the ice rink. For the next little while, Yuri..." Viktor seemed to have a fire in his eyes, like the slump of the last week or two was finally being pushed away, "...We have to skate as rivals again. I won't be able to surprise you at Worlds if I show you everything I'm going to do before we get there, right?"

The younger skater balked a little, "That's hardly fair...you know everything I'm going to do."

"Of course I do, I'm your coach!"

"Viktor..."

Chapter Text

CHAPTER THIRTY FOUR

A few weeks passed, and by mid March, the physical aspect of Viktor's prior injury had completely healed.  He'd avoided Instagram the entire time his eye had been covered, posting nothing and reading even less, not wanting to know what people were saying about his eye-patch.  Yuri had avoided mentioning the speculation to him, too.  He might've been happy to know that people had bought his lie about the car accident, but Yuri wasn't about to inquire.

Mercifully, since Viktor hadn't been posting much, and since Yuri never posted anything at all, there really wasn't a lot said on the matter.  They'd effectively fallen off the radar, save the occasional post the triplets made whenever Yuri sent them photos.  So, naturally, when Viktor finally returned to the internet and had Yuri post photos of his public practices to his account for him, his profile exploded with activity from fans.

What surprised Yuri though were the number of comments asking where he was.

Viktor had pulled a small towel around his shoulders before coming back to reclaim his phone, though Yuri, sans glasses, hadn't noticed his approach, still somewhat baffled by the fan commentary.  He'd tilted his head as he looked at the screen, as though somehow believing that changing his view of it would change what the dialogue said.

"What're you doing that for?" Viktor wondered, amused by it, and reaching out to retrieve his device.

Yuri twitched in surprise, but gingerly handed back the item to its owner, "People are asking about me on your pictures.  I don't know why they would.  It's your account."

"I think we've been over this." The Russian answered with a smile, scrolling through to see what the chatter was about specifically, "There's thousands of people who would follow you if you ever posted anything...but, since you don't, they're going to the one place where they think they'll find you.  So...let's give them what they want!"

Viktor didn't give his fiancé a chance to resist, and pulled him close with an arm over the shoulder, squishing their faces together and winking as he took the selfie.  Yuri's surprised/shocked/horrified expression in the final image made Viktor laugh all the more, and he gleefully posted it, "There...now they all know you were my photographer for today instead of Yakov.  Hashtag...#practice, #WorldChampionships, #photographer, #YuriByMySide, #viktuuri, #SkateHusbands!  ...I think that should do it."  And with that, he posted the photo.

Yuri sighed at the last one, leaning onto his hands over where his elbows rested on the rink wall, "Still just SkateFiancés, actually..."

The Russian kept his eye on the phone screen, "Still working on it."

"You are?" Yuri lifted his head a little, "Why haven't you told me about it?  I didn't want to bother you while this whole thing with your family went down, but..."

"You've been busy with other things, too." Viktor answered simply, finally looking at the man.  He reached his free hand forward and ran his fingers through that black hair, then cupping the back of his head to bring him closer, touching their nose-tips together, "Your new sponsors coming to visit, practice for Worlds, even deciding to get contact lenses for everyday use...that all takes time.  That doesn't even take into account all the attention I demand from you, which is substantial." He leaned in for a long kiss, one that halfway caught Yuri off guard, since it wasn't often that Viktor did something like that in front of others, least not his own teammates. 

Yuri had long suspected it was because Viktor thought it made Yakov uncomfortable...but he'd never confirmed it.

When Viktor finally pulled away, he nosed the man's lip, and then...pulled the phone down from where he'd been holding it up.

"...You took pictures of that whole thing didn't you?" Yuri's face went bright red.

The Russian was too pleased with himself, and turned around to show Yuri the series.  He scrolled through about 70 photos, all taken at high speed so as to seem like a movie cut into still-frames, "Annnnddddd..." He was saying, going through them quickly, "This was the moment you stopped panicking and started to enjoy it."

Yuri held his head low, "I hope you don't record everything we do."

"Hm?" Viktor was confused for a moment, but then realized, "OH!  No, not everything, don't worry.  I may take pictures of our everyday lives without you knowing sometimes, but I'd never capture footage of something that personal without you giving permission ahead of time."

The younger skater was visibly relieved, and felt safe to go back to his prior inquiry, "So you've been making wedding plans on your own?"

"Nothing specific...I've been looking at stuff, wondering about locations, that sort of thing."

"Anything that sticks out?  Worlds is only 2 weeks away...I feel like we're pushing it if we want to do it beforehand...we won't even have time to send out invitations or give people time to make their own travel arrangements..."

"I know.  It's just..."  Viktor shook his head, "There were a few promising possibilities, but nothing that was perfect."

Yuri deadpanned him, "You'll be looking for a long time if you want something perfect."

"We can only get married for the first time once, right?  If we decide to renew our vows later in life, it won't be the same as the first time..."  He started touching at where Yuri's hand was drooping over the wall, "I just don't want to disappoint or underwhelm you."

The younger skater practically snorted, "Viktor, you've never been able to underwhelm me..."

That made him smile again, "And I want it to stay that way!"

Yuri watched him skate away from him after that, going backwards for a bit before finally spinning off with dramatic flair. 

He set his chin to resting on one hand, thinking back on the last year.  In hindsight, everything happened so fast. 

Seems like everything with Viktor happens either at the drop of a hat, or never at all. 

Yuri laughed at himself quietly, then descended to cross his arms and rest his head on them on the wall.

We never even really went through a 'just friends' phase, now that I think about it.  Before that video of me went viral, we barely talked to each other.  Then, he just shows up at Yu-Topia, and...

He remembered the way Viktor had talked to him that first night; touching his face, even moving to hold his hand, all rather intimately...at least until Yuri himself panicked and retreated to the furthest wall.  After that, Viktor had gone at Yuri's pace.

He could always tell where I was at emotionally after that, and met me there, never overstepping.  He's always been careful like that.

Yurio had been doing footwork drills for most of that morning, and Viktor had gone over to join him, pushing him to go faster and faster.

Even that first time, after we looked out for Yurio while his grandpa was in the hospital.  Did he plan it that way?  For me to go first?  Or is that just how it happened naturally...?

He couldn't stop himself from thinking about that night, and he closed his eyes, dozing there on the rink wall. 

It was so completely different from when it was his turn...  When it was me, he just let it happen on the first try.  But I made him wait four attempts before he was able to go all the way. 

He recalled those nights like they'd just happened.

.

The first time Viktor made the attempt, Yuri's entire body had clenched up like a concrete knot.

'Yuri, I can't do anything if you're this nervous.  Just tell me if you want me to stop and we can finish a different way.'

Viktor was half-looming over him in bed, hands under his shoulder-blades where he'd hugged him.  Yuri's face was flushed, 'I'm so sorry...I can't help it...  I d-don't think I can do this...right now...'

The Russian's eyes were kind, if not concerned, 'Don't be sorry.  Never be sorry.  It'll happen when and only if you want it to.'

The second attempt was a few nights later, after a day of sight-seeing around St. Petersburg.  He'd finally convinced Yuri to try some of the local hot wine, and as a result, had gotten frisky.  They'd romped for over an hour before Viktor even tried, but even then, the fact of the matter still caught Yuri by surprise and he yelped like a kicked dog.  He was so embarrassed by his high-pitched shriek that their little sortie came to an immediate end, and Viktor had to console him for the next half hour.

The third attempt was a little more successful.  Viktor had supposed that sneaking in while Yuri wasn't looking probably wouldn't be the best approach, so like the first time, made the motion while they were facing one another.  Yuri was on his back, and Viktor had pulled his legs up on either side of his waist, slowly and rhythmically pushing against him, all the while kissing his lips or neck.  When he felt it was safe to make the connection, and reached down to position himself, he could feel Yuri tensing again beneath him.  He put his free arm lightly over Yuri's chest and stroked his thumb along the man's jawline.

'Shh...' Viktor whispered, 'Only when you say okay.'

The younger man took a deep, but trembled breath, and again...and then nodded, 'O...okay...'

To Yuri's surprise, and maybe a little to his relief, Viktor didn't just shove his way in.  In fact, he didn't even press the tip.  He used a finger.  He massaged gently for a minute, then added another finger.  He kissed at the man's neck and listened for the sound of pleasure to take the place of anxiety, though it was a little difficult to tell if or when it happened. 

'...Yuri...feedback...' Viktor encouraged quietly, desperate to know if what he was doing was even pleasing.

'Tch...th-this...' He'd stammered, '...is really weird...'

'Does it feel good at all?'

'I...don't know...' He finally managed to say. 

Viktor concluded to finish him manually after that, keen to ensure that his fiancé had a positive feeling to go with the sensation, even at the expense of himself.

The fourth try was finally a success, as Yuri had ensured it would be, even though it was Viktor who initiated the encounter.  It was an intense session and both of them were still almost fully clothed by the time it happened.  They'd only really pulled enough clothing apart to gain access to each other, and nothing more.

When Yuri felt that Viktor was wanting to try, he flipped their positions, pushing Viktor to sit back, leaning him against the arm-rest of the blue couch. 

Maybe it was just the fact that they were facing each other equally that time, rather than Viktor being on top or behind him, but it was easier then.  Yuri draped his arms over his partner's shoulders, pressing his chest to Viktor's as he sat back onto his lap.  Viktor kissed him, arms snaking around Yuri's sides and down behind him, daring to position himself again.  It took a moment; they were both extremely slick from the warming liquid that Yuri had come to enjoy so much, but the tip went in.  Viktor drew in a hiss, and Yuri buckled a little, moving to sit slowly back on it on his own accord.  A few tense seconds later, a few rising and descending slides with gradual penetration each time, he was fully on Viktor's lap, breathing heavy breaths, hands flat against Viktor's chest.  It felt extremely tight, and Viktor leaned his head down a little to catch his breath, looking up again to see if Yuri was okay.  His partner was smiling nervously, almost in disbelief at what had happened.

'...I...finally...' He said despite himself.

Viktor wrapped his arms around Yuri's torso and pulled him close, nuzzling him affectionately while propping his knees up a bit behind him, 'You're amazing...!'

.

Yuri huffed a laugh, shaking his head a little at himself and opening his eyes again.

He calls himself impatient but he really isn't.  I can't imagine anyone else would've waited so long for that.  It must've been frustrating...especially since I hurt so bad for the next few days that I didn't want to do anything again until it faded...  Even having him sleep behind me was uncomfortable, even though that's what he does every single night...

But...the idea of frustration only made Yuri think of other things.

'With everything that's happened since we got back from Four Continents...I feel like this is the best time to think of a program that would channel all the anger and frustration I have inside me.'

He pulled out his phone and looked at the photo of Mikhail's contact information closely.  It was written in English, since Yakov knew he didn't read Cyrillic. 

Viktor says he's angry...but this Free Skate is all he's shown of it.  Can a person really be that mad and not show any outward signs?  Or am I that blind to his feeling still?  Sometimes it can be so hard to read him...he tries so hard to stay positive.

Yuri watched Viktor perform a triple axel followed by a double toe-loop, perfect as newly fallen snow.  He checked back on Instagram idly, thinking on what to do.  There was a short clip from Phichit, showing him having already arrived in Helsinki, where the World Championship was going to be held at the end of the month.  Then there was a sample of the photos JJ had posted from his wedding.  It was grandiose, as could be expected, and the man seemed happy...not the jealous mess he'd been at Four Continents.  Yuri could only assume he'd felt cheated.  But, maybe that's just how the world intended him to feel.  It was exactly how Yurio felt when JJ stole the gold from him during one of the events leading up to the Grand Prix Finale. 

Skate Canada...?  Yuri hoped to recall correctly.

He hoped JJ would be at Worlds just so they could repair the damage and hurt feelings between them.  The same could be said of Chris, who he nor Viktor had spoken to since their last FaceTime before the EuroChamps.  Chris had genuinely seemed to regret suggesting that Viktor was only faking his affection for Yuri as a show to the audience, an attempt to shock them with something other than his skating...Yuri had known and accepted that Chris hadn't meant it the way it came out, but he hadn't had the courage to call him.  He knew Viktor wouldn't do that kind of thing anyway.  He'd invested himself far too much for their relationship for it to just be some vain, selfish attempt at staying edgy and relevant.

He kept scrolling, but stopped as he realized Viktor had actually posted the photo of them kissing.  His face went bright red at the sight of it.  It wasn't tagged to anything though, so Yuri almost wondered if it had been uploaded by mistake.  It was receiving mostly positive feedback though.  It seemed the legion of female fans that Minako had warned Viktor of spurning didn't feel threatened or angry by his having come into a relationship.  What few negative comments there were had mostly centered around how they wanted to see more skate-related photos, not so much daily-affairs updates.  There were a few viscerally disgusted posts, and a few in Cyrillic text that Yuri couldn't read, but when he hit the Translate button, was disheartened to see a number of the Russian comments had been threatening in nature.

He couldn't help but be reminded of how violently Konstantin had reacted to seeing their rings in the Summer Garden.  But that only lead him to remember how amiable Mikhail had been in the days after, even asking for an invitation to the wedding.

The nagging was getting to him though, and he went back to the photo album with the number to Mikhail.  For lack of thinking, Yuri added it to his contact list, and then stared at it for a long while. 

What would I even say to him if I sent him a message?  He seems nice enough...but I don't want to risk Konstantin getting involved...

He grumbled to himself as he debated, looking from his phone to the ice, watching Viktor for a few minutes as he worked on the choreography for Amnesia, and then back again.  He waggled his thumbs beside the device, and furrowed his brow.

Almost without looking, he finally typed a message.

[Are you still in St. Petersburg?]

He hovered his thumb over the Send button for what felt like hours. 

Would Viktor get mad at me if I sent this?  Am I grossly overstepping by getting involved with his family?  He seemed so happy to introduce Mikhail to the rest of us, but was pretty bitter by the time the conversation ended.  He practically fled to the ice after that.

He looked out at Viktor again, who had since stopped skating so as to take out his notepad and jot some ideas down.  The Russian tapped the eraser-end of the pencil to his mouth as he pondered his program.

Yuri looked back down at his phone, scrunching his mouth to the side as he continued to debate what to do.  He scratched the back of his head and ruffled his hair.

"KATSUDON."

Yuri spazzed at the sudden shrill screech of his nickname, and the phone fell from his hands to land with a painful-sounding crunch on the ice. 

"Ahhh nooooo...my phone..." Yuri moaned in despair, looking at where it landed face-down, completely out of reach.

Viktor grit his teeth in a wince, but moved over to get the device and for the hapless youth, "I could hear the crack all the way from where I was..."  He handed it to Yuri, "Is it okay?"

Yuri took the battered phone in his hands and looked it over carefully, then clicked the side button to see if it would turn on.  He heaved a sigh of relief to see that it did, showing the security screen with the time at the top and number-pad for the pass-code, and looked fit for use.  He nodded, "Yeah, I think it's fine."

"Whew, that's a relief." The Russian said cheerfully, "Why don't you go get your skates on?  I think we're about done practicing, so it's just casual-skate for a bit while a kids' class comes through."

The Japanese skater's eyes lit up, and he nodded, moving to sit back on a bench that was nearby and grabbed his silver blades.

.

.

.

Mikhail was sitting at the Sapsan train station, waiting for his ride to take him back to Moscow.  He heard a jingle on his phone, and reached to pull it out and see what it was.

[Are you still in St. Petersburg?]

He pondered the unknown number for a moment, but supposed it could only be one of a small handful of people.  His thumbs went typing away.

[Viktor?]

Chapter Text

CHAPTER THIRTY FIVE

Yuri had quickly pulled his skates on and headed out onto the ice, joining Viktor and Yurio in a casual free-skate.  Yurio was clearly exhausted, but after watching their practice for the previous few hours, Yuri understood all too well how that felt.

"So you're not going to do that new Short Program after all?" Viktor was asking.

"Nah..." Yurio confirmed, hands stuffed in his track-suit coat pockets, "Since I skipped it at the Euro Championship, there's not much point.  I'll just skate Agape at Worlds."

"That's good.  Skating new material inevitably gets you lower scores.  Best to just coast along with what you know and go for broke."

"Mh..."

Yuri felt a buzz in his back pocket, and moved to reach for his phone, thinking it might've been someone back home.  When he clicked on the screen and saw that wasn't the case, he felt like his soul had just escaped his body from the panic.

Viktor noticed and looked back at him, "What's the matter?"

"N-nothing!" Yuri insisted, "Everything's okay!  It's good!"

[Viktor?]

I must've hit the Send button when Yurio scared me!  Yuri thought in a panic, What should I do!?

"I need to sit for a second, I think there's a rock in my skate." He lied, breaking off to head back to the rink exit. 

The other two just continued on without him, waiting for him to come back in his own time. 

Yuri sat on the bench near where he'd left his shoes, and motioned to take off the offending skate.  But his eyes stayed on the message he'd received.  He sighed and moved to reply.

[No, this is Yuri.]

The reply came faster than he'd expected, not even able to shake out the empty boot before he felt the vibration on the bench where he'd set the phone down.

[Oh!  Hey!  Did Viktor tell you to message me?  I'm still in the city but I'm at the train station, about to leave.]

[Yakov gave me your information.  Viktor doesn't know I reached out.]

[Ah, I see.]  There was a pause, [Can I do something for you?]

Yuri realized he hadn't planned this far in advance, and wasn't really sure what to say in response.  He watched Viktor and Yurio pass by as a group of preteens took to the ice on the other side of the rink with their skating teacher.  He could hear the group of youths calling out greetings to their nation's skate champions.

[Yuri?]

The Japanese skater sighed, shaking his head and going for it, [Can you stay in St. Petersburg for one more day?]

[Sure.  What do you need?]

[I want to meet with you.  Viktor practices alone late in the evenings so I can get away without him noticing.]

[Where do you want to meet?]

.

.

.

There was a café within walking distance of home, and Yuri had left to head there within a few minutes of Viktor leaving for his aforementioned late-night solo practices.  Yuri even took Makkachin with him to let him get out of the house for a while. 

He sat outside at the café with a hot cup of cider and waited, butterflies in his stomach the whole time.  Makkachin licked at a cup of whipped cream where he lay on the concrete patio, slowly wagging his tail contentedly.

"Yuri?" Mikhail's voice sounded, coming from just behind him and to the right.

He lifted his head to look, and sure enough, there he was; the taxi that brought the man there was starting to pull away, and Mikhail held his one small carry-bag in his left hand.  Yuri huffed to himself and stood up, bowing in greeting before looking up again and reaching out his ringed hand, "Mikhail-san...  Your resemblance to Viktor really is eerie."  He bowed his head again when Mikhail took his hand to shake it, coming up to take a seat at the same table.

"Yeah, agreed." The elder nodded, "When I saw him that first time, I thought I was looking at my younger doppelganger.  He really takes on our side of the family more so than the Nikiforov side."

"What's your family name?"

"Rozovsky."

"How did your families meet?" Yuri wondered, reaching down to scratch behind Makkachin's ear.

"Older generations of both families settled in the same little town.  We all grew up together.  Viktor escaped at a pretty early age."

"I can only wonder how.  Almost every conversation that's happened about it has been in Russian and I don't understand it."

Mikhail nodded, "Unfortunately, I don't know the whole story myself...I had left prior to it all taking place.  My sister...as much as I try to remember, anyway...said that Viktor had been found by some coach from the big city while in the area on other business.  Tatiyana had taken Viktor to a bigger town with a proper skating rink, and the rest was just fortunate timing."

"Maybe not all so fortunate at the time." Yuri said, sipping at his cider.

"Indeed." Mikhail agreed, looking up into the dark and cloudy sky, "Viktor couldn't have known how his father would react.  It's not his fault."

"Mh."

"So..." Mikhail veered off course, "If you're here without Viktor knowing, I can only assume that means you're trying to vet me."

"...Sort of." Yuri acknowledged, "He refuses to talk about his roots.  He even told me not to ask about them.  I don't intend for this to be a dialogue where you spill all the family secrets, but..."

"You must have a good family." Mikhail surmised, smiling, "And you want to same for him."

Yuri nodded again, "Viktor lived with us in Japan for a few months while he was coaching me last year.  I came to St. Petersburg after the Grand Prix Final in December."

"That's what I read." The elder man leaned back to slouch where he sat.

"You've been researching?"

"You already knew that."

"Yeah..."

"I spent a whole day after Tatiyana's funeral trying to find out more about Viktor.  I had no idea how skilled or famous he'd become since leaving home.  I don't think really anyone in the family knew.  The way the skating world completely lost its mind when Viktor dropped everything to go to Hasetsu all of a sudden..."

Yuri couldn't help himself, and he laughed a little behind his scarf, "It was all a whirlwind of activity.  My family's hot spring resort was swarmed by media when it got out that Viktor was there.  Even Yurio showed up."

"Yurio?"

"Yuri Plisetsky, one of Viktor's teammates.  My sister named him Yurio to tell us apart."

"Ah, yeah...Viktor set up that Hot Springs on Ice event with you two."

The skater hummed his confirmation.

"So how long have you two been engaged?" Mikhail suddenly wondered.

Yuri looked over to his gloved hand, feeling the ring around his finger beneath the covering, "Since just before the Grand Prix Final."

"Have you ever been married before?"

Yuri snorted in disbelief, "I'm only 24...how could I have been married already and separated so I could get engaged again?"

"I've seen things." Mikhail laughed, leaning forward to put his elbows on the table, "I was just curious.  There's almost nothing to read about you online except for the professional stuff.  Not since before Viktor became your coach, anyway...then everyone started taking keen interest."

"I've noticed that."

"Viktor's had other relationships before you though."

"Sure."

"With women though."

"...Yes."

"Has he told you about them?"

"He tried once, but I cut him off." Yuri looked at the poodle and leaned back, "That was when we were first getting to know each other though.  I don't know that I'd want to ask about it again now."

"You've never wondered why he wasn't with someone when he went to Japan?"

"He'd been a bachelor for a while before that."

"Not my point."

"No, I hadn't wondered."

"Hard to maintain a relationship when half of your life is in a sport." Mikhail explained, "But that's just my guess.  You're lucky that you skate, too...and do so as well as he does, so neither of you is ever left behind."

Yuri nodded, looking back up again, "I'm only this good now because Viktor got me here.  I was on the edge of quitting after Sochi."

"So that's how it works with you two then?"

"Huh?"

"The dynamic you have.  The way you two work so well together." Mikhail was trying to put it into words but was having trouble finding the right ones, "Viktor was struggling with inspiration.  You were struggling with whether or not to even go on.  So...you fit well together, having a common goal, reaching it from different starting places."

"I guess so." Yuri said, "Viktor gives me what I need, and I give him what he wants."

"Oh?  And what does he want?"

"Besides all this?"  Yuri jokingly gestured to himself, making the older man laugh.  He then got a little more serious though and looked up at the sky, seeing the stars through the clouds, and the moon glowing on high.  It reminded him of their Exhibition skate in Korea, with all the camera flashes in the darkness, "Viktor wants to surprise people...and he does that by creating something beautiful.  He's been pleasing the audience for years...but his time is coming to an end soon.  Maybe he would never have come to Hasetsu if I were the same age as him...but since I'm 4 years his junior, I'm still pliable." He brought his eyes down again, "I asked him to stay with me in competitive skating for one more year...  I don't know how much longer he'll be in it after that.  He'll be turning 29 right after the next Grand Prix Final.  Almost no skaters keep going after that."

"Does he have any plans for when he's done for good?"

"Staying on as my coach, until I retire.  He hasn't brought up anything else yet.  He doesn't really have to worry about it right now though.  He wants me to keep going as long as I can and keep winning gold medals."

"Is that what you want though?"

Yuri's brow furrowed, but he shook his head and smiled, "I just want to keep eating katsudon with him...and the only way I can do that is by winning competitions."

Grey-green eyes looked at him in surprise, but Mikhail smiled as well, "Hmph, I can see why he likes you so much then."

.

.

.

Yuri had settled on the couch with Makkachin as the night went on, watching some meaningless thing or another on the television while he waited for Viktor to return home.  He was half asleep when he finally heard the sound of Viktor's car pulling up.  The poodle awoke as well at the noise, and hurried off to the doorway to greet the skater excitedly.

When Viktor finally got in through the door, Yuri had sat upright and was rubbing his eyes, looking to realize it was after 1am.

"Wow...you had a late night." He said blearily.

Viktor dropped all his gear in the hallway and pressed on past the dog, practically lunging at where Yuri sat, "Sorry I was out so late, but I had to keep working!"

"Something big?"

The Russian latched onto him affectionately, "You'll see at Worlds.  I'm so excited!!"

"You're freezing!" Yuri protested, nothing but bare skin and a t-shirt separating him from the frozen cold of Viktor's winter coat.

Viktor had no issue with shrugging it off, letting it thump to the floor in a heavy pile.  Other clothing quickly went with it, until he was not but pants and socks.  He was eagerly laying passion onto his fiancé, hardly able to slow down.  Yuri could feel his eagerness, and his own interest slowly rose in kind.

"You must've pulled off something crazy to be this excited, Viktor." He'd said, letting the older athlete pull his t-shirt off and throw it to the growing pile.  The intensity of it all reminded Yuri of the time Viktor had stripped down to nothing in the hot-spot restaurant in China, "But I bet you won't tell me what you did."

"I can't!" Viktor said cheerfully, "I really want to though!"

"Tell me."

"I can't!"

"Tell me!"

"NOOOOO!" The man wrapped both arms around Yuri's torso and hugged him tightly.

"Viktor!"

"Fine!" He finally relented, moving to pull Yuri's legs around his waist so he could get closer and whisper into his ear. 

When he heard the words, Yuri shook his head in disbelief, "You...what?  That's impossible.  No one can do that."

Viktor's eyes told the truth though.

Yuri still couldn't believe it.  He shook his head a little, and then reached up with one hand to cup Viktor's face.  His elder leaned into it, putting his own hand over it before turning to kiss his palm.

The energy changed after that, and Viktor leaned over him, "Let's just go.  We'll book the first flight to Spain.  Never mind the huge wedding plans that'll take forever to arrange...never mind inviting a bunch of guests.  Let's just go, you and me..."

"You want to elope?"

"We'll make it an adventure.  We'll go straight from Barcelona to Helsinki for the competition...and we can take our honeymoon in Hasetsu after that."  Viktor's gaze was determined now, "Come with me, Yuri!"

"We..." He stammered, the whole thing like a blur in his mind, "...Yes, yes absolutely!"

He saw a few tears of joy fall from Viktor's eyes, and the man pushed in to kiss him after that.

It would only be two more days before the next flight out of St. Petersburg to Barcelona.  It was a whirlwind of preparation, but they were sure everything was accounted for.  They packed their belongings for the competition with the things they'd need for the next two weeks in Spain, and even brought Makkachin with them this time.  Viktor had found out that they had to have an actual residence in Spain in order to have their marriage ratified, and made quick work of finding some low-cost apartment that they could claim as their home address.  When it was all finally done and arranged, Viktor was practically pulling Yuri through the streets to the Barcelona Town Hall.  They were heaving to catch their breath when they finally got inside.  Mercifully, several of the people who worked inside spoke a smattering of English, so they were able to proceed without much difficulty.

Viktor had booked the appointment, and it wasn't long before they were called to enter the antechamber where the little ceremony would take place.  Given the high profile nature of the Grand Prix Final from months before, the Mayor had recognized the pair's names and granted a reprieve from the requirement that they had lived in Spain for 2 years, given all they'd already done to meet the other requirements.

And so...the moment finally came.

"Do you, Viktor Nikiforov, take this man to be your husband?"

The silver-haired skater nodded, holding both of Yuri's hands in his own, "Yuri Katsuki...I take you to be my husband from this time onward, to join with you and to share all that is to come.  To be your faithful spouse, to give and to receive, to speak and to listen, to inspire and respond; a commitment made in love, kept in faith, and eternally made new.  Whatever lies ahead, good or bad, we will face together.  Distance may test us for a time, and time may try us.  But if we look to each other first, we will always see a friend.  Yuri...look to me for all the days to come...today I take my place as your husband."

Yuri was practically crying already, but Viktor squeezed his hands.

The Mayor continued, "And do you, Yuri Katsuki, take this man to be your husband?"

Brown eyes rose back up to meet blue, "Viktor Nikiforov..." His voice quaked a little, and he took a deep breath before continuing, "I take you to be my husband.  To share the good times and hard times, side by side.  I humbly give you my hand and my heart, as a sanctuary of warmth and peace, and pledge my faith and love to you.  Just as this circle is without end, my love for you is eternal.  Just as it is made of incorruptible substance, my commitment to you will never fail.  With this ring..." He thumbed the gold on Viktor's finger, "...I thee wed."

The Mayor nodded, and looked out past them to the 'official witnesses' that had gathered to watch, "We are gathered here today to celebrate one of life's greatest moments.  To cherish the words which have united Viktor and Yuri in marriage.  Marriage is the promise between two people who love each other, and who trust in each other, who honor each other as individuals, and who choose to spend the rest of their lives together.  This ceremony will not create a relationship that does not already exist between you.  It is a symbol of how far you have come.  It is a symbol of the promises you will make to each other to continue growing stronger as individuals and as partners.  No matter what challenges you face, you now face them together, and no matter how much you succeed, you now do so together.  The love between you joins you now as One.  And so...it is with great honor that I pronounce you...Husband and Husband."

They both stepped towards each other after that, and kissed each other warmly.  The officials that had gathered all started clapping and cheering for them.  When Yuri pulled back to look up at his newly-made spouse, his eyes were heavy with tears.  Viktor just smiled down at him, tears in his own eyes, and Yuri broke down entirely.  He threw both arms over Viktor's shoulders and sobbing against his neck. 

It was the happiest moment of his life.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER THIRTY SIX

There had been an unexpected downpour while the ceremony took place, but the sun was shining brightly through the few remaining heavy, grey clouds.  The wet, rocky roadway was practically glowing in its light.  People were slowly starting to come out from their hastily-gained shelters.  Birds were flying down to splash in the puddles.

Yuri hadn't been able to see any of it though, as he was too busy beaming over the sight of the marriage license in his hands.  It was still so hard for him to believe it was really there. 

He was sitting on a bench not far from the Town Hall.  Viktor was right there next to him, explaining something, but Yuri was off in his own little world.

"Are you listening?"

"Huh?" Yuri looked over at him, practically coming back down from orbit, "Sorry...my mind wandered a little."

The Russian huffed a laugh at him, "I was trying to tell you how you can get your documents changed.  Are you with me now?  Back on Earth?"

"Yes, sorry..." He answered, carefully putting the paper back inside its envelope, making sure no corners were bent or torn as it slid back inside, "Go ahead...I'm listening."

"You'll have to start with the Court house." Viktor said, pulling Yuri close to have him lean on him where they sat, "That's where you can do the legal name change." He started playing with that black hair idly, running his fingers through it as his arm curled behind the man's neck, "Then you take those papers to the Japanese Embassy.  You may not even have to tell them about the marriage thing and run the risk of them refusing to issue your new passport."

"We really got lucky that the Mayor knew who we were and waived the 2 year residency rule."

"We're citizens of the world, Yuri!"

"Would've been a real travesty otherwise..." He continued, moving to sit up a little bit so he could turn to look the man in the eyes, "Be like...'hey, we want to get married...'  'No, sorry, you haven't lived here long enough, why would we give you a certificate?'" He gave his best effort at a Spanish accent, though failed miserably, sounding more like a more-awkward version of himself than anything.

Viktor laughed, then whipped out the French accent for fun, "Bhut sir...ve came all zees vay..."

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.

.

They finally started heading away from the Town Hall area to satisfy certain primal needs when an unexpected FaceTime from Yurio came through, buzzing Viktor's phone urgently.  The Russian was pulling away from a bite of the fancy seafood in front of him and gawked at the request curiously.

"Who is it?" Yuri wondered, sitting across from him; their ankles were crossed together under the table.

"Yurio." Viktor answered as well as he could, the fork hanging from his mouth idly.

"You gonna answer?"

"Hmmm..." Viktor pondered, but then sighed with a laugh and clicked to accept, holding the phone out in front of him while he propped his elbow up on the table and finally pulled the fork from his teeth, "Hey."

"Idiot, where are you!?" The blond blurted, "You've been missing from practice for half a week and Yakov's about to shit a kitten over it."

Yuri choked back a laugh, pulling a hand up in front of his mouth.

Yurio seemed to have hollered at someone off-camera for a moment, "Yeah, Viktor finally picked up.  He's not dead."  He then turned back to face him, "Seriously.  Where the hell did you go?  People went by your place and said it looked abandoned.  Everyone was freaking out."

"We did kind of abandon my place, so they were half right."

"The hell is that supposed to mean?"

Viktor just smiled deviously, "Give me 2 minutes, then check my Instagram."

"What!?  Vikt-"

The FaceTime session was cut short, and Viktor motioned for Yuri to come closer, "Get out the certificate."

The younger skater caught on quickly, and did as told, bringing his chair around to Viktor's side of the table as he pulled the envelope carefully from his backpack.  Making sure there was nothing on his fingers, Yuri then withdrew the precious paper and held it in front of them as Viktor held his phone up high with the camera on selfie-mode.  He reached around Yuri's back to pull him closer by the shoulder, kissing the side of his forehead as he took the photo.  That done, he quickly went over to post the pic online while his new husband put the paper back into safe keeping.

"Set location...Barcelona...  Hashtag #CanSolé, #JustMarried, #Viktuuri!" Viktor was practically cackling with satisfaction as he posted it.  Then, he paused, "Wait for it....  Waaaaait for it..."

Yuri's stomach was tight from excitement, and he checked his own phone to refresh the feed and see the new picture from v-nikiforov.  It already had 37 reactions and 8 comments by the time he got there...one of which stood out, making Yuri snort with sudden laughter into his drink.

yuri-plisetsky: ...fucking seriously.

Viktor's phone blew up again, but this time it was Yakov, and the Russian held it to his ear tenderly even as Yuri could hear the older gentleman yelling, "Yes...yes we are...  No, not entirely sure yet.  We're going to meet you all at Worlds.  ...No, probably back to Hastesu, at least for a little while."

Yuri's own phone started ringing while that conversation went on, and he smiled to see that it was Yuuko making a FaceTime request.  Unsurprisingly, she and her 3 girls were in the frame when he clicked it on, "Hey guys."

"Congratulations!!!" They all said together.  The triplets had their own phones in-hand with the Instagram feed showing the photo.

They were in their pajamas, and Yuri suddenly realized how late it must've been in Japan, "I hope none of this woke any of you up."

"Only a little bit." Yuuko admitted with a weak laugh, "Axel was the first to see Viktor's post, and it just went crazy from there."

"Is Uncle Viktor still there!?" The girls asked in unison.

Yuri nodded happily, and turned his phone around to show the Russian sitting back against his chair, still being yelled at by his coach but smiling anyway.  When he saw the familiar faces, he pulled the phone away from his ear temporarily to wave at them, "Heyyyy~!" 

"You guys finally did it!"

"Yes~!" He confirmed, winking at them merrily, "Just today.  It's only been about an hour since we got our license."

"You have to let us arrange a big party!" Lutz said, getting in the front of the field, "You're coming back after Worlds anyway so it's perfect!!"

"We'll set it up at the Ice Castle!" Loop agreed from behind her sister.

"It'll be a huge deal, like Hot Springs on Ice!" Axel pulled up on the side, trying to get into the frame but only managing the top of her face.

Viktor seemed excited for it, and threw an arm into the air, "Yeah!"

Yuri was already getting nervous, watching them making all their plans.

"We'll see you in a couple weeks!  Do svidanija!" Viktor told them before finally breaking away again to listen to Yakov.

Yuri turned the phone back to show himself, "Don't make it that big a deal...okay?"

"Are you kidding!?  Yuri!  You just got hitched to VIKTOR NIKIFOROV.  How are you not wanting to brag about it to everyone on this planet!?" Axel was saying excitedly, "It's already huge!"

"Well, sure...but..."

"No buts!  We're gonna have a massive party!"  Loop agreed.

"...Guys!"

"We've got this, don't worry!" Lutz finished.

"GUYS!" Yuri blurted between clenched teeth, trying not to get too loud while in the restaurant.  They finally went quiet and started listening, "I know you mean well and everything, and what you want to do is really nice, but...I don't really want the entire universe to show up in Hasetsu."

Yuuko saw the worried look on her friend's face and pulled her kids close, "Yuri's not the sort to advertize, girls.  Remember?  We can always make it a small party."

"The big crowds are what I see at competitions." Yuri pointed out, "But everything's different since Viktor became my coach.  Everything is bigger and louder and crazier than it ever used to be.  But that's only okay in skating...this is my life, right?  I don't want a huge deal made over somethi-"

He was cut off as Viktor suddenly pulled the phone from his hands, and turned it to face him, "Yuri only likes the lime-light when he's putting on a show.  This whole thing is a little more personal, so let's just have a small gathering, okay?"

The triplets sighed audibly, but agreed, "Yes, Uncle Viktor..."

"Don't look so glum!" He said cheerfully, "Quality over quantity.  If it's only a small number of people, it'll be better for everyone!  I know you can do it!"

They started to get excited again, and Viktor returned the phone to its owner.  Yuri was a bit surprised at him, but he decided to wrap up the conversation before addressing it, "I'll let you guys go back to sleep then.  We'll see you after Worlds, okay?  We'll be coming straight there, we promise this time."

"Bye, Yuri!"

"Goodnight!"

He clicked off the conversation, and saw the pop-up messages that several other people had tried to call him while the previous conversation was active.  Hinako, Phichit, his parents, even Chris.  He just set the phone aside face-down and set it to mute, looking up again to see Viktor just smiling at him.

"I guess I got a bit over-excited." He said, "Nishigori told me once that you had a hard time putting yourself out there and that you were something of a recluse growing up.  I guess I forgot."

"I didn't mean to be a buzz-kill..." Yuri said with a sigh, "It's not like I go to skating competitions because I like all the attention.  You saw how fast I fell apart when I was in the lead at Cup of China..."

"...Then why did you get into skating competitively?"

Yuri leaned back into his chair with his cup of ice water, "I started in ballet.  Minako-sensei suggested I try out figure skating.  Then Yuu-chan told me about you, and that's why I got into competition.  I've been trying to catch up to you since you ever since."

"And how's it feel to get caught up and take the lead?"

Yuri nearly choked on his drink, "I'm not in the lead!"

"But you will be at Worlds!"

"You said I'd get gold at the GPF and I didn't." Yuri pointed out, almost sarcastically, grabbing the cloth napkin on the table to wipe the water off his face where it had splashed on him.

"By barely a difference of 0.12 points.  And then I said you'd get gold at Four Continents and you did."

"Only because you and Yurio weren't competing."

"So you've already resigned yourself to bronze then?" Viktor was disappointed, "Yuri..."

"I already won the most important gold medal that I could ever hope to achieve."  He leaned forward and reached for Viktor's right hand where he'd settled it on the table, thumbing his ring, "How could I ever win something better?"

The Russian gave him a happy but concerned look, "I don't want you to stop trying just because you got one thing you wanted...  I'm worried about you now.  Putting gold around my finger and having gold around your neck are different things."

"Huh?"

"We agreed you'd become a five-time World Champion, right?  That was the price of my being your coach."

"...Yeah, but..."

"Don't give up, Yuri.  You've already come so far and achieved so much."  He lifted his hand from under his partner's and laced their fingers together, "Besides, if you're depressed about Worlds, think about what I'm up against.  I have to set two new world records right off the bat.  Imagine how disappointed everyone will be if I mess up?"

The Japanese skater could only lower his eyes.

"And Yurio, too..." Viktor continued, "He made history twice at the GPF...once by shattering the Short Program record, and again by winning the GPF Gold Medal during his first ever performance in the Senior division.  Then he completely bombed out at the European Championships because of the scare with his grandpa.  Think about the uphill battle he's climbing now."

Yuri could feel his heart sink, and he rubbed his eyes with the back of his arm, "I'm just being selfish again, it seems..."

"You just need perspective.  We're all struggling.  But..." Viktor paused, pulling his hand from his husband's and reaching out to lift his face up again with a finger gently under his chin, meeting his eyes again, "...You're the one who has the best chance at the gold at Worlds right now.  I'm not even saying that as your coach, or your choreographer, or your husband...I'm saying that as a fellow skater.  One that admires you and wants to see you do your best.  You can win gold.  Win it so you can see the look on my face when I take the lower podium!"

Yuri balked at that idea, "Why in the world would you want to be on a lower podium than me?"

"Because you're the only person in the world that I like being under."

The younger skater was practically on the floor after that, nose bleeding everywhere. 

Viktor just laughed, "See?  Now you have to win gold," He taunted, incredibly amused by the whole thing, moving out of his chair to help put Yuri back into his, "Just so I know exactly what's going through your mind when you step up there."

"Never mind what's going through my mind right now?" Yuri pinched the bridge of his nose to stem the flow.

"Well, it is our wedding night..."

"I'm not going to make it that easy for you." He challenged, giving Viktor quite the look, and reaching his hand to return the gesture, cupping the man's face lightly and rubbing his thumb against his lower lip.

"Yuri, stop that, we're in public."

"Everything on the ice is love, isn't it?  Why not off the ice, too?"  He reached to grasp his fingers around Viktor's wrist, and pulled his hand up to place it over his heart, "So...seduce me."

Cool blue eyes were staring at the man, practically in disbelief of him. 

He turned away only for a second to raise his hand.

"Check please!"

Chapter Text

CHAPTER THIRTY SEVEN

True to Yuri's word, he made Viktor work on seducing him for the entire rest of the afternoon and into the evening.  By the time Viktor had finished gathering all the things he needed to make the night one to remember, they were both carrying numerous bags...though, to be fair, most of it wasn't just for that night.

Seven bottles of wine, two of champagne, one bottle of Baileys, freshly ground coffee, several other things...even some curious mixed white-and-milk seashell-shaped chocolates, all in the bags.

It was an effort to get everything into their hotel room, and Makkachin was glad to see them return.  Viktor moved off to feed his aging poodle as Yuri started pulling bottles from the totes and set them on the table on the far end of the room.  He looked at each one as he set them down, reading the labels again and checking vintage.

I don't even know why I'm looking.  I don't know a thing about wine...

"Save some of those for when we get back to Yu-Topia!" Viktor asked, setting a bowl of bottled water down for his dog, "I want to mull them for my new in-laws."

"My dad's going to go nuts over it." Yuri said, "He's worse than I am with alcohol."

"Then it'll just be a good excuse for us to dismiss ourselves, won't it?" The Russian suggested, shrugging off his coat after putting the lid back on the large plastic bottle.  He set the coat on its hanger in the closet, and stepped over to join Yuri by the table.  He slid his hands up Yuri's chest, barely touching him as his hands went into the space between his shoulders and the inside of the coat, pushing it off of him.  Yuri could feel the man's lips against his own, but like his hands...there was barely a whisper of a touch between them.

He's playing keep-away to draw me in...

Viktor pulled the coat off his arms and put it in the closet next to his own, then went to one of the other bags to grab some of the glasses he'd bought just for the night.  It wasn't one of the wine glasses Yuri had expected though...it was the two ceramic mugs.  He watched in keen, but silent interest as Viktor worked his drink magic, pouring more of the bottled water from earlier into the complimentary hotel-room brewer and scooping just enough of the newly-ground coffee into a filter for two cups.  Once the brewer started sputtering, steam rising from the carafe in the back, Viktor turned away from it, grabbed the bottle of Baileys, and looked at his husband.

"Just enough to loosen you up a bit, but not so much that you don't remember later." He said, eyes half-lidded through his silver bangs.

Yuri just sat on the edge of the bed with a smirk, resting back on his arms, "I can't wait."

The smell of the coffee was already starting to rise into the air, and Viktor turned back to look at it proudly before moving to join Yuri on the edge of the bed.  The younger skater looked over at him as the bed settled, but he just smiled and waited.

"You're really going to make me work hard tonight, aren't you?" Viktor mused, crossing his legs and reaching his hand up to brush the bangs from Yuri's eyes.

He nodded enthusiastically, "I've evolved.  I used to be a pork cutlet fatale that seduces men...now I'm something different."

Viktor coughed a laugh at that, stretching one leg out to settle it over his partner's lap, "Now you're a gold ribbon pork cutlet fatale, and you still seduce men."

"Only you."

"You did a good job." Viktor said, quieter than before, deftly touching at Yuri's arm as he leaned in closer. 

He closed his eyes, and in his mind, he could feel the kiss before it happened...but then it didn't.  He could sense the warmth of his partner's breath against his skin, ever so close, but not quite completely touching.  Yuri felt the man's nose-tip brushing his lip, moving up to the tip of his own nose as Viktor's left hand came up across his chest, tracing a finger up his center and over his collarbone, right up to his neck and under his chin. 

"You're teasing me, Viktor."

"You're playing hard to get." He answered, nosing his chin before pulling away again to stand and finish the drinks. 

"You're closer than you think."

"Don't say that, I won't try as hard."  The Russian warned teasingly, looking back at him over his shoulder. 

Viktor had poured the coffee by then and was unscrewing the lid to the cream liqueur when he looked back again to see a certain sultry look on Yuri's face.  He whistled as he turned back to watch the liquid pouring into the two cups, "I'm suddenly really glad I gave you Eros to skate.  I can only imagine the difference in our relationship if I'd given you Agape instead."

"I suppose I'd be the blushing virgin bride then." Yuri laughed, falling down to his back on the bed with both arms up above his head, stretching and reaching for the pillows, "Not the battle-hardened Eros skate-husband you've trained me to become."

"You'll always be my little katsudon." Viktor mused, finally returning with the mugs to sit with Yuri.  The younger skater huffed a laugh to himself as he rolled to his side, taking the mug and drawing in the sweet smell.  Viktor was already taking a sip, "Vkusno~!  Such a hot after-bite."

Yuri sipped at it too, and felt the heat of the coffee first, then the heat of the liqueur chasing down his throat.  It was sweet and spicy, and warmed him from the inside out, "This is really good!"

"Right?"

It was gone quickly though, and Viktor moved to lay on his side next to his partner, propping his head up on his hand as the other moved over Yuri's chest.  He traced his fingers over the contours of the man's physique, the rise and fall of each muscle, before pulling those fingers back up to draw Yuri's face closer to his own.  Yuri allowed it, letting himself be pulled onto his own side to face the man, and finally be drawn into a light kiss. 

He could still taste the Irish coffee on Viktor's lips, and drew in closer, putting his free hand on the man's waist as he felt a leg come up between his own, to just above his knee.  Viktor ran his fingers through Yuri's hair, sliding it down his cheek, jaw, neck, and finally back down to his chest, slipping his hand under Yuri's arm and down to his waist to match the gesture. 

Yuri was practically itching to feel him, and cupped his hand around Viktor's lower back to pull him closer, feeling where their bodies were pressed against each other.  He felt his partner's hand slide under the edge of his shirt, feeling the warmth of his skin, and the pounding of his excited heart.  Within moments, Viktor had shifted again, pushing Yuri onto his back as he sat over his hips, using both hands to pull the form-fitting shirt away.

Similar to the time Viktor had told Yuri to fully claim him, Viktor stopped pulling the shirt away just as it was coming over Yuri's face, leaving his mouth and nose exposed but his eyes covered and his arms somewhat trapped.  He watched with pleasure as Yuri started drawing in harder breaths, humming a little to himself with each inhalation as he slowly rolled his hips around in a small circle over Yuri's.  The younger skater's hands became free, and found their way up to Viktor's thighs, and Viktor leaned down to kiss that mouth, pressing himself hard against him so they could feel each other through their clothing.  Yuri drew in a sharp breath, twitching and pushing back against him.

As Viktor sat upright again, Yuri pulled one hand away to lift the edge of his shirt off his eyes, peeking with one eye as the Russian pulled his own shirt away, revealing a toned and pale body beneath it.  It was just as solid and perfect as the day Viktor had shown up naked in his family's hot spring, but this time...he could touch it.  He pulled the shirt off the rest of his head and cast it aside as he sat up, putting his hands around the sides or Viktor's back as he kissed that chest eagerly.  Viktor's arms came to rest around Yuri's shoulders, holding him close as he settled a little lower on the man's lap.  As the younger athlete's hands slowly started to descend behind him, Viktor continued his slow forward and backward sway against his hips, wanting to feel every moment of new arousal. 

Viktor pulled up a little to reach between them, starting to undo the buttons with one hand as the other pushed Yuri down to his back again. 

Yuri was starting to feel the effects of the drink going to his head.  The subtle hint of dizziness, but making his body feel light and relaxed.  He almost didn't notice Viktor pulling their clothing off, but 'remembered' again when he felt skin against skin as his partner returned to him.  But as Viktor was leaning down over top of him, Yuri recalled something the Russian had said earlier in the evening.

In one quick motion, Yuri flipped them, putting his husband on his back with his silver hair spread over the pillows.  He looked down into those blue pools and leaned in to kiss him, but not quite... 

"Your lips are a little chapped."

Viktor half-closed his eyes, "Maybe you should do something about it?"

"Maybe I will."

The Russian smiled eagerly at that.

Yuri licked his lips...and then leaned in to lick Viktor's.  He felt himself getting pulled into a kiss that was deeper than any they'd shared before, and felt breathless when he finally pulled away again...and he only did that because he felt a sudden squeeze and had to gasp. 

Viktor always enjoyed seeing that look on Yuri's face.  No matter how many times they'd been intimate, every time he took hold of the man, Yuri reacted like it was the first time again. 

The younger skater had to hold himself up a little, adjusting to the slight change in tempo as Viktor held them both in his hands, massaging gently and with expert finesse.  He fumbled a hand to reach for the night-stand, reaching for a small bottle there with a pump-top.  Slippery clear liquid dripped into his hand, and he pulled back again to reach between them.  Viktor moved one hand out of the way to let Yuri's in between them, and helped massage the slick fluid all over them.  It wasn't the warming liquid Yuri liked, but it was still fine.

Yuri had to catch his breath a little as Viktor continued to work them together, pushing up a little to sit on his knees, putting them on either side of the Russian's hips.  He hadn't gotten far before he felt Viktor taking one hand away to prop himself up on that elbow, folding one knee against Yuri's right side as his other leg rose up to rest against his shoulder.  Yuri felt almost paralyzed by the sensation between them, and half-didn't notice the leg rising up ahead of him.  But Viktor nudged his head with his calf to bring him back.

"Eyes on me, Yuri." He said coyly, "I didn't give you so much to drink that you'd pass out in the middle of this."

"No..." The younger man agreed, "I'm not going to."  He slowly and reluctantly pulled out of Viktor's grasp, and leaned forward against the extended leg, holding the man's knee with one hand as the other settled on the sheets by Viktor's waist.  He could feel the muscles in Viktor's leg tighten a little as he pressed forward, but he kept his sights on the slate-blue irises beneath him. 

To Viktor's credit, even though he'd let Yuri take him first, it was still primarily him that did most of the work during their play sessions.  Yuri supposed he liked being in control most of the time...but every so often, and perhaps only when he was in certain moods, Viktor liked being the vulnerable one. 

This was one of those moments.

Viktor's back arched a little, and both arms rose up over his head to tousle his hair amongst the pillows.  He twisted a little onto his side, and Yuri just inched in closer, beginning the push-and-pull rotation of his hips.  He listened for the little hums of pleasure as he started to pick up a little speed, reaching over with his free hand to massage the man when he could.  Multi-tasking was, occasionally, difficult though.

Before long, Viktor had pulled his leg back down off Yuri's shoulder and had rotated onto his stomach.  Yuri pressed against his back, kissing at his shoulder-blades, hands clinging to his waist.  He could fee Viktor's fingers clenching at the sheets, and he started quietly crying out.

I'm the only one in the world who's heard these sounds from Viktor...who's gotten to feel him like this...

The Russian had even bit down on the thick-hemmed corner of one of the pillows, though it didn't seem to help much. 

"Y-Yuri...!"

The younger man smiled at that.  Hearing the sound of his name broken up like that was always a favorite of his.  If Viktor still had enough of his senses to say his name normally, he wasn't trying hard enough.  But his turn had suddenly come to an end when he felt Viktor twisting under him again.  Yuri knew he only did that so quickly if he felt himself on the edge sooner than he'd wanted.  So he waited to follow the older man's lead, and let Viktor pull him up into his lap as he sat with his back against the headboard.  It wasn't an immediate reconnect though, as Viktor kissed him a little first, nosing at his neck as his hands roamed up and down Yuri's chest and back. 

No matter what, Viktor always wanted to have their eyes locked whenever one entered the other.  It was one of the highest signs of surrender and trust, in his opinion.  And so, as he repositioned himself beneath his husband, slick with the clear liquid from earlier and wet from perspiration, he looked into those brown eyes that had given him so much happiness.  Yuri put his right arm over his partner's shoulder, letting it settle behind his neck as the other hand came up over his collarbone, and he slowly descended into Viktor's lap.  Their eyes stayed together until it was done, and only after did Viktor close his to lean up and kiss the man again. 

Yuri rose and fell slowly after that, adjusting to the new sensation again, and Viktor helped him along, holding him close with both arms around his back.  Once he was certain the discomfort had dissipated, he pulled one arm from where it hugged the man and brought it between them, giving Yuri something to push into.  It worked, and the younger figure picked up the pace a little bit.

Viktor soon changed their position again though, moving to put Yuri's hands against the headboard as he went behind him, holding onto his hips as he pushed inside again.  Yuri cried out a little, a confused mess of pleasure and uncertainty, but Viktor kissed his back and held his hands flat against the man's chest, going gently. 

He could never do this with another man...  Viktor thought to himself, knowing deep down that this figure he'd become enthralled with had probably never considered his own needs prior to their meeting.  He still tenses up a little, like he has to convince himself all over again that it's okay.  He has to remind himself that it's me, and only me.  I'm the only person he'll ever let do this to him.  I'm the only person he's ever trusted with this part of himself.

When he felt Yuri buckling under him a little, he pulled him back from the headboard again, and settled the Asian athlete on his back beneath him.  Black hair was matted to Yuri's forehead, and he was breathing heavily...but those brown eyes...they were still longing.  So Viktor did his best, and returned to his day-long attempt at seducing this man beneath him. 

He pulled Yuri's knees against to his sides and pushed on between them, taking him in his free hand as the other reached up to stroke Yuri's face.  The younger man leaned into the touch affectionately, and then leaned his head back as Viktor started moving again. 

"...V...Vikt...tor...!!" He cried out, biting down on one of his knuckles in desperation. 

The older skater could sense when Yuri was on the edge; certain muscles tensed, his back arched a certain way, and Yuri's expression changed.  When he saw and felt it, Viktor leaned in close to the man's ear and whispered, "Ja tebja lublju, Yuri..."

Yuri clenched up almost immediately after, desperately trying not to cry out too loudly, wrapping his arms tightly around Viktor's head and shoulders as his body quaked.  Viktor kept stroking gently, waiting for the trembling to stop before pulling his hand away.  He kept pace with his hips until he himself was ready to finish, pushing deep inside as Yuri clung to him, panting heavy breaths against the crook of his neck.  Viktor stayed right where he was for a while after that, letting Yuri hold onto him as long as he wanted, and hugging him tightly in return.  When he finally withdrew, he leaned to his side, collecting Yuri in his arms again and holding him gently, his cheek to the man's shoulder.  Yuri still twitched now and again, and Viktor slowly rubbed his chest.

"Viktor..." He finally said, causing the Russian to lift his head a little from where he'd pressed it to Yuri's skin.

"Hm?"

"Ja tože...tebja lub...lublju."

Viktor had to lift his head up fully to look at his partner at the sound of that, and when he saw a brown eye looking to the side at him from where his head had been submerged in the downy pillows, he felt a tear fall from one of his own. 

Yuri was confused, and turned to look at him more straight-on, "Viktor?  Did...did I say it wrong?"

"No..."

"...Then...why are you...?"

"...I don't...remember teaching you those words.  I'm..." The Russian reached up to rub his eyes and smiled, "I'm just happy to hear them from you.  You said them perfectly."

Chapter Text

CHAPTER THRITY EIGHT

It was pitch darkness when Viktor twitched awake, woken from a light sleep by the buzz of a text message and a blinking, blindingly-bright cell-phone screen, flashing light on the wall.  Yuri hadn't budged.

Blearily, the Russian reached an uncoordinated hand over the edge of the bed and towards the nightstand, trying to find his phone in the dark.  When he grabbed it, he rolled over onto his back, knee raised up to pitch a tent under the heavy hotel blanket.  Blue eyes squinted at the blazing white light directly in front of him, but as his vision adjusted and the image became more clear, Viktor rose to sit upright.  He wasn't sure if he should be worried or angry at what he saw.

For one, it turned out the buzzing wasn't even coming from his own phone.  It was Yuri's.

Second...the message scrawled across the screen came from a name he hadn't expected to see.

Mikhail Rozovsky: [Congratulations, Yuri!  I just saw the post on Viktor's Instagram!]

Viktor's eyes turned away from the screen, trailing over to where Yuri had been sound asleep.  He shifted a little under the blanket, but stayed unconscious, even as Viktor reached over angrily to grab his hand.  More specifically, his thumb.  He pressed it to the circle at the bottom of the screen and unlocked the device, giving him access to the archive of whatever messages had already been sent.

He paused a moment though, the phone bringing up the text message chat window and giving a brief preview of what had recently been said.  Nothing in the last week at least, he'd noticed, trying not to read the actual messages.  Part of him felt like he was already intruding too much...but another thought he deserved to know.

And so...he scrolled to the beginning, though it hadn't been far to go to find it.

 Mon, Mar 13, 3:17PM:

[Are you still in St. Petersburg?]

[Viktor?]

[No, this is Yuri.]

[Oh!  Hey!  Did Viktor tell you to message me?  I'm still in the city but I'm at the train station, about to leave.]

[Yakov gave me your information.  Viktor doesn't know I reached out.]

[Ah, I see.]
[Can I do something for you?]
[Yuri?]

[Can you stay in St. Petersburg for one more day?]

[Sure.  What do you need?]

[I want to meet with you.  Viktor practices alone late in the evenings so I can get away without him noticing.]

[Where do you want to meet?]

[The cafe where you got your drink before, down the street from the skating arena.  They're open late.  Be there at 11pm tonight.]

[Okay.]

Fri, Mar 17, 1:28AM:

[Congratulations, Yuri!  I just saw the post on Viktor's Instagram!]

That was the end of it.  His heart was pounding in his chest, anxiety and fear creeping up in him.  His left eye and cheek started to hurt a little, remembering how that very man had shown up in the presence of the Nikiforov Patriarch before.  A flash of memory played in his mind, seeing the fist come down into this face again like it was the first time.

'[Don't be mad at him!  I'm the one who took him to the skating rink!]'

'[I told you to never let him skate again!  How many times do I have to say it!?]'

'[You can't choose for Viktor what he can and can't like!]'

'[I'm getting really good, papa!  If you let me go to St. Petersburg, I can compete and send money home when I win!  Coach Yakov says-]'

CRACK

'[Konstantin!!]'

Screaming followed by sobbing.

'[He's not your coach!  No son of mine is going to be a fucking dancer!  You'll be working in the steel mill just like the rest of us!]'

'[He'll be more successful as an athlete, Konstantin...give him a chance.  He has the potential to be-]'

'[Don't interrupt me, old man!  This is my family and I make the decisions for what's best for it.  Viktor isn't going anywhere.]'

'[Viktor, let me look-]'

'[My eye...mama, I can't...I can't see!!]'

Viktor could remember the sound of his own hysterical screaming like he'd been doing it again right where he sat.  He cringed, trying to shake it off, looking back at the phone in his hand.  He crossed his legs under the blankets and looked at the touch-screen keyboard under the text window.  His brow furrowed and his eyes narrowed...and then his thumbs moved.

[Why are you talking to Yuri behind my back?]

It was a moment before Viktor could see the animated dots on the bottom left of the screen to indicate a reply being typed, and he felt a knot in his stomach when he saw them.

[Scroll up 2 inches and read it, Viktor.]

[I already read it.  You met behind my back and talked in secret.  How could you?]

[He's the one who contacted me first.]

Viktor growled at the answers.

[He's just trying to protect you.]
[Why are you so mad anyway?  You seemed happy when I came by the rink last week.]

[That's because you approached me first, in a place I felt comfortable.  This is an overreach.]

[Again, he contacted me first.]
[Don't be mad at him for wanting you to have what he has.]

[What's that supposed to mean?]

[He was practically interviewing me when we met that night.  He wanted to make sure that if he approached you with the idea of meeting with me again, that there wouldn't be any risk of your father being there, too.  I told him I'd support whatever decision he made on the matter.  I assume he hadn't come to that point yet, given how he apparently hadn't told you we'd spoken.]

Viktor scoffed at the words, "You already knew where to find me by then.  You wouldn't have needed to bring Konstantin with you again."

[He doesn't want you to be estranged from the entire family anymore, Viktor.  Why don't you want to give us a chance?]

If it were his own phone, he'd have thrown it across the room and gone back to sleep if he could, but since it wasn't, he held it tightly, gritting his teeth.

[I don't even have words to describe how angry I am right now.]
[Why would I WANT a relationship with my family?  Your sister was the only one who stood up for me when my own father nearly blinded me, almost ending my career before