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in search of silver lining

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It started out slow. So slow, in fact, that Yuuri didn't even notice.

At first it was subtle, a soft hum at the back of his mind, soothing and careful, almost intangible if he didn't focus solely on feeling around for it. And he didn't, because how do you look for something you would never think to be there to begin with?

(You don't.)

The first threads began forming around Rostelecom Cup, but Yuuri had been too distracted with everything else to notice that something had changed, that something sent warmth into his cold, numb limbs when he needed it most, that something helped him stay up when all he wanted was to crumble.

He didn't know, then.

And when he finally figured it out, Victor wasn't there.

(It hurt.)

(A lot.)

(But even if it hurt, he would never admit it, because in the end... he didn't believe it could be true.)

More and more threads began forming a rope, still thin and shy, but growing stronger with each passing day, with each smile Victor rested in Yuuri's hair and each sweetly whispered "Did you sleep well?" first thing in the morning.

Yuuri wondered. He hesitated, debated with his own flaws and battled his insecurities, because surely...?

By the time Barcelona rolled around he was certain of it.

Singing to the tune of budding love, the soulbond stretched from Yuuri's heart, right through his mind, through time and space, through all the difficulties and boundaries dividing them, to slip into Victor and dive down towards his heart, where it tied in a knot that matched the one around Yuuri's – joining them together as two parts of one whole.

It became hard to ignore then, the pulsing of colour and vibrant emotions dancing over the rope, delicate, feather-light, every time Victor felt.

And, oh, Victor felt a lot. 

Yet he said nothing of it, maybe didn't even feel it, and so Yuuri said nothing either.

He let the bond form, thread by thread, light like wisps of a spider's web, and wrap around his soul – an ever-growing, comforting blanket of support, warmth and love.

In silence, he nurtured it, cared for it, and hoped.

 

I

 

 

"Was finding the right music always this hard?" Victor whined.

He plopped down on the bed and with small moves of his hips bounced right over to where Yuuri was lying face down on his pillow. It jostled Yuuri around, skewing his glasses. With a sigh, Yuuri lifted his head and slipped the frames off, only to set them carefully on the nightstand before settling down again. Victor took it as a GO sign and sprawled all over Yuuri's back, warm from the shower, bare skin and steady heartbeat that made the knot around Yuuri's unravel just enough to breathe easier.

"Why do you think I always left it up to Celestino?" Yuuri mumbled into the pillow, too lazy to raise his voice. "If you take your impossibly high standards into consideration, you will never find a piece – not to mention two – in time for the Grand Prix."

Victor only whined pitifully again, the swell of his chest a lull against Yuuri's side. A small smile crawled onto Yuuri's lips. Even if Victor was moping, the emotions coming across the bond were light and soft, and Yuuri couldn't help the answering fondness in his own heart.

"You can always go with the ones Yakov picked," he tried, but the derisive sound from above was answer enough.

"Yakov hasn't picked my music since juniors, I can't have my comeback be anything less than the best of Victor Nikiforov," Victor insisted, a determined note to his voice. Yuuri could almost imagine the hard sparkle in Victor's blue eyes.

He pushed himself up a little and Victor took the clue, rolling off of him to lie at his side. Yuuri looked at him, smiling a soft, lovely smile, sincerity and certainty warm on his tongue.

"It will be," he said. "No matter what music you skate to, you will be the most amazing one of us out there and everyone will know it as soon as you step onto the ice." He paused, and then added, still smiling: "Actually, you already are."

"Yuuri," Victor breathed, his face a little tight like it always was when Yuuri complimented him, almost like he wanted to cry but, by some miracle, held back. The bond trembled as if an invisible magician tugged on the string joining their hearts.

"How could I ever compare to you, my love?"

Yuuri's cheeks turned pink almost instantly, at the term of endearment, Victor's gentle voice, his tender smile, and the feeling of overflowing adoration seeping into him from the golden threads of the bond, so he ducked his head before he turned completely red. He flipped around, facing the other way, embarrassment warming his limbs.

"Sleep! We're going to sleep now!"

Victor's soft laughter was precious and Yuuri's heart swell inside his chest, bright and light, when Victor pressed a tender kiss to the back of his neck, whispering a "Goodnight," into his ear.

 

***

 

"Found something yet?" Yuuri asked, handing Makkachin's leash to Victor as he took his jacket off.

It's been days. Almost three weeks now. And Victor still wasn't satisfied with anything he'd listened to.

"Mm, not sure," Victor replied, hanging the leash in its place by the door and disappearing into the kitchen to give the hungry Makka his dinner. "There are a few I could see myself skating to, but nothing that would wow the audience."

Yuuri hummed. "Phichit sent me another playlist just now. Want to listen to it while we prepare dinner?"

Victor was a hard man to please, and sometimes Yuuri wondered how it was possible for him to ever be enough, how could he make Victor Nikiforov interested in him for an hour, a day, much less their whole lives, but then the threads of gold brushed against his heart, setting it at peace, and Victor was right there by his side – smiling at him like the world couldn't exist without Yuuri in it.

"Sure," Victor smiled at him, light and easy, and Yuuri felt everything fall into alignment once again, peaceful as it should be.

It was an hour later, when Yuuri was plating the freshly made curry, that Victor stopped, and cocked his head to the side, listening intently.

"What's this song called?" he asked.

Yuuri almost forgot that the music was playing, so he blinked and focused on the sound coming from his phone. Light notes of the piano filled him with longing almost instantly, an almost painful throb inside his chest that made his breath stutter in his throat. 

"I don't know this one," he said, swallowing. "But it does sound kind of nice? Do you think this is the one?"

Victor didn't reply immediately. The lyrics washed over them, like the smell of curry, domestic, but filled with emotion: how many times do I have to you, even when you're crying you're beautiful, too...

"All of me," Victor said, Yuuri's phone in his hand. "By John Legend." He looked up, eyes alit with something Yuuri knew was the flame of inspiration. "What do you think?"

"Isn't it a bit long?" Yuuri asked back. "You'd have to modify it a bit, but I like it. Free skate?"

Victor's only reply was a toothy grin. The world was in for a surprise once again. In true Nikiforov style.

 

***

 

Prepping for a new season was always busy for Yuuri: losing weight, building up the muscles once more, finding the right music, choreographing, learning it by heart, practicing the jumps. There seemed to never be a moment for rest, but, somehow, when he threw Victor into the mix it was even worse.

"Tighter, Yuuri!" Victor told him when Yuuri underrotated another quad flip. "Pull your elbows closer to your body and try again."

He's been at it for a good two hours, but obediently he tried again. This time it was perfect and Victor beamed at him, bright, adorable, and distracting. The bond sung with his pride, stretched tout like feathers on a preening peacock's tail.

Yuuri's cheeks coloured.

Did Victor feel this? Did he know what he was projecting? Was it on purpose?

Yuuri had no idea, but whatever it was, whether Victor meant it or not, Yuuri's heart was responding to it. The bond caressed his ego in all the right ways, making him feel satisfied after a day's work, even when said work wasn't all good, even when he stumbled and failed to land his jumps. He felt like, despite all that... He felt like he did good. Like he was enough

"How about we try it one more time before Yakov gets here and then call it a day?" Victor asked just as a loud "Vitya, it's time!" echoed around the rinkside.

They both looked to where Yakov stood by the board, waiting, and Victor sighed.

"Okay, tomorrow then," he smiled at Yuuri. "You should head home and relax a bit."

"I can stay to keep you company, if you want?" Yuuri offered, but Victor only shook his head.

"I want to keep my free skate a secret from you, because I want to woo you at the same time as others."

There was a smugness to the bond, champagne gold and just as bubbly, and Yuuri chuckled.

"Alright, alright," he allowed. "Keep your secrets."

Victor grinned, and kissed a sweet "See you at home," into Yuuri's gloved hand, before skating away to talk to Yakov. Yuuri lingered, following the straight line of Victor's back with his eyes. It wasn't until he returned to Victor's apartment when he realized what the feeling settling like dust across the knot of his heart was – loneliness; with Makkachin's head resting on his stomach as they cuddled on the couch waiting for Victor to come back it was less perceptible, but still, undeniably, there.

And it seems like it wanted to stay.

 

***

 

Yuuri was used to having Victor around at all times of day and night, so when he suddenly found himself with free afternoons he didn't know what to put his mind into. He took Makka for walks, cleaned the house, did the laundry, cooked dinner, and it still wasn't enough. The day had too many hours, and too many of them were spent away from Victor. Too many of them wasted on simply waiting and doing nothing.

Tendons of loneliness wrapped around his heart, sunk into the flesh and pulled, pulled until longing turned the gold into black and the knot turned too heavy to bear.

Every night, Yuuri would curl himself in bed, hesitant to reach out, and every night Victor would cling to him – his chest flat pressed to Yuuri's back, arm secured around his waist, sometimes even a thigh wrapped around his hips – as if he was as touch starved as Yuuri felt. It eased some tension, breathed a little light into the tightly shut walls of Yuuri's heart, but it never stayed for long.

In the morning, in the afternoon, the bond cried in abandon once again, and Yuuri could only sigh.

 

 

II

 

 

Slouched on the couch, Victor watched TV mindlessly as Yuuri prepared lunch for the next day. Makkachin was with him in the kitchenette and, if he focused, Victor could see their shadows in the reflection of the light on the screen. Unsurprisingly, he found himself watching them more than the actual show that was playing, and when the commercial break cut in, he was completely done with it.

"Yuuri," he called, picking himself up from the couch and turning the TV off.

"What is it?" Yuuri called back, putting the bentos in the fridge.

Victor slid over and when Yuuri closed the fridge door, he was standing right at his side. Before, Yuuri might have jumped at his sudden appearance, but now he only smiled sweetly, leaving to clean up, and Victor followed him dutifully just like Makkachin.

"Let's go out tonight," Victor said, leaning against the counter next to the sink where Yuuri was washing off the knife he'd used. "I feel like we haven't been on a date in ages. When's the last time we did something fun?"

Yuuri hummed, thoughtful, and the knot around Victor's heart tightened. It was all his fault. They didn't have time for each other because Victor needed far more practice than they'd initially thought and with his secrecy about his free program they didn't see much of each other apart from Yuuri's practice time.

Threads of guilt, like snakes, curled around Victor's soul, hissing angrily whenever a pulse of heartbreaking loneliness and growing sadness, so heavy Victor found his breath catch, shot across the bond. It was all his doing. It was all his fault. So it was also his duty to fix it.

"Where do you want to go?" Yuuri asked, drying his hands on the apron, which he then took off and hanged over the handle of the oven. "Aren't you tired after practice?"

Victor sighed.

"I am, but I want to do something with you." He took Yuuri's hands, pulling him close enough to let their knees brush. "I've missed you."

There it was – another pang of loneliness, followed promptly by a hushed whisper of warmth, and Victor watched how Yuuri's face softened, falling into a smile as naturally as his body created music.

"Okay," Yuuri finally agreed, hiding his smile as he ducked his head, but Victor caught the moment it shifted into a silly grin anyway and his whole soul brightened with their combined joy.

Yuuri pulled away, ready to leave to change, when he remembered something and shot Victor a warning glance.

"Nothing fancy, though."

Victor's mouth curled around a pout, "But, Yuuri–" already on his tongue, but Yuuri cut him off with, "I'm too tired for fancy, Victor. Please." So Victor, the smitten fool dangling like a marionette off the string in Yuuri's fingers, nodded and smiled, and kissed Yuuri's cheek, swallowing the brilliant, boiling happiness down his throat.

"Of course," he agreed. "We can do casual. Whatever you want."

The bond warmed, a sunny, golden feeling unravelling the tight knot around Victor's heart, and for the love of him he couldn't figure out how anyone could ever deny their soulmate anything.

"How about a movie, then?"

 

***

 

The movie wasn't as horrible as it could've been. It was ridiculous at times, a bit overdrawn at others, but overall it wasn't bad.

If Victor had watched it at all. Which he didn't.

He sat next to Yuuri, holding his hand in the dark and watching the lights play on Yuuri's face, brighten his eyes, deepen the shadows on his cheekbones... The plot made no sense to him from the glimpses he'd caught during his distraction from Yuuri. The writing seemed horrible and the characters were flat and not engaging in the least, not unlike Yuuri. His Yuuri. Who was just wonderful, complex and charming and–

He was beautiful. So beautiful.

Every time Victor looked at him, he was even more so.

Like when he munched on popcorn, jaw moving, tongue licking at the salt in the corner of his mouth. Or when he drunk his coke – which he bribed Victor to buy with a series of sweet, sweet kisses – and the slurping sound of bubbles and ice clinking in the paper cup adding even more charm to his pursed lips.

Victor should have been a good coach and forbade Yuuri the high calorie snack, but how could he?

He was weaker than the weakest of men, and Yuuri surely must have known that because every now and then their gazes would meet and he'd smile at Victor: eyes crinkled adoringly, lips salty and wet and curled kissably, inviting him to taste the sweetness of his tongue without the need for words. The bond hummed, taut and expectant, and Victor watched, and waited, and when Yuuri cocked his head to the side in confusion over something happening in the movie, he was at the end of his patience.

"What do you think just–" Yuuri was asking in a whisper that died down suddenly when Victor pressed his mouth against Yuuri's lips, as salty and as sweet as he'd imagined.

Yuuri gave into the kiss, sliding a little lower in his seat in order not to disturb the other people in the room. So beautiful and considerate and lovely... Victor's heart trembled.

Their hands were still tied together on the armrest between them, Yuuri's other one holding the coke, but the kiss was chaste and Victor lazily kissed the plush of Yuuri's lips without a care in the world as the bond sung at the contact.

"Is the movie that bad?" Yuuri asked when they parted for a moment, eyes amused and molten brown.

Victor hummed, which got lost in the loud explosion on the screen. Brightness filled the room, and he smirked, clearly seeing the subtle flush of Yuuri's cheeks.

"No," Victor said in the end. "You're just that good."  

The screen went dark again and Victor blinked, losing his sight. He reached out his free hand to pull Yuuri into another kiss and found him already leaning in. Smiling into warm lips, he bumped his nose against Yuuri's lightly, swallowing a breath of silent laughter that left Yuuri at his clumsiness.

Chest swelling with the knot made of rich, velvety crimson threads, soft and smooth, Victor felt right. He felt good, he felt the calming sense of belonging settle in his bones. He sighed into Yuuri's mouth. This was the place he wanted to spend the rest of his life in – with Yuuri, under his lips, basking in the sweet warmth of his love.

When Yuuri abruptly pulled back, Victor blinked. Like a bubble, his lazy happiness burst. A flash of worry trembled across a single tendon of his heart, but then–

Yuuri burped, hand covering his mouth. For a moment neither of them breathed. Yuuri's widened eyes were full of embarrassment as they looked into Victor's and Victor honestly couldn't help it.

He laughed, covering his own mouth as helpless chuckles threatened to spill out. He tried to swallow it all down until his eyes watered and his breath was all but a gasp. Helplessly, he let his head fall to Yuuri's shoulder while his shoulders shook mutely.

Yuuri groaned above him, whispering a rushed, "Don't ever mention this to anyone, or I swear–"

"I love you," Victor said right into Yuuri's shoulder, wiping his tears and lifting his head up to look at Yuuri.

"What did you say?" Yuuri asked over the loud soundtrack of the movie.

Victor grinned, leaning close and pressing his love straight into his lips.

 

***

 

"Are you sure you're okay to do this?" Yuuri asked between the kisses.

Victor's hands, which were already tugging at the waistband of Yuuri's jeans, didn't even pause.

"Yuuri, please," he whined. "It's been too long..."

Two weeks, three days and fifteen hours; Victor knew, he had it marked in the calendar on his phone. Time was flying like crazy and they couldn't catch any moment to themselves that wasn't about practice and even more practice. And soon, it would be even worse...

"I know, I know," Yuuri breathed in agreement, just as desperate as Victor felt. He helped to push the material off his hips and then reached up to undo the buttons of Victor's shirt. "I'm just asking– You said before that you were tired, so I–"

"I'll never be too tired for this," Victor refuted his concerns, claiming his mouth again.

Yuuri opened up for him with a soft groan, tongue curling around Victor's just as his hands pushed the fabric off of Victor's shoulder. The swell and pulsing of the knot of their bond was like a second heartbeat in his chest and Victor wondered if it was the same for Yuuri. For his sweet Yuuri, his sexy Yuuri, who was now backing towards the bed, jeans caught around his ankles.

He sat at the edge and Victor knelt before him, freeing his legs, and crawling up the thighs tick with muscle, leaving kisses and bites along the way. Yuuri was impatient all night. Victor could tell when hands locked around his face and pulled him up into a hungry kiss. It's been a while since they had time to forget themselves like this and they'd both missed it.  

Mentally, Victor made a mental note to find more time in their schedules for extracurricular activities. After all, sex was a perfect exercise as well.

The rational thoughts quickly disappeared from his head as Yuuri's fingers slipped down his chest to unzip his pants. The pad of his hand rubbed against Victor's crotch, making him groan right into Yuuri's mouth.

"Come on, up," Yuuri told him and Victor obeyed without a thought.

He crawled into Yuuri's lap, slowly, letting Yuuri push off his pants. They fell on the bed, Victor's hair on Yuuri's cheek, Yuuri's eyes aglow, and Victor could feel the thick adoration leaking over the bond: so strong it made his own affection show in his smile, clear as day.

Their kisses slowed for a moment, fond and loving. It was this, more than the heated passion of the moment, that brought Victor to his knees and if he wasn't kneeling over Yuuri, he was sure he would fall to the floor and worship the ground Yuuri walked on.

With a moan of impatience Yuuri locked a leg around Victor's thigh and flipped them around, smirking down at the bewildered look on Victor's face when he hit the mattress, breath lost, hair messy, heart afloat with light. Yuuri's lips found his soon enough and Victor only hummed, wrapping his arms around Yuuri's shoulders.

The t-shirt was still in the way and he pulled on it unhappily, until Yuuri impatiently pulled it off. It gave Victor the perfect view of his chest for a moment as Yuuri struggled with the neckline, and Victor sat up to touch. He brushed his thumbs over the pale stretch marks and run his hands up and up, until he could rub the already perky nubs of Yuuri's nipples. Yuuri's breath caught in his throat and Victor smirked, leaning closer in and taking one of them into his mouth.

The moan that left Yuuri's lips was delightful, so Victor licked and sucked and twisted the other nipple between his fingers, intent on drawing out more of the delicious sounds that he knew Yuuri was capable.

"Victor," Yuuri panted. "Let's just– ahhh–"

Victor slid his hand down and rested it on Yuuri's hip, thumb lightly teasing the line of soft flesh on Yuuri's groin that dipped into his underwear.

"What was that?" Victor asked, innocently, putting a little more pressure. "Did you say something, Yuuri?"

With only a glare, Yuuri reached down into Victor's underwear, grabbed a hold of Victor's cock and–

They both paused.

"Victor?" Yuuri asked, uncertainty in his voice.

And Victor honestly wanted to crawl under a rock.

He fell back onto the bed, covering his face with both his hands just as a loud keening noise left his mouth. Yuuri's hand retracted and Victor's soft dick stayed in his briefs: sad, embarrassed and, to Victor's horror, failing to perform.

Yuuri's warm laughter made Victor's cheeks flush a crimson red of shame, but there was a soothing hand in his hair a second later and a sweet croon of love coming from the bond told him it was okay to look at Yuuri... and when he did, he saw him smiling lightly, not upset at all, not making fun of him – just kind, supportive Yuuri, his beautiful fiancé Yuuri.

"It's alright," Yuuri told him, leaning down to kiss his forehead, and despite the gentle gesture Victor wanted to die of embarrassment.

"I'm so sorry," he mumbled. "This has never happened before, I don't know what–"

"Hey," Yuuri stopped the rushed apology. "It's not a big deal. I knew you were tired, it's fine. It happens."

"It's never happened to me." Victor knew he was childish and that he was pouting, but he wanted to have sex with Yuuri. It was so rare that they had the time to indulge and now...

"There's a first time for everything," Yuuri replied, teasing him lightly.

Victor swallowed. "You're... you're really okay with this? I mean, you're–"

"I'm fine, I'm fine," Yuuri said quickly. Maybe too quickly.

"I could still help you out," Victor offered, but Yuuri was already pulling away and getting off of him.

"No need." Yuuri smiled. "I'll just go take a shower and then you can make it up to me with cuddles, how about that?"

"Sounds lovely."

Victor smiled as well, but as soon as the bathroom door closed behind Yuuri it dropped. He groaned and rolled over onto his stomach, biting on a mouthful of the blanket and swallowing a scream.

 

***

 

There was nothing unusual about Yuuri standing among the shelves in the small grocery store right across the street from Victor's apartment. Or maybe, there shouldn't be. Because the way Victor saw it? Yuuri was out of this world, a god amongst mortals, Eros himself who'd stepped down from Mount Olympus to steal Victor's poor, fragile heart.  

He sighed, a basket hanging off his elbow while Yuuri loaded it with everything they needed for the week. Victor stood to the side uselessly, just watching him and letting the knot securely tied around his heart swell with golden affection, shining, shimmering, splendid.

From the adorable, focused frown between his eyebrows as he tried to decipher the labels all written in Cyrilic, through the tight line of his lips when he spotted a product on the highest of shelves that he couldn't reach, to the sweet smile he sent Victor's way every time he'd caught him staring–

"Oh, I forgot the milk," Yuuri mumbled, checking the basket. "I'll be right back."

–Yuuri was the most beautiful person Victor has ever laid his eyes upon.

He sighed again.

How did he get so lucky?

Yuuri returned, a carton of milk in his hand and a smile on his face.

"Do we need anything else?" he asked, and Victor's mind caught on the we and didn't want to let go. "Victor?"

He blinked, caught staring once again. "Yes?"

"Are you ready to go?" Yuuri repeated. "Or do you need anything else?"

"The only thing I need is you," Victor chirped, smiling and winking.

Yuuri's cheeks immediately coloured, even if he rolled his eyes a little as well. The pink gave Yuuri's face a healthy glow that made the bond glow in tune, rose gold, and Victor's heart stuttered. Fighting the urge to wrap his arms around Yuuri's shoulders and hold him close in the middle of the shop, Victor stepped back.

"Let's go home," he said, and blessed by a smile from Yuuri, they did.

 

 

III

 

 

Summer came and passed and the chill in the air seeped into Yuuri's skin on and off the ice. September rolled in with coppery bronze leaves and crispy air tickling their lungs on their morning runs, still brimming with the sweetness of summer, but promising the cold of winter with each passing day.

Their practices grew tougher, even if Yuuri's programs were already all shelled out. Unlike the year before, with bronze from Worlds and another silver medal from Four Continents, he was invited to the Grand Prix by default, which left them more time to work on perfecting his skating. His short program was lovely: expressive and hopeful, just like Yuuri's theme for the season. He picked "future", and every time he glanced to the side, seeing Victor there on the ice with him, he was sure he made the right choice. Because their future was coming, soon, and he would grasp at it with both hands, as greedy as a child, and never let go.

His free skate, though, oh, that was where his heart truly lied.

When they were picking out the music, Yuuri didn't really know what he wanted, but he knew he wanted to do something special. For someone special. For someone who he should've honoured with a medal while he was still around.

Because Vicchan deserved better.

Even after all this time, Yuuri still couldn't get rid of a big portion of his guilt. Everything had turned out okay in the end, but the mistakes he'd made were still a burning mark on his mind, a remainder from which he couldn't move on yet. He'd crashed and burned in Sochi, he'd struggled in Barcelona, but this year, this year he was going to win gold. For Victor. For Vicchan. For everyone who supported him.

And for himself and his future, so that he'll finally be free.

Imaginary music peaked in his head and Yuuri prepared for his final quad. He jumped, and turned... one, two, three, four... and landed solidly, satisfaction and joy filling him at the same time as he bathed in the pride coming from the bond. Grinning, he took the final position in the centre of the rink with one hand pressed to his heart and the other reaching up towards the sky.

"Yuuri, that was perfect!" Victor was clapping, a smile bright on his face. "If you skate like that in the Finals I'll have a hard time topping that."

Yuuri smiled back. "I'll do my best."

And he would.

For both of his Victors.

 

***

 

"How about this one?"

Victor picked up the sketch of a design, one of many that cluttered the coffee table in the living room. It was a blue, spandex-like thing that Yuuri only took one glance at and snorted.

"No way," he said. "But you should wear it if you like it so much. It'd match your eyes."

Instead of being offended, Victor chuckled, discarding the page onto the DEFINITELY NOT pile. It was a big one, almost three times the size of the MAYBE one. The YES PLEASE pile counted zero for now, and Yuuri was slowly losing hope, even if they still had a good fifty of sketches to look through.

"I think I'll leave spandex for Chris," Victor said, reaching for the next one. "Hmm."

Another one for the MAYBE pile. Yuuri had enough. He pushed his glasses to sit on the top of his head and rubbed at his eyes. He hated this part of skating. Really, who cared what they were wearing as long as they skated?

With a sigh he put on his glasses again and stood up. "Want some ice cream?"

And by ice cream Yuuri meant pieces of fruit bathed in water and frozen in the ice cube holder, because this close to the start of the season they couldn't allow themselves additional calories.

"Yes, please," Victor smiled at him. "You're an angel, Yuuri."

Smiling to himself, Yuuri stepped over Makkachin on his way to the kitchen. Before he even got to the fridge, Makka was already by his side, following his hand with his nose. Yuuri laughed.

"What is it, big boy?" he asked, crouching and sinking his fingers into the soft curls at the sides of Makka's face. "Are you hungry again? Want some ice cream, too?"

Makka gave a soft boof, panting right into Yuuri's face. Yuuri pulled his head back quickly, laughing.

"Okay, okay, let's get some."

He pulled the whole crate from the fridge and popped a cherry one into his mouth, sighing as the cold melted some of the annoyance off his brain. Plucking another one, he gave it to Makka who sniffed at it first and then took it carefully from his fingers, carrying it over to the living room. Yuuri followed him and settled down again at the same time as Makka's teeth crunched on the ice.

"Here," Yuuri gave the crate to Victor, before looking at the table.

There was a sketch right in front of him: a black one-shoulder piece with mesh sleeves, one black, one skin-like, and a gold belt around the middle. Rays of golden threads spread over the chest. The back was half black, half pale mesh where the shoulder cut the material off. The gold crawled from the belt in the back over the shoulder and down to the hand of the costume.

"That's not bad," Yuuri said.

Victor hummer, a light curl to his lips. "Thought so, too."

Yuuri put it on the YES pile. 49 more to go.

 

***

 

In the end he didn't find what he was looking for. Victor at least knew what he wanted, and what he wanted he could only get by making his vision happen at his costume designer's workplace, so one day after practice they took a bus and drove almost to the other end of the city to see if any miracles could be done.

While Victor was animatedly talking to the girl with a sketchpad and already charcoal stained fingers, Yuuri walked around the shop. It was full of garments for all occasions: fancy dresses, costumes for plays, periodic clothes and others that he couldn't even categorize. There was everything in there, anything your heart could desire. He thought he even saw a clown's getup one time too, but it quickly slipped from his mind when he saw something blue peek out from behind a stack of shimmery figure skating costumes.

With careful fingers Yuuri pulled it out, holding it at arm's length as he raked his eyes over it critically.

"Do you speak English?" he asked the girl sitting on a tall stool behind the counter.

"Small English," she said, her voice thick with the accent. "You talk, I understand."

Yuuri smiled in relief. He walked over and put the costume before her.

"That's great! I want to try this on," He patted the fabric," but not right now. I don't want Victor to see it. I want to surprise him." He looked briefly to where Victor was standing to check if he was still busy, and then back to the girl who was smiling secretly now. "Could you maybe hold onto it for me and I'd come by tomorrow for a fitting?"

"Yes, okay," she said, nodding and taking the costume off the counter to quickly stash it behind some others on the nearby hanger. "Tomorrow it wait you."

"Thank you," Yuuri smiled at her once again.

Lighter than before, he walked over to Victor, wondering if he could feel the mischievous energy that buzzed through Yuuri's body over the bond. Victor lifted his eyes from the sketchpad when Yuuri stopped at his side, a small curve to his lips.

"You found something?" he asked.

"Mm," Yuuri hummed. "Not telling."

"Boo," Victor pouted, returning to adjust the detail on the sketch before he handed the notebook to the designer. They traded a few words in Russian and then Victor was turning back to Yuuri. "What does it look like? You don't have to show me, but as your coach–"

"I'm not telling you a thing," Yuuri cut him off with a smirk. "You keep your free program from me, so I can do this just as well."

"That's different," Victor insisted. "And you at least know the song! I deserve as much leverage as that!"

Yuuri hummed. "Fine. You get one question."

Victor stopped, putting a finger to his lips in thought. After a moment, he asked.

"What colour?"

"Blue," Yuuri answered. It wasn't a lie. It was mostly blue.

"What style?"

"That's two questions."

"But Yuuri–"

"No."

"How about–"

"No."

"Okay, but what–"

"Not telling."

 

***

 

"Is it see-through?"

"Victor..."

"Mesh, maybe? You looked really good with that brown mesh around your waist last season."

"Victor."

"Two piece? Oh, or a full body suit? That would be magnificent!"

"Victor, I'm not telling you a thing. Give it up."

.

..

...

"Does it have a zipper?"

Yuuri lifted his eyes to the ceiling, fondly exasperated.

 

***

 

A week later, after all the corrections to the costume had been made, he received the call. Victor was cleaning his skates with unusual focus and didn't pay any attention to Yuuri's short conversation. For the past few days he'd been bombarding Yuuri with questions, and when that didn't help, he resolved to softly kissing his cheeks, nuzzling into his neck and touching his jaw with sweet fingers, until Yuuri could feel his resolve crack fracture after fracture.

"Do you want to come with me?" he asked now, resting his locked phone on his thigh.

It took Victor all of two seconds to drop his skates. "Where are we going?"

Yuuri almost laughed. Sometimes Victor was like a puppy: excitable, flighty, and always ready for trouble. It was too cute. Yuuri's heart warmed, threads of spring wrapping around it like vines, and as if in response to that, Victor's cheeks flushed a subtle pink that looked absolutely stunning on him.

Yuuri bit his lip to hold in a moony sigh.

"Let's go," he only said.

As they locked the door behind themselves, Yuuri wasn't sure who was more excited – him, Victor, or Makkachin jumping down the steps with happy boofs echoing around the staircase.

 

***

 

Victor's eyes were positively glowing when he spotted the costume designer's shop from afar. He was grinning silly by the time Yuuri pushed open the door, and truly – Yuuri couldn't help his own grin either. It was stupid to be so happy about something so insignificant, but Victor's giddiness always did that to him, it just couldn't be helped.

"It's already in the backroom," the designer told him, pointing out back.

Yuuri thanked her and they walked through the door leading into a small changing room. There were two racks of costumes there and Yuuri spotted his own at the far end. Before he'd let Victor see it though–

He snatched a tie from a few draped over the hanging rod and handed it to Victor.

"Tie it around your eyes," he demanded.

Victor's lips immediately pressed together in a fine pout. Yuuri had an impossible urge to reach out a hand and rub his thumb over them, or better, kiss Victor right there, but he stifled it fast. Suddenly a little warm under the neckline of his t-shirt, he huffed.

"I want you to see it on me when you see it for the first time," he said.

And just as fast as it came, the pout was gone and Victor was smiling again. It took only a few seconds for the tie to rest on his eyes and then Yuuri turned.

"No peeking," he warned.

"You have my word, Yuuri," Victor promised.

Makkachin sat next to Victor, curiously observing Yuuri. Yuuri pressed a finger to his lips and the dog panted at him as if it was their secret to share. Smiling, Yuuri stripped off his clothes, only leaving his socks and underwear on.

Up to the knees the costume was pretty comfortable, but when it got to the thighs it tightened so much that Yuuri had to huff to pull it onto his hips. The material was silky and stretchy, though, so he knew he couldn't rip it just from this. It clung to the skin, and he knew he'd be cold all the time, but despite being skin-tight, it didn't accentuate any of the faults of his body. The midnight blue fabric with constellations of stars sewn into it was elegant enough to not seem tacky, and the embroidery crawling up the side of his legs made them look far slimmer than they actually were.

Yuuri liked it.

He pushed his arms into the sleeves, careful not to jostle the bracelets around his wrists or the jewels sown into the underside of his forearms. He slid the matching piece around his neck and, after a bit of a struggle, locked it with clumsy fingers. That done, he reached back to zip up the costume, but a sudden thought made him stop. And smile.

"You need to help me out here," he said, coming over to stop before Victor. He took Victor's hands in his and turning around, put them right over the line of the zipper. "Don't look, just zip it."

Victor's breath rushed out of him and Yuuri felt it caress his nape. He shivered, a blush rising to his cheeks.

"So it does have a zipper," Victor mumbled, satisfied edge to his voice.

His hands were hot on Yuuri's back, fingers teasing where the costume didn't cover his naked skin, and when they slid lower to catch the zipper, Yuuri reverently started regretting this. The sound of the zipper slowly going up was sinfully loud, but Yuuri's heart seemed to be taking it as a challenge as it muffled it with its harsh, enthusiastic beating.

Victor's fingers caught on the necklace on top and a curious hum left his mouth. In the big mirror to the side Yuuri could see the way Victor wet his lips, which sent a pulse of warmth through his heart. The bond was buzzing, soft and tender and curious, enraptured and wanting, and Yuuri took a deep breath before he turned around and slipped off Victor's temporary blindfold.

Victor blinked for a moment before his eyes raked over Yuuri once. He stepped back, and did it again. The longer he stayed quiet, the more warmth was disappearing from Yuuri's limbs, replaced by anxiousness and uncertainly.

What if he didn't like it? What if Yuuri was wrong? What if this wouldn't do?

"You look–" Victor started, but fell short, and Yuuri wringed his hands together.

Makkachin must have felt his nerves rising, because he padded over and nudged Yuuri's knee with his wet nose. Yuuri looked down at him and smiled, rubbing one hand behind the poodle's floppy ear.

"Is it okay?" he asked when Victor still didn't give him anything after a moment.

"Okay?" Victor repeated, finally lifting his eyes to Yuuri's face. "Yuuri. Darling." He stepped closer and took both of Yuuri's hands into his, squeezing. "This is amazing! Excellent costume choice, Yuuri! I knew you could do it!"

With a loving pulse across the bond, a rustle over the threads, the warmth returned and Yuuri's cheeks coloured.

"Thank you," he said, smiling. "Was it worth waiting for?"

"Every second of it," Victor returned the smile, soft and beautiful in its honesty. "Now... Let's take a picture."

 

 

IV

 

 

Getting silver in the last Grand Prix, followed by silver from Four Continents and bronze from Worlds in the previous season had its own perks apart from the medals locked in Victor's trophy case, Yuuri realized. It was the end of September when the assignments came out and he was seeded for Skate Canada and Trophée de France, no questions asked. Without the additional nerves of qualifying for the event beforehand, Yuuri felt strangely at ease.

Was this how it felt to be a good, respectable skater? He could get used to that.

Victor's assignments came along with his. Mindful of his multiple titles, the Russian Ice Skating Federation put his name up there along with Yurio's and Georgi's. And while both of them were thankful for that, the end result didn't bring them any joy.

Rostelecom Cup and NHK Trophy.

Two completely different events, one in the middle of Yuuri's own.

They knew it would be hard to match their schedules, but this...

"It'll be fine," Victor told him that evening as they prepared for bed.

He was putting moisturizer on his face in the bathroom, and Yuuri grunted, more focused on the fact that by the smell alone he could tell that it was the Dolce & Gabbana one Victor was using and not the Gucci one. When did that happen...?

"We'll just pack for a longer trip and stay on the road without coming home until after France," Victor was saying. "It shouldn't be a problem. I'll talk to the organizers to let us use the rinks for practice while we're there and it should all work out."

Yuuri buried himself under the sheets. He already dreaded the thought of spending more time than usually in the hotel rooms, and training in unknown places (even if it were the rinks he already skated at before) didn't put much enthusiasm into him. The only thing that gave him some peace of mind was the fact that this time, unlike before, he would have Victor there with him – not only at the rinkside, but on the ice as well.

He sighed, closing his eyes. The light in the bathroom flipped off and, soon, the bed dipped under Victor's weight. A minute of careful rearranging later, they slumped on each other, leaving enough space behind Yuuri for Makkachin to join them if he wanted.

Yuuri sighed again.

"We can do it, right?" he asked quietly.

"We can," Victor agreed. "And we will."

"Yurio will kick our asses if we don't," Yuuri warned and Victor snorted.

"He'll kick our asses if we do, or don't," he said. "It's a lost cause, that one."

Yuuri chuckled, and once he started, he couldn't stop. His body shook for a good while, sleepy mind whispering giggle at him and he followed, laughing into Victor's collarbone, until exhaustion took hold of him and he slipped into sleep with a content sigh of adoration coming across the bond.

 

***

 

There was a dinner, there was alcohol, there were smiles and travelling fingers and soft kisses until Yuuri got a little bit breathless. Without any occasion, just because, Victor had said. And Yuuri was a fool, a spoiled fool, who didn't deserve a glance from this beautiful man, but got the world served to him on a platter of gold.

Victor's cheeks were flushed equally with alcohol and excitement, which carried over the bond, making it tremble as if an invisible hand was playing on the strings of their souls. Glowing, love-filled eyes were looking at Yuuri like he was the best thing to happen to him, and Yuuri was perfectly sure that his own reflected that immaculately.

"I've got something for you," Victor said.

He tried to stand up, but slumped against Yuuri, laughing, when his wobbly knees gave under his weight. Yuuri laughed, too.

"Careful," he warned, taking the half empty bottle of vodka from Victor's hand. "We don't want you to sprain anything before the season even starts."

"So little faith in me, Yuuri." Victor's voice was a little slurred, which ruined his offended tone, and Yuuri cracked a smile.

Finally, Victor picked himself up from the couch and shuffled to one of the cabinets. He rummaged through it, muttering to himself in Russian, before giving a triumphant "Aha!" and stumbling over back to Yuuri. He thrust a large green box into Yuuri's hands, taking back the bottle of vodka, and looking at him eagerly.

Chuckling, Yuuri pushed open the box, but before he could see what it was, Victor blurted: "I hope you'll enjoy your present."

"I'm sure I will, no matter what it is," Yuuri reassured him, pushing away the paper that hid... a pair of skates.

But these weren't normal skates. Like a magpie's eye, Yuuri's gaze was drawn to the blades that gleamed in the lights, bright, lustrous and golden. Yuuri's breath caught in his throat. The knot that sat loosely around his heart until then squeezed, ruthless and bloody, and Yuuri ached.

"Wow," he whispered, unable to look away. "Are you serious? They... These are for... me?"

"For good luck," Victor said. "Since I can't physically be with you on the ice when you skate, I wanted you to have a small piece of me to help you stand tall."

"So you're giving me your signature gold blades?" Yuuri looked up, incredulous. "Victor, I can't accept these. It's too much!"

"Well... They're not exactly my blades," Victor pointed out. Of course they weren't. "These ones are for you, custom made!"

"That doesn't make it any better, Victor," Yuuri whined, but he couldn't help it when his gaze returned to the skates in his lap.

He pulled both boots out, resting one on the table and taking a good luck at the other. They were perfectly made, of the highest quality. The gold glimmered and caught light as easily as it caught Yuuri's breath and he had to admit that it was ridiculously hard to give them back.

But he had to, didn't he? This was too much of a gift, he couldn't...

His fingers found the smallest of dips in the smooth surface of the blades and he squinted at it, almost dropping the skate when he realized what it was exactly that he was looking at.

Stammi Vicino, engraved in beautiful cursive, was glaring at him from the gold of the blade. Yuuri swallowed.

He couldn't give it back. Victor made sure of it. And Yuuri... Yuuri wasn't even mad about it.

"You're ridiculous, you know that?" he asked, throat tight, as he looked up at a smiling Victor.

Pulling him by the shirt into a rough hug, Yuuri pushed back the tears that stubbornly clung to him and wet the threads of the bond with sweet, grateful tears, just as he whispered, "Thank you."

"It's time we put some more of your gold medals in our trophy case, don't you think?" Victor asked.

Yuuri laughed.

 

***

 

"Victor?" Yuuri called, a dusting mop in his hand. "Where's your Sochi 2015 medal? I don't see it."

Victor was silent for a long while and Yuuri's mind unhelpfully supplied him with a picture of the new skates resting in his training bag – golden blades and Stammi Vicino hinting at something with the subtlety of an elephant.

With wide eyes, Yuuri turned to the bathroom door where Victor was cleaning Makka's paws after a walk.

He couldn't have... could he?

Not even Victor would melt a medal just to–

"Oh, I'm having it cleaned," Victor replied. "It was starting to mould a little for some reason."

Yuuri breathed a little easier.

"Makka, be a good boy and don't mo– ACK!"

 

 

V

 

 

It was the end of October and the air was chilled and humid, mud curdling on the soles of his shoes with every step, but there was sunshine in his heart, warm light of love keeping the summer in his bones and spreading through his body, a thread after thread of gold.

Victor watched Yuuri skate in his new costume: a beautiful vision of grace and perfection, and his face hurt from smiling. Yuuri came first in the short program, breathless and surprised, as always, but Victor only kissed his sweaty temple as they sat in the kiss and cry, and the weight pressing down on the bond – anxious like the clutch of Yuuri's fingers on the poodle tissue holder in his lap – dissolved into a warm embrace of relief and joy.

"You were brilliant today," Victor praised him later on, unzipping Yuuri's costume and pressing a kiss to the small bone of Yuuri's spine at the base of his neck.

Yuuri jittered a laugh. "It won't mean anything if I don't do as well tomorrow."

"You will," Victor promised.

Yuuri gave him an optimistic smile, but his eyes held all the doubt he didn't dare speak out loud. And yet...

Victor clapped with everyone else when Yuuri took his place on the top of the podium, bending to accept the gold medal and a bouquet of flowers. Overshadowed by the camera flashes, Victor grinned at the tightness coming from the bond. It was tight, yes, but it wasn't heavy. It was that special kind of tightness that came with overwhelming, unstoppable happiness that brought tears along with it, and looking at Yuuri up there, with one arm around Phichit's shoulders and Michele on his other side, Victor knew that this was the place where Yuuri was meant to be.

 

***

 

Gold glimmering on his chest, Yuuri pulled Victor down for another kiss. The medal was cold against his chest, but Yuuri's lips were heated enough to make him forget about anything and everything. Smooth tongue licked into his mouth and Victor groaned, pressing their hips together and swallowing the hitch in Yuuri's breath with a deeper kiss.

"You look so good in your new costumes," he half moaned when they finally pulled apart and Yuuri looked at him with a dazed glaze over his eyes. "I really have a hard time focusing on your skating when you put them on. Especially the full body suit."

"You're ridiculous," Yuuri huffed into his neck where he hid his brightly flushed face, but decided to turn it into more, and softly bit into Victor's skin.

Victor's hands ran over Yuuri's strong thighs while Yuuri sucked a bold hickey into the base of his throat. He conveniently left it in a place Victor would have no problem covering with a shirt's collar, and somewhere in the deep, raw place of his heart Victor wished to push his hand into Yuuri's hair and kiss him until Yuuri grows bold enough to leave one just like it in a far more visible spot, claiming him, taking him as his, a sign for everyone to know who it was exactly that Victor belonged to, heart and soul.

But it was not that day. Not yet.

Brushing his lips over Yuuri's cheek, Victor gently pushed him back to lie on the pillows of their hotel bed.

"Let me take care of you tonight," he asked.

The gratitude dancing towards him from the bond almost made him purr. Slowly, he ran his hand down Yuuri's chest, shifting down to kiss the medal and then trailing kisses down to the navel and lower still, until he finally pressed one right on the band of Yuuri's boxer briefs. Hooking up his thumbs into the soft fabric, he looked up at Yuuri, only to see his face turned to the side, eyes closed and chest moving with even breaths and–

Victor laughed a voiceless little laugh, pressing his forehead briefly on Yuuri's thigh. It served him right for that time he was too tired to get hard.

A tad amused, and mostly just feeling the soft, gentle love wrap around him like a blanket, he climbed back up Yuuri's slumped form and pressed a kiss to the top of Yuuri's head. He slid off to the side and lied next to Yuuri, covering them both with the sheets they'd kicked off before in their haste.

He smiled and pressed his cheek to Yuuri's shoulder.

This was good, too.

 

***

 

When they got back home, they didn't even unpack. Their bags stayed open on the floor of their bedroom, right over by the wardrobe, and Victor tripped over the handles quite a few times, but it couldn't be helped. It was November and the time was slipping through his fingers like grains of sand, too fast to count, too small to catch.

After the short program of Rostelecom Cup, Victor was pretty sure he had it in the bag. He was ranked second, right under JJ, but he was confident that his free skate would blow the minuscule difference in points into nothingness. Yuuri was there with him, even in the changing room as he watched Victor put on his costume, his silent support coming through the bond in rays of sunlight and cries of seagulls, and Victor smiled – more than he should've, but he didn't care.

"Watch me," he told Yuuri, standing on the other side of the barrier, feet on the ice, heart in the clouds, mind lost in Yuuri's eyes.

Somewhere, the commentators where saying that "Yuuri Katsuki is here to support his coach Victor Nikiforov, who takes to the ice for the second time after his one year absence. Will he take the gold at Rostelecom Cup and follow it with a Grand Prix gold?" and he couldn't care less.  

"I'm skating this program only for you," he said to Yuuri, kissing the ring on his finger.

Yuuri's lips quirked into something lovely, something precious, something so sweet that Victor had to push himself off into the ice before his name was even called. He circled around the rink, deaf to the applause and screams. His eye caught Yuuri, looking so beautiful and excited, and he hung his head down grinning like an idiot that he truly was.

"Vitya, davai!"

Happiness buzzing in his veins, Victor took to the centre of the ice. He calmed down his heartbeat, schooled his features and focused – on the feeling of utter devotion, and desperate, fragile love that he had tasted for the first time on Yuuri's lips. And when the music started, the soft, gentle keys of a piano, Victor moved like he was cradling Yuuri's face with trembling hands when he told him he loved him, like he touched hesitant fingers to Yuuri's hand when he was angry or lost, like he kissed the corner of his lips when he was silent for too long.

Longing filling his limbs, he pushed himself into a triple axel, wishing he could run on the ice right over to Yuuri, fly on the wind of his jumps right into his arms. Spinning, like crazy, he remembered the lyrics and almost laughed to himself: and I'm so dizzy don't know what hit me but I'll be alright.

His skates glided on the ice, his body moved to the choreography he knew by heart, and his heart, his silly heart... it trembled and sung to the sweet melody that pulled his body along on the invisible strings of gold – right to Yuuri.

The music picked up and he jumped again, a combination of quad toe, triple toe. His breath whooshed out of him on second landing, as if convinced it wasn't needed. You're my downfall, you're my muse, my worst distraction, my rhythm and blues... He closed his eyes, Yuuri's face imprinted on his eyelids, and he smiled, going through his step sequence like a smitten lunatic he was.

You're my end and my beginning, even when I lose I'm winning.

He pushed himself further, taking up speed, and when the cello died down, he raked the toe pick into the ice and lifted off in a perfect quad flip, landing it as his last jump. For Yuuri.

I give you all of me

And you give me all of you

There was a half beat of silence once he stopped, only his breathing loud in his ears, and then the cheers erupted louder than ever, and he knew this was golden, but he didn't really care. The gold he truly wanted was locked inside his chest, wrapped around his heart with threads trembling with love, and tender fingers twining with his as Yuuri brought their foreheads together and whispered a wet, "Thank you. You were beautiful."

 

***

 

"Man, that was some good skating you did today, I gotta admit," Phichit patted Victor's back. "Everyone could clearly see how smitten you are with your perfect fiancé."

"Phichit!" Yuuri protested, going a little red in the face, but Victor only grinned.

"You think so?"

"I know so," Phichit nodded, completely ignoring Yuuri. "In fact, I may or may not have already seen some not-so-wild picture by picture breakdowns of the lyrics when applied to your relationship. Want a link?"

"No, we don't," Yuuri interrupted. Phichit only shrugged.

Behind Yuuri's back, Victor mouthed "Instagram" and Phichit winked a "Sir, yes, sir!" in reply. Victor grinned and took Yuuri's hand, kissing his fingers adoringly, for which he received a suspicious glance.

Boy, he was so in love it hurt his cheeks.

 

***

 

Yuuri shifted on the bed once again, sighing. It was already two in the morning, but it seemed like sleep was eluding him, and in consequence, keeping Victor up as well. He wished there was something he could do, but... there really wasn't.

 

***

 

The short program went as well as one could expect after a night of zero sleep and a tiring journey the day before that. Yuuri's fifth place was daunting, but Victor refused to let it get to them. He babbled, distracted Yuuri with updates on Makkachin and, in the evening, turned on the TV and ridiculously translated in a French-slanted Russian-accented English whatever was currently on, making Yuuri crack up and laugh himself breathless.

It was good.

It was fine.

He believed in Yuuri's strength.

And as if to prove him right, Yuuri stepped onto the ice with a focus even sharper than in Canada. The gold on his costume glittered in the bright reflector lights and sparks of ice, like diamonds, flew from under his blades when he jumped. He touched down on his first quad, but it was good enough, still. The soft violin seemed to be stringing along Yuuri's movements, pulling out the fluidity of his movements without giving him any opportunity to hesitate and dwell on his mistakes.

Faster than he expected, in a blink of an eye, it seemed, Victor heard the last of the music reverberate across the rink. Yuuri took his final position, bent almost in half and with arms wrapped tightly around himself as if he was hugging someone small to his chest, someone tiny, someone the size of a toy puddle... Even from afar Victor could see the subtle tremble in Yuuri's shoulders and the bond buckled. He needed to be close to Yuuri, immediately, desperately, and his feet moved before his mind even registered it.

Whether Yuuri had felt it too, the suffocating grip of claw-like threads biting into his heart, Victor wasn't sure, but he could see him pick himself back together and skate towards the exit. His face was hidden by the hair that slipped into his eyes, no longer held back by the gel. In silence Yuuri stepped off the ice, holding onto Victor's arm for support with an iron grip as he put on the blade covers.

Before they made their way to the kiss and cry, Yuuri slumped against Victor's chest for just a moment: vulnerable and hiding from the world as cameras followed their every step.

"Would he be proud of me?" Yuuri whispered and Victor's throat closed up at the small sound, so easily drowned by the cheers and applause and the all-around noise of the stadium.

He pulled Yuuri just a little bit closer, touching his cheek to the side of his head. "I have no doubts about it."

There was no possible way he could've known this, no logical explanation but the flood of relief and the gratitude that turned the claws around his heart into silk, but somehow he just knew that Yuuri was smiling, and so he smiled, too.

They got this.

Vicchan would be proud.

Victor knew, because he already was.

 

***

 

Makkachin's evening walk always took about an hour, so as soon as the door closed around them and the footfalls of Yuuri skipping down the stairs after the poodle died down, Victor jumped to work.

He pulled out his fanciest (and only) tablecloth, the plates and the candles, the wine glasses and the wine itself – Chateau Margaux 2009. He only managed to set everything on the table when the doorbell rung. Victor cheerfully thanked the delivery boy after leaving a hefty tip and took in the box full of still warm food from Yuuri's favourite Russian restaurant to the counter.

He microwaved the plates warm and put the food carefully onto them, checking the time every few seconds to make sure he'd be done just right. It smelled divine, and Victor sighed, happy with his work. Just a few cosmetic touches – a vase with a single rose from their living room was stood to the side of the table and the candles were lit, while the overhead lights were dimmed into subtle background glow – and everything was ready.

Almost.

Victor rushed over to the bathroom. From behind the huge box of laundry detergent he pulled out a box of fake rose petals, sprinkling them generously around the floor and the bathtub. A few more candles were placed all around: on the washing machine, the sink, both edges of the tub and by the mirror. He left the lighter on the closed flap of the toilet when he heard the keys clink in the lock and skidded off to greet Yuuri by the door, smiling.

"Welcome back," he sung, wrapping a surprised Yuuri into a hug.

Despite being startled out of his thoughts, Yuuri smiled, too, and squeezed him back with a tiny chuckle.

"I'm back," he said. "And Makka was such a good boy today. Sashka tried to chew his ears off and he just lied down and let her, it was so cute. She just climbed on him and stayed there."

Victor laughed, pulling back to look at Makkachin who sat patiently at their feet.

"Really, Makka?" he asked, bending down. The poodle gave a soft boof in agreement, his tongue lolling out and Victor grinned. "Well, in that case I think dinner's in order."

He took Yuuri's hand and kissed the top of it before he pulled him along to the kitchen. The small gasp that left Yuuri's mouth at the sight of the table made all the trouble worth it. It was even more worth it when Victor turned and caught the glow of Yuuri's eyes, soft like the candlelight, warm like the love that spread over his own chest as the bond gave a low hum of right.

"Congratulations on making the Grand Prix Final," Victor said.

Yuuri smiled, "You didn't have to do this."

"I wanted to."

He squeezed Yuuri's hand, and Yuuri's fingers wrapped around his just a little tighter. Yuuri gave him a sheepish smile before he turned his gaze to the table and mumbled:

"I don't deserve you."

"And I don't deserve you," Victor replied easily, meaning every word of it.

Yuuri's eyes shifted up to him again and Victor smiled, a smitten, heart-filled curl of his lips that Yuuri adored tracing with his thumb as if he couldn't believe Victor was real. But he was. And he was here, and Yuuri's. For as long as he'd have him.

"But somehow, here we are."

They shared a tiny kiss, barely a brush of lips, because there was no need for more – the threads of their bond whispered sweet promises straight into their hearts, honest, unwavering and timeless, and it was enough.

And when later on they sat together in the bathtub, Yuuri's back pressed to Victor's chest and heartbeats aligned together in perfect harmony, Victor knew that this was the best and only gold he truly wanted to keep in his life.

 

***

 

Standing tall, with a gold around his neck to the cheer of the Japanese audience at NHK Trophy felt a little bit like home, a little bit like the warmth of Yuuri's smile, but when he caught Yuuri by the waist and twirled him around in the overwhelming happiness that made his limbs move and blood pump through his body with an enthusiasm of dreams coming true, it all paled in comparison to the stuttered, silly laughter Yuuri muffled in his sweat-caked hair.

No medals, no trophies, no titles; nothing else mattered but this.

 

 

VI

 

 

There was something peaceful about port towns, Yuuri thought as they drove through Marseille to their hotel. The smell of salt water, the breeze in the air and the cries of seagulls whispered of a sweeter time when he run along the bustling waves, of wet sand between his toes and warm fingers locked with his. He remembered their time in Hasetsu, and the time in St. Petersburg. Even Barcelona, last year, was like this, too.

Smiling suddenly, Yuuri grasped Victor's hand and squeezed it, breaking off Victor's half-yawn.

"Let's get married by the sea," he said.

They didn't talk about it, not at all. In fact, this was the first time Yuuri had spoken about what they both wanted – the far off marriage, which seemed like a dream that was still a lifetime away.

Victor looked at him, surprise on his beautiful face, before he blinked and a lazy, glowing smile took Yuuri's breath away.

"Of course," Victor replied, lacing their fingers. "In Hasetsu. So your parents and friends can all be there."

It didn't come as a flash of lightning or a light bulb lighting up over his head, no. It was more subtle, a soft burn in his chest where the threads of the bond moulded with his heart and became one and the same, and Yuuri realized that oh, he was so in love with this man he couldn't imagine loving anyone else like this ever again.

So he smiled, throat too tight to speak, and rested his head on Victor's shoulder, safe in the happy hum of their bond knotting together further, a yarn ball of love, so tight you couldn't tell where it started or where, and if, it ended.

 

***

 

Victor won.

The true legend of figure skating was crowned with a crown of blue roses and a golden medal while Yuuri held up his silver for the cameras.

Are you upset that your coach beat you for gold? they asked, and Yuuri only smiled. How could he be upset?

Looking up at Victor's shining eyes and rosy cheeks, Yuuri thought there was nothing more right in the world. Because Victor was born to win. He was born to shine and be admired and loved, not only by Yuuri, but by the entire world. He deserved as much.

And sure, Yuuri had failed. He didn't win gold, and he was fairly certain that as soon as he steps into their hotel room he will have a breakdown and apologize to Victor time and time again, but for now... For now he was happy.

The bond tingled with a ticklish giddiness of euphoria and Yuuri grinned, matching Victor smile for smile, and hoping this moment of careless joy could last forever.

 

***

 

(It didn't.)

 

***

 

The breaking point came at the most unexpected, even if Yuuri had been expecting it since the moment Victor's name took over his in the kiss and cry. Victor was tying his tie in the small standing mirror on one of the cabinets and Yuuri had just left the bathroom with freshly gelled hair, his sleeves still rolled up.

He went to put his ring back on and then turned, a question on his tongue, but before he could say anything, he forgot what he was even asking. Like a charmed idiot he raked his eyes over the beautiful lines of Victor's face, his strong, wonderful body wrapped in the finest of suits, and then his gaze dropped to his own hand where the golden band gleamed merrily, and he just... cracked.

The tears came out of nowhere. A well somewhere in his soul was broken and the disappointment, anger, fear and resignation flooded him, overwhelming his senses until he slumped against the wall. He slid down to the floor, hiding his face in his hands and completely missing the utter panic on Victor's face.

"Yuuri?" Victor asked, but Yuuri was too focused on trying to breathe and muffle a sob that fought to escape his lips. "What happened? Yuuri?"

In two strides Victor was next to him, kneeling on the floor with no care for his suit. Yuuri's shoulders started to shake.

"I-I'm sorry."

A warm hand rested on his knee. The fingers trembled slightly when they squeezed and Yuuri realized how stupid this was. He was crying, for no reason, out of the blue, and worst of all – he was scaring Victor.

He took a deep breath to say something, but only a choked sob left his mouth. Angrily, he rubbed at his face. Why couldn't he just–

"It's okay, darling, it's fine." Victor was speaking softly. A soothing tune of comfort leaked through the bond and Yuuri grasped at it with all his might. "Can you tell me what's wrong? Are you hurt? Do you need anything?"

Yuuri swallowed and opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He licked his lips and then stretched his hand out, thumb twisting the ring around his finger.

"I'm sorry," he said again once he found his voice. "I couldn't– I'm– I'm sorry."

"Hey," Victor shook his head, shifting closer and taking Yuuri's hand to kiss the place where his palm met the ring finger. "Hey," he repeated more softly. "There's nothing to be sorry for."

Yuuri shook his head. The tears had already blurred his vision so he couldn't see Victor's face, couldn't tell what his expression was, but somehow, he knew that the blue eyes were wide and gentle, that there was a lovely smile curled on his lips, that he was aching as much as Yuuri was, that he... he... how did he know this?

The bond buckled, a squeeze and a pull on his heart and he gasped. At the same time Victor sucked in a sharp breath. Almost as if it was saying, "Talk," the bond pressed, it shifted, threads of gold climbing up from his heart like snakes to fill his mouth with the words he was too reluctant to say.

"We'll never get married if I continue to lose," Yuuri said, finally finding the strength to speak. "We agreed to hold back until I get gold, but– you–"

"Yuuri." Victor took the hand that he refused to let go into both of his. "Oh, Yuuri. I don't care about any of that."

Yuuri was opening his mouth to ask, "How can you say that?" when Victor shook his head.

"If you wanted it, I would marry you right now," Victor continued. "I would get a priest to the banquet hall and we would get married right here, right now.

The tears must have stopped somewhere along the way, because when Yuuri looked into Victor's face, he could see the honesty in his eyes. He swallowed, blinking carefully.

"You..." He breathed. "You'd do that?"

For me? For me you'd just...?

"Just say the word and I'm yours." Victor said, nodding. "Till death do us part. No medals needed."

Heart in his throat, Yuuri wrapped his fingers around Victor's hand. "Can we?"

All it took was one blink and Victor was smiling. A soft, loving smile, that made the bond glow and thicken, more and more threads weaving into the knot until Yuuri's heart was too big, too full, too tender.

Can you feel it?

"Of course," Victor said. "I can't wait to be your husband."

They sat on the floor in their expensive suits simply looking at each other. Yuuri's face was red from crying, Victor's was gentle and loving, and it would feel so right to just go along with it, to let Victor take his hand and lead him to the altar, but something was bugging him and Yuuri couldn't do it.

"No," he shook his head. "I'm sorry, no. We can't." Before Victor could misinterpret, he followed: "I can't do this to my parents."

He turned his hands in Victor's, squeezing at the warm fingers.

"I'm happy, Victor," he said. "I'm ridiculously happy that you'd do it, but let's wait. I know you want a big wedding, so I'm not going to rob you of that."

Victor huffed. "Yuuri, please. If it's only that, I'll gladly give it up to be married to you as soon as possible."

Cracking the smallest of smiles, Yuuri shook his head again. Their fingers fell together, locked into one.

"I want my parents, you want a big wedding. Let's plan this out right, Victor," he said again, and then finished a bit shyly: "I want– I want my soulmate to have only the best."

Victor fell silent, and still, so still Yuuri believed that he forgot to breathe. He could understand that.

They never talked about it, not really. The threads of their bond were inconspicuous at first, growing bolder and stronger with time, and now neither of them could deny it – they were bound together, for better or for worse, an unbreakable rope of golden love wrapped around their souls till the day they die.

Bright, blue eyes searched his face and Yuuri looked back at Victor, awed when Victor's face morphed into a delighted smile.

Winded, as if he run a marathon, Victor whispered: "Yuuri."

And Yuuri, equally as breathless, replied:

"Victor?"

Leaning forward, Victor bumped their noses together in a sweet gesture that made Yuuri's heart quiver. Foreheads pressed together, Victor stayed right there, and Yuuri could see the pearls of his tears at the ends of his lashes, and he could feel the bond sing as it fully opened for the first time – and in rushed Victor's happiness, his sweet, sweet love, his kind, caring and overwhelming excitement; Yuuri swallowed hard at the assault, feeling his own tears return.

A shiver of Victor's breath felt like a lovely sigh on Yuuri's lips when Victor opened his mouth to say:

"I love you. You're the most perfect soulmate I could've ever imagined."

"No," Yuuri whispered, touching their noses together. "That's you."

Victor hiccupped with laughter, a tiny, helpless sound, right before he captured Yuuri's lips in a kiss. The quiet "I love you, too," Yuuri planned to say was swallowed down and danced over through the bond, as loud as their jointly beating heartbeats.

 

 

VII

 

 

Chris slapped Victor's trembling hands away from his silky tie, "Let me. You're going to wrinkle it."

Victor only grunted in reply, because, true. He allowed Chris to knot it under his chin, smooth the collar of his crisp white button up, and when Chris took one of his hands to clasp the golden cufflinks into place, he allowed that, too.

"Are you nervous?" Chris asked, slipping the sleeve a little down and taking his other arm to do the same. "Or just excited?"

"Both," Victor replied, swallowing the thickness in his throat.

It's been there all morning, paired with the swell of the bond – urgent and insistent, as if it wanted to make sure he remembered, even if it was impossible for him to forget.

"That's good." Chris gave him a small teasing grin. "Finally something to make the great Victor Nikiforov shake in his Jimmy Choos."

Victor would've snorted, but the air inside his lungs somehow lost all its power and it turned into a sigh. Chris looked at him searchingly, reaching out a hand to brush invisible dust from one shoulder, and then pushed a blue rose boutonnière through the lapel buttonhole. He straightened everything out, gave a hum and finally nodded his approval.

"You're good," he judged.

Victor smiled at him. "Thanks."

"Don't mention it," Chris replied. "I'm counting on you to do the same for me one day." Victor's smile widened, but before he could answer, Chris was speaking again: "So, how are you holding up? Still remember the vows?"

"Like I could ever forget," Victor joked. "But what if Yuuri doesn't like them? What if he thinks they're ridiculous? Maybe I should just–"

"Victor, stop," Chris chided. "He's going to love them, no matter what you say. He loves you."

Victor nodded. It made sense.

The jittery feeling of the bond didn't make it any easier to calm down, though. It flexed and shifted, crawled here and there, and pulsed at the weirdest of moments, almost as if it was just as nervous as he himself felt, as Yuuri must be feeling right about now–

"Maybe I should go and check up on him anyway," he said, looking towards the door.

Only half of the reasoning was to see how Yuuri was doing. The other half was to soothe the bond and his own unsteady heartbeat. Throughout the months they've spent together, fitting in as easily as a glove on a hand, he got used to Yuuri being there: always there, never far, so Victor could reach for him anytime.

And now that he couldn't, something akin to worry was swirling in his chest, making him queasy and twitchy.

"Leave Yuuri to Phichit and Yurio." Chris, the smart, lovely Chris opened up his jacket and pulled out a silver flask before opening the cap and thrusting it in Victor's hand. "Take a swig. Calm down. You're good. Both of you."

Victor stared at the flask, already smelling the sharp scent of alcohol, then looked at the door again, and back at the flask. He tipped it up and took a gulp. The sting of fiery liquid going down his throat made his eyes water, but weirdly enough it helped.

He breathed easier.

"Okay," he said. "Okay. Let's do this."

Chris grinned. "There's my boy."

There was a soft knock on the door, startling them both as they whirled around to face it. Victor rushed a surprised "Come in!" out, while his thoughts raced a hundred a mile. Was it Yuuri? Did something happen? Maybe he should just go and check–

"I've just spoken to Yuuri and we're ready to start." Mama Katsuki stuck her head in, smiling warmly at Victor. "Are you ready, Vicchan?"

Victor could only nod. She smiled again, opening the door further. Her gaze travelled down then, right to Victor's hand in which he still held–

He flushed.

"Oh." His brain was fried. "That's– This isn't–"

She only laughed, shaking her head lightly. The short curls of her done hair bobbed around her full face as she grinned at him warmly.

"Don't worry," she told him. "I still remember what it's like to get married."

Still slightly embarrassed, Victor closed the flask and gave it back to Chris, who pocketed it without a word.

"See you on stage then," he said, clapping Victor's shoulder once before leaving through the door.

Victor moved from his place as well, offering his arm to Mama Katsuki, who looped her small, worked hand through it with the sweetest of giggles. Victor smiled. This was where he belonged.

They walked down the street decorated especially for the wedding. With fresh summer air of early July came the clarity of mind and Victor greedily sucked in a breath, for the first time feeling his shoulders loosen. Mama Katsuki patted his arm and he sent her a sheepish grin.

"Is Yuuri doing okay?" he asked.

"There was a little trouble, I think," she said and Victor's heart froze cold for a moment, before she continued, "but it was nothing that sweet Thai boy couldn't handle. Don't worry, Vicchan."

Relieved, he said, "Okay, that's good."

They reached the beach and, from above, the sight was beautiful. Rows and rows of white chairs were thrust into the silky sand. A road of flowers divided them into two sides and sprinkled further, right towards the altar that stood almost cantered to capture the magnificence of the setting sun between two arches of rosy fabric.

Mama Katsuki squeezed his arm once and Victor forcefully tore his gaze away.

"Take care of my son, Vicchan," she bid him, and Victor smiled.

"I will, I promise," he vowed. There was nothing else he wanted more.

She smiled at him and pulled her hand back, opening both arms for a hug, which Victor gratefully accepted. When they parted, she looked at him for a while, before she patted his cheek in a sweet gesture.

"Let him take care of you too, okay?" she said.

Victor's eyes watered so suddenly, he lost all of his breath. Biting on a trembling lip, he nodded. And that was enough.

Mama Katsuki smiled at him warmly, squeezed his arm and finally left him alone: standing before the road paved with flowers and the biggest moment of his life.

 

***

 

Victor's hands were sweaty in his and he smiled, so wide and bright that it hurt to look, but Yuuri looked. Oh, he looked.

Victor's Japanese was better than a year ago, but he still stuttered over the words now, vowing himself to Yuuri in his native tongue. And Yuuri did so back, pledging himself to Victor in Russian, until death do them part. It must have been weird, it must have made people curious, but the pride and stifling, overwhelming love that burned through the threads of the bond tied into a wedding knot around Yuuri's heart were enough to make him keep going.

Before he was finished, Victor was already crying, and then Yuuri was crying, too, as they slid the wedding rings onto their fingers, pressed tightly to the engagement rings both of them refused to take off.

It felt surreal, like a dream, really, when Victor took Yuuri's face into his hands, two gold bands warm against Yuuri's cheek, and kissed him – the most precious slide of lips, so sweet and careful, the bond melted into their souls, light and golden, and true.

 

***

 

"The first time I met Yuuri was–"

"Phichit, no!"

"Okay, fine," Phichit sighed like a martyr, before grinning. "The second time I met Yuuri–"

Yuuri groaned to the amusement of everyone.

 

***

 

"Not many people knew that then, but Victor was always a little bit lonely," Chris was saying. "He hid it well, but there were many signs. And then Sochi 2015 happened, and trust me, there was alcohol involved, but that kind of light in his eyes? The only person who can put it there is the guy sitting next to him. We all knew then that it was meant to be and guess what? We were right!"

Chris picked his champagne glass and smirking, tilted it towards them.

"Congrats, love birds."

 

***

 

"I'm counting on you to keep him in check, Katsuki."

Yakov's glare was lighter than it could've been, a little fond, a little pleading; a point proven when he shifted it to Victor and his eyes hardened.

"And you better not mess this up, Vitya," he added. "Don't end up like me."

 

***

 

They danced to a song that both of them knew by heart now after long hours of rehearsals and holding hands and spinning, stepping around each other, and whispering:

When my hair's all but gone and my memory fades

And the crowds don't remember my name

And pressing foreheads together, slow, soft smiles on their faces and heartbeats beating as one, because I know you will still love me the same.

 

***

 

The bouquet hit JJ in the face, but his fiancé kissed the disgruntled pout off his lips before his "You listen here, Katsuki-Nikiforov–" could actually get anywhere.

 

***

 

The cake was sweet, but sweeter still when they kissed the remaining frosting off each other's lips, giggling and smiling, while Phichit's camera happy fingers worked hard on capturing every glint in their sparkling eyes.

 

***

 

"Gross," Yuri Plisetsky announced, stuffing his face with another forkful of the wedding cake.

He'd already finished his own slice and was now stealing pieces from Otabek's plate without a single wink of remorse.

"But I guess you can be gross for a little bit longer today."

 

***

 

Teary and tipsy, they crashed into bed well into the morning hours, too exhausted to move, but happy and fulfilled in a way that nothing else could compare to. Yuuri sighed, eyes closed, as he curled into Victor's side, and Victor's arm immediately wrapped around him almost on instinct.

"How do you feel?" Victor asked, voice a bit raspy, a little quiet, but soothing and nice, and Yuuri sighed again, content.

"Never better," he replied, twisting his face up for a kiss.

Victor placed one on his lips without pause. They were too tired for more, drained to the bone, while the bond continued leaking love and happiness into their lazy bodies and making moving that much more difficult. So they stayed cuddled on top of the sheets, kissing lazily to the sound of early birds chirping outside the window.

"I love you, Victor," Yuuri sighed once they parted, and without a beat of silence, Victor replied: "I love you more, Yuuri."

"Lies," Yuuri complained blandly, unable to put any energy into the word.

Victor chuckled, a tired, but light sound. "Truth."

"We are not doing this right now," Yuuri whined, butting his forehead on Victor's chin.

"Because you know I'm right," Victor replied, voice heavy with sleep.

"You aren't," Yuuri groaned, knowing full well what he was getting himself into.

"Am too."

"Are not."

"Am too."

Yuuri sighed, "Are not."

But Victor was already asleep.

 

***

 

They woke up when the sun was setting, a golden glow to the sky, golden bands on their hands, golden threads in their eyes, and love, strong, beautiful, and golden nestled into their hearts.