When the photo surfaces, Victor's phone won't stop buzzing. He swipes away the notifications until he gets to Chris's:
good thing we're pretty.
Victor looks at the photo on his laptop screen. He and Chris are in a hallway at a rink in Quebec City, most of the view blocked by a stack of chairs and the corner the paparazzo was waiting around.
But it's enough: Victor leaning back against the wall, head tipped back, eyes closed. Chris's hand on the wall beside Victor's head. Chris leaning in, his mouth just coming down on Victor's parted lips.
The photo doesn't show it, but Victor can remember Chris's other hand on his hip, thumb pushing down inside the waistband of Victor's warm-up suit. Chris's mouth, so slow and hungry on his own. A few kisses, even though the competition wasn't over yet, because Victor wanted something to tide him over, to keep him warm in bed at night until they were off the podium and crashing together into Chris's hotel room.
Just thinking about it warms him now, like the first cup of hot tea on a chilly morning. He picks up his phone.
"This is your fault," Chris says, instead of hello.
"Your fault for not saying no." Victor lies back on the couch, feet pushed up against Makkachin's side. Chris's voice over the phone is thin, stretched out by the distance between them.
"Did your manager yell at you too?" Chris doesn't sound too concerned. "I don't think the sponsors care as much as she thinks they do. And the fans are–"
"Meet me this weekend." The words tumble out of Victor's mouth, like he's hearing them for the first time only after they're spoken.
There are a few moments of static-y silence before Chris laughs. "Victor, it's the middle of the season."
"Make time for me." Victor reaches out to touch Chris's face in the picture but he doesn't want to smudge the screen.
"You definitely can't get enough of my hot ass," Chris says. "But you know we can't."
"I want to see you." Victor looks out the window into the bright January morning. He stands and goes over so he can feel the chill coming off the glass, even through the double pane.
"Are you trying to sabotage my skating, Victor?" Chris says. "That's almost a compliment."
If Victor were there instead of here, he would look into Chris's face and take his hand, brush his thumb over the back of Chris's knuckles. And Chris would say yes. He always wants to say yes. "Chris," Victor says, and he tries to put all of that closeness into his voice so that Chris can feel it too. "Make time for me."
There's silence for a while and Victor looks down, at the cars crowding the street and the people hurrying down the sidewalk, brisk in their hats and scarves and gloves. He touches the glass and feels the cold in his fingertips.
"This weekend won't work," Chris says. "No weekends will work, you know that. But I'll meet you next weekend."
Victor closes his eyes, he's more than warm now. He can feel Chris's arms wrapped around him, that last tight hug before they left the hotel room. "I'll book it."
"You're lucky to have me," Chris says. "I'll call you tonight."
When they hang up, Victor goes back to the couch. He rubs Makkachin's head while he looks at the photo again.
Then he makes another call.
It's been a few years of off and on with Chris, but lately it's been all on. All the moments they can take together when they're at the same competition and finally off the ice, hours in Chris's hotel room, laughing, tumbling. Curling up together, Chris's arm across Victor's chest.
Calls when they're apart, to banter, to talk each other off. Chris always laughs and tells Victor he's so terrible at phone sex but he still ends up with that rough edge in his voice, gasping in Victor's ear.
And two weeks together when the season is over, at Chris's aunt's house on a Greek island so small, no one can follow them there. Two lazy, tipsy weeks under the sun, about all Victor can stand of rural life.
Victor wonders what those photos would look like.
It's snowing when Victor arrives, thick fluffy feathers that he watches for a moment as he gets out of the car underneath the awning. He almost wants to walk out into the flurries and stand until he's covered in the soft, wet drift of it.
The hotel is small and remote, expensive and discreet. Victor had to use all his connections to get a booking at such short notice. As he loosens his scarf and undoes his coat, following the porter to his room, he feels that warmth inside of him, that flutter in his stomach.
Chris is already in the room, lounging on the bed, his silk robe spilling open over his long legs. The porter looks away.
Victor doesn't look away. He looks at Chris looking at him, the warmth inside his chest reflected back at him, over and over, like standing between two mirrors. He doesn't know how much he tips the porter. He hardly waits until the door is closed before he sits down on the bed, coat still on, and leans down for Chris's kiss, for Chris's hand on the back of his neck, sliding underneath the scarf.
"I shouldn't have let you talk me into this." Chris plucks at Victor's lapel. "Don't be so dressed."
"It's your fault for not saying no." Victor stands, letting his hand trail over Chris's until their fingertips part. "They're sending up dinner and a bottle of wine."
"I nearly called the front desk to complain," Chris says.
Victor hangs up his coat and unwinds his scarf. "About me?"
"About that." Chris gestures to the wall.
There, framed and hung like it's Victor's Leibovitz portrait, is the photo of Chris and Victor kissing in the hallway.
"Oh, that." Victor opens his suitcase and shakes out his own robe. "I bought it."
"From the paparazzo?" Chris swings his legs onto the floor and sits up. "Victor, if you want pictures, we can take pictures. We can have pictures taken. We can make a video." He stands and crosses over to Victor, hands pushing up the hem of Victor's shirt. "Let's make a video."
Victor raises his arms and lets Chris take off his shirt. "But it's real," he says. "It's how we are when we don't know anyone is watching."
Chris stops unfastening Victor's trousers. "Victor."
Victor feels like he's glowing, like the warmth inside him is reaching out to wrap itself around Chris. "I want everyone to see us like that." And he wraps his arms around Chris too, hugging him, cheek to cheek.
Chris puts his hands on Victor's back and nuzzles into Victor's cheek. "It's pretty cold but we could do it on the balcony."
Victor laughs and Chris laughs and when their room service arrives, they're kissing up against the wall, Victor's trousers around his ankles.
They eat and drink, then Chris opens all the drapes wide and they make love in the bed, slow and hungry, while the snow still falls outside.
Afterwards, Victor lies back in the sheets, limp and satisfied and warm. He curls his fingers in Chris's hair and tugs, not to bring his head back down to Victor's, just to say hello.
"Did you bring a tripod?" Chris takes Victor's hand and kisses his fingers. "We can make the video tomorrow."
"Chris," Victor says. "Keep this weekend free."
Chris rolls up on his elbow. "Did you think I made plans with someone else here?"
"Next year." Victor looks up at Chris, his bed-flushed face and damp hair on his forehead. "I booked for next year too."
Chris stops for a moment: stops moving, stops breathing, a statue in Victor's bed. Then he starts again, leaning down and dropping a kiss on Victor's mouth. "Put it in your calendar."
The sun rises inside Victor's chest, heat and light surging through him. "Put it in yours."
"Save it for the sex tape." Chris pulls Victor up against him, arm around his chest.
Victor moves so they're curled together along the whole the length of their bodies, his ankle pushing back between Chris's calves. "I'll bring the tripod next year."