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Avvicinarsi

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~Sento una voce che piange lontano~

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Shining over the water, dawn turned everything to gold. The sea, their skin. Victor’s hair. Brighter than anything, Victor’s smile was palpable sunshine. He could reach out and touch it, if he wanted. If he were brave enough. Brave like he’d been in just a few, crystal-bright moments, so far—moments when he didn’t need to say anything, when Victor seemed to understand.

And then, Victor held out one hand, calling to him wordlessly.

They danced there, together, on the wet sand—cold against their feet, even in the July morning sun. It was play. The kind of play that became the most important work. They didn’t need to speak. All they needed was to notice the interplay of their bodies, the arc of their limbs, the way each reacted to the presence of the other. When Victor gave chase, Yuuri ran, and the joy of the hunt thrilled inside him. He was sure—in that moment, he was sure—that it rose in Victor the same way.

“Yuuri…!”

Even with an edge to it, even when as now he complained at Yuuri for running too far ahead, Victor’s voice in the distance was sweet. Sometimes, he thought, Victor said his name like it was his favorite word-

“Yuuri!”

He jolts awake—not even sure, once his eyes are open, that he’d been dreaming.

 

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But both of Victor’s eyebrows are raised at him. He’s looking at Yuuri with fondness that doesn’t quite outweigh the concern.

Yuuri asks, “Sorry, what?”

“Did you want something to drink?” Victor repeats, nodding graciously toward the flight attendant leaning over the aisle. “Chunhua has already asked you. More than once.” The woman, whose name Victor apparently knows, looks indulgently down at him. Without meaning to, Yuuri shrinks back into his seat.

“Um, just- just some water, please.”

The woman nods at him, not seeming to notice the way his voice is thick with the accent he usually masks so well. Even her kind smile is perfunctory, and she looks somehow strict in her neatness: all in navy blue, all so well pressed.

So does Victor. Look well pressed, that is. Which isn’t fair. It makes Yuuri feel all the more rumpled by comparison.

His dream fizzles at the edges of his vision—Victor in the dawn light, his voice not quite drowned out by the surf. It’d been sweet enough that Yuuri is reluctant to let the vision go. But Victor’s here, now, looking at him with such care, and the yearning that’s made itself at home in Yuuri’s heart subsides enough to let Victor’s words in.

“I didn’t know you were sleeping,” Victor murmurs. He brushes his hand over the back of Yuuri’s neck, and the coolness of his fingers almost makes Yuuri gasp. “I was reading, so I didn’t notice. I wouldn’t have woken you.”

“Oh,” he manages. “I don’t think I was. Sleeping.”

He knows it’s a lie as soon as he says it. Victor’s touch has brought him back into his body, sensation buzzing anew the way it does only upon waking. Enjoying it, he lets Victor’s light grasp linger for a moment. Then he stretches his back, feels that he has dried spit at the corner of his mouth. Definitely sleeping, then; he tries to rub it away on the shoulder of his jacket. Victor notices. Of course he does, and he laughs. A low, satisfied—satisfying—sound.

“You were sleeping. A waste, since you took the window seat.”

He knows Victor is baiting him. Knows Victor knows that’s what he’s doing. Still, he asks—somewhere between sarcasm and sincerity—“Did you want to trade?”

Victor smiles. “I’m happy to just watch you. You look so handsome, with the sunset behind you.”

He feels himself go pink. “Victor…”

“Yuuri.”

“People can hear you.”

Victor shrugs. “Let them. I’m not going to hold back anymore.”

Like anything you did before could be called holding back…

“Well, you made that perfectly clear after the free skate. So.”

“So.” Victor mimics his tone, but there’s no mockery in it. “Get used to it.”

Yuuri sighs, pretending to be put-upon. But he still takes Victor’s hand when Victor snakes his into Yuuri’s own. “I will.”

He does glance out the window, and only partly because he’s feeling self-conscious about taking the window seat without enjoying the view.  Ahead of them, the sun is sinking fast, dipping below the horizon faster than it ought. He knows Victor is watching him watch—and that new feeling of security settles under his skin.

The feeling that had started as soon as the melting chill of the ice settled into his costume when Victor had tackled him down into it.

This flight is softer: the same melody as their flight to China, perhaps, but in a different key. An arrangement with fewer harmonics. Everything seems simple here, miles above the weather. Just two voices combining to create this refrain: his, and Victor’s. Even as he stares out the window, Victor’s fingers move over Yuuri’s knuckles, and the presence of him, the right there of him, makes Yuuri want to cry. If he thought he could do so quietly, he might.

It’s almost a relief, after all the noise. This soft duet, this whisper of that first international flight together. Gentler, wistful, and despite the echoes, gorgeous in an altogether alien way.

Like the reprise of Stay Close to Me. Simple. Undistracted.

Yuuri forgets, most of the time, that there is such an arrangement of the song that brought them together. The grandiosity of the first piece, the power of that tenor voice, is unforgettable—and, of course, it’s the only one he’s ever skated to. But he did make himself listen to the entire opera before he copied Victor’s free skate; it would have felt disrespectful not to. It wasn’t that he didn’t enjoy classical music. He was, after all, a ballet dancer first, and Minako-sensei was a relentless traditionalist. Barring Yurio under his new instructor, Yuuri has had more classical training than any active skater.

But that refrain, that solo-come-duet…

“What if you skated it with me?”

Yuuri doesn’t even know he’s saying it until it’s out of his mouth. Next to him, Victor jumps at the word “skate,” and turns to him. His eyes, under those pale eyelashes, are wide and glittering. “Skate what?”

Yuuri only prevaricates until he can catch up to his own train of thought. It’s scattered, sometimes—but the connections are there.

He turns and meets Victor’s eyes. “Stay Close to Me. We should skate it together.”

 

~Anche tu, sei stato forse abbandonato?~

 

Dawn at the rink was the closest he got to peace, these autumn days.

He’d never been a morning person. But the slanting September light, the smell of ice and coffee, the sound of blades on that fresh surface—all this never failed to flip the switch of muscle memory, set his pulse to racing before he’d even finished his warm-up laps. He and Victor went through their morning routine with the ease of months, of countless hours drilling these routines to perfection. For the hours until the rink opened for public skating, how far the world outside moved on past them didn’t matter.

Practice was never this easy under Celestino, Yuuri thought. Not physically, of course—Victor pushed him harder than any coach ever had—but in the sense that he could predict almost to the word what Victor would say, where his eyes would be. And he’d started using that, almost like an inner-Victor, to adjust course as he completed run after run.

As now, when he came out of an especially aggressive camel spin. He raised himself upright and met Victor’s gaze. He knew where the critique would come down heaviest—“At this point, you’ve got to get ahold of that facial expression, Yuuri”—and where the lightness of praise would lift him up—“Beautiful form, though. Truly lovely.”

The moment went on. Victor continued to look at him. Critically. Narrow, judgmental.

Yuuri was about to bristle with righteous defense. But Victor just opened his mouth, for a long moment, before he said, “How much under last year’s competition weight are you right now?”

Yuuri blinked at him.

“Uh. I don’t know?”

It wasn’t meant to be a question. Though he’d never had routines this demanding, before, their effect on his body wasn’t a surprise—nor the fact that Victor noticed, given the attention he’d paid to his weight since that first night in Yuutopia. Self-conscious, now, Yuuri brushed the hair back behind one ear, fingers collecting sweat. “Probably at least a kilo-”

Victor skated toward him, and without preamble, set his fingers against the hollow just over Yuuri’s hip. “Would you let me try something?”

Anything, Yuuri almost said. But he shook his head at himself, inwardly. Quietly, he breathed out, “Okay.”

Smiling, Victor closed the distance between them. So close that Yuuri honest to god thought—he thought—well, it seemed that Victor was going to kiss him. Right there, right then, in the middle of Ice Castle.

Yuuri was self-conscious. Sometimes oblivious; people had told him often enough. But Yuuri wasn’t stupid; he knew that their flirting and Victor’s ever-more-common touches were leading them somewhere unfamiliar. But now, he found, he didn’t want it to happen like this. On some random, peaceful morning. Every other kiss he’d had… everything before Victor, it all felt so random: the odd college party, the one or two encounters backstage at ice shows. And he didn’t want it to happen that way. Not again, not with Victor.

Since going professional, Yuuri had abandoned hope of doing anything that intimate with anyone who mattered beyond the buzz of the night. Of the hour. But with this man, it seemed not only possible.

It seemed inevitable.

I want it to mean something, he thought. Then, stupidly, I know it’d be just kissing, but I want it to be special.

Into his ear, Victor was saying, “Turn around.”

Yuuri did so automatically, so honed now to that tone. As he did, though, the mean, familiar little voice at the back of his brain screamed, Special? Hell, forget special—who are you to think kissing Victor is going to happen at all?

Subtly panicking, he’d gone still and rigid when, without preamble, Victor closed both his hands on Yuuri’s waist. He had no time to question why before Victor adjusted his grip, and lifted.

His view skittered, strange and too high up. But he felt like he was floating—soaring.

Yuuri and Phichit had tried this a few times. Never enough to perfect the technique. All Yuuri knew how to do was hold himself such that he didn’t kick back and do something truly unforgivable. So he trusted old instinct, now, and went very still.

The air was cold, he noticed. It made him tear up a little. Not a surprise, given how wide they’d gone.

And as if through water, he heard Victor say, “Huh. I can do it.”

Slowly, arms not even shaking, he set Yuuri down. Blinking again, empty of thought, Yuuri steadied himself automatically.

“I wondered whether not competing had interfered, but I’ve been keeping up with you at the gym, so,” Victor explained. He pulled at Yuuri’s arm when Yuuri failed to turn around again on his own. “I used to practice lifts with Mila—she’s about your height. And weight, I think. So I thought I could… hm. You know, she tried to lift me once. And she almost managed it—Slavic women, huh?”

While Yuuri nodded along, still reeling from nearness, from vertigo, Victor settled one hand against his upper arm.

“You can’t lose any more weight, though, okay?” And he pinched the thin skin there in punctuation. “Coach’s orders.”

Yuuri nodded, mechanic. Somehow, he thought, what they’d just done was more intimate than any kiss would have been.

 

~Orsù finisca presto questo calice di vino~

 

“We already know you can lift me. We should use that!”

Yuuri is convinced now that he’s right—even though Victor is blinking into the orange sunset like he’s never seen it, or Yuuri, before. Yuuri, though, isn’t embarrassed. Not at all, to be suggesting something he knows Victor will love, as soon as he manages to grasp what Yuuri’s implying. Yuuri continues, even though part of him wants to just shake Victor until he gets it without Yuuri having to spell it out. “We should skate it as a pair. The- the reprise, the second version of the song. At the end of the opera, when the lovers are reunited.”

Victor is tilting his head at him, sparkling irises flicking between his face and the as-yet-unlit overhead lights. Yuuri watches the exact moment it sinks in. Blue almost lost in a wide showing of crisp white, Victor’s expression falls utterly open.

“Your exhibition. At the Final—I’ll skate it with you!” Victor repeats, the hand that’s not clutching Yuuri’s rising to half-cover his own mouth.

It’s adorable—and more than that, it makes Yuuri want to peel that hand way and cover Victor’s mouth with his own. In a big way.

Instead, Yuuri lets his grin go, and says, “We’ll make it a pair skate. The first of its kind.”

Behind his palm, Victor’s mouth drops open another inch. “They’ll never see it coming…”

Yuuri doesn’t want to know how stupid and open and happy he looks right now. He just says, “Exactly.”

Victor pauses, his eyes scanning the dying sunlight behind Yuuri. They go a little vicious with happiness. “And oh, the ISU will- No. The ISU might be happy for the marketing, but the FFKK will have a shitfit.”

“Victor!”

They end up so distracted, so deep in hypotheticals, that they don’t hear the announcement that they’ve begun their descent into Fukuoka until Chunhua the Finely Pressed Flight Attendant makes her way down their aisle and offers them a disapproving smile, holding out a pristine white trash bag.

Yuuri downs the rest of his water, and then glances pointedly at Victor’s half-finished glass of prosecco. (They didn’t have champagne.) “You have to finish that, or she’s going to take it away.”

Victor pouts at being made to stop talking, but he complies, finishing the plastic glass in one long, slow sip.

“I’d better enjoy it now, I suppose. After this long, I’m going to have to do some serious intensity training if I’m to skate to keep up with you, Yuuri…”

Chapter Text

~e inizio a prepararmi~

 

“Ready, Yuuri?”

Victor gives him an earnest smile as he holds the door of the rental car. He looks tired, Yuuri thinks. After their five hour flight from Beijing to Fukuoka, it’s no surprise. Usually, Victor is the one who sleeps on public transportation; but this time, Yuuri had done most of the dozing. And so this smile is one of Victor’s quieter smiles—not endearing and heart-shaped, but very like the one he’d offered Yuuri after his free skate at the Capital Gymnasium. It sends blood rushing through him, from his travel-numbed toes to the tips of his ears.

Victor continues, “And you don’t mind driving?”

Shoulders rising to hide his blush, Yuuri says, “No, it’s fine. But I still don’t understand why you wanted to rent a car.”

“It’ll be more relaxing!” Victor answers, his grin intensifying under the parking lot sodium lights. They deepen the shadows over his face. They make him look like he’s hiding something.

Yuuri huffs a sigh—mostly at himself—and clambers into the driver’s seat. “You could’ve slept on the train. And I’m not going to let you fall asleep now. Plus, the tolls…”

Yuuri trails off when he sees that Victor isn’t heading around the car to the passenger side. Instead, he’s kneeling between Yuuri and the driver’s side door, looking down so that his long fringe covers his eyes. He takes Yuuri’s hand from the door handle and moves it to Yuuri’s lap, placing both of his own hands over it.

“I don’t want to share you,” Victor explains. He strokes his thumbs over the backs of Yuuri’s knuckles, and Yuuri’s breath hitches. “Not right now. I had to, on the plane, but there’s just an hour between here and Yuutopia and… Well.”

Yuuri has known—knew, even before he knew him—that Victor is colorful, eccentric. But he is only just starting to realize how shockingly sentimental Victor is. How… soft he is, somehow, underneath his over-sized personality. He wears his professional panache like he wears his expensive coats; over-the-top, but crisp, fashionable—and just quirky enough to draw the kind of attention that keeps a performer’s career going. Underneath that, though, is a layer like a well-worn sweater: Something you don’t wear in front of everyone, because it can be lumpy and even ill-fitting, but that’s so comfortable, so endearingly, sweetly imperfect that no one can judge you for it.

Victor looks up from where he’s crouched on the asphalt. Yuuri notices the trace of stubble on his jaw, highlighted by the neon rental signs behind him. Yuuri reaches out and brushes his fingertips over it. Victor leans against Yuuri’s hand. “I thought we could talk more about the Stammi pair skate. If we can do it right, people will love it. But if you want to premiere it at the Finals, we’ll have to start now.”

Yuuri manages, “That sounds perfect.”

And Victor’s eyelids lower a little, with the relief of having his plan accepted. There’s no hint, none, of ulterior motive. They could have talked about the duet on a train, a bus—but Victor’s reasons for wanting to do so in relative privacy aren’t suspect, not this time.

If Victor had wanted to spend “alone time” with Yuuri, he could have— either of their last two nights in China. If he’s honest, Yuuri would have welcomed Victor into his bed. But Victor hadn’t even tried. Granted, they’d spent most of that time in interviews, at the exhibition skates, in the company of other skaters, at the post-event banquet. Both those nights, though, all he’d done was kiss Yuuri goodnight.

If being kissed absolutely stupid, if being pressed against a doorjamb and plied with kisses as strong as liquor, could be called being kissed goodnight.

But now, in Victor’s eyes, there’s only the thrill of doing the thing he loves most. The thing he loves most with- well. If not the person he loves most, at least a person he’s proven to like quite a bit.

Yuuri isn’t sure why the innocence of this request is what wins him over. But he brings his other hand over Victor’s, trapping them. He squeezes.

“Let’s go home, then.”

 

~Adesso fa’ silenzio~

 

He needn’t have worried about Victor falling asleep on the drive. Now that he’s in the safety of the passenger seat, his excitement about Yuuri’s—their?—new exhibition skate has reached critical mass.

“You know, we should go to the beach and freestyle some of this. We’ve had some of our best ideas when we’ve worked outside!”

Nodding, Yuuri is listening, but he’s distracted. Victor needs a sounding board, not an actual beach day; Yuuri knows by now how his mind spins around each new hypothetical. Victor is inspired about the pair skate, and for that, Yuuri is grateful.

But now that they’re on this drive, Yuuri has thought of something else he’s sure will inspire his coach. He just needs to make sure Victor sees it at the right moment.

Victor’s made a gesture. And this time, Yuuri is going to meet him where he is.

Leaning forward, Yuuri gauges the dark of the rolling countryside against the sunburn of sunset lingering on the horizon. It’s just a blue-green blur, now—not enough to drown out the city lights. But there’s a steep hill between them and the horizon, and luckily, they’ve started to climb its last slope.

“Some of the best parts of Yuri on Ice came out of that day in July—remember, Yuuri?”

“Yes,” Yuuri answers, distracted—still studying the road before them. “But it was also over 32º still, and if we go now, it’ll be too—Oh.”

They’re reaching peak altitude above the town. Yuuri sets his hand subtly against Victor’s to try to quiet him. Predictably, Victor doesn’t notice. “Even so, the humidity’s still at some ungodly percentage… makes it feel hotter than it is.”

“Be quiet, Victor.”

“Hm?” He can feel Victor shuffle impatiently. “Why?”

Yuuri nods toward the horizon. “Just for a minute.”

Then they kiss the crest of the hill and Hasetsu spreads out before them, the Genkainada Sea twinkling in the furthest distances.

Victor breathes in. Then he goes silent for a long moment, breathing out on an accented, “Wow.”

Yuuri smiles, pulls the car to the left and flips the parking brake. He hopes it’s not too presumptuous to just stop like this, when they’re less than twenty minutes from home—no. He glances out the sides of his glasses at Victor and sees that his eyes are affixed to the horizon. Streetlamp color floods his face, sparking in his eyes even from this distance. Yuuri knows that expression, that inspired look. He hasn’t been too presumptuous.

“I know it’s just city lights,” Yuuri says, not taking his eyes from Victor’s.   “But this view. It’s always made me… I don’t know, feel-”

Victor turns to look at him so fast Yuuri doesn’t even have time to continue shrugging. He jumps—but Victor places a preemptory hand on Yuuri’s upper arm so Yuuri won’t reel away from him. “I understand, Yuuri.”

And the smile Victor offers him in trade is worth every second of this unnecessary, expensive drive.

Victor continues, “Thank you. I’m really glad you showed me this.”

Yuuri can’t explain to Victor what exactly this view does to him, but he doesn’t have to try. Victor leans over and drapes himself against Yuuri’s side brushing a hand down his thigh, over the soft, worn fabric of his jeans. He hums. And the closeness of him, the smell of him, the too-low heater of the rental, the beckoning spread of city lights: instead of being too much, it’s just enough for Yuuri to sink into.

He’s often burdened down by his over-sensitivity, one of those acutely inconvenient but settled parts of his character. He’s easily overwhelmed; and with too many stimuli, he tends toward irritation—tends to withdraw altogether. But here, just for this moment, he can see the value in feeling everything so deeply. Pressing his cheek against the top of Victor’s head, he feels it all; he doesn’t even have to close his eyes against the view, to appreciate the subtle, satisfied breathing of Victor next to him.

It’s nice, being immersed this way, and not be expected to say a word.

 

***

 

~Stammi vicino, non te ne andare~

 

They start the choreography the very next morning. Despite Victor’s planned late morning upon returning from Beijing, they’re both too filled with the electric promise of new figures under their skates to sleep in much past six.

“We only have a month and a half to get this right,” Victor warns, as they skate circles around one another, warming up.

“If I make it to the Finals,” Yuuri mutters. “Let alone the podium.”

He’s not surprised that Victor reaches out a hand to him, wrapping it around his upper arm and squeezing. This gesture, this confirmation that Victor is willing to try to handle Yuuri’s second-guessing, his self-doubt,  almost makes Yuuri glad for their argument in China. It almost makes him grateful for the lack of self-control that had him heaping his darkest uncertainties onto Victor—and for the lack of control that, now, has him clutching to Victor’s wrist and saying:

“If we do all this work, and I don’t make it…”

“I promised you, didn’t I?” is all Victor says.

It’s enough.

For now, it’s enough.

But by the end of the first week of practicing the pair skate, Yuuri wonders if they should have taken the rest that first day. They’d thrown themselves hard at his short program and free skate—almost harder, at the pair skate. The choreography came easily, since the program already had such a strong backbone.

The lifts… were not as easy as screwing around over the summer had made them seem.

No, they weren’t easy at all. Not when they were serious.

(And wasn’t that typical. Yuuri could step through anything, could land anything, when it didn’t matter—but put the pressure on and, as under the humidity that still hung in the late-autumn air, all he could do was sweat.)

Frustration has them both hard in its jaws, one late afternoon. The sun sets beyond the wide, dusty windows of Ice Castle, and Victor rambles over the cold expanse.

“Okay, so we’re doing fairly well from the point past the dip, but the lead-in needs a lot of work. That first lift, in particular…”

Yuuri hears it when Victor starts muttering under his breath in Russian. He does that, sometimes, when he’s working through choreography—and he leaves Yuuri waiting there as he flips through his phone. Something on that bright little screen makes one corner of his mouth quirk up. “Oh, Yuuri- did you know there’s a lift called the Detroiter? We’re getting better but I still don’t think I could lift you all the way over my head…”

Victor sounds… flippant about it. Almost sarcastic. And Yuuri begs it not to. He does—but all the lightness, all the self-preserving sense that this is play and not a job of the direst importance… all of that bleeds out of him at Victor’s sudden humor. It’s a shame. Victor probably intends to make him laugh, or at least, to make him forget that all he wants to do is retreat out of frustration, or go home and binge eat every package of senbei he can find in his mother’s kitchen.

All he can do is say, “From the start, then.”

Victor gives him an inscrutable look. Yuuri tries hard not to judge it, since he’s not wearing his glasses and it wouldn’t be the first time he’d misjudged one of Victor’s expressions. Then Victor nods, once. His phone clicks against the chipped plastic of the boards, and its loud in the empty space.

Yuuri sighs into the starting stance. He can’t mind his expression; he knows the artistry sucks, right now, and he only marks the second quad—the flip—before he heads into the triple Axel, taking that jump for real in order to practice the transition. It’s his pet jump. There’s no reason that should be the place he freaks out. But then Victor is approaching from the boards, and-

Victor takes his left hand, draws him backward until Yuuri can feel their momentum build. He looks over his shoulder—but it’s too bizarre to have Victor this close, this was never quite what he meant when he said he wanted to skate on the same ice as Victor, and Yuuri’s thinking so hard about the second turn, the one where he’s supposed to reach back, rest both hands on Victor’s forearms while Victor grips him by the waist-

Yuuri brushes past Victor instead of reaching for him.

He winces at himself, and hears Victor breath out an exhausted laugh as he circles back in a wide loop. “You’ve got to commit, Yuuri-”

“I know.”

Yuuri turns back, skids to a halt. And Victor is wearing That Smile—the smile of plausible deniability. The one he uses when the joke is deadly serious.

“Then maybe don’t avoid me like you expect I’m going to drop you.”

Yuuri bristles, and bites out, “I’m sorry, I haven’t gotten over the fact that you might.”

He regrets it as soon as he says it—glad only that he doesn’t tack on “since you already have,” the way he wants to. But he doesn’t have time to take it back. Barely phased, Victor answers, “Understandable. We’re both inexperienced. But this isn’t going to work if you skate like you don’t trust me.”

This locks whatever else Yuuri had planned to say behind his teeth. He swallows.

Victor touches his forefinger to his lips, staring somewhere past Yuuri into the gloom of the rink. There’s a slight smirk on his face that unsettles Yuuri, and he suddenly feels very much the younger skater—the more inexperienced. “I can guess what the problem is. You’ve taken a lot of dance, but you never learned how to follow, did you?”

Yuuri takes in a breath. “…I hadn’t thought of it that way.”

“Obviously.” Even when Yuuri glares at him, Victor backpedals only as far as the truth will allow. “Because it’s when you lead that we tend to do just fine.”

Yuuri pulls back automatically, shoulders raised and teeth dug into his cheek so he doesn’t say something he’ll regret—but Victor is right. He usually is, when it comes to matters on the ice. Yuuri says, “I never had to learn. Not that I haven’t, ever. Have someone else lead, I mean. But I was usually the only boy in ballet.”

Victor nods, like he’s decided something.

“It’s a lot to learn in such a short time. If…” Yuuri can’t tell what emotion runs over Victor’s face when he hesitates. Whether he’s actually trying to parse out how to say what’s coming gently, or whether he just doesn’t know what to say. So when Victor continues, oh so brightly, “If it’s too much, we don’t have to do this.”

Well. That, Yuuri doesn’t expect.

He skates forward half a step. “It’s not too much. I’ll learn—I want to do this!”

Yuuri bites his tongue on the rest of it—this was my idea, but don’t put it all on me; you’re not perfect, yourself. That’s deflection; even he knows it. The way he knows his anger can make him vicious in its eloquence.

But as he struggles to find the words for how much this means, Victor’s facade of humor vanishes. He looks almost sorry to say what he says next.

“You might want to, but it’s a risk to spend this much time on something you might not even get to use.”

 

~Ho paura di perderti~

 

This is what does it. This is what unlocks Yuuri’s tongue, and his fear.

Something hard and cold settles in his stomach, and just quietly enough for Victor to hear him over the distance, Yuuri starts, “I can’t tell if you’re serious, or if you’re trying to threaten me into doing better.”

Victor looks shocked that Yuuri would suggest such a thing—when Yuuri had, not ten days ago, so forcefully told him not to. “Yuuri, no, I-”

“Don’t,” Yuuri interrupts. His momentum makes him dig in further. “Don’t tease me with the idea of getting to skate on the same ice as you, literally, and then take it away.”

“I’m trying to be practical, love.” It’s too soft—Yuuri shakes head, feeling like he doesn’t deserve it. Victor raises his hands, placating. “I want to be able to keep that promise to you. If this is too distracting, we should stop.”

“But you knew we only had a few weeks. When we started-” And suddenly it’s satisfying—it’s physically satisfying, to be able to spread some of the blame. Like digging your nails into your own skin; even though it hurts, it helps the itch. “If you thought this wasn’t going to be enough time, you should have said something earlier. You should have stopped me before I-”

Tears threaten from behind his eyes, now, and the idea of standing in front of Victor, crying and raising his voice once again, actually makes his stomach turn. So he skates toward Victor and past him. All he wants to do is grab Victor’s hand when Victor reaches out toward him—but his pride sends him all the way to the boards, all the way into his skate guards.

“I need a break,” he says, redundantly.

“I’d say so,” Victor answers. Yuuri looks up; he’s much closer than Yuuri had thought, leaning over the boards with an unreadable expression. “Go outside, for a minute. Or get something from the vending machine.”

He nods, words stuck in his throat, and turns.

Yuuri isn’t sure what he thinks, until he stands under the open sky. It’s cold; that’s the first thing that’s clear. It’s already November—the weather less forgiving by the week. The way their practices have had to be. He thinks on that brief period in late spring, after Hot Springs on Ice but before they’d really hammered down his free skate. That memory is tender. Fragile, the way of newly sprouted leaves, of that fresh, delicate feeling in the air. That scent of night-blooming flowers that lasts for days, only. And for a second, he’s nostalgic for it. For the way he and Victor were before everything was new again, and uncertain. He’s nostalgic for his company—even though Victor is right there, right inside the doors behind him, if he could make himself turn around.

Victor is here, for now, Yuuri reminds himself. And even though it’s harder, it’s also so, so much better than he could have imagined, in the spring.

He takes one long, deep breath.