Yuuri may live in a Muggle town, but as long as he puts the proper wards up and doesn’t let Yuuko in, his parents allow him to collect magical posters.
This is good, because as beautiful as a Muggle photograph of Viktor is, Yuuri definitely prefers a moving picture. He has sixteen of them, in fact. Although he doesn’t have a favorite, the Viktor that repeatedly slides his professional Quidditch robes down, revealing collarbone and a hint of a pectoral, is the one Yuuri stares at the most.
When he returns home, after the disaster that is his most recent international Quidditch match, he reverently puts all the moving pictures up. Several days later, he receives a package from Phichit by owl. Expecting a prank (Phichit doesn’t send owls, complains that Muggle tech is faster), he opens it, but instead is greeted by blue eyes and silver hair, blinking out at him and smiling serenely.
Found this hidden in a shop, knew you’d love it! Miss you. --your bestie, Phichit.
It’s a beautiful shot. Someone (Phichit, probably) has also clearly put a filter on it, giving it a watercolor look. Mimicking Muggle technology (”Snapchat filters, Yuuri!” Phichit would insist) has become increasingly popular.
Yuuri can see why. As a watercolor, Viktor’s hair and eyes are softened, eyes the blue of a cool spring morning. Most promotional posters were designed to highlight Viktor, ethereal and infamous, but this one is stunning in its natural simplicity. So reverently, Yuuri settles the moving picture onto his nightstand.
Despite the idea of removing himself from the Toyohashi Tengu professional Quidditch team that rattles insistently in his brain, he can’t help but practice. He'd been a wreck at their most recent International competition, diving for the Snitch and ending up with only dirt. Still, while he’s at home, he dances with Minako-- a balancing act atop a broomstick, really-- dons his gloves and practices his grabs. He wards Hasetsu Ice Castle, which is ironically about half the size of a Quidditch pitch in size and structure, and flies between its rafters.
Every night, he falls into the habit of talking to the new picture. Viktor Nikiforov, the wizard, is advancing rapidly with his team through the last several matches of an international competition that the Tengus have already lost. The Viktor in the moving picture, the piece of him that Yuuri has, continues to blink. Smiles prettily and perfectly. Yuuri tries to imagine saying the awestruck words to Viktor himself-- I watched you again today, your jump and catch of the Snitch was brilliant, like creating magic itself. He knows, of course, that in front of Viktor Nikiforov those words would never come. He knows a player like him will probably never talk to Viktor. At all.
Unfortunately, it happens when Yuuri is practicing some particularly embarrassing pole dancing moves on his broomstick in his room. Two thighs wrapped around the wood, arm out. Pole dancing moves are helpful, especially when trying to get range to capture a Snitch. Besides the obvious scandal they might cause on a Quidditch pitch, he doesn’t understand why no one else has thought to--
“You’re making music out of sport,” comes the accented Russian voice. Very, very slowly, Yuuri drops down from the broomstick.
“Hello?” he squeaks.
“Hi!” The moving picture waves at him. “Amazing! I’ve never seen anyone move on a broomstick like that! Give me a minute.”
Then he stands, robes flowing, and walks out of the frame. He takes Yuuri’s sanity with him.
“Ohmygod,” Yuuri breathes. Scrambling to the nightstand, he smacks himself in the face with his own floating broom before slamming the frame down, obscuring it from view.
It’s not a moving picture with a magical filter. It’s a portrait.
Now the Viktor Nikiforov he’s been confessing all his secrets to, late in the night, has disappeared to another frame. Yuuri does not want to know where that frame is.
Portraits aren’t the wizards themselves, but if they’re trained and observe their subject, they can come close, can behave similarly.
That accent? Those phrases? The way he winked and smiled? The portrait’s been trained, that much is obvious.
Yuuri doesn’t want to know what frame the portrait Viktor walked off to, but he has a frightening good idea of where that silver hair and those blue eyes ended up.
Tearing down every moving picture in his room can’t stop the end of the world as Yuuri knows it, but he does it anyway.
“Aww,” says the Russian voice, as he’s shoving the lot of them under his bed. Though Yuuri had slammed the portrait facedown on his bedside table, the portrait Viktor is peeking from a corner that hangs off the edge, peering at him while he kneels. “Why’d you do that? Don’t put all of me away!”
“Why didn’t you say you were a portrait?” Yuuri hisses. He props the frame up, watches Viktor pat at his robes and reclaim his seat, beaming up at him. Portraits aren’t moving pictures-- they can talk. They don’t have to move in a loop, to blink and smile in the exact way they’ve done a thousand times before.
“Most people like me as a moving picture,” says Portrait Viktor sweetly. “They don’t want to hear what I actually have to say. They just like to see me smile and sit, and be pretty. You had plenty of moving pictures, so I thought that’s what you wanted, too.”
“I-- I talked to you! I told you--” he cuts himself off in a strangled cry, shoves his face into the side of his mattress. “Why why why why why.”
“Because of the way you move, Yuuri. If I could get out of this portrait frame...” he sighs, voice trailing off suggestively, and Yuuri can barely comprehend it.
“If you could then what,” he challenges, bewildered. He sits back on his heels and takes the portrait in.
“Mm,” says Viktor, a finger on his lips, “that hardly matters, considering I am a portrait and couldn’t make good on any promises. But I’m sure,” he continues confidently, “that once I’m here in the flesh, I’ll tell you exactly what I think about you.”
For a few moments, Yuuri’s mind imagines Viktor stepping from the portrait, watercolors pooling from the frame onto the floor and rising up to form Viktor Nikiforov, currently Russia’s most valuable Quidditch Seeker and essentially the founder of their team, which is favored to win the World Cup.
This does not happen. Instead, there are several disturbing thumps from downstairs.
“Oh,” says the watercolor Viktor, while Mari begins a low holler of Yuuri’s name, “there I am.”
Yuuri doesn’t need his broom to fly down the hallways of Yu-topia. His feet do perfectly fine-- though they stop working, when he comes to the fireplace.
Everything stops working, when he sees Viktor Nikiforov, barely clothed and only slightly singed, the soot dashed perfectly over his high cheekbones and chest, charcoal sprinkled over moonlight.
“Hello, Yuuri,” he says, and Viktor Nikiforov knows his name. “Do you have a bath we could use together?”
“W-we?” Yuuri sputters.
“You’re in an ONSEN,” snorts Mari, who is far less impressed, and after double-checking that there are no Muggles, gives a flick of her wand that has towels swirling about them in the air like a flock of snowy white owls. "Clean out a room for him, would you, Yuuri?"
"Get a room for your training partner," Viktor agrees.
Yuuri's too startled to do anything but run.
Up the stairs, flinging his door wide open, yanking his covers over him like they're some kind of invisibility cloak.
Viktor's here. Here, in my home, here--
"Are we playing a game?" Viktor's voice chirps from the frame on the nightstand. "Am I about to chase you into your bedroom? Need some privacy?"
Viktor Nikiforov isn't just here. Viktor Nikiforov is everywhere.
"Please," says Yuuri, in a deep bow, and raises the portrait up to shove into Viktor's arms. They are alone in the hallway, sequestered from Yuuri's family for precious moments. "This is yours."
"Hmm," says Viktor the wizard.
"Hmm," says Viktor the portrait, "didn't I look good on your nightstand? Did you not enjoy our late-night gossip about--"
"I'M KEEPING HIM," Yuuri blurts, and stuffs the frame into the front of his shirt.
"I already have another frame for him anyway," Viktor says, with a dismissive wave of his hand. "I'm quite familiar with my portrait. Speaking of familiarity, though! If we're going to be practice partners for Quidditch, then we should start getting closer right away."
"Practice partners," Yuuri says dazedly, "working on our skills as Seekers? Together?"
Viktor's Quidditch team won the World Cup, four years ago. They'll probably win this one, too. Yuuri's team landed in a dismal 6th place, out of 16 teams there, because Yuuri couldn't keep it together. A whole game riding on him, and the Snitch had slipped through his fingers, 150 points dancing out of his vision. He hadn't even been able to play against Viktor in the flesh.
"Of course," says Viktor easily, and beams. "Together. Like we wanted, at the last World Cup."
That's certainly what Yuuri wanted, but he only expects the members of his Quidditch team at Mahoutokoro and every magical inhabitant of Hasetsu to be familiar with it. Maybe Nishigori got ahold of a lock of Viktor's hair, and some polyjuice potion. Maybe it's all an elaborate prank. With this as his only reasonable explanation, he steps forward, snags Viktor by his robes and tugs him in.
"Nishigori," he says in Japanese, "this prank isn't funny. Your English is better than when I left, though."
"Ah," says the fake Viktor Nikiforov in English, voice dipping, and is he blushing? "What was that?"
Yuuri lets go of his robes. Takes a step back.
"You're really Viktor Nikiforov," he says.
The flush seems to drop from his cheeks, head tilting carefully to the side. "And who were you expecting?"
"Maybe I got hit in the head by a Bludger," Yuuri muses. Viktor's smile grows ever wider, tightening at the edges. "Maybe I never came home from my international competition. Maybe I'm lying in the hospital right now, hallucinating."
There has to be an explanation, mystical and magical or medical, for this.
"If you were," says Viktor readily, "I'd conjure you flowers and wait for you to wake up. I'd hold your hand while sitting at your bedside and--"
"You don't have to do that!"
Apparating is hard enough when you're concentrating. When trying to escape the strangely flirtatious words of your idol, it feels easy enough to nearly splinch himself, and leave the hand Viktor was subtly and inexplicably reaching for right there in the hallway. Maybe his beating heart is still there-- his chest feels empty, yearning.
Why are you here?
Despite being the most talented man on a broom in the entirety of the world, Viktor prefers to either Apparate or use Floo Powder. “Much more surprising, that way,” he hums to Yuuri, and scoots in close, wrapping a hand around Yuuri’s wrist. Apparently, the scene in the hallway is going to repeat itself. “My portrait told me all about your room. May I see it now? I’ll see it anyway, when we sleep in there later.” Yuuri screams, probably about as attractively as a Mandrake Root pulled from the ground, and pushes away.
He does not want to know what else Viktor’s portrait has revealed to the wizard himself. Instead, he spends Viktor’s first day hauling boxes to his new room.
"Surely you can do that with magic," Viktor hums, as Yuuri sets down the last box.
"No-Maj," he huffs in return, and wipes at his brow. "The magical tourism got lackluster, so we started having, um, No-Maj. Can't walk through all the hallways like that." Yuuri is a professional athlete. Yuuri shouldn't be sweating from carrying boxes down a hall. Yuuri bets Viktor Nikiforov has never broken a sweat in his entire life. Although the idea of him glistening, fringe whipping in the wind as Viktor chases a Snitch, over a flushed brow, is sending a shiver through his brain-- his brain. His brain. "Are you a Legilimens?!"
There are rumours. Of course, there are also rumours that Viktor is a Parseltongue and three-quarters Veela or a mermaid with legs, but those probably aren't true, and none would involve Viktor reading his dirty mind. But a Legilimens... this would explain how Viktor knew about his hopes for the last World Cup, how he knew--
"Haha," says Viktor lightly, and crouches, finger tapping pleasantly at his lip. "Maaaybe. Why, are you?"
Viktor won't be able to read his mind anymore, if it's reduced to a puddle by Viktor himself.
Until then-- until then, Viktor's going to know everything, and Yuuri's not going to be able to stop him.
Viktor does not sleep in his room, though he has no problem with using Alohomora on Yuuri's door.
"He's jealous of me!" Chirps Portrait Viktor, and Yuuri scoffs at him even as he frantically presses against the door.
"Yuuuuuuri," says Viktor.
Yuuuuuuuri, texts Phichit. I promise I had nothing to do with this.
Yuuri pauses, considers not providing Thailand's star Keeper with any potential firepower, but the need to know wins out. But if you did, he texts back miserably, which love potion did you use?
WHY DO YOU THINK THERE HAS BEEN A LOVE POTION USED?!?
DID YOU, AS THE HOGWARTS KIDS SAY IT, SNOG
SCRATCH THAT I KNOW HOW OBSESSED YOU ARE, IS HE GOOD IN BED
WHAT IS GOING ON
ARE YOU GONNA HAVE A LOVECHILD WHILE VIKTOR'S ON THE LOVE POTION?
I HEAR THAT'S BAD NEWS OR SOMETHING
His phone buzzes all night, much to Portrait Viktor's veiled displeasure.
For all that they are apparently going to be 'training partners,' Viktor has no issue taking his time in settling in.
"Get your muscle back," he says, Quidditch Through the Ages propped in his lap and its pages flipping lazily with indiscernible flicks of Viktor's wand, "and then we'll practice together." His poodle Makkachin, the most magical dog Yuuri has ever seen, whuffles in agreement and curls around his legs.
A few days in, returning to the onsen from a run, Yuuri watches Viktor's owl descend gracefully to his window, a single white feather drifting elegantly to the ground.
Then: screaming. Yuuri sprints to the door to Viktor's room, wringing his hands and wondering if someone is dying. Yuuri's not good at dueling. If he blasts open the door and tries to disarm anyone, he's not sure he'd be any help, but if there's some dark wizard casting a curse on Viktor he'll never forgive himself and--
The yelling dies out, and Viktor emerges, jinbei arranged perfectly over his shoulders and saintly smile still in place.
"It was a Howler," he says, calmly. "A Durmstrang student that I know." A laugh, then, strange and just slightly different from the others Yuuri has seen-- it's addicting. Like Butterbeer, sliding deliciously down Yuuri's throat, making him want.
"Is he-- going to send more?"
"Howlers? Oh, maybe. Those are the only letters he sends, the others don't do his personality justice. We'll be lucky if he doesn't fly over on a Nimbus to talk to us in person!"
Yuuri has felt simultaneously like the luckiest and the most doomed wizard in all the magical world during the last week, so he's not sure what to make of that. Viktor writes the student a letter back at the dinner table one day: work hard, stay in school! Durmstrang doesn't seem to allow students to disappear during the middle of a school year, so Yuuri's cautious circling of the new addition to his life is undisrupted, peaceful. Perhaps it's like a Quidditch match. Life, quick as a crackle of lightning around him, none of it as important as that flash of gold in front of his Seeker's eyes. Viktor is that gold, hidden and slipping through his fingers, but all Yuuri has ever wanted.
Training partners. Yuuri's not sure where Viktor is leading, but he knows he'll follow.
When most of the weight has melted off-- why is there no spell for weight loss, yet?-- he spends an afternoon letting Bludgers chase him around the warded Ice Castle Hasetsu.
“Hello!” Calls Viktor, suddenly, and a Bludger slams into a distracted Yuuri’s side-- he reels, grips at his broom and barely stops from tumbling to the ice below. Blearily, he remembers to check for Yuuko-- but she’s not there. With a sigh of relief, Yuuri uses his wand to capture the Bludger and descends to the frozen surface of he rink. “Your team would be glad to know you still practice with this intensity. The Toyohashi Tengus say they haven’t heard from you since the World Cup.”
The way he says it, confident and informed, it’s as though he didn’t come over on the Floo Network mere minutes after his portrait told him there was a sad and inappropriate Quidditch player doing pole dancing moves in his pajamas.
Yuuri’s still not really sure how that worked, actually. He’s also not sure why Viktor thinks it’s perfectly fine to lift Yuuri’s shirt and murmur a healing spell.
So close, so tenderly confident, and Yuuri doesn’t know what to do.
"Are you always," he blurts, and Viktor looks up from the delicate motions of his wand. "Are you always like this?" Sure, and sweet, and with fingers splayed across the stomach of a man he barely knows.
"If you like 'this,'" Viktor says charmingly, "then yes."
Yuuri gapes at him. "You're not some kind of reverse Boggart," Yuuri says, words tumbling. Viktor could be a magical creature, for all he knows. There's certainly something bewitching about him.
Squeezing his eyes shut, Yuuri realizes he's now committed to explaining himself. "Um, you know, how Boggarts look into your head and become whatever you fear. You're not… the reverse of that. You can't look into someone's head and become whatever they love."
During Care of Magical Creatures classes at Mahoutokoro, Yuuri might have nodded off once or twice, because someone had decided it was a good idea for students to be handling blast-ended Skrewts bright and early in the morning. Now, he wishes he hadn't.
"Almost anything is possible with magic," comes Viktor's reply, slow and thoughtful.
"Not all magic is good," Yuuri shoots back.
"If I could shift into whatever you needed," he says, inexplicably, "I don't think that'd be dark arts."
"Anything that harms you is," Yuuri mutters. "You can just… be yourself." The blue eyes blink rapidly, wand disappearing back into the fold of his coat. Viktor stands, the trace of his fingers tickling over Yuuri's hip.
"Are you always like this?" An echo, his words from Viktor's lips. Strangely awed-- like Yuuri surprises him, too.
"Always like what," Yuuri replies, flat, tugging his practice shirt back down over the curve of his stomach. "Getting hit by bludgers, you mean."
"Real," Viktor corrects, so quiet. "No illusions. No mindbending magic. Just you."
"I have an Disillusionment spell cast over this whole rink?"
"Yuuri," Viktor sighs, and refuses to explain anything at all.
Still, when Yuuri hesitantly takes back to the air, Viktor joins him. Muscled legs tucked in, form perfectly aerodynamic, smile so breathtaking Yuuri wonders if the Bludger managed to take out one of his lungs, earlier.
"Are we really going to train together?" Yuuri asks, twenty feet high. Viktor has a whole team of Russians, enjoying their off season before training for the World Cup back in his homeland. His team, his precious free time, and he's here with Yuuri.
With a twist of his torso, he comes in line next to Yuuri, bristles of their brooms brushing. "I'd like nothing better," Viktor assures him.
Yuuri barely moves, but his stomach feels like he's done a loop on his broom.
Quidditch practices with two work surprisingly well. There's early mornings, late nights, and one particular Friday. Yuuri's exhausted, thighs and back beginning to complain, as they begin the walk home from the rink. Viktor watches the clouds, fingers at his wand within his pocket.
"You can't change the weather," Yuuri warns him, and reaches out to still his arm. Viktor shifts, captures his hand in the crook of his elbow, and smiles.
"What does Yuuko think you do in there?" Yuuko, despite having charmed her way into Nishigori's wizard heart, is very much a Muggle. Yuuri can hardly wait until the girls come of age, and she's officially allowed to know about Nishigori's magical work. In the meantime, the triplets are wreaking extra havoc as young witches lacking control of their youthful powers.
"She thinks I'm, ah, a private and shy ice skater."
"And you're not."
"I… skate, too." Private is also a word that applies.
"I want to see you skate!"
"You want to see me fall," Yuuri states, and scrunches up his nose.
"Nonsense. If I wanted to see you fall, I'd look at Quidditch tape footage. Much more height." Yuuri can't help the wounded look he shoots Viktor, the way the words have him jolting and falling out of step with the Russian, hand dropping from Viktor's arm. Yuuri's fallen during too many important matches; he knows. He knows that's how others see him. "What?"
"Let's just go back," he bites out.
"I've upset you," Viktor realizes, probably reading his mind and all the terrible, dark swirling thoughts in it, and snags his wrist. "Yuuri. I don't mean to upset you."
Strangely, Yuuri knows he doesn't. Knows that for all of Viktor's blunt and careless words, the way he throws around his magic so easily, that isn't what defines him. The last few weeks have been laughter, wind whipping in their hair as they fly high above festival lights, ice cream dripping down their chins, magic sparking from their wands. They even took a Portkey to Durmstrang, one weekend, to watch the blonde student, Yurio, chase down the Golden Snitch like it had personally offended his feelings.
Viktor is brilliant, and loving, and kind, and Yuuri wants him.
"I know," Yuuri says, and Viktor squeezes tighter, just so, before releasing him. "I understand."
When Yuuri is comfortable enough to let Viktor watch him fly on blades, rather than a broom, there are open arms waiting for him.
"Fly with me," he says, like an incantation that makes Yuuri's head spin, and then they're kicking off into the night sky from behind Ice Castle Hasetsu. Into a sky that's clear and starlit; impossibly, deeply blue.
Around each other they dip, and dive, and fall. A barrel roll, four times in the air, a pirouette atop his broom while Viktor gasps and laughs. They weave into each other in the light of the moon, closer and closer-- and when Yuuri spins out of a loop, hanging upside down in the air, there Viktor is. Blown into his space by the breeze, whispering high above the sea. Floating, close enough to kiss the sky.
He kisses Yuuri instead.
I love you, his mind sings, and Yuuri is sure Viktor can hear.
"Accio Yuuri," Viktor says, and taps his wand to Yuuri's lips. It says something, that Yuuri no longer sputters and flushes at this, but leans over to give him a quick kiss without a second thought.
Minako's brewing potion nearly explodes, and she narrows her eyes at him from across her bar. "How long?" She questions in Japanese.
Not nearly long enough, Yuuri thinks. Viktor's been here for months; the real Quidditch season will start soon. The Tengus have graciously asked him back-- though Yuuri's not sure why. He has no doubt that the Russians are awaiting the arrival of their leader.
Another few weeks, and Viktor will be gone. Yuuri will still be here, with his broken heart and his wand shaking in his hands, hoping that they'll meet on the Quidditch pitch again someday. Maybe, if Yuuri's lucky, Viktor will Apparate and visit him on the weekends.
Viktor watches him out of the corner of his eyes. He knows what Yuuri's thinking, knows what he wants. Nothing is said.
"What was your favorite subject in school?"
"Divination," Viktor responds, without hesitation. Yuuri squints. The Quidditch magazines like to say Dark Arts; the fangirls like to say Care of Magical Creatures. Viktor says Divination, and turns off the lights in his bedroom with a swish of his wand.
Now that Yuuri thinks about it, divination makes sense.
"It's stories," he realizes. "Stories that you see, about the future. That's why you enjoy it."
Viktor tucks his face into Yuuri's shoulder, breathes long and deep and peaceful. "Yes." The feeling of Viktor in his arms is better than any sleeping draught, any calming spell. They lie in the quiet, listen to the thump of Makkachin's tail on the blankets near their feet. "Yuuri."
"I never used to see my own future, when I did divination. I'd stare into crystal balls and leftover tea leaves for hours."
"That sounds awful," Yuuri grumbles, a biased listener. Yuuri's favorite subject was transfiguration-- magically flexible, his professors called him. Divination hadn't held much interest; divination had seemed like his anxiety screaming at him from the stars above, dark promises of darker futures.
The stars are quieter, when he's under them with Viktor.
"You're a nonbeliever," Viktor gasps, and twists in Yuuri's arms.
"I'll drink plenty of tea for you to read," Yuuri says with a smirk, "I just might not believe what you say?"
"Heartless man," Viktor muffles into Yuuri's sleep shirt. He seems to fall asleep then, palm circling in gentle stutters on Yuuri's back.
I wish I could make a future with you, Yuuri thinks, and like an answer to his silent call, Viktor turns his face up.
"I see my future now."
"In crystal balls?" Yuuri breathes.
"In you," comes his reply, and the night goes quiet.
The Toyahashi Tengus have their first practice for the Quidditch World Cup in a week. Preparing with Viktor has been so frequent, so intense, that Yuuri flies in his sleep-- Viktor his companion, even in dreams.
Yuuri wonders when Viktor is leaving, and is terrified to ask. Although he likely hears the question-- for all it rolls around in Yuuri's head-- he doesn't give an answer.
"Oh," says Viktor one evening, and shuts the curtain on his window. It's not a particularly expressive oh, but Yuuri knows him now. Yuuri knows him enough. Yuuri fetches his robes, offers them with outstretched arms that he doesn't let shake. "Yakov has sent me a thestral," says Viktor. "I'm meant to ride it back to Russia."
Yuuri looks out the window. He sees nothing.
"Viktor," he says carefully, "you saw it, out there."
"Yes," he replies, and Yuuri opens his arms, and he tumbles in-- no wands, no brooms, no magic, just Viktor and Yuuri, Yuuri and Viktor, until it's all Yuuri can think, all he can imagine. In his mind: be with me, always, and Viktor has to know. The words writhe in his mouth, a curse he won't cast. "Tell me to stay, Yuuri. Tell me to be with you, always."
Portrait Viktor is gone from his frame, too. Yuuri hadn't noticed, till he returned to his own room to sleep. Everything quiet, and empty.
Yuuri puts up new moving pictures: Viktor's face, everywhere on his wall, Yuuri's right beside it.
The Quidditch team has changed. Not that Yuuri spent a lot of time with each of them personally-- a Seeker has different drills, a different goal, and only talks to Beaters on rare occasion. Seeker can be the loneliest position on a Quidditch team, something widely known and left unacknowledged; capturing gold requires that solitude.
Minami Kenjirou, a Chaser fresh from Mahoutokoro's Quidditch pitch, stares at him fiercely.
"I'm going to score so many goals for you," the blonde announces.
"Uh," says Yuuri.
"If I score a hundred goals-- NO! A thousand goals," he continues, nudging ever closer on his broom, Quaffle tucked under his arm, "will you consider signing another contract with the Tengus?"
"Uh," says Yuuri.
A contract. Yuuri is a professional athlete, and he's signed a contract, and it's up after the World Cup.
The Russian team doesn't need a Seeker, he fiercely reminds himself. They already have Viktor.
There are limits, to how far even magic can take you. To travel between Russia and Japan there's the Floo network, thestrals and brooms, Apparation-- these things take time.
He's already taken up so much of Viktor's time.
The Golden Snitch, though now an enchanted ball, was originally a bird. A living, breathing thing, to be captured and kept and used. Yuuri doesn't think he could have been a Seeker, in the olden days.
Still, he the rest of the Toyohashi Tengus seem perfectly satisfied with seeking out fellow wizard blood; Bludgers and carefully timed twists will carry them through the Cup. A Tengu is meant to be a godly creature, avian and evil spirited, but by nature it can still be easily tricked.
"We know you practiced with Viktor Nikiforov," says their coach, the night before their first World Cup match. "If we go up against him, we're hoping you'll stay focused." Quietly, Yuuri doubts that facing Viktor will even be an issue.
Somehow, between diving for the Snitch, replicating Viktor's signature dive to the crowd's thunderous screams, and getting a nosebleed from a Bludger, the Tengus make it to the top 8 again.
If he wants to face Viktor on the same Quidditch pitch, it means fighting for the World Cup. Yuuri's never flown faster, thrown himself from his broom with greater abandon.
Walking out onto that final pitch, waving at the rest of the team's fans, Yuuri can hardly believe that he's here. All he'd wanted was to fly with Viktor; something that had already been granted. Now they sit opposite each other, tense on their brooms, awaiting the signal.
"Watch me," Viktor teases, deep and unbelievable. There's a whole Quidditch World Cup on the line, and he still makes Yuuri laugh.
"Watch me," Yuuri calls, and darts ahead of him, where Viktor has no choice but to look.
Even in a match, they know each others flight patterns too well. Moving about each other in a dance; a nearly imperceptible twist of his shoulders and Yuuri's going to turn, the widening of Viktor's sharp gaze a telltale sign-- he's seen it.
Viktor stares and rockets past him, air current sucking Yuuri into his wake, wind whipping over his ears. Viktor's known for his speed, his turns. Quidditch games have been known to last days, for lack of a catch of the Snitch, lack of gold in hand. Ones with Viktor Nikiforov are over before the audience can blink, flawless in execution.
Yuuri, on the other hand, has stamina. A Snitch has flight patterns, ones that can be manipulated by coming at it from certain angles-- he can keep the Snitch from Viktor, till the other Seeker tires.
He hopes he can. It works, for precious minutes. Then Viktor has the perfect approach, lifts his arm--
Yuuri crouches on his broom, and jumps.
Yuuri's falling, hand closed around a fluttering heartbeat and another man's grip, his feet dangling in the air.
"Yuuri," says Viktor, "don't let go. Hold onto me."
He can't. Always, always, he can't hold on.
The Golden Snitch is lost, wings folding, and it plummets beside him in the moments before Viktor dives, broom unable to keep up.
"You're CRAZY!" Yuuri screams. Free falling together, the pitch speeding towards them, infinitely green. "You're crazy, you're crazy, why would you--"
"You're the one that jumped off your broom first, we're two hundred feet in the air, why do you have to be so competitive, you--"
Even when tumbling to the ground at maximum velocity, Viktor makes him laugh. No matter how fast they fall, they do it together, pulling each other close.
The Levitation charm hits them, like being dropped into water. They're left bobbing and breathless, floating even with the stands. There is no clapping.
"Who got the bloody Snitch?!" Someone yells out.
"You have it," they chorus at once, still held in each others arms. Shining innocently on the pitch, deactivated below them, is the Snitch. Later, they'll learn that, according to the memory charm embedded in the golden surface, they captured it together. It'll go on their mantle, will open only when they hold it between their palms.
"This simply doesn't happen," says one referee, looking at the score "We don't? They're… tied?"
"There's never been a draw for a Quidditch World Cup!"
There may or may not be a riot in the Quidditch stands, much to the host Spain's displeasure, but Yuuri and Viktor are held above it all, clutching close.
"I've missed you," Viktor says, and Yuuri's dropped hundreds of feet through the air but it's never made his stomach feel like this.
"Me too," he pleads, and hugs him fiercely. "I'm sorry. I'm selfish, this is selfish, but I want you in Hasetsu. I'm going to say it aloud, even if I'm sure you've already heard it a million times--"
"This is the first time," Viktor says in wonder. "The first time, that you asked me to stay in Hasetsu and stay close to you, since the last World Cup."
"But," he shifts, looks Viktor in the eye, "you're a Legilimens! Didn't you hear what I was thinking?"
"I'm a what," says Viktor, and somehow-- somehow, all the things he's been doing that Yuuri's desperately hoped for, desperately wanted and thought a million times, all of those things… he didn't hear them. He wasn't reading Yuuri's mind, just knew him, wanted what Yuuri wanted in shuddering harmony.
There's something that doesn't fit, still. Maybe it's not normal to have this discussion in front of a rioting crowd while still floating in the air, but their relationship has never been conventional.
"How did you know that I wanted you," Yuuri whispered, "last World Cup?"
Whoever was kind enough to cast the Levitation spell begins to let them drift towards the ground, till they land on their feet.
"Apparently," says Viktor, "we have more to talk about than I thought."
They're getting ready for the Championship party-- hosted by a confused and flustered Spanish team, who are still recovering from what is now being called The Dual Riot-- while they have a much needed discussion. Viktor purses his lips and adjusts Yuuri's tie while he tells the tale.
"I did what at the last Championship party?"
“Mm,” says Viktor absently, “well, you were on Veritaserum, which someone snuck into the Elderflower wine. They meant to make for a much more exciting and offensive Championship party. I think, with the way someone from the Canadian team was running his mouth, they believed he'd taken an illegal dose of Felix Felicis and hoped they'd get him to confess. Nobody is careful with the use of restricted substances, anymore.” Oh, no, Yuuri thinks, and crumples, his face dropping into his hands.
“So when I was on Veritaserum, I... I asked you to be my training partner?” At least he hadn't asked Viktor to be his partner, in the romantic sense of the word. Yuuri comforts himself with that, in the brief moments before Viktor replies.
“You asked me to stay close to you and never leave,” Viktor corrects. Instantly, Yuuri starts wondering if it's possible to cast a Killing Curse on yourself out of sheer embarrassment. Before he can chase that thought too far, Viktor's lacing their fingers together, something joyful creeping over his face. “Everyone else, saying all these hilariously awful things--cruel things and confident things, devastating things-- and there... there you were. Proclaiming love and admiration, like that was the only truth you knew. You, raw and perfect. I like you shy, Yuuri. I like you bold. But when you’re honest with what you feel, or use your actions to show it, well. I can’t help but love you.”
There’s no reason for Yuuri to not kiss that smile. The sparks that sift through the touch are more magical than half of Yuuri’s education at Mahoutokoro.
“And what did you tell this mad wizard,” Yuuri whispers, “who asked you these mad things?”
Viktor laughs, a rumble against his lips. “I told him that I’d stay close,” he replies, “that I’d catch him, no matter where he went, now that he'd asked. Even though it took me three years, to go to him, and a nosy Portrait to tell me that I was still wanted and that he was still perfect. I told him he was my golden Snitch.”
Yuuri’s heartbeat, as fast as the Snitch’s wings.
“Did you,” Yuuri breathes, “that night, did you drink the truth serum too?”
“Oh,” Viktor shrugs, nuzzles closer, “yes. Though Veritaserum doesn’t make much of a difference, with me when I'm with you.”
Yuuri thinks of blunt words, of lying only with his facial expression. Of truths that seemed too good to be truths at all, of a sweet wizard who Yuuri keeps expecting to Apparate away, but who stays and stays and stays.
“No,” he laughs, “I guess it wouldn’t.”
The portrait frame of Viktor back in Hasetsu is empty, the captured Viktor Nikiforov of a time long ago out somewhere in the world, exploring and visiting and dreaming of a home. Viktor, who smiles because he’s expected to, because he was painted that way. But a portrait is not the wizard himself.
Stay with me, Yuuri thinks, always stay.
This time, he says it aloud.
"Yuuri," says Viktor during the Championship party, only slightly tipsy, and fiddles with his broom-calloused fingers. "Would you consider getting a portrait, someday?"
"I don't know if I--"
It's his birthday gift, the next year. The artist is generous, the curve of Yuuri's cheeks complimentary, a sparkle in his eyes. Portrait Yuuri adjusts his blue glasses with a trembling finger, peeks out at them with flushed cheeks before ducking his chin into his scarf. On his finger winks a golden ring, which has come to sit on Yuuri's real finger, too.
"Hello," he says.
"The spitting image of you," Viktor proclaims fondly. There's not enough room for both of their portraits, over the mantle in Viktor's apartment where their well-used fireplace stands, their access to the Floo Network that allows Viktor to continue to carry his team and Yuuri, to satisfy his strange agreement with Minami to sign with the Tengus again.
Room for just one frame, fitting above their mantel. Nicely above the Snitch they caught, together. This turns out to not be an issue.
"He's becoming more like you everyday," Yuuri observes. A portrait is not the wizard himself. But with both of their portraits cuddled up happily in the same frame, it's becoming harder to tell the painting and the man apart.