“Come on, Yuuri! It worked so well the last time.”
“No, Phichit. I’m not doing it again.” Yuuri pressed down the pedal of the sewing machine slowly, carefully turning the fabric to stitch along the curve. The seam was too short to give Yuuri an excuse to drown out Phichit’s arguing for very long. He released the fabric and cut the threads free, holding it up to the bright lamp to inspect his work.
“But I already made this one to your measurements,” Phichit pouted. “Please. Just this once.”
“Last time was ‘just this once,’” Yuuri reminded him. “And I don’t get why you even want me to, anyway. I’m a laughing stock.” He stood from his table, taking the garment over to the dressform to make sure the shoulder seam didn’t pucker. The fabric had little give to it, so it was more important than usual to have perfect, uniform seams. Yuuri didn’t quite understand why anyone would request such stiff materials for skating, but it wasn’t his problem.
“And like I said, you’re definitely not,” Phichit said. “She didn’t even blame you for the malfunction. It wasn’t your fault.”
“It was,” Yuuri said. “If I’d double-checked the skirt—”
“She insisted on that fabric knowing full well it wouldn’t hold up to much strain. We warned her, remember?”
“I shouldn’t have made it.” Yuuri plucked at the fabric, checking for symmetry. It wasn’t quite perfect, but it wasn’t worth ripping the seam and trying again. No one without a tailor’s eye could tell it wasn’t perfect, and in his experience, customers rarely complained about things like this.
“It wasn’t your fault, Yuuri,” Phichit said again. “Besides, that has nothing to do with what I’m asking here. I need a model, this costume is made for you, and when I dress you up, no one even recognizes you. You’re definitely not a laughing stock—you made us more popular than ever.”
Yuuri frowned at his work, and tugged the garment off the dressform. At his table he sat down again and pulled out his seam ripper, carefully undoing the seam he’d just sewn. Maybe the customer wouldn’t notice, but he did, and it would bother him until it was fixed.
“Yuuri,” Phichit groaned. “Please. We don’t have enough in our budget this month to hire a model that looks like you. I’m really proud of this one, and it will look really good on you. I promise.”
“So is this advertising, or something for our catalog?” Yuuri asked through the pins clenched between his teeth. He pinned the shoulder seam again, careful to make sure he only pierced within the seam allowance.
“Both, ideally,” Phichit said, clearly excited to hear something that wasn’t an outright ‘no.’ “I’ll make it again if anyone asks, but it would take a special sort of performer to request it.”
Yuuri finished pinning and examined his work again before giving Phichit a sidelong glance. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“Nope. Not saying anything. You’ll just have to be surprised.” Phichit came over and shook Yuuri’s shoulders. “Come on, please? Leo owes me a favor, so we can book his studio again.”
The movements made Yuuri stab himself with a pin. “Ow, Phichit!” He thrust his hand away from the fabric, holding it aloft until he made sure his finger wasn’t bleeding. He only had to make the mistake of bleeding on a costume once before he learned never to let it happen again.
Phichit released him and stepped away sheepishly. “Sorry. Please, Yuuri? Will you be my model?”
No blood, thank goodness. Still, Yuuri set the jacket aside until he was completely sure, and sighed heavily. “Yes, yes, fine. After I finish this jacket, which will probably won’t be until tomorrow or the next day.” Yuuri had to concede that he wouldn’t get any more work done tonight, late as it was. On top of redoing the shoulder seam, he still needed to press it, add the lining, and finish it with the trim, which would have to be hand-sewn since that particular brand had a tendency to get eaten by the machine.
“Tell you what,” Phichit said, leaning on the table. “I’ll do the trim on that jacket tomorrow if you promise not to say one word of complaint when you model for me. Not about the makeup, the costume, any props I tell you to use, or any poses I put you in.”
Yuuri flushed at the implications. “Just what are you planning to do with me?”
“I have a vision, and I don’t want you to sully it with your endless complaining,” Phichit said with a sinister smile. “I need your trust for this.”
Yuuri looked at the jacket on the table. He’d been absolutely dreading the trim, since he was relatively slow at sewing by hand. He’d learned the machine first, and only developed his hand technique in the past year with Phichit’s help. Phichit would undoubtedly have it done in half the time it would take Yuuri, as he’d been sewing by hand since he was three.
But just what did Phichit want Yuuri to do that he wouldn’t be allowed to complain?
“Deal,” Yuuri said, already feeling like he was making a mistake.
Phichit grinned, and threw his arm around Yuuri’s shoulder. “Good. Now come to bed; you’re getting cranky. You shouldn’t even be down here.”
Yuuri couldn’t help but smile. “Fine, fine.” Careful not to dislodge Phichit’s arm, Yuuri reached over and turned off the lamp and the sewing machine. On the way out, Yuuri flipped the switch to their work area, and closed the door firmly behind them.
It started out as a practicality that Yuuri and Phichit shared an apartment. After Yuuri had graduated college, all he could afford on his 30-hour-a-week retail job was a tiny apartment by himself, cutting and piecing patterns on the floor whenever he found time. For two years he saved up every penny he could from costume commissions, eventually building up enough work that he could quit his job and finally move to a bigger place.
When Yuuri decided he’d needed a partner after the 80 hours a week of work had proven unsustainable, Phichit practically fell into his lap. They’d gone to the same college, been in the same program, even shared a couple of classes in Yuuri’s senior year, though Yuuri hadn’t really remembered him. Phichit was a prodigy when it came to design work, and while he often lacked patience for patterning, his ideas always turned out beautiful. Yuuri had been in awe of him as soon as he saw his portfolio, and offered the new graduate a partnership on the spot.
Together they moved into an old two-floor building, using the industrial space on the bottom floor for their work, and keeping their living space to the second floor. It didn’t really have rooms, the bathroom the only place closed off with a door. Phichit had worked his magic and used cheap materials to section off a living space and bedroom space for them, and over the months they’d lived together, it transformed into something resembling a comfortable home.
Yuuri loved it. He felt like finally, after years of struggling on his own, he had finally carved out a place for himself, and he had Phichit to thank for it.
“Did you eat anything?” Phichit asked, pouring himself a glass of water from the pitcher they kept in the fridge.
Yuuri actually had to think. “I ate uh… when you brought me that sandwich.”
Phichit’s eyes widened. “Yuuri, that was lunch. Almost twelve hours ago.” He shook his head. “I knew it. I knew as soon as I went out to hang out with my friends without you, you’d work way longer than you should. It’s a wonder you didn’t work yourself to death before I joined you.”
Yuuri smiled sheepishly. “I was close to it more than once.”
Phichit swore under his breath, probably in Thai if Yuuri heard right. He pointed threateningly at Yuuri. “Alright, you. Food, then sleep. You’re sleeping in tomorrow morning, and you’re taking the day off.”
Yuuri opened his mouth to remind him that they needed to start on the next project as soon as the jacket was finished, but Phichit cut him off. “No. You can take one day.”
“Isn’t it technically two days, since you’re making me model for you?” Yuuri asked.
“That’s still working, Yuuri.” Yuuri wasn’t the only one who got cranky at night, it seemed. “I’ll finish that jacket and start work on the next thing tomorrow. But I’m banning you from the workshop all day. Stay up here and watch Netflix all day if you want, but you need some time to yourself. Now sit. I’ll make you another of my gourmet sandwiches, since that’s all the food we’ve bothered to buy this week.”
Yuuri sat on one of their barstools, pretending to be annoyed but secretly grateful for Phichit’s care. He sipped the water Phichit slid in front of him.
“You look so tired,” Phichit said after he’d pulled the ingredients out of the fridge. “Maybe we should just go to bed.”
Yuuri waved him off. “I’m fine. I can eat a sandwich.”
Phichit pressed his lips together and said nothing as he swiftly constructed the ham sandwich, with spicy mustard and Havarti cheese, just the way Yuuri liked it. He pushed the plate in front of Yuuri, and leaned on the counter, watching him closely.
“This is what you used to be like, isn’t it?” Phichit asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Before you hired me. Working nonstop all day, hardly eating or sleeping.”
“I had a schedule,” Yuuri said, but he knew it was a weak defense. “I had alarms set for when I needed to eat and sleep, but…”
“You didn’t stick to it, and one day you collapsed?” Phichit knew this story.
Yuuri nodded, feeling miserable at the memory. “I knew I couldn’t keep up anymore. I’d taken on too much work.”
“You work harder than anyone I’ve ever met,” Phichit said. “I used to think it was admirable, but once I really got to know you, I saw how it was killing you. Just in the time I’ve worked with you, I’ve seen you go from pale and sickly to someone with some color in his cheeks. Someone who looks like he might’ve had a meal more than once a day.”
Yuuri looked down shyly. “I only have you to thank for that.”
Phichit reached over and fluffed up Yuuri’s hair. “I’m aware. I’m never letting you go back to that life.” He walked around the kitchen island to stand behind Yuuri, using his warm hands to massage Yuuri’s back. “You’re talented, but it’ll all go to waste if you work yourself to death.”
Yuuri groaned and leaned into his touch. He hadn’t realized just how stiff his back was until Phichit worked his fingers into the knots.
“Finish eating and come to bed,” Phichit said with a final pat. Yuuri nearly cried out when he stepped away.
Yuuri could no longer deny how tired he was, with yawns quickly overcoming him and making his eyes water. He shoved down the last few bites of his sandwich, and washed the plate before going to the bathroom to prepare for bed.
They hadn’t started out sharing a bed. Yuuri had brought his twin bed over from his old apartment, and Phichit had slept on a futon on the floor for several months. But as soon as winter arrived, and the drafty building proved completely insufficient at keeping out the cold, Phichit had crawled into Yuuri’s twin bed, and things had never been the same since.
Phichit liked to cuddle, and, as it turned out, Yuuri did too.
There hadn’t been anything sexual, or even romantic at first between them. They merely worked together each day, and slept together each night. For warmth, for companionship—Yuuri hadn’t wanted to label it anything but a needed comfort at the end of the day. But when Yuuri eventually suggested buying a bigger bed, Phichit seemed to believe it was more serious than that.
And then they’d talked.
And talked. And talked and talked. Yuuri poured his heart out to his friend in a way he’d never done with anyone, not even his poor neglected best friend back in Japan. Phichit responded in kind, telling Yuuri everything about his life, his family, his home, his ambitions. It seemed as though their friendship had grown a thousandfold in one evening.
And then the kissing started.
Phichit was no stranger to kissing, but until that point Yuuri had been. He’d never thought of kissing, never dreamed that anyone would be able to get close enough to even want to. Phichit had leaned in with a trembling breath, and made the soft touch of lips seem like the most natural gesture in the world.
“I’ve been wanting to do that all night,” Phichit had said in a soft whisper. Yuuri didn’t say anything. Couldn’t say anything, because that kiss had awakened something inside him that made him pull Phichit back for more, his heart pulsing with a deep, desperate yearning for physical contact and genuine affection. They’d kissed until their lips had gone red and raw, and when they’d parted and their eyes met, they’d laughed from the sweetness of it all.
For the first time in a long time, Yuuri had felt giddy.
In the months following that fateful night, Yuuri and Phichit only grew closer. It was as though a barrier had been lifted, and suddenly Yuuri found he wasn’t afraid of Phichit finding out anything about him. He wasn’t afraid of Phichit getting closer, of him sweeping out the corners of Yuuri’s mind and finding out his secrets. He wanted Phichit to know him, and that was such an incredibly rare feeling that he couldn’t help but cling to it as hard as he could.
“Yuuri, you take too long,” Phichit pouted. “I’m tired.”
Yuuri finished up brushing his teeth, then sat on the edge of their bed to change. Phichit was already under the covers, his face illuminated by the glow of his phone.
“Phone,” Yuuri reminded him.
“One sec.” Phichit was clearly reading something that had his complete attention. Yuuri crawled into his side of the bed, and looked over Phichit’s shoulder.
“You’re just reading Twitter comments,” Yuuri said with a yawn. “Put it away.”
“Ugh, fine.” Phichit thrust the covers up and stalked across the apartment. Yuuri settled onto his side, and heard the familiar click of Phichit’s phone going on the charger. After a long argument one night Phichit had agreed to keep his phone as far away from their bed as possible, as Phichit’s addiction to social media had gotten so bad that it affected their sleep. He grumbled about it every night, but never failed to comply with Yuuri’s request.
Phichit slid back under the covers and turned off the lamp. “Yuuri.”
Yuuri had been dozing, but woke up just enough to respond. “Hm?”
“Do you really hate doing photoshoots?”
Yuuri turned around to face him. “No. I mean, they’re a pain, but you can make anything look good. No matter how much I complained, the outcome has always been worth it.”
Phichit didn’t say anything, but his eyes were still on Yuuri. He suddenly reached out and plucked the glasses from Yuuri’s face. “Forgetful.”
“Oh.” How had he not noticed? He must’ve been more tired than he thought. He took the glasses from Phichit’s hand and folded them onto his bedside table. “Thanks.”
“I just don’t want to coerce you into it if you really don’t want to,” Phichit said once Yuuri had settled back down. “I don’t want to be a bully.”
Yuuri reached out beneath the covers to find his partner’s hand, and they naturally laced their fingers together. Yuuri squeezed reassuringly. “Sometimes I need to be coerced, or I’ll never do anything different. If it really bothered me, I’d put up more of a fight, trust me.”
“You like being on display,” Phichit teased.
“I like seeing the photos,” Yuuri admitted. “It never really looks like me.”
“Because you put absolutely zero effort into your look,” Phichit said. He reclaimed his hand, and used it to reach out and push around Yuuri’s hair. “You’re sexy, you know.”
“St-stop,” Yuuri said, glad Phichit couldn’t see how flushed he was getting.
“You are. And my next project was made to maximize that sexy side of you. People will be filling our inbox with requests for our work after they see what I’m going to do to you in a couple of days. We’ll have steady work for the next year, I’m sure of it.”
“Just what are you planning to do to me?”
“Shh.” Phichit snuggled close, tucking his head beneath Yuuri’s chin. “Don’t worry about it. Just trust me.”
“You remember my rules?” Yuuri asked, snaking his arm around Phichit’s small body.
“Of course. Don’t be insulting. My costume complies with all your rules. And I know I made you promise not to complain, but if I cross a line, definitely speak up.” Phichit planted a soft kiss on Yuuri’s neck, then turned around in the circle of his arms, his back to Yuuri’s chest.
Yuuri squeezed him a little tighter. “Alright. I will.” Sleep began to claim him, and he drifted off, unsure if Phichit had anything else to say.