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“Hey, Yuuri!”

Yuuri, halfway through carefully putting his Viktor Nikiforov merchandise into his backpack, froze. He had come to the post office at this time hoping to avoid seeing anyone he knew catch him picking up five custom-made prints of Viktor skating made from high definition screenshots Yuuri certainly had not taken and edited himself for maximum beauty.

The prints were wrapped in clear plastic, an oversight that Yuuri would definitely be mentioning in his Yelp review. How was he supposed to hide his shame?

“Hi, Carla.”

Carla was a classmate, a girl in Yuuri’s Narrative Theory class. She was, he thought guiltily, perfectly nice, and contributed during class discussion, and posted her notes in the class Facebook group before the midterms.

She was just a bit...she was kind of...she was nosy as hell. And Yuuri, the poor, shy, international student far from home, was the target of her well-meaning questioning more often than not.

Yuuri didn’t have the heart to tell her he wasn’t shy, he was just bad at human interaction and preferred to use his Narrative Theory lecture to surreptitiously nap with his eyes open.

“Picking up your mail?” She actually bent down to get a better look at what he was holding. “Oh, who’s that? He’s hot.”

“N-no one,” Yuuri said. He slid the prints into his bag and zipped it shut.

“Aw, come on. You can tell me. You’re so mysterious, Yuuri.”

“It’s really nothing.” He shouldered his bag. “Excuse me.”

“Oh, are you heading out? Stop and have coffee with me. It’s freezing out. Can’t believe it’s April and it’s still this cold.”

Yuuri, who was wearing a parka and earmuffs, agreed. Winters in Detroit were awful. On one hand, Carla’s questions. On the other hand, hot caffeine. He sighed.

“Okay.”

“So listen,” Carla said as they ventured out into the freezing afternoon. Yuuri pulled his muffler over his mouth. “Do you wanna go out sometime?”

“What?”

“Do you like Chinese food? There’s this super authentic restaurant that just opened. The sous chef is my cousin’s brother-in-law, and he told me that they were having trouble getting customers in, you know, new place, no reviews. But the food was really good. Are you free Friday?”

“I, uh—” Yuuri blanked. Is she...is she asking me out? No, that’s ridiculous. Carla saw him drool on his desk during lectures about the significance of the centipede in Jealousy, she couldn’t want to date him. “Um—”

“Well, just check your schedule and let me know. It’s, you know, a quiet spot.” Carla touched Yuuri’s arm. “Romantic.”

“Ah,” Yuuri said. He fumbled with his phone, and stared blankly at his calendar. The blank square for Friday mocked him. His plans, to be honest, were skating practice, studying, and hatewatching Iron Fist.

“Let me see?” Carla leaned over his arm to look at his phone. “Who’s that in your wallpaper? Isn’t that the guy you were getting all those pictures of?”

“Yes?”

Yuuri sucked in a breath, fully prepared to undergo the humiliation of having to explain who Viktor Nikiforov was and fully aware that every time he talked about Viktor, he gave people the impression that there was something definitely wrong with him.

“Who is he, a friend?” Carla nudged him in the side with her elbow. Yuuri moved away. “Your boyfriend?”

“Well—” How to explain, Yuuri thought, that he was a Viktor Nikiforov stan and that photographs of Viktor cuddling his poodle always made him smile, without looking creepy? “He’s, uh…”

“Oh my god,” Carla said. Her mouth dropped open. “You have a boyfriend. Is that why you keep turning down dates? You should have said! And here I am hitting on you like an idiot. Oh, man, James is going to die, he’s been trying to get you to have dinner with him for like two semesters, he thought he was wearing you down! Yuuri. You are such a heartbreaker.”

This torrent of information was so bewildering that Yuuri had to spend several seconds parsing it. He had no idea who James was, he had no idea whose heart he was supposed to have broken. He had no idea what to say.

His brain seized on one point: Carla thought Viktor was his boyfriend, not his celebrity idol, and now she was going to stop asking him to do things. She would tell everyone he was dating someone if he didn’t correct her now. Which would be a stupid lie.

“But wait a minute, I’ve totally seen you hook up at parties! Is he a bad boyfriend? Or is it one of those long distance open relationship things? My roommate is in one of those. She and her girlfriend have one night stands, right? But they do it with Skype on, so they can hear each other—”

“Yes!”

“Yes...to which part?”

They were standing outside the coffee shop. Yuuri tilted his phone so that he could text Phichit call me and pretend there’s an emergency without being noticed.

“We’re...long distance. Open.” Yuuri stared at the ground. In his defense, he could hardly tell her Viktor was a bad boyfriend. It was slandering Viktor’s character enough to pretend he might date Yuuri as it was. “It’s private.”

(Yuuri didn’t have anything against open relationships, or polyamory, but he was one hundred percent sure if he ever bamboozled Viktor into paying attention to him he’d be compelled to fight anyone who tried to take it away. Forget sleeping with other people; if Yuuri could get a hold of Viktor, he wouldn’t want him to even look at anyone else.)

“Right. I understand completely.”

This was a disaster. He could never speak to her again. He was going to have to skip Narrative Theory until finals. And he was probably going to have to invent a fake break up in case other people had questions, which they wouldn’t, but now that he was thinking about it he wouldn’t be able to stop.

He could only imagine the response his peers would have when Carla told them that he, cries-in-the-bathroom, eats-ten-instant-noodle-cups-in-one-sitting, drunkenly-gave-lap-dances-to-everyone-in-his-study-group Yuuri Katsuki had a hot foreign boyfriend. They were going to laugh themselves sick.

...what if his rinkmates found out?

...what if, through the skating grapevine, this story got back to Viktor?

Okay, this was a bad idea. He had to correct her somehow. Yuuri hurried to the cashier to order their drinks and give himself a moment to scramble for a solution. He’d just...ask her to keep it quiet, and then pretend he had no idea what anyone was talking about if anyone asked. That would work.

That wouldn’t work.

Yuuri waited by the counter for two mugs of steaming, whip-topped mochas, his with strawberry syrup, and then turned around to find Carla and save himself.

She was sitting at a table by the window. She was not sitting alone. She was sitting next to a man, one with striking silvery hair and who was wearing a cardigan with the Russian flag embroidered on the back of it.

“What the fuck.”

“Is something wrong with your coffee?” the barista asked.

“Something’s wrong with my life!”

Yuuri debated grabbing his mocha and fleeing. There was no way that was actually Viktor—there were lots of Russians who looked like that—it could be a cosplayer—and if it was Viktor, Yuuri did not want to meet him while wearing sweatpants and with two strands of orange hair hanging over his eyes from last week’s Bleach Incident.

Slowly, dreadfully, he approached.

 

 

 

 

 

Viktor had never been to Detroit and so far, he was not impressed.

What had been planned as a fun weekend—a vacation, a chance to try and shake himself out of the fog he was in, a way to get Yakov from giving him that “you are disappointing me, Viktor Nikiforov” look indefinitely—had gone downhill very quickly.

He and Chris had met up in Los Angeles to do a photoshoot for the annual male figure skating charity calendar. Two days of being photographed mostly naked later, they were rinsing off their body oil and boarding a flight back to Switzerland. The plan was to stay a few days with Chris at his place, and then head back to St. Petersburg to get started on next year’s programs.

Instead, bad weather had delayed their flight, Aeroflot’s incompetence had canceled it, and a luggage handlers’ strike in Europe had indefinitely stranded him and Chris here in Detroit, where the weather was cold, the air was drying out his skin, and all of the nice hotels appeared to be full.

“How opposed are you to a honeymoon suite?”

“Is there wifi?”

“It’s a five star hotel, of course there’s wifi.”

“Fine, let’s take it.” Viktor handed Chris his credit card. “On me.”

Chris shrugged and began putting in the payment information for their hotel. As he hit submit, he sighed. “What about my luggage?”

“We can go shopping.”

Chris made a face as he looked around Detroit. “Masumi said he was going to surprise me when I reached home.”

“It’s been two years, how surprising can his dick be?”

“I think he meant he wrote me poetry again.”

Viktor sighed. “So romantic,” he said. “What does Masumi see in you, again?”

“I’m romantic!”

“Chris, after your first date, you texted me saying if he ever read you poetry in bed you’d kick him out because ‘there were better things he could do with his mouth’.”

“I never said that.”

“I have screenshots.”

“You’re going to bring this up at our wedding, aren’t you?”

“Masumi should know what he’s getting into.”

Chris elbowed him. Viktor elbowed him back. This devolved into a slap fight, and they got several odd looks as they trudged out of the airport, followed by a porter hauling Viktor’s three suitcases and Chris’s Vera Bradley carry on.

They hailed down a cab and piled in. Chris rattled off the address of the hotel, Viktor hurriedly texted it to himself for when he inevitably got lost in Detroit and needed it, and they rode through the city in silence.

The cab pulled up outside the lobby. As they checked in, Viktor’s stomach growled, and Chris grinned at him as he collected their room keys.

“Let’s go out. No use sitting in the hotel.”

“I’m starving,” Viktor agreed. “And we can get you clothes.”

They handed off Viktor’s luggage to a bellboy and headed back out. As they walked, Chris was distracted by window displays more than once—why he persisted in trying to wear yellow, Viktor would never understand—and finally he pushed Chris towards a store and offered to wait for him at a nearby coffee shop.

It was not really a selfless offer. Viktor’s mood was unaccountably low; the grey sky seemed to perfectly reflect his mood. He wanted, really, to go back to the hotel and nap for the next twenty years, but he forced himself to go into the coffee shop and order a diet-breaking frappe.

There he sat, toying with the sleeve of his cardigan, and wondered what the hell was wrong with him.

Four time World Champion, he thought. Three Olympic gold medals. Enough sponsorship money for him to forget the financial troubles of his early career. Viktor had not just arrived, he’d moved in, bought a house, and adopted a dog in success’s country.

And yet. Everything seemed so...pointless. Dull. Tiring.

He wanted something. He had everything and he thought, I want, and he couldn’t put a name to the feeling.

“Oh my god.” There was a woman standing by his table. She was giving him a familiar wide-eyed look.

She must be a fan. Viktor had really been hoping to avoid this, but he swept back his bangs and smiled.

“Hi.”

“You’re—you’re Yuuri’s boyfriend, right? He’s going to freak, he told me you lived in Russia! Oh my god. I have to see this.” She sat down across from him, folded her hands on the table, and looked up at him expectantly.

Fans had said a lot of very weird things to Viktor, but this was a new one.

“I’m sorry?”

“He didn’t tell me your name, but then Yuuri never does tell anyone anything, he’s the quietest guy I know. Unless you get some tequila into him and then he’s basically a one man strip club.”

The only Yuri that came to mind was Plisetsky, a junior skater Yakov was coaching, who was small, blonde, and very angry about everything. Plisetsky is like twelve years old, Viktor recalled. He was definitely not Viktor’s boyfriend, and he hated Viktor’s guts, so Viktor couldn’t imagine him pretending to be.

Also, he was supposed to be in Russia right now, not stripping in America.

“...I don’t understand, how do you know Yuuri?”

Oh, god, is this a deluded fan? Viktor glanced at the door over the girl’s shoulder. Maybe he should text Chris and ask him to come rescue him.

“We go to school together. I’m Carla,” she added.

“Carla,” Viktor repeated. “I’m sorry, I think maybe you’ve confused me with someone else.”

“No, I never forget a face. Besides, Yuuri had like five pictures of you and you were his phone background, so I got a good look. Cute dog, by the way.”

“Thank you, her name is Makkachin, she’s a poodle, she’s very—I’m sorry, who had pictures of me?”

Viktor’s official photography was all fine, very tasteful no matter what Yakov said, but he had seen some fanart that made him question whether the Internet was a mistake. Some of his fans were way too skilled at Photoshop and not afraid to use their skills for evil.

“Yuuri.” She frowned. “Japanese? Long lashes? Literally gorgeous?”

That sounded familiar. Japanese Yuuri—wasn’t that one of the senior skaters? Not someone Viktor had competed against personally—no, at Worlds but Yuuri hadn’t made the cut for the free skate—but he’d seen footage, remembered that Yuuri was quite good, really, when he wasn’t popping his jumps and eating ice. But what could he possibly have to do with this weirdness?

“Excuse me.”

Viktor looked up, and...oh. ‘Literally gorgeous’ was right. Yuuri was very pretty, despite the look of abject panic on his face. He had a mug of steaming coffee in each hand and was wearing tragically frayed sweatpants. His earmuffs were hanging around his neck; they were fluffy and blue. He wore glasses.

Viktor got up, reached out and lifted the glasses up off the bridge of Yuuri’s nose.

“Eep,” Yuuri said.

“You looked different when you’re competing.” Viktor let the glasses drop back down. Yuuri’s eyes were dark reddish-brown. “I didn’t know you wore glasses.”

“Sorry.”

“Seems like the kind of thing your boyfriend should know.”

“Agh.”

“So, how long have we been dating?”

“I can explain!”

“Is this a Japanese custom?” Viktor asked. “Making someone your boyfriend without asking them?”

“No, uh—”

Viktor felt a little bad. Poor Yuuri looked like he was flailing. Judging by his reaction, he hadn’t been trying to use Viktor to prop himself up; whatever misunderstanding had led to him making Viktor his fake boyfriend was about more than his ego. (Viktor was not leaving this coffee shop until he knew what it was.)

“Can I see your phone?”

Viktor held out his hand, and Yuuri handed over his phone. It was in a case with blue poodles all over it—how cute, Yuuri liked poodles too, he got a point in favor of him being boyfriend material—and the lockscreen was a picture of what must be Yuuri’s family. An older couple, presumably his parents, and a woman with bleached hair that might be his sister, and a toy poodle at their feet were smiling at the photographer.

A happy family, it seemed.

He swallowed down the pang of jealousy.

“What’s your password?”

“Uh,” Yuuri said. “Why do you need my password?”

It was a four digit PIN. Viktor considered, then tried 1-2-2-5. It worked.

Sure enough, there he was. The wallpaper was Viktor at nineteen, arms full of happy poodle, Olympic team jacket draped over his shoulders. His face was half obscured by the Chrome icon, but even so, his smile was visible.

Viktor barely recognized it.

“Fuck,” Yuuri said, interrupting Viktor’s thoughts. “I can explain. I just—I’m a—”

“Wait, if he’s not your boyfriend, why did you have all those pictures of him mailed to you?” Carla asked.

“Yes, Yuuri, what pictures are these?” Viktor leaned in, close enough he could see himself reflected in Yuuri’s eyes. Despite having just come from a flight, he looked great. That sheet mask had been a good idea. “They’re not dirty, I hope…?”

“NO!”

Yuuri clamped both hands over his mouth. People were staring at them. Viktor watched the blush fill his cheeks and thought that at the very least, he’d have to revise his estimation of Detroit. It certainly wasn’t dull anymore.

“Let’s sit down.” Viktor waited until Yuuri, with the look of a man being seated to receive a lethal injection, joined him at the table and discarded his outerwear. Viktor took a seat between him and the exit and downed the last of his frappe. “Okay, now tell me everything about yourself.”

“What?” Yuuri shook his head. “No, that’s...that’s a terrible idea. Listen, I’m sorry, I’ll just leave—”

“No, you can’t leave.”

“...why?”

“Because.”

This was not an actual answer, but Viktor delivered it like it was, and he watched as Yuuri slumped down into his seat, defeated. Was he always this tractable?

“Now, then. Where are you from? What do you like to do? Why did you pick me as your boyfriend? Do you have any other boyfriends? Ex-boyfriends?”

“I—”

“My first boyfriend was—”

“Stop!” Yuuri held up his hands. “I’m a fan!”

“Hmm?”

“That’s why I have the pictures. They’re, you know, for inspiration. For my skating. I’m a skater.”

“Yes, I know. You borrow elements from my programs when you skate. We were at Worlds together.”

Everyone borrowed elements when they skated, of course. Viktor watched hours of footage before he started choreographing every year, just to avoid any one influence coming through too strongly. But he remembered Yuuri’s homage because of how elegant it had been.

“You...remember me?” Yuuri’s eyes widened behind his glasses. They were flecked with gold. His mouth dropped open. “I didn’t even make the cut for the free skate…”

“But you skated beautifully. Like the music was trapped inside you, and you were releasing it.” Viktor picked up Yuuri’s hands off the table. He squeezed them. “Except for the parts where you fell. Those were terrible.”

“...right.” Yuuri stared at him. “I thought you’d be more tactful,” he mumbled.

“Aren’t you going to answer my questions, Yuuri? I can answer yours, too. This can be our first date.”

“Please stop saying that.”

“Saying what?”

“That we’re dating!”

“Why? You said it first.” Viktor picked up Yuuri’s phone again, and examined the background again. He wondered why Yuuri had picked this picture. Yuuri’s backpack was sitting on the seat beside him, and Viktor reached out and snagged it.

Yuuri buried his face in his hands as Viktor opened it and discovered a plastic bag filled with carefully wrapped photographs of himself, on glossy paper, beautifully filtered shots that made Viktor’s skating look good and his skin frankly ridiculous. Nothing like the “Viktor’s head on a porn star with an improbably large penis” edit that Viktor had feared; this was good work.

“I didn’t make those for anything weird!”

Viktor studied Yuuri’s expression, his eyes, the way he kept himself tensed like he wanted to bolt, and concluded that there was no way Yuuri hadn’t produced those photographs for anything but masturbatory purposes.

“Well, if you did jerk off to them, you have good taste.”

“Thank...you?”

Yuuri was so nervous, Viktor thought. He had to relax him somehow. Viktor’s usual charm offense was not working, and public nudity wasn’t an option (yet), so he had to come up with something. Admittedly, Viktor’s dating experience pretty much ended with “be really charming” and “taking off his clothes”, but he was a four time Grand Prix Final gold medalist, he could improvise.

“I’m hungry.” Viktor showed Yuuri his teeth. “Mind spotting me? I haven’t got any American money left.” Viktor had three credit cards with him, but Yuuri didn’t know that.

Yuuri fumbled out his wallet. It contained another picture of Viktor, this one hand-drawn, which Viktor admired as Yuuri produced three crumpled fives and started to hold them out.

Viktor blinked alluringly at him. “Surprise me?”

“I, ah...okay? I’ll be back.”

“If you stand me up before I even get my kiss goodbye I’m going to be upset.”

“WHAT,” Yuuri said loudly. He shoved the money in his pocket, looked hopefully at Carla, who was sitting at the table with folded hands, wide eyes, and zipped lips.

He approached the counter like it was made of scorpions. Viktor leaned back and grinned as he watched him go; Yuuri had a great ass.

 

 

 

 

 

“What did I do to deserve this,” Yuuri whispered as he got into line. He gripped the money in his pocket tightly.

Viktor Nikiforov was here. Here, in Detroit, in Yuuri’s supposedly safe city, was Viktor, sitting in Yuuri’s favorite coffee shop, talking to Yuuri, looking at Yuuri, breathing the same air as Yuuri, insisting they were dating based on Yuuri’s brief moment of insanity.

It was bad. It was awful.

It was amazing. Viktor was flirting with him. He was talking about dating (unreal) and kissing (unreal) and sex (UNREAL). How dare he, Yuuri thought, it should be illegal to be that hot.

He stared at the menu. Surprise me, Viktor had said. Viktor’s love of surprises was well known—it was his primary trait in bad fanfiction—and maybe that was why he was taking this “being used as a fake boyfriend to escape social interaction” thing so well. But now that meant the pressure was on.

This was Yuuri’s one chance to make a not-humiliating impression. Maybe if he bought Viktor a really good coffee and pastry, Viktor wouldn’t tell the story of crazed fan Yuuri Katsuki and how he actually thought he was in Viktor’s league at his fancy dinner parties that he probably ate with hot models who he then banged.

(Yuuri had once been engaged in a very intense round of Discourse online about whether Viktor was a virgin after the Christor Big Bang controversy. He didn’t care how how hot the porn was, there was no way Viktor Nikiforov was a blushing innocent. He’d started skating about bondage when he was fifteen. That was Giacometti-level depraved.)

“Hi, what can I get you?” The barista was giving him a suspicious look.

Yuuri awkwardly produced his rewards card and slid it across the counter. “Um...can I get…” He glanced down at his card and realized he’d earned a free drink. Excellent. “Uh, one jumbo samoa latte and two...no, three...five cake pops.”

“What flavors?”

“All of them.”

“That’s eight fifty-three.”

Yuuri shoved two five dollar bills at her and dumped his change in the tip jar. Then he retreated to the pick up station and lurked, trying not to look at Viktor, and failing. Worse yet, when he dared to meet Viktor’s eyes, Viktor was sitting back, legs crossed, watching him unabashedly.

Viktor was wearing leggings and a v-necked shirt, with a soft purplish-grey cardigan over top. His crossed legs were obscene; Yuuri wanted to lick his knees. He was wearing bright green, sequined Uggs that laced up the back with ribbon.

“Jumbo samoa?”

Yuuri picked up the steaming mug and the little plate of cake pops. He was supposed to be dieting, but fuck it. Maybe if he ate his feelings, Viktor wouldn’t see them.

He put the food and drink down on the table, cast one last longing look at the door, and resigned himself to his fate: being flirted to death by Viktor Nikiforov, who was unbuttoning his cardigan to reveal his shirt clung enticingly to his abs.

What a way to go, Yuuri thought, and shoved the drink across the tabletop.

“What’s this?”

“It’s a samoa latte. Like the cookie.”

“What cookie?”

“You’ve never had Girl Scout cookies?”

Viktor shook his head and sipped his drink. “Mm, it’s good! I love coconut.”

Poor, deprived Viktor. Yuuri still had two boxes of samoas and a frozen box of thin mints stashed for emergencies. He imagined taking Viktor home to feed them to him, and then remembered that would entail Viktor seeing his apartment. His apartment. Where Yuuri lived in filth.

“They make these here fresh.” Yuuri waved a hand at the cake pops.

Carla took one and devoured it in one bite. She said nothing.

“Do you come here often, Yuuri?” Viktor asked. “This is my first time in Detroit, so I don’t really know my way around.”

“Yes, I live nearby.”

“Do you like it? Being far from home?”

Yuuri considered. Detroit had tons of wonderfully terrible food, and he got to go to school, and there was Phichit, and in a large city Yuuri could get laid and be able to avoid ever having to meet a one night stand again. On the other hand...Hasetsu…

“I miss my family. My dance instructor. My dog.”

“I miss Makkachin, too. When I’m competing I make the dogsitter video call everyday so I can see her.”

That was adorable.

“Do you have pictures of your dog, Yuuri?”

There was no way he was going to tell Viktor he had a  poodle he’d named after Viktor and that he’d given a cute nickname and he’d pretended was Viktor when he practiced for their inevitable meeting when he was a starstruck preteen.

“So, uh,” Yuuri said. “Why are you here?”

“The curse of being Russian, I’m afraid! Aeroflot.” Viktor bit into a cake pop, and licked raspberry red crumbs from his lips. Yuuri’s brain froze and crashed. “Chris and I were on our way back from our photo shoot, and now we’re stranded here until the airline can get us back to Europe.”

“Chris is here, too?”

“Yes, we were asked to shoot together, since we have good chemistry.”

Yuuri wondered what exactly they were being photographed for. Wasn’t Chris the face of a line of high end sex toys? Was it morally wrong for him to be imagining Viktor in Chris’s place right now?

“It took ages to get all the oil off,” Viktor added. “I had to listen to Chris complain about having greasy pubes all the way here—”

“I don’t need to know about Chris’s pubes!” Yuuri shoved a cake pop into his mouth. It tasted like peppermint and sadness. He swallowed. “Or anyone’s pubes.”

“I don’t have any.”

“I know, I saw your spread in Playgirl.”

“His what now?” Carla asked.

“Oh, that.” Viktor clicked his tongue. “I didn’t like that one. It made me look cheap.”

“I liked the cover you did for Vogue.”

“They let me keep that outfit, you know. I still have it at home. Somewhere.”

“I’m sorry,” Carla said, “but can we get back to the part where you were in Playgirl?”

“He’s also done cologne ads.”

“Anyone can do cologne ads,” Viktor said dismissively. “They’re just very luxurious softcore porn.”

Well, that settled it. Yuuri would never do a cologne ad, even if he was offered a seven figure fee. There was no way he could sell ‘luxurious yet dirty’ to an audience. Also, now he had to delete his “Viktor Nikiforov’s Sexiest Commercials” folder.

“But never mind me. What about you, Yuuri? We’ve been dating for,” Viktor checked his phone, “forty-three minutes, but I still don’t know anything about you.”

Yuuri was absolutely certain Viktor had just made that number up.

“I’m an average skater from Japan,” he said. “I...I like dance, and video games. My favorite food is katsudon. I’m studying kinesiology.” He shrugged, aware that what he was saying was inane. But what else was there to say? I’m boring, he thought. Viktor doesn’t care about my classes, or Pokemon. There’s no way we can talk about skating without me embarrassing myself.

“What’s ‘katsudon’?”

“Pork cutlets, with rice and egg. It’s our family specialty. I eat it whenever I win.”

“It sounds delicious.” Viktor took a second cake pop. “Eating whatever I want is my favorite part of the offseason.”

“Aren’t you worried about gaining weight?” Yuuri regretted the words the moment they were out of his mouth, and he stole the last cake pop to keep himself from saying anything else offensively stupid.

“I haven’t gained weight since I was sixteen and growing.”

Of course he hadn’t. Viktor had a perfect body, a perfect face, perfect confidence, and now, a perfect metabolism. Yuuri’s stomach was already a little rounder than it was when he was competing, and he self-medicated with carbs and grease. Viktor probably did yoga or something instead.

“Do you do yoga?”

“How did you know?” Viktor asked. He whipped out his phone and pulled up an album. “Look, Makkachin and I do it together, see?”

The video Viktor showed him, of a disheveled Viktor wearing a pink headband and sweaty workout clothes, doing yoga on his living room floor and trying and failing to get his dog to join in, was sickeningly adorable. Also, Viktor was very flexible, which was…well. It was a thing that was relevant to Yuuri’s interests, or at least to all the furtive masturbating he was going to do after this before he moved to Antarctica to be a hermit.

There was ice in Antarctica. It was fine.

“She’s so cute,” Yuuri muttered. “What a good dog…”

Viktor beamed.

Okay, Yuuri, he told himself. You have to say something. You can’t just stare at him. Ask him whatever people ask on dates.

Favorite food? What he liked to watch? Yuuri already knew the answers to both those questions.

“What foods do you watch?”

“Excuse me?” Viktor cocked his head. “Do you mean cooking shows?”

“…yes?”

“Have you seen America’s Worst Home Cooks?”

“The dishwasher salmon?”

“Don’t.” Viktor shook his head, bangs flying. “I can’t talk about it. How could anyone do that to perfectly good salmon?”

“I.” Yuuri swallowed and gulped down a mouthful of his latte for fortification. “I’ve made that.”

There was a moment of horrified silence.

“It…it didn’t taste that bad.”

“Well, I hope you aren’t planning to serve it to me,” Viktor said faintly. “I won’t eat it. No matter how cute you are.”

“I’m not cute. You’re cute.”

“We can both be cute, Yuuri. There’s room for both of us on this podium.”

That was false—Yuuri had never been on the podium with Viktor, had never been near the podium where Viktor was—but Viktor’s free hand crept across the table to cover his own, and that warmth stole away all Yuuri’s protests. Viktor wanted to think he was cute? Fine. Rich, successful people were allowed to be delusional.

Viktor was smiling at him. Yuuri had wondered, in the back of his mind, if this was a joke Viktor was playing on him, if he was getting back at Yuuri for using him as a fake boyfriend by pretending to be interested. But the parts of Yuuri that idolized Viktor (which was all of them) rebelled against the idea of Viktor being so petty and cruel. Viktor was always nice to his fans; it made sense for him to be kind and understanding to poor, worshipful Yuuri.

Even if the hand holding, and the flirting, and the…the thing Viktor’s eyes did, where they glowed with amusement, all seemed like too much.

“Viktor,” Yuuri said. He gathered his courage. “I really lo—”

“Yo, Katsuki!”

It was a guy from his Narrative Theory class. He was wearing a hideous pastel polo shirt; Yuuri had been calling him Easter Egg Boy in his head all semester, because they didn’t sit near each other and Yuuri had never learned his name.

Carla’s expression froze before smoothing into a smile. She turned and waved. “Hey, James.”

So this was the heartbroken James. He looked fine to Yuuri, which only solidified his certainty that Carla was absolutely wrong about people trying to date him.

“What’s up, guys? Everything good? Great.” James leaned against the back of the one empty seat at their table. “Listen, Katsuki, you got plans on Friday?”

“Uh,” Yuuri said. He clamped his jaw shut. He’d learned his lesson; he would say nothing.

“Awesome. You, uh, wanna get dinner?”

“He’s busy,” Carla blurted. “Really busy.”

“How do you know?”

“Trust me.”

“Just because he’s busy for you doesn’t mean he’s busy for me.”

“Wow, Yuuri,” Viktor said. He tightened his hold on Yuuri’s hand. “You’re so popular.”

James yelped. “Fuck! Is that Viktor Nikiforov?”

Yuuri stared at him. How could anyone miss Viktor? He practically glowed.

“Nice to meet you,” Viktor said. “I’m sorry, you are…?”

“James Donovan.” He sat down in the remaining chair. “You might not realize it, but Yuuri’s actually a really good skater.”

Viktor drank from his mug. “I know.”

“I mean, there are people who’d say he’s better than you.”

“No one has ever said that,” Yuuri said hurriedly. He glanced at Viktor, who was smiling, and sighed with relief that Viktor didn’t seem offended by this blatant mockery of his talent. “I’m not—Viktor’s the best.”

“Sure, he wins medals,” James said derisively—as if winning medals wasn’t the point. “But his free skate from last season was derivative and—”

“Well—” Viktor began.

“Okay, first of all, that’s bullshit.” Yuuri slammed his hand on the table. “It was not derivative, it was genius, you’re just too stupid to understand it. Second of all, everyone who says it’s derivative just says that because the music samples Swan Lake, even though it’s obviously being used in a different context and—”

“Never mind,” James said. “You have to admit, he wears a lot of pink—”

“He looks great in pink! And if people want to beat him,” Yuuri continued, “maybe they should learn how to do four different quads and commission their own music and choreograph their own programs and get Versace to do their senior debut costumes and look good in Uggs and—”

“I have to go,” James said. He gave Carla a look; she shrugged in response. “Uh. See you around.”

“Bye,” Carla said.

James scrambled. Yuuri hoped he hadn’t hurt Viktor’s feelings.

“Sorry about that,” he mumbled. “I don’t know what his deal was…”

“Five.”

“What?”

“I can do a quad loop.”

“Really?”

Viktor winked at him. “Don’t tell. I’m saving it for my exhibition skate next year.”

Now that was a thrill—Viktor telling him a secret, like they were friends or something.

“I’ve been watching you skate since I was a kid.” Yuuri stared at the table, feeling his face heat. “It means a lot to me. Your skating. I’m not just…I mean, it’s not…I’m a real fan.”

He didn’t know to express any better what he meant—that what he admired in Viktor was more than just his appearance or his accomplishments. Viktor’s skating was art. It made Yuuri feel things. It made Yuuri want to skate more and better.

“Yuuri?”

“Yeah?”

“You don’t actually have a boyfriend, do you?”

“No!”

“But people are asking you out on dates,” Viktor mused. Where had he gotten that idea? Had he been talking to Carla? “So you needed a fake boyfriend…why?”

“I…didn’t?”

“Oh, I see.” Viktor’s expression was pensive.

Oh, fuck, Yuuri thought. He thinks I’m weird. And Yuuri was weird, it was true, but to use someone’s personal photograph as a phone background was probably a new level. Yuuri had never allowed himself to think about it (much) because, well, how was Viktor ever going to know? He’d always assumed that he’d never meet Viktor without enough prior warning to disguise himself as a normal person. A cool person. The kind of person Viktor would like.

“It was an accident.”

“Ah, well. It will be a good story when people ask how we met.”

Yuuri would have traded his collection of poodle-themed pajamas and his custom Viktor Nikiforov plush to avoid ever having to tell this story to anyone. But Viktor was smiling again, and he looked genuinely amused, so Yuuri let it pass.

“Do you like books, Yuuri?”

“Sure.” Yuuri didn’t dislike books. He read them, although lately mostly only assigned reading for class. He recalled that Viktor’s apartment, based on the pictures of his living room on Instagram, was filled with overflowing bookshelves.

“What kind of books do you like?” Viktor asked this question with the gravity of a judge delivering a verdict.

“I read Jealousy. By Robbe-Grillet.”

‘Read’ was perhaps the wrong word—Yuuri’s eyes had passed over the pages, and he had sort of understood the individual words, but that unit of Narrative Theory’s assignments had all been written at two am while Yuuri whispered “Fuck, fuck,” and drank frappes from McDonalds with a shot of Monster as a chaser.

Yuuri was pretty sure the last book he had read and enjoyed had been some kind of gay period romance with two Fabio-lookalikes in anachronistic kimono swooning, but he’d also definitely had at least one daydream about what if Viktor would ravish him in a forest? So that was out as a topic of discussion.

“Oh, I’ve read that. Masumi recommended it to me. Isn’t it fascinating? The repetition. The unreality of it all.”

Yuuri nodded, and immediately regretted it, because Viktor kept talking. He went on about Jealousy, or La jalousie as he called it in his weirdly hot French accent, for a full five minutes. Yuuri had no idea what he was talking about, but Viktor sounded like he was enjoying himself, and Yuuri couldn’t bear to make him stop.

“Is it different in English?” Viktor asked.

“I guess.” Yuuri shrugged. “I read it for a class…” He felt his face heat. “Um, and now I’m afraid of centipedes.”

Viktor hid his snort behind his hand.

“I’m gonna go,” Carla said. “I’m clearly third wheeling at this point.” She stood up and put her hand on Yuuri’s shoulder. “You have to give me some tips later, okay? I’ve never met anyone who has as much game as you have.”

“Uh,” Yuuri said.

“Invite me to your wedding,” she added. “See you later!” She picked up her empty mug and left them alone.

Yuuri downed the last of his latte, licking whipped cream off his lips. When he looked up Viktor’s ears had turned red.

“I hope she doesn’t tell anyone else about this,” Yuuri said. “That’d be really embarrassing…”

“Why?”

“Why?” Yuuri repeated. “Because…I mean…you would never actually date me…no one would believe that.”

“So then you want me to just pretend?” Viktor’s bangs shifted over his eye. “I can do that, I understand.”

“No! No, I don’t want you to pretend anything!”

“But you don’t want to actually go on a date?”

“Of course I do. Look at you,” Yuuri said. He gestured vaguely at Viktor’s…well, his everything. “But you must be used to dating people aren’t like me.”

“Aren’t like you…?”

“Mentally weak. Unsuccessful.”

Viktor kept looking at him with that same impassive expression.

“I know I’m not good enough. You don’t have to pretend.”

“My last date tried to sell a fictional account of my sexual proclivity for bestiality to a tabloid because I wouldn’t sleep with him,” Viktor said. “Are you going to do that?”

“He did what? I’ll fight him.”

Yuuri didn’t remember ever seeing a story like that online, and he had Viktor on Google Alert, so Viktor must have had it suppressed somehow. His blood was pounding; he didn’t know what was worse, the fact that someone had wasted a date with Viktor on being petty and vindictive or the fact they’d dragged Viktor’s poor, innocent Makkachin into it.

No wonder Viktor had taken being Yuuri’s fake boyfriend so calmly. Yuuri felt a sudden surge of guilt for all the RPF fanfiction he’d read (and written). If someone had done that to him, not that they would because Yuuri didn’t go on dates and instead just had awkward one night stands whenever he was too stressed or too drunk to know better, but if anyone had, Yuuri was certain he’d be taking a vow of celibacy and disguising himself as a nun within the hour.

Yuuri gripped Viktor’s hand across the table.

“There’s no need, I called his agency and now he’s blacklisted from modeling anywhere.”

“Still…”

“You’re a great date, Yuuri.”

Viktor’s standards had to be tragically low if he thought having to listen to Yuuri verbally flail while he was fed reasonably priced coffee and pastries was a great date. Did everyone who went out with him act like an asshole? Why? If Yuuri had that chance—

There was a buzzing noise as Viktor’s phone went off. He answered, and chattered in French for a few minutes; it was probably Chris, Yuuri realized. He’d let go of Yuuri’s hand, and it felt cold now.

“The airline found Chris’s luggage.” Viktor sighed. “It’s a tragedy, I was really hoping that yellow sweater was lost forever.”

“That’s…”

“I have to go.”

Yuuri swallowed down the wave of disappointment. He had no right to be upset—there was no reason for Viktor to have indulged him this far, talking to him about books and teasing him about dating. At least he wouldn’t have to dread running into Viktor at competitions now.

“Okay.” It came out wobbly. “It was nice meeting you.”

It figured, Yuuri thought miserably as Viktor picked up his phone again and began typing. Not only was Viktor a great celebrity idol—nice to his fans, incredibly talented, inspired a deep and unquenchable lust in him—but he was a fun person. If he hadn’t been so comically out of Yuuri’s league, or if Yuuri could have traded in his actual body for the body of a hot, non-anxious person, he would have tried for a real date.

“Here.” Viktor held out Yuuri’s phone, which Yuuri realized he’d been typing into instead of his own.

Yuuri accepted it and saw that it was open to his contact list.

“I’ll text you the address of our hotel, okay? You can pick me up in the morning.”

“I can what?” Yuuri spluttered as a notification popped up: 1 new message from Viktor Nikiforov <3. “Why am I picking you up?”

“For our date, obviously.” Viktor came around the table and held out his hand.

The smart thing to do would be to pretend he had plans, or to run away now.

He seized Viktor’s hand. How hard could be it be to do better than some dickwad who couldn’t take no for an answer? Probably ‘very’, but who knew if Yuuri would even see Viktor again after this. Even if this was just one date, one day, one magical moment…

“See you tomorrow,” Yuuri said, dazed.

“Oh, and bring a cute friend, will you? Otherwise Chris will be mad at me for abandoning him.”

“No problem.”

Viktor put his hand on Yuuri’s shoulder, bent over, and kissed him right on the mouth, right there in front of God and everyone, the brush of his lips like the drop of a rollercoaster down the first hill. Yuuri made a hideous noise that he would regret later, once his brain was back online.

“Bye!” Viktor said. He picked up his empty mug and deposited it on the counter, and then shrugged on his discarded sweater (cream-colored, more like a cape than a jacket, also by Ugg) and left.

Yuuri picked up his phone and dialed Phichit.

“Oh my god, Yuuri, did you check Instagram?”

“No.”

“Guess who posted a selfie of themselves at the airport in Detroit?”

“Viktor Nikiforov and Chris Giacometti?”

“You saw it, too? Wild, right? We should go walk around and see if we run into them. You can get Viktor’s autograph.”

Yuuri touched his lips. “Yeah. Hey, Phichit?”

“Yeah?”

“Are you busy tomorrow?”

“Nah, not really. Why?”

“How do you feel about going on a double date with Christophe Giacometti?”

 

 

 

 

 

“So,” Chris asked. “A date?”

“He’s pretty,” Viktor replied. “And he listened to me talk about La jalousie.”

“So then what am I doing tomorrow?”

“I told him to bring an attractive friend.”

Chris fistbumped him.

Viktor had been on three dates in the past nine years, and all of them had been terrible in different ways. One disaster could be chalked up to inexperience, another could be laid at the feet of mutual incompatibility. The third catastrophe had been entirely Sterling’s fault.

(There were other things—sponsorship dinners that took an unwanted turn into flirtation, nights out with his fellow skaters that ended with them resentfully fucking Viktor in their hotel rooms, run ins with overeager fans that left him shuddering—but Viktor didn’t think about them unless he had to.)

Sterling had approached Viktor during a photoshoot. He was an aspiring model, and his jokes about bad contouring made Viktor laugh, so he’d let himself be convinced to meet for drinks after the shoot was over.

Over beers, he’d asked, “Can you get us into that restaurant on 26th?”

The restaurant was normally reservations-only and had three Michelin stars, but Viktor was charming and important, and he got them a table.

Dinner was brought.

Viktor had been two sentences into a story about another photo shoot that had ended with a horse being dyed and a green stain on the inside of Viktor’s thighs that lasted two weeks when he was interrupted.

“Can you get me the number of someone at Vogue? I really think I’d look great on their cover.”

Sterling was generically attractive, and the sense of humor that had drawn Viktor had disappeared, leaving a greedy, open-mouthed look that did nothing for him. Viktor feigned ignorance about the senior staff at Vogue—his agent handled all that—even though Viktor had the creative director for Vogue’s personal cell number on him at that very moment.

He thought about making an excuse to leave, but he’d just be at the hotel room alone. And it would look bad, and Viktor couldn’t have that. And it would be like losing.

“You’re paying, right?”

Viktor had paid. They’d left the restaurant, and Viktor made a polite goodbye and said he was going back to the hotel, in a cab, and he hoped Sterling had a good night.

Sterling had groped his ass and then tried to slide a hand between Viktor’s legs.

“Going home already? Come on, show me how a champion does it.”

And Viktor had debated, for a moment, whether he should—if it was better to spend the night alone and disappointed and longing for his own bed and his dog and light, or if he should just accept what was sure to be a mediocre sexual performance because he wanted, so badly, for someone to touch him and mean it.

More than one person had told Viktor he needed to get out more, to stop spending every free moment at the rink or crosstraining, that books and his dog were not an acceptable replacement for social interaction.

He thought of Yuuri’s backpack full of merchandise, of his encyclopedic knowledge of Viktor’s programs, and wondered if tomorrow would be more of the same. Maybe it wouldn’t. Maybe Yuuri would turn out to want him for who he was.

It had been fun, talking to him. Maybe it would keep being fun. Maybe this was what he needed.

“If he tries to sell the story to a tabloid after, we can beat him up,” Chris said. He nudged Viktor with his elbow.

Viktor grinned. “He won’t. He likes dogs.”

 

 

 

 

 

“Here we are,” Yuuri said.

They were standing outside the student union. There were college kids milling around, on their way to class or to lunch, in groups of two and three; no one paid them any attention, which was good. With the fiasco of the morning still ringing in Yuuri’s ears, he was sure another mistake would send him screaming for the hills, and who was going to love Viktor then? Someone who wasn’t Yuuri, that’s who.

(Why had he thought letting Viktor come with him to the university’s figure skating club’s meeting was a good idea? Five minutes of being besieged for autographs and selfies and Viktor’s smile had taken on a plastic quality. Of course Viktor wouldn’t want to be fussed over while he was on vacation. Yuuri should never have let his selfish desire to rub Viktor’s presence in everyone’s face run free.)

“Is this your school?”

“Yeah.” Yuuri tugged off his gloves and put them in his pockets. “It’s Stress Week, so there’s an event going on here. Come on.”

“Stress Week?”

“They’re trying to raise awareness of, um, stress reduction activities for students. You know. Meditation and time management workshops. Stuff like that.”

Yuuri had been recommended every single event in the Stress Week line up, but he only really cared about one.

“That’s good, isn’t it? I don’t know how you manage being a student and skating, Yuuri. You must have amazing stamina.”

“Yeah.”

“You must be able to last a long time,” Viktor purred. “On the ice.”

“Also off the ice.”

He met Viktor’s eyes. They stared at each other. There were icicles hanging from the rooftops, but Yuuri felt white hot.

He took Viktor’s hand. Their fingers laced together, and they fit, exactly right, Viktor’s palms soft and warm.

“Let’s go.” Yuuri held the door open so Viktor could come in behind him, and led him through the lobby and up the back stairs. There were more people here, and even though it was midterm time, almost no one was crying into their laptop or chugging lukewarm energy drinks. “In here…”

They were outside the ballroom. A banner hung over the open double doors, proclaiming PAWS: Pet Away Worry and Stress, with cutesy drawings of cats and dogs on either side of the lettering.

There was barking coming from inside. Viktor’s eyes widened.

“Are there...puppies?”

“And kittens. And I think a baby goat.”

“Oh my god.”

“Is this okay? I know it’s kind of lame for a date but—” Yuuri trailed off. “I mean, you said you missed Makkachin. So I brought you here. To pet therapy dogs.”

“Yuuri.”

“Also for lunch I’m taking you to this place where everything is deep fried,” Yuuri said hurriedly. “They have fried Oreos. Fried jelly beans. Fried butter.”

“This is the best date I have ever been on,” Viktor said. He squeezed Yuuri’s hand. “You—”

“Look, I’m really sorry about lying to everyone about us dating.” Yuuri gripped Viktor’s fingers tightly. “I didn’t want to have to admit how much I admired you. But, uh, I’m going to make it up to you by being a good boyfriend, so—”

The rest of his words were swallowed up by Viktor’s mouth. Viktor’s free arm locked in around Yuuri’s neck and his lips pressed insistently against Yuuri’s, nothing like the chaste kiss he gave Yuuri at the coffee shop. Yuuri’s mouth opened, and their tongues touched. Viktor smelled like cologne and cinnamon gum.

When Viktor finally drew away, his face still way closer to Yuuri’s than it should have been in the middle of the student union, Yuuri could only make a noise that sounded like a keysmash.

“I’ll do my best, too,” Viktor said.

“Please don’t, I might die.”

 

 

 

 

 

As it turned out, Viktor also enjoyed lying on the floor and covering himself with dogs.

“Is he okay?” One of the organizers asked.

“He’s fine.”

She eyed him skeptically. “He looks like he might be crying.”

“Yuuri, take my picture!” Viktor said. A puppy licked his face.

“We just really love dogs,” Yuuri said. He scratched the baby goat behind the ears. “And other animals. Please don’t kick him out, he left his poodle in Russia.”

“...okay.”

 

 

 

 

 

“Aren’t you hungry?”

“Starving.”

Yuuri frowned at their plates; Viktor’s was still half full, Yuuri’s empty for the third time. He was acutely aware of the crumbs on his face and the grease on his fingers. Would it be weird if he licked it away?

There was one fried butter ball left. Yuuri reached for it slowly. “Do you want it?”

“Yes! I mean, no.” Viktor’s blush was luminous.

“You can have it—”

“No, you eat it. I insist.”

Yuuri shrugged and popped it into his mouth. It was crispy on the outside, so soft inside it melted on his tongue. It was probably three thousand calories. Maybe that was why Viktor wasn’t eating, because he, until Yuuri, had self-control.

“We can order more if you’re hungry.”

“I don’t think food is going to help,” Viktor said. He reached across the table and wiped away the crumbs at the corner of Yuuri’s mouth with his thumb.

Skin tingling, Yuuri barely heard the waitress ask if he wanted the check.

 

 

 

 

 

“Oh, shit, my reservation.” Yuuri fumbled with his phone. “I forgot to cancel…”

“Did you have an appointment?”

“I booked rink time, but you probably don’t want to—”

“Let’s go skating!”

Yes, Yuuri thought, let’s go skating so you can watch me eat ice in person and up close. They’d be on the same ice, together, and Yuuri couldn’t run away if (when) it went wrong; he hoped Viktor wouldn’t laugh at him.

He won’t. He’s too...he won’t.

The rink was blessedly empty; the lone employee knew Yuuri and waved them in with barely a glance. Yuuri could barely tie his skates, he was so nervous; Viktor was putting on his with an expression of deep concentration.

This close, Yuuri could practically see his reflection in the gold of Viktor's blades.

 

 

 

 

 

The ice was cold under Yuuri’s cheek.

“Yuuri?”

Yuuri winced. He’d known the moment he took off it was going to be bad; at least he hadn’t tried for a quad. He should have known better than to try for a jump at all, not when he was this nervous.

But Viktor had asked. Had demanded, really, that Yuuri show him something. As if Yuuri’s skating was anything to see, when the living legend of men’s figure skating was on the ice.

It was going so well, Yuuri thought. Figures I’d fuck it up as soon as we got on the ice.

“Yuuuuri. Get up.”

“No,” Yuuri said. Viktor was poking him in the shoulder. “I live here now.”

“Can you live here upright? I want to make sure your nose isn’t broken.”

His fingers brushed across the nape of Yuuri’s neck, and that did it; it felt too good. Yuuri rolled over and hoped the ice would keep him from blushing.

“Is it bad?”

“Your nose is fine.” Viktor prodded at Yuuri’s face with icy fingers. “Your triple axel, on the other hand…”

He saw me try to talk my way out of pretending he was my boyfriend, Yuuri thought. And he saw me eat like a goblin. And now he’s seen me slam me facefirst into the ice while doing my signature jump. All he needs now is to see me drunk and naked.

He made a vow at that moment not to imbibe in Viktor’s presence. Drunk Yuuri was already way too intense about Viktor when Viktor wasn’t around; he’d probably offer to slam Viktor up against the nearest flat surface and maul him.

“What was that, anyways? It was bad from start to finish. Does this hurt?”

Yuuri closed his eyes against the sight of Viktor’s expression. It wasn’t understanding, that was the thing. Viktor looked more annoyed than anything. But he kept touching Yuuri’s face, pressing down on the high points.

If Viktor had been nice to him, tried to tell him he was doing fine, Yuuri couldn’t have taken it. Criticism he knew how to handle; he only gave it to himself a hundred times a day.

“I’m okay.”

“Can you get up?”

“Yeah.”

Yuuri didn’t get up. If he got up, he knew, he’d have to skate with Viktor some more, and it was just—a lot. He had to be a good skater and a good date and he felt like all his limbs were made of jelly.

There was a thump.

And then Viktor was lying on the ice beside him. His ankles were crossed; his shirt was getting wet. His hand was lying on the ice just inches from Yuuri’s. He wiggled his fingers in what had to be an invitation, and so Yuuri shifted his hand over until it was on top of Viktor’s. It wasn’t quite what Yuuri had in mind when he fantasized about holding Viktor’s hand on the ice. Definitely, Yuuri had imagined he’d have more dignity.

But Viktor didn’t ask him any more questions. They lay there in silence, and that was okay.

 

 

 

 

 

Viktor had died and ascended to a higher plane of existence.

After they finished ice skating, they had gone for a walk. Detroit wasn’t a particularly beautiful city, and most of Yuuri’s stories seem to involve him eating or being drunk or eating things he would never have eaten while sober. But whenever he told Viktor something particularly embarrassing, he’d look away, cheeks pink, and Viktor’s heart would flutter.

In return, Viktor had offered the only thing he had that was of equivalent value: the hair, makeup, and clothing adventures of teenaged Viktor Nikiforov, featuring at least one curling iron burn in an awkward place, that one time Viktor had helped Chris with his bleaching and somehow dyed a third of his own left eyebrow, and any number of horrific nineties fashion trends that Viktor had gone along with and now had no way of destroying the photographic evidence of.

Once or twice Yuuri had asked him about his skating, and it was on the tip of Viktor’s tongue, all the things he felt inside that he couldn’t voice. How it got harder every year. How he had gone from telling himself one more season to telling himself one more practice, one more session at the gym, one more run through of the program.

He couldn’t, though. Yuuri was his fan. It was probably a bad idea to shatter all his illusions on their second date.

The sun had set while they were walking. Yuuri had stopped staring at their clasped hands every few seconds. Viktor had tried and failed to pay for ice cream; Yuuri wouldn’t let him.

Finally, aware of the fact he was usually annoying by the end of the day, Viktor had tried to excuse himself back to his hotel room (and okay, maybe it had occurred to him that Yuuri might see this as an invitation to take Viktor up to the honeymoon suite and fuck him until he cried.)

They’d been standing in the lobby, staring at each other, Viktor wondering if “do you want to come upstairs and see the proofs from my naked photoshoot” was too much as a pick up line. If only they were in Russia; Viktor could have offered to show him his Olympic gold medals. That usually got him laid.

Then Phichit and Chris had called.

“They’re going clubbing,” Yuuri had said. “Do you want to go?”

“Do you?”

Yuuri had shrugged, and Viktor hadn’t really wanted to go upstairs and sigh into his pillow about how entertaining Yuuri was, how thoughtful, he was, how soft his hair was, so he’d agreed.

Now they were at the club. It was dark, and loud, and sweaty; it smelled like they mopped the place with fruit cocktails.

None of that mattered, because after one look at Viktor in his clubbing clothes (which were, admittedly, really hot), Yuuri had bought Viktor a beer, downed three shots of tequila, and then turned to Viktor with hooded eyes and demanded he dance with him.

Now Viktor was pinned against a wall, and Yuuri was plastered against him, his ass grinding directly on Viktor’s dick. He regretted not wearing underwear, because Yuuri was firm and moved sinuously and kept craning his neck to kiss at whatever part of Viktor’s face he could reach.

“Hey, Viktor,” Yuuri said breathily. “Talk to me.”

“About what?” Viktor put his hands on Yuuri’s hips, which were softer than they looked.

“Books.”

“E-excuse me?”

“Tell me about—about your favorite book.” Yuuri grabbed his hand and put around his waist. “Please.”

“Do you know Chris’s boyfriend? Masumi?”

“No.”

“He’s studying French literature,” Viktor said, and then yelped as Yuuri turned around, slid his arms around Viktor’s neck, and starting nibbling at his ear. “Fuck.”

“Why are we talking about Chris’s boyfriend? Tell me about the book.”

“I am. He, ah, he wrote it. Under a penname. He’s a poet, and he’s studying, but he, ah, he needs money so he writes...trashy gay period romances…”

“I think maybe I read one,” Yuuri said. “About samurai?”

“The Folded Silk and Steel. Yes, that was a good one. I helped him edit it.”

“You edit books, too? Do you do everything?”

“No, I...I used one of his poems as the lyrics for a short program song I commissioned...so that’s how we met. I introduced him to Chris.”

“Stop talking about Chris.”

“The book is called...it’s called The Lace of the Search. It’s about a lingerie designer and his model.”

“I thought this book was gay.”

“It is gay,” Viktor said, or tried to say; the friction between their bodies had gone from distracting to all-encompassing, and Yuuri’s mouth was wandering along his jaw. “Why do you want to—oh, fuck—stop asking me questions.”

“You should be my real boyfriend.” Yuuri put his face against Viktor’s neck; Viktor wondered if he could feel how fast Viktor’s heart was beating. “And we can actually have Skype sex, and then I won’t be a liar.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Viktor said. He let his head drop back against the wall; who care if his hair got dirty, he was a few thrusts from coming in his pants. “But yes—to both of those things—please.”

“Great.”

“Wonderful.” Viktor dug his fingers into Yuuri’s hair. “Can we—”

“Yeah,” Yuuri breathed, and then there was no more talking.

 

 

 

 

 

The day after Viktor left Detroit—nearly late, with love bites all over his neck, wearing Yuuri’s muffler—Yuuri received a package in the mail.

It was a high quality webcam.

 

 

 

 

 

“How’s Viktor?” Carla asked. She wiggled her eyebrows. “Still dating him?”

Yuuri cursed his past self for agreeing to have the study group at his apartment, primarily because at the time he didn’t want to have to put on real pants and learn about Heart of Darkness.

“Yeah,” he said. He stared down at his notes, and tried and failed to hide his grin. “I am.”

The rest of his classmates sighed. Yuuri couldn’t blame them; that’s how he’d react if he found out Viktor was taken, too.

“Back to work, guys,” Carla said. She winked at him.

Yuuri had no desire to study, but he was pretty sure he owed it to Carla to be productive for the rest of the semester. Besides, he thought, the more he studied, the faster the study session would be over—and then Viktor had promised to call...