He’s writing a book, you see.
It’s currently titled, ‘Things the General Public Doesn’t Know About Viktor Nikiforov, Five-Time World Champion, (But I Now Do): a study by Katsuki Yuuri’. At this time, it’s about 235 pages long, give-or-take, with the foreword comprised of different variations of Yuuri going, ‘Oh my god, I still can’t believe this is actually happening’ and ‘Yes, I swear he’s really like this, I have the proof’ and ‘The official Nikiforov fan-forums did not prepare me for this--oh my god, Viktor, really?’ over and over.
Okay, so maybe he doesn’t have a book in the works--can you imagine his mortification if it was ever found? He’s still trying to live down the time Viktor somehow stumbled upon the stack of posters and memorabilia hidden under his bed--but Yuuri does make a mental note of all the interesting things he’s learned about Viktor during the time they’ve spent together.
Some of the more notable findings include:
- ‘He gets easily frightened by campy, horror movies.’ Yuuri discovers this during their late-night viewing of Hausu, which is more laughably bizarre than actually scary in his opinion. But it does mean that Viktor is clinging to him tight throughout the entire movie, so Yuuri supposes he can’t really complain. He plans to look further into this phenomenon in the near future.
- ‘He will greet every man, woman, child, and animal he meets.’ Viktor says hello to everyone, and Yuuri does mean everyone, even if they can’t say anything back. This is no exaggeration; Viktor has been known to have full-blown conversations with dogs he’s found wandering in the streets. The only thing preventing them from becoming a sibling to Makkachin is that their owner eventually shows up, apologizing for the inconvenience. Viktor always flashes a practiced smile, graciously saying that it’s not any trouble and that he’s happy the dog already has a home. But Yuuri can spot the look of longing Viktor has whenever they walk away. He usually solves this dilemma by showing Viktor cute dog videos he’s found online and suggesting they record something similar with Makkachin once they get back. It winds up on Instagram with thousands of likes within the first hour and Yuri commenting that they’re both idiots with nothing better to do.
‘He sings in the shower.’ Correction: ‘He sings horribly in the shower.’ Yuuri can’t really fault him for that, except it’s not just in the shower. Just the other day, Viktor was crooning some Russian pop ballad in his direction, complete with fluttering eyelashes and grand sweeping gestures. It was supposed to be romantic judging from the few words Yuuri caught and understood, but the performance was so ridiculously out of tune that it left him gasping for breath through his laughter, tears in his eyes as he begged, ‘Stop, Viktor, please, I can’t--!’
Of course, Yuuri felt bad when it meant Viktor ended up sulking in the bedroom for a whole hour afterwards. Yuuri made up for it by later knocking on the open door frame, shuffling his feet and mumbling his way through his own rendition of an old Japanese love song.
(That too, shows up on Instagram--without Yuuri’s knowledge or permission--with Yuri wishing they would go back to the ‘dumb dog videos.’)
However, the one that constantly comes up is this:
- ‘He likes food.’
Wait, no, that’s not right. ‘Likes’ is not strong enough of a descriptor, because Yuuri himself likes food. He likes the comfort it brings him when he’s stressed about skating, interviews, and life in general; not so much the effects that come from it afterwards. He likes his mother’s katsudon and the pure, nostalgic feeling of home it evokes every time he inhales its fragrant aroma, let alone the taste when it hits his tongue.
But there are some things he does not eat, ever. Tomatoes are one, which of course means he ends up having to pick them out whenever he orders a salad (and during the training season, he has to order the salad a lot more than he’d like). And while he enjoyed the American cuisine a little too well during his stay in Detroit, there were a few dishes even he wasn’t brave enough to try.
(Then again, considering they were being served by hole-in-the-wall dive bars--popularized by the local college students for their cheap, fast, and greasy fare and cold beer--that were visited by the health department every other week, maybe Yuuri has dodged a culinary bullet.)
Viktor, on the other hand, appears to love food. Adore it, in all forms, with great gusto, no pun intended. Whenever they visit some place new (or old), one of the first things on Viktor’s agenda--without fail--is to go out and sample some of the local flavors. It’s to the point where his picture should be posted by the definition of the term ‘foodie’ on Wikipedia.
(Yuuri’s even tried to amend that oversight once, admittedly after he had shared too many shots of sake with Viktor. The photo in question was one snapped of Viktor slurping down his then second bowl of ramen noodles with an expression of unbridled joy--as well as a splash of broth--on his face.
It remained on the article for three hours before it was removed for lack of references. Apparently ‘carefully gathered personal research’ doesn’t count as a reliable source, which hardly seems fair.)
The thing is, Yuuri knows how the Western world holds stereotypes of Asian cuisine. He’s experienced it first hand from former American classmates who would snicker and ask patronizing questions such as, ‘Do you all really eat raw fish and seaweed over there?’ He never responded, his anxiety flaring up during those times and getting the best of him. But sometimes he wishes he had fired back that a country who grills processed meat parts in skin casings with flattened imitation ‘cheese’ singles has no right to be so judgemental.
(He at least had Phichit, who understands. God, does Phichit understand; he’s cheery as always about it, but he’s joked multiple times that he’s going to start charging people every time he gets asked about khai khao or what the others call, 'that weird egg thing.')
So while he had hoped that with someone as world-traveled as Viktor meant his tastes would be broader than most, Yuuri can’t deny he was nervous when Viktor was introduced to Japanese food. Especially since it was katsudon, which is his favorite, and he’s not sure how he would feel afterwards if Viktor, who’s also his favorite, hadn’t liked it.
But Yuuri didn’t have to worry, because Viktor has seemingly made it his personal mission to seek out and sample every single food item that’s available in the country. Viktor’s the one who gushes about every single dish Hiroko serves him, with his enthusiasm too genuine to be considered anything but sincere. He’s the one who tracked down his now favorite ramen restaurant all on his own despite his shaky grasp on the local dialect. He’s the one who drags Yuuri to all the festivals with childlike exuberance and wonder, his hands full of hot and steaming yakitori, takoyaki, and taiyaki, his lips sticky and stained from the sweetened syrup of kakigori.
In fact, it’s probably faster to list the foods that Viktor doesn’t like than all the ones he does. Except, Yuuri realizes one evening after he and Viktor are sharing a platter of gyoza and play-fighting for the last one--which Viktor wins, only because he cheated by tickling Yuuri’s ribs--he doesn’t know the answer to that, leaving a huge gaping hole in his Viktor Nikiforov database.
This obviously needs to be rectified.
It’d be so much simpler if Yuuri could just ask the question directly. But try as he might, he can’t find a way to bring it up in normal, natural conversation without appearing abrupt and weird. He’s created openings here and there by saying things such as ‘Here, try a bite of this, I’m not sure about the flavor. Tell me what you think?’ or ‘This isn’t too salty for you, is it?’ but nothing seems to work.
A part of him feels that, as both Viktor’s fiancé and President for Life of the Nikiforov Fanclub™ (a self-proclaimed title to be sure, but he'll fight anyone who even tries to usurp him), he should already know the answer by now, leaving him slightly guilt-ridden that he doesn’t. Then again, it’s par for the course, considering he’s learned so much about Viktor’s likes but next to nothing about his dislikes.
Well, that’s not entirely true. He knows Viktor hates the idea of not being able to surprise the audience and the feeling like he's stuck in a rut. That he frowns on fellow competitors not supporting one another in their crafts. That he gets upset when a pet goes missing or gets injured in movies, to the point where he won’t continue to watch unless he knows there’s a happy ending. That he feels uneasy whenever someone cries in front of him, only because he has no idea what to do about it. That he can't stand the thought of being alone, something he's had far too much experience with already.
Other than that, Yuuri doesn’t know much else.
He wonders if Viktor has even had a chance to discover his dislikes for himself, which is a depressing thought in of itself. Viktor has admitted once, almost bashfully, that it took him awhile to truly experience the two great Ls: life and love. Perhaps his dislikes, or seemingly lack thereof, tie into that.
Or it could be that Viktor has never really been able to openly express if he’s disliked something or not, forced to remain behind a mask of neutrality because of his fame and position. Maybe the only reason Yuuri knows as much as he does is because the two of them have become so close, closer than few others have gotten to the real Viktor. That Yuuri has told Viktor countless times that all he has to be is Viktor, just Viktor, without any of his titles that usually follow, attached to him with invisible marionette strings.
Whatever the reason, Yuuri isn't going to be satisfied until he finds out more.
He doesn't quite understand how he decided to discover Viktor’s culinary dislikes by using the process of elimination, but here Yuuri is anyway. It's the perfect time for it too; it's off-season, so they're spending time with his family in Hasetsu for a bit, deserving a nice little break after all their hard work. There's no need to worry if something fits on a skater’s diet or what sort of exercise regimen is required to burn off the extra calories.
(Not that Viktor’s had to worry about that thing with his metabolism, Yuuri laments. At least not as much as Yuuri does.)
It's only a matter of finding where exactly to start. Anything too similar to something Viktor’s already had before gets vetoed just to save time. The problem with that is, while Yuuri knows about the meals they’ve shared together, that doesn’t include what Viktor ate for the twenty-seven years leading up to when they met. Other than the off-hand comments Viktor has made now and then about his favorite dessert (pastila, but only if they’re by a certain little elderly woman who insists on making them the old-fashioned way and greets Viktor and Yuuri like long-lost grandsons visiting whenever they stop by her tiny sweets shop in St. Petersburg) and favorite way to drink tea (with gobfuls of strawberry jam, making Yuuri’s traditionalist heart shudder), Yuuri has no idea what type of food Viktor has grown up with during his childhood in Russia.
(Except maybe borsch, but that's because everyone associates borsch with Russia. The dish was as synonymous with matryoshka dolls and ushanka-hats in Yuuri's mind for the longest time before he found out that Russia, in fact, did have other types of soup.)
It’s that thought that has Yuuri awake at 3 AM, searching about Russian cuisine while lying in bed, Viktor’s snoozing form curled up next to him. After reading article after article, one thing becomes increasingly clear: Yuuri shouldn’t have been worried about Viktor thinking Japanese food is weird, because Russian food seems to be just as unique.
(Like, for example, ‘herring under a fur coat’? Though, once Yuuri learns there's no actual fur coat involved, he supposes the concoction doesn’t sound that bad.)
“Mmm…” Viktor stirs next to him, probably awakened by the glow of Yuuri’s cell phone. “Yuuri…” he says. His accent comes out thicker in his sleep and he’s drawing the name out in a way that always makes Yuuri shiver. “What are you doing awake?”
“It’s nothing,” Yuuri says. He exits out of the Buzzfeed article, ‘17 Bizarre Foods Every Russian Grew Up With,’ and locks his phone. He then turns over, fully prepared to attempt sleep, but pauses. “Viktor?”
“Do Russians really...ah…’pickle everything’?”
Viktor huffs a laugh into the curve of Yuuri’s shoulder. “Almost, but it's not as bad it sounds. It’s…” he trails off, mumbling something under his breath in Russian before continuing, “...Tradition? A way to preserve food and an excuse to chase it with vodka.” He laughs again, and then yawns. “Why?”
“No reason,” Yuuri says. He mentally crosses ‘umeboshi’ off his list, figuring there's no point in introducing it to Viktor now.
(He winds up doing it anyway, if only for the satisfaction of seeing the look on Viktor’s face when the bitterness of the pickled plum hits his tongue.
“Yuuuuri,” Viktor says through a puckered mouth, eyes watering, “It's so sour but so good!”
In a twist of events, Yuuri is the one who later posts the uncaptioned photo of Viktor smiling with visible tear-tracks on his cheeks. The internet proceeds to collectively lose their shit, with speculations ranging from hopeful--
‘Did they finally pick a wedding a date??’ is the top rated comment, which of course makes Viktor tear up again, this time in distress, when he remembers no, they haven't
--to the lewd--
“Remind me how is it that Chris hasn't been banned from Instagram yet?”)
“Are you kidding me--that's what you called me for?!”
Okay, Yuuri thinks as he pulls the phone away with Yuri’s screech ringing in his ears, maybe this wasn't the best idea. But he hadn't known who else to call. “Yurio, I--”
“It's ‘Yuri,’ got it?” Yuri snaps, his irritation oozing over the connection. “Y-u-r-i, Yuri. It's bad enough enough that Mila and Georgi have started calling me that stupid nickname even when the two of you aren't here. If you want my help, you can at least get my name right, Katsudon.”
There's no use pointing out the hypocrisy there, not unless Yuuri wants to trigger another outburst from the walking, talking epitome of angry teenage hormones.
Besides, Yuri’s right. Yuuri does need his help.
“Yuri,” Yuuri says, stressing the name while resisting the urge to ask who pissed in Yuri's Frosted Flakes this morning, “can you just help me, please?”
“I don't see why you don't just ask him yourself,” Yuri grumbles but there's no longer any heat behind it. Good, the threat level has been downgraded from ‘hissing tomcat’ to ‘cranky kitten.’ “Yakov would know better than I would. Have you tried calling him?”
Yuuri’s considered it, briefly. But only very briefly, because while he does have Yakov’s number saved in his phone--mainly to inform Yakov that they're both going to be late for practice during those times where Viktor is clinging to Yuuri too tightly to do so himself--he doesn't think he can call about this. Sure, Yakov would probably be the best person to ask, considering the man is more like a father-figure to Viktor than a coach at this point. But while Viktor swears there's a big ol’ teddy bear under Yakov’s gruff exterior, to be frank, Yakov still makes Yuuri nervous. Just a little.
(Maybe it’s because one of these days, he’s afraid Yakov is finally going to put two and two together and blame Yuuri as the the reason for those late practices. And given how handsy Viktor tends to get in the mornings, Yakov would be partially right.
But he doesn’t need to know that. Nor does anyone else for that matter.)
“Please,” Yuuri repeats. “Anything would be helpful at this point.”
“I don't even know what to tell you. You of all people should know how Viktor is. He’ll probably eat anything you put in front of him with that stupid smile of his, saying how much he loves it even if it's the grossest shit ever.” Yuri pauses and then there's an audible shudder on the other end of the line. “You know that bastard got me to eat moloka once? He swore it was some delicacy and when I gagged after I found out what it really was, he just laughed and said something about ‘appreciating it when I was older,’ the asshole.”
“Moloka?” The name sounds familiar from Yuuri’s browsing history but he can't place it off the top of his head.
“Ugh, don't make me explain it. Just thinking about it is making me want to puke. The point is, if he can eat shit like that, I don't know what he won't.”
Later, Yuuri does look up moloka and feels a pang of sympathy for Yuri.
(He's also a little bit relieved. He wasn't looking forward to sharing shirako with Viktor anyway. )
“Well?” Yuuri asks. His own serving remains untouched for the time being, though it’s impossible to ignore the strong aroma wafting up from it. He could've sworn Viktor's had this dish before, given how commonly found it is, but when the two of them passed by the small, dimly-lit shop that offered it, Viktor had expressed an interest usually reserved for first-time tasters. “What do you think?”
“Hmm…” Viktor hums around the mouthful he's chewing. He swallows and then taps a finger against his chin in contemplation, putting far too much thought into something that's been presented in a disposable polystyrene container. Maybe there's a future of being a food critic ahead of him in addition to his skating. “It's…interesting, that's for sure.”
Is...is this it? Has Yuuri finally stumbled upon a food that Viktor doesn't like? This is the sixth dish they’ve tried in the last two days alone; if this keeps up for any longer, the only thing that's going to be thin about them will be their wallets.
“Yeah?” Yuuri presses Viktor for more, struggling to keep his voice normal and not the least bit strained. He succeeds, sort of. “Good interesting or bad interesting?”
“Just interesting,” Viktor says. He then grins and Yuuri knows what his next words are going to be before he even says them. “I like it though!”
“Oh.” Yuuri sinks back down into his chair and watches Viktor take another bite with way more enthusiasm than one would expect from a gaikokujin. Hell, he knows some natives who wouldn't attack the food with the same fervor Viktor has now. “I’m glad, then.”
And he is glad, really. It’s not like he wants Viktor to have a horrible time when they’re out together. As determined as Yuuri is discover the truth, he doesn't take any sick, derisive pleasure in it. He's happy that no matter what, at least he has the chance to introduce Viktor to all the various sorts of foods he wouldn’t have experienced otherwise outside of Japan.
But with natto now off the list, Yuuri is running out of ideas on what to try next.
“Yuuri, I'm hurt. This is the first we’ve spoken in ages and you're calling about another man. How am I ever to recover from this?”
“Sorry, Chris,” Yuuri says with a nervous laugh. He's almost forgotten about Christophe and his eccentricities. “I just know you and Viktor are close.”
“Mmm, not as close as the two of you are, I'm sure, mon cher.” The heavy insinuation is dripping like honey from Christophe’s voice. “But yes, Viktor and I have shared a companionship over the past few years. Hope you're not too jealous?”
“N-no!” Okay, so maybe Yuuri has thought about it a few times, considering how attractive both Christophe and Viktor are and how flings amongst the skating community aren't entirely unheard of. But that's not his focus at the moment. “I was only curious, because I'm sure you've had dinner together plenty of times, right? You probably know all his favorites.”
“It depends on what sort of favorites you're talking about,” Christophe says lowly, and oh, Yuuri walked right into that one. But before he can clarify his statement, Christophe adds, “But if you meant food, I'm afraid I can't help you on that. We always talked about getting dinner together but one of us always had to end up cancelling at the last minute, usually Viktor. You know how busy our schedules can be, but even in the off-season Viktor constantly had to do public appearances for his sponsors or fulfill some sort of modeling contract. The most we could do was just talk about what foods we’d want to try if there was ever a day we could throw our diets to the wind.”
It’s an all too familiar concept to Yuuri; he’s had to restrict his beloved katsudon for after winning only and refuses to eat certain foods before competitions. He’s never stopped to consider that Viktor would do the same during his time as a skater, given his proclivity for eating everything created under the sun, but it makes sense. No wonder Viktor was so overzealous for food once he had the dietary freedom only coaches and other non-athletes possess. “Is there anything in particular that Viktor said he wanted to try?”
“Anything and everything sinful, of course; the more decadent the better. We always joked about stealing away to Paris for the weekend and feasting on foie gras, escargot, dark chocolate mousse…” The image of Viktor and Christophe, scantily-clad and feeding each other spoonfuls of mousse, flashes in the forefront of Yuuri’s mind. He clenches his jaw, nose scrunching, and forces himself to focus on the rest of Christophe’s words. “...Viktor mentioned wanting oursins himself; something about them being an aphrodisiac--”
“Oursins?” Yuuri props the phone between his neck and shoulder as he looks up the term on his laptop. His cheeks heat up, the word ‘aphrodisiac’ ringing in his ear, once he realizes what the dish entails. Well, that helps explain Viktor’s behavior once they had left the restaurant and returned to the privacy of their shared room at Yuutopia. Not that Yuuri is complaining. “Ah, it’s called uni here. Viktor actually had some last night and loved it.” And now Yuuri knows exactly why.
Maybe it’s petty, but the thought that he’s the shared something with Viktor before Christophe could have the chance sends a spike of possessive pride up Yuuri’s spine.
Christophe chuckles. “Of course he did. As for me, if I was going to have something salty and creamy in my mouth, I'd much rather it be--”
Yuuri hangs up before Christophe finishes the sentence.
“There, these are the last ones,” Yuuko says as she hands over a pair of skates and points to an empty spot at the top of the rack. “Thanks again for all your help, Yuuri-kun. We’ve been so short-staffed lately that both Takeshi and I have had to pick up double shifts until they can hire more people, which is tough with the girls.”
“I don’t mind,” Yuuri says, and he means it. Yuuko had protested at first (‘You’re a world-famous figure skater! You shouldn’t have to clean your own skates, let alone ours!’) but relented when Yuuri insisted he wanted to help. It’s the least he can do after having the Nishigoris’ support over the years.
Plus, he had come here after closing in hopes of skating through his current dilemma, but after an hour on the ice he’s no closer to finding an answer. “Has it really been that busy?”
Yuuko nods and smiles brightly at him. “It’s all thanks to you and Viktor. It’s not as hectic as we were with ‘Onsen on Ice,’ but you’ve helped so many people in town fall in love with skating.”
“Eh? Me?” Yuuri blinks, a slight flush to his cheeks. “I’m pretty sure everyone came for Viktor…”
“But they stayed for you,” Yuuko insists. “We’ve started a children’s class recently and all they talk about is how they want to be like you some day. Just you wait, soon Hasetsu is going to be known for producing world-class figure skaters, and it's thanks to you.”
Yuuri’s flush deepens and a small, pleased smile spreads across his face. Viktor’s the one who’s inspired Yuuri to get where he is now, and the thought of Yuuri now doing the same for others showcases how equal the two of them have become.
“Come sit with me.” Yuuko hops onto the counter and then pats the space next to her. “Want to tell me what’s been on your mind tonight? And before you tell me it’s nothing, remember who’s going to have to break out the Zamboni later to get all the scratches you left behind on the ice.”
“Sorry, Yuu-chan,” Yuuri says with a duck of his head. He’s hit with a wave of nostalgia when he joins her on the counter, and he struggles to remember the last time they’ve talked like this. They used to do it constantly as children, the topic of conversation about Viktor nine times out of ten, until Yuuri grew busier with competing and Yuuko grew closer to Takeshi. Then Yuuri left for college and when he came back home years later, Yuuko was a married woman with children and there wasn’t much time to spend together any more.
Maybe Yuuko would know what he should do. Aside from perhaps his own parents, Yuuko and Takeshi are the most coupliest example of a couple that he knows. “...Yuu-chan, can I ask how you found out about Nishigori’s likes and dislikes?”
“Hmm?” Yuuko tilts her head to the side and then laughs. “You know Takeshi. If he doesn’t like something he’ll be the first to tell you. Honestly, I think the girls get his brashness from him sometimes.”
Yuuri laughs as well, albeit more subdued. While he and Takeshi are friends now, he still has the memories of Takeshi showing his distaste for Yuuri and Yuuko being so close by taking it out on Yuuri. “What about the foods he doesn’t like?”
“...Why do you ask?” Yuuko’s eyes narrow and she frowns. “He’s not teasing you about your weight again, is he? Ugh, I can’t believe him! I’ll tell him to cut it out--”
“No, he didn’t!” Yuuri exclaims before he gets poor Takeshi in any trouble, holding his hands up in a placating fashion. “He didn’t do anything, I swear!”
Yuuko studies him for a second before she gives him an understanding grin. “Then, I’m guessing this somehow has to do with Viktor?” she asks. Her grin widens when she sees Yuuri slightly jump at the question. “I’m right, aren’t I?”
“Yeah,” Yuuri admits. He figures there’s no point in denying it, not now. “It’s over something that’s stupid though.”
“You always tend to overthink things too much,” Yuuko says and gives his shoulder a sympathetic pat. “I’m sure whatever it is, Viktor won’t think it’s stupid. Have you tried talking to him about it?”
She’s right of course. Viktor would be thrilled by Yuuri’s interest if Yuuri could just get the words out to talk about it. “I’ve tried, but...” Yuuri shrugs. “It’s embarrassing.”
‘Embarrassing’ isn’t accurate enough to describe the emotion eating away at him; the idea of having to flat-out ask Viktor what foods he dislikes makes Yuuri feel like he’s given up and lost. That he’s failed Viktor by not being a dutiful enough fiancé to discover the answer on his own.
“Yuuri-kun, listen to me.” Yuuko grabs him by both shoulders now, her mouth set to a comforting yet determined smile as she looks him straight in the eyes. “There’s a lot of times when you’re involved with someone that you’re going to be embarrassed in front of that other person, but you have to trust that they’re going to love you no matter what. Believe me, I would know; you can’t give birth to triplets without being in some pretty awkward situations during the pregnancy. But I know Takeshi would never judge me too harshly for it, just like I’d do the same for him. The best part about being in a relationship is being able to laugh at those kind of things together and then move on.” She squeezes Yuuri’s shoulders lightly. “Talk to Viktor. I bet it’s not as bad as you think.”
“Thanks, Yuu-chan,” Yuuri says. He knows he should take her advice but he’s just not sure how to implement it. Getting the words he wants to say out without putting his foot in during the exchange has never been his forte. That’s why he’s tried to avoid it altogether as much as possible up to this point, more willing to be labeled as ‘quiet’ and ‘shy’ than ‘that weird guy who makes a fool out of himself every time he opens his mouth.’ But if anyone is worth risking a severe bout of verbal diarrhea, it’s Viktor.
“Speaking about pregnancy, have you two discussed children yet?”
“Sorry!” Yuuko exclaims in a way that is not apologetic in the slightest. “I guess that means you haven’t seen the Instagram post the girls made. They’re taking bets for when they’re going to get a new cousin; Axel and Lutz are swearing less than year while Loop thinks you should get another poodle instead.”
(That night, Yuuri tracks down the post in question and doesn’t know how to process that Viktor himself has voted for both adopting a baby and another poodle.)
“Wow, amazing!” Viktor exclaims at the steaming bowl set down in front of him. He doesn't even balk at its unusual appearance before he digs in. “Vkusno!”
It's not like Yuuri has expected anything different. It's still ramen after all; the fact that it's dyed black from the bamboo-charcoal infused in its miso broth isn’t that outlandish compared to the other things they’ve tried in the past. But the conversation with Yuuko is in the back of his head, insisting that this is the perfect opportunity. So he opens his mouth, takes a deep breath in, and blurts out, “You don't have to eat it.”
Wow, Katsuki. Smooth, real smooth.
Viktor blinks and finishes slurping the noodles currently wrapped around his chopsticks. His lips and chin have already started taking on a grayish tinge; Yuuri is always amazed that the grace Viktor imbues on the ice doesn't carry over to his eating habits. “Why wouldn't I eat it?” Viktor asks, tilting his head to the side.
“If you don't like it,” Yuuri finds himself replying while he marvels over how easily he can get the words out, “we can always order something else.”
“‘Don't like it’?” Viktor repeats. He frowns, puzzlement putting a divot in between his eyebrows. A half-second later, it’s like a lightbulb has gone off over his head and his frown is replaced with a broad smile. “Ah, don't worry!” He reaches across the table and lays his hand on top of Yuuri’s. “I like it! In fact, I've enjoyed all the food you've been seducing me with this past week.”
Well, that's a relief. At least Yuuri knows Viktor hasn't secretly hated everything--
He doesn’t know if the smoke he smells is from the pieces of char in the broth or from his own mind short-circuiting. Or maybe it's both, because, again, what.
“That’s what this is about, right?” Viktor asks as Yuuri’s neural processes struggle to return back online. “I thought it was obvious how much I’ve appreciated you teaching me more about you and where you come from, but in case it wasn’t, thank you. I’m honored you’ve shared so much with me, Yuuri.”
No, this wasn’t what Yuuri was trying--well it was, sort of, but this was supposed to be him learning more about Viktor, not the other way around--
Forget it. Yuuri doesn’t care if he’s going to embarrass himself in the restaurant, doesn’t care if he’s going to get them kicked out for public indecency. His chair is knocked back behind him, scraping against the wooden floor as he surges to his feet. He intertwines his fingers tightly with Viktor’s before he leans over and their mouths meet in an almost crushing force. Yuuri can taste droplets of broth from the ramen lingering on Viktor’s lips, the sensation salty and savory and hot, and he finds that he likes it served to him like this; he likes the reminder of home being a marker on Viktor’s body like it belongs there. He chases every bit of it with his tongue, slipping open Viktor’s mouth for more, until he regretfully pulls away before he gets tempted to do something best reserved for the bedroom.
Viktor is staring at him now, his reddened mouth open and even redder cheeks flushed. At this distance and in this lighting, Yuuri can see the peppering of freckles Viktor always gets across the bridge his nose whenever he goes out into the spring sun without any protective face cream on. Viktor likes to complain how they ruin his pale complexion, but they’re another little thing among the thousands that Yuuri adores about him.
“Viktor,” Yuuri starts, because while he thinks he should be entitled to open-mouth kiss his fiancé without needing a valid reason behind it first, that isn’t the case this time, “I want to be the one who shares food with you, all the food you could ever want. I want to know which ones you like and dislike, things only I’m allowed to know and no one else. Understand?”
It’s not the most eloquent ultimatum, and embarrassment is beginning to churn acidicly in his stomach alongside half-digested noodles. But it’s finally out in the open with no possible chance of misinterpretation.
At least Viktor seems to understand the intent behind it, judging by the way he nods. “Okay,” he says, breathless. “But, Yuuri,” he adds after a beat, his eyes shining bright, “you already know my favorite is katsudon.”
That’s...that’s not the type of response Yuuri’s expected to receive, and yet he’ll go with it. He blinks and then smiles, slow and dreamy, as he tries not to drool over the thought of his mother’s home-cooked meals like he usually does. “Yeah,” he says with a wistful sigh, “it’s mine too.”
“No, that’s not what I meant.” Viktor chuckles under his breath, his fingers reaching up to hook Yuuri’s chin and bring him closer for another kiss, “I meant my katsudon.”
“Oh,” is all Yuuri can say before they give the other restaurant patrons a show to talk about over their dinners.
(Later, Viktor demonstrates to Yuuri what exactly being his favorite entails, over and over again, to the point where Yuuri forgets that the walls of his family's ryokan are paper thin.
Only to be reminded the next morning when he’s greeted with a cheerful lecture from his parents about keeping noises down for the other guests and a knowing, smug look from Mari, all while Viktor happily wolfs down his breakfast, oblivious to Yuuri’s sudden desire to go crawl into a hole somewhere.)
In the end, the real answer is so mundane it's almost disappointing.
“Really,” Yuuri deadpans.
In the seat next to him, Viktor shrugs as he pushes the offending food item in question to the side of his plate. “I just never liked them. It's not that big of a deal, is it?”
Yuuri sighs and reaches over, scraping Viktor’s portion onto his own plate to save Viktor the trouble of trying to dispose them discreetly later on. “It's a good thing you have me here then, huh?”
“Wow!” Viktor beams with wonder, like Yuuri is the David to Viktor's own personal Goliath. “My hero~”
(Needless to say, ‘He doesn't like green beans.’ is definitely being added to the book, which has now been renamed, ‘Reasons Why Vitya is Ridiculous (But I Still Love Him)’.)