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La Dolce Vitya

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"Rome," Yuuri slurs, "I wanna go to Rome".

A greenish drink leaves a bitter aftertaste on Yuuri’s tongue. Yuuri’s not entirely sure what Phichit mixed together for such a disgusting effect – he’s not sure Phichit knows it, either – but he doesn’t care as long as it’s working.  He takes another sip.

It’s probably absinthe. Yuuri didn’t know they had money for that.

"Yuuri", Phichit tells him, spreading the vowels apart in a happy, drunken way. "You’ve been to Rome!"

Yes, Yuuri did go to Rome.

Rome was all sun and Vespa scooters and coffee, day lectures at film school and night walks to follow the traces of Michelangelo Antonioni. Then his year abroad ended. Yuuri went back to Detroit, full of memories of light and history, and filled to the brim with a sense of a vague aesthetic which he could only express in this state of intoxication, when his tongue still felt too bitter against his palate.

Yuuri takes another sip of his drink just because he can. He doesn't enjoy it.

"Sweet," he slurs to Phichit. "Rome."

Phichit mixes something, again, like a wizard’s apprentice, surrounded by glass and bottles on their kitchen table. He tastes the new drink, nods to himself, and sends Yuuri a smile as sunny as a June day in Italy.

Yuuri misses Italy. Back then, an ocean away, there was no need to think about his final project and upcoming graduation. Now, a couple of blocks away from the university, Yuuri sort of has to. A trip to Italy would be nice.

They are not in Italy, it is not June, and Yuuri needs a sweet drink.

"You can’t go to Rome," Phichit tells him. He might be a tiny bit soberer than Yuuri. "Well, you can, I guess. But you’ve got no money. And you won’t graduate."

Graduation is a word with far too many syllables. Yuuri doesn’t bother with it. He eyes his drink with disgust and then looks enviously at Phichit, who downs his own one happily.

"Make me one too, Phichit-kun," he says, straining with effort, but Phichit shakes his head.

"Don’t you think you’re getting a bit too wasted?’, he asks, and Yuuri may be drunk but he knows what’s coming.

The test.

Neither of them remembers clearly The Great Party of ‘14. Yuuri suspects that pole dancing may have been involved. He never mentions it to Phichit, but he’s almost sure. Now, though, the party doesn’t matter – the aftermath does. Yuuri remembers it with the clarity he certainly regrets: they both woke up naked in somebody’s bedroom, covered in glitter, and it was then that they decided to introduce a test to check if they were too drunk or not. Being covered in glitter was not fun – it got everywhere. The test was just a reasonable thing to do. It was simple. It consisted of two steps.

 It went like this:

  1. They chose a word that was difficult to say.
  2. If they couldn’t pronounce the word, they were too drunk and they called it a night.

(Somehow it always ended up with Phichit testing Yuuri).

"Say: Victor Nikiforov."

The thing is – Yuuri is rarely too drunk to mispronounce this name, but he also refuses to set up any other password. He’s seen all the movies Nikiforov as much as cameoed in. He’s watched the actor’s interviews. He’s got a scrapbook full of pictures cut out from glossy magazines.

In short: he knows how to say Victor Nikiforov’s name.

"Victor Nikiforov," Yuuri says now, dutifully, with perfect Russian intonation. And then he says it again because Victor Nikiforov is just like this: once you see him, once you say his name, it’s never enough, and you want more, more, just like Yuuri wants more alcohol and sweet things, and Rome. "Victor Nikiforov. Vitya." he adds the man’s famous nickname. The name sounds good, sweet, like the drink he craves.

"Sweet, Phichit," he orders now, and Phichit sighs, but he’s intoxicated too. When he complies and gives Yuuri another drink, the bitter aftertaste on his tongue disappears under a syrupy flavour of whatever Phichit has mixed up now.

"Sweet," Yuuri confirms happily. "Dolce."

Italian is easier than English; it rolls off his tongue with a certain solid rhythm that English lacks, and always brings in this serotinal, longing quality that makes Yuuri happier. And he likes the word dolce, elegant and flawless, almost like Victor Nikiforov himself.

"La Dolce Vitya," he declares then because it makes a perfect sense, and "it’s a pun, Phichit, it’s a pun, don’t you see?"

He thinks, of course, that it’s brilliant, a twist on Fellini’s famous La Dolce Vita. Phichit must get it – or he won’t be Yuuri’s best friend.

Phichit laughs, and Yuuri thinks it might be a bit hysterical, but who cares.

"Yuuri," Phichit points his finger at him.  His colourful drink almost spills in his other hand. "It sounds like a very bad porn title." He seems to be lost deep in thoughts – or at least, Yuuri thinks so – and then, in the dead of a spring night, in their tiny apartment in Detroit, Yuuri witnesses Phichit’s epiphany.

"I know," Phichit says, because of course he does. "It’s a movie title, Yuuri. La Dolce Vitya. I dare you. Make it your final project."

 

***

 

Yuuri has studied the way narratives work.

He knows how the plot goes – he’s seen so many films, he’s read so many scripts, he’s read so many novels and short stories that he can claim storytelling as a part of him. It runs in his blood. So when Yuuri says he knows how the plot goes – he says he knows there should be a single point in the narrative, just one scene, which shows how the story begins and drives it forward.  

Let’s take Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet meet at the ball; Hamlet sees the ghost; Macbeth encounters three witches.  Or let’s take Yuuri’s very own short movie, Lohengrin: a dime-a-dozen skater watches a champion perform a stunning piece. It’s always (Yuuri knows) just a single moment in time.

Yuuri’s brain, trained by film school and years of dedication, can tell you why: more impact, more clarity, more suspense.

But Yuuri is just Yuuri, a stranger in a strange land – just your next door Japanese student, aspiring film director and admirer of European cinema and Victor Nikiforov.

Yuuri’s not a character in a film. He doesn’t have a plot line. So when it begins, there isn’t a single scene, a single moment caught in time and brought to life on screen. In fact, Yuuri – if you asked him – would not even know which event he’d have to pinpoint.

It could be one day in spring when Yuuri and Phichit finished their mid-terms and got drunk. Yuuri came up with a disastrous film title. Phichit came up with a dare.

Or it could be one day in high school when Yuuri watched Michelangelo Antonioni’s La Notte and then spent the night lying wide awake, blinking at the darkness of his bedroom’s ceiling, replaying the scenes in his mind one by one, and when he got up the following day, a part of the film made its way into Yuuri’s soul, found a place there and never left.

Or it could be one day when Yuuri was just shy of thirteen, awkward and chubby and beginning to feel as if he had too many limbs. The world was a vast, scary territory which needed a counterpoint to tame its overwhelming presence. Yuuri found out that films were a good contrast, and Agnieszka Holland’s The Secret Garden gave Yuuri a refuge the way nothing else ever could.

Or it could be one day when he went ice skating with his friend Yuuko. She was brave and bright and had just come back from a national competition, but all Yuuri could do was try not to fall on his butt as he made a few lapses around the rink. Yuuko skated her performance for him; she was striking, captivating, like a storyteller. Yuuri watched and watched as if suspended in time while a story of hope and love and glory unfolded in front of his eyes like in a dream. ‘I want to be like you, Yuu-chan’, Yuuri said then, broken out of his reverie. ‘I want to tell people stories’.

Yuuri now knows that stories don’t always work that way, too. Sometimes things are not linear; sometimes things are broken, interrupted, or unconnected. He knows all these things. He knows they can be brilliant; Yuuri’s favourite film, after all, is Fellini’s Amarcord, with its oneiric, episodic sequences. But Yuuri’s life is really not that interesting, not worthy of being turned into a story – Yuuri’s not worth it.  

He’s just Yuuri.

 

***

 

One week after his midterms Ciao Ciao catches Yuuri on the campus. For a spring morning, it’s cold, and Yuuri wants nothing more than to go inside – or better yet, go home. But he’s been avoiding Ciao Ciao long enough that his gut tells him it might not be a good idea to play hide and seek with your supervisor if you want to graduate in the near future – or if you want to graduate, ever.

"Ciao Ciao, Yuuri," the professor says, and Yuuri’s conscience kicks him in the shins when he thinks of the man’s ever-cheerful attitude.

Yuuri needs to direct a film to graduate. Celestino was more than happy to supervise him after watching Yuuri’s short Lohengrin and recognizing some late Fellini influences with a unique, postmodern twist, and then he offered Yuuri nothing but support in regards to Yuuri’s semester abroad in Rome. "You’ll learn so much," he said. "You’ll come back inspired."

Yuuri came back, and he was one month behind the deadline for the early script submission. Celestino probably tolerated Yuuri’s tardiness only because Yuuri had stayed at his brother’s in Florence for one weekend and brought Celestino some knick-knacks from his family.

Yuuri now stops in his tracks and stares at the professor, unsure what to tell him. Celestino’s lenience probably ends right here and now, and unless Yuuri can pull out a film out of his ass, he can wave goodbye to summer graduation.

He mumbles a good morning, because what else he can say, and Celestino shakes his hands with much more enthusiasm than Yuuri can ever muster on a campus at nine in the morning.

"How’s it going, Yuuri?" he asks, and Yuuri braces himself for the inevitable, which of course is bound to follow. He’s not disappointed. "I haven’t seen anything from you in a while!" which means nothing at all, but Ciao Ciao is too kind to say that.

"Yeah," Yuuri says. "I’ve been..." binge-watching Netflix and eating crap food and trying to find a topic but everything fell short and I don’t have anything for you, sorry, "I’ve been working on it."

"You’re running out of time," Celestino says. He’s not unkind. He’s probably the coolest professor Yuuri’s ever had. All the others would have just failed Yuuri on the spot.

"I know," Yuuri tells him. Of course he knows. The deadline is called just that because it passes and then takes Yuuri’s life away, one hour of sleep at a time.

"Yuuri," Celestino shakes his head. He can probably see through Yuuri’s lies as clearly as if they were made of glass – and maybe they are, fragile and transparent and ready to shatter and cut Yuuri’s skin bloody red.

"Send me something by the end of the week, Yuuri," Celestino finally says. "And I mean it. I’ve given you more time but there’s the question of your budget. You need to apply for everything on Monday or you’re on your own, Yuuri, and to apply you need my signature," and then, not even giving Yuuri enough time to process this thinly veiled threat, he follows with a cheerful: "I’m excited about what you come up with!"

He walks away, as joyful as ever, leaving Yuuri alone in the middle of the campus, cold and tired and almost late for his Film Production lecture.

It’s Thursday. Yuuri has three days.

 

***

 

He never makes it to the lecture. Instead, Yuuri calls Phichit, screams about an emergency, and hurries back to his apartment.

Phichit greets him in the kitchen. His laptop is open on the table and he’s surrounded by junk food, greasy and ready to be wolfed down.

"I've been expecting this," Phichit says.

"I have no plot," Yuuri says back. "No script. No actors. Nothing, Phichit, and Celestino says I’ve got three days, Jesus Christ."

"I’ve got vodka," Phichit offers.

"No," Yuuri glares. "We’re not doing that. Last time we got drunk you wanted to make a Fellini inspired porn movie."

Yuuri sees the glint in Phichit’s eyes. He regrets he knows Phichit as well as he does.

"No," Yuuri says. "Phichit, no. We’re not doing – doing that!"

In hindsight, that’s a wrong thing to say. It leads, inevitably, to Phichit giving Yuuri a look.

"Do you have a better idea?" Phichit asks.

Yuuri does not.

 

***

 

They’re not writing a porn movie. It doesn’t mean the script is entirely harmless.

Phichit studies Screenwriting. Yuuri doesn’t know whether to be grateful or in despair. When Phichit writes, it’s not a process – it’s a ritual. Yuuri usually prefers to be as far away from it as possible, but since it’s his career that is at stake now, he keeps a close eye on Phichit’s Word document.

Phichit sets up their working space in the kitchen. For some reason, the hamster cage is essential, hamsters included – Phichit claims the sound of their running wheel calms him (‘It’s like those alpha waves, Yuuri!’), but Yuuri finds it grating. He can’t focus.

It’s eerie, sitting in the kitchen, hamsters running wild on the wheel, Phichit by his side. Phichit burns some incense – "It’s for the aesthetic" – and plays loud pop music. He says it’s a religious experience.

Yuuri feels vaguely afraid.

"We can’t have you direct another Lohengrin," Phichit insists. "Don’t get me wrong – I loved that shit, Yuuri, you know I did, but if you’re gonna get repetitive at 24 people think you’ll be dead by 27, and I love you too much for that to let it happen."

"A porn movie is not Lohengrin"Lohengrin was a coming-of-age story in under ten minutes, a tale of growing hope and first disappointments, of navigating a foreign country in baby steps, of watching swans by the lake and a skater at a rink when watching films became too much. A porn movie is not about that. A porn movie is about the dick Phichit will inevitably write as the protagonist. "And Ciao Ciao will never accept a porn movie."

"We can make it cute," Phichit says. "Like, I don’t know, Bertolucci."

Phichit must be thinking about The Dreamers, Yuuri is quite sure. There’s a raw, sweet, awkward sex scene in it that Phichit finds desperately endearing. But Yuuri’s not convinced.

"La Dolce Vitya,"he says. "Phichit, if we’re doing this, and you’re including a sex scene, it’s gonna be too corny with that title, we won’t pull it off."

He’s not inspired – by no means, he’s stuck in a creative cul-de-sac with the screenwriting bulldozer that is his best friend – but he knows what he doesn’t want to do. That’s something. "I’d like it to be meaningful," he says. "It’s the last film I’m gonna make here. Who knows what happens later – maybe I won’t make it at all.You know how many hopeful film directors wannabes schools like ours can produce in a year? Thousands, all over the world, Phichit."

"Okay," Phichit says. "I get it. We’re gonna crank out something ambitious. Without sex scenes, if you don’t want any. You’ll be a fucking auteur by the time you graduate."

 

***

 

They pull it off.

"It’s fantastic," Ciao Ciao says two days later. Yuuri’s sleep deprived and he’s been mixing up energy drinks with caffeine pills. The script may be impeccable but Yuuri himself is not; Phichit called their script indie and oomph and with a touch of Kieślowski, don’t you think? but the circles under Yuuri’s eyes tell a battle story instead.

"I can see Phichit Chulanont co-wrote the script," Ciao Ciao muses now. "You work well together."

Twenty-three hours ago, Phichit chased Yuuri with a fork and threatened bodily harm if Yuuri did not acquiesce to his screenwriting demands.

"Yeah," Yuuri says. "We do."

Ciao Ciao doesn’t seem to notice the doubt in Yuuri’s voice. He peers at the screen.

"Now I understand why it took you so long to submit this," he tells Yuuri, "and why you missed the deadline."

It took Yuuri and Phichit nineteen hours of work to plan it and write it and three hours to revise.

"We worked really hard," he confirms.

 

***

 

Yuuri refuses to get wasted at home again. They go out to a club and Yuuri nurses his drink – Yuuri doesn’t know its name but it’s something with absinthe and pomegranate and he may be a bit drunk on the way how positively decadent it sounds – and Phichit may or may not be cracking up at the thought of Ciao Ciao buying in the script they’ve just submitted.

"He’s approved the costs too," Phichit repeats for the sixth time. "I can’t believe!"

Yuuri’s vision of La Dolce Vitya could be best described as Three Colours: Red meets The Great Beauty, symbolic minimalism fights baroque, rich opulence. Their film school might set aside a budget for every student film that was made every semester, but this budget had its limits. Yuuri did not think he’d get much – but Celestino did sign the necessary paperwork which, frankly, went over Yuuri’s head.

After five years of student life, Yuuri still doesn’t know how it works, but Ciao Ciao assured him that his paperwork is going to be processed.

Yuuri doesn’t really care as long as he gets the dollars he needs. His drink tastes like victory.

 

***

 

There’s nothing victorious about the next afternoon.

Yuuri feels the after-effects of the previous night in his head, in his bones, in his thoughts – they run sloppily, slowly, and in circles. This is Not Good.

Phichit, of course, has been cheerful since the wee hours of the morning, brighter than sunlight. He refuses to sit by Yuuri’s side now; Yuuri is perfectly content to zombie the shit out of their afternoon plans but his friend has better ideas. He sets up his laptop and prepares the lighting in the living room just so for his presentation, and orders pizza from their favourite place, typing away on his iPhone. His fingers move faster than the neurons in Yuuri’s brain.

Yuuri spends an eternity wondering how and when Phichit managed to put together a Prezi thing in between their screenwriting, drinking and generally existing. Yuuri didn’t even put together two coherent sentences since they finished writing, and that was also Not Good because he did have to go and get Celestino’s grin of approval.

Phichit finishes fiddling with his laptop just in time for the first guests to arrive. To be fair – at this point both Leo and Guang Hong are less their guests and more occasional roommates; Yuuri has long lost count of all the nights they spent together marathoning random and not so random films, and he’s fairly sure at least one of them has a spare toothbrush in Phichit and Yuuri’s tiny bathroom; the dog-eared Kubrick poster in the kitchen may or may not be Leo’s. They all but moved together after Yuuri’s last film that he had to pull out of his ass for a credit, and since Leo is great with the camera and Guang Hong’s makeup skills rivalled Phichit’s, it was an easy choice to invite them again.

Now Yuuri doesn’t bother to acknowledge either of them. Leo waves cheerfully and proceeds to raid the fridge, and Guang Hong just follows him because it’s probably safer than dealing with Yuuri when he’s like that. They would know. Yuuri is like that a lot.

He still doesn’t move from his spot even as the Crispino siblings enter in a storm of movement, Mickey with a scowl on his face and Sara way too cheerful for Yuuri’s liking. It’s not the first project he’s done with either of them, and it’s always the same – Mickey is efficient with props and suspicious of all men his sister works with, and Sara worms her way both into Yuuri’s bag of sweets and into his next film.

Isabella follows soon after. Yuuri gives her a smile and that’s it; he doesn’t really know her, but she’s friends with a friend of a friend of Phichit, and the world is small, and even smaller when your world is a film school.

The tiny apartment slowly grows noisier. Yuuri lets the buzz wash over him like a wave; people arrive one by one, Seung-gil the floor manager the quietest of them, keeping his distance, and perhaps keeping himself from showing his distaste, too. Yuuri’s not sure how he’s friends with Seung-gil, but stranger things have happened in college. He’s not gonna complain.

Otabek arrives soon and he’s almost as silent as Seung-gil; he, too, stays a bit away from the source of noise (which Yuuri knows is Phichit, it’s always Phichit). For a guy so quiet, it’s a bit ironic Otabek is responsible for all their sound issues, including the score. Otabek grabs a seat next to Yuuri and then proceeds to ignore him, which is just as well since Yuuri has no strength left for any actual human interaction which doesn’t involve coffee.

Yuuri knows they’re waiting for a few more people and even in his zombie-like state he realizes something’s wrong – Minami is never late, at least not when he can work with Yuuri, whom he worships more than Yuuri worships caffeine. It’s kind of creepy, sometimes, but Minami’s also great with lights and the only one among them who understands electricity.

Minami finally bursts through the door, and it seems like his lateness is explained by the fact he met Mila the technician and Georgi the thespian downstairs and they harassed the pizza delivery guy together. Minami has much more enthusiasm than all of them combined and presents the pizza to Yuuri like an Oscar, and if Yuuri wants to die a little, nobody knows because this is the moment Yuri Plisetsky enters their place.

Yuri is late, of course, because he’s an actor and that’s how he makes an entrance. He flops down next to Otabek and ignores them all even as Phichit beings to hand out their drinks and people scurry to help themselves to slices of pizza and even Yuuri comes out of his zombie zone because if he’s going to make through this alive and in one piece, he’s going to need a lot of pizza and he’s going to need it now.

And then Phichit flashes the screen. It begins.

 

***

 

A town somewhere in Italy, timeless – a bit eclectic, a bunch of props from the past mixed with fashion evoking vaguely futuristic connotations. A mafioso falls in love with a brilliant confectioner. Soon they have a baby, and they’re as happy as a little family can be when they have a lot of cakes. But then the woman falls victim to an accident as tragic as improbable, and it soon turns out that the confectioner and the mafioso could only be together when they remembered how to smile. He raises the son on his own, and the boy soon learns the intricacies of his father’s trade. Years pass. The boy turns into a man; he grows strong, and deadly, and unhappy, and there is something missing in his life. A job leads him to a pastry shop, where he reconnects with his ailing mother, his past, and his love for sweet buns.

"Of course it’s not as straightforward as that," Yuuri says. "We want ambiguity. Let the audience drink it in. Let them wonder about possible interpretations, so when they ask you “what do you mean by that? Do you mean this?”, you can say “that too”. We want a story which is barely restrained, with meanings that almost overflow. We want a story that contains multitudes.”

"Okay, Walt Whitman," Leo chirps, "Got it. Now, do you want a slice of pizza? We’re almost runnin’ out".

 

***

 

"So, Yuuri," Ciao Ciao begins and Yuuri knows what’s coming. "How is it going?"

Ciao Ciao has been asking the same question over and over again, going as far as to send Yuuri a daily email with encouragements, questions and all kinds of advice that are way too late to be given. He seems to be genuinely excited, and maybe that’s a good thing – he’s Yuuri’s supervisor, after all – yet Yuuri never actually expected him to monitor his progress at all. Most of the professors Yuuri has worked with offered scarce advice mumbled without even looking at him, or graced Yuuri with vague suggestions like “make these floral decorations ooze longevity”. Yuuri thought they all tried to put Ang Lee to shame.

When Yuuri worked on Lohengrin and Ciao Ciao supervised him for the first time, the man’s involvement could be explained by Yuuri’s blatant inexperience. Now, though, Yuuri (kinda) knows what he’s (supposed to be) doing. Ciao Ciao is just having fun tormenting him. Yuuri’s sure the professor knows that Yuuri and Phichit bullshitted their way out mere hours before the deadline.

Ciao Ciao now sits at his desk. The office is full of old posters and books scattered on the table (there are bookshelves, but filled with dust and knick-knacks; Celestino’s been collecting angel figurines from all over the world and now they all stare at Yuuri creepily. Looking at them is almost as painful as looking into Ciao Ciao’s amber eyes). Yuuri hates the office. He hates the tea Celestino always makes him, and above all, he hates that he has to sit here, in the wooden chair older than the dean himself, and he has to pretend he has an artistic vision.

Yuuri’s actual artistic vision includes ten hours of sleep and a puppy, but he’s not gonna tell Ciao Ciao that.

"It’s going okay," he says instead. "We managed to convince Yurio Plisetsky to play the lead role."

Ciao Ciao lets one of his eyebrows travel up and up, up so high that it almost meets his hairline.

"And he let you? I must say I’m impressed – but if there was anyone who could do that, it’s you, Yuuri."

Yuuri shrugs. They just lucked out with Yurio.

Everyone wanted to get the blond student to act in their films. Yurio was RADA-trained, and only went on to Detroit when he got bored and lacked challenge. How he could get bored at RADA, Yuuri didn’t know – at least until he saw Yurio act, and act he did. He could tear the film set apart like a hurricane with one gesture only. The problem was, Yurio was a hellish actor to have on set, and to convince him to join in the first place was almost impossible.

"We told him he could take his cat with him," Yuuri reveals now. "In fact the cat’s got a role now. We’re including his treats in the budget plan, too."

"Are you, now?" Celestino asked. Yuuri got the impression that he wanted to laugh but somehow thought it would be unprofessional to do so. "Well, I trust you, Yuuri. Now, I read your email about blocking and I think that a two-shot would be perfect for..."

 

***

 

Yuuri always dreads the first day of shooting. It’s a flurry of frantic activity after a long, sluggish night of self-doubt; it never feels right, and Yuuri will not delude himself thinking he’s ever going to come back home from the set feeling satisfied with the results of shooting, not after the first day, possibly not ever.

The perfect cure for his mood is a night filled with hot cocoa and Victor Nikiforov’s films, especially those in which he still had his signature long hair. Yuuri’s looking forward to this – he just has to survive the day first.

Phichit all but drags Yuuri into the cab they’re sharing to the location. As the car approaches the set, Yuuri wills and wills himself to disappear. It’s all for nothing. The Crispino’s suburban house looms in the distance like a harbinger of Yuuri’s failure. Some of the film crew have already set things up in the garden. Sara offered it as a possible location the moment she learnt about the Italian inspirations behind the film, and Yuuri could not refuse, not when he realized that the house was overlooking just the garden and some desolate films which would be perfect to set the mood. Yuuri had just the wide shot in mind. He can still visualise it now that he sees it – even busy with preparations, the set is going to be perfect.

There are entirely too many people there, though; some of the crew have arrived much earlier than expected. Yuuri would prefer to work with as few of them as possible, but they’re starting with a big scene today, with all their actors, a long shot that was Yuuri’s favourite among his own storyboarding ideas. Yuuri takes a deep breath and oversees the last minute preparations before barking off his ideas for the wide shot.

"Imagine a feeling of loss," Yuuri says, "not entirely helpless but close to it. There’s going to be some music here, but only amplifying this emotion – Georgi, you’re going to stay a bit outside of this, content. You’re at an okay point in your life – think of bright future, no remorse here, just determination. You know what you want from your life and from Vitya. Vitya won’t. Yurio, you-you're going to be lost, without direction, but you need to make sure you’re hiding it. The viewer will pick this up – the rest of the characters shouldn’t. We’re going with your emotions to create the mood."

Yurio just shrugs, but Yuuri knows he gets it. The cat sits on his lap like a sunbeam. Yurio’s already in full makeup and dressed in a beige coat Phichit chose for him, and only the grimace on his face sets him apart from the character he plays. Georgi though – he plays the father – still wears his own make-up, eyeliner included. Yuuri thinks Phichit is going to scold him the minute he spots it. He walks towards Leo to escape the small apocalypse that always rises around Phichit.

"The capture cable is not working," Leo informs him. He says it so cheerfully that Yuuri’s brain takes a moment to realize the news is not, in fact, good. "No, no, no, don’t worry," Leo hurries and almost knocks the camera down as he tries to calm Yuuri down. Yuuri doesn’t know what shows on his face but he knows it has to be Not Good. Leo catches the camera seconds before it shatters on the ground, and Yuuri’s brain first circulates and then miraculously starts working again.

"Sorry for that," Leo says, cradling the camera like Yurio cuddles the cat. "Happens all the time, no big deal. I, erm, I’ll take care of the cable. Chill, Yuuri, it’ll be fine, alright?"

What the hell. Yuuri stares, and stares, and Leo begins to grow concerned again, so Yuuri turns on his heel and before he knows it, the rehearsal starts.

What the hell, Yuuri thinks again as the set momentarily transforms into something rough and raw and entirely too magical to be still the same old garden. Yurio loses his grimace and his eyes shine with a dimmed light that has nothing to do with the lightning on set. Yuuri wants to blink and doesn’t dare; the scene is, somehow, perfected, and yet unpolished, and he loves it, all of it: the minimalist background, the cloudy weather they are lucky to get, the symbolism of the sparse props that will become clear in the last scene of the film. What the hell, Yuuri thinks, I hope the cable is working.

 

***

 

"Don’t think I don’t know what you’re suggesting," Yurio grumbles at him in between the takes.

"What am I suggesting?" Yuuri asks. Every interaction with the blond actor leaves him wary.

"You’re basing Vitya off of Nikiforov," Yurio spits out. "That’s disgusting. Not even an ounce of subtlety."

"I’m not.." Yuuri begins, and then Yurio gives him a glare, and Yuuri’s brain comes to a halt. "Okay, you’re right. Okay. I am."

"That’s disgusting," Yurio just says. He shoots Yuuri another piercing glare, for good measure, and storms off.

"Okay," Yuuri sighs. "Okay?"

 

***

 

Pastry shop in the old district. Vitya sits down outdoors opposite his mother. He eats sweet buns.

VITYA

I never thought I’d be here.

VERONICA

In Italy?

VITYA

                        (sardonically)

In Italy. 

They smile.

VITYA

                      (continuing)

No, in your shop. Baking with you again.

VERONICA

You think too much, Vitya, and never about the important things.

For a moment, there is only silence. Vitya drinks from his cup. He’s aware that Veronica studies his every movement. He becomes a bit flushed.  There is very little noise in the street and the pastry shop is empty, too, but suddenly Vitya’s world is very loud.

VITYA

                                   (sharper than needed)

That’s why I came here, you know.

To see you. To learn from you. That’s it. The important things you keep talking about, that’s it. Right here, right now, in this shop—

VERONICA

Vitya—

VITYA

--Mom.

 

***

 

"There’s something wrong with this scene," Sara notices.  

It’s the seventh take. Yuuri doesn’t know why she’s even there – they’re not filming in her garden anymore, and Sara’s not in any of the scenes. She must be in it for the snacks Phichit always distributes on the set.

Yuuri watches as Yurio texts away on his phone, fingers flying furiously; Isabella has wandered off to somewhere. Yuuri thinks, vaguely, that pretending to be Yurio’s mother must be almost as hard as being his actual parent. He can almost sympathise.

Yurio steals a pastry from the plate just as Phichit appears next to them. He carries an unsteady pile of papers in his arms; Yuuri didn’t even know they had so much paper. He can’t imagine what they would need it for.

"Hey," Phichit says, indignant. A few loose pages escape the file and go with the wind. "I paid for those."

"The school paid for those," Sara snickers. "And you wanted real food for the aesthetic, you said. What I understand is you just wanted to eat it yourself and Yurio was just faster than you."

"Great minds think alike," Phichit answers sagely. He looks entirely unperturbed that Sara saw right through him. "Yuuri, there’s something wrong with this scene."

Yuuri knows there’s something wrong with this scene. He’s known this from the first take.

"We wrote it drunk, remember? Or high or caffeine. Same difference. Of course it’s not the pinnacle of good writing."

"Fight me," Phichit says. "I didn’t pull an all-nighter so you could self-depreciate the shit out of this, Yuuri. Like, okay, it’s not the greatest scene ever written, but Ciao Ciao accepted it so it can’t suck nearly as much as you believe it does,"

"It’s not a bad script, Yuuri," Sara chimes in. "I like the emotional impact in all the scenes in the pastry shop. It’s interesting how it develops – only, Yuuri, that’s the problem."

Yuuri gazes at her and at Yurio, who still ignores the great part of the world which can’t be contained inside his phone.

"Vitya doesn’t develop as a character," he realizes. Yurio still types. They all know he’s not oblivious to the world, probably not even totally oblivious to their conversation, but he always does his hardest to pretend they all don’t exist.

‘"Oh, he does," Sara waves the script in front of Yuuri’s face. "Here, he does.  Your Vitya changes. Yurio’s Vitya doesn’t."

Yuuri needs a second to mull it over. The second passes, callous, hurried, and short-lasting.

"We’re gonna get stuck in development hell," he groans.

"Oh, come on," Phichit says, walking away to the set with the intention of stealing a pastry. "We don’t have the time to get stuck, Yuuri. We’re getting the hell out of this project before you graduate."

 

***

 

They get the hell out of the set three hours later, after a shouting match with Yurio about character development, scripts that suck dick and pastries that were stale. Yuuri’s migraine approaches with the imminence of all the deadlines in the world.

"Stop moping," Phichit says. "You’re not gonna become the next Linklater if you waste all your energy on sulking."

He flops down on the couch with no care in the world, leaving, of course, no room for Yuuri. They have an armchair. Yuuri hates the armchair. He rolls his eyes and decides to spend a Phichitless night in his room, looking at pictures of Victor Nikiforov until the bright glare of his phone brings his migraine closer and closer, until the only way to exist is through sleep, pain, and sensory deprivation.

"I don’t have time to be the next Linklater. It took him twelve years to make Boyhood. I’m not gonna take this long to graduate. I-- I don’t want to be the next Linklater’, Yuuri says before he closes the door to his bedroom. ‘I just want to be Yuuri. I want it to be my film, your film, our film. I just want to make it work, okay?"

He closes the door even as he hears Phichit’s muffled answer. Yuuri doesn’t reply.

Figures.

***

 

"Hey, Katsuki," Yurio’s voice on the phone sounds a bit rough and a bit like something else. Yuuri is too tired to think about it. "Otabek had an idea how I can make your script suck less."

Yuuri bites his tongue. The script doesn’t suck. At least not as much as it could, written in a hurry and all. What sucks is that Yurio’s brilliant but he doesn’t get it, and he’s too damn stubborn to listen to Yuuri when he talks about Vitya’s transformation. The only thing Yurio transforms is his ugly scowl (from moderate to apocalyptically furious).

"So, ugh, we can film the pastry scene again? I have a different idea."

Yuuri blesses Otabek with all he has.

"Yeah," he says. "Yes."

 

***

 

The thing is, they may have written the script in a frenzy, and the whole thing may have been a dare, but Yuuri is nothing if not a perfectionist, and he loves what he does. He doesn’t want to make a film simply to graduate. It’s not enough – not when he can make something that leaves a lasting impression, that makes an impact, that evokes feelings, and that moves hearts, and that plants a seed in the audience’s minds when the credits begin to roll.

"Shit, Yuuri," Phichit says. Yuuri spends the night frantically rewatching Yurio’s dailies. Otabek has just sent him the score. Yuuri should listen to it before going to bed. "When I said you’re gonna be an auteur, I was kinda kidding?"

 

***

 

"Mickey’s at it again," Isabella notices. Yuuri’s just walked her through her last scene – and to be fair, she was so good that he didn’t think she needed any of his insight, but she seemed to appreciate it nonetheless. "And he’s coming here."

There’s a grimace on Isabella’s face that has nothing to do with the angsty, silent scene she’s about to act in.

"Oi, Katsuki," Yuuri hears. He should have banned from the set all the people who begin their conversations with oi, Katsuki because that’s. Just. Not. Done. "Come ‘ere, we need to talk."

Yuuri doesn’t come anywhere. Isabella raises one eyebrow, slowly. Yuuri thinks she’s enjoying it.

"I’m working, Mickey," Yuuri says. It’s not a lie. They’re sitting on the set, constructed so carefully that Yuuri can already envision it in the film, the colours muted but making a statement, Isabella like a vibrant, decaying sunflower. Yuuri’s there in his khaki parka, feeling almost like an intruder. "If it’s not about this scene, it’ll have to wait."

"No it won’t," Mickey growls because he’s Mickey and he does things only cartoon villains do. "I’ve been letting this slide for so long cause I thought you’d correct your mistake, but now I’m fed up with it, Katsuki. I won’t let my sister star in an idiotic excuse of a film that butchers the language of her ancestors."

Yuuri sighs.

"Michele," he says. "It’s a pun. I know that la is a feminine article. And if you knew anything about interpretation, you’d notice it’s a joke, one which you’d pick up on if you had bothered to read the fucking script."

Silence falls, heavy like Leo’s camera tripod. Yuuri never swears. Yuuri’s polite to a fault, and kind, and treats the crew with more respect than he has for himself.

"I’m done," Mickey announces. He probably means to make his exit dramatic, but he’s no actor.

"His timing was a bit off," Isabella shrugs, standing up. In a second, she loses the charm she put on the set. The reality hits Yuuri hard, bleak and too dark. His eyes go after Mickey. "You stay here, Yuuri. I’ll go and fetch Phichit."

 

***

 

Yurio reinvents Vitya in the pastry scene. It’s brilliant.

Yuuri dares to hope that maybe, maybe, they can really pull it off.

 

***

 

It’s just a week of frantic filming, and then it’s over. Ciao Ciao visits the set only once, nods at everything, beams, and leaves.

Somehow manages to make Yuuri feel unprepared anyway.

"He loves this film as much as we all do," Minami tells him, but Minami also loved the cheesiest line in Lohengrin. (Yuuri’s not sure why Minami even knows this film. He made it when Minami was still in high school. When Yuuri was in high school, he cried over Jean Cocteau and Victor Nikiforov. He didn’t even think about student movies until he had to make one).

Yurio doesn’t tell him anything. He stomps off before they wrap things up. Yuuri thanks everyone – he just fires off a text to Yurio and within seconds receives a whatever in response – and if he feels a bit sentimental, nobody seems to mind. Georgi cries, openly, smudging his makeup.

If they get drunk and emotional and end up posting too much on Instagram, Yuuri’s not gonna beat himself up about it.

 

***

 

Postproduction goes like this: too little sleep, too much coffee; too much Phichit, too little time; too little experience, too much inspiration. For a few days, Yuuri walks on eggshells – metaphorically and literally, because Phichit is a little shit and leaves actual, real eggshells on the floor for Yuuri to stomp on. Yuuri would swear vengeance if he weren’t so anxious about the film. At night, when he actually ends up in his bed, he keeps mulling over the montage; during the day, he does the same, only with his eyes open. Time drags and flies and ticks and Yuuri only knows he’s alive because he feels too many emotions at once.

And then it’s over. It’s done.

"La Dolce Vitya," Phichit says, reverently, as if tasting every sound he makes. "Yuuri! We did pull it off, didn’t we?"

Yuuri smiles; he’s pale, and there are bags under his eyes that make him look twenty years older.

"Yeah," he agrees, and he may be exhausted but he beams with pride. The film is good. He can graduate. They didn’t miss another deadline. "We did."

 

The phone call comes one week later.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Phichit chops vegetables, sitting at the table. The expression on his face is so intense and focused that Yuuri gets an idea of interrupting the sacred with his profane when he paddles towards his abandoned bowl of mashed potatoes. Phichit throws him a long look that is full of uncomplimentary hashtags.

There’s a Norwegian film Yuuri likes, Kitchen Stories, a bittersweet tale of Swedish researchers analysing kitchen habits of Norwegian single men in hopes of maximizing their efficiency. One scene in particular made its way into Yuuri’s heart. He recalls it every time Phichit cooks something: a man sits at the table, painstakingly slowly setting mousetraps, while a researcher watches every minute movement of the man’s hands. There’s tension in it, and a kind of subtle humour Yuuri’s mother would appreciate if she ever watched that film.

Yuuri feels like that fictional researcher now. Phichit’s hopeless in the kitchen. He gets cuts on his hands every time he tries to chop a carrot, and then complains mercilessly for weeks, long after the tiny nicks will have healed. His Snapchat is full of recovery updates. His Youtube channel – no, Yuuri will not go there.

He fishes out his phone and busies himself idly browsing IMDb pages while pecking at his potatoes. He binge-watched Stranger Things last night for the third time; now, being awake seems like an impossible feat even at 3 in the afternoon.

(Yuuri ignores the fact he had morning classes).

Phichit chops, chops, chops. Yuuri eats. For a moment, the only sounds in the kitchen are the utensils being utilised and breaths being taken.

Then a phone rings.

Yuuri jumps in his seat and screams like a whale. Phichit screams like Phichit.

‘Damn you, Yuuri!’, he cries, ‘I’ve cut my finger off!’.

‘You haven’t’, Yuuri deadpans because he may be startled to death but he’s spent enough time with Phichit to develop immunity to his theatrics. ‘And shut it. It’s Ciao Ciao’.

‘Oh. My. God’, Phichit gasps, the cut instantly forgotten. ‘It’s Ciao Ciao’.

‘Shut up and chop your veggies’, Yuuri rolls his eyes and picks up the phone. ‘I’ve just said that’.

‘Ciao Ciao, Yuuri’, Ciao Ciao says because he’s programmed like that. ‘Listen. I have an offer you can’t refuse’.

Phichit says Ciao Ciao is lame with his Godfather references and untamed hair that is not artistic at all, only messy. But Yuuri kind of likes it; at least there’s something predictable about talking with Professor Cialdini, which Yuuri can’t say about the rest of his teachers. One of them communicated mostly through snorts and eyebrow movements, and Yuuri barely scraped through his class because try as he might, even with his proficiency in three foreign languages he couldn’t become fluent in Eyebrows within one semester. At least he’s okay speaking (with) Ciao Ciao.

‘Ciao Ciao’, he replies now, hearing Phichit cackle and promising him painful death by mandatory marathons of bad German sitcoms. Neither of them speaks German. ‘I’m all ears, Professor’.

La Dolce Vitya ’, Ciao Ciao now says, the cadence of Italian on his tongue tasting like the espressos Yuuri drank in Rome. ‘I think this film shows promise, Yuuri. A great promise. It shows a vision. I’m thinking... a festival’.

‘A festival’, Yuuri repeats. Phichit’s chopping stops. Yuuri’s fairly sure he’s already Snapchatting the whole damn conversation, privacy rights forgotten.

‘This could be a wonderful start of your career, Yuuri’, Ciao Ciao encourages, all sunny smiles and paternal tone. ‘I’m not saying your Lohengrin wasn’t anything but amazing, but La Dolce Vitya reveals how much you’ve grown as an artist. It’s something else. You should submit it somewhere. Or better yet, to a lot of somewheres’.

‘I don’t’, Yuuri says, his tongue leaden in his mouth, ‘I don’t think it’s as good as you say’.

‘Yuuri’, Ciao Ciao replies. ‘Put me on speaker. I need to talk to Phichit’.

Yuuri does as he says. He doesn’t know how Celestino knows Phichit is there; maybe he heard his snickers.

‘Hi, Ciao Ciao’, Phichit waves as if the man could see him. He bears the widest shit-eating grin Yuuri has seen in his life.

‘Ciao Ciao, Phichit’, Ciao Ciao replies automatically. ‘Listen. Yuuri here is being unreasonable. Make sure he submits at least one application or spaghetti western evenings at my house are cancelled’.

Phichit gasps with horror. He loves spaghetti westerns. Ciao Ciao doesn’t mind if he brings his hamsters.

‘You have my word, Ciao Ciao’, he promises with emphasis.

 

***

 

‘Apply or die’, Phichit says half an hour letter, chopped carrots abandoned. He threatens Yuuri with a fork, again. It has turned into a reoccurrence, Yuuri thinks. A motif. A metaphor for his own suffering.

But Yuuri has to admit: he doesn’t want to die. He doesn’t particularly want to apply anywhere, either, but dying implies an infinitely greater number of drawbacks, the first of which is a very limited access to Victor Nikiforov’s films. The second is a possibility of bleeding out on their kitchen floor because Phichit is definitely going to gut him, but he’s not going to clean up. Yuuri would have to resurrect himself and mop the floor to save Phichit from leaving gross evidence of crime behind.

Yuuri applies. Thankfully the application form is made for sad lumps of melted sugar like Yuuri: it’s an online document that doesn’t need to be signed and posted. He dutifully fills in all the required details about the film he can recite La Dolce Vitya’s running time, format and ratio from memory, after all. Phichit gleefully records the whole thing.

‘You’re Snapchatting it, aren’t you’, Yuuri says.

‘Who do you think I am?’, Phichit exclaims. He’s about as still as a hamster on a running wheel. ‘This content is gold. It’s going on YouTube’.

 

***

 

Yuuri would film the period of waiting from bird’s eye view.

Waiting is an intimate thing. It’s made for close-ups that search through characters’ souls. But Yuuri also knows this: waiting is a little ball of anxiety in the corner of his mind that he wants to separate from himself and throw as far away as he can, so it becomes smaller and smaller and even as it gnaws at Yuuri’s insecurities, it also becomes less his and more the world’s. Yuuri can live in an anxious world, but he can’t live with an anxious Yuuri.

Ergo – a distanced view. From above, because the ball of anxiety goes up and up until it passes the highest point on its trainwreck trajectory, and then freezes in the air and stays there like a burning Sauron’s Eye, watching everything, never letting go.

This, Yuuri thinks, is how you shoot waiting.

Nobody shoots him, though, and that’s, perhaps, a pity. So waiting is a quiet period, as quiet as you can get when you room with Phichit.

Phichit may be sneakily filming the whole thing every day. Yuuri’s sure he’s already being uploaded to Youtube, slowly, until no part of him stays in their cramped Detroit flat. If Phichit films anything – and Yuuri knows his best friend like the back of his hand, he knows that Phichit is, in fact, filming everything – there are no bird's eye view shots involved.

The only shots are full of flavoured vodka that Yuuri dislikes more than he can say.

But that’s the only way he can suffer through all the 420 minutes of hell that is the TV version of The Mist. Yuuri feels the poetic justice in it: he, a human trainwreck, watches a series that is television trainwreck. There’s a lot of wrecking involved. Yuuri suffers through it till the credits roll. Every minute feels like flagellation. It’s as if his hangover hit him too early. He collapses on his bed.

‘It’s a nail-biting experience for one Yuuri Katsuki, 24, as he lies in wait in his nest in Detroit, convinced that his future is as bleak and hopeless as my feelings after watching The Mist with him’, Phichit narrates in a monotonous voice that he picked up from nature documentaries. ‘Let me introduce you to Yuuri Katsuki’s coping mechanisms’.

‘Fuck you, Phi’, Yuuri responds. Only the top of his head is visible from under the pile of blankets he’s buried under.

‘Number one: treating your best friend and your main provider of memes with utmost disrespect’, Phichit continues. The blankets shift like an avalanche and Yuuri’s head disappears from the view completely.

‘Number two’, Phichit says, and Yuuri wants to die, ‘secluding himself from the world, an act of either stupidity or bravery that Yuuri Katsuki has perfected to such a degree that postmodern critics may argue it can now be viewed as a performance’.

‘Number three’, Phichit exclaims, his voice rising, ‘absolutely ignoring the sad, sad truth that he has not checked his email for three weeks, regardless of the fact that he sent an application for the St. Petersburg International Festival of Debut and Student Films Beginning and everyone but him is sure that his film is going to win every damn award it can win’.

‘The blankets shift, revealing the head of Yuuri Katsuki in rage’, Phichit shouts, escaping from the room, ‘In pursuit of his prey, Yuuri Katsuki tends to exhibit---‘.

Yuuri grabs Phichit and wrestles for his iPhone, catching it and escaping back with a winning roar. He doesn’t notice the phone continues to record the whole thing until he’s safe back in his blanket nest.

‘What the actual fuck, Phichit’, he says and presses the stop button.

 

***

 

Phicht uploads the video one day later, edited and polished and absolutely perfect, like everything Phichit posts. It goes viral soon after, just around the time when Yuuri emerges from his bed only to find out that he should be slowly getting ready to go with La Dolce Vitya to Russia, to the very hometown of Victor Nikiforov.

 

***

 

Phichit doesn’t post Yuuri’s reaction to the news. He does something much, much worse.

Yuuri hates him. He sieves through his brain with every intention of recalling the worst murder scenes in the history of the cinema and then re-enacting them on Phichit, the bloodier the better, and maybe he’ll add a touch of Hitchcock.

But right now, all Yuuri can experience is vertigo – and he’d snicker at the allusion to Hitchcock if Phichit weren’t throwing his entire wardrobe at his head.

Phichit, of course, records the whole thing, because that’s what Phichit does.

‘How to dress your best friend who has no fashion sense and self-preservation?’, he narrates to the camera, charging at Yuuri’s wardrobe as if he thought that if he gained enough momentum, it could take him straight to Narnia.

‘I have a lot of self-preservation’, Yuuri denies vehemently, throwing his own jeans back at Phichit.

‘You live with me’, Phichit rolls his eyes to the camera like he’s in The Office.

Yuuri has nothing to say. He flops on his bed and tries to decide what is better: panicking and watching Silvio Soldini’s Bread and Tulips , or panicking and rewatching Jean-Luc Gotard’s Breathless.

In the end, it’s not even a choice he can make. He panics – enough to stop Phichit from recording, and enough so that afterwards, Phichit has no choice but to burrito Yuuri into one of his blankets and put on first The Lilac Fairy and then The Firebird, in both of which Victor Nikiforov starred with a wistful smile and long elf-like silver hair.

‘He’s so pretty’, Yuuri cries into Phichit’s arm three hours later. ‘He’s so pretty that I’m not even thinking about the ticket prices to Russia or my fashion sense or how awful you are’.

On screen, young and long-haired Victor Nikiforov dances in the moonlight like a woodland creature. ‘He’s so pretty and so gifted, and Phichit, he’s the best method actor out there and---‘

‘Shhh’, Phichit says. He’s okay, Yuuri decides, when he doesn’t comment on the fact Yuuri called him awful. ‘Here, pet a hamster’.

Yuuri dutifully pets the hamster. Phichit watches, satisfied. On screen, Victor Nikiforov makes a simple crane shot look like the most enthralling thing in the universe, or so Yuuri thinks.

(The final shot of La Dolce Vitya is Yuuri’s homage to this one. He’s never said that aloud – although, Yuuri’s sure, Phichit knows – but he harbours a shy, blurred fantasy in which Victor Nikiforov watches the film, recognizes the allusion, and falls head over heels in love with either Yuuri, Yuuri’s filmmaking, or with both).

‘The hamsters help, right?’, Phichit asks. There’s that note in his voice that Yuuri could recognize in his sleep – really smug, but also hopeful. Phichit’s not a bad friend, he’s just an insufferable one.

Yuuri’s sure that Victor Nikiforov’s face helped him more than Phichit’s hamster, Dustin, who seems to have developed an idea that Yuuri’s fingers are food and therefore should be bitten off.

‘Yeah’, he says because Phichit is his best friend, at least when he’s not recording him or chasing him with a fork like he’s wont to do. ‘They do’.

 

***

 

Yuuri sits through his graduation ceremony with the knowledge that whatever happens now, three things are certain:

  1.       He is going to go down in history as the author of the most idiotic submission in the history of the St. Petersburg’s Student Film Festival.
  2.       Phichit will meme the whole thing and won’t let him live it down because he needs to embarrass Yuuri during their weekly movie marathons with Leo and Guang Hong.
  3.       Victor Nikiforov’s films will still exist. Yuuri will marathon all of them in one go. There’s no shame in that.

‘Hey, Yuuri’, Sara calls to him later, fishing him out of the crowd of alumni. She’s just graduated, just like him, and just like Mickey, who trails half a step behind her. The scowl on his face promises someone a painful death. Yuuri has seen a similar expression on his own face numerous times, mostly because of Phichit, but Mickey's grimace is something else. Yuuri’s now sure of two more things:

  1.       The look is directed at him, Yuuri.
  2.       He’s seen the same scowl on the faces of actors playing gangsters in C+ movies he pretends not to have watched.

‘Hey, Sara’ he replies, trying to evict from his mind all the awful scenes that dwell in it. ‘Congratulations’.

‘You too’, Sara leans in and give him a quick hug. Her brother gives him a finger.

Mickey’s such an asshole. Yuuri hopes, not without pettiness, that one day someone will connect Mickey’s name with the Razzie Awards.

‘We’re all so ecstatic about the festival!’, Sara screams into Yuuri’s ear. ‘Mila and me googled it up and it turns out that they won’t cover travel expenses or a hotel, right?’.

‘Yeah’, Yuuri says. The ticket to St. Petersburg is the reason why he’s not going to visit his family for five more years.

‘Yikes’, Sara says and octopuses herself out of the embrace. Yuuri nods, because what else he can do. Behind Sara, her brother tries to give Yuuri a finger again and be stealthy about it. ‘Mickey, stop it, are you an adult or not?’, Sara tells him, without even turning back. ‘Anyway, Yuuri, Mila has a friend who has a friend in St. Petersburg and he says he can host you for a couple of days’.

Four years, Yuuri thinks. Maybe he can visit home in four years.

‘But I’d be careful’, she warns him. ‘Mila says her friend says the guy’s a bit of a weirdo. And he’s old’.

Mickey tries to flip Yuuri again. Yuuri thinks no one, no one can be weirder than Mickey.

‘What’s his name?’, Yuuri asks. He can survive a night or two in an old man’s house, he hopes. Nothing can be worse than rooming with Phichit.

’Nikolai? I think’, Sara says. ’Something Russian. Yeah, Nikolai’, she nods to herself, sounding a bit surer. ‘Some old man’.

‘How is Mila’s friend friends with an old man?’, Yuuri asks.

‘I dunno’, Sara shrugs. ‘I think they’re related? Anyway, we gotta go, but don’t be a stranger! I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you!’

They disappear into the crowd. Yuuri instantly feels lighter, as if his life was accompanied by the Finding Neverland soundtrack.

 

***

 

‘My best friend is an idiot’, Yuuri declares two days later, his voice solemn as if he were Kenneth Brana gh in the middle of a Shakespearean monologue. He’s holding his underwear in one hand like Yorick’s skull.

My best friend wants to kip at some random Russian’s flat, not even knowing the said guy’s surname but going there with the full awareness that the only facts you were given about him were, let me quote, Russian, old, weird and Nikolai’.

The last Phichit was so riled up, he’d caught a stomach bug just before the release of Grand Budapest Hotel and he had to wait a whole 24 hours more to be subjected to the beauty that is perfect cinematography, Yuuri, the entire thing could be Instagrammed, what a content’.

This alone tells Yuuri that Phichit is serious.

‘When you put it like this’, he says, ‘I may be a bit rash’.

‘Rash? Yuuri, the only rash thing about it is the one that’s gonna break out on my skin. What you’re doing is not a rash. It’s utter madness’.

Yuuri stares at him. All his life choices have led up to this moment.

‘Fuck you’, Phichit says like the best friend he is. ‘Because of you I can’t even make a good pun anymore!’.

He exits the room, dramatic like only he can be. Yuuri thinks he needs to give him a billowing cape next Christmas because that’s the only thing missing from his look.

From his room, Phichit blares the combination of the worst soundtracks in history. He does it only after he deems Yuuri unreasonable. Blissfully alone, even though he can’t enjoy the silence, Yuuri looks at his messy bed and the empty suitcase on it.

‘Huh’, he says. Phichit’s gone, and even if Yuuri had asked him now, he was sure his friend would just troll him and Yuuri would make an ass of himself, dressed like a mobster or something even worse according to a dress code he can’t possibly comprehend. He tentatively grabs a pair of trousers he likes. He and Phichit bought identical pairs.

Phichit’s not going to help Yuuri now, not when he thinks Yuuri is unreasonable and a drama queen, even though it is Phichit whose picture once ended on a Wikipedia article as an illustration of that concept.

So, Phichit’s out. Yuuri’s got no fashion sense. He’s leaving for the airport in two hours.

‘YOLO’, he mutters darkly under his breath, grabbing the trousers, and gets down to packing.

 

***

 

If asked, Yuuri would tell you he’s watched exactly twenty-seven films set in the city which today is known as St. Petersburg, from Sergei Eisenstein’s 1928 October to Aleksey Mizgirev’s 2016 The Duellist. Perhaps he doesn’t know the city, but he knows the feeling it should evoke, ancient and timeless, and turbulent.

In no way is he prepared for that. St. Petersburg passes like a blur during his bus ride; he tries to navigate the foreign city and the unfamiliar, spidery alphabet, but the hazy streets drew him more than Google Maps. Through the dirty, rain-spotted window, Yuuri watches them wide-eyed and short of breath, and if he misses two stops and has to walk to Nikolai’s address, then it’s not like he minds – he doesn’t mind at all – and Phichit is never going to hear about it.

He ends up at the address Mila sent him three hours after his plane landed at Pulkovo, seventeen hours after Yuuri arrived at the Detroit airport, and twenty-eight hours after he last slept.

hi yuuri this is the address. say hi from me!! stay safe and enjoy russia! :))))) we’re cheering for you :))

The address, written both in the Latin alphabet and the Cyrillic, tells Yuuri absolutely nothing about the person who lives there. Mila attached no name, no surname, no nickname, just a lot of creepy faces. Yuuri would be slightly bothered by the lack of capital letters if he weren’t bothered by everything else.

The neighbourhood is comfortable, a bit on the modern side, maybe unusual for an old man. Yuuri’s not one to judge. He rings the bell with just the slightest trepidation, too tired to panic that he’s about to venture into the den of an unknown elderly man who is Mila’s friend’s questionable friend.

Then, nothing.

Not a muffled voice, not a paddle of hurried feet. Yuuri rings again, but the result is the same: it’s only the silence that keeps ringing. He double-checks the address, but everything seems fine, only it’s not, and Yuuri won’t be fine either if he keeps standing like that, the luggage at his feet, drained and confused and in a country that is not made for Yuuris.

Mila picks up the phone at once.

‘I’ve just been meaning to call you!’, she exclaims, happily. Through the speaker, Yuuri can hear faint laughter. She’s with Sara, he thinks, this must be Sara’s voice. ‘I got a text that the owner of the flat is gonna be late! He’s stuck at work or something, whatever. The key’s under the doormat, you can let yourself in’.

‘Who leaves the key under the doormat?’, Yuuri asks. ‘Is that even safe?’.

Mila doesn’t reply, but he can almost see her shrug. Maybe Yuuri’s not the best person to ask that, inviting himself on a stranger’s doorstep and all, but somehow this minuscule details tells him a lot about the old Russian man he’s yet to meet.

‘No idea’, sing-songs Mila. She’s got a nice voice – Yuuri knew that, but of course, but now he thinks it’s a pity she prefers to do technical work instead of performing. ‘Well, good luck, Yuuri, slay them! I want a lot of Insta updates’.

She disconnects with a click. Yuuri wonders if he even remembers his Instagram password.

When he enters the flat, Yuuri feels like a protagonist in a horror movie. By then, the city has darkened, leaving behind only the insistent bulbs of artificial light that cast ghost traces on the wooden floor. Yuuri drags his luggage behind him, the suitcase rolling with a sharp, unpleasant drill like at the dentist’s, and yes – the flat is empty.

He turns the lights on and finds himself in a sparsely decorated, though obviously comfortable interior. There’s a thin grey layer of dust on the dark furniture. Yuuri wrinkles his nose.

He’s gonna pretend it’s just an aesthetic.

He hesitates to drop the suitcase in the hall, but he’s not sure where to go, so he leaves it there with his shoes and tip-toes to the living room. There’s a fitted kitchen with a half-empty coffee-mug in the sink, and a rumpled piece of paper on the table-top. Yuuri picks it up, unsure, but it’s clearly meant for him.

It’s really like in a film, he thinks, only no handwriting would be messy like that.

He runs his hand across the torn page, trying to smooth it, but in vain.

Hello!

Yura tells me you’re going to arrive in the evening! It’s hard to say when I get home tonight, so please make yourself comfortable. There’s food in the fridge and I put fresh towels in the bathroom for you to use! The spare bedroom is yours for as long as you wish to stay.

Yura didn’t give me your contact information, but here is my number if you need anything.

The piece is signed with what Yuuri identifies as a very messy name written in hasty Cyrillic that he has no hopes of deciphering. It’s even smudged, and Yuuri wonders what the hell happened to this paper before. He folds it as neatly as he can manage.

I’m at Nikolai’s flat, he texts Phichit on his way to the spare bedroom. It’s small and almost empty – obviously rarely used, although there’s a picture of someone on the windowsill. Yuuri’s curiosity gets the best of him – sometimes, he really channels his inner Phichit – and he grabs it to take a closer look.

It’s a candid still, a bit sun-bleached as if it had been exposed to natural light for too long and only moved to a darker spot more recently. But that’s not what catches Yuuri’s eye.

Little Yuri Plisetsky stares into the camera with a smirk on his face, hands folded over what seems to be a leopard hoodie. There’s someone next to him, throwing an arm around Yuri’s shoulders. Even if Yuuri couldn’t get a look at the man’s face, he would recognize him by the cuffs of his dress shirt. Yuuri remembers that costume well.

It’s Victor Nikiforov.

Victor Nikiforov, smiling and in a costume from the filmed production of Ionesco’s play Exit the King .

He fires a quick text to Mila, just who exactly is your Russian friend, because the Yura from the note and the Yuri from the picture seem to be more than a simple coincidence. He puts down the photograph before he can damage it. His finger leaves an ugly, oily smudge on the glass. He tries to wipe it out and only makes it worse; Victor Nikiforov now smiles at him from behind a blurred cloud of haze.

Mila doesn’t text back. She calls, and Yuuri’s actually surprised he doesn’t hear from Phichit first.

‘So, don’t tell him that I told you or he’ll kill me’, she starts, her voice hurried like she’s in a spy movie and she’s a really, really inexperienced spy. ‘I got that address from Yuri Plisetsky’.

Yuuri lets this sink in for a few uneven heartbeats.

‘Yuri Plisetsky’, he repeats. ‘Are we talking about the same Yuri Plisetsky who is the brattiest wunderkind in the world?’.

‘Yes’, Mila confirms, cheerful like a bird.

‘It can’t be’, Yuuri says. ‘Plisetsky hates my guts. He hates La Dolce Vitya and everyone in it’.

‘Give him some credit’, Mila says. ‘He wanted to do his best. I think he quite admires you but is too shy to admit it. It’s all very sweet, really’.

‘It’s terrifying’, Yuuri says, and he means it.

The second day on the set, Plisetsky threw a tantrum that almost finished the production then and there. Yuuri hasn’t been the same since. It was the only time he witnessed Phichit being so murderous towards another human being.

He still doesn’t quite know what was Plisetsky’s problem back then, and he thinks it’s better if it stays this way.

‘So he made me promise I wouldn’t tell you that the offer comes from him’, Mila continues in what Yuuri thinks must be her best version of stage whisper. ‘I think he feels we’re responsible for you now, being two Russians and well, you’re in Russia, and I don’t know shit about St. Petersburg, you know I’m from Irkutsk, but Yuri’s got a lot of contacts there, some family too, and he felt embarrassed but didn’t want to show that he was embarrassed, so... Uhm. Sorry?’.

Yuuri wonders what it must have been like for Yuri to grow up in St. Petersburg, where he could just walk into a theatre and see Victor Nikiforov live; where he could breathe in the same cold frisky air as the walking legend of method acting. Maybe Yuri’s grandfather has more pictures like that. No wonder Plisetsky was a child prodigy if he was raised in this atmosphere.

‘Don’t be sorry, Mila’, Yuuri just says. ‘I’m... thanks’.

‘Don’t mention it’, Mila replies. ‘And certainly don’t mention it to Yuri or he’ll skin me’.

She ends the call, leaving Yuuri in a foreign flat, alone, with Victor Nikiforov’s unwavering gaze laughing at something Yuuri can’t see.

‘Are you still alive?’, Phichit asks him five minutes later when he calls, ‘Who is that guy you’re staying with?’.

‘I haven’t met him’, Yuuri replies. ‘And yes, I’m alive, thank you very much’.

‘What do you mean you haven’t met him? Where are you? Yuuri!’.

Yuuri is in the tiny bedroom, unpacking his mini toilettes, it’s almost midnight and the old man has not returned home. He’s vaguely apprehensive, but there’s nothing to be done, and he doesn’t want to call the number the man gave him.

‘He left the key under the doormat’, Yuuri explains. ‘I let myself in. It’s empty. But he seems nice’.

‘Nice’, Phichit repeats. It’s the same tone he used when Yuuri suggested they watch Antonioni’s Blowup for the second time that month. ‘How can you even know that?’.

‘He wrote me a note’, Yuuri explains. ‘And some food in the fridge’.

‘Maybe it’s poison’, Phichit muses. Yuuri can’t decide whether he can detect a hopeful note in his voice or not. ‘Don’t eat it. And don’t go to bed. He may murder you in your sleep and you won’t even notice’.

‘Thank you for this excellent advice’, Yuuri sighs. ‘He’s Yuri Plisetsky’s relative’.

‘Well’, Phichit says after a pause. ‘Now we know he will definitely murder you’.

 

***

 

Morning finds Yuuri jetlagged, anxious, and alone in the flat. The crumpled note on the table top is gone, replaced by a different one.

Hello! I hope you slept well and I didn’t wake you up! Jetlag must be terrible. I got home late and had to leave early in the morning but I went to a bakery down the street so help yourself to whatever you like. See you later!

It’s not even signed this time, as if the man left in a hurry. Yuuri’s grateful for the fresh pastries – as appreciative as his jetlagged, miserable being can be – and he feels slightly more refreshed after he’s eaten and showered.

He’d even enjoy the morning if it weren’t for the fact that he still hasn’t seen his host at all and that the day of the festival has already started.

Yuuri knows this: he needs to leave in fifteen minutes. He’s not ready. The St. Petersburg International Festival of Debut and Student Films Beginning is about to be Yuuri’s ending.

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 Yuuri is not ready for the red carpet.

He clutches his pass like it’s a sword and nudges the red, red material with his foot, unsure if it’s going to fold around him and drop him in front of the jury like he’s Cleopatra unravelled before Ceasar.

He runs a nervous hand through his slicked back hair. Phichit always does Yuuri’s hair for him, and Yuuri thinks that now his styling inexperience shows: random strays of his hair fall on his eyes and forehead, which looks messy, and Yuuri had never wanted to look less messy in his life.

He stumbles – he thinks that he stumbles, at least. He must have tripped over his own legs because the red carpet is smooth, so eternally smooth in a way that fits the likes of Sophie Marceau or Christoph Giacometti. But it doesn’t suit at all Yuuri, who regains his footing with the grace of a panda and then makes three uneasy steps before he realizes that yes, he has to muster the courage to bend down and tie his shoelace.

Oh Lord. He’s gonna tie his shoelace on the red carpet.

Phichit will laugh his ass off. Yuuri will never get rid of the memes. If he ever has a Wikipedia page, this is going to be his profile picture, because everyone and their dog knows that only the most unflattering photographs ever end up on Wikipedia. Yuuri’s legacy is going to be one final project he deadlined out of with the sheer power of caffeine and one picture that could epitomise his failure and clumsiness.

He knows they are taking pictures. The flashes blow up in front of his eyes like explosions in superhero movies.

It’s nothing, Yuuri thinks. No one will see. It’s just a student competition, and he’s no one, an average-looking Japanese guy who had to go to a red carpet event in tight-fitting jeans because the size of his dress pants did not agree with the size of his butt. It’s just a student competition, it’s not like anyone important will be there, anyway.

Then he sees Lilia Baranovskaya.

 

 

 

***

 

Yuuri’s favourite Italian word is chiaroscuro.

Chiaroscuro. Light-dark.

It took him a few tries, but after all the months spent in Rome it now rolls off his tongue with a kind of decadent ease that speaks of lazy mornings in outdoor cafes and late-night strolls in the heart of the city.

It’s more than that: it speaks of film directing, of adjusting the light and the camera lenses, of the long tradition that makes Yuuri think of Rembrandt and Caravaggio, both of whom could not have any idea that a few centuries later filmmakers would use the same concept in a new kind of art that old masters would never dream of.

It’s light and dark, a duality in a single word: a duality of unhurried days and sleep-deprived nights, a way of living and dying, of hiding and showing.

But above all, chiaroscuro makes Yuuri think of sitting in the cinema, bathed in darkness and anonymous against the dark velvet seats, in front of the flashing white screen. It shows all that Yuuri loves, the magic that pushes him to go forward and be better and create.

Now it allows him to hide.

Chiaroscuro is kind. Yuuri doesn’t need to cover his face in the darkness – the soft curtain of the lightless room does it for him.

He can, perhaps, recover in peace from the utmost humiliation that was tripping on the red carpet and then tying his shoelaces in front of the goddess of the independent cinema, the best film director of their era, Lilia Baranovskaya, who frequently casts Victor Nikiforov as her lead.

Yuuri should have just spread himself flat like a rug in front of her and beg her to walk on him. Her impossible stilettos looked painful, but maybe some of her talent would have transferred into Yuuri’s thick skull.

He should have, but he didn’t, and now he sits there, in the cinema, and he’d feel quite safe if it weren’t for the fact that La Dolce Vitya passes on the screen frame after frame. And Yuuri knows – he knows – that Lilia Baranovskaya is now watching the same scenes he pulled out of his ass mere hours before the deadline, and if Lilia Baranovskaya is watching, who knows who else is watching, and Yuuri could as well as be dead.

At least there’s one thing that comforts him: La Dolce Vitya will be a flop, because Lilia Baranovskaya will say so (Yuuri is sure). And then everyone will forget about it, and even if Yuuri’s face will forever be the stuff of memes, the devil spawn he created with his own hands is going to be forgotten for eternity, or at least until one critic or another will decide to publish a compendium of the worst student films ever made.

Yuuri finally closes his eyes when there is only fifteen minutes of La Dolce Vitya left. He knows how it ends, anyway. He knows every single expression on Yuri Plisetsky’s face; he knows how the light turns from scene to scene, he remembers the subtleties of the setting.

The scenes still flicker in front of his closed eyelids. He’d recognize them by this muted light alone, he knows the film so well. But it’s impossible to mute the dialogue. Yuuri’s heart still follows them line by line, until the final fade-out casts darkness before his eyes like a sunset.

 

***

 

And then, the applause.

 

***

 

Tap water is atrocious.

(Some pipes in St. Petersburg date back to the early twentieth century. They’re older than Battleship Potiomkin, released in 1925. Yuuri doesn’t know that).

Yuuri drinks it with no care, even though the taste is off and he worries whether it’s quite safe. Some droplets fall on his blue tie and leave an ugly, darker mark on it.

Yuuri is past caring. His Q&A begins in five minutes, because the universe knows no mercy.

‘Lad’, a voice then says, gruff but not unkind. ‘You’re needed out there’.

It belongs to an unfamiliar man, his hair and beard grey with disappearing traces of black. He leans against the doorframe, not with nonchalance but rather like someone who is tired but too proud to use other support.

‘I’m sorry’, Yuuri says. ‘I’ll – I’ll go. Just a moment’.

The man gives him a searching look and nods, and stays. Yuuri feels watched.

‘Is it your first festival, then?’, asks the man. His voice carries an unfamiliar accent, as if he rarely had the occasion to speak English. Yuuri breathes out and wonders what he would sound like in Russian, which has to be the man’s native language, and he wonders about that because he doesn’t – he can’t – let himself wonder about other things.

‘Does it show?’, Yuuri asks.

The man makes a point of shrugging, which only tells Yuuri that yes, in fact it does show. Somehow, he’s not unkind about it.

‘You have nothing to worry about’ , he says. ‘You’ve come far’.

‘I came from Detroit’, Yuuri says. He takes one last look in the mirror, decides it’s not worth it, and turns towards the exit.

‘This isn’t what I meant’, the man answers, but he leads Yuuri back towards the hell gates of the Q&A session. They walk slowly, even though the event is about to start. Yuuri’s not sure whether the man tries to give him some more precious time to compose himself, or whether he simply is not able to walk any faster.

‘I’m sorry’, he says. ‘But I don’t even know your name’.

The man gives him a smile but keeps walking.

‘Oh, I think you may know it’, he says. ‘I’m Nikolai Semyonovich Plisetsky’.

‘Nikolai?’, Yuuri repeats, and  - oh – so this is the man who let him stay at his flat. ‘Thank you, Mr Plisetsky. I...’.

‘Go, now, go’, Mr Plisetsky waves his hand.

 

***

 

If Yuuri filmed himself during at the Q&A,  a point-of-view shot from his own perspective would be the most boring thing to do. He spends the first ten minutes stubbornly glaring at the bottle of water on the low table in front of him and not at the journalist – or a film critic, or whoever that is – asking him questions in a kind, low voice that still sounds like an interrogation.

Yuuri would film an interrogation like that, just to throw the audience off the loop. Interrogation scenes are so alike that it’s hard to find an outstanding one – it takes a special kind of tension.

Yuuri would enjoy inverting the trope if the trope inversion weren’t happening at the moment.

The woman – she introduces herself as Anya something, Yuuri’s not sure – asks a few questions and Yuuri knows – he knows – he must have replied, but he remembers nothing as soon as the words leave his mouth.

He finally calms his brain down enough to look into Anya’s brown eyes when she asks her – possibly – fifth question.

‘Your film can be seen as a well-constructed tribute to European art cinema, so intertextual that it’s almost like a puzzle when you try to find all the references’. And then, she waits. Yuuri lifts his eyes because that’s not even a question, it’s a statement, and how is Yuuri supposed to reply to that, if he can’t even find any meanings in himself?

Well, he thinks. You bullshitted an entire script in a couple of days. You can bullshit one answer in a couple of seconds.

He takes a sip of his water to gain a few precious moments. Of course, it doesn’t help.

At least he doesn’t spill anything on himself.

‘Intertextuality plays an important role in La Dolce Vitya’, he finally says. ‘The very idea of the script comes from my time spent in Italy where I briefly studied filmmaking. Obviously, the influences are there – I wanted to play with the tropes where I could but without crossing the line. There’s no travesty in it, just subtlety, but visible enough so you can find it if you know where to look’, he lets himself inhale, finally looking ahead, into the audience, above their anonymous faces.

There are no empty chairs.

Yuuri’s stomach does a flip, but he grows bolder. He convinced Celestino this film made sense.

Celestino is the most bullshit-proof professor Yuuri knows, simply because he’s so famously disorganized that he can see right through anything Yuuri gives him – because Yuuri works just like him. Had Celestino disapproved of La Dolce Vitya, Yuuri would not have graduated this year.

He can’t believe in himself enough to answer in front of this audience – his audience; but if there’s one thing Yuuri can trust, it’s his ability to create convincing bullshit.

‘As the protagonist learns to navigate the world and searches for meaning, the viewer is invited to explore the world of the cinema. There’s no single parallel that would be accidental. We made sure to construct the references in such a way that they carried the meanings we had in mind but also left some room for your own interpretations. We didn’t care to just extend the discourse – we wanted to allow it to grow in different directions’.

‘It’s almost time for the questions from the audience, but let me just say that I couldn’t miss the obvious tribute you’re paying in the title’.

Shit. Yuuri knows he’s blushing – he has to be, the heat spreads on his neck and he’s the ugliest blusher in the world. Phichit has videos to prove it.

‘Oh’, he laughs, waving his hand like it’s nothing, awkward like a turtle. ‘You caught that?’.

It’s not witty. It’s the most witless thing Yuuri has said in his life, and he once said oh, fuck in response to Ciao Ciao’s question during one seminar he spent secretly browsing his even more secret Tumblr account.

Admittedly, it was not his fault there were so many Nikiforov gifs to reblog.

It’s not witty, and he gives the audience an uncertain smile, and then they laugh – they clap, they laugh, Yuuri’s brain doesn’t even register it – but he realizes the response is appreciative.

If it takes so little to woo the audience, he thinks, maybe he doesn’t have to be better at this.

‘You obviously reference a lot of European cinema, but a majority are films released a few decades ago. Yet we can’t miss the obvious allusion to Victor Nikiforov’, the journalist presses. ‘What is the link between a contemporary actor and these movies? Are they any connecting points?’.

Trust your bullshit, Yuuri thinks. I’m even more influenced by Victor’s abs than by early Fellini, that’s all, he wants to say, but Phichit would murder him for saying something like that while he’s not present to capture it, so Yuuri doesn’t.

But his mind is instantly distracted with a recollection of The Assassin scene in which Victor’s abs glisten in the sun, so he blesses the only action movie Victor has ever starred in, and so this is what Yuuri says instead:

‘All the references? It’s simple, really. That’s how I show my love’.

 

***

 

The first question comes from Nikolai Plisetsky, and Yuuri is thankful more than he can express because if it was Lilia Baranovskaya, he would bolt out of the room, festival or not, his future be damned.

‘What was it like to work with Yuri Plisetsky?’, he asks, and there’s a note of worry in his voice. ‘He’s infamous for his temper’.

Yuuri thinks back to the time of filming, when Yuri kept being so stubborn that he didn’t allow his character any personal growth. He fights hard so nothing shows on his face. It’s a concerned grandfather who’s asking, he thinks, that’s all.

Only that’s not all, because Nikolai Plisetsky turns out to be the most acclaimed cameraman in Russia and Yuuri, of course, is too terrified to consider how he missed all of this.

‘He’s the best actor I could hope for this role, other than Victor Nikiforov himself’, he laughs, and the audience laughs, too, and he can see Anya the journalist grinning. ‘And we found a way to work with each other’.

It involved a lot of shouting and at least one mental breakdown, but Yuuri was not going to mention that to Yura’s grandpa, was he?

So Nikolai Plisetsky may have his suspicions but nothing certain. And Yuuri may have his two seconds of peace – but then another question comes.

And because the universe is cruel and Yuuri is sure that Phichit would orchestrate this if he could, but he couldn’t have, so the universe simply hates Yuuri with a completely unnecessary passion – because of that, the next question comes from Lilia Baranovskaya.

Yuuri doesn’t even hear it well. He doesn’t even hear his own answer. It’s related to the camera being angled slightly upward in one of the scenes because Lilia Baranovskaya is nothing if not fastidious about their craft. He only hears the beating of his heart, too loud that his microphone must catch it.

(It’s ridiculous, Yuuri’s brain registers, like that scene from Singin’ in the Rain where they are filming Duelling Cavalier and the mic picks up Lina’s heartbeat, just like now the audience will probably hear Yuuri’s).

Yuuri can’t even care about Lilia Baranovskaya in that moment because his gaze falls to her right – and there he is: Victor Nikiforov.

He’s in a dark blue suit that is obviously more bespoke than anything Yuuri owns, especially the jacket he has on now (borrowed from Phichit, who borrowed it from Leo). His hair glimmers in the pale hues of the lamps.

And he’s grinning at Yuuri.

 

***

 

‘Phichit’, Yuuri whispers into his phone. ‘I’m dead’.

‘Okay’, Phichit says, distant, on the other side of the world, and completely uncaring. ‘Can I have your mug, then? The one with the pandas? It’s kinda cute’.

‘No!’, Yuuri screams, and then he remembers to lower his voice. He thinks he returned to an empty flat, but who knows. Mr. Plisetsky is an old man. Maybe he’s already asleep. ‘Phichit, I’m serious. Deadly serious. Victor Nikiforov is here’.

Phichit falls silent, which means he’s either waiting for Yuuri to elaborate or he’s setting up his phone magic to record the entire conversation.

Both, Yuuri decides. Both.

‘Phichit’, he whispers. And then, ‘ohmygodhesmiledatmeandPhichithewatchedthefilmcanyouhearmehewatchedthefilmandheknows’.

Silence falls, static. On the other side of the world, Phichit says, ‘Yuuri. Could you say it again, but slower? I don’t think I got to record all of it’.

 

***

 

Dear Yuuri,

Help yourself to anything you need to from the fridge. I left some fresh towels for you in the bathroom, too!

I really enjoyed the film and the Q&A yesterday. Looking forward to discussing it further with you! I have some questions Lilia didn’t get to ask about the camera work and the way you reversed the axis of action in that one scene, you know which one.

See you later!

 

***

 

‘Phichit’, Yuuri whispers, again. He knows Mr Plisetsky must have left – he wouldn’t have written the note otherwise – but he still can’t hold back the instinct to keep his voice down.

Living with Phichit has proved theatrics can be contagious.

‘Phichit, I can’t, it’s today, I’m gonna book an early flight and come back to Detroit this instant’.

‘We’re gonna lose, we’ll be the worst film ever and then Celestino will annulate my graduation’.

‘Come on, Yuuri, now you’re being ridiculous’, Phichit says, ‘Ciao Ciao would be too lazy to do that’.

 

***

 

[image description: Minami Kenjirou holding up a banner with words of congratulations written in Japanese, grinning.]

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!

#katsukiyuuri #katsukiyuurisbiggestfan #katsukiyuurifanclub #katsukiyuurifanclubpresident #ladolcevitya #omg

Liked by phichit+chu, milya_mila, isa-bella12, thecrispinos and 16 others

phichit+chu I’m so proud!

yuri_plisetsky @phichit+chu  he was faster to post it than you, you’re slipping

phichit+chu  @yuri_plisetsky fite me (ง'̀-'́)ง    (ง'̀-'́)ง    (ง'̀-'́)ง   

 

***

 

‘Phichit’, Yuuri whispers again. He’s in a bathroom stall. Phichit’s on the other side of the world and he’s not whispering, he’s screaming.

‘Phichit, we won!’, he says. Hearing it again doesn’t make it any more real. Dreams come true – and they’re still dreams, aren’t they?

Phichit babbles, and there’s some screaming in the background. Minami’s voice, Yuuri thinks, and that angry shriek must be Yurio. They must have all waited for the news together.

Fuck, Yuuri thinks, now I’m gonna cry.

 

***

 

Two things define Yuuri’s banquet experience so far: mortification and Lilia Baranovskaya.

She vultures into Yuuri’s personal space the moment she can safely do that – that is the moment Yuuri becomes resigned to the constant stream of congratulations and falls into the false security that Lilia is not, in fact, going to approach him, too busy talking with – who else? – Victor Nikiforov.

So Yuuri escapes to the side of the banquet hall and relaxes enough to allow himself to grab a flute of champagne without fearing that his shaking hands will cause him to spill its contents on the marble floor.

Of course it had to be marble, Yuuri thinks. Victor Nikiforov is here, and Victor belongs to palaces and marbles and statues and glory like a Greek deity, or to this elusive, all- encompassing kind of fame that James Dean has, or Brigitte Bardot, or Sophia Loren.

So he’s into his third sip of his champagne, not nearly tipsy enough to come to terms with the fact that La Dolce Vitya has now won an international award despite being Yuuri’s poorly executed attempt at thwarting Phichit’s ploy to submit a porn movie as Yuuri’s final project.

And then, Lilia Baranovskaya encroaches into his space.

No – she doesn’t, and yet she does. She has an amazing ability to ooze her charisma even from the distance, and she’s never closer to Yuuri than two meters; she doesn’t have to be. She’s her own gravitational force.

Jesus Christ, she has such a presence, Yuuri thinks, why is she not an actress.

She tells something to Yuuri, her voice quiet, but he can hear everything. Silence falls wherever she goes – no one wants to interrupt her, after all.

He replies something, possibly even clever, about the aperture in La Dolce Vitya. He’d wonder why everyone is suddenly so interested in the camera work, but he’s well past caring. The whole evening could be a plot of an absurdist movie, and oh my goodness, maybe that should be Yuuri’s next project?

Later, he will remember nothing of what she said to him, nothing of what he replied. He’ll only recall the strict line of her mouth relaxing just slightly, enough that it could be just a graceful flicker of light. She walks away soon – Yuuri thinks: after an eternity – because Lilia Baranovskaya is not one to waste time lightly, and Yuuri’s just about ready to take a deep breath and give in to a delayed wave of panic when someone moves past Lilia swift like a comet, and Yuuri’s breath turns into a gasp.

His freckles look like tiny rusty stars. There are seven of them on his nose – Yuuri’s counted – and just one on the spot between the lower eyelid and the curve of the cheekbone. None of them appear in any of his movies or magazine covers; Yuuri would know. And yet they look right on his face. There are little dots of other hues in his blue eyes, too, and somehow everything fits like a glove.

Only he’s not wearing gloves. Yuuri knows next to nothing about fashion, but even he can recognize a bespoke suit if he sees one – no ready-made jacket has any business fitting so snugly, no trousers can make legs look so fine unless custom-made.

And the shoes – God, the shoes. Yuuri’s sure that’s Italian leather.

He’s breathtaking. And he wants to talk to Yuuri.

It’s a fact: if he said he’d never imagined this, Yuuri would have to be called a liar. Yuuri’s imagined this moment plenty of times. In a cinema, before, during, and after a movie starring Victor Nikiforov as the lead. At home, crying to his posters. In his bedroom, on his bed, with his hand around his dick. In class, salivating.

Yet he never – he never – thought it would come to this: Yuuri at a banquet in St. Petersburg, wearing a dazed expression and his borrowed jacket that was not a hand-me-down, it was vintage; Yuuri at a film festival that his own feature film has just won; Yuuri, with a film that was nothing more than a paean to Victor Nikiforov

God, Yuuri’s so fucked. They should have made that porno.

He wouldn’t be standing there, a flute of champagne in his hand, way too sober to talk to Victor Nikiforov.

This is the only situation, Yuuri thinks, that he won’t be able to bullshit out of.

‘Yuuri Katsuki’, Victor Nikiforov says. Yuuri has a heart attack; he will reply this moment in his bedroom forever. Victor’s voice is what chocolate must taste like. ‘I have never been so surprised in my life’.

‘Me too’, Yuuri says, and then he gasps.

‘You too?’, Victor then says, his forehead wrinkling adorably, beautifully, breathtakingly, ‘ But you made that film’.

Yuuri really wants to die, only if he does, Phichit will perform some exorcism magic to bring him back and kick his ass for dying.

‘I won’, he says, stupidly, because obviously the only things Yuuri is capable of doing are stupid things and he has no filter, and God, at least he didn’t say anything entirely idiotic yet, like about Victor’s abs or his butt or that magazine cover from 2009 that ultimately caused Yuuri’s very gay sexual awakening.

‘Of course you won!’, Victor exclaims, and that makes a few people turn their heads towards them, but Victor doesn’t seem to care, eager to grab Yuuri’s elbow ohmygodhetouchedme and to drag him to a corner where they can speak more comfortably. Yuuri downs his champagne. He’s gonna wing it.

‘I’ve never seen a more touching film in my life’, Victor says, his eyes bright like two stars, ‘and I’m not saying it because of the reference to me, Yuuri – I can call you Yuuri, of course? – I loved it from that first scene in the shop’.

Yuuri did some clever directing there, if he can say so himself – it’s delightfully inversed in everything, from the tropes and the lighting to the camera work – but it’s one thing to be pleased with his own work for a change. It’s another to hear praise from the round, very pink mouth of Victor Nikiforov, who smells like something expensive and clean but a bit musky and who has yet to let go of Yuuri’s elbow, and Yuuri  really, really wouldn’t mind, only he’s petrified.

‘Thank you’, Yuuri finally stammers, because his other options of things to say range from I touched myself to your posters, Will you marry me, and You smell so nice, please star in my next feature film, whatever it is.

And his thank-you seems to be enough to turn Victor’s lovely mouth into a radiant heart. He beams like he never once smiled on screen, with his whole body, and Yuuri knows he stares, but he doesn’t give a damn. Who wouldn’t stare, he thinks.

‘You, Katsuki Yuuri’, Victor then says. Yuuri’s mind goes weird places at the sound of his name; it’s pronounced just right, because Victor is nothing if not a great mimic and he can do accents with the same ease some people do their shopping, with an ease not even worth mentioning. ‘You, Katsuki Yuuri, are going places’, he says. ‘And I’m gonna walk right beside you’.

 

***

 

They walk down the Neva River, and Yuuri thinks it’s just like in a Linklater movie, only they’d have to name this one After Sunset.

It’s dark. Yuuri’s not going to see much of St. Petersburg if they keep walking like this: only street lamps and the unhurried infinity of the river, and the weirdly strong scent of fuel. Yuuri doesn’t mind. Victor’s stunning in the golden hues of the street  - Yuuri wonders why no one ever has filmed him like this, because Jesus, Yuuri wants to.

But he’s glad they’re alone; no movie set, no cameras. It’s a feeling Yuuri has no hopes of understanding, but it overcomes him whole.

Victor keeps holding Yuuri’s elbow, or grabbing his hand, with no regard of personal spaces. Yuuri will never wash his hand again – that’s a given – but mostly he’s just surprised how comfortable he is now, as if this was happening to someone else and he was simply behind the camera lens.

And Victor chats. He walks, all long legs and leather shoes and one hand on Yuuri’s elbow, the other waving when he talks; he walks, and he speaks of all the most random things: of his dog that he left in Moscow, of the moon in the sky, of the film Yuuri’s made – of Yuuri.

Yuuri’s said that before: he never thought he’d be a good protagonist. Even when it comes to his own life. At best, he feels the safest in the background, and to be honest – it’s Victor who has always been the protagonist of Yuuri’s life, ever since Yuuri first saw him.

Yet all Victor wants to focus on is Yuuri.

‘Don’t we have to go back?’, Yuuri asks; he doesn’t want to break the spell, but it’s all so eerie – and they did sneak away after Victor’s dramatic announcement. Yuuri didn’t know you could tiptoe your way out of festival banquets with Victor Nikiforov putting one long finger against your lips to make sure you’d stay quiet.

He knows it now.

‘No’, Victor shrugs. ‘I’d rather talk here, and walk here, with you’.

He says it in a weird, disconnected way, but somehow it works. Yuuri marvels how Victor’s natural voice is different from the countless ones he assumes in his films and from the tone he uses in interviews.

‘Yeah’, he says, and then wants to kick himself in the chin. No one should say yeah to Victor Nikiforov.

‘You’re much more relaxed now’, Victor says then, and Yuuri thinks that this – this is the moment the Neva river should welcome his body. He can’t show his face anywhere, not anymore. ‘You looked so awfully tense at the banquet. It’s Lilia, right?’.

It’s you, Yuuri wants to say, but he doesn’t. He realizes it’s not true – they are talking, after all, and he’s only made an ass of himself once or twice.

‘Talking to her felt like playing chess with death’, Yuuri just says.

Victor laughs.

‘Oh, come on’, he chuckles, ‘I think she’s too young to have starred in The Seventh Seal! And I like to think she has a better fashion sense than whoever dressed Death in that film’.

Yuuri knows the costume designer who did The Seventh Seal is only listed in one more production on IMDb, but he also loves Bengt Ekerot’s Death with the passion he can barely hide.

‘I think it’s a great costume’, he says loyally, even though that means opposing Victor Nikiforov.

Victor gasps.

‘Yuuri’, he exclaims, grabbing his hand and Yuuri feels so very, very warm. ‘Really?’.

He pauses and makes sure to look straight at Yuuri, his gaze a flicker of odd colours in the street light. ‘I know! We should watch Bergman together some time’, he winks, ‘and maybe you could convince me!’.

The smile he gives Yuuri is private, and so incredibly soft in the dim, misty light. Sankt Petersburg around Yuuri turns his breath into clouds like magic.

Yuuri knows how it should be in movies now, the slow way they should find their hands, the smooth tilt of their heads, the first sweet meeting of their lips. Victor must know it, too, but his heavy, darkened gaze tells Yuuri he doesn’t care.

And neither does Yuuri, who suddenly finds himself bold or maybe just tipsy, or maybe falling in love as hard as Leo’s camera once fell onto the ground when La Dolce Vitya was still in the making.

It’s entirely too clumsy a kiss for the cameras, and Yuuri is all the more glad that they’re alone, only with the soft presence of the night city around them.

Victor’s mouth is sweet, sweet like cherries, and Yuuri laughs into it because he can’t help it, the title of his film coming to his mind. Victor makes a noise but then chuckles too, a low, deep sound that vibrates right to Yuuri’s belly.

How do you even breathe after this, Yuuri wonders.

 

***

 

He returns to the flat way past midnight, when St. Petersburg’s cold dampens his coat even in the cab that Victor paid for. The flat seems empty, the way he left it, and Yuuri tiptoes to the room he sleeps in and flops on the bed like teenage Americans do in movies, only less gracefully and with more grunting.

He won the festival. He met Victor Nikiforov. He spoke to Victor Nikiforov. He walked with Victor Nikiforov. He kissed Victor Nikiforov.

Victor Nikiforov put his hand into Yuuri’s front pocket and pulled out Yuuri’s beaten phone to enter his own, Victor Nikiforov’s, number, so that Yuuri could call him whenever he wanted.

Yuuri smiles into the pillow, feeling like an embodiment of a coming-of-age comedy from the nineties, a walking trope with a predictable plot line, but for once he doesn’t care.

He wiggles his phone out of his pocket and spends one long, long moment with a goofy smile, looking at the number Victor Nikiforov – Victor Nikiforov! – gave him. But he doesn’t dial it.

Instead, he calls Phichit.

Phichit picks up immediately because his phone is an extension of his hand, and because he knows Yuuri well enough to expect a call.

‘So’, he says without preamble, ‘did you snog him yet?’

Yuuri’s long given up trying to figure out how exactly Phichit guesses so well. Sometimes he suspects that while he’s a film director, Phichit is the director of his own life and Yuuri’s just a puppet on strings tied to Phichit’s hands the same way Phichit’s iPhone is.

His silence lasts a beat too long – Phichit screams and Yuuri’s sure he’d hear him all the way in St. Petersburg even without the phone, so loud is he.

‘Gosh, Yuuri’, he finally says, ‘I leave you for two days and you go and seduce the greatest actor of our generation’.

If he were now in his room in Detroit, he’d share everything with Phichit and Phichit would obviously record the whole conversation to blackmail Yuuri with it later, and Yuuri would chase him with a pillow and they would inevitably receive a noise complaint but they would just shrug it off.

‘We’re artists’, Phichit would say, ‘we have a reputation to maintain. We can’t be the boring neighbours, Yuuri’.

But Phichit’s not here. Yuuri supposed he should be a tiny bit homesick, or maybe lonely; but he’s just happy. And so he stumbles through his reply, too giddy to be embarrassed, and by the time he disconnects, Phichit has already planned the wedding.

For a second, before he falls asleep, Yuuri wonders how he would film this and discovers he has no idea.

For once, it doesn’t bother him.

 

***

 

A low chime of his phone wakes Yuuri up in the morning. He grabs it blindly and winces when the bright screen illuminates his face. It’s Mari.

Do I have to learn from Phichit that you’re having a sex life now

Yuuri’s been having a sex life for some time now. Since none of it involved Victor Nikiforov, he supposed Phichit didn’t think it was worthwhile enough to mention to Mari during their weekly Skype session, full of gossip and plotting behind Yuuri’s back.

Yuuri is quite sure Phichit Skypes with Mari every Sunday, and it’s only Saturday now.

Apparently kissing Victor Nikiforov requires a Skype emergency.

Yuuri is, for a second, afraid to come back to Detroit. If Phichit is going to be an unstoppable force, then Yuuri will, stubbornly, become an unmovable object and he won’t move from this bed.

But Mari’s get up and don’t second-guess this makes him reconsider, if only because she’s going to spam him with messages every minute until he does.

 

***

 

Up to that moment, nothing has changed Yuuri’s life more than André Bazin saying that there is a separate language of film. Yuuri read it in his first semester in Detroit, and since then, nothing mattered more than learning this language until he could be a fluent speaker.

That is, up until the moment he rolls off his bed in St. Petersburg and sleepily enters the bathroom, and then, not at all sleepily, screams.

The bathroom smells like lavender and vanilla and something soapy. There’s a lone candle, burning, and a thin layer of fog covers the mirror on the wall.

That’s not important.

‘Hello, Yuuri’, Victor Nikiforov says, waving lazily from where he rests in the bathtub, silver-haired, low-voiced, and very naked. ‘Would you like to join me?’

 

***

 

‘Starting today’, Victor Nikiforov says fifteen minutes later, ‘I’m gonna be your lead’.

They’re in the kitchen, thank God, and Yuuri’s seated at the island, while Victor Nikiforov, barefooted despite the cold tiles on the floor, prepares syrniki for Yuuri’s breakfast. He’s in a silk dressing gown and nothing else. The thin laced material that does nothing to banish the cold, but at the same time does a lot to Yuuri’s lower abdomen and his imagination alike.

‘Excuse me’, Yuuri says, ‘what?’

He wants to say that a lot. He still can’t get the bathroom scene out of his head – it was, truly, more terrifying than the shower scene in Psycho – and he can’t wrap his head around the fact that somehow, a naked Victor Nikiforov is in this flat, with Yuuri, making him breakfast and suggesting they bathe together like there’s no tomorrow.

There is no tomorrow, in fact, because Yuuri is quite sure he’s dead and stuck in an eternal loop of sexual frustration in the lowest pit of hell.

‘I’m already your muse’, Victor says matter-of factly. He shrugs and the sleek silk slides down, revealing his pale shoulder. ‘It’s only logical I’m going to be your lead, too’.

Yuuri is lost, more lost than Alice was lost in Wonderland, and he’s not sure what’s more worrisome: Victor Nikiforov thinking Yuuri has resources to hire him, Victor Nikiforov thinking he has a project in mind, or Victor Nikiforov almost naked in the same kitchen Yuuri’s in, cooking.

It’s time for a diversion, Yuuri thinks.

(He’s good at evading. One time he managed to dance around the topic of his final project for the whole three months before Ciao Ciao told him that if he doesn’t submit Lohengrin, he will cancel their spaghetti western evenings indefinitely).

‘Isn’t this Nikolai Plisetsky’s flat?’, he asks instead. ‘Why – why are you here, Victor?’

‘Oh, Uncle Kolya’, Victor chuckles, not even looking at Yuuri. Whatever he prepares, it smells amazing, and Yuuri’s not sure whether his mouth waters more because he’s hungry, or because Victor still hasn’t adjusted his red silk robe properly. ‘He owns this flat but he never stays in it. He caught a night flight to Moscow anyway, that’s where he lives. I have a spare pair of keys’.

‘Don’t you have an apartment here, though?’, Yuuri asks, because all of the interviews are full of Victor gushing over St. Petersburg’s beauty and the lovely view he has from his kitchen window.

‘I live here from time to time’, Victor just says, shrugging again. The gown slides a bit further down. Yuuri’s breath hitches. ‘I travel a lot. No point in owning one place when you can own the world, right?’, he laughs.

There’s something oddly hollow in his voice, and echo Yuuri can recall well, and suddenly he remembers what he talked about with Lilia Baranovskaya.

La Strada is not about a toxic relationship’, he told her. ‘It’s not only about it. First and foremost, it’s about loneliness’.

‘You’re – lonely’, he says now, watching as Victor’s back slightly stiffens. Victor turns to him, fast and unhesitant, unlike Yuuri who instantly regrets his words.

‘You read me so well, Yuuri’, Victor Nikiforov just says, ‘and yet you don’t want me as your lead’.

I want you as my everything, Yuuri wants to say, but it’s too creepy and too early, and he’s too angry.

He walks up to the Victor, who makes some room for him by the oven, and Yuuri watches as Victor’s syrniki sizzle in the oil because that’s easier to watch Victor’s incredibly beautiful, impossibly open face.

‘I don’t have any project’, he says. ‘But you – are you not supposed to play Pierre in War and Peace?

‘Well’, Victor says as he deems the tiny pancakes ready, ‘I will if you ever make it’.

He serves the pancakes with a dollop of sour cream, and he watches happily as Yuuri takes the first experimental bite.

They’re heaven.

‘The secret is to add a tiny bit of semolina’, Victor leans in to whisper, as if he was sharing a secret and not a simple recipe. ‘Syrniki are really tricky to make!’.

‘I don’t have any money to pay you, Victor’, he says. ‘And I don’t have any project’.

He wonders how his life led to this: from midnight fantasies in which he hires Nikiforov as his lead to the crushing reality in which he has to refuse him. But Victor just snatches one tiny pancake from Yuuri’s plate and when he speaks, it’s simple logic, really.

‘I have money, I don’t need any more. You have a vision – and I need a vision, Yuuri’.

 

***

 

And maybe it’s really quite this simple, Yuuri thinks a few hours later, when Victor drives him to the airport in his pink convertible. Victor’s the worst driver he’s seen in his life (‘I passed my test with flying colours, Victor claims) and Yuuri tries not to think he may not reach the airport in time simply because he’s going to be a victim of a car accident.

You didn’t tell me Victor’s your cousin, he texts Yuri Plisetsky to distract himself from the road. The answer comes mere seconds later, but not to Yuuri’s phone.

‘Pick it up, will you?’, Victor throws him his iPhone, and of course he’s got a Beyonce ringtone.

‘Put that damn phone to his damn ear, Katsuki’, Yurio snarls after Yuuri’s first tentative hello.

Yuuri does it. Victor rolls his eyes but listens patiently as Yurio continues to scream in rapid Russian, and then he just laughs and laughs until Yurio screams more and louder only to finally disconnect with a huff.

‘Little Yura is awfully fond of you’, Victor just says.

 

***

 

Yuuri has never been fond of liminal spaces. He does appreciate them for the sake of aesthetic purposes, even though they’re overused as a trope, or so Ciao Ciao says. Yuuri just dislikes the idea of leaving a place; it’s unfair to uproot people just like it’s a crime to uproot trees – it’s cruel, every single time. Yuuri just begins to call a place home when he finds out he has to move on.

It was like that when he moved to Detroit – the first time he discovered a place he knew but where he didn’t belong was just as daunting as a place where he belonged but which he didn’t know. It was like that when he boarded the plane to Rome, filled to the brim with thoughts of history and adventure, and it was like that when he came back, suddenly aware of new parts of himself that he’d lost before he discovered them.

It’s worse now. He’s been in St. Peterburg less than a week.  It’s not home – it’s an eerie, moonstruck dream. It’s not home.

But it could be.

Victor has a ridiculous beanie on. It does less to shield him from fans than does his amazing ability to blend in; but Yuuri doesn’t want Victor who acts around him, not him, not them.

‘Look at me’, he says, and Victor does. His eyes are impossibly blue, so Yuuri kisses him before he has to say, reluctantly: ‘I need to go’.

He doesn’t want to. There are so many things to discuss. The boarding pass in his pocket seems no more important than a piece of scrap paper.

Maybe he should stay. He can make movies anywhere.

Victor looks at him and then at the gate; people are passing by, busy and oblivious that Yuuri is now richer for a heartbreak.

‘So where to, next?’, Victor asks.

Yuuri shrugs.

‘The World Film Fesival in Bangkok’, he says. It’s easier said than done, and easier said than I’ll miss you, I don’t even know you but I want to get to know you, stay close to me. ‘The European Independent Film Festival, perhaps?’

‘Sundance’ , Victor smiles, and Yuuri wants to kiss the teasing tilt from his lips.

‘Stop it’, he just says. ‘It’s not that good a film’.

‘I say it is’, Victor tells him. He kisses Yuuri’s cheek, softly. ‘Go, Yuuri. And call me’.

 

***

 

‘St. Petersburg’, Yuuri slurs. He’s standing on the table in their tiny kitchen in Detroit, a drink in his hand, and he’s as wasted as his five years of university education were. ‘I wanna go there’.

‘You’re sloshed’, Phichit says. ‘And you’ve been there. You met Victor’.

There is this test they have to check whether they’re ready for one more round or if they’ve had one too many: say Victor Nikiforov, and the roll of foreign syllables on your tongue will speak the truth.

The test is basically foolproof, meaning that Phichit never uses it, and Yuuri, who does, knows how to say Victor’s name anyway, therefore there’s no reason to stop drinking.

‘Yes’, Yuuri says now. ‘Victor. Victor Nikiforov’.

Phichit snorts and Yuuri can’t imagine why.

‘You know what, Yuuri?’, he begins. Yuuri may be drunk but he knows this tone; he fears it. ‘We should make a movie’.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Did you know? – IMDb

 

Trivia

Yuri Plisetsky ate twenty-four pastries during the filming of the last pastry scene, four pastries for each of the six takes they filmed. Because of changes in the budget, Yuuri Katsuki paid for them all from his own pocket.

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Cat treats were included in the budget.

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Isabella Yang’s acting was so expressive that Yuuri Katsuki made her use more gesture instead of the lines she had been supposed to say.

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The script took less than seventy-two hours to complete, a fact that Yuuri Katsuki hid from his supervisor and mentor, the famed film director Celestino Cialdini.

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The cat belongs to Yuri Plisetsky and his name is Potya.

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The use of the desk was improvised by Georgi Popovich. So was Sara Crispino’s fork scene.

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According to Phichit Chulanont, however, no forks were involved in the filming process.

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Chulanont claims there is one hidden hamster, reappearing in a number of scenes, but so far it has not been spotted.

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The total number of movie references in La Dolce Vitya is 47.

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Yuuri Katsuki used to refuse to talk about the reference in the title until Victor Nikiforov began to talk about it in every interview he gave, regardless of the interview’s topic.

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***

 

[Katsuki Yuuri: 10 Epic Fails on La Dolce Vitya set]

Youtube

Phichit Chulanont  • 1,3M views • 3 months ago

 

1268 comments

sizhu  RIP IN PIECES

minami_minami_minami OMG was he like that when he filmed lohengrin????

yuuko_madonna  @minami_minami_minami i have it on good authority that he was much worse

voxofthevoid it’s beautiful

 

***

 

La Dolce Vitya (Film) – TV Tropes

‘There are days nothing matters more than cakes’.

 

La Dolce Vitya is a film about a fictional mafia crime family that came out in 2017. It was directed by Yuuri Katsuki and scripted by the frequent duet of Katsuki and Phichit Chulanont. It has been deemed an instant classic after winning a series of awards and later becoming an Internet phenomenon when Chulanont released a mockumentary from the set and made a series of memes on his Youtube channel and Twitter. Heavily intertextual, the movie alludes to the tradition of Italian cinema, as well as to works of major European auteurs.

 

A - J

Accidental Marriage: Sergei and Veronica, after the trip to Milan, when they |...........................................................................................|

 

Actually, I’m Him: It turns out that Vitya is Veronica’s son.

 

Badass Bookworm: Veronica, who has authored several cookbooks and can remember any recipe from memory, defends her pastry business after |...........................................................................|.

 

Batman Gambit: for Sergei, him leaving Veronica was a Batman Gambit.

 

Beautiful Dreamer: Sergei and Veronica’s wedding night.

 

Chiaroscuro: Yuuri Katsuki’s favourite trope. Elaborate lighting on set and cunning use of natural light in Veronica’s scenes stood for moral ambiguity. In the table scene, Vitya’s face is half-hidden in a shadow to indicate his past. Some of the shadows serve to offset the cheap-looking props.

 

Chocolate of Romance: Veronica leaves a box of chocolates for Sergei, but Lucia eats them instead.

 

Colour Motif: Purple stands for Vitya. The more purple elements appear, the closer Vitya is to discovering himself.

 

Crazy Enough to Work: most of Vitya’s plans in the film, as well as Lucia’s fork scene.

 

Establishing Character Moment: the scene in which Vitya successfully bakes his first batch of cookies and reveals the reason for coming to the pastry shop in the first place.

 

The Exile: Sergei leaves to protect the people he loves; Vitya leaves to escape the life he hates.

 

Foreshadowing: When Vitya appears dressed in his coat, |.......................................................................|

 

I Am Not My Father: Vitya tries to find the meaning of his life by distancing himself from his father and his mafia ties.

 

It’s Not You, It’s My Enemies: Sergei leaves when it turns out that |.......................................| and Veronica |.............................................|

 

***

 

Film Director Yuuri Katsuki Voted World’s Best Dressed Man

 

Nikiforov to Star in Katsuki’s New Drama

 

Yuuri Katsuki: “I don’t need red carpets, I need to tell my stories”

 

***

 

Alright guys this is the newest spread Victor did for a Russian magazine! @jambasket translated the whole thing which you can read under the cut <3 but here are the highlights:

  • Victor’s mom knitted a jumper for his dog
  • Asked about love, he says he doesn’t know how he had managed to convincingly act as if being in love before he met Yuuri Katsuki
  • Half of the interview is about Yuuri’s talent and other qualities
  • Talks a lot about Japanese recipes he’s learning for Yuuri
  • Confirms his shampoo is a cheap Russian brand

 

[Read more]

#interview #victornikiforov #yuurikatsuki #russian

 

source: fanart-pandemic

 

403 notes

 

***

 

Yuuri Katsuki – Five Iconic Red Carpet Moments

 

  1. When he bent down to tie down his shoelace only to reveal mismatched paisley socks (bonus points for the quirky vintage jacket)
  2. When he sneaked up to Phichit Chulanont to ruin his selfie and they shared an adorable moment
  3. When he noticed Liv Ullman and his inner fanboy got better of him
  4. When he wore a shirt a size too big that we had seen earlier on Victor Nikiforov
  5. When he grabbed Nikiforov’s tie and kissed him hard after a journalist’s homophobic comment

 

***

 

Yuuri Katsuki: “You guys gave me a fashion award for being too lazy to do my laundry”

 

***

 

Here, No Heroes

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia

 

Here, No Heroes is the title of the 2018 film directed by Yuuri Katsuki, co-written by Katsuki and his frequent collaborator Phichit Chulanont, starring Victor Nikiforov, with the musical score by Otabek Altin.

Here, No Heroes received nominations for Best Actor, Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen and Best Cinematography at the 91st Academy Awards. It won the Awards for Best Director for Yuuri Katsuki. Apart from the Oscars, Here, No Heroes garnered also other multiple awards and nominations, including the Jury Grand Prix at the Berlin International Film Festival and a Golden Globe for Victor Nikiforov.

 

Plot

In a world where passion is seen as detrimental to the development of the society and medically erased at birth, Alvar (Victor Nikiforov) becomes an outcast after an accident that releases his passion back. Estranged by his family and shunned by his local community, Alvar flees to a foreign country where he puts on a different persona, pretending to be just like everyone else, doing his best to dissociate himself from his previous life. A random encounter with an overworked engineer, Anna, (Minako Okukawa) forces him to examine his values and what it means to be human.

 

Cast

Victor Nikiforov as Alvar N.

Minako Okukawa as Anna

Yuri Plisetsky as Alvar’s Neighbour

Isabella Yang as Mother

Jean-Jacques Leroy as Alvar’s Doctor

Georgi Popovich as Weeping Journalist

 

Awards and Recognition

  • The 91st Academy Awards: Best Director (Yuuri Katsuki), Best Actor (Victor Nikiforov – nominated), Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Yuuri Katsuki – nominated), Best Cinematography (Nikolai Plisetsky)
  • Berlin Film Festival, 2018: Jury Grand Prix
  • Golden Globe Award, 2018: Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama (Victor Nikiforov), Best Director (Yuuri Katsuki – nominated)
  • Toronto International Film Festival, 2018: Best Picture (nominated)
  • Venice Film Festival, 2018: Best Film, Best Cinematography (Nikolai Plisetsky), Best Actress (Minako Okukawa – nominated)

 

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Katsuki Auctions Off The Original La Dolce Vitya Script, Donates to Dog Shelters

 

Nikiforov on the Fox Controversy: “What bromance? I’m just really gay”

 

Plisetsky Steals a Paparazzo’s Camera, Rides Away

 

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This is my translation of the Japanese interview I mentioned yesterday! Enjoy!

(...)

Could you share any movie scenes that you’re particularly fond of?

YK: The banquet scene from Vera Chytilova’s Daisies, for example. If you’d asked me two years ago, I’d have never tell you that, but I’m pretty fond of, well, banquets.

(...)

Will you tell us anything about your new project?

YK: We’re, uhm, redecorating the kitchen. That’s the only project I’ve got at the moment.

So you’re not planning any films in the future?

YK: Sure I do. But I’m really the happiest about our kitchen.

(...)

What was the biggest challenge of making Here, No Heroes?

YK: It’s kinda funny. I thought at first that it would be the question of how to make Alvar relatable. He’s human – that’s the whole point, he’s human – but he’s so aloof, so distant, so otherworldly. He was a pain to write and I loved it. But then it turned out that we discovered humanity somewhere along the way. It’s funny how that works: cause Alvar seeks it, too, and Victor had absolutely no problems at all with tapping into the kind of energy we wanted Alvar to show. And I can’t believe I’m gonna say that but the biggest challenge was making sure Phichit didn’t smuggle any hamsters on the set. Jesus Christ.

(...)

Is there any chance you are going to be more active on Twitter or Instagram? You are famously elusive – it’s rare to see someone with a great online presence to be so silent.

I’m not really a Twitter kind of guy, as you can see [laughs]. I prefer my films to speak for me, to be honest. Or rather, I’m there to make sure that art speaks for itself. And I’m really not that interesting... I only go on Twitter when something really important happens so that I have to react.

Like the time when you were spotted running out of a restaurant because you noticed a dog you wanted to pet, and then retweeted one of the memes that appeared soon after.

Well, yeah. Is there anything more important than dogs?

(...)

And lastly, how what is it like to be the best dressed man in the world?

I don’t know. Have you asked my boyfriend?

 

source: eternalsunshine13

 

9,367 notes

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[Victor Nikiforov stares at Yuuri Katsuki 1 hour compilation part 3]

Youtube

naamah_beherit  • 687,534 views • 2 weeks ago

 

389 comments

victorykatsudon find a man who looks at you like Victor Nikiforov looks at Yuuri Katsuki

oliviamcrobinson are they even rEAL???

potyathetiger ewww gross

 

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Yuuri Katsuki to Direct Dostoevsky’s The Idiot

 

The Idiot begins filming: here’s the first picture of Nikiforov as Prince Myshkin

 

Yuri Plisetsky on working with Katsuki: “It didn’t entirely suck, okay?”

 

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eternalsunshine13   @phichit+chu  •  29m

any chance for new yuuri katsuki content?

 

momo @eternalsunshine13 @phichit+chu  •  27m

seconded

 

phichit+chu @eternalsunshine13 @momo   •  13m

your wish is my command

 

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Yuuri Katsuki’s Uni Pictures Revealed

 

How To Break The Internet, by Phichit Chulanont

 

Pictures of Yuuri Katsuki Ranked by Relatability

 

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Yuuri Katsuki – IMDb

Writer | Director

 

Yuuri Katsuki (known also as Katsuki Yuuri) is a Japanese film director and screenwriter. Having made films in the US, Italy, Japan and Russia, he is known for a unique blend of locality with universal themes. Yuuri Katsuki was born in Hasetsu, Japan in 1992. Upon his graduation from high school, he moved to study Film Directing in Detroit, where he...

See full bio >>

Born: November 29, 1992 in Hasetsu, Japan

 

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Victor Nikiforov – IMDb

Actor

 

Victor Nikiforov (born 1988) is Yuuri Katsuki’s boyfriend and an actor known for starring in independent productions. Although he rose to fame in 2007 after his iconic role in The Lilac Fairy, nowadays he is more recognized by being the muse of his muse, Yuuri Katsuki, and performing leading roles in such films as Here, No Heroes and The Idiot. After meeting Katsuki in St. Petersburg in 201...

See full bio >>

Born: December 25, 1988 in Leningrad (St. Petersburg), Russia

 

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Victor Nikiforov on Yuuri Katsuki, The Idiot, and more on Yuuri Katsuki

 

Yuuri Katsuki Spotted Dropping Groceries To Pet a Dog, Owner Shook

 

Katsuki and Nikiforov Start Foundation for LGBTQ+ Artists

 

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victornikiforovofficial  @katsukiyuuri Congrats to my boyfriend& the best director I’ve worked with for The Idiot’s 11 Oscar nominations! Never been so proud in my life!  •  3 day ago

 

thecrispinos @victornikiforovofficial he didn’t even reply to you, why bother  • 3h

 

victornikiforovofficial @thecrispinos he replied in private ;)))  • 1h

 

thecrispinos @victornikiforovofficial Oh no, I’m so sorry, Victor! I’ll talk to Mickey. My best wishes to Yuuri, we’re all so thrilled!  • 43m

 

victornikiforovofficial @thecrispinos that’s quite alright, thank you Sara! <3  •  39m

 

yuri_plisetsky @victornikiforovofficial you’re so gross, eww GET A ROOM  • 17m

 

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Victor Nikiforov Wins Oscar for Best Actor, Proposes to Yuuri Katsuki

 

Oscar Highlights: Nikiforov Pops The Question in Acceptance Speech

 

Yuuri Katsuki Remains Silent

 

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pchichit+chu don’t worry you guys, I’m sure he “replied in private” •  1 day ago

 

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you all stop tweeting Yuuri and Victor!!!! let them be ffs this is getting ridiculous

the fact that artists choose to share some parts of their life with you doesn’t mean you get to control what they share and how

 

source: voxofthevoid

 

12,148 notes

 

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katsukiyuuri @victornikiforovofficial  Yes.  • 1 min ago