There is a phenomenon in Yuuri Katsuki’s life something along the lines of Murphy’s Law. It’s specific to Detective Viktor Nikiforov—specifically to the interactions Yuuri has with him. Yuuri and those he knows best call it Nikiforov’s Law and it has been ruining Yuuri’s life for the better part of three years.
Viktor Nikiforov is a beautiful and well-dressed junior detective with the Detroit Police. He is the son of the county prosecutor and a former police chief-cum-mayor. Yuuri has been in mooning lust with him since he worked his first case for the Detroit Crime Lab shortly after getting the job. It was a robbery at a liquor store, and Yuuri spent a blissful half hour brushing fingerprint dust over the surface of the counter while Nikiforov gazed over his shoulder. It was the last half hour of his life to which Nikiforov’s Law did not apply—because once he was done printing the counter, Yuuri tripped backwards straight into a bucket full of dirty mop water.
That, in essence, is Nikiforov’s Law. Whatever can happen to Yuuri Katsuki to embarrass him in front of Viktor Nikiforov, will happen.
On a Friday night in the hottest week southeastern Michigan has seen all year, Yuuri is called out to process a body in a dumpster behind Motor City Casino. He is literally knee-deep in garbage, surrounded by queasy-looking police officers, when Detective Nikiforov pokes his head up over the side of the dumpster.
“Yuuri!” he says, more genial than a guy in such proximity to both a dumpster and a rapidly decomposing body should ever be. “I was hoping they would send you.”
“Oh?” says Yuuri, and he’s pretty sure he says it in a relatively cool way even though he’s screaming, deep down, somewhere in the area of pancreas.
“The last CSI I worked with was Leroy,” Viktor reveals, and it makes sense then. Viktor wasn’t hoping it was Yuuri, specifically—he was just hoping it was anybody but JJ. “We were at the crime scene for six hours. I don’t think he stopped talking the whole time.”
“That’s JJ,” Yuuri sighs, and then squats down to pick something off the dead guy’s silk shirt—some kind of hair—and pulling a bindle out of his vest as he goes. He’s bracing himself on the side of the dumpster, and he shifts to push himself back up. There is, of course, something horrible and slimy on the side of the dumpster—because it’s a dumpster behind a casino in downtown Detroit in August—and it offers no traction. He slips.
Nikiforov shoots out a hand to grab his wrist, stopping him just short of falling onto the body and contaminating the whole scene. Yuuri is relieved for exactly six seconds. After those six seconds, his relief turns to horror because Nikiforov’s Law chooses that moment to display itself. Some truly horrible smell erupts from the dumpster, Yuuri’s stumbling having released a pocket of gas from somewhere deep in its bowels.
“Ah,” says Nikiforov, smiling to repress his gag reflex. “One minute.”
Viktor Nikiforov has been a detective for five years—but one never quite gets used to the smell of rotting garbage or decomp, especially not when combined. Six cops, the coroner and his assistant, and one CSI Katsuki, all watch as Nikiforov stumbles away from the police line and vomits violently against a wall.
“I’m fine!” he calls out in between retches, waving a hand behind his head. “It’s fine!”
Silently, Yuuri pulls a little tub of vapor rub out of his vest. It is passed from hand to hand until it finally reaches Nikiforov, who opens it and inhales with his nose shoved directly into the Vaseline, then smears it liberally underneath his nose.
“You’re doing great, Katsuki,” says Nikiforov, who stands no less than ten feet away from the dumpster from then onwards.
Yuuri looks back to the victim, whom he will later find out was a sleazy floor manager who kind of sort of got what was coming to him from a couple of waitresses who he’d been preying on, and mutters, “This is your fault.”
The entire island of Belle Isle smells like fish and seagull droppings. Some days, when the sun has been out and one is standing on the right bank of the island and the wind is blowing in the right direction, you don’t really notice it—and the smell of bread and potato chips that permeates the city can float across the water and make it a nice place to sit and have a picnic. But at midnight on a windy day after a week of storms, the water table gets high and turns the low-level inland portions of the island into soupy swamp.
Yuuri, in a pair of black grundens with “DETROIT CRIME LAB” and “CSI KATSUKI” on the front like a kid whose mom sewed his name into all his clothes, wades into almost knee-deep muddy water (Or maybe it’s watery mud) with a long metal stick that he jabs into the ground every foot or so. He does this for well over an hour.
“Are we sure that the gun is here?” asks Phichit (Dark green grundens; CSI CHULANONT) from about twenty feet away. They started from the same approximate point and are traveling outward from the road in a semi-circular pattern. Either they will find the gun or the opposite treeline; if the latter, they’ll repeat the process on the other side of the road. Presumably, at least, until one of them develops pneumonia or gangrene.
“The body was found less than a mile from here,” Yuuri says, huffing as he continues jabbing his stick into the swamp like it’s personally offended him. In a way, it has. “And we found prints along the bank matching the ones that were all over the crime scene. People don’t just walk away in the middle of committing murder to take a jaunt through the woods. Something was dumped here, and it obviously wasn’t the body.”
“Couldn’t we have waited until it dried out?”
“That could be weeks from now.”
Phichit sighs and straightens up briefly, to wipe moisture off his face and rotate his shoulder. He nudges his stick into the water halfheartedly and then pronounces, “We’re gonna die here.”
Yuuri’s stick connects with something also metal underneath the water.
“Maybe not,” he says, tapping it a couple of times to figure out its dimensions.
“If it’s another license plate, I’m gonna drown myself,” Phichit says.
“It’s not,” says Yuuri. “It’s too small and solid. One second.” He bends down, going up to the elbow in murky, fowl-smelling water and almost waterlogging his glove. He doesn’t, thankfully, and brings up the gun by the grip. He holds it up for Phichit to examine and says, “We’re gonna have to dry this thing out and take it to ballistics. Call me paranoid, but I’m not sure there’s only one gun floating around in this swamp right now.”
“You’re paranoid,” says Phichit.
They make their way back to the road, where Viktor has been performing the arduous task of sitting on the hood of the car, listening to the radio and looking vaguely threatening simply by virtue of his austere features and the gun he has under his shoulder. He slides off the car and meets them at the bank leading down into the marsh, holding out his hand to help them up. Phichit goes first, because he reaches the bank first. Yuuri hands the gun off to him to be put in an evidence bag, then takes Viktor’s hand.
The bank is muddy and his hands are sweaty from the gloves and Nikiforov’s Law is always in effect, so of course he slips. He falls backwards into the water. It soaks immediately through his clothing and into his hair.
“Shit!” says Viktor—which, incidentally, is now what Yuuri smells like. “I’m so sorry, Yuuri. Here, let me—”
“No, it’s fine,” says Yuuri, trying to salvage at least a little bit of his dignity. “I’ve got it.”
Now unafraid of scaling the bank with his bare hands—because it’s not like he can get more filthy—Yuuri makes quick work of the steep four-foot incline and emerges onto the road. He shakes the worst of the mud off his hands, takes off his grundens and wraps them in their nylon storage bag—which he then places on the seat of the car so that he can sit on it during the ride back to the crime lab.
“It’s fine,” Yuuri assures Viktor, grateful for the dark so that Viktor can’t see that he has a blush going on that could fry an egg. Behind him, Phichit is making a horrible choking sound that he’s trying to pass off as coughing but is, in actuality, hysterical giggles muffled against his elbow. “I’m…fine. I’m fine.”
CSI Katsuki, forensic specialist and Human Disaster, spends the ride back to the crime lab sitting with his back six careful inches from the backrest of Viktor’s car—and also ends up smelling vaguely like swamp for the next three days, despite multiple showers and liberal application of a vanilla-scented body mist that Phichit threw at him from across the locker room that first night.
“I’m a garbage monster,” Yuuri tells Phichit, staring at Viktor through the glass walls of the lab. Viktor has not been in the same room with him since what the denizens of the lab are now calling The Belle Isle Incident. “He looks at me and he thinks dumpster decomp and swamp. I hate my life.”
“You’re a very pretty garbage monster,” says Phichit, watching a centrifuge work. “A garbage monster he wants to fuck.”
“I hate you,” Yuuri hisses fervently.
“I love you too.”
There is a certain state of human decomposition that no criminologist or coroner ever wants to encounter, but knows that they inevitably will at some point. Human soup is the stuff of nightmares, and it takes well over a week to get the smell out of the morgue and the crime lab every single time. Yuuri, who is both blessed and cursed with a rather strong constitution to smell and a resilient gag reflex, has unfortunately worked these things one too many times and knows exactly how this plays out.
“The liver, for a tox scan,” says the coroner, handing Yuuri a metal pan full of something that smells like what the devil created to fill Hell. “Can’t get a whole lot from blood and tissue when decomp is this advanced, but you’ll probably still be able to get something from the liver cells. Give it the blender treatment.”
“Thanks, Sara,” says Yuuri, as he puts the liver into a biohazard cooler and tries to push down the instinctual fight or flight reflex that the word blender inspires in him nowadays. He hasn’t been to a Tropical Smoothie or Starbucks in three years.
The office of the medical examiner is four blocks away from the crime lab—four blocks too far for Yuuri’s car, which will smell like that for at least the next week. Yuuri, himself, will have to take at least six showers before the smell drops to undetectable levels, and the clothes he’s wearing are complete forfeit. He’s only a little disappointed about his jeans. They make his ass look like two hams.
As soon as Yuuri walks into the crime lab, his parcel clears a path for him through the entire place—and he finds the trace lab completely abandoned when he gets there. In the lab, there’s a blender with a yellow sticky note duct taped to the side reading BAD BLENDER. Yuuri sighs to himself as he retrieves it from its shelf and places it on one of the counters.
The blender does its job, kicking the smell up even higher as it does. Yuuri has a full quarter-inch layer of Vicks underneath his nose and it’s still not quite enough to block out the smell. The janitors are going to be giving him dirty looks until he dies.
Of course, because Nikiforov’s Law applies to all aspects of Yuuri’s life, and not only those situations when he’s in the field, the first person to enter the lab since Yuuri and his Cooler of Nope arrived on scene is Viktor Nikiforov. Also, because this is Nikiforov’s Law at work, Yuuri doesn’t notice him standing there until he’s turning around with a blender carafe full of liquified liver. He smashes right into Viktor’s chest, sending the carafe flying.
When the calamity of two grown men screaming like children and glass breaking dies down, there is brown sludge on every conceivable surface in a fifteen-foot radius, including in Viktor’s hair, all over Yuuri’s glasses, and seeping down both their shirtfronts.
“Oh God,” says Yuuri, who’s only panicking a little. He refuses to open his eyes and see the damage. “Oh my God. Oh my God.”
“Yuuri,” says Viktor, very calmly for someone who has human soup squelching in his shoes. “Yuuri, what is this?”
“Liver,” Yuuri hisses, trying to open his mouth as little as possible.
“I’m going to assume it’s not from a chicken.”
“Oh God,” Yuuri whimpers again, wishing ardently for instant death.
Leo from A/V eventually realizes that Something Horrible Has Happened in the trace lab and alerts Celestino, who calls in the biohazard guys. They usher Viktor and Yuuri into the showers together and hose them down with some high-pressure implement that feels like it removes an entire layer of skin—and that’s before they take their clothes off. Upon being told to strip, Yuuri’s eyes go straight to the ceiling—where they stay until they are finally given scrub-like temporary garments to wear until the situation in the lab has been cleaned up. Yuuri sits on a bench in the locker rooms, a full seven feet away from Viktor, and contemplates his own miserable existence.
“I’ll pay,” he tells Viktor, clearing his throat. “To, um…replace your suit.”
Viktor stares at him for a moment, eyebrows flirting with his hairline. Eventually he says, “I don’t think you can. It was Armani.”
“Oh,” Yuuri squeaks. “Your tie, then. I’ll…replace your tie…”
Viktor’s mouth opens to respond, but Celestino bursts into the room at that moment. Yuuri receives the dressing-down of his life and is informed, in no uncertain terms, that he will replace all of the equipment that has been lost.
Yuuri never has a chance to do this, however. He walks into the lab the next day and finds a brand-new blender on the counter. There is a huge bow slapped onto the lid and a sticky note attached. Sorry about your soup D: it says. Yuuri takes it off and tries not to smile at it, considering whether it would be creepy if he put the sticky note in his wallet to look at sometimes when he’s sad.
Yuuri mails Viktor’s replacement tie to PD—because knowing the effects of Nikiforov’s Law, he would probably manage to strangle himself with it if he gave it to Viktor in person. Phichit replaces the New Bad Blender with the Old Good Blender from the breakroom and switches the labels. There is an unspoken, unanimous decision amongst the CSIs to not mention this to Celestino.
Detroit, like any city that has a considerable amount of shoreline, trains operatives in diving. They work in tandem with PD and search and rescue, most of the time, but sometimes CSI calls them in to assist with evidence recovery. The most talented of these divers is Yuri Plisetsky, who Yuuri once watched find a bullet casing in twenty-six foot deep water off the shore of Lake Erie in the middle of the night.
Thankfully, they are not out in the middle of the night. It’s brilliant and cloudless outside, sunlight glinting off the water and shining in their eyes. But it’s September, and Michigan is enjoying its first cold front of the year. A bitter wind is blowing across the lake, making fifty degrees feel like forty.
“I don’t know why you’re always in places you don’t need to be, Nikiforov,” Plisetsky mutters as he’s preparing to dive, about a mile out into Lake Saint Clair. Yuuri is carefully marking their coordinates on a map, sitting in the skiff cabin next to Viktor. They are bundled into scarves and coats, and Viktor’s got a pair of sunglasses on his nose that look like they cost more than Yuuri’s average paycheck.
“I’m the supervising detective on the case, it’s my job to be here,” Viktor says, lowering his sunglasses to look at Plisetsky over the rims. From what Yuuri understands, Plisetsky and Viktor have been at odds for years. It doesn’t seem to be born of any actual animosity; just a conflict of personalities. More Plisetsky’s than Viktor’s, so it’s been said, but nobody will actually admit to being the source of that information—and Yuuri isn’t going to rat anyone out.
Plisetsky huffs and takes the mouthpiece of his regulator in his mouth, sits down on the side of the boat and makes a gesture to indicate that he’s going in. Yuuri rises to join him at the side of the boat, and watches him backroll into the water. He resurfaces a moment later, treading water, and shoots a thumbs-up.
“Remember, this is what it looks like,” says Yuuri, leaning over the side of the boat and holding up an image of the watercraft in question. “The suspect says it sunk last June, and if that’s the truth it’ll be obvious from the zebra mussel growth. But I think it’s only been down there a few weeks, since his wife disappeared. Take as many pictures as you can. I’m hoping to convince the department that it’s salient to the investigation to salvage it.”
Plisetsky gives another thumbs up and sinks under the surface. Yuuri watches him disappear into the algal murkiness of the water, then sits down on the side of the boat, gloved hands folded between his knees. It could take minutes for Plisetsky to find what he’s looking for—it could take hours.
“And now we wait,” says Viktor, turning around in his seat. He pulls a thermos out from a stow compartment in the hull of the skiff and twists it open, pours something into the cap and hands it off to Yuuri.
“Is this tea?” Yuuri asks, because he’s been warned about the way Viktor fixes it. Don’t drink Nikiforov’s tea; it tastes like it’s been steeped for six years and he puts jam in it.
Honestly, Yuuri would probably drink Viktor’s Weird Russian Tea. He just wants to know what he’s getting into.
“No, coffee,” Viktor says into the rim of the thermos. “I stole it from Micky at the lab.”
“Oh—the good stuff,” Yuuri says, nodding, and takes a sip. Michele in DNA jealously guards his coffee beans. Special twice-roasted Italian nonsense blessed by the pope, or some bullshit like that. It’s coffee, as far as Yuuri is concerned. He never really developed the palate to differentiate. But it tastes good. Viktor drinks it just a little too sweet for his taste, but beggars can’t be choosers, and it warms him up.
There’s comfortable silence, as the water laps against the boat and they drink. It’s a beautiful day, even with the low temperature. Yuuri wishes he had the time and energy to come to the beach more often, like he did when he was a kid.
He says as much to Viktor, not really thinking about it until it’s already out of his mouth. He and Viktor have never really exchanged personal anecdotes before. He takes another mouthful of coffee and waits to see how Viktor will react.
Viktor smiles. Not necessarily surprising, considering he’s a nice person and Yuuri obviously didn’t expect him to do something like dump his coffee over Yuuri’s head for saying something as innocuous as I miss going to the beach. At the same time, he doesn’t really expect the absolute beam that Viktor favors him with in that moment.
“We don’t know very much about each other, do we, Yuuri?” Viktor says, shifting from his seat in the skiff cabin to sit next to Yuuri on the side of the boat. He’s a respectable distance away, but Yuuri can still feel the subtle shift in warmth, and his heart still pounds deep. “I’ve just realized. We’ve been working together for over three years and I think we’ve only ever had one conversation that wasn’t about work.”
“Huh, I guess so,” Yuuri says, with eyes trained carefully on the coffee. He’s trying to figure out what that one conversation was, and he’s drawing a blank. “I guess it’s not proper etiquette to have the whole where are you from conversation over a dead body.”
“Where are you from?”
Despite himself, Yuuri chuckles. “Dearborn. I went back and forth between here and Japan when I was a kid, but I haven’t been back in…probably ten years. It was important to my parents before my grandparents died, but now…I don’t know. I’d like to go back someday, though.”
Viktor smiles. “That sounds nice. I’ve never been overseas.”
Yuuri doesn’t ask Viktor where he’s from. He doesn’t have to. He knows that Viktor’s parents have been important figures in the Detroit legal system for over three decades. Everybody does. So instead he says the first thing that pops into his mind, which for some reason is, “Well, if you ever go to Japan, let me know and I’ll show you around.”
Thankfully, Viktor only laughs. Which is fine; Yuuri can deal with being laughed at. It’s nothing that hasn’t happened before.
“Well, maybe a date, first,” Viktor says, and Yuuri feels the hot blush rising from under his collar. He knows Viktor is only teasing him, but he can’t seem to convince his body of that. He wants to go on a date with Viktor. He wants to walk down Woodward and drink too-sweet coffee and talk about something, anything, other than forensics and crime.
Yuuri fills his mouth with coffee to impede himself from speaking, at least for a moment.
“My family has a cabin up north,” says Viktor, looking out over the water. His eyes are the exact same color. “I was an only child, so I used to get up to some crazy stuff. One summer, I think I was thirteen or fourteen, I took the boat out by myself. Got horribly lost, almost capsized it…the coastguard found me a few hours later, screaming for help in the middle of Lake Michigan where nobody could hear me. I was afraid of boating, after that, which made it pretty inconvenient for my family. They were boating people.”
“When did you get over it?” Yuuri asks, and he hands Viktor back the lid to his thermos. Viktor screws it on, smiling in a wry way.
“I didn’t,” Viktor says. Yuuri, surprised, stops watching his elegant fingers on the cap and turns them up to his eyes. Viktor holds a finger to his lips, and Yuuri is flooded in warmth. “Shh. Don’t tell anyone.”
“I won’t,” Yuuri whispers back. He’s leaning a little closer than he probably should, but Viktor isn’t protesting—in fact, he reaches out a hand, and presses a thumb to Yuuri’s cheek.
“Coffee,” Viktor says, by way of explanation, but his hands stays there. And Yuuri leans in—
The reason one does not sit on the side of a boat is because it throws off the center of both the person and the boat. Yuuri Katsuki knows this, and yet in that moment had somehow completely forgotten his training—and this is the perfect environment for Nikiforov’s Law to strike into. The wind picks up and the water swells, and Yuuri’s face is inches from Viktor’s when the wave kicks into the boat. It wouldn’t cause much turbulence under normal circumstances, but the weight of both Viktor and Yuuri on one side of the boat and completely thrown off the skiff’s equilibrium. Yuuri, who’s balancing all of his upper body weight on one arm leaning on the hull, slides unceremoniously into the water.
Yuuri learns a few things from that experience, which mostly amount to: When you go into water on a cold day, it’s not the water that will freeze you to death. It’s the air when you come out of it.
He spends an excruciating twenty seconds in the water, trying to figure out which way is up, before a pair of hands find him from below and thrust him upward towards the air. He breaks the surface with a painful gasp, realizing that he has lost both his shoes and his glasses. He can’t see through the water in his eyes and the blur of his nearsightedness, but he can hear Yuri Plisetsky from close behind him in the water, yelling for Viktor to pull him up into the boat.
Plisetsky and Nikiforov push and pull him until he’s finally in the boat. He slides in like some kind of lump slug and instinctively curls into a fetal position on the floor, shivering violently in the freezing wind with his hair plastered like ice to his face and ears.
“Give him a blanket! Christ!” says Plisetsky, clamoring into the boat. Water sheds off his drysuit and into the bottom of the boat. He pulls Yuuri up and nudges him towards the mediocre shelter of the skiff cabin. Plisetsky snaps his fingers at Viktor as he’s wrapping a thick wool blanket around his shoulders. “Hug him, Nikiforov.”
“What?” they demand at the same time.
“He needs body heat or his body temperature will drop like crazy,” says Plisetsky, turning the key in the boat’s ignition. It comes to life with a roar of the motor. “What the fuck just happened? How did he fall out?”
“It was an accident!” Viktor yells over the sound of the motor. His eyes go back to Yuuri’s, deep and pleading. “Right, Yuuri?”
An accident, Yuuri thinks. Something that wasn’t supposed to happen. My fault.
“Yeah,” he agrees after a moment. “Yeah, it was an accident.”
Yuuri spends the ride back to shore huddled into a skiff cabin with Viktor Nikiforov’s long limbs wrapped haphazardly around him, arms unyielding to his uncontrollable shudders. It only takes about ten minutes, but it’s ten minutes in which Yuuri is genuinely convinced his toes will fall off.
The whole time, Viktor won’t even look at him. Yuuri almost lets himself cry to warm his face, but that would be pathetic. What kind of grown man cries from embarrassment?
It takes a long time for Yuuri to put the memory of Viktor’s cologne out of his mind.
“Yuuri, Nikiforov is waiting for you with a 419 at the Ren Cen,” says Celestino not three days later, handing Yuuri a slip with his assignment on it. Every single set of eyes in the room goes to him immediately. The story of what happened on Lake Saint Clair has become common knowledge in the lab—and, of course, the subject of much fabrication. Half of the lab thinks Viktor pushed Yuuri into the water; the other half thinks he jumped. He's not sure if it’s better or worse than the truth.
I would literally rather do anything but this, Yuuri wants to say. But his mother raised him to be polite, perhaps to a fault, so all he can bring himself to say is, “I’m…solo?”
“For now,” Celestino replies. “That drug house on Gratiot is an all hands situation, so right now I can only spare who I absolutely have to.”
Again, Yuuri considers saying something like I’ll process the meth lab. I’ll do it by myself if it means I never have to be alone in the same room with Viktor Nikiforov. And again, he stops himself.
“I’m on it,” says Yuuri. Only a little bit of his reluctance comes through in the way he walks slowly towards the door, as though waiting for Celestino to change his mind.
The Renaissance Center is buzzing with activity. A business conference was apparently interrupted by the police descending on the scene. The distressed attendees have all been gathered in the Winter Garden, far enough away from the crime scene to prevent them from seeing or hearing anything, but close enough for the convenience of the officers who mill through the crowd, taking statements. In the showroom, behind the Winter Garden, Viktor Nikiforov stands next to an exhibit car on the display floor. It’s a brand-new Corvette, sleek and red, and has the head and shoulders of a dead woman hanging out of it.
Nikiforov does a double take when he sees Yuuri.
Yuuri clears his throat and forces down the part of him that wants to turn immediately around and return from whence he came.
“Who is she?” he asks, electing to jump right into the meat of the situation and bypass any small talk, lest there be some awkward attempt at apologies or explanation for what happened earlier in the week. Yuuri is used to embarrassing himself in front of Viktor Nikiforov, but he’s hit a new low in falling off a boat and almost drowning himself in the process of trying to kiss a man who probably didn’t even want it. He would die a happy man if the subject was buried under the same rock where Yuuri put all the memories of his college boyfriends and that one, regrettable school term in first grade when he ran around telling everybody he knew that he was going to be a figure skater.
From the way Viktor clears his throat and averts his eyes, Yuuri can only assume he feels the same way.
“Jenna Matthews,” he says. “Twenty-seven years old, lives in Lansing. We think she’s part of the conference; I’ve got a guy trying to figure out if she has family we can contact.”
“Who found her?” Yuuri asks, as he opens his kit and pulls out a pair of latex gloves.
“Some kid,” Viktor says, gesturing towards the police line. “He’s staying in the hotel with his mom, wanted to take a picture inside the Corvette. Got the shock of his life when he opened the door.”
“Geez,” Yuuri sighs. He puts the gloves on and retrieves his flashlight, crouching down next to the body. As he gets his bearings with the scene, he says, “I need you to figure out who’s in charge here, and get all of the camera footage they have from today. It doesn’t look like she was killed here, but whoever dumped her is probably the one who killed her—and he was caught on camera somewhere.”
“Right, yeah,” says Viktor, glancing over his shoulder as though looking for someone to delegate the task to. There’s nobody. He starts to go himself, but turns back after a moment and says, “Yuuri, I’m—”
“It’s fine,” says Yuuri, trying to smile at him. “Really, it’s fine.” He turns back to his work and, after a moment, Viktor leaves him to it.
Yuuri is alone for about fifteen minutes, printing the car and snapping pictures. In his head, he’s scripting his email asking for a warrant to seize a brand-new 80,000 dollar car so that he can take it apart. Somewhere, there are engineers crying into their drafting tables and they have no idea why. The work is routine, and an experienced criminologist can sort of go on autopilot while doing it. He isn’t paying as much attention to his surroundings as a man alone in an active crime scene should.
There are a few sounds that inspire deep, visceral reactions in any human being who hears it. The crying of children, for instance. The crack of nearby thunder. The whine of a police siren. One of these sounds, and one that Yuuri had genuinely hoped he would never in his life have to hear, is the cocking of a gun directly behind one’s ear.
“Don’t scream,” says a gravely voice. The muzzle of the gun is cold and hard against the back of his head. “Put your gun on the ground and stand up. Do it.” This command is accompanied by an ungentle nudge of the gun against the crown of Yuuri’s head. Slowly, he complies.
“I’m not a cop,” Yuuri tells him, because it’s the first thing he can make come out of his mouth. “I’m a criminologist. I work for the crime lab. I’m a scientist.”
“I don’t give a fuck what you are,” says the gunman, nudging it against his head again. “Start walking.”
“There are police on every entrance,” Yuuri says. “You’ll never get past them.”
“They won’t shoot at me if I’ve got you in front of me.”
“Yes they will,” Yuuri says, completely unsure if what he’s saying is true. He doesn’t think it is.
“Shut up,” the gunman snaps. “Start walking.”
“No,” says Yuuri. His pulse is in his ears. There is bile in his throat and his palms are sweating. I might die. I might die.
“What did you just say?”
“I said no,” Yuuri snaps. “I’m not going with you.”
“Who the fuck do you—”
“PUT YOUR WEAPON DOWN.”
Viktor Nikiforov’s voice can boom like an atom bomb, when it wants to. Yuuri doesn’t think he’s ever been so relieved to hear it, as horrible and angry as it sounds in the moment. The relief of the cavalry arriving and the adrenaline rushing through him kicks Yuuri’s fight or flight response into high gear. All of his training returns to him and his body chooses fight. He steps backwards onto the gunman’s instep and bends his arm over his shoulder, breaking his foot and dislocating his shoulder at the same time. It’s easy, after that, to disarm him and turn his own gun on him.
“Get on the ground!” Yuuri screams, frantic and high pitched and embarrassing. “Now! On the ground! Arms behind your head!”
The uniforms rush in and make quick work of detaining the suspect. Yuuri puts the safety on the gun and holds it at his side, limp, adrenaline pumping through his veins so quick and thick that it feels like his heart has turned to something molten in his chest.
“Yuuri,” Viktor says, very gently and very near. He puts a hand softly on Yuuri’s wrist. “Let go, Yuuri. It’s okay, you can let go.”
All at once, like a puppet with its strings cut, Yuuri’s muscles release. Viktor takes the gun from his limp grasp and only just manages to hand it off to a uniform waiting with an evidence bag before he turns back to Yuuri and catches him as his legs turn to jelly from under him. Viktor’s chest is solid, his arms firm. He all but carries Yuuri towards the empty food court, setting him gently into the first empty chair he comes to. He kneels down in front of him, hands on his knees.
“Are you okay?” Viktor asks, rubbing gently with his thumbs. “Yuuri? Can you talk to me, honey? Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” says Yuuri, turning his face away to angrily swipe away the tears that are gathering without his permission. “I—I’m fine.”
“You don’t have to say that,” Viktor tells him, soft. “You always say you’re fine. It’s okay for you to not be fine.”
“It’s just—I’m not—” Yuuri looks up at the ceiling, willing the emotion away. “I just—this kind of thing always happens. And it happens—it happens in front of you, and you’re so--I’m just—I must be the worst—the worst—”
“You’re not the worst anything,” Viktor says fiercely. “I don’t know who it was that cleared that scene, but if I have anything to say about it, they won’t have a badge this time tomorrow. You’re amazing at what you do. It’s not your fault that this happened.”
“It’s not just this,” Yuuri says, shaking his head. “It’s—it’s me falling into the lake, and the liver, and the mud—”
“And I know that you—you must think I’m—just, some sort of clutz, and I—I know you don’t want to be around me. You refuse to be in the same room as me. You can’t even look at me. And I deserve it. I’m like—”
“Like some kind of child who breaks everything they touch only—”
“Yuuri.” Viktor presses two fingers to his lips, firm. “Yuuri. None of those things are your fault. I did those things. They were my fault. I let you slip into the mud. I bumped into you and made you spill the blender.”
“Yuuri, how could you think that those things were your fault?” Viktor chuckles. He swipes at Yuuri’s cheeks with his thumbs. His hands are big, and just a little rough, and very warm. “I couldn’t be in the same room as you because I was embarrassed. I thought you hated me.”
Yuuri shakes his head frantically. “I could never. I don’t. I—I would never hate you. I…”
Two uniforms round the corner and call for Viktor. He and Yuuri share a brilliant, intense moment of eye contact before Viktor lifts Yuuri’s hand to his lips and presses three hard, almost desperate kisses to his fingers. Yuuri doesn’t know what to do with himself.
“Someone drive Katsuki back to the crime lab and explain the situation to Cialdini,” Viktor tells his men. He glances back over his shoulder at Yuuri, expression very soft. “I’ll talk to you later, okay? Don’t worry.”
Yuuri nods, and watches as Viktor rounds the corner. The feeling of his lips on Yuuri’s hand will remain for hours.
Celestino sends Yuuri home after collecting his clothes and his gun for evidence; tells him to take the next two days as paid leave and give himself time to screw his head back on straight.
“Nobody can just walk away from having a gun in their face, Yuuri,” Celestino tells him. “It’ll take a few days for you to feel like yourself again.”
So Yuuri goes home and changes into something very comfortable and very ugly, turns the television on and falls asleep on the couch after eating half his weight in Taco Bell. He also calls his parents and his sister, who take turns asking him if he’s sure he’s okay and if he’s sure he doesn’t want one of them to visit. He’s only allowed to hang up after promising four times that he will visit within the next few days.
Sometime around nine or ten o’clock, someone knocks softly on his door. Something about the knock wakes Yuuri up out of a dead sleep, and he rolls over to peek out between the blinds. Viktor Nikiforov stands on his front porch, hands shoved in his pockets. He looks almost as nervous as Yuuri feels. Yuuri rolls carefully off the sofa and answers the door, only realizing after he’s done so that he’s dressed in orange sweatpants and a shirt that says SCIENTISTS DO IT IN A LAB.
“Hi,” Yuuri says after a moment in which they do absolutely nothing but stare at each other with slightly open mouths.
“Hi,” says Viktor, clearing his throat. “Can I—do you mind if I—come in?”
“Go ahead,” Yuuri says, stepping to the side. Viktor enters, and it’s very strange for Yuuri because he never really expected to have Viktor Nikiforov, of all the people, standing in his house. If he’s imagined this moment before (And he’s sure he has, somewhere far down on that long list of fantasies Yuuri occasionally indulges in, at the top of which is we’ll get married and we’ll hold hands) it definitely didn’t involve six taco wrappers on the coffee table and Gordon Ramsay screaming from his television.
“I, um, know it’s a mess,” Yuuri says, wandering towards the kitchen for lack of anything else to do. “Do you want something to drink? I have, um…coffee, orange juice, water—”
“Water’s fine,” says Viktor, following him into the kitchen.
Yuuri pulls down a pair of glasses and fills them with water, hands one off to Viktor. Their fingers brush on the glass and Yuuri shoves his horrible Austen-esque reaction down into the pit of his belly, where it belongs. He drinks half his water in one long pull, staring determinedly out the window. It looks out onto his neighbor’s backyard and there is literally nothing to see there aside from his neighbor’s Pomeranian lazily pawing at a pile of leaves on the ground.
“What a cute dog,” Viktor observes, smiling in a way that is making Yuuri’s heart tie itself into a knot. “I have a dog. He’s a standard poodle.”
“I know,” says Yuuri, nodding, because if anybody knows one thing about Viktor Nikiforov, it’s that he has a poodle named Makkachin. He talks about him like some people talk about their children. Yuuri loves it.
Viktor clears his throat, then, and Yuuri instinctively knows that he’s going to have to Use His Words at some point in the very near future. He puts his waterglass down and braces himself against the counter.
“Are you alright?” Viktor asks first, which is fine. It’s an easy question to answer.
“Yeah, I’m…I’m fine,” Yuuri says, nodding.
“Are you really?”
Yuuri sighs, dragging a hand over his face. “Yeah. I think so. I’m…I guess I’m shaken up, but…we’re prepared for these things, you know. I may not be a cop, but I’ve gotten the same training you have.”
“No, I know,” says Viktor, holding up his hand to forestall a tirade. Not that Yuuri was going to go on one. He was just thinking about it a little. “You handled yourself really well. Better than some officers would, I imagine. You did everything you were supposed to do. I was impressed.”
“You were?” Yuuri says softly, not quite looking up from his hands, twisting them over each other nervously.
“Yeah, it was…” Viktor chuckles. “It was…kind of hot, honestly.”
Yuuri feels the blush rise immediate and intense onto his face. “Oh,” he squeaks, nodding. “That’s…” He clears his throat and jerks his head to get the hair out of his eyes so that he can look into Viktor’s face unimpeded. “Did you think so?”
“Yeah, I did,” says Viktor. His hand goes to Yuuri’s wrist.
“Viktor,” Yuuri sighs, closing his eyes. “Can you just…if I try to…subtly find out how you feel, I’m going to…make a fool of myself again. So can you just…tell me? Can we just use our words like adults? My job is trying to coble together clues and figure out the truth, I can’t do it in my personal life.”
Viktor chuckles somewhere in his chest. Yuuri can almost feel it.
“Okay, the truth,” he says, turning Yuuri’s hand over and tracing his fingers over his palm. Yuuri’s heart is beating so fast that it makes his breath shudder. “The truth is, I have had…feelings…for you since that Christmas party last year.”
“The Christmas party?” Yuuri mumbles, frowning. “I—the Christmas party?”
“Yeah,” says Viktor, and now he’s frowning too. “The—the department Christmas party. The Dearborn Inn. You and I—we…danced. All night. And I gave you my personal cell number and told you to call me when you sobered up, and we would go out to breakfast, but you never did. And I figured…I’d misread the signals, or you didn’t feel the same way in the morning.”
Yuuri feels his jaw drop open. He doesn’t remember the Christmas party from last year. He knows he was there, and that he woke up at four the next afternoon in the bottom of Phichit’s bathtub, still completely drunk, but he doesn’t remember anything that actually happened at the party. He slaps his hands over his face to hide it from Viktor. He has no idea what it’s doing right now.
“Oh my God,” he breathes. “It’s Nikiforov’s Law.”
“It’s what?” Viktor asks.
Yuuri wants to be embarrassed, and he probably will be later, but in the moment he’s in such a state of disbelief that embarrassment can’t even breach his emotional barrier.
“It’s a…thing, it’s like Murphy’s Law. Anything that can go wrong will. Only it’s—anything that can happen to embarrass me in front of you will happen. It’s what everyone in the crime lab calls my complete and total inability to not make a fool of myself in front of you for even five minutes.” Yuuri pinches his nose between two fingers. “I—I barely remember that Christmas party, Viktor. I’m so sorry. I didn’t even realized we…yeah, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m a fucking idiot.”
Viktor is silent for six entire, excruciating seconds, before he finally says, “At PD we just call that Nikiforov’s a fucking moron, and it’s…got more to do with me making a fool of myself in front of you.”
Yuuri’s head shoots up. Viktor has a wry smile on his face, looking soft and rumpled after a long day of work, and he’s standing in Yuuri’s kitchen and he has just said that he’s had feelings for Yuuri for almost a year.
“I’d really like to kiss you right now,” says Yuuri, and it sounds ridiculous as it’s coming out of his mouth, but Viktor doesn’t seem to care.
“I really want you to kiss me right now,” Viktor replies, and so Yuuri does.
On Kenjirou Minami’s first day assigned to the Detroit Crime Lab, he witnesses his first autopsy, vomits twice, and is then taken out to his first crime scene—a liquor store robbery out in Mexican Town. The first person he meets at that crime scene is a CSI with gorgeous eyes and the nametag Katsuki-Nikiforov.
“Are you the new guy?” asks Katsuki-Nikiforov, standing up from his crouch over a couple of broken bottles that he’s been dusting for prints. He takes his latex gloves off and holds out a hand to shake. “CSI Katsuki-Nikiforov.”
“Mlmm,” Kenjirou replies, shaking Katsuki-Nikiforov’s hand almost limply.
Katsuki-Nikiforov either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care about Kenjirou’s sudden inability to speak. He gestures vaguely behind him. “CSI Chulanont is in the backroom. They usually wouldn’t assign three CSIs to one case, especially one this simple, but you’re new, so you’ll be shadowing me for a few days.”
Kenjirou nods fervently. “Yes sir. I’m very excited to be here, sir.”
“Um…good,” says Katsuki-Nikiforov, nodding after a moment in which he looks with deep bemusement at Kenjirou’s hair. “That’s great. So, we’ve gotta print the handles of all the fridges, the countertop, the cash register, and the door handle. We also need to get pictures of each shelf on each aisle. Keep an eye out for trace—hair or threads, anything out of place. These things aren’t hard, but they’re tedious.” He reaches into his kit and pulls out a camera and flash, which he hands to Minami. “Why don’t you get started on the pictures for me?”
“Sure!” Kenjirou says, taking the camera and hanging it around his neck. Katsuki-Nikiforov blinks at him rapidly for several seconds, then nods to himself and goes back to printing the bottles.
Minami turns on the camera and steps back eagerly to begin taking pictures of the nearest shelf. Unfortunately, the shelves in liquor stores are always a bit too close to each other for comfort—and when Kenjirou’s heels make contact with the shelf behind him, he trips himself up. Because of the camera in his hands, he panics and doesn’t let his center of gravity correct itself by jerking forward. Instead, he falls back and into a shelf, which falls over. The sound of breaking glass and splashing liquid goes on for what feels like centuries. Katsuki-Nikiforov watches from the floor in awe.
CSI Chulanont emerges from the back room and says, “What the literal fuck?”
At the front of the store, the detective on the case—a silver-haired man wearing an expensive suit—jerks open the door and demands, “Is everyone okay? What was that?”
Katsuki-Nikiforov looks between the detective and Chulanont very slowly and says, “Nikiforov’s Law?”
Chulanont’s eyes roam over the scene, from Kenjirou paralyzed with embarrassment amongst hundreds of broken bottles, to Katsuki-Nikiforov crouching on the ground, to the silver-haired detective standing in the door.
“No,” says Chulanont, with an almost-smirk quirking up his left cheek. “That was Katsuki-Nikiforov’s Law.”