There is an old rule that ideas fueled by champagne are bad ideas no matter what the alcohol makes you think. Some would even argue that the more champagne you get behind the idea, the worse it is.
Victor Nikiforov, 5-time world champion, the living legend of figure skating and with titles enough to make a good paragraph stood next to his friend Christophe Giacometti (who’d won some titles and medals himself) with a glass of champagne in his hand and sighed.
It was the banquet after the Grand Prix Final, where Victor had, once again, won another gold medal. It was a time for socializing with the sponsors and showing them what good role models they were and definitely the sort of people to trust with advertising their products.
Victor and Chris were using this opportunity to get drunk. Or, to be more exact, Victor was getting drunk and Chris was keeping him company.
Alcohol affects different people differently. Some drink like mad until they pass out, only to wake up the next morning with the realization that they have no memory of what happened the night before. Some are giggly drunks. Some are brooding drunks.
Victor was a sad, reflective drunk. Usually he was a giggly drunk, but he’d passed that stage two glasses ago.
“I just don’t meet the right person, you know?” he was explaining to Chris.
Chris had already listened to Victor’s rendition of “oh woe is me! I am a living legend with no inspiration to continue!” Now he was listening to his version of “I’m just the most eligible bachelor who is so lonely, but why won’t the right person come along and sweep me off my feet? Why? I don’t have high standards. I just want the perfect guy.” It was impossible to listen to without a smile.
“Skin as smooth as silk and all that?” Chris suggested.
Victor halted mid-sentence. “What did you say?”
“All I seem to do is run into people who don’t know the first thing about dating.” He sighed theatrically. “I can write you a book on all the ways you can screw up a date.”
Chris chuckled. Except you’d give up on page one, he thought, knowing his friend’s short attention span. “I would’ve thought the living legend gets the best of the best,” he said out loud instead.
Victor shrugged with a helpless expression on his face like someone who’d been unjustly wronged by the universe. “All I get are free tips on what not to do. With examples.”
“Could be useful,” Chris said and snorted. “You can always take up a side job as a person who helps people break up.”
“In fact,” Victor said, warming up to the subject. “I bet I can drive the keenest man off by doing all of this to the point where he’d run away at a single sight of me.”
Chris looked at him. “Oh really? The keenest man?”
“Even a long-time, super-obsessive fan? He’ll forgive you anything!”
Chris smiled to himself, remembering a conversation he’d had earlier that day. He cast his eye around the room. “Well, why don’t you prove it?”
“I’ll pick a man and you drive him off.”
Victor, too drunk to realize that this would do the opposite of helping his situation, agreed.
“And we need a time limit,” Chris said thoughtfully. “Let’s say… World’s. You have from now until the World’s to drive him away? Is that enough time for you?”
“What is that?” Victor counted aloud. “Sixteen weeks?”
“I bet I can do it in ten weeks, but I’ll take sixteen, if you insist!” Victor announced a little louder than necessary. “Will you pick him now?
“Why not?” Chris asked. He pretended to search around the room for a likely candidate. Little did Victor know, Chris already had the perfect person in mind. I doubt you’ll drive him off. In fact, I bet he’ll win your heart before the end. He pointed at a young man in the crowd. “What about him?”
“What?” Victor exclaimed. “Oh come on, Chris!”
Chris laughed. “Alright, alright! I was just kidding.” Yeah, I can’t imagine you going out with JJ either. “What about that boy?”
“I think he’s dating the guy with him,” Victor hissed back.
The man in question turned and kissed the boy next to him on the cheek.
“You’re right,” Chris admitted. “Well, then, that boy over there.”
Victor’s jaw dropped slowly as blood rushed to his cheeks. “Yeah,” he cleared his throat, “him. Sure. Yeah, I’ll win him – I mean, I’ll drive him away.”
Do you think you can remember which you’re supposed to do? Chris thought, watching Victor adjust his tie and fix his hair with amusement.
By the strangest of coincidences, the young man Chris was pointing at was in the middle of a conversation about the same thing. The lucky winner was Yuuri Katsuki – one of the top figure skaters in the world who’d come in second this Grand Prix Final – and he was telling Phichit about how lonely he was.
Phichit Chulanont, Thailand’s top figure skater, watched Yuuri with the same amount of amusement Chris felt while watching Victor. He had his own opinion of his friend’s troubles.
“I should just accept that I will spend the rest of my life alone,” he said.
This from the guy who’d accidentally flirted with ten different men one night in a bar and then broke all of their hearts without realizing, Phichit thought, doing his best not to burst out laughing. “Look, Yuuri, let’s be honest. There’s a good reason you’re not having any luck with anyone.”
“There is?” Yuuri asked.
Oh god! He probably thinks I’m going to point out some fundamental flaw in his personality! “Admit it, Yuuri. Your heart’s not in it.”
Yuuri turned away.
Phichit put an arm around him. “Every time you meet someone they just don’t measure up to the person you’re already in love with.”
There was a blush on Yuuri’s face now. “I-I’m not…”
“And pining away,” Phichit went on as if Yuuri hadn’t said anything, “isn’t going to get you anywhere. Go over there and try to win his heart.”
“Why would he ever be interested in someone like me?”
“Yuuri!” Phichit straightened up. “Do I need to remind you that you almost won gold this time around?”
“Almost doesn’t count…” Yuuri muttered.
He was retreating into his shell again and usually Phichit would leave him alone, but they’d both had a few glasses of champagne as well and Phichit felt his brain work away like crazy that night.
“Listen,” he said, “I bet you that you can charm Victor Nikiforov himself. You can win him over just the way you are.”
“I’ll get you every single relationship expert, every single self-help book on the subject, anything you like if you go over there and talk to him!”
Yuuri fidgeted. “No, I think I’d rather go home.”
“Okay, Yuuri, I bet you…” Phichit considered this, “I bet you that you can go over there and win his heart and if you don’t win Victor over by the time… by the World Championships, I will quit competitive figure skating.”
“What?” Yuuri exclaimed. “Why would you bet it on that?”
“Because I have complete faith in you, Yuuri,” Phichit said simply. You honestly have no idea what kind of monster you are. Especially when you go out on the ice and skate your Eros routine. Also because I don’t think I can survive another year in competitive skating participating in the most frustrating soap opera about pining away ever.
“No, please…” Yuuri argued. “I’m tired. I want to go home. I just –”
“Oh! Sorry about that!”
Someone bumped into Yuuri. They both turned to see who it was.
Ah! Finally! Phichit caught Chris’s eye across the room and saw the man give him a thumbs up.
Yuuri was too busy studying his shoes to see the big smile on the newcomer’s face. “Um… sorry. It was my fault.”
“No, no,” the man argued and held out his hand. “Please let me apologize and as compensation I will invite you to a dance.”
Yuuri raised his eyes. “Really? You’ll invite me?”
“Yes,” he nodded.
“Hold on. I need to tell my friend something.” He turned around and hissed to Phichit, “Get me all of those books on relationships you promised. If you win this bet, I’ll do anything!”
“Anything?” Phichit raised an eyebrow. Are you sure you want to promise that? Isn’t it a little dangerous?
But Yuuri let himself be led away by his new dance partner without saying a word. He had the smile of the luckiest man in the world. Phichit followed him, trying to find a good vantage point.
This was going to be one wild night and he already had an Instagram account ready for the occasion. The Yuuri Katsuki and Victor Nikiforov forever fangroup will be over the moon when they see this.
It was just Victor’s luck that the first dance he pulled the boy into was a slow one. The boy blushed and fidgeted before putting his hands around Victor’s waist. The world spun around him, full of all kinds of colours and sounds.
The boy smiled and Victor realized his hands had settled on his shoulders without any instructions from him.
He was really handsome. This close to him it was all Victor could think about.
I want to dance with you all night long, he thought. Now if only I knew what your name is… He remembered now where he’d seen him before.
They stood on the podium next to each other. The fans screamed at the top of their voices as Victor waved back enthusiastically. This boy stood on one side of him and on the other was that skater everyone raved about, the Canadian one. Victor could never remember his name either. Only his initials: JJ.
Victor didn’t pay either of them much attention. Not even during the press conference that followed.
How do I get you to tell me what your name is without asking for it? he wondered in the here and now.
“It’s too crowded here,” he said once they got to their third dance. “We should go somewhere more private.”
Brilliant idea, the drunk part of his brain told him, don’t forget to ask for his room number.
The boy gave him an innocent look. “Phichit told me there was a good restaurant two blocks away from here. We can go there, if you like.”
Great! And you can charm him there with dinner in the candlelight! the drunk part of his brain raged on.
Hold on, he thought, I thought I was supposed to drive him away.
Yes, but you can’t exactly drive someone away before they’re even properly attracted to you.
He was only mildly aware of the fact that he was tottering on the verge of insanity. Charm the boy – that sounded like a brilliant idea.
They got their things and walked out into the cold night air. Two blocks later he was starting to feel almost sober and realized with a panic how bad the whole idea was.
Here is a nice (and very hot) boy and I’m supposed to drive him off? How can I possibly do that? Why, oh why, did I make that stupid bet with Chris? Let him have whatever he wants, I’m not going to do this! It’s stupid! It’s awful! It’s…
His phone vibrated and he pulled it out of his pocket.
Have fun ;) Chris texted.
He could say it was just a joke. He could try to blame the alcohol and call the whole thing off right there and then, but deep inside he couldn’t help the feeling that Chris would talk him back into it again.
There was no backing out now.
Beside him the boy whose name he couldn’t remember and whose heart he was undoubtedly about to break gave him a brilliant smile. “We’re here.”