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But No Man Moved Me 'Til the Tide

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Excerpt from page 10 of Waiting for the Light:

the waves

waves upon the shore
erase the footprints of us,
erode the soaring cliffsides
but they cannot take
the warmth of your hand in mine
and your breath upon my lips.


On the first night, the space beside Yuuri Katsuki in the bed is empty and cold.

Despite that, however, the embers of Yuuri’s heart feel anything but as he lies in the dark of this seaside cottage bedroom, flickering through a series of photographs of the night’s events.

The Midsummer sunlight flashes off the silver fringe of his wayward writer, brightens the glow of his pale pink cheeks, sparkles in his sea-coloured eyes. Against every odd, against every hope, Viktor Nikiforov had returned to him, a wandering ship finally coming home to port.

But on the first night, Viktor stays at Yu-Topia. He’d had a guest room booked for him courtesy of Christophe and Phichit, and Makkachin had spent the evening getting pampered by Yuuri’s parents, Viktor having promised to bring him to visit Yuuri at the cottage in the morning.

Sure enough, when Yuuri goes out to fetch the post the next morning, he only ends up collapsed in the garden of the cottage with an excitable old poodle licking at his face for his troubles. Viktor, who’d stepped out of Mari’s car at that moment, runs over to call Makkachin off.

“Down, boy,” he says, and Makkachin obeys with a forlorn whine. Viktor looks over at Yuuri, a nervous little smile playing at his lips, while Mari goes around the back to pop the boot, pulling out a suitcase.

Yuuri raises an eyebrow, and Viktor bites his lip.

“I could book another room,” he says. “I only had the room for the night, but it’s no trouble —”

Yuuri shakes his head, freeing his hands from where they’d been stroking through Makkachin’s fur. ‘It’s all right,’ he says. ‘I’ll take the couch.’

“I couldn’t possibly,” Viktor flusters, visibly fidgeting. The smell of burning kippers wafts out the open door, causing Yuuri to leap to his feet and dart inside to salvage the food. He can hear Viktor conversing with his sister outside, but his heart only hammers harder when he hears the rolling of the suitcase up the pavement to his door, and the clang of the kissing gate as the latch swings shut.

Mari’s car pulls away shortly after that, and then it’s just them. Yuuri plates their breakfast with trembling hands, watching Viktor slide back into his old seat at the kitchen table with a new awkwardness. The writer’s movements are strangely ungainly in the morning light, like a pointillist painting that’s been zoomed in on too close.

‘How was Yu-Topia?’ Yuuri asks after he sets down the food. Viktor considers it for a moment while Yuuri goes to pour them their usual mugs of tea. It’s strange, serving Viktor’s cuppa in one of Mrs McNamara’s mugs instead of the matryoshka one, but at least his hands still remember how Viktor takes his tea.

“The bed was nice, and your parents spoiled Makkachin,” Viktor replies, stabbing at his kippers thoughtfully. Yuuri sets down the mugs, reaching under the table to scratch Makkachin briefly behind the ears as the poodle rests his head in Yuuri’s lap.

‘How long are you planning on staying?’ he asks.

Viktor looks down at his plate. “I don’t know,” he admits. “I only packed for a couple of days.”

Yuuri’s stomach churns at that. ‘And then you go back to Russia?’ he asks.

Viktor frowns quizzically, so Yuuri rewrites his answer in his notebook. Viktor bites his lip; he looks up with a shrug.

“Probably,” he says. “More likely I’ll go somewhere else. I don’t know — I don’t want to overstay my welcome.”

It’s funny, the power of words. Sometimes all it takes is a sentence — one sentence to raise armies, to fell nations, to shatter Yuuri Katsuki’s heart all over again. The air is thick, souplike. There’s a lump in his throat he can’t quite swallow.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

You’re always welcome here, Yuuri writes, his hands shaking against the pen. Viktor’s eyes follow the movement of his fingers, the quaking of his jaw. Yuuri feels like he’s teetering over the edge of Lovers’ Point.

Viktor reads, and Yuuri holds his breath. “I’ll only stay for as long as you’ll want me,” Viktor says, and Yuuri exhales.

He doesn’t tell Viktor he’ll always want him. That seems to go without saying.


Excerpts from the writing journals of Viktor Nikiforov, vol. 1 (age 7):

Figure Skating [translated from Russian]

My mother and father ice skate,
But somehow I hesitate.
I wish to lay in the sun
With a story begun
Rather than try and skate straight.

Dacha [translated from Russian]

Babushka owns a dacha.
We visit with our dog Sacha.
In the summer we play
By the lakeside all day
Then go in and eat kasha.

English

I find writing English is hard.
I’m really not much of a bard.
But Anka will scream
If my letters are lean,
And she’ll burn all my work in the yard.

Pasha!

The prettiest boy in the town
Has long hair of bright copper-brown.
He’s really quite swell,
I will wish him well
When he leaves me for school I’ll be down.


The boxes are slow to trickle in, but Yuuri recognises every single one of them from the grainy feed of Skype calls. Cardboard box after cardboard box full of all of the things that had once cluttered the corners of this cottage show up on their doorstep, and things are quietly slipped back into their rightful places.

There are some new boxes too, full of things from Viktor’s life in Saint Petersburg that he’d asked his parents to ship down. One of them is a box full of composition notebooks with Cyrillic letters all over the cover. Viktor had laughed when Yuuri asked what they were, saying that they’re his oldest poems, things he’d scribbled out as a child.

Yuuri wants to read all of them. Wants to smile at the budding genius of the writer who has saved him time and time again. But Viktor tucks the books into the bookcase, like a parent hiding the biscuit jar on the top shelf of the pantry, and Yuuri can only look at the cheery spines with a frustrating burn of curiosity bright within him.

On his first night back in the cottage, Viktor had taken the couch. The morning after he had insisted on going to the shop and buying a lilo instead of joining Yuuri in bed, though they both know there’s more than enough room for the two of them. He sets it up in the den alongside his suitcase, as if he’s just here as a guest for a couple nights despite having had all of his belongings shipped over.

Yuuri appreciates it, really. Especially since Makkachin dislikes the lilo and uses it as an excuse to jump into bed with Yuuri. The old poodle is as bright and energetic as ever, always ready to go on excursions with Yuuri to the beach or into town. Viktor, too, comes along on those trips, though he keeps his pace a couple steps behind.

Everything is a reminder of the shifted equilibrium between them, of forgiveness on paper but still not quite in person. Viktor looks at him like he’s a recently-mended vase, something delicate and beautiful that he had once broken and is now terrified of ever touching again.

It tugs Yuuri through so many emotions that he didn’t know he could have with Viktor. Though he’d felt betrayal before, and anger, and desperation — none of that had ever felt quite like this, in soft greys like most morning skies, muted in frustration. It’d been one thing to experience all of this alone in a hospital room, Viktor a lifetime away in Saint Petersburg. It’s another to do it with him standing five steps away at all times.

One afternoon a week or two past Viktor’s return, Phichit stops by with the groceries. As he steadies his bike with the crate full of vegetables on the back patio, he casts an interested eye towards the remnants of cardboard boxes lined against the wall. “Viktor’s moving back in?” he asks.

Yuuri nods. Viktor had gone down to the library for something, hoping to squeeze in some reading before the place closes at six. Makkachin is asleep under the kitchen table in his favourite sun-baked spot. Outside the open kitchen door, the gulls cry against the pounding surf, and Phichit’s bike is overflowing with leafy greens.

Yuuri helps him carry the crate in, signing his gratefulness which Phichit responds in kind. His friend then takes a seat at the table as well, bringing Yuuri up to date on the town’s comings and goings, while Yuuri makes little nods from where he’s prepping some potatoes and carrots for dinner.

“So it seems like Yuri and Otabek have gotten banned from the movie theatre for the rest of the summer for ‘indecent behaviour’, which I’m frankly surprised didn’t happen last summer,” Phichit is saying as Yuuri throws the vegetables into a pot of beef stew to simmer. “Honestly, for someone who’s lived in this town all his life, Yuri seems resistant to going to Lovers’ Point like everyone else.”

Yuuri huffs, setting down the knife. ‘He doesn’t like to think he’s predictable,’ he replies. Phichit rolls his eyes.

“Right, and — wait, were you outside during that one night they got caught snogging next to the lighthouse lantern? Everyone saw that one.”

Yuuri shakes his head. ‘Good for Yurio,’ he says. ‘Otabek seems like a decent bloke.’

“Speaking of decent blokes, though.” Phichit places his chin on his hands. “Deets.”

Yuuri spreads his hands. Phichit’s eyebrow is unimpressed.

“Viktor’s moving in. How are you holding up? How are things between the two of you?” He pauses. “Are you sure you want him back this quickly?”

‘If not now, then never,’ Yuuri replies, shaking his head. ‘And he doesn’t touch me.’

“Good,” says Phichit. “Considering what he did, it’s a miracle you’re even letting him stay in the same house.”

Yuuri begs to differ. It’s a miracle Viktor’s even agreed to taking this second chance. It’ll take an even bigger one for them to overcome what’s left ahead of them. Yuuri likes to think he’s brutally honest with himself, and what everything is telling him is that this is but the eye of a hurricane, a lull in the summer tempest. Viktor Nikiforov has been a force of nature in Yuuri’s life ever since their chance meeting at St Andrews, and Yuuri would be lying to himself if he said he isn’t jumping at the opportunity to reconquer him.

A ship is safe when it lies at shore, but that is not what ships are for. Mrs McNamara has that carved into a plaque over the kitchen door, and Yuuri has never felt that quite so sharply in his bones as he hears the footsteps of Viktor resound against the patio tiles, and Makkachin’s excited bark as he goes to greet his master.

“Hey, Viktor,” says Phichit cheerily as Viktor returns, no sign of probationary warning in his eyes. Yuuri knows his friend still thinks mostly well of Viktor — how could he not, since he helped to plan their reunion? Here is your second chance, the sharp curves of Phichit’s smile seems to say. Don’t fuck it up.

Viktor gets the message, too, if the way he tucks himself a little tighter into the neck of his shirt seems to say anything. “Hey,” he responds, before stepping just short of Yuuri’s side and peering into the pot. “Beef stew?”

Yuuri nods, washing a couple spring onions so he can chop them into the stew. He sets them down, and signs, ‘give it another half an hour.’

“Do you… need any help?” Viktor asks, casting around for something in the kitchen that he could do.

‘Put the rice on?’ asks Yuuri, nodding towards the cooker. That’s something Viktor never had, and the Japanese labels on the button means Viktor has to ask him how to use it, but eventually the familiar hum of the cooker mingles with the slow bubbling of the stew. Outside the window, the shadows grow and crawl along the walls, heralding the slow but inexorable darkening of the sky.

They make three bowls of rice and stew. Phichit digs into his with gusto; Yuuri smiles at Viktor as his eyes light up over his bowl. The two of them have a bit of a tussle over who gets seconds first, though Viktor is quick to relinquish his claim when Phichit sends a pointed glance at Yuuri, his shoulders hunching like a chastised puppy.

‘Phichit,’ scolds Yuuri, frowning as he makes the camera clicking gesture he’d coined as a name for his friend. ‘Don’t play dirty.’

Phichit only wags a challenging eyebrow in reply. In turn Viktor only looks contritely at his stew, as if he’d suddenly lost the rest of his appetite. Yuuri brushes his fingers against Viktor’s, but the other man flinches back like he’d been electrocuted, and Yuuri’s heart clenches as he slowly draws his fingers away.

Viktor locks himself into the den after doing the washing-up, while Phichit helps Yuuri wipe down the table, chattering about the entrants to the arts festival this year. Yuuri only half-listens, watching the way the sea-glass windchime in the backyard tinkles against the brisk evening breeze.

Beautiful and delicate and broken. Just like himself.


Excerpt from page 2 of Waiting for the Light:

to your untamed nature;

o come with me, my love, into the sea,
and i will linger long within your arms!
your sea-foam tresses ghosting on the lee,
a splash of sunset sparkling in your charms!
tempestuous love, ‘tis you i hold most dear,
as sure as moonlit tides upon the beach.
my heart in joy doth drown when you are near,
and in your absence it to you will reach.
upon your touch, my heart in whole i give
for you to hold and warm on lonely nights.
think on our love, the memories relived,
and let these words from me to you take flight.
if i could beg, my only wish is this —
to give you all my world upon your kiss.


The storm comes a week later, fierce winds extricating frantic melodies from the windchime on their back patio. Yuuri huddles amid the blankets in his bed, cuddling against Makkachin as he pulls his sealskin up around him.

It doesn’t work without water or the requisite incantation, but he derives some comfort from its warmth against his bare arms. It thrums with a magic that courses also through his veins, a familiar call that he had, until last year, never been parted from for more than a couple days at a time.

The rain pounds like bullets against the fragile glass windows, the lightning flashes and the thunder roars. Makkachin’s whimpering grows, especially as the windchimes’ tinkling grows more cacophonous over the blustering gale. Yuuri curls in tighter against Makkachin, letting a strange sense of calm settle on him as his fingers curl into the thick coarse hairs of his sealskin.

There’s a crash in the kitchen. Yuuri startles, shifting off the bed and striding from the room, leaving Makkachin tucked in with his sealskin. He grabs his bathrobe off the floor as he goes, tying it together just as the lightning illuminates the kitchen in front of him, casts Viktor’s handsome face in contrasts of blue and white. The writer has knocked down a mug from the kitchen table; shards of colourful porcelain litter the ground along with the remnants of Yuuri’s tea.

Oh, Viktor, Yuuri thinks, reaching out to guide Viktor away from the table. The shards of the mug jut out against the tile like jagged bone, and Viktor’s shins have a couple stray pieces embedded in them. Yuuri shudders at the sight, but the expression on Viktor’s face gives him greater pause. The man’s eyes are wide, as if he’s seeing a ghost.

“No,” breathes Viktor, shying away from Yuuri’s hand. “Not you again.”

Yuuri slowly withdraws his hand. ‘Viktor?’ he asks, tracing his finger in a heart around his mouth. ‘What are you talking about?’

“I burned it,” says Viktor, his eyes pleading. “I burned it, okay? What more do you want?”

‘What are you talking about?’ It’s moments like this when Yuuri’s frustrated his throat won’t give him more sound than what he can make as Katsudon. He kneels down, starting to pick away the pieces of porcelain digging into Viktor’s feet. But the writer flinches away from his touch, his cheeks ashen and hollow as the lightning flashes into the kitchen again.

The tea oozes across the tiles like blood. Yuuri grabs Viktor’s hands, holding tight despite Viktor’s attempts to shake him off. The thunder crashes along with the waves; outside the tinkling of the sea-glass chimes continue to echo their eerie melody.

Viktor. Viktor, my love, what are you seeing?

“I’m so sorry,” Viktor babbles, rocking back and forth in Yuuri’s grip, tears rolling down his cheeks. “I’m so sorry, please don’t hurt me.”

Why would I ever hurt you? Yuuri reaches up, angry at his own silence. He presses his hand to Viktor’s cheek, presses his forehead against Viktor’s own. In a burst of light, Viktor shudders against him, and Yuuri closes his eyes.

When he opens them again, Viktor’s breathing is steady. The storm has lulled somewhat, though the rain still hammers against the windowpane. Viktor’s eyes seem clearer than they had been minutes ago, but the tear tracks shining down his cheeks are real.

“Yuuri?” he whispers. Yuuri nods, stepping back to free his hands.

‘You dropped my mug,’ he points out, gesturing to the mess on the ground around them. Viktor’s cheeks flush in mortification; he leaps to his feet and darts to the pantry for the broom.

The shards of Yuuri’s mug are deposited, along with soaked paper towels full of blood-red tea. Viktor frets at the table as Yuuri gently rubs antiseptic against his cuts, murmuring and signing his thank-yous as if he doesn’t know which one Yuuri will like better.

(Yuuri’s heart grows light no matter which one, but he doesn’t say that.)

“I guess I better…” Viktor says when Yuuri finally puts the last plaster on his feet. He nods pointedly towards the den, but Yuuri shakes his head.

‘Stay with me,’ he says, gesturing towards his own room. ‘Maybe I can help.’

“With the nightmare?” Viktor asks, confirming whatever it was that had just happened earlier. “I don’t know.”

‘Then let me try,’ insists Yuuri, and Viktor’s movements are hesitant as he acquiesces. He winces with each step towards the bedroom, collapsing down onto the bed next to Makkachin with a weary sigh.

Then he turns to see the sealskin lying next to his head, and freezes.

Yuuri takes it, folds it up and tucks it onto a shelf in the closet. He closes the door, steps back towards the bed while untying his robe. The terrycloth slips to the ground once more, and Yuuri clambers into bed next to Viktor with his heart hammering in his throat, apprehension pounding through his veins.

“Well, um.” Viktor shifts a little, as if unsure whether to tuck himself against Yuuri or Makkachin. But his dog seems to get the message, and leaps off the bed to tuck up on the rug below. Yuuri chuckles a little at that, before turning towards Viktor once more, and pressing the other man closer to him. Viktor’s throat bobs nervously.

Slowly, Yuuri takes Viktor’s hand, presses it against his chest to feel his heartbeat. Viktor’s breath hitches in his throat; he looks down at Yuuri like sunlight emerging from behind a stormcloud, his gaze flickering down to their touching hands as if he doesn’t quite believe this is happening. Yuuri’s heart feels as fragile as his mug at that — what could possibly have happened to his love in the past to make him so convinced he is unworthy of this?

And with that thought burning bright in the forefront of his mind, he circles his arms around Viktor, and listens to the rhythm of his breathing as the other man eases into sleep.


Excerpts from the writing journals of Viktor Nikiforov, vol. 2 (age 10):

Baba Maria

Baba Maria
I wish I could see ya
Far away from here.
So I will have no fear
When I tiptoe past
Your dacha with your cats.
Your screams will make no sound
That tear my feelings down,
Your thrashing is no use
When you cannot bruise.
And I will wander free
And live quite happily.

Nika

Silly old Nika
Chews on my sneakers
And hoards all the tennis balls
She’s Babushka’s poodle
I give her oodles
Of love every spring and fall
Because she’s not mine
The nannies can’t fine
My shortcomings by sending her off.

Girl

there is a girl in my neighborhood who
took in my dog Sacha.
she walks him outside a window i can see through

and towards the river.
Sacha looks fatter now, and i’m glad.
he’s eating well and his dinner

probably isn’t being taken away when the nannies are mad.


As the night ebbs from the sky, the dull roar of the rain softens down to a gentle trickle, and then a fine mist. Torvill Cove is almost silent, then, the only noise coming from the waves against the shore. Viktor slumbers on in Yuuri’s arms, his expression the most peaceful Yuuri has seen in ages.

Gently, he tucks a strand of silvery hair behind one ear. The edges of Viktor’s hair are uneven, as if he’d chopped it off himself. It’s growing out in jagged patches now, though, some portions a little longer than others. The fringe that falls in his face is a little longer, too; Yuuri pushes it out of his face with a small sigh.

Viktor’s expression is serene in slumber, but there are now new lines on his face, new wrinkles of worry at his brow. Yuuri traces along them, his fingers unsure but gentle as he recharts his mental map of Viktor, draws new lines and markers over areas previously unexplored.

This new Viktor is terra incognita, a wild frontier stretching beyond the familiar lands of their life together prior to their separation. Yuuri sees as much in the crease of his brow and the twitch of his fingers, and the fluttering of his lashes against pale skin.

He longs to linger here, warm in bed with the possibility of exploring this new Viktor further but there’s a calling deep in his heart, an inexorable tug of his gut towards the sea. It’s been a while since his last change; he has to swim again before the tide turns unbearable.

So with a soft sigh he slips from the comfortable buoy of Viktor’s body, and tiptoes to his closet to fetch his sealskin. It shines reproachfully at him when he takes it out, but he ignores that as he slips out of his clothes and into swimming trunks, creeping out of the cottage with the sealskin tucked under his arm.

The little beach is closed for pupping and moulting season, but Yuuri ignores the sign as he slips down the rickety cliffside staircase towards the tide-swept beach. He leaves his trunks, shoes, and glasses on the stairs, wrapping himself into his sealskin and stepping onto the wet sand with a small shudder. The high tide soaks him to his shins. He presses on.

Only when he is submerged beneath the waves can he let the magic take over. He looks over towards the Torvill Point lighthouse, and the young blond man whose face he will never forget. The man had freckles dotting his nose, light webbing stretched between his fingers. He had sat down on the beach next to a younger Yuuri, the sea breeze blowing through his blond hair, and asked with his hands if Yuuri knew what the little pelt clutched in his hands was.

The waters and rocks are full of harbour seals. They seem to recognise him, though they know this is his territory. Katsudon looks among their ranks, meets the gazes of intelligent dark eyes. Not all of them are like him, but those who are — if they know who he is, they do not show it.

Is the quiet man with the webbed fingers among them? Yuuri had been ten when he disappeared, his little rowboat left bobbing out on the waves. There had been no storm, no choppy waters. He had simply slid into the embrace of the sea, and returned to his mother. Or so the seals say.

But Yuuri’s thoughts don’t linger long on him, not when thoughts of rowboats bring him back to Viktor, to the way he’d stared at Yuuri like he was seeing the jagged edges of some unknown beast instead. Viktor’s dreams are plagued with Yuuri’s monsters, and Yuuri doesn’t know how to factor that into his new maps of his old beloved.

How does he go on from here?

How will he love Viktor, when Viktor looks at him and sees nothing but shattered porcelain?

The sea churns around him, soothing, calming, warm. Come back to us, the seals dance. This boy who has given you such sorrow does not deserve your love.

Viktor has given him sorrow, indeed, sorrow warranting enough tears for a sea of their own. But he has given him joy, too, in equal measure. Greater than all the seas of the earth.

And if he can make the joy outweigh the sorrow — if Viktor can show the depth of his commitment to them — then it would have been worth any wound.

So he swims and swims, clearing his head with each twist of his body through the waves, until the sky has lightened from dawn to day and the harbour mists are just starting to ebb from the shore. Yuuri clambers out along the damp morning sand, the sealskin melting away at his song as he steps towards the staircase where his clothes are, only to find Viktor there, his face pale and peaked and Yuuri’s clothes in his lap.

Yuuri freezes. Bunches his sealskin closer to his chest. Viktor silently worries at his lip, his fingers playing with the fabric of Yuuri’s swim trunks. Slowly, he stands up, undoing his bathrobe and holding it out to him.

“You’ll catch your death of cold,” he says, his eyes downcast. Yuuri takes it from him, watching the way Viktor doesn’t meet his gaze. His heart churns nervously in his chest, buoyed by his emotions like a corked bottle at sea.

‘How did you know I was here?’ he asks. Viktor’s smile is brittle.

“I had a feeling,” he says vaguely. His hand twitches, as if wanting to reach out and touch, but he clenches it and moves it behind his back. Yuuri is suddenly breathless with want; he surges into Viktor’s space, sealskin dropping from his hand onto the sea-weathered wood. Viktor’s eyes darken as his hands reach out, arraying the bathrobe barely draped over Yuuri’s bare shoulders into something more modest, despite the tremor in his hands telling Yuuri that he’d rather do the exact opposite.

Viktor holds onto his shoes and trunks. Yuuri grabs his sealskin again, squeezing out some of the excess water as they head up the staircase and over the sign.

Somewhere at the patio, his hands find Viktor’s, and for the first time since Midsummer, Viktor doesn’t pull away.


Excerpt from page 21 of Waiting for the Light:

your bed’s a rock (in everything but texture)

darling, i wish to never get up.
tell me not to get up.
the world spins with the blink of an eye and i
feel as if you ground me, hold me still.
pull me closer, my love.

darling, i wish to never get up.
tell me not to get up.
your arms around me are enough to hold me
as secure as davy jones holds his locker.
drown me in your kisses, my love.

darling, i wish to never get up.
tell me not to get up.
for if i get up these woozy waves will crash
over us and catch us in the undertow of reality.
let me stay down, my love.


Viktor Nikiforov is a man of many masks, each one more brittle than the last. He spins them as quickly as he spins stories, paints them as brightly as he paints characters.

Yuuri can see through them more clearly than anyone else, now that he’s known him for so long. Viktor Nikiforov is a man of many masks, but his desperation to understand Yuuri has always been a two-way street. His topography may have changed, but some of the landmarks are still the same.

Yuuri knows perfectly well which smiles of his are fake, and the one he’s wearing right now is the fakest it’s ever been.

Across the table, Yuri Plisetsky smiles daggers with Otabek Altin at his side. “I’m just checking in to see how you’re doing,” he says to Viktor, as Yuuri prods hesitantly at the electric samovar whirring on the kitchen counter next to the kettle. They had to convert the plug to the outlet, and Yuuri’s mildly afraid that it will blow a fuse somewhere. In the cosied teapot next to him, the smell of Russian Caravan permeates the air.

The samovar beeps, and Viktor immediately bolts out of his seat for it. “I’m doing fine, thanks,” he tosses over his shoulder as he takes the pot from Yuuri and fills it with boiling water. He then stirs in a couple spoonfuls of strawberry jam, despite Yuuri’s sceptical stare; the rest of the jam goes back on the platter of fresh-baked scones and deposited on the table in front of Yurio and Otabek.

Viktor covers the pot, lets it sit. Yuuri gets out more mugs. He’s yet to replace his own, though he’d asked his mother to see if one of his aunts in Japan will ship one over.

The tea Viktor brews is a strong concentrate, watered down with more water from the samovar and then lightened with milk. He’s hiding behind painstaking attention to detail, as usual — there’s no room for emotion when he’s so busy trying to pretend he cares about how Russian tea should be prepared.

“Good, I’d hate for it to be otherwise.” Yurio bares his teeth. “Piglet will tell me if anything happens, won’t you?”

Yuuri stares, wide-eyed, at him. ‘Are you suggesting something?’ he asks.

Yurio purposefully makes his signs as fast as possible, to try and hinder Viktor’s basic conversational fluency. ‘If he hurts you again, this time I’ll fight him myself.’

It’s a sweet offer, all things considered, but right now all Yuuri feels is a cold tremor at the base of his spine. A scream perched at the bottom of his throat which he knows no one will hear even if he tried to let it loose. How are any of them going to put this in the past and move on, if all they do is treat the two of them like some volatile but inevitable law of physics?

Not every action deserves an equal and opposite reaction. Yuuri stirs more milk into his tea, until it is as weak as everyone seems to think he is. The taste cloys at his tongue, but he swallows it down nonetheless, his chest heavy with the weight of his own isolation.

Yurio moves on to talk of other things, with Otabek’s occasional input. They want to perform one of Otabek’s pieces at the arts festival this year, and they’d like to borrow the cottage living room because it has a piano and Mila is hogging the lighthouse for some dance thing she and Sara want to do. Phichit’s also involved in that, somehow — Yuuri remembers seeing photos of rehearsals in the groupchat, Phichit grinning bright and lively against the backdrop of dancers, lamenting Yuuri not being there.

Yuuri has both a novel and a boyfriend to fix. His schedule for the summer is already looking quite occupied.

He and Viktor agree readily enough to Yurio and Otabek using their piano, though Viktor’s smile slides off his lips the instant the two of them depart to the other room to begin. Stiffly, he rises to his feet with his mug and a saucer of scone, trodding the beaten path towards the den where he will sequester himself with his lilo and his books.

But Yuuri is faster this time. He strides into the den ahead of him, blocking his escape. Viktor’s spine sags; he tries to turn away, but Yuuri shoots a furtive glance at Yurio and Otabek before ushering him into the den and closing the door. Inside, the sheets on the lilo are rumpled, the clothes spilling messily out of the suitcase. Viktor sets down the mug alongside an empty glass, and an emptier bottle of vodka.

‘What have you been doing in here?’ Yuuri demands, brows furrowing pointedly at the drinks.

Viktor says nothing, and Yuuri has to inwardly laugh at the irony. For a bunch of supposed ‘masters of communication’, they’re really quite terrible at this.

‘I know you’ve been locking yourself in here,’ he says. ‘I didn’t know it was this bad.’

Viktor shrugs. “I’m starting to get used to this,” he says, gesturing to the surroundings. Yuuri snorts.

‘I’m not,’ he says. ‘Do you know how painful this is for me? To see you cowering and hiding every time someone else in this town looks at you funny?’

Viktor clenches his jaw. He looks towards the French doors, shuttered from the living room with muslin curtains. The faint refrains of piano chords and off-key singing warble over to them.

‘They’re mad,’ he signs after a moment, his hands slurred in hesitancy. ‘They know. They’re right.’

‘This isn’t the Viktor Nikiforov I know,’ Yuuri retorts.  

Viktor looks at him, forlorn. ‘Was I ever a Viktor Nikiforov that you knew?’

Yuuri’s proud of the fact that the only thing that splinters inside him at that is his heart. ‘You said to me once that you wanted me in my entire being as much as I wanted you. That you would try to be yourself with me. Just you.’

His hands are shaky, his signs stuttering and uncertain. Viktor frowns in apprehension, so Yuuri seizes a notebook off the table and writes it down.

‘How can you still want me?’ he wonders.

That is how, replies Yuuri. That you are willing to speak to me in my own language. I know somewhere in this new martyr complex of yours there’s still a thread of who you really are.

Viktor looks down at his hands, uncertainty etched across his face.

I know this is you, too, Viktor, Yuuri writes, reaching for his hand. Saying something is easier than believing it. Writing down an apology is easier than reliving it. For the first time since Yuuri has known him, Viktor is deathly aware of their boundaries, terrified of putting even a single toe out of line.

But there’s no moving on if Viktor keeps on walling himself in here, and Yuuri knows what he has to do.

He reaches down to the lilo, pulls the stopper. It slowly deflates, its dying wheeze filling the room all around them.

‘Let’s end this,’ Yuuri signs, and Viktor’s eyes shine like the unfathomable sea.


Excerpts from the writing journals of Viktor Nikiforov, vol. 4 (age 13):

puppy

i recently got a new dog.
his name is makkachin
and he sleeps like a log

at the foot of my bed.
when i’m sad he comes
and gives me kisses on my head.

please let him stay, oh please.

the entire world against me

if all the world’s a stage,
then my stage is crumbling.
i’ve had enough and want to disengage.

i want to die out on a rainy field
alone, with no note or tape or picture.
only death can make me healed.

maybe then my parents will come to my aid quicker.


The lilo is rolled up and stowed in the depths of the closet. Viktor clears out his suitcase, hangs up his clothes alongside Yuuri’s. His toothbrush shows up on the bathroom sink, his other possessions are squirrelled out of the last of the boxes so that Yuuri can take them out to the recycling bin.

On the first night, they begin with only whispered goodnights, migrating towards one another in the depths of slumber and waking in each other’s arms. On the second night, Viktor tucks himself against Yuuri’s neck, and Yuuri wakes to find him pressed against the wall, a wry sort of smile playing at his lips as he cards his hands through Yuuri’s hair.

The third night, though, Yuuri has just finished brushing his teeth when he sees Viktor reflected in his bathroom mirror. Last summer he had often went to bed without a shirt, though the first couple of nights they’d spent together had him pull on a t-shirt for Yuuri’s comfort.

Yuuri rather prefers it the other way around, and tonight seems no different. Viktor’s robe hangs open over his bare chest, and for a moment the toothbrush stills in Yuuri’s mouth as his eyes rake over the reflection of Viktor framed in the doorway, the light above the bathroom sink reflecting across his pale skin. His nipples peek out from just behind the terrycloth, flushed just a slightly deeper shade of pink.

It takes Yuuri a couple minutes to realise he’s dripping toothpaste foam all over himself. He hastily wipes himself up, rinses out his mouth, watches the way Viktor’s eyes crinkle in amusement. Then, slowly, he turns around, stepping closer to Viktor.

‘Need the bathroom?’ he asks.

‘I already went,’ Viktor points out, a hesitantly playful smile tugging at his lips. Yuuri breathes in his shampoo, feels the steam from the shower still clinging to him. He swallows, watching a stray droplet of water travel from Viktor’s nape down his neck, along the bob of his adam’s apple.

Something warm and yearning tugs deep in his gut now, like the persistent call of the sea but different, more immediate, more primal. Viktor licks his lips, his gaze the steadiest and clearest it’s been all month. Yuuri watches the gears in his head spin, waits with his face turned upwards, his lips slightly parted. Carefully breathless.

Viktor surrenders to him, inevitable as the river rushes to the sea. His lips are soft against Yuuri’s own, tasting of mint from the toothpaste they share. If their first kiss had been a crowning moment of joy at the zenith of a Ferris wheel, this one is a soft recapitulation of that first triumphant motif. Quiet, muted, yet beautiful — like the echo of the waves stored in the rim of a conch, the soft tinkle of Beethoven’s ninth played on a wooden music box.

Yuuri’s hands come upwards, fingers tangling themselves in Viktor’s nape. All of the fears and doubts of the past several months seem far away, pushed to the other side of the tunnel behind him now that he’s approaching the light. Viktor’s hands come to rest on his waist, slowly walking them backwards to the bed.

Yuuri pulls him down with him, and the breathless smile that graces Viktor’s lips as they pull apart show that he’s drowning already, and he doesn’t mind at all.


Excerpt from page 8 of Waiting for the Light:

love is a sacrament (that must be taken kneeling)

god of my idolatry, make me anew.
with each blessing of your touch upon my hips
be all my sins forgiven, my trespasses
forgot with every kiss upon my lips.
your body is a temple; i am but
your most ardent priest. i sacrifice
my life and love to you without reserve
upon the marble altar of your thighs.
my days of wand’ring now are at an end,
for at your side my lonely heart renews.
i searched the world for love and only found
it nestled in this tiny cove, with you.
touch me again, reforge me in your flame,
and in your love my life will bear no shame.


When he was seventeen, Yuuri had kissed a boy at a party at the Crispino Winery.

(In his head, since all of the other times he’s kissed someone involved dim lighting and alcohol and not much more past the hungry brush of lips, he doesn’t count any of that.)

His lips had tasted of strawberry wine, light but heady. Yuuri, too, had had several glasses, caught at that age where he doesn’t properly know his limits, but oh is he willing to figure it out.

The boy said nothing of it the days after, and Yuuri didn’t have the courage to ask. He’d been too caught up with his fears of letting the boy in closer, letting him take him out on dates, letting his wandering hands actually touch Yuuri where he longs to be touched.

Too caught up with the possibility that the boy will find the sealskin and run. Or worse, take it and never give it back.

But now the worst has come and gone, the tides are changing once more, and the sea roars loudly outside the window as it dashes whitewater upon the shore. Yuuri’s eyes are closed as he feels Viktor’s fingers inside him, working him open with gentle but insistent thrusts. He exhales, swallowing through the foreign uncertainty, but when Viktor crooks his finger and a shiver of pleasure rocks Yuuri to his very core, he realises he’d gladly do anything to feel that again.

“How are we doing?” Viktor whispers, his silver fringe falling in his eyes as he leans up, his gaze burning into Yuuri’s own. Yuuri smiles, nodding at him to continue, and Viktor’s laugh is a little breathless as it ghosts against his lips.

Yuuri kisses Viktor as he slides his fingers out, his back heavy against the pillows. He only has a moment to mourn the loss of Viktor’s fingers before the man kisses him again, heady and sweet. Yuuri can see the desire plain on his face, can feel it with each brush of their lips, but his touches are still light and hesitant, as if he’s terrified of breaking Yuuri beneath his fingers if he presses down too hard.

So Yuuri brackets his legs against Viktor’s hips, draws him closer by his nape. Viktor’s eyes widen briefly, his reverence faltering for a moment as his fingernails dig into Yuuri’s thighs, but when he presses into Yuuri he is slow and gentle still, pausing to let him adjust to his length once he’s fully seated inside.

Yuuri has only ever known Viktor’s touches down here, has only ever known how it feels to be loved by Viktor and Viktor alone. But if he’d had his way, he’d have rewritten his drunken kisses at seventeen and throughout university — he’d have reshaped every half-baked pulling attempt at the clubs in Altwegg with Phichit just to save all of himself for Viktor and Viktor alone, entirely, wholly.

His lips, his body, his heart — all Viktor’s for the first time, and again.

Viktor’s hips pick up a sweet rhythm against his, his breath coming in soft pants against Yuuri’s skin. Yuuri feels as if he’s being broken in the best way possible — torn down and reforged, like sandstone from the seafloor as the Earth turns and the oceans become mountains. If Viktor is a force of nature, then Yuuri must be the one who can tame him: a rock to his ever-changing sea, or a house that can withstand his strongest storm.

Viktor thrusts again, deep and perfect, brushing against that spot once more that causes little sparks of pleasure to jolt through Yuuri’s body. He can’t get enough of it, can’t get enough of Viktor hard and thick inside him, can’t get enough of their newfound proximity. They’re so close, so connected, and yet the distance is too far. Like the ocean which claims the shoreline wave by incremental wave, Yuuri wants to claim and be claimed by Viktor alone.

Wants to show the world that others may have been Viktor’s past, but he is Viktor’s now.

Viktor comes with a soft gasp of Yuuri’s name, his fingers reverent against Yuuri’s skin. He doesn’t pull out immediately, instead taking Yuuri in hand and stroking him with a single-minded determination to bring him over the ledge along with him.

And fall Yuuri does, like one who capitulates to the call of the sea at the edge of a cliff. He pulls Viktor closer, shuddering against him as he spills. Viktor’s eyes grow wide at the sensation; he pulls back his hands to taste Yuuri against his palm before pulling out, stepping back, and cleaning them up with a washcloth from the bathroom.

Yuuri feels indolent, beloved, divine — he lies against the pillow, boneless, sated, as Viktor worships his body with kisses once more. Along his shoulders, down his sternum, against the crook of his leg to his ankles and his toes — every bit of him is marked with Viktor’s lips, memorised again after months of separation.

Briefly, Yuuri thinks of that fateful Samhain night, of the overwhelming sense of loss in his chest even as Viktor touched him. He thinks of the persistent calling of the sea then, of the withering of the world beneath his feet, the exhaustion deep in his bones. Viktor had been part and parcel of that misery — had been the cause of it, though Yuuri hadn’t known at the time. But now he’s also making it right, giving Yuuri all of the pleasure and happiness that lovemaking could be.

Viktor slots in beside him, behind him, and Yuuri leans back to steal a goodnight kiss. And for a long while after that, Viktor’s writing-callused fingers play melodies against Yuuri’s vertebrae until they both fall asleep to the sound of the roaring sea.


Excerpts from the writing journals of Viktor Nikiforov, vol. 11 (age 17):

white nights

it’s the last scarlet sail of summer
and my childhood is ending
in the kisses on vasilevsky —
i hope you are the one
who makes my heart beat forever,
like the ebb and flow of the tides.

the skies are still pink
the gulls are still crying,
and i am dreaming in your arms —
of a shoreline dacha
and the taste of freedom
mingled in the saltwater from your lips.

to the one —

i hope you are fine
with the jagged edges
of my lonely heart.

i’m quite imperfect,
but if you let me,

i’ll love you more perfectly than you’ll ever know.


The end of the summer sneaks up like a sunset, with the town bedazzled in garlands of red and gold for the arts festival. Yurio and Otabek take third with their musical performance, Mila’s dance troupe takes second, and Christophe’s time lapse compilation of the Torvill Cove shoreline takes first.

With the end of summer comes the departure of people and families only here for the holidays. The Leroys return to Canada, Otabek to Boston for university, and Emil to Prague. After Otabek leaves, Yuri Plisetsky sequesters himself in his room, and doesn’t leave for days except for mealtimes.

But while August is blurring into September, and the skies are still golden before the gloaming, Yuuri takes Viktor back to Lover’s Point, his sealskin folded firmly under his arm. Makkachin is left at Yu-Topia for the day, and Viktor carries a picnic basket with their dinner.

It’s been a while since their last visit — almost an anniversary at this point. Yuuri feels Viktor’s eyes on him as he traverses the hidden cliffside trail down to the small beach, and revels in its familiarity. If there’s one thing in this world worth being hated over, then let it be him being the one to steal Viktor away, to so bewitch him that every subsequent poem and story from his fingertips is branded with Yuuri’s presence.

They find a spot on the beach as the sun continues to slip westward, along the arc of the sky towards the horizon. Yuuri helps Viktor spread the picnic blanket on the dunes, before kicking off his shoes and unbuttoning his shirt. He hears Viktor’s sharp intake of breath as he drops it, and smiles a little at the thought that a man like Viktor Nikiforov can be so rendered by a simple action as the careless flutter of cambric down to the sand.

“Are you sure you want me to watch?” Viktor’s voice rasps in his throat; he has sunk to his knees upon the gingham blanket, his knuckles white on the handles of the basket in his lap. Yuuri suspects he’s hiding his arousal with it, like he had a lifetime ago before Yuuri had succeeded in luring him into his heart and his bed. The sudden same bashfulness is remarkably endearing.

‘Don’t take your eyes off me,’ he replies, though his cheeks burn as he strips off the rest of his clothing and wraps himself in the skin. Viktor scrambles to zip up his wetsuit, before grabbing his fins and a snorkel set which he’d recently purchased for this excursion. Together, they head down to the gentle waters in this small hidden cove, and Yuuri waits for Viktor to don his mask and fins before slipping beneath the waves.

The currents here are gentle yet powerful, smaller echoes of the waves that dash themselves against the rocks which shelter and hide the cove. Yuuri feels, once again, the burning knowledge of Viktor’s eyes on him as the transformation takes hold of him, but all apprehension flies out the window when Viktor only swims closer, clearly fascinated by the magic that he had just witnessed.

Katsudon leads him on a merry race, first through the gentler waters of the cove, and then past the rocks out into the wider sea. Viktor keeps apace readily enough, though with considerably less flexibility and more breaks for air. Out past the rocks of the secret cove there are schools of fish teeming in the kelp and all sorts of other creatures out in the deep. Viktor’s presence scares away some of them, though Katsudon is quick to snap up straggling fish as they try to escape with their school out into the blue.

Time loses meaning here, in the watery embrace of the tide. But Viktor’s fatigue grows more obvious with each passing minute, so Katsudon uses that to guide them back to the shore. Viktor’s expression grows even more reverent when Yuuri emerges from his skin, saltwater dripping from his hair as he slowly rises to his feet out of the cocoon of black pelt.

“I don’t know what to say,” he breathes, stepping forward with worshipful softness, one hand coming out to cup Yuuri’s face.

Yuuri smiles, leaning into his touch. Don’t say anything at all, he thinks, as Viktor’s gaze flickers briefly down to the sealskin and back up at him again. He grabs it before Viktor can, wrapping it over his shoulders with a bracing smile, and together they head back up the beach towards the blanket and their picnic dinner. Overhead the setting sun stains the sky in passionate red, gives way to dusky purple spotted with silver stars and a bright crescent moon.

On the sixty-eighth night, Yuuri Katsuki lies beneath the silvery moonlight in the arms of his lover, and wants for nothing else in the world.


Excerpt from page 23 of Waiting for the Light:

to the ebb and flow of you;

o, let the stars pay homage to our hearts!
they do not know the depths of me and you
for when the waves have ebbed, our bodies part;
our souls lie ling’ring in the tidal blue.
i must lament when you are far from me —
for distant shores you sail your lonely bark.
and when you leave, my heart doth lonely beat
with every pace of foot within the dark.
o sweet fey soul that lies within my love!
the honey of your kisses lingers still,
and when you come again — below, above —
i linger in your arms, my heart fulfilled.
return to me, my life and love, my one —
to you i cleave, our stars anew begun.