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Lost and Found

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Heart and Soul

 

The real Victor Nikiforov seemed a complete enigma these days, even to himself.  As he stared at himself in the mirror, he wondered what was real anymore.  His look, his smile?  He had sold himself off, piece by piece, surrounding himself with a persona so deep that he couldn’t find himself anymore.  Tightening the knot on his tie, he considered that, perhaps, he unknowingly sold his soul to the devil at some point for his success, trading what was sincere and authentic for all that is artificial and worthless.  Now, he’d give it all up for a glimpse at something real and genuine.

 

A smile tugged his lips as he thought about the sweet Japanese skater who shyly backed away from him when he offered a commemorative photo earlier.   That was unexpected!

 

He tugged his waistcoat into place then grabbed his jacket.  So many make assumptions.  So many thought they knew him.  He felt as if he didn’t even know himself anymore.  How could any others?  He could feel himself slipping into a dark place.  Sliding his persona back in place along with his practiced perfect smile, he prepared for another banquet.  He would sell a bit more of himself this evening.  That was the purpose.  To gain sponsors and appease sponsors.  He dreaded the banquet more than anything these days.  He wondered if he had anything more to give.   What happens when I have nothing left of myself to sell?

 





He arrived at the banquet and started with the required mingling.  Best to get the distasteful part out of the way.  Mixing with, and kissing the asses of sponsors, ad executives who eyed him like he was the product, after came the skating officials, little better than sycophant fans.  Finally he was released from the worst of it. Finally the worst of it was over.  Looking across the sea of similar faces he spotted a hand waving him over, bringing a bit of himself out as he approached his friend.  “What do you have up your sleeve, Chris?” he inquired, noting the air of mischief about the Swiss man.

 

“Trust me.  It’ll be entertaining.”  Hazel eyes twinkled as he hummed in anticipation.

 

Victor laughed and was startled by the sound of his laugh, it sounded sincere.   Maybe I still have a bit of soul left.  “I find I do best when I don’t trust you, my friend.”  He wanted to continue this playful dialogue with Chris the sound of his natural voice so foreign to his ears he longed to indulge it. But a lone figure next to the champagne table caught his attention.  “Isn’t that the Japanese Yuuri?” he asked with a curious nod.

 

“It appears so.  It doesn’t seem he’s taking his defeat well,” Chris observed.

 

“Making it to the final is nothing to be ashamed of.”

 

“Perhaps,” the silken voice purred, but then hardened with reality, “but would you settle for sixth?”

 

Victor honestly had to admit he wouldn’t.  “I reviewed some of his skating videos when checking out the competition.  His edges and turns are remarkably clean and the way he captures the music in his movements...”

 

Chris interrupted with a frustrated sigh, “He just can’t seem to sort out his jumps.”  He took a drink from his cup and then shrugged, “Well, we all have something we struggle with.”  Victor felt the intent of the Swiss man’s words.  The younger man had been his friend for years and was the only one privy to Victor’s tormented thoughts.

 

Victor grunted agreement as he watched the Japanese skater move from the table.  The cinnamon browns eyes met his with a bit of a smirk that caused Victor’s eyes to widen in surprise.  Chris noticed it as well.

 

“I think he found his confidence,” Chris murmured.

 

Lifting his own champagne glass, he responded, “To liquid courage.”  Chris grinned and clinked his glass with his friend.

 

Yuuri’s next move drew everyone’s attention.  He seemed to have a score to settle with the Russian Yuri.  In that regard, he challenged the youth to a dance off.  “The kitten must’ve pissed off the Japanese,” drawled Chris.

 

“Not surprising.  He has that effect on others,” Victor returned in a dry voice.

 

“Such an angry chaton .”

 

“Indeed.”

 

As they watched, though, Victor could not help but be impressed at the Japanese Yuuri’s skill on the dance floor.  “Perhaps we should get him drunk before he goes on the ice,” he commented to Chris.

 

Chris’s warm laugh vibrated next to him.  “Do you think we could get it past the officials?”

 

“Vodka in his water bottle?” suggested Victor with a slight smile.

 

Chris again answered with a laugh as Yuuri finished the dance off, winning hands down.  Yuri walked by Victor and muttered, “Not a word, geezer.”

 

The two older men laughed at his retreating form but then their attention was caught once more as the Japanese stood before them with a raised eyebrow and a challenge.  “Who’s next?”

 

Victor’s shock caused him to hesitate, but Chris was ready to accept.  “I’ll take you up on your challenge.  How about we move this a bit…off the floor.”  Victor then watched as Chris led the Japanese Yuuri on into the room and it was then that he saw what Chris was up to as he spotted the stripper pole mounted to one side.  “Do you think you can handle a few barre exercises?”

 

Yuuri smirked.  “Do you?”

 

Chris smirked at the slurred confidence.  “I believe you are overdressed,” Chris commented as he began removing layers of his clothes.

 

Victor’s eyes widened to see the Japanese man comply, unbuttoning his shirt with purpose, pants soon following.   ‘My god he’s beautiful!’ Victor’s thoughts screamed.   As Yuuri met Chris, challenge for challenge on the pole, Victor felt some degree of regret for not answering first.  Chris could be very convincing when he was turned on.  And it was very apparent Chris was attracted to the man.   Did I just miss my chance at something?

 

As the pole dance concluded, he watched as Chris propositioned the man and raised his eye in surprise as Yuuri held up his hand and shook his head.  They laughed and parted.  He moved his thoughts inward as he took another sip of champagne.  A brush of his sleeve brought him back to reality.  That reality was a beautiful Japanese man regarding him thoughtfully.  Although, the degree of alcohol still registering in the other man’s eyes made those thoughts slushy.

 

“Victor, dance with me,” he demanded.  Victor barely remembered handing off his drink as he was led off onto the dancefloor.  “If I win, will you join me and be my coach?” he offered with a wink as he led Victor into the flamenco.  The sexy dance wound around the two and Victor found himself losing touch with reality.  A tango followed and as the younger partner dipped the older and twirled him into the steps, Victor felt his heart staccato with the sharp moves of their feet.  How could he keep his movements so perfect with that amount of alcohol?  They wrapped up with a waltz and he could tell that the exhaustion and the alcohol were taking a toll on his partner.  As the younger man grinded on him lost in a drunken fantasy, he begged Victor once more to be his coach…and Victor found himself seriously considering it.

 

“I think you’re done for the night,” Victor finally stated.  The Japanese Yuuri looked up in surprise as Victor picked up the remaining pieces of Yuuri’s lost clothes and led him from the banquet hall.  He’d probably catch hell tomorrow after leaving with the drunken man in a semi-dressed state.  He’d deal with that when the time comes.  Entering the elevator, he fished through the man’s pockets to find the room key.  “Time to get you to bed,” he asserted as the elevator door closed.  He hit the button to the elevator and it began to climb.

 




The elevator door opened on the seventh floor and the two men stumbled down the hallway with a few giggles.  “Okay, Yuuri.  Let’s get you inside,” Victor guided Yuuri in as soon as the keycard released the door.  A hand snaking around his neck pulled him in after the brunette.  The younger man pressed him against the closing door, slamming it shut, and quickly started winding his fingers into the silver hair, giving it a gentle tug.  Victor’s breath caught.  “Shit!  Yuuri, you are in no shape to consent!”

 

Yuuri laughed softly, its warmth spreading over Victor and awakening lower regions.  “But you want to,” he teased rising up on his tiptoes and brushing his lips over the platinum blonde’s lips.

 

Victor would burn in hell if he denied that he wanted to take this man up on his offer.  Drawing a ragged breath, he pushed the other man away only to see him stagger, promising to drop soon.  Catching him once again, he decided he had descended to the second level of hell and wasn’t sure he could claw his way back out.  He felt a hand in his tugging him forward and next he found himself tumbling into the bed with the other man.

 

Succumbing to the kisses, they became desperate and needy, demanding his attention.  The moan from the other man vibrated through him.  A hand pulled his shirt free and as he felt it searching the skin on his back, some sense started to seep through.  Pushing back, he searched the eyes of the man beneath him.  “I want to.  Truly, I do.  But I can’t.  Not like this.”  Short sentences were all that he could manage as he pushed up from the bed.  The other man watched him thoughtfully.  Standing and free of Yuuri’s hands, Victor felt stronger in his conviction.  “If you were sober, I’d stay, Yuuri.  But we’d both regret it in the state you are currently in.”  He shoved his hand through his hair in frustration.  “Forgive me.  I must go.”

 

The other man drew in a shaky breath behind him as he reached for the door.  “You are a better man than they say you are,” he whispered quietly.

 

Victor turned to stare blinkingly towards the brunette.  “There isn’t much left of that better man,” he responded.  “It takes a discerning eye to find it these days.”

 

“I see it,” he breathed, the brown eyes focused on the older man.

 

“You will not see it come morning,” the Russian responded as he studied his hand on the doorknob.

 

“Don’t underestimate me…or yourself.  Good night, Victor.”

 

“Good night, Yuuri.”  Victor stepped into the hallway and closed the door tight.  Sliding down to the floor, he lost it.  Elbow propped on his knee, he slid his hand into his hair and propped his forehead.  Why was he affected so strongly by a drunken man’s words?  How was this man, so drunk he couldn’t stand, able to cut through the bullshit layer and see him for who he was, who he wanted to be?  He remained there for a few minutes when the sound of an elevator opening around the corner pulled him from his thoughts.  Pushing himself upright, he strode down the hallway with purpose.  A few of the skaters giggled when he passed them on the way to the elevator.  Within the safety of the metal doors, he hit the nine.

 

He spotted Chris leaning against his door facing watching down the hallway.  Their rooms were right across from one another.  “You look like hell,” the Swiss man commented shaking his curls.

 

“Do you have something stronger than champagne in there?”

 

Oui !” he responded motioning into his room.  “I have some hotel grade Vodka.  Not the best but it will do.”

 

Victor staggered through the door.  “Indeed.”  He heard the door close behind him.  Running his hands through his hair, he stared out the window.   I have to stop pulling at my hair, I’ll be as bald as Yakov some day.  He smoothed out his hair hastily as the thought crossed his mind.

 

Chris handed him a drink.  “I saw you two leave together.  I take it that it didn’t work out.”

 

Victor huffed.  “It…could have.  He invited me to stay.  Hell, I wanted to.”

 

“But you chose not to…interesting.”  Chris brought a glass to his plump lips studying the older man with discerning hazel eyes.

 

“He wasn’t sober.  Not enough, anyway.  I didn’t want him to regret it.”  His voice halted for a moment as he drained the glass.  “I didn’t want him to regret me,” he finished with a whisper.

 

Chris studied his friend.  “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen anyone turn your head.”

 

“It’s...been a long time,” Victor admitted as he studied the skyline.  “Even then…”

 

Chris waited but that sentence remained undone.  “Something has changed in you.”

 

“I’m tired, Chris.  Tired of selling out.  Tired of losing myself.  Do you think there is any good left?”  He put his forehead against the cool glass, watching his breath form little clouds on the glass.

 

Chris studied the man in front of the window.  “You are starting to care once again.”

 

“Perhaps…but I’m lost.  I don’t know how to find my way back.”

 

“On the ice,” Chris suggested.

 

Victor laughed bitterly.  “Isn’t it the ice that led me astray?  She’s a cold mistress.”

 

“It wasn’t the ice that betrayed you, Victor.  It…was the rest that goes with it.  Being a celebrity strips us down so many times that we forget ourselves.  We are raped time and time again by the public until we harden our hearts and bury our souls.”  He put a hand on Victor’s shoulder, “But you are lucky.  Something has broken through that armor.  You have to decide if you are going to repair the hole…or escape through it.”

 

“What would you do?”

 

“Run.”

 

Stepping away from the window, he caught those hazel eyes.  “If you ever come to me from the same place, I’m going to remind you of this conversation.”  He walked toward the door with heavy steps.

 

“Just remember,” Chris called after him.  “You didn’t land here overnight.  It might take some work to dig your way out.”

 

“Agreed.  And I’ll make some people unhappy along the way,” Victor concluded as he studied the door.

 

“Victor?” Blue eyes turned his direction.  “It’s your turn to be happy.”

 

Victor nodded as he slipped out the door.  The first step to finding oneself is admitting one is lost.

 





Yuuri awakened with a hangover the next morning, ghosts of memories that didn’t quite form into something real, and pretty much fully clothed.  Moving to the shower, he turned on the water and let the steam build up as he began to undress.  He turned to look in the mirror as he ran his fingers through his hair studying his blotchy skin and glassy eyes.  Frowning, he stepped into the shower to wash away the night.

 

As the steam licked up his body, he remembered ghosted kisses and a regretful goodbye but the face wouldn’t fully form in his thoughts.  He felt sad, a yearning deep within him for that person but could not remember him.  “Did I lose you before I truly found you?”

 

He dressed comfortably as he felt the ache slide down from his head and settle over his entire body.  The alcohol had left its mark on him and now he was forced to shuffle through the day.  He pulled out his phone and looked for evidence of the evening but nothing showed up.  He didn’t know his fellow skaters well enough to exchange information with them.  Of course, he was painfully aware that no one would want to exchange contact info with him.  He was nobody.   It was probably a fluke that I made it this far.

 

Looking around his room for signs of the mystery man, he found the ibuprofen and water waiting on the nightstand.  He quickly downed the meds and gulped the water.  Something sparkled in the carpet and he dropped down to pick it up.  The sapphire cufflink twinkled in his hand as he studied it.  “Well, it’s not Cinderella’s slipper but maybe one day I will find you,” he murmured.

 

He hesitantly texted his coach.

 

Yuuri/ Who did I leave with last night?

 

Ciao Ciao/ I went back to retrieve you and was told that you left with some other figure skater.  You were in bed when I checked on you and seemed fine.

 

Yuuri/ Did you leave water and meds?

 

Ciao Ciao/ Considering how much you drank, yes.  Are you okay?

 

Yuuri /My memory is just hazy.

 

Ciao Ciao/ He didn’t hurt you, did he?

 

Yuuri furrowed his brow.   No, he didn’t.  He knew this for a fact even if he knew nothing else.

 

Yuuri/ No.  I don’t mean to worry you.  Just confused.

 

Ciao Ciao/ Okay.  Drink some water.  Let me know if you need anything.  We leave at ten.

 

Yuuri/ Thanks, coach.

 

Yuuri stood with his coach as they checked out later that morning.  Three bottles of water later and he felt much more himself, although a bit listless.  He allowed his eyes to wander around and spotted Victor.  The man started to approach him but Yuuri quickly averted his eyes.  He was a mess and didn’t want to meet his idol like this.






Victor watched Yuuri leave the lobby with his head down, the picture of utter defeat.  Something felt heavy inside him as he watched the retreating figure.   I just found you and now you are lost to me once more.

Chapter Text


 

Someday...

 

 

Victor came home to his dog and house sitter, a college student named Renata, stretched out on his couch, painting her nails.  She looked up from her freshly coated ring finger, “Hey, Victor.  I’ve already walked Makkachin for the evening.  She seems a bit down, though.  I’m not sure going on with her.”

 

Victor dropped down to greet his friend noting the precious pink nails she also sported.  “What’s going on, Makka?”  He scruffed the dog’s fur before looking up at Renata.  “She does seem to be moving more slowly.  Thank you.  I’ll get her in to see the vet.”  He paid her for her trouble and she thanked him before she left grabbing her backpack on the way out.  “I’ll need you for Nationals,” he called after her as she headed towards the stairs.

 

“Text me with the dates.  I’ll be available.  Thanks, Victor.”  Then she disappeared around the corner.

 

Victor finished the evening by unpacking and sorting laundry.  He noticed one of his sapphire cufflinks were missing.  Checking his baggage, carry on, and turning the pockets of his pants and jackets inside out, he huffed in resignation.  “That’s probably gone but I’ll send a message to the hotel in case it is found.”  He put his jewelry away into the cases in his top drawer.  The dry cleaning was bagged up for the service to pick it up.  He glanced at the calendar.  His cleaning service was due for tomorrow.  They will take care of the rest of his laundry.

 

After a quick meal, he showered and slid into his sheets naked.  Makka found her way next to him and rested her head on the turn of his hip.  Stroking the poodle’s head, Victor cooed softly.  “I met him, Makka.  He was so beautiful.  I don’t know if he knows me, though.  He avoided my gaze the next morning.”  Victor sighed as he stretched and turned, Makka repositioning across his chest.  “You would love him, though.”

 

He pulled out his phone and once more searched for information on Yuuri Katsuki.  The young man’s social media was surprisingly quiet.  Even the articles he found on the various websites stuck to basic facts, giving his training and competition results.  For a skater who made the top six of the Grand Prix series, there was very little talk about him.  Mystery seemed to surround the man and even the media expressed frustration.   How did he remain out of the limelight?   Victor frowned thinking of the endless speculation of his own life played out across the various media.   Would anyone want to have their name added to that mess?  Maybe he’d be better off without me.

 





Yuuri arrived at the small apartment he shared with Phichit.  “Did Cody move out while I was gone?”

 

“Yep!  I haven’t found a replacement,” responded the Thai man as he came around the corner.  “How are you doing?”

 

“I crashed and burned at the finals,” Yuuri responded dully.

 

“Hey, at least you made it that far.  A lot of skaters never get as far you did...including me,” Phichit returned with a warm smile.  “So, shall we see what mess Cody left behind?”

 

“Umm, sure?  Although you didn’t have to wait for me,” Yuuri responded with a shiver.  They approached the third door cautiously and eased it open.  Yuuri glanced around before stating, “I’ll pay for a cleaning service.”  The stains on the rugs ran into each other creating a bizarre pattern that would have been modern art, if the medium wasn’t food.  The walls had tiny holes and knicks in the paint where pictures had hung and fallen, the walls near the floor had kick marks and the door… “Are those scratch marks?  Don’t answer, I don’t want to know.”

 

“I’ll go halves with you.”  Phichit backed out of the space with Yuuri following.  “Wow!  He was a piece of work.”

 

“All the way to the end.”  The now gone third roommate had been late on rent, never paid the deposit, and often skipped his week for chores.  They entered the main space and Yuuri found a seat on the couch.  “Where is Vicchan?”

 

Phichit rolled his eyes.  “Andreia came by and took him for a walk and pictures.”

 

Yuuri groaned, We broke up, get the hint.   “Greeting cards or calendars this time?”

 

Phichit shrugged.  “I’m not sure.  She said they’ll be back before supper.”

 

“I didn’t know that three dates meant we shared custody of my dog,” Yuuri muttered.

 

Phichit grinned in response.  “I thought that was due to you both flirting with the same waiter during those three dates.”

 

A smile touched Yuuri’s lips.  “He had a nice ass and wasn’t afraid to bank on it.”

 

“You have a better ass.  He seemed more interested in the photographer than the figure skater,” observed Phichit.

 

Yuuri chuckled.  “That’s because he knew I had a nice ass and his narcissism demanded the attention.”

 

Phichit laughed.  “You’ve got to own your assets.”

 

Yuuri rolled his eyes and groaned.  “I can’t believe you said that!”

 

“And I thought you knew me,” Phichit responded with a wink.  “Oh, while you were out, the grad packet came in.”

 

Yuuri took the thick envelope and breathed deeply.  Opening it, he read the accompanying letter.  His eyes widened.  “Conditional acceptance!”

 

Phichit grinned.  “I was hoping we’d get to continue being roommates.”

 

“It looks like you are stuck with me awhile longer.  I need to call my parents.”  He looked at the clock and did a mental calculation.  “Do you mind?  I can get this call in before the lunch rush.”

 

“Go for it.  I’ve got a marketing final to study for.”

 

Yuuri grinned.  “I’ll need to grab my notes from Cass.  Lab Psych and Abnormal Psych.  What was I thinking?”

 

“You are a glutton for punishment?”

 

“So your diagnosis is that I’m a masochist?  You could be right,” Yuuri responded with a raise of the eyebrow.

 

He looked down at his phone and scrolled through his contacts to his parent’s number.  The rings indicated they might be busy but finally someone answered.  “Hello?”

 

“Mari-neesan?  Are mom and dad busy?”

 

“Ummm, no, they just checked in a small group at the inn.  Should be good now.”

 

“Will you get them for me?”

 

“Sure.”

 

Yuuri waited tapping impatiently with a pen back and forth against his knee.  Another anxiety tick, he noted.  “Yuuri?”

 

The Japanese man smiled at the sound of a familiar voice.  “Hi, Mom.  How are you?”

 

“We are good,” she responded happily.  “Business is going strong.  How are you, Son?”

 

Yuuri grimaced recalling his last call home right after bombing out at the Grand Prix Final.  A call that was overheard by a surly blonde boy who took an odd offense at his words.  “Well, you saw my skate program.  We won’t revisit that.  However, things seem to be looking up.  I just received conditional acceptance into grad school.”

 

He heard an excited babble as she pulled the phone from her ear and passed on the news, probably to his sister and her best friend Minako who taught him ballet for years.  Returning, she effused, “Congratulations!  I’m so excited.  So you will stay in Detroit?”

 

“Yes.  For a couple of years longer.  But perhaps I can visit a few days after Nationals.  It is during term break.”  He smiled in anticipation.  It had been a while.  Not since the break between winter and summer term.

 

“We would love to see you.  Will you be home for the summer?” she asked as if reading his thoughts.

 

Yuuri frowned considering what he needed to accomplish.  “I’m not sure.  I’ve got to figure out how to manage my grad school demands and skating.”

 

She hummed thoughtfully.  “It is fine.  Just…we want to see you when you can.  Maybe you come home for a week or two.”

 

Yuuri laughed.  “Of course, mom.  I’ll see what I can do.”

 

“Good.  Good,” she responded easily pleased.  “I’ll see you after Nationals, then.  Tell Phichit hi and give Vicchan a hug for us all.”

 

“I will.  Thank you, Mom.  Will you give Dad the good news?”

 

“Of course.  Then we celebrate when you come in.  Maybe we celebrate Nationals, too.”

 

Yuuri laughed again.  “Let’s not jinx it.”

 

“No worries.  I have many good luck charms around the inn,” she reassured him.

 

“Good to know,” he responded fondly.

 

“I will let you study.  Call again soon.”

 

“I will.”

 

“Bye, Son.”

 

In his room, Yuuri unpacked, weariness from travel battling with heart-weariness.  His eyes fell upon the poster, the latest, Victor in his skate costume for Stammi Vicino .  “I would like to believe it was you that saw me to safety that night.  That you are my Cinderella.  But I’m far from a prince, Victor.”  He laid the treasure in a tray beneath the poster, his eyes drifting from the sapphire of the jewel to the sapphire of the eyes.  “Maybe someday…”

 


 

 

Victor waited patiently at the vet’s office with his Makka on a leash.  He did not know what they would say to him.  He knew Makka was getting older.  Her movements were slower and she slept more than when she was younger.  The stairs up to his flat were hard on her on days the elevator didn’t work.

 

“Mr. Nikiforov?”

 

“Yes.  Come on, Makkachin.”  His companion stood up and followed him into the office.  The vet listened as Victor shared his concerns.

 

“Let’s do a thorough examination.”  The doctor checked through Makka’s vitals, looked at her teeth, and checked her feet and joints.  “I am not seeing any signs of disease but the blood work will tell us more.  The urgent care facility is available during the evening and night should something occur.  For now, though, it sounds like most of the problems are due to aging.  She may be dealing with depression during your absences as well.  Sometimes separation anxiety becomes more acute as they age.”

 

Victor nodded taking all of the veterinarian’s words in.  “What do I need to do?”

 

“I’m having my assistant pull some pamphlets that will talk to you about care of an aging poodle.  Until the blood work is back, that is all you can do.  We’ll know more after those tests.”

 

Victor pursed his lips and nodded.  “Thank you, Dr. Ivanov.”

 

“Of course.  You have my number if you have further concerns.”

 

Victor nodded as he leashed Makkachin once more.  “Let’s go home, girl.”

 


 

 

Victor spent the evening watching over Makka with concern.  His absence was hurting her.  He considered his obligations and contracts.  Everything was up for renegotiation after Worlds.  Sponsors, coaching contracts, even the lease to his apartment.  “We need a change, Makka darling.  What do you think?”

 

Makka huffed at him and he laughed softly, rubbing the fur behind her ears as she liked.  “You know.  That beautiful man lives in America.  I wonder what he would think if we just showed up one day.  Would he take in a man and his poodle?”

 

The press had already grilled him about his retirement.  Was he ready to announce that?  Perhaps he’ll just take the season off while he decides.  Monetarily speaking, he was set.  Between inheritances and what he had earned as a world champion figure skater, he did not lack in luxuries.  Retirement was feasible.  He would always be able to participate in Stars on Ice, there were several skating shows in Japan… Hell, Petrenko still toured, and he was ancient.

 

“I could…go to college.  What do I want to be when I grow up?” he asked Makkachin.  The poodle huffed in reply and he laughed.  However, he found himself seriously considering the option.  “I should contact Papa.”

Chapter Text


 

Old Friends

 

Yuuri arrived at Hasetsu weary and anxious.  Nationals were looming on the horizon and he just wanted to get on the ice and skate off his anxiety.  Minako met him at the train station.  “Yuuri, I’m so excited about grad school for you!”

 

He smiled but knew it came across as strained, even the muscles in his face were pulled thin.  Exhaustion and anxiety were grumpy bedfellows.  Minako knew it, too, her eyes easily recognizing his moods.  Yuuri’s words came out in forced, stacco sounds, “I’m excited, too, I just...I have a job to do.”

 

“You’re still upset about the Finals,” she stated outright.

 

He pulled back, her frankness a little too much for him in his weariness.  “Well, yes.  I finally make it...only to fail.  And Victor was there.  The first time he saw me skate and I failed.”  He could feel his expression draw into petulance, the pout just under the surface holding onto his frustration.

 

“Yuuri…”  She reached out a hand putting it on his shoulder.

 

He shrugged off her touch.  “Don’t...I know.  But it’s still there.  Crowding my thoughts.  And all I can think is what if I fail here.”

 

Unfazed by him pushing her away, she continued.  “It’s Nationals, Yuuri.  You are the top skater in Japan.  The closest one is that Minami Kenjirou, and he isn’t at your level, it’s at least a five point difference between his top score and your average from last season.  He’s just come out of Juniors.”  Yuuri knew she was right.  With the retirement of Daisuke Takahashi, room was made for him to burst forward.  Then Tatsuki Machida, retired leaving just Yuuri to fight for Japan, and to fear the spotlight that he had avoided all these years.  Minami Kenjirou was the only one who had a chance at challenging him, but he was new and had a lot to learn about the senior division.  His high scores didn’t come near Yuuri’s score even at the Final.

 

Taking a deep breath, Yuuri huffed.  “I just need to skate.”  He hated it when she was right and could cut through the bullshit so easily, which was often.

 

She grinned and redirected him to her car.  “Nope!  Tino made me promise not to let you skate until tomorrow.  You have to rest.”

 

Yuuri groaned.  Finally, he flicked his eyes up at Minako...his sad, brown eyes.  He had only one card when it came to her and he was playing it.

 

Minako rolled her eyes.  “I’m not falling for it!  Just put those puppy dog eyes away!”

 

“Could I...at least go to the studio?” he bargained.

 

His old ballet teacher sighed.  “I suppose...that technically doesn’t break the promise.”

 

He offered her a pleased smile.  “Thank you, Minako-sensei!”

 

She huffed.  “You’re a brat, you know.”  He grinned in reply.  “Is that how you get your way in Detroit?”

 

Yuuri shrugged, a twinkle in his eye.  “It depends.”

 

She studied him a moment then waved both hands in the hair.  “I don’t want to know!” she declared.  “Let’s get you home first.  Then you can make your way over to the studio after you’ve talked to your family...and perhaps have a decent meal.”

 




Yuuri’s family crowded in fussing over him.  It would have been overwhelming were it any other group of people, but Yuuri knew them, felt the familiarity of them all, and missed them.  He felt his mother pulling him to the kitchen and the other two staying close behind.  “It’s not like I never come home,” he protested.  He tried to get at least a brief visit in a couple of times a year after that first year.  For some reason, he needed to stay away that first year as if it were some kind of test.  It was Celestino who called him on it and forced him to visit his family as a condition of his training.  Afterwards, it became a habit.  December...then during one of the other school breaks...usually right after Worlds.

 

“You’ve lost so much weight!” his mother fussed.  Yuuri resisted the urge to roll his eyes.  If anything, he’d put on a few pounds.  But his mother would never see anything bad about him.  He recalled his friend Martina from college complaining about the same thing.  Her Italian mama was always fussing about how thin she was.  They decided it must be a mama-ism...always wanting to fatten up their babies.

 

His sister came around and raised an eyebrow as she studied his expression.  She knew what was going through his head, watching the struggle creep over his face.  But as his mother put the steaming bowl of katsudon before him he was lost.  “But I didn’t win!” he protested...weakly...because he wasn’t going to turn down his favorite dish made by his own mother.

 

Hiroko  swatted him with a towel.  “Of course you won!  You had to have won to make it to that last competition.”

 

“Not first,” he grumbled.

 

“Everyone wants to be first but seconds, thirds, even sixth place in the world...none of those are things to fuss about.”  Ah, his mother had been talking to Minako.  Yuuri smiled with an arched eyebrow, his mother who adored him never truly understood his sport...she wasn’t alone, most people didn’t, even the diehard fans.

 

Yuuri huffed, but then took a bite of the pork cutlet bowl.   Oh, yes...this is heaven .  He could feel the flavors mingling on his tongue as he closed his eyes and focused on the mix of savory and sweet.  There was something about food that seem to elicit as much pleasure for the Japanese man as sex.  Probably more, if he were honest.  His few lackluster partners had been uninspiring, never missing them as he let them go to focus on his training.  This, however, he missed.  Opening his eyes, he saw the satisfied expression on his mother’s face.  “Thank you, Mom,” he conceded with gratitude.  It’s not like he gets home that often.  A bowl or two of his favorite food should be guilt free.

 

Later, he walked with his father through the green house garden helping him gather the things his mother wanted for the evening meal.  Toshiya was warm and kind, accepting of all things Yuuri.  “Your mother says you are going to grad school.  Does that mean we will see you even less?”

 

Yuuri glanced up from where he was digging out the leek from the pot.  “I...I’m not sure, Dad.  I mean...the schedule will be demanding.  Less classes but more hours spent on independent work.  I’d like to say no...but I’m just not sure.”

 

“That’s okay, Yuuri.  You know we just want you to be happy.”

 

He sighed as he considered his life.  Was he happy?  Some days were just so overwhelming that he wasn’t sure happy was the word for it.  However, his life without skating...no, he couldn’t give that up yet.  Maybe one more push for the gold.

 




The next day, Yuuri rolled out of bed.  He needed to skate, but he forced himself to run first.  He had to get some energy out so he would be focused on the ice.  Finally warmed up, he entered the rink, breathing in the familiar atmosphere.  He smiled at the friendly greeting from his childhood friend.  “Yuuko!  It’s good to see you!”

 

“I’m so glad you’re here!  We’ll have lunch and catch up!”

 

Yuuri nodded then focused his eyes on the ice, the reason he was here.  He grew up on this ice, became friends with Yuuko and Takeshi, watched them fall in love...and blushed under their affectionate teasing about his own crush.  Because Yuuri couldn’t fall for the captain of the local hockey team.  He couldn’t fall for a man within his reach.  No.  Nothing that easy.  He had to fall for none other than THE Victor Nikiforov.  And through the years, through all of the relationships with both men and women, that never waivered.

 

Yuuko came around and he waved at her, skating over to stand before her.  “I was hoping you’d bounce back after finals,” she murmured.

 

“Sometimes...I have to return to what tied me to the ice from the beginning.  Reconnect.  Recenter.”  He fidgeted nervously, hoping to keep her there for a few more moments, “Do...you want to see?”

 

She smiled warmly.  “Always.”

 

Yuuri smiled shyly.  “I’ve been working on something since...around October.  I can’t perform it.  Not publicly.  You’ll see.”

 

He moved into the middle of the ice.  Russian Nationals would start that day and he’d be home in the evening to pull up the videos from Youtube.  Until then, he’d cheer Victor on from the ice as he sought refuge in the idol’s program.

 

Yuuko recognized it from the start.   Stammi Vicino ...the sadness of the program catching a loneliness that Victor laid out before his audience.  There was a call, a question in that skate and Yuuri wanted to answer it oh so much...but…

 

I’m just Yuuri...you’d never see me.  I can’t even hold it together on the ice in competition.  Still...I can see plainly how lonely you are, how you long for someone.  I long for you as well.  My whole being yearns for you.  I wish...you could see me, that I could be that person you need, you call out to on the ice.

 

As he finished, he came before Yuuko, a soft smile on his lips.  Her eyes were wide and she bounced a little on the balls of her feet trying to contain her excitement.  “That was amazing, Yuuri!  You...skated it so beautifully.”

 

“Perhaps...I just wish...that I could have held it together for him to see...it’s foolish, I know.  I just wanted him to see me.”

 

Her expression softened.  There was no tease left in her.  She could hear the heartbreak in her friend’s voice.  “Perhaps...he did see you.”

 

Yuuri rolled his eyes.  “He saw me...as a fan.  I don’t even think he realized I had skated that day.”  His lips quivered at the deadly proof of his assumed indifference from his idol, “He offered me a commemorative photo.”

 

She twisted her lips as she considered her words.  “Maybe that was just his way to break the ice?”

 

Yuuri waved away her words.  “I doubt it.  Obviously, I didn’t make an impression...other than what kind of failure I am under pressure.”

 

“Yuuri…”

 

The skater sighed shaking his head.  “I’ve got to work into my headspace for Nationals.  Just...let me skate.”

 

She frowned but nodded.  “Okay, Yuuri...I’m here if you need me.”  He watched her reluctantly leave.  I’m so hard on my friends.  It’s a wonder they stick around.






Andrei Nikiforov flashed his badge.  Not only was he a sponsor, but he was considered part of his son’s training team.  Blue eyes looked up as he approached, his own steely gray meeting them.  “Vitya,” he greeted.

 

“Papa!  You came!”  He called out from the ice, but stayed in position, waiting permission from his wizened coach first.

 

“I was able to rearrange my schedule.  You seemed distressed when we talked last on the phone.”

 

Victor sighed glancing towards Yakov who nodded and left them for a moment.  “It’s Makkachin.  She’s not doing well.  I’m...trying to decide what to do.”

 

“Regarding Makkachin?”  The older Nikiforov knew how important the poodle was to his son.  When they lost his wife, Victor’s mother, Tsilia, his son had trouble pulling out of his mourning.  Following the advice of a friend, he took Victor to the shelter to pick out the dog.  They took to one another and Victor slowly shook free although his skating programs that year had a melancholy ring to them.

 

Victor nodded slowly.  “Not just that...it feels like everything is up...like change is in front of me.”

 

The older man studied his son.  “This conversation sounds serious.  Let’s refocus on today’s event and we’ll talk after.”

 

“Thank you, Papa.”

 

As he later watched his son skate, he could tell something was weighing on him.  The movements were beautiful and his son still came out on top, but the tone of the song changed into something full of yearning and missed opportunity.  His son looked...lost.  Thinning his lips, he worried about him.   At twenty-seven, his son had seemed frozen in time for the longest.  Was he finally starting to thaw?

 




Father and son sat across from each other in the Moscow restaurant.  They were placed in a corner having asked for privacy when they entered.  Victor’s father regarded him, taking in the myriad of emotions on a face that was normally composed to the point of an eerie impassivity.  “What’s shaken you, son?”

 

Victor glanced around before turning back to his father.  “It’s just...I’ve met someone.”

 

Andrei shifted forward.   This is something new.  “And who are they?”

 

“Another skater...it’s just...I don’t know if he remembers.  He was drunk.”

 

Andrei’s eyes sharpened on the young man before him.  “Vitya, you didn’t…”

 

“Oh, no no no, Papa.  You raised me to be a gentleman.  I’d never...”  Victor dropped his eyes and studied the hands folding and unfolding the napkin, smoothing the fabric into his lap.  “I made sure he made it to his room safely.  I...kissed him.  I’ve never...felt like this.  It’s like...I’m now acutely aware a part of myself is missing.”

 

The father studied his son.  “It was like that with Tsilia.  I watched her dance and as a sponsor, I attended a social event where she was present.  We talked.  We danced.”  The father laughed as the memory came to him, making him warm with it, “We danced so much.  Then I let her go.  The next weeks...it was like a hole opened up in my life...or maybe it was always there and I had just become aware of it.”

 

Victor took a deep intake of breath.  “That’s it exactly!”

 

“So...what do you want to do?”  Andrei knew exactly what his son would do, he only wanted to offer the young man a chance to say it out loud.

 

Victor frowned, his eyes lowering once more.  “I’m getting older...I don’t know.  The press keep asking me if I’m going to retire.  Makkachin...she’s getting older and not handling my separation so well.  I-I’m...considering it.  Retiring.”

 

Andrei took a drink from his wine glass, the red teasing his palet.  “It’s a big decision.  Then there’s the second decision...what will you do next?”

 

“I know...I want to live where I can be...open.  Like Uncle Anatoly and his partner.”

 

“So France?”  Andrei remembered having a similar conversation with his brother.  He knew when his son came out to him, it was only a matter of time.  His skating career merely delayed it.

 

Victor flicked his eyes downward.  “I was thinking...America?”

 

Then it all dawned on him.  “The boy...he’s from America?”

 

“He...lives there now.  He’s from Japan.”  Victor pulled out his phone and called up his social media profile.  “There’s not a whole lot out there on him.  He’s managed to remain lowkey.”  He passed his phone to his father who smiled appreciatively of the man that has caught his son’s eye.  “I’m...kind of envious of that.”

 

“Living with a high profile is a heavy burden.  But it also brought you bigger sponsors.”

 

“I feel like I’ve sold myself off bit by bit sometimes.”  Victor met his father’s eyes and saw the understanding in them.

 

“The fame...that ate away at your mother as well.  And she didn’t have near the notice as you.”

 

“If I go to America...what about you and Babulya?”

 

His father shrugged as if it were no big deal.  “Just like Anatoly...you visit.  I’ll visit you.  We’ll meet in France from time to time.  It will be different...but you’ve lived away from me since you were eighteen.  It’s just...a little further away.  And you’re twenty-seven, a man.  That’s to be expected.”  He wiped his hand on his napkin and laid it on the table.  “Honestly, I expected you to move away from here once you retired.  You can’t truly...be yourself in this country.  Go.  Be happy.  You have my support.”

 

“Thank you, Papa.”

 




Yuuri felt the weight of his defeat at the Grand Prix Final as he stared at the ice for Nationals.  He had Minako there to support him as well as his coach.  The blond kid with a shock of red hair was freaking out, he would catch the boy staring at him then blush, jump, and run.  Yuuri lacked the patience to deal with him.  “Be gracious,” Minako reminded him.

 

“I know...it’s just that his energy does weird things to my anxiety.”   And does he have to follow me constantly?

 

The ballet teacher narrowed her eyes as she considered her student’s words.  Celestino came up behind him though, his large hand rubbing circles on his back.  “Minami is just excited to see you,” Minako reminded him.  “He’s moving from Junior to Senior division and you are his idol.”

 

Yuuri frowned as he considered her words.  “Why?  I’m just...me.”   Probably because I’m the only one left.

 

Both his coach and Minako smiled at him warmly.  Ciao Ciao rolled his eyes.  “I tell him, Mina,” he says to her.

 

“I know...I’ve told him for years.”

 

Yuuri pouted as his eyes went from one to the other.  “I don’t...you guys!”

 

“Yuuri, you are the top figure skater in Japan...they even call you their Ace,” Celestino stated patiently.  “Therefore, it makes sense that the younger skaters, especially those in Japan, will look up to you.”

 

He peeked under his lashes towards the eratic youth.  “It’s still unnerving,” he huffed.  “And I don’t feel like I earned it, just...inherited it.”

 

Yuuri was the last to skate, leaving him time to watch the blonde.  He had to admit that the boy wasn’t bad.  He could eventually make it to the international level.  Then it settled on him.   Oh, I’m already there.

 

As he took his position on the ice, he waited for the music.  I’ve already skated this internationally.  I have even medaled with this program.  A calm confidence settled over him as the music set him in motion.  I know what I need to do.  I need to quit playing it safe.  Skate to music that pushes the envelope and let myself take chances.  He gave himself over to Endless Night, letting the story drive him into motion.  I’ve always been chasing after you, caught into an endless night, always in your distant shadow...reaching for you.  But I will show you.  Because you always wowed me.  You...are my aspiration.  And if chasing after you means I never catch you, so be it...because I need to drive towards you.  Even if I’m caught up in an endless night.

 

As he finished his free skate, he smiled.  He knew he’d clinched it.  He accepted his gold, even turning to congratulate the blonde standing on the silver.  “Thank you for giving me such strong competition,” he murmured.  “Never quit fighting.”

 

Minami’s excitement left the poor boy speechless.  Yuuri chuckled and redirected him to the cameras.  Afterwards, they faced the reporters.

 

“Mr. Katsuki, what can you tell us about the video released showing you skating to Victor Nikiforov’s free skate Stammi Vicino ?”

 

Yuuri’s lips parted in surprise and he felt the air leave him a moment as he searched for an explanation.  He’d skated it, working through the choreography, since the first unveiling, a private show for Phichit back in Detroit.  But Phichit knew better than to video it and would never had posted it.  Then he stilled.  Oh.  At Ice Castle.  The triplets.  He sought something to say in recovery.  Pasting on a smile, he responded, “I am always looking for something to push me forward.  Skating has a history of artist looking for inspiration in the music and performance of other skaters.  Look at Katarina Witt, always skating to music of others during warm up.”   Generic.  Good...that shouldn’t reveal too much.  Except...he knew that it did.  Witt did it to psych out her opponents, and it worked.  But the press, especially Morooka, would know he would never do such a thing.  So he only left them with a bigger question, why .




 

Back home, Yuuko pounded on his door.  “Yuuri!  I’m sorry!  I didn’t know they had recorded and posted it!”

 

Yuuri sat in the floor, lights off, staring into the darkness towards the opposite wall.   How can  I face Victor now?

 

He was in anxiety overload as his coach guided him onto the plane that would take him back to Detroit.  Yuuri never asked Ciao Ciao where he stayed when he came to Hasetsu.  He had his suspicions but he didn’t really want to know.   That’s their business.   His thoughts were still frozen at the reveal.  Ciao Ciao didn’t push.  He knew his skater too well.  Push at the wrong time, and Yuuri will only bury himself deeper.

 

In Detroit, Yuuri hid himself away, Vicchan the only one allowed to get close to him for the next few days.

Chapter Text


 

Applause

 

Yuuri emerged from his room three days later as a more pressing problem pushed through his anxiety—as money matters are wont to do.  Phichit came home to him running numbers for the budget.  “Are we going to run short?” his roommate asked.

 

Yuuri pursed his lips.  “I mean our rent is covered as well as our part of the utilities.  We just have to make up for Cody’s part.”  Yuuri scrawled the figure onto a paper, sliding it across the table.

 

Phichit frowned looking at the number and factoring in the deficits in his own budget to make up the funds.  “That much?”

 

Yuuri nodded grimly, “Each month until we find a roommate.”

 

“Perhaps if I call my parents.”  Phichit chewed his lip.  “They’d cover...my half.”  He flicked his eyes up a Yuuri.  He knew the Japanese skater didn’t have near the resources.

 

“I’ll figure something out,” Yuuri stated, his jaw tightening.

 

“Yuuri…”  The Thai man put his hand on Yuuri’s shoulder, searching his thoughts for some sort of alternative.

 

Yuuri, shrugging off the touch, stood up and marched down the hall.  “It’s fine,” he tossed over his shoulder.  Phichit pulled his hand to his chest, cradling it.  Yuuri was hard on his friends.




 

Stressed-out-Yuuri usually led to one of two Yuuris...skate-till-you-drop-Yuuri or dance-till-you-throw-up-Yuuri.  Since skating reminded Yuuri of other expenses and of a certain video posted online, he found his way over to the dance studio.  Walking in, he spied one of his favorite dance partners...and another ex-girlfriend.  “Jules, do you think you can set me up to teach a few extra classes this spring?”

 

She raised an eyebrow as she considered his request.  “You don’t have that kind of time, Yuuri.  What’s going on?”

 

Yuuri rolled his eyes and huffed in exasperation.  “Cody moved out and left his share of the expenses.  I can’t put this on my parents.”

 

Julia had known Yuuri since they started taking dance classes on campus his first year at Wayne State.  They dated off and on when between relationships, but they had settled into a comfortable friends-with-benefits sort of connection which slowly fizzled into an even more friends without benefits connection.  And although at the moment Julia was seeing someone, she was still among Yuuri’s closest friends.

 

The redhead chewed her nail thoughtfully.  “So...you need to make some extra cash.  I could get a gig for you.”

 

Yuuri’s eyes lit up, “Oh?  What do you have in mind?”  Had he not been so desperate, he would have heard the reservation in her voice.

 





Another week passed by, and Phichit noticed that the worry over money was replaced by a new kind of anxiety which he couldn’t shake out of Yuuri.  But when Yuuri told Phichit, “I have a date.  Don’t wait up!” he had hoped the Japanese man was coming free of it.

 

“Anyone I know?” Phichit inquired, his eyes glittering with anticipation.

 

“I don’t think so.  We met at the Student Union two days ago.”   Keep it simple.  Easier to believe, easier to remember.

 

“Well, keep it safe.  No glove, no love!” Phichit called after him.

 

Yuuri patted Vicchan just before he slipped out the door wearing jeans, sweater and coat, backpack strap thrown over one shoulder.  He jogged down to the corner where Julia met him.  Hopping in her car, she raised an eyebrow.  “You sure about this?”

 

“You said I can hide my identity with a mask.”

 

She reached back and grabbed a bag.  “Take your pick.  They prefer you wear a mask.  It plays into the image they try to project.”

 

Yuuri pulled the bag open surveying the myriad of masks.  “I can’t believe you got me a Saturday night set.”

 

“YOU got you a Saturday night set...you auditioned and they want you to give relief to Lola...and to offer a change up.  And you can sub in for her when she has to take time off.  Have you thought about your stage name?”

 

Yuuri smirked.  “I thought I’d play into American misconceptions and racist views...Geisha.”

 

Julia snorted.  “You’re a riot, Yuuri.”

 

In the dressing room, he slipped into his dancewear, pulling on a red and navy yukata over the top while he began applying his makeup.  Julia pulled the stool up in front of him, the eyeliner in hand helping him with the heavy line around his eyes.  The appearance he sought was beguiling, leaving them guessing his gender at first.  Of course, once the robe fell away, the imagination will face reality.  Spangled booty shorts and top that teased the shoulders but covered little in navy while hugging his masculine lines and suggesting femininity.

 

“Do you know what you are going to do out there?” She was finishing his lip gloss.

 

Yuuri rolled his eyes.  “I don’t think Swan Lake will do it here.”

 

She snorted.  “I think that’s a level of pole dancing that is beyond our aspirations.”

 

As Yuuri stepped on stage, the silver mask covering half of his face, teasing into his hair, he moved into position for the electronic music of the track he chose.  The club beat of Just Dance began its rhythm.  Had anyone ever gone clubbing with Yuuri, they’d probably recognize the dance style even with the incorporation of the dance pole.  Yuuri’s hypnotic movements drew in his audience and with the cover of the mask, he let himself fall away to the music, the pole becoming a mere extension of his body.  The choreography was ingrained in him, his enthralling gesticulation captivating.  Something about the mask, the anonymity, settled a confidence on him he lacked elsewhere.  Only one person here knew him and she was sworn to secrecy through the best kind of loyalty, mutual destruction.  He clung to that fact and let himself go.

 

Yuuri paid the excess in rent that night.




Textbooks abandoned for more important demands, Yuuri settled in next to Phichit, popcorn freshly popped, the European Figure Skating Championships tuned in ready to launch into the mens’ short programs.  As Yuuri leaned into Phichit’s space, the latter snapped a selfie.  #SkateTrash #EFSC #ShortProgram #YuuPhi

 

The fact that Yuuri was wearing his oversized Wayne State hockey jersey that may or may not have come from the week long post-finals destressing activities with the team captain and Phichit in a hamster onesie never occurred to them as questionable attire.

 





Across the ocean in Slovakia, Victor stood next to Chris in the holding room.  He felt an unusual tension, an uneasiness in his gut.  Chris turned to his friend with a raised eyebrow.  “What’s got into you?”

 

His eyes focused on the monitor waiting for his turn.  “I don’t know...Makkachin wasn’t acting herself when I left.  I just...I hope she’s okay.”

 

Chris knew if something happened to the poodle, it would be devastating to his friend.  Still, he asked the obvious question.  “Did you call and check on her?”

 

Victor made a face that suggested he’d, perhaps, called several times.  “Yes, Renata says that she’s okay.  Maybe I’m overreacting.”

 

Chris studied the silver haired man shifting back and forth on his feet.  Victor may be extra in a lot of ways but this was unusual behavior for him.  “You’re here...make the most of it.”

 

Victor nodded.  Easier said than done, but he closed his eyes and tried to recenter his thoughts.

 





In the living room in Detroit, two skaters watched the overseas competition with discerning eyes.  Yuuri’s eyes narrowed as Victor two footed a jump.  “Something’s wrong.”

 

Phichit tried to see what his friend discerned in the few moments of the feed.  “Something wrong with his skate?”

 

“I can’t tell...but something is definitely wrong.”

 

Victor finished the first day of skating in third.  In the interviews he pasted on a smile and told the press some bullshit about adjusted composition before Worlds that wasn’t as solid as he’d hoped.  Yuuri met Phichit’s eyes.  “That’s a lie.  His choreography hasn’t changed since the Final.”

 

“Do you think they’ll call him on it?”  They watched but the press left it alone, Chris jumping in and drawing the attention of the reporters as he finished in first.  “Chris has it under control.”

 

Yuuri nodded but his expression held a frown.  He reached for Vicchan, who curled up in his lap.  Hugging the poodle, he worried.

 





Victor stood next to his coach waiting for his turn at the free skate.  It was still far enough out that he had his phone and kept checking for messages.  Then it rang.  Renata.

 

“Victor!  I went to get Makkachin up for her walk and she just laid there refusing to move.  We’re at the vet’s office and she’s not eating and seems so listless.  I swear she was fine up until this point.”

 

Victor listened to the words of his sitter feeling the cold settle into him.   If I lose her while I’m so far away…

 

He immediately sought out his coach and poured out the news.  “Vitya, you’ve got to skate.  I can get you out of the other obligations but you must skate.”

 

“I could withdraw!  I’m done, Yakov.  Makka needs me!”  He could feel the panic seizing him.

 

The coach took a firm hold on Victor’s arms.  “Vitya, listen to me.  There is no way I’ll be able to get you on a flight this soon.  Even if I could, you are hours away from her.  Find your focus and skate.  You have a job to do.  Go out there and represent your club.”

 

Victor was shaking but out of the corner of his eye, he caught Yakov talking into his phone working on a flight for tonight or the following day.  The coach came to his side.  “Midnight.  Now skate...the rest will sort itself out.”

 

Victor tried to focus on the ice as he took his position, but everything kept coming in and out of sight.  His whole world was crashing down...how was he expected to skate?  His movements were automatic with the program but he could tell that the performance aspect was off.  He lacked the desire to tell the story.  His first jump was downgraded and he could hear the audience reaction even though he himself was insulated in his thoughts.   Makkachin, I’m sorry I’m not there for you.  I should have never left.

 

Then the skate was over.  He numbly waited for the scores in the kiss and cry, the numbers crossing the screen were...far too high for what he deserved.  He gave a derisive grunt.  If the scoring was fair, he would be twenty points lower at least.  Too many mistakes, too little feeling.  He met his coach’s eyes and knew he was right.

 

Walking through the press gauntlet once it was over, they crowded in.  “What do you think of your performance?”  “Are you considering retirement, Mr. Nikiforov?”  “Mr. Nikiforov, this is the first silver you’ve taken in five years.  Where do you go from here?”  Victor was pushing through the line but that question caused him to pause.  Silver.  Does that mean he’s finished?  Washed up?  He’s peaked and now on the downhill slide?

 

Victor pasted on his smile and turned back to the reporter.  “I have some amazing competitors out there.  And any given skate, something can go wrong.  I would be disappointed if they didn’t step up and take that gold.”

 

“What changed?”  He didn’t see the face the voice belonged to, but it cut through the chatter of the crowd and seemed to hit him.

 

“I…” he faltered, the mask slipping.  How does one explain the worry over such a long time companion?  It was Yakov who stepped in and pushed him through.  The reporters were hungry, but they fell away at the old coach’s glare.  He heard Chris step up in his wake.

 




The flight took just under two and a half hours but as Victor stared out the window, he could only see the distance between him and his dog.  When he arrived, he gave Lilia a thankful smile for coming in the dead of night to retrieve him.  “Yakov told me the news.  How are you?”

 

“I...suppose that depends on how Makkachin is holding up.”  He met her eyes with a sadness.  “It would kill me if she passed away and I wasn’t here for her.  I know she’s getting older.”

 

They drove straight to the vet.  Urgent Care greeted him and took him immediately back to Makkachin.  “She’s not eating.  It appears she ate something earlier that isn’t agreeing with her as it passes through her system.”

 

Victor stroked his chin then tapped his lip with his forefinger.  The silver haired man was meticulous about what he fed the beloved poodle and how much...however, she had a talent for stealing snacks.  And as adorable as she was, people readily fed her anything she used those soulful eyes to beg for.  He knelt before her cage and poked his fingers through the grate.

 

“You can open it, Mr. Nikiforov, as long as you’re here.”

 

Victor reached for the latch and the poodle spilled into his lap.  “What have you gotten yourself into?”

 

She panted and nudged up into his face licking him in greeting.  She still felt bad but was all the better with Victor there with her.  He heard the click of Lilia’s shoes and glanced up from the floor, preparing to rise.  She waved for him to remain where he was seated.

 

“I suppose you are staying,” she stated.

 

Victor nodded.  “I can’t leave her while she’s in distress.”

 

“Call me when you’re ready to be picked up.   I suppose your luggage can remain in the boot until then.”

 

“Thank you, Lilia.”  He stayed at the vet’s office through the rest of the night and into the morning when the poodle finally passed what was causing her distress.  By afternoon, a very tired owner and poodle climbed into the back seat of Lilia’s car.  The poodle stretched out across Victor’s lap even as he fought to keep his eyes open.  Soon both boy and dog were asleep.

 

At home, Victor prepared a very gentle meal for the dog and they slept.  This went on for the next two days.  Interspersed were calls to his father, continuing their earlier conversation.  He finally pulled out his phone after a restless nap and frowned when he spotted his name linked with a viral video.  Pulling it up, his eyes widened.  He watched Yuuri’s lithe movements as they flawlessly reproduced his program.  Even with quads downgraded to triples, he was...perfect.  He forwarded the link to Chris then called the other skater, putting him on speaker.  “Are you seeing this?”

 

“I would love to skate against that skater in competition.  Where do you think he’s been hiding?”

 

“I don’t know...but I intend to find out.”

 





When Yakov arrived, Victor knew he had a major decision to present.  As the coach sat across from him in his living room, Victor laid out his case complete with notes.  Yakov frowned as he considered his skater.  “Where is this coming from?  You haven’t talked about retirement before now.”

 

“There comes a point where I have to ask myself if it’s worth it.  I’ve laid myself out over and over again rebuilding myself each season.  But...there’s just not much of me left.  And I’d like to spend it my way.”

 

Yakov could appreciate what Victor felt, it was an inevitable outcome for all successful skaters.  He had only hoped that this one would last longer, “Vitya...you’ve got Worlds.”

 

“And I’ll see that through.  But after that...I’m retiring.  I’m done being the person everyone expects me to be.  I want...to be open to be myself.”  He had hoped Yakov caught his meaning, this was more than skate, this was a country at war with some of its people.

 

“Have you talked this over with your father?”

 

Victor nodded.  “Since Nationals.  He supports me in this.”

 

Yakov sighed, feeling the resignation of the words, “Where would you go?”

 

Victor’s eyes flicked down to his hands.  “I was thinking...America.  Detroit.”

 

The old coach’s eyes narrowed.  “This is about that Japanese boy you were mooning over during the Final.  You would walk away from your career over a one night stand?”

 

“It...wasn’t like that, Yakov.  We didn’t...I didn’t sleep with him.  I just...there is something there.  And...even if we just became friends, it’s a relationship I’d like to pursue.”  Victor watched Yakov from his position on the couch.  The coach grunted and Victor could tell he wasn’t happy.  “I considered not even competing in Worlds but...I hate to leave on a silver note.”

 

A lip lifted for just a moment before that frown returned.  “What will you do?”

 

“Take university classes...and maybe help coach.”

 

“You know nothing about coaching,” Yakov protested.  Victor had to bite down the comeback that jumped to his mouth.  For someone who knew nothing of coaching he was given a great deal of responsibilities that seemed awfully close.  Victor didn’t point out the number of training camps he assisted, the classes he taught single-handedly, the choreography he did for other skaters.  He didn’t mention that it wasn’t unusual for Victor to mentor more than one junior skater, creating entire programs and personas.  He held the old coach’s eyes until the old man relented.  “I could put in a call to Cialdini.  He may have a position available.  Have you started the process for attending university?”

 

Victor nodded.  “I need a sponsor.”

 

“Cialdini will sponsor you if he takes you on.  Get your paperwork in order.  And get your ass back at the rink so we can prepare for Worlds.  If you want to leave on gold, you need to get your ass back in order.”

 

Victor grinned.  “Yes, sir!”

Chapter Text


 

Let It Go

 

Victor spread tape over another box.  His acceptance letter arrived a week ago and he spent that week excitedly packing and planning this next phase of his life.  He communicated with the coach that would become his mentor as he explored coaching while attending university.  They had spoken using mostly email, but shared a few phone calls to solidify timelines.  Celestino Cialdini, or Ciao Ciao as he was affectionately referred to by his most unruly of skaters, proved very accomodating, only after the grilling Victor received over his reasons for coming to the States.  He sealed another box of possessions shut and thought about their first real conversation after Yakov had made the introductions.

 

“I need a place to be openly gay,” he stated.

 

The coach’s voice immediately filled with doubt.  “Uh huh... openly gay .  And who are you chasing?”

 

“I-I…” he stopped.  The coach wasn’t as ancient as his own coach but that didn’t make him any less discerning.  Victor inhaled deeply, praying the man would allow a vague answer.  “I would prefer to see how things played out...naturally.  I don’t think he remembers me.”

 

“You were the one that got Yuuri back to his room in Sochi,” the coach stated with certainty.

 

Victor drew in his breath and released it, a cold panic setting in.  “I didn’t take advantage, if that’s what you’re thinking, sir,” Victor pressed.  “I just made sure he made it back safely.  I...don’t think he remembers.”

 

Down the line Celestino snorted, “As drunk as he was, it’s highly doubtful.  But he didn’t appear worse for the wear.  Yuuri...is a special case.  He’s the protegé of someone important to me.  And I don’t want you to be a distraction.”

 

“Of course not, sir.  I am serious in my desire to assist you this season.  I’ve been involved with Yakov’s work for several years, teaching classes, mentoring junior skaters.  But he knows I can’t stay here.  I always intended to leave this country once I retired.”

 

After he had earned Celestino’s trust, Victor received videos sent to him for his critique.  The first, a junior skater about to transition to seniors.  Verity James.  She almost had a triple axel...and definitely possessed a lot of spunk.  The girl reminded him of Mila.  She was from Chicago and the coach was working out a scholarship for her so she could attend university while skating at the rink.  Standing barely five foot tall, she was a powerhouse with dark skin showing her African roots.  Three others came to him soon after.  Kate Lewis.  Jordan Sims.  Angela deLuca.  Kate still had a lot to learn.  He could tell she hadn’t been skating near as long as the others.  Jordan was nervous, his showmanship suffering for it.  He had the skill but not enough competition experience.  Angela, however, was poised and knew what she wanted.  She was a fighter.  

 

The follow up email introduced him to his first two students, Alicia and Verity.  Victor smirked.  Of course he wouldn’t get Yuuri.  He only had the slimmest hope that he’d get to work with the coach’s special case.  I’ll have to earn that one.  He smiled, welcoming the challenge.

 




Yuuri completed his last assignment just before he started packing up for Worlds.  He had finals to face on his return, but nothing else weighing on him.  He wrapped up his Research Methods course and turned in his paper for Brain and Behavioral Psych.  The nutrition course he took to fulfill his gen-ed requirements rounded out the lot.  Thankfully, his textbooks were on his phone and computer, allowing him to study without the bulk.

 

He looked up as Phichit fussed with his hamsters.  “I know you hate staying with Ashley but she takes good care of you.”  Yuuri resisted the urge to roll his eyes.  Ashley would stop by for both Vicchan and the hamsters when she got out of class.  Yuuri thinned his lips as he thought of one more detail.

 

Yuuri/ Andreia may try to get Vicchan while I’m gone.  I would prefer that she didn’t.

 

Ashley/ I can outbitch her any day.

 

Yuuri/ She just got all weird.  I mean, Vicchan is my dog.  I’ve had him since I was twelve.

 

Ashley/ I never did like her.  Don’t worry.  I have no problem saying no to her.

 

Yuuri/ Thanks.

 

Putting his phone away, he went back to grab his costume bag.  They had one hour before leaving, so he took the opportunity and attached the lead to Vicchan, giving him one more walk before they left.  Out in the dog park, he pulled out his phone and snapped a couple of shots...Vicchan and a butterfly make friends...Vicchan stuffs his nose in a buttercup and comes up with a yellow nose.  The poodle ran up to him sneezing and shaking all over.  Laughing, he dusted off the nose and gave the poodle a good scruff before heading inside.  

 

Parting and leaving the poodle behind was always the hardest part of competition.  Yuuri supposed he could understand Phichit’s reluctance.






Victor crated Makkachin, having arranged the last pickup of his belongings.  The poodle would travel with him to his final competition in Boston.  He was happy his father would be going as well.  “If this is indeed your last, I wouldn’t miss it!”

 

Maybe I can introduce him to my Yuuri.  He blinked at that thought.   Oh...he’s not my Yuuri...yet.  And he couldn’t tell Yuuri of his plans in advance as he, Yakov, Celestion, all agreed to wait until Victor arrived in Detroit to announce him coming on board as an assistant coach.  He would announce his retirement, hopefully, with his exhibition skate.

 

Andrei offered to watch over the beloved poodle while he skated.  They even arranged for a pass for her.  “This is an important event, Makka.  Daddy’s going to retire.  That means more time with my girl!  Yes it does!”  The poodle tapped her tail languidly in response.  Victor could see the calming medication working on the poodle as she settled in to sleep.






Boston - World Figure Skating Championships, March 28-April 3, 2016

 

Yuuri stood with Phichit while their coach sorted out their rooms.  Turning, Yuuri’s eyes widened.  “Phichit, there he is!” he hissed, patting at Phichit to demand his attention.  “And he brought Makkachin!”  The Thai man, true to form, turned camera ready and snapped a candid shot worth a mint of the figure skating icon.  

 

Victor stood talking to an older man with a darker shade of platinum blonde hair, mustache and dark glasses.  Both were elegantly attired and didn’t look any worse for the wear after traveling across an ocean.  Yuuri knew he wouldn’t arrive so well turned out.  “Who do you think that is with him?”

 

Phichit frowned as he considered the options.  “Maybe a choreographer?  Or sponsor?”

 

Yuuri frowned, looking at the comfortable familiarity the two shared.  There was a close connection between them, something familial.  “I thought maybe his father...but that sounds so prosaic.”

 

“Well he does have his dog with him and the dog seems familiar and comfortable with the old man.”

 

“Phichit!  You’ve seen pictures of Makkachin!  That dog is comfortable with complete strangers.”  As if on cue, the dog broke out of Victor’s hold and dashed across the hotel.  Yuuri, quite used to such antics from his own poodle, dropped down, whistling to catch the dog’s attention.  The dog paused then turned to run up to him.  He laughed as he caught the kisses from the poodle.  “Well, hello to you, too,” he greeted.

 

Yuuri wasn’t watching the owner or he would have caught the stuttered look of unabashed love.  Phichit caught it, though, and it piqued his curiosity.  Victor leaned in to speak to the man standing next to him then walked their direction.  Kneeling down, he murmured, “Hello, Yuuri.  Thank you for capturing my wayward darling.”

 

Yuuri, dazed, looked up in the startling blue of Victor’s eyes.  “Oh...umm...I...how did you know my name?”

 

Victor’s expression showed a realization dawning on him and he glanced up at Phichit with a nervous smile.  “We spoke at the banquet,” he supplied.  “But perhaps you don’t recall.  You were having a difficult evening.  Allow me to introduce my family.  Of course you’ve met my Makkachin.  And this is my father, Andrei Nikiforov.”

 

Yuuri’s lips parted in surprise.  He stood up from the dog and offered a bow then a hand to shake the man’s hand.  “It’s...nice to meet you.”

 

“The pleasure is mine,” the older man responded, and Yuuri felt himself shrink back a little under the assessing gaze, his eyes dropping shyly.

 

“This is my...umm...roommate Phichit,” Yuuri introduced once he recovered his manners.

 

“It’s nice to meet you.  I look forward to skating against both of you.”  He reached down to pat the poodle then offered a warm smile, “Now if you’ll excuse me, I think what she’s demanding is a trip outside.”

 

“Oh...of course.  It’s good to...me..talk to you...again,” Yuuri smiled nervously and then watched the two men depart with the poodle.  Turning to Phichit, he said, “I talked to Victor Nikiforov.  THE Victor Nikiforov!”

 

Phichit laughed turning his friend back to their coach who was headed their way with key cards.  “I heard.”

 

“No...the other day...what if he was...no, he couldn’t be…”

 

Phichit’s gaze narrowed.  “Yuuri Katsuki, are you keeping secrets from me?”

 

Yuuri felt himself starting to doubt his hopes, only recently born.  “No...I don’t know...is it a secret if you don’t know the details?”

 

“Oh, god...this is another inebriated tale for the Yuuri files.  Let’s get you up to our room and then you are going to spill.”

 

As Yuuri tripped along behind his best friend, he protested, “There’s really nothing to tell...at least, I don’t think there is...I...can’t exactly remember.”

 

“That’s how these stories always begin,” Phichit responded.  “Tell me what you know and I’ll see what I can piece together.”

 

In their room, Yuuri took off his shoes by the door and then crawled into the middle of his bed missing Vicchan and feeling jealous that Victor brought Makkachin.  “He never brings Makkachin,” Yuuri murmured.  “Not since she’s gotten older.”

 

“Well, there was some social media chatter that said Makkachin was taken to Urgent Care during the European Championship.”

 

Yuuri sat upright, understanding written on his face, “Oh...that’s what shook him up that night.”

 

Phichit easily saw through the distraction, “So...spill...what do you remember?”

 

Yuuri frowned.  “It’s not him...surely it’s not him…”

 

“I don’t know...what do you recall?”

 

“Lots of champagne.  Dancing.  I think a pole, but that can’t be right.  And kisses.”  Yuuri’s fingers strayed to his lips with that last word.  “Someone kissed me, but I woke up alone.  It felt like...a part of me was missing and I didn’t know who stole it away.”

 

“So they were in your room?”

 

Yuuri nodded slowly, searching the blurry memories of that night for any flashes of clarity.  “I think...they were making sure I made it there alright.”

 

“And did you find any clues left behind?”

 

Yuuri frowned shaking his head.  “Only a sapphire cufflink left behind.”

 

Phichit began rummaging his thoughts.  Banquet antics were kept from the press.  Still, he knew a few people he could contact.  Namely, Chris.  Both known to be Victor’s best friend and also a bit of a mischievous matchmaker himself.

 

“Go, take a shower, Yuuri.  I’ll puzzle this out while you sleep.”

 

Ten minutes later, Yuuri was curled up on his bed, the lights dimmed.  Phichit sat propped up in the next bed, his phone open.  “It couldn’t possibly be him, Phichit.  I’d remember, wouldn’t I?”

 

“Don’t stress yourself over it.  Get some rest.”  As Yuuri’s breathing evened out, he opened the chat app.

 

Peach/ Spill!  What do you know?

 

Chris/ There’s a lovely face.  Why don’t you join me for drinks...and we can talk…

 

Phichit looked over at his best friend.  Drinks with Chris rarely meant just drinks but he needed to know...and Chris...he could be entertaining.




Victor watched the boy shy away from him once more.  He learned from Chris that Yuuri had anxiety, and he didn’t want to disrupt his headspace.  He wanted to see the boy in the videos.  After seeing Yuuri skate his program, Victor made a study of the boy’s skating.  He watched video after video.  Victor watched as Yuuri created such music with his movements but the Russian could see the anxiety in the movements when in competition.  He could imagine the pressure Yuuri put on himself.  Victor knew that pressure, knew all too well the drive to win.

 

He watched Yuuri push through his short program.   Not his best but he’ll at least land in the top ten.  Chris watched as well.  “He’s got so much potential,” the Swiss man murmured.

 

“I want to see him pull that out in the open.  How to get him out of his head...that’s the real question.”

 

“So no vodka,” Chris smirked.

 

Victor felt his lip quirk up at the suggestion.  “As tempting as it is, I wouldn’t want to hurt him.  I just...want to see him skate the beautiful programs I know he can skate.”

 

For Victor’s final short program, he pulled one final trick from up his sleeve, something new.  Something to shake the image of Victor Nikiforov, one last reinvention...this one the truest to reality.  As Lana Del Rey’s words filled the arena, everyone’s eyes fell upon the man wearing the looser stylings of the zoot suit jacket from the 1920s American prohibition era.  His heart cried out the question, not to the audience but to one man.   Will you still love me when I’m no longer in the spotlight, as my beauty fades, and only what’s inside remains, moy solnyshko, my little sun?

 

He knew the new program would shock the audience.  He knew it would shake the press who were already planning his retirement.   You don’t get to decide, he thought defiantly.   I’m going out on my own terms.  The press would be rewriting their questions, asking him if this is what they can expect for next season, a teaser, so to speak.   And I’ll mislead you, not lying but not revealing the truth.  Not until the end.   He would skate Stammi Vicino for his free skate as originally planned.  The program tied him to his future, to his...Yuuri.  The only one who dared to answer his question, his call...in a shared language so few knew.

 




Yuuri watched from the sidelines, and in the happy foxtrot, he heard the sorrowful notes.   He’s saying goodbye.  They don’t see it, they don’t hear it.  He’s slipping away from all of you and you don’t even see it.  A tear slid down his cheek.  

 

He cleared the waterworks off of his cheeks, pasted on a smile and turned to face the press.  “Mr. Katsuki, you finished today’s competition in fourth.  What do you have planned for tomorrow?”

 

Yuuri offered his shy smile, almost his signature.  “I plan to skate tomorrow...hopefully my heart and soul will come through.”

 




In the room he shared with Phichit, Yuuri pulled out his costume for tomorrow.  It wasn’t...what he planned to wear.  Running his fingers along the silken black costume that suggested lingerie in its cut,  he knew the program he had in mind.  He had already told his coach about the last minute change.  Ciao Ciao discouraged it.

 

“At the last minute?  Yuuri...this isn’t you.”

 

“Maybe it’s time I take some chances.  And...I think in the back of my mind, I planned this.  I’ve brought the other costume.”

 

The coach was ready to bargain, but not give in on the free skate.  “Maybe for an exhibition...Yuuri.  What’s got into you?”

 

He shrugged.  “I’m in the mood to kick a little ass.  Fix it, Ciao Ciao.”  And there it was, that flirty Yuuri that could get whatever he wanted from pretty much any man, gay or otherwise.

 

As the memory of the conversation slipped past him, he fingered the mask.  It began with playing around on the ice three months ago.  After he started dancing at Incognito .  Phichit loved it.  “Show us that Yuuri sass!”  And he did...and the program that developed pushed the envelope.

 




Yuuri skated to the left of center, the makeup creating the mask he mimicked forming a part of his disguised.  He heard the whistles, he felt their eyes on him.  He cast a smoldering gaze over his shoulder.  As the music kicked off, he started with a snap of his finger.  Skating into a flirtatious sequence, he drew the eyes, to his hands, fingers snapping with the music, the audience joining in, his hips grabbing the tone.  The first jump, a quad toe loop, landing with confidence on the ice.  He knew that sound, that solidity.  He skated back into the music, letting it take him.  Moving into his next jump, a triple, double combination.  He pushed hard into the program.  His every movement demanded they watch him, demanded he watch him.  And he knew to the fiber of his being that he held every man and woman’s attention.  Moving into a spin sequence, he imagined the pole, his body answering the eyes that followed his movements.  A jump.  A step sequence. And then another quad toe loop.  He finished his eyes over his shoulder once more, hand on ass, holding a count of ten before breaking persona.

 

The audience roared.  He skated a lap picking up a stuffed poodle along the way.  Coming to the break leading into the kiss and cry, he accepted his guards, stepping off the ice with a smirk in place.  His eyes searched the skaters.  He knew Victor had to get ready for his warm up once the ice was cleared as part of the final three but then he caught the blue eyes, holding his gaze, Yuuri wasn’t sure about the emotion he saw within them.  Victor then took the ice with Chris and Otabek to warm up.

 

His scores placed him firmly in first.  He shivered with excitement next to his coach.  “I don’t know what’s gotten into you, Yuuri, but keep it up,” the coach laughed.  

 

Phichit soon joined him as they exited the kiss and cry to watch the final three skaters.  Leaning in, he whispered in Yuuri’s ear, “That was hot, Yuuri.  Victor couldn’t keep his eyes off of you.”  Yuuri blushed but kept quiet, his eyes trained on the ice.   That was the point.  If this is Victor’s last competition, then let’s make it count .

 

The change paid off as the final scores went up and Yuuri held onto the silver...by less than a point’s difference.  He gasped.  It wasn’t gold but...he made podium next to Victor.  Chris slipping down to bronze.  As those two skaters found him, they both asked, “When did you put that program together?”

 

Yuuri shrugged.  “It...was just something I started putting together after Nationals.  It just...felt ready.”

 

“I may have to relinquish my sex on ice title to you, prince Yuuri,” Chris declared with an exaggerated bow.

 

Yuuri blushed, his eyes dropping.  Victor reached out and grabbed his chin.  “Oh, no you don’t.  You don’t get to play shy after a program like that.  Own it.”

 

In the press conference that followed, both of his podium mates bolstered him.  Then they were joined by Phichit and a few other skaters.  Food, and socializing and Yuuri didn’t know when they all separated to sleep.  He had an exhibition to put together for tomorrow, though...and didn’t know to what he was going to skate.

 

He stared at his phone...thinking through his options, considering what he brought to wear.  Phichit woke up the next morning to find Yuuri sitting in the middle of the floor, a suit laid out and a notebook in hand.  “What’s going on?”

 

“I don’t have an exhibition prepared.  So…”  He pulled his earpiece out and offered it to Phichit.  The Thai man closed his eyes and Yuuri could see the affect the music had on the younger man.

 

“It’s mournful...soulful.”

 

“I was struck by something in Victor’s short program.  I think...I want to reflect that.  So I thought...white shirt untucked, waistcoat, black bowtie undone?  I have my black skate pants.

 

Phichit nodded with approval.  “Perfect.”

 




Yuuri moved onto the ice.  He’d worked out the loose choreography with his coach and Phichit earlier, incorporating bits and pieces from other songs Yuuri had skated to in the past...some his own, and others borrowed from skaters in the past including a nod to Stammi Vicino.  As the song began its sad tone, he moved into the love story.  It was...an open invitation, as he reached out to the dream.   He’ll never answer it...but if I don’t ask…

 

As Yuuri left the ice, he passed Victor at the barrier.  Their eyes met for just a moment before Yuuri looked away.  

 

He turned to watch Victor skate, the opening notes confirmed his suspicions.  He looked up as Chris came to his shoulder.  “He’s retiring, isn’t he?”

 

The lonely figure skating in the shadows wearing...nothing but solid black.  His movements waving his soft so long to the crowd.  He offered one jump, a quad flip, solitary and lonely like the figure on the ice.  He closed the song drawing his figure in.  Ending with a bow.

 

He was met with silence as it set into the audience.  Chris and Yuuri exchanged a look and then Yuuri lifted his hands and began to clap.  This was soon joined by others and soon they were standing.  Victor breathing as he turned slowly on the ice, unaware or not caring that his cheeks glistened with tears.  With a wave, he finally skated to the barrier.  Meeting Yuuri’s eyes, he smiled before accepting his guards from Yakov and heading off.  They had a press conference where he would officially announce his retirement.

 

Yuuri barely made an appearance at the banquet.  Enough to say hello and shake hands with his sponsors.  Chris and Phichit both tried to draw him out but...there was someone noticeably absent.  Someone who no longer had to kiss asses, no longer had to charm sponsors.  For once, he was free.   Where would he be?  Dinner with his father perhaps?  Maybe a farewell to Yakov who was also absent for the moment although Yuuri spotted him later.  As the obligations were fulfilled, Yuuri slipped away, his heart heavy, broken.   I’m glad I was here...but...I hate to see you leave the ice.

Chapter Text


 

Knockin’

 

Yuuri, unshowered and still in his pajamas, curled up around Vicchan with trash TV buzzing in the background unnoticed.  The coffee table was littered with notes, highlighters, pens and pencils.  Somewhere buried underneath, a half-eaten pizza revealed the sins of the previous evening.  It was noon and Yuuri still hadn’t made it past bleary.

 

Phichit had already been out and was back humming about the apartment.  He poked his head into the shared living space and asked, “Do you know when coach is stopping by with the new roommate he’d like us to consider?”

 

Yuuri stared blankly at Phichit.  Words.  Blinking a few times, they finally processed and he found an answer.  Thankfully, Phichit was used to this aspect of Yuuri.  Jetlag!Yuuri was not the most conversational.  “I think tomorrow?”

 

“Good!  Plenty of time to clean before he arrives.”  Phichit made sure his voice was full of exuberance, half to motivate Yuuri and the other half reserved to annoy.

 

Yuuri groaned although he had no excuse.  The apartment just needed a quick once-over and their study montage sorted.  He laid back, the poodle crawling up into him settling with a huff at the disturbance.  Phichit rolled his eyes.  “How about I take care of the rest of the apartment and you get the study zone and the bathroom you’ll share with him?” he suggested.

 

“Fine!” Yuuri mumbled, his arm going across his eyes dramatically.  Jetlag!Yuuri could sometimes be petulant.

 

“Did Ciao Ciao say anything about him?” Phichit asked coming back into the room.

 

Yuuri peaked under his arm.  Really, it was half glare, but his roommate remained unfazed.  Yuuri moods didn’t affect the cheery Thai.  “Only that he skates.  And he has a dog.”

 

Phichit thought for a moment, then nodded to himself, “So really it’s more about the two dogs getting along.”

 

“And no roommate disaster.”  They both glanced at the door that once held Cody.

 

Phichit shuddered, tearing his eyes away from the door. “Well, Cody played hockey...so maybe?”

 

Yuuri was not convinced that playing hockey constituted a messy roommate, however Cody was obviously hoping to prove that theory.  Yuuri had dated hockey players...well, player...singular...but, he was the captain of the team.  Devryn was far from messy.  “We’re supposed to show him around campus and help him figure out college.  So I guess he’s a new freshman.”

 

Phichit’s eyes lit up.  “So a baby roommate!” he squealed excitedly.  Having roomed with Yuuri since seventeen, he was used to being the baby.  Cody was a year older than him.

 

Yuuri shrugged.  He honestly didn’t know anything else.  At some point in the midafternoon, Yuuri finally stirred from his cocoon and slumped into the bathroom.  Vicchan trailed after him, curling up on Yuuri’s clothes as he shed them into the floor.  Yuuri crawled into the shower and let the steam of the hot water work out the kinks of his body.  He emerged and dressed, gathering laundry and bringing it to his room to sort out with his travel laundry.  Vicchan stayed on his heels as he moved from room to room working through his portion of the chore list.  Phichit really did make it easy on him.  He smiled appreciatively at the Thai man, who now sat at the bar going over his notes for his first final.

 

“When do you test?”

 

Phichit glanced up for a moment, his eyes going to the ceiling as he mentally brought up his schedule.  “Nine...you?”

 

“Noon.  Ciao Ciao texted and said he’d be by with the new roommate at three.”

 

“Good.  I have a study group at six tomorrow.  Music theory.”

 

“You would think our skating would cover our humanities credits,” Yuuri said with an eyeroll.  It wasn’t a hard class for either of them.  They both had a music background and could play an instrument or two.  However, the final involved some music identification.  Yuuri recalled booking the music lab with a group the semester he took the course.  They made a game out of it.  Name That Tune...bonus points to the one who got the composer, first and last name.  Of course, at some point, drinking became involved.  He was thankful he made that final.

 




Just before three, Yuuri arrived back at the apartment after his final.  Phichit was downstairs talking with a classmate when Yuuri waved on his way past the pair.  He wanted to walk Vicchan before the possible roommate stopped in.  Hopefully it would go well and the financial stress would be lifted from their shoulders.  Ciao Ciao had told them that this new roommate could well afford his part of the rent and would likely pay for the next term up front.

 

Downstairs, he stood with Vicchan in the corner designated for dogs.  As he watched the approaching figure, he inwardly groaned.  “Hi, Yuuri!” she called out cheerily.

 

“Andreia,” Yuuri responded with a forced smile.  “How are you today?”

 

A serpent’s smile crept to her too-red lips.  “I’m great!  Hey, can I borrow Vicchan today?”

 

“Ummm, no.  He’s meeting our new roommate and I want to see how they do together.”  Not that I need an excuse to say no.  Yuuri kept a pleasant smile on his face.  He watched hers turn into a pout at not getting her way.

 

“Well, okay.” She bent down and scruffed Vicchan behind the ears.  To dog’s credit he responded with disinterest...rare for the poodle.  “I just thought...you know, a pleasant walk across campus.  But...that’s okay.”

 

Yuuri watched the dog consider the ground with more interest than he did the girl.  “You know, there are plenty of dogs available at the shelter.”

 

Her eyes widened and Yuuri smirked inwardly.   Of course not.  Then you’d have to do the baths, potty runs in the middle of the night, cleaning up pee, worrying about fleas, the endless vet bills, all of what went into taking care of a dog 24-7.  “I don’t think my landlord would allow it,” she hedged.  Yuuri knew otherwise.  He had several friends in that building and had noticed a number of dogs and cats.

 

He gave her a forced smile, standing and clicking his fingers.  Vicchan came immediately to heel next to him.  “If you’ll excuse me, I need to go.”  Forced politeness gave her no choice but to back off unless she meant to follow him inside.  He could see her deliberating the idea.   What is her deal?

 

“Oh, okay.  Well, I guess maybe next time.”  She reluctantly left.

 

Yuuri watched her leave with a narrowed gaze.  Not if I can help it.  Of course, another part of him said, you should just say no.  As he watched her retreating figure, he worried if he’d have to do that.  He hated confrontation.

 




Inside the apartment, he hung Vicchan’s lead on the hook by the door.  The small poodle ran over to his pillow and curled up into a little ball.  Running his fingers through his hair, he turned to face Phichit.  “I think I need to splash water on my face.”

 

“Everything alright?” Phichit asked, discerning amber eyes focusing in on him.

 

“Andreia,” was all he said as he retreated down the hall.  In the bathroom, he felt the water slosh against his face, the cold shock pulling him out of his head, and pulled a hand towel.  Drying his face, he studied his reflection.   Nothing extraordinary.  Common brown eyes, black hair, a bit soft around the edges.  Perhaps the pizza was a bad idea.

 

He was still deliberating when he heard the doorbell followed by Phichit’s “Oh. My. God.  Yuuri!  You better get out here!”  He could hear the alarmed excitement in his roommate’s voice and hastily finger combed his hair into some idea of order.

 

Yuuri came out of the bathroom and took two steps into the shared space before he froze, his eyes widening.  There stood his coach, as calm as a cucumber, with presumably their new roommate...none other than THE Victor Nikiforov.   No, there must be some kind of mistake!  Yuuri’s mind screamed.  Finally, his feet found their way to move further into the space.  “Wh-why are you here?”

 

The man before him smiled warmly, and Yuuri remembered it from the time spent in his presence at the Worlds.  He was gracious then, and away from the press and officials, more genuine.  This was that Victor, standing before him.  The heart shaped mouth took on a soft smile, “Well, I kind of retired.  Then my coach...Yakov...he arranged for me to come here and train under another coach.”  He stopped then considering his words, he added, “As an assistant coach, that is.”

 

Ciao Ciao watched the three men with amusement.  His expression easily read this is going to be interesting.  “Victor will be working with a couple of new skaters while taking classes.  He’ll also fill in when I travel with skaters working in between classes.  I know you both have the lay of the land and won’t have any trouble orienting our friend here.”

 

“Umm, I brought Makkachin.  I hope that’s okay.”  Uncertainty looked odd on Victor, his confidence fading in the unfamiliar setting.  Yuuri noticed at that moment, the less sincere façade moved in to cover his features.   Ah, a defense mechanism.

 

“Of course,” Phichit answered.  “Yuuri has Vicchan, and I have my hamsters.”

 

The poodle bounced up at the mention of his name, now curious about the visitors but heeling to his master with a snap of his fingers.

 

Victor’s façade dropped at the sight of the poodle, and he fell onto his knees.  “Ah, what an adorable baby!” he exclaimed.  Looking up to Yuuri for permission, the Japanese man recovered his shock enough to nod.  Then Victor was in the poodle’s space scruffing his curls and cooing.  The poodle sniffed all over him and then was in his lap, tail wagging a mile a minute.

 

“I think Vicchan approves,” Yuuri responded gruffly.

 

“Would you like a tour?” Phichit invited.  Victor stood up nodding eagerly.  Phichit led the way, a shaken Yuuri trailing behind.  “This, of course, is the main living space.  We trade off chores and cooking responsibilities.”  He guided Victor down the hall and pushed open the bathroom.  “You’ll have to share the bathroom with Yuuri.”  Victor peered inside at the basic bathroom, clean and functional.  “And this is your bedroom.  We had it cleaned after...our last roommate moved out.”  Phichit failed at hiding the shiver that went through him.

 

Victor stepped inside to get the feel of the room.  Yuuri stepped in behind him, his eyes lowering shyly.  “I guess it’s...not as nice as you’re used to.”

 

Victor turned a charming smile his direction.  “No, it’s fine.  As long as I have space for my Makkachin and am close to work and the university, it will be fine.”  Then his expression relaxed revealing some vulnerability.  “I was nervous about moving here on my own.  Familiar faces will make it easier.”

 

Returning to the living room, the coach asked, “Should I arrange for your things to be brought over?”

 

Victor nodded.  “The airport may call you when Makkachin arrives.”  Turning to the others, he explained, “She ended up on a later, more direct flight.  Less transition in the transfer.”

 

“Let’s get you settled, then,” Phichit declared warmly.  The coach ducked out and within an hour, some of Victor’s belongings arrived.  Yuuri and Phichit helped him to unpack.  Victor was studying the IKEA instructions for the bed while Yuuri organized the pieces.  Phichit slipped away leaving them alone to attend the study session.

 

“It’s finals week,” Yuuri explained.

 

“Am I keeping you from studying?” Victor asked with concern.

 

Yuuri shook his head.  “My next exam isn’t for another couple of days.  Let’s stay up and get you settled first.”

 

Victor smiled in appreciation.  Soon they were working together to get the bed assembled, followed by a dresser and desk.

 




At nine, the bell rang, and Victor excitedly greeted his Makkachin.  “Come!  Let’s look at your new home!”

 

The dog boofed in greeting and followed Victor.  She paused as the smaller poodle came out of Yuuri’s room where he hid during the chaos of moving.  They mutually sniffed one another then Vicchan was bouncing around excitedly.

 

“Maybe we should take them out,” Yuuri suggested, affection coming through his voice.  “I’ll show you where we go.”  He reached for a jacket and slipped on a pair of flip flops.  Victor grabbed the leashes and soon they were walking down the hallway.  “One of my friends, Ashley, lives on this floor.  She’s going to school to be a veterinarian and she trains service dogs.  She’s the one that watches Vicchan for me when we are all traveling.  Otherwise, Phichit and I trade off with the each other.  I’ll introduce you tomorrow.”

 

“What does she charge?” Victor asked.

 

Yuuri shrugged.  “If I can get her to take it, ten dollars a day.  She’s bad about sneaking it back to me.”

 

Victor’s eyes widened.  He paid much more for the care of his Makkachin.  Still, if she’s good with dogs, he’d be more comfortable…and with her staying with a vet in training, that played into her favor.

 

As they walked downstairs, Victor was thankful it wasn’t a highrise.  Even if the elevators didn’t work, it was only a couple of flights of stairs.  Yuuri guided them to the lawn.  “There’s bags over there to clean up after them.”

 

He and Victor sat companionably on the benches, a street lamp dimly lit the area.  Finally, Yuuri broke the silence.  “So why...here?”

 

Victor frowned, unsure how much to reveal.  Finally, he said, “I’m gay...and in Russia, that means I have to...keep quiet about it.”

 

Yuuri studied the dogs as they sniffed around the space and worked out his next words.  “Here...you sometimes encounter that, but for the most part we can be open.  So you come here to the States so you can be openly gay.”

 

Victor nodded, but he knew Yuuri would dig further.

 

“And...Detroit?”

 

“Well, I knew you went to the university and skated while living here.  So Yakov made a call.  Then I interviewed over the phone with your coach.”

 

“Sooo...a place with a familiar face,” Yuuri assumed.

 

Victor glanced his direction.  He decided to let that assumption lay in place.  “Yes, something like that.”

 

“Why...did you retire?”

 

His eyes fell on Makkachin.  “I was afraid...I didn’t want Makkachin to pass away with me being so far.  She doesn’t handle my travel so well.  Older poodles...they become very stressed when their humans are too far away.  So...I retired.”

 

A smile touched Yuuri’s lips, softening his expression under the dim street light.  “You retired for your dog,” he whispered.

 

Victor shrugged.  “Well, yeah.  It seemed the only option.”

 

Yuuri glanced up at him, that soft expression still in place.  “The only option whatsoever.”

 

Victor grinned, glad that someone understood him, glad that Yuuri understood him.

 

As night fell, Victor studied his new surroundings.  He still more unpacking to do, but he had a bed, and the rest of his furniture was assembled.  It wasn’t the luxury he was used to, but he wanted to blend in.  He knew the other two skaters lived on a skimpier budget.   I’ll adjust, he told himself.  Still, he had watched Yuuri and Phichit chat while washing dishes that evening after Phichit prepared the meal.  Yuuri followed up by sweeping the floor.  They worked so cohesively together and Victor...he didn’t know how he would fit in the process.  He wrapped himself around Makkachin and stared out the window towards the moon.   This is my new home.

Chapter Text


 

And why do you have a marble bust?

 

Victor’s internal clock adjusted quickly and he rolled out of bed just before dawn.  He stepped out of his room and frowned, uncertain how to conduct himself now that he had roommates.  Only light snoring came from Yuuri’s room.  He slipped on his shoes and a jacket approaching the door.  Makkachin waited patiently but was definitely ready to go out.  Slipping the key off the hook and his phone in his pocket, he opted for a walk.

 

Finding campus turned out to be the easy part.  It was situated on a hill only a few blocks from the apartment he shared with the boys.  He walked along the edge until he spied a shop that looked promising.  Inside, he was gifted with a number of coffee and tea choices as well as breakfast treats.  He settled on a tea but they gave him an odd look when he requested jam.  Adding in a bagel with cream cheese, he moved to a table outside where Makkachin had waited patiently so the two could watch the world around them wake up.

 

The sun rose and painted the sky in purples, slowly fading into pinks.  He smiled as the sunrise always gave him his favorite shades.  The traffic picked up both on the street and along the sidewalk.  People hurried to get to work or class, the line growing long in the shop making Victor appreciate arriving before sun up.  He made a mental note that he would always be early for this shop.  Standing, he turned to head home before he realized that he wasn’t quite sure where home was.  He typed in his address to the GPS but it wasn’t much help.  Frowning, he considered his options when his phone dinged.

 

Phichit/ Hey, I was going to see if you wanted to go for a jog but I see you’re out.

 

Victor/ Everyone was still asleep and I didn’t want to disturb you.

 

Phichit/ Where are you?

 

Victor frowned at that question.  He honestly couldn’t say beyond the obvious.  In fact, he wasn’t certain how to get home from his location.

 

Victor/ I’m not quite sure?  At a bagel shop near the university.

 

Phichit/ Bagel shop?  Snap me a picture.

 

Victor sent a picture of his surroundings and the shop itself.

 

Phichit/ I know right where you’re at.  Stay put. I’ll drag Yuuri out of bed and we’ll join you.

 

Victor/ I will.  Thank you.

 

It was another half hour before the other two crested the hill and headed towards him.  Yuuri went inside to get a coffee and Phichit took Vicchan’s lead, joining Victor at the table.  “He’s not conversant before nine,” Phichit explained.

 

“I was restless.  I normally took Makkachin for a morning walk before returning home to get my skate gear.  Then I biked to the rink.  The ice was usually empty and I could work on choreography.”

 

Phichit smiled in understanding, Victor had a nice schedule back in Russia, it revolved entirely around him. “Since your students will be in college, you’ll be working around their and your schedule.”

 

“They won’t be here for another couple of weeks, although I’ve already been talking back and forth with them and they’ve sent me video.”

 

Victor looked up as a shadow crossed over them and watched as Yuuri collapsed in the opposite chair, his face and arm sprawling across the table.  It wasn’t the most graceful of moments but pulled a smile from the Russian.  “Good morning, Yuuri,” he greeted.

 

Yuuri raised a couple of fingers in a half wave.  Phichit smirked as he snagged his latte from the other man.  “That’s pretty good for a morning Yuuri.”

 

The droopy Japanese man peered up through his bangs, huffing to knock it out of his face.  “I have no class and early practice is optional until after finals.  Why are we awake?”

 

“Not everyone’s a night owl,” Phichit pointed out.

 

“I’m rather glad you’re here,” Victor added glancing around.  “I’m not sure if I would have found my way back.”

 

“We’ll give you a walking tour and point out landmarks,” Phichit offered.

 

“Not till after my coffee,” Yuuri muttered.

 

Victor frowned, honestly feeling bad they had to come out for him.  Phichit seemed unperturbed ignoring grumpy!Yuuri.  “Don’t mind him,” Phichit responded with a shrug.  “He needs to wake up and study.”

 

Yuuri huffed into his cup taking a long drink before sitting it down and studying the Russian across from him.  “Why didn’t you wake one of us up?”

 

“Well...I took Makkachin out but she was restless after being knocked out for the flight.  So...we walked.  And I thought I could keep track of my surroundings but...I think I was more in my head than I realized.”

 

“I’m sure Vicchan appreciated the walk,” Phichit pointed out.  “A walk...with his master?  Not with Andreia?” Cough.  “Bitch…”

 

“Phichit...it’s too early for that,” Yuuri warned.

 

“Andreia?”  Victor looked from one man to another, hoping to be let in on whatever this was.

 

“Ex-girlfriend,” Yuuri provided, his head drooping back down onto the table.  “Keeps coming around and walking off with my dog.”

 

Victor frowned.  “That’s weird...at least, where I’m from…”

 

“It’s weird no matter where you’re from,” Yuuri declared lifting his head.  “Why does she do that?”

 

“That whole relationship was weird,” Phichit pointed out.  “It’s almost like she dated you just to tear you down.”

 

“I wasn’t even upset or anything when we broke up...except she doesn’t go away.”

 

Phichit studied his friend sympathetically.  Turning to Victor, he stated in warning, “You’ll probably meet her at some point.  She’s like a bad penny…”  At Victor’s confused stare, he added, “She always turns up.”

 

“What does that even mean?” the Russian asked.

 

“American idioms...you pick them up, but even the Americans can’t tell you what they mean half the time,” Yuuri grumbled.  He pushed himself up with a stretch.  “Are you ready to head back?”

 

“I...suppose.”  Victor glanced around his surroundings unsure of himself.  And being unsure of himself was an unfamiliar feeling that keeps happening now that he’s in Detroit...with Yuuri.

 

Yuuri’s expression softened.  “Sorry,” he mumbled.  “I’m lousy with mornings.  Don’t take it personally.”

 

Victor nodded, but he...it stung a little.  And Yuuri must have seen it because he then dropped down in front of Victor...a submissive action that caused Victor’s breath to catch even though he could see Yuuri’s hand tangling into the curls of Makkachin.  “I’ll work on it,” he promised as he looked up with those brown eyes and time seemed to suspend itself as he held those eyes.  And something inside Victor unfurled because he strongly suspected Yuuri submitted to no one.  The Japanese man stood up, his lips forming a smile and held out a hand to pull Victor to his feet.  And Victor took it, holding those fingers a little longer than necessary before they dropped each other’s hold and stood awkwardly before one another, Yuuri’s eyes dropping down, pink blushing across his cheeks.

 

Phichit, who had been watching the entire moment unfold, cleared his throat pulling their attention in his direction.  “I think we need to get Victor home.  I do have an exam later this morning,” he pointed out although his eyes are teasing.

 

“I’m sorry, Phichit,” Victor began but the Thai man waved him off.

 

“It’s fine...we all have to find our feet sometime.  Sometimes it’s easier on ice than in real life,” he explained, looping one arm through Victor’s elbow.  Yuuri leaned forward to look at the younger man, a smile now on his lips.  He followed suit and Victor felt the heat of the Japanese man’s touch on his elbow.  Phichit reached across to take Makkachin’s lead and soon they were all five walking back to the apartment.  As they drew even with the clock tower, Phichit pointed it out as a landmark taking a right down a street that slowly became familiar.

 

“I guess I lost myself in my thoughts along about here and wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings,” Victor admitted quietly.  He felt a tightening of a hand on his arm and glanced over to see Yuuri carefully keeping his eyes away.  They finally drew up to the apartment complex and the dogs both pulled towards the grass patch set aside for four legged residents.  Phichit laughed and relinquished the leash waving as he headed upstairs leaving the other two behind.  “I...used to get lost when I first moved to St. Petersburg.  Although...I think I was there several days first.  So...this has to be a record.”

 

“You’ve been found now,” Yuuri murmured, letting go of Victor although the older man sensed a reluctance in the move.

 

“I got lost in Paris once, too...I was visiting my uncle and Chris was with me.  We’d gone out...a club I think.  Coming back we were both a bit tipsy and couldn’t remember the way to my uncle’s flat.  He...was not so generous when he came out to get us.”

 

Yuuri laughed softly and that sound warmed Victor up inside.  Finally, he glanced up through his lashes and Victor had to fight his breath from catching.  “I’ll come get you if you get lost.  Don’t worry.”  Then he winked catching Victor off guard.  “I don’t promise not to be surley about it...but I’ll always come get you.”

 

“O-okay,” he answered suddenly struggling to find his words.  Yuuri paused studying him before seeming to shake it off.  They approached the door uncertain in their steps when they were stopped by a delivery man.

 

“Hey, is this where I’d find…” he consulted the paper then looked up at them, “a Victor Nikiforov?  I think apartment 216?”

 

“That’s me,” Victor confirmed.

 

“I have some packages to deliver to you.  Is there an elevator?”  The man tightened his hold on the dolly.

 

Victor turned to Yuuri who waved for the man to follow them.  “It’s this way.  I thought we got you moved in already, Victor,” he added, his voice teasing.

 

“I emailed my father once I sorted out my new address.  He must have arranged for the rest to be brought over.  The earlier stuff...that’s just my necessities.  And then the things I ordered from IKEA after Celestino told me that I’d need bedroom furniture.”

 

“Do you need help?” Yuuri offered.

 

Victor glanced at the boxes thoughtfully but then he said, “No, you have to study.”

 

Yuuri shook his head.  “I was studying last night after I went to my room.  My head is too scattered this early in the day for bookwork.”  He unlocked the door and waved the delivery man inside.  “Besides, I owe you for being an ass this morning.”  Victor opened the door to the bedroom and the delivery man unloaded the stack of boxes.

 

“Is this where you want the rest to be dropped off?” he asked leaning on his two-wheeler.

 

Victor blushed but then responded with a “yes”.

 

Yuuri snorted as he approached his own door.  “I’ll let you take care of that while I get a shower out of the way.”

 

Victor watched Yuuri disappear into the darkness of his room.   Moving into the kitchen, he poured himself a glass of orange juice.  I really need to help out with food.  He glanced around the room, it was organized and as Victor opened a few cupboards, he found an empty cabinet.

 

“That’s for your personal things,” a voice explained from behind.  He turned to see Phichit.  “Yuuri’s is to the right and mine to the left.  Kind of a mirror reflection of our rooms.  The rest is shared.”

 

“I was just thinking I needed to help out with the expense.”

 

“We usually take a shopping trip on Saturday after practice.  You can make it up then.  It’s fine, really.”  He then nodded to the corner of the cabinet.  “There’s a list started on that spiral if you think of anything you need.”  Phichit then waved and was out the door backpack slung over his shoulder.  Victor looked at the spiral flipping a few pages back.  Earlier lists and then his eyes fell on a budget.  Victor’s eyes narrowed as he studied the numbers; it was tight.  Turning back to the current page, he tapped the page with a frown.  He laid the pen back down.  He had until Saturday to decide.

 

The delivery man returned and Victor smiled nodding towards him as he settled another stack of boxes into the room.  Two more rounds and Victor tipped him generously before the man left.  Approaching his room, he winced.  He knew there were a number of boxes.  He now wondered how he would fit it all.  At least his old costumes went to his father’s Moscow flat along with other awards.

 

He cut open the first box.  More clothes.  He began sorting them into piles.  Soon Yuuri joined him and they began to work companionably, Yuuri breaking the boxes down once they were empty.  “There’s a recycling center down the block, but they like the cardboard boxes flattened,” he explained.

 

After about half an hour, Yuuri disappeared down the hall and returned with his phone, turning on a Spotify playlist using the phone speakers.  Every so often they paused to comment on the song, but they efficiently moved through the first tower of boxes then the second starting on the third when Phichit arrived.  He popped inside and grinned.

 

“I see I didn’t miss out on the fun.”  He moved to the final box in the pile, frowning at the weight.  “What do you have in here?”  Pulling the tape free, his eyes widened.  “Victor, why do you have a marble bust?”

 

Yuuri dropped what he was doing to look inside.  “You’re shittin’ me!”  He snorted with laughter.  “Okay, spill.”

 

Victor shifted his hand moving behind his neck to rub in embarrassment.  “It’s complicated,” he began but both men gave him a stare that told him that wouldn’t be enough.  “Well, I was drunk...and there was a dare.  When I woke up, I was stuck with this...thing.  Now I don’t know what to do with it.”

 

Yuuri narrowed his eyes on Victor.  “Do you mean you stole this when you were drunk?”

 

Phichit chortled with glee.  “Nobody is as clean as people think.”

 

“And I couldn’t give it back without people finding out,” Victor protested.

 

Yuuri rubbed his forehead before shifting to study Victor.  “It’s not that I haven’t heard this story before.  But usually it involved a frat boy...and a road sign.  So...where did you steal it from?”

 

Victor studied his shoes.  “I don’t know for sure...but it could have been the Summer Garden .”

 

Phichit was already googling it when he snorted.  “No way!  They would have had your ass in jail!”

 

Yuuri hummed in suspicion, “Maybe not, Phichit...I mean, he is white.”

 

“Good point... our asses would be in jail.”  Phichit thought, but then reconsidered, “except everybody is white in Russia.”

 

“If it happened in Japan.  Then Victor’s ass would definitely be in jail.”

 

Phichit snorted, these two had came from countries that had a stranglehold on their culture, while his lacked the economy for that.  “Not in Thailand...tourists get away with all kinds of shit.”

 

They studied the statue when Yuuri wrinkled his nose.  “Wouldn’t there have been a news report if there was a heist at a royal statue garden?”

 

“You’d think,” Phichit agreed.  He then frowned waving Yuuri over.  “Help me out with this.”  Phichit and Yuuri turned it over to look at the bottom.  “Made in Taiwan...Victor, you heisted a knockoff!”

 

“What do you mean?” Victor frowned, his eyebrows drawing together.

 

“Did you never look on the bottom?” Yuuri asked.

 

Shaking his head, he asked, “Wh-why would I?”

 

Phichit snorted.  “I don’t know...because it might have an...I don’t know...if lost, return me to...tag on it?”

 

Yuuri nodded.  “I think you might have stolen it from a hotel lobby at best...and they probably charged your credit card rather than press charges.”

 

Victor considered that night although it was a bit cloudy.  “We did attend a party that night…”

 

Phichit snorted in laughter.  “You thought all this time you had this priceless statue you stole...but that would not have made it through customs.”

 

“Truth!” Yuuri declared falling back on the bed laughing.

 

Victor stared at the statue, his cheeks dotted pink.  Then he narrowed his eyes.  Chris was with him that night.  “Give me my phone.”

 

Yuuri reached over to the nightstand and tossed it to him.  Victor forced himself to block out the things the image of Yuuri lying on his bed was doing to him.  He texted Chris.

 

Victor/ About that statue...

 

Chris/ ?

Victor/ You remember...that night we were drunk and stole it.  Do you know where it come from?

 

Chris/ :D oui!

 

Chris/ The fountain in front of the hotel.

 

Victor/ You let me think I stole something from the Summer Garden.

 

Chris/ I really thought you would have figured it out before now.  Then it just slipped my mind.

 

Victor/ You’re an ass.

 

Chris/ You’re an idiot.

 

Victor frowned as he turned to the others.  “Chris knew all along.”

 

“That’s even better!” Phichit giggled, now holding his side.

 

Yuuri patted him on the shoulder.  “You’ll fit in fine.  We all do stupid shit in college.”

 

Victor’s head dropped down, still embarrassed but feeling warm from Yuuri’s attention and acceptance.  “I can’t believe I’ve been carting that around because I didn’t know what to do with it!”

 

“We could put it in the living room.  Call him Boris.  Conversation piece.  It’ll totally fit in with the college life with a story like that.”  Phichit grinned nodding to Yuuri.  The two were out of the room with it in an instant, settling their new acquisition into the corner of the living room.

 

Victor came into the living room half an hour later to find that Boris now sported a fedora and feather boa.  A sign hung from his neck declaring:

 

“In America, you can always find a party.  In Russia, the party finds you.”

~ Yakov Smirnoff

Chapter Text


 

Cooking 101

 

Yuuri rolled out of bed, the smell of coffee from the other room was questionable.  It was Victor’s first day to do chores and he drew cooking.  Yuuri and Phichit didn’t miss the crack in that demeanor before he covered it up with a false confidence as he spotted his weekly assignment.  “And I do this all week?” he had asked.  Yuuri thought the practiced smile was even worse in real life than it was on television.

 

“Yes, and that includes kitchen clean up, but we do pitch in from time to time,” Phichit pointed out.

 

“And what are the other options?”  Victor chewed his lip, hoping to make a trade but not wanting to show his cards just yet.

 

“Well, I drew housekeeping which puts Yuuri on free week,” Phichit stated.

 

“I’ll take care of the shared bathroom this week, though.  Just pick up after yourself,” Yuuri pointed out.

 

“Really, if we all clean as we go, kitchen week is the only bad week.”

 

“We rotate you to off week next.  Kitchen, off, housekeeping,” Yuuri explained.

 

Victor considered this before nodding.  He was stuck, if he begged out of this chore he was saddling one of the others with the tough week.  “I’m used to only having myself to take care of...so it won’t be elaborate.”

 

The other two shrugged.  “Your choice,” Phichit replied.

 

The first night Victor stood in the kitchen, utterly lost.  He huffed then grabbed the stack of delivery menus, shuffling through until he found one appealing.   I’ll have more time to prepare after tonight .  The other two said they would be home around six.  He frowned as he looked at the Chinese menu.   I don’t know what they like but as much as we travel, this should work.  He settled on the chicken fried rice, General Tso’s chicken, steamed dumplings, and pork egg rolls, hoping he picked something they would like.  The food arrived just before his roommates.

 

Walking through the door, they smelled the air.  “You ordered take out!” Yuuri declared.  Victor wasn’t sure if that was joy or sorrow in his voice.

 

Phichit came into the room eyes wide, “Smells like Chang’s from down the street.  Chinese food?  Really?”

 

“Just because we’re Asian?  So racist!” Yuuri teased.  They disappeared to wash up before returning to the bar.  Victor spread out the containers and had set the plates.

 

“Mmmm...we normally only order in during exams and when we first get home from traveling,” Phichit breathed in appreciatively.  Victor calmed as he saw the Thai man clearly ready to enjoy the meal, but Yuuri still appeared apprehensive.

 

Yuuri fidgeted a little.  “How much do we owe?”

 

“Yeah, that’s the other thing...we always talk about it ahead of time so we have cash,” Phichit added.

 

“Oh...well...my treat,” Victor covered.  “I ate for free the first few days here.”  He remembered the tight budget and based on Yuuri’s reaction, he suspected it was Yuuri watching his rubles.  He helped with the cost of groceries over the weekend, but didn’t know what to pick up for himself.  They didn’t seem to notice figuring he was overwhelmed by the American supermarket and he had to admit there were a lot of offerings.   There are way too many choices...and what is Ranch Dressing anyway?   Both roommates did ask if there was anything he wanted that he couldn’t find.  Then they grabbed their standard staples.  All of that would be fine except he drew the cooking for his first week of chores.

 

“Just don’t do this too often,” Yuuri said quietly.

 

They ate amiably, the two younger men talking over their day in classes, answering any questions about campus Victor still may have.  He watched their banter and found his way to enter into the conversation at times.  Later, Victor walked in on Yuuri in the bathroom on a bathroom scale and he realized why the Japanese man was so worried about a take away meal.  “Oh, excuse me.  The door was open.”

 

The Japanese man blushed and shrugged.  “I pick up weight easy.  I know it’s stupid to weigh so quickly but it feels like it comes on that quick.”

 

“Perhaps it’s the salt,” Victor suggested.

 

“Maybe.  That’s another reason I actually plan for eating out and takeout.”  Yuuri stepped past him and disappeared down the hall.

 

When Victor emerged from the bathroom, he could hear Yuuri and Phichit talking quietly in the living room.  Not feeling a part of the conversation, he moved into his own room feeling a bit guilty about screwing up the meal.  “I should have cooked, Makka dear,” he murmured softly, his body wrapping around the poodle in bed, fingers working through the curls.  With a huff, he pulled out his iPad and began to browse.  “How hard can it be?”

 

Half an hour later, he dropped the device onto his bed in frustration and left his room.  Both men looked up when he walked in and he offered a weak smile before retreating to the kitchen to clean up.  He didn’t see Phichit give Yuuri a push and nod towards him in the kitchen.  He didn’t see Yuuri stand up and approach him, his feet rather stealthy.  So he started when Yuuri asked, “Do you want some help?”

 

Victor glanced down at the small sink of dishes.  This he could do.  It was the rest that overwhelmed him.   How did I go so long not know how to take care of myself let alone others?    He offered a practiced smile and shrugged.  “There’s not a lot.”

 

“Why don’t I put the leftovers away?  There’s enough for lunch tomorrow.”

 

“I didn’t know what anyone would like,” Victor said quietly.

 

“Don’t worry about that.  We are college students.  We pretty much eat what’s in front of us.”  Yuuri folded the containers shut and gathered them up to set them into the refrigerator as Victor finished washing his last dish.  He must have looked lost because Yuuri then asked, “You want to join me?  I’m going to take Vicchan out for the night.”

 

He nodded, his smile slipping until he forced it back in place.  “Let me get Makkachin.”

 

Outside under the dim lamplight, Victor relaxed his expression.  Yuuri watched him before sighing, a hand reaching out to close over Victor’s arm.  The older man glanced down, closing his hand over the touch.  “Are you okay?” Yuuri asked.

 

Victor blinked away the tears that threatened to surface.  “It’s just...not as easy as I thought it would be.”

 

“You know Phichit and I are both willing to help,” he murmured softly.  “We both know how hard it is.  We left our families and came here as well.  We’ve gone through the same things.”

 

“It’s just...what if I don’t know the things I’m supposed to know?  There’s expectations all around me.  I...thought I walked away from that, but I only walked into all new ones.”

 

Yuuri hummed as he considered Victor’s words.  “I guess...the expectation has shifted.  Also...you need to get on the ice.  I think it’s time.”

 

“Celestino doesn’t expect me.”  Victor knew that he didn’t have to report into the rink for his lessons for a couple of weeks still, however he would be lying if he claimed to not miss the ice terribly.

 

Yuuri smiled at the man, “That doesn’t mean you can’t skate.  You have to like be going through withdrawals or something.  I know I would be.”  He could see Victor beginning to come around and knew it would take only one last push.  “Also it’s important to familiarize yourself with the rink you are going to teach in, the times, the people you’ll share ice with, even the staff.”

 

Yuuri knew he had won as he saw Victor’s face turn to his, it glowed, “Perhaps you’re right.  I wasn’t sure what to do with myself today.”

 

“So in the morning, get dressed for a run.  We’ll take the dogs out then run to the rink.  Then we can skate.  It is empty before ten.”

 

“Really?”  Victor’s voice took on a youthful excitement, and Yuuri saw the bright enthusiasm that must have been there when he was four and stepped onto the ice for the first time.  That would never fade, not in this man at least.

 

Yuuri nodded.  “Mmmmhmmm.”

 

“Okay...that sounds like a good plan.”

 

They walked back inside and found Phichit had already retreated to his room leaving only a small light to welcome them back.  Victor released Makkachin from her lead and she excitedly followed Vicchan down the hall.  He caught the soft smile on Yuuri’s face as the younger man watched them.   It was so easy for her to find her place.   Yuuri locked the door and then fell behind the pooches.  Victor soon followed.  Hesitating by his door, Yuuri turned and offered him that same soft smile.  “Good night, Victor.  You know where to find me if you need anything.”  And then he was gone before Victor found his voice to reply.  Before he let go of that flash of memory from that first night, that smile as Yuuri watched him leave believing in something more.  Turning to his room, he discarded his clothes and changed into pajamas.  Tomorrow...skating.

 




The next morning Victor beat everyone awake including Makkachin who just huffed in annoyance when he got out of bed and crawled into the warm spot he had vacated.   I can make eggs.  Would they prefer scrambled or boiled?  He contemplated that then remembered Yuuri saying they weren’t too picky.  In the kitchen, he set up the coffee pot and dug around in the cabinets looking for a pan.  He then sprayed the pan with cooking spray before breaking the eggs on the edge.  By the time the eggs were about done and the coffee finished brewing, a sleepy Yuuri came out of his room.

 

“Coffee,” he murmured as he sat on the barstool, head crashing on the counter.

 

Victor smiled remembering the rescue mission.   My Yuuri...oh, not my Yuuri...yet...but he requires coffee to start his day.  Pouring him a cup, he set it in front of him.

 

Phichit wandered out next.   “Oh!  You made breakfast!  And good morning, Victor.”

 

“Good morning...and you did say I had the kitchen this week.  I hope you like scrambled eggs.”

 

Phichit laughed.  “I pretty much like anything I don’t have to cook myself.  Oh...and coffee.  Yes!”  He accepted the cup Victor brought to him and breathed in the aroma.

 

Yuuri hadn’t quite made it that far but the cup was nearby, the scent slowly permeating the brunette’s sleepy demeanor.  Yuuri finally lifted his head and reached for his mug.  “Thank you,” he breathed once he took a sip, sleepy happiness filling his expression.  Victor put a plate of eggs in front of him.  He took a bite and hummed approvingly.  “I’ll need to show you how to use the rice steamer.”

 

“Rice steamer?” Victor looked confused.

 

Phichit grinned.  “It’s his baby, but he does share once you’ve been thoroughly trained.  We often do eggs and rice for breakfast but this is great.  Thanks.”

 

“It was my mom’s, and she sent it with me when I moved to Detroit.  That meant she got a new one.  This isn’t lost on me.  But I grew up with that rice steamer.”

 

“It must be a good one.”

 

Yuuri nodded.  “I basically grew up in a restaurant with an attached onsen.”  At Victor’s confused brow furrowing, he added, “It’s a hot springs resort.  Very small scale.  When I go home to visit, I’m usually pitching in to help.”

 

Victor digested that information before looking over at Phichit.  “What do you parents do?”

 

In between mouthfuls of eggs and coffee he was able to get out, “Department of tourism.  My parents are involved in government.  Pretty high up.  What about yours?”

 

Victor studied his mug a little sadly.  “Well, my mother passed away when I was fifteen.  She had cancer.  But before that, she was a ballerina.  My father is an attorney that works in international law.”

 

The other two were quiet.  Finally Yuuri murmured, “I’m sorry about your mom.  I...don’t know what I’d do if I lost mine.”

 

“I...missed her a great deal, I still do at times.  I had a hard time coming to the other side of my grief.  So one of dad’s friends suggested a dog.  That’s when I got Makkachin.”

 

Yuuri glanced over at the two dogs curled up together on the big pillow in the living room.  “You were sixteen,” he responded quietly.

 

Victor cocked his head, “That’s right.  How’d you know?”

 

Yuuri blushed.  “I was twelve at the time.  That’s when I got Vicchan.”

 

Phichit patted Yuuri on the back.  “He’s kind of a fan, you know.”

 

Victor blushed.  He did know, but it still felt awkward now.  Like acknowledging Chris was a fan.  “You said something about skating.”

 

“That’s right.  Let’s take the dogs out then we can shower and get ready.”

 

“Why don’t I do the dishes?” Phichit volunteered.

 

Victor smiled appreciatively.  “Thank you.”

 

An hour later they were jogging to the rink, skate bags slung over their shoulders.  “Some people leave their skates in the locker room.  We can choose lockers and put our own locks on them for safety.  I might if I were in Hasetsu but, you know, skates aren’t cheap.”  Yuuri pulled on his skates tightening his laces.

 

Victor let his eyes move over the ice, feeling both jittery with anticipation and a bit of dread.   I’m no longer competing.

 

“It feels strange, doesn’t it?”  Yuuri’s eyes were watching him as if peering into his soul.

 

Victor shrugged.  “I’m here now.  The decision is made.”

 

Yuuri grimaced, he couldn’t quite figure out the tone of the older man’s voice.  It sounded like resolve, but he worried still.  “Do you...regret it?”

 

Victor considered those words.   Do I?   “No, not regret.  It’s just...all I’ve ever known.  I feel...like my skin doesn’t quite fit at the moment.”  He shrugged.  “I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with myself.”

 

Yuuri watched Victor as he spoke, it was obvious he was being honest, the practiced smile never approached his lips.  But he still wanted to offer comfort.  “It will be better once classes start.  You’ll be busy between classes and coaching.”

 

Changing the focus on the conversation, Victor nodded towards the ice and asked, “What are you working on?”

 

“I’m looking for a counterpart to the Express choreography.  A new short program.”

 

“It has a lot of blatant sexuality in it,” Victor observed.

 

“Well, it’s from the movie Burlesque ...so yeah.  I don’t want to lose that.  But I want to show diversity in my programs.”

 

Victor thought over the younger man’s past seasons.  “You normally do more classical pieces, piano and orchestra...but mainly piano.”

 

Yuuri stopped lacing his skates and turned to Victor again, “How...do you know that?”

 

A blush crept up his neck but he covered with a shrug.  “You were my competitor.  Of course I studied your skating.”

 

Yuuri blushed under the compliment, “Oh...I didn’t know.  I thought you didn’t recognize me.”

 

Victor furrowed his brow.  “When?”

 

Stammering he muttered his way through his most embarrassing memory, “Y-you offered me a commemorative photo.”

 

The silver haired man shrugged.  “I wanted to talk to you.  We hadn’t formally met so I thought it would break the ice.  But yes, I recognized you.  Your edges are some of the best I’ve seen.”

 

Yuuri blushed and shrugged.  “My jumps aren’t reliable...especially quads.”

 

“We can work on that.  I know how I trained and can work with you.”

 

“Y-you’d do that?”  Yuuri tapped the back of his foot, settling his heel into the back of the skate.

 

“Of course...I’m a part of this skate club now.  We are rinkmates.”

 

Yuuri blinked, the way Victor offered his help so freely struck him as amazing.  He never considered himself Victor’s equal, he was floored to find that Victor had all along.  “I...guess we are.  I hadn’t thought about it that way.”

 

“Now...about a song.”  He tapped his lips as he considered the options.  “I’d like to think on this, but I may have a few things in my library if you’re interested.”

 

“Umm...sure.  Of course.”  Blush moved up Yuuri’s cheeks.

 

On the ice they warmed up slowly together, and Victor found himself fighting the impulse to grab Yuuri’s hand, remembering how it felt to have Yuuri’s touch on his arm last night while they waited for the dogs.  Once the stiffness was worked out, he stretched out his limbs and moved across the ice.  Yuuri watched him with a contemplative smile while he skated, and Victor felt those eyes study him as he took off on a quad flip landing it with practiced ease.

 

Yuuri skated to his side with a sigh.  “You do that so easily and I can’t even reliably land a quad sow.”

 

“Don’t worry.  We’ll get you there,” Victor promised.

 




The rink started to fill up and Yuuri watched Victor interact with the skaters, getting to know his new rinkmates.  The Japanese man was now in his trainers and he was about to hit the weights when a familiar face caught his eye.  “Devryn,” he greeted.

 

“Yuuri!  I thought you went home!”

 

Yuuri shrugged and turned to the ice.  It wasn’t in the budget and he could get another dance slot in to help with tuition costs.

 

“Cheer up!  Why don’t you and I go help you find that smile?”  Devryn offered a hand...and Yuuri knew that offer included more.

 

“I...no,” Yuuri’s eyes trained back to Victor.

 

The hockey captain followed his gaze and his eyes widened.  “That’s that figure skater you’ve been crushing on forever.”

 

“Shhh!  He’ll hear you!” Yuuri hissed, pink rising up in his cheeks.

 

“Oops, my bad!  He’s got a fine ass, though,” he observed.

 

Yuuri sighed like a Disney princess, resting a cheek on his hand at the barrier.  “He’s got a fine everything.  And...he’s genuinely nice.”

 

“Well, what are you waiting for?”

 

Yuuri flicked his eyes up to his friend/ex-lover.  “Oh, I don’t know.  He’s up here,” Yuuri explained raising his hand up high, “And I’m down here.”  Yuuri lowered his hand to show the exaggerated disparity.

 

“Then why is he here?” Devryn asked nodding pointedly at the skater on the ice.

 

“He took a coaching job,” Yuuri said quietly with a shrug as if there was nothing more to it.  “I...really don’t know why.  He emigrated because, well being gay in Russia is a new level of terrifying.  He said he wanted to be where there were familiar faces but…we barely know him.”

 

“Does he seem like he wants to get to know you?” Devryn’s gaze studied Yuuri knowing him well.  

 

Yuuri nodded.  “But we’re roommates.  So...that’s kind of weird, isn’t it?”

 

Devryn shrugged at the worry; it wouldn’t be one for him.  “I was sleeping with my first roommate in college within two weeks.  I’m probably not the one to ask.”

 

Yuuri snorted at that.  “I didn’t think about that.”  His eyes returned to the figure on the ice now skating.

 

Devryn leaned in and whispered, “But you like him.”

 

Yuuri nodded.  Devryn knew him too well to deny it.  “I do like him.  A lot.”

 

The hockey player raised an eyebrow before turning to look at the man on the ice.  “Don’t be surprised if it turns out he likes you, too.”

 

Yuuri huffed.  “I’m nobody.”

 

“Stop that,” Devryn admonished.  “You are amazing.  And I’ve seen you dance on and off the ice.”  Yuuri glanced up sharply not sure what he was implying.  “Of course, off the ice was between the sheets.”  Nodding to the man skating, he added, “He’ll be lucky if he gets you, Yuuri.”  With a pat on Yuuri’s back, he moved past him to talk to Ciao Ciao about ice time.  Yuuri reluctantly left the rink to stretch and go through the rest of his training.






Victor left the rink contemplating about the man he spotted with Yuuri.  They were definitely familiar.   Does Yuuri have a boyfriend?  For some reason that thought had never occurred to him.  He fought the surge of jealousy.  However, feelings of inadequacy overrode that surge quickly enough.  I can’t do anything besides skate.

 

At home, he pulled up the recipe on his iPad he planned to attempt that night.  It seemed simple enough.  It took him forever to peel the potatoes but he got the job done.  He then quartered them and dropped them into the pot.  Cutting the Kielbasa into smaller if irregular pieces, they went into the pot as well.  Finally, he added the cabbage and water.

 

“It doesn’t say how much salt and pepper,” he mused.  Looking from the pot to the seasonings he decided, “You can always add more.”  He gave a few dashes of each before deciding it was done.  “That wasn’t so painful.”

 

He wandered off down the hall and pulled out the book he was reading.  He was involved in the story when all of the sudden a loud alarm started going off accompanied with a horrible smell.  Dropping the book, he ran back to the kitchen to find the pot boiled dry and wafting some scorched fumes.  Makkachin was whining on the floor with paws over her ears.  Vicchan ran into Yuuri’s room, hiding under the bed.  He stared at the ruined meal for a moment, taking in the sight of blackened leaves and bits of meat, all inedible, before dropping to the floor, pulling Makkachin into his lap, and covering her ears.  He knew the tears were coming fast and since there was nothing else he could think to do he let loose.

 

The door flew open and a woman’s voice called out, “What the fuck, guys?!”  She stalked into the space and looked around before spotting the Russian sitting helpless on the floor, tears streaming down his face.  With a huff, she took a broom from the corner and used the handle to knock the smoke alarm off.   She then turned on the vent hood over the stove and opened the window to allow for the smoke to leave.  Finally, she dropped down to her knee to study the man on the floor.  “What happened?”

 

Victor spoke in broken sobs, “I...was trying to make dinner and I think...I broke the apartment.”

 

She rolled her eyes at his drama.  “Oh, lord...you must be Victor.  I’m Ashley.”

 

“The dog lady,” Victor supplied recognizing her name.

 

She smiled pleased.  “Why yes.  And I see you put your dog before yourself so that earns you points in my books.  So, let’s see if we can get this mess cleaned up.”

 

Less than an hour had passed when the other two roommates came through the door.  A lingering scorched smell remained in the apartment but it had lessened to a dull reminder of the powerful stench from earlier.  Ashley stood next to Victor at the stove calmly walking him through a step but as soon as Phichit and Yuuri came in, she rounded on them.  “What kind of idiots are you to leave him unsupervised?  He could have burned the place down.”

 

“I don’t think it was that bad,” Victor argued.

 

She turned back with a beautifully arched brow.  “The smoke alarm was going off and you were in tears with the dog.  I’m just thankful you thought to turn off the burner, although it would have helped if you had removed the pot.”

 

“Victor, are you okay?” Yuuri responded now that he had caught up.

 

Victor nodded miserably.  “I…” he hesitated then finally huffed.  “I can’t cook.  I don’t know how.”

 

They exchanged glances.  Finally, Yuuri said quietly, “We kind of wondered after the takeout food but then you made breakfast.”

 

“It was just eggs.  I can scramble eggs.  Or boil them.”  Victor offered as an apology.  Then he remembered, “And I know how to make coffee.”  His face brightened on the last, as though that were the official first step.

 

“How did you live?” Phichit asked.

 

“Well, the housekeeper came in twice a week and she’d make sure I had something I could reheat.  Then there was takeout.  And I can make salad.  I mean, that’s not cooking.”

 

“Oh, my,” Yuuri responded.  “Victor, we offered to help you.”

 

“I...thought I could figure it out.” he said helplessly.

 

Yuuri ran his hand through his hair.  “Okay...as I said, I grew up in a restaurant.  I know my way around a kitchen.  And Phichit loves to cook.  We’ll teach you.”

 

Phichit came over to Victor, “Exactly.  We’ll start with the basics.”

 

Later as they worked through the recipe, they discovered Victor forgot to turn it down after it started to boil.  As Victor stared at his dish feeling mortified, his appetite shot, Phichit leaned in and whispered, “Don’t worry.  Yuuri doesn’t ask either.  He’s probably more stubborn than you.”

 

“I heard that, asshole!”

 

“I think it’s been clearly established over the years of rooming with you that you are clearly the asshole.”    Phichit lifted his chin in a most dignified manner.

 

“My apologies, Lord Phichit.  Is asshole not highbrow enough for you?”  Yuuri rolled his eyes.

 

“Apology accepted.”  Turning on his heel, he swept out of the room dramatically.

 

Yuuri turned back to Victor with an eye roll.  “Why don’t I help you clean up?”

 

“You don’t have to...you’ve already helped me cook.”

 

“It’s okay.  We’ll consider it a project.”  As Yuuri washed and Victor dried, the younger man asked, “So you really had a housekeeper?”

 

“My father did...I thought it was normal.  I also had a housesitter that took care of Makkachin when I was gone.”

 

“That...actually is pretty normal.  We usually have Ashley keep an eye on our pets.”

 

“That’s why she had a key to the apartment,” Victor surmised.

 

“Exactly.  I’ve known her for quite a while.  We bonded over dogs...and shitty dating decisions.”

 

Victor’s hand stilled a moment at the thought of Yuuri’s prior experience before he continued.  “I guess I’ve not had to deal with a lot of real situations.  I took care of Makkachin and she’s been my world but I didn’t realize how little I knew.  I...feel quite clueless.”  He started when he felt an arm slip around him, giving him a side hug.

 

“It’s okay...just remember, we don’t mind helping.”  He then winked.  “That doesn’t mean we won’t tease you...but we will sincerely help you.”

 

“It’s just...I’m older than both of you.  I’m supposed to know these things.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  It’s...a lot harder than it looks.”

 

“Adulting is hard.  Don’t worry.  We’ll help you get it together.”

 

As they put the last of the dishes away, Victor said quietly, “I may need you to help me figure out how to clean.  I mean, I picked up after myself...but I don’t know how to do the things you and Phichit do.”

 

“I figured as much when you said housekeeper.  Don’t worry.  We’ll walk you through it all.”  Then he smirked.  “You’re already better than our previous roommate.”

 

“Cody sucked balls!” Phichit called from his room.

 

“Lesson number one...never underestimate our roommate’s Vulcan ears.”

 

Victor laughed as Yuuri led the way to the door.  They would take the dogs out then retire to their separate rooms.  Victor enjoyed the former, quietly talking with Yuuri.  The latter...felt lonely.

Chapter Text


 

When does the housekeeper come in?  



The second week in Detroit, Victor made it a point to shadow Yuuri as he took care of the bathroom.  The brunette had been very thorough in not only the cleaning but the explanation of each step and the different products and brushes he used. Glancing back, he narrowed his eyes as they fell on the silver hair falling into Victor’s eyes as the taller man scribbled on a pad in his hand.  “Are you taking notes?”

 

Victor looked up, a touch of pink in his cheeks acknowledging that he was caught.  “Well, just keeping the cleaners sorted out in my head is a lot.  And you’re so specific on how you clean the bathroom .”

 

Yuuri softened, there was a cultural divide and at least Victor was willing to take on the challenge, unlike Cody.  “I’m from Japan...and I grew up in an onsen.  We kept the bathing area very clean at home and it carried over to this apartment.  The bathroom you and I share is the only one with a tub.  So if we need to soak, that’s our only option.  Phichit’s has just a shower.”

 

“But you don’t use the tub until after the shower,” Victor confirmed.

 

“Bathtubs are for clean water only.  It took forever to get this bathroom clean enough when I first moved in.  Then Cody came along and we had many fights over this bathroom.”

 

Victor looked up, catching the brown eyes frowning at the memory, “Oh? Why the bathroom?”

 

“He half-assed his cleaning.”  He huffed with a shrug.  “In a perfect world, there would be a separate shower and bath but this is a college apartment in America.  So it has to serve both needs.  He...left the shower a mess.  There was always toothpaste in the sink and little dobs of it on the mirror.  When he shaved...and I mean when because it was rare...the hair was all over the place, clogging the sink.  We won’t get in on the toilet habits.”

 

Victor shuddered.  Having lived alone, and being a naturally tidy person, had sheltered him from the realities of the fear of every freshman, the disgusting roommate.  “Wow!  So, what do I need to change in order to make this a more peaceful living arrangement?”

 

“Oh, you already are easy to live with,” Yuuri said then blushed when he realized what he said.  He had said it so quickly he didn’t think of the implication until the words were out of his mouth and lying on the floor.  Stuttering, he added, “I mean...you clean up after yourself.  I haven’t dealt with toothpaste.  The toilet isn’t left...well...I know I can sit down and not wonder about the strange dampness left behind.”

 

“Oh...gross.  No, I clean up after myself.”  Victor wondered at the idea of a grown adult not able to clean up after themselves...or not willing.  “So the shower cleaner and squeegee and rinse.  I get that.”  He smiled looking at the spray in his hand, “It even says daily shower.  Then a deep cleaning once a week.  Do we trade off or work together?”

 

Yuuri smiled at the marvel in the Russian’s voice.  “We can trade off.  It gets a little tight with two bodies working together.  How are you...with your room?”  He didn’t want to intrude, but also couldn’t help but be curious.

 

“It’s fine.  Really.  It’s smaller than my last but really it’s less...cold.  I’d get lost in my apartment.”  He saw the funny look Yuuri gave him, “I mean, sort of emotionally, like I’d disconnect from my surroundings, there was never anything there to pull me out.  Well, Makka but when she was a asleep it was so quiet it made the space feel huge, almost overwhelming.  I am having to get used to sharing a space, but on the other hand, I kind of like having other voices around me.”

 

Yuuri nodded, having lived in an inn his entire life he understood the comfort of presence of others.  “I was worried...you know, it was a really abused room.”

 

“Really?  You said you hired a professional to clean my room.”

 

“Yes...he...took food in his room and the remains did not always make it out.  And he would pile sweaty towels up until they mildewed.  There was always a strange odor coming from his room.”  Yuuri worried he may have turned the Russian’s stomach but Victor seemed unphased by the description, which, sadly, was not nearly as graphic as it could have been.

 

“Well, I do take good care of my clothes.  And I prefer to eat in the kitchen and dining room.”   Especially now there are others with me.

 

“When we are in the middle of finals, we’ll often picnic and veg out in the living room.”

 

Victor beamed wide at the prospect.  “That sounds like fun.”

 

Yuuri smiled at his enthusiasm.  “You seem much younger at times.”

 

“You’re so mean, Yuuri!” he cried out dramatically.

 

Yuuri’s eyes widened.  “No no no!  I didn’t mean anything mean by it.  I just mean...you were maybe...insulated.  Everyone...the press always describes you as worldly...I think they missed it.”  Yuuri held Victor’s eyes for a moment before shyly dropping his chin.

 

Victor’s eyes lost a little of that spark.  “Few ever really saw me, Yuuri.  Most saw...the celebrity.  And after awhile, that’s all I saw.”

 

Yuuri’s lips thinned.  “I see you, Victor.”

 

“I know,” he whispered.




An hour later, he was shadowing Phichit around the common areas of the apartment.  “I really thought there was more to it,” he stated.

 

“You just dust, wipe down the surfaces, vacuum the chairs and sofa, straighten up, sweep and mop.”  Phichit paused while Victor wrote it all down.

 

“Yuuri’s bathroom lesson was much more...well, more.”

 

Phichit smiled at the highly accurate description of his best friend.  “Yuuri is particular when it comes to the bathroom.  He grew up in an onsen.”

 

“I guess I never considered the different backgrounds behind the skaters I competed with,” Victor stated with a smile.  “It’s such an expensive sport and that limits the people we get to meet.  I know the blond Yuri comes from a very poor family so we had to find sponsors for him pretty quickly to make up for the deficiencies in the government funding.  We did some photoshoots together and that seemed to help.  He has a strong sponsor base now and it will grow as he takes more titles in the senior division.”

Phichit cocked his head, “Do you do that a lot?  Help other skaters, that is?”

 

“I have from time to time.”  Victor paused, and his eyes narrowed at an unpleasant memory.  “Sometimes people take advantage of you so I had to learn to be more cautious.”

 

Phichit’s eyes moved towards the hall and saw that Yuuri’s door was closed.  He murmured, “Some refuse to take help.”




At the rink, Yuuri and Victor wrapped up their morning practice as the hockey team started to pour onto the ice.  Devryn skated across the rink and scooped Yuuri up, carrying him bridal style off across the rink.  Victor watched in dazed confusion at this interchange, feeling more than a tinge of jealousy.  This was the same man that Yuuri was talking to the other day and from where Victor was standing he could see Yuuri hitting him in frustration until the man set him down on his skates.  He watched the other’s hands flutter down Yuuri’s hips and Yuuri was not happy at the actions but Victor couldn’t hear their words, their voices lost in the noise of goals being pushed out, pucks crashing to the ice and the grating sound of graphite scraping across the ice.  He grimaced at the poor ice quickly turning to snow in the endless crossover exercise they ran.

 

Across the rink, Devryn put Yuuri down, his eyes wide at the obvious upset.  “It’s never bothered you before.  Even when you were dating that Andreia chick.”

 

“I barely dated Andreia and didn’t really care whether or not we stayed together.”   Actually, even at the beginning, I’d rather we not.   His eyes looked worriedly past Devryn’s shoulder towards Victor who was making his way off the ice casting curious glances his direction.  He chewed his lip and looked up at Devryn.  “I’ve had a crush on this guy since twelve.  I really really like him and I don’t want him to get the wrong idea.”

 

“You should tell him,” Devryn stated.

 

“Ummm, no!” Yuuri answered with wide eyes.  “It doesn’t work like that!”

 

Devryn laughed.  “It most certainly does!”  He nodded towards Victor.  “I bet he hasn’t taken his eyes off you since I carried you off.”

 

Yuuri huffed.  “That’s because you’re weird.  It doesn’t...mean anything.”

 

“I beg to differ.  You are beautiful and that man has noticed.”  He was running the tape over his gloves, the final step to beginning practice.

 

Yuuri wished he would tape faster, “Like I said...we’re roommates.”  The corner of his eye caught Victor exiting the ice through the barrier and disappearing into the crowd of hockey players still getting ready.  Yuuri felt disappointed.

 

“And I pointed out, that just makes it more interesting.  Sharing spaces in the morning and the evening when the day is still soft.  Now, get that man!”  Devryn swatted his ass, skating around him then taking off for center to talk defense through their practice for the day.  Yuuri looked over his shoulder with a glare.

 

Skating to the opening, he climbed off the ice and took the skate guards from the outstretched hand.  “You haven’t introduced me to your friend,” Victor murmured.

 

Yuuri lit up to see Victor waiting for him.  “Don’t worry.  It’ll happen.  He keeps showing up at the most inopportune times.”

 

“I see,” Victor answered tightly.

 

Yuuri slid his eyes up to catch Victor’s gaze before they both turned away.   Surely Devryn is wrong.  It’s not about me.  No one moves across the ocean for a person they barely know.




“Where are you headed?” Phichit called out as Yuuri threw his dance bag over his shoulder.

 

“I’m helping Jules with some dance programs this term,” Yuuri supplied.  Victor raised an eyebrow in interest and Yuuri added, “We’ve been dance partners since my freshman year.”

 

Phichit glanced at the clock before mentioning, “It’s rather late on a Saturday.”

 

Yuuri tried his best to sound nonchalant.  “We might grab a drink afterwards then come home.   I’m not sure.”

 

“Okay, Yuuri.  Call if you need a ride,” Phichit added.  And then Yuuri was gone.  His roommate watched with a frown.

 

“What’s wrong?” Victor asked.

 

“I don’t know.”  Phichit really didn’t and that was an uncomfortable feeling for the Thai man.  Yuuri didn’t normally keep secrets from him.  And he didn’t want to cast any of his theories out to the Russian who was watching him closely.  “It’s just not like Yuuri.”




Yuuri sat at the table while Jules patted on his makeup.  He had been squirming and fidgeting the entire time, which she could have forgiven if it were at least in time with the sultry beat coming from the direction of the stage.  She finally stopped, mid-wingtip and pulled back, “You’re all kinds of tense, Yuuri.  What’s going on?”

 

“I...used you for an alibi.” Yuuri spilled.  He watched as another girl walked off the stage, the little from her costume still on. He marveled at the size of her heels... could I pull those off...

 

She raised her eyebrows in surprise.  “Oh?  What happened to the dating story?”

 

Yuuri smiled and his body settled. She went back to drawing out the wings of his eyeliner.  “Well, there’s this guy.  My new roommate, Victor.  He’s beautiful and surprisingly nice.  And I don’t want him thinking we’re dating.  Sooo...I kind of suggested we were working on a show together.”

 

“Not exactly a lie,” she pointed out as she quirked an eyebrow.  “However, I like it.  We’ll both use it.  It’s not like I’m putting this on my dance resume.”

 

They understood each other but still, this was a different Yuuri.  As she put the finishing touches on his makeup, she knew Yuuri well enough to know that his sexual interest in others waned quickly.  He easily tired of the physical relationships and moved on to a comfortable friendship.  Sure he had casual sex off and on with his past partners to blow some steam, but even that always faded away.  This Yuuri however...was genuinely interested in this man.  And this meant Jules needed to know more about the potential man.

 

One of the servers came back and handed Yuuri a shot of vodka.  Yuuri tipped it back and handed it back over.  Jules raised an eyebrow but Yuuri shrugged.  “Just one.  Nerves.”

 

She eyed him suspiciously, “Are you okay?”

 

Yuuri nodded.  “I can dance.  I just...wish I didn’t have to.”  He stood and looked at himself in the mirror.  She had performed an amazing job, his skin was flawless and looked like a matte porcelain, his lips formed the perfect pouty cupid’s bow in a heavier red on the bottom than top, and his eyes peeked out from behind the lace brocade mask.  The usually warm brown seemed to smolder into something deeper, more chocolate, the work of the shadow and liner drew out the drama of his looks.

 

She hugged him close.  “I wish you didn’t either, sweetie.  You’ll figure something out soon.”

 




Yuuri was thankful he didn’t wear glasses when he performed.  The low light of the club and his own nearsightedness kept him from seeing any faces, in fact most nights he couldn’t really make out the forms of people.  Not knowing who was in the audience gave him the opportunity to at least pretend he wouldn’t know anyone and they wouldn’t know him.  Of course, wearing a mask helped in more ways that one.  He felt a freedom behind that mask, allowing him to embrace the sexuality of the makeup and his costume.  The white sheer shirt he wore onto stage mimicked the one wore by Jules and suggested a tuxedo styling.  His dance shorts were plain black with a high cut to show off the muscles of his legs, long and bare and reveal just the tips of the globes of his ass.

 

This dance was performed with Jules on parallel poles.  They worked well together, each understanding the other’s movements to the point of being able to predict the other.   Elastic Heart began its beat as they worked through the routine, sometimes switching poles, sometimes sharing poles.  He caught her at one point, twirling her out and then pulling her back, and giving her the toss she needed to climb back on her pole.  He crossed in a fallen leaf jump to his own pole and followed her motions.  It was almost animalistic the approach they took, imitating the video they watched when they decided on this routine, working on the specifics over the last two weeks.  The manager liked it and it was put in to add variety to the evening’s set.

 

When they came off the poles, the audience erupted into applause and hoots for more and they were able to sweep up some money thrown on stage to split between them.  Unlike stripping, they didn’t get a lot through tips, but received a cut at the door which was graduated based on their standing in the program.  Since he and Jules headlined that night, they’d get the biggest cut.  He ran back stage for the next wardrobe change.  It would be a busy night.

 

He remembered the bitter taste of the second shot right before he took the stage for his first solo, the third and fourth seemed to blend in together and he barely tasted the fifth one until Jules finally took the glass from him and told him that was enough.  He looked up in surprise but she maintained her stance.  “I rely on you out there.  I can’t have your reflexes slow when we are in a number together.”

 

He sucked his teeth and rolled his eyes at her.  Diva!Yuuri had come out to play and the alcohol along with his desire to show up Jules sent the audience into a frenzy on their final dance together.  He knew he was on.  He knew he was hot.  He wasn’t sure where his pants were though...

 

As they drove home, she asked him, “How do you skate without alcohol?”

 

“What do you mean?” Yuuri asked, leaning back in his seat.  He was relaxed in that pleased way one is from alcohol and power.

 

She seemed worried, but knew she wasn’t going to get through to him tonight. “Well, until I cut you off, you seemed to have to have a drink to get out onto stage.  I was wondering...how do you skate?”

 

He opened and closed his eyes, hearing the concern in her voice and pushing to focus his thoughts.  “I...well...the audience is further away...and so I can forget they are there.  Here...it’s so close and personal.  I feel...exposed.”

 

She quirked a glance his way.  “Yuuri, I don’t think you’re cut out for this.”

 

He huffed and wanted to say something snappy about the number of cat calls for Geisha being pretty high… “Well, it’s not like I was planning to make a career change.  I just need the extra money.”

 

Jules furrowed her brow, “I don’t get it.  Don’t you get sponsors in skating?”

 

That dampened his buzz and Yuuri felt himself becoming plain and puffy Yuuri again.  He shrugged and ducked down.  “I’m not that good at selling myself.  I mean, who’d sponsor this?”

 

“Yuuri, you’re a phenomenal performer.  Your skating should sell you.  You’re good.”

 

“As long as my nerves don’t get the better of me,” Yuuri huffed.  He leaned back in the seat.  They were going to Jules’ apartment so he could shower before she took him home.  “I hate this, you know.  Having to put myself on display like that.”  Now that the moment was over the crash came on him, the power from the performance leaving him empty.   This isn’t like skating.  After a great skate I feel like...nothing else on the planet.  But when do I have great skates?  When I’m alone.

 

Jules shrugged, “Honestly, I like doing the choreography but I’m not all that into the performance side of this gig either.  Especially with how objectified I feel once it is finished.”

 

Half an hour later he was dropped off at his apartment.  He was surprised to see Victor outside with Makkachin.  “Couldn’t sleep?”

 

The blue eyes met brown... were they darker?  “Nerves.  I meet my students tomorrow.”

 

“You’ve been talking to them all along.  This is just an extension of that conversation.”  Yuuri came to stand with Victor, watching Makka sniff around on the ground.

 

Victor shrugged.  “I’ve worked with skaters in Russia.  It shouldn’t be hard but those skaters already knew me and I knew them.  It’s different when it’s your rinkmate instead of being in charge of them.”

 

“Cracking under the responsibility already, huh?” Yuuri teased.

 

He shrugged smiling weakly.  “People don’t think I get nervous because I hide it well.”

 

Under a thin veneer of a smile and a few practiced lines , Yuuri thought to himself.  He knew the genuine Victor versus the mask already.  “I suppose we all wear a mask when we are trying to hide a part of ourselves...or protect a part of ourselves.”

 

Victor was quiet for a while, going over what Yuuri had said.  “At least I feel I can put away the masks for the most part when I’m here.  I don’t think I’ve allowed myself to be this open with anyone.  Thank you, Yuuri.”

 

Yuuri was speechless at the confession.  “Y-you’re welcome,” he finally responded, his eyes dropping to the ground as he felt a bit of guilt at his deception earlier.  Victor trusted him enough to be open, vulnerable with him.  Why was it so hard for Yuuri?

Chapter Text


 

Meet the Coach!

 

 

It was not a good morning.  First, Makkachin was not moving well and the elevator was down.  Victor ended up scooping up his 60-lb. poodle and carrying her downstairs to take care of business.  As Yuuri sat with him, Victor watched her with sad eyes.  “I don’t know what she went through before I got her.  They said she was real skittish at the animal shelter but she came right to me.”

 

Yuuri looked at the older dog, he didn’t want to alarm Victor but there were many older dogs that came to the shelter and many had similar stories.  “So she may have arthritis from past injuries.”

 

Victor nodded, a crease wrinkled his brow as he thought of his beloved dog ever being mistreated.  “I need to find a vet her in Detroit.”

 

“I’ll take you to meet my vet if that will help.  If you are really worried, I can call and see if we can get in today.”

 

Victor frowned as he considered his tight schedule.  “I’ve got to meet my new students.”

 

Yuuri smiled reassuringly.  “Meet them, yes.  But they’ve been traveling and need to get settled in.  So meet them, get their schedules, arrange for the next meeting date, and send them on their way.”  He saw Victor’s reluctance and added quickly, “They’ll be grateful for the time to settle themselves.  I’ll call and set up a vet appointment and Dr. Moore...who is wonderful...Ashley works as an intern and vet’s assistant at her office...and Dr. Moore will help us figure out what has Makkachin so achy.  It’s probably the weather, but just in case, we’ll know.”

 

Victor warmed to the idea, “That does...that makes me more at ease.  Thank you.  I couldn’t get my head around the big picture.”

 

Yuuri snorted at this, “That is something I can relate to very well.  I’m the king of getting hung up in my head.  So we have a plan.  Let’s get Makka and Vicchan back upstairs and then we can run to the rink.  There’s enough time to get an hour or two of practice before they arrive.”

 

While Victor settled Makkachin inside, Yuuri made the call and let Victor know she could get them in at two.  “Do you have her file from her previous vet?”

 

“Yes...but it’s in Russian,” Victor frowned.

 

Yuuri shook off Victor’s doubt, “Bring it anyway.  It may hold answers to questions she’ll ask and you can translate what’s written, she’ll understand the clinical terminology once in English.”

 

Victor went into his room and found the folder tucked away in a file safe with his other important papers.  Placing it on the counter where he could grab it later, he went to check on Makkachin one more time.  She seemed settled easily in a warm spot on the floor.

 

Yuuri was tapping on his phone as they grabbed their gear.  Looking up, he offered Victor a reassuring smile.  “Ashley said she’ll check on Makka before she goes out this morning.”

 

Relief flooded Victor’s expression.  “Thank you, Yuuri.  You don’t know how much it means to me that you did all of this for my Makka.”

 

Yuuri blushed but then murmured, “I know.”

 




As Victor’s eyes tracked Yuuri around the rink, he thought about how sometimes they just fell together naturally.  He was realistic enough to know that they weren’t there yet, he couldn’t shout his emotions out across the ice.  However, Yuuri had a way of meeting him where he was at and giving him the push or pull that he needed to reach the next rung in his journey.  He wanted to be that for Yuuri, but he wasn’t sure the younger man needed him.  He’s so independent, so self-sufficient.  The inner strength held in that compact body bowled Victor over.

 

Yuuri warmed up to skate programs he had watched and imitated and it didn’t take long for Victor to realize that many of those were his.  He saw the choreography and step sequences of his past run down the ice on this man’s blades.  However, Yuuri had a way of reclaiming those choreographies and making them his own, a turn or a loop, even a position of the arms...all were an improvement.  Watching the younger man skate, he could see the true joy in the ice.   I’ve lost that.  Could I find it again with you?  In you?

 

He sighed realizing with the chime on his phone that his daydream was about to end.  He took one last prolonged gaze of the skater smiling as he remembered the Firebird skate Yuuri was recreating.   My hair was still long at that point.  I was still young and open, my heart not hardened over.  Makkachin had just come into my life and my heart was starting to come together once again.  I remember choosing this skate.  It was a tribute to my mother, the dancer, the fighter.  But it was also a tribute to me, a declaration of who I was, who I wanted to be.  A rebirth from the little childish dream of Russia to something more.  I wish I could find the next element to myself.

 

His phone chimed again and he sighed, turning to relinquish the dream.  He straightened himself and strode out of the rink and into the main lobby only for his eyes to widen.  He heard their words before he spotted their bodies, the aggressive stance between the two of them.  Verity James from Chicago, dark hair coiled back, golden eyes narrowed to glare down the wealthy Angela deLuca.  One had been born to advantage, the other clearly fought for it and was still fighting.  As different as night and day, Angela straightened her long and lean form and ran her hand through her tousled short, blond curls.

 

Turning, she caught Victor’s eye.  “I think there’s been some kind of mistake.”

 

“Fuckin’ bitch, just because daddy can buy you the best coach, the best car, the best everything doesn’t mean you get to cut me.”  Even Victor, who had grown up in Russia, was shocked by this outburst.

 

Angela however handled it with the practiced ease of a politician.  “You...obviously need to clean up your act.  How could you even begin to understand grace and beauty on the ice?”

 

Verity sucked a tooth and rolled her eyes at the line.  “I don’t have to!  I know how to fight on the ice!”

 

“Ladies,” Victor greeted, his eyes sharp, his voice sharper.  They both turned to focus on him.  “I’m glad to finally meet you.  I trust you’ve found your accommodations.”

 

“I found them fine,” Angela stated, her voice annoyed and bored, the nasal sound forced into place to keep her distance from those around her.  Victor knew those skills.  He mastered them long ago.  “However, someone failed to mention that I expect private rooms, which I thought would be understood.  I just learned I’m sharing...with her.”  The obvious distaste was on her tongue.  “If it’s a matter of cost…”

 

Victor held a hand up to silence her.  “Coach Cialdini and I discussed your accommodations at length, Ms. DeLuca.  However, we both agree that skaters thrive by fostering comradery with their rinkmates.  Just as I room with two other skaters, you will be expected to do the same for the first year.  After a year, we can reevaluate your request.”  He then turned to the other skater and added, “Ms. James, I trust you have also found your rooms.”

 

Verity shrugged, “I dumped everything off before coming here.  With Barbie.”

 

Victor hid the amusement.  So much like another skater he knew.  “That’s enough!  The only conflict you have is on the ice.  In competition.  Rinkmates will support one another and help each other to improve.  The best competition will be the one that pushes you to be better.”

 

Both ladies exchanged side-eye glances and Verity opened her mouth to protest.  “Coach Victor, she’s already taking over.”

 

Victor arched an eyebrow.  Verity huffed and backed off.  “Your third roommate, Alexa Reed is a pairs skater and she has been here for a year.  She has agreed to help you both to become acclimated.  She will show you around and help to make sure you are ready when classes begin as well as training.  I trust you will not air childish grievances to her either as she’s doing you the favor.”  Smiling Victor saw the barbed comment landed exactly as he’d hoped.  “Training starts in two days.  I expect to see you on the ice at eight sharp on Saturday.  If you are late, you’ll do laps doubletime.  For now, email me your course schedule.  Now, go!  Get unpacked and settled in!”  With the sharp dismissal, both ladies were staring at the harsh Russian in surprise.

 

He heard them talking as they walked away.  “He’s not the charmer I expected him to be,” Angela muttered.

 

“I thought he’d be a big teddy bear,” added Verity.

 

As they disappeared out the door, Ciao Ciao came out of the shadows.  “Not too bad.  That personality conflict could bring some drama into play.”

 

“I actually expected it, although I’m surprised they decided to test it the first day.  I would want to make a good impression on my new coach.”  Victor then remembered Yura and smirked.  “I guess the younger generation of skaters are a bit fiery.”

 

Celestino snorted.  “Fiery.  Okay, you go with that.  Enjoy the drama!”  The old coach waved before heading into the rink.  

 

Happy that he was able to impress his boss on the first day Victor smiled at the little victory.  But he hovered back and forth, not sure what to do.  It really wasn’t that much and he was worried about Makkachin.  Peering into the rink, he watched Yuuri at the boards listening to his coach.  With a stiff nod at Ciao Ciao’s words, he skated backwards and seeing him, he waved.  He wanted to work with Yuuri so bad that it itched.  To pull those jumps out of him, to tease out the artistry that buzzed throughout the younger man’s body.  He stilled at the idea, his mind going places it shouldn’t.   Perhaps it’s good I’m not his coach .

 

He slipped out of the rink and turned sharply to go to the weight room.   Might as well get the workout out of the way .  He might be busy with Makkachin all evening.

 

An hour later he was pulling up on the inclined sit up bench when a shadow crossed over his form.  He blinked up to see Yuuri still damp with sweat from the rink.  “Hey,” he greeted with a smile.

 

“Hi, are you ready to head back?  Phichit left us the keys to the car.”

 

He gritted his teeth as he finished out his set before grabbing the offered hand up.  “Thanks.  Yes, I can’t keep my mind on anything.  I hope she’s okay.”

 

“Ashley checked on her earlier.  She thinks Makkachin is just dealing with the damp air.  She said she wishes she was working the clinic today but she has a training seminar.”

 

Victor tried to breathe through the idea.  “I’ve had her for a long time, but I know I’m not ready to let her go.  She’s...well, I wouldn’t handle it well.”

 

Yuuri’s hand was on his shoulder with a comforting and grounding squeeze.  “Don’t borrow trouble, Victor.  We are taking her to a good vet.  Then we’ll do what is needed.”

 

Victor smiled at that word.  We.

 





Back at the apartment, they found the dogs curled up together.  “Dr. Moore told me to bring Vicchan in for his check up as well.  Does Makkachin travel well in a car?”

 

“Yes, in cars.  She just isn’t fond of flying these days.  I remember the early days when she would go with me to competitions.  I miss those days...it made those lonely periods in the hotel more bearable.”

 

Yuuri watched him with an odd expression but then gave Victor a reassuring smile.  “Let’s take them down to do their business then load them up.  Are you okay with me driving?”

 

“Oh...ummm, of course.”  Victor glanced to the side, then called Makkachin to him.  As he knelt scratching through her curls, he heard Yuuri behind him leashing up Vicchan.

 

As they walked down the stairs, Yuuri asked Victor, “Do you know how to drive?”

 

Victor huffed.  “I...understand the theory of it.  I just...I biked everywhere or ran and if it required an automobile, I called a taxi.”

 

Yuuri smiled at the skilled way Victor made his ‘no’ sound perfectly normal.  He would quickly learn that driving was almost mandatory in the States.  “I have an older sister.  Mari.  She’s six and a half years older than me.  She taught me how to drive.  I was fourteen...way earlier than was legal in Japan.  You have to be eighteen.  But Mari tends to bend the rules.  She’d pull over on an old farm road and then have me behind the wheel.  Which was tricky because I was short for my age.”

 

Victor smiled at the memory Yuuri shared imagining a tiny Yuuri peeking over the steering wheel.  “I figured you would be all about following the rules.”

 

Yuuri chewed his bottom lip and blushed, “Well, if I started thinking about getting caught, I’m done.  My anxiety would shut me down.  But with Mari, those things never occurred to me.  She made me feel safe.”

 

The dogs began sniffing around the grass while the men waited and Victor considered that word.   Safe.  Did anyone make me feel safe?  My father.  But he had rules.  Same with Yakov.  With Chris, he knew he was breaking the rules but that didn’t feel...safe.  But...now that he thought about it, with Yuuri he felt safe.  Even when he was upset and panicking about this new life, there was something calming about Yuuri’s presence.  Although he was anxious, Victor could see a quiet confidence beneath the surface.

 

Yuuri behind the wheel was another matter all together.  Yuuri was an intense driver, aggressive.  Victor suspected the Japanese words he heard slip from those lips were profanities.  The Russian man held onto the door handle and kept his eyes trained on the road, as if watching for danger would somehow prevent it..  Every so often, he felt his body tensing but Yuuri seemed to take the possible dangers in stride.   Maybe that’s the difference between knowing how to drive and not knowing.  As he glanced to the driver negotiating into the parking lot, he wondered if it was too late to learn.  Yuuri glanced his way and grinned.  Victor could feel his breath catch and hoped he covered it well.

 

Victor guided Makka out of the car and they walked slowly up the walk and into the pet clinic.  As they entered, Victor watched as Yuuri pasted on a smile.  “Yuuri!” cried out a tiny female voice.

 

“Mei Ling,” he greeted with a tight smile.

 

“Who’s your friend?” she asked, batting her eyes at Victor.

 

Victor could see the younger man rolling his eyes even as Victor pasted on a friendly expression.  “Victor Nikiforov.  I believe there is an appointment for my Makkachin.”

 

“Oh, of course.  Let’s get her weighed in.”  The vet tech led them back to an exam room and one poodle then the other were weighed in, their weights recorded on their charts.  “Dr. Moore will be with you shortly.”  She then winked at Yuuri before leaving them.

 

As the door closed, Yuuri leaned back against the wall rolling his eyes.  “I think she has a crush on you,” Victor teased.

 

“Yet another reason to wish Ashley was working today,” the Japanese man huffed.

 

Dr. Moore came into the room and greeted them both warmly.  “I see Vicchan has a new friend!”

 

“Thanks for getting us in, Dr. Moore.  Victor just moved here from Russia and I wanted to help him find a good place to get care for his poodle,” Yuuri returned with a soft voice that Victor knew was his shy voice.  

 

“We will certainly take good care of her.  Do you have her records?” she asked looking up at Victor.

 

“I do, but they are in Russian,” Victor answered.  

 

She then began a series of questions about Makkachin’s care, Victor’s concerns, and various questions he was able to pull from the records.  Makkachin sat on the exam table and allowed the vet to examine her with confident fingers.  As she worked with the stiff leg, a whine broke forth.  “Does that hurt?” she asked gently.  Finally, she finished her assessment.  “Definitely arthritis and some bruising.  Did she fall?”

 

“We traveled from Russia, but we’ve been here a couple of weeks.  So I don’t think it would be that.”  Victor considered how she adapted to the new apartment and her playmate.  “However, she is up and down on the furniture and has been trying to keep up with Vicchan.”

 

“Perhaps that is it, then.  We’ll get her going again.  I am recommending a supplement therapy as well as physical therapy.  If you are comfortable doing the work yourself, I can have Ashley walk you through the process.”  She began writing out her directions as she continued to talk.  “I want to see her continue to exercise, but stairs may be difficult on her stiff days.  Slopes are better.  You might provide an incline for her to have access to things like the bed or other taller furniture where she is allowed access and move her bed away from any drafts.”

 

Victor thanked her for her guidance and waited while she gave Vicchan his checkup.  “You are both such good dogs for your owners,” she praised as she looked at paws and gums, observing how Vicchan responded to joint manipulation.  “I think the inclines might help Vicchan as well as he’s showing some early signs of arthritis.  He’s smaller and bounces around so much that having ramps will help his joints.  He’s around two years younger but prevention is always a good thing.  We will get them both in order.”

 

Victor seemed much more relieved as they left the vet’s office.  “I thought if I were home more, it would be better,” he pouted.

 

“Just because you’re home it won’t stop the inevitable,” Yuuri pointed out.  “We just have to make them both as comfortable as possible.”

 

Victor’s eyes fell with concern on the smaller poodle as he watched Yuuri hook him up in his seatbelt .  Victor harnessed in Makkachin from the opposite side of the car.  Once both pets were secured, they climbed in and Yuuri negotiated out of the parking lot and into traffic.  It was late afternoon and people were starting to get off work.  Victor watched how Yuuri made small adjustments to the environment to make it more agreeable to the dogs.  Temperature, soft ambient music, and a small amount of fresh air.

 

“I don’t want them to get sick in the slow traffic,” Yuuri explained.

 

“I appreciate it.  I’m just not used to traveling with someone who thinks of these things,” the older man observed.

 




Victor was seated in the middle of his bed, laptop open, dog half sprawled across his lap when a tap on the door caught his attention.  “Hey,” Yuuri murmured through the open door.

 

“Come in, Yuuri!  I’ve been looking at ramps for my sweet Makkachin.”  Victor scooted over and Yuuri hesitantly joined him, his head downcast so Victor might not see the blush on his cheeks.

 

“Are you okay?”

 

“Better now.  You helped make it much easier.”

 

Yuuri smiled, shifting a little closer.  “So about what I said earlier.  I...have anxiety.  I don’t know if you knew that.  It’s not like it’s a secret or anything.  It just is.”

 

“I...heard.  But I didn’t want to push the matter until you invited me in,” Victor said softly.

 

Yuuri nodded.  “Th-thank you.  I noticed you didn’t react earlier so I thought maybe you had.  But thank you...for letting me get there on my own.”  He turned to the screen and studied what Victor had found.  “I like that one ...and it has storage .”

 

They spent the next hour talking about different ramps and what would work better for both dogs and at some point, Vicchan was up in Yuuri’s lap as well.  This is how Phichit found them.  Both men so engrossed in their conversation and examination of ramps they were unaware of the sharp black eyes watching them from the doorway.

 

“When I considered I might catch my two roommates in bed together, it never occured to me that it would be so domestic,” Phichit couldn’t resist the urge to tease.

 

“Phichit!” Yuuri squeaked, his face going scarlet.  He reached for the nearest pillow and hurled it at the Thai man, his aim true.  Then it was on.

 

Pillows, excited dogs bounding around their owners and a number of plushies joined in.  It was in this chaos that Ashley walked in.  “Boys!”  They all stilled and turned to meet the judgmental glare of their friend, neighbor, and resident dog expert.  “I thought we were going to talk about dog therapy ,” she stated with a huff.  She set her bag down and knelt down inviting the dogs to her.  “Poor babies left alone with these wild animals,” she cooed at the two poodle who were happily playing innocent for her.  Within half an hour, she had both dogs relaxed and both Yuuri and Victor demonstrating the therapeutic movements that would help both dogs.  “I’ll stop by and check on her in the evenings, Victor, but I can tell you are going to take good care of her.”

 

Victor beamed at the praise, “Thank you.  She’s been my world since I was sixteen.”

 

“You’ve had her quite a while, then.” She smiled as she watched Victor’s face fall just slightly.   I’m not making this easy on you, you’re gonna work for Yuuri on my watch.  “I’m just down the hall if you need help or have questions.  Yuuri calls me all of the time.”

 

“Maybe not all the time,” Yuuri protested.

 

Ashley rolled her eyes.  “You’re right.  Only when you panic.  Anyway, get my number from one of the boys if you don’t have it already.”

 

She left them alone and Victor found himself worn after the long and emotional day.  After taking the dogs out, they all began their evening routine and Victor found himself reluctant to retreat to his room.  Settling into the living room after his shower, he found a romantic comedy on the television.  Makkachin was stretched across his lap and then he felt a hand on his shoulder as Yuuri came around the sofa to sit next to him, folding his legs underneath and reaching out to scratch Makkachin’s chin.  He received a happy lick from the older dog.  A whine from the floor caused Yuuri to reach down and lift Vicchan up to curl up in the crook of his legs.

 

They watched television for a while, quietly commenting on the program and just enjoying each other’s company.  Victor didn’t realize he’d fallen asleep until a gentle shake brought him to.  He blinked up and realized he had curled into Yuuri’s side, resting his head on the other man’s shoulder.  The cheek resting against the top of his head, though, was far from discouraging.  It felt like...home.

 

Pulling up, he blinked rapidly blushing.  “I fell asleep.”

 

Yuuri smirked.  “I noticed.”

 

“I should…” he glanced down the hall and felt out of sorts, what he wanted warring with what he should do.  “I’m going to bed.”  He slowly rose and Yuuri watched him shift on unsure feet before he managed to get Makkachin to follow him down the hall.  He could feel brown eyes following his retreat.   God!  I can’t mess this up! his mind screamed followed with, God!  I didn’t want to leave your arms.  He glanced back just before he rounded the corner.  Yuuri met his gaze with a contemplative study.  He glanced down awkwardly, his cheeks pink.  “G-good night, Yuuri.”

 

“Good night, Victor,” he replied, his voice rumbling soft and low.  “Sweet dreams.”

 

As Victor slipped between his sheets, he allowed his mind to stray to the feel of that arm draped around him as he woke up, to the thought of waking up in those arms every day.  And he knew he was where he needed to be.

Chapter Text


 

Freshman Seminar and All of Yuuri’s Exes!

 

Victor came out of his room, his hair a bit awry and looking frazzled.  “Yuuri, where is this building again?”

 

“Just north of the Student Union.  You’ll be fine.”  The Japanese man was staring at something on his phone, tapping away.

 

Victor shuffled his feet a little, hoping Yuuri would look up and offer to take him.  In his most needed but definitely not whiney voice he coaxed.  “I’m going to get lost.”

 

Yuuri rolled his eyes.  He and Phichit had walked Victor around campus twice in as many days helping him locate his classes, library, and other important buildings.  “I could walk you to class, Victor, but I think you’re old enough to go by yourself,” he teased.

 

“So mean!” he whined, then flopped down at the counter with a huff.  Yuuri bit back his amusement as he poured a cup of coffee and slid it in front of Victor.  Victor breathed it in and his eyes widened.  “What’s this?”

 

“Hazelnut creamer.  A poor college student’s answer to fancy coffee.”  Yuuri lifted his cup in answer and Victor followed suit.

 

The artificial taste hit Victor all at once, it wasn’t bad, just overpowering.  However it was something he could get used to, Victor liked his coffee on the sweet side.  “Oh, wow!”

 

“Now, get to class!”  Yuuri watched him comb his hand through his hair and head out.  He felt the soft smile tease his lips.

 

Yuuri gathered the dogs up and took them out.  Phichit had already left, grabbing hold of an early practice slot with Celestino to do some work on his choreography.   I need to be working on mine , he thought.  He glanced up through his bangs and spotted her with a groan.   Andreia .  With smooth ease, he called the dogs over and headed towards the door.   If I can just get inside without her...

 

“Yuuuriiii!”

 

Shit!  He pasted a smile on his face.  “Andreia.  I didn’t see you...” ...soon enough or I would have sprinted.

 

“Oh, Yuuri!  I have been trying to catch up to you for days.” She did that grating slow motion hip bounce thing that he could never figure out if she was trying to seduce him or her back hurt.

 

“I’ve been busy with practice and settling in my new roommate.”

 

She cocked her head to the side, allowing the hair to fall back.  “Is that the blond hotty I’ve seen you with?” she purred.

 

Yuuri internally groaned.  It sounded so wrong coming from her lips.  “Andreia, what do you need?  I’ve got things…”

 

“Oh, just a little favor,” she interrupted.   Of course you’re not interested in what I have to say.  I figured that out half way through the first date .  “I’m organizing a fundraiser and was hoping I could count you on board.”

 

Don’t ask.  Do not ask .  “What’s the fundraiser for?”

 

“Oh, the local humane society.  We, you know, my sorority, are thinking to do a calendar with our local athletes and their pets.”

 

Yuuri narrowed his eyes thoughtfully before he asked, “Wouldn’t it be better if you took pictures of the animals available for adoption?”

 

Her mouth opened in surprise, and he watched her pout a moment.  “Well, it’s just that they are so dirty!  You know, fleas, ticks… probably some gross diseases...”

 

Yuuri ignoring her inane babble, tilted his head as he considered something good that could come out of this.  “Maybe when they first come in, but I’ve volunteered at the shelter just off campus.  We clean them up quickly, they see a vet, have blood work done to ensure they are healthy, and then volunteers work with them to determine what socialization needs to be done in order to rehome them.  You should come down with me some time.”

 

“Oh, Yuuri...you know how busy I am!” she protested.

 

Yuuri frowned.   No, if you’re going to do this, I’m going to push the issue .  “It doesn’t have to be a major time commitment.  And then perhaps you’ll understand the organization that you evidently want to raise money for.  Wouldn’t it make the photos more meaningful?”

 

She frowned as she considered his words and Yuuri could see her fighting against the internal squirm.  “I suppose...would you do it?  If I use the shelter dogs?”

 

Yuuri turned on his sweetest smile, his charm slipping in place.  “And if you take a day and volunteered, getting to know the subjects.  I could get you the athletes you needed.  I know Phichit would help out.  And so would Victor.  Devryn could talk to the hockey team.  That will lead to other athletes.  I like the idea, Andreia.  Really.  I just want you to understand the subject.  And it’s not the athlete.”

 

Andreia bit her lip.  Yuuri knew how to play her when he made the effort.  He just learned very early in their relationship that she was too shallow for him.  “I...suppose?”

 

He jumped at the opening, “I’m volunteering Sunday morning.”

 

“Oh, I have church,” she came back quickly.

 

Yuuri didn’t let his smile waiver.  “Come after.  The dogs can use all of the socialization they can get.  Bring a friend, even.”

 

“Well...I’ll try,” she agreed.

 

Yuuri’s eyes held that soft puppy dog look as he added, “I know you won’t let me down.  Thank you, Andreia.”  He then waved as he took the dogs back in.   It wasn’t planned.  Hell, Sunday wasn’t even planned.  Would Victor want to go?  So many thoughts crashed into his mind.   I don’t work Saturday so I can get an early start.

 

Back in the apartment he pulled out his laptop, still smiling, and logged into his student account.  He wanted to get a list of his books needed for this semester and see if there were any last supplies for his classes before the semester began officially on Monday.   I wonder how Victor is doing…

 





Across campus Victor found himself in an entirely new situation.  Sure, he was used to standing out in the crowd...but not because he was the oldest.  That thought settled around him uncomfortably and he slowly sunk down into the chair a little lower.  Surrounded by seventeen and eighteen year olds, he thought to himself why am I here?  Across the seminar hall he spotted the two ladies who would fall under his supervision on the ice.   Please don’t see me, I don’t want to start my coaching career this way.   For now, he focused on the orientation to campus.   When’s the last time I was in a classroom?

 

The group was breaking up and he was looking to make a quick retreat when he felt a hand on his shoulder.  “Victor, yes?”

 

Victor turned in surprise and found himself face to face with the man that carried Yuuri off on the ice a couple of days ago.  “Oh, hi...we...haven’t met,” Victor responded at a loss for words.

 

“My fault, really.  I carried Yuuri away from you the other day and left you hanging.” He extended his hand to Victor.  “My name is Devryn.”

 

“Oh, nice to meet you.”  Victor forced a charming smile in place, quickly taking the hand for a brief moment then dropping it.

 

Devryn stifled a smile.  “So, I’m supposed to show you around.  It says here you declared a math major,” he went on.  “I’m in Physics, to many that’s the same language.”

 

Victor shrugged, not taking the opening the other man offered.  “I’ve always been good with numbers.”

 

“Is that so?  Maybe I can sway you to the Physics department.”  He then clapped his hand on Victor’s back and led him out of the seminar hall.

 

They walked across campus and as Devryn opened the door and led him into the science and math hall, Victor finally found the words that have been burning up his thoughts.  “So...you and Yuuri…”  He flinched, the words came out far too loud and much to fast for him to hide his true meaning.  Fortunately the other man had an easy manner that seemed to take everything in stride.

 

Devryn waved away Victor’s concerns before they even surfaced.  “Ages ago.  We haven’t been a couple for over a year now.  But you know...Yuuri’s amazing.  So we stayed friends.  Not even a real break up.  We just switched gears.”

 

“Oh...you both seemed so...close,” Victor stammered, too relieved to hide it behind a practiced veneer.

 

Devryn shrugged.  “History.  I’ve known him for some time.  We dated off and on but in the end decided we’d be better off as friends.  It always seemed like he had his eyes on someone else.  Not like a wandering eye, just...there was someone he’s already set his sights on and they’ve always seemed just beyond his reach.”  Devryn grinned and noticed that Victor had entirely missed the directed compliment.  “But honestly, going out with me shut down a lot of offers he received from the team that were frustrating him.  It was a why not sort of dating arrangement.  Fun, but it was never going to go anywhere.”

 

Victor considered those words and what he already knew about Yuuri.  The Japanese man was quiet unless he knew you well.  Still, he could shy away from those he trusted the most when he wasn’t sure of himself.   Oh, Yuuri…

 

When the tour was over, Victor stood in the middle of campus trying to get his bearings to find his way home.   Don’t text Yuuri...do not text Yuuri to come rescue you...

 





Yuuri studied his student account, tapping his pen on his notebook with furrowed eyebrows.   I’m going to run short .  Pulling out his phone, he tapped out a message.

 

Yuuri/ Is there any way I can pick up extra shifts at Incognito?

 

Jules/ You don’t have time!

 

Yuuri/ I have to make time!

 

Jules/ I may be able to make something happen on Thirsty Thursday but it’s college students for the most part.  Are you sure you want to go there?

 

Yuuri shrank back from his phone, but as he studied the list of expenses he realized there were few options.  Is there something I can get rid of?  I don’t really need to eat, do I?

 

Yuuri/ Let me think about it.  I may not have a choice.

 

Jules/ I’ll see if I can think of something.

 

Studying his messages with a frown, he fought the impulse to throw something.   Why can’t anything go right this year?  He went down the hall and pulled on his running clothes in frustration.   Maybe the fresh air will clear my head.

 

He took off and felt the burn in his muscles within minutes.  He pushed through climbing up the hill.  He knew this trail, it was punishing and demanded his focus so he wouldn’t stumble, but when he crested the hill, he could see the entire campus and beyond that, the skating rink and his apartment, his entire world at the moment.  A large stone table sat at the top of the hill, a place where various parties took place along with secret initiations.  But for now, it witnessed Yuuri sitting on its surface, his knees drawn up.  Far away from the world beneath him, he let his tears fall.   I just want things to go right.  If I fall apart...if I can’t stay here because of money or because I can’t keep my head together, I won’t stand a chance.  And...I want him.






Phichit watched Andreia walk off with Vicchan.  His Yuuri-sense was tingling, telling him something was wrong.  When the dreaded ex showed up demanding her “custody visit” he initially wanted to argue.  But when both texts went unreturned the Thai man’s attention shifted from worrying over Yuuri’s dog to worrying over Yuuri’s location.  He didn’t have time to negotiate with Andreia and watched as she tugged the tiny poodle behind her.   It’s a living animal, not an accessory.   He pulled out his phone and opened the app that would tell him where to find the wayward friend.  It felt stalker-ish, but Yuuri...had a history of disappearing.  Unanswered text messages were a bad sign.  Radio silence was terrifying when it came to Yuuri.  Stubborn!Yuuri often got himself in trouble before he asked for help.  If he asked for help at all.






Victor had finally found a familiar landmark and redirected his steps towards home when a familiar bark caught his attention.  He smiled at the small poodle, but the heart-shape vanished into a confused frown when he saw the human attached.  He wasn’t one to make assumptions based on looks, and there was nothing wrong with her...but he also could sense something about her, and he didn’t like it.  The woman was unfamiliar, dark hair, amber eyes, tawny skin, freckles.  However, in her hands was a leash attached to a very familiar poodle.  The dog barked again.

 

“Vicchan!” Victor greeted, then looked up at the woman.  “Oh, I didn’t know Yuuri used a dog walker.”

 

The woman huffed in annoyance, overly shaped eyebrows shooting up her forehead.  “I’m Andreia.  Yuuri and I dated.”  Then with a shrug she added, “Now we share custody of the dog.”

 

Victor narrowed his eyes at the words the dog .  “Oh, is this a legal arrangement?” he pressed as he knelt down before Vicchan.  The poodle came to him with ease, settling into his attention as long fingers teased into his curls.

 

She laughed, looking around at others passing around them, as if they were watching her performance with rapt attention.  They were not.  “Of course not!  He’s a dog!” she stated, hand on hip.

 

Lifting blue eyes her direction, he imitated his father’s legal authority voice.  “I didn’t think so.  Yuuri has had this dog since he was a child and I can’t imagine a judge separating that relationship.”

 

With another huff, she stated, “It’s just the way things are!”  Turning on her heel, she gave the leash a tug a little too roughly.

 

Victor’s eyes narrowed.   No, she did not!  Jogging up to her, he stated in no uncertain terms as he placed his hand on the lead, “You seem upset.  I’ll take Vicchan home for you.”

 

“I just…” she protested but Victor was already taking the lead from her.

 

“It’s fine.  I’m heading home as it is.  It’s no trouble.”  He then scooped up the dog in his arms and used his long stride to his advantage, leaving her to watch him.   I like Devryn.  This girl, not so much.  Yuuri, she doesn’t even seem your type.  That thought stalled him.  “What is your type, Yuuri?”  He noticed the pup in his arms contemplating him, “Well, do you know?”

 

Yeah.  You.

 




At the apartment Victor stepped into the hallway to see a redhead knocking on the door.  She turned her bright sunny smile his direction and asked, “Is Yuuri home?”

 

Victor’s eyes widened at the copper beauty before him with all of the trademark signs of a dancer, long limbs, elegant neck, perfect posture that looked natural and movements that seemed fluid and planned.  Vicchan wriggled in his arms and as Victor settled him down, the poodle ran up to greet her.  He approved of the way she knelt down to fawn over the poodle.   She passed the poodle test, she’s a true friend.   “I’m not sure...I’ve been out.”  He unlocked the door and Vicchan ran to greet Makkachin happily.  Holding the door open, he invited her in.  “It appears he’s not,” he responded with a glance around the room lit only by natural light from the blinds.

 

“Well, this is awkward.”  Victor turned and caught her hand being offered.  Taking it, she gave him a firm handshake.  “Hi, I’m Jules.  You must be Victor.”

 

“Yes.  You are...Yuuri’s dance partner?”

 

“Yes, I am.  I’ve known Yuuri since our Freshmen year.  I teach at a studio off campus where Yuuri sometimes helps out and often works through his choreography.”

 

“Oh, do you work with other skaters?” Victor asked with interest.

 

That seemed to take her aback because she blinked in surprise.  “I...have worked with Yuuri but no...I haven’t in the past.  No one else.”

 

Victor saw how startled the question made her and backpedaled.  “I’m sorry...that was a little abrupt.  I’m coaching two new skaters here in Detroit and I’m still building up my resources.  I’ve always had a ballet coach at my disposal.”

 

She smiled as she realized he was sincere.  “You have Yuuri,” she pointed out, “but if he can’t work with your students you can give me a call.  I do choreography as well as teach dance.”

 

“Yuuri teaches ballet?”  Victor smiled warmly, learning another beautiful secret about this man.

 

“He’s been classically trained since he was five or six in Japan.  I understand his teacher was an award winning ballerina.  We met in dance classes on campus and have performed together on several occasions.  He may have graduated with a degree in psychology but he was only a course or two away from a double major in dance.”

 

“That explains how he emotes so well on the ice as well as his grace.  I’m still learning about Yuuri.”  Victor dropped his eyes uncomfortably.  He really was a stranger to him.   I moved based on a feeling.  But...my father did the same for my mother and they were happy until she passed away.  Even when she was her most ill, neither had any regrets.  So...I’m not going to give up.

 

The redhead gave him a reassuring smile.  “And you will be for...I don’t know...ever?  He opens up slowly, giving you tiny peeks into his mind.  I’m still discovering new shades of Yuuri and I’ve known him for four years.”

 

“Why is that?” Victor pressed.  “I mean, why so slow to warm up?”

 

She thinned her lips giving away that she at least had ideas.  “I...would like to answer that, Victor, but I think it should be a conversation you have with him.”

 

Victor smiled with a sharp nod.  He could respect that.

 

As the door opened, they both turned to see Yuuri limping into the apartment, leaning on Phichit.

 

“Yuuri!” they both cried out, going to help him off an exhausted Phichit’s shoulder.

 

The Japanese man frowned.  “I ran the hill and when I headed back down, I found a beer bottle with my foot and slipped, twisting my ankle.”

 

Victor supported the bulk of Yuuri’s weight as he guided the younger man to the sofa.  He could see remnants of muddy tears on his face and knew the fall must have caught the man off guard.  The other two watched Victor remove the trainer with the utmost care checking the injury.  “You’ve got some swelling.  Phichit, call Ciao Ciao.”  While the Thai man was occupied, Victor worked the sock off of the foot and slowly rotated the injury watching Yuuri for signs of pain.  Jules was in the kitchen putting together an ice pack and wrapping it in a towel.  “If I were to guess, I’d say a Grade I sprain.  So until we know otherwise, rest, ice, compression, and elevation.”

 

Yuuri was fighting a pucker threatening to form with his lower lip but then pulled in his sob and nodded sharply.  It was then that he noticed Jules was there.  “What...are you doing here?”

 

She handed the ice pack to Victor who settled it over the ankle.  She offered him a wry smile.  “Well, I thought I’d see if you wanted to help me with a class but...I guess that isn’t happening.”

 

Yuuri’s head went back against the couch and he groaned.  “No, I suppose not.  This year keeps getting more and more fucked up.”

 

She tousled his hair with her fingers, her expression gentle.  “Don’t give up.  We all have bad days.”  Victor watched her get up and go to the sink only to return with a washcloth to wipe away the mud caked on his face.  Yuuri scowled under her ministrations.  “Stop that!” she chastised.  “You are the worst about letting people take care of you.”

 

Yuuri’s voice came out in a mixture of whiney and genuinely hurt.  Victor watched with interest as this man struggle against his friend, against his self-interest.  “I’m not weak!  I can take care of myself!”

 

“Which is what you were trying to stubbornly do when I found you on the hill,” Phichit pointed out.  To Victor, he added, “He was scooting himself down the hill.”

 

Victor rounded on Yuuri, openly scolding the younger man.  “God, Yuuri!  You could have hurt yourself worse!”

 

Yuuri sulked while the others fussed.  After twenty minutes, the ice was removed and Victor studied the bruising and swelling on the ankle once more.  A knock on the door alerted them to their coach’s arrival.  Victor stepped back to allow access to the coach.

 

Expert hands assessed the injury while they all watched Celestino’s frown.  “I want an xray,” he stated.

 

Yuuri groaned as he calculated the expense of his folly on top of the rest.  At least he had insurance.  With Victor on one side and Celestino on the other, they helped him to the elevator and then into the waiting car.  The other two piled in after Victor in the back seat.






Two hours later and they were back home, Yuuri asleep on the couch with his foot elevated.  Victor’s assessment was accurate, but the older skater appreciated the coach’s thoroughness.  The three of them sat in the kitchen chopping up vegetables to throw into a soup Jules had started while they got Yuuri comfortable.

 

“He really is a stubborn ass,” she complained as she chopped through the carrots with determination.

 

Phichit snorted.  “Try hauling his ass down the hill.”

 

“You should have called someone,” Jules pointed out.

 

“I agree,” Victor pressed.  “You needed another arm in getting him down that hill.  What would have happened if you had also been injured?”

 

Phichit dropped his head miserably on the table.  “Yuuri wouldn’t let me call anyone.  He was pissed I came after him.  I think...something else is going on.”

 

Victor caught the guilty look in Jules eyes as she glanced away.  “Do you know something?”

 

She huffed.  “No...not really.  That’s just it.  Yuuri never really lets you know the something even if he lets you in on a little of it.  And...I don’t think it would be right to talk about what I think might be going on.”

 

“What was all of that about earlier about the year being fucked up?” Phichit pressed now suspicious she knew a lot more than she was letting on.

 

“I...can’t say,” she answered.  They both could see the focus she was giving to chopping the vegetables.  No one concentrates on carrots that much.

 

When Yuuri came to, Jules had already left and Victor brought him a bowl of soup.  He frowned looking into the bowl.  “It has ginger in it.”

 

“Is that a bad thing?”

 

“No...I love ginger.  I just don’t deserve ginger.”

 

Victor frowned, not sure where to go with that conversation.  Phichit peeked around the corner from his desk chair in his room.  “Don’t try to figure it out.  He doesn’t do prescription pain meds for a reason.”

 

“Why don’t we eat this, Yuuri, so you can rest some more,” Victor suggested.

 

Yuuri allowed himself to be spoon fed the soup even as he pouted.  Finally, he waved Victor away.  “That’s  enough.”  When Victor returned, Yuuri was curled up once more sleeping.

 





Midnight, and Victor came out to find Yuuri shifting restlessly on the couch.  Kneeling down next to him, Victor asked him, “Do you want to move to your bed?”

 

Yuuri ran his hand through his hair, his face frowning as his eyes narrowed to focus on those words.  Finally, he nodded.  Wordlessly, he let Victor help him up and hand him the crutch.  Victor followed him down the hall watching as Yuuri hesitated at the bathroom.  “I need to go in there,” he said before handing the crutch to Victor.  Hopping over to the counter, he used it as a brace to continue to the facilities.  

 

Victor leaned against the opposite wall, giving Yuuri the privacy he needed but available if Yuuri called him.  Finally, the sound of running water signaled Victor to step forward again offering the crutch.  Yuuri instead leaned on him.  Shifting the crutch, he tightened his arm around the Japanese man’s waist and helped him the rest of the way down the hall and opening the door.

 

Yuuri’s room was cast in shadows but he could see walls peppered with posters, simple bedding in a dark color, probably blue or gray, a desk and bookshelf.  Under the bed, he saw drawers providing extra storage.  The room was neat but he could see bits of clutter.  Legos assembled into scenes.  Music haphazardly placed in a folder, a keyboard leaning against his desk.  Duffles organized for dancing and skating.  A backpack next to the desk waiting to be filled with textbooks.  He saw a bulletin board with postcards and map with tiny pins marking Yuuri’s life journeys.  A string looped from pin to pin.

 

He helped Yuuri settle down into his bed and could hear the unhappy huff.  “It’s okay, Yuuri, you’ll be back on your feet skating in a couple of weeks,” he reassured Yuuri although he knew it might take longer.  Definitely longer for jumps.

 

“That’s just part of it,” Yuuri murmured.

 

“Do you want to talk about it?” Victor offered.

 

Yuuri slowly shook his head, sliding his hand through his full hair.  “My head’s just too crowded right now.”   He turned on his side facing away from Victor but the older man couldn’t help but place an encouraging hand on his shoulder.

 

“I’m here if you decide to talk,” Victor said. When he got no response, he added, “Good night, Yuuri.”

 

As he reached to close the door behind him, he caught Yuuri’s voice quietly saying, “Good night.”

Chapter Text


 

 

Human

 

Yuuri rolled over with a groan, feeling cotton headed and lethargic, like how he felt after a night of drinking.  Except he hadn’t been drinking.  He shoved himself off his mattress with a frown, the dark blue-gray quilt puddling around his hips.  Swinging his feet around, he stood only for his eyes to widen as memory hit him with a painful bite.  Shifting his weight to the other leg, he cried out before he could muffle the sound and he heard feet coming down the hall.  Victor opened his door before Yuuri could stop him.

 

The horrified Russian stood in the doorframe, obviously wanting to come in but afraid to breech that privacy.  “Are you okay?”

 

Yuuri shakily dropped back to the mattress and studied his foot with a frown.  “I sort of forgot I had sprained my ankle.”

 

“Ouch,” Victor hissed stepping forward gingerly, still very aware of how guarded Yuuri could be letting people in.  “You were a bit out of it last night when I helped you to bed.  How are you this morning?”

 

Yuuri’s frown had the start of a pout working into it before he smoothed it away through force of will.  “It’s a setback but I...I really don’t have time for this.”  Then he huffed in frustration.  “Not that I have a choice.”

 

Slowly, Victor took a couple more steps then sat down next to him on the bed, Yuuri pulled the knee of his good ankle to his chest.  Victor’s hand went up and down his back and Yuuri closed his eyes, allowing him a moment to check out of his problems as he relaxed into that touch.   He’s just being nice.  He doesn’t mean anything.  But Yuuri wanted...needed it to mean something.  Finally, he thinned his lips.  “I-I need to take Vicchan out.”

 

Victor smiled broadly, “Already taken care of.”  However his smile fell quickly at Yuuri’s odd expression, “What’s one more dog?  I took him out with Makkachin.”

 

“Oh...umm, thank you.”  Yuuri fidgeted studying the floor in front of him.

 

He pulled his hand away, afraid he had overstepped a Yuuri boundary.  “Should I...not have?” doubt creeping into his voice.

 

“No, it’s fine.  I...appreciate it.  I’m just...not used to relying on others,” he murmured.  Yuuri already missed the warmth of that hand.

 

Victor reached across and leaned the crutch against the bed.  “Then get used to these.  Classes start Monday and all.”

 

Yuuri smiled tightly.  “I know.  Thank you.”

 

Victor stood but hesitated by the door.  “Do you need anything else?”

 

He pursed his lips.  “I was going to go get my books today but...I guess they’ll wait until Monday.”  He stopped for a moment then huffed.  “Except, I have a reading assignment already due that day.”

 

Victor drummed his fingers against the doorframe, eyes darting around the room.  “I was going to go work out this morning at the rink.  When I come back, maybe we can make our way to campus?”

 

“Perhaps Phichit can come...and drive,” Yuuri suggested.

 

Victor grinned.  “Not a bad plan.  See you in a few hours.”

 

Yuuri nodded and watched him leave.   Chased him off in under five minutes.  Nicely done.   Yuuri grimaced from more than pain.

 




Pacing wasn’t as satisfying when it involved crutches.  He moved back and forth from the door to his room and back.  On the counter, his computer was open to his student account.  His first tuition installment would be due soon.  He ran the numbers and ran them again.  On paper.  In his head.  On spreadsheet.  Options were slim, but there was an installment option.  Even with that, the budget would be tight.  An extra $400 hit out of his monthly budget.  As he looked at the line item on his budget with some degree of flexibility, groceries and household, $520.  That was dancing at Incognito two Saturdays a month.  That was teaching three dance classes a week.

 

He pulled up a second spreadsheet on his computer pouring through sponsorships.  His skating was covered, including related travel.  His coaching fees were covered.  Other fees, equipment costs, even insurance was all covered.  Thank god!  Because I have an extra $50 to pay towards an xray when that bill comes in.   He shrugged that off.   That comes later.  For now, an extra $400.  Could I borrow from something?  And if I borrow from it, what does that mean for later?

 

Sliding his hands through his hair, his eyes fell across the food budget.  Can I eat on $25 a week?  He typed in a search and google, for once, was his friend.   The internet said yes .   He considered cheap proteins and whole grains.  Store brands.   Okay, I can do this.  Mom will go nuts if she found out, but there is no way she should find out.  Minako and Mari would go ballistic.

 

He took a deep breath and relogged into his student account.  The time out gave him a chance to process his information.   Hopefully some more money will trickle in.  He paid the first installment.   At least now I can avoid the late fee.  He jotted down the x-ray costs in the upcoming column.  Then he began making a shopping list based on the website he found and what he could cook off the top of his head.

 

  • Eggs
  • Peanut butter
  • Rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Quinoa
  • Spinach
  • Apples
  • Chicken
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Leeks
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Chickpeas
  • Store brand shampoo

 

He already had two menu items he could put together.  Potato and leek soup.  Roasted chickpeas for a snack as a protein boost between practice.  Apples and peanut butter for lunch.  Chicken salad.  Okay.  I can do this!  I may have to do more prep, but I grew up in a kitchen.

 

Of course, this next week was Phichit’s week in the kitchen.  Dinner was covered so he pushed an extra $10 to the next week’s budget.   Maybe I can shuffle another $10 back from the week after.  Feeding myself on $25 is doable...but feeding three...all of which are athletes?  I’ll have to do some creative cooking.  Housewives do this all the time.  Surely I can manage it.

 

With false confidence he made the adjustments to his list and began his next list for when it was his cooking turn.  Menus would be necessary for success and he knew he could dip into apartment stores for a short period of time.  But if he was taking more than replenishing...no, that’s not an option.  He’ll just have to figure out a way to make it all up.






Yuuri was more proficient on crutches by the time Victor arrived.  It probably helped that he could dance around poles and barres and chairs and whatever other prop he and Jules devised.  “I see the lack of drugs in your system is helping.”  The Russian’s smile dazzled Yuuri.

 

“I hate prescription painkillers,” Yuuri complained.  “I’m too sensitive to meds anyway.  Most people with anxiety take meds for it...I can’t.”

 

He settled on the couch next to Yuuri watching the brown eyes work through the emotions.  “Don’t worry, Yuuri.  You had people watching over you.  For the most part, you slept.”

 

“It fucks with my emotions.  I become a basket case.”  Yuuri wanted to open up to Victor, let him in as much as he felt comfortable.

 

It wasn’t lost on Victor who beamed at the admission.  “That’s fine, too.  How are you feeling today?”

 

“A little frustrated by my limitations but otherwise working through things.”  He paused forming his thoughts and finally asked, “When you get bad news, do you crash and burn before you start to work through them?”

 

Victor frowned before he answered.  “When it comes to big things, for certain.  Sometimes I need help to work through it.  But...that’s usually large emotional blows.”  Then he offered a wry smile.  “Or when I’m trying to figure out cooking.”

 

Yuuri laughed softly, remembering that night.  “You are doing better now,” Yuuri pointed out.

 

“Phichit said if I want to really learn, to hang out and help you both on your work weeks.”  Victor hoped Yuuri heard the compliment buried in the statement.

 

Yuuri glanced down shyly.  “I...wouldn’t mind showing you around the kitchen.”

 

Victor grinned as he switched out his gym bag for a backpack.  “Okay, so the bookstore.  I’ll be your hands.  Phichit is waiting in the car but I can help carry what you need.”

 

Yuuri moved his hands up, trying to wave the older man off.  “Victor, you don’t have to…”

 

Victor was already standing and helping Yuuri up.  “I want to.  Besides, you and Phichit have gone out of your way to make me feel comfortable and to help me find my feet.”  Victor’s hand slid down his back and guided him towards the door.  Yuuri relaxed into the touch.  It was such an easy motion and felt comfortable, right.

 

Yuuri smiled softly, noting the odd flutters inside him.  It wasn’t the first time Victor had touched him.  Yuuri had initiated touch as well.  But...it was Yuuri letting Victor help him, being vulnerable, accepting someone else into his space.  Even if it was one small thing if felt bigger.  They went down the stairs, Yuuri insisting on practice.  Yuuri took one step at a time, working through the constraints currently put on his world.  Glancing back, he caught patient blue eyes ready to offer a hand if needed.  Maybe...it was good to lean on someone else for a change.

 





Victor tapped on Yuuri’s door.  He heard a murmured “come in” in the darkened room.  “I thought I’d see if you wanted me to take Vicchan out with Makka this morning,” he offered.  Movement met his words and Victor heard the sound of the crutches before he protested, “You don’t have to come.”

 

“I want to,” Yuuri argued quietly, his voice a whispered hiss.  “I...always take care of Vicchan.  But it would be nice to have someone who can help me handle the leash.”

 

Victor smiled at the compromise.  Yuuri had relaxed as the evening went on the previous day.  He let Victor carry his books.  He allowed Phichit to bring him his dish for dinner.  He even supervised while Victor went through the bathroom chores.  “I’ll pay you back,” he promised.

 

Victor shrugged it off.  “We share the bathroom.  We should share the cleaning equally.  I prefer to just trade off.”

 

Now Yuuri joined him out in the small yard where the dogs took care of their business.  Yuuri manipulated the crutch to one side and lowered himself onto the bench.  Victor sat next to him, crossing his legs and draping an arm around the back of the bench.

 

The air was damp, leaving halos around the lamplight.  Crickets and frogs sang their chorus and Victor fought the urge to play with Yuuri’s sleep curled hair.  “So what are you doing today?” Yuuri asked quietly, a soft smile on his face as he watched the two dogs playing.

 

Victor’s voice was soft in the morning air, “I’m working with my two students.  Hopefully they can get along.”

 

Yuuri perked at the thought of Coach Victor meeting his students.  He was a little envious of how well the older man handled his fear and self doubt.  “Do you have a plan?”

 

“I have a couple of programs I want to present to them.  I’ve been adjusting it to their skill-set but I want to see more triples on Angela.  She’s got potential but hasn’t been pushed.”

 

“And Verity?”

 

Victor laughed.  “She’s like little Yura...so much fight in her, she’ll work the program to death before admitting failure.”

 

Yuuri looked up at him in contemplation.  “I didn’t...know if you’d like it.  Coaching, that is.”

 

“I’ve helped Yakov for years as a mentor, assisting him along the way.  He just never acknowledged it.”  Victor flashed a wry smile to Yuuri.  Then he became more sincere.  “I like it, working with skaters and helping them perfect their programs.  I love creating choreography.”

 

“And yet...you’re majoring in mathematics,” Yuuri pointed out.

 

Victor rolled his eyes at the younger man to his side.  “In case you haven’t noticed, skating has become a numbers game.  If I can develop the formula to maximize a skater, wouldn’t that be amazing?”

 

“It sounds a little too much like magic, not mathematics,” Yuuri teazed.

 

Victor threw his arm over his head.  “So mean!”  Yuuri rolled his eyes in response.  They settled back to watching the dogs.  Victor decided to bring up the Thursday meetings, “I met your friend the other day.  Devryn.  He says I should consider Physics.”

 

Yuuri considered the other man’s options before he suggested, “Or biomechanics.  There are a number of fields where you could improve the field of skating, pushing the numbers and training.  You could go Physiology.  But that doesn’t mean you have to give up maths in the process.  Most math majors have a double major in something else.  They love the elegance of the numbers but they want something else as well.”

 

Victor nodded along, listening to Yuuri’s list of options.  “So what do you suggest?”

 

Yuuri smiled, flattered that Victor wanted his advice.  “Talk to a lot of people.  Which you are good at.  And find out what blend allows you to do the things you love.”

 

“Is that what you did?”

 

Yuuri laughed.  “I majored in psychology with a minor in dance.  The first due to my anxiety...and I want to help others find a way to work past the things that crippled me.  And dance, well...I’ve always danced.”

 

“Jules says that you almost majored in dance.”

 

Yuuri’s eyebrows rose in surprise.  “Did she now?  Just how many of my exes did you talk to?”

 

Victor frowned realizing he’d been caught.  “The nearest I can figure...three?”

 

Yuuri snorted, he caught the tinge of pink in the Russian’s cheeks.  “And the third?”

 

Victor swallowed, he wasn’t certain this would be a good memory for Yuuri.  “Andreia?”

 

Yuuri grunted and rolled his eyes.  “That one barely counts.  We went out three times.”

 

Victor pushed a little.  “Yet she seems to think she has shared custody of Vicchan.”

 

Yuuri huffed.  “That began as a joke but...she seemed to take it seriously.”

 

“I...sort of took Vicchan back from her on Thursday.”  Victor studied his hands and could feel Yuuri watching him in interest.  “It’s just...she was so rough on him.  I...it made me mad.”

 

Yuuri smiled softly, and if the light were better, Victor would see the soft pink on his cheeks.  “I wish more would do that.  I do...tell her no, that is.  It’s just...she’s the type that doesn’t take no for an answer.  I just...I don’t know if she knows what to do with a pet.”

 

Victor considered what he had watched in her interaction with the tiny poodle.  “She seemed more interested in how she appeared to others.”

 

Yuuri huffed.  “And now I have to spend Sunday with her.”  Victor looked over at him in surprise as Yuuri turned those brown eyes on him, wide and sweet.  “Would you like to volunteer at an animal shelter on Sunday?”

 

“You got that woman to volunteer at an animal shelter?”  Victor watched Yuuri nod.  “I may have to go just to see it.”

 

“I plan to drag Phichit along as well.  Roommate project.”

 

Victor laughed.  “Okay.  It’s a plan.  Should I see if my skaters want to come?”

 

Yuuri smiled at the prospect.  “We can always use others to socialize the pets and who knows, it might be just what they need.”

 

Victor called the dogs to him.  He had to finish getting ready if he was going to be at the rink on time...which meant early.  Helping Yuuri back inside, he checked to see if the other man needed anything before he took off in a jog to the rink.   I really need to get myself a bike.

 






Victor started his morning on ice as normal, warming up, getting the feel for the surface, soaking in the peace, the solitude.  Then, just before eight, two young women came out in a huff.  “Your primping nearly made us late!” Verity accused.

 

“But we’re not late,” Angela stated smoothly.  “I don’t understand what the fuss is about.”

 

“Listen, Barbie Doll!  I’m not going to blow this opportunity!  He’s one of the top skaters in the world!  And he’s willing to coach us!  He selected us!”

 

Angela elbowed her.  “He’s right there,” she hissed.

 

Verity turned and her frown drew up.  Victor had drawn still on the ice and watched them both thoughtfully.  They came down the stairs in a rush, stopping short at the barrier.  “Sorry, coach, we were fighting traffic to get here.”

 

Victor skated up before them.  “You drove?”

 

They exchanged glances suspecting the truth was not the right answer.  “Yes?” Angela responded.  “I have a cute car and we just loaded up and came down.”

 

Victor considered his words.  “Yuuri and Phichit have a car.  We use it when we go and get groceries or have errands further out.  As close as your apartment is to the rink, I would have thought you would run to warm up before ice time.”

 

Verity narrowed her gaze at Angela.  “Well, if Barbie here wouldn’t take forever to get ready.”

 

“No excuses,” Victor cut in leveling his gaze on Verity to ensure she did not come feeling blameless.  “You will both work together to help one another improve.  Beginning with a proper warm up.  Laps!”  Victor watched them scramble to put on their skates and get onto the ice.  Moving to the other side of the rail, he pulled on his guards and turned to watch them.  They started out pushing one another like it was a race.  Then they settled in, talking as they pushed along the ice.  Finally, he whistled and drew them to him.

 

“What are your goals this competition season?”

 

“I want to move past Nationals and into the international arena,” Verity stated.  “I think you can take me there as a coach.”

 

“We shall see.  It will depend on you and how much you are willing to work.”  Turning to Angela, he directed, “And you?”

 

“I want to reach beyond myself.  My previous coaches were always putting limits on me.  I think...I can be more.”

 

Victor nodded thoughtfully.  “I will certainly push you and my expectations are high.  But...I believe you both can do what I demand of you.  Now, do you have programs planned already?”

 

They exchanged glances and Verity shrugged uncertainly.  “I’ve played around with a few things, but nothing I would hold on to.”

 

“Honestly, I have nothing but my old programs.  I’m a clean slate,” Angela stated.

 

Victor nodded thoughtfully.  “I’ve been working on two versions of a song, the choreography having a very different attitude from one another.  One is called Agape .  It is unconditional love, like love of a parent or a child.  The second is Eros , sexual love.  I would like for you to listen and pay attention.”  He played the first with his phone as the two ladies listened thoughtfully.  Then the second.

 

“I want Eros !” Verity stated with certainty.

 

Victor turned to look at Angela.  She chewed her lip thoughtfully and considered the two pieces.  “I think...I could do Agape .  It would feel...safe, however.  If I want to stretch myself, I should do Eros .”

 

“Exactly,” Victor responded with approval.  “Angela, you will do Eros .  And Verity, Agape is yours.”

 

Verity frowned just short of a pout and Victor couldn’t help but smile.  “ Agape is not me at all!”

 

“Of course it’s not.  You have to keep the audience guessing by doing the unpredictable.  It’s a performance.”  Removing his guards, he moved onto the ice.  “Would you like to see?”

 

They both turned and nodded eagerly.  Keeping their eyes on their coach, they watched Victor take a deep breath and reset his demeanor.  When the music for Agape began, Victor projected the angelic persona brought out by the choir singing in the arrangement.  He pulled up before Verity and asked, “What do you think?”

 

She settled an arched eyebrow in a daring look.  “I’ve got it.  Okay, you’re on!”

 

Victor grinned.  “Excellent.  Now for yours, Angela.”  Once more, Victor closed his eyes and settled his expression into the right attitude.  Then he set off into the flirtatious movements of the seductive programs.  As he drew to a halt before them both, they both were watching him wide eyed.  “Well?”

 

“It’s...ummm…very sexual,” Angela stuttered out.

 

It will stretch you, he thought as he pushed his smile into place.  “Exactly.  Now we have programs to work with, let’s talk about elements.  I’ve seen your skills list but what do you want to push?”

 

“The triple axel,” Verity stated, her eyes hungry.

 

Victor smiled, knowing where Mila was when he left her.   So close.  “It’s a strong goal but one we’ll have to work at.”

 

“Someone has to be the first from the States,” she pointed out with determination.

 

Victor laughed.  “You’re not wrong.  I’ll be working with Yuuri on his jumps and we can work on yours as well.  Perhaps you can work together.”  Turning to the other, he asked her, “And you?  Do you want the 3A as well?”

 

She shivered and smiled.  “Of course I want it.  Who doesn’t?  I just...know I need to work on other things as well.  I want...to bring out the artistry in my programs as much as the technical.  Balance.”

 

Victor considered her words and thought about his Yuuri.   Not MY Yuuri...not yet.  “I know you can do this, Angela.  Do you trust me not to set you up to fail?”

 

She drew in her breath and nodded.  But Victor could see the slip in confidence.  She forced herself to fake it, though...and now he understood the airs she put on.  It was a cover.  She was terrified of failing.

 

He set them to practice, moving off the ice once more.  As he observed their practice and called corrections, he missed the man drawing near his side until he was there.  “Yuuri, what are you doing here?”

 

“Ciao Ciao wanted to look at my ankle,” he stated, his eyes training around the rink as Verity ran through her program.  “I can’t tell what she’s emoting.”

 

Victor watched his fiery skater glide through the motions, clearly more intent on components than extending her line and holding out moves.  “New program.  I think she’s working out the technical side of the choreography before the emotional.”

 

Yuuri considered his approach to the ice.  “I...push the story.  The rest comes together with the story in place.”

 

“For me, it’s the emotion.  I find the persona that fits the emotion I’m trying to perform.”

 

Yuuri shook his head, “Not always.  I’ve seen you perform Firebird .”

 

Victor rolled his eyes, “I think almost every skater has performed Firebird at some point.”

 

Yuuri smiled to himself.  He hadn’t...not publicly at any rate.  He purposefully performed different, almost opposing programs to Victor.  Victor steadied him as he adjusted his weight on the crutch and he glanced up to see the concerned blue eyes.  “Did you choreograph this?”

 

Victor turned his attention back to the ice and nodded.  They were beautiful as they found their feet.  It wasn’t smooth.  It had a long way to go.  But he could see the potential in their movements.  Glancing at the other man contemplating their movements, he thought to himself, I’d love to do something for you.

 

Around noon, he found Yuuri and Phichit in the weight room.  Victor frowned and Yuuri motioned to his foot.  “I’ve not done anything that would put stress on it.”

 

“Are you sure?” Victor’s voice took on a school marm tone.

 

Phichit grinned at the matron act from the Russian.  “Ciao Ciao assigned me to keep him out of trouble.  He’s been a good boy.  No leg day!”  The Thai man finished in his best lunkhead voice.

 

Yuuri blushed and rolled his eyes.  “So, are you finished?”

 

“Yes, and I have their schedule sorted out.  Thanks for helping me figure out how to create balance for them as students as well as skaters.”

 

Both men waved him off.  “Let’s hit the showers,” Phichit declared before he drained his water bottle.  Victor offered a hand up to Yuuri and then passed him his crutches.

 

“I’ll be so glad to be rid of these.  Not looking forward to going to class like this.” Yuuri hopped himself up and made for the door.

 

“We can help you out,” Victor offered, following the two.

 

Phichit nodded.  “I can drop you off close then Victor can walk you the rest of the way.”

 

Yuuri groaned.  “You know I’m going to hate that.”

 

“We know,” Victor agreed.  Denying it would be pointless.  “But...it will be better in the long run.”






After their showers, they headed to the Whole Foods Market.  Phichit had the larger grocery bill and pushed the cart.  Yuuri grabbed a few basics to supplement what he needed, making mental calculations.  Victor had to reach up for a couple of things for him which made Yuuri sulk a little but Victor just laughed.  However, the close study of his small amount of products caught Victor’s attention and he remembered what Jules said about the job.  Then the tight budget he ran across in those first days came to mind.

 

As they drove home, Victor brought up an idea.  He knew Yuuri wouldn’t want pity, so he had to be careful with his offer.  “So, when I found out Jules taught ballet and mentioned that I normally worked with a dance teacher, she referred me to you.”

 

“What do you mean?” Yuuri asked, half turned in his seat to look at Victor.

 

“Well, you have a strong ballet background.  I can see it in your skating.  And it turns out you’ve taught classes. So...it makes sense...would you help me work with my skaters?”

 

Yuuri held his eyes as if trying to determine what Victor was asking.  “You want me to help coach them?”

 

“I want you to be their ballet teacher.  With your skating background, you know better than any what they need, what will help them improve.”

 

Yuuri began sorting out time in his head.  “I could probably work out a schedule.”

 

Victor shook his head, correctly assuming Yuuri would volunteer.  “They would pay you.  Private lesson fees.”

 

Yuuri looked up eyes wide.  “Pay me?” he squeaked.

 

“Did you think I would have you work for free?”  Victor clucked his tongue as he shook his head.  “Never work for free.  Your skills are valuable.”

 

Yuuri snorted.  “Says the man who offered to help me with my jumps.”

 

Victor shrugged.  “That’s different.  We’re roommates.  Besides you help me all the time and I’m sure will continue to help me.  Apparently I lack the ability to function as an adult!”  He sighed dramatically.

 

Yuuri and Phichit both laughed.  “You’ve gotten this far,” Yuuri said reassuringly.  “You just don’t know how to function as an average adult.”

 

“It’s got to be hard living on that pedestal,” Phichit pointed out.

 

Victor huffed.  “Ask Boris.”

 

Phichit chortled.  “Boris has it easy!  He’s a kept man!”

 

“We really need to change up his look,” Yuuri added.

 

“I have a sequined cap.”

 

“Oh, rap star!  I’m sure I have some gold necklaces from when I dated that one guy.”  Then glancing back at Victor, he added, “Not real gold.  We’re poor kids.”

 

Phichit wrinkled his nose.  “Do you mean Melvin?  Did you really date him?”

 

“Two dates...that doesn’t really constitute dating.  A couple of frat parties tops!”

 

Phichit shook his head.  “Two dates only counts as dating if you slept with him.”

 

Yuuri opened his mouth then closed it, his cheeks blushing.  “I...can’t say for sure? That...might have been him.”

 

This caused Victor’s eyebrows to shoot up and a judgmental look from Phichit.  “Oh...that’s...from before,” Phichit said quietly.  Victor heard the hint in the Thai man’s tone and dropped it quickly.

 

Yuuri frowned and nodded.  Glancing back, he shrugged, hugging into the seat and not sure what to say.  When they arrived home, Yuuri retreated to his room and Phichit looked apologetically after him.

 

Turning to Victor, he shrugged.  “Yuuri doesn’t drink anymore for a reason.  He tends to not remember what happens when he has too much...and he doesn’t know how not to have too much.  And I’ve seen him.  He seems perfectly lucid.”

 

Victor felt a little sick, “They...took advantage of him drunk?”

 

Phichit shrugged once more.  “Yuuri doesn’t see it that way.  He would say he makes bad decisions while drunk.”  Looking down the hall, he added, “I shouldn’t have pushed the conversation.  Yuuri...he doesn’t always think so well of himself.”

 

Victor considered the man down the hall.  So many think I have all of this experience.  You’ve been through it...the good and the bad.  I...don’t know if I have anything to offer you.  Sighing, he added in his thoughts, but I want you.

Chapter Text


 

You’ve Got a Friend



Victor blinked open his eyes feeling the pressure of the previous evening.  Yuuri never came out of his room and Victor hated that he was hurting in solitude.  The older man did what he could...took care of Vicchan along with Makka, cleaned the bathroom because he didn’t know what else to do, tapped on his door to offer him dinner.  There was no answer.  Phichit told him to just give him space, he’d come around.  Victor felt the loneliness from his lack of presence.

 

Now, alone in his room, he rose out of bed, noticing that it was just before sunrise.  He moved into the shower and washed away the kinks in his muscles with the steam.  He dressed casually.   I think we’re going to the shelter today.  But as he left the bathroom, his eyes straying to the closed door at the end of the hall, he wasn’t sure if Yuuri would be able to pull himself out to make the trip.

 

Restless, uncertain, he straightened the living room, folding the blanket Phichit had wrapped himself in while watching a movie last night.  Victor tried to get into it but his attention kept wandering from the paper thin plot.  Phichit, on the other hand, was enraptured.  Excitedly he told Victor that he was drawing his skate inspirations from the musical.  Victor had attempted to find something in the love story before him, but his gaze kept drifting down the hall.

 

In the kitchen, he set the coffee pot to brew and loaded the rice steamer.   Yuuri likes ginger .  Victor smiled in hope and pulled the spice out of the cabinet to add to the eggs.  But twenty minutes remained before the rice would be ready.

 

Staring at the appliance and contemplating his next move, he heard the door open accompanied with the creak of crutches as Yuuri thumped down the hall to the bathroom.  Victor’s heart leap to his throat.   Please don’t disappear again!

 

A few minutes later, Yuuri came into the kitchen, his hair tousled from restless sleep.  “Coffee?” Victor offered.  Yuuri nodded wordlessly and accepted the mug.  The man before him looked worn and defeated, reminiscent of when he came off the ice in Sochi.  Victor’s brain repeated the excellent advice that Phichit had given last night.   Give him space .  But Victor...couldn’t.  “Are you okay?”  The Russian wanted to bite his tongue the minute it left his mouth, terrified he had pushed too far and Yuuri would only retreat further.

 

Yuuri lifted his head off the counter and studied the steam rising from the mug in the dim light.  “I...don’t always make good decisions.”

 

Victor’s eyes strayed to the statue in the living room.  “I believe Boris bears witness that neither do I.”

 

He saw the smile twitch on Yuuri’s lips.   Maybe.  Yes, definitely a smile .  Lifting those brown eyes to regard Victor, he asked, “How do you do that?”

 

Victor’s lips quirked up, “Do what?”

 

“Just wipe away all of my arguments with one line.”  Yuuri pulled the mug to his lips, sighing into the taste.

 

Victor shrugged.  “I...missed you last night.  I didn’t want you to disappear again.”

 

Yuuri studied the man in front of him, “I won’t...I just...there was too much noise in my head.”

 

“Your anxiety,” Victor confirmed.  Yuuri nodded, returning his gaze to his mug.  “Does it lie to you?  Your anxiety?”

 

Yuuri looked up in surprise.  “Sometimes.  Most of the time it hits me on the head with everything I do wrong...and tells me every horrible possibility that can come from it.  As if it is able to predict the future, but only the worst of outcomes.”

 

Can ...but not necessarily does?”  Victor fiddled with something on the counter, trying to keep his gaze from peering too close into Yuuri and upsetting the man.

 

Yuuri nodded slowly.  “I...see a psychiatrist.  Well, when I can afford it.  Lately...it’s been a while since I’ve been in to see her.”

 

“And you don’t take meds,” Victor added quietly.

 

Yuuri nodded, his lips dropping into a frown, his eyes slowly rising up from the mug to meet the clear blue of Victor’s.  Unintentional puppy dog eyes were breaking Victor at that moment.  He took a step forward then another.  His arms went around Yuuri and pulled him into a hug holding him close and hoping he wasn’t doing the wrong thing.  Yuuri remained stiff at first then slowly wrapped an arm around him, resting his cheek against Victor’s chest.

 

As Victor stepped back to study the other man, he offered an embarrassed smile.  “Sometimes...I hug people when I don’t know what to say.”

 

Yuuri gave him a weak smile in return.  “There are worse things that you could do.”

 

Victor shifted awkwardly and then returned to the stove.  “You didn’t eat last night.  Let me make you something.”

 

Yuuri started to wave Victor off, “You don’t have…”

 

“I want to,” Victor interrupted.  Pulling out the eggs, he began to scramble them in the pan adding the seasonings he had already chosen.  Scooping out the rice, he added the eggs to the bowl and set them in front of Yuuri.

 

The younger man took the fork and scooped in a bite his eyes widening in surprise.  “You added ginger.  I love ginger.”

 

Victor smiled shyly and murmured, “I know.  You told me.”

 

“Why?”  Yuuri took another bite smiling at the taste and warmth.

 

Victor looked down at his hands, a small tinge of pink creeping over his cheeks.  “Because...you were feeling low and I wanted to make you smile.”

 

The brown eyes studied the eggs, suddenly blinking rapidly as tears threatened to fall.  “My mom would do that.  She put ginger in my eggs or made me ginger tea when I was feeling low.”  Looking up he met Victor’s eyes.  “Thank you.”

 

Victor’s heart bloomed in his chest, I have to learn to make ginger tea.   “Do you feel like you can face puppies today?”

 

Yuuri’s eyes blinked in confusion then widened.  “The shelter!  Yes!  Of course I can!”

 

Victor grinned, “Puppies always makes everything better.”

 




Two eighteen-year-old girls stood uncertainly in front of the building when Victor, Yuuri, and Phichit came out.  “Verity!  Angela!  You came!” Victor greeted with a wave and  warm smile.

 

Verity shrugged.  “You said we could play with puppies.”

 

“I’ve been homesick for my poodle back home,” Angela said wistfully.

 

Yuuri’s eyes widened.  “You have a poodle?”

 

“Yes.  Her name is Mallow.  All fluffy and white.”  The girl wrapped herself in long, thin arms, her eyes a little wistful at the mention of the dog.

 

“My first year here I had to spend without Vicchan.  It was miserable but then I figured out a way to bring him with me.”  Yuuri had his phone out showing her his poodle.

 

She laughed warmly.  “He’s adorable!  The same size as Mallow!”

 

Yuuri leaned back on his crutches.  “Victor has a standard poodle.  You’re in good company.”

 

She eyed the apartment thoughtfully.  “So...they allow pets here?”

 

Yuuri tucked his phone away, “Yes, but you’ll need to get on the list if you are thinking about moving here.”

 

“Can I use you as a reference, Coach?” she asked turning towards the silver haired man.

 

“Sure...why not?”

 

Angela practically skipped in excitement.  “Did you hear that, Verity?  We could switch over to this building.”

 

“We have a lease where we are at.”  The terribly practical girl had felt the suggestion coming and was ready with the retort.

 

“Maybe next year?  Yuuri said there was a waiting list.”

 

“Maybe.  We’ll see.”  Turning to the men, she asked, “So this animal shelter?”

 

“Did you drive?” Phichit asked.

 

Angela cast a furtive glance towards Victor then nodded slowly.  “I’m parked down the street.  A pink mini.”

 

“Okay, so you can follow me.  We normally walk or jog over but with Yuuri’s weak ankle, we’ll drive.”  Phichit walked over to his car and the girls waved before taking off for their car.  “They seem to be getting along better.”

 

“I’m sure it’s a temporary reprieve,” Victor stated dryly as he took Yuuri’s crutches after making sure he was settled inside.  Climbing into the back, he buckled up.

 

The shelter was in a repurposed building that once held a local grocery store.  As the five skaters gathered together, Yuuri explained, “Ashley volunteers with several other vet students at this shelter.  Some of these animals are rescues from abusive situations.  Others were abandoned.  It’s a no-kill shelter, though, and they hope to help the dogs find their forever homes.”

 

“So what do we do?” Verity asked, her eyes sharply surveying the surroundings.

 

“First time volunteers spend time with the dogs and give them attention.  I usually help if there have been new intakes, getting them cleaned up, cataloging any injuries and some of the other minor things Ashley has taught me to watch for and assist with.”

 

Yuuri led them inside and made introductions.  “Jaime!”  The hispanic man came forward and greeted them.  “You’re here on a Sunday?”

 

“I knew I could leave you in charge once you arrived, but Lynn had a family emergency.  So I came in to do a quick check on our residents.”  The man smiled at Yuuri’s companions, putting them all at ease quickly. A skeptical smiled jumped to his lips, “So, a calendar?”

 

Yuuri rolled his eyes.  “Maybe.  Andreia can be flakey.”

 

He held up his hands, “I’m open for anything that brings positive PR to the shelter.  Homes or donations are good.  You brought volunteers?”

 

Yuuri turned on his crutch and grinned.  “Well, you know Phichit.  This is my other roommate Victor.”

 

“Ah...you already appear to be an improvement on Cody,” Jaime observed.

 

Yuuri and Phichit both rolled their eyes and Yuuri added, “Not even on the same plane.  Verity and Angela are new skaters at the rink.”

 

“Oh, and Andreia?  She’s not here?”  Jamie didn’t seem that surprised but still wanted to check.

 

Yuuri shrugged.  “Said she’ll come after church.”  There was an inflection on ‘after church’ implying that the true statement was more ‘probably not at all’.

 

Jamie pursed his lips and nodded, “I see.  Well, I’ll leave the keys with you, Yuuri.  Either Lynn or myself will be back this evening to check on things, but I know not to worry if they are in your hands.”

 

Yuuri jingled the keys into his pocket.  “Thanks!  See you later, Jaime!”

 

The older man slipped out of the space as Victor leaned over and asked, “Another boyfriend?”

 

Phichit snorted and Yuuri’s cheeks turned red.  “No, not Jaime.  His brother Alejandro introduced us.”

 

Phichit smiled, “Alex!  Oh, I forgot about Alex!”

 

Yuuri burned even redder, hoping to drop the subject quickly, “Well, he’s graduated and is in his internship.”

 

“Just how many boyfriends do you have?” Verity asked, hand on hip, brows drawn.

 

“None...at the moment,” Yuuri murmured ducking away.

 

The girls exchanged glances and Angela asked, “Girlfriends?”

 

“None on that front either,” Yuuri called back waving for them to follow him.  He opened the door and found a smile, his embarrassment fading.  “Alex was from freshman year.  We hung out, but only dated casually.”

 

Phichit leaned in and clarified that statement.  “That means they didn’t sleep together.”  Yuuri shot him a glare.

 

Yuuri moved past the exercise room into the kennel, followed closely by Victor.  The raven haired man looked over the lists quickly and smiled, “No new intakes, so I can just enjoy them.”  Victor helped him free the puppies from their kennels herding them into the exercise space.  Five at a time so they could get all of the love without having to compete, too many eagers puppies with too few loving humans.

 

They heard a high pitched squeal then saw Verity ducking away in embarrassment before scooping up a basset hound mix for attention.  Yuuri crutched over for some grooming tools.  With Victor’s help, he lowered himself to the floor.  One puppy at a time, he groomed them, checked the ears, eyes and mouths, fussed over the paws.  One puppy at a time, Victor fell more in love with him.   Maybe I can get another…

 

The next batch of puppies were more excited and Yuuri laughed as a pit bull bowled him over with attention as he wiggled his entire body to get some love.  “Why won’t anyone take you home, Zeus?” he asked shaking his head.  The dog settled down in the space between Yuuri’s legs and let the man give him all of the attention he needed.  Victor recognized the massage therapy techniques they had learned from Ashley.  Victor admitted to himself that the breed had a bad name, but this dog was proof that it was entirely unearned.  Pitbulls, by and large, are babies.

 

Across the room, the girls were giggling as they tossed a ball back and forth, the mid-sized mixed breed barking as she chased after it.  Phichit came out of the kennels once more to gather the pups up and that was when Victor realized he was cleaning them out while the others were entertaining the pups.

 

“Do you want help?” he offered.

 

Phichit shrugged.  “Normally Yuuri and I tag team this job.  I don’t mind, though.  Just an oversized hamster cage.  No one wants to lie in their own filth.”

 

“Show me,” Victor urged.  Phichit waved him back and took him through the procedure.  Soon, Victor was wet from the hose but the kennel was clean and the dog would have a better place to rest.  Looking down the line, though, he realized how big the job would be.  Not necessarily cleaning, although that was a job in and of itself.  Finding homes for them all.

 

A singsong voice greeted them and he and Phichit exchanged a groan.  “Andreia!” they heard Yuuri greet, his voice thin with strain to be pleasant.  Victor came out just in time to watch Yuuri rolling over and trying to pull himself up from the floor.  Victor was immediately at his side and steadying him as he came up.

 

“What happened, Yuuri?” she frowned, her eyes moving up and down Yuuri’s body.

 

“Sprained ankle.  I’ll be okay.  Let me introduce you to some of our residents.”  If anyone noticed Victor’s steadying hand on Yuuri’s back that lingered longer than it was physically needed, they didn’t say anything.  Yuuri led the way into the kennel, his steps ghosted by a certain Russian.  “My thought is that for each month, we focus on a different breed to give variety.  Jaime is on board with the plan.  The goal is adoptions as well as donations.  Wouldn’t you agree?”

 

“Oh, umm, sure,” she answered.  Her eyes kept flicking to Victor and back to Yuuri as she took in the confident voice of her old boyfriend.  Something was different.  Her power over the Japanese man was wavering, she just needed to find what was causing it and sever it.  Yuuri took out various dogs and introduced her, letting her hold some while giving her a bit of their story.  Finally, they returned to the open space where the other three were entertaining half a dozen puppies.  “This...is turning into a bigger project than I realized.”  Her voice carried the tone of defeat and a willingness to quit at the first sign of hard work.

 

“You aren’t backing out, are you?” Yuuri asked, his brown eyes widening.  Victor saw it then.  That moment when Yuuri intentionally worked his charm to get what he wanted.  Those eyes could bring many a man or woman to their knees and Victor wanted to be one of those on his knees before him.  Victor shook his head getting the image out... not right now.  Keep that one for later though.

 

“N-no, of course not,” she backpedaled.  “I just...want to give this project the appropriate attention.”

 

“Are you willing to do the pictures?”  Yuuri’s voice kept the animated tone but switched to something more business like.  “Because if so, I can find others willing to write the biographies of the puppies we feature.  In fact, it might be nice if the athlete photographed with the dog wrote up the bio.”

 

Andreia grimaced, “You really...want the dog’s story?”

 

Yuuri grinned.  “Absolutely.”  Behind him Victor frowned, the idea of working with this person annoyed him.  It wasn’t that she was an ex, it was...something.

 

She chewed her heavily glossed lip and then flicked her eyes to Victor.  “And you?  Do you think this is a good plan?”  It was a challenge, if this were the medieval period she had just tossed a glove on the floor.

 

Victor pasted on his practiced smile, the one that said come at me.   “Actually, yes.  You have three world class athletes willing to put themselves out there and I’m sure Yuuri’s friend Devryn will come on board.   A few more volunteers and we have a calendar.”

 

“I’ll do it!” Angela offered standing up.  Victor loved the easy enthusiasm the girl showed off the ice, now to get that spirit into her show.

 

Andreia flicked her eyes over the blond only now acknowledging the girl.  “And who are you?”  The words came out in a cold huff.  Andreia’s eyes running down the lanky form of the girl before her.

 

Angela took the criticism, her confidence wavered a little, but she felt Verity watching her from behind and found her voice.  “I’m...Angela deLuca.  I’m a Junior World class figure skater and I’m making my senior debut with Victor as my coach.  Verity is my rival but just as talented.”  She tilted her head and studied the woman before her, sizing her up and quickly finding the fault in the armor.  “I know you would want this to be a balanced project so that it doesn’t come off as sexist.”

 

“I just...I only considered the male athletes,” Andreia backtracked.

 

Verity was there in a moment, next to Angela and rolling her eyes.  “That’s the problem with people.  They give all the attention to the male athletes and we get the leftovers.”

 

“But if your project equally acknowledged male and female athletes,” Angela pushed, “with a decided focus on the dogs, it would appeal to a wider audience.”  She then leaned in conspiratorially and added, “Female skaters can be every bit as hot as male skaters.  It’s the asses.”

 

Andreia sputtered, “Ummm...okay.  We can do that.  Sure.  Let’s do both.”  Turning to Victor and Yuuri, she asked, “Should we focus on ice skaters?”

 

“We can, or we can mix sports and group them up,” Yuuri suggested.  “There are a lot of dogs.”

 

“You could feature the bios along the calendar days,” Victor added.  “That would allow for multiple puppies to be featured on one photo.”

 

“Okay.  I’ll have to run all of this by my sorority, of course...but I think we can do this.  Thank you.”  Andreia left, her ass giving a little swing as she walked out the door eliciting an eye roll from the girls.

 

Both Verity and Angela rounded on the boys.  Staring down daggers, Verity asked, “You dated that Barbie Doll?”

 

“Hey!” Angela protested.  “Do not loop me and my aesthetic into the same category as that bitch.”

 

Yuuri shrugged.  “She asked me out, I went.  We spent the next three dates flirting with the same waiter.  So...depends on how you define date.”

 

“So...you never really liked her,” Angela clarified.

 

Yuuri raised an eyebrow to say “really?”

 

“You need to learn how to say no, man!” Verity stated with a scowl.  “Nobody should have to put up with that shit.”

 

Yuuri squirmed and Victor placed a supportive hand on Yuuri’s shoulder.  “Ladies, give him a break.  We all make bad decisions sometimes.”

 

They exchanged glances, neither willing to admit their poor choices but shrugging to let it go.  Phichit took charge and declared, “Let’s clean up, then we can go home.  I’ll cook dinner!”

 

Both girls’ eyes widened at the promise of a cooked meal.  “You’re on!”  Soon, they were working through the remainder of the kennels, tending the dogs, washing out the sleeping spaces and putting them back to bed.  At five, they were worn but felt good for their accomplishments.  As they left, Angela asked Yuuri, “How often do you do this?”

 

“Depends on how demanding my schedule is, but since I don’t go to church, unlike the ones that run this program, I try to come every other Sunday.”

 

“Well, let us know next time you come,” Verity offered, her hand on Yuuri’s shoulder.  “You’re alright...and this was fun.”

 




The weather had turned damp while they were in with the dogs.  Therefore, Phichit decided to make a Thai version of chicken noodle soup .  As he prepped the ingredients, he looked into the living room where the girls were playing on the playstation and enjoying the dogs.  When Victor stood to take Makkachin out, Angela asked Yuuri if he minded her taking Vicchan.  She’d been snuggling the poodle since they arrived missing her own dog.  Verity followed behind leaving Phichit alone with Yuuri.

 

“This...was a much better day than I expected,” Yuuri declared, coming into the kitchen after washing up and helping Phichit set up for dinner.

 

Phichit nodded, putting a handful of vegetables in the pot to simmer.  “It was...those girls are fun.  Not too uppity.”

 

Yuuri laughed.  “So more Jules, less Andreia.”

 

Phichit laughed at the statement  “Interesting comparison.  Because I know you.  First, you aren’t interested in Freshmen...not even when you were one.  And those two are babies.  Secondly, you ARE interested in our other roommate.”

 

Yuuri’s cheeks blossomed pink.  He shrugged, rubbing his hand behind his neck.  “It’s not like it’s going to matter.  In the end, he’ll realize I’m shit and move on.  And that’s even IF he gives me a chance.”

 

Phichit raised an eyebrow as he studied his friend.  “First of all, you are not shit.  Secondly, why don’t you give him a chance.”

 

Yuuri squirmed, it was so much easier to stress and obsess than take a chance and be happy.  “I...want to.  I just...what if it doesn’t work?”

 

Phichit raised an eyebrow as he spooned up the soup into the bowls.  “What if it does?  Yuuri, do you know why you have so many exes that still want to be your friend?  It’s not because you’re shit.  It’s because you are a great friend.  And a great person.  So...worst case scenario...you both date...you don’t have chemistry...and then you both decide to be great friends.”  Yuuri squirmed, his chin dropping down insecurely.  Phichit put down the bowl he was filling to pull Yuuri’s chin up, meeting his brown eyes.  “But...maybe...just maybe he’ll see you for all of the wonderful qualities we see in you.  And falls hopelessly head over heels in love with you.”  Then the Thai man leaned in and added, “It’s possible he already has.”

 

And typical to every 80s movie ever made, the dogs, girls, and Victor walked through the door before Yuuri could respond.  The Japanese man quickly ducked away from Phichit letting those words simmer between them.  Brown eyes kept trailing across the room, though, seeking out the blue, dropping shyly when they met.  He could feel the color heating his cheeks even as he bashfully toyed with his bowl.

 

The girls happily patted their tummies as they prepared to leave.  “Thanks for inviting us!” Angela called out.

 

“Yeah, it’s been fun,” Verity conceded.  “You can invite me anytime you cook, Peach.”

 

Phichit grinned.  “I’ll keep that in mind.  Have a good first day of class.”  The girls departed, back to amicable griping at each other as they left.  Then it was just the trio.  Yuuri moved into the kitchen to help clean up and Victor joined him.  Phichit watched the two of them interact and bowed out with a yawn.  “Do you mind if I shower?”

 

“No, go ahead Phichit,” Victor answered.  “We’ve got this.”  A stray hand touched the small of Yuuri’s back and told Phichit all he needed to know.  With a smirk, he retreated leaving them alone.  Sometimes it’s best to let chemistry simmer on its own.

Chapter Text


 

Books, Boys, and Best Buds

 

It was the first day of classes and Victor was in the process of making sure everything went perfectly.  Yuuri’s version of perfection was grabbing an extra half hour of sleep, which he indulged in. Phichit happily decided to clean out the hamster cage before they were to leave for class.  Victor tapped his feet impatiently, having already taken the dogs out, made coffee, put the rice on to cook, showered, gathered his books, double checked his books to make sure he hadn’t forgotten anything, and was about to go tap on Yuuri’s door when the Japanese man finally rolled out of bed.  Single crutching it down the hall, he waved at Victor on his way to the bathroom. Fifteen minutes later, he emerged showered and dressed in a pair of shorts and a loose t-shirt. His glasses were shoved onto his face a little crooked. Spotting Victor and recognizing his impatience, he offered a small smile.  “Will you wrap my ankle?” he asked.

 

Victor nodded sharply, moving to guide Yuuri to the sofa.  Victor’s movements were precise as he wrapped the bandage. Neither of them acknowledged that Yuuri had seen to his own bandage since the first day.  Neither of them acknowledged that Victor’s touch lingered a little longer than necessary. Neither of them acknowledging the chill that slid through Yuuri at that touch, the goosebumps on his skin, the shortness of his breath.  Victor reached over and gave Yuuri a hand up, and the younger man glanced down, using his index finger to push his glasses back. He accepted the hand and felt the steady strength in Victor’s grasp.

 

Phichit poked his head out and pronounced, “I’m almost done!”

 

“I’ll make the eggs,” Victor stated.  Yuuri followed him into the kitchen suddenly needing to be close to him.  Victor welcomed him into his space and they worked together, Yuuri serving up the rice and pouring the coffee.  Victor moving them to the counter and adding the eggs. Phichit showed up washed and dried just as they sat down.

 

Phichit studied his roommates noticing the pink on Victor’s cheeks and Yuuri’s shy cast of eyes while they all ate breakfast.  Then they were out the door in much more of a whirlwind then was comfortable for Victor. Victor shouldered Yuuri’s books and his own.  It was a light day for Yuuri and a heavy day for Victor. The next day, that would switch. Phichit drove them close to Yuuri’s building and let them out.  “I’ll park. Text me when and where you want to be picked up. Later.” Then he was gone and Victor was following Yuuri who said he could carry his books while Victor argued that it was no trouble.

 

In his classroom, Yuuri moved on crutches to a chair with easy access to the door.  Normally he sat toward to the front with his glasses but he didn’t wish to deal with chaos of negotiating a crowd of other students with his crutches.  He took his books from Victor and thanked him. “I’ll text when I’m out of class. Sometimes the first class is short.”

 

Victor nodded.  “I’ll do the same.  See you soon.”

 

Victor walked across the quad to the math and science hall and waved when he spotted Devryn.  The hockey player jogged over and asked, “How’s Yuuri? I heard about the ankle.”

 

The blue eyes glinted in a mix of admiration and annoyance, “Stubborn?  Difficult? Independent?”

 

Devryn laughed.  “That sounds about right.  If you need a firm hand, call Jules or Ashley.  Both of them are pros at handling Yuuri’s sass.”

 

Victor chuckled.  “So call the women, not the men.”

 

“Oh, you don’t know," Devryn replied with surprise.  "Yuuri’s world was his mother, sister, ballet teacher, and best friend Yuuko before coming here.  The women ruled that world.”

 

“Oh, wow...but he still has his father.”

 

Devryn grinned.  “Yep. A low key kind of guy.  The women rule his world, too.”

 

"Have you met them?"

 

"I met Minako once.  She's the ballet teacher.  She is very particular about how people treat her student.  I'm not sure that the parents wouldn't have been easier."

 

"I see," Victor responded with an index finger tapping his lip.  Devryn may prove to be an invaluable source.

 

They split off as class drew closer and Victor pulled out his notebook to start his first set of notes.  He let his eyes roam over other methods used by students.  Laptops open, some to social media.  iPads propped up with stylus and keyboard rolled out.  His next class was with Phichit. Maybe he can decode this new classroom setting.  Already feeling inadequate, he focused in on the professor.  Physics 101.  Soon he was on his fourth page of notes with theories and formulas.

 

Calculus with Phichit proved a little less daunting.  Perhaps it was because his roommate was present.  Perhaps it was due to more notebooks and traditional notetaking.  Still, he noticed students had their laptops up.  Leaning in, he whispered to Phichit, "I feel underprepared."

 

The younger man looked confused then Victor nodded to the laptop in front of Phichit.  "Oh!  Bring your laptop to me later and I'll get it set up for you.  I didn't even think!"

 

"Classrooms are different then when I first attended.  Of course, I just took a couple of classes before skating got in the way."  Then the instructor began and Victor was once more immersed in a world of note taking.  At least this he understood.  Later as Phichit looked through his roommate's notes, he nodded in approval.

 

"I may borrow your notes to grab what I missed.  I often rewrite my notes in Thai for when I study."

 

"That's a good tip.  I can translate the words I'm not familiar with," Victor agreed.  "Thank you."

 

Phichit waved, "I've got another class!  Go find Yuuri!"

 

Victor frowned as he watched the other man run off.  Find Yuuri.  He considered where he was located and where the other man's class was situated.  Okay, I can do this. 






Yuuri groaned with the rest of his classmates.  The bookstore had sold more than half the class the wrong book.  And this one was significantly different, so they wouldn’t be able to use the earlier edition.  As class let out, he texted Victor and Phichit that he was headed to the bookstore, trying to shuffle quickly as the rest of the students were heading in the same direction.

 

By the time he arrived, he spotted his classmates crowding the returns section.   Do I have my receipt?  He leaned against the wall and dug out his book.   Yes, it made for a good bookmark.  And today, it would allow for a full refund.  He moved into line. One of Yuuri’s classmates turned around to talk to him.  “I hear the new book is more.”

 

“Of course it is...because that’s how everything is hitting this month,” Yuuri grumbled, then offered her a pained smile.  They were on the same side. “Phebes, I can’t afford any more,” he confessed.

 

“I’m right there with you.  My sister is starting her freshman year.  They are stretched thin and I don’t want to take out more loans.  I’ll never pay them back as it is.”

 

That drew groans from the others in line.  Everyone was in the same boat. She turned around as the line moved forward and soon their books were exchanged for cash.  Yuuri looked at the amount. $52.69. Not a lot when looking at textbooks. He followed the shifting line to the shelf containing the book they were to get in replacement.  As his eyes moved over the labels, they widened. $201.38!

 

“Fuck!” he said under his breath.  Another classmate turned with thin lips and nodded knowingly.  He reached for his wallet and toyed with the credit card, but that would be another strain on an already stretched thin monthly budget.   I can’t afford the book.  I can’t afford the bill. Fuckfuckfuckfuck.  He was chewing his lip when he felt someone tug his arm.  Turning, he met Phoebe's eyes.

 

“I have an idea,” she said.  “Leah was talking about booksharing.  I told her I could get another person and she knows she can.  If four of us go together, we won’t be out any more money.”

 

“So we’d just trade off?”  Yuuri was initially skeptical.  Sharing a text can be dangerous with the wrong crowd.

 

Phoebe shrugged, “Basically, yeah.”

 

Yuuri considered the option and it seemed the best bet...it was the best option because it was the only one to present itself.  “I have competitions. Sometimes I’m gone for several days at a time.”

 

They moved through the crowd to where the other classmate he saw earlier waited with the book in arms and a fourth classmate.  “Hey, Yuuri,” Leah greeted. “This is Richard. He’s willing to jump on board.”

 

“I was just saying I was worried about competitions.  Would one of you be willing to snap pictures of the text and send it to me when I’m out of town?”

 

They exchanged glances then Leah suggested, “Why don’t we just snap pictures for everyone?  I can set up a Facebook group and send the pages to you all at once. We could even use it for discussion of assignments.”

 

“That’s actually...a good idea,” Phoebe agreed and raised an eyebrow towards Yuuri.  They were soon sharing information and pooled their money with Leah. Book in hand, they left the bookstore.  One dragon conquered.

 

Yuuri spotted Victor leaning against a tree waiting for him.  Yuuri crutched over to him, a bit of wear and tear evident on his face from the frazzling experience.  “They switched out one of my books at the last minute.” Victor reached for Yuuri’s backpack and raised an eyebrow at the lightness.  “We’re going to bookshare but I think I’m going to just take the pictures of the texts I need to take to class. I’ll know the reading materials.  My tablet is lighter.”

 

Victor smiled at the clever solution.  “That sounds good. I noticed everyone else was carrying lighter loads.  I was going to ask what you and Phichit suggested.”

 

“I am glad I brought the book today because I had it to trade out.”  Yuuri followed Victor appreciating the calming hand on his back as his nerves settled back out.

 

“Do you want to grab something to eat before our next class?”

 

Yuuri frowned.   I should have fixed something.  I can’t afford to grab food out.  “No, I’m fine.  Go ahead if you want something.”  He missed the look Victor gave him but followed Victor over to the diner.  It was crowded and Yuuri snagged a booth while Victor went to order. He looked up in protest when Victor placed the basket of food in the middle.  “Victor!”

 

“I didn’t know it would be so much!” he defended.  “You can’t expect me to eat all of this on my own.”

 

Yuuri huffed, but then Victor placed two water glasses on the table, and he hated waste so he pouted as he grabbed a fry.  Victor didn’t comment but smiled as he grabbed his own fry. “I can’t eat like this every day,” Yuuri warned.

 

“Of course not!  It’s my first day of class.  So a little laid back celebration.  Besides, I heard Phichit was planning a salad.   Chicken, orange, spinach .  It’s not so much a splurge.”  Yuuri arched an eyebrow in disbelief and Victor shrugged offering his innocent smile.

 

“I can tell I’m going to have to bring a lunch on our long days,” Yuuri stated.

 





Across campus, Phichit sat with Devryn in a programming course.  “So Victor is already in Calc 2,” he murmured.

 

“He’s very smart.”  Devryn already decided he could like Victor, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t tease Phichit.  “You just got a late start because you decided to start your maths second year.”

 

Phichit smiled, “I hear he’s in first semester Physics.”

 

“I’m hoping he loves it.  We need another egghead.” Devryn tossed a challenging side eye to Phichit.

 

Phichit rolled his eyes.  “You should have seen them last night.  Victor couldn’t keep his hand from straying to Yuuri...and Yuuri didn’t swat it away.”

 

Devryn raised an eyebrow.  “Oh, really,” he stated curiously.

 

“He lets Victor help him.  I mean, Victor is shrewd. For all that he doesn’t know, he’s figured out how to get Yuuri to do his bidding.”  He caught the quick frown that formed on the hockey captain’s face, adding instantly, “and his bidding is usually for Yuuri’s own good.”

 

Devryn pursed his lips and nodded.  “So Yuuri’s found himself a good guy.  Good for him.”

 

Phichit huffed, “Now if they’d both just acknowledge it.  So far, they are blushing and flirting but in total denial that the other is flirting back.  It’s frustrating to watch. I just want to lock them in a room until they come out kissing.”

 

Devryn snorted.  “Yuuri will never make it easy.  I chased him for a year.”

 

Phichit nodded slowly, remembering the nature of the past relationship.  “And you went out with him so he’d quit hurting himself. Watching over him at parties, making sure no one took advantage of him.”

 

“I’d like to think there was more to it than that.  I really liked him. I just realized after we started dating that it would only go so far.”  Devryn recalled when he finally admitted to himself that he would only get friendship from Yuuri.  He was still working out how he felt about it. “So...I decided to stick it out with him until he pulled through to the other side.”

 

“Do you still...really like him?” Phichit asked curiously.

 

Devryn shrugged.  “I care about him enough to want him to be safe and happy.”  It wasn’t lost on Phichit that Devryn dodged the question.  The Thai man forced a smile.  






Phichit drove the trio to the rink after class and Yuuri moved to the attached gym, focusing on stretches to maintain his flexibility and weights to keep his strength.  He looked up when Ciao Ciao entered and sat on the bench as the coach unwrapped his ankle and checked it. “Have you tried putting weight on it?”

 

“When Victor isn’t watching,” Yuuri admitted.  “It’s still not right.”

 

The older coach grimaced considering the ankle and their time.  “We’re going to have to hit the ice hard once it’s healed. Have you been thinking on music?”

 

Yuuri shrugged.  “I want something...different.”

 

“You have that in Express ,” the coach pointed out.

 

Yuuri looked up at his coach, hoping for understanding.  “Yes...but I want something that connects to the idea in a different way.   Express is...overt, blatant.”

 

Ciao-Ciao smiled, a soft chuckle coming from his chest.  “You’ll figure something out, just make use of your resources and your time.”

 

Yuuri nodded.  He watched his coach move on.  The man had other skaters to worry about.   Skaters smart enough not to run down a hill with their heads all stuffed with noise .  Yuuri huffed feeling the pucker before he smoothed it away.  He swallowed the tightness in his throat. He missed the ice.  He missed the dance floor.

 

He laid back closing his eyes and listened to the roar around him.  Victor and Phichit were upstairs on the ice. Verity and Angela were on the ice.  Yuuri...only had dreams of ice. Because I panicked.  Because I ran. Because I slid down a hill.  I probably aggravated it with my stubborness.  Why do I constantly do things that hurt myself?  The oil from the fries earlier mixed with Yuuri’s stress, making the Japanese skater feel sick.  He pulled up on his crutch and made his way to the locker room and the bathroom beyond.

 

As he flushed the remains of his lunch down, he heard someone close a locker door.  Exiting the stall, he rinsed his mouth and turned to see Victor studying him with concern.  “Are you okay, Yuuri?”

 

“I think I just got too hot after eating fries.  Fried foods don’t always like me.”

 

Victor opened his mouth like he wanted to say something, but then closed it.

 

“I’m good now,” Yuuri reassured him, reaching in his locker to grab his water bottle.  “How are the girls?”

 

“Hard workers.  They just finished up on the ice and are moving to the weight room now.  Are you finished?”

 

Yuuri shrugged then nodded.  “I could go home.”

 

Victor guided Yuuri out, an eye of concern casting his way and Yuuri couldn’t shake the feelings settling around him.  The noise building up in his thoughts, the self-talk that tore him down, the depression clawing at him and threatening to drag him down.  He couldn’t take meds and now he didn’t have his outlets. Yuuri glared at the ankle as Victor helped him into the car. He looked up to catch a concerned look from Phichit.

 

“Oh, you’re not finished,” Yuuri protested.

 

His roommate waved him off.  “Let me take you both home. I’ll catch a run to return.  It will be fine.”

 

In the apartment, Yuuri migrated from room to room.  Victor would look up when Yuuri entered the same space as the silverette.  The restlessness continued until Victor stood up and directed him. “Let’s take the dogs out, then we can help Phichit out by making dinner.”

 

Yuuri looked up in surprise but then nodded.  He let Victor guide him down to the small park outside.  He sat on the bench watching the dogs play and didn’t notice Victor stiffen up until he heard, “Yuuuuriiii.”

 

The Japanese man’s face moved into a deeper frown still locked up inside and not realizing Victor moving protectively towards him.  “Hello, Andreia,” Victor greeted in what Yuuri recognized as his press voice. “Yuuri’s having an off day. Can I help you?”

 

The woman looked from one man to the other her expression calculating even as Victor’s hand rested around Yuuri’s shoulder.  “I thought I’d see if I could take Vicchan off his...I mean, your hands for a while,” she asked, shifting her question from Victor to Yuuri.

 

Yuuri lifted his eyes slowly but did not direct his gaze to her, resting them instead on Vicchan.  Yuuri gave the slightest shake of his head and it was enough for Victor. “Not today, Andreia. I think it’s important for Yuuri to keep Vicchan close.”

 

She sighed, her brows narrowing as she looked from one man to the next before thinning her lips in resignation.  “Fine, maybe next time.” She left and Yuuri finally looked up at him with a small but appreciative smile.

 

“Are you ready to go in?” Victor prompted.

 

Yuuri nodded, allowing himself to be pulled up by Victor.  The older man reconnected the leads on the dogs and led them and Yuuri back inside.  Once in the apartment, Victor took out the thawed chicken and began cutting it up. Yuuri moved to pull out a bowl to prepare the marinade.  He worked off memory and probably wasn’t true to Phichit’s recipe, but he knew that honey and squeezed orange, with the added pepper flakes and ginger formed the base.  He passed the bowl over to Victor who added the chunks of chicken.

 

Looking longingly down the hall, Yuuri shrugged.  “I think...I’m going to take a shower. Maybe it will calm everything going on inside.”  He felt Victor’s eyes following him down the hall. Disappearing into the steamy shower, he let the tears fall.  He hated it. Tears for no apparent reason. He just felt crowded in. And then as some of the tears started to clear away, he sniffed back and thought of Victor who had become a quiet presence for him.  An anchor keeping him tethered so he didn’t completely float away in his thoughts without pushing himself in too far. He’s going to realize how much of a mess I am.  He isn’t going to want to stay.  He dried off and dressed, looking into the mirror.  His eyes were red. Victor’s going to know I was crying.

 

As he entered the living room, Victor looked up from where he had his books spread out.   But he’s here now.  Yuuri moved over to sit beside him on the sofa.  He sniffed back. No point in trying to hide the tears now.  “Some days...it hits me for no reason.” Vicchan climbed up in his lap and Yuuri hugged him close.  “Thanks...for being my voice. I do need Vicchan with me.”

 

Victor let the man sit, cuddling the toy poodle for a few moments in peace.  “What is her deal, anyway? She clearly doesn’t like dogs.”

 

Yuuri shook his head with a shrug.  “Sometimes...it almost feels personal.  And I just have no defenses today. She pursued me so I gave her a chance but it didn’t feel right from the start.  She kept pulling the focus onto her as if she was jealous anyone else would get attention. She was jealous of Vicchan, Phichit, my skating...everything.  But it wasn’t a possessive jealousy. It was...weird. I only went out with her three times. That’s it. It never felt like a clean break, though, although she left our last date with another guy.  Even then, it felt like she was rubbing my nose in it. I never could figure out why.”

 

Victor leaned back as he considered Yuuri’s words reaching over to stroke the dog in Yuuri’s lap.  “Is there someone else? I mean, I know what you said to the girls but…”

 

Yuuri shook his head blushing.  “No one...not for a while. After...Andreia, really before that...I just...I didn’t like...I mean...I’ve had far more partners than I’m comfortable admitting.  And some...I don’t remember. Dr. Bishop...she suggested I take a step back.”

 

Victor looked surprised but then intrigued.  “Your psychiatrist?”

 

Yuuri nodded.  “I tend...to hide my anxiety in addictive behaviors.  I don’t want that. I think...it’s probably good that I can’t take the meds.”  He looked up at Victor with solemn eyes. “My father is alcoholic. My ballet teacher...when she retired to Hasetsu to help her father...she retreated to the bottle.  Even my sister has her vices...cigarettes.”

 

Victor considered the younger man’s words.  “And you think...sex was an addictive behavior.”

 

Yuuri shrugged.  “Or a symptom of other behaviors.”

 

“How...can I help?”

 

“You already help.  I just worry...you’re going to tire of it.”

 

“It’s...always been hard for me to be close to others.  It’s easy here. I like being your friend, Yuuri.”

 

Yuuri shifted uncomfortably at the focus, feeling his blush deepen.  “And how about you? Are you dating someone? What’s your mysterious dating history?”

 

Victor’s eyes blinked and it was his turn to blush.  “I-I honestly never found the time,” he murmured.

 

Yuuri leaned in presumably to reach another side of Vicchan while he continued to scratch through the poodle’s curls.  “Maybe...now that you’re retired you can find the time.”

 

Victor’s lips parted, his breath still between them.  Yuuri was within his reach and he wanted to close the gap.  Swallowing, he glanced at the clock. “We should probably start the chicken.”

 

Yuuri’s eyes followed him before his body.  He read the body language, could see the shaken confidence and it made the younger man curious.   Just what is your dating history?

Chapter Text


 

Laundry Day

 

Victor looked at the hook in confusion then walked through the apartment to his room.  Glancing around with a frown, he still hadn’t discovered where Makkachin’s leash had hidden itself.  Going to the next room, he knocked on the partially opened door. “Yuuri, do you have Makkachin’s leash?”  The door opened from the light tap to reveal Yuuri sorting through piles of clothes. “Is everything okay?

 

“Laundry day...because I had to wear the green underwear,” Yuuri explained as if one was synonymous for the other.  Victor tried not to picture Yuuri in green underwear. And he most definitely tried not to consider the shades of green that would look good on Yuuri but the Japanese man looked up to see Victor with dusted pink cheeks.  “Leash?” He looked around, as he ran his hands through his disheveled hair that did nothing to settle the feelings unearthed in Victor. “On the dresser. Sorry, it was in my hand when I walked down the hall.”

 

Victor blinked and then the words processed.  Reaching for the leash, he turned to Yuuri and asked, “When does the laundry service arrive?”

 

Yuuri straightened and screwed his eyes in confusion as he stared at Victor.  “Laundry service?”

 

Victor’s lips parted realizing he messed up.  “How...else do you do the laundry?”

 

“With a washer and dryer?”  Yuuri probably shouldn’t have made that a question but he was still processing Victor’s words.  “You haven’t done laundry! Oh, god, Victor...it’s been three weeks!”

 

“It’s okay.  I made sure nothing was damp before I sorted it out.”

 

Yuuri smiled at the little victory.  “So you know how to sort.”

 

“Of course.  Dry cleaning and regular.”  Victor shrugged, honestly, Americans.  “It makes it simpler for the service.”

 

The light in Yuuri’s eyes dimmed a little, “O-oh...you don’t know how to sort.”

 

Victor scratched his head in confusion.  Didn’t he just explain that he did? “Yuuri, what do you mean?”

 

“Well...of course you need to sort your dry cleaning out.  There’s a dry cleaning shop not too far away. And...they might do other laundry?  I just don’t know. Phichit and I usually just haul our laundry down to the basement and use the coin machines.”

 

“Coin machines?”  Victor frowned at the thought of slot machines in the basements, rows of grandmothers pumping quarters into machines and somehow also laundry is done.

 

“If you help me haul my laundry downstairs...you know, because I’m still attached to a crutch...then I’ll show you how to do laundry.”  Victor cast his eye around the room. It was clear that Yuuri was hopping around on one foot and he’d moved to just one crutch when he could get away with it.

 

“So...no laundry service,” Victor surmised.

 

Yuuri shrugged.  “I don’t know for sure.  If that’s important to you, I’m sure we could figure something out.  But why don’t you try this? Never hurts to know how.”

 

Victor pursed his lips then nodded sharply.  “Okay, Yuuri. What do you need me to do?”

 

Yuuri looked at his piles with a frown.  “Ummm...help me to get it down to the basement.  There’s a couple of baskets over there.” Victor followed the finger and nodded, heading directly to retrieve the two baskets on wheels.  He began scooping up laundry, careful not to completely disassemble Yuuri’s piles. Yuuri hopped around gathering detergent, dryer sheets, and other things he used in his laundry process.  “Mom wouldn’t let me get by so long without washing. It was a daily task.”

 

“You did laundry daily?”  Victor fumbled with a bin, casting the other man an incredulous look.

 

“In Japan, we did.  With the humidity, laundry held onto smells.  So it’s pretty typical. That’s probably what made me extra sensitive to Cody’s nastiness.  Or...it could be that it just smelled that bad.” He looked at Victor and indicated the wall separating their two rooms.  “We shared a wall.”

 

Victor shivered.  “Okay, so how often do you do your laundry now?”

 

“Twice a week unless it’s a crazy week.  I guess I just did it while you were out.  I didn’t think.” He looked at the pile with a frown.  “I’m behind now due to my ankle.”

 

Victor chewed his lip, thinking of his own pile in his room.  “So...I’ve got quite a bit as well.”

 

“It’s Wednesday.  I tend to go when the Christians are in church.  Wednesday and Sunday. We should have the run of the basement, and that’s ten machines plus six huge dryers.”  He reached into the top dresser drawer and grabbed a bag of quarters. “We save all of our quarters for laundry day and I usually toss in an extra $10 worth.”

 

Victor frowned.  “I...don’t have any change like that.  Just cash.”

 

“They have a money changer downstairs.  No big deal.” Yuuri hopped across the room and frowned as he tried to figure out how to carry things down with crutches.  The elevator at least went all the way down. He grabbed the handle and began hopping down the hall, one crutch to stabilize him.

 

“Y-yuuriiii!” Victor cried out chasing after him.

 

Yuuri pulled to a stop and huffed his bangs out of his face as he side-eyed Victor.  Phichit came out to see what the commotion was about and hands went to his hips. “Oh, no, Yuuri.  You are not going hop-lug that basket down to the basement!” He strode across the room to face off with Yuuri.  The Japanese man may have the extra height, but Phichit could be a force when he set his mind to it.

 

“I’ve got it!” Yuuri argued.

 

“No...Victor, what do you say?” Phichit tossed back down the hall even as his hand closed on the handle of the basket.

 

He raised an eyebrow towards Yuuri.  “You know, if you injure that ankle further, it could put you off the ice for six weeks or longer.”

 

Yuuri pouted.  Definitely. It was a pout.  Complete with a huff and a little stamp of foot that sent a shock of pain widening his eyes.  Both roommates caught it and Victor’s expression clearly said, see?  Told you so!

 

“Fine!”  He relinquished his hold on the basket.  Victor handed him the second crutch.

 

“We’ll lug them down and you can hop around and sort the laundry into the machines,” Phichit negotiated.  “I’ll even bring mine and Victor can bring his. Efficient.”

 

Yuuri side-eyed Phichit.  “Can we separate the pure blacks from the darks?”

 

Phichit laughed, “Whatever you want, honey.”

 

Yuuri stood up straight...with his crutches in hand.  “Come along then,” he directed with a haughty tone waving his hand for them to follow.  Phichit laughed, but Victor had to muffle a gasp and check his reaction. Oh, he definitely liked that.

 

Downstairs, Yuuri smiled, breathing in the room like he just walked into a flower shop.  “I get all ten washers.” Turning to the others, he snapped his finger. “Come along, boys.  Over by the machines!” Sassy!Yuuri was doing a number on Victor and he wasn’t sure if he was going to come out of this evening alive.   Who knew laundry could be sexy?

 

Yuuri began sorting through the baskets while the other two men went up for their own laundry.  Happily humming, Yuuri surrendered to the peace that was laundry day. Another basket appeared and he looked up to see Victor looking unsure of himself.  That vulnerability struck Yuuri down deep. “I sort by colors but then delicates get their own machine,” Yuuri began, his voice uncharacteristically husky in the close quarters with Victor.  Or perhaps it was the tremble he felt at the intimacy of lifting the other man’s laundry out of the basket.

 

Victor went from machine to machine, noting the system.  Clothes were on the front line. Towels and linens on the back.  Returning, he began to sort according to Yuuri’s direction occasionally looking at Yuuri with a questioning gaze.  Phichit arrived and fell in with familiar rhythm. Yuuri then introduced Victor to the Tide-pod. “I make sure I keep these high in the cabinets.  It will kill a dog...or human...if they ate them.” They tossed one per machine. Then where their clothes were extra sweaty, Yuuri added a cup of baking soda.  At Victor’s raised eyebrow, he added, “Baking soda pulls odors out of so many things. This helps with sweaty workout clothes and it’s a cheap option. You could also use white vinegar.  A cup either way. Delicate soak then run it again on normal.” Yuuri closed the lids and demonstrated the settings for the different loads. Then they went down the line adding quarters.  “Now we wait.”

 

Yuuri reached for the top of the machine and tried to hop up but with his weak ankle, fell a little short to his chagrin.  He huffed when he felt a pair of hands on his waist. His breath hitched as Victor gave him a quick lift to the top of the machine.  He then watched as the Russian moved to the next machine and followed suit. Phichit leaned against the machine on the opposite side of Yuuri scrolling through his phone.  “I think I’ll order pizza tonight,” he declared looking up at the other two. “My treat since you both paid for the laundry.”

 

“Pizza?  That’s not on my diet,” Yuuri argued.

 

Phichit rolled his eyes.  “You’ve been extremely clean on your eating.  You can afford a cheat day.”

 

Yuuri shook his head in protest.  “I am not skating or dancing. I can’t.”

 

“Banana peppers, spinach, and chicken.  It’s practically a regular meal,” Phichit argued.

 

“You’ve already ordered it,” Yuuri huffed.

 

“You better believe it!  I’m going upstairs to wait for the delivery.  Be back soon!” As he headed out the door, he turned back and waggled his eyebrows.  “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!”

 

Yuuri blushed but rolled his eyes.  Victor turned back with a thoughtful expression.  “Does he have limits?”

 

Yuuri snorted.  “Not many. And you?”  Then Yuuri’s eyes widened realizing his words.  He dropped his eyes, studying his hands, blush creeping further up his cheeks.

 

Victor was quiet as he studied the poster hanging on the wall unsure how to answer that question.  “I..haven’t tested the boundaries,” he finally said.

 

Yuuri lifted brown eyes curious.  Pulling his legs up into a butterfly, he considered how to move forward.  “It’s good to have boundaries...although sometimes you don’t know until it’s too late.”

 

“You can have as many regrets not taking chances as you can pushing those boundaries,” Victor pointed out.

 

Yuuri shifted, his eyes studying the hands in his lap, fingers meeting as he widened them and narrowed them.  “I...don’t always know what happens to me when I drink.”

 

Victor’s eyes lifted to study the profile of the Japanese man next to him.  Reaching out a hand, Yuuri looked at it a moment before taking it. “I know you don’t anymore...not often.  But...I’ll take care of you if you do.”

 

Yuuri looked up, something odd in his eyes.  “Thank you.”

 

Then Phichit returned and they jerked their hands back like middle schoolers caught making out.  “I have pizza!” he sang. “Stopped upstairs for water bottles while I was waiting. Shall we feast?”

 

Victor watched Yuuri lift out the slice, his eyes glittering.  The Japanese man curved the slice to hold its integrity then tilted his head back to catch the tip, closing his lips around it with an “mmmm”.  The Russian dropped his water bottle. Phichit snorted. Yuuri looked confused at the two of them. “Why aren’t you both eating?”

 

“Because we are watching you have a foodgasm, Yuuri,” Phichit chortled.

 

“You should join me,” he pressed, pink dusting up his cheeks.  He lifted his eyes to Victor’s who now stood next to the washer, water bottle in hand.  Yuuri was really unaware how devastating he could be when he shyly brushed those lashes against his cheeks.  Victor busily turned to the pizza. Phichit watched the interplay between them as he toyed with his phone.

 

Phichit/ Yuuri has the flirt turned on!

 

Devryn/ Go get that man, Yuu!

 

Phichit/ I’ve got front row seats!  Wish I had popcorn!

 

Devryn/ I’ve seen Yuuri work it!

 

Phichit/ You’ve been on the receiving end.

 

Devryn/ That was just play.  I would love to see him when he wants it!

 

Phichit/ Now if he’ll just let himself have it.

 

Devryn/ The more he holds back the more he wants it.

 

Phichit/ I know.  But...I want this for him.  Victor is so into him!

 

Devryn/ I could tell.

 

As they finished the pizza, Victor came back to Yuuri to brace him as he hopped down.  Phichit covertly snapped a shot of Victor with his hand on Yuuri’s waist and sent it to Devryn.

 

Phichit/ I just had a flash of them ice dancing together.

 

Devryn/ They don’t allow that, though, do they?

 

Phichit/ Not in competition.  But they can still skate together.

 

Devryn/ I’d like to see that.  You’ll have to cue me in when practice starts heating up.

 

Phichit/ At this rate, it won’t be long.  But after Yuuri is back on ice.

 

Devryn/ How’s he handling that?

 

Phichit/ Stubborn.  Pissy.

 

Devryn/ Hahaha!  So typical Yuuri fashion...

 

Phichit/ Very!

 

The Thai man heard the clearing of throats and realized that he was being lax in his laundry duties.  “Sorry,” he answered with a shrug. “Just flirting with a friend.”

 

They loaded the dryers.  Yuuri walked Victor through the steps, and they started them on twenty minute cycles.  Victor gathered the supplies and Phichit offered to take them up, leaving the two of them alone once more.

 

As each dryer came to a stop, Yuuri started going through them, tossing pieces still damp into a common dryer.  Victor was impressed by the precise folding Yuuri employed. The younger man demonstrated his technique and Victor took to his third t-shirt before he passed Yuuri’s approval.  The baskets started to fill, separating the elements by roommate. Phichit returned and soon they were all folding and sorting. Finally, they headed up.






Yuuri stood still in the solitude of his room, his cheeks warm from all of Victor’s attention that evening.   He’s just being nice.  He’s just being nice...but it felt like flirting.  He began sorting clothes and putting things away when he uncovered a stack of Victor’s t-shirts.  Gathering them up, he hopped down to Victor’s door and knocked. “Victor, these were mixed up with mine.”

 

Victor invited him in and Yuuri’s eyes moved around the space.  Neat, orderly, the pictures on the wall framed, only one medal on display, the gold from the 2014 Olympics, books stacked neatly on the desk with one open for study, and on the dresser, a single cufflink.  Sapphire. Yuuri’s fingers reached hypnotically to brush over the surface.

 

Victor followed his movement then shrugged, returning his attention back to putting away the laundry he had brought up.  “I lost the other one but for some reason I couldn’t let it go. I may have it reset into a ring.”

 

“Lost it...wh-when?” Yuuri asked, lifting brown eyes to meet blue.

 

“S-sochi,” Victor breathed, seeing the spark of recognition in Yuuri that he had been waiting for all this time.  Now it was here, he was terrified of what the younger man would do.

 

Yuuri dropped the t-shirts and hopped out of the room in a hurry leaving Victor to stare after him in surprise.  In his room, he dug through his nightstand drawer for the tiny box where he put away Cinderella’s slipper. Pulling it out, he opened the lid.  That was it. He closed it back and returned to Victor’s room.

 

The other man was picking up the t-shirt Yuuri dropped and looked up with a smile.  “Is everything okay?” Yuuri heard the inflection of worry in his voice.

 

“I...I found this,” the Japanese man murmured, his hand shaking as he handed Victor the box.

 

Victor took it and carefully opened it, his eyes widening at the contents.  “Y-yuuri, where did you find this?”

 

Yuuri squeezed his shoulders together, his voice going small.  “On the floor of my hotel room? In Sochi...”

 

Victor’s lips parted in surprise.  “Oh,” he murmured. Guilty pink climbed up into his cheeks.

 

“Victor?  Were you in my room that night?  After the banquet?” Yuuri didn’t bring his eyes to meet the Russian’s, he couldn’t not yet.

 

Victor’s eyes dropped, nodding as he whispered, “Yes.”

 

Yuuri reached out and squeezed his hand.  “I know my memories of that night are sketchy.  And you must have met Drunk!Yuuri...not my best version.”  Yuuri eyes darted around nervously before looking up to catch Victor’s.  “Thank you for taking care of me that night. I know there are many who would not...have been so kind.”

 

“I would never hurt you.  Certainly not like that,” Victor protested.  He released a shaky breath, relieved that the little Yuuri remembered included Victor taking care of him, refusing to hurt him.

 

“I know,” Yuuri said softly.  “I just didn’t realize it...or maybe I didn’t allow myself to believe it was possible that you would have cared enough to look after me.  I’m...unsteady when my anxiety hits hard. And sometimes I try to shut it down with alcohol.  I know...it’s bad to do that. Just...thank you for looking out for me.”

 

“I’ll always look out for you,” Victor breathed.  Yuuri smiled softly, squeezing Victor’s hand before trailing his fingers in the release.  Victor watched Yuuri walk out, his form shy and soft, a picture of demure grace despite the limp.  Victor swallowed before turning to his computer. Pulling up the tracklist, he found the song that came to mind.  Reaching for a set of blinged out headphones , he began listening to Unsteady , working out the nuances of Yuuri in the new choreography building in his head.

Chapter Text


 

I want to love you but I don’t know how...

 

Victor met with Jules at the studio, thankful for the space.  He could see the frustration knitted across her brow, but she did agree to let him in.  “Yuuri had a key,” she fussed as she unlocked the door.

 

“I don’t want him to see this until it’s ready,” he stated quietly.

 

She glanced back, her green eyes narrowing on him.  “What are you working on?”

 

“Possibly his next choreography.  I’m not sure.” He pulled out his phone and hit play .  

 

As the music filled the room, her eyes widened and her smile settled as she heard his intent.  She watched the man close his eyes and focus on the music. Unobserved she was able to search his face, watching the tiny muscles around his mouth and eyes move with the motion implied in the notes.   You have no idea that you wear your love for him all over your features.  As the song closed, he opened his eyes and met her open acceptance.  He started a bit, realizing her eyes had been on him the entire time.  “You’ve got it bad, don’t you?” She shook her head and guided him into one of the private studios.  “This...is Yuuri’s space. Other people use it, but it’s the one he prefers to work in. Maybe...it’ll give you what you need.”

 

“Thank you,” he said turning to her.  “Don’t...say anything.”

 

She laughed warmly.  “Nope, I’m not saying a word.”  She made a key turn at her lips and threw it away.   Not one word.  You’re going to have to figure this one out yourself, Yuuri.  “Lock up when you leave!”  She waved goodbye before slipping out the door.  He heard the lock turn behind her.

 

Playing his music once more, he began forming the thoughts that turned in his mind.  They mingled with other thoughts as he explored the space. This is where you work when you’re not on the ice.   The ballet barre, the well sprung floor, the mirror.  It was a typical studio space. Yet, he could imagine the classically trained dancer in Yuuri working through his own movements.  Victor began to stretch. It had been a while since he stepped into a studio but something told him that if he wanted to understand Yuuri’s form, he needed to start here.  He breathed in deeply and the hint of something filled his senses. Cherry blossoms.   Where have I smelled that?  Oh, the bathroom. Something Yuuri uses, maybe a cologne.

 

Then he spotted a shirt tossed casually over a chair.  Imagining Yuuri dancing in the studio then removing that shirt, only to toss it aside without missing a beat, brought Victor to a standstill.  His eyes rested on the shirt. Moving to pick it up, he frowned as he studied the design. The fabric was soft to the touch, gray, the collar cut out and Victor could see it slouching off of the smaller man’s shoulder.  The cropped appearance would show stomach if he didn’t have another shirt beneath it. The word QUEEN enblazened the front in black font.

 

He didn’t know what possessed him to do it.  He would have died of embarrassment if anyone caught him but he pulled his own top off replacing it with the sweatshirt.  Closing his eyes he allowed the next repeat of the song to wash over him as he lost himself in the feel of wearing Yuuri’s skin.  He thought of Yuuri’s anxiety, of his crutches...the weaknesses he revealed...the weaknesses he tried so desperately to hide...the things that pulled him down.  People who kept him off balance. Andreia .  Those who took advantage of him.   The alcohol .  Sex...sometimes unwanted.  He allowed all of these things to bowl him over.

 

Pulling the chair into the room, he used it as a prop.  How can I bolster you?  What supports do you need?  I want to support you, to build you up, to restore what was taken from you.  I know you are strong. Independent. You fight your own battles. But sometimes...even in your strength, you will tire.  You need someone to hold onto you. Someone to share their strength with you. I want to be that someone. Victor stilled on those words .  I...what do you need from me?

 

He closed his eyes remembering that night.  The one Yuuri only had fragments of memory. You didn’t ask what happened.  You just...accepted it. Lost hours.  Lost moments. You...trusted that I didn’t hurt you.  What told you that? How did you know? I wouldn’t. But...how did you know?

 

You kept the cufflink.

 

Like a treasure.

 

“I don’t always know what happens to me when I drink.”

 

You suspected...you just refused to allow yourself to believe.

 

“Thank you for taking care of me that night.  I know there are many who would not...have been so kind.”

 

How many have hurt you?

 

He considered the friends Yuuri holds close to him.   They protect you.  They know...you hurt yourself.

 

Why?

 





Yuuri crutched restlessly around the apartment.  Phichit was at practice. He wasn’t sure where Victor was at the moment.  And Yuuri...felt restless and lost. His studying finished, he had taken the dogs out one at a time because two dogs were too much to handle on crutches.  I would normally be preparing myself to dance tonight.  Closing his eyes, he calculated how much he was losing.  Lola hadn’t contacted him as to whether she was just taking the night or switching it out with him.   That’s $500 at bare minimum between tips and cut from the door.  I can’t afford that kind of hit on my income.  He continued to search.  I need something.  Maybe put something up for bid on eBay.

 

Opening his closet, he considered options.   Would someone buy an old costume?  Fans are strange, they...might? Something I wouldn’t mind parting with.  Oh, this is from my first year in the senior division.  He pulled out the Lohengrin costume with a frown.  I hated this program and this hideous costume.  I certainly won’t miss it.

 

He hung it on the outside of his closet door.  I’ll have Phichit help me put it up for sale.  He knows how to market these things. He then stopped to reconsider.   Phichit will ask too many questions.  He ran his fingers through the petals of the waist, the sparkle of the top.   Maybe you can help me make up the difference in my income.

 

An hour later, he had photos of both him in the costume and the costume hanging on his closet door for the listing.

 

He tallied up his disposable income for the shopping trip later.  $65. I need cheap recipes .  Pulling out his tablet, he began looking for what meals he could prepare for the week.   Potato and leek soup .  He smiled, remembering his mother making this when he would come in chilled from practice at the rink.   Would you like this, Victor?  That thought startled him.  He blinked as he stared at the recipe.  What...would you miss from home?

 

He dug through recipes looking for something both budget friendly and familiar...but Russian.  Complexity wasn’t a problem. I grew up in a kitchen.  I can do this.  Then he found a braised cabbage and beef recipe .  He did some quick calculations.   Cabbage is cheap.  As are onions. I may be able to replace that with leek.  I can use canned sauerkraut. We have all of these seasonings.  Tomato paste. Of course the meat. He frowned, that will be the expensive part.   Expensive for me, anyway.  So, something cheap to balance it out.  It makes a lot, though. I can do something with leftovers.

 

He looked through the connecting links and then found the piroshki link .  Looking through the recipe and considering his time, he frowned.  I can make it from scratch.  My mother would. But...why couldn’t I use something like crescent rolls?  Then put it in the middle. Maybe get a two pack and make the dessert version with apples it suggests.

 

Oyakodon ...chicken and egg.  That’s a fourth meal option.  I can switch thighs out for legs because that runs cheaper.  And I can make the stock for the potato and leek soup from the bones.  He quickly reordered his cooking plan pulling the soup after the oyakodon.   Niratama Donburi ...eggs and rice but for dinner.  A little more flavor. A little sake.  Do I have sake?  He opened the cabinet and smiled.   Yes.  Okay, this is doable.

 

Now, if I can find pork loin on sale, I can make baked tonkatsu .   And I can always do a chicken salad.  Oh, chicken with apples and grapes and walnuts.   He streamlined his list and sorted into department so he could shop quickly.  Apples and peanut butter for lunch. Baked garbanzo beans for a snack.  Eggs and rice for breakfast.  Looking satisfied at his list, the real work of the week, he waited for the others to get home from Saturday practice.  

 

With the problem of eating on a budget solved, at least for this week, his mind was able to return to its traditional occupation.  Torturing him. I miss the ice.

 




Victor’s piercing gaze studied Verity as she ran through the routine.  She wasn’t quite grasping Agape just as Angela seemed to be fighting Eros .  She had the technical side in order.  She knew the routine. She just missed the emotion of the piece.  Skating to the barrier, she took the water bottle from Victor.

 

“How was that, Coach?”  She wanted to do well but Victor’s furrowed brows and frown pretty much answered her question.  “That bad?”

 

“You have the choreography.  It’s...the emotion. What is agape to you, Verity?”

 

She shrugged.  “If I have the program, isn’t it enough?”

 

“If you fail to tell the story, if you fail to properly emote, you will lose performance points.  Back loading the jumps, raising your arms won’t be enough when you meet a skater just as proficient as you but a better storyteller.  You don’t...sell it.”

 

She considered his words with a purse of her lips.  “I’ve never even heard of agape until you handed me this program.  So...I don’t guess I know what it means.”

 

“That is what I want you to work on.  You need to make it personal. Dig into a story within you.  A mother’s love, a father’s sacrifice. Something that speaks agape to you.  Then you’ll find the soul of the program. Then you will be able to skate it convincingly.”

 

Verity narrowed her eyes, “What do you suggest?  That I volunteer or something?”

 

Victor considered her words before answering, “Last weekend you volunteered with Yuuri and me.  And you could pull on that. I don’t want to discourage you from giving back. But perhaps you need to take some time to reflect.  Meditate. You have agape within you. Something personal.”

 

She sighed as she considered his words.  “Okay...I’ll try. So...see you Monday?”

 

“Yes.  Make sure you cool down properly and get in your gym time.”

 

“Right.  Later, Coach.”  She skated off to stretch and cool down.

 

Across the ice, his eyes rested on Angela.  If anything, she was struggling more than Verity.  He called her over and she stopped before him, frustration written all over her features.  “Angela, you need to find your story. You need to discover the Eros in you.”

 

Angela squirmed considering the story she needed to tell.  “I know, Coach. It’s just...not something I’ve really explored.”

 

“Have you never been in love?”

 

“Not...really.”  Her eyes cast down as she fought to find her words.  “It’s just...my parents would never approve of my choice.”

 

Oh.  Victor understood as the words left her lips unsure and a little afraid.  “It is hard being gay in this world. At one time it was harder. But...you cannot destroy your heart in the process.  Someone will make your heart beat for them. It may take you years to find them, or they may be just around the corner.”

 

She smiled, nodding in understanding.  Then a little flash crossed her eyes, a small fire.  “And you?”

 

Victor stifled the smirk, finally the spark he had hoped for from this student, but gone so quickly.  “I’m here, aren’t I?”

 

“He...doesn’t realize that’s why you’re here.”  Her eyes narrowed on him, her assessment astute.

 

“I know.  He has his own struggles.”  Victor stretched out, standing at fully height against the barrier wall.  “I’ve waited this long. I can wait longer.”

 

She nodded.  “I would wait for the right person.  But...it still doesn’t help me. I don’t...know what it’s like to fall in love.”

 

“Eros isn’t quite falling in love.  It’s an embrace of sexual energy. Have you seen Yuuri’s Express program?”

 

She shook her head.

 

“It was at the last Worlds.  Find it. Study it. Maybe even talk to Yuuri about it.  But that’s your key.”

 

She looked up and nodded, finding a wisp of a smile.  “Okay. I can do that.” Her eyes caught a glimpse of Verity’s retreating form.  “Are you sure you’ve given us the right programs, Coach?”

 

“The best programs force you to look deep within to find the soul of it.  I’m sure. It will stretch you, but that’s what you need to transition to the senior division.  It’s not just skating for math anymore.”

 

She nodded sharply, drawing up determined.  “I trust you...I just...I need to go watch that video.  So...Monday?”


Victor nodded with a smile.  “Get your other training in. Take care of your muscles.”

 

“I will. Thank you, Coach.”

 

He watched her figure retreat through the entrance that took Verity away.  He looked up as he felt another’s presence. “They are worried.”

 

Ciao Ciao took a drink from his mug.  “The programs you gave them are sound.  Sometimes it’s a matter of helping them find their confidence in it.”

 

Victor considered the older coach.  “Is that how it is with Yuuri?”

 

“Every single damn time!  He’s a fighter.” Ciao Ciao shook his head remembering some of the near screaming matches he would suffer from his student only to create a truly beautiful program.  “Are you sure you want to choreograph his short?”

 

“I do.  If he’ll accept it…”  Victor trailed off, knowing the other man’s insecurity when it came to accepting help.

 

“He’s made great strides.   Express shocked me...not in the program itself, but that Yuuri would do something so bold.  He’s typically shy. But when he gets those sparks of confidence, he can blow away the audience.  I like what you are proposing with Unsteady .  It’s a good juxtaposition...and it suits Yuuri.  I can’t wait to see him perform it.”

 

“Thank you.  I wasn’t sure if I’d be stepping on toes with suggesting it.”

 

“Yuuri’s always been a difficult skater.  I welcome anyone who can pull out what I know lies within him.  So much talent. But his anxiety gets in the way so much. I want to see him overcome that.  I want to see him perform for the world what I’ve seen him do in the quiet of this rink. He’s...amazing.”

 

Victor smiled, knowing that this man saw the same beauty and talent in Yuuri that he saw.  “I know. I need to see that as well.”

 

“Then we’ll work together with him.”  The hand on Victor’s shoulder was companionable as well as the side hug.  He felt the older coach’s bolstering strength in it. And with Ciao Ciao’s blessing, he could finally work with Yuuri openly.  He felt like something within him had unlocked.

 




The trip to the grocery seemed to have Yuuri anxious.  Both Phichit and Victor exchanged concerned glances about their roommate.  He studied labels, made heavy calculations, weighed options. But he seemed to have a plan.  It was Yuuri’s week to cook and the fresh produce, meats, and few canned items seem to promise a good set of meals.  Still, Victor worried about the obsessive approach Yuuri was taking as he studied yet another label.

 

Leaning in to talk to Phichit, he whispered, “Do you know what is going on?”

 

Phichit shook his head.  “He fussed about the pizza.  Maybe he’s trying to make up for some of the higher calorie choices I made...but I balanced them out with lower calorie options as well,” he defended.

 

Victor narrowed his eyes, accepting the observation as part of what he had suspected.  “I shared fries with him earlier this week. I thought he was going to turn them down. Why is he so hard to feed?”

 

“Maybe he thinks he needs to drop some weight?” Phichit suggested.

 

However to Victor’s trained eye, Yuuri wasn’t showing signs of extra fat.  He had a bit of softness but that was just his body type. And something Victor appreciated.

 




Sunday arrived and Yuuri woke up to learn Victor hadn’t come out of his room.  Makkachin was trying to wait patiently but Yuuri could tell she needed to go out.  Phichit offered to go with him. They took the dogs out and stood at the grass silent at first.

 

“It’s not like him.  He’s usually up before any of us.”  Yuuri noted.

 

Phichit nodded feeling the same concern.  “Maybe he’s not feeling well. Sometimes those things come on suddenly and he is in a new environment.  Remember I caught everything when I first arrived.”

 

“He should be wearing a mask in class.  American’s don’t care what germs they spread,” Yuuri responded with a frown.

 

Back upstairs, Yuuri worked up the nerve to knock on Victor’s door.  He heard a bit of shuffle and a strained voice tell him just a minute.  He didn’t expect what he saw when he opened the door. Victor’s eyes were red and there was evidence of tears.  In the room, it was dark with the curtains drawn and Yuuri could tell he hadn’t left the bed until he knocked.

 

“I was worried,” he murmured softly, a hand going out to run down Victor’s arm in comfort.

 

Victor’s expression was long as he shrugged.  “It sort of hit me all of the sudden. Or maybe I’ve been ignoring it.”

 

“You’re homesick,” Yuuri realized.

 

He nodded, opening the door to let him inside.  “My Papa sent letters from home. My grandmother has a summer cold and is fighting the doctors.  This is normal. She fights anyone who tries to help her. Did you know my Papa never married after my Mama passed away?  Never even looked at another woman. He said she was his one love. I tried to see my father a couple of times a month. Usually on Sundays.  And it just occurred to me that it was over a month since I saw him. Since Boston. And I worry if he’s okay.” Victor had moved back to the bed, laying on his side, while talking.

 

“You could call him,” Yuuri said softly.  Having followed him to the bed he sat in the space made near Victor’s curled knees and carded his hand through the silken silver hair.

 

He nodded.  “I can...and I do.  I always have. We’d talk twice a week if I weren’t seeing him.  I have tried to maintain that call schedule. Papa likes letters.  He said it gives you something to hold during the times in between.  So I write as well. I keep a letter going and close it up at the end of the week to put it in the mail.  I think he does the same. It has all of the little things you fail to remember in a phone call. It’s just...I’m close to Papa.  I was close to Mama. It feels strange...so far away. I thought...it would be like living in St. Petersburg with him in Moscow. It’s not the same, though.  I have to think of time differences and such.” He closed his eyes, enjoying the feeling of Yuuri’s fingers running through his hair, soothing him.

 

“I...call home once a week,” Yuuri said quietly.  “Usually on Sunday because I’m resting. But...I guess I haven’t since I sprained my ankle.  My parents know I withdraw when things are bothering me. They usually give me a little space then reach out to force open the doors.  Sometimes...I let them in. It’s hard for me. I love my parents and I know they support me...but I’m...me. It’s just hard. I...haven’t seen them since December.  I normally see them in the break between winter and summer semesters. Just a quick trip in. A week before I start practicing hard.” He watched Victor’s eyes close, the breathing begin to settle as the man relaxes and calmed.  “It lets my mom fuss over me, my dad...he likes to work beside me sharing what things he knows. Simple things. How to fix a bike. How to properly transplant herbs. Very everyday. My sister...she is just glad for a break. They all work hard at the onsen.  It doesn’t always...break even.”

 

Victor’s eyes fluttered open, the clear blue taking in Yuuri’s face.  “Why didn’t you go this time?”

 

“They...aren’t doing so well.”  Yuuri shrugged. Money, when is the problem not money?  “And my tuition is higher now that I’m in grad school.  It...was economics, really. But...I miss them. I know how you are feeling, Victor.”

 

“I also haven’t talked to Yakov.  He’s been...like a second parent to me since I started skating competitively.”

 

Yuuri frowned, hearing something more in Victor’s voice than what he was saying.  “Why haven’t you talked?”

 

Victor sighed.  “I’m...afraid he wants to try to talk me back into skating.  He let me go. He even set it up with Celestino so that I could come here.  But I know he didn’t want me to go.”

 

Yuuri studied his face a moment letting the silence soften his words.  “Why...did you leave?”

 

“Because...there was nothing else left for me,” Victor answered, lying back to stare at the ceiling.  “I’ve given them everything. I was a commodity...and I only had a shred of humanity left in me. I hoped...if I left while that was still intact that I could recover, could become human once more.”  He met Yuuri’s eyes and shrugged. “I wanted to be more than a gold medal machine.”

 

Yuuri’s lashes grew wet with tears of their own, “You are more...you always have been.”

 

“It...didn’t feel that way.”  Victor seemed so small at that moment.  Yuuri’s idol, the god he had worshipped for so long, was now something so much more real...and infinitely better.

 

“What...now?”

 

Victor stretched his toes to a point and reached down running his fingers along his calves.  “I am remembering the things that I love about skating. I don’t want to go back to that life...but if I can help others navigate those waters and still hold onto themselves, I think that would be good.  I like doing choreography and I enjoy helping other skaters. But...I worry about the competitions, how it’s going to affect them...and me.”

 

“Do you think...you will go back?”

 

Victor shook his head.  “No. I am...liking where I’m at.  I just...miss home.”

 

Yuuri could feel he had helped Victor swim back to shore, and changed his tone to something upbeat, demanding.  “How do we make this home?”

 

Victor shrugged.  “I lived for years in St. Petersburg...but after Papa left, it was empty.  It no longer felt like home.”

 

“Family...isn’t always blood relations, Victor.  Sometimes it’s the person sitting next to you willing to listen when you need it.”

 

Victor turned to catch his eyes and smiled softly.  “I know.”

Chapter Text


 

To Make You Feel My Love

 

Yuuri met Victor for lunch while they waited for Phichit.  Victor fussed over Yuuri’s bento with the cut up apples and peanut butter in one tray and a mixture of veggies and cheese cubes with a dill dipping sauce in the other.  However, it wasn’t the healthy collection of food that truly captured Victor.  “It has poodles on it! I need this in my life!”

 

Yuuri laughed.  “Would you like me to make your lunch for Wednesday?”  Victor looked up with wide eyes almost begging. With a chuckle, Yuuri nods.  “I’ll take care of you.”

 

Please, yes.

 

As the two men ate, chatting about their schedules, Victor split his sandwich with Yuuri while Yuuri shared his vegetables and apples.  “Where do you find such cute lunch boxes?”

 

Yuuri munched on an apple slice and examined his box.  “Bento boxes? You can get them on Amazon. There is a cute one with poodles available at Hot Topic.  It matches my phone case.”

 

Victor beamed, “You should get it!”

 

Yuuri laughed.  “Maybe later. Not a budgeting priority at the moment.”

 

Victor studied him at the mention of budget and Yuuri ducked away.   Perhaps I said too much.  Still, Victor respected his privacy enough not to push.  Remembering what Victor said about his anxiety, Yuuri relaxed a little.  He may suspect, but he won’t invade.

 

Phichit walked up with Devryn in tow, joining them in the quad.  “A picnic? You didn’t invite me!” the Thai man pouted even as he stole an apple slice.  Devryn studied the dish and then Yuuri with a peculiar expression. Yuuri ducked under his scrutiny.

 

Squatting down, he caught the brown eyes and held them, heard Yuuri’s huff and knew he was right in his suspicions.  Devryn recalled that Yuuri had broke out the bentos when he was fighting to make ends meet early on as well. “I see you are getting creative.”

 

“It keeps me from getting bored with my meals,” Yuuri countered, his gaze challenging the other man.

 

Devryn heard the warning in his old boyfriend’s voice.  He nodded as he considered his reply. “Perhaps we can meet for lunch later this week.”

 

“Yuuri’s making lunch for me on Wednesday,” Victor volunteered.

 

Yuuri sent a surprised glance at Victor before settling his expression.  “Perhaps you both can join us then?”

 

Devryn made a show of checking his phone for the weather before nodding.  “Looks to be a good day. Same place?”

 

Yuuri nodded slowly then his eyes rested on Phichit.  The Thai man shifted back and forth nervously, his eyes going from Yuuri to Devryn.  Then it clicked. Oh...you like him.  Why didn’t I see that?  Then the other side of his brain caught up and answered, because you were busy fucking Devryn.  All of the pieces fell into place from that year.  He and Phichit hadn’t been roommates long when he started dating Devryn.  Phichit would leave the room when Devryn showed up. Yuuri thought at the time it was to give them privacy.  Now he saw the truth. The words tumbled out of his mouth before he could recall them. “Perhaps Phichit would prepare a bento for you as well, Devryn.”

 

Phichit’s mouth opened in surprise, his eyes wide.  Devryn turned his gaze to the Thai man beside him with a slow smile.  “That would be nice.”

 

Phichit, rarely one without words, said quietly, “O-okay.”

 

“Until Wednesday!”  Devryn waved and walked away.

 

Once he was out of earshot, Phichit rounded on him.  “I can’t believe you just did that!”

 

“I can’t believe you didn’t tell me you liked him!”  Yuuri countered with a quirk of an eyebrow.

 

“Holy shit!” Phichit responded covering his mouth.  He slowly pulled his hand away and whispered, “I do like him.”  There was silence as the two friends held each other’s eyes for a moment before he asked, “Is that...okay?”

 

Yuuri’s expression softened.  “More than okay. Devryn’s a good guy.  I’d trust him with my best friend.”

 

Phichit sat down between the other two leaning into Yuuri’s side who hugged him in, his hand sliding over the other man’s hair, cheek cradling the other side.  “I was...afraid to say anything.”

 

“You’ve liked him for a while, haven’t you?”

 

Phichit nodded.  “It’s just...for a while...he was still into you.”

 

Yuuri hummed, wrapping an arm around the younger man.  “That was never going to work out. We both knew that.”

 

Phichit looked up, “Doesn’t this...break some kind of friend law?”

 

Yuuri frowned.  “If it does, then it’s a bad law.  I want you to be happy, Peach. Let yourself be happy.”

 

Phichit sat up, a blush on his cheeks, glancing to Victor as if he just realized it wasn’t only the two of them before he turned back to say, “You should take your own advice.”

 

Yuuri didn’t say anything in response, just turned his eye to the nearly empty bento with a soft smile.  I’m trying.  I really am. I just...have nothing to offer him.

 

Victor began packing up their picnic.  His own thoughts going to the Devryn revelation.  Phichit with Devryn was a good thing. He knew the hockey player still had some unresolved feelings for Yuuri, but had to admit the man was very likeable and seemed to respect the boundaries.  Yuuri stated outright that it would never work out between them. In this context. Victor considered the man before him. Yuuri, could you be happy with me?

 





They stopped at their apartment, Phichit preparing a proper lunch, Yuuri marinating the meat for their dinner that night, and Victor taking care of the poodles.  Then bags in hand, they were back in the car on the way to the rink.

 

Victor noted the girls hadn’t arrived yet and took the time to pull on his skates.  Phichit beat him to the ice but Victor wasn’t far behind. Two rounds and he drew to a stop.  He held Yuuri’s eyes, saw the longing within them. Skating up to him, the Russian offered a sad smile.  “It’s hard to stay away.”

 

Yuuri nodded and Victor watched the rise and fall of the man’s shoulder in a sigh.  “It really is.”

 

Victor flicked an eye to the office, “Let’s have Coach Celestino look at it.”

 

He nodded.  He was already putting more weight on it.  Before wrapping the ankle that morning, Victor had Yuuri press against his hand.  Yuuri hid it well but Victor caught the wince before he ghosted it away.

 

The girls arrived soon after and Victor was forced to leave Yuuri at the barrier.  The afternoon ran on with Victor working with the girls, Celestino directing with Phichit, and Yuuri...watching, drifting.  He spent time in the gym. He visited his coach about his ankle. He tracked skaters on the ice noting their elements, unconsciously grading them, but he felt outside. He was focused on Verity when Angela plopped down beside him.

 

“I don’t get it,” she stated.

 

He turned his attention to the blonde with a small smile.  “What don’t you get?”

 

She huffed, “I told Victor that I don’t have Eros and he had me study your Express performance from Worlds.  Where did it come from? It’s not like anything you’ve ever done before.”

 

Yuuri considered his words carefully.  “I was working on it since Nationals. Something different. Something that stretched me.  It was ready. So I put it in.”

 

She stared at him a moment then thinned her lips.  “Bullshit.”

 

“Wh-what?”

 

“Bullshit.  Where did that program come from?  What fount did you tap that suddenly awakened your sexuality?”

 

Yuuri raised an eyebrow at her statement.  “If you knew anything about me, you would know that I’ve had sexual relationships.”

 

“That’s not the same thing,” she argued.  “To interpret that into skate. To put it on display like that.  To invite people to watch. How do you...well, express that?”

 

Yuuri’s eyes trained onto the ice, not on Verity but on the man coaching her.  “I study a number of dance styles. The classics...ballet, jazz, ballroom. Modern including break and hip hop.  And then there are the sultry dances. Pole dancing, belly dancing, aerial.” He turns to meet her eyes. “I know how to move my body to create a message.”

 

“And that message?”

 

Yuuri held her gaze assessing her intent.  “I...can show you.”

 

Her face bloomed into a grin.  “Yes! Please! I need help. I have nothing to draw from.”

 

Yuuri’s eyes dropped to his foot.  “I have to wait until I’m cleared. Maybe a week?”

 

“That’s good!  I’m fine!” She was now bouncing up and down excited.  “Victor said you do studio work. Now my last ballet teacher worked with me for $75 an hour for private studio.  I know this is the city so it’s probably...more.” She stopped at Yuuri’s wide eyes. “It’s...only right I pay you.  I pay Victor.”

 

Yuuri of course knew this.  He just had no idea about rates.  “C-can I get back to you on that amount?”  He could hear the high pitch of his voice. “I’m not certain about private rates,” he quickly added.

 

“Of course!  I can’t wait to work with you!  Just text me your offer once you decide.”  Then she was turning her attention to the rink and Victor calling her down.

 

As she moved away, he picked up his phone and texted Jules.

 

Yuuri/ I was just asked to give private dance lessons by Victor’s skater.

 

Jules/ She better plan to pay.

 

Yuuri/ She said her last instructor charged $75 an hour.

 

Jules/ Don’t go any less.  Think about what you pay for your coach.

 

Yuuri/ Minako was a family friend but I don’t know what she charged my parents.

 

Jules/ She was world class.  She would have charged no less than $150 without the family connection.

 

Yuuri/ So $75?

 

Jules/ Try $100.

 

Yuuri/ O.O So much!

 

Jules/ Detroit. In New York YOU’D be charging $125-150.

 

Yuuri/ Okay.  Let’s see what she says.

 

Jules/ This could get you closer to dropping Incognito.

 

Yuuri/ That would be nice.

 

He texted the estimate to Angela before returning to the weight room.  Somewhere in the midsts of his sit-ups, he received an agreement from her.  He had the job. One he didn’t feel the need to hide.

 





Yuuri felt light when they returned home.  A weight had been lifted off of his shoulders.  He moved into the kitchen to begin cooking the meat he had marinating, following the recipe with care to create the meal.  Both Phichit and Victor had migrated to their corners of the apartment to shower and study. Yuuri turned on a playlist while he worked, the music pulling unconscious movement from him.  He missed dance. He missed ice. He needed the music and felt the notes coaxing the last of the gloom from him.

 

He didn’t know how long the other man had been standing there or what had drawn him out but Yuuri looked up from where he worked and met blue eyes watching him, a soft blush on his cheeks, a smile on his lips.  “I heard the music...and smelled dinner. I thought...I’d investigate.”

 

Yuuri opened his stance and invited Victor closer.  “I thought...maybe it would be something like you had in Russia?   Braised beef and cabbage ?”

 

“You...made this for me?” Victor asked, his voice becoming rough with emotion.  “Yuuri…”

 

Yuuri dropped his chin, chewing his lip shyly.  “Well, it’s hard to be away from what is familiar.  And it’s my week to cook.”

 

“That’s probably one of the most thoughtful things anyone has done for me.”  The pink lips curled into the heart-shaped smile Yuuri loved seeing on the Russian.

 

Yuuri blushed and shrugged.  “I...don’t have a lot to offer…”  The words slipped out barely as a whisper.  His breath caught as he felt the hand on his back moving up his spine and back.  He turned to Victor but lowered his eyes, peering through is lashes.

 

A hand traced his jaw lifting his chin.  Victor rested their foreheads together and Yuuri remained breathless at the proximity.  “Don’t sell yourself short, Yuuri...you have so much...you give so much...I see it.”

 

Yuuri bit his lower lip nervously.  He wanted to kiss him. He could taste the other man’s breath on his lips.  

 

“Yuuri?”  Phichit’s voice cut through causing them to break apart.  The younger man looked from a very flushed Yuuri over the stove to a breathless Victor leaning against the refrigerator.  “Did I...interrupt something?”

 

Victor shook his head but then busied himself drinking water.

 

“No...no, it’s fine,” Yuuri rushed, running a hand along the back of his neck.  “What do you need, Phichit?”

 

“I was going to see if you could look over this paper later.”  Phichit’s eyes were darting from one to the other not believing a word either were saying.

 

“Of course.  Invite me to edit it if you like on Google Docs.”

 

“Okay.”  He stepped closer.  “It smells good. How much longer?”

 

Yuuri returned to the stove, “About fifteen or twenty more minutes.”

 

Phichit gave them one last glance before returning to his room to prepare the document for Yuuri’s perusal.

 

Victor focused on the half drunk glass in front of him.  “So you...proof homework?”

 

“Well, papers.  I have to write so much in APA format that it’s almost second nature to me.  And I’ve been here longest.”

 

Victor tried to sound innocent, “You wouldn’t mind reading for me...on occasion?”

 

Yuuri’s expression softened and he nodded.  “Of course. Just let me know what you need.”  The words came out with further implication as brown eyes met blue.  They held on for a moment before Yuuri turned his attention back to the stove.  “I don’t want this to burn,” he fussed. He missed Victor quirking a smile.

 




Half an hour later, the dutch oven opened to reveal the savory meal.  All three men eagerly dug into it.

 

“Oh, wow, Yuuri...I should have my grandmother share all of our family recipes with you!”  Victor stilled at the implication. Slow down! he screamed in his thoughts.  But...it was almost a kiss.

 

Yuuri dipped his chin, his smile shy and soft.

 

“Yuuri has always been steady in the kitchen.  He helped me to work out a number of recipes I grew up with,” Phichit bragged.  “This is a lot, though.”

 

“I have something planned for the leftovers,” Yuuri murmured.  

 

“I can’t wait,” Victor answered happily.

 

At least I know food.  I have that to offer.

Chapter Text


 

Piroshkis and Picnics


Verity walked a lot over the weekend, turning Angela down when the blond wanted to do something or go somewhere.  What does Agape mean to me?  What did Victor say? Something about a parent’s love?  Oh, shit! I need to call my Mama!

 

She reached for her phone and sent the call through.  “Mama?”

 

Her mother’s voice came down the line, “Hello, Verity.  I was beginning to worry about you.”

 

“I’m sorry, Mama.”  She smiled into the phone, her mother had a way of making her point clear without getting heavy handed.  “It’s been crazy getting used to classes and practice. But I think it’s going to be good.”

 

“Do you like your new coach?”

 

Verity thought about that.  Victor was talented, but challenging.  “Victor is amazing and what he doesn’t know, Celestino does.  Then there are all of these skaters. Both Yuuri and Phichit skate internationally.  I hope to be that good. But they help out a lot.”

 

“That’s really good to hear.”  Her mother waited, knowing that her daughter was calling for a reason, but avoiding the topic.

 

Silence settled for a moment then she asked, “How’s Charity?”

 

“Your sister is doing fine.  She really loves the nursing program at the local college.”

 

Verity sighed.  Everyone sacrificed for her dreams including her sister.  “I’m sorry...I hate that she has to settle because of me.”

 

“Nonsense.”  Her mother’s voice was warm but firm.  “We all want to see you skate. You’re so beautiful and powerful.”

 

Verity found her smile.  “Thank you, Mama. It’s hard being so far away, but I’m going to make the most of it.”

 

As she disconnected the call, she thought about her family, about her sister.  I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Charity’s love and sacrifice.  She gave me her kidney. She gave me life, and helps support my passion, I can skate...I don’t know for how long but I want to go as far as I can.  You are my agape, Charity. I’m dedicating my program to you.

 



Yuuri laid out the boxes as he considered what he wanted to pack.  Phichit stood nearby with a similar expression. “Should I go cute, Peach?”

 

“You should definitely go cute, Yuu.”

 

Yuuri pulled out a tin full of tools he used when he wanted to make something special.  Lying out the metal cutters and the molds, he considered his options. Then he smiled, a clear idea in his head, before moving across to set the rice steamer up as he hummed.

 

“What are you thinking?” Phichit asked curiously.

 

“Onigiri.  I’m going to shape it like poodles.”

 

“Oh, I should do hamsters!”  Phichit whined.

 

Yuuri laughed softly at his friend.  “There will be plenty of rice.” He pulled out the rice molds and washed them in warm soapy water.  “It’s been a while since I’ve done this.”

 

Phichit was looking at the metal cutters as he considered his game plan.  “So, we have onigiri happening. What do you think we should do next?”

 

“Fancy veggie cuts.”  Yuuri hauled out several different vegetables and they began using the tiny metal cutters to shape them into flowers, stars, and other shapes.

 

“You know, if we do this they are going to want this all the time,” Phichit pointed out.

 

A soft smile answered the Thai man even as a soft blush bloomed on his cheeks.  “I...wouldn’t mind.”

 

Phichit smiled, suspecting more than he shared.  “So Bento Wednesdays?”

 

“Maybe…”  Yuuri’s eyes sparkled as he anticipated the options.  I’m good in a kitchen.  Would that...be enough?

 




The four of them met on the quad taking over a pair of benches that allowed the men to couple up.  Victor reached for the bento his eyes glittering with excitement, his fingers straying over Yuuri’s in the transfer, his eyes sliding over the younger man’s form with his legs bent back behind him.

 

On the bench across from them, Phichit was uncharacteristically shy as he offered his lunch box to Devryn.

 

Victor popped open his box and his eyes widened.  “You made Makkachin!” he cried out excitedly. The poodle shaped onigiri was nestled into a bed of spring greens.  For protein, a pair of long picks rotated rolled up turkey and cubes of swiss cheese.

 

“Well, the top tray is for you alone.  I thought...we might share the second tray items.”  Yuuri pulled off his top tray and revealed that they both had a variety of vegetables and fruit cut out into flower, star, and round shapes.  Celery with peanut butter and raisins to represent ants marching down a log.

 

Victor hummed in appreciation at the time Yuuri took to build their boxes.  “Spasibo,” he murmured warmly and as he took a bite of the onigiri, he added, “Vkusno!”

 

“I’m glad you like it,” Yuuri said, blush tinging his cheeks as the younger man’s eyes dropped shyly.  Victor reached out to brush a stray lash from Yuuri’s cheek. The younger man’s eyes lifted in surprise and the idea of an audience faded away as blue eyes encompassed his world.

 

Across from them, Devryn ate the popcorn Phichit packed.  When Yuuri raised an eyebrow at the choice, the Thai man laughed and said it was a private joke.  The hockey player exchanged glances with Phichit and the younger man mouthed “see?” Devryn nodded and Phichit could see questions forming in his eyes.  

 

Devryn leaned in to whisper in Phichit’s ear and the other two could see the blush rise up in his cheeks as he nodded eagerly.  Victor’s eyes strayed to the shy Japanese man next to him, yearning to make a move but uncertain how well it would be received. Yuuriii...

 

“We’re going to walk back to the apartment.  See you both later,” Phichit offered even as Devryn packed up their lunch.  The Thai man looped his arm into the older man’s as they started to walk away from the couple.

 

“They weren’t even finished,” Yuuri stated in confusion, his eyebrow furrowed.

 

Victor laughed and declared, “I think they want to be alone.”

 

Yuuri’s eyes widened.  “That’s so fast!”

 

“Is it, though?”  Victor turned back to Yuuri, chuckling at the shocked brown eyes before him.  “You said you’ve all known each other for a long time. Phichit’s known Devryn almost as long as he’s known you.”

 

“I...suppose.  I just didn’t think...  Oh...wow.” In his hand, he held a celery log, but his thoughts were slipping away.  Victor wondered what was occupying his mind. Intentionally reaching across Yuuri’s space to pick up a celery stick, he pulled Yuuri’s attention as he took a playful bite from the prepared meal.  

 

“Are you okay?” Victor asked.  Maybe he’s not as over Devryn as he thought?

 

Yuuri nodded but the smile was sad.  “I just...I hate that I got in the way.  It’s been over a long time. We were all just friends.  I didn’t realize…”

 

Victor considered the couple, his eyes trekking up the path they took back to the apartment.  “I think it happened when it was meant to happen. One or both of them weren’t ready.”

 

“I didn’t date anyone for a while after Devryn.  I mean...just casual things. But I didn’t want to hurt anyone.  I knew then it would be hard for me to give my heart away.” Yuuri peeked up under his lashes.

 

Victor held onto Yuuri’s eyes.   Are you ready now?  He knew this meal was a date.  Unstated. Safe in case it didn’t turn out.  But still a date.  I want to love you.  “Perhaps you just need to meet the right person.”

 

Yuuri smirked, thinking of the mess he threw himself into following Devryn.  “I guess Andreia was the next person I dated and I had no real interest in her.  She was...a distraction.”

 

Victor considered those words with a frown.  “Do you think maybe that’s why she acts the way she does?”

 

Yuuri shrugged.  “I’m not sure...we never seemed to click.  I don’t think she was that emotionally invested in the relationship either.  I mean she moved on in the middle of the third date.”

 

I don’t think you have any idea the effect you have on others.  Forcing a smile, he shrugged.  “Perhaps not...it’s just that so many people keep a part of themselves hidden and the other might not see what’s going on until it’s too late.”

 

“I...never meant to hurt her either...if I did…”  Yuuri considered that relationship, going through the moments he shared with Andreia.  “It felt like something was...off. Right from the beginning.”

 

“Maybe the answer will come out in time.”  He nodded to the bento in front of Yuuri. “Are you finished?”

 

Yuuri nodded allowing Victor to clean up their mess.  “Thank you.”

 

He grinned, sending a shiver through the younger man.  “It’s the least I could do given that you prepared it. So...thank you.”

 

Yuuri slid his hand through his hair, tousling it unconsciously.  As Victor watched the strands fall over the younger man’s forehead, he tightened his lips into a smile.  Y ou really have no idea what effect you have on others.

 

They walked back to the apartment, Yuuri reaching out to take Victor’s hand, their fingers threading together.  As Victor pulled to a stop before the building, their eyes went up to the window of their apartment. “Do you think we’ll catch them?”

 

Yuuri rolled his eyes.  “I don’t think they are that...you don’t think…”

 

Victor smiled mischievously, “I think very much so…”

 

As they opened the door to the apartment, Victor glanced around and could see evidence of Phichit and Devryn.

 

Yuuri glanced around before stating, “His skate bag is gone.”  Yuuri sat on the couch and pulled up his ankle to study it. “Do you think I can skate today?”

 

Victor shook his head.  “Not yet. You are just now walking on it without crutches.”

 

“I would have yesterday if you hadn’t stopped me,” Yuuri argued.

 

“Then I’m glad I was there to stop you.”  Victor sat down next to him and drew off the shoe.  Peeling back the sock, he studied the ankle for any signs of swelling.  Then he flattened his hand against the heel. “Push,” he ordered.

 

Yuuri pushed against the hand, his face contorting as a small amount of pain shot through.  Not bad but they both knew what happened on the ice would put that much more pressure on it.  “Maybe...not yet,” he conceded. He knew that no matter how hard Victor pushed it was nothing against the pressure of landing a triple axel.

 

Victor patted the ankle with his hand, a soft smile on his lips.  “Good boy...I want to see you on the ice, too, Yuuri...but not at the risk of reinjury.  It would take that much longer to heal.”

 

“I know you’re right.  I just...miss it.” A pout formed on his lips before he ghosted it away.  Drawing a shaky breath, he added, “I’ll be okay. I just...wishful thinking.”

 

“Soon, Yuuri,” he promised.  The index finger stroking back and forth on Yuuri’s ankle held both of their attention until Victor drew his own shaky breath, withdrawing his hand.  “I guess we need to get going.”

 



Verity moved into the program components and both Victor and Yuuri could see the change.  “I think she found her story,” Yuuri murmured as he took a drink from his water bottle.

 

“It would seem so...now we just need Angela to find her Eros.”  Victor’s blue eyes stayed locked on his student. Yuuri was able to see the dedicated teacher in the older man.

 

Yuuri smiled as if he held onto a secret.  “She will. Give her time.” His eyes trailed over to the blond working through the footwork sequences of her program.  Yuuri studied the choreography and was already translating it into dance. Just a few more days.

 




Victor sat on the washer as Yuuri leaned into the V of his legs, falling together, fingers straying down one another even as they shyly avoided kisses.  Yuuri lifted his phone up to show Victor a picture of his family. “These are my parents and my sister, Mari.” Victor noticed the similarities, the closeness of the family.  They looked warm, affectionate. Something in Victor said he’d feel at home with these people.

 

Victor pulled out his phone and found the picture of his mother and father.  “It’s...well, she was already starting to slip away.” He handed Yuuri his own phone and he watched the tender way Yuuri touched her image with his finger.  A brightly colored silk scarf wrapped around her hair. “Sometimes it’s still hard for me to believe she’s gone.”

 

Yuuri studied the image on the phone.  Victor had snapped this picture from a photo in their home, the frame worn from much handling.  “I can tell your father loves her very much.”

 

Victor knew what Yuuri meant.  The soft expression his father bestowed on the woman he loved was evident in that picture.  “He still talks to her.” Yuuri glanced up wide eyed and Victor chuckled. “No, not like that.  He knows she’s gone. It’s...like a prayer. She’s his angel.” Victor’s expression misted. “Can you imagine?  Loving someone so completely that even years after they are gone, you only have eyes for them?”

 

Yuuri studied the image, a small smile in his expression.  Victor couldn’t see it but felt it in the warmth of the body in front of him.  “She feels the same. I think love like that lingers.” Handing the phone back up, cinnamon eyes met Victor’s and the older man drew a shaky breath even as his fingers closed around the phone.  “How...perfect was she when they met?”

 

Victor chuckled softly.  “Perfect? My mama would have laughed at that statement.  She...laughed a lot. And she was quick to laugh at her mistakes.  I think...she felt safe. Safe to mess up and be herself. That’s a good thing.”

 

Yuuri nodded as he considered those words stepping away from the washer and busying himself with transferring laundry.   What is it like to feel safe to mess up?  Yuuri knew he messed up plenty.  Mistakes followed his steps. Have I ever felt safe in my screw ups?   He knew his family loved him regardless of his mistakes.  He knew his friends supported him when he failed. But...he never felt safe.  He always felt like he let someone down.  I’m never perfect but...it’s always felt like that’s what I was supposed to be.

 

Victor, as if sensing his thoughts, added quietly, “I spent so long trying to be perfect.  I think...I could be convincing...but I knew inside everything was empty...or falling apart.”

 

“I...fall apart on the outside.  But...I’m an iceberg. The disaster you see is nothing compared to the disaster inside.”  He felt the hands on his arms before it processed that Victor was running his hands up and down them in a comforting motion.  When did he get down from the washer?  When did he step back up behind me?  Yuuri leaned into that touch and felt Victor’s body behind him, supporting him.  I’m scared.  You won’t want me.  Not after...you see the real me.  Not after you find out all of my secrets.

 

Drawing a ragged breath, he stepped out of Victor’s touch offering a shy, uncertain smile as he lowered his chin.  Peering beneath his lashes, he watched Victor study him with an unreadable face. They were quiet as they started transferring the wash to the dryers.  Every so often, Victor’s fingers would stray across Yuuri’s arms or back. It was that same familiar touch that settled between them in the apartment. Unintrusive but inviting.

 

The quiet continued between them as they returned to the apartment.  Not uncomfortable. Not really. But they both felt vulnerable and exposed and neither knew what to do with it.  As Yuuri put away his clothes, he left the door open. Then he looked up as Victor darkened the threshold.

 

“Today was a good day,” the Russian offered with a soft smile.

 

Yuuri felt something turn within him.  “I know.” Shifting to the stack of t-shirts he was organizing into the drawer.  “It’s hard for me. I don’t open up easily.”

 

“I know,” Victor said softly.  “I can wait.”

 

Yuuri lifted up those brown eyes and met his.   Will you wait?  And in time, will I be enough?

 

Victor answered with his own gaze.  His regard unguarded as he held onto those cinnamon browns.   You’re everything.

Chapter Text


 

Past Mistakes

 

From the barrier Yuuri watched Victor working with Verity and Angela.  He could appreciate Victor’s approach with each skater and felt a smile form on his lips.  Too soon his own coach called him to the side. “Kass wants you in the pool in thirty minutes.”

 

Yuuri flinched.  He hated water therapy and working with Kass even more.  “Is there no other option?”

 

“Do you want back on the ice?” his coach replied with a warning tone.  Ciao Ciao had been a long standing witness to Yuuri’s stubborn streak and he assumed the reluctance was just that.  “You were supposed to go Tuesday as well.”

 

Yuuri huffed and nodded.  He went to his locker and dug around until he found the swim trunks.  The pool wasn’t too far of a walk from the skate complex. Still, Yuuri’s steps were slow.  I’m meant to be on water...frozen.  Not in water. Maybe if I were home, at the onsen.  But not a swimming pool… and not with her.  He felt his steps drag more with the thought of what lie ahead.

 

In the therapeutic pool, he met Kass.  “Yuuri! You didn’t duck out this time!”

 

The skater huffed.  “I don’t think coach gave me a choice.”

 

She laughed.  The annoying sound of it grated his nerves.  “Oh, Yuuri. Really...let’s get started.” Her tone set him on edge right off.

 

In the water, she began to direct him.  At first using only verbal commands but then her hand slid up his leg, and he tensed.  She giggled at his reaction and only pressed further into the touch. “Okay, last week, we put you through gate training and single leg balance.  I was going to have you do double leg line hops Tuesday.  So...I think we’ll start there.”

 

It wasn’t the exercises that got to him.  Except that he’d rather do them in a ballet studio.  Away from her. It was her grating laugh, her overly high pitched voice, and her not always professional touch.  Yuuri bristled at the last, but blamed himself. Another night of alcohol’s betrayal and now she thinks she’s entitled.

 

He suffered through the therapy, the leering eyes, the suggestive words until they finally finished.  Climbing out of the pool, Kass followed him, her hand going up his back as if to support him but...it felt personal, invasive.  He froze and glanced her way. She smiled...maybe encouragingly but it didn’t feel encouraging. It was the mixed signals, never knowing exactly what she implied that was the worst.  Yuuri was left second-guessing himself each time.

 

“Once you get dressed, you can meet me in the therapy room and we can stretch you out further,” she directed.

 

Yuuri glanced back and shook his head.  “I’m going to the studio anyway. I can have Jules stretch me out.”

 

She...pouted and moved in closer, running a hand up his arm.  “Are you sure? This is part of your therapy.”

 

Yuuri pulled back, certain he wanted to leave.  “Jules and I have both gone through all of this.  She knows how to push me.” After he changed and left the pool area, he felt more in knots than ever.

 

Yuuri/ Are you at the studio?

 

Jules/ Yeah.  Come on over.

 

Yuuri/ Thanks.

 

A ten minute walk later and he came into the building that he considered his second sanctuary in Detroit.  Several classes were in session and Yuuri buzzed past them for the most part. However, a few of his students stopped him on sight.

 

“Are you coming back?”   One of Yuuri’s students, someone he enjoyed working with knowing where she came from and her personal goals, approached him, her eyes lit up on seeing him.

 

He forced a smile, still off from the pool.   Some therapy, I feel worse than when I started.   “Not quite yet, Trudy.”

 

She pouted along with a couple of others.  “Well, when you get back, let us know. We miss you.”

 

“Thanks,” he murmured.  He maneuvered past them, wishing his head was clearer so he could talk.  Tell them how much he missed them as well.

 

Jules waved at him and he slipped into a private studio.  “They miss you,” she reiterated.

 

“I know.  Honestly, I miss them, too.  There is something relaxing about teaching the freeform dance class.”  This class worked with several women recovering from abusive home lives and was a work of heart for Yuuri, a way to combine two things he enjoyed...dance and therapy.

 

“It helps them become more confident.  Your other classes have asked about you as well.”  Yuuri gave her a tight smile and she frowned in response.  “What’s wrong?”

 

“I had to go to PT.”  He waited, watching her face, hoping she would understand.  Sighing he added, “With Kass.”

 

Jules sat next to him, careful not to make contact knowing he was shaken from the encounter.  “You really need to tell your coach how she’s acting towards you. He probably has no idea why you don’t like going.”

 

Yuuri rubbed the back of his neck and shifted uncomfortably.  “It’s embarrassing. I mean...I slept with her.”

 

Jules hummed, she wanted to put a hand on his back, but she knew he wasn’t open to touch just yet.  “You did. And you were drunk. And she took advantage. I was at that party, Yuuri. She was not near as wasted as you.”

 

He shrugged.  “I just...it’s not like I don’t tell her I’m not interested.  I’ve made it clear.”

 

“But she keeps coming onto you.  And does it during a time when she should be acting as a professional, that’s sexual harassment.”  Jules knew Yuuri would need to see this outside of himself for context. “What if you came onto one of your students like that?”

 

Yuuri’s eyes widened.  “I’d never…”

 

Jules emphasized her words, knowing that she had gotten through to him.  “I know...but she does, and for all you know you might not be the only one.  You need to tell your coach. At the very least, he’d set you up with someone else.”

 

Yuuri settled in the floor, butterflying his legs.  He could feel the sting of tears and hated it. Jules was the only one he could be this honest with.   It...shouldn’t be that way.

 

His phone buzzed and he sniffed.  “It’s Victor. He’s looking for me.”

 

She nodded sharply arms crossed over her chest.  “Have him come here. Then tell him what’s been happening.  He’s a coach, too. And if you won’t say anything to Ciao Ciao, maybe he will.”

 

Yuuri shook his head vehemently.  “Nonononono,” he repeated then looked up with the tears standing in his eyes.  He hastily brushed them aside. “I just...no.”

 

“Yuu…”  Her voice showed her worry.

 

Yuuri sniffed, his voice turning into a whine.  “Please. Let me deal with this.”

 

She lowered herself to his level.  “But...you’re not,” she said softly, a cautious hand on his knee.  “I’m really worried about you. You haven’t...been dealing with a lot of things.”

 

“It’ll go away in time,” he said quietly.  “Help me stretch. I’m tied up in knots.” She frowned at that dismissal of topic but helped him guide out his legs and work through the kinks.  He was leaning forward in a straddle split when Victor walked through the door.

 

“Hey,” he murmured, his eyes going from Yuuri to the troubled expression on Jules face.  “What’s wrong?”

 

“Nothing,” Yuuri muttered.

 

Jules sighed in resignation and left the room, casting a frustrated and worried glance to Yuuri before she closed the door.

 

Victor knelt down next to him as he raised up from the stretch.  “I don’t believe you,” he said softly. “Talk to me, Yuuri.”

 

Yuuri felt the tears that lay just below the surface spring forward and hated them for their betrayal.  “I...it’s…” His head dropped even as his breathing became ragged.

 

Victor reached out hesitantly.  “May I?” he asked waiting for Yuuri’s nod before he wrapped Yuuri up into a hug.  “I’ve never been good with tears,” he murmured even as he leaned his cheek against Yuuri’s head.  “I want to help you...to fix whatever is hurting you. And I know sometimes...you just need me to listen.”

 

Yuuri shuddered in his arms.  “I...know. It’s just...I messed up.  Months ago. And now I’m having to deal with it.”

 

“What are you dealing with, solnyshko ?” he asked, his voice gentle.

 

Yuuri swallowed and he hid into Victor’s chest, tucking his head under the older man’s chin.  “I...drank too much at a party and woke up in bed with this girl.” Yuuri waited for Victor to respond, to say something, to judge him.  Victor remained quiet, his arms around Yuuri, his hand moving up and down Yuuri’s back. “She’s the physical therapist Coach sends me to...but...she makes me feel uncomfortable.”

 

Victor was quiet for a moment before asking, “How so?”

 

Yuuri kept his face in Victor chest, hiding his burning cheeks.  “Sh-she says things and touches me in less than professional manner.”

 

“Why haven’t you said anything?”  Yuuri could hear the tightness in the older man’s voice.

 

Yuuri shrugged in his embrace.  “Because...it’s my fault, isn’t it?”

 

Victor let go of Yuuri and backed up so that he could hold those eyes with his.  “I want to make something clear to you. When someone takes advantage of you when you’re incapacitated, when you cannot consent, that isn’t your fault.”

 

“But...I chose to drink,” the younger man argued.

 

“That doesn’t give someone license to take advantage of you.  And it certainly doesn’t give them license to use their position to continue harassing you.”  Victor’s voice was soft but Yuuri could hear the hard edge on it as he controlled his anger. “I want to talk to Coach Celestino about this, Yuuri, and find an alternative for therapy.  You shouldn’t have to continue to be victimized by this person.”

 

Yuuri flinched.  “I...don’t like that word.”

 

“Which word?” Victor asked cautiously.

 

“Victimized...it makes me feel...weak,” he muttered.

 

Victor studied him as he chose his words.  “You are not weak, Yuuri. Far from it. But she is taking advantage of you and her position at the university.”  As Yuuri remained still, Victor changed his approach. “If you were counseling someone who came to you with this or a similar problem, what would you say?”

 

Yuuri sniffed at that point, ugly tears letting go.  Victor didn’t even hesitate as he hauled Yuuri back into his arms.  The body trembled in his embrace. The tears dampened his shirt. Victor held onto him.  Finally, Yuuri let go drawing his knees to his chest. Victor studied him and waited. “I would have said the same thing.  Then I’d make sure they got into counseling.”

 

Victor hesitated a moment before he plunged into the opening.  “It’s been awhile since you’ve been, hasn’t it?”

 

Yuuri nodded.  “Since...before Sochi.  Money’s been tight and it hasn’t worked out.”

 

“Do you have insurance?”

 

Yuuri nodded.  “It pays some, but after the first of the year, my deductible reset.  So...I’ve been focusing on the necessities.”

 

Victor tightened his lips as he chose his next words.  “Yuuri...I think psychological service is a necessity for you.  Your anxiety alone would demand it.”

 

Yuuri shook his head.  “I mean, I know I’m mentally weak...but it won’t keep me from skating.”

 

“Yuuri...you’re a psychology major.  It’s not a matter of weakness or strength.  You know you need this...that it will eventually affect your skating as well as other parts of your life.”

 

Yuuri studied his feet, his hands wrapped around the arches.  “I know,” he whispered. “I just...don’t know how to do everything.”

 

Victor smiled thinking of how competent the man in his arms truly was in so many way.  “I didn’t know how to do everything when I arrived and you helped me out. How can I help you?”

 

Yuuri drew a shaky breath.  “It’s just...so personal.”

 

“And I don’t want to invade your privacy...but I also won’t judge you.”

 

Yuuri studied his hands blinking rapidly trying to get his emotions back in order.  “I just...I’m good at maintaining a budget. I can account for every penny. I used to help Mom and Mari keep the books at the onsen.  It’s just...there isn’t enough.”

 

Victor considered the man before him thoughtfully.  “I’ve had some offers. A few companies still wanting me to do adwork.  Would you...be interested? It’s not hard to get someone else involved and I know you would be beautiful.”

 

Yuuri’s cheeks blushed at the compliment.  “I...I’ve done some modeling for Mizuno. It’s part of my sponsoring contract.”

 

Victor felt better, hearing the small voice grow interested.  “Would you like me to set something up?”

 

“I’m...not very confident.  I don’t think I could pull it off,” Yuuri protested.

 

“Would you...try?”  Victor knew his need to solve problems was at war with Yuuri’s need for independence.  Still, he had to put something out there. He didn’t want to let Yuuri know he’d seen the numbers.

 

“I...let me try to figure it out my way,” Yuuri determined.  “If it doesn’t work out, we’ll try it your way.”

 

Victor gave a thin smile.   Stubborn.  Independent.  And if I didn’t love you so much, I’d strangle you.  “Let me know.”

 

Yuuri nodded even as he pushed himself up out of the floor.  Looking shyly up at Victor, he added, “It’s...not easy for me to open up like that.”

 

“I know, Yuuri,” he answered softly before slipping an arm around the younger man’s shoulders.  “Thank you for trusting me. Let’s go home for now.”

 

Yuuri hugged into his side and nodded.  It had been a long day.

 




In their apartment, Yuuri looked at the crock pot with the potato and leek soup waiting for the finishing touches.  He quickly added the extra ingredients. It would take another half hour to meld but at least now he could rest. The emotional toll on his spirit left him exhausted.

 

Looking over the bar, he rested his eyes on the man that refused to leave him, that insisted on being there for him.  He had listened to Victor’s side of the conversation when he put the call through to Celestino. Victor never once mentioned the party, only that Yuuri was avoiding therapy because of inappropriate and unprofessional behavior.  When Victor disconnected, he stated, “You will be placed with a different therapist affiliated with the rink.”

 

Yuuri breathed out a sigh of relief.  It had been so simple to fix but the mountain had seemed insurmountable to Yuuri.  However, Victor didn’t hesitate but stepped in with authority. And Yuuri had to admit that steadiness was very attractive.

 

Victor turned on an episode of Merlin while they waited for supper to finish.  Yuuri moved over to sit next to him. It was just the two of them.  Phichit was out on a date. With Devryn .  Yuuri had to smile at that thought.  As Yuuri sat next to Victor, he felt the other man’s arm slide around him as if it belonged.

 

“Colin’s adorable,” Yuuri murmured, his eye on the screen.

 

“He reminds me of someone else equally if not more adorable,” Victor answered, his eyes trailing to the man beside him.  The blush on Yuuri’s cheek told him that he knew who Victor spoke of.

 

“I should get the soup,” Yuuri said nervously.

 

Half an hour later, soup bowls abandoned to the table, they watched another episode of Merlin .  Yuuri drew in a shaky breath as the emotion of the scene hit him feeling Victor’s arms tighten on him.  “I forgot about how this hit me.”

 

Victor’s hand ran up and down his back in a comforting motion.  Yuuri leaned back into the touch then turned to say something else to Victor.  The words died on his lips as their eyes caught one another and before Yuuri could think about it, he leaned forward, brushing his lips against Victor’s, feeling Victor’s arms tighten around him, tasting the gasp released by the other man.

 

Then Yuuri’s mind caught up, his eyes widening, “Oh, my god!”

 

And he did what Yuuris do.  

 

He ran...even hearing Victor call after him.  “Yuuriii! Come back!”

 

He ran...his heart beating fast.  

 

Because his heart didn’t deserve Victor.  

 

And as he ran, he could feel the wind hit the tears streaming down his cheeks.  

 

As he ran he could hear his thoughts condemning him.    I’m all messed up.  I’m not worthy of him.  He’s too good, too kind, too perfect.  I’d just drag you down.

 

And as he hit the door to his sanctuary, the ice long denied him, he found the secret release that would let him inside.

Chapter Text


 

You Are the Reason

 

Victor watched Yuuri’s wake in shock, his calls failing to pull the man back to him.  So much had happened that day. Yuuri fell apart only to be pulled back together again.  The younger man had opened up to Victor in a way that was rare for him, leaving him exposed and vulnerable, even after seeing how the silver haired man respected his emotions and space.  However with the emotional tolls of the day, the kiss seemed to tilt the world one degree too deep, sending Yuuri tumbling. Sitting alone, Victor tried to work out whether or not he had pushed but no...Yuuri kissed him.  And something in that kiss frightened the raven haired man, sending him running.

 

Victor pushed his hands back through his hair in confusion.  Yuuri was emotionally fragile. Possibly from Kass...maybe something else.  There were so many hidden layers to the man. He took out his phone and began texting, attempting in vain to reach out to the younger man.

 

Victor/ Yuuri...please come back.

 

Victor/ Yuuri...where are you?  I’ll come to you.

 

Victor/ Wherever you are...I’ll come to you.

 

Victor/ I’d swim an ocean...you are the reason I’m here.

 

Victor/ Come back.

 

Victor/ I don’t know what I did.  Let me fix it.

 

Victor/ Yuuri…

 

No answers came back and he could feel his own tears falling...in frustration, he shoved them away.  In sorrow, he let them fall.  Yuuri…

 

Pulling his phone back out, he reached out to the one other person he hoped would be able to help.

 

Victor/ Yuuri ran away.

 

There was a delay but then the response finally came.

 

Phichit/ What happened?

 

Victor frowned... what did happen?  He decided to stick to the facts.

 

Victor/ He kissed me.  Then he ran.

 




Across the campus two men very familiar with Yuuri read the text.  “Oh, Yuuri…” Phichit sighed dipping his head sadly. Strong arms wrapped around him, a kiss brushing into his hair.  Phichit let the warmth wash over him, “Why won’t he let himself have this?”

 

“Because Yuuri never believes he deserves it,” Devryn said quietly.  “He’s always pushed everyone away...for Victor. That was easy. He knew no one else would satisfy him.  But now it’s actually Victor. Now...he doesn’t know what to do.”

 

Phichit frowned as he thought about his best friend.  Voicing his concerns to Devryn, “He’s on ice. You know he is.  And he hasn’t been cleared yet.”

 

“I know...and you and I both know that won’t stop him when he’s like this.”  The man to his side pushed gently, “Tell Victor where to find him.”

 

Phichit/ He’s probably at the rink.  That’s where he goes when everything breaks around him.

 

Victor/ Thank you!!!

 

“Maybe...I should go,” Phichit whispered.

 

Devryn shook his head.  “Let them figure this out.  Let Victor find him. He loves Yuuri.  I have no doubts.”

 

Phichit snuggled in his arms.   That’s why you could finally let him go.  Another kiss brushed into his hair and Phichit lifted his chin to meet the next.

 

“Stay,” he whispered.  And Phichit found himself nodding even as Devryn led him back into the bedroom, kisses seeking more.

 

Phichit’s desire to run after Yuuri was dying quickly, but he still felt the responsibility for his friend.  “But Yuuri…”

 

“Has to learn to find his feet.”  The words were firm and really, Devryn knew Yuuri longer...knew him better.

 

Phichit sighed even as he gave into the older man.  “I know...I just worry.”

 

“We all worry.  I worry, too, Phichit.”

 





Victor stood watching the man on ice.   Thankfully, no jumps ...but he skated his sadness and Victor could hear the words coming off the ice with the scrape of the blades.

 

I’m not worth it.

 

I don’t deserve this.

 

I am just Yuuri.

 

A dime-a-dozen skater.

 

I...need him, though.  Yuuri drew still as that thought stuttered through.  He lifted his eyes and met Victor’s. He wasn’t surprised the older man followed him here.  He waited, letting the Victor make the first move.

 

Victor never got a pair of skates on so quick...nor had it ever felt so long.  Giving the laces a quick check, he almost stepped onto the ice before he recalled his guards, whipping them off and tossing them to the side.  While he hurried to get on the ice, once there he made no show of his presence. His focus on the man who made himself so small in the middle of the ice, he skated directly to his side.

 

Victor gathered the small hands into his.  “Yuuri…”

 

“I’m scared…”  The tremble went from his words down his body and into the hands Victor held.

 

“I know,” he whispered, dropping his forehead to the other.  “I know.”

 

“You won’t want me...not after...you won’t want me.”  Bitter tears trekked down his face and Victor knew...he was just waiting for rejection.

 

How can I assure him, there’s nothing he can say that will chase me away?   Solnyshko , you’ve been revealing yourself to me little by little since I’ve arrived.  Have I ever faltered?”

 

Yuuri blinked up at him.  “N-no,” he conceded.

 

“I’m not going anywhere.  Please take a chance with me.”  He pulled both of those hands up and kissed them.  “You didn’t even put on gloves,” he chastised softly.

 

Yuuri shrugged.  “I just...needed to be on the ice.  I was afraid I’d fall apart.”

 

“Let me hold you together,” he murmured.  He let go of Yuuri’s hands and slipped his arms around Yuuri’s waist.  Victor then dipped down to capture those lips.

 

Yuuri pulled back shoving his tears away.  “I’m all snotty.”

 

Victor smiled, realizing Yuuri wasn’t pushing him away.  “I don’t care...I need you, my Yuuri.” He then leaned forward to kiss Yuuri once more.  This time, Yuuri surrendered, his arms sliding around Victor’s neck. As the kiss broke, Victor murmured next to his ear, “Dance with me.”

 

The music began at the touch of Victor’s fingers on his phone just for them.  A hand wove into Yuuri’s as they took off on the ice. Nothing strenuous.  Victor was very aware that Yuuri shouldn’t be on the ice. But he also knew the healing quality of the ice.  They circled the pond, turning in one another’s arms from time to time, trading kisses and touches. Yuuri settled into his embrace as the music ended.

 

“Let’s go home, solnyshko ,” he whispered softly.  Yuuri sighed, his eyes raking across the frozen plane.  He knew he wasn’t supposed to be here. He had gotten what he needed from the ice, but wanted more, to stay longer.  Finally, he nodded in agreement, thankful Victor didn’t lecture him but simply took care of him.

 

As they walked back, Yuuri finally looked at his phone and saw the bevy of texts Victor had sent.  His expression softened. “I didn’t mean to worry you,” he murmured. “I...panicked.”

 

Victor’s eyes flicked over to him shyly.  “I understand, Yuuri. I just...didn’t know where to look.”

 

“How did you find me?”

 

“Phichit.”

 

Yuuri sighed regretfully.  “He was on a date.” Pulling his phone up, he quickly texted the Thai skater.

 

Yuuri/ I’m okay.  I’m with Victor.

 

It took the rest of the walk home before Phichit replied.

 

Phichit/ Good!  Now stay with him!

 

Yuuri laughed softly.  “I don’t think we’ll be seeing him tonight.”

 

Victor raised an eyebrow.  “Date’s going that well?”

 

Yuuri caught his eye with a smirk, “If Phichit doesn’t reply in five seconds of a text, the date is going very well.”

 

Victor laughed as he considered their third roommate.  “I see what you mean.”

 

Arriving at the apartment, Yuuri looked at the dogs who smelled them over eagerly wriggling and the kitchen holding their dirty dishes from dinner.  Victor offered to take out their four-legged friends while Yuuri finished cleaning up. There was plenty of soup for the next evening’s meal. As he put away the pot, he heard Victor return.

 

“That was quick,” he called over his shoulder.

 

“They were about to burst,” Victor answered remorsefully.

 

Yuuri turned and knelt down before the smaller poodle.  “I’m sorry, Vicchan,” he murmured softly. The curly brown mass shivered and wriggled into Yuuri’s touch.  He let Yuuri coo over him and sniffed to make sure his human was alright. Yuuri hugged him close. “I’m okay, Vicchan.  I’m sorry I worried you, too.”

 

Taking Victor’s hand, he stood and leaned into those arms.  Victor’s arms wrapped around him and they swayed back and forth in time to the beat of their hearts.  “I know you must be exhausted...but I’m reluctant to let you go, my Yuuri.”

 

“Then...don’t.”  Yuuri’s arm rested around Victor’s waist as he led the older man down the hall to his room.  “Just sleep,” he clarified.

 

“Of course,” Victor answered with a murmur.

 

Yuuri thought about their clothes and after a moment of hesitation, he said, “Pajamas.  Five minutes?” He looked up holding those blue eyes not wanting to lose that closeness.

 

They let go to find their way into comfortable sleeping clothes.  Then Victor joined him, settling in on the right side of the bed. As Yuuri laid back, Victor reached over to remove his glasses, sharing a tender kiss as he reached for the lamp.  Yuuri curled into his embrace.  I love you.

 

The exhaustion of the day caught up to them as they grew still and soon they slept in one another’s arms.

 




Victor stretched as morning light danced across his face.  Then he smiled. Yuuri slept next to him, reluctant to wake up.  He leaned forward and brushed a kiss along that hairline tasting the sweat from the previous night.  He kissed Yuuri’s cheek tasting the tears shed throughout the evening. He kissed the lips and tasted the sigh as Yuuri leaned into him.  “Too early,” he complained.

 

Victor chuckled.  “I know...I just had to kiss you.  Sleep, solnyshko .  I will wake you up in an hour.”

 

“Mmmkay,” Yuuri answered, curling back up, his hand sliding under his cheek, his face smoothing back out in his sleep.  Victor watched him a moment longer knowing this was as peaceful as it gets with Yuuri and admiring the beauty of the man before worry furrowed his brow.

 

Victor slipped from the covers and went to the door intent on the bathroom.  Closing it quietly behind him, he turned just as Phichit walked into the apartment, last night’s clothes in place in a clear walk of shame.  The younger man’s eyes focused on the door where Victor’s hand still rested on the knob and smirked. So they both were caught.

 

He ducked into the bathroom.  Twenty minutes later, he walked into the living room to find Phichit cooing over his hamsters and apologizing for being gone so long.  Dark eyes looked up to meet his now serious. “How is he?”

 

Victor considered, “He slept...finally.  After I got him off the ice.”

 

“I take it you both worked things out,” he teased as he nodded towards the door.

 

Victor glanced back.   Had they?  “I think...it’s still a work in progress.  Do you know the last time Yuuri went to his psychiatrist?”

 

Phichit furrowed his brow.  “What do you mean? Is he not still going?”

 

Victor’s eyes widened realizing that Celestino probably didn’t know either.  “Fuck! I assumed you knew.”

 

The Thai man waved off his concerns.  “It’s okay...I won’t say anything. But Yuuri needs to get back.  He’s got a dangerous tendency to self-medicate when he’s not in regular therapy.”

 

“Self-medicate how?”

 

Phichit shrugged.  “Usually just alcohol.  I think if he wasn’t an athlete, he’d consider other things, like pot.  Some of the most dangerous words from Yuuri are just to take the edge off .  That means he’s already tipping over the precipice.”

 

Victor nodded slowly, beginning to form a complete picture of the man asleep in the next room.  “This is why he’s so afraid I’m going to walk.”

 

Phichit continued to explain.  “It’s a mental health problem. But it’s also a substance abuse problem.  He fought with Celestino the first time. I doubt Coach knows he’s quit.”

 

“He said it was sometime before Sochi.”  He watched Phichit studying his thoughts remembering Yuuri’s behavior.

 

“I should have figured it out.”  Phichit’s eyes dropped. Even though he was a few years younger than his friend, he would always feel responsible for him.  “I wouldn’t doubt that Jules knows, however. He’ll talk to her when he won’t talk to any of us. She’s been there since the beginning.”

 

Victor ran his fingers through his hair.  Not only have I let out your secrets but now I have a moral obligation to talk to your coach.  Dammit, Yuuri! How do I protect you when you hurt yourself?

 

“I have to tell his coach,” Victor murmured crestfallen.  “He’s worried about me walking out on him...but now I’m afraid I’m going to push him away.”

 

Phichit considered his concerns before answering.  “There’s a reason Jules is the only one he opens up to about the most intimate details.  Both Devryn and I have gone to Coach.”

 

“I don’t want him to stop talking to me,” Victor whispered.

 

“Then...get him into help.  But if he refuses…” The warning was left hanging in the air between them.

 

Victor looked up and met those dark eyes.  He knew Phichit was giving him a small window, an out.  “I’ll try. I’ve already been pushing him to get help.”

 

Movement beyond let them know Yuuri was staggering awake.  As he opened the door, Yuuri glared down the hall. Victor winced, certain he’d been found out.

 

“You left both dogs in with me when you got up,” Yuuri accused.

 

Glancing at Phichit in relief, he answered, “I didn’t want you to oversleep.”

 

Yuuri rolled his eyes even as he ducked into the bathroom.  Both dogs trotted down the hall and began whining before going to the door.  Victor laughed softly. “Okay, fine. I’ll take you out.” Looking over at Phichit, he said, “Tell Yuuri I’ll be back after I see to the dogs.”

 

“I will,” Phichit replied.  He knew the implication in those words.   Make sure Yuuri knew he was coming back.

Chapter Text


 

Onion Peels




Yuuri sat in the team doctor’s office facing the physician as the man checked Yuuri’s ankle over.  “I hear you were on the ice already,” Yuuri heard the minor annoyance in the voice as the doctor pushed and prodded the old injury.

 

Yuuri ducked down.  Victor had told him he would be telling the coach on Friday, but Yuuri didn’t expect any repercussions since he had just skated in circles.  Ciao Ciao predictably lectured him, but it was nothing more than a verbal slap on the hand. By afternoon, he had an appointment with the team doctor, and he was a little surprised to have the topic brought up again.  “I didn’t jump...just working out some stuff in my head.”

 

“Mmmhmmm,” the doctor responded.  Yuuri had been his patient for some time and this was the one who wrote the referral for mental health services.  “How are things with Dr. Bishop?”

 

Yuuri paled.  “I...ummm...it’s been a while since I’ve seen her.”

 

The doctor looked up to study his patient.  “Did you change psychiatrists?”

 

Yuuri shook his head.  “It’s just...the deductible reset.”

 

The old man narrowed his eyes as he considered his patient, ankle forgotten in the wake of a more serious problem.  “Did she have you on meds?”

 

“We tried meds in the beginning but I was too sensitive to them,” Yuuri murmured.

 

The doctor reopened Yuuri’s chart, looking over the medication history, “Too sensitive how?”

 

“One combination sent me spiraling into depression.  The next had me in tremors. I had competitions coming up.  So...no medications.” He shrugged as if it was no big deal but the physician thinned his lips.

 

The doctor flipped the chart closed and started slowly, “One of the concerns when you came to me, when we wrote out your referral, was that you had a tendency to self-medicate with alcohol during moments of anxiety.”

 

“I don’t drink that often,” Yuuri dodged not making eye contact.

 

The doctor grunted seeing the avoidant answer for what it was.  “I want you to set up a fresh appointment with a psychiatrist. If you don’t want to see Dr. Bishop, I can refer you to someone else.”

 

“Is that a condition of you signing off for me to skate?” Yuuri asked stubbornly.

 

The doctor frowned but shook his head.  “No, but it is highly recommended. You’ve been my patient for five years now, Mr. Katsuki.  I know you need this.”

 

Yuuri sighed knowing his doctor was right but not seeing how to fit it in his budget just yet.  “I’ll figure something out. I like Dr. Bishop just fine...I just...it costs money.”

“Your health...your mental health...it’s worth it,” the physician stressed.  Pausing to let that sink in, he moved onto the rest. “As for your ankle, I’m comfortable releasing you to skate but I think you should rebuild your ankle strength slowly.  So no jumps for at least another week. Preferably two.”

 

Yuuri nodded, elated that he could skate.  “Dancing?”

 

“No flying leaps but you should be fine there as well.  Listen to your body. If that ankle is getting sore, then rest it.  Also, use KT tape .  Have your coach or dance partner tape you up.”

 

“Yes, sir!” he responded, excitement building in his voice.  He bounced on his toes as he watched the old man write up the note for his coach, slipping it into an envelope and sealing it.  The doctor handed him the golden ticket that would get him back on the ice and he almost skipped from the office.

 




Back at the rink, Yuuri danced into his coach’s office and handed him the doctor’s release.  The coach read it over and surveyed his skater. “If I hear you’ve jumped on the ice in the next two weeks, I’m suspending you.”

 

Yuuri grinned.  He had no intention of losing ice privileges.  “Yes, Coach!”

 

“Have Victor or myself tape you up before you go on the ice.  Check your bunga pads to ensure they are a new pair.  And make sure you are taped up in the dance studio.  Understood?”

 

Yuuri nodded eagerly.  “I mainly practice barre work and pole work.”

 

“Mind your dismounts on the pole.  Soft landings.”

 

“Of course,” he answered then smirked.  “They require more control and are more of a challenge.”

 

The coach rolled his eyes and shook his head at his rebellious skater.  “Shoe off. Give me your ankle.” The coach pulled out the tape and wrapped the ankle in precise movements.  “Go get your skates on and warm up on the ice. Elementary exercises for an hour then we’ll run through Excite marking your jumps before you put them away.  You have two hours including warm up and cool down then I want you to rest.”

 

Yuuri nodded eagerly, too happy to have time on the ice, even if it was a short practice.  “Yes, sir!” And he almost bounced out of the office in his excitement.

 

The coach couldn’t help but smile at the retreating back.  He knew he had to be firm with Yuuri...but sometimes he just wanted to give him a good shake.  He then turned to the other note the doctor sent to him. Sighing, he thought, how do I get you to help yourself?

 




Yuuri glided onto the ice, his happiness reflected in his expression.  This was his time. Phichit had already finished four hours of practice and was working out on weights.  Verity and Angela were gone as well. He looked up and spotted Victor on the ice, the older man skated up to him.

 

The heart shaped smile greeted him, “How did it go?  I mean, it looks like you got your release.”

 

Yuuri nodded, his face breaking out into a full blown smile.  “I can’t do jumps. Not for two weeks. And I have to have my ankle taped.”

 

“I expected you would.  Still, a small price to pay to get on the ice.”

 

Yuuri couldn’t help but ask, when he had taken the ice the older man was marking jumps into a sequence he didn’t recognize.  “Agreed. What...were you working on?”

 

Victor blushed, unaware he had been seen.  “A couple of choreographies I’ve got going on in my head.  I’m still finalizing them.”

 

He creates such beautiful narratives on ice.   “I’d...love to see them when you’re finished.”

 

Victor tipped his forehead to Yuuri’s and murmured, “Of course.  Anything for you, my Yuuri.”

 

Yuuri’s lips parted in surprise at the intensity of emotions rocking through him when a voice called from the sidelines, “Your two hours include time spent flirting, Katsuki!”

 

Yuuri backed off with a blush even as Victor smirked.  “Of course, Coach!” He gave Victor a soft grin and an eye roll before resuming his warm ups.  Victor pulled to the sidelines next to Ciao Ciao.

 

Coach leaned over the barrier to talk to Victor in a low voice while keeping a watchful eye on Yuuri.  “How is he doing?”

 

Victor pursed his lips trying to decide what to tell the coach and what would be a betrayal of confidence.  “I think being able to skate will help.”

 

Ciao Ciao knew an evasive answer when he heard one, but he also didn’t know Victor well enough to push.  “Hopefully. I’m concerned about his anxiety. It’s been much higher in the past few months.”

 

Victor swallowed and felt the coach’s regard.  “Possibly.”

 

“What do you know, Victor?”  Celestino was past the point of being polite, not when it came to Yuuri’s safety.

 

Victor sighed turning back to face the older coach.  “I...don’t want to betray the trust. He’ll stop talking to me, Coach.  I’m aware he needs help and I’m trying to encourage him to get help.”

 

The coach held Victor’s eyes for a long time but he also knew his student.  Finally, he said, “I’m here if you need to talk. But I’m going to let you handle it.”

 

“Thank you.”  Turning back, they watched Yuuri move through his figures perfecting his edges.  “So many ignore the fundamentals.”

 

“Here in the States skaters can forget the fine points of edge work after their testing is complete it’s a shame really as all moves come from refined edge work.  Yuuri came to me with fundamentals ingrained in him...and I couldn’t argue the results. They make him into a beautiful and graceful skater.”

 

“They do indeed,” Victor murmured, his eyes following the figure.  Yuuri was oblivious to the world around him. It was just him and the ice.  I loved the ice like that once.  Could I find it again with you?

 




Friday night, Yuuri felt the weariness set into him.  “I just skated two hours,” he complained. Victor smiled as he dragged his boyfriend’s feet into his lap and peeled off the sock.  Yuuri pouted. “I need to wash them, they were locked in leather death boxes today.”

 

“Stay here,” Victor directed.  Yuuri’s eyes followed him until he disappeared down the hall.  Victor returned to the kitchen with a plastic pan that he filled in the sink.  He came back to Yuuri’s side. Peeling away the KT tape, he eased the foot into the steaming water.  “A little epsom salt to ease the healing.” Victor washed his hands with the washcloth he brought with him before returning to the sofa.  Opening his arms, he felt Yuuri shift over to settle into his embrace. He kissed into the dark hair. “How are you?”

 

“Much better,” he answered although he wasn’t sure if it was skating or Victor’s anchoring presence.  “The ice always makes it better.”

 

After a few minutes, Victor draped a towel over his lap and lifted Yuuri’s foot out of the water drying it off.  A tap on the opposite knee indicated for Yuuri to put the other foot into the water. Yuuri’s eyes watched as Victor carefully tended to Yuuri’s feet, both the injured and uninjured massaging away the aches and soreness.  The more advanced techniques had Yuuri’s eyes widening and then a soft moan slipping from his lips at the relief.  “Where did you learn that?”

 

“My mother was a dancer, and then Madame Lilia.  She made us all learn how to tend to our feet .  She said a skater’s feet need just as much care as a dancer’s.”  Victor’s fingers worked in circles down the length of Yuuri’s foot and up his heel.  Wider circles along the calf, then returning down the achilles tendon and ankle. He worked back down Yuuri’s foot spending time on the arch relaxing that muscle.  He then massaged each toe giving them a gentle tug to get them to release. Finishing with the first foot, he moved to the second, repeating the process again to Yuuri’s delight.

 

Victor reached over and opened the drawer in the coffee table and found the mani/pedi supplies stashed there.  Lifting out the petroleum jelly, he opened the jar and applied the substance generously down the surface. Then he frowned.  “I should have had you get some socks. Do you mind if I go and get a pair?”

 

Yuuri’s eyes darted up in surprise.  “N-no. Of course not. Top drawer on the left.”

 

Victor placed Yuuri’s feet on the sofa with care and walked down the hall.  Yuuri’s room held quite a few posters of Victor figure skating scattered about the wall.  He remembered Yuuri curling up around him last night asking him if he thought it was weird.  Victor laughed and said, “No...most of those are good memories.”

 

Opening the drawer, he pulled out a pair of socks.  His eyes skirted across the dresser for the first time and noticed there were a few meds in a box.  Lifting a couple of them, he could see the prescriptions. Most were expired. Returning to the living room, he found Yuuri’s eyes focused on his feet thoughtfully.

 

“I found the socks,” he called out and Yuuri looked up and smiled softly.  Victor returned to his seat and lifted his feet. Sliding the socks in place, he began cleaning up.  He rose up to pour out the water and put things away feeling Yuuri’s regard. When he came back, he drew Yuuri back into his arms, feeling the younger man settle into the space.  He rested his cheek against Yuuri’s head as he found the words to ask the questions he needed to ask. “Yuuri...about those meds on your dresser…”

 

Yuuri took a deep breath and released it winding his fingers into Victor’s.  “I tried medication therapy for my anxiety. Those are the remnants of those days.  I may...try it again. Later. But for now, it affects my skating too much. I need time off to work through it all.”

 

“Is there anything you do use out of them?”

 

Yuuri shook his head.  “My coach has my meds for panic attacks but even then, I prefer not to take them.  We only use them if it’s severe. I can use breathing exercises. It helps if someone breathes with me.”

 

“Maybe...I should learn about these things, Yuuri,” he suggested gently.

 

Yuuri nodded reluctantly.  “I...yes, you should. I...took both Phichit and Coach with me one day to see Cara...Dr. Bishop...and we worked out strategies together.  But…” He faded out, his words uncertain.

 

“You aren’t seeing Dr. Bishop at the moment,” Victor concluded quietly after the silence stretched out too long.

 

Yuuri nodded.  Victor could feel those eyes studying their hands tangled together.

 

“Is there something...other than finances...preventing you from returning?” Victor prodded carefully keeping his voice soft.

 

Yuuri huffed pulling back and Victor immediately regretted the loss of warmth.  “You don’t know what it’s like...to have these voices crowding in on you telling you how you’re going to fail, you’re a disappointment, you’re not good enough, you’re…”  He stopped, his eyes still darting around the room landing anywhere but on Victor.

 

Victor reached out and took those hands once more drawing Yuuri’s eyes although they peered from beneath lashes, chin down, vulnerable.  “ Solnyshko , you are right.  I don’t know. I don’t have the qualifications to help you.  But I also know that doctors shouldn’t treat themselves. And my father would tell you that attorneys shouldn’t represent themselves.”

 

Yuuri drew a deep breath and let it out once more.  “She...wanted to try drug therapy once again. I...didn’t want that.  So I stopped...going. Then all of the money issues...so I never went back.”

 

Victor tested the waters, “Did she push drug therapy or just suggest it as an option?”  He knew Yuuri well enough to know that sometimes the younger man could hear the words but draw his own, alternate conclusions.

 

Yuuri shrugged.  “It...might have been a suggestion.”  Yuuri’s defenses quickly spiked, “I can’t skate like that!  It makes me dizzy...or shaky...or nauseous. Have you read the side effects of those drugs?  At least if it’s just anxiety, it’s me. I’m real.”

 

Victor let them sit for a moment, allowing Yuuri to compose himself again.  “Is that what was going on with the drug therapies?”

 

Yuuri nodded slowly.  “I felt...disconnected.  I didn’t care. I...did things without thought to the consequences.  Because...I didn’t care. They made me...clinically depressed. I was such a mess.  Then there were the tremors.”

 

“It was the wrong combination,” Victor surmised.

 

Yuuri shrugged.  “We tried several but...I almost ended up in the hospital with that one.  It...scared me.”

 

“And you told this to your psychiatrist,” Victor verified.

 

Yuuri studied where their hands joined one another and shrugged.  “I know I talked about it. I...don’t know if I mentioned how it scared me.”

 

“I just want to be sure that we are properly managing your anxiety, Yuuri...as a friend, partner...and as a coach.”  Victor hoped that younger man felt the sincerity of his words.

 

Yuuri was quieter, “Coach...doesn’t know I quit.”

 

Victor frowned, happy Yuuri wasn’t looking at his face as he knew he should never play poker.  “I suspect he does know, Yuuri. I didn’t say anything but the questions he asked me indicated he knew.”

 

Yuuri let go of Victor’s hands and wrapped them around his ankles.  “Oh.” Then looking up, he held those blue eyes. “You...didn’t say anything?”

 

Victor leveled a gaze on Yuuri, keeping their eyes locked for a pregnant pause.  “I want to be clear here...if I thought your life was at risk or that you were at risk of injury, I wouldn’t hesitate to tell Coach and anyone else I thought would help.  But no. I didn’t say anything. I value your confidence.”

 

Yuuri moved back up to Victor’s side, resting his head into Victor’s shoulder.  “It was probably the doctor. I didn’t read the release. He had it in an envelope.  I know he wrote in the recommendation for delaying jumps. He’s the team physician, though.”

 

“Can he tell your coach?”

 

Yuuri shrugged.  “I signed a release...because...I don’t always make the best decisions regarding my health.  I...sometimes hurt myself.”

 

Victor tightened his arms around Yuuri.  He knew this. Although he saw no signs of self-harm, he knew from Yuuri’s words in the past that Yuuri had self-destructive behaviors.  But Yuuri acknowledging that he’s aware as well was important. “I just want to keep you safe,” Victor murmured against his hair. He held Yuuri close.  The way Yuuri opened up to him, trusting him...Victor didn’t take that lightly. Turning the body into his lap he pulled Yuuri into a kiss and felt the smaller form tighten his hold around his neck as he responded to Victor.

 

When the kiss broke, Yuuri tucked himself into Victor’s neck.  “Thank you. You’ve been so patient with me.”

 

“No more patient than you are with me, my Yuuri,” Victor murmured nuzzling into his hair.  He still had the lingering question. How do I talk Yuuri into psychiatric care with respect?  If it were just anxiety, Victor might have worked through the ways to help him through Yuuri, Phichit, and Coach Celestino’s guidance.  But the self-destructive behaviors Yuuri admitted to almost felt like a cry for help. Yuuri, my love, you are your own worst enemy.  Victor knew there were more secrets.  Every time he turned around, more revealed itself.  Yuuri opened up piece by piece like peeling an onion.  But Victor loved Yuuri for it, the small glimpses into Yuuri seemed like a gift.





 

NOTES:

 

Before you cry confidentiality with regard to Yuuri’s doctor, this is a contract between Yuuri, his doctor, and his coach allowing conversations about observations on health.  Because Yuuri knows he does things to hurt himself. Yuuri was not pressured into this decision but in a moment of clarity, knew that he needed it and brought his coach on board for the necessary accountability.

 

Confidentiality:  Ethical Topic in Medicine

 

Team Physician Conflict

Chapter Text


 

The Axis Turns...

 

Yuuri rolled over Saturday morning and snuggled into the warmth of the man curled up next to him.  Victor’s arms felt...safe. Have I ever felt safe with someone before?  He knew the answer was no, but the knowledge of Victor’s steadfastness as Yuuri fell apart over the last couple of days tied them together.   I love you.

 

It felt odd to have such intimacy without sex.  That will come with time.  I want to cherish this. This is different.  He’s different and I’m different with him.  Yuuri smiled even as his lips pressed a kiss into Victor’s neck.  Long fingers tightened around Yuuri before moving in a circular pattern on his lower back.   He’s awake.   Yuuri drew himself closer, tracing a line of kisses up to Victor’s ear and heard the sleepy moan.  Victor turned to capture those lips with his in reply.

 

They broke apart and Victor responded with warm smile, heart shaped and welcoming.  “Good morning, my Yuuri,” he murmured happily.

 

“Good morning, Victor,” the younger man answered, his fingers tracing the outline of the older man’s face lovingly.

 

“Would you call me...is it okay…”  Victor hesitated, his eyes darting down shyly.  “I’d like you to call me Vitya...or maybe even Vit’enka.  It’s...more intimate.”

 

Yuuri leaned in and brushed their lips together breathing out the syllables, “Vit’enka…”

 

Victor shivered at the caress of Yuuri’s whisper.  “For here...when we’re alone. Just for us.” He leaned in and kissed Yuuri’s forehead before adding, “Vitya...that’s what my closest friends and family call me.  That...can be public.”

 

“Vitya,” Yuuri answered with a warm smile.  “And what would you call me?”

 

Victor smiled warmly as he hummed.  “Maybe Yura...but that’s what we call little Yuri as well.  I’d want something...that’s just us.”

 

“Sometimes my friends here call me Yuu.”

 

“I’ve heard them.  What do you like?”

 

Pink blushed up his cheeks as he ducked down shyly.  “I like it when you call me my Yuuri like we’re tied together.”

 

Victor reached down and tipped up Yuuri’s chin.  Leaning in, he brushed their lips together whispering “my Yuuri” as they broke apart.  The younger man shivered in his arms.

 

“I could grow used to waking up like this,” he murmured dipping in to tease another kiss from the older man.  They traded kisses back and forth until a whine caught their attention. Sighing, they both turned loving and indulgent smiles to their dog children.  “Duty calls,” Yuuri murmured pushing out of bed.

 

They led the dogs down in their pajamas and Victor’s arms wrapped around Yuuri’s waist from behind while they watched the two dogs take care of business and play.  A friendly “hello” greeted them and they looked over to see Ashley walk into the dog park. She gave a sharp command and the dog sat down next to her until she released his lead.

 

“How are you doing these days?  I never see you anymore,” she complained.

 

Yuuri blushed and glanced up at Victor who tightened his arms around the younger man.  Victor answered, “Studies and practice have proven to be quite demanding. I appreciate you taking the dogs out on our long days.”

 

Ashley waved him off.  “What’s a couple more? I’m already bringing Zeus out.”

 

The pitbull with white collar and paws and brinnelled brown fur wiggled among the other two and they all seemed happy to reacquaint themselves.  “I haven’t seen you much,” Yuuri murmured as his eyes watched the dogs play.

 

“I’ve been busy getting this dog on a training regimen.”  She reached down to scruff his head affectionately.

 

“I’m so glad to see him adopted.  Are you keeping him?” Yuuri asked as he knelt down reaching for the pit.  The dog ran up to accept the offerings.

 

“I’m getting him broken in for a paraplegic as a mobility dog.  He’s so smart and training up nicely. Jacob, the owner, approached me about the possibility before agreeing to the adoption.  It’s an experiment on both of our parts but if it works out, he wants to promote the use of pit bulls as service animals.”

 

Yuuri looked up and grinned at her.  “I’d like to include him when we work on fundraisers once you are finished.”

 

“Are you still going to do the calendar?” she asked, her eyebrows furrowed.

 

Yuuri glanced up at Victor and then shrugged.  “I haven’t heard anything else from Andreia but I like the idea.  If she drops it, I think I can get the skate club to pick it up as a service project.”

 

Ashley’s face lit up.  “That would be amazing, Yuuri!  It’s one of the few no-kill shelters in the area.  They are getting full and are afraid they’ll have to start turning animals  away.”

 

“We’ll get something together.  One way or another,” Yuuri promised as he stood up, finding his place back in Victor’s reach.

 

Ashley smiled as she looked from one to the other.  “So the two of you…”

 

They exchanged glances before Victor answered, “I think it’s been building for a while.”

 

“Oh, it has.  I think everyone could see the chemistry before the two of you,” she laughed.

 

“Ashley!” Yuuri complained as he covered his face.  Victor’s arms wrapped around him protectively, laughing with their friend.

 




Yuuri left for the rink with a run that left him with a pleasing ache humming through his muscles.  He avoided the hill and chose flat paths, ending his jog at the rink where he put in his two hours on the ice.  Moving from the ice to the weight room, he finished his workout while he waited on his new student. Angela joined him shortly before noon.

 

She lingered in the doorway, unsure and waiting for his instruction.  “So Yuuri...where are we going?”

 

Yuuri hummed a moment, feeling the excitement moving through his bones.  “Did you bring lunch?”

 

She blinked in surprise, taken a little off guard by the question but oddly comforted by it as well.  “Yes. Are we eating there?”

 

Yuuri nodded even as he guided her out of the rink.  “I have a studio reserved for the afternoon.”

 

She smiled conspiratorially, “Are you sure you should be doing this?”

 

Yuuri winked at her, thinking that the most bad this seemingly straight-laced girl has ever done was break curfew once.  “I’m fine as long as I do a soft dismount. And nothing we’ll do will impact us like a jump on skates.”

 

“So true!”  She grinned as she followed Yuuri down the block and turned towards the studio.

 

Opening the door, he led her in and waved at Julia.  “Hey, Jules! This is Angela, Victor’s student.”

 

“Technically, I’m your student as well,” the blonde pointed out. Yuuri saw her ears pink as she spoke.

 

Jules smiled and waved.  “You’re in good hands. Yuuri’s a great teacher.”

 

Entering the studio space, Yuuri caught Angela looking back, her eyes resting on Jules appraisingly.  Yuuri closed the door and she turned with dancing eyes to Yuuri and he could see the excitement. “Just so you know...Jules doesn’t date freshmen...even when she was a freshman.”

 

Angela shrugged.  “That’s okay...gives me time to work up the nerve.”

 

Yuuri chuckled softly.  “I’m going into the dressing room over there,” he said pointing.  “The women’s changing room is across the hall.”

 

She smiled brightly.  “Thanks, Yuuri!”

 

In the quiet solitude of the men’s dressing room, Yuuri changed into a pair of basic black dance shorts and a deep red t-shirt.  Checking the KT tape on his foot, he grabbed the roll and went out to the main studio Jules was manning. “Do you mine redoing the tape on my ankle?  I don’t want any setbacks and it’s hard to get it tight enough on my own.”

 

She patted the bench and answered, “Come’ere, Yuu.”

 

Angela emerged in her dance gear, leggings and a cropped sweatshirt.  She frowned and called out to Yuuri, “Jazz or ballet shoes?”

 

“Either.  I’m going to start you on the barre,” he called back and she frowned when she spotted Jules redoing the tape on his ankle.

 

“I don’t want you to hurt yourself.”  She dropped down on the bench behind Yuuri and watched the careful tapework Jules did on his foot.

 

Yuuri chuckled.  “You’re going to be doing most of the work.”

 

Of course, Jules knew better.  Yuuri would be right there in the trenches with Angela, demonstrating every move, stretch, extension and landing, all with full feeling.  There was no holding back for Yuuri. She tapped the foot she finished taping and sent them on their way with a shake of her head.

 

Entering the studio, Angela’s eyes widened.  “This isn’t a ballet studio!”

 

“It is...but I use it for multiple forms of dance.”  Four vertical bars stood in defiance to the horizontal barre across the room.  He walked up to one of the poles and turned a challenging gaze her way. “You want to find Eros,” he began reaching up the pole.  He then walked up the length with practiced ease before allowing himself to spin around the pole midway until he tightened his hold up above, his thighs below and holding his other hand out in an offer.  “I can show you the movements, refine your narrative...but until you’ve found your story, it will not ring true.”

 

She took his hand and stepped forward.  “I’ve...never done this before. I’m only eighteen.”

 

Yuuri shrugged, “Have you ever wanted something?  Wanted it so bad that you would throw all of your charm on the line to get it?”

 

Her eyes flicked to the door and the redhead she could see down the hall through the window.  “M-maybe?”

 

Yuuri knew she couldn’t see him, that she missed his smirk.   Okay, we can work with that.   “Think back...remember a time when someone flirted with you, wanted to draw close to you.”

 

“They didn’t succeed,” she protested.  “Besides they were guys.”

 

Yuuri smirked.  “Seduction isn’t dependent on gender.  We are seduced when a salesperson convinces us to buy a product we’d never buy.  We are seduced when we try a new food and the taste vibrates through us. We are seduced when we are drawn to the ice to see another skater perform a story that leaves us breathless.”  He twisted around the pole and slid into a soft dismount before lifting her fingers and holding her eyes. “What will your story be?”

 

The low vibration of his voice, the hypnotic movements of his body, she stood frozen, her lips parted.  Then she blinked and realized... oh, he did that.  “I-I don’t know my story.”

 

“You are creating it every day.”  Turning on the music, he closed his eyes for a moment before moving into the center of the studio.  She watched him recreate the choreography in dance. “A playboy comes into town intent on seducing the most beautiful woman.”  He opened his eyes and focused on her. “You are the beautiful woman. You play his game, allow him to tease and toy with you, give him the false hope that he’s seduced you.  But beyond him, you see...someone. Dancing in the distance, holding your gaze with subtle movements of their own. And as the playboy closes in to kiss your hand, you push them aside with a laugh and dance away intent on your own seduction having taken what you needed from the playboy, the lessons he offered, and leaving him to chase after your own...lover…”  He finished, his arms wrapped around his body.

 

She blinked in surprise.  “Oh. Wow! How did you do that?”

 

He laughed warmly.  “Dance is about drawing your audience in and making them a part of your story.  Figure skating just adds the element of ice to the art.”

 

She processed his words as she thought about the story he gave to her.  “Victor...he’s the one dancing in the distance. Who...was the playboy?”

 

Yuuri shrugged.  “Everyone...anyone...there were a number of shared experiences.  Some good...some not so good. But in the distance, there was always him.  For as long as I remember.”

 

“You’ve been chasing after him for that long...but he...he wants you.”  She glanced down the hall hopeful...and hopeless at once. “She doesn’t date freshmen.”

 

Yuuri shook his head slowly.  “And you said that you won’t be a freshman forever.  What are you going to learn along the way.”

 

She turned, her eyes challenging.  “Anything and everything. Let’s begin!”

 

Yuuri smirked, finally seeing the fire that had eluded the young skater for weeks flare in those eyes.

 




Victor played on his phone, his students already gone and Phichit having abandoned him for Devryn.  He walked slowly down the path towards their home. He knew Yuuri was at the studio and secretly hoped he wouldn’t be gone too late.  His phone vibrated and his eyes widened at the incoming message.

 

Yura/ Come get me at the airport, asshole!

 

Victor/ What do you mean?

 

Yura/ Don’t you check your messages?  You promised me choreography for this season.  Since you left Russia, I’m here.

 

Victor blinked and his mind went to that oh, shit! place.   How are Yuuri and Yuri going to get along?  Where will he stay? Do I need to contact someone for permission?

 

Victor stared at his phone.  He needed a ride and Phichit was gone.  Yuuri was working at the studio. He hit his contacts and found the only person left.

 

“Ciao Ciao,” the old coach greeted.

 

“Coach Celestino, I have a little problem,” Victor began.

 

“Oh?  What’s wrong?  Yuuri turned his ankle again,” the coach surmised a little bit of panic in his voice.

 

Victor blinked at that thought and shook his head.  “No? I hope to hell not. No...Yuri...not our Yuuri, but the one out of Russia, just showed up.  I apparently promised him choreography…”

 

The voice down the line held a bit more mirth than annoyance.  “Okay...I’m not seeing a problem.”

 

Victor held his breath for a moment, hoping the scales wouldn’t tip out of his favor.  “He’s at the airport. Could...you give me a ride to pick him up?”

 

Half an hour later, he was riding in the coach’s red El Camino headed towards the airport.  “Did you expect him?”

 

Victor had to be fair, he had made a promise but in the flurry of a move and new job he had completely forgotten.  “I was apparently informed but didn’t receive the message. It’s been so busy.”

 

Ciao Ciao waved him off, smiling.  “Don’t worry about it. I’m sure you can put him up at your place during his stay.”

 

Victor slid his hand through his hair in frustration.  “I haven’t told Yuuri or Phichit! I’m the worst roommate!”

 

Celestino laughed.  “No, you don’t get to claim that title.  They had Cody before you.”

 

Victor let his head fall back against the seat.  “That’s oddly reassuring.” Great!  I’m only slightly better than the guy that grew mold professionally.

 

“It really makes it hard for you to screw up.”

 

Even in a crowded airport Yuri Plisetsky stood out.  His loud, aggressive voice cut through the noise. Victor apologized to the security guard who got stuck babysitting him.  He led Yuri out to the curb where Celestino waited. Fortunately the boy recognized an authority figure from a rink and straightened up.

 

“Yura, this is Coach Celestino.  I believe you met him in Sochi,” Victor introduced.

 

The boy nodded.  “Yeah, we met.” Turning to the coach, however, he said, “Thank you for picking me up.”

 

The coach just cast an amused glance back to the boy in the mirror.

 




Angela left the studio four hours later leaving an exhausted Yuuri in her wake.  Jules popped her head into the studio to see him lying back on the bench. Laughing, she teased, “Getting too old.”

 

Yuuri rolled his eyes.  “I thought the reason we never dated freshmen was because they were young and immature.  Now I know the truth...they are exhausting.”

 

She snorted and raised an eyebrow in his direction.  “You are technically dating a freshman.”

 

Yuuri looked at her startled then ran his hands over his face and back through his hair as he focused on the ceiling.  “My god! You’re right!”

 

“Doesn’t seem so bad,” she pointed out.

 

“Not so far...until he gets bored with me.”  Yuuri’s smirk slowly faded into a frown.

 

“Stop that!” she corrected, swatting him with a workout towel.  She passed him a water bottle as he sat up and she dropped down next to him.  “Do you think you’re too exhausted to help me with some choreography?”

 

“No, I can help you.  Is this for tonight’s show?”

 

“Yes...Lola wants us to do a duet and whatever Lola wants, Lola gets .”  She winked at the song reference before moving on.  “I have it down but I’m having trouble with this one detail.”

 

“I can help you.”  He capped off the water bottle and held out his hand to pull her to her feet.  “Show me.”

 

She counted out the routine and he began tapping it out in time with her.  Once he got the rhythm, he watched her work the pole and then he saw what she was struggling with.  “That hold. Your arm is too weak from that angle. It’s making you shake.”

 

“I know that,” she pouted.  “How do I fix it?”

 

He considered it for a moment.  He knew it had to make it subtle because Lola would have it down this way.  Pulling up on the pole, he ran through that segment of the choreography and made a switch on the grip elongating his arm to stiffen his elbow.  That felt more solid. Then he could swing his legs around without losing power. As he snaked down the pole, he looked over her as she blinked up at the pole analyzing what he did.

 

“Well?”

 

“I think it will work.  Let me try,” she responded.  She walked up the pole and moved through the routine making the adjustment.  As she dismounted, she grinned. “Much more solid! Thanks, Yuu!”

 

He grinned and shrugged.  “Glad to help out.” His eyes moving to the pole, he asked, “Do you think she’ll let me get a few more Saturdays in?  Maybe...next Saturday?”

 

“I thought you wanted out,” Jules stated carefully.  “I mean...you have to drink to get through the night.  It’s not good for you.”

 

Yuuri sighed and gave her an unhappy frown.  “I’m not thinking of it as a career, but I’ve burned through my safety net and have dipped into skate funds since the injury.  I’ve...got to make it back.”

 

“And you have no other option?” she asked carefully, her hand moving up and down his arm in concern.

 

Yuuri shrugged.  “Just...a few more times.  Maybe. I need to rebuild my savings.”

 

“You’re stretching yourself thin and if you do weekly sessions like that with Angela, you’ll cover what you made and more.”

 

Yuuri frowned, “You know that’s temporary.  Once she gets it down, she won’t need me.”

 

You’ll never see your own worth, will you?   “First that’s not true.  Did you stop working with Celestino just because you passed Seniors?  And second aren’t there others you can work with?” Jules countered.

 

Yuuri shrugged once again.  “I don’t want to get behind again.  Just a little longer, Jules. You’ll cover for me, won’t you?”

 

Her eyes widened in realization.  “You haven’t told him. You’re fucking dating him, and you haven’t told him,” she pressed.

 

Yuuri shrugged.  “We just started...it’s too soon.”

 

She groaned in frustration throwing her hands up in the air as she stomped off.  Yuuri didn’t hear all of the words but stubborn ass bastard came out fairly clear.  He huffed and marched back to the dressing room to change.   Jules will come around.

 




Yuuri walked into the apartment to find chaos.  Dropping his backpack by the door, he toed off his shoes before advancing into the living room.  The blond Yuri squared off to Victor. “I’m not sleeping on the couch!”

 

Victor held a pillow and blanket out, “It’s my apartment!”

 

“I’m your guest!”  The fiery blonde stomped his foot in defiance.

 

Yuuri’s eyes moved from one another as they argued before stepping in.  “Oh, hi, Yuri...did we know you were coming?” His eyes moved from the blond to Victor questioningly.

 

“Apparently a message was misdirected,” Victor responded.  “But he’s here now.”

 

He saw the dynamic of the relationship of the two skaters.  Victor and Yuri, for two only children, had certainly mastered fighting like siblings.  “Then let’s find you a place. How long are you staying?” he asked.

 

The blonde side-eyed Victor before moving to Yuuri seeing an ally.  “At least a week while Victor works out the choreography he promised.”  The last two words were heavily emphasized.

 

Yuuri’s eyes widened in realization.  “Oh, I think I saw him working on that.  It’s quite lovely. Okay, why don’t you stay in Victor’s room?  That way our studying won’t keep you up.”

 

Yuri gloated at the solution even as Victor huffed.  Yuuri was already guiding the boy down the hall and opening the room to Victor’s room.  “After all, you are Victor’s guest.  Now, let me see.  I have a futon you can sleep on in my room.  You find a place for your things and I’ll be right back.  Vitya?”

 

The blonde looked from one to the other at the familiar name and then his eyes widened in realization as the older man rested a hand on Yuuri’s hip.  They disappeared from the younger man’s view.

 

Behind the closed door, Victor protested, “I didn’t know he was coming!”

 

“Shh!” Yuuri hushed, placing three fingers over Victor’s lips before pulling them away.  Lifting up on his tiptoes, he brushed their lips together. “It’s okay. Let’s just get him sorted out.”

 

Yuuri opened up his closet and pulled a rolled futon out.  “I have guests from time to time, too. My sister, Minako...and sometimes Phichit invites one of the other skaters to visit.  Guang-Hong, Seung-gil, Leo...it’s really no big deal. I keep a futon for that reason. Phichit has one as well.”

 

Victor watched Yuuri haul the futon out and sighed dramatically.  “But...he’s in my room!”

 

“Yes, he is,” Yuuri responded firmly.  “Let’s make him comfortable so that you can do the job you promised .”

 

With a pouty huff that drew an eyeroll from Yuuri, he asked, “What can I do?”

 

“Find some sheets, pillows, and blankets for our guest!” Yuuri responded, his tone indicating that it was obvious.  He hauled the mattress into the other room and smiled cheerily. “Here’s a bed for you, Yuri.”

 

The boy looked from the mattress to the man before asking, “Nothing questionable has happened on that?”

 

Yuuri’s cheeks turned pink before he answered, “Well, my sister slept on it...and my old ballet teacher did for one night before she ended up staying with my coach.”  He paused as he considered the implication of that statement before adding, “We won’t go there.” The warning gaze told the blonde he really didn’t want to go there.

 

Yuuri rolled out the mattress and Victor returned with the bedding which Yuuri put in order with the practice of someone that’s worked at a ryokan his entire life.  Rolling back on his heels, he looked up at Yuri. Patting the bed, he invited, “All yours.” Then Yuuri was gone, leaving the blonde with Victor.

 

“You’re dating him,” he stated not mincing words, but at least knowing to speak in Russian.

 

Victor shrugged.  “I’m not supposed to talk about such things with you.”

 

“Bullshit!  This isn’t Russia, asshole.  It’s not like we didn’t all know your extra ass wasn’t gay all along!”

 

Victor flung himself across his bed and sighed out dramatically.  “We’re dating...but it’s new. I don’t want to mess this up.”

 

Yuri snorted at that earning him a glare.  “All I can say is that he’s already got you whipped!”

 

Victor sat up quickly, “He does not!”

 

Yuri smirked at the older man, relishing the downturn of his lips, “One word and you dropped everything and did what he said!  Whipped!”

 

Victor pouted.  “You suck!”

 

“Asshole!”

 

Victor threw a pillow at him and rather than retaliating, the boy stole it.  Laying back in bed, he ran his fingers back through his hair and grumbled, “Welcome to America…”

 

In the hallway just outside the door Yuuri listened to the interaction.   Just like brothers...

 





NOTES:

 

Inspiration for Zeus’ story.

 

A second positive pitbull story .

Chapter Text


 

Sweet Sundays



Yuuri was scrolling through social media in the darkness of his room when he heard quiet noise shuffling beyond his door.  A knock soon followed and Yuuri murmured, “Come in.” It was enough and the door creaked open slowly before a silver head popped inside.

 

“Yura’s asleep,” he explained.

 

Yuuri looked at him in amusement before rolling his eyes and pulling the blankets back in an invitation.  “Miss me?”

 

“Yeeess,” he breathed out diving into bed beside Yuuri.  Such a short time but Victor already needed Yuuri in order to feel at home.  The younger man welcomed him to his side and Victor snuggled into his embrace.  Yuuri smoothed his hair, the silken strands sliding between his fingers. Victor’s lips sealed against his neck, a gasp slipping from Yuuri’s lips.

 

Yuuri shifted his neck to one side, his body opening up to allow Victor more access.  “Vitya…” he moaned, turning his head and reaching for Victor’s face, his thumb moving down the older man’s chin as he lifted him into a kiss.  Yuuri’s eyes fluttered close as Victor leaned in to deepen the kiss and Yuuri shifted in his hunger for the older man.

 

Victor didn’t know what he wanted except to be close to Yuuri but the younger arched into to his touch and he watched with wonder as Yuuri responded to him.  Still, he reluctantly pulled back.  We’re not ready.  He knew Yuuri had a number of hurdles and Victor didn’t want to complicate matters for the younger man.

 

Yuuri blinked up at him uncertain.  The silver haired man smiled back, the heart shaped lips a little swollen, but showing promise.  A light dust of pink graced his cheeks. A soft form of desire was written clearly on the man in front of him, yet he held himself back.   Did I misread him?  He nibbled on his lip before leaning to press a kiss into Victor’s hairline.  “Sleep?” he offered.

 

Victor nodded, surprised at the ragged breath he drew.  “I think sleep is best,” he conceded. As he settled into Yuuri’s arms, he felt the younger man pet him, his fingers sliding through his hair.  “Thank you for this.”

 

Yuuri was quiet for a moment before asking softly, “For what?”

 

“For letting me take my time…”

 

Realizing Victor pulled back for a reason, Yuuri lifted his head enough to look into Victor’s eyes before replying, “I can wait.”  Yuuri wanted to say more but held back afraid it was crossing a line. Still, something kept drumming in the back of Yuuri’s head, the little hints Victor dropped along the way.   If he’s ace, can I live with that?   Yuuri considered the way the man would eagerly lean in for touch, looking for more but holding back.   Surely he’s not asexual.  The articles and pictures showing him with this person or another.  And then all of the rumors about Chris. Yuuri snuck a look at the fair face, eyes closed under the peace of sleep.   But...what is it...why do I feel like this is all new for you?  I want to protect that...to protect you. And...if you are asexual, I want to respect that.   He leaned in and brushed his lips into Victor’s hair and felt the other man shift further into his embrace.   What do you want from me?

 




Sunday found Yuuri gathering up his gear for a work day at the shelter.  Their guest watched with interest, sharp green eyes following his movements around the apartment, then asked what he was doing.  “I volunteer at the animal shelter when I have a free sunday. Do you want to come?”

 

The boy looked interested but unsure.  “I don’t know what Victor has planned for me.  When I woke up, he was gone.”

 

“He left early to go to the rink.  I can take you by later but I think he was sorting out the details before presenting your program to you.”

 

Yuri squirmed, guilty in his assumption he hurled at Victor yesterday.  “I...didn’t know he was actually working on it.”

 

Yuuri smiled warmly.  “I think he sometimes gets caught up in his head which makes him seem forgetful.”

 

“I suppose.  I mean...there have always been a lot of expectations on him.”  Yuri fidgeted a bit more before he asked, “Are there any cats?”

 

Yuuri grinned.  “Sometimes. You want to come and see?”

 

The two of them walked to the shelter and Yuuri pointed out some of the landmarks in the area, encouraging the teen to be independent but safe.  After a short walk, Yuri snorted. “I bet the old man got lost his first day here.”

 

Yuuri grinned and shrugged.  “You’re not wrong. Oh, here we are.”

 

Looking around, the teen felt somewhat at home.  The neighborhood was a little run down. Cheap apartments, cheap cars, bikes for those who couldn’t afford cars...and it looked like Yuuri was a walker.  “Do you drive?”

 

“Sometimes.  Phichit and I share a car.  I’ve been driving since fourteen.”

 

The teen looked at Yuuri in surprise.  “They let you drive at fourteen in Japan?”

 

The older man snorted and shrugged.  “Let...such a subjective term. My twenty year old sister decided it was time to teach me.”  He laughed as he thought back. “I could barely see over the dash but I would drive my sister everywhere on the outskirts of Hasetsu.”

 

The youth grinned.  “That’s kind of badass.”

 

Yuuri unlocked the shelter door and let the younger Yuri inside.  “What is it Victor calls you? Yura?”

 

The blonde nodded.  “He probably calls you that as well.”

 

The Japanese man shook his head.  “Nope. He calls me Yuuri. So...just to keep it straight, would it be too familiar if Phichit and I called you Yura as well?”

 

The Russian shrugged.  “Nah...that would be okay.”

 

He guided the youth back and opened the door at the back of the receiving room.  “Okay...Yura. Let’s see if we have any kittens for you to play with.”

 

Inside the back room they caught Ashley going through the kennels one at a time.  “Oh, hi Yuuri. Who’s your friend?”

 

“Hey Ashley.  This is Yuri Plisetsky from Russia.  He’s here to work with Victor.” Yuuri nodded at the blonde, sliding his eyes to the teen, hoping to read the reaction.

 

She dried her hands off and held one out to shake his.  “Two Yuuris? That’s just too confusing. I’ll just call you Yurio,” she amended.

 

“But, why do I get the nickname?!” the blonde protested.

 

Ashley smiled at the outburst, training animals was almost as fun as training humans.  She kept her tone even and as the teen escalated she only remained calm. “Because I’ve known Yuuri longer...it’s easier to adjust your name in my head.”

 

Yuri deflated immediately.   Yakov knows to yell back, what’s with this lady?  Why does she remind me of Lilia? “Just don’t say it in front of Victor,” he grumbled.

 

Ashley grinned, an ornery streak making its appearance.  “We shall see. So, are you here to help?”

 

“I...guess?”  He looked around uncertain.  “I mean, I’ve volunteered at a cat rescue.  So it shouldn’t be too hard.”

 

“Oh, you’re a cat person.  Come this way, then.” She led him through the room and into the next.  Washing up, she opened up the door and Yura widened his eyes at the cattery on the other side.  “If you could take care of the litter boxes and wipe down the kennels while they play, that would be a big help.  That way Yuuri and I can work through the dog kennels.”

 

Yuri was in heaven...cats, everywhere cats all kinds.  And he would be in the room with all of them, just moving about…  “I-I can do that. I thought I was going to be playing with them.”

 

She laughed warmly, seeing the boy was gone.  “You are welcome to play with them...just take care of their needs as well.”

 

Yuri managed a nod through sheer force of will.  “I got you. Okay...I can take care of this.”

 

“If you need either of us, we’re right through those doors.”  She then turned and left the youth to his own devices.

 

In the large kennel, Yuuri pulled the dogs to the front for Ashley to look them over and make sure they were clean.  Yuuri worked on cleaning their home. An hour later, Phichit came through the door and pitched in.

 

“Where have you been?” Yuuri asked as they worked on the kennels together.

 

“I didn’t realize how...demanding...being with Devryn would be,” he answered with a dreamy voice.  “How did you keep up?”

 

“Hydration,” Yuuri stated before diving into the next kennel.

 

Phichit stared at him a moment then cracked up.  “Okay...that’s a good tip.”

 

As Yuuri backed out of the kennel, he added, “Don’t lose sight of why you’re here.”

 

“We’ve been studying together.  I’ve...thought about having him over at my place but...well...I wasn’t sure if it would be awkward for you.”

 

A small smile played at Yuuri’s lips.  “I...haven’t been sleeping alone either.”

 

“Oh?” Phichit almost squealed.

 

“I mean...nothing’s really happened.  Just kisses.” He frowned and looked over at Phichit.  “Do you remember that one girl? Alex?”

 

Phichit shrugged, remembering an ex who was nice but ultimately would never work out.  “Yeah...she was sweet.”

 

Yuuri licked his lips, hoping to sound uninvested.  “How did you...figure out that she was ace?”

 

Phichit frowned as he thought about it.  “Really, she never wanted to take it beyond kisses.  Finally, we talked about it. She was on the ace spectrum but she saw herself as gray-ace.  Why? Do you think Victor is?”

 

Yuuri raised his eyes to Phichit’s.  “Maybe...somewhere on the spectrum. It could be that he’s just taking it slow but he’s said some things that makes me wonder if he’s had much...experience.”

 

They moved to the next cage while they continued their talk when they heard a sound by the door.  Turning, they spotted the blonde. “Oh, Phichit...this is Yura, Victor’s guest from Russia.”

 

“You’re the Junior Grand Prix Champion, aren’t you?” Phichit asked.

 

The blonde nodded.  His eyes rested on Yuuri for a moment before he said, “I can answer your question.  Victor didn’t date.”

 

“H-how do you know that?” Yuuri asked glancing over at Phichit and feeling guilty at the same time.

 

“Because there was never any gossip about it at the rink.  It is possible that he’s just discreet,” the blonde conceded, “but he is extra as fuck.  I can’t see discretion being his thing.”

 

Yuuri smiled as he thought about the past few days.  Victor’s arms were around him when they weren’t working.  Yura had a valid point but...that didn’t totally answer the Japanese man’s question.  “Okay...well, maybe I just need to talk to him. And now I feel guilty for bringing this up with the two of you.”

 

The blonde rolled his eyes.  “It’s not like I’m going to bring this up with the old man.”

 

Phichit threw his hands up and added, “Hey, I’m your best friend.  Sacred oath of friends!”

 

Yuuri breathed a sigh of relief.   Now, how to break the subject…

 




That evening, Yuri watched with a dubious expression as Victor cooked but seemed to relax when he realized the older man was being supervised.  It was so subtle. Yuuri stepped up and chatted with him as he worked through the recipe, Victor asking the brunette questions when he didn’t understand the instruction or what it was asking for, and Yuuri guiding him through the process.  Finally the Russian had the salmon meal laid out on the pan and was ready to start the cooking process.  “The recipe says twelve minutes,” Victor confirmed.

 

“That means stay in the room with it,” Yuuri stated.  The blonde Yuri snorted in response.

 

“You wound me!” Victor declared dramatically, his hand over his heart.

 

Yuuri just rolled his eyes and returned to his studies.  The Japanese man had his iPad open with the pages of his photographed text while he went back and forth taking notes.

 

Phichit came into the room and looked at Victor standing in the kitchen staring at the stove.  “Did you set a timer?”

 

“Yuuri said to not leave.”

 

“He just means don’t disappear into your room where you can’t hear the timer,” Phichit laughed.

 

Yuuri looked up from his text with a patient smile but the blonde caught the hint of eyeroll and hid his smirk.  Focusing on his own studies, he worked ahead on his next assignment. “Victor, will you help me with my Algebra later?”

 

“Of course!” Victor responded with a grin.

 

Yura turned to Yuuri and added, “Victor was the resident math tutor.”

 

“Phichit’s boyfriend is trying to get him to switch over to Physics.”

 

“It’s just applied mathematics ,” Victor argued.

 

“I guess you could say the same about programming,” Phichit pointed out.

 

The timer went off and Victor rushed to the stove as if seconds made a difference between success and failure, a meal or a fire.  Yuuri slipped off the stool and came around as Victor placed the pan on the stovetop. Yuuri showed Victor how to check the meat and the older man sighed in relief.  It was a good meal.

 

Books were set aside and soon everyone had a plate with rosemary salmon, green beans, and carrots.  As Yuri took a bite, he raised his eyebrows in surprise. “At least if you come back home, your contributions to the potluck would improve.”

 

“Do you cook, Yuri?” the Japanese man asked.

 

He grinned and nodded.  “My grandpa taught me. I should make piroshkis while I’m here.”

 

“Oh, would you show me?” Yuuri asked, his eyes sparkling.

 

The Russian narrowed his eyes but nodded.  “Da...I can do that.”

 

Later that night, the blonde looked through the cupboards to decide what he needed.  Handing the list to Yuuri, the Japanese man looked at it thoughtfully. It was just four items and small amounts.  “I think we can get all of these at the corner grocery rather than a big shop. We can stop on the way home from the rink before you make it.”

 

Yura nodded, “That’s good.  So...what do I do while you’re in class?”

 

Victor laughed in response.  “You are getting up early and we’re jogging to the rink.  Coach Celestino will keep you busy until we can join you.”

 

“Oh,” the blonde said, his disappointment real.  “Jogging?”

 

“Yuuri jogs every day,” the silverette pointed out.

 

He side-eyed Yuuri who was ignoring them and focusing on his studies.  “Fine. What time?”

 

“We’ll leave at seven,” the brunette responded proving he hadn’t checked completely out of the conversation.

 

The youth grumbled but he didn’t balk.

 

“I was thinking, though...since you are showing me your favorite dish, I’ll show you mine.  I’ve added a couple of things to the list but we have most of the items.” He lifted his eyes up to Victor’s with a wink.  “You can pay me back and cook for us during my week.”

 

Victor’s mouth went dry at the wink.   Is Yuuri flirting with me?  He watched the younger man chew on his pen before continuing to write things down in his notes.  Cleaning up the kitchen, he slipped down the hall to gather laundry. He knew Yuuri would join him shortly.  Phichit had taken his to Devryn’s apartment. The advantage of a boyfriend with his own washer and dryer. “Yura...do you need anything washed?” he called out.

 

The blonde came into the room with his brows furrowed.  “You...do laundry?”

 

“Yuuri pointed out that it was an important skill to have...and I find it’s a rather pleasant way to spend a Sunday evening.  We do laundry on Wednesdays as well.”

 

“Oh...I’ve got to see this,” Yuri smirked.  He grabbed the few clothing items he needed laundered and followed Victor into the living room with his basket.

 

The Japanese Yuuri looked up from his studies with a frown.  “Oh, I guess it is that time. Hold on while I gather mine.” Minutes later, Yuuri was out with his laundry.

 

“Do we take the dogs?” Yura asked.

 

Yuuri shook his head.  “Too many careless students.  I’d be afraid they’d eat a Tide-pod or something similar.”

 

Victor leaned in ominously and added, “It could kill a dog...or human...if they ate it.”

 

Yura rolled his eyes and took the bag with laundry essentials from Yuuri.  “Fine. Let’s go.”

 

Within a few minutes, Yuri watched on as Victor sorted his laundry with Yuuri’s curious that they mixed their loads together but not commenting.  He sat cross-legged on the table sharing pictures of #domesticVictor. I really can’t wait for Mila’s comments on these.   Once Victor finished his laundry duties, he joined the blonde.  “So...math…”

 

The time passed by fairly quickly with math discussions, Yuuri would lean in and offer a different view on Victor’s explanation making it a little clearer to the blonde.  “At least I’ll go back ahead on my Algebra homework,” he declared.

 

Victor laughed.  “You’ll have more than that.  Tomorrow, you’ll begin learning your new program.”

 

Green eyes shot to him in surprise.  “You finished it?”

 

“It only needed fine tuning.  I’ll unveil it tomorrow.”

 




Yuuri sat in the middle of his bed with laptop while he combed through his email when a seller notification popped up.  He furrowed his brow. Oh, I forgot I listed my Lohengrin costume.  It must have sold.  Opening the email, he widened his eyes in surprise.  $998...even with the 10% fee, that would leave him with close to $900...and that much closer to catching up.

 

Looking through the details, he started at the name.  Minami Kenjirou... no, it can’t be the same one .   But the address was in Japan, Hakata ward in Fukuoka.  It is Minami. Why would he want it?

 

Yuuri connected to the wireless printer and began printing the documents he needed to mail the costume and shipping confirmation.   I can drop it off at the campus post office on Monday.   Damn! How did the bids get so high?  I wonder who else bid on it.

 




A tap on Yuuri’s door pulled a smile from his lips.  “Come in, Vitya,” he invited with a soft voice.

 

Victor entered with a smile.  “Yura’s asleep. I think he enjoyed working at the shelter.  I’m sorry I was unable to join you.”

 

“It’s fine...really,” he smiled holding his hand out.

 

Victor moved quickly to his side and slid into the blankets.  Leaning in, he captured Yuuri’s lips. “I feel like I’ve waited all day for that kiss.”

 

“I’ve noticed you’re a little reserved around Yura,” the brunette whispered.

 

Victor shrugged.  “We aren’t supposed to corrupt the minors,” he muttered, lying back with his hand over his head, his eyes on the ceiling.

 

Yuuri wrinkled his brow.  “Is that...how you feel? That...being with a man is some sort of corruption?”

 

Victor shook his head.  “No...thankfully my father is very accepting and so was my mother.  But I grew up very aware of the government’s stance on the matter. It’s hard to shake that off.”

 

Yuuri laid on his side studying Victor.  “You aren’t in Russia. I mean, there are people here that are homophobic...but it isn’t illegal.”

 

Victor’s hand slid down Yuuri’s side stopping at his waistband as he considered Yuuri’s words.  “I know...but sometimes I don’t know.”

 

Yuuri considered those words as he slipped his arms around Victor.  “That’s what it’s like in my head...all of the time. That’s anxiety.”

 

“Anxiety sucks…” Victor pouted pressing his forehead to Yuuri’s.

 

“Agreed,” he responded, his hand moving up and down Victor in soothing movements.  Victor shifted further into him, dipping his head down under his chin. Yuuri could feel the uncertainty in his touch.  “Vitya...it’s okay...you know...if you aren’t…”

 

Victor laid back with a sigh staring at the ceiling in frustration.  Yuuri could see enough in his expression to make out the tension. Perhaps...we should talk .  Drawing in a deep breath, he dove in.  With a hand dancing down Victor’s chest, he stepped carefully into the conversation.  “What’s wrong?”

 

“I...you…”

 

Yuuri frowned but was careful not to let Victor see it.  “Victor...are you...have you...it’s just, I’ve been thinking about some of the things you’ve told me.  Are you...asexual?”

 

Victor’s eyebrows furrowed and Yuuri could feel him tense.  “I...don’t know...I don’t think so. I...want you.”

 

“And...others?”

 

“There...are no others.  Ever. I’ve never…” He then turned over and faced Yuuri his eyes intense.  “You don’t understand what it’s like. If you are gay in Russia, you could have sex.  But it’s the kind you find in a back alley...it doesn’t go home with you...there is no...relationship.  I can’t...that’s not me. And I...there is absolutely no attraction to women. I know there’s been pictures but those were just friends.  I had to keep up appearances.”

 

Yuuri processed his words.  “You’re...demisexual, maybe?”

 

“I...don’t know what that means.”

 

Yuuri took a deep breath.  I don’t want to sound like I’m teaching a class.  “It’s on the asexual spectrum, or more the gray-ace.  What it means is that you have to have a strong emotional bond to experience sexual attraction.”

 

“That’s...likely.  I’ve never been attracted to anyone enough to abandon my country...but it always felt like something was missing.”

 

Yuuri stopped for a moment, realizing fully what Victor was saying.  “So...you came here looking for what you were missing?”

 

Victor smiled and nodded.  “Something like that.”

 

“But...you’ve never been with anyone?”  Yuuri wanted to confirm it.

 

“No one...I know there were rumors about Chris, but we’re just friends.”  Then Victor laughed. “Well, he kissed me once but...well, I wasn’t into it.  He thought he misread me...that I wasn’t gay. I remember he apologized profusely.  I just told him it wasn’t that...I just saw him as a friend.” He shrugged.

 

Yuuri grinned.  “It would be like me kissing Phichit...kissing your brother...nope...not good.”

 

Victor giggled a little in Yuuri’s arms, then considered his friend.  “He’s found someone since me, though...and they seem perfect for one another.”

 

“I’ve seen them together,” Yuuri smiled.  “When Chris isn’t all...out there. They sink into their own little bubble.”

 

“I think that’s what I want...someone who could be my world.  My parents had that...I’ve showed you their picture.” Victor wrapped a leg over Yuuri’s shin.

 

Yuuri pretzeled his legs along with Victor’s.  “Yes...a love that transcends even death.”

 

“Maybe I’m a bit of a romantic,” he murmured, his hand going to his forehead.

 

Yuuri’s fingers drifted over Victor’s stomach as he considered the man beside him.  “Yeah, you are...but that’s not a bad thing. It’s...just you.” Yuuri’s smile was soft as he moved closer, his head resting on Victor’s shoulder.

 

Victor’s arm slid around Yuuri’s shoulders and he felt Yuuri’s leg shift over his.  “I’m...nervous...and I don’t want my...lack of experience to push you away,” he admitted.

 

“I don’t want your nervousness and fear to push you in deeper than you’re ready.  I mean it when I say I’ll wait.”

 

Victor settled into the bed softer, “It’s just...you’ve done so much...you’re used to so much…”

 

Yuuri sighed as he drummed his fingers against Victor’s side.  “That’s...not necessarily a good thing. Most of it is just...regret.  Thankfully I’m clean. And it’s been a while since I’ve been with anyone.”

 

“Andreia…”

 

Yuuri laughed bitterly.  “No...we just dated. I never slept with her.  I knew I didn’t want to go there.”

 

“Oh...I thought…”  Victor trailed off.

 

Yuuri snorted thinking of the woman, “I only categorize her as an ex because she keeps coming around.”

 

“Like a bad penny.”  Victor was quiet for a moment before he asked, “What the hell does that mean anyway?”

 

Yuuri laughed.  “It means they keep turning up when they aren’t wanted.  A bad penny is like a counterfeit coin that circulates quickly.”

 

“Oh...I guess...that sort of makes sense.”  It was quiet and Yuuri thought Victor had slipped off to sleep.  Then he said quietly, “I’m not ready. I feel this is...headed that way...towards sex.  But...I need more time. I need to know you better.”

 

“Then take your time,” Yuuri murmured.   I just hope you still want me when you do know me better.

 

“Is this...okay, though?  Us sleeping next to each other?”

 

Yuuri hummed as he nuzzled his cheek into Victor’s chest.  “Yes...I need this too. It makes me feel...safe.”

 

“I just...back home...in Russia...my apartment was just me and Makka...and well, I just remember the loneliness.  It felt so empty. I think I crave contact.”

 

“I don’t mind you coming here, Vitya.  There are different kinds of intimacy. I think...it’s important for me to seek those out as well.  This...what’s going on between you and me...it’s different...but in a good way.”

 

Victor sighed with relief.  “I like sleeping next to you, too.  It makes me feel safe as well.”

 

I’ve never felt safe with anyone before.  But with you...I do…





 

AUCTION (A little extra scene)

 

The blonde stared excitedly at the screen unable to believe what he was seeing.   A Katsuki Yuuri original costume!  It even includes an autographed picture of Yuuri in the costume!  The photo definitely showed Yuuri.  “Mooom!”

 

His mother came into the room drying her hand on the towel.  “What is it, dear?”

 

“You’re not going to believe this!  It’s Katsuki-san’s costume! From his senior debut!  Please mom! I’ve got to have it!”

 

She studied the listing critically and asked him, “What do you plan to do with it?”

 

“I want to skate in it!  I can do a tribute skate to him!  This is like a dream come true!”

 

She saw the watery eyes her son would use when something was truly important.  “Well, I suppose if you’re going to use it for one of this year’s costumes, we can make it work.  But don’t go over a five hundred dollars. We have to get it fitted and it may need repairs and you’ll need to get another costume, too.”

 

“Yes, Mom!”  With her help, he made the bid and waited eagerly.

 




Three days later, he logged in.   Who is this TigerYuriFan?   Eyes widened in rage.   I’m his number one fan!  You can’t have it!  He opened the bid window, tapping hesitantly on the keys, but chewing his lip as the finger hovered over the accept button.

 

Maybe mom won’t notice if I add in an extra $100.  It’s still in my costume budget.

 




Outbid again!  Who is this TigerYuriFan?  I’m going to get that costume!  I’ll just have to bid at the last minute.  The skater stayed up until the small hours of the next morning, sniping the bid at the last minute.  His joy faded quickly when he saw his final bid amount.

 




The blonde shifted back and forth nervously.  “So Mom...I won the costume.”

 

“Oh, how much did it end up costing?”

 

“$998…”

 

Slowly turning to face her son, “Nine hundred...Minami Kenjirou!  You’re grounded!”

 

Very few times did Minami actually fear his mother, this was one of them.  “But mom…”

 

“No arguments!  Go to your room!”

Chapter Text


 

Imagination

 

Yuuri slipped out of the bed early, Victor’s sleeping body reflected the darkness outside.  Silently leaving the apartment, he felt an energy drumming underneath his skin and he had to move, he had to skate.  Running, he headed directly to the rink. Quiet streets echoed his steps and breath. Working the catch on the door, he was inside.

 

He plugged his phone into the sound system and chose his playlist.  It included Express but several other songs lay before it...songs he played with for choreography but also songs that soothed him.  I need a song...I need another program.

 

He let the playlist play as he tracked figures into the clean ice.  He stilled as the P!nk song came on to play.  He stilled, allowing the words to slide over him.   Is this me?  I...don’t like drunk me.  But sometimes it’s the only way to quiet the noise in my head.   Yuuri pushed himself into a backwards swizzle, gliding a few paces away from the boards.   Does it quiet the noise, though?  Or does it make new noise overriding the old?

 

Yuuri skated into lazy loops, tight powerpulls creating tiny circles, his edge deep, crunching into the surface, barely holding on.  I...was free of you, alcohol.  Then...Sochi...and everything crashed down around me.   He slid out of his final loop, too heavy on the inner edge, catching himself before he fell the three-turned to face forward and toe pushed away.   But that brought him into my life.  He…took care of me.  Dragging his toe pick in the pristine ice beneath him he stilled on his skates, letting that thought wash over him.  Victor is still taking care of me.  But...how can he save me when he’s lost himself?

 

Lifting his chin, Yuuri skated powerful stroke turning to forward crossovers, running laps around the pocket circles, nearly colliding with the barrier wall like a freshman hockey player.  “You shouldn’t have to save me!” he shouted. Then he coasted to a halt. “But...I don’t know how…”

 

He didn’t know when the tears began, only when the cold kissed the dampness on his cheek.  Drawing in a shaky breath, he shoved them away. A sound informed him his bubble was about to be intruded upon.  He turned towards the door waiting for Celestino to come into the rink. It was early but still…

 

Silver hair greeted him.  Blue eyes held onto his as he moved to the rail.  Yuuri skated slowly to meet him. “I got your note,” he murmured, pressing his forehead to Yuuri’s.

 

Yuuri started then he remembered.   Oh, I did leave a note.   Simple but clear.

 

I need ice~Y.

 

“I woke up drowning in my thoughts.  They...weren’t bad...not at first. I just couldn’t shut it down,” he explained.  He felt a protective hand on the back of his head and his own head crushing against his chest.  “I’m...messed up.”

 

Victor pressed his cheek against the top of Yuuri’s head and held onto him.  Finally, he broke the silence that settled between them. “How can I help?”

 

Can you help?  Can you shut down the noise?  Yuuri pulled back just out of his reach and the way Victor’s arms stretched out to him for a moment, he knew Victor didn’t want to let him go.  “I-I don’t know! If I knew, I wouldn’t be like this.”

 

Another sound came from the front.  “That would be Ciao Ciao,” Victor said quietly.

 

The coach’s steady feet closed in on the pair as they waited.  He looked from one to the other but then his eyes rested on Yuuri.  “I think...it’s time we talk.”

 

Yuuri nodded, he knew this was a conversation a long time coming.  He had been unraveling bit by bit, day by day, all in full view of those who knew him best.  Glancing over at Victor, he murmured, “We’ll talk later. You need to see to your guest.”

 

He felt Victor’s eyes on him as he stepped off the ice and put on his guards.  He picked up his trainers on the way back to the coach’s office. Inside the small room, door closed to keep out the world, he sat quietly working loose the knots on his skates, sliding them off then removing the sweat dampened nylons.  The coach raised an eyebrow at the lack of tape but said nothing. Methodically he removed the guards, setting them next to the chair with the opening faced down, then began toweling off his blades and leather. Reaching for his running shoes and dry socks, he slid them on and tied them off.  Finally, he looked up at the coach.

 

“You need to see Dr. Bishop.”  It was a statement of fact, not a challenge.  The coach watched the boy consider the words.

 

Yuuri scratched at his arm but didn’t disagree.  “It’s...hard to go back,” he finally whispered. “I’ve been gone so long.  Everything she’s done for me has...gone away.”

 

“Then you start all over again,” the coach stated.

 

“After all of her work...to throw it in her face…”

 

The coach cut him off knowing that line of talk would get them nowhere.  “Why did you stop? Did she make you...uncomfortable? Is it like Kass?”

 

Yuuri shook his head vehemently.  “I just...she thought I needed meds again.”

 

Celestino sighed as he thinned his lips.  “Yuuri...it will always be your choice whether or not you go on medications.  You know this. But you can’t continue like this. You’re going to break apart.  I’m genuinely worried and I don’t think I’m the only one.”

 

Yuuri shrugged.  He knew all of his friends had been watching him closely.  He knew Jules was very concerned with what she knew...and she knew pretty much everything.  Victor...knew a lot of what was going on but there were still secrets. He didn’t press, just waited on Yuuri to open up about them.  However, his coaches direct approach still surprised him. “I...I’ll think about it.”

 

“Yuuri…” the coach’s exasperation came out in that one word.  It was almost as if it became synonymous with his name. Yuuri = exasperation .

 

The skater’s shoulders pulled inward.  “I hear you, Coach. Really. I just...not yet.  I can’t.”

 

The coach studied him and then decided with a shrug, why not ask.  “Why?”

 

Yuuri bit his lower lip, chewing it while his fingers pulled at one another.  He knew all of his anxiety ticks, could catalog them one by one. One look at his nails would tell anyone who knew him well enough how on edge he’d been of late.   Why...because I don’t have the fucking money.  I don’t have the resources other people have. My parents’ business could be failing and then what?  I’m the selfish son who left them and chased after my dreams. I’m the drunk bastard whose slept with too many people to keep count.  Well, maybe not too many to count...but I can’t remember them all. I’m ugly and unlovable...and broke. Even with an extra $900, it’s not enough.  I don’t know why Victor is with me. He’d be better off with someone else. I’m falling apart inside...how can I help him?

 

“I...don’t know,” he said quietly into the air.  His eyes were all over the place, however, and he could hear the frustrated sigh from his coach.  “I will...call her...soon. I just can’t...not right now.”

 

“If you’d let someone help you…”

 

“No!  I’ve got this.  I just need time.”  He held his coach’s eyes, determined.

 

The coach knew that face, knew they wouldn’t get anywhere except in a fight.  Finally, he waved off the student. “Fine...but I’m here if you change your mind.”

 

Yuuri left his coach’s office to go home and get ready for the day.  He had a package to mail and class to attend. Still, the noise persisted.  It followed him home. It tormented him as he dropped off the box, reminding him it wasn’t enough.  It tugged at his attention in class. He was horrible company so he made himself scarce.

 




Victor didn’t see Yuuri all morning.  He missed the brunette when he brought Yura to the rink to pass time practicing while he was in class.  Their paths didn’t cross all morning, even at their normal meeting places. He was worried, and when he bumped into Phichit and Devryn, it came through in his voice as he asked, “Have you seen Yuuri?”

 

They exchanged glances before shaking their heads.  Phichit placed a hand on Victor’s arm and added, “Sometimes he just needs a little space.  He’ll avoid places where he knows he’ll run into familiar people. He’ll look for quiet spots...even if it’s quiet amidst the noise.  When his anxiety is pushing hard, he draws into himself.”

 

“He was at the rink when I woke up this morning.  I ran down and talked with him. When Coach Celestino showed up, they went into his office to talk.”

 

Phichit met Devryn’s eyes.  The American spoke quietly. “He has his demons and sometimes they are ugly...sneaky bastards.  They tear him down. He...can say the most horrible things the worst of which is directed at himself.  I’ve watched him fall apart more times than I can remember...and I’ve seen him tear himself down further.  This is life with Yuuri.” Devryn looked up sympathetically to the older man, “Are you...ready for this?”

 

Victor shrugged.  “Ready or not, I’m all in.  I just...we were fine...last night.  I don’t know what happened, if I did something…”

 

Devryn shook his head reaching out to the Russian.  “Don’t go down that path. I can tell you from experience...it’s rarely something you did.  Yuuri...he can’t shut it out. Do I think he needs meds? Absolutely. But until he thinks he needs them, it’s not going to do any good.  We can help if he has a panic attack...but when he’s spiraling like this, we wait for him to let us in.”

 

Victor exhaled, defeated.  “I just have to...let it happen?”

 

Phichit nodded quietly.  “Until he’s ready for help, there is nothing we can do.”

 




At the rink, Victor distracted himself with his work.  He put Verity and Angela through their paces. Both girls were working out ideas for their free skates as well.  Then he focused on the blonde. “Yura,” he said softly as the young man stood in front of him. “I know you come in loud and brass...I want to help you to find the quiet within you.  This song...it’s called Saturn .  Listen with me.”  He pressed play as the blonde closed his eyes. As the song concluded, he handed the control to Yuri.  “Now watch me.”

 

Moving into position he waited for the youth to restart the music.  He then began working through the hypnotic program, the soft music echoing like a song vibrating out of one’s soul seeking a fire burning within.  Its soft build invited the ebbs and flows of the program. Yura, you are so brave, so courageous...you flew halfway around the world for me to teach you this program, but it’s you that taught me courage.  I want everyone to see the beauty of your courage, to see what I see in your fight. I hate that I have to be so far from you, that I can’t be there for you and watch you grow up...but I can give you this.  A song that embraces the rarity and the beauty that is you. Don’t let them take it from you.

 

As he drew to a close, the blonde stood still and Victor could see him analyzing the program.  He was a rare star, a once in a lifetime burst...and Victor didn’t want to see him burn up in the horizon.  “What do you think?”

 

Green eyes lifted to meet his.  “I didn’t think you’d have something ready for me.  I thought you forgot.”

 

Victor shook his head.  “I didn’t forget...I just wasn’t sure how I was going to deliver it to you.  I know I’m here...but that’s just a call, a video, a text message away. I just can’t be...there.”

 

Yuri nodded to the rail and said, “Because of him.”  The green eyes darted across the rink to a distance door opening on the other side.

 

Victor lifted his eyes, following the gaze, and finally found the one he watched out for all day, offering a soft reassuring smile before returning to the blonde and shaking his head.  “No...because of me. I spent a lifetime being what everyone else wanted me to be...it’s time for me to be myself again.”

 

Yuri huffed, “You can’t be yourself in Russia?”

 

Victor shook his head.  “Sometimes you have to shake free of all that’s familiar to find what you lost.”

 

The little blonde dropped his angry eyes, staring into the foggy reflection of himself on the ice.  “Will I have to leave some day?” Yura drew himself in becoming smaller.

 

Victor tilted his head, his eyebrows furrowing in confusion.  “Why would you?”

 

The blonde shrugged.  “Because I’m like you...will they make me leave?  I have my grandpa! I can’t leave him!”

 

Victor closed his eyes.   Why didn’t I see that coming?   Pulling the boy into his arms, feeling the stiffness of those shoulders before they settled against him, he murmured against his head, “No, Yura...you don’t have to take the same path I took.  Maybe one day, you can be open about your true nature. Hate can’t win forever. But...be safe. You will find your own path.”

 

The blonde pulled back and sighed.  “It’s not like I have anyone right now.”

 

“I didn’t either...for a long time,” Victor murmured.

 

Green eyes rested on Yuuri with a frown.  “Why...him?”

 

“Because he made me feel again,” Victor answered quietly.  “I know you were angry with him at Sochi.”

 

Yuri kicked the ice, small shard flying from the toe pick.  “I hated to see him fail...I hated to see him give up.”

 

Victor pursed his lips, if I knew then what I know now maybe I could have helped…  “There was a lot going on...I think there still is.  But...he’s still fighting.”

 

The blonde pursed his lips and nodded sharply.  “Will you go back through the choreography again?  I want to record it so I can study it.”

 

“Of course.”  Then it was back to work, Victor showing him the beautiful movements of Saturn, personifying the quiet courage.   Sure, Yura is loud and bold and in your face...most of the time.  But his courage is the strongest when he settles into that quiet.

 




Yuuri watched them work and couldn’t help but smile as he watched the man before him gather the youth to his chest into a hug.   Why did I doubt your strength?  Is it so wrong for us to be lost together?  Perhaps we can find our way in one another’s arms.

 

Victor skated to his side after demonstrating once more to the blonde.  Yura began working through the big idea of the program while Victor leaned back against the rail.  “I missed you today,” he murmured.

 

Yuuri ducked his head, a little guilty at leaving Victor in the dark for so long.  “I couldn’t quiet my thoughts. I went to class and then found a place to dance.”

 

“You went to Jules,” Victor stated and Yuuri could hear the slight jealousy in his voice.


The younger man smirked as he slipped his arms around Victor’s neck, leaning over to whisper in his ear, “No, Vitya...not Jules.  I have other places I hide.”

 

“Will you show me sometime?” he asked breathless leaning into Yuuri’s arms.

 

“Perhaps,” he answered with laughing eyes.

 

“Are you better now?”

 

Yuuri eyed the ice, busy with skaters, “Enough...to get through this.  Unfortunately, I can’t just turn it off.”

 

Victor sighed but it was different than Celestino’s frustration.  Tipping his head back to see Yuuri better, he said quietly, “I hear you, I feel your struggle.”  After a moment, he added, “I have for some time. Will you...join me on the ice after everyone leaves this evening?”

 

“Ummm, sure,” Yuuri responded with curiosity.  He was then called into his own practice and could only catch glimpses of Victor from afar working with three students.  He knew the man had his hands full and didn’t want to be a distraction. Besides, he had his own work to do. Once more, he dove into the Express choreography.  Something...was off...an emotion, probably his anxiety.  He pushed through but couldn’t quite get the right feeling for it.  Then it was weight lifting and Yuuri was left thinking that he couldn’t wait until he was allowed four hour practices again.

 




Six came and people were heading home.  Phichit offered to take Yuri with him to dinner with Devryn.  It was just pizza with a few other rink buddies but the Thai man knew his best friend wouldn’t eat.  In fact, his last words to Victor before they left were “Make sure he eats.”

 

Yuuri tied on his skates and began working lazy circles around the rink as he watched Victor.  The older man’s gaze rested on him thoughtful. “Have you found your free skate, yet?”

 

“Nope...nothing is ringing true for me.  I did consider something this morning but...I don’t think I can skate to it.  Not yet. It’s too raw.” He drew to a stop before Victor, and lifted up brown eyes naked with emotion to meet Victor’s.  The older man could see the pain he was traversing in his thoughts. “Why?”

 

“I have another piece of choreography...I thought I’d share it with you if you don’t mind.”

 

“You...choreographed something for me?” Yuuri stated, his eyes wide.

 

Victor chuckled.  “Don’t sound so surprised.  I’ve been working on it for a couple of weeks.  You may have seen me on the ice working through it.  Do you want to see it?”

 

Yuuri nodded eagerly.  “Yes, of course!”

 

Victor couldn’t help but smile at the eagerness in Yuuri’s voice.  He found the song on his phone and connected it to the sound system.  “This song...it came to me after a conversation we had. If it’s not right for you, I understand...but Express ...it is such blatant confidence.  This...is the opposite.” He pressed play and the song Unsteady began to play.

 

Yuuri skated up to him his, lips parted as he listened, the orchestra version vibrating through him.  Then his face changed in expression and Victor worried as he saw tears but they were mixed in with a smile.  “This...I needed this today, Vitya,” he murmured, his hand going around to rest on the back of Victor’s neck.  “You see me.”

 

“Always,” he whispered.  Victor wrapped his arms around Yuuri and they slowly swayed to the music.  The choreography would come later. He had it down. For now, he would hold Yuuri...hold him together if needed...this is what Yuuri needed.   I love you, my Yuuri.

 

Breaking apart, he backed up across the ice and called out, “Maybe later, on down the road, we can do a pairs version.”

 

Yuuri laughed.  “I’ve got to get through my free before I can think about an exhibition,” he called back.  Then Victor nodded and Yuuri hit play once again.

 

In the initials strands, Victor showed the shakiness of his emotion.  Beginning with an open stance he pushed forward, arms opening slowly from his side, then slowly taking a knee in a forward lunge.  He stretched his hands over his head, taking them slowly down as he rose and looked around the audience, as if asking for them, inviting them in.  Then the orchestra kicked in and he worked through the step sequence. Power pulls working into backwards loops, intricate and difficult, showing how close to the edge this song, the artist was.   Just as I saw you last night, My Yuuri, dancing on the blades, holding onto the edge.   How much this was like Stammi Vicino .  Power and loneliness combined to create a narrative of a man lost in himself, searching and reaching out.  Bending his body into a forward spiral he broke the sequence, dropping his chest to his knee and performing a perfect Charlotte.   You will make this heartbreaking.  So pained and beautiful they won’t be able to look away.   But so different, too.  This was Yuuri’s cry and his needs were very different from Victor’s.

 

As Victor drew to a close in the final cry for help, he lifted his arms up out of the spin reaching towards the other.   Center yourself on me, Yuuri.  I know I have a lot to learn, but I want to be there for you.

 

It was free of jumps, still in the choreography stage but the story was there.  Skating to Yuuri’s side, he asked softly, “What do you think?”

 

Yuuri was blinking away his tears.  “I am still trying to get my head around the idea that you created this...for me.”

 

Victor’s eyes shown from the exercise and something more.  “Of course I’d make something beautiful for you, my Yuuri.”

 

Yuuri’s doubt climb up into him, trying to ruin this moment.  “I don’t even know if I can pull off Express .  Not again.  It was done in such desperation.  I wanted...you to see me. I knew you were saying goodbye even if the others didn’t see it.”

 

Victor reached out, taking a hand, “I saw you...way before then.  But...it was amazing. And I know you can find that place once more.  I’m here and I’ll help you.”

 

Yuuri attempted to pull the hand out of Victor’s grasp, it was a half-hearted attempt, one he was glad that Victor refused to give in to.  “You already have so much on your plate...I can’t add more.”

 

“Yura will be gone soon and I’ve already received permission from Ciao Ciao to work with you.  If...you want me to…” He left the offer hanging in the air.

 

Yuuri nodded, not trusting his words, wrapping his arms around him and burying his tears into Victor’s chest.  He felt strong arms around him supporting him. “Thank you.”

 

“Of course, my Yuuri.  Whatever you need,” he answered  and Yuuri felt the press of a kiss into his hair.  “Let’s go home, now. We need to find something to eat.”

 

Yuuri laughed.  “Just the two of us?”

 

“It looks that way.  Phichit and Devryn kidnapped the kitten.”

 

“Maybe we can just make sandwiches or a salad and go for a walk with the dogs.”

 

Victor breathed a little easily at that, finally a battle won against the monster that plagued his Yuuri.  “That...sounds perfect.”

Chapter Text


 

Make You Feel My Love

 

Yuuri sat curled up next to Victor, reading his psychology notes.  Victor had his computer on a TV tray and his book on his lap. In the background, Star Trek TNG played on the television.  Victor paused at some point, studying Picard thoughtfully.  “Yuuri, would you still want me if I were bald?”

 

“Dr. X and Captain Picard seem to make it work for them,” Yuuri answered him absently.

 

“Yuuuriiii, that’s the same actor,” Victor whined.

 

Yuuri sighed, setting his phone aside to focus on the man sitting next to him.  “Okay...how about Derek Morgan from Criminal Minds or Victor Zsasz from Gotham ?”

 

Victor frowned thoughtfully.  “Derek Morgan isn’t bad looking.  But...what about me?”

 

Yuuri tilted his head aside thoughtfully.  “We could shave your head and see.”

 

Victor’s eyes widened as his hands covered his hair protectively.  “You! Wouldn’t! Dare!”

 

The Japanese man snorted in laughter even as the door opened to their apartment admitting Phichit, Yuri, and Devryn.  “Hey, you two...I have left over pizza!”

 

Yuuri groaned.  “I don’t think I can eat pizza...no greasy foods.”

 

Victor smiled warmly.  “We ate grilled chicken salads, Phichit.  Thank you, though.”

 

Phichit broke the pizza up in threes.  “That’s okay...we’ll give Yuri the full college breakfast experience...cold pizza.”  He handed one container to Devryn. “You take this for yourself, honey.” Tipping up on his toes, he gave him a quick kiss on his cheek, brushing over the point of contact with his thumb.

 

The other man smiled, resting his forehead against Phichit’s bangs.  “Will I see you tomorrow?”

 

“You could walk me to class,” he suggested a hopeful tease in his voice.  “And maybe...a study date?”

 

Devryn tipped back, taking in the man before him, “Come over around six...bring your stuff and you can sleep over.”

 

The dark gray eyes sparkled, “You’ve got a date!”  

 

A quick smooch on the lips and Devryn was waving to the rest of the crew.  “Good night, all.”

 

Yuri headed down the hall to shower, worn and quiet.  Victor watched the youth curiously before turning to Phichit.  “Who was that and what did you do with my angsty teen?”

 

“We ate pizza and played lazer tag.  He’s just exhausted.” Phichit plopped on the couch next to Victor and smiled knowingly.  “I have three younger siblings. The best thing to do is tire them out so they crash early.”

 

Victor sighed.  “I bow to the master.  You’re not only a Yuuri whisperer, but a Yuri whisperer!”

 

“Hey!” the brunette beside him protested.

 

“Hush now, darling.  You have studying to do,” Victor admonished teasingly.

 

“You weren’t doing too bad earlier with him,” his boyfriend murmured quietly.

 

Victor leaned his cheek into Yuuri’s hair with a quiet hum.  “Sometimes he lets his walls down. The rest of the time, thorns and prickles.”

 

Yuuri thought about the child, the life the boy led back in Russia, the loneliness he would feel without Victor there for him.  “I noticed...he has a soft side. It’s just buried deep.”

 

Victor chuckled, “And reserved for cats.”

 

Yuuri smirked.  “Good thing I took him to the shelter with me.”

 

Victor sat up and took the brown eyes in his gaze, “You saved me!  I don’t think I ever thanked you for that.”

 

Phichit looked up from his computer and added, “The kid’s a hard worker.  He had the entire cattery in order by the time we finished the kennels. He even organized it to run more efficiently.”

 

They fell into silence after that focusing on their studies.  Yura joined them after his shower now dressed in leopard print pajamas.  Yuuri studied him for a moment then shook his head.  Not the same kind of extra as Victor, that’s for sure.  But just as extra all the same.

 

Snuggling up to Victor’s designer pajamas with his Walmart shorts and tee, Yuuri knew they were from different worlds.  Victor hummed softly as he continued to study. Yura played on his 3DS and Phichit was focused on his programming assignment.  Yuuri didn’t know when he drifted off until he felt a gentle shift of his body. Blinking open he realized Victor had scooped him up and was carrying him down the hall.

 

“Vitya!” he cried out in a panic, his arms clinging around Victor’s neck.  It’s not like it was the first time he’d been carried but it startled Yuuri just the same.  However, by the time they reached Yuuri’s room, he had settled into Victor’s arms comfortably and allowed the older man to situate him in bed.  “Are you joining me?”

 

He nodded, nuzzling into Yuuri, their lips finding one another easily in kisses.  “My Yuuri,” he murmured even as he settled his body next to the younger man. The younger man slid his fingers through his silver hair, his touch tender and loving.  Their kisses deepened as Victor’s hands smoothed down the Yuuri’s back.

 

A soft moan slipped out of Yuuri’s throat just before Victor broke the kiss.  Yuuri knew his lover had hit his limit. Snuggling closer to him, he tucked up under the older man’s chin.   Vitya...my sweetheart...what has you so locked down?  What is the key to open you up?

 




Tuesday Victor and Yuri found themselves fighting one another so Yuuri took the younger man off of Victor’s hands and to the ballet studio.  “Why did you do that?” the blonde asked.

 

Yuuri laughed in response.  “It’s not like you were accomplishing anything.  Sometimes we just need a change of pace.”

 

“So you’re taking me to your ballet instructor?  I have Madame Lilia when I return home,” he pointed out with a huff.

 

Yuuri smiled holding the door open for the blonde as they passed out of the rink and into the larger section of the building.  “Perhaps but for now, you can use my studio. And I currently don’t have a class until evening.”

 

Incredulous green eyes darted to him.  “You...you’re a ballet teacher?”

 

“Yes...I double majored in dance and psychology.  I’m doing a study on dance therapy for the coming semester.  But I’ve studied under my own award winning ballet instructor for years...since I was four...maybe five.  I think it was four, though.” Yuuri unlocked the doors and led him inside. He wasn’t surprised to see Jules working in a private session with Lola.

 

“Hey, Yuuri,” Lola called out.  Yuuri could see she wanted to talk but knew better than to blurt out certain subjects in front of people she didn’t recognize.

 

“One minute, Lola, Jules,” he responded.  Turning to the blond, he pointed to the studio at the end of the hall.  “Get changed and meet me in there.” Crossing the room, he watched Lola dip into a deep stretch.  “What’s up?”

 

“I need someone to cover my Thursday shift.  I have family coming in and my little sister is too young to take to the club.”

 

Yuuri took a step back, pulling at the hem of his sleeve.  “Oh...ummm...that’s college night.”

 

Lola stepped forward, only a half step, she knew what could scare him off and she was in no position to risk this.  “I know...not as good on tips but the door makes up for it. I’m in a pinch and I know you haven’t been able to dance.  Will you do it?”

 

Yuuri flicked his eyes up at Jules who shrugged then thinned his lips.  With a determined nod, he agreed. “Nine o’clock set?”

 

Lola visibly relaxed, “Yes...make sure Jules updates you on the show.”

 

Yuuri turned, his shoulders a little hunched.  “Will do...thanks, Lola.”

 

“No problem.  Just glad to see you on your feet again.”

 

With a wave, he moved from the open studio into the private space.  Yuri was already stretching. “Sorry about that.”

 

The teen grunted in response.  “So what’s the plan?”

 

Pull yourself together.  Don’t reveal anything to him.   Yuuri raised an eyebrow and stated calmly, “We can stretch it out or I can work with you on your choreo.”

 

The blond nodded, “Can we do both?  I need the stretch but sometimes working with Victor on choreo is a pain in the ass.  He doesn’t always use words to communicate ideas.”

 

“Have you seen the music video for Saturn?”  The blonde shook his head. “It’s breathtaking and there’s a use of fire that is interesting.”  Yuuri pulled it up on his phone and handed it over.  The youth studied the imagery while Yuuri stretched out on the barre.  Once it finished, Yura remained still, contemplative as he considered the idea of the song.  Then Yuuri set it on repeat in his speakers. Guiding the youth through the movements, he helped him to develop the emotion.

 

After the fifth repetition, the boy collapsed onto the floor, his arms spread out.  “Madame Lilia would like you. You’re relentless.”

 

Yuuri chuckled as he sat down next to the boy, his ankles drawn in to butterfly out his knees.  “I’ve always had to work hard for everything...nothing has ever been given to me.”

 

Yuri was silent for a moment, feeling out what he would say before committing to it.  “I get that. My family don’t have money either, which makes skating pretty difficult.”  He shot those green eyes at Yuuri, appreciating the nod. We’re alike in this, at least.  “For a while we could make it work, but then I got good…and the bills doubled, tripled.  I thought I would have to quit. But then Victor helped me to get some sponsorships. He’s an asshole but he does good shit like that.”

 

Yuuri chewed his lip, watching the boy in front of him.  “He offered...to help me out. I am just so used to making my own way.”

 

Yuri sat up, doubling at the waste with his hands on soles of his feet, pulling his toes forward to stretch his lower back.  “I remember performing in hand-me-down made over skate costumes my first couple of years in juniors. Once, my armpit tore, right on the ice, I got a deduction for it.  This last year was the first time I had new outfits. I wouldn’t have that if it weren’t for Victor.” He squirmed a little in position, eyes focused on his own toes, “I just hate that he’s here.  I thought...you know, I’d get to skate against his ass.”

 

Yuuri shrugged, thinking of what a terrific competition it would to watch these two beautiful performers skate against each other.  “I know what you mean...I miss seeing him compete on the ice. He has his reasons.”

 

“He was already burning out before he left.”  Yuri sat up, stretching into a straddle split on the floor, not one to sit still.  “We could all see it. Like the fire was going out in him. He’s better...now. I think one reason Yakov let me come here was to check on him.”

 

Yuuri searched the boy’s face as the mention of the older coach.  “Victor said he hadn’t talked to Yakov much since arriving.”

 

Slender shoulders shrugged, and Yuuri watched as the little green eyes rolled in lack of surprise.  “Try at all...he cut himself off from everyone. That’s why Yakov was worried. Victor hides it well but he still has his issues.”

 

The older skater felt sad that while he was trying to reach Victor so many others were as well.  “I think...we both have our issues. What about you? How are you doing?”

 

The blond shrugged.  “I skate and keep an eye out for my grandpa.  I wish he’d come to St. Petersburg, though. He doesn’t want to leave the old neighborhood.”

 

“Sofu, my grandfather, is the same.  He said at least he knows where everything is on a bad day.”  When Yuri looked at him curiously, he added, “Dementia. But he’s lived a long life.  I have several aunts and uncles that check on him. My dad is the youngest.” He then laughed.  “Mom says you can tell. She’s the oldest of her siblings.”

 

“I just have Grandpa.  I know...there are others.  But they’ve moved on. I moved in with him when my mom died in a car accident.”

 

“I’m so sorry, Yura,” the older man responded, his eyes wide, his hands unconsciously drawn to his heart.

 

The youth shrugged.  “I was six. I just remember growing up with Grandpa.  I managed to keep taking skating and dance lessons. Mama had a little money left to me and we used it to keep me going.”

 

“Did your mother skate?”

 

Yuri nodded.  “I don’t know my Papa.  Mama never talked about him.  She’d say it was just the two of us...and Grandpa.  She retired from competitive skating by the time I came along but she still did shows.  I guess Yakov kept an eye on me after she was killed because he sent for me after I was old enough to study under him.”

 

Yuuri studied the boy again, there was so much to know about this person.  “That had to be hard, though...Victor said you were very young.”

 

“Nine...but I still saw my Grandpa regularly.  It’s...a bit less now.” The boy sighed hugging his knees to his chest.  “He’s so stubborn.”

 

“He wouldn’t want you to give up your dreams for him,” Yuuri said softly.

 

The boy sucked back a sob and buried his head into his arms.  “I know…”

 

Yuuri frowned as he moved closer sliding his hand up and down Yura’s back.  When his walls crumbled, Yura fell apart. But Yuuri knew he’d come back together stronger.  He knew the resolve that propelled the boy forward. He knew it personally from deep inside.

 

They stopped at the corner market on the way home to get the things Yura needed for piroshkis.  “My grandpa makes these and sells them to the neighbors. I’m not quite as good but they should hold together.”

 

The brunette smiled warmly.  Since Yuuri took his side on that first night and helped him get settled in, the blonde took right up with him.  He still spat and fussed from time to time, but he was much more agreeable. And there was something...almost protective between the two of them.

 

They arrived home and Yuuri helped the youth in the kitchen , watching him prepare the dough to rise.  Yura was very particular about the fineness of the vegetable cuts.  Taking out a large saute pan, he added olive oil while he directed the older man.

 

Yuuri willingly chopped or washing what was necessary, taking direction with ease.  “I grew up in a ryokan onsen but really, it was the restaurant and my mother’s cooking that drew the customers,” Yuuri told him.

 

“What’s a ryokan onsen?” Yura asked curiously.

 

“An inn built around a hot spring...sort of a resort but not very fancy.  There are some closer to the cities that are nicer but we kept ours traditional.”

 

The youth was interested but kept his eyes locked on the pan in front of him. “Do they do well?  Your parents, that is?”

 

Yuuri sighed at the thought.  “It’s seasonal,” he began. “Sometimes they do well...other times, my sister is picking up extra shifts at my ballet teacher’s bar to make money.”

 

“Your ballet teacher has a bar?” Yuri asked.

 

“Of course she has a barre...how can you teach ballet without a barre?” Yuuri teased.

 

It took a moment before Yuri realized what the older man was saying and he gave a healthy eyeroll in response.  He then showed Yuuri how to split the dough and roll it out. “You’ve got a decent kitchen,” he commented.

 

“Well, both Phichit and I enjoy cooking.”

 

“Be honest...how bad of a disaster was Victor when he started cooking,” the teen pressed with a mischievous glint in his green eyes.

 

Yuuri laughed and glanced towards the hallway that led to Victor’s room.  He was studying and closed the door for quiet. Leaning in conspiratorially, he said, “We came home to a house full of smoke.  Our neighbor threatened to turn Phichit and me in for neglect!”

 

Yuri chortled at that.  “I knew it!” They continued to make the rolls, adding in the filling and pinching the dough closed before moving to the next.  Then they started to deep fry them. “This would be beyond him at this point but...he’s doing good with you. I have to admit I expected him to be pretty helpless.”

 

Yuuri warmed, he had hoped he was taking good care of Victor.  “Someone just had to take the time to show him. But he’s sharp and he picks things up quickly once he’s been taught.”

 

“Not surprising.”  Yuri took a glance around the kitchen, making sure there was no trace of silver hair.  “Don’t tell him I said this...but he’s brilliant...so of course I wanted him to choreograph my senior debut.  Besides...he promised.”

 

Yuuri grinned.  “I’m glad you came so he could get it to you.  It’s a beautiful program.”

 

“I like what he has the girls doing.  He used to work with Mila. She’s jealous I’m here.”

 

“Did she want to come, too?”

 

“Da...but he’s already choreographed something for her.  It’s my turn.”

 

“I think he’s glad to be able to do this...and you bring a bit of home to him.”

 

The younger skater was quiet a moment, “Is he okay, though?”

 

Yuuri considered the man down the hall.  “It was a little rocky at first, but I think he’s found his place.”

 

The blond head bobbed in a sharp nod. “Yakov was worried about him.”

 

As they set the piroshkis out, Yuuri called the other two men to the bar.  Victor took the first bite and closed his eyes, pure enjoyment was written on his face.  “Vkusno!” he declared as his mouth widened into a grin.

 

Yura turned to Yuuri with a challenge.  “Now you owe me your favorite meal.”

 

“How about Friday?”

 

The youth grinned in agreement.

 





Yuuri stood outside the stage entrance of the club getting a breath of fresh air before returning to the dressing room.  Jules was waiting for him and she leaned in to help with his makeup giving him a reassuring smile. “It’ll be fine.”

 

Yuuri made a face.  Thirsty Thursday meant more chance of someone recognizing him.  “Make sure the makeup is solid.”

 

Jules cocked an eyebrow and finished the work on his face, “I’ve done some contouring.  They won’t recognize you, sweetheart. Just go dance and enjoy yourself.”

 

Yuuri went with her to peer into the crowd.  “So many sorority girls,” he moaned.

 

Jules smirked next to him, “It’s not like you hang out with sorority girls.  At best, they saw you in class…”

 

“Andreia is in a sorority,” Yuuri interrupted.   Please don’t be here.  He returned to the dressing room and took a shot.  His hand still shook so he reached for another.

 

“Yuuri,” Jules said in warning.

 

“I’ll be fine,” he reassured her.  Jules knew better.

 

By the end of the night, Yuuri was feeling too good as Jules dragged him out to her car.  Most of the makeup had been removed in the dressing room and she didn’t have the energy to wrestle him up to her room for additional clean up.  “What I do for you!” she grumbled. They arrived at the boys’ apartment and she caught a familiar thatch of silver hair near the dog park. “You’re boyfriend is waiting for you.”

 

Victor spotted Jules struggling to get Yuuri out.  He secured the dogs in the fence before heading over to help her out.  “Oh, Yuuri…”

 

“I tried to stop him, Victor,” Jules defended.  Victor met her eyes with concern. He didn’t ask where they were at and she could appreciate the trust he had in the younger man.

 

Victor helped Yuuri stand.  He looked at Jules, “Thanks for bringing him back home.  If I’m not out here, you can always call me. I...can’t sleep when he’s out.”

 

She sighed in resignation.  “I understand…” Looking over at the dog park, she asked, “Can I at least help you with the dogs?”

 

“Yes...thank you.”  Victor supported Yuuri while Jules gathered the dogs and followed him upstairs.  Thankfully the elevator was working. Down the hall, he unlocked the door and shouldered his way in.  At least Yura was asleep. Phichit, however, was not.

 

“Peach!” Yuuri slurred.

 

“Oh, Yuuri,” the younger man huffed.  “We got this, Jules. Thanks.”

 

“Sorry,” she said softly before stepping out the door.

 

Phichit led the way to the bathroom and set the taps a bit on the cold side.  The two of them wrestled Yuuri out of his clothes. Victor was cautious to avert his eyes but Phichit caught sight of the glitter on his body even in the dim bathroom lighting.  Yuuri gave a cry in protest to the cold water and both of the other men shushed him. “Yura’s sleeping!” Phichit hissed.

 

Yuuri’s eyes widened and he nodded exaggerated.  He came out of the shower shivering as Victor wrapped him in an oversized towel.  “I’ve got it from here, Phichit. Go to sleep.”

 

“Are you sure?”  The Thai man looked on with concern for his friend.

 

Victor nodded, his mouth set in a grim line.  “Yeah...go.” He led Yuuri down the hall and set him on the edge of the bed while he went through Yuuri’s drawers.  He found a pair of underwear and shorts and took them to the younger man. “Put these on.”

 

Yuuri fumbled around with the two articles of clothes but finally managed to get dressed.  He then pulled his knees to his chest and it took a moment for Victor to realize the tears coming from Yuuri’s shivering form.  Reaching for a fuzzy blanket, he wrapped it around the younger man. “What’s wrong, lyubov moya ?”

 

Yuuri sniffed.  “I need help...I don’t know what to do.”

 

Victor pulled him into his arms, affected by the younger man’s vulnerability.  “We can make you an appointment with your psychiatrist tomorrow if you want.”

 

“But...I’m still behind.  How am I going to make it up?  Even working tonight...it’s not enough.”

 

Victor knew Yuuri gave lessons.  He wondered if sometimes those lessons led to him going out with some of the other teachers.  “I can help you if you let me,” he said quietly.

 

Yuuri continued to sniff and Victor could feel him shaking.  He gently drew him into bed and tucked the blankets around him stretching out next to him from over the blankets.  Wrapping a protective arm around Yuuri, he kissed the damp hair.

 

Yuuri’s sobs were disarming.  “I...didn’t always want them...I just wanted the quiet.  And losing myself in another person...sometimes helped.” Yuuri sniffed against Victor’s chest and Victor continued to stroke his hair.  “I...never loved...because I always loved you. Always...since I laid eyes on you.”

 

Victor gasped at the confession.  “Back in Sochi?” Victor asked softly.

 

Yuuri shook his head.  “On TV...I was ten I think...I’ve chased after you for so long.  But you’re so much...better than me. You’re not all messed up. I...work so hard.  I just can’t quite reach you.”

 

Victor squeeze his eyes shut and kissed his forehead, smoothing his hair.  He didn’t know which was further from reality, the pedestal that Yuuri had placed him on or the gutter the man envisioned himself in.  “I’m right here, my Yuuri. And I’m not better...I’m just as messed up. I’m just better at hiding it.”

 

Yuuri sniffed and snuggled into Victor’s chest.  His hand sliding up to cup Victor’s cheek. Victor turned to kiss the palm before pressing a kiss into his hair once more.

 

“That’s right, love.  Sleep. We’ll talk more when you’re more aware.”  As the body finally stilled in his arms, he whispered, “I love you, too.”

Chapter Text


 

PANIC!

 

Yuuri woke up feeling safe and warm.  His eyes fluttered open and despite the low ebb of a headache, he knew he’d been taken care of throughout the night.  Reaching up to stroke Victor’s cheek, he let his eyes slide over the sleeping Russian. “I love you,” he whispered, the words coming out like a breath fluttering against Victor’s skin.  He watched the older man shift in response, not quite awake but slowly letting go of sleep. Then blue eyes fluttered open, followed by a smile that rivaled the beauty of dawn.

 

“My Yuuri...how are you this morning?” he murmured, his voice warm and inviting.

 

The younger man shrugged snuggling closer into his arms.  “A little fuzzy and achy...I don’t remember coming home but I know you took care of me.”

 

Victor brushed a kiss into his hair.  “You...had a few drinks, lyubov moya .  Jules brought you home.”

 

Yuuri closed his eyes feeling the guilt sink in.  “I’m sorry,” he breathed.

 

Victor’s cheek turned to rub into his hair.  “You told me last night you wanted help,” he murmured against the dark velvet of Yuuri’s hair.  “I just don’t know where you’re at with that now that you’re awake and aware.”

 

Yuuri stilled holding onto Victor as he processed those words.  “What else did I say?”

 

“Nothing too shocking, solnyshko .  Nothing I didn’t already know.”  Victor felt the body in his arms relax at the words and couldn’t help the thought slipping through... what are you hiding?  I trust you...but there is something you don’t want me to know.

 

“Coach talked to me earlier about going back to Dr. Bishop,” Yuuri said quietly.

 

“That’s your psychiatrist?” Victor confirmed.

 

Yuuri nodded against his chest.  “I know I need to go...I just can’t pull it all together.”

 

“Do you think maybe you are struggling to pull it together because of your anxiety?” Victor suggested.  “Perhaps by going, she can help you find the other answers you are seeking.”

 

Brown eyes shifted from Victor’s face, “Maybe…”

 

Victor kissed his hair before taking a breath and plunging in.  “I would be lying if I didn’t admit my concern about last night.  I want to help you work it out and not force you...but you admitted yourself that alcohol was a problem.”

 

“I know,” he responded and Victor felt him shrinking in his arms.

 

Victor quickly soothed him with kisses as the alarm went off.  “We have to get ready for the day. We can talk more later...for now, let’s shower and deal with the morning.”

 

Yuuri came out of the shower to find a plate with eggs and rice waiting for him along with two bottles of water and ibuprofen.  Phichit was talking animatedly with Victor and Yura and no one mentioned the condition in which he arrived home...although Yuuri was well aware that Phichit knew.  Phichit always knows. How the Thai man hadn’t yet figured out that Yuuri was dancing at the club was nothing short of a miracle. Yuuri took the medicine and downed the first water bottle before turning to his breakfast.  The ginger caused him to close his eyes in a mixture of pleasure and self-criticism. I don’t deserve ginger...but you cared enough to give it to me anyway.  You took care of me last night and you haven’t pressed me for where I’ve been.  Forget the ginger, I don’t deserve you.  He looked up catching the blue eyes and tender smile.  He could see the worry hidden behind that smile pinching his expression.  He knew that look. His mother, sister, friends...they all gave him that look.  It was a bitter pill to swallow that he was the cause of their pain and worry.

 





Victor walked with both Yu(u)ris towards the rink.  He wanted to get the blonde on track with his training before heading to class.  Yuuri wanted to relax on the ice and work out some of his nerves. Victor picked up on it and invited him along.  They had time. Yuuri typically did morning weights but a shift in schedule on this day might help.

 

Victor contemplated the previous night as Yura changed and Yuuri laced on his skates.  The man kept putting himself at risk knowing he had trouble controlling his alcohol intake.  But Victor couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something more driving Yuuri’s anxiety. Yes, he worried about money but what else was pushing his thoughts.

 

Yuuri warmed up on the ice then moved into the complexity of compulsory figures.  Focusing on the design he created, he began to recenter his thoughts and steady himself for the day.  Victor wondered what thoughts were going through his mind. Then Yura emerged demanding his attention.

 

A thought occurred to him and he smirked.  “When’s the last time you worked through compulsory figures?”

 

The boy huffed and muttered something about wasting my damned time on them plenty in juniors...

 

“What is it that stands out on Yuuri’s skating?” Victor pressed.

 

The green eyes focused on the solitary figure lost in himself on ice.  “His spins and his edges.” The head bobbed up sharp, “He’s got the best Lutz I’ve ever seen, it’s perfect.  If he can just get more height he’ll have a quad without question.”

 

“Those compulsory figures he’s carving into the ice...that’s why he can do the edgework he does.  That’s what I want you to work on while we are gone. Then get your off ice training in.”

 

Yuri smiled, glad that Victor appreciated Yuuri as much as he should.  “Too bad Yuuri is in class at the same time or I’d be able to get my ballet work in.”

 

“I’ll be before noon and we can practice a couple of hours before you go with Yuuri,” Victor placated.  The boy huffed and moved to step on the ice. He watched as the boy approached Yuuri and talked. He’s checking on what I said about figures.  Brat!

 




Yuuri hummed as he finished his core workout.  He only went through Express twice before Ciao Ciao called him off the ice.  It pissed him off but the coach knew his head wasn’t where it needed to be and sent him to work it out through basic training.   I’ll have to come on my own later.  I can’t ask Victor if wants to join me.  It’s Yura’s last night, they should spend as much time together as they can.

 

Yuuri looked up as the blonde flounced onto the floor next to him as he finished off the inclined sit ups.  Grabbing the stabilizer bar, he swung himself around and faced him. “So...what’s up?”

 

“I need ballet time.  Will you go with me?”

 

Yuuri smiled indulgently then shrugged.  “Might as well. It’s not like coach is letting me on the ice any more today.”

 

As they walked out of the gym, Yura asked, “Why is that?”

 

“He’s worked with me long enough to know when my anxiety is throwing me off.”  Yuuri frowned as they walked further, silence pounding into his skull. His eyes cast about but they didn’t truly see.  Thoughts were winding into his skull like worms. He knew better than to listen. Knowing didn’t fix it. He heard and it dug its way in.

 

“What’s that like?  Your anxiety.”

 

Yuuri blinked in surprise at the interruption of his silence.  Sighing and trying to find that patient place, Yuuri reminded himself that the kid was just trying to understand.  “It’s like...getting stuck in one place. Like if you get a song you hate stuck in your head and you can’t turn it off.”

 

Yuri frowned but nodded with sharp understanding.  He didn’t realize Yuuri had stopped suddenly until he was several paces away.  Turning, he spotted the man frozen on the spot staring at a woman approaching him.

 

“Yuuuriii!” she greeted.  The blonde instantly disliked her and while that was his normal preset he knew that this woman would not turn out to be one of the many times he was incorrect.

 

“Andreia,” Yuuri returned her greeting but the blonde could feel the distaste on the older man’s tongue.

 

She disregarded his discomfort and gushed on with her story.  “So I was out with my sorority sisters the last night and we went to this club.  Not my kind of thing normally, but Yuuri...there was this one dancer there that could be your doppelganger.  You wouldn’t happen to be moonlighting at Incognitos , would you?”  Somehow during her story she had moved impossibly close to the Japanese man.

 

Yuuri’s jaw stiffened and his voice almost became mechanical.  “I don’t know what you mean.”

 

“Well, I saw your old girlfriend.  The redhead. Then I saw him...and so hot the way he worked that pole.”  Yura practically gagged as she rolled the false charm on while emphasising ‘so’.  “Yuuri...why did you never show me those moves?” She slid her arm around Yuuri’s as she lowered her voice to a whisper.  Yuuri remained stiff.

 

The blonde looked from Yuuri to the woman.  With a frown, he raised an eyebrow and stated, “He clearly doesn’t want to talk to you so why don’t you just fuck off?”

 

She gasped, her eyes focusing on the Russian.  “Who are you? Yuuri, do you have a new boyfriend?  This one’s kind of young, don’t you think?”

 

Yura scoffed.  “Clueless bitch...can’t you tell the difference between a friend and a boyfriend?  Maybe that’s why you don’t have one. Fuck off.”

 

She turned to Yuuri and whined, “Are you going to let him talk to me like that?”  When Yuuri didn’t respond, she huffed and stomped off.

 

“What’s wrong with that bitch?” the blonde asked.  Yura turned back to the Japanese man and realized something was off.  “Yuuri? What’s wrong?” He seemed to be shutting down. Then Yura noticed the trembling and started to freak out.  The studio was a few steps away so he grabbed Yuuri’s hand and dragged him into the building.

 

Inside, he spotted Yuuri’s friend Jules.  “H-help!” he says, not sure what he needed.

 

The redhead stopped what she was doing immediately and ran to their side.  “What’s wrong?”

 

“I don’t know!  There was this nasty girl out there and then Yuuri just...stopped.”

 

“Okay, let’s get him into his practice studio.  Can you help me with that?” Her voice was calm and steadying and at least the teen felt like someone was in control.

 

In the studio, Jules started talking to him in a calming voice guiding him into a quieter place.  Reaching for his phone, she unlocked it and found a playlist. It began to play next to Yuuri as she guided him to lie down on his side.  A voice started talking through the music guiding him into a more meditative state.

 

“What’s wrong?” Yuri asks, fear still in his voice.

 

“You know Yuuri has anxiety,” she stated matter-of-factly.  The boy nodded and she continued. “Yuuri either responds to a high dose of anxiety with a panic attack or a shut down…”  She stood up and walked over to turn off the light, closing the door to reduce sensory load before she continued in a soft voice.  “When Yuuri’s spiraling, it’s taking him down a road of worst case scenarios. Yuuri told me once that it’s like his brain is on fire and he can’t shut it down.  So we worked through strategies to help him find a calm place.” She studied the figure curled up on his side. He looked so small as he stared into the darkness.

 

“I should tell Victor,” Yura stated.

 

Jules nodded in agreement.  “Why don’t you step out and contact him?”

 

Outside the room, Yuri took in a deep breath and released it.  A lot of thoughts assaulted him, including guilt as he remembered how he treated Yuuri at Sochi and now realizing that Yuuri couldn’t help it.  “I’m an ass,” he whispered even as he pulled out his phone.

 

Ice Tiger/ I’m at the studio.  You need to come here now.

 

Old Man/ What’s wrong?

 

Ice Tiger/ Your boyfriend had a panic attack...I think?  His friend is with him.

 

Old Man/ I’m on my way.  Thank you.

 




Inside the studio, Jules went back to Yuuri and began to card her fingers through his hair.  “Oh, Yuuri...do I need to call the ambulance?” She studied him and then saw a slight shake of his head.  He was coming out of it. “It’s okay...I’m here. Victor’s on his way. You’re safe.”

 

The silence stretched as Jules continued to card through his hair.  Finally, he spoke. “She saw me…”

 

Jules voice softened in concern.  “Who saw you, honey?”

 

“Andreia...she was there...last night,” he spit out hesitantly.

 

Jules frowned glad that Yuuri couldn’t see her at the moment.  I hope that bitch doesn’t make trouble.  To Yuuri, she said, “What do you want to do?”

 

“I...don’t know,” he answered.  Drawing a deep breath, he steadied his voice.  “I acted like I didn’t know what she was talking about.  I’m...not sure she believed me.”

 

Jules thinned her lips, her hands stilling as she considered his words.  She watched over him in worry as she leaned back against the wall and resumed stroking his hair while they waited.

 




Victor arrived and spotted Yura pacing back and forth outside Yuuri’s studio.  The blonde looked up as he walked in and ran up to him. “I didn’t know what to do so I brought him here.  It was closest.”

 

Victor could see the agitation in the boy.  Thankful he kept himself separate from Yuuri, the silverette asked, “What happened?”

 

“There was this bitch...I think her name was Andreia…”

 

Victor nodded, agreeing wholeheartedly that she’s a bitch.

 

“She saw him at some club...or thought she saw him and kept going on and on...it was like she was coming onto him.  I don’t know what was her deal. She even asked if he was dating me now.”

 

Victor frowned at the insinuation.  “Don’t worry about her...she just likes to make trouble.  She’s like Anya.” She must have spotted him when he was out with the other dance instructors last night.

 

Yura’s eyes widened then he nodded in understanding.  “Victor, I think...at Sochi, I think I walked in on him when he was having a panic attack.  I didn’t know, Victor. I...said such horrible things to him.”

 

Victor’s lips thinned as he pulled the boy to his chest.  Resting his cheek into the blond hair, he said softly, “It’s obvious that Yuuri’s not upset about it.  Just let it go. If it’s still bothering you later, you can apologize. But not now, okay?”

 

Yura nodded.  Victor let him go and moved to the door that separated him from Yuuri.  He opened it and slipped into the space standing still while his eyes adjusted.  He could hear the soft buzz of quiet conversation.

 

Victor approached Yuuri who lay on his side, his eyes closed.  Kneeling next to the younger man, he looked up to meet Jules eyes.  She motioned she’d be out in the hall and left them alone. Yuuri was quiet and Victor waited, taking up Jules’ post smoothing the brunette’s hair.  Then Yuuri moved suddenly and crawled into Victor’s lap burying his head into Victor’s neck and shoulder. “I’ve got you, my Yuuri. I’ve got you.”

 

Yuuri shook in his arms and Victor held onto him, speaking calming words until finally the younger man settled down.  Pulling back, Victor could see the glitter of tears in the semidarkness. The younger man whispered, “I’m sorry.”

 

Victor brushed a kiss onto his forehead.  “Never apologize for something you can’t help.”

 

“I pulled you away from the rink,” Yuuri argued, the guilt apparent in his voice.

 

Victor brushed another kiss into Yuuri’s hairline.  “It’s sort of my job...as Ciao Ciao’s assistant and all,” he pointed out with a teasing voice.

 

“Did you tell him?”  Yuuri blinked up at him, his eyes still wet with unshed tears.

 

Victor shook his head but thinned his lips.  “I will...he needs to know.”

 

Yuuri sighed before snuggling into his arms.  He clung to him a bit longer. “I think dating Andreia was my biggest mistake,” he finally whispered.

 

Victor internally sent hate in the ex-girlfriend’s direction for hurting his Yuuri.  “Bad pennies are like that,” Victor pointed out dryly.

 

Yuuri felt the laugh slip out unbidden.  Hiccupping, he laughed again. And Victor smiled into his hair as his body shook with the younger man.  Finally, Yuuri pulled himself together and murmured, “Thank you.”

 

“It’s where I belong,” Victor answered quietly.

 

Feeling more grounded, Yuuri slipped from Victor’s arms.  “Now I’m in kinks. Send Yura in. The least I can do is get us both stretched out properly.”  He stood, stretching upwards.

 

“Are you sure?” Victor asked with concern his hand sliding down the younger man’s arm but Yuuri just nodded.

 

Stepping out in the hall, he sent the blonde in before talking with Jules.  “I’m not going to ask you what he said to you. I know he has things he’s not ready to share yet.  But...I need to know. What do I do when Yuuri has a panic attack?”

 

Her eyes widened and then she nodded with thin lips.  “Oh, honey...you definitely need to know.” She then spent the next thirty minute sharing with him strategies that she and Yuuri had developed, what worked and what didn’t worked.  “The main thing is this...get him to a quiet place and cut the sensory overload down...that’s why I turn off the lights. Validate his feelings and remind him he is safe. Being safe is very important to Yuuri...especially if he’s in a panic.  Talk to him but try not to bring up what caused the panic. It could retrigger it. I like to tell funny stories and make him laugh. If he’s having trouble breathing, encourage him to breathe with you. If he lets you touch him...and always ask...then you can hold him so he can feel the rhythm of your breathing as well as talking him through the in and out rhythm.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of holding his hand and being his ground. And...don’t leave him.” She shrugged. “There are other things you can do, things that will become part of the two of you, things uniquely Yuuri...but that’s a start.”

 

Victor appreciated all she had shared with him.  And he could see that Jules loved Yuuri, but he still had to broach the subject between them.  “I’m worried about him...his drinking…”

 

She held her hand up to stop him.  “Take small steps, Victor. And remember...you can’t fix him.  Yuuri will always have anxiety. You can encourage him to take better care of himself but in the end, it’s his choice.”

 

Victor nodded feeling a bit helpless but better than before.  “I just...I care so much for him.”

 

She smiled reaching out to squeeze his arm.  “I know. I can see that. And I’ll help in any way that I can...as long as it doesn’t break confidence.”

 

Victor accepted her words grimly.  He knew this but now it was stated.  “I need to contact Celestino,” he finally stated with a deep breath.

 

The older coach asked a series of questions, but he knew his skater.  In the end, he sent Phichit to pick them up and take them all home.

 




Yuuri was exhausted but restless.  Yura kept sending worried glances to the Japanese man until Phichit drew the teen’s attention into a video game.  Victor tried to get Yuuri to settle down next to him and they ended up going outside with the dogs.

 

Returning, Victor asked Yuuri if he wanted to take a nap.  The younger man shook his head going into the kitchen. “I can make dinner,” Victor protested.  “It’s my week.”

 

“I promised Yura katsudon ...besides, I already made the dashi ahead of time.”

 

Victor frowned critically.  “I know you’re tired.”

 

Yuuri settled his eyes on Victor telling him, “If I do this, I’m not focusing on my anxiety .  I need to do this, Vitya.”

 

Victor finally backed off.  “Can I help?”

 

He gave his partner a look of weary patience.  “Go...spend time with Yura. He goes home tomorrow.”

 

Victor was reluctant to leave even if he was just across the room from him.  Turning to Yura, he saw the boy was involved in the game with Phichit. He felt torn between doing what Yuuri wanted and staying close to him.  Yuuri kept looking up as he chopped through the next round of ingredients. Finally, he cleaned off the knife and dried his hands with a huff, coming around him to pull him into a kiss.

 

Victor opened up to him quickly forgetting there were others in the room as he lost himself into the emotions sweeping over him.  As Yuuri pulled away from him, he spotted the twinkle in his lover’s brown eyes. Then Yuuri popped him on the ass and told him, “Go play with Yura.”

 

Victor complied with wide eyes promptly dropping down in the floor next to the blond.  Green eyes flicked over at him and rolled as he muttered the word “whipped” promptly getting a snort of laughter from Phichit.

 

Half an hour later, their wait was rewarded, however, as Yuuri served up beautiful bowls of katsudon with chopsticks crossed over them.  As they sat around the bar, Yuuri murmured the word “itadakimasu” over their food. The others repeated the ritual and watching Yuuri build that perfect bite, they followed suit.  As they took a bite, eyes closed as they focused on the developed flavors on their tongues.

 

“Holy shit!” Yura declared.

 

“Vkusno!” Victor echoed.

 

Phichit grinned knowing this was Yuuri’s favorite.  “I think this is the best one you’ve made yet.”

 

Yuuri hummed thoughtfully before pronouncing, “Something’s still not right.  I’ll have to go through it with my mom once again.”

 

Victor’s eyes widened.  “You mean this can be more amazing than it already is?”

 

Yuuri laughed as he answered, “Yes...you should try my mom’s...it is probably the best in Japan...which means the best in the world.”

 




Victor felt the exhaustion drumming in his skin as Yuuri continued to bounce around in restless energy.  Before he knew it, he was asleep on the couch. Yura rolled his eyes and got up, waving for Yuuri to follow him.  “So...you had one of your costumes up for bid,” he said quietly as they entered Victor’s room.

 

Yuuri’s face reddened as he ducked down in embarrassment.  “You saw that?”

 

Yura snorted.  “I bid on it...but that chicken nugget outbid me!  Anyway, I wondered if you have any others you’re putting up for auction.”

 

Yuuri frowned as he thought about it.  “I-I’m not sure. That program was definitely retired.  I hated Lohengrin .”

 

Yura shrugged.  “You’ve done better since then, but it was a decent senior debut.”

 

Yuuri considered his guest’s original question.  “We can look and see. You know...if you like something.  I can tell you if I retired the program or not.”

 

They moved to Yuuri’s room.  Yura sat cross-legged on Yuuri’s bed while the older man pulled out several garment bags.  They began opening one after another and then Yura honed in on the dark sparkly one. “This!”

 

Yuuri considered that top as he looked at the younger man.  “That...would be perfect for the program Victor choreographed for you.  I wore it when I skated to Neptune three years ago.  Same artist, same album.”

 

“How much do you want for it?”

 

Yuuri shook his head.  “No, I couldn’t…” he protested.

 

Yura looked disappointed as he started to put it back into the bag, his eyes sliding over the black background with swirls of blue mist, crystals gathering like stars across the surface.   He started when Yuuri pulled it out of the bag and shook his head. “You misunderstand. You can take the shirt...but I can’t take payment for it. I think...this belongs to you, to your program.  Take it, change it, make it you...I want you to have it.”

 

“But...if you’re selling…”

 

Yuuri pushed the slender hand back, settling the shirt and hanger onto the chest of the younger skater.  “Shhh...I sold the one...and that’s fine. It met the need. This...is a gift from one friend to another...to celebrate your senior debut.”

 

Yura’s eyes dropped, clearly overcome with emotion.  Then he looked up with a defiance in his green eyes. “I’m going to kick your ass wearing your shirt.”

 

Yuuri just laughed.  “Then it will have served you better than it served me.  Let’s see if we have a bag to properly pack it.” Yuuri then joined the youth to help him pack before wishing him good night.

 

Moving into the living room now shadowed with most of the lamps off and the last one dimmed down, he knelt next to Victor.  “Vitya,” he whispered, his fingers dancing across the older man’s cheek. His breath caught as Victor turned into his touch brushing a kiss into his palm in his sleep.   How could I love you any more than I do at this moment?

 

Victor’s eyes fluttered open sleepily and he smiled, “My Yuuri…”

 

“Come to bed, sweetheart...it’s late.”  He held out his hand and the older man took it, tangling their fingers together as they walked down the hall.  In the safety of his room, he’s startled as Victor’s arms went around him pressing him against the door as he kissed him hungrily, seeking more.  Yuuri felt his body responding, could feel himself losing foundation when Victor pulled back suddenly. Yuuri watched the withdrawal unsure what just happened...it was as if Victor was so used to denying himself he was afraid to let himself have this.  The older man didn’t even seem conscious of the action, tangling his fingers and pulling Yuuri after him. As Yuuri snuggled into Victor’s arms, he couldn’t help but wonder...what happened to you that you are afraid of this?

 




The next morning, they drove the Russian Fairy to the airport.  Yuri was brusque in his goodbyes, but then surprised them both with a hug.  Leaning into Yuuri, he whispered, “He is lost without you.” Then with a smile, the boy was headed away.  “Later, Old Man. Give him hell, Katsudon!” he called back over his shoulder.

 

Yuuri crinkled his brow.  “Did he just call me Katsudon?”

 

“It appears he likes you,” Victor responded fondly.  They stayed until they received a text from him saying he was on the plane.  “Ice or sleep?”

 

“Is that really a choice?” Yuuri challenged with a smirk.

 





NOTES:

 

9 things I wish people understood about anxiety

 

Why Anxiety Causes Detachment

 

What is Anxiety?

 

How to Support Someone with an Anxiety Disorder

 

What Partners can do to help with Anxiety

 

When your Partner Has Anxiety

 

How to Support Your Anxious Partner

 

How to Comfort Your Partner During a Panic Attack

Chapter Text


 

"No matter your storm, it never rains forever.  It can’t and it won’t." – Ginger Zee

 

When the wind blows...

 

(NOTE:  It’s been a week since Yura left to go home.)

 

The roommates relaxed into Sunday, meandering through the housework.  They settled into homework. The couple cuddled into youtube videos with Phichit providing extra commentary.  They eventually did laundry and Victor treated them to take out.

 

Then darkness snuggled into them like a favorite blanket.  There was a storm rising and they could hear the wind start to blow.  Yuuri and Phichit were very familiar with the effect weather had on matters and busied themselves setting out candles and centralizing into the apartment.  Once they charged all of their devices, Yuuri and Phichit began disconnecting everything. Victor took the dogs out before the storm truly hit then returned and lit the candles.  As if on cue, the last plug was undone as the power went out.

 

“Do storms typically knock out the power?” Victor asked.

 

The two younger skaters exchanged glances then shrugged.  “The power grids aren’t as strong on this part of town so yeah, they go out,” Phichit stated.  He heard a buzz and then smiled as he looked at the text. “Looks like Devryn is joining us for the night.”

 

“Tell him to be careful coming over,” Yuuri fussed even as he settled in next to Victor on the sofa.  He held Vicchan in his lap, the tiny poodle sniffing around and curling in the butterfly of Yuuri’s legs until he found a comfortable spot.  Makka claimed the opposite end of the sofa regarding the couple with a huff before curling up to sleep.

 

Victor tightened his hold on Yuuri as he brushed a kiss into the hair at the back of his neck.  “What should we do?”

 

The other two roommates exchanged glances and then Phichit grinned.  “ Cards Against Humanity .”  Phichit was up digging through the closet and returned with the game while Yuuri explained the rules.  A knock on the door brought in Devryn who was accompanied by Jules and Ashley.

 

“No one wanted to be alone, so I gathered the troops along the way,” Phichit’s boyfriend explained.

 

Ashley settled Zeus down and joined them all around the coffee table.  By the third round, Victor was as well versed as the rest of them. By the end of the game, he leaned back and looked at his friends.  “You are truly awful people.”

 

Yuuri grinned up at him.  “You joined in,” he pointed out.

 

Victor’s eyes widened remembering some of the truly horrid jokes he had thrown down that night as well.  “That’s right! You made me one of you!”

 

“One of us!  One of us!” Phichit started chanting and was soon joined by the others as they slowly crowded in on Victor.  The older man shrunk down laughing and begging Yuuri to save him!

 

Yuuri dramatically threw his body across Victor and declared, “You’ll have to go through me to get to him!”

 

As the party broke up, Jules joined Ashley at her place for the night.  Phichit and Devryn straightened the living room while Victor and Yuuri started dowsing the candles with flashlights in hand.  With a bid good night to the others, they disappeared into Yuuri’s room.

 

“Pajamas are too much effort,” Victor whined.

 

“Sleep in your boxers,” Yuuri answered with a shrug.

 

Victor’s eyebrows furrowed as he considered the option.  “Is that too personal?”

 

Yuuri glanced his way, softening his voice to make Victor feel the ease of the situation.  “If you’re comfortable, I’m comfortable. I’m not going to attack you because you stripped down to your skivvies.”

 

Victor sighed dramatically even as he started peeling off his clothes, tossing them into Yuuri’s laundry basket before sliding into the smooth sheets.  One thing Yuuri didn’t skimp on were sheets. The soft cotton lay cool against his skin as he felt the mattress dip down and Yuuri slide in next to him.  An arm slipped around his waist and Victor considered the small hand splayed across his stomach as Yuuri curled around him. Lips pressed into the back of his neck and then Yuuri’s nose nuzzled in before the younger man settled in to sleep, his body stilling next to Victor’s.

 




The dream crowded in on Victor as the storm raged on outside.  Yuuri’s lips and hands were all over him and he felt his body relaxing into that thought, feeling the pleasure brought on by the younger man and responding in his dream state.

 

“Yuuriii…” he murmured, his body feeling turned on as he turned in Yuuri’s arms.

 

The real Yuuri shifted to accommodate Victor, rousing from his sleep as the silverette sought him out.  He quickly assessed that Victor was asleep and shifted his body into a less compromising position but not so far away to distress the older man.  Brushing a kiss in Victor’s hair, he smoothed out the locks and ran his hand soothing up and down his back.

 

Victor turned as the dream took a shift.  Yuuri could tell when the dream became more sinister as Victor’s cries for Yuuri held more fear.  Moving closer, Yuuri tightened his hold on Victor and soothed, “I’m here. It’s okay. We’re safe.”  Victor finally calmed down, his body moving back into deeper sleep. Yuuri rested his cheek against the top of Victor’s hair.   What happened to you that makes you so afraid?

 




The next morning, the storm gave way to a beautiful sunrise.  Not that Victor knew as he shifted and actually whined about waking up.  Yuuri chuckled softly and told him, “That’s my job.”

 

“I don’t think I slept well.  Maybe the storm,” he muttered.

 

Yuuri wanted to allow the man more rest, “If we skip morning workout, we’ll have to stay later this evening.”

 

Victor huffed and nodded.  “At this point, I can live with that.”

 

Yuuri pulled the blankets up over them and reset the alarm.  “I’ll get us up in a couple of hours. Okay?”

 

“Mmmm,” Victor responded snuggling closer to Yuuri.  The younger man brushed a worried kiss into Victor’s hair.

 




They were rushed when they finally crawled out of bed.  Yuuri made breakfast while Victor took the dogs out. Showers were five minutes and neither bothered to shave before they ran out the door.  But the air smelled clean and Yuuri’s steps slowed a bit to take it in. A wave of homesickness hit him and he shook it off, giving Victor a reassuring smile as he glanced over worriedly.

 

Yuuri held his focus in class and even participated in the discussion but in the back of his mind, he remembered the nightmares that stole rest from his lover.  Is this why you struggle with sex?  What is going on?

 

When he met Victor for lunch, Yuuri could see the ragged edges on his partner.  Chicken wraps in hand, they walked to the rink rather than run. Yuuri’s hand wrapped around Victor’s arm as they walked, not saying much.  Finally reaching the rink, they disappeared in the dressing room.

 

Yuuri came out of the stall straightening his Mizuno tee over his skate pants to see Victor’s hands stilled over his skates as he sat on the bench.  Yuuri swung his leg over to straddle the wood and reached out to lift Victor’s chin. “What’s going on?”

 

Victor didn’t move, but stayed hovering over his laces.  “I don’t know...I think...maybe this is what you mean when your head is full of noise?”

 

“You had nightmares last night,” Yuuri pointed out.

 

Victor shuddered and nodded.  “Someone was trying to take you away.  I was afraid.”

 

Yuuri smoothed his hand down Victor’s cheek drawing those blue eyes to his own.  “No one can take me away from you, Vitya...I’m here. I’m yours,” he answered softly.

 

Victor smiled at that reaching for him and drawing him close.  As he rested his cheek onto the dark thatch of hair, he murmured, “Thank you...and I wish it was that simple.  It was...I dreamed the police stole you from me. We were in Russia and they were trying to tear us apart.”

 

“Thankfully we’re not in Russia,” Yuuri reassured him.  “That’s why you came here...so that you can be yourself.”

 

“I know...but the fear.  It’s still there. I’m sorry.”  Releasing Yuuri, he turned to face forward.  “It’s not fair to you...I’m not giving you what you need.”

 

Yuuri’s hand moved up and down Victor’s back as he leaned in to speak.  “I’m not worried about sex and if what we had were that shallow, I don’t think it would take root.  And...you are giving me what I need. More so than anyone ever before. You see me better than anyone.”

 

Looking down to study his feet, he muttered, “I still...I don’t know how to handle your anxiety.  I don’t know what to do when your mood drops.”

 

“I’m still learning how to work with yours.  That’s part of getting to know one another. It doesn’t mean I don’t see you.”  Yuuri slid his hand into Victor’s and gave it a squeeze. “No one promised an easy path.  I’m not an easy path.  It would be wrong to expect you to be.”

 

Victor’s fingers tangled into Yuuri’s, looking for a closer connection.  “I suppose you’re right...I think that dream just affected me a lot more than I like.”

 

“Nightmares that hold on into the next day are the worst,” Yuuri agreed.

 

With a weary sigh, Victor stood up.  “I have girls to teach. Walk back with me later?  I need you close.”

 

“I’ll be here.  I don’t have any classes to teach this afternoon.  It’s Monday. I can stretch out here if needed.”

 

“Or...maybe I can go with you to the studio and we can stretch out there?” Victor suggested.  The intimacy of Yuuri’s space seemed to call to him. Yuuri smiled warmly and nodded.

 




Victor called a break to the girls.  He’d been pushing them both but he could definitely see a difference in Angela since Yuuri started working with her.  Verity noticed as well. Skating up to take her water bottle, she asked, “Do you think Yuuri would work with me as well?”

 

“I’m sure he would,” Victor reassured her.  “Check with Angela on his rates then set up a time with him before you move to your other training.”

 

“I will.  Thanks, Coach.”

 

His eyes followed them both watching the girls lose themselves in their phones.  Pulling out his own device, his eyes widened. “Oh, Chris!”

 

Chris/ My boyfriend has a conference in Detroit.  Would love to join him and see you. Do you think you can arrange ice time for me?

 

Victor/ No problem.  We are in class in the mornings.  I’ll let Celestino know.

 

Chris/ That would be grand, darling!  We are staying at a hotel near the conference center.  I’ll call you when we land.

 

Victor/ So when are we talking?

 

Chris/ I should arrive on Wednesday.  We fly back out on Tuesday. So you have me for a week.

 

Victor/ I can’t wait.  And then Yuuri can meet Lawrie.

 

Chris/ They’ll start talking psychology and we’ll disappear.  ;) See you soon!

 

Victor smiled at the promise of his friend’s visit.  He could talk out his fears and concerns with Chris and Lawrie and maybe shake off the weight on his shoulders.

 




They were in the studio when Victor shared his friends’ plans with Yuuri.  The younger man stilled in his stretch as he thought about what conventions were going on.  “The only psychology and counseling convention I know about is for sex therapists.”

 

Victor nodded.  “That’s Lawrie’s specialization.  He met Chris at a pole dancing class when he went to arrange a class for a group session for sexual assault survivors.”

 

“Oh, he works in the field I want to work in.” Yuuri immediately became interested.  “I teach a class for those coming out of domestic violence to help them regain their confidence.”

 

“I suspect the two of you will have a lot to talk about.  I can’t wait to introduce you both.”

 

Yuuri smiled moving into another stretch.  “Me, neither. This Wednesday?”

 

Victor settled himself on the floor, moving into Yuuri’s space left open as he stretched impossibly wide.  “Yes...that’s when they arrive. I’m not sure when they want to get together.”

 

Yuuri hummed thoughtfully.  “I teach classes on Thursday so I won’t be home until after six.”  Yuuri turned to stretch his back, “and Saturday evening, I’m working with Jules.”  Victor thought he saw a grimace on the face.

 

Victor pouted.  “Can you get out of that one?”

 

Yuuri started at the suggestion then shook his head.  “I...can’t...it’s a long standing arrangement.”

 

With a huff, he nodded.  “That’s fine. Chris and I can figure out something to do together.”

 

“Go out and have fun.  You don’t need me there.  I trust you.”

 

Victor nodded as he considered his options.  “Maybe we can go out together on Friday night.”

 

“Friday sounds great.  It’s a date!” Yuuri answered as he stretched back pointing his toes and reaching his arms as far as possible.  Victor settled on his side next to Yuuri, his fingers dancing down the other man’s side. Yuuri shivered in response before turning into his touch.  How long they lay there trading kisses, Yuuri couldn’t say, he became so lost in Victor’s lips and the touch of his hand moving up and down his sides, back, and shoulders.  Finally, they pulled apart and Yuuri said gruffly, “We should probably go home.  We have dogs to take out.”

 

Victor’s hand went up through his hair.  “Oh, Makka!” he cried out dramatically. Yuuri laughed and pulled him to his feet.  After a long day, it would be good to curl up around their four-legged friends and watch a little TV.

Chapter Text


 

From the sound of the rain...



Rain persisted on and off, a steady drizzle settling in as the night deepened.  Victor shifted into Yuuri’s space snuggling closer into his warmth. Yuuri’s lips brushed into his hair.  The older man felt more settled as the evening went on and Yuuri wondered if it was the storm that triggered Victor’s unrest the night before.  As Victor turned more into Yuuri, their kisses resumed. There was a need they both acknowledged but left unspoken. A hunger was building between them.  Victor’s lips opened inviting Yuuri deeper. The younger man licked into Victor’s mouth, scooping up the older man’s moan as he started to relax in Yuuri’s arms.

 

Then thunder cracked and he felt Victor pull back.  Those blue eyes blinked staring at him and Yuuri could see the unspoken apology hanging in their depths.  Yuuri reached up to stroke his hair, to communicate with touch that he understood. He didn’t know the story, but there was a very real fear in Victor.  He could sense the older man’s frustration. He rose up to meet him, pulling him into his embrace. Victor tucked up under his chin and Yuuri had to swallow his sob for the man as he felt the body shaking in his embrace.  He soothed Victor, his hand steady as it moved up and down Victor’s back. What happened to you, sweetheart?  How can I help?

 

Victor finally settled and they stretched out next to one another.  Yuuri brushed kisses into Victor’s hair as his hands continued to gently massage the muscles of Victor’s back in a soothing motion.  In the quiet of the rain falling from the sky outside their window, Yuuri whispered, “I love you.”

 

Victor tightened his arms around Yuuri.  “I’m...broken. Lost. I don’t know how to fix this.”

 

Yuuri resisted the urge to pull back.  As much as he wanted to see Victor’s face he knew the man needed to be held closely, “Is it still...the nightmare?”

 

Victor nodded then shrugged.  “It’s hard to talk about.”

 

Yuuri thinned his lips.  “Did...someone hurt you?”

 

Victor sighed.  “Not...really? Scared me.  I was really scared.”

 

“You can tell me, Vitya...you can tell me anything.”   In the growing silence, Yuuri tightened his arms. “You don’t have to,” he added.  “I...love you...still the same.”

 

“I love you, too, my Yuuri,” Victor murmured in response.  With a huff, he added, “We’re quite a pair. Both coming together in pieces.”

 

Yuuri carded his fingers through Victor’s silky strands.  “Maybe...we couldn’t put ourselves together without the other.  Maybe...the other held the missing pieces.”

 

“Maybe…” Victor agreed in the darkness.  Yuuri felt Victor shiver, then cuddle in closer.  The rain continued to tick against the window. “I need more time,” he finally whispered.  “I spent so long covering it up, it’s buried deep inside.”

 

“I’m here when you’re ready,” Yuuri assured him.

 

Victor tightened his arms around Yuuri burying his head into the younger man’s chest.  Yuuri’s arms tightened around him protectively. Who scared you?  I’m not convinced they didn’t hurt you.  What happened to you, love?

 




When Yuuri’s eyes blinked open, it was in the silvery early morning light.  The rain persisted and he dreaded heading to class in the pelting drops. Turning, he smiled at Victor propped up on his elbow watching him.  “What are you doing?”

 

“You...wake up slowly as if you are coming alive under the tickle of the day’s light.  I could see your eyes dance under your lids before your lashes flutter open.” Victor blushed at being caught.  Cheeks turning pink at the apples he confessed, “I...had to watch you.”

 

Yuuri felt his corresponding blush spread over his cheeks but then Victor shifted forward and kissed him.  As the older man pulled back, Yuuri smiled up at him, his hand going up to twist into his dark hair as he lay bashful and shy beneath Victor.  “Good morning,” he murmured.

 

They reluctantly left the warmth of their bed but there was a need to pull close to one another.  As they prepared for the day, cooking breakfast, taking out the dogs then cleaning up their paws and drying off their fur when they returned, gathering the bare essentials for class that day, pulling their rain gear back on to walk across campus...in all of these things, they brushed into one another’s space.

 

Victor reluctantly released him to go to his own class.  Yuuri watched him as he disappeared. Pulling out his phone, he texted after a few minutes.

 

Yuuri/ I miss you already.

 

Vitya/ My beautiful Yuuri...I always miss you when we’re apart.

 

Yuuri smiled and there was almost a bounce in his step when he headed into class.

 




Phichit sat next to him and studied the smile on Yuuri’s face.  “Someone got some last night,” he concluded.

 

Yuuri blushed and shook his head shyly.  “I...no...it’s not like that.”

 

“Then what’s different?” Phichit asked as he tightened the laces on his skates.

 

“He...loves me.  And I love him,” Yuuri whispered as if he was afraid to say it out loud in case it broke the spell.

 

Phichit tilted his head to study his friend.  “He said that?”

 

Yuuri nodded, hugging his knees to his chest.  “You know when you hit that place in your relationship that there is a sudden shift and things are just...more intimate.”

 

Phichit nodded.  “I think I know what you mean.”

 

Leaning forward, he hugged his friend.  “So how are things with you and Dev? I noticed you didn’t come home last night.”

 

It was Phichit’s turn to blush this time.  “I noticed that suddenly I have a space in his drawers, a section in his closet.  I keep a toothbrush there. He’s very open to sharing his space. And...I’m okay with it.  I’m not ready to fully merge our spaces but...I think I want him to have room in my space as well.”

 

“You two got serious quick,” Yuuri pointed out.

 

“Not as quick as you and Victor,” Phichit argued with a gentle push, blinking up his amber eyes.

 

Yuuri shrugged.  “It’s different. We haven’t...I’ve never been this intimately involved with a person and we still haven’t...we’ve not had sex, Peach.”

 

Phichit’s eyes widened.  “You haven’t? You sleep together every night.”

 

“I know...and there are reasons.  But...it’s different. And I think...in a good way.  It’s more intimate...I can’t explain.”

 

“Well, I guess the other way never worked out for you,” Phichit mused.

 

Yuuri shook his head.  “You know how hard it is for me to let someone in deep.  It’s such an ugly mess inside of me. I have friends...I let you all in to a certain extent.  But...I find myself wanting to let him in deeper.”

 

Phichit smiled warmly.  “Someone is very much in love.”

 

Hugging his arms around him, he murmured, “Is that what this is?  I mean, I know I love him. I’ve known for a while that I cared deeply.”

 

“It’s not everyone who gets the chance to fall in love with their teen crush,” Phichit teased.

 

Yuuri gave him a shove this time.  “I’m leaving you on that note.” The blush settled on his cheeks as he left the dressing room.  He didn’t even care. He wanted to see Victor again even if it was across the rink working with his skaters.

 




That evening they gathered around to watch the placements for the next Grand Prix season.  Yuuri felt Victor’s hand moving up and down his back. The man’s constant presence, physical but unspoken, kept him grounded.  Phichit would be in the first event, Skate America, as well as Cup of China. Yuuri had Cup of China and Rostelecom. They looked for other friends, finding Yura at Skate Canada and Rostelecom.

 

“At least I can see how he’s improved when I skate against him,” Yuuri murmured.

 

Victor chuckled.  “He’ll be fierce. He doesn’t do anything halfway.”

 

“So true.”  Studying the rosters a bit more, Yuuri pointed out, “There’s your friend.”  Chris would also be at Cup of China followed by Trophee de France.

 

“With all of us in one place, maybe we can get together,” Victor suggested.

 

He hugged Yuuri close but the Japanese man felt another emotion in his partner.  Looking up, he asked, “Are you okay, Vitya?”

 

Victor drew a shaky breath but nodded.  “It’s...odd...not being on the rosters. I guess it shook me up more than I expected.”  Yuuri turned to hug him and felt Victor tighten his arms around him, pressing his head into the older man’s chest.  “It’ll be fine, Yuuri. Just dealing with the changes.”

 

They passed the evening with Netflix, studying while they ate through tacos.  Because it’s Tuesday. Phichit was out and Victor and Yuuri were becoming more and more used to evenings that were just the two of them.

 

Yuuri finally set his books aside and turned to pull Victor’s books away.  The silverette started to protest but was cut off by a kiss. “Oh,” he responded as his arms wrapped around Yuuri’s waist pulling the smaller man into his lap.

 

“We’re going to have company all weekend...I need this time,” Yuuri responded greedily.  Not that they wouldn’t be sleeping together but Yuuri had learned Victor was more relaxed when they made out in other locations.  Perhaps it was the implied limits. Victor moaned into the hungry kiss, and Yuuri repositioned himself without breaking contact, straddling the man beneath him.

 

“Yuuri,” Victor murmured from beneath him, his hands resting on Yuuri’s hips, his fingers digging into the muscles of his ass.  Yuuri broke the kiss to change the angle, dipping down to tease Victor’s kisses, nipping at him, his eyes sparkling even as they laughed.  Yuuri buried his head into Victor’s neck, kisses fluttering along his throat. Victor sighed feeling the younger man’s love.

 

“Do you think that will tide you over?” he teased.

 

Victor laughed softly.  “I’m sure I’ll steal more once we are alone.  I can’t believe Chris is coming! And that you’ll get to meet Lawrie.”

 

Yuuri chuckled.  “Of course Chris would end up dating a sex therapist.”

 

“At the rate they are going, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them married in another year,” Victor murmured.

 

Yuuri considered his own observations of the couple as he snuggled into Victor’s neck.  “They’ve been together for three years now?”

 

Victor hummed thoughtfully.  “More like four. Oh, I’m sure Chris would love your dance studio!”

 

Yuuri grinned against Victor’s skin.  He’d already been planning on it.

 




Victor tapped in anticipation.  Chris would arrive soon. Yuuri was in the midst of separating their laundry.  He should get up and help. Part of him wondered when their laundry became so intermingled.  He had a few things in his room but for the most part, it was mixed together.

 

“When’s his flight arrive?” Yuuri asked.

 

“Eight.  They are going straight to the hotel.  I’ll see him in the morning. He’s going to meet me at the rink.”

 

“Then you might as well settle in and help me get this laundry done,” Yuuri pointed out, although his voice was warm and indulgent and Victor knew he wasn’t in trouble.  He got up and started gathering what was left. Phichit was once more at Devryn’s apartment. So they took the dogs out before going down with the laundry.

 

The laundry was sorted and they were indulging in Chinese delivery when Victor’s phone buzzed.  “They’ve arrived.”

 

“It will still be morning before you see him,” Yuuri pointed out teasingly.

 

“He wants to know if he can hang out with us tomorrow evening.  Lawrie’s going to be tied up until nine at the conference,” Victor asked.

 

“Of course...of course, you are on your own until I finish my classes.  Don’t get into too much trouble,” he teased.

 

“What kind of trouble could we get into in that short of time?” Victor defended.

 

“Says the man who thought he stole a statue from the Winter Gardens,” Yuuri pointed out.

 

“Leave Boris out of this!”

 

Yuuri laughed, leaning forward to pull Victor into the V of his legs.  The kiss was playful at first, nipping and laughing but then Victor’s arms tightened around Yuuri’s waist, shuddering in the younger man’s embrace.  Yuuri deepened the kiss, feeling Victor’s hands hesitantly slip below the waist, then the squeeze of hands on his ass pulling him closer. They kissed, hungrily.  Perhaps it was the openness, the invisible boundary of being in a public space that allowed Victor to let go a little more. As Yuuri’s legs wrapped around him though, he felt those lines blur, he felt himself sinking into Victor.

 

A throat clearing caused them both to freeze.  Yuuri pulled Victor protectively into his chest as he met the eyes of the intruder.  “Ashley,” he murmured in relief.

 

“Good evening, boys.  I thought I’d see if there were a couple of free washers.”

 

Yuuri nodded, hopping down from the machine.  “There are four of them open. You want us to save them for you?”

 

“If you don’t mind.  I’ll be back in a few minutes.”  They watched her disappear up the stairs.

 

Victor then laughed.  “I think...I forgot where I was for a few minutes.”

 

Yuuri smiled, his cheeks warmed by the memory.  “At least it was just Ashley.” He reached out and brushed a thumb over Victor’s swollen lips.  “God, you’re beautiful,” he murmured. Victor blushed, shyly starting to turn away but Yuuri caught his hand and pulled him to face him fully.  “That’s not a shallow statement, Vitya. If you could see you as I see you now…”

 

Victor tugged at the silver strands of his hair.  “People tell me I’m beautiful...but...it feels different when you say it.  Like you’re looking deeper.”

 

Yuuri nodded, his hand cupping Victor’s cheek.  “I don’t know why you’re with me…” Victor opened his mouth to protest but Yuuri brushed his fingers over the older man’s lips.  “Hush...I know you have your reasons...I just...I’m overwhelmed that I get to enjoy this part of you. I don’t want to share this.”

 

Victor stepped closer, tucking his head into Yuuri’s neck.  The younger man’s arms slid around his waist and their movements reflected a gentle dance, swaying back and forth as they disappeared into their own little bubble.  It would be only for a few more minutes. Ashley was due to arrive soon. But for now they had this.

 




Victor settled next to Yuuri.  The night air was loud with frogs and crickets coming out after the rain.  Yuuri had opened the window and they could smell the cleanness of the air. It would gray up soon enough but he wanted to enjoy it.

 

They didn’t talk, just held onto one another, listening to their breaths, feeling the drum of their heartbeats.  Although it remained unspoken, they both knew at this point they belonged to one another. Yuuri let his mind adjust to that in the quiet of the night.  Victor already knew it...there was only one that he ever wanted.

 

With a sigh, Yuuri snuggled into Victor letting his eyes flutter shut.  The older man pulled the blankets over the two of them to cut the chill of the damp air.  The peacefulness of the night spread through the room as Victor’s eyes fluttered closed. Maybe tonight would go by without nightmares.

Chapter Text


 

Coach Victor



Chris stretched out across the bed still naked from his shower.  “Lawrie, what’s taking you so long, darling?”

 

An indulgent chuckle came from the brunette seated at the desk.  “I’m just going over my notes. Why don’t you get yourself ready?”

 

Chris whined at the lack of attention but shimmied across the bed to pull out a bag that held the basics of their bedroom life...lube, condoms, plug, vibrator, and a silk scarf good for both tying one’s partner to the bedposts and blindfolding.  “Are you up for playing tonight?”

 

Lawrie laughed softly.  “You should rest if you plan to skate tomorrow.  I promise we will play while we are here. Just not tonight.”

 

Chris huffed putting the silk scarf back and pulling out the plug and lube in its place.  Not one to seek out privacy, he began opening himself up with the most distracting moans, smirking as Lawrie cast an indulgent eyeroll in his direction.  Soon he was joined in bed by the tall brunette, Chris reaching around his neck to release his hair from it’s ponytail. “Now you’re my wild man,” Chris teased.  Lawrie gave him another eyeroll before growling into his neck sending the younger man into a fit of giggles. “God, I love you,” he laughed.

 

“You keep life interesting, Chris darling,” the other man responded through his laughs.  “So tell me about Vitya’s man.”

 

Chris kept up his self-ministrations under Lawrie’s guidance as he talked of his friend.  “You’ve seen him skate. The Japanese skater Yuuri Katsuki.”

 

Lawrie frowned remembering.  “He’s good. Didn’t he do that provocative Worlds program?”

 

Express .  Quite provocative.  I’m hoping to see where he’s going with it.”

 

“Those movements were inspired by...a less classical style of dance,” Lawrie stated thoughtfully.  He ran a hand down Chris’ arm, watching the hairs stand on edge at the touch. “It was reminiscent of my mother’s sister’s Moulin Rouge performances.”

 

“Well,” Chris felt himself become hot at Lawries breath ghosted over his skin.  “ Express comes from an American movie called Burlesque .  We should watch it while we’re here.”

 

“Maybe we can also catch a show...take the boys out for a night,” Lawrie suggested.

 

“I’ll look into it.  There are a few performers I follow and I think one is in this area,” Chris suggested.

 

Oui ?”

 

Oui ...have you ever heard of Lola Bourdain?”

 

Lawrie smiled appreciatively.  “She dances here?”

 

“A club called Incognito .  I’ll see about tickets while you are out.”

 

Lawrie laid back with a sigh, his eyes feasting on Chris a near wrecked mess waiting for his touch.  “Tomorrow is going to be such a long day without your smile,” he pouted.

 

“Then make me smile before you go,” Chris challenged.  And Lawrie never being one to back down from a challenge took him up on it.

 




Victor looked through the clipboard outlining the practice schedule for the day.  He had arranged for Chris to have ice from ten to noon exclusively. However, he expected the man at eight.  So it was not surprising to Yuuri when he offered to jog to the rink with him that morning. As Yuuri stretched out on the ice, his eyes studied the older man.

 

“What’s wrong?”

 

“Ciao Ciao is going to be gone most of the day.  He said something about meetings and left me in charge...but I have class.”

 

Yuuri shrugged like it wasn’t any big deal.  “So...leave Chris in charge. He’s more senior than I am and I was the one left in charge before you came along.  If Iggy was here, she’d take the morning and leave you with the evening but she has a doctor’s appointment.”

 

Coach Maria de la Iglesia was another assistant coach, but with her progressing pregnancy, more and more of her duties have fallen to Victor.  Her cousin would be competing in the coming season. Victor still didn’t have the total flow of the Detroit Skate Club with its bevy of skaters from different walks of life and nations.  Celestino didn’t seem to have a problem leaving him in charge. Of course, Yakov didn’t either.

 

Yuuri took some warm up rounds on the ice.  “Do you think we could run through Unsteady before Chris arrives?” he called out.

 

Victor laughed.  “Of course...but mark your jumps.”

 

“Yes, Coach,” he called out and Victor could hear the tease in the word.

 

He smiled as he watched Yuuri replicating the choreography, the emotion in his movements taking it further than Victor imagined.  He was so lost in Yuuri’s movements that he failed to hear anyone come into the rink until he felt a hand on his shoulder. Looking up, his eyes widened and he suddenly wrapped the other man in his arms.  “Chris! It’s so good to see you, my friend,” he greeted warmly.

 

Chris laughed in response.  “I can already tell how much better you are...is this all him?” he asked nodding towards the ice.

 

Victor turned his attention back to the brunette with a soft smile.  “He plays a big part in it. I can’t imagine life without him, now.”

 

“So he’s your missing half...you told me you wouldn’t settle for less.” The expressive hazel eyes caught the form gliding across the ice, following him.

 

“I knew...that night in Sochi.  It was just a feeling then...now, it resonates in me.”

 

They watched Yuuri move into the choreography once more.  Chris smiled warmly and commented, “That has your signature on it.”

 

“I choreographed it for him...I wasn’t sure how well he’d receive it, nor if his coach would be okay with it.  However, it all fell together at just the right time. I think he needed that program.”

 

“It speaks to the part of him we all catch in glimpses,” Chris observed.

 

Victor smiled, Chris was very sensitive and his insights of other skaters were always spot-on.  “And what does Express speak to?”

 

Chris laughed warmly.  “According to Lawrie, it speaks to his aunt performing in Paris.”

 

Victor grinned as he thought about the aunt in question, now a good friend to his uncles.  “We should pay them a visit sometime.”

 

“And maybe not get lost,” Chris added.

 

Yuuri pulled to a stop in front of them.  “Chris! You’re here!”

 

Oui, mon cher ,” he answered with a lascivious grin.  “We were just talking about your Express program.”

 

Yuuri’s cheeks colored as he skated backwards.  “You should see Angela’s Eros performance while you are here,” he redirected.

 

Arching an eyebrow at Victor, he asked, “One of your girls?”

 

Da ...Angela is skating to Eros and Verity to Agape .  We’re working to prepare them for regionals.  They’ll be here this afternoon and you’ll be able to see them and meet them.”

 

“I can’t wait,” the Swiss skater responded.

 




The afternoon temporarily fell into chaos as the skaters realized that Celestino was away.  However, Victor soon had them lined out and skating. As Angela took the ice to go through her program, Chris came up to the boards and leaned back so he could talk to Victor without interfering with his work.  “Sooo, this is Coach Victor at work,” he teased.

 

As if in response, he quickly called a correction to Angela who took it in stride.  “This is the first time he’s left me in charge of practice like this. I’ve picked up Saturday practice but that’s a smaller crowd,” Victor answered.

 

“It’s not as daunting as when I visited you in St. Petersburg,” Chris pointed out.

 

“Bigger complex,” Victor pointed out.  “Yakov couldn’t have his eyes on every square of ice.  Not that he didn’t try.”

 

“Have you called home since coming to Detroit?”

 

Da ...I’ve talked to Papa and Babulya.  I haven’t called Yakov, yet. I...well, I want to get an accomplishment under my belt first.”

 

“So this regional competition you talked about,” Chris concluded.

 

Victor nodded.  “Part of me is worried that he’ll try and talk me into returning to competition.  And...I don’t want to leave Yuuri.”

 

“Take him with you,” Chris suggested.

 

“To Russia?” he asked bitterly.  “And have him jerked away from me in the middle of the night?”

 

Chris glanced up at him in surprise.  “You still think about that?”

 

Victor nodded, his lips grim.  “I have nightmares about it.”

 

Chris studied his friend.  He knew that the logical side of Victor knew this wouldn’t happen, but there was another side of Victor, one that remembered a night in which logic lost.  “You don’t know that that will happen.”

 

“And I won’t risk it.”  Huffing, he added, “I don’t want to talk about this here, but we can talk later.  Yuuri is teaching until six. We can talk while I make dinner.”

 

Chris nodded and understood.  The topic was very emotional. Victor then returned his focus to the rink and his skaters.  Chris moved over to take off his skates. His practice finished, he joined Yuuri at the weight room.

 

They passed Celestino in his office and Yuuri started in surprise but the coach hushed him with a single finger.  He was on the phone and Yuuri heard as they walked away the next line on the phone. “Yakov, I’m keeping an eye on him and he’s still skating whenever he gets a chance but he seems resolute in his plans.  And to be honest, he’s a damn good coach. Still wet behind the ears, but I like having him on my staff.”

 

Yuuri quieted Chris and they moved against the wall to eavesdrop further.

 

“He could change his mind but I don’t see it happening.  You said he was burned out when you sent him to me. Yeah, I know you hoped he’d get whatever it was sorted out but to be honest, I think he came here looking for something.  And I think he may have found it.”

 

Yuuri’s cheeks pinked up at those words.  Glancing up at Chris, he signalled for them to move further along.

 

“So how’s he been...really,” Chris asked quietly as they entered the gym.

 

Yuuri frowned as he thought about it before answering, “In a lot of ways, better.  He...was so lost when he arrived. In more ways than one.”

 

“That’s good to hear.  But...in a lot of ways...that means that in some ways, you don’t see improvement.”

 

“I guess...there’s improvement.  But he’s struggling with something.  Maybe he’ll share it with you. He doesn’t seem ready to share it with me,” Yuuri suggested.  “I just want to help.”

 

“I know...and Victor has had to guard his secrets for so long that it’s hard for him to let them go.”

 

As Yuuri reached out for a hamstring stretch, he considered Chris’ words.  They weren’t anything he hadn’t already considered. Victor had even hinted at it.  “I can wait. For him, I can definitely wait.”

 

Chris smiled warmly at the Japanese skater.  Perhaps Victor had found the right one.

 




Victor chopped the vegetables while Chris played on his phone.  They were both tired as they came into the apartment. “So, I didn’t ask...how’s Lawrie?”

 

Chris settled the phone on the counter in front of him.  “Hating this long ass day but glad to see you tomorrow and to meet Yuuri.  He’s intrigued by the man who created the Express program.”

 

“He’ll be shocked to meet the shy Japanese man behind it,” Victor stated wryly.

 

“I love that, though...because he’s so private, that when he lets his sexuality out, it is so opposite of who he is...I just…” Chris shivered with pleasure.  “It reminds me of Sochi.”

 

“Oddly, he didn’t remember that.  He...when he drinks, he blacks out,” Victor said, his hands stilling.  “I’m...worried about him.”

 

“Does he drink often?”

 

“No, but what if I’m not there to look out for him.”  Then Victor frowned before adding, “I’m rarely there when he drinks.  He goes out every so often with some of the ladies he dances with at his studio.  And...well, he comes back emotional and drunk...but you’d think he was lucid enough to make decisions.  He can’t, though...he usually only remembers small bits of the previous night.”

 

Chris grimaced, Lawrie shared information he learned about destructive habits.  “That’s not safe. Has he been taken advantage of in that state?”

 

Victor nodded sadly.  “Phichit’s dating one of his exes and Devryn tells me that he started dating Yuuri thinking he could save him from himself.  I...I don’t know that I should do that.”

 

Chris was already shaking his head, “He has to save himself...but perhaps you can encourage him.  Help him to get the help he needs.”

 

“He used to go to a psychiatrist and stopped shortly before Sochi.  He needs to go back but...it’s like arguing with a wall.”

 

“It won’t do any good until he is ready,” Chris pointed out.  “He’s a psychology major, isn’t he?”

 

Victor nodded as he poured two glasses of water from the filtered pitcher.

 

“Maybe I can get Lawrie to talk to him.  He has his ways. Kind of one professional to another.”

 

Victor smiled softly.  “That would be great.”

 

“And...you are welcome to talk to him as well.  He knows where you are coming from. You remember the mess he found me in.”

 

Victor considered his friend.  The man had been living loose since coming out.  He stole a kiss from Victor but the older man knew he wasn’t the only one and more than one took him up on his offers.  It wasn’t until Lawrie that he settled down.

 

“I know it’s not the same...I mean, I partied but I took precautions.  Still...talk to him.”

 

Victor nodded as he took a drink.  “I think...I need to...that subject you brought up earlier.  I’ve...been having nightmares.” He took a deep breath and let it out.  “I haven’t been able to...we haven’t had sex yet, Chris.”

 

While Chris loved his ice-personae of exuding constant sexuality, he was a deeply sensitive man and knew that his friend needed quiet reassurance to come to terms with what is haunting him.  The Swiss man considered those words and then remembered Yuuri’s words about waiting. “Is this because of what happened when you were eighteen?”

 

Victor nodded slowly.  “I think so. Dmitry and Ivan were my friends...to have them taken away like that.”  Victor wrung his hands remembering. “Ivan...we were sleeping in our dorm. Dmitry was out of town.  It was one of the few nights Ivan was home. Then...the police dragging him out in the middle of the night.  Me ending up in an interview room. They...they accused Ivan of...I was gay but I wasn’t about to admit it there.”

 

“I understand, Victor...and I can see how it would hold you up with Yuuri.  But he...seems a very patient man,” Chris reassured him.

 

Victor’s blue eyes flicked up at him.  “Has he said anything?”

 

“Just that...for you he can wait.”

 

Victor sighed and shook his head.  “He shouldn’t have to…”

 

“If the roles were reversed, you’d do the same for him.”

 

The silverette’s lips twitched into a smile before he looked away.  His friend was right. “I...would.”

 

The lock rattled in the door and they turned as Yuuri entered, cooing at the dogs that met him at the door.  “Vitya, I’m home,” he called out once he satisfied their four-legged friends.

 

“We’re making dinner,” Victor called back.  Yuuri came around the corner and Chris watched Victor’s face come to life.  “Nothing fancy. Just the stir fry you showed me how to make.”

 

“Stir fry sounds great, Vitya,” Yuuri murmured.  Turning to Chris, he smiled warmly. “Sorry I wasn’t here sooner.  I work at a nearby ballet studio in partnership with several other friends.”

 

“I wouldn’t want to interfere with your work.  I’m sure we can fit our visit around your schedule.  It’s given me a chance to catch up with Vitya,” Chris answered easily.

 

“If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to shower and change.  Please. Make yourself at home.” He then turned and leaned in to kiss Victor.

 

Chris smiled watching his friend comfortably show affection to another.  As Yuuri walked off, he said quietly, “That’s an improvement. The rest will probably work itself out in time.  The boy is willing to wait for you.”

 

“You think so?”

 

Oui ...but if you’re still worried, talk with Lawrie.  He’ll probably refer you to counseling. He’s too close to counsel you himself.”

 

Victor hummed thoughtfully.  “I think I will talk to Lawrie and get his opinion on the matter.  Maybe...I’m not willing to wait.” Blush rose up on Victor’s cheeks as he added the last part.  Chris couldn’t help the smile on his lips.

 

They were joined by Phichit and Devryn, Yuuri stepping behind to prepare rice to stretch the meal further.  Chris was intrigued by Yuuri’s ex and soon learned some of Yuuri’s stories, watching the brunette squirm in embarassment but with a soft smile still on his lips.  He felt safe among friends. And Chris was one of them.

Chapter Text


 

Date Night



Yuuri felt the deep stretch as Jules pressed down on his shoulder blades.  “This set is demanding,” she stressed. “You need to keep your focus, Yuuri.  We make it look easy but you know better than anyone what it takes out of us.”

 

Yuuri hummed thoughtfully at the challenge.  “I know. Working three poles will be interesting.”  He felt the muscles sink under her pressure, the stretch initially burned then loosened.

 

“I just don’t want you to get hurt.”  She paused, her eyes dropping to the floor before she brought up the topic she was edging into.  “You need to do the set sober.”

 

Yuuri stilled in his stretch holding her eyes.  “Jules, it’s just to take the edge off. You know I can’t relax enough without a couple of drinks in me.  Not...there.”

 

“If it were just a couple, I wouldn’t say anything,” his friend pressed.  “You know you don’t know when to stop.”

 

“I’ll pay attention this time, I’ll keep a better handle on it,” he promised.  He smiled up at her, raising three fingers to his temple, “Scout’s honor, you can even keep a tally.”

 

Jules frowned.  With a huff, she pulled up on her feet.  The conversation already pushed to the back of his mind, Yuuri smiled at the four bars thinking about how to move from bar to bar.  It was close to the spacing the ones at the club would display. He backed up and watched Jules move through the new routine. Yuuri watched the transitions, counting out the timing unconsciously.  When she dismounted, she turned and raised an eyebrow at Yuuri with a challenge. If only this was just at the studio, if it was just between friends, this would be fun.  Yuuri knew, however, he’d be before a live audience on Saturday.

 

“I want to go through it once then kick on the music,” Yuuri directed.  He then counted off taking the first pole. The movements capitalized on his flexibility and power, on his ability to portray both feminine and masculine characteristics.  Yuuri knew if it weren’t for his anxiety, he could easily transition from skating into dancing. The longevity in dance was twice that of skating at his level, and the pay-off was far better…plus there was a wealth of opportunity in dance that just would never exist in skate.  But this was always supposed to be just for him, something that helped him find a center when the world went off axis. He expanded it to his students, sharing what he loved had never been a problem, teaching was a joy and it took the focus off of him. However, putting himself on display...it was different on ice.  Skating put him on a pedestal, removed him from the audience entirely, separated by a wall of plexiglass and a sheet of ice. But dance was so immediate, intimate. With this...the audience was too close.

 

After running through the routine with precision multiple times, Jules pronounced it ready.  Yuuri laid back on the floor staring up at the tall ceilings, the exposed architecture of the repurposed warehouse painted black.  “I’m thinking about installing aerial silks.”

 

“Well, this studio might be crowded if you plan to teach a class,” Jules pointed out.  “The main floor has space, though, and we can tie them back when not in use.”

 

Yuuri hummed thoughtfully.  “Maybe. We can definitely install them for groups...but this...it’s for me.  I need...something.”

 

“This job took the joy of pole dancing out of you,” Jules responded bitterly.

 

Yuuri sighed.  She wasn’t wrong but he wanted her to be.  “In time...working with my own routines, I could find it again.  But I also need a challenge. And something new.”

 

“I’ll check the budget and run it past the others.  If we can generate enough interest, I can at least get it for the main floor.”  The studio was a co-op of dance teachers with Jules managing the facility but big decisions running through the crew.  Yuuri could make changes to his own studio out of pocket but that was another expense. If the studio purchased the silks, he could possibly get a discount.

 

“Let me know what you all decide.  There’s no rush. It’s just an idea.”

 




Yuuri ran home, feeling the push on his body.  The day had been physical. Practice on Express , Celestino pressing him to refine certain movements.  Weights and core training. Back on the ice to practice Unsteady with Victor.  Run to the studio to work through the club choreo with Jules.  Now another run back to the apartment. And they had guests.

 

Yuuri wearily came through the door to an empty nest.  Victor was out with Chris but had told him to text when he got home.  He looked around at the shadowed apartment. When was the last time I was here alone?   A nudge against his hand brought a smile.   Maybe not totally alone.  He patted the large poodle.  “Do you need to go out, Makka?”  He received a boof in reply. “Let me put my things away.”

 

Ten minutes later, he stood in the dog park with both poodles playing and running.  He watched their antics with a quiet smile on his lips. Pulling out his phone, he read through his messages.

 

Peach/ I’m out with Dev tonight.  Will you check on my hamsters before bed?

 

Smiling, Yuuri quickly texted an affirmation.

 

Ciao Ciao/ You have charge of the ice in the morning.  Open at eight.

 

Yuuri/ Is Victor not going to be there?

 

Ciao Ciao/ Said he’d be with Chris.  Informal practice. I just want someone I can trust in charge.

 

Yuuri/ No problem.  You know I need ice.

 

Ciao Ciao/ Exactly.  No jumps unless Phichit or one of the others is there.

 

Yuuri/ Aye Aye, sir!

 

Ciao Ciao/ Sassing your coach!

 

Yuuri chuckled.  That was one of the things he liked about Ciao Ciao...he was approachable and human like Minako.

 

Yuuri/ ;) It’s a good day.

 

Ciao Ciao/ Glad to hear.  I know we pushed you hard today.

 

Yuuri/ You also know I like to be pushed.

 

Ciao Ciao/ Make sure you stretch.

 

Yuuri/ Already done.

 

Ciao Ciao/ Then goodnight.

 

He then turned to his messages with Victor.

 

Vitya/ Chris wanted drinks.  I suggested we grab them before you joined us.  I hope that’s okay.

 

Yuuri sighed.  Is it okay?  It should be okay.  I know why he is doing it.  Still, I feel left out.  Yuuri blinked back the tears.   Why does one drink always turn into five?  Why can’t I keep control?

 

He remembered the song Sober .  The seduction of the liquor as it lured him into a false peace.   It’s the peace I crave.  I want to feel that good sober.  How can I get to that place?

 

Yuuri/ It’s fine.  Where do you want to meet?

 

Vitya/ You’re home!  I miss you! It’s been forever since I’ve seen you.

 

Yuuri chuckled.  It hadn’t been, but Yuuri was the first program he worked on that afternoon before releasing him to the studio.  The Japanese man would forgive him, perhaps in Russia five hours is an eternity.

 

Yuuri/ Seeing to the dogs then I’ll grab a shower.

 

Vitya/ Ciao Ciao recommended Andiamo .  I thought we could take a walk along the riverfront when finished.

 

Yuuri/ Pricey.

 

Vitya/ It’s a date.  My treat.

 

Yuuri frowned as the considered that word.   Have they gone on a date?  Not really.  This could be fun and he knew it would make Victor happy to take care of him for the night.

 

Yuuri/ Are you going to pick me up?  ;)

 

Vitya/ Yes.  We’re at a pub close to campus.  Already walking your way.

 

Yuuri/ I suppose I should get ready, then.  Love you.

 

Vitya/ <3 Love you, too!

 

Yuuri smiled as he gathered the dogs up to take them in.  I really do love him.  Even if he is a big dork.

 




Yuuri came out of his room dressed in a suit and tie only to be swung into Victor’s arms.  “I’m so excited for tonight, Yuuri. Why haven’t we gone out like this? We need to change that.”

 

Yuuri laughed in response even as he heard voices in the living room.  “I’d love to, Vitya.” Then he noticed a frown. “What is it?”

 

“Ummm...it’s nothing,” Victor responded waving him off.  However, as he turned, Yuuri caught his hand.

 

“No...something is bothering you.  What is it?”

 

Victor’s eyes danced around, avoiding Yuuri’s.  “It’s silly.”

 

“Out with it,” Yuuri demanded with a raised eyebrow.

 

“It’s just that…”  Victor pulled the blue tie out from his jacket.  “This...isn’t a dinner tie. In fact, this tie should be retired...burned, the ashes buried deep so it can’t haunt my dreams.”

 

Yuuri glanced down with an embarrassed frown.  “I don’t have many ties.”

 

“Do you have a red?” Victor suggested.

 

Yuuri furrowed his brow leading Victor back to his room.  Opening the closet door, Victor could see the three ties Yuuri had at his disposal...along with the blue he wore, he owned a black necktie and a black bowtie.  “This is all I have,” he said quietly shifting uncomfortably.

 

Victor dropped his eyes guiltily.  “I should have thought. I…”

 

“Would black work?” Yuuri suggested, changing the direction of the conversation.  He didn’t want the evening spoiled. Especially over something silly like a tie.

 

Victor smiled.  “Of course.” He reached for Yuuri’s collar and lifted it, pulling the blue tie free and dropping it with a huff in the floor.  “You know I’m going to have to rectify this situation,” he continued as he reached for the slim black tie. He wrapped it around Yuuri’s neck and tied it into a four-in-hand knot.  “My father collected ties and I suppose I picked up the habit.  I know a number of knots but this is appropriate for a narrow tie like this.”  He tightened the knot and straightened the collar. He then smiled tenderly. “Thank you for indulging me.  I know...I can be a little high maintenance.”

 

Yuuri smirked, “A little.”   What was it Yura called him… extra.   He glanced towards the blue tie that served him well over the last five years.  “I don’t see what’s wrong with it.”

 

Victor looked like he was struggling to find the right words.  “It’s...young, like a school tie. You are a man. You should have a man’s tie.”

 

Yuuri sighed and smiled.  “If you say so. I always just made do with what I had.”

 

“And I understand that...but now you have me.” Victor beamed his smile at Yuuri holding out his arm.

 

Yuuri rolled his eyes and couldn’t help the soft chuckle.  “I suppose you have a point. Shall we join the others?”

 

“Of course.”  Victor covered Yuuri’s hand now ensconced in his elbow and escorted him into the living room where two other men stood to greet him.  “Yuuri, this is Lawrie, Chris’ significant other. I can’t believe the two of you haven’t met already.”

 

Lawrie held out a hand to shake Yuuri’s firmly.  “I’ve caught glimpses of you but you always shied away.”

 

Color rose up on Yuuri’s cheeks as he dropped his chin in answer.  He felt a hand smooth down his back grounding him and glanced up appreciatively to Victor.  “I...am sometimes anxious in social settings.”

 

“Please feel at ease, Yuuri.  You’re among friends,” Lawrie reassured him.  “Chris? Shall we go?” Turning to Yuuri, he added, “We have a car.  You don’t mind if I drive, do you?”

 

“No, of course not.” Yuuri relaxed more as the other man spoke. There was something comforting in Lawrie’s ability to make decisions without seeming overbearing.

 

He grinned.  “Excellent. I take advantage of these conferences to rent something luxurious.  This time, I went for the Mercedes.”

 

Yuuri’s eyes widened as he nodded.  Victor grinned as he led his boyfriend downstairs.  As Victor opened the door to the diamond silver Mercedes  for Yuuri and the younger man settled into the buttery leather seats, Yuuri thought to himself, this was a far cry from economy class.  Pulling out his phone, he texted Phichit.

 

Yuuri/ I’m going on a date with Victor!  In a Mercedes! Driven by Chris’ boyfriend!

 

Tucking his phone away, he leaned in against Victor who reached back into his pocket to retrieve said phone.  Switching it to selfie mode, he snapped their picture. “It is our first official date, after all,” he murmured silkily.  And for a moment, Yuuri forgot they weren’t alone as he sank into those blue eyes.

 

Chris, on the other hand, was enjoying the show.  “Your first date?” he purred.

 

Victor paused a moment to consider that thought.  “Not technically our first. Our first date was a picnic on the campus lawn.  My Yuuri made the most adorable picnic lunch.” He tweaked Yuuri’s nose and winked even as he enjoyed the rising flush in the younger man’s cheeks.

 

“Oh, I remember you tweeted pictures of that!” Chris cried out, his eyes widened.  “Such talent in the kitchen!”

 

Yuuri shrugged.  “It wasn’t that much.  I just had the right tools,” he demurred.

 

Chris’s eyes rested knowingly on his friend and his friend’s lover before a hand stroking his knee brought his attention forward.  He watched as his boyfriend reached in his pocket and pulled out a remote, pushing an up button. Chris gasped and glanced back in the mirror towards his friends.  They noticed nothing, lost in their own world. He then cut eyes to his boyfriend who hummed nonchalantly.

 

They arrived, leaving the car to the valet as they went inside.  Yuuri relished in the way Victor’s hand rested on the small of his back guiding him inside.  He noticed Chris’s boyfriend did the same. Within the restaurant , Victor charmed the hostess with his smile and a wink before identifying himself and his party, “Reservations for four.  Nikiforov.”

 

“Of course, Mr. Nikiforov.  Right this way.”

 

Yuuri realized at once why Victor had him change his tie.  He shifted nervously and glanced up at Victor. “This is so much,” he whispered.

 

“I’ve got you, my Yuuri.  Trust me.” Victor stated with such confidence that Yuuri couldn’t doubt him.  Victor pulled out the chair for his date and made sure he was seated.

 

As they perused their menus , the waiter approached them.  “Good evening gentlemen, welcome to Andiamo.  My name is Joseph and I’ll be your waiter for the evening.  Can I interest you in a bottle of wine to begin the evening?”

 

“Thank you, Joseph.  We are interested in some alcohol free options.”  It was at this point that Yuuri realized Victor had discussed an alcohol free evening with is friends.  He didn’t know whether to feel thankful or awkward.

 

Yuuri leaned in to murmur his protest, “Vitya, it’s okay.”

 

Victor patted his knee warmly and turned back to Joseph.  “How can you accommodate us?”

 

“We have, of course, Perrier.  We also have Tesco Chenin Blanc Sparkling and Tesco Pinotage Blush both out of South Africa.  We also have unsweetened tea and Coke products if you prefer.”

 

“Please start us with Perrier.  With lemon for myself. We will decide on the other options after we’ve decided on our meal.  Thank you.”

 

Joseph nodded with a smile, “Very good, sir.”

 

After the waiter left, Yuuri reiterated, “You really don’t have to do this.”

 

It was Lawrie that spoke up.  “We had a couple of drinks earlier, Yuuri.  I apologize for not including you but we fell in to catch up.  I have a limit as to how much I can drink as I’m driving, you understand.”

 

Yuuri flicked uncertain eyes to Lawrie but could offer no arguments.  Again Chris’ boyfriend managed to handle the situation with an ease and charm that left Yuuri calmed and envious.  “No, that’s fine. I just…” He trailed off as he chewed on his lower lip nervously. A comforting hand on his knee drew his attention back to Victor.  “This isn’t...because of me?”

 

“Of course not, my Yuuri.  A gentleman always sees to the needs of his guests.”  He smiled warmly to put him at ease.

 

Yuuri’s eyes darted around the table but finally sighed, letting the topic drop.  Returning to the menu, he began to read through the options. Around him, he heard the others discussing their options.

 

“It’s been some time since I’ve had veal,” Chris murmured.

 

“I’m leaning towards the brick chicken,” Victor stated.

 

Yuuri began to fidget unconsciously as he considered the caloric value as well as the cost, struggling to disconnect those from his thoughts.  Victor leaned forward and covered his hand, his eyes warm and inviting. “Would you be offended if I ordered for you?”

 

Yuuri’s eyes widened as he realized Victor picked up on his overwhelmed feeling.  He blinked and then nodded. “Please do so.”

 

Chris grinned at his friend’s save.  Laying his napkin on the table, he stood up.  “Please excuse me. Yuuri, will you join me?”

 

Yuuri looked startled, glancing at Victor with wide eyes but the older man shrugged then nodded encouragingly.  “I suppose…”

 

Chris led the way through the room and into the bathroom.  Inside, Chris took him to the side away from the stalls. “Yuuri...you need to relax, mon cher .  Vitya...he’s too far gone for you to be nervous.”

 

Yuuri squirmed for a moment, Chris was frank but gentle.  “I’m just...this is unfamiliar territory.”

 

Chris smiled, he placed a warm hand on Yuuri’s shoulder, “In a way, it is the same for him as well.”

 

“He seems at home,” Yuuri protested.

 

Chris chuckled.  “Vitya can play host...but you are the first person he’s officially taken on a date.  He cares a great deal about you.” Chris reached out and straightened up Yuuri’s tie and smoothed his hair.  “He turns all conversations to you, my dear Yuuri. Just let him love you.”

 

Yuuri took a deep breath and let it out.  “I’m trying.”

 

“Do you trust him?”

 

“Of course,” Yuuri responded without hesitation.

 

“Good...then just let go and let him take care of you for the night.”

 

They returned to the table and Victor rose to hold his chair for him.  “Everything alright?”

 

“Of course...I just needed a second opinion,” Chris answered with a wink.

 

Yuuri made a conscious effort to relax and for once he was thankful he didn’t have the temptation of alcohol to make the evening a disaster.  He took a deep breath and let it out, smiling over at Victor as he took his hand under the table to give it a squeeze. He received Victor’s genuine heart-shaped smile in return.  Just let Victor take care of me.  I can do this.

 

When their meal began to arrive Yuuri’s eyes brushed over the option.  It was as if Victor read his every concern choosing the Italian wedding soup as an appetiser.  Victor leaned forward and murmured, “I asked if we could split the brick chicken thighs in case I could talk you into dessert later.”

 

Yuuri smiled in response.  “I...could be talked into it.”

 

“You’ve put in a physical day today.  I want you to eat well.” Victor’s voice was encouraging and Yuuri ran through the caloric output, which he realized he was still running a deficit today after the exercise.

 

“I will.  I promise,” Yuuri responded and then noticed the hand on his back rubbing circles to relax him.  He looked up, his eyes sparkling. How does he do that?

 

He then learned that Chris and Lawrie decided to share the veal marsala.  Rather than separate plates, it was placed between the two for them to share more intimately, each occasionally feeding the other, forks and knives working for both instead of singularly.  The conversation started to flow as Yuuri tried the Tesca Chenin Blanc. It wasn’t a bad compliment to the meal and he felt himself starting to settle. Victor asked Lawrie about his conference.

 

“There have been a number of panels.  I was asked to talk about how I use dance in therapy.”  Turning to Yuuri, he explained, “I find that couples can often relate to one another on a dance floor when they struggle taking it into the bedroom.  So we work on one before moving to the other. And then with my assault survivors, it’s about helping them to become more comfortable with their own bodies once again.  Many find it empowering as well as therapeutic.”

 

Yuuri leaned in interest.  “I definitely agree. I’m writing my graduate thesis on that very topic.  In my studio, I work with domestic violence survivors to help rebuild their confidence.”

 

Lawrie smiled, happy to see the man across from him not only settled, but confident.  “May I ask what styles of dance you use?”

 

Yuuri thought a moment, he lead his classes in all manners of dance, allowing them to feel out a style that is their own.  “I have them in modern dance but we get on the poles at least twice a month. I’ve been talking with the other instructors about adding in aerial silks.”

 

Lawrie’s eyes brightened, “Oh, I hadn’t thought about that.  Will you let me know how that goes? I may want to try it with my own clients.”

 

Yuuri grinned and nodded.  “I’d be happy to.” By the end of the meal, the two psychologists exchanged their information and were immersed in talking about their work.  Their dates looked on indulgently. The important part was that Yuuri was relaxed. Without alcohol.

 

The four of them walked along the waterfront afterwards, pairing up, Chris with his arm threaded through Lawrie’s elbow, Yuuri with his fingers laced through Victor’s.  Then Victor saw an Italian ice vendor. “I think I found dessert. Will you share a lemon ice with me?”

 

Yuuri smiled, feeling too good to say no.  They went up to the vendor and order their dessert.  Victor leaned the cone towards Yuuri who took a bite, enjoying the sharp cold as it hit his mouth.  Then Victor startled him when he leaned forward to kiss him, his tongue dipping in to taste the ice within.  When Victor pulled back, he grinned at the surprised expression on his lover’s face.

 




Chris and Lawrie drove their friends home and waved at them with the promise of seeing them tomorrow.  Driving back to the hotel, Lawrie asked, “How are you feeling, love?”

 

“A bit overstimulated,” Chris answered even as he grinded his ass into the seat.  “Do you plan on taking care of me when we return to the hotel?”

 

“Absolutely.  I just couldn’t stand the thought of you feeling neglected this evening,” the older man teased reaching into his pocket to adjust the remote.

 

“I’m far from neglected,” Chris responded, closing his eyes to focus on the pleasing buzz his partner sent through his ass.  “Keep that up, we won’t make it to the hotel.”




NOTES:

The Body Speaks:  Redefining Self through Dance/movement Therapy with Survivors of Domestic Abuse

 

Dance/Movement Therapy: A healing modality for women who have been subjected to violence

 

One Billion Dancing

Chapter Text


 

How do I feel this good sober?



Yuuri arrived at the rink early, leaving right after breakfast.  Victor left earlier, joining Chris for the morning meal, and Phichit hadn’t made it home yet.  After tending their pets, Yuuri had nothing else to occupy himself. So might as well skate.

 

In the solitude of early Saturday practice, he reflected on his date from last night.  After the initial jitters in which everyone worked to put him at ease, he started to relax and enjoy himself.   I wanted to drink to put myself at ease but in the end, they worked to make it not necessary.  Victor took care of me.  He smiled as he finished the circle.   It was nice.

 

He flipped through his playlist seeking a song to skate to when Sober drew his attention once more.  He thinned his lips. Maybe if I skate to it, that will exorcise it out of my system.

 

He plugged in his earphones and shut out the world.  Setting the song on repeat, he began developing choreography to the music.  His friends words mixing with his own echoed through his thoughts.

 

“If it was just a couple, I wouldn’t worry.”

 

“I stopped inviting you to parties for your own good.”

 

“They took advantage of you, Yuuri.  A friend wouldn’t do that. A gentleman wouldn’t do that.”

 

“You told me you wanted help.”

 

“Go out with me.  I want to protect you from yourself.”

 

“You tend to self-medicate.”

 

“You are your own worst enemy.”

 

“I don’t always remember what happens to me when I drink.”

 

“Two drinks turn to five or more.”

 

“You shouldn’t have to take care of me.”

 

“I don’t always make the best decisions.”

 

He drew still.

 

“You asked for help.”

 

He swallowed a sob down.  “I need help.”

 

My friends, family, coaches...my boyfriend.  They are all worried. It’s all unraveling. Help...me…I’m drowning.

 

He didn’t know when Phichit arrived but he must have been standing still on the ice for some time as his skates stuck when he first tried to move.  He just felt arms wrap around him as he shook from the tears wracking through his body. “Oh, Yuuri, what’s wrong, honey?”

 

Yuuri waved his hand trying to regain his composure.  “I-it’s just too much.”

 

“Come on, sweetie.  Let’s get you off the ice.”  As Phichit guided him to the edge, he caught Devryn’s concerned gaze from the side.  His old boyfriend held him up while Phichit helped him with his guards, then they both led him to the side.  Yuuri fell into silence, words becoming too difficult for him. He leaned into Phichit and felt Devryn’s hand rubbing circles into his back.  They didn’t push. Yuuri has bad days. They knew he’d talk when he was ready.

 

“Do you want to go home?” Phichit asked gently.

 

Yuuri shook his head.  “C-coach left me in charge.”

 

Phichit frowned as he looked over at his boyfriend.  Texting Ciao Ciao, the coach told him to put a sign on the door saying they’d be back by noon, lock up, and take Yuuri home.

 




Victor sat across from Lawrie in his hotel room.  Chris had gone out for breakfast and would wait for the signal to return.

 

“I’ve arranged for a colleague to visit with you.”  Lawrie started slowly, using a well practiced tone. “She’s not strictly a sex therapist.  However, she does work with those recovering from sexual trauma.”

 

“But I didn’t go through sexual trauma,” Victor protested.

 

Lawrie passed the business card over to Victor.  “Dr. Bishop works with a wide variety of situations,” Lawrie soothed.

 

The silverette studied the card then his eyes widened in recognition.  “Th-that’s Yuuri’s psychiatrist,” Victor argued.

 

Lawrie frowned as he looked at the business card.  “Dr. Cara Bishop?”

 

Victor nodded.  “He hasn’t gone in a while but he’s mentioned her more than once.”

 

Lawrie nodded, “Not surprising.  She’s affiliated with the university and accepts university insurance.”

 

Victor sat quietly for a moment, eyes locked on the card in his hand.  “What...do I do?”

 

A slow smile broke over Lawrie’s lips, “The first step is to call and make an appointment...then show up.  She’s got a great reputation and she’s not in it for the money. I know she’s volunteered her services to help those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to get support.”

 

Victor blinked thinking more of his boyfriend’s situation, “What about Yuuri?”

 

Lawrie shook his head.  “You don’t have a conflict of interest because your reasons for seeking help are mutually exclusive.  Are you worried about Yuuri?”

 

Victor nodded.  “His anxiety is getting worse and his drinking, although not all the time, is becoming a crutch.”

 

“Self-medication mixed with an addictive personality can be a dangerous combination,” Lawrie agreed.

 

“I just want to be there for him, emotionally and physically.  I feel like I fail in both respects.” Victor’s fingers picked at the sleeve of his shirt.

 

“I’m worried that you are enabling the situation,” Lawrie stated with a sigh.  Reading the upset in Victor’s face he added, “You don’t want to become part of his codependency.”

 

“Is that what this is?  I love him,” Victor argued.

 

Lawrie kept his tone even, using what Chris called his shrink-voice, “I can see that but you don’t hold him accountable for his actions.”

 

“What do I do?”

 

“Push him to get help before he hurts himself.”

 

Victor pursed his lips.  He knew Yuuri had work that night and if history held true, he’d have another drunken night.  “Okay...let’s bring Chris back in here. He’s wandered the building long enough.”

 

Lawrie chuckled before texting his boyfriend.  Chris was back within five minutes breakfast in hand.  “So I have tickets for a show tonight. Do you think you and Yuuri can come?”

 

Victor huffed.  “Yuuri has other obligations.”

 

Chris saw plainly the disappointment and irritation in his friend’s face.  “Oh...I didn’t know. Do you want to do something else?”

 

Victor met Lawrie’s eyes before shaking his head.  “No. Let’s go. I need to get out of the house rather than wait at home for Yuuri.”

 

Chris looked between Lawrie and Victor before asking, “Are you sure?”

 

“Yes.  I’ll see if Yuuri can get out of it but we’ve already fought about it.  It’s work related.”

 




Victor arrived back at the apartment and immediately read the room.  “What’s wrong?” he asked Phichit.

 

“Anxiety,” their third roommate answered with a sigh.  “I called Jules because I know he works tonight.”

 

Victor walked around the sofa where Yuuri stretched out on his side.  His hand lay under his cheek, his eyes staring but unseeing. Reaching out gingerly, Victor whispered Yuuri’s name.  Yuuri blinked and looked up at him, a sad smile on his lips. Victor rested his hand through Yuuri’s hair and began to weave his fingers into the tresses.  “What happened?”

 

The lips opened wordlessly a few times before staccato words followed.  “Too much...in my head…”

 

Victor kept his eyes locked on the brown, seeing them mist over.  “Can I help?”

 

“Need quiet.”

 

Victor leaned forward and brushed his lips into Yuuri’s hair.  Standing, he asked Phichit, “Are you going to be here?”

 

“Yeah, do what you’ve got to do,” Phichit said with a wave.

 

“I have four hours with the girls then I’ll be back home.”

 

“I’ll try to have him up by then.  Jules has already texted to check on him.”

 

“I’m sorry I wasn’t here,” Victor sighed.

 

Phichit offered a wan smile.  “You can’t be there every moment.  He’s going to break down. The one who finds him is the one who deals with it.  Life with Yuuri.”

 

Victor nodded going for his skate bag before slipping out the door.

 




Yuuri argued with Phichit vehemently.  “I’ve got to work.” The curse of anxiety is that it knocked the words out of his body but when they came back they flooded out violently.

 

“I’m sure Jules can cover for you,” Phichit interjected.

 

He was already moving around the apartment in erratic motions, grabbing items and stuffing them into a bag without method.  “You don’t understand!”

 

Phichit thinned his lips.  He didn’t like the hysteria he heard in Yuuri’s voice.  “Breathe Yuuri...you’re right, I don’t understand. Help me.”

 

Yuuri opened his mouth to speak when Victor walked through the door.  Stamping his foot, Yuuri shook his head as he turned on his heel and stalked down the hall.  His door slammed in heavy punctuation. Phichit shoved his hands through his hair in frustration.

 

“What’s going on?” Victor asked softly.

 

“He insists on going to work tonight,” Phichit huffed, turning to stomp into his own room.  Another door slammed leaving Victor at a loss.

 

Pulling out his phone, Victor called Jules.  “Hey, Jules, Victor here. Yuuri is having a bad day.”

 

“Yeah.  Phichit sent me a message.  How bad is it?”

 

“I really don’t have a handle on the situation.  He wasn’t really speaking when I was here earlier.  I just came back from the rink to him butting heads with Phichit.  They went off in opposite directions slamming doors.”

 

Jules sighed on her end, “Let them cool down.”

 

“Yuuri works tonight,” Victor pushed gently.

 

He heard silence on the other end.  Finally, Jules murmured, “I’ll call and talk to him.  I know him, though. He’ll probably push himself.”

 

“If he works, will you be there to keep an eye on him?”  He hoped she heard the desperate plea he was hinting at in the question.   Watch over him, please.

 

Victor could feel the reassuring smile in her words, “Always.”

 

“Thank you.”  He lowered the cell feeling worry beneath his skin.   Yuuri...

 




At six, Yuuri headed out the door dance bag slung over his shoulder.  Both friends watched in worry. At the end of the block, he climbed into Jules’ car.  “I don’t want to argue,” he breathed as he sat down. Jules thinned her lips and nodded, putting the car in gear.  Closing his eyes, he felt the rhythm of the car’s engine. He had a run-through with the rest of the dance crew before the actual set that night.

 

He walked into the club, Pink blaring on the speakers as he watched several of the dancers working through a routine.  “Yuuri!” he heard several excited calls. “Join us.”

 

Yuuri laughed, shaking off the anxiety of the day.  He enjoyed this part of the night. Dancing with the crew, falling into the routines was something he actually looked forward to.  If this were it, dancing here would be easy, enjoyable. It was the solo numbers that threw him. “Is this for tonight?”

 

“It falls between sets,” one of the girls answered.

 

Riding on the manic high, he worked them through another routine, this one from Ivy Levan , sliding into a jazz persona with ease.  He was laughing by the end of the song, following Jules back to do makeup.  He wanted to work through the choreography of his solo numbers using the club’s poles before they opened.

 

“Watch your alcohol intake tonight, Yuuri,” Jules lectured as she patted on the makeup.

 

“I’m handling it,” Yuuri huffed feeling his mood crashing.  His words came out harsher than he’d meant, but he also hoped that would end the conversation.

 

She thinned her lips as she put the finishing touch on his look.  “I’ll add in the crystals after you work through the routine.” The painted mask covered half of his face.  He just needed the final touches glued on. He checked out his look in the mirror. Black dance shorts with sheer cut outs up the side creating bands.  The top left his stomach now chiseled with all of the work he put in visible, solid and sheer bands of a stretchy material wound around his shoulders and upper back, and a few strips over his chest.  The painted mask looked ragged by design, smoky shades highlighted with silver glitter. The crystals would highlight the design. His lips were painted a smoky ruby. The ear opposite the mask held an earring, simple, chosen to catch the light as he wound his way around the pole.

 

He tugged the straps and had Jules tighten a couple that he knew would loosen during the dance.  Finally satisfied, he nodded. “I’m ready.”

 

“Let’s make sure there won’t be any wardrobe issues.  Run through.”

 

She worked him through the set and as he dismounted, she nodded in satisfaction, the owner standing behind her shoulder.  As Yuuri slipped back stage, Cameo waved Jules into her office. “I’ve heard rumors. Is your man drinking too much?”

 

“He can hold his own,” Jules argued.  She refused to throw him under the bus.

 

The seasoned club owner and dancer studied the redhead in front of her.  “You’re back up, then.”

 

Jules sighed but nodded in agreement.   Don’t make me regret this, Yuuri.






“So where are we going?” Victor asked Chris as he dressed for the evening.  The jeans fit him nicely and he added a belt to the look. Shirt. Jacket. Watch.

 

“It’s a burlesque review.  I’ve seen the headliner Lola perform before.  She’s good.”

 

“Too bad Yuuri is being stubborn.  He might’ve appreciated the performance,” Victor huffed.

 

Chris pulled a pendant and held it up to Victor’s shirt .  “This one.  And I agree.  However, we all make choices in life.”

 

Victor thinned his lips as he added the accessory.  The light gray casual jacket paired with the white button up needed a little extra even with the black striping up the placket.  “I know he needs the money and can’t really afford to take a night off but I offered to set up some modeling contracts.”

 

“It’s not always easy to accept help.  Yuuri has a lot of pride,” Chris pointed out.

 

Victor closed his eyes as he murmured, “I know this, trust me.”

 

Chris observed his friend with approval.  His own shirt had a floral design burned out of the blue fabric.  However, the casual elegance of Victor’s look suited him.  His own man was in the living room talking with Phichit. Lawrie wore a black and white button up paired with blue jeans.

 

As they joined the others in the living room, Victor asked, “This isn’t a strip club, is it?”

 

Chris chuckled.  “Oh, Vitya. This place is much classier than that.  They put on a show much like we do on ice.”

 

“Where are you going?” Phichit asked as he added the finishing touches to the meal he was preparing for Devryn.

 

Victor shrugged, fidgeting with his watch, “Apparently a burlesque to see a Lola dance?”

 

“Oh, Incognito!  I’ve heard it’s good.  Have fun!” Phichit admired the stylish trio.

 

“And you’ll be here if Yuuri gets home before me?” Victor asked worriedly.

 

The Thai man waved off his concerns.  “I’ve been looking out for Yuuri much longer than you.  Besides, Dev and I are watching a movie on TV.”

 

“Thanks,” Victor murmured.  He almost canceled when Phichit found out about his plans.  The younger man told him if Yuuri could go out, so could he.  It was a valid point.

 

They went downstairs and loaded up into the Mercedes.

 




They were laughing as they walked up to the entrance.  The bouncer checked their ID’s as he took their tickets.  Chris frowned. “Lola’s not performing tonight?”

 

“Don’t worry,” the bouncer soothed.  “Geisha is just as much of a knockout.  I’ve heard straight men find him tempting.”

 

“Oh, we have a man headlining.  Wonderful! They don’t get enough attention with the pole.”

 

The bouncer laughed.  “This one gets plenty of attention.  He’s worth it. Enjoy the show.”

 

They moved to their table, clear view of the stage and the advantage of pre-purchased tickets.  As the waitress took their drink order, Victor settled back. He could feel the energy in the club and found himself smiling in anticipation.

 




Backstage, Yuuri added the finishing touches, letting Jules add in the crystals.  “Calm down,” she chastised.

 

His knees were already bouncing, “What if more people saw me than Andreia?”

 

“Did anyone else say anything?” she countered.  She watched him reach for a shot. “Yuuri…” she said with a warning tone.

 

He rolled his eyes, “Just one.  To take the edge off.”

 

She narrowed her gaze.  “Only one,” she countered.  Backing up, she nodded in satisfaction.  “You’re good to go. Break a leg!” As she left the dressing room, she glanced back in time to catch him down a second drink.  Sighing, she closed her eyes in exasperation. She checked a few of the other dancers, helping them stretch as they prepared for the night.  Once everyone was set, she stepped out into the audience, her eyes scanning the crowd.

 

The distinctive silver hair drew her eye even in the low club light.  Her stomach began to knot up. Oh, shit!   It’s too late to warn Yuuri .  Blue eyes met hers widening in surprise a moment before the curtain rose presenting the headliner.  Geisha!

Chapter Text


 

Shape of You



Victor’s eyes widened as the headliner transitioned up the pole.  “Is that...?” There was no denying it. He spent too long studying that body to not recognize Yuuri’s movements, thighs, abs, everything on the pole.

 

Chris looked from Victor to Yuuri assessing the situation.  Leaning over, he murmured to his boyfriend, “I think perhaps Vitya didn’t know about Yuuri’s job.”

 

Lawrie nodded, asking Victor gently, “Are you okay?”

 

Victor’s eyes were on the body stretching into a closed inverted leg hang with the music.  “No matter where he’s at, he makes music with his body,” he breathed.

 

“Did you know?” Chris asked.

 

Victor shook his head then turned to hold Jules’ eyes.  He watched the dancer sigh in defeat before approaching their table.

 

“I can explain,” she began.

 

Victor waved off her explanations.  “I just need to know...is he on that pole drunk?”

 

Jules ducked down guiltily.  “Not yet…”

 

Chris took in her appearance and asked, “Are you working?” Chris asked

 

She shook her head.  “I’m choreo and back up for tonight.  I’m mainly here to keep an eye on Yuuri.”

 

Victor turned from the redhead to focus back on stage, keeping his eyes on Yuuri as if mentally willing the man to remain safe.  “Is this...where he’s been going on Saturday nights?”

 

She nodded adding, “And some Thursdays.”

 

“Why didn’t he tell me?  Did he think I wouldn’t approve?” Victor asked.

 

She sighed, flicking her eyes towards her friend.  “Are you saying you’re okay with him dancing up there?”

 

Victor tightened his jaw and huffed in frustration.  “Yuuri is a performer. Just like you, me, Chris...and his ability to turn his body to music is a part of him.  No, I don’t have a problem with him dancing.”

 

“And with others looking at him?  Lusting after him?” she pressed. “I ask because my last boyfriend broke up with me because I dance here.”

 

Victor felt sorry for the girl, but there was little difference with how people saw them on the ice.  He was just as exposed, lusted after, desired on that stage as on this one. “I only have a problem with him doing so recklessly.  He’s drinking, isn’t he?”

 

She sighed in resignation and then nodded slowly.  “He’s fine...for now. He just started. It progresses steadily throughout the evening.  He has trouble staying loose. He says it takes the edge off. You know his nerves.”

 

Victor exchanged a glance with Chris.  “We know. I also know the condition he’s in when he comes home.”  He leveled a look at her, not to accuse but to drive home his only true concern.

 

“He hates it,” Jules hissed, her dark blue eyes moving towards the stage.  “It’s taken everything he enjoys about the pole and drained it. He keeps saying the audience is too close.”

 

Lawrie had been listening to the exchange thoughtfully.  “Yuuri has mentioned social anxiety. Is he self-medicating with alcohol?”

 

Both Jules and Victor turned to him with a nod.

 

Lawrie grimaced as he accepted the answer he had expected.  “Has he tried other medications?”

 

“He has,” Jules answered.  “They really fucked him up.  I remember him lying in the studio crying.  It was like he was sinking into a hole and couldn’t find his way out of it.  Phichit and I had him on suicide watch. It was really scary. Alcohol...is somehow better?”

 

Lawrie thinned his lips.  “He should be in a facility until the meds are regulated.  The wrong combination could lead to such side effects as you are suggesting.  Once he’s got it together, he can move forward with small adjustments over time.”

 

“Are you a psychiatrist?” Jules asked, her gaze sharpening ready to defend her friend.

 

“Psychologist, but yes.  I know the field.” He turned to Yuuri giving a nod.  “He’s edging himself into a manic state so that he can face the fears that are holding him back.  So no...not better. One sent him into a depressed state, the other into a manic state. Odd for a depressant but it’s like two sides of the same coin.”

 

“So if we know alcohol makes him manic, could that help determine a better course?” Victor asked.

 

Lawrie watched the body on stage, still limber and liquid in the movements.  “It’s definitely something to mention with his therapist. And now you have her card.”

 

Victor’s lips parted in surprise before nodding.  “I do.”

 

Turning back to focus on Yuuri, Victor felt warring emotions.  At the core of it all lay the protectiveness. He appreciated the beauty that was his Yuuri, the beauty the man created through music and motion on stage.  He worried about Yuuri both mentally and what the abuse was doing to his body. The set ended, followed by a quick series of dancers, but for the second showing Yuuri’s performance began to suffer.  The motions fluid to reckless, the effects of drunken languidness setting in and showing clearly.

 

It was the third set, as the night was growing to a close that Yuuri came out visibily drunk.  The crowd only believed it part of the act and applauded encouraging. However, the concerned group at the table watched horrified.  The lithe man climbed a pole, swinging too wide as his leg spun up, inverting his body. Then Victor caught the slip of Yuuri’s hand just as Jules, Chris, and even Lawrie gave a collective gasp of alarm.  Exchanging glances with Jules, she dropped her head in resignation. Yuuri caught himself, but landed with a thud on the stage, transitioning quickly to continue the dance.

 

“I worried about the risks of tonight’s choreography,” she muttered.

 

“Did you voice your concerns to him?” Victor asked as he rose to follow her.

 

She nodded.  “He said he could handle it.”  Sighing, she added, “I wanted to believe him but I knew better.”

 

They approached the backstage entrance and the guard looked at Jules questioningly, shooting a eyebrow at Victor.  “He’s with me, Bryant.” With a sharp nod, she led Victor back towards Yuuri’s dressing room.

 

Yuuri looked up sharply, shot glass in hand and a guilty expression on his face.  Setting down the glass, he slurred, “Vitya, why are you here?”

 

Leaning against the door facing, he offered a sad smile.  “I came to see a beautiful dancer perform with my friends.”

 

Yuuri’s chin dropped.  “Oh...and you got me instead.”

 

“Yes,” Victor murmured.  “A beautiful dancer. More beautiful than I even anticipated.”  Yuuri still didn’t look at him but Victor could see the blush in his cheeks.  Victor pulled the shotglass from his hand and set it on the vanity. “ Solnyshko , you can’t go on like this.”

 

“I have two more sets,” Yuuri argued and Victor could see the tears in his eyes.  Beyond him, Jules was putting on her makeup preparing to step in. Turning beseeching eyes in her direction, he begged.  “I can do this!”

 

She reached out taking his hand and giving it a squeeze, a sad smile on her lips.  “Not tonight, sweetheart. Go home with Victor.”

 

Yuuri sniffed even as Victor wrapped Yuuri in the dark kimono.  “This is my job.”

 

Jules spoke in a soft tone, “I know, love...but it’s time to go home.”

 

Yuuri sent one more glance Jules’ direction but she was focused on her makeup.  Because the show must go on.

 

Victor borrowed an oversized coat from the cast and escorted Yuuri.  Although he drew a number of interested stares, Yuuri kept his head down.  The crowd seemed to sense his distress, a few whispers of “is he okay?” reaching his ears.

 

Chris met them at the door.  “Lawrie is getting the car.”

 

Yuuri said nothing on the drive.  His knees were drawn to his chest as he stared out the window.  Chris glanced back several times with concern. Victor watched him worriedly.  Lawrie drove, turning the radio app on to dispel some of the tension. Parking, he secured the car while Victor and Chris got Yuuri back to the apartment.  Yuuri went down the hall. Victor sighed and begged askance of Chris.

 

Chris gave him a light shove.  “Go. Deal with him.”

 

The noise must have drawn the attention of the other two men in the apartment because Phichit came into the room in confusion followed by Devryn.  Chris briefed him as Lawrie came into the apartment. Victor drifted down the hall.

 

He found Yuuri in the bathroom sitting on the toilet seemingly frozen.  “Let’s get you cleaned up, solnyshko .”

 

Yuuri sniffed and it was then that Victor could see he was shaking.  “It’s all fucked up.”

 

“We’ll sort it out in the morning when your head is clearer.”  Reaching into the shower, he turned the water on to warm up. He then focused on helping Yuuri out of his clothes.  As Yuuri sat in his underwear, Victor knelt before him. “Are you okay?”

 

Yuuri shook his head slowly.  “I...can’t get through the noise.”

 

Victor rose up on his knees and gathered him in his arms.  “I’m going to take care of you. Let’s finish getting you undressed and in the shower.”

 

Victor guided Yuuri to his feet and helped him out of his underwear.  He then helped Yuuri in the shower. “C-cold,” Yuuri complained, a shiver sneaking into his voice.

 

“I didn’t warm it too much.  I don’t want your head to swim.”

 

A knock on the door caught his attention.  He checked on Yuuri, “Are you okay?”

 

“Uh huh,” Yuuri answered as he stood under the water.

 

Victor opened the door and faced a worried Phichit.  “Did Chris fill you in?”

 

“Yes!  Yuuri was dancing!  He’s drunk! Is he okay?  He was coming apart earlier.”  Phichit kept his voice down, but couldn’t help the alarm he felt.

 

Victor glanced back towards the shower and shrugged.  “He’s not in a good place.”

 

“Not good,” Yuuri echoed.  “Cold.”

 

Victor called back to the shower, “Wash off and I’ll help you with your makeup.  Okay?”

 

“Mmkay,” Yuuri answered.

 

Victor turned back to Phichit and shrugged helplessly.  Phichit glanced back then said, “I’ll put some coffee on and the tea kettle.”

 

“I think Jules planned to stop by when she finished.  She had to take over Yuuri’s show.”

 

Phichit’s lips thinned grimly as he withdrew from the room.  Victor turned back to Yuuri as he heard a sob. “What’s wrong, solnyshko ?”

 

“I-I was fired.  I n-need that job.”

 

“It’ll be okay, love.  I’ll help you figure it out.”  He helped Yuuri out of the shower and dried him off.  Yuuri collapsed in his arms as Victor held onto him. “I’ve got you, baby...I’ve got you.”  The smaller man’s body shook in its sobs as Victor soothed him tenderly. Yuuri finally settled, pulling back to stare up at him.  Victor smoothed back his hair. “Oh, darling...you are such a wreck. Let me get that makeup off.”

 

He sat still on the toilet while Victor carefully pried off the jewels.  Then Victor began with the makeup remover wipes, wiping firmly but gently.  Yuuri just sat blinking up at him, so quiet and still that Victor felt unsettled.  Finally, he pulled back and nodded in satisfaction. “Do you mind if I put some night cream on?  Your skin could use some love.”

 

Yuuri nodded.  Victor generously applied the moisturizer.  Leading him to Yuuri’s room, Victor helped Yuuri find some clean underwear and a t-shirt.  Yuuri then snuggled into Victor’s fuzzy robe. “Do you want some tea?”

 

Yuuri shrugged.  “No people.”

 

“I’ll go get you a cup.  I know Phichit put water on.”  Victor reluctantly left the room but felt better when both poodles came in as he opened the door to check on their humans.  Sensing something was off with Yuuri, they quickly bypassed Victor and crawled up beside him.

 

In the kitchen, he steeped a cup of tea while friends surrounded him.  “How is he?” Chris pressed gently.

 

Victor blinked, focusing on the cup in front of him.  “He’s...out of it. He seems unfocused, like he’s not quite himself.”

 

Lawrie frowned.  “Does he dissociate often?”

 

“Sometimes when his anxiety is really high,” Phichit supplied.

 

Devryn shifted uncomfortably, his eyes darting to Phichit before he mumbled, “And sometimes after sex.”

 

Lawrie considered his next question carefully.  “Has he been sexually abused?”

 

Devryn shrugged.  “He doesn’t see it that way.  He...was often taken advantage of while drunk.  I’ve stepped in more than once as have other friends.”

 

“He doesn’t have a high self esteem.  So when his self-worth is low, he’s at his worst.  That would include times he’s been drunk at a party,” Phichit supplied.

 

Victor finished preparing the cup of tea the way Yuuri liked it as he asked Lawrie and the others, “Should I do anything?”

 

“Make him feel safe and keep him grounded,” Lawrie stated.

 

In the bedroom, Yuuri continued to pet the dogs, his fingers tangling into the poodles’ hair and then releasing them.  He didn’t look up when Victor reentered, lost in his own thoughts. Victor sat next to him on the bed placing the cup on the bedside table.  “Yuuri,” he murmured.

 

Yuuri blinked as if just realizing he was there.  “I’m sorry,” he whispered.

 

“Don’t be.  I brought tea.”  He carefully brought the cup to Yuuri.  The younger man stared into the cup, studying the ripples before finally taking a sip.  A tear slipped down his cheek. “What’s wrong?”

 

Yuuri sniffed back.  “I-it has ginger. I don’t deserve ginger.”

 

“I disagree.”  Victor pressed the warm cup back towards the younger man.  “You will always deserve ginger. Why do you think otherwise?”

 

Yuuri’s voice lowered to a whisper, almost childlike.  “Because I’m bad.”

 

“Oh, lyubov moya , you are not bad,” he soothed, pulling Yuuri into his arms.  “Why do you think you’re bad?”

 

“B-because I d-dance at a c-club.  I can’t even d-do that right.” Yuuri’s emotions were rising like a tide.

 

“Dancing at a club doesn’t make you bad, my Yuuri.”  He brushed some of the wild hair beginning to stick up as it dried.  “You are beautiful when you dance.”

 

He sniffed rubbing his eyes into Victor’s shoulder.  “Some think it’s the same as stripping.”

 

“Well, it’s not...but if it was, that’s your choice.  You can still dance beautifully. You are music personified.”  He ran a hand down Yuuri’s back, feeling the man settle.

 

Yuuri huffed into his shoulder.  “I’m not. I-I’m a mess. You keep having to pick up the pieces.”

 

“You pick up my pieces,” Victor argued.

 

“It’s not the same,” Yuuri insisted.  He sighed, closing his eyes. “My head is spinning.”

 

“You should sleep, love.  We’ll talk more in the morning.”  Victor settled his boyfriend in bed tucking him in.  Stroking his hair, he waited for Yuuri’s breathing to even out.

 




In the living room, he found the numbers had swelled.  Jules arrived along with Ashley. Really, the only significant member of the Detroit family not present was Celestino.  Victor sighed not looking forward to that call. Focusing on Jules, he asked, “How’d it go?”

 

She squirmed, hugging her arms around her body.  “He...got fired. The owner will pay him for tonight but his others shows have been cut.”

 

Victor nodded grimly.  “He suspected as much.”

 

Jules sat forward, “How’s he taking it?”

 

“A lot of self-recrimination.  I...don’t know what to do.” Victor spread his hand out searching each person there.  They all loved Yuuri as well. Many knew him better.

 

Devryn wrapped his arms around Phichit from behind.  “I think we need to force the move.”

 

Lawrie leaned forward, elbows propped on his knees.  “It’s not a bad plan. Yuuri seems to have hit rock bottom.  It might be a good time to gather the troops and encourage him to get the help he needs.”

 

“Do you think you can contact Dr. Bishop?” Victor inquired, knowing he would have to bring in Celestino.

 

Lawrie thinned his lips and nodded.  “Come morning, I’ll get a message to her.”

 

“Good.  Then we’ll move forward.  Tomorrow afternoon, everyone?”

 

They all sighed wearily but agreed.

 

“Get some rest, everyone.  My room’s free if anyone wants to crash there.”  Victor stood up and headed back down the hall. He needed to be close to his Yuuri.  Tomorrow, the Japanese man’s world was going to come apart and he needed to be ready to pick up the pieces.

 

Moving in next to him, he kissed the younger man’s hair.  “I love you, my Yuuri. I hope you remember that tomorrow.”

Chapter Text


 

Beautiful Trauma



Yuuri winced as the sun pushed through the break in the curtains.   Ow!  He pushed his fingers through his hair only to pull them back.   My hair hurts.  What happened last night?  He then lay still as one memory crashed over another memory filling in all the gaps as his horror grew.  Oh.  He turned his head slowly to Victor’s side of the bed only to find it empty.  He bit back the initial sorrow, but reminded himself that didn’t necessarily mean anything.  As high as the sun appeared, he knew it was late.

 

With a groan, he pushed himself out of bed.    Too much to do.  I’ve got to figure my way out of this.  I hope Jules isn’t pissed.  He stilled his hand even as he reached for his closet door.   Of course she’s pissed.  I left her to pick up the pieces.  Pulling a hoodie over his head and sweatpants on, he considered a run but the reality of his hangover grounded him.  His body was in no shape for a run, it was in no shape for much.

 

Finally, he opened the door.  He heard the buzz of voices in the living room and continued down the hall, not thinking much of it until he heard a woman’s voice.  He stopped and ducked into the bathroom. Shit!  Who else is here?  In the mirror he looked at himself, ragged as hell, he splashed water on his face and brushed his teeth.  Studying the puffiness, he ran cold water over a washcloth. Sitting on the toilet, he tilted his head back with the cloth over his face.  Counting to a hundred and twenty, he eventually sat back up, washing the cloth around the back of his neck and down his arms. Feeling a little more human, he decided it was time to face the world.

 

He padded down the hall, smiling as he was greeted by Makkachin and Vicchan.  He knelt down to give them attention. He knew he was stalling. He gave himself these few minutes.  A stay of execution, if only a brief one. Finally, he took a deep breath and walked into the space. His eyes widened and he almost backed out to run.  Except...he couldn’t. Devryn smoothly stepped behind him blocking off the exit down the hall and Ashley had the door out blocked. Shit!  What fresh hell is this?

 

He cast his eyes desperately around the room feeling a certain degree of panic.  A hand slid around his waist and he stiffened until he realized it was Victor.

 

“Come into the kitchen, love.  You need to eat something and drink some water.”  Victor’s voice was calming and even, the smile genuine but strained.

 

“I-I don’t think I can eat anything,” Yuuri protested.

 

Victor leaned his head into Yuuri so that their foreheads touched.  “A little bit. For me?”

 

“I could...probably handle some rice and eggs,” Yuuri conceded.  Victor pulled him into the kitchen.

 

Yuuri’s eyes cast about the room assessing the group assembled in the living space.  His eyes widened when he spotted Ciao Ciao. Chris and his boyfriend Lawrie were there.  Phichit and Devryn were now chatting near the hall. Jules sat on the floor next to Ashley, petting Vicchan.  In the relative separation of the kitchen, he leaned into Victor and whispered, “I really fucked up, didn’t I?”

 

Victor simply kissed his forehead before turning back to the task of preparing him breakfast humming to himself.  Yuuri didn’t recognize the tune and wondered if it was Russian. He then started as he felt a bottle of water thrust into his hand.  “Drink. I want two bottles in you before you finish breakfast.”

 

“There are people in there,” Yuuri hissed.

 

Victor nodded with a smile.  “This is all that we could gather on such short notice.”

 

Yuuri didn’t feel comforted by those words.  “I’m not up to this.”

 

“I know.  That’s why you need to drink water,” Victor supplied simply.

 

Yuuri huffed but had very little energy to protest.  He tipped up the water bottle and drained half of the contents before he lowered it.  Victor finished the eggs and scooped out rice into a bowl. Adding the eggs, he placed the bowl on the bar for Yuuri.  A second water bottle was added. With a sigh, Yuuri complied with Victor’s demand.

 

His eyes studied those assembled.  None of them approached him. It seemed to be some unspoken agreement.  Only Victor seemed to be allowed to interact with him. Everyone else operated in small groups.  Ciao Ciao now talked with Phichit and Devryn and it looked as if they were simply discussing rink matters.  But Yuuri knew better. They’re here for me.

 

Finally finished with the water and half eaten breakfast, he pushed back the bowl and looked up at Victor beseechingly.   Please don’t make me do this.  Tomorrow, just not today. Victor gathered him in his arms and led him into the living room.  They took a seat on the sofa. Yuuri butterflied his legs out, hugging a pillow to his chest as his eyes moved about the room.  The rest of the gathering moved closer but didn’t crowd him.

 

“I think you know why we are all here,” Victor began softly, his hand keeping contact with Yuuri, running circles up and down his back.

 

Yuuri sniffed back and nodded.   Please, I can’t…I can’t do this.   He looked surprised when a tissue was pressed into his hand.  He looked up and thanked the person for their kindness only to meet Jules’ eyes.  The woman dropped down on her knees in front of him.

 

Victor continued.  “Everyone here has something to tell you.  Then you have a decision to make. But first, you have to hear us out.”

 

Yuuri nodded, hugging his pillow into his chest.

 

Jules placed a hand on his knee drawing his attention.  She smiled sadly. “Yuuri...you were my first friend, my first lover when I came to college.  We stumbled through so many firsts together and I still consider you my dearest friend. I’d do anything for you...and that may be a bad thing.  I...knew the club was not the best place for you but when you came for help, I still offered you the job opportunity. I’m sorry, Yuuri...I think I made your situation worse.”

 

Yuuri shook his head, releasing the pillow and leaning forward to hug her.  “N-no. I...make it hard for people to help me.”

 

Jules accepted him in her arms, “But you accept help from me...I just offered the wrong kind of help.”

 

“You offered me what I wanted...I also knew it wasn’t a good decision.  I’m at least equally culpable in this.” He swallowed as he leaned back holding her eyes.  “It’s done, isn’t it? They don’t want me back.”

 

She pulled back, looking down she sighed.  Raising her eyes to his, “I think it’s for the best, Yuuri.  You couldn’t perform there without a drink. It made you hate and fear something that you once loved.  You need to let it go.”

 

“I don’t know what to do,” he whispered.

 

“You’ve got plenty of people here to help you figure it out.”  She stood up and relinquished her place to someone else.

 

Yuuri looked up to see Phichit move out of Devryn’s arms.  He wrapped Yuuri into a hug. Sitting back down, he looked up at his friend.  “I’ve known you for three years and I could probably pinpoint the moment when you stopped seeking treatment, December, you were upset about Dr. Bishop suggesting a new drug treatment.  Your behavior has become more and more erratic from that moment forward. I’ve been worried about you and you are the topic of so many concerned conversations among our friends. I want you to want to get better, Yuuri.  I love you and it hurts me to see you hurt yourself.” Phichit let his tears flow freely and by the end of his talk, Yuuri had him back in his arms whispering “I’m sorry” over and over. When Phichit pulled back, he gave Yuuri a tender look.  “I want to see you happy. Let yourself have this.” Standing up, he walked back over to stand next to Devryn and their coach.

 

Ashley cleared her throat and raised an eyebrow before she sat next to him on the coach.  She scruffed his hair and shook her head. “Idiot!” she stated, her voice gruff. “I offered to train you an anxiety dog years ago.  That offer still stands. Sometimes we need more support, something more constant. I have watched you get lost in your head over and over again.  I know you don’t want to use meds. I’m offering you an alternative. However, I just want to say that for someone so adamant against using meds, you are relying on one of the most readily available and least helpful meds out there.  You don’t want to be dependent on something but you are making it so that you will never be free of it.” She stood up shaking her fingers through his hair similar to how Mari would do. “Quit being so stubborn.”

 

Devryn was next.  He also sat next to Yuuri on the sofa taking both of his hands into his own.  “You know...I loved you a long time. For a while, I thought that meant I was in love with you.  I wanted to be your guardian angel. I wanted to save you from yourself. It...was hard to let you go.  I still love you. I still want you to love yourself. I keep hoping that with enough people loving you that you’d wake up.  You’d take care of yourself. You’d be happy.”

 

“I’m trying,” Yuuri whispered.

 

Devryn shook his head.  “No, you’re not. You deny yourself every happiness.  You deem yourself unworthy and you push it away every time.”  He reached up a gentle hand to cup Yuuri’s cheek. “You are the beauty I look for in the world.  Your laugh is musical. Take our love and let it strengthen you. Don’t you know you could command armies?”

 

“It seems the army is rebelling,” Yuuri argued sardonically.

 

Devryn chuckled.  “There’s a bit of that spark inside of you.  It’s good to know you’re still fighting.”

 

Yuuri watched Devryn move back to Phichit’s side wrapping his arms around the younger man.  He then started when he felt a pair of hands enclosing his and he turned to meet Chris’ eyes.  He blinked in surprise.

 

“I think I’m representing the lot of your competitors.  I don’t know if you realize how many eyes you’ve drawn on your journey.  I remember watching you in juniors and when I crossed over to seniors, I couldn’t wait until you joined me.  Your skating recaptures the beauty a lot of people seem to have lost for the technical. But...you can’t skate if you continue to abuse yourself.  You and I know the strict life we have to live as athletes. And if you can’t just have one drink, it’s best to have none. It affects how your body will absorb nutrients.  It dehydrates you. It slows your recovery. And last night it almost injured you. I want to compete against you for a long time. But I want to compete against the best you.  And you and I both know you can’t be that person when you push yourself like this.”

 

Yuuri’s eyes sought the hazel.  “It’s not just the alcohol.”

 

Chris smiled, “I know...it’s a symptom of the illness.  But it is a place to start. Sometimes looking at the big picture is overwhelming.  So...we focus on a small portion.” He moved back and joined Lawrie, settling into his arms.

 

Coach Celestino knelt before him and Yuuri felt small in his presence.  The man had a way of encompassing the feeling of father, teacher, and guide.  “Yuuri, you have so many people here reaching out to help you. You also have those reaching from home.”

 

“From home?” Yuuri asked, his eyes widening as he searched those around him.

 

Ciao Ciao drew his eyes and nodded.  “We’ve been in contact with your family.  They had no idea you were struggling and not taking care of yourself.  I have it in no uncertain terms that both Minako and Mari are threatening to come here and drag your ass to get help.  Your parents said you never told them that expenses increased. They are not in dire straights, Yuuri. Why do you think that?”

 

Yuuri shrugged.  “Mari’s been having to work outside of the inn.”

 

“Mari is working outside the inn because she’s saving up to see you in more competitions this year.  Business may be experiencing seasonal fluctuations but it’s been overall healthy.” His coach’s lips formed a grim line.  “I suspect they will all have something to say to you when you call home. You and I both know that you can take a small problem and make it really huge in your head.  But then you refused any help.”

 

Yuuri squirmed under his intense gaze.  “I...thought I could handle it.”

 

“Yuuri…” the coach stretched out in a warning voice.

 

Yuuri huffed.  “Okay...I knew I couldn’t handle it.  But it’s hard to accept help. I’m twenty-three.  I should be able to take care of myself.”

 

Victor leaned forward drawing his attention.  “You are amazing at taking care of yourself. But you don’t take advantage of all of your resources.  I’ve pulled all of your financial records and reorganized them. And yes, you can create a budget. You can manage money.  However, you designate skating funds strictly for skating. Figure skating is your job. Yes, you love it, but that passion doesn’t mean that this isn’t your work.  People are investing in you. They expect you to use part of those funds for your regular expenses. They expect you to buy food, clothes, and housing with it. They also expect you to invest in yourself.  You are promoting their product. The more you take care of yourself, the better resource you are for them.”

 

“I...didn’t think about it that way,” Yuuri murmured.

 

“And I offered you ways to make extra income.  If you want to be independent of your parents, I respect that.  However, you need to utilize your resources.” He took a deep breath before reaching out to run a finger down the side of his face.  “Do you even realize how beautiful you are?”

 

Yuuri shrugged, his eyes dropping down but then Victor lifted his chin.

 

“When you skate, when you dance...especially when you think no one is watching, you transform into someone magical, you become the embodiment of music.  When I offered to set up a meeting with the firm that handles my modeling jobs, I knew you could sell it. I knew there would be so many companies that would kill for your endorsement.  I was also willing to help you navigate the process.”

 

“But...I didn’t get it on my own.”

 

“Technically, you didn’t get the job at Incognito on your own.  Jules opened the door for you. That’s the way the world works, Yuuri.  Someone paves the way. Someone uses their contacts, their privilege, for someone else.  But you cultivated the relationship with that someone. You made that initial contact with someone who was willing to stick their neck out for you.”

 

“And what if I mess up?”

 

Victor smiled warmly.  “The difference between these two situations is that Jules had misgivings.  She knew this wasn’t a good job for you. I don’t have misgivings.”

 

“But...I’m not very...confident.  Models are supposed to be confident.”

 

“True...but you have your own unique charm.  Models are supposed to sell ideas, and that doesn’t mean impenetrable confidence, sometimes it means vulnerability, which is a form of strength more sincere than confidence.  And I’ve seen that come out in your skating, it’s beautiful. You get nowhere in life without risk. What if you never took a risk on the ice?”

 

Yuuri’s lips parted in surprise.  Victor pressed his advantage.

 

“But you need to take one more risk.  You need to trust someone else to help you.”

 

That was when Lawrie stepped forward.   When did Celestino leave my side?   “I’m acting as a proxy for Dr. Cara Bishop.  I understand you have a relationship with her and I’ve worked with her on a number of panels.  She would like to resume your treatment. However, she would prefer to refer you out if you are no longer comfortable with her than to have you go without treatment.”

 

Yuuri shifted, surprised at the mention of his doctor.  “I-I like Dr. Cara. I just...I don’t want to use drugs.  They...I don’t like them.”

 

“And she can work with that.  But you have to do something, Yuuri.  Doing nothing isn’t working for you. Victor stated that in the end, you have a decision to make.”  He placed a cell phone in Yuuri’s hand, Cara Bishop’s number showing on the screen. “She’s waiting for you to call.”

 

Yuuri’s cinnamon eyes moved around the room, meeting each person one at a time before returning his gaze to Victor’s blue eyes.  Victor continued to keep a hand on him. “What if I mess up?”

 

“Then we start over again.  As many times as it takes, my Yuuri,” Victor murmured.

 

“I don’t even know why I’m like this,” he protested.

 

“Perhaps in time you’ll know yourself better.  Do you like where you’re at right now?”

 

Yuuri slowly shook his head, sniffing.  His eyes focused on the phone. It felt so hard to push that button, to dial someone who had helped him in the past.  “It’s hard to go back.”

 

“I know.  That’s why we’re all here to support you,” Victor nudged the phone in his hand.  “Make the call.”

 

Yuuri closed his eyes tight and with a trembling finger, pressed the call button.  The phone rang three times when he heard a familiar voice answer. “Hello? Lawrie?”

 

“D-dr. Cara?  This is Y-yuuri…”

Chapter Text


 

The Space Between You and I

 

 

Yuuri’s hand shook as he pressed the contact.  The phone on the other end rang three times before someone answered.  “Yuuri! You idiot! I should come over there and kick your ass!”

 

Yuuri smiled involuntarily.   Mari-neesan .  “ Nee-san , I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to worry everyone,” he murmured.

 

“Yuuriiii...it’s our job to worry about you .  You are our family.  I’ve looked out for you since you were little.  I’ve fought battles for you. Did you think that would ever stop?”  Yuuri knew his sister guarded her emotions, keeping the cards close to her chest. But down the line he could hear the sincerity in her voice, beginning to warm with memory.

 

He felt himself beginning to choke up on his words, but wanted to stay focused.  “N-no. I just...I shouldn’t be so dependent on family.”

 

The line was silent for a few moments before she spoke.  “Why?”

 

Yuuri was struck by the simplicity of the question.  “B-because I’m an adult.”

 

He could swear he heard her eyebrow raise into that familiar arch.  “So am I and I still live at home. I don’t see your point.”

 

Yuuri sighed.  She wouldn’t. “I just...I thought the inn was having trouble.”

 

“No, idiot.  The inn is fine.”  There was a soft chuckle in her voice now.  “Our locals are steady, the restaurant fills in the gaps, and tourist season helped us build up some savings.  Why did you think we were in trouble?”

 

“Minako said you were working more at the bar,” Yuuri stated.

 

He heard her huff on the other end and could picture her eyes rolling.  “Did you bother to ask why I was working at the bar?  No, you didn’t. You just assumed.  You never ask. Well, idiot brother of mine, I wanted to attend more events this year.  I miss seeing you skate and love being there to support you. So I asked Minako if I could step in when one of her waitresses quit.”

 

He felt his cheeks burn with emotion. Being caught assuming the worst, only to learn that it was for the best reasons began to overwhelm him.  “I-I didn’t know,” he murmured.

 

“No, you didn’t.  Because you didn’t ask.”  She sighed. “Kaasan wants to talk to you.”

 

He heard a shuffle on the other end of the line then his mother’s warm voice sang across the phone.  “My son, your coach called us. He said you haven’t been seeing your doctor.”

 

“My psychiatrist,” Yuuri corrected softly.

 

“She’s still a doctor.  She helps you stay well.”  Hiroko never missed a beat, the correction rolled off her as she kept her focus.  “Why did you stop, baby?”

 

He smiled at the word.  He would always be her baby.  And right now...he was okay with it.  “I got upset and skipped an appointment.  Then we had the Grand Prix followed by Nationals.  And...I convinced myself I was fine.”

 

She was quiet for a moment.  “Were you fine?”

 

Yuuri shook his head before answering, “No, Kaasan .  Everything...it’s all falling apart, Mama.”

 

She knew he only called her Mama when he was at his lowest.  “I know, baby. Your coach...he said you have a friend helping you get in to see the doctor.”

 

“H-he’s my boyfriend, Mama.  He’s taking me tomorrow. It all unravelled.  I don’t know how to pick up the pieces.” His vision began clouding and he removed his glasses, the tears misting the lenses.

 

“Oh, baby.  I wish I was there to make you some katsudon .  I worried when you didn’t come home during the break.  I know you hide things from us.” The slight admonishment was delivered as softly as his mother could, but Yuuri still felt the unintended sting.

 

“I don’t mean to,” he whispered.

 

“I know, baby.  How can we help?”

 

“I…”  He faded out and took a deep breath and let it out.  “I...can’t be around alcohol, Mama. At least not right now.  There is more but immediately, that’s something I can say for sure.”

 

“When you come in next, this will be a dry house,” she promised.

 

“But the restaurant and onsen…” Yuuri protested.

 

“The onsen has been alcohol free for a few years now.  Too much liability. And I cook off the alcohol for certain recipes but that’s it.  I can lock them up if you need me to,” she reiterated her support. “I...want you to come home.”

 

“I want to come home, too,” Yuuri whispered needing his mother’s hugs right now.  He didn’t realize that he had tears tracking down his cheek until he sniffed back.

 

“During your next break...please come home.”

 

Yuuri felt the yes in his body.  “I don’t know how but I’ll try to figure something out.”

 

“We can help.  Don’t let money keep you from coming home,” she pressed.  She paused and he heard her talking to someone. Returning to the receiver, she said, “Your father wants to talk.”

 

“Tousan?”

 

“Yuuri, son.  We miss you. Are you okay?”

 

“I...I’m going to get help.”

 

He heard his father’s sniff back before asking, “Is this my fault?”

 

“W-why would you think that?” Yuuri protested.

 

“I’ve always been free with my drinking.  I never thought it would hurt my children.  It’s just...the way we lived, you know?”

 

“I think...a lot of this is my anxiety, Tousan.”  He thought of his childhood. This could never be as simple as that.  “I just...self-medicated a lot with alcohol. Especially in social situations.  But...I’m with someone who is supporting me while I get help.”

 

His father’s voice sounded settled, and he heard a raspy breath out in relief.  “We want to support you as well. Anything you need, son. You just call, okay?”

 

“Okay, Papa,” he murmured, sniffing once more.  Okay, he needed his dad’s hugs too. “I’ll try to come home soon.”

 

“Good.  We miss you.”

 

“I miss you, too.”

 




Yuuri curled up on his side facing Victor.  Uncertainty flowed in the space between them.  Finally Victor asked, “Are you mad at me?”

 

Yuuri furrowed his brow.   Am I?  No, I’m mad at me.  Finally he shook his head.  “I...needed someone to force me to go.  Ciao Ciao made me go the first time but...it wasn’t enough this time.”

 

Victor reached out a hand, shy and tentative, into the space between them.  He rested it on the smooth sheets. Yuuri stared at that hand knowing Victor was reaching out but respecting his space.  He knew he had to meet Victor half way. Tugging the hand from beneath his cheek, he covered Victor’s, his fingers caressing the skin.  “Are you mad?”

 

Victor shook his head.  “Everything...it’s all symptoms of your illness.  I want you to take better care of yourself because I love you...but I have to love you as you are...with your anxiety.  I just...I knew something had to change.”

 

Yuuri held the blue eyes in his, “I still don’t want to take meds.”

 

Victor smiled, Yuuri’s determination against meds only meant that he was equally determined to get help.  “I understand...and that’s your choice, Yuuri. But you’ve said on more than one occasion that you were struggling.  You’ve told me in so many ways that you need to return to therapy. This is necessary for your mental well being.”

 

Yuuri’s fingers drifted up Victor’s arm, his eyes following the path as he sorted out his thoughts.  “I...will you hold me?”

 

Victor’s breath released as if he’d been holding it, waiting on Yuuri to reach for him.  “Of course, love.” Victor scooted forward gathering Yuuri close to him. Yuuri’s ear turned to rest against the beating of his heart.  Stillness settled around them, the shadows providing intimacy. Victor’s lips brushed into Yuuri’s hair more than once, his cheek resting against the raven silk.  “I need to tell you something and I don’t know if this is the right time.”

 

“Sometimes there is never a right time.  We just have to make time for what needs to be said,” Yuuri answered quietly, his eyes remaining closed as he rested in the warmth of Victor’s embrace.

 

“I...I made an appointment with Dr. Bishop for myself as well.”

 

Yuuri’s eyes blinked open and he started to shift up to look at Victor but the older man held him tighter.

 

Victor’s voice above him was pleading.  “Please...I need to talk to you, tell you what I need to say.  But it’s harder with eyes on me.”

 

“Okay.  I’m listening,” Yuuri responding, forcing his body to relax in Victor’s hold.

 

“After I finished high school, I wanted to move out on my own.  My father talked with Yakov and they decided the athletic dorms would be a good transition.  I wasn’t quite eighteen and an apartment seemed like a huge responsibility. So...I entered the dorm and became Ivan Prokov’s roommate.”

 

Yuuri’s memory brought a face to the name, a good skater, excellent, but there was some scandal and he was never heard from.  Russia skate teams had such a high turnover rate no one ever blinked an eye at it. “Ivan Prokov...he was also a figure skater.”

 

Victor nodded against Yuuri’s hair.  “He was sort of a mentor. Three years older than me.  He...was also gay like me.” Victor stilled his words as he worked through what he needed to say.  “He...talked to me about what it meant to be gay in Russia. For some, for many, it was hidden in the back alleys, a quick interlude and then you both go on your way back to your life.  Most were married with kids. Everyone knew to keep that part of their lives secret. Ivan...had Dmitry...an ice dancer from the same rink. They...were discrete. They knew the rules. But Ivan told me he couldn’t live a lie.  I...felt the same way.

 

“I wanted what my parents had...that one love that would...how did you put it?...transcend death.  If I couldn’t have that, I didn’t want anyone. So...I decided to wait. I didn’t want to try on one relationship after another, that wasn’t for me.  I was horrified of the idea of sex with strangers, the medical risks alone, but the heartache as well. Besides, there were inherent risks in that choice.  Each time you broke up, each time you got with another, there was a chance of getting caught. We...couldn’t get caught. That was one thing Ivan stressed.

 

“Dmitry’s roommate didn’t know about him and Ivan...his roommate...hated gays.  He often made homophobic slurs. I heard him more than once. However, Dmitry felt safe in our room and often the three of us would hang out together.  I spent Sundays with my father and sometimes my grandmother. I had competitions. And I’m sure it was during those times they...were intimate.” Victor took a deep breath and Yuuri could hear the shaky quality of his intake.  “Papa knew and he was glad that I could witness a positive gay relationship. Ivan was protective of both of us and Dmitry was kind to a fault. They...didn’t deserve what happened to them.”

 

Victor’s eyes blinked rapidly and Yuuri could hear the sob in his breathing as the older man’s arms tightened around him.  “Dmitry’s roommate figured out he was one of them as he’d say.  He contacted government officials and reported that lewd and indecent acts were being performed in the presence of a minor.  Ivan...was taken away. It was the middle of the night and the door was thrown open and he was dragged out. I just stared in shock as the police tossed the room, pulling him into the hallway as he hollered.  Then I called Yakov. My coach is a very powerful man in Russia but...he couldn’t stop this. I was pulled in for questioning. They...kept insinuating that Ivan was making me gay .  They kept asking questions in so many ways...and I just wanted it to stop.  I finally said...I was straight. I knew better. I knew not to say I was gay.  Ivan made sure I knew this. He says if anyone ever asks, unless you are certain where they stand, unless you knew for a fact they would protect your secret, you always answered that you were straight.

 

“I tried...to cover for them.  I tried to convince them that we hung out as friends, that they weren’t gay.  I know...Ivan took the brunt of it. He was the oldest. He was always protective of the others.  He...disappeared. I don’t know where he ended up. He never skated again. Dmitry fell apart that season and soon left skating.  He had no heart for it. Not anymore. His partner Katya had to find someone else. She moved to pairs and partnered with Pyotr but even she was shadowed with what happened.  From that point forward, Yakov made sure we knew that we protected our own and if anyone spread hate, they were not accepted among us. We are a tight knit family.

 

“But...I...I couldn’t be me.  I was too afraid. I assumed eyes and ears were everywhere, I put on a mask and pretended constantly, even around the people in my own rink.  I didn’t want to disappear. I would lie awake staring at the door, waiting for it to fly open and hands to pull me to the ground, drag me out.  It would destroy my father, my grandmother...so...I went out with family friends and maintained the persona of being straight. Some knew. I never became close to anyone.  I denied myself intimacy, not just physical but emotional. Now...I don’t know how to break away from that, Yuuri. What if it’s too ingrained in me?”

 

Yuuri held onto him, his hand moving up and down his back.  “Vitya…”

 

Victor sniffed back.  “Chris knew the basics of what happened and I’ve talked with Lawrie about it some, as a friend.  But Lawrie is also always a psychologist. He’s said on more than one occasion I needed counseling.  He said we were too close but he could refer me to someone. I...wasn’t ready. I couldn’t come out yet, and who could I tell, the doctors might report me.  I had too many expectations on me. I had to represent Russia and be the Ice Prince. I became...what they made me. In the end, I was left with only shreds of myself to piece together.

 

Victor laughed bitterly.  “It became so easy to remake myself over and over...I’d lost my sense of self.  Yuuri...I no longer felt human.”

 

“And now?” Yuuri urged gently.

 

Victor’s arms tightened around his shoulders.  “I...have you. Somehow in the labyrinth that held me captive, you found me.  Not the me everyone else expected, but the real me. And...I couldn’t help but chase that.  I came here...looking for you, looking...for me. I can’t go back to what I was. I can’t be what they want.  The ice around me has already cracked. And...I want the warmth. I want the love. I’m just afraid.”

 

Yuuri waited for him to move forward before he softly prodded, “What are you afraid of?”

 

Victor swallowed, his arms tightening around Yuuri, his cheek pressing against Yuuri.  “What if...I’m not enough. What if...I can’t be the man you need me to be?”

 

“I never asked you to be anything other than yourself, Vitya.  I don’t want the masks or personas. I don’t want you to become something you’re not.”

 

Victor inhaled, a sob cracking his chest, “What if I can’t...I’m so messed up, Yuuri…”

 

Yuuri laughed bitterly.  “It’s not like I’m a fucking rose garden.”

 

“I want...more.  But I can’t reconcile that with what I’ve gone through.  I want to know you better. I want...s-sex.” He sniffed back and laughed hollowly.  “I can’t even say it without stuttering. God, I’m screwed up.”

 

“I told you all along I’ll wait as long as you need,” Yuuri reminded him.  “I’m not pushing you.”

 

“I know...that doesn’t make it fair.  You...had to have expectations. I know I haven’t lived up to them.”

 

Yuuri frowned at those words and finally pushed back so that he could look into Victor’s eyes.  “You...surpassed them. I never expected your kindness, your dorkiness, your ability to meet me halfway.  You don’t judge me. You take me as I am, flawed and anxious, completely lacking in confidence. You pick up the pieces every time I fall apart.  You take my past in stride and don’t hold it against me. When I feel ashamed, you help me to find my pride once again. I...never imagined that you could be...this.  You are so much more.” He lifted his chin and met Victor’s lips. The kiss was loving, on the surface and tender. As Yuuri pulled back, he added, “I only want you to be yourself and if that means you need to work through this, that’s fine.  But never feel you have to change for me. I...don’t want you to change for me. Ever.”

 

Victor sniffed and Yuuri could see the glimmer of tears from the moonlight.  His hand tightened and loosened on Yuuri’s waist. Finally, he offered a broken smile.  “Thank you, Yuuri. You meet me halfway, too. And I don’t want you to change for me. I know you’re anxious.  I know you don’t always see the Yuuri I see, the beautiful, talented, graceful Yuuri that danced into my heart in Sochi.  I...need to make this next change for me, though. So I...made an appointment with Dr. Bishop. The appointment she gave you...it’s the same as mine.  We’ll be going in together. We’ll sort out our therapy schedule, figure out what we need. But I can’t continue like this. I need...more. I want to know more of you.  I don’t want to keep pulling back.”

 

Yuuri nodded in acceptance.  “I...I have been asking for help for so long but I didn’t know how to get there.  It felt like there was this huge mountain in the way. The problems grew in my head.  Thank you for helping me. I think...I need you to go with me tomorrow anyway. I’m afraid I’ll back out otherwise.”

 

“I need you as well.  I’m scared. It’s hard to let go of my fears and open up.”

 

“Then we’ll go...together.”  Yuuri pulled Victor into his arms, his lips finding the older man’s with ease.  As the kiss broke, Victor tucked in under Yuuri’s chin, this time placing his ear on Yuuri’s chest. Yuuri felt like he’d weathered the storm.  Now it was time to pick up the pieces...and help Victor to pick up his own pieces. At least they had each other...and friends that loved them both.

Chapter Text


 

Next to Me

 

A quick text to both of his skaters allowed Victor to change their schedule with ease.  He’d update them on any other changes once he and Yuuri visited with Dr. Bishop. Ciao Ciao didn’t bat an eye when Victor told him Saturday that he had an appointment for counseling.  He just told him to adjust the skaters’ schedules and to let him know if there were further conflicts. Then Yuuri happened. When he had called Ciao Ciao on Sunday morning, the coach responded, “It’s about damn time.”  Friends in Yuuri’s network stepped up to support their friend.

 

It was hard...he knew Yuuri was hurting, but he knew Yuuri’s actions hurt him more.  Stepping in with Lawrie’s guidance let them meet Yuuri where he was and pull him out of the wake of the storm.  Now they stood waiting to walk into the psychiatrist’s office. He could feel Yuuri’s hand in his, brown eyes glancing towards the exit door from time to time while he fought the urge to run.

 

“I’ve got you, Yuuri.  And remember, I need you with me, too,” Victor reminded him gently.

 

Yuuri nodded sharply and straightened up with determination.  If he were there alone, he might have run, but he wouldn’t leave Victor.  “I’ve got you, too,” the younger man reassured him. Then the door to Dr. Bishop’s office opened.

 

“Yuuri!  Come in and bring your friend.”  As Victor followed Yuuri in, she held out her hand to him.  “Victor, I’m Dr. Bishop but most of my patients call me Cara.  I invite you to do the same.”

 

Taking the offered hand, he shook it.  “Thank you...Cara,” he answered with a nervous smile.

 

“Relax, Victor, I haven’t lost a patient yet.”  She motioned towards an inviting seating area. “Please make yourself comfortable.  Now, I know Yuuri takes tea. And you? Are you a coffee man or do you prefer tea?”

 

“I’m fine with either but usually coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon and evening,” Victor answered as he followed Yuuri to the sofa.  He smiled as Yuuri kicked off his shoes and tucked them beneath him as he sat close to Victor. Cara handed them each a cup before taking the chair across from them butterflying her knees out.  Victor felt himself relax in the casual environment. This was not what he expected but maybe he didn’t know what to expect. He always went out for coffee with Lawrie or something similar. Also, relaxed.  Maybe this is a thing about counselors.

 

“I hate writing while we talk,” she began.  “So I’ll record the session and go back through it later to make my notes.  Is that fine?” Yuuri nodded expecting that accomodation, she focused her eyes on Victor who after glancing at Yuuri as if looking for cues, also nodded in agreement.  Setting the recorder on the table between them, she started with listing the indexing details. “Monday afternoon session with Victor Nikiforov and Katsuki Yuuri...” Adding in the date details and a few other matters, she refocused on the couple across from her.  “Now, this isn’t exactly a couples session. More of an...intake?”

 

They shared a glance and then Yuuri answered, “We may have couples matters to deal with as a result of our sessions.  I think we can both agree that we are seeking to have a healthy relationship. And my anxiety doesn’t make that easy.”

 

“Yuuri…” Victor admonished gently.

 

“It’s the truth...but I really want to try.  I’ve never wanted to hold onto anyone before you.”  Turning back to Dr. Bishop, he added, “So whatever it takes, I’m in.  I just...don’t want to use drug therapy. I want that off the table.”

 

“There are a number of ways we can approach your anxiety, Yuuri,” Dr. Cara suggested.  “I suggested drug therapy because you have severe anxiety but I respect your decision not to take that path.  Since our last session, I’ve taken several training opportunities and have picked up some new techniques. I have high hopes that we’ll find the right combination for you.”

 

“Thank you...I just...I don’t want to not be me and I know it will affect my performance,” Yuuri stated sincerely.

 

She nodded in agreement before turning to focus on Victor.  “And what about you? What are your goals?”

 

“I...I grew up in Russia... gay in Russia.”  He searched her face, happy to see her understand the severity of his situation.  “And that...is not the best situation. And I think I spent so long denying my true self, it’s created some...difficulties.  I am getting better. Yuuri helps me to be better. He’s wonderful and patient. But...I’ve got things to work through. My friend Lawrie has been telling me for awhile that I need counseling.  I think...I know...I’m ready to face this.”

 

“When you called, you said you were having difficulty becoming intimate with your boyfriend.”  Her eyes flicked to Yuuri then back to him.

 

Victor nodded.  Taking Yuuri’s hand, he smiled as Yuuri squeezed his in return.  “I...we kiss. But when it starts becoming...more...I shut down. I don’t mean to.  I don’t always even realize it. It’s almost unconscious. But...I want...more.”

 

She nodded as she considered his words.  “So let’s talk course of action. It looks like both of you need to start attending private sessions.  Yuuri, we need to help you work through your anxiety and find out if there are other concerns. Victor, you need to deal with your past in order to move forward.  We’ll work through both of those in private sessions separate from one another. However, if you are both truly committed to one another, it might be beneficial to start couples therapy right away to discuss issues as they come up.  It will allow you both to increase your intimacy, keep your communication open, and develop strategies to work with one another’s needs.”

 

They exchanged glances and squeezed one another’s hands, then both nodded.  “I’d like that,” Victor added.

 

“Then this is how this will work.”  She turned around and reached for a calendar on her desk.  “I’m a bit old school when it comes to things like calendars,” she explained, looking through her schedules.  “I’m estimating a one hour session for each of you. Would you like it on the same day?”

 

They exchanged glances and Yuuri asked, “Is that possible?”

 

“Yes.  I can do your individual sessions together on Tuesdays.  For the first month, we’ll do weekly then we can reevaluate to see if we want to move to every other week.  And Yuuri, I want to stress that even when you are doing great, I think you should continue at least doing monthly sessions.”

 

Yuuri nodded in agreement.  “I...haven’t been doing well at all.  Everything’s sort of fallen apart around me.”

 

She smiled reassuringly.  “It’s going to be fine. We’ll get you settled and back in order.  We did it before.”

 

“I-I’m sorry I stopped coming,” Yuuri murmured, his eyes downcast.

 

She looked up and shrugged.  “You’re not the first that’s started coming.  I wasn’t meeting your needs at the time. But next time, I’d prefer you to ask for a referral.”

 

“I just...I got stuck in my head.  I thought...maybe you only thought medicine would make me better.”

 

She frowned at the implication.  “I never meant to imply that,” she stated firmly.  Reaching behind her, she pulled a file folder in her lap and glanced through her notes before thinning her lips.  “I see what happened. There was a new drug on the market and I wanted to inform you of another option.” Closing the folder, she held his eyes.  “I would never push a therapy. I just want you to be aware of your options. I am sad that I didn’t make that clear.”

 

Yuuri breathed out a sigh of relief.  “So it was just a misunderstanding. And I’m sure my anxiety fed into that.  I’m here now. Let’s just move forward, Cara,” Yuuri decided.

 

The doctor smiled warmly, happy at the determination in his voice.  “Let’s indeed. So I’m thinking on Tuesday, we can meet at three and four.  Would that work with your schedules?”

 

“Ciao Ciao will work my practice around therapy without a problem,” Yuuri stated.

 

Victor nodded.  “And he said to do what I needed and we can adjust my students’ practice sessions accordingly.”  He paused frowning before adding, “What about competitions?”

 

She smiled warmly.  “Well, I recall from before that Tuesday had the least interference.  However, if you are out of town, let me know and we’ll cancel that session.  Now, that will affect your couple’s session more. I’m thinking Thursday or Friday afternoon.  I have a four o’clock on Thursdays and a three o’clock on Fridays.”

 

Yuuri shook his head.  “I teach Thursdays and that’s important to me.  One of the groups I work with are the domestic violence survivors.  I don’t want to abandon them.”

 

She reached out a reassuring hand.  “Don’t worry, Yuuri. How about on Friday?”

 

Yuuri nodded.  “I can do Friday.  Vitya?”

 

He smiled as he also nodded.  “I’ll work it out with my students.  We can make Saturday a regular session if needed.”

 

“Good.  Now that we have dates and times worked out, we can begin.  I’d like for us to get started this week,” she pressed.

 

They exchanged looks before nodding.  “Then we’ll see you tomorrow. Thank you for working with us, Cara,” Yuuri stated.

 

“Yes, thank you.  Especially for the last minute appointment.”

 

“Not a problem.  I usually save Mondays for new intakes.  Something about weekends...anyway, tomorrow.  Private sessions. Write down anything you want to make sure we talk about.  Journal, make lists, take notes, however it feels comfortable. We’ll work through your concerns.”  Standing up, she gave each of their fingers a squeeze before seeing them to the door.

 

As they walked down to the parking lot, Victor reflected on the session.  “That was less painful than I thought it would be.”

 

Yuuri snorted.  “That was just the get to know you session.  The real pain starts tomorrow.”

 

Victor smiled at the officious attitude, unseen by Yuuri, “Still, she seems...nice.”

 

“She is but she will be firm when needed.  Which is good.” Yuuri negotiated the car into traffic.  “Are you okay with the appointments?”

 

“Yuuri, we need this.   need this.”  He stared out the window, the changes brought on by rush hour traffic, people hurrying to get home, traffic holding them back.  “This is crazy. We should just stop somewhere for dinner. It’s not like Phichit will be home. He’s practically living with Devryn.”

 

Yuuri raised his eyebrows, “I noticed.  I didn’t expect their relationship to progress this quickly.”

 

“Phichit knows what he wants.  How about there?” Victor pointed to a shop on his side of the street.

 

Yuuri hummed thoughtfully.  “We’ve already eaten out once this week.”

 

“I know.  My treat, Yuuri.  I’m tired and...I need a moment to sort out my thoughts.  I don’t care where.” Victor’s voice showed the honesty of his statement, the man was a little worn from the past few days and the traffic seemed to make him anxious.

 

Yuuri drummed his fingers on the wheel then nodded with determination.  “We’re close to Maru’s .  Are you up for sushi?  They have other things.  And we can share.”

 

Victor grinned.  “I’m game! Bring it on!”

 

Yuuri found a parking space near the restaurant.  “Phichit and I would come here after one of us did well at a competition.  Not before. I don’t eat raw foods before competition. On Thursday, they have a student discount.  So if you like it, we can keep it in mind if we want to go out. Since...well, I apparently need to avoid clubs and bars.”

 

Victor looked up at the sharpness although Yuuri tried to infuse it with humor.  “I actually love going out to eat. I’m okay in a club setting. I like a good show.  But really, I prefer where I can hear those around me so that we can talk and socialize.”

 

“I...don’t really like clubs or bars...or parties even,” Yuuri confessed quietly as they were shown to a table.

 

“Why...did you go?” Victor asked curiously.

 

Yuuri shrugged, looking away.  “I...it was hard to make friends at first.  And...I’m kind of quiet until I get to know someone.”

 

Victor hummed thoughtfully.  “I don’t seem to meet a stranger.  Perhaps...I can ease the way?”

 

Yuuri smiled shyly and shrugged.  “Perhaps.” Then his face brightened when a little girl approached.  “Oh, this is Yamamoto Suki. Suki’s parents manage this restaurant.” He turned and spoke to her briefly in Japanese and the little girl ducked shyly behind Yuuri before peeking around his side.  “You should come skate with me sometime,” he invited the little girl. “This is my friend Victor and he also skates.”

 

“Mama said I might take lessons soon.  I have to choose, though,” the little girl answered pouting.

 

“Choose?” Yuuri asked with a curious raised eyebrow.

 

She nodded.  “I can’t dance and skate like Yuuri-san.”

 

“Ah, I see what you mean.  I started out dancing then skated for fun on Saturdays.  But dancing made me a better skater.”

 

“Would you talk to Mama?  I want to skate with Yuuri-san.”  Suki was clearly playing Yuuri, and Yuuri was clearly adoring it.

 

Yuuri laughed warmly.  “I’d be happy to talk with her.”  The little girl clasped her hands together happily then ran off.  Turning to Victor, he explained, “The Yamamoto family emigrated from the Kyushu province.  So when I moved, I came here when I felt homesick. I can always get a table here.”

 

Victor smiled at the thought of Yuuri using this place as a safe place when he felt lost in the new city, “I’m glad you had some people to take care of you.  The little girl. Suki...she seemed very taken with you.”

 

“My best friend back home has triplets...all girls.  So I guess she made me think of them...although much more shy.  Her parents spend a lot of hours in the restaurant and Suki doesn’t get out too much.  I’d like to see her get in some physical activity. Dancing. Skating. Time with friends.  She’s so shy...she reminds me of me when I was young.”

 

The little girl returned dragging her mother to the table.  Victor watched Yuuri greet the woman and heard them talking back and forth.  Then after a few bows, Yuuri turned back to him with a smile. “Her mother said she can’t get away from the restaurant on Saturdays for lessons.  So...I offered to pick her up. I guess I’m babysitting on Saturdays when I’m not competing.” Yuuri shrugged, a small blush on his cheeks. “I hope that’s okay.”

 

Victor shrugged, “Saturdays I’m teaching anyway.  You’ll go after her after practice?”

 

“Yeah...afternoons.  There is a puddleduck session led by Coach Iglesia.  I think she’s getting ready for when she has her own puddleduck.”

 

Victor snorted.  “Could be. She seems to be gravitating to the younger students.  You aren’t over-obligating yourself, are you?”

 

Yuuri shook his head.  “No...Suki and I always got along and I think...I’m going to offer to help with the beginners so it doesn’t shut down when Iggy goes on leave.  I may have to work it around my competition schedule but I always liked working with the triplets.”

 

“I don’t guess I ever saw you with kids.”

 

Yuuri shrugged.  “I like kids...they are not so intimidating.”  He studied his fingers.

 

Victor toyed with the paper napkin on the table, “I like kids, too.  Maybe I’ll peek into this puddleduck section.”

 

When the waiter took their order, Yuuri selected several rolls for them to try.  “They have a good selection. I’ve tried probably everything on the menu at this point.”  Yuuri laughed. “One day when I was sick with the flu, Phichit stopped in and Suki’s mother sent him home with miso soup.”  Yuuri’s expression softened and Victor could see sadness seeping in. “I miss...home.”

 

Victor reached out and squeezed his hand.  “I’m sorry you didn’t get to go home during the break.  Let me help you sort out your finances. Maybe...during the next break in classes.”

 

“It’s so close to competition,” Yuuri protested.  Although with the call home the previous evening, he hoped, chewing his lip in anticipation.

 

Victor tapped his lip thoughtfully with his index finger.  “You said you learned to skate at a rink near there...so we can practice while there.”

 

Yuuri blinked at him in surprise, lowering the chopsticks.  “We? You’d go with me? You...want to meet my family?”

 

Victor blushed and then shrugged.  “Isn’t that the way these things work?”

 

Yuuri smiled, and then giggled nervously.  “I’ve...never brought a boy home. I mean, Phichit...but that’s different.”

 

“Is it okay?”  Victor shifted nervously worried he’d crossed a line.

 

Yuuri hummed then nodded.  “More than okay. I can’t wait for you to meet Kaasan, Tousan, and Mari-neesan.”

 

Victor blinked sorting things out.  “That’s...your mother, father, and...sister?”

 

Yuuri laughed and nodded once more.  “Don’t worry. They speak some English.  They get a few tourists seeking the onsen ryokan experience...sort of escaping from chaos.”

 

“Oh!  I’ll get to enjoy the hot springs!” Victor declared excitedly.

 

“And skate in my home rink!”

 

“And meet your friends!”

 

“And...my ballet teacher…”   And get the shovel talk, undoubtedly.   He blinked, his eyes sparkling, a happy pink settled onto his cheeks.  “Do you really think we can find a way for me to go home?”

 

“One way or another, you’re going to get to go home,” Victor promised, pulling Yuuri’s hand up to kiss it.  “I suspect your mother misses you just as much.”

 

Yuuri smiled shyly.  He knew she did. They all did.  As they walked out of the restaurant, Yuuri threaded his arms through Victor’s and murmured, “Thank you.  I don’t know what I did to bring you in my life...and sometimes it’s hard to accept the good things...but I love you.”

 

“I love you, too, Yuuri...and I assure you, I struggle with those same questions.  But maybe that just makes me love you all the more.”

Chapter Text


 

Whatever It Takes



Victor felt mopey as Yuuri drove the two of them to the diner, which was conveniently not far from the airport.  “I feel abandoned,” he whined.

 

Yuuri rolled his eyes.  “I’m just going to miss that Mercedes.”

 

Victor turned around in interest.  “You like expensive cars, my Yuuri?”

 

Yuuri hummed thoughtfully.  “Expensive cars, fast cars…”

 

“Hmmm…”

 

“Don’t you dare!”

 

“But I can afford it!”

 

“Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should,” Yuuri parroted.

 

Victor huffed, falling back into the passenger seat in a pout.  “Would you at least let me...rent something?”

 

Yuuri flicked his eyes towards Victor then back to the road.  “We’ll see. Not for awhile, though.”

 

Victor leaned back with a smile on his face.  “I’m picturing you in a Lamborghini.”

 

“We could recreate the scene in To Catch a Thief ,” Yuuri suggested.  “You’d have to be Cary...you can’t drive.”

 

Victor’s eyes narrowed in thought.  “That makes you my Grace.”

 

They pulled to a stop next to their friends’ rental in front of the diner suggested by Yuuri.  Victor watched Yuuri’s fingers drift over the curve of the Mercedes, his own blue eyes amused.

 

Yuuri sighed wistfully.  “It’s been lovely knowing you.”

 

“I am definitely renting you something extravagant,” Victor promised as he guided Yuuri inside to meet their friends.

 

At Yuuri’s sad pout, Chris greeted, “Miss us already?”

 

“I think it’s the Mercedes,” Victor teased.

 

Lawrie laughed as he moved over to make room for Yuuri in the booth next to him.   “It’s been a pleasure driving you around, mon cheri .”

 

As Yuuri ordered for the group a decadent diner breakfast, he explained, “This was our calorie splurge before leaving for competition.  Ciao Ciao knows I lose my appetite so he pushes me to load up before we fly.”

 

“I’m always trying to feed you,” Victor complained.

 

Yuuri laughed and a small blush crept up his cheeks.  “When my nerves are ticking, I either can’t turn it off or can’t turn it on.  Sochi, I didn’t eat near enough...then at the banquet, I drank way too much on top of that.”  He flicked his eyes to Chris and shrugged. “I know I was a mess that night. I...thank you both for taking care of me.  And for...the other night. I should be mad at myself...I mean, I lost my job. But...well...I hated that job. It took something I loved and twisted it into something that terrified me.”

 

“You dance beautifully, darling,” Chris drawled.  “I hate to think you will no longer dance.”

 

Yuuri drew a deep breath and let it out slowly.  “I will always dance. And if I can find healthier avenues to perform, I’ll do so...but I need….I think I’ve been crying out for help for a while, dancing at Incognito was just an extension of that.  I have to find what I loved about dance again, and make sure that I’m doing it for that reason alone.”

 

“You know, there is a similar pole dancing competition to figure skating,” Chris suggested teasingly.

 

Yuuri rolled his eyes.  “I’ll tuck that away for after retirement.”

 

Chris laughed, winking at the brunette next to his lover.  “I’ve enjoyed my time in Detroit.”

 

“Even with all of the drama?” Yuuri asked, blush on his cheeks.

 

The other three men laughed and Lawrie declared, “There is always drama where Vitya is involved.  We’ve come to expect it.”

 

“I think I’m still getting used to it,” Yuuri answered, peering under his lashes towards the silverette.

 

“You’ve got plenty of time, solnyshko ,” Victor murmured.  “I have layers of drama these two don’t even know about.”  Victor grinned at the well-earned groan from his Yuuri.

 

They finished too soon and were hugging their friends before they climbed into the Mercedes to drive away.  Yuuri leaned into Victor and sighed sadly. “I’m going to miss that car.”

 

Turning to his own well used car, he sighed.   Maybe one day...

 




That afternoon, Yuuri drove them to see Dr. Bishop.  Victor watched the traffic warily as Yuuri negotiated through the busy streets.  “You don’t seem comfortable in congestion. I figured you’d have dealt with it often in St. Petersburg,” Yuuri observed.

 

Victor shrugged.  “I just get restless.  I want to be there and get things done.  Time is lost in transportation.”

 

“I should teach you how to drive sometime,” Yuuri mused.

 

Victor glanced his direction in surprise.  “I...don’t know.”

 

Yuuri kept his eyes on the traffic in front of him but could focus on his boyfriend’s voice.  “Nervous?”

 

“It’s a little more than a pair of skates or a couple of wheels.” Victor glanced over to see Yuuri’s eyebrows rise in confusion.  “I’m okay with a bike…”

 

Yuuri chuckled, “What about the Zamboni?”

 

Victor shook his head.  “There were always others ready to smooth the ice.  I let them.”

 

“Oh, Vitya…”

 

“I’m okay with you driving me...or I can take a cab if needed,” Victor insisted.

 

Yuuri rolled his eyes as he pulled into the parking lot.  “This conversation is not over. You should know how to drive.”  He got out and waited for Victor so they could walk in together.

 




Yuuri sat in Cara’s office filling in the details over the past months.  Drunken nights. Bad decisions. Money anxiety. Dancing. And then...Victor.  “What if after all of this, he doesn’t want me? I’m such a mess!”

 

Cara laughed warmly.  “He seems like he plans to stick around...and he did get you to come in.”

 

“Yes, he did...I’m worried about him.”  Yuuri was quiet for a moment before he murmured, “He keeps having nightmares.  He’s been through things I can’t imagine. How can I support him?”

 

She considered the man before her, “You listen...and let him come to you on his own, Yuuri.  How about you? What’s going on with you?”

 

“I’m...scared.  I still can’t see past the problems.  I’m just rolling with it for now but I know...it’s going to hit and I’ll get frantic again.”  He was quiet as he considered the man in the next room. “He said...he’d help me. He’d look through my finances and help me find the money.  He’d...open doors for me. Is that...I don’t want to become overly dependent on him.”

 

“You can accept help, Yuuri, without losing your independence,” his counselor pointed out.  “Let’s talk about your anxiety...what’s driving it?”

 

Yuuri sat thoughtfully for a few silent moments, “I thought it was money...but...it was there before...and this voice that keeps saying I’m not good enough.  I hear it in the fringes tearing me down. I...there’s this program. Express .  It’s so overtly sexual...and I’m...not.  Except maybe if I’m drunk. I don’t want to skate it anymore.  But...I kind of have to, don’t I? I’ve only performed it at Worlds.  People are going to expect it.”

 

“Do you always do what people expect?”

 

Yuuri shrugged at her frank question, “I try to...a lot of times.  I mean, I don’t want to disappoint people. I don’t think my family expected me to come to Detroit.”

 

“It sort of flies in the face of your independence, though, doesn’t it?”

 

Yuuri’s eyes snapped up in surprise.  “So...it’s okay if I change the program?”

 

“I think that’s a conversation to have with your coach.  I want to discuss more with you about why you want to change it.”

 

Yuuri’s eyes blinked shut and he felt tears.  “When I danced at Incognito , I know we were just dancers.  Our show was sexy and it wasn’t the same as strippers, but part of me felt...like I was selling my body...maybe even my soul.  I was stripped away and exposed. Express ...that’s all of that emotion, all of that performance energy from Incognito rolled into a skate program.  It’s...everything I hate about myself right now.”

 

Cara listened and waited for him to still.  “But you use pole dancing with your domestic violence cases as a way to help them get in touch with their sexuality.  Why...is it different for you?”

 

“I..it’s...I’m already comfortable in my sexuality,” he defended.

 

“Are you?” she pressed.  “Before Victor, have you ever become intimate with someone where alcohol wasn’t involved?”

 

“I...umm…”  Yuuri squirmed then sighed.  “Technically, the relationship with Victor involved alcohol as well.  He was just too much of a gentleman to take me up on it.” He frowned then shook his head.  “I think that’s true...but now I know there is more to it then that. He’s been through something that’s shut him down.”

 

She smiled tightly as she studied her patient.  “Do you see what you just did there?”

 

Yuuri shook his head.

 

“You deflected that question.  You’re good at avoidance. But I’m not going to let you get by with that.  Let’s talk about you. Are you truly comfortable in your sexuality?”

 

“I don’t...it’s not my…”  He laid his head back against the couch pulling his knee to his chest, the other curling in front of him.  “I hated high school. Middle school as well. I was the chubby kid. The quiet kid. The geeky kid. The kid that others loved to torment or ignore.  When I came here, I didn’t know how to come out of my shell. Alcohol...helped relax me. I made friends. Sex...was just an extension of getting to know someone.”

 

Cara thinned her lips, “Did you really get to know them?”

 

Yuuri blinked.   Did I?  There was Devryn and Jules, but most of the others fell away pretty quickly.   I couldn’t even tell you most of their names.  He slowly shook his head.  “Only a few...and we became friends along the way.  I’m not very...confident. I’m not...the kind of person people want to get to know.  They just...they want to sleep with me. But then they are gone.”

 

“I don’t agree with you, but we’ll get back to that.”  She shifted in her seat, unhappy to see Yuuri’s misappraisal of himself.  “What about now? Your current relationship.”

 

“It’s...not sexual.  I think...he wants it to be but he has his own struggles.”

 

She shook her head refusing the redirect.  “What do you want, Yuuri?”

 

He blinked up at her surprised.  “I want Victor. I don’t even care if we can’t have sex right now.  I just...I need to be with him. I thought at first he was asexual. I knew there was a disconnect with his sexuality, but I hadn’t put the pieces together.  And...well...I let myself ask myself if I could live with that. And the fact is, I can...what I have with Victor is more. It’s deeper. He’s the first person I’ve wanted to hold onto.”

 

She smiled warmly.  “Sex is an activity, something we do for pleasure.  It’s not the relationship. In the past, you started with sex and tried to build the relationship from that foundation.  I’ve heard you say you grew bored with it. The ones that had any foundation at all faded to friendships. But you have friends that didn’t start with sex.  You have friends who like you, not the drunk version of you. I think you have more than one person to hold onto. But...I am curious to see where this relationship with Victor will take you.”

 

The timer sounded and she smiled warmly.  “Now it’s his turn.”

 




Victor chose a chair without having Yuuri present.  He sat with a straight back at first. He pasted on his most charming media smile.   I can do this.  She handed him a cup of tea before sitting in her favorite chair in reach of the desk.

 

“So...tell me about this event that has you frozen in time.”

 

Victor’s eyes widened, surprised she’d go right to the heart of the matter.   Didn’t counselors talk around the topic?  She watched him fidget and waited.  Finally, he started opening up, telling her the story he told Yuuri.  He shared the full version, not the abbreviated version shared with Chris and Lawrie.  When he finished, he felt drained, his body shaken and tears running down his cheeks. She handed him tissue, placed the box in reach.  He wiped his eyes and blew his nose.

 

“This event...it was very traumatic for you.  Have you sought help to work through it in the past?”

 

Victor shook his head.  “I couldn’t before. To talk about it, and why it made me scared would be dangerous in Russia.  So I shoved it into the back of my thoughts. For all intents and purposes, I was straight. My Papa knew, though, that I planned to leave Russia once I retired.  I didn’t...expect Yuuri to waltz into my world and turn it upside down.”

 

“How do you feel about that?”

 

“Inadequate?” he responded laughingly.  “It seems strange...the Ice Prince of Russia feels inadequate before another skater.”

 

“But...you aren’t viewing him as a skater.  You see him as a man, a lover.”

 

Victor sighed as he studied the tissue in his hand, folding it and unfolding it.  “I’m a lousy lover. I can’t seem to get further than just kissing.”

 

“What happens when things become too intimate?”

 

Victor shuddered slightly, feeling a little lost.  “I...shut down. I don’t even think I realize it all the time.  But...I know I want him. I know there is desire. It’s just...I’ve denied it for so long…”

 

She nodded thoughtfully.  “When I work with those that have eating disorders, some have denied the feeling of hunger so long that they don’t recognize the feeling.  They are numb to it.”

 

Victor shrugged.  “Something like that.”

 

“Do you masterbate?”

 

Victor’s eyes flicked up at her startled.  He had expected her to be direct, but he wasn’t prepared for this. “I...um...only if necessary?”

 

“Do you enjoy it?”

 

Victor shook his head.  “I just...get the job done.”

 

“It’s interesting because these are the same things I hear from sexual assault survivors.  Yet...you’ve never been assaulted?”

 

Victor thinned his lips and shook his head.  “No one’s...ever touched me.”

 

“Let’s go back to that night...the interrogation...you were asked a number of questions, many attacking your sexuality, forcing you to deny your sexuality.”

 

Victor nodded slowly.

 

“It may not have been physical...but you were mentally assaulted, Victor.”

 

The silverette looked up at her in surprise.

 

Her voice softened, letting him settle into the realization.  “And it’s okay. You survived. Let’s work on reconnecting you to your body.”

 

“H-how?”

 

“Just like anyone else in your shoes.  Small steps, small pushes on you boundaries.  Becoming comfortable with your body, your needs, your pleasure.”

 

Victor shifted in his chair, “What about Yuuri?”

 

Cara’s lips quirked into a smile, “The first rule of pleasure is to know what you like.  Masturbate...for fun.  Become comfortable in your own skin.  Get naked. And slowly edge back those boundaries.”

 

“What if...I freak out?”

 

“Then we pick up the pieces and start again...don’t worry.  It will happen...but each time, you’ll be stronger for it.”

 

Victor chewed at his lip then darted his eyes at her, “What if...I don’t know how?”

 

She smiled warmly as she stood up to pull a book off of her shelf.  “I’m not one that promotes doing things by the book, but it sometimes gives you a jumping off point.  You have an experienced partner, too. Communication is your biggest friend. Of course,” she nodded towards the book, “sometimes you have to learn the language.”

 

Victor studied the book, his cheeks pink.  Looking up, he asked, “What do I do?”

 

“Figure out something you like.  Either alone or with Yuuri. Start small, a nudge across that barrier.”

 

Victor nodded, his eyes fixed on the book before turning to gather his things.  He slid it into the bag that held his iPad. Maybe they have an online version of this book.  More discrete.  Red cheeked, he held out his hand to shake hers.  “Thank you. I guess...Friday?”

 

“See you then,” she responded with a smile.  “Don’t forget. Take it slow,” she called after him as he left.

 




Yuuri didn’t press about their conversation as they drove home.  He could tell Victor was nervous and embarrassed. He wished he knew what to say to put him at ease.  When they reached the apartment, Victor excused himself saying he had to go study. Yuuri blinked in surprise but shrugged it off.

 

Phichit was home and asked how it went.  Yuuri shrugged. “I’m rebuilding at the moment.”

 

He moved restlessly around the apartment needing...something.  I have all of this nervous energy. He went to Victor’s door a couple of times but the door was closed and he didn’t want to disturb him.  In his own room, he picked up things that were out of place putting laundry in the hamper, gathering Vicchan’s toys that lay strewn about on the floor, straightening out his bed.  He sat on his bed drumming his fingers. Vicchan joined him demanding attention and Yuuri laughed as he snuggled the small poodle into his arms. “I’m sorry, Vicchan. I just…” He paused before adding, “I don’t know what’s going on with me.”

 

Finally, he decided on ice.  Phichit offered to accompany him but Yuuri waved him off.  “I’m just...I want to play with something. No jumps. Just skating.”

 

He jogged to the familiar building, his anxiety teaming under his skin.  When he reached the ice, he kicked of his running shoes and pulled on his skates.  The moment the blade hit the surface, he knew this was what he needed. He closed his eyes and breathed in the familiar territory and breathed out his anxiety.   Music .  That was the second component to this matter.  Then he smiled thinking of his session.  A new song.  He began sifting through his playlists while he skated in circles.  Something to go with Unsteady .  Something...that reminded him of the fun he had on ice.

 




When Victor came into the living room, he asked, “Where’s Yuuri?”

 

Phichit looked up from his computer with a frown.  “He didn’t tell you? He went to skate.”

 

“Is he okay?”

 

Phichit looked up, smiling, “Actually...he seemed fine.  I think...he said he wanted to play with something? I figure he’s working out some new choreography.”

 

Victor frowned as he considered his boyfriend.  “Do you think he’d mind if I showed up?”

 

Phichit shook his head.  “He probably didn’t tell you because you were studying.  He knew you’d put it aside to accompany him.”

 

Victor considered those words before nodding.  “He’s right but I’m finished now.” It’s not like I was doing homework...just...reading a book.

 

“See you later.”

 

Victor rode his bike to the rink, locking it into the rack before going inside.  He heard the music vibrating through the speakers before he spotted Yuuri on the ice, the sultry music drawing him in.  The man on the ice embodied the sexy Cuban music piping through the speakers. Victor watched the seductive movements, his mouth going dry as Yuuri’s hips swung into the music.   Damn!

 

It was a far cry from Express, but no less sexy.  In truth, Victor felt the playful flirtation of Yuuri’s dance.  It reminded him of Sochi. He wanted Yuuri. As the third cycle of the song began, Yuuri drew to a stop in front of him, his eyes challenging.  “Are you going to stand and watch...or join me?”

 

Victor flustered for a moment, “I…”   Gulp.

 

Yuuri smirked.  “Not that I mind you watching me.”

 

“Are you changing programs?” The silver head shook to clear his thoughts.   It’s a terrific program, but creating an entirely new short could be dangerous.

 

“I’m thinking about it.   Express ...doesn’t ring true for me anymore.  When I skate it, it feels forced.” Yuuri swizzled away from the barrier.

 

“It got my attention,” Victor called after him.

 

Yuuri chuckled, calling back.  “That was its entire purpose. This...is more me.  I love the ballroom influences.”

 

“It’s...sultry.  I can’t take my eyes off of you,” Victor admitted.

 

Yuuri grinned, a few power pulls bringing him back to the man at the barrier.  “I like that...the idea of your eyes only on me.”

 

“Will you...I’d like to see you skate it once more.”

 

“Of course...then you can help me work out the elements.  If I make it my short, can we rework Unsteady ?”

 

“Yes….easily,” Victor agreed, his mind already digging through the choreography.  They had to shorten it for the short program but he’d love to have the extra time to build it up.

 

“I know it’s extra work...but I need this.  It’s a gamble, the series starts soon, and the judges will be aware of the change.  But it gives me greater ownership of my programs. And I’ll put in the necessary work.”

 

“I know you will.  Let me watch it again so I can get it solid in my thoughts.  Then we can ready it for competition.”

 

Yuuri nodded, moving into the opening position, he nodded at Victor to restart the music.  Victor watched the swing of Yuuri’s hip, the attitude in his legs, the turn that showed his ass off.  Chris would appreciate that movement. As Yuuri came to a stop before him, Victor’s thoughts were somewhere else.

 

Searching the pale face Yuuri saw the blue eyes sparkling with thought, “What’s on your mind?”

 

“I was thinking...one of my old costumes would work perfect with this.  It’s black mesh, large stones, but on the hip there is this half skirt. I couldn’t help but think of it with the way you are using your hip movements.  If I sent for it, would you try it on?”

 

Yuuri’s eyebrows raised up high.  “You’re asking me if I’ll wear one of your costumes?  You do realize the fanboy in me is hyperventilating right now.”

 

Victor chuckled and reached a hand around Yuuri’s neck.  Pulling him close, he brushed their lips together. “I’ll send an email to Papa when we get home.  I know it will need some adjustments but...if you are intent on this program, it will be perfect.”

 

Yuuri’s shoulders drew together, his face lit up in excitement.  “I can’t believe I get to wear your costume. And I know the one you’re talking about.  You wore it the first time I saw you skate.” Yuuri was bouncing, barely suppressing the squeal inside.

 

Victor grinned, Yuuri’s happiness was worth all of this.  “Consider it done, lyubov moya .  Let’s go home.  I want to snuggle you.”

 

“Let me change and then I can jog back.”

 

“I’m on my bike,” Victor pouted.

 

Yuuri laughed as he put on his guards.  “I can keep up.”

 




Half an hour later and the two of them tumbled through the door walking in on a semi-dark apartment.  They saw movement in the shadows and then heard giggles. Devryn and Phichit peeked over the sofa, cheeks red and lips swollen.  “Oops?” Phichit giggled.

 

“Oh!  I’m sorry, Peach, Dev!” Yuuri responded covering his mouth in surprise.

 

Victor just laughed, his arm going around Yuuri to lead him down the hall.  Yuuri’s feet felt frozen in his surprise. It wasn’t an easy task. As they shuffled towards Yuuri’s room, he murmured, “I need to shower.”

 

“So do I,” Victor answered.  “I’ll get ready for tomorrow while you shower then meet you in your room after mine.”

 

Yuuri nodded in agreement, leaning in for a quick kiss before they parted.

 

In his room, Victor slid the book out from under the pillow and thought about the doctor’s words.   What...is the next push on our boundaries?   He could hear Yuuri in the bathroom and he closed his eyes imagining Yuuri’s naked body, water running down the surface.  His hand went unconsciously to his length. Don’t rush through it.   He eased his hand into the waistband of his sweats and began a slower rhythmic push and pull across the surface.  Thoughts of Yuuri’s hands on him, Yuuri watching him caused a moan to slip out of his lips. He froze covering his mouth, listening.   Did anyone hear me?  Shit! Dev and Peach are just down the hall!  Maybe...they moved to Phichit’s room? He could only hear water but was now too self conscious to finish.  Sliding the book back under the pillow, he decided, not tonight.  I just need to hold my Yuuri.

 

After his own shower, he entered the bedroom to find Yuuri in a t-shirt and boxers smoothing lotion over his skin.  Looking up at Victor, he asked, “Could you get my back? I’ve been so itchy lately.”

 

“Ummm,” Victor began, his mouth becoming dry.  He nodded reaching for the container. Yuuri leaned forward, pulling the t-shirt up over his shoulders to give Victor access.  Victor squeezed out the moisturizer and warmed it in his hand before smoothing it over the surface of Yuuri’s muscles. He heard the younger man sigh into the massaging strokes and felt the muscles relax.

 

Yuuri turned into his arms and smiled warmly.  “Thank you...my back is always neglected. Ice is so hard on my skin.”

 

“Mine, too,” Victor breathed.

 

Yuuri frowned.  “Do you want me to put lotion on your back, too?”

 

Small steps.  Baby steps .  “Y-yes.  That would be nice.”  Victor rolled over onto his stomach and he felt Yuuri’s hands push up his shirt.  He hissed as he realized Yuuri did not warm the lotion first but squirted it directly on the surface.

 

“Sorry,” Yuuri quirked but Victor had a feeling he wasn’t.  The hands moving over the surface quickly made him forget any complaints and he wondered if Yuuri had ever worked as a massage therapist, the movements confident and sure.  He began to relax and didn’t realize he’d dozed off under Yuuri’s touch until he woke up much later in the darkened room curled up around his lover. Shifting slightly, he settled once more to let sleep claim him.

Chapter Text


 

I just want to be okay…

 

Yuuri stretched out with a groan as they prepared for bed.  Long hours on the ice dug into his muscles. But...they had a short program, and Victor wasn’t far from adapting his free skate.  Still, even after a longer and hotter than usual shower, Yuuri ached. He rubbed the sore muscles that he could reach.

 

From beside the bed, Victor watched Yuuri flex and release the muscles of his sculpted body. When he saw that Yuuri had noticed him, he blushed.  “She said that I need to take small steps to push my boundaries,” Victor reflected as he pulled the sheets back, shifting nervously on his feet. “Could we...I thought maybe…”  He trailed off, uncertain how Yuuri would respond. But Yuuri stepped into his space and kissed him. Victor’s hands danced down his side resting on the small of his back as he pulled Yuuri even closer, opening his lips into the kiss.  As the kiss broke, Yuuri’s forehead rested against his cheek catching his breath in the space below his chin. “I thought we might try...to sleep naked?” The last three words came out as a squeak, his cheeks coloring as he spit them out.

 

Yuuri stepped back studying him, his expression, the tension in his body.  “Are you...sure? That may be a big step for you.”

 

Maybe.  I still haven’t mastered touching myself.  Too many sounds in the house to spook me.  “We already sleep in our underwear from time to time.  It’s just...another layer,” Victor pressed anyway. Yuuri felt a little unsure.  Victor could tell by the way he chewed his lip. Maybe this is stupid.  Maybe I should have suggested something else.  But he didn’t know what else to suggest.  He studied Yuuri and waited.

 

“I don’t have a problem with sleeping naked next to you…” Yuuri began.  

 

Victor frowned noticing how Yuuri resumed chewing his lip.   He really needs some lip balm.   Victor could hear the but hanging in the air between them.  “But?” Victor prompted nervously.

 

Yuuri sighed before shrugging.  “But I want you to be able to back out of it if you start feeling the least bit uncomfortable.  Okay?”

 

“But I’m supposed to be progressing!” Victor protested.  “Wouldn’t that be moving backwards?”

 

Yuuri pressed three fingers to the soft pink lips, quieting his words.  “You’re supposed to push and test your boundaries. They aren’t always ready to give.  I just want you to know that this will be like a dance. Sometimes we will move forward and sometimes we have to step back.  And that...isn’t a failure.”

 

Oh. Of course Yuuri would know this.  He’s a psychology major. He’s also a dancer.  Victor closed his eyes, tightening his hands at his side with determination.  “I want this,” he breathed.

 

Yuuri smiled warmly leaning in, his hand going up to cup Victor’s cheek as he drew Victor into another kiss.  “I always want you,” he murmured as he closed the gap on the kiss. “I need you to know this.” He kissed Victor once more.  “Always.” And another kiss before stepping back. Then Victor’s eyes blinked as he watched Yuuri move towards the door switching off the overhead light.

 

The room wasn’t totally dark.  Plenty of ambient light came through the window, the blinds slotted to let in light but provide privacy.  He could hear the rustle of fabric, could make out the movements as Yuuri removed his clothes. Then Victor began to undress.  It’s not like I haven’t seen him naked.  Then he stilled a moment.   Has he seen me naked?  I mean, there have been photoshoots in which I’ve been next to naked.  I guess...it’s just one more layer. He removed that final layer, his underwear landing on top of the pile of discarded clothes.

 

The sheets felt cool as he moved into them.  Yuuri’s body was curled away from him facing the opposite wall.  Victor could see Yuuri’s hand flattened under his slightly rounded cheek, his eyes already closed.  Drawing closer, Victor could see the pupils dancing beneath the lids. Victor laid flat on his back at first.  The whirring of the fan with its slight vibration coalescing into the sound of their breaths.

 

Victor turned to look the opposite direction as Yuuri.  The steady slow tap of the fan was distracting, imprinting into his thoughts.   I should probably climb up and clean that for Yuuri.  He’s just a touch too short to reach the fans even standing on the bed.

 

He turned back onto his back.  Yuuri remained still, his breathing steady.  Is he asleep already?  Of course he’d be more comfortable than me.  I mean I’m the one who’s the twenty-seven year old virgin.  What if...you’re disappointed in me? What if the first time we...make love...you realize I’m not worth it?

 

He didn’t know when he fell asleep.  Between Yuuri’s even breaths and the steady rhythm of the fan, his eyes fluttered shut and his thoughts settled enough for sleep.

 

It was the track of headlights across the wall that pulled him from his sleep.  They may not be on the ground floor, but the hill rising up from the apartment invited light to dance across the wall.  He drew in a deep shaky breath when he realized that he’d curled up around Yuuri in his sleep. His hand was splayed across Yuuri’s stomach.  His cheek rested against Yuuri’s dark hair, his lips close to those adorable ears. Does my breath tickle the hair falling on your ears?   He didn’t know what prompted him to do it.  He blew a soft breath against those tiny hairs.

 

Yuuri responded unexpectedly, twisting his head slightly but it was the rest of his lover’s movements that drew Victor’s attention.  That wriggle of his behind made Victor very aware of how hard he was upon waking up, his length slotted along Yuuri’s crack. Shit!  I should move a... Yuuri moved again, shifting to become more comfortable, one leg sliding forward in front of him.  Victor’s eyes widened at the feeling of that movement.

 

I...ah...I should move...away.   Victor didn’t move away.  He curled his leg along the curl of Yuuri’s upper leg, the movement creating friction that caused Victor to gasp.   He’s asleep.  I shouldn’t… he ground upward into the feeling.  The moan caused him to still. Was that me?  Was it Yuuri?

 

Then he heard it, the soft whispered “Vitya” from Yuuri’s sleepy lips followed by a grind of that gorgeous, pert rear against Victor’s length.  Victor knew that next moan was his own. I should... Victor’s hips answered Yuuri’s grind.. .stop ...Yuuri returned the motion as if they were having a conversation... move away. ..Victor responded chasing that pleasure... I could ...Yuuri ground back crying out his name.. .take care of this. ..Victor watched Yuuri’s back arch and he was lost.  He leaned forward and brushed a kiss into the middle of Yuuri’s back.  A soft whispered “please” slipped from the other man’s lips even as he ground his ass into Victor once more.

 

Victor rose up, propped on his forearm, to look at Yuuri.  Half lidded, cinnamon eyes, blinking as he sought pleasure, as he gave pleasure.  Yuuri was definitely awake. Victor brushed a kiss behind Yuuri’s ear. The younger man turned his head seeking Victor’s lips.  It was awkward, desperate, tongues licking out to one another even as Victor’s hand pressed against Yuuri’s stomach pulling them tighter together.  He then watched as Yuuri reached down and grabbed his own length. Victor’s lips kissed down Yuuri’s neck as he watched Yuuri’s hand pleasure himself, long steady strokes, a twist on the end, “Vitya” on his lips over and over again.  Victor’s own hips ground in time with those strokes. “Yuuri,” he whined, feeling desperate, needing...something.

 

Yuuri answered with a circling grind back into him.  They continued to move to the whirring rhythm of the fan, the height of their rise with the tap of the unbalanced motion of the fan.  Victor felt himself coming unbalanced, coming apart, his next cry of “Yuuri” a desperate cry echoed by his lover’s cry of “Vitya”. The body in his arms tensed and Victor felt his arms tightening around Yuuri’s middle, his own body continuing to grind into Yuuri’s warmth.  Then that body spasmed against him. He didn’t know if it was the movement of Yuuri’s body against his, watching Yuuri’s orgasm spill out, or the keening moan that released with it that sent Victor over the edge. It was likely all three. The wet warmth splashed between their bodies and then Victor felt Yuuri’s back press up against him.

 

Victor’s thoughts tumbled as he and Yuuri caught their breaths.   We...I...with him…  Victor’s arms instinctively tightened around Yuuri.   Don’t disappear.  They can’t take you away from me.  I wouldn’t survive it.  He didn’t know when he started shaking.  He didn’t remember Yuuri turning in his arms, eyes wide with concern as he pulled Victor into his arms.

 

“I’ve got you...shhh...it’s okay.”  Yuuri’s touch was soothing, fingers stroking down his cheeks, kisses fluttering through his hair.

 

“Don’t go…” Victor whined.

 

“I’m not going anywhere, Vitya...Vi’tenka,” he murmured, fingers sliding through his hair.  Victor could feel the sticky evidence of what they had done hardening on their skin. He knew they should wash.   That was normal after sex, wasn’t it?  To clean up? But that didn’t matter, not right now.  He couldn’t let Yuuri go. He held onto the younger man listening to the repeated assurances.

 

They lay there for the longest time until Victor felt himself shifting uncomfortably in the sticky funk.  “Itchy.”

 

“Why don’t we take a shower?” Yuuri suggested.  Victor nodded into his neck and let the younger man guide him out of the sheets, untangling the fabric around them.  Glancing back, he could see the bed was a wreck. They’d have to change out the sheets at the very least.

 

Yuuri guided him naked down the short hall into the bathroom.  Victor sat on the toilet while Yuuri set the water temperature.  Satisfied, he kicked on the shower function before guiding Victor into the running stream.  Yuuri then stepped over the edge with him.  Oh...together…

 

Victor still felt unresponsive, his mind fighting the fear of losing Yuuri, of Yuuri being taken away from him.  Yuuri ran the cloth over Victor’s body, then his own. Concerned eyes kept flicking up at him even as he lathered Victor’s body, turning him to rinse the soap away.  Then came the shampoo followed by conditioner. Somewhere in the midst of this, Yuuri washed his own body, guiding Victor where he needed to get access to the water. Then, Yuuri turned the shower off followed by the taps indicating the shower was finished.  Victor remained still, his eyes watching Yuuri as the younger man pulled the curtain back stepping out on the mat. He reached for a large towel and began drying Victor off first before seeing to himself. With a gentle tug, he urged Victor out of the tub and finished drying his lower legs and ankles.

 

“Do you want to go back to bed?” Yuuri asked as he led Victor into the hall.  It was still early, probably close to four in the morning.

 

Victor’s eyes flicked down the hall remembering the mess they left behind.  “Maybe...we should go to my bed.”

 

Yuuri looked up at him in surprise.  They never slept in Victor’s bed, always Yuuri’s.  Victor always gravitated to Yuuri. “Okay.” He paused at the door.  “Maybe I should get…” his eyes flicked to his door, “...maybe my underwear?”

 

“Don’t...I can’t...I need you…” Victor struggled articulating what he needed from Yuuri before he whispered, “Don’t disappear.”

 

Yuuri frowned in realization even as he stepped closer to Victor.  “I won’t do anything you don’t want, Vitya...I just want you to be comfortable.”

 

Victor shook his head pulling Yuuri into the room with him.  “I need you close.”

 

Yuuri allowed himself to be settled into bed, a sheet covering him before Victor situated himself behind him.   A sheet...that’s an easy fix.  Then he felt Victor’s arms wrap around him, holding him close.  Yuuri didn’t allow himself to sleep until he felt the tension leave Victor’s body, indicating sleep.   Oh, Vitya...I wish I had stopped you.  I hate how unsettled this has left you.  He closed his eyes remembering waking up to Victor seeking pleasure.  He whispered the other man’s name hoping to gain some foundation then followed Victor’s lead.  And god, it felt good, the touch of the other man seering into his skin. “I love you,” Yuuri whispered.   I can wait.  You don’t have to push yourself before you’re ready.

 




The next morning, Yuuri stretched, his arm sliding under the pillow.  Something hard scraped his arm and he wrinkled his nose in confusion.  What the fuck?  Glancing over at Victor, he saw the other man sleeping peacefully.  Lifting the pillow, he smirked at the book he found. So this is what’s driving you.  Okay. We can work with that.

 

Looking back at his lover, though, he knew they needed to deal with the recoil.  He slipped from the sheets and managed to get to the bathroom without waking the older man.  However, as he returned, Victor sat up and looked around disoriented, momentarily alarmed before he spotted Yuuri by the door.  Yuuri went immediately to his side. “I’m sorry, sweetheart. Just a quick run to the bathroom. Are you okay?”

 

Victor shook his head.  “It’s all messed up. I messed up last night.”

 

“No, sweetie...you didn’t mess up,” Yuuri soothed, his arms wrapping around him.  “We just have to deal with this. At least we have a counseling appointment already set this afternoon.  We just have to get through the day.”

 

Victor kept him close.  They showered together once more, dressed in the same room, took the dogs out, worked together to make breakfast.  Victor kept watching him, making sure he didn’t disappear. Yuuri offered him reassuring smiles. He knew the story behind the clinginess...and that made him sad for Victor.  But he refused to let it show.

 

Victor walked him to class and they bumped into Phichit and Devryn.  Phichit’s sharp eyes noticed something was wrong but when he started to ask, he spied Yuuri’s minute headshake and a tap on the pocket that carried his phone.  Phichit gave a tiny nod then pushed a warm smile in place. “Are you ready for the quiz Calculus?”

 

Victor squirmed a little.  “I studied some yesterday evening.”

 

Yuuri looked sharply at him and asked, “When?”

 

“Shhh,” Victor hushed.

 

Phichit rolled his eyes.  “He makes Calculus look effortless.”

 

Victor shrugged.  “Numbers do predictable things.  It’s not like I have to second guess their motives.”

 

Another eyeroll.  “Alright, you’ve got Yuuri to class.  Let’s get to ours,” Phichit laughed, looping his arm into Victor’s elbow and the other into Devryn’s.

 

Victor looked back and the other two laughed pulling him away but Yuuri smiled sadly watching him go.  Pulling out his phone, he texted Victor.

 

Yuuri/ I’m okay.  Go to class. We’ll meet up for lunch.

 

He knew the moment when they let him go, his phone vibrating in answer.

 

Vitya/ I know I’m being ridiculous.  I can’t help it.

 

Yuuri/ It’s fine.  I know where it comes from.  I’ll give you every reassurance you need.

 

Vitya/ I love you.  I know it’s all in my head.

 

Yuuri/ But sometimes you don’t know…

 

Vitya/ Exactly.

 

Yuuri sighed as he put his phone away.  He quickly scribbled his notes in automatic mode.  I’ll have to reread the textbook with how distracted I am.  Maybe one of the others will let me compare notes with them.

 

He had a meeting between classes to report on his thesis project.  Lawrie’s offer of input would go a long way into moving forward. Yuuri had all of his information in order but he also knew he was distracted.

 

Leaving class, he felt his phone buzz multiple times.  He ignored all messages except for Victor’s.

 

Vitya/ Are you okay?

 

Yuuri/ Headed to my grad advisor.  How was your quiz?

 

Vitya/ Fine.  Nothing too difficult.

 

Yuuri/ Would Phichit agree with that?

 

Vitya/ I don’t know.  He was still testing when I left.

 

Yuuri/ I’m here.  I’ll text when I get out.

 

Vitya/ Okay, good luck.

 

It was an informal meeting to discuss progress on his project and to prepare him to defend it.  He was being fast tracked into the PhD program but he held back because of his competition schedule.  Leaving the office, he knew his paper would be solid. He considered his life. What would I even do a PhD dissertation on?  I mean...I have plenty of time. What did Lawrie use for his?

 

He pulled out his phone and texted Victor real quick.

 

Yuuri/ Meeting went well.

 

Victor would still be in class so he walked across the quad to his next class while scanning his other messages.

 

Peach/ What’s going on with Victor?

 

Dev/ Are you okay?  Victor is very anxious.

 

He sighed.  He had the best of friends.  Of course they’d notice. He would copy the same message to both.

 

Yuuri/ Just a private matter.  I don’t want to break confidence...especially with my boyfriend.  But we have counseling this afternoon. Thank you for checking on him.

 

Peach/ I just worry…

 

Yuuri/ I know.  I’m watching him.

 

Dev/ Are you sure you’ve got this?  I’m here if either of you need me.

 

Yuuri smiled as he considered his friends’ loyalties.  He really was a blessed man.

 

Yuuri/ Thanks, Dev.  You always look out for us.

 

Dev/ Anytime.

 

Yuuri leaned against the wall outside his next class when Victor’s text came through.

 

Vitya/  That was the longest class!  And I got out ten minutes early!  We should just skip our next class.

 

Yuuri/ I am one of five students.  My professor would definitely notice.

 

Vitya/ I didn’t think about that.  Okay...fine. But wait for me when you finish.  I want to walk with you. I need you.

 

Yuuri smiled, a blush creeping in his cheeks at the memory of Victor’s need last night.   We’ll work through this.  I need you, too.

 

Yuuri/ I’ll see you soon.

 

His last class took the longest but when he walked out the door, he caught blue eyes as the tall silverette leaned against the opposite wall.  “Vitya…” he breathed.

 

Victor pushed back against the wall and straightened his form, reaching for Yuuri.  “I did go to class before you ask.  It just let out early.”

 

Yuuri snorted in response.  “Dork! Let’s get home and make lunch.  You have students to coach.” The younger man’s eyes smiled up at him through his glasses as their fingers threaded together.

 

“And you have practice,” Victor countered, his voice soft.

 

Yuuri glanced around and pushed Victor into a secluded alcove before tipping up on his toes to kiss him.  Pulling back, he whispered, “You are my priority. I hope you know this. After practice, we go see Cara. We’ll sort through this.”

 

“I’m sorry,” he breathed.  “I pushed too deep.”

 

“Maybe...it would be like this no matter when you broke through the barrier.  So let’s get through this day, sweetheart. I want to figure out where we go from here.”  He tipped up on his toes once more to kiss him again. “Regardless, it will be together.” Fingers entwining again, they walked back to the apartment, trading out books for skate gear, grabbing sandwiches.  Yuuri was driving so they could leave directly from the rink. They just had to get through the afternoon.

 

At the rink, Yuuri and Phichit worked on one end and the girls on the other end.  Victor pulled on his professional mask and pushed the girls through their routines.  It was brutal and they were exhausted at the end of the two hour practice. He sent them off for their other training, meeting Yuuri on the way to the locker room.

 

“Are you okay?” Yuuri asked, concerned eyes meeting his.

 

Victor shrugged.  “I’ll be okay. It’s better being able to see you.  And more so, now that I can touch you.”

 

“Vitya…”  Yuuri couldn’t hide the concern in his voice.

 

Victor shrugged.  “I know...that’s why we’re going to counseling.”

 

Victor slouched in the car seat, staring out the window.  Something dark settled over his mood and Yuuri couldn’t help the worry in his.  Seeing the light go out in Victor was something Yuuri thought should never happen.  He may have driven a little more aggressively in his concern, wanting to get Victor the counseling he clearly needed.  As he pulled into the parking lot for the counseling complex, he felt Victor shift, blue eyes surveying the area for any possible threats.

 

Yuuri sensed the older man’s fear, reaching out he took  Victor’s hand and gave it a squeeze. “I’ve been coming here for a while, Vitya...it’s okay.”

 

Victor shook his head as if he was trying to shake off a bad feeling.  “It’s like...what is it...like something bad is going to happen...like the world’s going to end?”

 

“Feelings of impending doom,” Yuuri explained.  “That’s a symptom of depression or anxiety...among other things.”

 

“So...this is a normal thing...what I’m feeling?”  Victor peered from beneath his bangs.

 

“Normal given your anxiety.  And trust me...I know anxiety.”  He reached for Victor’s hand. “Let’s go inside, meet with Cara.”

 

Victor sighed and nodded.  The older man moved to get out of the car when he felt a tug on his hand.  Turning to Yuuri, he gasped as Yuuri’s other hand went up the side of his face, leaning in, kissing him, swallowing him, filling him up.  As he pulled away from the other man, his eyes found a smile. “Thank you. I needed that.”

 

“I just...I’m here.  For you,” Yuuri promised, his hand stroking Victor’s cheek.  “I hope...you know this.”

 

Victor smiled.  “I know...that’s not…”  He took a deep breath. “Let’s get inside.  I need to talk this out.”

 





Cara studied the two men as Victor told her what happened.  “I guess...well, you said I need to test boundaries. I thought...I don’t know what I thought.  I wanted...Yuuri. And I never...it never felt good before. It’s always been something to take care of, to finish off...you know...when I…”  Victor squirmed, his cheeks red, his eyes not meeting anyone. “I don’t jerk off for fun.”

 

Yuuri reached towards him only for Victor to flinch away.  Looking up at the doctor, he asked, “I’m fucked up, aren’t I?  Yuuri would be better off with someone else.”

 

Yuuri gasped throwing a desperate gaze in her direction.  She brought her cup of tea up to take a sip studying the two patients.  “Victor, when I suggested you push the boundaries, no, I didn’t mean to go this deep but here we are.  And that’s okay. Let’s talk about how you are feeling right now.”

 

“I’m...I keep making sure Yuuri is here.  I am...fighting panic when we’re apart. I constantly check on him when he’s not in reach.  I...I don’t want him to be taken away. But I know...here in my head...that all of this is impossible.  I just...I want to be okay.”

 

“Victor, focus on me.”  She stilled until she had his eyes before moving forward.  “You are okay. You are safe. Yuuri is safe. How long have you felt these feelings of panic?”

 

Victor blinked trying to focus on her question.  “Since last night...after...we had...well, it wasn’t exactly sex.  So that means...I can’t take it back, I’m gay.”

 

“Well, it was sex,” Dr. Bishop clarified patiently.  “Sex comes in many forms. Victor, are you afraid of being gay?  Or are you afraid of getting caught being gay?”

 

“I think...it’s all sort of the same thing.”  Victor blinked feeling a sort of disconnect.

 

She nodded thoughtfully.  “It is sort of the same thing but not as well.  Do you accept that you’re gay or are you still fighting it?”

 

“I-I’ve always been gay...but it’s not allowed.”  Victor flinched at the sound of his voice. It sounded so small, like a child.  Looking at Yuuri in confusion, he felt unfocused. “Yuuri?” His voice sounded so afraid.  Odd.  But then Yuuri was there in front of him, his eyes full of concern.  “What’s happening?”

 

“You’re dissociating, Vitya,” the voice...Yuuri’s voice...explained calm and firm.  “I need you to focus on my voice. Okay?”

 

Victor nodded, his eyes holding onto Yuuri’s.  Maybe if I stay here...but everyone feels so far away.  “Okay...I feel so lost right now.”

 

“I know, Vitya.  But I’ve got you.  You’re safe. With me.” Yuuri shifted closer and put his hand over Victor’s.  “Tell me three things you hear.”

 

Yuuri’s hand held onto his but it didn’t feel real.  Victor focused on that lack of realness and it took a moment for him to realize that Yuuri said something.  “I...I don’t know what you said.”

 

Yuuri knitted his brow and sharpened his tone, hoping this would give the man an anchor.  “Focus on me, Vitya. Three things. What do you hear?”

 

Victor blinked, turning slowly around in the room.  “Dripping water. Clock ticking. Fan...tapping.”

 

Yuuri and Dr. Bishop exchanged glances.  There was no fan in the room. “Are you thinking about the fan in my room, Vitya?”

 

Victor focused on that question.   Am I?  “I’m not sure.  Maybe?” Was it in Yuuri’s room?  Maybe it was. My room in Russia had a fan.

 

“Vitya, I want you to push down on the floor with your feet,” Yuuri pressed gently.

 

Victor studied his feet, this should be easy.  Yet, he had to focus his attention on the action to force his body to respond.

 

Yuuri held onto his hand and Victor’s eyes focused on the repetitive movement of Yuuri’s thumb on his palm going in a circle.  He blinked then blinked again. The room seemed to right itself although it never felt in a jumble, just crisper, sharper, and...distant.  “Yuuri...I don’t understand. What just happened?”

 

It was Dr. Bishop that answered, her calm voice cutting through the rest of the noise.  “Sometimes when we have trouble dealing with what’s happening to us, our mind will seek to escape as a method of coping.  Have you done this before?”

 

“I...maybe...I don’t think it was the same…”  His eyes started to fall away.

 

She shifted forward in her chair, keeping his gaze on her, holding his focus.  “Still, maybe a sense that you escaped, that you disconnected from reality?”

 

Victor nodded.  “Is this bad?”

 

She shook her head.  “It’s perfectly normal.  We just have to help you ground yourself when it happens so you don’t get trapped in a dissociative state.  It seems that you are having difficulty separating what happened when you were eighteen from what is happening now.  Did you ever have any resolution?”

 

“I...don’t know what happened to Ivan or Dmitry,” Victor confessed.

 

She thinned her lips.  “I think that it is important for you to know if possible.  Is there anyone who would know?”

 

Victor shook his head at first saying, “We weren’t allowed to talk about it at the rink...but I think maybe Yakov knows.  I just don’t know how to bring it up.”

 

“Perhaps you can start with calling Yakov,” Yuuri suggested.

 

Widening his eyes, he mouthed nononono .  “I don’t want to be pulled back over to Russia...what if…”

 

Yuuri took his hand and he felt that soothing motion against the palm of his hand once more.  His breathing started to ease with the rhythm of the movement. Oh...there was a rhythm earlier...the fan...it kept me in the moment.  Did you know that, Yuuri? You can’t have known.

 

Victor took a deep breath.  “It seems I have a lot of unresolved fears.  I...should call Yakov.”

 

“You told me he’s your family.  Family wants what is best for their loved ones,” Yuuri assured him.

 

“Will you...I don’t want to be alone when I call him…”  Victor sighed, he hated feeling so small.

 

“If you want me there, I’ll be there,” Yuuri reassured him.

 

Turning to Cara, he asked, “What do I do about the rest of this?  How do I make peace with my fear that Yuuri might disappear?”

 

“I think we’ve uncovered a trigger and more will follow.  I suspected Tuesday that these were signs of PTSD. Now I’m much more sure of this.  We are going to work together to get you through this, Victor. For now, you will need more reassurance.  You might need to check on Yuuri more to be at peace. Is this something the two of you can live with?”

 

Victor looked at Yuuri uncertainly but the other man nodded, his smile soft and reassuring.  “I understand where it’s coming from, so yes, I can live with it until we can get Victor through it.”

 

“But...what if I smother you…”  Looking at Cara, he added, “I know I can be a bit much.”

 

“How about we establish a nonverbal cue?  That way if Yuuri is across the room from you, he can signal that he is okay.”

 

Victor considered this, so long as he was able to see that Yuuri was fine he could handle this. “That...might work.  What though?”

 

Yuuri lifted his hand and kissed his third finger.  “I’ll do this when I catch you looking. You can return the motion in reply.  That way, it’s also a sign of affection.”

 

“Because...that’s where a ring would go,” Victor breathed.

 

Yuuri winked.  “Maybe not yet.  I don’t think I’m in the right mental state to agree to marriage.  But someday...for now, it’s just for us. Okay?”

 

Victor nodded and drew his finger up to kiss it.

 

“Excellent,” Cara responded.  “As far as homework goes, I want you to make that call, Victor.  See if we can find some closure. And Yuuri? Keep that journal. I want to know every trigger.”

 

“Thank you, Cara,” Yuuri murmured as he guided Victor to his feet.  “Tuesday?”

 

“Same time...you have my number if there are more urgent needs.”

 

Yuuri answered for both of them. “Good night.”

 




Yuuri led Victor to the car.  He could still feel the disconnect in Victor but he was no stranger to the symptoms Victor was displaying.  Settling him in the car, he came around the front where Victor could watch him before he came inside. I’ll just have to be conscious of my movements to set him at ease.

 

He gave his lover a reassuring smile and handed him a water bottle from his backpack.  It was five and traffic wouldn’t be fun but at least he could play some soothing music and keep Victor hydrated.  He connected his phone and found the playlist he used to calm himself. “Let’s go home, Vitya.”

 

Victor lolled his head towards Yuuri and nodded.

 

Yuuri could see the exhaustion.  He knew that feeling of heaviness that sets in on the far side of an anxiety attack.  “You can rest while I drive. Okay, love?”

 

Victor’s eyes opened and closed heavily until they didn’t open anymore.  Yuuri then negotiated the car out of the lot. It was time to get Victor home.

 


 

 

NOTES:

 

What Counselors Need to Know about Dissociation

Chapter Text


 

Skies are blue…



Yuuri could feel Victor’s weariness even as the older man rested a protective hand on the small of his back, guiding him up the stairs.  The anxiety Victor felt since they crossed that line had faded into exhaustion. However, Yuuri knew the tumbling feeling would reignite like a fire licking back up into their emotions once it could breathe.

 

“You should rest,” the Japanese man insisted as he unlocked the door to their apartment.  Two eager poodles greeted them tails wagging.

 

Victor sighed as he reached down to stroke Makka’s head.  Yuuri knelt down on the floor, Vicchan all but in his lap jumping up all over him.  “We need to take them out.” The Russian accent did little to hide the fatigue in Victor’s voice.

 

Yuuri smiled up from the crouched position, “I can do it...sleep.”

 

“No!”  Victor froze, surprised by the force of that word.  Closing his eyes, he breathed in deeply and blew it out slowly, “I’m sorry...I...would prefer if we go together.  Is that okay?”

 

“Of course, Vitya,” Yuuri agreed, standing up to slide a gentle hand into his.  “But you need to promise me that you’ll rest this evening.”

 

Victor nodded heavily.  “I will...just...promise me you’ll wake me up if you need to leave.  I...I’m not ready to let you go by yourself.” He forced a weary smile onto his face, “Indulge me in this.”

 

The smile was a battle of charm and exhaustion, but Yuuri was happy to see it was genuine as well.  Leaning forward, his hand slid up to cup Victor’s cheek. Victor felt himself melting into Yuuri’s touch.  The younger man tipped up on his toes and brushed their lips together. “I would indulge you in every way, Vitya,” he whispered.

 

Victor shuddered as if Yuuri’s words fluttered over him, tickling his most sensitive parts and he found another small smile.  “Yuuri…”

 

“Shall we take out our puppies?” Yuuri reminded him gently.

 

Victor nodded, following Yuuri to the hook where they hung the leads.  They tended to their dogs’ needs, Yuuri picking up while Victor sat on the bench, his exhaustion evident.  Back in the apartment, Yuuri made him shower and change into pajamas.

 

Yuuri quietly hummed along with the easy music on the speakers as Victor slept curled up on the couch.  Makkachin refused to leave her human’s side and stretched out in the crook of his legs, her chin resting on his hip, tail thumping as she watched Yuuri dance, his hips swaying to the music while he made chicken salad with apples, grapes, and walnuts.

 

He looked up as Phichit walked into the apartment and quickly signaled him with a shush as he nodded towards the sofa.  “How is he?” Phichit mouthed.

 

Yuuri sighed, his lips thinning.  Waving for his friend to follow him, they settled into Yuuri’s room.  “He’s really protective,” Yuuri whispered. “He’s afraid I’ll be taken away from him.”

 

“He’s got to know you only have eyes for him,” Phichit protested in surprise.

 

Yuuri waved off his words shaking his head.  “No, nothing like that…” he grimaced, stuck between wanting to share with his friend, but not reveal too much without first knowing for certain Victor would be comfortable sharing his past, “more that someone will take me away...like...the police.”

 

Phichit’s eyes widened incredulously, “Why?”

 

“Something brought up a bad memory.  So I just have to stay close to him.”  Yuuri try to wave away Phichit’s concerns with a nonchalant voice.

 

Phichit frowned as he studied his friend.  “Are you okay? Is he scaring you?”

 

Brown eyes widened as his hands fanned back and forth in protest.  “No no no...nothing like that.”

 

“Dev and I’ve been worried all day,” Phichit hissed as he caught one of the hands, grounding his friend..

 

Yuuri inhaled, settling himself.  He turned, putting a hand over Phichit’s.  “I’m sorry. I can’t tell you much more. I probably said too much.  But I can tell you I’m safe, Victor is safe, and we’re working to help each other through this.”

 

“It’s okay, Yuuri...I understand.”  Phichit leaned in and hugged the older man.  “Are you both in for the night?”

 

“Yeah...anxiety is exhausting and he’s sleeping it off.  I thought chicken salad because I could scoop it into a bowl when he wakes up; chicken and nuts have tryptophan.  It helps the body open up to serotonin flow. Leafy greens, chicken, and nuts are also rich in Vitamin B. The protein will stimulate dopamine production.”

 

“So you picked chicken salad because it was easy, huh?” Phichit responded with an eye roll.

 

Yuuri shrugged.  “It can’t hurt to work with nature instead of against it.  I mean...especially since I don’t like to use drugs.”

 

Phichit twitched at the mention of Yuuri’s anxiety.  “How are you...have you...been missing the alcohol?”

 

Yuuri shook his head warily.  “I want it when I can’t settle down in social situations.  Right now I’m worried about Victor. That’s different. I just...I have too much on my mind to even go there.”

 

“I’m sorry, Yuuri...I feel like I haven’t been here for you like I should.”  Phichit tapped him on the knee with a soft fist.

 

Yuuri smiled to his friend, he was glad to see Phichit becoming more involved with Dev.  “It’s okay, Phichit. Victor is taking care of me. I’m taking care of him. We make sure we both go to counseling.  That...might be a good thing. I might make excuses if it’s just me.”

 

“You know I’m just a text away when I’m not home,” the younger man murmured.

 

“And you’re never home anymore.”  Yuuri laughed, holding up his hands as he watched Phichit’s eyes widen.  “No, Peach...it’s fine. I’m glad to see you happy. I just wish you said something or I figured it out sooner.”

 

Phichit shrugged.  “He wasn’t ready sooner.  I think he had to see you settled.  It’s odd. He’s not jealous. He just wants those he cares about to be happy.”

 

“Sounds like someone else I know,” Yuuri teased.  “Now...do you want to take some of this chicken salad back?  I’ve made plenty.”

 

“I’d say no, we’re fine...but I do love a good chicken salad.”  They moved out of the bedroom and into the kitchen where Yuuri spooned him some salad into a bowl and popped on the lid.  Handing it over to Phichit, the younger man leaned in and kissed his cheek before waving and leaving. Yuuri shook his head and walked over to check on Victor smoothing his hair out of his face.  Returning to the kitchen, he refrigerated the salad and slipped out to shower.

 

Stretching, he felt the water drumming down his skin and his eyes closed.  The door opened with its telltale squeak. Yuuri smiled to himself. Vitya…

 

There was a rustle of clothes behind and then the curtain slid back to admit the man, his arms slipping around from behind.  Yuuri leaned into him, his eyes closed, his body pressed into him. “How are you feeling?”

 

Victor’s arms slid around him, his lips brushing behind his ear and moving down his neck.  “Better. I can still feel a little of it...like it’s just under my skin. But I feel functional.”

 

“Sleep is your friend,” Yuuri murmured turning in his arms.  His hands slid up over his shoulders and around his neck and they kissed under the splash of the shower.

 

As Victor pulled back, he could see the water bead up on Yuuri’s lashes, rivers tracing his features, his lips pink and swollen from their kiss.  “God you’re beautiful!”

 

Yuuri blushed deeper as his eyes fluttered open at the exclamation.  “Vitya…”

 

Victor sighed, leaning in to claim Yuuri’s lips once more before they began to wash more in earnest.  As they worked their way out of the shower, Victor stepped out first supporting Yuuri as he exited. “I...want to talk.”

 

Yuuri looked up surprised from beneath his lashes.  “About what?”

 

“Us, counseling, our needs...our wants,” he listed as he handed Yuuri a towel.  “I think my needs came to the forefront and I’m...worried. We got you into counseling and you...you got left on the wayside.”

 

Yuuri closed his eyes as he took a deep breath and let it out slowly.  “Let’s get dressed and have dinner. I’ve already made it. Then we can talk.”

 

Victor nodded in agreement and they moved to their own rooms to dress.  As Yuuri stood before his dresser pulling on his pajamas, he realized Victor gave him the space to dress.  It was a small concession, but it indicated improvement on Victor’s part. He glanced towards the wrecked bed with a frown and started stripping it down when he heard the door open.  He glanced back to see Victor leaning on the facing with an eyebrow raised.

 

“It needed to be done,” Yuuri explained with a shrug.

 

Victor nodded sharply.  “Yes, it did. Why don’t I finish while you finish preparing dinner?”

 

“The clean sheets are in my closet on one of the shelves.”

 

“I’ll take care of it, my Yuuri.  I’ll be in the kitchen soon.”

 

Yuuri turned and walked out, feeling a little odd leaving Victor to sort out his room.  He did what was suggested, setting out two dishes with the chicken salad and water bottles.  When Victor came back into the room, he took the stool next to Yuuri’s. They ate in silence, Yuuri kicking his leg nervously not sure what Victor had to discuss.   Did I mess up?  Is he mad at me?  Every so often Victor would reach around and rub his hand over Yuuri’s back.  Finally, they finished, washing their dishes before moving to the living room.

 

Victor held Yuuri’s hand as he worked out what he wanted to say.  “I’m going to call Yakov in the morning. I...don’t know what he will say.  I would like you to be there when I make that call.”

 

Yuuri nodded in surprise.  “Of course. Whatever you need.”

 

Victor smiled grimly at the phrasing.  “Yuuri...are we...what do you need?”

 

Yuuri started and blinked forward as he processed that question.  “I-I…” Taking a deep breath, he began again. “I...don’t know everything...but I need help figuring out how to handle my expenses.  I know my parents will help me...to the point of sacrifice. I don’t want that. Do you think...you said you could get me some work. I don’t know how I will do, but maybe...I won’t feel so bad as when I danced at the club?”

 

“I made some calls on Monday to the firm that handles my modeling contracts.  I wanted to set some work up during the semester break for myself. Will you let me help cover the difference…”  He watched Yuuri wave his arm in protest but placed his hand over Yuuri’s arm to settle him. “...as a loan, my Yuuri, until I can settle your contract.  Before you shut down this idea, hear me out.” Yuuri huffed and sighed looking towards the middle of the room. However, Victor knew he was listening. “I played a part in you losing your job.  I want to stress that I did not have a problem with you dancing at that club, or any club. You are beautiful. It was just...your drinking…”

 

“I know,” Yuuri whispered.

 

“You slipped on the pole.  We were all afraid you were going to fall.  Chris and Jules both pole dance. Lawrie does to some degree as well.  They backed me up that the risk was too great to leave you on that stage.  Still...maybe if I hadn’t been there…”

 

Yuuri reached for his feet pulling his legs into a butterfly.  He held onto his opposite ankles and rocked as he thought about his answer.  “I...needed a way out. Vitya...the alcohol was too accessible there. They brought it to me backstage.  Whatever I wanted. The bartender never saw me, and didn’t know he was over-serving, and the waiters were too busy to keep track.  And...I can’t just have a couple of drinks. I...have a problem. It’s...landed me in places I didn’t want to be. It’s...landed me in beds I never wanted to be.  I don’t want...to be an…” He took a deep breath and released it. “I am an alcoholic.  I use it as a coping mechanism.  I’m a psychologist. I know I was well into the third phase of functional alcoholism ...and the fourth is...I don’t want to ever see the fourth.  I never should have let it get this far. I...can’t have it in my reach.  I don’t buy it, I don’t keep it in my house, I can’t have it nearby.” He looked up to meet Victor’s eyes.  “I’m...sorry. That is very restrictive. It’s hard when I go home. My father and my dance teacher both drink a lot.  I-I’ll need you with me.”

 

Victor patted Yuuri’s hand, he was proud of the younger man’s self-reflective honesty.  “I will be with you...but I may have to be harsh. Can you live with that?”

 

Yuuri frowned.  “Honestly...there may be times I will fight you.  But after I cool off, I will let it go. Just like my anxiety, I think my addiction can be...cruel, harsh and hurtful.  I...don’t want to hurt you.”

 

“I will try not to take it personally.  I know there will be times I can’t help it...times I’m sensitive.  I just want you to be okay, Yuuri.  I want to be okay.”

 

“I want that, too,” Yuuri whispered.  He turned, releasing his ankles and closing his knees together before crawling into Victor’s lap, his head tucking into Victor’s neck.

 

The older man’s arms wrapped around him protectively sensing Yuuri’s vulnerability.  Yuuri shifted up, seeking his lips. Victor responded opening up to deepen the kiss, his arms tightening around the smaller man.  Yuuri released a moan but this time they didn’t break away. They chased it.

 

Victor lay him down on the sofa as he stretched out over him, his knee moving between Yuuri’s legs pushing the thighs apart and creating a space for himself.  Yuuri grinded into Victor, who could instantly tell the younger man was getting turned on. Victor started to panic. “I-I don’t know what to do…”

 

Yuuri blinked feeling his world still as his expression softened.  “Let’s take this to your room,” he suggested.

 

Victor looked at him in confusion but moved off of him holding his hand out to help Yuuri up.  They moved down the hall and Yuuri crawled in the middle of Victor’s bed upon entering. He patted the space next to him and Victor joined him still looking confused.  Yuuri reached under the pillow and fished out the book.

 

“I found this when I woke up this morning,” he began.

 

Victor took a deep breath, feeling his face flush.  “Dr. Bishop sent it home with me. She thought it would help me.”

 

Yuuri smiled, and ran a finger across Victor’s cheekbone, drawing the blue eyes back to him.  “There are a number of ways this book can be used. It’s encyclopedic and you could study it and absorb the knowledge.  Or...we could use it to communicate what we want or don’t want. It’s a lot but it also just scratches the surface.” He tapped the cover and asked, “where do you want to go next?”

 

Victor studied the book in Yuuri’s hand.  Pulling it his direction, he flipped a few pages, finding the one he had read earlier and pointed.  “I don’t know how to feel good doing this.”

 

Yuuri ran his fingers over the page as he considered how he wanted to approach Victor’s request.  “I remember you saying something similar in Cara’s office. I think masturbation is a great place to start.”

 

“But i-it’s something you do alone,” Victor protested with a pout.

 

Yuuri smirked, “It doesn’t have to be.”  Roving his eyes around the room, he reached out his hand.  “For now, let’s call this room neutral territory. It’s your safe place.  A place in which we both know sex between us is off the table. You can decide later to change this.”

 

Victor nodded, then his eye narrowed.  “Should the book be in your room then?”

 

“No.  We can come here when we set and reset our boundaries and talk about what we want.  The book is a tool. Come with me.” Yuuri took Victor’s hand and led him off the bed and into Yuuri’s room.

 

Victor made a face.  “We just changed the