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Once and Future Kings

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June 18th, St. Petersburg

The tall, silver-haired coach watched in annoyance as his most exasperating student skated away. He wasn’t old! Of course he knew how to use Instagram! He just… didn’t post anymore. He’d reactivated the app after Chris had shared the picture of Yuuri with him a few weeks ago, and he’d followed most of the current figure skating community. If he mainly scanned one particular Thai skater’s account in hopes of photos of his elusive roommate, well, that was the beauty of anonymous browsing. He huffed out a breath in frustration. Fine. He’d post something. He had all those photos of training sessions; he could just share a few of those, add some appropriately coach-ish hashtags… he could definitely do this!

Opening the app, he began clearing his notifications, eyes scanning for any new posts from Phichit. Thumb hovering over the screen, he suddenly jerked back in shock.

‘katsuki-y posted a photo’

His heart stuttered into a faster rhythm. He double checked the screen.

‘katsuki-y posted a photo’

Yuuri had unblocked him. Yuuri had unblocked him.

“Georgi! Can you keep an eye on Yura’s spin practice? I, um, I need a minute.” The dark-haired assistant coach gave him a strange look but moved to rinkside and nodded. Victor gave him a grateful smile, then headed towards the exit, trying not to look too frantic as he pulled off his skates and swapped them for slip on loafers. Stepping out of the rink, he was greeted by the June sun and took a moment to indulge in the warmth seeping into his skin, dispelling the chill of the ice. He made his way to the side of the building before stopping and leaning against the brick wall. Hands shaking, he once again pulled out his phone.

What did it mean, that Yuuri would unblock him after all this time? Was it an accident? A message? He bit his lip, hesitating, his finger hovering over the notification. “Oh man up, Nikiforov!” He snorted to himself and clicked to open the image. Yuuri’s page loaded, a small profile picture in the top left corner drawing his eye. It was a different image than he remembered, the smiling selfie now replaced with what looked like an official JSF profile image. The face was just a touch leaner, the hair longer, the eyes a bit more serious than he remembered but… it was Yuuri. His heart clenched as he moved to study the uploaded image dominating the screen.

The caption simply read “A beautiful day in Detroit.” The image showed an open window, with a concrete skyline visible through the sheer curtains and a small table to the right of the window, topped with…

Topped with a vase full of blue roses.

Tears pricked Victor’s eyes as he pressed the phone to his lips. For the first time in a year, he allowed himself to feel the faint blush of hope again.

A few hours later, Geneva

*bzZzzBzzzbzzZ*

Stretching languidly, the tall blond reached for his phone, careful not to displace the dozing cat nestled in his lap. Quirking his lips in a grin, he read the message from Victor.

SilverBae: OHMYGOD CHRIS. I need you to call me AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

The retired Swiss skater rolled his eyes. Dearest gods, the man hadn’t changed a bit in three years. Who actually wrote those words out? Ridiculous. Chuckling under his breath, he pressed the ‘call’ icon.

“HE UNBLOCKED ME.”

“And hello to you too, Victor darling.”

“Hi Chris. HE UNBLOCKED ME.”

Chris sighed, wincing slightly at the shrillness of Victor’s voice in his ear. “Mmmmm. I would ask who ‘he’ is, but we both know there’s only one man on this planet that could possibly reduce the legendary Victor Nikiforov to this level of incoherency. Take a deep breath and start at the beginning. Using big boy words, please cher.” He gently moved his slumbering cat and rose from the couch, meandering his way towards the kitchen and pouring himself a glass of wine. This conversation would most definitely require a nice glass of Cabernet Franc. And patience. So, so much patience.

“Yuuri. He unblocked me. On Instagram. It means something Chris.” The blond put the phone on speaker and pulled up the Instagram app, quickly scrolling through to Yuuri’s page and carefully inspecting the most recent post.

“What, exactly, do you think that means Victor?”

A deep breath filled the line. “I… I don’t know Chris, but it wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t!” Chris murmured a slightly skeptical affirmative. “I sent him roses for our wedding anniversary Chris. The blue ones we had at the ceremony…” Victor’s voice trailed off, clearly waiting for Chris to confirm his hopes.

The tall Swiss immediately saw what the Russian man was attempting to point out. The blue flowers on the edge of the image were clearly visible and, really, the entire photo stood out on the Japanese skater’s page… so different from the typical professional skating related subjects he occasionally posted. “Hmmmm. So, you reached out and Yuuri seems to be reaching back… Yes, I believe you may be right Vitya.”

The voice on the other end of the line sighed in clear relief. The silver legend’s voice came softly. “There’s a chance… we could, I could fix this… right?”

Chris humphed in mild annoyance. “Love, I can’t truly be objective here. I wasn’t exactly around for the break-up. You… sort of broke up with me first.” He winced at the remaining harshness in his tone at the remembered hurt.

“I’m sorry Chris. You know I am so…so sorry…” Victor stammered.

“Hush darling. I know. But… what I don’t know is what, exactly, went wrong with you and Yuuri.”

“Gods Chris, I don’t even know where to start. I… I think it was mostly my fault. I get that now. I pushed him so hard after PyeongChang… but… he… he left. He promised to never walk away, and he did. How was I supposed to fix anything when he just ran away?”

“Victor, Yuuri’s scared bunny impersonation aside, why were you pushing him after the Olympics? The man’s performance was astonishing, how could you have been anything other than proud as a coach and a spouse? Please, please tell me you weren’t jealous?”

“NO! I have two Olympic golds, I wanted him to win!”

“Then…?”

“I fell Chris, I blew out my knee,” the Russian man whined. “I wanted to retire and focus on the Olympics as a coach and not a competitor, but Yuuri just looked at me with those ridiculous eyes of his and told me he’d always dreamed of competing against me at the Olympics. How could I say no?”

“You wanted to walk away on your own terms, before you were forced out. Focus on other parts of your life?”

“Exactly!”

“Victor, you lovely but oblivious ass. Please tell me you didn’t blame Yuuri for your fall? Tell me you didn’t resent him for wanting to skate with you? For doing to you the exact thing you tried to do to me?” His tone was dry, but the edge that crept in was clearly evident.

The line was silent for a long moment.

“Shit.”

End of June, Japan

The former ballerina moved gracefully through the crowd at Fukuoka airport, craning her neck in an attempt to find the young man she had last seen nearly a year prior. Spotting a small crowd clustered near the arrivals exit, phones and cameras flashing, she grimaced. Yuuri was always a little uncomfortable around fans, she’d have to move quickly to rescue him. As she neared the cluster of mostly teenaged girls, however, she was pleasantly surprised at the sight that greeted her.

The current figure skating World Champion was leaning into a selfie, his arm around a young woman’s shoulders, flashing a cheesy thumbs-up and wide, media friendly grin. He signed a few autographs as Minako watched, then finally spotted her through the crowd. He bowed politely and gestured toward his former instructor, making his apologies as he broke away from the group. Making his way towards the ageless woman, he offered a tired but genuine smile as she embraced him.

“Who are you and what have you done with Katsuki Yuuri?” she deadpanned as he laughed.

“Hi Minako-sensei, it’s good to see you too! Thanks for the ride, you don’t know how ready I am for a couple weeks back home before this season kicks off.”

“Seriously Yuuri, I’ve never seen you so friendly with your fans!” Minako pressed.

“Oh,” the travel-weary skater started. “I, I guess I just got used to handling them on my own over the last year.” He mused, before quirking his lips and sighing a bit.

“Honestly, I kept thinking about what you pointed out all those years ago.” Minako raised an eyebrow as Yuuri continued. “Victor Nikiforov is always polite to his fans!”

She laughed as the younger man imitated her scolding voice. “I guess, after everything that happened, I wanted to prove that I was just as good as Victor. That meant I had to get better at dealing with fans.” He shrugged half-heartedly, knowing his former mentor would read deeper meaning into the explanation.

“So… after everything that happened… you’re still chasing after his legacy?”

“I was angry at him, but… that doesn’t mean he stopped being the legend I’ve always aspired to equal.” As he spoke, Minako watched him out of the side of her eye. They had reached her car and conversation ceased as they loaded Yuuri’s luggage. The slim shouldered man stretched as he resigned himself to being confined in the small space for the long drive back to Hasetsu. God, the onsen was going to feel so good after nearly a full day of travel.

They’d been on the road for nearly 15 minutes before Minako finally broke the comfortable silence. “You said ‘was’.” The statement was offered almost gently and Yuuri, who had been half asleep in the passenger seat, almost pretended not to hear her.

Finally, feeling her eyes on him instead of the road, he turned his head. “What?”

“You said ‘I was angry at him.’”

“Oh.”

“As in… past tense.” She couldn’t help but push.

“Mmmmm,” he hummed. “I’m… still angry Minako. I’m just… less angry? I don’t know. I haven’t really sorted it out in my own head yet.”

“What changed?”

The slim, raven haired man offered her a weak smile and, leaning his head back against the seat, his voice barely more than a soft whisper: “He sent me roses…”

The dance instructor chuckled under her breath, realizing her prayer from the previous year’s painful World Championship had been granted. Yes, Yuuri had been hurt and the pain had changed him but… he hadn’t broken. She patted his knee and smiled to herself. He would heal, and he would reclaim his joy. She knew it in her heart.