Chapter 1: I.
Edit: Some mistakes on picture formatting for mobile were fixed! If you were here earlier and saw some silliness, I apologize.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Yuuri sighs, looking up from his spellbook. He winces at the light shining in, after hours of avoiding direct sunlight. While he could ignore the voice, he knows from experience that that’s a bad idea. Instead, he finds a bookmark, closes his novel, and displaces Vicchan from his lap onto the ground before making his way to the window, though he makes sure he has a put-upon expression when he looks out. It’s easy when he sees Vicchan sleepily staring at him in confusion and he remembers that he had to wake the poor pup up.
Four stories below him stands Phichit, staring up at him with a bright smile. “Oh good, you’re awake!” he yells up, waving one arm, the other clutching a bag, and Yuuri can’t help but smile, though he hides it behind an offended look.
“It’s well past noon! Who do you think I am?”
“I think you’re Yuuri Katsuki, notorious night owl who has slept past noon plenty of times and should stop pretending otherwise.”
“Phichit!” Yuuri whines, looking around, though the forest is deserted as always. “Don’t expose me like this!”
“Then let me come up and I’ll stop yelling at you!”
“What’s stopping you?”
“You haven’t invited me in!”
“Since when do you wait for an invitation?” Yuuri yells, and simply steps back from the window, going back to his book. Before he’s even found his page again, a slim snout is poking its way through his window, followed by two blunted horns and a long serpentine body, white scales and sky blue fur filling the room quickly.
As the dragon coils in the center of his room, Yuuri leans back half-heartedly to give him space, and the dragon dissolves into a cloud of steam before Phichit is standing there in its place, already being attacked with a flurry of tail-wagging and welcome kisses. He gives Vicchan the greeting he deserves before pushing the poodle back towards Yuuri and making his way towards the kitchen area.
Phichit looks over his shoulder and pouts. “For your information, I am always a gentleman and would never enter a room without being invited in.”
“I’m pretty sure that’s a vampire.”
“Vampires are very polite!” Phichit proclaims, indignant as he turns back to the sink.
“Vampires kill people?”
“People kill people! Vampires get a bad reputation for nothing, just like dragons. We’re not bloodthirsty monsters, and you’d know that if you bothered to ask.”
Yuuri shrugs. “Well, I mean… to be fair, vampires are bloodthirsty.”
Phichit sighs, throwing his hands in the air. “It’s the principle of the thing!” He whirls around, pointing at Yuuri. “At least they eat when they’re hungry. Have you eaten today? I don’t see any dishes in the sink.”
“If you have to think about it, you haven’t eaten.” Phichit pins Yuuri with an accusatory stare.
Yuuri weakly lifts the mug sitting next him, half-full and gone cold. “I had tea, though.”
“Tea is not food! We’ve had this conversation.” Phichit tsks, but dumps a bag on the counter and begins sorting through the food that tumbles out. “You have to eat, Yuuri. You’ve been living alone for how long now and still can’t take care of yourself?”
Yuuri is about to say that it’s not that he can’t, more that he doesn’t, but realizes that that is not a particularly good defense, so he just mutters, “Almost a year now, I think.”
Phichit hums in response and chucks the end of a loaf of bread at Yuuri without even looking. Yuuri yelps and fumbles it, dropping it into his lap and getting crumbs everywhere. Phichit starts laughing, even though he still hasn’t even turned around. “Eat that for now, I feel like actually cooking, and it might take a while.”
Yuuri brushes crumbs off of his legs, setting the bread to the side. Vicchan checks out the spilled food, but turns his nose up at it and goes back to sleep beneath Yuuri’s chair. “I can wait.”
Phichit whirls around as he finishes tying his apron, which sports a pastel floral pattern and several old stains. He points a ladle threateningly at Yuuri. “No. Nope. Eat.”
“Okay, okay!” Yuuri holds his hands up placatingly, moving towards Phichit slowly. Phichit’s eyes narrow, keeping the ladle trained on him as Yuuri moves to grab a broom. He darts back quickly, knowing that even a blunt ladle could be a weapon in Phichit’s hands. Holding up the broom, he begins to exaggeratedly gesture to the bread and the crumbs scattered around. “I’m going to clean this up first, and then I’ll eat. Acceptable?”
Phichit finally relents, the real worry buried under the joking draining out of him as he turns back to the counter and starts rinsing vegetables, a slow stream of water trickling out of the air where he drags his fingertips. “Don’t take that tone with me, mister,” he quips.
Yuuri laughs as he sweeps the crumbs into a pile. “I don’t need to be held at ladle point.”
“Are you sure about that? Because I’m pretty sure you’re procrastinating eating even as we speak.” Phichit turns his head, eyeing the slowly growing pile of crumbs with an eyebrow raised.
“Nothing wrong with being clean,” Yuuri protests, invoking an involuntary snort from Phichit.
“I was only gone for a day, and suddenly you’re a clean and tidy morning person? Who are you and what did you do with my Yuuri?”
“I thought we were supposed to be friends, why do I feel like you keep insulting me?”
Phichit doesn’t turn this time, but his voice is chipper. “I’m not insulting you, Yuuri! I’m just being realistic. You’re both a slob and a wonderful person simultaneously, and I love you despite it all.”
“...I wouldn’t say slob.”
“No, probably not,” Phichit agrees easily. “Your worst quality is definitely the fact that you still haven’t eaten anything.”
Yuuri blushes in shame, putting down the broom which he was just playing with at this point. “I just…”
“I know,” Phichit says. “Sometimes you just don’t feel like it. But you have to get something in you.” He perks up, throwing a smile over his shoulder. “That’s why I’m making something so delicious you couldn’t even imagine saying no!” He finally steps away from the counter, perching on the table next to Yuuri.
“You don’t have to eat now if you promise to eat when I finish up,” Phichit relents, but it only makes Yuuri grab the bread guiltily. “Are you having a bad day?”
“No, no, I just… yesterday, but I’m…” He shoves the bread into his mouth to avoid having to keep speaking. It’s easier after the first bite, and within a few minutes the bread is gone.
“Sorry I wasn’t here, then.”
“I can take care of myself,” Yuuri reminds Phichit, then winces as he sees Phichit making him food. He doesn’t miss the contradiction.
Phichit luckily doesn’t comment. “I know you can,” he says simply. “But I wish I could have helped.”
Yuuri doesn’t respond and they fall silent. Phichit begins humming to himself and Yuuri turns back to his book. But after only a few moments of staring at the page and getting nothing, he sighs and puts it down.
“What are you making, then?” Yuuri asks, watching Phichit begin to throw everything in a pot, setting the burner beneath it aflame with a spark from the snap of his fingers.
Comforting and easy on the stomach, Yuuri notes. Yuuri hates being taken care of, being coddled, but Phichit always helps him without a trace of condescension. He still hates it, sometimes, but he knows Phichit cares, so he never complains.
“Are those our vegetables?”
Phichit nods enthusiastically. “I raided the garden before I came up! Everything’s been looking good lately, even the weeds are flourishing! I know you were worried after last year.”
Yuuri just sighs, slumping in his chair. “I had to watch the entire garden die. I lost so many of my children! I don’t know what went wrong.”
“I swear, it was that mishap with the hedge wizard last spring. He did something to the town’s crops, it probably just spread.”
Yuuri hums uncertainly. “But we’re half a morning’s walk away from the town, and-”
Vicchan growls, head whipping to the window. Yuuri looks down at his dog in surprise as he takes off from under the chair, barking at the window like mad. Under the cacophony of yips and barks, Yuuri hears a low thud from outside and shares a look with Phichit. They both head towards the window. Phichit, still clutching his ladle, sticks his head out the window while Yuuri bends down to gather his poodle into his arms, making shushing noises to get him to calm down.
“Ugh, they have the worst timing,” Phichit says, and Yuuri wonders if-
“Prince Katsuki! Oh, Prince Katsuki, it’s such a relief to see you unharmed!”
“I’m not the prince!” Phichit yells back and grabs Yuuri, forcing him into view of the window. “This one is!”
Yuuri looks down with pursed lips at the knight standing outside, completely overdressed in armor that’s obviously fitted to exaggerate his size, focused more on presentation than protection. His head bare, Yuuri sees as his expression changes from a dashing smile to dignified outrage.
“Scoundrel! Shapeshifting fiend!” he yells at Phichit. “Then you must be the vicious dragon who has captured the dear prince!” He pulls his sword, holding it aloft as he proclaims, “Worry not, Prince Katsuki! I will do what no other has succeeded in going and save you. My only request is that you think of me fondly once I have shown you my dedication to you and your kingdom.”
Yuuri sighs, fighting back the anxiety already building in his chest. He leans against the window sill and places his chin in his palm, Vicchan still cradled in his other arm. “No thank you!” he calls back.
The man below blinks, and then in a much less heroic voice yells, “What?”
“I’m good! But thanks for coming!”
Phichit giggles. “You know you’ll have to give him a better explanation, right?” he says, out of earshot of the knight below.
“Aha! I see how it is,” the knight proclaims. Yuuri and Phichit exchange a look, and Yuuri wonders if for once someone will actually listen to what he says. “Prince Katsuki, you poor thing! You’ve been bewitched!”
Yuuri’s tentative hope for an easy conversation evaporates. But he does give this man props for being original.
“I really haven’t! I left on purpose! I want to stay here!”
“Oh, my darling prince, you really have been tricked! You don’t even know what you’re talking about.”
“Please leave!” Yuuri’s voice is starting to get shriller, but the man just shakes his head and tests the stone of the tower wall.
“It’s okay, Prince Katsuki! I know you’re confused, but I’ll explain everything to you on the ride back to your kingdom!”
Yuuri’s mouth drops open, feeling offense rise up in him.
And then the knight casts his sword to the side and begins to scale the wall of the tower. Yuuri hates when they try to do this. There is an unlocked door five feet to the right.
Not that he wants him coming in at all, but Yuuri can still see the damage from the last knight who tried to climb the tower and fell. He took a nice chunk of stone with him. It’s just easier for everyone if they use the door.
Phichit takes over at the window, leaning half of his body out and waving the ladle threateningly. “Hey! Stop that! It’s not good for the building!”
“I won’t listen to a word you say, demon!” the knight declares.
Phichit gasps in offense and Yuuri leans back, burying his face into Vicchan’s fur to muffle the frustrated sounds escaping him. Vicchan takes that as an invitation to attack his face with kisses. Despite the idiot below, he can’t stop the laughter that escapes as he lets himself fall to the floor, Vicchan safely on top of him.
“Prince Katsuki! I can hear you crying for help! I’m coming!”
“I’m not a demon! I’m a goddamn dragon! We’re not even remotely related!” Phichit leans even further down, now swinging the ladle like a club. “You come up here so I can smack you!”
Yuuri can’t see the top half of Phichit from his place on the floor, but he can imagine that Phichit is a sight to see in all his pastel floral glory. Still… “Phichit, don’t encourage him.”
Phichit leans back into the room, looking deadpan at Yuuri. “He’s not even four feet off the ground.”
Yuuri closes his eyes and groans in exasperation. “I am not in the mood for this.” Vicchan licks his chin as if in apology, and Yuuri scratches behind his ears, but his face is still set in a grimace.
“Ah, okay, okay, I’ll get rid of him.” Phichit unties his apron and throws it at Yuuri’s face. “Hold this.”
Yuuri sits up and pulls the old fabric away from his face in time to see Phichit chucking the ladle down, a metallic thud sounding as the cooking utensil hits its mark. He smirks before he dives off of the window sill, body enveloped in steam that whirls out until his draconic body is revealed. The knight screams in fear as Phichit dives, and Yuuri gets himself to the window just in time to see him scrambling away. Phichit shoots a stream of boiling water after him and snarls one last time for good measure, but the knight is running away without looking back.
Phichit circles around the base of the tower several times before he huffs out a relieved breath. Yuuri steps out of his way and Phichit stumbles back into the room, holding a sword in one hand and a ladle in the other.
“He’s the third one this month, you know,” he says conversationally, setting the sword down on the table. “I wonder why there’s been a resurgence. It was quiet for a little while.”
“I just don’t understand how none of my supposed rescuers have carried back the message that I’m good out here!”
“Well, I mean, it probably didn’t help when a dragon appeared a couple months in and started chasing them off.”
Yuuri sniffs delicately. “They don’t leave otherwise, no matter what I say. I had to hide under the bed for almost two hours once...” There’s a pause, and then, “Thank you again. I… sorry. Sorry you have to do that for me.”
“It’s not a problem, Yuuri! That’s what I’m here for!” Phichit says brightly. “And it’s not your fault that you attract the stupidest, most stubborn knights from around the land. The mysteriously missing Prince Katsuki is known to be a gentle, beautiful, quiet soul. You’re bound to get some muscle-heads who think you’re their doormat key to a throne.”
“I’m not even the heir,” Yuuri mutters, and then sighs. “If anyone does manage to kidnap me, they’re going to be sorely disappointed to how I compare with the rumors.”
“Yuuuuuri.” Phichit throws his arms around Yuuri’s shoulders. “You absolutely are beautiful and gentle and mysterious!”
“I’d like to go back to being a slob with a bad sleep schedule, please.”
“You can be both!”
Yuuri huffs out a laugh. “Mmm. Sure.”
Phichit gives him an unimpressed look but lets him go, instead heading to the sink to wash the now-dirty ladle. “You know,” he says, and his voice is so casual Yuuri freezes up. “You could go back. Even just once in a while, let them know you’re okay. It might stop your valiant rescuers.”
The thought has Yuuri’s chest tight and old fears crawling their way back into his head. He shakes it violently. “No. No, I-” He breathes in, counts to three, and lets it out in a rush of air. “I can’t go back. I’m not- I’m just Yuuri, and I can’t, I’ll never-” He drags in a ragged breath. “No. I won’t go back.”
Yuuri can feel Phichit’s eyes on him as he fights to steady his breathing, but he doesn’t look up to meet his gaze. After a few moments, Phichit asks, “Didn’t you leave because you accidentally said ‘I love you’ instead of ‘Thank you’ to that one guy?”
A dry laugh bursts out of Yuuri, the lightness in Phichit’s voice assuring him the subject is all but dropped. That wasn’t exactly why, and they both know it. Still, the memory pulls a groan out of him. “I could never face him again, Phichit, my only option was to pack my bags and move away.”
Phichit laughs and Yuuri sinks back into a chair. It’s only the middle of the day, but he feels ready to go back to sleep. He takes a deep breath and lets the familiarity of the scene soothe his stress for the time being: Phichit, humming again as he stirs something into the pot on the stove, Vicchan curled into a fuzzy ball beneath his chair, the home he’s made for himself in the past year warm and comforting around him.
It isn’t the opulence and rich purple blue green red gold of his childhood home, but it’s familiar gray stone and warm brown wood and a litany of unmatched furniture. It’s twenty kinds of tea in the cabinet and ten unread books piled haphazardly on the table, and already hundreds more in the library just a floor below. It’s having no responsibilities except a garden out back, having no one whose offense at his fumbling could start a war. It’s his home, and his choice, and he’s happy here.
If only the dashing adventurers would get the memo and stop trying to rescue him.
Yuuri shifts uncomfortably, unable to keep from fidgeting. Phichit, coiled several times around him, huffs in annoyance. He blinks one eye open and glares at Yuuri before going back to his mid-afternoon nap.
As comfortable as lazing outside in the sun with Phichit can be, there’s a restless energy thrumming in his veins, and Yuuri soon finds himself squirming again. The sun is too bright, even with his eyes closed, to relax. This time Phichit uncurls himself slightly, loosening enough to allow Yuuri the opportunity to slip out. Phichit nods sleepily at him, but he’s obviously not getting up any time soon, so Yuuri turns to leave. Vicchan takes his spot in the middle of Phichit’s coils, obviously luxuriating in the lazy afternoon along with everyone else. He lets him sleep and quietly slips back into the tower.
Without really thinking about it, Yuuri finds himself stopping after only two flights of stairs and ducking into the area he’s claimed as his dance studio. Deciding his outfit is loose enough for now, he makes his way to the bar to begin stretching. But the restless feeling has him abandoning stretching much earlier than he otherwise would dare, and soon he’s taking his place in the center of the studio.
Yuuri doesn’t consider himself much of a choreographer, but after months of doing the same routines, he started to let himself move without thinking. He knows that as he breathes deep and lets the movements take him that he probably looks ridiculous, throwing himself into a turn and a leap and reaching up and away as if there’s something there for him to grasp. There’s no plan, no rigidity, just Yuuri letting his brain shut down and body take over. His old ballet teacher would probably be appalled at the way he moves like a crazed thing, with no beauty in his form. At least Minako would be happy to know he’s still dancing. If you could call what he’s doing dancing.
Today he’s dancing his anxiety, and it’s erratic and jittery and anything but graceful. He lets the restlessness rise up, settling barely skin deep and flaring out, escaping into the air around him as he kicks a leg out. Every movement he makes banishes the feeling just a little more, the wave of it cresting and breaking and spilling out.
But as he lands a barrel turn and feels his leg cramp and buckle under him, he knows he’s been too hasty. He collapses into an undignified heap, feels the pain shoot up and down his leg, throbbing hot and tight in his calf. He pants, trying to catch his breath as he sits up and cautiously rearranges his legs. As he comes to a rest, he feels grossly damp and uncomfortable in too-heavy clothes, leg still pounding its protest.
He hisses slightly as he shifts his leg again, but then he lets the muscle memory of his studies take over. When he opens his eyes, his hand is emitting an icy blue light, and he smooths it down his calf, feeling the cooling magic working to soothe the pain he’d caused.
It’s a simple spell, one he’s used thousands of times by now. Within a few seconds the pain is receding. Yuuri huffs and stands up straight, shaking out his leg as the glow in his hand fades away. No longer caught up in the moment, he makes sure he goes through his entire regimen of cool down stretches.
There’s very little he can do to actually cripple himself, but the pain, momentary or not, still hurts. And he’s scared that one day, he won’t be able to fix whatever he breaks. He may have studied white magic all his life, but that doesn’t make him a master; there are still plenty of things he doesn’t know how to do. Thoughtless moments of recklessness aside, he’s in no hurry to test how far his knowledge goes.
Still, he’s taken the edge off of the feeling that has been haunting him all day. He feels better, despite the sticky feeling settling in on his skin. But he needs to change into proper dance clothes.
He ducks back into the staircase and climbs to his bedroom. He feels a little bad about not showering before he changes, but he knows that the rest of today is going to be spent in the studio. Days like this usually are.
He’s heading back to the stairs when he turns around and heads to the window instead, planning to let Phichit know where he’s going to be. He knows Phichit will worry, but know it means he needs to leave him alone.
But when he leans out and looks down, all he can do is freeze. Another knight (and god, it hasn’t even been a week since the last one) is slowly approaching Phichit, spear pointed directly at him. And Phichit is still asleep.
Yuuri unfreezes as he realizes his options, the irritation rising easier today than usual, and he only takes a deep breath before he launches himself out of the window.
Viktor has been a knight for a long time. Not the longest, of course; he’s still too young to challenge the experience many older knights have on him. But he did get his start earlier than most, as Yakov Feltsman’s famous young prodigy, so even though he’s not a grizzled old man, he has enough experience to understand how things generally go.
But the prince jumping out of a window is a surprise.
Viktor had heard plenty about the prince. He’s known as quiet, shy, and prone to anxiety. Graceful and intelligent, and beautiful, of course, but the general consensus about the rumored prince is that he is gentle and a little helpless.
There’s nothing gentle about the angry “Leave him alone!” that bursts out of the prince, followed by “Oh-” and a stream of expletives that pour out as he hurtles towards the ground.
The dragon, which Viktor had practically forgotten about in his surprise, surges up with a sound strangely like a disgruntled puppy, and before the prince is even halfway down coils around him and slows his momentum. They float a little clumsily to the ground, hitting it with a burst of steam.
The yelling starts before the steam even lifts.
“Yuuri what the hell were you thinking? I told you to warn me before you fell out of any windows again oh my god, what if you got hurt? What if I hadn’t woken up in time? I’m too young to watch my friend stupidly break all of his limbs because he overestimated my reflexes!”
Viktor blinks stupidly, the scene not resolving into anything that makes any more sense even as the steam clears. The prince is determinedly not making eye-contact with the other, darker-skinned person, which loses some of its effectiveness since he’s clutched safely in a princess carry.
The prince huffs and shoots back, “You were about to sleep through your own murder! You were literally about to be stabbed, and the stairs would have taken too long! And you know my aim is terrible, so it’s not like I could have tried to throw things without hitting you too.”
The other boy (the dragon, that has to be the dragon, right?) just shakes his head. “If I was going to sleep through being stabbed, I could have slept through you jumping out of a window! You screaming every curse word in the land may have woken me up this time, but we’re not repeating that.” When the prince opens his mouth to interject, the dragon simply cuts him off. “And you made me disturb Vicchan! He was napping on top of me, it was so cute, and now he’s sad.”
That argument seems to mollify the prince, and his head swivels as he looks for Vicchan. Viktor glances around the space as well, a little surprised he missed someone else because he was so laser-focused on the dragon. The only thing he spots is a small poodle napping by the base of the tower that must be Vicchan. He doesn’t look particularly sad, but now Viktor feels guilty for disturbing his rest, too.
The prince makes a sad sound. “Well… I wouldn’t want him to have to see you get hurt.”
“I wouldn’t want him to see you get hurt,” the dragon responds, and they look at each other at an impasse for several long seconds.
Viktor takes this chance to remind the two of them that he exists, though his confusion at what the hell is happening seeps into his voice and steals his confident tone. “Uh… I was sent here to… rescue… the prince.”
Two heads turn to stare at him in tandem, the dragon’s eyes narrowing and the prince giving him a dirty look.
“And what would I need rescuing from, exactly?” the prince asks as the dragon sets him down. Viktor finally gets a good look at the prince as he stands up to his full height, light reflecting off his dark hair. He’s shorter than Viktor, but not by much. And though he’s just in leggings and a light shirt (and no, Viktor’s really not complaining about the outfit, but it isn’t the kind of thing you’d ever expect to see a prince in), he holds himself with the grace and dignity of a royal. Despite all signs pointing otherwise, he can’t hide himself there. He must be the lost prince.
Viktor shrugs. “A dragon? Though from what I’ve seen here, windows maybe.”
The prince frowns, tapping his finger against his leg in agitation at his answer, but the dragon stifles a smile behind his hand.
“Well. Will you put that pointy thing away, then?”
“Pointy thing?” Viktor asks with an amused smile. The prince huffs again, turning his face away.
“If you promise not to stab anyone, I’ll make some tea, and then you can go.”
Viktor blinks again, his expectations of the situation completely thrown off once again by the prince. The dragon lights up and claps his hands, laughing, “Yay, new friend! I always like the reasonable ones, don’t you, Yuuri?”
“Phichit, he tried to stab you not five minutes ago.”
“The past is the past! My scales are hard to stab through, anyway.”
Viktor watches in contemplation as the two bicker. They head towards a door at the base of the tower, the prince (Yuuri, apparently) stopping to pick up the toy poodle. Yuuri stops in the doorway, turning to Viktor once again, while Phichit continues ahead.
“Well?” he asks, sounding annoyed, of all things. As if Viktor is an inconvenience, and not even a particularly special one.
It’s not ideal, but Viktor’s used to being a tolerated annoyance, and this is the most interesting thing that’s happened to him in a long while. He beams in response. “Tea sounds lovely, thank you, Your Highness.”
Yuuri makes a face, turning and heading into the tower too quickly for Viktor to catch it in its entirety. “I’m just Yuuri,” he calls back. “Leave the weapon at the bottom of the staircase.”
Viktor laughs to himself at the absurdity of the situation, but he knows he’s not going anywhere. Not until he’s gotten to talk more with Yuuri.
Yuuri… Viktor stares at the tower, eyes alight with curiosity and finger tapping against his lip. He had heard what an understated beauty he was, had heard about his grace and sweetness. But what he’s found is something far more fascinating.
He follows into the tower, eyes bright and a smile on his face, calling, “You should call me Viktor, then!”
Yuuri traces the path of a bead of sweat as it slowly trails down the side of Viktor’s face, disappearing under his chin only to reappear down his neck and pool in his collarbone.
Mouth suddenly dry, Yuuri wonders how the hell he ended up in this situation.
Just yesterday, he was treating Viktor to Spite Tea to show him the errors of his ways, playing the gracious host to prove a point. But that point had gotten lost somewhere along the way, and then somehow, the sun had set and Viktor still hadn’t left, and now it’s the next day, and he still isn’t gone. And unlike with the other knights, Yuuri doesn’t really mind at all. He might actually be finding that he enjoys Viktor’s company.
Viktor doesn’t look particularly inclined to leave either, shirt sleeves rolled up to his forearms, floppy sun hat on, and hard at work weeding the garden behind the tower, something he insisted on doing as thanks for letting him stay the night.
Am I taking advantage of him? Yuuri thinks wildly, lingering on Viktor’s arms and holding in a sigh.
Vicchan takes that moment to yip his protest, startling Yuuri into almost dropping him, and he suddenly remembers why he came out here. It also has the unfortunate side-effect of alerting Viktor to his presence, so he ducks his head and sets Vicchan down to avoid the bright heart-shaped smile Viktor sends his way.
“Hello Yuuri! Hello Vicchan!” Viktor calls, and Yuuri’s not sure if he’s happy or disappointed that Viktor sounds more excited to greet the poodle than himself. But then again, Yuuri isn’t currently launching himself at Viktor’s face, trying to bathe him in kisses. Yuuri softens at the sight of Viktor laughing and cooing at the dog, enthusiastically rubbing his belly when he rolls over to beg for it. Vicchan had immediately taken to Viktor, and Viktor to Vicchan, and it may have been that more than anything else that convinced Yuuri that Viktor had truly just been mislead yesterday, and that he wasn’t an asshole.
“Your garden is a mess, Yuuri. Do you ever weed?”
Well, not a complete asshole, at least.
“I probably do not weed as much as I should during the summer,” Yuuri concedes reluctantly. “I just can’t stand the heat, and the sun is too bright.”
“Ahhh,” Viktor sighs with understanding, smiling beatifically as he wipes away a bead of glistening sweat. “You still shouldn’t let it suffer, Yuuri! The sun is good for you.”
“I make sure they get plenty of water,” Yuuri replies petulantly, eyes sweeping to Vicchan enthusiastically sniffing at a patch of grass to avoid the smile Viktor is giving him, the teasing light filling those blue eyes.
“Of course, of course. Well, it’s a good thing you have me now.” Viktor takes the sunhat off and starts fanning himself with it, and Yuuri winces slightly.
“I’m sorry we’re making you do this and all we could lend you was the hat.”
Viktor plops the sunhat back on and waves him off. “I offered, and it’s not your fault none of your clothes fit me. Next time I go adventuring, I should bring something lighter! I should know by now to be prepared for anything.” Viktor smirks at him. “Though I don’t think I ever could have expected you.”
Yuuri curls into himself at the words, and bends over to play with Vicchan to hide his face. They don’t speak for a few moments, the sounds of plants rustling and insects buzzing the only things that fill the silence. It’s comfortable, though, and Yuuri eventually settles in and just watches Viktor work, feeling the heat of the sun and the slight breeze. After a few moments of peace, he has the thought that it would be nice to do this again.
He blinks, wondering where that came from, and stands to shake it off. “I’ll go make you something cold. It’s the least I can do,” Yuuri announces.
He’s back in the tower before Viktor can respond.
Minutes later, he almost drops the glass when he looks out the window and sees Viktor finally giving into the heat and stripping his shirt off. Yuuri’s resulting blush might be a beacon, because Viktor looks up and waves at Yuuri right at that moment. A choked noise escapes his throat, and he waves back numbly. Holy shit, he cannot face that up close.
“Yuuri, it’s really quite rude to gape.”
He whirls around to face Phichit, eyes wide and panicked. “Phichit, help.”
Phichit only laughs, joining him by the window and whistling in appreciation.
“I can’t do this,” Yuuri croaks, just a little dramatically. “He needs to leave.”
“Well, I for one hope he takes his pants off before he goes.”
“Phichit!” Yuuri hisses, and Phichit only shrugs and leans forward a little, putting his chin in his hands.
“What? He’s pretty, already showing a disposition to undressing, and I’m allowed to dream.”
Yuuri’s face is in flames. “That’s not- I mean, you shouldn’t- I don’t-” He cuts himself off, clamping his mouth shut before he says something stupid. Well. More stupid.
Phichit doesn’t respond for a few moments, and when he does, his voice is thoughtful. “Would it really be so bad?”
The question startles Yuuri into looking up at him. “What?”
“If he stayed.”
The question rattles something in Yuuri, and he frowns, trying to understand what’s gotten into his friend. “You mean, like, forever?” he asks cautiously, ready to explain why that wouldn’t happen.
Phichit doesn’t answer right away, but then he turns back to Yuuri and he’s the same as ever, uncharacteristic thoughtfulness gone. “Nah, never mind. It was a weird question.”
The moment dissolves as Phichit smiles, but Yuuri doesn’t leave it behind so easily.
Would it really be so bad if Viktor just… stayed?
It rolls around in his mind, the answer hesitant, confused, and endless.
No, is his first thought, and that surprises him more than anything, since Yuuri has practically turned social isolation into an art. But before he can look into that thought, immediately following it is a but...
And that word unlocks an avalanche, Yuuri’s mind supplying more and more endings to that sentence, and they all repeat and echo but, but, but in his head until there’s no answer at all.
Yuuri does what he does best, sighs and tries to push it out of his mind, and carefully ignores the fact that he thinks about it for the rest of the day.
“So when are you leaving?” Yuuri blurts one day, when the thoughts have piled up too much to stay inside.
Viktor freezes, blinking rapidly at the dirt in front of him before slowly looking up at Yuuri. Who, to his credit, looks just as surprised at the words, though he was the one who said them. “You want me to leave?” slips out of Viktor’s mouth, closer to a whine than intended. He knows he’s been imposing, but he thought he was making up for it by doing physical labor that they didn’t want to do. It’s worked before, when he needed favors from people. Granted, in this case, he’s not being repaid for completing some quest, but… He really thought they were getting along.
Viktor doesn’t even bother to hide the disappointment from his face, and it seems to send Yuuri backpedaling quickly. “No, no, no! That wasn’t- that’s not what I meant! I’m sorry.”
The disappointment gives way to confusion, and Viktor tilts his head and looks carefully at Yuuri. “What did you mean?”
Yuuri shifts uncomfortably, crossing his legs and scooping Vicchan up into his lap. He doesn’t make eye contact as he runs his fingers along the dog. “I just, I mean- you’re not going to stay here forever, obviously. You’re a knight, I’m sure a very busy knight, you must have better things to do. So I just… wanted to know when you’d be moving on. Just to, uh, prepare.”
Viktor shifts his weight so he’s sitting, instead of on his knees, leaning his elbow onto his leg and placing his head in his hand. “Well…” he says, drawing out the word performatively. It’s not like he actually has to think about it- he’s not planning on leaving anytime soon, if he can help it.
Viktor didn’t show up with the intention to stay, but he did show up because he’d heard it was wildly dangerous. He wanted something exciting. And though life in the tower is more predictable than any day of Viktor’s life up until now, the man living in the tower is not.
Yuuri is perpetually surprising. A runaway prince whose best friend is a dragon, who spends his time playing with his dog, and, occasionally, jumping out of windows to yell profanities at rude, uninvited knights. He’s that, but he’s also kind, and witty, and so easy to talk to, even though he can be awkward and blunt. Viktor doesn’t know what to think of Yuuri, but he knows he smiles whenever he does. And suddenly he remembers how nice it is to smile, really smile, to laugh at the antics of a poodle and his owner rather than shape his face into a charming mask, gracious and daring and lips quirked just so. Viktor wants this, wants Yuuri’s time, for as long as he can have it.
But it’s probably better to find an excuse so that Yuuri and Phichit don’t throw him out. He gestures with his free hand at the garden he’s sitting in. “I still have a lot of work to do here, don’t you think? We can worry about the rest after I’m done with this.” That, at least, will give him time to figure out any other reasoning to stay other than his uncomfortably forward and possibly desperate reasons. It’s probably too soon for that, anyway.
Yuuri nods, still not making eye contact. “Oh, right. Of course. That makes sense.” His eyes grow distant for a moment, his hands slowing in their movements. Vicchan makes his escape now that he’s not getting attention, and decides that it’s time for someone to play with him, so he trots over to Viktor.
Viktor leans forward, making intense eye contact with Vicchan until Vicchan can’t take it anymore and dips into a play bow, barking excitedly and tearing away, stopping once he’s a few feet away to see if Viktor’s following.
The commotion seems to snap Yuuri out of whatever mood he had gotten into, and when Viktor chances him another look, he’s just smiling lovingly at his dog.
Vicchan barks again, and Viktor calls, “Give me a second!” He stands, brushing himself off, and Vicchan takes that as a signal to run again, darting to Yuuri and then away.
Viktor makes eye contact with Yuuri, sharing a secretive smile. “Who do you think will win, two distinguished and accomplished gentlemen, or a small poodle?”
Yuuri giggles, and the sound fills Viktor with adoration. “I think,” he says lowly, playing into the secret, though the only other creature that could hear them is a dog who is currently staring at them impatiently, “the dog is likely to win this one.”
Viktor nods seriously. “We should put on a good show, at least.”
Vicchan barks again, running in circles around them now. Yuuri shares one last look with Viktor before he’s off, chasing after Vicchan and laughing. Viktor watches them, lets the light and warmth settle in his chest, and joins in on the fun.
Yuuri breathes out as he bends at the waist, arm extended and back flat. He holds the pose for a moment before letting his torso fall, stretching towards his right leg, directly down, and then his left, before he rises up again on the other side, other arm extended and back still carefully parallel to the floor.
He lets muscle memory take over as he stretches, his mind falling into a routine haze, just feeling the comfortable stretch of his muscles and the steady movement of air in and out of his lungs.
Lately, he’s only been dancing as an outlet for his anxiety, so it feels good to be in the studio just to work, though his head is already clear. Phichit said he wanted to spend the day in town, and Viktor was still working in the garden last he checked.
Yuuri falls into marking through an old routine.
Viktor’s been working through the garden with no indication of stopping, though after almost a week, he’s practically finished with it. He must be the kind of person who likes to finish projects once he’s started them, and vaguely Yuuri feels guilty for letting the garden get so bad. Viktor has chided him many times about it, but he smiles at Yuuri as he does it, and keeps working anyway.
Yuuri’s been spending a lot of time with Viktor lately. His guilt at putting the man to work keeps him out in the garden with him, keeping him supplied with cool drinks and puppy antics. And they talk, too, though sometimes Yuuri’s afraid he’s boring Viktor. Though, of course, even Viktor would never say anything about it, and always pretends to be paying rapt attention, even when Yuuri goes on minutes-long tangents about something that interests him before he realizes and shuts up. Viktor has stories of the things he’s done and the people he’s met on his travels, but he always gives way to letting Yuuri talk about something much less interesting. The only exception to that was the time Viktor told Yuuri about Makkachin, his poodle waiting for him back home.
A flash of silver settles in Yuuri’s peripheral vision, and he whirls around to catch Viktor, almost as if the man had been summoned by thoughts of him. He’s leaning against the doorway, arms crossed over his chest, looking for the world like he’s prepared to stand there for a while.
“Hi Yuuri!” he greets easily, not at all embarrassed to be caught watching. “Don’t stop on my account. You’ve watched me work enough, surely it’s my turn now.”
Yuuri’s face falls. Dance is his sanctuary, and it’s not meant for anyone else, not anymore.
But… he can’t even properly protest Viktor’s logic. He does owe the other man, doesn’t he? Oh god, after bothering him so much, he can’t even imagine what Viktor thinks of him. Yuuri hates it when other people sit and watch him- and yet that’s exactly what he’s been doing to Viktor. What was he thinking? Not even a year away from court and he’s forgotten social politics. Guilt rushes in, hot and cloying, and Yuuri knows this isn’t something he can refuse.
So he just nods jerkily, turns around and tries to pretend he’s alone once more. But he can feel the stare on his back, the judgement and expectation like he hasn’t felt in so long, and he can’t move save for the sudden trembling of his limbs. The glare of the spotlight he’s been avoiding for so long burns just as bright as ever.
He pushes past it, forcing himself to strike the first pose of a dance he despises, but which has always gone over well with crowds when he didn’t completely ruin it. He’s already dismayed at the stiffness of his limbs, no grace or beauty in the extension and position. Though he knows the shaking in his extended arm is miniscule, it looks almost violent. He squeezes his eyes shut, trying to remember to breathe, trying to remember what Minako would tell him, whenever he was about to perform. You’re a prince, Yuuri, and you can show them exactly what that means.
But the thought is less than comforting, it just reminds him that he can’t he’s not he won’t-
Yuuri jolts, the voice pulling him abruptly out of his thoughts. He’d almost forgotten Viktor was there, he was so caught up in his spiraling emotions. His body sags and his arm drops, a puppet with its strings cut. His eyes snap open, tears pooling but mercifully not yet escaped. “Sorry,” he says hastily, wincing at the crack in his voice. He clears his throat. “Sorry, just, just give me-”
“Yuuri,” Viktor repeats, this time much closer, and Yuuri’s entire body goes rigid when something touches his shoulder. Feeling the tension, Viktor hesitates, and Yuuri shrugs his hand off, still facing away. There’s a sigh, and then, “You don’t have to dance for me if you’re uncomfortable. I was just… I didn’t think it’d be a problem.”
Of course he didn’t, because Yuuri is being ridiculous. He’s always been ridiculous, he’s been told that over and over, he knows. Yuuri clenches his fist, but when he speaks his voice is steady again. “No, I’m sorry, you’re right, I’m always bothering you, I should let you-” He breathes in deep, trying to loosen his limbs. “I can do it.”
“Okay,” Viktor says placatingly. “But do you want to?”
Yuuri doesn’t say anything, just bites down softly on his lower lip. He’s used to doing things that he doesn’t want.
But… He left that behind, didn’t he? The thought hits Yuuri hard. Social politics don’t matter when you live as a hermit with a dog and a dragon. A random knight shouldn’t change that.
He’s been away from court for a while, but not long enough to break him of all of his learning. He fell into the habit without even thinking twice.
Hands tap Yuuri on the shoulder, nudging him around until he’s face to face with Viktor. He expects a pitying look, eyes too soft and understanding, the kind of thing that makes Yuuri want to scream, but Viktor just looks thoughtful. He smiles when they make eye contact, laughing at the petulant look on Yuuri’s face, and Yuuri reddens but smiles back, just a little.
“Instead of for, how about with?”
Yuuri tilts his head, some anxiety draining away to give place to confusion. “What?”
“If you don’t want to dance for me, will you dance with me?” Viktor’s eyes sparkle with excitement.
Yuuri feels a spike of nerves, but it’s different than before. It’s the kind he can deal with, and he swallows them back hastily, glad for the reprieve. “Can you dance?”
“I’ve never actually learned, but I’ve spent time swaying awkwardly formally on a dancefloor more than once. Does that count?”
“No, not at all,” replies Yuuri with a laugh, and sweeps Viktor’s hand up in his, moving the other to his upper arm.
Viktor moves his hand to Yuuri’s waist, protesting, “I’m taller, shouldn’t it be like this?”
Yuuri gives Viktor a flat look. “Are you going to lead?”
“You’re the dancer, aren’t you?”
Yuuri picks Viktor’s hand up and moves it back to his arm.
“Fair enough.” Viktor laughs, but it cuts off as Yuuri steps forward and pulls him closer until they’re touching. It’s barely half of their bodies, but Viktor’s cheeks pink a little at the intimacy, and he gapes as Yuuri smiles up at him before slowly leading them through a simple box step.
Yuuri doesn’t speak much other than to gently direct Viktor’s feet or quietly count out a beat, but Viktor’s a quick study and soon he’s beaming at Yuuri instead of staring at his feet, and Yuuri feels himself unable to help but smile back.
In this moment, at least, Yuuri feels comfortable. It’s not really that different from before: Viktor is still watching him, and Yuuri is objectively worse with pair dancing than anything by himself, if only for lack of practice. But now Viktor is looking at him with the intent to learn, rather than the intent to appraise, and there’s awe in his eyes instead of judgement. Now, Viktor is draped in the light of the setting sun, and he’s beautiful in the soft glow. And Yuuri kind of just wants to bask in it.
Viktor quickly gets bored of just doing a box step though, and he starts to improvise. He drags Yuuri into an off-beat and messy spin, but he’s smiling as he moves, and Yuuri let himself be spun.
“Bored?” asks Yuuri as they come back together, and Viktor shakes his head.
“With you? Never.” He smiles cheekily at Yuuri. “But I wanted to try all the fancy moves, Yuuri! Did I do it wrong?”
By the expression on his face, Viktor knows very well that he did it wrong, so Yuuri doesn’t deign to respond, just pulls back and maneuvers Viktor into a proper spin, smiling triumphantly as Viktor giggles his way through it. His eyes are bright and the color high in his cheeks, his body warm where it presses to Yuuri’s as he comes back in.
They dance without music for what feels like hours, no conversation other than side comments and laughter filling the silence, but it’s comfortable nonetheless. Feeling a little daring, and wanting to impress, Yuuri carefully leads Viktor into a dip, overbalancing him to make sure he falls back but being sure to catch him when he does. Viktor gasps but looks up at Yuuri with unrestrained delight from below him, panting just a little with surprise and exertion, and the way he’s looking up at Yuuri-
Yuuri jerks back, barely keeping himself from dropping Viktor. Viktor, whose smile is slowly dimming in confusion as he stands back up.
Yuuri’s a little confused, too. He’s not sure why he did that. It was just… The way Viktor looked, the way he was looking at him, everything building up in his chest, the closeness of their bodies and the joy surrounding them. It was a lot. Too much.
Yuuri shouldn’t be doing this; the garden is almost done, which means Viktor’s leaving soon. He takes a step back. Viktor tightens his grip for a moment, and Yuuri panics thinking he’s not going to let go, but then his hand drops away. Yuuri catches Viktor’s gaze with something like an apology in his eyes, but Viktor’s face is blank.
“I… Thank you for dancing with me, Viktor. But I think I should go, now. I’m… very tired.”
Viktor breaks out into a smile. “Of course, Yuuri. Anytime.”
Yuuri bows out of reflex, hovers for a moment out of awkwardness, and darts out of the room. He can’t quite figure out why the last smile Viktor gave him, too-wide and out of place, made something in his chest ache.
“You’ve really never seen your parents?” Viktor can’t keep the surprise from his voice. Viktor, Phichit, and Yuuri are seated around the sitting area near the kitchen, their dishes sitting long empty on the table. Phichit and Viktor have been dominating the conversation, Phichit happily spinning tales of his culture to the completely ignorant Viktor.
“Not never,” Phichit corrects. “Just not in a while. I have no idea where to find them.” Phichit shrugs, not bothered by it. “There’s the stereotype of the ‘territorial dragon’, but most of us are just wanderers. My parents only settled down long enough for my siblings and I to mature, and then they gave into the wanderlust again. I’ll probably run into them again someday, at a festival or something. But it hasn’t happened yet.”
“Don’t you miss home?”
“I guess I’ve never really had a home? Home is traditionally anywhere we can connect with other dragons. They’re not my immediate family, but we’re all connected by our traditions. We have annual gatherings and festivals and holidays. I even celebrated Songkran and have attended a couple Lunar festivals while living with Yuuri.”
Yuuri blinks at hearing his name, smiling sedately. “Ah. Yeah, he has.”
Viktor shoots him a concerned look, but Yuuri avoids eye contact. He shares a look with Phichit instead and Phichit immediately breaks the momentary awkward. “In any case, I stay in contact with my siblings. The older generations just have weird hang ups about wizardry.”
The statement is enough to get Viktor to turn back to Phichit. “They don’t like magic? Aren’t dragons born with magic?”
“Yeah, but that’s sorcery. It’s pretty limited, but because we’re born sorcerers, a lot of dragons like to get uppity about inborn magic versus learned magic. But there’s no sorcery that dragons have that’ll let you communicate long distance, so the rational ones of us just learn sending spells.”
Viktor breathes out, a disbelieving smile on his face. “I mean… I guess logically I should have known that there’s an entire dragon culture, but I never really thought about it. The dragons I usually run into in my line of work are…” Viktor makes a face, obviously trying to put it delicately and failing.
Phichit giggles. “Assholes. They’re assholes. But, I would think a lot of the humans you meet while on the job are pretty bad as well.”
Viktor nods, breathing out a laugh. “Fair. My lady was a bit too fond of sending me after villains, I suppose.”
Phichit pushes his chair back, standing suddenly. “Actually, I think there’s a book on draconic history in our library. Hold on, I’m gonna go find it.” He rushes to the top of the stairs, calling back, “I’ll educate you if it’s the last thing I do, Nikiforov! Just give me two minutes!”
“I look forward to it!” Viktor calls back with a smile, and Phichit rushes out of sight. “He’s really passionate about this, huh?”
Yuuri blinks slowly, seemingly surprised that Viktor is still talking. “Yeah,” he says simply. Viktor’s brows furrow at his small voice, but he pushes the expression off his face and adopts a sunny smile.
“Ah, but I can’t imagine living like that. Imagine leaving your family so suddenly, and just cutting contact! It’s a little weird, isn’t it?”
“Right,” replies Yuuri, and the sound is so choked Viktor snaps to attention.
Viktor stares at Yuuri, his eyes squeezed shut and breaths coming in fast, frenzied pants, the subtle tremor of his frame, and immediately panics. “Yuuri? Yuuri, what’s happening? Are you okay?” He rushes towards him, not sure what his aim is but wanting nothing more than to wrap Yuuri up in his arms and coo until he calms down again. It's like in the studio, when Viktor had asked him to dance, except now it's worse.
So much worse, he realizes as fat tears begin to stream down Yuuri’s cheeks. Viktor immediately reaches for him, but the second he touches him Yuuri recoils away, a strangled, “Stop!” clawing its way out of him as his eyes snap open. Yuuri stares at him in horror before curling into himself, closing his eyes and shaking his head.
“Yuuri…?” Viktor whispers, a little hurt but mostly confused.
“Yuuri!” another voice echoes as Phichit makes his return, arms full of books that he drops without a second thought as he sees what’s happening.
He approaches calmly but quickly, eyes narrowing at Viktor. “Back up, you're crowding him.” His voice isn't raised, but it brokers no argument and Viktor scrambles to obey. He drifts to the side of the room and watches Phichit without comment.
Phichit crouches next to Yuuri but doesn't reach out, voice calming and soft as he talks to Yuuri. “Can I touch you?”
Yuuri immediately shakes his head no, getting frantic for a moment before Phichit murmurs, “Okay, no problem. I'm here, I love you, and I want you to have your space. Are you breathing?”
Yuuri nods, taking a shuddering breath.
“Do you want to leave?”
Yuuri nods again.
“Do you want me to walk with you?” Another nod. “Okay. Can I take your hand?” A hesitation, and then a shake of the head. Phichit frowns at this, but wipes it away after a moment. “That's fine. C’mon, stand up. Studio or bedroom?”
“Bedroom,” Yuuri replies as he gets to his feet. He’s still shaking but Phichit doesn't offer any help. Viktor takes a step forward, wanting to steady him, but Phichit shoots him a warning look.
“I'll walk with you,” Phichit says, and Yuuri heads towards the door. “I think it's best if you stay here, Viktor.”
Viktor is left standing, confused and helpless in the empty room.
He sits heavily, staring at a wall and trying to understand what happened, for what feels like hours. But it’s still light outside when Phichit returns, so it couldn’t have been so long.
“Phichit, is Yuuri okay?” Viktor knows his voice is subdued, more vulnerable than he’d like, but Phichit looks a little dejected himself.
“Yeah. He’s been on edge all day. I… I guess I’m not surprised, but it’s been awhile since the last time.”
“What happened? I have… I have no idea what went wrong, he was weirdly quiet all day, sure, but then he was just- I said something wrong? I can apologize, I’ll take it back—”
“Viktor.” Phichit sounds tired, but Viktor’s rambling was completely directionless anyway, so he quiets down. “You… Well, I won’t say you didn’t do anything wrong, but I don’t think you could have known.”
“What’s wrong with him?”
“Nothing,” Phichit says, a little too sharply, but when he meets Viktor’s gaze something in it makes him release some tension. “No, it’s just. A bad day.”
“Isn’t that a little more than a bad day?”
“Maybe that’s something you should ask him yourself. But not today, he needs some alone time.”
“Are you sure?”
Phichit tries a smile. “Yep. He’ll be fine, stop worrying so much. Yuuri’ll hate it.”
“But, I- I just. I didn’t know what to do. I want to help.”
“I know. I didn’t know what to do at first either, but trust me. When he’s having a bad day, he pushes everything away. He wants to take care of it himself. If you force yourself into his space, it’ll only make things worse.” Phichit shoots him another smile, and Viktor can’t understand how he can smile when he knows that Yuuri is upstairs, still hurting. “He’s stronger than you think. He’s stronger than anyone thinks.”
“I don’t think he’s weak.”
“Even after seeing that?” Phichit’s voice isn’t accusatory, but there’s a look in his eyes that tells Viktor there’s a wrong answer here. He doesn’t think about it though, just nods without hesitation because it’s the truth. Phichit softens at that, his gaze on Viktor but not looking at him at all. “Yeah. Yeah, I think so too.”
“But Yuuri doesn’t.”
Phichit makes a vague motion with his hands, smile turning wistful. “And he’s always trying to prove to us something we already know. To show he’s not wasting our time by existing.”
Viktor purses his lips. “What can I do?”
“You already asked that,” Phichit points out, but smiles a little at the look Viktor sends him. “I don’t know. I just make sure he knows I’m here.”
Viktor nods, mind already piecing together a plan. He can do that. But… maybe he can go further, too.
Yuuri comes down slowly. Eventually, his heart finds itself at a regular pace, and he can breathe again without shaking. All that’s left is the embarrassment at being seen, the frustration that it even happened in the first place, and the tiniest hitch in his breath when he inhales.
He doesn’t go back downstairs.
Downstairs means facing Phichit who will try not to hover, but hover anyway, and facing Viktor, who has probably already decided Yuuri is not worth it and packed up and left.
He cleans and reorganizes his entire room, avoiding acknowledging that he’s just finding excuses to stay hidden away, until it’s dark outside. The emotional and physical exhaustion that’s been bearing down on him since his attack finally takes over, and he lets himself fall into bed, give into sleep, and put everything off for a few more hours.
Of course, the sun still rises on a new day.
Yuuri avoids getting up, keeping his eyes closed against the relentless brightness streaming in through his window, long after his mind wakes up. He hides away, fighting for just a few more minutes in the safety of his bed, where there are no responsibilities, no consequences. When he opens his eyes and leaves the safety of his sheets, everything is real again, but for a time, he can pretend yesterday didn’t happen.
But the relief of avoidance only lasts for so long before guilt starts to seep in. Despite everything, he eventually drags himself out of bed and grudgingly descends to the sitting area below. He doesn’t bother to freshen up or change out of his clothes, still sitting stale on his body from all of yesterday and through the night. It’s his one protest, somehow. He’ll make an appearance to assuage the guilty feeling of leaving his friend hanging, but he won’t be happy about it. Or something.
It’s illogical and barely thought out, but it makes him feel better, enough to get out of his room, so he does it. But when he gets there, the sitting room is empty and quiet, so he feels a little stupid.
It's late enough that even Phichit should be around, not to mention the disgustingly early riser, Viktor, and the empty room causes a low-thrum of worry to kickstart in his chest.
He looks out the window to the garden. It's empty, but it looks the best it has in ages- gleaming bright colors and completely weed-free. Viktor really has done a marvelous job.
Yuuri turns away quickly to the other window as something tightens in his chest.
Before he even gets there he hears the small barking that must mean Vicchan, so he bites down whatever anxiety came with waking to an empty tower. Phichit is sitting cross legged, waving a broken flower stem around, Vicchan chasing it only for it to be pulled out of his reach. The whole scene is light and happy, and doesn't fit Yuuri’s mood at all. He doesn't want to ruin it, so he backs away from the window quietly, though he allows a smile to play at his lips.
The stairs seem imposing, but he wanders down them anyway. He stands at the landing, between the doorways to the studio and the library, something strange controlling his movements. He peeks into the dance studio, stares at the bleak image of himself in the mirror, and quickly turns around to the library. It's not a huge room, but the number of books and bookshelves shoved into it makes it feel even smaller. Phichit says it makes him feel claustrophobic, but Yuuri has always liked it in here. It feels safe and hidden away.
The room is quiet, but he snakes his way through the few tight corridors formed by shelves and stacks of big books, too heavy for the less-than-sturdy shelves. Nothing changes by the time he finds himself back in the doorway.
He heads down the stairs once more, to an open floor that used to hold all of the old furniture Yuuri cleared out of the abandoned tower when he moved in, and more recently became a makeshift guest room for wandering knights who took an interest in gardening. It is, unsurprisingly, empty, even crowded as it is. Yuuri continues down without even stopping.
The ground level floor is as empty and dirty as ever, the entire floor covered with a layer of dust only disturbed by footprints between the stairs and the doorway, and the strangely shaped impressions by the foot of the stairs where a knight's weapon and armor used to lay. Yuuri tries not to notice it on his way out.
He makes his way to Phichit, smiling dimly as Vicchan spots him and bounds over, full of love and excitement as always. He scoops the dog into his arms and settles in next to Phichit, who is kindly ignoring how subdued Yuuri is acting.
“Good morning! Or should I say good afternoon?” he teases with a smile.
Yuuri barely hears it. He's steadily drifted away from his body with every step down the tower. Somehow, he manages to ask, “Have you seen Viktor today?”
Phichit blinks at the abrupt change in subject, and then his brow furrows. “...No, I don't think so.”
Yuuri nods, the answer exactly as expected. “I think he left.”
As casually as he says it, the words hang in the air with a tangible weight. Phichit goes quiet, but Yuuri keeps talking.
“I don't know why I'm surprised. I've been expecting him to leave every day now, and after last night I knew he would, and yet I never expected him to actually be gone when I woke up.” He doesn’t meet Phichit’s eyes, instead focusing on running his hand through Vicchan’s fur over and over. Vicchan, to his credit, seems to understand what Yuuri needs right now, so he lets him. “I guess I didn’t really believe myself when I said he’d leave. I guess… I guess I didn’t want to believe it?” He can feel the tears welling up in his eyes now, but he just keeps going. “Or, I at least expected him to say goodbye.” He tries to smile through his tears, tries to make himself sound happy though it’s a losing battle with how wobbly and waterlogged his voice is getting. “But, whatever, right? I never expected him to stay, and now we can just go back to how we were before. It’ll be nice to have the peace and quiet back.”
He finally looks up to see Phichit looking at him with a small, sad frown. All he says is, “Oh, Yuuri.” And as he opens his arms, the dam breaks. Yuuri falls into his embrace and finally stops trying to quell the tears. They stream down his face, resigned and silent. Phichit pulls him close and squeezes him gently, and Yuuri throws his own arms haphazardly around his friend. He stays like that, Phichit gently rubbing circles on his back, until it subsides into tiny hiccupping breaths. And then he shifts, and just lets himself be close to someone for the moment.
“You know Yuuri, you’re allowed to want things. And you’re allowed to ask for them, too.”
Yuuri makes a confused noise into Phichit’s chest, and Phichit reaches his hands up to tug playfully at Yuuri’s hair.
“And you’re allowed to be sad if it doesn’t work out.”
“What are you talking about.”
“You could have told Viktor you wanted him to stay. And even though you expected him to leave, you can be sad about it, too.”
“Of course I can be sad, I am sad.”
“You know what I mean.”
Yuuri pulls back and Phichit lets him go easily. “I don’t want your advice right now.”
Phichit looks at him for a moment, and Yuuri feels bad that that came out so harsh, but Phichit just nods. “Okay, sorry. But I’ll have you know I am very old and very wise.”
Yuuri cracks a smile, weak though it may be. “You’re younger than me.”
“Dragons live longer than humans!” Phichit protests.
“But you haven’t.”
Phichit points at him and nods slowly. “You got me there.”
Yuuri rolls his eyes, but quietly appreciates the change in subject. Phichit is nothing if not a conversational master, and they quickly steer into harmless territory. Phichit lets him into the idyllic scene from before, dragging flower stems through the air and watching Vicchan gambol about, and soon, it’s almost as if nothing at all happened.
He comforts himself with that as the tears start anew.
The days pass uneasily, the same as they were for months without Viktor, but suddenly emptier. He tries not to think about it, but the harder he tries, the more he can’t keep the thoughts at bay. It hurts to think about, but he imagines their reunion all the same.
But when Yuuri spots Viktor from the window of his room, he’s far from prepared, even as he races down the stairs.
If Yuuri had to guess at his emotions at seeing Viktor again, he would have been right in that the first is undeniably relief, but he would have been surprised that the second is a flare up of white hot anger.
Of course, he wouldn’t have expected for Viktor to reappear just over a week later, a giant pack on his back and a standard poodle by his side. He’s shining brightly and sƒmiling for all the world like he didn’t disappear without notice for an extended amount of time.
Stupidly, the only thought that flashes through his mind is, Give me back my tears, you bastard, as he gapes at Viktor, who cheers at seeing him.
“Yuuri! Hello again!”
“Viktor,” Yuuri says, and Viktor stills at the tone. Good.
But Viktor falters only slightly, and tries again. “I missed you! Look who I brought with me! It’s my Makkachin!” He gestures at the dog at his side, and it must mean something that Yuuri barely reacts. The dog perks up as she realizes she’s now included in the conversation, so Yuuri spares her a smile (he’s not a monster), but it fades quickly as he turns to look back at Viktor. “Um,” Viktor starts, smile awkward and confused. “I thought you’d be happier to see her.”
“I’m delighted with her,” Yuuri says. “But you,” he narrows his eyes, “are another issue.”
Viktor blinks innocently, eyes wide and inching ever closer to puppy-dog eyes. But Yuuri has been hoarding his negative feelings for a week, after his first slip up with Phichit, and now he has so much fuel to burn through.
“Viktor, you can’t just- You can’t just disappear without warning for days and then come strolling back like nothing’s wrong!”
“I- What did I do wrong?”
“I just told you!” Yuuri isn’t one to yell, usually, but he can already feel the pinpricks of tears, and he’s been doing so well the past few days. And yelling means he’s not crying, so he’s yelling. “Why would you do that? I thought-” He chokes himself with how quickly he swallows back his next words, but he keeps his face set.
“I… I just wanted to surprise you, Yuuri.” Viktor looks confused and overwhelmed, but not particularly apologetic.
“I certainly was surprised when I woke up and you were gone.”
“I didn’t… I didn’t think about it that way. I just thought it would be fun if…”
Yuuri clenches his fist, digging his blunt nails into his palm, and looks away. “I thought you were gone for good.” He stares holes through the tops of his shoes.
Viktor gasps. “No, I… That’s the opposite of what I- I didn’t think…” Viktor goes silent, but Yuuri doesn’t look up, just squeezes his fist tighter. After a stuffy moment, Viktor whispers, “I’m sorry. I didn’t think you’d care this much.”
Somehow, the fragile way he says it pierces Yuuri. He looks back up at Viktor in disbelief. “You didn’t think I-” Letting out a breath, he struggles on. “I thought we were- friends.”
“Of course we are!” Viktor protests, slowly approaching. Makkachin trails behind him, but seems content to stay out of the dumb human fight.
“Then why would you think I wouldn’t care? Shouldn’t it be obvious I want you to stay? Why can’t you-” Yuuri swipes at his eyes, at the wetness gathering there again. He’s not even sure if these are tears of sadness or frustration anymore.
“You want me to stay?”
Yuuri nods angrily. “Yes!”
“Oh, that’s good, otherwise the trip I just took would have been a little awkward.” He stops right in front of Yuuri and drops the pack on his back onto the ground with a heavy thud.
“What are you talking about?” He’s still angry, his words rougher and more pointed than they would be otherwise, but Viktor is falling back into his usual cheer.
“I went to go get more clothes. And Makkachin! Because I figured I couldn’t keep staying here without that, at least. And then I realized that I could bring basically everything important, so I just went ahead and packed it all up. So if you told me to leave right now, that would be really awkward.”
Yuuri is struck dumb, this second surge of relief warring with the anger and annoyance still burning in his gut.
Viktor reaches out and offers his hand, and even angry as he is, Yuuri doesn’t think before taking it. “But. You really want me to stay?”
“Yes,” Yuuri replies, somehow making it sound defiant.
“And you’re still mad at me?”
Yuuri nods, looking up into Viktor’s eyes. “Don’t leave again.”
“Never again,” he declares easily.
Yuuri holds his stare for only a few seconds before he folds, eyes darting away. “At least tell me first, is what I mean.”
“Did you miss me that badly?” Viktor teases, seeing Yuuri retreating into his shyness.
Yuuri squeezes Viktor’s hand, looking abashedly to the side and wiping stray moisture from his eyes, and he figures at least a little honesty won’t hurt here. “Yes.”
Viktor’s breath leaves him in a sudden gust, and then he yanks Yuuri’s hand, still clasped in his, until Yuuri falls forward and into his arms, wrapping him entirely in a hug. “Yuuri! I’m sorry!”
Yuuri stiffens, not sure what to do. He ends up awkwardly lifting his free hand, the one not crushed in between their bodies, to pat at Viktor’s back. He’s only just starting to settle into the embrace when Makkachin decides she’s had enough of being left out and jumps up, placing one paw on each of them and barking. Viktor pulls back to lavish her with attention, but he looks at Yuuri with a gleam in his eye. “You’re never getting rid of me now, you know.”
He says it as a joke, but the thought settles in neat and cozy in Yuuri’s head. And, well. That wouldn’t be so bad.
Viktor can’t help the smile that blooms over his face at the sight before him.
After Yuuri’s unique greeting, things had settled down, but something wasn’t quite normal. It didn’t just go back to the way it was, and there was a layer of awkwardness around Viktor and Yuuri, so thick that Phichit had declared they were making him uncomfortable, and it was time to go out and get some fresh air.
And somehow, they’d ended up here. The small seaside town nearest to the tower, all lit up with light charms, glowing orbs, and lanterns of all different colors. There are stands and stalls selling food, little figures, and good luck charms set up between the buildings along the main road that empties out onto the beach. The street isn’t as full as a bustling city, but Viktor can imagine that this is the busiest it gets, with the entire town gathered outside and greeting each other with smiles and laughter.
Viktor hadn’t even known it was happening, but apparently the midsummer festival was a big event for the town, and everyone participated. When Phichit mentioned it, Viktor hadn’t even hesitated before agreeing. A festival of lights sounded like something to experience, even if it was only for the small town charm.
When Viktor had hopefully asked if Yuuri would be coming, Phichit had winked at him and told him, “Leave convincing Yuuri to me. I have my ways.”
Whatever he did, it must have worked. And Viktor is so glad it did. Yuuri is lovely bathed in the light of the festival, bright lights illuminating him from every direction. He smiles at Phichit as they walk down the street, and it’s small but settles there naturally. He even gives the townspeople shy waves and hesitant smiles when they call out greetings at their group, friendly and bouyed by the joy of the festival, though he’s uncomfortable and confused by that attention. Viktor can tell by the way his brow creases and he turns just a little bit more inward. But he’s here, he’s smiling, and that’s all that matters right now.
They pass under a lantern that’s a kaleidoscope of colors, the red, purple, and blue falling softly over Yuuri and catching in his dark hair, colorful and beautiful and bright. And Yuuri looks back and catches his eye and his smile brightens, and Viktor does the only thing he can do and smiles back.
“We set out a little late, so we won’t have much time before the bonfire! But we have to try some of their food! I don’t know what half of it is but it all smells so good.” Phichit looks around carefully, trying to pick out where to lead them.
“Phichit!” a nearby vendor calls. “I’m glad you could make it. And Yuuri, it’s good to see you again. Come here, come here, try this.” Phichit steers them towards the middle-aged woman with a bounce in his step. She hands him a fork and a plate with a small cake on it, piled high with strawberries and cream. “Fresh strawberries, picked them myself this morning.”
“Ami this looks amazing! How much?”
“First one’s free, ‘cause I know you’ll be coming back for more! But only one for now, you can’t weigh yourself down too much, bonfire is soon.”
Phichit eagerly takes the first bite, eating with the loud and sunny appreciation that he gives to all things. “Yuuri you have to try this!” He holds out a bite on the fork and Yuuri leans forward, letting Phichit feed him.
“Oh god-” Yuuri says with his mouth full, before blushing and swallowing it down. “That was actually delicious.”
“Strawberry?” Phichit asks, holding out a strawberry in Viktor’s direction. Viktor reaches to grab it but Phichit pulls it back. “No, come on, that’s not nearly as romantic! Try again.”
Viktor stares at Phichit for a moment before a smile breaks out on his face as he realizes what he wants. “Really?” he asks, and Phichit nods, so he laughs and leans forward, letting Phichit feed him the strawberry. It’s a little awkward, considering their heights, but he makes it work. As he bites it off near the stem, he glances over at Yuuri to see him holding in laughter, so he throws in a wink for good measure before leaning back to wipe his chin. “Phichit, I don’t think I’ll ever really understand your impulses.”
“My impulses are fun and profit. Here.” He shoves the rest of the cake into Yuuri’s hands, and takes off in another direction. “You two finish that, I want to check something out!”
Viktor watches as he enthusiastically greets another vendor. When he turns to Yuuri for a cue as to their next step, he’s smiling fondly at Phichit and shaking his head. He looks up at Viktor with a wry grin. “Well, I’m not going to feed you.”
Viktor’s laugh escapes him before he can stop it in his surprise. “Would you like me to feed you, then?”
“We’re adults, we can feed ourselves.” Yuuri turns and begins slowly walking down the street again, so Viktor follows.
“Do you and Phichit come here often?” Viktor tries to make the question nonchalant, but he can’t help but notice how everyone they pass seems to smile and wave at Yuuri. They’re not unfriendly towards Viktor himself, but he does get quite a few more curious looks. And the vendor from before had known Yuuri’s name.
“Ah, Phichit does. I’ve been here a few times. Mostly during the spring. I haven’t come lately. Cake?” Yuuri offers the dessert to him, and Viktor bats his lashes.
“Feed it to me?”
“More cake for me, then, I guess,” Yuuri says on a sigh. He takes another bite, and Viktor gasps in offense.
“I already told you I wouldn’t feed you!”
“I was joking, let me have some!”
“No, you lost your cake privileges!”
Viktor reaches over and grabs the plate, smiling triumphantly when it slips out of Yuuri’s grasp. Yuuri gapes at him.
Viktor takes an exaggerated bite, sighing as he chews and fluttering his lashes at Yuuri the whole time.
“You’re beyond help,” Yuuri grouses, but he can’t totally fight his smile.
“You let Phichit feed you, but not me! It hurt my manly pride, Yuuri.”
“That’s a weird thing to be hung up about.” Yuuri knocks his shoulder against Viktor’s and then looks up and opens his mouth.
He looks- god, this man is deadly. It’s not like Viktor hasn’t noticed how attractive Yuuri is before. He’s been well aware of that since the beginning- his first view of the man was in skintight leggings as he fell from above. Viktor knows. But with Yuuri leaning against him, head tilted back and lips parted- It should look stupid, shouldn’t it? But the only word Viktor can think is beautiful.
“I’m not just standing here gaping at you for fun, Viktor. Are you going to feed me or not?”
Viktor blinks out of his Yuuri-based stupor and nods fervently. He had been joking before, of course, but this suddenly seems like the most important action he may ever take. He watches with rapt silence as Yuuri’s lips close around the fork and he draws away, satisfied smile on his face and a deepening blush the longer Viktor stares.
“A-anyway.” Yuuri shuffles away, and Viktor shakes himself. “What were we talking about before… whatever that was?”
“We were… Oh! You used to come here, but you must have stopped. I haven’t seen you leave the tower since I got there.”
Yuuri winces. “Ah, yeah, well, summer,” he says, as if that explains it.
“Summer?” Viktor prods. He’s realized since he came back- he doesn’t really know anything about Yuuri. He knows that he loves dogs, and dances like he’s weightless (except when he’s being watched, and then suddenly he’s more earthbound than ever). He knows the way he smiles when Vicchan does something cute, or Viktor does something stupid, and how those smiles are actually the same. Viktor now knows he has bad days where he splinters apart, and tucks himself back together every time. And he knows Yuuri wants him to stay.
But he doesn’t know why Yuuri is even here. Standing there, licking cream off of a fork, in a tiny out of the way town, instead of in his kingdom, with his family, living the royal life he was born for.
Viktor isn’t stupid- he can make a guess at it. But then Yuuri says things like, “Ah, yeah, well, summer,” as if it’s a truth of the world, and Viktor thinks he doesn’t know enough.
He wants to know more. He wants to know everything.
If Yuuri heard his question, he doesn’t get to answer it before Phichit has bounced back, tucking a softly glowing blue flower behind Yuuri’s ear. He has a matching red one behind his own. “Hana and Kaede wanted me to deliver this to you! Said to tell you they’re glad you came.” Phichit looks at Viktor with a slightly apologetic smile. “Sorry, they didn’t have anything for you.”
Viktor waves Phichit off with a smile. “No worries, even in a town like this I’m sure they’d be out of business if they handed them out to every stranger that passed through.”
Yuuri is still side eyeing the flower behind his ear with bafflement. “Wh- I can’t accept this!”
“Well, you already did, so just say thank you.”
“I’ll have to find them later, then…”
“Save them each a dance! I’m sure everyone will be clamoring to dance with you at the bonfire, Yuuri.” Phichit winks, and Yuuri ducks his head.
Viktor perks up. “Dance?”
“Oh! Right, you don’t know. The festival ends with a bonfire on the beach, and everyone gathers around and there’s music and dancing until the end of the night! They end every festival like that, a combination of tradition and not really having much else to do,” Phichit explains. “Actually, they’ll be lighting it soon, we should head that way.”
Viktor glances around, and sure enough, many of the stalls have been abandoned and people are heading toward the end of the street, where the town ends and the shore begins. There’s a large open space with a pile of kindling in the middle.
Before they even get there, the kindling is set ablaze with a chorus of cheers and applause, and a small band strikes up an upbeat tune. Phichit claps and cheers with everyone else, grabbing Yuuri’s hand and running into the crowd already forming around the fire. Yuuri glances back at Viktor, but Viktor laughs and lets him go, settling along the edges of the space and watching as Phichit drags Yuuri into some kind of square dance that doesn’t fit the music whatsoever, but laughing so freely it doesn’t even matter.
Soon enough, Yuuri is pulled into Phichit’s tempo, and his laughter lights up the night as well. When the song ends, the dance floor shifts as people weave in and out, some switching partners and others calling for friends to join. Yuuri is immediately claimed again, and soon enough the music begins anew.
Viktor watches it all from the outskirts; a few of the friendlier townspeople ask him to join, but he turns them down with a smile and the skill of a lifetime of slipping out of conversations. Yuuri is never without a partner- more often than not Phichit, but several others get their turns as well.
Yuuri doesn’t even notice how easy he is to love, probably, but Viktor sees it. How the people of the town dance with him with awe in their eyes and joy in their smiles. And Yuuri gives back, thoughtlessly and effortlessly, swaying and spinning in time with the beat.
The light of the fire overtakes the night, growing steadily bigger as the joy of the village rings through the air. The embers spark and float into the sky, up until they seem to be swallowed by the stars, but there’s nothing heavenward that can hold Viktor’s attention. His eyes are drawn back down, gravitating towards Yuuri and the firelight illuminating his smile.
The violinist from the band calls out, “Last call!” to varied reactions from the crowd. Many are tired and move off to begin the walk home, but others rouse themselves for one last dance. Yuuri ducks out of the crowd and Viktor loses sight of him for a moment, but soon enough he’s reappeared at Viktor’s side.
Yuuri’s obviously tired, which makes sense. He’s been dancing all night, and has probably talked to more people in one evening than he has in the last few months, if anything Viktor has seen is to go by. But his eyes are still sparkling as he grabs Viktor’s hands and says, “Dance with me,” and Viktor could never refuse.
“You haven’t been dancing.”
“You haven’t stopped.”
Yuuri laughs as he pulls Viktor closer. “It’s a festival, we’re supposed to dance.”
“Aren’t you tired?”
Yuuri nods. “Yes,” he says, “but I wanted to dance with you again.”
Viktor wonders if Yuuri can hear the way his heartbeat picks up at that, since they’re standing so close. Though he supposes it doesn’t matter, as the look on his face must already give him away. “It’s a good way to end the day.”
The song is bright and happy, a jubilant end to the night, and Yuuri swings them through the crowd with ease. Viktor lets him lead, something bright bubbling in his chest.
Under the influence of firelight and starlight and the shine in Yuuri’s eyes, Viktor feels the effervescence bubble up until he can’t help but laugh with abandon, just for the feeling of it. He’s helpless against this, but in this moment, it’s hard to care. He trusts Yuuri with the weight of his joy. And Yuuri meets him in the middle, matches him step for step and pulls him along in his wake.
The song winds down, and the villagers cheer, but Viktor misses it all for smiling at Yuuri. “I could dance with you all night,” he breathes.
“You’ve missed your chance,” Yuuri says ruefully, eyes flicking to the band carefully packing up their things.
“Next time, then.”
Yuuri meets his eyes, smile slowly curling up. “Yeah. Next time.”
As they find Phichit and begin the trek back to the tower, the light of the bonfire and the village disappears beyond the horizon. But the warmth follows them home.
Yuuri stares up at the ceiling, watching the orbs of light drift slowly across it, bumping into each other lazily and randomly. He doesn’t know how long he’s been in the library, but it’s been long enough that the natural light in the room faded from midday sun to evening blackness. The light spell was originally attached to his book so he could keep studying even in the setting sun, but he after he knocked the first one off and watched it float until it lightly bumped the ceiling, his study session somehow devolved into lying on the floor and staring blankly up as he cast more light spells. It’s nice, the low glow of them in the dark room. Unanchored, the newest one floats up like the others, bumps into a small cluster of them and sets them all moving unhurriedly in opposite directions.
He’s in a weird headspace. He doesn’t even react when he hears footsteps enter the room, too tentative to belong to Phichit and too heavy to belong to a dog. He only blinks when suddenly Viktor looms above him, face so far away and covered with shifting shadows. The glow of the ceiling sits in a halo around his head. “Hello,” Yuuri greets quietly, and knows that he really is too calm. Maybe it’s the atmosphere. Maybe it’s the fact that he should have dragged himself to bed hours ago.
“What are you doing in the middle of the night?”
“Is it the middle of the night?”
“Yuuri,” Viktor says, and it’s supposed to be scolding, but the way Viktor says his name, wraps around it and settles in, it doesn’t feel like a scolding.
“Oops,” he manages non-committedly, eyes drifting back to the ceiling. He watches the shadows now, how they’re chased around and pressed into different shapes, but ever-present.
It’s silent for a little. Viktor’s silhouette disappears from the corners of Yuuri’s vision. Yuuri drags his eyes away to watch as Viktor eases down to the ground, the space too narrow for him to lay next to Yuuri, but Viktor finds himself a place between the books that places him just at an angle beside him. He lays his head directly next to Yuuri’s. Yuuri can feel the tops of their heads bump, but Viktor doesn’t adjust himself, just settles in. The small point of contact buzzes.
They’re silent for a little, but now that Viktor is here, Yuuri doesn’t find the silence as comforting.
“What are you leaving behind? Being here,” he asks. It’s in part to break the silence, but partly because it’s easier to ask a question into a half dark room, without having to look someone in the eye.
Viktor make a sound that’s supposed to be a laugh. “Ah, well. Not much, honestly.”
“I brought Makkachin here, so no, not really.” As much as Yuuri loves Makkachin- and he loves Makkachin, like she were his own now- it makes something in his chest twist to hear that the only family Viktor has is his dog. “I guess,” Viktor continues, voice still so carefully nonchalant, “there’s Yakov. But he’s…”
“Have I really never mentioned him?” Viktor asks, voice surprised. Yuuri tries to steal a glance at his face, but the angle is too awkward and he gives up and looks up again. “Yakov took me in when I was young. I was talented, even as a child. I was beating pages years older and more experienced than me. So he trained me, got me in with Lady Baranovskaya, and…” He makes some movement that shifts his body, a shrug probably. “The rest is history,” he finishes with a flourish. “I was better than everyone when I was younger, I am better… I was better now. Actually, it hurts my pride you’ve never heard of me. I’ve spent my whole life building my reputation, and to learn it never reached past my immediate circle is a blow.”
Yuuri can tell Viktor is mostly teasing him, but he sits there wracking his brain for some memory of a great knight, some daring tale of good deeds and adventuring that centered on a man named Viktor. He comes up blank. “Sorry,” he mumbles. “I’m sure they did talk about you. But I didn’t, uh… I wasn’t very social, and I rarely paid attention to that kind of thing.” He lets out a deep breath. “I kind of hated it, actually.”
Viktor makes a curious noise, so Yuuri continues.
“I mean- The whole social maneuvering. It’s all acting, being that perfect someone you’re not, and I… can’t. I hated constantly feeling like I was a fake, feeling like I was going to trip up and someone would see right through me and I’d humiliate my entire family. I couldn’t stand there and listen with just the right amount of attentiveness to a story framed to make the teller sound as interesting and important as possible. So I wouldn’t bother listening.
“But that was all I was supposed to do. Look pretty, be charming, marry into an appropriately powerful family to ensure stronger relations. The first born is the political power, and the second born is the social power. I couldn’t even do that, so I… well, I was a worthless bargaining chip.”
“Yuuri, you’re nowhere near worthless,” Viktor protests, voice full of warring emotions. Yuuri shakes his head.
“My family always told me they knew I could do it. They said I was doing fine, to just keep going. And I guess… they weren’t totally wrong. We started getting offers. Suddenly everyone was looking at me and I was meeting new nobles weekly, at least. Planning a royal wedding.” Yuuri scoffs. “Can you imagine me in an event like that? I couldn’t stand hearing the whispers speculating about my relationships when they didn’t even exist, I can’t imagine everyone prying into my actual wedding.
“And then I… ran away. One too many awkward bumbles in front of visiting nobles and the constant pressure of everyone watching my every move broke me, I guess. And so the worthless prince disappeared. And now we’re here.” Yuuri blinks out of his self-deprecating spiral before it gets too far. “…Sorry, we weren’t talking about me. That was. Wow, shit, sorry.”
“Yuuri,” Viktor says again in that not-quite-scolding tone. The room is silent for a long moment, Yuuri trying to figure out how to apologize again without saying ‘I’m sorry’ before Viktor speaks again. It’s quiet but impossible to miss when he breathes into the air, “Thank you.”
Yuuri stays silent, not knowing what to say, but then he feels something nudging at his hand. He opens it and lets Viktor in, lets him twine their fingers together. And then he thinks, maybe he doesn’t have to reply quite yet.
He lifts his free hand, silently spelling another orb of light into the room, watches as it hangs in the air and then is slowly pulled up. Viktor doesn’t say anything, so he doesn’t know if he’s watching too, or if he’s closed his eyes, or is just looking elsewhere. It doesn’t really matter, anyway.
The light bobs against the ceiling, stationary for a long moment until another light brushes against it in its own aimless wandering, and they both start on a new path. The light shifts and the shadows twist, and Viktor and Yuuri lay there, only touching at the top of their heads and at their entwined hands, until sleep takes them both.
No matter how late he goes to sleep, Viktor is incapable of sleeping too far past sunrise. It’s a habit long ingrained in him through years of training at dawn, but even then, he greeted the morning with more enthusiasm than most. There’s just something refreshing about the morning, light still soft and air still cool from the night, that Viktor appreciates.
And there’s other perks, too. Like waking up early enough to see Yuuri’s sleeping face after handing his heart over in the dim glow of the midnight before. Early enough to leave before Yuuri feels overwhelmed with having to face him in daylight.
But maybe he hadn’t needed to do that, because Yuuri still hasn’t made a move to pull back since that night. To tell him that he made a mistake, revealed too much, and ask Viktor to forget. It would kill him if Yuuri pulled back now- there’s no chance Viktor would be able to forget. No, Viktor hoards everything he knows about Yuuri safe in his heart.
But he would have tried to pretend if Yuuri asked him to.
Instead, Yuuri has continued to reach out. Sometimes it shows in little things, like letting Viktor touch him, when he’d shied away so quickly before. Sometimes, it’s just in letting himself fall asleep in the common room, drooling and curled up with two dogs and a book dropped on the floor, imperfect and wonderful.
“Renown in all the land for his beauty,” Phichit says with a snort as he sits beside Viktor. Viktor doesn’t jump, but it’s a near thing- he hadn’t heard the dragon coming. “What if they saw him now?”
Viktor presses his lips together, trying to hold back a smile. He can’t say much- he thinks Yuuri looks as beautiful as ever, adorable and soft and comfortable. But he also doesn’t trust himself not to embarrass himself to Phichit, who he hasn’t spent that much time with.
“You’re thinking something sappy like that he’s still beautiful anyway, aren’t you?” Phichit asks, and Viktor blushes even as he laughs.
“And here I was thinking that we haven’t spent much time together, and yet you pull the thoughts right out of my head.”
“We don’t need to spend much time together for me to understand what pining looks like,” Phichit says.
Viktor smiles at Phichit, and doesn’t deny it, but steers the conversation elsewhere. “Why is it that we haven’t spent much time together? I’m always around the tower, as is Yuuri, but you disappear.”
“Hey, not always. I live here at least part time.”
“But where do you go?”
Phichit leans back, rolling his head as he contemplates. “Out. I dunno, nowhere really.” He hesitates, body tensing before becoming carefully nonchalant. “Do you remember what I was telling you about dragons and wanderlust?”
Viktor nods carefully.
“Mm, well. This is actually the longest I’ve stayed in one place, myself,” Phichit admits. “If it weren’t for Yuuri, I would have been long gone.”
Phichit leans forward, eyes serious. “Don’t take this the wrong way, Yuuri isn’t keeping me back or anything, and I know he can take care of himself, but… for the longest time, I’d get worried if I went too far. Even the most competent people need someone. But I can’t stay in the tower all day like Yuuri does. When I go out I wander the area, explore the woods, just go out and experience the world. I can’t not.”
“Wow,” Viktor says. He doesn’t know what else there is to say, but it seems like Phichit has more to share.
“I… you know, lately, because I know you’re here, I’ve been going out further. I think I want to visit my sisters soon, and explore the land across the ocean.” Phichit’s eyes shine with excitement. “Yuuri is… important to me. This, here? I feel like I found a home. I’m always going to come back to him. And it’s not like I was trapped here before you got here, but… it’s nice knowing he has more people with him, I guess. I’m glad you came back.”
“I never meant to leave.”
Phichit raises an eyebrow. “You should be more careful, then. You two will hurt each other if you’re not.”
Viktor is quiet in response to that. He knows. There’s a lot they need to work out, but… After everything, he thinks they can.
Yuuri stirs, eyes fluttering open and then scrunching shut, keeping out the morning daylight. He groans, as bad with mornings as ever, but even his half-waking has woken both Makkachin and Vicchan. Vicchan, ever full of energy, jumps down and stretches, ready to face the day, but Makkachin buries her face into Yuuri’s side, content to continue lazing as long as Yuuri does. Yuuri smiles, hand shifting so he can run it along in languid strokes down Makkachin, even though he still doesn’t open his eyes. Makkachin perks up, tail wagging and shuffling excitedly, tongue darting out to lick his hand when it comes back near her face. He giggles, just a breathy little sound, and Makkachin takes that as a sign that Yuuri is more awake, and she jumps up just so she can lave kisses all over his face.
Under the barrage of Makkachin’s wet alarm clock, Yuuri finally opens his eyes, cooing at Makkachin even as he tries to push her off. She’s sated as he scrubs his hands through her fur, scratching behind her ears and kissing her forehead and her nose and babbling nonsense phrases at her. She curls back up in his lap, too large to be a lap dog but forever in denial, and Yuuri makes a small sound of resignation as he realizes he won’t be getting up any time soon. He looks up and catches Viktor staring. He offers a soft smile, gesturing at Makkachin with a fondly exasperated look. “I think she says I’m not allowed to get up yet.”
“I think you’re right,” Viktor replies, a little dazed by it all. He hears Phichit distantly laughing at him, but he just lets him.
Yuuri settles back into his chair, reaching over and grabbing a book, whispering soft apologies to Makkachin who makes discontented sounds at being shifted. Viktor wrenches his gaze away, stares at the mug in front of him instead.
He feels something ache in his chest, but it’s not an ache he’s wholly accustomed to. It’s warm and sweet, pulling at his heart and suffusing through his chest. He feels like he just saw something that wasn’t his to see, something so domestic and comfortable that it couldn’t be his, but god he wants it to be.
But then. It is his. Right now, it is. He’s living in this moment, he gets to see Yuuri droopy-eyed and half-asleep, blinking awake in the mornings. He gets to see the man curled up with their dogs, content and happy, all bedhead and yesterday’s clothes, and later he’ll get to be there when he pushes Yuuri to change, to shower, to take care of himself just a little more. He gets to watch Makkachin sigh in contentedness as Yuuri absentmindedly pets her, gets to see how happy and excited she is with him, how much she obviously loves him.
Makkachin would be crushed if he ever had to leave. He would be crushed if he ever had to leave, but somehow it’s worse to think that Makkachin would be sad. And the idea of losing this, all of this, the domesticity and the rightness in the moment, it just… it can’t happen.
And Viktor had decided that he would stay a long time ago, he really did. But that decision solidifies, takes root and begins to grow. He’s never going to leave Yuuri, never can at this point. He’ll just have to marry him, eventually.
Viktor finds himself blushing at the thought. Not really embarrassed by it, Viktor’s sense of shame left him ages ago, but just… happy. He wants to marry Yuuri, one day. And well, it’s not like he ever had any other choice. But now he really will have to. For Makkachin, if nothing else.
For years now, Viktor has been in charge of himself. He’s never really been alone, per se- at the very least, there was always Makkachin. But when there were other people around, he always had to be in charge, be the dashing, respectable hero one might expect a knight in the service of Lady Baranovskaya to be. He was allowed his eccentricities, like owning a poodle for companionship, or rebuffing all advances made on him, even as his prime slowly slips away from him. But he thinks of the people who showered him with praise, who hailed him as their hero and never looked at him twice, and wonders what they’d think of him now.
Now, as he trails behind a runaway prince in a garden, completely out of his depth and smiling all the more for it as the prince studies the spellbook in his grasp. He’s supposed to be helping, but he never had much of a head for magic, so mostly he’s trailing behind Yuuri as he tests out the new spell he’s mastered. At the very least, he can usher the dogs away when they get in the way in their playing, and of course he can watch Yuuri with a fair amount of awe. It’s hard not to, of course, with the way Yuuri does everything. Though his right hand holds a spellbook, and his left summons streams of water to douse the plants, there’s just something about the way he holds himself.
“You know,” Viktor can’t help commenting, “you’d think that a bookworm such as yourself would have terrible posture, from being hunched over reading and studying. But even buried in a book you still move with such grace. You really are a dancer at heart.”
Yuuri looks up at him, blinking owlishly. “I’m… what?”
Viktor smiles. “A dancer? Did you not know?” He can’t help the slight tease, but Yuuri stares at him with a complicated look.
Viktor can feel his own smile dampening, replaced with confusion. “No?”
“I never… no one has ever said that to me before.”
“That you dance? You should have known that even if no one told you.”
“No, Viktor, I-” Yuuri closes the book in his hand with a loud thunk, shaking his head. His tone is still incredulous. “No one has ever called me a dancer. I was always- I was just a prince. I was stately and stood straight and was graceful because I was royalty, not because I was a dancer.”
There’s something burning in Yuuri’s eyes, but Viktor isn’t following his line of thought at all. “Well, I guess that makes sense, too,” he concedes. “But I just see you as more of a dancer, now.”
Yuuri looks at him like he just spilled the secrets of the universe.
“I mean,” Viktor continues, “I guess you’re both-”
Viktor stares at Yuuri after his outburst. Yuuri laughs, a little hysterical.
“No, Viktor, please, call me a dancer. I don’t- I never wanted to be a prince.”
And, well, Viktor could have guessed that. But something about saying it seems to spark something in Yuuri.
“I don’t want to be Prince Katsuki,” he says, staring intensely at Viktor. “I just want to be Yuuri, with a garden and a poodle and a dragon and a knight.”
Viktor flushes at being listed, but he finally has to break and ask, “Did you not know that?”
“I… yes? But no. I mean, I don’t know! I tried not to think about it, because I am a prince. And that’s what everyone saw me as, so what did it matter if I didn’t want to be? But you… You just called me a dancer. And that was the best thing anyone has ever done for me.” He’s quiet for a little bit, but the dam now broken lets everything through. “I don’t want to go back,” he whispers, as if it’s a confession. Viktor can barely hear him, but he’s careful to listen. This isn’t the dim glow of a library and secrets spilled in the night. This is something that has been slowly building, finally overflowing and now plain in daylight. “I always told myself I would, because it’s my responsibility, and I should but. I don’t think I ever planned to. I’ve just been waiting until I couldn’t anymore. Waiting until a knight actually made it into the tower and swept me away.” He looks up, meets Viktor’s eyes, and there’s unshed tears in his own. “And you did. But you let me stay.”
Viktor grabs Yuuri’s hand, squeezing it to replace all the words he doesn’t know how to say. Yuuri is quiet, letting his gaze fall to their joined hands, and finally his tears fall.
“I think I have to go back,” he says, and Viktor’s heart stumbles.
“What?” Viktor’s voice breaks on the syllable, surprise wrenching it out before he’s ready. But he can see it in Yuuri’s eyes- a fiercer determination than he’s faced before. And this- whatever this is, it seems important to Yuuri. He wouldn’t talk him down even if he could. He’d break his own heart first.
“I’m going to get ready. I’ll leave as soon as I can, before I can change my mind.” Yuuri turns around, calling Vicchan to him and heading to the tower. He stops only briefly, to turn around and bow to Viktor. “Thank you. For everything. I’m going to make this right.”
Makkachin bounds after him, but runs back to Viktor when she sees he’s not following. Viktor feels frozen, the world around him not moving as the world inside of him shifts on its axis. “Wait- Yuuri!”
Yuuri stops again, turning back to Viktor.
“Are you… coming back?” The question feels too vulnerable and telling, but he has to ask.
The determination doesn’t fade from Yuuri’s eyes, but it is softened and warmed when he smiles. “Of course I’ll come back home.”
Packing takes longer than Yuuri would like, and in his frenzied determination he ends up shoving random items into a bag and calling it good. And then he unpacks the bag and repacks it more carefully, because he has a several days journey ahead of him, and he can’t just go in blindly. He doesn’t want to leave behind something that he’ll need.
All things considered, Yuuri knows Viktor’s words shouldn’t have been a revelation. And they weren’t, not really. But they were enough.
He can’t thank Viktor enough, but he can at least do this.
He spends the next day traveling to town, visiting shops and gathering whatever he doesn’t already have. He’s more focused than ever, and the townspeople notice, but they leave him be, though one not without cooing at his purchase and sending him off as a blushing mess. But he finally has an idea of what he needs, and when he returns to the tower he goes straight to his room to finish packing.
Dawn comes, and something heavy settles in his stomach. But he goes. Viktor is awake, too, ready to see him off.
When they find themselves outside, Viktor grabs his hand. “Good luck Yuuri. You can do this.”
Yuuri stares, reaching up and gently wiping a stray tear off of Viktor’s face. Viktor looks taken aback himself, but then laughs weakly.
“I guess I’ll just miss you,” he admits, pulling back to wipe away the rest of his tears.
“I just need to settle things with my parents. I can’t keep fighting off knights for the rest of my life.”
“I could have done it for you. I would have fought for you forever,” Viktor offers, and it makes Yuuri laugh.
“I’m going to end this. I’ll tell my parents that this is what I want, and no matter what they say, nothing can keep me away for long.” He blushes at his own statement, and then reaches for something in his pocket. “No more running away, Viktor. From anything.”
Yuuri holds out a golden ring to Viktor, bought only the day before in town. Viktor stares for a few seconds before his tears get even worse. Through them, he manages, “I’m going to kiss you now.”
And Yuuri laughs, but reaches for Viktor first.
It’s strange, kissing Viktor. Certainly more teary than Yuuri ever imagined, and the fact that Viktor can’t stop smiling makes it hard to keep it up. But it’s perfect anyway. Viktor pulls back in only seconds, arms around Yuuri to keep him from getting too far, and presses their foreheads together. “Something to remember me by, then,” he says, and it’s breathless and starstruck.
Yuuri pulls Viktor’s arm from around him, ignoring Viktor’s protesting until he has his hand in front of him, and he slips the ring onto his finger. Something about that sets Viktor off and they’re kissing again, sweet and soft and laughing in between.
“Come with me,” Yuuri asks.
“You really have become demanding,” Viktor says, and laughs as Yuuri swats at him.
“I don’t want to go. I don’t know if I can make it there by myself. I don’t need help, but…”
“But you need someone there.”
Yuuri nods, quiet. “Please?”
“Of course, Yuuri. I’ll be here with you for as long as you want.”
“That’s giving me a lot of power,” Yuuri says, handing him a ring.
“I’ll promise you forever, if you’d like,” Viktor replies, and slips it onto Yuuri’s finger.
Yuuri holds his hand out, admiring the ring. “I think I just might.”
The ring gleams in the light as Yuuri and Viktor smile at each other. Yuuri knows there’s still a lot to do- he can only imagine everything that’s left waiting for him back at the palace. But it all seems doable when he’s facing Viktor’s smile.
Prince Katsuki had a palace, a court, suitors and riches. Yuuri only has a tower, a garden, two dogs, a dragon, and Viktor. But somewhere in there, there’s a life that Yuuri wants to live. And it’s finally time for him to claim it.
And that thought which was so overwhelming and terrifying before is a little easier to bear with Viktor by his side. And he knows he always has a home to come back to.