Yuuri left the rink exhausted. Training was long, hard, and productive, but he’d finalized his short program choreography. His quadruple flip wasn’t looking too shabby, either. He ran it over and over, imagining the look on Victor’s face when Yuuri perfected his signature jump. He stretched his back and winced. Maybe, if he caught Victor at the right moment, he’d get a massage.
It was a vibrant spring day. Beads of dew glistened on the flowers nearby, catching Yuuri’s eye. He picked one for Victor.
Walking home by himself was a rare moment of peace. Between Victor’s constant affection and Yurio’s needling at the rink, Yuuri had forgotten how cleansing it could feel to be alone. Of course, he loved every second he spent with Victor. But living in Russia felt far different from living in Japan
At times, Yuuri was homesick. Coming home to Victor made that feeling disappear.
Victor was his home.
Victor sat on the sofa, his back to Yuuri, humming as he snipped away at scraps of paper and searched through his array of brush pens, plucking out vivid violets and lurid reds.
“What are you up to?” Yuuri said, draping himself over Victor’s shoulder.
“Yuuri! Don’t scare me like that!” Victor clutched his chest. “I’m making a scrapbook.”
“Victor, it’s adorable.” He plunked himself on the couch beside Victor, smiling. Despite all the time Victor spent with him, he was never used to how beautiful Yuuri was, his messy raven hair framing his soft face and large, brown, caring eyes. The ring on Yuuri’s finger was just as golden as the day Victor slid it on his finger; he polished it once a week.
“I don’t want to mess it up,” said Yuuri, looking nervously at Victor’s flawless spread. Victor’d tried to get Yuuri to attend his numerous arts and crafts classes, but he was too anxious to try.
“They don’t have to be perfect. Anything you’d do would be beautiful,” Victor said, smiling. He brushed a lock of Yuuri’s hair out of his eyes. “You need a haircut.”
Yuuri, likewise, brushed Victor’s hair off his face. “So do you.”
Victor stroked Yuuri’s hair. “That’s the hair you had on your head when you won gold,” said Victor. “Maybe you shouldn’t get a haircut.”
“What, and grow it out to the floor?”
“You’ll be my Rapunzel.”
“Oh! I just remembered,” Yuuri dug in his pockets and extracted a slightly crumpled flower. “For you.”
“Yuuri, thank you!” Victor held it to his chest, and then tested it against a page of the scrapbook. “I’m going to press it on the front page, right next to our couple photo.”
“Can I help?”
“We’ll do it together.”
First page: Yuuri And Victor’s First Year!
A photo of Yuuri and Victor, holding their rings up to the camera, grinning.
A dried flower glued beside them.
Caption: To one year of love, and many more!
Chapter 2: Yuuri's Favorite Birthday
Snapshot: Yuuri with frosting on his mouth, reaching towards the camera with a look of panic on his face
Caption: moments before disaster
“Which one are you working on?” asked Yuuri, sinking beside Victor with a steaming mug of cocoa.
“Your birthday page,” Victor said, looking sheepish. “Even though it was a mess.”
“No it was not.”
“Yes it was.”
“Okay, it was a bit of a mess. But it was my favorite.”
“Because,” Yuuri said. “It’s the first time we celebrated my birthday as a couple.”
“Yuuri.” Victor’s voice cracked. “Are you getting sentimental? I must be rubbing off on you.”
“Be quiet.” Yuuri tossed a pillow at Victor.
Victor titled the scrapbook page “Yuuri’s Favorite Birthday.” Beneath it, he wrote, in tiny letters, “until next year.” “Do you think a cream and aqua color scheme would look good?”
Yuuri shrugged. “Sure.”
“I need a professional opinion!” Victor groaned. He trimmed a photo and stuck it to the page, giggling as he did so. Yuuri leaned over his shoulder to see and objected.
“Victor! Don’t use that picture of me!”
Snapshot: Yuuri with frosting on his mouth, reaching towards the camera with a look of panic on his face
Caption: moments before disaster
Yuuri’s 25th Birthday
When Victor set out to give his darling Yuuri the best birthday possible, he wasn’t making any half measures. He’d gone all in this year. The meticulous plans began last month and concluded last night. There was no way any of this waterproof schedule could go wrong. All he had left was dessert.
So here he was, sitting at the kitchen table at four in the morning, waiting for the icing on the cake. Well, technically, to ice the cake that was the icing on the cake. Were his plans a cake? Metaphors were never Victor’s thing.
Victor pulled the cake out of the oven. A three layered chocolate peanut butter cake. It smelled superb. Hopefully the smell wouldn’t wake Yuuri. The man was like a magnet when it came to food.
He frosted the top: “Happy 25th Birthday”, it read.
Sometimes Yuuri made Victor feel old. He was glad to see him catching up.
Now, Victor waited awhile longer for Yuuri to catch up with him, as he was awake and Yuuri was not. He resisted the urge to jump on the bed, screaming “WAKE UP, YUURI! IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY!”
Sadly, the first rule on Yuuri’s birthday (firmly established after last year’s birthday, when Victor got him up at six in the morning and faced Yuuri’s full fury), was that the birthday boy got to sleep in, so Victor busied himself by doing the dishes instead. Yuuri would be ecstatic when he got up to see all of them done. A frequent point of contention between him and Yuuri was who’d do the dishes (Victor usually lost).
At seven, all dishes were done, cupboards rearranged, presents wrapped, decorations placed, and plans finalized. And Victor was bored.
He turned on his free skate music and practiced in his socks in the middle of the kitchen. He hummed and gracefully turned here and there, closing his eyes and feeling the flow. While it was a bit unsafe to try a quad, Victor did a few doubles here and there, chuckling on how ridiculous he must look, skating around his kitchen floor.
“Victor?” Yuuri’s voice was low, husky, still half asleep. He stood in the doorway of the kitchen, clad in a t shirt and boxers, rubbing his eyes, both out of amazement at Victor’s routine and a continued sleepiness. “Is that your free skate?”
Victor yelped at Yuuri’s abrupt appearance. “It’s still a secret!”
“How much did you see?”
“Enough to impress me,” said Yuuri.
“Yeah.” He gave Victor a small peck on the cheek and headed towards the fridge.
Past his initial panic, Victor wasn’t letting the opportunity go. “HAPPY BIRTHDAY, YUURI!” He screamed, excited. He herded the bewildered Yuuri to a chair. “Sit down, sit down. You don’t have to lift a finger for yourself today, you hear me?”
“It’s just my birthday, you don’t have to-“
“Just your birthday? JUST your birthday? It’s the birthday of the best person on the planet! I can’t let this go!”
“Victor,” Yuri began.
Victor busied himself, digging up pots and pans, and setting plates on the counter. “What do you want for breakfast? I’ll make whatever you want.”
“You sound like a Stepford wife.”
“It’s how I show love,” Victor said, nuzzling Yuuri’s shoulder. “Pancakes it is.”
In an attempt to impress Yuuri, Victor tried to flip a pancake in the air, like he saw chefs do on the Food Network. This attempt ended with a burnt foot, a ruined pancake, and unrestrained laughter from both of them.
“I hope you like carriage rides,” Victor said, casual, chewing on the last of his pancakes.
Yuuri choked on his orange juice. “Carriage- what?”
“You’ve never gone on one?”
“Well, no. I didn’t realize it was a normal thing… to do.”
“Oh.” Victor seemed genuinely surprised. Of course, Victor was so used to his excessive doting on Yuuri that he didn’t fathom anyone acting differently. Yuuri loved him for it.
They walked to the park, hand in hand, to where Victor had arranged the driver to meet them. There was some sort of celebration nearby. Children yelled and chased each other around in circles. Parents sat at tables nearby talking to each other.
The carriage was luxurious, a rich wood, and the horse was a handsome white mare. There was a bouquet of roses on the seat. Their petals spread across the floor.
“How much did this cost?” Yuuri asked.
“Don’t worry about it.” Victor handed a check to the driver.
“I’ll just warn you now,” the driver said, “She’s a little on edge because of the... gathering over there.” He gestured to the horse, then to the children, still playing chaotically.
“It’ll be fine once we get a little further away,” said Victor. He sat in the seat, indicating for Yuuri to sit next to him. The seats were much softer than they looked.
Meanwhile, the people at the celebration gathered in a circle, screaming something. People had the oddest family traditions. Irritated by the noise, the horse stomped, its eyes filled with blank panic. “Whoa there,” the driver said, patting it tenderly. That was a mistake.
The horse took off at full speed, dragging the carriage and a screaming Victor and Yuuri with it. They clung to each other, howling as they cleared shocked passerby and narrowly turned corners. They skid onto a road with cars. They honked and stopped in time to watch a carriage carrying two screaming men zoom down the street.
“How do we get it to stop?” Yuuri cried, turning his face into Victor’s neck.
“I don’t know! I’m not a horse expert!” Victor flinched as the carriage barely missed a fire hydrant. “Shit!”
The horse replied to their cries with agitated neighs and picked up speed.
Eventually, after a solid ten minutes at the mercy of the horse, it stopped, exhausted, by a park, and drank from a fountain. Victor and Yuuri, shaken, piled out of the carriage and collapsed on the grass, holding each other.
“That was… kinda fun.” Yuuri said. “Like a rollercoaster, except dangerous. And with a higher likelihood of getting run over.”
Victor was too rattled to speak.
“So, what’s next?” Said Yuuri, rolling over to face Victor.
“I can’t believe you’re so calm.”
“It was fun!”
“I can’t believe I’m messing your birthday up already.”
“You mean improving it?” Victor wasn’t convinced. “Come on, we made it out okay. Now where are we going next?”
Victor cleared his throat. “Th-The museum.”
“Sweet!” Yuuri stood up, dusted grass off his pants, and held a hand out to Victor. “Let’s go.”
It was strange how Yuuri, so shy and reserved, became Victor’s champion in an instant. Usually, he was the one consumed with fear and anxiety. Today, Yuuri was reassuring Victor’s fears. The irony was that Victor’s greatest fear was letting Yuuri down.
Yuuri was silhouetted by a halo of gold. Victor figured it was Yuuri’s beauty that brought the sun out. It was rare enough to see the sun for this long in the Russian winter, but Yuuri’s presence made it feel even more sacred. And yet he was so humble, unaware of how special he was, even on his birthday.
Victor took Yuuri’s hand and stood.
The horse gave a snort, swallowing a mouthful of water, and stared at Yuuri and Victor. “...You think we should call the driver?” Said Yuuri.
“As long as he gives me my money back,” Victor said, dialing the number.
“Look at this one,” Victor said, pointing to a painting of two women, drinking tea together. “That’s us.”
“How is that us?”
“They’re gay and drinking tea. Need I explain further?” Victor raised his eyebrows and smirked.
Yuuri snorted. He turned back to the paintings with an open curiosity in his velvet brown eyes. Every painting in the hall received his full attention. Normally, with the amount of time they’d spent at the museum, Victor would have been restless by now. With Yuuri, it was different. Yuuri was content looking at the paintings. Victor was content looking at Yuuri (he did enjoy art, but these paintings were static, whereas every expression on Yuuri’s face was fleeting and unique).
Victor knew for a fact that Yuuri’s favorite Russian art piece was in this museum. He planned this carefully as well. A month before, he handed Yuuri a book of Russian art pieces, and asked him what his favorite would be, knowing full well that his choice would decide where they went on Yuuri’s birthday. Thankfully, as if Yuuri knew what would be most convenient, he chose a painting that stayed in the local museum.
“We should go over there,” Victor said, pointing to the wing where the piece resided.
“Sure,” Yuuri said.
They walked over. A woman, holding a coffee, stood in front of the piece, taking a ridiculously long amount of time taking it in. Victor willed her to move, and she did. Her foot caught on her own shoelace, and she tripped with the coffee in her hand. It splattered all over the front of the painting.
Was art preservation as good here as it was in the United States? No. The answer was no. Victor would have to introduce them to lamination. But in the meantime, Yuuri’s favorite painting, the reason they were here, was absolutely ruined, and Victor was befuddled on how his plans could go so wrong, yet again.
“Shit,” Victor said.
“Oh no,” Yuuri said. He addressed the woman. “Are you all right?”
“Well,” she said, looking at the painting, “I could be better.” She left to go inform the workers, tears in her eyes.
This museum trip had gone wrong, terribly wrong. Victor scrambled for a way to rectify the mistake. “Let’s go to the gift shop.”
Yuuri complied, looking confused at Victor’s rapid subject change.
They left the museum holding a print of the ruined painting, as it was the best Victor could do.
“I feel bad for that lady AND the artist,” Yuuri said. “That sucks. Oh well. They still sell these prints. So it isn’t gone.”
“Sorry,” Victor said. “I messed up again.”
“How? You can’t control every little thing. It’s not something to apologize for.”
“Do you like your print?”
“Victor, I love it. Thank you.” Yuri clutched the print, a small smile on his face. He reached out to take Victor’s hand, but Victor had forged ahead, fretting about the next event, wondering what catastrophe could come next.
Yuuri loved Italian food. Victor reserved a table in his favorite restaurant. Upon realizing where they were eating, Yuuri cheered.
Victor couldn’t be so carefree. After all that had gone wrong tonight, something had to be wrong here. Even as they ordered, Victor’s concentration centered on any possible flaws the restaurant could have. Yuuri, across the table, watched Victor, concern on his face.
Nothing wrong so far. Salt in the salt shakers, drinks untainted, and all necessary silverware on the table. Still, his unease remained.
Their food arrived, and Victor took one last moment to survey the restaurant before he dug in. His paranoid scanning of the restaurant paid off, as he met eyes with a rat emerging from a tiny hole in the wall.
“A RAT!” Victor screamed, pointing. He felt a mixture of satisfaction and disgust. The whole restaurant became an uproar, as waiters rushed to capture the rat and people leapt onto their chairs.
Yuuri froze, his first bite halfway to his mouth. His lips pursed and he set it down, uneaten.
Victor spent the whole way home googling recipes. He dashed inside and sat Yuuri down on the couch.
“Okay, Yuuri,” Victor said. “Wait here.” He rushed into the kitchen, beaming. The day was saved, just barely, by what little he’d learned from the food network.
Him and Yuuri ate across from each other, candles lit. It felt nice being here together, just the two of them. Yuuri ate every bite, exclaiming at how delicious it was. Finally, Victor thought, things were going alright. Now it was time for the crowning jewel.
Victor emerged from the kitchen with the cake, 25 candles twinkling, embedded in the frosting.
Yuuri’s eyes widened. “Victor, when did you do that?”
“When you were asleep.” Victor smiled.
“Thank you,” Yuuri said, looking genuinely touched. His eyes shone.
He took a bite of the slice Victor cut for him. “It’s delicious!” His cheeks were ruddy. Adorable, Victor thought.
“It better be, I woke up at three for this.”
Yuuri made a face at him. “Go to bed.”
“I’ll die first.”
“You will if you don’t go to bed.”
“I’ll go to bed if you do,” Victor said. “I wanna cuddle.”
Yuuri itched his neck. His cheeks had progressed past a light blush to a swollen scarlet. He laughed.
He wheezed, “Victor?”
“Yuuri, what- are you okay!?”
“Peanuts?” He choked out.
“In the cake? Yes!”
“God.” Yuuri stumbled down the hall.
Victor was horrified. In all of his efforts to give Yuuri the best birthday (which failed), all his excitement about baking a cake, he didn’t even check if Yuuri had allergies. And now… WAS YUURI GOING TO DIE? Victor dashed after Yuuri, frantic, calling, “Yuuri? YUURI?”
Yuuri was sitting on their bed, injecting himself with an epipen. “I’ll be fine,” He said, his eyes watery.
“We need to get you to the hospital!”
“Victor, it’s not that serious, I don’t have to-”
“I still can’t believe you didn’t tell me about the peanut allergy,” Victor said, shaking his head.
“It wasn’t important! I didn’t want to bother you.”
“You could have died!”
“I told you already, it’s a mild allergy!”
Victor knew that by now, but he was more uncomfortable with the notion of not knowing everything there was to know about Yuuri. “Well,” said Victor, affixing a tiny peanut sticker to the page, “What’s done is done. Next time I’ll make you a peanut free cake.”
Yuuri snuggled into Victor. His head sat on Victor’s chest, feeling the rise and fall of his breath. “You’ll even do the dishes after?”
“Always, for you.”
Yuuri’s 25th Birthday, Continued
Victor sat in the waiting room, fidgeting, distressed. A stack of shredded paper sat on the table next to him, brochures from the wall that fell victim to his stress. When Yuuri went into the room, he told Victor to stay there, which he resented, because he wanted to know how Yuuri was doing RIGHT NOW.
Yuuri emerged from the examination room, his face significantly less red. Victor leaped up and rushed to Yuuri.
“Yuuri! How are you?”
He enfolded Yuuri in a hug. “I’m so sorry! I’ll never feed you peanuts again!”
Yuuri returned the hug, chuckling at Victor’s dramatics.
They called a cab home and piled into the backseat.
“I still feel bad,” Victor said.
“Victor! You’ve felt bad all day. Stop. I’m fine.” Yuuri laced his fingers with Victor’s.
“It’s not fine!”
“Yes, it is!”
“But I ruined your birthday! The carriage, and the museum, and the restaurant-“
“-Aren’t important,” Yuuri softly interjected. “I’m happy because I spent my day with you. Besides, you did the dishes.”
“Yuuri,” Victor said, his eyes filling with tears at how unbelievably lucky he was. He collapsed on top of Yuuri, showering him with kisses.
“If you could keep the PDA to a minimum, that’d be great,” said the cabbie, looking annoyed.
They sat apart for the rest of the ride home, shooting each other longing looks, like embarrassed schoolkids.
The night ended much more calmly than the day had passed. They sat and watched movies, growing more and more tired, and more and more close, until they couldn’t discern whose limbs were whose. Then, they fell asleep.
“I have a picture for you to add, actually,” Yuuri said. He handed it to Victor.
It was Victor, fast asleep, his head on Yuuri’s lap. A hand, presumably Yuuri’s, stroked his hair.
“When did you take that?”
“Before I fell asleep and after you did.”
“You- oh man. I don’t remember any of this. Wish I did.”
“You were so tired from making that cake,” Yuuri said. “I didn’t want to wake you up. Besides, you’re cute when you’re asleep.”
“Yuuri-“ Victor was touched.
“Especially because you’re quiet for once.”
Victor was not so touched.
“I love you,” Yuuri said, giggling.
Victor put his oh so wounded feelings and the scrapbook on his lap aside. “I love you too, Yuuri.” He pulled Yuuri onto his lap and kissed his ear.
“Just you wait ‘til your next birthday,” he whispered.