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dress me up in you

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The idea first enters Viktor’s mind at a grocery store in Hasetsu.

 

Mari is busy trying to mentally calculate the price differential between the six versus ten pork cutlet packets when her attention is drawn by a soft gasp and the faint tug of fingers grasped in her sleeve. “Please tell me Yuuri wore outfits like that.”

 

Mari glances up at Viktor and follows his dewy-eyed gaze to a grubby-handed toddler clinging to the hem of his Mother’s skirt a few displays over. He’s dressed in baby blue overalls with a bear face embroidered on the pocket. It doesn’t do much to detract from his vociferous wailing from what Mari can only assume to be a tantrum over denied sweets, but on a scale of giant centipedes to grumpy blonde Russians, it’s cute. Kind of.

 

Mari shrugs, sighing as she regains her focus and tries to remember where she left off on the sale to coupon to membership card computations. “He’d pretty much wear whatever Kaasan picked out for him.”

 

“Pictures?” Viktor takes the packets of pork from her hands, placing one in the cart and the other back on the display. “That one’s the better deal.”

 

Mari raises an eyebrow but doesn’t comment. “It’ll cost you.”

 

“Mevius?”

 

Mari’s features relax into a smug smile. If she’s destined to have another brother, at least this one is quick on the uptake.

 

“He’d wear whatever I laid out for him,” Hiroko confirms later that evening. She and Viktor sit at the kitchen table, huddled over stacks of pastel baby albums—long-cooled tea and daifuku at their elbows.

 

“I wondered where these had gone,” Hiroko rests her cheek in her hand, wistfully trailing her finger around the yellowing edge on a snapshot of baby Yuuri chewing a banana peel.

 

Viktor can just make out the embers from Mari’s cigarette outside the kitchen window. He turns his eyes back to the album and flips the page, clasping his hand over his mouth to suppress a squeal at the sight of a roughly two-year-old Yuuri reaching for a sippy cup with a fluffy, dog-eared sweatshirt and a bare bottom.

 

Hiroko looks over at Viktor’s find, shaking her head with a fond smile. “I could never get that child to keep his diaper on.”

 

Viktor reflects on Yuuri’s sweaty, scantily clad body grinding against him amidst a throng of their colleagues and various other important figures of their field and barely manages to hold back a comment about how some things never change.

 

“Ah, look, Vicchan!” Hiroko slides an album across the table, nearly knocking over the tea in her excitement. “This was right before Yuuri left for Detroit.”

 

“He looks so handsome.” Viktor touches his index finger to his lips, wishing not for the first time that their paths could’ve crossed earlier.

 

“It took me ages to find the right clothes,” Hiroko says. “The winters are much colder there, you know.”

 

“You were still dressing him at that age?”

 

“Oh yes,” Hiroko confirms, starting to stack the used plates. “All that boy ever cared about was skating and Vicchan.”

 

“His dog?” Viktor gathers up the cups, depositing them next to Hiroko at the counter.

 

Viktor can just make out a small smile in the corner of Hiroko’s mouth when she lowers the dishes into the sink. “Mmhmm.”

 

“Yuuri,” Viktor says weeks later when they’re back home in Russia. He’s flipping through fabric samples on the couch, the lamplight gleaming off his reading glasses. “What are your feelings on chambray?”

 

Yuuri glances up from his game, clenching his toes on Viktor’s thigh. “I thought we already decided on an open bar for the wedding?”

 

Viktor observes him for a moment—the collar of the sweatshirt stolen from Viktor’s closet dipping low on his chest, revealing the swooping dip of his clavicle. “That’s right—” he rubs Yuuri’s ankle, trailing his fingers up the curve of his calf—“must’ve slipped my mind.”

 

A few months into their marriage, Viktor strikes. He lays out the chosen outfit while Yuuri is in the shower: a soft blue button up, heathered to match the cuffs of Viktor’s own top, and a casual jacket the same color as Viktor’s slacks. He waits with bated breath on the bedroom bench, pretending to be occupied with his phone when Yuuri finally exits the bathroom, toweling off his hair.

 

Yuuri drops his towel on the floor—a habit that would normally make Viktor cringe, but is completely forgotten when Yuuri reaches for the laid out top without question, slipping it from the wood hanger.

 

Yuuri starts to button the shirt, pauses halfway down to look at Viktor. “What?”

 

Viktor honest to god jumps. He shakes his head, glancing back down at his phone. “Nothing,” he clears his throat, “just thinking.”

 

“Oh!” Yuuri gasps and Viktor’s head jolts back up with alarm. He’s certain he’s been found out this time, but Yuuri just zips up the waist of his slacks and bends to the floor. “The towel, right?” He holds it up triumphantly, smiling—his wet hair tangled in messy curls around his face.

 

Viktor kind of really wants to kiss him, but he doesn’t want Yuuri climbing out of the outfit he worked so hard to get him in.

 

“I’ll remember eventually, I promise,” Yuuri winks, carrying it back to the bathroom, nodding. “No towels on the floor.”  

 

Viktor becomes more brazen after that. He adds hats and pocket squares, bow ties and scarves, all in coordinating patterns and colors until his and Yuuri’s couple’s outfits comprise the vast majority of their collective wardrobes.

 

Yuuri never says a word. Partially, Viktor likes to think, because he’s kept Yuuri’s tastes in mind—populating their outfits with plenty of soft knits and cuffed pants. But also, he knows, because—as his sister and mother-in-law had asserted—Yuuri really, truly does not care.   

 

It isn’t until a few months down the line when Yuuri has an after-brunch facetime call with Yurio that Viktor suspects anyone even notices. He watches Yuuri over a pile of mail at the kitchen table, his head in his hand—covertly admiring his husband’s ensemble of salmon suspenders and custom poodle-printed sport shirt.

 

“No, no, the music’s okay, just—” Yuuri rubs his earlobe, a pained look in his eyes.

 

“Fine. Whatever. I’ll keep looking,” Yurio groans, then pauses, leaning towards the webcam with squinted eyes. “By the way, what the hell are you wearing?