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On Our Love: Victor Nikiforov

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What am I supposed to do now?

A five time world champion. It's a huge honor, of course, and I appreciate that. But I've found, over the years that, with honor, comes expectation. I've always been able to surprise people with bold new programs. Every year, I rip up what I did before, and I do something different. I think of a story I want to tell, and I have music composed to tell it. I design moves that work with the music to create the elaborate illusion that will enthrall the audience. A figure skater is a performer, someone who entertains others by showing them original creations.

The one thing the audience never sees…is me.

It was easy to do this before. When I was younger and just another Russian skater with notable talent, no one knew what to expect from me, and that made it easy for me to find stories to tell and to grip people's senses with exciting music and visually stunning moves that my younger body could do. Costume design was easier too, because there were no expectations there either. I could create anything I wanted to. It was a joy to do that. But, at the time, I didn't realize that each new program grew a hunger in my audience to see something new and different from me.

And there was something else that was happening with each new program. Little bits of me were escaping. Patterns began to appear in my work, little flashes of me that escaped into my work. With so many eyes on me, I was revealing more and more of myself. In public appearances and interviews, I was being displayed, and all of a sudden, it mattered what I did, both on and off the ice. As soon as I became aware, I knew I had to do something.

So, I started to weave an illusion for everyone to see. No matter how I felt inside, I smiled every time I went out in public. I never turned down a request for a photo with a fan, or to encourage other skaters who competed with me. I crafted an illusion even more grand than any of my performances

It worked perfectly…until the first time I fell in love.

People get mesmerized by a good performer, and I was good in my performances, so I had plenty of people interested in me. To be honest, I was flattered when they started calling me the world's hottest bachelor. Who wouldn't like that? It feels good to be desired. And to have so much desire focused on me was intoxicating. But, there was something I didn't realize at first, when I was accepting invitations and indulging in those first few romances. Unfortunately for me, and for the women I dated, they were falling in love with the fantasy I had created. It wasn't really their fault. It was the performance that snared them, and then, the public image I created that made them think the man beneath the performance would be even more enthralling.

The only way that equation could end is with disappointment. A good performer learns to give a flawless performance, and then, the audience expects flawlessness. How disappointing must it have been for those women to realize that I get up early every day, that I go immediately to work and concentrate all of my effort on the next performance, to the exclusion of everything else? I barely have time to give a few minutes to Maccachin every day, and I was trying to include a romantic partner too? Of course those relationships failed. I was giving so much effort to my work that I wasn't physically or emotionally available to anyone…not even to myself.

I stopped having romantic relationships once I realized that. Now, I go out for fun, but I never take anyone home with me. Okay, sometimes, I want to, but I haven't gotten physical with anyone in the past five years. Although I want take someone home because I am lonely and it makes that lonely feeling go away for a little while, I need more and more to focus on my work, now that I am struggling with my motivation. As long as I let my work keep my mind busy, I won't think about the fact that even the idea of physical love feels empty and unreal.

God, I am losing my motivation.

And once my motivation is gone, I am as good as dead.

I won't think about that. I will just do what I've always done and concentrate on my new programs. I have the music for my short program. On Love. If I could just decide which story I want to tell…Eros or Agape?

At first, I thought Eros, because I could think of plenty of good moves and I know how to rile people with music and motion. But, if I wanted to surprise my audience, then I shouldn't go with something they would expect from me, should I? So, I also began to create moves to go with the more innocent Agape. It actually wasn't bad, but then Yakov said something that he never had before.

"You're too old for that, Vitya. Maybe when you were a younger skater, you could do something like that, but you are twenty-seven, not fifteen. It would surprise them, but maybe not in the way you want to surprise them.

It's been a long time since I felt humiliated like that.

Now, I just don't know what to…

Hmm? A message from Georgi?

Victor, take a look at this!

Yuuri Katsuki takes a crack at Victor's Free Skate program?

What?

I remember Yuuri Katsuki, of course. The Japanese skater who qualified for the Grand Prix Final for the first time this year. I remember seeing him in some of the preliminary competitions. He wasn't bad when he wasn't nervous, but the pressure is sometimes too much for some skaters. I felt bad for him, because he's good on the ice, and he wasn't able to show his best. He looked humiliated when I saw him leaving the arena, so I offered to take a photo with him. He looked heartbroken and just walked away.

Yuuri has a reputation for choking in competition, so it's hard to know how good he really is. It's hard to know anything about him, because no one knows him. He doesn't talk to the other skaters. He doesn't socialize…although…once he was drunk enough at the banquet after the final, he socialized plenty. He's a very good dancer. I had the pleasure of dancing with him and being dramatically dipped at the end. I was pretty shocked when he grabbed me and said if he won the next dance off, he wanted me to be his coach. But, Yuuri was very intoxicated. He couldn't have been serious. Being a good skater doesn't mean that I would be a good coach, and I know nothing about Yuuri Katsuki's potential as a skater. It wouldn't be a good idea.

Still…there's something about him. I wonder who took this video. I wonder if he knew it was happening.

He can't have known. I've never seen Yuuri Katsuki skate like this…like the music is inside him and flowing out of him as he moves. His step sequence is better than mine…and I'm the one who made this program. I won my fifth world championship with it. How is he…?

He can land these jumps?

He's landing them perfectly, one after the next! Everything is there, that lovely expression on his face that says he loves the music and every move, the flawless execution that we never see in his competitions! He has to have trained on this tirelessly, and over months to be able to do this so well.

Why?

Why did he do that?

Why my program?

Why, Yuuri?

Damn it! What is going on with him?

What's going on with me? My mouth has gone dry. My heart is pounding. His performance riled me that much? I'm feeling something inside that I haven't felt for too long.

I feel inspired!

It's like going back to that moment at the banquet, when Yuuri was drunk and he forgot his humiliation. He danced with me, then he put his arms around me and he asked me to be his coach. My head knows he would never have done that if he hadn't been drunk, but I can't look at this performance and not do something…because…more than anything right now, I want to compete with the skater I see in this video!

How can I do that?

I've heard that Yuuri stopped training with Celestino. The rumors are flying that he's going to quit skating. I can't look at this and not do something. I have to do something. I want to skate with Yuuri in competition again! Only this time, I want to see him skate like this!

How do I do that?

I hear Yuuri's drunken voice in my head, asking me to be his coach. It's spooky and echoing, and it's making my heart pound even harder. My heart that was feeling so empty before, suddenly feels full! What should I do?

Should I?

No, that's just crazy, isn't it?

I can't just drop everything, leave competition, leave Russia, go to Japan and be his coach, can I?

"What do you think, Maccachin?" I ask my old poodle.

Maccachin wags his tail and whines a little. He's a dog, and he probably knows I'm crazy to be thinking about doing this. But the truth is…if I stay here, and I keep doing what I'm doing, I am going to lose my motivation and my career will be over. The only way that I can help myself is to help this Japanese skater, who just inspired me. I guess if I wanted to surprise people, this will surprise them.

It will be a surprise to Yuuri too.

I wonder how he'll take it.

Oh, so I've decided to do this?

It takes me by surprise, as I begin to make inquiries and plans, that it's not so hard to drop everything and go to him. He's home in Hasetsu, probably wondering how he'll go on. I'm going to go there to answer that question. I've never been a coach, but right now, I can't be a figure skater either. I have one goal in mind and that's to make Yuuri Katsuki return to skating and win the next Grand Prix Final. If he can do that, then I know he'll keep skating!

It takes a few days, and Yakov swears first that he's going to kill me for being so reckless, then he threatens me that I can never come back if I do this. He doesn't understand that I was already dying on the inside. I was losing my inspiration, and my future as a skater was already a question mark. What I'm doing now, by getting on this plane and flying to Japan is I am saving my career and Yuuri's. I won't think about anything else. Just that. What could go wrong, right?

It's a long flight, and I have plenty of time to come to my senses, but I don't. And the next thing I know, I am stepping off the plane, picking up Maccachin and telling the airline where to send my things. I take a cab to Yutopia Katsuki and arrive late morning. Strangely, even though it's April, there's snow coming down. Maccachin gives me a look like he thinks I'm a little bit off my rocker, and he follows me inside, where an older Japanese man greets me. He greets me in Japanese, the switches to English when he realizes we have that language in common.

"Yuuri?" he says in response to my inquiry, "I think he's still sleeping, but he'll be along soon. Why don't you go and have a soak in the hot spring while you're waiting for him? It's that way. Here, take a robe for after."

"Thank you. I will."

I follow his directions and in moments, I find myself in a place more heavenly than any I've been in for a very long time! It's nice to soak in a tub. I have a lovely one at home, but it just doesn't compare to this one at all! The whole room is decorated to give it a homey, comfortable feel. It's simple, but in a way that just makes your barriers fall. I'm naked in a second and sinking down into the hot water, breathing in the lazily drifting steam and feeling the tension leak out of my body, leaving me completely at ease.

I can slow down and think now.

No, not here.

Thinking isn't possible right now.

Oh god, this feels so very good!

"Victor?"

I didn't even see him come in.

Yuuri's panting like he ran at top speed to get in here. He's flushed, maybe from exertion, from the heat of the room, or maybe because I stood up to get a better look at him, and now I'm standing in front of him, totally naked. It's a little bit of payback maybe, for him undressing and dancing with everyone so provocatively at the banquet. He's staring at me so wide-eyed.

"What are you doing here?" he asks, so softly I can barely hear him.

"Hello, Yuuri," I greet him, giving him my best smile, "starting today, I'm going to be your new coach. You're going to the Grand Prix Finals, and you're going to win!"

I give him a sexy wink to seal the deal.

He howls out something that sounds like "What?" then he stares at me like he can't think of an answer.

"Come on in," I invite him, sitting back down in the hot water.

"N-no," he stammers, "I uh…I'll wait outside for you."

"Yuuri…"

He's out the door again before I can say anymore. I guess this could be a little bit of a challenge. I did take him by surprise, so I should probably try to calm him down. He does suffer from sensitive nerves. I take my time bathing, then walk out to the changing room, where I find him sitting on a bench, waiting as promised, but he looks so nervous, I know we won't get anywhere until he calms down. I put on the robe that Yuuri's father gave me, and he takes me to a room with a low table that has a meal already laid out for me.

"I didn't know what you would like, so I had them bring a variety of things to try," he tells me.

The smells coming up from the table are so heavenly and the food is all steaming and hot, like the hot spring was. I'm a little sleepy from the long trip, but I'm starving, so I dive in and eat to my heart's content. I'm not skating now, right? I can be a little indulgent. Besides, I'll still be skating while I train Yuuri.

I'm kind of surprised that Yuuri doesn't ask me any questions. He just sits there, watching me eat and looking at me like he's not sure I'm really here. I did give him a pretty big shock, so I let him stare. I'm used to people watching me, so it doesn't bother me at all anymore. Yuuri's still blushing, even though we're in a cool room now.

Oh, my top's open quite a bit…

I think I might be blushing a little too.

So, is Yuuri attracted to me?

I didn't think about that at all. I didn't think about what might have made him spend months learning my free skate. Maybe I just thought it was hero worship or that he was challenging himself. I did wonder why he picked my program, but I didn't think it through.

What if Yuuri is attracted to me? I've never had a relationship with another man. I did think he was cute at the banquet. I reacted to him when he grabbed me after we had danced together. I'm twenty-seven. I know what it will probably be like if we have sex, and it doesn't bother me. I'm kind of curious. But, I don't think we're going there anytime soon, and that's fine with me. This isn't about starting a romance. I want to skate with Yuuri again in competition. That is my goal. I will give him whatever he needs to reach that point. And if my love is what Yuuri needs, then I will give him that.

Right now, it looks like Yuuri's going to need time to just grasp that I came here and that I'm going to coach him.

He looks like if I blow a little in his direction, he might fall over.

Let's just let him adjust.

I turn all of my attention to savoring every last bite of the food he put in front of me. I don't think I've ever eaten so much, but everything just tastes so good and I can't stop myself, so pretty soon, the food and sake are gone, and I'm so tired, I ask for a pillow and just lie down right there. I fall into what feels like the deepest, most relaxing sleep I've had in twenty years.

I don't know what's going to happen, but I do know one thing.

I love Hasetsu already!