Yuuri leans down to take off his shoes in the entryway, setting them by the door neatly before he walks into the apartment.
“I’m home,” he calls out, slipping his backpack off his shoulders carefully and holding it to his chest, the jars inside tinkling against each other as he moves.
“In the living room,” Phichit shouts back, and Yuuri makes a small detour towards him on his way to his bedroom. He pokes his head inside, meaning to just say hi and move on, but Phichit says, “Victor’s on TV again.” And almost without meaning to Yuuri finds himself stepping into the living room and sitting down on the couch next to Phichit.
Victor’s face fills the screen, smile blinding, hair perfectly parted as he lightheartedly exchanges back and forth with the show host. It didn’t take a lot for the public to flock to Victor after the Revelation. He’s the perfect picture of what a god should look like, tall, muscled, with his silver hair that looks like spilled moonlight and his warm blue eyes, his perfect smile with a mouth of perfect teeth.
Victor is the personification of beauty. He’s breathtaking, ethereal in a way that people are immediately drawn to-.
Yuuri has been watching him exist for years and years and years, and it still hits him like a bolt of lightning, electrifying each of his nerve endings, how gorgeous Victor is.
“What’s this?” Yuuri asks, trying to make sense of the host’s and Victor’s conversation.
“She’s been trying to get him to talk about his love life and Victor has been swerving her,” Phichit tells him.
Yuuri watches for a bit as Victor maneuvers the conversation from his love life to talking about his darling dog Makkachin, who he has to mention every single interview, for at least two full minutes. At this point Yuuri thinks if Victor didn’t talk about his dog at least once, the universe would tilt off its axis.
“ Makkachin was the best gift anyone could ever give me. I have no idea where I’d be without him ,” Victor is saying, earnest in a different way than he normally is.
“ A gift from who? Everyone is dying to know where you got an immortal dog. And such a cute one! ” The host is smiling widely, leaning forward, eager for any scrap of information that is new .
Victor puts a finger in front of his lips and gives the camera a cheeky glance, winking. “ It’s a secret .”
Yuuri can feel the disappointment of the live audience through his screen. Victor, for how often he does public appearances, for how close he is with humans, and how large a following he’s gathered, holds his cards very close to his chest, and in the centuries since the Revelation, hasn’t let humanity or anyone else be privy to his personal life.
No one knows where Makkachin, his seemingly immortal and ever energetic poodle came from. No one knows what feats he accomplished as a human to ascend to divinity, they only know that he used to be human and now he is not. He hasn’t been for a very, very long time. No one even knows what he’s the god of. All they know is that Victor is a god because how could he not be.
It’s been speculated for dozens upon dozens of years. Books have been written about this great mystery, studies are being made, historians try to dig deeper and deeper into their records to find the answer as to what kind of god Victor is.
Some say the god of victory. It’s in his name and that’s why everyone around him succeeds. Others say the god of beauty or elegance, the god of good fortune itself, the god of love…
It’s something only the older deities involved in Victor’s ascension are privy to, and certainly not something someone like Yuuri would get to know.
“Good harvest today?” Phichit asks when the host of the show announces they’re cutting to a break.
Yuuri gets back up, backpack still held tight against his chest. “Yeah. As good as I can hope for.” He hikes the bag up in his arms, adjusting his grip and the jars clink against each other softly again. “I’m going to put these away, if Victor is still there after the break, call me.”
“Sure. Go do your cool magic shit.”
“It’s not magic,” Yuuri tells him over his shoulder, as he walks towards his room.
Technically Yuuri doesn’t need to sleep. He needs to rest, from time to time, but he doesn’t need to sleep like normal humans do, so instead of a bed there’s just a futon pushed against one of the walls of his room. The rest of the space is occupied by shelves and bookcases, by a couple beanbag chairs and a TV that stands in a crate next to a couple of consoles, and by origami.
There are little paper constructions everywhere , overflowing from shelves, and bowls, on the floor, hanging near the ceiling.
Yuuri puts down his bag on top of the futon and starts taking out the jars, lining them up on the floor. He starts with the ones that are filled with paper stars. They’re the easiest and the most traditional to make, so a lot of his offerings come in the form of little colourful stars made of different types of papers.
He unscrews the lid of the first jar and cradles it between his hands, sitting cross-legged on the floor and making sure his back is straight. Slowly he breathes in and out, centering himself until he can feel the energy trapped in the folds of paper warm beneath their hands, and slowly each of the paper stars floats from the jar and finds a space above Yuuri among all the other stars Yuuri has collected, slowly rotating and drifting about.
Yuuri wishes they would glow so he could look up in pitch darkness and see every single star suspended on his ceiling, but paper does not glow, and the best he can get are some gold foil stars that reflect light if he leaves a lamp on. Those are his favourite when it comes to stars.
Yuuri repeats this with the other jars full of stars, and then moves on to the bigger jar full of paper cranes. It was a big wish, so the offering has to match. There must be around two hundred paper cranes of varying sizes in that jar and Yuuri picks up each of them, inspecting their wings for damage before he softly blows on them and lets them take flight to wherever they please in his room.
As soon as he’s done, he lays down, careful not to trample any of the dozens of paper frogs that hop around his floor, and just lets himself feel the energy flow, lets it fill his chest up, warm its way to his veins.
If Yuuri didn’t require an offering for granting wishes, he wouldn’t be better than a genie. In some ways he’s worse, because his favours require effort. They require diligent and constant wanting. It’s a hassle. There are easier deities to ask for favours, and Yuuri is grateful to every single person who takes the time and effort to ask him for something, to believe in him .
“Yuuri! He’s back on!” Phichit shouts from the living room, and Yuuri pushes off the floor and slowly makes his way there, closing the door behind him and making sure no little construction escapes from his room. It’s a nightmare whenever he leaves the door open. They immediately try to take over the entire house.
Yuuri sits back on the couch and watches Victor, half listening to Phichit’s running commentary of what is happening, and pretends he can’t feel a familiar uncomfortable itchiness settling under his skin. Someone, somewhere is making an offering and waiting for Yuuri to collect. He’ll only be able to ignore it so long before he becomes too uncomfortable and has to go over to check, wherever in the world that may be.
There’s a spot under his chest that aches the longer he ignores it until it’s unbearable, but that can wait. For now, he puts up with it, and gets his breath stolen away by Victor.
Victor’s on television again, smiling brightly at the camera with Makkachin sitting dutifully at his feet, tail thumping rhythmically. He’s so beautiful it makes something in Yuuri’s chest clench painfully, and he touches his hand to it, uselessly trying to soothe away the pain.
It never works, but still Yuuri tries, fingers pressing just beneath his breastbone and rubbing in circular motions.
This is the quietest truth Yuuri doesn’t dare to speak: he’s hollow inside. There’s a piece of Yuuri missing and he does not remember where it went. He remembers being Created in some forgotten little town in Japan a millennia or two ago by a little girl who thought the stars were falling and so she gathered everyone in her village to fold new stars out of paper and put them back in the sky. Yuuri remembers vividly first being aware that he was. That he simply was .
He remembers some of his first centuries, but not a lot. Yuuri is older than a lot of deities, he’s older than a lot of civilizations and his memory is bad for how old he is and for the gaping hole he has in it.
He remembers coming to be and being whole and carrying out his duties as he was supposed to, trading miracles for human devotion covertly, and then there’s a blank and Yuuri does not know what happened to him, he only knows there is a part of his essence missing and there is an ugly scar beneath his breastbone.
He doesn’t even know how long this gaping void in his existence went on for. He only knows that it must’ve been long enough for Victor to have ascended to divinity and for the gods to reveal themselves to humanity and start carrying out their affairs publically.
“How did you get the idea for this year’s theme?” the host asks, as Victor guides him through the lavish ballroom where this year’s gala will take place.
“Origami is something I’ve always had an interest in,” Victor says as the camera slowly covers the expanse of the ballroom where hundreds and hundreds of tiny stars hang by thin, almost transparent wires from the ceiling. “And I had all of these around gathering dust, so I figured I should give them a better use.”
Yuuri stops breathing.
“You made all these?” the host asks, sounding stunned.
“I did. It’s a bit of a nervous habit,” Victor smiles a little, puts a finger to his lips and winks. “Don’t tell anyone,” he says cheekily to the camera.
Yuuri’s chest clenches so painfully he curls a little on himself, struggling for a minute to breathe through the pain and through the sudden violent need to touch all those stars Victor has diligently folded and see what emotions are trapped inside.
But Yuuri won’t be able to, because every year as an invitation arrives for Phichit to attend the gala, Yuuri pointedly does not get one.
“Thank you! Would you care to see the rest?” Victor asks, gesturing to the rest of the decorations. The host quickly follows.
Yuuri stares unblinkingly at his television for a couple more minutes, still trying to catch his breath and find his center of balance again. He rubs his fingers over his chest in gentle circles and breathes.
Harvesting offerings is draining on a regular day – just the teleporting takes a lot out of Yuuri – add in a noisy friend who somehow manages to pinpoint exactly where Yuuri had teleported to every single time, and Yuuri is exhausted before he’s even halfway through his rounds.
Yuuri cradles yet another mason jar full of stars and closes his eyes trying to focus.
“You could come as my plus one,” Phichit says, poking around the room they’re currently in.
“No, Phichit,” Yuuri says dismissively, not sparing him more than half a thought, as he watches most of the stars float softly around the jar, filled with diligent dreaming, enough of a tribute for Yuuri to grant this person’s wish, even if a couple of stars stick to the bottom and don’t float at all, empty of intent.
“It’ll be fun! When was the last time you went?”
Yuuri takes one of his jars out of his backpack and with a flick of his wrist makes the stars float into it. He leaves the empty origami stars behind and puts the jar back in its place with care.
“What does it matter?” Yuuri asks, instead of saying I can’t remember because whenever he does, Phichit gets this pinched look on his face that Yuuri does not like.
“It matters because everyone thinks you’re dead.”
Yuuri touches his fingers to his chest, just under his breastbone. He almost was.
“How much longer are you going to hide, Yuuri?”
Yuuri takes his hand away from his chest and breathes out, and focuses on folding a flower out of red paper. It’s only fair after these people go through the effort of giving him something, that he would leave something of himself back.
“I’m not hiding. I’m just... avoiding.”
Yuuri doesn’t know, but there is something about being close to some of the older gods surrounded by gold and marble that feels very unsafe.
“You know I don’t like places with a lot of people,” Yuuri says and places the paper flower next to the mason jar. The wish is small enough that Yuuri can infuse the little flower with it. He teleports away as soon as he’s done to escape this conversation.
He gets about half a second of respite before a sense of unease creeps up his spine.
Yuuri frowns and takes in his surroundings for the first time.
He’s standing in a lavish ballroom with millions of paper stars hanging from the ceiling, somewhere wholly unfamiliar and yet familiar. He raises a hand towards one of the stars, doesn’t even touch it, and it starts rising up from its limp position on the string and hovering just above Yuuri’s hand. Yuuri can feel the emotions trapped between the creases of paper, the sadness and loneliness and heartbreak . So much of it trapped in such a small space that it makes Yuuri’s heart squeeze painfully. His chest hurts.
He’s jerked out of his trance by glass hitting the floor and shattering, and his head snaps towards the sound. Victor stands in the other end of the ballroom, glass and stars spilled at his feet as he looks directly at him.
“ Yuuri ,” he breathes out, his voice breaking on the last syllable, so filled with emotion. He says Yuuri’s name like a prayer, like he knows him. And Yuuri- Yuuri who has been observing Victor for so long, has no idea what to do with this.
Victor starts walking towards him. He doesn’t run but each of his steps covers more space than it should, as if in every fraction of a second he teleports a little forward. He’s getting so close, so fast and Yuuri doesn’t know what’s going on. He has never met Victor. He has no memory of this place, he doesn’t know why he’s here , and Victor is so close - closer than Yuuri ever thought he would get.
“Yuuri,” he says again in that terribly fragile voice.
“I’m sorry,” Yuuri starts just as Victor is raising his hand as if he’s about to take Yuuri’s face between his palms, as if he’s about to pull Yuuri closer. “But have we met before?”
Victor freezes. Yuuri can see his hands where they’re poised to touch him in his peripheral vision, and for a moment everything in the ballroom stands perfectly still, before Victor’s expression crumples.
Yuuri has been observing Victor since televisions were invented and he has never seen him with anything but a smile on his face, even if it was practiced, even if it was fake, Victor always smiles.
This leaves Yuuri feeling off-put and ill-footed, it makes a sense of dread swoop through his stomach as if he’s falling and falling and it won’t be pretty when he stops.
“ I’m sorry ,” he says again, with a little more feeling, and he is. Oh, he is, he is, he is . He doesn’t know what he did, but Victor has that awful heart-wrenching expression because of him and gods is he sorry.
“Oh, Yuuri,” Victor says, and curls his fingers into his palms slowly, as if it’s paining him to pull back. He lets his hands drop to his sides, and Yuuri almost wishes that he had pushed forward instead of pulling back.
The sense of familiarity is throwing Yuuri off. Victor knows him, and not like Yuuri knows Victor, not from seeing him from far away or through a screen. It’s in the way his body stands in relation to Yuuri’s, the way he says his name, as if his tongue is used to shaping those syllables, as if it has run by every intonation that Yuuri’s name could possibly have.
“I’m- I’m really sorry,” Yuuri says, forcing the words out through his constricting airways. He wants to put his fingers to his chest and soothe away the tightness there, but he’s afraid to move, he’s afraid him moving will trigger something and force them out of this standstill because what lays ahead is unfanthomly terrifying.
His words seem to push something in Victor and he slowly, oh so slowly, lifts one of his hands and raises it towards Yuuri’s cheek. Yuuri does not move, he just stares at Victor and holds his breath in anticipation. He can see Victor’s hand trembling so finely it’s almost imperceptible, but he can see it and then he can feel it against his cheek.
Victor’s hands are warm. For some reason, Yuuri didn’t expect them to be.
Yuuri had never thought it possible for someone to sound like heartbreak until Victor opens his mouth and says, “Oh, my Yuuri, what happened to you?”