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A Skater's Guide to Love and (Attempted) Murder

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FUSION NOTE:
This is a fusion with the musical "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder", which is based on the movie, "Kind Hearts and Coronets".  You don't have to have seen either for it to make sense, but it will add a extra layer if you have seen the musical or listened to the cast album.  (For example, most of the chapter titles and subtitles are songs/lyrics)


THANKS TO:
My LLYBB Artist, CaptainAdwen, who was of great encouragement during this whole process.  I couldn't have done this without her!  She also helped me nail down the non-canon costumes for Viktor and Yuuri. Pictures will be embedded but if you want an early peek at the pictures, check out these tumblr posts:   Picture 1   Picture 2


ADDITIONAL MATERIAL:
If you've read any of my long stories/series, ya'll know that I love charts and all sorts of extra data.  And as part of the plot revolves around World Standings, I've actually tracked this information for all of the skaters, including past performance years.  (Yes, it's just because the plot depends on it, not because I love stats.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)  I will be posting clips of the relevant stats along the way so you can see how Yuuri is doing, but in Chapter 50 (the Addendum) I will include more information about these stats and a download link if you want to see the complete sets for the two years.  Feel free to comment or email me if you want more info after reading that.  (Or that might just be my pathetic hobby.)  You can also google Figure Skating World Standings to get an idea of how they look in the real world. 

AU INFORMATION:
This is an AU based on show canon, but some events, and some key scenes or dialog, will occur differently or have different results for plot reasons.   Major non-spoiler differences are: 1) Yuuri knows about but doesn't remember the banquet from the start, and 2) Viktor doesn't retire and he skates Agape.   Because Viktor is in the GP series, some other skaters get moved around to accommodate him.  Yuri P.'s story gets changed significantly - remember in Ep. 10 when Viktor wondered if Yuri would have fought so hard if he hadn't retired?  Well, this is that story because Yuri's not Yakov's only hope for Russia, doesn't get Lilia as his choreographer, and skates to completely different programs.  He also doesn't follow Viktor to Hasetsu so he doesn't get the Yurio nickname yet.

As for the timeline, I know there are a lot of theories so I chose to make the Sochi Grand Prix happen in 2015, based on the meta from other obsessed YOI fans. 

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In an alternate universe, Yuuri Katsuki might have bombed the rest of his season following his failure at the Grand Prix Final. He might have returned home, then imitated Viktor’s routine thus winning his heart. With Viktor as his coach, and through the power of Love, Yuuri might have fought his way to the podium in the next Grand Prix Final.  

This isn’t that universe.  And in all fairness, I believe that I should issue -

 

A Warning to My Readers *

For those of you who are weak of constitution
For those of you who may be faint of heart
This is a tale of ruthless competition
So if you’re smart
Before I start
You’d best depart

An artist fainted on her ink
And a beta lost her wits
(Avoid Chapter Twenty-Three, I think!)
Blood may spill
And spines may chill
It’s ghastly - Still…

I thought you ought to know.
It’s only Chapter One,
The story’s just begun.
So for God’s Sake - Go!

* with apologies to Lutvak & Freedman

 

AUTHOR’S INTERPRETATION OF THE ABOVE LYRICS:

I am aware that it is very, very wrong for a skater to mess with another skater in a deliberate attempt to make them perform badly in competition. I’m old enough to remember the Tonya Harding scandal. It should go without saying that I don’t condone such practices.

However: this is a work of fiction, based on a musical in which the Protagonist is cheerfully murdering all the cousins standing between him and an Earldom - and you’re rooting for him the whole time ! So yes, Yuuri will be doing things that are a bit Not Good - and he’s going to get away with it. That’s part of the plot. However, Yuuri is only Dark ish Yuuri, so his victims are only partially damaged. If you’re willing to stroll down that garden path with me, then on to the next chapter! However, if you find it distasteful that Yuuri could be enough of a sore loser to do something morally wrong, then bail now. Don’t chastise me in the comments or I will point you back here.

You have been warned.

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Overture

Barcelona, December 2016


The slamming of the hotel room door behind Yuuri had the sound of finality, of a jail cell door clanging shut and locking him away forever.  He sank down on the bed, his legs turning to jelly as images tumbled through his mind.  Now would come the accusations, charges of bodily assault and attempted murder.  There would be shocked looks from his friends and family before they turned their backs on him, and then the grim face of the judge pronouncing sentence on him.  Prison.  His future and his reputation smashed to bits.  And for what?

For the dream of a chance to stand on the podium at the Grand Prix Final next to Viktor Nikiforov.

Yuuri groaned and dropped his face into his hands.  The golden glint on his finger caught his eye and he lifted his head, spread his fingers, and stared at the ring on his right hand, the only thing he had left.  For now, anyway.  How could he ever explain this to Viktor?  How could he make him understand why he’d done the things he had - these horrible and wicked things?  Even if no one else understood, it was suddenly important that he make sure that Viktor understood.

Yuuri rose from the bed and went to his bags, pulling out the notebook where he’d jotted down his plans over the past eight months. He sat down at the desk, opened to a clean page, and began to write:


 

A Skater’s Guide to Love and Murder

 

I woke up in my bed on the morning after the Sochi Grand Prix Final Gala, aware of two things.  First, my head ached and my mouth felt like I’d eaten old socks for dinner, which meant that I’d overindulged in alcohol the previous night.  That was ominous enough -- getting drunk brought out a side of me that was terrifyingly uninhibited.  There was no telling what Drunk-Yuuri had done while in possession of my body.

The second thing that I was aware of was that my phone was ringing, and that the name on the caller display was Viktor Nikiforov.

How did Viktor’s name come to be in my address book? And why was he calling ME?

There was no way that this was a good thing…

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You're A Skater!

Part 1: The Very Next Day

Sochi, December 2015

Yuuri woke up alone in a vaguely familiar hotel room, aware of two things.

First, his head ached and his mouth felt like he’d eaten old socks for dinner, which meant that he’d overindulged in alcohol the previous night. That was ominous enough: getting drunk brought out a side of him that was terrifyingly uninhibited. There was no telling what Drunk-Yuuri had done while in possession of his body. The only good thing was that he was fully dressed, except for his shoes, so he couldn’t have done something incredibly stupid -- like losing his virginity.

Second, there was a loud ringing sound in his ears, a sound that made his head ache even more.

He groaned and sat up, looking around for his phone and his glasses.  The noise resolved itself to the ring-tone from his phone and he picked it up, then dropped his phone as if had burned his fingers.

The name on the caller display was Viktor Nikiforov.

Yuuri picked the phone back up and stared at it in disbelief.  How did Viktor’s name come to be in his address book?  And why was he calling Yuuri?

Maybe it was a mistake, or a prank.  Yes, that was it.  Phichit must have programmed in a fake contact name with this number before Yuuri left Detroit and now he was calling to tease Yuuri in an effort to cheer him up.

Feeling reassured by this thought, Yuuri pressed the icon to accept the call.  “Hel - hello?”

“Good, you’re awake!”

The cheerful voice on the other end of the call wasn’t Phichit, or any of their other rink-mates.  It was, however, very familiar to Yuuri after years of worshiping at the altar of Viktor Nikiforov. He nearly dropped the phone again.

“Vik - Viktor?” Yuuri stammered, wincing at the way his voice squeaked at the end.  “Why - why are you calling me?”

There was a soft laugh.  “You don’t remember, do you? Good thing you warned me about this or my heart would be shattered. How are you feeling?”

“I - um - okay?”  Honesty made him add, “A little hung over.”

Another soft laugh.  “I’m not surprised, given the amount of champagne you drank last night.  It was impressive.  Take some aspirin, then shower and dress.  Meet me in the lobby in thirty minutes.  You are hungry?”

Viktor’s voice was firm, with the kind of authority to it that Yuuri had difficulty arguing with, so he didn’t.  “Um, yes?”

“Good.  I’m taking you to breakfast.  See you soon!”

The call disconnected and Yuuri stared at his phone blankly for several minutes.  Was that -  Had that really happened?  Had Viktor Nikiforov just set up a date with him ?

As that thought penetrated his hangover, Yuuri yelped and flung himself out of bed.  Aspirin, shower, he chanted to himself as he hurried into the bathroom and stripped off his clothes.  Dress - and why didn’t he have anything decent to wear?  He settled for his best pair of jeans and a blue pullover that at least disguised the weight he’d gained over the past two weeks.  A glance at the clock showed that he still had ten minutes left so he dashed back into the bathroom to brush his teeth and futilely attempted to do something with his hair.  It was hopeless and for a moment he contemplated the option of jumping out of the window.

No! It’s Viktor FUCKING Nikiforov and you DON’T stand him up, Yuuri!

He took a deep breath and that seemed to settle some of the butterflies in his stomach.  (Or maybe it was residual nausea from the hangover.)  Yuuri put on his shoes, grabbed his coat, and put his phone, room-key, and wallet in his pockets.  Then, with another deep breath, he opened his door and headed downstairs.

Viktor was already there, leaning against a pillar and looking like an advertisement for a suit costing more than Yuuri had ever earned in his entire life.  There was a politely bored look on his face - until he suddenly smiled and it was like the sun coming out from behind a cloud.  Yuuri reflexively turned to look behind him to see what had caught Viktor’s attention but couldn’t see anything obvious.  He took another deep breath and crossed the lobby to join Viktor.

“Am I - am I late?” Yuuri asked nervously.

“Right on time,” Viktor said.

He gave Yuuri one of those heart-shaped smiles of his and it made the butterflies take flight again, only this time it felt kind of…nice.  There must have been something wrong with Yuuri’s coat, though, because Viktor reached out to smooth down his collar and lapels.  Yuuri flushed, his heart beating faster at being so close to his idol, and he desperately wished that he could think of something clever to say.

“You mentioned breakfast?” he said, then could have kicked himself because that was such a stupid thing to say. It wasn’t like Viktor was going to forget - he’d been the one who’d invited Yuuri, after all.

“Da. Not here,” Viktor added, glancing around the busy lobby.  “I know a good place just around the corner.  Come.”

Viktor led the way out of the hotel into the bustling street outside.  He must have thought that the crowd would separate them for he grabbed Yuuri’s hand, and Yuuri was more than willing to let himself be towed down the street to a little cafe.  It didn’t look like someplace that Viktor would frequent but he opened the door without hesitating.  Delicious smells immediately surrounded them and Yuuri was embarrassed as his stomach let out a loud growl.  Viktor seemed amused by this and spoke quickly in Russian to the hostess; within a few minutes they were seated at one of the little tables.

“Shall I order for us both?” Viktor asked.  Yuuri glanced at the menu and, seeing that it was in Cyrillic, nodded.  Viktor glanced quickly over the items and gave their order to the waitress, and soon there was a hot pot of tea sitting on the table before them.

“So, before we talk, what do you remember of last night?” Viktor asked, pouring them each a cup.

Yuuri watched with fascination mixed with horror as Viktor stirred a spoonful of jam into his cup of tea. “Um, not much?” he said when Viktor looked up at him questioningly. “I had a couple of glasses of champagne - ”

“Sixteen.”

“Sixteen?” Yuuri repeated in horror.

“Mmmm.” Viktor smirked. “Impressive - and as a Russian I pride myself on my own ability to drink.”

Yuuri covered his face with his hands. “Oh my god…”

“And then there was the dancing.”

“Dancing?”  Yuuri began praying for a hole to open up and swallow him.  Now he knew why Viktor had asked him to breakfast.  Yuri Plisetsky had told him about the crying, and then there had been whatever embarrassing show he'd put on at the banquet.  Viktor was going to tell Yuuri that he was a disgrace to his fellow skaters, that he should quit, that he should forget he’d ever had a dream to compete in the Grand Prix.

“You are an amazing dancer, Yuuri.”

Yuuri’s head jerked up and his eyes met Viktor’s.  There was an odd expression on the other man’s face, but it was gone before Yuuri could blink.  He knew that his own expression had to be one of disbelief because Viktor immediately held out his phone.  The gallery was open and Yuuri couldn’t help looking through the pictures.  He did appear to be holding his own, dancing against the Russian Yuri - and was that Christophe half-naked on a pole and WAS THAT HIM??!!  He groaned and contemplated crawling under a rock and dying, but then the next pictures were of him and Viktor, and they looked good dancing together.

“I’ve never had so much fun at a banquet,” Viktor said, his voice so soft and warm that it made Yuuri blush with something that maybe felt like it might be happiness.  “But more importantly, you won the prize.”

“Prize?” he asked, bewildered by the apparent non-sequitur.

Viktor beamed at him from across the table.  “Of course!  I promised to be your choreographer next season if you won the dance-off.”

Yuuri stared at Viktor, stunned and nearly certain that he was being teased.  “You - you mean it?”

Viktor nodded, and the expression on his face was more serious than Yuuri had ever seen.  “However, for that to happen, you have to have a next season.  No quitting!  And you have to make it to Worlds so that we can discuss your program further.”

Worlds, Yuuri thought.  Which meant that he had to rank high in Japan’s Nationals, something that seemed impossible to contemplate.  He bit his lip and dropped his eyes again.  “I don’t know if I can,” he said miserably.  “I failed here.”

“Hardly a failure.  You made it to the Final - ”

Yuuri shook his head.  “My score was more than a hundred points below yours!  I was eighth in the world rankings before the Final. I’m probably lower now,” he added lowly.  The grief of losing Vicchan rose up again and tears filled his eyes.  “I failed.  I was mentally weak - ”

“Yuuri.”  Viktor’s voice was stern and Yuuri’s head jerked up automatically, his eyes widening.  “You’re not a weak person.  No one who knows you would ever think that.”  His face softened as he added, “If I’d lost Makkachin right before a skate - well, I don’t think I would have been able to compete at all.”

“I told you about that?” Yuuri said faintly, wondering what else he might have confessed to Viktor while Drunk-Yuuri had been in control of his mouth.

“Mmm.  While I was helping you to your room.”  Viktor took a sip of his tea, appearing to evaluate Yuuri over the top of the cup, and Yuuri couldn’t begin to imagine what he was seeing.  “The point is, Yuuri, that anyone can have a bad day.  It’s how we recover from our falls that makes the difference.”

Yuuri couldn’t think of anything to say in response to that, not in the face of the Viktor’s inexplicable belief in him.  Fortunately, their meal arrived and he was able to turn his attention to his food.

“So, what are your plans now?” Viktor asked. “You have Nationals in two weeks, da?”

Yuuri grimaced at that.  Two weeks wouldn’t be nearly enough time to rally himself, to fight off the downward spiral of anxiety.  Already he could feel the compulsion to cycle between eating and sleeping while trying to hide from the outside world.  “Celestino has us booked to fly back to Detroit tonight.  I guess he’ll want me to work on my programs a lot before Nationals.”

“Mmm,” Viktor said, frowning in thought.  “You should do well at your Nationals.  Your short program was good, and you should do better on the Free program without the shock of losing your  - ”

Yuuri flushed.  “I get anxious,” he said, interrupting Viktor.  “Sometimes it gets so bad that I nearly pass out, and I mess up all my jumps.”  His appetite suddenly disappeared and he stared miserably at his plate.  Any moment Viktor would decide that he wasn’t worth his time, would leave -

Slender fingers lifted Yuuri’s chin, lifted his face so that he had to meet Viktor’s eyes, until his face was quite, quite close to Viktor’s.  His eyes were so blue, so intense as they focused on him, and Yuuri couldn’t look away.

“I’ve seen the way you move, Yuuri,” Viktor murmured, his voice low and hypnotic.  “The way that the music flows through you.  You’re a good skater, Yuuri.  What will it take for you to show the whole world what I’ve seen?”

Yuuri swallowed and tried to think of something to say but words failed him.

“You know what would excite me, Yuuri?” Viktor purred, making his name sound more exotic than it ever had in his entire life.  “To see you standing beside me on the podium at the next Grand Prix final.  You can do that, can’t you, Yuuri?”

Before Yuuri could gather his scattered wits, there was a shout and a loud thump on the table that startled them apart.

“Hey! Old Man!”

Yuuri stared in shock (and a little relief) at Yuri Plisetsky as he stood scowling at Viktor.  Viktor didn’t seem fazed by the new arrival, sitting back in his seat and smirking at the young skater.

“You want something, Yura?” he asked.

“Yakov said to get your ass back to the hotel or the plane will leave without you,” Yuri snapped.  “And you better not be planning to create a better program for Katsuki than for me!” he added, glaring at Yuuri.

Viktor laughed.  “Okay, fine.  Just remember that you have to make the podium at Junior Worlds first.  Otherwise Yakov won’t let you make your Senior debut.”

“Not a problem,” Yuri growled.  Then he turned his glare back towards Yuuri.  “You better not screw up your Nationals and embarrass our name, Katsuki!  And if you quit before Worlds I’ll hunt you down and make you sorry!”  He turned on his heel and left in a cloud of teenage indignation.

Yuuri sat blinking and staring for a long moment, not exactly sure what had just happened.  Two days ago, Yuri Plisetsky had been telling him that he should quit, and now he was threatening to hunt him down if he did?  What had happened?  Did it have anything to do with Drunk-Yuuri and the banquet?

Viktor sighed and picked up his cup, draining the last of his tea, turning Yuuri’s attention back towards him.

“Sorry about that,” Viktor said as he pulled out his wallet and laid several bills on the table.  “Call me when you get back to your home rink and we’ll talk more.  Even better - record your practices and we’ll discuss them.”

And then, with a wink and a smile, Viktor was gone.

Yuuri sat at the table for a long moment, stunned and wondering how this was now his life.  He stared down at his breakfast and Viktor’s unfinished meal and contemplated eating every bite of both.  Then he recalled that he had a promise to keep, sighed, and pushed his plate away.

 

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Part 2: Led Astray?

 

Yuuri returned to the hotel to find that his coach had been looking for him and had worried when he didn’t find him in his room.

“Sorry, sorry,” Yuuri apologized as he pulled out his suitcase and began packing.  Normally he would have done this the previous night but his alcohol indulgence seemed to have changed a lot of his usual habits.  “I was having breakfast with Viktor.”

“Viktor?  Viktor Nikiforov?” Celestino asked, frowning.  “Why would you have breakfast with Nikiforov - unless…”  He looked around the room suspiciously.

Yuuri realized what he was implying and turned bright red.  “No! Viktor didn’t! He wouldn’t! I was drunk !”  He took a deep breath.  “Viktor wanted to talk to me about my skating.  He wants to choreograph my programs for next year.”  

He gave his coach an anxious look; Celestino had always chosen Yuuri’s music and done his choreography and he didn’t know what his coach would think about this idea.

Celestino raised his eyebrows. “That’s a surprise!  I know Viktor does his own programs but not anyone else’s.”

“He’s also doing the Russian Yuri’s Senior debut,” Yuuri said quickly.  He didn’t know why he felt he had to defend Viktor’s motivations to his coach.  In any case, it didn’t appear to help because the apprehension on Celestino’s face only grew more pronounced.

“Yuuri, I don’t know if that’s a good idea.  Nikiforov doesn’t know your style or your limitations.  The last thing you need is additional pressure from a program that’s too challenging.”

Maybe Celestino was right.  Maybe his doubts would just feed on these additional demands.  But then again, maybe a challenge was just what he needed. He knew Celestino had his best interests at heart, that he’d done the best that he could to help Yuuri fight his inner demons.  He’d tried not to push, tried not to aggravate Yuuri’s anxiety - which was suddenly making Yuuri’s skin itch as if it was too small to fit all his new thoughts. It made him want to yell at his coach, to shout that he could - and would - do whatever Viktor asked of him.  Only - how could he be so disrespectful when Celestino was just trying to be kind?

“Well, we’ll talk about it back in Detroit,” Celestino said finally, and Yuuri realized that he’d missed whatever his coach had been saying.  He also realized something else.

“Um, about that,” Yuuri said, drawing in a deep breath.  “I think - I’ve decided not to return to Detroit till after Nationals.”  He drew in another deep breath, trying not to panic at the words that seemed to be pouring out of him beyond his control.  “I’ve got this break before school starts back in January.  I want to go home to Hasetsu, to see my family.” To pay my respects to Vicchan, he thought, and had to blink his eyes against the sudden grief filling him.

“Are you sure that’s wise?” Celestino asked, doubt in his voice.  “You need all the practice you can get before Nationals.”

“There’s a rink in Hasetsu, and I’ll practice every day,” Yuuri said.  “I can record my workouts and send them to you.” And to Viktor.  “If I don’t go now, I’ll just keep thinking about - about Vicchan and the Nationals, obsessing and… well, you know.”

Celestino nodded his head slowly, his sharp eyes studying Yuuri’s face.  Yuuri tried to project every bit of assurance he had about this plan and, oddly enough, the rightness of his decision grew the more he thought about it.  He didn’t need Celestino’s kindness and restraint right now, not if he was going to do well enough at Nationals to be selected for Worlds. He needed Minako, who would push him hard and not allow him to hide inside his head.  He needed the Nishigoris, who would give him the space and silence to work out his demons.  He needed his parents and his sister, who would just be there to offer him love and support.  He needed home.

In the end, Celestino agreed and went off to his room to pack for his own flight back to Detroit.  Yuuri pulled out his cellphone and called the airline to make changes to his flight, then called home to let them know that he was coming.

After he hung up, he sat staring at his contact list for a long moment, at the new entry.   Viktor Nikiforov, it read, with his contact information all set out.  It was real, it wasn’t a dream or a hallucination, and if he worked hard he’d finally have that chance to skate on the same ice as his idol.  He opened a new text message to let Viktor know of the change in plans, then sent it and drew in a deep breath.

He had just taken the first step towards establishing himself as a skater worthy of Viktor’s attention.

Chapter Text

Part 3:  The Family Tree

 

Yuuri was exhausted from the 15 hour journey from Sochi to Fukuoka, although he’d tried to sleep on the first leg of the flight.  All of his emotions seemed to be living at the surface of his mind, though, making it difficult to sleep or even eat during the layover in Seoul.  By the time he’d finished the ninety minute train ride to Hasetsu, he was ready to retreat to his bed and pull the covers over his head.

He hadn’t counted on Minako being there to meet him, although it shouldn’t have been a surprise.  One minute he’d been staring around at all the changes to the rail station and the next minute he’d been pulled into her enthusiastic greeting.  For a moment, his sense of failure and inadequacy overwhelmed him and made him long to run from her but he had bigger issues to face.  He needed to make it to Worlds, and he needed a coach to help him get through Nationals.  So he obeyed Minako when she told him to smile and stand up straight, he politely shook hands and gave autographs, and he ignored the posters of him plastered all over the station.

He did successfully convince her to forego a tour of the town in favor of returning home, begging fatigue from the competition and the long flight home.

His mother was delighted by his unexpected arrival and his father immediately began preparing his favorite katsudon.  Yuuri demurred - he already needed to lose the weight he had gained from stress-eating prior to the Final. To his surprise, though, Minako overrode him, calling to Toshiya for a large bowl of katsudon for him.

“But - I didn’t win,” he protested.  That had always been the rule.

“Yuuri, you made it to the Grand Prix Finals,” she pointed out with the occasional and unexpected kindness that had led Yuuri to seek out her studio as an anxious child.  “Besides,” she added with a steely gleam in her eyes, “I intend to start working it off you tomorrow.”

Yuuri hesitated.  “Before I eat…”

His mother’s face softened. “Of course, dear.  We understand.  Go pay your respects.”

Yuuri knelt before the family shrine and lit incense, then laid down the little collar he’d brought with him.  He’d bought it for Vicchan after arriving in Detroit, thinking about how pretty it would look on him.  He’d imagined returning home after Nationals one year, or (in his most hopeful dreams) after competing for the NHK Trophy, but the competitions had been held too far away from Hasetsu.  

And he’d been reluctant to ask Celestino for permission to make the diversion - not that he’d had the money to afford the airfare.  Every bit that he’d earned through sponsorships and prizes had gone into his skating - coaching fees, rink time, costumes - and his scholarship had barely covered his tuition and board.  When he’d first moved up to Seniors, back when he was still starry-eyed over being scouted by Celestino, he’d hoped to qualify for the 2013 Grand Prix held in Fukuoka, but he hadn’t advanced in the qualifiers enough to make the top six that year.

He’d thrown all of his time and energy into his skating, and Vicchan had died before he’d had a chance to return home.

“Sorry, boy,” he whispered.  “I should have come home sooner.”

“We didn’t know when you were coming or we would have waited.”

Yuuri looked over at the doorway to see Mari leaning against the frame, a lit cigarette at her lips.  She nodded towards the silk box containing Vicchan’s cremated remains.  “At least you’re able to pay your respects before the burial.  We were thinking about under the sakura tree.”

He nodded.  “He liked that spot.”

Mari sighed.  “You couldn’t have done anything, even if you were here.”

“I could have said goodbye.”

“You were making your dreams come true,” she said.  “He would have wanted you to do that, to be happy.” She paused to draw on the cigarette.  “You are happy, aren’t you?”

“I messed up.”  Yuuri looked at the picture of Vicchan on the altar, at the collar he’d worn every day, and at the gift that Yuuri had finally brought back to him.  He straightened up resolutely.  “But I’m not going to let that defeat me.  I’m going to be better.”

“Well, whatever you want to do, you know that we support you.”  Mari stubbed out the cigarette. “Go soak in hot springs; you look like you could use it.”

Yuuri did that, then changed into fresh clothes and went back to the dining room.  Minako was seated at one of the low tables and, by the look of her, already two sake bottles into her evening drinking.  He sighed, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to talk to her about his training that night.  He’d stop by her studio in the morning, he decided.  He savored the katsudon his mother set before him, knowing that it would be the last he’d have for awhile.  Then, pleading the fatigue of his journey, he retired to his room for the night.

And spent most of the night staring at the posters of Viktor Nikiforov decorating his bedroom walls.  He knew that he couldn’t make himself good enough for the Nationals on his own, and if Minako wouldn’t help him then he was finished - possibly forever.  Without her coaching he’d bomb out at the Nationals, and then he wouldn’t get a place at Worlds, and then Viktor wouldn’t choreograph him a program, and then he wouldn’t be able to compete with him on the ice one last time before retiring.

Yuuri tipped over onto his side, curled into a ball, and passed out from exhaustion and nerves.

Chapter Text

From A Great Height

Part 1: It’s So Strange

 

By morning, Yuuri had managed to stress himself out further, his stomach tied in knots.  He put on his workout clothes and set out on a morning run through Hasetsu, something not made any easier by the weight he’d put on before the Finals.  But he persisted and, already tired at the start of his day, ended at the dance studio.

Despite the amount of alcohol she consumed the night before, Minako was at her studio when Yuuri arrived.  She gave him a quick, sharp look before setting him some warm-up exercises, so it must have been pretty clear to her how stressed he was.  Running through the usual routines steadied his nerves, centering him back into his body instead of his mind.  By the time Minako called for a rest-break, he was ready to tell her about Viktor’s offer to choreograph his programs, as well as his conditions.

“I need to win gold at Nationals,” Yuuri said, and he could feel the determination to win flow through him.  “Japan has only one slot in Men’s Singles at Worlds this year and I need to get that spot.”

“Yuuri, I know you’re not going to believe me when I say this, but you’re a really good skater,” Minako began.

“Not good enough.  I came in last - ”

Out of the top six skaters in the world!  And you did really well in the Short skate - you just had a bad day on the Free.”

Yuuri turned to meet her eyes instead of looking away as he usually did.  “I can’t afford to have a bad day at Nationals.”

“All right, then, if you’re certain that this is what you need to do...”  Minako gave him a decisive nod.  “We need to trim off that weight and I’ll take a look at your programs, see what we’ve got to work with.”

She ordered him back onto his feet.  “We’ll get you back into fighting shape.  I’m counting on you getting to Worlds - so you can introduce me to all those hot skaters.  That Christophe Giacometti is one fine specimen.”

“I don’t even care if that’s the only reason you’re helping me - although you’ll have to get their room numbers on your own.”

True to her word, Minako put him through a grueling dance workout and then arranged to meet him at the ice rink the next morning.  However, Yuuri didn’t want to wait that long to visit his old home rink.

Yuuko was putting away the rental skates when Yuuri entered the Ice Castle rink.  She didn’t look up at the sound of the bell, just calling out that they were closed.  He waited by the counter until she looked over and then he smiled.

“Hey, Yuuko.”

His childhood friend’s eyes went wide as she leapt to her feet and nearly catapulted over the counter in her haste to welcome him home.  The greeting warmed his battered spirits, reminding him of why he’d fallen in love with skating to begin with and adding fuel to the fire that Viktor had reignited.  Yuuko was more than willing to let him schedule time in the rink for private practices over the next two weeks.

He’d brought his skates with him, hoping at least to set up a regular locker for storing his gear.  Yuuko went a step further, encouraging him to get reacquainted with the ice itself, and he didn’t hesitate.  He’d always found the ice comforting, even when his anxiety was at its worst, and was soon doing warm-up laps on the familiar surface.

“So you’re staying in Hasetsu until the Nationals then?” Yuuko asked, pausing in her cleanup of the seating area.

Yuuri nodded as he moved into the compulsory figures that he loved.  “Minako-sensei is going to help me tighten up my program.  I’ve got to make it to Worlds.”

“So you can skate with Viktor, right?” Yuuko said brightly.  “Did you get to meet him at the Finals?”  She bit her lip, flushing as she said, “Sorry !  I didn’t mean to remind you - ”

“It’s all right,” he reassured her.  “I’m okay…  Well, no, I’m not okay with coming in last, but everyone keeps reminding me that at least I made it to the Finals in the first place.”

“So - Viktor?”

“Um, yeah, I did meet him,” he admitted, flushing and ducking his head as she squealed with delight at this admission.  “And at the banquet we danced together. And we had breakfast the morning before I left.”

Her eyes went wide and her mouth dropped open.  “You’re freaking kidding me!”

His blush deepened.  “He, um, he said…” He took a deep breath and turned to face her.  “Viktor said that he’ll choreograph my programs for next year if I make it to Worlds.  So you see - I have to do well at Nationals.”

Yuuko gaped at him, completely speechless for at least a minute before making a noise that was possibly only audible to dogs.  And small children, because three small heads suddenly popped up over the barrier.

“Yuuri, you remember my girls - Axel, Lutz and Loop!” Yuuko said, smiling down at them.  “They’ve gotten bigger since the last time you saw them!  They’re some of your biggest fans.”

Yuuri stared at them, suddenly worried - even though they were only six, their social media skills were legendary.  “Don’t go posting anything you heard on social media, girls!” he warned them.

Three pairs of eyes narrowed at him and one of them - he thought it was Lutz but he couldn’t be certain - said, “We’ve got a lot of unsigned posters of you….”

Yuuri sighed.  “Fine. I’ll autograph anything you want, only keep me off of your posts and tweets and…and everything, okay?”

“Deal,” one of the others said, and Yuuri took in a deep breath in relief.  (He would probably regret that agreement later.)

Later, he sat in the locker room cleaning and storing his skates, drinking in the feeling of being truly home.  More than the onsen, more even than Minako’s dance studio, this had always been his touchstone, his safe place. Even though he’d been desperate to get away from Hasetsu, to make his mark in the International Skating world, it felt good to be back.  He promised himself that he’d use this time to rebuild his core self, and that he’d return home more often.

He just had to make it through to Worlds.

Chapter Text

Part 2: Everything Will Change

 

Over the next two weeks, Yuuri spent nearly every waking moment training.  Although he usually preferred to sleep in, he forced himself to get up early and run to Ice Castle where he put in a few hours working on his fundamentals before the rink opened to the public.  Then it was back to the onsen for breakfast and a change into his dance clothes, followed by a grueling couple of hours on the dance floor under Minako’s critical eye. After a lean dinner, the two of them spent another few hours at the rink, going through his routines.

Minako had recorded his programs on their first day of training and Yuuri shared them with Viktor.  Both Viktor and Minako agreed that he should reduce the quads to triples for the Nationals, partly to reduce the pressure on Yuuri and partly so that he could concentrate on the performance aspect of his program.  Yuuri was uncertain of that plan, worrying that he wouldn’t be able to compete if he reduced the difficulty of his programs.

“Compete against whom?” Minako had said bluntly. “You’re the only elite level skater in Men’s Singles since Oda Nobunari’s retirement two years ago.  Neither of the Daisuki brothers have scored nearly as high as you and this is the older one’s last year in competition.  There are some potential threats among the younger skaters - that Minami Kenjirou for one - but they’re still Juniors.”

Viktor had agreed when Yuuri complained to him later that day.  “With your PCS, you could get a high score without doing a single quad,” Viktor decided.  “Next year we’ll boost your PCS more -- you could even beat me!”

He sounded excited about that idea although the thought made Yuuri break into a cold sweat.  Viktor laughed off Yuuri’s protests and made Yuuri promise to listen to him - at least for the Nationals.

“You wouldn’t argue with your future choreographer, would you?” Viktor said and then, even more unfairly, pulled Makkachin into camera range and pretended that he seconded Viktor’s words.  Yuuri had no choice but to agree.

Minako and Nishigori accompanied him to Sapporo for Nationals where they were met by Celestino. His coach was clearly surprised to find that Yuuri wasn’t a mess, that his weight was down and his nerves at least manageable.  He agreed with the decision to keep the jumps to triples although, again, seemed surprised that Yuuri had agreed instead of pushing for quads. Yuuri had protested that he wasn’t that stubborn but the looks on both Celestino and Minako’s faces told him that they didn’t agree.

On the day of the Short program, Yuuri felt his anxiety building as he ran through his warm-up.  There were thirty skaters competing in the Men’s Singles, including several Juniors who’d placed well in the Junior National.  In theory, he could beat all of them as he was the only elite level skater currently in the Men’s division. But anyone could have a bad day.  What if he fell on all his jumps and landed at the bottom, behind everyone else?  He probably wouldn’t get a spot at Four Continents or Worlds then, which meant that Japan wouldn’t have a representative, unless one of the others managed to improve their scores enough to meet the minimum technical score.  If he didn’t do well enough to place in the top ten at Worlds, Japan wouldn’t earn a second entry for next year which would affect how many men they could send to the Olympics in 2018. And it would be all his fault…

“Yuuri, your group has been called to warm up on the ice,” Celestino said, interrupting his spiraling thoughts.

Feeling numb with dread, Yuuri followed the rest of the group out of the warm-up area and onto the ice.  He vaguely recognized a few of the younger skaters as they took to the ice but there was one in particular, a smaller skater with a shock of bright red hair, who kept looking in his direction as they made their way around the ice.  Yuuri thought that he must be a Junior as he didn’t recall seeing him at any of the previous Nationals -- not that he had socialized with any of the other skaters. The way that the boy was staring at him made him wonder if there was something wrong with Yuuri’s costume - and also earned the boy a scolding from his coach as the younger skater flubbed a jump due to his inattention.

Time was called and Yuuri skated towards the opening in the barrier, where Minako waited with his skate guards.  There was a bit of a delay getting off the ice as he’d been on far side of the rink and he gave the young skater who’d been watching him a tentative smile.  That was apparently enough to ignite the boy into speech.

“I can’t believe I’m getting to skate in the last group, with you, Katsuki-senpai!” the younger skater gushed. “It’s like a dream come true!”

Yuuri blushed, uncomfortable as always with such attention, but he could see Minako glaring at him from the other side of the barrier.  She would give him hell about “Viktor Nikiforov is always nice to his fans and you will be too!” if he brushed off the young skater. He struggled to think of something to say.   Somehow he didn’t think that asking the kid who he was would go over well.

“You’re the Junior National Champion, right?” he asked the boy, vaguely recalling the news story - the Junior was also from Kyushu so it had caught his attention.

“Minami Kenjirou,” the boy replied with a little bow, his face lighting up.  “You know me! I can’t believe it! Did you watch the competition?”

Yuuri was tempted to lie but had to admit that he hadn’t been able to watch as he’d been training in Detroit at the time.  He didn’t add that he’d been too wrapped up in his own competitions to watch any others (except for Viktor’s, of course). Minami looked a little crestfallen at that and Yuuri had hastily added good-luck wishes before making his way off the ice.  Fortunately, Minako just handed over his skate guards without any criticism.

Oddly enough, the encounter with the younger skater had diverted Yuuri’s nerves and he did better than he’d expected.  His intense training over the last two weeks paid off and muscle memory carried him through both of his programs, landing nearly all of his triple jumps cleanly and excelling on his spins and step-sequences.  He two-footed the triple salchow during his Free program, landing him in second place by almost 2 points for that program.  However the score on his Short skate was a personal best at nearly 85, a fifteen-point advantage over the next placed skater, and that was enough to secure him Gold.  It also got him assigned as Japan’s representative in the Men’s Single for both Four Continents and Worlds. The Junior Champion, Minami, had also done well, placing 6th overall.


 

Viktor was very pleased when Yuuri called him via Skype after the medal ceremony.  “You see, I was right!” he crowed. “Your PCS was enough to carry your score without quads.”

“It won’t be enough against Cao Bin,” Yuuri pointed out. “Not to mention that Korean skater - I hear that he’s working on the Quad Loop.  Both of them will be doing quads at Four Continents. And JJ has at least three quads in his program.”

Viktor gave him a blank look.  “Who?”

“The Canadian skater?  He took Bronze at the Grand Prix Final?”  

Yuuri rolled his eyes when Viktor continued to look puzzled, but secretly he was pleased.  If Viktor hadn’t noticed the powerhouse Canadian who’d been tearing up the ice since his Senior debut the previous year, then his failure to recognize Yuuri at the Grand Prix didn’t feel nearly as painful.

“So, now that you’ve proved that you can get a high PCS - even with a program that doesn’t tap into your potential - I think you should try adding back in a quad or two.  Which ones do you think you can land?”

“The toe-loop,” Yuuri said, then added hesitantly. “And the salchow in practice although not in competition.”

The look on Viktor’s face was sober, serious. “And why is that?”

Yuuri could feel his face turning bright red and he dropped his eyes, unable to meet Viktor’s intent look. “Um, because I don’t have a lot of confidence.”

“That’s right,” Viktor agreed.  “Yuuri.  Yuuuuuuri.  Look at me.  It’s difficult to talk to the top of your head.”  Yuuri looked up and Viktor smiled at him. “That’s better.  Yuuri, I will tell you something.  I’ve always thrived on surprising my audiences but lately no one is surprised any more.  I’d lost my love for skating and couldn’t think of new programs for next year.  And then you danced with me at the banquet, inspiring me again.”

Yuuri could feel his blush getting even more intense.  “Viktor - ”

“This next year might be my best programs ever!” Viktor said with that trademark heart-shaped smile of his.  “I’ll completely surprise everyone!”

Yuuri didn’t know whether to be excited about that - as Viktor’s biggest fan - or irritated that their discussion had turned to focus on Viktor.

“But anyways - about your program!  You can do more than you think. I suggest adding back the toe-loop, then work on the salchow.  You might also want to change out the triple-double combination at the end of the first half of your Free skate for a triple-triple.  You usually over-rotate that double.”

“All right,” Yuuri agreed, although he was not without his doubts.

Chapter Text

Part 3: Rising Above

 

Following Nationals, Yuuri returned to Detroit with Celestino and began practicing for Four Continents along with his roommate, Phichit Chulanont.  Although Phichit had debuted as a Senior the previous year, this was the first time that he’d qualified for such an important International Senior competition and he spent a lot of time squeeing about it on social media.

Celestino agreed again with the changes to Yuuri’s program, although he seemed surprised that he was being so assertive about his program components.  “This isn’t like you, Yuuri, although I’m pleased to see you taking a more positive role. You should think again about choosing your own music for one of your programs next year.”

Yuuri blanched at that, remembering the last music he’d suggested, although hopefully the point would be moot as Viktor would be creating his programs.  But between his training and finishing his university degree, Yuuri had little time to worry about anything else.

Six weeks passed in a blur and all too soon they were flying to Taiwan for Four Continents.  There were over twenty entries in the Men’s Single division and Yuuri could feel his nerves building as he watched the others warming up.  The previous year he’d come in 5th, behind Seung-Gil, JJ Leroy, and Cao Bin who were here again this year. And he couldn’t underestimate the younger skaters who were here for the first time: Phichit and Leo de la Iglesia.  Then there was Otabek Altin who’d made his Senior debut this year but had just missed making the final six for the Grand Prix. All of them were solid competition.

Only - Yuuri had something more to prove than just winning a medal.  He had to win a place close to Viktor. And with the additional of a solid quad toe-loop to his program, he cleared 90 for the Short program for the first time, a new personal best, ending in 3rd behind JJ and Cao Bin.  

Phichit, who was 5th after the Short program, was beside himself with delight and insisted that they go out to dinner to celebrate since the next day was a rest for them . It wasn’t much of a surprise that Phichit managed to talk Leo and Seung-Gil into joining them - Phichit was the most sociable person Yuuri had ever met and few could resist him. The Korean skater didn’t talk much but Leo and Phichit carried more than their fair share of the conversation and Yuuri found that he had a surprisingly good time.

Although the next day was for pairs and ice dancing, the single skaters had rehearsal time in the morning.  Yuuri had been in the first group and was tending to his skates as he watched the last group - including Cao and JJ - practice.  He watched Cao Bin in particular, analyzing his program elements. Cao was currently in 1st with JJ right behind him, although both were only a few points ahead of Yuuri.  Cao seemed to be moving well but Yuuri remembered that he’d unexpectedly placed below JJ at the Grand Prix Finals. Had something been wrong with Cao, or was JJ just that good?  

He looked over at the Canadian skater who’d finished practice and was now modeling his trademark hand gesture for a group of supporters who had gathered to watch.  Phichit was capturing the whole thing for some kind of live-video thing - Yuuri hoped that his roommate hadn’t recorded his own practice as he’d eaten the ice a couple of times working on his quad salchow.  He still had only a 30% completion rate for it but wanted to include it in his Free program.

“Katsuki,” someone snapped at him and Yuuri looked up to see that Cao Bin was eying him over the barrier with a surprisingly hostile look on his face.  “Still can’t land your quad jumps? I hope you’re not going to embarrass us all with a performance like the one at the Final.”

Yuuri flushed, suddenly aware that he’d been in a similar position, fourth going into the Free skate - and that Cao Bin had been below him after a lackluster Short skate. Cao had done better here but nowhere near his past performance scores, whereas Yuuri had scored a personal best the day before.  He felt suddenly cheered by that knowledge and smugly thought that it was okay if Cao underestimated him.

“Giacometti says that Nikiforov has taken an interest in you, giving you tips,” Cao said - and that surprised Yuuri.  He didn’t think anyone knew about that, or that they would believe that the Crown Prince of Skating would take any interest in a dime-a-dozen skater like Yuuri.  He wondered if that was the reason behind Cao’s sudden hostility.

“I don’t know why he bothers,” Cao continued, a curl to his lips as he stared at Yuuri. “But then again, Nikiforov is clearly losing his touch.”

Yuuri stiffened; Cao could say what he liked about Yuuri - it wasn’t anything he hadn’t heard or read before.  But Viktor was sacrosanct. Cao Bin was not even in the same league as Viktor, who had never ever bad-mouthed a fellow skater in public.  “He’s broken ten world records,” Yuuri pointed out.  “When was the last time you broke a record again?”

Cao’s lips tightened.  “He’s an old man and his programs are dull, even if the judges still fawn over him. He should retire and make way for new skaters at the top!”

“Are we talking about Viktor?” JJ Leroy asked as he skated over to them, his eyes bright with interest and his loud voice carrying over the rink noise.  “Planning to dethrone the Prince, Bin?”

Cao glared at the Canadian, clearly not pleased by him having the bad manners to call him by his first name.  “Yes - not that it’s any of your business, Leroy. I’m talking to Katsuki.”

“If you’re talking about who’s going to be the next top skater, then that’s me!” JJ boasted.  “Only I’m not going to be a prince - I’m the next King! King J.J.! Hey - wouldn’t that make a great theme song to skate to?” he demanded genially, looking around at all the other skaters.  He didn’t seem to care that everyone was avoiding his eyes, not replying to his question.

Cao scowled.  “You’re an idiot, Leroy,” he snapped and pushed past him to step off the ice.  He barely paused long enough to snap on his guards before storming off towards the locker room.

JJ didn’t seem to mind, skating over to where his coaches stood by the barrier.  Yuuri finished drying his skates and slipped on their soft-guards, his mind stewing over Cao and JJ's words as he finished bagging his gear.  How dare they say such disrespectful things about Viktor? It was okay to want to beat Viktor’s records - Yuuri yearned to do that himself - but to disrespect the man himself?

Phichit dragged him back to their room and then out for lunch, but Yuuri wasn’t paying much attention as his thoughts were still fixed on Cao and JJ.  He excused himself from another dinner out with the group, choosing to spend the evening resting. However, he found himself reading Cao Bin’s social media posts instead, his blog and his tweets in particular.  Yuuri had never paid much attention to his own social media presence, but he did follow the skaters that he knew like Christophe and the Crispino twins and, of course, Viktor. And it went without saying that he was very, very aware of everything Phichit posted - mostly because his roommate tagged him on all of it.  But he’d never had cause to look at Cao’s posts before now, and he was upset by the mean-spirited rants that made up many of the entries over the past year.

Phichit’s return to their room made him put away his phone for the night but it didn’t stop him from stewing over the matter.  By the time his friends and family called to wish him well the next day, he had come to the conclusion that something needed to be done about Cao Bin - but what?

The answer didn’t come until the triplets got on their mother’s phone to wish him good luck.  “Girls,” he said once he was sure that the others were too absorbed in getting ready for the viewing party to listen in on their conversation.  “You know a lot about social media - more than I do, right? Can anything be done to someone who is trash-talking other people - you know, on their blogs and stuff?”

“Depends,” said Axel.  “Whose blog and who are they bashing?”

“Cao Bin, a Chinese skater.  And it’s about Viktor.”

“Hmm.”  There was a brief consultation between the three that Yuuri couldn’t hear and then Lutz came on the line.  “We’ll look into it, Yuuri-san.”

“So there’s something that I can do?”

“Not you - no offense, but you’re pretty clueless about these things,” Loop said.  “We’ll handle it.”

“And what’s this going to cost me?” he asked suspiciously.

This one’s on us,” Axel said graciously.

“For now,” Loop added.

“You just go out there and kick his butt on the ice,” Lutz chimed in, and the other two echoed their agreement of this.

Feeling much better, Yuuri disconnected and went to prepare for his Free skate.  Newly energized and determined to prove both JJ and Cao wrong, Yuuri skated the best he’d ever done in his life, earning himself a new personal best just over 170 and putting himself in first place for the Free.  Neither JJ nor Cao were able to beat his score, and only Cao’s higher score the previous day allowed him to take Gold over Yuuri. To his complete surprise, Yuuri found himself with a silver medal around his neck, having edged JJ out.

Phichit’s 4th place made Celestino beam at both of his skaters during the rest of the evening and during most of the flight home.  (Phichit privately remarked to Yuuri that it was unnerving and his fault for having broken their coach.  It didn’t stop him from posting dozens of pictures to his Instagram account.)

Viktor was even more delighted than Celestino, hardly waiting for Yuuri to come down from the podium before he was calling.  “Yuuri, you did it! Congratulations!”

Yuuri felt himself blushing with pleasure at the praise, and he ducked into the first empty room he could find.  “Thanks. It’s all because of you, Viktor.”

Viktor waved that off.  “I only advised you, Yuuri.  All of the hard work was yours.  I just wish I could create a new program for you right now, before Worlds.  I don’t think you’re going to be able to improve much on those scores - unless you manage to learn a new quad before then.”

Yuuri rolled his eyes at that idea.  It had taken him two years to become somewhat proficient at the toe-loop and salchow and there was no way he could learn the loop or flip in a month.

“Still, I’ll go over the recordings from this competition while you’re flying home,” Viktor added.  “I might have some small suggestions by the time you get there.”

“Okay.”

“And Yuuri?  I can’t wait to see you again in person at Worlds.  We’re going to do amazing things together next season.”

Yuuri hung up and couldn’t decide if he was excited or terrified by that thought.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 4 - I Don't Know What I'd Do 

Part 1: Without You

 

The return to Detroit was surreal.  There was a silver medal from a major international event in his carry-on bag.  Yes, he'd won a silver and bronze in his Grand Prix qualifiers, but somehow those hadn't felt as momentous as this.

He also might have set Cao Bin up for something in the way of karmic retribution, at the hands of three children.   Devious, but still children.

Oddly enough, these two things took up more worry-time in his brain than the upcoming end-of-term exams and his graduation after that.  After five years of study slotted around his skating obligations, he was more relieved by the thought of having one less thing to worry about than he was about having the actual Business degree.  And of course Phichit was moping about their shared apartment, declaring that it just wouldn't be the same with Yuuri around - even talking about returning to Thailand to finish up his own studies.  Yuuri would miss Phichit, too, but now that the younger skater was in the Seniors they would have plenty of opportunity to see each other at events.

If Yuuri didn't totally bomb out of Worlds and retire to avoid further humiliation.

Viktor wasn't the least bit sympathetic about any of the other obligations on Yuuri's time - but then again, Viktor'd had private tutors and hadn't gone on to university.  Not that he needed to, with all the sponsors and endorsements he had.

Yuuri still had to decide what to do about his future.  There was no way that he could stay in Detroit, not without scholarships to pay for his food and housing, and he couldn't afford to pay for both an apartment and Celestino from his sponsorship money.  Plus, he hadn't realized how much he'd missed Hasetsu till his recent visit, so it made sense to return there for awhile. Maybe he'd be able to find a coach in Fukuoka, or maybe Celestino would be willing to coach him remotely.  And Viktor seemed pretty invested in working with him - unless he bombed Worlds, of course. Which looped back into his first worries.

A month before Worlds, he got a call from home.  He'd given his family the prize money from Four Continents, and his mother and sister had decided to fly over for his graduation, then help him pack his things for the return to Japan.  They'd all be flying to Tokyo together - including Phichit and Celestino - but his family would continue on to Hasetsu.  Minako would be coming to Tokyo to watch him, and Nishigori called to confirm his family would be there as well.

"Your biggest fans want to talk to you," he added.  "Hope you don't mind."

"N-not at all," Yuuri replied.  He half-dreaded that they would have news to tell him about Cao Bin, and he was right.

"You don't need to worry about him any more," Axel said the minute that the triplets got on the phone.  "That guy is history!"

A cold sweat broke out on his body.  "What did you do?" he demanded.

"You don't want to know," Loop replied, cryptically.  "Plausible deniability."

"Oh, that can't possibly be good!" he moaned.

"Let's just say that his 'social credit score' took a big hit.  He's blacklisted," Lutz added. "And you owe us - big."

Social credit score, he thought.  That didn't sound bad. He'd been half-afraid that the girls would hire an assassin from Shanghai's seamy underbelly to take Cao Bin out.  He let out a sigh of relief. "Okay, girls; what do you want in return?"

"We want the corner on the fan merchandise for your official fan club," Axel began.

"I have an official fan club?"

He could almost hear Loop's eyes roll as she said, "Like duh, Yuuri!  Over twenty-thousand members - and if you do well at Worlds that'll probably go up by half again!"

"In fact," Lutz butted in, "we want to manage your social media presence.  Your Instagram is pathetic."

Yuuri shrugged.  It wasn't like he really cared about such things, not like Phichit.  "Okay.  Just - nothing embarrassing. Okay, girls?"

There was a collective sigh.  "O-kay," they agreed with Lutz muttering, "We'd make a killing off the baby pictures."

"Thanks - see you at Worlds!"



Yuuri didn't think anything more of it until Viktor's Skype-call the next evening.  At the end of it, Viktor had casually commented that one of their competitors had dropped out of Worlds - Cao Bin.

"Um.  Did you hear why?"

Viktor shrugged.  "Probably an injury.  He did surprisingly badly at the Final, and even though he won Gold at Four Continents, you beat his Free Skate score there - even with your current program and only two quads."

"Um, Yeah."

"Although.... His Instagram posts and tweets have been odd lately..."

"Really?" Yuuri squeaked, then cleared his throat in embarrassment.  "How - how long?"

"Oh, the past few months - maybe a year?  I can't remember exactly, just that he seemed different.  Mad at the world, at other skaters - at me." Viktor shrugged again.  "He's always been a moody person." He frowned and leaned closer to the screen.  "Yuuri, are you alright? You look pale. You're not getting sick, are you?"

"Um, just, you know, tired," Yuuri managed to say.  "Finals and packing and...stuff."

"Right.  When do you get to Tokyo again?  We should have dinner after I get in - you can show me around."

"Okay," Yuuri agreed numbly, although the last time he'd been to Tokyo was when he was competing as a Junior.  "I'll, um, look up some places."

"Good."  There was an affectionate look on Viktor's face so Yuuri guessed that Makkachin must have wandered over for a cuddle.  "Now go get some rest.  You'll need to be at your best for Worlds!"

Yuuri said good-night and disconnected, then flopped down onto his bed, face first.  Maybe if he smothered to death he wouldn't have to feel so guilty about Cao Bin.

 




Of course - Yuuri being who he was - he couldn't let the matter go.  He googled "social credit score" and "China", and then nearly fainted.  He knew he’d probably gotten Cao Bin dropped from the Chinese skating program but had it been worse?  Had he gotten Cao Bin banned from travel?  His children denied the best schools?  Did Cao even have children?  And what would happen if Viktor found out?

Yuuri didn't want to know the answer to that.  So when Viktor called the next night, he didn't answer his phone.  Or the following night.  Or the one after that.  And then he felt so guilty for ignoring Viktor that he couldn't answer his calls or texts for the rest of the week.  

He was hiding in his bed, under the pretense of packing, when the door was flung open.  Yuuri peered out from under the covers to see Phichit standing in the doorway.  His eyes were wide and panicked, and Yuuri's first thought was that one of the hamsters had crawled into the air vent again.  But then Phichit held his phone out at arms length, his hand shaking.

"Viktor Nikiforov!" he said in a loud whisper.  "For you!  Yuuri - how does he know my number?"

Yuuri gave him a wide-eyed look and a little shrug that he hoped conveyed "because Viktor Nikiforov is a God among skaters and possibly also Magic" but probably looked like a deer in the headlights.  Phichit shoved his phone into Yuuri's hand and staggered out, muttering something about "my precious babies" and "cuddles".

Yuuri stared at the phone for a moment, wondering if he could get away with hanging up, only he was afraid of whom Viktor might call next.  He gingerly put the phone to his ear.  "H-hello?"

"Yuuri!  Thank God!"  There was the sound of something crashing and muttered Russian that was probably cussing, then Viktor was back, sounding breathless.  "How badly are you hurt?  What hospital?  How far away is Chicago from where you are - I can be there in twelve hours!"  Drawers slammed in the background and there was more clattering.

Yuuri blinked and wondered for a moment if Viktor was still speaking in Russian, because none of what he’d said made sense.  "Viktor - I'm fine.  I'm not sick, or hurt, or in the hospital."

The noise on the other end of the phone stopped.  After a long moment, during which Yuuri wondered if they'd been disconnected, Viktor's voice said, "You're not sick or hurt.  But Yuuri - you haven't answered your phone for a week."

"I - I know."  Yuuri drew in a deep breath and pulled his knees up to his chest as he sat up under the blankets.  "I'm sorry."

"Did I do something, or say something, to upset you?"

"No.  I - no.  You didn't do anything wrong."  Yuuri buried his face in his knees and muttered, " 'm an idiot."

Viktor blew out a sharp breath and Yuuri suddenly wished he could see him on Skype.  He could picture him, his brow crinkled in a frown as he ran a hand through his fringe, the way he did when something frustrated him.

"Okay."  

There was a very loud crashing sound and Yuuri jerked upright, suddenly worried that Viktor had hurt himself.  "Viktor!  Are you all right?"

"Fine, it's fine," Viktor said, sounding irritated but not hurt.  "There's not enough room on the bed for me and Makka and the suitcases."

"Suitcases?  You were really going to fly here?"  The thought made something in his chest hurt.  "Viktor, you can't do that!  Worlds are in two weeks!"

"I know that!" Viktor snapped.  "I was really worried, okay?  I couldn't find you!  And then I remembered you had a roommate."

Yuuri couldn't help the smile that bloomed on his face.  "You're ridiculous," he said fondly. "How did you get Phichit's number anyways?"

"Chris," Viktor admitted.  "He knows everyone. He got it from one of the American skaters."  There was another long moment of silence. "So - you're really okay, then?  You were, what? Ignoring me?"

Yuuri could hear the hurt in Viktor's voice and his throat tightened.  "I...um...I might have done something stupid. And then I got anxious about it, and - and I didn't want you to see me like that."

"What?  Why would you hide from me like that?"

"It's not you, Viktor.  It's - I have a hard time opening up about my feelings, or - or accepting help."  He drew in a deep breath. "There was this girl in school here who was always pushing me to open up.  Last year, Phichit had an accident and I was really worried.  She was at the hospital waiting with me and she tried to give me a hug, you know, to comfort me.  I just shoved her away."

"Wow, why would you do that?"

"It felt like she was trying to tell me that I was weak or something."  He sighed. "The point is, I look up to you - I always have.  I was avoiding you because I didn't want you to see my flaws and weaknesses.  I'm sorry."

"Yuuri...."  There was a sigh and then a soft chuckle on the other end.  "You will be the death of me."

"I'm - "

"You should be sorry!" Viktor scolded.  "I was worried!  I thought I might start losing my hair!  Do you want to see me bald at such a tragically young age?"

Yuuri couldn't help laughing at that.  "Never that!"

"It's getting thin on top," Viktor mourned.  "Soon I will look like Yakov, and then who will like me?"

"I will, Viktor," Yuuri said softly.

There was a soft sound on the other end and Yuuri wondered if you could hear a smile.  "I like you too, Yuuri.  I don’t know what I’d do without you."  There was mutual silence for a moment, then Viktor said, "Now, give this phone back to your friend and I will call you on Skype in fifteen minutes.  I have to go moisturize first - all this stress has been very drying for my skin."

"Right," Yuuri said dryly.  It was a good thing that he lo- liked Viktor so much because the man was vainer than a beauty queen.

"No mocking of your choreographer!  I am very cross with you, and I am going to be very stern about your practices.  You have been practicing while playing like a - a - what is that bird with the head in sand?"

"An ostrich.  You know that's a myth, right?  They don't really do that."

"Not one more word or it's suicide drills and power pulls tomorrow!"

"Yes, Coach," Yuuri said teasingly.  He hung up and walked into the living room where Phichit was lying on the floor, two of his hamsters crawling over him while he baby-talked to the third.  He dangled the phone before Phichit's eyes and then set it on the floor next to him.

Phichit looked up at him.  "Everything's okay now?"

Yuuri nodded.  "Thanks, Phichit.  You're a good friend."

"I want an autograph at Worlds," Phichit announced.  "And the first Katsuki-Nikiforov child named after me."

Yuuri flushed, but Phichit had been teasing him about his crush on Viktor for years so he just grabbed his laptop and walked back towards his room.  He decided that shedding his misplaced guilt was a good thing.

After all, it wasn't as if he'd pushed Cao Bin off of a building.

Chapter Text

Part 2: You’re Such a Tease

 

The rest of March flew by.  Yuuri's mother and sister arrived in Detroit, helping him finish the last of his packing and shipping boxes home.  Rather to Yuuri's worry, Mari and Phichit got on like a house afire, becoming immediate Twitter-besties, and he dreaded what might happen if the two of them continued this new friendship.  He graduated with the rest of the International students, then all of them were flying off to Tokyo.  While his family continued on to Hasetsu to prepare for the onsen's busy season, the two skaters and their coach settled into the hotel near the venue.

The first two days of Worlds were practice days and Celestino's skaters had drawn the third group out of the six.  When they arrived at the main rink for the run-through of their Short program music on Monday morning, Yuuri saw that the three US skaters were also in their group.  He remembered one of them, Leo, from Four Continents but the other two were only vaguely familiar and were ranked enough below the top twenty that Yuuri could disregard them as serious competition.  Group 2 was just finishing up and Yuuri recognized Michele and Emil going through their cool-down - and squabbling as usual.

The Korean skater, Seung-gil, was finishing his run through while Otabek waited at the boards to take his turn.  Yuuri watched him while he put on his skates, analyzing the moves of the young Kazakhstan skater and noting that his performance was a little stronger than it had been at Four Continents.  Otabek had an unusual style, more reliant on strong, almost martial movements rather than the athletic or ballet-based styles most skaters favored.  He would be one to watch over the next few competitions.

There was a brief pause while the ice was resurfaced and then his group took the ice for their warm-ups before doing their individual run-throughs with music.  Yuuri was next-to-last in his group and felt as if he had skated cleanly, although his quad salchow was as iffy as ever. Fortunately, he only had to do that in the Free program to be competitive, although it would boost his Short program score a bit if he could land it cleanly.

"Yuuri!" called a familiar voice from the side area, and Yuuri was pleased to see that Viktor had arrived and was watching him from the other side of the boards.  "That was much better!" he said, as Yuuri skated up to him. "Although your legs could be tucked closer together when you launch into the toe-loop at the end - "

"I believe that Yuuri is my student, Nikiforov," Celestino said with a bit of a scowl for the Russian skater, then he turned to Yuuri.  "But he's right. And your free leg is still sloppy in the salchow."

Yuuri nodded in agreement, directing his reply somewhere between the two men.  Celestino went off to speak to Phichit, the last skater in their group, and Yuuri turned his attention fully onto Viktor.  "Thank you, Viktor - for all the help you've given me these past few months."

Viktor gave him a puzzled look.  "Don't you want my advice any more?"

He sounded sad and Yuuri hurried to reassure him.  "Of course I do!  Only - well - it wouldn't be fair to you, would it?  You need to concentrate on your own program, not worry about me."

A smile brightened Viktor's face.  "Oh Yuuri!  You are so adorable!  And don't worry about me - by now I could skate this program in my sleep."

Yuuri could feel his cheeks flush at Viktor's words.  "O - okay."

"Concentrate your practices on your Free program," Viktor said, his face turning serious.  "That is where you will need to make the most effort."

"Right."

Viktor's coach yelled for him and he went off for the run-through of his Short program.  Yuuri sat down on a bench to remove his skates, his attention more on the ice than on the skates he was drying off.  Viktor was poetry in motion, dancing over the ice like a snowflake, and Yuuri wondered how anyone could look away from him.

"Yuuri!  Hey, Yuuri!"

A tug on his sleeve forced him to look away from the ice, to Phichit who was rolling his eyes at him.  "Lunch, Yuuri!  You can stare at Viktor as much as you like during the rest of the week, but I'm starving!  And if I die, that will be on your conscience."

Yuuri winced; Cao Bin's disappearance was still a sore spot for him.  "Fine, fine."  He stowed his skates away and shouldered his pack, following Phichit and Celestino with only one lingering glance back at the ice.

The next two days gave him very little time to see Viktor, except from a distance.  After lunch they went back to their hotel to rest before the evening practice where all of Yuuri's attention was focused on his program.  As Viktor had recommended, Yuuri concentrated on his Free skate, and he was able to improve his landing of the quad salchow. It wasn't perfect, and he put his hand down at least half the time, but he didn't fall.  The second day was more of the same, and in between practice were the media events.  The only time Yuuri saw Viktor was when he was being steered to some other event by his coach, and by the fixed look on his face he didn't appear to be enjoying himself. 

Wednesday was devoted to the opening events of the World Figure Skating championships, as well as the Women’s and the Pair’s Short programs.  They had some time at the practice rink if needed, but Celestino had ordered them both to rest instead.  The Nishigori family, with whom Yuuri had spent most of his off-hours over the past two days, were watching the other skating programs.  Phichit headed out sight-seeing with the U.S. skaters who he’d been with in Juniors two years ago, but Yuuri had opted to sleep in and relax in their room.  To his surprise, Viktor called him to see if he’d like to go out for dinner, and Yuuri happily agreed.

They went to a place nearby that Yuuri remembered from a visit to Tokyo during his Junior competitions.  The decor reminded him of home, although the food was not quite as good as his mother's cooking.

"What's your favorite food, Yuuri?" Viktor asked, perusing the menu.  "As your choreographer, I want to learn everything about you."

"Um, my favorite is katsudon - pork cutlet bowls," Yuuri admitted.  "But it's very fattening so I only eat it when I win a competition. Besides, no one makes it like my mom."

"Then we shall wait to have that another day," Viktor decided.

He settled on a seafood dish although Yuuri chose something else, not wanting to risk eating something that might disagree with his stomach so soon before the competition.  As they ate they talked, the subjects ranging from Yuuri's recent graduation to plans for the off-season. Yuuri realized that this was the longest time they had spent together, in person, instead of over an internet connection, and he was surprised by how comfortable he felt with Viktor.  

He'd already had a taste of the real Viktor, the one who was over-dramatic and intently focused on his skating, during their Skype talks.  Viktor-in-person was a little silly and easily affectionate, with no perception of personal space, grabbing Yuuri's arm when he wanted his attention and leaning against him to share a morsel from his meal.  He laughed and smiled readily, his eyes alight with pleasure at everything he tasted.  Yuuri had always thought that Viktor's smiles on TV were beautiful, but now he realized how fake they were in comparison with a truly happy look.  He suddenly wanted to make sure that Viktor smiled like this all the time, and that knowledge struck him silent.

"Yuuri?" Viktor asked, leaning closer and peering into his face.  "You're not saying anything, or eating. Are you all right?"

Yuuri nodded vigorously; it wouldn't do for Viktor to realize how possessive Yuuri suddenly felt.  "I'm fine!  Honestly!  Just - um - tired.  Yeah.  It's been a long couple of days and...and tomorrow is the start of competition."

Viktor frowned a little but nodded.  "You're right. We should return to the hotel."

Despite Yuuri's protest, Viktor paid the bill.  They walked silently back to the hotel, and Yuuri was aware of a tension between them that hadn't been there earlier.  

My fault , he thought miserably as they entered the elevator.   I wanted to make Viktor smile but I'm doing the opposite now.  "Viktor?" he said out-loud, as they stood watching the floor numbers change.  "I - I really enjoyed tonight."

Viktor's expression immediately brightened.  "So did I!"

"Maybe - after the competition?  When we have some free time?  We could do this again?"

Viktor's smile softened and he reached out to touch Yuuri's cheek.  "I'd like that very much." The door opened at his floor and he stepped out, then turned to wave at Yuuri.  "It's a date!"

Yuuri froze as the doors shut between them and he stood in shocked silence during the ride to his floor.   Viktor didn't mean it like it sounded, right?  Right?  It wasn't a date - date.  More like a plan.  Because there was no way that Viktor Nikiforov, the world's most eligible bachelor, was interested in Yuuri Katsuki who had never had a date in his life.  It was just a friend thing, like when Phichit invited him out.  Or when that hockey player - Chad? - had asked him out for coffee.  Right?

Then he realized that the elevator doors were closing and hurriedly slid through them.

Chapter Text

Part 3:  Don’t You Just Love Me in Pink?

 

The next morning was the Men's Short Program and Yuuri had drawn the 27th slot out of 34 based on the year’s performance, so he was skating in the next-to-last group.  As Yuuri warmed up in the practice rink, he found that his nerves weren't nearly as bad as they had been in the past.  He couldn't help reflecting on the previous day, on the fact that Viktor Nikiforov actually liked spending time with him.  And since Yuuri had made it to Worlds, Viktor would choreograph his next season - well, unless Yuuri completely humiliated himself in front of the entire world....

And there were his nerves, checking in.

"Yuuri!"

Yuuri swung around, trying not to betray to Viktor (because of course he would choose now to appear out of nowhere) just how nervous he was.  Given the look on Viktor's face, he wasn't successful.  "Um.  Viktor.  Hi!"

Viktor smiled reassuringly.  "Don't be so worried!  Even if you end up last, I'll still choreograph for you!"

Yuuri winced; Viktor was so very bad at pep talks.  "I need to place in the top ten to get Japan two entries at Worlds next year," he pointed out.

"And you will," Viktor said confidently.  "You were eleventh at the start of the year and ninth now.  And that was before you had my help."

Yuuri's mouth dropped open.  He couldn't believe that Viktor knew where he, Yuuri Katsuki, stood in World Rankings.  Yuuri knew, of course - he obsessed about his placement - but most skaters only cared about where they landed in the competitions themselves.

"Anyways, do your best - and I'll be watching!"

Celestino called Yuuri's name and he wished Viktor good luck, then left the practice ice.  Phichit was skating in the group before Yuuri so they walked over to the main rink together.  Yuuri remained in the back area, stretching and keeping his muscles loose, while Celestino went out with Phichit for his group's warmup.

Yuuri was skating between Emil and Michele, a familiar position as the three of them had been trading rankings over the past few years.  He took to the ice feeling confident, aware that Viktor was in the back area watching him on the monitor, and he was determined to skate his very best.  His spins and step-sequences were good, his favorite triple axle flawless, and even though his triple salchow was a little wobbly he didn't fall.  His only quad, the final toe-loop, was also good.  When he sat in the Kiss and Cry with his coach, he was stunned to see that his score was just under 92.  It was a new personal best and put him in second behind Otabek Altin - at least for now.

He put on his team jacket and took a seat next to Phichit in the viewing stands as the final group came out for their warm-up.  JJ Leroy skated first in the group and he took the lead from Otabek.  He was followed by the German and French skaters as well as the other Russian skater, all of whom placed below Yuuri.  Christophe Giacometti took the lead from JJ, and then it was Viktor's turn.

Yuuri had seen Viktor perform this program on television and from backstage at the Grand Prix Finals, but he had never seen it in person and this close.  Viktor was performing a program from "The Snow Queen" ballet, the part where the young man becomes ensnared by the Snow Queen whose kisses turn his heart to ice.  Yuuri watched as Viktor danced across the ice, as graceful as a snowflake in his ice-blue and white costume, and he thought that Viktor had never looked more beautiful.  But there was something a bit cold and lost as well, and Yuuri had the overwhelming urge to wrap his arms around Viktor, to shed the tears that would melt his icy heart and bring him back to life.

Everyone around him was applauding and jumping to their feet, and Yuuri flushed in embarrassment at his presumption that he could be anything other than a friend to Viktor. He joined in the applause as, once more, Viktor took the lead in the Short Program.  He was followed by Christophe and JJ, and just below them was Otabek - and then Yuuri.

In fifth place at Worlds after the Short Program.

Yuuri didn't know whether to faint or throw up.



There was another rest day between the short and free programs, not that Yuuri did much resting.  He used every minute of his scheduled practice time to work on the quad salchow and the triple-double combination jump at the end of the first half.  As long as he didn't fall, he thought he had a reasonable chance of ending up in the top ten.

Viktor was fully occupied, even during their free day, but Minako and the Nishigoris tried to distract him during his hours off the ice, and for once he let them.  Their support had helped him get here and he knew that they didn't view him as weak.  They took him out to dinner and then to watch the ice dancing short program, and he let himself get lost in the beauty of the couples moving in sync across the ice.

Then it was the day of the Men’s Free program.  Phichit was in next-to-last group along with Emil and Michele, and all three of them struggled a bit with their programs.  Yuuri was skating 30th, in the final group, with the other Russian skater preceding him.  Georgi fell during his quad toe-loop but took first from the Spanish skater, and then it was Yuuri's turn.  

Yuuri managed a nearly-clean skate, although his hand touched down during the quad salchow and he over-rotated on the double-axle in his triple-double combination.  Once more it put him temporarily in the lead with another personal best score of nearly 173.

Otabek skated next, a solid program and a good performance, but his Free Program score fell a few hundredths of a point below Yuuri's.  However, combined with his higher Short program score, it put him in the lead over Yuuri by almost ten points.  JJ Leroy was next, skating a technically good program with two quads, but his performance scores were lower than both Yuuri and Otabek, landing him in second place between them with two more skaters left.  Christophe's performance as a harem boy in an Arabian nights based program was beautiful and erotic, and it put him in first place over Otabek by fourteen points.

And then Viktor took the ice, looking like a prince from a fairy tale in his pink costume, skating to Stammi Vicino.  He was beautiful and distant and perfect, landing a record four quads including his signature quad flip, and taking first place by almost fifty points.  The entire arena, including Yuuri, was on their feet at the end, cheering loudly.  But it seemed to Yuuri as if Viktor's eyes had sought him out at the end, as if the final plea of "Stay Close to Me" was directed at him.

In the end, Viktor took gold and Christophe silver, as usual.  But, in a surprisingly close score, Otabek edged out Jean-Jacques Leroy to take the bronze, leaving the Canadian skater just off the podium.  In another surprising upset, the Spanish and German skaters, who'd placed 4th and 5th at the previous Worlds, fell to 7th and 13th respectively. The German skater had fallen several times, his Free program score ranking 14th, fueling more rumors of his retirement.

Yuuri had done better than he could have hoped, with his Free skate ranked 3rd and his overall placement of 5th.  The JSF representatives were besides themselves with joy, as Yuuri's ranking in the top ten had given them another entry at next year's Worlds, which would then determine how many skaters they could send to the 2018 Olympics.  His placement in the top six also gave him preferential slots in the upcoming Grand Prix qualifiers.

And Phichit!  His friend and rink-mate had catapulted to 11th, which also guaranteed him two events in the Qualifiers.  Celestino was delighted with both of his skaters and took them out to celebrate after the medal ceremony ended, joined by the Nishigori family who were beside themselves with happiness for Yuuri.  The triplets took advantage of the situation to take new pictures to upload to Yuuri's Instagram, aided and abetted by Phichit.  (Phichit was also never going to let him live down the fact that his social media was managed better by the Triple Terrors than Yuuri himself had ever managed.)

Yuuri would have liked to have had a chance to talk with Viktor after the ceremony, but the podium winners were swept off for press events and surrounded by ISU officials, so Yuuri resigned himself to waiting till after the Gala and the banquet the next evening.  He'd done as Viktor had asked, had made it to Worlds.  He hadn't done too badly with his programs, although he was relieved that he would never have to skate either of them again.

Now he just needed to wait for Viktor to tell him what he would be skating next season.

 

Chapter Text

Part 4: No One Is Half As Dear

 

Yuuri was surprised when he was invited to perform in the Gala, although he thought it was because he was suddenly a news item.  (Viktor had dropped a bombshell the previous day, announcing at the press conference that he’d be choreographing programs for both Yuris in the next season.)  Being the National Champion from the host country might have been a bit of a factor, too, he thought.

The next morning was full of rehearsals for the Exhibition Gala, but as they were breaking for lunch, Viktor grabbed his arm and pulled him aside.  

“Breakfast tomorrow?  To talk about next season?”  Viktor ran his hand through his fringe of hair as he let out an exasperated sigh.  “I wanted to take you out to dinner, but today is so busy and we fly back home tomorrow afternoon.  When do you leave?”

Yuuri shrugged.  “Anytime I want - if I take the noon train tomorrow I’ll be home by night, but there are trains all day.”

“Good.”

His coach shouted for him and Viktor sighed again, muttering something in Russian under his breath, then he smiled at Yuuri.  “Tomorrow morning, then.” He tapped a finger against Yuuri’s nose. “And not so much champagne tonight, da?” Then he was gone again.


Yuuri skated in the first half of the Exhibition program, between the 4th place Women’s skater who was also from Japan and the 3rd place Ice Dancers, performing one of his favorite old programs.  Viktor was at the end of the program, of course, the Crown Prince performing before his adoring audience - and maybe it was only Yuuri who could see that his smile was a little strained.

And then the season was over and they were celebrating (rather sedately) at the banquet.  Word had already gone out from the ISU officials - with pointed looks at Christophe and Yuuri that made him want to hide under a rock - that there wouldn’t be any dancing or other shenanigans this evening.  Phichit had immediately demanded details, which Christophe was eager to provide, and Yuuri decided to unfriend both of them forever.  And to avoid champagne for the rest of his life .

In the morning, after seeing the Nishigoris off to their train home, Yuuri waited in the hotel lobby for Viktor.  He was rewarded by a brilliant smile when Viktor caught sight of him.

“Yuuri!  Where shall we eat?”

“You might want to eat here in the hotel - they have a continental breakfast offer,” Yuuri admitted.  “Most non-Japanese think our breakfasts are a bit odd.”

Viktor tilted his head.  “What do you usually eat when you’re home, Yuuri?”

“Um, miso soup and rice, sometimes fish.  Oh, and green tea or genmaicha.”

Viktor blinked, then smiled and shrugged.  “Try new things, that’s my motto!”

Yuuri led them to a nearby cafe and ordered for them since Viktor couldn’t read the menu.  It reminded him of breakfast in Sochi and, by the look on Viktor’s face, he was having the same thought.  Yuuri ordered natto for himself, and as he mixed it with his rice, he felt like he was finally home.

Viktor seemed to enjoy the miso soup and the rice - his with grilled fish - but he was not a fan of the green tea.  Their server took pity on him and brought him one of their coffee confections instead that looked 75% sugar and cream.  (Yuuri suspected that Viktor had an enormous sweet tooth.) 

When they’d finished their meal, Viktor gave him an intent look.  “Yuuri, do you still want me to choreograph your programs?”

Of course, Yuuri thought, but then maybe it was Viktor who’d changed his mind.  “You don’t have to - you must be very busy with your own programs.”

Yuuurrrriii.”  Viktor propped his head on his hand and made a face at him from across the table.  

Yuuri sighed and gave up.  “Yes.  I do.”

“Good.”  Viktor sat up straighter.  “I’ve analyzed your skating and I think you need more challenge than you’ve had.  Your stamina is remarkable!  You should be doing more difficult combinations - the reason you over-rotate is because your body is wanting to do more.  So triple-triple instead of triple-double, or maybe triple-single-double - do you see what I mean?”

Yuuri nodded, startled because Celestino was always worried that he was trying to do too much not too little.  But there was a hungry part inside him, the side that hated to lose, that was thrilled by the challenge.

“Now, I’ve already got music in mind for the Short program.  It’s a song called ‘On Love’ that has two variations.  One is Agape, love that is unconditional, like God’s love.  The other is Eros, sexual love.  I’ll be designing two programs with these two different themes, one for me and one for you.  And your assignment is - Eros!”

Yuuri gaped at him.  “Are you sure ?  That doesn’t sound anything like me!  People would probably rather see you performing Eros.”

“That’s the point!” Viktor said, smiling triumphantly.  “You should always try to do the exact opposite of what everyone expects.  How else can you surprise them - that’s my motto!”

“But - I - “  Yuuri flushed and dropped his eyes to the table, his fingers nervously playing with the rim of his empty bowl.  “I don’t exactly have any…experience with that.  Um. With sex.”

“Oh, that’s all right!” Viktor said cheerfully.  “I’m sure we’ll be able to find something to inspire your Eros!  Now, the question is - where will we be able to train this summer?  I don’t want to use your home rink with Celestino -- I want us to take the world by surprise with your new program, and your friend Chulanot will put all your rehearsals on Instagram.  And my home rink has the same problem - Georgi and Mila!”

“Actually that’s not my home rink anymore,” Yuuri reminded him.  “But there is a rink in Hasetsu, near my home.  I know the owners and I’m sure they’d let us use it for private training sessions.”

“Really?” Viktor looked thoughtful.

“And my family has an onsen - an inn with a hot springs.   You’d be welcome to stay there for as long as you need.”

Viktor looked delighted by that idea.  “Sounds perfect!  Could I bring Makkachin?  I don’t like to leave him for too long.”

“Of course!  My family likes dogs.”  His throat tightened at the memory of Vicchan.  “Um, how long do you think we’ll need?”

Viktor tapped his lips, thinking.  “Two programs, plus I want to work on improving your quads…. It’ll take me a few weeks to pack and get Makka’s travel papers sorted, so I’ll arrive mid-April and stay till July 1st.  We’ll have the qualifying assignments by then, too.”  He looked at Yuuri and said, “What do you plan to do about your coach?  Are you staying with Celestino?”

Yuuri sighed.  “We haven’t talked about that yet but I’ll need to.  Since I’m not staying in Detroit, I’m not sure that he’d want to coach me remotely.”

“I’d offer to be your coach but it’d be tricky, coaching and skating full time.  Unless I gave up skating -”

Yuuri gaped at him and made vigorous negating hand movements.  “No no no!  You can’t give up your skating - not for me!”

Viktor sighed.  “Yuuri, I’m twenty-seven - I’m the oldest skater in the premiere ranks.  I will have to think about retiring some time.  In fact… Before I met you at the Final banquet, I was thinking about retiring after this year’s Worlds.  But now…”  He cocked his head and smiled across at Yuuri.  “I am looking forward to competing against you this year, Yuuri.  It will be a new challenge!  I think that you could even beat me.”

Yuuri shook his head at that.  “Are you sure that you didn’t drink too much last night?  Because that sounds like crazy-talk.”

Viktor laughed and reached over to grab Yuuri’s right hand, pressing a kiss against his knuckles.  “What would I do without you, Yuuri?  You make me laugh so much.”

He grabbed the bill and walked to the cashier to pay for their meal, clearly having decided that the discussion was done.  Yuuri sighed and followed him back to the hotel.

And if he spent most of the nine hour train ride to Hasetsu staring at the knuckles of his right hand, well, it wasn’t because they were tingling from a phantom kiss.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5 - Foolish To Think

Part 1: The Playboy Seduces

 

Viktor arrived in Hasetsu in April, along with a sudden winter blast that blanketed the onsen with snow.  Yuuri had been up late the previous night, chatting with Phichit, and had slept in, so the first that he knew that Viktor had arrived was when he opened his bedroom door and was knocked down by a large, friendly poodle.

“Makkachin?” Yuuri said and the dog woofed happily at the sound of his name.  “When did you arrive?”

Of course there was no answer from the poodle, no matter how intelligent, but Yuuri’s father was more informative.  

“Your friend arrived about an hour ago, said not to wake you yet,” Toshiya told him.  “He’s in the hot springs.  He’s quite handsome, for a foreigner.  Looks sort of like the man in all those posters you have.”

Yuuri hurried out to the springs, just to confirm that Viktor was really there.

He was, submerged in the outside pool, and at the sight of Yuuri he stood up and said dramatically, “Hello, Yuuri!  I have arrived to be your choreographer!  And you’re going to win!”  Then he smiled at Yuuri and winked.

He’s naked.  Oh so very naked.  

Yuuri hastily averted his eyes with a blush and he grabbed a yukata which he blindly held out to Viktor.  “Um - you must be naked - I mean hungry!  For food!”

Viktor laughed and stepped out of the pool, drying himself with his towel and then donning the garment.  “Is something wrong, Yuuri?” he teased.

“No!” Yuuri replied, then winced at the squeaky timber of his voice.  

Viktor laughed again.  “Okay, I’m dressed.”

Yuuri looked back at him, his cheeks still flushed.  “I wasn’t expecting you so soon.”

Viktor shrugged.  “I was able to get travel papers sooner than I thought.  I couldn’t wait to get started on our programs.  But first - can I get something to eat?  I’m starving!”

Yuuri laughed and led him into the family dining area, and his mother immediately set down a full breakfast of rice, fish, natto, and miso soup.  Viktor made quick work of the meal, then yawned widely.

He curled up on the tatami mat around Makkachin and fell asleep in minutes.

Yuuri stared for several minutes at Viktor as he slept.  He had to pinch himself, scarcely able to believe that his idol was actually in his home, that he’d come there to create new programs for Yuuri.

“Yuuri, what are all those boxes doing in the hall?” Mari asked, entering the room, then she paused and looked down at the sleeping man.  “Who is that and what did you do to him?”

“It’s Viktor, my new choreographer,” Yuuri said softly so as not to wake Viktor.  “He fell asleep after bathing in the springs and eating.”

“Huh,” Mari said, looking at the sleeping man again.  “That’s the guy on all your posters, isn’t it?  Wasn’t he supposed to arrive next week?”  Yuuri shrugged in response.  “Well, come help me get his room ready.  From the number of boxes, he must have brought half of his house with him.  How long is he staying?”

“Almost three months,” Yuuri replied, following her out to the main room.  His eyes widened at the sight of all the boxes and he wondered what on earth Viktor had brought with him.  

His parents had decided to give Yuuri’s new choreographer the old family banquet room, thinking that none of their regular rooms would be large enough to accommodate the man and his large poodle for nearly three months.  And after all the boxes had been carried up, Yuuri thought it was probably a good idea.   He resisted the urge to peak into the boxes and closed the sliding panel behind him.

Then he remembered what Mari and his father had said about the posters.  He hurried back to his room and hastily (but carefully) removed all his posters of Viktor and shoved them under his bed.  Once he was sure that he room was cleared of all traces of his stalking of Viktor, he went back down to the dining room.

Just as Minako burst through the door.  “Yuuri!  I heard that Viktor Nikiforov is actually here!”

Yuuri shushed her - or tried to - but it was too late.  Viktor rolled over and sat up, blinking sleepily at Yuuri.  “I’m hungry again.  What is there to eat?”

Yuuri glanced at the clock, seeing that a couple of hours had passed and that his parents would be well into lunch preparations.  “Lots of things!  What would you like?”

“Mmmm.  Yuuri, what’s your favorite again?”

“Katsudon,” he said promptly.  “Pork cutlet bowls.”

His mother must have been listening for Viktor to wake up again because she bustled in and set a bowl of katsudon in front of him.  “It’s our specialty,” she said proudly.

“Wow!  This looks amazing!”  Viktor’s face lit up at the first taste of the dish.  “Vkusno!” he declared, gobbling down the food so quickly that Yuuri was worried that he’d choke.  Then he looked over at Yuuri. “You’re not eating?”

“Yuuri only gets katsudon after winning competitions,” Minako said.  “He gains weight so easily.”

Yuuri flushed at that; it was true and, although he’d been careful not to gain any weight since the season ended, it was a constant battle.  

“Really?”  Viktor’s gaze was warm, almost fond.  “Yuuri, have you had any katsudon recently?  You did very well at Four Continents and Worlds.”

“Um…”  Yuuri didn’t think he’d done that well at Worlds - fifth wasn’t on the podium - but he had come in second at Four Continents so he supposed that counted.

His mother beamed at him.  “We’re so proud of you, Yuuri!”  

Before he could protest, she had fetched a bowl of katsudon for him as well.  And then it would be just wasteful and an insult to her if he refused to eat it so he did, as slowly as possible in order to savor it.  The next competitions, and his next opportunity to earn another bowl, were months away.

“So you are the Minako that Yuuri always talks about,” Viktor said, now taking in the new person sitting at their table.  “Viktor Nikiforov.  Pleased to meet you.”

“So you’re really here to help Yuuri with his programs,” Minako said, resting her elbow on the table and cupping her chin as she stared at him intently.  

Viktor nodded gravely.  “I am.”

“And what do you get out of this?” Minako asked.  “No offense, but you don’t seem like a selfless person.”

“Inspiration,” Viktor replied, giving her a slight smile before he looked over at Yuuri.  His smile deepened, warmed.  “Yuuri makes me enjoy skating again.”

“Really?”  Both Minako and Yuuri spoke in unison and Viktor laughed.  

“Of course!  Why else would I be here?”  He winked at Yuuri.  “Well, I should probably get settled in before we start training tomorrow,” Viktor said.  “I had some boxes shipped here - have they arrived?”

Yuuri nodded as he reluctantly pushed his empty bowl away.  “Earlier, while you were resting.  We’ve taken them up to your room.  Come, I’ll show you the way.”

Viktor rose, as did Minako, and he took her hand and kissed the back of it.  “It was a pleasure meeting the person who taught Yuuri to move so beautifully.  I look forward to working with you in the future.”

Minako looked stunned and star-struck, something that Yuuri had never seen before now.  He sighed and grabbed Viktor’s arm, tugging him toward the stairs.

“Come on, Casanova.  Let’s get you unpacked.”

 


 

It took a couple of hours to unpack the boxes containing what Viktor considered essential for a three month stay.  The framework for a platform bed, as well as a rolled up mattress. Clothes - boxes and boxes of them.  Sheets for the bed, with a higher thread count than Yuuri had ever felt before, and pillows, and a silk comforter.  Things for Makkachin - bowls and food and toys, as well as a cushioned bed that looked like it had hardly been slept in.  A couple of lamps (lamps? Yuuri thought incredulously) and little decorator touches.  And, of course, several sets of skates and workout clothes and other skating gear.

How long are you planning to stay?” Yuuri teased him as he assembled the floor lamp and set it up next to the bed.

“Hmm.” Viktor critically studied the room.  “I’ll need a sofa - maybe a futon?”

“Right.”  Yuuri sat down on the floor, leaning against the bed frame.  “We don’t have any here but I know where we can buy one.”

“Good.”  

Viktor knelt down in front of Yuuri, and suddenly all his attention turned from examining his room to examining Yuuri.  “And now, let’s talk about you, Yuuri.  I want to know more about you.  What things you like to do besides skating, what music you like.  If you’ve ever been in love...“ 

His other hand touched Yuuri’s chin, tilted his face upward.  “If I’m going to be your choreographer, I should know everything.  A relationship like this should be built on trust.”

Yuuri felt as if he had suddenly been stripped naked and he wanted to retreat.  “We should go!  To the rink!  You want to see where we’ll be practicing, right?  And - and we need to get on the schedule.”

Viktor dropped his hand and sighed.  “Okay, fine.  Let me get changed.  We should bring our skates, in case the ice is free.  I want to get a feel for the rink.”

 


 

They jogged to the rink, to warm up before skating, and Yuuri was surprised to see that Viktor was more winded than he was at the end.  Viktor recovered quickly, though, thoroughly charming the entire Nishigori family.  Yuuko was nearly incoherent with joy at the thought that Viktor would be skating at their rink every day, and Viktor was more than happy to put on his skates and perform a bit.  Yuuri joined him for a few warm-up laps, glad to stretch out his muscles after moving all those boxes.  Then it was time to close up the rink and, after Viktor had booked the early mornings for private practice, they walked back to the inn.

Although he had grown up in the onsen and was comfortable with the casual nudity of the baths, it was still odd to be sharing them with Viktor, his childhood (and, okay, he admitted it, still ) idol.  He was careful to avert his eyes so that Viktor wouldn't think that he was staring at him inappropriately, although Viktor seemed to have no qualms about doing his stretching exercises there for anyone to see.  Once they were both in the water, a socially-acceptable distance apart, Yuuri relaxed and was even able to talk easily with Viktor.  He was interested in everything about Hasetsu - where Yuuri had gone to school, what had been his favorite places to go (besides Ice Castle), and what the tourists liked to do.  

"Well, there's the beach - only it's too cold for that right now.  In another month it'll be better."

"We'll have to do that on one of our rest days, then," Viktor said.  "I’ve only been to a beach a few times.  In St. Petersburg the water is always too cold for all but the most hardy to swim in."

"Haven't you ever gone to the beach on vacation?" Yuuri asked.

Viktor shrugged.  "I haven't really taken a vacation, not since I started skating.  Occasionally I've been to a competition someplace near the ocean, and I've gone to the beach between skates, but not very often."

Yuuri couldn't help frowning a bit at that.  He knew Viktor had been skating since he was a child - did that mean that Viktor had never taken time to just enjoy himself?

"What about during the off-season?"

Viktor shrugged again.  "I'm usually busy choreographing my programs for the next season.  And spending time with Makkachin!"

Yuuri let the subject drop, but he had the sudden mental image of Viktor, alone except for his poodle, while the rest of his rink-mates were off on vacation with their families.  It made something in his throat tighten.

So perhaps that was why he (reluctantly) agreed when Viktor suggested a “sleep-over” that night.  It just didn't seem right to make Viktor sleep alone on his first night in Hasetsu. He rolled out a futon for the floor and Viktor dragged his comforter and pillows into Yuuri's room, collapsing on the futon with a satisfied sigh.

"So this is where you slept growing up," Viktor said, looking around at the room and then frowning at the walls.  "It's very plain, Yuuri.  You should put up some pictures!"  Then Viktor looked closer at the walls. "It looks like there were pictures here - where did they go?"

Yuuri thought about the posters of Viktor that were hidden under the bed, just out of Viktor's sight.  "I, um, took them with me to Detroit - haven't had a chance to put them back up."

"You should do that - and I'll help!" Viktor offered, bouncing a bit on the futon at the idea.  "It'll be fun!"

"No!" Yuuri said, panicked and waving his hands in negation.  "You don't need to do that!  I'm sure you have other things you'd rather do!"

"Yuuuurrrriiiii!"  Viktor collapsed on his back on the futon, pouting.  "Fine.  Maybe we can do some sightseeing.  What's the building on the hill above Ice Castle?"

"People call it Hasetsu Castle, but it's really a ninja house inside - "

"Ninjas!"  Viktor bounced back up, all trace of his pout gone.  "Really?  I love ninjas!  I wanted to skate to a ninja program when I was younger but Yakov wouldn't let me."

Yuuri laughed, relieved to have diverted Viktor's attention.  "We'll go there after morning practice, okay?"

"That will be amazing," Viktor replied, curling himself around Makkachin and pulling his comforter up over his shoulders.  "Good night, Yuuri.  Sleep well."

"'Night, Viktor." Yuuri lay back down on his bed and stared at the ceiling for a long time.  There was a funny feeling in his chest, sort of like indigestion but softer. It made him feel light and free - and after a moment he realized that he was happy.  Possibly the happiest he'd ever been in his life.

He rolled onto his side, staring at the lump that was Viktor, until he fell asleep.

 


 

The main problem, Yuuri discovered, with having Viktor in his room was that Viktor was a morning person.  An annoyingly cheerful morning person.

Also, very affectionate in the morning.

Yuuri was awakened by two sudden thuds on his bed, one after the other.  The first, as he discovered, was Viktor, quickly followed by Makkachin who insisted on uncovering his face and giving him doggy kisses.

"Morning, sleepy-head!" Viktor said in an annoyingly chirpy tone of voice.  "Time for all good little ice skaters to get out of bed and on the ice!"

" 'm not a good little skater," Yuuri mumbled, trying to bury himself back under the covers.

" Yuuuuurrrriiii !" Viktor poked at him.  "I'm going to get washed and dressed, eat, and then we are going to the rink.  If you don't get up, you won't get breakfast."

Yuuri groaned and threw back the covers, sitting up.  "Okay, okay, I'm awake."

"Good!  We will have a busy morning and you need food for energy.  Ten minutes!"

Viktor disappeared and Yuuri contemplated crawling back under the covers for a brief snooze.  There was no way that Viktor would be dressed and ready in ten minutes, right? Not with the way he looked - that had to take some time to put together.  On the other hand, if the threat was real, it would be a long, long time till Yuuri got a chance to eat. He dragged himself out of bed and pulled on his workout clothes, then went to brush his teeth and relieve himself.  Feeling only half-awake, he took a few extra minutes to scrub his face with a cold washcloth before heading downstairs.

Viktor was - amazingly - already there, talking with his mother and stirring jam into a cup of black tea that he'd acquired from somewhere.  (Yuuri wouldn't have been surprised if the tea and jam had been among the boxes he'd sent.)

“Good morning, Yuuri!”  Viktor said cheerfully as he sipped his sweetened tea.  

Yuuri mumbled something in return and tucked in at the low table, grabbing his own preferred cup of genmaicha.  They quickly ate their breakfasts with little conversation, Viktor apparently realizing that Yuuri wouldn’t be a coherent talker until he’d woken up more.  

Viktor had borrowed one of the onsen’s bicycles for their trip to the rink while Yuuri preferred to jog.  Takeshi was already there, running the Zamboni to resurface the ice, as they made their way to the locker room to put on their skates.  Once they had run through their warmup and some practice exercises, Viktor sent Yuuri off the ice while he pulled out his phone.

Takeshi joined him at the barrier, watching as Viktor hooked his phone up to the rink’s sound system.  

“So this is for real.  Viktor’s going to be your choreographer.  This must seem like a dream come true, huh?”

Yuuri nodded, his eyes on Viktor.  “I still can’t quite believe it.  I almost didn’t expect him to come.”

“Okay, this is the first version of the song, the one that I will be skating to,” Viktor said and pressed the play button.  

A beautiful, almost otherworldly voice sang out, rising through the rink like the chanting of the monks at the temple.  The orchestration behind it was ethereal as well, and Yuuri could easily picture a skater spinning and jumping to the music.  It would be beautiful, almost magical.

“Well, what do you think?” Viktor asked him.  “What does it remind you of?”

“It has a sort of purity to it,” Yuuri replied hesitantly.  He wanted to add that it reminded him of someone that hadn’t experienced love, but Viktor would be skating to it and that couldn’t possibly be the case.  His conquests were legendary in the media.  “Um, a transcendent love…?”

“Transcendent.”  Viktor cocked his head, considering this.  “Alright.  Now this is the other arrangement, that of sexual love.  This is what you’ll be skating to.”

Viktor pressed play and the sound of castanets and a guitar rang out in place of the more ethereal strings.  It was like a completely different song, full of passion and heat.  He didn’t need Viktor saying things like “pleasure layered upon pleasure” and “drowning in ecstasy” to understand the meaning behind it.

He also couldn’t picture himself skating to this music.

Neither, apparently, could Takeshi.  “You’re going to be skating about sex and love?”  He laughed.  “How many dates have you been on?”

Yuuri flushed, rubbing the back of his neck in embarrassment.  “It’s Viktor’s idea!” he protested.

“That I can believe,” Takeshi said.  “Even I can see that he’s hot - and didn’t they name him the World’s Most Eligible Bachelor?”

“So Yuuri, what do you think?” Viktor asked, pausing the music.

“It’s...um...very….Eros?” he said hesitantly.  “It doesn’t sound like me, though.  Are you sure that you don’t want to skate to this one?”

“You should always try to do the opposite of what people expect, remember?” Viktor said.  “The truth is, you need to work on your image and be more self aware.  That’s what we are going to work on.  And as my fan, I’m sure that you’ll do your best to meet my standards.”

There was a bit of an ultimatum in his words, and Yuuri had the sudden chilling thought that Viktor would leave if he didn’t find a way to prove himself.  And that was the very last thing that he wanted.

“I will,” he replied firmly, raising his chin and meeting Viktor’s eyes.  “I want to eat katsudon with you, so I want to win, and keep on winning.  So I’ll give this all the Eros that I’ve got in me!”

Viktor’s eyes lit up and he smiled warmly at Yuuri.  “Good.  That’s what I want to hear.”

 


 

Yuuri tried not to think about what Takeshi had said but, as usual, once his anxiety was triggered, there was no way to stop it.  And when Viktor demonstrated the program that he’d created for Yuuri, it only got worse.  There was no way that he could skate that!  He would look like an idiot!  Everyone would much rather see Viktor skating to the sensual music and Yuuri skating to the one that sounded like someone who’d never experienced love.  After all, that was the truth.

And yet -

When Viktor ran through the program again, Yuuri could almost see the story that it was telling.  In his imagination, he could see the story about the handsome and charming playboy who comes to town.  All the women throw themselves at him, but he's only interested in the most beautiful of them - and the one who turns away from his advances. He pursues her with flowers and costly presents and promises, until finally she surrenders to him.  They have one night of passion and then, having conquered her, the playboy tosses her aside and moves on to the next town.

Viktor gave him a funny look when he described this scenario to him but shrugged and said, "Okay, we can work with that.  At least you're not imagining a pork cutlet bowl."

Yuuri turned bright red at that, embarrassed to remember that he had made some rather pornographic noises earlier when eating with Viktor.  But then, he thought, who could blame him? His mother's katsudon was the best, and it would be a long time before he'd be able to eat it again.

Viktor skated up to him and, once more, took his chin between his fingers.  “Unleash the Eros within you, Yuuri.  Maybe no one’s seen it before but I know it’s there, smoldering deep down inside in you, waiting for its chance to come out.  Can you show it to me?  Can you do that?”

The sudden sound of the outside door and high-pitched voices broke them apart, alerting them that their booked time was at an end.  They left the ice for the locker room, but Yuuri couldn’t help wondering what would have happened if they hadn’t been interrupted.

For a moment he’d thought that Viktor might kiss him.

"We'll start work on the components tomorrow," Viktor said as he dried his skates and slipped on the poodle-shaped soakers.  “Be thinking about which jumps you feel more confident about now, which ones you want to include in this program.”

“Right,” Yuuri said.  He did feel more confident about some of his quads now, but it wouldn’t be nearly enough to get him on the platform at the Grand Prix Final.

They returned to the onsen and changed, then Yuuri led the way to Hasetsu Castle.  Viktor loved it, taking pictures of everything and having Yuuri translate all the informational signs.  The custodian of the site was delighted by Viktor’s response and invited him to return any time he wanted.

They stopped for lunch at Nagahama Ramen, then made their way to Minako’s studio.  Her class had just ended so she had time to work out a training schedule with Viktor while Yuuri went through his usual ballet routine.  

“Now, we need to make some sort of arrangement about your coach,” Viktor said, once Yuuri had joined them.  “How did you leave things with Celestino?”

Yuuri shrugged.  “We sort of ended things for now, since he only has time to work long-distance with one student.  Phichit’s returned to Thailand, and Coach Celestino is spending time between there and Detroit.”

Viktor frowned.  “Are there any local coaches - “  He broke off as both Minako and Yuuri shook their heads.

“I can go on the official records as his coach, and travel with him to events, at least for this next season,” Minako said.  “I did that before Nationals.”  She looked at him fondly. “It’s not like any coach would be harder on Yuuri than he is on himself.”

“And I can give guidance for the skating side,” Viktor said, “so that’s settled for now.  What about costumes?”

“There’s a place in Fukuoka that I’ve used,” Yuuri said.  “I’ll make an appointment for a consultation.”

“Good.  You should also be thinking about music for the Free program,” Viktor added.  “I want you to choose it, and then we will work on the choreography together.”

Yuuri blanched. “I’ve never done that before!  My coaches have always chosen my music for me.”

Viktor raised an eyebrow at him.  “And how much did you dislike the music for last year’s programs?”

Yuuri flushed; he had to admit that he hadn’t been thrilled by the music Celestino had chosen for him.  

“Then it is decided.”

 


 

The next day they began work on their Short programs.  Since Yuuri wasn’t a morning person, Viktor took their early morning booking to work on his own Short program before returning to join Yuuri for breakfast.  They alternated between the gym and the ballet studio for their mornings with a rest break after lunch. Then it was Yuuri’s turn on the ice, under Viktor’s critical eye, concentrating on the step-sequence elements and spins first, just marking the jumps.  And Yuuri got his first taste of Viktor-the-top-rated-skater while in training. He was tougher on Yuuri than Celestino had ever been, having him repeat sections of the step-sequence until the flow was consistent if not yet perfect.

Once his step-sequences and spins were in line, they began working on his jumps.  Changing his usual combination to a quad-toe/triple-toe and putting it at the end required all of Yuuri’s stamina, but it solved the issue with over-rotation, and his triple axel was also reliable.  His quad salchow was still his weak point, though, with only 50% of them clean.

And, of course, he was obsessing over the fact that he just wasn’t connecting with his Eros even after working on the program for almost a month.  He was supposed to start off the skate with a matador-like flourish, his pose and arm movements telling the audience that he was the bold and irresistible conqueror of hearts.  His step sequence was designed to show him as a skilled seducer, a man who always caught the one he pursued.  All of his spins and jumps were to flaunt his sexual prowess, ensnaring his target, until at the end when he discarded the woman he’d won so that he could go after the next.  And while he was becoming better at the technical elements themselves, he wasn’t finding the emotions, which frustrated both of them.

Adding to his stress, Viktor had agreed to put on a show at Ice Castle at the end of May, with each of them performing their short program.  “To give Yuuri a chance to perform his new program before a small and friendly home audience,” Viktor had said, although Yuuri had no doubt that the media would be there as well.  They wouldn’t miss a chance to broadcast Viktor’s new Short program.

And Yuuri would look like an idiot because he still didn’t know how to show his Eros.  The framework of the program was there but he was still missing the core.  His PCS would be the worst ever, even if they weren’t being scored, and he couldn’t help thinking about that.  Which, as Viktor pointed out, caused him to flub his jumps.

“Something is on your mind,” Viktor said when he’d called him off the ice after his tenth spill on the salchow.  “Care to share?”

Yuuri sighed.  “I guess I’m just frustrated because I can’t find my Eros.”

“There isn’t something or someone that you love?” Viktor asked, leaning closer, into Yuuri’s personal space.  “Something that causes you to lose your self control?”

“Um…not really?  Except maybe katsudon…”  Yuuri stammered, flustered by Viktor’s closeness.

Viktor straightened up, his face expressionless.  “Katsudon.  Right.”  He stepped off of the ice.  “Well, you think about it some more, okay?  I think that’s it for today.”

Yuuri blinked, then glanced over at the clock.  They usually worked for another hour, but maybe Viktor was tired.  “Okay.  You want to go to Nagahama Ramen for dinner?”

“No, thanks,” He leaned down to snap the hard covers on his skates.  “I told Minako that I’d go by her place this evening, to discuss a few things.  You should get an early night.” 

He walked off to the locker room without waiting for Yuuri, leaving him staring after him in bewilderment.

 

Chapter Text

Part 2: The Woman Entices

 

The next morning, Viktor didn’t turn up for breakfast.

“Oh, Vicchan was drinking with Minako till early morning,” his mother said when Yuuri asked if she’d seen Victor.  “He was just coming in when we got up, said to tell you to take today as a rest day.”

Yuuri blinked; Viktor had occasionally indulged in alcohol with Minako, although generally at the onsen and never for so long.  And putting in an unscheduled rest day when there was only two weeks till the Ice Show? It seemed so unlike Viktor.

...And when had his family started calling Viktor “Vicchan”?

Since he had an unanticipated rest day, Yuuri decided to take the train into Fukuoka to meet with his costume designer.  During the trip, he leaned his head against the window and once more contemplated his problem with Eros.  He’d gotten the feeling at the start that Viktor had designed the program with Drunk-Yuuri from the Grand Prix Banquet in mind.  Drunk-Yuuri, who had apparently danced into the banquet hall and swept everyone off their feet, including Viktor.  But he couldn't be that Yuuri, not without being drunk, which wasn't good for skating!  He couldn’t be the confident playboy, seducing partners and tossing them away - it just wasn’t him.  So what was he going to do?

He pushed his despairing thoughts to the back of his mind as he got off the train and made his way to the studio belonging to Muraki Eiko.  Muraki-san was the owner and chief designer of one of the best costume houses in Japan, and the only one in Kyushu.  Her staff had been making his costumes since he was in novices and Muraki-san herself had made the one he’d worn during the year he’d won the Junior National championship.  In fact, as he entered the shop he saw that the photo of him in his Lohengrin costume was still prominently displayed on the wall, along with dozens of others.  He’d had his costumes made in the U.S. the last few years because he hadn’t been able to return to Japan except for Nationals, but he’d always thought these were superior.

There was a young woman at the front desk who greeted him with a bow as he entered and escorted him back to the consulting room, then returned with a tray with a teapot and assorted sweets.  She poured out two cups and then bowed out of the room.  Yuuri looked over the wagashi longingly; they weren’t on his diet - but then again, maybe a rest day could also be a cheat day?

Before he could make up his mind, Muraki entered the room.  He rose and bowed respectfully to her before accepting her indication that he should be seated again.  At her encouragement, he gave in and selected a dorayaki from the tray.

“Katsuki-san, it is a pleasure to see you again after so many years,” the elderly costumer said once the tea and sweets had been consumed.  “How may we be of service?”

“I, um, I’ve moved back home - to Hasetsu.  I finished at the university?” he added, as an explanation for why he hadn’t employed their services in years, and she nodded.  “I - well, I need new costumes for the coming season.”

“It will be my honor to create what you need,” Muraki replied.  “Do you have any designs in mind?”

“For my Free program, yes.”  Even though Yuuri hadn’t chosen his music yet, he’d already thought that he’d like a jacket and pants outfit in blue, but also with some design work to catch the eye. 

Muraki pulled over a sketch pad and quickly drew out the shape, then cast a shrewd look over him.  “You have a good chest, Katsuki-san - a flesh-colored insert with a bit of color at the bottom would look well.”

Yuuri nodded.  “And perhaps a design on the back, along the center?”

She sketched that and made notes a few notes as they talked about different types of designs, then flipped to a new page.  “And for the Short program?”

He sighed.  “I have no idea,” he confessed.  He played a bit of the music for her and explained the story, and she frowned in thought.

“I have an idea or two, maybe a matador style - that’s popular with our pairs skaters.  Perhaps you would like to look through our books to see if anything catches your eye?”  She gestured towards the portfolios scattered on the table.  “I will go pull swatches for the other costume while you look.”

Yuuri nodded and grabbed one of the books, flipping through the pages but seeing nothing that spoke to him.  He picked up the next and flipped it open, then realized that it was for women’s costumes and started to close it again.  

And then he stopped because something had caught his eye.

It was a woman skater, dressed in a flamenco-inspired short dress.  Her pose in the picture reminded him of the opening pose of his skate, and it was as if he’d been struck by lightning.

He couldn’t be the playboy in the story - that just wasn’t him, that was Viktor (or Drunk-Yuuri).  But...maybe he could be the Woman.  With just a few changes, the program could be reworked, telling the story from a shifted point of view.  He would be the Woman, the most beautiful in town, aware of the playboy’s interest in her.  But she was no one’s plaything, to be won and cast aside!  Instead, she would turn the tables, teasing and seducing him, and then tossing him away when she was done with him.

It would surprise Viktor - it would surprise everyone!  And maybe...maybe he could catch the playboy’s interest.  

With rising excitement, he pulled out his phone and found a picture of Viktor from his Junior Championship season, when he’d worn what he’d teasingly called the “bondage” outfit.  Viktor had said at the time that it was a blend of the masculine and feminine, which was just what Yuuri needed.  When Muraki-san returned, he showed her both pictures and then looked at her in appeal.

She nodded slowly and then, grabbing the pad, sketched out a design that was a blend of the flamenco outfit but, instead of the full skirt on the woman, it was cut diagonally, starting high on the left hip and ending up draped across his right thigh.  Another daring cutaway plunged diagonally from the right shoulder to the waist and was filled with flesh fabric, as was the right arm.  An applique design on the upper costume was reversed on the black pants, completing the look.

“Yes,” he said, barely breathing as he took in the whole look.  He would be the most beautiful woman in town in that outfit and Viktor -

Muraki-san made a few more notes and then flipped back to the first drawing as she laid the swatches she’d brought next to the drawing.  They quickly decided on a deep blue, almost purple, color for the jacket, a wine-color for the insert, and a darker blue for the pants. Then she pulled over a sheaf of swatches, pulling out one in scarlet for him to look at for the Short program costume.  He nodded in agreement and she attached the swatch to the design.

“We will need to get your current measurements today, and then we can begin the mock-up.”  She looked up at him.  “When do you need them?”

“Mid-September?  In case the JSF wants me to go to an International competition before the Grand Prix.”

She gave him a shrewd look.  “And for the Ice Show in two weeks?  What will you wear to that?”  At his surprised look, she smiled.  “My niece is a fan of yours; she has tickets to the show.”

“Oh.  Well.”  He scratched the back of his neck, flushing at the mention of a fan.  “I thought I’d just wear one of my old costumes….?”

She pursed her lips, then tapped the picture of the red costume.  “I can have a mock-up completed in a week. No appliques or sequins - that takes more time.”

“That would be…”  Yuuri ran out of words and bowed his thanks.  “And perhaps your niece would like an autograph?”

Muraki smiled widely.  “She would be overjoyed.”

The woman from the front, who turned out to be the niece, escorted him to the dressing room where he stripped down to his underwear (not without blushing) to have his measurements taken, and she scheduled an appointment in a week for the fitting of the Short program costume.  Then he signed a few pictures of himself for Muraki-san’s niece and headed back to the train station.

Before going home, though, he stopped at Minako’s studio and waited until her class was ended.

“I need your help,” he said to her once the studio had been cleared.  “With my short program.  I need to make some changes.”

Minako raised an eyebrow at him.  “I don’t know if I’m speaking to you yet - I’m still hungover from consoling your beloved Viktor.”  When he just gave her a confused look, she sighed and ran a hand across her aching forehead.  “Okay, I'll help you.  Tomorrow.”  Then she gave him another shrewd look.  “Does Viktor know?”

He shook his head.  “I want it to be a surprise.”

“Oh, I have a feeling that it will be,” she muttered.  “Go home; we’ll talk about this tomorrow.”

 


 

Yuuri wasn’t ready to go home yet, though.  There was an excited energy buzzing under his skin, an itch to be doing something, and the only antidote to this feeling was either dancing or skating.  Yuuko was only too happy to let him use the empty rink, and a short time later he was stepping onto the ice.

He skated around idly for a little bit, warming up and trying to decide what he wanted to skate.  He felt the need to do a real program, not just fool about, but he shied away from the Eros program - that was too raw; it would wait for tomorrow.

Instead, he decided on one of his favorite go-to choices from the last months in Detroit - Viktor’s Stammi Vicino program.  He’d loved it the first time he’d seen Viktor skate it and, as he’d done with Yuuko when they were younger, he’d picked apart the components and recreated them.  He didn’t need the music for this, he knew it by heart, so he skated into the starting position and then just - began.  He’d replaced the more difficult quads with triples and that was fine for now, although he might put them back in another time.  Today he just wanted to skate, to rediscover the joy that Viktor’s programs always gave him.

It wasn’t until he’d struck the ending position that he realized he wasn’t alone.  Viktor was standing at the barrier, watching him, his eyes wide-open in surprise.

Yuuri’s heart fell into his boots and hesitantly he skated towards the other man.  “Viktor - I - I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have taken your program - “

"Yuuri!  That was amazing!” Viktor exclaimed.

Yuuri stopped in his tracks.  “You’re - you’re not mad?”

Viktor looked perplexed.  “Why would I be mad?  You skated my program!  I knew you were a fan, but to do this on your own - it’s incredible.”

Yuuri sighed; he should have known that Viktor would turn this around to be about him.  But then Viktor caught him by the hand and tugged him closer, against the barrier that separated them.

“Do you know why I’m here, what made me want to choreograph for you?” Viktor asked, pulling Yuuri’s hands against his chest, over his heart.  “I was drawn to you because of the way you move to the music, like the song is already inside you and you’re using your body to release it.”

“I - Viktor - “

“You need a high difficulty program to maximize that potential, and I knew that I could give you that.”  Viktor let go of his hands, throwing his own in the air triumphantly. “And the way you skated my program proves that I was right!”

He caught Yuuri’s face between his hands and pulled him close till their foreheads were touching.  “You’re amazing.”

Yuuri felt his heart would explode with happiness.  “Viktor,” he said, the word a breath.  Then he realized that he had something important to tell the other man and he pulled back so that he could look Viktor in the eyes.  “Viktor, I’ve found my Eros.”

The corners of Viktor’s mouth lifted in a little smile.  “Have you, my Yuuri?  Can you show me?”

Yuuri nodded vigorously, then looked down and blushed.  “I - I want to surprise you.  At the Ice Show.  Is that okay?”

He peeked up at Viktor and saw that he was smiling that wide, heart-shaped smile.

“I think that’s perfect.”

 


 

The next morning, while Viktor went to Ice Castle to work on his program, Yuuri went to Minako’s studio.

“I want you to teach me how to move like a woman,” Yuuri told her when she answered the door.

Minako gave him a confused look.

He quickly explained the epiphany he’d had - well, not the parts involving Viktor, but the part about being the Woman in the story.  “I can’t be the playboy- it’s not me. I have to be the beautiful woman woman who seduces the playboy.  I won’t change any moves; I’ll just change the way I move.  I think that will be a better expression of what I really feel.”

She stood in silence for a moment, thinking.  “Okay.  I’m not sure why you think this is important but I get that it is, so I’ll help.”  

Minako led the way to the studio.  Once he’d warmed up, she had him go through the movements of the program completely, then she nodded her head.

“I see where we can adjust the way you’re moving to look more like a woman,” she said.  “How do you plan to hide what you’re doing from Viktor till the Ice Show?”

Yuuri shrugged.  “I’ll make sure that we concentrate on the jumps and spins.”

To his surprise, Viktor seemed okay with that plan and didn’t try to find out what Yuuri had in mind for his Eros.  In fact, he seemed a little bit like a kid anticipating Christmas. He teasingly forbid Yuuri from watching any more of his own rehearsals, and turned his attention to the technical elements of Yuuri’s program rather than the performance aspects.

 


 

The day of the Ice Show arrived, and each of them took a different locker room to change into their costumes.  Viktor would also be skating in a preliminary costume, one of a few ideas he’d had for it, he’d told Yuuri. Yuuri’s fitting for the mock-up of his Short program costume had gone well and the mock-up costume had arrived the previous day.  He put it on after skating his warmup, checking the look and flow in the mirror, and was pleased with the effect.  Now if only he could perform the Eros of the routine.

He zipped his Team Japan jacket closed over his costume and went out to the area designated for the skaters.  The media had shown up the previous day, with Morooka among them, and they were set up on the opposite side from the regular spectators.  While the Ice Shown wasn’t being broadcast live, it was being filmed for a feature on the Japanese figure skaters competing that year that the JSF planned to release at the start of the season.

Viktor was already there, talking with Yuuko, looked as confident and self-assured as ever.  He was wearing dark gray pants with a shirt in varying shades of ice-blue layers that fluttered as he gestured.  His smile widened as he took in Yuuri, and he teased him about continuing to preserve the mystery of his costume as all that Viktor could see was his black trousers.

Viktor was skating first - his idea as he thought it would allow the audience to settle down and appreciate Yuuri’s program.  Yuuri thought it didn’t much matter - either the audience would be disappointed by his performance following Viktor’s or they wouldn’t be paying any attention as they waited for Viktor to skate.

Viktor skated to center ice and bowed his head in his opening pose, arms gracefully relaxed at his sides.  Then the lilting soprano voice rang out and Viktor sprang into movement.  As he danced and jumped and spun over the ice, the sheer layers of his shirt fluttered around him, making him look like the seagulls as they soared over Hasetsu's ocean to Yuuri’s eyes.  And when Viktor pressed his palms together at the end and lifted them skyward, Yuuri thought about the statues he'd seen in pictures of cathedrals in his World History class at the university.  Viktor looked distant and pure - and as unapproachable as the moon.

Yuuri suddenly realized how foolish he was to think that Viktor would ever look at him with romantic eyes.  Viktor was a God, worshipped by the crowd as their applause filled the building, and Yuuri was - nothing. The world seemed to collapse into a dark tunnel before his eyes, and he couldn't even remember how to do a twizzle so how could he possibly skate this impossibly difficult program that Viktor Nikiforov had designed for him -

"Yuuri, you're on."

Yuuri opened his eyes, realizing that Viktor was standing in front of him, and his hands flew up to keep the screams inside him from coming out.   He couldn't keep from flinging himself at Viktor, arms around his neck and face pressed against his chest, the fabric under his cheek damp from Viktor's exertions.

"I'm going to skate with all the Eros I have today," he said, trying not to choke on the panic inside him.  "You'll watch, won't you?"

Viktor's cheek rested against his head and he could almost feel the fondness of his smile.  "Of course I will.  I love katsudon.”

For a moment that sounded odd, but then Yuuri remembered that Viktor didn't know that he'd changed his inspiration.  He was going to surprise Viktor and the crowd, or die trying.  He pulled back and unzipped his jacket, revealing his costume and saw Viktor's eyes widen.  That small gesture was enough to spark Yuuri's courage and competitive spirit.

Yuuri handed his jacket and skate guards to Minako and stepped out onto the ice.  As he made his way to the center, he concentrated on getting into the mental head-space that he and Minako had worked out.  He was dancing for Viktor, the charming playboy who'd come to town.  Instead of the aggressive matador-like starting position that Viktor had designed, Yuuri softened the pose, cocking out one hip and resting on the tip of his skate with one foot.  The music began and he used the arm gestures to sweep along his body, drawing attention to his curves, inviting the audience to see how desirable he was.  Then he looked over at Viktor, tilted his head and flirty-blinked, giving the other man a blatant "come and get me" look.

He thought that he could hear a startled whistle from Viktor and the sound lit him up.  He could feel his Eros as he moved into the step-sequence, performing the components as he and Minako had practiced, making his body as sensual and alluring as he could manage.  He moved into the triple axel easily, and even though he stepped out on the quad salchow, he didn't let it throw him. After all, he was better than any other woman out there and no one would be able to take their eyes off of him.

Especially Viktor.

He completed his jump combo and spin, then ended back at center ice, with the Woman throwing off the playboy she'd seduced and preparing herself for her next conquest.  The cheers and shouts rang out from the crowd, almost deafening him after he'd been wrapped inside his own little world.  He automatically looked over at Viktor and saw that he was looking at Yuuri in shock and delight.

Yuuri blushed at the positive reception to his program, waved to the crowd, and then skated over to Viktor.  "Was that okay?" he asked, uncertain now that it was done.

"Yuuri!"  Viktor hugged him warmly.  "That was amazing!" He pulled back, smiling at him.  "But I don't think you were thinking about pork cutlet bowls, were you?"

Yuuri's cheeks flushed.  "No. That, um, that was the surprise.  And this."  He said, gesturing to his costume.  

"You can tell me about it later," Viktor said.  "I think we've earned a couple of days off, and maybe a trip to the beach?  But first, the press."

Yuuri made a little face; talking to the press was one of his least favorite things to do and he always felt like an idiot.  But Viktor was good at press conferences and he did most of the talking, fielding questions about their programs and the upcoming year adroitly.  He also praised Hasetsu and the warm welcome he'd received there - which the tourism board would love.  And when there were questions that Yuuri needed to answer himself, Viktor's arm around him for support reminded him that he was there for Yuuri.

And for the first time in his life, he didn't feel as if he was fighting alone.

 

Chapter Text

Part 3: Like Yourself

 

As Viktor had promised, he cleared their schedules for the next two days.  Although the water would still be a little chilly, the next afternoon they put on swimsuits and took Makkachin with them to the beach.  Hiroko packed a basket for them with bento boxes and cold bottled drinks for lunch, as well as beach blankets. There were a few locals and fewer tourists, so it was easy for them to find a somewhat private spot to lay out the blankets.  Makkachin was already throwing himself at the waves, barking at them and chasing them as they receded, and they tumbled into the water with the poodle, then chased him around the beach until Makkachin flung himself down on the sand in an exhausted heap.

Both of the men collapsed on the blanket and Yuuri pulled out the sunscreen, knowing that Viktor's skin was unused to this kind of intense sun.  Viktor was all too happy to let Yuuri slather it across his back but Yuuri relinquished the tube to Viktor so that he could do the rest of his skin.  Once they were both suitably coated and had drunk some bottled water, Viktor stretched out on his stomach and turned his attention on Yuuri.

"So, Yuuri, you have changed the story of your program," he said.  "You surprised me."

Yuuri flushed.  "I, um, I realized that I couldn't be the pursuer.  I mean, I know you based it off of Drunk-Yuuri but that's just not me.  So I was looking at costumes and I was reminded of the one you wore when you won the Junior Worlds - "

"Ah, yes.  I had long hair at the time and I wanted something blurring the line between male and female."

"Yeah."  Yuuri nodded.  "And that made me think that I could be the Woman in the story. So I had Minako help me change the way that I moved, to make it more like a woman."

"Well it worked!" Viktor said, clinking his water bottle against Yuuri's.

Yuuri took a sip of his water.  "You haven't said what you're picturing when you skate Agape," he said, feeling a little bold in questioning his choreographer.

Viktor rolled over on his back and put on his sunglasses against the sun's glare.  "Mmm, I'm not sure if I've entirely grasped the emotion of unconditional love," he said after a moment.  "I thought I had an idea when I started but...I'm not sure now." There was a bit of a sad or wistful expression on his face, and it made Yuuri's heart ache.

"I thought you were beautiful - and a bit like the seagulls, flying over the ice like they fly through the sky," Yuuri said.

Viktor tilted his head back, looking into the sky. "Seagulls.  I love the sound of them. Whenever I hear their calls in the morning, it makes me think I'm back in St. Petersburg.  I never thought I'd leave the city so I never took the time to appreciate the seagulls' cries. Now I find their calls comforting."  He looked over at Yuuri. "Have you ever felt that way?"

Yuuri frowned in thought.  "When I moved to Detroit, I missed so many things I'd taken for granted here.  Food, smells - just the casual conversation on the streets. My rink-mates tried to take me to a Japanese restaurant to celebrate a win but I missed home so much that it was painful.  And I thought they were saying that I wasn't adapting."

"Really?"

Yuuri nodded.  "I told you before - I have trouble accepting help unless I've asked for it.  My family understands this, and Minako and the Nishigoris. They've never treated me like I was a weakling because of my anxiety, someone who needed his hand held.  They had faith that I would continue to grow and let me do it, helping me without making me feel weak." He looked over at Viktor, wondering if he would understand what Yuuri was trying to tell him.

Viktor sat up and turned to him. "So can you tell me, Yuuri - what do you want me to be to you?  A father-figure or a brother? A friend?"

Yuuri was startled and turned to stare at Viktor.  "Um. No."

"Then a lover?"

"What?!  No!" Yuuri felt himself blush all over at the sudden rush of desire at that thought.  But the last thing that Yuuri wanted was for Viktor to pretend to be something for him.  "I just want you to be yourself, to be Viktor.  I don’t want you to be something or someone else."

Viktor looked startled and then he smiled.  "Okay. I'll try." He laughed softly. "I don't think anyone has ever wanted that of me before now."

And maybe that's why Viktor had been behaving so oddly, Yuuri thought.  Maybe he'd been trying to find what role Yuuri wanted him to fill. And maybe Yuuri had been trying to do the same sort of thing.

“I think I have an idea about the music for my Free program now,” he said after a moment.  “I’m going to email the girl who arranged the song I played for you - I’m going to ask her to rearrange it.  I know what I want it to say now.”

When he’d first had the song commissioned, he’d asked for it to about his career as a skater - and, since he didn’t feel like he’d accomplished much, the song had been pretty flat.  But now he thought about not just his career, but everything that had brought him to this point in his career. The love and support of his family, the enthusiasm for skating he’d gotten from Yuuko, the love of dance that Minako had shared with him.  And Viktor - the way he’d come into Yuuri’s life like a tidal force, tossing everything around but at the same time providing the sort of encouragement that Yuuri had needed. Now, instead of being “On my career”, his theme was going to be “On my love”.  

And he could hardly wait to take that next step.

 

Chapter Text

Part 4: And Complete The Free Program

 

Phichit was able to put Yuuri in touch with the girl who had composed the original "On My Career", and she readily agreed to redo the composition.  He described to her the sections that he wanted to include and the feelings behind them, and her replies were clearly excited about the possibilities.  Over the first two weeks of June, she sent him little snippets to get his feedback before moving on to the full composition.

In the meantime, Yuuri and Viktor worked on their short programs while Viktor also worked with Yuuri on all of his jumps.  While Yuuri was solid in all the triples and combinations, they moved on to the quads. Yuuri had the toe-loop and salchow already, but Celestino hadn't let Yuuri even try the flip or lutz.  Viktor was also working on the quad loop, which he had landed in his exhibition skate at the Grand Prix Final but hoped to be the first to ratify in competition.

Yuuri managed to land the flip one in three times but he kept persevering, even when they’d run through it more than a dozen times.  Viktor called a pause when Yuuri had finally landed the flip twice in a row, after a series of failures.

“That was pretty good,” he said.  “If you keep working on it, you might be able to perform it at Worlds.”

“I’d like to try it one more time,” Yuuri said.

“We’ve done it ten thousand times already!” Viktor protested, bent over at the barrier as he attempted to catch his breath.

“Thirteen, actually.”

Viktor chuckled.  “I’ve thought this for a while - your stamina is pretty impressive.”

Yuuri smiled deprecatingly.  “Yeah, well, I’ve got that at least.”

“Maybe your nervous eating during competitions helps you keep going longer.  There’s also the fact that you haven’t had any major injuries and you’re younger than me…”

Yuuri stopped listening, his eyes drawn to the whirl of hair at the center of Viktor’s head as he bent over.  He reached out, unable to stop himself, and touched the spot, then drew his hand back.

“I’m sorry!” he stammered.  “I couldn’t help myself?”

“Is it getting that thin?” Viktor asked, his voice thin and a little pathetic sounding.

“No no no!  It’s very thick and shiny!”

Viktor collapsed on the ice, a pathetic heap of crushed vanity, and Yuuri fell to his knees trying to apologize.  The tactful interruption of the Nishigoris made Viktor decide to call it a day after all.

 


 

Neither of them had a Free program yet.  Yuuri was still waiting on his music, and he could see that Viktor was working through some options for his own although none of them were meeting whatever mysterious criteria Viktor had set for himself.  He could also tell that it was frustrating Viktor that he didn’t have something yet.

Towards the end of the third week, they were at the dance studio and Viktor was idly watching Yuuri go through some potential moves for his yet-to-be-completed Free program.  

"Yuuri, I've noticed that you know a wide range of dance styles," Viktor said, pausing in his own stretching exercises.  

Yuuri blushed, knowing that Viktor was also thinking back to whatever had happened at the banquet in Sochi.  "It's mostly Minako-sensei's influence. She wanted me to be well-rounded, especially when I was leaning towards Dance instead of Skating.  And she's addicted to those old Hollywood musicals - the ones in black & white?" He looked at Viktor questioningly and Viktor frowned slightly.  "Fred Astaire?"

When Viktor still looked puzzled, Yuuri decided that they'd watch one of them that night.  After their usual bath and dinner, Yuuri took his laptop into Viktor's room and queued up his favorites.  Viktor insisted that they sit on the bed to watch, so they could be more comfortable, and tossed over all the pillows from his couch.  They settled shoulder-to-shoulder, watching "Royal Wedding", and as the opening credits began Yuuri couldn’t help losing himself in the plot.

"That was such fun!" Viktor said, smiling at Yuuri when the film ended.  "And the dancing was amazing! The way he danced up the walls - such a surprise!  I can see why Minako loves them."

Yuuri nodded, wrapping his arms around his knees as he leaned back against Viktor's headboard.  Since that day at the beach, he had gradually been opening himself up to Viktor, and maybe it was time for him to open up a little more.  After all, every time he did that, Viktor met him half-way.

"I loved these movies when I was a teenager," he admitted.  "I didn't have many friends in school, didn't date at all - and sometimes I would imagine that I was a character in one of these films.  I dreamed that a handsome stranger would come to Hasetsu and sweep me off my feet, carrying me off into a glamorous new world."

Recalling that Viktor actually was a handsome stranger come to Hasetsu and how easily he could be seduced by him made Yuuri bury his flushed face into his knees.

"Are there more of these films?" Viktor asked, sounding suddenly excited, and Yuuri nodded without raising his head.

"There's another queued up," Yuuri said, his voice muffled by his knees.  

He heard the opening music of "Top Hat" and lifted his head - this one had always been a favorite of his.  Viktor was riveted from the opening minutes, hardly moving until the end when the lovers danced off into their happily-ever-after.  Yuuri found that he was watching Viktor's face more than the film - which he knew by heart anyways - wondering about his intense study of the dancing.  It was the same look Viktor had when he was working on ideas for his new programs, and he drifted off to sleep while watching him.

He woke in the early morning, curled up as the "little spoon" in Viktor's bed.  For a moment, panic flared and he was tempted to flee the room, but Makkachin was lying across his feet and Viktor was so warm and comfortable behind him, and they were just sleeping after all, so he allowed himself to fall back asleep.


 

The following week the Grand Prix assignments came out, and the Katsuki family set up a party for the reveal of Yuuri's events, including Viktor in the festivities.  The triplets had been heavily involved in the planning, and they had created posters to display the various slots. There was confetti and toasts of congratulations from all, and afterwards a bonfire on the beach with sparklers.  Viktor was delighted with all of it, dancing on the beach with his sparklers trailing colors behind him. Yuuri joined him, feeling more light-hearted than he had ever felt before.

Until the next day, when they sat down to discuss the upcoming events and the competition.

"Your first Grand Prix event is the third, the Cup of China," Viktor said, "and while your competition is strong, you're better than any of them."

"Oh but - "

"The Rostelecom Cup will be tougher -- I'm in that one as well as the NHK.  But if you medal in China - which you should - then a medal in Russia will get you in the Finals."

"Viktor - "

Yuuri sank down on a bench, his anxiety starting to rise.  He'd been ignoring this, refusing to think that in a little over a week Viktor would be leaving Hasetsu and he'd only see him at competitions.  And what if he didn't medal at any of the events?  He'd never see Viktor again.  The light began to dim, his heart racing as the world collapsed in a dark tunnel.

"Yuuri?  Have you heard anything that I've said?"

The blackness receded and Yuuri looked up to see Viktor looking at him in concern.  "Sorry."

Viktor tilted his chin up and smiled at him.  "Yuuri, it will be fine.  You'll see.  Now, go warm up!  We've got competitions to win!"

 


 

The next week was Viktor's last in Hasetsu and it began with the arrival of the music for his Free program.  Viktor had already gone to Ice Castle for his morning practice so Yuuri downloaded the music to his phone and then ran to the rink to show it to him.

Viktor was in the middle of something that looked a bit like ballroom dancing, only without music, when Yuuri burst into the rink.  He stopped, startled, as Yuuri slammed against the barrier.

"Viktor!  It's here - the music for my Free program!"

Viktor smiled and joined him at the barrier.  "Let's hear it, then."

Yuuri hooked his phone into the sound system and started it, talking softly as it played.   "This at the beginning is the part where I thought I was skating on my own without help, about the ups and downs of my career.  This is when you arrive - you're the violin and I'm the piano - and you see how we're slightly out of sync with each other? It starts to sync up, and then here is when I realized that I wasn't alone, that I had the love of my family and my friends and - and you."

He blushed and dropped his eyes, and they listened to the piano playing alone again for a moment, the soft and sweeping lift of the music, reminding Yuuri of that day at the beach and the seagulls as they soared above them.

It changed to something more forceful and determined.  "And this part - this is the future, or what I hope it will be. The piano and violin are working together now, in harmony. The violin is playing steadily below, providing support so that the piano can soar..." Yuuri stopped, at a complete loss for words, his blush deepening, until the music ended.

"I think that's perfect, Yuuri," Viktor said, sounding stunned, as if he hadn't expected Yuuri to come up with an acceptable song for his program.  And then his smile lit up his face. "Play it again," he ordered, grabbing a pad of paper and starting to make notes, muttering to himself as he did.  Yuuri peeked at the pad and saw that he was making notes about components, scratching out a couple to change them as he listened a third time.

"We could go for a bit more impact," he said, looking over the final list with Yuuri.  "Maybe make the last jump a quadruple toe loop."

"Really?  The last one?" 

"I think someone with your stamina should be able to pull it off, but if you'd rather not -"

"No!  I'll do it!"

"Good."  Viktor smiled.  "That's what I was hoping you'd say.  Go put on your skates and warm up."

Yuuri smiled and turned away, and then Viktor called him back.

"One more thing - did you change the musical theme?  What is it?"

Yuuri flushed and then looked up, meeting his eyes.  "The theme is 'On My Love'."

Viktor smiled, that soft smile that Yuuri felt was only for him.  "I think that's a perfect choice. Well done. Now let's finish this program!"

 


 

A week later, at the beginning of July, Viktor returned to St. Petersburg.

He'd already packed most of his belongings a few days later, shipping all but the most essential items on ahead.  The transport company that would handle Makkachin's trip was arriving later that morning, to take him to the Animal Quarantine Service office for inspection before his charter flight to St. Petersburg, where Viktor would be waiting for him.  The three of them had spent the previous night together in Yuuri's room, curled up together on the futon, with very little talk or sleep.

Now Yuuri sat at the family dining table with his arm around Makkachin.  Viktor looked over at him from where he was sorting out his travel bag and smiled.

"I think you'll miss Makkachin more than you'll miss me," Viktor teased.

"I will," Yuuri responded, only partly joking back.  "I'll see you in a few months, at Rostelecom, but I don't know if I'll see Makka again."  He buried his face in Makka's fur, a lump in his throat.

"Then you will have to come to St. Petersburg to visit," Viktor responded with apparent lightness.  "To see Makka, of course."

Yuuri smiled against Makkachin's fur.  "Of course."

"And we'll be talking on Skype. I expect you to work hard on your programs, Yuuri.  I will be very strict with you about your training."

Yuuri rolled his eyes.  "Viktor, don't try to be a coach now."

Viktor dropped to one knee beside them and Yuuri lifted his head to look at him.  "Yuuri, I debated whether or not to say this to you before I left. I took off three months from my own training to work with you.  I don't intend for that to be wasted."  He took Yuuri's chin in his hand, his thumb rubbing Yuuri's lip. "Don't forget your promise to be on the podium at the Finals with me."

Yuuri swallowed hard, unable to look away from Viktor's intent gaze.  "And if I do? What do I get?"

Viktor's eyes blazed like a blue flame.  "Something round and golden to kiss."

Yuuri thought about moving forward, about kissing Viktor, but then his mother called out from the courtyard.  "Yuuri!  Vicchan's taxi is here!"

And then the moment was gone, for his parents were hugging Viktor and wishing him a safe trip, and there was luggage (so much luggage!) to be loaded into the taxi and Viktor had to give Makkachin a last ear scratch.  

“Be well, my Yuuri.”  Viktor quickly kissed Yuuri’s cheek.  “Da svidaniya.”

 


 

Yuuri sat on the front step next to Makkachin and watched without moving as Viktor got into the taxi, his eyes on the vehicle until it was no longer in sight.  Then he pulled up the results from Worlds, looking at the points. There was over 60 points difference between Viktor's and Yuuri's scores, an impossible chasm.  But there were only 22 points between his final score and Christophe Giacometti’s. He could increase his score that much easily. If he skated his new programs perfectly and achieved personal bests in both the Short and Free programs -

Yuuri sat down on the floor and put his head between his knees until the dizziness and panic went away.

Then he pulled up the updated world standings.  At the top was Viktor Nikiforov, of course. And there, in 8th place, was Yuuri.   There were now 6 people between Yuuri and Viktor. Six skaters keeping Yuuri from standing beside Viktor on the podium at the next Grand Prix  Final.

He would just have to eliminate them – one way or another.


Chapter Text

Chapter 6 - A Warning To Yuuri

Part 1: A Slippery Slope

 

Yuuri contemplated getting drunk - but then again, that’s what had landed him in this mess to begin with.

So he looked at the list again.  Cao Bin was one of the six but since he'd been removed from Team China, he was no longer a threat.  The new Ace for China was Guang Hong Ji, who'd just moved up from Juniors after winning Silver at Junior Worlds - and it was unlikely that he would be a significant competitor.  That was one down.  The Spanish skater, ranked at 6th, had retired and was no longer competition, either. That was two down.

So that left Georgi Popovich from Russia, JJ Leroy from Canada, Michele Crispino from Italy, and of course, the one who'd stood with Viktor on many podiums - Christophe Giacometti.  Below Yuuri in ranking but still potentially a threat were Otabek Altin and Emil Nekola, who had done well in recent competitions -- Otabek in particular had done phenomenally well in his first year in Seniors.  And he couldn't count out Yuri Plisetsky, the Junior Champion who had just risen to Seniors, not until he'd seen how he fared in the Senior division. There was also his old rink-mate, Phichit, and the other skaters who'd been at Four Continents, but he thought that he could hold them off.

And it looked like he'd get an opportunity to test himself against a few of his competitors before the Grand Prix even began.  The JSF had selected him to lead Team Japan in the Japan Open, along with the current Junior National Champion, Minami Kenjirou, who had just moved up to Seniors.  Viktor would be on the Russian team, along with Yuri Plisetsky, while JJ Leroy and Leo de la Iglesia were on Team North America.

Viktor was excited about the upcoming test of their new programs.  "It will be a good chance to see how your Free program fares against theirs," he said when Yuuri spoke to him next over Skype.  

Following his return to Russia, they’d continued the same pattern they'd established while Yuuri was in Detroit.  And since the Team competition was only the longer Free program, Yuuri felt he needed all the help he could get!  While he felt pretty secure about his Short program, they'd only had a week to work on his Free and he was much less confident in that program.  Viktor reviewed the recordings that Minako sent him of Yuuri's practices, giving him advice and instructions for improvement.

Viktor was much cagier about his own Free program, wanting it to be a surprise for Yuuri, and he didn't feel that he could push.  Especially since Viktor had given him permission - encouraged him in fact - to skate Stammi Vicino for his Exhibition program.  If he ever made the podium so that he'd be invited to skate in the Gala.  He'd had a costume made that reflected Viktor's own costume, only in shades of blue and gold.  It, along with the other two costumes, had their final fittings and were delivered a week before the Japan Open.

Yuuri's most important skating season had begun.

And he had to crush the competition.

 

Chapter Text

Part 2: Taking  the Tour

 

The Japan Open was a single day event, held on October 1st in Saitama, so Yuuri and Minako flew into Tokyo on Thursday evening and then took the train to Saitama.  Friday morning was public practice and then Yuuri had intended to use the afternoon for resting.  Much to his surprise, though, Viktor showed up at his hotel room and dragged him out for an afternoon of sightseeing.  It had been three months since he'd last seen Viktor in person, so Yuuri was more than happy to spend as much time with him as possible, even though the man was exhausting.

They took a taxi to the famous Kawagoe Hikawa shrine, but Viktor wasn't content to just stroll along the paths.  No, he darted from one site to another, demanding information from Yuuri before rushing off to the next thing to catch his attention.  And they saw just about everything there was to be seen.  It was the end of the Wind Chime Festival and they admired the thousands of chimes with people’s wishes written on them.  They found the ancient zelkova trees and walked the figure 8 around it for luck.  They chose ema and wrote their wishes on the back, then hung them in the Tunnel (Yuuri was careful to write his wish in kanji so that Viktor couldn’t read it.)  They selected omikuji and read their fortunes - and Yuuri was pleased to see ‘dai-kichi’ and 'getting one's wish' on his slip.  The bins holding charms caught Viktor’s attention in particular and he stared at the brightly-colored omamori on display.

"Yuuri, what are these?" Viktor demanded, holding up one of the cloth bundles, bright pink in color.  "They're so pretty!"

"Omamori," Yuuri replied and then added, "Sort of a good-luck charm. Each of these is a different kind of talisman - for money, or luck, or health, or love - "

"Oooh!" Viktor said, delighted.  "What's this one for?"

Yuuri glanced at the packet and then grinned.  "Success and health in childbirth."

Viktor hastily dropped the pink bundle back in its bin, then pointed to others for Yuuri to describe.  He was delighted to find one with a paw print on it for Makkachin, while Yuuri wistfully looked over all of the items on offer.  He'd always wanted a good luck charm, something to instill confidence in him as he competed, but he'd never found anything that was quite right, as he told Viktor when asked.  

"So you've never had a - what did you call it?  Omamori?  For skating?"

Yuuri shook his head.  "Minako gave me one for success my first year in Juniors but it didn't seem to make a difference so I guess it wasn't quite right.  And most of these are temporary -- you're supposed to keep them for a year and then bring them back to the temple to be burned.  I guess I'm looking for something a little more permanent."

"Huh," Viktor said, frowning a little as he surveyed the packets and the little charms and ornaments, some of them with the Hello Kitty figure on them.  "Can anything be a good-luck charm?"

"I suppose."  Yuuri thought for a moment.  "It should be something that has meaning, symbolizing what you want.  Like a little airplane charm for a safe flight."

"A lot of Russian skaters wear things like necklaces or charms for good luck.  One of my rink-mates has a necklace with a protection against the evil eye - a gift from her mother."

"Did you ever have one?  A necklace or charm for good-luck?"

Viktor shrugged.  "A charm isn't lucky if you buy it for yourself."

He looked sad and Yuuri was tempted to hug him, even though displays of affection in public were frowned on.  Before he could make up his mind, Viktor had caught sight of something else and dragged Yuuri off to look at it.  He didn't forget what he'd seen, though.

When it got dark, they returned to Saitama and ate at a restaurant near the hotel.  Yuuri was reminded of their dinner in Tokyo at World's, only this was even better.  The months they’d spent working and living under one roof in Hasetsu had brought them closer.  Made them more comfortable with each other.  Although - there was something in the way that Viktor looked at him that made him wonder if he knew that Yuuri was so possessive of his time and attention.

They parted in the hotel lobby, sharing good wishes for the following day.  And Yuuri could hardly wait to see what new surprise Viktor had in store for all of them.

Chapter Text

Part 3: Souvenirs in Silver and Gold

 

Saturday morning was practice again, with the event starting in the early afternoon.  He didn't see Viktor at practice as their times were at the opposite end of the slots, but he caught sight of him stretching in the back hallway before the event itself.  They exchanged brief smiles before being herded by the organizers toward the rink.  The teams were announced, starting with North America and ending with Japan.  Yuuri didn't recognize the two women on Team Japan for Ladies’ Singles, but he vaguely remembered Minami Kenjirou from the Nationals.  The younger skater looked nervous as they skated out, a little lost in his team jacket, and he recalled that the boy had just moved up to the Senior division that year.

The women were scheduled first, both of the Russian skaters doing well and placing first and fourth, with Japan second and fifth, and North American ending with third and sixth.  And then it was time for the men.  Minami clearly hadn't lost any of his exuberance since Nationals, chattering eagerly as they took to the ice for their warm-up.  Yuuri acknowledged him with a head nod, his mind already focusing on his own program, barely aware of the crushed look on the younger skater's face.  He couldn't think about that right now, though; he needed to study his competition while still concentrating on his Program and that would take all of his energy.

"Yuuri," said a familiar voice and Yuuri spun around on his skates to see that Viktor was frowning at him.

"Viktor!" he said, surprised that the other man was taking time from his warm-up to talk to him instead of getting into his own head space.  But then again, Viktor was skating last so he had plenty of time while Yuuri was fourth.

"Yuuri, it you don’t have the strength to motivate someone who looks up to you, how can you find the strength to motivate yourself?” Viktor asked him.  "I'm disappointed in you."  He turned and skated away, executing a perfect quad flip and leaving Yuuri standing with his mouth wide open.

Can we talk about what you just did to my motivation ? he thought wildly.  

He turned away blindly, hardly knowing what he was skating, only enough aware of other skaters so he wouldn't collide with them.  The thought that he'd disappointed Viktor was like an iron weight in his stomach, and for a moment he wondered if Viktor had done that on purpose to make him lose.  But then he caught sight of Minami, his head down and clearly nervous, and he realized that Viktor was right.  Minami was his team mate, his countryman, and even if it made him uncomfortable it was clear that the younger skater looked up to him like he looked up to Viktor.  It was his duty to encourage him.

They were called off the ice, all except Minami who would be skating first.  He circled over to the barrier to receive last minute instructions from his coach, his eyes flicking over to Yuuri before darting away as he nodded at what his coach said.  Yuuri made up his mind in an instant.

"Minami-kun!" he called out, his voice carrying over the sudden silence.  "Good luck!"  Minami's head jerked up, his eyes widening as he looked over at Yuuri, so he repeated his words.  "Good luck!"

The younger skater's face lit up like he had swallowed a glow-stick and it was clear that his nerves had immediately settled.  He gave a quick bow to Yuuri and then skated out to take his place on center ice.

There was a movement beside him and he turned his head to see Viktor standing there, looking down at him.  He smiled, that soft and proud smile that seemed to belong only to Yuuri, and Yuuri's heart suddenly felt much lighter.

"Your lips are chapped," he said softly and pulled out a container of lip gloss that probably cost more than Yuuri spent on personal products in a year.  "Here; use mine."

Yuuri flushed and accepted the tin, applying some to his lips and imaging what it would feel like if Viktor were to do that instead.  He quickly handed the tin back.  "Thanks."

"You're welcome."

The music started for Minami's program, a jazzy song that fit the young skater perfectly and immediately swept the crowd up in enthusiastic clapping.  Yuuri watched, delighted to see his team mate land one of the two quads in his program.  Minami was really inconsistent with his jumps but his PCS was high, and Yuuri was reminded of himself as a young skater.  His score was clearly a personal best and Yuuri couldn't help feeling proud of him.

Next to skate was the young Russian skater, also in his first Senior event, and Yuri took to the ice with aggressive determination.   His costume was a tiger-striped bodysuit - which was explained when his music began and Yuuri vaguely recognized it as being from that musical about cats.  He looked up inquiringly at Viktor who gave him an offended look.

"No, I didn't choreograph that for him!" Viktor said indignantly.  "I did his Short program, which you'll see at Rostelecom.  This was done by one of the team choreographers.  Yakov isn't happy but it's Yura's debut and it's not an Olympic year so he thought the boy should get it out of his system now.  He's obsessed with cats."

Yuuri grinned at that.  "Dogs are much more sensible animals."

"Exactly!"

Yuuri watched the younger skater and it was clear that he was talented and a technically clean skater.  His quad salchow was better than Yuuri's was on most days and his spins were very pretty, but his step sequences were sloppy and his PCS inconsistent.  It was also clear that he was tiring by the mid point of the program.  Still, for a Senior debut it was good, and it was clear that Yuri Plisetsky was an ever-evolving monster of a skater.  Yuuri had a feeling that he might be serious competition before long.

One of the skaters from Team North America was next, Leo de la Iglesia, and it was clear that the PCS side was his forte.  But he fell in the opening quad and his technical side never really recovered, landing him at the bottom.  And then it was Yuuri's turn.

He unzipped his team jacket and handed it to Minako.  His hands were shaking a little as he gave her his skate covers, and for a moment another hand covered his, this one warm on his cold fingers.  He looked up at Viktor who was giving him his serious choreographer face.

"You can do this, Yuuri.  Just skate the program as we planned it, and remember how you described it to me."  Viktor paused.  "What did you name it?"

Yuuri flushed.  " 'Yuuri on Ice'."

Viktor smiled widely.  "I think that's perfect.  And I think your costume was the right choice.  You look absolutely stunning in it."

Feeling bolstered by these words and by Viktor's presence, Yuuri skated out onto the ice and took his starting position, preparing to perform this program for the first time in public.  And it wasn't perfect - he double-footed his triple flip in the middle - but he didn't fall and he didn't smash into the barriers, so it was miles better than his Grand Prix Free program.  And if he hadn't quite tapped into all of the meaning behind the program, he could sense it coming together.  For the first event of the season, it wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been.

"Yuuri!" Viktor cried out as he returned to the side to receive his scores.  "That was wonderful!"

And apparently the judges were in agreement for Yuuri received the highest scores of his career so far, a personal best just under 179, taking Team Japan into the lead for now.  His team mates, who were waiting in the Kiss & Cry with him for his scores, let out a loud cheer and hugged him.  He flushed, embarrassed and a little overwhelmed by the attention, and slipped back to Viktor's side as quickly as he could.

The Canadian, JJ Leroy, was on the ice by now, dressed in a green costume with navy blue trim, and Yuuri wondered if he or his coaches (or possibly all three) were color blind.  His music was pretty but dull, in Yuuri's opinion, although his skating was anything but that.  He performed three different quads with ease, one in a combination, and Yuuri saw Viktor narrow his eyes as he watched the performance.  Viktor had done four quads at Worlds in his Stammi Vicino program, but that was at the end of the season.  Yuuri wondered what Viktor had planned for today - and if it would be enough to beat JJ who received a personal best of 192.

Viktor removed his team jacket and Yuuri caught his breath at the sight of the costume under it.  The jacket was a beautiful pure white, while under it was a beautifully embroidered vest with blue roses on a silver-grey background.  Black tailored trousers and a white shirt and tie completed the look.

"Do you like it, Yuuri?" Viktor asked, stepping an arm's length away and posing so that Yuuri could get the full picture.  "Does it remind you of anything?"

Yuuri wanted to blurt out that Viktor looked just like the bridegrooms he'd seen at Western-style weddings but that was just silly -- why on earth would Viktor wear something like that?  And then he recalled their movie night, when he'd shown Viktor the old films.  This costume was an old-fashioned tux, like the dancers in the old movies that Yuuri loved - and he realized that he'd just said that out-loud.

Viktor cocked his head (and Yuuri could almost see a top-hat on that silver head) and he smiled.  "I can work with that," he said, a bit cryptically, and then he was skating out onto the ice.

Viktor circled the ice for a moment, taking the allowed time to get into place before Viktor slid into his opening pose reminiscent of Stammi Vicino as the music started.   It was one of those romantic songs from a movie that had been popular a few years ago - something about loving someone for a thousand years.  Yuuri was surprised; he'd never known Viktor to skate to a pop song, not even when he was a teenager, but then Viktor loved to surprise people.  His opening movements were slow and melancholy, that of someone who was both alone and lonely, who had reached out but without getting a response, who was afraid of risking his heart.  And then his attention was caught by something that only he could see, someone only he could see, and he was reaching out to them and dancing with them.  He shed his sadness, moving with careless abandon as he chased after his invisible partner.  They seemed to get away and there was a bit of desperation as he tried to hold onto them before they returned and Viktor leaped for joy as the final chorus began.  

And Yuuri caught his breath as he realized, along with the rest of the audience, that Viktor Nikiforov had just performed a Quad Loop - for the first time in competition, not an Exhibition.  Viktor had ratified a new quad!  But he didn’t seem to care as he swept into a ballroom-dance-style choreographic sequence and ended almost as he'd started, only this time with his hands confidently outstretched towards his invisible partner.

It was only a coincidence that he was also looking directly at Yuuri.

The audience erupted into applause, rocketing to their feet while the announcers struggled to find new superlatives to describe Viktor Nikiforov's new program.  It hadn't been perfect - even Yuuri's fond eyes could see that - and there were only three quads, but the new quad was among them and the degree of difficulty was higher than anyone else.  It was no surprise to anyone when Viktor's score was over 200 points, putting him in the lead.

On the basis of that and supported by Yuuri Plisetsky's fourth place score, Team Russia took gold.  But Yuuri and Minami combined were higher than Team North America, so Japan took Silver and JJ's team got Bronze.

As they stood on the podium and Yuuri looked up at Team Russia, he felt more confident about the coming season.  Yes, JJ was going to be a problem but he'd only scored 12 points above Yuuri.  If Yuuri worked hard - if he could manage to land another quad - he thought that he could beat him.

And if not - well, maybe the triplets had some other ideas.

 

Chapter Text

Part 4: Abandon Hope


Yuuri had forgotten that wicked thoughts have consequences.

A week following the Japan Open, the JSF held a press conference in Fukuoka where the NHK Trophy was to be held, and all the JSF skaters were expected to attend.  There were the formalities of the announcement of the Autumn events that skaters had been selected for, of course.  Yuuri's Grand Prix events had already been announced, but they were re-emphasized.   And on the basis of the Japan Open and his bronze at Junior Worlds, Minami Kenjirou was a host pick for the NHK Trophy, in addition to his two Challenger series events.  It was clear that the JSF expected them both to do well over the upcoming year, setting up Japan to have a strong presence in Men's Singles at the next Olympics.  

The skaters also had to announce the "theme" for their programs, and although Yuuri felt a bit silly stating that his was Love and how he'd discovered the love of his family and friends, at least he didn't blurt out Viktor's name more than once (maybe twice).  And, since Viktor couldn't speak Japanese, he'd never know what Yuuri said in any case.

Everything went fine until the skaters were being escorted from the building.  Kenjirou clearly had something on his mind and finally, as they reached the pavement outside, he got up his nerve.

"Katsuki-senpai..." he began, then suddenly bowed deeply to him.  "Can I have your autograph?  Please?  And a selfie?"

"Me too!" cried out one of the other skaters, and Yuuri thought he might have been another Junior at Nationals but he couldn't be sure because the rest of the group was suddenly pulling out phones and autograph books.  And the press outside seemed to realize that Something was happening because they surged forward in a mass, shouting questions and snapping pictures.

Yuuri was flustered by the sudden attention and blinded by the sudden flashes; he stepped back to put some distance between himself and the surging mob.  Only he must not have been paying attention to his surroundings because somehow he tripped.  He stumbled into the large vinyl banner announcing the upcoming NHK Trophy Cup, tangling his feet in the fabric at the bottom and tumbling over.  At the moment before his head struck the metal base at the bottom, he hoped this embarrassing scene wouldn't make it onto the news.  And then he blacked out.

 




He woke up in a hospital, feeling as if he'd fallen on the ice a dozen times.  He just couldn't remember where or how.

"Katsuki-senpai!  You're awake!"

Yuuri closed his eyes again and groaned; unfortunately he recognized that voice.

"Okaasan!  Katsuki-senpai is awake!"

"Hush, Kenji-kun," a female voice said.  "Katsuki-san already has a sore head and your yelling won't help."

Yuuri cracked open an eye at this and found a woman in a doctor's coat standing at his bedside.  She bowed her head slightly to him.  "Katsuki-san, I am Doctor Minami Nara and you are at Fukuoka Hospital.  How do you feel?"

"Like I fell on the ice?"  He touched a sore spot on his head and winced.

"You did fall, but not on the ice.  You hit your head and you have a slight concussion.  You were unconscious for about two hours."

That sounded alarming and Yuuri tried to sit up but his head hurt too much for that.  "Will I be all right?" he asked, anxious.  If he was badly injured, would he be able to skate?  If he couldn't skate, how could he make the podium alongside Viktor?

"I don't think there will be any lasting effects.  We'd like to keep you overnight, to make certain, but you should be able to go home in the morning."  

"O-okay."

"You might have a bit of trouble sleeping for a while, so I'll give you a prescription for sleeping pills while you're recovering."  She smiled at him.  "Don't worry - they aren't anything that will affect any drug tests."  She looked over at her son.  "Kenji-kun, it's time to let him get some rest.  You can apologize for your actions in the morning."

Kenjirou's face turned as red as that shock of hair and he bowed hastily before slipping out of the room.  His doctor called in a nurse who pulled the curtains and settled him under the covers before they both left him to rest.

Yuuri lay for a long moment in the darkened room, feeling unsettled and guilty.  Was this a warning to him, punishment for his wicked thoughts about his fellow skaters?  Should he abandon his half-formed plans?  And if he did, how could he make it to the Finals?

He fell into a troubled sleep.

Chapter Text

Chapter 7 - Pills In My Pocket

Part 1: It's A Matter of Pacing

 

It was another month till the Cup of China, a month during which Yuuri practiced hard on his programs.

It was also a month for him to study the competition.  At Skate America, Leo had surprisingly recovered from his poor showing at the Japan Open to take Gold.  Another surprise was the Chinese skater just missing Bronze, with Phichit beating him by a single point.  All three of them would be competing in China and would need a second look.  Otabek had taken Silver but Yuuri wouldn't be competing against him unless they both made it to the Finals.  

Skate Canada, however, had turned out about where Yuuri had predicted.  JJ Leroy took Gold, although his score hadn't improved since the Japan Open.  The Russian Yuri had taken Silver, which might have been a little surprising - except that the other competition was Emil and the Korean skater, Seung-gil Lee.  Reportedly, Seung-gil had been planning to ratify the Quad Loop first this season and had been disheartened that Nikiforov had beat him to it.  And Emil's record was erratic at present.

His biggest competition at China would be Georgi and Christophe, but since neither of them had skated yet, he could only judge them by last year.  And that was terrifying.  He might have to do something to eliminate them, although he had no idea what.  And frankly, thoughts of violence against his competition made him feel nauseous.  

Minako accompanied him to China but this time Viktor wouldn't be there to lend his advice and guidance.  The NHK Trophy in Fukuoka was next week and Viktor had to concentrate on that.  It was also the reason why Viktor hadn't been able to Skype with him this past week, and Yuuri understood.   It didn't help his anxiety, though.  Not much could, although knowing that Viktor's training was going well would relieve some of that.  Which was why he approached Coach Feltsman after warm-ups, to ask how Viktor was doing.

Yakov Feltsman's reaction was not encouraging.  He glowered, saying, "Why are you asking?  You should be thinking of your own skating!  Viktor's not a coach - he cannot advise you properly.  He’s too selfish and thinks only of himself!  You should do the same."

Yuuri watched Yakov stomp off, his skater in tow.  He already knew this about Viktor - it's not like it was news that Viktor Nikiforov was flighty and easily distracted, not to mention notoriously forgetful.  He had taken on Yuuri at a whim, and he would probably get bored with Yuuri before long.  But it didn't matter if that happened because Viktor had already helped him.  Without Viktor's encouragement, he never would have made it to Worlds and he would have quit rather than take on a new season.  Besides, Yuuri liked Viktor - the man, not the skater or the Legend.  He would always treasure their weeks together in Hasetsu, and he would do his damnedest to keep this - whatever-it-was - going as long as he could.

So when Christophe Giacometti teased him him about diverting Viktor's attention towards himself, Yuuri ignored him.  When the Russian women's team moaned about Viktor turning his attention towards choreography for other skaters and away from his own skating, Yuuri let it wash over him.  Hadn't any of them seen Viktor's recent skating?  Hadn't they watched his program at the Japan Open?  Viktor hadn't looked this excited about skating for years, and if Yuuri was a beneficiary of this new fire, well, what of it?  They could laugh and doubt all that they wanted.  He would prove to them all that he was worthy of Viktor's time and attention.  He would show them the program that Viktor had choreographed just for him, and he would skate it to the best of his ability.  

When he took to the ice to perform "On Love - Eros" for the first time in competition, he gave it every bit of Eros that he had.  He skated for Viktor, to seduce him, knowing that he would be watching live.  He skated to seduce everyone else watching him, giving a flawless performance as the most beautiful woman on the ice.  No one else could do this program like him, and when he threw away the unworthy playboy, he felt that he’d proved that he was a different skater than the past.  Given the applause and the high score he received - the first time he cleared 100 - it seemed like those watching him had also enjoyed his performance.

"How could they not?" Viktor said when he spoke to him later that evening.  "You were magnificent!  No one could take their eyes off of you!"

There was only one problem with his performance and his score, Yuuri thought as the high of his performance wore off.  For the first time in his career, he was in first place in a competition outside of Japan.

And he was scared to death.

 

Chapter Text

Part 2: The Sleeping Prince

 

Yuuri didn't sleep well that night.  He had lain awake for hours, trying to think of how to eliminate his top two competitors, and then panicking over what would happen if he was caught.

He was in first so far but Georgi was only two points behind him and ranked higher in the world standings, a proven competitor.  Despite his odd appearance and his somewhat erratic skating, he was the biggest threat at the moment.  And then there was Christophe, who might be in fifth place now but had taken Silver on so many podiums that it was practically a given that he was second only to Viktor.

At the warm-ups that morning (which went abysmally as Yuuri fell on all his jumps), he overheard the Russian women skaters talking about Georgi.  He'd had a bad breakup - well that explained the over-the-top program - and the team doctors had prescribed something to help calm his mood swings.  That gave Yuuri an idea.  He'd brought along his sleeping pills although he hadn't taken any, even when he couldn't sleep, because he didn't like the fuzzy feeling they gave him.  But what if he slipped them to Georgi?  Not many, just enough to make him sleepy.

When he got back to his room, he pulled out his notebook and looked up dosage amounts, making a note of what would be needed for Georgi's size and weight.  He counted out the number of pills needed, then hesitated and added one more, just to be certain.  Then, deciding that he could use some rest himself, he took a quarter of a tablet and laid down to nap.

Despite the nap, his nerves were still jangling when he returned to the arena for the event.  He'd dissolved the tablets in a bottle of water, shaking it thoroughly until there wasn't a trace left, but he couldn't help peering at the bottle to make certain there wasn't any sediment on the bottom.  He fidgeted with the top, trying to make sure that it was tightly closed, his hands shaking.

"You're pathetic," Georgi sneered, stopping in his jogging around the green room beside Yuuri.  "Can't even open a simple bottle!  Here - watch me!"

Georgi grabbed the bottle out of his slackened hands and opened it, then drained the bottle in one long swallow.  He tossed the empty bottle into the trash and sneered at Yuuri again.  "Sorry.  Looks like you'll have to stay thirsty."

Yuuri watched, wide-eyed, as Georgi walked off.  He only half-listened as Minako ordered him to get up, to stretch, to focus.  Most of his attention was fixed on Georgi, half-afraid that he would keel over.  The Russian appeared to be fine, moving through his usual routine without hesitation, so maybe he'd underestimated the dosage?  Should he have added more?  Was there just a delayed reaction?  He usually fell asleep quickly the few times he'd taken the sleeping pills, but then again his build was slighter than Georgi's.

"Yuuri, take this!" Minako ordered.

Yuuri absently accepted the item and then realized that it was her phone.  He put it to his ear, thinking that it would be his mother or sister, and was surprised to hear Viktor's voice on the other end.  "Viktor?"

"Yuuri, I want you to walk out into the hallway, away from the other skaters," Viktor's voice said crisply and Yuuri obeyed without thinking, although not without a last look at Georgi.  "Now forget about the other skaters and just concentrate on your breathing - even from here I can hear you huffing like a train engine."

Yuuri tried to obey, he really did, but he could still hear the announcers’ muffled voices.  Phichit had done amazingly well, scoring almost 200 points and moving ahead of Christophe.  Maybe he'd been worrying about the wrong skater?  But - Phichit was his friend; how could he even think about doing something to hurt him or his chances to fulfill his dreams.

"It's not working," Viktor muttered on the phone.  "Maybe I've been wrong.  Maybe we need to get you a real coach."

That broke Yuuri's attention away from the rink and the announcers.  Stressed to the max, he burst into tears.  He'd always thought that Viktor would tire of him, but he'd thought that he'd a least have till the Finals.  Did Viktor regret their partnership already?

"Yuuri!  Yuuri!"  Viktor's voice was frantic on the phone.  "What's wrong?  Why are you crying?"

"Viktor, why would you say something like that?" Yuuri sobbed, clutching the phone to his ear.  "I fail a lot so I've gotten used to it over the years - but now I worry that my mistakes will reflect on you!"

"Yuuri, zolotse."  Viktor's voice was worried now.  "I'm not very good with people crying.  I don't know what to say.  If I was there, I'd just - hug you or kiss you or something."

"I don't want that," Yuuri said, trying to control his own sobs.  "Just have more faith in me than I do.  Say that you'll stay with me!"

"Oh, my Yuuri!"  His voice was tender now.  "Of course I'll stay with you!  There's nowhere else I'd rather be."

Yuuri's tears were easing up, the warmth and sincerity in Viktor's voice like a balm on his jangled nerves.  "Really?"

"Really.  I’m going to take you out to dinner in Moscow every night  - to make up for Tokyo, remember?"

Yuuri managed a watery smile.  "I remember."

"Then it's a date."

"Even if I make a mess of my program?"

"Even if you fall on every jump - but you won't.  I have faith in you."  Viktor's voice grew more firm.  "Now, go dry your eyes and put some cold water on your face.  I will talk to you later tonight."

Yuuri hung up and returned the phone to Minako, who was eying him with quiet concern.  "I'm okay," he murmured to her, hastily drying his eyes and then dabbing his face with a dampened tissue.  He could hear Leo getting his scores - which had apparently dropped him to last place - and Georgi was beginning his program.  It was time to make his way to the ice.

Georgi looked unusually relaxed as compared to the previous day, skating in lazy circles on the ice as his music began.  He did his first combination, a quad salchow/triple toe-loop, but there was a gasp from the crowd as he only did a double salchow and popped the toe-loop.  He fell on his next jump and then didn't even try the following jump, just marking it, before he went into his step sequence.  This was better than the jumps, although he seemed almost half-hearted in his performance, moving lazily through the components.  

Across the rink in the stands, Yuuri saw a woman stand up abruptly and make a thumbs down gesture at Georgi who cried out so loudly that even the announcers fell silent for a moment.  And then Georgi went into his combination spin, which just went on and on and on - as if he'd forgotten how to end it.  The spin got slower and slower as he shifted into a sit-spin, moving closer to the ice until he just - stopped.  He didn't fall so much as he just seemed to curl up on his side on the ice.  Georgi tucked his hand beneath his head, closed his eyes, and gave a little sigh of contentment, not seeming to care that his music was still playing.

The audience and announcers watched in open-mouthed disbelief as Georgi Popovich just went to sleep on the ice.

 


 

The ISU officials called a brief halt to the event as the medics moved onto the ice to check out the Russian skater.  There was some head scratching as they checked him over, then a stretcher was brought out and Georgi was carried off the ice.  As they passed by Yuuri, he could see that Georgi was breathing just fine and that there was a little smile on his face, as if his dreams were good ones.  Frankly, Yuuri couldn't ever remember seeing the other man look so relaxed and happy.

After a moment of conferring with the officials, the announcer finally interrupted the filler music.  "Ladies and gentlemen, Georgi Popovich doesn't appear to have suffered any injuries, he is just...sleeping, although he will be taken to the hospital for evaluation.  Because he didn't complete his program, he has been scratched from today's competition.

"Next up is our final skater, Yuuri Katsuki of Japan.  Because of this unexpected delay, Katsuki will be given additional time to take the ice."

Yuuri shook himself out of his stunned state and skated out onto the ice, making a circuit along the outer edge to warm up his muscles.  Oddly enough, he no longer felt stressed or anxious.  He'd cried after competitions a lot but this was the first time he'd cried before one, and it had left him oddly relaxed. 

And he'd just eliminated Georgi from his potential competitors at the Finals. 

Yuuri took his place and, as his music began, started his program.  His first jump combination went well, surprisingly so given how little sleep he'd had, as did the rest of the jumps in the first half.  Then was the choreographic sequence in the middle and he could feel himself tiring, so much so that he touched down during his favorite triple axle and two-footed the next combination.  But the combination following that and the step sequence went better, and his quad toe-loop at the end was perfect.

His score of 185 was lower than both Phichit and Christophe's scores for the Free program, but combined with his higher Short program score, he ended in first place.  Yuuri had won Gold for the first time in an International event.

Phichit took Silver, edging out Christophe who received Bronze.  Yuuri was delighted for his rink-mate - except that this probably meant that Phichit would make the Finals - and would he have to figure out a way to take his friend out of the competition?

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 8 - Better With A Man

Part 1: Bottom’s Up!

 

Yuuri would have preferred to skip the banquet after the Gala entirely.  For the first time, he didn't have a coach insisting that he had to attend in the interest of good sportsmanship.  He didn't have the JSF breathing down his neck, either, insisting that he be the Face of Japanese Figure Skating, nor any sponsors here that he needed to flatter in return for their money.  Not that he was ever any good at that.  And Minako was too busy hunting down sexy skaters to force him to attend boring banquets.

No, instead he had Phichit, who had never met a party that he didn't like and who had now made the podium at two significant International events.  Phichit wanted to celebrate, and of course he wanted his best friend to come along.  So Yuuri sighed and moaned, for appearance’s sake, but let Phichit drag him to the banquet along with Celestino, feeling like the most awkward third wheel ever.

However, Phichit had a Coach and his coach had Expectations, so within a short period of time, Yuuri found himself left to his fate while Phichit chatted with potential new sponsors.  He found a glass of sparkling water and a corner where he could watch unobserved, expecting that he could put in a half-hour and then slip away to his own room to wait for Viktor's phone call.

What he hadn’t expected was to have his ass grabbed and firmly squeezed.  He squeaked and jumped away from the importuning hand.

"Mmmm, Yuuri," Christophe purred in his ear.  "You're in much better shape than last year.  Your new choreographer must be working you hard."

His words were rife with innuendo - but then again, that was Christophe.  Yuuri relaxed a little - just a little because, after all, this was Chris.  If you relaxed too much with Chris you could find yourself in a compromising situation before you knew what was happening.  Not that it had happened to Yuuri, but he'd heard Stories.

"Hello, Chris," he said weakly.  

Christophe leaned against the wall behind Yuuri, trapping him in place and smirking down at him.  "What are you doing here, hiding in the corner with your gold medal?  You don't even have any champagne."

"I - um - I'm not drinking tonight."  Or ever.

"Don't be silly, Yuuri - one drink won't hurt you."  Christophe raised his hand and a waiter with a tray of champagne glasses appeared as if by magic.  He took two, handing one to Yuuri.  "Now, what should we celebrate, besides our lovely medals?"

"Um..."

"Your new Short program is quite delicious, Yuuri," Chris said, taking a sip of his drink while his eyes were fixed on Yuuri, a sultry smile on his lips.  "Such an interesting display of innocent sexuality."  He leaned closer and murmured in his ear, "Or is it quite so innocent?  Has Our Viktor taught you a thing or two about.... Eros ...yet?"

"I..."

Christophe relented a bit, moving back so that he wasn't quite so close.  "You know, my own Short program was influenced by that Gala, too."

"It - it is?"  For the first time, Yuuri was glad that he didn't know exactly what had happened at the Sochi banquet.  He had the feeling that he’d never be able to sleep without nightmares if he did.

"Mmmm-hmmm.  Our dance-off was...quite inspiring.  You have amazing core strength and flexibility."  He leaned back in, and Yuuri was suddenly reminded on the undulating and hypnotic dance of cobras.  "I would love to test some of that flexibility for myself.  Or has Viktor put his exclusive mark on you?"

"I - no - we - "  Yuuri could feel the sweat bead across his forehead.

Christophe leaned back again, laughing.  "Relax, Yuuri!  I'm not going to bed you right here in front of everyone - not unless you want me to."  Christophe's eyes twinkled at him.  "You should really learn to relax, though - and I have just the thing for you."

He twisted his fingers and produced a little packet of something between his finger tips.  Yuuri's eyes widened.

"Is that - do you have drugs here?" he hissed at Christophe in a low tone of voice, looking around to see if anyone was looking at them, especially anyone from the ISU.  The only person close by was Minako, but she was on the other side of the table talking to a handsome man who looked vaguely like Stéphane Lambiel.  Yuuri thought he’d seen him in the Kiss & Cry, so he was probably a coach, and she was probably trying to get room numbers.

"It's alright, Yuuri!  Just a little something to help start the motor, and it isn't even illegal here in China."  

Christophe tore open the packet and tipped it into Yuuri's glass of champagne.  He watched for a moment in fascinated horror as the crystals dissolved in the liquid, then hastily set the glass down on the table beside Chris's own half-empty glass.

"Oh, Yuuri," Christophe purred, leaning in close again and running a finger down his cheek, like Viktor sometimes did, only this felt different, more invasive.  "Do you know what you need?  You need to get laid.  Make all that anxiety and maidenly modesty go poof!  You'd feel sooooo much better."

No I wouldn't, he thought, anger flaring at the idea that casual sex would fix him.  He was just fine and happy the way he was!

He glanced up and saw that Minako was closer than he'd thought, within arm's reach, and that made him feel safer.  Deliberately, he picked up his doctored glass from behind Chris's back and handed it to the other man with a smile.  "Maybe you're right.  Finish your drink while I get us another."

Chris took the glass and drank half of it while Yuuri pretended to just notice that Minako was there.  "Oh, Chris - have you met my coach?  She's my ballet teacher, really, but filling in as my coach until I get a permanent one.  This is Okukawa Minako - Minako-sensei, this is Christophe Giacometti."

"Enchanted," Christophe said, bowing over her hand.

"I'm quite a fan of yours," Minako replied, then switched to French.  Christophe's eyes lit up and the two of them launched into an enthusiastic conversation.  Christophe turned to summon the other man that Minako had been talking to, involving him in their discussion, seeming to forget that Yuuri was there.

Yuuri took advantage of the situation and slipped away from the banquet, walking back to his room to wait for Viktor’s call.

Chapter Text

Part 2: Men are a Simpler Sex

 

"Did you hear what happened last night?" Phichit demanded as he sat down to an early breakfast with Yuuri the next day.

"No, what?"  He had a horrible thought and looked up in alarm at Phichit.  "It's not - Georgi's not - "

Phichit flapped his hand dismissively at Yuuri.  "No, he's fine.  The hospital said that he just took a little too many of the anxiety pills his doctor gave him; he didn't even remember how many he'd taken.  They pumped his stomach as a precaution and he'll go home tomorrow, though I bet his coach is furious with him."

Yuuri thought that was likely and shuddered; he'd hate to get on Yakov Feltsman's bad side.

"No, this is about Christophe Giacometti," Phichit said, stirring sugar into his tea and not seeing the new panic on Yuuri's face.  "Apparently he had an orgy in his rooms last night - him and his partner and a couple of women or men - or maybe both, it's not clear.  Anyways, he'd taken something to, you know, stiffen the pencil and it wouldn't go down," he added in a stage whisper.  "And the girl on the French pairs team says he pulled a muscle in his groin!"  Both of them winced at that.  "He'll be off the ice for a couple weeks and, even if he recovers before Paris, he might not make it to the Finals.  I doubt he's going to be jizzing on the ice anytime soon, either."

"Phichit!"

The Thai skater shrugged.  "Just sayin'.  They took him off to the hospital to check him out."  He shook his head.  "What a crazy event this has been!"

"A great event for you, though," Yuuri said, hastily changing the subject.  "You have a good chance of making it to the Finals!"

"Maybe."  He ticked off his fingers.  "Viktor will go - can't imagine him losing his two events.  Otabek has one Silver, and there's no way that he doesn't win Silver or Bronze in Japan next week, so he'll go.  That Russian kid looked good in Canada, but he's up against you and Viktor and JJ in Moscow, so there's no way that he does better than 4th.  Leo's out now, Emil's got the same problem as the Russian kid - and Mickey, too.  Georgi will only have one event if he even makes it to Paris so he's out.  So you and JJ make four at the Finals - and don't you try to tell me that you don't have a damn good chance of a medal in Moscow!  Seung-gil might have a chance in Paris if both Chris and Georgi are off top form.  So maybe I'll squeeze into the sixth spot.  It all depends on Paris and Moscow."

"I hope you do," Yuuri said sincerely.  "Barcelona wouldn't be as much fun without you."

"If you can spare the time from Viktor," Phichit said, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively.  He glanced up and groaned, then stuffed the rest of his muffin in his mouth. "There's Ciao-Ciao - gotta go!  Good luck in Moscow!"

Yuuri went up to his room to pack for his own flight back home with Minako that afternoon.  Minako seemed hungover and a little worse for wear, but there was a smug smile on her face.  And she hummed something that sounded a lot like Chris's Short program music in the taxi all the way to the airport.

Chapter Text

Chapter 9 - The Ice is Thin

Part 1: Our Sweet Cocoon

 

Yuuri walked through Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow, from the Customs area to the transportation hub, his head down and his thoughts miles away.

He was alone on this trip.  Minako had developed a bad cold so she had remained behind in Hasetsu and the rest of his family was too busy at the inn to leave for more than a day.  For the first time, Yuuri regretted breaking with Celestino.  Even though his programs were better for the change, even though he loved being home instead of in Detroit, he missed having a full-time coach.  And it wasn't fair to ask Viktor to give up any more of his time in order to look after Yuuri at competitions - he wasn't even Yuuri's coach. He would have to seriously look into getting a coach during the break after Nationals, even though it would probably mean leaving home.  

He wondered what Viktor would think about that, if he'd even want to continue working with him once he had a real coach.  Viktor had seemed pleased to see Yuuri when he'd shown up in Fukuoka to watch the NHK Trophy, just to surprise him, but maybe he was just being polite.  Yuuri was a distraction and Viktor couldn't afford that, not with Otabek and JJ breathing down his neck.

Yuuri should let him go.  He should thank Viktor for being his choreographer and absolve him of all responsibility for his future.  He could still keep his promise to stand on the podium with Viktor, without distracting him from his own life and work.  He should -

A loud "woof!" caught his attention and he looked up to see a familiar looking poodle at the glass separating the corridor from the waiting area.  The poodle had its front paws braced on the glass and when he realized that he'd caught Yuuri's attention, he began wagging his tail.

"Makkachin?"

Makkachin woofed again.  There was movement behind him and Yuuri saw Viktor unfold from one of the seats.  He looked exhausted, as if he'd barely slept in the two weeks since Yuuri had last seen him, and suddenly he couldn't wait.  Yuuri began running down the hallway towards the doors, aware that Viktor was running as well.  He paused for the automatic doors to open, then flung himself through.  And Viktor was right there as Yuuri hurled himself towards him, and his arms were open.

Yuuri barreled into Viktor, arms wrapped around his middle and nose against Viktor's shoulder.  They'd only had a shared dinner in Fukuoka and it hadn't been enough for him.  And Skype was great for talking but he had missed the man himself so much.  The way he felt, the way he moved, the way he smelt.  He had forgotten Viktor's scent and he drew in a deep breath, trying to commit it to memory.  "Viktor."

"My Yuuri," he said softly.

"I missed you so much."

Viktor's arms tightened around him.  "Oh my zolotse."  He drew in a deep, shaking breath, and it almost sounded like tears.  "Yuuri, I've been thinking about us..."

"Me, too."

And this was where Yuuri should tell him that they should end this.  He should let Viktor go.  But - Yuuri was selfish and he didn't want to let Viktor go.   Ever.  He wanted to be with Viktor, and that meant that he needed to keep his promise and get to the Finals, and that meant he needed Viktor's help.  But more than that, he wanted - needed Viktor.

He pushed away from their embrace but kept holding Viktor by his shoulders.  "Viktor, would you - would you please stay with me through the Finals?"

Viktor smiled at him softly, then lifted his hand and kissed his knuckle.  "That sounds like a marriage proposal."

Yuuri knew that Viktor was teasing him but he didn't mind; he could feel his cheeks flushing.  He hugged Viktor tight again.  "Let's win the Finals together."

 


 

They collected his luggage and dropped it at the hotel, then Viktor took him to dinner, someplace casual that didn't seem to mind Makkachin.  Or maybe it was just that as Russia's National Hero they didn't feel that they could turn him away.  Yuuri had been up for nearly a day, had been flying for over twelve hours, but he was starving and he tucked into the food with a healthy appetite.  Viktor talked the whole time - about the results of the NHK Trophy and the rink they'd be performing at in Moscow, about Makkachin and Yuuri's family, about their competitors and his rink-mates.  Yuuri drank it all in, wanting him to never stop talking, ever.  

But it was getting late and he was falling asleep in his borscht.  Viktor paid the bill and swept them off to the hotel again, where he was beset by the press.  Yuuri slipped past them and checked in, his luggage having already been delivered to his room on Viktor's instructions.  

While he was waiting for the elevator, the doors opened and the Crispino twins poured out.  Michele was yelling at Emil about something (as usual) and then Sara said hello to Yuuri so Michele started yelling at him.  Sara rounded on him for being an overprotective jerk and Yuuri took the opportunity to slip past them to the other elevator.

Only to have it stopped as Yuri Plisetsky barged his way in.  He was scowling about something, or maybe that was his usual expression.  Trying to be polite, Yuuri said, "Good luck in the competition."

"Whatever," Yuri said with a shrug.  

They were both silent for a moment, then Yuuri said, "I saw your Short program for Skate Canada.  It was very good."

"Should have won," Yuri grumbled.  "Fucking JJ."

"He is annoying, isn't he?"

"Fucking dick."  Yuri ducked his head back down, his hoodie obscuring his face again.  "Your programs are better than his."

Yuuri was startled and looked over at him.  "Thanks."

Yuri just nodded and then, as the door opened, stomped out of the elevator.  Yuuri continued to the 9th floor and unlocked his door.  His suitcase was lying on the closest bed, the skating case by the window, and he sighed.  He should really unpack but he was too tired to do more than pull out his wash-bag and his pajamas.

There was a knock on the door and he opened it to find Viktor outside.

"I just wanted to say good-night while Makkachin's being walked," Viktor said.  "Will you have breakfast with me before practice?  I have a suite just down the hall - room 919."  Yuuri nodded and Viktor smiled.  "Good. See you at eight-thirty?"  Viktor stepped forward and kissed Yuuri's cheek.  "Good-night, Yuuri.  Sleep well."

Yuuri changed into his pajamas, brushed his teeth, and crawled into bed.  And if he hadn't washed the cheek that Viktor had kissed, that was no one's concern but his.

Chapter Text

Part 2: Before I Lose My Nerve

 

At breakfast the next morning, Yuuri was surprised to find that it was a group meal, with the younger Russian skater as well as their coach in attendance.  Both of them seemed surprised when Yuuri turned up, but Viktor's easy acceptance of him and Makkachin's enthusiastic greeting was enough to smooth his way.  Talk was chiefly of their other competitors, with the focus on JJ Leroy of Canada and Michele Crispino of Italy.  What was also clear was that Yakov didn't think that Plisetsky had much of a chance yet against the older skaters, and that the young Yuri was starting to chafe in Viktor's shadow.  He wondered what that meant for the future.

Since he was in the first practice group, Yuuri excused himself to grab his skate bag and make his way to the practice rink.  Their group was the first on the ice that day and Yuuri revelled in the feel of clean ice under his skates as he went through his short program.  It felt better than it had in China, with the memory of their airport reunion in his mind.  What did Viktor mean when he said that it was almost like a proposal?  Was he just teasing Yuuri - or was it possible that Viktor wanted something more between them, like Yuuri did?  Was is possible that the Seductress had managed to catch the Playboy?

Once he'd run through his short program, he attempted a quad flip, but after he'd fallen several times without successfully landing it once, he gave it up.  He'd toyed with the idea of swapping it in for one of his other jumps since China but it looked like that wasn't happening here.  Maybe at the Final - if he made it.

He left the ice, choosing to sit in the stands while he tended to his skates so that he could observe his competitors.  This was one of the times when he most missed having a real coach; listening to Coach Feltsman talk to Viktor and Yuri that morning had made him feel really alone.  He pushed that away and concentrated on watching Mickey and Emil who were still on the ice, while Viktor, JJ and Yuri made ready.

At this point in the competition, only Otabek Altin was confirmed as a qualifier for the Final, after taking Silver at both the Skate America and NHK events.   Georgi Popovich had, surprisingly, beaten Christophe for gold at France, but his disqualification at China left him out of the Final.  Phichit and Christophe were tied at 24 points each with a Silver and Bronze; either might have a chance depending on what happened here.  Seung-gil Lee was out, having come in 3rd at France, as were Guang Hong, Leo, and both the French and German skaters.

Viktor had won the NHK, of course, by a 30 point margin over Otabek.  It was unlikely that he would lose here, at Russia.  JJ Leroy looked equally unbeatable, given his performance at both the Japan Open and Skate Canada, and rumor was that he was adding a 4th quad to his Free program, to try to compete with Viktor.  He wouldn't win but he was likely to take Silver, which left Bronze for the rest of them.

Of the remaining skaters, rumor was that Emil intended to do a Quad Loop in his program here, becoming the 3rd to do so in competition, behind Viktor and Seung-gil.  Still, a Bronze finish wouldn't be enough to advance Emil to the Final unless Yuuri came in last here.  Michele was in the same predicament but he was more likely than Emil to challenge Yuuri for Bronze.  His skating had been getting stronger this year and he had lost Silver at the NHK by less than 10 points to Otabek.  And Yuuri and Mickey had been in direct competition since Mickey moved up to Seniors so they were well known to each other.  Mickey's main weakness had always been his lack of focus when his sister was around - which he was showing again as he argued with one of the ice dancers who had stopped to talk with Sara.

Finally there was Yuri Plisetsky, and Yuuri observed him as he took the ice for his practice.  Yuri had been a strong Junior skater but, given their age difference, they'd never skated against each other until now.  Maybe it would have been better for the younger skater to have waited another year to move up to Seniors but Yuri had always seemed confident in his abilities, not to mention impatient.  Yuuri had watched the broadcast of Skate Canada and knew that his short program was beautiful, all sharp movements and beautiful spins, and he was already nailing his quads better than many skaters older than him.  His main issue was his stamina and general lack of experience in the Senior division.  If he managed to take third here and Yuuri took fourth, they'd be in four-way tie with Phichit and Christophe for the last three slots at the Final.  Yuuri would get one of them since he'd won Gold at China, but the other three all had Silvers -- it would come down to their total combined scores to break the tie.

And if Yuuri placed 5th or 6th here, he would be out of the Final.   He needed 4th or better to progress.

On the way back to the hotel, Yuuri passed by a flower shop and he got a sudden idea.  He needed to make sure that Mickey placed below him, in order to have a place in the Final.  From what he'd seen over the years, any sort of attention paid to Sara was enough to make Mickey lose his composure, and that might be enough to throw his performance.  

He pulled out his wallet and checked its contents.  He'd converted some yen to rubles, to cover his general expenses since the JSF had paid for his room.  With Viktor insisting on taking him out for meals, he should have enough still for omiyage, even if he spent some money here.  He went into the shop, pulled out three bills, and laid them on the counter.

"Flowers?" he said in English.

Fortunately, the shop clerk knew enough English for him to communicate his wish to send flowers to a young woman at the hotel next door, and she was also a romantic.  She pointed out appropriate bouquets and agreed to send half of them that evening and the other half the next night. Yuuri addressed the envelopes to Sara along with the hotel's name, then wrote "from An Admirer" on the enclosed cards.  He paid for the flowers and then went on to the hotel.

He showered and changed into comfortable but warm clothes and, just as he'd thought, Viktor showed up a short while later to take him out for a tour of Moscow.  They saw a number of the most popular tourist attractions, then went out to dinner at one of Viktor’s favorite restaurants.

“Moscow is particularly beautiful at night,” Viktor said as they strolled around one of the nearby parks with Makkachin after returning to the hotel.

“And cold!” Yuuri complained, shivering even though he was wearing the heaviest coat he owned.

“You need a better coat,” Viktor said, then brightened.  “I will buy you one!”

Yuuri blanched.  “You don’t need to do that - I’m only here for a few days.”

“But I want to take you out tomorrow night, after the Short program,” Viktor said, an adorable pout on his face.  “I have someplace special in mind.  Besides - it’s your birthday next week, isn’t it?  You wouldn’t let me burn your tie -”

“What’s wrong with my tie?” Yuuri asked indignantly.

“It’s hideous!  When we get to Barcelona, I will get you a new one -- and a new suit, too.”

Yuuri wanted to protest but there was a warmth in Viktor’s eyes that made the words die on his lips.  “Fine,” he said with a sigh. “If I get to Barcelona.”

“You will,” Viktor said confidently.  “I’m going to make sure of it.”

So am I, Yuuri thought, but he didn’t say the words out loud.  And as they returned to the hotel, Yuuri caught sight of the first of his flowers being delivered.

 

Chapter Text

Part 3: Eagerly We Fly

 

The next day was the Men's short skate first, starting early in the afternoon.

Emil was first, taking to the ice with his usual cockiness to skate his cyberpunk program.  His program was a little better than the last time Yuuri had seen him, and he managed to land a quad loop, but he also fell during his other quad so he ended up scoring below his Skate Canada program.

Michele was next, and it was clear that he and his sister had had an argument before arriving at the arena.  She still saw him off at the barrier, along with his coach, but there was a tension between them.  Mickey fell on his quad salchow but he rallied and finished strong, even changing a triple-double combination to a triple-triple.  His score was about the same as at the NHK - which might be good enough in general, but not with Viktor and JJ on the same program.

Yuri Plisetsky was next and Yuuri had the opportunity to see the program that Viktor had choreographed for him in person.  Viktor had chosen music from a favorite of his, Sleeping Beauty, but for Yuri he'd chosen the Violente Fairy, and Yuuri had to admit that it was perfect for him.  Yuuri was very familiar with the ballet, both from his own dancing and also because the first time he'd seen Viktor skate it was to the Lilac Fairy.  Yuri's costume was a wine-red and gold bodysuit, with leaves and grapes woven into both the costume and his hair, and his movements were sharp and crisp, crackling with energy.  He seemed to have a little bit of trouble concentrating at the start, and he fell on his triple axel, but the rest of the program went well.  There wasn't much wrong with it that experience wouldn't fix, and he scored just under 100 points.

Yuuri was next, waiting at the barrier as Yuri came off the ice, and so was JJ who would follow Yuuri.  Unfortunately, one of Yuri's enthusiastic fans had flung out a pair of cat ears with uncanny precision and they had landed squarely on Yuri's head.  (Yuri's fans were currently in two camps: one that preferred the Russian Fairy of his short program and the other preferring the Cat motif of his Free skate. The in-fighting was often brutal and loud.)  JJ laughed and teased Yuri as he came off the ice, mockingly making way for "ladies first" in a way that made Yuri glare at him murderously.

Yuuri decided to wait until later to congratulate Yuri on his performance.

Viktor was also at the barrier, taking Minako's place as he held out his hand for Yuuri's skate covers.  Then as Yuuri waited on the ice for his name to be called, Viktor covered Yuuri's hand with his own and smiled at him.

"The time to seduce me picturing a Woman is over," Viktor murmured to him.  "At this point you can do it just by being yourself.  You've figured that out by now, haven't you?"

Yuuri’s heart nearly burst at that, the confirmation that Viktor wanted him as well.  He shifted his hand so that their fingers were interlaced and pressed their foreheads together.  He ignored the sound of cameras going off around them, concentrating only on Viktor.  "Watch me, Viktor.  Don't take your eyes off me."

Yuuri skated off to the center of the ice.  He felt different, as if something had lit a fire inside him.  He was fighting in enemy territory and he was taking the Russian champion captive.  He took this starting position, throwing a flirty look right at Viktor and licking his lips, then started off.  

Nobody else can satisfy Viktor, he thought to himself.  Only me.  Nobody else knows Viktor's love.  I'm the only one, and today that's what I'm skating to prove.

All of his movements were sure and strong, his seductive poses as alluring as he could make them.  His step sequence was perfect - he could almost hear Viktor saying the words - and all of his jumps had good height and firm landings.  He went into his final spins, crisp and clean, and then threw off the playboy to take his triumphant place in the spotlight.  The noise from the audience was deafening, and Yuuri couldn’t help blushing with embarrassed pleasure.

Viktor was there to meet him at the barrier, embracing him warmly and then sitting beside him in the Kiss & Cry in place of his absent coach.  And when Yuuri's score came up, he could hardly believe it: 106.84 - not only a personal best but also among the top scores in the world.

And then, of course, JJ took to the ice and blew past him, with an ending score of 113.  If it had been Viktor Yuuri wouldn't have minded, but JJ's arrogance was just galling.  As he'd threatened at Four Continents, he'd had a song composed for him called "Theme of King JJ", full of boasts and self-aggrandizement.  And then in the Kiss & Cry, he did that annoying hand gesture.  Yuuri had never been a violent man but he wanted to smack JJ, preferably in the head with a 2x4.

Although the way that Yuri was vibrating with fury, he thought that he might have to stand in line.

Viktor was the last to take the ice, and the final version of his Agape costume was stunningly beautiful.  His grey leggings fit him closely, with a design down the outside that looked like feathers. His shirt varied in gradation from a soft grey through ice-blue-grey to a grey-tinted white, in fluttering layers that floated around him as he moved, like wings.  There were feather designs scattered over it, and the whole appearance took Yuuri's breath away.

And then he began to skate, and it was clear that he'd gotten more of an emotional handle on this program.  No longer was he unapproachable and distant, a marble statue up on a cathedral wall.  No, his Agape was still pure but he was more like a guardian angel, floating above them all but close and comforting.  And when he did the quad loop in the middle followed by his quad flip, the audience lost its mind.  Viktor’s score didn't break his own world record but it was close.  And it beat JJ's by a solid two points.

Yuuri had never been so proud of anyone than he was at this moment.

Chapter Text

Part 4: Murder’s Not a Hobby for the Cautious

 

Since the Men's Short program ended at three, they had the rest of the day for more sightseeing.  JJ announced that he was taking his girlfriend off to see some lake or something, not that anyone paid much attention to him.  Emil had already arranged to go on an Extreme guided tour - "digging" through underground Moscow.  Michele was remaining behind as the Ladies were skating in the last program of the day and he wanted to be there for his sister.  Yuri's grandfather was picking him up for a homemade dinner.  So that left Viktor and Yuuri on their own, just what Yuuri wanted.

After changing, Viktor dragged Yuuri off to get outfitted in warmer winter gear, then took him to a little place in an upscale part of the city for a light meal and a drink.  When they finished, instead of calling for a cab, he linked arms with Yuuri and led him down the street.

"There's a place you should see here, one of the parks," Viktor said.  "In the warmer months it's very beautiful for walking in, and in the winter.."  He paused and made a dramatic flourish.

They were standing on a terrace outside of a yellow stone building lit up by warm lighting, looking over a large park.  Yuuri could see wide walkways set up around the perimeter, with small wooden sheds lining the walkways selling a variety of goods.  In the center was a huge white expanse with a large tree in the center, occupied by a number of people on skates.  Small children clustered at the end closest to them, with a rag-tag group of teens just beyond them indulging in what appeared to be a pick-up game of hockey.  Other than that, there were a few scattered pairs of skaters, mostly around the tree. 

"It's a skating pond," Yuuri said, then gave Viktor an amused look.  "You realize that we spend all of our time on the ice, and now you want to go skating for fun?"

"I haven't had a chance to skate with you since Hasetsu."

"You want to put on rental skates - "

"No!  I had the hotel send over our spares, so you see we have to stop here just to pick them up,"  Viktor pointed out, his puppy dog eyes on full display. "Please, Yuuri?"

Yuuri sighed and gave up.  They went to the cloakroom where Viktor's skating bag waited and sat down to put on their skates.

"The near end is for the children," Viktor explained as he laced up his skates.  "There will be more people here as it gets darker," he added.  "And as it gets closer to New Years, they put up Christmas decorations and an ice maze for children, and it gets very crowded.  But right now the far ice should be fairly empty."

Yuuri nodded and stood up.  Viktor took his hand and led him onto the ice, carefully negotiating past the small children on wobbly skates and the teens with their hockey sticks.  Once they were past the youngsters, away from the light and warmth given off by the boathouse, the area was open enough for them to skate hand-in-hand. Viktor pointed out one area about two meters in from the far end that had been marked off with a sign and rope.

"Thin ice," he explained, "where it's marshy in summer.  It's only two meters deep but one could still go through the ice if not careful."

They did a lap around the remaining ice, and Viktor didn't let go of his hand as they skated.  Yuuri didn't try to pull his hand away, either, and if that meant something he wasn't going to worry about it today.  Right now, he was just going to enjoy skating hand-in-hand with the man that he admired and probably loved, away from the spotlight of competition -

"Isabella, watch!"

A loud voice pierced the blissful peace and Yuuri groaned.  "How did he find this place?" he moaned, glancing over his shoulder.  And sure enough, there was JJ Leroy and his girlfriend.  He was doing spins and jumps in the area near the central tree, egged on by his girlfriend's applause, and Yuuri made a face.  

Viktor looked over at them, a little frown marring the beauty of his forehead.  "They must have asked at the hotel.  Yuuri, I'm sorry - "

Yuuri flapped his hand at him, cutting off his apology.  "Don't - it's not your fault, and we won't let him spoil our evening."  He glanced back at the pair.  "Look, it's getting darker and they haven't seen us, so let's just ignore them."  

Viktor smiled at him.  "Da.  I will get us some hot wine.  We will warm up for a bit, and then come back out and they will be gone." 

Yuuri agreed and Viktor pointed out some benches at the edge of the ice, then he skated off towards the pathway and its little booths.  Yuuri skated towards the benches, passing by the markers indicating the thin ice.  JJ and Isabella were still near the tree although moving in his direction, the only skaters he could see in that area.  He looked around for anyone who might be watching the skaters but the few benches were empty and the people on the paths were hurrying along, no doubt on their way to dinner or other places out of the cold.  The dusk was heavy and the lights didn't provide enough light yet to pierce the gloom of the tree-shrouded end of the pond.

What if he were to remove the sign and the rope?  It would serve JJ right if his showing-off caused him to go right through the ice.  It wouldn’t even be that dangerous - there were people nearby and all he would get would be a thorough dunking, and maybe a cold. 

And maybe he’d get chilled enough that he couldn’t skate the Free program.  That thought was enough to make up his mind.

After taking another quick look around to make sure no one was watching, Yuuri yanked the sign up from its stand and threw it towards the bank where it would't be seen.  The rope came away easily, dropped flat on the ice where it could no longer be seen.  Then he started skating towards the side of the pond with the benches.

He was almost there when he heard a loud, ominous crack and then a scream.

Instinctively, he turned in the direction of the noise and saw a gaping hole in the ice, with a pale-white face bobbing in the water.  For a horrifying moment, he thought that it was Viktor, that he'd gone back towards where they'd parted and had gone through the ice.  But the hair was dark and there was a woman nearby, away from the hole but screaming loudly for help.

JJ had gone through the ice.

Yuuri turned away, relieved that it wasn't Viktor and certain that JJ would be able to extract himself with nothing worse than a cold dunking, but then Isabella's screams turned to words.

"Help!  Someone help!  He can't swim!"

Yuuri froze in place and groaned.  Of course.  Of all the damn luck....

He looked around and saw the long pole of the sign, lying near the bank where he'd tossed it, and he skated over to it.  He grabbed the post, pulling the sign off, and skated back towards the hole in the ice.  When he was a few feet away, he went flat on his belly on the ice, sliding as close as he dared, then pushed the post towards the man in the water.  JJ was flailing helplessly, unable to get purchase on the slick surface, and Yuuri pushed the post closer.

"JJ!  Grab onto the post!"

JJ lunged for the post, hugging it tightly, and Yuuri was pulled forward a foot towards the hole.  He nearly panicked but then there was a heavy weight along his back, firm arms around his waist anchoring him in place.

"Up on your knees, move back slowly," Viktor's voice said in his ear, and Yuuri felt a wave of relief.  Viktor would know what to do.  Yuuri had only seen an ice rescue once, when one of the hockey boys went through the pond at the university, and the school security had handled that rescue.

"JJ!  Don't let go!" he yelled.  He shifted onto his knees and began crawling backwards slowly as he dragged the pole with him.  Viktor's arms braced him, dragging him away from danger, and JJ along with him.  After what seemed like an eternity but was probably only a few minutes, JJ was lying on the ice and they were pulling him further away from the hole.  

And then the emergency personnel were there, lending their skill to the effort.  JJ was quickly bundled into blankets and lifted onto an ice stretcher, then pulled towards a waiting ambulance.  Another blanket was dropped onto Yuuri's shoulders and Viktor quickly wrapped it around him, despite Yuuri's assurances that he didn't get wet, he was just damp from the ice, he was okay, his hands were just shaking because of nerves.

Viktor helped him to his feet, tugging the blanket closer, murmuring words like "hot wine" and "dry clothes", and Yuuri nodded numbly.  And then it happened.

"There he is!  That's the man!"

The shrill voice of JJ's girlfriend rang out and Yuuri froze in place, eyes widening in panic.  Isabella was pointing at him and everyone around her turned to stare at Yuuri. Everyone, including the policeman who had been getting her statement.

His heart began racing.

"He saved my JJ's life!  JJ would have died -" Her eyes brimmed with tears and she skated over to Yuuri, throwing her arms around him in a grateful hug.  "Thank you!"

Yuuri blanched, skin going from pale white to beet-red in a moment.  "I - I didn't - It wasn't -- "  He looked up at Viktor helplessly and saw the amused look on the other man's face.

Viktor said something rapidly to the policeman and the atmosphere immediately changed.  They clearly recognized him, were quickly reassuring Viktor about something, and then Yuuri was being hustled off the ice and up the bank and into a police car -

He would have panicked but he was too cold and too tired.  And then Viktor was sliding in next to him, the doors were shut, and they were speeding away from the scene.

"They're taking us back to the hotel," Viktor told him.  "The last thing they need is another competitor for the Moscow Cup in the hospital."

Yuuri looked down and realized that he was still wearing his skates.  "Viktor! Our shoes!"

Viktor looked down as well and then laughed.  "Better to lose our shoes than our spare skates," he pointed out.

"You were wearing designer shoes!"  Yuuri pointed out, aghast.

Viktor shrugged.  "I have a dozen more, and I never particularly liked those."

"Well, I don't have a dozen shoes, and I liked those - and don't you dare offer to buy me more!"

Viktor snapped his mouth shut, looking at him a bit sheepishly.  "Sorry, zolotse.  I'll go back for them, once I know you're okay.  Da?"

Yuuri agreed, and then they were at the hotel.  Viktor carefully stepped out of the car on the naked blade of his skates, then knelt so that he could unlace and remove Yuuri's skates.  Once Yuuri was standing in his stocking feet, he handed the skates back to Yuuri and then gave him a stern look.

"Upstairs, hot shower, warm clothes.  I'll send up room service with hot tea."

Yuuri nodded and Viktor pressed a kiss against his cheek, then said something to the doorman.  Then he got back into the police car and was gone.

Yuuri trudged wearily through the hotel lobby, his spare skates clutched in his arms, his eyes locked on the elevator bank.  Out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of a cart piled high with an enormous number of bouquets and Sara looking at them in bewilderment.  He spared a moment to marvel at just how much 600 rubles had been able to buy, and then all his thoughts focused on getting warm.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 10 - Looking Down The Barrel Of A Gun

Part 1: It Concentrates the Mind

 

Yuuri woke the next morning, relieved that he didn't feel any physical ill effects from the previous day, except for a little stiffness in his arms and shoulders.  He would need to warm up well.

He refused to think about any emotional ill effects from attempting to murder one of his competitors.

He checked his phone to make sure that he wasn't late for the public practice, then checked his messages.  There were good-luck wishes from Phichit and Christophe (the explicit content of the latter made him cringe), but nothing from Victor.  Yuuri bit his lip.  He should have expected that, after the fiasco that was their date last night.   It had been a date, right?  Victor had bought him dinner and held his hand...

He forced himself up and into the shower, then grabbed his skate bag and headed to the rink.

To his surprise, Victor was already there.  He had a cardboard tray with two cups and a bag that smelled like heaven, and he smiled as Yuuri came down to the benches.

"Yuuri!  Good-morning, sleepy-head!"  He held up one of the cups.  "I have breakfast!"

"Viktor?"  Yuuri took the offered cup and was surprised that it was his favorite genmaicha.

"How are you feeling this morning?" Viktor asked.  "Any stiffness?"  There were shocked gasps from the assembled skaters and Viktor looked around at them, surprised.   "What? Yuuri rescued John-Jeffrey Leroy last night when he fell into Patriot's Pond."

"That was Yuuri?" Emil said, impressed.  "Wow!"

"I'd have let him drown," Yuri snarled, pushing his way between the clustered skaters so he could get to the ice.

"You're holding your shoulders too stiffly, Katsuki," Coach Feltsman said, giving Yuuri a critical look before moving to the barrier to watch Yuri warm up.  "See the trainers after your warm up."

Viktor nodded vigorously.  "You should get a massage - how can you win gold if you're not at your best?"

The other skaters gaped at Viktor, then turned glares on Yuuri and he flinched.

"Vitya!"  Yakov yelled.  "On the ice!  You need to warm up!"  He grumbled, partly under his breath, "Skating at night on an open pond, in the middle of winter, when you have a competition the next day - idiots, the both of you!"

"You and Viktor went skating at night?" Emil asked, his eyes bright.  "So romantic!"

"No no no!" Yuuri said, waving his hands in negation. "It was just dinner - and - and - a walk.  Sort of."

"I wish that Sara and I had gone skating last night," Michele said, wistfully.

Sara gave her brother an exasperated look.  "I was competing, idiot!"

"How did you do?" Yuuri asked her, seeing a great opportunity to change the topic.

Her pout changed to a smile.  "A new personal best!  I'm second to Mila - "

"Why do you care how my sister placed?" Michele asked suspiciously.  "Are you wanting to date her?  You'll have to go through me!"

"No!  That's not - " Yuuri said, again waving his hands.

"Why not?" Sara demanded, her smile changing back to a stormy look.  "Am I not cute enough for you?"

"That's not - I'm dating Viktor!"

"Da, and it's so adorable!"  One of the Russian women's skaters appeared, draping herself around Yuuri.  "Viktor has skating videos of his Yuuri on his phone - he makes us watch them while we're on breaks.  He makes kissy-faces at them!  So cute!"

"It's disgusting!" Yuri snapped, skating close enough to the barrier to hear them.  "The old man has lost his mind!"

"Yuri!  Five more laps!  And Mila - stop gossiping and get on the ice!"

The woman, and now he recognized her as Mila Babicheva, who'd been at the Japan Open, let go of Yuuri with a laugh.  "Yes, Coach!"

Yuuri sat down on a nearby bench and bent his head to concentrate on putting on his skates and getting the laces tight.  He could feel the eyes on him, speculating and judging.  If he did badly during the Free skate, they would wonder what Viktor saw in him, would mock him for his infatuation with a dime-a-dozen skater.  He had to do well.  He had to.

He took to the ice, skating several warm-up laps before attempting any of his program components.  His step sequences were good, and his triple axel as well.  He could feel the pull across his shoulders as he went into his spins - he would definitely need to work those muscles out before the event.  His legs felt good though, and he did his quad salchow cleanly.  But would that be enough?

Viktor skated over at the end of his practice, full of tips for him, which he listened to attentively.  He could feel Yakov's eyes on him, though, and wasn't surprised when the coach cornered him in the dressing room later.

"Katsuki," he said in his abrupt way.  "You are here without a coach, da?"

"Um, yes.  Minako-sensei was unwell -" he stammered.

"That is Minako Okukawa?" Yakov asked and Yuuri nodded.  "Lilia - my ex-wife - speaks highly of her."  His eyes narrowed.  "I will be your coach - for one day only!"

Yuuri gaped at him.  "Huh?"

"Viktor is focusing too much attention on coaching you when he needs to be concentrating on his own program," Yakov began gruffly and, as Yuuri started to apologize, he waved him off.  "It's not your fault - Vitya is an idiot.  But you are good for him.  You work hard, and because of you Viktor works even harder."

"Um, thank you?"

Yakov nodded and then patted him on the shoulder.  "Good.  Go see the trainers about your shoulders."

 


 

"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Ladies' Free Program at the Rostelecom Cup here in Moscow.  One announcement before the program begins: due to an unfortunate accident yesterday evening, Jean-Jacques Leroy has had to withdraw from the Men's competition, which follows this event.  Due to this, Leroy will also be unable to qualify for the Grand Prix Final.  However, his coaches say that his condition is not serious and they expect him to compete in the Canadian Championships as well as Four Continents.  We wish him a speedy recovery.

"And now, the six competing in the Ladies’ Free program..."

Yuuri sat in the empty changing room, thinking about how odd his life had become.  With JJ out of the competition, the odds of Yuuri qualifying for the Finals had gone up.  Michele was still a threat, although his behavior today had been even more erratic than usual.  While they were doing their stretches, Michele had snapped at Emil even more than usual, had even glared at the Russian Yuri, before storming off to the changing room.  He'd been in here when Yuuri arrived, hurrying through his costume change so that he could run to catch his sister's performance.  

Yuuri changed into his costume, then sat down to put on his skates.  Across the room, hanging up and waiting to be donned, was Emil's costume.  It was designed to look like a character from a video game, with tubing connected to a small battery so that the lights would blink in time with his music.  Yuuri wondered what would happen if the lights malfunctioned - would Emil notice?  Would it be enough to throw his concentration and make him miss that quad loop?  With four quads in his program compared to Yuuri's three, he was a serious threat if he could perform cleanly.  A few minutes alone with the costume was all he needed.

As Yuuri left the changing room, determined to work off his nerves by walking the back hallway, Michele brushed past him back inside, muttering something about his tie.  His eyes looked suspiciously wet and Yuuri looked away, uncomfortable at intruding on the other skater’s emotions.  He wondered if Michele and Sara were arguing again, and if his floral gifts had worked.  His conscience pricked him but he did his best to ignore that.

Yuuri looked in at the rink where the Zambonis were smoothing the ice before the Men's program.  Viktor was somewhere around here, no doubt doing his stretching since he would be the last to take the ice.  Viktor had been pleased that Yakov had stepped in to be Yuuri's coach, and although young Yuri had scowled at Yuuri when informed about this, at least he hadn't cussed him out or kicked him.  Yuuri supposed that that was an improvement.

The rest of the skaters trickled into the waiting area, doing their various warm up routines, and then an ISU official was conducting them to the rink for their on-ice warm up.  Yuuri glanced over at Viktor but he looked intently focused on the ice, his lips moving as he went over some bit of his program.  Michele was looking up into the stands as he skated and almost collided into Yuri - the younger skater shouting "look out shithead!" to get his attention.  Yuuri turned his attention to his own warm up, to the tips that Viktor had given him earlier.  If he didn't do well with this Free program, it might be the last time that he'd skate it with Viktor -- after all, there was no guarantee that he'd get sent to anything after Nationals.

Time was called and he left the ice, butterflies having taken up residence in his stomach.  He put in his earbuds and paced the hallway for a moment, but then the need to watch his competitors was too intense and he made his way back to the the rink.

Emil was in the middle of his program, and his lights had indeed malfunctioned - quite spectacularly.  The lights on his costume were blinking like a badly-wired Christmas tree.  He didn't seem to have noticed, but the murmuring from the bewildered audience was no doubt throwing him off because he fell on his second combination and then popped his salchow.  His ending score of just under 190 was a decent score but not high enough to lift his Short program.  He was unlikely to make the podium unless Yuuri messed up.

Michele was next and Yuuri could tell that he was an emotional mess before he even took the ice.  Since his sister wasn't in her usual place at the barrier, he assumed that they'd had yet another of their arguments.  Still, Mickey was able to put his emotions into the program, giving him an incredibly high PCS and a new personal best.  He moved into 1st place. 

Yuri Plisetsky was next, and it was clear that he was a hometown favorite.  The audience cheered and clapped along with the familiar music for his "Cats" themed program, and his technical execution was better than for his Short program.  But he ran out of energy at the end, struggling just to complete the last few elements and collapsing to his knees once the music stopped.  In the end he ended up placing between Mickey and Emil.

And then it was Yuuri's turn.

Yakov went with him to the barrier, accepting his skate guards but he didn’t give him any last minute advice, just firmly clapped him on the shoulder.  Yuuri made his way onto the ice, glancing around for Viktor but he didn't see him.  Not that it mattered - he had to do this program well, for Viktor, and to prove that Viktor hadn't wasted his time by choreographing this program.  Yuuri did his first combination - the quad toe loop, but then popped the second element into a single.  For a moment he panicked - what did he do now?  How did he recover from that?  He drew a deep breath and tried to calm down as he moved into the choreographic sequence, and could almost hear Viktor teasing him about having something on his mind.  And he did - Viktor was always on his mind - but he cleared his anxious thoughts and performed the next jump perfectly.

The bridge to the second half began, that sweeping change where he told Viktor that he had realized the love that surrounded him, and he thought he heard Yuri yell "davai!" at him.  A glance over and there he was - at the barrier, with Viktor standing beside him.  Yuuri couldn't see Viktor's expression but he could tell that all of his attention was fixed on Yuuri.  His spirits lifted with the music and he flowed into the next section, the jumps and combinations and spins, and he realized something.  Whether Viktor was with him or not, it still was tough.  Viktor wasn't a magic cure for his anxiety - and half the time he wasn't even much help! - but just knowing that he believed in Yuuri was enough.  Viktor had believed that he could perform difficult programs.  They had created this program together and Yuuri loved it.  And - and what if he swapped out the quad toe-loop at the end for a quad flip?  What would Viktor think if he did that?

Well, whatever Viktor might think, Yuuri was the only one who could skate this program.  He flowed into the step sequence, each part perfect, and then - instead of the combination at the end - he switched for the new entry position for a flip and jumped!  And fell, but he popped back up and he knew in his bones that he'd gotten enough rotations to the quad flip.  The crowd was going crazy as he moved into his final spin and pose - pointing right at Viktor.

And Viktor was standing right at the barrier, and Yuuri couldn't tell what expression was on his face but he couldn't wait another moment.  The announcers were yelling his name but he couldn't make out their words.  Without bothering to pick up any of the items scattered on the ice, he raced towards the barrier and Viktor.

"Viktor!  I did great, right?"

Viktor smiled widely but didn't reply - he didn't need to.  As soon as Yuuri came within arms reach of the opening, Viktor reached out, wrapping his arms around Yuuri and hauling him into his arms for a resounding kiss.

Their first.

Yuuri hung in his arms for a second but then he got his arms up around Viktor's neck, returning his kiss.  Viktor took a step back, hauling him over the step, but Yuuri didn't care if his skates could now touch ground because Viktor was still kissing him.

The clearing of a throat near them (probably Yakov) made Viktor pull back from the kiss but Yuuri didn't mind because surely there would be more kisses.  And Viktor was smiling, that warm smile that was only for him.

"Viktor?"

Impossibly, his smile widened.  "That was the only thing I could think of to surprise you more than you surprised me.  Not that I haven't wanted to kiss you for months."

Yuuri grinned back at him.  "Really?"

There was another throat clearing.  "Mr. Nikiforov? If you would let go of Mr. Katsuki so that he can get his scores...?"

Viktor chuckled.  "I suppose I can do that," he replied.  Making sure that Yuuri's feet were on solid ground (and it was a good thing that Viktor was checking because Yuuri couldn't feel a thing except the slightly bruising of his lips), Viktor released him.  Yakov was yelling something at him in Russian but Viktor just waved a hand at him and looked back at Yuuri.

"I'm going to skate now.  Keep your eyes on me, my Yuuri."

Yuuri smiled at that, and maybe there were tears in his eyes but he wasn't going to admit it.  "I've never been able to look away."

Yakov handed him his jacket and guided him over to the Kiss & Cry, which was a good thing because Yuuri had no sense of direction anymore.  As they waited, Yakov said gruffly, "It's a good program but you fail to take advantage of what Viktor designed for you.  When you flub a jump - and I am talking about that combination at the start - you should have alternate plans to make up points."  Dryly, he added, "And throwing in an unexpected and unrehearsed quadruple flip at the end is not a plan."

"Hai, Yakov-sensei," Yuuri said automatically.  Celestino hadn't been one for a lecture at the Kiss & Cry, but oddly enough, Yuuri didn't mind.  It was like when Viktor dissected his program over the phone and it made him feel warm inside.

There was no chance for Yakov to say more because Yuuri's score was being posted and he had to blink and squint to make sure he was seeing the right thing: 197.  Combined score of 305 - over 300 for the first time in his career.

"Better than I thought," Yakov said gruffly.  "But you will practice that quad flip until you get it right before putting it in the program for the Finals."

Yuuri couldn't stop himself from hugging Yakov.  "Spasibo."

Then the opening notes of Viktor's music began and Yuuri went to the barrier, putting on his glasses so he wouldn't miss a thing.  To Yuuri’s surprise, Viktor stripped off the white tuxedo coat and tossed it over the barrier as he circled the ice at the start of his program.  Technically it wouldn’t be a deduction since it didn’t fall on the ice, but it was the sort of daring move that only Viktor Nikiforov could pull off, and the audience went wild.

The program was just as beautiful as the first time he'd seen it, only Viktor had had nearly two months to continue perfecting it.  Now Yuuri could see all the little homages to the old movies that Yuuri loved and - on the basis of that kiss and Viktor's words - he knew that Viktor had put them in for him.  Viktor was skating for him, declaring his love for him.  And then at the end, in a change from the program that Yuuri had seen, Viktor ended down on one knee, with his hands raised towards the audience.  Towards Yuuri.

"That sounds like a marriage proposal."

Yes, it did.  And if only it was.

 

Chapter Text

Part 2: Perhaps You Ought to Pray


In the end, Viktor outscored all of them by 20 points.  It wasn't a world record but since Viktor already held all the men's singles records that wasn't so important.  What was important was that Viktor won Gold, Yuuri took Silver, and Michele had Bronze.

Viktor and Yuuri would be going to the Finals, along with Otabek who had already been Qualified.  Phichit and Christophe, tied at 24 points, would also be going.  That left a three-way tie for the last spot between Michele, Yuri Plisetsky, and Leo de la Iglesia  with 22 points each.  And since Leo had taken Gold at Skate USA, while the other two had Silver and Bronze places, Leo would get the sixth spot, with the Russian Yuri as first alternate.

That was the theory, at any rate.   Reality went slightly … sideways.

 

 

At the news conference after the Men's event, Viktor and Yuuri sat side-by-side, holding hands under the table where no one could see.  Not that Yuuri would have minded, but Viktor probably thought that Yuuri wouldn't want to be flaunted as his latest conquest for the media.

The third chair was empty, as Michele Crispino couldn't be found.

There were questions about the Kiss - of course there were - but Viktor was the veteran of many press conferences and smoothly answered their questions without yielding to prurient gossip.  No, it wasn't a hug, it was a kiss - hadn't they been paying attention?   Yes, they had met just a year ago and it wasn't anyone else's business if they were lovers or not.  No, Viktor didn't feel threatened by Yuuri's skating - he had always preferred to be challenged by other skaters and he looked forward to the Finals and Worlds.  After all, his top challenger for years, Christophe Giacometti, was also his best friend.  Was Viktor going to leave Russia for Japan, or would Yuuri be moving to Russia - no one was talking about moving at this time. 

"Could we talk about the skating instead?" Viktor said, interrupting yet another probing question about the Kiss.  "Did you see the way my Yuuri skated?  Wasn't it brilliant?"

Yuuri turned bright red.  "Viktor..."

"What about Michele Crispino?" Morooka asked.  "Do you know where he is?"

Viktor shook his head.  "No, I haven't seen him since he came off the ice after the award ceremony."

"I am here!" came a loud voice from the side entrance and everyone turned to look as Michele Crispino entered the room.  He was still wearing his Free skate costume, looking more disheveled than before.  He was also carrying a handgun.

"Sara has left me!" he sobbed.  "She is the only woman I care about but she cast me off!  Sara!" he shouted, his voice ringing through the room, through the hallway, and then his eyes caught sight of her, standing on the far end of the room with the other skaters, next to Mila and the other female medal winners.

"Sara!"  He raised the gun and pointed it at Emil.  "Do you like Czech men who smile and laugh all the time?  Is that it?"  He turned and aimed the gun at Yuuri, saying, "Or do you prefer moody Japanese men who look like closet pervs?  What do they have to offer?"  He shifted the gun to Viktor.  "Or rich men who send hundreds of flowers and chocolates to you?"  He looked around the room, waving the gun around.  "How can any of them be worthy of you?"

Sara stepped forward, tears running down her cheeks.  "Mickey!  Stop, please stop!"

"No!  I don't want to live without you!"

"You will have to learn to be strong on your own!"

"I can't!  I've only come this far because of you.  How can I keep living if you go?"  Michele raised the gun towards himself, to the horror of everyone in the room.

But before he could pull the trigger, Emil stepped up from behind Michele.  He grabbed Mickey's wrist and bore his hand down, till the muzzle was pointed at the floor, then pried it out of his hand.  Michele turned to look at him with wide eyes as he rubbed his injured wrist.

"He's really not human!" he said, awed, to the room in general.

Security people burst into the room at that point, taking Michele into custody, and Emil handed the gun over to them with a sorrowful look at his friend.  Sara burst into tears and Mila pulled the crying woman into her arms.

"It's all right, kotyonok.  You can stay with me while we get this sorted out."

The press conference was ended - the reporters had much more interesting things than kisses and medals to report on now - and the ISU went into a huddle.  By the end of that day, an official statement had been released.  Michele Crispino had been incarcerated and was being evaluated for his mental stability.  He was also suspected of having sabotaged Emil’s costume.  Because of this, he had been disqualified from this event and everyone below him would move up in position.  Yuri Plisetsky, who had been in 4th, now had the Bronze.  And because of this, he would also take the 6th slot at the Grand Prix Final instead of Leo.

 

 

"Well, that was more exciting than the usual press conference," Viktor said after Michele had been hustled away and the press cleared the room.

It was inappropriate but Yuuri couldn't help a little gurgle of laughter.

Viktor grinned at him.  "We should change and then I'd like to take you out to dinner."

Yuuri was feeling jittery after the events of the past two days.  The last thing he wanted was to be in the public eye, where people would point and whisper and take pictures.  He wanted to be somewhere quiet where he could maybe ask Viktor just what all of this meant.  Especially that kiss.

"Um, what about room service?" he said.  Then he remembered that the first thing he'd done after checking in was to pin his new poster of Viktor on his wall (For motivation!  Not just because Viktor was so very pretty in the limited Russian edition poster of his Free Skate costume!).  If Viktor saw that, he'd realize that Yuuri was an obsessed stalker.  "In your suite!"

Viktor gave him a delighted look.  "Why, Yuuri!  So forward of you!"

Then he grabbed Yuuri's hand and dragged him out of the area towards their hotel.

Chapter Text

Chapter 11 - Better With A Man (reprise)

Part 1: A Man You Can Wrestle With

 

As they headed back to the hotel, Yuuri had time to worry about how Viktor would interpret what Yuuri had said.  Would he think that Yuuri didn't want to be seen with Viktor in public?  Viktor had said that he had to kiss Yuuri, to surprise him as much as he'd been surprised - but Viktor was openly affectionate and the kiss probably didn't mean as much to him as it had to Yuuri.  He probably kissed people all the time.  And even though he'd asked Yuuri to watch him skate his Free program, it was probably just because he knew how much Yuuri lov- liked his skating.  There's no way that it had been a romantic gesture.  Viktor probably had no idea that Yuuri wanted him to sweep him off his feet, like in those old movies he'd watched.  Although the way that he had knelt at the end, with his hand raised like he was proposing -  But why would Viktor be proposing to someone?  Not Yuuri, of course not - maybe he was going to propose to someone else and he needed Yuuri's advice?  But then, why would he kiss Yuuri if he was dating someone else?

Yuuri was barely aware that the elevator had arrived, that Viktor had pulled him inside and immediately pushed the button to close the doors before anyone else could cross the lobby to join them.  Viktor jabbed the button for his floor and then, before Yuuri could blink, pulled him into his arms.

"Finally!" Viktor murmured between pressing kisses all over Yuuri's face.  "I've wanted to get you alone for hours!"

Yuuri could hardly believe what was happening, and he clutched Viktor's shoulders as the other man's lips found his for a passionate kiss.

The elevator bell dinged and Viktor released Yuuri as the door opened, then tugged him down the hall towards his suite.  Once they were inside, Viktor tossed his room-card onto the counter and reached for the room service menu.  “Makkachin is with Doggy Daycare so we won’t be disturbed till later. Now, what do you feel like eating - "

Yuuri didn't give him a chance to finish his sentence, his mind still in that elevator with Viktor's lips on his.  He had to have more of those kisses, so he pulled Viktor into his arms and kissed him.  Viktor responded enthusiastically, stealing his breath away, before murmuring against his lips, "What about dinner?"

Yuuri pulled back just enough so that he could look Viktor in the eye, although he knew that he was blushing furiously.  He lifted Viktor's hand and kissed his knuckles, as his own hand had been kissed in the airport.  "Later," he said lowly, letting him see all the possessive desire he'd been trying to keep hidden.  "Take me to bed, Vitya.  I want you to teach me everything you know."

Viktor's eyes blazed and he scooped Yuuri up into his arms, carrying him into the bedroom and setting him down on the bed.  Yuuri caught the front of his jacket, pulling Viktor down with him.  Viktor seemed to like being manhandled for his breath caught and he pressed a hard kiss against Yuuri's lips before pulling back slightly.

"Yuuri, zolotse, are you certain?"

Yuuri nodded, knowing that his face was scarlet but determined.  He knew that he was surrendering to Viktor, just like the woman in his story, and that Viktor would lose interest in him after this.  But this golden time with Viktor was nearly at an end, and he wanted to have the memory of one night of passion to look back on.

"I don't have any experience at this and don't know what I'm doing," he confessed.  "But if you don't mind that -"

Viktor drew in a sharp breath.  "If I don't mind - !"  He pressed another hard kiss against Yuuri's lips, muttering something under his breath with a little half-laugh.  Then his kiss softened, gentled, coaxing Yuuri to return his kisses as he closed the distance between their bodies.  And Yuuri willingly surrendered himself.

When Yuuri had envisioned his first time (always with someone who looked like Viktor), he had thought that it would be fairly quick and a little uncomfortable.  He imagined that they would undress separately without fanfare and climb into bed together.  His lover would kiss him a little bit, and touch him, maybe even stroke his cock before opening him up.  The little bit of porn he'd read had said that the first time would be a little uncomfortable, maybe painful, but it would get better.  And after his lover had ejaculated, he would stroke Yuuri till he came as well.  Then they might curl up together, cuddle together, maybe even fall asleep together.

But Viktor didn't seem to be in any hurry to get to the main event.  He spent a long time just kissing Yuuri, which was something that Yuuri could spend the rest of his life doing so he had no complaint about that.  Viktor's kisses moved to his jaw and down his neck, and the sensation made him shiver and arch up against Viktor's body.  Viktor's fingers moved ahead of his lips, unzipping Yuuri's jacket to expose more of his neck and chest, then pushing his shirt up so that he could lick and nibble at his belly.  His nipples were teased and pinched and kissed, and who knew that they could be so sensitive? Then somehow his pants were gone and Viktor's mouth was licking and sucking his dick - and that was it, he was coming in Viktor's mouth before collapsing back on the bed, completely spent.

"Sorry!" he managed to say, his hands over his face to hide his mortification at having come so fast.  Viktor hadn't even gotten his own clothes off yet, Yuuri hadn't even touched him.  So much for showing my Eros , he thought.   I'll be lucky if Viktor lets me put on my clothes before he kicks me out the door.

"Yuuurrrriiii!" Viktor whined, trying to pry his hands away from his face.  "Why do you hide from me?  Was it not good?"

"Are you kidding?" Yuuri asked, peeking out from between his fingers.  "I've never - that was so - it was - "

Viktor chuckled and kissed what little of Yuuri's face wasn't hidden.  "You're so silly, Yuuri!"

Yuuri dropped his hands and gaped at Viktor.  "You're not mad?"

"Why should I be?"

"Because I came so fast!  You didn't even get the chance to get undressed!"

Viktor smiled fondly at him and leaned down to kiss him quickly.  His lips tasted different and Yuuri realized that it was him that he was tasting.  That made him blush and Viktor chuckled, clearly discerning why.

"Oh, Yuuri!" Viktor said, bopping his nose teasingly.  "We aren't done yet!"

"We're not?" Yuuri asked, cautiously hopeful that he hadn't ruined his one night of bliss.

"Nyet.  We've just started!"  He cocked his head and gave Yuuri a sultry look from under his eyelashes.  "Would you like to undress me?"

"Yes!"

Viktor sat back until he was straddling Yuuri's legs and arched his back a little.  "You should!  I look even better naked, which is not something everyone can say."

Yuuri pushed himself up on his elbows and raised an eyebrow at Viktor.  "You know that I have seen you naked, in the onsen."

Viktor cocked his head again and touched his finger to his lips.  "Were you looking at me, moy dorogoy?  While we were bathing?  So naughty of you!"

Yuuri started to protest that he didn't! he wouldn't! but then he realized that Viktor was teasing him.  He surged up and twisted, so that Viktor was lying on his back with Yuuri pinning him down.

Viktor laughed in delight and spread his arms wide.  "Well, Yuuri!  Do what you will with me!"

And with that challenge, there were suddenly so many things that Yuuri wanted to do to Viktor that he hardly knew where to start.  Removing his team jacket - that had to be first, and then pulling off the shirt underneath it so that he could see all that beautiful skin.  Then he had to kiss Viktor's chest followed by licks and nibbles.  Viktor laughed again and grabbed Yuuri's head, pulling him up for a kiss, and who knew that having sex could include laughter?

Yuuri wriggled away, determined to finish stripping Viktor of his clothes.  Which - okay, that sounded easier than it was because Viktor was ticklish and his writhing nearly ended up with a foot in the wrong place.  And Yuuri had forgotten about shoes, ending up swearing under his breath as he knelt on the floor to untangle Viktor's feet from his trousers.  But Viktor didn't seem to care that Yuuri wasn't smooth and skilled at this, and when Yuuri had finally stripped him naked he was very willing to let Yuuri touch him everywhere.  And Viktor was right - he did look fantastic naked, and Yuuri was delighted to be able to worship every bit of his idol. 

Until finally Viktor had had enough teasing and tackled Yuuri to the bed, both of them laughing until passion replaced the giggles and left them both spent and content.

 

Chapter Text

Part 2: The Meaning of Victory

 

Yuuri woke up in the morning alone.  

He tried not to be upset but had to admit that he was crushed.  He had hoped for some kisses, maybe a second round, before he got kicked to the curb but Viktor wasn't even there.  He had obviously left so that he wouldn't have to see or speak to Yuuri that morning, no doubt expecting him to dress and get out.  And there was no point in putting that off - it would only be more awkward if he was still there when Viktor returned.

Even as he thought this and threw back the covers, the door opened and Viktor entered, carrying a tray.

“Good morning, my Yuuri!  I’d let you sleep longer but we have rehearsals for the Gala, and I have a few ideas for the rest of the morning - “

He stopped abruptly and, to Yuuri’s surprise, shoved the tray onto a nearby dresser, ignoring the items that were knocked over.  He stepped up onto the bed, walked across it, and dropped to his knees next to Yuuri.

“What’s wrong, zolotse?   Are you hurt?  Was I too rough?”  His fingers stroked Yuuri’s cheek, lifted his chin, while Viktor peered down at him looking upset.

Yuuri was bewildered.  “I thought you were gone.”

Viktor blinked.  “It’s my room - where would I go?  And why?”

Yuuri dropped his eyes, his cheeks flushed with embarrassment.  “Um, so I could get dressed and leave without you having to see me.”

Viktor’s face softened.  “Oh my Yuuri…” He leaned over and kissed Yuuri, not seeming to care that he had morning breath.  “I left because I had a Plan.”

“A plan?”

Viktor nodded.  “Breakfast in bed, followed by kisses - maybe a second round.”  Yuuri knew he was blushing now and Viktor laughed softly. He leaned forward to tap Yuuri’s nose.  "Ty ocharovatelen,” he said affectionately.  “Then I was going to tell you my Brilliant Idea, and we would shower together before going to rehearsals, then come back and - “

“What brilliant idea?”

Viktor drew in a deep breath.  “Come to St. Petersburg with me.”  

Yuuri blinked, unable to think of a response.

“I was going to outline my idea with very sound strategic points.”  Viktor held up his fingers. “One: the Final is a little over two weeks away and you’re going to have a long flight back to Japan tomorrow, then a longer flight back to Barcelona in two weeks.  You’ll be all jet-lagged when you arrive.  Two: it’s a shorter flight from St. Petersburg to Barcelona.  Three: you can stay with me and train with me -- we can work on that that quad flip.”

He paused and leaned forward to kiss Yuuri again.  “Did I tell you how proud I am of you?”

Yuuri managed to find his voice.  “You want me to stay with you for two weeks?”

Viktor smiled.  “I loved waking up to your sleeping face and could see that every morning, zolotse.”

“Won’t Coach Feltsman object to me training at your rink?”

“I already called him this morning and he approved you flying back on our charter so no, apparently not.”

“You don’t think we’re going a little too fast?”

Viktor sighed and settled into the bed next to Yuuri.  “ Yuuuuurrrrri , we’ve been dating for nearly a year, since the last Final.”

The implications of that hit Yuuri and he threw his arms around Viktor.  “In that case - yes.  To going to St. Petersburg and also yes to more kisses.”

Viktor grinned.  “In that case, breakfast can wait!”

He pulled the covers over both of them and began re-exploring Yuuri’s body, to which Yuuri had absolutely no objection.

Later, as they were drifting off for a short nap,  Yuuri wondered if the script could be rewritten, if maybe the woman could ensnare the playboy and keep him for a while longer.

Chapter Text

Chapter 12 - Inside Out

Part 1: A Change in How We See

 

The next morning, Yuuri found himself on a chartered plane with the rest of the Russian team, for the two hour flight to St. Petersburg.  He felt a little awkward about tagging along behind Viktor, even if their coach had agreed to this, but no one else seemed to notice anything unusual about the situation.   Georgi sighed gustily and murmured something about true love, which made Mila punch him in the arm.  The other skaters mostly ignored him, except for Yuri.

He paused by Yuuri's seat and glared at him.  "I don't know why you're so happy, babysitting that old man."  Yuuri looked up at him, startled.  "Just don't do anything gross like making out on the plane."

Viktor leaned over, grinning at Yuri.  "What's the matter, Yura?  Jealous ?"

Yuri went bright red and snapped something in Russian at Viktor which only made him laugh, then stomped to one of the back rows in the plane and jammed in his earbuds as he flung himself into a seat.  Yuuri turned to give Viktor a questioning look but he only grinned at Yuuri and held up an empty glass.

"Champagne?"

"For breakfast?"

Viktor shrugged.  "Mimosas, then.  To celebrate our medals and the Finals.  You’re now 4th in the World Standings!"

Yuuri hesitated.  "Just one.  To - to celebrate us."

Viktor smiled so brightly that Yuuri could feel himself flush, and he leaned over to bury his face in Makkachin's fur.  The poodle was delighted at the attention and by the time the mimosas were served, his composure had been restored.

Yuuri wasn't the only non-Russian on the plane.  Sara was also with them, as she would be staying with Mila until her brother's situation was sorted out.  She looked a little pale but resigned, and Mila was paying her a great deal of attention, which must have been comforting.  Yuuri refrained from asking her anything about the situation, guiltily aware that his own anonymous attentions to Sara might have helped push Michele over the edge.

Once they landed in St. Petersburg, Yakov called all of his skaters together before they left the plane.  

"Rest for the remainder of the day," he ordered them.  "Then I want to see all of you early tomorrow morning for practice - you have much to work on before Nationals," he said. "Vitya!  You too - the last combination in your Free program was weak.  You need to work on it if you want to win gold. And Yura!  I don't know what you called that jump in the Short but it wasn't a triple axel!"  

They all nodded and turned away to gather their things.  

"Japanese Yuri!" Yakov said and Yuuri froze, staring at him.  "You, too. That flip needs much work and we have only two weeks."

"Hai ," Yuuri said with a little bow, stunned.  

Viktor threw his arms around him, squeezing him tightly.  “See?  Yakov likes you!”

Yuuri wasn’t entirely sure that was true, but considering that Yakov had been a surrogate father to Viktor for much of his life, he knew that it was important that Viktor believed that.

“Come; let’s get our bags and go home!” Viktor said, grabbing Makkachin’s leash and leading the way off of the plane.

Their luggage (Viktor's five suitcases, Yuuri's one suitcase and skate case) was loaded on a cart and before long they were in a hired car on their way to Viktor's apartment.  Yuuri had seen pictures of it in magazines but he was surprised by how minimal in decor it was.  He was used to his parents' onsen with all of its little homey touches, and his college apartment with its cheap and cluttered furnishings.   This felt like a place that was barely lived in.

Viktor didn't seem to notice - or maybe he liked it that way.  His bedroom was more comfortable, with lots of soft furnishings and a pile of books on the night-table.  There wasn't a guest room - it had been turned into a giant walk-in closet - but Yuuri had hoped to share Viktor's room and bed for what time was remaining.  And Viktor clearly hadn't expected that Yuuri would sleep anywhere else.

They were both still exhausted from the event and their flight, so after walking Makkachin to show Yuuri the neighborhood, they showered and changed into comfortable clothes, ordered in food, and curled up together on the couch to watch television.  They spent most of the day in lazy pursuits, before retiring to bed for less lazy activities.

The next morning, Viktor dragged Yuuri out of bed and to the rink early.  Yuuri groaned his protests but in truth he was excited to see the rink where Viktor had learned to skate.  It was something he’d dreamed about, skating on the same ice as Viktor, and it had all come true.  Yuuri was assigned a temporary locker and turned over to one of the jump coaches to work on his flip.  And while he missed working with Viktor, he had to admit that a professional who didn’t just tell him to “use more whoosh!” was much more practical.  Besides, a Living Legend shouldn’t have to spend his time on a dime-a-dozen skater when he had his own programs to work on.

Only - it was hard to see Viktor as a Legend when he was leaving dirty cups all over the apartment, or tucking his freezing-cold toes under Yuuri's thigh to warm them up (Viktor refused to wear socks or slippers).  He seemed delighted when Yuuri dragged blankets out of their storage bags to wrap in like a cocoon, or when Yuuri pulled out various knick-knacks to ask about their history and then scattered them around on the empty shelves.  And Viktor cleared more space in his closet than Yuuri could possibly use, even with the addition of the new suit that Viktor bought for Yuuri's birthday.  (Yuuri hid his old suit and tie in his suitcase to keep them from being burned.)  It felt like, maybe, Viktor was making a place for him in his life.

Yuuri also learned that Viktor was quite a decent cook, although he admitted that he rarely bothered when it was just him.  Following their arrival in St. Petersburg, Viktor had called Hiroko to get the recipe for katsudon so that he could make it as a reward for both of their wins.  Yuuri helped assemble it although he confessed he was a terrible cook, and he was surprised that it turned out so well.

"Not as good as Okaason's," Viktor said with a little moue of displeasure.  "I'll have to ask her for lessons this summer."

Yuuri didn't know which surprised him more: Viktor calling Hiroko 'mother' or Viktor talking about summer in Hasetsu.  Or maybe it was his mother giving her closely-guarded recipe to Viktor .  "This summer?"

Viktor nodded, chasing the last of his rice with his chopsticks.  "I'm thinking over ideas for your programs next season.  We should be able to develop them during the off-season in Hasetsu."  He looked out the window wistfully.  "I miss the seagulls there..."

Yuuri felt as if his heart was beating twice as fast as normal.  Was Viktor planning for them to still be together next summer?  Was it possible that Viktor was thinking of this as something more than a brief affair?  He just couldn't believe that Viktor would be willing to give up so much of his time for Yuuri.

Even so, Yuuri found himself modifying the end of his Short program - and not just to change out the Quad toe loop for the Quad flip.  No, he also altered the end of the spin sequence so that, instead of casting off his lover to pursue another, they were pulled in and ensnared within his arms.

Yakov shook his head and muttered about changing program elements two weeks before Finals but Viktor just smiled.

 

Chapter Text

Part 2: The World Might Just Make Sense

 

A few days before they were due to leave for Barcelona, Yuuri sat on the bleachers in the rink, watching Viktor run through his Free skate one more time.  He was exhausted but pleased after several hours of work on his flip, and now he was carefully tending to his skates. He'd already dried them and was inspecting the boots before putting on the soakers, noting that he'd need to get the blades sharpened soon.  His other pair had been sharpened a few days ago but it looked like they would need to be replaced soon. He would have to purchase a new pair after All-Japan so he'd have time to break them in before Four Continents.

He sighed.

"What are you upset about?" grumbled Yuri as he plopped down heavily in the seat next to him.  "You did a fucking amazing flip - you're gonna wipe the ice with that old man."

"I don't know about that," Yuuri said deprecatingly.

"Don't be more of an idiot than you already are."  

Yuri grimaced as he stared out on the ice where Viktor was doing a graceful spin combination.  "This was supposed to be my time.  I thought when I left Juniors this would be my big opportunity, but there's Georgi and Viktor ahead of me, getting all the attention.  By the time they finally retire, my body will have changed and I'll have to learn all over again."

Yuuri looked over at where Georgi was flirting with one of the Pairs skaters.  "You know, I've been thinking that Georgi might be happier as a pair skater.  He's been flirting with that one who just lost her partner - maybe he thinks the same."

Yuri stared over at Georgi intently, then shook his head.  "That doesn't help me get better than Viktor."

Yuuri chewed his lip as he watched Viktor again. Then he thought about Yuri's current programs.  "Yuri, do you like your programs?"

The younger skater frowned.  "Yeah.  Why - what's wrong with them?"

"Nothing!"

"Damn right!  Cats are fucking awesome !"  They were both silent for a long moment before Yuri said, abruptly, "But I don't want to be the Russian Fairy again.  Next year."

Yuuri nodded.  "You need to pick your own music for next season.  Find something that speaks to you, that you can make your own.  Something different."

Yuri scowled.  "My coaches choose my music."

"So did mine - till this year.  I didn't realize how much that bothered me.  Viktor made me choose the music for my Free program and it was tough.  Really tough.  But I'm glad I did."

Yuri slumped back in his seat.  "I don't know how to do that."

Yuuri studied the disgruntled teen for a moment and then said, impulsively, "I’ll help.  Viktor is coming to Hasetsu again after the season ends - that's my home.  You should come too.  You can get some one-on-one training with Viktor, and I'll help with your step sequences.  And we can try to find your inner voice, your best music."

Yuri stared at him in disbelief.  "Why would you offer to do that?  We're competitors.  And why would I go to Japan for help?"

Yuuri shrugged.  "It might be fun - and my  mother's a great cook.  She makes this dish called katsudon - it's a pork cutlet bowl.  The best food ever. "

"Not better than my grandpa's pirozhkis!" Yuri declared.  He stood up and started to stomp off, then turned back.  "About next summer.  I'll think about it."

"Yuuri!" Viktor called as he skated up to the boards.  "Watch this - tell me what you think!  Hello, Yura!  Ready for Barcelona?"

Yuri growled something under his breath and stomped off, and Yuuri turned his attention back to Viktor.

The next day, as Yuuri was packing up his skates for the last time at this rink, a voice called out, "Hey! Katsudon!" and then a brown paper bag landed in his lap.  He looked up to see Yuri smirking at him from the aisle.

Yuuri lifted up the bag, which was warm and slightly greasy on the bottom.  "What's this?"

"Pirozhkis - my grandpa made them."  He shrugged and dug his sneaker toe into the concrete, not looking at Yuuri.  "It was your birthday last week, da?"  As Yuuri blinked at him in confusion, he said sharply, "Eat them!"

"What, now ?"  They did smell fantastic and Yuuri opened the bag to pull out one of them.  He bit into it and moaned at the explosion of flavors on his tongue: dough and pork and rice and egg - "Wait!  Is that-?"

A grin appeared on Yuri's face and he nodded his head vigorously.  “I told Grandpa about the katsudon and he came up with this.  It's great, da?"

"Vkusno!" Yuuri said enthusiastically, taking another bite.  Yuri smiled in satisfaction for a moment, then his usual scowl returned and he stomped off.  Yuuri watched him for a moment, thinking about how the younger skater had such a tough exterior but really, when you got to know him, might not be too horrible to spend some time with.  

It’s funny , he thought, how people’s inner self can be so different than the person we see.  I wonder what it would be like if all of lived inside-out, showing our true selves for others to see.  Then he shook off the idea as idealistic nonsense.

And Yuuri knew that this gift meant that there'd be one more guest at the onsen next summer.  It also meant that, win or lose, the Russian Yuri had been added to the short list of skaters he couldn’t try to eliminate.

Chapter Text

Chapter 13 - Why Are All The Skaters (Nearly) Dying

 

From the Sports News Center in Barcelona, December 6th, 2016

 

"Good evening, Morooka here, and welcome to our coverage of the 2016 Grand Prix Final in Barcelona.  The event opens tomorrow with public practice sessions for all the skating groups.  The competitions will start Thursday afternoon with the Junior Short Programs, followed by Pairs’ and Men’s Singles.  And everyone agrees that Men's Singles is the event to watch.  We'll see performances from the six skaters who survived the brutal Grand Prix series to vie for the coveted title."

"And brutal is definitely the word for this year's qualifying event, Morooka.  Not only was the competition fierce, but I don't think I've ever seen a series with so many accidents on and off the ice.  Some are even calling it a cursed year!”

“While I don’t know that I’d go that far, Oda, it’s certainly been an odd season.  It started in early October, when Japan’s Yuuri Katsuki suffered a freak fall following a press event.  Fortunately, he only suffered a mild concussion and was released from the hospital the next day.”

“Then there was Canada’s Jean-Jacques Leroy who, in a bizarre twist, fell through a hole in the ice while out skating at a public park during the Rostelecom Cup.  Fortunately for JJ, one of his fellow skaters was also there and managed to drag him out of the water before he drowned.  JJ is recovering at home in Canada, and plans to return to competition in time for Four Continents.  Word is that, following his near brush with death, JJ proposed to his long-time girlfriend and they plan to be married during the off-season.”

“Then there are the odd incidents that have occurred during the course of this series, Oda.  Who can forget the Cup of China, where Georgi Popovich actually laid down on the ice mid-program and went to sleep?  Doctors later determined that he’d taken too many of his antidepressants, prescribed after his breakup with his most recent girlfriend.  Fortunately, he recovered from that and went on to win Gold in Paris, although his incomplete program in China meant he couldn’t contend here in Barcelona.

“In another bizarre turn of events, Christophe Giacometti was expected to take Gold in France but had to settle for Silver.  Giacometti had sustained a pulled groin muscle in China - his coach says during his Free program where he performs that giant quadruple lutz, but others have said that the Swiss skater was partying hard after the event and that the incident might have occurred during an orgy in his suite.”

“Morooka, to round out the series of bizarre events surrounding this year’s events, what about Emil Nekola’s costume malfunction during his Free program in Moscow?  While the short didn’t physically harm the skater, it did cause a disruption towards the end of his program, maybe even caused his fall.  The malfunction was laid at the door of Michele Crispino, who suffered a mental breakdown in Moscow.  Apparently, the Italian skater became incensed over the number of gifts that his sister - who is also a skater - received at her hotel, flowers and chocolates and presents. H e threatened several of his fellow skaters with a handgun at a press conference before he was disarmed and taken into custody.  He was subsequently disqualified from that competition, and the Bronze medal awarded to the 4th place skater, Yuri Plisetsky, which allowed him to qualify for this Final.”

“Oda, reports are that Crispino is being transferred to a mental hospital near his home town in Italy, where he is expected to undergo treatment.  His sister, Sara, is a finalist in the Women’s Single event here in Barcelona.”

“Truly, it has been a bizarre year.  Here’s hoping that next year’s event will keep the excitement on the ice.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 14 - I've Decided To Marry You

Part 1: Life Goes On

 

Viktor shed his towel and plunged into the heated pool, then floated to the surface to lie on his back in the water.  The difference between the cool night air and the heated water made him shiver.  Swimming in December - even if it was Spain - was a stupid idea, but he needed a little break from Yuuri, and the bar would be crowded with his fellow skaters.

Viktor had a lot to think about.  Specifically the two "L" words - Life and Love .

The past two weeks in St. Petersburg had proven to Viktor that he was right to take the plunge a year ago, to risk his heart on a new romance.  He'd had doubts, particularly last summer when Yuuri had seemed to shy away from every friendly gesture and romantic overture.  When the younger skater had declared his Eros to be katsudon, Viktor had nearly packed it in - how could he possibly be in love with someone who thought food (no matter how delicious) to be the epitome of Eros.  Minako had been a friendly ear as they had gotten drunk together and reassuring in her frank way, reminding him that to Yuuri katsudon was the ultimate reward, his prize for winning.   Which - okay, that still wasn't equating Viktor with Eros, but it was better than nothing.   Viktor had decided to give him another chance, at the Ice Show.

And then Yuuri had turned up in that costume and skated his program so differently - so sure and confident, so bewitching as he seduced everyone in the audience.  It had been the first proof that there had been something between them at the banquet, a spark of desire as they danced.  Then he'd shown Viktor the music for his Free program, describing the parts, and Viktor had known for certain: Yuuri felt the same way he did.

He had been tempted to pounce right then and there, to drag Yuuri into his bed and ravish him, but the past two months had made him more cautious - and he'd been right to wait.  Yuuri might have feelings for him but he was still shy and uncertain off the ice, his heart as untouched as his body. 

Viktor would have to woo him, a novel experience!  Viktor Nikiforov didn't chase after lovers - they chased after him.  And maybe his first attempt to show Yuuri his intentions through his program at the Japan Open hadn't quite succeeded, had been a little too subtle.   At least Yuuri had started to equate Viktor's story with the films he'd loved as a teen, and Viktor had hoped that he'd respond back.  

Then came the disaster that was the Cup of China Free skate, where Yuuri had broken down into tears on the phone.  Viktor had felt so helpless - not even in the same room as Yuuri, not that he would have known what to do to stop his crying if he'd been there.  

But Yuuri had known what to do, had once more taken the lead in this dance of theirs, and Viktor had followed - and it had worked.  Yuuri had taken Gold, had come to Russia, and it was as if a switch had been flipped inside of Yuuri.  That hug at the airport and Yuuri's words, the way he'd skated his Eros routine, the shyly flirtatious looks he'd given Viktor during their date, and then the quad flip at the end of his Free program....   Well, it had been enough to turn Viktor's head, and maybe kissing Yuuri in front of millions of people hadn't been the smartest idea, but Yuuri's response had been so worth all the yelling that Yakov had done later.

And then all that had followed.  The heady pleasure of having Yuuri in his bed.  The heartbroken look on his face the next morning when he'd thought Viktor had left.  The incredulous joy at Viktor's invitation to come to St. Petersburg.  The way Yuuri just fit into his apartment.   Into his rink. 

Into his life.

How could he be expected to go forward without Yuuri in his life every day?

And yet, wasn't that inevitable?  They were both competitive skaters from different countries, with their respective obligations.  Their Nationals were at the same time, and while Yuuri would be competing in Four Continents, Viktor would be at the European championship.  But not to see Yuuri till Worlds...

It had nearly killed him last year, and that was before they'd become lovers.  Could he ask Yuuri to come back to St. Petersburg after his Nationals?  Yakov had been surprisingly okay with Yuuri's presence at the rink for the past two weeks, but it was four months till Worlds.  And Yuuri had family in Japan, but Viktor couldn't train there long-term - not if he wanted to keep his competitive edge.

But what if he retired?

It wasn't the first time he'd thought about retiring - it wasn't even the tenth.  Particularly in the previous year, when he'd lacked inspiration and had felt the loneliness of his life settling around his shoulders like a weight.  He'd thought about retiring every time he'd stood atop the podium that year.

But it wasn't the retirement itself, it was the question of what next ?  If he retired, what would he do?   Coach or choreograph, as so many of skaters did?  Do ice shows or sports commentary?   Or leave skating all together, become a model or actor?  None of them had held any particular appeal for him, just trading the loneliness of his current life for a new and possibly lonelier one.  Christophe had a partner waiting for him once he left the ice, but all Viktor had was a beloved but aging poodle. 

Now, though, there was Yuuri, and the potential of waking up every morning with him and curling up to sleep with him every night.  There could be training in either Hasetsu or St. Petersburg, until Yuuri was ready to retire as well.  There could be vacations - proper ones, not the odd day between events in whatever host city he was in.  Seeing Yuuri stretched out on the beach, sun glinting off his skin, was a precious memory, and he wanted to add many more such idylls to his mental scrapbook of Yuuri.

There could be Life outside of the ice.  But the question was - did Yuuri want that as well?  Or was this just a one-season romance?

Viktor sneezed.  It wasn't Siberia, but Barcelona was still cold at this time of year.  It might be a good idea to get out of the pool and warm up.

"I figured that the Russian would be the only one besides me stupid enough to get into the pool this time of year," drawled a familiar voice and Christophe appeared, carrying champagne and two glasses.  "I guess I was right."

"Chris!"

"Hi!" Christophe said brightly.  "How's Coach Viktor?"  At Viktor's raised eyebrow and questioning look, he added, "I've heard stories that you've been training that sweet Japanese boy the past two weeks - in more ways than one.  Need any help?"

Getting angry at Chris wouldn't do any good - such things seemed to roll right off his back. 

"I was hoping to go skinny dipping," Christophe added.

"Don't let me stop you," Viktor said, climbing out of the pool and grabbing his towel to dry off.  "I'll even take pictures if you want."

Christophe laughed and sat down, handing the bottle to Viktor.  He looked over the bottle carefully and popped the cork, then filled both glasses. 

Christoph picked up one and raised it in toast.  "It's good to see you, my friend.  I was feeling like a relic among all those young boys down in the bar.  Next to you, I'm the oldest one still skating."

Viktor raised his glass in return.  "Here's to the old men!"

Christophe tapped his glass to Viktor’s and then drank.  "I'm afraid there will be one less next year.  I've decided to retire after Worlds."

"But why?"

He sighed.  "It's getting harder to get motivated these days for me as well.  For years, my goal was beating you, but now these young skaters are coming along, skating better.  Your new protege for one, and Russian Yuri as well.  And I'm not recovering from injuries like I used to.  Masumi wants us to take some time off, travel." He drained his glass.  "What about you? What's in the future for 'Coach Viktor'?"

But that was something that he couldn't tell Chris yet because he didn't know.

Chapter Text

Part 2: Say Yes At Once or I Shall Die

 

Yuuri slept through much of their first evening in Barcelona, done in by the flight as well as two weeks of intense training.  He didn't know how Viktor had the energy to do more, much less go swimming in December.  Served him right when he returned to their suite, frozen to the bone.  Although Yuuri didn't appreciate being dive-bombed by two cold and wet people.  He should have made Viktor sleep on the couch, only he'd gotten used to sharing a bed and the other man's warmth.  It had nothing to do with wanting to spend every minute he could in Viktor’s arms, alarmed by how fast the days were speeding past him, the internal countdown towards Viktor's ultimatum.  Stand on the podium with him or....

Or what, exactly?  Viktor would give up on him, that was certain.  Yuuri would have to retire then, with no coach or choreographer, and return home to help out with the onsen. He would be a failure -

Yuuri cut off that line of thought, rolling over in bed and reaching for his phone.  He could hear Viktor in the shower and knew that he'd be awhile with his morning rituals, so he pulled up his social media.  Phichit had been running around the city last night, getting selfies and whining about Yuuri not joining him.  It might not have been safe for Phichit to go off by himself to some of the places that Yuuri had suggested (and did Yuuri really want to have something happen to his best friend?), but Phichit seemed to live a charmed life.  Christophe had posted poolside pictures of him and Viktor.  Yuri's rabid fans had posted pictures of him arriving at the hotel but he'd managed to elude them.  Mari and Minako had arrived early that morning and texted him about meeting up later.  He replied, suggesting dinner that evening, then dragged himself out of bed and put on workout clothes.  He would shower and change after practice.

Rehearsal went well, with the Eros routine feeling almost like a second skin by now.  When he was done, he watched Viktor's practice again, marveling at how far it had come since he'd first performed it in Hasetsu.  Viktor looked as if he was floating across the ice, ethereal and beautiful.  Yuuri wondered how many more times he would be able to see him perform like this in person.  It made him feel...unsettled somehow, as if his nerves were raw and exposed.

Viktor must have sensed that something was off because after practice he suggested returning to the hotel for rest and an early evening.  That was the last thing Yuuri wanted, to be enclosed in their hotel room.  He needed to do - something .  He just didn't know what.

So, after showering and changing, Viktor took him sightseeing - which to Viktor primarily consisted of shopping at the Passeig de Gràcia.  Another new tie to go with the suit he'd bought for Yuuri in St. Petersburg.  Omiyage for Yuuri's family and friends back in Hasetsu.   Souvenirs for his rink-mates and his dog-sitter.

And Yuuri was looking for something, too - a birthday present for Viktor but also an omamori of some kind.  He needed all the extra help he could get if he was going to make the podium here.  Nothing seemed quite right, not in the stores that Viktor dragged him to nor in the Christmas market.  Then he caught sight of a jewelry store and remembered what Viktor had told him about his fellow skaters and their good-luck charms.  How Viktor had never had a lucky charm because no one had ever given him one.  But now he had Yuuri, and they were lovers and maybe boyfriends...

Yuuri rushed over to the store, peering into the window to see what they had on display.  What if he got them matching omamori ?  Something that would be symbolic of both their skating goals and their relationship.  There were charms - but that didn't feel right.  He needed to look at all of the display cases to see what felt right.

"Let's go in here!" he said, leading the way into the shop.

Yuuri hesitated over bracelets - gold ones like the medal they wanted - both thick and thin in width, but that didn't seem quite right.  Neither were the elegant watches, which would be impossible to wear during a performance. 

"Yuuri, what are you looking for?"

Yuuri looked up at Viktor who looked puzzled as to why he'd come into this shop.  "Omamori.  Matching ones, for you and for me."

Viktor's eyes lit up, that blue blaze that he'd seen just before he'd left Hasetsu.   "Something round and golden to kiss,"  he'd said.

And then Yuuri knew what he wanted, no, needed to buy.

He turned to the ring counter, his eyes scanning the dozens of bands.  No diamonds, and not the twisted bands either.  Something smooth and gold - and there!  A set of bands that, together, had a snowflake etched on the inside.

"These ones," he said decisively to the clerk.

Viktor came to stand behind him, looking over his shoulder, and his breath caught.  "Yuuri...."

"A good luck charm for you, and omamori for me," Yuuri said, his cheeks blazing.  "And, um, maybe something more....?"

Viktor kissed the top of his head.  "Perfect."

The clerk took their ring sizes, filled out the paperwork for the installments, then handed over the little velvet box containing the two rings.  Viktor stood silent, not offering to pay like he usually did when they went shopping, perhaps understanding that Yuuri needed to do this on his own.  And then they left the shop and stood on the street outside.

Yuuri looked up at Viktor.  He wanted to give him the ring now, but not here in the street, at the Christmas bazaar.  And not back at the hotel, either.  That didn't seem right.

"This way," Viktor said, talking Yuuri's hand and leading him down the street, retracing their steps to the cathedral.  There was a Christmas choir performing in front of the steps but Viktor led him past them, up to a little alcove.  He stopped and turned towards Yuuri.

Yuuri swallowed, then took Viktor's hands in his.  "You said that no one had ever given you a good luck charm, so I wanted to give you one.  And - you know I've always wanted an omamori but couldn't find the right kind."  He chanced a look up at Viktor, and that intent look was back in his eyes.  "And - you said 'something round and golden to kiss'.  You weren't talking about a gold medal, were you?  You meant this - rings.  You were proposing to me in your skate at Rostelecom."

Viktor's lips curved into a smile.  "Yuuri, I've been proposing to you for months!  I decided to marry you almost a year ago, in Sochi.  I even asked your parents before I left Hasetsu!"

Yuuri could feel his cheeks turning pink again.  "Really?"

Viktor leaned forward to kiss him softly.  "Really."

“Then my answer is ‘yes’.”

Yuuri let go of his hands so that he could pull the little box out of his pocket.  Removing Viktor's glove, he slid the ring onto his finger - on the right hand, knowing that was the Russian tradition, and he heard Viktor's breath catch at that, his hand trembling a little.  

"Thank you for everything you've done for me over the past year.  I wouldn't be here without you.  And - and I don't know what the future will be, but I know that I want it to be with you."  Viktor's eyes were a little wet and there was a tremulous smile on his face, but Yuuri had a feeling that neither was a bad thing.  He gave Viktor the box and looked up at him through his eyelashes.  "And now you say something?"

Viktor's smile widened and he removed the other ring from the box.  He slid it onto Yuuri's finger.  "Okay.  Tomorrow, when you do your program, skate the program that you like best.  Skate for me and show everyone your love.  And know that I am doing the same."

Yuuri couldn't stop himself from kissing Viktor at that, and felt the smile against his lips.  No matter what happened next, this was a day he’d never forget.

Chapter Text

Part 3: Family Business

 

Arms around each other, they strolled down the sidewalk in the general direction of the hotel.

"I'm getting hungry," Yuuri said after a few minutes.

Viktor nodded in agreement.  "Let's get some dinner.  We should see if anyone else wants to join us, to celebrate," he added, lifting Yuuri's hand to kiss his ring.

He hailed a taxi to take them to the shopping area across from the hotel, where Mari and Minako had texted them from.  They found them outside of a coffee shop where - oddly enough - Yuri was sitting with Otabek.  It looked like Yuri was even enjoying himself, as unlikely as that seemed.  Yuri blustered but it was clear that he was pleased to be invited to a group dinner, and Yuuri wondered if anyone had ever tried to befriend the prickly young man.  Otabek seemed willing to go along with whatever Yuri wanted to do, so maybe he'd made a start on making friends.

They chose a cafe near the hotel.  Viktor called Christophe while Yuuri invited Phichit to join them, and soon they were all seated at a large table on the enclosed patio.   The presence of so many top skaters seemed to have overwhelmed Mari and Minako as they burst into tears.  Mari also seemed to think that the Russian Yuri looked like a singer she liked.  Yuuri rolled his eyes at the pair but the others just ignored the display, ordering lots of different foods to share.  By the time they arrived, Phichit and Mari had begun exchanging photos and had taken several selfies, while Christophe continued teasing Yuuri about the previous year.

"You got wasted on champagne and started dancing," he said.

Yuuri groaned.  "I know - Viktor showed me his pictures.  I still don't remember anything about it."

"It was the most disgusting thing I've ever seen!" Yuri growled.  "I got dragged into a dance-off!  It was humiliating!"

"Because you lost?" Viktor asked, grinning at the younger skater.  The glare he got in return would have melted a lesser man but Viktor just laughed.

"I got naked and pole-danced for mine," Christophe chimed in.

"Chrrriiisss!" Phichit whined.  "You didn't tell me that part at Worlds!"

"I've got videos this time!" Christophe said and pulled out his phone, sharing it with Phichit.  "But they're not for the faint of heart."

 Phichit's eyes widened and he grinned with delight, as well as a little pride.  "Yuuri, that's so dirty!" 

"Yeah, we're gonna have to see those," Mari and Minako said in unison, getting up from their chairs and peeking over Phichit's shoulder.

Yuuri wanted to die of embarrassment and he covered his face with his hands.  The light caught on his ring and made it glint, something that Christophe didn't miss.

"So," Christophe drawled, leaning on his elbow and staring at Yuuri and Victor with mischief in his eyes.  "What's with the rings you boys are wearing?"

Mari turned her attention from the videos to Yuuri.  "Huh?  What rings?  Since when do you wear jewelry?"

"They're engagement rings," Viktor said proudly, displaying his.  "And look, they match!"

Phichit's eyes widened and then he jumped to his feet.  "Congratulations on your engagement!" he said, then turned to the rest of the restaurant.  "Everybody!  My best friend just got engaged!"

Everyone in the restaurant applauded, including everyone at their table - except Yuri who glared at both of them.

"So when's the wedding?" Christophe asked.

"In the summer," Viktor said and then added, "Whoever wins the gold medal gets to be the bride."

There was sudden silence at the table and four skaters glared at them.  "Who says that you're going to win gold?" Yuri snapped.

"Sorry!"  Viktor laughed.  "Well, we should go.  Early practice tomorrow!  And we have an engagement to celebrate - privately."  He winked at the others.

They gathered their bags and, as they made their way down the Avinguda Diagonal toward the hotel, Mari said, "Nikiforov, you better have asked our parents' permission or Okaasan will never let you have another bite of katsudon."

"Oh, I did, before I left Hasetsu!" Viktor said cheerfully.

"I hope you have something good in mind for gifts at the yuino," Minako added.  Viktor looked blank and she said, "I'll have to explain the traditional engagement dinner traditions to you later."

"Oh, we should get a group picture!"  Phichit exclaimed as they crossed the street to their hotel.  He pulled out his selfie stick and bullied them into position in front of the hotel with the convention center in the background.  He called out "Smiles everyone!" as he snapped the picture.  "Okay, now one of Viktor and Yuuri - for your Instagram announcement!"

Once he'd gotten them photographed together, he took one of Christophe and Viktor.  "You're both too tall!" he teased and took a step backward so he could frame them better in the shot.  Then he insisted on a final one of Yuri and Otabek. 

Mari frowned and said, "You know, having two Yuris is too confusing.  I know - we'll call you Yurio!" she said, pointing at Yuri.

Yuri gaped at her.  "That's - I'm not - "

Viktor laughed.  "I like that!  What do you think Yurio?"

"That's not my name!" Yuri snarled and kicked at Viktor, who easily fended him off. 

Somehow, Phichit got caught in the scuffle and was knocked backwards - right towards the traffic whizzing by.

"Phichit!"  Yuuri lunged forward and grabbed the front of Phichit's jacket, pulling him back onto the sidewalk, just as a truck lumbered by.  Caught off balance, they both fell to the pavement, Phichit hitting his knee as he landed on top of Yuuri.

"Ow!"

Yuuri was too out of breath from his sudden landing to ask if Phichit was hurt, but both Christophe and Viktor were immediately there, moving Phichit to one side and checking his legs.

"I think he just bruised his knee, but a doctor should check it out," Viktor said.  "It'll need ice at the least.  He shouldn't walk - "

Christophe nodded and glanced over at Otabek.  "Take his other side - we'll get him to his coach." 

They helped Phichit up and then half-carried him towards the hotel between them.  Yuri paused to give the rest of them an intent look, then stomped off behind his new friend.

Viktor turned to Yuuri, also checking him out.  "Just winded," Yuuri said. "I've had worse falls on the ice."

Viktor gave him a hand up.  "Best to make certain back in the room," he said.  "Don't want to take any chances."

Mari and Minako exchanged a look and then sniggered.  

"Riiiight," Mari said. "You do that." To Minako she said, "Let's see if there's anyone interesting in the bar tonight."  

They walked off together and Yuuri hoped that they’d sober up enough before his skate the next day.  He gathered the bags that he'd dropped during the fracas, although Viktor insisted on taking half of them.  Once upstairs, they were once more scattered as Viktor pulled Yuuri into the bathroom for a very thorough examination before a relaxing shared bath.

Chapter Text

Part 4: A Wounded Bird Flying

 

Viktor stood on the Platja de Llevant, looking out over the sea as the sun rose.  The beach was deserted at this time, not surprising as the water was too cold for swimming.  Most everyone was still sleeping, including his own lover - and their personal celebration last night had guaranteed that Yuuri would sleep for hours still.  It was peaceful and quiet here, and just what he needed to sort out his thoughts.

About Yuuri.  About them.  About his future.

Yesterday had answered many questions.  Yuuri loved and wanted him, forever, not just for a season's romance.  He was thinking of marriage.  And Viktor wanted that too, with all his body and soul.  So that left only the one question: how could two international figure skaters maintain a romance long-distance?  Given their personalities, they just couldn't.  Viktor was miserable away from Yuuri, and Yuuri seemed just as unhappy being apart.  So they needed to be in the same place.

And Yuuri needed a coach.  He couldn't go back to Celestino with Viktor in tow (not that Viktor would recommend that) and it was unlikely that Yakov would take on a non-Russian skater long-term, not with his full roster.  There weren't many Senior-level coaches in Japan, certainly not any who would also take on Viktor.  Besides, Viktor had found himself feeling possessive of Yuuri during the time they'd spent in St. Petersburg, not wanting to trust him full-time to any of the coaches there.  

The solution was that Viktor should become Yuuri's coach, but there was no practical way that he could coach and compete.  Even if it wasn't practical, it wasn't what Viktor wanted, if he was honest.  He loved skating but competing held limited appeal anymore.  He had won every competition that he’d wanted, even the Olympics.  He had an unbreakable winning streak.  He had enjoyed the challenge Yuuri had presented this season but, if he was honest, he really wanted to see Yuuri start winning.  He wanted to see Yuuri win Olympic gold, and Worlds, and all the rest.

But to retire?  Could Viktor actually do that?  Step back out of the spotlight and let it shine on other skaters?  It would be a relief in some ways, and there would always be ice shows and the invitational competitions, if he wanted them.  But could he be a good coach?  Would he ruin Yuuri instead of helping him?  Yakov had always said that he was too impulsive and selfish to be a good coach - was he right?  Could Viktor find his Agape, give his love unconditionally to Yuuri?  Being his coach wouldn't be easy - he had barely helped Yuuri during his anxiety attack in China.  But then again, hadn't Yuuri given him the key to that?  All he needed was for Viktor to believe more in him than Yuuri did in himself.  

He raised his right hand up into the air, letting the dawning light stream through his fingers and reflect off the gold.  Yuuri had trusted and believed in him over the course of the past year, had stretched himself in unbelievable ways.  He was entrusting his future happiness to Viktor.  Could Viktor do any less for Yuuri?

A sudden kick to the center of his back interrupted his thoughts, and it was followed by several more.

"Viktor Nikiforov is dead."

Viktor turned around to face an irate looking Yuri Plisetsky.  He was scowling at Viktor --- well, to be fair, he was usually scowling, but this time the ire looked personal.  "Is there something you wanted, Yurio?"

"Are you seriously going to marry the Katsudon?" he asked, growling at Viktor.  "And then what - you retire somewhere so you can model fancy clothes while he babysits you?"

Viktor bent over to look him in the face.  "Why?  Did you want to continue competing against me?"

Yuri's face darkened.  "Not everything is about you, old man.  You should just retire already." 

Suddenly irritated by the lack of respect, Viktor grasped Yuri's face in his hand, tilting his face upward.  

Yuri met his eyes in defiance, not the least bit deterred.  "I will defeat the Japanese piggy and then you'll see his ring is worthless."

About to snap at the younger skater, Viktor suddenly stopped, his eyes narrowing as he studied him closer.  It wasn't his retirement that Yuri was worried about - it was Yuuri's.  Yuri was worried that the Japanese skater might be thinking of retiring, before he could have the chance to seriously challenge him.

Yuri seemed unsettled by his intent perusal and pulled away from him, snarling, "Let me go!"  

Viktor smiled just a little, a show of teeth - Yuri would never respect him or listen if he thought that Viktor was humoring him.  For a moment, he wondered what it would have been like if he had retired at the start of this season.  Would Yuri have fought harder, done tougher programs?  He had the quad salchow and toe-loop, but would he have tried for more?  Would he have taken his Free program more seriously?

The sudden cry of the seagulls swooping over the beach caught his attention, drew his gaze out over the ocean.  The birds spun through the air, dipping and rising, making their distinctive cry.  Along the beach a solitary figure walked with his dog, and he could almost imagine that it was Makkachin and him on the beach at Hasetsu.  He couldn't help smiling at the thought.

"What are you smiling about?" In Yuri's voice was the surly tone of a teenager certain that the adults were ignoring him.

"This place reminds me of Hasetsu - my Yuuri's home in Japan."  He glanced at Yuri and then back out over the ocean.  "We're going back there this summer, to work on his programs for next year."  There - would that allay the angry little kitten's fears?

Yuri was silent for a moment.  "He invited me there after the season ends.  Do you think he was serious?"

"If Yuuri invited you, then yes, he was."   Although Viktor knew that Yuuri could sometimes be impulsive, he never would have said that if he didn't intend to follow through.  He wasn't sure why Yuuri would extend the invitation; it was unlikely that he had realized that Yuri was a fan because he rarely did (Minami was a prime example).

"Huh."  Yuri was silent again for a long moment.  "If I go with you to Hasetsu, you have to design me a good program!  Not a lame fairy one this time!"

"More cats?" Viktor asked slyly.

Yuri bristled. "I'm not a cat!  I'm the Ice Tiger of Russia !"

"I'll do my best to come up with an appropriate program."  Then, because challenge seemed to have motivated his Yuuri, he added, "If you can make the podium here, you can choose your own music."

Yuri made a sound between angry satisfaction and pleased ire, then stomped away.

Viktor looked once more over the beach and the ocean beyond, then turned towards the hotel where his sleeping beauty lay waiting to be awakened.

They had medals to win.

Chapter Text

Chapter 15 - The Last One You'd Expect

Part 1: Look at Him

 

 *S/O means Skate Order

 

 

From the Sports Broadcasting booth in Barcelona, December 2016

 

"We are continuing our coverage of the 2016 Grand Prix Final here in Barcelona.  Earlier today we had the start of the Junior events, followed by the Pairs' Short program.  Next is the Men's Singles Short program, the event that everyone has been waiting for.  And here are our six competitors as they take the ice for their warm-up.

"In 6th place is young Yuri Plisetsky of Russia.  Last year's Junior Champion, this is his senior debut.  He has performed brilliantly so far, placing 2nd in Skate Canada and 3rd at the Rostelecom Cup when Michele Crispino was disqualified, taking the final slot in this competition.  At only fifteen years old, we expect to see great things from this young skater for years to come. 

“In 5th place is Phichit Chulanont in his first Grand Prix Final.  He is the first Thai skater to compete in the Grand Prix final and hopes to rewrite history for Southeast Asian figure skating.  Chulanont nearly became the latest victim of this year’s Curse last night when he fell into traffic last night.  Fortunately, his fellow skater and former rink-mate, Yuuri Katsuki, was able to save him from a fatal fall, and he only suffered minor bruises to his knees.

"In 4th place is Christophe Giacometti, returning for another run at the Gold.  Giacometti has been struggling this season after an unexpected off-ice injury at the Cup of China.  After nearly a month's rest, he is expected to come back strong and his giant quadruple lutz has enthralled his fans.

"Coming in 3rd is Otabek Altin, Kazakhstan's hero.  He won Bronze at the World Championship last year, his first year on the Senior level, and he has been strong this series with Silver in both his qualifying events.  This is his first Grand Prix Final and his fans expect great things.

"The biggest surprise is Yuuri Katsuki, in 2nd place coming into the event.  After a disastrous finish at last year's Final, he has come into this year's event stronger than ever.  Skating programs choreographed by Viktor Nikiforov, he won Gold and Silver in his qualifying events. 

"And in 1st place and the man to beat is legendary Viktor Nikiforov, attempting to get a record 6th Grand Prix Gold medal.  Although many had speculated that Nikiforov might retire this year, he came back with a powerful but surprising set of programs.  He won both of his qualifying events, at the NHK Trophy and the Rostelecom Cup.

“And after the commercial break, we’ll be back for the first skater in the Men’s Short Program….”


 

From the Roving Reporters, Barcelona Grand Prix Final

 

"Oda, let's talk about your countryman, Yuuri Katsuki, for a moment.  Had you ever expected him to be coming into this event second only to Nikiforov?"

"Stéphane, I don't think that anyone had.  While Katsuki-san is an excellent skater and has been Japan's top skater for a few years now - "

" - Since you retired, in fact."

" - it's well-known that he suffers from crippling anxiety."

"Speculation has been that this anxiety is what caused him to crash last year at this event, where he went from 4th after to Short program to last."

"But Stéphane, let's not forget that 'last' is still 6th among all the skaters who made it to the Final, quite a feat in itself.  I would say that, based on his performance this year, Katsuki-san has found a way to manage his anxious tendencies.  His performances starting with All-Japan last December have been steadily improving.  And his new short program was a revelation.  This is a Yuuri Katsuki we've never seen before now."

"Speaking of 'finding a way' - what do you make of that dramatic exchange between Katsuki and Nikiforov at the Rostelecom Cup?"

"Are we talking about the Kiss, Stéphane?"

"Was it a kiss?  The camera angles blocked a clear view of the pair - "

"It was definitely a kiss - everyone who was standing in the area has confirmed that, as has Nikiforov's press agent.  And the pair have been seen together around St. Petersburg these last two weeks, where Katsuki-san was apparently practicing with the Russian team.  I would say that they are definitely an item."

"I wouldn't expect that any relationship between the two will make Nikiforov go easy on Katsuki on the ice!"

"Nor would Katsuki-san want that; those who knows him say that he is an intense competitor and hates to lose.”

“Well, this competition will definitely be something worth watching.  When we come back from commercial - the Men’s Short Program!”

Chapter Text

Part 2: How My Fondness For Him Has Grown

 

Yuuri stepped off the ice after the warm-ups, accepting his skate covers from Minako.  He looked around to see that Viktor was doing the same while listening as Yakov gave the Russian Yuri some last minute notes.  

Yuri looked annoyed at whatever his coach was saying and Yuuri could almost see the teenager rolling his eyes.  He wondered what it would have been like if he'd been brave enough to talk back to his coach when he was that age, although he didn't think he would have dared.  Coach Sato had been a very old-style coach with formal manners, and Yuuri had known he was lucky to have a good Junior coach who was patient with his anxiety.  It had helped that one of his family circle - his mother or sister, Minako, or the Nishigoris - had gone with him to competitions until he'd left for Detroit and Celestino's rink.

Today there was only one thing he was anxious about - could any of the four he was skating against (not including Viktor) keep him from getting to the podium?  Yuri would be the first to take the ice, and although he didn't look as unfocused as he had in Moscow, he would have to be technically perfect with a high performance score to significantly challenge Yuuri, just based on his base points.  Phichit had more charisma than anyone skating, with the exception of Viktor, but he only had one quad in his program today.  Christophe had the potential to come in with a high score, if he had recovered enough from China, and he would have the incentive of wanting to beat Viktor.  And Otabek was an unknown quantity; Yuuri had beaten him at Four Continents but then Otabek had scored higher at Worlds, although both competitions were using their programs from last year.

The official announcements were concluded and Yuri took his position on the ice, looking every bit the Fairy of Temperament.  He moved with force and fire across the ice, nailing all his jumps this time, including a beautiful quad salchow.  His spins were gorgeous and his step sequences better than in Moscow -- Yuuri suspected that Yuri had been watching while Yuuri was practicing his own and had picked up some tips.  His performance was good, the music suiting his tempestuous nature, but there was still some work to be done there as Yuri didn't seem to be feeling the music as much as he should.  Yuri came in just over 100, a new personal best, and looked pleased and happy for all of a minute in the Kiss&Cry.

Phichit was next, his sprained wrist carefully taped and hidden under his costume's sleeves.  He gave everything he had to his program, sweeping the audience along with the music and his performance, and was technically solid.  His score was nearly 10 points over his Cup of China personal best.  It was clear that Celestino was delighted with his student's performance, even if it hadn't been enough to put him ahead of Yuri.

Christophe took the ice next, oozing sex appeal and confidence.  Yuuri nearly expected to see the ice melting beneath the Swiss skater's blades, and he was thankful that there was another skater between him and Chris, otherwise people would be laughing at his attempt to display Eros.  As Viktor had predicted, Christophe's performance, both technically and artistically, had improved since China and he moved into the lead with a score of 102.

Otabek was next and Yuuri watched him intently, not having seen this program in person.  He wasn't as flexible as the three previous skaters, but he made up for that with powerful movements and skating elements that played up his strengths.  The technical difficulty was high, and Yuuri was impressed as he watched Otabek power through it.

"Wow," murmured a voice from next to him, and Yuuri looked over to see that Viktor had joined him at the barrier.  His eyes were fixed on the Kazakhstan skater with a look combining appreciation and assessment.  "So fresh!" he said, with an approving nod.

Yuuri swallowed hard.  "He'll score higher than me," he said quietly.  "His technical difficulty - "

" - is high, but even if he scores higher today, you'll beat him in the Free program," Viktor assured him.  "No one here has the stamina that you do."  He turned his head to meet Yuuri's eyes directly.  "I believe in you, Yuuri."

Yuuri's heart warmed at that and he could feel his cheeks getting pink.  Viktor had remembered what he'd said during his melt-down in China.

Otabek came off the ice and Yuuri removed his jacket and guards, handing them to Minako who had come to join them at the barrier.

"Knock 'em dead, kid," she said encouragingly as he stepped onto the ice.

He nodded, waiting at the boards for Otabek's scores to be announced.  He braced his hands on the barrier, taking deep breaths to calm the nerves that were starting to jangle.  A warm hand covered his right one and he looked up, startled, to see Viktor lean close with an intent look in his eyes.

"The performance has already begun," Viktor murmured, shifting his hand so that the light glinted off of both their rings.

"I know," Yuuri said lowly, then looked up at Viktor through his eyelashes, as seductively as he knew how.  "I'm going to go out there and prove my love before everyone."

Viktor smiled and lifted Yuuri's hand, kissing the ring, then let him go and Yuuri took a quick lap around the rink to cool the sudden flush in his cheeks.  That was embarrassing - he was really horrible at any kind of sexy talk - but it was also intoxicating.  And he realized that he didn't know what Otabek's score was and, for once in his career, he wasn't worried about it.  He'd find out later.  Right now, he had an audience to seduce.

He took his starting position and mentally fixed Viktor's place at the barrier in his mind.  The music started and he swept his arms up and across his body, inviting everyone to take a good look, then glanced over his shoulder at Viktor and blew a kiss.  And then - he was off!

The music flowed through him, setting every nerve on fire, and he tossed that blaze right back at the audience.  He was beautiful and strong and seductive, and he invited all of them to try to catch him as he spun and jumped and danced his way across the ice.  His jumps were perfect, his landings solid, his spins enthralling.  His emotional connection to the music was stronger than it had ever been.  There was only a slight mistake on the quad flip at the end, the tips of his fingers skimming the ice, but he knew he'd gotten all the rotations and a solid landing otherwise.  And then he went into his final spin and on to the slightly altered ending where he triumphantly ensnared his playboy lover and drove him to his knees in submission.

The applause was deafening.  For a moment, he wanted to obsess about his fingers skimming the ice, about any of the little flaws there might have been, that in the past would have driven him to the ice in tears - but Viktor was waiting for him and he needed to see him before Viktor had to perform his own program.  And Viktor was waiting at the barrier, his own team jacket gone and his coach impatient for him to step onto the ice, but Yuuri could see his beaming smile.

"Yuuri!  That was perfect!"

"Not perfect," Yuuri said, although he knew he was red from both the praise and his exertion.

"It's the best you've done that program so far," Viktor insisted.  "A new personal best."

"Much better flip," Yakov said gruffly, then gave him a stern glare.  "But you will not touch the ice in your Free program, da?"

"D-Da," Yuuri stammered.  "S-spasibo."

Yakov gave him a crisp head-nod in acknowledgement, then turned to Viktor for last instructions.  Minako handed Yuuri his skate covers and jacket and they turned towards the Kiss&Cry.  And it was, as Viktor had predicted, a new personal best at 109, although not high enough to beat Otabek who had scored 112.  It still put him solidly in second now, nearly 8 points over Christophe, and in good position for third after Viktor skated.

Meanwhile, Viktor had taken his starting position and, as Yuuri's eyes found him, he lifted his right hand and kissed his ring.  Yuuri did the same, smiling softly at the sentimental gesture.  And then the music started and Viktor began skating, and Yuuri found himself frozen in position at the barrier in front of the Kiss&Cry.

When Viktor had first skated this program in Hasetsu, he had seemed distant and unapproachable, a pure and Godly figure looking benignly on the world.  In Moscow, it had warmed to that of a guardian angel, floating close to his charges and almost within reach, benevolent but not involved.  But now there was a depth to the emotions behind the performance that pierced Yuuri to the heart and took his breath away. 

Viktor's technical program was as beautiful and perfect as always, his jumps and spins were sharp and precise, and his step-sequences cleaner than ever.  His quad-loop/ triple-toe-loop combination and the quad-flip near the end were breathtaking.  But the emotional component had shifted.  No longer was it distant and cool, a benign deity whose love was abstract.  This love had shifted to something...human.  Something deep and beautiful in its unconditional love.  It was a parent sacrificing their own dreams for those of their child.  It was a teacher leaving their homeland to bring knowledge to hungry minds.  It was sacrifice, giving up something that was so dear to you, for the love of someone else who was even more dear.

Yuuri blinked rapidly, unwilling to lose even a second of watching this due to the tears spilling from his eyes.  A familiar tissue box came into view as a large, sturdy shoulder pressed against his; he grabbed a handful of tissues to quickly wipe away the tears.

"You also know what he is skating."  Yakov's voice was low and solemn.

Yuuri jerked his head in a nod, eyes still locked on Viktor as he swept upwards in the final spin sequence, his body rising as if it was about to take flight.  "He's saying goodbye to the ice."

They were both silent as Viktor struck his final pose.  Then, as the audience exploded into applause, Yakov half-turned towards him.

"Take great care of him, Yuuri Katsuki.  His heart is far more fragile than he lets people see."

Yuuri nodded vigorously, then Yakov pushed the tissue box into his hands and went to meet his skater at the barrier.  Yuuri clutched the Makkachin-box to him, as if he'd been entrusted with priceless jewels.  He should move away from the Kiss&Cry - it was for Viktor and his coach now - but his feet were rooted in place.  And when Viktor saw him standing there, he smiled widely and swept Yuuri into his arms.

"Tears, lyubov moya?  Was my skating that bad, then?"

"It was perfect," Yuuri said, his voice hoarse through his tears.  "Vitenka..."

"Hush, zolotse," Viktor said, kissing him briefly.  "We will talk later, in private."

Yuuri nodded; this was something that shouldn't be overheard.  It was unlikely that anyone else who didn't know Viktor very well had realized what that performance was about - although Christophe might have an inkling - but Viktor should be allowed to make his official retirement announcement on his own terms.

They sat in the Kiss&Cry, Viktor insisting that Yuuri sit with them and Yakov not objecting.  And when the score came up, the crowd went insane with their cheers.

Viktor Nikiforov had just broken the world record for the Men's Short program, the record he'd set four years earlier, with a score of 118.56 for the last Short skate of his competitive career.

Chapter Text

Part 3: It Fills Up This Poor Old Heart

 

After running the press gauntlet, they made it back to their hotel room.  Viktor picked up the room service menu saying, "Get your shower while I order food, then I'll get mine."

"Vitya - "

"Yes, yes, then we'll talk."  

He kissed Yuuri briefly to take away the sting from his irritated tone.  Mollified, Yuuri took a quick shower and then changed into a clean tracksuit.  Viktor took longer over his shower, of course, but was still out before their food arrived.  Dressed in one of the hotel robes, he sat in the window seat and toweled his wet hair.

"So, you wanted to talk?"

Yuuri took a deep breath.  "You're retiring, aren't you?"

Viktor nodded.  "Da.  I'll announce my retirement after the medal ceremony."

"When did you decide on this?"

Viktor tilted his head slightly, his eyes on Yuuri's face.  Was he trying to figure out how Yuuri felt about this?  He was sure that his face was showing all of his emotions - he'd never been good at hiding them, not like Viktor.  

"I've been thinking about it since last year, actually, about retiring after Worlds.  Dancing with you at the banquet changed my mind, but I always knew it would be soon.  I can't keep skating forever, you know.  I made the final decision this morning."

Without talking to me about it, Yuuri thought, but then again why would Viktor consult him?  Would this mean that they'd see each other more or less frequently?  What did the rings even mean now, in the face of this?

"So what are your plans?  Where will you be going?"

Viktor blinked a few times and then frowned.  "I'll be wherever you are, of course.  As your coach."

"As my - "  The world seemed to stop for a moment.

"I thought we'd spend the next few weeks in Hasetsu, to get you ready for your Nationals and to pack what you'll need for the rest of the season in St. Petersburg," Viktor began.  "I know you're fond of your home rink but there are better facilities in Russia and I will need practical advice from Yakov on coaching.  So much paperwork, and all the regulations to learn.  Then we'll spend the off-season in Hasetsu, working on your programs for next season as we planned - "

" - coach."

Viktor's frown deepened.  "Do you not want me as your coach?"

"No!"  Yuuri stopped, then began waving his hands in negation.  "I mean - yes!  I want you as my coach!"

"Good," Viktor said, his frown turning into a warm smile.  "And I won't go easy on you!  That's my way of showing my love."

Yuuri could feel himself turning red.  "So - St. Petersburg?"

"For now," Viktor said.  "Later, after you've retired, I think we should create a training facility in Hasetsu, make that our in-season base as we take on students.  Why should Japan's best skaters go to America for training?"

"You think I could be a coach?" Yuuri asked, flustered by the thought.

Viktor reached out to cup Yuuri's cheek.  "I think you'd be an excellent coach, zolotse."

"O-okay."  Then Yuuri straightened up and looked at him squarely.  "But - if we're going to be a couple and - and coach and everything, we need to make decisions together."

Viktor raised an eyebrow.  "And if you were thinking about retiring, would you ask me about it first?  Or would you not want to trouble me about such things?"  His look became even more intense.  "Yuuri, there are things you've been hiding from me - "

There was a knock on the door and Yuuri jumped up.  "Room service!  I'll get it!"

Viktor sighed but let him go, and there was no more talk of serious matters or plans that evening.  But Yuuri knew that it was only a matter of time before he'd have to confess everything to Viktor.

Chapter Text

Chapter 16 - Stop! Wait! What?

Part 1: This Murder Was Not One of Mine

 

Yuuri woke in the late morning, stretching and enjoying a brief moment of peace.  He could tell that Viktor wasn't in the suite which wasn't unusual - Viktor was an early riser  while Yuuri preferred to stay up later and sleep in. His body felt deliciously sated, although Viktor hadn't let them do anything really strenuous in bed since they had to compete tomorrow.  There was a public practice this morning, which was no doubt where Viktor was, but Yuuri had decided to skip it in favor of a rest day.  He had been training hard and there was another practice the next morning, so they felt the rest would do better for him.

He ordered breakfast from room service then had a long soak in the tub.  It wasn't quite as nice as the onsen but at least the suite's tub was better than a standard room.  He was starting to understand why Viktor loved the upgrades, even as he cringed at the added expense.

After his bath, he dressed in casual clothing, then settled in the living room and logged into his laptop.  It was hard to avoid the social media sites but he knew that would just make him anxious, so he focused on reviewing his competitors' Free programs.  He attached his laptop to the television and was reviewing Otabek's past performances when there was a knock on the door.  Assuming that it was housekeeping, he paused the playback and went to the door.

A policeman was at the door, and Yuuri felt a sudden panic.  "Y-yes?" he said.

"Yuuri Katsuki?" the policeman asked.  Yuuri nodded.  "Please come with me."

"May I ask why?"

"Standard inquiry, senor.  We are gathering all the ice skaters downstairs."

"Oh."  Yuuri looked down at his bare feet.  "May I put on shoes first?"

"Ciertamente."

Yuuri grabbed his shoes and sat down on the bed to put them on, then went to the TV to turn it off.  The policeman stopped him, gesturing to the paused image on the screen.

"You know this man, senor?"

Yuuri looked back at the image of Otabek, paused in the middle of a spin, his face clearly displayed.  "Yes?" he said.  "Um.  All of us know him?  He's competing with me in the Grand Prix."

"And you are watching him because - ?"

"Because we're competing tomorrow?  And I need to know his program?"

The policeman made a note in a small notebook, then gestured back to the open door.  "Por favor, senor?"

Grabbing his room card, Yuuri allowed the man to escort him downstairs to the banquet room, currently set up with a haphazard grouping of chairs.  Nearly all of them were skaters or coaches that he'd seen at various competitions and they looked just as puzzled as he felt.  There were also several ISU officials scattered about, all of them looking grim.

He gave his name to a clerk who checked him off on a list, then made his way inside and looked around for any of his friends.  Phichit and Celestino were sitting to one side of the room, with Christophe and his coach nearby.  In a clump a short distance away was the Russian contingent, with Yakov and the other coaches trying to calm down their cluster of skaters.  He caught sight of Yuri's blond hair but there was no sign of Viktor.  Looking around he also failed to see Otabek or his coach either.

He made his way over to Phichit who immediately grabbed his arm and pulled him into a seat next to him.  "Yuuri!  The police interrupted our practice, herded us all over here.  What's going on?"

Yuuri shook his head.  "I don't know.  I was in my room - they knocked on my door and asked me to come downstairs."  He leaned closer to Phichit and asked, urgently, "Have you seen Viktor?"

"No...."  Phichit's eyes widened.  "Maybe there's been a kidnapping!"

Yuuri's heart nearly stopped.  "Phichit!"

Phichit gave an apologetic shrug.  "Sorry."

A large older man stepped up on the platform at the end of the room and clapped his hands sharply, gathering their attention.

"Senors and Senoras, your attention, por favor," the man said and everyone fell silent.  "I am Inspector Gonzalez.  I regret to inform you that one of the your skaters has had a motoring accident and is in the hospital.  We are awaiting información on his injuries - they are not life threatening," he added and the room gave a collective sigh of relief as everyone looked around, trying to see who was missing.  "His name - is Otabek Altin." 

There was murmuring at this and he waited for them to quiet down.  Yuuri sank back into his chair, nearly dizzy with relief.

"The accident was a result of sabotage, so we will be questioning everyone here at the hotel.  If you have any información related to this matter, you are to bring it to our attention.  This is clear?"

He paused and one of the ISU officials stepped up to him, speaking quietly.  The inspector nodded and turned back to the crowd.  "There is a possibility that Senor Altin was targeted as a member of the single men skating - "  The ISU man said something and Gonzalez said, "Perdones.  The Men’s Singles Skaters?" he said, with an eye on the ISU official who nodded.  "Therefore, we will be putting the remaining men under protection while we ask our questions.  If you will raise your hands?"

Yuuri looked over at Phichit and they both raised their hands, followed by Christophe.  He could see Yuri's hand go up sharply as well.

"Muy bien.  One of my men will escort each of you to your rooms and remain outside till we are done."  He gestured to some of the men in the room who began making their way towards the four who'd raised their hands.  "In the meantime, if the rest of you will be seated, we will begin with - "

He gestured to the ISU official who stepped forward.  "If the Junior Ice Dancing and the Junior Ladies, and their coaches, will step forward, we will clear you first.  We will try not to disrupt the event any further."

The policeman who had escorted Yuuri paused by the inspector and spoke to him, with a gesture in his direction.  The inspector looked over at Yuuri appraisingly and he felt his insides go cold.  The two of them continued over to Yuuri, waiting till Phichit and Christophe had been escorted away, and then the Inspector cocked his head as he looked over Yuuri.

"Senor, you are - ?"

"Yuuri Katsuki," Yuuri replied reluctantly.

"You are friends with this Senor Altin?"

"Um, no?" Yuuri said.  "I - I've seen him at a few competitions but I don't really know him."

"You were watching him on the television in your room?"

"Recordings of him," Yuuri corrected, nodding.  "To see how he skates."  The Inspector gave him a blank look.  "Um, it's pretty common.  Getting to know the competition before an event?"

"Ah."

"Inspector, can you tell me what happened to Otabek - Senor Altin?"

"Ciertamente.  His motorcycle was tampered with.  As he attempted to leave the garage, the brakes failed and he crashed into the gate."

"Oh."  Yuuri frowned.  "Otabek has a motorcycle?"

The inspector frowned as he stared at him for a moment, then turned to the policeman.  "Please escort Senor Katsuki to his room and remain outside."  He turned back to Yuuri and added, "For his protection."

He knows something, Yuuri thought, panic flooding through him even as he quietly followed the policeman out of the room.  Should I run?  But where would I go?  My money and ID are in my room, and I don't speak Spanish.

Before he could make a decision, he was at the door to his suite.  He slid the card into the reader and, at the flash of the green light, pushed the door open and entered.

The policeman paused in the doorway.  "Remain in this room, por favor.  I will be outside if you need anything."

The slamming of the hotel room door behind Yuuri had the sound of finality, of a jail cell door clanging shut and locking him away forever.  He sank down onto the sofa, his legs turning to jelly as images tumbled through his racing mind.  Otabek had been injured and they thought he had done it.  There must be a reason for that, they wouldn't just pick him at random.  Maybe they knew something about the other incidents.  Maybe someone had seen him remove the sign at the pond.  Or had seen Georgi take the water bottle from him.  Maybe the florist had identified him as the one who'd sent all the flowers to Sara.  Surely they didn't think he'd pushed Phichit into traffic!

Yuuri buried his face in his hands.  Now would come the accusations, charges of bodily assault and attempted murder.  There would be shocked looks from his friends and family before they turned their backs on him, and then the grim face of the judge pronouncing sentence on him.  Prison.  His future and his reputation smashed to bits.  And for what?

For the dream of a chance to stand on the podium at the Grand Prix Final next to Viktor Nikiforov.

Yuuri groaned and ground his palms against his eyes.  A glint of gold caught his eye and he lifted his head, spread his fingers, and stared at the ring on his right hand, the only thing he had left.  For now, anyway.  How could he ever explain this to Viktor?  How could he make him understand why he'd done the things he had - these horrible and wicked things?  Even if no one else understood, it was suddenly important that he make sure that Viktor did.

Yuuri rose from the sofa and went to his bags, pulling out the little notebook where he'd jotted down his plans over the past eight months.  He sat down at the desk, opened to a clean page, and began to write.  Feverishly, he detailed the reasons why he'd started down this path.  He wrote about Cao Bin, about the events in China and Russia, writing as fast as he could so that he could finish before they called him into questioning.

And then he came to Otabek, and here he protested his innocence.  The other things, yes, he'd done them and he'd confess to them.

But not Otabek.  This one was not his doing.

Chapter Text

Part 2: Is All of This Now to be Lost?

 

He had just finished when there was the sound of the door lock being triggered.  Hastily, he tucked the notebook into the drawer and stood, then nearly fainted with relief when Viktor entered the room.

"Vitya!"  He flew across the room and into Viktor's arms, clinging to him tightly.  "I thought something happened - where were you?"

"Shopping, with Minako," Viktor replied, pushing Yuuri a little bit away from him so he could see his face.  "Lyubov moya, you've been crying!"

Aware of the policeman in the doorway, Yuuri stammered, "I - I was so worried.  I thought - "

"I am fine, zolotse," Viktor assured him.  "I have even endured the intolerable questioning by the police."

"We are ready for you, Senor Katsuki," the policeman said.

Yuuri turned panicked eyes to Viktor and he smiled at him.  "You will be fine, zolotse.  Minako is outside; she will be with you as your coach.  Now, wash your face before you go - you will feel much better."

Yuuri nodded and hurried into the bathroom.  He removed his glasses, splashed cold water on his face and dried his eyes, then cleaned his glasses before putting them back on.  He took a deep breath and straightened his shoulders, then went back out to face his fate.

Minako was waiting in the hallway and she hugged him tightly.  "Hey kiddo, why the tears?"

Yuuri buried his face in her shoulder.  "Viktor."

"You thought something happened to him, too?  He's fine, Yuuri - nothing worse than helping me find omiyage for everyone back home.  I don't know a word of Spanish."  She let him go and smiled encouragingly.  "Now, let's get this over with.  You have a big day tomorrow."

They were led down to a small office where Inspector Gonzalez waited.  His eyes sharpened when he saw Minako but he didn't object to her presence.  Minako had her stern "I am the Boss" face on and tougher men than Gonzalez had quailed before that expression.

"Senor Katsuki, have a seat, por favor." Gonzalez said, gesturing to the chair before him.  "I have a few questions for you."

"O-okay."

"Senor Katsuki, are you familiar with motorcycles?  Or engines of any kind?"

Yuuri shook his head.  "Um, no? I don't even have a car - or a license."

"So you are not familiar with Senor Altin's motorcycle?"

"I didn't even know he had one," Yuuri said honestly.  "As I said earlier, I don't know much about Otabek."

"And yet you were watching him on television."

"We're in a competition," Yuuri explained.  "It's standard practice to evaluate the performances of your competitors - I've done this with all the other skaters here."

Gonzalez's expression sharpened.  "Senor Altin is ahead of you in this competition?"

Yuuri nodded.  "But we have another performance tomorrow," he pointed out.  "And my fiance is ahead of both of us."  He shrugged and added, "I'm used to not winning."

"Then you won't mind telling me about your movements this morning."

Yuuri frowned in thought.  "Um, there's not much to tell.  I slept in late, then ordered room service at about 10?  You'll be able to confirm that with the hotel.  I took a long bath to soak my muscles.  And then I watched the skate recordings until your man came to get me."

"Did you see anyone during this time?"

"Room service, when my meal was delivered."

"And before 10?  Is there anyone who can vouch for your presence in the room?"

Yuuri blushed.  "My fiance.  Viktor Nikiforov.  I don't know what time he got up - I'm a heavy sleeper."

Minako spoke up.  "Nikiforov and I met at his room at 8:30.  It's in my interview notes.  I stepped into the bedroom to check on Yuuri's costume for tomorrow and saw that he was still asleep."

The Inspector frowned.  "You are certain of this time?"

"We went down to the front desk after that to request a taxi - you can check the time with them."

"And Senor Nikiforov can corroborate that you didn't leave the room at any time before that?" Gonzalez asked.

Yuuri's blush deepened.  "We went to our room right after the competition yesterday and ordered room service.  And - and went to bed early."

"Competition is very exhausting," Minako added blandly.

Inspector Gonzalez scowled at his notes.  "Bien," he said with a growl that said it was anything but fine.  "Your competitors - is there any among them that you think capable of doing such a thing?"

Yuuri shook his head, unwilling to throw any of the others under the bus.

"You know Senor Chulanont well?"

"We were roommates in Detroit."

"Could he do this?"

Yuuri stared at the inspector, open-mouthed.  "Phichit?  Are you - no!  Of course not! And - and he sprained his wrist two days ago."

Gonzalez made another note.  "And none of the other skaters come to mind?  Or their coaches?"

"No."

"Very well," Gonzalez said, closing his notebook.  "You may return to your room.  Please do not leave the hotel without an escort.  You may be in danger yourself."

Yuuri nodded, thankful to escape from the room, with Minako at his side.   He burst through the door to his hotel room, a relieved smile on his face, eager to see Viktor and give him the good news.

And then he froze in horror as Viktor rose from the desk, Yuuri's notebook in his hand.

"Yuuri, we have to talk," Viktor said heavily.  "Let's end this."

Chapter Text

Chapter 17 - An Innocent Man

Part 1: A Twist in the Plot


Yuuri went pale.  "I can explain!" he said, panicking.  At least he was between Viktor and the door; if necessary, he would tackle Viktor and make him listen.  Then he'd let him leave.

"I certainly hope so!" Viktor said, smacking the notebook down on the desk.  "Rule number one - never write anything down!  Ever!  Even if you plan to burn it or dissolve it in acid or or eat it, do not record what you have done or plan to do in a diary!  And then leaving it in a desk drawer - so obvious!  What if the police had decided to search the room?"

Yuuri's mouth fell open and he stared at Viktor, then shook his head.  He must have heard that wrong. There was no way that Viktor had said what he thought he'd just heard.

Viktor looked past Yuuri to the doorway.  "Didn't you teach him that?"

Minako walked past Yuuri and sat down in an armchair.  "I was his ballet instructor.  That was Sato-sensei's job.  Unfortunately, he was very old fashioned - the 'death before dishonor' type."

Viktor groaned.  "So much of Yuuri's issues with anxiety are clearer."

"What - what are you two talking about?" Yuuri managed to say.   "Did you read what I wrote in that notebook?"

"Mmm," said Viktor, nodding his head.  "I did.  And it was very entertaining although you have a great deal to learn."

Yuuri's legs folded under him and he ended up in a heap on the floor.  "What?"

"Rule number two: never mess with other skaters during competitions.  It draws too much attention when things happen to skaters, especially from reporters.  Also, it invites retaliation."

Yuuri had clearly gone insane or fallen into an alternate dimension.  "What - what should I have done?"

"Wait till off-season or between competitions - that's what Yakov did with Cao Bin."

"Wait - I'm the one who got Cao suspended or - or removed or - " His face paled.  "Do you think they killed him?"

Viktor grasped Yuuri's hands and pulled him to his feet, kissing him before gently pushing him to sit on the couch.  "Yuuri, you are the love of my life but you are really terrible at sabotaging the competition."

Yuuri's head spun.  "I am?"

"Da.  You should leave such things to those who have been properly trained."

"You've been trained to...?"

Viktor shrugged gracefully.  "Yakov trains all of us, although he handles such matters himself.  As does Celestino, so I'm not surprised that you don't know how to do things properly, although as your coach he should have at least warned you."

"But - what about Georgi?  I drugged him!"

"Entirely his own fault, and he should have known better.  Rule number three: never accept any food or drink from any of your competitors."  He winked at Yuuri.  "It's Christophe's preferred method.  Rather amusing that he was hoisted on his own petard, da?"

"He had a little help," Minako said, with a shark-like grin.  "I added Viagra to his glass as well.  And I must say that I enjoyed the results tremendously."

Yuuri put his face in his hands.  "Wait.  You're saying that all skaters know about this sort of thing and - and do them?"

"Not all," Viktor admitted.  "The Americans and Canadians don't.  They view it as another outdated Old World tradition - or maybe they just are so bad at it that it's an embarrassment when they try."

"JJ almost drowned!"

"Yuuri, the water in the pond was only two meters deep at the center!"  Viktor gestured to where that measured on him.  "If JJ had just stopped panicking and stood up, he'd have been fine!  But next time, be more careful - grabbing that sign where anyone could have seen you?"

"I think it's best if Yuuri just lets us handle things from now on," Minako said.  "Less stress - and less cleanup - for everyone."

"An excellent point."

Yuuri swallowed hard, trying to sort all of this out in his head.  "So is that what you were doing this morning?  Sabotaging Otabek's bike?"

Viktor and Minako exchanged a look and shook their heads.  "Not us.  We really were shopping," Viktor said.  "I needed advice for gifts for your parents for our engagement party."

"My money's on Celestino," Minako said.  "He really wants Phichit to medal."

"It could be someone else, one of the Junior skaters with an eye to the future," Viktor mused.  "I wasn't expecting Minami to make a move on Yuuri quite so soon, given how much the boy idolizes Yuuri."

Yuuri felt his mouth gaping again.  "Minami?"

"You don't think you accidentally took that tumble, do you?"

Yuuri moaned and dropped his head against the back of the sofa.  "I'm going to go to prison because someone else wanted to take out Otabek!"

Viktor sat down next to him on the couch, lovingly petting his hair.  "Don't be silly, zolotse.  You are not going to prison.  You're not even going to be arrested.  I promise."

Minako rose from the chair.  "It's been a stressful morning; Yuuri could probably use a long nap."  She picked up the notebook.  "I'll dispose of this properly."

Once she had left the suite, Viktor convinced Yuuri to crawl into bed under the covers, then shed his clothes and joined him.  "Sleep, dorogoi.  You'll feel better afterwards."

Yuuri could feel his eyes getting heavy; it had been a very stressful day so far and he wasn't entirely sure that he hadn't dreamed the last bit.  "Vitenka?  You're not going to leave me?"

"Never," Viktor replied softly and then kissed his forehead.  "I just spent a great deal of money on presents for your parents and I don't want to waste that."

Yuuri managed a sleepy giggle before he slipped into a restful sleep.

Chapter Text

Part 2: That Horrible Woman

 

Inspector Gonzalez sat in the empty banquet room, looking over his records.  On one page, in particular, under the name of “Yuuri Katsuki”, he had written the following.

 

Key statements from interviewed subjects in regard to Yuuri Katsuki

Yuuri Katsuki, Japanese skater:  Otabek has a motorcycle?

Phichit Chulanont, Thai skater:  Not only did Yuuri save my life, but he wouldn't hurt a bug.  Literally. When we shared an apartment, I had to kill the spiders and ants.

Yuri Plisetsky, Russian skater: The fat pig?  Try to kill someone?  *bursts into laughter*  Oh - you are serious?  *more laughter*

Celestino Cialdini, coach: Yuuri Katsuki?  If he even knows how an engine works I'd be surprised.  He’s too soft, too easily stressed, for such things.

Christophe Giacometti, Swiss skater: That delicious boy?  Don't be silly.

Yakov Feltsman, coach:  Katsuki is decent skater but he lacks the nerve to kill a man

Minako Okukawa, coach:  I've known Yuuri all his life - he is an artiste not a killer.  

 

He scowled and crossed out Katsuki from his list of suspects.  Yes, the boy had been nervous during their interview but so were others, and he'd had confirmation that most senior skaters watched recordings of their competition.  He'd be talking to his officers about proper investigative techniques.

He looked over the notes from the staff, particularly those who had been in the garage where the motorcycle had been parked.

 

Carlos Catalone, linen services:  When I arrived at the service dock at 7:55, there was a young woman near the motorcycle parking.  How do I know it was a woman?  She was small, with delicate hands.  No, I did not see her face, she had her hood pulled over her face.  When I came back with the new bin in about 15 minutes, she was gone.

Nikos Argitakos, parking guard:  I had just returned from my break.  The motorcycle drove towards the exit, and the bar was down.  I thought he would stop but he crashed into the bar and then veered into the wall.  I called security and summoned an ambulance, and entered it into my log. 8:35.

 

One of his men came running into the room.  “Sir! We have the security footage! It’s not very good - “

Gonzalez stood up, closing his book.  “Let’s see.”

The image was very grainy and one could only see the area where the motorcycle and scooters were parked in the far back corner.  But at 8:00 a slight figure in a burnoose came into view and made its way over to the machines.  It crouched by the bike, clearly tinkering with something, before rising and moving away just as the linen truck drove into view.  A few minutes later, the figure went off screen to one side.  No one else approached the motorcycle until its owner appeared at 8:20.

“Go back and zoom in on the figure,” he told the security man.

They did, but the picture only got more grainy.  It was clear though that the figure was small and slightly built, with pale skin, and most likely female.  It was definitely not the Japanese skater.

“She goes off the left - where does that lead?”

The security guard pointed to the map.  “A sidewalk that leads around the hotel to the side street.  It is used mainly by the hotel staff but has access to the street.”

Gonzales looked over his notes, focusing on the female skaters.  Unfortunately, most of them had been at the arena during the half-hour in question, or having breakfast in the hotel dining room.  The few who hadn't been in public had been accompanied by their coaches or other skaters.  All of the female hotel staff had been accounted for as well.  It appeared that the saboteur was an outsider.

He sighed and then turned to his sergeant.  “Very well.  Gather the skaters we haven’t already released in the banquet room.”


 

At close to five that evening, those skaters who had not already been cleared to return to the rink for their programs, primarily the Junior and Senior men and their coaches, assembled in the banquet room.  Yuuri sat close to Viktor, his hand clutching his fiance's, still half-believing that he was about to be arrested.  At least Minako had assured them that the notebook had been burned to ash and then the ashes diluted with water down the toilet.

"Senors and Senoras, thank you for your time.  Our investigation determined that a woman tampered with the vehicle around 8 this morning.  Then, an hour ago, we received a message from a Spanish separatist organization claiming responsibility for the incident.  We are still trying to find this woman but details are sketchy and there are no clear photos.  You are now all free to go about your business, although we advise you to be careful.  This group may strike again.  Do not leave the hotel without an escort.

"We can also update you on Senor Altin's condition.  He suffered some bruising, a sprain in his left wrist, and a mild head injury but no concussion.  He has been released from the hospital, and his coach will announce whether he is to skate tomorrow at a later time."

Dismissed from the room, Yuuri almost dragged Viktor out of the hall and up to their room.  There he flung himself into Viktor’s arms.

“See, I told you,” Viktor said, hugging him close.  “You should trust me more.”

“I do,” Yuuri assured him fervently.  “And I promise that I will never, ever, do anything like this again.”

“Good.  Now get changed!  Mila is skating this evening and we should be there to support her and Sara.”

Yuuri winced at that and Viktor framed his face with his hands.  “Yuuuurrrri!  You are not to blame for Crispino - he was clearly unbalanced.  Besides - you’re not the only one who sent her flowers.”

Yuuri drew back and gaped at his lover.  “Viktor?  I thought you said ‘not at competitions’?”

Viktor shrugged and grinned.  “It was too great a temptation to resist.  And you know how I am at succumbing to temptation….”

Yuuri smiled and looked up at him through his lashes.  “Mmmm-hmm.  Just how much time do we have before the Ladies’ program begins….?”

Viktor glanced at the clock beside the bed.  “More than enough,” he replied, then picked up Yuuri and tossed him onto the bed.

Chapter Text

Part 3: The Ending is Changed

 



From the television broadcasters booth at the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona

 

"Welcome to the Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final, and tonight we'll have our champion!

"In first is Russia's Viktor Nikiforov, legendary Figure Skating champion, who is going for a record 6th Gold medal in this event.  Nikiforov had the highest ever Short program score, breaking his own World record.

"Otabek Altin, the hero of Kazakhstan, is ranked second in his first Grand Prix Final. 

"Japan's Yuuri Katsuki hopes to turn third into Silver or Gold after a season's best score in the Short.

"Christophe Giacometti of Switzerland is in 4th after a very distinct performance.

"5th is Russia's Yuri Plisetsky, last year's Junior Champion, who is seeking to become the youngest ever to win the Grand Prix.

"And Phichit Chulanont, the first Thai skater to qualify for the Final is currently in 6th.

"The last chapter of the Grand Prix Final is about to begin!"

 


 From the roving reporters at Barcelona:

 

"This is Stéphane Lambiel reporting from Barcelona.  Yesterday's events were disrupted when Men's Singles skater Otabek Altin suffered a motorcycle crash.  Fortunately, the Kazakhstan skater only suffered minor injuries as he became the latest victim of the Curse that has plagued Men's Singles this season.  All practice sessions were briefly halted while the venue was thoroughly checked, and all the hotel guests including the skaters were briefly detained for questioning.  Last night, a radical separatist group here in Spain claimed responsibility for the attack.  Altin's coaches and the ISU medical team have cleared him to compete today.  Now over to Morooka."

"Thank you, Morooka here.  With the disruption in practices yesterday, many supporters of the skaters were concerned about how that might affect the competition today.  However, all of the skaters turned out for practice this morning and looked to be in good spirits going into the final.  Japan's Yuuri Katsuki appeared to be suffering a bit from nerves towards the start of practice but settled down by the end..."

 


 

Yuuri stood on the ice side of the barrier, waiting for the final announcements from the break to finish so that he could take his place at center ice.  The first three skaters had performed their Free programs, with some interesting results.

Yuri Plisetsky had become the clear leader after a technically perfect program and a noticeable uptick in his performance scores, with a new personal best of 15 points higher than his score in Moscow.  He was only held back by having just two quads, but it was clear that he would lead future Russian teams.

Phichit had stumbled at the beginning, but he'd gone on to skate a clean program that the audience had loved.  He was currently in 3rd, but Phichit was more than pleased to have made it to the Final.  And with the number of supporters who'd come to watch him skate, he was already booked for an ice show in Thailand during the summer.  His dreams were already coming true.

Christophe had been the surprise, landing in between the other two with a lower score than in China, although his program was a significant improvement over Paris.  He'd seemed distracted, popping a couple of his jumps, although his performance seemed to strengthen at the end and he got a standing ovation.  Minako had been one of them, and had bestowed a flower crown on him, before returning to Yuuri to take his jacket and guards.

Yuuri closed his eyes and took in several deep, slow breaths to calm him nerves.  A hand covered his and Yuuri looked up to see Viktor smiling at him.  "Don't worry, Yuuri.  You've got this.  Just go out there and show them who you are."  Once more he lifted Yuuri's hand and kissed his ring, and Yuuri smiled at him.  "I really want to kiss your medal."

"Right," Yuuri said, clasping his hand.  "I know what my goal is."

His name was called and he skated out to take his starting place on the ice.  He could see Viktor and fixed his position in his mind, and then the music started.

"Katsuki says that he wants to use this program to express the different kinds of love he feels," the announcer was saying on the televisions in the warm-up area, where several of his competitors were watching intently.  "He is skating to 'Yuri on Ice'."

Yuuri couldn't hear this, or the analysis of his jumps and his combinations.  All he knew was this: he'd been trying to catch up to Viktor for more than half of his life, and now, here he was.  And he knew that his performance needed to be better than flawless for a chance at the gold.  Injured or not, Otabek was a powerful skater, and Viktor was the best in the world.  Three quads wouldn't be enough.  Perfection wouldn't even be enough.

He needed to change his program, on the fly.  And he needed to throw all the emotion he felt about this song, about the people in his life whose love and support had allowed him to come this far.  His performance scores needed to reflect just how much he loved this song, and the program that he and Viktor had created.  And if Viktor was going to leave the ice for him, he needed to show everyone that he was worth that, that it wouldn't be a waste of time.

He performed the quad salchow, remembering how both Viktor and Yuri had helped him land it and perfect it - and he was looking forward to more training with the pair of them this summer.  Then he swapped out the triple toe-loop for a triple flip before the bridge.  His next swap was the triple flip for a quad toe-loop, which would bring his total up to four quads - if he could land the final quad flip.   His step sequences and spins were perfect, flowing from one to the other, and then it was time for the ending quad flip.  And, for the first time outside of practice, he landed it perfectly to the cheers of the crowd.  Yuuri went into his last combination spin, spiraling up and then bringing his arms down - pointing to where Viktor was standing with his other hand over his heart.  And he couldn't see his lover clearly, but Viktor's hand was at his heart making the gold ring on his finger sparkle.

Yuuri skated back to the opening where Viktor waited with open arms and a wide smile.  Minako handed him his hard covers and the three of them went to the Kiss&Cry together. Yuuri dropped his face into his hands, anxiety suddenly overtaking him.  What if it wasn't enough?  There were two more skaters to come - what if they did better? What if his score wasn't enough to beat the other Yuri's combined total?  What if, after all this, he failed to make the podium with Viktor?  Everyone would see that he wasn't worth the end of Viktor's career.

"I don't know why you're so worried," Minako told him.  "You were basically perfect."

"It'll be a very high score," Viktor agreed.

The announcer suddenly interrupted Yuuri's spiraling thoughts with the results, and Yuuri sat in stunned disbelief.  He'd gotten 221.58.   A new world record for the Free program!  Combined with his Short score, it put him at just over 331 which was a new personal best.  And though the combined total didn't beat Viktor's own world record, it was in the top five now.  He looked over at Viktor, worried that he'd be upset that Yuuri had broken his record.

Viktor was smiling widely and he pulled Yuuri into a hug.  "Yuuri!  That was amazing!"

"You're not mad?" he asked timidly.

Viktor laughed.  "Of course not!  It's the ultimate compliment as your choreographer!  You're going to win all the gold!"  Then his grin widened.  "But not today!"  He kissed Yuuri, brief and hard, then went off to skate.

Otabek had taken to the ice after Yuuri and was skating a strong and flawless program, unhampered by his injuries, just by his lack of quads.  His score of 181 wasn't enough to lift his score about either Yuri or himself, but in combination with his high Short score, he was currently in 3rd place.

And then it was Viktor's turn and Yuuri went to the boards to watch from as close as he could.  Viktor skated out onto the ice, looking handsome and debonair in his tuxedo-styled costume.  He did a loop around the edge to warm up, shedding the coat and tossing it to Yuuri as he passed by, and Yuuri hugged it tightly to his chest.  Viktor took his starting position, as if he'd just stepped out of one of those elegant musicals, and then he began to dance across the ice.  He skated for Yuuri, as he'd done from the start, winning his heart all over again.  It was like watching Magic happen on the ice, each jump looking effortless, as if he'd never come down.  And at the end, he ending up on one knee, hands outstretched to Yuuri, who knew one thing for certain.

He was going to marry this man, and spend the rest of his life with him.

 

 

Viktor came off the ice to thunderous applause, wrapping himself around Yuuri before allowing Yakov to tow him off to the Kiss&Cry for his score.  It wasn't world-record-setting but it was the best he'd skated his Free that year and a good score to end his career on.  It was also enough, combined with his record-setting Short skate, to beat Yuuri for the gold by 1 point.

Yuuri made it to the Grand Prix podium for the first time, winning Silver while Viktor took gold and, surprisingly, Yuri Plisetsky scored Bronze.  Yuuri's face hurt so much from smiling, and it wasn't until the medals and flowers were all given and the picture taking was done that he remembered something.

"Viktor," he said, looking up at his lover, his fiance.  "A year ago you said you wanted me on the podium with you at the Grand Prix Final."  He blushed as he recalled Viktor's exact words, about how it would excite him.

Viktor's soft laugh told him that he hadn't forgotten either, and he grasped Yuuri's arm to pull him up to the top step with him.  "I remember," he purred.  "And I'll prove it - when we're back in our room tonight."  He wrapped his arms around Yuuri and kissed him, not seeming to care about the new onslaught of photos being snapped.

"Hey, assholes!" Yuri yelled from the lower platform.  "Stop with the kissing and groping - there are children present!"

Viktor let go of Yuuri although he still kept an arm around him, and he smiled down at the younger skater.  "You wanted something, Yurachka?"

Yuri glared at him, and if looks could kill there would only be one person left alive on that podium.  (Yuuri briefly wondered what the Rules were about that.)  "Yes!  You promised that if I made the podium, you would choreograph a program next year for music that I choose!"

Viktor touched a finger to his lips.  "So I did.  We'll start on that this summer - after the wedding.  And wow!  I get to be the Bride!"  He turned back to Yuuri with a smile that made Yuuri blush even more, while Yuri growled and stomped off to the press conference.

At the press conference, Viktor once more surprised the world, this time with a triple announcement.  While it wasn't exactly a surprise that there would be a wedding that summer, the double news that Viktor Nikiforov was retiring from skating and that he would be coaching Yuuri Katsuki did shock and surprise everyone.  The reporters couldn't stop asking more follow-up questions, all of which he ignored, until finally the officials ended the press conference.

"Are you certain this is what you want to do?" Yuuri asked anxiously, as the two of them made their way back to the hotel.

"Entirely," Viktor said.  "I am retiring while I am still the Top ranked skater in the World, undefeated, with a new record as well!  And Yuuri - "

"Hmmm?" Yuuri asked, slightly distracted as they stepped into the elevator and he reached over to push the button for their floor.

Viktor pulled him back into his arms.  "This is not The End."

And he kissed him as the elevator doors slid shut.

Chapter Text

Epilogue and Finale

 

From the Sports broadcasters booth at the World Figure Skating Championship in Helsinki

"After a year of catastrophes and upsets, who would have thought the top two Men's skaters for many years would be toppled.  Christophe Giacometti, long-time silver medalist in nearly every competition, fell to 5th at the Grand Prix Final earlier this year.  He rallied to win the European Championship for the first time, but has ended up again in 5th at the World's.  Giacometti has announced that he will be retiring after Worlds to join his partner and long-time choreographer.

"And earlier this season, Viktor Nikiforov announced his own retirement after winning the Grand Prix Final for a record 6th time.  Before he left, however, he broke the Men's Short Program record that he himself set four years ago, one of ten records that he set during his career.  Nikiforov said that he was retiring to coach rising stars Yuuri Katsuki of Japan and Yuri Plisetsky of Russia.

"Young Plisetsky began his Senior debut a little slowly but ended the year as the Silver medalist at both the European Cup and the World Championships.   He is a favorite for this coming year's Russian National Championships.

"Yuuri Katsuki, who won Silver at the Grand Prix with a new world record for the Men's Free Skate went on to win Gold at Four Continents and then Gold here at the World Championships with a Short program score just a point below Nikiforov's record-setting score.

"Nikiforov says that he expects both Yuris to win spots at next year's Olympic Games, but first that he and Yuuri Katsuki are getting married over the summer...."

 

 


From the Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, the Gala exhibition

 

"And our final skater tonight, the new World Champion for Men's Figure Skating, Yuuri Katsuki of Japan.  His Exhibition is a Free program previously performed by his coach, Viktor Nikiforov, who will be joining him on the ice for 'Duetto', a variation of last year's 'Stay Close to Me'."

Yuri Plisetsky, World Silver medalist, sat in the stands beside his best friend, Otabek, the World Bronze medal holder, watching as the Katsudon and the Old Man took to the ice for their disgustingly sweet pair skate.  He had to admit that, as gross as they were when off the ice with all the kissing and hugging, they looked good skating together.  And Katsudon had helped him amp up his own Exhibition with a new program, something that wasn't about fairies for once.  Or cats but hey, dragons were awesome too. 

He'd decided to accept the invitation to Hasetsu for the summer, and yeah, the wedding too.  Otabek was coming as his plus one so it had better not be lame.  And Otabek would be staying for their summer training camp, and he had some ideas for new music for next season, too.  Yuri's Exhibition program to "Welcome to the Madness" next season was going to knock everyone the fuck on their asses!

He glanced over at Otabek who was watching the program intently, always analyzing music and programs for new insights.  He'd recovered well from his injuries at the Grand Prix - and it sucked that Yuri had had to do that to a friend, but he'd needed to medal to get Viktor to design the programs he wanted.  It was for Otabek's own good too - Yuuri's stupid ninja team might have gotten lucky for once.  But he and Otabek were cool - Beka understood about war and stuff, though Yuri knew he wouldn't get a second chance if he tried to sabotage Otabek again.  And that was okay because they were a team now, and he and Beka were going to tear up the ice together.

Yeah, Katsudon was probably going to take all the Gold for a while, like Viktor had, but that was okay.   Yuri still had growth spurts to get through, which would suck, but in the meantime he was going to learn everything he could from both Viktor and Yuuri.  And then he hoped that Yuuri planned on retiring to make way for him.

And if not, well, he had poison in his pocket....

 

Chapter Text

If you are interested in more information about the fusion source, check out this Wikipedia page.  The musical is lots of fun if you get a chance to see it.

Also, anyone remember "Murder on the Dance Floor" by Sophie Ellis Bextor?  Basically this story except with dance.

 

Artwork by my LLYBB artist, CaptainArwen!  Check out her tumblr!

   

 

 

These are the PDFs of my Stats for the 2 years covered in this story.  Click to open for viewing or right-click and save to download them for viewing. 
If you would like templates to create your own stats, let me know!

Stats for the 2015-2016 season (start of the story)

Stats for the 2016-2017 season (end of story)

 

 I got a lot of great information on skating and stats from the following sites:

So You Want to Watch Figure Skating

Golden Skate

Point values for ISU standings

All the scores from Yuri!!! on Ice in one place!