Having worked in a jewelry store for his entire life, and now being the owner of a particularly prestigious one, Viktor recognizes what’s happening. Long before the beautiful— if sloppily dressed—man even enters the shop, Viktor knows. The pacing, the light flush, the way his amber eyes linger on the displays as he passes the storefront again and again: all of them easy signs.
He’s a man who wants to propose to his significant other, but is incredibly nervous about it.
Viktor can hardly blame him. It’s a huge step. Still, most Potential Proposers, as Viktor has dubbed them, only pace outside the shop for a day or two before inevitably dropping in.
This man does no such thing. He passes, making eye contact with Viktor only once. Viktor had been fiddling with a piece behind the counter, and turned around, only to meet those panicked amber eyes. After that incident, it had been a whole week before the man began to circle again.
Finally, Viktor’s had enough. The next time his Potential Proposer passes, Viktor opens the shop door with a crystal tinkling.
“Excuse me,” he says, “I couldn’t help but notice you outside. You’re welcome to come in.”
“Oh no,” the other man intones, so devoid of emotion that Viktor fears he’s broken him.
“Come on,” Viktor says cheerfully, sweeping him with flicks of his pale hands. “I insist. I know you’re nervous, it’s okay! I understand.”
“You… do?” The other man takes a bolstering breath. “Of course you do. I’m sure this happens to you all the time.”
“Naturally,” Viktor soothes. “Nerves are to be expected, when you feel this strongly about someone.” He settles him down into his comfiest customer chair, a sleek but plush seat in front of a black table that’s at the perfect level to rest hands. “I’ll be back with tea!”
Only when there’s a warm cup in the man’s trembling hands does Viktor lean forward, chin on steepled fingers.
“I’m Viktor, by the way.”
“Yuuri,” says the other man, miserably.
“I’m guessing you looked me up online, Yuuri!”
“Is it that obvious that I’ve—yes.” Yuuri’s head drops.
“Then you’re probably already aware, but every piece in this store is handcrafted by me, and I’m also capable of working with you to make a design. All of my pieces are unique, because I think every relationship is stunningly unique.”
“I know,” Yuuri blurts in reply, hands lightly smacking at the table, something heated behind his blue glasses. “Viktor, I—I love your work.”
That heat, it has something lying dormant in Viktor stirring. It was hard to tell, from the distance and the shop window, but Yuuri—Yuuri is heartbreakingly beautiful. Even with the way he worries his beanie down over pink ears, his darting gaze, there’s something steady and glorious there, right beneath the surface.
Whoever Yuuri is buying a ring for, Viktor thinks, distantly, they’re very lucky.
“Thank you. Now, Yuuri,” he says, leaning forward. Even when he’s having confusing inner turmoil, Viktor knows how to work with a customer. “Listen.”
“Yes,” Yuuri breathes.
“Sometimes, I think designing a ring for your beloved helps,” Yuuri has stopped moving, wooden and wide-eyed, “you build up the courage to propose.”
Yuuri says nothing. Far off, behind him, three young men pass by the glass storefront, one with his phone raised.
“You,” he finally says, “think I’m proposing.”
Viktor tries to be gentle. “If you’re passing by my shop every day, without fail, and looking at the ring case… you must at least be considering it.” Those perfect eyes squeeze shut, considering. Under his breath, Yuuri mutters something musical and entirely foreign to Viktor’s ears. “Why don’t you tell me a little about how this person makes you feel?”
“Right now,” Yuuri starts, and then finishes, haltingly, “inspired. Inspired and always… surprised.”
Viktor beams. Now they’re getting somewhere. “That’s a lovely way to feel about someone. Very flattering. I think if someone you know well keeps surprising you, it means you both are always growing. I love that.”
“We don’t,” Yuuri contradicts, abruptly. “We don’t know each other that well.”
Now Viktor is the one who’s surprised. But then—perhaps the wariness makes more sense.
“The relationship is… new,” he tries. Yuuri barks out a laugh.
“The relationship is hardly a relationship.”
Suddenly, the pacing outside his shop makes a lot of sense. “So you feel strongly about this person, strongly enough to linger outside a jewelry store, but you’re not secure in your relationship.”
“That’s… that’s perfectly accurate.”
Viktor stares at him, his blurred lines and trembling hands.
“May I tell you a secret, Yuuri?”
“Anything you want to.”
“People say following your heart is foolish, but I think it’s the only way you can achieve the things you truly desire.” He smiles, leans across to gently tip Yuuri’s face up with two fingers. The curve of his chin is soft but strong. “You don’t need to buy anything today, or at all, but promise you’ll at least consider it?”
“I will,” Yuuri agrees. “I know I will.”
Two days later, Yuuri is back. With how hesitant he’d been, Viktor is definitely surprised. Then again, Yuuri is also determined. Viktor chooses not to comment on it.
“How can I help you?”
Yuuri looks directly at the floor when he says, “Can I see you at work?”
Viktor blinks. “You want to see me create a piece?” A brief nod. “…okay. I’ve had a commission from a young woman, just this morning.” He’d begun drafting during his meeting with her, but it’s hardly complete, just an outline. “I normally begin by listening to a description of the person the ring is meant for. In this case, the young woman’s girlfriend, who she describes as elegant and energetic…”
Viktor’s not sure how much Yuuri wants to hear—it makes sense that Yuuri wants to see his process, perhaps to know if he’s the best man to be creating such an important ring. But Yuuri listens, attentive, even when Viktor leads him into his workshop in the back and hunches over his drafting table. Even when he breaks into a tangent about how he keeps the ring light to encompass their active lifestyles, or the history of amethyst in wedding rings.
“You can’t be interested in this kind of thing,” Viktor realizes, apologetic.
“Ah,” Yuuri waves his hands. “No, no, I am. I should know more about it, I just…”
“You should know more?” Viktor cocks his head. “Is amethyst your stone of choice as well?”
“Jewelry is, ah, in my family. My family business.”
Viktor scoots closer to him on his drafting bench, drawn. “Oh? Maybe I’ve heard of it?”
“I don’t know,” Yuuri fusses mildly. “My group is small. Anyway, it’s currently run by my mother, so it’s not technically me. I try to help.”
“Tell me more about her!” Viktor insists, that strange feeling buzzing in his chest again. Tell me more about you.
From there Viktor asks, and Yuuri gives. And Yuuri asks, and Viktor gives. It’s that simple. By the time Viktor walks him from the shop, the buzz in his chest has spread to his hands, the tips of his toes.
“Bye, Yuuri!” Yuuri smiles, tucks his face into his scarf. Still a little shy. Viktor watches him walk away, all subtle grace.
It’s only when Viktor is back at his drafting table alone, staring at his effort to give another person’s love physical form, that he lets himself remember that Yuuri is desperately in love with someone else.
Though he doesn’t buy a ring, Yuuri is Viktor’s most frequent customer. On his fourth visit he purchases small, intricate pearl cufflinks set in a dark bed of crystal; on his seventh a pair of sapphire earrings that are Viktor’s personal favorite.
“Your beloved is lucky,” Viktor comments, an understatement, and Yuuri clamps the velvet box shut with a gasp. “Do they wear a lot of blue?”
“Eyes,” Yuuri chokes out.
“You like blue eyes, Yuuri?”
He shouldn’t take satisfaction in it, the idea that he could fit Yuuri’s type. But Yuuri sways in his direction anyway, as though mesmerized. “Blue is my favorite color,” he murmurs.
Viktor knows. All these things, that he knows about Yuuri now—useless tidbits and precious preferences, things that have him musing on more questions to ask during his drive home, what to share of his life that might interest Yuuri in the slightest. So much of Viktor’s time, all these heartbeats, he shouldn’t—
“Did they like the cufflinks?”
Yuuri looks like Viktor just dumped water on him, blinking, sputtering his answer as he leans back into his own space. “Those—those were for me.”
“But these,” Viktor taps the velvet box, “aren’t?”
“No,” Yuuri whispers, and grips it in his hands. “They’re for him.”
“Tell me how he likes them, then.” Viktor smiles, but it doesn’t feel real. Strange, that a smile once so commonly on his face feels unpracticed now, in front of Yuuri. “It could help me know what he would prefer, for a ring.”
“Ring,” Yuuri echoes, breaths measured.
“Promise you will,” Viktor prompts, trying to be playful. He can be playful—or with Yuuri, he’s grown to be.
“When I give them to him,” Yuuri promises.
But Yuuri comes back an eighth time, a tenth time, a fifteenth time, and he never mentions the earrings again.
“Tell me about him,” Viktor urges, “this man you’re in love with.”
Yuuri is determinedly tracing a penciled sketch of a ring with his finger, but Viktor knows he’s heard, because his breath catches.
Maybe he just needs a little push.
“He has blue eyes,” Viktor begins. “And what else?” Yuuri is still quiet. Viktor feels selfish and desperate. “He’s tall or smaller than you?”
Yuuri clears his throat, but his voice still barely comes out of it. “Tall. Taller than me.”
“He has… long hair? Short?”
Viktor doesn’t quite understand, the deliberate way that Yuuri moves, but it’s enthralling all the same. A dancer—Yuuri has to be a dancer. Only a dancer could cradle Viktor’s face without touching it, like that.
“This long,” Yuuri says, hand at Viktor’s chin. Viktor’s bangs tickle at his palm; it isn’t fair, that Yuuri can feel their contact but Viktor can’t. “…it used to be longer.”
“My hair used to be long,” Viktor remembers. Long ago—long before he met Yuuri, he realizes with a pang.
“Yes,” Yuuri says faintly.
“My eyes are blue,” Viktor says. “I’m tall.”
“Yes,” Yuuri says, resigned, and his gaze swings up to meet Viktor’s own. “Yes.”
“We must look alike,” Viktor realizes, privately and horribly elated. It’s wrong, to delight in physically looking similar to someone Yuuri could love. All Yuuri does is curl into himself, unblooming. He looks like the man that paced outside Viktor’s shop door, for the first time. “Well, I may not know this mystery man of yours, but it seems we have much in common. And I know that you’re delightful, Yuuri. So though you may not know each other very well yet, you adore him. In return, I’m sure he will adore you. You think him a good man, Yuuri?”
“I am sure he will come to care for you, then,” Viktor says, “given proper time.” Viktor has been given mere weeks, and he’s already done for. He doubts anyone stands a chance.
“I can wait,” Yuuri says, quietly earnest. “Viktor, I can wait however long it takes.”
That’s what Viktor was afraid of.
By the sixteenth time, Viktor is sick of Yuuri’s tie. Physically ill.
“Come here,” he finally says, gesturing to Yuuri over the counter. Yuuri looks up from the dog video he’d been about to show. “Yuuri,” Viktor says, impatiently, when he doesn’t move. “Lean over.”
“Okay,” Yuuri breathes, and that’s when Viktor is within range of his tie. When Viktor rubs the cheap fabric between his fingers, Yuuri opens one eye. Viktor isn’t sure when he closed them.
“I know what we’re doing on my dinner break,” Viktor says. Yuuri blanches.
There’s a high end mall near Viktor’s store, because Viktor strategically planned it that way. Just like he planned being next door to a wedding dress boutique.
“What you need,” he says, critically holding a silk tie up to Yuuri’s cheek, “is a suit and tie that match you.”
“My old tie matches me,” Yuuri insists.
“Your old tie,” Viktor shouldn’t say it, he knows, but Viktor has never been anything but blunt, “is ugly and unremarkable. You’re the opposite.”
Yuuri shuts his mouth, screws his eyes closed, and hovers at Viktor’s elbow while he tosses through more ties. Close enough to sate the entirely inappropriate ache in Viktor’s chest that’s always, always there.
“Would you and your boyfriend like a bag?” The cashier asks, and all Viktor says is,
“No, thank you. Where’s your nearest trash can?”
Yuuri doesn’t comment on it, even when the old tie goes in the garbage and Viktor pushes him to gently sit on the bench outside, looping the new tie around his neck. He looks up from beneath the dark spread of his eyelashes—this isn’t fair, Viktor thinks—and smiles, wobbly.
“Would you go to dinner with me?”
Viktor slides the knot up, watches his Adam’s apple bob. Viktor wants to bite the delicious curve where his neck meets his shoulder.
“As a thank you for the tie? Yuuri, seeing you in fabric that does you justice is reward enough.”
Yuuri stands, too abrupt—his nose nearly knocks Viktor’s, and Viktor half stumbles back, until Yuuri catches his wrist, eyes aflame.
“Please,” Yuuri says.
Viktor can’t say no.
Somehow Yuuri is lovelier, dimly lit beneath a silver chandelier. A high end mall has high end restaurants, and Viktor had underestimated his heartrate’s reaction to sitting in a red velvet booth across from the man he’s begun to dream about.
Outside of the store, with a glass of wine in him, Yuuri seems infinitely more relaxed. He knows food—knows Italian pronunciation, even, when he orders from the waiter. He knows Viktor, too—remembers silly things he’s said weeks ago, inside jokes over sips of wine and Viktor dabbing at his lips with a burgundy napkin.
When Viktor offers him a taste of his entrée, Yuuri just opens his perfect mouth, waiting. Viktor can hardly be blamed, for fantasizing.
“Right off my fork,” Viktor whispers into Makkachin’s fluffy ear that evening. “And he ordered us dessert, Makka, my favorite kind, a whole one for both of us—“
Makkachin is ecstatic for him, snuffling closer across the covers and huffing happily in Viktor’s ear. Squeezing her, Viktor falls into easy, elated sleep.
She’s there the next night, too, when Viktor comes home one gilded watch richer.
“Is it for you?” Viktor questions as he carefully wraps it up. Would it be so wrong, to include a little note in the box, to thank Yuuri for the best dinner of his life—
“No,” Yuuri says, then, “it’s not.”
There’s lapis lazuli and cobalt around the watch’s face, and Viktor watches those golden hands tick away. He thinks of blue eyes.
“All right,” Viktor says. He doesn’t add in the note.
“Are you busy tonight?” Yuuri asks.
“Yes,” Viktor says, and, when work is done and the shop is locked up, he goes straight home. “What am I doing, Makkachin,” he whispers into damp curls, “what am I doing?”
Viktor knows it’s over, when he starts designing the ring. He knows.
Yuuri will eventually ask him to design a ring for the man he loves. Until then, Viktor designs one to give to him.
“I have tickets to the ballet on Saturday,” Yuuri says, biting his lip once, “from Mari.”
“Okay,” Viktor says.
“Come with me?”
On that sparkling evening he wears Viktor’s cufflinks and Viktor’s tie, and they both cry at all the right parts.
It’s only a matter of time, until Christophe’s monthly visits coincide with Yuuri’s frequent ones.
“Ah, Yuuri!” he greets. “I’ve heard so much about you!”
“This is Katsuki Yuuri,” Viktor introduces, in a pathetic effort to save face. He’s only discussed Yuuri on a lunch date or two or ten; it’s not like Christophe knows everything. “My favorite. …Customer.”
Yuuri turns pink. It’s probably because Christophe is unapologetically focused on his rear.
“Christophe is an appraiser,” Viktor offers. “He sometimes forgets that while crystals don’t mind being stared at, people do.”
“Oh, but your worth is quite high,” Christophe promises, and winks. “I don’t need a microscope to see that. Just like I don’t need a microscope to see that you get those eyes from your mother.”
Viktor stuffs down his curiosity, but it manages to come back up anyway. “You know Yuuri’s mother?”
“Of course,” Christophe says. “We’re both major players in the industry, Viktor, and god knows the Katsukis are one of the few you can trust to not give you blood diamonds. Surely you source from them, too.”
Viktor will have to look back through his accounting books. “Yuuri,” he says slowly, “you said your company was a small jeweler. You said I’d probably not heard of it. I’ve absolutely heard of the Katsuki Conglomerate, who source nearly a third of the world’s precious gemstones.”
“My subdivision, specifically, is only about ten percent of the company? Maybe twenty? I’m—I’m practicing before…”
Viktor has been wondering why Yuuri has insisted on always footing his half of the dinner bill, even though Viktor clearly has money aplenty to throw around. He has royalty wearing his designs, for god’s sake.
“I can’t believe,” Viktor says, and Yuuri flinches, pink lips opening and closing helplessly. “I can’t believe you’ve been wearing that suit to high-level business meetings. Yuuri. Please let me dress you.”
“Have to undress him first,” Christophe adds pragmatically, always the devil’s advocate.
“Okay,” Yuuri says, and even though Viktor knows he’s only agreeing to let Viktor suit shop with him, it still makes him melt.
Despite seeing Yuuri nearly every day, and becoming one of his closer friends, Viktor has yet to meet his lover. They don’t live together, and it doesn’t seem as though they sleep over often—Viktor’s toothbrush is the only one that sits beside Yuuri’s, for when they’ve gotten distracted and talked too late into the night.
“So when will you confess to me,” he finally says, Yuuri’s besocked feet propped up in Viktor’s lap as they watch their second horror movie of the night, “this great love of yours? When will this mystery man come to light?”
Yuuri just stuffs a pillow over his face, and doesn’t answer.
It’s nearly Christmas, when the inevitable happens and Viktor’s worst fear materializes.
Yuuri’s lips are chapped from the winter cold, and this obviously means they have to have their movie night at Viktor’s apartment even though it’s Yuuri’s turn, so he can sample Viktor’s wide selection of lip balms.
“Where’s the one with gold flecks,” Yuuri asks, only half joking, Viktor is sure.
“This is serious, Yuuri,” Viktor scolds playfully. “Don’t be cute about it.”
“I can’t help it,” Yuuri sasses back, deadpan, “I’m always adorable,” and it’s this rare show of confidence that has Viktor unconsciously pushing forward to match it, head dipping.
“You are,” he agrees. Everything tastes of cherries, suddenly; it’s Viktor’s favorite lip balm flavor, but he hasn’t put any on. The buzzing that’s always present in Viktor has fallen to a soothing hum, and then disappears into cold, quiet realization.
A single, fat tear makes its way down Yuuri’s face. Viktor almost reaches to wipe it away—but Yuuri reaches up and scrubs, hard.
“Ah, Viktor, I’m really sorry—“
“No,” Viktor says quickly, “I’m sorry.”
“Ugh, who does that,” Viktor’s head is spinning, crashing.
“I’m sorry,” Viktor repeats numbly.
“After someone k-kisses them,” Yuuri continues, babbling senselessly, and then another tear is falling. “Please don’t take the crying the wrong way, I just—you know how I get. I wasn’t expecting it, that’s all.”
“Of course you weren’t,” Viktor hurries to assure him. Viktor’s the one in the wrong. “Of course not.”
“It’s just been so long and I’ve always been the one who—oh, please, don’t look at me while I’m doing this—“
Viktor has to save this—Yuuri’s tears are falling more freely, face mashed into his hands. A simple kiss, and Viktor’s ruined the best friendship he’s ever had. Driven Yuuri to tears.
Viktor needs to make a gesture to show that he understands this was a mistake.
“Yuuri,” he says, “I’ll design your ring.”
And just like that, the tears dry, Yuuri’s fingers still caged about his eyes.
“You,” he breathes, “you mean it? It’s—it’s still a little early—it’s fast. And we just…kissed.”
“That we just kissed doesn’t have to matter,” Viktor desperately promises, even though it means everything to him. Then, “seven months from when you first started thinking about buying a ring is too early? All it is is a design, Yuuri.”
That gets him a nod.
“Let’s do it.”
Viktor needs—he needs reassurance.
“We’re okay?” He checks, holding his breath.
Fresh tears well in Yuuri’s eyes, and his arms go about Viktor’s neck, squeezing tight. “We’re more than okay, Viktor.”
The shoulder of his pajamas smells like Viktor, and pirozhki, and lip balm, and Makkachin.
“Tomorrow,” Viktor says, “you can tell me what you want.”
“I’ll tell you everything,” Yuuri agrees.
“Tell me about him,” Viktor urges.
Yuuri’s eyes are sparkling, and Viktor feels like a disaster. “We’re playing this game, still?”
“It’s not a game.” At least one person isn’t having any fun. “This is how I make designs. Tell me about him.”
“You know what he looks like,” Yuuri says. “You know that he surprised me, and he surprises me still. He… he’s always supportive, and we’re passionate about our work. He makes me feel like I can achieve anything, be anyone, that I want to be. He has so much faith in me, and he sees beauty in me—just like I see it in him.”
Viktor hasn’t yet moved his pen. He can’t bear to speak.
Yuuri takes it as a sign to go on. “He can be a bit ridiculous. But it’s because he embraces life, and he cares. We… take care of each other. I want to give him all my love.”
“Stop,” Viktor finally croaks. “I have the idea.” Viktor’s going to give Katsuki Yuuri a ring, and it won’t be in the way he wants to.
“While you start,” Yuuri says, “I’m going to go get your presents from my car.”
Viktor stands frozen at his drafting table, staring down at the blank sheet of paper. He tries to summon up some inspiration, and finds little. Yuuri returns, cheeks a little flushed, arms behind his back.
“No peeking, Vitya.”
Vitya rattles in Viktor’s brain, incessant. He’d told Yuuri he could call him that months ago, but he’d never done it. It’s almost distracting enough that he barely notices, when Yuuri slips those arms around him and presses his face between Viktor’s shoulder blades.
“Earrings first.” There’s a velvet box in his left hand. “You said they were your favorite. And then I had my people make another set which looked like them, but I modified them by setting in another gemstone and some metal latticework.”
Viktor opens the velvet box. Two sets of earrings rest on the white cushion. Viktor loves his work—he has to love it, to have devoted a lifetime to it—but he and Yuuri’s designs together…
“This,” he realizes, “is for me.”
“And this,” Yuuri prompts, lifting a box in his right hand. “And maybe some cufflinks, if you want some I’ve designed with you in mind. But I thought it was too much, for right after the first time we...” Yuuri takes very little in stride, including Viktor’s silence. He ducks under Viktor’s elbow and turns in his arms to peer at his face, hesitant. “You don’t like them. I’ve… I’ve gone too far. What the hell was I thinking, we kissed for the first time last night and I got so emotional afterward that you immediately drove me home. Just because you offered to make me a ring doesn’t change that.”
“That’s not what happened,” Viktor corrects automatically. “I kissed you and made you cry, and then tried to make up for it by offering to make an engagement ring for you to use on someone else.”
Yuuri’s jaw drops. “Someone else?” The incredulity is satisfying. That’s how Viktor feels, too.
“The man,” Viktor feels obligated to explain, “the man you’ve been in love with. The one you were nervous about proposing to, the first day I brought you inside my shop! The one that made you pace outside a jeweler for several weeks straight! The one—“
“IT WAS YOU!” Yuuri shrieks. “I—I had a huge crush on you. I was trying to build up the courage to come inside and talk to you, because I admire your work so much!”
Viktor takes a moment to process.
“You knew this,” Yuuri half accuses, half pleads. “You and all your—your teasing about how you perfectly matched the description of the man I wanted, and how if I just waited you thought you’d come to feel the same way. Asking when I was going to confess to you! You kissed me.”
“Yuuri,” Viktor says, horrified, “I didn’t know, and if I had, I would’ve kissed you months ago—I certainly would’ve given you the ring by now.”
“Ring.” Yuuri is relentless. “Viktor, what ring.”
“I have possibly,” Viktor admits, “definitely already designed and created an engagement ring for you?”
Yuuri slides a hand down his face, but his eyes are dry.
“We’re idiots,” he says. “Our heads are harder than any diamond.”
“But our hearts are soft,” Viktor consoles, pulling the man he loves into his arms, “aren’t they?”
“Yes,” Yuuri agrees, “they are.”
“I have a ring made for me already too,” Viktor beams, “don’t I?”
“Yes,” Yuuri agrees, “you do.”
“Yuuri,” Viktor sighs happily, “I do.”
Yuuri scowls at the travel brochure, something Viktor was not expecting today.
“You don’t understand. Phichit is in my wedding party and that means we’ll be hounded by paparazzi the entire time if we don’t rent out a private island, okay?”
“We could pretend they’re a few extra wedding photographers.”
“Do you want the paparazzi at our wedding, Viktor?”
“I’m just saying it would be very satisfying if, hypothetically, our wedding is broadcast everywhere. So everyone knows I’m Viktor Katsuki-Nikiforov.”
“Everyone’s should know that anyway,” Yuuri counters crossly, “I haven’t stopped talking about it for several months.”
On television, on talk shows, on runways and in the privacy of their own home.
“Fine,” Viktor says, “I’m happy with you, and my wedding ring, saying it for me.”
Yuuri laughs, warm. “I can’t wait to put it on your finger.”
“Can you believe we separately designed ones that look like a matching pair?”
“I’m surprised, Vitya.” Yuuri takes his hand, engagement bands rubbing together. “But yes, I can believe it. I’ll believe anything, with you.”