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Yuuri is needy, and usually it terrifies him.

Yuuri grew up held tight in his family’s pocket, clutching his Mama’s leg or standing close next to Dad by the sink or beside Mari in the bath. Yuuri grew up close to everyone after school and on weekends, and then with Minako’s steady hands on him in the dance studio. Yuuri grew up holding hands with Yuuko at the ice rink, turning long, slow figures on the ice. Yuuri grew up close to people, needing people.

The doctor called him nesty . Not a technical term. The doctor said it and then it seemed like suddenly everyone was saying it, all the time. Whispered by teachers to his parents when they think he isn’t listening, or hissed at him from across the playground.

Yuuri hates this thing about himself, this touch-starved, clingy, needy thing-- abject animal that dwells in his chest. This babyish, embarrassing, clingy thing.

Yuuri is needy, nesty, hungry, starved . Yuuri wants, and he cannot ask for these things he wants. This shelter that he craves.

Yuuri remembers the birthday his parents gave him Vicchan, a warm, living weight to lay close to him all through the day, the night.

Yuuri is needy, but he’s stronger than that, so he runs to Detroit, as fast as he can. He’s stronger than that. He’s stronger than this.

Yuuri sits, foolish, in the bathroom, trying to stifle a panic attack.

It’s funny, how his family gave him Vicchan so he would be less clingy and Yuuri ultimately abandoned him.

His phone rings. He takes as deep a breath as he can manage, and he answers it.

“Hi Mom,” he says. His voice feels terrible in his throat. Crackly and thick.

“I’m sorry,” he says, before she can say anything back. “I’m sorry.”

“Oh, Yuuri, no--”

“Tell Dad and Mari-- I--” he can’t quite breathe.

There’s a thump on the door and then a crash. Yuuri’s phone clatters out of his hands. He stumbles up and back.

Someone is standing in the doorway, a kid.

One of the junior competitors. He sneers, looking at Yuuri. Spits something in terse Russian before crowding in close to Yuuri’s face, green eyes firey.

“There isn’t room for two of us if you’re going to be like this. Pull it the fuck together, idiot,” he says, before turning on his heel and stalking out of the bathroom.

Yuuri tries to catch his breath-- to compose himself. He shuts his eyes and takes a long, deep breath. God , this is hard to do alone.

Yuuri takes a deep breath, and another. His heart keeps beating. He doesn’t have time for this. He’s still at the arena, he’s still in sixth. He needs to get to the hotel room, take a shower, and fall apart there. He has to wait. He can’t do this here.

Yuuri gets a handle on himself, and steps out of the bathroom. Step one, make it out of the arena. Step two, make it to the hotel. Step three, into the shower and fall apart there. Simple. No problem.

He throws his bag over his shoulder and manages to slink past most of the press-- he’s not trying to bring attention to himself so he only runs into Morooka, a member of the Japanese press.

“Katsuki-san,” he says. “You can’t give up! You’re too young to retire.”

Yuuri looks down, away from him. “Thank you, Morooka-san,” Yuuri murmurs. He steps away, or he tries to, when he bumps into Viktor Nikiforov.

This is the fifth time Viktor Nikiforov has won gold at this event. Yuuri would know. He’s seen every time he’s done it.

He looks at Yuuri for a moment before he says, “Oh! Would you like a commemorative photo?”

Yuuri looks at him. He still has sweat in his hair.

He doesn’t even know who Yuuri is.

Yuuri turns around and leaves in the other direction. He doesn’t speak to anyone and by the time he makes it to the cab, no one is asking any more questions.


 

Viktor tries not to overthink it. It’s hard not to.

The day is weird. Viktor has done this five times now, and every time, he’s strangled by a sensation-- my god, what have I done ?

Viktor stands on the podium, medal in hand, and behind his careful expression he is drowning in the feeling of doing this again, of knowing that whatever comes next, he’s done it before. He’ll get down from the podium, he’ll be swarmed by the press, and he’ll find himself shuffled from function to function until a week from now, when he’ll be alone and lonely in an empty apartment.

Viktor knows, holding the gold medal and smiling in front of the crowd, that this doesn’t mean anything. It never did. It has left him hungrier, emptier than when he started.

The day is the same, which is why running into the guy is sticking in his brain.

“Jesus, Viktor,” Yuri had murmured, standing beside him. “Could you be any more fucking oblivious?”

“Sorry?” Viktor answered, watching him leave.

“He’s a competitor,” Yuri hisses. “At this event? Katsuki Yuuri? Came in sixth?”

Viktor watches the silhouette of the man leave-- Katsuki Yuuri. “Really?” Viktor murmurs. “He seemed…”

“He’s pathetic but he’s one of your peers, asshole,” Yuri interrupts.
“He seemed smaller on the ice,” Viktor finishes. He looks like he has a raincloud stalking after him.

Viktor moves on, but he can’t shake him from his thoughts. He can’t figure out why.

Viktor moves on, but his thoughts linger in the arena. Brown eyes and flushed skin and the sensation of something shattering, finally.

Viktor threads his tie around his neck and ties the knot. He looks at his face in the mirror. God, he looks terrible.

He purses his lips and steps out of the door, roomkey stashed in his coat pocket.

Viktor thinks about the skater, about Katsuki, while the cab takes them to the banquet hall.

“Vitya,” Yakov murmurs next to him, “you need to focus.”

Viktor huffs a brief sigh. “Yes, Yakov,” Viktor says. “I know, Yakov.”

“You may have done this before, but this is just as important as the first time,” Yakov says. “You still need sponsorships for next year and--”

“Next year, right,” Viktor interrupts. “And I have to be a good sport and I have to be dignified and I have to be proper. I know, Yakov, I know.”

Yakov doesn’t say anything more to him, the rest of the ride to the banquet hall. Viktor is profoundly thankful for the silence.