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same song, different dance

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Victor finds waiting around in airports almost cathartic. There are so many people hurrying to get somewhere that they don’t even notice him. He likes that all that is expected of him, as he waits, is to exist as quietly and undisrupting as possible.

Whenever he knows he’ll have a long layover or will have to wait for the airplane for a long time – and with Aeroloft, that happens more often than not – Victor likes picking up an overpriced book from the first bookstore he finds inside the airport and use the receipt as a bookmark. There’s a neat collection of books from all over the world in his bookshelves back home.

Today Victor is waiting at the arrivals area, which is an almost novel experience for him. Victor doesn’t have anyone to wait for, usually he’s the one being waited on by his fans and reporters which is… fine. It is what it is.

Waiting for someone, and waiting for a flight is different. When Victor is waiting for his flight there’s a certain amount of nervous energy under his skin either in preparation for a competition or in impatience to get back home.

Victor finds that waiting for someone fills him with restless energy that he has to redirect somewhere, because doing nothing for even a short period of time makes Victor feel like he’s dying.

He bought himself a cup of overpriced tea and the first paperback he could find with a man with flowing hair on the cover and a distinct regency feel to it. He’ll survive.

He splits his attention between his book and the monitor displaying flights, and isn’t incredibly surprised by the fact that the one he’s waiting on has been delayed by almost an hour.

His phone buzzes with a notification and Victor quickly unlocks it, only to feel the usual pang of disappointment when he sees it was just Chris updating his Instagram.

It’s idiotic of him to still be so hopeful when it’s been almost a year since Sochi, when in one month’s time the Grand Prix series will start all over again and Katsuki Yuuri has as good as fallen off the face of the earth. Every single one of his social media accounts has been quiet for months, and fansites are unusually and eerily silent. There’s no news from him.

The last thing on Yuuri’s twitter is a four part apology for his performances in Sochi and All Japan that are absolutely heartbreaking to read wherein he mentions he’s going to focus on finishing his degree and will then decide how to proceed from there. And after that… nothing.

He hasn’t even appeared in Phichit Chulanont’s accounts aside from a couple of throwback pictures.

Victor doesn’t know what he’s waiting for or why he’s waiting for it. It’s been almost a year, and nothing.

He glances again at the monitor to see that the airplane has landed. It’ll be a while before they get off the plane and get their luggage, so Victor takes the time to like Chris’ newest Instagram post and leave a comment, and packs up his things slowly, before he heads towards the luggage retrieval exit.

They’re not hard to spot. A loud balding man and an even louder blonde teenager stand out among a crowd, even if they seem unusually quiet. There’s a depressive aura hunching Yuri’s shoulders and Victor almost feels bad for it.

Yakov spots him first and frowns as Victor approaches them.

“Victor, I told you not to come, we could’ve grabbed a taxi back,” he harrumphs, clearly displeased.

“And I told you I would pick you up,” Victor says with a cheerful smile. “How was America? Did you have fun?” He aims the questions at Yuri, fully expecting a full meltdown.

It never comes. Yuri just glares up at him murderously and lets his rolling suitcase topple over at Victor’s feet, smacking loudly against the floor as he keeps stomping his way to the exit.

Victor presses his lips together a little. “He’s really angry, huh? That bad?” he asks, bending down to pick up Yuri’s suitcase for him and following him towards the exit.

“He hasn’t lost in years,” Yakov says gruffly in that tone that exposes just how concerned he is, no matter how much he tries to pretend he doesn’t care. “What did you expect?”

“Shouting.”

“He’s angry with himself more than anything,” Yakov says, keeping his voice relatively down so Yuri doesn’t hear them.

“Do you think it was a bad idea, after all?” Victor asks, a little worried.

He was the one who had first suggested to Yakov that he should put Yuri in an international competition before the Grand Prix, and the Challenger series seemed like a great opportunity for Yuri to test himself. Yuri is good and he knows it, but he has a bad habit of underestimating his competition.

Victor had watched the competition, of course he had, and Yuri clearly underestimated his opponents just because they weren’t big household names like Victor or Chris are. Finishing third behind people he hadn’t even considered competition in the first place must have been a blow, but Victor hopes it’s one that encourages Yuri to take other skaters more seriously.

“He asked me to call Lilia,” Yakov admits.

Victor almost sighs with relief. Not a bad idea then. If anyone can whip Yuri into shape, Lilia Baranovskaya can.

“Do you want me to call her for you?” Victor teases.

“I am perfectly capable of calling my own wife!”

“Ex,” he reminds him.

Ex-wife. That’s what I said!”

“Sure, Yakov.”

“Brat,” Yakov spits, without any force behind it. “Tell me you brought my car and not that pink abomination.”

“I brought your car and not that pink abomination,” Victor parrots, turning in the parking lot and heading straight for his pink convertible.

Yakov sighs very wearily.

“Look on the bright side, Yakov,” Victor says cheerily, raising up his key to unlock it so Yuri can get inside and not just lean against it in the cold. “I can’t make you go any balder than I already have.”

“One day, you will meet someone who will make you go prematurely bald and justice will be served, Vitya.”

Victor immediately slaps his hand over his hair, accidentally smacking himself with his car keys. “You take that back!”

Yakov ignores him in favour of popping the trunk and putting the suitcases he’s been carrying inside.

Victor puts Yuri’s suitcase in the trunk before closing it and going around to the driver’s seat. He pretends to adjust the rearview mirror a little to check on Yuri who is slumped down on the seat and glaring unseeingly ahead.

The drive from the airport to Yakov’s isn’t terribly long, but still Yakov falls asleep in the car, since he probably couldn’t sleep a wink on the plane. Victor drives around and takes a couple back roads that make him double back until he’s sure Yakov is dead to the world before he heads to the next McDonalds and pulls up to the drive-thru.

“What do you want?”

Yuri stays quiet. It’s more than a little unnerving.

“If you don’t tell me, I’ll just order whatever I want for you then. You like the ones with the pickles right?”

“Fuck you, I don’t want your pity,” Yuri spits, and Victor could almost sigh in relief.

“I’m not getting you pity, I’m getting you McDonalds. Now are you going to pick or am I?”

Yuri glares at him through the rearview mirror, and Victor shrugs, pulling up to the ordering machine, and saying, “Hi, can I get a-“ before he gets rudely interrupted by Yuri lunging toward the window so he can shout his order at the machine, kneeing Victor in the thigh in the process, in what is one of the pettiest things Victor has ever witnessed.

“Will that be all?” the voice asks, as Yuri climbs back into the backseat with a self-satisfied smile.

“Yes, thank you,” Victor says, politely. Because contrary to some people he has manners.

Yuri is quiet for a minute as Victor slowly pulls up to the window, and then asks, “Aren’t you getting anything?”

“I’ll die before I do that to my taste buds,” Victor tells him.

“Ugh, rich people.” Yuri twists his nose at him, but doesn’t say anything when Victor pays for his meal and passes him the bags.

“Don’t spill.”

“I’m not five,” Yuri bitches and immediately almost overturns his coke onto the upholstery.

“And don’t get grease on the seats.”

Yuri glares at him and shoves as much of his burger as he can fit in his mouth, chewing obnoxiously loud.

Ugh, teenagers.

“Yakov told me you agreed to work with Lilia Baranovskaya,” Victor says as a way to start conversation.

“If that hag can make me win, then I don’t care what I have to do.”

“Don’t call her that,” Victor says reflexively, sure that somehow Lilia will just know and make him work en pointe until his feet bleed.

“What? Don’t tell me you’re afraid of her too,” Yuri snorts, wiping his hand on his shirt to reach for his soda. Victor watches him do it through the rearview mirror with a disgusted face.

“I’m not afraid. I just have a healthy dose of respect for her.”

“She can’t be worse than Yakov’s sadistic regiment.”

“Oh, you sweet ignorant infant,” Victor says, pityingly. “You have no idea what you’re getting into.”

«»

Yuri is working on the shitty program Victor gave him when Lilia Baranovskaya walks into the rink, her arrival foretold by the click of heels on the floor and Victor suddenly standing ramrod straight and whispering, “She’s here,” like he’s in a shitty horror movie, further proving that he’s a bitch.

“Yuri, come here,” Yakov calls him.

Yuri skates to the edge of the rink and stands as straight as he can in front of Yakov and the woman standing at his side. She’s taller than he thought she would be and reeks of old lady perfume. She looks down at Yuri like he’s something dirty on the soles of her heels.

“Yakov, why are you giving me a ten year old to train? You know I can’t bear children,” she says, distastefully.

How dare she! That hag! Who does she think she is?

Yuri opens his mouth to ask her just that when he suddenly finds it covered by a large hand.

“Yuri’s sixteen,” Victor says, still pressing his hand to Yuri’s mouth. “And one of the most dedicated skaters I’ve met.”

“Are you giving me your word for it, Victor Nikiforov?” she asks, narrowing her eyes.

Victor falters. Again because he is a bitch, so Yuri licks the hand covering his mouth, making Victor wrench it away with a disgusted sound, and wipes his tongue on his sleeve – Victor’s hands taste like coconut lotion and it’s awful – before he says, “I don’t need anyone to give their word for me! I’ll prove how good I am if it kills me!”

Lilia gives him a slow, cold and calculating once-over, and Yuri tries to stand as tall as he can, tips his chin up and straightens his back.

When she speaks next, she addresses Yakov, completely ignoring him. “I want to see his form.”

“Of course, Lilia,” Yakov says, in a way that implies he would say that no matter what she asked for. Yuri is surrounded by weak men, or so he thinks, until he finds himself doing the vertical splits with Madame Lilia Baranovskaya pulling one of his legs back as if she’s trying to snap his spine in half.

Yuri doesn’t make a sound. He gnashes his teeth together and endures it, because if this is what he needs to win, so be it.

Lilia drops his leg, and barely gives Yuri a moment to breathe before she’s prying his mouth open and inspecting his teeth.

“Hm, mediocre, but not a total lost cause.” She lets go of him and turns to Yakov. “He’ll move in with me.”

“What?!” Yuri says at the almost exact time as Yakov and with almost the same level of outrage.

“I expect him to be ready to move in by the end of the week, and I’ll need his training schedule and nutritional plan.”

“Lilia, be reasonable-“ Yakov starts.

“I am perfectly reasonable, Yakov Feltsman. You have asked me to train him and I will. I will not let you interfere and ruin him with your softness.”

Yakov opens his mouth to contest, but is quickly shut down by Lilia, who gives him a thoroughly unimpressed, almost disgusted look.

“Are you going to try to deny it? You spoiled Victor rotten, did you not? You spoil all of them. If it were not for the fact that I already had another man in my house, you would move in as well. Unfortunately two men are my limit, so weekly meetings will have to suffice to make sure you’re not ruining my training.”

“There’s a man living in your house?!” Yakov asks, going red in the face.

Yuri suddenly feels like he should back away from them, so he can watch the meltdown Yakov is about to have from a safe distance. It’ll be much more entertaining if he doesn’t go partially deaf in the process.

“I don’t see how that’s any of your business,” she says, turning away from him dismissively and facing Yuri again. “Do you have any objections, Yuri Plisetsky? If you agree to this, I can guarantee you I will turn you into something beautiful capable of winning even against Victor.”

Yuri hesitates for a moment. There’s only one thing holding him back. “… I have a cat.”

Lilia raises her eyebrows. “Is it fully grown?”

“Yes. I won’t aban-.”

“That won’t be a problem as long as I don’t have to deal with a kitten and you take full responsibility for it.”

Yuri had honestly expected more of a fight. Lilia Baranovskaya might be a cat lover, which definitely makes her look less like she lives in a gingerbread house and eats children for breakfast.

“Then I agree. Even if I have to give my soul to win, it doesn’t matter to me, that’s what I’ll do.”

It might be a trick of the light, but Yuri could swear that for a moment he could see Lilia’s lips curl up the slightest bit in something that could be mistaken for a smile.

«»

Yuri’s scrolling through his phone and sitting on his pile of suitcases outside of his building, waiting for someone to pick him up and take him to Lilia’s. Potya’s in her carrier on his tallest suitcase beside him, which she hates more than anything, so Yuri has to keep his fingers shoved through the grate so he can pet her a little and try to calm her down.

He frowns down at his phone, and tries not to grind his teeth too much when all he finds is more of the same.

It’s not like he cares that Katsuki decided to retire like the bitch baby he is, but there’s something about it that infuriates him, something about how he just dropped off the face of the earth without a word to anyone that makes him want to fly to Japan or wherever he is and beat him within an inch of his life.

And, in a quiet part of him, there’s something about it that makes him feel gut-wrenchingly guilty. It doesn’t matter how angry he tries to be, he’ll always loop back to this feeling, to the secret knowledge that he might be the one to have tipped Katsuki over into quitting.

He knows it’s not his fault. It’s not his fault that Katsuki had been weak and hadn’t handled the pressure of a Grand Prix Final, it’s not his fault that he was stupid to drop his coach before All Japan and then bombed that, it’s not his fault that he decided to quit, it’s not his fault that he might’ve been injured badly enough during All Japan to be forced into quitting, it’s not his fault.

But Yuri did yell at him in a bathroom in Sochi. Yuri did tell him to quit before he got to the senior division. So what if it is? What if it is his fault?

Yuri huffs and clicks out of the fansite he had been scrolling through and throws his phone into his backpack, before he turns fully towards Potya and tries to reach with his fingers as far as he can to pet her.

A car honks close by and Yuri startles, jerking towards the sound to see Victor’s obnoxiously pink car coming down the street, blasting shitty music. His dumb dog has his head out of the passenger seat and is panting happily at Yuri.

Is this man stupid?

“Why the hell did you bring your dog?!” he shouts.

Victor pulls up in front of him and peers at him over the top of his sunglasses. “I didn’t want Makka to feel alone. It’s my day off!”

The backseat door opens and Mila gets out.

“And why the hell is she here?” he asks, pointing accusingly. He should’ve just called a taxi.

“You’ll need someone with actual muscle to carry your suitcases. Lilia’s house doesn’t have an elevator, you know,” she says with a smirk, before picking a suitcase at random and lifting it above her head.

“Be careful with that!”

“It’ll be fine,” she says. Yuri can feel his eye starting to twitch.

“Relax, Yurochka,” Victor says, picking up another one and rolling it towards the back of the car.

Don’t call me that.”

 “Oh, and you don’t mind going in the back do you?” Victor tells him. “Makkachin likes the front seat best.”

Yuri knows, for absolute certainty that he’ll develop an ulcer before he’s done moving.

«»

The weather’s getting progressively colder and Yuuri has to bundle himself in layers of clothes to stay warm. Which means that, when his phone starts ringing, he struggles with it, almost dropping his sports bag before he manages to wrench one of his gloves off with his teeth and accept the call.

“Hello?”

“Yuuri,” Minako drawls into the phone, dragging out his name. “How’s my favourite student doing?”

“Minako,” Yuuri says slowly, unsure if he should ask or not, and then deciding that there’s little Minako can do to punish him through the phone, so. “Are you drunk?”

“No!” she says. “How dare you?! I raised you with my own hands and this is how you treat me? I can’t call to know how my favourite student is doing anymore? Ungrateful. You’re an awful child, Yuuri.”

So that’s a definitive yes for being drunk then. Yuuri had talked with Minako earlier in the day, at the same time he had talked with his parents and Mari, and Minako, as a general rule, isn’t the kind of person who needs to check up on him several times a day. Unless she’s drunk and feeling a little lonely.

“I’m sorry, Minako. I’m doing well, how are you?”

“Drunk,” she tells him. “Are you done with your class? Are any of those punk kids giving you a hard time? Huh? If they are, you tell me, Yuuri, and I’ll teach them a lesson, okay?”

Yuuri feels his lips curling up into a smile. He remembers Minako making that exact offer every time she suspected the kids at school were giving him a hard time. She hadn’t stopped even when he was all the way in Detroit.

“No one’s giving me a hard time,” Yuuri reassures her. “They all listen very well to what I have to tell them.”

It surprises Yuuri, how much some of the classes he teaches are willing to listen to him, when the students aren’t much younger than him.

“Good, good. Are you heading home now?” she asks.

“Yes,” Yuuri says, hiking up the strap of his bag on his shoulder and stopping next to the bus stop. “And I’m being careful going home, don’t worry.”

“Of course I’ll worry! What a stupid thing to say,” Minako huffs, words a little slurry.

The line is silent for a moment, as Yuuri stands there, fingers getting progressively colder as he hears Minako breathe in his ear, not really willing to hang up first.

“The Grand Prix is just around the corner,” Minako says, her tone almost wistful.

Yuuri grips the strap of his bag in his hand until he can feel his knuckles turn white.

He breathes out slowly to steady himself. “It is.”

“… Are you going to watch it?”

Yuuri shouldn’t. He knows it’ll feel awful to watch everyone he knows trying their best at something he loves when he can’t anymore. But it’s Phichit’s first year in the Grand Prix, and Victor’s competing, so…

“Of course,” he says, and is proud of how steady his voice comes out. He doesn’t know if it’s a lie or not.

Minako hums into the receiver, something that tells Yuuri he hasn’t managed to completely fool her, but then again, he was never really able to. Minako knows him too well.

“Maybe we could have a viewing party. Yuuko would like that.”

“Maybe,” Yuuri concedes.

Maybe not.

Yuuri knows that watching any competition will feel like self-flagellation, his penance for failing so miserably and spectacularly. He doesn’t want Minako or Yuuko to be privy to his pity party.

“Yuuri-“

“My bus is here. Talk with you later, Minako,” Yuuri says hurriedly. If it were anyone else he would hang up right away, but this is Minako. Hanging up on her would feel a little like slapping her in the face. Yuuri would feel riddled with guilt for the rest of the week.

“You’re a stubborn, stubborn child, you know that?”

“Yes, Minako,” he says dutifully, and bites his tongue over the I take after you.

“Talk with you later, Yuuri. Don’t do anything stupid.”

“I won’t,” Yuuri says, hurriedly jogging to the other side of the street. “Goodbye.” He hangs up just as the bus pulls up to the stop, and Yuuri gets on it, going the opposite way of home and straight to the rink even though he knows he shouldn’t. Even though he’s exhausted from too little sleep and a full day of work.

The Grand Prix is coming and Yuuri has his skates in his bag, and, right now, that’s all that matters.

«»

Lilia Baranovskaya lives in an older building that has clearly seen a lot of renovations, and looks the kind of expensive where you’re afraid to touch anything. She owns a couch, but Yuri highly doubts anyone has ever sat on it.

It looks lavish and cold and Yuri almost immediately hates it.

“Hi, Lilia,” Victor says, smiling wide. “I brought you wine!”

“Are you trying to bribe me into letting you bring your dog into my house, Victor Nikiforov?” Lilia asks terrifyingly.

“Yes?” Victor says carefully, not even having the decency to lie.

Lilia extends one hand for Victor to deposit the bottle in, and then spends a good three minutes looking it over.

“Very well. But if I see one nail mark on my floor, you’re paying to have it replaced,” she says, and then turns her back on him and disappears into the house.

Yuri looks at Victor and Mila uncertainly for a moment, before they collectively shrug and start hauling Yuri’s things inside, choosing to carry every suitcase in their arms instead of rolling them around for fear or leaving any kind of marks on Lilia’s pristine floor.

“Your room is down the hall, the last on the left. You may put your belongings there,” Lilia says, appearing like a ghost behind them, glass wine in hand, and a distasteful look on her face.

“You’ll be sharing a bathroom with my assistant. His room is across from yours so if you ever need anything, bother him and not me,” she tells him before disappearing back into the house.

“Ooooh, Lilia has a live-in boy toy,” Mila says, wiggling her eyebrows at them.

“You’re disgusting,” Yuri tells her, marching down the hall with Potya safely tucked in his arms.

He doesn’t really know what he expected his room to be like, but it wasn’t this. Maybe it’s because of Lilia’s general aura of disgust and how old she is that Yuri was half-expecting rickety old furniture that was too ugly to display anywhere people could see, and an ugly wallpaper. He half expected to have to clean things up and adjust it to his liking but his room looks… new.

There’s a wide window on one of the walls that is letting the afternoon light stream in. It smells like an IKEA display and like cleaning products. All the furniture looks new and as if it had been recently assembled.

And it does look like someone just picked a full IKEA display and called it a day. The furniture all matches and there’s a lot of storage space. Yuri appreciates that everything is muted dark blues and not obnoxiously bright childish colours.

There’s a desk pushed against the window with a lamp on it, but Yuri’s eyes catch on the folded up piece of paper and the cutesy cat toy next to it. He carefully puts Potya’s carrier on top of the bed and moves toward it, picking up the note and unfolding it.

Here’s all my contact info, in case you need anything. Please try not to disturb Madame Baranovskaya.

P.S. I didn’t know if you had a cat bed so there’s a new one in the closet, in case you need it.

Yuri looks suspiciously at the closet, and opens it, and like the note promised there’s a cat bed sitting innocuously inside. It matches the comforter on the bed. Yuri privately thinks that’s one the cutest things he’s seen in his life.

 “Do you need help unpacking?” Mila asks, already getting ready to unzip his suitcases to root through them.

Yuri lets the closet door slam closed and pulls his suitcase away from Mila’s filthy, prying hands.

“I can do it myself!”

She raises her eyebrows at him and smirks. “Afraid we’ll find your porn, Yurochka?”

“Shut up, hag!”

“Mila!” Victor gasps. “Don’t say that, he’s a baby.”

“I’ll kill you in your sleep, old man,” Yuri bites out, glaring.

“This is a lot, are you sure you don’t want us to help you unpack?” Victor asks.

Yuri thinks about his Katsuki Yuuri posters and the stuffed cats he has stashed in his suitcases.

“No, it’s fine. You won’t know where to put anything, anyway.”

“Okay!” Victor says, already turning to leave. Bitch. He probably didn’t mean it in the first place. “Let’s go, Mila.”

“Wait,” Mila says. “We can’t go yet.”

“Why not?”

“Yeah, why not? Leave, I have shit to do and I can’t let Potya out while Victor’s annoying dog is here.”

“Makkachin isn’t annoying. She came to help, don’t be rude.”

Yuri opens his mouth to answer, but Mila cuts him off.

“We need to check out Lilia’s assistant’s room. This is the perfect opportunity to take a peek at what kind of person he is.”

“That sounds-“ Victor starts.

“Dumb,” Yuri says, crossing his arms together. He might not have hesitated in any other situation, but the fact the guy went to the work to buy him a cat bed and a cute toy for Potya even though he doesn’t know shit about Yuri, makes him want to be half-decent to him.

“I was going to say invasive but that works too.”

“Well, Makkachin agrees with me,” Mila says, pointing across the wall, where Makkachin is scratching at the door opposite to Yuuri’s and whining.

“Makka, no!” Victor says, calling Makkachin to attention. He clicks his tongue, and Makkachin sits up straight. Yuri can’t believe Victor’s dog is actually trained. “Come here,” Victor calls, patting his thigh, and Makkachin dutifully trots over. “Do you want Madame Lilia to be mad at us?” he coos, leaning down to scrub behind Makkachin’s ears.

“Do you think he hoards food in his room?” Mila asks, side-eyeing the door. “We should take a look.”

“Why are you such a nosy bitch?” Yuri asks.

Mila shrugs. “I’m bored. And I want to know more about Lilia’s sugar baby.”

“I think it’s time to leave,” Victor says slowly. “Come on, Mila.”

“But… Lilia’s sugar baby!”

“Is none of your business,” Victor says. “And if we go now, we can stop anywhere you want before I drop you home.”

Fine,” Mila sighs. “Bye, Yurka, if you can’t reach the tall shelves call me.”

“Choke,” Yuri tells her, all but pushing them out of the room and closing the door in their face.

He sighs a little, taking a second to himself to get used to the new floor beneath his feet.

First things first. Yuri needs to get Potya out of her carrier and used to the room before she starts hating him for keeping her cooped up for so long. Yuri would be a lot more worried about how Potya would adapt if she weren’t so used to moving houses. As it is, Potya jumps out of her carrier and immediately starts exploring her new space.

Yuri then goes about taking the cat bed out of the closet and dropping one of Potya’s blankets on top of it. He’ll need to ask Lilia where he can put the rest of her things, but he saves that for later. Not because he’s intimidated by her – he’s not a bitch like Victor – just because he needs to get unpacked. The sooner he makes the room feel familiar to himself and to Potya, the sooner she’ll adapt.

He loses track of time as he gets his things sorted, and the next thing he knows, it’s completely dark outside and Lilia is knocking on his door.

“Dinner will be served in half an hour. Get cleaned up and be in the dining room by then,” she tells him.

“Is your assistant going to eat with us?” Yuri asks, trying to sound like he doesn’t really care.

“No. He’ll arrive later. You’ll meet him then and we can discuss your training schedule. He’ll be in charge of some of your training, and you are to listen to him. You should count yourself lucky that I have found someone like him to assist me, you’ll hardly find anyone more qualified,” she says, and sounds almost… proud. As if she’s bragging about her medal winning show dog or something of the sort.

If it weren’t for the cat bed, Yuuri would immediately hate this guy.

“Sure, whatever.”

Lilia doesn’t look impressed with him.

“Half an hour, Yuri Plisetsky. I hate tardiness, so don’t make me wait.” And with that she turns on her heel and walks off.

Living here might become a nightmare, but if that’s what it takes to win, well, Yuri has come this far. It’s not one hag that is going to make him falter.

«»

Time got away from Yuuri, as it usually does when he’s skating. And if it weren’t for the fact that the rink was closing, he could’ve probably skated for hours on end until his legs collapsed. But the rink closed, and Yuuri isn’t allowed to skate unsupervised anymore.

He doesn’t know what they think he’ll do if he’s alone on the ice. It’s not like he’s stupid enough to try quads when there’s no one to spot him. He’s retired. There wouldn’t be a point to anyway, and the sooner he accepts that the better. Never mind that he just spent two hours practicing Victor’s Free Skate routine from last season and drawing up programs that he’ll never get to use.

He’s not a skater anymore, he’s a dance teacher. At least he’s putting his degree to good use, even if the only reason he can is Minako’s good will.

Yuuri sighs, pushing the front door open and hurrying to take off his shoes.

“I’m home,” he says quietly, slowly taking off his outer layers. It’s warmer inside than it had been outside, and in the few seconds Yuuri has been standing in the entrance, he already feels like he’s boiling.

He heads for the dining room, following the telltale sound of silverwear hitting plates.

“Sorry, I’m late,” Yuuri says, pulling up a chair to sit.

“I hope you weren’t out being foolish, Katsuki Yuuri.”

Yuuri hears silvewear being dropped onto the table, and sighs. He was trying to avoid this.

“Of course not, Madame Lili-“

“What the fuck!” Yuri Plisetsky shouts, slamming his hands on the table and standing up.

Yuuri was really hoping to avoid this.

“Yuri Plisetsky, sit down,” Lilia tells him, using the same voice she uses on lazy students, steely and impatient.

“You!” Yuri says, pointing an accusing finger at Yuuri.

Yuuri decides the best way to deal with this is calmly, so he goes about calmly putting food on his plate, and passively says, “Me.”

“What are you doing here?!”

“I live here.”

“Yuuri is my assistant,” Lilia says, and looks like she’s about to elaborate when Yuri interrupts her.

“Since when?”

“The summer,” Yuuri answers. He had been expecting some sort of reaction from Yuri, but not to this extent.

“The summer! You just abandoned everything without saying a word and the entire time you were just here, hiding like a shriveling coward?”

“I’m working. This is my job,” Yuuri says, still not quite getting why he’s getting such a strong reaction. Sure Yuri had screamed at him in Sochi, but… “Why are you so upset about me being here? I didn’t think you’d even remember who I am.”

It’s been almost a full year, and Yuuri is a disgrace in Japan’s skating history. He didn’t think he would be anywhere on Yuri Plisetsky’s radar, who is Russia’s golden child. Yuuri is nothing, and Yuri is set to be the next living legend of figure skating. If anything, Yuuri would have expected him to refuse Yuuri’s help on account of how little respect Yuri has for him.

“You-“ Yuri says, and there’s so much emotion in his voice, so much unfiltered frustration and anger that he seems to have stricken himself speechless with it. Yuuri can see where his fists are balled up at his sides.

Yuuri isn’t really sure what to do in this situation. He looks at Lilia worriedly, who looks displeased as usual.

“If you’re worried about me being in charge of helping you with skating, don’t be. I don’t do that anymore,” he says. The last time he spoke with Yuri flashes through his head, and he adds, almost without meaning to, “I guess you got what you wanted, after all.” which seems to be the exact wrong thing to say, going by how Yuri pushes his chair back so hard he almost topples it over and storms off without a single word.

Yuuri stares after him, still uncomprehending. “What’s his problem?” he mutters. Maybe Yuri really hates him so much that even being in Yuuri’s presence is intolerable. Yuuri has no idea what he ever did to him, aside from letting Yuri yell at him in a bathroom stall.

“I take it you know each other.” Lilia says slowly, transferring her glare to Yuuri.

“We met once,” Yuuri tells her, because Lilia reminds him so much of Minako to the point he almost always finds himself spilling the truth without quite meaning to. “At the last Grand Prix Final. He yelled at me in the bathroom. I had never met him before that.”

“And why would he yell at you, Katsuki Yuuri?”

Yuuri frowns a little. “He wanted me to quit. Something about there not being space for two Yuris in the senior division.”

“I see,” Lilia says. “I only took someone as young as him on because you said you believe he will one day surpass Victor. Do you still believe that?”

“I do. Yuri Plisetsky is an ever evolving monster,” Yuuri says. He’s had a lot of time to watch past figure skating events. And teaching ballet to aspiring young skaters a couple of times a week has the side effect of him being asked for a second opinion from their coaches which invariably led Yuuri to watch a lot of Junior competitions. “He’s a genius.”

“I see,” Lilia repeats. “I’ll leave him in your care then. His form is atrocious. I want to see something passable before next week is up.”

“But-“ Yuuri starts, and quickly shuts his mouth when faced with Lilia’s determined gaze. He sighs inwardly, resigned to a week of trying to convince a hot-headed teenager who already hates him to listen to him enough so they can present something to Lilia that she deems passable. “I’ll do my best,” he settles on saying, because that really is all he can promise her.

“Good. I expect nothing less of you, Yuuri,” she says, picking up her silverwear to resume her meal. “So, tell me how classes went, anything I should be made aware of?” Lilia asks, which is Yuuri’s cue to start eating again and fall back into their dinner routine of Yuuri reporting back on his day.

Lilia always listens to him attentively, and in the beginning it had been terrifying, Yuuri had been constantly afraid of saying something wrong, of having done something wrong, but now it’s comfortable. Lilia is strict but she is not evil and she is not heartless. Yuuri had realized – read: had been told by Minako – that Lilia asked for a report every day to make sure Yuuri was adapting well to Russia and to teaching.

So Yuuri eats his food and tells her about his day, before he asks about hers in return.

«»

Yuri’s been pacing his room long enough to make himself dizzy, phone in hand as he argues with himself whether or not he should call Yakov to pick him up.

Yakov might look terrified of his ex-wife, and he might be a loud bastard, but Yuri knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that if he called him right now – at any hour of the day or night, really – and told him he didn’t feel well somewhere, Yakov would drop everything to come pick him up.

And Yuri is seriously considering calling him, because this? This is bullshit!

He can’t believe that- that absolute fuckass coward. Because that is what Katsuki Yuuri is. A spineless coward that had quit at the first big hurdle he had found without a single word to anyone, without a single care for what people might think, if they were worried or-

He’s a selfish bastard is what he is. He probably doesn’t give a shit about anyone but himself.

He’s a has-been and he doesn’t have shit to teach Yuri. He’s not doing anything in this house, he can win alone, he’s been doing it for years and he can keep doing it. He doesn’t need any hag or Katsuki fucking Yuuri to help him. He can do it all by himself!

Yuri unlocks his phone, ready to press Yakov’s contact number.

Except.

Except that’s not all true.

He falters and drops his arm again; ends up throwing his phone on his bed out of frustration.

Yuuri’s face mocks him from the glossy poster on Yuri’s wall. It’s from an exhibition skate Yuuri had done in his Junior years – the routine that had made Yuri really start paying attention to him and following his career. Yuri had it special ordered from a fan store because a lot of the times the shots they managed to take were better than the official ones.

Yuuri had ditched his pure as angel image for a hot second and decked himself in leather and eyeliner to skate to something faster paced. His expression is smug almost, in a roguish sort of way even though there was still the slightest bit of baby fat clinging to his cheeks and he was tiny.

The truth is, when Yuri had followed Yuuri to that bathroom in Sochi what he meant to say was I want to compete against you at your best next season. What he meant to say was I don’t know what happened today but you’re better than this and you can recover from it. But what had gotten out of his mouth was… not anything close to that.

The truth is, he looks up to Yuuri and him retiring was a blow that had knocked Yuri off-balance so thoroughly he had felt like the earth had tilted the wrong way the next time he got on the ice.

The truth is, he knows, better than a lot of others, how resilient and stubborn and good Yuuri could be. How he kept being knocked down and got up again, how every single Grand Prix event he had entered was riddled with a long string of bad luck and how much of a victory it had been for everyone that followed Yuuri that he had made it to the Final for the first time last year.

The truth is, Yuuri, even at his worst, even popping and downgrading and falling on jumps, even off-beat, had had one of the cleanest step sequences and spins, and had twisted his program into a song of desperation that was felt through the audience like a shockwave. And Yuri isn’t stupid. He might be stubborn but he is not stupid. He knows Yuuri can help him. He knows that the program he’s skating right now – On Love: Agape – it was made for Yuuri, and if there’s anyone who can teach him how to skate it to its full potential, it’s him.

“This isn’t fair,” he tells Potya. She blinks her big eyes at Yuri from where she had been watching him pace from her perch on top of his laptop, and then starts purring.

Fine.

Fine. He’ll let him help. He’ll go along with it. But not today. There isn’t a force in the world that could make Yuri walk back into the dining room with his tail tucked between his legs. He’ll just meet them in the morning, and act like nothing happened, like an adult.

Chapter Text

“Makkachin,” Victor calls out, jingling his keys next to the door and almost immediately hearing the telltale sound of Makkachin’s nails clicking on the floor. “Are you ready to go to daycare?” Makkachin’s tail starts zooming from side to side. “Are you excited to see all your friends?” Victor coos. Makkachin wriggles, stomping her front paws on the floor and looking up at him. “Are you?” Makkachin boofs very softly, still wiggling. “Let’s go then,” Victor says, and opens the door for her to get out in front of him.

Today he has another full day, so much so that he won’t even have time to take Makkachin out to lunch with him. As soon as the competitive season starts approaching, Victor finds himself with increasingly less time to spend with Makkachin, and it makes him worry that one of these days Makkachin will start liking the dog walkers more than she likes Victor.

Victor considers Makkachin as they ride the elevator down to the garage, and reaches down to ruffle his hand through the curly fur on top of her head. “You would never trade me away for someone else, would you, Makkachin?”

Makkachin tips her head up and licks at Victor’s wrist.

“Hm, I thought not either. I’m just being silly today.”

The elevator doors ping open and he lets Makkachin lead them to his usual parking spot, opening the passenger door for her to hop in and hooking her seatbelt to her harness.

The daycare is a bit out of Victor’s way, but he prefers going out of his way and making sure Makkachin is well taken care of to leaving her alone in the apartment all day. This way he knows she’s getting the socialization she needs, and that she’s not trying to get into Victor’s fridge.

Victor drops Makkachin off and makes sure she knows how much he loves and is going to miss her. At this point, the daycare staff don't bat an eye at Victor's behaviour. He appreciates how nonplussed they are about his general existence in their vicinity.

Going back to the car is an exercise in willpower, but Victor manages it somehow, like he does every day. It gets a little easier as soon as he’s inside and can drive away, because he knows the faster he finishes what he has to do, the faster he can come pick Makkachin up.

He switches the radio from Makkachin’s preferred classical music station to something a little more upbeat that will help him wake up, and wonders briefly if Yuri is doing okay at Lilia’s, and if he’s getting along with her assistant. Probably not, since he doesn’t know anyone Yuri “gets along with”.

Victor stops at a stoplight and drums his thumbs against the wheel to the beat of the music, looking around distractedly as he waits for the light to change.

His eyes catch on a flash of blonde hair and he focuses on it, squinting a little. The person looks vaguely Yuri shaped – short, twiggy, and walking like he’s about to go into a garage fight but doesn’t want the police to suspect it. There’s someone else standing beside him but they’re so bundled up in clothing Victor can’t even begin to guess who it could be.

Now that he thinks about it, Lilia’s St. Petersburg studio is nearby.

He leans a little further into the passenger seat, squinting a little harder, and promptly gets startled by someone honking behind him.

“Well, that was unnecessary,” Victor mutters to himself, starting forward again because he absolutely does not trust whoever is behind him to not rear-end his car.

He’ll just have to ask Yuri later if that was him or not. It is a shame he couldn’t really see Lilia’s assistant though, if that was him. Victor can’t say he’s not curious. In all the years he’s known Lilia – and Victor has known Lilia since he was a drooling baby – she has barely taken any assistants, much less any that would live with her.

It almost makes him wonder if Mila’s boy toy theory is true, which isn’t something he likes wondering about. Lilia is almost like an aunt to him. He does not want to think about her in any sort of sexual context.

He guesses he’ll find out soon enough. Now that Yuri is being trained by Lilia, he’s bound to run into her assistant sooner or later.

«»

Yuri is supposed to walk with Yuuri to Lilia’s studio and show him what he knows so Yuuri can evaluate his skill level and help him with any fundamentals he doesn't have down perfectly, and it’s… awkward.

This morning, Yuri had walked out of his room ready to kick Yuuri’s door down and yell at him to get a move on, but Yuuri had to go and ruin his plans by being nice and waking up early to make breakfast. Which, frankly, pisses Yuri off beyond measure.

He’s just so… so calm and comfortable. Yuri hates how Yuuri moves around Lilia’s house, how he navigates the bus lines and the streets of St. Petersburg, how he has a favourite coffee shop and people who know him by name, how he does all of this so disgustingly casually. As if the mere fact that he’s here, in Russia, close enough to slap, isn’t life-altering.

Yuri is still trying to grasp the fact that Yuuri really is here, and Yuuri is just… calmly existing in front of him. Like a bitch. Yuri wants to punch him in the face. He wants Yuuri to give him an excuse to, but he just… doesn’t. Another reason why he’s such a bitch.

Yuri is just left to follow him in awkward silence since Yuuri doesn’t even attempt to make conversation.

Aside from the angry phonecall he got from Yakov this morning, yelling at him for being rude to his witch of an ex-wife, Yuri’s morning is really… anticlimactic.

He’s ready to fight, but there’s nothing for him to fight and that’s leaving him more frustrated than he can put into words.

In Lilia’s studio, Yuuri greets the desk attendant by name, the Russian heavily accented on his tongue, but there’s no hesitation in the way he speaks. And even something as innocuous as that pisses Yuri off.

Yuri hates how Yuuri is greeted and greets back almost everyone they walk by in the hallways on their way to the locker rooms.

He especially hates everyone in this locker room who tries to be friendly with him, and unabashedly ogles at Yuuri as soon as he turns his back to get changed. They’re all disgusting.

“Ready?” Yuuri asks, turning to him for the first time since he started changing.

Yuri opens his mouth, answer ready on the tip of his tongue, and then just stands there with his mouth open for a solid second because, “What the fuck are you wearing?”

Yuuri looks down at his loose long sleeve shirt and leggings, then back up at Yuri. “Practice clothes?”

“I meant in your hair?”

“Oh.” Yuuri touches his hair. “Hair clips,” he says, casually as if he’s not wearing the brightest hair clips Yuri has ever seen in his life. One of them has a badly done glittery blue bunny charm on it. “One of my students gave them to me.”

“How old are they? Six?”

“Seven, actually,” Yuuri says. Which is absolutely fucking ridiculous. Katsuki Yuuri is one of the former top male figure skaters and he’s holed up in a dance studio teaching seven year olds, and wearing brightly colored and tasteless hair clips while doing it.

“You need a haircut,” Yuri tells him, looking at the sparkly hairpin in disgust.

He doesn’t actually.

Yesterday, Yuri had been too angry to really notice the changes in Yuuri, but today they’re glaringly obvious. The hair is one of them, longer than Yuri had ever seen him wear it, falling messily just past the rim of his glasses and with the gentlest curl at the nape of his neck, like Yuuri hadn’t bothered to even so much as trim it since Sochi. He probably hasn’t, and it suits him, gives him a rounder look, or maybe it’s just that he dropped his competing form and looks just the slightest bit rounder around the cheeks and thighs.

Yuri would bet if he poked him in the stomach it would be soft too.

“Yeah, maybe,” Yuuri says, because he’s a bitch coward. It makes Yuri grind his teeth how he deflects any attempt at conflict. It’s almost like Yuuri’s belittling him, like he doesn’t care enough about his opinion to react to the things Yuri tells him.

Yuri opens his mouth to try something else, but Yuuri is quicker than him.

“Are you ready?” He glances down at his phone and frowns a little. “I have a class in two hours and I want to make sure you’re in good enough condition that Madame Lilia won’t tear you apart.”

“As if she could,” Yuri snorts, moving past Yuuri to head out.

And even if Lilia was anywhere as terrifying as everyone was making her out to be, he doubts Yuuri would be able to get him anywhere close to her standards. He’s probably the kind of sniveling, spineless teacher who lets himself be pushed around by his students and can’t control his own class. Yuri has no doubt that Yuuri is the kind of soft-hearted person who is too gentle to get Yuri anywhere.

Besides that, the concept that Yuuri could do anything better than Yuri can is laughable. Yuri is younger and more flexible. His body is still forgiving. In comparision, Yuuri is a decrepit old man.

This two hour session will be a breeze.

One and a half hours later and Yuri is eating his words, hands on his knees as he pants, trying to catch his breath.

“That was pathetic,” Yuuri says, tapping Yuri on the cheek with his water bottle. “I thought you were supposed to be good at this.”

“Fuck off,” Yuri spits. The effect is completely lost since he’s wheezing too much to put any force behind the words. He snatches the bottle from Yuuri's hand and takes greedy gulps, almost choking with how fast he's drinking.

“I will, in about,” he glances at the clock on the wall, “twenty-three minutes.” Yuuri gives him time to drink water and catch his breath. He looks Yuri over critically before he asks, “Are you ready to learn yet?”

“Just say you hate me and leave,” Yuri tells him.

Yuuri snorts. It’s a strange sound to hear in person. “I don’t hate you. This is the standard Madame Lilia requires from all her students. You told me you knew what you were doing so I expect you to know. Do you think Madame Lilia will be as patient about you wasting her time as I am? She won’t.”

“You think I’m wasting your time?” Yuri spits, turning on him.

Yuuri doesn’t even flinch. He doesn’t so much as blink, when he calmly delivers his “Yes.”

Fuck, he’s ruthless.

“Any student who isn’t willing to let me teach them is wasting my time.”

“Is this how you treat the kids you teach? Have none of their parents come to beat your ass, yet?”

“No. This is how I treat my professional dancer class, who tells me they know what they’re doing and not only deliver but let me correct them when they’re wrong. But if you would prefer I coddle you like a child, instead of treating you like a professional skater, I can.”

Yuri grits his teeth, fingers curling into fists. It’s frustrating, realizing that Yuuri had been treating him seriously and that in response he had been acting like a child. It’s like Yuuri won the silent argument they had been having.

He can always leave, and deal with the consequences later. He doesn’t have to put up with any shit from anyone, especially from a has-been like Yuuri.

He uncurls his fists, straightens his back as much as he can, and tips his chin up. His shoulders remain tense, still ready for a fight, but if one does happen it’s not Yuri who will start it.

A bronze finish still tastes acrid in the back of Yuri’s throat, and it reminds him of his failure every time he swallows down. He wants to be someone who has a chance at the podium. Someone who can actually go up against Victor and give him a run for his money, someone who can maybe even push him off a first place finish.

He takes a deep breath in, and lets it out along with the words, “I’m ready to learn.”

Yuuri is quiet for a couple of seconds, looking him over consideringly, probably trying to measure how serious Yuri is being right now.

“Good,” he says. “Let’s start again with the basics. Your form is awful.”

Yuri barely contains himself from telling Yuuri to fuck off again, and instead he listens.

By the end of the hour Yuuri has corrected a dozen tiny little things, from the angle Yuri bent his arms at, to the way he tilted his head, until Yuri was on his last nerve. Standing still and being directed isn’t something he enjoys.

Lilia arrives at the end of their hour on the dot and speaks briefly with Yuuri before she runs Yuri through positions, and Yuri finds himself feeling very grateful that he had time to properly prepare because the way Lilia tears his form apart and hones in on every out of place twitch of Yuri’s muscles, is frankly brutal.

Yuri feels a little defeated when she calls their session to an end and gives both Yuri and Yuuri a detailed list of things he needs to work on.

“That went so much better than I expected,” Yuuri says once she’s left, and Yuri’s about to bristle at what exactly he means by that given that he was just given a harsh talking to, when Yuuri says, “You’re a fast learner, you’ll catch on quick.”

And if Yuri feels very quietly smug about that, then it’s nobody’s business but his own.

«»

Yuuri finishes his classes for the morning, and quickly dodges the couple of people who invite him for lunch. It’s not that he doesn’t enjoy some of his students’ company. Yuuri would even feel comfortable calling some of them friends, it’s just that he prefers eating alone, sometimes.

He doesn’t like imposing on them, and he knows at least part of the reason why they always ask, is out of pity for him.

Eating alone brings a lot of perks for Yuuri. Aside from maintaining his social anxiety at a manageable level, Yuuri gets to go to one of his favourite places in the city: the dog park only a couple of blocks away from the studio. And the reason why Yuuri loves that park so much is the company.

Just as he finishes his sandwich Yuuri hears the telltale sound of a small pack of dogs making their way down the pathway, and Yuuri can’t help the happy smile that curls his lips at the sight of so many truly excellent dogs, or how it grows, when one of them spots him and immediately starts pulling on their leash to get closer.

Yuuri should probably feel bad about the poor dog walker, being dragged over by four over-enthusiastic dogs, but he’s too busy trying to distribute his love to all four of those excellent dogs and cursing the fact he doesn’t have four hands to really worry about it.

“Good afternoon, Yuuri,” the dog walker says, and Yuuri takes half a second to feel bad over the fact that he never manages to remember their name. He knows that he knows it, but he kind of… forgot, and now it’s been too long for him to ask without sounding rude.

“Hi,” he says, quietly, too distracted greeting the dogs.

Yuuri knows three of them by virtue of how often these little happy meetings happen. There’s a golden retriever old boy that is an absolutely good and that lets the others jump all over him and waits patiently to get petted, a pug that always leaves drool on Yuuri’s pant legs and has three full names, and - Yuuri’s secret favourite - a brown poodle that looks like a slightly darker version of Vicchan, and has the same name as Victor’s poodle which Yuuri finds kind of funny, but as someone who named his dog after Victor himself, he’s not about to judge someone for naming their dog after Victor’s dog.

She’s an extremely good girl. Yuuri would be lying if he said he never thought of stealing her. Of stealing all these dogs, really.

“New girl?” he asks, giving the back of his hand for the german shepherd baby he has never seen before to sniff at.

She seems to approve of him and bumps her cold nose against his hand, giving it a soft lick before gently chewing on his fingers.

Yuuri could cry. What a good girl. He loves her.

“Her name is Bear,” the dog walker tells him.

“That’s a great name,” Yuuri says, and then turns to her and starts petting her gently. “Hi, I love you so much, you have a great name! What a beautiful, strong girl,” he coos.

The poodle worms her way under one of Yuuri’s hands, demanding attention. “Oh, yes, you too. I love you too,” he tells her, so she doesn’t think Yuuri forgot about her. And then he has to do the same for the other two because he’s not a monster.

You truly come to grasp your own mortality and the fickleness of the gods when you have too many dogs to pet and not enough hands. This truly is an unforgiving world they live in. And yet it is the best part of Yuuri’s day.

The dog walker is laughing at him, but does Yuuri care? Yes. Yes, he does. But not enough to stop. Dogs trump embarrassment every single time.

“Hey, Yuuri, I was wondering if,” the dog walker starts, and Yuuri unwillingly lifts his eyes from the good dogs. They stutter a bit, curling the leashes they’re holding around their wrists and uncurling them again. “Um, if you might want to go-“

Yuuri’s phone starts ringing, startling him and prompting one of the dogs to bark at the noise, which of course makes the rest of them start up too.

“Ah, sorry,” Yuuri says, taking it out of his pocket as quickly as he can, and swiping his finger through the screen. “Sorry, that was my alarm, I have to go. I’m going to be late. I’m really sorry,” he says, more to the dogs than anything.

“That’s okay,” the dog walker says. “Will you be here tomorrow?”

“Of course,” Yuuri says, smiling down at the absolute best dogs in the world. “Wouldn’t miss it for anything.”  He makes sure he has everything he needs before he rushes off. He has a meeting with some of the parents from his kids’ class before he actually has the class which is going to be stressful beyond measure. At least he could relax for a little bit.

Yuuri makes a mental note to buy dog treats for next time. They deserve it for brightening Yuuri’s day.

«»

Yuri’s sweaty and tired, and he’s been grinding his teeth so hard, he gave himself a headache. It’s not even that he’s physically tired, at this point. He can deal with being physically tired, if his day had just been practicing and pushing his own limits, Yuri wouldn’t complain.

But instead he had been forced to sit down with Lilia and go over his schedule, his nutritional plan, every single program he’s ever skated to, every single dance class he ever took, and possibilities for his new programs that are all so far from what Yuri wants, and- Yuri’s tired, and bored, and frustrated that he’s losing his time when he could be practicing.

And adding insult to injury, Lilia had given him an errand like he’s some sort of child. She had even written it down on a little slip of paper before sending Yuri on his way.

Yuri hates it. He hates being babied, he hates how Lilia is clearly leaning on his androgyny, how she wants him to become a prima as if he’s a girl. He hates how he’s compared to Victor when he was the same age, slim body, long hair, angelic face. How these things are thrown at him like compliments.

It’s all fucking Victor’s fault for giving him that disgusting program, about unconditional love or whatever the fuck. As if Yuri is supposed to know what he means by it.

The Grand Prix will be his senior debut, and he thought, now that he wasn’t in Juniors anymore, he could ditch the bullshit programs, but Yakov says he’s too young to choreograph his own, and they keep going over his head with decisions about what Yuri will do. It’s frustrating.

After all this time, and the only thing he’s gained for going into seniors is being free of his dumb promise to Victor and finally being allowed to do quads.

He crumples the piece of paper in his hand and looks for the classroom where Yuuri is teaching, so he can deliver the stupid message and then be done with today.

When he finds it, he doesn’t bother knocking, just throws the door open and yells, “Katsuki!” into the room, and then, as soon as his brain comprehends what he’s seeing, “What the fuck!”

“Oh, Yuri, could you wait ten minutes, I’m finishing up this class,” Katsuki Yuuri says as if he isn’t laying on his back on the floor with a guy on top of him, as if he doesn’t have one of his knees hooked over the guy’s shoulder, as if he doesn’t have his arms stretched up with another guy holding his wrists.

Yuri’s brain kind of screeches to a halt and starts making this horrible static-y noise.

It doesn’t happen often, but Yuri wonders if he’s old enough to be seeing this.

He watches for a moment, and realizes they’re trying to figure out some kind of transition step, and that he didn’t just walk into some sort of weird sex thing. Yuuri seems to be teaching them how to pull someone by the arms without putting strain on the shoulders, and Yuri is left to wait while he does it, pretending he’s not as interested as he actually is.

He watches as Yuuri is pulled around on the floor and lifted up, and as he effortlessly pulls another dancer around.

When Yuri had imagined how his first meeting with Yuuri would go - before Sochi happened - this Yuuri is the one he had expected to meet. Not the trembling, shaking thing he had yelled at in a bathroom in Sochi, and not the shameless, bold, ridiculous drunk who had challenged him during the banquet, but this. The cool and collected, and professional. The one that passed by reporters and didn’t say much aside from a chilly “No comment.”

Yuri had always imagined Yuuri as someone cool and unflappable, and now he doesn’t know what to think.

“Okay, let’s run through it one final time before we call it a day,” Yuuri calls, moving towards the sound system set up in the far side of the room, and waiting until everyone is in their position.

Then he hits play and El Tango de Roxanne starts playing through the speakers, which Yuri only knows from Victor repeatedly playing the Moulin Rouge soundtrack in his car. He watches the choreography and watches Yuuri watching it. It’s fast paced and involves tossing around some twink that seems to be one of the main dancers.

They stop before the music ends, clearly not having choreographed the rest of the song, and Yuuri stops the music as they all stare at him, out of breath and not moving from their final positions.

“You did well,” Yuuri says, and the whole classroom relaxes. “I’ll see you next class.”

As soon as the class is over, Yuri pushes himself off the wall and stomps towards Yuuri. “Took you long enough,” he huffs, pushing the slip of paper Lilia had given him into Yuuri’s hands. “If the hag gets mad at me for taking too long…” Yuri says, letting the threat hang in the air.

“Don’t call her that,” Yuuri says distractedly as his eyes skim the paper.

“Hey, Yuuri,” one of the dancers comes over. His practice clothes show way too much skin in a classroom that doesn’t even have heating. Yuri side-eyes him with a sneer. “Are you doing anything after this?”

Yuuri barely spares him a look, as he says, “Yes,” and then folds the paper and goes to get his things, leaving the dancer standing there staring at nothing.

If Yuri was a kinder person he’d repress his laughter, but Yuri isn’t a kinder person, so he laughs in the dancer’s face because it is frankly hilarious. The dancer glares at Yuri like he wants to start shit. Yuri smirks in his face because he is absolutely ready to start shit. He’s got pent up energy under his skin and he’s dying to let it out.

The dancer opens his mouth to say something, but is cut off by Yuuri coming back, with his sports bag slung over his shoulder.

“See you tomorrow,” Yuuri tells the dancer, offering them a polite smile, before heading for the door.

Yuri hesitates for half a second before he follows him out. “Hey! Where are you going?” he shouts after Yuuri.

“I have to cancel a class for tomorrow,” Yuuri says, “And Madame Baranovskaya is having dinner with Coach Feltsman so we need to go grocery shopping.”

“We?” Yuri asks, voice a little higher than he intended it to go.

“I don’t know what you like,” Yuuri reasons. “You can go home, if you’d prefer.”

“Do you even know how to cook?” Yuri asks.

“Of course,” Yuuri says, only half-paying attention to him.

“Fine. I’ll come with you,” Yuri says, trying to sound as put out as he possibly can about it, and wondering if he’ll be able to sneak any snacks into their groceries without Yuuri noticing.

The answer to that turns out to be yes, and Yuri feels smug all the way back to Lilia’s apartment where he finds himself following Yuuri’s lead in where to put away the food, and then in starting dinner.

If you had told Yuri that he would find himself helping Katsuki Yuuri cook dinner, he would’ve kicked you in the shins and called you a bitch liar, but here he is, in Lilia’s kitchen, cutting vegetables. The worst part about it is how comfortable it is. It’s off-putting.

Yuuri has a sort of calm, understated presence about him, especially when his movements are slow and practiced as he moves almost in time with the songs playing from his phone. The Yuuri of the banquet was loud, and demanded attention from anyone that his eyes landed on, which was a contrast with how he seemed during competitions, deadly focused, dismissive of the press or demanding their full attention in turns, demanding everyone’s attention when he stepped on the ice.

And now he’s… quiet.

He doesn’t make an effort to start conversation, doesn’t fill the silence with chatter, only speaks when it’s necessary, and when he does it’s in a relaxed tone, unfailingly polite. If Yuri tries to press back against him, he immediately yields, as if Yuri were a bratty child prone to tantrums if contraried.

They even sit down and have a civil dinner. It’s day two of knowing that Katsuki Yuuri is in Russia and Yuri still has no clue what the fuck to do with it.

“Madame Lilia is talking with Coach Feltsman about your programs and drawing you a new schedule. We’ll need a recording of your programs to be able to change them up, so if you could do that tomorrow, that’d be great.”

“Do it yourself!” Yuri says, more out of impulse than because he really objects to it.

Yuuri pauses for a moment, looking down at his plate.

It occurs to Yuri that he might be trying to avoid the rink, to avoid Victor.  Yuri would too if he ever acted as embarrassing as Yuuri had in Sochi. He’d fake his own death and move to a different country.

“I’m not going to the rink,” Yuuri says, and there’s something about his voice that’s distinctly different from how it had sounded up until now, but Yuri can’t quite put his finger on what it is.

“Why? Are you trying to avoid Victor?” he asks and watches as Yuuri’s shoulders draw up and he sets his fork down a little too forcefully. He doesn’t say anything to counter it and Yuri knows he hit the nail on the head. “You’re gonna have to run into him when we’re running through my program-“

“I’m not stepping into the rink,” Yuuri says. His fists are clenched, his voice has hardened and there it is: the Yuuri he saw in interviews and ducking from reporters, cool and  firm, giving no room for argument. “I will help you choreograph your new programs because Madame Baranovskaya has asked it of me and I am her assistant. I will help you with ballet, I will help you with conditioning if I need to, but I’m not going to the rink with you,” he says, and a little part of Yuri, the part that has posters taped to the inside of his closet doors, and a curated playlist of programs, and has spent too much time yelling at people in skating forums, feels that like a punch to the gut.

“You hate me that much that you won’t even do your job properly?” Yuri asks, and covers any tremor in his voice with cold, crackling anger.

“Why would I hate you?” Yuuri asks, sounding for a second baffled.

Because I yelled at you in a bathroom. Because I might be the reason why you quit. Because I’m annoying and intolerable and make everyone’s job harder than it needs to be, but I can’t make myself stop. Because I haven’t been nice to you once since I met you. Because-

“It has nothing to do with you. Skating isn’t part of my job anymore. That’s- that’s not what I do. I’m an assistant now. A dance teacher.”

“That’s bullshit! You’re a skater! You don’t stop being a skater just because- because you quit! That’s not how it works!”

“Yes,” Yuuri says, sounding out the word like he thinks Yuri is stupid. “It is. And I don’t need to have this conversation with you.” His tone carries a finality to it, as if that is supposed to end the conversation, as if he gets to choose when they stop.

Yuri should probably stop but he’s so angry (and guilt-ridden, and distraught, and disappointed, and-) that he can’t let it end there.

“You’re a coward!” he spits. “Did you even care about winning at all? About skating? How could you just quit when you could-“

“Could what?” Yuuri snaps. “Keep failing? Go on until my body broke down? Keep throwing money at something until I made my parents file for bankruptcy?” he says, each question harsh, and almost angry. And then a little gentler, a little more resigned. “I peaked in Juniors. That’s all there is to it.”

Yuri stands from his seat, fists clenched, practically vibrating with anger, because Yuuri is a coward and everything he’s saying is wrong, and-

Yuuri tilts his chin up to look calmly at him.

“I don’t understand why you care if I skate or not.”

Because Yuri wanted to skate against him. Yuri wanted to beat him. Yuri wanted to see him at his best and have to struggle and claw his way into winning. Yuri wanted to be looked at as an equal and have his skills acknowledged by someone he had looked up to. Someone who knew what struggling was.

But he doesn’t say that- can’t say that.

“If you’re worried about this affecting your training, don’t be. I’m more help off the ice than on it anyway, and I’ll do my best to help you,” Yuuri says and picks up his plate still with food on it, and his glass still half full and gets up to take them back to the kitchen.

“I’ll prove you wrong!” Yuri shouts at his back. “I’ll show you you’re not done yet! I’ll make you compete again, and then I’ll beat you!”

Yuuri looks over his shoulder at him, a little confused, and with an expression that lets Yuri know he doesn’t believe him one bit. “You’re welcome to try,” he says, and then turns to leave.

Yuri stomps his way into his room and slams the door as hard as he can, not bothering with cleaning his plate up. Let Yuuri clean it. That’ll teach him.

«»

At 2am, he’s still awake, and after tossing and turning for three hours, decides to tiptoe his way into the kitchen for some water, making sure he's quiet enough not to wake up Yuuri because he doesn’t want to see him right now.

He almost has a heart attack as soon as he inches the door to his room open and sees Yuuri’s door across the hall wide open. But then he remember he isn’t a bitch and steps out as quietly as possible, which turns out… he doesn’t have to do, because a quick glance into Yuuri’s room lets him know there’s no one there.

Yuri almost walks right back into his room, thinking Yuuri might be somewhere else in the house. Except all the lights are turned off, and when Yuri ventures into the kitchen, there’s no one there. There’s no one in the dining room or in the living room either. Yuuri’s jacket is missing from the hanger.

Yuri frowns, and tries not to feel bad about it. He gets himself a glass of water and takes it back to his room and then tosses and turns some more until Potya sits on top of him and he’s forced to stay still until he can sleep.

At 6:30 am, he walks into Madame Lilia’s studio and finds Yuuri still in yesterday’s clothes passed out asleep on the locker room bench. There’s at least three jackets draped over him – one of them Yuuri’s, the other two probably belonging to one of the guys who are puttering around in the locker room, all of them being as quiet as they possibly can.

Yuri considers just pushing him off the bench to wake him up, it’s not like he doesn’t deserve it. But then he decides it’s not worth his breath and goes about changing into his practice clothes so he can start his morning session with Lilia.

«»

“I need you to record me,” little Yuri asks, presenting his phone to Victor, and sounding like uttering those words is causing him physical pain. “Lilia’s orders,” he adds.

“I’m flattered you’d ask me,” Victor teases, putting his hand to his chest, because he knows little Yuri hates it when he does this sort of thing.

“There’s no one else around I know,” Yuri says, and pushes his phone harder at Victor.

Victor takes it from him, and takes a second to familiarize himself with the interface, and locate the record button.

“Are you changing your programs?”

“Yeah. The Free is boring and the one you gave me is garbage.”

“It’s not garbage,” Victor says immediately. He’s very attached to both versions of On Love, because, well, because Yuuri, and because they marked a point of change in Victor’s life, even if, for some reason, he can’t bring himself to skate either of them.

He might have choreographed them, and worked out all the kinks on both of them until they were ready for competition, but they were never meant for him. Even when he was choreographing them, it wasn’t him who he was picturing skating them. It wasn’t little Yuri either, but you can’t always get what you want.

“Yes, it is.”

“I could’ve won with it,” Victor says, because maybe he feels a little defensive of it. “Easily.”

“Yes, yes, whatever. You’re God and every program you touch is made of gold, can you record me already? I have shit to do,” Yuri says.

“How about a deal?” Victor asks, tilting his head a little, because well, it worked before. It might work again.

“I don’t make deals with you, satan.”

“A bet, then,” Victor concedes, trying not to laugh. “Loser does anything the winner wants.”

Yuri is quiet for a second, and then as if he’s unwilling to pull the words out of his mouth, he asks, “What kind of bet?”

Victor tries not to grin too obviously. “Well, I know that this program can break the current world record for the short program. At least, I could do it, but I bet you won’t be able to figure out how to do it before the season ends.”

“Fuck you! I could beat every single one of your records in my sleep!”

“Shake on it?” Victor asks, offering Yuri his hand.

Yuri takes it and tries to squeeze his fingers as hard as he can, which isn’t really very hard. He’s strong, don’t get Victor wrong, any skater needs to be, but he’s built like a particularly fragile twig.

“It’s a deal then,” Victor says, and lets himself grin wide.

Yuri pulls his hand back as if burned.

“Bastard demon,” he hisses. “Just record me already!” He skates into one of the free sides of the rink and glares over at Victor. Victor obligingly starts recording.

He films Yuri doing both his programs from four different angles at his request, and when they’re done it’s time for lunch.

Victor wishes he could go pick up Makkachin for lunch, but he’s too busy today to be able to. Again.

So he has to settle for the next best thing, which is pestering the daycare staff for pictures of Makkachin throughout the day, so he can make sure she’s doing well and having fun and that none of the other dogs are being mean to her. It’s a service the daycare provides, and Victor is more than happy to pay the extra money for it.

As he’s eating his lunch, he receives another picture, of Makkachin out on the park during her lunch walk. She’s standing in front of a person of whom Victor can only see the legs of, panting happily at the camera, eyes closed as the person gives her ear rubs. Victor is for a moment blindingly jealous because if anyone should be petting his dog it should be him.

He texts the daycare back, thanking them profusely for the pictures and goes about the rest of his lunch feeling a little bit more settled, and with a new resolve to work as hard as he can today, because the harder he works, the quicker the time will pass, and the faster he can get home to be with his darling dog.

«»

“Thank you so much for holding the leash while I did that,” the dog walker says, taking back the poodle’s leash after they pocketed their phone.

There’s only two dogs on the lunch walk today, and Yuuri would feel sad but any amount of dogs is an excellent amount of dogs so he doesn’t. This way he can focus more on the puppies and not despair his lack of a second pair of arms.

“No problem,” Yuuri says, because it really, really wasn’t.

“I was wondering if- if you wanted to take a walk?” the dog walker asks, looking somewhere over Yuuri’s shoulder. “With me, that is. And the dogs! I’ll let you hold a leash and everything.”

Yuuri looks down at his phone to check the time and weighs his options. On one hand, he has time to kill and he could spend it hanging out with puppies. On the other, he’d have to make small talk with someone who might realize at any moment that Yuuri forgot their name.

In the end, puppies win.

“Sure,” Yuuri says, and extends a hand for one of the leashes. “I have some time today.”

The dog walker gives him a surprised look that immediately turns into a big smile. “Oh, that’s- that’s really nice. We could walk around the park, there’s this cart that sells warm drinks. Do you like coffee?”

Yuuri does not really like coffee. “Sure, that sounds nice.”

Walking around the park with some excellent dogs is a great way to pass time, and Yuuri gets the added benefit of learning the dog walker’s name, which is a big relief for him because he really felt bad about it, especially when they’re so nice as to let him always pet the dogs.

When Yuuri gets back, he’s just on time to catch his next class. He’d be worried about being late, but this particular class isn’t the most punctual, and it’s one that Yuuri both loves but also dreads with everything he’s got.

And with very good reason.

“Yuuri!” a red-headed hellion screeches as soon as he opens the door and promptly slams herself against his legs, wrapping her arms around him. “Hi!” she says excitedly.

Yuuri awkwardly pats her head.

He still has no idea why he was offered such a young class, other than the fact that Madame Baranovskaya and whichever of her friends was dealing with it previously probably didn’t really like dealing with a bunch of children, so they dumped them on Yuuri.

And it’s not like Yuuri minds. He was trained to teach younger classes and to adapt his teaching methods to a younger audience who for the most part haven’t grasped the concept of focusing on a task for more than twenty minutes at a time. It’s just… Yuuri never knows what to do with the kids. He’s constantly terrified of messing up.

What if he makes one of them cry?

That thought on its own is absolutely terrifying.

“Hello, Zoya,” he greets. “Did you have fun at school today?”

 Zoya pulls back, takes a deep breath, and Yuuri gets ready for a rant about all the trials and tribulations of a seven-year-old.

Despite the fact that Yuuri was almost late, half the class still isn’t here, so he gives it another fifteen minutes for them to arrive. It doesn’t really matter if they start a little later, kids can’t really go a full hour of intense practice. They’re kids, after all, and most of them are novice skaters  who are forced to be here by their coaches.

Still, most of them seem interested enough to follow Yuuri’s direction and keep the tantrums to a minimum. Yuuri does his best, and at the end of the day, they’re all good kids, even if most of them require special attention, and for Yuuri to adapt to their particular needs.

There are kids who will throw fits if they don’t get to be in the spotlight, and there are kids who will lose focus if Yuuri takes too long explaining something, and there are kids who will cry at the drop of a pin and absolutely use it to con Yuuri into carrying them around for a bit until they’ve calmed down.

But again, they’re kids. That’s just how kids are, and no matter how terrified Yuuri might be of messing up, they’re his funnest class to teach. They’re not as messy as teaching adults, and the pure joy they have when they get things right makes any tantrum worth it.

As soon as most of his class has arrived, Yuuri guides them through some stretches, and then sets up a game to make sure they’re all properly warmed up.

Yuuri can say that he is content with how things are. Maybe not happy, not completely. Life-long dreams that turn into disappointments don’t heal that easily. In a way he’s still in mourning for himself as a skater, and it’ll take him some time to leave everything he’s worked years to become behind, but for now he is settled.

He’s content, and that will have to be enough for now.

 

Chapter Text

It started out as an accident. Yuri had just been so overwhelmed with everything that had been going on, everything he had to keep up with, that it just…. slipped his mind. Being fifteen and having to balance school and extra ballet lessons on top of his already exhausting and back-breaking training schedule isn’t exactly easy. Not to even mention how stressful moving - and everything moving brought with it - was, on top of everything else.

So, in the beginning, it was an honest mistake. But it’s been almost two weeks, and yet-

“Why won’t you tell us anything about Lilia’s assistant? Is he that hot? Do you have a crush?” Mila teases, dragging out the last word obnoxiously.

“No! Shut up!”

“Oooh are you blushing, Yura?” she coos, pointing her plastic fork at him.

“Why do you even care?” he snaps, trying to divert the conversation.

Because you won’t tell me, so just tell me.”

Yuri opens his mouth, and then immediately swallows what he was about to say down when he sees Victor walking into the break room.

“It’s none of your business, stop being weird about it,” he tells her.

You’re being weird about it,” she says, stabbing her fork in his general direction and narrowing her eyes at him.

“No, I’m not, you’re-“

“What are we talking about?” Victor asks, sitting down at their table.

“Lilia’s live-in booty call.”

Yuri pulls a disgusted face. “Don’t say that. What the hell’s wrong with you?!”

Mila keeps talking to Victor as if she hadn’t heard him. “Yuri refuses to tell me anything about him. I think he has a crush.” She turns her head towards Yuri and waggles her eyebrows. “Hot for teacher.”

“I will literally scoop your eyeballs out with my spork and feed them to my cat.”

“No, you won’t. Potya is on a controlled gourmet diet, you can’t fool me.”

“I hate you, did you know that?”

“You love me,” Mila says, sounding very sure of herself.

Yuri throws one of his peas at her face. It bounces neatly off her forehead and rolls onto the table.

Mila is about to reach for something on her plate when Victor cuts her off by loudly saying, “I’m curious too. I’d expect him to have come around to the rink by now.”

Yuri tries very quietly not to panic.

“Why do you care?” he asks.

“Because Yakov is being weird about it when I ask.”

At first, it had been an honest mistake, something Yuri had forgotten to mention, but now- now it’s deliberate.

“You’re both being weird about it.”

Now he’s actively lying to people he would consider to be his friends on a good day, and he’s not quite sure why.

Sometimes, he thinks he’s lying for Yuuri’s sake. Because all Yuri has to do is look at him to see how Yuuri’s shoulders tense up and how he becomes withdrawn whenever the competing season or Victor come up in conversation. How Yuuri’s refusal to come anywhere near the rink telegraphs loudly and clearly how uncomfortable he is with the idea of having anyone connected to figure skating know that he’s here.

Sometimes, when he can’t sleep or when guilt has a tight grip on his gut, he thinks it’s because he’s selfish. He doesn’t want Yuuri to see Victor and fall all over him, he doesn’t want to share him, to have Victor ruin him like he does everything.

“He’s helping you with your programs, right? We just want to make sure he’s doing a good job,” Victor says as if he cares, as if he has ever cared.

It makes Yuri grind his teeth. He hates it when Victor pretends to care.

“He’s doing a better job than you ever could,” he bites out.

“I’m just concerned for Russia’s future. Who’ll win gold and make Yakov go bald when I leave, hm? Someone has to continue the legacy,” Victor says, and there’s just something about the way he says it that immediately triggers Yuri’s fight response.

Maybe it’s the implication that Yuri will be nothing but a pretty head to put the crown Victor has been crafting during his career on, and no matter what Yuri does or accomplishes he’ll always be in Victor’s shadow. Maybe it’s the implication that Victor doesn’t believe Yuri can beat him before he retires.

It’s just something about how Victor sometimes speaks to him, that will wipe Yuri’s guilt over not telling them about Yuuri, and fills him with a sense of vindication that pulls cruelly at the corner of his lips.

(Right up until he’s tossing and turning in his bed, trying to justify his behaviour to himself, and failing.)

He feels bad, until Victor opens his mouth, and then he doesn’t anymore.

“I hope you choke on your food,” he says heartfeltly, and picks up his tray to go sit somewhere else. Trying not to grind his teeth too much when he hears Victor ask, “What did I say?” as he walks away.

«»

Once every two weeks or so, Yuuri has a private session with Madame Baranovskaya, and Yuuri always half dreads it because he knows how exhausted he’ll be by the end of it, both mentally and physically.

Madame Baranovskaya is like Minako in many aspects, but where Minako had seen Yuuri grow up, and is prone to yield if Yuuri asks with the sweet voice that always got him candy when he was a kid, Madame Baranovskaya will tolerate no weaknesses.

It’s one uninterrupted hour of her assessing his form to make sure he isn’t slacking, while asking him questions about his week and classes with the same intensity as someone would interrogate an alleged murderer.

Yuuri suspects she does it to keep tabs on Yuuri on behalf of Minako.

Which is frankly a weight off of Yuuri’s shoulders.

He cares about Minako and his family, but Yuuri’s never been the best at keeping in contact with them while he’s away. It’s like his brain puts them away in a drawer to save them for special occasions, so he won’t miss them too debilitatingly.

“In a couple of days a friend of mine will be visiting me,” Lilia announces after she has made Yuuri run himself ragged dancing for her. Sometimes he thinks this is just her personal brand of torture.

“Should I be at the meeting?” Yuuri asks.

“Why else would I tell you about it, Katsuki Yuuri?”

Which is a very fair thing to say, since Lilia doesn’t actually need an assistant. She’s one of the most frighteningly organized people Yuuri has ever met in his life.

“Of course, Madame,” he says, trying for demure, bowing his head a little, while keeping his posture as perfect as he can.

“You’re excused,” she says, waving him away with a flick of her wrist. “I have a call to make.”

“Thank you, Madame,” Yuuri says, relaxing a little and going about collecting his things.

Lilia doesn’t wait for him to be out of the room to start her call.

“Why do you hate the performing arts, Okukawa Minako? Do you have so little respect for me that you influence this child into figure skating?” she asks, saying the last two words with a level of distaste she reserves for talking about figure skating and Yakov.

Yuuri has absolutely no wish to stand around listening to someone point out all of his flaws as if he weren’t there, so he hurries out the door as quickly as possible.

He still has a class to teach before he can go home, anyway.

«»

Victor parks his car in front of Lilia’s studio and glances at the time displayed on the entertainment system to check if he’s too early.

“She must be getting out,” Mila tells him, lowering her car window in the back seat and peering out.

Victor already picked Makkachin up from the doggy daycare, and since it’s on his way, and Mila’s mother asked him personally, he stopped by Lilia’s studio to pick up Mila’s little sister. He has a car, time on his hands, and an empty apartment waiting for him. Taking these little detours is not a chore for him, and there’s something that makes him feel useful about doing simple favours for his rinkmates.

“Shouldn’t you go pick her up inside?” Victor asks, glancing at the door of the studio.

“She knows the car,” Mila says. “There she is!”

Victor squints at the entryway to see Mila’s little sister all bundled up making her way to the car, dragging a heavy looking sports bag with her.

“Zoyka,” Mila yells, opening her door and waving her over.

Zoya hurries up to the car.

“Does she need help with-“

“She’s seven, not three. Relax, Victor,” Mila tells him.

Victor still thinks Mila is a kid, but he’s not about to tell her.

“Vitya,” Zoya screams as soon as she’s close to the car, completely ignoring her sister and throwing her bag carelessly onto the backseat, before she climbs after it and almost steps over the handbrake to give Victor a kiss and a hug.

“My favorite Babicheva,” Victor coos, hugging her back, trying to make sure the handbrake isn’t accidentally pushed down, and trying to keep Makkachin from stepping on any sensitive places when she gets tired of waiting for her attention and lunges across the console to lick at both Victor’s and Zoya’s cheeks.

“Makkachin!” Zoya coos, rubbing her hands over her fur messily. “I missed you so much!” She hugs her, and Makkachin, because she is an angel and is used to Victor doing the same, tolerates it for a little before she pulls back and tries to cover Zoya’s entire face with drool.

“Aren’t you going to say hello to your sister?” Mila asks, mock offended.

“Hi, Mila,” she says distractedly, still focusing on Makkachin who is absolutely basking in the attention.

Mila picks her up and pulls her properly into the backseat, which makes Zoya screech in protest at a pitch that makes Makkachin whine and shake her head.

“If you’re annoying, Victor won’t pick you up again,” Mila threatens.

“If you call Makkachin, she might jump in the back so you can pet her but you have to put your seatbelt on first,” Victor says, trying to make Zoya stop screeching before poor Makka goes deaf.

Zoya puts her seatbelt on with a pout and a glare at Mila.

“You too, Mila,” Victor calls.

Zoya looks vindicated when Mila starts strapping on her seatbelt. Mila looks exactly as pouty as Zoya had, and goes as far as sticking her tongue out at her.

Victor leans over to unclip Makkachin’s seatbelt as soon as Zoya starts patting her lap insistently and Makakchin starts wiggling to join. He lets her jump in the back and tells Mila to how to click Makkachin’s doggy seatbelt in before he pulls back into traffic.

“How was ballet today? Did you have fun?” Victor asks.

“Yes! Our new teacher is the best, and if you’re really good he gives you candy at the end.”

“Did you get some candy today?”

“Of course, I always get candy. I’m really good, you know?”

“Of course,” Victor says, smiling a little.

“You’ve been replaced as Zoya’s favourite adult,” Mila informs him. “She likes her teacher now.”

“I can like two people!” Zoya protests, petting Makkachin’s head which is laying on her lap.

Victor makes sure he drives slowly so Makkachin won’t get car sick and also because he was basically trusted with the safety of two kids and he’s not about to drive the speed-limit with kids in the car. Zoya doesn’t even have a booster seat when he knows she should. Maybe he should buy one and keep it in the trunk even if he would only use it maybe four times in a month.

“Is your teacher prettier than me, Zoya?” Victor asks, jokingly.

Zoya hesitates. “You’re both pretty,” she says very unconvincingly.

“Wow, what does he have that I don’t?”

Zoya opens her mouth, and Victor is treated for the rest of the drive to a comprehensive list of everything her new dance teacher has and how amazing he is. Victor feels a little put out, but Zoya seems happier than she did with her old teacher. Either way, Victor is confident he can earn back his spot as her favourite adult with Makkachin and some candy so he’s not terribly put out.

«»

Yuri gets home, dead on his feet and ready to collapse into bed, when he catches the scent of something delicious coming from the kitchen, and veers his path to carefully poke his head into the room.

Unsurprisingly, Yuuri is moving around the kitchen, soft music playing from his phone as he prepares dinner. Potya’s sitting on a chair that Yuri knows for a fact belongs in the dining room. Her tail swishes back and forth passively as she watches Yuuri move around.

Yuri watches as Yuuri picks something up and offers it to Potya, who sniffs at it primly before starting to lick it.

“You shouldn’t spoil her like that,” Yuri says, walking into the kitchen.

Yuuri startles badly enough that he drops the piece of food he had been holding, and Potya immediately jumps after it, picking it up with her mouth and skittering under the chair to eat her spoils.

“Yuri,” Yuuri breathes out, touching a hand to his chest. “I didn’t hear you come in.”

“Sorry,” Yuri says before he really realizes it, and as soon as he does he turns around to leave.

“Madame Baranovskaya won’t be having dinner with us today,” Yuuri starts before Yuri has the opportunity to escape. “Food will be ready in half an hour if you want some.”

It’s still so off-putting how… nice Yuuri is. How he doesn’t seem to hold a grudge against Yuri no matter what he does, how he’ll so easily offer things like this. And it’s also relieving, because sometimes Yuri doesn’t actually want Yuuri to hate him, and Yuri isn’t antagonistic on purpose every single time. Sometimes it’s an accident, sometimes he doesn’t mean it at all.

“Sure, whatever,” Yuri mutters and goes to take a shower and get into his pajamas, and if he keeps a close eye on the time so he won’t make Yuuri wait, then that’s none of anyone’s business but his own and doesn’t really mean anything at all.

When he goes back, hair still a little wet, Yuuri is sitting in front of the television in the living room, messing with something in Lilia’s entertainment console that as far as Yuri knows only contains an old VCR and old Vogue magazines. There’s two bowls with food sitting on the coffee table on a tray.

Yuri hovers behind the couch a little awkwardly.

“What are you doing?” Yuri asks.

“Setting up my-“ the television screen lights up with the Playstation 4 homescreen, “aha!”

Yuri continues standing there as Yuuri sits down on the couch and picks up the controller, a little unsure if he should just sit or pick up his food and leave. Does Yuuri even want him around?

Yuuri picks up one of the bowls and holds it at his side, out of Yuri’s reach, but still as if he expects him to take it, so Yuri climbs over the back of the couch and accepts the bowl, settling in.

“Can we eat on the couch?” he asks, because that doesn’t sound like something Lilia would allow.

“No,”  Yuuri says, picking up his bowl with one hand and balancing it in his lap as he navigates the homescreen and selects the game.

“Cool. What are you playing?”`

“Final Fantasy.”

“Do you get to kill things?”

“Yeah.”

“Nice,” Yuri says, and then a little more hesitantly, “Can I try?”

“Sure.”

Yuri starts the evening sitting on the opposite end of the couch from Yuuri, eating food that is absolutely delicious and watching him play, glancing between the screen and the controls to try to learn. And somewhere along the way he finds himself sitting a little closer, sticking his tongue out and furrowing his eyebrows as he tries to beat the monster thing in front of him with Yuuri’s useless guidance.

It’s… fun. It’s more fun than Yuri has had in awhile, and there’s a sense of accomplishment that he laps up about beating a monster or solving a puzzle.

He’s surprised by how much he enjoys it. Yuri never really gave himself time to sit down and play a game aside from phone apps, and he’s almost surprised to find how much fun it is to play and watch Yuuri play, even if he doesn’t understand what the hell is happening half the time and has to keep asking Yuuri questions that he answers in as much detail as he can while navigating the game.

Yuri doesn’t remember walking to his room and getting in bed. The last thing he remembers is feeling his eyelids droop and having half a mind to get up, but it’s in bed that he wakes up, tucked under the sheets and with Potya purring like an engine by his ear.

«»

“Yuri’s getting better,” Victor comments during one of his water breaks to Yakov.

“Lilia is a good influence, and Yuri has been trying hard. I expect him to go far this season,” Yakov says, pride seeping through his words.

They stand quietly, watching Yuri run through his program, and there’s something in the way he does Agape now that is… different. Still not perfect, still not how Victor had envisioned it, but getting closer to it. There’s something in the way he bends his back backwards and raises his hands up, the way his step sequence was tweaked.

“He’s letting his Katsuki influences show more this season,” Victor mutters, turning back to Yakov.

He had noticed it after Sochi, after binge watching every routine of Yuuri’s he could get his hands on, like he had noticed his own influence in Yuuri’s skating.

“Katsuki is a good skater to look up to for this kind of program,” Yakov says, not looking at Victor in a way that is very deliberate. It’s not as if he’s not looking at Victor because he’s watching Yuri, but as if he’s actively trying to avoid looking at him.

Victor frowns. He doesn’t remember doing anything to annoy Yakov into giving him the cold shoulder today.

“What do you think I should work on next?” he asks.

Yakov’s eyes immediately snap to him, “Are you sick, Vitya? Why are you asking when you never listen?”

There, that’s better.

“You hurt me, Yakov. I listen sometimes.”

Yakov harrumphs and switches his gaze back to Yuri.

“Work on your free more, the last transition is sloppy.”

“Okay,” Victor sing songs, and skates off to do it just because it might throw Yakov off if he does.

«»

Sometimes, when Yuri feels really guilty for lying to Victor, he’ll consider just telling him about Yuuri. And most of the those times, Victor will open his mouth and say something completely infuriating like, “You might just win bronze with that,” and then Yuri will want nothing more than not to tell him out of spite.

“Can you believe him?” Yuri grinds out, viciously dicing celery.

Yuuri is eyeing him warily, looking nervously between the knife Yuri has in his hand and his face.

“How could he,” he says, with barely any inflection, as if he’s trying to appease Yuri, and doing a terrible job at it.

Yuri points at him, forgetting he’s holding a knife and says, “Don’t coddle me! He’s being a fuckhead!”

“Maybe I should cut the celery,” Yuuri says.

“Shut up, I got this,” Yuri dismisses, putting the knife back down. “Anyway, this rinkmate of mine,” Yuri continues, still being very careful not to actually say Victor’s name, because that’s a surefire way to have Yuuri avoiding any and all types of conversation. “He keeps nitpicking on my short, right? And saying cryptic shit about love or whatever else, and I don’t know what to do! I’m skating it exactly like I’m supposed to!”

“Why do you care about someone’s opinion so much?” Yuuri asks, still warily eyeing the knife Yuri is holding from the corner of his eye as he seasons the broth slowly cooking in the pot.

Because!” Yuri says, trying to get himself time to figure out something that will sound convincing and not clue Yuuri in about just who this rinkmate is. “Because Yakov agrees with him, and if Yakov agrees then I need to do better.”

Yuuri hums a little, and slides the diced potatoes into the pot. “And they say you’re not getting the program?”

“Yeah. It’s supposed to be about… love,” Yuri says, gagging for effect. “Like, unconditional love or religious love, or something.”

“Thought so,” Yuuri says, eyebrows furrowed in concentration.

“What do you mean, thought so?”

“It sounds very... worshipful, I guess? Like,” there’s a long pause as if Yuuri is trying to puzzle something out, and then he says, “katsudon.”

“Like what?” Yuri asks, turning fully toward Yuuri just to stare at him because what?!

Yuuri’s cheeks go a little red. “It’s, ah, a dish. With pork and-

“I know what katsudon is,” Yuri huffs. Any Katsuki fan worth their salt knows what katsudon is. “Are you telling me my program sounds like breaded pork?”

“No! No, of course not!” Yuuri rushes out, putting his hands up. “It’s like-“ he frowns again, getting that weird expression like he’s confused himself with something and is trying to work it out. He kind of looks like a dog. “Katsudon is something my mother made for me when I was sad, or when I won something. My parents- they don’t really understand anything about skating, but they were always really supportive of me.

“Katsudon just makes me think about them, and about Hasetsu, and Minako’s studio and the rink I used to practice in. I think, that program is a little like that, the kind of love you’re thankful for and is given freely without anything expected back, you know?” he looks over at Yuri, so earnestly that it strikes Yuri speechless for a second, and leaves him gaping. Then Yuuri seems to realize what he just said and he turns his head away quickly, suddenly embarrassed. “Or something like that, I guess.”

Yuri continues staring at him, until he manages to force himself to pull his gaze away, considering.

In all honesty, Yuuri’s answer has thrown him for a loop. He was expecting him to name Victor, or a past person he had dated, but naming a food is… surprising.

Yuri had just assumed when Victor talked about love he meant romantic love, because that’s the kind of idealistic person Victor seems to be, but looking at it this way is… hmm.

“Pirozhki,” Yuri says suddenly, clarity dawning on him. Forcing the kind of love Agape encompasses is too much, but fitting it to actions of kindness, of selflessness that Yuri has experienced, is a little more feasible, and suddenly Yuri gets it.

“Did you say something?”

“Pirozhki,” Yuri repeats without actually meaning to. “That’s what it is for me.” And then goes back to cutting celery.

He can feel Yuuri’s eyes on him, and almost expects a barrage of questions to come his way, but instead, all Yuuri says is, “Cool,” and goes back to work.

And this right here- this is why Yuri has so much trouble at keeping Yuuri safely labeled as ‘useful person for the time being’, because he doesn’t push, he doesn’t prod, and when all’s said and done he treats Yuri like his own person, and not a precocious child on skates. It’s hard to keep the label of ‘friend’ off of him, when he’s like this.

«»

Victor walks into the rink to see Yuri skating Agape like it’s supposed to be skated, and stops to watch.

Yuri loses it when he notices Victor is watching and fumbles a jump.

“That was really good,” Victor tells him, surprised that Yuri actually seems to be getting it now.

He can see how that swells Yuri with pride in the way he stands a little straighter and raises his chin, but Yuri, being Yuri, can’t say thank you. Yuri being Yuri, he says, “I’ll do even better and beat you at the Final.”

“Can’t wait,” Victor says, and honestly means it. He hopes he has to fight tooth and nail, and bleed for his next gold medal, maybe then it’ll feel more real to him.

«»

On Fridays Yuuri meets up with a couple of Novice and Junior level coaches at a rink and goes over the routines they’re preparing for their competitions, and for some reason Yuuri still doesn’t quite understand, they listen to him.

Sure, he teaches some of these kids, and won a couple of medals in his time in Juniors, but still. Maybe it’s because he’s younger than most of the coaches here, and they’re under some sort of deluded notion that he would remember what being in Juniors is like better than they do. Or something.

It’s not like Yuuri minds helping out, and besides, he gets to skate here. It’s never going to be anything close to ice castle, but he still gets access to the rink after closing, and that is more than he could hope for.

“But Yuuri,” Zoya whines, clinging to his wrist and letting herself be dragged along as Yuuri skates carefully around the rink, making sure she doesn’t lose her balance and fall. “Just a tiny little triple. Just once!”

“What did your coach say?”

“She said no, but-“

“Then no,” Yuuri says.

“But, Yuuri! I can do it!” she says, somehow turning her tone even more petulant than it had been before.

“Zoya-“

“Yuuri, please! Yuri Plisetsky already knew how to do a triple at my age! Why can’t i? It’s not fair! He could do quads at twelve!”

And what’s Yuuri supposed to say to that would make a seven year old understand just how dangerous doing risky jumps at her age could be.

“I’ll teach you a triple,” he says.

“Rea-“

“When your coach says it’s okay,” he finishes.

Zoya pouts and digs her toepick into the ice, forcing Yuuri to stop before he makes her fall. She looks about two seconds away from stomping her foot and throwing a tantrum, when her coach yells out, “Zoya, it’s time to get ready to go. Your sister is waiting for you outside.”

“Okay!” Zoya yells back, before turning to Yuuri. “This isn’t over! I’ll convince you and you’ll teach me the triple axel.”

“When your coach says it’s okay, and I know you won’t get hurt trying, I’ll teach you whatever you want,” Yuuri promises, maybe a little recklessly since Zoya doesn’t seem like the kind of person who’ll forget a promise.

“Fine!” she huffs, and then hugs Yuuri around the waist tightly and says, “Bye-bye.”

Yuuri pats her on the head a little awkwardly. He still doesn’t know what to do when the kids are openly affectionate with him like this.

“Bye-bye,” he echoes back. “I’ll see you next week.”

“See you next week!” she says, and skates off towards her coach, a little faster than she probably should.

Yuuri watches her go long enough to make sure she gets to her coach okay, before he starts skating lazy circles around the rink.

Zoya was the last one out, and Yuuri has already talked through everything he needed to with the coaches, so now he gets to skate, at least for a little bit.

It still feels a little gut wrenching to skate, but Yuuri still needs it as viscerally as he has ever since he put skates on his feet for the very first time. It’s unsettling for him, when he goes without skating for a long time. It makes him feel off-kilter, makes his anxiety ramp higher and higher.

Skating for Yuuri, right now, is like picking at scabs and not letting a festering wound heal, as much as it is a balm to his soul.

Yuuri doesn’t think he could step on a rink again if it weren’t for the fact that the ice makes his thoughts so quiet, especially when he’s focusing so intently on methodically skating figures into the ice.

Yuuri worries, and aches, and feels that bittersweetness at the back of his tongue from the rink’s entrance to the edge of the ice. And then, as soon as he steps onto it, it’s a reprieve from himself.

“If you want to do some jumps, I’ll spot you,” a voice calls out, startling Yuuri into wobbling a little.

He look over and sees a blob shaped more or less like Zoya’s coach leaning against the boards, he squints a little to make sure it’s her.

Yuuri wasn’t planning on doing any jumps or routines today, but it’s not often that he has the luxury of risking more complicated jumps. And why should he risk them? It’s not like he needs to keep himself in shape, or maintain the muscle memory of them. It’s not like he’ll ever get back to the ice for another competition, but-

“Would you mind?” he asks. “I don’t want to impose.”

“Not at all,” she says, nodding to give him the go ahead.

“Thank you, Katya.”

“Don’t mention it,” she says, still friendly. “Besides someone’s gotta make sure you don’t catch the wrong bus home again. I’ll give you a ride when you’re done.”

“There’s really no need to-“

“There absolutely is. We can’t do without our best co-choreographer if you get mugged at four a.m. in a shady neighbourhood.”

Yuuri is ashamed to admit that that’s a valid concern to have. Yuuri’s exhausted brain and cyrillic are just not friends, and he’s had to learn that the hard way.

“Thank you,” he says, and makes a mental note to buy a bottle of wine or something to thank her.

“Go nuts, kid,” she tells him, giving him a wave of her hand. “I know you don’t like us watching, so I’m going to fill some paperwork here,” she says, pointing her thumb towards the chairs set up behind her, “If you hurt yourself, yell.”

“I will,” Yuuri says, seriously, already twitching for the adrenaline of a jump.

«»

“My mom asked if you want to have dinner with us this weekend,” Mila says, eyes intent on the front of the building, as they wait for Zoya to come out of her skating lesson.

“Sorry, I have plans for this weekend. Maybe the next one?” Victor suggests, tapping his fingers on the wheel.

Mila looks at him sideways and her lips curl in an interested smile. “Got a hot date?”

Victor gives her a little smirk and puts his finger to his lips, winking for effect. “Hmm, do I?” he says cheekily.

“Get it Victor,” Mila says, eyes lighting up with amusement.

The only thing Victor is getting this week, is a much needed hug from his Maman who he is picking up from the airport tomorrow. It’s been almost a month since he saw his mothers, and Victor misses them dearly.

“What’s his name?” Mila asks, and Victor’s saved from answering by Zoya coming out of the building.

This time around, Mila opens her door and goes to meet her sister halfway, grabbing her bag from her and helping her carry it to the car.

“Vitya!” Zoya greets, opening the passenger side door and crawling through it so she can reach Victor and give him a hug and a kiss.

“My favourite Babicheva!” Victor greets back.

Mila gets in the car after her and forces Zoya to climb into Victor’s lap so she can sit. “Go sit in the back, brat,” Mila tells her, dropping Zoya’s bag at her feet.

“Where’s Makkachin?” Zoya asks, peering into the backseat.

“She’s at home, sleeping. We went for a big walk today.”

“Oh,” she says, pouting a little bit.

“Zoyka,” Mila calls, “I said in the back. You already made us late.”

Victor nudges her towards the back, hoping to avoid a tantrum, and Zoya goes willingly, but not without complaining.

“It’s not my fault!” she says. “I didn’t know you were here, and I was trying to convince my teacher to show me how to do the triple axel, but he says I can’t. But I can! I could do any jump, but no one lets me.”

Victor turns the key in the ignition and backs out of the parking lot. Driving at night during rush hour always makes him a little nervous when he has two kids in the car with him.

“Does this mean Victor’s your favourite again?”

“Victor’s always my favourite,” Zoya says readily. “I just really like our teacher too. He said he’ll teach me when my coach lets him.”

“I thought you liked your dance teacher,” Victor comments.

“They’re the same person,” Mila volunteers.

“Wait, really?” Victor asks more than a little confused.  “Your dance teacher skates too?” He doesn’t remember anyone like that being in Juniors when Yuri was there. Which would make sense, since Zoya says her teacher is new.

Victor tries to think back to any recently retired Russian skaters that would have the skillset necessary to be hired by Lilia, who is known for having impossible to meet standards, and comes up empty. Maybe it was someone who never made it to the higher ranking competitions. After all, Victor isn’t known to be the most observant.

“Yeah! He skates really well too! He showed us how to do figures today, he says it’s good for our footwork,” she says. “They’re kind of boring, but he said I did really well!”

Which makes him think that whoever Zoya’s teacher is, he must be older, because figures haven’t been required for a while. But if he’s older then how come he’s prettier than Victor? By the way Zoya talks, he doesn’t sound older.

Victor briefly considers whether he’s petty enough to make an excuse to scope Zoya’s teacher out, before he’s merging into traffic and has to dedicate his full attention to driving safely, Zoya’s excited ramblings end up being background noise to him.

He tries his best to listen, while trying to be hyper aware of everything around him. He likes hearing Zoya talk, likes having his car full like this, likes this kind of easy and close companionship. It’s maybe a little sad that nowadays the easiest way Victor can get it is playing taxi driver for Mila.

He tries to not think too much about it, in the same way he tries not to dwell too much in how unbearable the silence becomes as soon as he drops Zoya and Mila off. The contrast is always jarring, and some days it hits Victor a little harder than others.

He always turns the radio up, and tries to find a station with people chattering instead of music to fill up the quiet, and considers for the nth time if he should start listening to audiobooks on his drive.

Victor doesn’t really try to hurry home. He picked Makkachin up at lunchtime and went for a run with him in the park, which means Makkachin should still be napping. She’ll certainly wake up as soon as Victor puts his keys in the lock. Besides, he’s not exactly overeager to go back to his apartment, no matter how tired he is. Not when it means having dinner in front of the television and trying to exhaust himself so he can try falling asleep.

At least his Maman will be over for a couple of days. That always livens things up for a little bit. It cheers him up just thinking about it, makes him feel lighter, a little excited, a little less reluctant to go back home.

«»

Yuri’s doing homework in the dining room area, which is stupid and pointless and he hates more than anything. The chairs are uncomfortable and Lilia keeps staring him down with a distasteful frown every time Yuri stops working for more than two minutes.

He still can’t believe Yakov tattled on him to Lilia and now Yuri is forced to sit here and learn shit he’s never going to need in his life. He won’t need a degree when he obliterates his competition and makes so much money he can start using it to wipe his ass with.

Victor doesn’t have a degree. Yuri doesn’t understand why they’re pushing him to have good grades because of his future prospects. He holds the combined world record for Junior Men’s Figure Skating! He could do quads at age twelve! How’s fucking that for prospects!

He’s told Yakov exactly that, but he refuses to listen, even when Yuri points out that Yakov never pushed Victor to try as hard in school as he’s pushing Yuri.

And okay, maybe Victor’s mothers being filthy rich and Yuri’s family being dirt poor has something to do with it.

But still, it’s not fair. And it’s even less fair that when he had confronted Victor about it, all he had said was, “I don’t need a degree to become a trophy husband,” and skated away with a little flair. The worst part wasn’t even his response, but that Yakov hadn’t done anything about it. And sure, Victor was a geriatric skater, but if he was allowed to act Yuri’s age, he should face the consequences. It’s only fair.

“Pay attention to your work, Yuri Plisetsky,” Lilia says, and Yuri wonders if she never learned to call people by just their first name. “The sooner you are done with it, the sooner you can go.”

Yuri knows that, but his work is so mind-numbingly boring that he would prefer to run around the rink a thousand times without a break than to just keep sitting here, looking at his geography textbook.

“Where’s Yuuri?” he asks, to try and distract Lilia.

“He’ll be coming home later today,” she tells him. “Finish your work.”

Yuri huffs and turns back to his text book.

If Yuuri were here he might be able to distract Lilia long enough for Yuri to bail out on his homework. Not that he would do it knowingly, because he’s a goddamned nerd.

A nerd who disappears sometimes and keeps weird hours, which is fucking weird, if you ask Yuri. Not that anyone does, or even seems to care. Not that Yuri cares about what Yuuri does. It’s just weird. And suspicious. And it’s not like Yuuri is permanently hungover or smells like alcohol when he comes back. Or like he seems to have been out all night doing drugs or throwing hands in an underground fight club.

He just… falls asleep in weird places a lot, which probably has to do more with the fact that he doesn’t really seem to sleep a lot of uninterrupted hours than anything else.

This seems to be one of those nights in which Yuuri comes home weirdly late. It’s really not any of Yuri’s business. Or it isn’t until Yuri groggily makes his way to the kitchen at 6:30 a.m. sharp and trips over something that almost makes him slam face first into the floor.

“Who put this-“ he starts, looking down to see what he tripped over and of course, of course, it’s Yuuri.

Yuuri who has Potya curled up on his lap and is asleep against the hallway wall, his sports bag sitting next to him.

“What the fuck,” Yuri whispers, more to himself than anything, before he leans down and pokes Yuuri in the cheek until he stirs.

Yuuri opens his eyes slowly and rubs at them, looking around confused.

“Yura?” he asks, squinting. “What?”

“Why the fuck are you sleeping on the floor?” Yuri questions. “Go to bed, idiot.”

Yuuri looks down at himself as if to make sure that he is, indeed, on the floor.

“Oh,” he says, sounding as confused about it as Yuri is. It’s quiet for a couple of seconds, and then Yuuri looks up at Yuri and says, “I stopped to pet her, and she looked like she wanted to sit on my lap so I sat down for a little bit. I guess I fell asleep,” he concludes, not sounding terribly bothered, even though his back must be killing him right now.

And really Yuri hates him. He hates Katsuki Yuuri and his stupid face and the fact that he fell asleep in the hallway because he stopped to pet Yuri’s cat. If Yuri could physically fight him, he would, because this behavior is completely unacceptable.

He picks up Potya off Yuuri’s lap and holds her like the overgrown spoiled baby she is. She meows a little in complaint, but looks absolutely unapologetic about what she just did. She also looks adorable, because Potya always looks adorable.

“Go to bed,” he says, and kicks Yuuri in the thigh a little bit, more nudges him than anything. “I have no use for a teacher who can’t function because he was dumb enough to fall asleep on the floor.”

“Yes, yes,” Yuuri says, yawning, and struggling for a second to get up. He twists his arms and his back pops loudly. Yuri winces just hearing it. “I can’t feel my butt,” Yuuri says, seemingly to no one in particular.

“I don’t need to know that!” Yuri hisses, and kicks him, this time a little harder, so he can get a move on.

Yuuri stumbles once and then continues stumbling his way to his bedroom and to his bed, not even bothering to close the door behind him. Yuri rolls his eyes, and goes to set Potya down in her special kitty bed.

It’s decidedly too early for this.

He goes back out to close Yuuri’s door and spots his bag in the middle of the way.

Yuri tsks and picks it up by one strap, with every intent of throwing it in Yuuri’s room, but the bag must’ve been halfway open because as soon as Yuri turns to throw it, he hears something heavy falling on the floor.

He sighs heavily, because this is already giving him too much work, and then he turns to pick up whatever fell out, and stops.

He stares at the skate that just fell out of Yuuri’s bag as his brain tries to grasp the full meaning of this. He picks it up and can feel how cold and slightly damp the boot is, as if it was used recently.

Yuri grinds his teeth.

Don’t do this anymore my ass. He can’t believe Yuuri lied to his fucking face, that Yuuri could even do something like that.

Yuri whirls around, ready to rain hell down on him and maybe throw a skate or two at his face because how dare he. How dare he? After Yuri trusted him? Yuri thought-

Well, it doesn’t matter what he thought, because it was obviously wrong.

He burst through Yuuri’s open door, breath held in his lungs so he can yell as soon as he has Yuuri in his line of sight, and then he sees Potya who must’ve snuck out to go lay down on top of Yuuri again, and Yuuri who’s drooling in his sleep, and instead of a yell, he lets his breath whistle through his gritted teeth.

And suddenly instead of angry, he feels tired, and he just doesn’t want to deal with this. With any of this and its implications, and the betrayal that instead of fiery hot in the back of his throat turned sour and acidic. He drops the bag on Yuuri’s floor, and then after barely a second of consideration, because he’s still mad, Yuri grabs Yuuri’s skates, and takes them with him back to his room, leaving Yuuri’s door open just enough so Potya can come out when she wants to.

He throws Yuuri’s skates carelessly into his closet and slams the door closed.

It’s too early to feel this much, so he goes to the kitchen and he makes himself a bowl of cereal and tries to figure out what the best way to confront Yuuri about this is, what’s best to make him feel as bad with himself as he’s made Yuri feel right now. But that- that is for later. For now, Yuri lets him sleep.

Chapter Text

Geneviève Nikiforova has never been the sort of woman that could blend into a crowd, mostly because she absolutely refuses to not be noticed. So, whenever Victor has to pick her up from the airport, he doesn’t have to worry about accidentally missing her.

“Vitya!” she shouts across the arrivals hall, startling several people walking by her, and waving her hand over her head.

Victor waves at her, feeling a smile take over his face, and an almost childlike giddiness settle snugly under his ribcage, at seeing his mother again.

He weaves his way through the crowd to meet her halfway.

“Maman,” he says happily, opening up his arms for a hug when she’s close enough.

She walks right into his embrace and squeezes Victor so tightly he can almost feel his ribcage creak. But that’s okay, because Victor loves tight hugs and squeezes back with just as much feeling, even lifting her off her feet a little bit, before he sets her back down and pulls back.

“Are you taller?” she asks, putting a hand on his cheek and looking him over. “You look taller.”

“It’s the shoes, Maman. I stopped growing ten years ago.”

She crinkles up her nose. “Why must you remind your dear Maman of how old she is, Vitya? I feel like I’m about to get grey hairs just from hearing that,” she sighs.

“No one in our family has gotten a single gray hair in generations, Maman.”

She combs his bangs to the side a little.

“Yes, but we shouldn’t challenge the universe by saying careless things. Next thing we know, we’ll wake up with grey hair and split ends.”

“You’re right,” Victor concedes, picking up her suitcase by the handle and offering her his arm. “Ready to go?”

“Yes. I miss my granddaughter terribly, you know. How’s Makkachin?”

“Maman, you skyped with her two days ago.”

“It’s not the same as seeing you two in person,” she tells him.

“I know,” he says, a little quietly. “What do you have scheduled for today?”

Victor is under no illusions. He knows his mother is an extremely busy person, and that she only manages to visit when she has business in the city. He knows that she does her best to find time for him, but he also knows that expecting her to spend all her time with him is unrealistic.

“Nothing,” she says, sounding as happy as he’s ever heard her sound.

“Nothing?”

“Absolutely nothing. I have the entire day free.”

“Oh,” he says, feeling a little thrown off. “Really?”

“Of course! Do you think I would come here and not spend as much time with you as I could? You come first, Vitya.”

“You don’t have to-“

“I absolutely do,” she cuts him off. “Or are you finally too old to be seen around with your maman?”

“Definitely not,” Victor denies firmly, adjusting his plans for the day. “So, brunch?”

“Brunch!” she agrees, walking a little quicker towards the exit and dragging Victor along with her. “I’m starving.”

«»

Yuuri wakes up with Potya laying directly on his face, and a jab of pain in his lower back that is going to make the next couple of days slightly more uncomfortable.

He carefully moves Potya aside, and is immediately met with cranky meowing and the full weight of a spoiled cat on his bladder, before Potya hops to the floor and leaves his room, clearly snubbing him for interrupting her beauty sleep.

Yuuri makes a mental note to feed her some treats so she’ll like him again, before he rolls towards the edge of the bed and slaps his hand around the nightstand for his phone, which… isn’t there, because of course it isn’t.

He groans as he sits up, trying to roll his shoulder and stretch his back muscles to see if it’ll get rid of the pain. Predictably, it doesn’t. He really should stop falling asleep anywhere he sits for more than ten minutes at a time, and seriously start considering doing it on an actual bed more often. At this rate, Yuuri’s going to seriously pull something, and then Lilia will kick him back to Japan where Yuuri will have to live the rest of his days in shame for disappointing his family once again.

With one last stretch of his sore muscles, he gets up and stumbles towards his sports bag, knowing that if his phone is anywhere, it’s in there. He goes about patting along the outside pockets for it, his sleep-addled brain slowly registering that his bag feels much emptier than it was supposed to be.

It makes him stop, and blink blearily down at it, wondering why there’s such a dissonance between how full the bag should be and how full it actually is. Yuuri looks inside, eyes running through the contents. He tries to run through an inventory of everything he keeps in there, brain struggling to wake up, until he realizes his skates are missing.

Yuuri frowns down at it, before he grabs the bag and upturns the entire contents of it on the floor as if they’ll suddenly reveal his skates hiding under them.

They do not.

Yuuri stares blankly down at the mess he just made on his floor and wonders if maybe he forgot them at the rink, which seems unlikely. Yuuri can count on one hand the times he’s left his skates behind somewhere, and they all happened at Ice Castle.

Maybe he really was just that tired. Maybe he should start getting more sleep…

His phone goes off next to his knee on the floor and Yuuri picks it up, bringing it close to his face to check the time, and immediately scrambles to his feet at the sight of his third alarm clock going off.

He’s going to be so late. He sends a text to his class’ group chat, warning them it might take him a while to get there, before he stumbles to the bathroom for a quick shower and to brush his teeth.

He forgets a towel and drips the floor from the bathroom to his room, which Lilia will probably be upset about if she’s still around.

Through the years Yuuri has become an expert in getting ready in under ten minutes flat, thanks to his tendency to oversleep, and keep weird hours.

He throws everything he’s going to need for today back into his bag and decides to worry about it later, ready to sprint out of the house before he remembers Yuri is supposed to also be taking a lesson with a physical trainer this morning, and stops in front of his door which is… closed?

Yuuri wastes a full second puzzling that out, because Yuri doesn’t keep his door closed, not when Potya is outside of his room and might want to come in at any time, and not in the mornings.

Thinking about it, it’s weird that Yuri didn’t burst into Yuuri’s room and tried to push him off the bed to get him moving, which is the treatment Yuuri usually gets when he oversleeps.

He knocks on the door, and waits a couple of seconds for an answer before he tries it again, worried Yuri might have fallen asleep.

“Yura?” he calls out, and when there still isn’t an answer on the other side, Yuuri tries the handle just to confirm that Yuri is up and has gone ahead of him. The door clicks and doesn’t open.

Huh.

Yuri probably went ahead of him then. Even if it’s weird for him to lock his door.

Yuuri doesn’t really have time to dwell on it, rushing out the door, and grabbing his beanie and scarf from the coat hanger, putting them on to face the morning chill.

He gets there almost fifteen minutes late, but luckily this isn’t his junior class. Yuuri barely does anything for his adult class, aside from playing devil’s advocate, criticizing every tiny little flaw in their choreographies and helping them work out all the kinks in turn, so their final project can survive Lilia Baranovskaya’s impossible-to-meet standards.

When he gets in, they’re already done with warm-ups and working through one of the choreos. Yuuri tries to be as undisrupting as he can, which doesn’t work very well, because as soon as he gets in, everyone turns to him. He winces a little, feeling bad for being late as he mutters a quiet apology and goes to sit in a corner to warm up.

“Long night?” one of the dancers asks, smirking at Yuuri and trailing his eyes from the top of Yuuri’s head all the way down. Yuuri looks down at himself and notices for the first time that his shoes don’t exactly match. Same brand, different colour. Then he glances back up and catches sight of himself in the mirror, taking in how his hair looks like three different degrees of a mess and the bags under his eyes.

“You could say that,” he says.

“You could’ve invited us,” the dancer insists. Yuuri knows his name. He knows he knows his name, but he’s been calling him Russian Chad in his head for so long, he sometimes forgets what it’s supposed to be. “I could show you a good time.”

“I was working,” Yuuri says, moving away slightly, looking around for a way to extract himself from this conversation.

“Hey, Yuuri, can you help me with this step I’m not getting?” Kat, bless her entire soul, asks, motioning Yuuri over to the group of people who don’t try to constantly make passes at him.

Yuuri actually genuinely likes them. They took him to a pastry shop when he first got assigned their group and they bring him tea whenever they arrive late as a genuine apology.

“Of course,” he says, and immediately moves towards them to help in whatever he can.

They’re doing a couple of performances from Moulin Rouge by popular – and extremely drunken, from what Yuuri gathered – vote, which Yuuri was very pleased with, since he never actually expected to put his burlesque knowledge to any practical use.

He spends the next two hours helping them form cohesive routines and transition between songs seamlessly until most of them have a visible sheen of sweat clinging to their skin, and Yuuri feels his back twinge in protest.

His class is supposed to finish at midday, but it always runs late. By the time they’re done it’s closer to one than not. Yuuri’s getting ready to go, when Kat comes up to him.

“Hey, Yuuri, want to come have lunch with us?” she asks.

Yuuri would normally say no, but he feels a little guilty for delaying class and Kat did help him out of an awkward situation, so he says, “Sure,” and follows Kat’s group out of the classroom.

“I don’t have any lunch plans,” Russian Chad says.

“Tragic,” Kat says, in such a tone that it almost makes Yuuri feel bad.

It would make Yuuri feel bad, except for the fact that Russian Chad is the kind of person who stands completely naked in front of Yuuri while he’s showering and asks to borrow his soap, which Yuuri doesn’t really appreciate a whole lot. He’d understand if it happened once or twice, but in the months Yuuri has been here, it happens at the very least once every week, which is a bit… much.

The only people who can pull off seducing someone while unexpectedly standing completely naked in front of them are mass market romance novel heroes. And probably Victor Nikiforov. But, then again, Yuuri might be a little bit biased on that. Even with all the heartbreak Yuuri has gone through, Victor could climb directly out of a sewer, and if he so much as smiled at Yuuri, Yuuri would probably be so charmed he would collapse on the spot.

“We’re thinking of going to that place near the park,” Kat says, steering Yuuri away from Russian Chad and towards the locker rooms.

The part of Yuuri’s brain that is dedicated exclusively to petting dogs tries its best to come up with a way to get lunch and pet dogs.

“Sounds good,” Yuuri says, trying to figure out the best route to run into the dog walker.

Turns out, the gods must be in Yuuri’s favour today, because they run into the dog walker and the three dogs they have with them today on the way to the restaurant.

Yuuri is so tired that he feels a little bit like crying when an over enthusiastic little thing that reaches to about his calves and is covered in floof starts aggressively licking his face and making excited noises when Yuuri leans down to pet her.

“Dogs are so good,” he says, in complete awe of how blessed he’s been on this day.

From the group of five that have come to lunch, only one stays back and looks at the dogs warily, while the others more than eagerly, pet the dogs.

“Yuuri’s like a dog whisperer,” Valya, whose name Yuuri now knows, is telling Kat and the others. “I’ve never seen a single dog who didn’t like him.”

“Honestly, same,” Kat says, looking absolutely delighted and trying to pet two dogs at the same time. “It’s the Yuuri effect. You see him, you want to lick his face.”

Yuuri is so caught off-guard by that sentence that the puppy who’s been enthusiastically greeting him manages to topple him over and make him fall on his ass.

“True,” Valya says, looking amused.

Suddenly, Yuuri can’t understand Russian.

He focuses on the very excellent dog leaving little dirty paw prints all over him.

“You’re a good girl, aren’t you? Such a lovely good girl,” he coos, in Japanese for good measure, and resolutely ignores anything that isn’t dogs going on around him.

«»

For brunch, Victor takes his mother to one of her favourite cafés where they sit down to catch up, and his mother orders half the menu.

Having been a prima, and having had to control her diet as strictly as she did, there’s absolutely no one who can pry Maman’s food away from her now.

That leaves them too full to even think about having a proper lunch, so they grab Makkachin and decide to go take a walk through the bigger park close to Lilia’s studio.

Unfortunately, walking around in such a traveled park, means Victor is forced to leash Makkachin, because while he trusts Makkachin to behave and be nice to other dogs, he’s had a couple of scares with more aggressive dogs, and he would never forgive himself if anything happened to her.

Maman loops her arm through his as they walk, sticking close to Victor because she is a tactile person and also because her fashion choices will not be compromised by something as inconsequential as the weather. Victor has offered to give her his jacket exactly sixteen times.

“So,” Maman starts, in that tone that has always spelled trouble for Victor. “Met anyone interesting lately?”

“Maman, we’ve had this conversation before. I don’t have time for new people.”

“And I respect that,” she says.

Victor sighs. It’s not that Maman doesn’t respect his decisions. It’s that she sometimes steamrolls over them without much care for what Victor thinks or wants.

“I just thought, after banquet boy-“

Maman,” Victor says, as a warning.

“I’m just saying,” she says, looking up at Victor earnestly, and he knows she has good intentions, he does. But talking about what happened in Sochi isn’t something Victor can handle very well right now.

“Don’t make me regret having told you about him,” Victor says, watching Makkachin trot a little ahead of them and sniffing at the ground here and there, and pointedly not looking at her.

“You barely told me anything,” she huffs a little, put out. Victor doesn’t really make a habit out of lying to his mother, or even omitting, but sometimes…. sometimes she’s a little too much, and sometimes Victor wants to keep some things to himself, without her well-intentioned meddling. “If you told me his name, I’m sure I could-“

Victor stops and turns to her, letting her arm slip from his so he can face her properly, so she knows this is important. “Maman, please let this go.”

Makkachin starts pulling at her leash and barking, but Victor holds her firmly next to him because he needs to do this.

“Vitya-“ she starts.

“Maman, I know you only want what’s best for me, but you need to let this one go. You can’t fix it, and I don’t want you to, okay? I’m not a baby, you can’t keep trying to make friends for me. Or try to set me up on dates I don’t want to go on. I’m almost thirty. You know that, don’t you? I haven’t been a child for a very, very long time.”

Maman sighs, and puts a hand on his cheek, looking a little sad for a second. “I know,” she says, quiet in that way she gets when she’s being as honest as she can be. “You know I just worry. You barely make time for anything but skating, Vitya. I just- I worry.”

Makkachin gives another pull at her leash and Victor spares a “Makka, down,” towards her, before he looks back to his mom because this feels important. “I know. I’ll try to be better at it, I promise.”

Maman looks intently at him for a second, eyes skittering around Victor’s face, a little frown creasing her forehead. Victor doesn’t know what she was looking for, but she seems to find it, because she smiles, and says, “Okay, darling. I won’t stick my fingers where they’re not wanted.”

“Please don’t say it like that,” Victor says, scrunching up his nose.

“Why, what’s wrong with it?” she asks, in a tone that conveys she knows exactly what’s wrong with it.

Victor opens his mouth to answer, and gets distracted by another sharp pull on the leash and a pitiful whine from Makkachin, which gets his attention faster than barking did. He looks down at her worriedly and then up at whatever she’s straining towards, until his eyes land on one of the staff members at her doggy daycare, coming in their direction with three dogs on leashes.

“Oh, you saw your friends, was that it?” he asks.

At his side, his mother gasps in absolute delight, and says, “Puppies! Vitya, let’s go say hi!”

She doesn’t wait for his answer, just grabs him by the arm and pulls him along.

Makkachin looks happy enough to see the dog walker, and the puppies they brought with them, even if she gets a little jealous when Victor leans down to pet one of the doggos, and tries to climb into his lap.

“Sorry they’re a bit over excited,” the dog walker says. “They just got a lot of attention from a group of college students.”

“That’s okay,” Victor’s mother hurries to assure, cooing at the two dogs she’s lavishing attention on, while Makkachin is distracted greeting the other one. The petting session lasts until Makkachin realizes that Maman is giving attention to someone else, and nudges her way under her arm, putting her paws on her lap and grumbling, trying to lick at her face for attention.

Maman pets Makkachin and coos reassurances at her about how she’s the most beautiful girl, and her favourite. They lose some time just enjoying the dogs’ company before the dog walker has to go on their way.

They’re free to continue on their walk, and fortunately Maman keeps any talk about Victor’s non-existent love life to herself, and delights him with stories of what she and Victor’s Mamochka have been up to lately.

«»

After lunch, Yuuri runs by the ice rink and looks around for his skates. He doesn’t find them, even though he looked everywhere he could think of. He runs around for half an hour, and texts Katya to make sure he didn’t leave them in her car, before he gives up and heads home.

Katya texts him back while he’s on the bus home to let him know she hasn’t seen them. Yuuri didn’t really expected her to.

Maybe he dropped them somewhere in between the front door and his room.

He stops by the doorman’s desk to ask, and gets the same answer he got from Katya, before he drags himself up to Lilia’s apartment.

“I’m home,” Yuuri calls out, more out of habit than anything.

The only greeting he gets is a door slamming shut, and Potya opening her eyes briefly from her napping spot on stream of sunlight, before closing them again.

Yuuri sighs a little, and wonders if it’s wrong of him to hope that Yuri slammed his door because he was looking at something embarrassing on the internet, and not because he’s mad at Yuuri for whatever unfathomable reason.

Yuuri likes Yuri, he does, to the point where Yuuri could even feel comfortable calling him his friend, but sometimes keeping up with his moods is exhausting.

Yuuri is already an emotionally exhausted person. Dealing with a teenager who defaults to anger when anything he doesn’t agree with happens is sometimes too much to ask of him.

“Right,” he mutters to no one in particular.

It’s Yuuri’s turn to make dinner today, but it’s too early for that, so in the meantime he busies himself with searching for his skates.

He looks everywhere he can think of, in every single division he feels comfortable entering. He pulls all the backpacks he uses from under his bed and opens every single one of them, throws around the laundry that has been steadily piling on his assigned laundry chair, crawls on his knees to look under any surface that could feasibly hide skates, but to no avail. He even opens the fridge and stares at it for some reason.

Predictably, his skates aren’t inside.

And that’s about when Yuuri starts stressing out, because skates are expensive, and while Lilia pays him more than Yuuri thinks he deserves, most of that money goes back to his parents and to Minako. It’s the least he can do to repay them for all the years and all the money they’ve sunk into him. If he couldn’t be successful, he can at least make good use of his degree and help them now.

The rest of Yuuri’s money goes towards rent, transport, and food. The money he keeps to spend on whatever little indulgence he allows himself would not be enough for a new pair of skates for several months.

Yuuri can’t just stop sending his parents money, he can’t, even if the thought of not skating for that long stresses him out, and sure, he could rent skates, but they’re nowhere near the same, and it’s not like he can really skate in them, not like he needs to.

Yuuri is trying very, very hard to stay calm right now, and is on the brink of failing spectacularly at it. As a last ditch effort to keep his anxiety at bay – because he does consider Yuri his friend, and because he knows that deep down Yuri cares – he goes to knock on Yuri’s door to ask for help.

«»

Yuri almost doesn’t answer the door when the knock comes, partly because he’s still mad, and partly because he feels kind of guilty about his impulse decision this morning. Yuri isn’t the nicest of people, he knows that, and he knows messing with someone’s skates is something you just don’t do.

He’s been sitting in his room for most of the afternoon, working on his homework and talking himself in and out of his anger in circles, and trying to not let the guilt win over it.

He only hovers on his decision for half a second, before he gets up and throws his door open. “What?” he asks impatiently.

When he opens his door, he’s ready for a number of reactions. He’s ready to see Yuuri angry, he’s ready to see him try to skirt the issue, he’s ready to see him be polite to a fault, he’s even ready for this to not be about the skates at all.

Here’s what he gets: Yuuri looking exhausted and shaky in his doorway, there’s bags under his eyes and his hair looks messy, falling down onto his eyes behind his glasses. He looks three seconds away from shaking himself apart.

It’s hard to cling to any fight at all when Yuuri looks like that.

“Sorry, I know you’re studying,” Yuuri says, making it so, so much worse. “Have you seen my skates?” He runs a hand through his hair pushing it back from his eyes, and holding it back with his hand for a couple of seconds, drawing in a big breath as if he’s trying to center himself. “I can’t find them.”

Yuri had honestly expected him to try to lie. Or to be angry.

“Why would you need skates?” Yuri says, letting the bitterness drip from his tongue, seep between the gaps between his teeth. “You told me you were done, didn’t you? That you didn’t do this anymore? That’s why you couldn’t help me at the rink?”

Yuuri goes very still, drops his hand and stares at him as Yuri works his anger right back up again. “Yura, what?”

“Don’t call me that. You have no right- after you lied to me.”

“What are you talking about?” Yuuri says, sounding genuinely baffled, a little crease forming between his eyebrows. And then that little crease goes away as realization dawns on him, “Do you have them?”

Yuri grabs his door, ready to slam it shut, but Yuuri cuts him short by putting his foot resolutely in the way and backing Yuri into his room. He doesn’t put his hands on Yuri, he doesn’t need to, not when Yuuri is looking like that.

Yuri expected Yuuri to get angry, but he didn’t expect him to look this scary.

“You took my skates?” Yuuri asks with an unnerving sort of calmness.

“You lied to me! You said you didn’t skate!”

“Give them back.”

“Admit it! Admit you lied!”

Yuri.”

Yuri grinds his teeth together, and turns to his closet. He pulls out the skates and throws them at Yuuri, who catches them a little clumsily, and looks at him with a frown that says, Was that really necessary?

“There,” Yuri spits. “Take your fucking skates and leave.” He points his finger towards the door, trying to tense his muscles so his hand isn’t shaking so visibly.

“Why are you so upset?” Yuuri asks.

“Don’t act like you give a shit now! I might still have to train with you, but don’t you fucking dare act like you care. Just say you fucking hate me and leave.” And that’s probably what hit him the hardest. The fact that Yuuri really looked like he cared, like he saw Yuri, and not an overachieving, genius skater. Not Russia’s punk or Russia’s fairy or anything, but Yuri. That he listened to Yuri and talked to him like a person, without being patronizing, that he talked to Yuri like a friend.

Whatever. Not like he cares. Why would he?

The confused frown is back. It somehow hits harder when Yuuri is clutching his skates to his chest. “Why would I hate you?”

“Because you quit!” Yuri explodes. “I yelled at you, and you quit! And you lied to me!” He can’t really stop himself from letting the words trip from his mouth. He’s been holding them for so long and he’s so angry and so disappointed and so sad that he just-

There’s a deafening quiet after Yuri says it. Horrifyingly he can feel his eyes burn a little, and quickly turns away, shoulders hunching.

“Whatever. Just leave already.”

“Yuri,” Yuuri sighs, so softly it feels like a physical blow.

“I said leav-“

“Do you know how many people yelled at me to quit?” Yuuri cuts him off. It throws Yuri off a little how sympathetic he sounds when he says it. “A lot. More than I can count, probably. If I listened every time someone told me to quit, I wouldn’t have even started. I didn’t quit because you told me to.”

When Yuuri puts it like that it sounds kind of… stupid.

“Why did you quit then?” he asks, still not turning around, so Yuuri doesn’t see him wipe at his eyes and nose with the collar of his shirt. Yuri isn’t crying. He hasn’t cried in a long time. He’s just frustrated. It happens sometimes.

There’s a sigh behind him and Yuri hears something being set down on his desk and his chair squeaking as it’s moved.

“A lot of reasons,” Yuuri says. “It just felt like that’s where my career was headed no matter how hard I tried. Sochi was… Sochi was a complete nightmare and it just proved that this was the best decision,” Yuuri finishes. “I guess… I just ran out of reasons to keep trying.”

Yuri turns at that, and sees how Yuuri’s slumped in his chair, looking towards the ceiling, looking so, so tired.

He thinks about Yuuri falling and falling and falling, and he thinks about the banquet and of how loud Yuuri was laughing, of how he poked Yuri on the cheek exactly four times before Yuri agreed to dance battle him.

“You couldn’t find even a single one?”

“I can’t think of any,” he says, and Yuri thinks of him spinning Victor around the room and of how he had caught Victor looking at pictures of the banquet in the break room, how it had felt like Yuri was witnessing something incredibly personal.

It sits wrong with Yuri, hearing Yuuri talk about Sochi like that, for some reason.

“I still don’t get why you’d want to skate with me, but- next time ask, okay?”

“I did,” Yuri says. “I asked and you said you wouldn’t skate with me, that you weren’t a skater anymore.”

Yuuri frowns a little. “I did?”

It’s like Victor and the stupid fucking choreography all over again. “You did! When you told me someone needed to record me skating my routines.”

“Oh,” Yuuri says. “Well,” he rubs the back of his neck awkwardly, “we’re friends now, so I don’t mind you seeing me skating.”

We’re friends now.

Just like that.

“Whatever,” Yuri grumbles, feeling drained and a cautious sort of happy. “Where do you even skate anyway?”

“The one closer to Lilia’s studio,” Yuuri says. “I know a lot of the Juniors’ coaches now, and one of them owns it. She lets me skate afterhours sometimes.”

That’s… convenient.

“Is that why you’re always so fucking tired? You go skating?” Yuri asks, incredulously.

“Just… skating figures,” Yuuri says, sounding a little sheepish.

Yuri stares at him in all his exhaustion and unkemptness. “Are you some sort of idiot? You need to sleep. You can’t just collapse while you’re skating with me, I won’t be responsible for you smashing your head open.”

“I sleep,” Yuuri says, sounding decidedly defensive.

“More than four hours in a row?”

“… At times.”

Yuri rolls his eyes. “Whatever, continue being a dumbass, see if I care.”

Yuuri gives him this tiny little smile. He doesn’t say anything, but there’s a certain smugness and warmth to that smile that says, I know you care.

Which Yuri doesn’t.

At all.

Okay, maybe he does, but he should. They’re friends after all.

«»

The next morning, Yuuri is very, very tired and already on his second cup of black tea , which he has been sipping while he waits for Lilia’s friend to arrive so they can do… whatever it is they’re going to do. As Yuuri understood it, Lilia’s friend will be consulting on creating the choreography for Lilia’s upcoming ballet as well as designing all the costumes.

Yuuri knows the bare bones of the choreography Lilia had in mind, and will be serving as a sketching pad for them, running through steps as they come up with them.

He’s run through his warm up routine already, and he's ready to do his best even if he’s bone-deep tired and working on his supposed day off – which is never really a day off, because if Yuuri stops for any significant amount of time, he might just drive himself crazy. Stopping gives him too much time for introspection and overthinking, which Yuuri tries to keep to a minimum as much as he can.

“After this,” Lilia says, after intensely watching Yuuri sip his tea for a while, “I expect you to take the day off to rest. I will not tolerate any sort of negligence towards your health, Katsuki Yuuri.”

Yuuri opens his mouth to protest, and is swiftly cut off by Lilia threatening him with, “If I see that you aren’t properly taking care of yourself, I will pay for Minako’s ticket myself so she can impress on you in person how important this matter is. Are we understood?”

Yuuri thinks about Minako storming St. Petersburg expressly to twist his ear and give him a strong talking to, and immediately blanks.

“Yes, Madam,” he says with as much conviction as he can.

He thinks he’s been handling himself pretty well. The bruises under his eyes aren’t even that noticeable, Yuuri checked in the mirror this morning. Granted, he had just woken up and wasn’t wearing his glasses, but still. It’s fine. He’s fine.

This session will probably be tough on Yuuri’s back since it’s still aching a little bit from having slept on the floor, but he’s pretty confident that he’ll get through it without any glaring mistakes.

And then Geneviève Nikiforova, former Bolshoi prima, current lauded costume designer, and most importantly mother to Victor Nikiforov walks through the door and Yuuri immediately feels his flight response kick in.

“Lilia,” she greets happily, giving her a tight hug and a kiss on each cheek. Yuuri, who in all the months he’s spent around Lilia has never seen her allow anyone to touch her, watches with something akin to wonder as Lilia hugs Geneviève back. “You look gorgeous as usual, I missed you so much. We have so much to catch up on.”

“Geneviève,” Lilia says, sounding a sort of fond Yuuri has never heard from her. “It’s good to see you again. How is your wife?”

“Beautiful, stunning, amazing, breathtaking,” Geneviève sighs adoringly. “As always. She sends love.”

“My love to her. Are you ready to begin?”

Geneviève pouts, and it makes her look twenty years younger. “It’s always straight to business with you. I’ll think you don’t enjoy my company.”

“We’ll have plenty of time to catch up, after we’ve done our work. My assistant has business to attend to after this,” she says, looking pointedly over at Yuuri.

“Oh,” Geneviève says, turning to him, mouth open in a little surprised ‘o’ as if she had managed to completely miss Yuuri when she had walked in. “That was so rude of me, hello! I’m Geneviève Nikiforova, thank you for coming so early in the morning,” she tells him with a sunny smile, and offers Yuuri her hand for him to shake.

Yuuri gets caught mid-bow, and awkwardly hovers for a moment, before he straightens and takes her hand.

“Katsuki Yuuri,” he introduces himself. “It’s… really a pleasure to meet you.”

“Oh, are you a fan of my work?”

Yuuri thinks of that one perfume ad where Victor got out of a pool wearing a very tiny swimsuit, and of Victor sliding across the ice like a dream every single time he steps on it.

“Yeah, I, huh- yes,” he says, not looking her in the eye.

Then he realizes he’s still awkwardly holding her hand, and goes to pull back, but Geneviève holds him firm, tilting her head and looking him over for a solid second.

“Do I know you from somewhere?” she asks, frowning a little.

“I… don’t think so?” Yuuri says cautiously, praying to every single deity he knows of that she doesn’t know anything about him. That would be beyond humiliating.

“We may start as soon as you’re done harassing my assistant,” Lilia speaks up, and Geneviève immediately drops his hand and turns to her.

“I was not!”

Lilia doesn’t look particularly impressed, but then again she rarely does.

“I was just being friendly!” Geneviève defends, but backs off and allows Lilia to start the meeting properly.

Yuuri knows Geneviève in an oblique sort of way. Victor clearly loves his mothers very much, and every off-season there is at least a full week filled with pictures of the three of them (plus their dogs) on Victor’s Instagram.

Until this very moment, Yuuri has only seen Geneviève Nikiforova posing in pictures with her son with matching smiles, or on red carpets on her wife’s arm wearing something very beautiful. She always seemed to carry herself with an untouchable kind of grace.

Meeting her is completely different than he expected – not that he ever expected to meet her.

She’s in no way unprofessional. She has the same sort of grace and competence Lilia seems to have, and when they start they barely spare a second to catch their breaths until everything is as close to perfection as they can possibly make it.

She just seems to have a very loose grasp on the concept of personal space, which catches Yuuri by surprise, having to quickly get used to Geneviève correcting his posture and guiding him through steps in a more hands-on way than he’s used to. She seems to be the kind of person that wouldn’t consider even for a second that her presence might be unwelcome.

Yuuri’s dealt with hands-on teachers, it doesn’t bother him.

She seems to lack a brain-to-mouth filter, and unapologetically says everything that seems to pass through her mind, more than once leaving Yuuri reeling, unsure how to respond.

She’s also overenthusiastic. Yuuri dares to make a suggestion and is met with immediate praise, which throws him off even more than the manhandling had.

Yuuri ends the session tired but proud of what he’s accomplished, and quietly satisfied that his suggestions had been so well-met.

“Good work,” Geneviève says, clapping her hands in apparent delight. “You’ve got a wonderful assistant, Lilia. Unexpected!” The inflection on the last word makes it sound as if that is the best compliment she could have given Yuuri. “I would never guess someone so fluid would be be training under you.”

“He’s Okukawa Minako’s boy,” Lilia says, and Yuuri eyes the door warily, wondering if he’ll need to make a swift escape or not.

Geneviève gasps at that. An actual, veritable, surprised gasp. Yuuri hadn’t realized until that specific moment how little people actually gasp to express surprise in day-to-day life.

“And you didn’t think to tell me?! Lilia! How could you!”

Lilia raises an eyebrow. “I did tell you, perhaps you weren’t listening, as usual,” she says to a Geneviève who’s already turning to Yuuri, and, most likely, not listening.

“I didn’t know you were Mina’s boy! How is she? You must tell me everything she’s been up to, I haven’t seen her in so long,” she tells him.

“Uh,” Yuuri says, eyes skittering towards the door.

“I lost her contact a while ago and I was so sad, and I keep forgetting to ask for it back – I know! I’m just awful! – but Minako was such a great friend and I miss her terribly, you understand?”

“I can… give you her number?” Yuuri says very carefully, head spinning.

Minako knows Victor Nikiforov’s mom. That’s just… a whole thing that has been happening without Yuuri’s knowledge. Huh.

He has no idea how to react to this.

“Oh, that’d be great!” she says, rushing to grab her phone.

Yuuri looks over at Lilia for guidance, and meets none, as she pinches the bridge of her nose with her eyes closed, pulling off that annoyed and yet slightly fond look that seem to fit so comfortably on her face around Geneviève.

So Yuuri is stuck with giving Geneviève Minako’s number, along with every social media Minako is on.

And just when he thinks he’s in the clear to go sit in his room and have a quiet freak out about how his day is developing before he passes out, Geneviève says, “Thank you so much, it’s been lovely working with you today, Yuuri.” Which isn’t too bad and actually makes Yuuri feel useful and competent, until she adds, “It’s a shame my Vitya made me promise not to meddle in his love life, I think he’d like you a lot.”

At which point Yuuri chokes on his own spit and almost dies on the spot.

Geneviève pats him on the back worriedly, and Yuuri manages to cough out an “I’m fine, I’m fine. Thank you,” and then bows to both of them and yeets himself out of there as fast as he can.

That was… maybe a little too close for comfort. He needs to go home and sleep for approximately sixteen hours so he can pretend he doesn’t exist for a while. The last couple of days have been heavy on him.

When Yuuri took this job, he knew running into Victor might be a possibility, considering Madam Baranovskaya’s connection with Yakov Feltsman, and he’s worked very hard to avoid it. The thought of facing Victor after the embarrassment that was Sochi is a particular kind of gutting.

Victor’s everything he’s wanted to achieve, everything he’s wanted and doesn’t get to have. He has no idea what kind of higher forces are at work that have permitted him to live in relative peace for the last months, but he’s thankful for them. Or he thinks he is.

Yuuri’s relationship with Victor is complicated at the moment. It’s like a paradox of self-flagellation. Making sure they never meet is a punishing kind of masochism, a longing he’ll never see sated. But meeting him would be a completely different kind of punishment, having something so close and knowing that you’ll never get to touch or have. It’d be a humiliating kind of punishment, all of Yuuri’s flaws would look even more crooked and ugly next to how bright Victor shines.

Not that he has to worry about that. After all, what are the odds that he’ll run into someone he’s actively trying to avoid in a city as big as St Petersburg?

Chapter Text

Yuri isn’t the type of person who gets nervous at competitions. Not in the way he’s seen so many other skaters get. If anything he feels a sort of giddiness that makes him restless. The anxiousness that settles in his stomach always feels more like excitement, like a challenge, than anything else. And yet-

Yet, somehow he finds himself slipping away from Yakov and Lilia’s watchful eye and into a bathroom stall, heart hammering in his chest in a way that is making it hard to breathe as he taps through his phone and hits the call button.

“Come on, pick up!” he mutters, chewing on his nails.

This is stupid. Yuri’s worked his entire life for this. He knows he’s good at what he does. He knows he has winning programs. He knows he has everything he needs to succeed. But then again, last time he had been so sure too, and he failed. And he can’t fail, not when the stakes are this high. If the doesn’t make the final...

“Yuri? Is everything alright?”

Yuri slumps against the bathroom stall, shoulders unwinding.

“Yeah, everything’s fine, I just…” he trails off. He just what? What can he even say? Why did he even choose him to call?

“You’re on after JJ, right?” Yuuri asks. “I just saw heard the announcer say he was next. Do you need anything?”

“You’re watching?” Yuri asks, a little surprised that Yuuri would. Aside from the few times Yuuri took Yuri skating with him, he avoided anything related to skating. He didn’t even know the line-up for this Grand Prix.

“Why wouldn’t I?”

“You don’t watch competitions,” Yuri tells him, just in case he forgot.

“That’s not true. I watched Phichit’s programs!”

He did do that. Yuri remembers Yuuri timing it perfectly so he could come into the living room just when Phichit Chulanont was performing, fingers flying through his phone even as his eyes were focused on the television, before he got up and left as soon as Phichit was done.

Phichit, who is famously Yuuri’s best friend. And now he’s doing the same thing for Yuri.

The next breath Yuri takes, somehow comes a little easier.

“Are you going to watch the rest of the competition?”

There’s a pause. “Probably not.”

“Cool,” Yuri says, suddenly feeling very smug. “Make sure you pay attention, I’ll skate so fucking well you’ll want to fly to Canada to beat me yourself.”

There’s a noise at the other end that almost makes it sound like Yuuri is laughing, a puff of air that sounds distinctly amused.

“Do your best,” Yuuri says.

“I will.”

And Yuri does. At the end of the Short Program he’s in first and riding a high not even Lilia can bring him down from.

He steps off the ice to a Yakov brimming with pride, and a message with a short video of Potya looking at the television intently during his program on his phone.

«»

“He changed his programs,” Victor comments, watching Yuri skate through his Free on his laptop, one earbud in so the noise doesn’t disturb Makkachin sleeping beside him.

He doesn’t do anything as glaring as change the jump composition, but the change is there in the step sequence, in the little flairs of his hands and the bend of his back and the escalating level of difficulty of the jump entries.

It’s almost lyrical how he’s skating. It’s some of the best work from Yuri Victor’s seen, and he wonders where it comes from, who is influencing Yuri so heavily, lately. If that’s all his own work, or maybe the influence of Lilia and her assistant. And if it is, then Victor absolutely has to meet Lilia’s mysterious assistant. Managing to make Yuri change so much and evolve so much in such a short time is impressive.

Victor wonders if they might have any skating background. There’s absolutely no way this comes from a strictly dancing education.

But then again, he wouldn’t put it past Yuri to obsessively work on his programs in secret until he reached this stage all on his own. He’s an angry little genius in his own right. Whoever called him an ever-evolving monster first had the right idea. Victor doesn’t think there’ll be much that can stop Yuri’s climb to the top.

Yuri ends the competition in second, only half a point behind the Canadian skater, and Victor winces a little at how mutinous his face looks on the podium. That is not going to be pleasant to deal with when he gets back, even if he can sympathize. Missing out on first place by such a low margin is beyond frustrating.

Luckily for Victor, by the time Yuri gets back, he’ll already be on a plane to the Cup of China.

His suitcase sits open in a corner of his room, half-packed, his costumes hanging from the back of his door.

He needs to finish packing, triple check all his documents, and double check with Makkachin’s doggy daycare that it’s still okay for her to stay the week.

The hardest thing about competitions will always be leaving Makkachin behind. It hurts his heart more than he can put into words to have to walk away while she whines at him. He tries to find comfort in the fact that now that she has the daycare, she can stay over with all her doggy friends and won’t be quite as lonely.

Makkachin breathes deeply in her sleep, and Victor reaches out to pet her, as gently as he can, so that she doesn’t stir. It’s getting late, and he has to finish packing soon.

At least there will be some silver linings. He’ll get to meet up with Chris again, and that’ll be nice. He doesn’t really get to see his friend as much as he’d like, and with any luck they’ll have some time to sightsee, or do something together that isn’t competing against each other.

Victor hasn’t been to Beijing in a while, it’ll be nice to revisit. Maybe someday he’ll even get to do it outside of work, so he can take his time to be a proper tourist and see everything there is to see and try every food there is to try, instead of having to abide by his tight dietary regime to keep top shape for competition.

That’d be nice, he thinks. Someday…

«»

Yuri’s been back from Canada for little more than a day and the intensity with which he throws himself into practicing seems to have doubled, if that was even possible. Yuuri doesn’t comment on it, doesn’t tell him to slow down or to stop or try to offer platitudes.

Yuri’s competitive, and missing out on gold for such a low margin must be infuriating to someone like him. It would be for Yuuri, especially if it was to someone you actively dislike.

Yuuri wouldn’t really mind losing by a fraction of a point to someone like Phichit or Victor or Chris. Or actually, he would mind, but it wouldn’t be nearly as upsetting as losing to that one Junior skater who spent every single National competition he shared with Yuuri teasing him, and who stuck gum in his hair when Yuuri was trying to grow it out.

He feels like JJ is a little bit that for Yuri, so he keeps his mouth shut and takes Yuri with him to the ice rink when he has the time.

They run through Agape once, marking the jumps because Yuuri is wary of accidents. Yuri skates like a demon on a warpath, which doesn’t really translate well when you’re trying to skate about love, so Yuuri switches to a fast paced over-complicated thing he never got to skate in competition.

He’s surprised when Yuri immediately agrees to learn instead of demanding to know why the hell he should do anything Yuuri says, but he doesn’t question that either.

It seems to work, Yuri skates out his frustrations and runs himself ragged.

“Why the fuck did you never use this?” Yuri asks when they’re about ready to leave.

“Celestino thought it might be a little too difficult for me,” Yuuri says.

“Did he say that?” Yuri says, and Yuuri is taken aback for a second at how outraged he sounds.

“I underperform constantly,” Yuuri says slowly, as if Yuri isn’t aware. As if Yuri didn’t witness Yuuri’s biggest blunder. “He was just worried.”

“I’m going to whoop your Coach’s ass with my bare hands! This could be a record breaking program and he just told you to throw it in the garbage? What is he, stupid?”

Yuuri feels a little offended on Celestino’s behalf.

“He was just looking out for me.”

“By telling you you can’t skate something challenging? What kind of bitchass coaching is that?!”

Yuuri is always caught off-guard by Yuri’s inexplicable outbursts. He knows teenagehood is hard, but he doesn’t remember fluctuating so hard between apparent apathy and outrage. It’s probably something very specific to Yuri.

“He never said anything like that to me. Ciao Ciao was always really supportive.” And he was. Celestino was even at times too supportive, too understanding of Yuuri and his needs. “He just asked me if I was sure, and I wasn’t… so,” Yuuri shrugs a little awkwardly, playing with the cap of his water bottle.

Yuri stares at him for a solid half minute that has Yuuri fidgeting. “Are you an idiot?” he finally asks, and it’s not aggressive. His tone is wondering, almost sincerely curious.

It makes Yuuri laugh a little.

“I mean, probably,” Yuuri says.

Yuri rolls his eyes at him and pushes off the boards, skating backwards. Yuuri sets his water bottle down and follows after him

“Next time, I want to do some jumps,” he tells Yuuri.

“If I find someone to sit in with us, sure.”

“Good,” Yuri says, stopping at the center of the ice. “It’s about time you learned to land a damn quad salchow. I’ll teach you.”

Yuuri opens his mouth to refuse. He’s not skating anymore, he doesn’t need to add any jumps to his repertoire. He should just be content that he’s somehow managed to maintain what he has learned so far and use skating as the escapism it’s always been. There’s absolutely no reason for Yuuri to be practicing jumps he could never quite land.

Except-

Except there’s a part of him that still hungers for being the best, for outdoing, outlasting, outperforming. It’s the part of him that has him compulsively run through old programs, and seeing how much harder he can make them for himself, just for fun. The part that has had Victor’s Free Skate from last season memorized by heart, and sometimes- sometimes still tries to land the quad flip.

There’s a greedy, gaping part of him, that is prodded wider and wider the more time he spends teaching Yuri, seeing him throw himself recklessly into skating, seeing him emerge victorious, seeing him ball up confidence under his tongue and spit it out at adversity.

No, is what Yuuri should say.

But instead he stops beside Yuri at the center of the ice, and says, “Sure. But only if you let me teach you figures.”

“Deal,” Yuri says readily, and offers Yuuri his hand to shake.

It’s amusing how seriously Yuri takes so much of this. Endearing too.

Yuuri shakes his hand. “Deal.”

«»

On the day Victor’s supposed to leave for Beijing, he has trouble leaving the house. He has everything prepared and packed. The only thing left to do is close his suitcase and drive Makkachin to her doggy daycare.

Unfortunately those are the hardest things for him to do, because Makkachin has learned that a packed suitcase means Victor is leaving.

Victor walked back into his room to see Makkachin laying on top of his suitcase, muzzle resting on her paws as she gives Victor the most soulful puppy dog eyes, and Victor- Victor just leans down to pet her and wonder, not for the first time recently- not for the first time today- if any of this is really worth it. If having a gold medal around his neck is worth the time he loses with Makkachin, is worth him ripping himself open in a different way and remaking himself in a new image every single skating season, is worth him almost reaching thirty and barely having anyone he could call just to talk, is worth the loneliness that chews at his very bones to get to the marrow of him.

“Don’t look at me with those eyes, you break my heart,” he tells Makkachin, leaning down to kiss the top of her head in apology, before he lifts her off the suitcase.

Makkachin makes upset puppy noises and puts her paws on Victor’s back when he leans over to close his suitcase. Victor gently pushes her off and then sits down on the floor, opening his arms for Makkachin to walk into and headbutt his chest.

“You won’t even miss me, Makkachin,” he tells her. “You’ll see, you’re going to have so much fun with your friends, you won’t even notice I’m gone.”

Makkachin leans heavily on him, and then flops belly up for tummy rubs, which Victor grants.

He allows himself as much time as he can with Makkachin before he has to rush to get to the airport. The last thing he needs is to miss his plane and get lectured by Yakov.

When it’s time to go, Victor juggles his luggage and Makkachin down to the car. He puts Makkachin’s favorite radio station on and talks to her the entire ride to the doggy daycare. It doesn’t make it any less gutting to know that Makkachin has no idea why once in a while Victor just abandons her, but still Victor makes himself leave and catch his plane.

Here’s the truth he won’t let himself admit: he knows the answer to the questions that keep looping in his head, all of which boil down in one way or another to “is this worth it?”. He’s known the answer for a while now, but he doesn’t entertain it for more than half a second, because what would Victor even do if he did? What else is he good at besides this?

So he flies to Beijing, meets up with Chris, ends up in first after the short program, and categorically does not think about it.

«»

Yuuri’s having lunch in the dog park despite the cold weather. Freezing fingers aren’t about to stop him from his nearly daily dose of petting excellent dogs. Also, if given the choice between sitting out in the cold and petting some dogs or agreeing to go to lunch with Russian Chad, Yuuri will choose dogs every single time.

Luckily for him, he’s managed to get the timing just right, so he barely has to wait five minutes after he’s done with his lunch before he spies Valya making their way towards him, being led by more than leading three dogs down the path.

Yuuri loves all dogs equally, obviously, but he can’t help but brighten that little bit more when he sees that the fluffy brown poodle. Yuuri doesn’t think it will never not hurt thinking about Vicchan, but Makkachin is such a sweet dog, and her personality is so different from Vicchan’s that Yuuri can look at her and not see his dog.

“Yuuri! Good afternoon,” Valya greets, just as the dogs swarm Yuuri and his mood is forcefully lifted up by three separate bundles of joy.

While trying to distribute his love equally between the dogs, he notices that Makkachin looks more sluggish than usual, bumping her snout against his calves instead of trying to bowl him over like she usually does.

“Good afternoon,” Yuuri says, sparing Valya a smile, before he focuses back on the dogs. “Is everything alright with her?” he asks, feeling his heart constrict at the sad puppy dog eyes she’s giving him.

“Her owner’s out of town,” Valya offers. “She always gets a little down about it.”

“Aw, baby,” Yuuri says, giving her extra attention, and wishing he had treats with him to try to make her feel a little better.

Valya pulls the other two puppies out of Yuuri’s reach so he can focus better on Makkachin, who perks up a little under the attention.

“Does her owner leave a lot?” he asks. It sounds a little cruel to leave such a good dog alone, and Yuuri should know about being cruel to dogs by leaving them.

“Only when he has competitions,” Valya says, and Yuuri is so focused on Makkachin that he only half-listens. And then his brain fully processes what he’s just been told and he freezes a little.

“Competitions?” he asks, carefully.

Makkachin, a standard poodle who looks so similar to Victor’s own dog, and feels sad because her owner is gone at the exact same time Victor is off competing in China, leans her head a little more heavily on Yuuri’s hand where he’s rubbing at her neck.

Yuuri reaches for the tag hanging from her collar and flips it around just as Valya says, “He ice skates, I think. Or something.”

“Or something,” Yuuri parrots, staring down at the neat letters engraved in the back of the tag, cyrillic on top and then with the latin alphabet right bellow, followed by a phone number.

Victor Nikiforov.

Makkachin, who was panting happily at Yuuri’s ministrations, whines a little when Yuuri comes to a shell-shocked stop. Oh god, he’s been petting Victor’s dog for months without Victor’s permission.

Makkachin whines again and puts a dirty paw on top of Yuuri’s knee, begging for attention, and Yuuri is weak to do anything but go back to petting her gently.

It hits him, all of a sudden, that for months Victor would have to have driven down the same street Yuuri has walked down at the very least twice a day to drop off and pick up Makkachin, and that in all that time they haven’t run into each other one single time.

He can’t settle on whether he’s disappointed or grateful for that.

Maybe it’s just been luck on Yuuri’s part that he hasn’t run into his idol after embarrassing himself so thoroughly in front of him, or maybe it’s just how it was always meant to be. Maybe it’s just that their paths were never meant to cross in the first place and all of Yuuri’s ambitions that involved Victor were nothing but a pitiful struggle against the wills of the universe.

That last thought leaves a bitter taste at the back of his throat and he quickly stomps it down to reconsider only when it’s two a.m. and his brain refuses to allow him sleep.

He very, very gently pushes Makkachin off of him.

“Thank you for always stopping to let me pet them,” Yuuri says, picking up his bag.

“Oh, you’re going already?”

“Sorry, I have a class soon,” Yuuri says, bowing his head a little.

“Will you be free tomorrow?” Valya asks, before Yuuri can make his quick retreat. “We could take a walk around the park, like the other time.”

“Ah, maybe?” Yuuri says, glancing sideways at the path that leads him away from this situation. “My schedule is a bit…” he trails off awkwardly.

“Oh,” Valya says, and they almost sounds disappointed. Yuuri can’t figure out why they would be disappointed about not having to make their lunch time walk with the dogs longer than it needs to be just to let some random guy with no friends pet dogs.

Yuuri gives Makkachin a last good head scritch, before he turns to leave. “Bye, I’ll see you around.”

“… bye.”

Truthfully Yuuri doesn’t have a class for a couple of hours. He’s teaching his kid class, and will have to wait for all the kids to get out of school first. Normally he passes the time  by pouring over the program elements that the Junior coaches pass him to look over, or drawing up lesson plans, but this encounter has been a little too close for comfort and at the same time not close enough.

He feels as if he stood too close to a speeding train he was supposed to catch, and needs to take a couple of steps back to catch his breath from the adrenaline rush.

He doesn’t have time to go to the ice rink right now, so he finds an empty studio, and runs through the choreographies for Lilia’s new ballet until he’s out of breath and sweaty, and it’s time for his class.

«»

Yuri’s puttering around the kitchen, waiting for his dinner to be done- or rather, delaying his dinner being done as much as he possibly can while he waits for Yuuri to finish his damn bath, so they can watch the competition together.

By some miracle Yuuri agreed to watch the competition with him, which Yuri feels weirdly smug about. He’s already set everything up in the living room, taking full advantage of the fact that Lilia isn’t going to be home until later.

He glances at his watch, and realizes Yuuri’s been in the bathroom for over an hour now. He has no idea what he’s been doing there for so damn long, and he’s trying to not think about it too much. Because he doesn’t need that kind of imagery in his head. Ever.

He peeks in one of the pots, and realizes that if he leaves the food any longer it’ll get overcooked, so he turns the stove off, and makes the decision to go drag Yuuri from his bath himself.

“Hey! Dinner’s ready! Are you coming out or what?” Yuri calls out, rapping his knuckles against the door a couple of times.There’s no response. “Hey! If you’re not out in five minutes, I’m starting without you!” Yuri tries threatening.

When that doesn’t get a response either, Yuri frowns.

It’s really not like Yuuri to ignore him like this. Yuri always gets a response, because Yuuri is polite to a fault, even when Yuri is being kind of rude to him. So he knocks again, louder. “Hey, answer me! This isn’t funny!”

A loud splash comes from inside and Yuri throws the door open, worried Yuuri might have tripped and brained himself.

What he sees is Yuuri laying down in a bathtub full of water. There’s two bottles of shampoo floating in the water, and Yuuri is looking at them in confusion as he rubs at his elbow. Yuri recognizes the sluggish way Yuuri blinks and the little frown that gives a downturn to the corner of his lips. He’s seen it every single morning since he’s moved in.

“Were you sleeping?” he demands.

Yuuri takes one second too long to answer. “Not intentionally.”

“Are you stupid? That’s dangerous! You could drown!”

“It’s fine,” Yuuri says, still trying to blink the sleep away. “I haven’t drowned yet.”

Yet?” Yuri asks, disliking the implications of that.

Yuuri really is a dumbass, Yuri can’t believe he’d just let himself fall asleep in the bath like that. But then again, Yuri’s seen Yuuri fall asleep while he was stretching, so he really shouldn’t be so surprised.

Instead of answering him, Yuuri sneezes. He sneezes like he’s trying to be quiet about it, which makes him sound like a kitten. It’s terrible.

There’s no way the water is still warm at this point. That moron is going to get himself sick.

“Go get dressed,” Yuri huffs at him. “Dinner’s ready, so hurry up. If you fall asleep again I’ll come beat your ass.”

“Thanks, Yura,” Yuuri says, making to stand up.

Yuri quickly turns around, muttering a, “Yeah, yeah. Whatever.”

He stomps his way back to the kitchen, and is met with his cat on the counter sniffing at the pot and almost has a heart attack all over again. He scoops her up and holds her to his chest like she’s a baby.

“Don’t do that,” he chides her, burying his fingers in her soft tummy and getting his hand bitten for his troubles. It doesn’t really phase Yuri. Potya never bites him hard. He flicks her in the ear to watch her shake her head adorably and then sets her down on her chair, because of course Potya has a designated chair.

Is it ridiculous that they’ve dragged a chair to the kitchen and have gone as far as to put a cushion on it so Potya would have a space to lie down while they cook? Yes.  But even Lilia allows it, so the chair isn’t moving any time soon.

From all the unexpected things to happen since Yuri started training under Lilia, Lilia’s softness towards Potya definitely ranks top five. It makes Yuri feel smug that everyone loves his cat so much, even if he gets a little jealous whenever Potya spends more time with Yuuri and Lilia than him.

“Stay,” Yuri tells her, putting a finger to her little forehead softly. Potya doesn’t move and he gets a treat for her. Yuri isn’t dilusioned enough to think his cat can be trained like a dog, she’s too stubborn. But Potya is smart and she knows that if she sits right there on that chair, more likely than not, food will find her.

He puts food into bowls and takes them to the living room, before he goes back to pick Potya up and close the kitchen door so she can’t get anywhere dangerous.

 When he gets back to the living room, Yuuri’s just settling in, a soft looking blanket around his shoulders and another one pooled beside him where Yuri normally sits.

Yuri sets Potya down on the floor and climbs over the back of the couch so he can get at his bowl before she figures out where the food is and tries to pounce on it.

“Ready to start?” Yuri asks, nudging his laptop awake until the stream shows up on Lilia’s television.

“Ready,” Yuuri says.

Yuri hits play, and settles in, pulling the blanket over his shoulders and grabbing his bowl. He’s got his phone sitting beside him open on his notes app so he can write down anything interesting that happens, or anything to watch out for with the competitors.

“This is really good,” Yuuri compliments, taking another bite out of his food.

Yuri tries not to feel too smug about it.

“It’s my grandpa’s recipe,” he says, and he couldn’t tone down the pride in his voice if he tried. “Of course it’s good!”

Potya seems to think so too, by the way she jumps on the couch and insistently tries to get her entire head into Yuri’s bowl. And when that doesn’t work, she tries Yuuri’s. The next fifteen minutes or so become a weird game of keep away from Yuri’s very loud and persistent cat as the stream plays on in the background.

Yuri didn’t actually know what to expect from watching a competition with Yuuri, when Yuuri had previously been so adamant about not watching anything skating related.

Yuuri watches mostly quietly. He replies every time Yuri makes a remark, but he doesn’t initiate conversation himself. Mostly he stares at the television with this little frown between his eyebrows.

Yuri can’t figure out what he’s thinking, and he finds himself watching Yuuri, trying to gauge his reaction as much as he’s watching the actual competition.

Only three of the skaters get any response from Yuuri.

First Chris, who gets a shake of Yuuri’s head and a fond sigh at the end of his program.

“Giacometti continues being fucking disgusting,” Yuri comments.

“He’s not that bad,” Yuuri says. “I used to be in Juniors with him. Chris is really nice.”

“It’s still gross, I don’t care how nice he is.”

The second person who gets any reaction from Yuuri is Phichit, of course. Yuuri watches his entire program with rapt attention, points out to Yuri all the things Phichit had been struggling with and cheers when he makes any jump he normally has difficulty with.

As soon as Phichit is off the ice, Yuuri grabs his phone and starts typing with a single-minded focus. Yuri only has to peer a little into his phone to understand that he’s texting Phichit every single one of his reactions to his skate while they’re still fresh in his memory.

“I’m proud of him,” Yuuri says. “He deserves this.”

The last person is Victor. Of course it’s Victor. Yuri didn’t know what he expected, but there’s still something that kind of bothers him about the look on Yuuri’s face, the wide-eyed awe, the way he leans forward, the way he looks like Victor holds his breath in his hand while he skates and only gives it back to Yuuri when the music comes to a close.

Yuuri doesn’t say anything about him, and neither does Yuri. There’s really nothing to say. Victor skated cleanly, even if he didn’t skate his best. Whether he’ll land on the podium or not isn’t really a question. He’s in first, and will most likely remain there.

Yuri almost expects Yuuri to get up and leave, but instead he stays put and waits for the next division to start skating, becomes a little more talkative again. Yuuri seems to have an easier time watching the Women’s Division competing. He speaks up about their programs, tells Yuri which of them he knows personally, comments on their music choices. Whatever qualms Yuuri has towards skating, they all seem to be centered around the Men’s Division.

They don’t make it to the end of the livestream before Yuuri falls asleep, with his head tilted back against the couch and his mouth open. He’s drooling.

Yuri reaches forward and hits pause on his laptop, before he gets up and stretches.  

He’ll have to unhook his setup, but first he should get Yuuri’s ass to bed, so he pokes him in the cheek until Yuuri unwillingly opens his eyes.

He’s very agreeable when he’s this sleepy, and it only takes a couple of prods from Yuri to set him in the direction of his bedroom, and make sure he actually gets in bed and doesn’t just fall asleep on the way there.

It’s still a little weird for him to do things like this for Yuuri, for someone he grew looking up to, in a way. You never actually expect to be this close to the people you admire. But then again, you never actually expect to run into them in a bathroom and yell at them to quit their job when what you want is the exact opposite.

When Yuri invited Yuuri to watch the competition with him, he wanted to see if he could poke out that competitive spirit he sometimes sees sparkle in Yuuri’s eyes when they skate together, or when Yuuri helps him with his programs. But instead, during most of it, Yuuri just looked sort of… sad, which isn’t what Yuri was really aiming for.

Not that it’ll matter in the long run, because Yuri will drag that competitiveness out of Yuuri even if he has to shove his entire fist down his throat to grasp it. He knows it’s still there and he knows he can do it, that he will do it, and that he’ll be able to skate against Yuuri like he was always supposed to.

«»

Victor ends the Cup of China sharing the podium with Chris and Phichit Chulanont.

Chris always performs his best when he’s competing directly against Victor, so there really wasn’t any surprise there. Phichit, however, seemed to come out of nowhere and net himself a medal, surprising Victor and the entire audience with his performances. Victor congratulates him when they’re on the podium and makes a mental note to ask him later who designs his costumes, because his Free Skate costume, particularly, is very beautiful.

Unfortunately, Victor can’t really find a time to start a proper conversation with Phichit until the banquet, when all the competitors are forced into a room to socialize and rub shoulders with sponsors.

Fortunately for him, when he finally manages to excuse himself from talking to every single person he is more or less forced to talk to, Chris is already speaking to Phichit, which gives Victor the perfect opportunity to introduce himself properly.

“Oh, Victor!” Chris calls, motioning him over. “Just the man we were looking for. Let me introduce you to my new friend, Phichit Chulanont.”

Victor stops right in front of Phichit and gives him his best media smile. “Nice to meet you, your free skate is fantastic,” he compliments, extending his hand for Phichit to shake, which he does enthusiastically.

“Thank you so much,” he says with a blinding smile. “Wanna take a commemorative photo?” he asks, holding his phone up eagerly.

Victor looks over at Chris, smile still fixed in place, and says, “Sure.”

Phichit Chulanont is very very good at taking selfies, which also means that it takes them about five full minutes of angling the phone just right for Phichit to get something he deems good enough to post on Instagram.

He seems more than satisfied with the end result, though. “Do you mind if I post it and send it to a friend?”

“Not at all,” Victor says, Chris echoing his answer.

He watches Phichit tap away at his phone for a couple of seconds, wondering how he’ll breach the topic he really wants to breach when Phichit says, “Oh, Yuuri’s going to be so jealous.” Which serves as an extremely effective way to freeze Victor’s breath in his lungs.

“Phichit and I were talking about what a pity it is that Yuuri isn’t competing this season,” Chris says, and gives Victor a very pointed look.

“Ah,” Victor manages to choke out, and has to take a second to clear his throat, before he can attempt coherent speech.

Phichit’s eyes zero in on him as soon as Victor opens his mouth, phone immediately forgotten. Victor gets the distinct feeling that Phichit is a dangerously perceptive person, who sees more than Victor is comfortable with.

“It really is,” Phichit says. “But he needed a break for personal reasons.”

“Is he alright?” Victor asks, a little worried, before he can really stop himself. His little outburst gets him another heavy stare from Phichit.

“He’s not injured, if that’s what you’re asking.”

“I don’t mean to pry,” Victor lies. He absolutely means to pry. He wants to know everything about Katsuki Yuuri, chief of all why he hasn’t called him yet. “He took some falls during Nationals, everyone got worried after he disappeared.”

“Yuuri just needed a break, that’s all.”

“A year is a big break for someone who isn’t injured,” Chris notes, not unkindly.

“He’ll take the time he needs to take,” is Phichti’s unflinching answer, still with a smile on his face, still holding polite conversation, but with iron behind his voice that you couldn’t hope to bend.

And before Chris can really react to that, he turns to Victor. “I didn’t know you were so aware of Yuuri.”

That throws Victor for a bit of a loop. He knows from his initial social media binge, trying to find any official account of Yuuri’s, that Phichit is Yuuri’s best friend. He’s absolutely certain of it, if not from how often Yuuri is featured in Phichit’s Instagram and mentioned in his Twitter, then from Phichit’s bios on both of the social media sites, that proclaim it proudly, as if being best friends with Katsuki Yuuri was a skill and an accomplishment to be proud of.

Victor just kind of assumed that Phichit would know about the banquet, that Yuuri would’ve told him. That Phichit doesn’t know is… disheartening. Either Yuuri is such a private person that he wouldn’t even tell his best friend about it, or it really didn’t mean enough to him for him to consider it worth telling.

“He’s one of the top ranked skaters in the world,” Victor says. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“That’s what I said!” Phichit bursts suddenly, sounding particularly vindicated. “Sorry,” he says lowering his voice again. “Please tell me more about how you absolutely knew who Yuuri was and were immediately entranced by him.”

The last part is said as a joke. Victor knows it, and yet he feels the tips of his ears heating up and has to look away, rubbing at the back of his neck. “I wouldn’t say immediately,” he says more to himself than anything, but of course Phichit hears it.

“Holy shit,” he breathes out, staring at Victor with wide eyes. He then turns to Chris, and repeats it a little more heartfelt. “Holy shit?”

“In his defense,” Chris starts, and Victor barely stops himself from covering Chris’ mouth with his hand to stop whatever damning evidence of Victor’s ridiculous crush is about to tumble out. “It’s hard not to be when Yuuri decides to tango with you, before jumping on a pole and stripping in front of an entire banquet to win your favour.”

“Holy. Shit,” Phichit says, sounding amazed. “Pics or it didn’t happen.”

Chris, of course, obligingly takes his phone out of his inner pocket and opens his gallery.

Victor is helpless to do anything but watch Phichit’s face morph into scandalized delight as Chris swipes through the pictures. That is until Phichit turns to him, and asks. “Do you have any on your phone?”

Most of Victor’s pictures are in an external hard drive tucked safely in a drawer at his apartment, along with his baby pictures and family photos.

The upside of Victor having stuck close to Yuuri’s side during the banquet, is that he was in almost every single picture taken of Yuuri, giving him a fool-proof excuse to go through the attendants and ask for them to transfer the pictures to him before making them delete them. The only person that has as many pictures as he does is Yuri, he thinks.

“Some,” Victor says, and obligingly unlocks his phone and thumbs through it to show them to Phichit.

He only saved a couple on his phone.

There’s the selfies he managed to take. Victor’s favorite is the one where he had wrapped his tie around his head much like Yuuri had done and Yuuri had put his arm around his shoulders, hand warm even through layers of fabric. It’s a little hard to look at it and at how Victor is smiling in a way he doesn’t remember doing in a while. Victor is playfully poking Yuuri in the cheek in that one, because Yuuri’s cheeks seemed so soft that Victor couldn’t really help himself.

The one immediately after that was taken mere seconds later, but instead of looking at the camera with beaming smiles, Victor and Yuuri are looking at each other, smiling just as brightly.

The rest are the ones from the beginning of the night, where Victor had tried to apologize and Yuuri had waved a bottle of champagne around tauntingly. Yuri had started snapping pictures before he had been challenged to a dance-off and pushed his phone into Victor’s hands.

He doesn’t really know why those were the ones that he picked to keep on his phone. Maybe because the ones of them dancing were a little too personal, stripped Victor raw a little too much, and the ones of Yuuri pole dancing seemed a little too inappropriate to have on his phone – even if Chris seems to have no problem with it.

Maybe it’s because, they’re some of the few pictures where Yuuri is looking directly and intently at the camera. It sounds pitiful. Victor feels pitiful.

If Phichit thinks anything of it, he doesn’t say. He’s quieter watching Victor flip through pictures than he was when it was Chris showing him.

When there are no more pictures to show, Phichit looks up at Victor with his lips pressed together tightly and an apologetic look on his face.

“I’m sorry,” he says, and he sounds it, more than anyone who doesn’t know Victor has any right to. “Yuuri’s a blackout drunk, I don’t think he remembers any of this.”

“Oh,” Victor says, feeling the words like a bad fall on the ice, knocking into him harshly in multiple places, taking his breath from him, and leaving him aching. There’s a big difference between falling during practice, and falling during a competition, and right now Victor has an audience, so he smiles, keeps his back straight, doesn’t let anyone know he was affected in any way. “That explains it then!” There’s probably something to be said how easy it is to keep his tone light and carefree, how used to this he is.

Chris is looking at him with sad eyes. Victor can see it just in his periphery, which is why he’s avoiding making eye-contact with him at all costs.

“I can talk to Yuuri about it, I’m sure if he knew-“

“Don’t bother,” Victor interrupts. He needs to get out of here. He needs to get out of here right now. “It was almost a year ago. There’s no reason to bother Yuuri over something like this.“ What was Victor even expecting? It’s been a year. A year. How pathetic is he that he’s still clinging to one single night, after such a long period of radio silence. What did he expect after all this time?

Victor knows what he expected.

He expected an excuse to get out, a grip around the front of his shirt to pull him above water and let him breathe even just for a little while, but there’s no one reaching for him as much as Victor tries to grasp for it.

“Besides,” Victor continues, looking somewhere above Phichit’s eyes, giving the illusion that he’s still holding eye contact, that he’s in control of the situation. “It’s not like I’m likely to see him again, so really what does it matter?”

“Victor-“ Chris starts, and even his voice sounds sad, like he’s hurting for Victor.

“It was really nice to meet you, Phichit,” Victor cuts off. “I really hope we can compete again soon. Now if you’ll excuse me, my coach has been trying to get my attention for a while, I’ll be back when I can escape again,” he says, as playful as he can fake, even adding a little wink for effect.

“It was nice meeting you too,” Phichit says, sounding confused.

“I’ll see you later, then” he lies, giving them a little wave, before making a bee-line for Yakov.

Yakov, for all his rough edges, has known Victor since he barely knew how to stand on dry land, much less on skates, so all it really takes for Yakov to excuse Victor from the banquet and cover for him is a please. Victor doesn’t say please very often. Not like this, not outside societal politeness.

Victor catches a cab to the hotel, and the first thing he does is impulsively go into his gallery and delete every single picture of Yuuri he has on there (nevermind that he has back-ups).

The second thing he does is go into his recent phone call log and hit call.

It rings only twice before he hears the tell-tale white noise of someone answering the phone.

“Mamulya,” he whispers into the phone, “Do you have a second?”

There’s not even half a second of hesitation before the reply comes, “What do you need, darling?”

Chapter Text

Turns out, Yuuri is physically incapable of avoiding the dog park for more than two days. He feels himself going into dog petting withdrawal, and his lunch hours seem to stretch when he’s not petting dogs.

Yuuri doesn’t really like to not be doing something. That leaves too much room for his mind to wander, which is never good, and Lilia has officially forbidden him from doing anything during his established lunch hour that is work related or in any way physical.

So Yuuri finds himself back at the dog park, and feels immediately settled when he sees Valya and the dogs walking towards him.

“Um, could I take you up on that walk today?” Yuuri finds himself asking. If he’s going to pet Victor’s dog without his permission, he might as well go all out on it.

“Of course!” Valya says, seeming more excited than Yuuri thinks the occasion warrants. He doesn’t understand what’s so exciting about making your job take up more time than necessary.

Valya must really love dogs.

Either way, Yuuri is grateful that they’re willing to walk around the park with him. He even buys them coffee to thank them, before he has to say goodbye and walk back to Lilia’s studio.

A cold gust blows through Yuuri and makes him tuck his hands deeper into his pockets and his chin into his scarf. He quickens his pace, glancing up worriedly at the overcast sky. The forecast only predicted rain for later tonight, but the weather here is temperamental at best, and Yuuri doesn’t trust it one single bit.

He’s almost safely inside the building when he feels his phone buzz in his pocket, so he fishes it out and unlocks it as he shoulders the door open.

Peaches:
»can u skype tonight I got smth to tell u
»don’t freak out its nothing bad

Katsustop:
»are u just gonna rub it in that you met victor first

Peaches:
»maaaaaaaaaaaybe
»or maybe not
»guess youll have to skype me to find out ;)

Katsustop:
»I might have time after 10
»ill text u when I know

Peaches:
»<3

Yuuri smiles down at his phone, knowing that more likely than not Phichit is going to want to gush about the competition and all the new people he befriended. If it were anyone else, Yuuri would probably find an excuse to not have to listen, but this is Phichit who sat with Yuuri during more panic attacks than he can count. Yuuri’s willing to step out of his comfort zone for Phichit, if he needs to.

He pockets his phone, turning the corner and almost running straight into Russian Chad, who is just standing there, leaning against the wall and smirking.

“Fancy seeing you here,” he says.

“I work here,” Yuuri says, neatly sidestepping him, and trying very hard to get away before any kind of situation can develop.

Russian Chad, of course, follows him.

“Are you doing anything after this?”

“Yes,” Yuuri says curtly and pushes his way into the locker rooms, passing by Kat and a couple other of his students. He says a quiet hello, not wanting to be rude but wanting to hurry away from Russian Chad.

Something loud smacks into the lockers and Yuuri almost jumps out of his skin, whirling around towards the source of the sound.

Kat has one foot pressed against the lockers, a little over waist-height, effectively blocking Russian Chad’s path to Yuuri.

“Stop being creepy, dude,” she tells him. “You’re making him uncomfortable.”

“I’m just making conversation.”

“And I’ll just stab you with a plastic spoon if you keep trying to harass Yuuri in the locker rooms.”

Yuuri decides that this a great chance to go change his clothes without Russian Chad trying to chat him up, and leaves them to it.

When he’s done and ready to head to class, Russian Chad seems to be sulking in a corner

Kat is standing between him and Russian Chad, and when Yuuri gives her a grateful look as he walks past, she claps him on the shoulder and says, “Bi solidarity.”

Yuuri blinks a couple of times, trying to process that, before he huffs a laugh and says, “Okay, then.”

Russian Chad leaves him alone for the rest of the day. Yuuri definitely counts that as a win.

«»

Here’s a quiet truth Yuri will probably never admit out loud: he loves skating with Yuuri.

On the ice, Yuuri doesn’t treat him like Yuri is his student, but like they’re equals. He listens to Yuri, takes everything he says seriously, makes Yuri feel like he has his own voice, like he doesn’t have to shout to be heard.

He teaches Yuri figures, and Yuri is surprised that he doesn’t hate skating them as much as he remembers doing when he was younger. Yuuri skates them with an air of grace and peacefulness that makes Yuri want to skate them as beautifully as he does.

And then Yuri gets to teach Yuuri the salchow and it’s… slow going.

Yuuri doesn’t seem to get it, and Yuri gets frustrated because he doesn’t like feeling like he’s failing at teaching him. But for every time he falls, Yuuri gets back up more stubbornly and tries again, so Yuri reigns all his frustrations in, shows it to him again, tries to explain in another way, tries to give better advice.

Yuri’s seen Yuuri land the quad once or twice in practice videos, as shaky as it had been. It looked better than this, it’s pretty clear that Yuuri hasn’t been training his jumps for a while.

When Yuuri finally lands a textbook perfect salchow, Yuri finds himself throwing his arms up and cheering. He’s almost embarrassed, but Yuuri’s exhilarated smile doesn’t give him the time to. Yuuri skates to him and slaps his palms against Yuri’s raised ones, and then he thanks him.

Yuri feels like he could fight god for the rest of the evening. But instead of doing that, Lilia makes him sit with her at the dining room table after dinner to do the homework that Yuri might or might not have been skipping.

It’s not even that Yuri is bad at doing his homework, it’s just that Russian class is fucking pointless and he hates all the reading material he’s given. It’s stupid. He knows how to speak and how to read, what more do they want from him. Besides, time spent doing homework is time he could be using to practice or petting Potya.

Yuuri sits with them a bit, talking with Lilia about class schedules and choreographies and whatever else, until he excuses himself to go skype Phichit.

He’s gone long enough that Yuri manages to finish dragging his heels through the rest of his homework, and Lilia releases him for the rest of the night with a reminder to keep quiet and not to disturb her.

Yuri doesn’t actually want to incur the wrath of the gods by accidentally waking Lilia up, so he goes back to his room where Potya is laying across the bed like the queen she is and settles in with his phone until he’s tired enough to pass out.

He’s almost drifted off to sleep when Yuuri bursts through his door and makes both him and Potya jump.

“Did you meet me at the banquet?” Yuuri asks, voice high and threaded with panic.

“Wha-“ Yuri starts saying, confused and more than a little thrown, but Yuuri cuts him off before he can finish sounding the question out.

“In Sochi, did you meet me at the banquet? Did you- did you see me do… anything?”

“Why would you ask me that?” Yuri asks, confused, still taking in Yuuri’s disheveled state, how he’s gripping the door knob tight with one hand and the other is shaking by his side, and then it hits him. “You don’t remember.”

“Phichit just told me what I did, and I know he wouldn’t just lie to me about something like this but- I can’t believe I’d do something like that,” he sounds desperate.

In hindsight, it makes a lot of sense that Yuuri doesn’t remember.

Yuri isn’t stupid. He knows Yuuri looks up to Victor, he knows that if anything Yuuri would probably be ecstatic to meet Victor again after the banquet and not avoiding him like this.

And with this knowledge it slowly sinks in that Yuuri’s last interaction with Yuri before they met again in St. Petersburg, was Yuri yelling at him in a bathroom stall.

“It wasn’t that bad,” Yuri lies.

“Oh god,” Yuuri whimpers.

“It’s fine, no one even remembers it anymore,” Yuri tries. “And none of the pictures leaked, so what does it matter?”

“Do you have the pictures?” Yuuri demands.

Yuri has a lot of pictures from Sochi still on his phone that he can’t really justify to himself or to anyone else if they were to ask them why they’re there.

“It doesn’t ma-“

Yura,” Yuuri says, not harshly, but firmly, and he extends a trembling hand towards him.

Yuri presses his lips together, but opens his picture gallery, passing the phone over.

Yuuri doesn’t really say a word as he scrolls through the pictures, and Yuri can’t do anything but watch him flip through them, eyes flicking all over the screen, looking just enough so he can process what he’s seeing before he flips to the next. He watches Yuuri flip through most of the pictures at lightning speed, eyes widening.

He can tell the exact moment Yuuri hits the pole dancing pictures by the hitch in his breath and how red his cheeks get, and he knows exactly when he’s hit the pictures with Victor when he starts to slow down in his flipping, fingers hovering the screen.

Yuri doesn’t even know why he has those pictures saved on his phone, but he couldn’t make himself delete them for some reason. He never flips through them. When he does flip through the Sochi pictures he’d more often than not stop at the ones of their dance off, only venturing once or twice through the pole dancing ones.

Yuuri stops the longest on the very last one, before he hands the phone back.

“I didn’t know you didn’t remember,” Yuri says.

“Why did you never bring it up?” Yuuri asks. He doesn’t sound upset. Just lost. Despairing.

“I don’t like thinking about Sochi either,” Yuri says, and then because he’s friends with Yuuri now and he feels like it’s been a long time coming, “And I was… kinda nasty to you. Sorry about that.”

Yuuri laughs and it sounds a little hysterical.

“Right,” he says. “Right. It’s fine, I just need to- I need to go,” he says and turns on his heel to leave.

Yuri trips himself out of his bed and after him, quickening his pace when he notices Yuuri isn’t heading for his room but to the front door.

“Hey, I said I was sorry. Where are you going?”

Yuuri leans down by the entrance and puts his running shoes on.

“I’m not mad at you,” Yuuri says, and spares a reassuring look for Yuri even if it’s clearly tinged with panic. “I just- I need to go for a run.”

“It’s the middle of the night,” Yuri tries to reason.

“I just need to- to think.”

“Can’t you think inside? They said it was going to rain soon.”

“It’ll be fine,” Yuuri dismisses, already opening the door to leave, ”I’ll be back in a bit.” And then he closes the door and leaves Yuri standing there, staring at it like an idiot, feeling useless.

It’ll be fine, he tells himself. Yuuri said he’d just be gone a bit so he’ll come back soon, right? There’s nothing to worry about.

And then Yuri notices that Yuuri’s keys are still in the bowl by the door and his jacket is hanging from the coat hanger.

He curses and goes back to his room to call Yuuri and tell him to come back for his damn keys and jacket.

Yuuri’s ringtone lets itself be heard from Yuuri’s room and Yuri curses again, throwing his phone at the bed, watching it bounce off of it and onto the floor.

He decides to chase Yuuri down, but is stopped short by Lilia standing in the doorway to the living room.

“Where do you think you are going, Yuri Plisetsky?” she asks.

“Yuuri just-“

“I know, I heard,” she cuts him off. “And I also know you’re not chasing after him in the middle of the night.”

“But his phone and keys-“

“Yuuri knows the password to the building’s entrance door, and there is a set of keys at the reception. I’m sure he won’t stay out long in this cold, and I will not have two of my charges running off in the middle of the night.”

“But-“

“Yuuri will come back. You’re welcome to wait for him.”

Yuri grits his teeth, balling up his fists at his sides.

“Yuuri’s a grown man, and this is one of the most safe neighbourhoods if not the most safe neighborhood in St. Petersburg. He’ll be back soon,” she tells him, her voice a little gentler than previously, or as gentle as Lilia can be.

“Fine,” he grunts, and goes to grab a couple of blankets to wait for Yuuri on the couch.

He falls asleep two hours later, barely being able to keep his eyes open, and worried sick.

«»

Yuuri runs and runs until he feels like he’s about to collapse from his exhaustion. Until his lungs burn and his thighs threaten to give out under him, and he’s so tired he can barely think.

And then he catches the last bus of the night, with every intention of going back home and falling into bed.

Yuuri doesn’t realize he took the wrong bus, until he stops recognizing the streets, and scrambles to get out before it takes him further from the apartment.

He reaches into his pocket for his phone, and his hand only meets a couple of coins and a bubblegum wrapper he had stashed in his sweatpants’ pockets earlier today.

He’s in the middle of an unfamiliar street with no money or a phone, past the hours that public transport runs.

“Ah,” Yuuri says, tipping his head up towards the sky and trying very hard not to go into a full blown panic. “Fuck.”

«»

The very first thing Victor does when he gets back from Beijing is get Makkachin from the doggy daycare.

Nothing feels more like coming back home than crouching down with open arms and letting Makkachin tackle him down with the vehemence of all of her doggy love. It makes Victor very glad that no one at the daycare really seems to know him or care that he’s a celebrity. They don’t even bat an eye when Victor spends at least twenty minutes in the entrance way sitting on the floor as Makkachin wriggles all over him and whines softly her complains about being left alone for so long.

She practically starts scratching at the passenger’s side door begging to get in, and Victor rushes to open it so she can jump into the car.

It’s getting late, and he’s tired from the long flight. He hasn’t been home yet, because Makkachin takes priority. He always picks her up first before anything else, and only then does he get himself food and drive himself home, eager to be in a space that feels familiar and grounded, unlike the transience of hotel rooms.

That lasts, like every single time he comes back, until he steps foot in his apartment and the silence seems to swallow him whole.

Victor turns on the TV before he puts anything away just to have some sort of background noise, and only then can he comfortably unpack his things and go take a much needed shower.

Makkachin trails after him around the house, unwilling to let Victor out of her sight for more than a single second, and Victor hates that he’s so familiar with this routine that he knows how to avoid tripping on Makkachin when she gets clingy like this.

It goes as far as Makkachin not letting herself eat if she doesn’t have a direct line of sight to Victor. So when he returns from a competition, more often than not he ends up dragging a chair next to Makkachin’s bowl and eating his dinner right in front of her, just so he can make sure she’s feeding herself.

He knows better than anyone how awful it is for Makkachin when he’s gone for long periods like this. How she’ll stop eating at times, and it tears him up inside. So he overindulges her, spoils her, feeds her too many treats and showers her in all of his attention. After all, he needs it as much as she does.

He spends a couple of hours with Makkachin laying in his lap, petting her and flipping through channels in search of something that will hold his attention for more than five minutes. He ends up settling for a soap opera on a French channel he’s pretty sure he watched when he was younger. He entertains himself with it, trying very hard not to think of much at all, until it’s time for Makkachin to be taken on her night walk before they can both truly settle in for the night.

Usually, Victor doesn’t walk Makkachin very far at this time of night. A lap around their block at most, before he sits with her for a bit in the courtyard adjacent to his building, and today isn’t much different. They do their lap, and then Victor sits down on one of the benches, Makkachin sticking close to him instead of running around like she usually does.

He sighs, watching his breath in the cold night leave his mouth like a puff of smoke, before he tips his head back and looks at the overcast sky.

It’s probably going to rain soon. Victor really should start heading inside, but there’s something about the quietness of sitting on a bench alone at night outside that is so very starkly different than sitting in the quiet of his own home.

He feels soothed, almost. Like he can just be.

Like he can finally breathe out every single hope he had tucked under his sleeve linked to Katsuki Yuuri and let them float away. He can let himself wonder, for what he hopes is the last time, what it could’ve been if things had gone differently. If Victor really had quit and coached Yuuri.

What sort of programs could he and Yuuri have created together? What would their relationship be like? What kind of person is Yuuri when he’s not blackout drunk? What kind of person is Victor when he doesn’t have a skating season looming ahead? What kind of person would Victor be if he didn’t dedicate every single breathing moment to the ice?

Makkachin lays besides him, tail thumping rhythmically against the bench, head in Victor’s lap as he pets her.

Victor wonders if he dreamed the way his heart seemed to squeeze in his chest and the breathlessness in his lungs when Yuuri spun him around the dance floor.

He wonders if Yuuri would like Makkachin.

“Guess we’ll never know, huh, Makka?”

Makka looks up at him with big soulful brown eyes, and then goes very still. Her tail stops thumping, and she suddenly sits up, ears perking up a little and turning away from Victor.

“What’s wrong?” Victor asks, peering past Makkachin, towards the entrance to the courtyard. “There’s nothing there, Ma- Makkachin!” he shouts, cutting himself off, when Makkachin leaps down from the bench and takes off.

Makkachin never runs away from him. Ever.

“Makka, stop!” Victor shouts after her, running as fast as he can not to lose her from sight, as she exits the courtyard and veers sharply to the right, going down the sidewalk. Victor barely has a time to cut the corner, before he sees Makka ahead of him, tackling some poor person down and covering them with slobber.

“Makkachin! No! Bad!” he says, rushing so he can pull Makkachin off the them, a million excuses falling from his lips as he grabs her by the collar and starts tugging her back. “I’m so sorry, she’s never done this before. You’re not hurt are-“ the words die on his tongue as Victor stares, blinks, stares some more.

Victor must be dreaming. Maybe he fell asleep on the couch and doesn’t remember, or maybe his airplane crashed and this is the afterlife, because there’s just no way this is real, there’s no way this could be-

“Yuuri?”

Katsuki Yuuri is sprawled on the pavement in front of Victor, glasses crooked on his face and covered in slobber, staring up at him with wide startled eyes.

“Oh,” he says, very quietly, and then scrambles up to his feet.

Makkachin whines where Victor is trying to hold her back and leans forward, but Victor holds her firm.

“Victor,” he says, and it sounds different than Victor remembers it. In Sochi, Yuuri had given it more syllables, a heavy Japanese accent stretching the word. Now, it’s a littler crisper, a little closer to how every other Russian person says his name, even if Victor can still hear the trace of an accent hiding between the vowels.

Victor knew the image of Yuuri he had in his head from the banquet didn’t match up entirely with reality, but he feels that contrast starkly now.

Yuuri looks different, stands differently, carries himself differently.

He watches Yuuri adjust his glasses nervously so they lay straight on the bridge of his nose, and brush his hair from his eyes. His hair is longer than Victor remembers it being back in Sochi, and longer than he’s ever seen it in any picture.

It suits him in a devastating way.

“What-“ Victor starts, and finds that he has to clear his throat so his voice doesn’t sound quite so high-strung. “What are you doing here?”

Yuuri’s eyes widen, and he shoots his hands up, palms to Victor as if trying to calm him down. “It was an accident! I went for a run, and then took the wrong bus back and I ended up here. Please don’t think I’m a stalker or-“

“I meant here, in Russia,” he interrupts, sparing Yuuri from snowballing his excuses.

“Oh,” Yuuri says, like he’s startled by that. His hands drop down, curling and uncurling at his sides. “I, uh, I work? Here?”

Yuuri works here, in St. Petersburg, where Victor lives.

“What do you mean you work here?” Victor asks, mind whirring to try to catch up with what’s happening.

“I’m Madame Baranovskaya’s assistant,” Yuuri says carefully. “I thought… Yura had told you?”

The words land on him like a bucket of cold water down his back, and he unintentionally lets his grip slacken on Makkachin’s collar, who immediately leans forward to headbut Yuuri’s thigh gently.

Suddenly every single conversation he’s had with Yakov and Yura about Lilia’s assistant comes rushing back, and he understands why they were both being so weird and skittish about it around Victor. The betrayal sits heavily on his stomach and leaves a bad aftertaste in the back of his throat.

Victor’s never been stabbed, but he wonders if it feels anything like this.

“He didn’t tell me,” Victor says, slowly, to make sure his voice comes out even, to make sure he doesn’t let any of his hurt or anger through.

“Oh,” Yuuri says again. His voice is soft, quiet.

They stand there awkwardly. Yuuri is keeping his eyes on Makkachin, stealing nervous glances at him every now and then, and Victor looks, and looks, and looks. He’s been wishing to see Yuuri again for so long, and now that he has him in front of him, he has absolutely no idea what to do.

Victor has so many questions stacked behind his teeth, he doesn’t know which one he should pick first. It’s with all these words stuck in his mouth that the first droplet of rain falls on Victor’s nose, quickly followed by more.

Victor glances at the overcast sky and at how much darker it has become.

“We should get out of the rain,” Victor says, just as the rain turns into a downpour. The universe and the gods above are all clearly playing games with him. “My apartment’s nearby, we can wait it out there,” he says,  having to raise his voice to be heard through the rain.

Yuuri nods, and that’s all the confirmation Victor needs before he makes a run for it, whistling for Makkachin to follow and making sure she’s keeping up with him.

He can already feel his clothes cling to his body uncomfortably, and Makkachin is getting soaked through as well, his poor baby.

They really couldn’t have been in the rain for more than five minutes, maybe not even that, and yet when they step into Victor’s building, they’re both soaked wet and dripping on the floor.

Makkachin shakes herself off and sends water flying everywhere.

Victor turns back to Yuuri to decide what they’ll do from here, and sees him unsuccessfully try to wipe his wet glasses off on his soaked-through shirt. Earlier he was too distracted with just the idea that Yuuri was here to notice that Yuuri is only wearing a pair of sweatpants and a thin-looking long-sleeved shirt. His clothes are clinging to him and dripping water down onto the floor, making a small puddle in the entrance hall. Yuuri’s starting to shiver violently.

“Where’s your jacket?” Victor asks.

“I, uh, forgot it?” he says, sounding embarrassed, placing his water-smudged glasses back on his face.

Victor is hit with the need to bundle him up in every single jacket he owns.

“I need to dry Makkachin off. And I think we both need a shower. I can lend you some clothes and drive you back home after, is that okay?”

“I really don’t want to impose,” Yuuri says.

“I’d really prefer if you imposed on me and not on the rest of the building by dripping all over the entrance hall.”

Yuuri looks down at himself, and shifts a little in his shoes. They squelch loudly in the relative silence of the hall, and suddenly Yuuri’s cheeks are bright red. “A shower might be nice,” he says, quietly, voice unsure and almost lilting the sentence into a question.

But Victor takes it at face value and leads Yuuri to the elevator and up to his apartment.

It's almost comical how they stand side by side in the elevator, soaked through to the bone, with Makkachin sitting between them, her tail thumping heavily on the floor and tongue lolled out as she pants.

Victor glances down at her and feels a little more settled, reaching down to pet a hand through her fur. At least Makkachin is here to help him deal with this.

He chances a glance up at Yuuri and sees him looking down at Makkachin just as fondly which is just… it's something.

“Makkachin doesn't usually jump on strangers like that,” he comments, as casually as he can manage, which is a fair amount given the emotional rollercoaster Victor has gone through in less than fourty-eight hours.

“Ah.” Yuuri startles a little when Victor breaks the silence, his cheeks are still a bright red that bleeds down to his neck. “I sort of… know her?”

“You know my dog?”

“It was an accident!” Yuuri rushes out, voice once again going high and panicked. “I sometimes have lunch at the nearby park where they walk the dogs, and the staff normally stops to let me pet them. I didn't know you used the daycare by Lilia's studio, I only found out she was your dog a couple of days ago. I just thought… it was a poodle with the same name, I’m sorry.”

Yuuri doesn't just know Makkachin, but he has known her for a period of time, it seems. This whole time Victor has been agonizing over Yuuri, and Makkachin has known all along that Yuuri was closer than Victor could have hoped for.

And now Yuuri's looking over at him with his wide eyes and an anxious sort of sincerity Victor has no idea what to do with.

“I believe you,” he settles on saying and watches as Yuuri's shoulders slump in relief. It makes Victor feel like he should say something else, but the elevator doors ding open before he can think of anything to say.

Makkachin trots out first and Victor gestures for Yuuri to go ahead, more out of habit than anything else.

“Sorry about the mess,” he says, unlocking the front door and pushing it open, suddenly painfully aware of the single dirty dish in his sink and Makkachin's toys strewn all over the place.

Yuuri hovers in the doorway for a moment before he steps inside, eyes flicking through the apartment. Victor watches him take everything in as he closes the door behind him.

Twenty minutes ago he was ready to let go of Yuuri and Sochi and now he has him in his apartment.

Yuuri looks awkward standing there, he looks lost. And still dripping wet.

“Take your shoes off, please,” Victor says, doing just that, because as out of the left field as this situation is, he’s not about to track water and dirt through his house.

It's almost comical the way Yuuri jolts into doing it, slipping off his sneakers, and then straightening back up looking at Victor as if he's waiting for direction.

Victor has to make himself not be weird about this. He almost wants to touch Yuuri to make sure he's really there and not some hallucination derived of loneliness. Almost wants to pinch himself to make sure he's not dreaming, almost wants to let every single question trapped under his tongue spill out.

He focuses on the right now, and on not being weird about this.

“There's only one bathroom,” he says, making his way through the living room and down the hall. “You can shower first while I dry Makkachin off.” He pushes the door to the bathroom open and pulls out the bench he keeps next to the sink so it sits just outside the door. “I'll lend you some clothes and we can run those through the dryer, okay?”

Yuuri looks like Victor is about to push him off a plane without properly teaching him how to use a parachute. He blinks up at him with his big brown eyes, and, if anything, Victor can find comfort in the fact that those look exactly the same as they did at the banquet. Liquid and luminous, and puppy-like.

“What about you?” Yuuri asks, which is… sweet.

“I’m going to dry off Makkachin before she starts jumping on furniture.”

“Oh, okay,” Yuuri says, with a little frown creasing his forehead. “I’ll… go shower then?”

He stands just inside the bathroom, toes curling into the mosaic and one hand holding the door unsurely.

Victor gets caught up in looking at him and how his hair is plastered to the nape of his neck for a second too long, before he makes himself snap out of it and stop being weird about it. “I’ll go get you some clothes. I’ll put them on the bench here for you to grab when you’re done. There should be towels in the cabinet, and feel free to use anything in there.”

“Thank you,” Yuuri says. They both stand there without really moving. “I’m… going then?”

“Yes! And I’ll get the clothes,” Victor says and forces himself to turn on his heel and walk away, hearing the bathroom door shut gently behind him.

The very first thing Victor does is make sure Makkachin hasn’t jumped on any furniture that could get damaged. Second order of business is give her a quick pat down with one of her towels, before he wraps her up in it like a burrito and tells her to stay put while he gets clothes for Yuuri.

Yuuri who is here, in Victor’s home, in St. Petersburg, naked.

Neat.

This is something Victor can deal with. He just needs to get him some clothes, and everything will be fine.

He opens his closet and takes out one of his thickest, softest sweatshirts and pair of sweatpants, mindful of how much Yuuri had been shivering. He moves towards his cabinet, and opens the second top drawer to get out some socks, then opens the first drawer, sees his own selection of underwear and immediately closes it again.

“Makkachin, do you think the universe is mocking me?” he asks her.

Makkachin rolls around the floor in her towel, and does not answer him. She is very cute and the familiar sight makes Victor feels a little more centered. He opens the drawer again and takes a pair of simple boxers, before he goes to deposit the neat little pile of clothes on the bench for Yuuri.

And then he resolutely returns himself to his room so he can swap his own wet clothes for a robe and finish drying off Makkachin.

The familiar motions of patting a towel through Makkachin’s fur until she’s dry and then brushing all the kinks out of her fur are calming, and Makkachin, as always, is an absolute angel who basks under the attention and lets Victor do as he pleases.

“I can’t believe he’s been here this entire time,” he tells her. He really feels mocked. He wonders how many times he almost ran into Yuuri. He wonders what would’ve happened if he had run into Yuuri without knowing what he knows now about the banquet.

It makes him wince a little, thinking how a completely clueless Yuuri would react to him, in all his overinvested, overwhelming glory. Victor knows he can be too much. He’s been told so enough times to have learned it. If he had run into Yuuri not knowing what he knows… Yuuri would probably have actively started avoiding him.

“Even if he’s taking all of this really well,” he says aloud, a frown creasing his eyebrows. “Maybe too well.”

Yuuri seemed overwhelmed from the moment he had ran into Victor but… not surprised that Victor knew him. He didn’t even question Victor about how he was so familiar with him. Which is… weird.

Maybe he does remember Sochi, and if he does and he has been in St. Petersburg this entire time, then he really must have been avoiding Victor this entire time. Which is just...

Victor didn’t consider how awful Yuuri remembering could be. He wants him to not know. He wants Yuuri to be kind. He wants to believe everything he felt wasn’t just a tipsy, hopeless illusion.

“Um,” he hears from the doorway. “I’m done showering.” Yuuri’s hair still looks damp, and is sticking every which way, like he rubbed the towel through it and didn’t think to comb it afterward.

Victor’s clothes are too big on him, and it’s distractingly obvious. The sleeves fall down his wrist and touch his knuckles, and the pants have been rolled up a couple of times. He looks huggable, soft.

He looks like every single one of Victor’s lonely, lonely boyfriend fantasies standing in his doorway.

Victor gets caught up staring again, and only remembers to stop being weird about it when Makkachin slips from under his hands to trot happily to Yuuri.

This is something Victor can deal with. Probably. He just needs to get up and go shower. That’s it.

He gets up, collects the clothes he set aside, and turns to go to the bathroom, catches Yuuri looking at him before hastily looking away.

“If- if you need me to finish brushing Makkachin, I can do that?” Yuuri says, still firmly not looking at Victor.

Too firmly not looking at Victor. Maybe he remembers, and the guilt of what he’s done to Victor’s poor heart is finally hitting him and he feels ashamed.

“Sure, if you don’t mind,” Victor says cheerfully, and plants himself in front of Yuuri to try to get him to look at him for even a second.

Yuuri does. His eyes meet Victor’s for a fraction of a second before they dip down, and down and he jerks his whole face away, looking bright red.

“I don’t mind,” he says, and scoots past Victor, making sure they don’t touch, to get to Makkachin’s brush.

Victor looks down at himself, to where Yuuri’s eyes had wandered, to where his robe is so loosely tied it just barely covers what it’s supposed to.

Ah.

“Thanks for your help!” Victor says, his cheerfulness less forced, and maybe a little more smug. “There’s a hair dryer by the vanity if you want to dry your hair. I’ll shower now.”

On his way to the bathroom he manages to hear a very quiet but very heartfelt, “Ahhhh???”

Maybe Yuuri really doesn’t remember, which… means something. Victor has no idea where to go from here, but if Yuuri really is living in St. Petersburg – if he really is training under Lilia, training with Yuri, the selfish brat, then Victor might just have time to figure it out.

But first, a shower.

«»

Yuuri sits on the floor of Victor’s living room waiting for him to finish showering. He feels too awkward to wait for him in his room, and he’s not comfortable enough or familiar enough with this space to sit on the couch. So, floor it is.

He’s not uncomfortable by any means, Victor has a carpet on his living room’s floor that is plush enough that Yuuri could probably fall asleep on it.

Besides, Makkachin seems more than happy to lay on Yuuri’s lap while he has his internal freakout about how he just ran into Victor Nikiforov and is now inside his house. Makkachin might just be the cuddliest dog Yuuri has ever met. She doesn’t seem to mind being hugged one little bit, and laps up all the attention.

Yuuri’s happy to have something to distract him as well, otherwise he might do something stupid like try to walk back to Lilia’s in the storm that is starting to rage outside.

The discovery of what he did at Sochi is still too fresh in his mind for Yuuri to be able to ignore that completely. It’s like the pictures he saw on Yuri’s phone imprinted themselves behind his eyelids and his brain constantly flicks through them like a shameful slideshow.

If there are any higher entities, Yuuri is pretty sure they must be mocking him.

Thunder strikes outside, and Makkachin starts whimpering, trying to wriggle herself under Yuuri’s arm.

Victor’s apartment has big windows spanning one of the living room walls that overlook the city. When thunder strikes, Yuuri sees lighting flash in the far distance. He winces, thinking of how much trouble he would be in if Makkachin hadn’t found him.

The sound of rain hitting the windows becomes louder as the thunderstorm outside worsens. Thunder strikes again and Makkachin bolts from the living room.

Yuuri almost thinks about going after her, but he can hear Victor’s voice from somewhere further into the apartment, pitched low and reassuring, so he stays put. It’s not his dog, and it’s not his place.

A couple of minutes later Victor comes into the living room, blessedly dressed with both sleeping pants and a shirt, which Yuuri is beyond grateful for, because if there is something that isn’t good for his health is the image that has imprinted itself on his retinas of Victor wearing the sloppiest tied robe he has ever seen on anyone.

Well, considering the pictures on Yuri’s phone, he guesses that makes them even on the seeing each other almost naked department, even if the only thing that thought does is make Yuuri want to dig a hole to hide in.

He stops when he sees Yuuri on the floor, eyebrows quirking in surprise. “Why are you on the floor?”

“I, uh…” Yuuri trails off, because how does he explain that he was too anxious to sit on the couch, so he just sat on the floor, without sounding like an idiot?

They stay like that for a couple of seconds, looking at each other, Victor waiting for Yuuri to continue, and Yuuri feeling increasingly embarrassed.

“Right. Do you mind waiting for the storm to die down a little? I don’t think it’d be safe to drive in this weather,” Victor asks, looking out of the windows with a press of his lips.

“That’s… fine,” Yuuri says. That is not fine. Every time he looks at Victor he sees himself, drunk and desperate wrapped around a pole in his underwear.

“Great,” Victor says, a smile fixed on his face. “I’ll make us some tea while we wait. Feel free to sit on the couch.” And then he heads towards the kitchen, leaving Yuuri to embarrassedly push himself off the floor and sit on the couch like a normal person.

Victor’s apartment is an open floor plan, and Yuuri isn’t sure if he’s supposed to sit there with his back to Victor or if he’s supposed to turn around to face him.

The silence feels awkward. Weighted. It makes Yuuri’s hands tremble a little.

He clasps them between his knees to get them to stop.

“Do you have any preferences?” Victor asks from the kitchen.

Yuuri turns around on the couch, and looks at him. There’s something jarring about seeing Victor in soft clothes, with his hair messy and still a little damp, standing barefoot in his kitchen.

“Um, anything is fine,” Yuuri says. Victor could serve him motor oil, and Yuuri would probably drink it.

“Okay,” Victor says in a singsong tone as he pulls a tin out of a cupboard, and goes about getting mugs.

“Um,” Yuuri starts, and then almost regrets it with how promptly and expectantly Victor looks at him.

“Yes?”

“Is Makkachin okay?”

Victor’s eyes crinkle in the corners a little bit. “She’s afraid of thunderstorms, so I settled her in her bed in my room with her comfort blanket. My room’s soundproof, so she’ll be okay there,” he tells him, spooning sugar into the mugs as the tea boils.

Victor’s tea looks like a custom-made expensive blend. Yuuri feels a little bad that he’s making Victor waste it on him.

“Oh, okay,” Yuuri says. Makkachin is in Victor’s soundproof room, so she’ll be fine. He doesn’t really know why Victor would need to soundproof his room. Well, he can think of a couple of reasons, but that way lies madness, so Yuuri firmly redirects his attention towards Victor.

“I was really surprised when she ran away to meet you,” Victor is saying. “She’s never done that before.” There’s a pause that feels measured. “It certainly wasn’t how I was expecting to meet you again.”

And suddenly the reality of what drunk Yuuri did in Sochi comes slamming back into him full force, making Yuuri wince against it, and snap his eyes towards the floor.

“I’m- I’m really sorry about my behavior in Sochi. That was completely unacceptable of me,” he bows his head until his chin almost touches his chest. “I was really drunk and-“

“So you do remember,” Victor says, and there’s something about the tone he uses that seems off. There’s a certain stiffness and quietness to it that makes Yuuri look up.

“I don’t. I was- I don’t remember things when I’m that drunk.”

“But you know?” Victor prods.

“Phichit told me. I really am sorry, I should know better than to drink that much, there’s no ex-“

“You don’t need to apologize,” Victor interrupts, pouring the tea into the mugs.

“I really do! I can’t believe I did that in front of everyone.”

“It wasn’t that bad,” Victor lies to him. And Yuuri absolutely knows he is lying because he saw the pictures.

“I was pole dancing in my underwear!”

“So was Chris,” Victor points out, passing a mug into Yuuri’s hands.

Yuuri accepts it and wraps his fingers securely around it, bringing it to his chest and holding it there, feeling the warmth seep through him.

“It was fun,” Victor says, and sits on the couch with Yuuri. And then quieter, almost muffled behind the rim of his mug, he says, “I had fun.”

Yuuri’s brain makes a jumbled noise that could only be transcribed through keysmash as he tries to parse those words out.

The only way he can image Victor having fun with a sloppy drunk Yuuri, is if he were laughing at how pathetic he was. It makes sense that he would, Yuuri would blindly accept that as the reason why Victor could say he “had fun” if there wasn’t a part of him – the part that has idolized Victor since he was twelve, the part that curled up on bad days with interviews of Victor’s and Instagram videos of Victor with Makkachin to feel better – that rebels immediately and violently at the thought that Victor could be so mean.

“You’re a very good dancer,” Victor says, and if Yuuri hadn’t been looking so intensely at him he would miss how his nose gets red when he says it.

“You don’t need to say that to make me feel better,” Yuuri says, because there is absolutely no way that Victor actually means it.

Victor lowers his mug and gives him a hard look. “Are you calling me a liar?”

“No! Of course not!” Yuuri panics, almost forgetting he has a mug in his hand and throwing them up in a placating gesture. The tea sloshes a little inside the mug but doesn’t spill.

“Then I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it, hm?”

“I- but-“

“Besides, if it had bothered me I wouldn’t have danced with you.” Another pause. ”Or given you my number.”

“I don’t have your number,” Yuuri says mechanically while his mind makes a horrible static-y noise not unlike an old television being turned on.

“Are you sure?” Victor asks, and takes another sip of his tea.

And the thing is, no, Yuuri isn’t sure. Yuuri can’t be sure, because this isn’t the first time – and he hopes it’ll be the last, but he’s smarter than to believe that – that he has gotten blackout drunk and woken up with a stranger’s number on his phone.

If at least drunk Yuuri had the decency to label people correctly on his phone, but no. Drunk Yuuri is much more prone to emojis and unintelligible keysmash that if you squint at, at a certain angle, could almost be meant to be a word.

And knowing this, sober Yuuri doesn’t really go through his contacts often, and has learned fast to not answer any number that isn’t correctly labeled.

The thought that he might, at some point in the last months, rejected Victor’s calls, makes him sink down into the couch and try to hide his face.

Oh my god,” he whimpers. “I am so sorry. You must hate me.”

“I made you tea, and let you pet my dog,” Victor says as an answer to that. Which is fair. Yuuri would not let someone he hated pet his dog.

Yuuri sinks further into the couch and into his shame.

«»

Yuuri ends up falling asleep on Victor’s couch.

After their conversation, he presses himself into one of the corner’s of the couch, mug clutched to his chest in a vice-like grip, and Victor almost wants to poke him to see him uncurl and get a response out of him, but Yuuri looks overwhelmed in a volatile way. Victor’s afraid of saying the wrong thing, like he’s wont to do, so he doesn’t prod Yuuri any further.

He turns on the television as they wait for the thunderstorm to pass, and tries to make small talk that Yuuri barely responds to, even if he lets Victor refill his mug.

Yuuri lasts exactly one and a half soap opera episodes before he drifts off.

Victor lets him be, thinking he’ll wake him up when the storm has passed, but by the time it seems to be calming down, it’s closer to one in the morning than not, and shaking Yuuri awake proves completely ineffective.

It’s late and Victor’s exhausted, and going by the deep sleep Yuuri has fallen into, so is he. So, Victor gets a couple of blankets from his hall closet and a spare pillow from his bed and brings them to the living room. He tucks them around Yuuri, and sets the pillow by his head in case he wants it.

Yuuri’s face looks different as he sleeps.

For the entire time Victor has looked at him since he ran into him, there were lines marring Yuuri’s face. A frown that creases his forehead, a downturn of his lips, wide-eyed panic.

Sleeping, his face is relaxed and peaceful. Victor carefully takes his glasses off his face and sets them on the coffee table.

Yuuri’s lashes are ridiculously long, he notices, and almost gives in to the inexplicable impulse to brush Yuuri’s hair off his forehead. He curls his fingers into his palm, and goes to his bedroom.

Victor’s exhausted, but he’s not sure if he’ll be able to sleep. He feels like he’s still reeling, still recovering from a steep drop on a rollercoaster- his heart still racing so fast in his chest that he can feel it in his throat, his stomach swooping alarmingly as he tries to catch his breath.

He would be lying if he said he hadn’t pictured Yuuri in his house countless times, but in all the times he has, he imagined that Yuuri would look at Victor like he had in Sochi, eyes bright, face open, beaming. Not like he does now, skittish and with an anxious energy thrumming under his skin that unsettles Victor.

He has him in his house, and he has no idea what to do with him. He has no idea where he goes- where they go from here, if there even is a they in this scenario.

Improbably, he feels himself dropping off to sleep, and decides that whatever will happen next, will happen in the morning. He’ll just have to wait and see.

Chapter Text

The light shining through the window stirs Yuuri awake, and he instinctively turns away from it, pressing his eyes firmly shut against wakefulness. He pushes his face against the back of the couch, snuggles up to it for a solid three minutes before his brain catches up to his surroundings and gut punches him with the memories from last night.

Yuuri’s eyes fly open and he pushes himself up, body protesting and muscles aching from yesterday’s overexertion. The sunlight hurts him and he has to press the palms of his hands against his eyes for a minute, rubbing at them until they adjust. He blinks a couple of times, squinting a little to try to make the room come into focus. Not that it helps by much, everything more than an arm’s length away is blurry and smudged at the edges.

“Oh, you’re awake,” he hears Victor say somewhere from the kitchen. “Good morning, Yuuri. I’m making breakfast, would you like some?”

Ah, he thinks, I’m dreaming. Because what other explanation is there for Victor Nikiforov to be offering him breakfast right now, saying his name like that. Although, in his dreams, Victor’s always in sharp focus and not blurry like right now.

“Your glasses are on the coffee table,” Victor volunteers.

Yuuri hesitates for half a second before he reaches for them and slides them onto the bridge of his nose.

The room around him comes into sharp focus, and Yuuri’s breath gets stuck somewhere in his throat when he turns back to Victor.

The sight of him is devastating in a particular way Yuuri had never experienced. It’s one thing to watch videos and look at photos where Victor is affecting domesticity, intimacy, softness. It’s another thing entirely to see him be it, comfortable as he moves around the kitchen with the same robe from yesterday loosely tied.

In a weird way, Yuuri feels like he’s intruding. Like he’s not supposed to see Victor like this.

The sound of whining pulls his attention away from how breathtaking Victor is, and looks down to see Makkachin sitting by the island counter, wiggling restlessly.

Victor looks over at her, and there’s a twist to his mouth that is dearly amused and crinkles the corners of his eyes.

Yuuri is definitely dreaming.

“Okay, okay,” Victor says, and flicks his hand in Yuuri’s direction, “Go.”

The word has barely left his mouth when Makkachin springs forward, nails skittering on the floorboard as she rounds the couch and takes a running leap at Yuuri, who gets the breath knocked out of him by 50 pounds of overenthusiastic poodle.

And this, at least, Yuuri can deal with, even if he ends with his glasses smudged with dog slobber.

“Be gentle, Makka,” Victor calls out.

“It’s fine,” Yuuri rushes to assure, scratching both hands down Makkachin’s fur. “I don’t mind.”

He chances a look at Victor, and immediately has to look away at the intensity of Victor’s stare. Yuuri focuses on Makkachin until he hears the sounds of dishes clinking softly against each other, and chances another peek.

Victor’s neatly plating food onto two dishes.

He’s so considerate. Yuuri can’t believe that even after how much of an inconvenience Yuuri’s been, even after Yuuri accidentally ignored him for a year, he still let Yuuri use his shower, and borrow his clothes and is making him breakfast.

“I’m sorry for falling asleep,” Yuuri says, feeling bad at how much he’s imposed on Victor already.

Victor looks at Yuuri, and he tilts his head so his bangs fall away from his face. It’s such a simple motion, but Yuuri feels like he’s about to have a heart attack.

“You seemed tired,” Victor says, picking up both plates and bringing them over to the couch. He makes a clicking noise with his tongue that makes Makkachin jump down to the floor, before he offers Yuuri one of the plates. “You’re a very heavy sleeper, Yuuri. I couldn’t wake you up for anything. Makkachin jumped on you this morning, and you didn’t even stir.”

“Sorry,” Yuuri says, feeling his cheeks heat up. He looks down at his plate so he doesn’t have to look at Victor.  It’s silly that he’s so embarrassed about something like this. After all, he’s stripped in front of Victor, God, and the entire skating community. Falling asleep on Victor’s couch is pretty tame in comparison.

And yet, Yuuri still wants to crawl under the nearest rock and stay there until he stops being embarrassed or the world ends. Whichever comes first.

At least his food looks really good. The bliny looks soft as a cloud, and the fruit slices lining the plate make Yuuri feel less guilty about indulging a little in something that isn’t exactly in his nutritional plan.

“You apologize a lot,” Victor tells him, picking up a slice of banana from his plate and offering it to Makkachin who immediately licks it off his fingers. “You should eat.”

Yuuri has to bite down the ‘sorry’ that bubbles up in his throat as an immediate response, and instead picks up the silverware that lays carefully balanced on the plate, and eats.

It’s good, and Yuuri gets distracted for a couple of moments just enjoying it. Food, more often than not, saves him from awkward situations. Yuuri can’t put his foot in his mouth if there’s already food in it.

“Do you have anywhere you need to be this morning?” Victor asks after a handful of minutes of awkward silence.

“Just a training session with Yuri,” he says. He glances outside at how high the sun is in the sky, and with an impending sense of trepidation asks, “What time is it?”

“Almost ten.”

Oh no.

“Yura’s going to kill me,” he mutters, not looking forward to the talking to he will no doubt be on the receiving end of.

“I can take you back home,” Victor volunteers. “Your clothes are already dry, if you want to change.”

Yuuri gets up, more than ready to go, so he can minimize the amount of grief Yuri is going to give him for this, and also so he can properly freak out about having met Victor Nikiforov, who is even nicer than Yuuri ever expected. Which is saying something, considering how often Yuuri used to fantasize about meeting Victor.

“Aren’t you going to finish eating?” Victor asks, glancing down at Yuuri’s plate. There’s a jut to his bottom lip and a lilt to his voice that almost make him sound sad.

So Yuuri sits back down, and working off of the high of getting more than four uninterrupted hours of sleep and on impulse alone, rolls the rest of the fruit he has on his plate in the bliny and shoves the entire thing in his mouth. Because Yuuri is a complete disaster, and loses all social competence around beautiful people.

Victor is staring at him. He blinks exactly twice, as if he expects to see something different with each blink, and then very quietly says, “Wow.”

Yuuri considers if he could survive jumping out of the window.

“I’ll go get your things,” Victor says, getting up. “And maybe a glass of water.”

Yuuri just sits there and tries not to die of embarrassment… or asphyxiation from putting so much food in his mouth at once.

Less than a full day of meeting Victor and he’s already managed to embarrass himself how many times? At least it’ll never get worse than Sochi. Yuuri’s already hit rock bottom, but boy does it feel like he’s trying to dig himself deeper.

Makkachin puts her head on his knee and thumps her tail on the floor, and Yuuri reaches down to pet her. At least it’s not all bad, he still gets to pet the goodest dog in the entirety of St. Petersburg.

«»

When the knock comes on the door, Yuri almost trips over the coffee table and faceplants on the floor in his rush to answer it, worry bubbling up in him and making him clumsy.

The rush of relief when he sees Yuuri standing in the doorway, looking sleep mussed but otherwise unharmed, is so sudden that he almost feels lightheaded with it.

“Where have you been? Do you know how fucking stupid that was? You could’ve died! What kind of moron forgets to take his phone when he goes out in the middle of the night?”

“Sorry,” Yuuri says, and to his credit, he does sound sorry. “I really just wanted to go for a run but then I got lost and…” he trails off, cutting his eyes to the side, before he looks back at Yuri. “But I’m fine. See?”

Yuri looks him over again. And he does look fine, thankfully.

“If you’re worried about practice I can find another time to-“

“Don’t be an idiot,” Yuri huffs at him. “Get in so I can glue your phone to your dumb face. That way you won’t forget it like a stupid idiot.”

That gets him an amused smile.

“Yes, yes,” Yuuri says, stepping into the apartment.

“How did you get out of the rain?” Yuri asks him, eyeing the oversized jacket Yuuri is wearing. He would absolutely not put it past Yuuri to accidentally charm someone into letting him into their house in the middle of a thunderstorm.

“Oh, I, uh... ran into someone,” Yuuri says, heading further into the apartment.

Yuri turns to close the door, a quick remark on the tip of his tongue, which quickly turns into a screech when he sees someone standing in the doorway.

“Hi,” Victor says, sugary sweet, wearing the particular smile he wears when someone in the press is being offensive.

Yuri starts hearing kill bill sirens ringing in his ears, and more out of impulse than anything tries to slam the door in Victor’s face.

Victor stops him almost effortlessly, pushing a palm against the door and stepping into the apartment.

Shit, Yuri thinks. Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shi-

He looks back, searching for help, only to see that Yuuri’s disappeared into his room.

“What are you doing here?”

“Now, now, Yurachka. Is that any way to greet a rinkmate?” Victor asks, still with that sugary lightheartedness that makes Yuri feel nauseous.

“Fuck off.”

“Hm, no, I don’t think I will,” he says, walking himself to the couch and sitting down. “I promised Yuuri I’d drive both of you to the studio.”

“I’m not getting in a car with you,” Yuri spits out.

“Walk then,” Victor says, shrugging a shoulder. “I’m still driving Yuuri.”

Yuri grinds his teeth. “Like hell am I going to let him get in a car alone with you!”

Victor looks at him, and very slowly raises an eyebrow, a smirk playing at this lips. “I promise you I’m a perfect gentleman.”

“Perfect gentleman my ass! I saw how you were all over him in Sochi when he was drunk out of his mind.” That seems to sober Victor up, wiping the smirk off his face. “I saw you take him back to the hotel. You call that being a gentleman?”

Victor gets up, and there’s a tenseness to his muscles that makes Yuri want to take a step back. “I didn’t put a single finger on him in Sochi,” Victor says, low and serious. “I made sure he got back to his coach safely. That’s it. Never imply again that I would do something as disgusting as take advantage of someone who is drunk. I will not tolerate that.”

Yuri might’ve gone too far on that one, but he’s not ready to stop pushing back, so he readjusts, tries something else.

“You didn’t even know who he was until he was making a spectacle of himself!”

Victor’s scary look falls away into confusion.

“What do you mean I didn’t know who he was? Of course I knew who he was. I competed against him. He’s Japan’s Ace.”

“You offered him a photo like he was a fan, I heard you do it,” Yuri accuses. He saw the crushed look on Yuuri’s face when he walked away in the lobby. It was worse than when Yuri had accidentally yelled at him in the bathroom.

“Yes, because I know my competitors and he looked sad. I thought it’d cheer him up,” Victor says, very slowly, like Yuri is stupid. “I know every good skater in my division. Do you?”

Yuri opens his mouth, ready to throw something back at him, but is interrupted by Yuuri clearing his throat.

“Um, I’m ready to go,” Yuuri says, shifting from foot to foot and looking very uncomfortable.

Victor’s face immediately goes from disapproving to bright and sunny, in a way that looks fake and sickens Yuri a little bit.

“Of course. Do you have your things, Yura?” he asks, in that too sweet tone.

Yuri almost wants to call him out for it, but the way Yuuri has his shoulders tensed up and is clutching at his sports bag makes him keep his mouth shut.

“… I’ll go get my bag,” he grinds out between his teeth, stomping off to his room. He grabs his things, quickly double checking that he has everything he needs, and hurries back to the living room. He’s sure that nothing good could ever come of leaving Victor alone with Yuuri.

He’s proven right when he walks back into the living room and sees Victor standing close to Yuuri and peering into his phone.

“See, I told you you had my number,” Victor is saying. “You should get me yours too.”

Yuuri looks mildly panicked, and his face is a shade of red Yuri has never seen on him before, so Yuri does the only thing he can do in a situation like this: shoulder his way in-between Victor and Yuuri, and grab Yuuri by the wrist so he can pull him towards the door and away from that demon.

“Let’s go, we’re late enough already,” he says.

He almost expects Yuuri to berate him for being rude, but instead Yuuri keeps pace with him to the point where Yuri isn’t pulling him as much as he’s just holding his wrist.

“Please close the door behind you,” is the only thing Yuuri says to Victor when Yuri starts leading him downstairs.

They stop in front of Victor’s car, and for once Yuri is glad that Victor spoils his dog rotten and indulges her in stupid ways, because with Makkachin sitting in the passenger seat, that means Yuuri and Yuri get to go in the back.

Yuri really, really didn’t expect Victor to find out that Yuuri was in St. Petersburg by pure happenstance, and part of him is pissed that he did. Another part, the one that feels guilty for lying, is relieved. It’s a weight off his shoulders, not having to lie and deflect anymore.

Now that Victor knows, Yuri doesn’t have to put any of his energy into hiding it, and can start putting it into making sure Victor doesn’t try to pull anything with Yuuri.

Yuri can and will kill him if he upsets Yuuri.

“To Lilia’s studio then?” Victor asks.

Yuri slumps in his seat, and maybe kicks the back of Victor’s a little bit as he does.

“Yes,” he says.

“Please,” Yuuri tacks on.

“Okay,” Victor says, in an annoying singsong-y voice, before starting the car. Yuri kicks the back of his seat again for it.

This ride is going to be annoying, he can tell already.

«»

Victor has no idea what to do with himself.

He had spent so long longing for the concept of Yuuri, that realizing Yuuri didn’t remember anything from the banquet was a particular sort of crushing. But now Yuuri’s here, close enough to touch, made of bone and blood and not of Victor’s daydreams, and he doesn’t know what to do.

Victor had been so ready to let Yuuri go when he came back from China. And then Yuuri all but fell into his lap, being all charming and beautiful and real.

How is Victor supposed to deal with this?

He knows Yuuri doesn’t remember, and he’s not deluded enough to expect him to have any feelings for Victor.

But then again Yuuri did save Victor’s number on his phone as a very long string of heart emojis, and that has to mean something, right?

What was it about people being their truest selves when they’re drunk?

Victor has the whole day off, which is too much time to have on his hands when he’s this confused.

“What do you think I should do Makkachin?” he asks her, as he drives both of them back home.

Makkachin turns when she hears her name and blinks her big brown puppy eyes at him.

“You’re right, I should just let it be,” he says.

It’s not Yuuri’s fault that he had accidentally seduced Victor while drunk off of his mind, even if now Victor is left to deal with the aftermath.

“Maybe I should revenge seduce him,” Victor says out loud. “So we’re even. What do you think of that, Makkachin?”

Makkachin tucks her head into her paws and closes her eyes for a nap.

“You’re right, that’s silly. I should just let it be, he clearly regrets it.”

And isn’t that such a cruel twist, that Yuuri not only doesn’t remember, but very clearly regrets everything he’s done at the banquet. Best night of Victor’s life, and Yuuri regrets it. The thought feels bitter at the back of his throat.

He should really let it be. It’s not like this changes anything.

Victor sighs heavily and drives himself home, settling in for a quiet day.

«»

“I want to stop at the grocery store on the way home,” Yuuri tells Yuri.

“Didn’t you go grocery shopping two days ago?” Yuri asks, finishing his cool-down stretches. He’s pretty sure Yuuri went easy on him today, but honestly, Yuri is too tired to deal with an intense session, so he’s grateful for it.

“I want to do some baking,” Yuuri says.

“What’re you making?”

“Just… some cookies.”

Fuck yes, Yuri loves cookies.

“Cool,” Yuri says, and doesn’t think too much of it until they’re back home and Yuuri’s on the third batch and putting all the best looking ones in a little tin he picked up from the grocery store. He’s not letting Yuri touch the tin, even if all the rejects get put on a plate next to him.

Yuri should honestly have become suspicious sooner, but there’s a certain high that sitting on the counter and eating freshly baked cookies gives him, that makes everything that isn’t consuming snacks fade away.

“Who are those for? Are you having a bake sale or something?”

Yuuri is silent for a bit, before he quietly says, “They’re for Victor.”

You’re baking him cookies?!”

“I’m baking all of us cooki-“

“He doesn’t deserve your cookies!”

“He cooked me breakfast. It’s the least I could do.”

“No, the least you could do is nothing. Why are you baking him cookies?”

Because,” Yuuri says, sounding as petulant as Yuri, and for a moment he thinks Yuuri isn’t going to say anything else, but then, “Because I fell asleep on him, and ate his food, and- and the entire Sochi thing. It’s the least I can do.”

“You’re baking him apology cookies? If anyone deserves apology cookies for Sochi it’s me. You made me break dance in front of everyone,” Yuri huffs.

“Why would I…” Yuuri starts, brows knitted but letting the sentence trail off, as if he’s unsure if he wants to know the answer to the question or not.

“You challenged me to a dance battle,” Yuri tells him.

“Oh,” Yuuri says, taking a couple of seconds to internalize that. “Did I win?”

Yuri hesitates for a second. “No, I obliterated you. Obviously.”

Yuuri looks at him, and his lips twitch into a smile that looks very close to smug. “Obviously,” Yuuri says, in a tone that implies he doesn’t believe Yuri for even a second.

Yuri’s about to say something to Yuuri’s smug face when Lilia walks into the kitchen, and immediately zeroes in on him, making Yuri scramble off his perch on the counter and stand as straight as he can under her gaze.

“Yuri Plisetsky, why were you sitting on my counter like an uncivilized cat?”

“He likes to be tall,” Yuuri says, so deadpan serious Yuri’s almost impressed.

Yuri throws the cookie he was holding at his face. “Shut up!”

Lilia pinches her nose. “I am surrounded by children.”

«»

Yuri is clinging to the foolish, foolish hope that Victor won’t tell Mila anything about Yuuri, because if he does, Yuri will never hear the end of it. He’ll be thirty and Mila will be climbing through his bedroom window to tease him about this.

Victor is only coming to the rink in the afternoon, which gives Yuri some time to prepare, and to cross every finger that he has that he’ll keep his mouth shut. Which is, of course, all in vain, because Victor arrives during their lunch hour, wearing sunglasses even though the sun hasn’t so much as peeked through the clouds the whole day, and holding a colorful drink from the expensive coffee shop down the road.

“Mila,” he says loudly, as soon as he waltzes into the room, “You’re not going to believe this.”

And Victor may be wearing sunglasses but Yuri can feel him looking directly at him as he says it. Yuri’s going to fight him, even if the sparkle in Mila’s eye immediately activates his flight response.

Victor sits at their table and turns fully towards Mila.

Yuri gives up on having any semblance of peace for the rest of his life, and bolts.

«»

Victor is distracted at practice to the point that he keeps making mistakes. Yakov keeps yelling at him about them, pointing out every single imperfection harshly. And normally Victor wouldn’t mind. He knows that this is just how Yakov is, that if he yells at you it means he cares, but today Yakov’s voice is grating on Victor’s ears.

It goes on until Yakov snaps at him because of an arm position.

“Maybe I should ask Lilia for some lessons,” Victor says, smile bright, practiced. “Her assistant might be able to help me. What do you think, Yakov?”

And if Victor had any doubts that Yakov knew that Yuuri was in St. Petersburg, the way Yakov immediately deflects and says, “You’re fine. Stop being ridiculous,” confirms it.

“What? You don’t think Yuuri could help me? After all, he’s good enough that Lilia took him on as an assistant, not to even mention his skating background.”

Yakov goes very still for a moment, before his shoulders slump and his mouth twists in resignation.

“I knew he would be a distraction to you,” he sighs. “I was hoping to avoid this.”

At least he’s not denying that he knows.

“Were you ever going to tell me he was here?”

Yakov could almost be excused for not telling Victor, if he didn’t know how desperately Victor wanted to talk to Yuuri. But he did know. After Sochi, Victor must’ve spent two solid months begging him to contact Celestino and get him Yuuri’s contact information, talked incessantly about maybe meeting Yuuri at Worlds.

“I was looking out for you, Vitya,” Yakov says. “It’s what was best for you.”

“For my skating, you mean,” Victor says. There’s an unpleasant ache in his chest, a hot feeling at the back of his throat that burns with anger. “Not for me. You decided on your own what was best for my skating, without any consideration for what I wanted.”

“You’re being difficult,” Yakov tells him. It’s his go-to answer whenever Victor is telling him something he doesn’t like, and suddenly Victor feels so, so tired.

“Right. Of course I am,” he says quietly, more to himself than Yakov. “Well, I hope you’re satisfied, Coach Feltsman, I’m bringing you gold again this season just like you wanted.”

“Don’t be so melodramatic, Vitya. It’s one boy.”

“Don’t treat me like a child. And contrary to you, Yakov, I don’t want to end my days pathetically alone, so do not make decisions for me. You don’t get to decide what he is or isn’t to me.”

“You are being disrespectful and I-”

“So were you. I’ve always respected you, Yakov. Or I used to,” Victor tells him, and never in his life has he talked to Yakov in this tone, not even during the worst of their disagreements.”Don’t worry, I won’t let my skating be affected by this. I know how important it is to you that I win.”

“Vitya-” Yakov starts, but Victor is already pushing off the boards and skating to the opposite side of the rink, set on ignoring anything else that might come out of Yakov’s mouth.

To his surprise, Yakov doesn’t yell or try to chase Victor down and make him listen to his excuses.

It’s not really satisfying, but Victor’s given himself the entire day to be upset about this so he will act as pettily as he pleases, even if at the end of the day – with Yakov being quiet, Yuri trying to avoid him, and Mila away doing off-ice conditioning – Victor is left feeling isolated, surrounded by a silence that rings unpleasantly in his ears.

He leaves earlier than most days, eager to get Makkachin from the daycare and settle in for a quiet night with her.

“Oh, Mr. Nikiforov,” the receptionist calls. “Someone left something for you here earlier. I normally wouldn’t keep it but Yuri Plisetsky said it was okay,” they say, pulling a simple blue metal tin from somewhere under their desk. There’s a bow wrapped around it and a little slip of folded paper tucked between the string and the tin.

Victor eyes it suspiciously. In his years as Russia’s Living Legend, he’s had fans attempt to give him an assortment of things, and not all of them safe. Victor doesn’t really think Yuri would do anything potentially harmful, but he also didn’t think he’d hide Yuuri’s presence from Victor for weeks.

“Thank you,” he says, carefully sliding the note free and opening it.

Thank you for breakfast, and I’m sorry for everything else.

Katsuki Yuuri

Victor reads it exactly four times to make sure he’s not somehow hallucinating this, before he eagerly opens the tin which is filled with sweet smelling cookies.

He takes one out and bites into it, delighted with how good it tastes.

Victor doesn’t think anyone has ever baked for him. Not like this. It’s sweet.

“Thank you for holding these for me,” he tells the clerk, taking a cookie out of the container and offering it to them.

“Oh, thank you,” they say. “Have a good night, Mr. Nikiforov.”

“Good night,” Victor says, grabbing the container and leaving the building.

He really wishes he had Yuuri’s phone number so he could at least send him a message to thank him. As it is, Victor’s left with a tin full of cookies he’s not completely sure fit into his diet plan, and a lot of questions.

The note had seemed apologetic, and Victor’s not quite sure what Yuuri was apologizing for. He tries to puzzle it out as he merges into traffic and drives to pick up Makkachin.

This has to mean something, right? You wouldn’t make cookies for anyone you hated, or even felt indifferent about, would you? This must mean something.

At the very least, it means Yuuri cares about Victor’s opinion enough to go out of his way for him like this. Now, Victor just has to figure out what he wants to do about it.

«»

At the end of the day, Yuuri finds himself skating figures into the ice, his entire focus on his edges, his mind clear of the cluttering thoughts. It’s quiet in here. Not as quiet as skating in Ice Castle after hours is, but quiet enough that Yuuri can work through his thoughts and allow himself to exist in peace for a little while.

Skating lets him find his center of balance again, when he’s been feeling so unsteady on land.

If coming to terms with what had happened in Sochi was hard the first time around, the second is just as hard, but in a different way. And Yuuri thought he couldn’t feel more embarrassed about the whole ordeal. Boy, was he wrong.

At least he can’t do anything more embarrassing than this.

He had had so many expectations when it came to meeting Victor, had imagined it for so long, and in one day he managed to skate the worst performance of his career and get so drunk that he stripped in front of a ballroom full of people.

Victor saw Yuuri at his very worst, and then gave him his phone number, and let him stay at his home and pet his dog, and cooked him breakfast, which is just… ridiculous.

Yuuri has done nothing but embarrass himself in front of Victor and yet…

He doesn’t know what to do with it, aside from stress baking shame cookies. That’s something. Not nearly enough to redeem how much of a mess Yuuri is but it’s… something. He only hopes Victor likes them.

“Yuuri,” he hears Katya call out. “We’re closing up.”

Yuuri winces. It’s later than he thought if the rink is already closing. He skates towards the exit, and apologizes as he steps off the ice..

“Don’t worry about it, kid,” Katya tells him. “You looked like you had a lot on your mind.”

Yuuri looks down at his skates, and doesn’t really say anything to that.

Katya doesn’t push, which Yuuri is infinitely thankful for.

“Go get your things, I’ll drive you home.”

At this point, Yuuri knows resistance is futile, so instead of protesting – because he really does hate inconveniencing people – he just says, “Thank you,” and lets himself be driven home.

Potya is waiting for him at the door, and winds herself in-between his legs as soon as he steps inside. Yuuri picks her up and cradles her like the big attention-seeking baby she is.

“Good evening, your highness,” he whispers to her in Japanese, even as Potya digs her claws into his shoulder and tries to lift herself up onto it.

Yuuri has acquired a collection of scratches along his back and arms from Potya trying to climb him to stand on his shoulders. It doesn’t really work for her. She’s too big and too heavy, but that doesn’t stop her from trying, and more often than not Yuuri finds himself leaning forward uncomfortably just so she can balance herself on his shoulder blades.

She digs her claws into his jacket and tries to lever herself up, even as Yuuri tries to pry them off so he can safely set her down.

“I’ve told you not to let her bully you like this,” Yuri says, catching Yuuri’s attention.

“She’s not bullying me,” Yuuri says.

“Uh-huh,” Yuri hums, in a way that sounds as mocking as it does amused. “You let her do shit like this and then she tries to do it to me. Stop letting her get away with being a brat.”

I let you get away with being a brat, Yuuri doesn’t say because he doesn’t have a death wish.

Yuri carefully pries Potya off of him and cradles her like a newborn baby.

“Stop being a bully,” he chastises, petting her little forehead. Potya reaches up with her paws to grab his arm so she can bite at his fingers. Yuri doesn’t really seem to mind, especially when she stops biting and starts licking him.

Yuuri takes advantage of being cat free to take off his shoes and jacket and put them away.

“Have you eaten yet?” Yuri asks.

“Not yet.”

Yuri rolls his eyes. “Of course not. I left you some food in the microwave, if you want it.”

Yuuri never really thought he’d say this, but Yuri is a blessing sometimes. Mostly when Yuuri gets home too tired to do anything but faceplant on the nearest flat surface. He would probably end up skipping dinner a lot if it weren’t for Yuri. He did skip dinner a lot before Yuri moved in.

“Thank you,” he says, and deeply means it in a way he can’t put into words.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Yuri says, and starts walking towards the kitchen.

Yuuri follows after him.

“You know you don’t have to sit with me while I eat, right?” Yuuri asks once he’s heated up his food and is sitting at the table across from Yuri.

Yuri deigns to lift his eyes from where he’s playing with Potya on his lap, and quirks his eyebrow at him. “You know I don’t do jack shit I don’t want to for anyone, right?” he says, mimicking Yuuri’s tone.

Yuuri snorts. “That’s fair,” he concedes, satisfied with the fact that Yuri isn’t staying up with him out of some weird sense of obligation. Yuuri sometimes forgets that Yuri only does what he wants and doesn’t lock himself into uncomfortable situations out of politeness like Yuuri tends to do.

“Can we go skating tomorrow? I kept messing up one of my jump entries and I want you to take a look at it,” Yuri asks.

“Sure,” Yuuri says easily, eager to have any excuse to justify more time on the ice.

“Cool.”

«»

What Victor ends up deciding to do about Yuuri is: buy him tea.

Which is maybe not the long-term decision he should be making, but it’s the one he comes up with, because Yuuri looked like he had really enjoyed the tea Victor had given him, and also because he wants an excuse to see him again.

As it’s been proven, he can’t rely on happenstance for that to happen.

So he buys him tea.

It takes him about forty minutes of smelling and taste testing blends in St. Petersburg’s best tea shop to decide on one, and then about one hour to try to figure out how to get it to Yuuri.

“I feel silly, Makkachin,” he tells his dog, rubbing her behind the ears. She pants happily at him, and Victor feels settled by the fact that no matter what, he’ll still have her.

Victor simultaneously feels too old for this and too clumsy and inexperienced. He has no idea what to do or how to do it. All these months waiting and pining, and Victor bought him tea.

It’s very good tea, in his defense. Victor always values quality above all.

In the end, he decides to go to sleep and get it to Yuuri tomorrow during his lunch break. Going to Lilia’s studio is infinitely less creepy than any other alternative.

Victor might or might not practice what to say in the car on his way there. Victor also might or might not be a little nervous about this, which is maybe a little ridiculous of him.

So what, he fell half in love with a man who doesn’t even remember one of the best nights of Victor’s life? It’s fine. This is fine. He’s Victor Nikiforov, whatever that means. He can handle this. Probably.

“Hi,” he greets the receptionist with his best press smile. “I’m looking for Yuuri Katsuki.”

The receptionist looks up at him, and then does a double take. Victor can see the recognition in her eyes, before she recovers and says. “I’m sorry, Mr. Katsuki isn’t available right now,” she tells him.

Victor wasn’t really expecting that answer.

When he was planning it in his head, Yuuri would just run into him, and then Victor would give him the tea and maybe invite Yuuri out for lunch.

His disappointment must show on his face, because the receptionist sighs and says, “Listen, he’s finishing up a class. You can wait for him, but it always runs late.”

“Oh,” Victor breathes out. “I think I’ll wait then.”

He checks his phone for the time. It’s okay if he takes a little longer than he usually does. It’s not like Victor regularly neglects his practice time.

“Are you friends with Yuuri?” she asks him.

Which is an excellent question. Is Victor friends with Yuuri? Can they even consider each other more than acquaintances?

“Yes, I’m his…” he hesitates for a second, feeling the word weirdly in his mouth, “friend.”

Oh,” she says, giving him another look over. “I didn’t know Yuuri had a… friend.” She stresses the word weirdly when she says it, as if it’s supposed to mean something else. “That makes a lot of sense actually.”

He opens his mouth to ask her what she means by that, but another voice cuts him off and grabs his attention completely.

“Victor?” Yuuri sounds a little panicked. He looks a little panicked too, and suddenly Victor is rethinking every single one of his decisions.

“Hi!” Victor says, and tries to smile in the most approachable way possible. And then when Yuuri just stands there, he says, “I brought you tea,” and holds the paper bag with the tea shop’s logo up as evidence, feeling out of place and ridiculous.

Yuuri still just stares at him.

“Why?” he asks.

This conversation really isn’t going how Victor thought it would. And now Victor really feels like an idiot.

“I wanted to thank you for the cookies, but if you don’t like it I can get something else…”

Yuuri’s eyes go wide and he brings his hands up in a placating way, waving them around in panic. But he does take a couple of steps closer to Victor.

“No, no no no. I love tea, that was very thoughtful of you.”

“But?”

Yuuri is getting progressively redder in the face the closer he gets to Victor. He blushes all across his cheeks and the bridge of his nose.

“Um, it’s just- you didn’t need to. That- that was a gift to thank you for letting me stay over the other night so, um- you giving me something in return is kind of…”

Victor doesn’t really think he gets what Yuuri’s trying to get at.

“Well, I’ve already bought it, so,” Victor says, and offers the bag up to Yuuri again.

Yuuri’s face is doing something complicated that Victor doesn’t know how to read, but he takes it very carefully, and says, “Thank you,” like he just bit on a sour lemon.

Victor doesn’t get it at all.

“Have you had lunch yet?” Victor asks.

“No,” Yuuri says. “Have you?”

“No,” Victor says, and just as he’s ready to hint that they should maybe get lunch together, Yuuri squares his jaw and gets this look in his eyes that Victor’s only seen on him during interviews on Youtube.

“I’ll take you to lunch,” Yuuri says firmly, and then seems to catch himself and backtracks, “I mean, would you- if you don’t mind- um-“

“I’d love to go to lunch with you, Yuuri.”

“Good, that’s… great. Thank you, um, I mean, let’s go then,” he says, and starts walking quickly towards the door.

Victor follows.

«»

Yuuri never really knows how he gets himself into these situations, all he knows is that one minute he’s panicking, and the next he’s sharing a park bench with a beautiful man, and watching him eat ice cream even though it’s cold enough that Yuuri is wearing four layers of clothes.

“Are you sure you don’t want some?” Victor asks.

Yuuri feels cold just looking at him eat it. “No, I’m okay.”

“If you’re sure,” Victor says, and then bites into his ice cream.

In all his years of looking up to Victor, he never really considered that he could be an ice cream biter. But, then again, in all his years looking up to Victor, he also never considered that he would strip down to his underwear and poledance for him drunk out of his mind. Or at least, Yuuri had been hoping he could hold a normal conversation first, and maybe impress him with his skating, before he went about getting trashed in front of him.

God, what is Yuuri doing? He needs to stop embarrassing himself around Victor, not invite him out for lunch, even If it’s kind of Victor’s fault that he did.

He had to go and be nice and buy Yuuri something, and something expensive at that, which completely invalidates Yuuri’s shame cookies and his attempt to apologize slash thank Victor for not leaving him out in the rain. It can’t be an apology gift if they give you something back.

Yuuri’s justified in his impulse decision… sort of, maybe.

And now he’s sitting awkwardly on a park bench with Victor, waiting for him to be done with his ice cream so he can excuse himself and maybe go scream into his locker for a little bit.

“So, Yuuri,” Victor starts, and there it is again. That way he says Yuuri’s name. “Tell me about yourself.”

“Myself?” Yuuri squeaks out.

“Yes. Like how did you come to be Lilia’s assistant? Do you like the city? What are your favourite places to eat? … Do you have any lovers?”

“Ah, I don’t- um- that is -“ Yuuri stutters out, wishing not for the first time and probably not for the last either that there was a hole nearby that he could crawl into. Thankfully, he’s saved from answering by Valya coming around the corner with the dogs they’re walking today.

Yuuri doesn’t even have to say anything. All it takes is Makkachin barking, and Victor is whipping his head around, an unbidden smile taking over his face as soon as he spots her.

“Look, it’s Makkachin!” Victor says, sounding absolutely delighted.

Makkachin is bodily pulling Valya towards them with as much strength as a grown poodle has. Yuuri feels a little bad for them. Managing three dogs doesn’t look easily.

As soon as she’s within reach, Makkachin jumps on Victor, tail zooming from side to side in her excitement.

Yuuri pets the other dogs for a little bit, allowing himself the indulgence, as Victor talks with Valya. Victor seems to have an ease with people that Yuuri envies a little bit, but he takes advantage of it right now. Even if it means his dog petting time is cut short, Yuuri really needs to leave before he does something irrevocably embarrassing.

Well, something else irrevocably embarrassing.

 “Going already?” Victor asks, and if Yuuri didn’t know better, he’d even say he sounded disappointed.

“I have class, so…” Yuuri trails off. It’s not a complete lie. He does have classes to teach today, just not for another hour. “I’ll see you around, I guess. Bye,” he says, giving the dog leaning on him a last head scratch before he waves awkwardly at them and turns to leave.

“Bye,” he hears two different voices say, and turns to them one last time with an awkward wave before he walks as fast as he can without it looking like he’s trying to actively run away.

Drowning himself in work when he gets back to Lilia’s is a blessing, and Yuuri does his best to keep his head as busy as possible until it’s time for him to go home.

“Oh, Yuuri,” the receptionist calls. “Your… friend, left something for you.”

Yuuri approaches the front desk cautiously as she takes out a pastry box from a desk drawer.

“My… friend?”

“You know, Victor Nikiforov.”

“Ah,” Yuuri says, gingerly picking the note tied to the box up and opening it.

To go with the tea.

Thanks for lunch. We should do it again,

Victor Nikiforov

Yuuri is almost afraid to open the box. He recognizes the label, knows that whatever is inside is from the really good, really expensive pastry shop nearby.

He loosens the neat bow from around it and peeks inside.

There’s a slice of cake that looks the very picture of decadent. Yuuri can feel his mouth water and immediately closes the lid again.

“Thank you for holding this for me,” he forces out. “Good night.”

“Good night, Yuuri,” she says, smiling knowingly.

What she knows, or thinks she knows, Yuuri has no idea.

Not like he has time to think about it, he has to stop by the grocery store on his way home. Yuuri refuses to be out-gifted. He’ll give Victor something he won’t be able to match, or he’ll die trying.

Chapter Text

Yuri is a very busy person with a very busy schedule. He values his sleep because he knows he needs it to perform his best, but ever since he and Yuuri started having after-hour skating sessions, Yuri has been getting less and less of it.

So the very last thing he needs is to be woken up at five a.m. because Yuuri is baking of all things.

“Are you fucking serious?” he bursts from the kitchen’s doorway.

“Sorry, did I wake you up? I was trying to be quiet.”

“If you’re baking for Victor again I will personally shove that spatula down your throat,” Yuri threatens him.

Yuuri’s silence is all too telling, and Yuri has one single moment when he seriously considers grabbing the dough sitting on the counter and lobbing it out the window.

“Give me that spatula. Right now,” he says, reaching for it.

Yuuri grabs it first and holds it out of his reach.

“Listen, I have to do this.”

Yuri glares at him. “Why?”

“He gave me cake!” Yuuri says, and Yuri has never in his entire life heard anyone sound as indignant about receiving a pastry as Yuuri does right now.

“What does that have to do with you waking me up at five a.m.? Just eat the cake and be done with it.”

There’s a pause. “I have to thank him.”

“No. No, you don’t. He’s loaded. He could buy the whole bakery. Eat your cake and let it go.”

“I can’t.”

Why?” Yuri insists, feeling sleepy and aggravated.

Yuuri takes a deep breath, and launches into such a convoluted thought pattern, that Yuri can do nothing but just stand there and try to understand it.

“So let me get this straight,” he says slowly. “Not only did you take him out to lunch but now you’re baking him more cookies because you feel obligated to compensate him for stuff he doesn’t need to be compensated for? At five a.m.?”

Why is it Yuri always befriends ridiculous people? Is he cursed?

“I’m not baking him cookies. I’m baking his dog cookies,” Yuuri clarifies.

“How come you never baked Potya cookies?” Yuri demands, suddenly indignated.

“I have.”

“What? Where? When?”

Yuuri takes a tin from the back of the cupboard and shakes it. Three seconds later Potya appears in the doorway, chirping up at Yuuri.

“Is this how you’ve been bribing her?” Yuri asks, watching Yuuri take a small fish shaped treat out of the tin and give it to Potya.

“It’s what she deserves,” Yuuri says.

Damn him. Yuri can’t be mad now.

So he sits down on Potya’s chair, and says, “Feed me. It’s what you deserve for waking me up.”

Yuuri doesn’t even argue, just shrugs one shoulder and says, “Sure, what do you want?”

At least Yuri’s getting breakfast out of this.

«»

Victor’s having lunch in the break room, lost in thought when Yuri comes up to his table and slams down a small metal tin on it. There’s a neat bow wrapped around it with a note looped through.

“Good afternoon to you too, Yura. Would you care to sit?”

“Shut up,” Yuri tells him, but sits across from him at the table.

Victor eyes the tin. He’s seen that style of bow before.

“Is that from Yuuri?” he asks, trying to sound casual.

Yuri looks like he’s just bitten into a lemon.

“Yes.”

“For me?”

Yuri’s distasteful expression is frankly hilarious.

“Yes,” he says, and it sounds like it cost him a good chunk of his pride.

Victor goes to reach for it but Yuri immediately pulls it away from him. And now Victor is in a bad position, because Yura is petty and unrepentant. He’s not sorry for hiding Yuuri’s presence in Russia from Victor, and he’s just put himself in a position where he knows he has something Victor wants.

Victor narrows his eyes at him and smiles brightly.

“Is there something you want, Yura?”

“Mila tells me what I did was a dick move,” Yuri starts.

“If you’re waiting for me to tell you she’s wrong-“

“I don’t care,” Yuri interrupts. “You’re not entitled to Yuuri’s time, or to know where he is. I just wanted to make sure you know that this,” he picks up the tin and shakes it, “doesn’t mean anything. Yuuri’s doing it out of obligation, so don’t get any ideas.”

Something drops heavily and unpleasantly in Victor’s stomach, and he has to very carefully remind himself that this is Yuri, who hates Victor for no discernible reason, and has never been above lying.

“Is that so?” he says slowly, affecting a patronizing tone.

“It is so,” Yuri says, narrowing his eyes at him.

“And I suppose you’re letting me know out of the kindness of your heart?”

“I’m letting you know so you can stop bothering Yuuri. He already has enough shit to deal with, he doesn’t need to deal with you on top of it all.”

It’s a very good thing that Victor was prepared for a confrontation and for Yuri to hurl every insult under the sun at him, because that hits a particularly tender and bruised spot for Victor. It’s only the fact that Victor was prepared that keeps him smiling, seeming as unaffected as always.

“Hm, and tell me, do you count yourself among the shit Yuuri has to deal with?”

Yuri’s face turns murderous so fast, that for a second Victor really thinks he’s about to launch himself across the table to hit him.

“Don’t give him anything back after this. You’ll see how quickly he ignores you,” Yuri says coldly, pushing back from the table, chair scraping against the floor irritatingly, before he storms out.

Victor lets out a very long exhale.

Well, that went absolutely terribly.

He reaches for the tin to distract himself from Yuri’s words, untying the little bow and slipping the note free.

Thank you for the gifts and lunch. I made Makkachin some treats, I hope she likes them. There’s a list of the ingredients taped to the bottom in case she’s allergic to anything.

I hope you have a nice day.

Katsuki Yuuri

P.S. Yuri I told you not to read this, please don’t be mean to Victor.

That was a miss on Yuri not being mean to him, but the note is sweet enough that it almost makes up for it.

Victor is not looking forward to dealing with Yuri in the coming weeks. It's more than obvious that he wants Victor to stay as far away from Yuuri as possible, and that's not something Victor thinks he can do. Not unless Yuuri himself tells Victor to leave him alone.

He's painfully aware that the image he had in his head of Yuuri doesn't quite match up with reality, but he's still clinging to it. It's been so long that letting go is harder than he expected, especially now that he has Yuuri so close.

He understands that he doesn't know Yuuri, but god, how he wants to. He wants to know everything about him, he wants to catalog every single way in which this Yuuri is different from the one he met at the banquet and find all the ways they're the same.

Yuuri is always so… unexpected. Victor is kept on his toes around him, and he's only met him twice. He wants to know more.

This is the most interested in anything he's been in a while, and more than anything, Victor doesn't think he can let that feeling go.

«»

Yuri ends the day angry and with a bone deep kind of exhaustion that is becoming more and more familiar to him. He really should get more sleep than he’s been getting these last few days, but there’s so much to do.

He needs to be absolutely sure that he’s ready for the next competition, and that he’ll be able to either win gold, or at the very least place high enough that he can secure a spot for himself in the Final.

He’s going to be competing against Victor in Moscow, and he’s nervous about it. This next competition could very well make or break Yuri.

All he wants to do is go home, eat some good food and lie on the nearest flat surface until he has to get up again. The last thing he needs is for Yakov to gruffly tell him he wants to see him in his office before he leaves.

Yuri very, very rarely has actually been pulled aside to Yakov’s office. Yakov isn’t the kind of discreet coach who pulls you aside to give you advice or scold you. Yakov shouts everything he has to say in front of everyone, careless of how humiliating it might be.

“Oooh, someone’s in trouble,” Mila singsongs, walking by Yuri with a smirk.

“Why are you still here? Go away, hag,” Yuri says, glaring at her.

“I’m waiting for Victor. He’s giving me a ride home.”

“Ugh,” Yuri says, turning away, some of that anger from earlier resurfacing again.

Mila sighs audibly. “You know, not everything Victor does or says is out to get you. You should stop being such a dick to him.”

Yuri whirls around towards her again.

I’m the one who’s being a dick?! He’s the one who-“

Yura,” Yakov’s harsh voice cuts him off. “My office. Now.”

Yuri balls up his fists and turns around, ignoring anything Mila might be trying to say to him.

He stomps past Yakov and throws himself down on the chair in front of his desk, crossing his arms over his chest.

“What,” he says once Yakov has sat opposite to him.

“Yura,” he starts and doesn’t sound even a little bit angry.

His voice is almost soft, and Yuri immediately hears alarm bells going off in his head. The way Yakov looks like he bit a lemon doesn’t bode well either, because he only looks like that when he has to talk about something he’s uncomfortable with, like feelings.

“You’ve been coming to practice tired and staying out late. I can’t have you in my rink if I’m not sure whether you’re awake enough to not injure yourself.”

Yuri feels his blood run cold.

Yakov continues, “I know you are not careless. So, if there is… anything wrong...” his face twists like this is unpleasant to him. “I need you to tell me. So I can help.”

For a second Yuri almost thought Yakov was about to kick him out, and recovering from that chilling thought leaves him breathless for a second.

“Lilia tells me you have been staying out past your curfew, and sneaking out when you should be resting. I know you are young and new emotions are-“

“I’ve been skating,” Yuri cuts him off, because this conversation is taking a disgusting turn, and if Yakov tries to give him The Talk, or anything resembling it, Yuri might just die on the spot.

“Skating?” Yakov says slowly. “Do you really expect me to believe that? We have security cameras, Yura, and none of them caught you coming in after hours.”

Yuri huffs, annoyed by this entire thing and how unnecessary it is. “That’s because I haven’t been skating here.”

“Where, then?” Yakov asks, sounding like he’s indulging him.

“At Katya Morozova’s rink.”

This time, Yakov does raise his voice, “You’ve been skating at that woman’s rink?” Yuri winces at his tone a little. “Why in God’s name would you go to her to-“

“That’s where Yuuri skates. I go with him,” Yuri cuts him off again, so the conversation doesn’t escalate.

Yakov stares at him.

“You have the top ranked male skater training at the same rink as you, and you’ve been exhausting yourself because you’ve been skating with Katsuki?” Yakov asks, voice getting progressively louder.

“Victor can go choke,” Yuri spits out, and Yakov pinches the bridge of his nose. “And my skating has been improving. You’ve seen it, even fucking Victor commented on it, and why do you think that is? Yuuri’s the one who’s taken over most of my training at the studio! He knows what he’s doing, if everyone could stop underestimating him for five seconds they would see that-“

“Enough,” Yakov says. “You cannot compromise your performance to mess around with Katsuki on the ice.”

“I’m not messing around! We’re-“

Regardless of how you think he’s helping you, all I see is you coming to practice so tired, you’ve become sloppy. I will talk with Lilia and you will keep to your schedule. No skating or training after hours. You rest, you keep to your diet. You do your homework. That’s it.”

“But-“

That’s it, I said,” Yakov says, with a finality that lets Yuri know that no matter how loud he kicks and screams, he will not be moved.

Yuri’s so tired, and so angry, and so frustrated. It had taken him so long to be able to be on the same ice as Yuuri, so long to for Yuuri to be comfortable enough to skate with him. And it’s like none of it means anything.

“Can I go now?” he spits out, his fists are clenched where he has his arms crossed and he presses them to his torso to stop them from shaking.

Yakov sighs, sounding tired, “I know this might seem harsh, but it’s for your own good.”

“Can I go now?” Yuri repeats, lower, with less patience.

Yakov pauses for a minute. And then, “Yes. You can go.”

Yuri pushes the chair back with enough force that it scrapes along the floor obnoxiously as he gets up. He makes sure he slams the door on his way out.

He’s so angry that he can feel all of it well up behind his eyes and he hates that, hates it so much.

Yuri storms towards the locker room, slamming every single door he goes through and grabs for his things so he can leave.

He needs to do something about this. He doesn’t know what yet, but he needs to do something because it’s not fair. It’s not fair, and Yuri is so tired of being silenced and belittled.

He’s so tired of shouting. His throat hurts with it.

He’s fifteen, and Russia's most promising prospect, and people still won’t listen.

What will it take? How many medals does he have to win? How many quads does he have to land to be heard?

Yuri would love to know the answer, because he’s so sick of this. He just wants to be listened to for once.

«»

By the time Victor arrives at Lilia’s studio, Makkachin safely sitting in the front seat and Mila in the back, it’s pouring rain, and he can’t find his umbrella anywhere.

“I don’t think it’s in the trunk,” Mila says, having lifted the trunk’s cover to rummage through it.

Victor’s pretty sure she’s popped the whole thing out of place if her earlier ‘oops’ was anything to go by, but right now he’s more concerned with the fact that Zoya doesn’t have an umbrella on her and it’s raining so hard that even if she ran to the car, she would get there drenched.

He peers under the passenger seat, and contorts himself to try to reach a hand under it, to try to feel out for the umbrella. He thinks it might be in there, he’s just about to ask Mila to check if she can reach it from the back, when Mila says, “Holy shit, is that Katsuki?”

Victor straightens up so fast he knocks his head against the dashboard.

It hurts, but it doesn’t steal the air from his lungs nearly as much as the image Yuuri cuts under his plain black umbrella angled so Zoya stays completely dry as she leads the way to the car.

Victor watches him approach, completely dumbfounded at the familiarity between Yuuri and Zoya, how he has his head inclined to listen to her, and she seems delighted to have his full attention, leading him by the hand.

His brain whirrs for a second, and then it clicks. Every single conversation he’s had with Zoya about how wonderful and perfect her new teacher was, how pretty, how talented, how he could even skate rushes to the forefront of his mind.

“Mila,” Victor says very slowly, still trying to process what he’s seeing. “Did you know Yuuri was Zoya’s teacher?”

He takes solace in the fact that Mila sounds as caught off-guard as he feels. “How was I supposed to know? Oh my god are you serious? All this time and he was her teacher?! That’s… that’s kind of hilarious, actually.”

“Hm,” Victor hums, and catches Yuuri’s eye. Yuuri raises his hand halfway, lets it hover for a second, hesitant, before he brings it the rest of the way up and waves at him.

Victor waves back.

Zoya notices him and waves back enthusiastically, pulling Yuuri quicker towards the car. Mila opens the back door for them, and Zoya climbs in.

“Vitya!” she says, leaning over the handbrake to reach the front seat and give him a hug and a kiss.

“How’s my favorite Babicheva?” he asks, out of habit.

“Good! Yuuri came with me because it was raining so hard,” she says excitedly.

Victor peeks at the back and sees Yuuri passing Zoya’s bags over to Mila.

“That’s so nice of him,” Victor says, and then when Yuuri’s eyes cut to him, “Hi, Yuuri.”

“Hi,” Yuuri says.

“You know Yuuri, Vitya? And you didn’t tell me?” Zoya asks, sounding betrayed.

“I didn’t know Yuuri was your teacher,” Victor tells her, having a very hard time dragging his eyes away from Yuuri. “I would’ve come to say ‘hi’ if I did.”

Zoya doesn’t look like she fully believes him, but is quickly distracted by Makkachin popping her head in between the seats, seeing Yuuri, and immediately trying to jump in the back. The only thing keeping her from doing it is that the harness is hooked to the seatbelt, so she just ends up softly headbutting Zoya who takes that to mean Makkachin wants pets from her.

Yuuri looks at Makkachin like he wants to reach out and pet her. There’s a certain sadness to the corners of his eyes that makes Victor want to let him play with Makka as much as he wants to.

“Do you need a ride?” Victor asks, because he’s shameless, and he’s not above coming up with excuses to spend time with Yuuri. Besides, he has to thank him for the treats for Makka.

“Oh, no, no, I couldn’t possibly-“ Yuuri starts waving his hands around a little, his umbrella getting caught in a gust of wind that bends a couple of the wires backward, and Yuuri rushes to straighten it, angling the umbrella so he doesn’t get drenched.

The bottoms of his pants are wet from standing in the rain for so long. Victor won’t hold him more than he needs to.

“I- did you-“ Yuuri starts, looking nervously at Victor, and then almost jumps out of his skin when his phone rings in his pocket. “Sorry, sorry, I won’t keep you anymore,” he says as if he was the one keeping them and not Victor desperately trying to catch his attention for more than ten seconds at a time.

Yuuri puts his phone to his ear and steps back so Mila can close the door.

“Hel- Yura?” he asks, startled, and it’s enough to make Mila freeze mid-shutting the door and listen in. “Yura what’s wrong, I can’t understand-“

There’s a long minute of silence in which Victor can see Yuuri’s frown becoming progressively deeper.

“Where are you right now?” A pause. “Stay there, try to get out of the rain, I’ll come get you, okay?” Another pause, shorter this time. “Don’t worry about it, just stay there. I’ll see you soon.”

He hangs up, and then, much less hesitant than he had been until now, leans back into the car and asks, “Can I still take you up on that ride?”

Mila and Victor exchange a worried look.

“Of course, get in.”

«»

Sitting in the back of a car with a Babicheva on each side prodding him with questions, a dog sprawled over his lap, and Victor Nikiforov driving them, is an experience. One Yuuri doesn’t feel fully equipped to handle after the call he just got.

Worry simmers in the pit of his stomach, and he bites his lip as he anxiously watches the buildings go by. He has no idea what is going on with Yuri, but whatever it is, it’s obviously bad enough to make him sound frantic, panicky. Whatever happened, it led him to Katya’s rink in the middle of the pouring rain and on the day Katya had closed the rink for maintenance.

By some twist of fate the Babichevas’ house is more or less en-route to the rink, so Victor stops to drop them off.

“I thought dropping them off first might be better,” Victor says, after both Babichevas made it home safely.

“Probably,” Yuuri says.

He may have no idea as to what is going on with Yuri, but if he knows anything it’s that he would not appreciate having to deal with a bunch of people right now. That Victor is the one dropping Yuuri off, will probably already be enough of a stressor for him, even if Yuuri still has absolutely no idea why Yuri seems to hate Victor so much.

Victor is… nice. Beyond that, even. He’s kind, and thoughtful to a degree that is truly unfair.

“Do you know why he would go to Katya’s rink?” Victor asks.

Yuuri hesitates for a second and he’s unsure why. “It’s where I take him to skate.”

Victor’s eyes snap towards the rearview mirror and lock with Yuuri’s for two solid seconds before he turns them back to the road.

The silence between them stretches as he drives, and Yuuri buries his fingers in Makkachin’s fur anxiously.

“His skating seemed different this season, so you’re to blame for that, hm?” Victor says thoughtfully, softly. There’s a quietness to his tone that Yuuri can’t quite place.

Yuuri doesn’t think he has influenced Yuri even close to enough for it to be noticeable. Everything Yuri has accomplished was his own hard work. But there’s something to the words that makes Yuuri’s brain start working overtime, makes him think about how Yuri got silver in Canada and he starts to wonder if it was his fault that he didn’t get gold.

“When I gave Yura that program, I didn’t think he would skate it nearly as beautifully as he does. Don’t get me wrong, I knew he could skate it well, but I never expected him to be able to be soft with it.”

“I- what?” Yuuri says, because what?

It almost sounds like Victor is praising him for his skating in a very oblique way which is just… too much. Way too much.

“I mean, Yura has always been influenced by you, of course-“

Of course, what does he mean with of course. Nothing about that sentence even makes sense. Yuuri’s going to get a headache.

“-it’s very clear if you know what to look for,” Victor continues, “Yuri’s very good at hiding it in his choreos, but this season it’s very noticeable. I’m glad he listens to you, it would be a shame if he ended the season without being able to skate Agape to its full potential.”

Yuuri is confused, and he does not have the brain capacity to handle Victor Nikiforov seemingly praising him right now.

“I thought Agape was supposed to be tailored to Yuri,” Yuuri says, desperately trying to change the subject.

Victor taps his fingers on the steering wheel, and turns left to the last stretch of road before they get to the rink.

“To tell you the truth, I forgot I promised him a program,” Victor says. “And Agape was almost finished already.”

“You didn’t choreograph it for yourself?” Yuuri asks, because Agape is a good program. A beautiful program, certainly Victor could have used it for this season, even if his theme is the exact opposite of Agape.

Instead of love, for some reason, this season Victor is skating about loss. His programs are, in one word, heartbreaking.

The pause before Victor answers this time is longer. “No, I didn’t.”

Yuuri’s more confused than he’s ever been, and he opens his mouth to ask when the car comes to a stop, and he notices they’ve arrived.

He squints through the windshield and makes out a figure pressed close to the building’s entrance, huddling in the little cover it offers, and his heart sinks a little.

Yuri looks like a drenched, underfed cat.

“I think you should go over there alone,” Victor says.

“Yeah,” Yuuri breathes out, and gently pushes Makkachin off his lap, who whines pitifully.

“I’ll wait for you,” Victor says, and Yuuri would argue but his first priority is get Yuri out of the rain and make sure he’s okay, so he grabs his umbrella from the floor and opens the car door.

“Thank you,” he says as earnestly as he can, before he pushes himself out of the car and closes the door behind him.

The wind and cold hit him harshly and he almost loses control of his umbrella.

Yuri looks up when he sees Yuuri approach, and he looks… miserable. His shoulders sag when he sees Yuuri and he sways forward. He’s drenched, and Yuuri quickens his step to get him under the umbrella.

“You got here fast,” Yuri mutters, and his voice is tired, flat. There’s no punch behind it. This up close, Yuuri can see how his eyes look puffy and red-rimmed.

“I caught a ride,” Yuuri says, and it speaks volumes that Yuri doesn’t immediately start cursing Victor’s name when he sees his car. “Are you ready to go home?”

Yuri doesn’t answer, his eyes drop down and his fists clench at his sides.

Yuuri waits for him, and when it doesn’t look like an answer is coming, he says, “Here, hold this,” and passes him the umbrella.

Yuri is startled enough by the request to obey, and Yuuri takes advantage of it to shrug off his jacket and drape it over his shoulders, pulling it tight around him. Yuri drowns in it. It looks oversized on him to the point of hilarity, even if nothing about this is funny. Yuuri is suddenly painfully, painfully reminded that Yuri is only fifteen.

Fifteen for Yuuri feels eons ago.

Yuri looks up at him like he’s about to cry.

“Let’s go home, Yura,” he says, as softly as he can make himself sound, and Yuri folds.

“Okay,” he says, voice small, one hand curling on the jacket and pulling it tighter against himself.

Yuuri takes the umbrella from him and steps aside, cueing Yuri to start walking. He makes sure he keeps pace with him on their way to the car, angling the umbrella so Yuri’s protected from the rain.

His entire right side is already wet from escorting Zoya to the car anyway.

Yuri gets in the car, and Yuuri almost expects a situation to develop, but instead they sit quietly. Without asking any questions, Victor starts the car and backs out of his parking space, merging back into traffic.

It’s a tense kind of silence.

Next to him, Yuri slumps down the seat and presses against Yuuri’s side. Makkachin is back in his lap, rolling her big soulful eyes up at him.

They’re still a ways away from Lilia’s apartment, and the silence blankets them.

Yuuri can see Victor throwing them worried glances through the rearview mirror, but he doesn’t try to ask anything.

Instead, it’s Yuuri who finds himself opening his mouth to ask, “Wanna talk about it?”

“No,” is Yuri’s immediate response, and there’s some of that petulance that has crept back into his voice. He glances over at Victor meaningfully, but Victor is looking ahead, and tapping absentmindedly on the steering wheel, feigning distraction.

If Yuuri hadn’t seen the way he had looked at Yuri earlier, he would believe it.

A couple more seconds pass in which Yuri glares ahead, and Victor looks absorbed in his own world. And then, quietly but filled with enough anger to fuel a small militia, he says, “Yakov says I can’t skate with you anymore.”

Yuuri takes a second to process that, and , even after he does, he can’t quite comprehend what’s so upsetting about it. Sure, he loves skating with Yuri. It’s fun in a way Yuuri hasn’t had in a long time, but it’s nothing to go stand in front of a rink in pouring rain about.

By some miracle, Yuuri gathers enough sense not to say that out loud.

“Why not?” he asks instead.

“He says it’s because I’m staying out too late, and I tried to explain that I was training but he doesn’t listen to me, no one ever listens-“ he cuts himself off. “He won’t believe I’m training, he thinks I’m just messing around.”

Yuuri listens, and tries to come up with something to say that won’t hurt Yuri. ‘Listen to your coach,’ sounds like the worst possible thing he could say right now, but it’s the only thing Yuuri can think of saying. If Yakov feels like Yuri is wasting his time with Yuuri, he probably is.

Yuuri still can’t figure out why Yuri thinks skating with him is good for him, in any way other than he gets to skate for fun instead of work.

The silence stretches for a minute too long, and Yuri slumps further into the seat and crosses his arms over his chest.

“Whatever,” he huffs out. “It’s not like I can do anything about it.”

“I never knew you to be so defeatist, Yura,” Victor chimes in, and they both whip their heads towards him. Even Makkachin’s ears perk up when she hears Victor talk.

Yuri throws Victor a look over the rearview mirror that is so full of loathing that Yuuri winces.

“If the problem is that you’re staying out too late, then just don’t,” he says, which makes absolutely no sense.

“What the hell are you saying, you fu-“

“The problem isn’t that you’re skating with Yuuri, it’s that you’re skating with Yuuri after hours,” Victor cuts him off, and Yuri shuts his mouth with a click, expression going pensive.

He’s quiet for a couple minutes, seeming to work something out in his head, and then he says, “Yakov would never go for it.”

“Ah, but Yakov isn’t the one who’s in charge of your schedule right now, is he? And there’s always been a very easy way to convince Yakov of something.”

They wait for him to continue but Victor doesn’t.

“Spit it out! Or do I have to beat it out of you?” Yuri threatens.

“You should really learn how to say please,” Victor tells him.

“Please spit it out before I beat it out of you,” Yuri says flatly.

Victor snorts a little laugh. It’s stupidly endearing, and Yuuri carefully adds it to his running mental list of Ways In Which Victor Nikiforov Is Incredibly Cute.

“It’s really simple,” Victor says, parking the car in front of their building, “All you have to do is convince Lilia, and she’ll do the rest.”

Yuri, who had leaned forward in anticipation, falls back into the seat in resignation.

“You’re out of your mind, I’d have better luck convincing a brick wall.”

Victor turns off the ignition and turns back to look directly at them. “Lilia’s not unreasonable. If this really would help you, if you can show her this is for the best, she’ll support you.”

Yuri is squinting at Victor.

“He’s right,” Yuuri says quietly, and then stutters when Victor turns to him and smiles. “Um, I mean. She didn’t mind me working at the rink, so…”

Yuri still looks doubtful. “Help me talk to her,” he says to Yuuri, half request, half demand.

There’s a light behind his eyes that wasn’t there fifteen minutes ago, a resolve that squares his shoulders, tips his chin up.

Yuuri’s really powerless to say anything but, “Of course.”

«»

The rain has almost stopped by the time they get to Lilia’s, enough so that instead of waiting for Yuuri to open his umbrella and walk with him to the front door, Yura dashes into the building, pushing past the entrance and disappearing inside.

Yuuri’s slower to follow.

He gets out of the car and hovers for a second, takes a couple of steps forward, then stops and glances back at Victor, lip stuck between his teeth. Victor watches him look back and forth, before his face sets in resolve and he walks back to the car, leaning down next to the driver’s side so he’s eye level with Victor, and waiting until he lowers his window to speak.

“Do you want to come up?” he asks. “I’ve already made you go so far out of your way. The least I can do is offer you dinner.”

Victor stares at him, trying to suss out if Yuuri really just said those words or if he’s having an auditory hallucination. He must look ridiculous, sitting there, mouth dropped into a little ‘o’ of surprise, eyes wide and ears burning red.

He takes long enough to answer that Yuuri wobbles in his resolve, dropping his eyes and a flush darkening his cheeks.

He’s so beautiful this up-close that Victor can’t breathe.

“Sorry, you’re probably busy, I-“

“I’m free!” Victor rushes to say. “And available. Free and available. Very available, in fact,” he babbles helplessly.

Yuuri’s eyes grow wide and startled at Victor’s outburst.

Victor somehow manages to stop making a fool of himself, and clears his throat. “I’d love to come up,” he says a little more smoothly, giving Yuuri one of his true and tried charming smiles.

Yuuri blinks rapidly like he just stared at the sun for a little too long.

“Okay,” he says and steps back so Victor can open the door.

“Wait, I can’t leave Makkachin here,” Victor says, because he isn’t cruel, and he will never, ever put his own wants above Makkachin’s comfort.

“Of course not,” Yuuri says, as if it hadn’t even crossed his mind that Makkachin could be left behind. “But you might want to carry her inside.” There’s a little frown creasing his eyebrows and scrunching up his nose that Victor finds ridiculously charming. “I don’t think Lilia would appreciate having paw prints on her furniture.”

Lilia is probably going to kill him for bringing a dog into her house without her permission, but it’s a death Victor’s willing to suffer if it means he gets to spend a little more time with Yuuri. So he takes the key out of the ignition, picks Makkachin up like the big overgrown baby she is, and follows Yuuri into the building.

It’s different from the first time he walked into Lilia’s apartment with Yuuri. For one, Yuuri opens the door for him and waits for Victor to step over the threshold first, and doesn’t walk into the house like he’s looking for the nearest hole to hide in.

Yuuri offers him slippers to wear inside, and leads him to the kitchen to offer him a drink, while Makkachin noses around the apartment.

He feels like a guest this time around, when the first time he felt like an intruder.

“We have water, orange juice, wine…” Yuuri offers, opening the fridge and peering inside. “Sparkling water, coke…”

“Orange juice would be nice,” Victor says, sitting at one of the bar stools, and expecting Yuuri to pull a pitcher out of the fridge and pour him a glass.

Instead Yuuri grabs a cutting board, a knife and a couple oranges from a fruit bowl on the counter.

Victor stares in confusion at Yuuri as he slices an orange in half and pulls a juicer out of a cupboard, and it’s only when he sets it on the table that Victor gets hit with the realization that Yuuri is going to make him orange juice.

He opens his mouth to tell him that he doesn’t need to do that, that he’ll take literally anything else that won’t give Yuuri as much work. But then Yuuri starts methodically rolling his sleeves up and Victor almost chokes on his own spit.

He has to make himself shut his mouth with a click, and is powerless to do anything but watch Yuuri juice him some oranges. He seems practiced at it and Victor has a glass of juice in front of him under five minutes.

“Thank you,” Victor says, throat dry.

“It’s no trouble,” Yuuri says, running his hands under the faucet and then patting them dry with a kitchen towel before he says, “I’m going to check on Yura,” and leaves the kitchen.

Victor stares at his glass for a solid minute before he pulls his phone out of his pocket and quickly texts both his mothers and Chris:

»what does it mean if someone juices you some oranges instead of just offering you a glass of water???

His maman answers him first and her text comes in all caps and just reads:

»MARRY HIM.

Victor picks up the glass and takes a careful sip, pondering if Yuuri is doing this on purpose.

Is Victor being flirted with? He doesn’t feel like he’s being flirted with. Not with the way Yuuri is so jumpy around him and seems ready to leap out of a window at the drop of a pin, and yet-

And yet, here Victor sits, hopelessly charmed, and having no idea what to do with himself.

Makkachin bumps her snout against his leg, probably done with exploring. Victor drops a hand on top of her little head and runs his fingers through her fur.

“Ah, what should I do Makkachin?” he sighs.

Makkachin looks up at him with her big brown eyes and does not answer.

Something crashes down the hall and Victor can hear Yuri scream, “Give me back my cat!”

“Go take a shower!”

“Give me back my cat or I’ll kick your ass.”

“Can you even reach?” Yuuri asks, which is quickly followed by a loud thump.

He takes another sip of his juice and wonders if it’s normal to feel jealous of a fifteen year old for bantering with the person you like.

«»

Lilia comes home just as they’ve finished making dinner and Yuri has never in his life been so thankful to see her.

Watching Victor try to flirt with Yuuri by helping him with dinner, and watching Yuuri get increasingly red as he does, was beyond disgusting. The only thing preventing Yuri from kicking Victor’s ass was the fact that he was too busy compiling a comprehensive excel spreadsheet of why he needs Yuuri’s help on the ice.

That aside, it’s pretty funny to see Victor’s back go ramrod straight, like he’s ready to snap into first position as soon as Lilia walks through the door.

Lilia scans the room, eyes narrowing as they land on Victor and Makkachin. Victor stands even straighter, if that’s possible.

 “Ah, Victor gave me a ride so I invited them for dinner, I take full responsibility for their stay,” Yuuri says, doing the dumb thing he does where he opens his eyes wide like some kind of pitiful lost puppy.

Yuri’s seen it work on more than a few people, and the funniest thing is that Yuuri has no idea what he’s doing or how it affects others. Watching idiots fall all over themselves to impress him while Yuuri remains oblivious and uninterested is one of Yuri’s favorite pastimes.

Lilia looks at Victor and then down at Makkachin, who Victor is keeping close to him.

“Hmph,” is Lilia’s only reaction. “I’ll get freshened up a bit before dinner.”

“Of course, Madame,” Yuuri says, inclining his head a little bit, as Lilia leaves the kitchen.

“Wait,” Victor says, eyes wide and startled. “Just like that? No lecture about springing things on her? No threats about what will happen if Makkachin scratches her floor?”

Yuuri has a little frown scrunching his nose up. “Why would there be?”

“Because!” Victor half-splutters.

Yuri curls his lips into a smirk. “It’s because she actually likes Yuuri.”

“She likes everyone the same,” Yuuri says, trying to be diplomatic in true favourite child fashion.

“You are my friend, but you’re also the dumbest goddamned bitch I know,” Yuri informs him.

“You sound like Phichit,” Yuuri tells him, and then turns back to pick up the pot and take it to the dinner table, like the coward he is.

Victor follows after them in a daze, looking like someone just tilted his world slightly off its axis. Yuri, personally, enjoys Victor’s confusion and suffering.

Yuri sits restlessly through dinner, fidgeting in his chair, and trying to find a good opening to bring the issue up with Lilia. He keeps opening his mouth and closing it every time there’s a break in the conversation, words on the tip of his tongue, but then Lilia will ask Yuuri something, or Victor will open his stupid mouth, and Yuri finds himself clicking his own mouth shut.

By the end of dinner, he’s grinding his teeth so hard, he’s given himself a headache.

Victor glances at him, and it’s incredible how just Victor’s eyes on him activate his fight response.

“I have to say I’m very worried,” Victor says, turning to Lilia. “Little Yura keeps falling on his face during practice because he’s not getting enough sleep.”

Yuri is going to kill him.

“Shut up, you old fu-“

“Yuri Plisetsky you will not swear at my dinner table,” Lilia cuts him off swiftly, and Yuri snaps his mouth shut again.

Victor acts as if nothing happened.

“Yakov’s noticed it too.”

Lilia looks displeased. But then again, she always looks displeased.

“He has not brought it up with me.”

“Hm, hasn’t he? Weird.”

“I have known you since you were in diapers, Victor Nikiforov. Just tell me what you want.”

Victor smiles as if that’s what he was after all along.

“I think Yura would benefit from having his ice time with Yuuri integrated in his schedule, instead of doing it after-hours. It’s detrimental to his performance and his growth.”

Yuri feels a little like someone just threw him off a ledge and instead of meeting unforgiving concrete like he expected, he landed in a foam pit. He blinks rapidly, trying to catch up with how this conversation is going.

“And why would I waste Yuuri on skating?” Lilia asks.

Yuri doesn’t miss how Yuuri’s back goes ramrod straight, how his expression pinches into a frown.

“Great question,” Victor says, with the confidence of someone who knows the answer, and then immediately after, turns to Yuri and prompts, “Yura?”

Yuri almost jumps out of his skin at hearing his name. “I- um- I have a spreadsheet?” he says, a little unsure.

Lilia stares at him for a solid five seconds.

“Let’s see it then,” she says, and Yuri bolts upright.

“I’ll go get my laptop,” he rushes out, mentally going over every single argument he’s built in his head as he makes for his bedroom.

Behind him, he hears Yuuri say, “I’ll clear the table,” quickly followed by Victor’s too loud voice chiming in, “I’ll help!”

When he comes back, laptop in hand, the table has been cleared and Makkachin is laying in a corner eating leftovers out of one of Lilia’s fancy bowls.

He sets the laptop on the table in front of Lilia, takes a deep breathe, and breaks down how Yuuri has the exact skillset to make Yuri succeed and how he has already helped him in a way no one at Yakov’s rink could.

Lilia listens through all of it. Yuuri had left about three minutes into Yuri’s speech to go do the dishes and Victor followed him like a dog begging for attention. Yuri doesn’t begrudge Yuuri for it. He might’ve a month back, but now he knows Yuuri enough to know it’s hard for him to hear someone talk about him like this.

It’s honestly a relief to not have an audience for it.

“And what’s in it for Yuuri?” Lilia asks when Yuri is done with his rant.

Of all the questions Yuri expected her to ask, of all the counter arguments he expected to have to fight against, this wasn’t one of them.

And he realizes that he has no idea how to answer. On paper there’s nothing in it for Yuuri. On paper, Yuri is being selfish and greedy.

He stares at Lilia for a moment, mouth half open on an answer that isn’t there.

What is in it for Yuuri?

What’s in it for Yuuri every time they go skating? What’s in it for him when he sneaks out on his own to have a moment alone on the ice?

“Because he loves it,” Yuri finds himself saying. “And I don’t think he wants to be done yet.”

Lilia’s lips press together and her face twists as if she’s just bitten down on something foul. And then she sighs, too quiet for anyone to notice unless they were paying attention like Yuri is.

“Very well,” she says, and it almost sounds like resignation. “I will talk to Yakov tomorrow and arrange for it to happen. Maybe this way that child will stop falling asleep on his feet everywhere.”

Yuri… was not expecting for this to actually work. Hoping for it? Of course. But expecting it? No.

He’s so overwhelmed by it that for a moment he can’t breathe.

“Thank you, Madame,” he says, as earnestly and respectfully as he can.

Lilia’s eyebrows jump up for a second, as if she wasn’t expecting actual gratitude to come from him.

“I trust you won’t make me regret my decision,” she tells him.

“I won’t,” Yuri says fiercely.

“Very well. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll retire for the night.”

Yuri watches her leave, feeling like he could wrestle a god and come out on top. He runs to the kitchen, completely ignores how Victor and Yuuri are standing side by side at the sink, and yells, “She said yes!”

Yuuri startles so much he drops a plate into the sink with a clatter, splashing water all over himself and partially on Victor.

“Oh no, I’m so sorry,” Yuuri rushes out, his wet, soapy hands fluttering uselessly in the air, and frowning worriedly at the wet spots on Victor’s sweater.

Victor passes him the dish towel he had seemingly been using to dry the dishes and says to Yuri, “Did she really?”

“Yes!” Yuri’s riding such a high that he can’t even be bothered by the fact that Victor’s participating in this moment.

That seems to catch Yuuri’s attention. “That’s great,” he says, expression stuck somewhere between panic and excitement.

Yuri raises his hands, and Yuuri’s expression gets a fraction less panicky. He throws his towel over his shoulder and slaps both of his palms against Yuri’s.

“Hell yeah!”

He’s in such a good mood that nothing can get to him, not even the fact that Victor hangs around for another hour to make puppy eyes at Yuuri.

«»

Going back to his routine after having dinner with Yuuri is somehow jarring to Victor. He feels a certain disconnect with himself. He gets up, and then he blinks and catches himself pushing the rink door open with barely any graspable memory of anything in between.

“Good morning, Mr. Nikiforov,” the desk attendant greets Victor as he stands in the entryway, trying to catch up with himself for a minute too long.

“Good morning,” he says, fixing his best smile to his face.

“Mr. Feltsman wanted to see you in his office before you start practice.”

“Ah,” Victor says, and looks at the clock on the wall. This late in the morning – not that eight in the morning is classified as late to most people – there’s no way Lilia hasn’t already come by to talk to him. “How mad did he seem?”

“Moderately.”

Victor sighs and resigns himself to starting his practice with being yelled at.

“Thank you for telling me,” he says.

“No problem,” they say in return, as Victor makes his way to Yakov’s office, barely keeping himself from dragging his feet there.

There’s no way for Victor to know how Lilia’s conversation with Yakov went. He still doesn’t have Yuuri’s phone number, and Yuri probably wouldn’t answer him. Victor supposes he’s about to find out in the worst way possible.

“Good morning, Yakov,” he says, without his usual cheer, because he’s still mad at Yakov for hiding Yuuri from him.

“I don’t appreciate you going behind my back to Lilia,” Yakov says.

“I’m doing well, thank you so much for asking. How are you?”

Yakov’s face gets the sort of red that always reminds Victor of an angry cartoon character. If it were possible, Yakov would probably let steam out of his ears and make a boiling kettle noise every time he got mad.

Then he sighs, and Victor can see him physically trying to dial his anger back. He picks up a piece of paper and slaps it on the desk in front of Victor.

“I hope you’re satisfied,” he grunts, and Victor feels his stomach swoop because that can only mean Lilia convinced him to let Yuuri help Yuri.

Victor picks the paper up and reads it in lieu of gloating.

He frowns a little at the numbers written on it.

“What’s this?”

“The hours Katsuki has free. You have four hours with him, talk to him and spread them out as you will.”

“What do you mean I have four hours with him?” Victor asks, feeling his heart jump to his throat.

“Didn’t you say you could use his help? Your form has been sloppy, make use of it.”

Victor feels a smile twitch his lips.

“You know, if you wanted to apologize, all you had to do was say sorry, Yakov.”

“Get out of my sight before I regret it,” Yakov tells him.

“You should use your words,” Victor singsongs.

Yakov makes a show of looking at his watch, and says, “Hm, Yura should be almost finished practicing with Katsuki.” Which is the most efficient way to have Victor bolting out the door, and thundering his way towards the rink.

He slows down when he sees a single figure gliding on the ice, too tall to be Yura, and his breath gets stuck somewhere in his throat when he makes out Yuuri’s silhouette, fingers touching and hands raised in supplication, head hanging back limply as he skates backwards, everything Victor imagined when he first thought up Agape, from the bend of his back to the angle of his elbows.

He gets closer, walking slowly, not wanting to intrude on the moment.

“Oh,” he breathes out, overwhelmed with how Yuuri looks giving everything of himself to Agape.

“I know,” Yuri says, arms crossed as he watches Yuuri intently. Victor had been so focused on Yuuri that he startles a little when he hears him. “He should be competing,” Yuri says and there’s something to his tone that is almost angry.

“He should,” Victor says, keeping his voice hushed and turning back to watch Yuuri. “But does he want to?”

Yuri doesn’t answer that, and Victor spares him a quick glance and sees how he’s pressing his lips together, brows furrowed in a frown.

They watch Yuuri run through the rest of the routine.

He finishes at center ice, breathing hard, holds his position for five full seconds before he drops it, and leans forward to catch his breath a bit, head bowed.

When he looks back up there’s a shine to his eyes, an eager tilt to his lips.

“How did that look?” he asks.

And Victor guesses that is answer enough.

Chapter Text

Yuri might have played himself, slightly, and he’s still not sure if it was worth it or not.

On one hand, he’s gotten his precious hours of sleep back, as well as Yuuri officially helping him with his training. On the other hand… Victor.

The only thing worse than watching him desperately try to get Yuuri’s attention, is how stupid Yuuri gets when he’s around him, jumping and blushing and stuttering like every other fool Victor has tricked into liking him.

It’s disgusting, and Yuri hates it. He takes solace in the fact that Yuuri is an oblivious idiot, and most of Victor’s flirting seems to either go right over his head, or be misconstrued as something else.

A good example of how ridiculous the whole thing is, is the situation that is developing right now.

“Are you making fun of me?” Yuuri asks, brows furrowed, lips bowed in displeasure.

Victor drops his fourth position by the barre and tilts his head in confusion.

“What?”

When Yuri learned that Victor had managed to trick both Yakov and Lilia into letting him have some studio time with Yuuri, he almost hurled his skates at his head. The only thing that stopped him was how expensive buying a new pair would be. So he did the second best thing he could: tagged along to make sure Victor didn’t try anything.

“Isn’t your mother a prima?” Yuuri continues.

“She… was?” Victor says, casting his eyes over at Yuri as if he might have an answer to what is happening. Yuri gives him a toothy shit-eating grin in reply.

“Then why is your form so sloppy?” Yuuri asks, not meanly. Just genuinely confused and slightly offended, as if he really thinks Victor came here to waste his time.

Yuri almost falls over laughing at the way Victor’s mouth drops open and then shuts again with an audible click.

Your face,” he wheezes. “This is priceless.”

This is the best day of his life.

Victor ignores him. “I haven’t practiced in a while,” he says, sounding almost embarrassed about it.

Yuuri is looking at him like he’s not sure he believes him. “I see,” he says, slowly. “Let’s try again, then. Yura, care to demonstrate?”

If Yuri died right now, he would die happy.

“Sure,” he says, springing to his feet, and makes sure to maintain eye-contact as he gets into fourth position.

Yuuri does that thing where he guides your movements without touching you, fingers hovering a centimeter away from you, as he points out to Victor where he was being sloppy, and then prompts him to do it.

For the rest of the hour, Yuuri runs Victor through the basics, correcting his posture and sometimes calling upon Yuri to demonstrate something. By the end of it, Victor is looking a little sweaty and like he’s regretting having put on make-up for this. His bangs are sticking to his forehead unattractively. Yuri is delighted.

«»

Having Yuuri as a teacher isn’t anything like what Victor expected. Banquet aside, in all of Victor’s interactions with him, Yuuri had been skittish, unsure of himself, and impulsive. There was a nervous energy around him that made his fingers shake.

Victor was expecting him to be much the same while teaching, but he’s starting to understand that expecting anything from Yuuri is foolish. You expect him to turn left and instead he leaps over a wall and continues forward.

When he teaches, Yuuri is confident. There’s a surety to the way he carries himself that speaks of someone who completely dominates their craft. It’s nothing like how he skates, which is… curious.

He looks professional, capable, which only serves to make Victor even weaker at the knees.

And then, as soon as he’s done with class, he reverts back to the same mass of nerves as before.

Victor does not understand, but he wants to.

“Can I treat you to some coffee?” he asks, after he’s done changing clothes in the locker room.

“You don’t have to,” Yuuri says hurriedly.

“Oh, I know. But I want to. Won’t you let me, Yuuri?” he asks, tilting his head a little so his bangs fall just right. And then as an afterthought tacks on a, “Please?”

Yuuri does that thing where he blinks at Victor like his brain is trying to process too much information at once. Victor feels very smug about how easy it is to leave Yuuri speechless.

“Okay,” Yuuri blurts out, and then immediately flushes and turns away.

Victor feels endlessly more excited about grabbing coffee with Yuuri than he has about almost anything else in the last few months.

Nothing can make a dent in his mood, not even Yuri shouldering his way in between them and making sure Victor is more than at arm’s length from Yuuri at all times. Not when Yuuri looks him in the eyes as he talks to him, and makes an adorably appreciative noise the first time he takes a sip of the tea Victor recommended him.

«»

Yuuri is not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination. Having to wake up even earlier than usual to skate at the rink with Yuri is a trial, but it’s one he’s willing to go through for both Yuri’s sake and his own peace of mind.

Skating in the same rink as Victor is a lifelong dream, but it’s also incredibly daunting, and the gnawing thought that Yuuri hasn’t earned it yet eats at him.

But still, he wakes up extra early, and Yuri pokes and prods him out the door, pressing a full thermos of black tea into his hands. Yuuri sips it as the bus jostles them towards the rink, and tries very hard not to fall asleep again.

The actions of stretching and putting on his skates are almost mechanical, and serve to wake him up a little more before he gets on the ice.

He still doesn’t quite get how anything he does is helping Yuri, but still he indulges him.

“Hey,” Yuri calls skating backwards ahead of Yuuri as they do a couple of laps around the rink to warm up. “Can you teach me the entertainment routine?”

Yuuri blinks at him, still feeling a little sluggish. “The what?”

“That gala one you did, when that reporter said all your routines had the same concept so you went ham and wore leather and eyeliner.”

Yuuri almost trips over the toe pick and faceplants on the ice.

How do you know about that?”

Oh gods, he knew his dark past was going to come back to haunt him. If Yuuri could, he would kick his younger self’s ass.

Yuri shrugs a shoulder. “I’ve been watching skating competitions since I was in the womb. Of course I saw that. Also, someone posted a recording of it on YouTube, but it’s too shaky to see it well and I forgot how some parts went.”

I barely remember it. Why would you want to skate that?”

“It’s cool. And if I have to skate to another song that can be described as fae-like and dreamy, I will commit mass murder. So will you teach me or what?”

“Or what,” Yuuri says, because his past should stay buried where Yuuri left it.

Yuri glares.

“Rostelecom is in a couple of weeks, I really don’t think learning to skate… that should be what you focus on,” Yuuri tries to reason.

“You’re right,” Yuri says, which makes Yuuri immediately suspicious. “I don’t have time to create a new routine for the gala, which is why you should teach me this one. I know most of it, I just need to see how close to the original it is.”

“Why would you-“ Yuuri starts, confused as to why Yuri would know a routine of his, and then, suddenly, decides he doesn’t want to know. “You’re not going to drop it until I say yes, are you?”

“Nope,” Yuri says, sounding smug about it.

Yuuri sighs, very long and very heavily. “Fine.”

“Fuck yeah!” Yuri grins.

“I will skate it for you once. That’s it.”

“I’ll get my phone,” Yuri says eagerly and skates off.

Yuuri regrets every single one of his life decisions that have led him to this point.

«»

The second time Victor walks in on Yuuri and Yuri at the rink, there’s an Adam Lambert song echoing through the speakers, and Yuri has his phone trained on Yuuri, who’s currently doing the closest to a perfect cantilever that Victor’s seen in his life.

The song isn’t anything like Eros, but there’s something about how Yuuri moves his body that reminds Victor of it, even if it still remains just a sketched concept in one of his notebooks.

He wants to hunt it down and dust it off, suddenly. Wants to see how the choreography would mold to Yuuri’s bones.

The song comes to an end with a final I’m here for your entertainment and bold arcs of Yuuri’s arms, that stop with one of them outstretched and pointing almost accusatorily at the audience, which is to say at Victor.

Yuuri breathes deeply, then squints, and all at once his face goes flushed and panicked and he drops his arms.

Victor waves cutely at him.

Yuri glares at him, clearly not impressed. Victor ignores him, and waits for Yuuri to get into hearing range to say, “Good morning, Yuuri.”

“Ahhh,” Yuuri says. “I need to go. To the bathroom. Yes, the bathroom is where I’m going, bye.” And then walks away, leaving his skate guards behind.

“Great, you broke him again,” Yuri says distastefully, grabbing Yuuri’s guards and following after.

Victor decides not to follow.

«»

Yuri is annoyed. A lot of people say Victor is blessed, but his only blessing seems to be how he has the worst timing possible.

“Yuuri! Come out! We still have half an hour of practice left,” he calls, banging on the bathroom door, and tries not to think too hard about the last time they were both in a position like this: Yuuri freaking out in a bathroom stall and Yuri banging on the door.

“I’m busy dying of shame, come back later,” Yuuri says through the door, and thank god, he doesn’t sound like he’s crying at least.

“You can’t die, you have an appointment with Lilia today.”

“Damn it,” Yuri can barely hear him mumble, before he finally opens the door.

Yuri steps back to give him space, relieved to see that Yuuri only looks a little high strung and panicked, so not unlike his usual expression.

“Do you want me to kill Victor for you?”

That startles a laugh out of him, which Yuri feels particularly smug about. “No, that’s okay. It’s just-” he sighs, looking sad. “I really wish I’d stop embarrassing myself in front of him.”

“That was badass, first of all,” Yuri counters, because how dare he. That performance was everything to Yuri when he first watched it. That performance made him start paying more attention to Yuuri. That performance, in a way, has led them here.

“That was shameful. Nothing from my dark past should ever see the light of day again.”

Why does everyone have to be so dramatic around here? This sounds like something Georgi would say, which is in no way, shape, or form a compliment. Not after that coward eloped with some girl to start a family.

“Have you been drinking stupid juice again? It looked great.”

“I don’t think-”

“You tried to use Victor as a pole and almost threw up on him, like, three times. And he’s still panting after you like a dog. Stop being a dumbass and come back to practice,” Yuri tells him, trying to snap him out of it.

For half a second Yuuri doesn’t say anything, and Yuri watches his face as it passes through all seven stages of grief, before it settles on acceptance.

“Ah, I see,” he says, calm in a way only people who have accepted the inevitability of death can be. “I never had any dignity to begin with.”

Yuri wants to bash his head against a wall. “That’s not what I meant.”

“We can still do a couple of run-throughs of your free before I need to leave,” Yuuri says, defaulting back to pretending nothing happened.

Yuri personally thinks that’s as good a coping mechanism as any, so he just follows Yuuri back towards the rink and makes the most of the rest of the time he has with him.

«»

Since Yuuri met Victor and became more involved in Yuri’s training, he’s found himself going to the dog park less and less.

Being back is a relief. There’s something about being surrounded by nature that is deeply calming and soothing. Yuuri, who has grown up in the countryside and has the accent to prove it, always seeks green spaces when everything becomes a little too much.

The telltale sounds of a small pack of dogs making their way down the path has Yuuri smiling in anticipation, and it’s not long before Valya and the dogs walk up to where Yuuri is sitting.

“Yuuri! Hi!” Valya greets.

“Hi,” Yuuri says, already getting his hands on as many excited puppies as he can. Today Makkachin isn’t with them, but Yuuri didn’t expect her to be. Victor mentioned earlier that he was taking a long lunch to look over paperwork and that he would pick Makkachin up to keep him company, which Yuuri privately thinks is incredibly cute of him.

“It’s been a while since I last saw you,” Valya says, making conversation while Yuuri pets an absolutely darling pitbull.

“Ah, sorry. Work has picked up a bit since the last time.”

“That sucks.”

“It’s okay. I like it. It was a good change of pace, I think.”

“Well, that’s good. If you ever feel stressed, you know where to find me,” Valya says, and Yuuri looks up at them. “For the dogs!” Valya clarifies. “They’re good stress relief.”

“They really are,” Yuuri grins, and goes back to giving his attention to the puppies.

Valya’s quiet for a bit as Yuuri coos at the puppies.

“So,” Valya starts, sounding less casual, which prompts Yuuri to look back up at them. “I didn’t know you knew Makkachin’s owner…”

“Victor? We used to…” Yuuri trails off, trying to figure out what’s the best way to convey their relationship. How do you convey to an acquaintance that you got stupid drunk and pole danced for your idol? “We used to work together,” Yuuri settles on. “We’ve recently met again, accidentally.”

“Oh. Right. Work together. That’s nice,” he says, and then, “Isn’t he a professional figure skater or something?”

Yuuri snorts a little. “Yeah, he’s kind of an Olympic champion.”

“Oh,” Valya says. “Alright, I guess. Did you work on his support team or… ?”

Yuuri thinks of all the posters he has taped to the walls in Hasetsu, and about learning Russian just so he could read the interviews Victor gave. He thinks about getting into discourse on reddit under an anonymous account over Victor’s skating.

In a way, it could be argued that Yuuri has been on Victor’s support team.

“Ah, not really. I… sort of used to skate too.”

“That’s amazing!” Valya says, and Yuuri doesn’t understand how him saying that he used to skate is more exciting to them than learning that Victor is an Olympic gold medalist.

“Not really,” he says, dropping his gaze again, suddenly embarrassed. The pitbull he’s petting, whose collar tag says Marshmallow, licks his hand. Yuuri would die for Marshmallow. “I quit, after all.”

Yuuri can feel Valya’s eyes on him but doesn’t look up.

“You don’t sound very happy about it,” Valya says.

Yuuri’s made his peace with it, and he’s… well, it is what it is. He made his decision. Even if he wanted to come back, he doesn’t have a coach, and the JSF would probably try to strangle him after how much embarrassment he put his country through.

“It’s fine,” he says, shrugging a shoulder. “This is… fine.”

“It must be difficult having someone that reminds you of it constantly,” Valya says.

“You mean Victor? Not really. He is… so much, when he skates. I’ve looked up to him my entire life, and even after all these years he’s still so inspiring,” he sighs a little, wistful. “If anything, I’m lucky that I get to be this close to him even after I’ve quit.”

Valya doesn’t say anything to that for long enough that Yuuri tilts his head to look up at them again.

There’s a complicated look on their face that Yuuri can’t put his finger on.

“I see,” they say, and even their tone is weird, a little off. They almost sound sad. “That’s really nice. I’m glad you’re happy, Yuuri.”

“Thank you?” Yuuri says, a little thrown.

“I have to get going. Lots of work back at the daycare. It was really nice seeing you again, Yuuri. I hope we can do this again sometime,” they say, tugging the dogs away from him.

“Oh? Of course. Thank you for stopping by. See you next time, then.”

Valya gives him a half-assed smile and a wave before they walk away.

Yuuri blinks after them, a little confused about what just happened, but then he decides to let it go and heads back to the studio.

He has a full day today, after all.

«»

Victor has another session with Yuuri at the end of the day. He made sure to schedule an hour with him while Yuri was too busy to chaperone them like he had the first time.

It’s been a long day of practice for him, and he would be lying if he said he wasn’t tired and a little sore. All he wants to do is go home, take a shower and fall face first into bed. But instead, here he is, at Lilia’s studio, waiting for Yuuri’s last class of the day to finish.

Ah, the things he will do for handsome men. Or more accurately, the things he will do for Yuuri. Victor doesn’t think he would have compromised his routine in any way for someone before Yuuri.

Which is… well, it’s something. Not worrying, exactly, but not reassuring either.

The door to the classroom Yuuri is using opens, and a couple of college-aged people start filling out. Some of them glance at Victor, who is leaning against the wall, clearly waiting, and do a double take, even going as far as to elbow each other and start whispering.

Victor’s too used to it to even bat an eye at it.

He peers into the room and sees Yuuri gathering his things, a guy hovering around him and leaning into his personal space, even as Yuuri tries to lean away.

“Are you sure you’re busy after this?”

“Yes,” Yuuri says quickly, sidestepping him, and rushing towards the door. His eyes catch on Victor and widen slightly, looking relieved.

“Can I convince you to not be,” the guy insists, trailing after Yuuri.

Victor frowns a little.

“No,” Yuuri says in that same curt tone of voice.

The guy opens his mouth.

“Yuuri! Hi!” Victor says cheerfully, effectively cutting him off, and taking a step towards him.

“Hi,” Yuuri breathes out, standing closer to Victor than he usually does. If they were more familiar with each other, Victor would put an arm around him. “Ready to go?” Yuuri asks, clearly eager to get out of the man’s range.

“Ready!” Victor says cheerfully.

“Bye, …” Yuuri trails off as if he was going to say a name but his mind comes up blank. “Bye,” he settles on, and leads Victor down the hall.

The guy looks between Victor and Yuuri rapidly, and Victor is petty enough to smile and give him a little wave goodbye.

“Friend of yours?” Victor asks.

Yuuri sighs, sounding weary. “Definitely not.”

“He seemed… insistent,” Victor says, a little concerned. “Does that happen a lot?”

Yuuri can clearly stand his ground against unwanted advances, but there was something about his posture that spoke of annoyed routine, and that worries Victor. He knows all too well what it feels like when people won’t take no for an answer.

“It’s fine,” Yuuri says, which isn’t really an answer. “I’ll be done teaching their class in a month or so.” Victor wants to say something to that, but at that point they’ve reached the front desk and Yuuri leans against it to catch the desk attendant’s attention. “Sorry, could I get the key to the studio on the third floor?”

She looks up at him, and then blinks a couple of times, looking dazed. She frowns a little, glances down at her monitor. “Don’t you have a class on the second floor now?”

Yuuri tilts his head at her. “No?”

“Please tell me you saw the e-mail, or I’m about to have a room full of very annoyed middle aged couples yelling at me.”

“What e-mail?”

The desk attendant groans. Yuuri looks confused.

Victor gets a sinking feeling in his stomach, and tries very hard not to sigh in resignation.

“Alina is still out sick,” the desk attendant is saying.

“She was supposed to come back today.”

“She was, but apparently she’s still not feeling better, and since you’ve been covering all her classes…”

Yuuri pinches the bridge of his nose.

Victor does sigh.

Fine,” Yuuri says. “Same room as usual, right?” he asks.

“Yeah. Sorry, Yuuri,” she says, and to her credit, she does sound sorry, throwing an apologetic look Victor’s way as well.

“It’s fine,” he sighs, a little more resigned. He sounds tired. “It’s not your fault, I should’ve checked my e-mail.”

He turns to Victor then, lips pressed together, and Victor takes solace in the fact that Yuuri looks almost as disappointed as Victor feels.

“Sorry, I think we’ll have to reschedule,” he says. “Unless you want to suffer through two hours of teaching ballroom with me.” There’s a little twist to his mouth that lets Victor know he’s joking, as if he’s trying to lighten the mood for Victor’s sake.

Victor knows he’s joking, but still, on the off chance that he’s not, he says, “I’d love to!”

Yuuri stares at him intensely, tilts his head measuredly as if he’s working through something. “Do you know how to waltz?”

“Of course,” Victor says readily. “My mother is a prima after all.”

“Hm,” Yuuri says considering. “Can you follow?”

“I can do anything you need me to.”

Yuuri’s face goes almost immediately splotchy red, and he looks away. “That’s- ah- good to know. Let’s go then,” he says and starts walking away.

Victor does not miss the amused look the desk attendant is giving him. She seems unrepentant about it and just gives Victor an okay sign with her hand. Victor’s glad at least someone approves of his desperate flirting tactics. He returns the gesture, and follows after Yuuri.

He feels almost giddy about dancing with Yuuri again, the memories of the banquet still clear in his mind. Yuuri is a very, very good dancer, and although a waltz doesn’t involve as much touching as a tango does, Victor’s still eager for it.

Here’s the truth: Victor does not get touched by anyone aside from his mothers.

Everyone else has placed him so high up on a pedestal that they don’t dare put their hands on him. Casual intimacy is hard to come by for him, and he craves it with a voracity that speaks of a hollowness carved out by years of abstinence.

So yes, he is eager for an excuse to have Yuuri put his hands on him again, this time completely sober.

The first clue that Victor might not be fully prepared for the next two hours comes when Yuuri sets his heavy sports bag aside and rummages through it, pulling out a pair of heeled mary janes and putting them on, tightening the strap around his ankle.

Victor very nearly chokes on his own spit.

Yuuri looks over at him in concern, just as the students start filing into the room, and steps a little closer so he can whisper, “Still up for it?”

“Yes,” Victor says, maybe a little too fast, but he doesn’t care.

With the heels on, Yuuri is almost as tall as him.

Yuuri looks at him for a solid second, eyes flickering around Victor’s face as if he’s searching for any potential discomfort. Then he nods and starts the class.

Victor’s quiet as Yuuri introduces him to the class of students and explains what they’ll be doing today. It’s basic stuff. Where to put your hands, how to angle your arms, where to angle your head, as well as a couple of very easy steps.

Nothing Victor thinks should take two hours, until he realizes most people here have never taken a single dance class in their life, and have a hard time with upper and lower body coordination.

The first thirty minutes are a brand of torture Victor has never experienced in his life.

“May I?” Yuuri asks and waits for Victor to nod before he puts his hands on him.

Victor slots into position easily, following Yuuri’s cues, who only minutely corrects his stance. They run through a couple of easy steps, Yuuri counting out loud and explaining the process as they do, and Victor trying very hard not to distract Yuuri by looking too enamored with him.

He might be failing, if the red in Yuuri’s cheeks is anything to go by.

There’s something so very real and comforting about being held like this, not gripped, but held. It makes Victor’s skin feel warm in every point it comes in contact with Yuuri’s, makes something swell in his chest.

But it’s not the touching that is torture. It’s the not touching.

After running through the steps a first time, Yuuri does it again, but slower this time, stopping every time something changes in their posture, stepping back from Victor while asking him to maintain position and then tracing his fingers through the air above Victor’s skin.

When they’re not dancing, Yuuri does not touch Victor, and Victor is expected to hold very still while Yuuri hovers his fingers just above his arm, his shoulder, his cheek and traces a line with them to point out the angle at which Victor holds himself.

Having him step back into the circle of Victor’s arms to move into the next step is a relief, and makes Victor clutch at him a little bit tighter.

After that, it’s… fun.

Yuuri prompts everyone in the room to pair up and run through the steps he’s shown them, and then goes pair by pair to help those who need it, and Victor does the same. He’s never considered himself anywhere close to good at teaching, but there’s something very satisfying about coaching someone through a difficult step and seeing them succeed.

Sometimes, Victor forgets how much he loves talking to people. It’s good to be reminded.

«»

Victor offers him a ride home, and Yuuri doesn’t even think to refuse. Between ballet, skating, and the pettiness that has led him to teach his ballroom classes in heels to prove a point, his feet are a mess.

Walking to the bus station would be a pain. Besides, in the past couple of weeks he’s gotten in the car with Victor so often that it feels almost normal.

“We have to stop to get Makkachin first. Is that okay?” Victor asks, backing them out of his parking space.

“Of course,” Yuuri says readily, because there’s no universe in which he doesn’t jump at the chance to pet a good dog.

The daycare isn’t that far from Lilia’s studio, and in five minutes they’ve arrived, and Yuuri is waiting while Victor goes inside to get Makkachin. When they come back out, Makkachin is jumping around Victor, clearly excited to see him.

Yuuri knows Makkachin is getting on in years, but no one would have guessed it by how high she can still jump.

Victor is laughing and trying not to trip over her as he leads her to the car, and Yuuri feels his heart squeeze. There’s something unspeakably beautiful about seeing Victor laughing.

Yuuri opens the passenger door for him, and asks, “Do you want me to go in the back?”

Makkachin answers for Victor by jumping on Yuuri and wriggling all over him, making low, excited puppy noises that never fail to make Yuuri default to baby talking at her in japanese.

“Hi, hi puppy, hi! You’re so excited, hello! I love you! Hi!”

Yuuri loves her so much. What a good baby.

“I think you can ride in the front,” Victor says, and when Yuuri turns his head towards him, his eyes look soft. “Hold her while I close the door, please,” he asks, and Yuuri dutifully obeys.

Yuuri manages to settle Makkachin on their way to Lilia’s, rubbing both his hands through her fur until she’s panting and slobbering on the leg of his pants. Sometimes she’ll whine and try to reach over to Victor, and Yuuri has to hold her back.

“I hate having to leave her all day,” Victor sighs after they get honked at at a traffic light because Victor had reached over to pet Makkachin and didn’t notice the light turning green.

“I understand,” Yuuri says, very quietly.

“I’ll have to leave her again when we go to Moscow for Rostelecom,” Victor says, brows pinching and lips bowing downwards. “She stops eating sometimes when I’m gone too long. At least this time, the plane ride will be shorter.”

Yuuri thinks of Vicchan, and of how he would get into his room and whine for him after Yuuri left, how his parents didn’t say anything so as not to worry Yuuri, but how Vicchan looked skinnier in the pictures they sent him right after he got to America.

“The staff at the daycare do their best, but Makkachin is a big needy baby who needs lots of attention, and they have so many other dogs to take care of…”

Makkachin’s tail has been thumping steadily on the car’s floor as Yuuri pet her, her head resting on his knees and her big soulful eyes turned up to him.

“I could watch her,” he finds himself blurting out. There’s a beat of silence that lasts too long, and he turns to see Victor glancing at him, wide-eyed, before he turns his head back to the road. What Yuuri said catches up to him, and he starts backtracking. “Ah, I’m sorry I’m overstepping, I didn’t-“

“Would you?” Victor cuts him off, glancing over at him again. “Would you really watch her for me?”

Yuuri turns his eyes resolutely towards Makkachin. “Of course. She’s a good dog, I like spending time with her.”

“Hm,” is all Victor says.

The car falls into silence for a couple of minutes, long enough for Yuuri to gather the courage to look over at Victor. He doesn’t look angry, or offended. Instead he looks… pensive.

They’re almost there when Victor speaks up, interrupting Yuuri’s spiraling self-doubt.

“Do you think Lilia would allow it?”

Yuuri blinks, trying to make sense of the words. And then he says, “I- I could ask?”

Lilia isn’t a big fan of dogs. The chances of her actually allowing Yuuri to bring another pet into her house are slim to none. Although she is going to Moscow with Victor and Yuri, so maybe there is a chance.

Victor nods, oddly serious. “I think it would be nice for Makkachin to not spend her nights alone while I’m gone.” And then his lips curl and he throws a teasing glance at Yuuri. “And of course, you’d send me all the pictures I needed to soothe my lonely heart, right Yuuri?” He says it like a joke, but for some reason it doesn’t feel like one.

“Of course,” Yuuri says earnestly. “I’m also very good at doggy Skype calls.”

Victor’s eyes turn soft, and his smile isn’t quite so wide or teasing, but Yuuri finds he likes this version of it better than the other one.

It makes Yuuri turn his eyes back to his lap, once again overwhelmed with how beautiful Victor is.

“We’re here,” Victor announces, parking the car in front of Lilia’s building. Yuuri has no idea how he always manages to find a parking spot anywhere he goes, but he does.

He looks expectantly at Yuuri, probably waiting for him to get out of the car. Yuuri chews on his lip, considering.

And then with what little courage Yuuri has, he asks, “Do you want to come up for dinner?”

Victor looks at him, eyes wide, mouth dropped into a little ‘o’, and Yuuri immediately wants to start backtracking.

“Since you gave me a ride and-“

“Yes,” Victor speaks at the same time, and Yuuri lets his voice trail off.

Victor’s answer comes so fast when Yuuri starts speaking, that it almost startles a laugh out of him.

Yuuri presses down on his smile. “Okay,” he says, and opens the door, hearing Victor do the same.

He lets Makkachin jump out first and follows.

“Oh, Yuri’s cooking today. I hope you don’t mind,” he says, and leads a suddenly faltering Victor into the building.

«»

Watching Yuuri and Yuri interact is an experience.

As soon as Victor walks in the door, Makkachin in tow, Yuri reacts predictably.

The shouting and threats are par for the course with Yuri, and the resolute refusal to let Victor eat anything he cooks assuages Victor’s fear of being poisoned, at least.

Yuuri just calmly listens to Yuri’s complaints, and then grabs the house phone.

“I understand,” he says. “Victor and I will order out.” And then he turns to Victor and asks, “Any preferences?”

And apparently that’s all it takes for Yuri to angrily backtrack and come up with an excuse as to why feeding Victor is suddenly acceptable.

“Thank you, Yura,” Yuuri says earnestly, at the end of Yuri’s tirade.

Yuri is red in the face and Victor isn’t entirely sure it’s just from the yelling.

“Ugh, whatever. But you owe me.”

“Of course, Yura,” Yuuri replies dutifully.

Yuri grabs a grape from a nearby bowl and throws it at Yuuri’s head. Yuuri catches it in the air and pops it into his mouth, which Victor has a lot of gay feelings about.

Somehow they end up peacefully sharing a meal. Or as peacefully as anything can be with Yuri around.

Makkachin sits at their feet, blinking big brown eyes at them. Victor taught her better than to beg for scraps, but she knows that if she sits and stares long enough, he will cave because he is very weak for her puppy eyes.

Yuri’s demon cat is sat at the top of a tall cabinet, looking down at them and possibly plotting their demise. Or just how to steal a piece of salmon. Possibly both.

It does not escape Victor’s notice how Yuuri saves two little pieces of salmon on his plate and feeds one to Makkachin when he thinks no one is looking. The other one, he not so discreetly feeds to Potya when he walks by her to take his dish to the kitchen, talking to her in a low and soothing voice.

Victor tries to catch what he’s saying until he realizes it’s in Japanese.

“He likes Potya better,” Yuri says smugly, and what Victor hears is he likes me better. “That’s why he calls her princess and treats her like royalty.”

“Oh? You know Japanese now? That’s interesting,” Victor says, tapping a finger to his chin for effect.

Yuri goes red in the face. “I watch Naruto,” he says, trying to feign nonchalance, “don’t be weird about it.”

“Sure,” Victor says, and before Yuri can see that as an invitation for a shouting match, he says, “Yuuri seems to like Makkachin a lot too. After all, he offered to look after her while we’re in Moscow.”

“He what?” he says, just as Yuuri walks back into the living room with a bowl of grapes. “You what?

“I what what?” Yuuri asks, setting the bowl down on the table and taking his seat.

“You offered to take care of Victor’s stinky dog while we’re in Moscow?”

“Oh. Yeah,” Yuuri says and picks up a grape.

Why?”

“I don’t want her to be sad,” Yuuri says as an explanation.

“She’s just a dog.”

“And Potya is just a cat,” Yuuri volleys back.

Yuri picks up a grape and pops it in his mouth, talking around it. “How dare you? She is royalty, you dog traitor.”

Yuuri looks over at Yuri with an amused twist of his mouth. Victor rests his head in his hand and looks at how beautiful Yuuri is when he’s this relaxed.

Victor suddenly remembers seeing a couple of very cute pictures of Yuuri with a tiny little poodle on Yuuri’s Instagram.

“Don’t you have a dog too, Yuuri?” he asks, thoughtlessly, and immediately regrets it when he sees how Yuuri freezes, smile sliding off his face.

Yuri throws him a glare, and for once Victor feels like it’s well-deserved.

“Yes,” Yuuri says slowly, sadly. “I did.”

“Oh no, I’m so sorry. That’s awful, I can’t imagine-“ he starts and then shuts his mouth with a click when Yuri kicks him under the table and sends him a nasty look.

“It’s okay,” Yuuri says, and even the way he’s trying to smile reassuringly is loaded with so much sadness that Victor feels his heart break a little. “It was a while ago.” He looks down at the table and starts methodically peeling the grape he has in his hands. “It’ll-“ he clears his throat. “It’ll be one year next month. So really, it’s fine.”

It’s clearly not fine. Not going by how Yuuri still seems to be grieving it.

“Next month?” Yuri asks suddenly, and there’s a strange tilt to his voice that Victor can’t quite put his finger on.

“Yeah,” Yuuri says, and does not look at either of them.

Victor doesn’t know what’s so important about next month, except for his birthday and the Grand Pri- oh. Oh no.

That would explain a lot about how the last Grand Prix went for Yuuri. How he had one foot on the podium after his short program, and slipped all the way to last place overnight.

Victor’s heart breaks a little for him. He can’t imagine what that must’ve been like, just the thought of possibly losing Makkachin... He wants to reach over and bundle Yuuri up. He wants to introduce him to his mothers’ small army of poodles and let them swarm him with puppy love.

“Oh my god,” Yuri says, and when Victor turns his attention to him, the color seems to have drained from his face. He looks distraught. “Your dog died during the Grand Prix?!”

Yuuri flinches.

Victor seriously considers kicking a fifteen year old in the shin to get him to shut up.

“And I yelled at you. Your dog died, and I yelled at you!” He’s so agitated he stands up from his seat.

“Yura, it’s fine,” Yuuri says, and he looks tired. Bone-deep weary.

“It’s not fine! How do you even tolerate me?! How can you be so nice about it when I-“

Yuri,” Yuuri says, and his voice sounds harsh now, in a way that startles Victor and Yuri. “I said it was fine. I don’t want to talk about it.” And then softly again, “Don’t make me talk about it.”

Yuri sinks back down into his chair, like all of his strings were cut.

It’s jarring to be a witness to how very much Yuri seems to care about Yuuri.

“I’m very sorry for your loss,” Victor says in a low tone, feeling a little choked up.

“Yeah, me too,” Yuuri says, almost more to himself than to them. And then after a couple beats of silence, “Sorry, I think it’s time I retired for the night. Thank you for the company,” he says, and pushes his chair back to get up.

Yuri looks like he wants to follow, but Yuuri puts a hand on his shoulder and squeezes in a reassuring gesture that seems almost thoughtless. They watch him make his way to his room.

Makkachin takes a couple of steps after him, before she turns back around towards Victor. Victor flicks his wrist vaguely in Yuuri’s direction, and says, “Go!” and Makkachin happily trots after Yuuri.

“Is he going to be okay?” he asks Yuri worriedly.

“I-“ Yuri says, looking every inch his age. “I don’t know. I hope so.”

Victor digests those words. And after another beat he asks, “Are you going to be okay?”

“Like you care,” Yuri mumbles, but it seems more like reflex than anything else. There’s no force behind it.

“When have I not?” Victor asks.

“I can’t do this right now,” Yuri says, and pushes off the table, stalking out of the living room.

Victor sighs, suddenly feeling very, very tired.

“Guess it’s just you and me now, huh?” he asks Potya, who is still sitting on her perch.

Makkachin is with Yuuri, and Victor can’t very well leave without his dog, so he sets about clearing what’s left off the table and washing the dishes.

When he’s done he heads to the living room, sits on the couch, and waits.

He doesn’t know exactly how much time passes. Enough for him to let his head lull against the back of the couch, eyelids becoming heavy, until the sound of a door opening and Makkachin’s nails clicking on wood makes him shake the sleep off.

Makkachin comes around the couch, tail zooming from side to side, and for a couple of seconds Victor thinks that’s his cue to leave, but then Yuuri walks into the living room, eyes red-rimmed, face swollen.

Victor doesn’t think he could be brave enough to wear his fragility so plainly like that.

“Sorry for stealing your dog,” Yuuri says.

“It’s fine,” Victor replies, and tries for a little smile. He doesn’t know how well it fits on his face. People crying makes him panic. “You looked like you needed her more than me.”

“Thank you,” Yuuri says. “Sorry for keeping you out so late.”

“Don’t apologize. I like spending time around you, Yuuri,” Victor says, giving him a smile.

“Why do you keep saying my name like that?” Yuuri blurts out.

Victor tilts his head. “Am I still saying it wrong?”

“I- no, it’s just-“ Yuuri’s face gets very red. The way he flushes when he’s embarrassed is starkly different to the flush to his cheeks when he’s just done crying, Victor notes. “Why?”

“That’s how you taught me how to say it. At the banquet, I mean. I was mispronouncing it, until you very insistently corrected me.”

“Oh God, I’m so sorry.”

“Why? I want to be able to say your name properly.”

Victor still remembers it clearly, Yuuri sloppy drunk, with an arm around Victor’s shoulder, holding a bottle in his hand as the other wagged a finger at Victor like a teacher reprimanding a student. “Not Yuri,” he had said, “Yuuri, Yuuuri.

“I’m going to die,” Yuuri moans, but instead of bolting, he goes to sit on the armchair next to the couch.

“Don’t die. Makkachin would be sad,” Victor says.

Makkachin, who is laying at his feet, looking tired, does not reply to that. It’s past both of their bedtimes.

Yuuri looks down at Makkachin. “Only for her.”

Victor likes him so much it’s stupid. Which isn’t exactly a revelation to him. He doesn’t realize he likes Yuuri at this exact moment, but the knowing of the fact settles deeply into him, like an absolute truth, for the first time now.

“I don’t understand how you can be so nice to me,” Yuuri says quietly. “All I do is embarrass myself in front of you, and you still…” he trails of, a little confused frown appearing on his face.

“It’s because I like you,” Victor says, without meaning to. He’s so overwhelmed by just how much that is true that it just… slips from his mouth.

Yuuri reacts both like Victor expected and not.

He looks startled, ready to bolt, face beet red, but he looks confused too.

“As a friend?” Yuuri asks slowly.

Victor has a chance to back out here. He has a chance to laugh it off, steer the conversation back into safer territory. But Victor did not win an Olympic gold medal by playing it safe.

“You must have noticed, I’m not very subtle, Yuuri,” he says, and makes sure he lilts Yuuri’s name in the teasing way that never fails to make Yuuri blush.

His tone is casual, but his heart is hammering so hard in his chest that he can feel it in his throat.

Yuuri looks, if possible, even more confused. The response takes a while to come, as if what Victor just said was hard to process.

“You want to have sex with me?” Yuuri asks, and Victor could say yes, but that’s the easy answer.

“I meant romantically,” he clarifies. “I want to date you.”

The answer to that takes even longer to come. Yuuri seems to be having an intense internal argument, so Victor waits him out. At least he’s not trying to bolt out the door and avoid the conversation, which is progress as far as Victor can see.

“I’m-“ Yuuri starts, and then has to take a deep breath, fists curling around his knees. “I’m not like I was in Sochi, usually. I’m not…” Another deep breath. “You don’t know me. Not- not really. I’m not anything like what I am when I’m drunk.”

“So I’ve gathered,” Victor says, a little amused. The difference between the Yuuri he had met in Sochi and the Yuuri now couldn’t be starker. “But you don’t know me either.”

Yuuri is quiet. “I don’t,” he agrees.

“So let’s get to know each other,” Victor says. “I’m not asking you to jump into a relationship with me. I’m asking you to let me get to know you, and maybe we’ll like each other and maybe we won’t,” he says, shrugging a shoulder with a nonchalance that he doesn’t feel.

This is a bad deal for Victor, because he’s already waist deep in water and Yuuri doesn’t seem to have even reached the shoreline. But he will take anything he can get.

Yuuri seems to digest his words for a bit. And when he has, what comes out of his mouth is, “You’re not making fun of me, are you?” He sounds afraid, almost.

“Never,” Victor says. “I would never joke about something like this.” And he must sound honest enough because Yuuri seems to take that at face value.

“Okay,” he says in a long breath. “Okay. I guess- I guess that’s okay. I can do that.”

“Okay,” Victor says, relief washing over him.

“But, if you start disliking me, you have to tell me,” Yuuri says firmly.

Yuuri could quite honestly pour hot soup in his lap and Victor wouldn’t even blink at this point.

“Alright. But if you start to dislike me, you have to say something as well.”

Yuuri pulls a face like he wants to protest but doesn’t. Instead he extends his hand for Victor to shake.

“I’ll do it if you’ll do it.”

“Deal,” Victor says, and takes Yuuri’s hand in his.

Yuuri bows his head a little and says something in Japanese that Victor has no hope of understanding.

“Hm?” Victor prompts. “What was that?”

“Ah, it’s- it’s sort of a greeting. Like nice to meet you, but also I’ll be in your care.”

“Oh,” Victor says, feeling very warm. He makes a mental note to start learning Japanese. “Teach me how to say it?”

Yuuri looks surprised that Victor asked, but he nods dutifully and sounds the words out until Victor can say them.

They do not let go of each other’s hands during this entire process.

“I’ll be in your care, Yuuri,” he says, and the warm smile Yuuri gives him makes his heart sigh. It feels a little bit like a new start.

Chapter Text

“I’m going to antagonize him,” Yuuri declares, startling Victor out of admiring Yuuri’s profile as he drank water.

“What?” he asks, trying to catch up to the conversation.

Yuuri points his water bottle towards where Yuri is sulking at the other side of the rink. “He’s still acting weird.”

“He feels bad,” Victor tells him. He’s still not quite sure what happened between Yuuri and Yuri in Sochi. They’re both tight-lipped about it, but Yuri carries his guilt in the hunch of his shoulders and in the way he hasn’t raised his voice around Yuuri since.

“It’s annoying,” Yuuri huffs, and Victor raises his eyebrows at that. Yuuri glances at him and colours a little. “I just mean, I don’t like how he walks on eggshells around me. I said it’s fine, so it’s fine.”

“So you’re going to antagonize him to fix it?” Victor asks, trying to understand the logic of it.

“Yes.”

“Sounds like a bad idea,” he says.

“Oh, absolutely!” Yuuri says, almost cheerfully, and smiles.

Victor feels hopelessly endeared by it.

“Don’t make him too mad, I’m rooming with him in Moscow. And yell for help, if you need it.”

The curl of Yuuri’s mouth turns amused. “Thanks,” he says, and pushes off the boards.

Victor watches with interest as he skates around the rink.

They have two days until they have to leave for Moscow, so every skater who’s competing in the Rostelecom Cup is practicing around the rink. Yuuri seemed nervous when they started filing in, but quickly got used to it when he noticed that none of them paid any special attention to what he and Yuri were doing.

He watches as Yuuri skates around them, careful not to disturb anyone, then skating  by Yuri and reaching a hand out to… flick his ear?

Yuri jumps a little and whirls, ready to yell at whoever dared touch him, but as soon as he sees it was Yuuri he seems to simmer down. Yuuri skates backwards for a little bit, holding eye contact with him and raising an eyebrow. Yuri doesn’t react.

Yuuri turns neatly on his edge and does another lap around the rink, before he passes by Yuri and does it again.

Yuri throws him an annoyed look, but otherwise doesn’t react.

“I don’t think it’s working,” Victor tells him when Yuuri skates by him again.

“Yes, it is,” Yuuri says, sounding smug, and skates around the rink again.

This time when he flicks Yuri’s ear, Yuri explodes, and starts chasing him down.

Yuuri’s laughter as he starts to skate faster to get away is a revelation to Victor. Victor isn’t particularly religious, but he feels blessed.

They keep chasing each other for a while. Yuri’s faster, but Yuuri dodges with the kind of expertise that speaks of experience, and Victor’s reminded of how many pictures of Yuuri with other young skaters there are on Phichit’s Instagram.

Suddenly, he feels a little jealous.

In the end, Yuri tires himself out before he catches Yuuri, which isn’t really surprising, given how he’s been killing himself during practice.

“Eh, aren’t teenagers supposed to have good stamina?” Yuuri teases, not sounding particularly winded.

“I’m going to wring your damn neck!” Yuri shouts at him.

Yuuri looks incredibly pleased with himself as he says, “Can you even reach?”

Predictably, Yuri lunges at him.

Yuuri sidesteps him easily and puts him into a headlock.

“Let me go, you’re so damn annoying!”

“You’re annoying. Stop treating me like I’m going to break if you talk to me, and I’ll let you go.”

Yuri tries pushing at Yuuri’s arms, and when that doesn’t work, he huffs out a, “Fine! I will. Now let me go!”

Yuuri lets him go. Yuri very quickly clips him upside the head and then immediately takes off down the rink. Yuuri blinks after him in surprise, before he laughs, a competitive glint in his eyes, and gives chase.

Victor leans against the boards and sighs longingly.

«»

Lilia ends up letting Makkachin stay with Yuuri, as long as Yuuri takes full responsibility for any damage she might cause.

Yuuri would be lying if he said he wasn’t excited about it. He misses having a dog like a gaping hole, and he adores Makkachin.

He sees Yakov’s team off at the airport. Victor spends the last ten minutes before he’s forcefully pulled into the plane going over everything he needs to know about Makkachin, which includes but is not exclusive to: her diet, schedule, her favourite toys and her favourite music to listen to. He does all of this on his knees and hugging Makkachin.

Yuuri listens to it all like Victor didn’t hand him an entire binder with every single thing he needs to know about Makkachin half an hour prior.

Yuri comparatively, leaves with no fuss.

He looks serious, somber almost.

He asks Yuuri, “You’ll be watching, right?”

“Of course,” Yuuri tells him. “Do your best.”

Yuri nods gravely at that and marches into the plane.

Makkachin whines lowly at Yuuri’s feet when Victor disappears past the gate, and tugs on her leash trying to follow.

“Guess it’s just you and me, huh, Makka?” he asks, running a hand through the fur on the top of her head. “We should get going.”

He gives a little gentle tug on the leash towards the exit, but, instead of following, Makkachin lays down, eyes trained on where Victor disappeared.

Yuuri feels his heart squeeze and leans down, scooping her up off the floor and carrying her away. Makkachin tries to wriggle out of his grip while they’re inside the airport, but settles as soon as they get into the taxi, pressing her snout against the window and whining lowly.

Yuuri coos soft reassurances at her, and wonders, very quietly, if this is how Vicchan felt when he disappeared.

«»

There’s a certain type of nostalgia that weighs Victor down as soon as he gets into an airplane for a competition. Leaving Makkachin behind is gutting, even if this time he thinks – he hopes – she won’t feel quite as lonely.

The trip is a little over one hour from St. Petersburg to Moscow, one of the shorter distances Victor has had to fly for competition, but even as short as it is, Victor needs to have something to entertain and distract himself to bear it. So he grabs his phone as soon as he’s allowed and connects it to the plane’s wi-fi. He then opens his language learning app and clicks on his Japanese course where he left off.

Learning a third writing system is proving to be tricky, but Victor’s trying to get through it. He’s always been much better at speaking a language than he’s been at writing in it. It was probably from traveling around so much when he was little that he developed a knack for picking up languages just by hearing them.

It’s about thirty minutes to landing when he gets a message from Yuuri.

From: Yuuri 💖💖💖
»please don’t be mad at me

To: Yuuri 💖💖💖
»IS MAKKACHIN OKAY??

From: Yuuri 💖💖💖
» [image attachment]

The wait for the image to load feels like torture, and when it does the relief hits Victor like a punch in the gut. Makkachin is curled up around a sports bag Victor recognizes as Yuuri’s, looking at the camera with her big puppy dog eyes.

From: Yuuri 💖💖💖
»she’s fine!!!!!!!!!!
»but she looked sad when I tried leaving her at the daycare
»so I brought her to work with me
»please don’t tell lilia

Victor feels his heart settle and sigh. Maybe his maman was onto something when she told Victor to marry him. Victor regrets impulsively sending her that text, because his maman is very persistent and very curious and has been hounding Victor as to who his ‘orange juice boy’ is ever since.

To: Yuuri 💖💖💖
»thank you for taking such good care of her
» 💖💖💖💖💖💖💖💖💖💖💖💖💖💖💖

From: Yuuri 💖💖💖
»you’re not mad?

To: Yuuri 💖💖💖
»why would I be?
»if I could take her to work with me every day I would
»please pet her for me and tell her I love her

From: Yuuri 💖💖💖
»oh okay
»[image attachment]
»she loves you too!

The picture this time is of Makkachin with her head resting on Yuuri’s hand, leaning her full weight onto it, eyes closed.

Victor can’t believe dogs are this good. He can’t believe Yuuri is this good.

“Are you crying?” Yuri asks, sounding horrified and trying to peer at Victor’s phone to see what he’s looking at.

“No,” Victor says, because he isn’t. His eyes might be a little shiny, but Victor hasn’t actually cried in a long time. He angles his phone towards Yuri to show him the picture, and there is a moment – a blink and you’ll miss it moment – when Yuri looks at it and almost smiles.

But that moment doesn’t last, and Yuri twists his nose and says, “Gross,” before leaning back against his seat and turning his attention back to the movie playing in front of him.

To: Yuuri 💖💖💖
»the best girl in the world!!
»thank you!
»please keep sending me lots of pictures I miss her (((

From: Yuuri 💖💖💖
»will do
»sorry, gotta start class
»have a safe flight

To: Yuuri 💖💖💖
»good luck with class 💖

Victor smiles down at his phone with a full heart, and switches back to his learning app for the rest of the trip.

«»

Yuri has to admit that as daunting as competing against Victor may be, he’s excited to be in Moscow. It’s been such a long time since he’s been able to come back home, and it guts him a little.

He scans the line of cars parked in front of the airport, pushing past Victor and Yakov for a better view. His eyes light up as soon as he spots the tiny blue car he remembers so well, with all its bumps and chipped off paint.

“Grandpa!” he yells, and it’s been so long that Yuri can’t help himself from running to him and jumping into his arms, going by muscle memory worked into him since he could barely walk.

“Argh, Yuratchka, my back,” his Grandpa groans, and Yuri immediately takes a step back, rubbing his shoulder worriedly.

“Sorry, sorry. I forget.”

Grandpa rubs his back with a wince, and then straightens up. Yuri definitely hears his back pop and he frowns a little harder.

“Have you been going to physical therapy like you’re supposed to? You’re not being reckless at the bakery again are you?”

Grandpa only smiles, laugh lines creasing the corners of his eyes.

“It’s so good to see you,” he says, and puts both hands on Yuri’s shoulders, patting his cheek a little. “Have you grown? You look taller.”

“Two centimeters!” Yuri announces proudly, standing at his full height.

“Soon, you will be taller than me,” he says, sounding proud, and Yuri beams. Grandpa laughs, and gives him a couple more pats on the cheek. “I have something for you in the car. I hope you like it.”

Yuri’s eyes widen, and he tries to peer inside the vehicle. “What is it?”

“Get in and see. I’ll get your bag,” he says, reaching for the sports bag Yuri is bringing along with him.

“No, no, no. It’s fine, I can bring it in the front seat with me,” he says. “This is heavy.”

Most of his other luggage is being taken to the hotel with Yakov, because while Yuri would love to spend the entire time in Moscow with his Grandpa, they’re too far away from the rink for it to be feasible.

Yuri waves at Yakov absentmindedly to signal he’s okay, before he gets in the car and eagerly reaches for the brown bag sitting on the dashboard.

He doesn’t have to open it to know what it is. The delicious smell of pirozhki permeates the car, and Yuri almost sighs into it.

He loses no time getting one out and shoving it into his mouth, humming in appreciation.

There are very few things that feel as much like home to Yuri as riding in his Grandpa’s beat-up car, while eating his delicious pirozhki.

Yuri remembers being a snotty brat, sobbing in the front seat because the other kids didn’t want to be his friends, and being handed a pirozhok while his Grandfather wiped away his snot with an old handkerchief, and suddenly nothing seemed as bad as it had before.

“You like it?”

“Yesh,” Yuri says enthusiastically around his mouthful.

His Grandpa laughs. “Good, good.” And suddenly the weight of making his senior debut doesn’t feel quite as heavy anymore.

«»

Anyone who has known Yuuri for any amount of time can tell you that he’s impulsive to the point of recklessness. In his day, he has made many, many, many bad decisions. He doesn’t really think watching over Makkachin is one of them, until Potya bats Makkachin on the snout and hisses at her.

It’s only goes downhill from there. Potya and Makkachin refuse to get along, mostly because they’re both spoiled brats who don’t do well with sharing attention.

Yuuri still loves them both with his whole heart, but the fact that he can’t pet one of them without the other throwing a tantrum is heartbreaking to him.

He adapts, though. He always does, and it’s not long until he realizes that they actually get along fine, as long as Yuuri isn’t in the room. He even catches them curled up together once, when he ventures out of his room at four a.m. for water. He immediately takes twenty pictures and sends them to both Victor and Yuri.

Victor is delighted. Yuri begrudgingly admits that it’s adorable, even if he doesn’t want his cat associated with Victor’s ‘stinky’ dog.

Makkachin is not stinky. Victor uses both doggy shampoo and conditioner, and Yuuri is intimately familiar with Makkachin’s bathing regiment because at least five pages in the binder Victor has given him are dedicated to it.

Did Yuuri read all eighty pages in that binder? Yes. Does he regret it? Only slightly.

He’s pretty sure that aside from Victor’s vet and Victor himself, he’s the only other person in the world that has such in-depth knowledge about Makkachin’s medical history and her proclivity towards trying to eat things she shouldn’t.

That knowledge comes in handy when he catches Makkachin drooling over some buns he left on the counter, and Yuuri’s brain immediately starts running through scenarios in which Makkachin tries to eat them and gets them stuck in her throat. So he puts them in the fridge and deals with her pitiful whining for a bit.

While Victor and Yuri are in Rostelecom, Yuuri’s kept busy with work, as well as making sure both Makkachin and Potya are getting the love they need.

He watches the competition with them, because of course he does, shooting a couple of encouraging texts to Yuri and a single one to Victor before they’re due to skate.

A month ago, Yuuri doesn’t think he would have been able to watch the full competition. Not without something awful and festering gnawing at his stomach the entire time. Not that that’s completely gone, but now it’s almost something to look forward to.

Watching Victor skate is always a revelation, but it’s been a while since Yuuri felt that particular something bubble up in the pit of his stomach, the thing that always kept him picking himself up and pushing past the point of exhaustion, that kept him on the very tips of his toes, reaching, reaching, reaching.

Watching Yuri skate is a different kind of experience. There’s a sense of pride that settles into Yuuri’s stomach after a clean program that he’s not familiar with. As if Yuuri had any hand in it. He didn’t, but he can’t help but feel proud.

And there’s something about how Yuri skates, the desperation in it, the hunger, that Yuuri is familiar with. Yuri scrapes himself bloody on the ice trying to claw his way to the top, something Yuuri has done countless and countless times. It’s jarring sometimes, to realize how alike he and Yuri are in certain ways, even if Yuri is much louder than Yuuri has ever allowed himself to be with his hunger for victory.

At the end of the short program, Victor is in first, and Yuri is in third after JJ, but not by much.

The next day, during the Free Skate, Yuri claws his way to second place, soundly kicking JJ down to third. Victor finishes in first, as expected.

The Rostelecom Cup falls on Yuuri’s birthday more often than not, and, almost every time, seeing Victor perform a winning routine feels like a gift.

«»

Victor is an expert in fan service, and usually he’ll skate something he knows his fans will adore for his gala pieces. This ranges from dressing in a bespoke suit and trying to seduce the audience, playing up the playboy image, to donning something tastefully short and glittery and skating to something more playful.

Victor always makes his galas for the fans. He makes his competition programs for them as well, but they’re for him as much as they are for them.

This year, though, his exhibition skate is for one fan in particular, born more out of loneliness and bitterness than anything else. But that was before he ran into Yuuri. Knowing what he knows now, he feels a little bad about it.

But still, he’s too tired to come up with something different, so he puts on his suit – the exact same one he wore at the banquet – and tousles his hair, making himself look in proper disarray.

He’s the last one to perform, so he takes advantage of it to fix his make-up a little before he has to face the crowds.

He finds Yuri in the dressing room, almost poking his own eye out with an eyeliner pencil.

“Ouch, fuck,” he curses, and Victor has to bite down on a laugh. At least he made a pretty decent job of tying his hair back.

“Do you need help?” he asks.

“Fuck off, what do you know about this, old man?!” Yuri spits immediately. But it seems to be more out of reflex than anything else, because all Victor has to do is raise a perfectly manicured eyebrow, calling attention to the subtle makeup he’s done for this piece, and Yuri shuts his mouth with a click, conceding the point.

“You look like a raccoon. You’ll be a blind raccoon if you’re not careful,” Victor advises charitably.

Yuri’s mad he didn’t win. Victor gets that, he’s no stranger to people being angry at him when they lose to him.

It takes poking himself in the eye three more times for Yuri to give up with a muffled scream and almost throw the pencil across the room, restraining himself at the last moment.

“Fine. Fine. You can help me,” he says, like he’s doing Victor a favour.

“Lucky me,” Victor says, and offers him his hand, palm up for the pencil.

Yuri hands it over and crosses his arms, putting on a huffy expression.

“You need to wipe off the mess you made before I start,” Victor tells him and takes a couple of make up wipes from his bag, offering them to Yuri.

While Yuri is violently rubbing at his eyes with the wipes, Victor asks, “Are you going for any look in particular?”

Yuri drops the crumpled wipes on top of the dresser and grabs for his phone, thumbing through it, and saying, “Don’t make me regret this,” before he turns it to Victor.

It’s a picture of Yuuri. Victor doesn’t know why he’s surprised that it’s a picture of Yuuri, but he is.

He’s wearing a leather jacket about two sizes too big for him, and has a grave expression on his face. With how strong his eyebrows are, and the slightly messy eyeliner, he looks vaguely pissed off, even if the look is off-set by how clearly teenaged he looks, some baby fat still clinging to his cheeks.

Victor wants to coo.

“That’s precious,” he says.

“Ugh,” Yuri groans. “It’s not precious. It’s badass! Some asshole told him all his choreos were the same-“

“What?!” Victor asks, suddenly outraged. “Did they even watch them?”

“I know!” Yuri says empathically. “So, this idiot told him that, so he changed his exhibition skate overnight to this one, but there’s, like, barely any recordings of it or even pictures, which sucks, because that exhibition skate slapped.”

“Wait, he slapped someone?”

Yuri stares at him.

“God, you’re old,” he sighs. “No, he didn’t slap anyone, he catches spiders and puts them outside! It means it was cool! Now do my stupid eyeliner before Yakov comes to yell at both of us.”

Victor feels old. He sighs, reminding himself that he is the adult here, and applies Yuri’s eyeliner as best as he can while Yuri bitches.

He watches Yuri perform from the sidelines while he waits for his turn on the ice. It’s a fun song, and it’s a fun choreo. Upbeat and a little angry at the world in general, which Yuri pulls off easily and beautifully. Victor wishes he could have watched Yuuri perform it to have a frame of comparison for it.

Victor imagines the contrast between Yuri’s song and his is drastic. After all, where Yuri was skating defiance, Victor is skating heartbreak, depressive and hopeless. But it feels cathartic for him, skating out his feelings like this so he can finally let them go.

The Victor who choreographed this program and the Victor who is skating it now are different in one crucial aspect. Now, he has the sort of anticipatory hope in his heart that makes him lose his breath in the best possible way, where before it was like there was a hand around his windpipe, choking the breath out of him.

Victor skates to a song crying about an impossible year, almost one year after Sochi, and he thinks, for the next GPF, he’ll have to change his exhibition.

He’s so hopeful that things will go well with Yuuri, that he doesn’t think he can skate this again and not feel like he’s lying through his teeth.

He expects to be bombarded with questions about his love life when he leaves the sports complex where the competition was taking place. He dodges them easily.

What he doesn’t expect is for a fan to turn to Yuri and accuse him of stealing Yuuri’s choreo.

Yuri doesn’t even flinch, and his smile is full of teeth, as if he had just caught himself something nice.

He grabs a microphone out of the hand of some poor reporter and says, “If Katsuki Yuuri wants his choreography back, he should come back and win it from me!” And then he leaves.

Victor stares after him for a second, as the reporters clamor up for an explanation.

“No comment,” he tells them, and follows.

«»

Yuri practically grew up hearing stories about all the wild things Victor got up to during competitions: the parties, the drinking, the wild sex. So he’s more than ready to have the room all to himself after the competition, while Victor is out doing whatever the hell.

It’s ten p.m. when he gets back from having dinner with his Grandpa. If it was up to him, he’d have stayed at his house, but all of his stuff is here, and he has some responsibilities to take care of in the morning. After that, he’ll haul all his shit to his Grandpa’s so he can enjoy his two day vacation with him.

When he opens the door, he expects it to either be empty or to find Victor hammered with a couple of their competitors. Instead, what he finds is Victor in his pajamas, fringe tied up with an elastic band as he slumps on the bed and stares down at his phone.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Yuri asks.

Victor turns to him, blinking slowly and lazily, like a cat that knows it’s got nothing to fear.

“Good evening to you too, Yura. How was dinner?”

Yuri ignores him. “Aren’t you supposed to be out getting shitfaced or something?”

Victor snorts. It’s an ugly sound, and for the first time Yuri notices the dark smudges under his eyes. He looks… tired.

Yuri doesn’t think he’s ever noticed how tired Victor really looks.

“You shouldn’t believe everything you hear, Yura,” Victor says in his annoying singsong-y voice, and Yuri rolls his eyes at him.

“Whatever. I’m going to take a shower. Don’t set the room on fire while I’m gone.”

“I’ll try my very best just for you, Yuratchka,” Victor says.

Yuri grabs a pillow and throws it at his face, and it hits him with a soft sound. Yuri almost expects for him to throw it back, but instead Victor tucks it under his arm and says, “This is mine now.”

Yuri huffs at him and stalks towards the bathroom. 

When he comes back out, Victor hasn’t moved an inch.

It sucks that he doesn’t have the room to himself like he thought he would, but having Victor around isn’t as annoying as Yuri thought it would be.

He’s quiet, mostly, tapping away at his phone and blinking sluggishly like he’s three seconds away from falling asleep.

It’s a little jarring being in a room with Victor when he isn’t trying to occupy as much space as he can. It’s suspicious.

It’s almost eleven and Yuri’s scrolling through figure skating reddit forums, watching the blowout of his ultimatum earlier, when Victor seems to choke on his own spit and goes into a coughing fit.

Yuri looks over at him dispassionately as he tries to get his breath back.

“Ohmygod,” Victor wheezes out. “I have his sexy ankles on my phone! This whole time, how did I not notice?!”

“What?” Yuri asks, trying to make sense of the words.

Victor turns his phone to him and leans over the edge of the bed so Yuri can see. Yuri squints at it.

It’s just a photo of Makkachin sitting in front of someone who has their jeans rolled up at the hems, and wearing a pair of sneakers exactly like the ones Yuuri has and… ah.

“Is that Yuuri?” he asks.

“I’ve had this on my phone for months,” Victor despairs, and falls back onto the bed.

“Did you call his ankles sexy?”

Victor goes very, very still. And then, unconvincingly, he says, “No.”

Yuri snorts and grabs for his phone. “I’m going to tell him you said that.”

“He just has very distinctive ankles,” Victor tries to defend, but it’s too late, Yuri is already facetiming Yuuri because he needs to see his face when he hears this.

He angles the phone so it also catches Victor behind him, which is how he can see Victor picking up a pillow and throwing it at his phone just as Yuuri picks up. The phone gets knocked out of his hand and falls on the bed.

Yuri grabs it before Victor can even think of doing it and rolls to the other side of the bed, so they have it between them.

“Yuuri! Victor said he thinks your ankles are- hmph,” Yuri starts saying, and gets suddenly cut off by a hand covering his mouth, and another reaching for his phone.

“Hi, Yuuri,” Victor says annoyingly. Yuri bites his hand and makes him pull it away with a hiss.

“He said your ankles were sexy!” Yuri shouts.

Victor goes very, very still behind him.

Yuuri blinks sluggishly at them from his phone.

Then, slowly, he tilts his head. “Thank… you?” he says, sounding confused.

“I can expla- is that Makka?” Victor asks, leaning closer to Yuri’s phone and pushing their heads together. Yuri puts a hand on his face and pushes him away.

“Oh, yes,” Yuuri says, and angles his phone so they can see how Makka is stretched out on the bed by his side, softly snoring. Her head is on top of one of Yuuri’s arms. It is, admittedly, adorable.

“How is she doing? Has she been eating? What-“ Victor starts, pushing in again. Yuri pushes him away.

“Call him from your own damn phone!”

“You’re going to wake them up,” Yuuri tells them with a little frown.

“Where’s Potya?” Yuri demands.

Yuuri angles the phone down to his other side, so he can see Potya contorted in her sleep next to Yuuri’s hip.

“She sleep,” Yuuri says solemnly.

“Fuck, dude. She sure do,” Yuri says, feeling overwhelmed with how good and adorable his cat is.

A notification pops up for Victor to join the call and Yuri ruthlessly declines it, throwing a glare at Victor from across the room. Victor glares right back and clicks it again. This time, Yuuri is faster and accepts it.

“Traitor,” Yuri hisses at him.

Yuuri raises an eyebrow, clearly unimpressed. “What was that again about me competing to win back the exhibition program that I let you skate, hm?”

“I said what I said,” Yuri says, feeling suddenly unsure about it.

“Did you really think that was going to work?” Yuuri asks, and sounds legitimately curious.

No, but it was worth a try. “It could have.”

Yuuri looks amused. “Maybe if I was six years younger,” he concedes.

“Whatever. How’s Potya been?”

“A brat, as usual.”

“How dare you?” Yuri asks.

Yuuri turns his head and angles his neck so Yuri can see a scratch that starts at the side of his neck and disappears down his back.

Yuri winces.

Victor, sitting on his bed on the other side of the room, gasps very softly.

“That looks like it hurt,” Victor says with a sympathetic frown.

“It’s fine,” Yuuri says. “She got scared and slipped from my shoulders. It happens.”

“Sorry,” Yuri still feels obliged to say, legitimately feeling bad. “I’ve told you not to let her climb you.”

“But she likes it,” Yuuri says, as if that’s reason enough for him to let himself get all scratched up.

Yuri rolls his eyes, knowing that it’s pointless to say anything to that. He’s pretty sure Potya could attempt to maul Yuuri in his sleep and he’d still coo endearments at her and try to sneak her food.

“You better be paying as much attention to her as you are to Victor’s stinky dog,” Yuri says, more because he doesn’t know what else to say than anything else. He knows how much Yuuri cares for both Potya and Makkachin. He’d never intentionally neglect either of them, he’s good like that.

“Of course,” he says. “And Makkachin isn’t stinky. I gave her a bath earlier.”

“Did you use the-“ Victor starts, but Yuuri cuts him off.

“Three step doggy shampoo? Yes, of course. I did read the binder.”

Victor’s face, as tiny as it is on the display on Yuri’s phone, looks disgustingly lovesick. When Yuri turns to look at the real thing, it’s not much better.

“This conversation is boring,” Yuri says, done with both of them, and still feeling a little bad that Potya scratched Yuuri. “I’ll leave you and Big Forehead over there to talk about boring dog shit. I’m going to sleep.”

He can see Victor slap a hand over his forehead, before he hurries to take out the hair tie that was holding his fringe off his forehead, and ruffle it so it falls over his eye.

“Good night, Yura, we’ll try to keep it quiet.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. Good night,” he says, and hits end call.

Yuri pretends to go to sleep and listens in, but Victor and Yuuri do try to keep it as quiet as possible for him, to the point that he can’t understand what Yuuri says, and Victor’s voice is barely even a whisper.

All they talk about is Makkachin, and if she’s been eating, and how she gets along with Potya, and if she’s okay, and Yuri ends up well and truly bored of it to the point where he really does fall asleep.

«»

There are very, very few things Victor can confidently say he hates. Asparagus is one of them. Cleaning the kitchen sink drain is another. But when it comes to things he hates, nothing places quite as high as Aeroflot.

In his darkest times, Victor legitimately considers slandering the company’s name across every single social media platform he frequents.

Victor had everything planned out. He would do interviews in the morning, grab a quick lunch before his flight, and be back in St. Petersburg in time to pick up Makkachin, and maybe convince Yuuri to go have dinner with him.

Aeroflot, however, exists exclusively to make Victor’s life a living hell.

First they had overbooked the plane Victor was supposed to be on, and moved him to the next flight that was headed for St. Petersburg. That meant Victor would arrive around ten p.m., and if that were it, it would be fine. Yuuri was more than understanding when he texted him to let him know that he’d be picking up Makkachin later than planned. But then, the flight Victor was supposed to be on got delayed because of a technical malfunction. For five hours.

And despite Yuuri’s continuous reassurances that he could come by at any time, that there was no problem, that Yuuri slept late either way, Victor couldn’t bring himself to knock on his door at three in the morning just to pick up his dog.

He could spend a night without Makkachin. He had spent longer away from her, except-

Except as soon as he walks into the apartment, the oppressing silence hits him.

Victor’s apartment is cold. It always is when he comes back from a competition, but this time, without Makkachin at his side for Victor to dote on and pour all his love into, the cold seeps into his bones and makes stepping further into the apartment something dreadful.

How pitiful is it, that Victor’s own home is less comforting than an airplane full of strangers?

Victor takes a deep breath and decides to put his suitcases away, going through the motions as he usually does when he arrives from a competition.

He passes by his liquor cabinet on his way to the kitchen, and that’s a mistake. Because now Victor wants a drink almost desperately, and the fact that he threw back a couple of Martinis on the plane isn’t helping his impulse control.

The only thing keeping him from reaching for a bottle is how cripplingly lonely drinking alone in your empty apartment is.

When Victor was younger, and new to winning, he liked to go out to celebrate. There was nothing like being celebrated and losing yourself to the euphoria of success. But that got old relatively fast.

Victor hasn’t gone clubbing in a while.

There’s loneliness eating at him, along with a desperate need to stop thinking for a little while. He doesn’t think sleep would come easy to him if he attempted it.

The choice is easy, really.

So he grabs his keys, wallet and phone, and gets a cab to the nearest club.

«»

Yuuri is woken up at an ungodly hour by his phone, and almost falls off the couch trying to grab for it. The only thing that prevents him from actually falling is Makkachin’s full weight on his legs.

He blinks at the screen for a couple of seconds at Victor’s name flashing on it before his brain catches up with him and he swipes his thumb across the screen to answer the call.

“Hello? Are you here yet?” Yuuri mumbles sleepily.

It’s over one hour past when Yuuri expected Victor to arrive, and he ended up falling asleep on the couch waiting for him.

“Hi, is this Yuuri?” an unfamiliar voice asks.

Alarm bells start immediately going off in his head, and Yuuri sits up, accidentally dislodging Makkachin from her place.

“Yes. Who’s this? Where’s Victor?”

“Oh, thank fuck, you know him,” the voice sighs on the other side. “Your boyfriend is smashed and he refuses to give us his address so we can put him in a cab home. Can you come collect him?”

This is too much for Yuuri to process after being woken up like this.

“Yeah, I- Yeah, I can do that. What’s the address?” he asks, getting up and walking over to the house phone, thankful that Lilia keeps a pen and a notepad next to it.

He writes it down as the caller rattles it off.

“Thank you so much,” he says. “I’ll be there soon.”

“Cool. I’ll try to keep him from climbing on a table again. Hurry up.”

“I- yes- I’ll do that, thanks,” Yuuri says, feeling dazed, and ends the call. And then immediately starts dialing the twenty-four hour cab service as he goes into his room to grab his wallet.

He makes sure he has enough money on him for the roundtrip before he goes outside to wait for the cab.

The club is twenty minutes away from Lilia’s house, and Yuuri spends the entire time bouncing his knee and chewing on his nails. Getting there is a relief.

“Can you wait out here? I won’t take long,” Yuuri asks the driver, who grunts enough of an assent, that Yuuri feels comfortable going into the club.

He’s heard stories about Victor partying. You can’t really be in the skating circles and not hear about Victor Nikiforov and his antics. Victor never kept any of it secret, but it’s been a good handful of years since there were any kind of clubbing pictures on any of Victor’s social media.

Being as avid of a fan as Yuuri is, he’s seen all of them. Even used one or two as his phone background for a little while. There was something incredibly beautiful about Victor having a good time.

He thinks he’s prepared for what he’s walking in on. He’s not.

Every single picture on Victor’s Instagram that contributed to his playboy image was full of vitality and an almost overwhelming sort of joy.

When Yuuri walks into the almost empty club, he finds Victor laying down across a couple of chairs, one foot planted on the floor to keep his balance, and one arm thrown over his eyes. His shirt is missing.

It’s… jarring.

He expected to see Victor smashed, but having fun, surrounded by equally beautiful people, and the reality in front of him makes Yuuri’s heart squeeze a little.

“We’re closing,” the bartender tells him, and Yuuri recognizes his voice from the call earlier.

“I came to pick him up,” Yuuri says.

“Oh, thank fuck. I kept his phone and wallet, but I have no idea what happened to his shirt, sorry,” the bartender says, placing the items on top of the counter.

“Thank you so much. I’m so sorry for the trouble,” Yuuri apologizes, bowing a little, before he grabs Victor’s phone and wallet.

The bartender gives him a nod of acknowledgment and mumbles a vague, “No problem,” probably more out of politeness than anything and turns away, clearly busy.

Yuuri pockets Victor’s things, and goes over to him.

He hesitates a little before putting his hand on Victor’s bare shoulder and giving him a careful shake.

“Victor, it’s time to leave.”

Victor lifts his arm away, peeking over at whoever is disturbing him, face scrunched up in a pout as he blinks at Yuuri for a couple of seconds.

“Yuuri!” he says, face lighting up and Yuuri feels his heart squeeze in an entirely different way.

Victor lurches towards him, and as precariously balanced as he was, almost topples over and lands in a heap on the floor, Yuuri barely managing to catch him in time.

Victor isn’t exactly light, and the way he’s twisted isn’t helping Yuuri get a good grip on him either.

“Okay,” Yuuri grunts a little, “Up you go.” It takes a little effort but he manages to get Victor somehow upright and sitting on one of the chairs.

Turns out that’s the easy part. The hard part is getting Victor to let go of him.

Yuuri!” he says, in that same happy tone. “I missed you.” There’s an earnestness to his voice that catches Yuuri off guard and leaves him speechless.

“I-“ Yuuri says, and has no idea where to go with that sentence, not when Victor is looking at him so softly, fists bunched in Yuuri’s jacket. “Let’s- let’s put on a jacket,” he settles on, and starts unbuttoning his jacket, because he’s not about to let Victor step outside shirtless in the middle of winter.

“I don’t wanna,” Victor pouts. “Sleeves are evil.”

“Sleeves keep you warm,” Yuuri tries to reason.

Yuuri may be – have been – a professional ice skater, and have lived in Detroit for five years, but neither of those facts made him impervious to the cold. Stepping outside will probably be hell, but it doesn’t stop him from gently prying Victor’s hands off the fabric and draping it over his shoulders.

Victor leans away from it and into Yuuri, looping his arms around his neck.

“I’m too hot,” he complains, pressing himself against him. Yuuri can feel how warm his body is through the layers of clothes and frowns a little, hoping Victor isn’t coming down with something.

Yuuri has almost no experience with handling drunk people. More often than not, he’s the drunk being handled, or there’s someone that’s better at it around.

“Come on, Victor. Just for a little bit. Don’t you want to go home?” And that seems to be the wrong thing to say because instead of letting Yuuri put his jacket on him, Victor tightens his hold around Yuuri and hides his face in his neck. Yuuri finds himself having to put a hand on his hip so he doesn’t overbalance and fall from the chair.

“No,” Victor whines, dragging out the ‘o’. “I don’t wanna go home. There’s no one there,” he mumbles. And then, so quiet Yuuri almost misses it entirely, “Don’t make me go home.”

Yuuri feels his heart crack a little bit at how fragile Victor sounds, and he wonders for a moment why he’s the one here. Surely Victor has other friends who could’ve come to pick him up, doesn’t he? Surely Yuuri isn’t the only person in his call record that the bartender could have called.

And yet, here Yuuri is, with Victor clinging to him like he’ll fall apart if he doesn’t, and he has no idea what to do.

He knew, intellectually, that he didn’t really know Victor, but to see him like this, sloppy drunk and lonely, makes him human and flawed in a way Yuuri couldn’t see before. He’s still everything. Even like this. Even with smudged mascara in the corner of his eye and smelling like overly sweet cocktails, even looking like he’s barely holding himself together.

“Okay,” he says, and drapes the jacket over Victor’s shoulders. With Yuuri standing in front of him, he can’t pull away from it, especially since he doesn’t seem willing to let go any time soon. “Okay, you don’t have to go home. We can go to Lilia’s place, Makkachin is waiting for us.”

Victor pulls back suddenly, eyes bright and sparkling with what might be unshed tears, or maybe just a trick of the low light.

“Makkachin?”

Yuuri should’ve just started with that.

“Yes, Makakchin is waiting, so we should hurry up. But you need to put the jacket on first.”

And that’s apparently all the convincing Victor needed to haphazardly shove his arms through the sleeves. His fingers are too clumsy on the buttons to do them properly, so Yuuri helps him with that and very categorically does not think on how much strain Victor’s chest is putting on the two top buttons.

The jacket is clearly one size too small for him, and it looks as if it’s one deep breath away from bursting. The sleeves fall short of his wrist, but at least he’s not shirtless anymore.

The walk to the cab goes smoother than Yuuri expected it to. Victor is remarkably put together for how drunk he is. He doesn’t trip over his feet, but he lists to one side, and seems to have no depth of perception, if the way he knocks into a couple of chairs on the way out is any indication.

So Yuuri grabs Victor by the elbow and safely steers him outside as he happily singsongs, “Makka, Makkachin! I’m gonna see Makkachin!”

It’s incredibly cute.

Yuuri makes sure he doesn’t hit his head on the car as he gets into the taxi, and quickly asks the driver to take them back to where he picked him up.

Victor keeps singing, slightly off-key, sometimes loud and sometimes just a mumble. He sinks down into the seat as soon as he gets into the car, and grabs Yuuri’s arm, cuddling it to his chest and leaning his head on Yuuri’s shoulder.

At one point, his fringe falls over his nose and he starts scrunching up his face, ineffectively blowing on it. When it becomes clear that he doesn’t seem inclined to let go of Yuuri to brush his hair out of his face, Yuuri reaches over and does it for him, tucking the strands behind his ear.

The look Victor gives him is so full of warmth that Yuuri knows right then and there that there isn’t a single person in this universe that is more beautiful than Victor, and there isn’t a single person in the universe that’s luckier than Yuuri is at this exact moment.

The cab stops in front of Lilia’s building, and Yuuri has to do some gymnastics to slip his arm from Victor’s hold so he can take his wallet out and pay the man.

Getting Victor out of the cab is easier than Yuuri thought it would be. All he has to do is get out and hold out a hand, and Victor clumsily follows. Getting him up the stairs is a different matter, because Victor decides to hug Yuuri from the side and squeeze him, which makes it hard for either of them to move.

Yuuri sighs a little, considering how he wants to do this.

If there was one thing Yuuri was good for when he decided to go out with his friends in Detroit, it was piggy-backing whoever was too drunk to walk back to the dorms.

So he loosens Victor’s grip on him just enough, so he can turn in his arms and lean down a little, toppling Victor over his back and hoisting him up.

Like this, Victor isn’t as heavy to carry as he was when Yuuri was just dragging him around, but he’s still taller and heavier than Yuuri, so it takes him a couple of seconds to readjust his grip and make sure he has his balance.

Then he looks at the flights of stairs he’ll have to climb and sighs.

“Wow,” Victor breathes in his ear, a giggle to his voice. “You’re so strong, Yuuri.”

Yuuri feels the opposite of strong right now.

“You’re so drunk,” he sighs, and starts climbing up the stairs.

“’M not that drunk. Just a teeny bit,” Victor mumbles against Yuuri’s neck.

Yuuri categorically ignores it, and focuses on getting to Lilia’s apartment without falling flat on his face or dropping Victor. He somehow manages it, and has to set Victor down to fish his keys out of his pocket.

Yuuri can hear Makkachin whining loudly on the other side of the door and scratching at it, so he hurries getting it open and pushing Victor inside, before Makkachin does any permanent damage to the door that Yuuri would have to pay for.

Victor promptly trips over both his own feet and Makkachin, and ends up in a heap on the floor. He doesn’t seem to mind much, given that Makkachin immediately jumps on him and starts licking his face, whining lowly in complaint and wiggling all over Victor’s lap as he rubs his hands through her fur.

Victor is laughing, so Yuuri doesn’t worry too much about him having accidentally hurt himself when he fell, and closes the door behind them, thankful that Lilia is staying behind in Moscow for a couple of days to take care of some things at the Bolshoi.

It doesn’t look like either Makkachin or Victor are going to let go of each other any time soon, so Yuuri goes about taking his shoes off and getting Victor a glass of water.

When he comes back, Victor has kicked his shoes off and is trying to clumsily unbutton the jacket.

“Here, drink this,” Yuuri says, pushing the glass of water into his hands and hovering a bit to make sure he doesn’t spill. Surprisingly, Victor drinks all of it and then gives the glass back to Yuuri. “Thank you,” Yuuri says, and Victor beams.

Yuuri will not survive the night.

Yuuri,” Victor whines. “It’s too hot, I can’t breathe.”

The jacket does seem a little too tight on him.

“Okay, okay, let’s get you to bed and I’ll help you.”

Victor’s eyes go very wide. “We’re going to bed?” He hugs Makkachin to his chest, and she starts licking his ear.

“Yes,” Yuuri says, and offers him a hand to help him get up.

Victor takes it eagerly, and lets himself be pulled up.

Well, that was suspiciously easy.

Yuuri herds Victor into his bedroom. He’s too tall to comfortably sleep on the couch, and Yuri would probably commit murder if Yuuri offered his bed for Victor to sleep in. Lilia’s room is completely off-limits, obviously, which leaves Yuuri’s room.

Yuuri doesn’t mind, really. He can take Yuri’s bed. His mattress is comfortable enough, and Yuuri should know, because he was the one who went IKEA shopping for all of Yuri’s furniture.

Victor falls into Yuuri’s bed with a bounce, and Makkachin hops on it after him.

Yuuri watches them fondly as he’s getting some pajamas for Victor to wear overnight.

Yuuri, it’s hot,” Victor complains, rolling his shoulders back and taking a big lungful of air. The top button in Yuuri’s jacket gives under the pressure and shoots off, skidding on the floor a little before it comes to a stop by Yuuri’s feet.

Happy birthday to me, he thinks a little deliriously, before his brain makes a noise not unlike an old Windows System shutting down.

“Ohmygod,” he whispers, and turns resolutely to one of his drawers to pull out his baggiest pair of sleeping pants and a t-shirt to gather his wits about him.

Yuuri sets the clothes next to Victor on the bed, before helping him with the rest of the buttons and taking the jacket from him. “Why don’t you put these on? I’m going to get something to clean up your mascara.” 

He doesn’t wait for an answer before he flees, so he can take a second to himself to just breathe.

He goes to hang his jacket up in the hall closet and put Victor’s shoes away, so they’re not strewn in the middle of the entryway. Then he gets another glass of water and goes into the bathroom for some baby wipes and aspirin in case Victor needs it.

When he gets back, Victor has managed to take his pants and socks off, and completely failed to put any of the clothes on.

Yuuri sets the water and aspirin on his bedside table, and takes a couple of baby wipes out of the package, offering them to Victor.

Victor looks at him cluelessly, so Yuuri says, “Do you want me to wipe it off?”

“Wipe what off?” Victor asks, sounding confused.

“Your mascara.”

“Oh,” Victor says, and then beams and tips his head up towards Yuuri. “Yes, please!”

Yuuri’s hands are shaking, but he takes Victor’s chin in one to keep his head still, and as gently as he can, wipes any leftover make up off his face.

Victor’s eyes look almost liquid when he opens them again to look up at him.

Yuuri has to clear his throat before he says, “All done. Now it’s time to sleep, good night, Victor,” he says, and turns to leave.

A hand wraps around his wrist in an almost bruising grip and holds Yuuri back.

He looks back at Victor, brow furrowed, and sees how his eyes are wide with panic. Yuuri feels a visceral need in the pit of his stomach to fix whatever is making him look like that.

“Don’t leave me,” Victor says- begs, and tightens his grip on Yuuri’s wrist.

“I don’t think I should-“

“Yuuri, please,” he says, eyes looking suddenly shiny and Yuuri is so, so weak. He cannot say no.

“Okay,” he says. “Okay, I’ll stay with you for a little bit.”

“We can sleep together, can’t we? Let’s sleep together! It’s a big bed!”

It really, really isn’t a big bed, but Yuuri doesn’t have time to consider that, because Victor’s hand lets go of him and goes for his underwear, clearly intending in taking it off, so Yuuri wraps both his hands around his wrists and stills them.

“Okay, okay. We can sleep together, but keep your underwear on.”

“I can stay?” Victor’s eyes are wide again in that incredibly vulnerable way that makes Yuuri want to bundle him up in every single blanket in the house.

“Yes, but just for sleep.”

“I can stay for free?” Victor asks, sounding amazed, and Yuuri doesn’t get what he means by it for a moment, until he does and feels a wave of violence course through his body because who has made Victor say that? Who has made sex a condition for him to be taken care of, who-

Victor winces, and Yuuri realizes he’s accidentally tightened his grip too much, so he immediately loosens his hold and rubs his thumbs over Victor’s wrist bones in apology.

“Yes, Victor,” he says. “But you have to put some pants on, at least.”

“Okay,” Victor says, in a happy singsongy voice. “No shirt, though. Shirts are evil.”

Yuuri can feel his lips twitch in a smile.

“Okay, no shirt then.” 

Victor lies back and tries to shove both legs in the same leg hole in the pants, so Yuuri helps him out a little.

After that, it’s easy to make Victor get under the covers, and Yuuri grabs an extra pillow from his closet for him as Victor insistently pats the spot next to him on the bed. Makkachin lays down on it.

“No, Makkachin! That’s Yuuri’s spot,” Victor tells her, playing with her ears, before he lifts her up and pulls her closer to him.

Yuuri’s not sure how they’re all going to fit in his single bed. Or he isn’t until he gingerly lies down, and Victor practically climbs on top of him, like a particularly cuddly octopus. Makkachin shifts around until she can lie down on top of both their legs.

Yuuri can feel his heart in his throat. He doesn’t know how it’s not bothering Victor with its hammering, given that Victor is resting his cheek right over it.

Victor rubs his cheek across Yuuri’s chest, almost nuzzling him, and squeezes him a little.

“Ah, I’m really happy,” he sighs out. “Thank you, Yuuri.”

And here’s when Yuuri gets a dangerous idea, because if this is all it takes to make Victor happy, if holding him and caring for him is all it takes, if the bar is already set so low that Victor thinks he needs to give something to get this in return, then-

Then Yuuri could care for him like this. He could do a better job than anyone who has put those words in Victor’s mouth, because caring for Victor is easy.

Yuuri got woken up at an ungodly hour of the morning, had to drive forty minutes to get him and come back home, had to carry him up three flights of stairs, had to dress him and undress him and wipe his mascara off, and care for him enough to say no and to say yes, and all of this is so easy.

Victor’s messy, Yuuri’s realized. He’s messy, and not entirely put together, and lonely, and more like Yuuri than Yuuri ever thought he could be.

And it’s right here, lying in his cramped bed with Victor slowly drifting off to sleep on his chest and most definitely drooling on his shirt, that Yuuri realizes he could do a good job of loving Victor, and there’s nothing but himself stopping him.

So he brushes Victor’s bangs off his face, and makes that decision. And even that, even deciding to love Victor, is easy.

Chapter Text

Victor wakes up when his headache becomes too uncomfortable for him to ignore, and no amount of trying to hide under his pillow will let him go back to sleep.

He’s disoriented for a while, distracted by the pain that seems to radiate from every point in his skull and how dry his mouth is. He pushes himself up on his elbows, the pillow he had been hiding under falling down from the bed as he squints at his surroundings.

The only source of light is coming from the hallway through the ajar door, which barely illuminates the nightstand and bed, but is enough for Victor to spot the glass of water on the bedside table and greedily reach for it. The water feels slightly stale, like it’s been sitting there overnight, but Victor’s too thirsty to care.

A memory suddenly tickles his brain, and he tries to focus on it. His memories seem fragmented. He remembers the feeling of someone tucking his hair behind his ear, the weightlessness of being carried, the gentleness of makeup wipes rubbing against his closed eyes, the warmth of someone laying beside him.

And then crystal clear there’s the memory of Yuuri setting the glass down on the nightstand, and just as Victor remembers hearing the soft thump of glass on wood, the rest of the night comes rushing back, leaving him dizzy.

Victor might have a terrible memory in day to day life, but somehow he always remembers what happened while he was drunk.

He feels sick suddenly, and has to sit up, throwing his legs over the edge of the bed, ready to fully stand up in case he really does get sick. But the wave of nausea passes, and something unpleasant settles in the pit of his stomach instead.

Victor rests his elbows on his thighs and lowers his head down so he can press his palms against his eyes.

He can’t believe he slipped up like that. He can’t believe he acted like that in front of Yuuri, of all people, right when things seemed to be going so well and now-

Now Yuuri must want nothing to do with him. Not after he’s seen what a mess Victor really is, not after Victor acted clingy and desperate and every bit as lonely as he really feels. What must Yuuri think of him now, that Victor’s stripped himself in front of him shamelessly, both literally and emotionally?

Gods, Victor had even forced him to stay with him, begged for it like some-

He feels his fringe being gently pushed away from his face, and it startles him enough that he raises his head, blinking several times against the black spots in his vision.

Yuuri’s peering down at his face. His fingers are still gently holding Victor’s fringe aside.

“Hey,” Yuuri says, and his voice is soft, hushed. “You okay?”

Victor opens his mouth, but he doesn’t know what to say. Should he apologize? Should he pretend nothing happened? Should he pretend that he doesn’t remember? Should he save Yuuri the trouble of having to kick him out?

He takes in a deep breath, trying to settle himself, and can feel his chest stutter through it.

“Yes,” he settles on saying, shakily, almost like it’s a question.

And Yuuri- Yuuri smiles, with an unexpected fondness and softness that stalls Victor’s breath in his chest.

He doesn’t understand what’s happening. This isn’t how Yuuri’s supposed to react, this isn’t how anyone before him reacted, and Victor feels so lost, and so hopeful that it’s choking him up.

“I made some breakfast, do you feel well enough to eat?”

Now that he mentions it, Victor is starving.

“Yes,” he repeats, because apparently Yuuri reduces him to one single syllable.

Yuuri lets his fringe fall back onto his face and offers him his hands, palms facing up. And that, more than anything, throws Victor for a loop, because Yuuri doesn’t initiate physical contact unless they’re in a strictly professional setting. Yuuri barely walks close enough to Victor to let their shoulders brush.

His heart is hammering in his chest as he takes Yuuri’s hands and lets himself be pulled up into a standing position. One of Victor’s knees pops loudly when he does, and he flushes, inexplicably embarrassed.

Yuuri winces a little at the noise, and gives Victor a sympathetic look.

He takes a step back and lets go of Victor’s hands, and Victor must be hallucinating because it almost seems like he does it reluctantly.

Victor has no idea what is happening, but he will not complain about it. If Yuuri wants to hold his hands and look at him sweetly, Victor will let him. Which is a little dangerous, because he’s coming incredibly close to letting Yuuri do just about anything he pleases with him, if only he keeps giving Victor that fond look.

“I made blini,” Yuuri says, and starts heading for the kitchen.

Victor, unsurprisingly even to himself, follows like the lovesick puppy he’s quickly becoming.

He doesn’t even get the chance to take two steps into the hallway before Makkachin barrels into him, jumping and yipping, and Victor feels such an overwhelming surge of love and affection that he falls to his knees with it.

She seems more energetic than she usually does when Victor’s away for a long time, healthier, and Victor missed her so much. He won gold, and it didn’t come even close to making him as happy as hugging Makkachin does.

He loses a bit of time kneeling on the floor and running his hands through Makkachin’s fur as she covers him in slobber. He could probably spend the rest of the day like this, but his knees start to protest and his stomach rumbles, so he gets to his feet and ventures into the kitchen.

There’s breakfast waiting for him on top of the kitchen island, and Victor sits on the bar stool pushed up against it.

“You’re not eating?” Victor asks, watching Yuuri look through a couple of drawers.

“I already ate,” Yuuri says, and pulls out a knife. He grabs a package Victor hadn’t noticed sitting on the counter, and cleanly slices through the layers of tape.

Makkachin sits beside him and thumps her tail on the floor, giving him big begging eyes.

“She already ate too,” Yuuri tells him, without looking. “Don’t be tricked.”

At least Makkachin’s been eating well. Victor focuses on his food, since eating always helps with his hangovers.

Yuuri makes a soft noise and Victor’s attention is pulled back to him.

Yuuri is turning a brightly colored bag in his hands which has a big bold font with something scrawled in Japanese on it and some cartoon characters Victor doesn’t recognize.

He sets it down and eagerly reaches back in, taking out more brightly colored packages of what Victor realizes can only be candy. The last thing Yuuri takes out of the box is a folded piece of paper.

Victor watches him unfold it curiously, knowing he should probably mind his own business, but so hungry for any scrap of information about Yuuri that he can’t really help himself. Not that it matters in the end, since the words on the paper are in katakana, which Victor still can’t read.

Two words catch his attention, though, even upside down as they are, and sloppily written in brightly colored crayons.

Happy Birthday! It says, with flowers and hearts and messily drawn ice skates and ballet flats around them.

Considering that, coupled with the indulgent amount of candy Yuuri just pulled from the box, it’s not difficult to put two and two together.

“It’s your birthday?” Victor asks, before he remembers that peeking at other people’s letters is rude, and he should probably not have blurted that out.

Yuuri seems to startle a little. “Ah, um- it was my birthday. My family always sends me a care package full of candy, even though they know I’m not supposed to have it,” he says, and he sounds fond.

Victor hopes, maybe a little pitifully, that one day Yuuri will use that exact tone when talking about him.

“We should celebrate!” Victor says, because he can and will use any excuse to spend more time with Yuuri.

“Ah, no no no. It’s fine, I promise,” Yuuri rushes to say. “I don’t really care about birthdays, so I don’t need anything.”

He’s cute when he’s flustered. He’s cute all the time, if Victor is being honest with himself.

“Aw, but I wanted to take you out to dinner,” Victor says, affecting a pout.

He expects for Yuuri to say no again, but instead he pauses, and asks, “Just the two of us?”

“Just the two of us,” Victor confirms, feeling his heart start beating double tempo.

The apples of Yuuri’s cheeks are getting dusted red the longer he stares at him, and Victor realizes that he must look like a mess. He’s seen himself when he’s hungover and it’s not pretty, and yet Yuuri is still looking at him like that, like he’s slightly overwhelmed and doesn’t know what to do with himself.

The memory of Yuuri’s hand on his chin, steadying him as he gently wiped off his make-up, rises up to the forefront of his mind, and suddenly Yuuri isn’t the only one blushing.

“Okay,” Yuuri ends up saying, and drops his gaze from Victor, starts fidgeting with the cardboard box his family sent him, taking it apart neatly.

“Tonight?” Victor asks eagerly, running through a mental list of restaurants Yuuri will like.

“Tomorrow night,” Yuuri says, peeking up at him and then looking back down again.  “I have some stuff I need to do for Madame Baranovskaya tonight.”

“Tomorrow then,” Victor says.

Yuuri peeks at him briefly again, cheeks splotchy red, but there’s an excited sparkle to his eyes and a twist to his mouth that makes Victor feel almost giddy and so, so full of hope. It makes him feel like he can breathe more easily.

«»

When Yuri was a tiny slip of a thing, his grandfather used to take him to his bakery and let him hang around in the kitchen. He’d teach him how to knead dough to make bread, how to cut cookies into shapes, how to pipe cakes. Before Yuri wanted to be a figure skater, he wanted to be a baker like his grandfather.

It’s been a while since he was in the bakery’s kitchen, but as soon as Yuri steps inside, he’s filled with that childlike wonder again, and finds himself rolling his sleeves up to help.

His grandfather can’t really afford to take unscheduled days off, even with his bad back. He has a business to run and employees to pay, and he’s never been the kind of person who’d let others do his work.

Yuri thinks working here after he retires would be nice.

He’s not stupid. He knows figure skating is a high risk sport. Injuries are common, and so is retiring before thirty.

“Grandpa, I need a favour,” he starts after the initial morning rush has passed. “I want to make a cake for a friend of mine. It was his birthday a couple of days ago, so I want to give him something.”

With the competition going on, Yuri hasn’t really had the mind to do much more than send a rushed happy birthday text to Yuuri, and he feels a little bad about it.

His grandfather wipes his hands off on his apron. “Oh, is this the same friend you’ve been telling me so much about? The one in your posters?”

God, why does he have to say it like that?

Yuri can feel his cheeks heating up. “Yeah.”

Grandpa smiles. “I will help you with this. What sort of cake do you want to bake, Yurachka?”

“I don’t really know,” Yuri says, trying to think about what Yuuri would like. He’d probably like anything, Yuri doesn’t think there has been a single food Yuuri hasn’t eaten with relish.

“Let’s take a look at what we have around, how about that?” Grandpa asks, and Yuri nods, eager to get started.

Grandpa lets him do all the work, guiding him from a distance and nodding approvingly. The end result isn’t as good as it would’ve been if his grandpa had helped, but Yuri feels prouder of it for having been able to make it alone.

“Good job,” Grandpa says proudly, and pats Yuri on the head like he’s still five.

“Do you think we could make some pirozhki too?” he asks, because he wants to give them to Yuuri and brag about how good of a cook his grandpa is.

“Of course,” Grandpa says, sounding pleased that he asked. “I wouldn’t send you away without some for you and your new friend.”

Yuri feels warm in that moment. Warm and loved, and more at peace than he’s felt in months. He’s so glad he gets this. It strengthens his resolve to take gold at the Grand Prix Final, to be able to win and give his grandfather everything he deserves.

«»

 Victor spends more hours than he cares to admit combing through every single restaurant worthy of Yuuri in St. Petersburg, trying to find one with the perfect balance between romantic and not so romantic that there are only couples there, because that’ll probably spook Yuuri.

He spends even more time agonizing over what to wear, and what to do with his hair, and whether he should buy Yuuri something or not.

The last time Victor tried to give Yuuri something, Yuuri nearly stole his heart trying to reciprocate to make them even, whatever that meant. He has no idea what sort of things Yuuri would enjoy as a gift aside from food.

He agonizes over it, has a mini freakout while facetiming Chris, and then makes himself calm down and make those reservations and pick an outfit.

“I can do this, right, Makkachin? It’s just a dinner, I can’t mess it up that badly,” he says, trying to give himself a confidence boost.

Victor is very good at dates when he treats them like he would a press interview. When he’s trying to be himself? Not so much. And with Yuuri he wants to be himself.

He takes a deep breath, shakes his hands out trying to get rid of the restless energy in his bones, and picks up his phone to text Yuuri that he’s leaving to go pick him up.

To gather strength, he leans down and hugs Makkachin for long enough that she starts trying to wriggle out of his grip. Which of course leaves Victor covered in dog fur, and forces him to try to clean his jacket and pants with a lint roller.

He takes another steadying breath as he puts his shoes on at the door, double checking that he has everything he needs with him, before he opens the door and-

“Surprise!” Maman and Mamulya say cheerfully, standing in Victor’s doorway with two suitcases.

Victor lets out a startled scream, heart racing in his chest.

“Maman! Mamulya! What- what are you doing here?”

“Visiting, of course!” Maman says brightly. “We wanted to make it to Rostelecom, but you know how hectic our schedules are.”

“We missed you,” Mamulya says, and her eyes crinkle in the corners with a softness that stalls Victor’s words in his throat.

He loves his mothers. He adores them, but did they really have to choose right now to visit him?

Victor sighs, and steps aside to let them in.

Makkachin immediately takes the chance to zoom out the door and jump at them, yipping excitedly.

His mothers get distracted cooing at her for a bit, as Victor’s mind races, because what does he do now? He’s torn. He knows intimately just how full his mothers’ schedules are, and how hard it is for both of them to take unscheduled vacation. And he knows the only reason why they’re here is because they worry, because Victor had called them on the verge of a breakdown and they hate that they can’t be there for him all the time.

He doesn’t want to ditch them after they’ve gone through all the effort of rearranging very important appointments to stay with him for a bit.

But he also doesn’t want to cancel his plans with Yuuri. Things seem so fragile between them, so new. Victor is afraid of taking a false step and shattering everything he’s tentatively trying to build.

“I need to make a phone call,” he says, and dials Yuuri’s number, wandering away into his kitchen so they can’t listen in.

He knows they would more than happily let him go out for dinner without them, but Victor would feel bad, and truth be told he’s missed his mothers dearly.

Yuuri picks up after the third ring.

“Hey, that was fast, are you here already?”

“I- no. No, something happened.”

“Oh,” Yuuri says, and he sounds sad, disappointed. Victor feels terrible for making him sound like that, even if a part of him feels pleased that Yuuri has seemingly been looking forward to this as much as Victor has. “Is everything okay?”

“Everything’s fine. It’s just-“ he takes a deep breath, hoping Yuuri will understand. “My mothers dropped in for a surprise visit. I know this must’ve been difficult for them to arrange, and I’ve missed them and…” he trails off.

There’s a beat of silence. “That’s okay, we can reschedule,” Yuuri says, because he’s apparently an angel.

“I don’t want to have to reschedule,” Victor says in a whisper, and it feels a lot like a confession.

“Me neither,” Yuuri says, in the same hushed tone. They both take each other’s words in for a couple of silent seconds. And then Yuuri speaks up again, “If- if you wouldn’t mind, we could all have dinner.”

“All of us? You wouldn’t mind?”

“I don’t mind if they don’t mind,” Yuuri says.

“I’m sure they won’t mind,” Victor rushes to say, suddenly feeling giddy again. “I’ll be there soon.”

“I’ll see you soon,” Yuuri says, and hangs up.

Victor stares at his phone for a couple of seconds, feeling a stupidly wide smile take over his face. He can’t believe he gets to have both his mothers and Yuuri in the same place. And- oh.

Oh god. Oh no.

He can’t believe he’ll have Yuuri and his mothers in the same place. Victor’s giddiness turns into terror, because historically his mothers tend to be a little… overwhelming with anyone that Victor tries to date.

“We’re interrupting something, aren’t we?” Mamulya says on a little sigh. “We should’ve called ahead first.”

“No, no, it’s fine. It’s-“ Victor tries to reassure. “I had some plans, but-“

“Please tell us you didn’t cancel your plans because of us,” Maman says, kneeling on the floor and petting Makkachin, tone upset.

“I didn’t. I called and he said if it’s okay with you, we can all have dinner together.”

“Oh!” Maman says, brightening up. “That’s so nice of him.”

Victor melts. “It is, isn’t it?”

She exchanges a conspiratory look with Mamulya. “This wouldn’t happen be your orange juice boy, perhaps, would it?”

Maman,” he whines. “Please don’t be pushy about this.”

Maman grins, and says, “I won’t, I won’t,” in a way that makes Victor not believe her at all.

This will either go very well, or Yuuri will decide Victor isn’t worth the trouble and will never talk to him again.

“I’m going to call the restaurant, and pick up Yuuri, so we need to leave now.”

“Oh don’t worry about us. Go pick up your orange juice boy and text your Mamulya the address, we’ll meet you there,” Maman says, dragging her suitcase into Victor’s room, probably to change clothes and re-do her makeup.

“Are you sure?” he asks her.

“We’re sure,” Mamulya says, staring after her wife longingly, before she turns back to Victor with a reassuring smile. “I’ll have us there on time.”

“Okay,” Victor says dubiously. “My reservation is at 8, I’ll text you the address.” He unlocks his phone and types the address quickly, so he can make sure his mamulya receives it.

Before Victor can leave, she pulls him into a hug, squeezing him tight. Mamulya’s schedule is much more inflexible than Maman’s is. He hasn’t seen her in months, so he takes a minute to hug her back just as tightly.

“Drive safely,” she says, tucking his bangs behind his ear. “We’ll see you there.”

“It’s really good to see you, Mamulya,” he says, meaning every single word.

“You too, bunny.”

Victor crinkles his nose at the pet name, and pulls his bangs back in front of his forehead. He gives Makkachin a last pet before he starts dialling the restaurant and making his way out to the car.

Hopefully, this won’t be a disaster.

«»

Yuri arrives back in St. Petersburg late in the day, and he wants nothing more than to order take out, give Yuuri his cake and pirozhki, and maybe poke him into playing video games with him.

He’s looking forward to it. Yuri would never admit out loud that he missed Yuuri, but he will admit that he wishes he could’ve brought him along to Rostelecom instead of Lilia.

He pushes the door to Yuuri’s room open, words ready on the tip of his tongue and… Yuuri’s on the phone.

“I don’t mind if they don’t mind,” he’s saying.

Yuri stalls in the doorway, and waits for him to be done, because contrary to popular belief he does have some manners.

Yuuri is quiet for a couple of seconds as he waits for the other person to answer, which is long enough for Yuri to process the fact that he’s wearing clothes. The only time Yuuri is wearing clothes and not his pajamas past seven o’clock, is when he has been out skating and fell asleep in them.

They’re not even his regular clothes. They’re nice clothes. He’s wearing a dress shirt. What the fuck? Yuuri never dresses nicely. Hell, most of the time Yuuri dresses like he just grabbed the first thing his hand touched while he had his eyes closed, and decided that was good enough.

“I’ll see you soon,” Yuuri says, and hangs up the phone.

Yuuri turns around, and startles as soon as he sees Yuri, yelping. “Don’t do that,” he says, hand over his heart.

“Why are you wearing clothes?” Yuri demands.

“I- what do you mean? I always wear clothes.”

Yuri huffs and gestures vaguely towards his ensemble. “I mean nice clothes?”

Yuuri looks down at himself. “You think they look nice? Not too much?”

Yuri stares at him, confused, because worrying about how he looks isn’t really like Yuuri. He parades himself around with brightly coloured children’s hairclips on the regular.

He narrows his eyes at him. “You look fine. Are you going somewhere?”

“Oh, just… to dinner,” Yuuri says shiftily.

“You going on a date or something?” Yuri asks, half-joking.

Yuuri sighs. “Not anymore.”

Yuri brightens at that, thinking that maybe he does get to hang out with Yuuri after all, but then he remembers Yuuri saying I’ll see you soon and is suspicious all over again.

“Well, are you going to take long? I think I figured out how to get past the boss battle we keep getting stuck on, so,” Yuri says, trying for casual.

“I have no idea, sorry, Yura,” Yuuri says, and at least has the decency to look a little upset about it.

“Whatever. Who are you having dinner with anyway?”

Yuuri sighs out, this long defeated sigh as if he had been trying to avoid answering this exact question, and suddenly Yuri knows exactly who it is.

“You’re having dinner with Victor?!”

“He wanted to treat me to dinner as a birthday present, I couldn’t say no.”

“Yes! You could have!”

“But I didn’t want to,” Yuuri snaps, not harshly, but in a way that makes Yuri shut his mouth with a click. Yuuri sighs again. “I didn’t want to tell him no.”

“God, did he really trick you into liking him?”

Yuuri’s expression becomes scary. He’s not wearing his glasses and there’s an edge to it that almost makes Yuri want to take a step back.

“I don’t appreciate the implication that I can’t decide for myself.”

“That’s not what I meant,” Yuri backtracks.

“Then what did you mean?”

“Just- that he makes everyone fall in love with him!”

Yuuri stares at him, impassive. “So?”

“So, it’s annoying! I hate it!”

“Okay, and how is that his fault?”

Yuri opens his mouth, shuts it quickly, then opens it again. “Because it’s fake! He just does whatever he needs to do to make people like him!”

“And how’s that your problem?”

“I- he-“ Yuri starts, but finds he has no words, and shuts his mouth again.

Yuuri presses his lips together, like he’s pondering something. “You know I’m not going to stop talking to you because I started talking to him, right?”

Yuri scoffs, “Of course,” but it sounds fake even to his own ears.

Yuuri’s eyes turn soft at the corners, a little sad, but filled with understanding.

“Why don’t you come to dinner with us?” Yuuri asks and oh, Yuri does not deserve him.

“Are you really sure you want me there?”

“It’s my birthday dinner, after all. I think my friend should be there. But I need you to do me a small favour,” Yuuri says, holding up a finger and affecting a solemn expression.

“I’d literally commit murder for you,” Yuri blurts out, only half meaning to, “but go on.”

“You have to be nice to Victor.”

Yuri’s lungs fill up with air, ready to throw denials and expletives, and then all at once the air rushes out of him, and he breathes out an annoyed, “Fine. I can be nice for one night.”

“Good,” Yuuri says, and he smiles that soft smile of his.

«»

Victor has no idea how such a simple plan could go downhill so fast. All he wanted was to treat Yuuri to a nice dinner, maybe try to woo him a little bit. He didn’t expect Yuuri to meet his mothers so soon, and he certainly didn’t expect Yuri tagging along, or Lilia inviting herself to the dinner when she hears his mothers are in town.

So now here he is, driving them to the restaurant in semi-awkward silence, and with no chance to give Yuuri a preemptive warning as to how intense his mothers can be, because he knows for a fact that if he does, Lilia will lecture him on being respectful to the people who raised him.

The only silver lining is that Yuri seems to be less bratty than usual. They’ve been in each other’s company for almost twenty minutes now, and he has yet to snipe at Victor.

Victor is lucky enough that he finds a parking spot right in front of the restaurant, so he parks the car, and goes around to open the door for Lilia, sighing a little that it’s not Yuuri he’s doing this for.

“Lilia!” he hears from behind him, and startles a little. He has no idea how his maman was able to change clothes, do a full face of makeup and arrive at the restaurant before Victor, but there she is.

“Geneviève, Victoria, it’s good to see you both again,” Lilia says, as put together as ever, even as Maman walks over to her and gives her a tight hug, closely followed by Mamulya.

“It’s so good to see you too. I didn’t know you were coming!” Maman says, looking over at Victor, before her eyes skid to where Yuuri is getting out of the car after Yuri.

Victor suddenly feels very, very nervous.

“Ah, Maman, this is Katsuki-“

“Yuuri!” Maman claps her hands together, sounding delighted.

“Ah, Madame Nikiforova, it’s- it’s good to see you again,” Yuuri says, a little bashfully.

Victor hears a horrible screeching noise in his brain as all thought comes to a halt, because what.

“No need for that. Call me Geneviève,” Maman says, going to shake Yuuri’s hand.

Victor looks over at Mamulya for help, but she looks as lost as Victor feels.

Even so, Mamulya steps forward and takes Yuuri’s hand in hers as well. “I’m Victoria Nikiforova, I see you’ve met my wife,” she says pleasantly.

“Ah, yes. I’m Madame Baranovskaya’s assistant, so I was there for their last business meeting,” Yuuri says, unfailingly polite.

Victor can’t do much aside from staring at them.

Of course his maman knew Yuuri already, of course she did.

“I told you about him, darling, remember?” Maman asks, turning to Mamulya.

“Faintly,” Mamulya says.

“Wait, hold on, just- can we stop for a moment?” Victor says, holding his hands up and trying to make sense of the situation that’s developing in front of him.

Five sets of eyes turn to him, expectantly.

“Maman, you know Yuuri?”

“Of course! Didn’t I tell you about meeting Minako’s boy?”

She might have, or she might not have, Victor’s memory is terrible to match his maman’s. He runs a hand down his face.

“Or maybe I didn’t, since you were all, stop meddling in my love life, maman, I don’t need a boyfriend, maman,” she says, mimicking Victor’s voice very badly.

And gods, Victor really did say all those things, didn’t he? The one time he gets his maman to take a step back from meddling is the one time that it would’ve actually been helpful if she hadn’t.

“Besides, don’t you have your orange juice bo-“ Maman starts saying, and then gasps, looking between Victor and Yuuri, eyes wide.

“Maman,” Victor sighs, but it’s too late.

“Is Yuuri your orange juice boy?”

“Orange… juice?” Yuuri mutters, brows furrowing.

Yuri snorts at their side. Lilia looks very unimpressed by everything that is happening before her.

“Maman,” Victor repeats, but it’s a whine now.

Maman starts lightly slapping Mamulya’s arm in her excitement. “I told you so, I told you so! Didn’t I tell you? I told you! You owe me a week in Sicily! I said Vitya would like him!”

Mamulya grabs her hand and kisses her knuckles, saying in a very deadpan tone, “Once again, you were right and I was a fool, darling.”

Victor is really starting to think that his life is nothing but a big cosmic joke.

 “Whatever existential crisis you might be having, you can have it inside the restaurant. Being late to a reservation is not acceptable, Victor Nikiforov,” Lilia says.

“Right,” Victor says, still feeling a little dazed.

“Don’t be so grumpy, Lilia,” Maman says, smirking over at her, and Victor is absolutely certain that she is the only person in the world who can say those words and smirk like that to Lilia Baranovskaya and leave unscathed. Even if one of Lilia’s eyes twitches.

“Don’t tease poor Lilia, darling,” Mamulya says, and starts steering Maman inside. The rest of their little group, naturally, follows.

“Aww, did you get jealous?” Maman teases, leaning heavily into Mamulya, because she’s an absolute menace.

Victor can only hope to be like her when he grows up, loving spouse in arm included.

He glances sideways at Yuuri, but it’s Yuri that catches him looking.

“Hey,” Yuri calls, and Victor gets ready to be insulted, but what comes out of Yuri’s mouth is, “Are they always like this?” He juts his chin out towards Victor’s mothers.

Victor tolerates a lot, but if Yuri insults his mothers he will throw him into the nearest river.

“Yes,” Victor says slowly, almost challengingly. “They are.”

Yuri stares at them, and then turns back to Victor. “That explains a lot, actually,” he says, and then walks into the restaurant.

Victor frowns after him, but is distracted by Yuuri’s soft laughter.

He turns to him, and instead of covering his mouth or looking startled, Yuuri’s still grinning.

“What do you think he meant by that?” Victor asks.

“You and your mothers are very alike,” Yuuri tells him, still looking vaguely amused.

Victor brightens up and says, “Thank you!”

Yuuri’s eyes go soft at the corners, and Victor takes a minute to appreciate how beautiful he looks tonight. Yuuri’s hair is long enough now that he can tie the front half back into a small bun so it doesn’t fall in his eyes, which suits him in a debilitating sort of way.

It’s almost the same effect as when he slicked his hair back for competitions, but with a couple of loose strands framing his face, too short to to be tied into the bun. He looks softer, still devastating, but in a kinder way.

Which is a very roundabout way of saying that Yuuri looks exactly like what Victor has always pictured when he heard the words boyfriend material.

“Shall we, then?” he asks, trying not to get too caught up looking at him, and holds the restaurant’s door open.

Yuuri is still giving him that soft look that does things to Victor’s heart as he steps through the door, and once he’s inside, he holds the door and gestures for Victor to get through, returning the gesture, which is… incredibly cute.

Victor almost falls into a swoon at it, because Yuuri is just so beautiful, and he keeps looking at Victor softly and a little amused like he has a secret under his sleeve he thinks Victor will like but isn’t telling him yet.

“We shall,” Yuuri says, and again there’s that little lilt of fondness to his tone.

Victor does not understand him. He does not understand how Yuuri is suddenly so comfortable around him, he does not understand why he keeps looking at him like he cares for him, he does not understand how he can do all these things after seeing Victor if not at his worst then certainly at his most desperate.

Victor does not understand Katsuki Yuuri, but gods, does he want to spend the rest of his life trying to.

«»

Yuuri isn’t sure how it happens.

Victor and Yuuri walked into the restaurant side by side, and yet they somehow still get sat at opposite ends of the round table.

Yuuri looks over at Victor and frowns a little.

Not that he minds where he’s sitting, it’s just, well… he was hoping to be a little closer to Victor, that’s all.

Victor glances across the table at him and looks terribly resigned.

“Ah, I love this restaurant,” Geneviève is saying. “It’s so romantic.”

“It is, isn’t it?” Victor says, and there’s almost a pout to his voice.

Yuuri flushes and has to look away. His eyes accidentally meet Yuri’s, who looks like he’s having the worst time of his life, arms crossed and a disgusted expression on his face. It almost makes Yuuri laugh, if he’s being honest.

Yuuri feels Geneviève tap on his shoulder, and he turns to her.

“Yuuri, would you be a darling and swap places with me? The lighting is hitting my eyes too much, I’ll have a headache,” she sighs dramatically.

Yuuri doesn’t know how swapping places with him will fix that for her, and he opens his mouth to say so, but then thinks better of going against Victor’s mother, and says, “Sure.”

They switch places, which puts Yuuri between Victoria and Geneviève, and one seat closer to Victor, who’s sitting directly at Victoria’s right side.

Not even two minutes pass, when Geneviève sighs very heavily. “I’m too far away from my wife. At this rate, I’ll go into withdrawal.”

Yuuri stares at her, wondering if she’s serious.

“Um, do you want me to swap with you again?”

“No, no, no. My eyes, remember,” she says on a heavy sigh, but then she winks. “You should swap with her so we could be reunited once more.”

“Oh,” Yuuri says, and then his eyes widen, catching on to what she’s trying to do. He almost wants to laugh. “Oh, okay. If Ms. Nikiforova doesn’t mind.”

Victoria also looks highly amused and incredibly fond. “I don’t,” she says. “Let’s switch places then, Yuuri. Thank you so much for indulging my wife.”

“No problem at all,” Yuuri says as they trade places. He’s now sitting right next to Victor, and glances over at him. Victor scoots his chair minutely closer to Yuuri.

“Hi, good to see you again,” Victor says, grinning.

“Hey yourself,” Yuuri says back, and bumps their shoulders together.

Yuri gags from his seat. “Don’t make me sick before the food even arrives.”

Yuuri expects Lilia to scold him, but instead she says, “I agree, let’s order before there’s a chance for any further foolishness to transpire.”

«»

Yuri would like it to be known that he’s not having a good time. He’s not having a bad time either; he’s ordered two of the most expensive things he could find on the menu as a way to be petty, and he never turns down free food. But he could be playing video games right now, and the fact that he has to watch Victor and Yuuri flirt from across the table makes him want to gag.

Not to even mention how loud one of Victor’s mothers is. Not in tone but in personality. Yuri’s been sitting next to her for about one hour now and he feels like he needs to go lie down for a nap.

Meeting Victor’s mothers feels a little like realizing you were trying to put a puzzle together while looking at the reference picture upside down. Suddenly a lot makes sense.

Not that Yuri thinks Victor isn’t annoying and insufferable anymore. He does. It’s just that now he has context as to why.

Victor’s loud mother claps at his side and gasps. “I didn’t know we were celebrating Yuuri’s birthday!” she says, and Yuri almost wishes he had been keeping track of the conversation. “We should order cake.”

“No,” Yuri says, a tad too loudly, and almost winces when five pairs of eyes turn to him. “He already has cake,” Yuri says, and crosses his arms.

Yuuri’s eyes light up. “Oh, is that what was in the box that you were being so secretive about?”

“Yeah. My grandpa helped make it. I’ll be pissed if you let his work go to waste.”

“You’re right, that’d be rude,” Yuuri says. “Homemade cake always tastes better anyway.”

Yuri feels very smug and uncrosses his arms, leaning towards Yuuri on the table. “Damn right it does. And when you taste my grandpa’s, you’ll never want to have any other cake in your life.”

“Sounds great,” Yuuri says, seeming a little excited at the prospect.

“I suppose we can continue this at my house,” Lilia says. “I have a Chardonnay I’ve been looking for an excuse to open.”

“Sounds delightful,” Victor’s loud mom says. “Let’s go then!”

“We have to pay first, Maman,” Victor says, a note of amusement in his voice.

“Oh, don’t worry about that, we’ve already covered it,” she waves him off, pushing her chair back.

Maman, it was supposed to be my treat,” Victor complains, sounding exasperated.

Victor’s loud mom puts a hand to her chin, faking looking pensive, and she looks so much like Victor in that moment that Yuri almost has an aneurysm.

“I guess you’ll just have to treat Yuuri another time,” she says, and smiles brightly like that’s the best idea anyone’s ever had.

It’s right then and there that Yuri decides that if he’s ever given the chance, he’ll never interact with the Nikiforovas again. He doesn’t need this kind of energy in his life. Dumbass clearly runs in the family.

“You’re right,” Victor says, as if it makes perfect sense. “You’ll let me treat you another time, won’t you, Yuuri?” Victor’s voice is syrupy and nauseating, Yuri feels like he gets a headache just from hearing it.

“I don’t really think that’s fai-“ Yuuri starts saying, but Victor interrupts him with a “Please?” and a bat of his eyelashes. For the record, Victor is truly awful at batting his eyelashes. His lids aren’t coordinated at all.

And yet Yuuri still looks slightly dazed, and just blurts out an, “Okay,” that makes Victor smile like he just won a medal.

Yuri hates his life and everything that has lead to this exact moment. He just wants to go home and have some cake and ignore everyone for a long, long while.

«»

Yuuri feels extremely out of place sharing a glass of wine and a slice of cake with the Nikiforovas, Lilia, and Victor.

And Yura probably did too, since he took the cake out of the fridge, stayed long enough to see Yuuri take a bite and gush over it, and then immediately escaped to his room.

“Ah, please don’t pour much,” he says, when it looks like Geneviève is about to fill his glass again. “Alcohol makes me a little…” he trails off, cutting his eyes to Victor and flushing.

Yuuri’s already had some wine with dinner, he doesn’t really need to be getting anywhere even close to tipsy right now.

“A little what?” Victoria asks, narrowing her eyes. “Violent?”

“Oh no! No, no, no, nothing like that. I just, um, get a little-“ he struggles for words for a second, and thankfully is saved from having to complete that sentence by Victor.

“He gets drunk like a Nikiforov.”

The Nikiforovas stare at him for a full terrifying second and then they both smile. “Sounds like a party!” Geneviève says, and gets ready to pour some more wine into Yuuri’s glass, which Yuuri quickly pulls away and holds to his chest protectively.

“I have to work tomorrow, and I’ve already drunk some with dinner, so,” he says as way of apologizing.

“Okay, okay,” Geneviève says, pulling the bottle back and setting it on the table, “but you’ll have to go drinking with us some time.”

That sounds like a terrible plan. Yuuri will at no point in his life get drunk in front of Victor’s mothers.

“Sure, sounds fun,” he says, and then takes the next opening that presents itself to escape the situation.

Luckily Potya makes a ruckus in the living room, and Yuuri goes to do some damage control, leaving them in the dining room enjoying their wine.

There’s a stack of magazines on the floor along with the TV remote, and Potya has jumped on top of a cabinet she’s definitely not supposed to be on top of. Yuuri is pretty sure that cabinet costs more than one full year of tuition in university.

So he scoops her up and holds her like a baby. “Are you getting into trouble again, princess?” he asks her, and gets her little claws trying to dig into his flesh to climb onto his shoulders as a reply.

It’s harder for her to find purchase, since she had her nails clipped earlier by Yuri. Potya hates having her nails clipped more than anything, but they have to save Lilia’s curtains (and Yuuri’s skin, though that’s less important) somehow.

“It’s sleepy time, it’s not throwing stuff on the floor time, princess,” he tells her, and starts making his way to Yura’s room. Yuuri wishes he could make excuses to hide in his room too.

He knocks gently on the door, calling out Yuri’s name when he doesn’t open after a couple of seconds. As soon as he hears his voice, though, Yuri opens the door.

“I have a gift for you,” Yuuri says, and hands Potya over.

“Did she break something again?” he asks, taking Potya from him.

“No, just threw some stuff on the floor, I’ll pick it up.”

“Thanks.”

Yuri stands in the doorway, cradling Potya and rubbing a knuckle over her little head.

“I’ve been thinking,” Yuri starts. “About how I could improve my programs for the final. And I think I know what I need.” Yuri isn’t looking at Yuuri as he speaks, expression soft and fully focused on Potya.

“And what is that?”

“Tanos,” Yuri says. “I want to raise my jumps’ difficulty. But I’ll need your help.”

“My help? With jumps?” Yuuri asks, amused. If Yuuri is known for something, it is not being good at jumps.

“You did tanos in juniors and in novices,” Yuri says, suddenly heated, and how does he even know that? Yuuri is pretty sure most of his novice competitions aren’t even online.

“I did one triple at most. At most,” Yuuri says. “I really don’t think I should be the one you ask for help.”

“Please?” Yuri says, lifting his eyes to him, and there’s a desperation in them, an anger and a hunger that Yuuri finds familiar.

He knows it must have cost Yuri something to ask politely, so he says, “I’ll try my best to help, but I really don’t think I’m the one you should be asking.”

Yuri grins, pleased and happy. “Good. You can come to the rink tomorrow morning, can’t you? You don’t have your first morning class, right?”

Yuuri does in fact have the morning free, and he was counting on maybe getting a couple of extra hours of sleep, but apparently not anymore.

“Sure, we can- ah,” he interrupts himself, suddenly remembering that he left his bag at Lilia’s studio, which is nowhere close to the rink.

“What?” Yuri says, and his happiness evaporates into suspicion.

“My skates are in my bag,” Yuuri sighs, “And that’s at Lilia’s studio. I don’t know if I can get it, go to the rink, and come back in time for the class I’ll have to teach before lunch.”

Yuuri could call a cab, but that’d be a nightmare, not to mention incredibly expensive.

Yuri deflates.

“We could go pick it up now,” Victor says, startling them both.

“Have you been standing there this whole time?” Yuri asks, raising his tone with each word, looking ready for a fight. Yuuri gives him a sideways look, and he seems to deflate a little bit.

“Not on purpose. I was coming to tell Yuuri I needed to leave to go walk Makkachin, so if he needs a ride somewhere, I wouldn’t mind.”

“I can’t possibly ask you to-“ Yuuri starts but is quickly cut off by Yuri.

“Yes, yes you can.”

“Yura-“

“Don’t you want to see his dog?” Yuri interrupts him again.

Yuuri narrows his eyes at him. “You play dirty.”

“I do what I gotta do,” Yuri shrugs.

“You really don’t mind?” Yuuri asks Victor, feeling bad that he’s taking advantage.

“Not at all,” Victor says, almost enthusiastically.

“Okay,” Yuuri sighs. “Okay, I’ll go ask Lilia for the keys to the studio.”

«»

Victor’s apartment is closer to Lilia’s than her studio is, so they pick Makkachin up first and then go pick up Yuuri’s skates. The park near Lilia’s studio is lit up at night, and since they’re so close to it already, Victor decides he might as well indulge Makkachin and go for a longer walk there.

It’s… nice.

It’s really nice, if he’s being honest. Yuuri seems much more relaxed now that it’s just the two of them than he had seemed with his mothers around, which Victor can’t really fault him for.

He’s all bundled up against the cold, nose tucked inside his scarf, but Victor can still see the smile on his face by the way his eyes crinkle, and the light flush on top of his cheeks.

Victor wants to hold his hand and tuck it in his pocket.

Yuuri untucks his mouth from his scarf to ask, “Do you think Yuri has a good chance at the final?” His breath is visible in the air and Yuuri hurries to tuck his chin back into his scarf, pressing it against his cheeks.

“I think he can win it,” Victor says, and means it. “It’d be refreshing, right? Me not winning all the time?” Victor isn’t a particularly self-deprecating person. His tone is light and joking, but it’s not a joke. He knows very well how much skaters resent him, he knows the type of conversations that happen when they think Victor isn’t listening. How he doesn’t really deserve it, how the judges are biased.

They’ve competed together, and Victor has landed on the podium almost every single time when Yuuri hasn’t. Victor knows this, and he expects Yuuri to resent him a little bit for it, because people always try to blame others for losing.

Except Yuuri doesn’t laugh, or say yes, or even try to work around a way to say yes.

Yuuri frowns, and looks at Victor like he’s upset.

“No, it wouldn’t be refreshing at all,” he says, seriously. “You deserve all your wins.”

“Do I?” Victor blurts out, without really meaning to.

Victor isn’t a particularly self-deprecating person, but constantly listening to people question his worth, debating whether he really deserves it, makes him question it too. He works hard for everything he wins. He always has, and he always will. Victor has sweated and cried and bled for the ice, for every medal he won, for his fans.

But sometimes, sometimes he wonders if there’s a hint of truth to the words. If maybe the judges are biased. If he’s earned it at all.

“Yes,” Yuuri says, resolutely, almost angrily. “Why would you even ask that?”

Why, indeed.

“A lot of people resent me for winning, I don’t blame them.”

Yuuri’s frown is still there, but less angry.

“Well, you should blame them, because that’s stupid,” Yuuri says firmly, and there’s something about his tone that almost speaks of familiarity. As if defending Victor is something he’s done over and over and over again.

Victor stares at him for a moment as they walk, trying to figure him out.

Yuuri’s looking resolutely ahead, frown still on his face. Makkachin walks ahead of them, stopping to sniff the grass a couple of times, and they find themselves slowly wandering into a busier part of the park.

Victor doesn’t think he’s ever been here before.

“Do you know what my goal was?” Yuuri asks after some heavy minutes have passed. “When I skated, do you know what my goal was?” He turns back to Victor, and his eyes are burning with so much feeling, that Victor feels overwhelmed for a moment.

“What was it?”

“To skate on the same ice as you, as equals. I wanted to have a chance to skate with you, because all my life I’ve seen you do impossible things and create beautiful routines, and they all just meant so much. So I thought, maybe if I train enough, I can skate with him and create beautiful things too.” Yuuri says all of this with an intense determination, eyes almost pinning Victor to the spot, and he realizes they’ve stopped walking.

Victor feels his heart hammering in his chest, and he wonders how many times it’s possible to fall in love with the same person.

“You didn’t want to beat me?” he asks.

“Of course I did,” Yuuri says. “But it was never about beating you. It was about skating with you, that’s the important part.”

Victor opens his mouth, but no words come out. What can he even say to that? What could match how much Yuuri’s surprised him?

Yuuri turns his head away, and Victor feels like his chance to say something is slipping away, so he says, “Yuuri-“

“I’ll show you,” Yuuri interrupts, turning back to him, eyes still burning with the same determination, and then he hikes his sports bag up on his shoulder and starts power walking away.

Victor hesitates for a second, still a little too struck to move, but Makkachin tugs on the leash, trying to follow Yuuri, and Victor lets himself be tugged along.

That’s when he sees the rink set up in the middle of the park. There’s no one on it right now, and they seem to be preparing the zamboni to clean the ice soon.

Yuuri’s leaned over the ticket booth for the rink, talking to the person behind it. He gestures towards Victor emphatically. The desk attendant glances at Victor, eyes widening, before they say something back to Yuuri.

Yuuri nods, and sits down at a close-by bench, pulling his skates out.

“Yuuri?”

“You owe him your autograph, sorry,” Yuuri says, tightening his laces.

“I- okay?” Victor looks over in confusion to the desk attendant who beams and waves, pushing a pen and paper across the counter.

Victor goes over and signs it, exchanging a few pleasantries with the man, trying to put on his media smile but feeling too ill-footed to do it properly.

When he’s done, Yuuri has put both his skates on, and is stepping onto the ice. His jacket and scarf, along with his glasses, lie discarded on the bench.

“Victor,” he calls, and Victor is helpless to do anything but go to him. “Don’t take your eyes off me, okay?”

“Okay,” Victor breathes out, overwhelmed.

Yuuri gives a grave nod and skates to the center of the ice. He gets into a starting position that is so familiar, that Victor stops breathing at the sight, anticipation rising up in his throat.

And then, he skates.

«»

It hasn’t been that long since Yuuri last skated Stammi Vicino. He would like to say it has, but it hasn’t. He clings to it like he used to cling to his favourite blanket as a child.

It’s a comfort routine for him, one that fits well around his bones and under the blades of his skates. It’s not one he can skate perfectly, Yuuri isn’t delusional. No one can skate this program like Victor can, but hopefully he can skate it well enough for Victor to understand how important this is to him, how important his skating is, how much it means, how much it has made Yuuri feel.

He needs him to know how vital his skating is for Yuuri, how inspiring, how it got Yuuri through so much, how it’s the only thing keeping Yuuri going a lot of the time.

He doesn’t attempt the quad flip. He downgrades it to a triple, and lands it cleanly along with every single other jump. This feels too important for him not to, and besides this isn’t for him. Skating for himself is nerve wracking. Skating for Victor is easy as breathing.

It’s a demanding program. Yuuri’s sweaty when he finishes, and he knows he’ll probably regret not stretching properly beforehand.

He drops the final position after a couple of suspended seconds holding it, and looks over at Victor, who’s just a blob standing rinkside, since Yuuri left his glasses with his jacket.

He skates over to him, because he needs to make sure he understood, he needs Victor to know how important he’s been- how important he still is to Yuuri.

He reaches the entrance of the rink, intent on getting his glasses before he turns to Victor, but Victor’s blocking his path.

Yuuri feels suddenly nervous. “Did you-“ he starts, and is startled quiet when Victor takes a step forward and hugs him.

He’s shaking, Yuuri realizes, trembling so finely that he can feel it against him. And he’s squeezing Yuuri so tightly it hurts a little.

Yuuri,” Victor breathes out against his neck and it sounds wet. Yuuri puts his arms around him, and holds him just as tightly. He puts a hand to the back of his neck, trying for soothing, and feels Victor’s hands curl in his shirt.

Makkachin is sitting by them patiently tail thumping against the floor as she pants up at them.

Yuuri,” Victor repeats with just as much feeling. “Thank you.”

The anxiety that had been bubbling up in Yuuri’s stomach settles and calms down. Yuuri breathes a little more easily, even if he has no idea what to do with those words.

So he decides not to say anything, just holds Victor for as long as he needs to be held, settled in the fact that his feelings came across loud and clear.

«»

Yuri wakes up to his phone blowing up with notifications. There’s so many that it’s not showing him a number anymore.

He squints grumpily at it, jamming the clear all button with vengeance. But just as he does more start popping up.

Yuri is seriously considering turning his phone off, when Yuuri’s name catches his attention. He clicks on it.

Fifteen minutes later he’s banging on the door of Yuuri’s room until Yuuri comes to open it, looking sleepy and grumpy.

“Why didn’t you tell me you could skate Stammi Vicino like that? And you’re retired? Are you insane?” he demands.

Yuuri blinks sluggishly at him.

“What?”

Yuri pushes his phone in his face, where one of the several amateur videos of Yuuri skating Stammi Vicino at an outdoor rink is playing.

“A bunch of people recorded you! It’s everywhere on the Internet!”

Yuuri blinks down at his phone exactly three times. He frowns a little. Then sighs, and says, “I’m going back to sleep,” and shuts the door in Yuri’s face.

Yuri stares at it, before he starts banging on it again. “Yuuri! Come back here! You promised you’d go skate with me! Yuuri!”