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Counting Down The Days

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Viktor stirred and shifted in the small bed, not yet ready to admit he was awake.  The air in the hotel room felt cold on his nose, but he was warm and comfortable under the covers with Yuuri curled next to him.  He found it amusing that they’d pushed the beds together only to end up sharing one of them.

Slowly, he opened his eyes.  Weak winter sunlight streamed into the room, falling across the bed.  Beside him, Yuuri slept, his head pillowed on Viktor’s shoulder, his right arm draped comfortably across Viktor’s chest.  Viktor buried his nose in Yuuri’s hair and inhaled, drinking in the scent of him. He didn’t want to lose this, not ever, not even for a few days.  Sighing, he placed a soft kiss on the crown of Yuuri’s hair, careful not to wake him.

Viktor knew they needed to get up and pack for the return trip to Japan, but he felt no need to rush into the day.  Not just yet, anyway. There was something very satisfying about lying in bed, warm and naked, wrapped in Yuuri’s loose embrace.  He wanted to savor this moment for as long as he could.

By necessity, he couldn’t stay in Japan for long.  Yakov had made it clear that he wanted Viktor back in Russia as soon as possible, and would have been happy to have him on the next flight to Saint Petersburg.  But no matter how much Viktor wanted to compete again, he wasn’t going to drop everything he’d built with Yuuri, personally and professionally, and run back to Russia to resume training.  He’d told Yakov he needed time to arrange for his belongings to be sent home, collect his beloved Makkachin, and that he’d be there just after the new year. But he knew he wasn’t fooling Yakov, not in the least.  Yakov knew the real reason Viktor wanted to go back to Japan.

Viktor pushed the thought aside and pressed a kiss into Yuuri’s hair, letting his eyes slip closed as the rhythm of Yuuri’s soft breathing began to lull him back to sleep.  He’d almost managed to drift off when the alarms on both of their phones intruded, his with a mild chirp and Yuuri’s with a loud, annoying bell. Beside him, Yuuri groaned and began to stir.

Sighing, Viktor began to slip out of Yuuri’s embrace, only to feel Yuuri’s arms tighten around him.

“Don’t go,” Yuuri murmured, his eyes still closed.  “Stay here.”

“I have to get the alarms,” he began, only to have Yuuri make a small disgruntled noise and frown into his chest.

“They’ll stop in a minute,” Yuuri mumbled, curling around Viktor.  

“They’ll go off again if I don’t get them,” Viktor said, reluctantly prying himself free from Yuuri’s hold.  Quickly, he crossed the room to silence the phones on the nightstand. When he turned to head back to bed, he found Yuuri lying on his side, watching him through half-lidded eyes.  Even barely awake, tangled in the bedsheets and awash in early morning sunlight, Yuuri was truly a sight to behold.

“Why did you set an alarm?” Viktor teased as he slid back under the warm covers.  “Don’t you trust me?”

“After China?  I figured I’d set one too, just in case.”  Yuuri’s arms came up around him and pulled him close.  Viktor smiled, reveling in the warmth of Yuuri’s bare skin next to his.

“In case of what?” Viktor asked, rolling up on one elbow so he could gaze down at Yuuri.  It really was unfair how beautiful he was.

“In case you forgot,” Yuuri replied as he drew him in for a kiss.  

Viktor hummed as Yuuri’s lips moved against his, slow and unhurried.  He cupped Yuuri’s cheek and felt Yuuri’s hands slide into his hair, sending delicious shivers down his spine, just like they had last night.  He placed a trail of soft, lingering kisses along Yuuri’s jawline, enjoying the slight catch of stubble on his lips, and nipped at the soft skin under Yuuri’s ear.  Yuuri moaned softly, encouraging him.

It was so tempting to keep going.  But Viktor knew if they kept this up, they were never going to get out of bed.  Reluctantly, he pulled back, his thumb trailing over Yuuri’s lower lip.

Yuuri looked at him, his dark eyes going wide.  He touched Viktor at the juncture of his neck and shoulder, humming in dismay.

“Oh no,” Yuuri muttered.  “I marked you again. I thought I was just kissing you, but you’re so pale…  I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to…”

Viktor silenced Yuuri with a gentle kiss.

“How many are there this time?”  

“Just the one.  I’m really sorry—”

“Don’t be,” Viktor murmured, kissing the tip of Yuuri’s nose.  “When I see them in the mirror, they remind me of what we’ve shared.  Also, they let everyone know that I’m yours.”

“Like I’m marking my territory?” Yuuri said, sounding unimpressed and doubtful.  He reached for Viktor’s right hand and kissed his ring. “I thought this would be a better indicator that you’re mine.”

Viktor huffed out a small laugh as he kissed the matching ring on Yuuri’s right hand.  “These are certainly more socially acceptable. But these,” he reached up and laid his fingers where Yuuri had touched him, “these little marks you sometimes leave on me are much more primal.”  He leaned forward and brushed his lips against Yuuri’s. “They’re possessive,” he whispered, “and I want everyone to know I’m yours.”

“And I want what’s mine,” Yuuri breathed, pulling him down for a long, deep kiss.  

“We… we shouldn’t, not now,” Viktor moaned, pulling slightly away from Yuuri. “We need to get up and pack and get ready.”  

“This is our last chance before we go back to Japan,” Yuuri said, gazing up at him with his warm and inviting dark eyes.  The feel of Yuuri underneath him, Yuuri’s warm breath washing over his lips, Yuuri’s hands tangling in his hair… Viktor could feel the heat of desire building in him, making him feel pleasantly heavy and warm.  He knew they really didn’t have time for this, but they wouldn’t have another chance for days—

With a growl, Yuuri surged up and claimed his mouth again, this time not so gently as before.  The little voice inside Viktor’s brain telling him they needed to stop and get up and pack was quickly being drowned out by the hazy roar of desire and lust.  Yuuri wanted him, again, right here and right now in this tiny bed in a cold hotel room in Barcelona. Who was he to resist?

On the nightstand, Yuuri’s phone buzzed with an incoming text.  Some part of Viktor’s brain realized it wasn’t the first time it had buzzed that morning, and that it had probably been the thing to wake him up in the first place.  

“Ignore it,” Yuuri breathed as he rolled Viktor onto his back and moved on top of him, settling between Viktor’s legs.  He rolled his hips beneath Yuuri, eager for more contact. A low, appreciative noise came out of Yuuri, making Viktor shiver in delight.  He let his head fall back, moaning when he felt Yuuri’s teeth graze the side of his neck.

Yuuri pushed Viktor’s bangs back from his face, his other hand gliding down to take them both in hand.  He nipped Viktor’s lower lip, pulling it between his teeth. “God, Vitya, I wanna see you-”

A series of loud, rapid knocks landed on the door, startling them both.

“Yuuuuuri!” Phichit sang from the other side of the door.  “Wake up, sleepy!”

“Shit!” Yuuri hissed, wide-eyed, like a deer caught in the headlights.  Viktor felt all of Yuuri’s confidence and desire flow out of him like water from a broken pitcher.  Quickly, Yuuri rolled off of him and curled up by his side, as though Phichit could see them through the door and he was trying to hide from him.  So much for a little morning sex to start the day…

“C’mon, Yuuri, get your ass out of bed!” Phichit yelled as he banged on the door again. “We’re all going to breakfast!  Come join us!”

Since Yuuri was too busy being embarrassed about almost being caught, Viktor decided to answer for him.

“We’re already awake, Phichit,” Viktor said, pitching his voice to carry across the room to the door.

“Good!” Phichit replied cheerily, utterly oblivious.  “Yuuri’s not answering his phone. Is he in the shower?”

“N-nooooooo,” Yuuri said in a small voice, still hiding behind Viktor.  “I’m here.”

“Then why aren’t you…” Phichit began, then gasped and stopped.  “Oh! Oh my God! I’m so sorry!” At least Phichit had the good grace to sound embarrassed.  

Viktor turned to look at Yuuri, who was blushing furiously behind his sheepish smile.  They’d been caught, like two teenagers desperate to get a moment alone together. He smiled appreciatively as Yuuri pushed himself up, the warm covers pooling at his waist as he moved into a sitting position on the bed.  

“It’s okay, Phichit,” Yuuri said, only a twinge of disappointment in his voice.  “We needed to get up anyway.”

“Sorry!” Phichit sing-songed apologetically.  “Um, do you two want to go to breakfast? We’re all getting together one last time before we all head out.  I can tell them no if you want.”

There was a part of Viktor that was sorely tempted to take Phichit up on his offer to refuse on their behalf and just stay here with Yuuri until they had to leave.  But he knew that Yuuri missed Phichit. And it would be good for Yuuri to socialize more with the other skaters and not isolate himself like he had in the past. Viktor had derived a lot of support from his rivals before, and he knew it could only benefit Yuuri to forge tighter bonds with the others.  Besides, the mood was ruined anyway. They might as well make the most of it.

Yuuri gave him a questioning look.  Viktor smiled and made the decision for him.

“Give us thirty minutes to shower, okay?” Viktor said as he rose from the bed, suppressing a shiver in the cold morning air.  “We’ll meet you in the lobby.”

“Uh, could you make it fifteen?  We’re meeting at the restaurant in thirty minutes!”

“That’s fine,” Yuuri said before he could protest.  Viktor frowned as he considered this. It would take him fifteen minutes to do his hair if he was rushed, and now they were supposed to shower, get dressed, and be downstairs in that amount of time?  That would take nothing short of a miracle.  He started to object, but Phichit answered before he could say anything.

“Okay!  I’ll meet you both in the lobby!”  Viktor heard Phichit’s footsteps rapidly fading down the hall.  He turned to Yuuri and extended his hand.

“Join me?” he asked.  Yuuri smiled and Viktor lead him towards the bathroom.

In the end, a small miracle did take place, because somehow or another they made it downstairs in twenty minutes.  Phichit looked up from his phone and beamed at them, falling into step beside Yuuri as they made their way out into the morning chill.

Idly, he listened to Yuuri and Phichit talking as they walked to the restaurant.  He couldn’t follow everything they said: it seemed to be mostly English with random bits of Japanese and Thai thrown in for flavor.  He recalled the same thing happened in Beijing and Celestino just shook his head, saying he never could understand everything they were saying.  No matter. Phichit’s enthusiasm was infectious and he could hear the answering smile in Yuuri’s voice.

“Um, sorry about earlier,” Phichit said, addressing them both.  “I’m not used to Yuuri being, ah, occupied.” Viktor watched Phichit wink and playfully nudge Yuuri in the side with his elbow.  Yuuri looked down, trying to hide his blush and shy little smile.

“I guess it’s payback,” Yuuri said.  “I don’t know how many times I disturbed you.  You were always the one who was ‘occupied’ back in Detroit.”

Now it was Phichit’s turn to look down in embarrassment. 

“Yeah, but never mind about me.  I’m so happy for the two of you! And I’d better be in the wedding party,” Phichit said, looking at Viktor’s and Yuuri’s interlocked hands.  “Don’t give me any of that ‘he has to win a gold medal’ bullshit before you marry him, okay Viktor? Yuuri’s already gold.”

Next to him, Yuuri winced, clearly uncomfortable with Phichit calling Viktor out.  He glanced at Phichit, who gave him a challenging look. He was a good friend to Yuuri and it was clear that he wasn’t going to back down.  Viktor smiled at Phichit as he squeezed Yuuri’s hand.

“I only said that to encourage Yuuri,” Viktor demurred.  “I know Yuuri is gold. He’ll win gold next season, as you’ll all see.”

Chris, Yuri, and Otabek were already there when they arrived at the restaurant, seated at a table for eight.  Viktor didn’t feel too bad about being late, seeing as Yuri and Otabek were still looking over their menus. Chris sat across from the other two, casually sipping a mimosa as he scrolled through his phone.

Yuri regarded them warily as they sat down by them, Viktor taking the seat nearest Chris.  Phichit took the empty seat beside Chris, giving him a warm smile as he whipped out his phone.

“Why, Viktor,” Chris drawled, putting his phone away, “you’re only five minutes late.  This must be a new record for you. Usually you keep me waiting for at least twenty minutes.  Do I owe your newfound punctuality to Yuuri?”

“Perhaps,” Viktor said, conveniently turning his attention to the menu the waitress handed him.

“Well, you’re certainly full of surprises these days,” Chris murmured, casting a playful sideways glance at him.

“So you’re going to be back in time for Nationals, huh?” Yuri cut in after he and Otabek had ordered.

“Try not to sound so excited, Yuri,” Viktor teased.  “Yes, it’s true, I’m returning to Russia right after the new year for Nationals.  I’m moving back to Saint Petersburg to resume my training.”

“That’s a little over three weeks away.  You think you’ll be ready?”

Next to him, Yuuri stiffened.  Neither one of them was looking forward to the time they were going to have to spend apart.  He reached under the table and rested his hand on Yuuri’s knee, giving it a comforting squeeze.  Yuuri put his hand over Viktor’s and laced their fingers tightly together, squeezing back. They would only be apart for a little while.  They would get through this.

“Definitely,” Viktor replied.

Yuri gave him a noncommittal grunt, turning his attention to Yuuri.  

“What about you, Katsudon?  What are you going to do?”

Everyone at the table turned to look at Yuuri.  

“I’m moving to Russia.  I’ve got to move if my coach moves.”  Yuuri smiled at him, warm and radiant, like the sun coming out from behind dark clouds.

Viktor returned Yuuri’s smile, not caring that everyone was watching them.  Gently, he squeezed Yuuri’s fingers again under the table.

“Good,” Yuri huffed, settling back in his chair.  “It’ll be even easier to kick your ass if I can see what you’re up to all the time.”  

So the challenge had already been thrown, had it?  This was going to be an interesting year.

“Ooh, it’s on!” Phichit laughed.  “This is gonna be good!”

“Oh, my Yuuri will wipe the floor with you,” Viktor said, “if I don’t do it first.”

“Go ahead and try, old man.  Just keep all your cuddly, mushy shit off the ice, okay?  It’s nauseating.”

Viktor was about to put Yuri in his place, but as he leaned forward, he felt Chris’ fingers lightly tug at the scarf wrapped around his neck.  

“Viktor,” Chris said, “are you trying to hide a lovebite under all this?”  Viktor tugged his scarf back in place, but not before everyone had seen the mark.  Chris flashed a knowing smile at him and shot a conspiratorial look at Yuuri.

“Why Yuuri,” Chris purred, “did you leave that mark on Viktor?”

Viktor turned to look at Yuuri, expecting to see him bashfully blushing.  But instead, Yuuri was bold and daring, giving Chris a smoldering look over his glasses.  Viktor smirked. Yuuri’s eros had graced them with yet another appearance.

“Yes,” Yuuri dared.  “And?”

Otabek pursed his lips and Phichit let out an appreciative whistle.

Chris leaned back and laid his finger on his chin, the very picture of feigned innocence.

“Good for you,” Chris said.  And while he was looking at Yuuri, Viktor knew Chris’ statement was directed at him.

“See?  See what I mean?” Yuri fussed, hitting Otabek’s shoulder with the back of his hand.  “This is the kind of shit I’m talking about!”

Pleasant laughter floated around the table, broken as the waitress arrived with plates for Chris, Yuri, and Otabek.  She deposited their meals in front of them and took orders for Viktor and Yuuri.

Before long, the table was full and even more chairs were added to accommodate all the new arrivals.  The drone of conversation flowed around them, but Viktor found he only had eyes for Yuuri. Soon they’d be back in Japan for a couple of weeks, and then he would be heading back to Russia.  Until he got on that plane bound for Saint Petersburg, he wanted to spend every waking moment in Yuuri’s presence.

Chapter Text

As soon as they landed in Seoul, it seemed like everyone pulled out their phones, anxious to see what they’d missed while they were in the air.  Both Viktor and Minako had theirs out already, but Yuuri was still waking up from the long flight and left his in his pocket.

Yuuri watched as Mari hurriedly followed the signs out to the smoking section, cigarette and phone already in hand.  They’d been in the air almost twelve hours and he knew what a long stretch that was for her to go without a cigarette.  Yuuri sat down next to Viktor in the terminal and leaned his head against Viktor’s shoulder, letting his carry-on flop down between his feet.  At that moment, he wanted nothing more than to be at home, in bed, and for all of this to be over.

Returning home after a competition was always hard on him.  The months of build-up, the countless practices, and the excitement of the competition itself were over, leaving behind a hollow exhaustion in their wake.  Not even setting a world record and winning a silver medal were enough to bolster him right now.

Minako sat down next to Yuuri, frowning in concentration and muttering to herself as she scanned over her texts and e-mails.  Almost immediately she was up again, bouncing excitedly. She reached over and shook Yuuri’s arm.

“Yuuri!” she squealed enthusiastically. “My web provider sent me an e-mail to let me know my website went down because I had too much traffic.  But before it crashed, all of my spring classes filled up! I’ve even got requests to add more classes! It looks like everyone in Hasetsu wants to learn ballet at the studio where you learned to dance!”  She spun in a pirouette, right there in the middle of the terminal, laughing like a delighted child.

“Before I had to cancel classes because they never filled up.  But now…now… oh, thank you, Yuuri!” Minako threw her arms around Yuuri and laughed.  “This is more business than I’ve had in years !”

He started to congratulate her, but Viktor’s hand was on his shoulder, pulling at him.

“Yuuri!” Viktor said, showing him a text on his phone.  “Yuuko says all the beginner classes at the Ice Castle are full!  People want to learn to skate in the same rink you skated in! Isn’t that wonderful?”

“Yes, yes it is,” he replied, truly happy for Minako and the Nishigoris, but it was a bit overwhelming.  Did he really have this much of an effect on the lives of those around him?

He sat back in his chair, trying to wrap his head around all of this, only to see Mari racing back to them from the smoking section, excitement written all over her face.  Yuuri blinked in confusion. She told them she was going to smoke at least a couple of cigarettes, but there was no way she could’ve done that this quickly. He wasn’t even sure she’d had time to finish one.  What was going on?

“Yuuri!” she cried, holding up her phone as she reached them.  “Mom texted me! You’re never going to believe it! The onsen is fully booked for the next two months!   Two months !  And she says that all of the online auctions she had listed for your autographed pictures sold!  There was even a bidding war over the last one. She got three times the asking price!”

“That’s… that’s wonderful,” Yuuri replied quietly.  This was overwhelming, just too much. His heart was racing and he was beginning to feel a little sick…

Yuuri looked at all their faces, filled with excitement and joy.  He knew his family made good on his success to help them out, something he had accepted long ago.  But what about Minako’s studio and the Ice Castle? Were their fates also attached to his in some way?  It certainly seemed that way. He’d won the silver medal at the Grand Prix, broken Viktor’s world record for the free skate, and now everyone wanted to dance where he danced, skate where he skated, and visit his family’s onsen.

If their success was tied to his, then what about his failures?  How many times had they been counting on him to do well, only to have him let them down?  How many times did Minako cancel classes, or the Ice Castle stand empty, or his family’s onsen struggle to get by?

How many times had he let them down?  How many times had he failed them?

Yuuri felt ill with the realization. His stomach was twisting, tying itself into knots.  He could feel his heart pounding in his chest and the edges of his vision blurred, narrowing down like a tunnel.   It was hard to breathe, so hard… He swallowed, trying to get control. Oh God, not now. Please, not now…

Dimly he realized Viktor was talking.  Again, or still? He didn’t know.

“—crowds are gathering in Tokyo to welcome you back to Japan!  Isn’t that great?”

He gulped air, nodding absently, because that was what they expected him to do.  A crowd in Toyko? To see him ?  That meant there would be people wanting to meet him, get an autograph, maybe even take a picture with him.  People were waiting at the airport for him, people he could potentially let down—

He looked up and away from Viktor and Minako and Mari and their happy, smiling faces.  He scanned the terminal, looking for the sign that would allow him to get away and process everything privately.

“I… I need to go to the restroom,” he stammered.  Quickly, he got up and walked away, not waiting for their acknowledgements.  He had to get away while he still had the chance. He couldn’t break down here, not in the middle of the terminal, not with all these people around him to see how weak he really was…

Yuuri focused only on getting to the restroom, walking as fast as he could without drawing undue attention to himself.  He looked down and followed the arrows on the floor, wishing his hair was longer so it would hide his eyes. A couple of times he bumped into someone and muttered an apology under his breath, but he never looked up.  If he did and the other person saw that he was about to cry, he knew he’d lose what little semblance of control he had and break down right then and there. And that would be a disaster.

Hold it together , he thought, desperately trying to slow down his breathing.   The restroom’s right there.  Oh, please, God, let me get there in time.

Yuuri ran the last few steps, certain he was about to lose the fight.  Once he was inside, he ignored the other men in the restroom and headed straight for the farthest stall, thankful that it was empty.  He shoved the door open, turned around, and locked it. He backed up and sat heavily on the toilet, slapping both hands over his mouth in an effort to keep as quiet as possible.  It was already hard to breathe, and it was even harder with his hands over his mouth. But he had to do it, he had to stay silent. There were other people here, and the last thing he needed was someone knocking on the door, politely asking, “Are you alright?”  Every time it had happened, it only made things worse, so much worse...

He felt so guilty for having let everyone down so many times.  He screwed his eyes shut, but he could see the faces of his parents and his sister, all of them counting on him to help keep the onsen afloat.  All the others in Hasetsu had closed, and his family supplemented their income by trading on his fame. He’d accepted that as part of the deal a long time ago.  It’s what paid Celestino’s coaching fees for all those years. Endorsements and prize money from medaling in competitions helped, but his parents had all of his medals and trophies on display in the inn and sold memorabilia online to help out. They even named their katsudon after him, all in an effort to draw in business and pay his bills.  

If he hadn’t messed up so many times, if he’d been a better skater, if he’d finished college in four years like most people and not taken an extra year, then they wouldn’t have had to pay so much money to provide for him in America.   They would have done better.  But he hadn’t done any of those things, and they suffered because of him.  It was all his fault. All of it.

Yuuri felt hot tears slip down his cheeks and he buried his face in his hands.  His legs betrayed him and started to bounce on their own accord. He had to stop them: the noise would draw attention.  Sniffling, he pulled them up on the toilet seat and wrapped his arms tightly around them, trying to strangle them into silence and submission.

“I’m so sorry,” he whispered against his knees, his glasses crushed against his face.  “I’m so sorry I let you all down so many times.” Fresh tears started streaming down his face and he cursed himself inwardly for his weakness.

He remembered when Minako met him at the train station when he returned home, how she said her studio was closed that day because there was hardly any business anymore.  She’d blamed it on Hasetsu’s shrinking population, but he could see now that wasn’t entirely the case. Hasetsu hadn’t gained any new people since he returned. The studio was often empty.  But now he’d won a silver medal at the Grand Prix and suddenly all of her classes were full. People wanted her to add more, because they wanted to learn ballet from the same person that had taught him how to dance.  People liked a winner, not a loser. And he’d been a loser when he came home. If he had done better sooner, it would have benefitted her, too. He’d let Minako down, time and time again.

Waves of guilt and anxiety rolled through him and it was hard to keep quiet.  Those horrible, high-pitched whimpers he hated so much were leaking out of him again.  He was sure people could hear him, and he tried to curl up into an even smaller, tighter ball.  But he felt hot and nauseated, almost like he was going to be sick. He leaned over and rested his forehead against the wall, letting the cool tiles leech away some of the heat as he cried as quietly as he could, no longer able to stop it.

He saw the faces of Yuuko and Takeshi and their young daughters in his mind.  He remembered when the Ice Castle had hosted the competition between Yuri and himself.  Takeshi had told him later he hadn’t seen so many people at the Ice Castle in years. And there were so many times he’d needed to get away and he’d gone to skate and found the Ice Castle all but deserted.  Yuuko and Takeshi were always there: they were the only employees the company could afford. Takeshi had told him when he went to the Grand Prix in Sochi that they’d had a surge of people, but afterwards the crowds had fallen off.  Yuuri was sure it was because of his disappointing performance. How much better would it have been for them if he’d done well instead of his shameful sixth place finish? How much time did he take away from their family because they always had to be at the Ice Castle?  He moaned and bit his lip against a fresh wave of tears.

He had let them all down, so many times, in so many ways.  

There was nothing to be done for what had happened.  He couldn’t change the past. All he could do was mourn for what he cost them.  Yuuri buried his face in his hands and let the tears flow, too tired to fight them any longer.  

Eventually, the anxiety loosened its grip on him, leaving him drained and weary.  Yuuri wasn’t sure how long he’d been in the restroom, curled up on the toilet, but his body ached from being in one position for so long.  His sinuses were clogged and he felt awful, like he’d been in a fight and he’d lost. But he could get a full breath again, and he knew he needed to get back to the terminal.  Gradually, he uncurled himself from atop the toilet and crept out of the stall, cautiously looking around to see if anyone else was in the restroom. Luck was with him and he was alone, but he knew it wouldn’t last.  It was a busy airport: it was only a matter of time before someone came in.

Cautiously, Yuuri looked at his reflection in the mirror and sighed.  He looked as bad as he felt. It was obvious that he’d been crying: his face was pale, his cheeks and nose were red, and his eyes were bloodshot and watery.  He let his gaze fall to his shoes, unable to bear the evidence of his weakness written so plainly for everyone to see.

He walked over to the sink, took off his glasses, and put his hands under the tap.  Cool water ran over them and he left them there for a little while, letting the water pour over his hands as though it could wash away the guilt he felt and leave him fresh and clean.  Another man walked into the restroom and he quickly splashed a little water in his face. It felt good and helped him focus on something else besides how horrible he felt. Unfortunately, there were no paper towels to clean his glasses with, so he wiped them on the hem of his shirt instead.  He managed to rub off most of the spots the tears left behind on the inside of his glasses. He put them back on and shuffled out of restroom.

He could see Viktor standing in the terminal, looking around for him.  His height would have made him stand out anyway, but the light caught his platinum hair and made it shine like a beacon.  Yuuri focused only on Viktor as he walked through the crowd. When Viktor’s gaze fell on him and he saw relief wash across his face, he felt ashamed that he’d made Viktor worry.  He dropped his gaze and drifted in among them, unable to meet any of their kind, concerned gazes.

He remembered all the people who’d had to learn how to deal with his weakness.  Celestino had tried to bolster his confidence, pointing out he wouldn’t have taken him on if he wasn’t any good and that there were many skaters who didn’t make it to the Grand Prix at all.  Phichit had offered quiet support, bringing him glasses of water and ice packs for his throbbing head, and breaking out his hamsters to give him something warm and fuzzy to cuddle with and distract him.

Eventually, anyone who entered his life had to learn to deal with his demons.  And he hated it.

Now Viktor would have to learn, too.  The thought that his weakness would make him drag Viktor down with him almost made him start to cry again.  

As unobtrusively as possible, he sat in the chair he’d abandoned, Viktor sitting down next to him.  He wordlessly accepted the bottle of water Mari handed him, grateful she’d already opened it for him.  Looking down, he tried to make himself as small as possible in the chair, like he wasn’t there at all. But when Viktor’s arm gently settled over his hunched shoulders, silently supporting him, he sighed and melted into it.  

He wanted to tell them all how sorry he was for failing them so many times over the years, but he knew if he said anything right now, he’d just spiral down even further.  He knew he would have to talk to them, but he just couldn’t do it right now.

Minako came to stand behind them and Mari parked herself on the floor at his feet, busily texting someone on her phone.  Viktor began to trace a pattern of small circles on his shoulder with his thumb, calming and soothing him. This was new.  When he’d broken down in front of Viktor in China, he was completely taken aback and didn’t have any idea what he should do.  But now he was reaching out and offering comfort and support. Did Mari or Minako tell him what to do while he was in the restroom?  Most likely. And he felt bad all over again.

They were all so good to him.  Maybe someday he would deserve their kindness.  But there was little room left in him for self-recrimination: he was simply too drained, too tired.

“You can take a nap if you want,” Viktor said softly, picking up on his exhaustion.  “I’ll wake you when it’s time to board the plane.”

Unable to trust his voice, Yuuri simply nodded, truly grateful for the support but ashamed that he needed it.  He shifted in his seat and moved so that he was lying down, his head in Viktor’s lap, his legs stretching out to fill the unused seat next to him.  He turned so his back was to the terminal and he could look up and see Viktor.

Viktor gave him a soft smile and ran his fingers through his bangs.  He caught sight of the ring he’d given Viktor as he let his eyes slip closed.  He felt someone take his glasses off as the noises of the airport began to recede away into meaningless white noise.  Idly, he thought Viktor’s thigh made a pretty good pillow as he slipped into sleep, too tired to fight it any longer.

Chapter Text

The next three weeks seemed to fly by to Viktor.  Russian Nationals were going to take place a week into the new year.  Viktor knew that developing a short program and a free skate in such a short amount of time would be cutting it close, very close.  But he had confidence in his abilities and he didn’t just sit on the sidelines while he coached Yuuri. He already had some ideas about what he could do for each of his programs, he just needed to refine them into something that would be worthy of his return to the ice.

Yuuri had been a little concerned that Viktor had to do it almost entirely without Yakov’s help.  He faithfully recorded Viktor’s routines, which they emailed to Yakov every evening when they got back to the onsen.  The six hour time difference between Hasetsu and Saint Petersburg actually worked in everyone’s favor. They would finish practice for the day in Hasetsu about the same time Yavok arrived at the rink in Saint Petersburg.  Yakov had plenty of time to review Viktor’s routines and offered advice in the evenings via FaceTime, usually in the way of lots of loud grumbling. Viktor was used to being yelled at by Yakov, so it didn’t upset him. Yuuri, however, was not, and it bothered him, especially since he couldn’t understand most of what Yakov said.  Maybe it was better that Yuuri didn’t know, considering how harsh Yakov was on Viktor.

On Viktor’s birthday, Mari took the van out a little after they returned from practice.  She came back a couple of hours later with Minako and a large box of fried chicken and sides from on of the American fast food restaurants in town. 

“Leave plenty of room on the table,” Mari said as they set everything out on one of the low tables in the family dining room.  “I saw the Nishigoris waiting in line while I was there. I told them to go ahead and come on over.”

Almost as if on cue, they arrived at the inn just as the last container was pulled out of the bag and placed on the table.  Hiroko smiled and motioned for them to join them. They all proceeded to sit down beside the small Christmas tree and share a meal.  The food was okay —in Viktor’s opinion, Hiroko’s cooking was much better—but it was the company that made the night.  Too many times before, Viktor had spent his birthday alone.  Being surrounded by people who loved him made such a difference.

Before the Nishigoris went home, the triplets presented Viktor with a rolled up piece of paper, neatly tied with red and gold ribbons.  He unrolled the page and blinked back sudden tears when he saw that they had drawn him skating Stammi Vicino with Yuuri. Delicate little pink hearts floated in the air around them.  It was beautiful and a very thoughtful gift from girls so young.

“Do you want me to frame it when I get home?” he asked them in halting Japanese.  The girls stared at him in wide-eyed surprise before they turned to one another and conferred in rapid, hushed tones.  After a moment, Axel looked at him and gave him a lopsided smile.

“It’s supposed to go on the refrigerator,” she said, “but it’s okay if you want to frame it.”

Viktor nodded sagely, rolled the picture back up, and tied it securely with the ribbons they had used.  

“I will make sure to find the perfect frame for it when I get back to Saint Petersburg,” he told them.  He meant it, too. After the Nishigoris went home, Viktor stretched out and lay back, his head coming to rest in Yuuri’s lap.  Training was taking more out of him than he wanted to admit and he was tired. But it was good to be back on the ice again.

Yuuri ran his fingers through Viktor’s hair and sighed.  It was hard on Yuuri, too. The idea that they would soon be apart, even for a short while, wore on them both.  Viktor pulled Yuuri’s hand to his lips and kissed it.

“It won’t be for long, love,” he said.  Yuuri leaned down and placed a kiss in his hair, sighing.

“I know, but…”  Yuuri trailed off.  Viktor sat up and turned to face him.

“Let’s enjoy the time we have now, okay?”  He stood and held out his hand for Yuuri. “I’m tired.  Why don’t we head to bed?”

Yuuri blinked at him, confused.

“Don’t you want to go sit in the onsen for a little while and relax your muscles?”

Viktor took Yuuri’s hands and pulled him up from the ground.  He leaned in close until they were nose to nose.

“Maybe I was thinking of another way to relax,” he said, pitching his voice low so only Yuuri could hear. 

A slight blush crept over Yuuri’s cheeks and he smiled.  Without a word, Yuuri led them up the stairs to their room where they had another, much more private celebration to mark Viktor’s birthday.

In Viktor’s last week in Hasetsu, their routine changed.  They skated in the morning, uploaded videos for Yakov in the afternoon, and spent the evening packing Viktor’s belongings.  Yuuri wrapped everything in twice as much bubble wrap as necessary, worried something would get broken during shipping. One night, Viktor teased him about it, saying he should buy stock in the company so he could recoup part of the small fortune he’d spent on wrapping materials. 

He was only joking, but it upset Yuuri.  He apologized profusely, kissing away the tears on Yuuri’s cheeks.  The next thing Viktor knew, Yuuri’s mouth was on his, his hands were under Viktor’s shirt, and they were tumbling into bed. 

Nothing else got done that night. 

Not that Viktor minded, not one bit.  He fell asleep holding Yuuri, not caring that the room was half-packed and that there were boxes and bubble wrap strewn everywhere and merely trying to walk in their room was a hazard.  All that mattered was Yuuri, quiet and peacefully asleep in his arms.

They finally managed to get all the boxes packed and made an appointment for the delivery company to come and pick them up the day after he left.  A couple of days before his flight, Viktor took Makkachin to the vet and got her sedatives for the long flight back to Saint Petersburg. He wasn’t going home, not really: Yuuri was his home now. 

Everyone came over for New Year’s Eve and they counted down together, loud and raucous.  At the stroke of midnight, Yuuri leaned in and kissed him. “It’s for luck,” he breathed against Viktor’s lips, taking his hand and leading him towards the stairs.  Mari gave them a knowing smile as they quietly snuck away from the festivities, but said nothing.

They were up before dawn and Viktor dutifully followed Yuuri to the shrine at the center of town.  There were a few people already in line, some of them clad in traditional kimonos despite the cold.  At last it was Yuuri’s turn and Viktor watched him approach the long cord to ring the bell. He rang it once, put a coin in the offering box, and bowed twice in rapid succession.  Then he clapped his hands, folded them in front of his chest, and lowered his head in prayer. When he was done, he bowed again and moved to the side.

“Should I—?” Viktor asked, looking at the cord in front of him.  He looked at the old woman behind him, who smiled kindly at him, and then back at Yuuri.  “Is it okay if I…” he motioned at the cord, uncertain if it would be alright for him to pray at the shrine.

“You can if you want,” Yuuri said softly.  “No one will be upset if you do or if you don’t.”

Viktor stepped forward, took the cord in his hands, and gave it a good tug.  Up above him, he heard the bell ring and smiled. He pulled a coin from his pocket, put it in the box, and bowed twice, just like the others before him had.  Viktor clapped his hands and bent his head over them to pray.

Please , he thought, give me a good and happy life with Yuuri.  Give us a good life together .  There was more he wanted to ask for, but this was enough for now.  Others were waiting. Viktor bowed and walked over to join Yuuri.

That night when they went downstairs for dinner, Toshiya had a special table set aside just for them, complete with candles and a single rose in a small vase.  Hiroko made them katsudon and wished them well. Their room felt strangely empty with all of the boxes moved downstairs. Only the bed, the loveseat, and two of Viktor’s suitcases remained.

They decided to stay awake and not waste what little time they had left together sleeping.  Viktor could sleep on the plane. Yuuri could sleep when he got back home. They lay next to one another in bed, talking and cuddling.  But before long, they were reaching for one another, desperate to make love one more time.

A couple of hours before dawn, Viktor realized that Yuuri had fallen asleep.  Viktor contented himself with holding Yuuri close and watching him sleep, committing the sight of him in his arms to memory. 

Morning came entirely too soon.  Their alarms went off, startling Viktor into wakefulness.  Damn, he hadn’t meant to fall asleep… He sat up and shut them off, then rolled out of bed.  He showered alone, leaving Yuuri to sleep a little while longer, but when he came back to their room, Yuuri wasn’t there.  Viktor found him downstairs in the kitchen, making them breakfast. Minako came to pick them up in a rented car just before dawn.  It began to mist as they loaded up the car and headed out.

The drive to Fukuoka was both too long and nowhere near long enough.  Viktor sat in the back, curled up with Yuuri and Makkachin, sipping the coffee Minako had so thoughtfully brought them when she picked them up.  She parked the car in the short-term parking lot and they made their way into the airport. Yuuri insisted on taking the larger of the two bags while Viktor took the smaller one and led Makkachin in on her leash.

They would only allow Yuuri so far into the airport.  He wasn’t flying out, Viktor was.

At the gate for international departures, they stood along the wall, Viktor’s suitcases set to the side.  Viktor cradled Yuuri’s face in his hands, not wanting to let go. When Yuuri did the same for him, he kissed the pads of Yuuri’s thumbs when they brushed his lower lip.  The world became blurry and he blinked, feeling hot tears slide down his face and not caring.

“I’ll see you in a month, sooner if they can process my visa paperwork faster,” Yuuri said, his voice strained almost to breaking.  Viktor saw the tears flowing freely from Yuuri’s eyes and tenderly smoothed them away.

“I should stay,” Viktor said, fresh tears clouding his vision.  “I can talk to Yakov, explain the situation to him, let him know we’ll be there as soon as your paperwork goes through—”

“No,” Yuuri said, determined.  “Yakov made it very clear he wanted you back in Saint Petersburg right away.  You’ve probably already stretched it as far as you can. Don’t make him mad, okay?  You can’t risk it. I’ll…I’ll be there soon.”

Viktor waited until the last possible moment to board the plane, pulling Yuuri to him and kissing him fiercely.  It would be the last kiss they would share for a month and he wanted to make it last. He wanted to remember the feel of Yuuri’s lips against his, keep the memory with him until he could replace it with another.

Finally, when they could wait no longer, he let go of Yuuri, took hold of his suitcases, and went through the gate.  When he was on the other side, he looked back at Yuuri and put on a brave face.

“I’ll see you soon,” he said, his voice threatening to break.  “Very soon.”

“I love you,” Yuuri whispered.  “I love you, Vitya.”

Viktor’s heart raced in his chest.  It was the first time either of them had actually said the words.

“I love you, Yuuri,” he replied.   I’ve loved you for so long, he thought.   I love you like no one else .  He wanted to say the words, all of them, right here and right now, but not when he was about to get on a plane headed to Russia.

He would say them when Yuuri was wrapped in his arms in Saint Petersburg.  He would say them when they were at home, making a meal together. He would say them when they were getting ready to go to the rink or go out shopping.  He would say them when they were in bed, getting ready to go to sleep. He would say them when they were making love.

He would say them as much as he could, for the rest of his life.

“Move along,” the guard said, breaking the spell.  “You need to go and not hold up the line.”

But Viktor didn’t want to move.  He didn’t want to go.

Yuuri made the decision for him.  He smiled and said, “Go on, Viktor.  Don’t miss your flight. I’ll be there soon.”  And then he turned and walked away.

Viktor gulped air.  He took a couple of deep breaths, turned, and headed into the terminal.

Viktor raised the shade on his first class window and looked back at the gate.  He thought he could see Yuuri standing at one of the bay windows, looking at the plane, his right hand pressed against the large pane of glass.  He pressed his right hand against his tiny window, hoping somehow Yuuri could see his small answering action.

Absently, he listened to the announcements about what to do in the event of an emergency and where the safety exits were located, but none of them mattered.  He’d heard them so many times before he could recite them himself, in multiple languages. He didn’t dare look away from the sight of Yuuri standing at the window, so small and so far away.

When the plane began to back up from the gate, Viktor felt the renewed sting of tears in his eyes. 

“It won’t be long, my Yuuri,” he whispered, “we’ll be together again soon.”

He kept his gaze focused on Yuuri as the plane continued backing up.  Yuuri hadn’t moved, not once, and even Minako had come to join him. She waved cheerily at him, but Yuuri could only stand there, frozen to the spot, never once looking away.  Viktor didn’t look away either, and kept watching until the plane began its forward roll and started moving into position for takeoff. He watched the bay window and Yuuri roll away out of sight.  With a sigh, he leaned back in his comfortable First Class leather seat and closed his eyes, his hands tightening around Makkachin’s leash.

How would he survive a month without Yuuri?

 

Yuuri at window

He was still wondering that when the plane touched down in Tokyo an hour later.  Immediately, he took his phone out of airplane mode. Messages from Yuuri popped up right away.

I hope you have a good flight.

Let me know when you make it to Tokyo.

I miss you already.  So much.

Minako texted him too, but all she sent were pictures.  Pictures of his plane sitting at the gate, backing up from the gate, moving into position, taxiing down the runway, and launching into flight.  Yuuri was in every single one of them, pressed to the window, his back to the camera. He closed his eyes and made a mental note to have flowers sent to her studio as soon as he was back in Saint Petersburg.

He texted Yuuri as he walked through the airport to the Aeroflot terminal, letting him know he was in Tokyo awaiting the next leg of his flight.  Yuuri’s reply was almost instantaneous. They sent texts back and forth until the call came for him to board his flight to Moscow. He continued to send texts as he settled into his seat, only switching his phone off only when the stewardess came over and scolded him.

Viktor’s next stop was in twelve hours in Moscow.  He drank some champagne and had as decent a meal as he could expect from Aeroflot.  He watched some of the banal in-flight movie and dozed a little, but mainly his mind was on Yuuri, wondering what he was doing right now, hoping he was surrounded by family and friends and doing alright.

Viktor looked down at the ring Yuuri had given him.  He twisted the golden band on his finger, smiling to himself.  He had been so shocked when Yuuri had pulled them into the jewelry store in Barcelona.  He’d been so incredibly happy! And then, the very next day, Yuuri told him he intended to retire from skating and that they should dissolve their professional relationship.  All of his joy and elation were gone, swept out from underneath him like a rug. He’d been utterly devastated. What had happened to make Yuuri want to end things when they were going so well?

It wasn’t that Yuuri didn’t want him or what they had together, far from it.  Yuuri had literally been trying to give him the world at the cost of his own career.  Once Viktor understood what Yuuri was really trying to do, he’d been moved. No one had ever been willing to make such a sacrifice just to try to make him happy.

Instead, he’d made the decision that he was going to coach Yuuri and compete against him.  He knew it would be tough, and he wasn’t completely certain he could even do it. No one had ever tried to do both before, so there was no model to follow.  He would have to make it up as he went along.

His arrival in Moscow was relatively uneventful, except now all the signs were in his native Cyrillic and spoken Russian flowed around him like a comfortable, familiar tide.  Viktor realized he’d missed being able to understand the tiny bits and pieces of conversation heard only in passing and there was a part of him that was happy to be surrounded by it again.  He went straight to the terminal for his flight to Saint Petersburg and sat down, checking his phone for messages.

There were more from Yuuri, hoping his flight went well. 

Viktor smiled and sent a quick text.   In Moscow.   It’s strange hearing Russian again.

It seemed like he’d barely gotten settled in the seat before they were calling for his connecting flight and he was up again.  When he arrived in Saint Petersburg a little over an hour later, he found Yakov waiting for him at the gate, something he had not expected.  He was touched.

“Let’s get your things and I’ll drive you home, Vitya,” Yakov said gruffly.  “You must be tired.”

Few things in his life had ever been so true.

It was so strange, being back in Saint Petersburg.  It was like something he’d seen on television before and only half-remembered.  He stared out the window, mesmerized by the passing streetlights, familiar and yet not at the same time.

“Stay home tomorrow and rest,” Yakov said as he drove to Viktor’s apartment.  “Sleep in. But I expect you on the ice the day after that. Your programs are good, but they lack the finesse you’re known for and we don’t have much time to refine them.  You’ve cut it very close, Vitya. I hope it’s not too close.”

It felt decidedly odd to stand in front of his apartment door again.  He hadn’t been here in almost a year. For a moment, Viktor just stood there, looking at the door, keys in hand and  Makkachin by his side. She woofed softly, breaking the spell, and he slid the key into the lock and stepped inside.

It was cold and dark in his apartment, which was to be expected.  It also smelled musty and immediately Viktor wondered if he’d forgotten to throw something away before he left for Japan.  He thought he’d given everything to Georgi before he left—had he missed something? No matter. He was too tired to look for it now: he could do it in the morning.  He turned on the lights and the heat and let Makkachin off her leash.

He left the suitcases in the living room as he walked into the kitchen and took Makkachin’s food and water bowls out of the dish drying rack.  A thin layer of dust coated both of them. Humming to himself, he washed them off in the sink. Makkachin sat patiently beside him, waiting for her meal. Thankfully, there were still a few cans of her favorite dog food in the pantry and she dug into her dinner greedily. 

Viktor filled her water bowl and set it down by her dinner dish, pausing to give her a good scratch behind the ears.

It was tempting to just crawl into bed and go to sleep, but Makkachin had been in the air for hours, unable to walk around.  And she always needed to go out after she ate. Viktor sat down heavily on the couch, waiting for her to finish so he could take her out. 

He noted the fine film of dust on the coffee table and the musty smell was stronger after he sat down.  God, was his whole apartment coated in dust? Probably. No one had been here for almost a year to clean anything.   Well, so much for sleeping in tomorrow…

He pulled out his phone, snapped a quick selfie, and sent it along with a text to Yuuri, letting him know he was back in his apartment.  He knew it was late in Hasetsu and he really didn’t expect a reply at this time of night, but he wasn’t terribly surprised when he got one anyway.

I’m glad you’re home.  You look tired. You should sleep.

Viktor shook his head and smiled.

You’re one to talk.  It’s late there. Go to bed.  You have practice tomorrow.

I’m in bed came the reply as Makkachin trotted up to him and nuzzled his hand.  He clipped her leash back on her collar, stuffed a couple of plastic bags in his coat pocket, and headed out.

They texted back and forth while he walked Makkachin.  He cleaned up after her and headed back inside. She needed to walk more but he was exhausted and cut it short.

“Don’t worry, girl,” he murmured as they entered the elevator, “I’ll take you out for a longer walk tomorrow.  I promise.”

He set more water for out Makka, stripped, and crawled into the bed he hadn’t seen in almost a year.  He took his phone to bed with him and fell asleep with it cradled to his chest.

Hours later, Viktor looked around his apartment in the watery late morning light.  It looked so strange to him, with all its icy white and grey décor. It didn’t feel inviting at all.  How had he ever lived here?

Everything seemed so empty without Yuuri.  Makkachin wandered around like she was lost, or looking for something, or someone.  After a few minutes, she came back, buried her muzzle against the palm of his hand, and whuffed softly.  He leaned down and gave her an affectionate scratch behind the ears as he sat down on the couch. But then inspiration struck and he got up and walked over to the smallest of his suitcases.

Viktor laid the suitcase down on the floor and unzipped it.  He pushed aside a few of his shirts and pulled out an old, faded blue t-shirt.  It was worn around the hem and had definitely seen better days. He would have thrown out a shirt like this ages ago.  But it wasn’t his, it was one of the ones that Yuuri liked to sleep in, and he’d stolen it out of the pile of dirty clothes a couple of days before he left.

Well, he hadn’t really stolen it.  He’d just borrowed it.  Temporarily. Yuuri would get it back when he got here. 

Viktor buried his face in the shirt and inhaled.  Oh, it still smelled like Yuuri, and a sudden wave of longing washed over him.  How he wished Yuuri was here now .  Sighing he pulled Yuuri’s shirt away from his face and let Makkachin smell it.  Her tail began wagging excitedly and she barked softly while she looked around.

“I know, Makka, I know,” Viktor whispered.  “I miss him too, girl. But he’ll be here soon.”

He walked back into the bedroom and laid Yuuri’s t-shirt on the pillow next to his.  His fingers traced the worn hem and he sighed, eager to have Yuuri beside him again.

Idly, Viktor noticed the bedside lamp had a fine coating of dust on it, just like everything else in his apartment.  He needed to clean this place up and he needed to do it now. All this dust would make him sick, something he couldn’t afford.

He thought about contacting the cleaning service he’d used before and getting back on their schedule, but it would probably be a few days before they could fit him in.  When he’d first gotten the apartment, before he’d won gold medal after gold medal, he’d done his own cleaning. It hadn’t killed him, but this amount of dust might. And the thought of Yuuri seeing the apartment like this…  Oh no, this wouldn’t do, not at all.

He took Yuuri’s shirt off the pillow and placed it in his closet, setting it carefully on a shelf.  Then he went back into the bedroom, stripped the sheets off the bed, and tossed them in the washing machine. 

He stirred up so much dust that he began to sneeze.  He could see dust motes floating in the rays of light streaming into his apartment.  God, the air was thick with them. Sighing, he pulled on clean clothes and got a dust rag from underneath the kitchen sink.  He had work to do.

Chapter Text

The ride back to Hasetsu was hell.  No matter how hard he tried, Yuuri couldn’t stop crying.  It had been so bad that Minako pulled over at one point, worried.  When they finally did make it back, Yuuri was so exhausted that all he wanted to do was go to sleep.

Yuuri climbed the stairs and went into the room he’d shared with Viktor, ready to lie down for a nap.  But when he saw how empty the room was, bare except for the bed and the loveseat, he ached even more. There was no way he could sleep in there without Viktor beside him.  Quietly, he shut the door and walked down to the end of the hall, going back to his old room. He let his jacket and hat fall by the door and climbed into his narrow bed, phone in hand.  He fired off a few texts to Viktor, but he knew he hadn’t even made it to Tokyo yet, so he didn’t expect a reply. He closed his eyes and laid his phone on his chest. He could doze until Viktor landed and answered him back.

When his phone dinged at him, Yuuri blinked groggily and reached up to rub his eyes, only to have his fingers bump into his glasses.  He sat up and took them off, cleaning the smudged lenses with his shirttail. He texted back and forth with Viktor until he had to board his next plane.  Viktor had snapped a picture of Makkachin sitting next to him on a first class seat, then sent one final text.

They’re telling me I have to turn off my phone now, so this is my last text for a few hours.  I love you so much Yuuri. I’ll text you as soon as we land.

It hit him all over again.  Viktor was gone, on a plane headed back to Russia.  Yuuri lay down on the bed, so tired that he hurt all over.  Could he just sleep for the next twelve hours? Would anyone think any less of him if he did? Instead, he pulled up a flight tracker on his phone, entered the number of Viktor’s flight, and watched its progress. 

He must have slept, because the next thing he knew, his mother was in his room, ruffling his hair. 

“Yuuri,” she said in her lovely sing-song voice, “you should eat something.  I made katsudon for lunch. Come have some.”

Blearily, he blinked at her and sat up.

“Thank you,” he said, “but I shouldn’t.  I had katsudon last night and I don’t want to gain too much.”  He knew, without a doubt, that his mother would feed him katsudon every day if he let her.  She always made it for him when he was feeling down. When he came home from America, depressed and uncertain about his future in skating, she had made it for him as often as he wanted to cheer him up and to show how much she loved him.  It had been delicious, but it had also been a lot of effort to work it off. He didn’t want to get into that position again.

What would Viktor think if he gained all that weight back in the month that they were apart?

“I know,” his mother said, breaking into his darkening thoughts.  “But you can have it today. Just this once. Tonight, I’ll make you broccoli and noodles.” 

She patted his leg affectionately. 

“Come on now,” she said, rising from the edge of the bed.  “Your lunch is getting cold.”

Obediently, he followed her down the stairs to the family dining room.  His father and Mari were seated at the table, bowls of katsudon in front of them as well.  Mari smiled at him as he walked into the room.

“About time you got up, sleepyhead,” she teased.  He sat down opposite her and picked up his chopsticks.  They often had dinner together as a family, but they usually had to fend for themselves for lunch.  This was a nice change. While they ate, Yuuri looked down at his phone, tracking Viktor’s progress.

“What are you looking at?” Mari asked. 

“It’s a flight tracker,” he said, showing them his phone.  Viktor’s flight was only a third of the way done. He still had another eight hours before he would touch down in Moscow and Yuuri could text him again.  He wondered what Viktor was doing. Was he sipping champagne, cuddling with Makka high over the earth? Or was he getting some much needed sleep? They didn’t get anywhere near enough last night, that was for sure—

“Your mother always tracks your flights,” his father said in between bites.  “Every time you go to a competition, there she is, watching her phone the whole time you’re in the air.” 

His mother smiled, but it was a pained expression.  He knew she hated being called out, just like he did.

“In a month, she’ll be tracking your flight to Russia while she cooks,” his father said again, apparently unaware of the effect his words had on his mother.  Out of the corner of his eye, Yuuri caught his mother look down and sigh. He knew, out of all of them, it would be hardest on her when he left. He was her youngest, her baby.  But she accepted it as part of his life as an adult. And she knew how much he loved Viktor.

God, it felt so barren here without him.  It was like all the color was gone from life: everything felt washed out and faded.  Idly, he poked at his katsudon with his chopsticks, suppressing a sigh.

How was he going to survive a month without Viktor?

 

 

In the evening, an hour before Viktor’s flight was due to land in Moscow, Yuuri went back into his old room and looked around.  He was going to have to get a lot of boxes to pack everything. When he moved to America for college and training, he had left a lot of things behind.  The move had been long-term, but still temporary. He had always intended to come home at some point. Plus it was expensive shipping things halfway around the world.  His meager budget didn’t allow for such expenditures.

But this move was different.  He wasn’t going off to train and to get a degree.  This time, he didn’t intend to return home. He was going to make a new home with the man he loved with all his heart. 

Yuuri intended for this move to be for good.

It was time to pare down to the essentials, take only what he really needed or wanted, and either sell or give the rest away.  He sat down with a pad of paper and a pencil and began making a list of what he wanted to take with him. He was almost done when the alarm went off on his phone.  He turned it off and checked the flight tracker. Sure enough, Viktor’s flight was about to land. He fired off a couple of texts and eagerly waited for the reply.

A few minutes later, his phone buzzed with an incoming text.  Yuuri’s heart leapt for joy.

They texted back and forth until Viktor boarded the plane for Saint Petersburg.  Yuuri went back to sorting through his possessions, too wound up to sleep, even though he knew he should.  He was due on the ice tomorrow and he’d do better if he was well-rested.

Without meaning to, Yuuri dozed at his desk, his head pillowed on his folded arms.  He woke up when Viktor texted him, letting him know he was back in his apartment. Yuuri plugged his phone in to charge and crawled into bed.  They sent a few texts back and forth, wishing each other a good night. Almost immediately, Yuuri was asleep again.

A few hours later, Yuuri woke with a start, feeling like something was wrong, and looked around.  At first, he thought he was out of sorts because Viktor was gone and he was back in his old room. But the sunlight streaming in through his bedroom window was too bright and the sun was too high in the sky.  With a sinking feeling in his stomach, he realized he’d overslept on his first day on his own. Quickly he changed and ran to the Ice Castle, his skates secured in his backpack.

He intended to practice just like he had when Viktor was there, but it was a lot harder than he thought it would be.  The Ice Castle seemed so strange without him there. And the rink was crowded with people enjoying the last of the new year’s holiday.

Before long, Yuuri was back to skating figures on the ice, watching as young and old alike ventured out onto the ice all around him.  There just wasn’t enough room for him to practice properly. When he had trained with Viktor, the Ice Castle had been closed to the public.  They’d had it all to themselves. Now, it felt like he was the intruder here. If he tried to do any jumps or spins, he’d hit someone, the last thing he wanted to do.

Eventually, Yuuri made his way to the boards and slipped on his skateguards.  Staying here under these conditions would be a waste of a day. Tomorrow, many of these people would be back at work or school and he could have the ice all to himself again.

He ran back home, dropped off his backpack in his room, and stripped for a shower.

The absence of Viktor’s multitude of toiletries in the bathroom was a shock.  He’d known they were gone—he’d helped Viktor pack them—but it was still jarring.  Sighing, he turned on the water and stepped into the spray.

Automatically, he went about the process of washing his hair.  He’d gotten used to the expensive shampoo that Viktor favored, the one he claimed helped thicken his hair follicles.  Yuuri shook his head, amused. Viktor was so worried that his hair was thinning and was always going on about how thick and full Yuuri’s hair was.  Viktor just had finer hair than he did, that was all.

He missed having that bottle of crazy expensive shampoo in the shower.  He missed having his hair smell like Viktor’s hair.

Viktor had been in a mild panic when the bottle he brought with him from Russia began to run low.  He ordered it online and discovered the day after it arrived that one of the local salons carried it.  Yuuri remembered which salon had it, too. Tomorrow, after he was done skating, he could go and pick up a bottle for himself and have that little bit of Viktor back with him.

 

 

That evening, they texted back and forth again.  Viktor sent him pictures of dust motes dancing in the air. 

I’ve been cleaning all day , Viktor texted.   The amount of dust in here could choke a person.  I had to open the window to get some fresh air.

Yuuri chuckled as he nibbled on a piece of steamed broccoli.

I’m going to the rink tomorrow.  Yakov says my programs still need a lot of work.  How did it go for you today at the Ice Castle?

I didn’t really get to practice much , Yuuri texted back, worrying his lower lip with his teeth.   A lot of people are still on their holiday for the new year, so the rink was really crowded.  If I’d tried to do anything, I would have hit someone.  Hastily, he added, Tomorrow will be better .

He could almost hear Viktor’s hum of disapproval from here.

I’m glad you were careful around others, but don’t skip too many practices , came Viktor’s reply. 

Don’t worry I won’t , Yuuri replied as he headed up the stairs to continue making his packing list.

 

 

Just like he’d promised Viktor, the next day was better, much better.  The Ice Castle was a little more crowded than normal, but not so much that he couldn’t get in a decent practice.  Yuuri ran through his routines and practiced his jumps and spins. He even had Yuuko record him at one point so he had something to show Viktor.  They had recorded Viktor’s routines for Yakov, why shouldn’t he do the same for Viktor? He was his coach, after all.

That evening, he reviewed the videos that Yuuko recorded for him over dinner, but decided not to send them, at least not yet.  Even though Viktor was doing double duty this season, it was also his first day back at the rink in Saint Petersburg and Yuuri didn’t want to overwhelm him.   He could do this on his own for a few days. He’d send them once Russian Nationals were over.

After dinner, Yuuri went out and shoveled the new snow off the sidewalks.  He needed to stay busy and it would help him work off some of the katsudon.  When the sidewalks were clear, he brought up the boxes his father had saved for him with the intention to start packing his room.  But as soon as he opened the first box, he got a text from Viktor. Immediately, he reached for his phone, the box forgotten.

Hello, my sweet Yuuri.  How was practice?

Oh, how he longed to actually hear Viktor’s voice again. 

Good!  The Ice Castle wasn’t too bad today, so I got in some good practice.  How was your first day back at the rink?

Hard but good, Viktor texted back.   I’m tired, but it’s good to be back.  I miss you. 

I miss you, too.  So much. Yuuri felt his eyes filling with tears again.  He missed Viktor so much...

I probably shouldn’t have texted you- I know you need your rest and it’s late there.  Do you need to go?

Not yet , Yuuri texted back.  He turned off the light and slipped into bed.   Why don’t you tell me about your day.

When he saw that Viktor was replying, he smiled.  He’d be sacrificing sleep to talk to Viktor, but it was definitely worth it.

Chapter Text

On his first day back at the rink, it was almost an hour before Viktor managed to make it out onto the ice.  People kept coming up to him, shaking his hand or hugging him, welcoming him back to the world of figure skating.  Some asked for autographs, and a few even requested a picture with him. He signed whatever they gave him to sign and posed for every photo with a warm smile. 

“Vitya,” Yakov barked as yet another group of junior skaters approached him, “quit fooling around and get on the ice.  You’re already late.”

Reluctantly, Viktor pulled away from the skaters, telling them to come and find him tomorrow and he’d be happy to take a picture with them then.  It wasn’t like five minutes would really make that much of a difference and it was good to acknowledge your fans and fellow skaters. But from Yakov’s standpoint, it probably reinforced his view of Viktor as undisciplined and lazy.  He knew he’d hurt Yakov with his decision to go to Japan last year, but he didn’t regret going, not one bit.

“Coming, Yakov,” he said as he obediently slipped off his skateguards and took to the ice. 

Viktor skated around the rink, warming up, aware that many had taken out their phones and were recording him.  He waved at the juniors, who were thrilled at the attention.

But Viktor knew there was one person who wasn’t happy to see him back. 

Before he’d gone to Japan, Yuri had always come up to him and skated with him, trying his best to emulate Viktor.  He’d even asked for his advice when he was younger. When Viktor went to Japan, Yuri followed him there, desperate for Viktor to make him a champion.  Now, Yuri glared at him from underneath sweaty bangs, his mouth set in a thin, angry line. If looks could kill...

“Hello, Yura!” he sang out, waving at Yuri like nothing had happened.  Viktor got a little thrill of perverse pleasure when the scowl on Yuri’s face deepened, but it also hurt.  He remembered the boy Yuri had been, eager to learn from the best. Now, a child’s admiration had been replaced with a young man’s disdain.

Someday, maybe they could move beyond this past year.  Maybe they could be comrades on the ice again. But for now, it was clear that Yuri saw him as nothing more than a rival to be put in his place.

“Vitya!” Yakov yelped, “finish warming up and run through your free skate.  The rest of you, quit gawking and get back to practice!”

Viktor nodded, moving across the ice with grace and ease.  It was almost like he never left. When he was done warming up, he skated to the middle of the ice and got into position.  All around him, the other skaters stopped what they were doing, watching him intently. Viktor was acutely aware of the attention, but it didn’t make him nervous.  It energized him.

The music in the rink changed and the song he had picked for his free skate came on over the speakers.  With the opening bars, he smiled, letting all the joy and happiness of the past year with Yuuri wash over him.

Viktor moved across the ice, his arms outstretched as though he danced with an unseen partner.  The rest of the world melted away as he skated, lost in the memories of his time in Japan with Yuuri.  As the music reached its crescendo, he spun in the middle of the ice and came to a stop just as the song ended.  Applause rippled across the rink and many of the skaters cheered, glad to see the return of the living legend to the ice.  Breathless, he turned to look at Yakov and noted that his permanent scowl seemed even deeper than usual. Next to him, Yuri sneered and skated away, as though his performance was beneath him and Viktor was nothing to worry about.

He skated towards Yakov, ready for the grilling he knew was coming.  That was how Yakov operated: he never mentioned what had been done well, he went after what had been wrong.  Yakov was full of complaints about his routine, saying it was sloppy and needed tightening up. He took it all in stride as he sipped from his water bottle.

“Well, at least you didn’t completely let yourself go while you were in Japan,” Yakov muttered.  “Take a short break, and then I want to see your short program. I don’t want you wearing yourself out before you get started.  We only have a week to get you ready for Nationals and I’m not sure we can refine this in time.”

As he stepped off the ice and slipped his skateguards on, Yuri skated up to him.  Viktor gave him the overly polite smile he used for the media, ready for whatever insults Yuri was about to hurl his way.

“Why did you decide to skate again?” Yuri snapped.  “Are you doing it to make the pig happy? If so, you shouldn’t bother.  The way you are right now is an embarrassment. I won the gold at the Grand Prix last year and if that’s the best you’ve got, I’ll win it again this year, too.” 

“Why did you come over here to talk to me then, if I’m so sloppy?” Viktor asked, keeping the edge out of his voice.  “Why waste your time?”

“I just wanted to make sure you knew your place, old man.  You’re as old and used up as the welcome mat outside the doors,” Yuri taunted, then sped off across the rink. 

Viktor watched him go and sighed.  Had he been as much of a shit when he dethroned Alexei a decade ago?  He knew he’d been pretty full of himself, but had he ever been so rude?  God, he hoped not. He glanced across the ice to where Alexei was working with the juniors.  Perhaps, when practice was done, he should go over and say hello, talk to him...

“Don’t worry about Yuri,” Georgi said, leaning over the boards and interrupting Viktor’s thoughts.  “He’s like that to everyone. We all saw a chance to shine a little brighter while you were gone. Yuri just hoped he’d shine a little longer.”

He thanked Georgi and was about to say more when Yakov barked at Georgi to get back to practice.  Georgi gave him a long-suffering look before he stepped back onto the ice. Viktor smiled to himself and shook his head.  At least that hadn’t changed.

About halfway through his practice, Viktor noticed a news crew setting up at the end of the rink.  When they started filming him, he knew that they would want an interview, which he was more than happy to grant.  Once the reporter had all the soundbites she needed, he returned to the ice and made sure they got a few more shots of him skating.  He would have to make sure to watch the newscast tonight and see what they had to say about his return.

At the end of the day, Yakov called him back over, probably to yell at him some more.  Truthfully, Viktor was tired and wanted to go home and text Yuuri all night, but he needed to hear Yakov out. 

“There’s paperwork on my desk to admit Katsuki to the rink to train,” Yakov said without preamble.  “You’re listed as his coach. Do you still intend to do this?”

Viktor nodded, wiping the sweat off of his brow with a towel. 

“Yes, of course,” he said.  Why wouldn’t he?

Yakov almost managed not to grimace. 

“I think this is a very bad idea, Vitya,” he said quietly, putting on his hat, “but I also think you’re not going to listen to me on this matter, either.  Fine then. Tomorrow night, you will meet me for dinner at Palkin at seven so that we can discuss this properly. You will be on time, unlike today, and you will be paying.”  Without another word, Yakov turned and headed out of the rink, Yuri in tow.

Viktor bit his lower lip.  He knew dinner tomorrow would not be pleasant, but it didn’t matter.  What mattered was that Yakov took him seriously. And the only way he’d ever do that is if he did as Yakov asked.  He gathered his things and headed out to pick up something for dinner and to collect Makkachin from her sitter’s.

When Viktor finally made it back to his apartment, he let Makkachin off her leash and fed her as he ate, then took her for a short walk.  The whole time, he kept imagining what it would be like when Yuuri got there. It would be so good once he was finally here.  And they were a day closer now. Only twenty-eight more to go.

The next evening after practice, Viktor took a taxi home so he could tend to everything and not be late for dinner with Yakov.  Even so, he barely made it to the restaurant on time. When he told the maître d’ that he was meeting Yakov, he was taken to a table in the back.  Yakov was already seated with a glass of wine in front of him. He scowled when Viktor walked in, but Viktor wasn’t going to let him put him off.

“Good evening, Yakov,” he said cheerily as he took his seat.  “I hope you haven’t been waiting too long?”

“You’re actually on time,” Yavok muttered, taking a piece of bread out of the basket. “At least you took this seriously.”

The smile on Viktor’s face felt even more strained than before.  So much for this meeting being at least cordial...

The waiter came over and handed Viktor a menu before he could say anything in response.  He thanked the waiter, took a cursory look at the menu, and ordered. He’d been here many times before and knew exactly what he wanted, especially with Nationals coming up in less than a week.

After the waiter left, Yakov took another sip of his wine and started in on him in earnest.

“I’ll get right to the point with you, Vitya,” he said, “I don’t think you can coach and compete at the same time.  You can be one or the other, but not both. Both are demanding and take all of your time, as you should know by now.  Trying to divide your energy and attention like that is a foolish waste.”

“It may not be as bad as you think,” Viktor began.  “No one’s ever tried to do both before

“There’s a reason no one’s tried it!” Yakov snapped, interrupting him.  “This isn’t like trying to be the first person to land a quad axel, Viktor.   Think .  You know how hard it is, how much time you have to devote to being a world champion.  You’ve done it before, multiple times. What else did that leave time for?”

Viktor pursed his lips in thought.  Yakov was right: training to be a champion was an all-consuming task.  Almost every waking moment had been devoted to perfecting his artistry and skating, building his strength and stamina.  It had left so little time for anything else. Life had all but passed him by. His lovers had been few and far between.  Even Makkachin had spent more time in the company of others than with him.

But he had never been so motivated before as he was now!  Yuuri had changed everything for him. Helping Yuuri realize his potential inspired him like nothing else ever had before.  Surely his desire to coach Yuuri and his love for skating wouldn’t be mutually exclusive...

“I realize the task I’ve set for myself is difficult, Yakov,” he said carefully and respectfully, “but I believe it is possible.  One thing is certain: I will never know if I don’t try.

Yakov narrowed his eyes and sighed.  How could he make Yakov understand how he felt ?

“Have you actually given this any real thought, Vitya?” Yakov asked.  He didn’t sound angry so much as he sounded tired and disappointed. “I know you want to do this, but I am not certain you can .  Think about it: how can you do both effectively?  Especially when your coaching leaves so much to be desired?”

Viktor frowned.  Yes, he needed more experience coaching, that was a given.  But no one started out knowing how to do everything. A skater didn’t take to the ice for the first time and land a quad flip right away.  They had to learn how to balance and move on the ice. They developed their skills and strengths over time. All he needed to do was find that delicate balance between competing and coaching, that was all. 

He never once entertained the possibility that it would be easy.  But if anyone could do it, he could, of that he was certain. Viktor knew he could meet any goal he set his mind to.  He’d proven that, time and time again. This was just another balancing act, one that he would perfect.  Because the alternative—having Yuuri retire from skating so that Viktor could skate again— was simply unacceptable.

“Yakov, I—”

He was about to say more, but the waiter arrived with their meals, interrupting the conversation.  Viktor took a bite of his chicken, trying to figure out a way to make Yakov understand just how important Yuuri was to him.

“At first, I’ll admit, I was impressed,” Yakov said, cutting into Viktor’s thoughts.  “I thought you’d found a way to unlock Katsuki’s potential.”

Stunned, Viktor blinked.  Was that actually a compliment?  From Yakov ?  But before he could properly process it, Yakov cut him back down to size. 

“But then I saw you at the Cup of China.”  Yakov snorted and shook his head. “Did you two have an argument in Beijing?  Because you both looked miserable before he skated. And when he finally got out on the ice, I watched Katsuki comfort you .  That should never happen.”

Viktor took a deep breath.  He should have known this was coming.  He smiled at Yakov over his glass, trying to project the image that he was confident and in control.  Maybe, if he projected it enough, it would eventually come true.

“Yakov,” Viktor said coolly, “Yuuri skated one of the best programs of his life that night.  I think the results speak for themselves.”

“Katsuki pulled your signature move, a quad flip, at the end of his skate,” Yakov scoffed.  “By that time, he was running on pure adrenaline. He did that as a gift to you .  And you gifted him with a kiss in front of God and everybody when he was done.”

Yakov snorted and fixed Viktor with a cold stare.

“There’s a certain level of professionalism that is expected from a coach, Vitya.  Kissing your skater is…” Yakov trailed off, shaking his head. “Kissing them because you’re happy with their performance shows that you lack even the most basic understanding of how you are supposed to behave as a coach.”

“I skate on the ice,” Viktor shot back.  “I’m not made of it.”

“When you’re a coach, a real coach and not just playing like you’re one, you don’t let your emotions get in the way of your job,” Yakov fired back.  “You made a mockery out of how hard we work and what we do.”

Viktor blinked.  Was this what was really bothering Yakov?  Not that he abruptly quit skating and went to Japan, but that he wasn’t a competent coach? 

Viktor said nothing.  He needed to know what was really bothering Yakov.

“Your lack of professionalism in China was shocking,” Yakov continued, “but sadly not surprising.  Then there was Barcelona, where you two caused a stir when you showed up with your matching rings. And then Katsuki skated your Stammi Vicino program for his exhibition skate, only to have you join him on the ice and turn the damn thing into a duet!  You two can’t keep your hands off each other. You’re like a pair of horny teenagers, constantly touching and kissing. It’s clear how you’ve been motivating him, Vitya. You act like you’ve never been in love befo—” Yakov broke off, his eyes widening as though he’d just stumbled onto something.

“Are the two of you actually in love, Vitya?”

There were any number of ways Viktor could have answered Yakov’s question, but the honest and direct answer would be the best.

“Yes,” he said. He felt a smile playing at the corners of his lips and didn’t try to hide it.  Let Yakov see what Yuuri meant to him. Let everyone see it.

Yakov hummed to himself and looked down at his plate.

“I’m happy for you,” he said.  “At first, I thought you were throwing away your career just to chase a fleeting thing.  None of your relationships have lasted very long, or been very meaningful. But this one with Katsuki… I think he’s made you grow as a person.  He’s made you finally consider others. In this respect, he has been very good for you.”

“I don’t care what you do in your home, Vitya, but you need to keep it off the ice.  It was hard enough last year with all the drama between Georgi and Anya…” Yakov shook his head and drained his glass of wine.

Viktor was glad he’d missed that.  Georgi felt things very keenly and he knew the breakup had been messy.

“The paperwork to allow Katsuki to train in the rink is still on my desk,” Yakov continued as he cut into his steak.  “My first impression was to reject it because you were listed as his coach.”

Viktor swallowed, suddenly afraid.  Would Yakov really be so petty?

“But it would be good having him there, even if you failed at your tasks.  Yura beat him last year, but only by the slimmest margins. Whether he admits it or not, Yura admires Katsuki.  Having them both in the same rink, training side by side, will make each of them work harder. They can push each other more than either of us ever could.  So, I will allow Katsuki access to the rink. And I will allow you to coach him.”

The sense of relief that flooded through Viktor was profound.  He nodded and thanked Yakov, sincere. He had no idea that Yakov had even been considering saying no.  Frankly, he didn’t care what excuse Yakov used to let Yuuri in the rink, so long as he let him in.

“After your stunt last year, what you do with your career is your own business,” Yakov muttered.  “But Katsuki, God knows why, has faith in you. So, if you really and truly love him like you say you do, you need to be the best coach you can possibly be, for his sake.”

Yakov took the last bite of his steak and sighed heavily.

“I still think you’re both fools for doing this,” Yakov said, dropping his napkin on his plate, “but you’ve never listened to me a day in your life.  Since you seem bound and determined to coach and compete against Katsuki, you need to be the best coach possible.  So, starting tomorrow, I will begin to formally teach you how to coach.”  Yakov reached into his pocket, pulled out a key, and slid it across the table to him.

“This is the key to the front doors.  Be there tomorrow at 5am to open up. Don’t be late.” 

Yakov stood and looked down at him, then patted him on the shoulder. 

“I’ll see you in the morning.”

Viktor watched him go and sighed.  He looked down at the key in his hand and turned it over a few times and allowed himself a small smile.

He remembered when Takeshi gave him a key to the Ice Castle so they could practice whenever they needed to.  It hadn’t seemed like such a big deal to receive that key: the Nishigoris accepted him as Yuuri’s coach, no questions asked.  But this ?  This key carried the weight of responsibility.  Yuuri trusted him and was coming here to train with him and live with him.  And Yakov was going to teach him how to be a better coach for Yuuri’s sake.

Viktor gripped the key in his hand for a moment, then pulled out his keys and slipped it on the ring.

Was Yakov right?  Was he a fool to think this was possible?  He’d been a fool for less before and he was going to do everything in his power to make this dream a reality.  He would listen to whatever Yakov had to say and do his best to learn from him. He would become the best coach he could.  After all, he could do anything he set his mind to. He just had to find the right balance.



Chapter Text

Yuuri sat on his bed, streaming the feed for the second day of Russian Nationals on his laptop.  It was late and he was tired, very tired. He’d stayed up last night to watch Viktor’s short program and he had practice again in the morning, but there was no way he was going to miss any part of Viktor’s return to the ice. 

When Georgi started his free skate, Yuuri dashed off a quick text to Viktor.  He knew Viktor would be skating next and he wanted to wish him good luck before he took to the ice.

Davai, Viktor!  He snapped a picture of himself kissing his ring and sent it along with the text to Viktor. 

Thank you, my love!  Don’t take this the wrong way, but shouldn’t you be in bed?  You were up late last night and you have practice tomorrow.

Yuuri smirked and shook his head.  Here Viktor was, about to skate, and he was worried about Yuuri getting enough sleep.  He was such a thoughtful fiancé and a good coach.

I am in bed, Coach, Yuuri answered.   I took a nap earlier today.  I’ll be fine. I’m staying up to support my wonderful fiancé!

So he hadn’t napped.  Viktor didn’t need to know that.  He’d hardly been able to sleep at all.  It wasn’t a big deal, not really. He’d be okay tomorrow during practice.  He’d competed under worse conditions and still made the podium.

About to skate , Viktor texted.   Never take your eyes off of me, my love.

Yuuri’s heart leapt in excitement.  He dropped his phone beside him and peered at the screen.  After yesterday’s short program, Yuri was ahead of Viktor, but only by a few tens of a point.  Today’s free skate would be even more exciting—and nerve racking—with so little separating them.  Yuuri chewed on his lower lip, eager and anxious.

On the screen, Georgi waved to the camera from the kiss and cry, all smiles.  Yakov sat next to him, his usual dour self, a permanent scowl etched into his features.  Yuuri repressed a shudder, recalling the one time he’d had to sit with Yakov in the kiss and cry.  Yakov had scolded him for his performance, and he’d been right to do so. He and Viktor had never planned for how he would recover from a flubbed jump, something they should have thought of and prepared for.  The scolding had also given him insight into Viktor’s behavior as a coach. Yakov scolded Viktor all the time, even when his performance was perfect. And Yakov was Viktor’s model for how a coach should behave and he tried to emulate him.  Viktor scolded him because that’s what had been done to him. It was the only way that he knew how to motivate a skater.

Celestino had always been gentle with him, all too aware of Yuuri’s weaknesses and frailties, and in the end it fed them.  Yuuri came to believe that Celestino didn’t have much faith in him or in his abilities and it made him even more cautious and afraid to take risks.  But Viktor believed in him. Viktor believed in him so much that he had flown halfway across the world on a whim to coach him, even though he had no experience coaching.  Viktor’s constant urging to do better, to push his boundaries past the breaking point, were exactly what he’d needed to excel.

The score was announced and Georgi cheered.  He had done well and rose to first place, but Yuuri knew that both Yuri and Viktor would easily surpass his score.  The camera switched over to Viktor at the boards as he took his skateguards off and handed them to one of the assistant coaches.  The older man smiled and gave Viktor a thumbs up.

Viktor glided out over the ice, the lights catching the dazzling array of rhinestones scattered like stardust over the dark material of his costume.  He waved to the crowds as he made a lap of the rink and they cheered him on, happy to have him back. He got into position in the middle of the ice, looked right into the cameras trained on him, and kissed his ring.

A little thrill went through Yuuri.  Viktor had done that just for him. He sighed, closed his eyes, and kissed his ring.

“Good luck, Vitya,” he whispered against the palm of his hand.  “I love you.”

The music began and Viktor started off across the ice, the very picture of beauty and grace.  A lazy smile played across Viktor’s face and he moved with an almost languid grace. Viktor had once said that when Yuuri skated, it was like he was making music with his body.  Viktor looked like he was one with the music, like they were inseparable. Yuuri’s heart sped up just watching him. This was the man that had inspired an entire generation of skaters, Yuuri among them.

It was good that Viktor had gone back to Russia.  Yuuri had watched Viktor practice this program a hundred times in the Ice Castle, but it was never this elegant or refined.  Just a week with Yakov had already made such a difference. Viktor built up speed and went into his first jump, a quad lutz, followed immediately by a quad toe.  He landed both of them cleanly, his skates scraping smoothly across the ice. He held out his hands, the dreamy smile never leaving his face as he implored the audience to come and dance across the ice with him.

God, Viktor made it look so easy.

The announcer said that his next jump was supposed to be a triple Salchow and Yuuri sucked in a breath.  He’d practiced this jump as a quad at the Ice Castle. Why the change? Had he injured himself and not let Yuuri know?

Viktor went for the Salchow and it was a quad, not a triple.   Yuuri remembered when Viktor had told him to lower the degree of difficulty and change all his quads to triples during Japanese Finals.  Sometimes Yuuri used to miss or pop jumps, but he always made up for it with his intricate step sequences. Viktor had said he could win based on that alone and that he shouldn’t risk losing points or injuring himself trying to do jumps he might not land successfully.  A knowing smile spread across Yuuri’s face. Apparently, Yakov wanted Viktor to do the same thing. But Viktor never was really good at listening...

Next came Viktor’s signature move, a quad flip, which he executed perfectly, followed by a layback Ina Bauer. 

The second half of the program was also flawless.  All his spins and jumps were perfect, each move flowing seamlessly into the next.  At the end of the program, Viktor skated to the middle of the ice and kissed his ring again, just as the music ended.

The applause was deafening.  Flowers and poodle plushies rained down from the stands.  Viktor scooped up a bouquet of red roses and a small stuffed poodle and headed towards the boards, triumphant.

“If anyone had any doubts,” the announcer said, “they’re gone now.  Ladies and gentlemen, Viktor Nikiforov, the living legend of ice skating, is back!”

Yuuri wanted to shout for joy, but it was late and if he started yelling, he’d wake people up.  He had to contain his excitement and keep quiet.

In the kiss and cry, Yakov still wore his permanent scowl. Yuuri could see that Yakov was scolding Viktor for switching some of his jumps back to quads, but it didn’t matter. Viktor wiped the sweat from his brow and waved to the camera.

His score came in and was better than Georgi’s, which was no surprise.  Viktor hugged his roses and plushie and smiled as he headed off to go take his place as the leader.

There was only one skater left to take the ice and that was Yuri.  It was entirely possible that he’d usurp Viktor from the top spot, but Viktor would still make the podium.  After a year off, it was more than most people could ask. Still, Yuuri hoped that Viktor would take the gold.

Quickly, he fired off another text to Viktor.

Viktor you were so beautiful on the ice!  You will take the gold for sure!

On the screen, Viktor looked down at his phone, smiled, and began typing a reply.

I hope! he replied.   Yura is making me work for it. 

Yuuri nodded, even though he knew Viktor couldn’t see him.  Yuri would stop at nothing to stand at the top of the podium again.

Yuri stepped out onto the ice and made a lap around the rink.  In the stands, tiger print signs came out and a group of girls unfurled a YURI’S ANGELS banner.  He had support here, just like Viktor did.  Yuuri wondered if it would be enough to help him reach the top spot.

When the music started, Yuri went into a flurry of motion, taking off across the ice like he was shot out of a cannon.  The announcer said that he had triples planned but that it wouldn’t be a surprise if Yuri switched them back to quads to try and beat out Viktor for the gold.

Yuri’s first jump was a quad Salchow which went straight into a quad toe, both done with his arms in the air over his head, adding to their degree of difficulty.  He had no sooner landed on the ice than he was racing across it again, building up the speed and momentum he’d need to carry him through his next set of jumps.

Where Viktor had been elegant and graceful, Yuri was raw fury and power.  Yuuri remembered when they’d competed against one another to see who would end up with Viktor as their coach. Viktor had scolded Yuri, telling him that his “greed was too obvious.”  The same thing was happening again: Yuri’s desire to take the top spot was interfering with his artistic delivery, which would cost him points if he wasn’t careful. He looked fierce and raw, almost like he was fighting the music.  He landed his next jump, a quad flip, followed by a triple axel. Just like Viktor, he was flawless. But unlike Viktor, who had exuded tranquility, Yuri was intense. He went for his next jump, which was supposed to be a triple lutz, and landed a quad instead.

Technically, Yuri was flawless and his program was more difficult than Viktor’s, but only by a few tenths of a point.  The problem was he wasn’t in the spirit of things. Yuuri knew that was something the judges would see and take into account.  He knew that Yuri knew it, too.

By the time Yuri finished his skate, his face was red and he barely held back tears as he waved to the crowds.  He gathered up a kitten plushie and a bouquet of roses and stormed off the ice.

What little composure Yuri had maintained during his skate was lost as soon as he sat down in the kiss and cry.  Tears flowed down his face and Yuuri ached for him. He knew how heartbreaking it was to sit there and wait for the results, especially when you knew you could do better.

In the end, Georgi took the bronze and the silver went to Yuri. 

The gold, as always, belonged to Viktor.

At the medal ceremony, Viktor stuck with tradition and kissed his new gold medal, but then dropped it and kissed his ring again.  The smile on his face was the most genuine one he’d worn on the podium in a very long time.

Yuuri sighed as he closed his computer and put it on his desk.  He was tired, but he was so excited about how well Viktor had done!   He climbed back into bed, grabbed his phone, and sent another text to Viktor.

CONGRATULATIONS ON WINNING THE GOLD!!!!  I’M SO PROUD OF YOU!!! I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!!!!

Almost instantly, Viktor started typing a reply.

Yuuri was exhausted and he wanted to sleep, but he was more than happy to talk to Viktor for a while.  He knew he’d feel the lack of sleep in a few hours during practice, but it didn’t matter. All that mattered was that Viktor- his Viktor- had done well. 

Like the announcers said, Viktor Nikiforov was back.

Chapter Text

Yuuri had a little more than two weeks left before he was due to board a plane to Saint Petersburg, but it felt more like two years.  Waiting for all of the paperwork to be finalized and come in was wearing on him.  It felt like he was stuck in a holding pattern, just biding his time to leave.  To keep his anxiety in check, he did things to help out and keep busy when he wasn’t on the ice.  He folded sheets and towels and helped Mari clean the rooms. He kept the sidewalks clear of snow and assisted his father with a couple of odd jobs around the onsen.  One afternoon, he cleaned and reorganized all the shelves in the stockroom for his mother.

He also helped out at the Ice Castle and at Minako’s studio.  He was a little taken aback when the video of him teaching a class of beginners how to bunny hop on the ice went viral, but he should have expected it.  The triplets were always stealing their mother’s phone. But he couldn’t really be upset with them: had they never stolen her phone and recorded his rendition of Viktor’s Stammi Vicino program, Viktor would never have come to Hasetsu. 

When he wasn’t helping out or skating, Yuuri packed his belongings.  Almost everything that was going with him was ready to go. The boxes were neatly labeled and loaded into the unused banquet room that had served as Viktor’s room.  He was practically living out of his suitcases.

In some ways, it was reminiscent of when he was getting ready to move to Detroit all those years ago.  But then he had been moving to a country where he was already fluent in the verbal and written forms of the language.  He could barely ask where the restroom was in Russian, let alone communicate a complicated concept. Reading Cyrillic was hard and writing in it was almost impossible.  He knew he would get there eventually, but for now, it was incredibly frustrating.

Yuuri finished packing a box of warm weather clothing and sighed.  He still couldn’t find that one t-shirt he liked to sleep in. He knew he’d worn it just before Viktor left…  did it get in with his clothes somehow? Well, either it would turn up or it wouldn’t.

Yuuri labeled the box, taped it shut, and carried it from his room to Viktor’s room, where he placed it along the wall next to the others.  As he turned to leave, there was something about the quality of the light and the way it spilled across the bed and the pillow Viktor had used.  The rest of the room was dark, except for that one sunbeam, highlighting the side of the bed Viktor had slept on when he was there. Sighing, Yuuri sat down on the bed and looked down at Viktor’s pillow, remembering a time when the light had been just like this and how it had cast a golden glow on Viktor’s skin and lit up his hair…  Yuuri reached out and let his fingertips caress the pillow case, wishing again that Viktor was there with him.

On impulse, he pulled out his phone and snapped a picture of the light on Viktor’s pillow.  He sent the image in a text to Viktor with a simple message: I miss you.

He didn’t expect a reply anytime soon, but his phone almost immediately buzzed with an incoming text.  There was a wide angle selfie of Viktor lying on his bed in Saint Petersburg, his hair tousled and a faint smile on his lips.  His head rested on the left hand pillow and his free hand pointed at the pillow to his right.

I miss you, too.  This one is for you when you get here.

Yuuri wiped away sudden tears.  Two weeks? The waiting was killing him.

I’m counting the days until I see you again.

I’m counting the hours.

Yuuri snorted to himself.

That’s a lot of counting.

You have no idea came the reply, and this time Yuuri laughed aloud.

A couple of days later, Yuuri’s mother called him downstairs into the kitchen.  Thinking she probably wanted to rearrange another shelf, he was surprised to find her standing by the stove, a notebook and a pen on the counter next to her.

“I’m going to teach you to cook,” she said as she motioned to the stove.

“You taught me to cook before I moved to Detroit,” Yuuri said, confused.  Had she forgotten?

“No, I taught you how not to starve,” she replied, a bright smile on her face.  “There’s a difference. But now you have a fiancé, and I have to make sure that at least one of you knows what you’re doing in the kitchen.”

Yuuri hummed in response.  He’d picked up a fair bit of culinary knowledge in his five years abroad, but if his mother wanted to teach him more, he was definitely willing to learn.  He settled his hands on his hips, ready to follow her instructions.

“Before we get started, can Vicchan read English?”

Yuuri nodded and she picked up the notebook and pen and handed them to him.

“Good.  Write everything in English then.  He needs to learn, too, and since he’s not here, this will have to do.  I tried to teach him a couple of things, but my English is not as good as yours.  I’m afraid we didn’t get very far.”

She rinsed off a small bundle of green onions in the sink, shook them out, and put them on the cutting board.

“Today, you’re just going to watch and take notes,” she said, picking up her knife and chopping while she talked.  “Tomorrow, you’ll cook. That’s the way we’ll do things until you leave. Now, is there anything you want to start with?”

Yuuri thought about the pork cutlets sitting in the refrigerator.  His mother knew him all too well.

“Do you think we could start with katsudon?” he asked.  “I made it sometimes in Detroit, but it never came out as good as yours.”

She paused to look at him, pushing her glasses up her nose with the back of her hand.

“Did you make the tonkatsu the day before, or did you use it the same day?”

Yuuri gave her a sheepish grin.  “Same day.”

“Ah, that was your mistake,” she said knowingly, going back to chopping onions.  “It’s always better the next day. So we’ll make tonkatsu today and then we’ll make katsudon tomorrow.  Now, I need you to get three bowls, the flour, the eggs, and the breadcrumbs.”

Yuuri pulled the bowls off the shelf and set them down on the counter, licking his lips.  The next two weeks might well be the longest of his life, but at least they were going to be delicious.

Gradually, Yuuri began to notice that whenever he talked about leaving, his mother often disappeared into the kitchen.  When she emerged, she usually had something to eat. Sometimes it was small, like one of the taro flavored Kit Kat bars she loved so much.  Other times, she would pull out leftovers or start cooking dinner early. If it was late, she’d go to bed, saying that she was tired and needed to get some sleep.  There were days she looked like she’d barely slept at all.

Yuuri did these things too, especially when he was stressed.  Back in Detroit, he always ate too much during finals. He would go to bed early, feeling drained, but sleep often proved to be elusive and he would toss and turn for hours.

After his pitiful performance at his first Grand Prix, he ate whatever he wanted and as much as he wanted.  It wasn’t like it mattered anymore. He’d had his chance and he’d messed it up. Depressed, he’d spent too much time in bed, hiding from the world.  Not even Phichit’s cheerfulness and concern could get him out of bed. He’d managed to drag himself to class, but only because he couldn’t afford to mess that up, too.  One failure was bad enough.

He’d never realized his mother had these feelings, too.

Had it always been like this?  When Yuuri thought back about it, he realized that he’d missed the signs of her distress.  When he was a child, there had been days when his father had made his bento and took him to school instead of his mother.  Later on, when Mari got her license, she was the one who occasionally stepped into his mother’s role. She’d drop him off at school, but she made him make his own bento. 

When he was a teenager, there were times he’d find the forgotten wrappers of chocolate bars stuffed in the pockets of his mother’s jinbei when he did the laundry.  They weren’t there all the time, just every now and then. Before, Yuuri figured she was hiding it from his father because he would tease her about how easily she gained weight.  But had she been stress eating instead?

Perhaps they were more alike than he thought.

One evening when he was too wound up to sleep, Yuuri made his way downstairs to the kitchen, only to find his mother rooting around in the freezer.  Quietly, he watched her take out a small container of ice cream and pull open the drawer for a spoon.

She opened the container, took a couple of bites, and put it back in the freezer.  When she turned around and saw him, she jumped, dropping the spoon on the floor.

“Oh, Yuuri!” she said, breathless.  “You scared me! I didn’t know you were there!”

“Sorry,” he apologized, bending to pick up the spoon.  “I couldn’t sleep, so I came down to—”

“It’s okay,” she said.  “You don’t have to tell me.  I understand.”

How many times had she said those exact words to him?   He’d believed her when he was a little boy, like all small children believe their parents without question.  But as he grew older, he’d discounted those words. Sometimes, they’d even made him angry. How could she possibly know how he felt?  She wasn’t weak like he was!  He was sure she was just saying things to try to make him feel better and it just made him feel even worse.

But he’d been wrong.  She had her bad days, too.  She’d just hidden them a whole lot better than he had, that’s all. 

Yuuri walked up to her and hugged her.  She let out a little squeak of surprise, then hugged him back.  How had he missed what had been happening to her for so long?

“Is there any more of that ice cream left?” he asked.  He felt her laugh against him and she pulled away and patted him on the back.

“A little,” she replied.  “Would you like some?”

“Yes, please,” he said.  His mother walked back to the freezer and pulled the ice cream out while he dropped the dirty spoon in the sink and got two clean ones out of the drawer.  She opened the container and showed it to him. Chocolate truffle, her favorite since he was a little boy. Only about a fourth was left, which was just enough for each of them to have a few bites.

“We don’t need bowls for this, do we?” she whispered, like it was a secret.  “We could just eat it right out of the carton.

Yuuri smiled and dug in with his spoon.

“Do you ever get depressed?” he asked hesitantly.  Inwardly, he winced as his poor choice of words. Certainly there was a better way to ask…

A sad half-smile pulled at the corners of her lips.

“I think we all get a little down sometimes,” she answered, looking up at him.  “That’s natural, Yuuri. Are you feeling depressed about being apart from Viktor?  I know it’s hard, but you’ll see him again soon.”

Yuuri sighed.  She thought he was talking about himself again.  Now wasn’t the time to be selfish.

“I’m fine,” he replied, taking a bite from the container.  “I wasn’t talking about me, though. I was asking about you.  How do you deal with things when you feel down?

She almost seemed to shrink into herself a little.  She didn’t like to call attention to herself.

“Oh, I can’t really afford to be down,” she murmured, dismissive.  “When you and Mari were small, I just had to push through it if I felt sad.   You both needed me and so did your father, so I had to be there. Now, there’s the onsen and—”

“Do you do anything for yourself when you feel down?” he asked, holding his spoon.  “Anything at all?”

His mother smiled up at him, but it was a little forced.  He knew her expression all too well—he’d seen it too many times staring back at him from the mirror.

“I dance,” she replied.  “Things were different when I was growing up.  People expected certain things and you didn’t get a lot of time to ‘wallow’, as my mother put it.   So, I would turn on music and dance.”

Yuuri blinked.  So many times when he was growing up, his mother had played music in the kitchen and encouraged him to come and dance with her while she cooked.  He always thought it was because she knew he loved to dance and she wanted to make him feel better, but had she been playing it to chase her blues away? 

How many things had he got wrong?

“When you were a little boy,” she said softly, “I saw a lot of me in you.  Mari’s is very much your father’s daughter, but you,” she smiled and patted him arm, “you are very much my son.  I learned early on that you can’t feel bad when there’s a song playing that makes you want to dance, so I figured the same might work for you.”

Blinking back tears, Yuuri pulled his mother into another tight hug.

“Thank you for taking such good care of me,” he whispered, “but promise me that you’ll take care of yourself, okay?  You need to be taken care of too.”

For a moment, she said nothing, just hugged him back.  When she finally did speak, her voice shook.

“I promise,” she said.  He felt her pull away and let her go.  Her eyes were bright with unshed tears and she rubbed at her eyes under her glasses.  Yuuri did the same.

“Why did you stop listening to music in the kitchen?” he asked her.

“You know how the radio always kept falling down?” she said, half-laughing.  “One day, right after you went to America, it fell again and finally broke. I just never got around to getting a new one.  I have some songs on my phone and I play that sometimes, but not a lot. Don’t tell Viktor this, but I don’t like the earbuds he got me very much.  They hurt my ears.”

Yuuri nodded and asked, “Do you have any speakers?” 

She shook her head.  “No. Where would I put them?  There’s no space in here for speakers.”

Yuuri looked around.  There was a spot on the wall right by the sink where he could easily put up a small shelf for her.  And he knew where he could get speakers for her phone—

“Hey,” his father said as he shuffled into the kitchen, blinking owlishly without his glasses in the bright light.  “What’s going on here, a family meeting?” He walked up to his mother and placed a small, affectionate kiss on top of her head.  She sighed and leaned against him as he wrapped his arms around her.

“No, I just… couldn’t sleep,” his mother said quietly, “but I think I’m okay now.”  His father stroked her hair and held her close, comforting her with his mere presence.

“What about you, Yuuri?” he asked.  “Couldn’t you sleep either?”

“Just a little restless, that’s all,” he replied.  “But I’m okay now. I think I’ll head to bed. Goodnight.”

They wished him a good night and he headed out of the kitchen.  Yuuri turned to look at them as he made it to the stairs. He thought they’d be right behind him, but they were still in the kitchen, his mother enfolded in his father’s arms, her head against his chest.

Smiling to himself, Yuuri headed up the stairs.  He had a couple of ideas about how to make things a little easier on his mother and just enough time to pull them off.

Chapter Text

“Look right there, Vitya,” Yakov said, pausing the playback on the recording Yuuri had sent them a couple of hours ago.  “What’s wrong with Katsuki’s position?”

They had already watched the recording once in its entirety at normal speed.  They both knew that Yuuri’s triple axel was under-rotated. What should have been an easy jump for him had instead become a painful fall on the ice.  But Yakov wanted to know if he understood why it had happened.

“He’s down too low to properly enter the jump,” Viktor said.  “That’s why he came down too soon, caught his toe pick on the ice, twisted and went down.” 

“And how would you correct this?” Yakov continued.  Viktor stared at the screen and the frozen image of Yuuri in mid-jump.  He could feel Yakov’s penetrating gaze boring into him, sizing him up, but he didn’t let it bother him.  He knew how to correct this particular error from long experience.

“Yuuri’s main problem is that he tried to jump before he’d built up enough speed to get the proper lift,” Viktor murmured, thoughtful.  “He jumped too soon.”

Next to him, Yakov merely grunted.  Viktor allowed himself a tiny smirk, one Yakov couldn’t see from his angle.  It was as close as he was going to get to praise with Yakov. But honestly, Viktor was more worried about how Yuuri was feeling than why he fell.  Hopefully, he was taking it easy tonight and soaking the soreness out in the onsen. The restorative power of Yu-topia’s wonderful hot springs was not to be dismissed.  He’d text Yuuri when he was done with Yakov and make sure he was resting properly.

“Be sure you talk to Katsuki about how to keep that from happening again when you talk to him,” Yakov said, bringing Viktor back to the present.  “Next, let’s look at Yura’s quad toe. I want you to tell me what went wrong with that jump and what you would recommend to fix it.”

Viktor nodded, casting a quick glance out on the ice while Yakov brought up the file on the computer.  Yuri was still out there, running through elements of his free program over and over again, trying to refine them.  Yakov had been recording him when he fell and came down in a tangle of limbs. This was all fairly simple work, but Viktor knew they had to start with the basics.  Otherwise, Yakov would never trust him with anything more complicated. And he needed to learn everything he could so he could be the best coach possible for his Yuuri.

Later that evening Viktor took a taxi to the other side of Saint Petersburg, eager to explore the first of several Asian markets the city had to offer.  Viktor wanted to visit all of them, hoping to find one where Yuuri could get all the comforts of his old home in his new one.

Logically, Viktor knew it would probably be better to investigate the stores with Yuuri after he’d been there a while and gotten settled, but Viktor couldn’t contain his excitement.  Besides, he wanted to have at least a few things already in the apartment when Yuuri arrived in two weeks’ time. Two weeks? God, he couldn’t wait until Yuuri was here...

The first thing Viktor noticed when he opened the door was that the store was dark and crowded.  The space inside was limited and there were a lot of things jammed onto the shelves. Viktor picked up a hand basket and walked inside, excited and not caring that he was grinning ear to ear like a fool.

As he wandered through the store, Viktor wondered if Yuuri would like it here.  In months to come, would they come here together, armed with a shopping list of things they needed for home?  Several patrons appeared to be doing just that, rummaging through the shelves and occasionally putting things in their baskets.  Viktor could almost see himself doing the same thing with Yuuri at some undetermined point in the future and he hummed with happiness at the thought.

Viktor found the section with the spices and stopped, searching the shelves for a box that looked like the one Hiroko used to make dashi.  He knew he needed it for katsudon, which he planned on making for Yuuri as soon as he arrived. But the familiar orange and blue box that had been a staple in Hiroko’s kitchen was nowhere to be seen.  There were a couple of different kinds of furikake, both of which he put in his basket, but no boxes of hondashi.

Trying not to feel too down, Viktor made his way through the rest of the store, picking up some sake, soy sauce, and chopsticks and adding them to his basket.  Sadly, there was no mirin to be found either, and Viktor knew he needed that for katsudon, too. He would just have to go to another one of the markets later in the week to get the rest of what he needed.

He ended up going to another store the next day, hoping to find hondashi and mirin.  The selection at the store was much the same as at the first, but they had mirin, which he gleefully placed in his basket, and a large selection of fresh vegetables.  Fleshy daikon radishes were in the cooler section, along with sprouts, tofu, bok choi, and several varieties of miso paste. Kabocha squashes were nestled between long and slender eggplants and sweet potatoes.  But no hondashi.

The selection of rice was amazing and mind-boggling.  There were so many different kinds of rice: short grain, long grain, jasmine, basmati...  Which one should he get? Damn, he should have paid more attention to what kind of rice Hiroko used!  He didn’t want to guess only to find out it was the wrong one. Maybe he should ask Yuuri? Even though he knew it was late in Hasetsu, he snapped a picture of the packets of rice on the shelves and sent it along with a text to Yuuri, just in case he was still up. 

Which one should I get? he asked.  A few seconds later, Yuuri answered his text by calling him via FaceTime. 

“Hello, my Yuuri!” Viktor cooed at him when the call connect. 

“Hi Vitya,” Yuuri replied, smiling at him as he rubbed his eyes.  His glasses were off and his hair was a mess and Viktor could see that Yuuri was in bed.

“Oh no, did I wake you?” Viktor said, a sudden pang of guilt shooting through him.  Damn it, he should have known better—

“No no,” Yuuri replied, “I was still up.  What’s going on?”

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have called so late,” Viktor apologized. 

“It’s fine, Vitya,” Yuuri reassured him, giving him a sweet little smile.  Oh, how he missed Yuuri!

“I don’t know which kind of rice to get,” Viktor said, worrying his lower lip.  He turned his phone to the shelf and let Yuuri look at the assorted packages.

“Where are you, Vitya?” Yuuri asked. 

“I’m in an Asian market in Saint Petersburg!” Viktor exclaimed, smiling.  “Isn’t it wonderful?”

Yuuri nodded and squinted at the screen.  “Can you put the phone a little closer?”

Viktor did as he was asked, giddy.  One of the other customers shot a look at him, but he didn’t care.  Let the old woman stare at him. He was getting things for Yuuri! That was way more important.

“Get the package of short grained rice on the right hand side of the bottom shelf,” Yuuri said, hiding a yawn behind his hand.  “And the jasmine rice next to it. That’s good for Thai food. What are you doing there, Vitya?”

Viktor settled back against the shelf and smiled, not caring about the dirty looks he was getting from others in the store.  Oh, it was so good to see Yuuri... He missed him so much it was like a physical ache in his chest.

“Well, I wanted to find some of the comforts of home for you, my dear,” he said.  “I know how hard it is moving to another country and not having the things you’re used to, so I decided to go out and see what was available.”

“Ty milyy,” Yuuri said, with a twinkle in his eyes.  “ Spasibo, lyubov' moya.”

Viktor was so shocked he almost dropped his phone.  His Yuuri was speaking Russian?

“Eto ochen' khorosho!” he replied.  “When did you start learning Russian?”

“I got an app for my phone a few days after you left,” Yuuri said, suddenly shy.  “I’ve been listening to it and practicing. I need to know a little before I get there.”

Viktor had been about to tell Yuuri how pleased he was when the old woman who had been staring at him loudly shushed him.  “Talk on the phone at home!” she fussed. She walked off, muttering under her breath about how rude children were these days.  Yuuri laughed on the other end of the phone, drawing Viktor back to him.

“She’s right,” Yuuri said.  “You should FaceTime me at home.”  There was a look in Yuuri’s eyes, the same look he got when he would take Viktor’s hand and lead him up the stairs.  The familiar warmth of desire shot through Viktor, and he gave Yuuri a sly look.

“Give me half an hour and I’ll call you back,” Viktor said, lowering his voice as he headed for the checkout stand.

“You’d better not be late, Vitya,” Yuuri replied, licking his lips as he signed off.

Viktor had never paid for things and hailed a taxi so fast in his entire life.  He was pretty sure he’d set some kind of record for how fast he’d gotten home. But damn, Yuuri was worth it. 

The next afternoon, Viktor took a short, Yakov-mandated break and sat down in the stands by the boards.  He was scrolling through his phone, trying to decide which store to visit next, when Yuri skated up next to him, coming to a halt in a spray of ice.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Yuri fussed.  Viktor looked up and blinked at him, taking in Yuri’s causal manner.  It was the first time Yuri had initiated a conversation with him since Nationals and he didn’t want to let the opportunity slip away.

“Nothing, Yura,” Viktor replied mildly, looking back down at his phone.  He couldn’t appear too eager. Yuri scoffed and put his hands on the barrier.

“Bullshit,” Yuri said.  “I’ve been yelling at you for half a minute now and you just sat there like you didn’t hear me with your head buried in your phone.  What are you doing, talking to Katsudon?” Yuri peered over the barrier in a vain attempt to get a look at Viktor’s phone.

Viktor raised an eyebrow at him and put it down.  “No, I wasn’t talking to Yuuri, I was looking up Asian markets and trying to decide which one to visit next.”

“Why don’t you just wait until he gets here?” Yuri said. “He’ll be here in twelve days, right?  That’s not that long.”

Viktor bit his lip to keep from smirking.  So, he wasn’t the only one counting the days until Yuuri arrived, was he?  He thought about asking Yuri why he knew how long it would be, but the answer was obvious.  Viktor put his phone back in his bag and slipped off his skateguards.

“I thought about that,” Viktor said, stepping out onto the ice beside Yuri.  “But I thought it would be nice to have an idea where to take him when he gets here.  I didn’t want the first market we visited to have no selection. I’ve been to a couple already, but I’m still not finding everything I need.”

Yuri nodded as they began to skate, slowly lapping the rink while they talked.

“Yeah, some of them are shitty,” Yuri said, “but there are a couple that are pretty good.  Have you been to Nippon Market yet?”

“I haven’t,” Viktor replied, keeping his tone neutral.  What was Yuri doing?

“Yeah, you probably should have gone there first,” Yuri answered.  “I went to all of them after I got back from Japan. Nippon has the best selection, but Krasnyy is pretty good, too.  It’s expensive, but it’s worth it.”

This time, Viktor didn’t try to hide the smile on his face.  Poor Yuri had only been in Japan a short time, but the country had clearly left a lasting impression on him.

“There’s a restaurant next door to Nippon that has pretty good sushi and ramen,” Yuri volunteered.  “We could go there if you wanted to check it out before Katsudon got here.”

“Thank you,” Viktor said, “that would be wonderful.”  It would be a good chance to see if Yuri was correct in his assessment and also a chance to try to repair things with him as well.  Viktor wasn’t going to pass up this opportunity.

“I have ballet this afternoon with Lilia, but after that, I’m free,” Yuri said.  He sounded almost hopeful…

“I’m training with Yakov until six,” Viktor said.  “We can go after that, if you want.”

Yuri nodded, the ghost of a smile playing over his lips.

“Cool,” he replied, then sped up and began to put some distance between them.  Yakov was eyeing them from across the rink and it was only a matter of time before he scolded them.

“But you’re paying, old man,” Yuri called over his shoulder as he skated away.  Viktor couldn’t help but smile again. Maybe, just maybe, they were finally on the mend.

“You were right,” Viktor said later that evening as he sat beside Yuri in the restaurant.  “The food here is pretty good.” Yuri rolled his eyes at him over his bowl and slurped his noodles off his chopsticks. 

“Told you,” Yuri answered.  There was no heat in his words, for which Viktor was grateful.  But there was still a little tension in the air. While Viktor was trying to figure out the best way to break it, Yuri sighed and looked up at him.

“I was pretty mad at you for awhile,” he said. “I was mad that you forgot all about what you promised me and just took off for Japan.  I get why you did it now and it’s cool, but I was still angry.”

Viktor set his chopsticks down, giving his full attention to Yuri.  Yuri had every right to be angry with him.

“I am sorry that I left like I did,” Viktor said, “but you did win the gold, just like I said you would.”

“And I had to chase your ass halfway around the world to get you to choreograph the program you promised me,” Yuri said.  “That was shit, Viktor.”

Viktor pursed his lips in thought.  Yuri was right. What he had done to Yuri was thoughtless and wrong. But they were talking now...

“And then you decided you wanted to come back to Russia,” Yuri spat out.  “I was so mad… I was ready to kick your ass! Everyone was in your shadow while you were here!  It was always ‘Viktor, Viktor, Viktor!’ It was stifling. Then you left and we were free. I won the gold and you decided you wanted to come back?”  Yuri shook his head and let out a harsh breath. “No, Viktor, just… no. Fuck that.”

Yuri turned to look at him with a gaze that should have frozen him to the core.

“And then you won Nationals,” Yuri muttered.  His shoulders dropped and suddenly Viktor was reminded of how very young Yuri really was, something he tended to forget.  “That sucked.”

Viktor took a deep breath and sighed.  He’d inadvertently hurt Yuri far worse than he ever realized.  It would take them some time to get back to where they’d been, if it was even possible.  But Yuri had taken the first step. He could take the next.

“I won my first gold medal as a senior at the Olympics,” Viktor said quietly.  “I was seventeen and on top of the world. The next year at Nationals, I was under so much pressure that I skated poorly and placed fourth.   Fourth .  I missed the podium by three tenths of a point.  I got to watch the medal ceremony from the stands.  The year before, I’d placed first at Nationals.” Viktor shook his head, remembering the bitterness and the sting of the loss.  “The stress and the pressure to do better than everyone else were intense. But after that, I learned how to channel it and let it inspire me instead of crush me.  And I never missed the podium again.”

He looked over at Yuri and smiled at him ruefully.

“I think maybe the same thing happened to you,” Viktor said quietly.  “In time, I think you will learn how to handle the stress and not have these problems again.”

Yuri said nothing for a while, just looked at Viktor, chopsticks in hand.  Then a tiny smirk appeared on his face.

“I’m gonna kick your ass, old man.  You just watch me. I’ll win gold again.”

“I don’t doubt you will,” Viktor replied, picking his chopsticks back up.  “But don’t think for a minute that I won’t make you work for it.”

Yuri was right again.  There wasn’t a lot on the shelves and the prices were high, but the selection in the store was good, the best he’d seen so far.  The store mainly had pre-packaged, non-perishable goods. He could always pick up the fresh ingredients at the second store he’d visited if they weren’t available at the regular supermarkets.

Viktor found the brand of hondashi Hiroko used and put it in his basket, pleased he’d finally found it.  But which noodles should he get for ramen? He was in the middle of composing a text to Yuuri asking that very question when Yuri looked over at his screen.  Without missing a beat, he picked up two packages and put them in Viktor’s basket.

“Get these,” he said.  “The others are crap.”

Viktor gave him a smile as Yuri went back to looking at the bento on display on one of the tables in the shop.  Quickly he snapped a picture of Yuri, his back to the camera, completely absorbed by the bento.

I have a helper today, Viktor texted to Yuuri, sending the picture of Yuri along with it.  He didn’t get an immediate reply. Poor Yuuri was probably sleeping. Well, he had worn him out last night, even if it had been from quite some distance...

As he headed for the checkout stand, Viktor passed the bottles of hair products.  One stood out—a white bottle with an illustration of peaches and blossoms on the branch of a tree.  It was the same bottle that had been in the Katsuki family shower when he had arrived. He took the bottle off the shelf, opened the cap, and inhaled.  Yes, it was the same delicate scent that had been in Yuuri’s hair the first time he’d buried his nose in it. Viktor smiled and put the bottle in his basket.  When he got home, he could wash his hair and have that little bit of Yuuri here with him.

Before he made it to the counter, Yuri dropped some Pocky and a yuzu flavored soda in his basket.  He looked up at Yuri with a questioning look on his face, only to find Yuri playfully smirking back at him from under his hoodie. 

Viktor snorted and shook his head.  They weren’t back to the level that they had been before he left for Japan, but they were getting there, step by step.  And for now, Viktor would take it and be grateful.

Chapter Text

Yuuri came in the back way from practice, music filling the kitchen while his mother cooked.  She’d loved the speakers he’d gotten for her. Tonight she was going to show him how to make dashi from scratch, and even though he was tired, he was looking forward to it.  The prepackaged hondashi was good, but it always tasted better when it was homemade.

As he made his way towards the stairs to drop off his backpack in his room and grab a quick shower, Mari passed him in the hallway.

“You got some mail today,” she said as she headed outside for a cigarette.

“I did?” Yuuri replied, hoping it was the paperwork for his visa that he’d been waiting on. 

“Yeah,” she replied.  “Dad’s got it up at the front.”

Yuuri’s exhaustion vanished in an instant and he raced to the registration desk.  When his father saw him, he smiled and reached under the counter.

“Did it come in?” Yuuri asked, anxious and excited.  He only had eight days left before he was due to move to Saint Petersburg and this was cutting it close.  What had happened to Japanese efficiency? Or had his visa been snarled in Russian red tape? He bounced on his feet, ready to get the envelope and rip it open.

“Not yet,” his father said.  Instantly, Yuuri deflated. When was it going to get here?

“You got something else,” his father said, pulling a small cardboard box from under the counter. “I’m pretty sure you’ll like it.” 

Yuuri took the box and recognized Viktor’s neat handwriting on the label.  Viktor had told him to be on the lookout for something in the mail, but he had thought it would be small, like a card or something, not an actual package.

Yuuri clutched the package to his chest like it was precious treasure.  “Thank you!” he called over his shoulder as he rushed away, eager to get back to his room to open it.

Yuuri closed the door and set the package on his desk.  He put his backpack in the chair and pulled a pair of scissors out of his desk drawer.  Gently, he sliced through the tape, careful not to pierce the box or its contents.

What was in it?  What had Viktor sent him? 

Carefully, Yuuri opened the box.  Nestled in several layers of bubble wrap was a much smaller gift-wrapped package, along with a folded piece of plain white paper.  Eagerly, he pulled the contents out and sat down on his bed.

With shaking hands, he put the gift-wrapped package in his lap and unfolded the note.  Viktor’s handwriting graced the page and he could feel his heart racing in excitement.

Hello my sweet Yuuri!

You will need this when you get here.  I will see you in three weeks!

All of my love,

Viktor

Yuuri wiped away tears of joy and clutched the note to his chest.  Viktor had written to him! He kissed the page and slipped it under his pillow.  It was just a few words, but he was sure he’d want to look at it again later.

He shifted his attention to the present in his lap, wrapped in shiny blue paper.  It was tempting to just rip it open and see what was inside, but he took his time instead.  He slipped a finger under the tape and pulled the paper off, revealing a black velvet jewelry box. 

Yuuri’s eyes went wide.  The box was too big for a ring, or even a pair of them.  It was too big even a necklace. What could it be? He moved it back and forth in his hand and he could feel something heavy moving back and forth inside.

Biting his lower lip, Yuuri opened it, revealing a brass keyring in the shape of a seated poodle.  On the ring there was a single, shiny key that looked brand new.

With a shaking hand, Yuuri reached into the small box, took hold of the keyring, and pulled it out.  He held it in the palm of his hand, feeling its solid weight.

It was a key to Viktor’s apartment.  Viktor had sent him his own key !

When the tears of joy came, he didn’t even try to stop them.   All he could do for a few moments was sit there and stare at the key.  A gleeful squeak escaped his lips and he brought the key and its ring up to his lips and kissed them.

He needed to call Viktor and thank him for the gift right now...  Hastily, he grabbed his phone and glanced at the time. It was just after four in the afternoon, so it would be a little past ten in Saint Petersburg.  Viktor would be at the rink practicing. He probably shouldn’t disturb him, but he wanted to let Viktor know that he’d gotten his package.

Yuuri didn’t even bother with a text.  He pulled up FaceTime and selected Viktor in his contacts.  While he waited for the call to connect, he looked down at the key and smiled. 

A key.  He had his very own key !

As soon as he saw Viktor’s flushed face fill his screen, he started crying again.

“What’s wrong, Yuuri?” Viktor said, immediately switching from happy to worried.

Yuuri didn’t trust himself to speak: his throat was too tight, so he simply held up the key on its ring in front of the camera.

Viktor’s concern melted away in an instant and he smiled.  It was like the sun coming out from behind the clouds, warm and radiant.

“I see you got my present,” Viktor said.  “Are those happy tears I see then?”

Yuuri nodded, still unable to trust his voice.

“It’s only a week before you get to use it,” Viktor said.  “It took longer to get there than I thought it would. I was beginning to get worried.”

Yuuri could only look at him, too overcome to say anything.  Finally, he managed, “I love you, Vitya.”

Viktor smiled at him, that soft smile he loved so much, and was about to say something when the phone jostled.  Yuri’s blond head entered the frame next to Viktor’s and he peered at Yuuri for half a second before he turned to Viktor, snarling.

“What’s wrong with Katsudon?” Yuri accused.  “What did you do, asshole?”

Viktor blinked in confusion.  Before he could answer, Mila poked her head into the shot, all smiles.

“Hi Yuuri!” she said, but her elation was replaced by confusion and concern when she looked at him.  “Oh no, is everything okay?”

“Viktor upset him,” Yuri provided.  Viktor tried to explain, but neither Yuri nor Mila would let him talk, both too busy fussing at him in Russian.  Sniffling, Yuuri held up the key to the camera again so everyone could see it.

“Would you all quit yelling at me and actually look at Yuuri?” Viktor chided, a slight frown on his face as he pointed at the screen.  “ That’s why Yuuri is crying.  I sent him a key to the apartment.  He’s not upset, he’s happy .”

Immediately, Mila’s frown vanished and she cooed in delight, her blue eyes sparkling.  Yuri’s grimace faded some, but not entirely. He looked at Yuuri and scoffed.

“You’re crying over a key?” he said, like it was ridiculous.  Maybe it was, but Yuuri didn’t care. He wasn’t just crying because he’d gotten a key .  It was so much more than that.  He was crying because getting a key to Viktor’s apartment showed how much he loved Yuuri and how committed he was to him and their relationship.  It was a symbol, just like their rings, of commitment.

Could he properly explain that to Yuri?  Probably not, at least not without sounding like the biggest sap on the planet.  Instead, he shrugged and nodded. Yuri shook his head and sighed.

“You two are gonna do all that mushy shit when you get here, aren’t you?”

Now it was Viktor’s turn to nod, a sappy smile spreading over his face. 

“We’re looking forward to your arrival, Yuuri!” Mila said.  In the background, Yuuri could hear Yakov yelling, probably telling them to get back on the ice.  Mila grinned and waved at them as she disappeared from view and Yuri smirked as he skated away.

“I need to get back to practice,” Viktor said, “but I’m glad the key finally arrived.”  Yakov bellowed again and Yuuri saw him in the background approaching Viktor.

“Thank you,” Yuuri managed.  “I’ll… I’ll see you soon, Vitya.”

Viktor was about to sign off when Yakov appeared in the frame, talking and squinting.  Yuuri caught his last name in the string of Russian and Viktor nodded, handing him the phone.  Yakov’s craggy visage filled his tiny screen.

“Have you gotten your paperwork yet?” Yakov asked.  “Vitya said it was taking a while to get there.” Yuuri wiped at his eyes and shook his head.

“No, sir,” he said respectfully.  “Not yet. But it should be here soon.”

Yakov pursed his lips and hummed.  “Well, if it does not get there before you are due to leave, do not worry about it.  Sometimes delays happen and this would not be the first time a skater has arrived before their paperwork.  You can skate here as a guest until it does.”

Yuuri drew in a sharp breath, grateful that Yakov had answered the question he’d been afraid to ask. 

“Thank you, sir,” he said, bowing his head. “I appreciate that very much!  It’s very kind of you.”

Yakov merely grunted and said, “We will see you in a little over a week.  We can talk more about it then if we need to.” He handed the phone back to Viktor, who looked as surprised as Yuuri felt.

“Oh, Yuuri,” Viktor breathed, “that’s wonderful!”  Yuuri nodded in reply, giddy and excited all over again.

After Viktor signed off, Yuuri sat on his bed, looking at the key in his hand again.  This was real, really real. In just over a week, he was going to go live with Viktor in Russia!  He kissed the key and the poodle ring again, then put them on his desk and headed off for his much delayed shower.

Two days later, Yuuri settled himself on the tatami mat and pulled out a stick of incense from the bundle on the table.  He lit it and set it in the burner, making sure the ashes would fall in the sand and not make a mess.

He looked over at the urn and the picture of himself as a young boy with Vicchan.  He had been such a good and wonderful puppy, full of boundless energy and love. When it came time for bed, Vicchan had always followed Yuuri to his room, happy to curl up beside him.  On the days when he was feeling anxious, or like he wanted to be alone, Vicchan would come and nose his way under the covers and press himself against Yuuri’s side and gently lick his face as though to say, ‘It’ll be okay.’

Vicchan had never made him feel like he was anything less for being upset.  Vicchan had been pure love, exactly what he’d needed. Vicchan had simply accepted him as he was.

Yuuri blinked back tears and sighed.  How he’d wanted to take Vicchan to America with him, but it had been impractical.  Pets weren’t allowed in dorms and not all apartment complexes permitted them, either.  His family had loved Vicchan, too, and it had been better for him to stay with them in the home he’d grown up in than to make the long, uncertain trip to America.  But still...

“I’m sorry I didn’t come home sooner, Vicchan,” Yuuri said, his voice barely above a whisper.  It seemed somehow wrong to speak in any other manner in this small and sacred space.

“I thought we would have more time together.  I didn’t realize it would be so short.”

He knotted his hands together in his lap and looked down.  Oh, what he would give to be able to run along the beach with Vicchan again, to have him nipping playfully at his heels.  How he wished he could scoop him up in his arms and hold him close, just one more time.

Tears slid down Yuuri’s cheeks and he sighed.  Vicchan had been such a good dog and he was grateful for the time they’d had together, even if it didn’t seem like anywhere near enough.

“I’m leaving again,” Yuuri murmured, looking at the picture of the two of them.  “This time I’m going to Russia. I… I met Viktor, and he’s even more wonderful than I could have ever imagined.  I met Makkachin, too. You would have liked them so much, and they would have loved you...”

For a moment, Yuuri wondered what it would have been like if Vicchan could have met Viktor and Makkachin.  He could picture them all running together on the beach, Vicchan racing after Makkachin as she loped along the shore.  He could see the dogs curled up together on the bed, sharing a sunbeam as they slept. Vicchan probably would have parked himself right by Viktor as he ate, the very picture of innocence, patiently waiting for a bite of katsudon at the end of dinner.

Yuuri smiled through his tears.  Viktor would have loved Vicchan and Vicchan would have loved Viktor.  He sat by Vicchan’s urn for some time, lost in childhood memories and thoughts of what could have been.  After a while, he looked up and saw that the incense had burned down and the shadows in the room were growing long with the end of the day. 

Stiffly, he unfolded his legs and stood.  His mother expected him in the kitchen and there were towels that needed to be folded for the guests coming in tomorrow. 

“Thank you for being there for me, Vicchan,” he whispered.  “You brought joy to my life and I’m grateful we got to walk along the same path together, if only for a little while.” 

With a sigh, he took one last look back at the altar and Vicchan’s beautiful urn before he slid the door shut and headed towards the kitchen.

“Did you make this?” his father asked, holding up a piece of simmered daikon in his chopsticks. 

Yuuri nodded around a mouthful of broccoli.  Despite the fact that he was cooking dinner for the family and the occasional guest now, he was sticking to his regimen of steamed broccoli and noodles.  For the most part. His mother made him eat a little of what he cooked for them. How else could he tell if it was any good?

“This is good, really good,” his father said, popping it into his mouth.  “It’s as good as your mother’s.”

“It’s better,” Mari chimed in, then cast an apologetic glance at their mother.  “Sorry, but it is.”

“You’re right,” his mother agreed.  “It is better because I taught him how to make dashi.  That stuff in the box is good when you’re cooking for a lot of customers or when you’re busy, but if you have the time to make proper dashi, it makes all the difference.”

Yuuri looked around, a little embarrassed.  No one had ever complimented his cooking before except for Phichit and they’d been poor college students.  Anything that wasn’t instant ramen or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich was a gourmet meal as far as they’d been concerned.

“Viktor’s a lucky man,” his father murmured.  “You sure we can’t convince him to move back?”

Laughter circled the table.  Yuuri tucked back into his broccoli and noodles, his mind elsewhere.  His visa paperwork had finally arrived, with only five days to spare. He had it packed away, along with his new key and passport, in his carry-on for the plane.  There was no way he was going to take a chance on that getting misplaced or lost.

Mari and his mother took their plates back to the kitchen, and Yuuri was about to join them when his father spoke up.

“Let me see that ring on your finger again,” he said.  Yuuri put his plate back on the table and extended his hand.  His father peered at it through his glasses and nodded. Thinking he was done, Yuuri moved to pick up his plate.

“Don’t go yet,” his father said.  “Have a seat.”

Yuuri obediently sat back down, wondering what this was about.  His father didn’t speak until he’d finished his last piece of daikon.  Yuuri waited patiently, the very picture of the dutiful son.

“That’s a nice ring,” his father said at last, thoughtful.  “I’m glad you found someone who loves you as much as you love them.  That’s good, you know?”

Yuuri nodded, uncertain where this was going.

“I’m sure you know by now that relationships aren’t always easy,” his father said quietly.  Yuuri nodded and hung his head. God, how he’d hurt Viktor when he said those awful words, ‘ Let’s end this .’  He’d been so thoughtless—

“You take the good with the bad,” his father said, shaking him out of his dark thoughts. “That’s what being an adult in a relationship is all about.  As long as you can talk to your spouse honestly and they can talk to you in the same way, you’ll be alright.”

His father took a sip from his small cup of tea and sighed.

“When I married your mother, I thought it was going to be rainbows and sunshine all the time.”  He looked off into the distance and huffed out a laugh. “It wasn’t. We’ve had our issues, just like any couple does.  But I know there’s no one else I would want to spend my life with than her. If I had to do it all over again, I would choose your mother every single time.  I’m glad I get to grow old with her.” He reached up and wiped a single tear away from under his glasses.

“Enjoy the good days and be there for him when he’s down, Yuuri.  Make sure he does the same for you.”

Yuuri swallowed the lump in his throat and nodded.

“I—I will, Father,” he whispered.  “Thank you for the advice.”

His father smiled and got up, putting a hand to his back once he was standing.  “Damn, I’m getting old,” he muttered as he gathered his plate and walked towards the kitchen. Yuuri followed behind him, but hung back when he saw his father come up beside his mother and tenderly kiss her cheek.

Yuuri hoped that he and Viktor would still love one another as much as his parents did when they got old.

“Yuuri,” Minako asked the next night, twirling sake around in her glass, “do you know how to twerk?”

Yuuri almost choked on his own drink.  Next to him, Mari sputtered and coughed.  He was thankful it was just the three of them in the dining room at this late hour.  If anyone else had heard that, especially a customer, he would have died right there on the spot. 

“W—what?” Yuuri replied when he got his composure back.  Both Mari and Minako were laughing. Mari took a drag off her cigarette as she refilled their glasses.

“Well, since you know how to pole dance—and I never saw that one coming—what else do you know?” Minako gave him a sly, if somewhat inebriated, smile.  “ Can you twerk?”

“Why?” Yuuri asked, bolstered by liquid courage.  “Do you want me to teach you how or something?”

Minako let out a loud guffaw and slapped the table.  Mari laughed so hard she started snorting. Yuuri allowed himself a satisfied smirk as he drained his glass and reached for the bottle to pour another drink.  But the bottle was empty—how in the hell did that happen? He would have sworn they just opened the damn thing… Whatever. He got up and fetched two more bottles from the stockroom, because the way this night was going, the bottles were going to go quickly.

“Ooh, you got me there, Yuuri,” Minako muttered, taking one of the fresh bottles from him and cradling it in her lap.

“I’ve got to hand it to you,” Minako continued once he was seated and filling their empty glasses, “you’ve done well.  I—I still can’t believe our Yuuri, our sweet and shy little Yuuri , went to his first Grand Prix and managed to seduce none other than Viktor Nikiforov !” 

She raised her glass and did her best not to sway.

“Here’s to Yuuri, the world’s sexiest damn KATSUDON!”

Mari raised her glass as well, and Yuuri couldn’t help but smile at the thought.  If only he could remember doing it… He picked up his glass, only to cry out at finding it empty. Again. When had that happened?

They all laughed and Mari poured some of her sake into his glass.  They clinked their glasses together and toasted him, then rapidly drained them.

“You… still haven’t answered… my question,” Minako slurred.

“What question?” Yuuri asked.  What had she asked him again? Did she ask him a question?

“Can you twerk?” she asked, sending Mari back into fits of laughter.

“Oh my God,” Yuuri said, hiding his face behind his hand.

“C’mon Yuuri,” Minako yowled, “quit holding out on us!  Show us what you’ve got! Shake your moneymaker!”

With a heavy sigh, Yuuri set his glass down on the table and slowly stood up.  He turned around and threw his right hip out, giving the two women a spectacular view of his rear, then placed a hand on his hip and tossed them a look over his shoulder.  Mari chortled and Minako gave him a wolf whistle to egg him on.

“So, you want to know if I can twerk, do you?” Yuuri said, taking off his glasses and running his hands through his hair, pushing it back from his forehead.

“Oh my God, it’s Eros Yuri!” Minako howled, taking a drink.  Next to her, Mari had dissolved into giggles and had fallen over onto the floor. 

If he was going to do this— could he do this? did he even really know how ?—he needed proper motivation.  His sister and his ballet coach were definitely not it.  Yuuri imagined that Viktor was sitting between them and tossed a smoldering look in that direction.  He stood there for a second, hoping that muscle memory would take over. He and Phichit had tried twerking a couple of times and had even taken video of it, but they’d just looked silly doing it and deleted the files.

If Viktor had really been there, encouraging him, then maybe he could have done it.  Or maybe if he had some music. But as it was...

“Nope,” he replied, embarrassed and breaking down into his own fit of laughter.  Minako’s face fell.

“Are you serious?  All that buildup and the answer is ‘nope’?  You’re such a tease…”

“But I’ll bet Chris can,” he replied, picking up his glass.

“Oh yeah, I’m sure,” Minako responded, a wicked gleam in her eye.  “Damn, how I’d love to see that… Maybe, at next year’s Grand Prix, you and Viktor can get him drunk and get him to twerk.  Then you can record it and share it with me.” She took a drink and smiled at him over the top of her glass, suddenly thoughtful.

“Seriously, I never thought I’d be jealous of you,” Minako murmured.  “You were always so quiet, so sweet and innocent. Now here you are, going off to live in Russia, with Viktor in his apartment.”  She sighed expressively. “I am so damn jealous of you.”

“Well, I’m happy for you,” Mari said.  They both turned to look at her.

“Seriously, I’m happy for you.  God knows you’ve had enough shit to deal with in your life.  You deserve some happiness, and it’s about time, if you ask me.  So go be happy, okay?” Mari pushed herself up from the table and stood, swaying slightly as she took a final drag from her cigarette.

“Now then.  I’m drunk and I have to work in the morning, so I’m going to bed.”   She yawned and headed towards the stairs. “You two don’t stay up too late.”

“I should go to bed, too,” Yuuri said, standing up carefully.  “I have to get up early tomorrow.”

“Why?” Minako said.  “You don’t fly out for another four days, and I know you’re done at my studio and the Ice Castle.”

“I’m signing more photos for my parents,” Yuuri replied, grabbing the empty bottles off the table and taking them to the trash.  “It’s going to be a lot harder for me to autograph pictures once I’m in Russia.”

He turned to look at Minako, who was intently studying her phone.  She hit a couple of buttons and then smiled to herself, satisfied.

“My Uber is on the way,” she crowed.  Together, they walked to the main entrance to wait for her ride and leaned against the front desk, grateful for its solid support.

“Thank you for believing in me,” Yuuri said after a long pause.  She reached up and ruffled his hair in a playful manner.

“Of course,” she replied.  “I always believed in you. Why do you think I pushed you to start skating all those years ago?  I knew you had potential, but I also knew your fluid moves would be better on the ice than on the stage.  Nice to see I was right. Now you just gotta learn to believe in yourself, Yuuri.”

He stuck his hands in his pockets and bit his lower lip.  He knew he wasn’t completely there yet, and maybe he never would be, but he was closer than he’d ever been before. And he knew now that he had a lot of support that he could rely on, support he’d never realized had been there.

“I’m working on it,” he said as a car pulled up outside.

“Good,” Minako answered.  She leaned over and kissed his cheek, like a mother would kiss her child.  “That’s all I ask.” She walked out the door and towards the car. Yuuri watched her confirm the identity of the driver and she waved at him as she got in and drove away.

Yuuri was glad he’d made her proud.  He sincerely hoped he would continue to do so for a long time to come.

 

The Nishigoris had him over for dinner the next evening.  The girls were all over him, asking him if he was ready to move to Russia.  He assured them he was, that he had plenty of cold weather clothes and had been practicing his Russian when he could.  They were such adorable little mother hens.

“You’ll come back to visit, yes?”  Loop said, serious and intense despite her young age.

“I will,” Yuuri promised.  He meant it, too.

“Will you bring Viktor with you?” asked Axel.

Lutz leaned across the table and fixed him with a serious stare.  “Will you bring Makkachin?”

“Girls!” Yuuko yelped, exasperated. “Please let Yuuri eat.  You’re pestering him with so many questions!”

“Oh, it’s fine,” Yuuri said.  And it was. He was glad he had the Nishigoris in his life, too.  They had been such good friends for so long...

After dinner, they went into the family room, where the girls were playing with his old keyboard.  It had been years since he’d played and it was too expensive to ship it to Russia. He’d given it to the girls in hopes that they would enjoy it as much as he had.

Loop sat down behind the keyboard, trying to pick out a tune while her sisters played next to her. 

Yuuri sat down opposite Yuuko and Takeshi, sipping sake from a small cup.  He was excited to go, but sad that this phase of his life was ending.

At one point in the evening, Lutz came up behind her sister and hit a switch on the keyboard.  The tinkling notes vanished, replaced with fart noises.

“Ooh, stop it !  You’re ruining it!” Loop yelled, slapping Lutz on the arm.  But both Lutz and Axel were too busy laughing and reached around their sister to hit the keys, filling the room with rude sounds. 

Yuuri couldn’t help but laugh.  Takeshi had done the same thing when they were kids.  He’d been upset at first, but in the end they’d just ended up sitting in his room for over an hour, giggling at their own silliness.

He looked over at Takeshi and Yuuko, sitting side by side on the couch, laughing at the antics of their children.  Suddenly, he remembered how bad he’d felt in Seoul, thinking that his own inadequacies had cost them family time. But he could see that they still found time to be a family, despite everything.

Yuuri placed his cup on the table and sat back, gathering his courage.  It was now or never.

“I’m sorry I didn’t do better for you,” he said, knotting his hands together in his lap.

“What are you talking about?” Yuuko replied.  Takeshi was looking at him too, a confused expression on his face.

“I know that if I had done better when I skated, you would have had more time together to be a family,” he said quietly.  “I know you always had to be at the Ice Castle because the owners couldn’t afford to have more employees. If I had done better, more people would go, they would hire more people, and you could have had more time with the girls.”

Takeshi snorted and shook his head. 

“Don’t put that on yourself, Yuuri,” he said.  “The owners don’t hire more people because they’re cheap.  Even if you had won a gold medal every single time you skated, things would have been the same.  They wouldn’t have hired more people. They haven’t even changed the carpet in ten years and it needs it, believe me.”

Yuuko leaned forward and put her hand on his knee.

“Yuuri, do you think the Ice Castle doesn’t have a lot of customers because of you?”

Mutely, he nodded.  When he’d won silver at the Grand Prix, they’d had a flood of people.  So had Minako. And his family’s onsen was still booked through next month.  What else could it be?

“Oh, Yuuri, that’s wrong, okay?” she said gently.  “It’s not because of you. People are excited right now, yes, but it’ll fade.  It always does. It’s seasonal. We always have more people in the winter. Yes, you did give it a bump, but they don’t go away because of you.  They go away because ice skating is hard and interest wanes. And a lot of people have moved. Hasetsu is smaller than it was when we were growing up.  Please don’t blame yourself.”

Yuuri took a deep breath and sighed.  He wanted to believe this, but it was hard, so hard—

“It’s not your fault, Yuuri,” Takeshi said, patting his shoulder.  “I could show you the books and let you see for yourself, but the higher ups would frown on it.  Trust me, this is the pattern. It ebbs and flows.”

Yuuri nodded and wiped at the tears in his eyes, giving them a wan smile.  Takeshi refilled their cups of sake and raised his glass. Yuuko did the same and Yuuri joined in. 

“To you, Yuuri,” he said.  “May you have continued success in your ice skating career until you retire and may you find joy and happiness in Russia!”

They clinked their glasses together and drank.  An alarm went off on Yuuko’s phone and she stood up.

“Okay, girls, time for your bath and then bed,” she said, getting up to herd the triplets to the bathroom.  In unison, the girls all whined, but they did as their mother told them to do. Before they headed off, they came over to hug Yuuri and wish him well.

What was it Takeshi had told him on his first day back at the Ice Castle?   The Nishigoris have got your back .  They really did, and they always had.  He was grateful that he had such good friends and that they would remain as such, even from afar.

Chapter Text

Yuuri sat in the front seat of the van as his father drove to the airport in Fukuoka, nervous and fidgety.  His heart felt like it was racing a million miles a minute, and if he weren’t stuck in a moving vehicle, he would have been up and out of his seat, pacing about like a tiger in a cage.  He ran his hands over his backpack, reassured by its solid presence in his lap. It would be his carry-on and didn’t hold much, just his skates and his paperwork and his key, all of which were invaluable to him.  

He'd gotten up early, intending to make himself a quick breakfast, only to find that his mother was already up and had made it for him.  Mari was up too, shuffling about groggily in the kitchen while she had her usual breakfast of a cup of black coffee and a cigarette. When he went into the private family dining room, he’d been surprised to find Minako and the Nishigoris there as well, clustered around a table and sharing a meal together.

Yuuri had blinked at them in wonder.  Why were they all here at such an early hour?  Had they come to see him off? He smiled, touched by the gesture.  He had such good friends… Yuuri was so nervous it was hard to eat, but he made himself do it.  Airline snacks and meals weren’t exactly the best fare. Besides, it would be a long time before he would eat one of his mother’s home-cooked meals again.  He wanted to savor it.

In sixteen hours, he would be in Russia, in Viktor’s arms again.  He sighed, trying not to cry. He missed Viktor so much that it was a physical ache in his chest.  But the waiting was almost over. They were almost there...

When breakfast was done, everyone stopped to hug him and take one last round of pictures with him.  Takeshi and Yuuko had to leave to get the girls to school and to open the Ice Castle. Minako gratefully accepted their offer of a ride to her studio.  Yuuri watched them all drive away, waving the whole time.

And then it was just Yuuri and his family.  Oh, but it hurt so much to say goodbye…

Mari bit her lip and hugged him, fierce and tight.

“Be good to yourself, okay?” she said, her voice strained.  Yuuri nodded and laughed when she reached up and ruffled his hair the way she had when they were kids.

His mother hugged him as well.  “I wish I could go with you to the airport,” she said, “but we have a lot of people checking in this morning.”

Yuuri nodded. They had responsibilities and he understood that.  Last week, he’d offered to take the train to make it easier on them, but his father wouldn’t hear of it.

“Don’t worry about the train,” he’d said.  “It’s tradition. I drove you to Fukuoka when you moved to Detroit.  I’ll drive you to Fukuoka now that you’re moving to Saint Petersburg.”

And now here they were at the airport, pulling up at arrivals and departures.  His father turned on the hazards and he put the van in park. Yuuri got out and pulled his two suitcases and his carry-on out of the van.  The skycap came over and loaded his luggage onto the cart and placed the tags on as well. Yuuri thanked him and turned to his father, who pulled him into a tight hug. 

For a moment, they just stood there, hugging one another.  But Yuuri had to do the curbside check-in and his father needed to get back to the inn.  Reluctantly, Yuuri pulled away, blinking back tears.

“If you need anything,” his father said, his eyes shining, “you let us know.”

“I will,” Yuuri replied and watched his father get back into the van.  He waved at Yuuri as he drove away, headed back to Hasetsu.

Yuuri took a deep breath as the roar of an airplane taking off momentarily drowned out all other sounds.  It was hard to say goodbye and close the book on this part of his life, but at the end of this journey, Viktor would be there, waiting for him.  And they would start the new chapter together.

Smiling, he turned and headed for the curbside check-in desk and the flight attendant waiting for him.

Viktor stuck his hands in his pockets and began to pace again.  It wasn’t productive, not in the least, but it was better than obsessively checking his phone every fifteen seconds.  He looked out the window at the snowstorm raging outside and sighed. Of all the times for a blizzard to roll into Saint Petersburg, it would just have to happen on the day that Yuuri was arriving.

Fretting, Viktor pulled himself away from the window and walked the length of the terminal, all but deserted at this late hour.  The only people who were here were either employees or those waiting on someone to arrive on one of the delayed flights. A young couple napped along one of the walls, their heads pillowed on their suitcases.  Viktor hoped they wouldn’t get stranded at the airport. It happened, but not often.

He scowled and sat down and looked at the screens displaying arrivals and departures.  Yuuri’s flight should have been here hours ago, but it had just departed Moscow, delayed because of bad weather.  Had everything gone smoothly, they would already have been at home. Yuuri would’ve eaten the katsudon Viktor made for him and then they would have gone to bed and properly celebrated their reunion.  Instead, the katsudon was sitting in the refrigerator, Yuuri was sitting on a plane, and he was sitting in a damned airport terminal. He ran his fingers through his bangs and grumbled in frustration.

Viktor had been so excited that the day was finally here that he’d barely slept last night.  Now he was tired and cranky and upset over the weather delays, but there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it.

Why in the hell did a blizzard have to hit today?  Couldn’t it have waited until tomorrow? They had the day off and a blizzard would have been the perfect excuse to stay in.  But with a delay like this, Viktor’s own lack of sleep, and poor Yuuri’s jetlag, tomorrow was probably ruined too. They’d probably spend most of the day in bed, just like he’d planned, but they’d actually spend it sleeping. 

Viktor put his elbow on the armrest and put his chin in his hand.  God, he was tired. He could close his eyes for just a moment and get a little rest...

He must have dozed off, because the next thing he knew, there was a woman speaking over the announcement system saying the flight had arrived.  Rubbing at his eyes, Viktor sat up straight in his chair and peered out the window. A plane was slowly rolling up to the gate, barely visible through the driving snow.  Viktor’s pulse began to race and he stood up and walked to the window, watching the plane roll into position. He could see the lights coming on inside the cabin and the faint shadows of people moving about.  He bit his lower lip and pressed close to the glass like an overeager child. God, he was so ready for Yuuri to get off that plane!

It seemed to take forever for the walkway to extend to the plane, and then for the passengers to begin disembarking.  Viktor moved to the roped off gate and stood up on the tips of his toes, straining to get a glimpse of the people as they filed off the plane.  His heart skipped a beat when he finally saw Yuuri, his cap pulled down and a white surgical mask over the lower half of his face, anxiously looking around for him—

“YUURI!” he yelled, waving.  Yuuri’s eyes grew wide and even from here, even underneath the surgical mask, Viktor knew he was smiling.

It was all he could do not to try to press through the weary crowd and run forward to greet Yuuri: the security guard at the terminal was watching him like a hawk.  But Yuuri was walking faster, deftly navigating his way through the people who had flown in with him, his eyes aglow as he headed straight for Viktor’s welcoming arms.

“VITYA!” Yuuri sobbed as he stepped into Viktor’s embrace.  Viktor held Yuuri close, holding on to him as if for dear life.  He could hear Yuuri’s rapid breathing in his ear and feel him in his arms, solid and real and finally, finally here.

reunited

 

He pulled back just enough to look at Yuuri as he reached up and pulled the loop of elastic that kept the surgical mask in place from around one ear and then the other.  Yuuri stared up at him as the mask fell away, adoration and love in those deep brown eyes.

Together, they closed the distance between them and met in a kiss.

Oh, how he had missed this.  The feel of Yuuri’s soft lips moving against his was intoxicating, as was the warmth of his mouth and the slide of his tongue against his own.  Yuuri pulled away, breathless, only to lean back in and give him several little pecks which were anything but innocent.

“I’ve missed you so much, Vitya,” Yuuri murmured, tucking a stray lock of Viktor’s hair behind his ear.

“I’ve missed you, Yuuri,” Viktor said, nuzzling Yuuri’s forehead.  “I’m so glad you’re finally here. Let’s go get your bags and go home.”

It was nearly two in the morning by the time they made it home.  Yuuri was exhausted and leaned his head on Viktor’s shoulder in the back of the taxi.  He’d tried to sleep on the flight, but it had been a futile effort. The ride home was slow and cautious due to the blizzard and almost lulled Yuuri to sleep. 

Viktor kissed him, long and slow, through the entire elevator ride up to the apartment.  Yuuri felt weak when they got out, a weakness that had nothing to do with exhaustion.

When they got to the door, Viktor stepped aside, a warm and tired smile spreading over his face.

“Do you want to use your key?” he asked.  Yuuri sucked in a breath and dropped his pack, zipping open the pocket where he’d put the key.  He pulled it out and inserted the key, giddy with excitement when he opened it up for the very first time.

“Welcome to your new home, my love,” Viktor said and leaned in for a soft kiss.

Makkachin greeted him with her usual enthusiasm once they were inside and almost knocked him down.  He laughed, scratching her behind the ears while she licked his face, her tail beating a fast rhythm against the couch.  They took her out for a quick potty run and then went back to their apartment. It really was their apartment, wasn’t it?  Yuuri felt like he was in a dream.

“I have some katsudon for you if you’re hungry,” Viktor said as they removed their coats.  Yuuri was touched at the gesture, but he was too tired to be hungry. However, if Viktor had gone to all the trouble to make katsudon for him, the least he could do was eat a couple of bites. 

Viktor saw his hesitation and leaned in to kiss his forehead.

“You don’t have to eat if you don’t feel like it,” he said.  “Sometimes, I don’t want to eat after a long flight and yours was even longer because of all the delays.  We could have it tomorrow, if you want.”

Yuuri nodded and slipped out of his shoes. 

“It’s always better the next day,” he said, rising up to kiss Viktor.  “Let me send a text to everyone letting them know I’m here and then I want to shower.  I smell like the airplane.”

Viktor laughed softly and leaned in to nuzzle the side of Yuuri’s neck.  “You don’t smell like an airplane,” he murmured, soft and low, burying his nose into Yuuri’s hair and inhaling again. “If anything, you smell like my shampoo.”

“And you smell like peaches,” Yuuri breathed.  He did: he smelled like the peach-scented shampoo that his parents had used for years.  He smelled like home.

Viktor’s only reply was to lean down and very thoroughly kiss Yuuri.  Without realizing they had even been moving, Yuuri ended up with his back against the wall.  Viktor’s hands snaked under his sweatshirt, his fingertips grazing over his stomach, heading lower—

“So,” Viktor purred, sending delicious shivers down Yuuri’s spine, “do you want to take a shower before or after we go to bed?”

They ended up in the shower first.  Yuuri bit his lip and pressed close to Viktor, enjoying the feel of his bare, warm skin next to his.  Oh, he’d missed this so much… He spread his fingers along Viktor’s jaw and pulled him down for a kiss.  He could feel Viktor’s erection pressed close to his, almost side by side, and sighed when Viktor’s hand gripped them both.

Yuuri whimpered into Viktor’s mouth as the water flowed over them and Viktor stroked them, firm and sure.  He sucked in a breath and pressed closer, wanting and needing this like a drowning man needed air. When Viktor dropped down to his knees and took him in his mouth, he gasped, the sharp sound echoing in the small space.  He let his fingers run through Viktor’s hair and stroked his cheek when Viktor looked up at him with a wicked gleam in his eye. Dear God, if Viktor kept that up—

“Come here,” he rasped, urging Viktor to stand again.  Viktor came up and kissed him, pushing him into the tiles.

“I’ve missed you,” Viktor breathed, grinding into him.  “I want you, so much—”

With an effort, Yuuri reached over and turned off the water.

“Then take me to bed and show me.”

In bed, Viktor made him lie down on his back and showered him with kisses.  Yuuri watched as Viktor leaned over and pulled the lubricant and a condom out of the nightstand. He unrolled the condom over Yuuri’s erection, poured lubricant into his hand, and stroked Yuuri through the latex.  When Viktor straddled him, Yuuri stopped him with a hand.

“Wait—” he panted.  “Vitya, you need to-”

“I did before you got here,” Viktor replied, a slow smile spreading over his face.  Yuuri slid his fingers along Viktor’s entrance, finding it slick already. Gently, he pushed a finger inside and it went easily, as did a second one.  God, Viktor had thought of everything.

Yuuri nestled the head of his cock against Viktor’s entrance and put his hands on Viktor’s hips.  Viktor knelt above him, his face flushed and his blue eyes full of desire. Slowly, he lowered himself down and let Yuuri slide in and fill him.

For a moment, they held that position, neither of them moving.  He wanted to keep this image in his mind forever of Viktor poised above him, already so far gone…  Viktor took both of Yuuri’s hands in his and laced their fingers together as he began to languidly rock back and forth, riding him.

Yuuri let Viktor set the pace, let Viktor decide what he wanted and how much.  They started off slow, relaxed and unhurried, taking their time with one another.  But before long, their slow movements had turned into frantic and hungry. Viktor’s hands were pressed against Yuuri’s chest, using his body for leverage, and Yuuri’s hands cradled Viktor’s hips, urging them further down.  Vitkor felt so good, so warm and tight, and it had been so long— Yuuri threw his head back and whined, giving himself over to the sensation of Viktor riding him.

“Let me hear you,” Viktor breathed.  “Don’t… don’t hold back. There’s no one else here, just us.  It’s just us.”

Yuuri moaned, running his hands over Viktor’s chest.  Viktor had urged him to be vocal in Barcelona and it had been wonderful.  In Hasetsu, they’d had to be quiet every time they made love. But they weren’t in Hasetsu anymore.  They were in Saint Petersburg, in bed in their own home for the very first time. And they could do as they pleased however they pleased.

The realization was almost too much, almost enough to send Yuuri right over the edge.

“You feel so good, Vitya, so good.” Yuuri sighed, thrusting his hips upward, making Viktor cry out in pleasure.  He took Viktor in hand and stroked him, hard and fast. The flush had spread down Viktor’s chest and he was making the most wonderful sounds...  Yuuri could feel the warmth and pleasure building up inside of him. He pulled Viktor down into a searing kiss, panting into his mouth as he came.

Afterwards, as Yuuri caught his breath, Viktor leaned over him, tenderly stroking his face and kissing him.  Vaguely, Yuuri realized that Viktor was still hard. He hadn’t come.

“Get up,” Yuuri urged, guiding Viktor to lie down on his back as he pulled the condom off and threw it in the bedside waste basket.  With a smile, he went down on Viktor, taking as much of him as he could in his mouth.

Viktor gasped and cried out, murmuring in broken Russian, his hands sliding into Yuuri’s hair.  Viktor was so close… it wouldn’t take much… Yuuri pulled back and forth, enjoying the sounds coming out of Viktor, the taste and the solid weight of him in his mouth.  He pulled off and licked the length of Viktor’s shaft from base to tip and then greedily went back down on him again.

And then Viktor sighed, soft and gentle, and Yuuri swallowed the bitter, salty tang that flooded the back of his throat.  Tired, he crawled up the bed to lie down beside Viktor, spent and replete.

They lay tangled together in the sheets, kissing and caressing one another for some time.  Eventually, they rose and briefly showered again, then crawled back into bed. Yuuri fell asleep with Viktor curled up around him, warm and happy.

 

Much as Viktor had suspected they would, they spent their off day at home, mostly in bed, mostly sleeping.  Yuuri felt a little bad about it, but not bad enough to actually do anything about it. There were worse ways to spend the first day of the rest of his life with Viktor. 

The next day was Yuuri’s first day at the rink and Viktor’s first day back.  Yuuri insisted on accompanying Viktor to the rink at five to open, even though he didn’t need to actually be there until seven.  After almost a month apart, he wanted every moment he could get with Viktor. He was greedy like that and completely fine with it.  So, apparently, was Viktor.

They trudged to the rink in the early morning darkness, the fingers of their gloved hands laced together as they walked side by side.  Despite the cold and the dark, Yuuri felt warm and bright, basking in Viktor’s mere presence.

When they arrived, Viktor unlocked the front doors and held one open for Yuuri, sweeping a low bow when he walked past.  Viktor flipped on the lights, started a pot of coffee, and gave Yuuri the grand tour of the rink.

It was so strange being here.  Yuuri had seen images of this rink so many times, in still shots and in videos, when he was growing up.  How many times had he watched Viktor skate in this very rink and dreamed of coming here someday? He’d never thought it would really happen.  And yet, here he was.

“Yakov usually gets here at 5:30, so that gives us another ten minutes,” Viktor murmured over his cup of coffee.  Yuuri nodded, taking it all in. He had a nice scarf for Yakov and a bento with a cat on the lid that he’d picked out for Yuri.  Viktor has assured him that Yuri would love it, but he wasn’t so sure—

“Would you care for an early morning skate before he gets here?” Viktor said, a warm glow in his aquamarine eyes.

A shy smile spread over Yuuri’s face.  “That would be wonderful,” he said, putting down his cup and reaching for his backpack and his skates. 

They stepped on the ice together after Viktor turned on the sound system.

“I have a little surprise for you,” Viktor confessed, setting his hands on Yuuri’s waist.  “I hope you like it.”

Yuuri was about to ask what it was when the sweet, mellow sound of violins met his ears.  Immediately Yuuri recognized the song and melted. Etta James, At Last .  A classic love song if ever there was one.  And Viktor was playing it for him

“Oh, Vitya.” Yuuri sighed, reaching up to caress Viktor’s cheek.  Viktor leaned in and kissed Yuuri’s temple, soft and sweet. Smiling, Yuuri rested his hands on Viktor’s shoulders as they began to move on the ice, slowly gliding along in time with the music.  When the vocals came in, rich and smooth as warm honey, Yuuri gazed into Viktor’s eyes and let himself be swept away.

 

At last

My love has come along

My lonely days are over

And life is like a song

 

“I think this song perfectly explains how I feel,” Viktor whispered, holding Yuuri close.  Yuuri only nodded, not trusting his voice.

Slowly, they skated over the ice, pressed close together.  This wasn’t a song for spins and turns and jumps- this was a song for being close to the one you love.  Yuuri let Viktor lead him across the ice and followed his every move. The whole time all he could do was look at Viktor, softly smiling at him with love and adoration in his eyes.

How had he gotten this lucky?

When Viktor cupped his cheek, Yuuri took Viktor’s hand and planted a kiss in the center of his palm.  Yuuri let Viktor lean them into one slow turn and then another, their bodies moving in time with the music.

He never wanted this moment to end.  But end it had to. As the song wound down, they slowed down with it.  Gently, he pulled Viktor down for a long, slow kiss as the last verse came over the speakers.

 

And here we are in heaven

For you are mine...

At last