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Achromatic

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achromatic

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ach·ro·mat·ic | \ˌa-krə-ˈma-tik,  (ˌ)ā-\

1 : refracting light without dispersing it into its constituent colors : giving images practically free from extraneous colors

2 : possessing no hue : being or involving black, grey, or white

 

They say home is where the heart is, but what if you’re not sure you’ve ever had a heart?

The drizzle soaks through Victor’s hair, seeps through his sweater, and splatters up his legs. An umbrella would’ve been a smart idea, but whoever said Victor was smart? Anyone making the claim would be a liar, a fact proven time and again.

No one smart goes out under a sky that’s dark with storms without an umbrella or a rain jacket or some sort of guard against the wet.

No one smart travels halfway across the country to the first house they’ve ever lived in to try and find out what the hell is wrong with them.

No one smart notices the world slowly but surely losing its colors and does nothing about it for years.

Nothing makes sense anymore. The doctors say he’s fine.

But he’s not fine. He hasn’t been fine for a long time.

And this house? It hasn’t been his home for even longer, if it ever was to begin with. There’s nothing remarkable about it. It’s two-story and old—well, as old as anything in America can be. When his parents got off the boat from Russia, they’d told Victor that the house might as well be new at a hundred years old. Even if he can’t feel it now, he can remember the awe that he’d felt at the knowledge.

His parents are long gone, though. His friends have moved onto people that don’t only live and breathe figure skating. Victor doesn’t blame them. He’d rather be one of them, honestly.

“Um, excuse me?”

Victor blinks, far too late in realizing that he’s staring directly at a man. Whether it’s been minutes or seconds, it’s been too long. And from the relieved slump the man’s shoulders give, it’s probably not the first time he tried to get Victor’s attention.

He should apologize, of course. But the words are too heavy in his gut to drag out and bring to light, the interaction far too much already.

The man squints at him. “Are you crying?”

Is he? It’s impossible to tell in this downpour, considering he can barely tell the difference between when he is and isn’t when he’s dry. So he shrugs the question off, trying to drag a smile across his face. “It’s just the rain.”

The man simply frowns. “Do you not have an umbrella?”

Victor almost laughs, barely reigning in hysterical emotion as it echoes through his empty, heavy limbs. “No! Alas, I don’t think very much, or very well.”

The man gives out a small huff. “Then you should come in until it stops raining.”

“Oh.” Victor actually looks at the man. Skin grey, eyes black, hair even blacker. He wears glasses with thick frames that probably have some color on them. He wouldn’t know. He’ll never know. “Is this your house?”

“Um, yes?” He answers as if he’s unsure, but it seems pretty likely considering the man’s wearing pajama pants with poodles on them.

Victor’s heart aches for Makkachin, a quick pain that melds in quickly with the greyness and the numbness that surrounds him, consumes him. Makkachin’s probably happier back home than with him, anyway. He looks back up at the house, eyes losing focus. “I used to live here.”

There’s a gentle pressure at Victor’s elbow. “Let’s go in. I think you’re getting too cold.”

He’s… warm. The heat of him soaks through Victor’s sopping wet shirt, and his gaze is somehow even warmer, even more welcoming, and… Brown.

His eyes are brown.

Victor can’t help look around. And the mud of the yard is brown, the trunks of the trees are brown, there’s so much brown in the world.

“Hey, I’ve got you.”

An arm wraps around Victor, catching him from a fall he hadn’t realized he was headed for. The man—who must have a name, something that Victor’s more determined to acquire than he’s been for anything else in his life—guides him into the house. They pause in the entryway, him kicking off his shoes, and then helping Victor lean against his wall as he helps his shoes off. Next thing he knows there’s a blanket around his shoulders, and he’s lead up stairs that… didn’t the stairs used to be on the other side of the room when he lived here? Maybe Victor’s just confused. He feels confused.

Water’s running, and he’s suddenly in front of a half-filled, clawed bathtub that definitely didn’t exist last time he was here.

“Do you think you’re okay enough to get in?” There’s a furrow in the man’s brow between those lovely brown eyes, and Victor wants more than anything to reach out and rub it away. “I’m worried about hypothermia, so you should warm up as soon as possible, and a bath…” He narrows his eyes at the water, as if suddenly questioning if bringing a total stranger up into his house to bathe had been the smartest move.

But if the man had ordered him to strip then and there, Victor would have done it. He could tell Victor to jump off a bridge, to lock himself in the basement, to—heaven forbid—cook dinner and risk burning down the house, and Victor would do it. “Thank you. I can manage. You’re probably right.” Victor’s skin is so chilled he’s surprised he’s not frozen. How long had he been standing out there in the rain?

He beams, and it’s as if Victor’s heart suddenly decides to start after years of sitting there and gathering dust, flopping around inside his chest. “Good. I’ll set clothes out for you on the bed.” He walks toward the door, but hesitates before leaving. “There’s a lock if you feel… Well, you know. And there’s no keyhole on the other side.”

Victor doesn’t check for a keyhole. And he doesn’t lock the door. It takes too long to strip out of his wet, clinging clothes, but the water is perfectly warm.

Still not as warm as those brown eyes.

He glances around as his numb toes and fingers regain some semblance of feeling, as he scrubs off the layers of sweat and dirt from traveling. There’s so much more brown than he’d ever expected. He should know better, he used to see color when he himself was young and vibrant, when he used to live in this house, but he never really had much reason to pay attention.

Now he doesn’t know how long it will last. And he can’t help but want to spend whatever remaining time he has around the man who may have possibly saved him in more ways than one.

He towels off, walking into a small bedroom to find sweats and a t-shirt just a bit too small on him. It’s nice, though—he enjoys being constantly covered in Makkachin hair, but it’s good to not have to smell like himself, to be expected to be himself. There aren’t expectations here.

He manages to nearly get lost in the short hallways upstairs, but wanders downstairs eventually. The floors are hardwood now, and all of the walls have been ripped out. There’s a barre and mirrors along one wall, another wall has an open kitchen and a small table, glass windows lining the back wall, and toward the front of the house, there’s a variety of chairs and sofas all crowded around a coffee table, where the man sits.

“Oh! You’re out already.” He jumps to his feet, wringing his hands. “How do you feel?”

Terrible, yet better than he has in a while. “Fine.”

He hesitates, then nods. “Would you like some tea?” He gestures toward the coffee table. “I used to have coffee, but since my roommate moved out…”

“That sounds lovely.” Victor makes the rest of the walk down the stairs, eyes still wandering. “I’ve never been a fan of coffee myself.”

The man nods again, following his gaze. “They remodeled the inside a while before we moved in. I think.”

“Oh, they definitely remodeled it.” Victor sits across from the man, instead of next to him as he was tempted. Perhaps he could have pretended to be cold… but he can’t take advantage of a man who’s already been too kind to him. “What is your name, by the way?”

Something dark grows along the man’s cheekbones, and Victor wishes desperately that red was a color he could see—not that he’d trade it for the wide brown eyes that stare at him. “I can’t believe I never told you, I’m so sorry! I’m Yuuri. Katsuki Yuuri.”

“Victor Nikiforov.” Victor smiles, holding out a hand. “A pleasure.”

And as Yuuri takes his hand, it really is a pleasure. Even if the other man pulls back far too fast.

They continue in silence for a while, Victor taking his tea and sipping it. It’s good, much better than what he’s been having for the past few years. For a moment, Victor tries to weigh if the silence is an awkward or comfortable one, but he can’t tell. He can’t quite bring himself to care.

“What’s wrong?” Yuuri’s voice is gentle, not at all jarring among the tapping of rain on the window across the room and the door behind him. He’d positioned Victor closer to the door, he realizes far too late. He’s too considerate. Too nice.

“It’s…” The weight in Victor’s chest is crushing, all-consuming and numbing. Yuuri doesn’t deserve this, the useless and broken person that he is. He shouldn’t have to deal with one of his meltdowns. Then again, it’s been a while since he could tell when one meltdown started and another began. “It’s nothing.”

Yuuri takes a second to respond, though his eyes never cease moving over Victor. “You don’t have to say something you don’t want to, but you don’t have to lie, either.” He sips his tea. “Are you in danger?”

Victor jolts upright, then scoffs. “No. Not from anyone but myself.”

Yuuri smiles, though there’s no warmth in his eyes with the action. “I know that feeling.”

Victor blinks at him, an uncomfortable twist in his gut. “You do?”

Yuuri hesitates, but then gives a short nod. “Very, very well.” For a moment his mouth is parted as if he might elaborate, but he shakes his head. “Do you live around here, then? Since this used to be your house.”

Victor nearly drives the conversation back toward the previous subject, but he won’t push. So he shakes his head, glancing around at the giant, open, alien room. “No. My flight only landed here a few hours ago.”

“Oh. Do you have anywhere to stay?” Yuuri tilts his head.

Victor shakes his head, heart hardening and sinking as he realizes what comes next. But he can’t ask to stay any longer. Yuuri is a furnace in the winter of Victor’s life, and all he wants is to curl up next to him—but Yuuri’s flame is his own, and not Victor’s.

Yuuri’s quiet for a moment, eyes flicking back and forth in a movement that nearly makes them sparkle. “You could stay here.”

“What?” The word is barely a breath, a whisper, a prayer. “I’m a stranger!”

“And I’m a stranger, too. I…” Yuuri looks toward the empty kitchen. “Ever since my roommate moved out, it’s been far too empty and quiet here. I still make too much food every night. You don’t seem, um, prepared to be here, much less go out again in that freezing rain, and I could use the company.” He doesn’t say it, but the word please hangs at the end of his words, a plea unspoken yet obvious.

And Victor cannot refuse him. “I’d love to. You’re far, far too kind.”

Yuuri smiles, and this one does make his eyes glow in the dim light. “We’re helping each other out.”

But Yuuri’s helping Victor out more than he could ever know.

They work on dinner then—or Yuuri does, Victor hovering and failing to help until Yuuri inevitably wraps him in another blanket and sits him down on the couch. Yuuri hums and sings as he cooks. Victor leans back and lets the sound soak into him, clinging to it and letting it draw him toward the surface of his thoughts, taking a much-needed breath.

When Yuuri announces dinner’s ready, Victor opens his eyes and finds that the frames bordering Yuuri’s eyes are blue.

He barely fights back the tears.

Yuuri fusses over him for a while, but eventually the conversation calms down into something light, meaningful and yet meaningless. Yuuri smiles and Victor can’t help but echo it as best as he can, his life lit in shades of blues and browns that he’d never appreciated before.

But, oh, does he now.

He nearly falls asleep at the table before Yuuri shows him to his room, abandoned by his roommate apparently. He doesn’t really look around though, the exhaustion crashing over him in waves as he stumbles into bed and somehow, blessedly, falls into a dreamless, unbroken sleep.

It’s the light that wakes him in the morning.

Victor’s a light sleeper, so Yuuri must have taken pains to be quiet.

He wanders back downstairs in a bit of a daze, the light bright enough that it must be late morning, or early afternoon. But somehow Yuuri’s there with a plate of eggs and toast, and tea that’s still steaming.

“Jetlag?” Yuuri asks, a smile on his face as he sips from his own mug.

“Jetlag.” Victor collapses into the chair across the small table, trying not to stare at Yuuri’s eyes, at the entertained crinkle at the corners of them. “Thank you.”

Yuuri’s eyebrows furrow for a moment before popping apart. “Oh! For breakfast?”

Victor nods, hesitantly reaching out and digging into the food.

Yuuri’s soft smile makes the room, in all its shades of brown, blue, black, and white, shine.

And Victor finds himself smiling back, small yet earnest.

Breakfast continues quietly for a while, the fog of sleep slowly but surely lifting from Victor’s mind. He can’t impose on this kind man any longer, he’s given Victor more than he can ever repay. But at the same time, he can’t just let this end. They could exchange cell numbers… but that would mean turning on his phone.

“Why are you here, by the way?” Yuuri cuts into Victor’s thoughts, voice light. “At your old house.”

He could tell Yuuri the truth. He hasn’t told it to anyone who knows him, and even the doctors don’t know the whole story. But he could tell this stranger. He wants to tell this stranger. And yet… “You’ll think I’ve lost my mind.”

Yuuri cocks an eyebrow. “Well, I did find you standing in the freezing rain, staring at my house for a good half-hour, and still I brought you in. Try me.”

Heat brushes lightly along Victor’s cheeks. When he words it like that, maybe they’ve both lost their minds. But… where to start? “Well. I’m a figure skater.”

“Oh!” The sound squeaks out of Yuuri before he quickly slaps his hand over his mouth. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt. Just, that’s why your name’s familiar. My roommate was a figure skater, and I think he talked about you.”

“Ah.” Victor’s heart gives a squeeze, and he can’t help but feel that the colors he can see go a little mute. Everyone knows of him, but nobody knows him. And whose fault is it, really?

Yuuri’s gaze is distant, though, not focused on Victor’s internal struggle. “I almost got into figure skating, before the local rink closed.”

Victor sucks in a breath. He… He isn’t asking anything of Victor. “What did you do instead?”

“Well, um. Dance. It’s not too impressive though.” And before Victor can interrupt, ensure him there’s nothing he can do that wouldn’t be impressive, he continues. “What were you about to say?”

Ah. “I’m, well… rather successful, objectively. But I haven’t loved it for a long time. I haven’t loved anything in years.” The words Victor can barely even think in the safety of his own head escape his lips in a whisper, and though he still aches for the warmth of Yuuri’s eyes, he can’t meet his gaze. “And the world… lost its color. I could only see in black and white. So I’ve been trying to go back, to find what I lost along the way, and…”

“You ended up here.” Yuuri supplies after a silence.

Victor nods. “Yes. And you offered for me to come in, and I…” He closes his eyes, squeezing them shut. “I saw brown.”

Yuuri sucks in a breath, but says nothing.

Victor can’t bear to look. “And, well, your kindness yesterday. It brought in blue. And I don’t know why, I know it sounds like some fantasy, but it’s like a curse and somehow… the key to breaking it is here.” Yuuri is the key. But he can’t say that, not to a man he’s only known for a day.

The quiet drags on, stretches like Victor’s mind is being laid out on a rack, at Yuuri’s mercy to make the torture stop. But will he? Maybe this was a mistake, maybe Yuuri will kick him back out in the cold. His colors might fade again. Everything would be for nothing, as it always seems to be.

Eventually, Yuuri takes a breath. “That makes sense.”

Victor’s eyes pop open. “What?”

Yuuri just shrugs. “Sometimes when we hurt, our mind does odd things to us. A couple years ago, right before a big gig I had lined up, my dog passed away. He was in Japan, it had been five years since I’d seen him, and… I thought I was going crazy.” He reaches out a hand toward Victor, stopping half-way there. “I’m happy something seems to be breaking through to you while you’re here. You can stay as long as you’d like.”

Victor’s throat closes up so tight he might choke, and a tear escapes his eye before he brushes it away on his sleeve. He reaches out to grip Yuuri’s hand. “Thank you. I… I don’t know how or why you trust me, but thank you.”

Yuuri’s fingers squeeze around his. “Well, I mean, I can Google you now to make sure you’re real. And my ex-roommate—my best friend knows I have someone here. So if you murdered me in my sleep, at least you’d get caught.”

A laugh bubbles out of Victor's lips before he even feels the humor warm something deep in his chest. “Well, at least you’ve got your contingency plans all set up.” He shakes his head. “But I can’t just take advantage of your kindness like that—I’ll rent your room.”

“No, I can’t take advantage of you like that.” Yuuri frowns.

“I insist. I wouldn’t feel comfortable, otherwise.” He won’t accept help like this, especially when he doesn’t need it. “I wasn’t lying when I said I was a well-known figure skater. I can afford it.”

Yuuri’s eyes search his for a moment, and then he nods. “All right. If that’s what you’re most comfortable with.”

 


 

They fall into a bit of a routine. Yuuri’s between jobs, and so together they’ll walk around the neighborhood, they’ll do the shopping, they’ll go out to eat, they’ll talk.

Sometimes Yuuri needs his space, and Victor of will step back, but never be truly out of reach. He could tell when Yuuri did look up his name, or maybe he’d simply asked his friend about Victor, and it wedged a distance between them for half a day. He eventually asks if he’s too much for Yuuri, if he wants him to leave or to change or everything. Anything.

He simply smiles, reaching out for Victor’s hand and bridging that divide. “I just want you to be Victor.”

He’s not entirely sure who that is, but Victor will try his damnedest to discover it.

A week passes of this tentative existence while he takes his time recovering from a hellish case of jetlag. Victor can’t see more color, but he doesn’t mind. He’s fairly sure he’s seeing the most important one already. Yuuri has a job dealing with choreography starting in a few days, and Victor offers to help. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but it seems to be a relief to both of them to find an excuse to spend more time together.

Victor even turns on his phone again, not entirely sure how to feel about the tidal wave of texts and voicemails and missed calls. At Yuuri’s prompting, he works through them methodically, a few a day, no more than he can handle.

He drags himself out of bed earlier and earlier, until today, when it’s a relatively human hour. A prick of pride blossoms in his chest, and it’s so silly, but it’s something. He walks downstairs, weighing whether or not it’s worth it to share this tiny victory with Yuuri.

The thought slips completely out of his brain as he finds Yuuri at the barre along the wall.

He’d assumed that Yuuri must practice at some point, but he'd never thought about it more than that. He can’t even think about it more now—he can barely remember to breathe.

Yuuri moves like music itself, weaving a symphony from delicate movements. Victor can’t help but dream of a world where the skating rink in Yuuri’s town hadn’t closed, where he could have seen this music paired with the slide and snap of blades on the ice.

But he can’t complain about having the chance to see Yuuri here, now.

Yuuri catches Victor’s eye, and nearly topples over. “Oh, ah, I didn’t expect you to be up so early.”

“It’s a shame that I haven’t gotten up this early before,” Victor breathes, clutching the railing. “You’re beautiful.”

Darkness spreads along Yuuri’s cheeks, and Victor wants to see the red, wants to appreciate that beautiful blush in the full color he’s lost for far too long. He hasn't wanted something so much in ages, but he doesn’t know how to get what he craves.

Yuuri mutters something that might be thanks or maybe a denial. “I’ll, um, make breakfast.”

“Can I… could I join you first?”

Yuuri’s eyes widen, and then he beams. “Of course.”

Victor nearly stumbles down the stairs and into Yuuri’s arms. They move to the music of Yuuri’s body, switching through styles like they were meant to move together into a rush of gasping breaths and delighted laughter.

And the sunlight bursting into the room blooms from white, to a distant, warm shade of yellow.

“What is it?”

Victor doesn’t realize he’s stopped moving until he looks down at Yuuri, his dark hair stuck to his forehead in sweat, breaths deep and rasped, arms around his waist.

“Yellow,” Victor breathes, reaching out, brushing some hair from Yuuri’s forehead. “I can see yellow.”

Yuuri blinks, and then beams at Victor, wrapping his arms tighter around him and lifting him off the ground, despite the inches he has on Yuuri. “That’s wonderful! I’ve been worried, since it had been so long…” He trails off, setting Victor down. “You should probably get that.”

“Hmm?” Victor glances down at him, wondering at how odd a complexion looks with only yellow, brown, and blue to illuminate it.

“Your phone’s been buzzing in your pocket for a while.”

Without much focus, Victor pulls out his phone, marveling at how beautiful light can be when it has color.

Until he reads the texts from Yakov, and nearly drops the phone.

“Victor? Victor!”

Hands are tight on his shoulder, a hand brushing his cheek. Brown eyes focus him, bring feeling back to his limbs enough that he realizes he’s somehow still standing up.

He draws in a shaking breath. “My dog. She’s sick, and I… Makkachin.” His voice cracks, the world swirls, and out of the corner of his eye he sees the red notification of more unread messages on his phone.

Red.

Why now? Why did he have to finally get what he wants only to lose everything for it? Makkachin is his… something too much for words to wrap around. He can't lose her. He can’t.

Yuuri leans down, taking his phone off the floor and placing it in his hands. “Book your ticket. I’ll drive you to the airport.”

Victor nods, but can’t move. He can’t lose Yuuri, too. Not now. Not when he needs him most. “Would you come with me?”

Yuuri bites his lip, opens his mouth, closes it, then his shoulders slump. “I can’t afford it…”

“Please.” Victor grips his hands as best he can with the phone between them. “Let me. I know I just got to know you, and you me, but just spending time with you has been… it’s been…” A sob chokes him off, and the tears escape his eyes. And it feels different. The numbness, that all-consuming greyness has retreated enough for him to feel the pain again. “Just… could you be there?”

Yuuri worries his lip for a moment, but nods.

He can’t resist hugging him quickly before he’s on his phone, booking tickets as Yuuri moves around, packing a couple of small bags and forcing a slice of toast into Victor’s hands despite the rolling in Victor’s stomach.

Everything passes in a blur, too quick and yet too slow. Yuuri’s hand in his keeps him moving, the brown in his eyes anchoring him in the moment instead of the future. He keeps talking, everything and nothing as they wait, as they run to their gate.

Color merges together into a mess that might as well be black and white, but it isn’t. It doesn’t fade as Yakov picks him up with barely a grunt, it doesn’t mute as he waits with Yuuri in the vet’s office, as his rinkmates huddle with them and grow to know Yuuri as well.

He’s so full with their love and support and acceptance, yet torn to bits with the thoughts of what could be.

It’s evening, a couple of his rinkmates asleep on the uncomfortable plastic chairs, when the vet comes out. She says Makkachin will make it, even if they can’t come back and see her yet.

Victor sobs in relief and is instantly covered in a heap of arms and bodies and so much caring, too much.

He’s dead on his feet as he brings Yuuri to his apartment, glancing around and wondering how he even noticed he’d gone colorblind in such a dull place.

“Um, Victor?” Yuuri approaches him after poking around his sad excuse of a kitchen. “I… Yakov handed me a card at the office. A therapist. For you. And I’m not saying that the color thing isn’t real even if it’s…” He blushes, and Victor can almost pluck the words out of his mouth, and only bites his tongue on his assurances that he knows Yuuri’s never doubted him because he knows Yuuri has more to say. He knows what it feels like to be interrupted when you have important, impossible words to get out. “I believe you. And because I believe you, I want to help. I want to help you get help.”

“But I…” Victor frowns, looking away and toward Makkachin’s empty bed in his empty apartment. But what? What excuse could he offer Yuuri but the truth? “I’m afraid,” he whispers.

Yuuri nods. “I was afraid when I started going, too.”

“You…?” Is it a question he can ask, a privacy he can be allowed to want to see of Yuuri’s?

He nods. “If you haven’t noticed, I… I get nervous, and I worry. A lot. Especially after everything with my dog, it was… not pretty. I couldn’t get through it on my own. But my therapist got me through it, she helped.” He takes a breath. “You don’t have to answer now, but will you consider?”

He trusts Victor. He should have realized this, acknowledged it from the moment he offered an odd stranger to live with him, but only now does the truth of it settle into his heart, warm and clinging.

He wants to be someone worthy of that trust.

So Victor nods, leaning in close to rest his forehead against Yuuri’s. “I’ll go. Thank you, Yuuri.”

 


 

After Makkachin recovers, they go back to their house. One of the first things he does is make an appointment.

Every time he can, Yuuri waits in the office for him so that when Victor emerges he can wrap him into a hug. He has to admit, at first that’s what keeps him coming. Even after Victor says he’s okay enough to go on his own, Yuuri keeps the offer on the table.

“It helps me too, okay?” Yuuri grips Victor tighter. “My illness, um. It’s different than yours. I worry, a lot more than regular people do. So if you want me gone, tell me and I’ll keep my distance, but otherwise I want to stay by your side. I’ll give you my shoulder, and sometimes I might need yours.”

Victor holds him as close as he can. “You always have it, Yuuri.”

Yuuri grins up at him before burrowing into Victor’s coat. They have to leave, to stop making a scene. But there’s no place that Victor would rather be.

His home isn’t perfect, it’s got a lot of cracks and needs a lot of repairs, but together they’ll fix it up into something worth living in.

After all, home is where the heart is.