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Warmth. Yuuri remembers the feeling of warmth. Sunshine. The sun had been out and the cherry blossoms had just bloomed. Pink petals lined the sidewalks and floated throughout the air. Yuuri can remember the tangy smell of the ocean and the cry of the gulls. He had been walking along the beach with Mari when it happened.

In front of them stood a man and a woman, silent, but seeming to effortlessly follow each other’s actions. They’d smile occasionally, or laugh, but never spoke aloud.

Yuuri tugs his sister’s sleeve, and points at the couple. “Oneechan, what are they doing?”

Mari looks over at the couple and then back to Yuuri. “I think they’re soulmates. They’re able to hear each other’s thoughts. You’ll know when you’ve found your soulmate when you hear someone else’s thoughts along with yours.”

Yuuri doesn’t quite understand. Why would he hear someone else’s thoughts? Why would someone hear his?

“Why?” he asks.

“It’s just how things are. Some people know how to shield their thoughts and others don’t care. It’s hard to find your soulmate either way,” she explains.

“Okay,” Yuuri says. He still isn’t sure how he feels about this new concept. He’s not sure exactly what it means to be ‘soulmates.’ Maybe he’ll ask Mari-oneechan another day.

Now Yuuri is a lot older and understands better what soulmates are. He secretly wishes that Victor Nikiforov is his soulmate. He trains extra hard so he can get a chance to someday skate in a competition with Victor. If he can get close to Victor then he can find out if they’re soulmates. He might hear Victor’s thoughts. What would that be like? Hearing thoughts outside his own in his head? What would he want Victor hearing from him? It’s strange and thrilling all at once.

While in class one day, one of his classmates leans over and whispers, “I can hear your thoughts. You were thinking about Victor. I heard it.”

Yuuri feels the room shrink. The walls seem to press in on him and he struggles to breathe. What? He can’t hear this boy’s thoughts. How can he hear Yuuri’s? Is this possible?

“No. That’s not right. You can’t hear my thoughts,” he replies calmly. Of course the boy can’t hear him. There’s only his thoughts in his mind.

“Is it not right? You were just thinking it’s not possible for me to hear your thoughts, but I can. Your mind isn’t shielded at all. I can hear you clearly. You can’t hear me though because I’ve blocked my thoughts,” they reply.

This isn’t happening. If it’s true they’d surely unblock their thoughts to prove to Yuuri they’re soulmates. Right? No one could actually be this cruel.

“I won’t drop my walls. You’ll have to trust me,” they continue.

Yuuri doesn’t believe them. He refuses to believe them. His real soulmate wouldn’t be so cruel. He just knows it.

“I’m sorry. I have to go,” he says. He pushes himself back from his desk and stands up. Maybe Victor isn’t his soulmate, but this person definitely isn’t either.

After that, he learns how to shield his thoughts. No one can play cruel tricks on him anymore. He’s in control of who hears his thoughts and when now. If he ever meets Victor he’ll drop the walls. Of course he will. He has to know if Victor is his soulmate even if the answer will crush him.

His opportunity finally comes during his senior debut. He skates well enough to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where Victor will also skate as his competitor. They’ll finally be on the same ice. Yuuri is both ecstatic and extremely nervous. What if he messes up and Victor sees? What if Victor doesn’t want anything to do with him? What if they’re not soulmates? No, he won’t dwell on that. It doesn’t matter either way.

He doesn’t see Victor at all before his short program and he skates well, placing in third. After his program ends, he still doesn’t see Victor around the skaters’ areas or back at the hotel. He tries not to feel disappointed. He tries to listen to his coach during practice the next day, but his mind keeps wandering to Victor. His thoughts are still tightly sealed though. He won’t drop them until he’s close to Victor, preferably alone, but just close by is enough too.

While he’s waiting to do his free skate, his phone rings. It’s Mari, so he answers thinking she might be wishing him luck. It’s the exact opposite message he was expecting. His dog just died and he hasn’t been home in years. He hasn’t been home in years. Years of guilt and sorrow swell up inside him and he can’t hold back his tears. He barely makes it out onto the ice and he knows the whole program is out of sync and probably looks manic, but he can’t find it in him to care at the moment. His dog is dead. He hasn’t been home in years. He’s an awful son and brother.

He drops to last place with an embarrassingly low score and he doesn’t think he can ever face the ice or Victor again. Every article written about him expresses confusion about his disastrous free skate but also seems to conclude that maybe professional skating is too much for him. The pressure was too intense so he broke. In the end, he’s just not cut out for it. Somewhere deep inside, Yuuri doesn’t believe them. He knows he can be strong. He knows it’s only because he received terrible news right before his program that he failed. Deep, deep down, he knows this, but he can’t bring himself to recognize it. Instead, he believes the articles. He convinces himself he wasn’t good enough. He decides to quit professional skating for good.

He doesn’t remember the banquet even though Celestino convinced him to go. He hopes he didn’t do anything stupid. His heart aches when Victor mistakes him for a fan and he doesn’t hear accompanying thoughts in his mind. Victor probably has his thoughts blocked anyway. Yuuri couldn’t even bring himself to drop his own shield, so why does he care?

He returns to Hasetsu after finishing his degree in Detroit, and through much shame and embarrassment, takes pictures with community members (hometown fans) at Minako’s insistence. When he’s finally home, his mother embraces him warmly and his father welcomes him with a smile and a comment about his weight gain. Minako begins to lecture him about keeping his figure to skate, but his mother quickly shushes her and ushers Yuuri in to eat.

His parents never fully understand what Yuuri did when he skated, but they always supported him, and they continue to support his decision to quit skating professionally. He quickly becomes restless though and finds himself at Ice Castle skating one of Victor’s current programs. Him and Yuuko used to skate Victor’s programs all the time, and it helps recenter him to do it again. Mimicking Victor reminds him why he chose to skate professionally and why he was abroad for so long. He only wishes he had tried harder. Why did he give up so easily?

“Yuuri, that’s beautiful! You’re as good as Victor!” Yuuko exclaims when he finishes the program.

“Ah, I don’t know,” Yuuri says. “It was good to copy him again though. It made me feel better. I still want to skate. I’m just scared.”

“Maybe you can join me for the lessons tomorrow? I’m sure the older students would love to get some advice from you,” Yuuko suggests.

“I’ll think about it,” Yuuri says. He glides off the ice and unlaces his skates. The movements so second nature to him he barely registers it.

The next morning he finds himself back at Ice Castle and mentoring a few junior skaters. He doesn’t entirely know how it happened, but he enjoys offering advice and showing the younger skaters new techniques or how to improve. Yuuko tells him he’s a natural teacher. Somehow this leads to him agreeing to coach two of the students who are debuting in the upcoming season.

A few weeks later, the news comes out that Victor is taking the season off. Instead, he plans to help choreograph his rinkmates’ programs and appear at a few competitions as a commentator. Yuuri notices the list heavily includes junior competitions including the Junior Grand Prix Final. Of course he wants his skaters to do well, but now he feels an extra pressure to do his best for them to perform their absolute best. Despite everything he still wants to meet Victor properly.

***

One of Yuuri’s skaters does incredibly well throughout the season and qualifies for the Junior Grand Prix Final. Yuuri’s happy for his student, but also feels his hands shake when he thinks about possibly meeting Victor. Victor will know his name when he reads the fact sheet for his skater. Maybe he’ll remember Yuuri from their one competition together, even if Yuuri wishes no one remembers his awful performance.

Yuuri tries to stay focused during practice and warm-ups for his student, but he catches his gaze drifting towards the announcer stand more than once. His skater even has to snap his attention back once.

“Stop drooling over Victor,” she says after finally getting Yuuri’s attention back.

“Hmm, oh? I wasn’t — hey, wait, what do you mean?” Yuuri replies, the words finally registering.

She rolls her eyes and scoffs. “It’s obvious you’re obsessed with him. You’re always showing his programs as references and constantly bringing him up. ‘Oh, Victor would do it like this,’ and ‘See how well Victor shows the music.’ Do you not realize?”

Shaking his head, Yuuri sighs. “I guess you’re right. I’m sorry, I’ll focus.”

The rest of the warm up goes by fine after that and Yuuri barely registers Victor’s voice until he’s announcing his skater.

“And now it’s Yamamoto Sakura, representing Japan. This is her first season skating in this division and has done incredibly well under the careful supervision of novice coach Katsuki Yuuri. She’ll be skating to a shortened version of ‘River Flows in You’ by Yiruma,” Victor announces as Yamamoto takes her starting position. Yuuri flinched when he heard his name, somewhat surprised Victor chose to take note of his budding career as a coach. Most of the other announcers hadn’t cared or just wanted to give the barest amount of info for each introduction.

Yamamoto looks calm as she stops in the middle of the ice, head turned down and one arm extended up. When the first piano note strikes she slowly twists and spins out. She glides across the ice in time with the music, and Yuuri watches in awe as she executes probably her best performance yet this season. Every move is perfectly in sync with the piano notes, and her expressions match the melancholic music beautifully. She’s become the music.

Yuuri can’t hear Victor or the other announcers comments because his focus is completely on Yamamoto and her outstanding performance. He can’t believe how wonderfully she’s skating. He’s so completely enraptured by her performance he doesn’t notice when someone else echoes his thoughts. She’s amazing, they think alongside Yuuri.

Once she’s finished, and they’re in the Kiss & Cry, Yuuri can’t hold his compliments back. She scores high and places into first. Yuuri couldn’t be more proud.

Later, when Yuuri is walking back to his hotel room, he runs into Victor. Literally.

“I’m sorry!” he exclaims, arms flailing. Wide-eyed, he stares at Victor and hopes the older man isn’t too offended by Yuuri’s current aloofness.

Victor only smiles and waves a hand. “It’s okay. I’m not hurt. Are you hurt?” Yuuri shakes his head. “See? Then it’s okay.”

He’s kind of cute, Yuuri thinks he hears Victor say except his mouth didn’t move. Wait. It was in his mind. In his mind. Holy shit.

“Oh, um,” Yuuri says, unhelpfully. He looks around to see if there’s anyone else. Did he really hear Victor? Does Victor think he’s cute?

Is he uncomfortable? Maybe he’s a fan? Or a skater? Isn’t this a floor reserved for coaches though? the new voice in Yuuri’s mind says.

“Are you a coach?” Victor asks, his smile still warm.

“Uh, yes. I’m Katsuki Yuuri,” he replies.

Victor’s mouth drops into an ‘o’ and his eyes light up. “You’re Coach Katsuki? Your skater performed beautifully today! And you’re new to coaching? Wow! I’m impressed,” Victor says.

Yes. He’s beautiful. Is this love at first sight? Ah, but I don’t hear any other thoughts...perhaps he blocks them, the voice continues.

Should Yuuri drop his blocks? He should. Victor is being so open, and so...nice. It’s only fair to return the favor, right? Victor’s obviously interested and Yuuri can’t believe this is actually happening.

“Oh, um, thank you. I was very impressed with Yamamoto-san today too. Er, Victor, is it possible for us to go somewhere private? Maybe one of our rooms?” Yuuri asks. Maybe it’s too forward and too soon, but he’d been planning to drop his blocks around Victor for years. He has to do it before he talks himself out of it.

“Sure. My room is right over here,” Victor says while gesturing down the hallway towards a nearby door.

Yuuri follows him to the door and Victor swipes his room card, unlocking the door and opening it to let Yuuri in. Yuuri enters behind Victor and then lingers near the entrance, unsure if he should take his shoes off or not. Victor toes his own off and Yuuri copies him.

Victor sits down on the bed and watches as Yuuri fidgets with the hem of his shirt. He paces for a beat and then stops in front of Victor.

He’s so nervous. I wonder what this is, Yuuri hears what’s most definitely Victor’s thoughts. In his head. He still can’t believe this is happening. Deep breath. On the count of three, drop them. 1, 2, 3…

Yuuri imagines the tall brick walls he built to protect his thoughts slowly tumbling down. He imagines his thoughts flowing out towards Victor like a river.

I think we’re soulmates, he thinks and hopes Victor hears.

“Amazing!” Victor exclaims, his whole face lighting up with excitement.

“Ah, I think so too,” Yuuri replies. He can feel his face warming up. Victor’s happy they’re soulmates. What’s next?

“We get to know each other of course!” Victor replies, and oh. Yuuri forgot Victor can hear him now.

“Is it too weird for you? You can block your thoughts again. I won’t be offended,” Victor says.

Yuuri quickly shakes his head and then moves to sit next to Victor. “No. No, it’s okay. I can get used to it. I’ve — I’ve always wished for this. I’ve looked up to you for a long time,” he says.

Victor’s eyes widen hearing the confession and his smile slowly grows.

“I’m honored. I don’t know much about you yet, but I can’t wait to learn more,” Victor says.

I was amazed watching your student today. You must be truly incredible, Victor thinks.

Yuuri feels his blush deepen. “I just helped with the choreography. Yamamoto-san did most of the work.”

“Regardless, I believe you’re full of surprises, Yuuri,” Victor says.

“I’ll take your word for it. I think I should go now? We can talk more tomorrow?” Yuuri says. He doesn’t want to go, but he feels awkward staying. He truly feels lost. He never thought this would happen.

“Of course,” Victor replies. He gently takes Yuuri’s hand closest to him and kisses the knuckles. “Until next time.”

Yuuri tries not to combust. “Until next time.”

The next day, Yamamoto skates beautifully to an edited version of The Truth Untold by BTS. Every movement screams longing and frustration. The desire to be closer to someone but the fear that you’re not enough evident in every spin and jump. Her step sequence is absolutely stunning. She ends up winning gold and Yuuri couldn’t be more proud.

At the banquet, him and Yamamoto are busy talking with sponsors and other skaters. It takes a long time for things to wind down and for Yuuri to finally get a chance to talk with Victor. Well, in person. They spent a majority of the banquet speaking telepathically and commenting on each other’s complaints throughout the night. Finally, most of the sponsors have left and Victor asks Yuuri to dance, and who was he to refuse?

They sway together for a bit, relishing in each other’s presence. They’ve only known each other for a few days, but it feels like years. Secure in Victor’s embrace feels like coming home. Yuuri knows Victor feels the same from his content sigh and mirrored thought.

“What will we do after this?” Yuuri whispers. They can’t be together for awhile. They’re both busy until the season ends. Yuuri has to stay with Yamammoto and Victor has to honor his contracts.

Victor’s embrace just slightly tightens as if it’ll keep them rooted to this moment forever. “We’ll talk. We’ll make it work. I’ve never felt like this before,” he says.

“Me too,” Yuuri replies.

I love you, he thinks.

I think I love you too, Victor replies.

The next day, they part after exchanging numbers and social media account information. They talk every day, slowly cultivating their new love. Yuuri never doubts they won’t be okay after that. Even when they fight, he knows they’ll work it out. He trusts their love and he trusts Victor.

After what feels like years, Victor is in Hasetsu visiting Yuuri. At the airport, they rushed to meet each other, embracing each other tightly. Later, they walk hand-in-hand along the beach, quiet conversation spoken only through their minds, and Yuuri remembers the first time he learned about soulmates. Why did he ever doubt it?

He stops them and turns to Victor. He moves so their foreheads are touching.

Can I kiss you? he asks.

Victor smiles. I thought you’d never ask.