The venue is emptying out, other skaters slowing and looking back as they pass. Victor gives them all a gracious smile and a cheerful wave. The pleased panic that comes into their eyes makes him laugh.
“We’re going something,” Nishigori says, in Japanese that Victor can almost follow.
Victor feels Yuuri tense under his arm. He looks at Nishigori, then back at Yuuri. “What is it?” he says.
“I’m fine.” Yuuri looks up at Victor, one quick frown before he smooths out his face. “Let’s go eat,” he says in English.
“Something now,” Nishigori repeats. He turns to Victor and says, in English, “The hospital.”
“Does it still hurt?” Victor takes Yuuri’s chin and tips it up so he can look more closely. Yuuri’s face is clean now but a bruise is coming up on his forehead and his nose is swollen and red. Their eyes catch once before Yuuri blinks and turns his head.
Nishigori takes the roller case from Yuuri’s hand. “It doesn’t matter if it hurts or not,” he says. He grabs Yuuri by the wrist and pulls him along, like he’s another roller case, until he’s out from under Victor’s arm. Then Nishigori looks back at Victor. “I have a taxi waiting.”
“I’ll be with you,” Victor tells Yuuri as they’re waiting to be seen. “I’m your coach.” He smiles and crinkles up the corners of his eyes to sell it but now he’s worried.
“Sure.” Yuuri fidgets with a magazine, flicking through the pages until Nishigori takes it away from him and says something Victor can’t follow. Probably that he shouldn’t be reading if he has a concussion.
And Nishigori is right and Victor should be glad to have him here now but this was their victory to celebrate, his and Yuuri’s, together. Nishigori makes Victor feel like this was his fault. He wonders if Yuuri thinks the same.
When it’s Yuuri’s turn, they all crowd into the examination room together. Victor takes a chair beside Yuuri, leaving Nishigori standing beside them. He watches intently as the doctor shines a light in Yuuri’s eyes, prods the bruise, moves Yuuri’s nose back and forth. Victor can’t make out the questions the doctor asks or Nishigori’s interjections when Yuuri says he’s fine.
The doctor holds out a printed sheet of instructions and Victor reaches out to take it, nodding when the doctor says, in English, “Follow these.”
“Do you have a concussion?” Victor asks, when the doctor leaves.
“No,” Yuuri says, frowning when Victor looks to Nishigori for confirmation. “Probably not. But I’m supposed to stay in Okayama another day.”
“We have to stay with him,” Nishigori says. He takes the paper from Victor and reads it over.
“I’ll call the hotel.” Victor takes out his phone and puts his arm around Yuuri’s shoulders.
In the hotel lobby, Yuuri peers over Nishigori’s arm at his phone screen and says something in Japanese.
Victor takes another look at the instruction sheet but he still can’t read the characters crowding each line. “I’ll go check in.”
“They’ll be okay,” Nishigori says. “I can stay.”
“Is something wrong?” Victor looks back and forth between Nishigori and Yuuri.
“No,” Nishigori says.
Yuuri turns to Victor. “His family is all sick.”
“Just a cold.” The words are probably meant to be reassuring but Nishigori doesn’t look up, just stares, frowning, at his phone screen.
“You should leave,” Victor says. “I’ll stay with Yuuri.” When Nishigori looks at him, he smiles and puts a hand on Yuuri’s shoulder. “I know how to dial 110.”
“It’s 119,” Nishigori says. But he looks relieved. He makes Victor review the instructions twice before he’ll leave to get the train.
Victor isn’t sad to see him go.
“I wanted to buy you champagne!” Victor says over dinner. “Ah, too bad.”
“Too bad.” Yuuri sounds sarcastic but he follows it up with a smile. “Do you have the video? Can we go over it now?”
“It’s okay to watch TV if you don’t feel sick, but…” Victor wants to watch it too. He wants to critique but even more he wants to feel it all again, all the movements of Yuuri’s performance, with his own body.
He’s critiqued his own skating countless times. He’s been moved by other performances. But this feeling of connection to a skater – his skater – on the ice, like a cord around his heart pulling him up and down with each success and failure. He’s never felt anything like it before. It’s exhilarating and he wants to feel it again and again.
“This is boring.” Yuuri backtracks. “No, I didn’t mean you’re boring, I just—”
“I’ll be very boring when we get back home and I lecture you.” They’ve both only eaten half their plates and Victor is surprised how tired he feels when he didn’t even skate.
Yuuri gives him that not-quite-polite “oh you made a joke” smile, then looks away, across the room. But Victor knows he’s somewhere else now, inside his head. And that, exhausted as he is, Yuuri wants to move — to skate or dance or run.
Victor wants that too. They should be dancing now, moving together with the joy of the day. He looks out the window at the street lights and the people on the sidewalk. “We can go for a walk. That’s allowed.” He reaches across the table but Yuuri’s hands are in his lap.
“Maybe just TV,” Yuuri says.
They watch TV in the room. Yuuri keeps reaching for his phone and catching himself before he picks it up. Victor can’t blame him; these variety shows probably aren’t enough to hold your full attention even when you can understand it all.
Victor wants to stretch out beside Yuuri, maybe run his hand through Yuuri’s hair, maybe put his head on Yuuri’s shoulder. But he sits on the other bed, half an eye on the TV and half on his phone. He keeps going to watch the video and changing his mind. Should he wait until they can watch together? Or until he can be alone? Like it’s some kind of pornography.
He flicks through his social media instead and uploads some shots of himself from today. Coach Victor’s début! The storm of comments and likes begins immediately and he’s just closing the app when he catches sight of that tiny skater, Minami, near the top of the list. He sends a friend request for fun.
Then he drops the phone beside him on the bed. “Yuuri, how are you feeling?”
“Fine,” Yuuri says, eyes on the TV, and hand on his phone.
Victor can hear the eye roll in Yuuri’s voice, even if he can’t quite see it. “I’m supposed to check, you know,” he says. “It’s on the instruction sheet.” He climbs off the bed and stands beside Yuuri. That bruise. He wants to brush his fingers over it. He wants to touch it with his lips, just lightly, so Yuuri will hardly feel it.
He’s just about to offer to rub Yuuri’s feet, when Yuuri draws up his legs and tucks his feet under them. Just like he can tell what Victor is thinking.
I’m your coach, Victor wants to say. Don’t shut me out. “I’m going to shower,” he says instead. “I’ll leave the door open so I can hear you.”
Yuuri looks up at him. “Remember, it’s 119.”
Victor laughs and can’t stop himself from touching Yuuri’s hair, softly, with the tips of his fingers.
In the shower, Victor stands under the hot water longer than he means to, waiting to relax. Tired as he is, he’s still wound tight, tangled up like the charging cables in his overnight bag.
He can hear the TV, just barely. Inside his closed eyes, he can see Yuuri curled up on the bed, feet beneath him, hand on his phone. Hair falling over his forehead, covering the bruise.
Victor braces both hands against the tile because he wants to get himself off and he can’t. The door is open and he can’t.
They should be out dancing.
When Victor leaves the bathroom, the TV is off and Yuuri is rummaging in his bag.
“No,” Yuuri says, not even looking up. “I don’t feel sick. My ears aren’t ringing. I don’t have a headache.” He wraps the hotel robe tighter and picks up his wash bag.
Victor reaches for Yuuri’s shoulder and Yuuri doesn’t shake him off but he doesn’t slow either as he walks past, until Victor’s arm can’t stretch any further.
“You can leave the door–” Victor says just as it slides closed. Maybe he should have told Yuuri to close the door and lock it behind him instead.
It’s still a little early but there’s nothing else to do, so Victor drops his towel and gets into bed, pulling the covers up to his hips. He picks up his phone. There are already four DMs from Minami.
Victor stares at the screen and swipes away all the notifications. He can hear the shower running and he pictures Yuuri there, water running over his hair, his hands braced on the tiles exactly where Victor’s were. Maybe just one hand because he’s jacking it with the other.
Then Victor plays the video.
Yuuri is tiny on the small screen and the music sounds thin and far away. But that doesn’t matter. Victor can feel it all: the force of Yuuri’s jumps, the music in his steps, the whole beautiful mess of him, dragging the crowd through every movement and drawing Victor’s heart out of his chest onto the ice.
He knows the bump is coming, goddammit, Yuuri, and his eyes blink closed to miss it. But he sees it anyway, inside his head. He feels it thud through his body. And it’s his fault, it has to be. Coach Victor’s début.
The second time he watches, he keeps his eyes open. It’s fine, he’s banged his own head harder than that, learning jumps in secret without a harness.
The third time, he considers maybe that’s why he’s so stupid. But even with that moment to bring him down, it’s still Yuuri’s skating that makes Victor feel like he’s soaring. He finds that he’s moving in the bed, swaying along with Yuuri on the ice.
He’s just starting the fourth time when the bathroom door slides open. He looks up.
Yuuri has smoothed down his towelled-up hair but he’s missed a spot in the back and it’s ruffled up in spikes. His face is flushed from the heat and he hasn’t put his glasses back on.
Victor wants to put his hand in Yuuri’s damp hair and make it all stand on end. He wants to shake him for making Victor worry. “Sorry, I was just–”
Yuuri turns out the light. And in the dim glow of Yuuri-skating-on-the-screen, Victor watches as Yuuri-standing-in-the-room lets his robe slide off his shoulders and climbs onto Victor’s bed.
Victor is reaching out before he even realises. He stops, his hand already on Yuuri’s bare shoulder, because what is going on?
Then Yuuri straddles Victor, bunching down the sheets so he’s sitting on Victor’s naked thighs, and there’s no doubt about what is going on. He takes Victor’s face in both his hands, stroking with his thumbs. “You watched it,” he says.
The video is still playing, rippling through the music, and just as Victor knows Screen Yuuri is about to bang his head, Bed Yuuri leans down and kisses Victor’s cheek, slowly moving up his cheekbone.
Maybe Victor is the one who hit his head and this is his coma dream. But that’s no reason not to let it happen. “I watched it.” Victor puts his arms around Yuuri and slides his hands up and down Yuuri’s back, Yuuri’s smooth warm skin still a little wet here and there from the shower. Victor has been wanting this so much, more than he really let himself realise until now.
“Tell me,” Yuuri whispers. He moves his tongue along the inside curve of Victor’s ear.
Victor’s leg jerks and he closes his eyes because that’s the spot, he can’t help it. “Your skating,” he says and runs his fingers down Yuuri’s spine. “Too reckless.” He shudders as Yuuri’s tongue runs deeper. “You didn’t listen to me.”
Yuuri’s fingers slide into Victor’s hair, teasing at the nape of his neck. Then Yuuri twists them tight, until it almost hurts, and pulls Victor’s head back. He sits up straight and Victor can see the side of his face, grey and lovely in the scrap of light. “Victor.”
There is only space and time in Victor’s brain for two brief thoughts: first, to bring out this Yuuri, Victor must be a very good coach indeed; and second, the instruction sheet did not mention this particular situation. Then Victor lets those thoughts dissolve away.
“You were sloppy.” We were sloppy. That program Victor made, that he knows so intimately. Those moves he’s skated through along with Yuuri. That Yuuri brought to life in a way Victor didn’t expect. It aches in Victor’s chest, as immediate and overwhelming as Yuuri’s naked thighs against his own.
He tightens his arms. “I’ve never seen you look so happy.”
Yuuri looks down at him and Victor can barely see his expression but he doesn’t need to, Yuuri’s whole body is smiling. Then Yuuri bends down and Victor sits up to meet him.
They kiss, slow, deep, careful, touch each other not quite gently in the moonlight glow of Victor’s phone screen. Tumble and roll almost off the bed, the sheet tangling around them.
Victor lets Yuuri choreograph it all, following his lead, and even when he’s lost and gasping, he can’t help thinking that they are dancing, after all.
When Victor wakes up, Yuuri is back in his own bed. His hair is mussed over the pillow. Victor raises a hand to his own, it must be just as bad.
Yuuri opens his eyes and Victor waits a moment too long before saying good morning.
“What time is it?” Yuuri turns away, picks up his phone.
“How do you feel?” Victor goes through the checklist again: “Does your head hurt? Are you nauseated?” Are you okay with last night?
“I’m fine,” Yuuri says. “I’m fine.” He scrolls through some messages. “Nishigori says he was up all night making soup nobody would eat.” He swings out of bed, still not meeting Victor’s eyes, heads into the bathroom.
Victor sighs. His body is still taut with the memory of Yuuri against him and if this were anyone else, he would catch him for a kiss, suggest a morning round before they check out.
Instead he packs while he waits his turn. Checks his social and mutes Minami. Watches Yuuri’s free skate one more time.
Yuuri comes out while the music is just ending and this time he looks at Victor.
Victor holds his eyes for a few sweet seconds. “There’s a lot to work on.”
“I know,” Yuuri says.
At the station, Victor buys them both coffee. “Champagne tomorrow,” he says as he settles next to Yuuri on the bench.
Yuuri raises the cup to drink and steam fogs his glasses. “I’d rather have katsudon.”
“For winning such a minor competition?” Victor stretches his legs out in front of him. He puts his arm around Yuuri’s shoulders.
Yuuri goes still for a long moment. Then he shifts closer, leaning against Victor’s side.
Victor strokes Yuuri’s shoulder with his thumb, just lightly, just once. “We’ll watch the video on the train.”