Yuuri stands on the beach, feeling the sunlight on his skin.
It’s early fall-- the rains will come back soon and then snow and winter. But today, the early autumn sunlight is warm against him. He feels the wind, too, and the salt. Yuuri stands on the beach, and he closes his eyes, and he tries to stay calm.
We are here , he reminds himself. And this is now .
Mari told him he should try a mantra. Something he can clear his head with-- something to aspire to. Yuuri’s not sure it works.
Yuuri feels sometimes like he isn’t really here.
Maybe that’s just wishful thinking.
Yuuri stands on the beach and he feels the warm sunlight on his skin. He draws himself up tall and straight. He pulls his shoulders back. He cranes his neck upward.
Yuuri wishes he knew why he did the things he did. Maybe not why but how .
The baseball bat is still laying on the dirt, broken at the park miles and miles away. He didn’t mean to. He’s not sure how it happened. He’s never been good at sports. He’s never been good at anything. Too big and too clumsy.
Yuuri stretches himself upward, toward the sun. He lets his eyes close. He imagines, for just a moment, just barely, that is not held by the Earth’s gravity. He imagines he breaks free of its delicate hold, that he can reach up and out, and send himself up and away and into the world.
Yuuri imagines breaking free, his body and feet light. His body listening to him.
Yuuri imagines breaking free, and flying.
Viktor hates events like these. Viktor hates events. Viktor hates who has to be when he’s working but not working -- this smiling idiot who can sell shampoo. Viktor hates shaking hands and posing. He hates how loud everyone is-- the heavy pressure of everyone’s expectations.
Viktor hates events like these, and it’s the third time a flashbulb pops in his eyes that finally, finally cements the migraine bubbling up between his eyes. He blinks a few times, feeling his mask tug on the edges of his eyes. He takes a deep breath. He wishes it were cooler in here. He wishes he were at the apartment or at Yakov’s rink or--
“My protege will be more than happy to answer your questions,” Yakov says, pointedly, “after he has had a moment to collect himself.”
Viktor hadn’t realized how absent he’s gone.
He smiles. He knows he has a beautiful smile. The warm, hollow wave of approval that comes from the crowd confirms it.
“I just need some fresh air,” he says. He laces his voice with coy confidence-- a subtle manipulation. “I’ll be back in a moment.”
Yakov knows Viktor’s used his power to do this, to ease his way. Viktor doesn’t care. He’s tired. He wasn’t meant to be this public, all the time.
I just need some fresh air , Viktor says as he steps away from the crowded platform and into a stairwell.
The sound from outside the stairwell is muffled and closed. It’s not that it’s louder in here, it’s that it’s all secondhand-- a phantom pain. The light in here is different, too. Less golden and more blue-ish. Viktor stands there, catching his breath, catching himself,
It’s a civic award, for de-escalating that hostage situation a couple of months ago. It’s a good thing; it’s good publicity for him, and he always needs good press. This function is for him in his honor. He can’t be ungrateful . He has to be bright and easygoing and cheerful-- ever the golden boy. Ever Siren and never himself .
Viktor is standing there, hands curled into fists, breathing deeply, when someone comes up the stairwell.
They stare at each other, for just a moment.
He’s young-- he’s about Viktor’s age. He’s leaning heavily against the guard rail in the stairwell. He looks unwell and disheveled in the fluorescent lights; his dark hair is sticking up in every direction and his brown eyes look heavy and sad.
Viktor can tell he’s a journalist because of the press pass around his neck. He can tell because of his cheap, civilian suit and his terrible tie in a not terribly flattering shade of baby blue. Viktor can tell he’s a journalist because he has a black, felt tipped ink pen tucked behind his ear and a small notebook tucked into his shirt pocket. It’s obvious. A little on the nose.
He’s flushed high on his cheekbones. His glasses are off, tucked between the buttons of his shirt. He’s leaning against the guard rail, the fingers of his left hand wrapped around the next of a champagne bottle. He sways a little on his feet. Fumbles his fingers to brush his dark hair away from his face.
He looks at Viktor.
Everyone looks at Viktor-- he’s hard to ignore, out there in the kevlar underwear.
This is different, though. His eyes go soft and sparkling and beautiful, looking at him. It’s overwhelmingly, the tenderness that slips off of him easily.
“Oh,” he says, his features quirking into a smile. “Sorry-- sorry. Sorry. I know it must be-- I’m not supposed to be back here. I just wanted some air. I-- sorry. I had sort of a day.”
Viktor huffs a short laugh. He nods. “I won’t tell anyone,” he says. “I promise.”
The journalist nods. He looks down at the bottle in his hand. He licks his lip and then he says, “I drank all the champagne.”
Viktor looks from the bottle back to the journalist. He nods. “You sure did,” he comments.
He covers his mouth with his free hand. “I usually-- I usually don’t get drunk like this,” he says. “I’m sorry.”
Viktor knows from the feeling that drips off of him that he’s being honest. Both about drinking and being sorry.
“It’s okay,” Viktor says. “I wish I could get drunk. Just between the two of us.”
The journalist smiles and nods, covering his mouth with the back of his hand for just a moment. “Off the record,” he murmurs.
Viktor nods. “Off the record,” he says.
The journalist smiles. He fiddles with the mouth of the bottle, drawing his finger around green-glass lip. “How is the press conference going?” He asks.
“You’d know better than me,” Viktor says. “You’re part of the press.”
He looks down at his press credential and blinks. The shift in feeling on him is enough to give Viktor whiplash-- low warm joy interrupted by sudden shift to aching, bleeding sadness.
“Fuck,” the journalist murmurs. “I really-- I really fucked this up.” He swallows. Viktor can feel agony in him, sharp and sinking. “I’m sorry. Sorry-- I’m--”
Viktor tries to shut himself off, to detune from this stranger’s loud emotional channel. He feels his own eyes begin to water though, something vulnerable bubbling up.
The stranger closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, drawing his shoulders up, before letting it go slowly. His sadness stops projecting quite so loudly.
“Sorry,” he says, very quietly, after a moment. “My dog died.”
“Oh,” Viktor says. “That’s terrible. I’m so--”
“I didn’t want to...I didn’t want to make you feel it,” the stranger says. His eyes are still clenched closed, tight. “I know you’re-- I know all about you. I don’t want to make you feel that so I tried to find somewhere to hide and then there was champagne and then you were here . I’m sorry. Sorry.”
Viktor has trouble explaining it, the controlled unraveling that happens suddenly. It’s sudden enough that he can’t quite process what’s happening at first. Most people aren’t so conscientious, so deliberate.
Normally, Viktor feels everything from everyone. Like he’s a radio, tuned in to every station at once.Viktor has spent his whole life controlling himself so he doesn’t feel every single emotion peeling off of everyone all the time. Normally, Viktor has to control himself and everyone to keep it from being so terribly loud .
This is different, though.
Minutes pass. Slip by like waves on a shore. The feeling goes quieter and quieter.
Viktor looks at him, fascinated.
“Can you...also?” He asks. His words fail him.
Are you like me ?
The journalist shakes his head. “No powers,” he says. “Just...just therapy.”
Viktor looks at him, at the flush on his cheeks that he knows is embarrassment. Viktor looks at the way the champagne flute rests in his fingers. His untucked shirt and loosened tie.
“You’re very considerate,” Viktor eventually says. What else could he say?
He shrugs as an answer. “It doesn’t seem fair.” He pauses for just a moment. It buzzes between them, like static. “You shouldn’t have to live the worst day of my life with me.”
He looks back at the doors to the ballroom.
He looks back at the champagne, disconsolate.
“Are you always in the press corps?” Viktor asks. He feels like he would have noticed him.
The journalist nods. “I’m with the Times .” He taps his press badge with his finger. It clicks. “I’m Katsuki Yuuri. Yuuri.”
Viktor smiles. “I’d introduce myself but--”
“But you’re you ,” he interrupts. “And I’m me.”
Katsuki Yuuri, empty champagne bottle in hand, steps out of the stairwell and back into the ballroom.
Viktor, suddenly, somehow , bereft, looks at the space he once occupied, like maybe the absence will have answers for him. Like something could be explained.
“ Siren ,” Yakov hisses, suddenly, in the stairwell. Viktor turns, and down the stairs is his mentor, standing halfway in a door and looking ready to have a stroke. “What are you doing in here? The sooner you accept the award, the sooner you can go home and tend to that fucking dog of yours, you foolish boy.”
Viktor doesn’t have to feel Yakov to know that the venom in his voice is for show. He turns from the doorway Katsuki Yuuri, enigmatic journalist, parted through and heads back downstairs to the award ceremony.
Yuuri never gets this drunk, but he thinks he likes it.
He doesn’t even think as he lurches out of the stairwell and back in through the door and into the press pool. He stumbles past Phichit, fiddling with his own tie. His hands feel heavy; stupid. His blackberry vibrates in his pocket, against his thigh. His personal phone is in his bag. He needs two, to compartmentalize effectively.
Yuuri’s been on the heroes beat for almost three years. He’s been in the press pool for Siren dozens of times.
He’s never talked to him before. At him plenty of times, but never to him.
Yuuri tries to drift into the champagne feeling, away from the yawning anxiety that is reaching up to strangle him. Yuuri stumbles out away from the pool and to a different table, loaded with champagne. He takes another flute in his hand, turning the liquid inside of it slowly.
It bubbles brightly as he drinks it. He wipes his mouth with the back of his hand.
He knew he wouldn’t know who he is. Yuuri knew.
It still stings.
Shit , this has been a bad day.
Yuuri stands away from the press pool as the actual ceremony happens. The mayor hands Siren a piece of sculptural frosted glass and Siren smiles warmly and then he says a few things and then the mayor says a few things. He sees Phichit take a handful of photographs and Yuuri absently jots something down on his notepad. There are no more questions, just a five piece jazz ensemble playing and then Siren slips back into the stairwell.
Yuuri looks down at his notes. They are incomprehensible.
He pokes his notebook back into his pocket.
He grabs another champagne flute and downs it.
He pulls out his phone to text Minako, his editor, when someone trips into him, knocking him from his feet.
“Oh, shit, sorry. Excuse me,” someone says, tripping into Yuuri. “Are you okay?”
The stranger is wearing a rumpled suit and shirt. His silvery hair is a mess into his eyes-- his blue, blue eyes.
“Oh, it’s you!” The stranger exclaims.
Yuuri nods, dumbly.
“You aren’t leaving are you?” The stranger asks. “I’d like to ask you to dance, if I may.”
Usually, usually, being asked something like this would induce panic in Yuuri. Usually, but not today, when instead it washes Yuuri with a sense of familiarity. Yuuri feels, suddenly, like he knows this person.
“I should really go,” Yuuri comments. He sounds unconvincing even to his own ears. He feels suddenly warm and flushed an loose. “I-- have we met?”
The stranger smiles. “Just once, unofficially,” he answers. He extends his hand through the small slip of space between them. “Please? Just one dance.”
Yuuri should go. He should write this article and call home again and go to bed.
Yuuri should go, but he takes the stranger’s hand. The stranger smiles, and the warm, sweet quality of it is infectious.
The band begins to play.
The music picks up tempo, and Katsuki Yuuri reels with him along the floor. Viktor finds himself laughing. He knows it’s infectious; all of his moods are.
Viktor knows that this is risky. That this is dangerous, to be at an event for Siren as Viktor. He knows he can’t do this too often-- he can’t really do this ever if he’s going to keep his identity secret. Viktor knows this is risky, which is why he’s only going to do it this once.
Just this once; this laughter. This closeness .
Katsuki Yuuri’s hands are tight over Viktor’s hips. Viktor has his own arms draped over his shoulders, framing his neck. This isn’t a real dance, just a rhythm spread between them, sweetly.
“Are you sure you’ve met me?” Katsuki Yuuri asks him, in between the swelling of the music. “Most people don’t stay this long.”
It’s a lonely, vulnerable thing that pierces Viktor.
“Oh, Katsuki Yuuri,” he answers. “If you’d let me, I’d like to know you very well.”
It’s strange, what happens next.
Viktor holds Katsuki Yuuri, and Katsuki Yuuri holds him back, Viktor steps back, to finish the generous box step they’ve been winding through, and his foot, it slips. It drives down, absolutely, through thin air.
Viktor looks away from Katsuki Yuuri (held precious to him like a treasure) and realizes that standing the ballroom, they are easily resting a solid five feet in the air.
Viktor looks back at Yuuri, at his aghast face, mirroring the feeling that Viktor knows is his.
No powers . The words from the stairwell ring in his ears.
Yuuri looks nearly as shocked as he feels.
Viktor can’t fly.
Katsuki Yuuri can .
Katsuki Yuuri didn’t know .