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Something so tragic about you

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Finding his new apartment had been a challenge. It seemed everywhere Yuuri looked was disgusting, or dangerous, or had already been snapped up by someone just a little quicker. By the time he visited the old sandstone building on the very edge of his preferred area, he was desperate. Anything would be better than the crumbling nightmare he stayed in. His neighbour’s bathroom ceiling had collapsed a few weeks before, and his own was looking increasingly precarious. 

The realtor who showed him around the space had looked strangely resigned as he went lazily through the amenities, but Yuuri hardly noticed, too busy staring wide-eyed at the high ceilings and beautifully furnished rooms. 

‘Are you sure you got the price right in the ad?’ Yuuri asked, wondering how the rent could be so low in such a lovely building.

‘Definitely. The owners want this occupied quickly, they’re already lowered it twice.’ The realtor frowned at the question, looking at his watch as he spoke.

‘Is there some problem I should be aware of?’ 

Perhaps realising he wasn’t helping himself make a sale, the realtor snapped to attention.

‘No! No, not at all. Just some issues with previous tenants, that’s all. Nothing to worry about.’

Yuuri bit his lip and considered him. He was behaving strangely, but Yuuri really didn’t have any other options at this point, and the apartment was stunning, and miraculously under his budget. 

‘When can I move in? If I take it?’

‘Immediately.’ The realtor really wasn’t great at hiding his feelings, his cheeks twitched a little trying to contain his smile.

‘And you’re sure there’s nothing I need to know?’

‘Absolutely not!’

‘...Great. I guess I’ll take it.’

-

Agonising as moving always was, Yuuri felt no small measure of relief as he set down his last box. As he stretched out his back and looked around his new home, he thought again about the strange behaviour of the realtor. Maybe he was just bad at his job? The apartment looked even better in the morning, the huge windows pouring light in like honey, filling every inch of the rooms.

Everything would be fine. He was legally required to tell Yuuri about structural issues with the place, or unpleasant details like deaths and the like. Maybe the previous tenants just hadn’t liked the area, or had been kicked out for being disruptive to the rest of the building. 

Resolving not to worry about it anymore, Yuuri focused all his energy into unpacking. 

The apartment seemed more perfect with every passing minute. The kitchen was newly refurbished and massive, the bathroom ceiling didn’t have a single crack or water-stain, and the bedroom came pre-furnished with an utterly massive bed. Even the mattress looked new. Maybe the previous tenants had wrecked the place, and the cost of refurbishing it was the reason the rent was so low? No matter what, Yuuri knew better than to look a gift horse in the mouth.

-

The first inkling of something strange with the apartment happened a week into Yuuri’s tenancy. 

Nothing unusual had happened that night when Yuuri got ready for bed. Sure, it was a little later than most people would go to sleep, pushing on 2 am, but that wasn’t out of the norm for Yuuri. Just as he’d settled down in the dark though, breathing evenly to try and tip himself into sleep, he heard it: a faint, distant scratching. 

He froze in the dark, eyes snapping open, but after a moment he heard the radiator click on. It must have been the pipes, warming up in advance. Laughing a little at his own fright, he closed his eyes again. 

Scratch scratch scratchscratchscratch

Yuuri shot upright in bed, scrambling at the bedside table for the lamp. The scratching was back, and louder, and fast. He squinted around the suddenly bright room, looking frantically for what could be causing it, trying to pinpoint where it was coming from. His mind jumped rapidly from spiders to mice to burglars, his breath quickening with every scratch, before as suddenly as it had started, it stopped.  

His heart beating wildly, Yuuri fought to catch his breath. He lasted only a moment before he was out of bed, dragging his duvet with him - the couch would do for the night, and he’d figure out the cause of the noise in the morning. 

Whatever had caused the scratching was no more obvious in the daylight. Yuuri searched every inch of his bedroom, but there were no signs of mice, and when he heard the radiator click on again the pipes made no noise at all. Whatever it had been, it had came from outside his apartment. The trees that lined the street outside only reached as far as the second floor, so it hadn’t been branches at his window, and there wasn’t an external fire-escape to rattle or creak. 

Phichit liked to say that Yuuri could find something to worry about in paradise. He was teasing, but it was true. Yuuri’s anxiety was always present, always watchful, and quick to blow things out of proportion. He was working on it, but it was difficult. He refused to let himself worry about this. Whatever it had been, it was over now. 

-

Exhausted from his day at work, Yuuri was distracted as he opened his mailbox in the foyer of his apartment building. The lock stuck every time he tried to turn it, and he was fiddling with it when the main door slammed open, causing him to jump and drop the key. 

He was bending down to pick it up when something brushed past him quickly, knocking him off balance. He caught himself against the wall and looked up sharply just in time to see a tall man carrying a truly massive duffle bag disappear into the elevator. 

How rude. Not even an ‘excuse me’. Stung a little by the behaviour of his neighbour, Yuuri returned his attention to the mailbox.

-

Yuuri was asleep that night when the scratching started again, but by the time he was awake it had stopped. He woke up slowly, not sure what had roused him. The room was warm and quiet, no light leaked around his blinds, everything seemed just as it was supposed to be. He was almost asleep again when a noise pricked at the edge of his hearing, growing louder as it went. A low, mournful whining, building in intensity. It seemed to come from everywhere at once. Suddenly, Yuuri wasn’t all that sleepy anymore. He sat up in the middle of his bed, shaking slightly in fear as he again looked wildly around him. That wasn’t pipes. That, definitely, definitely wasn’t pipes. The sound was distorted and strange, like hearing an echo. Yuuri clapped his hands over his ears and tried to calm his breathing.

A sudden loud bang broke through the pressure of his hands, and Yuuri pulled them away. The whining had stopped. All was silent. Yuuri gasped wetly, near to tears, and once again fled the room with his duvet around him, unable to even consider going back to sleep with the possibility of that noise happening again.

-

Yuuri slept on the couch for three days before Phichit visited him and caught him at it, the pile of pillows and the mess of his bedding making it obvious what he was up to. 

‘I don’t know what to do!’ Yuuri wailed at him, gesturing sharply to the tightly-closed bedroom door. ‘The noises are terrifying, and I can’t figure out what’s causing them, it’s freaking me out!’ 

Phichit patted his shoulder comfortingly, if slightly patronisingly. 

‘You know it’s probably not coming from your apartment Yuuri, what if it’s just a really obnoxious neighbour?’

‘You didn’t hear it Phichit! It was so loud, and awful, I’ve never heard anything like it - it didn’t sound human!’ 

‘So? That doesn’t mean it’s not your neighbour. Maybe they listen to weird music or something, and the sound distorted through the walls? Or maybe they have a pet?’

Yuuri shook his head. ‘It wasn’t music, and the lease was painfully clear, no pets at all, ever, under any circumstances. Plus, what kind of pet would even make a noise like that?’

‘Either way, Yuuri,’ Phichit said, rolling his eyes a little at Yuuri’s dramatics ‘You can’t sleep on your couch forever, you’ve got a huge bed ten feet away going cold and musty. Whatever it was, you haven’t heard it since, have you?’

Yuuri shook his head again, biting his lip.

‘Well then, there you go. Be brave babe. Let’s get your bedding back in your room, and then I’ll crush you at Smash, yeah?’

‘Like you could.’ 

Yuuri still felt nervous about going to bed that night, but he tried to push it from his mind. Phichit was right. He couldn’t let himself be chased out of his room by some random noises. It was just the reality of living in an old building with neighbours in almost every direction, some noise was always going to leak through. 

-

The doors were almost closed in the elevator when a hand snapped into the space and blocked them. Yuuri looked up from his phone in time to see possibly the most gorgeous person he had ever seen in real life step through. That silver hair couldn’t be real. No one could have eyes that blue. He was so transfixed by the man’s sharp cheekbones that it took him a moment to realise that he was carrying the same huge duffle bag that had almost taken Yuuri off his feet a week back, and his admiration soured a little. Yes, he was insanely attractive, but also rude. Yuuri looked back at his phone, resolving to ignore him as the man pressed the button for the floor above his own. 

The elevator had barely begun to move when Yuuri noticed something odd. The man was breathing very heavily, almost panting. Yuuri chanced a glance from the corner of his eye, just in time to catch the man looking away from him quickly. Yuuri looked back down at his phone, staring blankly at it, wishing the elevator wasn’t so old and slow. The man was still panting. 

They were almost at Yuuri’s floor when the man stopped panting, and started sniffing. Not like he was trying to clear his nose, but like he was trying to smell something. Yuuri snapped his head around to look at him, horrified, and had never been more grateful in his life to hear the cheerful ting! of the elevator reaching his floor. The man was staring at the floor, but the tips of his ears and the bridge of his nose were a bright burning red. Yuuri bolted the second the doors opened.

His hands shook as he opened his apartment door, glancing over his shoulder to make sure the man hadn’t followed him. What an unbelievable creep. 

-

He’d been in his apartment for a month now, and had begun to understand what could have driven other tenants away. Between the terrifying noises at night and the creepy neighbours, Yuuri was starting to regret saying yes so quickly. Yes, the tall ceilings and wide windows were beautiful, and yes, the neighbourhood was safe and quiet, but Yuuri had never felt so uneasy in his own home. 

Phichit had agreed the sniffing thing was weird when he called to tell him about it, but not before asking if Yuuri had been to the gym before it happened. He made the call in his bedroom, sitting on his bed trying to relax after work. The sun was still up, everything was bright, nothing should be frightening, when a low tapping started echoing around him. This was new. It wasn’t the scratching from before, but an arrhythmic tap tap tap. Phichit was still chatting away on the phone, but Yuuri’s attention was fixed on the noise. He hadn’t heard anything in daylight before. Fear started to rise in his chest.

The tapping was getting louder. He could hear Phichit calling his name now, but he couldn’t spare the attention to answer him. The tapping stopped. Just as he took a breath to tell Phichit what was happening, the scratching sound started again, quietly as before, growing louder and faster as it went.

‘-ri? Yuuri!’ Phichit’s loud cry finally broke through to him. 

‘Phichit! Phichit, can you hear it?’ Yuuri frantically hit the speaker button on his phone. 

‘Hear what, Yuuri?’

‘The scratching!’ But even as he said it, the scratching stopped. Yuuri could still hear Phichit talking, but it sounded distant now. Yuuri’s eyes were fixed sightlessly on the ceiling, his breath felt jagged in his chest, like it wasn’t reaching far enough no matter how hard he tried to breathe in. 

Slowly, he noticed Phichit counting on the phone, and tried to match his breathing to Phichit’s smooth and calm voice. 

‘Are you back with me, Yuuri?’

‘I- I am. Yes. I am.’ 

‘Yuuri, you’re getting too worked up about these noises. You’re letting yourself get freaked out over nothing.’

‘But what if it’s not nothing! What if it’s something!’ Even in his post-anxiety-attack fog, Yuuri could feel himself getting annoyed at Phichit’s dismissal.

‘What could it be then? It’s an old building, it’s probably pipes, or your neighbours! Are you sure you’ve checked everywhere for holes in the walls? It’s nothing, Yuuri. It’s not like your apartment is haunted, it’s just some weird noises.’

Haunted. Yuuri hadn’t even considered that, but now that Phichit had mentioned it, it was all he could think of. Distantly, he heard himself agree with Phichit, and wrap up the call, but if asked five minutes later he would have no recollection of what he said, too busy remembering the plots of every single haunted house movie he had ever seen.

-

Yuuri’s beautiful apartment didn’t feel quite so beautiful anymore. Suddenly, the high ceiling and bright windows made him nervous, any shadow at all seemed frightening. He was back to sleeping on the couch, avoiding his bedroom like the plague. He had started taking on extra classes at the studio, just so he’d have an excuse to linger at work longer - much to the confusion and delight of his colleagues. The extra work also helped to exhaust him, leaving him too tired at night to be scared for long.

It was after one exceptionally long day that he encountered his neighbour again, although this time Yuuri was the one to catch the closing elevator doors. He was already inside when he noticed who already occupied the tiny space, thankfully for once without his giant duffel. Yuuri clutched at the strap of his own bag with one hand, and held his keys tightly in the other, just in case.

The man didn’t even look at him beyond one wide-eyed look as he entered. He wasn’t panting this time, Yuuri was glad to notice. The elevator had just passed the first floor when the man cleared his throat.

‘I- ah. I’m sorry, about last time.’

Yuuri stood rigidly, staring at the doors.

‘I... I had a terrible cold, and if I.. if I made you uncomfortable, I’m very, very sorry.’

The man had a slight accent, clearly smoothed over by years of speaking English, but Yuuri couldn’t place it. Yuuri looked at him doubtfully from the corner of his eye. That sniffing wasn’t a cold. The silence dragged on awkwardly for a moment, before Yuuri nodded once, sharply, aware that the man seemed to be waiting for a response.

‘I hope you feel better now,’ muttered Yuuri, just as the doors opened and he once again fled the lift as fast as he politely could. A very quiet 'thank you' trailed after him.

Had he looked back, he would’ve seen the man drop his face into his palms as soon as Yuuri cleared the doors.

-

Things came to a head at the end of Yuuri’s second month in the apartment. There had been no more strange noises, and he had tentatively moved back into the bedroom, pushing all thoughts of hauntings from his mind. 

2 am seemed to be a cursed time for Yuuri. He had sat up late planning the next block of beginners ballet, and was only just dozing off when he suddenly snapped awake. The skin on the back of his neck seemed to prickle as a distorted whispering started up around him. A voice, saying things he couldn’t understand, too low to fully hear it. It seemed to grow and recede in volume, and Yuuri was frozen in place, shivering slightly in fear. It was getting louder.

Whatever it was saying was in some guttural, incomprehensible language, made worse by the same distortion that had affected the whining sound all those weeks ago. It sounded angry, all harsh consonants and bitten off phrases. It wasn’t stopping. Wheezing quietly in fright, Yuuri slid off the bed and crawled to the door, grabbing his hoodie from the foot of the bed as he went. 

He was almost at the door when a loud slam startled him, and the voice suddenly got even louder, shouting in that same awful language. Yuuri stood up and ran into the hall, snatching up his keys as he passed them and kicking his feet into his trainers at the door. The voice was still audible, it seemed to have followed him out. He ran into the corridor outside his apartment door, and, deeming the elevator too slow for his terror, sprinted further down the hall to the stairwell, pulling the door open frantically.

It had only just swung shut behind him when he realised he wasn’t alone. Somewhere in the stairwell, something was tapping. Something was panting. Something was coming closer to him. Yuuri froze again, his back pressed against the door, holding his breath and straining his hearing to see which direction it was coming from. He couldn’t tell, but it was moving still - was it going up or coming down? Why did the building have to be so stupidly big and echoing, why did he sign that stupid year long lease?

He dropped to his knees when the voice he’d heard in his bedroom suddenly joined the tapping, panting chorus. It was less distorted now, but still guttural and terrifying. He covered his face with his hands and tried not to pass out from fear.

‘Are you alright?’ 

It felt like his soul left his body when someone suddenly spoke to him, and he snapped his head up to find the strange and creepy neighbour from upstairs looking at him, his handsome face twisted in concern. It wasn’t fair that he was so pretty and so scary.

Yuuri opened his mouth, unsure what he could possibly say, when the man suddenly turned to the right, and dashed down the stairs.

‘There you are!’ He cried triumphantly from the landing below.

Yuuri stared after him. What the fuck was going on?  

The man started speaking again, from the sounds of it walking back towards Yuuri. The tapping and panting seemed to be following him now.

‘Please, please don’t tell the landlord. Please. I promise, I have this completely under control. Please.’ With his final word he stepped back into view. A large, stunningly lovely poodle following close at his heels.

Yuuri was fairly confident he had never been so confused in his life.

The man was looking at him intently, guilt written across his face, his shoulders up tight around his ears. 

‘I know we’re not supposed to have pets, but I couldn’t leave Makkachin behind, and this was the only place I could get on short notice, I swear it’s only until the lease runs out, please please please don’t tell anyone!’ 

Yuuri stood, and then immediately regretted it. He wobbled, feeling faint, when the man leapt to catch him around the waist. Yuuri gave himself a second to be grateful that he hadn’t fell, and distantly appreciate the strength he could feel in the man’s grip, before he gently pushed him away. 

‘Sorry!’ Said the man again, holding his hands up so Yuuri could see them. ‘Are you okay though? You look really pale. Do you need to sit down again? Can I call anyone? What happened?’ 

The dog - Makkachin? - nosed at Yuuri’s legs, looking just as concerned as its human. Yuuri patted its head distractedly.

‘Oooh, you really don’t look good at all, please let me help.’ Without waiting for a response, the man carefully took hold of Yuuri’s shoulders and began to steer him up the stairs. 

Everything felt far away. The man led him to a door the next floor up - directly above Yuuri’s flat, he noticed vaguely - and into an apartment that looked just like his own. He must have got it pre-furnished too. 

The man gently pushed him onto the couch, and then helped him tip his head forward between his knees. 

‘Just breathe a minute, I’ll get you some water. Or some tea? I have a really really nice rose tea? I’ll make you some tea.’ The man wrung his hands nervously as he spoke, tugging at his sleeves as he stared at Yuuri, before he quickly left the room. 

It was funny, Yuuri thought to himself, only a little hysterically, the creepy guy seemed more scared of Yuuri than Yuuri was of him. Makkachin had flopped down over Yuuri’s feet and promptly rolled over to reveal her belly, waiting patiently for scratches. Obviously, Yuuri obliged immediately, the dog doing more to comfort him after the crippling terror of the past ten minutes than all the breathing exercises in the world could. 

He looked up when the man entered the room again, a glass in one hand, and a cheerful mug covered in puppies in the other. 

‘I’m Viktor, by the way!’ He announced, slightly too-brightly, looking a little manic around the eyes, holding both drinks out towards Yuuri. ‘I just realised I brought you all the way in here and never introduced myself, you must think I’m so rude!’

Yuuri certainly thought a lot of things about him, and rude definitely was in there somewhere, but not for this. He reached up and took the mug, careful not to touch Viktor’s hand. The tea smelled smokier than he expected, and he sipped it gratefully, feeling calmer by the minute.

Viktor stood and watched him intensely, before he seemed to realise how he was acting, and then he began to fuss around the room, tidying up already-tidy piles of books and magazines. 

‘I’m Yuuri. I live downstairs.’

‘I know!’ Viktor turned towards him grinning brightly, before he cringed and looked away again. ‘I mean, I know you live downstairs, and I got a bit of your mail once by accident so I learned your name but I put it straight back in your mailbox I promise!’ He muttered something else after he finished speaking to Yuuri, something that sounded a lot like 'get it together Vitya', but Yuuri dismissed it as his frazzled imagination. 

What a strange man. It was becoming increasingly obvious that what Yuuri had first read as rude or creepy was actually just awkwardness. For all his bright chattiness, Viktor seemed shy. Yuuri sipped at his tea, and waited for him to calm down a little. 

Viktor took a deep breath, and let it out again, before turning back to Yuuri. The bridge of his nose and the tops of his ears were red. 

‘Do you want to tell me what happened? You looked so scared a few minutes ago.’

Yuuri's shoulders tightened again at the reminder of his fear.

‘You’ll think it’s silly.’

‘Try me.’

'I... I think my apartment is haunted.'

'Haunted? What? Why do you think that?' Viktor sat down on the other end of the couch and looked at Yuuri, his eyes wide and focused intently. 

'I keep hearing these awful noises and tonight... Tonight I heard a voice. I couldn't understand it, but it sounded so angry.' He shuddered hard and sipped at his tea again, reaching down to scratch at Makkachin's soft ears. 

'Ah...' 

Yuuri looked up again at the strangely hesitant sound Viktor made. 

'This... ha, this voice, when did you hear it?' He wasn’t looking at Yuuri anymore.

'A minute or so before you bumped into me?'

'And where were you when you heard it?’ Viktor’s leg was bouncing now. Yuuri eyed him, wondering where this could be going. 

'In my bedroom?'

Viktor had a strange look on his face.

'Would that be just there, at the back of your apartment?' He pointed vaguely behind himself.

'Yes?' What a weirdo. 

Viktor dropped his face into his hands and groaned. 

'I'm so sorry, Yuuri. I think it was me you've been hearing.’

Of all the responses Yuuri expected, that definitely wasn’t one of them. 

‘What do you mean?’

Viktor stood up from the couch.

‘It’ll probably be easier if I showed you. Will you follow me?’

Yuuri stared at him for a moment. Was it wise to follow him? Although, considered Yuuri, he was already in his apartment, without his phone, and no one knew he was there. And he had accepted a drink from him. He stood up from the couch too, reluctantly dislodging Makkachin from the tops of his feet, who grumbled at him. 

Viktor guided him out of the living room and back into the hall that led to the front door. Now that Yuuri was a little more alert, he noticed that there was an extra door - Viktor must have a two bedroom flat. 

Viktor walked to the door that in his own apartment would’ve been his bedroom. Inside though, rather than a bed, was a semi-chaotic jumble of easels and canvases. Unlike the rest of the apartment, and Yuuri’s own, the floor wasn’t carpet, but hardwood. 

‘I made a phone call in here just before Makkachin escaped. I didn’t shut the front door properly after our walk. You must have heard me calling after her.’

‘But it was so loud? And distorted? And it definitely wasn’t in English?’ 

Viktor was blushing again.

‘I was talking to my cousin, in Moscow. I was speaking Russian. I had him on speaker. He wasn’t in the best of moods,’ That explained the faint twang of his accent. ‘I think it’s maybe echoed into your bedroom through the grate.’

‘Grate?’

Viktor nodded, and walked further into the room. He crouched in front of a bundle of canvases leaning against the wall, and pulled them back. A tiny brass grate was obvious in the wall. Yuuri stared at him in confusion for a moment before he realised - he’d never moved the headboard of the bed to look behind there. It was too heavy to shift, so he’d ignored it. It would be directly below where Viktor was crouching. There must be a grate in the same room in every apartment, some kind of airflow assistance. 

‘But... But the other noises?’ Yuuri was starting to feel a little faint again.

‘What other noises?’ Viktor had stood up again, his mouth pinched with concern. 

‘The scratching! And the tapping! And that awful whining! I’ve never heard anything like it!’

Viktor’s face scrunched up in confusion for a moment before understanding dawned.

‘Makkachin’s not allowed in here, but sometimes she sneaks in when I’m not looking. She likes to scratch her back on the wood. Was the whining last month? Because she got in here and knocked the door shut behind herself, and cried till I came and let her out. She’s very dramatic.’

As though she knew they were talking about her, the dog in question wandered in and flopped down in front of Viktor. She lay there a second before she lifted her hind leg and scratched frantically at her ear. The claws of her other leg scratched and clattered loudly against the floor.

Yuuri wasn’t fully convinced he was awake. All those nights, sleeping on his couch because he was too scared to go into his bedroom... were because of a dog? He felt a little betrayed, he loved dogs.

‘I’m so sorry Yuuri, I’ll block that grate off right away, you won’t hear anything else.’ Viktor was biting his lip, tugging at his sleeves again as he looked at Yuuri.

‘I... I have to sit down.’ Without waiting for a response, Yuuri about-turned and marched back to the couch. Had all those other tenants moved out because they had heard Makkachin too?

Viktor trailed after him, murmuring to Makkachin as he went. He sat down again before he spoke to Yuuri, still as far away as he could possibly be on the couch. ‘Are you okay?’

Yuuri jumped to his feet.

‘No! I’m not! I’ve been freaking out for months!’ He dragged his hands through his hair, before pointing at Viktor. ‘And you! Why were you so weird in the elevator? Why were you sniffing me? I know you didn’t have a cold!’

Viktor looked horrendously embarrassed, his whole face bright red, and didn’t meet Yuuri’s eyes. His mouth moved soundlessly for a moment, before he said in a rush, ‘I can’t walk Makkachin through the apartment building because I know that someone will see her and tell the landlord, so I always hide her in a big bag and carry her. Usually she’s very quiet! But we’d ran a lot that day, so she was panting, and she must have smelled you, and wanted to know what the new smell was, so suddenly she was sniffing and I could see you were really uncomfortable but I couldn’t say anything because what if you told on us and we got kicked out! I’m really really sorry! I always try and move as fast as possible through the foyer, and suddenly you were there, and I didn’t know what to do!’ He gasped for breath a little after his outburst.

Yuuri sat down again, staring at Viktor like he was insane. He looked at Makkachin, happily chewing on a toy across the room, and then back to Viktor, who looked like he was about to cry. That giant bag... held a dog? A dog the size of Makkachin? Yuuri loved her already, how could he not? But he could hardly imagine fitting her in a bag and carrying her around. 

The silence stretched on. Viktor buried his face in his hands again, and heaved a huge sigh. ‘Please say something?’

‘I have no idea what to say. That’s the most insane thing I’ve ever heard. I won’t tell the landlord though.’ Yuuri had lived with Phichit and his secret hamsters all the way through university, who was he to judge? (He judged a little though. Because of the terror.)

Viktor gave a whine that could’ve easily come from Makkachin, before he laughed a little and looked up at Yuuri. His eyes really were startlingly blue.

‘Usually, Yuuri, I’m very cool. Some have even described me as ‘suave’. But, somehow, I’m always a complete disaster in front of you.’

Viktor seemed utterly determined to surprise him.

‘What?’

Viktor dragged his hands roughly through his hair. ‘It’s just, I kept seeing you around! You always looked so cute, and so nice, and so put together. Even when it was clear you had just been to the gym or something, and then the first time I got to meet you, I looked like the biggest creep in the world! And then when I finally met you without Makkachin, I panicked and all I could think to say was the dumbest lie ever. And even then you were so polite, even though you were so clearly uncomfortable.’ He sighed again. ‘I just wanted to make a good impression, but no matter what I did, something always went wrong.’

Awkward, shy, and a little silly. The new picture of Viktor that Yuuri was building in his head was markedly different to what had been there before. 

‘You... wanted to talk to me? Before now?’

Viktor nodded. What Yuuri could see of his expression seemed sad, the corner of his mouth twisted down, but Viktor was looking resolutely at the floor. Phichit was going to laugh his head off when Yuuri told him about this. Before that could happen though, Yuuri had to be brave. 

He scooted closer to Viktor on the couch, and waited until Viktor looked at him again. When he finally did, Yuuri held out his hand and smiled at him.

‘Hi. I’m Katsuki Yuuri. I live downstairs. I teach ballet, and I really like your dog, even if I did think my apartment was haunted because of her.’

Viktor laughed, a little wetly, and shook Yuuri’s hand firmly.

‘Hi. I’m Viktor Nikiforov. I’m an artist. I’m really happy you like Makka, and I’m really sorry we scared you.’

‘It’s nice to meet you, Viktor.’

-

Viktor escorted Yuuri back to his apartment once he finished his tea, and hovered awkwardly at the door, smiling a little crookedly. 

‘Will you be okay now? I promise I’ll keep Makka out of the studio completely, and I won’t make any more calls in there.’

Yuuri looked at him, Viktor was avoiding his eye again, and was blushing very slightly. Yuuri smirked a little, and nodded to himself. Somehow, in the face of all the ridiculousness of the night, it was easy to be confident for once. 

‘You can take me out for coffee to make it up to me.’ 

Viktor’s answering grin was heart-shaped and huge, changing the whole shape of his face. Yuuri was outrageously charmed. He nodded frantically, and scrambled in his pocket for his phone. 

‘I’d love to! Just name the time and place, I’ll be there!’ He held out his phone to Yuuri, who took it, and texted himself quickly. 

Handing it back to him, Yuuri smiled once more and said, ‘Goodnight, Viktor,’ before he stepped back into his apartment and closed the door. He leaned against it immediately, floored by his own actions. Faintly, through the wood, he heard a bright ‘Yes!’, and after a moment, the sound of Viktor walking away.

He laughed and shook his head, stepping back into his bedroom. The last thing he did before going to bed was text Phichit.

‘Not haunted, and creepy neighbour is just an awkward guy with a secret dog. We’re getting coffee.’

He was sure Phichit would get a kick out of that in the morning. 

Sleeping in his own bedroom had never felt better.