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i laugh like me again (you laugh like you)

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Unusually, Viktor was running late. If asked, he’d say that Makkachin needed properly dried after their walk, and it took longer than expected, but really it was because he wasn’t even sure he wanted to go. Chris had encouraged him to try Tinder, even just as a bit of fun to end his dry spell, but Viktor wasn’t really sure it was his thing. He’d had some fun conversations, and a lot of weird ones too, but there was something so clinical and uncomfortable about picking someone from an app the same way one would order a new shirt or make a reservation for a restaurant. He hoped that actually meeting someone in person would make the whole experience worth it, but as he arrived at the coffee shop they’d agreed on, his nerves came to the fore.

Mikhail was already seated when he got there, tapping away on his phone. He didn’t look up until Viktor sat down, and he laid his phone face-up on the table as he did. At least he looked like he did in his pictures. Viktor had watched far too many episodes of Catfished in the run up to their date, and had had terrible visions of someone completely different meeting him. Mikhail was handsome in a way that made it clear he was well aware of the fact. His hair was perfectly coiffed, his brows clearly regularly maintained, and his beard looked sculpted and recently oiled. He wasn’t Viktor’s usual type, but wasn’t that supposed to be half the fun?

‘Viktor! I like your scarf, have you considered wearing red though? It would look better on you.’ Mikhail’s voice was loud, and his grin was toothy and bright around his words. Viktor had to fight to keep his own smile straight at the strange compliment. 

‘Ah- thank you? It’s nice to meet you, I’m sorry I’m late. Have you been waiting long?’

Mikhail shook his head, still grinning at him. 

‘That’s okay, you can be early next time. I haven’t been waiting long though.’ 

Viktor’s own smile was starting to feel strained around the edges. Was it presumptive of Mikhail to already be thinking of a next time, or was he being sensitive? There was something about the whole interaction that felt a little strange, off kilter. Viktor flexed his hands under the table, trying to shake away some of the anxiety he could feel building up. He was just nervous. It was always difficult, meeting someone new. Mikhail probably didn’t mean anything by it, was just making flirtatious conversation. Everything was fine. 

‘I’m glad, I’m not usually late to anything but my dog needed some attention, you know how it is.’

Mikhail’s grin dimmed a bit, showed a few less teeth as he shook his head.

‘I’ve never really had much time for dogs. I’ll take your word for it though.’ He clapped his hands suddenly, while Viktor was still mildly reeling from the idea of not having time for dogs. ‘Anyway! We’re in a coffee shop, we should have coffee at least - although I still think a bar would have been better. What can I get you?’ 

Viktor felt a muscle twitch at the hinge of his jaw. The little flickers of nerves he’d felt in his fingers started to feel like tiny little red flags, fluttering in the breeze. First impressions weren’t always correct though, he told himself, maybe Mikhail was nervous too and it was coming out as a touch of rudeness. 

‘A latte would be lovely, thank you.’ 

Mikhail nodded and stood, scooping his phone up as he went. Viktor took the opportunity to check his own phone while his back was turned.

 

{🍑 christophe 🍑}

How’s it going cher? Butterflies? Sparks? 🍆🍆🍆???

{vitya}

I’m not sure about this, I’m getting a weird vibe

{🍑 christophe 🍑}

How so?

{vitya}

Not sure. I’ll call you later.

 

Viktor put his phone away as the barista called Mikhail’s name, and felt his smile settle into something more natural as Mikhail turned back to face him, carrying two cups and two very cute cake pops in his hands. Curiously though, when he sat down, he handed Viktor his latte with a bright ‘there you go!’ but kept the cakes in his hand, the sticks held between his first two knuckles. Viktor took his cup, thanked him, and tried hard not to look or sound too puzzled by his continued grip on the cakes.

There are a few indicators of character that are utterly unmistakable. Being rude to waiters, for example, or taking a phone call while being served in a store. Viktor now learned of another, as he watched Mikhail methodically eat his way through both cake pops without any indication he ever planned on offering him even a bite. It wasn’t that Viktor even wanted cake, but it would have been nice to have been asked. 

Mikhail told him a long story about some kind of impressive thing he’d done recently, but Viktor didn’t hear a word of it. He was too focused on the way Mikhail ate first the fondant ears of the bunny-shaped cakes, and then the nose, and then nibbled away the drawn-on whiskers, all while continuing to tell his story. He nodded vaguely along, murmuring little noises of encouragement or interest in the places Mikhail seemed to expect them, but all the while he watched him chew in horrified fascination. 

By the time Mikhail had finished eating, and they’d both finished their coffees, Viktor hadn’t said more than three words together. 

Mikhail was mid-sentence when his phone buzzed loudly on the table in front of him, and he picked it up without a second's hesitation, laughing at whatever he saw on the screen. He texted back for a moment, still laughing, before he looked up at Viktor as though he'd forgotten he was there.

'Oh, sorry. It's work, I have to go.' Viktor hadn't particularly been enjoying himself, but it still stung a little to be so unceremoniously dismissed. 'I'll text you, maybe we can do this again sometime, maybe somewhere a little more... exciting.' He kissed the air on either side of Viktor's cheeks before he stood, and left without another word, already lifting his phone to his ear.

Viktor sat frozen at the table, utterly astounded by the entire experience. It wasn't that he had expected to meet the love of his life in a coffee shop, but he'd at least expected a basic degree of courtesy. He stared at the dregs of his latte, trying to decide what to do next. He should leave, and call Chris and announce his immediate retirement from any and all dating sites, and go home and cuddle Makkachin till he felt better, but that felt like admitting defeat. He wasn't used to admitting defeat in any aspect of his life.

He was considering the benefits of changing his phone number so that on the off-chance Mikhail meant it when he said he'd be back in touch he wouldn't be able to, when a quiet cough broke his concentration.

He looked up to find one of the baristas standing in front of him. He was cute, in a soft, approachable kind of way. His eyes were big and brandywine brown behind blue-framed glasses, and his hair was sweetly messy where it fell over his forehead. He was biting his lip, and looking down at his hands. Viktor followed his gaze down to see him holding a fresh latte, and a puppy-shaped cake pop. 

'I-,' he broke off, and cleared his throat again nervously, still not looking at Viktor. 'I thought you might like these? I thought, um. I thought he bought a cake for you, but then he didn't share, and I thought that wasn't very nice of him. So, here,' he thrust the cake pop towards him, and Viktor took it carefully from his hand. He set the mug on the table much more gently. 'I'm sorry if I'm overstepping, and it's on the house, obviously, but I just- I just didn't want you to be sad.' 

Viktor looked from the tiny cute cake, to the barista's hands as they fretted, and finally up to his face again. He still wasn’t looking at Viktor directly, and he was biting his lip so hard Viktor was slightly afraid he’d hurt himself. He really was adorable. Viktor smiled the first real smile he’d managed all day, and softly touched the barista’s hands where they were twisted together. 

‘This is possibly the nicest thing anyone’s done for me, ever.’ That got him to look up. He met Viktor’s eyes at last, looking very clearly shocked. Viktor just smiled at him, small and happy. ‘If it’s not asking too much, would you like to sit with me a minute?’

The barista started to nod, before frowning suddenly and looking over his shoulder at the counter. Before he could say anything, the other worker was already calling out, cheerful and bright.

‘Would you look at that Yuuri, your break just started! How convenient!’ He had eyes bright as polished river stones, and he was grinning widely at the two of them.

‘Phichit!’ hissed the barista, Yuuri apparently, and Viktor’s smile grew wider as Phichit stuck his tongue out playfully in response.

Yuuri turned back to face him, blushing sweetly. Viktor gestured to the seat across from him, and Yuuri sat, holding himself tightly as though afraid to take up too much room. He smiled though, a tiny quirk of his lips when he caught Viktor’s eye. Viktor picked up the mug Yuuri had placed on the table, and went to take a sip when he noticed something odd. The milk was strangely puffy on the top, and after a second he realised that someone had made a tiny puppy face with the foam. He couldn’t contain a little noise of delight and gently turned the mug in his hands to get a better look. 

‘Yuuri!’ Viktor looked up at him, face stretched wide around a grin he couldn’t contain. ‘Did you do this? It’s adorable!’ 

Yuuri nodded, blushing furiously.

‘So impressive! Can I post a picture on my Instagram? It’s so cute, it looks almost like my Makkachin.’

‘I don’t mind,’ said Yuuri, softly. ‘What’s a Makkachin?’ 

Viktor was already reaching for his phone when Mikhail’s dismissal of dogs returned to him, and left him with an odd sense of trepidation about being too excited. He loved dogs, and Makka was obviously the best of them all, but it would hurt if two people in one day disregarded her. He kept his hand on his phone as he spoke though, just in case.

‘Shes... she’s my poodle. I love her terribly.’

Yuuri lit up, brighter and happier than Viktor had seen him yet.

‘A poodle? I love poodles! I have one too, his name is Vicchan.’ 

Yuuri looked completely different with joy in his face instead of adorable bashfulness. Viktor was quite suddenly struck by the realisation that Yuuri was perhaps one of the prettiest people he had ever met. He had his phone in his hand before Yuuri even finished talking, already pulling up pictures of his baby. Yuuri leaned close across the table, almost craning his neck to see. Viktor leaned in too, and they tilted their heads together over his phone as he scrolled through picture after picture, Yuuri cooing all the while over her curls, her big dark eyes, her sweet puppy grin. After a few minutes of this, Yuuri shyly took out his own phone to show Viktor photos of his Vicchan, a puppy-sized version of his Makka that he was immediately desperate to meet and cuddle. 

At some point, without their noticing, a second mug appeared on their table, the soft smell of genmaicha rising warm around their faces. Yuuri looked over his shoulder at Phichit when he noticed it, but Phichit just stuck his tongue out again. Viktor thought he spotted a phone in his hand, but he was soon distracted again by a video of Vicchan chasing his own reflection. Yuuri taking a sip of his tea reminded him to take a picture of Yuuri’s latte art before he took his own sip. The picture he eventually posted (after checking with a once-more blushing Yuuri that it was okay) was the adorable foamy puppy face, the cake pop propped up beside it, and Yuuri’s hands wrapped around his own mug in the background. 

All thoughts of what brought him to the coffee shop in the first place left Viktor the longer he sat with Yuuri. Underneath his sweet shyness, Yuuri had a wicked and witty streak, and had a way of making Viktor laugh more easily than he ever had with a relative stranger before. Yuuri relaxed too, the longer they spoke together, his shoulders dropping down from around his ears. He let himself take up more space, let his eyes meet Viktor’s more readily. 

It was a cold shock when the queue at the counter got beyond Phichit’s control, and he called Yuuri to come and help. 

Yuuri was already starting to stand, looking guiltily over his shoulder again, when Viktor caught his wrist gently. 

‘I wouldn’t normally do something like this, especially not when someone’s working, but could I see you again?’ It felt imperative, somehow, not to let Yuuri slip out of his life.

Yuuri froze, halfway between his chair and standing upright, looking at Viktor with an odd look in his eye. Viktor started to get nervous, and began to let go of Yuuri’s wrist, wondering if he’d misread everything and overstepped, when Yuuri’s eyes cleared and he smiled. He nodded, blushing again across cheeks pushed round and sweet by the stretch of his lips. Viktor grinned back, wide and relieved, and handed Yuuri his phone. Yuuri tapped away quickly at the screen, and passed it back without a word, just a smile and a little wave as he turned to walk back to the counter. 

Viktor couldn’t help giving a happy little wiggle in his chair as he looked at the new contact page.

{Yuuri Katsuki 🐶☕✨}

Viktor and Yuuri in the cafe, by mandolinearts@twitter

 

Viktor wasn’t late this time. He was ten minutes early in fact as he and Makkachin strolled down the street towards the bookshop where Yuuri had agreed to meet them. He spotted Yuuri outside the doors from halfway down the street. If Yuuri had been cute before in his work shirt and apron, he was utterly delicious in his own clothes. He looked warm and sweet, all wrapped up in a big coat and scarf, biting his lip again as he looked down at his phone, his tiny dog sat neatly beside him, panting happily. Vicchan noticed them first, his little head snapping to face Makkachin as they got closer. He stood up, and his whole body shook with the force of his wagging tail. Yuuri looked down at him curiously before he followed his gaze. Viktor waved when he caught Yuuri’s eye, and Yuuri gave a bright, relieved-looking smile as he put his phone away in his pocket. 

‘I wasn’t sure if I should meet you inside, I know you said they’re dog-friendly, but I didn’t want to take Vicchan in if he couldn’t stay,’ said Yuuri, looking up at Viktor with a concerned frown. Viktor smiled at him, and reached past him to open the door. 

‘I bring Makka here all the time, I promise Vicchan will be right at home.’ 

They stepped in together out of the cold, Makkachin and Vicchan both straining at their leads to meet each other. Yuuri giggled as Vicchan bounced up on his hind legs to reach Makkachin’s face, and Viktor cooed internally, helplessly charmed by the whole scene. His fingers itched to reach for his phone to take a picture, but he resisted, just. It got even harder to restrain himself though when Yuuri knelt down to say hello to Makkachin, accepting her excited nudges and kisses with a bright happy laugh. Vicchan bopped his head around Viktor’s ankles, and after a glance at Yuuri and a nod of approval, Viktor scooped him up into his arms to cuddle him properly. 

Vicchan snuggled his nose under Viktor’s chin, and Viktor held him close, overwhelmed for a moment by just now nice it all was. After all the trite conversations with people he wasn’t really interested in, and after the disastrous “date” with Mikhail, to be here in one of his favourite places with a sweet boy and even sweeter dogs felt like a dream. Yuuri got to his feet, still scratching Makka’s ears, but he smiled at Vicchan, wrinkling his nose cutely as Vicchan yawned and wriggled closer to Viktor’s neck. He wasn’t actually sure he had it in him to put him down again, but Yuuri didn’t seem to mind. 

‘I’m sorry about him,’ Yuuri’s voice was achingly fond. ‘He’s a tiny cuddle monster. He’s not usually so friendly with strangers though, he must like you.’ 

Viktor had to swallow heavily before he could speak, feeling just a touch overwhelmed. 

‘I don’t mind. I like him too.’

Yuuri dropped his eyes, his smile tiny but delighted. Viktor held Vicchan close, and cleared his throat. 

‘Would you like to have a look around? There’s a nice cafe in the back, I thought we could have coffee again, but the store is lovely too.’ 

Yuuri nodded, patting his thigh absentmindedly to call Makkachin to heel. Viktor adjusted Vicchan very slightly in his arms to free his elbow up a little, and he held it out towards Yuuri. Yuuri blushed, but tucked his hand into it, stepping closer. Vicchan gave a tiny snore, curled up tight and warm against Viktor’s chest, and Yuuri rolled his eyes, smile fond and familiar. 

They wandered the stacks together, Makkachin at their heels, Vicchan snoring away. Yuuri’s dry wit made yet more appearances as they laughed together over silly self-help books or ridiculous celebrity biographies. Viktor did his best to charm Yuuri by quoting poetry at him, and ended up blushing himself when Yuuri finished the quote for him, the familiar and well-loved words of e. e. cummings sounding fresh and new in his mouth. 

They tilted their heads close together as they read passages of their favourite books to each other (Yuuri holding them in his free hand, seeming as reluctant to let go of Viktor’s elbow as Viktor was to lose the heat of his hand) learning each other through the words they loved best. Viktor had been on a number of dates in his life, some successful, some not. This beat them all, without question. By the time they reached the cafe in the back of the store, he was certain that he didn’t want to let this feeling go, to let Yuuri go. They didn’t know each other well, but that was alright. They were learning each other as they went. 

Yuuri pulled out his chair for him as they reached a table, and Viktor sat carefully, mildly impressed at how deeply asleep Vicchan still was. Yuuri shook his head in mock exasperation, struggling to contain a smile. 

‘Once he gets comfortable, he can sleep through anything. I think he was a sloth in a past life.’ 

Viktor huffed a laugh, and kissed his tiny head. Vicchan snuffled in his sleep, and Makkachin nosed under his arm to see what was happening.

Yuuri sat down across the table. It wasn't particularly large, and their knees knocked together comfortably. Viktor was smiling, but Yuuri had an odd, almost embarrassed look on his face. He took a deep breath, and spoke in a rush.

'I'm so sorry, I'm having a wonderful time, but I have to admit something.' Viktor felt concern gather thickly in his throat as Yuuri looked more guilty with every word. 'I don't actually know your name.'

It was Viktor's turn to blush, as his whole body flooded with embarrassment as he thought back over every conversation he'd had with Yuuri, both in the coffee shop and by text. He'd never introduced himself. His first message to Yuuri had been a picture of Makkachin playing in the snow.

'I'm so sorry, it completely slipped my mind to actually introduce myself, I was just so comfortable talking to you. My name is Viktor, Viktor Nikiforov.' What kind of ridiculous person forgot to introduce themselves to someone before asking them on a date? Viktor could hardly believe himself sometimes. 

‘Oh!’ Yuuri laughed a little, the guilt clearing from his face, washed away by a bright smile. ‘That’s funny, you and Vicchan have the same name.’

Viktor tipped his head to the side, looking at Yuuri curiously. 

‘Vicchan is a nickname, I’m sorry, his real name is Victor. My mother loves the movie Victor/Victoria, and we thought Vicchan was a girl when we got him so we called him Victoria, but when the vet said he was a boy we changed his name to Victor.’

Viktor laughed too, looking down at his apparent namesake. Vicchan had woken up, finally, but seemed entirely disinclined to move from his comfy spot. 

Before they could say anything else, the waitress reached their table, pausing to coo over both dogs before she took their orders. Yuuri ordered tea and a slice of German apple cake, and Viktor ordered a latte, shaking his head when the waitress asked if he wanted something sweet too. 

‘I can’t believe I never told you my name,’ said Viktor wryly, shaking his head at himself as the waitress left them alone again. ‘What must you have thought of me.’ Something occurred to him as he spoke, and he looked at Yuuri closely. ‘Did you save my number in your phone? What did you call me?’ 

Yuuri blushed furiously, a brighter red than Viktor had seen him turn yet. Viktor grinned, sly and delighted.

‘You did call me something - what is it?’ Yuuri shook his head, still blushing, and Viktor laughed, happy and open. ‘Please Yuuri? Was it something silly?’ 

Yuuri was red to the tops of his ears, and he dropped his head into his hands before he spoke.

‘I called you “cute coffee boy”.’ 

Viktor felt warmed through, shockingly happy to be exactly where he was.

‘Well that’s sweet of you, but I think of the two of us you’re the cute coffee boy.’

Yuuri peeked out from behind his hands, eyes wide with surprise. Viktor smiled at him, the big goofy grin he’d been told looked like a heart that he usually tried to hide. He couldn’t help it, it was true. Yuuri was too cute for words. 

Yuuri was saved further embarrassment by the arrival of their order, and he buried his face in his mug for a second while he calmed down. Viktor watched him, wondering at how he could feel so fond of someone after less than a day in their company. It took a bit of careful manoeuvring to free his hand from Vicchan to pick up his own drink, who snuffled grumpily at him as he shifted, but Viktor managed it in the end. Makkachin was snoozing happily on top of Yuuri’s feet, and Viktor didn’t see any point in putting Vicchan down when both of them were comfy. 

Yuuri didn’t put his cup back down until the blush had faded from his face. Viktor was a little sad to see it go, but Yuuri’s happy little grin at the sight of the slice of cake in front of him was just as lovely to see. Yuuri picked up his fork and took a bite, his eyelashes fluttering happily at the taste. He paused as he dug his fork in again though, and looked at Viktor. 

‘Would you like some? It’s really good.’ He held out his fork, possibly intending for Viktor to actually take it from him like a polite person normally would, but instead Viktor leaned forward and took it in his mouth, careful to keep from crushing Vicchan. Yuuri’s blush started to rise again as Viktor drew back, chewing carefully, eyes fixed on Yuuri’s own.

‘It’s delicious,’ he said after he swallowed, letting his face settle into something a little more flirtatious. Yuuri looked slightly gobsmacked, and he had to clear his throat before he could speak again.

‘Would you like the rest of it?’ he nudged the plate slightly closer to Viktor, who looked at him, confused.

‘Don’t you want it?’ 

Yuuri dropped his eyes again bashfully. ‘I do, but I shouldn’t eat it. I gain weight easily, I shouldn’t have sweet things like this, it doesn’t look good on me.’

Viktor scoffed, instinctive and without malice. 

‘Who told you that?’

Yuuri glanced at him, surprised and bright. 

‘Just... people, I guess?’

Viktor shook his head, annoyed with the world at large. 

‘They don’t know what they’re talking about. I think you look great, but your body is your body. If you want to eat cake, eat cake. That’s what cake is for.’

Yuuri’s mouth had dropped open a little as Viktor spoke, but then he smiled sweetly and ducked his head, looking slightly overwhelmed. He pulled his plate back towards himself, and took another bite, still smiling around the tines of the fork. Viktor settled back in his chair, content to watch him in companionable silence. The cafe was quiet around them, all soft music and the sound of the rain on the windows. 

He wondered, sitting there, if he should thank Mikhail somehow, for making all of this happen. If he hadn’t suggested that tiny coffee shop when Viktor had demurred at the idea of meeting in a bar, if he hadn’t been rude and odd, if he hadn’t abandoned him there alone, then none of this would have happened. He wouldn’t be sat across from a man he liked better by the second, opposite in every way to Mikhail. He wouldn’t be tentatively making plans in his head for future dates, the possibility of a relationship together; a life together maybe. 

He was so lost in thought that it surprised him when Yuuri broke the silence. 

‘Would you-,’ he cut himself off, biting his lip, before he visibly rallied and tried again. ‘I’ve had a really lovely day. Would you... maybe like to do this again? Maybe get dinner with me?’ Yuuri’s face was earnest and determined, but worry was obvious around his eyes, like he was genuinely afraid Viktor would say no. 

Viktor’s heart beat hard in his chest, and he just knew his grin was dopey, but he was just so happy.

‘I’d love to! I’ve had a wonderful time with you Yuuri, I’m not ready for it to end.’ 

Yuuri ducked his head again, his own smile wide and bright. He looked up at Viktor through his eyelashes, and Viktor felt sure that he wanted to see that smile for the rest of his life.