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Apples, Rice, and a Hint of Cinnamon

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No one could deny that the Katsuki Yuuri was the embodiment of music itself. The fluidity of every twist and turn were soft and elegant while his edgework was cleaner than any other skater in the circuit, solidifying an adequate presentation score. Yet, with the exception of the Japanese Nationals, Yuuri generally placed in the middle of the leaderboard due to his well-known tendency to flub jumps during competition. As a result, although they had never danced on the same ice until then, Viktor was left with little concern that Yuuri would pose a threat to his impending fifth consecutive Grand Prix gold medal. 

Another well-known fact about Katuski Yuuri was his ongoing battle with anxiety. His nerves were evident when he drIfted onto the ice for his free skate, and a wave of rotting apples overwhelmed Viktor’s senses. 

Who is so upset and not suppressed? Viktor glanced around him and briefly wondered if Yuuri’s coach, Celestino, was anxious about his student’s performance. Impossible - Celestino is a beta. 

A fact that was not well-known within the skating community, with the exception of those closest to him, was Yuuri’s secondary gender. It couldn’t possibly be Yuuri; he’s halfway across the rink. And yet Yuuri was the only one who visibly shook as the pressure of the free skate bore down on him. 

The scent grew strong as he prepared to launch into his first jump. His quadruple loop was a strength within Yuuri’s repertoire of jumps, but Viktor knew from the moment the blades of Yuuri’s skates left the ice that a fall was imminent. He wavered off-axis and attempted to touch down a hand to minimize the damage after underrotating, but his momentum sent him skidding across the unforgiving ice. 

Viktor gnawed on his lip despite the expensive coat of balm covering them, and he silently urged Yuuri to stand, recover, and continue making music. 

Yakov, who knew Viktor's habits as well as any parent knew of their child’s, attempted to piece together Viktor’s sudden interest in the other skater but fell short of an answer. “What’s gotten into you, Vitya?” he quietly grumbled. 

“He could be injured,” he murmured. His mind was clouded by the unexplained need to race to the man’s side, and the only thing seemingly standing in his way was Yakov’s grasp on his shoulder. 

“Don’t be ridiculous. The medical staff are on hand if needed. Had you watched the film I gave you, which we will discuss after the competition, you would know that most skaters would kill for Katsuki’s stamina.” 

Viktor shivered at the unintended implications and watched as Yuuri managed to drag himself off the ice and finish the routine, regardless of the devastating impact of his fall. 

 


“Please coach,” Yuuri begged, clutching at his chest in a weak attempt to keep the panic at bay. “Please hold off the press. I can’t handle an interview right now.” 

“Yuuri–”

“I know more than anyone how disastrous my performance was.” Yuuri squeezed his eyes shut momentarily then released a shuddering breath. 

Celestino was well aware of Yuuri’s history with anxiety, and he assessed the tremble in Yuuri’s hands before giving him a nod.  

“Do what you need to, but be sure to attend the banquet tonight. Medalist or not, you can’t miss an opportunity to talk with the sponsors.”

Yuuri wanted to retort that no one would notice whether a dime-a-dozen skater like him – wanted to argue that there was nothing to gain but further embarrassment. Instead, he bit his lip and swallowed the bitter thoughts. 

“Yuuri,” Celestino placed a gentle hand on his arm, bringing him back to the present. “Go back to the room and rest. Phichit or I will get you before the banquet starts.” 

Yuuri mumbled his thanks and headed towards the quiet ‘thank you’, and he allowed Celestino to usher him towards the corridor furthest from the press. Violent tremors threatened to wreak havoc on his already exhausted body. At that moment, nothing mattered - not the medals, not the ice, not even Viktor Nikiforov - nothing but the empty hotel room and comforting voice of his mother waiting for him.

But fate had no regard for what mattered to Yuuri, and fate certainly made no accommodations for him. 

“Katsuki!” The young Russian alpha snarled his name, rushing down the hall to stop Yuuri from leaving in peace. 

“You’re free skate was shit,” Yuri growled. “There’s only room for one Yuri on the ice, and it’s not going to be you if you perform like that.” Despite speaking to his idol for the first time, Yuri could neither look the other in the eye nor stop the vicious words that filled the space between them. “Retire already, you useless pig!”

As soon as the words left his mouth, Yuri clenched his jaw in shame and desperately wished for Yuuri to lash out, argue, explain what had gone wrong, promise to do better, anything

But Yuuri remained silent, gaze fixed to the floor. 

Yuri took another step forward, entering Yuuri’s space. Although Yuuri's secondary was unknown to all but those closest to him, Yuri waited for angry pheromones to challenge his own that now shrouded the pair, but he detected nothing but a clean scent - like freshly laundered clothing.

“Say something, worthless beta,” he grounded out. 

“Yura!” Yakov’s shout startled both skaters, and reminded Yuri of the very public location of his outburst. “Get your ass back over here or you won’t be jumping anything but doubles for a week! I swear, if you end up as rebellious as Vitya, I won’t have any hair left.” 

Being scolded had never come as a relief until now, and Yuri turned on his heel away from Yuuri before he could utter another word he was sure to regret later. 

At the mention of Viktor’s diminutive, Yuuri gaze snapped towards the Russian trio before pulling up his hood and finally escaping the stadium. For the first time, Yuuri couldn’t bear looking at Viktor Nikiforov. 

 


“You may have gotten gold, but you could at least pretend to listen to my critic,” Yakov grumbled. “Or do you not need a coach anymore?” 

Yakov could have said anything - from detailing an intimate evening with his ex-wife to threatening a ban from the ice - and still not have pulled Viktor’s attention away from the scene unfolding at the other end of the hallway. 

“Retire already, you useless pig!” 

“Please tell me that’s not Yura,” Yakov muttered, but there was no mistaking the mop of blond hair.

Yura took another step towards the other, and the scent of rotting apples flooded the hallway. 

“Yakov, please do something or I will.” Viktor’s pallor and shaky voice went seemingly unnoticed as Yakov. 

“He’s my student, I’ll take responsibility for him.” Despite Yakov’s decision, Viktor nearly intervened himself when Yura took a step closer to Yuuri, but his next statement stopped him dead in his tracks. . 

“Say something, worthless beta,” he grounded out. 

Beta? Yura had only presented eight months ago and was still overwhelmed by the numbers of scents during competitions, so he regularly wore masking gloss under his nose. Surely it’s not that effective?   

“Yura!” Yakov’s shout startled both skaters, and reminded Yuri of the very public location of his outburst. “Get your ass back over here or you won’t be jumping anything but doubles for a week! I swear, if you end up as rebellious as Vitya, I won’t have any hair left.” 

When he was within reach, Yakov yanked Yura by the ear. “What the hell were you thinking?! Have you no common sense, boy?”

“What’s wrong with some constructive criticism?” 

“Yura, you are in no position to be giving anyone constructive criticism , if that’s what you want to call it.”

“I’m still in Juniors and land my jumps more consistently than him!” 

“You may have better jumps, but you fall on your ass every time you attempt his level 4 step sequences –”

Pink tinged his cheeks at the accusation. “I don’t – “

“Do not interrupt me, Yura!” Yuri shrunk, knowing he couldn’t talk his way out of this. “What you said was unnecessarily rude and uncalled for; I expect you to apologize at the banquet tonight. Am I clear?”

“Yes sir,” he grumbled, then looked towards Viktor, whose mouth hung slightly ajar and eyes glazed over. “The fuck is wrong with you? Close your trap before you swallow a fly.”

Yuuri managed to swipe his keycard and let the door click shut before releasing the tension he’d held since the phone call from Mari, shortly before his free skate. 

 

Forty-five minutes before skating–


“I’m so sorry, Yuuri.” Mari’s voice had been thick from tears as she spoke in a hushed tone to mask the grief. “He held on for as long as he could. Kaa-san[1] arranged a butsudan[2] for you to visit. Please, come home when you can.”

Celestino and Phichit had tried to soothe him with calming words. “I’m sure Vicchan knew how much you loved him,” Phichit murmured while slightly rocking Yuuri in a tight hug. 

But Yuuri couldn’t say the same; after all, how could Vicchan know how much Yuuri loved him if Yuuri neglected him for five years?  

“I’m sorry - we need to get to the rink.” Phichit wanted nothing more to comfort his best friend. He understood and was all too familiar with the pain of losing a beloved pet; unlike dogs, hamsters didn’t tend to live more than three years. 

Your selfishness knows no end; you abandoned Vicchan, now you’re forcing Phichit to lose valuable warm-up time on the ice. Anxious, twisted thoughts poisoned his ability to reason, and distress began to overpower the masking soap Yuuri frequently used. 

He allowed Phichi to apply another layer of masking soap to Yuuri and himself. Although he was a beta and produced limited scent, Phichit started hiding his secondary gender as Yuuri did after graduating to the Seniors division.  

Despite the medication taken at the insistence of his coach, Yuuri only managed to stagger back to his feet and finish his routine after the scent of a worried alpha  - moist earth and  wilting roses -somehow reached him on the ice. 

 

–Present–

Sobs and gasps for air shook Yuuri to the core as he grieved the death of his precious Vicchan, grieved the time spent away from the love and safety of his family, and - because he had already acknowledge his selfishness - Yuuri grieved his opportunity to truly compete with Viktor Nikiforov. 

I was a fool for thinking I could finally meet Viktor on the same playing field as his equal - a fool for thinking I could finally make him see me. 




 

Chris: Mon cher, tell me you’re coming to the banquet soon. 

Viktor: Just finished my last sponsorship interview. Was considering skipping the banquet and heading back to the hotel. Why?

Chris: I want to introduce you to someone. He’s perfect to heal your lonely soul.

Viktor: Chris - you know I don’t want anymore one night stands. 

Besides, he wanted to add, I can’t get the scent of apples and rice out of my head. 

Chris: I’m insulted. Do our nights of passion together mean nothing? 

Viktor: Don’t pretend you’re not just as tired of one night stands as I am. Besides, we make much better friends, right?

Chris: Yeah yeah just get your ass down here. 

Twenty minutes later and hoping the hor d'oeuvres would still be available despite his late arrival, Viktor entered the hotel’s banquet hall, and he was greeted with a pleasant surprise. Katsuki Yuuri, who had somehow lost his trousers during the course of the evening, had his muscular thighs wrapped around a stripper pole. Having known Chris since Chris’s days as a junior, he suspected the pole’s appearance was directly correlated with Chris; while he normally would have disapproved of Chris’s antics during a public and professional event, he made a mental note to thank the man later for the gift.

But as soon as Yuuri spotted Viktor, he stumbled off the pole and through the crowd that had gathered to watch his performance. 

“Vikutoru!” Suddenly, arms wrapped around Viktor’s neck and he was met with the full force of ripe, no longer rotting, apples and rice.  

So it was you. Viktor supported Yuuri’s weight, and the man, who had clearly drunk more than one flute of the cheap champagne being served, was reduced to giggles.   

“I found you.” Yuuri emphasized each word with a gentle tap of his finger to Viktor’s chest, and lovely brown and honey speckled eyes squinted as Yuuri smiled up at Viktor. “All the rumors and articles were true; you smell like heaven.” 

Viktor wasn’t generally fond of comments on his scent, finding it invasive for most to speak of, but his alpha preened at the omega’s compliment.   

“You do too,” Viktor muttered, embarrassment painting a blush across his nose and cheeks. 

“You can't smell me, Vikutoru!” Yuuri laughed, playfully scolding Viktor with a swat to the chest. "Scent masking," he elaborated with a wink in response to Viktor's silent surprise. 

I can, Viktor wanted to protest. Your scent is so warm; it feels like home.

But before he could work through his thoughts, Yuuri tugged on his hand. "Dance with me!" Yuuri demanded, and Viktor was unable to refuse. 

Regardless of the evening’s outcome, Viktor knew he would cherish the firm presence of Yuuri’s hand on his lower back and willingness to lead despite Viktor’s status as an alpha. He would cherish Yuuri dipping him back at the end of a tango. He would cherish Yuuri's soft hum of Viktor’s own free skate song, Stammi Vincino, while slowly swaying, and he would cherish the drag of Yuuri’s warm hand across his cheek before excusing himself for the restroom. 

“Don’t go anywhere - I’m not done with you yet, Nikiforov.” Yuuri, with hooded eyes slightly unfocused from the alcohol, sent a coquettish wink in Viktor’s direction before sashaying out of the room.

“I see you met my friend. Now wipe the drool from your chin and give me the details!” Chris slapped Viktor on the back, breaking his gaze from Yuuri’s enticing backside. 

“I always knew you had good taste in men.”

“Of course! Although I have found myself in bed with an overgrown brat from time to time,” Chris teased, gaining an eye roll from Viktor. 

The pair continued to chat while Viktor eagerly waited for Yuuri to return for another dance. Viktor couldn’t be sure how much time had passed, but the room was noticeably emptier as competitors and press members bid their farewells. Viktor attempted to trample the urge to find and refuse to part for the night as his streak was often a complaint of past lovers, but unease continued to settle in until he could no longer control the spiraling thoughts. 

Had Yuuri gotten lost on his way to or from the bathroom?

Did he forget that Viktor would be waiting?

Did he realize dancing with Viktor was a mistake and run for his hotel room?

Was he safe?

 


Yuuri washed his hands, a drunken grin plastered on his face at the thought of Viktor waiting for another dance; however, he wasn’t as alone as previously thought. 

“How lucky am I to have found such a beauty all alone.” 

Yuuri’s head snapped up, and in the mirror’s reflection, he spotted an unfamiliar man blocking the exit. A chilling shiver traveled down his spine when he noted the twisted smirk directed at him. Yuuri quickly spun around, feeling the sink dig into his back as he maintained the greatest distance possible from the stranger, and a hiss pushed its way between his clenched teeth. 

“You have a filthy alpha’s scent on you, but I bet there’s omega in there.” The man, made overconfident by Yuuri’s small stature, took a step closer and reached to take Yuuri’s chin in his hand. “I’ll show you how a real alpha treats an omega.” 

Despite his alcohol-clouded mind, Yuuri was sound enough to remember Japan’s skating confederation’s stance on fighting. He brushed the man’s hand aside and issued another hiss, another warning not to approach. 

But this only served to anger the other, who swiftly whipped an open palm across the omega’s cheek. “Learn your place, you little bitch,” the man sneered, hand raised as if prepared to strike again. 

Fighting is the only option. Bone crunched unnaturally as Yuuri’s knuckles collided with the man’s nose, and he stumbled back before spatting a mouthful of blood on the tiled floor. He attempted to pacify Yuuri by reaching for a fistful of hair, but the sound of frantic footsteps caused him to pause just long enough for Yuuri to increase the space between them.

Viktor entered the restroom, ready to set aside his professionalism to fight for the omega but was stunned, frozen at the sight of the bloody stranger; however, he temper grew and pheromones fought to clear the air of the other when his noticed anger, red hand print seared across Yuuri’s cheek. 

“I knew that wasn’t his scent,” the man chuckled, identifying the scent from Yuuri as Viktor’s. “Care to compromise and share your little conquest?” 

“Stay any longer and I’ll make sure no one else has to suffer your putrid scent.” Yuuri threatened, glaring at the exposed glands on the man’s neck. 

Sensing he would gain no favor from Viktor, the man turned away from Yuuri, pushed past the alpha, and muttered as he left the restroom. “Typical,” he grumbled, voice warping from the subsequent swelling in his nose. “I would find the one feral whore in this whole fucking place.”

As soon as the pair was alone, Viktor’s knees, battered from the harsh years on the ice, hit the unyielding floor as his body urged him to submit to the victor. The confused instincts warred with the lessons taught to children ages and cultures. 

His tutors reiterated the same theme over and over. Omegas are weak; alphas must protect them from harm.

But Yuuri was strong. 

His body continued to stray from the typical alpha behavior as Viktor found himself posturing - tilting his head, elongating his neck in an elegant manner, and presenting his primary scent gland to the altercation’s victor. 

Had anyone unaware of Viktor’s status walked in, Viktor would be identified as the omega between the pair. 

Yuuri, his rational mind still inhibited by alcohol and drunk and endorphins from his win, drank in the beautiful sight. He approached and greedily inhaled the scent; a soft purr rumbled in his throat, and Viktor shivered in delight. 

Viktor whined when sweet apples, rice, and a hint of cinnamon greeted him. “Yuuri,” he begged, unsure of what he was actually asking for, while his hands clutched at Yuuri’s wrinkled shirt.

“Come to Hasetsu and stay at my family’s onsen. You can bring Makkachin; I bet she’ll love running on the beach. Be my coach,” he giggled. “Be mine.”