It is strange coming back to Hasetsu with a gold medal hanging from his neck. At moments, it seems as if his miserable failure from last year was but a bad dream.
It is even stranger to come back to Hasetsu with Victor Nikiforov by his side.
"Yuuri," Victor calls him lightly as they step out of the train "would you mind making a quick stop at Ice Castle before heading back home?"
It's the first thing Victor's said since they got off the plane at Narita, their long train ride back to Kyuushuu coated in jittery silence that made him uneasy. Yuuri's breathe catches when Victor says the word 'home', soft and easy, like it's his own. Like he plans to make it his own.
"What about the luggage?" he asks, finding his voice after an awkward heartbeat.
Victor places his palms together as if in prayer and smiles that playful grin that has the media curled around his little finger. "I'll carry yours too? It won't take long."
Yuuri gives up on trying to argue. He's always bound to lose when it comes to Victor.
Ice Castle Hasetsu is already closed when they arrive. Yuuri is just a little bit hesitant to use the keys Yuuko entrusted them with, but Victor promises he's not planning on anything too outlandish. His posture has been growing stiffer the closer they came to their destination, his voice more breathless. Yuuri can already feel dread coiling at the pit of his stomach. Victor has something important to say, he knows (he's gotten to know Victor all too well), but he's not sure he wants to listen to it.
He's surprised to see Victor zipping his carry-on bag open and pulling his skates out of it. Yuuri wasn't even aware Victor has been carrying those around. He feels himself smile fondly at the flamboyant golden gleam of his blades. He watches attentively how Victor pulls them over his feet (bruised, covered with scars), how his long fingers tie the laces tight, then makes a sign for him to follow after. Yuuri's about to ask if he shouldn't put his own skates on too, but Victor seems to guess it before he even opens his mouth and shakes his head curtly.
"It's okay. You can rest this time around."
Like there's going to be a next one. Yuuri doesn't want to let himself hope too hard, has been trying to convince himself that this is inevitable and probably for the best, yet he ends up clinging to every word, every glance, every tender smile, every brush of their hands, every embrace and every fleeting kiss for dear life. Anything that would make him feel there is an 'us' beyond the convenience of another body to keep each other warm during cold winter nights spent far away from home, the comfort of another heart to hold close and be loved by.
It briefly crosses his mind that the lights of the rink shouldn't be on now, yet somehow they are.
"You never told them after all." The words leave his mouth before he can stop them.
Victor sits on the floor for a quick warm-up, long legs stretched out and spread halfway open. "Who's them and what didn't I tell them?" he asks lightly, even though Yuuri's sure he knows what he's talking about.
"The media. You said you wouldn't make a decision about the future before the Finals, but those are over now." The question is left hanging in the air, Yuuri doesn't have it in him to say it out loud. A part of him doesn't want to know. Another part of him agonizes and wishes to put an end to this uncertainty already.
"Oh, they didn't ask anymore. Understandably so, who would care about a has-been old man with such a dazzling star standing right in front of them?" there is no malice in his voice, no resentment, no jealousy, not even the expected dread brought by the unstoppable passing of time, and Yuuri doesn't know how to feel about that. Even as his heart soars with the praise, he could never see Victor as a 'has-been', will never be anything less than interesting and beautiful and surprising, and it hurts him to see him speak of himself like that.
That's not what he says, though. "But did you make it…?" he pauses, fingers curling into his palm, fingernails leaving faint crescent-shaped indentations on his skin. "A decision."
Victor finishes his warm up and stands up, pacing towards the ice. He's clutching something in his right hand. When he's standing right at the entrance, he looks at Yuuri, expression as tender as it could ever possibly be.
Yuuri doesn't know what that means, but his heart sinks in his chest. He can't ask. His breathing turns shallow and hasty, mind racing. He's felt like this before, numerous times, but never so suffocating.
And like all the other times, it's always Victor's voice that pulls him back from it.
He looks up to find Victor beckoning him over, the cold of the rink already making his nose redden a little. It's one of Yuuri's favorite things in the entire world.
Once he's standing right behind the rink barrier, Victor hands him his phone with the music app open on the screen. There's already a song ready to be played, but the title just reads "Track 1". Yuuri is curious.
"I've never been much the kind to copy from others," Victor says, thumbs smoothing over the back of Yuuri's hands. "but if you'll allow me to use your own words against you:" he squeezes Yuuri's hands in his own, leans forward to press their foreheads together. It's nostalgic. "Please watch me. Only me."
Victor's voice quivers. So does Yuuri's heart.
Victor pulls away to stand at the center of the rink, the pose too familiar. With trembling fingers, Yuuri presses play on the phone and Victor begins moving as the first notes of "Aria ~Stammi Vicino, Non Te Ne Andare~" blare from the speakers.
Yuuri stops breathing altogether.
He silently curses Victor for even suggesting he might look away from him.
It really is too familiar. He's seen this program countless times already, even felt it with his own body once, the cold hesitation, the lasting ache of solitude and the passionate longing coursing through his veins like electricity. But it's his first time seeing it up close and personal like this, and even as familiar as it feels, it's also so immensely different. There's a new nuance to it, to the expressiveness of Victor's body language, to the sparkle of his eyes and the light smile on his lips.
If I could see you
Hope would give birth
Whenever his gaze locks on Yuuri, however short the moment might be, it's frozen in time and the rest of the world ceases to exist.
He lands all his jumps as cleanly as if he hadn't taken a whole year off, but Victor's steps seem hesitant in a way Yuuri has never seen him before. Like the emotion of the song is overwhelming him and escaping his body through his pores, too strong to be contained in such a fragile vessel. It has a new kind of vulnerable beauty to it that has Yuuri's hands gripping the edge of the barrier tight, knuckles white.
Triple Lutz. Triple Flip.
Victor approaches Yuuri, reaching at him with his hands, the smile on his face raw, unguarded, shimmering with joy.
Let's leave together
Now I'm ready.
The song escalates towards its finale as Victor enters the final combination spin. But something odd happens when he switches to the last scratch spin, he doesn't remain centered and travels towards the rink entrance until he's right in front of Yuuri, barely a foot away from him. There he strikes his final pose, and instead of wrapping his arms around his neck, he extends them forward, facing Yuuri.
There's a moment of quiet because Yuuri is speechless and Victor is trying to catch his breath, but even that doesn't last. He dives on one knee, eyes never leaving Yuuri's, hands reaching for him, the left palm spread open, the right one still curled around something.
"Yuuri," he exhales, face still flushed from exertion, and he finally opens his right hand, revealing a vibrant red thread, about an inch thick, coiled on his palm. "Perhaps this seems a bit pre-emptive…" he pauses, as if in doubt, then pulls one end of the thread with his left hand. It's not too long, and in fact, Yuuri sees it tense quickly. His eyes follow it to find the other end tied in a tight bow around Victor's pinky, that wiggles as if to show it off. Yuuri's hands clutch over his heart. "Is this odd after all? We don't really do rings in Russia, and I thought taking measurements of your finger would be too obvious so I thought—"
"Victor!" Yuuri cuts him off, wishing he could bite back the tears so his vision wouldn't turn blurry. Victor's eyes widen, a million stars sparkling in lapislazuli pools. "Ask me."
Victor's breathe hitches for a moment before a wide, wide smile spreads on his lips. "Yuuri…" He sighs, taking Yuuri's left hand in his. "I did make a decision. I want to stay by your side and never leave."
Yuuri swallows a sob. "You're so corny." He whines, face burning.
He pulls his hand free of Victor's grasp only to place it on top of the red thread. Victor gasps. His fingers quiver as they tie the other end of the thread to Yuuri's pinky. Yuuri laces their hands into each other and pulls Victor up to kiss him quick and deep, his right hand curling around Victor's neck to dig into his hair and pull him even closer. His knees tremble until Victor's hand lays on his waist, keeping him steady, not so much through physical strength, but through the feeling that Victor's trembling too.
"It's too late to back out now, you know?" Yuuri pants when they part for air. "I don't know if you actually read the story, but you can never cut one of these." He lifts their bonded hands to eye level.
Victor chuckles against his mouth. "Wouldn't dream of it."
"Yuuri, can we keep this on until we get home?"
'Home' again. Yuuri's heart swells this time.
Victor beams at him. "Ah, wait, before we go I wanted to…" he pulls out his phone and clicks on the camera. He lays his and Yuuri's hands on the bench where he's finished taking his skates off (a very difficult task with just his non-dominant hand available, so Yuuri woefully has to help him with it). Their palms are spread wide, their pinky fingers crossed over each other, the red thread that connected them perfectly visible, a stark contrast against their skin. Before Yuuri can ask what he's planning, he snaps a picture.
"Hey, what are you… You're not putting that on Instagram, are you?"
"Hmmm, am I?"
"It's weird, Victor, no one actually does this."
"It'll surprise them, then."
Yuuri smiles in defeat. "Let's go, we told everyone we'd be there two hours ago."
Victor nods as he clicks on submit, smiling as the photo appears on his feed, unfiltered.
v-nikiforov He said yes ❤️