There’s a lot of drama in the way Victor Nikiforov lives his life.
Packing his things and trekking halfway across the world may have discomfited people like Yakov, may have set the blogosphere aflame with speculation and worry. But it wasn’t exactly unprecedented. The move itself—even if his private motive for it had been.
That is: he’s always aimed to surprise the crowd. His decision in April was a surprise. Ergo, they all should have expected at least something like it.
Or so his thinking goes.
The thing about being a natural—a natural athlete, a natural showman, a natural with people of all types—is that there’s a certain flare to everything he does. That flame and the shadow it chases create drama whether he means them to or not. And that’s not a bad thing; or hasn’t been. All the upset, all the years of turning the world on its head.
Still—none of it compares to the drama of the Chinese city streetlights playing over the features of Katsuki Yuuri.
Sitting to his left in the backseat of the hotel car, Yuuri is the disarming one, now. Even as quiet as he is, with his eyes fixed forward—like someone used to being watched. Which by this point he has to be. Wants to be, if tonight is anything to go by. His face turns partly toward the window, and the lamplight limns his cheek in a full crescent of yellowish-orange. Even though this reads as dismissal—or as Yuuri needing extra headspace, Victor still isn’t sure how deep his introversion runs—Victor smiles. Yuuri is probably a few years away from losing that bit of baby-fat, no matter how small he’s gotten in the last six months.
And if Victor is honest. Truly honest with himself—not just news-camera authentic. If he’s truly honest, then he has to admit that whatever switch flipped in Yuuri tonight set off something electric in him, too. Reminded him, with renewed clarity, why he flew halfway across the globe to coach this shy, adorable boy, this boy had gotten so good at that act that he had convinced himself that’s all he was.
But Victor knows he is more. He remembers.
Tonight illuminated that memory, that bright, wild thing Victor had seen during last year’s Grand Prix banquet. Tonight reignited the torch Yuuri had all but waved in his face last December.
And if this time, it catches fire to them both? So be it.
Victor feels the energy of it like a headrush, such that this ordinary scene—watching the flicker of light and pall of dark over Yuuri’s features—feels far more satisfying than the drama of seeking, of stockpiling gold.
Now Yuuri turns toward him.
“Are you done staring?”
Victor’s grin is wolfish. “You told me not to take my eyes off you.”
Behind his glasses, Yuuri’s eyes go a little wide. Like the extra meaning in what he said on the rink has only just occurred to him—even though that’s not the truth; even though Victor knows there’s more of that exquisite possessiveness percolating in Yuuri’s mind. More that he’s going to do with it, to earn being started at.
Yuuri is quiet when he says, “I guess I did.”
He shifts a little, then, looking away from Victor. But he brings their limbs closer, so that the long bone of his forearm under his jacket presses up against Victor’s beneath his coat. Victor is not about to let another display like this pass without remark, and he curls his little finger over Yuuri’s.
The younger man glances at him. Victor meets his eyes with a sidelong stare and a half smile—one that only grows as he holds Yuuri’s gaze and slides his fingers over, one by one, until they’ve slithered between each of those on the warm hand beneath his.
But this is too far for Yuuri. In what is an admirably controlled scold of a whisper, he says, “Victor.”
“Yuu~ri,” Victor answers, drawing out the first vowel in that way that used to make the other blush. Now, it’s doing the job again. For a different reason, Victor is sure.
“Isn’t-” Dark eyes dart between Victor’s and the hat peeking over the front seat, which is all they can see of the driver. “Isn’t he going to notice?”
“He barely spoke enough English to ask us to get in the car, you don’t have to whisper.” Victor gives up the grip on Yuuri’s hand, and instead slides his arm around the small of the other’s back. He tugs lightly, bodily expressing how little he cares. “And didn’t you want everyone to notice, when you did the very same thing?”
“That was-” Yuuri opens his mouth again, his hesitation clicking in the back of his throat. Looks like he wants to say, that was for the benefit of the crowd. Or, your hands all over me is fine when it’s theatrics, but this is different. Too intimate.
But, both of them know, none of that would be true.
Victor dips his head so he’s all but murmuring into Yuuri’s ear. “Even if you wanted him to notice, he wouldn’t. People like him are paid not to notice.”
Yuuri breathes dismissively. “People like him?”
“Well. You would know I guess.” Yuuri mutters, but doesn’t move away. In fact, he burrows more comfortably against Victor’s side. And it’s only a fifteen or twenty minute drive to the hotel, but within moments, Victor feels that Yuuri is drifting somewhere between sleep and awake.
Victor gazes down at the dark head rested against his shoulder. Yuuri is so close—there’s no barriers, no pretense, in this kind of car-sleep.
He’s seen Yuuri up close like this, of course. From the second Yuuri invited him in, on that beach, it’s become a welcomed, familiar sight. Familiar, up through the plane on the way to Beijing, and in the restaurant last night. Just a day, even though he doesn’t remember all of it (but thanks to Instagram, doesn’t have to).
With Yuuri this close now, he’s sure something has changed in the intervening hours. That switch. The electric current that changed direction somewhere in the hours between Yuuri’s gentle apologies to his friends for Victor’s antics, and Yuuri’s claim on Victor in front of the whole international figure skating community.
Features soft in sleep, Yuuri is a familiar sight indeed. But now, even onto the work-tired planes of Yuuri’s face Victor has no trouble transposing what he’d seen in Yuuri tonight onto the delicate parting of lips and the fluttering of eyelashes. What it was he’d seen was still up for debate. Something other than his stubbornness. More than open determination. Hunger and prayer, new-earned confidence and still that damnable, artless naivety. Balance, maybe. Whatever it is, it’s almost perfect, now.
And that, Victor will bet, Yuuri doesn’t fully grasp. Not yet. No matter what effort he’s making, what he’s managing to finally say out loud, he doesn’t really understand. He will soon, but for tonight, he doesn’t see the effect he has. That much had been evidence when his 106.84 had come up on that red-glowing screen and he’d leaned forward, squinting like he needed his glasses to believe the numbers. When he’d been shocked at staying in first place.
Despite his shy deflection, there’s new skill, fresh clarity. And everyone can see it. See him. Hear him, like the piano’s entrance in a Shostakovich concerto. Soaring through all the strung discordance, a trill the listener can’t ignore.
Victor certainly can’t.
By the rink, before Yuuri’s short program, Victor had held his hand. That wasn’t anything unusual. He’d pressed, a little—ran the tip of his gloved index finger between Yuuri’s knuckles, trying to double-down on his words about image and seduction with action, as he always did. It was a subtle enough.
But that had not been enough for Yuuri. He was no longer interested in subtle. He’d tore away the teasing and the flirting—he’d grabbed Victor's hand, the way a lover does. And Victor hadn’t been able to do anything but gasp when Yuuri pressed their foreheads together. And Victor swore he could feel every strand of their intermingled hair pull apart when Yuuri skated away.
He feels the shadow of their fingers interlaced, still. From just moments ago, from hours ago at the rink. The contact echoes electric, as he listens to Yuuri’s steady breathing and thinks about how breathy that voice had gotten, about that thing he’d done with his tongue thing as he started to skate.
Victor’s throat runs dry just thinking about it.
‘He started this,’ is what Victor thinks next. ‘Started it and damn it all, is apparently going to finish it.’
And Yuuri did start this: first with that dance-off, then with the video. And whether he knows it or not, he’s led them both, in every step of the way since. Victor may have done his part in showing up, unannounced—but not unasked—at the Katsuki family home; but it was Yuuri who competed to have him as a coach, Yuuri who declared on national television that they would go to the Grand Prix together. Yuuri who told him he doesn’t need to be anything other than himself. Victor may have lit the match, but it was only to Yuuri’s kindling.
After tonight, Victor fully intends to follow this torch, as far as Yuuri will carry it.
Heartbeat bright and insistent, he reaches for Yuuri’s hand, again, where it rests against the large front pocket on his jacket. Yuuri’s fingers are a little cold, and Victor cover them with his own, curling their hands together.
Yuuri’s eyes are already open, on him, when he cranes his neck down.
“This is different. The hand-holding.” Yuuri’s voice is scratchy from just the few minutes of dozing. “You’re always hanging off me but…”
“Yes, it is different.” Victor feels his smile get even softer, as the blush becomes more evident over the bridge of Yuuri’s nose. “You don’t normally push it further than I do. What changed, tonight?”
“…I think you know.”
“I think so, too.” (He doesn’t; he hopes, but doesn’t know.) “But I want to hear what you think. You were so good earlier, telling me exactly what you wanted. That’s different, too. In a wonderful way.”
Yuuri buries his face against Victor’s shoulder—probably to hide that his entire face goes red and hot. After a moment, Victor feels him shrug, very lightly. “Everyone already seemed to know, so I wanted to make sure you did, too. It wouldn’t be fair, if the whole world was talking about it and you didn’t know.”
“That when I’m on the ice, I’m yours.”
‘Not just when you’re on the ice,’ Victor wants to say.
But Yuuri looks up again—quickly. “Your creation, you know? I always have been- And I need you to see it. What you’ve… helped turn grow into.”
It’s not quite what Victor wants; and he doesn’t think it’s quite what Yuuri wants to say, either.
For now, it’s late, and he just smiles and squeezes Yuuri’s hand.
“Oh, I see it. Believe me.”
‘And soon, so will you,’ he thinks. The drama of that reveal just might rival the shine of the streetlights in Yuuri’s eyes.