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Slavonic Studies

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The flash blinded his eyes fleetingly, making him wince. He took a step away from the hideous green background sheet, blinking and rubbing away the flash blindness from behind his glasses. “Your name, sir?” asked the lady at the registration desk. “Yuuri Katsuki,” he replied, giving the rest of his details before flashing the woman a small smile and leaving the room.

Practically bounding out of the room, he pulled out his phone and texted his mother, informing her that he’d finally got his registration sorted and he’d be starting classes soon. He thanked the stranger sat near the door for looking after his bag, and dragged it behind him, walking out into the brisk morning wind. He’d finally gotten into the University of his choice, and he couldn’t be happier about it. Even if he was far away from Japan, all the way in Detroit, he was happy.

He’d struggled through the entrance exams for the scholarship, occasionally dropping onto his roommate Phichit’s bed in the middle of the night to wail about how stressful it all was while chugging a mug full of black coffee and highlighting far too many lines in his already-shortened notes. He’d sat several nights in bed, trembling against a tightly-clutched pillow, home-sick beyond belief in a city he barely knew. He’d almost messed up his paper, the night before having gone by sobbing against Phichit, having heard that his beloved dog had died.

All of it. All of that pain had been worth it. All he had to worry about for the next few days would be finding out who his assigned roommate was and whether he would get along with them, and who his professors were.

He tugged his bag to the dorm, and went up to his assigned room. He pushed open the door distractedly, staring down at his phone while texting his mother. Before he could look up however, he was assaulted by a tempestuous embrace, stumbling backwards, momentarily confused about his apparently over-affectionate roommate. That was until he heard a voice practically screech his name into his ear. Overjoyed, he lifted Phichit a bit off the ground while laughing into his shoulder, genuinely ecstatic at having someone familiar, no, his best friend, be his roommate.

Oh well, that prevents me from using a lot of the awkward ice-breakers I had in mind, thank the Lord.

He spent the rest of the day alternating between unpacking his suitcase and listening to Phichit update him about all the college drama that was brewing (seriously, how did this kid even manage to get the gossip barely ten minutes into stepping foot on this campus?) while munching on some arare that he had managed to buy from a store nearby that seemed to have a ton of imported items (which they probably had for home-sick students like him).

“Okay, but listen,” exclaimed Phichit, as though Yuuri hadn’t been doing just that for the past six hours. “Rumour has it that there’s this really hot Russian professor here who teaches the ‘Russian and Saltinic--”

Slavonic, Phichit, not Saltinic,” Yuuri interrupted, chuckling at his minor mistake.

“Slave on ice, saltinic. What does it matter anyway? Okay, so apparently this professor’s really young. Like he’s supposed to be this prodigy or something because he just recently got his PhD and he’s an associate professor and to top it all off, he’s supposed to be hot as fuck.”

“Well he doesn’t sound particularly young if he got his PhD. How old is he? 29?” Yuuri wouldn’t be surprised, honestly. A lot of teenagers found older men hot and this couldn’t be an exception.

“Close. He’s 27.”

“Oh.”

Yuuri wasn’t expecting that. The man was just four years older than him. He immediately felt something drop in his stomach, his old self-consciousness washing over him again. This man had a PhD and a position as an associate professor at the age of 27, while Yuuri would just be graduating college around that age. He chewed on his lip, lost in his self-deprecatory thoughts, ignoring Phichit almost entirely.

Yuuri had initially taken a degree in computer science after his gap year, finding the idea of the course interesting. Once he joined the course, however, he realised how utterly boring he found the degree, not entirely sure what drew him to the course in the first place, and promptly dropped out after a year.

He spent two years after that helping his father manage Yu-topia Akatsuki along with the rest of the family. Those two years had to have been some of his dullest years. Years spent doing nothing but beaming at guests as he brought them snacks, guiding people to the showers, informing foreigners about the etiquettes of the onsen. Years spent skating at the local ice rink and practising figure skating to keep his boredom and anxiety at bay.

But it was eye-opening enough, sparking his old high-school interest in languages as he interacted with foreigners. He’d always been active in the English club and had tried to learn a couple of other languages by himself, his interest flitting between the many languages he heard every day at the onsen.

He had finally sat next to his father at the kotatsu after dinner one night, asking if he could go back to university for another course. He expected his father to be confused and ask questions, but instead got an over-enthusiastic of course followed by questions on what he would be taking and where he would join and how he hoped the university he wanted to go to was close to Hasetsu. When Yuuri weakly informed him that the university that had the course he wanted was all the way in Detroit, his father’s face had visibly fallen, but apparently only because Yuuri would be far away.

An encouraging pat, several phone calls and emails to the university later, Yuuri had finally kissed his mother and hugged his father goodbye at the airport, promising to keep in touch and try for the scholarship. But he was scared. So scared. Of failure. Of fucking up again. Of rejecting this course too. Of not finding friends. Of strange places.

Of everything.

But he didn’t need to be. Not with him finding a place so easily. Not with Phichit being the friendliest person he’d ever met in his life, let alone this city. Not with him rediscovering his love of languages as he prepared for the scholarship test. Not with him discovering how truly beautiful this city was.

He was brought back to earth by a concerned Phichit snapping his fingers in front of his face and tracing his thumb near his eye, holding the side of his face with one hand. “Hey, you with me, buddy?” he questioned, quite obviously worried.

“Yeah. Yeah I’m good. I’m okay,” replied Yuuri, feeling a bit pathetic as he dabbed at his eyes with the heel of his palm, embarrassed.

“It’s okay, Yuuri. It’ll be okay. You’re finally in, see? It paid off, didn’t it?” prompted Phichit, attempting to cheer him up.

“Sure. It did. I’m okay, really,” smiled Yuuri, his thoughts ebbing away as Phichit grinned at him, and then glanced at the clock behind him.

“Look at that, it’s almost 8 PM. Well, I’d promised Leo I’d find your sulky ass and drag you to the bar for a couple of drinks to celebrate.”

“Phichit... none of you are of legal drinking age yet.”

“See, that’s why you’re buying the alcohol tonight for us?”

“Phichit...”

“Oh, don’t worry. Guang-Hong isn’t a drinker anyway and Leo doesn’t drink anything more than one beer at most.”

“Guang-Hong’s coming too?”

“Well, it was Leo who invited us...”

“Just know that I do not condone this, mister.”

“Okay, grandpa,” yelled Phichit as he ran into the washroom to get changed. Yuuri dropped his head on his hand, sighing theatrically into the silence. Well, they did have a few more days to shift all their stuff into the dorm and he was quite happy so he supposed he could go out for a drink. He moved to pick a comfortable grey hoodie and jeans out of his suitcase and knocked on the bathroom door, telling Phichit not to take his own sweet time. Things could go wrong over a few drinks, but not much.

An hour of banging on the door and napping out of frustration later, they finally arrived at the bar, waving at Guang-Hong and Leo sat in a booth off near the corner. Yuuri went over to the bar counter to get them some drinks, making sure to order something non-alcoholic for Guang-Hong. Yuuri wasn’t entirely sure what transmuted the rest of them over the next half an hour (definitely alcohol for Phichit. And he promised he would be responsib- oh wait, no, he didn’t), but for some reason, Leo had Guang-Hong pushed up by the side of the booth and was peppering him with kisses while grinning at Guang-Hong’s giggles, and Phichit was dry-sobbing about the hot Korean stranger in the booth right across.

I need a proper drink. Now.

He untangled himself from the mess that was Phichit’s limbs clinging to him, and walked over to the counter, sitting on one of the bar stools and ordering a shot of whiskey for himself to clear the image of the two kids making out.

He downed the shot, scrunching his nose at the taste, and resting his head against his hands clasped around the miniscule glass, smacking his tongue to get rid of the last of the flavour. At least the drink warmed him a bit, eased any leftover tension from his minor meltdown a few hours back. He turned his head a little to his side, head still on his hands, tired eyes widening a little at the sight of the stranger sat next to him.

It was the alcohol. It had to be the alcohol. There was no logical way for someone to actually be glowing around the edges like an ethereal being radiating the purest of energies. Yuuri blinked a couple of times, reaching up to his glasses and scrubbing the surface of his glasses to make sure there was nothing refracting his vision.

Nope, nothing.

The man in front of him was definitely glowing. It cut through the slight haze of smoke and dimmed the already-dull neon lighting. His grey bangs cascaded lightly into his face, his bright blue eyes twinkling as he smirked at the bartender, head tilted to the side and resting on the heel of one hand, shamelessly flirting with him. He was beautiful, and he knew it. He knew exactly the effect he had on the bartender, making the man blush as he ran feather-light touches across with thin, long fingers. His voice rang clear to those around him, even over the loud music of the dingy bar, his English slightly accented, his voice slightly deep. He laughed at something the bartender said, a lively trill, making his mouth curve into a strangely endearing heart shape.

Yuuri must’ve been staring for far longer (and harder) than necessary, because as soon as the stranger’s eyes landed on him, it was the stranger who did a slight double-take, not Yuuri.

“Well, hello. Yes, another whiskey please, and one for Mister...” the stranger trailed off.

“Katsuki,” offered Yuuri.

“Pleasure,” purred the stranger, dragging his eyes up and down Yuuri, scrutinising him.

"Viktor Nikiforov, by the way," he said, his voice rumbling low and deep as he pulled himself closer to Yuuri.

Yuuri didn't think he'd heard a prettier name anywhere.