Viktor's had his eye on Japan's ace for a while.
He makes a point of keeping up with all the newest skaters, always has. He first hears the name Katsuki Yuuri when he's twenty and Yuuri is just making his way into the senior division. Viktor sees half of Yuuri's performance when he puts the Skate Canada competition on in the background while doing the dishes. Something about the way Yuuri skates catches his eye, and he ends up looking up the whole program later that night.
He brings it up at practice the next day. "Coach, what do you know of a Katsuki Yuuri?
Yakov looks thoughtful, if wary. "One of Japan's young skaters, yeah? Middling to good, I'd say. Better than average stamina, but his jumps need work." Wariness wins out, and his eyes narrow. "Why."
Viktor shrugs, artfully casual. "No reason. I just thought he had potential and wanted to hear your thoughts."
"Hmm," Yakov says, unconvinced. "Why don't you focus on your own potential, which you waste with every minute you don't spend on your own routines."
Rolling his eyes, Viktor skates off to practice his quad loop. In his own grouch way, Yakov is probably right. Viktor might like keeping an eye on other skaters, but he never ends up with more than a passing interest in any of them.
But his passing interest in Katsuki Yuuri...doesn't pass. And after a couple years, Viktor starts noticing Yuuri even more. He can't help himself, not when Yuuri has such a beautiful, expressive way of skating. Soon, Viktor finds himself googling videos of Yuuri’s past routines, keeping up with his competitions, cheering his wins and mourning his losses. It's normal, he tells himself, for athletes to be fans of others in their field. Just because it's never happened to him before...
"No, you don't get it," he finds himself saying to a disinterested Georgi one afternoon at practice. "The way he skates, it's like, like music—"
"Viktor," Georgi says derisively, "Do you have a crush on some eighteen-year-old?"
"We're barely in our twenties," Viktor protests. Then his brain catches up with him. "And no! Of course not! I just...think he's good..."
Georgi doesn't look like he believes him.
The next year, Yuuri shoots up the rankings, becoming the top skater in Japan. The media takes to calling him "Japan's Ace," and Viktor has yet another reason to pay attention to him.
Ah. Not, that is, that Viktor really needs any more reason. Try as he might, he hasn't been able to get Katsuki Yuuri out of his head, and they still have never even met.
Which is why when Viktor finds out they'll both be at the Cup of China, he feels his heartbeat accelerate with excitement. He can't wait to see Yuuri face-to-face, find out if he looks as good in person as on video—ah, that is, if his skating looks as good.
Because Viktor is a professional. Right.
Still, he can at least be excited about the chance to meet a competitor he admires, can't he?
When the competition rolls around, Viktor isn't disappointed by Yuuri's skating, not at all. But the rest of his hopes are dashed when he can't get a second to talk to Yuuri the whole damn tournament.
"Is he avoiding me?" he whines, leaning his head despondently on Yakov's shoulder.
Yakov ignores him.
"Does he not like me?"
Yakov rolls his eyes (which Viktor can't actually see, but knows happens anyway). "I think he's just too busy for you."
"Too busy!" Viktor's head comes up, and he pouts.
"Not everyone slacks off like you do," Yakov growls. It's not true; Viktor works as hard as, or harder than, everyone else. But it does its job, which is snapping Viktor out of his melancholy and reminding him of where they are. "Now go finish stretching."
Viktor does, and tries not to think about Yuuri for the rest of the short programs. After, though, he tries to head in Yuuri's direction—to congratulate him, for doing so well. Maybe even to strike up a conversation.
But Yuuri is in deep conversation with his coach, and then in deep conversation with his parents, and then with his fellow skaters...really seeming like he's actually too busy for Viktor.
Viktor sighs and shrugs it off. There will be more chances, right?
There aren't more chances.
For the next four years, Yuuri and Viktor only appear at the same competition once, and Yuuri ignores him the whole time. Yuuri ignores most people—doesn't seem to be close to many other skaters—but when he gets roped in with the others, at least he laughs and jokes and teases a little. At least he smiles.
He never even looks at Viktor.
In the last year, Yuuri makes it to the Grand Prix Final, and of course Viktor does as well. The Final always more of a spectacle than other competitions, he knows. They're expected, in some ways, to interact with each other. Viktor thinks—hopes—that this could finally be his chance.
But again, and again, and again, Yuuri ignores him. Viktor can't even pretend this time that he isn't doing it on purpose. Every time Viktor walks into a room, Yuuri finds some reason to walk out. When Viktor gets too close to him, Yuuri's entire body stiffens up, shoulders drawing up nearly to his ears. In every group photo, every interview, Yuuri never makes eye contact with him, barely acknowledges his presence.
He isn't mean about it. At least that would be something.
"He hates me," Viktor whispers mournfully, watching Yuuri skitter out of yet another chance to interact with Viktor.
"Hmm," Chris says, in his mellow but innuendo-laden tone. He doesn't have to say anything else for Viktor to flush hot.
Later, when he's going back to the hotel with Yakov and Viktor's rink-mates, he's still thinking about it. "Why does he hate me? What did I do?"
"Maybe he can tell how much of a flake you are," Yuri mutters, bored.
"Maybe he can tell how irresponsible you are," Yakov growls, and Viktor winces, remembering how distracted he'd been warming up today.
"Yakov," he whines. "Take pity on me, I'm pining!"
"Oh, so you admit it," Georgi says with satisfaction.
Viktor finches. Shit.
"It's okay, Vitya," Mila pipes up from Yuri's right. "We all get crushes from time to time!"
After that, Viktor promises himself that he's not going to look like a desperate fool anymore. If—if Yuuri wants to talk to him, then he can come to Viktor.
Except then Yuuri bombs his program, and Viktor takes one look at how upset he looks, and his stomach drops.
"He looks so sad," he says, and Yuri shoots him a look.
"I found him crying in the bathroom." Yuri snorts contemptuously. "Pathetic."
Viktor frowns. "Maybe I should talk to him."
Yuri eyes him. "You really think that would help?"
Maybe not, but Viktor feels the inexorable pull to comfort Yuuri anyway. Maybe if he finds a different way to break the ice...
The idea hits him, when he's walking out of the arena with Yakov and Yuri, and he catches sight of Yuuri staring at him. It's the first time they've really made eye contact; Yuuri looks stunned, almost a little starstruck. Viktor takes the thought,and the hope that comes with it, and runs with it.
"A commemorative photo?" he offers, thinking that this will get Yuuri near him, and maybe Viktor can put an arm around him—tell him not to worry, Viktor still thinks he's amazing, and oh, by the way, would he be interested in going to dinner after the banquet, by any chance?
But Yuuri just stares at him for another long moment, wide-eyed and blank, before turning on his heel and walking away.
The smile drops off Viktor's face.
"That's rough," Yuri says from behind him, not sounding sympathetic at all. He waits a second, then kicks Viktor in the knee. "Let's go, we still have to change before the banquet."
Viktor isn't listening. He was right the first time. Yuuri really just doesn't like him.
But then the banquet happens, and everything Viktor thought was true is proved completely and utterly wrong.
It doesn't hit him until Yuuri challenges him to a dance battle—a dance battle!—body pressed up against Viktor's, sweet and probably far too drunk. But Viktor doesn't really believe it until Yuuri looks up at him, flushed and earnest, and begs, "Be my coach, Viktor!"
That's when it finally sinks in.
Viktor lights up from the inside out. He can't stop the smile from taking over his face. He likes me, he thinks giddily. He wants me.
And that's how he ends up getting swept off his feet by Katsuki Yuuri.
At the end of the night, Viktor helps Celestino drag Yuuri back to his hotel room (because Yuuri won't let go Viktor and god, isn't that amazing?), one arm wrapped around Yuuri's waist to attempt to hold him steady.
"I can take it from here," Celestino says wryly, propping Yuuri against the wall while he opens the hotel room door.
"Wait," Viktor says. "Let me..."
He digs out a sharpie from his jacket pocket, and grabs Yuuri's wrist. Carefully, he writes his phone number on Yuuri's forearm, where there's no way he won't see it.
"Goodnight, Yuuri," he says softly.
"Viktor." Yuuri turns to look at him. "You're leaving? Why?" His brow furrows, and Viktor reaches out to smooth the wrinkles out.
"You need to sleep." Viktor laughs, and Yuuri smiles at the sound. "And hydrate. You're wasted."
"Hmm," Yuuri agrees, and tips forward slowly like he's going to fold right into Viktor's chest.
Celestino hauls him back upright. "Yuuri," he admonishes, and with regret, Viktor has to let him go.
"Call me," he says—pleads.
Yuuri closes his eyes and doesn't respond, but Viktor knows that he will.