“Let’s watch this movie about a girl and her dog,” Viktor says. “It’ll help you unwind.”
Halfway through the movie, Viktor turns around on the couch and remarks, “Wow, Yuuri, has anyone ever told you that your face looks like a slab of wobbly tofu?”
There are certain things that run through one’s head when the man you’re pretty sure is the love of your life compares your face to bean curd products. The problem is, Yuuri’s been around Viktor long enough that the chunk of his brain that used to govern shame has been ripped out of his skull and tossed in the trash. He misses it, some days.
“How did you not know this movie would make me cry?” Yuuri wails. He’s seen his own crying face often enough to know that Viktor’s right. Some people cry like noble statues, like regal heroes. Yuuri cries like his eyes are melting and his cheeks are jiggling under the gravitational force of his overwhelming emotions. It’s very, very wobbly. Yuuri’s face cries the way some porn stars bounce.
“There’s a small child,” Yuuri sobs. “There’s a dog.”
“Yes,” Viktor says, “and these are all your favourite things, no?” He’s got one arm curled around the back of the couch, fingers brushing the nape of Yuuri’s neck.
“There’s a girl and a dog and they may be separated.” Yuuri hiccups every other word. “There’s a war going on in this movie.”
“Yes?” Viktor looks confused. He’s also laughing at Yuuri, softly.
“It’s sad, is what it is.” Yuuri swipes at his face. His nostrils are starting to hurt, like they’re rimmed with salt. “Aren’t you sad?”
“I’m Russian,” Viktor says expansively. “I’m always sad.”
In a different, more dignified life, maybe, Yuuri wouldn’t be able to google “Katsuki Yuuri + tears” and come up with over a thousand hits and some very HD videos. But there’s no dignity to be found in professional figure skating.
Figure skating’s a sport of quiet sobs in a bathroom stall, fetal positions and your head buried in your knees, weeping until you want to throw up. There’s not a lot of other sports that have, after all, a kiss and cry, and for a long, long time Yuuri was doing way more crying than kissing.
If you wanted someone to burst into violent, messy tears at the first whisper of “shaky performance” and “wasted potential” and “the hopes of your country riding on your shoulders” — well, Katsuki Yuuri was your man. Yuuri’s assorted all sorts of crying routines over the years, done toe loops, salchows, axels, camel spins, combination jumps of tears-snot-drool, all to a resounding finish. Nailed the podium every time.
As it turns out, the best cure for leaky tear ducts is retirement. As it turns out, the best cure for popped out knees and torns discs is retirement. As it turns out, the best cure for six a.m. wakeup calls and hours-long sessions at the gym that brutalize you until you’re crying with exhaustion is, wait for it, retirement.
Yuuri’s no longer scared of retirement. Yuuri’s no longer a great many things that he used to be; he has Viktor.
In a different, less complicated life, maybe, there’s a version of Yuuri who never finds out what Viktor Nikiforov sounds like when he’s calling out Yuuri’s name from across a crowded room. Yuuri, Viktor says everywhere he goes, Yuuri Yuuri Yuuri, like some sort of public service announcement that consists of exactly one word and is determined to squawk it until the end of time. There’s a version of Yuuri who never knows what Viktor’s long legs look like when they’re hurrying over to Yuuri’s side; who never knows the weight of Viktor’s arm around his shoulders, the sloppy press of Viktor’s mouth to his cheek.
There’s a version of Yuuri who doesn’t know any of these things; a Yuuri who went home after his failures and lived a quiet life, a small life. Every day Yuuri is glad that this Yuuri is not him.
He and Viktor have an apartment in Saint Petersburg together. They have a mortgage. They have a grocery list stuck by a magnet to the fridge. They have Makkachin. They have a coffee maker, a cable subscription, and a walk-in closet of ninety percent Viktor’s designer outfits and ten percent Yuuri’s fleece pullovers. They have day jobs; they have Yurio.
“I wonder,” Viktor says, “if we ever break up, who’ll get Yurio in the divorce.”
Yuuri pauses from searching for his scarf, which he threw to the floor somewhere last night and can’t find again. “But we’re not married.” He’s proud of how casual he sounds, when once a comment like this from Viktor would’ve sent him into a tailspin of Viktor wants to break up with me and Viktor’s grown tired of me.
“And that’s another thing,” Viktor adds cheerfully. “You put a ring on it, but what have you done since then? Nothing.” He languishes his hand on his forehead. “You know what they say down at the rink? Poor poor Viktor Nikiforov, treasure of the figure skating world, pure and kind and selfless — he’ll be completely white-haired before his boyfriend ever marries him.” His expression darkens briefly; they both know they’ll have to leave the country if they want anything done on that front.
Yuuri wriggles eye-level to the bottom of the couch and finds his scarf. “I don’t think that’s likely,” he says.
“Oh?” Viktor’s eyes shine.
“I mean, won’t you be too bald to have any hair left?”
“Yuuri!” Viktor screeches.
Yuuri picks a dustball out of his scarf.
“I should’ve known,” Viktor says, “how cruel you are. How you’re just playing with my affections. When you rode into town like a — a Casanova! And you seduced me!” He points a finger at Yuuri. “That’s right. You seduced me with your eros-filled body—” Yuuri turns red, “and your — your empty promises!”
It’s nice to see that Viktor still knows how to put on a dramatic performance. Yuuri has to turn his face away so that Viktor can’t see his efforts not to laugh.
“That banquet,” Viktor declares, “with your pole-dancing and your — shirtlessness and your grinding, god Yuuri, your grinding.” Yuuri’s face is scarlet. Nothing like a little wanton screwing of your ass on your idol’s lap to make an impression. Viktor sighs wistfully. “We should drink more often.”
“No,” Yuuri says.
“But you get all—”
Yuuri covers his face with his palms. “They still remember me at the police station from last time, Vitya. They sent me a Christmas card.”
“See,” Viktor says, coming around and reeling Yuuri in by the waist, “this is why I love you. Excessive public nudity.”
Yuuri buries his face in Viktor’s neck.
“You cried, you know,” Viktor muses.
“Yes, because Russian law enforcement were taking pictures and laughing at me,” Yuuri keens.
“No, I mean, at the banquet,” Viktor says. “After you gave everyone a bit of bump and grind, and blew my poor innocent mind.” Yuuri snorts. “You begged me to be your coach, and when I said yes, your eyes—” Viktor traces the rims of Yuuri’s glasses fondly. “They got all big and wet and blubbery.”
“Oh god,” Yuuri mumbles.
“That was when I knew you really did need me,” Viktor says. “That was when I knew I meant it. Well,” he adds, “that and someone needed to keep an eye on your public nudity problem.”
“You really did save me, Viktor.”
“Yes,” Viktor says smugly, rubbing Yuuri’s back, “I know.”
Viktor turns splotchy when he cries. His face swells up like a push-up bra.
Viktor cries all the time. Viktor cries when he sees little kids skate for the first time, when Yurio goes on to win gold, when he watches documentaries about the overfishing of salmon. He cries at every single sports movie ever made, even Mighty Ducks. He cries at power ballads and overly spicy food, and when he has to be rushed to the hospital for appendicitis, and Yuuri’s clutching his hand telling him he’ll be alright. Viktor cries at romance novels, Olympics opening ceremonies, haunted houses, and fender benders.
One time Yuuri catches Viktor hunched over his laptop, watching Youtube videos of Yuuri’s skates, and honking snot into a handkerchief.
“Yuuri on Ice,” is all he can get out of Viktor before Viktor starts to bawl. “Yuuri on Ice.”
“Yuuri on mattress waiting for you to come to bed,” Yuuri says. “Get over here.” And that’s enough to get Viktor to wipe his face and slink over. Yuuri spreads his legs so that he can brace Viktor between his knees. He wraps his hands around Viktor’s slim hips.
It wasn’t easy like this, the first time. Yuuri who’d never had a girlfriend, never had sex, and Viktor who was — well, who knew what Viktor’s problem was, he certainly didn’t. Had gone to Viktor’s bed fumbling and nervous, blood pounding in his eardrums, horrified when he couldn’t seem to use any of his limbs right, couldn’t kiss Viktor without their noses knocking together and their teeth going click-clack. Thought of all the smooth, skilled men Viktor could’ve brought home with him and instead he had Yuuri, naked and shy, mouth bruised from clumsy, misshapen kisses.
“If — if you want to stop,” Yuuri had stammered, certain that when Viktor looked at him like he was so very lost, this was what he meant.
But Viktor had reared back, as if Yuuri had sunk his teeth into his jugular and bitten him. His hands had dropped immediately to his sides; Yuuri remembers how cold it’d felt, with Viktor no longer draped over him. “If you want to — to stop,” Viktor had said, stammering equally as badly.
“No, I don’t,” Yuuri had rushed to say. “But if you —”
“No, if you—”
Like two people wedged in a doorway, and Yuuri had wanted to cry with frustration. “You’re my first, you know,” he said, daring to stroke Viktor’s shoulder, his jaw, his mouth. “I want you to be sure.”
Viktor leaned into his touch, and shuddered.
It still works on Viktor, even now. Telling him that he’s Yuuri’s first. It turns him into a mad, wild thing in bed, dark-eyed and feverish, pinning Yuuri down and fucking him through the bedframe. Even if they’ve done it a thousand times by now, reminding Viktor that he was the first will always crank him up. Yuuri whispers it sometimes at the rink, at the grocery store, waiting in line to get into the opera. Viktor looks like he’s being tortured.
“It’s true, though,” Yuuri confesses, one night when it’s too much, almost, the way Viktor looks at him, the way Viktor adores him, the way Viktor holds him after sex the way you would the thing that’s most precious to you, the thing you’d run into the fire for. “All of this—” he means the bed, he means the apartment, he means this street and this city and more too; all the filled-up arenas with the people who stood from their seats and shouted his name. “All of this, you gave me.”
Viktor’s eyes are very, very moist.
“The first time I ever saw you jump,” he begins.
“Oh, you mean in the video,” Yuuri says.
Viktor shakes his head. “Even before then. You won’t remember. We were warming up, and you were this—” he waves his hands, “—this tiny gloomy thing straight from juniors.”
“Probably peeing my pants every time I got within a foot of you,” Yuuri laughs. “Did I have braces then? I had a very long braces phase — thought I’d have to wear them until I was ancient.”
“You did,” Viktor grins, and Yuuri knows without having to be told that come morning Viktor will phone up Yuuri’s mother and beg her for the photos.
“Oh good,” he says, tangling their fingers together and squeezing. It’s funny how he can laugh at these things, years later.
“Even then,” Viktor says. “You skated past me on the ice, and I saw you jump. A double axel or something like that. Nothing fancy. But—” he sounds in awe. “You hung there in the air. Weightless.”
Yuuri looks at him.
“I wanted to be there.” Viktor licks his dry lips. “When you came back down.”
He says it like a secret, like a coin dropped into a well, but you don’t build a life with someone and not already know. Yuuri presses their foreheads together and kisses the wet from Viktor’s lashes.
Yurio cries at their wedding.