Actions

Work Header

When Life Gives You Lavender

Chapter Text

“You have now arrived at your destination,” the GPS announced.

Yuuri parked in the dirt driveway and relaxed back into the driver’s seat. He had finally made it to the farm after a dull four hour drive through the middle of nowhere. He knew it would look nothing like it did from his childhood, but it was in worse shape than he expected. The fields were dry and barren, and the buildings did not look like they held up much better. And it wasn’t easily taken care of with a good pressure wash, although that wouldn’t hurt. A lot of hard labor needed to go into this place before anything good could come of it. Yuuri let out a groan and closed his eyes. Was he in over his head?

The farm had been in Yuuri’s mother’s family for a few generations, but it hadn’t been occupied in nearly twenty years. Yuuri’s parents had considered looking for someone to fix up the land and sell it for a small profit. In a snap decision Yuuri had offered to move out to the farm and take it over. He couldn’t seem to explain his decision. He had zero experience in farming, or manual labor in general, but for whatever reason his parents agreed to let him take it anyhow. Yuuri began to think that that was poor decision making on their part. They had too much faith in him.

The reality of the situation didn’t hit Yuuri until that moment in his car. And now Yuuri had acres of land under his jurisdiction and he hadn’t the slightest clue of what to do. It was a very real situation, indeed.

Eventually Yuuri stepped out of his family’s—now his—pickup truck and walked towards the front door of the sad house. He fumbled with all of the new keys before finding the right one to unlock the door. As Yuuri walked inside, he realized that the interior looked even worse than the outside of the house did. A layer of dust covered what little furniture remained in the house. Yuuri saw a bed, a coffee table, a bookshelf, and a chest. The short hallway led to a kitchen and a bathroom.

Yuuri wandered out of the house and headed over to the nearby shed. His dad had informed that all his tools he needed would be in there. They were there, but the old rusty tools didn’t show much promise. A sickle, a hoe, a watering can, and an ancient fishing rod. “Oh god…,” he muttered. The entire farm was archaic, there was no way he could get by with tools like that. It was too much for Yuuri. Too much awful in one moment and he could feel it overwhelming him. This was an impossible project, setting him up for failure. Even if Yuuri tried, the odds of him succeeding were slim. His parents would probably have to sell it off anyhow.

No. He needed to take a step back. Yuuri left the shed and locked the door behind him. He stood facing the fields before him and took a deep breath in. This sucks, he thought, but it’s doable. Yuuri needed perspective. The absolute worst case scenario was that he fixed everything up and let his parents sell the farm. Then life could go back to normal and Yuuri could go put his business degree to use somewhere in the city. Not the most ideal, but also doable.

The cold weather still had a month or so left before it would be time to start properly planting things, Yuuri figured. So he had a month to get himself together and learn as much about farming as possible before he had to start, well, farming.

So what was his first step? Yuuri’s thought process was interrupted by his stomach growling. He hand’t eaten since before he left that morning. Groceries, Yuuri decided, that’s the first thing he’d do. Next was to clean his house. And everything else…could wait until the next day.

With his game plan set in place, Yuuri got back in the truck and put it in ignition. He was backing out when he put his foot down on the brakes. “Ah. I don’t know where the grocery store is…”

After locating the nearest grocery store, Yuuri picked up some necessities. The selection wasn’t as big as he was used to, but it sufficed. The drive to and from the grocery store made Yuuri realize how small the town truly was. His own hometown was small, but this was even tinier. But Yuuri wasn’t looking for new friends; he wanted the solitude. And farmland in a small town gave him exactly that.

Or so he thought.

His first notion of solitude was ruined as he drove back onto his property. Considering that the farm wasn’t exactly a hub of bustling activity, it was easy for Yuuri to notice that something was off. And that something came in the form of a silver-haired man standing in front of his house. He sighed. He didn’t even get one day to himself, and he probably looked awful on top of it.

Yuuri parked his car and got out to speak to the mystery man. “Uh, hello,” Yuuri said to him. “Can I help you?”

The man in question turned towards Yuuri and gave him a smile. Oh no, the man was handsome up close. Gorgeous, even. “Ah yes, you must be the Katsuki boy!” he extended a gloved hand. “Viktor Nikiforov, the mayor of this town.”

His cheekbones, Yuuri thought as he shook his hand. “Y-yuuri Katsuki. Nice to meet you.”

“Yuuri? Why that’s my son’s name! What a coincidence!” the mayor said.

Yuuri blinked. “Yeah, what are the odds?” This man had a child? Did that mean that he was married too? Probably. Yuuri couldn’t see a ring with the gloves on. “So, is there something you needed from me, Mayor Nikiforov?”

“Please call me Viktor. Word got out that you were moving in today, and some townsfolk had spotted you at the grocery store. I just thought I’d stop by and meet you properly,” Viktor explained.

Such blue eyes. “Things travel fast in this town don’t they?” Yuuri said.

Laughter escaped Viktor’s chest. “Why yes, it’s both a blessing and a curse! You must be careful what you tell people here, Yuuri,” he said with a wink.

Yuuri’s face was red, but it very well could have been the cold weather. Before he could stammer out a reply, the mayor carried on. “I’m very excited to have someone move in to this place,” he gestured to the farm. “It could be just the kind of revitalization this town needs.”

“Well this farm’s gonna need some revitalization before that can happen,” Yuuri told him wearily. He thought back to his ever-growing list of things he needed to do.

The corners of Viktor’s eyes crinkled when he smiled. “It’ll be tough, I’m sure. But you’re not alone. Everyone here is very friendly and always willing to help each other out. I’d suggest stopping by the other farms and talking with the farmers there, they can give you some pointers. And of course, if there’s ever anything I can do, come by town hall and see me.”

“Wow, thank you for the offer. I really appreciate it.”

“It’s no trouble at all,” Viktor insisted. “But you must be busy, with moving in and getting settled. I’ll leave you to your things.”

“Ah, I hope I didn’t take up too much of your time.”

Viktor dismissed the thought with a wave of his hand. “I was just taking my dog for a walk…speaking of which…” Viktor looked around him, in search of his dog. “Makkachin!” he called.

From behind Yuuri’s house came a tall brown poodle trotting towards them. His tail wagged at the sight of a new person. Makkachin eagerly walked up to Yuuri, who had knelt down to pet him. “You’re a friendly one, aren’t you?” Yuuri laughed as Makkachin licked his face. He soon realized he was being watched by the mayor and promptly stood back up, wiping his wet cheek on his coat sleeve. “You’ve got yourself a good dog.”

Viktor grinned, patting Makkachin on the head. “I’d like to think so.”

“Anyhow I’ll let you be on your way. It was nice to meet you May—er, Viktor,” Yuuri corrected.

“Likewise.” the silver haired man gave him another stunning smile. “I hope to see you around, Yuuri.” And with that, the mayor turned around to leave with his poodle on his heals. Yuuri watched his retreating figure until he left the property. Even then he still stood there and stared into space, replaying the interaction in his head.

That had to be the youngest, not to mention the most attractive mayor Yuuri had ever met. And Viktor certainly did not look like he belonged in a small town. He didn’t look like he would have a child either, but Yuuri was also horribly wrong on that front too. He didn’t want to get in over his head, so he went ahead and assumed the worst: Viktor was probably happily married and living peacefully with his family. Given Yuuri’s circumstance, he didn’t have time to worry about a crush anyhow. The farm took first priority. But he did have time to be intrigued. Yes, very intrigued.

Yuuri finally kicked himself into gear and brought in his groceries into the house, setting them on the counter. He sat down and pulled out an already made sandwich from one of the grocery bags. Yuuri knew better than to cook in an old, gross house. He took a bite out of the sandwich and chewed thoughtfully. If he wanted to do anything else in the house, he had to clean it first. He had bought some cleaning supplies at the store that he knew would be put to good use. “But first, heat…” Yuuri said to himself, locating the thermostat and turning on the heat. Judging by the sound of the heating unit, it could use a tune-up as well. “And my parents said the house was move-in ready,” Yuuri muttered darkly.

The rest of the day was spent cleaning out the house, a hopeful attempt at distraction from thinking about the mayor. But alas, Yuuri was an excellent multitasker. Silver hair still occupied his mind as he choked on all the dust he kicked up (and eventually vacuumed). The bathroom sink was a little grimy, but it looked much better after Yuuri had scrubbed away at it for ten minutes. Even the kitchen tile looked a bit brighter. He wouldn’t say that the house looked nice after its makeover, but it looked habitable. Which was enough for Yuuri. By the evening he was able to move his belongings into the house and put them away.

When Yuuri had crossed everything off of his to-do list, he plopped down onto his bed and called his parents.

His mother picked up on the second ring. "Yuuri!"

"Uh, hey mom. I just wanted to call and let you know I made it to the farm safely."

"You're not just arriving there, are you?" she asked in a worried tone.

"No," Yuuri said sheepishly. He really should've called earlier that day. "I just got distracted, I guess."

Laughter erupted on the other end of the line. "I bet! That farm is quite a lot to take in."

"Yeah, no kidding," Yuuri said with a sigh.

"So did you meet any of the townspeople yet?" his mom asked. "I remember them being very nice."

"Not yet," Yuuri lied. "I spent most of my time fixing up the house today." He'd save talking about Viktor for another day. Or maybe not at all.

"Well I'm sure you're tired after all that you did today, so I'll let you go. Be sure to get a good night's rest and call if you have any questions about the farm."

Yuuri smiled as he gazed up at the ceiling. "Alright Mom, I love you. Good night." He hung up and tossed his phone aside. Talking with his mom helped quell the gnawing uncertainty within him, but he knew it wouldn't last for long. He had gotten the first day under his belt, so all he could do was move on and see what the next day carried. Besides, he was getting exactly what he wanted: time away from his old life.

Sleep came easy to Yuuri that night. After another to-go meal and changing into his warmest pajamas, he passed out on the bed. He was rewarded with deep, dreamless sleep.

Chapter Text

Yuuri was beginning to regret his decision. It wasn’t that sudden, anxious regret he felt when he first arrived to the farm. No. This kind was slower, haunting him and every decision he made. He finally accepted that he did not think far ahead enough to decide what his first move as a farmer was going to be. He was ashamed that he actually had to google ‘how to start a farm’ before he had any ideas. It wasn’t a feeling anymore; it was the truth.

I have time, he kept reminding himself. His parents offered to help offset some of the costs early on, so he had their support. Even his friends back home thought it was cool. “You’re gonna be a bona fide country boy now, Yuuri! Milking cows and chewing on grass!” Pichit had exclaimed, laughing at his friend. Okay, maybe Pichit didn’t take it seriously. But the support was there, even if Yuuri didn’t take full advantage of it.

It went without saying that the first month and a half was the roughest for Yuuri. He more or less stumbled through each task, hoping that he wasn’t messing up entirely. Plenty of mistakes were still made, many of which Yuuri was not proud of. But he kept up his research and did his best to make a proper plan for the fields and the buildings that inhabited the property. Between testing the soil in his fields, figuring out how to start seeds indoors, and attempting to fix up the old chicken coop, Yuuri had his hands full. Each day was incredibly busy, and each night Yuuri came come exhausted. His soft body was not prepared for this lifestyle, and his sore muscles reminded him of that every day.

The silver lining to all the hard work was that Yuuri was able to keep to himself. It was the perfect excuse to retreat into solitude, and no one could think poorly of him for it. He took long walks in the wooded areas around his property and acquainted himself with the nearby creek. He wasn’t lonely by any means; in fact his small indoor seedlings provided something of a comfort to him as he watched them break through the soil.

Now this isn’t to say that Yuuri completely alienated himself from the townspeople. Aside from the necessary trips to the grocery store, the outdoor store and the like, Yuuri also took up the mayor’s advice and introduced himself to the local farmers.

There were the Crispino twins Sara and Michele, who like Yuuri, took over their parents’ farm. They almost solely did poultry farming. Of all the farmers in the town, they were the closest to Yuuri’s age. Michele was not a huge fan of Yuuri, from what he could tell, but Sara was very kind and helpful. “Are you interested in purchasing anything?” Sara asked. “We’ve got a bunch of eggs about to hatch.”

“Ah, I’m still working on fixing up my chicken coop,” Yuuri said shyly. Not to mention he hadn’t taken the time to research chicken care yet.

Sara gave him an encouraging smile. “That’s fine! One of these days we can stop by and help you work out all the kinks and get you set up. If you want, that is.”

“That would be great, actually,” Yuuri said, shocked. This was his first taste of networking and the wonderful benefits.

Yuuri also met with Celestino Cialdini, a big crop producer in the area, probably the biggest. He was a pleasant, older man who was more than willing to take Yuuri under his wing and give him some pointers. Yuuri spent a few days walking through the fields with Celestino, getting a crash course in all things crops.

Viktor wasn’t kidding when he told Yuuri that everyone in town was really nice. By the time Yuuri had introduced himself properly to all of the farmers, he was practically overflowing with new knowledge and connections. Speaking of Viktor…Yuuri hadn’t gone out of his way to see the mayor. He did spot him on the news one morning. Apparently there had been some event he had spoken at the day before, although Yuuri paid no attention to what was being said and all too much attention to the way Viktor’s voice sounded.

Was it necessary that Yuuri run into Viktor? No. But would it be nice if it happened? Absolutely. Although he had no idea what he would say if he did. Yuuri didn’t consider it an option. In retrospect, he should have.

One night after Yuuri finished his work earlier than expected, he worked up the courage to go out to the local bar. It wasn’t a quick decision by any stretch, in fact Celestino had planted it in his head almost a week prior. “I’m obviously not the leading expert on where all the young people like to hang out,” he had said, “but the Blue Bar is a pretty good place to wind down from a long day.”

At the time, Yuuri was just flattered that at 27 he was still considered a young person.

Yuuri couldn’t be sure, but looking back it was probably Celestino’s way of telling him that he needed to get out more. Even as he went through the motions of showering, combing his hair, and getting dressed, he still wasn’t sure if he would actually leave the house that night. After gazing at his reflection in the bathroom mirror, he made up his mind. He deserved a night to relax and have a drink. It really had been a while since he had done that, he thought. Even back home, he never really went out unless Pichit had something to do with it. He swiped up his keys from the nightstand and left the house.

The Blue Bar was located in the very quaint downtown area, easily missed if Yuuri didn’t know what to look for. Before he reached the door, Yuuri had to do his best to calm his nerves. Going to bars alone made him nervous, which kind of contradicted the whole point of relaxing. But he knew that he’d feel fine as soon has he went in and ordered a drink. Summoning up as much courage as he could, Yuuri opened the door and stepped inside.

He saw a few familiar faces from his trips around town, but he wasn’t keen on stopping by and chatting with anyone. He made a beeline for the corner spot at the bar. As he took a seat on the barstool, Yuuri took a proper look around the small place. Homey was the best way to describe it. The all-wood interior gave it a certain kind of warmth and reminded Yuuri of his parents.

Yuuri almost didn’t notice when the bartender asked what he wanted to drink. “Uh, a vodka-lime soda. Please,” he requested, defaulting to Pichit’s usual drink.

When his drink was made, Yuuri picked it up and took a tentative sip. The burn of the alcohol felt nice, spreading throughout his chest. The taste brought forth memories of a tipsy Pichit dragging him onto the dance floor. Yuuri laughed into his drink as he took another sip. He enjoyed his time like that, caught between memories and the gentle hums of conversation surrounding him.

Eventually Yuuri was yanked out of his trance by the sound of a familiar voice.

“Is this seat taken?”

Yuuri jumped in his seat. He placed a hand over his heart to calm himself down. Beside him stood an amused looking Viktor. He wore a lilac colored button down and grey trousers. “I’m sorry if I scared you.” He didn’t look sorry.

“No, you’re fine—I mean ‘no you didn’t scare me,’ not ‘no you can’t sit with me!’” Yuuri explained frantically.

Viktor cocked his head to one side. “So I can sit with you…?”

“Yes, yes you can. Sorry.” Viktor settled into the seat next to him, ordering some kind of beer Yuuri was unfamiliar with. The alarms in Yuuri’s mind were sounding, but there was no turning back now. He got what he wanted, but he didn’t know what to do with himself now other than internally panic.

“I haven’t seen you here before,” Viktor remarked casually, as if they were friends. How did he do that?

Yuuri looked at his hands. “That’s because this is my first time here.”

“Oh! Well welcome! I quite like it here. It’s got a cozy atmosphere to it, don’t you think?”

“Yeah that’s what I thought too,” Yuuri replied. Stay calm. Stay calm. At least the liquor was starting to set in. He trusted that his nerves would ease up soon.

“May I buy you another drink?” Viktor asked, pointing to Yuuri’s finished one.

“Ah, you probably shouldn’t,” Yuuri told him politely. Another drink sounded nice, but one more drink could lead to many more. And he did not need to get wasted in front of the mayor. His tolerance had probably diminished and he didn’t trust himself. “I have to drive home tonight.”

Viktor nodded in understanding. “Fair enough.” He paused to thank the bartender when his drink came his way. “So how was your day, Yuuri?” he asked as he brought the glass to his lips.

Yuuri forced himself to tear his eyes away from Viktor’s mouth, choosing to stare at the dark polished wood of the bar. “My day?” he repeated, blinking a few too many times to pass as casual.

“Yes. Unless I misspoke,” the mayor teased.

Yuuri fiddled with the little black straw in his drink, nudging the ice cubes around. “I mean, it wasn’t anything exciting. I watered the seedlings, moved some of them over to pots. The coop needed some work…” Yuuri found himself rambling about the happenings of his day. The longer he went on the sillier he felt. “But that’s more than you needed to know. How was your day?”

Viktor sighed and rested his chin on one hand. “Absolutely dull. I was stuck in a meeting that lasted the better part of the day. I’d say I have you beat for most boring day. At least you got to go outside and move around.”

Yuuri snorted. “At least you have a stable income,” he muttered under his breath.

Viktor must’ve had impeccable hearing because he let out a laugh after Yuuri’s comment. “I suppose I am grateful for that.”

“Er, you weren’t supped to hear that,” Yuuri said, blushing.

“There’s no need to be ashamed of speaking about money,” Viktor assured him, a grin still on his face. “I’m not offended.”

Yuuri didn’t know how to respond to that. He struggled to think of another topic. “So how’s Yuri? That is your son’s name, right?”

“Yes it is! He’s doing well. It’s his spring break, so he’s out of town at a music camp.”

Yuuri raised his eyebrows. “What does he play?”

“Violin, although his teacher is insisting he pick up viola too as cross-training of sorts,” Viktor bragged with sparkling eyes. He made a move for his wallet. “You must see pictures of him, he is just darling!”

As Viktor sifted through his wallet, Yuuri caught sight of his left hand; no ring. A small thrill ran down his spine before the guilt set in. He shouldn’t have felt as excited as he did. A small photo was thrust into his face before he could dwell on his thoughts anymore. “Here, this one was Yura’s school picture! It’s a year old now, but he really hasn’t grown much.”

The kid was cute, Yuuri couldn’t deny that. He had shaggy blonde hair that almost reached his chin. His features were small and delicate like those of a doll, although his green eyes were piercing. He did seem a little angry for such a small child, however. “He looks intense,” he told the mayor.

Viktor smiled fondly. “Yes he has a very strong personality. While I’m glad he’s tough, it really hinders his friend making abilities.”

Yuuri learned a lot about the little Yuri, mostly through pictures Viktor kept on his phone. There were lots of recital pictures full of child-sized violins, which Viktor couldn’t get over. “I didn’t even know they made them that small!” Viktor gushed. Yuri wore the same scowl in most of the pictures, save for some baby photos. Yuuri wondered if it was just his resting face.

The two continued chatting for an hour or so before Yuuri decided it was time to go home. The next morning would be rough on him if he didn't get enough sleep. He reached for a couple bills in his wallet to pay for his drink before Viktor stopped him. “I’ll take care of it, Yuuri.”

“Are you sure?” Yuuri asked, his hand still holding his money.

“I’m paying for the both of us,” Viktor notified the bartender. The he turned back to Yuuri with a smirk. “I’m positive.”

"Uh, okay. Thanks." Yuuri said dumbly.

"It's the least I could do after you've given me such an entertaining evening," Viktor explained.

Yuuri watched as Viktor signed the receipts after paying with his card. "Glad I could help, I guess."

They walked out of the bar together, splitting up when they had to go to their respective cars. “Take care of yourself, Yuuri,” Viktor called. “I'll see you around!”

Yuuri drove home in a state of shock. Viktor remembered him? And they had a conversation? And it went well? It was all too good to be true. Yuuri felt his giddy smile begin to fade as reality set in. There had to be a catch. Yuuri’s mind flashed back to Viktor’s ringless hand.

Lots of couples don’t wear rings, Yuuri reasoned. There was still a good chance he was with someone, even if there was never another person in the pictures with Yuri…

Maybe Viktor was a single parent, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t dating someone. He may have just been private in his love affairs. Even if he was single, he was probably just getting to know Yuuri as the new guy and make him feel welcome. He was the mayor, after all.

Before Yuuri knew it, he was back in the dirt parking spot beside his house. He groaned and shook himself out of his thoughts. He was doing the exact opposite of what he told himself he would do. “No crush,” he reminded himself. “No crush.”

But that certainly didn’t stop him from dreaming about Viktor that night.

Chapter Text

“Again?!” Yuuri sobbed. He crouched in front of his open refrigerator, noting the blatant emptiness. He had run out of edible food for the second time that month. Never in his life had Yuuri consistently forgotten to buy groceries until he became a farmer. His unpredictable schedule and lack of routine made him forget basic household chores, and his rumbling stomach reminded him of that. He grabbed a couple granola bars to tide him over until he could make it back home and cook dinner. With a mouthful of granola bar number one, Yuuri sped to the grocery store. He’d be damned if he didn’t get to eat at a reasonable hour that night.

The grocery store parking lot was relatively empty that evening, for which Yuuri was grateful. The less lines at the cash register, the better.

Yuuri power walked through the produce section, swerving around the old ladies deciding on which bananas to pick. He was a man on a mission.

Next on the list was soup. Yuuri rounded the corner and made his way down the aisle. A small blonde kid stood in the middle of the aisle, very much in Yuuri’s way. The kid made no move to step aside as Yuuri came closer. Gritting his teeth, he slowed down to a stop. “Excuse me,” Yuuri said politely. “I need to get by.”

The kid slowly turned his head to look at Yuuri, meeting his eyes with sharp green ones that looked all too familiar. Within seconds of seeing the scowl on his face Yuuri froze, his mouth open just enough that he definitely looked stupid.

“Huh?” Yuri said. It almost sounded like a challenge.

“Um,” Yuuri started. He felt his throat go dry. “I just needed to get by. For the soup.”

Yuri never broke eye contact, only narrowing his gaze. He grabbed his can of soup (chicken noodle, to be exact) at a defiantly slow pace, like he knew fully well that he was being a brat. As soon as he made enough room for Yuuri to squeeze by, Yuuri plowed through, slowing down just enough to swipe a random can and toss it in his shopping cart. His heart pounded in his chest, threatening to leap out of his throat. He did not know where in the store Viktor was, but he did not want to run into him. Yuuri’s mind did not bother to question why, he was running on survival instincts.

The rest of Yuuri’s shopping trip was even more hurried then he had originally intended, but he was eager to get out of dodge. He scanned every aisle before going down and picking up the items on his list. Everything was a blur of brightly colored labels and scans of expiration dates. Before Yuuri knew it, he was at the cash register placing his food on the conveyor belt.

The sound of Viktor’s laugh carried down the checkout lines and put all of Yuuri’s sense on high alert. He pulled his baseball cap even further over his head and focused on the card reader in front of him. What were the odds of them finishing at the same time? It didn’t matter as long as Yuuri could slip out unnoticed. The cashier was nearly done ringing him up. Only a few more items…

“That’ll be sixty-four twenty eight,” the cashier said.

Yuuri slid his card through the reader. Even from there, Yuuri could hear Viktor making conversation with his cashier. He was charming, as always. Little Yuri was probably brooding beside him, but Yuuri didn’t dare look and see if he was right.

“Have a nice day!” The magic words that sent Yuuri on his merry way. He muttered a thank you to the cashier and scurried to the automatic doors.

He did it. He was free.

“Yuuri, is that you?” A voice called behind him. Yuuri would never forgive his body for reacting to his name so easily. Over his shoulder he saw Viktor smile brightly and wave at him. “Wait up!” Yuuri hung his head down in defeat. For a moment Yuuri imagined what would happened if he were to push his cart faster and ignore Viktor entirely. No, even that would have repercussions. Instead he obeyed, slowing down enough for Viktor to fall into step with him.

The smile never left Viktor’s face and it was too beautiful for Yuuri to look at directly. Instead he looked at the mayor’s shopping cart. Yuuri couldn’t tell what kind of groceries Viktor had bought; they had the reusable bags. “I almost didn’t see you with that hat on!” Viktor told him.

“Yeah,” Yuuri said in a small voice. “Funny how that happens.”

“This is perfect, I get to introduce you to my son!” the mayor turned to the hooded boy next to him. “This is the big Yuuri I told you about the other day. You know, the farmer?”

“Yeah, I remember him,” Yuri replied.

“It’s nice to meet you,” Yuuri said. Yuri raised an eyebrow at him, but didn’t say anything.

Viktor picked up the slack for his son. “Excuse my boy, he’s tired. We just got back from his youth orchestra rehearsal. They’re gearing up for their big spring performance.”

“I understand, you two must be busy with it.”

“It’s nothing a little time management can’t help,” Viktor told the farmer.

“Well…I really should be going,” Yuuri told them, scratching his cheek. “I have to cook dinner.”

Viktor smiled. “Alright, we won’t keep you then. Have a good evening!”

They all fell quiet as they walked on and waited to go their separate ways in the parking lot. It wasn’t happening. Yuuri could still hear their shopping cart rolling against the pavement beside him.

“Oh look! It seems you parked right next to us,” Viktor pointed out with a laugh.

Yuuri’s eyes shot to the BMW next to his old pickup truck and felt his heart sink with this cruel twist. “How ironic.”

“It seems the fates want us to keep talking!” Viktor went on, opening the trunk of his car.

“Yeah,” Yuuri forced a smile. “I guess so.”

“So how are things on the farm? Busy, I hope?” Viktor asked as he and Yuri loaded the trunk.

Yuuri placed his groceries in the back seat of his truck, resigning to small talk. “Busy enough that I forgot I was out of food,” he answered.

“That must keep you on your toes,” Viktor chuckled. “I sure hope you’re adjusting well to the lifestyle.”

“It’s not easy yet, but it’s getting there,” Yuuri responded truthfully as he finished loading up his groceries. Before Viktor could open his mouth to speak again, Yuuri cut him off. “Now I really do have to leave. I hope you two have a good evening.”

And without looking at either of the Nikiforovs, Yuuri all but threw himself into his truck and sped out of the parking lot. He didn’t realize until after he got home that he forgot to put his shopping cart back.

 

— — —

 

Viktor sighed as he drove out of the parking lot and onto the town’s main road. “Big Yuuri was acting so strange just now,” he whined. “I thought he would be excited to see me. We had so much fun talking to each other last time.”

Yuri only grunted in response, gazing out the passenger window.

“I mean…I’m being nice to him, aren’t I? This is how you become friends, by getting to know the person.”

Viktor was met with silence. He didn’t mind though, he just needed to let out his frustrations with the farmer. It wasn’t too often somebody new moved into town, especially someone near Viktor’s age. Friends were hard to come by as he got older, especially ones worth keeping around. And Yuuri seemed to be good friend material. Not to mention he was cute. The softness of his face and the almost-permanent tousled state of his hair was what initially caught Viktor’s eye. And his guarded demeanor was what piqued his curiosity. There was something behind what Yuuri showed people, and Viktor was tempted to figure it out.

Of course it was unfair of Viktor to assume that Yuuri would befriend him at the drop of a hat. Even if there was something underneath his front, Yuuri may not be willing to reveal it to Viktor of all people.

“Maybe talking isn’t the best way to make friends with him,” Yuri finally said, pulling his father out of his thoughts.

Viktor shot a glance at his son before bringing his eyes back to the road.“That’s an excellent point, Yura. You are so wise for your age!”

Yuri leaned his head back against the seat. “It’s just common sense, Dad.”

“Be gracious and accept the compliment, sweetheart.”

The Nikiforovs fell silent as Viktor thought about how to approach the new farmer and as Yuri presumably thought about how ignorant his father was. He wondered what kind of things that Yuuri liked to do. Or rather, what made Yuuri happy. All he knew of the man’s identity was farming. He could always start there.

Their sprawling house came into view as they rounded the corner. They made it home faster than Viktor expected. He parked in their garage and gave his keys to Yuri. “Unlock the door when you take your violin inside, Yura.”

Yuri was already sliding out of the car. “‘kay.”

Before Yuri could get too far inside the house, Viktor hollered to him “and come back to help me with the groceries!”

With his son recruited as a helper, the two brought all the groceries inside in one trip. “Do you have any homework?” Viktor asked as he restocked the fridge.

His son helped put away food by eating it all. “I finished it before rehearsals,” Yuri answered with a mouthful of grapes.

Viktor frowned at his son. “You didn’t even wash them first. People’s hands have been on those.”

Yuri shrugged. “It hasn’t killed me yet.” He popped another grape in his mouth.

“Do you want anything specific for dinner?”

“Something good, preferably.”

“Be serious, Yura. What do you want for dinner?”

Yuri paused to think for a bit. “Spaghetti. You haven’t messed that up before.”

“As you wish, Yurochka. I’ll let you know when it’s ready.”

Viktor received a grunt of acknowledgement as his son walked out of the kitchen. “And use the chunky sauce,” Yuri called over his shoulder.

Viktor pulled out a pot and filled it up with water. Once he placed the pot onto the stove and turned on the heat, he leaned against the counter and stared at the empty kitchen. He wondered what kind of food Yuuri liked. Viktor smiled at the thought of cooking for him one day, even though his cooking skills really were mediocre. Or maybe Yuuri could teach him how to cook. That was the more likely option anyhow.

When the spaghetti finished cooking, Viktor went upstairs to let his son know. The sound of violin music leaked out from under Yuri’s bedroom door. Of course Yuri had already locked himself away to practice. Didn’t he ever get sick of playing? Viktor leaned against the wall and listened to Yuri play for a while. Yuri hated it when he knew his dad was listening, so Viktor always tried to be quiet about it. He only got to physically see his son play at recitals, so he took what he could get.

After a minute of listening, Viktor lightly rapped his knuckles against the door. The notes stuttered before halting completely. “Dinner is ready,” Viktor announced before heading back downstairs.

He let Yuri help himself first while he checked his phone for new emails.Yuri took his bowl into the tv room and Viktor took his to his office. Between tending to the neglected emails and shoveling spaghetti into his mouth, Viktor found his mind drifting back to the farmer at the grocery store. He wanted to get to know Yuuri, that much he knew for sure. As for his approach…he wasn’t sure what to do. It would take time to figure out how to appeal best to Yuuri. For the time being, all he could do was sit back, keep an eye on the farmer, and wait for an opening. Luckily Viktor was a patient man.

 

— — —

 

Yuuri kicked himself in the face for being so awkward. He hadn’t made this much of a fool of himself in years, and now he had broken his streak. How did he let a child intimidate him? He was nearly two decades his senior! And why did Viktor’s presence have to make him just as nervous? He seethed over the vegetables he was sautéing.

The way Yuuri that acted was ridiculous, and there was no excusable reason to justify it. He had all of three interactions with Viktor and suddenly forgot basic social etiquette. Nothing was going to happen between them, so Yuuri needed to not freak out at every Viktor sighting. The sooner, the less botched social interactions.

Yuuri looked out the window. He hadn’t devoted any time to think about relationships in almost four years. Deep down Yuuri knew he did it on purpose. But dealing with people other than himself wasn’t his strong suit. In the end it always seemed that Yuuri was better off without them. And wasn’t that why he moved to the farm in the first place?

The food was finally ready to eat, and he filled up a plate. As Yuuri chewed on his food, he made up his mind about Viktor. Even though he enjoyed Viktor’s company, he was not going to let himself get caught up in the man. Yuuri already made a scene in front of him, and they weren’t even friends yet. Distance was what he wanted, but it wasn’t realistic given how painfully small the town was. What Yuuri really needed was a whole lot of mental strength, and that wasn’t a naturally occurring resource.

The next morning provided the clarity of mind Yuuri desperately needed. A good sleep never failed him. He pulled himself out of bed and began his new morning routine: get dressed, eat breakfast, check the weather, and start his morning chores.

Spring had officially come and it was time for Yuuri to get serious about outdoor planting. He felt confident about the seeds that he started indoors and transplanted. Most of them looked healthy and were nearly ready to harvest. They had survived through Yuuri’s poor attempt at hardening them off, which consisted of forgetting to build them a cold frame and improvising with empty milk jugs as a sad excuse for insulation. If they could do that, they could do anything. But it was the outdoor seedlings that made Yuuri nervous.

His first outdoor batch of broccoli and lettuce seedlings looked alright (the cauliflower did not make it), but he still felt unsure, leaving them to struggle in the great outdoors. It was the normal way of growing things, but Yuuri couldn’t control feeling like an overprotective parent. He only hoped it wasn’t too much to ask that they didn’t die after all of his efforts.

Yuuri tried to shift his focus to planting his next round of seeds in the field. Planting seeds was tedious busywork that allowed Yuuri’s mind to wander. Yuuri decided to save the less hardy seeds until the weather was consistently warmer. One could never be too safe.

He had also started a small herb garden on an impulse, mainly for his own personal use. It was Yuuri’s small reminder of his family; they kept an herb garden at home as long as he could remember. And the fresh herbs made every dish better. Yuuri started some sage, chives, thyme, and lavender initially. They were the herbs that he knew could last under his questionable care. Whatever he didn’t use in his own cooking he could sell.

The sound of a car pulled Yuuri’s attention away from the seeds. He recognized the Crispino siblings in the car as it slowed down to a stop. Yuuri stood up and brushed the dirt off of his jeans before walking towards the car.

“Hi Yuuri!” Sara greeted. She walked over to him, her long black ponytail swaying with each step. Michele hung back from the two, hands stuffed in his pockets.

“Hey Sara, is something the matter?” he asked in a puzzled tone.

She laughed. “No! We figured you’d be here, so we just stopped by to give you something is all!” She held out a wicker picnic basket to Yuuri with a mischievous glint in her eyes. “Look at what’s inside.”

“Um, okay.” Yuuri stepped forward and opened the lid. Inside the basket were three tiny chicks, peeping and bobbing their heads. “Chickens?” Yuuri gasped.

“We’ve had more than enough chicks born recently,” Sara explained. “It should be enough to get you started. These little ones are about three weeks old.”

Yuuri tore his eyes away from the tiny bundles. “You shouldn’t have, you guys,” he murmured.

“But we did anyways!”

“Here,” Yuuri said, grabbing his wallet from his back pocket. “Let me pay you for them at least—,”

“Don’t worry about it,” she insisted. “Consider ‘em your housewarming gift from us! Or better yet, your farm warming gift, hehe.”

Michele stared at Yuuri from behind his sister. “Do you have a brooder set up for them?” he asked.

“Uh,” Yuuri frowned and rubbed the back of his neck. “I could probably make one, but…”

Sara smacked her brother’s arm. “How would he have one? He didn’t know he was getting chickens!” She turned back to Yuuri and smiled. “I’m sure you have the materials. Mickey and I will help you get everything set up.”

The three of them assembled a brooder out of one of Yuuri’s plastic storage containers he moved in with. Sara caught Yuuri sneaking glances at the chicks. “You wanna hold one?” she asked. Without waiting for an answer she scooped up the nearest chick and held it out to Yuuri. “Go on, get to know them. Mickey can finish fixing the heat lamp in his own!”

“Gee thanks,” Michele grumbled behind them.

Yuuri cradled the chick in his hands. It was a little ball of fluff. “So cute,” he said.

“You should give them names, Yuuri! I held off on naming them so you could be the first,” Sarah informed him, ignoring the chick wandering across her lap. “The one you’re holding is the boy, and the other two are girls.”

“Hmm.” Yuuri gazed at the chick in his hands. “I’ll name them later, I can’t do something as monumental as chicken naming under pressure,” Yuuri said, only half-joking.

As soon as Michele finished up the brooder and placed all the chicks in it, the twins gave Yuuri a rundown on chicken care. Sarah even brought him a bag of chicken feed. He thanked them profusely up until the moment they drove off.

Yuuri looked at the chicks huddling under the lamplight. He could honestly watch them all day, if it weren’t for his actual responsibilities. “I’ll see you guys later tonight, okay?” He patted each of their heads before heading back outside. They gave Yuuri an extra push to finish his chores with gusto. He crouched down and resumed tending to his plants with a giddy smile on his face.

Chapter Text

If the chicks were good for anything, they were excellent at taking Yuuri’s mind off of his troubles. They required pretty frequent care, with Yuuri having to check on them many times in the day. Not to mention they were adorable, and completely okay with Yuuri holding them. Except for Lawrence, but Yuuri forgave him for that. Francis and Usagi were more affectionate. He spent many hours draped over their brooder, gazing at them and talking to them. It was his first taste of parenthood.

Yuuri loved to watch them grow and feather out, slowly losing their baby fluff. The triplets were getting close to outgrowing their brooder, almost ready for the big transition to living in the coop. Yuuri was both a proud and worried parent. If it weren’t for the smell and the awful mess they created out of nothing, then he would’ve kept them as indoor chickens.

Aside from his children, Yuuri also got around to building a cold frame for his seedlings. It was a bitch and a half to put together, and that was putting it mildly. Yuuri had no handyman skills to speak of, and it showed. After a total of three days’ effort (it actually took four days, but Yuuri omitted the time spent cursing the cold frame and questioning his life choices), it was finally done. He was simply grateful he didn’t drill any holes through his fingers when all was said and done. It didn’t look to bad either. He lovingly dubbed it the Halfway House. As awful as the cold frame was to make, it made his seedling transfer much simpler.

Farm life did not get any less busy for Yuuri, but he did grow accustomed to it. His body was much sturdier than he ever gave it credit for, considering he worked a desk job previously. He could put in nine or ten hours of labor before he started feeling tired, and Yuuri used this to his advantage. He finished fixing up the coop and started even more rounds of seedlings than he had originally planned.

Yuuri rarely had downtime now. It was a sacrifice he made in return for solitude and peace of mind. But there were still times he made room in his busy life to talk to Pichit. It was rare when Yuuri and Pichit’s schedules aligned so they could face time. When they found an opening, Yuuri made sure to finish his chores on time so he could talk to his friend.

As soon as Yuuri finished his shower and threw on some sweats, he dialed Pichit’s number and waited for him to pick up. A blurry figure of brown moved across Yuuri’s screen, revealing itself to be Pichit after it buffered.

“Yuuri!”

“Hey Pichit, long time no see.”

“How are my godchildren doing, Yuuri? I want to say hi to them!” Pichit was the first person Yuuri told about the chicks; he even helped Yuuri name them.

Yuuri rolled his eyes. “I just sat down, can’t they wait?”

“They need to see me,” Pichit said with utmost seriousness.

With great annoyance, Yuuri pushed himself out of his chair and walked over to his spare bedroom, the children’s room. The three little chicks shuffled around in the brooder and Pichit’s face lit up as he looked at them. “You all look so good!” he cooed. The chicks went about their business as usual, essentially ignoring him. Pichit paid no mind to that, however.

“Okay Yuuri I’m done. Show me your face now.”

Yuuri brought the screen back to him and sat crosslegged beside the brooder. “Alright,” Pichit said. “Back to business: how’s life been for you?”

Yuuri gave Pichit an overview of the recent happenings on the farm and all of the people he’s met. The more Yuuri talked, the more he realized he never really spoke much about the farm in great detail to Pichit until that moment. He had to slow down and explain a few things to his friend, who was even more of a city boy than he ever was. Pichit was eager to learn about the farm, though he was far more interested in hearing Yuuri talk about the townsfolk. All was going well until Yuuri hesitated when talking about Viktor. And before Yuuri could even try to cover up his mistake, Pichit was on him about it. “Ooooh, who’s Viktor?”

For a moment, Yuuri wondered if it was still too late to lie. “No one.”

“Yuuri. You are a bad liar and I am honestly offended you thought I’d buy it,” Pichit called him out.

Yuuri paced around the room before letting out a sigh. “He’s just this guy that lives here. The mayor of the town actually.”

“The mayor? Wow I didn’t know you were into older men, Yuuri.”

“He’s not that old—I mean he has a son, but he’s not an old man,” Yuuri corrected.

“Like a little son, or a twenty year old son?”

“The kid’s like ten or something. Viktor’s in his early thirties, he had him kind of young.”

“Has anything happened between you two?” Pichit asked with a wiggle of his eyebrows.

“No…and I don’t I want anything to happen.”

Pichit frowned. “Why not? Is he like, too kinky for you?”

Yuuri collapsed onto his bed. “No it’s not that, get your mind out of the gutter!” he scolded.

“Then what’s the big deal?”

“I don’t think that I’m suited for relationships, y’know? Nothing good has ever come from them, and this wouldn’t be any different. It just wouldn’t work out.”

Pichit put his serious face on. “I have a newsflash for you, my friend: every relationship is different, and different people work differently with each other. Of course it would end badly if you go into it with that attitude. You end up being unauthentic and rude when you act like that.”

Yuuri wanted to be offended by what Pichit said, but he’d be damned if he didn’t hit the nail on the head.

“Just be his friend. Between being a mayor and a single father the guy probably doesn’t have many friends. You can get to know him while you figure out what you really want. And I know you’re not there to be a social butterfly, but maybe one friend is all you need. You know, as a lesser quality substitute in my stead,” he added with a peace sign.

Yuuri didn’t say anything. Pichit kept talking. “I’m taking your silence as an admission that I’m right. Again.”

“Or maybe I’m thinking of all the ways your plan could go wrong,” Yuuri teased.

They talked for a long time that night, even as Yuuri ate his dinner, mostly about drama happening at Pichit’s work. It only made Yuuri glad that he didn’t have any coworkers to answer to anymore. He had to hang up when it started getting late. “I have early days every day now, Pichit,” he explained.

It had been so long since Yuuri had been properly able to talk to somebody. He had his farmer friends, but he wasn’t about to give them his unnecessary life story. The people who needed to know about his boy problems only consisted of Pichit. Their conversation left Yuuri feeling better about the Viktor situation. It had bothered Yuuri much more than he cared to let on. Even if he hadn’t seen him around, it was reassuring to have a contingency plan. It was better than embarrassing himself again.

So Yuuri continued on, doing his daily tasks on his farm and occasionally venturing out to run errands. Life was peaceful and Yuuri felt light. But as he soon learned, farmers have to interact with a lot of people if they wanted to make money. Raising crops was only half the battle. Somewhere in the recesses of his mind Yuuri already knew that to be true, but it never quite registered until he spoke with the other local farmers. And he had gotten lost in his own quiet routine he made for himself.

March had whirled by and suddenly it was the end of April. Farmer’s market season was just around the corner and Yuuri needed to begin his final preparations. After some searching on the internet, Yuuri found a way to register for them. He selected one (the only one) in town and two more in nearby cities, deciding to start small. He promised himself that he would see through the entire market season and then decide from there whether or not farming was for him. Yuuri flipped through his calendar and sighed. It was going to be a long six months.

 

— — —

 

The sounds of nature roused Viktor from his slumber. They weren’t real nature sounds, rather they were from his alarm clock. They didn’t do a good job of waking him up on time, but they were excellent for days where he had no obligations. Those almost never happened anymore. Viktor really needed to invest in another alarm clock.

But that morning was different. That morning he was going to go to the local farmer’s market, the first item on his master plan to befriend Yuuri Katsuki. He stared with wide eyes at the ceiling. The plan itself could end right there if Yuuri had no interest in being his friend, but Viktor wanted to stay positive. And worst case scenario: he got some produce and stimulated the local economy.

So at six o’clock in the morning, Viktor Nikiforov was out of bed on his own will. Even Makkachin watched him from his own half of Viktor’s king sized bed. The market itself didn’t begin until eight, but he wanted enough time to prepare himself. Just in case. He had even laid out an outfit the night before. Not too fancy, but not too casual.

Viktor mindlessly hummed to himself as he showered and shaved, buzzing with energy. He took a good look at himself in the mirror and smiled; it was going to be a good day.

He hurried up the stairs in his house, taking two at a time. Yuri was still asleep, but not for much longer. Viktor opened the first door to his right and poked his head inside Yuri’s room. A small lump lay still on the bed, swathed in Star Wars blankets. “Yurochka, time to get up!” Viktor called in a singsong voice.

Without any further warning, he barged into the room and began opening the curtains and blinds. The lump groaned and shifted underneath the covers. “Come on, you said you’d go to the farmer’s market with me this morning!” Viktor whined.

“In a minute,” the lump informed him.

Viktor rolled his eyes. “We all know what that means,” he said, firmly jerking the bedsheets out from Yuri’s artfully constructed cocoon.

Wild bedhead and angry green eyes greeted him. “Dad, stop! I’m awake already!”

“Don’t act like you wouldn’t have overslept, Yura. I wasn’t born yesterday,” Viktor said over his shoulder, walking out of the room. Oversleeping was an unfortunate trait he passed down to his boy. He laughed at the memory of Yuri’s wild morning hair as he took Makkachin outside.

Yuri had already showered and dragged himself downstairs for food when Viktor decided to make himself breakfast. Perched on a barstool, the ten year old slouched over the granite countertop and ate his cereal.

Viktor caught himself making a cup of coffee on autopilot in the midst of his bustling around the kitchen. “Oh shoot. I didn’t need coffee this morning,” he muttered. It would send his nerves of excitement over the edge.

“Can I have the coffee if you’re not gonna drink it?” Yuri asked.

“No,” Viktor told him curtly. “You’re too young for coffee,” he added when his son made a disappointed noise.

“So I’m old enough to do my own laundry, but not old enough to drink coffee?” Yuri argued.

“Precisely.” When the Keurig was done, Viktor brought the mug up to his lips and took a sip. It burned his tongue, but he had a point he needed to make.

Yuri glared at his father from underneath his blonde bangs. Viktor raised an eyebrow and took another sip. Finally Yuri broke off the staring contest and looked into his cereal bowl. “And you say I’m the child,” he grumbled before shoveling a spoonful of lucky charms into his mouth.

Of course after all was said and done, the two were ready much earlier than they needed to be. Yuri killed time by playing video games and Viktor attempted to get some paperwork done. He didn’t make much headway into it, but he liked to think it was the thought that counted.

The time crawled by slowly for Viktor, but passed all the same and finally he, Yuri, and Makkachin were in the car, on their way to the market. It was located on a stretch of grass beside the local middle school. Viktor made a point of going to the market at least a few times each year, if he could get up early enough for it.

Viktor parked his car and sighed as he looked at the crowd of people in casual clothing or exercise gear. “It seems I’ve overdressed for the occasion…again.”

“Gee, what a surprise,” Yuri sneered before hopping out of the car. Makkachin patiently waited for the boy to let him out of the back seat.

Viktor got out of his car and locked it behind him as he strolled towards the market. Scanning the different vendors, he soon caught sight of Yuuri's tent. The booth itself was simple, but that's not what held Viktor's attention. He watched as Yuuri interacted with an older lady, explaining something to her. He could hear his voice, pleasant and informative, but not enough to understand what was said. As the farmer pushed his glasses up his nose and gave the customer a smile, Viktor felt his brain go haywire. The man was painfully cute and Viktor’s nerves were unequipped to handle it at eight-thirty am. He was going to strongly regret that cup of coffee.

 

— — —

 

The big day had come faster than Yuuri expected. It was four AM and he had to get ready for his first farmer’s market. He would’ve been vastly underprepared for the market had it not been for Celestino, who had guided him and told him everything he’d need. He’d purchased everything he needed in advance. All that was left for Yuuri to do was his morning chores before he loaded everything up and headed out.

The emptiness of the grass lot told Yuuri he was early, even for the farmer’s standards. He began setting up his tent, which really should’ve been a two-person job, but Yuuri had to make it work.

Eventually the lot began to fill up with other vendors. Celestino stopped by to wish Yuuri luck and give him some final pointers. Sara came by and traded Yuuri some eggs for his vegetables. The support helped ease some of his nerves as the market officially began.

Many of the townspeople stopped by to say hi as well. They all gave Yuuri kind words of encouragement, and seemed genuinely excited for him to take over the the empty farmland. Some even bought his produce.

As thrilled as Yuuri was to make a profit, he couldn’t help but look at his competition and feel like a child amongst well established adults. A lot of the other farms had nice logos on their table cloths or on cute little signs beside their booths. Yuuri felt like his booth was grossly bare beside them. It occurred to him how he didn’t even have a name for the farm yet. There was no way he could be taken seriously as a farmer. Oh well, he thought as he rearranged his lettuce. At least he had something to sell, even if others bought it out of pity.

In the distance Yuuri spotted two familiar blonde heads, followed by a familiar brown poodle and immediately snapped his head back to his produce. He hadn’t seen Viktor since The Incident at the grocery store, and he was very content with that. But after his long talk with Pichit, he was determined to act differently. He had sworn that he'd be polite and kind if—when he faced Viktor again. Yuuri spared a glance at the mayor, only to find him looking right back at him. Viktor broke into his award winning smile, with his eyes crinkled at the corners. “Be strong Yuuri,” he whispered to himself.

“Yuuri!” Viktor called. He handed Makkachin’s leash to his son before walking over to the booth. He had his reusable bags with him again. He won points for being environmentally aware. “You’re doing farmer’s markets already? That’s wonderful!”

Yuuri smiled, averting his gaze to the table. He hoped blush would go unnoticed. “Thank you. Most of my crops aren’t ready for harvest, but I didn’t want to fall behind the other farmers.”

Viktor waved a hand to dismiss that comment. “Nonsense, you won’t fall behind them.” Viktor examined a head of broccoli as he spoke. “It’s silly to compare your new farm to those of twenty years anyhow, don’t you think?”

He was right on the nose with that remark. and by the looks of it Viktor knew it. “Yeah, I suppose,” Yuuri finally replied.

Viktor wore a smug grin but didn’t press the issue further. He perused Yuuri’s produce while Yuri stood off to the side, scrolling on his phone. As usual, the mayor was impeccably dressed, and Yuuri was suddenly hyper-aware of his own plain t-shirt and jeans. His hair was probably messy too and he wished he had brought a hat.
“You’re selling herbs too?” Viktor asked, bringing Yuuri back to the present.

“Oh yeah. I had some extra lying around and I didn’t want it to go to waste,” he explained as Viktor examined the herbs. “I grow them for personal use.”

“You should sell some more. Not many others grow them around here,” Viktor suggested. He picked up a handful. “Like this! I never see anyone sell basil at this market.”

“…That’s because it’s sage,” Yuuri explained, trying his best not to smile. He saw Yuri roll his eyes in the background.

Viktor looked like a deer caught in the headlights for a split second before he shook it off with a laugh. “You caught me, Yuuri. I don’t know much about herbs.”

“Don’t you ever cook with them?”

“No,” Yuri answered for him. “He’s an awful cook.”

Viktor’s smile stayed firmly in place. “Yura, don’t go revealing all of the family secrets!”

“It’s not a secret if everyone knows you suck,” Yuri grumbled.

Yuuri wasn’t sure if Viktor heard the comment or simply ignored it. Either way, he handed the produce he’d picked out over to Yuuri. “I’ll take all of this, please.”

Even after Yuuri rang him up, Viktor lingered at the booth. “So…” Viktor started. “I’ll see you at next week’s market?”

Something about the way he said that perplexed Yuuri. He examined the mayor’s face properly for the first time, allowing his eyes to linger. Viktor looked a little worried, a little unsure. And then Yuuri got it: it was Viktor’s way of asking if they were okay, if he was still welcome as a presence in Yuuri’s life. He had been just as aware of the farmer’s odd behavior at the grocery store after all, and that made Yuuri feel simultaneously flattered and guilty.

Yuuri gave him a reassuring smile and hoped it conveyed everything he didn’t say out loud. “Yeah. I look forward to it.”

Viktor looked instantly relieved, like a weight was lifted off his shoulders. His blinding smile made its comeback and Yuuri tried his best not to be dazzled. “Excellent! Well I wish you the best of luck with the rest of the market, Yuuri.” He was back to normal. Had it not been for that one moment, Yuuri would’ve never known Viktor was concerned in the first place.

“Thanks. And you two have a good rest of your day!”

Yuri looked up at his dad as they turned around to leave the booth. “I’m getting one of the banana bread samples over there.”

“Bring me one too, Yura.” As Yuuri watched the pair wander around the market idly, he couldn’t help but feel good. He interacted with the mayor and didn’t do anything stupid, and it seemed that he still wanted to be friends with Yuuri. Pichit would’ve been proud.

Aside from that, the four hours passed by slowly. Celestino had warned Yuuri that the local market was slow. “It’s the out-of-town markets in the bigger cities where you’ll make the biggest profit,” he explained. But to Yuuri it was worth it. And he found himself looking forward to the next week’s market as he packed his things up in his truck, just to see his new friend again.

Chapter Text

Yuuri finally began to grow used to the farmer’s markets. The third week of markets finally incorporated themselves into Yuuri’s routine and the following weeks came as easy as breathing. His muscles reacted automatically during the setup for the local farmer’s market. It was the slowest of the three, therefore required the smallest amount of products to bring.

The other two markets were far more lucrative, much to Yuuri’s luck. He made out with more sales than he ever could have expected. But it made no difference in his eyes. Yuuri did not think too much about the sales he made, or the markets held outside of his town. Rather he looked forward to the five minutes or so where Viktor stopped by his booth with a grumpy Yuri in tow, smiling and making small talk.

Each time, Yuuri learned a little bit more about Viktor. Like how he worked as a waiter throughout college, or how he developed a sudden latex allergy in his mid twenties. Each tidbit was just as interesting and colorful as the man sharing them.

Yuuri busied himself with his small string of regulars to pass the time. He fell into a pleasant rhythm, although there were still gaps between customers. He took this time to people watch and enjoy the morning. The earlier he Yuuri woke up, the more he realized that he was a morning person. The quiet that morning brought along with the promise of a full day comforted him.

In the midst of his people watching, Yuuri spotted Viktor chatting with a middle aged man from the corner of his eye. Viktor’s laugh was loud and buoyant, and it made Yuuri smile without even realizing it.

As Viktor left the conversation with the man, Yuuri immediately busied himself to avoid being caught staring. He tried his best to act like he didn’t see the mayor walk straight to his booth.

“Morning, Yuuri!”

“Good morning, Viktor,” Yuuri greeted. He saw Makkachin’s nose poke over the table, sniffing the produce. He reached over to scratch the dog behind his ears.

“Have the markets been treating you well?” Viktor asked. “It’s been over a month now.”

“Yeah they’ve really started to pick up, all things considered. I’m looking at getting a couple goats soon, too.”

“Ah, how cute!” Viktor exclaimed. “Have you started thinking of names yet? You should name one after Makkachin—Makkachin Junior!”

Yuuri laughed and Viktor’s smile grew even wider. “I still need to see what they look like before I name them, you know.”

“Understandable,” Viktor replied in a breezy voice. His blue eyes skimmed over the produce on the table. Yuri stood off to the side, holding a head of cabbage up to his face and examining it.

Suddenly a light gasp came from the mayor. “Is that lavender?!” he exclaimed. He grabbed the lavender and brought it up to his nose, inhaling deeply. Yuuri couldn’t look away from Viktor as his eyes fluttered shut and the softest of smiles graced his lips. It couldn’t have lasted more than a few seconds, but to Yuuri it felt timeless. Viktor opened his eyes and looked at Yuuri in the gentlest way. “I’ll buy it!”

Yuuri mindlessly carried out the transaction, the image searing in his memory.

He watched as Viktor left, ranting to his son about his purchase. Yuuri tried his best to ignore the warmth blooming in his chest.

Yuuri spent the rest of the market in somewhat of a daze, only sobering up enough to sell to customers. The market drew to a tentative close as the remaining customers left the lot, and Yuuri began packing his things up. He moved his produce back into their boxes. When he placed the lavender back in it’s respective bin, his mind flashed back to Viktor. Yuuri brought the lavender up to his nose and inhaled. With the smell came along the image of Viktor’s soft smile that looked so intimate, like it wasn’t meant for anyone see. He imagined what it would be like for Viktor to give him that smile when they were alone, lying beside one another. Maybe outside on the grass, maybe on a couch, it didn’t really matter. Yuuri held onto the thought as long as he could before reality made an unwelcome appearance. It was then that his eyes flew open and the dread made it’s home in his gut.

Yuuri was crushing. Hard.

As soon as the realization came Yuuri began packing his truck at an inhuman speed, fueled by anxiety. It’d be okay, he thought. He had the rest of the day to sort through his emotions. The rest of the week, even.

 

Yuuri got as far as packing everything up before he couldn’t take it anymore. He sat in his truck and pulled his phone out of his back pocket. He knew he needed to make another phone call to Pichit. It was the only way to get himself together before he could get home. The ringing trilled in his ear as he prayed that Pichit would answer.

Suddenly a chipper voice spoke to him. “What’s up Yuuri? Everything okay?”

“Yeah,” Yuuri said a little breathlessly. “Do you have time to talk?”

“Um, sure. I mean I only exist when you need to talk to me anyhow, so…”

“Pichit?”

“Yeah?”

“Please shut up.”

Pichit laughed. “Okay okay, I’m here to listen to you. What’s got you all riled up today?”

Yuuri frowned to himself as he felt the words forming in his mouth. “I like Viktor,” he said slowly, and with disappointment.

“Wow that didn’t take you long,” Pichit said, not even attempting to sound shocked. It kind of deflated Yuuri, in all honesty. “What was it that finally did the great Yuuri Katsuki in?”

“I don’t know…” Yuuri knew fully well what it was, but wasn’t emotionally ready for the embarrassment of telling Pichit. “I talked to him enough and it kind of happened. But that’s not why I called. I need to know what to do now.”

Pichit didn’t speak for a moment. “You want to know what to do now?”

“Yes.”

“Like with your feelings?”

“Yes.”

“Yuuri…” Pichit sighed. Yuuri could imagine him pinching the bridge of his nose as he listened to him. “You like him, I don’t know what else to do with that. Ask him out I guess.”

“No, I couldn’t do that!” Yuuri sputtered.

“Then don’t! Like, this isn’t rocket science. Just keep doing what you’re doing. That’s literally your only other choice.”

Yuuri fiddled with the hem of his shirt as his mind worked. “I could. Or I could stop talking to him—,”

“—I’m going to stop you right there. No. You like talking to him. I’d even bet money you look forward to that sorry little farmers market just to see him.”

Yuuri exhaled sharply through his nose but didn’t say anything.

“You know what?” Pichit said. “I don’t even know what this Viktor guy looks like. This is such a disservice to me, I’m googling him.”

There was no stopping Pichit. He already knew too much and Viktor was a prominent man in the town. The odds were stacked against Yuuri. Within the minute Pichit had found pictures of him. “Oh my god, he’s gorgeous Yuuri!” he exclaimed. “Do you think he’d friend me on Facebook? Because damn. You better get with him, so I can at least live vicariously through you.”

Yuuri leaned his head against the stiff headrest. “Chill Pichit, we don’t even know if he feels the same way.”

Pichit didn’t seem convinced. “You don’t know if he likes you, even though he bought your drink at a bar.”

“I paid for your drinks all the time! Didn’t mean I wanted to have sex with you!” Yuuri defended.

“Yeah Yuuri, but I was wasted! You had to pay for me. And I paid you back eventually, didn’t I?”

Yuuri still wasn’t convinced. “Well he still makes a point to talk to you at the farmer’s market, even after your massive blunder at the grocery store!” Pichit added.

“Please don’t remind me of that,” Yuuri whined, cringing at the memory.

“Does he buy your goods?”

Yuuri rolled his eyes. “Don’t try and say he’s into me because he buys my products. He’s stimulating the local economy!”

“But does he buy your stuff?”

“…Yes.”

“Oh, oh, and let me guess: he always comes up when no one else is at your booth, and then he stays and chats with you afterwards until the next customer comes by.”

“He’s being polite!” Yuuri couldn’t win; Pichit was already cackling.

“Okay you know what? I don’t have to listen to this,” Yuuri said firmly. “I have goats I need to purchase and a life to live.”

Pichit slowly came down from his fit of laughter. “Alright, farmer boy. You have fun with your goats and romantic illiteracy.”

Yuuri hung up and glared out the window. Even then, he still felt the hint of a smile sneaking out.

 

— — —

 

Viktor couldn’t stop smelling the lavender he had purchased. The scent was a blast from his past; a shining moment of his childhood that he had long since forgotten. Part of him wanted to believe that Yuuri carrying the lavender was some kind of sign, an okay given by the universe to get to know him even more, but he didn't want to get ahead of himself more than he already was.

“I hope you’re not gonna cook with that after it’s been all over your face,” Yuri told him.

“I thought germs were beneath you. That you’re impervious to illness,” he teased.

“Well yours are gross.”

Viktor shot him a look above the lavender against his face. Yuri stared intently at his grammar workbook, tapping his pencil on the table.

With a sigh, Viktor placed the lavender on the table and headed towards his office. The memories and signs from the universe would have to wait. He sat down at his chair and got started on some work he had been putting off the past few days. Viktor liked his home office: white and silver with organized bookshelves and a few house plants. It was simple and clean, unlike the stuffy dark one at town hall that smelled of old men generations behind him. Viktor only worked in it out of necessity and tradition. Finances weren’t doing too well in town anyhow, so it wasn’t like he could give it a makeover. But a man could dream.

He rested his chin in one hand, tapping his desk with his other and stared at the framed picture of Yuri that sat on his desk. It was from his second violin recital, and one of his front teeth was missing from his smile. Viktor recalled the performance outshining those of all the other six year olds, even though at that age he really shouldn’t have felt that proud. But Yuri had been better than all of his peers, and still was.

Viktor tried to think of the last time he saw his son smile like that, but his chest only tightened as his memory came up short. He set cast the thought aside, instead focusing on Yuri’s upcoming season. He was gearing up for joining the advanced youth orchestra in the fall. Yuri wanted to do it the previous year, but his teacher held him back, insisting that he wasn’t ready. She didn’t want him being the youngest amongst the teenagers, despite Yuri stating that he was mature enough. Viktor laughed. He was curious to see how well his son would stack up against kids with six or seven years of experience on him, however.

Then he began looking up different ways to use lavender. There were recipes for scones, cakes, teas, and even soaps. He wanted to try them all, maybe even give Yuuri some of his extras as a thank you gift...

Who was he kidding; he wasn’t getting anything done at home. After his work was finished, he promised himself, he would start looking at proper recipes. Viktor stood up and slipped on some sneakers.

“I’m going into work today,” Viktor announced as he walked through the kitchen.

“Does that mean I’m fending for myself tonight?” Yuri asked in a monotone voice.

Viktor fumbled with his wallet and placed some bills on the table. “Pizza money,” he said. “Order for both of us. You know my usual.”

“Medium veggie, hold the artichokes.”

“I’ve trained you well,” Viktor praised, kissing the top of Yuuri’s head. “I’ll text when I’m on my way home.”

Yuri only grunted in response.

 

The back entrance to the town hall was already unlocked, much to Viktor’s surprise. Someone had beaten him to the punch. Viktor wandered through the darkened building, keeping an eye out for the other person.

A shiny bald head came into view as Viktor rounded a corner. Of course it was Yakov there catching up on work. After the divorce with his now ex-wife, Yakov was spotted working late much more frequently than before. Viktor knew the feeling well.

“Afternoon, Yakov,” Viktor chirped. Yakov spared Viktor a brief glance up from his computer.

“You look awful happy for a Saturday at the office,” Yakov observed.

“Must be my new sleep schedule. I think waking up early really does me good,” Viktor mused, smiling lightly as he breezed past to his office.

He heard the man grumble a “whatever” behind him before Viktor closed his door. It didn’t matter; Viktor was going to get some work done, and he was going to do it with a good mood.

 

The days passed as Viktor worked tirelessly on the draft of the city’s revitalization plan. He was still throwing ideas back and forth with the council, and he felt like he was getting nowhere. And Yuri’s school was almost out for the summer, so Viktor still had to make arrangements for his son to be watched.

Aside from seeing Yuuri at the farmer’s market Saturday morning, the only thing Viktor had to look forward to that week was Chris coming out to visit him. Every so often when Chris’s work sent him out on business in the neighboring city, he’d always stop by and visit. Viktor could say with conviction that Chris was his only friend he’d kept from before Yuri was born.

This time they had planned to meet by Chris’s hotel for a quick dinner. Each time, perhaps by unspoken tradition, they swore that they would just eat and then part ways, but somehow it always dissolved into the two of them going out to the Blue Bar for drinks afterwards for the better part of the night. It was something of an outlet for Viktor, drinking with his college friend and former partner in crime.

Outside of the hotel stood a bored looking Chris, scrolling on his phone. Viktor never ceased to be amazed at how much Chris had matured since they first met. Seeing a sharp dressed business man was such a stark contrast to the starry-eyed party boy he was at eighteen.

“Hey there, you boring old man,” Chris greeted, kissing Viktor on the cheek.

“Good to see you too, Chris,” Viktor chuckled. He supposed Chris felt the same when he looked at him.

“So just dinner tonight?” the blonde man asked with a raised eyebrow.

Viktor smiled. “Of course. We’re both mature adults, after all.”

This night wasn’t any different.

“Anything new and exciting happen to you recently?” Chris asked over his mug of beer. They had split a pitcher, as they had no intentions of going out drinking afterwards. It wasn’t good quality like Viktor wanted, but it was the best they could get at a burger joint.

“Nothing spectacular,” Viktor began. “Makkachin had a cyst removed from his arm, but he was brave and handled it very well. Yura’s still busy with violin, he has some performances coming up. He starts fifth grade in the fall.”

Chris let out a whistle. “Wow, it’s been that long huh?”

Viktor sighed, thinking about his child. “Yeah. It has.”

The two fell silent as they took a moment to sip their beer and think about how time really did speed up as they got older.

“But what about you?” Chris pressed. “Has anything happened to you specifically?”

Viktor bit the inside of his cheek, knowing fully well what he was hinting at, still amazed that his friend could read him so well. He hadn’t even considered mentioning it to Chris. But who else was he going to tell? “Well, someone new moved into town recently,” Viktor started slowly. “This young farmer who’s taking over his parents’ land.”

A slow smile spread across Chris’s face. “Is that so?”

Viktor felt the excitement begin to bubble up in his chest. He tried to contain it with grace. “Yeah. His name’s Yuuri, but with two U’s.”

Chris leaned forward on the table and gave Viktor one final push. “Tell me about this Yuuri with two U’s,”

And then the floodgates blew wide open.

 

— — —

 

Yuuri was mentally weak. That was no secret. But this crush was going to be the death of him. Nearly a week had passed since the dawn of Yuuri’s realization and he still felt uneasy. It wasn’t even because he didn’t want to like Viktor; with time and Pichit’s reassurance, Yuuri didn’t feel pressured to act on his feelings. It was the fact that Yuuri couldn’t stop thinking about him that made him worried.

Yuuri tried his best to compare it to when he liked people in the past. It took him a moment. He couldn’t even remember the last time he’d had a proper crush on somebody…it had to have been three or four years at least. Yuuri didn’t recall ever spending so much mental energy on someone he liked. But then again, it was rare that he found someone so blatantly attractive. Yuuri chalked it up to that and the fact that there was no one else in town to really talk to. Unless his animals counted.

But despite all of his concerns, Yuuri still wanted more. He wanted more than just talking to Viktor for five minutes at the farmer’s market. He wanted to be his friend. And maybe more, but Yuuri didn’t dwell too much on what that would entail.

Although Yuuri wasn’t confident enough to invite Viktor out somewhere, he could always orchestrate a run-in. His heart sped up at the idea. It was feasible; the town was small enough that he could run into anyone if he tried hard enough. He knew that the bar was his best bet at finding him, considering Yuuri didn’t know where else Viktor went in his spare time. It was a Friday night, anyhow.

Yuuri had been lost in his thoughts throughout his chores until he tried to restock the fodder for the goats. He could barely move with the two of them circling him intently. “Get out of the way, you guys.” Yuuri gently nudged them with his legs. Mildred made a move for the fodder in Yuuri’s arms while Florence moved on to chew on his pant leg. At least he tried.

The goats were difficult creatures to deal with, and Yuuri honestly wasn’t prepared for how stubborn they would be. He had only purchased them in the past week so he couldn’t expect much respect, but it was still disheartening to see how little they cared. If he ever scolded them to teach them a lesson, they’d just stare blankly at him. And Yuuri could never win the staring contest. In the end they’d just run off to climb on the kid’s playhouse Yuuri bought for them.

As Yuuri finished with the fodder he made his decision. That evening, he would go to the bar and accidentally run into Viktor. On purpose. That wasn’t creepy, was it?
With the plan set, Yuuri hurried through his chores. The milking added more time to his process, and Yuuri had yet it down to an exact science. And the lack of cooperation on Florence’s part made him want to rip his hair out. But by some stroke of luck, Yuuri still finished with enough time to eat and get ready.

Yuuri definitely put more attention into what he wore that night. Viktor almost exclusively saw him in his farming clothes, which always consisted of dirt-stained jeans and a ratty t-shirt. That evening he opted for a navy blue button down and black jeans. He hoped it wasn’t too much, but it was too late to look back as Yuuri left his house and drove to the bar.

When Yuuri stepped foot into the Blue Bar the first thing he did was scan the entire place for Viktor. No signs of him, although Yuuri did see a lot of familiar faces from the markets. Michele gave him a curt nod from his booth. Yuuri nodded back, shocked the man was being nice to him without his sister at his side.

Yuuri took his place at the bar and ordered his drink. He knew it wasn’t realistic to expect the mayor to be at the bar already, but he couldn’t help but feel like he had gone out for no reason. Well, he thought, he may as well enjoy the night anyhow and see where it takes him. Anything could happen.

The bartender, who Yuuri learned was named Leo, brought him his drink with a smile. Yuuri thanked him and took a generous sip. A part of him was tempted to have a couple more drinks afterwards, since it had been so long since he last drank properly. But Yuuri thought better of it; drinking mass quantities alone was never fun.

Instead, Yuuri pulled up his phone and scrolled through a couple social media apps. He hadn’t used any of his data for the month, and he deserved to splurge a little. A lot of it was catching up on articles and pictures that Pichit had tagged him in over the past month or so. Some of the more recent items sent to him were articles featuring Viktor for one reason or another. Yuuri took the bait and skimmed through the articles. One of them was published when Viktor was first elected as mayor, writing about the surprise of the youngest candidate ever being chosen. Apparently he had been elected the first time at twenty-six; he was on his second term at the moment.

Without warning, boisterous laughter assaulted Yuuri’s eardrums. He snapped his head up to locate the source. In the entrance to the bar stood a laughing Viktor, one hand propped against the shoulder of a tall man with curly blond hair. The curly haired man made a comment, something Yuuri couldn’t make out, which earned him another wild Viktor laugh.

None of the bar patrons seemed too surprised at the spectacle, rather they continued on with their conversations as if nothing happened. “This happens pretty frequently,” Leo explained, leaning over the counter. Yuuri guessed his confusion was visible enough for the young man to take notice. “That’s Chris, who’s from out of town. He’s an old friend from his college days.”

“Yuuri’s here!” Viktor hollered. He had been spotted.

“Oh. Looks like he’ll be able to tell you himself,” Leo said with a chuckle.

Before Yuuri could ask Leo any more questions, two figures sat down on either side of him, each leaning into his personal space. “I’m so glad you came out tonight!” Viktor cheered. “I never would’ve thought you’d be here.”

“It’s good to see you too,” Yuuri stammered, all too aware of how close the mayor was to him.

Viktor continued on like the distance was nothing. “This is Chris, who’s from out of town,” Viktor said, gesturing across Yuuri to the other man. “He’s an old friend from my college days!”

Yuuri’s eyes flashed over to Leo, who wore a knowing smile on his face as he made another drink. “It’s nice to meet you Chris,” he finally said, reaching out to shake his hand.

“The pleasure is all mine,” Chris replied, grabbing Yuuri’s hand and bringing it up to his lips. Yuuri was confused by the gesture, but decided to let it happen anyhow. It was harmless.

Before Chris could kiss it, Viktor’s hand darted out smacked his hand away. Yuuri jumped at the sudden movement, and he almost missed the nasty look Viktor shot at his friend.

“Anyways!” Viktor started, leaning even more in front of Yuuri to grab his attention. “How has your day been, Yuuri?”
Yuuri tried to focus on the question at hand, but it was difficult between Chris’s laughter beside him and Viktor’s eager face being dangerously close to his own. Yuuri was able to smell liquor on Viktor’s breath.

“Um, not to be rude…but have you guys been drinking?” Yuuri asked tentatively.

Viktor blinked as he registered the question. Then he was all smiles again. “Of course we have!” he told him.

“No bar experience is complete without pre-gaming,” Chris added sagely.

“Well, I suppose,” Yuuri said, shifting in his seat. He was now glad that he had decided on his one drink limit. “So who’s with Yuri tonight if you’re out?” he asked.

Viktor waved the concern away with his free hand, the other hand holding his drink up to his lips. When he finished drinking he gave Yuuri a proper answer. “Yakov is watching him.”

“That man is practically his grandpa,” Chris mused over his margarita.

“And he babysits for free!” Viktor explained. “Well, he takes all my food though.”

“Oh please. He doesn’t steal it, he cooks with it and leaves the leftovers for you and Yura to eat,” Chris shot back. “Because you can’t cook anything harder than toast.”

“I have a city to run, thank you very much.” Viktor stuck his nose in the air and Yuuri stifled a small laugh.

Chris rolled his eyes and shifted his attention to Yuuri. “So tell me: can you cook?”

Yuuri gave the question some thought. “I’d say so. It’s more of a necessity with the extra crops I grow, you know, so they won’t go bad.”

“You should teach Viktor how to cook,” he suggested. His gaze slipped over to the silver haired man, who wore a neutral expression as he gazed out at the people in the bar. “I’m sure he’d love some lessons from you.”

“Ooh, a booth just opened up over there!” Viktor announced over Chris’s idea. “Let’s get it before someone else steals it! Come on, Yuuri!”

Yuuri didn’t really have a say in the decision, losing his will to fight when Viktor placed a strong hand on the small of his back, guiding him to the booth. “I call the spot next to Yuuri!” Viktor called. “Go away Chris.”

They situated themselves into the booth, with Yuuri taking the end spot beside Viktor and Chris sitting across from them.

The three fell into some pleasant small talk as Yuuri finished his one and only alcoholic drink. He stuck with water for the rest of the evening as Chris and Viktor moved on to stronger drinks. A good bit of time was spent by Chris reminiscing about past memories of Viktor. Yuuri learned even more about the mayor than he ever did at the farmer’s markets. “Did he ever tell you he had long hair?” Chris asked with devilish eyes.

Yuuri raised his eyebrows, clearly intrigued. “How long?”

“Very long,” Chris answered. “Like mermaid long. Past his nipples long. He had it until little Yuri came along. Here, I have some pictures.”

“At least show the good ones of me,” Viktor whined.

“Oh, I will,” Chris said nonchalantly.

Viktor remained silent, downing the rest of his drink in one go.

“Ah yes, this one’s one of my favorites,” Chris grinned, sliding the phone towards Yuuri. A nineteen year old Viktor faced the camera, shirtless save for golden stars strategically covering his nipples. His eyes were closed as he blew a kiss to the camera. His silver hair was truly as long as Chris said it was, spilling over his shoulders and down his back. It was truly an iconic picture, and Yuuri couldn’t be more grateful that he got to see it. Viktor looked like an ethereal, drunken baby deer; beautiful, but hadn’t grown into his legs yet. “Sophomore year. We went to a party after we passed all our finals. I think Viktor actually managed to stay on the dean’s list that semester. A miracle, really.”

Yuuri wanted to laugh at the picture, but he could practically feel Viktor’s sulk emanating from him. Whether he was embarrassed by the picture or about something else, Yuuri didn’t want to make things worse. He was unfamiliar with drunk Viktor’s antics, so he did his best to diffuse the situation before it could escalate. “Your hair was really pretty, Viktor.”

Viktor peeked up at him through his bangs. “You think so?”

“Yeah,” Yuuri continued. “It seems like you took really good care of it.”

“Not nearly as well as I care for it now. Here,” Viktor grabbed Yuuri’s hand and placed it in his hair. “Feel it now! I’ve been using this Argan oil treatment once a week and…” Yuuri wanted to listen, but his mind went blank as he processed the intimate gesture. The first thing Yuuri’s brain acknowledged was how undeniably soft Viktor’s hair was. Whatever routine he had was working for him.

“Yuuri did you really like my hair longer?” Viktor asked.

“Um, yeah I did.”

Viktor leaned closer and widened his eyes. “Should I grow it back out then? Because I could, my hair grows pretty fast!”

Yuuri realized that he still had his hand nestled in Viktor’s hair. It had come to rest on the back of his head, fingers toying with the shorter hair there. “I think you should do whatever makes you feel the best,” Yuuri decided on, detaching his hand from Viktor’s head.

“Yeah,” Chris interjected, his chin resting in his hand. “Don’t make any decisions just because of a cute boy’s opinions.”

“I wouldn’t do something like that,” Viktor said petulantly.

Chris hid a knowing smile behind his drink.

Viktor pulled at his tie to loosen it up. “Man, it’s getting hot in here. Yuuri, does it feel hot to you?” he asked innocently.

Yuuri’s eye remained fixed on the man’s collarbone as he undid a few buttons on his shirt. He swallowed, but his mouth had gone completely dry. “A little.”

“And so it begins!” Chris laughs. At the sight of Yuuri’s confused face he gave an explanation. “You know Viktor is truly drunk when the clothes begin to come off.”

Yuuri’s mind flashed back to the shirtless teen Viktor. “Ah. I see nothing’s changed.”

Yuuri tried his best to keep Viktor decent as the night wore on. Viktor wasn’t pleased about staying clothed, but he compromised on leaving his shirt and pants on so long as he could be barefoot. His dress shoes and socks stayed neatly put beside Yuuri’s feet and away from Viktor’s sprawling form.

Another thing Yuuri had to come to terms with was Viktor draped over him, which in theory sounded excellent. But drunk Viktor did nothing to support his own weight and Yuuri had to sit up for the both of them. However Viktor kept his face nuzzled deep into Yuuri’s neck, so he couldn’t complain too much. Even if Viktor was drunk and it didn’t really count, Yuuri couldn’t help but enjoy himself. “Yuuri…” Viktor murmured.

Yuuri tried his best not to flinch when the warm breath tickled his neck. “Yes, Viktor?”

“Don’t move.”

“I can’t when you’re on me like this.”

“Nooo, like don’t move away. Stay here…you’re too cute to leave.”

Yuuri’s brain began to short circuit. Chris leaned across the table to gently bat Viktor, but came up short and let his arm hit the table. “Viktor quit being so clingy, you’re scaring him.”

Viktor hummed and Yuuri felt him smile. “I’m not scary, you’re scary.”

“I think it’s time for all of us to get home,” Yuuri told them as soon as he was functioning properly again. Even then, the delivery was still a little shaky. “I can call you guys a cab.”

Chris spoke over Viktor’s whines of protest. “Sounds like a plan.”

“But what about my car?” Viktor asked, pulling his keys out of his pocket. “I still have to take it home.”

Yuuri gently pried them out of his fingers. “It’s staying here tonight,” he told him firmly, tucking the keys in his own pocket.

Never once did Viktor move from the home he made in the crook of Yuuri’s neck, not even as Yuuri called the cab service. Though he did have to keep moving Viktor’s hand away from the phone so he wouldn’t end the call. “Don’t make me leave, Yuuri,” he whined over and over. Yuuri only hoped the man on the phone couldn’t hear him.

Yuuri looked over at drunk Chris for help. “Just take him home,” he said, letting his eyes fall closed. “He’s pathetic. And my hotel is on the other side of town from his house anyhow.”

Much to Yuuri’s disappointment, Viktor tore himself away from his neck to look at him with pleading eyes, clearly a fan of the idea. Yuuri was too afraid to see what would happen if he said no. “I’ll drive you home.”

Viktor’s eyes brightened and he pulled Yuuri even closer, giving his cheek eskimo kisses. “You’re so good to me,” Viktor purred, his voice dropping to a low rumble against his ear. “Always taking such good care of me.”

Yuuri laughed nervously, trying to ignore how aroused that made him. The last thing he needed was a massive erection “What are friends for, right?” he squeaked.

He tried to move away, but Viktor only followed. “Yuuri,” Viktor breathed, his nose trailing down Yuuri’s jawline. “Did you know you smell really nice?”

“Uh thanks. I showered before I came here,” Yuuri managed, downing the ice in his otherwise empty glass of water.

For the next ten minutes Yuuri did his best to keep the mood PG. The only way he knew how to do that was to talk about farming. Nothing was less sexy than vegetables. Viktor never said anything off-kilter again, but it didn’t stop him from leaning on Yuuri and occasionally caressing his face with a straw.

Yuuri all but leapt out of the booth when the cab finally showed up. Luckily Chris was able to walk with minimal assistance, because Viktor required most of Yuuri’s strength. “Text me when you get to your room, okay?” he told Chris, Viktor’s arms wrapped around him like a monkey. Chris gave him a thumbs up before Yuuri closed the cab door and saw him off. “Bye Chriiiis,” Viktor called out feebly.

Then came the task of stuffing Viktor into the pickup truck. Yuuri was honestly tempted to put the mayor in the truck bed and just drive very slowly. But he stayed strong and managed to hoist Viktor into the passenger seat, more or less. There was some strategic movement of limbs before Yuuri could shut the door properly.

Yuuri stayed quiet and let Viktor entertain himself by changing the radio station countless times. He occasionally stayed on a song long enough to sing along with it horribly out of tune, only to change it thirty seconds afterwards. If Yuuri didn’t have to drive then he would’ve recorded the singing to look back on rainy days. Instead he focused on the road ahead, smiling to himself.

With enough prompting of Viktor, Yuuri successfully made it to the mayor’s house. It was much bigger than most of the houses in town, and much nicer. It had the look of an older home that had been restored , even in the dark. Well cared for and lots of character, not too different from it’s owner, Yuuri thought as he snuck a glance at Viktor sleepily singing along to Bruno Mars. Viktor’s eyes struggled to stay open, but the dopey smile never once left his face.

“Time to get out,” Yuuri announced once he parked in the driveway.

Viktor only hummed in response, carrying the tune of the last song playing. Yuuri sighed and got out of the car, making his way over to the passenger side. “Come on, I’ll help you out,” he said as he opened the door.

“Yuuri, my hero!” Viktor sighed dreamily as he slid out of the car, or as much as he could with his seatbelt still on.

Yuuri let out a snort as he helped maneuver the silver haired man out of the car, no longer surprised when he threw his arms around his neck and buried his head in his shoulder.

“Now if I could just figure out which key belongs to the front door,” Yuuri thought aloud as he pulled Viktor’s keys out of his pocket.

“Shhhh stay quiet,” Viktor warned very un-quietly. “Yura and Yakov are sleeping.”

“We’re not even inside yet. And I’m just taking you to bed and then leaving,” Yuuri told him in a slight whisper.

“Oh my Yuuri,” Viktor cooed, his lips moving softly against Yuuri’s neck. “If I’d known you were spending the night I would’ve cleaned up more…”

Of the entire night, that was the deciding moment that made Yuuri lose his cool. Not that he had been cool when Viktor tried to strip in front of him, or call him cute, or tell him to stay in town. But Viktor implying that he stay the night shattered any semblance of calm he could fool himself into believing. If Yuuri was having trouble with the keys before, he was downright struggling now.

Before Yuuri embarrass himself and become ever more flustered, the door clicked on its own behalf and swung open. A gruff looking old man with gray hair stood before the two, with a sleepy Viktor wrapped around a very frightened looking Yuuri. The man would’ve been more intimidating had it not been for the striped pajamas. “I’ll take him from here,” the man insisted.

“No Yakov, you got it all wrong,” Viktor slurred, gripping Yuuri tighter. “Yuuri’s staying the night. He said so himself!”

Yakov’s stare drilled through Yuuri’s soul, and it took everything in him not to drop the mayor and run. Instead he stuttered out his defense. “I-I did not say that, he just misunderstood and I didn’t have time to explain myself before you got out here—,”

“You know what,” Yakov interrupted, holding a hand up. “It’s late and I really don’t care. Thank you for getting him home. Now get inside, you big lump,” he directed towards Viktor.

“Wait Yuuri’s not staying?” Viktor asked as he was transferred to the older man’s shoulder.

“No you bothered him enough tonight. He should’ve left you on the street to suffer, if you ask me,” Yakov told Viktor as they stepped inside.

“Well too bad for you, I made it home safe and—whoops!” Viktor stumbled right as Yakov shut the door in Yuuri’s face. The lock clicked at Yuuri as he stood there, in shock from the events that just unfolded before him.

Yuuri came out of his daze long enough to notice that he got a text from Chris: mAde.

It was close enough.

As Yuuri drove home, he replayed the entire night over and over in his mind.

It was almost one-thirty in the morning when Yuuri got home that night. He briefly considered pulling an all nighter since he had to be up at four anyhow, but decided against it. Yuuri changed into his pajamas and crawled into bed. He knew it was all in vain, attempting to get sleep with his body still buzzing from the night’s events. Each time he felt himself slipping into unconsciousness, like clockwork Viktor’s face cropped up, sending Yuuri’s heart rate into the stratosphere.

Realistically he knew he shouldn’t get excited by how Viktor acted. He had been drunk, and drunk affection was never a sign of genuine interest. But Yuuri couldn’t stop the butterflies he felt when he remembered the way Viktor laughed into his skin, or the heat that pooled deep in his gut when he thought about the way Viktor practically moaned his name in his ear.

Yuuri rubbed his eyes, trying to banish the image from his head, and flopped angrily onto his side. He did not need to waste precious sleep time to think about things like…that.

A sigh escaped Yuuri’s lips as he pulled the sheets further up around him. No matter how much he slept, the next day was still going to be hell.

Chapter Text

The next morning sucked, just as Yuuri had predicted. He had gotten an entire hour of sleep before his alarm went off. He could only hope that the extra large mug of coffee in his hands could get him through his day. Yuuri stood by the kitchen window, gazing out at the fields and wondering how much money in insurance he’d get if he set them on fire. Not enough, probably. He took another sip of coffee.

Of course Viktor was nowhere to be seen that morning at the farmer’s market. Yuuri could imagine how hungover he must be. He wished that the mayor had come though, just to know where they stood after the previous night. Yuuri wasn’t sure of proper protocol for things like this. Was it appropriate to bring up drunk Viktor’s antics? There was a good chance that Viktor had forgotten, after all. Maybe playing dumb would be best. Viktor’s actions left a lot to be questioned, and Yuuri didn’t want to chance awkwardness by addressing it with him.

A million scenarios floated through Yuuri’s mind, and none of them ended well. Of all the social experiences he had in his nearly thirty years of life, nothing had ever prepared him for something like this. Yuuri knew there was only one thing to do in this kind of dilemma: call Pichit. But he still had a full day ahead of him that didn’t allow for such a long talk. It had to wait. In the meantime Yuuri tried his best to be present with the customers and be a competent salesman.

That evening Yuuri sat down to call his friend once again. He didn’t allow himself to lie down on the bed for the phone call. The lack of sleep had really caught up to him by this point, and even thinking about the bed would make him pass out.

The phone picked up almost instantly. “Pichit’s romance hotline, for all your romance woes, this is Pichit speaking,” Pichit chirped.

“Uh, hey…I know I’ve called a lot about this, but I really need your help this time.”

“Go on Yuuri,” Pichit said, almost wearily. “I’m all ears.”

Yuuri recounted the story of the night before to Pichit, with every detail he could remember. He didn’t realize how embarrassing it was until he had to say it out loud. Some things really would have been better left unsaid, and it was a miracle that his best friend didn’t react. In fact Pichit stayed quiet until the very end, absorbing all of the information before giving a response. Yuuri almost thought the line had gone down from such a silence.

“Sounds to me like he likes you, Yuuri,” Pichit finally said.

Yuuri paused. “You think so?”

“Yeah. Drunk words are sober thoughts and all, so it makes perfect sense to me.”

Another pause from Yuuri. “But is that even a reliable assumption?”

“Yuuri…”

“I mean. I just want to make sure,” Yuuri backtracked. “Like he could be like this with anyone when he’s drunk, you know? I don’t want to assume anything and make a fool of myself.”

“Was he like that with his friend? No. Did he want to talk to anyone else at the bar? No. Did he give you his undivided attention the whole night instead? Yes. Are you stupid? Yes. Can I keep going like this? Ye—,”

“Okay Pichit, I get it. I’m dense and he’s being really obvious.”

“Wow it only took you two months to figure that out. That’s a new record, I should call Guinness.”

“I said I get it.”

“Alright. So what are you gonna do about it then?” Pichit challenged.

This was always where Yuuri froze up. He had barely even accepted the fact that Viktor may have a slight attraction towards him. Follow-through was an even more elusive concept. Yuuri was pretty sure he had never even made it this far in the past.

Apparently he hesitated too long because Pichit reached his breaking point. “Oh my god, you literally have a Greek god at your feet, you’ve acknowledged it, and you’re still not confident in yourself! Listen to me when I say that this whole ordeal? It’s not that deep. Even if you did get rejected, it’s not the end of the world. You’ve got the chickens to cheer you up until you move on. Now I do not want another phone call about this man until you have asked him out. I’m serious. Your best friend privileges are revoked until then.”

“Pichit!”

“This is for your own good, Yuuri,” Pichit responded mercilessly before he hung up.

 

-- -- --

 

Viktor’s morning definitely was not great. A throbbing headache wrecked his skull before he could even open his eyes. His body felt like it was made of lead. Or death; it was debatable.

He was vaguely aware of someone else in his bedroom, but didn’t press it any further.

“Dad?” Viktor heard distantly. “Are you dead?”

A small blond boy stood at the foot of the bed. It was Yuri, his…son? Right, he had a son. Yuri absentmindedly pet Makkachin next to him while he waited for his father to answer him. Viktor had to take a moment to organize the stimuli assaulting his senses, which mostly consisted of trying not to vomit all over his Egyptian cotton sheets.

“No,” Viktor croaked. “I’m alive.” Unfortunately, he added in his head.

“Yakov told me to wake you up by twelve.”

It was already twelve? “Is Yakov still here?”

“Yeah, and he made breakfast.”

The thought of food both enticed and disgusted Viktor. He tried to swallow, but his throat was too dry. Food would have to wait until the nausea subsided. “Okay Yura. I’ll be up soon.”

Yuri left the room with Makkachin on his heels as Viktor attempted to wake up fully. He rolled around in bed, drifting in and out of a light doze. Small dreams of Yuuri passed through Viktor’s mind, and he welcomed them. They were brief and pleasant: small snapshots of the farmer’s smile, or his breathy laugh. Viktor was more than willing to sleep the rest of his hangover away like this. That is until he realized the dreams were not in fact dreams, rather memories of the night before.

Viktor’s eyes shot wide open.

Once the memories were in, they wouldn’t leave him. And it wasn’t just a few snippets; Viktor could recall the entire evening. He was cursed. Each time he thought he had uncovered the worst, another even more embarrassing memory came back to him. Viktor remembered every single time he touched Yuuri, which was a lot. He recalled words tumbling out of his mouth that he would never dare say while sober. He remembered resting in the crook of Yuuri’s shoulder and how his skin was so damn soft that it wasn’t fair. He could still remember exactly how Yuuri smelled and how much he liked it.

Viktor squeezed his eyes shut and groaned. How on earth was he supposed to look Yuuri in the eye after that? He desperately wished that amnesia had taken pity on him and let him forget the entire night. At least he could’ve talked to Yuuri without a guilty conscience afterwards. Viktor’s headache only worsened.

Minutes passed as the mortification ran its course through Viktor’s body. No matter how hard he tried, the events of the previous night did not undo themselves. Viktor was still a colossal embarrassment. What he needed was a good distraction, anything to banish thoughts of him throwing himself on the farmer. Laying still in his darkened room wasn’t much of a help. Vomiting would have been a better option at that point.

Viktor eventually pulled himself out of bed, making the pilgrimage to his kitchen. Yakov sat at the small kitchenette, reading the newspaper. Viktor’s newspaper. The older man didn’t say a word, let alone crack a smile as Viktor padded into the kitchen, pulling a bottle of Advil out of one of the cabinets. Sounds of pills rattling around in the bottle filled the room as Viktor struggled with the childproof lock.

“Yakov,” Viktor finally said once he finally opened the god forsaken bottle. It took much longer than he was proud to admit.

“What.”

“I need you to drive me to my car. It’s still at the bar.”

Yakov looked at him over the top of the newspaper. “You good to drive right now?”

“I didn’t get that drunk, you know,” Viktor told him, pouring himself a glass of water.

“Could’ve fooled me with the way you hung off that poor kid last night,” Yakov snorted. “You must’ve been drunk off your ass.”

Viktor waited until he swallowed his pill before he turned around and gave the older man a tight lipped smile. “We’re not going to talk about last night,” he said cheerfully.

“After making me wait up for you, I’m entitled to talk about whatever I damn well please,” Yakov told him. Although he never did bring up the previous night after that. Yakov had gone soft in his older age, Viktor thought. All bark and no bite. And judging by the breakfast of double chocolate chip pancakes, it seemed that Yuri had figured that out as well. If Viktor wasn’t so hungover he would’ve laughed.

Instead he grabbed the plate of cold pancakes Yakov left out for him and smuggled it back to his room to eat, away from Yakov’s judgmental gaze. Even with the richest chocolate chip pancakes, thoughts of Yuuri crept back into Viktor’s mind. Dread weighed heavily on him, and he knew that he’d have to set things right with the farmer at some point. As appealing as hiding in his room until death took him sounded, Viktor knew that he had to explain himself and apologize. He had no idea what he’d even say. ‘Hey sorry about the other night, you weren’t supposed to hear or see any of that,’ or ‘Hope you can forgive me for propositioning you! Let’s just pretend it never happened.’

Viktor gazed at his hunched over reflection on the vanity mirror across the room with disdain. Chocolate crumbs scattered across his face like constellations, and his tired eyes were accentuated by the bags underneath. This was the true Viktor Nikiforov, he thought to himself: hungry, tired, and desperately trying to avoid his problems.

But even if that’s how he wanted to handle it, he wasn’t the only one involved. Yuuri deserved a proper apology. Viktor made his decision with a bite of his pancake. He would give himself the week to recoup, then the next Saturday he would find Yuuri and set things right. Or, as right as they could be set.

Viktor didn’t allow himself to think any further past that.

 

-- -- --

 

Yuri was young, but he wasn’t stupid. He knew something had happened between his dad and the farmer that one night, but he didn’t know what. Everyone around him seemed to have some unspoken agreement that it would stay a secret. Not even Yakov would tell him. He tried his best to pry it out of his dad, but he wouldn’t budge. The best he could get was a look of mild constipation, which was amusing, but not at all helpful.

Yuri eventually came to terms with the fact that he’d never know what happened, but that didn’t stop him from messing with his dad. He made a game out of it. He’d find an opening to mention the farmer’s market just to see the brief moment where his dad would clam up. It never lasted more than a second or two, but Yuri relished in it.

The moment of truth would have to come during the actual farmer’s market, he thought. Even if nothing happened, Yuri still wanted to go for the free samples. He had come to find that those were good enough to wake up early for.

Saturday morning came around and Yuri woke up before his dad did. He showered and got dressed before making his way downstairs for breakfast. Still no sign of his dad. Unusual, but expected. Yuri carried on, scavenging for food to eat while he waited.

His dad came out of his room at the last possible minute. Yuri expected a disheveled appearance, but not a hair looked out of place on him. In fact, he may have been more overdressed than usual.

“Ready to go?” Yuri asked, not giving his father an option.

Viktor fiddled with putting on his watch as he walked towards his son. “Whenever you are,” he answered with a smile.

The ride to the market was silent, but Yuri could not be more excited. He couldn't tell who he wanted to see embarrass themselves more: his dad or the farmer. He shot a look over at his father in his three piece suit and gelled hair. A solid contender, indeed.

Getting to the farmer's booth took longer than Yuri had anticipated. His dad kept putting it off in favor of making small talk with some townspeople.

As Viktor said goodbye to the third person, Yuri looked up at him. “It's been fifteen minutes. Don’t you wanna get your lilac or whatever?”

“Lavender,” Viktor corrected, still waving goodbye.

Yuri waited for him to answer the actual question, but nothing ever came. He let out a sigh. “Well, I’m gonna get some free samples. Have fun standing around like a loser.” He turned on his heel and started towards the baked goods.

“Wait.”

Yuri stopped in his tracks and slowly turned back around, looking at his father with furrowed brows. Did he actually take the bait? No, he was never swayed that easily. “What?”

“Don’t you want to say hi to Yuuri too?” Viktor asked. Yuri couldn’t believe it; his dad was actually nervous. He wanted to laugh at his father’s thinly veiled excuse, but he had an irritated facade he needed to uphold.

“Fine.” Yuri began walking towards Yuuri’s booth, aware of his dad’s footsteps just behind him. Makkachin kept up with Yuri, blissfully unaware.

Yuuri met Yuri’s eyes for the briefest of moments before his own gaze shot back down to his vegetables. He knew they were coming. The farmer didn’t look up again until Yuri and Viktor were underneath the tent.

“Good morning Yuuri,” Viktor greeted.

“Oh, hi Viktor,” Yuuri stuttered, straightening up. “Good morning.”

"I'll take the usual, please." Viktor gestured towards the herbs.

Yuuri nodded before getting to work. "Of course."

Both men shifted their focus on the lavender, taking a deep interest in it. Seconds passed and Yuri waited for something else to happen, but neither of the men felt the need to talk. He slouched a little bit more, bummed that nothing was happening. That made it all the more surprising when out of nowhere, both Viktor and Yuuri tried to speak up at the same time, startling the other.

"Oh, sorry you can go," Yuuri said.

Viktor held a hand up. "No you go first,"

A blush spread across Yuuri's face. “I was going to ask if you're feeling better. I mean I guess you are now, but…” Yuuri trailed off.

Viktor kept wrapping and unwrapping Makkachin’s leash around his hand. “Yeah, I'd be concerned if I was still feeling ill,” he said with a half-hearted laugh.

“Ah. Well that’s good to hear. And what were you going to say?”

"I was just going to apologize for...last week. It was very unprofessional of me, and I apologize for making you uncomfortable."

Yuuri looked up from sorting through the lavender sprigs. "Don't worry about it, I really wasn't offended."

Viktor raised his eyebrows. "Are you sure?"

"Yeah. I was a little surprised, but nothing more. Things happen, and we just have to take them as they come sometimes. So yeah, don't worry about it."

"Oh," Viktor said. "Okay."

An awkward silence fell between the two as they tried to look anywhere except at the other, and Yuri wanted to cringe. He was caught between wanting to leave and wanting to make his dad stop embarrassing himself. He settled for giving the back of his dad’s ankle a kick. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to get his dad back into gear.

Viktor cleared his throat. “So I guess we can call things even now?”

Yuuri didn’t look up from the lavender he was tying together, but the question seemed to catch him by surprise. His hands stilled over the twine as Yuri and Viktor awaited a response. Suddenly laughter bubbled out of the farmer. “I’d say you got me beat by a long shot,” Yuuri replied, looking up from under his glasses.

“I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not,” Viktor said, rubbing the back of his neck. Were his ears turning red?

“It’s good for me, if we’re being honest.” Yuuri admitted as he handed over the bundle of lavender.

Now it was Viktor’s turn to laugh, his shoulders loosening up gradually. “As long as I could help, I suppose.”

“But seriously, don’t worry about it Viktor. I’m not going anywhere,” he said in a softer voice. Then he nudged the bundle towards Viktor again. “Here.”

Viktor took the lavender. “How much do I owe you?” he asked before bringing it up to his nose.

“Oh it’s on the house,” Yuuri told him.

Viktor widened his eyes. “I couldn’t possibly take it for free.”

“Yes you can.” Yuuri gave a teasing smile. “For your troubles.”

Viktor pointed at the farmer with his bundle of lavender. “This isn’t over, Katsuki.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” the farmer smiled.

Yuri’s eyes darted between his dad and the farmer and back again. Something definitely happened.

The Nikiforovs parted from Yuuri’s booth, making stops at all the booths with samples.

“You know dad,” Yuri started with a mouthful of homemade granola. “Considering you’re the mayor, that was a really awkward conversation.”

Viktor smiled sheepishly. “Good thing I’m not on the clock.”

“But aren’t you supposed to be good with people or something?”

“People are always growing and learning, Yura. Even grownups make mistakes.”

Yuri rolled his eyes. “Well you should be better at this by now.” He had been mayor since Yuuri started school, after all. That’s plenty of time to get experience.

Viktor bopped his son on the head with the lavender bundle. “You should be better at being nice by now, but you don’t see me complaining.”

“Whatever,” Yuri grumbled. “Let’s go sample the brownie bites.”

Chapter Text

“Again,” Lilia ordered.

Yuri readied his bow and restarted the passage. He had been working on a Bach partita, and a hard one at that. Bach was the bane of Yuri’s ten year old existence, yet he was expected to work on it at least thirty minutes every day as a warmup. Apparently shining young talent didn’t exempt him from such a thing.
“Your wrist is stiff,” she told him.

Yuri exhaled, trying to let his bowing arm relax. He felt the bow taking longer and more fluid strokes, the notes coming to life. Lilia sighed, “Still stiff.”

A little grumble escaped Yuri’s throat, but he tried to apply the correction. If his wrist was any more fluid, it would snap off. But Lilia had no more critiques to give, regarding his wrist at least. She had a knack for finding every small mistake in Yuri’s passages, breaking the problem down to a rudimentary, and quite frankly insulting, level until it came to Yuri like second nature. He didn’t like admitting that Lilia has drastically improved his playing, but she did.

Time slipped away from Yuri as he focused on the music, trying not to sound flat when he shifted into fifth position, trying to make the chord changes snappier, trying to make a clearer distinction between his staccato and spiccato. Before he knew it, Lilia was packing her own violin and bow away.

“Are you two done already?” Viktor asked, poking his head out of the study. He had practically been living in there for the past few weeks.

“It was an hour lesson, like usual,” Yuri replied with a frown on his face.

“My, time sure goes fast when you get older,” his dad said, a smile on his face. “Thank you, Lilia. We’ll see you next week.”

“As long as I don’t feel my time is wasted,” Lilia said, giving Yuri a pointed look. So he may have slacked on practicing his warmups and went straight into his solo stuff the past week. He didn’t say anything however, paying extra attention to putting his violin back in its case.

Lilia stopped to look at Yuri before she left. “Work on the partita more often, it’s still sloppy,” she said. “And do what I said to polish up the recital piece. I expect it to be ready at dress rehearsal.”

“Yes ma’am,” was all Yuri said.

Lilia raised one eyebrow, but said nothing more as she closed the door behind her and left.

Yuri didn’t have much time left until the end of year recital, one week to be exact, and there was no time to be looking at a warm-up piece. He needed to feel solid on the performance. Lilia had insisted that the partita would improve his technique for the performance piece.

“She sounded even more serious this time,” Viktor noted, leaning against the wall.

Yuri shot his dad a look. “Because it’s recital week.”

Viktor stared at Yuri for a moment, processing the sentence. Yuri felt his patience begin to slip. “Did you forget about my recital already?”

“Of course not, Yura! I just had to think about it for a second.”

“You wrote it down somewhere, right?”

“It’s in my phone, see?” Viktor shuffled over to his son, pulling up at the calendar app on his phone.

“I don’t need to see it,” Yuri mumbled.

He still had to take a step back to keep from the phone being jammed in his face. “ ‘Yura’s Recital’ at 6 pm. I am a very organized man, you know. More than you give me credit for…” he rambled on.

Yuri sighed and looked back at the partita. Even practicing that would be better than listening to his dad.

 

— — —

 

Life continued on for Yuuri after the confrontation. He still saw Viktor each week at the market. It was nice having worked things out with Viktor. It even felt as if their relationship improved after it. Maybe Viktor was trying to compensate for his drunken behavior, maybe they bother had bigger things to worry about. But conversation flowed smoothly between them.

He was still under oath by Pichit to not discuss Viktor with him until he had asked him out, but Yuuri was okay with that. There was no rush, Yuuri decided, or rather circumstance decided. Things around the farm continued needing improvements. Victories could only be celebrated briefly before the next problem revealed itself to Yuuri. Something kept eating his tomatoes, the barn doors wouldn’t lock, his kitchen sink needed a new faucet, and so on. The market season was picking up, and not having any extra help was beginning to wear Yuuri down. A lot of work with little profit. Just enough to make ends meet on weeks that Yuuri was lucky.

And his humble collection of animals only grew and demanded more of his attention. Yuuri broke down and bought another two chickens. He couldn’t resist. He told himself it was because they were his most reliable source of income, but somewhere deep down he acknowledged his soft spot for the chickens. His goat Florence needed to be bred by fall if he wanted her to keep producing milk, so he added looking for a male to his ever-growing list of things to do at some point.

He was no longer living day to day, or even market to market; he was living chore to chore. And in hindsight, overcoming the drunken night just seemed like another chore Yuuri had to finish before he could continue his endless climb towards financial stability.

The first year was always the hardest, Celestino had reassured him. Yuuri didn’t realize how hard until it was too late. He had been doing this for nearly half a year, he’d had his first harvest, it seemed like it should’ve been uphill from there. But that was the most difficult part, Yuuri found. He wondered what they usually said about the second year too…

“Has the weather gotten to you, yet?” Viktor asked. He and Yuuri had been talking for the past five minutes. “It’s not even officially summer and it’s getting hot.”

“It’s warmer than I’m used to, but you adjust after a while.” Meaning that ninety percent of Yuuri’s job did not have air conditioning and he had to drink gallons of water to keep from shriveling up and becoming fodder for his animals.

Yuuri kept looking over to Yuri as Viktor spoke. He looked like a statue, his arms crossed over his chest and his eyes downcast. Usually he’d at least wander around the booth or lean against the table while his father talked. The tension was beginning to get to Yuuri.

“How’s school going for you?” he asked, turning his attention to Viktor’s son. “You should be getting out for the summer soon, right?”

A few times Yuuri had tried to engage little Yuri in conversation, but he was lucky if he even got a grunt from him, much less a one word response.

“Thursday was my last day,” he responded. That was more Yuuri expected. It was a win in his eyes.

Yuuri gave him an encouraging smile. “That’s great! Now you can take it easy for a few months.”

Yuri shrugged. “I guess.”

“Yura’s probably going to be cooped up in his room all summer playing violin, like always,” Viktor added, placing a hand on his son’s shoulder. Yuri grimaced at the contact but otherwise stayed perfectly still.

“Well, if that’s what makes you happy then go for it, Yuri,” Yuuri said. “It’s good to be passionate about something.”

“It wouldn’t be so bad if I got to see him more,” Viktor sighed. “It’s like he forgets about his old dad sometimes. Everything is second priority to violin, even school.”

What Viktor said must have been the last straw, because Yuri snapped. As if it were in slow motion, Yuuri watched as the young boy flipped the table over, sending all of his produce flying backwards. A collective gasp from the townsfolk and vendors told Yuuri that everyone else saw it too. It seemed that all he could do was watch as a head of lettuce rolled across his feet. All of his produce lay on the ground around him, and a sick part of Yuuri’s brain felt like this was an accurate depiction of his farming career.

Yuri wasted no time walking away from the market and into the parking lot. Silence followed, and Yuuri suddenly longed for the noise again. Viktor’s eyes were wide in horror, but he composed his face in an instant.

All Yuuri could bring himself to do was set his table upright and collect his produce. Viktor began to help gather the scattered goods and bring them to safety, along with the vendors on either side of them. Viktor’s expression gave nothing more away and Yuuri was left to imagine what was going through his mind.

“You should probably go check on Yuri,” the coffee vendor said to Viktor.

Viktor nodded. “You’re right.” He turned towards Yuuri and pulled out his wallet. “I am deeply sorry for this,” he said, stuffing a few bills into Yuuri’s hand. A small crease formed between his eyebrows. “As soon as you are finished with the market, please come by my office at town hall so we can speak privately about this.”

Yuuri blinked, trying to focus enough to form a response. “Okay. I’ll be over there around two, if that works for you.”

Viktor nodded. “I will see you then.” And then he was off, jogging into the parking lot in search for his son.

Yuuri blindly stuffed the cash in his back pocket and turned his attention back to his stock, letting out a long sigh. Some of it had been crushed by the fall and was beyond salvageable. He would have to save it for compost and deal with the losses.

With everyone’s help, the booth was restored as much as it could be. The vendors dispersed after a big thank-you from Yuuri, though they all gave him pitied looks and told him not to worry about it.

“Are you alright?” the last remaining vendor asked. He was the jolly sort, with messy dirty blond hair and a goatee. Yuuri couldn't remember his name, but he had seen him talking with Sarah and Michele a few times.

“We should be asking the vegetables that, not me,” Yuuri said with a small smile.

The vendor let out a laugh. “I think I already know the answer to that one. Well, if you have any runaway veggies in the future, feel free to holler at me. That was quite the tumble after all.”

“Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.”

The vendor walked back to his booth across the way from Yuuri’s.

With Yuuri now left alone with his thoughts, he tried to sort out how he actually felt. While he was stunned, he was surprised to find that he didn’t feel humiliated or angry for what just happened. Whatever happened was not directed at Yuuri. He did feel a little confused and concerned for Yuri and Viktor, however. Yuuri knew that Yuri was a moody kid, but never saw how deeply the moodiness ran. Well, not until that day.

There were so many questions he had, and he doubted that he’d get outright answers. All Yuuri could do was wait to speak with Viktor later. Hopefully there he could piece together the answers on his own.

 

Yuuri stood in front of town hall. He had been for a few minutes. The closer it got to time, the more nervous Yuuri felt, and he wasn’t even the one in trouble. He was unsure of what to expect from the visit. Was Viktor going to compensate him more? He hoped not because it turned out that Viktor had given him a couple hundred dollars earlier like it was nothing. Maybe it would be a formal apology.

“There’s only one way to find out,” Yuuri muttered before pushing open the door.

The building was clearly outdated, launching Yuuri back into the seventies. It even smelled old. It did belong to a small town with minimal funding though, so Yuuri shouldn't have been surprised. He wandered around the first floor, not finding much evidence of human life, so his only choice was to make his way up the stairs in the lobby.

Yuuri stopped in his tracks when he made it up to the second floor. Yakov leaned against a nearby desk, holding a sandwich with one hand and scrolling through his phone with the other. The last time they had seen each other, a hammered Viktor hung off of Yuuri’s neck and Yakov was in pajamas. Yuuri didn’t know what to say to him.

“Viktor’s office is that way,” Yakov told him with a jerk of his sandwich, sparing him the awkwardness.

Yuuri gave him a brief nod. “Um, thank you sir.”

He turned to the right and headed down the hallway. There was a door at the very end which Yuuri assumed wrapped his knuckles on the door three times. “Come in,” Viktor said from the other side.

Inside sat the mayor at his large mahogany desk. “Please take a seat,” Viktor said, gesturing to one of the chairs before him. Yuri slouched in the other chair, propping his head up with a fist. He didn’t even spare Yuuri a glance.

Viktor hadn’t spoken yet, instead looking between his son and the farmer. Yuuri worried his bottom lip under the scrutiny. Yuri didn’t seem to care one way or the other, easily meeting his father’s gaze. Despite the recklessness and short temper, Yuri had a courage about him. A stupid courage, but courage nonetheless.

Eventually Viktor broke the silence. “Is there something you would like to say to Yuuri?” he asked his son.

Yuri sighed, like it pained him to make an apology. “Sorry for ruining your booth,” he grumbled.

“Say it properly.”

Another glare shot at his dad. “I’m sorry for ruining your booth today. I shouldn’t have done that.”

Yuuri wanted to laugh at how forced it sounded, in a way that only a kid could do. But instead he gave Yuri a smile. “I accept your apology.”

“Now,” Viktor said. “Is there anything we could possibly do to make up for the damage done today? Anything at all?”

“Oh no you’ve already repaid me enough,” Yuuri insisted, thinking back to the money. “I really don’t need anything else.”

“That may be the case for you, but as Yura’s father, he still needs an appropriate punishment to understand the consequences of what he did. Do you have any ideas?”

Yuuri shifted in his seat. The pressure was on, and he wanted it off as soon as possible. “I don’t really feel as if it’s my place to decide. I’ll leave it up to you.”

Viktor raised his eyebrows. “If that’s what you want.” Then he turned his attention back to Yuri. “Guess it’s up to me then.”

Yuri crossed his arms over his chest. “What are you gonna do? Ground me? Teach me a lesson? Force me to work on his farm to learn respect?” he sneered.

Viktor tapped a finger to his chin, never once taking his gaze away from his son. Suddenly his eyes lit up. “That’s actually not a bad ide—,”

“NO,” Yuri cut him off, getting up from his chair. “I am not working on that sad excuse for a farm.”

“Yura.”

“I’d work with your ugly secretary faster than doing that!”

“Yuri.”

The dark tone Viktor’s voice took on got Yuri’s attention quick enough. It got Yuuri’s attention too, but not in the same way. He’d be a liar if he said that the way Viktor said his name didn’t turn him on a bit. “Your going to do as I say,” he ordered. “And that means you’ll help out on Yuuri’s farm as long as I see fit.”

The finality in that statement left no room for argument, but it did leave enough room for Yuri to storm out of the office. Yuuri jumped as the door slammed unceremoniously. He watched as Viktor slumped against his chair, rubbing a hand over his face. This was a side of Viktor he had never seen before: the tired, frustrated father.

The silence stretched, and neither of them made any move to end it. Yuuri shifted uncomfortably, unsure of what to do next.

“I apologize for my son,” Viktor finally said softly. “Again. He has a rough time controlling his anger.”

“I-it’s fine, really,” Yuuri assured him. “You don’t have to have him work for me if you don’t want to.”

“No no, I insist.” Viktor let out a small laugh. “Unless you don’t want him there. I suppose I should’ve asked first. What do you want?”

“I mean…I guess it would be nice to have someone help out every now and then,” Yuuri said slowly. He had been complaining about there being too much work for just one person.

“Good. Yura needs to go outside more anyhow.”

So Yuuri and Viktor made plans for when Yuri could come over and help with the farm. Summer vacation had begun, so scheduling wasn’t too much of an issue. Yuuri suggested working from morning until lunch time, so Yuri didn’t have to be working during the hottest part of the day. Viktor even gave him his phone number. “Yura doesn’t answer his phone sometimes, so I always need a backup number to call!” he explained.

A mixture of apprehension and amusement filled Yuuri’s chest as he imagined the young boy tilling plots or feeding the chickens. He barely knew anything about Yuri despite how many times he had seen him over the past few months. And everything he did learn came from his father’s mouth. He was to come over starting the next morning and he’d do whatever Yuuri asked of him the whole time.

When the logistics of the plan had been settled, Viktor walked Yuuri to the door of his office. "Thank you for agreeing to this," he said. "It means a lot that you're willing to help."

"Hey Yuri's helping me out just as much, so it's no problem at all."

Viktor smiled, and his blue eyes crinkled at the corners in that way that always made Yuuri's chest go warm. "So I'll see you tomorrow when you drop off Yura?"

“Tomorrow at 12:30. And by the way, you should tell Yuri to go to bed early tonight,” Yuuri said with a mischievous smile.

Viktor chuckled. “Will do.”

— — —

Makkachin had already been fed, so Viktor could tell that Yuri had been home. The sound of violin from upstairs would have been a dead giveaway otherwise. Yakov must have dropped him off. Viktor headed up the stairs, making sure his footsteps were loud enough to be heard. The music only continued; Viktor recognized it as something Lilia had him working on. He took a deep breath in before he spoke.

“Yura.” The song came to a halt. Viktor heard the jingle of Makkachin’s collar as the dog sniffed at the crack underneath the door.

“I don’t wanna talk right now,” Yuri growled, the door muffling his voice.

“It’s not a matter of whether you want to or not; we need to talk.”

The seconds ticked by with nothing to show for it. On either side of the door stood a very stubborn Nikiforov, each waiting for the other to make the next move.

Viktor let his head rest on the wall, closing his eyes. “I’ll stand here the whole night until you let me in,” he informed his son.

“Then you can stay there! See if I care!” Yuri snapped.

“Or I’ll open the door myself,” Viktor said in a tone that threatened seriousness.

A few moments passed before Yuri opened his bedroom door, allowing his father in. Viktor walked across the room to sit on the bed and wait patiently for Yuri to set aside his violin and bow. Suddenly hardened green eyes were on him and Viktor opened his mouth to speak.

Yuri cut him off before he could get a single word in. “Don’t act all high and mighty. You’re just doing this so you can get close to the stupid farmer and you know it.”

“That doesn’t explain why you felt the need to act out in the first place,” Viktor replied. “And against someone who did nothing wrong, no less.”

Yuri’s hands balled into fists at his sides, but he made no other move. “Why should it matter? You punished me already, so just leave me alone. I need to practice more if I’m gonna be wasting time at the farm.”

Viktor kept his eyes on his son for a moment longer. Yuri hadn’t moved from his spot in the center of the room. He felt like he wanted to say something else to the boy, but the words weren’t coming to him. And he knew that Yuri had nothing more to say on the subject.

Instead Viktor settled for an uneasy sigh. “Have you eaten yet?” he asked, looking down at his hands.

“Yeah.”

“…Okay. Let me know if you need anything,” Viktor said as he walked back to the door. “By the way. Go to sleep early tonight. Yuuri’s coming to get you close to four in the morning.”

“Of course,” Yuri muttered under his breath. “Whatever. I’ll be up.”

Makkachin followed Viktor out of Yuri’s room and down the stairs.

Each day Viktor was alarmed at how much his son was like himself at that age. Except for the short temper--that was all Yuri. But the impulsiveness, the confidence, the dedication, Viktor was reminded every time when he watched his son pursue music with such an insistent fervor and isolated himself from the rest of the world. It should have been an easy task to raise him, if they were so similar. But Viktor didn't even know how to handle himself and he had thirty-one years of experience.

Viktor looked at the new contact saved in his phone as he sat down on the couch. He had successfully gotten Yuuri’s number, but not in the circumstance he had hoped for. It was an empty victory. Viktor wanted to stay positive, though. Maybe working on the farm would be a positive influence on Yuri. He hoped it would at least mellow him out and help him get rid of excess anger.

Too drained from the day, Viktor sprawled out lengthwise on the couch and allowed Makkachin to crawl on top of him. The violin music finally picked back up, though Viktor never recalled that piece sounding so angry.

Chapter Text

It was around four o’clock in the evening when Yakov received the text from Viktor saying that Yuri had wrecked a farmer’s booth at the market. Even though Viktor never explicitly said it, Yakov knew it was implied that he needed help. Vitya was never good at disciplining his son in the first place.

Yakov pinched the bridge of his nose. He was so close to retirement, but the Nikiforovs made him feel far from it. One day, peace would be his. But today was not that day.

Yakov let himself in with the key Viktor had given him years ago. He walked in to what could’ve passed as a dramatic Renaissance painting. Viktor was collapsed on the sofa, an arm thrown carelessly over his face, legs strewn about.

“Hey Yakov,” Viktor said, not taking his arm off over his eyes. “Yura’s upstairs.”

Yakov stormed past him, stomping up the stairs loud enough to be heard over Yuri’s music. He gave two short knocks on the door, but no other warning as he walked into Yuri’s room. Yuri’s head shot up from his sheet music, his whole body going stiff.

“What the—,” he relaxed when he realized it was just Yakov. “Oh, not you too,” Yuri groaned.

Yakov wasted no time, smacking him upside the head. “Are you stupid?” he scolded. “Ruining someone’s livelihood? You could’ve just walked away.”

“I’m already punished. I don’t need a lecture from you too, old man.”

“Well with that attitude it seems like your idiot father didn’t do a good enough job.”

Yuri sneered at him, but Yakov didn’t budge. They held each other’s gaze in an unofficial staring contest. Yuri had youthful passion on his side, but Yakov had experience that came with working in politics. It was long before Yuri looked away, his pout deepening.

“You two are exactly the same,” Yakov told him.

Yuri scoffed. “No we’re not.”

“You’re both impulsive, stubborn, and have no filter. Absolute nightmares to deal with.”

There was no way Yuri could argue when Yakov put it that way. Yes, he and his father showed it different ways, but they were made of the same stuff at the end of the day.

“Now here’s the deal,” Yakov continued. “You will wake up and be ready on time tomorrow, you will be respectful to the farmer, and you will do whatever he says without complaining. I will tolerate nothing less.”

“Because I’m suddenly supposed to answer to you, now.” The snark was heavy.

“Oh you’re going to listen to me.”

Yuri flashed him a challenging look. “What if I don’t want to?”

“Then I’ll call Lilia,” Yakov said with a smirk.

That made Yuri’s face go pale. Little Yura could smart-mouth him and his father as much as he wanted, but one wrong look at Lilia ensured death. But Yakov hadn’t had to send for his ex-wife since Yuri was six and first met her.

Feeling as though he’d done his job, and done it quite well, Yakov exited the bedroom. He made his way downstairs and found Viktor still on the couch. But he had sat up and was scrolling on his tablet. Yakov gave him a swift smack upside the head as well.

“What was that for?” Viktor whined, rubbing the back of his head.

“For being a dumbass.”

Viktor set his tablet down, his eyes following Yakov as he made his way around to sit beside him on the sofa. “Here to criticize my parenting style again?” Viktor said with a sigh.

“More like your lack thereof,” Yakov muttered. “Look, whatever you’ve got going on with Yura is not working.

“I know, I know. That’s why I punished him with the farm work. It’s a new angle.”

“I’ve been telling you to do something like that for years,” Yakov said bitterly. “The kid needs a hobby other than violin. It’s literally all he does. Maybe you can throw yourself into one thing entirely, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for your kid.”

Viktor was silent for a minute. “He plays video games sometimes,” he murmured into the pillow.

“And a fat load of good that’s done him.”

“Maybe this farming thing will help him loosen up enough to talk a little? Or calm him down,” Viktor mused. “At least that’s what I’m hoping for.”

Yakov leaned back into the sofa. “It’s a step, but it’s not the cure. Whatever happens afterwards is in your hands.”

 

— — —

The next morning came and Yuuri woke up feeling refreshed. He’d had a good night’s sleep on top of looking forward to his new assistant. Yuuri had expected himself to be apprehensive towards the whole ordeal, after all it was Yuri who wrecked a good portion of his produce in a sudden outburst. But he was also a ten year old child and Yuuri had nearly two decades of life experience over him. Besides, Yuri wouldn’t be much trouble after the first few hours of working.

Yuuri checked the weather on his phone briefly: sunny all day. Perfect. Yuuri got out of bed and dressed himself in his usual jeans and long sleeved white t-shirt. He fixed a cup of coffee a took a quick breakfast before heading out the door.

He drove off to Viktor’s house to pick up Yuri, who was waiting on the front steps of the porch. Yuuri couldn’t see his face in the dark, but his body language did not say ‘happy to be awake at three-forty am’. Yuuri rolled the passenger window down and smiled at him. “Morning! Ready to go?”

Yuri wordlessly got into the car and buckled up. The interior lights illuminated his face, accentuating the dark circles under his eyes. Yeah, he looked awful. Yuuri pulled a snack bar out of his pocket and handed it to him. “Here, you’ll want to eat something before we get started.”

“It’s too early to be hungry,” Yuri grumbled.

Yuuri shrugged and placed the bar in the cup holder between them. “It doesn’t affect me if you starve,” he said in a bemused tone. Yuuri wanted to tease him, but he decided to refrain and let them ride the rest of the way in silence. Besides, what he had planned would be much more enjoyable.

Yuri did eventually eat the snack bar in silent defeat.

When they made it back to the farm, Yuuri parked in front of the barn. He got out of the car and Yuri followed suit. “First thing’s first,” Yuuri told him, unlocking the barn with one of his many keys. “Milking and feeding. This happens twice a day: once at four am and once at four pm. So you’ll only have to worry about the morning time.”

The barn itself wasn’t much to look at. But Yuuri couldn’t so much as think about renovating it without burning a hole in his wallet. So ugly it remained. Yuuri pulled open one of the large doors to let in his assistant.

The two walked inside and Yuri coughed. “It smells awful in here.”

One of the does bleated in response. “You get used to it,” Yuuri replied. “So unless you’re up for milking a goat, you can go get some fodder for everyone in the back room over there.”

Yuri’s nose wrinkled at that. “I’ll go get the fodder.”

Yuuri went to find Florence to put her in the stanchion. He wiped her udder clean as he watched Yuri restock the fodder, calling out pointers when Yuri looked lost. And he couldn’t help laughing under his breath when Yuri was startled by Mildred nibbling on the leg of his skinny jeans. But for the most part, the goats ignored Yuri and let him be as he followed Yuuri’s instruction.

The chickens were all curious to meet the newcomer. Francis and Usagi circled their feet, accepting their daily scratches from Yuuri before moving to Yuri. Lawrence decided that he strongly disliked Yuri, chasing him away from his sisters with eardrum-shattering caws. Yuri was quick to move away from the small rooster.
“Alright, that’s enough terrorizing our guest,” Yuuri told the rooster, stepping in between them.

Eventually Lawrence cooled off, knowing that he wasn’t going to get a shot at Yuri, and minded his own business. “Don’t mind him,” Yuuri said. “He’s going through puberty. You know how it is.”

The animals had been put out to pasture and the next task was to weed the crops. Yuuri was secretly grateful for an extra set of hands. There was no way to make weeding fun. Everyone has the task that they hate more than anything, and for Yuuri it was weeding. He grabbed the spare hat he kept by the barn door on his way out. “Here, you’ll probably need this,” Yuuri said, handing Yuri a floppy sunhat. It wouldn’t be too long until the sun would begin to beat down on them.

Yuri made a face, but made no move to reach for the hat. “This looks so stupid,” he commented.

“But you won’t get sunburned!” Yuuri could speak from experience. “And I’d guess that you burn after 30 minutes of being outside.”

The glare told Yuuri that he was right. Yuuri gave him one more encouraging smile, nudging the hat a little bit closer. With a huff, Yuri took the hat and put it on his head.

Yuuri grinned. “Good. Now let’s start with weeding the herbs…”

The weeding really did go by a lot faster with Yuri there, although Yuuri had to explain the differences between the herbs and the weeds. Even then, the help of an ignorant ten year old was better than Yuuri alone.

It was during the crop harvesting that Yuuri suspected his helper was becoming fatigued. Yuri moved slower, drenched in sweat, spaced out more. Work him any longer and he’d pass out in no time. And Yuuri didn’t want to be the one to put the Mayor’s son in the ER. “How about we take a break for a bit? The house isn’t too far a walk.” Yuuri said.

Yuri nodded, standing up from this crouched position by the pepper plants. The two retreated into the air conditioned sanctuary of Yuuri’s house. Yuuri guided Yuri into a seat at the dining table in the kitchen while he fixed them some tall glasses of water and sandwiches. It wasn’t quite time for Yuuri’s normal lunch time, but he could always do with a snack. Yuri downed his water in record time, pushing the glass towards Yuuri for a refill.

“So I’m hoping that you know better now than to show up unprepared?” Yuuri asked, refilling the glass. He placed it back in front of Yuri.

“You were trying to kill me,” He insisted in between gulps. “I’ve never had this happen to me before.”

Yuuri raised his eyebrows. “You being dehydrated is my fault?”

“Yes,” Yuri said, with as much conviction as he could given that water dribbled down his chin.

“Hmm. Guess I’ll just have to keep water bottles on us out in the fields,” Yuuri decided. “Though you should probably eat something before you leave the house from now on. Does that sound fair to you?”

It was a while before Yuri responded. “I guess,” he muttered.

“Alright, it’s a deal,” Yuuri said before tucking into his own sandwich. They finished their food in silence.

“What time is it?” Yuri asked, mouth full of the last bits of sandwich.

Yuuri glanced at the clock on the stove. “Nine-fifty.”

Yuri slumped in defeat. “I wish I had died earlier.”

“It takes some getting used to,” Yuuri started. “You should’ve seen me on my first day working the fields; I was a wreck. I came straight home and slept. I woke up in the middle of the night to eat dinner and shower before falling back asleep. Rinse and repeat that for about a week, and then I eventually adjusted.”

“Is this supposed to encourage me?” Yuri asked.

“Well…a little. The point is that I was there too, except I had no one to guide me and help me avoid making embarrassing mistakes. You’ll get stamina over time. And as for stupid mistakes, you won’t make those.” Yuuri pointed to himself. “That’s my job.”

Yuri chewed on his bottom lip, focusing his eyes on the aged dining table. He was either ignoring Yuuri or lost in thought, it was hard to tell. It didn’t matter to Yuuri, as this was the most he had ever heard him speak anyhow.

“So you were even worse than me,” Yuri eventually said.

Yuuri looked up to see a smug look on his face. “Without a doubt. I killed half of my seedlings at first. And most of my produce was eaten by rabbits. So all in all, you’re not doing bad. And you’re already halfway through your first day,” Yuuri reminded him.

“Yeah.”

Yuuri got up from his chair and stretched. “Let’s head back out and finish with the crops. It’ll be over before you know it.”

With a great sigh, Yuri pushed himself up from the table. Yuuri could see the red covering his arms. It looked like it would hurt the next day. “Ah, guess you’ll need to wear sunscreen next time.”

At twelve o’clock sharp Yuuri brought their work to a close, leading a gumbo-legged Yuri back to the truck. He made sure to bring a water bottle for Yuri.

The boy had deflated to the point where he molded completely to the passenger seat. Yuuri wasn't sure where he ended and the chair began. In fact he passed out as soon as he buckled up. So Yuuri drove without any music so as to not disturb him. And now Yuuri could successfully say he had not one, but two sleeping Nikiforovs in his truck. He wasn’t sure if that was really an accomplishment, though.

All in all, it had been a hot and successful day with Yuuri checking off all the chores he wanted to get done. And he was far less tired. An assistant made all the difference, even if it came in the form of a ten year old child.

With it being a Sunday afternoon, the drive to Viktor’s house was quick. Not that driving in this town took a lot of time anyhow. In fact the townsfolk’s complaints of ‘traffic’ made Yuuri laugh darkly. They had never known true pain that came with city life.

Yuuri parked in the driveway and gently shook Yuri awake, helping peel him off the seat. He decided follow Yuri up to the door to talk to Viktor. It was common courtesy after all. He would want to hear about his son’s day from an unbiased source. Yuri rang the doorbell and slumped against the brick wall beside it. He seemed completely immune to the barking that came from the other side.

“Look who’s back!” Viktor cheered as soon as the door opened. He was all smiles. Yuuri was shocked to see him in jeans and a t-shirt. And he was barefoot. Yuuri couldn’t stop staring; Viktor had toes. It had to be illegal to see him look so casual, so attractive. Yuuri looked back at Viktor's crinkle-eyed smile. So damn attractive.

Yuri slid past his father immediately.“I’m gonna shower,” he muttered as he dragged himself up the stairs on all fours.

“Alright!” Viktor said back, sharing a knowing grin with Yuuri. Makkachin had wormed his way through the open door to greet his guest. Yuuri gave him a well deserved scratch on the head, if anything to help him focus on something other than Viktor’s v-neck shirt and exposed arms.

“So.” Viktor let the door close behind him before turning back to Yuuri. “How was he today?” he asked in a quieter voice.

Yuuri had to take a moment to think. “Yuri…did very well for his first day. He followed instructions and picked things up quickly.” He went into a summary of the things they did that day, assuring Viktor that Yuri was not exploited and overworked.

For a second Viktor’s eyes shone, and he looked proud of his son. He wrangled his expression back to neutral before he asked, “Was he rude to you at all?”

“He tried,” Yuuri said with a laugh. “But he was too busy to be properly rude.”

Viktor whistled. “Wow. I’ve never heard that before in my life.”

“Which reminds me: he’ll probably fall asleep really early tonight, possibly right after his shower. Make sure he gets plenty of food in him before then,” Yuuri said.

“You worked him that hard, huh?” Viktor teased.

“Guess so. He was asleep on the whole ride back here.”

Viktor laughed, leaning against the doorframe. Yuuri thought he looked like a model, like he belonged on a catalogue or something. “The poor kid’s never worked a day in his life,” Viktor continued. “Ha, I suppose that’s my fault. Doesn’t even know what a chore is.”

Yuuri stuffed his dirty hands in his pockets. “Well he does now, I can promise you that.”

Viktor looked down at the ground, pausing before he spoke. “Thanks again for doing this. I know I put you on the spot, but I really appreciate your help.”

“It’s no problem, Viktor,” Yuuri assured. “I think once Yuri gets the hang of things, he’ll be a big help on the farm.”

“If you say so. But if Yura ever becomes a problem when he’s with you, or starts acting up, you tell me. I’ll take care of him,” Viktor said. “You don’t have to worry about that.”

Yuuri didn’t know for sure how he’d handle a Yuri outburst without Viktor already there, but he truthfully didn’t want to think about it. All he could do was hope that Yuri stayed as mellow as he was that day. “Sure thing. I’ll keep that in mind.”

 

-- -- --

 

The next morning was misery to Yuri. He woke up sore, a type of sore he never imagined possible. Standing up hurt. Sitting on the toilet hurt. Grabbing cereal from the high shelf hurt. This must be how athletes felt, Yuri thought. Why would they enjoy sports if it meant feeling like this? He certainly wouldn’t be able to play violin that evening, even though he skipped the day before.

Yuri had fallen asleep some time around six the previous evening. His dad had forced him to stay up and eat a big dinner, even though his eyes kept drooping shut as he ate. But no amount of sleep helped him feel ready to face yet another day of excruciating labor.

“Hey there,” Yuuri greeted at three-fourty a.m. the next morning. A smile rested on his face.

He was too happy. No one should be happy with a job like that. Yuri hated him.

And Yuri couldn't decide what part of farming he hated more: the plants or animals. The animals were stupid. And they smelled awful. But the plants were tedious and all looked the same. Either way, he left in a worse mood than when he started.

Part of him wanted to go to his dad and admit defeat; ask that he never have to step foot onto that farm again. He could promise to change his ways, hold his tongue, anything to never suffer like this. But his pride wouldn’t ever let him go through with such a thing.

So he continued at the farm, glaring at the smiling Yuuri whenever his back was turned (or when it wasn’t), breaking his back over impossible chores, and paying the price for his impulsive behavior.

 

-- -- --

 

As the days passed, Yuuri imparted more farming information to his young helper. He taught him how to tell apart tomato breeds, how to start seedlings, how to milk the goats, and how to properly hold the chickens (Lawrence excluded).

And Yuuri found that Yuri was a fast learner. What he lacked in strength, he made up for in knowledge as he quickly adapted whenever Yuuri gave him a new piece of advice. Together they worked efficiently and quietly. Yuuri remembered to bring sunscreen for his helper, and also remembered when to have him reapply it. Yuri also did his part and began wearing farming-appropriate clothing. He turned in his pair of skinny jeans for classic boot cut jeans that he could bend in easily. Sneakers, baggy jeans, a Sonic the Hedgehog t-shirt, and a floppy sunhat was Yuri’s go-to look. And Yuuri thought it was hilarious.

There was so much about the situation that was ridiculous: the kid who barely a week prior wrecked Yuuri’s table was now standing before him asking whether or not the mint was ready to be picked. Yuri still didn’t speak much, unless it was necessary, and Yuuri still hadn’t seen him properly smile. But he was in charge of helping the kid build character, and it seemed to be working. At least from his end. He couldn’t say much for how Yuri acted at home.

They were getting close to wrapping up another morning, and Yuuri focused on picking as many heads of broccoli that he could manage.Yuri had said something, but Yuuri hadn’t paid attention. “What was that?” he asked.

“What about Saturday?” Yuri repeated. “What am I gonna do that morning?”

“Ah. Saturday,” Yuuri said as he stood up, brushing the dirt off his jeans. “You’re going to work the market with me.”

 

-- -- --

 

The one thing Yuri found that he hated more than waking up early to work on the farm was waking up early to work with people. It really put his distaste for farming into perspective.

Yuri lucked out and didn’t have to do the two out of town farmer’s markets, as they were in the evenings. Although he wasn’t so sure if that was better than having to do the market in his own town, where everyone could view his shame publicly. “Now don’t worry about dealing with the customers, just bag the items and handle money if you have to,” Yuuri instructed him, reading his thoughts. He had an easy smile on his face as they drove down to the grass lot. Yuri didn’t understand how the farmer hadn’t even broken a sweat yet; loading up his truck for the market was intense.

Every single citizen must have stopped by the tent, and it was all Yuri could do not to tell them to buzz off. The entire town knew about the previous Saturday, even if some weren't at the farmer’s market at the time. No matter how much Yuri wanted to forget that it happened, the huge influx of customers would let him do no such thing.

“Looks like you’re learning a lesson the hard way!”

“Hope he’s not actin’ up too much, Yuuri.”

“Your father put you up to this, eh?”

It was enough to make Yuri positively seething. If he knew he wouldn’t get in trouble, he’d flip the table all over again. But Yuuri was good with the customers, and he handled all the questions about Yuri. Not that Yuri wasn't capable of speaking for himself, although his version may have more yelling involved. Yuuri was just good at talking to people.

And he never once spoke poorly about Yuri when explaining the situation. In Yuri's opinion, the farmer had no reason to be so nice to him after the constant micro aggressions, let alone defend him to others. It boggled his mind.

Yuri finished bagging the produce and handed it over to the customer, who happened to be Yuri's former second grade teacher. "Why thank you, Mr. Nikiforov. It's so nice to finally see you out and about," Mrs. Monroe cooed. She always did complain about Yuri not being active enough in class.

"I know I'm enjoying it," Yuuri replied. "He's been such a help around the farm."

The farmer thanked Mrs. Monroe and waved her goodbye.

Yuri hated him.

-- -- --

 

Yuuri swore he made more money with Yuri working with him. Townsfolk who never usually stopped by his booth were there, eyes trained on Yuri. It was possible that the whole town had showed up. Yuuri had hoped they wouldn’t say too much to embarrass the ten-year old, but it was doomed from the start. Each customer had something to say about Yuri. Having to openly serve a punishment was bad enough, it was something else to rub it in his face. Yuuri felt like he was running a zoo exhibit more than a produce booth.

He couldn't help but feel for the kid. Yuuri would've been humiliated enough to not show his face for a year at that age. He'd move cities and change his name. But Yuri kept his cool and served each customer. He did his part, so Yuuri did his part: damage control.

Yuuri redirected and reframed conversation as best as he could. He gave Yuri snack breaks and let him hang out in the truck bed.

They had a lull in between customers about three hours in, the first one to happen that day. Yuri crouched, resting close to the grass and out of sight. “As soon as the market’s over your dad will be here to pick you up,” Yuuri told him. “Don’t worry about taking everything down.”

Tension drained from Yuri's small frame. He looked so relieved and Yuuri didn't blame him. Taking down a booth sucked. But Yuuri had it down to a science and his stamina was vast, it was no longer a struggle for him.

Viktor showed up in the last thirty minutes, just in time to see a sweaty and miserable Yuri rearrange tomato baskets with glazed over eyes. It was warm enough that he wore a baby blue polo, but still kept his signature slacks. “Looks like you two are having fun,” Viktor remarked.

Yuri spared him a withering glance before going back to his tomatoes. Viktor raised his eyebrows, fighting back a smirk. “It’s been a busy day,” Yuuri said for the both of them. “More so than usual.”

Makkachin sniffed the table, and Yuri pushed him away when his wet nose got too close to the produce.

“Must be the good weather,” Viktor said with a wink.

Aside from his heart speeding up and the blood rushing to his face, Yuuri thought he handled the gesture well this time. “For sure.”