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Yuuri had never been a natural at anything. He could still remember the first time his parents took him out on the ice. Even with his father holding both of his hands, Yuuri somehow managed to slip out of his grip the second after his tiny skates touched the surface, landing hard on his three year-old bottom. And so, his first memory of skating consisted of tears, dull pain, and the amused laughter of his family at his record-time failure. Many of his memories after that consisted of much the same.

Over the years, the thought just quit passed through his mind more often than it probably did through other’s. After failing a jump, after a misplaced step in a sequence, after touching down at the wrong angle thus missing technical points, and every time after his palms hit the ice. The ice was cold, harsh and unforgiving, and it reminded Yuuri of that every day.

It wasn’t really the motivation to win that kept him going. Yuuri knew that there would always be skaters out there who were more talented, more captivating, more precise, more natural than him. Those who did not have to put in hours and days to perfect the kinds of movements that took Yuuri weeks and months to accomplish. Those who could shrug off the anxiety of competition as if it were simply some annoying bug buzzing around, rather than a plague that could envelope Yuuri.

What kept him going, practicing, competing despite the knowledge that he was up against all those other naturals was the wild dream that maybe by some odd chance, some stupid stroke of luck, he would be able to be somewhere in the proximity of his idol. The most natural of all others, with his beauty, his flawless movements, his nonchalant attitude, his perfection on the ice and off, his everything that Yuuri thought he could honestly never hope to get close to.

So Yuuri pushed himself back up on the ice, and worked and worked and worked, until he could reach the same level as those naturals, until he could land the jumps that they could, could dance like they could, could close his eyes and revel in the disbelief that it was gold weighing heavy around his neck like they could.

And where had all that gotten him?

Well, in that moment, it had gotten him a seat in Victor’s lap. His idol, now coach, had been relaxing in their hotel room, watching some television program, when Yuuri had hesitantly moved to his side. The moment that Yuuri had planted a shy peck at the corner of Victor’s mouth and nuzzled into his cheek, the Russian’s lips had spread into an understanding smile and he quickly pulled Yuuri onto him.

Yuuri’s palms rested flat just below Victor’s shoulders, able to feel the ridges of the Russian’s collarbone against them. His fingers barely curled into the cotton fabric of Victor’s t-shirt, which separated him from touching skin, but Yuuri did not shift them as Victor’s lips moved against his own .

Yuuri liked how Victor kissed. From the quick sweeps of his plush lips that had grown almost too frequent recently, to the deeper, breath-stealing ones that Yuuri allowed Victor to catch him in once they were far away from any cameras. It did not matter if it was a brief brush to his cheek before they made their way out of the locker rooms, or ones like this, with Victor’s arms wrapped low on Yuuri’s waist, holding him close and warm and happy, teeth tugging ever so gently on Yuuri’s lower lip. Victor’s kisses were ones that could only come from a natural.

Yuuri’s fingers gripped tighter at Victor’s shirt and he tried to press further into the kiss, hesitantly parting his lips so that he could trace at Victor’s full ones with his tongue just in the same way that he liked to receive from the other. Yuuri had progressed halfway along them when Victor leaned back, breaking away, and Yuuri could have whined in protest. He was tired from that day’s practice, the long hours they had spent in both the morning and late afternoon on the ice. He was tired from having his head filled with a foreign language whenever they stepped outside. He was tired from the jetlag that always accompanied him with international trips. He was tired and all he wanted to do was relax into Victor’s perfect mouth, which was now further away from him than he wanted it to be.

Victor reached up and cupped one of Yuuri’s cheeks in his hand. His thumb traced over the younger skater’s saliva-slicked pout, and Yuuri instantly forgave him for breaking the kiss, melting into the touch instead.

“Yuuri… you didn’t have a lot of kisses before me, did you?”

“No.”

Before Victor, the number of kisses that Yuuri had been on the receiving or giving end of wouldn’t have used up all of the fingers on one hand. Now, Yuuri couldn’t calculate how many hands he would need to count them all up. Victor usually got in at least two before breakfast.

At first, Yuuri was embarrassed by it, but now he stopped Victor if the man tried to walk out of the bedroom in the morning without giving him that first one. Victor had started to teasingly dub it their ohayou no chu. Yuuri would roll his eyes and tell Victor to study some practical Japanese.

“Hmmm… I can tell.”

The words sunk in and then smashed through all those feelings of tenderness that Yuuri had settled into. “Wha—… are you… are you saying you don’t like my kisses?!” The faint blush that had dusted Yuuri’s cheeks deepened, changing from one caused by affection to one of embarrassment.

“No! No, Yuuri, I love your kisses!” Victor hastened to reassure him, threading his fingers through Yuuri’s dark hair, holding the younger man’s face steady and not letting Yuuri look away. “It’s, just, that… ummm…”

“They’re bad?” Yuuri prompted and Victor laughed.

“They’re not bad.”

“But they’re not good?” Yuuri pressed.

“They could be better— oh, don’t pout like that!”

Yuuri really hated how Victor’s smile still seemed reassuring even when the man was telling him that his kisses apparently were not up to Nikiforov standards. Seeing Yuuri’s downturned eyes, Victor leaned forward, but Yuuri turned his face away before Victor’s lips could make contact with his. “Oh, come on, Yuuri, don’t be like that. You didn’t start off being able to do axels right off the bat, it took practice. We just need to practice!” Victor’s tone was gratingly cheerful.

“What have we been doing these past few weeks if not practicing?! I didn’t realize that I was falling on my face every time I kissed you!” Yuuri protested.

“Ah, yes, but I haven’t been coaching you, have I?”

Yuuri blinked at him. “You want to coach my kisses?”

“Why not?”

Yuuri’s eyebrows arched high and speculative, but the energy with which Victor made his declaration told him clearly that the Russian was not going to drop the idea. And he had done well enough under Victor’s coaching thus far…

Yuuri sat up straight and then nodded his head. “Okay, coach. Show me what I’m doing wrong.”

With a telling smirk, Victor tugged Yuuri’s face back down and then ran the flat of his tongue over the Japanese man’s lips. Yuuri jerked back in horror, quickly wiping his mouth with the back of his hands. “What the hell was that for?!” The sensation had been wet, sloppy and far from anything remotely resembling pleasant. It was gross. Like being licked by a dog.

“That’s what it feels like when you’re trying to french kiss me!” Victor laughed at the look of disgust still lingering on Yuuri’s face. “It’s like you’re trying to clean me or something.”

After another moment of shock, Yuuri let out a short laugh as well. “Okay, okay, I can see how that’s bad. Show me the right way?”

“Happily.” With that, Victor drew him down again for a proper kiss.

~~~~~~~

Victor was a great coach, but the ice was still unrelenting when it rushed up to meet Yuuri during practice. The new routine Victor had made for him wasn’t treating him kindly.

“What’s wrong, Yuuri?”

“I don’t know.” He did know. But overcoming his own nerves was something he needed to do himself, and he did not want to put that additional burden on Victor.

“If you don’t tell me, I can’t help you.”

Yuuri sighed, looking down at the ice beneath him. He had yet to stand up after his last slip and his skin was starting to numb as the cold permeated through his clothing. “Do you think I can do it?”

“I know you can do it. Just don’t give up. It doesn’t suit you.”

Nodding, Yuuri planted his palms against the ice and then pushed himself back up.

~~~~~~

“I want you to score me.”

“Huh?”

“Score me. Give me a score. Like a judge would in skating.” A few days had passed since Victor had told Yuuri his kisses could be better. Yuuri had run out of internet sources on how to kiss and Victor still didn’t seem entirely satisfied.

“Exactly like in skating?”

“We can simplify it. Out of ten. But give me notes.”’

“Okay.” Victor had never looked so amused before.

Yuuri moved up onto his toes to kiss Victor, his lips touching to the Russian’s upper one. “How’s that?”

“Three. Misplaced. Try again.”

Yuuri smiled and this time made sure to position his kiss squarely on Victor’s lips.

~~~~~~~

“You should try to take some control in a kiss like that.”

“You don’t need to open your mouth that much.”

“A little too aggressive there, be more gentle.”

“Too gentle.”

“Tilt your head further…. Okay, now you’re just taking it too far on purpose.”

“Move your lips a bit more.”

“Don’t be afraid to break away for a moment.”

“Mmmm, good, but I think you can do better still.”

Yuuri buried his face into a pillow, releasing a whine of frustration into it. It had been easier to land that quadruple toe loop than it was trying to perfect a kiss. Victor’s notes filled his head, with each piece of advice clamoring to get on top of the others.

His legs and feet hurt from a day out on the ice, and now his head hurt thinking about kissing techniques. Part of him wanted to believe Victor was being so critical of him because he wanted excuses for extra kisses, but Yuuri would be damned if he gave up before he got a perfect ten out of the Russian.

A shiver ran up Yuuri’s back when he felt lips slide along the bottom of his neck, and he flipped over to meet Victor’s sparkling blue eyes.

“Tired?”

“Yes,” Yuuri groaned in admission.

“Want to get ready for bed then?”

“Not yet.” Yuuri wrapped his arms around Victor’s neck and arched up, brushing his lips to the other’s before threading his fingers through Victor’s soft strands of hair and capturing the man’s mouth fully with his own. Yuuri tempted Victor’s lips to part, deepening the kiss and was rewarded with a pleased exhale. He pulled back with a pleased smirk. “Well?”

“Eight.”

“Eight?! You were practically moaning!”

“Look at how you’ve got me.”

Yuuri leaned back a little and looked down at Victor’s position. The man was sitting down on the edge of the bed, which meant that when Yuuri had drawn him down for the kiss, Victor had had to twist sharply at the waist in order to meet him.

“Your partner shouldn’t be in such an uncomfortable position,” Victor warned and Yuuri wrinkled his nose at him in response.

“That was your fault,” Yuuri protested.

“Keep talking back, I’ll mark you down to a seven.”

Instead of vocalizing his objection, Yuuri grabbed Victor’s collar and pulled the older man fully onto the bed, kissing him again in the hopes of making Victor forget his threat.

~~~~~~~

“You’re coming out of your spin too early.”

“Watch your posture, don’t lose those presentation marks.”

“You keep touching down on the wrong angle, remember what I told you.”

“Don’t hesitate, you’ll just overthink it.”

“Get up, try it again, you were so close that time.”

“Yes, just like that, Yuuri! Beautiful! Now do it once more!”

Yuuri wondered what he had ever done to deserve someone like Victor.

~~~~~~

There were always cameras directed at the skaters, even when they were off the ice, in the kiss and cry, or watching from another part of the rink. However, as Yuuri had discovered on a tip from Chris, they weren’t always on.

Both he and Victor were watching Yurio’s routine, but Yuuri’s eyes wandered from the Russian on the ice to the Russian sitting beside him. Victor’s attention was completely trained on Yurio, his brows furrowed, jawline strong and defined as he subconsciously clenched his teeth when Yurio jumped and then unclenched when the blond teenager touched down with natural ease. Yuuri always wondered if Victor watched him skate just as intently.

“Victor?” Yuuri called softly.

“Hmm?” It was rare that Victor didn’t turn to Yuuri immediately, acknowledging Yuuri’s call but not taking his eyes away from the ice. Yuuri was understanding of Victor’s desire to watch, but at the same time, he wanted to know he could draw Victor’s attention at any moment.

“Victor, look at me.” A spark of pride warmed his chest when his words drew Victor’s inquisitive gaze immediately to him. “I’m going to get some water…” Yuuri said and stood up. A quick glance at the camera trained on them showed no red recording light, so Yuuri leaned down, closing any distance between them. It lasted hardly a quarter of a second, Yuuri’s lips barely skimming Victor’s without any pressure or commitment.

He didn’t give Victor time to react, spinning on his heels, and walked away, heading to grab himself a bottle of water. Yuuri almost regretted not giving himself more time to enjoy Victor’s shocked expression, but smiled when he heard Victor call out to him just before Yuuri got out of earshot. “Six! Way too short, Yuuri!”

Yuuri knew by how long it had taken Victor to gather himself for a response that he deserved far greater than a six.

~~~~~~~

Victor asked him to try out a new sequence and Yuuri smiled when he nailed it after only a few attempts.

~~~~~~~

Yuuri kissed Victor when the Russian handed him a cup of coffee in their hotel room. Victor teased him with low marks because the cup of coffee in Yuuri’s hands prevented them from moving closer together.

~~~~~~~

Yuuri never considered himself a morning person, but he wasn’t a night owl either. He always thought himself to be unparticular in that regard, like in much of everything else. In summers, he liked waking up early so that he could get out and run before the sweltering heat of the southern Japanese summer could build. In the winters, he had as hard of a time as anyone else in crawling out from underneath warm blankets.

But now he found himself in the habit of waking up a little earlier than he needed to, a few minutes before their cell phone alarms sounded, just so he could spend that time reveling in the beauty of the man beside him. How many daydreams of his had been fulfilled in the last several months? He had lost count. And even then, in the wildest of those dreams, he had never pictured that he would be waking up next to his idol every day.

“Yuuri…” Victor’s sleep-laden voice always made Yuuri buzz with joy and he wiggled closer to the other man. Victor’s eyes were still closed, handsome face half-buried under the covers. Yuuri tucked his head under Victor’s chin, hands balling up the fabric of Victor’s shirt, breathing in his warmth.

Victor was firm and comforting. He made Yuuri want to attempt jumps he had previously regarded as impossible, to mirror the way his heart jumped impossibly whenever the Russian threw him yet another dazzling smile. Yuuri had felt the gut-wrenching pull of homesickness a few times during his time in Detroit or when traveling for competitions, but how many times had he been away from Hasetsu in the last year and never thought twice about it because it was Victor that felt like home.

Yuuri sighed contentedly when he felt Victor nuzzle the top of his head, touching a kiss to his hair. Yuuri pulled back from Victor’s chest and almost laughed when Victor sleepily whimpered out a protest. The cute sound did not last long, as Yuuri silenced it by shifting up and pressing his mouth to Victor’s. The kiss was slow and sweet, plush lips moving gently against his own, but then Victor pushed forward, sliding his arms around Yuuri’s back.

In response, Yuuri snaked his arms around Victor’s shoulders, fingers lacing through the Russian’s disheveled hair, messing with it further. Yuuri could feel through Victor’s unrushed response that he was still half-asleep, so he recalled a piece of his coach’s advice and took control, pulling at Victor’s lower lip, giving it a light suck and then hummed when Victor mumbled something pleased-sounding in muffled Russian.

Yuuri drew on the various notes Victor had given him and tugged on his silver hair, angling Victor’s head exactly as he wanted to, happy when Victor’s lips parted in reaction to Yuuri’s demanding kiss. Yuuri slipped his tongue into the Russian’s mouth, warmth pooling low in his abdomen, driven by the way Victor’s tongue appreciated his own. Yuuri just wanted to press further into him as one of Victor’s legs slid between his own, thigh pushing against Yuuri’s groin and Yuuri exhaled deeply, releasing Victor’s name from his lips.

Yuuri then blinked in surprise when Victor broke from him, the Russian laughing.

“What?!” Yuuri demanded, confused and dazed at the sudden separation, not enough blood in his brain to process his thoughts quickly.

“Zero points.” Victor’s grin was way too wide and amused for Yuuri’s liking.

“Zero… Zero points?!” Yuuri had to bite his tongue to keep himself from swearing at the other in shock. “Zero??”

His objection stopped when Victor pressed an index finger to the center of his lips.

“Technical fault,” Victor explained, his blue eyes shining in delight. Yuuri did not think it was fair for him to look so happy while telling Yuuri that their hottest kiss that week constituted a zero.

“Technical fault?”

“You’ve got morning breath, darling.”

Yuuri’s face flushed deeper red than it did when he drank. He clasped his hands over his mouth and bolted from the bed, rushing to go brush his teeth. But even through his embarrassment, Victor’s laugh sounded melodic in his ears.

~~~~~~~

“You think too much.”

Yuuri rested against the side of the rink, his head hung, catching his breath. Victor was running him ragged through practice.

“You think too much and that’s why you make mistakes.”

“I know…”

“So stop.”

“I can’t.”

Victor’s gloved fingers touched to the bottom of his chin, lifting up his face. Yuuri wanted to drop his gaze but Victor wouldn’t let him. “Yuuri…”

Those millions of thoughts and worries running circles in his mind all halted the moment Victor’s lips caressed his, and Yuuri found the tension in his body loosening.

As soon as his lips released Yuuri’s, Victor took hold of his hand and skimmed a kiss over the golden ring he wore. “Go do it again.”

Yuuri nodded and set off for the center of the rink once more, taking in and letting out a deep, calming breath as he did so.

~~~~~~~

Yuuri crawled into bed about an hour after Victor. The older man had his arms loosely wrapped around one pillow while his left cheek rested against another. His hair cascaded into his face, lips parted slightly as he dozed. Yuuri thought that he would never get tired of that sight.

Pulling blankets over the both of them, Yuuri settled down on the bed before scooting in against the pillow Victor held to his chest, leaning over to briefly kiss him.

“Nine point five,” Victor murmured quietly in response.

“Why the minus point five?” Yuuri quizzed.

“You didn’t remove the pillow. I want to feel you against me. Actually you’re lucky I’m so generous, since I’ve given you that feedback before.”

Obediently, Yuuri pulled the pillow out of Victor’s arms, replacing it with himself. He nestled into the Russian’s chest, nuzzling into the center of his collarbone. He felt Victor shift and then touch a kiss to his hair before hugging Yuuri tightly against him. Yuuri tangled his legs with Victor’s and sighed in content, wondering if Victor felt like melting in pure bliss just like he did.

~~~~~~~

Yuuri liked Victor as a coach. He was the perfect mix of giving and demanding. He didn’t hold back his delight when Yuuri touched down flawlessly on a jump or completed a step sequence without fault. However, he also delivered his criticisms and critiques directly when needed, without dancing around the issue, always letting Yuuri know exactly where he had gone wrong. He was supportive but driving. Kind but firm. His coaching made Yuuri want to succeed more than anything, because of the way Victor smiled and clapped in delight when he did and that felt better than any medal.

Music filled the rink they were practicing at and filled Yuuri, guiding his movements. Victor had wanted him to run his free skate routine one last time before they finished for the day, and Yuuri obliged him, despite the fact that his muscles burned and his skates felt too small for his feet, like they always did at the end of a long day.

Upon Victor’s request, Yuuri had stepped back onto the ice almost resentfully, thoughts already flooding with the desire for a hot bath and a soft bed, but then Victor had caught him around the waist and brushed a kiss over the nape of his neck. “Do this one for me.” Victor’s voice had been a low purr, tickling heat over his skin, sending prickles coursing down Yuuri’s spine, and suddenly any ache in Yuuri’s legs had vanished and his posture straightened. Yuuri liked Victor as a coach, but he loved him as a boyfriend.

Yuuri concentrated on the lingering sensation of those lips on his skin as he danced across the ice, thinking about nothing but how well that warmth buzzing through him felt with the music. He landed his last jump perfectly, coming out from the spin with grace, flicking out his wrists as he took his concluding pose, and held it until the music cut out. His breaths came out in rapid exhales as realization struck him.

He spun to face Victor, heart leaping when he saw his coach skating toward him. “Yuuri!” The excitement in Victor’s voice and the impossibly wide smile on his face told Yuuri all that he needed.

Yuuri did not hesitate, skating straight into Victor’s arms. He impacted with the other a little harder than he intended, but he didn’t care in that moment, heart racing as Victor’s delighted words filled his ears.

“Oh my god, Yuuri, if you do that next time, you’ll set a record for sure, that was beautiful, you looked so natural out there!”

The words hit him hard. Yuuri removed his arms from around Victor, pulling back a short distance so he could look up at the taller man. Victor’s surprised beginning of a question was cut off by Yuuri delving his fingers into Victor’s hair, tugging his face down to kiss him firmly, channeling every feeling of gratitude and adoration through it.

Victor’s hair was like silk between his fingers and his lips were like heaven as Yuuri kissed them as heartfully as he could, breaking away only when he lost his breath. Victor’s glow seemed even brighter and it drew out another spark from Yuuri. “Well…” the Japanese skater started his question with a confident smile. “Do I get full marks there too?”

Victor cupped Yuuri’s face in his hands, stroking at his cheekbones with his thumbs, and then rested their temples together. Victor’s breath was sweet on his face and Yuuri couldn’t stop the feeling of sheer happiness radiating through him and he didn’t want to either.

“Yuuri, every moment, every kiss with you is a perfect ten. All I need you to do is believe that.”

Yuuri had no words that could accurately express how he felt, so he just moved his lips to Victor’s again, losing himself in their comfort. Maybe he wasn’t a natural like the others, but damn did Victor make him feel like one.

“I do…”