The thing about devoting your life to a particular career is that you can sometimes find yourself trapped in a bubble, missing out on the world around you. Devotion to a career like figure skating demanded more from a person than anything – to live, breathe and exist solely for life on the ice meant denying yourself the little things most people would take for granted. It took over your life and your time until it was all-consuming - and between practising, sifting through and selecting music, choreographing routines and extra training for fitness and suppleness it came as no surprise to Viktor or Yuuri that they had little time to indulge in things like television or film releases.
If Viktor thinks back really far, he thinks he may have seen a movie once or twice when he was younger. Before he'd set skates to ice long enough for anyone to catch wind of his potential and equally bright future if he stayed there. If he thinks back harder, he thinks it might have been as a treat for winning a quaint little club competition. One with a little tin trophy that his mama had displayed proudly on their mantelpiece until bronze, silver and gold, gold, gold medals had overtaken the space it had once stood.
The point is, Viktor has no need for television. He can browse figure skating specific websites for news on competitors; sample music from anywhere in the world and then sample remixes until the first beats of a new routine form in his mind; can sit with Yuuri on whatever bed they have claimed as theirs wherever they are in the world, hunched over a phone screen to go over routines again and again until Viktor can see Yuuri skating them on the backs of his eyelids in his sleep. In Viktor's world, there is little need for television. There is no need for the escapism of movies when he can glide across the ice and lose himself in the flow of his own limbs. Or when he can lean at the edge of a skating rink and watch Yuuri move like music itself. Take Viktor's heart in his hands and own it completely in a few bars of music.
But here, alone, he finds himself watching television.
He gravitates to what he knows. There are enough cheaply produced programmes online and offline to take advantage of the skating season, and like any other sport there is enough behind the scenes drama and gossip to keep the people hungry for more. Sometimes, though, people go looking for that gossip. Often in places they shouldn't go. Viktor watches as the hosts pick apart the season's skaters, laying their lives out cable television like moving tabloid articles – the skater's backgrounds, their routines over the years, their scores and falls. Anything and everything they can get their hands on.
Their topic of choice today is Yuuri Katsuki. His past, his highs (glossed over, because these sorts of shows don't want the positives, they want the negatives) and all of his lows. His anxiety. His inconsistencies in terms of placing and scoring despite his musicality and expression on the ice. His fluctuating weight gain. And what exactly was it about him that made him so special Viktor Nikiforov had put his career on hold to coach him. Then had potentially put his career on hold permanently to spend the rest of his life with him. Viktor feels an ache in his jaw and knows he is clenching his teeth as these completely strangers break his fiancé into statistics for their own gossip hungry entertainment, as if they know anything about Yuuri other than what they can dig up from the depths of Google.
He watches with cold, cold eyes for all of five minutes before he raises the remote and stabs the power button with more force than was necessary. He throws the controller onto the cold sheets at his side, and breathes. And breathes, and breathes.
“Sometimes,” Yuuri's voice is muffled by Viktor's chest. Viktor's arms wind around Yuuri's torso, pressing him so close he can feel the rise and fall of Yuuri's chest against his ribcage. They've gone through the simmer, boil, overflow and cool down of an argument in the space of half an hour, leaving only anger flushed skin and the faint scar of frustrated tear tracks on Yuuri's face. He may adore Yuuri more than he adores anything on earth – more than himself, but maybe equally as much as Makkachin – but they're only human. They argue, they sit in silence, and they gravitate to each other again like planets in orbit.
Yuuri clears his throat, then shifts just enough to peer up at Viktor through the mess of his fringe. “Sometimes I wish you'd really lose your temper. Yell a little.” His fingers press against the skin of Viktor's back. If he were wearing a shirt, Viktor thinks they'd cling to the fabric like kitten claws.
He hums non-committally into Yuuri's hair, feeling the vibration in the back of his throat. The sheets are cool against his skin, and Yuuri is warm pressed against him. He can smell fresh fabric conditioner and delicately scented shampoo in the air. Even with the argument there's nowhere else he wants to be. “Pink isn't a flattering colour on me. I wouldn't suit flushed cheeks the way you do.” He brushes his fingers against Yuuri's cheeks. Chases the blush that rises there with the pad of his thumb, until Yuuri smacks him in the chest with the palm of his hand, winding him when the brush turns into a sudden cheek pinch.
He tightens his grip and rolls onto his back, sudden and fluid. The high pitched squeak that escapes Yuuri's mouth is worth the entire endeavour, as his hands scrabble and fall to steady himself either side of Viktor's head.
“Viktor, I'm being serious!”
“So am I – ! I am in dire need of post-argument affection, and you are ruining the moment by trying to talk about my feelings.” Yuuri sighs and flops forward with none of the grace he displays on the ice. He ends up winding Viktor for a second time as the majority of his weight lands almost strategically on the centre of his diaphragm. The sound Viktor makes is not dignified.
“I am a national treasure, and do not deserve to be treated like this,” he whines, amping up the drama as much as he can get away with without earning a body part somewhere delicate. Yuuri grumbles, low and dark into the crook of his neck. Viktor tilts his head just in time to catch “national pain in the ass, more like” and gets revenge by walking his fingers up and down Yuuri's sides, enjoying the way he squirms and wiggles away from them until Viktor stops prolonging the suspense and tickles him mercilessly.
The breathless, desperate laughter that follows is one of Viktor's favourite sounds. Along with the confused, delighted sound Yuuri makes when surprised, and the soft breathy noises Viktor could spend hours coaxing from of the back of Yuuri's throat when they are intimate.
“When I was little,” Viktor says, eventually. Once he has dug his fingers into the gaps of Yuuri's rib cage and left him breathless and gasping against his chest in a way that wouldn't offend delicate sensibilities. “I was something of an otrod'ye.” Yuuri folds his arms against his chest, props his chin on his hands and stares at him like he is the only person in the world. It sends a thrill zipping up and down Viktor's spine like lightning. As addictive as the sound of blades upon ice.
“A brat,” he elaborates. Yuuri's eyes flash with understanding, and Viktor idly wonders if he should be offended. “I was never satisfied with good, better, or best. Yakov told me I would stain the air blue with the way I would yell after my failures in training, and then I would practice and practice. Over and over, until they would have to carry me off the ice as I had exhausted myself, or could no longer walk on my own two feet.” He smoothes his index finger down Yuuri's nose – over the bridge of his glasses, and down to the tip.
“Eventually, it was … healthier to learn to control my temper. Strategically it was helpful as well. People don't know what to do if you control your temper where they expect you to lose it. They can't use anger against you either, if you show you can resist falling prey to it.”
Viktor reaches around the back of Yuuri's head; pulls Yuuri closer, up his chest and presses their foreheads together. Yuuri's glasses dig into his skin, but it doesn't bother him.
“For some though, it is not healthy to bottle up anger and frustration, solnyshko,” he adds, pointedly. “For some people, it is better to get angry and yell. It balances out the people who don't trust themselves to yell in the first place, yes?”
Yuuri leans back a little, untangling himself from Viktor's clinging limbs. He pulls his glasses off carefully, and sets them on the bedside table. The kiss he presses to Viktor's lips is soft, and full of apologies – I didn't mean to argue with you. I'm sorry I shouted. I love you. When he pulls back, Viktor chases his lips like a man entranced. He thinks he probably is, and even when he really thinks about it, he can't find any sort of argument against it.
“I love you,” Yuuri says, softly as his kiss. He doesn't wait for a reply, before he nuzzles back into the warmth of Viktor's chest and curls around him as content as a cat.
Viktor replies anyway. “Ya tozhe tyebya lyublyu.”
There are four years between him and Yuuri – give or take twenty six days. Viktor knows; he's counted them.
It's not uncommon for figure skaters to marry within the figure skating community. He knows countless past rivals who retired to marry a fellow figure skater, or pair skaters who proposed after big competitions. Whether the marriages last for years and grow into family trees that span for countless years on and off the ice, or whether the pressures of the couple's career drives a wedge into their blooming love story and cracked it clean in two isn't the point though. The point is: figure skaters are known to marry other figure skaters.
They are not so commonly known for marrying their coaches.
Viktor knows that, if he were to fiercely argument semantics, he and Yuuri would fall into category “A” - he hasn't officially retired as a figure skater yet, even though it's an unspoken truth that he won't return to the ice as a competitor again. So technically, he and Yuuri have created a category of their own.
Usually, coaches are older than Viktor when they start out. It would be much more of a gossiping point if he'd been 47 to Yuuri's 24 when they'd got engaged. But they weren't: four years (three years, 336 days) is nothing to bat an eyelid over, so people have to look elsewhere for something to gossip about.
That television in his hotel room isn't the first time Viktor has heard detailed arguments as to why Yuuri Katsuki isn't worth his time, effort or love. Some are even brazen enough to suggest people who, according to them, were. Inevitably, they gloss over Yuuri's own position as Japan's top figure skater, and suggest other figure skaters with more titles and medals to their name than Yuuri – ignoring the fact Viktor knows nothing about them, couldn't pick them out of a named line up.
It is, however, the first time he's given it any attention.
And it's the first time he's listened long enough to feel hurt by it.
Viktor remembers himself as two very different people.
It feels a bit simple to group himself as broadly as “Me, before Yuuri” and “Me, after Yuuri”, but sometimes it feels like it just is that simple. He knows his flaws – but it's always just easier to ignore them and focus on what people expect from him. Delivering flawless skating programmes is a lot easier than offering emotional advice and support. He knows he can be flighty and selfish. He forgets promises – not always, but more often than he'd like to admit in public. While he's excellent at controlling his own temper, he's also a little too good at clamming up when it comes to sharing some of his more private and personal feelings.
He can practically cover the walls of his and Yuuri's room with all the medals he's won, and it would be stupid to act like he's not proud of that. He loves figure skating; wouldn't have devoted most of his life to it if he didn't. But he also loves katsudon, and outdoor baths in the evening. He loves warm brown eyes, and watching the way Yuuri can step onto the ice and embody music in a way Viktor can only imagine achieving. He loves Yuuri.
He really loves Yuuri.
But it's only after he gains Phichit as a peripheral Instagram follower that he really notices the changes.
Phichit is a social media force unto himself. He uploads pictures so frequently that Viktor occasionally wonders where he finds the time to train inbetween scouting the perfect location for a picture, fiddling with filters and uploading selfies several times a day. Viktor knows how difficult taking a perfect selfie can be.
He's also the sort of person who can like a 43 week old picture intentionally and feel no shame or embarrassment over just how far back through a person's feed he'd been prying. Viktor, who likes pictures maybe once in a blue moon, can't help but be impressed. More so, when he realises Phichit had left a comment.
phichit+chu: newer pics > old pics. more yuuri = ♥♥♥
Viktor stares at the comment. Then twists himself around in his seat to look behind him. Yuuri is in the room with him, sat by one of the windows and staring at the clouds of steam wafting from the onsen and through the air.
“Yuuri, do you like my recent photo feed, or the sort of pictures I used to post?”
Turning his head, Yuuri stares at Viktor as through he'd grown an independent third limb and started wafting it merrily in his direction.
“My feed, Yuuri! My photo feed!” Standing up, he rounds the sofa and flops into the seat next to Yuuri with maybe a little more flair than necessary. Wordlessly, he passes his phone to Yuuri, who takes it without any comment.
“Oh, your Instagram,” says Yuuri after a moment, his nose wrinkling a little as he stares at the screen. It's endearing enough that Viktor can't help leaning forward and pressing a kiss to the tip of his nose. He laughs when Yuuri leans back, snuffling like a rabbit.
“Mm. Phichit said he thought my newer pictures are better than the pictures I used to post.” His eyes follow Yuuri's thumb as it scrolls along his phone screen. “What do you think?” he asks after a pause, too fascinated by the pink flush that starts rising in Yuuri's cheeks to ask immediately. He finds his own phone shoved back towards his face, and Yuuri staring at him with something midway between exasperation and fondness.
“You post too many pictures of me!”
“You and Makkachin.”
“That's not the point!” Yuuri exhales heavily. “It's embarrassing.”
“If you posted to your own account once in a while...” Viktor begins, walking his fingers up Yuuri's arm and reclaiming his phone from Yuuri's hands. He goes a little cross eyed when Yuuri flicks him between his eyes.
Viktor hums contentedly, and leans against Yuuri's side. His eyes crinkle at the edges when he feels Yuuri slip an arm around his waist and nuzzle against his shoulder.
Yuuri does have an Instagram account, it just doesn't get used often.
Viktor understands the importance of social media presence, and the benefits of keeping fans happy with little voyeuristic peeks into their lives. He'd tried really hard to get Yuuri to post more on his account, but Yuuri is – and this is not commonly known. Viktor keeps it greedily close to his chest and relishes in all the little things that he and only a select few know about Yuuri Katsuki – a dangerous combination of stubborn and petty when really pushed into something. He'd been met with stony silence regarding the topic for weeks on end, until a picture of Makkachin dozing lazily on Yuuri's legs had popped up on Yuuri's account 14 weeks ago.
It's a lovely picture. Viktor has it as his phone background. It makes him smile whenever he sees it.
“Sit by the window with me,” Yuuri says, breaking Viktor out of their thoughts, “If you're just going to scroll obsessively through your pictures, you can let me use you as a pillow.” It's very difficult for him to say no to Yuuri. That's definitely something that's changed.
With Yuuri nestled against his chest, staring sleepily outside of the window again, he goes back to studying his Instagram feed. As he scrolls further back through the weeks, the pictures start to thin out. When he'd been skating and training over a year ago, his pictures were very calculated. He knows his fans, and he knows social media – each picture is carefully angled and staged. From pictures of him on the ice, mid jump, or mid spin, to pictures tagged with other well-known figure skaters. The lighting is artificially tweaked and edited to highlight his own features to perfection, and emphasise the colour of his eyes. Exactly the sort of thing people wanted to see when they thumbed through his pictures.
Viktor scrolls up, and clicks onto his most recent upload. The lighting is dim and the camera just a little out of focus, but he and Yuuri can still be clearly seen. Yuuri, sleepy and nuzzled against his side, almost like he is now, and Viktor angling the camera just enough to preserve the moment. The look in his eyes is soft and fond, and it surprises him.
Viktor Nikiforov, the world champion ice skater, had never looked at anyone like that in his life. A quick flick through other photos of both him and Yuuri shows that Viktor Nikiforov the coach looks at Yuuri like that every single day. And that hits him like a punch to the gut.
He folds his arms around Yuuri, letting his phone drop to the window seat as he buries his face into Yuuri's shoulder. Yuuri makes a soft, bewildered noise into the bend of his arm and tries to crane his head to meet his eyes. Viktor shakes his head, and tightens his grip.
“I'm okay. I'm just... very happy, solnyshko.”
Yuuri stills and settles, resting his hand against Viktor's forearm.
“Where did that come from?” he asks. There's a cautious note to his voice, and it fact Yuuri worries about him, for reasons unrelated to his ability to skate, warms Viktor. Seeps into the corners of his body and thaws them inside and out.
“Nowhere in particular.”
The silence that follows is comfortable, and warm. Under his arms he can feel Yuuri's breathing even and slow as he relaxes into a doze. Viktor's hands eventually move to seek out Yuuri's and lace their fingers together. He smiles against the strip of skin between Yuuri's neck and the collar of his sweater as Yuuri squeezes their hands together, half asleep and wholly content.
“We should take a picture together!”
Yuuri's sigh is long suffering and far too weary for his twenty-four year old self.
“Vitya, just... leave it for five minutes. Just five minutes, all right?”
Viktor chuckles, deep within his chest.
“All right. Five minutes.”
Viktor thinks Yuuri is beautiful. He tells Yuuri he's beautiful so often he worries the words might lose meaning. It's the truth though. Yuuri is beautiful when the skating season is in full swing – when he's training every day, gaining muscle definition and a firm, trim waist that just begs for Viktor to wrap his arms around and pull him close. He's beautiful on the ice, with his hair slicked back and squinting at the scoreboards because he still refuses to get contact lenses just for his performances. He's beautiful in the off-season as well, when they both eat a little too much katsudon and laze away the evenings in a tangle of limbs and warmth instead of training. Yuuri is always beautiful; whether he's trim and toned, or softer and plumper. It doesn't matter what time of year it is. Viktor still finds himself overwhelmed by Yuuri, wanting to hold him close until the space between them blurs into one single person. He wants to leave bites and bruises in secret places, just so he can relish the embarrassed blush that blooms over Yuuri's cheeks when he notices the marks on his thighs later on. Wants to overwhelm him, and spend hours exploring and loving every change to his body in every way; to document the noises he can draw from Yuuri's throat, high whimpering, low and desperate.
It takes a while for Viktor to realise that just because he thinks Yuuri is beautiful, it doesn't mean that Yuuri thinks he's beautiful.
Viktor has an overabundance of self-confidence and has never doubted his own attractiveness. He hasn't felt nervous of performing on the ice since he was an teenager. Yuuri has days where he curls in on himself and shuts the world out, because it's all too much. Some days, he locks the door and won't even open it when Viktor speaks softly to him. On others he'll open the door just enough to let Viktor in, and spend the day curled around him and quiet. He can act sultry and confident on the ice, luring the audience – and Viktor, always Viktor – into keeping their eyes on him always, always. That confidence can follow him off the ice and throughout his day, or it can buckle and crumble the second he steps away from the camera and the rink.
Viktor tells Yuuri how beautiful he is, how vibrant and brilliant he is and how much he loves him, but it takes Viktor a little while to accept that he can't always make him believe it. No matter how sincerely he tries. He browses through is photo feeds and deletes negative comments on his pictures, grateful that Yuuri pays little to no attention to what people say on any of the pictures either of them post. But he can't do anything about the comments in Yuuri's head – there's no delete option for those.
Viktor has never had to consider another person so carefully before. He's never been with anyone long enough. But when Yuuri smiles at him, small and watery but grateful and full of love – it's worth it. It warms him deep to his core, and is so, so worth it.
There are bright, fresh flowers in a vase on Yuuri's bedside table. Viktor had put them there, left with the responsibility when Yuuri had found himself swiftly and decisively kidnapped by Phichit seconds after setting them down on his side of the bed.
(“I'm borrowing him until dinner--!” the Thai man had crowed, ignoring Yuuri's flustered protests. Viktor had waved at them brightly, eyes crinkling at the corners when Yuuri had looked at him a little desperately.
“You'll be there later, right? For the dinner?”
“Absolutely. Wouldn't miss it for anything,” he'd reassured, warmth pooling in the pit of his stomach when Yuuri had smiled – relieved and grateful.)
He brushes his fingers across the multicoloured petals, and can still remember the look on Yuuri's face when he'd been handed them. Like he was still processing his victory, weighing his worth as a Grand Prix medal winning figure skater with a sort of intensity that suggested he'd never really, truly, considered it possible.
In the background, the television blares adverts like white noise. Viktor had turned it on almost absently, just to fill the silence. It's only when he hears vaguely familiar chords of music and a familiar host voice in the background that he properly tunes into what he's switched on. That gossip show from the other day – cheap, and shameless cobbled together in time for the season.
Viktor sits on the bed, not sure whether to be drily amused or angry to find the same show he'd been so annoyed by only a few days ago without even trying. It comes as no surprise that their topic of conversation, once again, is Yuuri Katsuki – now an official medal winner at the Grand Prix.
(He's still so proud; filled with so much love for one person who continues to exceed every single one of his expectations.)
“We'll be taking your calls and opinions on this. Has this surprise medal win changed your thoughts on Yuuri Katsuki?”
Viktor stares at the television for a moment, feeling both calm and bitter at the same time. He can do so many things to build Yuuri up - watch him grow, stumble and fall, and ultimately pick himself back up and keep going. But he can't stop people sticking their noses where they shouldn't. Opinions are opinions, and everyone is welcome to them. He just wishes he could tell them just what he thinks of those opinions, especially when they keep trying to tell him the best thing to happen to him isn't worth his time.
Then he picks up the hotel room phone.
“We have a caller on line one now! Caller number one, what's your name and what are your opinions on the events on the ice tonight?”
There's a brief pause.
“My name is Viktor Nikiforov.”