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The Fundamentals of Caring

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“Viktor, I’m dying.”

Viktor’s fingers, which were currently tapping against the counter at a local cafe in St. Petersburg, freeze. “What?

On the other end of the line there’s a sniffle, then a cough. Then silence. Bare silence. Viktor glances down at his phone and realizes that Yuuri has hung up on him. It takes less than a second for his thoughts to shift into worst-case-scenario mode, downward spiraling into a dark abyss.

“Everything alright?” the barista asks innocently, raising an eyebrow.

(He forgets the coffee.)

He runs back to his flat, where he’d stupidly left Yuuri alone in a foreign country he’d never even been in before. He could be dead or hurt or something worse, and yet here Viktor was, getting coffee. He should’ve waited for Yuuri to wake up first, should’ve taken him with him. Definitely, definitely should not have left him alone.

He swings the door to his flat open and doesn’t bother to check if it shuts behind him, eyes flickering around the foyer immediately for any signs of Yuuri. Eventually, he sees signs of life on the couch in the form of a barely visible tuft of black hair.

“Yuuri?” he asks, hurrying to the front of the couch to get a better look.

He definitely looks dead. His cheeks are pale and his mouth is open as he sleeps, a tiny bit of drool glistening on the corner of his lips. Viktor feels his heart skip a beat as he assesses the situation, notices the way that Yuuri doesn’t react at all to the sound of his own name.

There’s a cold sweat on Viktor’s palms and he wipes them on the front of his jeans, kneeling down in front of the couch and shaking Yuuri’s shoulder gently. He can see his chest rising and falling and he lets out a sigh of relief. He’s alive. Alive. “Yuuri?”

The younger man’s eyes blink open slowly, as if the task requires an exorbitant amount of effort. “Vik-tor?”

Viktor wasn’t sure why he was saying his name like that, the syllables oddly detached, but he nods anyway, placing the back of his hand on Yuuri’s forehead. His skin feels hot to the touch—like coal in a stove. “What happened?”

“I woke up and everything hurts,” Yuuri explains simply, eyes shutting again as he rolls onto his stomach, causing Viktor to pull his hand away.

“What hurts?” Viktor insists, because he knows where the nearest hospital is, knows the fastest route and is already preparing a method to carry Yuuri to the nearest taxi and wondering how much money he’d have to pay the driver in order to get him to speed and run every red light to get them there as quickly as possible and—

“Stomach. Head. Chest. Throat. Everything’s hot, then cold. It all hurts. Do you… aspirin?” Yuuri’s voice is muffled by the couch pillows.

Viktor blinks, then takes action. He hurries to his cabinets, sorting through them, and surely, surely he has an aspirin, right? After he has sorted through every drawer, every possible location, he rubs at his forehead, annoyed with himself.

“I’ll get some,” he offers. “Can you wait here for five minutes? I’ll be as quick as possible. There’s a pharmacy just down the block.”

“Don’t leave,” Yuuri begs, and his voice is higher than usual, desperation dripping from his tone. “I don’t need aspirin, it’s fine.”

Viktor wavers, trying to think on his feet. “I’ll get somebody to get some.”

“Who?”

Viktor pulls out his phone and turns to his contacts. Somebody in St. Petersburg. Yakov? Mila? No, there’s another person he can count on.

(Well, he can’t count on him, but he can trust him.)

(Well, he can’t trust him either, but he’ll do.)

“Yurio?”

“That’s not my name.”

Viktor pinches the bridge of his nose. He really doesn’t have time for this. “Yuri.

The black-haired Yuuri looks up from the couch, his cheeks flushed far, far too red for Viktor’s liking and his bangs falling in front of his eyes in a way that hardly looks comfortable. “Yeah?”

“Talking to the other Yuri,” Viktor explains, offering him a sympathetic smile.

“Oh, hi Yurio,” Yuuri calls, then breaks out into a coughing fit, and Viktor hurries over to the couch, watching him and unsure of how to help. He feels like a fish out of water, awkwardly resting a hand on Yuuri’s shoulder and keeping the phone gripped to his cheek with the other.

“Yuuri is staying with you while you two visit St. Petersburg?” Yurio demands, sounding annoyed.

Viktor rubs the back of his neck. “Yes, and I need a favor. Could you bring us some aspirin? And some other medicine, too. I’ll pay you back for whatever you bring. He’s not feeling well.”

There’s an awkward silence.

“Let me get this straight. You want me to drop what I’m doing, go to the store, buy medicine, and come bring it to you because Yuuri has a headache?

Viktor stares at Yuuri, his heart hurting as he watches him tug a blanket up to his neck, staring straight up towards the ceiling, his eyes looking glazed over and unfocused. “That’s exactly what I want,” Viktor answers.

Another pause. A sigh.

“Alright. Give me, like, a half hour. You’ll owe me one, Nikiforov.”

“Is Yurio coming?” Yuuri asks before coughing again.

Viktor takes a moment to fully take in Yuuri’s appearance, his initial panic having dampened since Yuuri seemingly isn’t about to die on his couch. His hair is a rat’s nest, the black strands tangled and messy and sticking out in every direction. His glasses have been discarded on the coffee table, and Viktor figures that explains the slightly squinty look in his eyes. Everything about him is just slightly off. Slightly not Yuuri.

“He’s coming,” Viktor assures him. “He’s going to bring medicine. I’ll text him and tell him to bring food for you as well. Maybe soup?”

“I don’t want food,” Yuuri whines, shoving his face back into the pillow. “Just thinking about food makes me sick.”

“Even pork cutlet bowls?” Viktor tries, offering a smile that Yuuri can’t see anyway.

“Even pork cutlet bowls.”

That’s when Viktor realizes that Yuuri is truly, truly sick. He’s just glad that there’s no competitions in the immediate future—they’d simply come here after Rostelecom as a sort of training-vacation. They can easily cancel their flight back to Japan and reschedule it if need be. And, judging by the way that Yuuri has already fallen back asleep, it appears as though the need is there.

Viktor watches him for a moment, noticing just how small he looks as he lays there on the couch, his arms tucked against his chest. Viktor sits down on the side of the couch beside him, rubbing his shoulder and smiling as the younger man instinctively leans into the touch, his head bumping into Viktor’s thigh.

 

~

 

Twenty minutes later, the doorbell rings, and Viktor sprints to answer it. “Thank you so much for coming,” he praises, accepting the bag of items from him. He pours out the contents on the counter.

Aspirin, anti-inflammatories, cough drops, everything.

Viktor could kiss Yurio—if he wasn’t fifteen and annoyed by seemingly everything that Viktor did.

Then, he peeks in another bag that had been pushed off to the side and sees a tub of chocolate peanut butter ice cream. Viktor stares at him, a smile playing on his lips as he realizes. Yuri Plisetsky had willingly, of his own accord and without prompt, bought Yuuri Katsuki ice cream.

The sight warmed his heart.

“What?” Yurio demanded, folding his arms across his chest.

Viktor lets the smile consume his features, rocking back on his heels as they make eye contact, neither of them wavering. “Nothing.”

“What?” Yurio repeats, hands now balling up into small fists.

“I didn’t say anything.”

“You’re thinking something. I just thought he’d like ice cream. It’s not a big deal, alright? You’re paying for that, too, by the way.”

Viktor places a hand on his shoulder and squeezes, feeling perhaps too much satisfaction from the way Yurio cringes as if he’d been burned. “It was nice of you.”

“Whatever. Where is the sick pig, anyway?”

Viktor gestures towards the couch and follows Yurio as he approaches the sleeping man, staring wide-eyed. “He was sleeping when I went to get coffee this morning, then I got a phone call and found him like this,” Viktor explains.

“He is out of it,” Yurio comments, whistling. “Isn’t your flight tomorrow?”

Viktor waves a hand. “I could move it. We’ll see.”

“Well, I’m going to raid your fridge,” Yurio explains, walking over to the kitchen and making himself at home.

Viktor just smiles.

Yurio turns around after a moment, as though feeling Viktor’s eyes on him, and scowls. “What, Viktor?”

“You bought Yuuri ice cream.”

“Shut up!”

 

~

 

When Yuuri wakes up, there’s some sort of ambient noise in the room.

Everything aches. Every bone in his body. Bones he hadn’t even known existed. The white noise around him batters his eardrums as he sits up, grabbing onto the arm of the couch for support. Suddenly, there’s a hand on his forearm and he allows it to help him up until he’s sitting upright, back pressing into the soft cushions.

A couch? And whose hand was that?

Where is he, again?

He glances up and there are gorgeous blue eyes staring at him.

(Gorgeous. Blue. They look like crystals. Magical crystals. Like something out of a video game, he thinks. Or sapphires? Or wait, were sapphires a dark blue or a light blue? Dark blue, maybe. Probably. So not sapphires.)

For a second, he manages to forget about the pain in his head, but then it’s back and the world turns blurry and he just keeps staring at the pair of eyes, sinking back into the couch. “Hello,” he greets, and his voice comes out scratchy. He clears his throat, but the effort just ends up turning into another cough. Luckily, though, the figure doesn’t move, remains right where it is.

“Yuuri,” Viktor’s voice is saying, and there’s still a hand on his arm, he realizes, rubbing it. It feels nice. Soothing.

“Hi,” he greets again lazily, trying to smile but unsure if the mental effort is reaching his lips. He supposes it works, because suddenly Viktor is smiling back at him, and since when was Viktor so attractive?

(Oh right—since always. He’d just forgotten.)

“How are you feeling?”

He squints at Viktor, realizing he’s not wearing his glasses and that the other man has shifted far away enough so that he’s blurry, now. “Where are my glasses?” he asks, glancing around.

His eyes land on a blond figure, who waves at him. “I was starting to think you were dead, Katsuki,” the figure says.

“Yurio?” he asks.

“That’s not my…” Yurio starts, but Viktor shoots him a look and the sentence ends abruptly. “Hey.”

Yuuri stares at him, confused. “What’re you doing here?”

“I brought you medicine,” he explains, then smirks. “While your boyfriend here watched over you.”

His head burns. Boyfriend? He had a boyfriend? Then he follows Yurio’s gaze, all the way to… Oh. Viktor. Viktor Nikiforov. His coach. Boyfriend, now? He looks at Viktor for confirmation, but he is already walking away. And why would Viktor be walking away? Why would his boyfriend—or coach?—be walking away?

“Viktor,” he whines, well, he hadn’t intended to whine, but it had sort of come out that way.

“I’m going to get you some medicine. Do you think you can swallow a pill?”

He nods.

“Yuuri?” Viktor asks, looking over his shoulder as he digs through the pharmacy bag.

“He nodded,” Yurio explains. “I think he’s still out of it.”

“Out of what?” Yuuri asks, rubbing at his temple, which hurts, too, and why does everything hurt? What is happening?

“Nothing,” Yurio responds.

Then, suddenly, the blue eyes are back and Yuuri leans closer to get a better look. The movement is a bad idea, because suddenly he’s falling forward and his hands dart out to catch himself on the coffee table, nausea swirling in his stomach.

“Easy, there,” Viktor’s voice says, and arms help him back up.

Strong, gentle arms. Possibly the strongest arms he’s ever felt in his life. Viktor must work out. A lot. How else would he be so strong? Because he skated, obviously he skated, but that just meant he had really, really strong legs, too. “Do you work out?”

Viktor smiles at him, Yurio is cackling, but Yuuri doesn’t know why. Viktor holds something out towards him. “Okay, swallow this. Here’s water.”

(It bothers Yuuri that he didn’t answer his question. Was it a secret?)

With shaking hands, he takes the pill and manages to swallow it on his second attempt, washing it down with the water before collapsing back on the couch, suddenly freezing cold. Because of the water, probably. The water had been cold, then he’d drank some of it, and now he was cold. He grabs for his blanket and brings it up to his shoulders but it’s not nearly enough. “Cold in here,” he mumbles, trying to warm himself.

“You’ve got a fever,” Viktor tells him, and there’s something to his voice, something that Yuuri could probably decipher if he wasn’t in the process of dying.

“Cold,” Yuuri simply repeats, his eyes falling shut because he doesn’t have the energy to keep them open anymore and he’s just so, so tired. More tired than he thinks he’s ever been in his life.

And then nothing happens for a minute.

There’s just the sound of his teeth chattering.

Then, suddenly, another blanket is draped around his shoulders. He hums and burrows into it, yawning again. “We’ve got our flight soon?” he asks Viktor, though he’s not sure where he is, if he’s even still in the room.

(He hopes that Viktor is still in the room. Surely he would be, right?)

He jumps when Viktor’s voice is right beside him. “I’ll move it. Find us another one.”

“Another flight?”

“Another flight,” Viktor confirms.

“But we’ve gotta get back to…”

Where were they going again? And where are they right now? China? No—that’s not right. China had been ages ago. He’d just finished a competition somewhere else, but where had it been?

“To Japan?” Viktor finishes.

“Where are we?” Yuuri asks.

“Wow,” Yurio comments, and Yuuri can see him in the corner of his eyes, making a face at Viktor. “What did you do to him?”

“Nothing!” Viktor protests, raising his hands. “I think he’s just sleepy.”

Now that Yuuri can agree with. He’s exhausted. The pull of sleep is a force to be reckoned with. The blankets are soft and Viktor’s voice is calming and everything in his body is begging for him to sleep right now. He yawns again before he can help it.

“Viktor?” he asks, reaching towards Viktor’s arm before realizing that his depth perception is completely thrown off and Viktor’s arm was actually much farther away than he’d anticipated. How annoying.

Luckily, Viktor—genius, gorgeous Viktor—moves closer. “Yes?”

He tugs on Viktor’s arm and he seems to get the message, sitting closer to him. Yuuri lowers himself so that his head is on Viktor’s arm—no, not his arm. His chest? No. That’s not right, either.

Oh, he’s on his lap. His head is on his lap and one of Viktor’s hands is on his shoulder and the other is in his hair and why are there strange noises coming from Yurio? What is happening?

He decides to ask Viktor.

“Nothing’s happening,” Viktor assures him.

His fingers drift through his hair and Yuuri strains to open his eyes to see him in the light but it only lasts a second before he shuts them again, yawning and wondering how Viktor’s lap is more comfortable than any pillow he’d ever experienced before. The cold is gone, now, the warmth from Viktor’s hands and blankets more than enough.

Yuuri decides to believe him and goes back to sleep.

 

~

 

Viktor stares at the man currently sleeping with his head on his lap, wondering if Yuuri will disappear if he takes his hands off of him. It feels sort of like a dream, the ephemeral kind that one never wants to wake up from. He ignores Yurio’s many, many comments about the situation and just smiles at Yuuri, wishing he’d feel better but also guiltily enjoying the intimacy.

“Can we keep playing video games now?” Yurio complains.

“You’ll have to pass me my controller,” Viktor informs him, gesturing towards Yuuri.

Yurio pretends to gag, but passes it anyway.

 

~

 

Yuuri wakes up again an hour later. Viktor smiles down at him, but quickly pastes his eyes back to the television, knowing that Yurio will show him no mercy if he doesn’t pay attention to the game for a single instant. Yuuri yawns beneath him, squirming, and Viktor dies in the game, causing Yurio to let out a victorious cheer.

He figures it’s worth it to reach down and touch Yuuri’s hair, stroking the soft strands with his fingers. Yuuri hums and cuddles into him, wrapping an arm around Viktor’s torso. Viktor wonders if it’s possible to die from love.

“Your relationship sure has changed since I came to Japan,” Yurio tells him, and Viktor notices he’s talking in Russian—quick Russian.

Yuuri blinks beneath him, turning his head towards Yurio. “What’d you say?”

“Changed how?” Viktor responds in Russian, cupping Yuuri’s cheek comfortingly, successfully quieting him and causing him to nuzzle into the touch. Viktor feels warmth spread throughout his body and looks down at him, part of him never wanting to leave Russia, wanting to stay in his flat with Yuuri forever.

“A lot touchier,” Yurio informs him. “It’s like you’ve found yourself another poodle.”

Viktor shifts on the couch, Yuuri giggles a bit when he’s jostled by the movement. “Well, he’s sick.”

“Is that Russian?” the man on his lap inquires.

“You know that’s not what I mean,” Yurio comments, ignoring Yuuri. “I noticed it at Rostelecom, too. Not to mention on Instagram. Is there anything you want to tell me?”

And, suddenly, Viktor uncovers his meaning. “Oh, we’re not… We haven’t… No, Yuuri and I aren’t like that.”

“I heard my name,” Yuuri points out, and Viktor knows that he speaks a bit of Russian but either they’re talking too fast or Yuuri is far, far too out of it to comprehend anything other than his name. “Are you talking about me?”

“Are you hungry?” Viktor asks in English, changing the subject. “Or thirsty?”

“No,” Yuuri answers, and he cuddles closer into Viktor, pressing his face against—oh. Viktor freezes, a breath catching in his throat. Yuuri was pressed against his abdomen, but his cheek was now resting on a very risky part of his body. Yuuri doesn’t seem to notice the problem because he sighs, and his breath is hot against Viktor’s chest and it only makes everything worse. “You’re comfy.”

“Comfy?” Viktor repeats slowly.

Yurio snickers. “See what I mean?”

“Absolutely not,” Viktor answers in Russian, pushing some of Yuuri’s hair out of his eyes. Then, he switches back to English. “Do you need anything? Are you feeling any better?”

“Head still hurts. A little less, though. But now I’m hot.”

Viktor peels blankets off of Yuuri one at a time and Yuuri sighs in contentment, his lips drifting innocuously against Viktor’s navel through his shirt. Viktor considers the precariousness of the situation and uses all of his power to keep the situation the way that it should be: completely innocent. He’s sick, after all.

Completely, completely innocent.

(Which is practically impossible given the current location of Yuuri’s head.)

(And it’s as though Yurio knows.)

Viktor needs to get out of this situation as quickly as possible. “Yuuri?”

“Mmm?”

The vibrations from his humming are too much to handle. Viktor takes in a sharp breath. He won’t be able to keep himself under control for much longer in this scenario, and he knows that if Yuuri brushes against something hard and says something, he’ll never hear the end of it. “Let’s walk you to my bed, okay? You can sleep there.”

“Can’t walk,” Yuuri complains.

Yurio laughs. “Oh—this ought to be good.”

Viktor considers his options. Then, he scoops up Yuuri in his arms—one supporting his shoulders and the other under his knees, and lifts him upwards with ease. Yuuri looks shocked initially, but the moment they start walking he wraps his arms around Viktor’s neck, hugging him gently.

Viktor considers the pros and cons of never setting him down. Of staying in this position for eternity.

“Nice muscles, Viktor. Do you work out?” Yurio comments and Viktor rolls his eyes, carrying Yuuri to the bedroom. “Can’t be easy to carry a weight like that.”

Luckily, he said the last part in Russian.

Viktor fumes.

“What is Yurio saying?” Yuuri asks, blinking up at him through dark lashes, his eyes tired, lines visible beneath them. “I wish you two wouldn’t talk in Russian. I can’t keep up.”

“I’m sorry, I won’t anymore,” Viktor promises him, pressing a kiss to his hair. Yuuri smiles at him sleepily.

“It’s like if I always talked in Japanese,” Yuuri babbles, and Viktor is fairly certain he doesn’t even know that he’s still talking out loud. “You wouldn’t be able to understand me. あんたは僕にとって、今まで見た中で一番奇麗な人だ.”

“What does that mean?”

Yuuri just starts giggling.

Viktor frowns, setting him down on the bed. “Under or on top of the covers?”

“あなたの下に.”

“English?”

“Under.”

He tugs down the covers and helps Yuuri wiggle underneath them. Yuuri smiles when he finally gets comfortable, staring up at Viktor with a look that should be illegal, in Viktor’s opinion, because it’s constricting his lungs and turning his stomach and everything about him is just so ridiculously charming. “Viktor?”

“Hmm?”

“Thanks for taking care of me.”

Viktor feels his heart soar in his chest and he reaches down to touch Yuuri, his fingers drifting across his cheekbone. Yuuri’s eyes close in response to the touch, his jaw slack. “Of course.”

“Would you stay?”

Viktor falters, remembering Yurio in the room next door and biting his lip. “Er…”

“Please?”

When he sees Yuuri’s pouty lower lip extended to full, Viktor-convincing capacity, he knows he doesn’t stand a chance. “Okay, just give me one minute.”

Yurio raises an eyebrow at him when he walks into the living room. The blond had started the game again and was currently kicking around Viktor’s unmoving, defenseless character. “Let me guess, you’re going to go take care of him while he sleeps? Just in case he sneezes or something?”

“Yurio…”

“Viktor, you’re whipped.”

Viktor rubs the back of his neck, leaning against the wall. “What does that mean?”

“It means that if Yuuri asked you to do a little dance for him in nothing but a coconut bra and a hula skirt, you’d do it.”

“Is that a bad thing?”

Yurio just rolls his eyes, turning back to his game. Viktor isn’t sure if he’s annoyed at the fact that Viktor would do a dance in a hula skirt for Yuuri or that he still doesn’t quite understand the term ‘whipped.’ Probably both. “Depends.”

“On?”

The boy shrugs. “Dunno, just depends. But go ahead. I won’t stop you.” Then he grins. “I just won’t let you live it down.” He turns his voice into a horrible, inaccurate impression of Yuuri’s. “Oh, Viktor, would you be my coach? Oh, Viktor, would you sleep with me while I’m sick? Would you feed me pork cutlet bowls and stroke my hair? Read me a bedtime story?”

Viktor frowns, rocking back on his heels. “That sounded nothing like him.”

“That’s funny, it did to me.”

“Goodbye, Yurio.”

“That’s not my name!”

 

~

 

“You’re back,” Yuuri smiles when he sees those blue eyes again, instantly reaching out his arms for Viktor, because how’s he supposed to sleep without him? And how’s he supposed to get better if he doesn’t sleep? It’s basic arithmetic. He needs Viktor.

And then Viktor is laying down beside him and everything is right in the world as he wraps his arms around him, cuddling against Viktor immediately, his presence providing an instant warmth that no amount of blankets could give him. “Are you surprised?” Viktor asks, and Yuuri has no clue what he means.

“Surprised by what?”

Viktor just laughs. Yuuri doesn’t get the joke, but he laughs, too.

“Nothing.”

Yuuri’s hand moves to Viktor’s hair and his fingers run through the strands, the sensation long and endearing, Viktor sighs as he leans into the bed, letting his eyes fall shut. “Your hair is soft,” Yuuri mumbles against his shoulder.

Viktor smiles. “Is it?”

“And so’s your skin,” Yuuri informs him seriously. “You’re so pretty, Viktor. The prettiest person I’ve ever met. 非常にきれい.”

He freezes, staring down at the top of Yuuri’s head. “I’m the prettiest person you’ve ever met?”

“Mmm,” Yuuri agrees. “I love you.”

Oh.

Oh.

Viktor licks his lips. Obviously Yuuri is out of it and doesn’t even know what he’s saying. Obviously none of this means anything. Viktor tries to detach himself from his words, simply enjoy delirious Yuuri and not take any of his words to heart.

“Do you love me, Viktor?”

He shifts on the bed, wondering if Yuuri will remember any of this the following day. “I do.”

(Why not be honest?)

Yuuri grins and kisses his chest through his shirt, the action innocent in every possible way and yet it sends an involuntary shiver down Viktor’s spine. “Yuuri, you really ought to sleep.”

“Can’t sleep,” Yuuri complains.

“Why not?”

“Don’t want to.”

“…And why’s that?”

He responds by sneaking a hand up Viktor’s shirt, his fingers splaying across his abdomen. Yuuri’s fingertips are like ice against his warm skin and he jumps a little, making Yuuri giggle uncontrollably. He shifts on the bed, unsure as to whether or not he should move closer to Yuuri or farther away.

(He knows what he wants to do, but he’s not sure what he should do.)

(He moves closer.)

“Because you’re here,” Yuuri responds, like it’s obvious, like Viktor is the one with the jumbled thoughts right now. “Why would I sleep if you’re here?”

“Because you need to feel better.”

“Oh.”

Viktor regrets his words when Yuuri removes his hand from underneath Viktor’s shirt, tucking it back against his chest and sighing gently, eyes fluttering shut. “Goodnight, Yuuri.”

“I told you I’m not going to sleep.”

As Yuuri yawns again, Viktor smiles at his cute, pointless protest. Within a few minutes, his breaths have evened out and his lips are parted. Viktor hugs Yuuri against his chest and pulls his phone out of his pocket, ready to cancel their flight for the following day.

 

~

 

When Yuuri wakes up, there’s a distinct, Viktor-shaped void beside him. He groans and presses the heels of his hands to his eyelids, head aching. Why does his head hurt so bad? Had he hit it on something? “Viktor?” he calls, glancing around the room.

Where is he, anyway?

The bed has light blue sheets, like the color of ice, Yuuri thinks, and the walls are bare and boring. There’s a desk in the corner that looks as though it has never been used, and the only item of character is the wardrobe, which has one door ajar and reveals a glimpse of a rack of clothing. The object appears to be stuffed to the brim.

Yuuri sits up and regrets it immediately. Nausea swirls in his stomach and he groans, leaning forward and placing his hands on his knees. Dead inside. He stands on wobbly legs—hungry, that’s it, he’s hungry—and leans on the wardrobe.

He’s hot, too. He needs to take this long-sleeved t-shirt off. It’s going to be the death of him. So he pulls it over his chest and sorts through the wardrobe, finding a simple white t-shirt and tugging it on before he has a chance to die of exhaustion or heat.

Then he fumbles with the doorknob. It won’t open. His hands seem to slip right off of the metal. Some sort of trick? Witchcraft? No—it’s probably locked. Has to be locked. Is there a key? A key, somewhere?

What if he’d been locked in here on purpose? Who would do that? He knocks on the wood, then waits for a response.

The door opens. A miracle. “It wasn’t locked,” a voice informs him.

Not-Viktor stands in front of him.

What’s his name again? Is it Not-Viktor? No—that’s not a real name, is it? He squints hard, the blond figure blurring in front of him. “Who’re you?”

Not-Viktor raises an eyebrow. “You don’t know who I am?”

“Yurio!” he realizes suddenly, smiling and leaning against the doorway for support. “Are you… What is…”

He frowns, forgetting what he was going to say. What was happening again? Where had he gotten this t-shirt? Maybe he was still sleeping. That would explain a lot. But why would he be dreaming about Yurio? Normally he dreamt about Viktor.

“Viktor went to go get you some muffins. Something about making you feel better. We’ve already got ice cream, so I don’t know what he was thinking, really. Although you do look worse.”

‘Viktor’ and ‘went.’ Those are the only two words that Yuuri manages to process. “Not here?”

Yurio looks sympathetic. It’s an unfamiliar look. “Not here,” he confirms.

“Alright,” Yuuri responds, moving out of the door and past Yurio, looking around. “What are you doing here?”

“I brought you medicine, remember?”

Yuuri remembers, but he’d thought it was a dream. In the dream, Yurio had been there, and so had Viktor, and he’d slept on Viktor’s lap and then somebody had carried him to that bed and fallen asleep beside him. Had it been Yurio? No—Yurio wouldn’t sleep with him. Hopefully. That’d be weird.

“Did you sleep with me?” Yuuri asks, yawning and sitting down on the couch, staring at the blank television screen and wondering why nothing is playing, because he wants something to be playing and yet nothing is happening. Shouldn’t it be turning on?

“What?”

Yuuri squints at Not-Viktor again. Wait. Yurio. Not Not-Viktor. “Last night?”

“It’s three in the afternoon.”

Yuuri just groans and buries his face in the couch. “What day?”

“Monday.”

It takes Yuuri a moment to realize that this information has not helped him whatsoever. If anything, he’s more confused. “And we’re in Russia?”

“I don’t know why I’m talking to you. This is a lost cause.”

Yurio sits on the couch across from him, watching him with a curious expression, like somebody studying something. Yuuri just smiles at him, hoping that he’ll smile back, but he doesn’t. He still looks sort of sympathetic. Why would he be sympathetic? Makes no sense. 

“Viktor slept with you, by the way.”

“Viktor Nikiforov?” Yuuri asks, shocked. Because that had been in his dream, so it couldn’t have actually happened. Besides, Viktor Nikiforov was…

Not-Viktor laughs and Yuuri has no idea why. “No, the other Viktor,” he says, and he’s smiling, now. Slightly less sympathetic. More amused. Amused by what? The other Viktor? Was the other Viktor funny?

“Oh, the other Viktor,” Yuuri repeats, trying to think of any other Viktors that he knows. He can’t think of any, but Yurio is still smiling, so he figures that he must be telling the truth. “Alright.”

“Do you want tea or something? Ice cream, maybe?” Yurio offers, and he’s looking down at his fingernails, now. Yuuri wonders what about his fingernails is so interesting. He strains his head to see but he can’t get a good look from over here.

Ice cream, he thinks. Ice cream would be… “What flavor ice cream?”

“Chocolate peanut butter. It’s my favorite.”

“I want some,” Yuuri confirms.

Yurio stands up and leaves. Then, he comes back a minute later with a bowl and a spoon. “Here you go.”

He grins at Yurio, and what’s that English word again? “Thanks,” he remembers, grasping the bowl and sitting up to eat it. He digs in immediately and the taste of the chocolate and peanut butter mixture is frankly overwhelming. He wonders if this is what heaven tastes like. Wonders if this is the best thing in the world. Wonders why everyone on Earth isn’t eating peanut butter chocolate ice cream at all times.

Yurio is smiling at him. It’s an expression he’d seen earlier. A weird smile. One that didn’t suit his face. “Good?” he asks.

“Great,” Yuuri answers.

“So tell me about you and Viktor,” Yurio asks, and he’s smiling even bigger now, and his voice doesn’t sound like Yurio’s normal voice, and why is he holding a phone? The phone is pointed at him.

“Me and Viktor?” Yuuri repeats, frowning. “Viktor Nikiforov or the other Viktor?”

Yurio frowns, suddenly. “Who is the other Viktor? There’s another Viktor?”

Yuuri has never been more confused in his life. “What?”

The blond boy waves his hand, dismissing the subject. “Nikiforov.”

“I love him,” Yuuri answers simply, shutting his eyes and remembering his dream, remembering Viktor’s arms around him, the smell of his cologne. It feels so real and he takes another large scoop of the chocolate peanut butter ice cream into his mouth, lips closing around the cold metal spoon. Tastes like heaven.

Yurio looks shocked. “You…?”

“Love him,” Yuuri finishes for him, smiling because he can’t help himself. He always smiles when he thinks about Viktor, really. (Nikiforov, not the mysterious other Viktor who he is still trying to remember.) “I named my dog after him.”

“Your dog?

“Vicchan,” he informs him happily. “And I used to have posters of him all over my room. Every wall. And I started skating competitively because of him.”

Yurio’s jaw has dropped, his mouth forming a small ‘o’ shape. He’s still holding his phone for some reason, but his arm has gone slack a bit. He stutters for a second, shaking his head. “You… You named your dog after Viktor? And had posters of him all over your room?”

“Mmm,” Yuuri agrees, remembering. “Viktor is talented and kind and wonderful.”

The blond boy swallows and suddenly he has lowered his phone, shoving it into his jeans pocket. “Right, er… He’ll be back soon.”

Yuuri has finished his ice cream so he sets the bowl on the table and leans back into the couch, cuddling into the pillows and trying to get a piece of hair out of his face. It’s just one little strand but for some reason he can’t get a grip on it and it’s driving him mad.

Then there’s a noise coming from the other side of the room and Yuuri jumps, staring at Yurio wide-eyed. “Is somebody here?”

“It’s Viktor, probably.”

“What if it’s a murderer?”

“I don’t think any murderers have keys to Viktor’s flat.”

“This is Viktor’s flat?”

Yurio doesn’t respond, just rolls his eyes. “At first, it was kind of funny seeing you like this, but now it’s starting to get annoying.”

Yuuri frowns, squinting to get a better look at him. “Seeing me like what?”

“Never mind.”

And then, suddenly, Viktor is there. (Nikiforov. Not the other one.) He’s smiling down at Yuuri and Yuuri grins up at him, extending his arms towards him. Viktor hugs him tight and he can’t stop smiling, all of his pain forgotten as he’s held tight. “Hi,” he greets dreamily, smiling at him.

“Я думаю, что ему хуже,” Yurio tells him. Viktor frowns, looking concerned. But why would he be concerned?

“What’re you saying?” Yuuri asks, tugging on Viktor’s sleeve, because Viktor has been here for about thirty seconds now and yet he’s still standing and Yuuri is laying down and that just won’t do. If they’re together, why would they be in different positions? That just seemed inefficient.

Viktor responds in Russian. It’s a jumble of syllables that he can hardly make out. Yuuri hears his name and shuts his eyes, wanting to argue but lacking the stamina. Why wouldn’t Viktor just lay down with him already? Viktor, lovely Viktor.

Then Yurio pulls out his phone and he’s talking in English again. “I’ve got something to show you later, by the way.”

“What did you do?” Viktor asks, still concerned, rubbing at his temple. His temple looks soft. Yuuri wants to kiss it and tries tugging on Viktor’s sleeve again, and why won’t he move?

“We just had a talk,” Yurio says, grinning devilishly.

Viktor’s eyes flick between the two Yuri’s for a moment before he glances back at the kitchen counter. “I got you a muffin, Yuuri. Do you want it?”

A muffin. Blueberry, blueberry, please be blueberry. “What kind?”

“Blueberry.”

Viktor Nikiforov is his hero, his idol, his everything. “Yes, please.”

He devours the muffin in record time.

Then Viktor is giving him some sort of medicine—a liquid, this time, that’s odd—and he swallows it. It has a bad taste and he sputters, coughing into his elbow and scrunching up his nose. Viktor touches his shoulder, though, and he realizes that they’re sitting together on the couch, now, so he does what he’d been meaning to do before.

He leans over and kisses Viktor on his temple. Viktor’s cheeks turn red and Yurio is laughing and Yuuri doesn't understand the joke.

There’s more talking in Russian. Viktor defensively wraps an arm around Yuuri’s side, pulling him closer. Yuuri doesn’t complain, just glances between them, wondering what they’re saying. He hears his name a couple of times. Viktor sounds annoyed. Yurio sounds more annoyed, but he always seems to sound that way, so Yuuri isn’t sure if he really is or not.

“Stop talking like that,” Yuuri complains. “English. Eng-lish.”

“Sorry,” Viktor apologizes, pressing a kiss to his hairline. Yuuri smiles sleepily at him, resting his head against Viktor’s shoulder and leaning back against the couch. “I moved our flight to Friday, by the way. I figured you’ll be better enough by then?”

“Better,” Yuuri agrees. “What day is it?”

“Monday,” Yurio reminds him again, and—oh, he’d already asked that before, hadn’t he?

“I missed you,” Yuuri tells him.

“How long has he been awake for?” Viktor asks, and his words are obviously directed at the blond boy, not Yuuri, and he feels slightly annoyed. Why was Viktor asking Yurio questions about Yuuri? Nonsensical.

“Not long enough to miss you,” Yurio snickers.

Yuuri pulls away and suddenly there are blue eyes looking down at him and when had those gotten there? “Yurio gave me ice cream.”

Viktor glances down at the coffee table, examining the empty bowl. “He did, did he? How kind of him.”

“Shut. It.”

“So we’re going to be in China for another week?” Yuuri asks, thinking about doing this for another week, clinging to Viktor and sleeping beside him in his dreams and hugging him and having nice talks and ice cream with Yurio. He smiles.

Viktor has the same sympathetic look Yurio had had, except there’s a few differences. There’s another emotion mixed in with it. Like he’s happy and concerned at the same time. It’s confusing to look at. Yuuri squints to try and figure it out, but it’s a pointless effort. “We’re in Russia.”

“Oh, that’s what I meant.”

“Yes, for four more days. We’ll leave Friday morning if you’re well enough.”

“I like it here,” Yuuri tells him, toying with the hem of his own shirt and wondering when he’d bought this one.

“Where’d you get that shirt?” Viktor asks, and Yuuri wonders if he can read his thoughts somehow. Given that it’s Viktor Nikiforov, he figures that that is entirely possible. Viktor probably had all sorts of superpowers. Maybe that was how he’d gotten that natural hair color. 

“I don’t know.”

Viktor frowns and turns Yuuri around in his arms—Yuuri complies easily, laughing at the feeling of Viktor’s fingers tickling his ribs accidentally—and examines the tag on the back. “That’s my shirt.”

Yuuri starts laughing harder, because the idea of him wearing Viktor’s shirt is just ridiculous. “Your shirt?” Then, he remembers getting it from the wardrobe. He sneezes. “Oh, it is your shirt. Do you want it back?”

Viktor pulls him back into his arms and kisses him firmly on the part in his hair, his lips lingering and his hands on his sides, making him shiver. He smells great, cologne and shampoo and blueberry muffins and all sorts of wonderful things, and Yuuri can’t quite believe that he’s being held by Viktor Nikiforov right now.

(He wonders what he did right. Makes a mental effort to figure out what he’d done so that he could do it again so that Viktor does this again in the future, as often as possible.)

(Maybe it was sneezing? Should he sneeze more often?)

 

~

 

It doesn’t take long for Yuuri to fall asleep again. He knows Yuuri values his sleep on the same level he values his skating, but Viktor is still not sure he’s ever seen someone sleep this much in his lifetime.

Yurio pulls out his phone. “I need to show you this.”

Viktor cringes. “You video taped him?”

The blond just shrugs. “It’s funny.”

Viktor rolls his eyes but watches the video anyway, horrified. “Yurio, he’ll be so embarrassed.”

“Can I upload it?” he asks, and it isn’t like Yurio to ask for permission to do things like that and Viktor smiles internally, knowing that he cares enough about Yuuri to not instantly upload it without his consent. Yurio was growing feelings—Viktor could tell.

“No,” Viktor says. “Delete it.”

Delete it?!”

Viktor thinks for a moment. He drums his fingers along his legs. “Okay, send it to me, then delete it.”

“So it’s fair for you to blackmail Yuuri but not fair for me to do the same thing?”

“I’m not going to blackmail him,” Viktor explains, eyebrows shooting up towards his hairline.

“Oh, right. You just want to hear him calling you wonderful on an endless loop,” Yurio points out. “That’s a bit egotistical, isn’t it?”

Yuuri rolls on the couch beside him, one of his arms falling off of the couch and touching the carpet beneath. His face is smushed against the cushions, the thin white t-shirt having ridden up to his stomach and the strip of skin slowly driving Viktor insane. There was something about seeing Yuuri in his clothes, in his flat, that words couldn’t apply to. A feeling of domesticity that makes him warm.

His phone buzzes in his pocket. He pulls it out and stares at the text—a video—before glancing up at Yurio, who is already walking across the room. “You’re welcome,” the blond says grudgingly. “I’m not deleting it off of my phone, though. Just so you know. It could be valuable in the future.”

 

~

 

The moment Yuuri wakes up, he sprints out of the bed and into the bathroom, finding the nearest toilet and promptly vomiting. His eyes roll back in his head as he grips the edges of the toilet seat, chest heaving and his heart racing in his chest. There’s sweat on his forehead and his hair is sticking to it and he’s never felt so disgusting.

“Yuuri!”

There’s a hand on his back, suddenly, rubbing comforting circles. Yuuri groans and flushes the toilet before falling back and leaning against the nearest wall, his entire body hot and his head pounding. “Ow…”

Viktor, he realizes. Viktor is there, looking concerned. Why is he concerned? “Are you alright?”

He still feels nauseous. “The blueberry muffin hurt me,” Yuuri explains, leaning against the bathtub and resting his head on the porcelain. It’s cool to the touch and he huddles farther into it, placing his hands on the surface, too.

Viktor sighs, picking him up and taking him away from his cold porcelain. Yuuri doesn’t mind, though, because he wraps his arms around Viktor’s shoulder and he smells like cologne, familiar, lovely cologne, and it’s perfect. “Viktor?”

“Yes? I’m bringing you back to the bed.”

“I love you.”

“I know.”

As they exit the bathroom, he remembers something. “Brush my teeth,” Yuuri complains, shutting his eyes.

“Oh, alright.”

Viktor sets him down on his feet and he grips the sink with white knuckles trying to stay balanced. After he has brushed his teeth, Viktor guides him with a hand on the small of his back. “Everything hurts,” he complains, because surely Viktor could make the pain go away. Viktor could do anything.

“I can’t do anything,” Viktor laughs gently. “But if I could make the pain go away, I would.”

Oh, had he said that out loud?

Yuuri stops in his tracks, staring Viktor in the eyes with a sobriety that could kill. He wants—no, he needs—Viktor to believe him. “You can do anything, Viktor.”

Viktor blinks, surprised. “Thanks for your confidence.”

“Anything. You’ve won so many medals, and your quadruple flip is like…woah.”

Yuuri pauses, trying to gain his balance because all of a sudden the world is spinning. Viktor steadies him. (Of course he does.)

“C’mere,” Viktor says, moving towards the bed.

Yuuri struggles to get underneath the covers but the moment he does, Viktor is with him again, and it’s like the dreams he’d been having. Viktor sleeping with him. Not in that way, of course, though he wouldn’t mind doing it in that way. In fact, he’d thought about doing just this in that way plenty of times before.

“That way?” Viktor repeats, looking surprised and flustered.

Yuuri can no longer tell what is in his head and what is out loud. “You know, that way,” he emphasizes. “Like, a sexual way. It’s not like that, though.”

“It’s not,” Viktor agrees, and is that disappointment in his voice or is Yuuri more tired than he thinks?

“We’re just friends,” Yuuri explains, because Viktor must not get it. “I’d like to be more, but you’re Viktor, so we’re just friends.”

Viktor’s hand, which had been rubbing his back, pauses its motions. “What do you mean?”

“Well, you’re Viktor.”

“So?”

“So we can’t.”

Viktor shifts, and suddenly he’s not holding Yuuri as close anymore, and Yuuri is confused, chasing after him selfishly. “Yuuri, you’re not making any sense.”

Yuuri frowns. Had he done something wrong? Why wasn’t Viktor holding him anymore? He rubs at his arms, trying to replace the warmth. “I’m making plenty of sense.”

“English?”

Oh. Oops. “I’m making plenty of sense,” he repeats in English.

“What do you mean we can’t because I’m Viktor?” Viktor asks, and it’s a bit weird to hear him speaking in the third person like that. Well, it was first person, because he’d used “I’m.” But then he’d used his own name. Which was third person. How confusing.

Viktor, Viktor, Viktor.

It was a pretty name. Sounded funny on his tongue. Just like Yuuri’s name sounded funny on Viktor’s tongue. He liked it, though. A good sort of funny.

“Yuuri?” Viktor asks, snapping him into focus.

“Sounds funny,” Yuuri mumbles, grinning and reaching up to touch Viktor’s cheek, brushing a strand of hair out of his eyes.

Viktor frowns. “What?”

Yuuri doesn’t answer, captivated by his hair. It’s soft and silver, and was it really natural? He had never asked. He’s about to ask when Viktor reaches up and grips his wrist, lacing their fingers. They’re holding hands, now. “We’re holding hands.”

“We are,” Viktor agrees, smiling. “Is that okay?”

“We should do that more often,” Yuuri complains. “Feels like we never do that.”

“Alright. But now will you talk to me, Yuuri?”

Yuuri blinks. He tries to decode Viktor’s words, but it’s pointless. The Russian beside him is making no sense. Zero. Zip. Nada. “We’re already talking.”

Viktor just smiles again. What the heck? Was he missing a joke?

“I want you to explain what you mean when you say that we can’t be more than friends.”

“Well,” Yuuri begins, “I mean, meta…meta-something. What’s the word?”

“Metaphorically,” Viktor provides.

“Metaphorically,” he pronounces slowly, “we could be more than friends. You know.” He glances down at their joint hands, swallowing. “Partners. But you’re Viktor, and you’ve won like, five billion medals and I still can’t land a quad salchow half the time. And you’re attractive—like, really attractive—and so it wouldn’t really work out.”

Viktor looks shocked.

Yuuri offers him a smile. “But that’s okay!” he insists, wanting to see Viktor smile again. “More than okay. I like this.” To prove his point he nudges Viktor’s chin with his head, pressing a kiss against his exposed collarbone. Viktor shivers. Why’d he do that? Was he cold?

“Are you saying that you don’t think you’re attractive?” Viktor asks, and his voice is low, and it’s not comforting and cute like it had been a minute ago, now it’s serious. Almost angry. Not angry. But almost. Upset, maybe?

Yuuri purses his lips, thinking about it. He’d used to think that he was unattractive, but he had more self confidence lately. Probably thanks to Viktor. A lot of nice things in his life were thanks to Viktor. “I don’t know. Not as attractive as you.”

(That he is sure of.)

“Oh, Yuuri.”

“Mmm?”

“You are so, so wrong.”

“About?”

“Your attractiveness.”

“My what-ness?”

Viktor touches his hair. It feels lovely. For whatever reason, it reminds him of sunflowers. Sunflowers in tiny brown pots lined up along a windowsill. A soft sunset. He hears humming then realizes it’s coming from him. That’s odd.

“Attractiveness,” Viktor repeats slowly, drawing out every syllable. “You’re wrong about that.”

“I am?”

“You’re gorgeous.”

Yuuri blinks. Those two words coming from Viktor’s mouth didn’t seem to fit together right. Didn’t seem applicable. “I just threw up in your bathroom.”

“Still gorgeous,” Viktor assures him, and his fingers leave Yuuri’s hair to drift along his jawbone instead, the touches light and delicate. Yuuri leans closer to him for more contact and Viktor chuckles. 

“You think I’m attractive?” Yuuri asks, wide-eyed. Surely Viktor’s words didn’t mean what he thought they did. After all, he’d been misinterpreting a lot of things recently. Perhaps this was just another in a long line.

“That doesn’t even begin to describe it,” Viktor murmurs, and his fingers are still on Yuuri’s face and Yuuri shuts his eyes.

When his hand pulls away, Yuuri chases the touch, leaning closer towards Viktor. “Don’t stop doing that,” he pleads.

“Okay, I won’t.”

Viktor starts again and this time one hand is in Yuuri’s hair and the other is on his cheek. Yuuri doesn’t know where to focus his attention so he just bundles the fabric of Viktor’s shirt in his hands, mumbling incoherent syllables and letting his eyes fall shut. “I love you,” he tells him, because it’s true.

“I love you too, Yuuri,” Viktor responds, and he kisses his head and Yuuri wonders if being sick for the rest of his life might be worth it if this is what he gets.