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They thought they got lucky when Yuuri’s heat snuck up on them two weeks before Skate America. Had the heat come on even a few days later, they would have needed to change travel plans, interrupt Yuuri’s practice at a crucial point or – god forbid – withdraw from the qualifier altogether. Yuuri was fairly confident – fairly – that he’d be competing at the GPF that year, defending his gold from the year before. And the year before that.

He was aiming to for three consecutive GPF golds, and the thought had both him and Viktor riled up and working harder than ever. He didn’t need a heat to mess it up.

As such, it was absolutely awful timing with the heat, ruining the training schedule that Viktor had put together for him, but at least it happened before the qualifiers started. Yuuri’s heat cycles were known to be a bit of a mess: as with many omega athletes, he was used to an irregular life of on and off suppressants, squeezing in heats in the off-training sections of the year. Although he had somewhat managed to get a regular heat cycle going since he started having heats at the age of sixteen, Viktor’s appearance in his life had caused his body to short-circuit. Viktor had been everywhere with his alpha pheromones, alpha touch and, soon enough, kisses and then some. Really, it was hardly a surprise that he’d gone into a heat early that first year of Viktor coaching him, his body clearly having decided that it must be bred by this virile alpha whatever the cost.

Incredibly thankfully, Viktor had wanted little else (somehow – Yuuri was still a little bit lost on the details. Out of all the omegas out there, an alpha like Viktor could have had anyone at all – anyone! And yet –).

That had been over three years ago now. This heat found them bonded and mated, with Yuuri rather pathetically in love with Viktor. They were in their St. Petersburg home, waking up slowly for a new day of training, with Viktor asleep on his side next to Yuuri, arm securely around Yuuri’s waist, head on his shoulder, silver hair a mess. Perhaps Viktor was draping over him even more persistently than usual, and as Yuuri slowly awoke and felt Viktor hard against his hip, he got a split-second to be smug about the morning wood. Then, like a sudden avalanche, he became aware of his own body: aching, hot, pulsating. He was hit by the smell of his own heat and arousal, early stages perhaps, but still undeniable and incredibly needy.

And his alpha was there, wrapped up around him protectively – and, understandably, hard already. Yuuri’s stomach clenched, lust and need pooling in him.

He should not be in heat – the Grand Prix season was about to start, they had training to – God, but he wanted, needed, oh god, couldn’t Viktor maybe just –

He shook Viktor awake, and Viktor blinked at him owlishly in the dim morning light of their bedroom, hair over his eyes. “What is it?” Then, Viktor’s sleepy eyes focused and sharpened, surprise overtaking his features. Viktor rose to one elbow, glanced him up and down, as if to check. Viktor’s hand squeezed his hip. “But aren’t you –?”

“Yes,” he agreed. Late, early, on suppressants, although he’d forgotten to take them last Thursday – one day! – and here they were, or he was, and this was completely the wrong time for him to have a heat.

“Okay,” Viktor breathed, just accepting it, simply. “Okay, okay,” he said, reassuringly. “I’m here. Shh, I’m here.” Viktor nosed at his hair, hand soothing gently over his belly, but none of it was enough.

He grabbed Viktor’s hand and led it into his loose pyjama pants and between his thighs, an act that a few years ago he never in his wildest dreams would have thought he’d ever have the courage or the permission to do. “Please,” he breathed, already feeling desperate, needy, and wondering why either of them were wearing any clothes.

The only thing that made heats less embarrassing for him was the effect they had on Viktor, who, once they got started, was spiralled into a feverish rut in response. Even now, when Viktor was still composed and comforting, Viktor’s demeanour changed when his fingers slipped between his cheeks, touching his wetted and swollen hole. Viktor exhaled, shakily. “Oh darling,” he breathed, and when he kissed Yuuri, it was nearly violent. Viktor’s features turned sharp and moves calculated, now intent on mating and breeding him, for days.

Viktor grunted, pushed the covers off the bed, and pinned Yuuri down as Yuuri arched to his alpha’s touch mindlessly.

The timing, overall, was terrible, but the heat wasn’t. It was his fourth with Viktor since they had met, and each heat had been better for him. Viktor knew his body better with each cycle, knew his needs in heat better, but Yuuri’s trust in Viktor had also grown over the years, on and off ice.

No, the heat wasn’t terrible. It was hot and heavy and orgasmic; dirty and filthy. It was five days of Viktor inside of him – cock, fingers, tongue, toys – pulling orgasms out of him even when Yuuri was sure he couldn’t come again, and the two of them winding up in positions that were by no means polite, and Yuuri begging for things he’d be mortified to ask in normal circumstances. It was Viktor knotting him as he whimpered, blissed out, feeling the alpha’s engorged knot inside of him. Towards the end it was also soft, slow and loving. It was Viktor biting down on the bond mark on his neck with renewed vigour, leaving it aching and sore but so satisfying, and Yuuri felt wanted, claimed and safe when Viktor murmured, “Mine, all mine…”

It was probably their best ever heat, and Yuuri was unsteady on his feet when it finally came to an end. Viktor drew them a bath, gently washing his hair as he sat behind Yuuri, placing stray kisses on the nape of his neck and whispering ridiculous sweet nothings into his ear, saying what a good omega he’d been, so, so good… Yuuri flushed from head to toe, but Viktor only pressed a smile to his left temple, adding, “How did I ever get so lucky?”

How had Yuuri ever gotten so lucky?

Yuuri, behind on his training though he was, won gold at Skate America only four days later. His bite mark shone through the see-through fabric at the neck of his costume, an angry red that told the audience far too much about their private lives. The obviously recently ravished mark raised a few eyebrows from the more conservative onlookers, but Yuuri could hardly recall a time when he’d felt as confident, calm, or sexy. Viktor watched him from the side of the rink, never taking his eyes off of him.

After a performance that put to rest doubts if at almost twenty-seven he was getting too old for this, he stumbled straight into the arms of his grinning coach.

* * *

After winning gold at Skate America, they had nearly a month until Yuuri’s second qualifier. They went back home, watched each qualifier on the edges of their seats, cheering and applauding, and trained ruthlessly non-stop in the meanwhile. Skate America had been the first qualifier – Skate Canada was the last. Yuuri wasn’t used to such a long wait, but he had no control over the assignments.

He spent the long flight to Vancouver on his laptop, watching his competitors’ programs for the umpteenth time. Next to him, Viktor, who was infuriatingly good at sleeping when they travelled, snoozed. Yuuri flipped through the different qualifiers of the season so far, marvelling at the most impressive jumps and studying the strengths and weaknesses of his own program from Skate America a month earlier. He watched through nearly all of the NHK Trophy of the previous week, too.

On screen, the show went into an overview as the medal ceremony came to an end, the commentators hyping Skate Canada as the final qualifier and the Grand Prix final that would follow a week after. “One can never speak too soon, of course,” one of the commentators said, “but it really looks like a battle of the Yuris this year.”

“I think you’re right, John – Yuri Plisetsky won gold at Trophee de France and Yuuri Katsuki secured gold at Skate America. Their head-to-head at Skate Canada next week should be an indication of how they will perform at the finals – both certainly have good odds at making it through. Talk about a show off!”

“Couldn’t agree with you more, Stephen. At eighteen, Yuri Plisetsky is certainly ready to get his Grand Prix gold a second time – he’s been silver the last two years and he’s certainly not happy about it! The defending champion, Katsuki, is nearly twenty-seven now, but he seems to be going strong. One cannot help but to think, however, that twenty-seven was also the age when his coach, Viktor Nikiforov, retired. Do you think this might be Katsuki’s last season?”

“Well, Viktor was world champion when he retired –”

“Hmm.”

“ – and so is Katsuki right now, so we have seen these greats retire right at the heights of their careers before. I guess we all know what lured Nikiforov away, however.” Mutual laughter. “If you ask me, Katsuki’s got more still left in him, as his performances at Skate America last month showed. How long will Nikiforov be happy letting his omega stay on the ice is, of course, another matter.”

The two men – alphas by the sound of it – both chuckled again, and the other said, “Well, it certainly does look like Nikiforov is in control of his mate for now.” This seemed like a reference to the fresh bite mark on Yuuri’s neck that had been visible during his program. He’d wanted to cover it up – a little bit of foundation to dull the bruise – but Viktor had gone absolutely rigid at the suggestion, then sad and lost looking, and Yuuri was soon babbling that no, no, of course he hadn’t meant that he wanted to hide the alpha’s mark on him, absolutely not, why would he ever. And so, with Viktor mollified, and Yuuri somewhat ravished after Viktor had kissed the life out of him in the locker room and then just hugged him tightly, he’d gone on ice, mark and all.

Yuuri now shifted in his seat while the laptop showed highlights of the year thus far, with romantic classical music playing over slow-motion shots: Phichit doing a quad Lutz at the Rostelecom Cup (amazing!), one of Yurio’s combination jumps from the Trophee de France (effortless and graceful!), Seung-Gil and Otabek at the Cup of China, and even one skater making his senior debut, just sixteen years old, who had gotten silver at Canada and Rostelecom. Eleven years younger than Yuuri – god, that made him feel old. The recap also showed some of Yuuri’s best jumps, and in the collage Yuuri was not only the oldest, but also the only omega, the rest being alphas and betas – although, he granted, he wasn’t sure of the secondary gender of the sixteen-year-old.

As the recording came to an end, he realised his jaw had set tight listening to the commentators pick at his private life, two alphas stereotypically making snide remarks of his omega presence on the ice and Viktor allowing it. Unease settled in his stomach at the thought.

He was interrupted by a flight attendant, asking him to stow away all electronic items for landing. Her tone implied that she’d already asked him a few times, but the music had been too loud for him to hear over the earphones. He flushed as he pulled the ear plugs from his ears, mumbling apologies as he put the laptop away.

Next to him, Viktor stirred. Viktor looked around them, yawning, and asked, “We there yet?”

“Landing,” Yuuri corrected. Viktor hummed in response and settled back in with his head resting on Yuuri’s shoulder. Yuuri checked his seat belt and Viktor’s too. As he did so, Viktor grabbed his hand and laced their fingers together, keeping them in his lap.

“Missed you,” Viktor said, sleepily, and buried his face in Yuuri’s neck. Yuuri smiled at the slightly nonsensical declaration – Viktor had missed him in his sleep? “You okay?” Viktor added.

“Of course,” he said, but he sounded evasive and Viktor hummed in question. Yuuri hesitated, then added, “I wish people didn’t think you retired just to mate with me, that’s all.” The commentators had made snide remarks on that: oh we all know why Viktor retired…

When they both had competed at the GPF and Yuuri had got the pitiful sixth place, they’d met for the first time: fast-forward a few months, and Viktor was living in Japan in Yuuri’s parents’ onsen. An alpha in override, courting an omega! Even the great Viktor Nikiforov had not been able to control himself when he’d come across an omega he’d desired! Career be damned, Viktor had needed to claim his mate. Yuuri was upset by the thought: the situation had not been like that at all!

“Well, mating you certainly has been a nice plus,” Viktor said, carefree and sounding a little amused. Viktor wasn’t always great at brushing off the criticisms and rumours, but he was infinitely better at it than Yuuri was. Most people seemed to think that Viktor hadn’t travelled to Japan to become his coach at all – the coaching career had happened as a convenient follow-up of a more primal instinct. That version of events couldn’t have been more wrong, even if, admittedly, he’d found himself in Viktor’s arms before the year had been through. They’d both been surprised to find themselves there, however. Viktor, perhaps, a little less surprised than him.

“You smell different,” Viktor then mumbled against his skin. Viktor leaned into him further, pressing his nose into the crook of his neck.

“Mmmm,” Yuuri said, now idly watching out of the window as the plane circled over Vancouver. Viktor inhaled deeply, brows furrowed, and Yuuri said, “I’ll shower at the hotel.” He knew he didn’t smell flattering after a ten-hour flight, but it was embarrassing for Viktor to comment on it.

“Did you sleep?” Viktor asked, and he shook his head. He’d felt ever so slightly nauseous, the combination of recycled air and stale complimentary sandwiches not sitting well with him. He self-consciously tugged at his sleeves and peered out of the window at the airport buildings. Viktor kept their laced hands in his lap until they reached the terminal.

* * *

A good fifteen of them gathered at the hotel restaurant for dinner after Skate Canada came to an end. The dinner had been Phichit’s idea, but as they had all known each other for years now, it felt like a family gathering. Even JJ and his family joined them – JJ may have retired, but he followed the competitions as fervently as ever and hadn’t been about to miss out on the fun when it was happening in his homeland.

Yuuri was through to the final, as expected, but had won silver. He’d lost to Yurio by seven points, and although Viktor had confidently said they’d beat Yurio at the GPF, Yuuri kept thinking of the commentators who’d said that Skate Canada would show how the Yuris measured up to each other this year. If this was any indication, Yuuri fell short.

Yurio’s programs had been amazing, his jumps some of the best Yuuri had seen. Still: Yuuri wanted another gold. He wanted to win at the GPF so badly that it was almost a physical yearning!

Yurio joined them halfway through dinner, sauntering into the restaurant in a leather jacket with leopard print sides and with his blond hair in a ponytail. JJ cheered loudly, singing, “Here comes the gold!”, but to the tune of Here Comes the Bride, which did not sit well with the Russian.

The dinner was a loud and energetic affair after that, old friends exchanging stories and memories, commenting on the year so far and each other’s programs. JJ had an opinion on everyone’s greatest strengths and weaknesses, loudly sharing them over the sound of his seven-month-old son having a tantrum in his lap. JJ’s mate Isabella held the twin sister, who was much calmer and mostly just stared at the room curiously, with her little baby mouth open in a small O.

JJ had retired due to a knee injury – permanent injuries were the biggest fear of any athlete – but, devastated as JJ had been, he had taken it all in his stride somehow, and within sixteen months had produced twins with his mate. The Instagram picture of the new-born twins, revealing that they had been expecting two all along, had been titled ‘JJ Style!’.

“You need to relax your shoulders more,” JJ was telling an annoyed looking Yurio. “Here, let me show you.” JJ unceremoniously passed his son over to Viktor, who looked surprised but took the baby into his lap. JJ rounded the table to pull Yurio off his feet and manhandled him into his free program starting position. “See, just relax here, and then lift your elbow like so –”

As others started to laugh, Yurio looked infuriated. “Get your hands off me and stop reliving your glory days! I already won gold, didn’t I?”

JJ only beamed. “My glory days? Aw, let me tell you, Yuri, that the second you retire, you’ll see your best days are still ahead of you.” JJ motioned at his twins.

“Never,” hissed Yurio venomously.

“Ah, you’re still young,” JJ beamed, who was only twenty-two himself. “Tell him I’m right, Viktor: there’s life after retirement.”

Viktor looked up from the baby boy in his lap and said, “He’s right.”

“Sell out,” Yurio complained, and they laughed.

Yuuri looked at his plate still full of food, overly aware of Viktor bouncing MM – Martin Michele – on his knee next to him. MM seemed to have forgotten about his tantrum as he stared at Viktor in delight instead. Viktor began playing the all-time classic “I’ve got your nose”, and MM was enthralled by such magic. JJ offered to take his son back as he sat down, but Viktor waved him off. JJ said, “Well, it’ll be good practise for you,” and winked at Viktor and Yuuri both. Viktor only smiled, while Yuuri wondered if he was red like a Ferrari or a fire engine.

The conversation resumed, apart from Viktor who seemed engrossed by the baby. MM had pale skin, a tuff of black hair, and bright blue eyes, and perhaps the chubbiest cheeks of any child Yuuri had ever seen. “You’re a natural,” JJ’s mate Isabella beamed at Viktor from across the table.

“Aw, it’s easy when someone’s so cute,” Viktor cooed, bouncing MM on his knee. MM gurgled with laughter.

Yuuri tried not to pay too much attention to this, talking to Phichit instead, but a part of him was keenly aware of how good Viktor looked with a small child in his lap. Theirs would look different, although the black hair was to be expected, perhaps a little lighter in skin tone than Yuuri was, and most likely with Yuuri’s brown eyes, too, but he really hoped that he’d be able to see Viktor somewhere too: in the nose and the smile and the eyes and the cheekbones.

“Here,” Viktor cut in suddenly, handing MM to him. “Let me take a picture of you two.”

Viktor grinned widely as Yuuri held a happy MM to his chest, snapping their picture. The baby was surprisingly heavy, smelled like talc and laundry and fresh snow, was so small, and Yuuri briefly began to wonder where he could get one ASAP, before JJ came to take MM away.

“Adorable,” Viktor said, slinging an arm around Yuuri’s shoulders. “Right?” Viktor prompted, blue eyes full of warmth. Yuuri muttered something half-intelligible in response. “You’ve hardly touched your food,” Viktor then said with an air of concern, and Yuuri explained that he was tired and didn’t feel like eating – he had no appetite. Viktor gazed at him. “You’re always starving after a competition. I know it’s not katsudon, but…”

“No, god no, don’t want any katsudon either,” he said absently, feeling sleep creeping up on him. He’d felt tired all day, despite sleeping a full night. In his mind, this fatigue was what had cost him to lose to Yurio that day. For the final, he’d fix it – for GPF, he’d be ready!

“You don’t want katsudon?” Viktor repeated sharply, but Yuuri was distracted and asked if Viktor would mind him retiring to their room. All he really wanted to do was sleep, but it was still early – Viktor should stay longer.

Yuuri gave his apologies to their party, hugging their friends goodnight. Yurio’s farewell to Yuuri was a grumpy, “Can’t you just goddamn retire and be done with it?” Yuuri hugged him anyway, and Yurio grunted something that it had maybe not been completely awful to see him, although obviously Yurio was going to trash him this year as the Canadian qualifier had shown. Yurio was frowning as they parted, eyeing him with a confused expression. “You smell different,” Yurio said, then looked at Viktor, who was stood next to Yuuri, and a little nervously rushed to add, “Not that I know, or even care, or whatever!”

Viktor only smiled brightly – but the smile was void of emotion, forced, and Viktor wrapped an arm around Yuuri’s waist and held him possessively. It was rather uncouth for another alpha to be commenting on the scent of someone else’s omega, after all, even it was just Yurio. Still, Yurio had grown taller and stronger, and at eighteen oozed the dominance of a virile alpha more than ever, so Yuuri could forgive Viktor for the sudden need to demonstrate ownership.

Viktor saw him to the lift, they kissed, and Yuuri headed back to their hotel room. He relaxed as the lift descended, ready to sleep. Funny, he thought: Yurio now marked the third person to note on his scent in the last few days. First Viktor, then Phichit briefly, and now Yurio. Was it the shampoo he was using…?

It was then that Yuuri had a thought that flashed through his mind, briefly but sharply. His mother’s voice: ‘Your father knew before I did – said he could smell it on me. Eight months later, here you were!’

He thought of Viktor cooing at MM, he thought of a child with Viktor’s eyes and his hair, he thought of his heat, and when the lift ‘binged’ to their floor, he staggered out, panicked.

* * *

The Grand Prix final was due to be held a week after Skate Canada, and as such he and Viktor weren’t going home to St. Petersburg in between, but rather travelled to Hong Kong directly. Air Canada flew them to Beijing – an eleven-hour flight – from where they had to wait for a connecting flight for three hours. Another flight, followed by a slow taxi ride in heavy traffic – overall it took them some twenty hours to reach their next hotel.

At this point, Viktor was so exhausted that he simply passed out in their bed. Yuuri could not sleep: he’d bought a pregnancy test at Vancouver airport when Viktor had gone to the bathroom. He’d slipped it in his backpack and now had had it for more than twenty hours. His hands kept sweating, his heart beating irregularly, and he had overdone the sample cologne in the tax-free shop, as Viktor had noted gently. Viktor preferred him smelling like himself: like Yuuri, like an omega, like Viktor and Viktor’s alpha scent on him.

Now, Yuuri waited. When he felt sure that Viktor was deep asleep, he untangled himself from the octopus-like alpha, who was clinging onto him in his sleep. Yuuri had showered off the cologne when they’d gotten to the hotel, but had then covered himself with scent neutralising spray instead. Viktor had been confused about that, too, but Yuuri had just said it’d help him sleep.

Now, he snuck into the hotel bathroom with his backpack and locked the door. He got out the pregnancy test and opened it with shaking hands. He read the instructions three times: he’d never needed to use one before. He was just making sure, of course: a change in his scent, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite – although he had gorged himself on strawberry laces at the airport – and some dizziness he’d felt on the ice could, really, be symptoms of anything!

After the deed was done, all he had to do was wait. He paced, feeling sick and nervous. He couldn’t possibly be – they’d used protection, like they always did! They’d gone through two packs of condoms and then some, and Viktor was always careful with heat sex, was always on top of things. Yuuri was still competing, still a professional athlete. He couldn’t possibly! He needed to win the GPF, followed by the Four Continents and then the Worlds. He was world champion, he needed to be there to defend the title!

He was not pregnant at the height of his career because – because. If he was. If he was, then this was his last season. How many omegas who had carried children were active in professional sports? One? Two? How many in figure skating? None. He needed his body intact and able to compete, in its ultimate physical condition, and a pregnancy was the opposite of that.

He’d trained too hard, sacrificed too much – every fall, every scrape, every strained muscle. Every six o’clock start, every bruise and bloodied toe. He’d worked so hard – Viktor had worked so hard and given up his own skating career! – for him to call it quits now.

He looked at the test, heart in his throat. No result yet.

He closed his eyes, shivering, covered in cold sweat. If this was happening – if this was real – then, he calculated, he would be some five to six weeks pregnant with Viktor’s child. He lost his breath, not knowing at all what to feel. They’d talked about children, of course they had. They’d have some, some day, in the future, when he was no longer competing. He’d thought two would be nice – Viktor had murmured into his ear that three sounded better.

He wanted children with Viktor, of course he did. God, could there be anything in the world he would love more than a child they’d created together? He doubted it.

But not yet. Not now.

He looked at the test again and saw, finally, what the result was.

* * *

Viktor was awakened by Yuuri in the middle of the night. He was startled at first – was the house on fire, was someone dead, was Yuuri okay? But Yuuri seemed okay, more than, and Viktor took a further second remembering that they were at the Hilton in Hong Kong and not their home. More than this, however, he was keenly aware that Yuuri was straddling his hips, lifting one of Viktor’s hands to his neck. Viktor rested himself on one elbow, staring up at Yuuri in the dark. “What is it?” he asked.

“Ngh,” Yuuri voiced, not much of anything. “Scent me,” Yuuri whispered, and Viktor’s stomach dropped. Yuuri didn’t smell like Viktor, or like his, at all just then. He was happy to comply, even in the middle of the night, because Yuuri not smelling like Viktor was simply wrong. Yuuri leaned down, mouth hovering over his. “Mark me,” Yuuri then whispered, voice thick and needy.

Viktor might have lost it a bit.

* * *

They woke up late to a knock on the door, a hotel cleaner calling out “Housekeeping”. Viktor was barely aware what time zone he was in – his body had little to no idea – but he got up instantly, pulling on the first piece of clothing he saw. He got to the door in Yuuri’s pyjama bottoms – they stopped above his ankles – and he popped his head out to say no cleaning was needed that day. He added a bright smile, and the cleaner flushed and moved along.

He padded back to the bed, where Yuuri now looked wide awake. “Morning,” he purred with a knowing grin, crawling on top of his mate. He pecked Yuuri’s lips, inhaling his scent – so thoroughly scented that Viktor could smell himself first, mixing sweetly with the scent of Yuuri. Sweeter than usual, he thought.

“I need a shower,” Yuuri said.

Viktor flopped on top of his mate, head on Yuuri’s bare chest. Yuuri startled, and he grinned to himself. “Let’s stay in bed for a bit,” he said, nuzzling in. They’d agreed before that their first day in Hong Kong was a day off: they needed time to adjust to the time zone shift and recover from their travelling, but also Viktor had thought it’d be nice to look around. It was one of his favourite things, exploring new cities with Yuuri. “Last night was fun,” he then added, glancing a look up at his omega, who had flushed a little red. Yuuri was rarely so bold, unless he was in heat. Yuuri did initiate sex every bit as much as he did, but it was subtle: a lingering gaze, a tug of his hand, a raised eyebrow or a nod towards the bedroom. Yuuri didn’t usually straddle him and demand to be taken, but Viktor was quite smug about the fact that Yuuri had.

Couldn’t get too much of a good thing, he thought, feeling himself drifting off already, Yuuri’s heartbeat steady against his ear, even if a tad unusually fast. “I- I really should shower,” Yuuri said and slid out from under him. Viktor made an unhappy sound, but drifted off to sleep for a little longer.

When he awoke, the hotel room was empty. “Yuuri?” he called out through a yawn, running a hand through his hair. “Babe?” The bathroom door was open, and he could see there was no one inside. Confused, he reached for his phone on the bedside table and discovered a note next to it.

Gone out. Didn’t want to wake you. xx

He grumbled quietly, opening up his phone and calling Yuuri, who picked up almost straightaway. “Why didn’t you wake me?” he asked, and Yuuri said he’d looked like he needed more sleep. Even so, this was their one day off that week, he thought. “Well, where are you?”

“Oh, you know – looking around, uh, the city, doing some shopping. Wandering about.”

Viktor didn’t like the thought of Yuuri wandering about Hong Kong by himself. “Okay, have you eaten? We could meet up somewhere?”

“I ate, I’m good. My phone’s nearly out of battery, I need to go. I’ll see you tonight, though?”

“But –”

“Love you,” Yuuri said, and Viktor opened his mouth but nothing came out, because yes, he loved Yuuri too, but he was dismayed, and before he could say anything, the line went dead.

He looked at his phone in confusion. “Yuuri…?” he echoed. It was one in the afternoon – he definitely needed to get up. He showered, still annoyed. This wasn’t like Yuuri. As he towelled off, his eyes landed on the spray of scent neutraliser on the bathroom counter. He picked it up, and the pea inside rattled. Why was Yuuri using this stuff?

Annoyed, he called Yuuri again once he was dressed. It went straight to voicemail, and he gritted his teeth. Yuuri could have been anywhere in Hong Kong right then! He had no idea where his omega was – what kind of an alpha was he?

Looking around the city… doing some shopping… wandering about…

Oh. A light bulb switched on in his head: some shopping. Viktor’s birthday was a couple of weeks away.

God, he was being silly. Yuuri could have just said!

He checked Instagram, found out Leo was already in Hong Kong too. He called him, and they went out for lunch together. He said Yuuri had gone out for some shopping – probably for his birthday, he added. He wished Yuuri’s phone had been on, however, or that Yuuri had made some plans with him for later on – museum, boat ride, dinner…?

Instead the day off was mostly wasted. He was cross-legged on the hotel bed, laptop on his knees, when Yuuri returned in the late afternoon. “Hey,” Viktor said, brightening up instantly. “I found us direct flights to Fukuoka, should I book them?”

“For after the final?” Yuuri asked, taking off his coat. He didn’t have a single shopping bag with him, Viktor noted. Yuuri turned the laptop around and peered at the screen. He was covered in scent neutralisers – Viktor felt himself shrink a little. He’d done such a good job at scenting Yuuri the night before – for what? Yuuri then nodded. “Should be fine. I’ll call Mom and let her know what time to expect us.”

Viktor nodded and booked the flights, and normally he would have been happy to have two weeks at his parents-in-law’s onsen, especially after a gruelling Grand Prix season, enjoying homemade katsudon and lie-ins and long soaks in the springs, but he couldn’t quite bring himself to enjoy it.

Yuuri was sat on the armchair by the window, on the phone to his mother and talking in fast Japanese – Viktor couldn’t catch up – and Yuuri looked restless, somehow, his shoulders hunched. Worry had creased his brow, even if he was trying to hide it.

“Everything okay?” Viktor asked him when Yuuri hung up.

“Of course,” Yuuri smiled.

But Viktor didn’t believe him.

* * *

Over the years, Viktor had gotten to know Yuuri better than anyone he’d ever met. Such intimacy gave him a sense of security and a quiet joyous peace that bled into their everyday synchronism. Therefore, he knew when something was bothering Yuuri, but he also knew not to push it. Yuuri had always needed time, but inevitably he told Viktor whatever was on his mind when he was ready. Sometimes the thing on Yuuri’s mind caught Viktor by surprise, like the time – years ago – when Yuuri had said that he’d retire to let Viktor return back to competing himself. He’d talked Yuuri out of that one quickly.

Most of the time, however, he knew what was bothering Yuuri before Yuuri even said anything.

This was not such a time.

For their first few days in Hong Kong, Viktor thought that Yuuri was nervous: Yuuri was no longer sure he could secure a third consecutive Grand Prix gold after losing to Yurio in Vancouver. This was silly: Yuuri had every chance in beating him and he told Yuuri as much, trying to calm him down.

The words did not seem to sink in, and Yuuri kept acting strangely. Yuuri wasn’t sleeping well at night, and on their third day there was so exhausted that he napped in the locker room in the middle of the day. Yuuri refused to eat, and two hours later was making a bee-line for a hot pot restaurant he’d spotted, pulling Viktor behind him. At times Yuuri almost seemed like his usual self, smiling and almost blindingly happy, but a second later Yuuri would be taciturn and worried again.

Yuuri was heavily overusing the scent neutralising spray, and Viktor was upset about it if he was being honest, although Yuuri just said that it was helping him focus. This was not an unfair point to make, except that in the past Viktor’s scent had used to help Yuuri focus, but apparently no longer did. Yuuri had also asked to be ravished and scented on their first night there, and then the next day Viktor’s touch did not seem to be wanted.

And, most importantly, Yuuri didn’t tell him what was going on. Viktor didn’t fool himself thinking this was just about some elaborate birthday present or party that Yuuri was trying to keep secret. This was something else.

Viktor knew full well that Yuuri was allowed to have privacy, but it had been so long since Yuuri had needed any that Viktor was unsure how to give it to him.

The last thing Yuuri probably needed was an overbearing alpha, so Viktor kept his disquiet to himself and – somewhat pathetically – found himself trying to scent Yuuri’s scarf while Yuuri was taking a shower a few days before the Short Program. Yuuri certainly shouldn’t smell like an unclaimed omega when he was mated – that was where Viktor would put his foot down, even if the bond mark on Yuuri’s neck was obvious.

Maybe they were both acting a little out of character, those first few days in Hong Kong. Yuuri’s nerves about an upcoming final had never manifested in this way before. Viktor was at a loss as to how to go about easing his mind when Yuuri seemed intent to keep his thoughts to himself. Were they fighting, Viktor wondered idly. Had he said or done something in Vancouver? Would this affect Yuuri’s performance at the final? Why was Yuuri keeping him at arm’s length?

“Something on your mind, darling?” he’d ask whenever he caught Yuuri lost in thought.

Yuuri was quick to shake his head, smiling at him. “No, no, just thinking about the final.”

And Viktor couldn’t dispute that, even if he felt like it was something else.

At least they both agreed on sticking to the practices as much as possible, but even on ice, Yuuri seemed to be acting strangely. Viktor leaned against the side of the rink, elbows resting on the barrier. Yuuri glided on the ice in his training clothes, skates scraping the smooth surface. When Yuuri went for his jumps, they didn’t seem as high as usual, and some of his quads turned into triples. To Viktor, it seemed like Yuuri didn’t have the courage to push his jumps to their limits. Viktor couldn’t for the life of him understand why, but this was something they would have to solve before the Short Program in two days’ time.

“Yuuri, come here!” he called out. They weren’t alone in the rink, a few other competitors and their coaches were there too. Yuuri skated over, cheeks flushed, sweat on his brow. Viktor stood up straight, worrying on his bottom lip. “Give yourself more momentum for the quads,” Viktor said, trying to be in coach-mode and not worried-mate-mode. “Concentrate, okay? Get your head in the game.”

“I know,” Yuuri said, sounding frustrated. Yuuri’s brown eyes were wide, worry in them. Viktor quieted – Yuuri’s hands were twisted in front of him, shoulders tense. Instinctively, Viktor reached out and cupped Yuuri’s cheek. He was relieved – relieved! – when Yuuri pushed into his touch, eyes fluttering shut. Yuuri exhaled, some of the tension draining out of him. “I don’t want to injure myself, that’s all,” Yuuri then said.

“What?”

Yuuri blinked at him, cheeks suddenly red. “I’m worried I’ll land badly.”

Viktor perked up. Was that it? His mind reeled – JJ! Yuuri had been acting weird ever since that dinner with JJ! It’d been a loss to them all when JJ had injured himself, and at such a young age, too. JJ was a painful reminder to them all of how easily years of hard work and practice could come to naught. “You know how to land a fall,” he said calmly, mustering up as much of a confident smile as he could. Sprained ankles, bruised knees, strained muscles – they’d seen it all before. Yuuri was in great shape, however, and hadn’t suffered a notable injury in a while.

“Yes, but – what if it’s different this time, what if I… damage…” Yuuri sighed and looked more miserable than ever.

“Darling, you’ll be fine,” he said. So much for coach-mode, he thought, as he pulled Yuuri into an over-the-barrier hug. Yuuri smelled like the awful neutralising spray, and neither did Yuuri relax into the hug, even as he hugged Viktor back. “I trust you completely,” Viktor said quietly and was rewarded by what seemed like a sniffle against his shoulder. Startled, he pulled back to see Yuuri’s eyes brimming with tears. “Wh – Yuuri, what is it?”

Yuuri shrugged his shoulders and wiped his eyes to the back of his hand. “Do you mean that? Do you really trust me?”

“Yes. Of course I do. Honey, sweetheart,” he practically cooed, throwing in every endearment he could, “what’s the matter?”

“It’s so much stress,” Yuuri breathed out shakily, looking unhappy. Viktor knew it was: a third consecutive gold? The pressure spectators, newspapers, fans were putting on Yuuri was more immense than it ever had been. “Doing all of this, with so much going on,” Yuuri added.

“I know, but you’re doing great. Just skate however you love it the best,” he said, and Yuuri smiled at him, even if he still looked teary-eyed.

“Okay,” Yuuri said and pushed off. He was still wiping his eyes as he went back onto the ice.

Yuuri went back to practising, and Viktor felt anxious and helpless. It was stress, of course it was, and he knew he could help with that if Yuuri only let him. Their emotions always ran high at competitions – but usually tears were brought about by relief, joy, and sometimes disappointment. Tears didn’t mark their practice sessions, however.

Ten minutes later, Yuuri landed badly from a Salchow, catching himself with a steadying palm against the ice and just about managing not to fall. It happened to everyone, including Yuuri – but this time Yuuri swore (swore!), skated over to where Viktor was, getting off the ice, and said he was done for the day.

While Yuuri went to shower and change, Viktor sat on the bleachers, watching Yurio and Otabek on the ice, Yakov scrutinising Yurio from the other side of the rink. He felt miserable: this had never happened before. How was it possible that he couldn’t read Yuuri? Was it about JJ’s injury or wasn’t it? Was it stress about the final or wasn’t it? And what could he do, as a coach and as a mate, to get Yuuri to open up?

Don’t push him. Never push him. He’d learned that about Yuuri almost as soon as they’d met. Nudge Yuuri as required, sure – but he couldn’t push Yuuri and expect any positive outcome from it.

He and Yuuri needed to talk – this much was clear.

“Viktor Nikiforov!” a young, girlish voice squeaked, and he looked to the side to see one of the women’s singles skaters, Katya Ivanova, arriving with her mother, coach and what looked like her little sisters. The voice hadn’t belonged to Katya, only sixteen herself, but to one of her little sisters. The two younger ones were perhaps eight and four – it was the eight-year-old who had spoken.

Viktor smiled at them, lifting his hand. “Hello!”

“Natalia!” Katya called out as one of her sisters all but ran over to Viktor. He sat up straighter as the girls’ mother followed, looking flustered herself, and the four-year-old ran wobbly steps to keep up, hair in blonde pigtails.

Upon reaching him, Natalia started chatting in rapid Russian: “You are my favourite skater of all time, you had the best programs, and your outfits were so sparkly, and your hair is so nice, and I have watched all of your programs, ever, all of them, on YouTube tons of times!”

“Aw, that’s –”

“Katya watches them too! We think you’re amazing! She has a crush on you!” Natalia declared, clutching her hands, green eyes sparkling.

“Natalia!” Katya shrieked, sounding scandalised and suddenly coloured a beetroot shade of red. Only her coach stayed back, looking amused, as the four Ivanova women surrounded Viktor.

Their mother now cut in. “What my little Nata is trying to say, of course, is that we all admire your work very much. My girls are big fans, Mr. Nikiforov.”

“Please, call me Viktor,” he said, standing up. Katya was staring at her feet, cheeks aflame, Natalia was beaming at him ecstatically, the four-year-old was gaping at him curiously, and the mother laughed nervously like him asking her to call him Viktor was the most unnerving thing she’d heard all year. “A commemorative photo?” he ventured, and never in his life had he seen anyone whip out their phone as quickly as Katya’s mother did.

Katya stopped being reluctant herself, now rushing to Viktor’s side to get a good spot. Viktor had seen her on TV – she was very talented and told her so. She stumbled on her feet and produced incoherent sounds. Natalia was clutching Viktor’s hand, beaming at the camera, and when their mum struggled fitting the four-year-old into the picture, Viktor scooped her up, propping her to his hip. He posed with the Ivanova girls, the mother taking a few to ensure they had plenty to choose from.

He stayed talking to the mother and Natalia while Katya and her coach went to start their practice. The youngest, Alya, was holding Viktor’s hand, grinning up at him now that she’d decided that she liked him. They talked about the tour, the hotels, different ice rinks, Moscow versus St. Petersburg, while Natalia intersected with, “We’ve been there!” or “Katya won silver there!”

“Did she now?” Viktor laughed, smiling at her.

Alya was tugging on his hand. “Do you want to play with me?” she asked, a bit shyly but utterly earnestly.

“Aw, I’d love to,” he said, just as he became aware of someone staring at him. He looked up to see Yuuri standing a little way off, brown eyes intently on him. Yuuri had wet hair from a shower, was now wearing a hoodie and sweatpants, and had his glasses back on, with one of his sports bags hanging over his shoulder. “Some other time,” he hastily added to Alya, who immediately began to pout.

Natalia followed his gaze and squealed, “Yuuri Katsuki!” Yuuri flared a little red as Natalia jumped up and down in excitement. The mother’s eyes lit up again, perhaps seeing a chance for another photo, but Viktor made firm apologies and slipped away from them.

Yuuri had his eyes fixed on little Alya when Viktor reached him. Viktor couldn’t understand the almost sad half-smile on Yuuri’s face that ended up looking, ultimately, a little lost. Yuuri’s eyes flickered to meet his.

Viktor wrapped an arm around Yuuri’s shoulders. “Good to go?” he asked, already leading them away. He pressed a kiss to Yuuri’s hair, desperately trying to catch his omega’s scent – god, he missed the way Yuuri smelled – but was only met with the wall-like emptiness of scent neutralisers. A lot of people were distracted by alpha and omega scents and used neutralisers to eliminate these distractions, especially in sports. Yuuri had never been one of them before.

They got a taxi back to the hotel, and in the backseat Yuuri leaned into him – an act that helped Viktor qualm his own nerves. Yuuri would tell him when he was ready. Being impatient would only push Yuuri away. He kept an arm around Yuuri, relieved that Yuuri wasn’t pushing him away altogether. That was a good sign. “I love you,” he whispered, quietly, into Yuuri’s hair.

Yuuri exhaled, nodding. “That little girl really seemed to like you,” Yuuri said in turn.

“That was Katya Ivanova’s little sister. She was a cute one, huh?”

“You were really good with her,” Yuuri said, and then fell into silence until they reached the hotel. Once there, walking up to the revolving front doors, Yuuri looked down at his shoes and, despite sounding nervous, with determined resolve said, “I think I should get my own room for tonight.”

Viktor stopped in his tracks. “What?”

“To help me sleep,” Yuuri said.

Viktor felt a little like someone had just ripped his heart out.

* * *

Viktor could barely sleep that night. He kept wondering how exactly his mate had shut him out in just a matter of days. The bed was cold and void, and Viktor thought back to some eight months earlier when Yuuri had gone to Japan to see friends and family, while Viktor, stuck in St. Petersburg because of other commitments, had moped around for a week.

If it was the competition getting to Yuuri, but nothing more, then all Viktor had to do was let it play out: after the final he’d get his Yuuri back. Questioning Yuuri on his nerves wouldn’t help Yuuri’s performance whatsoever.

If it wasn’t the competition… then how long would he wait for Yuuri to tell him why he seemed upset?

The night was long, and Viktor was none the better for it.

But when Yuuri met him in the lobby at eight thirty sharp the following morning, as agreed, looking somewhat well-rested for the first time since they got to Hong Kong, Viktor felt guilty. He was being a bad alpha – this was not a time about his needs, it was about Yuuri’s. If Yuuri needed his own room to get a good night’s rest, then Viktor needed to let it go. Maybe he’d started to snore loudly now that he was in his thirties, and Yuuri was simply too polite to tell him?

Still, in the taxi to the rink, he quietly said, “Honey, I’m not mad or… or anything, but after the final is done, we need to sit down and talk.” Talk about how, final or no final, Yuuri could not just shut him out like this.

“I know,” Yuuri said, simply. “We will. I plan to.” Yuuri said it like it was clear for him too, and Viktor felt a little better. He lifted Yuuri’s knuckles to his lips for a quick kiss, and for a brief second Yuuri looked at him with all the warmth and love that Viktor – maybe a bit foolishly – had started to take for granted.

The practice went a lot better that day. Yuuri was in a better mood and definitely better rested. Even so, as Viktor offered constructive criticism, the alpha part of his brain was pacing in circles that his omega appeared to be sleeping better without him. Was there another alpha in his territory that was causing this? Who was it? His eyes strayed from Yuuri to other people around the ice rink. Was it that – that random woman over there, talking on her phone? Was it Otabek, now joining the public practice session? His eyes fixed on Yurio and he dismissed it – Yurio was only eighteen and Yurio would not dare – ah! Maybe it was some beta! Perhaps Yakov?! Maybe it was Yakov, maybe –

He thought of him and Yuuri in bed, a hazy memory from some lazy day or another, with Makkachin curled at their feet. Yuuri was laughing, the bright laughter vibrating against Viktor’s body, the omega securely in Viktor’s arms. “Do it again,” Yuuri had requested, laughing so hard he was wiping the corners of his eyes.

Viktor, in mock-seriousness, did his best Yakov impression again. “Vitya,” he boomed, “you must skate like a little pussycat. A pussycat!”

Yuuri howled, gasping for air. Viktor had snuck in a kiss, and Yuuri had muttered, “A pussycat!”, against his lips. They had ended up laughing against each other’s mouths, and Yuuri had been his, all his, marked and scented and his own, seeking his touch and never rejecting it. God, he thought, how in love he was.

He blinked. No, it wasn’t Yakov. Of course it wasn’t Yakov – he needed to get a grip. It was only a couple of nights ago that Yuuri had woken him up to be scented, and they’d more than fucked, and Yuuri had – had been so needy, so wonderfully needy and responsive, and he’d smelled intoxicating and sweet, and Viktor had felt so satisfied. There was no other alpha. Couldn’t be.

On the ice, Yuuri gained speed, as if going for a jump and then changing his mind. Yuuri circled around instead, and Viktor didn’t understand why Yuuri was hesitating – the jumps seemed to be the issue here. To the far left of the rink, Otabek fell when landing from a Lutz. The audience gasped, and Otabek got up fast enough, but then stopped to rub at his hip, which had made contact with the surface. Even Viktor winced seeing a fall that nasty.

Yuuri attempted no further jumps after Otabek’s fall.

They had some PR to do that afternoon, and Yuuri talked to reporters about his year that far, about the competition et cetera, et cetera. They had dinner with Seung-Gil as previously agreed (Yuuri liked Seung-Gil – Viktor found him a bit too serious), and at the end of the night Yuuri went to a different hotel room on a different floor.

Viktor went back to their room, found Yuuri’s hoodie and hugged it to his chest, crawling into bed with it. The Short Program was due to start the following morning. God, he just wanted this stupid final to be over so he could get his mate back.

He blinked. No, of course he didn’t. Tomorrow was going to be a huge day for them both: a third consecutive Grand Prix gold was at stake!

He had to snap out of this: Yuuri wasn’t blind and knew Viktor was worried, too. Viktor didn’t want to make Yuuri more nervous or anxious about the final than he already was.

No, he was going to pull himself together and be there every step of the way for Yuuri. Just like he’d always been.

* * *

Yuuri was visibly anxious when his Short Program turn came. Yuuri took off the skate guards, habitually handing them to Viktor. They both stared out onto the ice, with Yuuri exhaling shakily. Otabek was in the kiss and cry, celebrating his 94.02 score.

Viktor had no time for the results, however, as he kept his attention on his mate. Yuuri had done this program hundreds of times – they had practised every second of it, he’d designed it for Yuuri specifically, from every flick of the wrist to every stretch of the ankle. Viktor had choreographed it as his own little love song for Yuuri, whether or not Yuuri knew it.

Yuuri’s costume had been designed by them both, beautifully white with blue sequins around the middle, and the now slightly infamous laced see-through fabric around Yuuri’s throat that, even now, made Yuuri’s bond mark visible. It wasn’t the show-off red it had been at Skate America, only days after Yuuri’s heat, but a part of Viktor wished that it had been.

They were still waiting for Yuuri to be announced. Yuuri seemed like a nervous wreck, and if Viktor could read Yuuri at all, it was as if Yuuri didn’t even want to get on the ice.

“Oh god,” Yuuri then breathed, as if on cue. Tens of thousands spectators had filled up the stadium. The current world champion was about to go on. “I don’t know what I’m doing,” Yuuri then said, shame crossing his face. “I don’t know, I don’t –”

Viktor engulfed Yuuri in a hug, not caring what cameras might be on them. Yuuri fisted the back of his coat. “We’ve worked so hard for this,” Yuuri was mumbling, “I don’t want to let us down, to let you down, and I’m so scared, and I don’t know if I’m making the right decision for us, for you, for our –”

“I trust you,” Viktor said. He held onto Yuuri, and as so many times before, he tried to let his own confidence in Yuuri transfer onto Yuuri himself. “I trust you completely.”

In the air, a voice boomed: “Next, from Japan, Yuuri Katsuki –”

“Skate for me – no one else, just me,” Viktor said, giving Yuuri a smile that he hoped showed all the ardent love and blind faith he had, before letting Yuuri go, a bit reluctantly. Yuuri nodded, visibly shaken. He squeezed Yuuri’s fingers.

Yuuri got on the ice to uproarious applause.

Watching Yuuri do his programs never got any less nerve-wrecking for him. When the music started, the statue of Yuuri in the middle of the rink came to life. Viktor was aware of his own heart, beating, if not drumming, deafeningly in his chest. Yuuri began to move to the music, beautifully and gracefully. Viktor held his breath, hands sweating. Yuuri’s first quad was coming up – only a triple Lutz! Damn! Viktor had already seen it in practice that week – Yuuri just didn’t seem to dare go for the hardest jumps. And a wobbly landing too, but okay, they could recover from that, they could still be just fine! Don’t lose your nerve now, darling, you’ve got this! Everyone else’s got catching up to do – you set the bar!

Combination next – come on, come – quad Salchow! And triple Rippon toeloop! A perfect combo, Yuuri was on it! Viktor jumped by the barrier, whooping into the air. The step sequence was a beauty, followed by a graceful spread eagle. Viktor was smiling widely to himself, fiercely proud. That was his mate out there – his Yuuri, wooing the crowd. Yuuri gained speed and went for the final jump: a triple axel – bad landing, Yuuri having to catch himself from falling. Yuuri was letting the nerves get to him. Focus, focus!

Yuuri glided to the middle where he went into a Biellmann spin, his left leg raised up behind him and above his head, high in the air, where he held it with both hands, back arched beautifully. Yuuri then let go of his raised leg, letting it move to a perfect ninety-degree camel spin, and as the music reached its crescendo, Yuuri lowered himself to the sit spin, twisting around rapidly, before rising up to stand for the final position. The music stopped.

Yuuri was heaving in the middle of the rink, looking probably ten times more relieved than Viktor had ever seen him. Yuuri had changed the final position: instead of arms raised to the skies and his head tilted upwards, Yuuri had his arms around his middle, chin dipped downwards. It was a protective looking gesture. Yuuri’s chest rose and fell rapidly. Even as Viktor applauded, he was making note of all the mistakes – there were far too many for Yuuri’s usual standard, and from the planned jumps, Yuuri had only done the combo cleanly!

The post-program moments were always adrenaline filled: Yuuri skated over to him, he pulled Yuuri into his embrace, relieved, and as Yuuri put skate guards back on, someone was already ushering them along. Before Viktor knew it they were in the kiss and cry. He kept an arm around Yuuri’s shoulders, and Yuuri was smiling – at last! Yuuri didn’t even seem upset about the mistakes and the failed quad Lutz, and while as his coach Viktor felt differently and was disappointed in the performance, as Yuuri’s mate he was blindingly proud of him anyway. They announced the score: 93.45. It was a good score, but nowhere near Yuuri’s BP – Yuuri had scored higher in both qualifiers, too.

Yuuri was now in second place with two more skaters to go. “How you feeling about that?” Viktor asked Yuuri, who was almost trembling against him. Yuuri waved in different directions, bowing his gratitude briefly.

“I didn’t fall,” Yuuri said. “I was so worried I’d fall.” This seemed to be Yuuri’s main concern.

Yuuri usually was embarrassed by the kinds of mistakes he’d done that performance, but this time Yuuri took it in his stride. Yuuri’s scent lingered in the air – the scent neutralisers could not battle the perspiration that a competition program caused. Yuuri smelled sweeter, somehow – or had Viktor forgotten in just a few days the scent of his omega? He’d already noted it before: Yuuri smelled sweet, like… like… Why was he thinking of his own mother, out of all people?

“Exhausted now,” Yuuri said, but he laughed in relief.

“Tomorrow’s free skate will go even better,” he said, placing a hand on the back of Yuuri’s neck. Yuuri got up, almost as if – as if to pull away from his touch, and Viktor felt his heart sink. Short Program over, Yuuri had underperformed, which they both ultimately knew, and Yuuri was still being distant.

Yuuri went on to do interviews, and Viktor held back as Leo took the rink, but stayed within earshot. “A couple of mistakes there,” the first interviewer remarked, but Viktor saw Yuuri put on his bravest face. Everyone, including Viktor, had expected Yuuri to rank first at this stage, not second – if Yuuri got unlucky, he’d finish the Short Program fourth! He kept his eyes on Leo and felt bad at the relief he felt when Leo messed up his first quad. He wasn’t there to wish others to do badly – he was there for others to do damn well and for Yuuri to win anyway!

“Mr. Nikiforov?” a voice came, and he looked away from Leo. A grey-haired man in a suit and with a clipboard held to his chest had approached him. Viktor recognised him as one of the official ISU people. “I’d like to speak to you and Mr. Katsuki, if I may.”

Viktor frowned. “About?”

The man clicked his tongue, letting out a long ‘errrr’ sound. “A medical issue. As I’m sure you know.”

Viktor’s frown only deepened. He looked over to where Yuuri was giving interviews.

“Well, Yuuri’s busy… but whatever it is, I am sure I know whatever you need.” He knew Yuuri’s height, weight, blood type, and every serious hospitalisation since his birth (age 4: concussion from running into a wall, result: the boy needed glasses. Age 8: a broken finger from falling on ice, result: splint. Age 10, another on-ice accident –)

“Very well,” the man said, and Viktor stopped enumerating in his head. The man beckoned him further away from the media sector, and, frowning, Viktor followed.

The man – his name tag said George Bentley, and he spoke with an English accent – looked like he was out of his element, perhaps a bit nervous but also a bit annoyed. Bentley looked around them to see if anyone was listening, and then in a discreet half-whisper said, “The results of blood tests from Skate Canada have arrived, and Mr. Katsuki’s results flagged up.”

“Excuse me?” Viktor asked sharply, all thoughts of Yuuri’s medical history vanishing from his head. Flagged up? Was this man saying that Yuuri was doping?!

“I understand of course that this is a very delicate and private matter,” Bentley then conceded, but Viktor was aghast. “Even so, it is our moral duty to object, Mr. Nikiforov.”

“Object?!” he repeated, further scandalised. Of course they should object if someone was doping, but Yuuri wasn’t! He could tell the exact number of times Yuuri had taken ibuprofen that year, or any other medication for that matter!

Bentley clearly sensed his outrage as he now looked cross himself. “Yes, object! Frankly, this is completely unprecedented in men’s singles, or ladies’, pairs and ice dance, for that matter, and it puts us into a very difficult position!”

“Hang on a minute,” he said, but Bentley waved him off.

“Mr. Nikiforov,” the man said, taking in a deep breath, lowering his voice even more, “the official stance of the ISU on this matter is as follows.” Bentley checked his clipboard now. “The ISU does not recommend that pregnant omegas compete, nor does it take any liability over the health of the expecting competitor or the child, or any damage that may incur on either when the expecting omega is partaking in ISU organised events. It is completely at one’s own personal risk, you see here, and I have checked with our lawyers on this matter too, and we are in no –”

“W… W-Wait, what?” Viktor stammered. “How does that relate to us?”

“Don’t play coy with me, Mr. Nikiforov!” Bentley snapped, somewhat failing to keep his voice to a whisper. “You’re Mr. Katsuki’s mate, for goodness sake. I can only scold you – scold you! – for the situation you have put us in! It is most unsatisfactory and most unprofessional, and –”

Viktor lost his breath and clutched onto Bentley’s arms for balance. “Are you saying that Yuuri’s pregnant?” he asked as Bentley untangled himself in protest. “How far along?”

“Well I should think you know!” Bentley nearly snapped, having become rather unsettled.

Viktor’s heart was beating hard and fast, disbelief washing over him. Yuuri was. Was – “Excuse me”, he said, rapidly turning around and ignoring Bentley calling his name. An adrenalin rush was making his heart thunder in his chest, his hands shaking and trembling. Yuuri – he needed to find Yuuri, he needed to –

But how…? The heat! Oh god, the heat! And now Yuuri – They’d. Together, they’d –

His mind reeled: the strange behaviour, the fatigue, the mood swings, the change in how he smelled! Viktor had noticed that weeks ago!

Oh, it made sense now – god, it all made sense, it made wonderful, magical sense! God, it couldn’t possibly be… but it was, he’d just been told so. It was!

Yuuri was no longer being interviewed – instead Leo was there, and Yurio was on ice. Yuuri, however, was nowhere to be seen. Viktor felt panic rising up in him as he got out his phone, ready to call Yuuri because Viktor needed to find them – Yuuri and the baby – he needed to –

He was met with a text, sent only a minute earlier: I’m heading to the hotel to nap, SP wore me out. Will call later – dinner around seven?

What?! He immediately called Yuuri, but it went into voicemail. Voicemail! How could Yuuri just leave without telling him or before all of the competitors had even finished! He wanted to tell Yuuri the news, he needed his omega, who was pregnant – god, what a wonderful, exciting – he needed Yuuri in his arms, he needed to see the joy on Yuuri’s face, he needed to cover Yuuri in a thousand kisses! Yuuri needed protecting and scenting, of course, and he had to mark Yuuri so he could claim him and the unborn child as his own, and Yuuri was pregnant, and Viktor may have been hyperventilating, but there were so many things they needed to do! A nursery! He’d need to transform the guest room into a nursery! And get a more practical car! And- and find the hospital closest to their home, he wasn’t even sure which one it was, and –

God, Yuuri must have bolted the second he was done with his interviewers to manage to leave without Viktor noticing! Why would Yuuri do something like that, how could –

Viktor froze, right there at the rink-side, hair dishevelled, out of breath, probably looking somewhat deranged as he was smiling with radiating joy, and clutching his phone like it was his final lifeline.

Yuuri knew.

The scent neutralisers, the separate hotel room, the conscious avoidance of Viktor…

The alpha swayed, almost disorientated. No. No, that couldn’t…

His heart was full of anxiety and excitement, both competing for attention.

But… if Yuuri knew, why hadn’t he…?

That was when the obvious answer hit him: Yuuri didn’t want him to know. Yuuri had found out, paused, and decided not to tell him about their child.

The thought of being shut out like that from something like this – to be rejected in such a way by his mate – hurt more than anything he could possibly have imagined.

* * *

Yuuri felt calmer once he was back in his hotel room. He’d checked the final score in the taxi over: he was in third place for the Free Skate, with Yuri having come first. He hadn’t been in such a poor position since the first year Viktor had coached him and he’d ended up fourth after the SP, but in the end Yurio had only beaten him by 0.14 points! There was still a chance that he could get his third consecutive Grand Prix gold, if his program the next day was absolutely perfect…

Easy. Just pull out a world record like you did that first GPF with Viktor.

God, no pressure there.

He scrutinised his reflection in the bathroom mirror. He’d wrapped himself up in one of the hotel’s luxurious bathrobes, fluffy and white, and his black hair was stuck out at odd angles, still wet from the sweaty performance. He squinted at himself from behind his glasses, postponing the shower he very much needed.

93.45 he’d got. Many skaters would have been delighted with that, and he was too, considering how scared he’d been. All of the previous times he’d been nervous seemed laughable now: try skating when you have a child to protect. Try skating when every second you’re terrified that you’ll make one single mistake, you fall, and the baby doesn’t survive it. Try skating like that, and then tell him about nerves.

93.45 was damned good under those conditions. He’d tripped once, but he hadn’t fallen. He’d messed two landings, the quad Lutz had been a triple, but everything else had been spot on. Really, he’d expected much worse.

He looked away from the mirror, hesitated, and then took off his robe. He hadn’t looked at himself since his first day in Hong Kong, when he’d snuck out to a fancy private practice to see a doctor. One pregnancy test could be faulty, after all: the ultrasound machine definitely hadn’t been. On the screen had been a – a small lump? A kidney bean shaped thing? The doctor had asked if he wanted to hear the heartbeat, and he’d said no. He wanted Viktor there for that.

Everything had looked fine, they’d said. But would the baby get dizzy if he was spinning, he’d asked. Or get whiplash if he was going too fast? The doctor had smiled at him for that. “You do realise the baby is the size of a peanut right now, don’t you, Mr. Katsuki?”

Yuuri had then asked what would happen, theoretically, if he crashed on ice when going at roughly twenty miles per hour, or if he did spins and rotations at 250 rotations per minute? The doctor had blinked at him, the smile now gone. “Those are risks that I don’t recommend you take.”

He’d taken the risks anyway after calling his personal physician in St. Petersburg. The risk of damage was low, but there was risk if he had a severe fall or hit. In any case, his entire body was now gearing itself into baby production – any extra stress on it, like professional athletics, was to be avoided.

But if he didn’t fall, or suffer any severe hits, would he be fine for the final? “You’ll have to work harder than usual, but I don’t see why not,” his doctor had said. “However, it will be your last competition for the duration of the pregnancy.”

He knew it would be more than that: it would be his last competition, period.

Underneath the hotel robe, he was only wearing pyjama bottoms, ready to take a nap – he was exhausted all the time. He pushed the bottoms down to rest below his stomach, revealing his belly. He stared at himself from the mirror – chest flat, muscles toned. He moved sideways and examined himself from the side.

There. His belly was a gentle curve, still perhaps passable for indulgent katsudon consumption, but not for much longer. The costumes hid nothing, and it was only the sequin frills of his costume that morning that had made the swelling of his middle undetectable. One might not really notice it if you weren’t looking for it – and as such Viktor hadn’t noticed – but to Yuuri, it was obvious.

Gently, he placed a hand on top of it and marvelled. “You’re already causing trouble,” he said, affectionately. He smiled a little, but then worry wrapped itself around his heart and he sighed. Staying away from Viktor at a time like this went against every instinct his pregnant omega brain was allowed to conjure up – he kept shutting it all down, for now. He knew Viktor thought he was nervous about the final, and he was, so he wasn’t misleading Viktor in that sense.

All he needed was another day. He’d do his best, and then – Then it was bye to all this. All he’d worked for…

A sharp knock sounded on the door, startling him. He quickly wrapped himself up in the bathrobe, wondering why the cleaning staff were ignoring the Don’t Disturb sign he’d put out. He should have asked who it was, probably, before opening to door to find Viktor stood on the other side. Viktor looked a mess: his hair was dishevelled, his cheeks a deep red, and he seemed to be out of breath. Had he run from the stadium? Surely not…

“Viktor…?” he asked slowly. “What it is?”

Viktor stepped closer to him, reaching out, but then his hand dropped. Viktor swallowed hard. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Tell you what?” he asked, although he had a feeling he knew, and his heart was beginning to race fast and hard.

Viktor’s shoulders slumped. He looked heartbroken. “Don’t you want it?” Viktor then asked. “Or is there some other reason, is there…” Viktor looked at him, perhaps like he wasn’t too far away from crying. Oh. Oh no. No. He was able to put up some resistance, maintain some distance, but that would be impossible if Viktor –

“Of course I want it,” he rushed out, and Viktor nodded, stepped in, and pulled him into the tightest hug he’d ever given him, like he was never letting Yuuri go. Yuuri’s heart ached as he hugged back. Of course he wanted it – he’d never doubted that. It was the timing, that was all, it was just the timing and the middle of the Grand Prix season… He steadied himself, even as his head felt dizzy. “I didn’t want you to worry,” he whispered guiltily.

“Worry?” Viktor repeated, stepping back but keeping hands on Yuuri’s shoulders. Viktor looked a little mad then. “It’s my job to worry! It’s my – Goddammit, Yuuri,” Viktor swore, and he never swore. Viktor looked down the corridor restlessly and then ushered them both inside the hotel room. The second the door closed, he had been engulfed in Viktor’s embrace again and he stumbled back a step. “Yuuri,” Viktor mumbled into his hair, sounding choked up. “Darling…”

Yuuri made a move to back away from the embrace, and Viktor growled. He growled. Viktor tightened his arm around Yuuri’s waist and nosed his hair with a gentleness that seemed opposite to his other more urgent actions. “Are you okay?” Viktor asked, voice thick with worry. “How are you feeling? Fine? Healthy?”

“Y-Yes,” he stammered into Viktor’s shoulder. Viktor’s nose was pressing against the side of his head, inhaling deep.

“I’m here now,” Viktor said. “Anything you need, I’m here.”

Yuuri practically crumbled in his arms. He squeezed Viktor tightly to him, desperately needing the alpha’s embrace. “I really wanted to tell you,” he managed to say. Every second of every day he’d wanted to tell Viktor, but he hadn’t. Why was that again? And how had Viktor found out? But it was hard to remember or question how when Viktor was suddenly kissing him, long and hard. The scent of Viktor was thick in the air, and he’d be lying if he didn’t say that he responded to the kiss almost fervently.

Viktor laughed against his mouth. “I’m so happy.”

And, in that second, Yuuri felt happier than at any point before. “You are?”

“Yes, god yes. Yuuri – I’m ecstatic,” Viktor laughed, giving him one of his blinding smiles, and Yuuri felt heat rise on his cheeks. “Have you any idea how long I’ve dreamt of this?” Viktor then whispered, voice lowering to a slightly predatory husk. “How many times I’ve looked at you, picturing you pregnant with my child?”

Yuuri felt his throat closing up. “Viktor…”

“The first time… probably my third day of coaching you,” Viktor admitted, and Yuuri forgot how to breathe for a couple of seconds.

The second kiss was hot, determined. Viktor tugged at the belt of his robe until it came undone. “Need to scent you,” Viktor whispered in between a kiss, and Yuuri forgot whatever the problem seemed to be – he knew there was a problem, that it wasn’t quite as simple as this. But right then what remained was that it was exhausting to do without Viktor, to not have Viktor there when he needed him – not to be claimed and owned.

His robe pooled at his feet as Viktor pushed him backwards – gently, and with their mouths still attached – until the backs of his legs hit the side of the hotel bed. Viktor pushed off his own coat, one free hand cupping the back of Yuuri’s neck. “You smell so good,” Viktor groaned, and Yuuri doubted it, as he hadn’t even showered after the Short Program. “I can smell it on you now,” Viktor then said – or slurred, almost – nosing at his scent gland right below his left ear. “It’s so sweet, so – so heady…”

All Yuuri could smell was Viktor: alpha pheromones suddenly heavy in the air, adrenalin and testosterone and the unique signature musk that was Viktor alone, and Yuuri wanted to be covered in it, from head to toe – the scent alone was making him hard and wet as Viktor dragged his mouth over his neck slowly.

Viktor wrapped an arm around his lower back and pushed them both onto the bed. Yuuri was only in his pyjama bottoms, but Viktor was fully dressed, shoes and all, as he hovered over Yuuri, leaving kisses on his neck and throat. As Viktor’s mouth glided over his Adam’s apple, Yuuri moaned, wanting desperately to be bitten. His pyjama bottoms were undoubtedly tenting, but Viktor had not put any weight on him, knees on either side of his waist. Then Viktor’s mouth was on his, hot and demanding, Viktor’s tongue pushing into his mouth. He wrapped his arms around Viktor’s neck, his glasses fogging up quickly. Viktor began stripping off his own clothes: loosening his tie, undoing the buttons of his shirt.

Yuuri took in deep, uneven breaths when Viktor sat upright, behind resting on the tops of Yuuri’s thighs. His first instinct when the pregnancy test had been positive had been exactly this: find Viktor and be scented. It had been a wild animal drive that had left little to reason.

Now, his heart at his throat, he sensed the same in Viktor. Viktor’s silver hair was flopped over his left eye as he pulled off his tie, undid the last remaining buttons, and then slid off his shirt. When he reached out to help, Viktor pressed a hand to his bare chest. “Stay,” Viktor commanded, voice low. Yuuri’s stomach flipped.

The shirt and tie ended up on the floor. Viktor’s hands then went to his belt, undoing it in haste – Viktor was in a rush, that much was clear. Viktor unzipped himself, and Yuuri’s eyes were keenly following these developments as the V of Viktor’s hips was revealed more and more.

Viktor stopped, fly undone, trousers low on his hips. He reached down and took Yuuri’s glasses, and Yuuri blinked, adjusting to the slightly blurrier version of his mate. Viktor kissed him – feather light, fleeting – and then travelled down his body, mouth first enclosing over his right nipple. “Oh,” he managed, his entire back arching to the feel of lips and tongue on him. Oh, that was more sensitive than before, that –

Viktor moved to the other nipple, now adding in teeth as the nipple hardened. Yuuri felt tension gathering in his groin, and Viktor’s hand slipped down to cup him over his pyjamas. The palm of Viktor’s hand pressed to his cock as Viktor kissed his chest, sucking on his nipples.

“Please,” he moaned out – for what, he wasn’t sure.

Viktor made an agreeing noise, kissing down his chest before pushing the pyjama bottoms down to his knees. Yuuri lifted his hips off the bed in order to help, his rather pathetically hard cock exposed, and he felt wet between his cheeks already. Viktor was eye level to his navel and crotch – certainly not the first time in his life that Viktor had been so, granted, but now Viktor froze. Yuuri looked down at him, at the top of Viktor’s head. Viktor pressed a hand gently to his lower stomach, palm flat against him. The hand moved from pubic bone to his belly button, slowly. “Are you showing?” Viktor asked disbelievingly.

With a frame like his – thin and lean – any change was noticeable fast. Off-season, in a matter of weeks he developed a ‘katsudon belly’, as Viktor called it affectionately. When competitions started, however, he was always at the top of his game, any excess burnt off by exercise. This time, however, the belly was unavoidable.

He was almost two months. He was showing the smallest bit, but both him and Viktor could see it.

“Yes,” he admitted, and Viktor looked up at him, blue eyes alight with wonder and – and joy, it looked like.

“I didn’t think it’d…” Viktor said and then smiled wildly, before resting his head against Yuuri’s stomach. Yuuri startled when Viktor began to place small kisses on the swell of his belly, before rubbing the flats of his wrists over it. “Oh, you’re beautiful,” he said, scenting him there. In response, Yuuri spread his legs a little, and Viktor groaned, mouth moving down and running over his cock in lithe kisses.

Viktor snaked hands into the hollows of his knees and lifted his legs, leaving Yuuri exposed. Yuuri’s hands wound up in his own black hair, eyes on the beige hotel ceiling, as Viktor’s mouth trailed further down. “Viktor!” he gasped as he felt his alpha’s mouth on his hole, tongue tasting him there.

“So wet,” Viktor murmured, and Yuuri flushed, eyes slipping shut as Viktor began to eat him out – no teasing, no going slow – Viktor’s mouth was on him, hungrily. His back arched off the bed, but Viktor kept him still and open with hands behind his raised knees.

Yuuri was groaning ‘oh please, please’ into the room, moaning all too loudly. It was utterly obscene, but so good – why did Viktor have to be so good, so aware of what got him off the quickest? Viktor knew this was one of his favourite things, the one thing that drove him utterly wild…

Viktor pulled back just as Yuuri was beginning to feel close. He gasped for air, the muscles of his thighs trembling. So good, so stupid, so very…

Viktor kissed over his perineum, and Yuuri thought he’d come from his mouth alone if Viktor wasn’t careful.

Viktor let go of his legs and stood up by the bed. His trousers, already undone, were pushed down, and Viktor quickly stepped out of them, toeing his shoes off first. Viktor was hard – god, did he look hard. Viktor wiped his wet-looking mouth to the back of his hand, blue eyes dark and hungry, and then lowered himself on top of Yuuri once more.

They were now chest to chest, belly to belly, crotch to crotch, and Viktor slowly put his weight on Yuuri. Yuuri spread his thighs, letting Viktor fall in between, and Viktor dropped a soft kiss to his lips as one hand protectively cradled the back of his head. Yuuri swallowed hard, a trace of himself in Viktor’s kiss. “Do I taste different?” he asked, and Viktor gave him a smile that was almost dark.

“Yes,” Viktor said. “You taste like you’re mine.”

Instinctively, Yuuri tipped his head, exposing his neck, the mark and his scent glands. Viktor groaned a little and bent down to kiss him over his pulse point. Yuuri wrapped arms around Viktor’s shoulders, needy and wired up. Their cocks brushed together, and Viktor kissed his neck, kissed his jaw, his lips.

He moaned, restless, when Viktor placed a lingering kiss on the scent gland below his right ear, followed by lithe kisses down to his shoulder. Yuuri was as hard as he could get, his hole was soaked, and god he needed, he needed –

“You got condoms here?” Viktor asked, words whispered to his ear.

Fuck! He didn’t! Oh no – the thought of backing down now was enough to make him want to cry, but then he laughed instead. “We don’t need any,” he said in realisation.

“Huh?” Viktor asked, nose pressing against his, breath washing over his mouth.

“We don’t need them,” he said, and Viktor blinked before grinning widely.

“God, no we don’t.”

They laughed into each other’s mouths, even as nervous excitement was making Yuuri’s toes tingle. He’d never had unprotected sex, not that it had helped him much in the end – he’d been knocked up by his alpha despite their attempts to be careful. But it was good, better – he wanted Viktor as close as he could possibly get.

“Tell me if it hurts at all,” Viktor said, “or if anything feels weird, or unusual, or –”

“I will,” he said, in a rush. “Please.” He was almost squirming.

Viktor lifted one of Yuuri’s leg against his hip, kissed his lips, and with one hand on the base of his cock, guided the head to Yuuri’s hole. Yuuri lost his breath, the skin there sensitive, his body wound up in anticipation. Slowly, slowly, Viktor pushed inside. Yuuri wasn’t sure if anything, ever, had felt as good – he needed Viktor deep in him, claiming him one piece at a time.

Viktor swallowed audibly, one hand brushing Yuuri’s brow. “Is this fine?” Viktor asked.

“Stop asking,” he said and pulled Viktor down to a deep kiss. Viktor relaxed and began to move – Viktor’s fluid movements on ice gave some indication as to what he was like in bed: perfect sense of rhythm, hips one sinuous movement. He’d undone Yuuri since the first time they’d made love, and this was no different.

Yuuri tilted his head back, one of his legs high up in the air, propped to Viktor’s hip. He groaned, loudly, and Viktor mouthed at the side of his neck. Teasing was over, thankfully, as Viktor moved up to bite at the scent gland below his right ear. Viktor’s teeth sinking in sent ripples of pleasure down his spine, and his hands grabbed Viktor’s hips, demanding more.

“You’ve never smelled this good,” Viktor groaned into his skin, lapping over where he’d bitten. Viktor’s mouth trailed over his Adam’s apple, dizzyingly close to the bond mark, and then to the gland on the other side. As Viktor bit him there, and then nuzzled the spot to attach his own scent, Viktor’s hips kept up a steady, demanding pace, and Yuuri felt himself melt into the mattress.

He came, suddenly, when Viktor sank his teeth to the crook of his neck – an orgasm that was almost lazy, his muscles tightening around Viktor’s length and his cock pulsing between their bodies, come smearing his belly. He purred, almost, and Viktor kissed him deep and hard. “That good for you, baby?” Viktor crooned in his stupidly hot and husky sex voice – god, it should have been ridiculous to hear Viktor say things like that, it really should have, instead of it being mind-bogglingly sexy. He muttered affirmatives, feeling all the more sensitive as Viktor kept fucking into him. They both knew they weren’t done: Viktor considered anything short of three omega orgasms to have been a failure on his part.

Viktor was leaving bite marks on his throat and neck, nuzzling each spot, and Yuuri could feel himself drowning in his mate’s smell. He wanted it all over him, for everyone to know the second they met him that he was claimed, that his alpha had claimed him, and was never too far away. He wanted people to catch the scent of Viktor, and then see Yuuri’s expectant form, and for all to know about them. The thought was so satisfying, filling him with a possessive need – god, whoever thought only alphas were possessive had it all wrong.

Viktor had started to sweat, only adding to the scent of him. Viktor braced his hands on either side of Yuuri’s head, lifting himself off from the assault of his neck and throat. Viktor fucked into him, mouth agape, brows knitted, pleasure flashing on his features. “God, you look so good like this,” Viktor said, eyes on his throat where the skin felt sore and was probably reddened. Viktor put more force behind his thrusts, and Yuuri let his thighs fall even further apart. Viktor moaned, dipping down, mouth hovering over his: “How are you so wet off-heat?”

“You,” he said, in response, and Viktor swore in Russian. His cock was half-hard again, but more heat thrummed in his pelvic muscles, his hole sensitive and sending pleasure into every limb with each of Viktor’s thrusts. “Mark me,” he breathed, a hand slipping down to cup Viktor’s ass, to urge him in deeper. “Mark me, please, I –”

“Shut up, that’s gonna make me come,” Viktor groaned, forehead now pressing to his. “Don’t want this over yet, don’t want –”

“Viktor,” he said, out of breath, swallowing around the word. “Mark me.”

Viktor gasped, yanked painfully on his hair to pull his head back, and bit on his bond mark hard. Yuuri came, instantly, muscles squeezing and vibrating around Viktor’s length. His mind blacked out as he, blissfully, felt adrenalin and bonding hormones cloud his mind, pleasure throbbing everywhere: in his groin, his belly, pleasure radiating from his neck. He was Viktor’s, no one else’s – he was his alone, and he’d been claimed, both him and the baby were claimed.

Viktor bit the mark, the sounds of his groans muffled, hips jerking as he came. Viktor’s knot pressed against his hole but Viktor didn’t push it inside. Even the feel of it pressed against him, as Viktor’s semen spilled inside, made the orgasm deeper and more intense. Yuuri’s fingers dug into Viktor’s back and he shivered, riding out the orgasm, Viktor not letting go of the mark but deepening the bite. He thrashed, briefly, but Viktor expertly kept him pinned down until it was done.

He was gasping for air when Viktor finally let go. “Oh,” he managed, brain flat-lining. The room stank of mating and scenting – anyone who walked down their corridor would probably glance at their hotel room door, scandalised by what clearly must have been happening inside. Hotels were rather uncouth places for such goings-on.

Viktor was out of breath, face hidden in the crook of his neck. “You feeling okay?” Viktor asked, but he himself sounded rather shaken. Yuuri nodded: claimed, he was claimed. God, Viktor…

Viktor pulled out of him gently and then slid next to him on the bed. Yuuri felt slick between his cheeks, but knew it wasn’t just him – that was Viktor, too. He hadn’t felt that before.

His mouth met Viktor’s, the kiss warm and shaky. Viktor was flushed and had swollen lips, and their legs entwined as Viktor pushed closer to him. Viktor caressed his thigh, fingertips brushing up and down. His neck hurt and ached, but the pulsating throb was the most pleasurable pain one could imagine. Viktor always apologised for as much as scraping him with a thumbnail by accident, but Viktor never apologised for the pain that came with the mark. If anything, Viktor’s blue eyes looked predatory if he winced.

Viktor slipped an arm around his waist, pulling him close. Yuuri knew that both of them were practically high on hormones right then. Viktor’s mouth hovered over his. “I’m in love with you,” Viktor whispered, and Yuuri knew that anyway, but it made him stupidly happy to hear it once more.

“Say it again.”

Viktor laughed, and he grinned to match. Viktor shook his head. “No.”

“Oh, say it again.” He brushed his nose against Viktor’s.

Viktor exhaled deeply. “I love you. I might – I might even love you more, now.”

Yuuri swallowed, one hand in the sweat-soaked roots of Viktor’s hair. “I feel it too,” he whispered. It was like his heart was expanding in his chest.

Viktor pressed their foreheads together, eyes closed, lashes on his cheeks. “Please never pull away from me.” Viktor, skin warm and sweaty, having scented and marked him thoroughly, sounded momentarily lost. “I don’t know how to handle it when you do.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, and Viktor shook his head, as if brushing it off. They breathed in sync, their bodies glued together. He brushed stray hairs behind Viktor’s ear.

“This baby’s going to change everything,” Viktor said earnestly but with warmth in his sparkling eyes, his mouth already turning into a dazzling smile. “I’m so excited for us.”

And that was when, dizzy with scenting as he was, Yuuri again recalled what exactly the problem was.

* * *

Viktor was rather dumbfounded to find himself drinking alone at the hotel bar, with panoramic views around the city from the top floor, some hours later. The sun had set, and Hong Kong glittered and shone outside. He sat by a small table, a scotch in his hand. It was his second.

He felt like a walking, talking bruise: everything ached, from his fingertips to the very roots of his heart. He didn’t want to be there; he wanted to be with Yuuri, but he was the one who had stormed out.

Was he in the wrong?

Couldn’t be. His entire being was telling him that he was right about this one. He could see where Yuuri was coming from, of course he could. But this was bigger than them: this was the most important, most precious thing either of them had ever had to deal with.

He was lost in thought and startled when a voice over his shoulder said an indifferent “Sup.” He looked up in surprise and was met by Yurio’s gaze. The other was wearing a baggy hoodie with a paw stitched over the heart and had a beer bottle in his hand. Without asking if he could join, Yurio sat down at his table. “I don’t like this city,” Yurio said – was that his attempt at small talk? – and then sniffed. Yurio’s eyes thinned, and he grumbled, “Jesus fucking Christ, you smell like a brothel.”

“Are you old enough to drink that?” Viktor questioned, sitting up a little straighter.

“I’m eighteen, old man,” Yurio said matter-of-factly and tipped the bottle to his lips. Despite Yurio’s impressive growth – only an inch shorter than Viktor – and his broadened shoulders and chiselled chin, Viktor couldn’t help but regard the young alpha as permanently aged twelve. Yurio had his shoulder-length blond hair on a ponytail, green eyes sharp. “Guess I know what for you disappeared from the rink this morning, pathetic as it is,” Yurio said. “Did you even goddamn watch me do my program?”

“No,” he admitted and watched the ice float in his glass.

“Mated couples – disgusting,” Yurio grumbled. “I imagine Yuuri’s gonna need his rest after whatever you did to him.” Yuuri took another sip, looking pensive. “He’s going down tomorrow. You both are.”

Viktor said nothing: every word Yurio said seemed to be making it worse. Viktor didn’t want to think about the Free Skate the next day, he didn’t want to think about the competition or Yuuri’s involvement in it. That morning he’d been worried about Yuuri, after which he had had to endure the tension of watching Yuuri do the SP, then he’d found out Yuuri was pregnant, and then they’d made up – or he’d thought that they had – and then Yuuri had said he was competing the next day. Yuuri intended to compete!

They rarely fought. Squabbled and argued, of course they did, just like everyone else. But they didn’t fight.

Yurio was quirking an eyebrow at him. “That’s it? No smart comeback?”

Viktor inhaled deep and closed his eyes on the exhale. Earlier that day, he’d been so happy. God, he’d never felt that happy in his life. He pressed long fingers to his temple, fighting off a headache. “Yuuri’s pregnant,” he said.

“Huh?!” Yurio bolted to sit upright, almost spilling his beer.

“He’s pregnant,” he repeated, and Yurio blinked at him, speechless for once in his life. When the silence stretched on, he said, “Do I need to explain the birds and the –”

“Fuck off,” Yurio snapped, and Viktor shut up. Yurio stared at him. The cogs were nearly visibly turning in his head. “Does this… does this mean he’s retiring?”

Viktor pursed his lips together. “Yes.” After the final, Yuuri had said, he’d announce his retirement at the press conference, whatever the result may be. But not before. Viktor had said that that was nonsense and that they should call that Bentley character from ISU to announce Yuuri’s withdrawal from the Free Skate, and Yuuri had panicked that the ISU knew, but as Viktor pointed out it was the ISU who had told him in the first place. And Viktor agreed with them wholeheartedly: pregnant omegas shouldn’t compete.

And then they’d fought more bitterly and more angrily than ever in their lives.

“God, couldn’t you goddamn wait for the season to be done?” Yurio then complained.

Viktor’s hand around his glass tightened. “If you must know, we weren’t planning on children just yet. It just happened. And what the hell have you go to complain about – with Yuuri out of the picture, the World Championship might as well be yours!” he snapped and then regretted it. He rarely lost his temper, but he was tired and scared. He’d had enough.

Yurio didn’t back away from a challenge, however. “I wanted to beat him! Not win because he was too knocked up to be there!” Yurio slumped in his chair and glared at the view. “Now you’ve fucked it all up.” Yurio angrily took another sip of the beer. “Congratulations,” he then said and somehow managed to sound like he did mean it, in spite of his vitriol. Viktor bit on his bottom lip and said nothing. Yuri shifted in his seat. “Why are you moping? I thought you’d be shoving this in everyone’s face by now. Baby, baby, baby, mate, mate, mate, blah, blah, blah.” Yurio was rolling his eyes.

“I didn’t know Yuuri was pregnant until today,” he admitted, “but he’s known for a couple of days now. He said he… didn’t tell me because he thought that I wouldn’t let him compete if I did. And he was right: I don’t want him to compete.”

“You mean tomorrow?”

“Yes, tomorrow.”

“What, he’s just gonna quit now?!” Yurio snapped, infuriated once more. When Viktor made a non-committal sound, Yurio asked, “And what does he want?”

“To win gold.”

Yurio grinned, slapping his knee. “Good!”

Viktor gritted his teeth. “Good? He’s pregnant with my child. Do you get that?”

“Yeah, I assumed he hadn’t fucked around.”

Viktor almost growled low in his throat, but just about managed to stop himself. Yurio was too young, too insolent, too detached… “It’s too dangerous,” he said, and when Yurio just rolled his eyes – infuriating little sh –, Viktor added, “A million things could go wrong! Just one nasty fall and he – God, he might injure himself, or the baby, he – he might miscarry. You saw his performance today – he was a mess because he was nervous he’d fall. He knows the risks, and I know the risks, and he’s being so- so goddamn headstrong about this! He has to withdraw! He is not going on that ice tomorrow, and that’s my final word on it!”

Yurio snorted – snorted! “He’s world champion.”

“Yes,” he snarled. “But now he’s carrying my child.”

“Your child could not be in a safer place, you obtuse moron,” Yurio argued back. “If you’d knocked up Seung-Gil, then I might goddamn worry. Piss poor performance today, who the hell let him in the final? Whereas Yuuri was a little off, sure, and you know what he scored? Goddamn 93.45. If I don’t get to steal the gold from him tomorrow, I’m gonna be pissed off.”

“He’s not infallible,” Viktor said sternly. “It’s not a risk I’m willing to make.”

“Funny, that,” Yurio said, “as it’s not yours to make: it’s his.”

“No, it’s –”

“It’s his. Stop thinking like a hormonal alpha for one damned second,” Yurio seethed. “If tomorrow is the pig’s last day in competitive figure skating then you don’t have the goddamn right to tell him what to do. If someone told me tomorrow was my last time competing, after… after over thirteen years of work to get me here…” Yurio hung his head, looking anguished.

Yuuri had told him much the same: that he and Viktor had both worked so hard to get where they were, and Yuuri wanted to compete at the final and fight for a third consecutive Grand Prix gold. “We owe it to ourselves!” Yuuri had said, neck still red and covered in bruises, perhaps having been scented and claimed more thoroughly than ever before. And Viktor, torn between feeling closer to Yuuri than ever before and being mad as hell and sick with worry, had yelled that what Yuuri owed him was not endangering the safety of their unborn child!

Someone called out Yuri’s name, and they both looked up to see Otabek standing some distance off, giving them both a stoic nod.

“Coming,” Yurio said, and stood up, placing the empty beer bottle on the table. Viktor wondered what the two of them could be up to at ten o’clock at night, the evening before the final. Yurio stalled, mouth tightly pressed together. “I could do with a new coach,” Yurio then said, staring at the carpeted floor. “For next season, if you’re out of a pupil.” Yurio’s hands curled into fists. “But if you’re not out there tomorrow, then you can forget about it. That’s not the kind of coach I want.”

Yurio stalked out of the still quiet bar, Otabek silently joining him, the two bumping shoulders as they fell into step. Viktor watched them go, somewhat miffed. He’d not expected to get a moral lecture from an eighteen-year-old. Yurio didn’t understand: he was too young, and he’d never been in love, and he hadn’t found a mate yet either. Yurio couldn’t possibly even begin to understand what Viktor was going through… There was a child involved – his child. That changed everything and was more important than Yuuri’s – god, Yuuri’s over twenty years of training and hard work…

He looked over his shoulder to the bar and lifted his empty glass. “Another one?” he called out when he caught the bartender’s eyes.

He wasn’t being this stubborn just because he was the father of the child – even if he was just Yuuri’s coach and Yuuri had mated with someone else (a thought that, instantly, made him feel sick at the pit of his stomach), he’d be… recommending that Yuuri make up his own mind, probably. But he wasn’t just a coach – it was his child!

The barkeep brought him the next drink. Yuuri was retiring. Viktor knew Yuuri was sad about it, but they’d gain a child – wasn’t that worth it? Did it matter if Yuuri retired tonight or tomorrow when it was over either way?

He felt unsettled. Would Yuuri always think that Viktor had prevented him from getting a third Grand Prix gold?

Yuuri was probably in the hotel room, angry and upset. It was Viktor who had stormed out, fully expecting Yuuri to follow him with a concession to withdraw. Yuuri hadn’t.

He didn’t finish his third drink, but rather took the lift back down to Yuuri’s floor – their actual hotel room was two floors further down, but Yuuri had clearly settled in the second room. He stalled outside the door, knuckles raised before he got the courage to knock.

Yuuri opened the door after a few beats: he was in his pyjamas, features soft and warm, but he looked miserable and perhaps like he’d been crying. Viktor stood his ground, stubbornly, and then gave in. “Can I sleep here?” he asked, trying to hide how desperately he needed it.

“Yes,” Yuuri said, leaving the door open as he shuffled back inside.

Viktor closed the door behind them, then double locked it – in case of predators, his alpha brain reminded him helpfully. Yuuri was curled up under the blankets, facing away from him. Viktor stripped down to his underwear and then slipped under the covers. He hesitated, unsure, before spooning Yuuri from behind. Yuuri froze up but slowly relaxed into his touch.

Viktor breathed out in relief and pushed in closer, their ankles entwining. Yuuri felt small in his arms, so fragile, made of glass…

Yuuri huffed. “You can be a right ass sometimes.”

“Yes,” he admitted, nosing Yuuri’s hair. He pulled Yuuri close in his arms, eyes twisting shut, heart aching with every beat. He was scared. God, he’d never been scared like this in his life. “I’m sorry,” he said. He placed one hand over Yuuri’s stomach. His mate still smelled like him, the ownership of both Yuuri and the child clear now. He couldn’t lose this. There would be nothing left of him if he lost this…

“It’s my decision to make,” Yuuri said.

This time, he said, “I know it is.”

Yuuri craned his neck to look at him. “I’m doing it.”

“Don’t talk,” he asked. He knew Yuuri was doing it. He knew. But for now he needed to lie there, protecting his mate for all he was worth, against all the monsters in the world that might be coming for them.

Yuuri slept soundly that night – Viktor doubted he slept a single wink.

* * *

He and Viktor did not participate in the public practice on the morning of the Free Skate, but rather arrived late and then stayed in the privacy of the locker room. Yuuri did all of his usual exercises – stretching the muscles of his arms and legs, getting himself warmed up. Viktor, in his light brown trench coat, a smart suit underneath, sat on the bench and watched him. Viktor said nothing, but Yuuri felt the alpha’s attention on him relentlessly.

This was his last day as a competitive figure skater. Not in a million years had he thought they’d end up like this.

He was making conscious efforts not to think about it. Just like any other final, and fine, this was his last, but he refused to think about the reason why. For the Short Program, he’d been petrified, and he’d made his jumps easier because he was scared. He didn’t want that to happen again.

It wasn’t a problem: he only needed to be perfect. He could be perfect.

He got out his phone, put on the music of his program and, with eyes closed, traced every move there in the locker room. Every axel, Lutz and toe-loop was engraved in his memory. It was his favourite program of all the ones Viktor had made for him. A fitting farewell, he thought: he wanted it perfect.

He wasn’t as nervous as before because Viktor knew now: he wasn’t worried about keeping his secret from him anymore. If anything, his dread and nerves seemed to have transferred into Viktor, who looked pale and sickly.

He knew Viktor was worried. He knew Viktor didn’t want him to compete.

Viktor had booked them a doctor’s appointment in Hasetsu instead of waiting for them to get back to St. Petersburg. Viktor had kept pacing the hotel room as he’d gotten dressed that morning, had nuzzled and scented him before they left for the rink. Viktor had clutched his hand so hard it hurt. Viktor was hardly saying anything, but Yuuri had to do this. He had to do this.

The thought of leaving his career behind, unexpectedly, was breaking his heart. And he knew he would get something amazing in return, he knew that, but a ghost would linger of this day if he didn’t get to say goodbye to the second biggest love of his life, right after Viktor. He had to do this.

Viktor was twirling his wedding ring on his finger, absently staring at his feet, when Yuuri stopped his mental run-through of his program. The free skate had started already: yesterday’s sixth, the newcomer Justin Mahoney from Canada, aged just sixteen, was on the ice just then.

“Help me change?” he said, and Viktor startled slightly.

His outfit was composed of black trousers and a beige, sequined top that had small, round buttons run down the length of both arms. Yuuri put his hands through the cuffs, and Viktor patiently did the buttons for him, all forty-four of them, up each arm, as Viktor had done in the qualifiers too. The shirt had a collar that come to his Adam’s apple – most of the bite marks, at least, were hidden, as was his bond mark.

Viktor helped him prepare wordlessly. Once dressed, Yuuri inspected himself in the mirror: a week earlier, in Vancouver, the outfit may have been a little less tight around his middle. Realistically, he knew, the difference was miniscule – yet, both he and Viktor seemed focused on the mid-section, because both of them knew what was there. Both of them had touched it, caressed it…

A knock on the door. An organiser stuck his head in: “You’re up after Leo. His turn is in a few.”

Yuuri nodded. He knew Viktor had had a word with ISU reps that morning, but he wasn’t privy to the conversation. He was competing: that was all.

He sat down to get his skates on. Viktor, standing in front of him, hesitated. “Yuuri,” Viktor said quietly. “Are you absolutely sure?”

He bit his lip. Then he nodded, slipping his feet into the skates.

Viktor practically groaned. “This is the big –”

“Yes. I know.”

He lifted his right leg, offering it. For a second, he was sure Viktor wouldn’t do it, wouldn’t help him on this, but just at the second when doubt began to trickle into his mind, Viktor bent down on one knee, placing Yuuri’s elevated foot on top. Viktor began to tighten the laces, slower than usual, but just as tightly. Viktor did a double bow, and then moved to the next one.

When Yuuri stood up, skates with their blades covered on his feet, he was almost eye to eye with Viktor. He threw on his training jacket, the little Japanese flag at the front. To his surprise, Viktor took hold of the jacket lapels and zipped him up. Viktor’s hands slid to his shoulders, and Viktor looked like he wanted to say something.

A knock on the door.

They needed to go.

Viktor held his hand as they walked down the corridor and towards the rink. Yuuri clutched back, holding on tightly. They mostly kept public rink-side affection to a minimum, although hugs didn’t count. Viktor might have snuck him a few kisses when he’d gotten gold, and those pictures might have been the ones that the papers loved to print, but usually they were somewhat well-behaved.

Hand-holding at a competition was a new one. It would be the last new thing he’d get to introduce, he thought.

Leo was on the ice, the spectators applauding him as upbeat music echoed loudly. Yuuri felt the adrenalin kick in. His worst competition – Yurio – was only four points ahead of him. Otabek, second after the SP, was less than a point ahead of him.

There were people around them – organisers, well-wishers, camera crew ready to broadcast them by the side of the rink when Leo’s turn was done.

“You feeling okay?” Viktor asked, but mostly it sounded like Viktor wasn’t okay. “Nauseous? Dizzy?”

“Nervous,” he said, and Viktor squeezed his hand. They watched Leo finishing his program, the American finishing by sliding down onto his knees, hands lifting dramatically towards the sky. The stadium boomed its approval. Yuuri felt his throat closing up, nerves buzzing in his head.

The hand that wasn’t in Viktor’s was shaking.

He unzipped his jacket, and Viktor took it.

Leo skated off the rink, was met by his coach, and they headed to the kiss and cry joyously.

What if Viktor was right? What if he fell? Would Viktor ever forgive him, would Viktor –

“You’re so stubborn, Katsuki Yuuri,” Viktor said quietly. Yuuri startled. Viktor was looking at him with anxious blue eyes. “God, why did I have to fall in love with you?”

This seemed like a rhetorical question, as the next moment Viktor was hugging him fiercely. He hugged back and bit back the tears that felt only a fraction away.

“I don’t care how well you do,” Viktor was saying into his ear, as somewhere, on a different planet, Leo’s scores were announced. “I don’t care about transitions or rotations or how many quads you do. I don’t care. If you change your mind halfway through and stop, then do it. If you don’t want to try the highest jumps, then don’t. I don’t care. Just come back to me,” Viktor whispered. “Please… come back to me.” Viktor swallowed audibly, fingers pressing into his back. “The both of you need to come back to me.”

A voice overhead: “Next, from Japan –”

“Okay,” he said, and Viktor nodded his head in agreement, saying a tearful, “Okay.”

They untangled themselves, and Yuuri swiftly removed the skate guards. Viktor took them automatically.

He dared one final look at Viktor before he got on the ice: Viktor was shaking.

As he got on the ice, he stopped being the clumsy, slightly awkward, bespectacled Japanese man he often found himself to be. Instead he glided on the ice as a champion, smooth and elegant, and people cheered his name. Undoubtedly, the commentators were listing his gold medals to viewers at home.

He positioned himself at the centre, one arm pointing into the distance, head tilted ever so slightly, and he waited for the music to start.

That small moment seemed to stretch to eternity.

He closed his eyes, the world going dark. His last show. His final night at the opera. Oh, how he had loved this! God, he had never loved anything more in his life than this: just Viktor, once he came along. Only Viktor.

He could live in that moment: waiting for his last go to start.

Then the music began, and he kicked into motion. See, he knew Viktor was scared, and he was too. But he’d realised why he was scared: because he loved so much. He was more full of love than he was of fear, and that was why he’d decided to compete.

His first jump, a triple axel – he landed it, and his heart throbbed in joy. He loved this, all of it: the six o’clock starts, the gruelling morning runs, the endless, endless practice, and Viktor’s relentless perfectionism. He loved finding the right piece of music and he loved Viktor figuring out a story to go with it. He loved the tiring travelling, the impersonal hotels, the friends, the laughter, the tears of joy and the tears of loss – it had been his life for longer than he could remember, and he loved it with a love that was more than love, and this! This was his final dance with a dear old friend, now going away. And he needed to let it know how much he’d loved it. He needed them all to know how much he’d loved them all and how much light they’d poured into his life.

The audience cheered as he nailed a tricky quad and triple combination, and he followed it with a flying spin as the music soared beautifully, mournfully…

If he hadn’t tried and failed, he and Viktor never would have met, and he concentrated on that as the second half started. Figure skating had given him everything and more than he’d over hoped to dream: Viktor, my love, my love, he thought, as he spun on the ice, arms twisting around him to the music. He’d never known how much you could love another person until Viktor, who had been so patient with him, and so endlessly kind – who’d talked him out of his doubts, and when they snuck up on him again, Viktor was there to correct him, with as much patience as the first time. He skated for Viktor, then – as he had done innumerable times, almost from the day they’d met.

He landed a quad flip – Viktor’s signature move, and the cheering was deafening.

But as he tried to focus on Viktor, and this final performance for him, too, he found someone else entering his mind, the one person he’d tried not to think about all day. He realised that this was not just the final time he was competing – this was also the first time that he performed not for Viktor alone, no, but for their child. We’ll show her this one day, he thought, gliding into a spread eagle, and if he faltered on the next landing, just a little, it was because he was surprised that at some point he’d decided that he was betting for a girl. They’d show it to her, and he wanted her to be proud. They’d show it to her, as she sat on Viktor’s lap, the three of them curled up on the couch, and Viktor would say, “You can’t see it on screen, but we knew you were already in Papa’s tummy when he did this.” She’d look at them disbelievingly, then at the screen again, and ask really. Really, they’d confirm: she was already there.

He was skating for her, he realised, perhaps more than anyone. He skated to say that she could do anything she set her heart to, if she was willing to work for it. He needed to prove it to her right then and there, no matter how exhausted he was, how his feet ached, how there didn’t seem to be enough air reaching his lungs: just a little longer, one more spin, one more sequence…

He stopped, heaving, out of breath. The music had stopped, he was perfectly poised in the final position, arms outstretched towards the kiss and cry area. Teddy bears and flower bouquets began raining onto the ice as sweat was pouring down his face. He was done.

He was done.

His arms dropped as tears spilled onto his cheeks. He didn’t even try and stop it: he was sobbing because he was done, and it had gone just fine, and he was done! Did anyone ever think of the last time they would compete? Their last chance of the spotlight? Such a day couldn’t come, it was an absurd thought, insane, foreign – yet, he was done.

Viktor called out his name – a voice he’d recognise anywhere – and he did a double-take when he realised Viktor had run onto the ice. Wearing his brogues.

He skated over in a flash and crashed into Viktor’s arms, his sobbing only increasing. He was done! “You were superb,” Viktor breathed, trembling against him. “Darling, you were superb, but never do that again. Oh god, swear to me you’ll never do that again.”

“Promise,” he laughed through a teary smile pressed into Viktor’s shoulder.

Viktor held him tightly, one hand in his hair, whispering, “That’s okay now, it’s all okay now…” Yuuri wasn’t sure which one of them Viktor was trying to calm down.

He pulled back and wiped his cheeks. Viktor was smiling at him – at last, with happiness and joy all over. Yuuri laughed, adrenalin and relief mixing in him. “Come on,” he said, clutching Viktor’s hand as he bowed at the still-cheering audience – people were clearly delighted they’d added another unorthodox scandal to their repertoire: the time Viktor Nikiforov ran onto the ice! “You too,” Yuuri said when he bowed in another direction. This time Viktor bowed too, and people loved it. But it made sense to Yuuri that it was a mutual goodbye: it had never been a one-man show when he finally started winning. It had been the two of them, always.

He clasped Viktor’s hand and pulled him with him off the ice – the two of them knew that that was their final bow. No one else did.

In the kiss and cry, with skate guards on and his jacket back on him, Viktor kept an arm tight around his waist, head turned to his ear to avoid the microphones catching his words. Viktor was whispering the most ridiculous things to him – absolutely nothing of significance but also the most important things ever said, a litany of how Viktor was the luckiest man alive, their child better not be as stubborn, I’m so relieved, I love you so much.

“Viktor…” he beckoned, squirming and embarrassed, even as he couldn’t help but smile.

Viktor beamed at him, grabbed his hand and pressed a kiss to his knuckles. “I’d marry you all over again.”

The microphones definitely caught that one, he ventured. He elbowed Viktor, who grinned, and then looked up to the screens where the result would be displayed. The score was announced: 202.47. His heart burst out in joy, as Viktor began laughing victoriously, wrapping him up in a tight hug.

That one was for her, he thought, as he was securely in first place with Otabek and Yurio still to go.

That one – the final one – had been all for her.

* * *

Yuri Plisetsky was smirking, standing on the silver podium to the right of Yuuri. “Soak it up while you can,” Yurio said through a forced smile for the cameras. Yurio often made such comments, but this time Yuuri thought it was sound advice. He’d beaten the other by 1.40 points so it was no wonder Yurio was pissed off.

Yuuri was glowing: for the third consecutive gold, and for other things.

On the bronze podium, Otabek gave a neutrally pleased expression, to show some joy of having come in third.

When Yuuri had been given the microphone to say a few words, he’d rushed out to thank Viktor, his coach, his alpha, and the family that they had. He’d said he loved them all: the people cheering for him and the people who didn’t. He loved Yuri Plisetsky, he loved Otabek Altin, and at that point he’d realised he was being a little overemotional, so he thanked his family back in Japan and handed the mic back to the presenter.

He thought it’d been okay as far as final words went.

Yurio hopped off the podium once the ceremony was done, then tutted at Yuuri when he made to do the same. Yurio held out his hand. “Come down nicely, or Viktor will wring both of our necks.”

Yuuri stepped to the silver podium, and then onto the red carpet that had been placed over the ice. He frowned at Yurio. “He told you?” he asked.

Yurio nodded, even as they began to wave and bow in different directions once more. They took to the ice, doing an honorary round, with Yurio skating a little behind him. It was proper to follow sequence: gold, followed by silver, followed by bronze, but Yurio skated past him, and then turned to skate backwards. “How’s it feel?” Yurio asked him as they waved and people cheered their names, and Yurio skating backwards like it was the easiest thing not to see where he was going. “Knowing you’ll never do this again.”

“I feel grateful,” he said, and Yurio rolled his eyes.

Yurio turned to face the right way again, and they moved side-by-side. Yuuri wasn’t sure if Yurio seemed a little sad, or if he was just wishing Yurio did.

When they got off the ice, Yurio said, “I’ll give you one year – one year – before you’re bored out of your mind and wishing you’d never let that oversexualised twig impregnate –” He hugged Yurio, hard. “Yeah, yeah,” Yurio muttered, pushing him off and sounding annoyed.

But Yuuri was fairly certain that a tiny smile tugged at Yurio’s lips before the younger man disappeared into the crowds.

Then Viktor was there, with a bright, proud smile, hand sliding into his.

* * *

“Babe!” he called out. “It’s starting!” He didn’t take his eyes off the TV screen in their living room, where the Russian commentators were discussing the day’s competition. “Babe!”

“Just a minute!” Yuuri called back from their bedroom.

Viktor pressed into the couch. He tried to do the maths in his head: was this the first World Championship in… twelve years that he wasn’t attending, either as a coach or a competitor?

Helpfully, the female commentator said, “This is the first World Championship in thirteen years when Viktor Nikiforov is not competing or coaching one of the competitors. Really feels like the end of an era not just for Russian figure skating, but figure skating overall.”

“It certainly does,” the male commentator said. “Looking at the finalists here, the one person we all expected to be on this list was Yuuri Katsuki of Japan, defending his World Championship gold. Katsuki retired after winning the Grand Prix final in December, breaking yet another record: the only competitor to have competed – or to have won gold for that matter – when pregnant.”

“I think we all had to do a double-take when those news broke!” the woman laughed, and Viktor remembered it well. Headlines of Katsuki secures gold while two months pregnant! had been all over the place. People had been beside themselves. “We’re of course tremendously excited for Katsuki and his mate and coach Nikiforov,” the woman added. “Always a bit unorthodox, those two. Some of the greatest sportsmanship, greatest drama, most amazing performances that this sport has ever seen. They couldn’t have gone out any other way.”

“Absolutely,” the man agreed, “and we might not have seen the last of them yet: there are some rumours that Nikiforov might coach Yuri Plisetsky next season. And with any luck, it’s a new generation of figure skating royalty that is now on the way in the Katsuki-Nikiforov household. This also means that today’s finalists are –”

“Has it started yet?” Yuuri’s voice came, and Viktor looked up. Yuuri was shuffling into the living room in sweatpants and a too-large t-shirt, glasses slightly askew on his nose. Figure skating royalty indeed, he thought, grinning to himself.

“No,” he said and lifted up the blanket he’d thrown over himself. Yuuri squeezed in next to him, the couch barely wide enough for them to cuddle on, but they were stubborn enough to make it work. Yuuri pulled the blanket over himself, eyes glued on the screen.

“Yurio’s got this,” Yuuri breathed in excitement, and while Viktor nodded, he was distracted by Yuuri now resting in his arms. He nuzzled the back of Yuuri’s head, breathing him in. He let his hand slip under the covers and move to rest over the swollen bump of Yuuri’s belly. Five months down, four to go. Warmth and excitement radiated in his chest, and he smiled against the top of Yuuri’s head. He found himself smiling brightly, for no obvious reason, all the time now.

“Concentrate,” Yuuri scolded him, but he was clearly smiling.

“Fine,” he said, placing a quick kiss behind Yuuri’s ear.

If they couldn’t be at the Worlds themselves, then watching it like this, in pyjamas, under blankets, in their home, was the second best thing.

They were just taking a little time off – for the first time in over twenty years. Just a little time off, that was all. He had a nursery to decorate and he really needed to master the baby food puree machine he’d impulse bought the other week, so really, he was kind of a busy man. He’d start planning Yurio’s programs soon, he would, but not until the nursery was done.

Yuuri’s hand came to rest on top of his over the bump. They’d earned a little time off, he figured.

“Oh, here we go!” Yuuri exclaimed as a figure took to the ice.

Yes, here they went – and Viktor couldn’t wait for them to get there.

 

fin.