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Beside the Dancing Sea

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It’s a beautiful spring morning along the coast today! And by beautiful, we mean ‘skies of a slightly less grey than they were yesterday’. Today’s highs are at 15 degrees, and the lows are at 10, so make sure you’ve got a light jacket for those nice spring sea breezes!

As his car hurtles past a white sign saying ‘Welcome to Torvill Cove, Population: 5,387’, Viktor Nikiforov switches channels on the radio. Moments later, he switches channels again just before the catchiest bars of the latest top 40s craze can infect his ears.

After a couple more minutes of fruitless tuning, Viktor finally turns off his radio and rolls down the windows, letting the wind ruffle through his silvery hair. In the passenger seat next to him, his beloved poodle Makkachin pokes his head out the window, ears and tongue flapping in the wind as Viktor drives on.

Already the blue expanse of the ocean is chasing at the left side of his car, along with the majestic sweeps of rugged sea-worn cliffs in the distance, crowned with pristine green foliage. Viktor lets himself cruise along this lonely stretch of highway a moment longer, drinking in the unfolding scenery. God, he’s so excited to reach his new house in Torvill Cove and start writing odes to the beauty of this seascape spreading out before him. This is exactly what the doctor ordered to combat writer’s block.

Viktor pulls into the roundabout leading to the downtown area of Torvill minutes later. Downtown’s a rather generous word for this main thoroughfare. Though the tree-lined ribbon of Market Street seems to extend all the way out to the sea, the buildings along the road all seem to be fairly old and small, and still somehow locally-owned and operated. As he heads down the street, Viktor passes by a bookstore with a sign saying that they also sell souvenirs and gifts, a small public library surrounded by verdant park greenery, and a movie theatre with only three films on the marquee.

Market Street terminates at Dean Street, which, according to Viktor’s phone and the two paper maps lying on the dashboard, wraps around half of the harbour before terminating at the lighthouse. The other half is a boardwalk which terminates at the spires of an old manor house that, according to Viktor’s maps, had been converted into the Yu-Topia seaside resort. Dean Street, on the other hand, is where most of the holiday cottages and beach houses lie. Viktor’s own cottage, which he had rented for the following year, is somewhere along this street.

He finds it without difficulty, as the cottages are all spaced pretty far apart from one another for privacy and quiet. His own is a charming little thing the colour of sea sage, with a wreath of blue roses on the door and little hearts in the white shutters. Makkachin barks excitedly as Viktor pulls up to the curb in front of it, and is first through the kissing gate leading up to the front door as soon as Viktor lets him out of the car.

“Eager, are we?” Viktor asks, as he passes Makkachin to unlock the door to their new home.

It doesn’t take long for them to get unpacked and settled. The majority of Viktor’s belongings are being shipped to him from Manchester and should arrive within the week. He didn’t have to pack up everything in his old flat, of course, as the cottage had come furnished, but he is looking forward to making the place more his own in the coming days.

The cottage is the definition of the word cosy. It’s only one storey, with one bedroom, one bathroom, and a tiny nook of a kitchen. However, the windows are all enormous, letting in as much light as possible; paired with the white-and-blue rustic décor, they make an otherwise small cottage seem impossibly open and airy. A set of French doors lead off the kitchen-dining area to a backyard patio, which in turn leads to a trail down the cliffs to a semi-private stretch of beach and the water’s edge.

The bedroom, despite the smallness of its bed, is also well-furnished in shades of pale blue and white reminiscent of the clouds gathering in the harbour just outside the windows. Both it and the bathroom, which contains a wide porcelain claw-foot tub, ceramic tile accents painted with blue anchors, and a set of soft nautical stripe towels, have access to the patio and the ocean beyond through separate sets of curtained French doors. It would be easy to run directly into a nice bath after a day at the beach, Viktor realises with a smile.

As he sets the last of his clothes into the little walk-in closet in his new bedroom, Viktor has to pinch himself several times to make sure he’s not in a very vivid hallucination. He’s finally here in this lovely and quiet little beach cottage, and the rest of the year seems to stretch out infinitely before him. Time will pass, though, and it will pass faster than he realises, but in the meantime he will stop worrying about writer’s block and deadlines and not even having the foggiest clue what his next novel’s going to be about, and live.

After firing off a text to his agent, Yakov Feltsman, about having arrived in Torvill safely, Viktor grabs Makkachin’s leash. “Come on, Makka, let’s go explore the town!” he chirps.

Perking up, Makkachin bounds to his feet and follows his owner out the door in search of adventure, and hopefully food.

Torvill Cove: A Visitor’s Guide

Welcome to Torvill Cove! One of the hidden gems of the British Isles, this charming seaside town is known for the majesty of its rugged cliffs, the pristine nature of many of its beaches, and the friendliness of its townsfolk! As a fairly small town of only 5,387, Torvill Cove’s locals are a tight-knit community that are always welcoming to newcomers both temporary and permanent.

Main Attractions of Torvill Cove

Torvill Cove Pier and Boardwalk
If you’ve seen postcards from Torvill Cove before, you’ll probably recognise its pier and boardwalk with the Ferris wheel and carousel! Torvill Cove’s pier and boardwalk is your one-stop destination for family fun. Win your loved one prizes at our carnival booths, or treat yourself to one of our world-famous double-fudge waffle cones at our retro-styled ice cream parlour! Both single tickets and day passes are available.

Yu-Topia Seaside Resort and Spa
Previously the ancient ancestral home of the Torvill family, this manor house has been renovated into a modern resort dedicated to rest and relaxation! From the deck of Yu-Topia’s beachside spa, both the ocean and the boardwalk are just mere steps away. Yu-Topia is also known for its Japanese restaurant, which combines the elegance of Japanese cuisine with the comfort of homestyle cooking, as well as its extremely pet-friendly policies and amenities. For booking information, please visit:

Crispino Winery
For visitors willing to drive a couple kilometres inland, the Crispino Winery is a delightful day trip destination for unconventional wine lovers. Boasting stunning panoramic views of the coast from the hills of the estate and tastings of their wines, liqueurs, and jellies on the hour, the Crispino Winery is located just far enough from town to be secluded from the hustle and bustle, but just close enough so you can make it home in time for dinner! If you can’t make it out, try some of Crispino Winery’s fine fruit wines, or their award-winning Torvill Mead, at any of the restaurants in town! For more information, please visit:

Torvill Point Lighthouse
Situated on the soaring cliffs of Torvill Point, this old lighthouse has been run by the same family for generations and is the location of many of the town’s spookiest ghost stories. The current lighthouse keeper, Nikolai Plisetsky, can sometimes be persuaded to give you a ghost tour at night, so enter if you dare...

Whether you’re interested in just relaxing on the beach with your family, trying out our fresh local cuisine, or having daring adventures in the ocean, Torvill Cove will have something waiting for you!

The ice cream parlour on the boardwalk is, as promised by the visitor’s guide, sleek and retro-styled, with checkerboard tile floors and chrome accents on the furniture. The teenage boy behind the counter, on the other hand, looks somehow out of place. Even in a starched and pressed pink-and-white uniform with his blond hair tied back, there’s something aggressively contrarian in his green-blue stare as he watches Viktor peruse the menu.

“You know, it doesn’t take that long to ask for a double-fudge waffle cone,” the kid drawls after a moment. Viktor notices that his nametag reads ‘Yuri Plisetsky’.

He makes a face. “Why would I want to order fudge?” he asks. “I wouldn’t be able to share my cone with my dog, then,” he adds, nodding towards Makkachin, who is tied to the leg of the bench outside the parlour, panting as the midday sun makes a brief appearance behind some clouds.

Yuri Plisetsky wrinkles his nose. “You share your ice cream cone with your dog?” he demands.

Well, Viktor usually finishes off most of the cone before giving the rest to Makkachin, but the expression on the kid’s face is too funny not to poke at a little more. “I’ll have you know that the inside of a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s,” he says sweetly.

The kid makes a rather exaggerated retching noise. “Look, just buy your ice cream and I’ll give you a free doggy cone with it,” he snaps.

“How sweet of you!” replies Viktor, grinning.

“Don’t thank me. I’m just trying to help you break your disgusting habit.”

Viktor orders strawberry for himself and vanilla for Makkachin, and if Yuri’s expression seems to soften a little at his choice of flavour, Viktor doesn’t comment on it.

He brings Makkachin his doggy cone, and for a while they sit on the bench and consume their treats in amicable silence. Overhead, the gulls cry as they fly out towards the surf, and the sea sparkles like some multifaceted jewel just beyond the wooden railings of the boardwalk. Though tourist season hasn’t arrived yet, there are still some holiday-makers roaming to and fro, couples and families alike. Some even have dogs that Makkachin sniffs at when they get too close.

When Makkachin finishes his doggy cone, Viktor unties him and they continue down the boardwalk towards the pier. Carnival music from the carousel fills the air, alongside the shouting of children as they enjoy the rides. Viktor is tempted to take Makkachin up in the Ferris wheel but he doubts that they’ll let dogs onboard.

Besides families on holidays and young couples on dates, the pier is also a base for recreational fishers in pursuit of a good catch. Viktor watches an old man cast a line at the end of the pier, leaning against the railing as he looks out towards the impossibly blue horizon.

Makkachin barks suddenly, and Viktor looks down to see his dog wagging his tail and looking towards the nearest buoy. Following his gaze, Viktor sees a seal leap onto said buoy, sprawling out to bask in the midday sun.

“Mama, mama, Katsudon’s back!”

Viktor turns to see three identical little girls in sundresses of pink, blue, and purple. The one in purple is holding a clipboard, while the one in pink sports a pair of binoculars and the one in blue is aiming a camera at the buoy.

“Oh, already?” asks a woman who appears to be the girls’ mother — though she looks far too young to be anyone’s mother. “Do you think he’ll have some new information for us?”

“Let’s go ask him!” exclaims the one in pink.

“Later,” chides the woman. The girls make simultaneous noises of disappointment, but then they notice Makkachin and visibly perk up.

“Sir, your dog is really cute,” says the one in purple.

“Thank you,” replies Viktor. “His name is Makkachin.”

“Can we pet him?” asks the one in blue.

Viktor nods, and the girls descend upon his poodle with lots of stroking and cooing. Makkachin clearly thrives under the attention, and Viktor feels mildly betrayed — Makkachin responds to the girls’ petting like he’s never been touched before in his life.

“Girls, that’s quite enough,” says the woman after a moment. She smiles at Viktor. “Thanks for letting them pet your dog.”

“Makkachin is a spoiled boy; he doesn’t mind none,” Viktor says, grinning. He then nods towards the seal. “Does that seal come here often? I figured he must, since he has a name.”

She laughs. “Yes, Katsudon’s the resident seal of Torvill Cove! He’s been here for years, actually. No mate or family to pull him away, as far as I know.”

“All by himself, huh.” Viktor looks out to the buoy to find the seal splashing in and out of the water, before finally settling on a proper sunbathing position. “Must be lonely.”

“Mm, I suppose.” The woman smiles, extending a hand. “Yuuko Nishigori, Torvill Cove Harbor Watch. These are my daughters, Axel, Lutz, and Loop.”

“I’m Viktor Nikiforov,” replies Viktor as he shakes her hand, and because he’s curious: “You named your daughters after figure skating jumps?”

“Yes; I’ve always been a fan of the sport.” A light pink blush dusts the woman’s cheeks. “I know who you are, by the way. I’ve read The King and the Skater too many times to count now.”

Viktor chuckles. “More people have seen the movie,” he points out.

“The book was better,” insists Yuuko, and Viktor smiles at that as carefully as he can.

“I’m glad you liked it, then,” he replies. He’s used to the fans by now. His latest novel, The King and the Skater, had recently been adapted into a film. It had also topped the New York Times bestseller list for three weeks after its initial release, and was also one of Oprah’s Book Club picks last year. Even before that, he had written several other novels that had gotten on various bestseller lists and garnered him mountains of praise for his ‘surprising takes on timeless archetypes’ and his ‘riveting plot twists captured in scintillating prose’.

But as with anything artistic, it hadn’t been so much of a ‘if’ he runs into a wall, but ‘when’. And this latest block certainly feels like it.

Viktor looks down. The little girls are scribbling wildly on the clipboard. Viktor raises an eyebrow at Yuuko.

“Are those tide charts?” he asks.

She nods. “The Torvill Cove Harbour Watch sends information on the tides and surf conditions to the Visitors’ Centre,” she replies. “Though personally I’m much more passionate about the animals that live out here.”

Viktor’s smile feels a little more genuine this time. “Like the seal, then?” he asks.

Yuuko nods. “Definitely.” She pauses, and then visibly brightens. “Are you here to write a book about Torvill?” she asks, evidently eager for Viktor’s answer. “We’ve got lots of ghost stories. I could tell you a couple, if you’re interested.”

Viktor chuckles. “Perhaps another time,” he says. “Not to brush you off, of course, but because I’m not even sure what I’m writing about right now.”

She smiles, understanding. “Well, feel free to let me know whenever inspiration strikes! I’ll tell you almost anything you’d like to know, though if you really want the history of the town, you might need to find Old Man Plisetsky up in the lighthouse.”

A relation of the boy in the ice cream shop, Viktor thinks with a smile. What a delightfully small world.

Out on the sparkling waters, the seal bobs expectantly.

The King and the Skater
by Viktor Nikiforov
340 pages; Aurum Books

The latest crown jewel in a line of stunning bestsellers from Viktor Nikiforov, The King and the Skater is a masterfully-woven tale of figure skating and star-crossed romance. Nikiforov, in his trademark sparse yet densely emotional prose, guides us through time and space to the magical Kingdom of Mandala, where “everything seems simultaneously outlandish and yet possible”.

The King and the Skater follows English figure skater Arthur Stuart as he tries to regain his love of skating following a disastrous performance at the Grand Prix Final in Sochi. Despite his best efforts, “[Stuart] could not find even the smallest of joys in the slide of his skates against the was as if a part of him had been closed off to him the moment he landed at the bottom of the rankings.” However, all of that changes when, through some strange cosmic mishap involving his favourite trading card game, Stuart is thrown into the Kingdom of Mandala — with the powers of his card game at hand.

Such an ambitious story premise would fall into tatters in the hands of a lesser writer, but Nikiforov, who has brought us riveting tales of pie-baking hockey players (Cherry-Flipped) and mermaids with speed-skating aspirations (On the Blades of Love), demonstrates his incomparable skill in crafting beautiful stories from outlandish premises and overworked tropes. His treatment of the delicate, yet blossoming relationship between the fussy English Stuart and the brooding and mysterious King Sakchai of Mandala actively refuses to follow the tired tropes that plague The King and the Skater’s genre. As the political unrest of the Mandalan court comes to a head, Stuart finds himself confronting a choice that has the potential to change Mandalan history forever.

Though The King and the Skater has a film adaptation slated to be released on Valentine’s Day next year, we strongly recommend everyone go read the book in addition to watching the film — it will be entirely worth your time.

— Hisashi Morooka

In the late afternoon, Viktor sits at the long wooden kitchen table with half of a Caprese salad on the plate in front of him and his laptop open to his word processor. The doors leading out to the patio are open to catch the breeze flowing in from outside. Makkachin is lying on the ground just inside the doors, basking in the late afternoon sun.

Viktor’s been staring at the blank page on his word processor with no success so far. In fact, his mind is anywhere but on the task at hand. The light pouring in through the windows and doors as the sun dyes the skies brilliant shades of gold is far too distracting. Perhaps a walk down the coastal trail just outside his cottage will help get the circulation going to his brain again.

He bundles up for the early evening, whistles for Makkachin, and together they head out again. This time, Viktor takes them down a rickety set of boards that barely pass as a staircase all the way to the tiny sliver of beach nestled below the cliffs.

Here, the beach is fairly sheltered by the cliffs, though the firmness of the ground clearly shows that high tide tends to claim most of the sand. Right now, though, the tide is fairly low, exposing rock pools and stretches of damp shell-encrusted sand. Makkachin runs towards the waves nonetheless, paws splashing in the surf as he chases the receding tide.

Viktor lets the breeze ruffle his hair as he looks out from here to the rest of the shoreline. The lights of the boardwalk, pier, and beachside resort are coming on, little pinpricks of gold twinkling across the harbour.

Makkachin barks suddenly, drawing Viktor’s attention to a familiar figure in the surf nearby. It’s the seal, sleek black head bobbing curiously a couple feet from them, just beyond the reach of the waves.

“Makkachin, no!” Viktor shouts, but Makkachin is already splashing out beyond the whitewater, evidently intent on chasing after the seal. But the creature isn’t deterred; he vanishes into the water, only to pop up again behind the poodle. And when Makkachin turns to try and catch the seal, it disappears and reappears again.

After the fourth time that this happens, it hits Viktor that the seal is teasing his dog.

He watches, riveted, as the seal continues to play with Makkachin, even going up to the confused poodle and prodding him to swim around in circles. Makkachin seems to go with the seal’s directions more or less, either out of confusion or playfulness. They even spar for a bit in the waves, though the seal disengages the moment Makkachin shows any signs of tiring. It’s almost as if the seal knows that Makkachin’s a pretty old dog now, and doesn’t want to harm him.

With some poking and prodding, the seal coaxes Makkachin back onto land, washing ashore with him as well. Though he is much less graceful on land, the seal obliges Makkachin when the dog runs in circles around him; Viktor can’t help but laugh as he watches the seal lumber after Makkachin, the two of them growling playfully at one another as they chase each other.

After a while, Makkachin tires again, and flops down next to the seal. Already the sun is vanishing below the horizon, and the sky is dyed deep purples and indigos. The tide is slowly easing back up; the waves wash over the seal and the poodle from where they lie on the sand, and Viktor goes over to call Makkachin back.

As he approaches the seal, Viktor finds himself oddly drawn to the creature, whose pelt is a pure coal black and whose bright eyes seem to sparkle at him with an uncanny intelligence. But before he can reach out and touch the seal, it shies away from him and slips into the water. Viktor watches its head disappear beneath the waves, feeling a strange emptiness in his heart that he hadn’t even known was there before.

Makkachin boofs at him reproachfully, and Viktor laughs as he scratches behind his dog’s ears.

“I’m sorry for chasing away your new friend,” he says, turning towards the staircase leading back to the clifftop. “Let’s go home, Makka.”

Makkachin barks in agreement, and bounds up the stairs ahead of him with all the energy of a puppy.

a little white cottage with greenery all around it

Viktor Nikiforov @v-nikiforov
My new home sweet home #torvillcove

a poodle at the beach

Viktor Nikiforov @v-nikiforov
Makka ❤s the beach! #torvillcove

a strawberry ice cream cone at the beach

Viktor Nikiforov @v-nikiforov
♡(*´ ♡ `*)♡ #torvillcove #torvillcovepier #vkusno

a carousel at sunset

Viktor Nikiforov @v-nikiforov
What a lovely sunset! #torvillcove #torvillcovepier

a lighthouse on a cliff

Viktor Nikiforov @v-nikiforov
I could wake to this every morning #torvillcove

Writing is a habit, especially when one is paid to do it. Writers often create routines, blocking out portions of the day in which they will do nothing but write. Something, anything. As long as there are words coming out, it can be considered progress.

Viktor breaks all of his old patterns during his first week in Torvill Cove. This morning, instead of sequestering himself in the den of the cottage like he would have back in Manchester, Viktor goes for a jog with Makkachin along the trail behind his cottage that connects him to town.

It is early out; the sun has barely climbed into the sky. The fishermen are out in the harbour with their nets. Viktor thinks he sees Yuuko and her daughters on one of the boats. He waves, but the gesture is probably lost on them out there far from shore.

Viktor grabs some groceries on the way back to his house after his run. The local-run grocery store, Nekola’s Market, is tucked away down a back alley behind the post office and the bookstore. If it hadn’t been for a couple of carefully-placed signs, Viktor is sure he would have missed it.

As Emil Nekola, the store manager, finishes checking out his purchases, Viktor hears someone calling his name: “Hey, Viktor! You need any help with that?”

Viktor isn’t quite sure how the unfamiliar young man knows his name, as he’s quite sure he’s never met him before, but the man’s smile is about as warm as his tanned complexion and he’s offering to help Viktor carry his bags home. So Viktor nods and smiles, and the man gets a crate to help him heave the goods.

“I’m sorry, have we met?” he asks as the man begins moving the crate towards the back. “Also, I need to get my dog from the front —”

“You can meet me in front of the post office!” exclaims the man with a twinkle in his eyes. “And my name is Phichit, by the way. I know you from Instagram, actually.”

Ah. That would explain it. Viktor has been spending more time on there recently, mostly in a pathetic attempt at procrastinating. He’d uploaded several pictures of himself and Makkachin at the boardwalk and the pier, and tagged them with #torvillcove. Everyone who even vaguely cares about his whereabouts knows he’s here.

“Also, I’m such a big fan of The King and the Skater! My friends and I went into the city to catch the midnight premiere of the movie, actually, since it takes forever for anything good to come to the theatre here. Totally worth it! But I honestly think your book is much better.”

Viktor laughs. Another fan. “I’m glad you liked my work,” he says.

Phichit grins. “Once I get your stuff on my bike, can we take a selfie?”

They do, and Viktor savours the wind in his hair as he and Makkachin follow Phichit towards the trail that leads from the intersection of Market and Dean to the beach cottages. Makkachin’s leash trails behind him as he pads amiably by Phichit’s bike, tongue lolling out in the mid-morning sun.

“So what brings you here?” Phichit asks sweetly as they pass the entrance to the pier and embark on the pavement heading up the cliffs that traverses behind the cottages. A couple kids on beach cruisers approach, causing Phichit and Viktor to stop to let them through. “Research? I heard you actually learnt some basic figure skating moves so you could write The King and the Skater.”

Viktor has to stifle a laugh at that. “That’s just the tip of the research iceberg,” he says. “But, no. I moved here for a change of scenery.”

“But you’re working on something, right?” asks Phichit, eyes bright.

Viktor thinks of the calls from Yakov that have been happening at least twice a day. “My agent would like me to,” he admits.

“Wow! I’m sure there’s something here that could be novel-worthy. We’re a pretty small town, but there’s a lot going on if you just get involved, you know? But don’t worry — a lot of people own summer houses in Torvill, and when they come down for the summer there’s always a lot of parties to go to! You’re bound to find some inspiration, I’m sure.”

Viktor smiles. “I’ll keep that in mind,” he says.

a black seal on the beach

Viktor Nikiforov @v-nikiforov
Makka’s new friend came to visit again! #katsudontheseal #torvillcove

A week or so after he arrives, Viktor heads down one morning to his little semi-private beach only to find a strange blond man lying on his stomach in the sand, aiming a very expensive-looking camera at a crab scuttling through the nearby tidepool.

Viktor coughs when the other man begins to straighten up, causing him to startle and turn. He is, Viktor realises with a jolt, quite handsome, with hazel eyes and a faint smattering of stubble about his chin.

“I’m sorry; am I invading your beach?” the stranger asks, raising an eyebrow as he extends a hand. For some reason, the lilt of his voice makes the question sound more like a double entendre.

Viktor takes it, smiles. “No,” he says as he shakes his hand. “I mean, I don’t think this beach is actually private property, so you’re welcome to it. I’m just not used to seeing other people here.”

“The stairs tend to deter families,” agrees the blond. “I’m Christophe Giacometti, by the way. I’m local, if you can call ‘having lived here for three years’ local at all.”

“Well, you know the place better than I do; I’ve only been here a week,” replies Viktor. “Viktor Nikiforov.”

“Ah, you’re the one responsible for the sudden renewed interest in the boardwalk’s pop-up ice rink last winter,” says Christophe. It’s a roundabout way of saying he’s read at least one of the books of the Ice Triad, but Viktor has to give him points for originality in his phrasing.

“Nice camera,” he says, by way of changing the subject.

Christophe laughs, patting it gently. “Yes, I’m pretty sure I value this girl more than I value my own life,” he says, punctuating that sentence with a sigh for added drama. Viktor’s impressed. “I’m not professional, though,” he adds with a shrug. “I think I take entirely too many photos of my cat for my career to even begin approaching professional.”

Viktor chuckles, and he pulls out his phone to show Christophe his lockscreen. He has recently changed it from a picture of Makkachin to a picture of Makkachin and the seal, the two of them touching noses in the surf. “If the only thing that determines professionalism is a lack of pet photos, then I’ll gladly remain an amateur writer for the rest of my life.”

Christophe’s grin is wide and bracing at that. “Well then, want to see my darkroom?” he asks.

“Why, sir, that’s forward of you,” replies Viktor, fluttering his lashes. “At least wine and dine me before taking me to your ‘darkroom’.”

He hears a little burst of laughter at that from Christophe. “Oh, you and I are going to be such good friends,” declares Christophe, who pulls out his own phone. “Since we’re on the topic of animal pics, let me show you these pictures of my cat…”

They remain on the beach together for a while longer, trading photos (and phone numbers) until Christophe checks his watch and sighs. “I’ve got to head to work,” he says.

“Where do you work?” asks Viktor.

“Kachu Snack Bar. It’s on the boardwalk across from the shooting gallery. We serve more snacks than drinks at lunch and more drinks than snacks at dinner.” Christophe laughs a little, rubs the nape of his neck. “You should drop by! We’ve got a great view of the harbour and I’ll pour you a free drink once in a while.”

“Sold,” says Viktor. “I love free drinks.”

“Then you’ve gotta promise you’ll let me show you my darkroom eventually,” replies Christophe, his eyes twinkling.

Viktor chuckles. “Oh, all right,” he agrees.

Excerpts from the News-in-Brief section of the Torvill Cove Reporter:

...the Leroys are expected to return to Torvill Cove for the summer. Their arrival next Saturday will kick off this year’s Housewarming Week with a party at their residence on Bowhill Lane. All are invited; the dress code is semi-formal.

Seal of Approval
Torvill Cove’s resident seal has been spotted in the harbour again! The seal, fondly nicknamed ‘Katsudon’ after the Nishigori triplets once lured it out onto the beach with some breaded pork cutlets from the Yu-Topia Resort’s restaurant, has returned to Torvill Cove just in time for tourist season. Yuuko Nishigori of the local conservation group Torvill Cove Harbour Watch says that Katsudon must have returned from a long-distance feeding journey and is resting in Torvill before setting out again. Better get your phones ready, because once Katsudon is rested it might be some time before we see him again!

Bestselling Author Comes to Torvill Cove
Fans of The King and the Skater, rejoice! Author Viktor Nikiforov has come to Torvill Cove, and if the photos on his Instagram are of any indication, he’s here to stay. Nikiforov, known especially for his bestselling Ice Triad: The King and the Skater, Cherry-Flipped, and On the Blades of Love, cites “seeking inspiration and a change of scenery” as reasons for coming to town. Here’s to hoping Torvill Cove will feature in his next work!

Spring Fever Still Going Strong
Town darlings Mila Babicheva and Sara Crispino were spotted kissing last Wednesday at Lovers’ Point in Crispino’s car...

Vitya, please. Tell me you’re actually getting work done out there in the middle of nowhere.”

Yakov’s voice is wheedling with a side of exasperated. Viktor can’t help but laugh at it as he walks down the boardwalk with a leashed Makkachin in tow.

“I’ve been writing every day, Yakov,” he says cheerily. “This town is fascinating! I’ve got lots of poems about the people I see on the boardwalk every morning.”

It’s been a couple of weeks since his arrival in Torvill Cove, and already it’s as if he’s never lived anywhere else. Though he’s slowly starting to learn the townsfolk by name, it seems like they already know his, and they surprise him with it every time he steps into one of their shops or even passes them on the street.

Viktor can almost hear Yakov pinching at the bridge of his nose. “Poems are nice, yes, but where’s the novel manuscript you promised?” his agent demands.

“I’m doing research!” exclaims Viktor, rolling his eyes. “I’ve been talking to the locals, you know, getting stories from them about the town’s lore. Did you know that the lighthouse here has at least three ghosts? The boy who works at the ice cream parlour told me so when he gave me and Makkachin our cones yesterday — the ice cream here is scrumptious, Yakov, you really have to come here and try some —”

I don’t even know why I bother keeping tabs on you,” Yakov groans.

“The manuscript’s coming along, okay?” Viktor stops just as he reaches the entrance to the pier. Makkachin barks at a gull that flies too close to them.

It better,” says Yakov. “The publishers are dying to know what you’ve got in store for them.”

Viktor blithely changes the subject as he and Makkachin step onto the pier. “Yakov, did you know this town has its own newspaper?” he asks. “You can catch up with all of the town gossip with it, and some of it is pretty juicy. They did a little segment on me in last week’s edition to welcome me to the town! Also, apparently one of the girls who works at the movie theatre here was caught at Lovers’ Point with one of the owners of the local winery —”

What does this have to do with your writing, exactly?” Yakov interjects drily.

“Oh, ye of little faith, Yakov!” exclaims Viktor, injecting a little melodrama into his voice. He leans against the aged wooden railing, looking out at the sparkling blue ocean beyond. “You know how much I need to immerse myself in the places I want to write about.”

So can I at least have a pitch on what you want to write about? Clearly it’s something about this town, since you sound like you’re really enjoying yourself there.

Viktor hums. Out on the waves, he can see the familiar black head of the seal poking through the white surf.

“Yakov, if I’d found a plot by now, you’d be the first to know,” he says, before he hangs up. Next to him, Makkachin barks, having spotted the seal as well. Almost as if in reply, the seal swims towards them, to the great excitement of the other people on the pier.

During these past weeks, Makkachin and the seal have become almost inseparable. Whenever Makkachin is on the beach, the seal is sure to emerge from the waves to play with him on the sand before slowly luring him into the waves. Viktor sometimes follows them into the water, though most of the time he’s content to remain on the beach and watch. For some reason he can’t quite pin down, he trusts the seal not to put his dog in too much danger. And so far that trust has held out, as the seal often returns his dog to him perkier than before.

Now the seal is following him and Makkachin along the pier, barking excitedly along with Makkachin as if they’re conversing. It’s not the first time Viktor wonders what’s going through his dog’s mind, and he suspects it’s not his last.

At the very end of the pier, though, the seal vanishes beneath the water before emerging again in an excited jump. He does it again, and again, and Makkachin pokes his head through the railing the pier to bark encouragement at the seal. Other people on the pier have their phones out; Viktor suspects he’ll soon find photos and video of the scene all over the Internet.

Almost as if he has come to the same realisation, the seal makes one more jump, before vanishing into the waves. He doesn’t emerge immediately after, and Makkachin whines, so Viktor suspects the seal has vanished for the day.

He turns to glare at the people who had been recording, but they have all dispersed.

Within three hours of being uploaded to Instagram, Phichit Chulanont’s video — because of course Phichit was there; the man would fight God Himself for a perfect Instagram opportunity — of Makkachin’s ‘conversation’ with the seal hits a million views. Viktor watches it when he gets home, his heart in his throat as the sleek black body of the seal launches out of the water towards a tail-wagging, happily-barking Makkachin.

This Seal and this Dog are Best Friends
...and honestly, it warms our hearts.

Caroline Bennett
BuzzFeed Staff

Instagram user phichit+chu uploaded this video of a poodle — who happens to be Makkachin, the beloved pet of bestelling author Viktor Nikiforov — barking at a seal on the pier of Torvill Cove. What really gets our attention, though, is the fact that the seal responds.

He jumps out of the water.

Several times.

And Makkachin is being a complete enabler, and it’s adorable.

According to local conservation group Torvill Cove Harbour Watch, the seal’s name is Katsudon and he is a 23-year-old harbour seal who has lived in Torvill Cove all of his life, only leaving occasionally for feeding excursions. Though, given his name, it’s entirely possible that he sometimes doesn’t need to go far from home to be fed!

Of course, Torvill Cove Harbour Watch doesn’t recommend feeding seals pork cutlets, not even if they’ll be willing to do jumps for it.

Katsudon and Makkachin are #friendshipgoals.

The seal doesn’t appear for the next few days.

Reviews for Torvill Cove Pier

“We came to Torvill Cove after we saw the video of Katsudon the seal, so we were disappointed to find that he didn’t make an appearance during our trip here! However, the rest of the town is charming enough to make up for it, and we had a lot of fun on the pier even though it’s much smaller with fewer attractions than at most piers. But that’s to be expected from such a small town, though! Everyone was friendly and helpful and made our trip entirely worth it.” — James Rochester, Brighton, United Kingdom | Rating: ★★★★ ½

“I was promised a jumping seal. Where is my jumping seal. The rest of the town is pretty, but boring.” — Kate Hamilton, Yarmouth, United States | Rating: ★★

“If you come here specifically for the seal, you’re bound to be disappointed. I bet Katsudon heard about his sudden Internet fame and got camera shy. But everyone else in this town is super friendly, and if you’re a fan of Viktor Nikiforov’s novels you might find him most mornings on the pier with his dog, who’s the dog in the video! So don’t feel like you’ve been cheated by the town if you don’t see Katsudon while you’re there. There’s so much else this place has to offer. I don’t even live there and I can see that.” — Ally K., London, United Kingdom | Rating: ★★★★★

Viktor isn’t sure why he’s missing a seal, for God’s sake. But his stomach still turns in disappointment whenever he scans the blueness of the ocean and doesn’t find the familiar black head of the seal bobbing amongst the waves.

Tourist season has come early to Torvill Cove, no thanks to Phichit’s video. Even Viktor himself has been recognised by tourists, and asked about his experience here as if he’d been living here for more than a mere couple of weeks. But he answers his fans to the best of his ability, poses for more pictures and selfies, even signs a couple books. It’s not too different from when he was living in Manchester or Hartford, except this time it’s not because Yakov arranged some book signing or photo opportunity.

Viktor ducks into the bookstore on Market Street on a Thursday afternoon to avoid the crowd at the boardwalk for a bit. He likes this bookstore; Makkachin is allowed to go inside and the diminutive clerk, a young sweet-faced man named Guang-Hong Ji, always gets his dog a bowl of water and a bone to chew on while Viktor peruses the shelves.

“So, Viktor, would you ever be interested in doing a book event here?” Guang-Hong asks over a mug of coffee and a blush as Viktor idly flips through one of the store’s newest arrivals. It’s some sort of trashy romance novel about a time-travelling curler. The success of The King and the Skater has spawned a dozen other copycats just like this one. Except a great number of them have a female protagonist and a male love interest, which is, in Viktor’s opinion at least, completely unsurprising.

He prides himself on being unconventional. On surprising the readers. Part of the suspense in The King and the Skater centres around the will-they-won’t-they tension between Arthur and the King, two very repressed men from societies with differing opinions about sexuality. It’s simultaneously a matter of ‘if’ and of ‘when’.

At least the porn in this copycat novel is decent. Viktor puts it back on the shelf. “Maybe,” he tells Guang-Hong. “But really, I’m here on an extended holiday from things like publicity tours and book signings, so please don’t get mad if I refuse in the end.”

“Oh, no, it’s just a silly idea I had, that’s all,” says Guang-Hong, his cheeks turning impossibly pinker. “I mean, we have a lot of people in town who love your work, so I thought it’d be cool for you to do a meet-and-greet with them… maybe we could make it casual; I could give you the times when the Torvill Cove Book Club meets up?”

“Is that how everyone in the town read The King and the Skater?” asks Viktor. “I feel like every local I’ve met seems to have read it — and preferred it to the film, too.”

“Well, word travels pretty fast here,” says Guang-Hong. He takes a sip of coffee. “After the Book Club gave a positive review of your book in their column of the Reporter, your sales here went up at least 500% in the first week after. And then when the library got a copy, it was checked out for at least three months straight; Seung had to limit the time spent with it to a week so everyone on the list could read it eventually.”

Viktor laughs a little. “Christophe mentioned something about an increased interest in the ice rink,” he remarks.

“Oh, that happened after the Book Club sponsored a King and the Skater-themed event at the pop-up ice rink we have on the boardwalk around Christmas,” says Guang-Hong, nodding. “It went really well! The old ladies that make up the executive board of the club have too much free time on their hands, so they went all-out and transformed the rink into the Mandalan palace. There’s a bunch of pictures of it on Instagram if you look back far enough.”

Viktor chuckles. “I’m flattered,” he says. “Give me a couple days to think about it.”

“Well, if you go to the Leroy housewarming party this weekend, you might meet the events coordinator of the Book Club herself.” Guang-Hong shrugs. “Nathalie Leroy’s a bit of a force of nature; if you even vaguely suggest you’d be interested in doing some sort of event, within the hour she’ll already have it set up for you to attend next week.”

“That sounds terrifying, actually,” says Viktor, as he pulls another book from the shelf. According to the back cover, it’s about a spy who drives a Zamboni at a Russian skating rink during the Cold War. Which actually sounds promising.

“That’s how she ended up as the events coordinator despite spending most of the year out of town,” says Guang-Hong with a wry laugh. “But even if you’re not interested in talking with Nathalie, you should go to the party for the drinks, anyway. I heard there’s going to be champagne, and an open bar run by Christophe.”

“Sounds exciting,” murmurs Viktor as he opens the book. Guang-Hong seems to take that a sign that Viktor would like to be left alone, and subsides into silence.

After a couple more pages, Viktor decides to purchase the book to read at the beach. The premise had been interesting, but what had really sold him was the promise of a Cold War-tense affair between the Zamboni-driving spy and the irresistible Russian figure skater. Guang-Hong grins at him as he wraps the book up in a paper bag for him, and Viktor winks.

“I’ll see you at the party, I presume?” he asks.

Guang-Hong grins. “Definitely,” he says.

SHALLWESKATE has added Viktor Nikiforov to the conversation

SHALLWESKATE: guanghong said ur coming to the party so i thought id add you to our group chat!
SHALLWESKATE: that way we all have each others backs while we get turnt
Viktor Nikiforov: i didn’t know you needed to have people to watch your backs at a simple housewarming party
mila_b: you’ve clearly never been to a leroy party
sara-crispino: yeah the only old ladies are from the book club and they are surprisingly good at throwing down
SHALLWESKATE: yeah its pretty wild lol every year something happens
dirtycocktail: remember last year when leo started a conga line that ended up in the pool
gh_kawaii: that was fun <333
leooooo: i’m glad you think so bc i don’t remember any of it
gh_kawaii: lol maybe don’t drink so much this year? :)
leooooo: what and not take advantage of the free bar? never
mila_b: point is you need people to make sure you don’t do something stupid, but if something stupid happens anyway they need to be there to record it )
pxpxvxch: anya isn’t coming back this year (
mila_b: awww (((
mila_b: it’s not wrong is it tho
yuripurrsetsky: I HATE YOU
mila_b: one more year before i don’t have to sneak you a beer in public!
dirtycocktail: i’m going to pretend i didn’t read that
dirtycocktail: anyway viktor
dirtycocktail: can you dance
Viktor Nikiforov: i learnt the basics of argentine tango for a short story about a prostitute in buenos aires, does that count?
dirtycocktail: that’s hot ;))))

The Leroy summer residence is on the other side of the harbour from where Viktor lives, but he decides to walk to the party on Saturday anyway, because the weather is nice and the afternoon sun is casting the sky into shades of pale pinks and golds.

It seems a majority of the town has had the same idea, because Viktor runs into Yuri Plisetsky and Phichit Chulanont at the boardwalk. Both of them are also dressed for the party, though Yuri’s belt is in leopard print.

“Really?” Viktor asks, gesturing towards the belt.

Yuri glares. “You wouldn’t know real fashion even if it bites you in the ass,” he says.

Phichit laughs. “He also has a leopard print jacket, you know.”

“I’m only not wearing it because it’s warm out,” adds Yuri.

As they pass the carnival game booths, they are joined by Mila Babicheva and Sara Crispino, both also dressed for the party.

“Where’s your brother, Sara?” asks Phichit pleasantly once introductions are carried out and the group continues on. Already music from the party is drifting up to them from across the water, loud and pulsating.

“Holding down the fort at the winery. He’s going to join us later; Emil promised to pick him up,” says Sara as she links her arm with Mila.

“You’d think he’d be here stalking us in order to keep an eye on you,” remarks Yuri sullenly.

Sara laughs. “It’s literally none of his business what I do in my free time,” she says, rolling her eyes.

“Or who you do, really,” adds Phichit, sharing a wink with Mila. Yuri groans.

As they pass by the Yu-Topia Resort, Phichit fires off a couple of texts. After a moment, he hangs back from the group.

“I’m going to be a little late,” he says. “You guys go on without me!”

“Are you sure?” asks Sara. “We could wait with you.”

Phichit laughs. “Oh, no, it’s much worse than that. Seriously, go on. We’ll catch up, or we’ll see you at the party.”

Viktor raises an eyebrow. “Are you picking someone up here?” he asks, gesturing to the resort.

“Yeah, one of my friends lives here. Except he’s also a walking fashion disaster, so I’m going to have to go and re-dress him for the party,” says Phichit over his shoulder as he heads to the entrance of the resort. The rest of the group continues on, so Viktor follows them.

By the time they reach the Leroy summer residence, the sky has darkened its pinks and golds, and the lights are starting to come on at the pier. Music floats up towards them from the backyard as they go through the gates leading up to the immense house.

“Ugh, I sometimes forget how rich these assholes are,” Yuri mutters darkly as they mount the stairs leading to the front door. The deck is already swarming with people and it seems like every window and door that can be opened is already open to let out the obnoxiously loud music within.

“And yet you go to their parties?” wonders Viktor.

“Please. As if I’d turn down free drinks,” retorts Yuri. “Also it’s pointless to do anything else in town during Housewarming Week, because everyone’s at the parties.”

They step through the front door, and it’s like walking into a wall of sound. The music assaults Viktor’s ears as they wend their way through the other partygoers.

“Leo and Guang-Hong say that they’re downstairs,” says Sara suddenly, waving her phone.

“Where’s Christophe?” asks Mila. “I pre-gamed for this and I still don’t think I’m drunk enough.”

“He’s probably out by the pool; they usually set up the bar there,” Sara says as she drags Mila to the nearest flight of stairs. “But first we gotta get Guang-Hong and Leo!”

“I’m getting some sparkling cider,” declares Yuri. “Find me at the bar.”

“We’ll meet you there, then!” Sara waves, and then she and Mila are gone. Yuri and Viktor look at each other, before Yuri begins shouldering his way through the crowd in pursuit of the doors leading to the backyard.

Viktor tries to follow, but his path is blocked halfway through the living room by a young man with a dark undercut and a grin. “Viktor Nikiforov!” the man says, clapping Viktor’s back as if they had been long-time buddies instead of complete strangers meeting for the first time. “What a surprise to find you here! I didn’t know you’d come!”

Viktor puts on his most placid smile in response. “You must be Jean-Jacques Leroy?” he asks. Out of the corner of his eye, he notices Yuri turning around at the door, scanning the crowd.

“That’s me!” agrees Jean-Jacques. He then gestures to the older woman standing next to him, whose red hair is cut into a rather dramatic bob. “May I introduce you to my mother Nathalie? She’s a big fan of The King and the Skater.”

“Seems to me the entire town is,” says Viktor noncommittally. He reaches out and presses a kiss to Nathalie’s hand, nonetheless. “Nice to meet you.”

“The pleasure is all mine,” replies Nathalie. “I hope you have fun at the party tonight, though I’m afraid I let JJ choose the music for it.”

“It’s very… boisterous,” remarks Viktor. He looks through the crowd now, glimpsing Yuri shoving his way back towards him.

“My girlfriend and I would have brought our band, if the drummer hadn’t come down with the flu at the last minute,” Jean-Jacques interjects. Viktor represses a shudder. Live music in such close quarters would have definitely been too much for him.

Nathalie presses on. “Since you must be aware of the activities of the Torvill Cove Book Club by now, Mr Nikiforov, I was wondering if you would be interested doing in a small meet-and-greet —”

“Viktor!” Viktor whirls around and finds, to his relief, Yuri Plisetsky elbowing his way past some couple plastered up against one another to reach them. “Come on, the cider isn’t going to drink itself!”

Sensing an opportunity, Viktor immediately extricates himself from the Leroys. “I’m flattered, Mrs Leroy, but I’ll have to ask my agent about doing public appearances here before I can give you any answers. I’ll leave you my card before I leave tonight, all right?” And without even waiting for an answer, he lets Yuri push him out towards the backyard. “This party’s pretty great!” he shouts over his shoulder just before their faces vanish into the crowd.

Somehow the music out in the backyard is even louder than inside the house itself. Viktor follows Yuri as the blond weaves his way through the dancing people around the edge of the pool. Someone has already managed to toss confetti into it; Viktor doesn’t envy whoever has to clean up.

“I owe you one,” he tells Yuri.

“Whatever,” replies Yuri. “No one should be exposed to JJ Leroy for that period of time without prior warning, so I did it out of concern for your health.”

“Like how giving me a free doggy cone was also out of concern for my health?”

“Shut up, Dogbreath,” growls Yuri, and they head towards the bar where Christophe reigns.

“Aren’t you a little young to drink, Yuri Plisetsky?” asks the older blond when Yuri draws up to the bar.

“You know the age for drinking in private is, like, five, right?” demands Yuri. “Besides, all I want is sparkling apple cider.”

Christophe obligingly pours him a flute of sparkling cider, and then turns to Viktor.

“You made it!” he exclaims happily. “Pick your poison, darling.”

“Vodka and tonic,” says Viktor.

“Really not holding back, are we?” Christophe chuckles, already grabbing a bottle of Stolichnaya.

“Isn’t that how a Leroy party should be enjoyed?” wonders Viktor. “Or maybe I’ve been hearing the stories wrong.”

“You should really try the hors d’oeuvres this year,” Christophe muses as he pours Viktor a highball glass of vodka and tonic water, and then garnishes it with a lime wedge. “I don’t know who’s responsible for the bacon-wrapped scallops, but I haven’t been able to stop eating them all night.”

“It’s barely six,” Yuri points out baldly.

“All. Night,” emphasises Christophe. Yuri rolls his eyes, and then disappears into the crowd. Christophe then hands Viktor his glass. “Here you go, darling.”

Viktor raises the highball in thanks. He’s just taken his first sip when he notices Phichit arriving in the backyard, leading another man by the hand.

He hears a low whistle from Christophe, and suddenly it’s as if the music from the party is nothing but a dull roar against the sound of his heart beating.

Phichit’s friend is gorgeous.

He’s a strange equilibrium between hard and soft, between high cheekbones and soft cheeks, between defined collarbones peeking through the tops of his black shirt and a perky ass defined by his sinfully tight jeans. His black hair is slicked back, and bright brown eyes sparkle enigmatically behind blue-framed glasses.

And if Viktor hadn’t been a goner before, he certainly is when this man runs a thumb along the back of his braces and — Viktor’s breath hitches — locks eyes with him.

Viktor’s heart skips a beat.

The man tugs at Phichit’s salmon suit jacket; Phichit turns to him, and the man signs something. Phichit then turns to look at Viktor as well, and waves eagerly.

The noise from the party hits Viktor’s eardrums again. He blinks, shakes his head as if he’s Makkachin trying to rid himself of fleas, and then smiles and waves back at Phichit. From behind him, Christophe chuckles.

“See anything you like?” he asks.

Viktor takes a long sip from his vodka and tonic, his gaze flickering over to where Phichit and his friend are standing. Mystery man continues to sign to Phichit, who responds by talking and an occasional sign.

“Who’s Phichit’s friend?” Viktor wonders.

Christophe chuckles. “Yuuri Katsuki. He… I’m not really sure what he does. I guess he helps out at the resort, since his family owns it, but I’ve also seen him with the Nishigoris and at Emil’s store with Phichit. And there was this one time when I could’ve sworn he was helping Mila and Georgi at the movie theatre.”

“I’ve never seen him around,” says Viktor. Honestly, he would’ve known if he’d seen anyone even approaching the hotness of Yuuri Katsuki wandering around Torvill Cove.

“He’s a bit of a wallflower,” replies Christophe. “It’s amazing that Phichit even got him to come out tonight.”

Almost as if on cue, Yuuri Katsuki swipes a flute of champagne from a passing server. Viktor chuckles as he takes another sip of his own drink.

“So,” purrs Christophe, “I’m curious, Viktor. You’re such a meticulous researcher when it comes to your novels. Is the reason why you’re not heading over to Phichit and Yuuri right now because you’ve only researched the art of seduction and not actually done it?”

Viktor spits out his drink. “What?” he demands.

Christophe’s expression is the definition of ‘shit-eating’. “I mean, I’m probably not the most well-versed on your love life, but I do happen to be friends with Phichit Chulanont, and he’s practically his own brand of nosy. So the fact that you, a very successful author who has actually shown up on lists of the world’s most eligible bachelors, have not had anything interesting showing up in the ‘personal life’ section of your Wikipedia page is something I’m quite aware of.”

“Maybe I just make everyone I seduce sign an NDA afterwards,” Viktor replies acidly, though his ears still feel like they’re on fire.

Right.” Christophe chuckles. “And here I thought people threw themselves at you and you just had to say yes or no.”

Screw his ears; Viktor’s entire face is on fire. He slams his highball on the counter. “I’ll need more vodka before I even deign to answer that,” he says, and Christophe’s laugh is knowing.

Viktor finishes another vodka and tonic, as well as a White Russian, before the idea of approaching Yuuri Katsuki begins to even feel remotely like a good idea. By that time, the stars are twinkling in the sky, the fairy lights strung all over the Leroys’ backyard are glowing like little stars all on their own, and Yuri Plisetsky has gotten into some sort of argument with Jean-Jacques Leroy and thrown his sparkling cider down the other man’s front.

Yuuri Katsuki is still plastered to Phichit’s side, nursing what looks like his sixth glass of champagne for the night. The music filtering through the house continues to be abrasively upbeat, and people are dancing to it on practically all available surfaces. Some particularly drunk individuals have even jumped, fully clothed, into the pool. Still others are clamouring to take a boat or two out of the Leroy boathouse.

“I can’t believe it.” Viktor is startled out of his thoughts by the return of Yuri Plisetsky, who has Christophe fill his flute as soon as he draws close enough. “JJ’s actually convinced that the parlour should sell a sundae cone called ‘the JJ Style’. I am going to murder him the next time he sets foot in there.”

“I don’t think murder will be good for business,” says Christophe.

“Do I look like I care?” demands Yuri. “I am at the end of my rope with that imbecile!”

“I didn’t even know you had a rope to begin with.” Christophe laughs, and then pauses as if he’d realised something. “Hey. Maybe you can translate for Viktor!”

What?” demands Yuri. Christophe gestures to Phichit and Yuuri. Yuuri is now on his seventh glass. “What does that have to do with — oh.”

Viktor gingerly touches his cheeks, tearing his gaze away from the sight of Yuuri Katsuki running a hand through his hair as he finishes his champagne.

He can hear Yuri’s exasperation in his next words: “I’m not going to play matchmaker for Dogbreath and Piglet, Christophe.” Yuri punctuates it with a swig of cider. “They can figure it out themselves; the Piglet’s mute, not deaf.”

“Oh, come on, you’re the best out of all of us at sign language,” wheedles Christophe. Viktor doesn’t hear Yuri’s reply, though, as he sets down his glass on the bar and pushes off towards Phichit and Yuuri, feeling the alcohol course through his veins like liquid fire.

With his head now a light warm buzz from the drinks he’s had, the music now feels less like a pounding, more of a gentle throbbing. Slowly Viktor makes his way to Yuuri, noting dimly how the man seems to startle when he approaches, and then promptly finish yet another glass of champagne.

“Phichit!” says Viktor when he finally gets to them, leaning in towards the Thai man and slinging an arm around his shoulder. “You made it! And I’m guessing this is your friend?”

Phichit chuckles, his face flushing somewhat. “Yeah, and thank God you’ll never see what he was originally planning on wearing to this.” As if in response, Yuuri shoves his hands into the pockets of his trousers. His cheeks are already flushed an appealing shade of pink from a mix of alcohol and nerves. Viktor wonders if they’re as soft to the touch as they look.

“What’s your name?” Viktor asks Yuuri, and the man fidgets. He takes his hands out of his pockets, makes a couple half-hearted gestures, and then looks pointedly at Phichit with his cheeks turning even pinker.

“Yuuri Katsuki,” translates Phichit, and then adds, “he’s already had a lot to drink, but I guess no amount of champagne will prepare you for meeting Viktor Nikiforov, huh?”

Yuuri’s brows furrow at that, and he rapidly shoots off some signs at Phichit, who responds in kind. Yuuri then huffs, and tugs at Viktor’s sleeve.

“Yeah?” asks Viktor, feeling like his hands are at a loss. He once had a deaf grandmother back in Russia, so he had learnt some signs, but those were in Russian Sign Language, and he highly doubts that Yuuri would understand that. Or, even worse, Yuuri might interpret them as rude.

Still, Yuuri smiles at him, and mouths something while moving his hands from side to side. He then raises his eyebrows and tilts his head forward. Viktor looks helplessly at Phichit, who says, “he’s asking if you’d like to dance with him.”

Viktor smiles at Yuuri. “Yes, I’d love to!” he says, nodding for emphasis, and Yuuri’s grin widens as he takes Viktor by the arm and leads him into the dancing crowd.

Chapter Text

Excerpt from the gossip column “Coved Secrets” of the Torvill Cove Reporter:

A Modern-Day Cinderella Tale? Things Get #Lit At The Leroys’ House Party

Last night marked the celebration of the Leroys’ return to Torvill Cove! While many iconic things happened during it — like Yuri Plisetsky splashing Jean-Jacques Leroy with some sparkling cider during a mini-fight — arguably the most important part of the night was shy wallflower Yuuri Katsuki dipping the Viktor Nikiforov on the dance floor. Still don’t believe it? You can find the full video on phichit+chu’s Instagram.

Viktor Nikiforov, bestselling author of The King and the Skater, moved to Torvill a few weeks ago. This had been his first Housewarming Week party since his arrival, sources say. His attendance sparked some interest in people, including the Leroys themselves. “I had no idea he even lived here,” Jean-Jacques Leroy told Coved Secrets. “So it was a pleasant surprise to find out he wanted to wish us a happy summer.”

A pleasant surprise indeed. Sources say our own Yuuri Katsuki, after having downed many a champagne flute, had summoned up the courage to ask the bestselling author to dance. The two of them had hit it off immediately after, spending the entire night practically joined at the hip. And the more alcohol the two consumed, the wilder their dancing got! Who would have known that quiet little Yuuri Katsuki could dance the tango?

“He was like a completely different person,” agreed Yuri Plisetsky. “It was so weird, and at least a little traumatising once they started grinding.”

Coved Secrets, as well as the rest of town, is looking forward to seeing if any new developments arise from this magical night! For more pictures of what happened and to keep track of upcoming Housewarming Week events, check out #torvillhousewarmingweek2016 on Instagram.

Viktor wakes up to an insistent pounding in his head reminiscent of the beat from last night’s party.

Groaning, he rolls onto his side, squinting against the too-bright light. Whose great idea was it to decorate this cottage in shades of pale blue and white? It’s like staring into the sun. He shuts his eyes again, burrowing his face further into the pillow. Everything is aching. His head feels ready to cave in at any moment. Maybe having downed so many vodka-influenced drinks hadn’t been the best idea…

But it had gotten him to meet Yuuri, hadn’t it? That’s something. Viktor smiles as he remembers bits and pieces of their dance. Yuuri had seemed well-versed in the art — more so than Viktor — and had quickly taken the leading position. Not that Viktor had minded. It had felt nice to follow, to relinquish control over which way to spin and turn and dip. Yuuri had been a fantastic leader and they had, simply put, danced the night away in shared amusement. From ballroom to Argentine tango to regular dance floor grinding — it had been surreal. Magical. Like something out of a fairytale.

A dreamy smile crosses Viktor’s face. Just the feeling of having been in Yuuri’s arms, of having held Yuuri in his — it had elicited feelings Viktor was certain he hadn’t felt in a very long time. The very thrumming of his blood through his veins felt raw and intoxicating then. And now upon remembrance everything seems to be doused in a new light.

He’d do anything to feel like that again, and the very acknowledgement of it terrifies and exhilarates him.

Viktor is rudely startled out of his reverie by the barking of Makkachin. The poodle bounds onto his bed moments later, licking at his face. It jolts him back to a head-splitting reality, and he groans and runs a bleary hand through his dog’s fur.

“Are you hungry, Makka?” he rasps, his throat feeling like sandpaper. “I’ll get you something, just a sec…”

He swings to his feet and dons his slippers. It seems like he’d managed to get his trousers off before he passed out last night, but his shirt is still on, and it’s terribly wrinkled. Viktor sighs, dragging a hand through his hair before padding into the bathroom.

He takes some ibuprofen and splashes water on his face, staring at himself in the mirror. Twenty-seven isn’t a bad age, but sometimes it just reminds him of the inevitability of decay. Right now, he looks and feels like death warmed over.

Makkachin woofs, as if to remind him to feed him. Viktor sighs, and starts brushing his teeth to get the fuzziness of last night out of his mouth. With toothbrush in mouth, he heads out to the kitchen to fill Makkachin’s food dish and change his water, and to make something for breakfast.

Except when he opens his fridge, he realises that he ran out of eggs and milk two days ago and still hasn’t made a grocery run to replenish. With a long-suffering sigh, he returns to his room to get dressed.

“Come on, Makka, let’s go for a walk,” he says when he emerges moments later, feeling more like a human being as he takes Makkachin’s leash from its hook by the back door. Makkachin barks eagerly, and Viktor clips him up and heads out to town.

It’s when he steps off the cliffside trail for Market Street that he notices that there’s a farmer’s market set up along the main thoroughfare of the town. It is surprisingly busy considering the earliness of the morning. Granted, those here look half-awake or dead on their feet, but still. Viktor could have sworn that no one would be up and about at six-thirty in the morning, when the sun’s rays are just poking their way through the divots in the hillside range. Especially not after last night’s wild party at the Leroys’.

But perhaps the people here are just as restless as Viktor is.

A elderly vendor who’s selling vegetables calls him over in a thick Scottish brogue and offers a radish. Viktor takes it, turns the vegetable over in his gloved hands, feels its weight. It’s not the best radish he’s ever seen — the natural red tints more towards white — but if he gives it a few more days then perhaps it will become ripe enough to cook with. Viktor hands the vendor payment for it and two more before continuing on.

As he walks, Viktor takes in his surroundings. This is unmistakably a farmer’s market, considering the vast variety of fresh vegetables and fruits on display, but there’s also the smell of cooking meat in the air, as well as a faint odour of fish and manure. Clearly more than just your standard fruits and veg are being sold. It rather reminds him of the open-air markets that he’d go to back in Saint Petersburg.

He sees a sign for the Nishigori Fishery, and goes over to check out the goods. A fairly young man with a broad chest and a good-natured face watches him, and with him are three familiar girls.

“Hey, it’s Makkachin!” Axel shouts, when Viktor draws close. Viktor smiles and Makkachin barks eagerly as the girls come around to pet Makkachin.

“Girls, don’t crowd him too much,” the man chides, and Viktor looks over at him.

“You’re their father?” he asks, and winces internally at how rude that sounds.

The man chuckles and nods, seemingly taking it in stride. “Takeshi Nishigori,” he says. “I’d shake your hand, but I just gutted some herring for this old lady three minutes ago.”

Viktor wrinkles his nose, “Maybe another time,” he agrees, and then asks, “so you’re married to Yuuko Nishigori of the Harbour Watch? When they said opposites attract…”

Takeshi laughs. “We do get that a lot,” he agrees. “But Yuuko’s work is very good for our sustainability goals, so it works out.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” replies Viktor. “I can’t imagine that seal friend of hers being good for your business, though.”

“Maybe, but he’s the reason we even met,” says Takeshi. “Katsudon got tangled up in one of my nets. Yuuko, who had been tracking him, panicked at me until I cut him free. The rest is history.”

Viktor smiles a little, looking down at the seafood on display. Makkachin wags his tail a little, as if asking Viktor to buy something, and Viktor chuckles.

“Could I get two pieces of mackerel?” he asks. A little salted mackerel might be good for the days when he doesn’t feel like cooking.

After getting his carefully-wrapped parcel of fish, Viktor heads down the street again with Makkachin in tow. As he walks past more vendors, his mind starts to wander back to the party. Some part of him feels as if he’s in an alternate reality, on a different plane of existence from last night. Perhaps it’s the hangover or perhaps it’s the air, but something feels changed. He dimly feels Makkachin tugging at his leash, but his mind is still a million miles away back at the Leroys’, where he can still faintly hear the music, still faintly feel Yuuri’s hips…

It somehow still feels like an impossible dream…

Makkachin’s incessant tugging finally fully registers, and Viktor looks down at him. The old dog’s tail is wagging with fervour as he looks at something a ways in front of him. Viktor kneels down beside Makkachin and scratches his dog’s neck, fingers catching in caramel curls.

“What do you see, boy?” Viktor asks, knowing most likely it was just a stray hedgehog or cat. “What’s got you so excited?”

Makkachin barks.

Viktor looks.

And his breath hitches.

Yuuri Katsuki’s buying some eggs from a vendor a few paces away. At first Viktor can’t believe it; how can he? The man he has been thinking of since he woke up this morning is standing right in front of him in a sweet burst of serendipity. He blinks a few times to make sure what he’s seeing is real, that Yuuri won’t just disappear in a breath. When Yuuri remains solidly present, Viktor feels relief wash over him.

He watches as the man fishes money out of his pockets, his dark hair falling in his handsome face. He watches as he hands over the payment with a shy smile tugging at the corners of his lips. It’s like watching the climax of a film; Viktor is riveted by even the smallest details, unable to look away.

The sun finally comes out; it highlights Yuuri’s hair and casts his face into soft focus like some old Hollywood romance film. A beachside breeze blows through and ruffles the pieces of paper in the wicker basket he’s carrying. Viktor notices Yuuri’s eyes shifting downwards to make sure nothing flies away, but it lasts only a second before he turns his attention back to the vendor.

Makkachin is whining now, and turns to lick at Viktor’s face. His eyes look pleading. “What do you want, boy?” Viktor asks, cupping his pet’s face with his hands. Makkachin’s tail thumps and he squirms out of Viktor’s hands to look eagerly back at Yuuri, who’s being given eggs. “You don’t even know hi — Makka, no! Makka, stop!”

But Makkachin is already bounding away towards an unsuspecting Yuuri, barking as if he is greeting an old friend. Viktor rises quickly and starts to chase after him, grabbing for the leash. But it’s futile. Makkachin is running too fast and Viktor can’t catch up soon enough and —


Oh no.

It all happens in slow-motion, or so it feels to Viktor’s growing horror. Yuuri, having heard the sudden commotion, turns to look at Makkachin, and his eyes fly wide open. He takes a step back, one hand out in front of him, the other raising the basket above his head for protection. No! Viktor wants to shout. Don’t do that! The eggs will break!

Makkachin’s almost on his target. From behind, Viktor can see his tongue lolling out of his mouth to the side. That’s all he needs to affirm that Makkachin is on a collision course. From firsthand experience, whenever his dog ran at him with his tongue out, Viktor had always needed to brace for impact or risk getting toppled over.

But Yuuri doesn’t brace well enough. As soon as Makkachin hits him, he falls over. Hard.

And the sound of eggs cracking follows suit.

Oh dear, oh no, Viktor thinks, sprinting over to where Yuuri is. This is embarrassing. “I’m so sorry,” he starts as soon as he’s near enough. Makkachin is all over poor Yuuri, licking his face and sniffing his now-ruined blue shirt. Viktor pries him off with a, “Get off, Makka.”

Yuuri makes a face, nose scrunching up and brow furrowed together. He gingerly cards his fingers through his hair, pulling them away when he hits raw egg. Viktor has never felt so bad in his life, and he feels even worse when Yuuri starts to sign something at him.

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand what that means,” he says.

Yuuri points to the tipped-over basket that lies just out of reach, also covered in egg, and then makes the same cupping motion with his hands before moving his right hand in a fist across his torso, and then pointing to himself. It takes Viktor a minute to understand what he’s trying to say, but eventually he catches on and brings the basket to Yuuri. Yuuri fumbles inside it and pulls out a (thankfully clean) moleskine notebook and pen, scribbling, Your dog is cute so it’s fine, don’t worry about it.

Viktor gives a pained smile in return and offers a hand, which Yuuri takes. “Up you get,” he says, pulling him up. “How many eggs did you buy?”

Two dozen, Yuuri writes.


He feels a hand half-heartedly tug at his jacket when he turns to the vendor, but it stops as soon as he opens his mouth to speak. Viktor orders a replacement for the eggs, and lets Yuuri browse through the cartons to check on the intactness of the eggs. Even the sight of Yuuri’s slender fingers examining the eggs with expert ease makes Viktor’s heart flutter.

He pays for the eggs and Yuuri takes the cartons, tucking them into his basket. Viktor then asks if the vendor has any paper towels to spare, and as the vendor ducks behind the counter to fish for some, Viktor feels the tugging come back, a bit more forcefully this time. He turns around, and is immediately greeted with a notebook to the face.

“Wha — Yuuri,” he protests, but Yuuri shakes the notebook insistently. Points to it.

Viktor takes Yuuri’s wrist in his hand gently so as to steady it. He notices with some satisfaction that Yuuri’s face turns a bit red at the action, but he makes no outward reaction to the other man’s embarrassment. On the open page of the notebook are the words: It’s fine! I can just walk back to Yu-Topia and clean up there, there’s no need for paper towels!

“Not with egg yolk still in your hair, you’re not,” Viktor disagrees.

Yuuri makes a small exasperated noise, shakes his head and makes his eyes grow wide. He points at the paper again multiple times, and Viktor sighs.

“Alright,” he concedes, letting go of Yuuri’s wrist. “If that’s what you want to do.”

A firm nod is all he gets in reply. Yuuri’s entire face is scarlet now. He bends over his notebook, scribbling something furiously and then showing it: Thanks for buying the eggs, by the way. See you around.

Viktor shakes his head. “You’re not getting rid of me that easily. It’s my fault you got into this mess, so I’ll have to make sure you and your cargo get home safely. Besides,” and he can’t help but grin at this, “didn’t no one ever tell you not to put all of your eggs in one basket?”

Yuuri’s eyes go wide, and his shoulders shake with barely contained laughter before he shakes his head and writes, That was horrendous.

“Really?” wonders Viktor in mock-thoughtfulness. “I’ve always thought my wordplay skills were pretty decent. Or at least, you know, better than my dancing.” He winks. But Yuuri merely tilts his head to the side in confusion, his brows crinkling adorably.

No comment, he writes. Viktor gasps.

“Was last night that bad?” he demands, clutching at his heart for extra dramatic effect. “I thought we had something special!” And he did intend for it to be joking, but somehow Yuuri’s confusion only settles in deeper on his handsome features, and Viktor’s heart sinks like a stone.

Yuuri doesn’t remember last night.

That explains so much about why he’d been so brusque earlier.

Oh, Viktor Nikiforov, you absolute ass, he thinks to himself, watching Yuuri’s expression go from confused to concerned. The dark-haired man writes something down in his notebook, and shows it:

Are you alright?

Viktor nods, plastering on a smile he doesn’t really feel. The vendor coughs to get his attention, holding out a wad of napkins. Viktor takes them numbly, and turns back to Yuuri.

“You sure you don’t want these? Egg in your hair can be a bit disgusting on the walk home, you know. Just let me —” and he reaches out, brushing a bit of the yolk off the side of Yuuri’s head. Yuuri flushes, and takes the napkins from him before thrusting the basket into Viktor’s hand.

They walk away from the vendor with Makkachin ambling along, a smug lilt in his step. Viktor shoots his dog a reproachful glare, and gets the doggy equivalent of a shit-eating grin in response.

“Sorry about Makka,” says Viktor as Yuuri dabs half-heartedly at the egg stains all over his body.

Yuuri shrugs. Viktor feels guilt curl in his stomach. No amount of grovelling is going to fix this, it seems.

“I could replace your clothes, if the stain doesn’t get out?” he offers.

Yuuri shakes his head. He drops the soiled napkins into a nearby rubbish bin before holding his hand out for the basket again. Viktor shoulders his own bags (currently containing only some radishes and two mackerel), and follows after Yuuri down Market Street.

“At least let me walk you home,” he wheedles. “I’m sorry, I just — You don’t remember me, but we met last night at the Leroys’. We danced? I was wondering when I would see you again, so imagine my surprise when I ran into you — well, Makka ran into you — here.”

Yuuri says nothing, seemingly preoccupied with putting one foot in front of the other. Viktor sighs, watching the dark-haired man’s pensive expression for any subtle changes that might suggest he’s growing annoyed at Viktor’s presence. He certainly hopes that won’t be the case. Viktor might be a bit of a pushy man, but he knows boundaries when he sees them.

“Sorry about my rambling. I’ll shut up,” he offers. They only walk two more steps before he feels the notebook bump against his arm.

Yuuri’s scrawl reads: It’s fine. I like hearing you talk.

“You’re not mad?” Viktor wonders.

As you mentioned, it was your dog who knocked me down, not you.

“Right.” Viktor sighs. They finally step onto the boardwalk, the sounds and smells of the farmer’s market fading a little. After a moment of somewhat tense silence, Viktor speaks up again. “Why do you need two dozen eggs, anyway?”

Family business, replies Yuuri.

“Right,” repeats Viktor. “Running that restaurant, huh?”

Yuuri nods. Have you visited Yu-Topia yet?

“No, but I keep meaning to. Now I’ll have more reason to.” Viktor winks again, and internally does a fist pump at the pink flush that appears on Yuuri’s cheeks. “Do you ever help out at the spa? You know, give massages and pedicures, that sort of thing?”

Yuuri huffs in laughter. We prefer to leave that to the professionals, he writes.

“Shame,” says Viktor, because he’s a shameless flirt and he might as well go hard or go home. “I’d be more interested in a massage if you were to give it.”

Yuuri’s flush deepens. I would be terrible, he replies.

“Somehow I find that hard to believe.”

Yuuri shakes his head, exasperation tinging his every move. Finally, they reach the Yu-Topia Seaside Resort at the end of the boardwalk, and Viktor has his first proper look at it. It’s an old manor house on the outside, with a distinctive red-tiled roof and a couple spires and turrets reminiscent of a castle, but there are also lanterns hanging above the windows, and some of the renovated wings of the building seem more reminiscent of a Japanese bath house in its clean lines and wooden accents.

The main entrance to the hotel resides under a porte-cochère overlooking a small roundabout. There are several cars pulled up to the curb here, and others pulling away to exit the roundabout onto Bowhill Lane. Yuuri stops here, just before the stone overhang, and nods towards the handsomely-carved oak doors leading into the resort.

You’ve seen me off safely now, he writes. Thanks for the eggs.

“Okay,” says Viktor, though he feels the exact opposite. Makkachin whines a little, as if in agreement. But Yuuri nods curtly, waves goodbye, and then turns towards the doors.

Viktor wants to shout, wants to stop him. There are so many things left to say. He hasn’t even gotten the man’s contact information, for God’s sake! But the words seem stuck in his throat, so all he can do is watch Yuuri head towards the doors.

“Excuse me!” someone shouts, and Viktor has to dart out of the way of a harried-looking bellhop with a giant luggage cart laden with suitcases. By the time the cart and the bellhop have vanished into the resort, so has Yuuri.

Viktor sighs, and he and Makkachin reluctantly turn towards home.

Later that afternoon, as he’s walking along the beach with Makkachin, Viktor spots Katsudon the seal hauled out just under the pier.

Makkachin barks eagerly again, straining on his leash towards the seal. But Katsudon sees the poodle, and to Viktor’s surprise, turns away and slides back into the waters.

Makkachin stops up short of the water’s edge and whines, as if to ask the seal why he’s running away now; aren’t they supposed to be friends? But Katsudon vanishes into the blue without a second glance, and Viktor reaches down to give Makkachin a pitying pat.

“That’s rough, Makka,” he says quietly, as Makkachin looks forlornly out at the waters. “Let’s go get you a treat.”

Housewarming Week 2016 Schedule of Events

As many residents of Torvill Cove know, Housewarming Week has started off with a bang! As per tradition, Housewarming Week kicks off the tourist season here in Torvill Cove, where rich city-slickers returning to the cove host a week’s worth of lavish parties. The Torvill Cove Reporter has gathered here some of the most-anticipated events of the week. Unless otherwise stated, these events are free and open to anyone who wish to attend!


Return of the King: Leroy Family Return Party
7PM — 1AM at 21 Bowhill Lane. Semi-formal dress required.


Munro Family Return Party
8PM — Midnight at 4 Gardiner Drive.


Kegs at the Cove: Knight Family Return Party
8:30PM — 1AM at 25 Clark Road.


Gibson Family Return Party
4PM — 8PM at 34 Bowhill Lane. Open only to guests invited on Facebook.


Clan Fraser Highlands and Islands Reunion Event
6PM — 9PM at Torvill Cove Town Hall. Tartans required. Open only to members of Clan Fraser and their guests.

Fitzpatrick Family Return Party
8PM — Midnight at 6 Gardiner Drive. Beachwear recommended.


McAdam Family Return Party
6PM — 10PM at 19 Clark Road.

CineCove Double Feature: The King and the Skater and Victory on Ice
7:30PM — Midnight at the Boardwalk. Bring your own blankets and chairs! There will be concessions available for purchase.


Gray Family Return Party
10PM — 3AM at 27 Bowhill Lane. Semi-formal dress required.


Ballroom on the Beach: West Coast Swing
7PM — 8PM at the Boardwalk. Taught by Minako Okukawa and Celestino Cialdini.

First Concert of Summertime at the Cove 2016: Young Songwriters Showcase
8PM — 10:30PM at the Boardwalk. Featuring CHVRCHES and local artist Leo de la Iglesia

A list of all events and their locations can be found at the library, on our website, or on Instagram under #torvillhousewarmingweek2016.

Viktor goes to a couple more of the Housewarming Week parties, mostly in the hopes of seeing Yuuri again.

He shows up at the party on Monday night with Christophe. The atmosphere at this one feels like an American frat party, and Viktor is rather unpleasantly reminded of the parties he had attended at the University of Hartford while researching Cherry-Flipped. Some kid in a snapback is being hoisted upside down over a keg of beer by two extremely burly men, and when Viktor tries to find the toilet he stumbles across someone pouring an assortment of hard liquors into the upstairs bathtub.

“Are there even parents supervising this mess?” he asks Christophe when he finally locates him again, chatting up some man with chin-length brown hair. Christophe shrugs, taking a draught of something from a red plastic cup and cringing at the taste. Viktor doesn’t even want to know what it is.

He heads to the kitchen to pour himself a drink, because he trusts neither the tub juice nor the stuff being handed out by some pimply-faced teenager with shaggy brown hair and braces. There’s no way Yuuri is anywhere near this party; if he had to consume so much champagne at the (much, much) classier Leroy party in order to peel away from the wall, then Viktor would hate to know the amount of drinking that this party would necessitate.

And with that, Viktor begins counting down the minutes until it becomes socially acceptable for him to leave. After pouring himself some vodka lying on the counter in the kitchen, Viktor passes into the living room, where he is treated to the dubious image of Yuri Plisetsky challenging a blond man in lime green shutter shades to a game of beer pong.

“Does he know you’re fifteen?” Viktor asks Yuri. Yuri turns to look at him, his expression unamused.

“Do you know when to shut up?” he retorts, and immediately pulls Mila out of the crowd gathered around the table to join him.

Viktor doesn’t even want to know how either of them know how to play the game. So he returns to the room where Christophe is, finishing his drink along the way. As he passes through the kitchen to refill his cup, he hears a shout from the other room, followed by Yuri Plisetsky’s distinctive scream of, “I’m going to wipe your sorry ass with this stupid game, JJ!”

“They sound like they’re having fun,” says Christophe cheerily, and Viktor sighs.

The party on Wednesday is a bit better. It’s set quite firmly in the backyard of the house that’s hosting the party, and they’ve managed to erect a couple inflatables in the water for people to climb all over. The water is still fairly cold, but the night is pretty warm, and the family has brought out several space heaters and a stove for grilling sausages. Sometime after the sun sets, they also erect a bonfire in the backyard fire pit, so that people can roast crumpets and marshmallows.

Viktor arrives at this party alone, and after spending some time in the water he heads to the fire pit for some refreshments. Yuri Plisetsky is at this party, too, setting his marshmallows on fire with wild abandon. Viktor has to laugh a bit at that.

He bumps into Phichit, though, as he’s waiting in line for some grilled sausages. Phichit has already gotten his, and is apparently taking pictures of his platter for Instagram. “Viktor!” he exclaims, once he’s posted the picture. “Fancy seeing you here! Let’s take a selfie for Insta.”

Viktor acquiesces, winking at the camera as Phichit makes a face next to him. “Did you bring Yuuri?” he asks as soon as the picture’s taken. Phichit laughs a bit.

“I tried, but he said he was busy,” he says.

Viktor nods, and then gestures to the sausages. “Are they any good?” he asks.

Phichit shrugs. “Could be worse,” he replies. “One of these parties last year had haggis, though. That’s one of those really divisive food choices, you know — you either love it or you despise it. People were brawling in the streets for days after.”

“You could say as much about most British food,” Viktor points out.

Phichit laughs. “Well, I certainly didn’t come to study at Torvill College for the food,” he says.

“What did you come here for?” wonders Viktor.

Phichit shrugs. “It’s a pretty town with a surprising number of resources? Also a strong arts department. And I wanted a change of scenery from Bangkok.”

Viktor nods, looking out towards the setting sun over the horizon. For a brief moment he thinks he sees the sleek black head of Katsudon poking out of the waves a safe distance from the party, but when he blinks, the head is gone.

The last party Viktor attends is the one on Friday. This one seems relatively subdued; a lot of people are probably burned out from the extensive partying all week, and are resting up for the concert tomorrow night. Viktor finds it odd that the town’s summertime concert series begins before May, but perhaps the title of the series is more for the benefit of the tourists than anyone else.

Though this year's tourist season did start much earlier because of him and Katsudon…

Viktor lets the music of the live jazz combo at this party wash over him. He recognises some of them: Leo de la Iglesia, the local lifeguard from America who Viktor had eventually met at the Leroys’, is on the saxophone, and Guang-Hong is on the piano. The other three members of the band, from the grumpy double bassist to the glowering trumpet player to the drummer with half of her head shaved, Viktor doesn’t recognise as well. But they’re still pretty good, all things considered.

This is a party that Yuuri might attend, Viktor thinks. The music is calm, the mood is relaxing, and the food is still delicious. He takes a flute of champagne from a passing server, surveying the room calmly for any familiar signs of Yuuri.

There’s someone with dark hair leaning against a pillar, dressed in black. Viktor moves towards him, his heart racing. Perhaps? he wonders as he draws closer to the figure.

But then the person turns, and Viktor realises with a sinking feeling that it isn’t Yuuri at all — it’s a complete stranger with a dark undercut and a rather severe case of resting bitch face. Viktor takes a step back, immediately preoccupying himself with finding the refreshments table again so that he can restock on pâté and tiny little bread-shaped crackers.

Disappointment surges through him, settling in more firmly as the hours pass and Yuuri still remains absent from the festivities. This time Viktor doesn’t even see any other familiar faces, so he has no chance of asking anyone if they’ve seen Yuuri at all. Which is all well and good, considering that asking constantly after Yuuri is liable to make him look terribly desperate.

Finally, he gives up the search and grabs one more bite of pâté for the long and melancholy road home. The lights and lanterns of Yu-Topia are shining brightly as Viktor passes by, and he wonders (not for the first time) which one of them belongs to Yuuri.

NEW! Torvill Cove Ghosts and Legends Tour

Join Haggis Adventures on our newest and spookiest tour yet! The Torvill Cove Ghosts and Legends Tour will take you through this historic little town after sundown to find the most haunted places in town. Rediscover familiar Torvill landmarks such as the boardwalk carousel, the Yu-Topia Resort, and the old Bowhill Cemetery in a completely new light!

Tours depart Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights after sundown at the Visitors’ Centre by the pier entrance. Warm dress and walking shoes are recommended, as this is a 2-hour walking tour.


The Torvill Cove Harbour Watch is headquartered at the Visitors’ Centre just off to the side of the pier entrance. It shares a space with a little tour company that offers harbour cruises and biking tours, as well as a walking ghost tour after sundown.

“That’s all for tourists,” says Yuuko cheerily, ignoring the glare sent her way by the current representative of said tour company from the other window. “They always get a little skittish around Old Man Plisetsky since he’s got a rather mean look about him, but really, if you’re looking for a real ghost tour, the ones he gives up at the lighthouse are infinitely better than anything that can be conducted in town.”

The couple who had been talking to the tour company representative seem to perk at that suggestion. Viktor chuckles a bit.

“Seems a little harsh to be saying this in earshot of the competition,” he remarks.

“I believe in giving people an authentic experience of our town,” replies Yuuko with absolutely no shame. The tour company representative is glaring daggers at her at this point. Viktor stifles a smile.

“I’ll have to consider visiting the lighthouse, then!” he says. “Though Yuri might not appreciate me dropping in unexpectedly, I suspect.”

Yuuko laughs. “If he’s not acting prickly towards you, then he’s probably come down with something. It’s a bit of an acquired taste, but he’s really a good kid at heart.”

Viktor smiles, as the tour company representative walks the couple away from the Visitors’ Centre, ostensibly to reassure them that the ghost tour of the town is actually quite a good investment of their time and money. Yuuko chuckles at their receding backs.

“The tour guides use Old Man Plisetsky’s book on the ghosts of Torvill Cove anyway,” she says, “so they’re pretty much paying for the same content.”

“He’s written a book about it?” asks Viktor, interested.

“Yeah, you can get it at the bookstore or the library! It’s a really good compilation. He’s credited as the editor, but really he’s put so much work into polishing up the old legends that he really should’ve been credited as the author.” Yuuko leans her elbows on the counter, tilting her head to the side. “But something tells me you’re not really here to ask about Old Man Plisetsky’s book.”

Viktor chuckles, rubbing the nape of his neck. “You got me, Yuuko,” he says. “I… well. I just wanted to check up on Yuuri Katsuki? He hasn’t been showing up to any of the other parties during Housewarming Week, and…” he trails off, shrugging. “I’m sorry, that sounds forward of me.”

Yuuko chuckles. “A little, yeah,” she agrees, before leaning her cheek on her hand and surveying him through her fringe. “He’s not much of a party person, you know. But usually he can be persuaded over text or something. Don’t you have his number?”

“Unfortunately, no. I haven’t had the chance to ask.”

Yuuko hums. “Well, I’m sorry, I can’t really help you there, then.”

Viktor shrugs. “That’s fine. I guess I’ll have to resign myself to never seeing him again, unless my dog runs into him at the farmer’s market again.” He laughs sheepishly. “Is that why he’s been avoiding me? Because of Makkachin?”

Yuuko’s expression shifts a little; she suddenly looks a bit uncomfortable. “I don’t… think so?” she replies, her voice a bit squeakier than usual. “But you never really know with Yuuri; he can be pretty surprising sometimes.”

Viktor nods, drumming his fingers on the counter. “I suppose,” he agrees. “He’s the first person I’ve met in this town who hasn’t mentioned The King and the Skater to me yet. I’m not entirely sure if he even knows that I write at all.”

Yuuko snorts at that. “Oh, he knows,” she says, grinning.

“Really?” Viktor’s pretty sure his eyes are shining. If he’s being entirely honest with himself, he can’t remember the last time someone’s had lengthy conversations with him that didn’t eventually circle back to involve writing, or the Ice Triad, or when his next book is coming out. The fact that Yuuri seems to be carefully avoiding the topic is rather sweet, to say the least.

Yuuko’s grin widens to shit-eating proportions. “He discovered your writing while he was at St Andrews,” she says. “So I’d say he’s been one of your earliest fans, since he’s recently graduated.”

“Oh,” says Viktor, simply. A sudden idea pops into his head. Maybe, if he’s lucky and everything works out the way they should, he’ll be able to meet with Yuuri again, after all.

His mobile suddenly rings. Viktor excuses himself to take the call, waving at Yuuko as he walks away.

“Hello?” he asks.

Viktor!” exclaims Nathalie Leroy, because the universe has suddenly come into alignment. “Just wanting to touch base with you — have you given more thought to what we discussed?

“Yes,” says Viktor. “I’ll do it.”

To: Yakov Feltsman (
From: Viktor Nikiforov (
A wise man once told me…

...That it’s easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission.
So this is me telling you I’m doing a meet and greet in Torvill Cove for their local book club!


To: Viktor Nikiforov (
From: Yakov Feltsman (
Re: A wise man once told me…


Nowhere in your message do you even begin to beg forgiveness. But it’s not as if I can stop you. Enjoy yourself, but remember you still owe me at least a pitch.


To: Yakov Feltsman (
From: Viktor Nikiforov (
Re: Re: A wise man once told me…

I’m working on it! There’s so much to work from here, you know. But at least I can still do a little publicity before I really get writing!


To: Viktor Nikiforov (
From: Yakov Feltsman (
Re: Re: Re: A wise man once told me…


What are you even writing, if you don’t even have a story idea to pitch to me?


To: Yakov Feltsman (
From: Viktor Nikiforov (
Re: Re: Re: Re: A wise man once told me…

It’s a surprise!


To: Viktor Nikiforov (
From: Yakov Feltsman (
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: A wise man once told me…


That sounds like Viktor-speak for ‘I don’t know what I’m doing’.


To: Yakov Feltsman (
From: Viktor Nikiforov (
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: A wise man once told me…

Have more faith in me! I swear I know what I’m doing. Just wait. It’s going to be worth it.


The Torvill Cove Book Club cordially invites you to a

(author of The King and the Skater)

7 May 2016
5:00 PM — 7:00 PM
Torvill Treasures Bookshop and Gift Store
14 Market Street, Torvill Cove

RSVP to Nathalie Leroy (

Bring your copies of The King and the Skater for signing!

The bookstore seems to be packed to the gills with people intent on meeting and greeting Viktor. He’s not quite sure how many copies of The King and the Skater he’s signed, but his wrist is hurting and there are still so many books left.

He takes a sip of water, eats some snacks that Guang-Hong had brought him from the refreshments table, and smiles at the next person in line. It’s Leo de la Iglesia, still drenched from the ocean despite having been in line for the past half-hour.

“How was the beach today?” Viktor asks as he writes a note to Leo in his copy of The King and the Skater.

“Packed. We’ve really got our work cut out for us.” Leo runs a hand through his brown hair, and there’s a clatter from next to Viktor where Guang-Hong has dropped a Sharpie. Viktor hides a smile at that. “Yuuko’s thinking that there might be some storms rolling in at the end of the week, though, so we’re going to need to adjust the surf advisory boards. Might clear the beaches a little, but sometimes tourists can be so stubborn.”

“Some people will go out on the water no matter what kind of weather we’re having,” agrees Nathalie Leroy from Viktor’s other side, where she’s been hovering for the past couple of minutes to make sure Viktor doesn’t lack for anything. It’s just a little overwhelming.

He straightens up, hands his book to Leo. “Want a selfie for Instagram?” he asks. Leo agrees, and they snap a quick one before Leo moves to stand next to Guang-Hong, and the next person steps up.

Viktor scans the line past this next person. There’s no hint of a familiar mop of black hair, or the flash of blue-rimmed glasses. But maybe Yuuri will wait until the very end to show up? He has to keep going, just in case.

So Viktor smiles at the next person. “Who am I making this out to?” he asks.

“Cassandra Duan,” she says, smiling up at him. Viktor notices that her book is Cherry-Flipped, and chuckles.

“Not a fan of The King and the Skater?” he asks.

“I’m more attached to Jake Buttle, honestly,” she replies.

Viktor laughs. “I’m glad! I loved writing about Butter and his friends.”

“I have a question, though,” Cassandra continues, and Viktor raises an eyebrow, encouraging her to continue. “Chapter seven.”

Viktor chuckles. “Definitely a kiss,” he says. She does a fist-pump. “Yeah, the editors messed with the wording a little, but I definitely wanted Butter and Gene to kiss when the Mariners won the Stanley Cup.”

“Thank god! All of my friends are convinced it was just a hug.”

“Well, it’s word of God that they kissed, so your friends are wrong.” Viktor hands her her book back with a wink. “Thanks for your support!”

The next person isn’t Yuuri, though, nor the one after. Viktor patiently sits there for the entire two hours, signing books and smiling for selfies on the hope that the next person to approach him will be Yuuri.

He brightens a bit when he sees Phichit, though it’s tempered somewhat by the sheer number of books that Phichit has in his arms.

“You’re really milking this, aren’t you,” Viktor remarks as he looks at the books laid out in front of him. Not only are there two copies of each book in the Ice Triad, but there’s also some of his earlier, more obscure work, too — he’s pretty sure The Dancing Blades is now out of print, and how exactly did Phichit find his first poetry anthology (On the Geometry of Snowflakes) when there were supposed to be only five hundred copies out there in the world?

“Before you ask, this isn’t all mine,” says Phichit as Viktor starts to sign them. “Most of them are Yuuri’s, actually.”

Viktor perks up at the mention of Yuuri’s name. “Why couldn’t he make it?” he asks.

“I’m not sure, actually,” says Phichit, looking a little uncomfortable. “He just said he wasn’t feeling well.”

“But he gave you quite a collection to get autographs for,” Viktor points out, hoping that the fact that his insides are dancing a tango isn’t immediately obvious on his face. When Yuuko had told him Yuuri was a fan, she had completely failed to mention that Yuuri had collected even his most obscure works!

“Ah, well, he’s always been more interested in your poetry than your prose, or so he tells me.” Phichit shrugs. “Yuuri’s one of those people who’s been blessed with more free time than he knows what to do with, so he spends a lot of it reading and doing his own writing.”

“Consider me interested in his work, then,” Viktor replies, as he lovingly signs his name (and adds extra hearts) on the inside front cover of a well-worn copy of The Dancing Blades. He then waves the copy of On the Geometry of Snowflakes. “This is his?” he asks, though he’s pretty sure he knows the answer already.

Phichit nods. Viktor grins, and writes his number onto the inside front cover alongside his autograph.

From: [unknown number]
hi! this is yuuri. you wrote your number in my copy of your poetry anthology?

To: Yuuri ❤
yuuri! so glad to talk to you again! ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)   

From: Yuuri ❤
haha that kamoji looks like you, your mouth makes the same shape when you smile

To: Yuuri ❤
oh? should i do it more often? (*´ ♡ `*)

From: Yuuri ❤
it’s very cute (*/ω\*)

To: Yuuri ❤
i’m afraid that in the cuteness department you have me soundly beat. you look cute even with egg in your hair (´ ♡ ˘ ʃƪ)

From: Yuuri ❤
that took forever to get out (ノಠ益ಠ)ノ

To: Yuuri ❤
i’m sorry about makka
he really likes you! he’s never done that to anyone except me

To: Yuuri ❤
let me make it up to you, though (;^ ♡ ^)୨

From: Yuuri ❤
that’s not necessary! you already bought the eggs!

To: Yuuri ❤
what if i want to spend time with you in a context that doesn’t involve alcohol or eggs?

From: Yuuri ❤
well, how about we grab ice cream together sometime?

To: Yuuri ❤
that’d be great! when would you be available?

From: Yuuri ❤
i’m free this afternoon around 3. i’ll meet you at yu-topia?

To: Yuuri ❤

Viktor arrives at Yu-Topia on time, of course, because arriving early would make him look too desperate and arriving late would be rude. But he did leave the house early, mostly due to nerves, and so he had arrived at the boardwalk area with time to spare. Consequently, he had bought a small bouquet of gardenias from the florist on Market Street, and now he is fidgeting with the ribbon, vaguely wondering if he should have let Makkachin out before he came rushing downtown like a lovestruck loon.

He hasn’t been in the lobby of the Yu-Topia Resort before today, so it does come as a bit of a surprise when he steps through the ornate oak doors to find himself accosted by clean, modern lines and wood grain accents. He can almost see where the old manor house ends and the modern Japanese-influenced hotel begins. Yu-Topia is an intricate dance between sweeping grand staircases and sleek wooden floors, between ostentatious portraits on the walls and silk tapestries on sliding doors, between the connections of past and present, East and West. And somehow, in the most mind-boggling of ways, the design scheme works.

“Are you waiting for Yuuri?” the woman behind the check-in counter asks, startling Viktor out of his thoughts. She’s in a set of bathhouse robes with a nametag that reads ‘Mari’ on them, and when she moves Viktor catches the scent of cigarette smoke. “He’ll be out in a bit; he just got in a minute ago.”

“Got in?” echoes Viktor. “From where?”

Mari immediately looks as if the hotel register is the most fascinating object in the world.

Figuring he now has some time to kill while he waits, and too much nervous energy to just sit around fiddling with the bouquet until it falls apart, Viktor starts to pace the lobby. He looks again at the pictures on the wall. There’s the stuffy portraits and black-and-white photographs of the Torvill family, who had owned the building before it had been renovated into Yu-Topia, and the coloured photographs of the Katsuki family, who had owned it since then. He notices that the Katsukis had once owned a toy poodle that looks just like a smaller version of Makkachin. There’s an inordinate number of photographs of a little Yuuri (and how Viktor’s heart soars at the sight of a small, baby-cheeked Yuuri!) with the dog as a puppy, often on the beach or in the waves.

Yuuri looks so at home in the ocean, Viktor notices. There’s a fairly old photograph of what looks to be an eighteen-year-old Yuuri rising from the waves like Venus herself, droplets of water flying from his hair and captured on film like translucent pearls. The longer he looks at the image, the harder it seems for Viktor to remember how to breathe.

He then notices that the Katsukis’ poodle doesn’t appear in any of the newer photographs. And come to think of it, there is absolutely no clue in this lobby (besides the very generous pet policy) that a dog had ever lived here.

“I didn’t know you guys had a dog,” Viktor says.

Mari’s expression is guarded when he looks back at her. “We don’t anymore,” she replies bluntly.

“What happened to him?” It comes out of Viktor’s mouth before he can stop it. He coughs. “I mean, you don’t have to answer, but —”

“He died,” says Mari.

“Oh,” says Viktor. “I’m sorry.”

She shrugs. “Yuuri was deeply affected by it, so I wouldn’t bring it up around him.” She pauses, and then leans forward on the counter, fixing him her most steely glare. “Incidentally, I know why you’re here, Nikiforov, and I know how you tend to work.”

Viktor feels a chill run up his spine. Mari could have been polishing a shotgun as she said that and he would have felt less threatened. But he tries to play it safe: “What do you know?”

Maybe that isn’t such a good response, because Mari’s expression doesn’t waver at all. “My little brother is very emotionally delicate. He’ll never admit it, but I’m pretty sure your poetry saved his life when our dog passed. So I’m glad he has the chance to meet you. At the same time, we all know you care a lot about the authenticity of your own writing. If any of this turns out to have been ‘research’ for your next novel —”

“It’s not!” protests Viktor immediately. Mari raises an eyebrow. “Believe me, me wanting to spend time with Yuuri has very little to do with writing.”

“Really,” she deadpans.

Really,” insists Viktor. Mari opens her mouth to say something else, but suddenly the threatening expression slides off her face like a wave receding from the shore, and she is all smiles at someone just over Viktor’s shoulder.

He turns. Yuuri is standing there, his hair damp and his cheeks flushed. He’s dressed in a thin cream-coloured jumper over a blue checked shirt and jeans. Viktor can feel the colour rising to his own cheeks as Yuuri signs something at Mari, who responds in kind.

Yuuri then waves at Viktor, and Viktor immediately holds out the gardenias, as if the flowers will obscure his embarrassment at just how pathetically turned on he is at the sight of Yuuri Katsuki in a jumper, for God’s sake.

Yuuri takes them, brown eyes wide and sparkling, and Viktor rubs at his neck sheepishly. “I arrived in town a bit early, so I thought you’d like these,” he says.

Yuuri smiles in gratitude and touches his fingertips to his chin briefly before moving his hand down, mouthing ‘thank you’ like he’s blowing a kiss. Viktor knows that one; he’d looked up some basic phrases the moment he’d gotten to a computer after the egg incident. So he gestures upwards with open hands bent at the knuckles.

“You’re welcome,” he adds, so that Yuuri definitely knows what he’s trying to say.

Beaming (which honestly does terrible things to Viktor’s heart), Yuuri hands the gardenias to Mari. He signs something — probably instructions, based on the way Mari groans a little but nods anyway — and then takes Viktor’s arm and steers him towards the door.

The afternoon sun is just a little too bright the instant Viktor steps out from under the porte-cochère, so he has to take a minute to readjust. Yuuri is a grounding presence at his side; Viktor can smell the crisp scent of his shampoo still clinging to his hair.

“Mari said you were running late because you’d just gotten in from somewhere,” he says. It comes out a little more intrusive than he’d like.

Yuuri lets go of his arm to mime breaststroke. Viktor laughs.

“I should’ve known you swam. Those photographs of you in the lobby make you look like a mermaid.”

Yuuri briefly hides his face behind his hand, and then he takes out his notebook and writes: I’m sorry, I tend to lose track of time when I’m swimming!

“Totally understandable,” says Viktor. Yuuri folds his hands behind his back, and part of Viktor wishes that he could take his arm again. But he tempers the urge, and instead he says, “Let’s go get some ice cream.”

Yuri audibly groans when they walk into the ice cream parlour. “I was wondering how long it would take for this to happen,” he says. Yuuri signs something at him, and Yuri immediately responds.

Viktor is immediately riveted by the fluid motions of the two’s signs. He hadn’t known that Yuri was fluent in sign language, or that it was possible to convey the same belligerent attitude that the teen possessed in speech in sign language. Doesn’t scowling change the meaning of some signs? And yet Yuuri seems to understand him just fine.

Finally, Yuri looks at him. “What flavour do you want, Dogbreath?”

Viktor blinks. “Huh?” he asks, intelligently.

“I’m not going to let you stand there and waste my time. Name your flavour.”

“Strawberry,” says Viktor immediately. Yuri nods, opening up the freezer and grabbing two cones. He scoops Viktor a strawberry cone, and then (with excessive glowering) a mint chocolate chip cone presumably for Yuuri.

“I can’t believe you picked the one person in town who likes to eat lies,” Yuri adds as he hands them their cones. Yuuri reaches for his pocket, but Viktor reaches out and grabs his wrist, shaking his head. He then pulls out his own wallet to pay for the cones.

“Mint chip is a perfectly acceptable flavour,” he says.

Yuri gasps. “You give me that strawberry cone back right now,” he snaps.

Viktor retaliates by licking the cone. Yuri growls, but takes Viktor’s money anyway. Yuuri signs his thanks again, before starting to eat his ice cream. When a little bit of mint chip lands on the corner of his mouth, his tongue darts out to lap it up. Viktor’s breath hitches in his throat at the sight.

“You know your ice cream’s going to melt if you don’t eat it soon, right?” Yuri cuts in from behind him. Viktor shoots him a half-hearted glare, pointedly licking at his cone as he does so. Yuuri pulls at his sleeve then, before guiding them over to one of the booths by the window and sitting down.

Viktor is pretty certain Yuri’s internal monologue at this moment is nothing but frustrated screaming. Smirking, he takes a seat at the booth across from Yuuri, careful to keep his attention focused on the strawberry ice cream in front of him rather than on the pinkness of Yuuri’s tongue, or the slight rosiness of his cheeks, or the soft cream of his jumper.

Yuuri is halfway through his cone when someone else steps into the parlour. “Yurio!” Jean-Jacques Leroy’s voice exclaims. “Long time no see!”

“I just saw you last weekend,” snips Yuri. Viktor looks over to see the teenager bristling like a cat. “And don’t call me Yurio.”

Jean-Jacques ignores that. “I’d like three double-fudge waffle cones and one apple pie cone with maple syrup, please!” he chirps. Viktor is pretty sure he can hear Yuri gritting his teeth.

“Your family send you on an ice cream run, JJ?” Yuri asks, false cheer dripping from every word as he starts to make the fudge cones.

“Gotta support the local businesses, eh?” replies Jean-Jacques. “Speaking of which, my mother is arranging a playdate event next Thursday for the local animal shelter. I suppose I’ll see you there?”

“Why would I want to go to anything your mum arranges?” grumbles Yuri, but Viktor notices that there’s a gleam in his eyes that hadn’t been there before. Yuuri also seems to have noticed it, because he’s positively grinning. It’s a good look on him.

“It’s at four in the afternoon, Yurio. Don’t be late,” says Jean-Jacques. He then turns and waves at Viktor and Yuuri. “Viktor! Nice to bump into you again!”

“Hello, JJ,” says Viktor, careful to make his expression placid once more. “I don’t think I mentioned this before, but the meet and greet that your mother planned was great! I had fun.”

“I’m glad to hear it went well!” replies Jean-Jacques. “I didn’t know you two knew each other!” he adds, gesturing between Viktor and Yuuri.

Yuuri says nothing, not with his hands or with writing. Viktor’s brows furrow a little.

“We met at your housewarming party, actually,” he says.

Jean-Jacques’s eyes go wide. “Really? That’s great! So are you two —”

“Cones! They’re done! Take your fudge and maple syrup-encrusted abominations and leave!” snaps Yuri suddenly, shoving a cardboard stand holding four ice cream cones, all dripping with either fudge or maple syrup, at Jean-Jacques. Slightly bewildered, the older boy hastily pays for the cones before taking the ice cream and beating a retreat for the door.

“See you around, eh?” he asks Viktor at the door. Viktor nods with a cheer he doesn’t really feel, and looks towards Yuuri, who seems to relax the moment Jean-Jacques leaves the parlour.

Yuri immediately starts signing at Yuuri, his expression thunderous. Yuuri responds, and though his face shifts with each sign Viktor wonders if he’s imagining the slight tinge of anxiety hovering about Yuuri’s features.

He looks over at Yuri, hoping his confused expression will convince the blond to translate. After a moment, Yuri sighs, and obliges: “JJ never really talks to Piglet; he always talks around him, or he talks to the person Piglet’s with at the moment. I think it’s rude.”

Yuuri insistently signs something else. Yuri sighs, and adds, “Piglet thinks JJ doesn’t know he can hear him.”

Viktor turns back to Yuuri. “I’m sorry that he treats you like that,” he says.

Yuuri shrugs, and then signs something else which makes Yuri laugh. Viktor raises an eyebrow, and the blond translates: “Piglet thinks the opinion of someone who puts maple syrup on their ice cream isn’t worth listening to.”

Viktor chuckles, and Yuuri returns to slurping up the rest of his ice cream. Viktor’s own cone is a dripping pink mess now, but he couldn’t have cared less. He hastily finishes off what’s left before grabbing some napkins to wipe up the mess on his hands and the table.

When he’s done, he looks up to find Yuuri watching him, dark eyes amused. Yuuri slides over a piece of notebook paper with the question: do you always eat your ice cream like that?

Viktor chuckles, shaking his head. “I swear I’m usually much neater,” he says. “I was just distracted today, that’s all.”

Yuuri’s face scrunches into a quizzical expression. Viktor is enchanted.

After they’re both done, they bid Yuri goodbye and leave the parlour, heading out to the boardwalk. “I suppose I could walk you home now,” says Viktor.

Yuuri worries his bottom lip with his teeth as he writes a response. Viktor watches the redness surge back into his lips after and wonders how soft they’d feel against his. But he doesn’t linger too long on this, as Yuuri passes the notebook to him.

I’m free for a little while longer, if you want to walk around.

Viktor’s chest feels like a balloon expanding with joy. It’s a bloody miracle he hasn’t floated off on some cloud already. “I would love to,” he says, and falls into step beside Yuuri as they head towards the pier.

By the time the sun begins to set, they have made several laps of the pier and the boardwalk. Yuuri teaches Viktor how to spell his name, beaming whenever Viktor articulates the signs properly. Then he writes down some facts about the pier, and they spend most of the last lap in companionable silence.

“I had fun today,” Viktor tells Yuuri when they finally stop at the main entrance to Yu-Topia.

Yuuri smiles and bumps his two pointer fingers together, mouthing ‘me too’.

“Would you want to do this again sometime?” asks Viktor.

Yuuri nods. He then takes out his mobile, taps it, smiles.

“So I should text you about next time, yes?” confirms Viktor.

Yuuri nods again. He then scribbles something in his notebook, and hands it to Viktor. Thank you for the flowers.

Viktor chuckles, and makes the gesture for ‘you’re welcome’ again. Yuuri then fidgets a little, as if he wants to say something else, or leave, but he isn’t quite sure what to do. Viktor opens his mouth, but closes it when he realises he feels exactly the same way. It’s like he’s a teenager again, not wanting to be the first to hang up.

The sun touches the horizon and the sky bursts forth in colour. Yuuri’s cheeks seem to flush in the same way, and Viktor can’t bear to tear his gaze away. To have to turn his back on this sight in front of him, and return to his cottage alone is too much for him to bear.

(Even if Makkachin will be waiting for him, and probably quite impatiently, too.)

He doesn’t realise he’s stepped closer to Yuuri, though, until he feels a hand on his arm, and wide brown eyes looking up at him. Yuuri’s at least a head shorter than him, and though his frame is a bit stocky there’s still a sense of delicacy to it. His body is a contradiction that Viktor yearns to explore, and it is taking all of his self-control not to plunge head-first into all of this.

Instead, he clenches his hands and takes a step back, out of Yuuri’s space. “I should go before Makkachin starts eating something he shouldn’t,” he says.

Yuuri nods, pursing his lips. Viktor tells himself the air of disappointment clinging to the other man is just a figment of his own hyperactive imagination. He tries taking another step back.

Yuuri reaches out and takes his hand, threading their fingers together. He squeezes, gently, and then lets go, stepping back towards the front doors of the resort. Once there, he waves goodbye, and disappears.

Viktor watches the door swing closed before turning towards the long road back to his cottage.

Excerpt from “The Grey Maiden”, from The Ghosts of Torvill Cove, Nikolai Plistesky, ed.:

The cold embrace of the sea engulfs her, saltwater filling her lungs as she desperately struggles towards the failing light above, glimmering just tantalisingly out of her reach. Around her struggling form her lover swims, now fully clad in his sleek skin, his eyes mournful. Oh, my silly lass, they seem to say. Haven’t I told you never to follow me out to the water?

Her vision is darkening; she does not know where she ends and the sea begins. Soon she will become like the foam that throws itself on the cliffs of the cove she once knew and loved. With her last burst of strength, she reaches towards her lover. But he is as cold as the unforgiving sea, casting her aside and swimming away into the depths, leaving her to her fate.

And if you stand by the lighthouse on a night when the moon is full, you might be able to hear the wailing of the Grey Maiden on the wind, forever lamenting the man who had come out of the waves to woo her, and who had ultimately cast her aside.

Halfway out to sea in the dinghy rowboat he’d borrowed from the Leroys, Viktor pauses to rest his tired arms and considers that maybe this might not have been the best idea ever.

Sure, it had sounded like a splendid idea while he was jogging along the shore this morning — take a boat out into the bay and write for a couple hours on the water where no one can bother you! — but now that he’s actually in the boat, armed with a notebook and an apple, he reckons maybe he should’ve just walked out to his little beach and made camp on the rocks there. Same amount of isolation, much less effort. He kicks himself a bit.

Still, it’s beautiful out here in the middle of Torvill Cove. The gulls are crying overhead, and the music from the pier is faint on the wind. From here, the buildings in town look like little dots of colour amid the vast greenery of the natural landscape. On the other hand, the cliffs of Torvill Point are a bit closer, jutting sharply out of the surf like the proud bow of a ship. Viktor watches the waves break over the rocks there at a safe distance, and looks up towards the cloudy sky.

Torvill Cove always has some semblance of clouds in the sky, but today the weather seems a bit greyer than usual. He might have to cut his outing short if the weather goes downhill, but since he took all of that effort in getting out here, he might as well enjoy it while it lasts.

Viktor takes a bite of his apple, before flipping to an empty page in his notebook and starting to write.

If you ever find yourself at the lighthouse

The grey maiden beckons to me as the sun slips below the horizon

Sunset is a perfect time to go walking in this sleepy town by the sea. I stroll along the boardwalk by the estuary esplanade until my feet hit the white sands of the beach, and then I look out towards the blue-green shimmer sparkle shimmer of light reflecting off the waves of the blue-green rolling sea. The wind whispers my name through the grass, and the salted air fills my lungs.

This town is my mistress in my blood already; I feel her heartbeat beneath my fingers every morning when I wake to the sound of crying of the gulls. It is as if I had have had been born to love this town, to love the sound of the crashing waves against the coast just steps from my back door, to love the glimmer of lights on the boardwalk at sunset. the sparkle of the sunlight on the water. This town calls me, drowns me in her siren song, and I find every time I go willingly. I would die again and again for her, because there is only one thing in life I know now, and it is that I never wish to lose her.  

Viktor is halfway down the third page when the first droplet hits his notebook.

It’s not much of a story. It’s not much of anything, at all. It’s a small rambling on Torvill, on the feelings that have been clogging his chest since the party at the Leroys’. But elucidating such feelings feels like grasping smoke; the words he has on the page already are but paltry representations of what is truly causing his heart to beat.

But still, it’s probably the most he’s done in a while, stuck out here in the middle of the harbour with nothing but his thoughts for company. And now another droplet hits the page, blurring a bit of the ink, muddling his thoughts once more.

Viktor looks up at the sky. The clouds have darkened even more, and the wind has picked up in speed and ferocity. He closes his notebook, tucks it away into his coat with his pen, and takes up the oars again and begins to row.

The rain begins to fall in earnest. Within minutes, Viktor is drenched to the bone. But he presses on, heading towards the shore as quickly as his arms will allow (which isn’t very quick at all, all things considered). The water out here is getting choppier around him, little bursts of white in the suddenly ominous blue. And yet the shore is still so dreadfully far away…

Viktor can barely see through the rain which now pelts in wind-driven sheets. The shoreline blurs in the greyness; the only landmark available to him now is the lighthouse, and he sure as hell doesn’t want to crash on the cliffs below it. The waves grow more tumultuous around him, and for several terrifying moments they grow tall enough to obscure his view of the already-disappearing shore. Those jaded old sailors from the movies really were right, Viktor thinks ruefully as he lets go of one of the oars to grope fruitlessly for the life vest that’s supposed to be under his seat, the sea can turn on you in an instant.

A wave slams into the side of his dinghy, tilting it dangerously. Viktor drops the oars in alarm as water flies over the edge, sloshing at his feet. He vaguely wonders if it’d be too late to call Yuuko, ask for advice on how to get back to shore in this state, but then he remembers his mobile’s at the Leroys’, because Nathalie had suggested a trade so that he had incentive to return the boat, and also because there’d be no signal out here to distract him anyway.

Panic squeezes at him in a cold vice. He doesn’t even know which way is up right now, let alone where the Leroys’ boat slip is. He’s going to die out here because of his stupid ideas, and it’ll take days for anyone to find his body, longer if it gets carried out to sea and mauled by lampreys. What an ignominious end for Viktor Nikiforov.

He paddles past a buoy bobbing up and down in the waves like an elevator carriage. With the wetness and the winds, the cold seeps readily into his bones. He knows he’s probably going to get a cold at this rate, provided he even makes it to the shore. A tiny part of him already seems convinced he’s not.

There’s a sudden movement in the water. As the swell rises around him, Viktor sees a black figure slipping off the buoy he’d passed before. But he doesn’t have much time to linger and ponder, because another wave suddenly crashes into him with greater force than before, and he is keeling over before he even really realises it.

Viktor gasps as the seawater hits him. He’d thought he’d been wet and cold before, but clearly that’s nothing compared to what this is. The water is freezing, and it’s taking all of his energy just to stay afloat in his waterlogged clothes. He shrugs out of his coat, kicks off his shoes, and paddles himself over to his capsized boat.

He has no energy left to right it. And as long as the waves continue to buffet him, what would be the point? So he clings onto the overturned dinghy as best as he can, resisting the urge to fall asleep even though exhaustion fills him like a warm bath. And what wouldn’t he do for a warm bath…

He’s half delirious with cold and fatigue at this point, and the darkened sky and stormy sea aren’t helping at all. But just before he slips into unconsciousness, Viktor can dimly make out the familiar silhouette of a black seal swimming towards him.

And then darkness takes him, and he knows no more.

Chapter Text

Excerpt from page 14 of On the Geometry of Snowflakes:


it’s like he’s flickering within and out of reach.
i outstretch my hand, and my hand...
it ghosts right through his body and shatters both our hearts.

his tears fall but do not land.
tracing steps draw light onto his cracked person,
and — oh — the image is harsh in the early, dark-grey morning.

day by day this shell of my man naturally worsens.
sometimes i watch as his likeness flutters nearer again,
and i cry in joy when at last his hands cure my touch-famine.

day by day this shell of my man causes me immense sorrow.
most times he is not here but rather there.
dancing, flickering, spinning out into endless abstract terrain.

my man is neither here but rather there,
and at times i wonder if my loneliness conjured him as a tease.
ideations of him being a hallucination plague my nightmares and i...

scream i scream i scream i scream i scream i scream i…

watch as he fades, hand outstretched towards me,
but i run too slow and fall right through him.
like his tears, i do not land.

When Viktor wakes up, the world is dark but there is someone touching his cheek.

He wants to open his eyes and see them, but his eyelids feel impossibly heavy, and his head feels simultaneously fuzzy and painful, as if someone’s trying to sandpaper his brain. He groans a little, reaching out blindly towards the other’s hand. He finds an arm, and as his fingers travel up, he finds bare shoulders and a neck.

His hands cup an impossibly smooth cheek; his fingers run through short hair slicked with water. He knows, somehow, that this must be Yuuri he is touching; he has memorised the planes and contours of Yuuri’s face with his eyes, and now he feels them again under his fingertips. Yuuri’s skin is so soft and warm.

Viktor is dimly aware of the wet sand pressed into his own back, of the sodden state of his clothes, of the bareness of his feet. But for all he cares, he could be lying in bed like this, his duvet soft around him and Yuuri pressed close to him like he is now, tracing letters against his cheek. Are you okay? Viktor can’t help but smile.

“I feel perfect,” he says, though his voice comes out groggy and scratched. His hand moves across Yuuri’s shoulderblades, down the sublime curve of his back. Yuuri trembles in response, and then leans in, his breath ghosting against Viktor’s lips like a question. Viktor feels his own breath hitch in response, uncertain.

If this is a dream, he never wants to wake up. Just to feel Yuuri close to him, to breathe the same air as him — it’s intoxicating and it drives all other thoughts from his mind until there is nothing left but the press of Yuuri’s body, the caress of Yuuri’s fingers, the divine rightness of Yuuri’s name on his lips.

There’s a sudden bark, a sudden shout, and Viktor feels the gush of cold wind as Yuuri pulls away. He bolts up and opens his eyes, wincing at the sudden brightness of the sun. When his vision adjusts, he is alone on his little beach, the waves rolling in more placidly than before. The Leroys’ rowboat is a couple metres from where he lies, washed up with his coat and shoes neatly folded and placed inside like someone had put them there. Odd.

Makkachin appears in his vision suddenly, the poodle barking eagerly at him, licking at his face. Viktor laughs, ruffles his dog’s hair. He looks around at the rocks, but they are all desolate.

Where could Yuuri have possibly gone, unless it had all been a figment of Viktor’s hyperactive imagination?

He sneezes suddenly, and Makkachin boofs reproachfully at him, as if scolding him for getting himself caught in a storm out at sea. Viktor laughs. “Lesson learned, Makka,” he says, nuzzling into his poodle’s reassuring warmth.

“Oi, Dogbreath!” Yuri Plisetsky’s voice calls suddenly. Viktor turns around to see the blond at the end of the rickety stairs down the cliffside. “Do you have a death wish, sitting out here in those wet clothes like that?”

“Yuri!” exclaims Viktor, beaming. “How did you find me?”

“I live up at the lighthouse, stupid. I saw you floundering in the waves like an idiot. If it hadn’t been for Katsudon, you probably would’ve drowned.”

“Katsudon? The seal?” echoes Viktor.

“Duh.” Yuri rolls his eyes.

Viktor looks around. “Where is he?” he wonders.

“Well, clearly not here.” Yuri tosses a towel at him, before turning to climb up the stairs again. “Dry off a bit. My dedushka’s waiting at the top for us.”

Viktor absentmindedly towels himself off as best as he can, draping the cloth around his shoulders as he pads over to the dinghy to retrieve his coat and shoes. He keeps an eye out for the familiar black seal, but with little success. As far as he knows, Makkachin is the only animal on this beach.

“Come on, Dogbreath!” Yuri shouts. “Do you actually want to catch pneumonia?”

Viktor decides against donning his shoes and races up to follow Yuri. He catches up with the teen halfway up the cliff, Makkachin closely following behind. Yuri is waiting there with hands on his hips, wearing the infamous leopard-print jacket and a scowl.

“How long ago did you find me?” Viktor asks as Yuri starts climbing again.

“Why do you care?” retorts the blond.

“Nothing, I just — did you see Yuuri Katsuki anywhere before you came down?”

Yuri snorts. “No,” he says. “What’s with your obsession with the Piglet anyway? It’s a bit creepy.”

“I just…” Viktor trails off, and shrugs. “Must have been a dream,” he says after a moment.

“I don’t even want to know,” says Yuri, and picks up speed to put some distance between him and Viktor.

At the top of the cliff, an old man with a salt-and-pepper beard and hair waits for them with a paper bag and a thermos. Viktor stops up short of him; though the man is shorter than him, he still can’t help but feel like a child under the man’s steely gaze.

“Mr Nikiforov,” says the man gruffly, handing the thermos and paper bag to him. Viktor cradles the thermos in the arm with his coat and shoes, and holds onto the paper bag with his other hand.

“Mr Plisetsky, I presume?” he asks, trying to project a smoothness he doesn’t feel. “I would shake your hand, if they were not full.”

“No matter. There are pirozhki in the bag,” says Nikolai Plisetsky, “and soup in the thermos. You will need it, after an adventure like that.”

Viktor chuckles weakly. “Thank you, you shouldn’t have.”

Nikolai’s gaze hardens a bit. “You are a fortunate man,” he says cryptically. “Don’t test it.”

A chill runs down Viktor’s spine that has nothing to do with his sodden clothes. He nods, again, and shuffles off towards his cottage with Makkachin in tow.

He’s just set down the thermos and the bag of pirozhki on the kitchen table when there’s a knock at the door. Yuri stands there, sullen. “Do you need anything?” he asks.

“Maybe my phone back from the Leroys,” says Viktor. “But that would require returning their boat.”

Yuri grits his teeth. “Anything but that,” he says.

“Then I’m not really sure.” Viktor shrugs. “I’ll be sure to send you an email if something comes up. What is your email, anyway?”

Yuri huffs. “Oh, all right. I’ll get you your damn phone. But you owe me one, okay?”

“Duly noted,” says Viktor cheerily as he reaches into his coat and fishes out his sodden notebook, setting it down next to the bag of pirozhki. Yuri groans, and turns and storms off Viktor’s backyard patio.

Now alone except for his dog, Viktor pads into the bathroom and begins to draw a well-deserved warm bath. As the tub fills, he begins to strip out of his wet clothes, his mind racing back to that moment on the beach with the imaginary (?) Yuuri pressed so warm and close to him.

It had felt too real to be a hallucination…

Viktor feels goosebumps run down his arms, though whether they are from the cold or his thoughts he has no idea. Now standing naked in his bathroom, Viktor shivers from the faintest motions as he turns off the tap filling the tub. Finally, he steps into the warm embrace of the bath, and closes his eyes.

It is all too easy to conjure the image of Yuuri in his mind’s eye now, wet and shirtless and trembling below Viktor’s touch, concern in his eyes as he traces letters against Viktor’s skin. Viktor leans his head against the rim of the tub and sighs. His own fingers follow the memory map of Yuuri’s, and he shivers even in the warm water, feeling arousal curl low in his stomach.

How can a man who he’s only met in person three times render him like this?

Excerpt from page 6 of On the Geometry of Snowflakes:

on love: eros

the night after you leave,
i lie awake and feel the imprints of your hand on my skin
tracing the bumps of my vertebrae,
ghosting across my shoulderblades.

and i begin to wonder
if i had dreamed all of this —
if i had imagined the warmth of your kiss,
your touch,
your body flush against mine in the early morning.

the night after you leave,
i will wash away the smell of you
but the warmth will remain.

Viktor is lounging at the kitchen table in his bathrobe with a sleeping Makkachin under the table next to him when Yuri returns with his mobile. “Here’s your bloody phone,” says Yuri, before his hands fly up to cover his eyes. “Oh god. Please tell me you’ve got something on under that robe.”

“No,” says Viktor blithely, taking the phone that the teen has dropped onto the table. He waggles the bag of pirozhki at Yuri. “Want one?”

“There’s plenty back home,” says Yuri through his fingers, though temptation is clearly written all over his face. Viktor laughs, taking a pirozhok out of the bag and biting into it. The filling seems to be meat and cabbage, and it’s absurdly good. Reminds him of the pirozhki his own grandmother used to make.

“I could fix you a cuppa,” Viktor says through a mouthful of pirozhok.

Yuri drops his hands. “I take it as black as my soul,” he deadpans.

“I’ve got Caravan,” says Viktor with a smirk.

Yuri sighs. “One milk, two sugars.”

Viktor gets up to heat some water for the kettle, then, and pops open his cupboards for the pot. His mother had sent him an electric samovar for his birthday one year, but he’d unfortunately left it behind in Manchester. He’ll send for it, if he really misses it, but it recently has been gathering dust in his cupboards because he’d never had to entertain enough people to warrant bringing it out.

All of his boxes containing things from the old flat have arrived by now. Viktor had forgotten just how expansive his wardrobe had been back in Manchester, and had rapidly run out of closet space in his room while unpacking the clothes he had shipped over. He’s even taken up the closet in the hall now, and is strongly considering donating the remnants.

The closets aren’t the only place where it feels like his life prior to Torvill Cove has given him more things than he really needs. Now he’s not sure why he even packed half of the things he did, like the four lamps and all of the books that are piling up in the den because there’s no space on the existing shelves. But at least now the fireplace in the den has his matryoshka collection on the mantelpiece, and the desk now has the framed photograph of his family back in Russia, posing together in their skates on a frozen canal in Saint Petersburg.

He hasn’t seen his mother in so long…

The kettle beeps to signify that the water has boiled, startling Viktor out of his reverie. Yuri is sitting at the table across from him, engrossed in some cat-themed game on his phone. Viktor goes to make the tea, shivering a little when he passes by the back door and a little draft comes in from the outside. Outside the wide windows looking out from the kitchen to the ocean, he sees that the clouds are gathering again and the gulls are flocking.

“Do you want the Boston Bruins mug or the matryoshka one?” Viktor asks. Both of these are his additions to the kitchen; the cottage’s owner is dedicated to their aesthetic and therefore doesn’t own crockery that isn’t blue, white, or nautical-themed in some way. Viktor likes to think he’s livening up the place a bit with his random knick-knacks from the places where he’s lived before.

“Whatever,” replies Yuri, so Viktor makes his in the Bruins mug. Yuri glowers at him in thanks when he hands it over.

“I haven’t had Caravan in a while,” says Viktor as he stirs the milk into his own tea. “I only have loose-leaf, so sometimes it gets to be a bit of a hassle.”

“Dedushka only makes builder’s tea,” agrees Yuri, rolling his eyes. “It’s just easier on his hands.”

Viktor hums. They sip their tea in an odd but companionable silence.

“Have you lived here all your life?” Viktor asks after a moment.

Yuri nods, shrugs. “We still have family in Moscow, though,” he says. “I visit them sometimes. And Mila lives with us, so it’s not like I don’t get plenty of exposure to Russian in my life.”

Viktor chuckles. “Would you consider moving back sometime?” he wonders.

“Don’t think you’re getting rid of me that easily,” Yuri retorts.

It really isn’t an answer. Viktor takes it anyway, returning his attention to his own tea.

They sip in silence for another moment, broken this time by Yuri grumbling, “This tea is weak.”

“You’re the one who asked for two sugars and milk.”

“Clearly you misheard me and dumped in two bowls of sugar instead of two teaspoons like a normal, civilised human being ought to.” But there’s no edge to Yuri’s voice as he says that, and he keeps drinking, so Viktor smiles.

“I have a question,” he says.

Yuri sets down his mug. “What?”

“You’re sure it was the seal who saved me today?”

Yuri rolls his eyes. “Yeah. I saw it. Why?”

“I thought…” Viktor bites his lip, thinking back to the warmth of Yuuri’s fingers against his cold, wet skin. “I thought it was Yuuri Katsuki,” he admits after a moment.

Yuri, who had taken a sip of his tea, spits it out at that response. “What?” demands the blond, before descending into a coughing fit.

Viktor frowns. “I thought Yuuri Katsuki was on the beach with me before you came down,” he replies. Makkachin whines in his sleep, and Viktor nudges his foot to bump lightly against his dog before continuing, “He was touching my face. It felt real.”

Yuri’s expression scrunches up in disgust. “Could you do me a favour and not tell me about your weird fantasies about the Piglet?” he demands.

“But you don’t think it’s weird that the boat I was in was also conveniently nearby and intact when I washed up? Or that my coat and shoes were clearly placed inside it? Last time I checked, seals don’t have opposable thumbs or any concept of folding clothes.”

“Maybe Katsudon’s just smarter than you think,” says Yuri, a note of belligerence in his voice.

“Smart enough to dive down to the ocean floor, retrieve my shoes, and place them in a boat for me?”

Yuri shrugs. “Maybe Piglet or someone else brought you your stuff, Dogbreath. Fuck if I know who did that. All I saw was Katsudon saving you, all right? There’s no point in getting hung up over it.”

Viktor sighs, and finishes his tea. He takes another pirozhok from the bag, and watches out the window as the gulls circle around and around in an indifferent grey sky.

Local Seal Hailed as Hero in Daring Rescue

15 MAY 2016 — Katsudon the seal returns to Torvill Cove as a local hero after saving writer Viktor Nikiforov from drowning in the bay during a storm on Tuesday. Yuri Plisetsky, who had witnessed the rescue from the Torvill Point Lighthouse, says the seal had dragged the author to shore after he slipped off the capsized boat he had been clinging to in the storm. Nikiforov, who for some reason had not been wearing his life vest, would have drowned otherwise if not for Katsudon’s intervention.

“It was a brave rescue,” says Plisetsky. “A bit of a miracle, too, considering how shy Katsudon is towards humans, but I guess [Nikiforov]’s special to him because of his dog or something.”

The town of Torvill Cove is gratified to see such an act of bravery from one of its longtime residents. Katsudon has been coming to Torvill Cove as a haul-out location for approximately 16 years, starting from when he was 7 to now.

“We’ve always kept the place safe for him, I think, by ensuring the pristine quality of our beaches and waters and by deterring potential predators and other dangers,” says Yuuko Nishigori of the Torvill Cove Harbour Watch. “Maybe he just wants to give back.”

Visitors to Torvill Cove are discouraged from feeding Katsudon or intruding upon his space, although photography and video recording from a distance is permissible as long as it doesn’t use flash.

Viktor notices something the next time Katsudon hauls out near him and Makkachin at the beach. Contrary to what happened the last time they’d interacted, the seal is now back to playing lightheartedly with his dog, though for the most part the two of them remain in the whitewater portions of the beach.

But that’s not the only thing changed. This time the seal sometimes pauses and looks at him for long periods of time, warm brown eyes boring right into his own with a sparkle that just screams of intelligence. This seal knows who I am, Viktor thinks wildly, the first time this happens. His heart races, even though he knows deep down that it’s impossible.

It happens one afternoon in May. The sky today is blue, though a lighter shade than the glimmering sapphire sea that stretches out before Viktor. There are boats out in the harbour and children playing on the public beach by the pier. But his little beach is still private, save for the gulls and the crabs in the tidepools.

Katsudon hauls out as Viktor’s reapplying his sunblock. Makkachin barks happily at the arrival of his friend, and Viktor watches amusedly as the two begin to chase each other around his towel. He’s less amused at the sand that flies all over his towel and sticks to his sunblock-slick skin, but he lets them have their fun anyway.

Viktor’s just tossed the bottle of sunblock back into his beach bag and taken out the book about the Zamboni-driving spy when Katsudon begins waddling over to him, nosing curiously at his leg. Viktor laughs a little at the tickling sensation of the seal’s whiskers against his skin.

And then their eyes lock as Katsudon’s nose trails up his leg.

Viktor’s breath flees him. Katsudon’s eyes are so familiar, but in a way he can’t quite pinpoint. He wants to reach out and touch, but he is also frozen with apprehension and fear that he’ll ruin the moment. So his hands remain at his side, and he waits, breathless, for the seal to make his move.

Katsudon leans up towards Viktor’s face. He meets him halfway, their noses briefly brushing. The seal’s growl of amusement resounds deep in his throat and he shuffles up the sand towards Viktor, one flipper coming to rest on Viktor’s knees as his nose chases Viktor’s.

Tentatively, Viktor reaches out and brushes a finger against Katsudon’s fur. It is soft and sleek and a little damp from the seawater. The seal leans into the touch with another growl that almost sounds like a contented cat’s mewl, if it was pitched much lower. Viktor chuckles.

Slowly, Katsudon shuffles up until he is pressing the length of his body against Viktor’s, and leans in to put his head on Viktor’s chest with another contented grumble. Viktor offers a small peck on his nose this time, grinning when the seal chases his lips when he pulls away.

Katsudon is restless, though, constantly moving and shuffling around Viktor, constantly changing positions yet still never leaving Viktor’s side. Even Makkachin’s barks from the water don’t deter the seal’s quest to cuddle up with Viktor, though his shuffling has taken him across Viktor’s lap twice and around his back once. He’s fairly heavy from all of the blubber, but he’s also quite warm and soft to the touch. Viktor is more than willing to accommodate him.

They finally settle into a comfortable position with Viktor half leaning on the seal, who’s pressed into his side with his head coming to rest on Viktor’s lap. Leaning up one more time to chase a final kiss, Katsudon then makes a contented growl and closes his eyes.

Viktor would have started reading his book, then, had Makkachin not come by and shook the water from his coat, the droplets spraying onto both Viktor and the seal and waking the seal again. Viktor laughs; Katsudon growls, but after a couple gentle strokes he calms down and closes his eyes again.

And as he tries to read his book with a seal slumbering in his lap, Viktor vaguely wonders why his thoughts seem stuck on the last time he had been lying on this beach, with an imaginary Yuuri Katsuki in his arms.

Katsudon’s Newest Pinnipal! Exclusive Footage of Local Seal and His New Friend

Coved Secrets is back to share this amazing moment between Torvill Cove’s seal hero Katsudon and resident author Viktor Nikiforov on the little beach behind the holiday cottages. Captured by phichit+chu on his Instagram after his morning delivery rounds, this moment shows Viktor and Katsudon sharing several bunny kisses before Katsudon settles down as a comfortable backrest for Nikiforov to read his book.

“Katsudon is very comfortable around Viktor now, I think,” says Yuuko Nishigori of the Torvill Cove Harbour Watch. “Not only is he friends with Viktor’s dog, but he has also saved Viktor’s own life just last week. Viktor is a familiar, non-threatening presence to him; it’s not surprising that they would get close.”

However, many others have expressed surprise at this sudden display of intimacy, as Katsudon in all of his years in Torvill Cove has never expressed similar sentiments towards other people before.

“I’ve been photographing the flora and fauna of Torvill Cove since I came here three years ago, and I have never been able to build up so much trust with Katsudon as Viktor has in just a month,” says Christophe Giacometti, a local photographer. “What they share is special, and I’m so jealous that Viktor is the one who gets to experience it.”

Could this be the start of something new? For more pictures of Katsudon, visit #KatsudontheSeal on Instagram!

Viktor runs into Phichit at the grocery store. At this point, he’s not even surprised that the man had somehow managed to capture such a private moment between him and Katsudon, but it doesn’t mean he’s not at least a little annoyed about it.

“I’m sorry, it was just so cute and I couldn’t help myself!” Phichit exclaims when Viktor tells him about the gossip column article in the Torvill Cove Reporter about his video. “You two are so cute together! I mean — I’m not implying that you two are, like, together together, you know. Since that would be weird. But it’s still cute!”

Viktor thinks it’s a bloody miracle his eye isn’t visibly twitching. “Please, take it down,” he says.

“Oh, but it’s already gotten so many likes…” complains Phichit. “Think of your fans! And of Katsudon’s fans! And of potential new tourists to this town!”

“Phichit,” sighs Viktor. “Remember the last viral video you posted of Katsudon? It drove him out of sight for days afterwards. Makkachin was very sad about it, especially since the next time we saw Katsudon together he ran away from us.”

Phichit sighs as well, and pulls out his phone. “You’re pretty protective of Katsudon,” he points out as he opens up Instagram. “It’s not like he can see the videos. He’s a seal.”

“Well, at least take it down for me. Yuri Plisetsky already thinks I eat ice cream with my dog; I don’t need him to accuse me of wanting to fuck a seal, too.”

There’s a sudden crashing sound from the next aisle, and Phichit frowns, putting his mobile away and running over to check on the source of the noise. Viktor waits for him, his feet tapping an impatient rhythm against the linoleum.

“Yuuri! Are — are you okay?”

Viktor stiffens. There’s a pause, ostensibly because Yuuri is responding.

“Okay, if you say so. But I do need to clean up this spill… Oh! Well, I guess you’d have to take that up with Emil, I guess? Thank you for taking responsibility.”

Viktor begins heading towards the other aisle. He rounds the corner just in time to see Yuuri hurrying out of sight, and Phichit standing over a broken jar of pickled salt plums.

“Should I get a broom or something?” Viktor asks. Phichit shakes his head, rushing off as well. Moments later he returns with the broom and dustpan, quickly sweeping away the broken remnants of the jar and the plums.

“What was he doing here?” Viktor asks again. Phichit shrugs.

Yuuri returns as Phichit is sweeping up the last of the glass, wheeling over a bucket and a mop before joining Phichit in cleaning up the mess. His cheeks are bright red as he mops up the brine, and for some reason he refuses to look in Viktor’s direction.

After finishing up, Yuuri quickly grabs another jar of the pickled plums, and brushes past Viktor as he wheels the mop away. Viktor turns to watch him go, and then looks back at Phichit, who is leaning on the broom and watching them both curiously.

“Have I done something?” Viktor asks, and Phichit shrugs again.

To: Yuuri ❤
are you mad at me?

From: Yuuri ❤

To: Yuuri ❤
oh good! i thought you were
you were acting like you were mad at me at the grocery store
so i just wanted to ask because i don’t want you to be angry about something that i can fix (;^ ♡ ^)୨

From: Yuuri ❤
i was just a bit embarrassed, sorry

From: Yuuri ❤
i overheard you talking to phichit about the seal videos

To: Yuuri ❤
well, for future reference, i’m not dating a seal (*´ ♡ ˘*)

From: Yuuri ❤

To: Yuuri ❤
yeah, not really my type
i prefer humans you know ★~(◠♡◕✿)

From: Yuuri ❤

To: Yuuri ❤
with dark hair… and glasses… who can dance…

From: Yuuri ❤
(๑→‿←๑) haha stop

To: Yuuri ❤
what? it’s the truth

From: Yuuri ❤

From: Yuuri ❤
sorry if this sounds nosy but are you dating someone?

To: Yuuri ❤
no i’m not, actually! i haven’t dated in years.

From: Yuuri ❤

To: Yuuri ❤
what about you, though? you got anyone special?

From: Yuuri ❤

To: Yuuri ❤
any exes?

From: Yuuri ❤

To: Yuuri ❤
sorry, just teasing. my ex is all the way back in russia, he’s not going to ruin any future dates lol

From: Yuuri ❤

To: Yuuri ❤
yup ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)

From: Yuuri ❤
i heard about the accident you were in last tuesday. what were you doing out there in the middle of the bay?

To: Yuuri ❤
i was trying to find an isolated spot to write, actually

From: Yuuri ❤
but the middle of the bay can be dangerous!

From: Yuuri ❤
i know a better spot

From: Yuuri ❤
meet me at 9:30 am tomorrow at yu-topia and i can show it to you?

Viktor does not stay up all night with his heart pounding in his chest and wild imaginings of what could possibly happen tomorrow running rampant through his head. Definitely not. That would be counterproductive to having a perfect day with Yuuri in the morning.

It must have been the tea he’d consumed at dinner. Everyone knows you’re not supposed to consume caffeine past noon if you actually want to go to bed at a decent hour. So he’s not actually awake of his own volition, and certainly not because of the nerves.

And maybe it’s the bed, too. It’s suddenly so difficult to get comfortable in it.

By two in the morning, Makkachin has given up on trying to stay in the same bed, and pads off to curl up somewhere else in the house instead. Viktor rolls over, simultaneously too tired to call him back yet too anxious to sleep without him.

He tries to close his eyes, but it makes no difference. In fact, it makes things just a little worse because now it’s easier to imagine the multitudes of scenarios that could happen, ranging from Yuuri secretly being a serial killer to other more pleasant (but no less sleep-depriving) fantasies. Thoughts of Yuuri taking him somewhere to pick up where he had left off on the little beach shortly after saving Viktor’s life dizzily fill his head. Wresting his brain from those images, Viktor valiantly tries instead the age-old method of counting sheep.

One. Two. Three. Four. The sheep start to look less like sheep and more like Yuuri dressed as sheep. That would be adorable. Viktor looks at his mobile. It’s nearing four already. Yuuri’s expecting him at nine-thirty.

He growls, and tosses over onto his other side again.

By the time eight in the morning rolls around, and Viktor’s alarm starts to blare, he’s not in the mood to do anything other than lie in bed and pity himself. But slowly, he clambers to his feet and pads into the bathroom to get ready for this day out with Yuuri. Splashing water onto his face helps, but touching his hair whorl and wondering if he’s developing a bald spot definitely doesn’t.

Viktor dresses himself at first on autopilot, but then he sees the last message Yuuri sent him, and immediately he’s back in front of his closet again, trying to find the perfect outfit.

In the end, he finds it, but then he almost forgets his shoes as he walks out the door. It’s already nine-fifteen. Makkachin’s bowl is full and his water’s changed, and Viktor texts the group chat to ask if someone could let his dog out around noon because he’ll be away.

After he gets his shoes on, Viktor runs all the way into town. It completely ruins his hair and makes his carefully curated outfit more rumpled than he might have intended. But at least he’s on time, and as he pulls up in front the main entrance of Yu-Topia Resort, he sees Yuuri, toting a familiar wicker basket in his arms and signing with one of the bellhops at the curb, and his heart skips a beat.

Yuuri isn’t even dressed in anything particularly fancy; his jeans are artfully torn, his white collared shirt has sleeves rolled up to his elbows, and his charcoal-coloured cardigan is downright frumpy. But in the morning sunlight he looks like some model fresh off the runway in Paris, and Viktor can’t help but try to straighten his own clothes before he steps up to the door and clears his throat.

Yuuri’s face breaks into a smile. He waves at Viktor, before signing something at the bellhop and bowing slightly. Then he turns to Viktor, and gestures for him to follow.

Viktor does, all of the weariness from his sleepless night evaporating from him the instant he falls into step next to Yuuri.

Yuuri takes them past Yu-Topia and the beachside mansions that include the Leroy summer residence. The only times Viktor has been to this part of town is during Housewarming Week, and most of his memories of that, save the night he met Yuuri, are blurred by alcohol and other bad decisions. Yuuri, on the other hand, seems to know the area well, and directs Viktor along the street without so much as a second glance at any of the signs.

Similar to the cliffside trail on the other end of the harbour, this path also seems to be leading along the clifftop, with the sea receding below at each step. But this time, the path doesn’t terminate at a lighthouse. Instead, it ends at a small park with a smaller carpark and several trails leading into the trees.

“Where are we?” Viktor asks. Yuuri dangles his basket on his arm so he can take out his notebook and scribble something in it.

Lovers’ Point, it reads. Viktor feels a strange fuzziness in his stomach at the words.

“What are we doing here?” he asks.

Let me show you something, replies Yuuri. He puts the notebook away and extends a hand to Viktor. Immediately, Viktor takes it.

Yuuri’s hand is small in his, but his grip is steady and warm. They walk along a fairly average nature trail for a portion, but then Yuuri veers off to the side, heading towards the cliff’s edge.

Viktor’s heart leaps into his throat when they clear the foliage to find the dramatic drop of the cliff just below their feet, and the churning of the waves against the rocks at the base of the cliff. He’s never felt vertigo so keenly before as he does now, but Yuuri walks along the side of the cliff like he’s done it a thousand times, and all Viktor can do is follow.

Then Yuuri sets down the basket and drops out of sight, and for one brief moment Viktor’s heart stops. But he looks over the edge to see that Yuuri has dropped onto a little ledge just below the top of the cliff, and is now looking expectantly up at him.

Slowly, Viktor hands the basket down to him before clambering down himself, and once his feet are on solid ground again he is rewarded with the brilliance of Yuuri’s smile. He takes Yuuri’s hand again, but the gesture does nothing to slow the racing of his heart.

From this ledge, it appears that an entirely new trail has opened up, zig-zagging down the face of the cliff. Viktor can almost feel the spray of the crashing waves on his face from here; as they continue downwards, that almost becomes more definite.

The trail ends, however, not at the sharp sea-battered rocks, but at a sheltered little cove hiding just behind them. Here the water rushes in as eager but gentle ripples, while only a couple paces ahead the rest of the swell bashes itself against the jagged rocks that protect this secret inlet.

Yuuri lets go of Viktor’s hand now, smiling expectantly, and Viktor gapes.

“Wow,” he says after a moment. “Amazing!”

Yuuri shrugs, and then writes in his notebook: I come here all the time when I want to get away from everything. It’s pretty well-hidden, and no one ever tells the tourists about it.

“But the people in town know about it?”

Yuuri’s brows furrow a little, as if he’s trying to remember who knows about this place and who doesn’t. Finally, he writes: It’s a pretty popular spot for losing your virginity.

Viktor’s glad he’s not drinking anything, because he’s sure he would have spat it out at that. “No wonder this place is called Lovers’ Point,” he says, watching Yuuri set down the basket and uncover it, spreading the blue gingham blanket used as a cover onto the sand.

He takes a seat on the blanket once Yuuri invites him to, following Yuuri’s lead in removing his shoes and socks before putting his feet on the cloth. Yuuri kneels on the blanket next to him with the basket in his lap, unpacking its contents. Viktor’s eyes go wide when Yuuri removes a small bottle of sake as well as a set of cups, and then two bento boxes carefully wrapped in blue cloth napkins, and then utensils.

“You really shouldn’t have,” Viktor says, as Yuuri places one of the bentos on his lap.

It’s no problem. My mother insisted we bring something to eat, Yuuri writes, before taking out a thermos. He pours out a cupful of miso soup, and hands it to Viktor.

Viktor’s in love at the first taste. “Did your mother make this?” he asks, finishing the cup as quickly as he can. Yuuri’s cheeks flush a pleased pink, and he nods. “It’s amazing!”

Yuuri gestures to the bento, as if suggesting he try that next. Viktor complies, opening the lid to find a salad and two little covered containers — salad dressing and a thick brown sauce. He then lifts this top compartment to find below a beautifully golden breaded pork cutlet lying over a bed of still-warm steamed white rice.

“Wow,” breathes Viktor. Yuuri leans over, points to the brown sauce, and mimes pouring it over the cutlet. Viktor complies, and then Yuuri presses a set of chopsticks into his hands with a questioning gaze.

Viktor nods, taking the chopsticks from their protective holder and picking up a strip of breaded pork with it. Yuuri’s eyes sparkle, and Viktor’s chest swells with pride. He’d learnt how to use chopsticks while writing a short story that takes place for the duration of a Chinese wedding banquet, but he’d never been so proud of having acquired that skill until this very moment. Lifting the pork to his mouth, he keeps one eye on Yuuri’s expectant expression before he takes a bite.

Oh, God. Viktor can’t help the half-erotic moan that escapes his lips at the taste of the cutlet in his mouth. (And, to his delight, he can’t help but notice that Yuuri’s cheeks have turned pinker at the sound.) He’s had good food before, of course. Heck, he’s eaten meals that were better than having sex.

But this isn’t sex; this is more like making love. Even though it’s a little cold temperature-wise, he can still taste the genuine affection that went into making this meal. It’s an emotional intimacy that he had never thought was possible to convey through food before.

Yuuri presses his notebook forward. Do you like it?

Viktor gapes at him. “If it were my last night on Earth, and I had to choose between marathon sex with my favourite celebrity and this dish, I would pick this dish,” he deadpans.

Yuuri’s eyes sparkle with mirth.

“No, I’m serious!” Viktor exclaims. “I’m convinced this is what they serve you in heaven!”

Yuuri huffs in laughter, and writes, I’m glad you like it. Which is the understatement of the century, but Viktor is too engrossed in finishing his bowl to care.

“What’s it called?” he asks as soon as he’s done.

Katsudon, Yuuri writes. Viktor blinks. It’s my favourite comfort food.

“That’s the name of the seal that lives here, isn’t it? Looks like you two have something in common,” jokes Viktor. Yuuri flushes at that, and then busies himself with opening up his own bento.

Viktor tucks into his salad next, watching Yuuri pour himself a cup of miso soup from the thermos. The midday sun brings out the shine in his black hair and accentuates the rosy flush of his cheeks. Viktor’s gaze follows the line of Yuuri’s throat to his collar, noting the bob of his Adam’s apple as he swallows each mouthful of food.

By the time they both finish their lunches, it’s already afternoon. Yuuri takes the empty boxes and utensils, and gives them a perfunctory rinse in the water before wrapping them up and putting them back into the basket. He then brings out some clementines for dessert, peeling them easily and handing one to Viktor.

Viktor has to try and focus on something other than the sight of Yuuri’s pink lips closing around his piece of clementine, because he’s not sure if he could live with the fact that at this very moment, he’d gladly trade places with a goddamn piece of fruit.

“When are we opening the sake?” he asks suddenly, desperate for a distraction, and Yuuri startles at the question before setting out the cups and opening the bottle right then and there. Viktor hadn’t anticipated that, but he takes his cup nonetheless. There’s a heady sweetness to this sake when he drinks it, and its warmth seems to go right to his stomach.

He’s thankful that there’s only enough for a couple cups between them, and that Yuuri had only brought one bottle. As much as he would enjoy having a drunken Yuuri on his hands again, he would rather they both remember this day together.

Nevertheless, soon the bottle is empty and packed back into the basket with the rest of the picnic fixings, and Viktor lies back on the blanket next to Yuuri, his head a pleasant tipsy buzz as he looks up at the pale blue sky.

Yuuri sits now with his knees drawn to his chin, gazing out towards the ocean. He’s still flushed from the alcohol, but he doesn’t seem to be any worse than slightly buzzed. Viktor turns to look at him, before suggesting, “lie down with me.”

He feels the sand and the blanket shifting as Yuuri moves, and his heart races a little harder when he feels Yuuri’s body press lightly against his side. Yuuri slots perfectly against him, as if the crook of Viktor’s arm had been created to hold him in it someday. He looks down; Yuuri tilts his head up to look at him, his expression unreadable, enigmatic.

How is it that he can be so close and yet so far? Longing suffuses through Viktor like the heady burn of the sake. It would just be so easy to lean down those extra centimetres and claim Yuuri’s lips. And yet when Yuuri puts a hand on his chest and nuzzles in closer, the fluttering in Viktor’s stomach in response is better than anything a kiss would have given him.

He feels lethargy seep over him like waves against the shore. Out here, in this secret cove with Yuuri Katsuki lying next to him, Viktor Nikiforov can easily say he wants for nothing in the world.

And with that thought, Viktor lets a smile slip onto his face as he succumbs to sleep.

Excerpt from page 2 of On the Geometry of Snowflakes:

non est ad astra mollis e terris via

if i could choose the exact time of my death,
then let it be here and now
with your arms tight around me and our heartbeats in synchrony.
let me freeze this moment in our bodies forever
when my thoughts are of nothing but you in your infinity.
expand your body to become my night sky,
so that i may trace your freckles like constellations
and discover the secrets of the universe in your eyes.

my sun, my moon, my stars —
you are more eternal than you know,
and when you touch me i know how sweet it must be to die.
for with you dying is not an end,
but rather a chance for your star
(and mine)
to gain the brilliance of a supernova.
so let us burst together
and echo across the universe for centuries to come.

Viktor wakes in the early evening. The sun has just barely slipped below the horizon and the shadows all around him are long and twisted in hues of dusky purples and indigos. The space next to him is empty.

Had it not been for the blanket underneath him and the basket next to him, Viktor would have begun doubting his perception of reality again. As it is, he sits up on the blanket, trying to see in the rapidly failing light if Yuuri is anywhere nearby.

He is rewarded moments later by movement down near the rocks. Clambering to his feet, Viktor heads down to the rocks that shelter this cove from the relentless sea.

Yuuri is perched on the rocks like he’s in a Hans Christian Andersen novel, his hair ruffling in the breeze. He seems unfazed by the salt spray crashing over the rocks onto him, though his clothes and hair are drenched. His gaze is turned away towards the last fingers of light in the sky, a quiet pensiveness caressing his handsome features.

Viktor doesn’t really want to ruin the moment, but a sneeze seizes him all of a sudden, causing Yuuri to turn, startled.

“Sorry,” Viktor says, cursing his body’s timing.

A faint smile curls at Yuuri’s lips. The first stars in the sky appear, twinkling in Yuuri’s hair like a crown of diamonds. Viktor numbly reaches out, still mildly surprised that Yuuri doesn’t disappear at his touch.

Yuuri takes his hand. Viktor helps him down from the rock, noticing that he seems drenched to the bone, but isn’t shivering in the slightest.

“Have you been sitting out here all this time?” he asks. Yuuri shakes his head, leans into Viktor a little. He makes a couple signs, but then seems to remember that Viktor isn’t fluent, and stops. Viktor feels his stomach drop. He’s going to have to rectify that.

Finally they reach the picnic blanket, and Viktor lifts it up from the sand, shaking it out a bit before wrapping it around Yuuri’s shoulders. He hears a sharp little inhale when he draws Yuuri close with it, and smiles.

They put their socks and shoes back on, and Viktor grabs the picnic basket and gestures for Yuuri to lead them back up the cliff again.

It’s harder to go back up than it is to come down, but Viktor doesn’t mind (too much) the burn of the climb in his muscles. Yuuri seems lost in thought in front of him, his eyes sparkling like the stars whenever he turns back to look at Viktor. When they reach the ledge that they now have to climb, Yuuri gestures for Viktor to go first, taking the basket from him as Viktor hauls himself up the last couple inches of cliff. When Yuuri joins him at the top, Viktor wraps the blanket around him again, and smiles at how, even in the dark, Yuuri seems to flush when Viktor’s hands ghost along his arms.

The walk back through the park of Lovers’ Point is quiet but amicable. Yuuri takes Viktor’s hand as they find their trail again, tracing letters into his palm. Viktor concentrates on the sensations, smiling when he gets the message:

Did you have fun?

“I’ve never had a better day,” replies Viktor.

I had hoped you could get some writing done, but you slept for hours instead. Did you not get any sleep last night?

Viktor feels his ears burning at that. “Not really,” he admits.

He hears a little huff of amusement. Do you feel better now? Yuuri traces.

“Yes,” says Viktor, squeezing their hands lightly. “I feel great.”

The streetlamps are lit by the time they return to the neighbourhood leading to Yu-Topia. There’s loud music pulsing out of one of the houses, so they cross the street to avoid the partygoers.

“I thought all the partying was just for Housewarming Week,” says Viktor.

Yuuri rolls his eyes, and traces ‘Housewarming Week was just the start’ into Viktor’s hand.

“What a terrible neighbourhood,” replies Viktor, grinning. “You wouldn’t be able to sleep at all!”

The old people unfortunate enough to live here hate it.

“Can you hear it from Yu-Topia?”

Yuuri pulls a face, and nods. Sound travels well across water.

“Well, I live far away enough that it’s not a problem. You could stay with me if the noise gets too much!” It’s supposed to be a joke, except part of Viktor wants it desperately. And maybe the flush that rises to Yuuri’s cheeks suggests that he might want it, too.

I couldn’t impose, writes Yuuri.

“Nonsense,” says Viktor. “You’re always welcome in my bed.”

Even in the yellowish light of the streetlamps, Yuuri’s face is bright red. Viktor chuckles a little, and squeezes their hands.

“I’m just teasing,” he says. “But if you did stay over, I’d take the couch. It’s quite nice.”

Yuuri makes the sign for embarrassment again, hiding his face briefly behind one hand. But his eyes sparkle with mirth, and he doesn’t pull away from Viktor’s side, so Viktor considers it a small victory.

They’re at the main entrance to Yu-Topia far too fast for his liking. Viktor can’t help the disappointed curl in his gut as Yuuri turns at the door, letting go of his hand at last.

“When will I see you again?” he asks, hoping it doesn’t sound nearly as needy as it feels. He’s starting to wonder if spending time with Yuuri will always be this intoxicating.

Yuuri shrugs, writes in his notebook. Text me. I’m free most days unless I say otherwise.

Viktor smiles. “Phichit tells me you write,” he says.

Yuuri hides his face in his hand again and then responds, Not very well.

“I’d like to be the judge of that,” says Viktor.

I’ll show you someday, promises Yuuri.

Viktor nods. “Well, the next time I go somewhere to write, I’d like you to come with me.”

Yuuri falters a little, blinks owlishly up at him before drawing a question mark and showing it. Viktor laughs a bit, takes Yuuri’s hand, and presses a kiss to his fourth knuckle.

“I think you might be my new inspiration,” he admits, tossing what’s left of his caution to the wind, and oh, how Yuuri’s eyes sparkle.

Viktor quickly loses track of time as he stands there in the gathering dusk with Yuuri’s hand in his, lost in Yuuri’s eyes. But after a moment Yuuri pulls his hand from Viktor’s grasp, and takes a tentative step closer to him. His arms come around Viktor’s shoulders briefly before he steps back and waves goodbye.

Viktor waves back, watching numbly as Yuuri disappears behind the doors of the resort. With a sigh, he turns towards the boardwalk, and makes a beeline for Kachu Snack Bar.

Christophe is cleaning up some glasses behind the bar when Viktor enters. “Viktor!” exclaims the blond with a sly grin. “You look like you had fun, wherever you went.”

“What gives that away?” Viktor wonders as he takes a seat. There’s a bark, and moments later Makkachin has rushed around the bar to put his paws on Viktor’s thighs and give him a reproachful barking-to. Viktor laughs a bit, patting his dog’s head.

“You’re covered in sand and your clothes are rumpled,” replies Christophe, waggling an eyebrow. “Did you take Yuuri somewhere? Should I congratulate you?”

Viktor blanches. “Nothing happened!” he exclaims, ruffling Makkachin’s fur with one hand. “Thanks for taking Makka out, though.”

“He was looking positively lonely by the time I got there, so I couldn’t abandon him,” says Christophe, shrugging. “You’re so heartless, Viktor.”

Viktor snorts. “The last time Makka interacted with Yuuri, he pounced him. Granted, it’s how Makka shows affection, but I don’t want to overwhelm Yuuri, you know?”

“Overwhelm’s one word for it,” Christophe remarks, winking. Viktor shakes his head.

“I don’t want to mess this up, Chris,” he admits.

“Good,” replies Christophe, already reaching for the vodka. “I don’t want you to mess this up, either.”

Viktor raises an eyebrow, watching Christophe pour him a vodka and tonic. “Of all the people I’d expected to give me a shovel talk, I hadn’t thought you would be on the list.”

Christophe chuckles. “I’ve only known Yuuri Katsuki for three years,” he says. “But my boss has known him for most of his life. She taught him how to dance, you know.”

“Your boss,” echoes Viktor, looking around him at the dim, slightly smoky bar. Kachu in the evenings is a much different place than it is during the day. Despite that, there’s no one in sight who could even pass as Christophe’s boss.

“Minako Okukawa,” says Christophe, gesturing to a black-and-white photo on the wall of a ballerina receiving some sort of prize. “She used to be the prima of the Royal Ballet. Now she owns a studio here and runs a bar. But I get the feeling that she’s fine with it.”

“A sanctuary for artists.” Viktor’s voice is quiet. He’s not the first one to take refuge in Torvill Cove and seek a humbler lifestyle amid its sea-battered cliffs and salt spray, it seems. And he may very well not be the last.

“I suppose,” agrees Christophe after a moment, passing him his drink. Viktor takes a draught from it, noting that it doesn’t give him nearly the same amount of heady warmth as the sake had earlier. “We come here for inspiration, and we find so much more than that, so we stay.”

Makkachin boofs, reminding Viktor to continue petting him. Viktor complies, though his mind lingers on Christophe’s words.

Viktor Nikiforov

Born: Saint Petersburg, Russia
Twitter: v-nikiforov
Genre: Romance, Slice of Life, Drama, Poetry
Influences: Marguerite Duras, Gillian Flynn, Virginia Woolf, Kazuo Ishiguro

Viktor Nikiforov — who has been quoted as not “mind[ing] it when people spell my name with a ‘c’” — was born in Saint Petersburg to Olympic ice dancers Ilya Nikiforov and Ekaterina Yusupova. He has cited his childhood as a strong influence on the themes of his writing, most of which involve ice and snow in some way.

Nikiforov broke through in the English-speaking literary scene in 2011 when his novella The Dancing Blades won the Rubery Book Award. In 2012, he was nominated for the National Book Critic’s Circle Award for his debut novel On the Blades of Love. In 2014, he was a finalist for the first-ever Kirkus Prize for Fiction for his second novel, Cherry-Flipped. Later that year, his third and most well-known work, The King the Skater, topped the New York Times’ bestseller list for three weeks after its release, and was the December selection for Oprah’s Book Club in 2015. He has received widespread praise for these three novels, more commonly known as the Ice Triad, as well as for his shorter works. (more…)

Quotes by Viktor Nikiforov

“You unlock me in ways I didn’t know I could be unlocked.”
— Viktor Nikiforov, The King and the Skater

“If I even had the faintest hope of seeing you again, then from that hope an eternity will spark into flame.”
— Viktor Nikiforov, The Dancing Blades

“I am an apple pie fatale that has brought grown men to their knees.”
— Viktor Nikiforov, Cherry-Flipped

Viktor returns to the secret cove several more times throughout the rest of the month.

Sometimes Yuuri will go with him, toting a picnic lunch each time of katsudon and miso soup. Viktor lives for those days, even though he knows he won’t get much writing done with Yuuri lying on the blanket next to him, quietly reading a book. Or, at least, he won’t get much writing done that isn’t some convoluted prose-poem about the way the sunlight kisses Yuuri’s cheeks, or the way his eyes sparkle at the sight of the ocean, or the slender line of his fingers as he moves his chopsticks.

Yuuri is a new inspiration, all right, but in all the ways that would make Yakov groan and pinch the bridge of his nose. And Viktor finds that he’s fine with it. So what if he only ends up publishing another poetry anthology next? Yuuri likes his poetry, and Viktor likes Yuuri, so Yakov will have to deal.

“What’s another word for ‘temporary’?” Viktor wonders one afternoon. Yuuri is leaning against his shoulder, though concentrated more on his own book. His head shifts a little as he peers over at Viktor’s notebook, where a string of words have been crossed out. Viktor is hit suddenly with the clean scent of Yuuri’s shampoo. His stomach does a quad flip.

Yuuri takes his pen and writes ‘ephemeral’ next to his latest scribbling, and Viktor’s face lights up.

“Perfect,” he declares, and takes the pen back to continue writing.

It’s days like these when he forgets that his time here in Torvill Cove has an end date. Of course, the person who owned the cottage could always be persuaded to sell, but Viktor had originally booked it with the intention of returning to Manchester afterwards. The publishers had wanted a sequel to The King and the Skater, and Viktor at that point in his block had been strongly considering giving it to them, because he had had no other ideas to work with.

But no longer. His mind races on new possibilities, through new stories and characters and settings. Each book is a clean slate with which he must surprise his readers, and though writing after the success of the Ice Triad often feels less liberating and more suffocating, with Yuuri by his side Viktor feels a confidence in his words that he hasn’t felt in quite some time.

Even if most of those words nowadays could be more strongly classed as ‘sappy doggerel’.

“What do you think about this line?” Viktor asks. Yuuri purses his lips as he reads it, his brows crinkling adorably from behind his glasses. After a moment, he takes Viktor’s pen, crosses out the sentence, and writes in something else.

Viktor laughs when he reads it. “That’s lovely, Yuuri,” he says, and Yuuri’s cheeks flush pink.

But Yuuri can’t accompany him on all of his trips to the cove. Sometimes he doesn’t feel well, or he has prior commitments. Those days, Viktor quashes the disappointment in his gut and heads out to the cove alone, armed with his own snacks and a towel and a promise to Makkachin to return home early.

He gets so much writing done those days, when the longing for Yuuri burns through him like a brand. Maybe somewhere within these lines and verses there is the thread of a story, but Viktor isn’t quite sure where to pull.

On these days when Yuuri’s absence is a hole in Viktor’s side, Viktor can’t help but try to piece together an imaginary Yuuri to fill the void. It’s somehow simultaneously easy and hard — this Yuuri’s eyes also sparkle at the sea and his brows also crinkle in thought, but Viktor can’t quite pinpoint even the most basic of things, like his age (Yuuko had mentioned that he’d graduated St Andrews, so he must be in his twenties), or his favourite colour (it’s probably black or blue, because he wears them so often), or even whether or not he’s grown up in Torvill Cove all of his life.

He hates that there’s so much left to learn. Viktor has never been a tremendously patient man. His hard drives are full of abandoned works that he had lost the drive to finish because the story wasn’t going where he wanted it to go. He’d once ended up in the hospital after a botched attempt at a flip jump, because he had wanted to turn his double into a triple without prior training. He’d ruined his (admittedly few) flings by burning through the honeymoon phase and dropping everything entirely when things get tough. He wants to know everything, now, and it pains him when he can’t.

And yet, if only to keep Yuuri by his side longer, he’s willing to take this slow. It feels right, somehow. And Viktor trusts that if he controls himself, if he reigns in his impatience, it will pay off somehow, someday. Yuuri is a mystery that will take time to unravel, and he’s going to enjoy it while it lasts.

Just how much of a mystery Yuuri is, though, doesn’t strike him until one afternoon in early June, when he is walking home alone from the secret cove. He has to pay more attention to his surroundings when he’s by himself, because this side of town is still quite new to him. However, there are many landmarks that Viktor uses to mark his route to the cove, such as the Leroy summer house, the park at Lovers’ Point, and the old graveyard at the end of Bowhill Lane.

At the cast-iron fence separating the cemetery from the pavement, Viktor pauses, having noticed someone moving within. He waits a little with bated breath, and his heart suddenly jolts at the sight of a familiar mop of messy black hair weaving amongst the graves.

What is Yuuri doing here? Viktor wonders. The gate to the cemetery is open, so he slips through, careful to conceal himself. Part of him screams that it’s none of his business and that he should leave, but most of him is too morbidly curious to leave now.

The stones in this cemetery are all worn and cracked, with moss growing over them in parts. The biggest memorial in here is the Torvill family crypt at the opposite end of the field, looming even in the distance with a dark ominousness. Viktor weaves through Celtic crosses and Victorian statues alike, following Yuuri’s dark blue figure at a distance.

Finally, Yuuri stops in front of one of the stones and kneels down, brushing off the stone with his hands before setting down a simple bouquet of lilies. Viktor watches from behind a cherub statue as Yuuri bows his head for a long moment, as if in prayer, and then rises, pats the stone, and leaves.

Viktor can’t help it any longer. Once Yuuri is fully out of sight, he tiptoes out from behind the statue and heads over to the stone where the lilies lie. It is a small plot, far too tiny for anything other than a child’s grave. The marble of the headstone is worn and aged, but far newer than most of its neighbours.

And on it is carved something that causes Viktor’s heart to freeze in his chest.

Yūri Katsuki
29 November 1993
Why must fireflies die so young?

Chapter Text

Excerpt from the obituary section of the Torvill Cove Reporter, 5 December 1993 edition:

Yuuri Katsuki

Toshiya and Hiroko Katsuki grieve the passing of their son, Yuuri, stillborn on 29 November 1993. He is survived by his older sister, Mari Katsuki, as well as numerous other family relations in Japan who all send their love. A private graveside service will be held at Bowhill Cemetery today at 11AM. The family requests no flowers, and that all contributions in Yuuri’s memory be made to the Torvill Central Hospital Maternity Unit.

It is raining again. Viktor is starting to wonder if it will ever stop.

He straightens up in his seat and looks around. The basement of the Torvill Cove Public Library may be well-lit, but it still doesn’t chase away the damp gloominess of its whitewashed brick walls. Who could have known such a small library could have such a vast collection stored belowground? Fortunately for Viktor, said collection includes its extensive archive of the town’s historical documents, which in turn includes every edition of the Torvill Cove Reporter ever printed.

Viktor had found the relevant death notice within five minutes of browsing through these old papers. It has been laminated in an attempt at preservation, but the corners are peeling a little. Still, the document itself is intact.

Yuuri Katsuki was supposed to be stillborn. So then who’s the Yuuri Katsuki who haunts Viktor’s thoughts now?

He keeps digging through the papers, but now his search turns fruitless. There’s no report of another birth, or of the dead Yuuri having a twin, or anything. The next time the Katsukis show up in the paper, the Yuuri he knows is already there, bright-eyed and excited even in black-and-white over the poodle puppy cradled in his arms. It’s part of some sort of article on Otterson Primary’s annual P3 pet competition. Apparently Yuuri’s poodle, whose name had been Vicchan, had won ‘Best in Show’.

How had the Reporter not questioned the sudden miraculous reappearance of Yuuri Katsuki, given that they had printed his death notice?

Viktor closes the file drawer full of laminated newspaper bits, stalks back to his seat, and takes out his laptop from his bag. The library’s WiFi is good, though it kicks you out after thirty minutes, necessitating another login. According to the vaguely familiar-looking grumpy librarian with the army of dogs who had handed Viktor his login information when he had first arrived, this had been implemented to ‘prevent creeps from coming to my library and using the WiFi to look at porn all day’. Viktor’s not sure how necessary it is, considering that the library’s mostly empty save for the children in the reading room that he had passed on the way down to the basement.

Within a couple clicks, Viktor soon finds himself in the National Registry’s database of births, marriages, and deaths. He looks up the last name Katsuki, and finds nothing — no births, no marriages, no deaths. Apparently the registry of stillbirths isn’t accessible to the public.

He’s about to go comb through the database of adoption records when the sane part of his brain catches up with him again. What are you doing? It demands. Why are you looking at all of this behind Yuuri’s back when you can just ask him about it yourself?

Why would Yuuri tell me? What if he doesn’t know? What if he thinks I’m intruding?

And looking up the records behind his back isn’t intrusive? That little voice of reason would cross its arms smugly at this point, if it had arms.

Viktor closes out of the database. He still has to know, voice of reason or not. He could ask, and just frame it as a curious thing he stumbled across in the graveyard last week. Surely Yuuri would understand that.

He packs up his bag and climbs the stairs out of the basement back into the upper level of the library. Here the light is more natural, though still cold and grey; outside the high mullioned windows the rain continues to fall, pounding out a steady rhythm against the glass.

Viktor walks past the front desk, where no less than ten dogs are napping at the feet of the grouchy librarian. Said librarian, whose desk tag reads Seung-gil Lee, is engrossed in paperwork of some sort, and doesn’t look up when Viktor heads for the door.

He fetches his umbrella from the containers just inside of the front doors, and swings out into the rain.

It’s a long, soggy walk to Yu-Topia. The clouds obscure the late afternoon sun, making the world seem darker than it really should be. Visitors are congregated in the little restaurants and cafés; very few people are out in the street like Viktor is.

He passes the Visitor’s Centre on his way to the boardwalk. It is closed. The pier is empty, the Ferris Wheel and carousel both silent and unmoving. A shiver runs up Viktor’s spine at the eerie sight.

He passes by the closed boardwalk carnival game booths, by the ice cream parlour where Yuri Plisetsky is serving that brooding dark-haired boy that Viktor vaguely remembers mistaking for Yuuri at one of the Housewarming Week parties several weeks back. He briefly considers stopping in Kachu to see Christophe and to wheedle some liquid courage out of him, but then he sees Yu-Topia looming out of the sheets of rain, and he soldiers on. It wouldn’t do to show up in front of Yuuri’s family drunk. Mari might make good on whatever implied threats she was giving the last time they spoke to one another.

Yu-Topia is busy when Viktor steps into the lobby. There are people checking in and out, Mari seems to have the phone receiver permanently stuck to her cheek as she answers questions at the desk, and Yuuri is nowhere to be found. Viktor puts his umbrella into the holder by the door, and looks around at pictures of the Katsukis hanging in the lobby with new eyes. Those pictures of baby Yuuri — are they of the stillborn one, or the living one? Now his mind races with more questions than ever before.

“Viktor!” Viktor turns at the sound of his name. Mari Katsuki is staring pointedly at him, her hand over the receiver. “What do you want?”

Viktor shrugs. “I just wanted to try out the restaurant here,” he says.

Mari’s stare is hard, unconvinced. “It’s not open for dinner yet, but it’s through there,” she says, gesturing to a doorway leading off from the grand staircase, hung with noren and bearing a lectern just to the side with a copy of the menu resting on it. Viktor goes over to browse it, noting with a smile that the restaurant is advertising their breaded pork cutlet bowl as ‘Katsudon’s katsudon’, accompanied by a cute cartoon doodle of a seal.

He’s just closing the menu when he feels his neck prickle a bit, and he looks back to see Mari talking to a middle-aged couple. He recognises them via the photographs now — they’re Yuuri’s parents. And they’re both looking at him curiously as Mari continues to talk.

Viktor waves, smiling. The man, Toshiya, waves back. He and the woman — Hiroko, Viktor’s brain helpfully supplies — approach him a moment later, while Mari sneaks glances at them from where she’s helping a couple check in.

“Mr Nikiforov,” says Hiroko, bowing slightly once she stops in front of him. “What a nice surprise to meet you at last.” Her husband also bows, and Viktor notices that he’s wearing hearing aids. “Yuuri has been hiding you from us, so it was nice of you to come visit anyway.”

Viktor laughs, bows as well. “Here I am,” he says. “It is an honour to meet you.”

Toshiya signs something that makes Hiroko laugh. His gestures are different from Yuuri’s; Viktor suspects that they’re in Japanese Sign Language. “My husband says your manners are nice,” translates Hiroko. Viktor smiles.

“I try,” he says, putting his two pointer fingers together and brushing the right one past the left.

“Ah, my husband only knows JSL, I’m afraid,” says Hiroko, and she translates for him. Viktor is fascinated.

“Does that mean Yuuri knows JSL too?” he asks.

Hiroko nods, beaming. “He learnt both when he was young. Some of his friends at St Andrews say he uses British Sign with a Japanese accent, though.”

Even just the smallest clues into Yuuri’s childhood cause Viktor’s heart to flutter. “That’s adorable,” he says.

Hiroko’s eyes sparkle the same way Yuuri’s do when she smiles. “We generally eat before the dinner rush at the restaurant. So would you like to eat with us?” she asks.

And that is how Viktor finds himself being steered into a smaller dining room in the back of the restaurant. Unlike the tables and chairs in the main part of the restaurant, this smaller room has tatami flooring, low tables, and cushions for seating. After taking off his shoes, Viktor kneels at one of the tables with Toshiya across from him, and Hiroko bustles off to get them some food and drink.

Viktor sets down his bag, debating whether or not it would be impolite to take out a notebook so he can converse with Yuuri’s father. His dilemma is solved, though, when Toshiya pushes a notebook across the table at him with a picture of a teapot pouring tea and a question mark drawn on one of the pages.

Viktor nods. Toshiya smiles, and crosses the room to fix them a cuppa. He’s back within minutes with two steaming cups of genmaicha, pushing one towards Viktor. Viktor nods again in appreciation as he takes it and sips.

He offers a thumbs-up, hoping Toshiya won’t take it the wrong way, but it seems this gesture translates; Toshiya smiles in response and busies himself with sipping his tea. Viktor looks down at the notebook, and sighs. It’ll be hard to ask Toshiya the questions that he has, if he’s expected to ask them in pictures. Viktor’s drawing prowess is mostly restricted to stick figures.

Toshiya takes the notebook back after a moment, where he painstakingly writes: You are author?

Viktor nods.

You are Yūri’s favourite, writes Toshiya, smiling.

Viktor smiles, too. He takes out his own notebook and writes, I’m honoured. With a heart.

My English is not very good, but I try. Hard to hear and hard to learn when you are old, laments Toshiya.

English is also my second language. You’re doing very well, replies Viktor.

You win awards for writing, chides Toshiya. You flatter.

I learnt in school in Russia and never stopped practising. His fears about being misunderstood now assuaged, Viktor taps his lips with his pen as he thinks about the questions he wants to ask. He then writes: I have questions about Yūri.

Toshiya’s gaze is scrutinising from behind his glasses. What do you wish to know?

Viktor is about to reply when Hiroko returns with a tray full of food. There are little appetisers for sharing, some sashimi and sushi for Toshiya, and a big bowl of katsudon for Viktor.

“Yuuri mentioned that you liked the katsudon I packed for your excursions,” Hiroko explains as she takes a seat next to her husband. “It tastes even better fresh, you know!”

“Wow!” is all Viktor can reply, before he digs in. She’s right. It does taste even better fresh. Considering how heavenly it tasted before, this is… well. Viktor’s half-convinced his soul has ascended to another plane of existence at just the first bite.

Viktor finishes the bowl in record time, though he regrets shovelling that amount of food into his stomach soon enough when he tries to move and finds that he can’t. Toshiya laughs at him from across the table, and Viktor puts his head in his hands with a piteous moan.

“Oh, Vicchan,” sighs Hiroko, and the fact that she is calling him the same name as Yuuri’s late poodle is not lost on Viktor, “go slower the next time, alright?”

Viktor groans. “Or just never eat again for the rest of my life,” he mumbles.

“Nonsense,” says Hiroko. “Room for dessert?”

Viktor winces. Hiroko and Toshiya both laugh at him. Viktor closes his eyes, willing the ground to swallow him whole. Way to make a good first impression in front of Yuuri’s parents. What if Yuuri walks in on him like this, halfway into a food coma because he ate his dinner too fast? That would be beyond embarrassing.

“Toshiya says you have questions about Yuuri for us,” Hiroko says cheerily. Viktor looks up from the table at Yuuri’s parents, steeling himself for the task that he had brought upon himself. How can he ask them such intensely personal questions after they’ve been nothing but hospitable to him? This was a bad idea. He should have gone to Kachu and left these questions at the bottom of a bottle of vodka.

He takes a deep breath, and he says, “I saw something the other day at Bowhill Cemetery.”

Turns out he doesn’t need to elucidate, because suddenly Yuuri’s parents have gone oddly still. They look at one another, signing back and forth to one another with a strange franticness in their expressions. Viktor looks on in abject misery. He should have known this was crossing the line. Now they’ll never let him see Yuuri again.

After a moment, Hiroko looks at him, her expression pained. Viktor is pretty sure his heart isn’t supposed to wince at the sight, and yet it does.

“It’s a delicate situation,” Hiroko begins.

“You don’t need to tell me everything,” Viktor says, almost on reflex. “I don’t want to pry too much. I was just curious.”

“It is private,” agrees Hiroko. “Yuuri may come to tell you the story himself, on his own time. It is best we respect that.”

“So he knows,” says Viktor, before mentally smacking himself. Of course Yuuri knows. He saw the man put flowers on the other Yuuri’s grave, for fuck’s sake.

Hiroko nods. Viktor takes a sip of his tea, feeling relief seep through him. There’s so much more he wants to ask, but based on the expressions on their faces, he suspects he’s not going to get much more out of them.

He’s about to thank them for the meal and request a wheelbarrow so that he can be carted back to his cottage, when all of a sudden Hiroko’s face lights up and she starts signing at someone over Viktor's shoulder. Viktor turns, if only to confirm that Yuuri is indeed standing there, his gaze questioning. He feels guilt curl in his stomach at having shown up at Yuuri’s home without asking if it was okay. Even if he could have just been eating at the restaurant, it still feels like an invasion of Yuuri’s privacy, in a way.

Silently Yuuri kneels down next to him and takes Viktor’s notebook. What are you doing here? he writes.

Viktor purses his lips, watching Hiroko bustle away to get Yuuri some food. No use in lying, really. So he writes, I wanted to meet your family.

You could have asked me. Yuuri’s gaze is reproachful, but still soft. Miraculously, he doesn’t seem angry. I would have dressed better for the occasion.

Viktor’s exhale of relief comes out more like a bark of laughter as he takes in Yuuri’s frumpy grey tracksuit. I like it, he writes, adding a winky face. You look great.

Yuuri draws a blushing face in response. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to make it to your past couple of trips to the cove, he writes.

Viktor thinks back to glimpse he had caught of Yuuri at the cemetery just a few days ago. It’s all right, he writes back. I got a lot done, though!

Yuuri smiles at that, reaches out and squeezes Viktor’s hand, and Viktor’s heart thuds a little harder in response to that. There’s just something about Yuuri’s presence that puts all of Viktor’s doubts to rest, even just for this moment. He may still have questions, but just knowing that Yuuri is here, that the existence of those questions doesn’t negate Yuuri’s presence in his life, is a comfort that Viktor values beyond belief. Besides, if Yuuri knows about the strange circumstances surrounding this other Yuuri, then it’s rightfully his story to tell. If Viktor waits, he’ll hear it eventually.

Viktor Nikiforov isn’t a patient man, but as he takes another sip of his tea and watches Yuuri play with his vegetable tempura next to him, he thinks he can at least try to be.

Summertime at the Cove Concert Series 2016


featuring music by The HeartBeats Combo

23 June at 8PM
Torvill Cove Boardwalk

Pre-Show 6:30PM
with programming by students of the Minako Okukawa Dance School

Ballroom on the Beach 7PM
learn the Lindy Hop with Minako Okukawa and Celestino Cialdini

free admission | refreshments pass £7 general; £3 children under 16

It continues raining well into the week. During one of the few lulls in the ongoing storm, Viktor and Makkachin head to town in search of groceries.

They’re halfway through the boardwalk when the downpour resumes, and so must duck into the nearest establishment to wait out the storm. Fortunately for Viktor, it’s Kachu.

He shakes the water from his hair as soon as he crosses the threshold. Makkachin does the same, before barking happily at the sight of Christophe clearing up one of the tables.

“Makka, down,” instructs Viktor before his overeager poodle could bowl over yet another person. Makkachin complies with a whine, as Christophe turns to smile at Viktor.

“Viktor! Caught in the storm, I see?” he asks.

Viktor laughs weakly. “What gives that away?” he wonders.

“You look like you could use some help getting your hair dry.” Christophe disappears down a hallway and through a door. In the relative silence of the bar, Viktor can hear footsteps echoing in the floor above.

Moments later, a woman emerges from another doorway. “Christophe!” she calls towards the door. “Why haven’t you seated the new customer yet?”

Viktor laughs a little. “It’s fine; Chris went to get me some towels for my hair,” he calls.

The woman frowns a little. “Is he really,” she says, before sighing and crossing her arms. “Viktor Nikiforov, hm? I’ve heard things about you.”

Viktor tilts his head. “Minako Okukawa, I presume?” he asks, extending a hand.

She walks over to shake it, her gait still graceful like a dancer’s. “Yes,” she replies.

“What things have you heard about me? Good things, I should hope.” Viktor hopes it comes out more suave than he feels at this moment with his hair dripping all over her wooden floor and Makkachin still shaking the water from his fur and looking at Minako curiously.

She hums. “Yuuri would not stop talking about you the last time I saw him,” she replies. “And, of course, I’ve read your books.”

Viktor smiles. “Did you like them?” he asks.

Minako shrugs. “They were good,” she says. “But that’s not the point.”

“Really,” says Viktor. Minako pulls out a chair for him at a nearby table, and takes the other seat. Viktor sits down across from her, Makkachin immediately coming over to demand petting from the new stranger. Minako absently pats his head before fixing Viktor with a steady gaze.

“How much do you know about Yuuri Katsuki?” she asks.

Viktor’s stomach drops. “Is there something…” he begins, but she shakes her head.

“It’s none of my business who he tells, and it’s not my place to tell others for him,” she says. “I was just wondering if you already knew.”

“No,” says Viktor automatically, suspecting it has something to do with a certain gravestone in Bowhill Cemetery. “But does that matter?”

Minako purses her lips, shakes her head. “It shouldn’t,” she says, “but sometimes people think it does.”

“Then those people do not truly know him for who he is,” says Viktor, feeling a conviction he’s not entirely sure he should feel. After all, he too is only taking Yuuri on blind faith, though it’s a faith that Yuuri has yet to betray. Rather like how he trusts Katsudon not to harm Makkachin when they’re playing together…

(Come to think of it, he hasn’t seen Katsudon around lately…)

“You trust him?” asks Minako, her expression scrutinising. Viktor feels like he’s being tested for something he doesn’t even know about. “Even without knowing who he really is?”

Viktor nods. It’s as easy as breathing. “He hasn’t killed anyone, has he?” he jokes, though a part of him just wants to make sure.

Minako purses her lips. “No,” she says after a moment that seems a little too long. Viktor’s about to ask, when there’s the sudden sound of feet descending the stairs, and Christophe is there with a set of towels.

“Sorry it took so long!” the blond exclaims as he hands Viktor the smaller one and begins towelling off Makkachin with the bigger one. Viktor smiles at the sight, especially as Makkachin decides to ‘help’ Christophe by shaking off the rest of the water all over him. Christophe makes a spluttering noise and glowers good-naturedly at the poodle, and Viktor laughs. Even after all of these years, Makkachin’s still got his charm.

“He’s so sprightly for an old dog,” says Christophe, straightening up after Makkachin has shaken off the last of the water onto him. He takes the big towel, as well as the one Viktor has used on his own hair. “My aunt’s dogs were never this energetic when they got old.”

“Makkachin’s a forever puppy,” says Viktor, scritching his dog behind his ears. Makkachin boofs in agreement. From across the table, Minako watches them with the faintest of smiles on her face.

“Let’s get you something to drink,” she says after a moment, sending Christophe a pointed glance. He takes the hint, dropping off the towels in the kitchen before scurrying off to the bar. Viktor nods when he raises a glass, and Christophe immediately sets off to make him his usual vodka and tonic.

“Thanks,” Viktor says, when Christophe sets his drink down in front of him with a coaster, and leaves. Viktor examines it, smiling at the watercolour print of Torvill Cove on the front and the Crispino Winery logo on the back. As he sips his drink, Minako continues to scrutinise him, her expression now unreadable.

“He seems happy with you, you know,” she says after a moment. “Yuuri,” she adds in explanation, when Viktor raises a questioning eyebrow. “He comes to dance at my studio sometimes when he can’t… swim. The past couple of times he’s come to do that, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so eager to dance. To pick up new moves. And he won’t stop talking about how he’s finally meeting you at last.”

It’s like someone’s blowing up balloons in his chest; Viktor can’t remember the last time he felt this light. All he knows is that he doesn’t ever want to come down.

“Please, Viktor,” says Minako, and her eyes are pleading now. “Take care of him. If this is all part of some book you’re writing, let him know now before he — before he tells you anything that he might regret.”

“It’s not part of a book,” says Viktor, taking a sip of his drink.

“Then promise me that if Yuuri does something — if he says something — you’ll believe him. And you’ll be kind to him regardless.”

Her words are cryptic, perhaps a bit too much so. But there’s also a note of pleading in it, as if Minako is convinced that Viktor somehow has Yuuri’s life in his hands. He’s not sure how it’s possible, or why she’d be asking him of all people to do this. But he is sure that, if it does come down to it, he wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he did cause Yuuri pain.

So he nods, and finishes his drink. The rain outside is lightening up, and the first rays of a bleak afternoon sun are peeking through the clouds. Viktor stands up from his seat, taking out his wallet.

“Thanks for the drink,” he tells Minako, “but Makka and I must go get our groceries.”

“It’s on me,” says Minako. “Take care.”

Viktor nods, and he and Makkachin leave the bar to the sound of bells tinkling.

A Comparison of the Social Habits of Individual Members of P. v. vitulina in Torvill Cove, Scotland

Seung-gil Lee, Institute of Marine Research at Torvill College, University of the Highlands and Islands, Scotland
Yūko Nishigori, Torvill Cove Harbour Watch Conservation Group, Scotland
with the assistance of Kenjirou Minami, Kerr Academy, Torvill Cove, Scotland

This study examines the migratory habits of the Eastern Atlantic common seal (P. v. vitulina) in Torvill Cove, Scotland. Torvill Cove and its nearby points are popular haul-out locations for P. v. vitulina, but while the majority of these populations do not linger long, one seal in particular has done the exact opposite. We tagged this seal, a 23-year-old male named Katsudon, along with several others who appeared in Torvill Cove during pupping season in the summer of 2014, and we tracked their movements until moulting season in the fall of 2015. Our findings show that Katsudon usually makes contact with other haul-out groups for a day or two before resuming solitary behaviour, seemingly rejecting the social bonding opportunities offered by these other haul-out groups. This continued isolationist behaviour may explain why Katsudon has been appearing in Torvill Cove for 16 years already without any mates or pups. (more…)

When the storms finally clear out at the end of the week, Viktor heads back to the cove. Yuuri comes with him this time, carrying a picnic packed by Hiroko and dressed casually in shorts, an open short-sleeve collared shirt, and a T-shirt printed with a cartoon picture of a seal underneath it. Viktor has to remind himself to keep his gaze on the dangerous cliffside path under his feet, rather than on the way the morning light caresses Yuuri’s face as he walks just a little ahead of Viktor, a slight spring in his step.

At the cove, Viktor spreads out the blanket and immediately sits down to write, while Yuuri unpacks the rest of the basket before settling down next to Viktor, just close enough that Viktor is keenly aware of the centimetres of space between them and the warmth of Yuuri’s body hovering just out of reach. He leans into the touch, heart pounding furiously in his ribcage. Yuuri doesn’t pull back; in fact he leans in as well, his head coming to rest on Viktor’s shoulder. Viktor’s poor heart skips a beat.

Yuuri’s brought his little notebook with him this time, opening up past pages of scribbled conversations and doodles to a new page. Viktor watches, out of the corner of his eye, the furrow in Yuuri’s brow as he begins to write, the slight poking of his pink tongue from his lips. It’s suddenly much harder to pay attention to the words he’s trying to wrangle onto the page when every last corner of his mind has been taken over by thoughts of Yuuri. However, the more startling thing is that he doesn’t ever want his mind to lack thoughts of Yuuri in it ever again.

So he writes them down onto the page, lets them blur into the words he had already written. It’s no coherent manuscript at all, but it’s at least poetic. And he loses himself to these words, buries himself deep in the writing until his hands are cramping and he has to come back up for air.

That’s when he realises the familiar warmth of Yuuri by his side is missing. His notebook is on the blanket; their lunch remains untouched; Yuuri’s shoes are still in their place next to Viktor’s. But Yuuri himself is absent.

Viktor’s first instinct is to look towards the rocks. But Yuuri isn’t there, either. He looks at the notebook, which has been placed down open, and turns it over.

Gone swimming, back in a bit -Y

There’s also a little heart next to the Y, and Viktor smiles as he closes the notebook and sets it back down. If there’s anyone who’d know if this cove is safe for swimming, it’d be Yuuri. He’d do nothing but get himself hurt if he tries to go after Yuuri now.

So he settles back, watching the waves crash against the rocks on the other side of the cove with alarming ferocity. With each continued pound of the waves against the shore, however, Viktor has to actively quell the uneasy feeling in his stomach. Surely Yuuri knows what he’s doing? Would it hurt if he called for help? Maybe he could get Leo down here; a lifeguard would know what to do. The only experience Viktor’s had with CPR is when he practiced on a blow-up doll while writing On the Blades of Love, so he’s not exactly the most qualified to do it to Yuuri.

Viktor wrenches himself away from that rabbit hole of thoughts regarding giving Yuuri mouth-to-mouth in any sort of context, and tries to refocus on his writing. He only manages to get down a couple more words before his brain gives up, and he jumps to his feet and heads towards the rocks.

Viktor’s glad he’s wearing shorts as the tide rolls in up to his calves. When he reaches the rocks, he notices that Yuuri’s clothes and glasses are all there, folded up neatly and slightly damp from the sea spray.

He takes them, and eyes the jagged edges of the rocks warily. How did Yuuri get up there in the first place? Where could he have gone from here? Viktor clumsily clambers onto the rocks, hoping that he can get a better vantage point from up there.

The rocks are slick with saltwater, causing Viktor to stay low and step carefully. He looks out towards the sea, eyes scanning for Yuuri’s familiar mop of black hair. Nothing.

“Calm down,” he mutters to himself. “Yuuri’s probably underwater at this moment.”

But being underwater would make things worse. Viktor tries to take deep breaths, tries to slow the racing of his heart. He startles when a black head does pop up from the waves, but as it gets closer, he realises that the head belongs to a seal, not a human.

“Katsudon!” Viktor shouts, even though it’s a supremely stupid idea — seals don’t understand English, after all — “Katsudon, help!”

The seal swims closer. Viktor’s heart leaps in his chest.

“Katsudon, I don’t know if you understand, but —” Viktor cuts off. This is supremely stupid, but then Viktor is also supremely desperate. “I know you saved me back in May during the storm — thank you for that, by the way — but have you seen a man with dark hair? He’s probably not wearing clothes, since I have them right now — and hopefully he’s not at the bottom of the ocean or something?”

The seal quirks its head at him, intelligent dark eyes boring into Viktor’s. He feels his cheeks heat up.

“I’m sorry, why am I even doing this. I should call Leo instead of talking to a seal.” Viktor clutches the clothes tighter to his chest, his lips pressing against the cold blue frames of Yuuri’s glasses. He can almost smell Yuuri’s scent on these clothes still, and he madly hopes it’s not the last time he’ll smell it. Looking out at Katsudon, Viktor sighs. “If you know what I’m talking about, though, please.” He swallows. “He means a lot to me. Please find him.”

Katsudon’s sleek black head disappears below the surf. Viktor exhales. Another wave crashes onto the rocks, salt spray hitting his face. He slowly clambers down, waiting until he’s only ankle deep in water on the cove side of the rocks before taking out his mobile to ring Leo.

He’s just about to press call when another head pops up from the rocks. Viktor blinks, and lowers his phone. It’s Yuuri, his hair dripping into his eyes, his chest heaving as he hauls himself onto the rocks and…


He’s terribly wet. And terribly naked. Because Viktor is holding his clothes.

Yuuri runs a hand through his hair to get it out of his eyes, and Viktor has a sudden desire to not give Yuuri’s clothes back to him, because good God, he looks ravishing like that. Viktor just wants to reach out, to touch the softness of Yuuri’s belly, to feel his heartbeat beneath his hand, to tease his fingers down the glistening black curls leading from Yuuri’s navel downwards —  

And then Yuuri locks gazes with Viktor, and before he can even protest, all of the blood in Viktor’s body is migrating southward. He moves the clothes bundle to block the bulge from Yuuri’s gaze, feeling his cheeks redden.

But Yuuri seems oblivious to Viktor’s plight. He moves his hands down his chest in two short rotations, and then points at the clothes as if he hadn’t noticed that Viktor is covering his crotch with them. Viktor swallows, desperately keeping his eyes trained on Yuuri’s face.

Yuuri slumps a bit, points at the clothes again, and then makes the gesture for please.

Viktor steps forward with the clothes, handing them over to Yuuri. “Are you sure you don’t need a towel?” he asks, hating how strained his voice sounds. He’s never been more thankful in this moment that Yuuri seems to be quite nearsighted without his glasses. “Getting your clothes even more wet won’t be fun.”

Yuuri clenches his hands like he’s holding two sticks and then moves them diagonally away from his body, before spreading one hand and turning it palm-up.

“You didn’t bring one?” wonders Viktor. Yuuri nods. “You went swimming, and you didn’t bring a towel?” Or swim trunks, apparently. Viktor wouldn’t have pegged Yuuri as the sort to spontaneously skinny dip in the ocean, but then the man seems constantly full of surprises.

Viktor briefly thinks of the grave in Bowhill Cemetery before he steps back again, and makes a point of turning around so that Yuuri can get dressed. After a moment, he feels a tap on his arm, and he turns to see Yuuri, now clothed, smiling expectantly at him.

Hoping his arousal subsides soon, Viktor swallows and gestures for Yuuri to lead them to the blanket.

They eat their lunches in silence, Yuuri’s cheeks dusted a light pink as he eats. Now that he has his glasses on, he seems to be carefully keeping his gaze trained on Viktor’s face, for which Viktor is immensely grateful.

By the time he finishes eating, he’s back to normal again, though normal is still relative considering how much of his brain is still fixated on the memory of Yuuri clambering over the rocks dripping wet and gloriously nude. He’ll have restless dreams tonight, he’s sure of it.

Yuuri sprawls out on the blanket once he’s packed away their bento boxes and utensils, idly peeling at a clementine. There’s a playfulness sparkling in his eyes now, and when he looks at Viktor, Viktor swallows heavily. Definitely restless dreaming. He shifts a little, suddenly preoccupied with retrieving his notebook and pen.

Moments later, he looks up from his pitiful attempts at picking up his writing by a tap on his arm. Yuuri is holding out a piece of clementine, smiling. Viktor opens his mouth, and enjoys the flush on Yuuri’s cheeks as he puts the fruit into his mouth.

He’s never tasted anything sweeter. After the initial hesitation, Yuuri feeds him the rest of the pieces without fear. Viktor savours the sweet tang of the juice on his tongue, each piece a little burst of flavour that brings Yuuri closer to him. By the time the last piece touches his lips, Yuuri is pressed against the side of Viktor’s thighs, their faces mere centimetres apart.

Viktor opens his mouth to accept the last piece, but now he closes his lips around Yuuri’s fingers as well, gently sucking at the tips. Yuuri’s skin has a hint of salt from the sea and a hint of tart from the clementine peel, made all the more sweeter by the flush creeping down his neck and the sudden darkening of his warm brown eyes.

Viktor grins a little when he lets go of Yuuri’s fingers with a soft ‘pop’, and Yuuri’s breath hitches. It’s only fair, given how much Yuuri had tormented him earlier.

(Although that had been more accidental than anything. Viktor’s nothing if not petty, anyway.)

“Why didn’t you tell me you were going swimming?” Viktor asks. Yuuri raises an eyebrow, before taking his notebook and showing Viktor his note. Viktor shakes his head. “No, I know that you left a note. I meant, why didn’t you get my attention when I was writing?”

Yuuri writes, You looked busy. I didn’t want to interrupt.

Viktor opens to a page in his own notebook and writes, I’m never too busy for you.

Yuuri huffs in laughter, and responds, I hope I didn’t worry you too much? I just needed some time to think. I find I think best in the water.

Viktor smiles. I understand. But I was worried, since the rocks here are quite sharp. I feared that you might have gotten hurt.

I’m fine, replies Yuuri. After a moment, he adds, But I’m touched that you cared.

Of course I cared, says Viktor, frowning a bit as he shows the message to Yuuri. I wouldn’t know what to do if you got hurt while with me.

I thought you did extensive research into drowning and resuscitation for that novel you wrote about speed-skating mermaids, Yuuri points out, quirking an eyebrow.

Viktor laughs. Yes, but that didn’t prepare me for what I would feel. He underlines the last word a couple times, and watches Yuuri turn redder than a tomato. He smiles at the sight, and Yuuri hides his face behind his right hand briefly before writing again.

I’m sorry for causing you worry, he says.

Viktor chuckles. I even asked a seal for help, I was so worried.

Yuuri snorts. I know, he says.

So you heard me talking to Katsudon? wonders Viktor.

Yuuri purses his lips. His brows scrunch at the sentence. Yes, he writes, after a moment. I did.

Viktor elbows him gently. “So I got all worried for nothing!” he exclaims.

Yuuri shrugs at him, before writing, I’m sorry?

“You!” exhales Viktor. He’s not even mad. He knows he should be, at least just a little, but he feels nothing but exhilaration, and, in a fit of mischief, he reaches out and lightly skims a hand along Yuuri’s side.

Yuuri spasms inward immediately, his own fingers wriggling in front of his torso as if to tell Viktor that it tickles. Viktor raises an eyebrow and tickles him again, watching how Yuuri’s body moves as though he’s laughing, though no sound comes out of him.

Viktor gets a couple more tickles in before Yuuri puts his palm out to stop him. He does, watching Yuuri regain his breath. He’s leaning even more heavily against Viktor now, half of his body practically in Viktor’s lap. When Yuuri shifts a little so that he’s settled more fully with his head in Viktor’s lap, Viktor feels his heart do a flip.

Yuuri raises a questioning eyebrow, before holding out a thumbs-up. Viktor nods, responding with his own. Grinning, Yuuri puts his hands down and looks up at him, his expression the most open that Viktor has ever seen, and… well, Viktor can’t help himself. He reaches out, tucking a stray strand of hair out of Yuuri’s eyes, before skimming a finger down his cheek. Yuuri leans into the touch, still smiling.

They sit like this for the rest of the afternoon, with Viktor writing and Yuuri reading what he’s written, and by the time the sky begins to slip into the lights of the golden hour, Viktor’s filled up more than ten pages, and Yuuri is sound asleep in his lap.

He has to wake Yuuri for the walk home, and he can’t help but smile when he nudges Yuuri awake but only gets a disgruntled and probably quite rude gesture in response. Yuuri is adorable even when he’s tired, and part of Viktor is tempted to just remain here through the night with him.

Maybe some other day, he tells himself, as he shakes Yuuri again. This time he’s more successful; Yuuri gets off him so that he can pack up the picnic. But he’s still groggy enough for Viktor to have to put his shoes on him, and he leans heavily against Viktor for most of the climb and the walk home.

Viktor doesn’t mind at all.

A selection of labels from the local artists’ gallery at the Torvill Cove Town Hall

Charles Fraser (b. 1864)
The Dancing Seals, 1891
oil on canvas

Ian Hanretty (b. 1895)
Torvill Fishermen in the Early Morning, 1914
oil on canvas

Sinead Keiller (b. 1938)
Seal in a Winter Mist at Lovers’ Point, 1969
watercolours on paper

Toshiya Katsuki (b. 1962)
Tea Clipper, 2008
ship in a bottle

Christophe Giacometti (b. 1991)
Study of a Scottish Hedgehog, 2014
projection print

Georgi Popovich (b. 1991)
Tales of the Sleeping Prince, 2016
mixed media on canvas

Viktor has forgotten just how eerie darkrooms can be.

Christophe has finally managed to wrangle him into his. It’s in the basement of the same building as Kachu. Given that Christophe and Minako both live in the floor above said bar, it’s a miracle that anyone at the bar gets served. Viktor knows that if he’d lived above his 9-5 job, he’d definitely take his sweet time getting to work in the mornings.

Not that he doesn’t already take his sweet time getting to writing. Yakov has given up on calling twice a day and instead settles for calling once a week. Viktor has been hinting at another poem compilation, but Yakov seems determined to wrest yet another novel out of him.

He shakes himself out of his reverie after a moment. Christophe is showing him how he’s developing the prints. Viktor only half-listens, mostly feeling overwhelmed at the metallic smell permeating the room. He’d also forgotten how strong the scent of development chemicals can be.

He watches as Christophe moves a print off the enlarger and puts it into the developer. Christophe lets him help swirl the tray full of developer for a second or two, and Viktor watches, transfixed, as the familiar image of a seal begins to appear on the paper.

“Finally got a picture of Katsudon, huh?” he asks.

Christophe chuckles. “Yes,” he admits. “Caught him with a pod of other harbour seals just last week.”

“Making friends?” wonders Viktor, as Christophe moves the print into the stop bath.

“He hauled out with them for a bit, but then I think he got into a fight with one of the other males and left.” Christophe shrugs. “I documented some portion of it on my camera; if you wanna wait for me to print the rest of the negatives, you’ll be able to see for yourself.”

“I’m fine,” says Viktor, looking down at the image. “Was Katsudon hurt?” he asks after a moment.

“Not that I know of?” wonders Christophe. “It was a pretty vicious fight, though. And Katsudon’s supposed to be old by seal years — he’s twenty-three already, and male harbour seals don’t tend to live past twenty-five.” He moves the print again into the fixer. “He’s honestly looking pretty good for his age, too, if you ask me. He moves like he’s a much younger seal. It’s kind of magical.”

Viktor murmurs in agreement, watching the image of Katsudon flicker in the movement of the fixing solution. After a minute, Christophe moves the print into a water rinse, and leaves it there. Viktor steps over to watch the water gush over the photo, rinsing off the chemicals. Katsudon’s figure seems to shimmer in the dim red light.

“You think maybe Katsudon’s not an ordinary seal?” Viktor asks after a moment. Christophe hums, checking his watch.

“No,” he says. “I’m certain he’s not ordinary. There’s been tons of papers by students at the Institute of Marine Research up at the college about his odd behaviours with regards to all the pods of other seals that come by. It’s not the first time he’s socially rejected or gotten into fights with other seals, you know.”

“Maybe he’s territorial, then,” says Viktor.

“No, he’s fine with them hauling out with him. He’s the only one who’s really established Torvill as home, though, so he never really ends up leaving with any of the groups that come by. Especially not if he fights with one of them.”

“Maybe it’s mating season and he’s just being aggressive,” muses Viktor.

Christophe snorts. “I’ve read all of the papers, you know. That’s the one thing all the university kids are particularly stumped by. It seems that in Katsudon’s sixteen years of calling Torvill Cove home, he’s never once demonstrated mating behaviours.” He pauses. “And as adorable as that video of him kissing you was, I doubt that was any sort of mating behaviour.”

“Good,” says Viktor. “That’s one less awkward ‘meet the parents’ thing I’ll have to schedule.”

Christophe hums. “You really should read the papers yourself, you know,” he says after a moment. “I’m sure you’ll find them rather illuminating.”

Viktor nods. He can almost see the conspiracy theory wheels turning in Christophe’s head, and he doesn’t want to encourage that anymore than he already may have. So instead he watches the shimmer of the water over the photo, and tries not to think about the grave at Bowhill Cemetery.

When the photo print’s done and dried, Christophe gifts it to Viktor. In the reddish light of the darkroom, Katsudon’s fur is a night sky streaked with stars for highlights. The more Viktor looks at this photo, the more he believes in Christophe’s words: this is no ordinary seal. Seals may be intelligent in their own ways, remembering haul-out locations and having tactics for catching fish and attracting mates — but Katsudon has something more. Something ‘kind of magical’.

Almost human.

Viktor swallows. “Christophe,” he says suddenly, his voice sounding hoarse.

“Hm?” asks the blond, who’s busy pouring his chemicals back into their containers. The smell of vinegar tingles at Viktor’s nostrils.

He briefly pinches his nose to try and stop the sensation. “Do you remember when the library closes?”


  1. Observe all hours of operation. Yes. We close at 6PM during summer hours. I want to go to the beach too, you know. It’s not like you have research papers to do during the summer anyway, and if you do, go to the Torvill College Library. They never close, those heathens.
  2. Respect the silence of the library. Any talking above 50 decibels is strongly discouraged. The only reason I’m not allowed to call it ‘expressly prohibited’ is because I don’t have the time to measure how loud you’re being.
  3. No food or drink. Water is permissible only in bottles that close. I hate having to replace food-stained library materials. I hate having to clean Wotsits powder from keyboards even more. Anyone caught eating Wotsits in my library will be banned for a year.
  4. Do not pet my dogs without my permission. Some of them get a little skittish and will bite. I will not be held responsible for any injuries sustained by your own idiocy.
  5. If for some reason you insist on using the library’s WiFi to play videos or music, please use headphones. We rent them at the front desk if you don’t own any.
  6. No snogging in the stacks. No shagging in the stacks, either, for that matter. Anyone getting caught doing these activities will be publicly shamed in the Torvill Cove Reporter and then possibly banned for life.

Viktor manages to get into the library half an hour before closing, the photograph of Katsudon still clutched in his hands as he begins scouring the shelves downstairs for the books he needs.

He comes across Nikolai Plisetsky’s book The Ghosts of Torvill Cove, and pulls it down from the shelves, opening it to the chapter about the lighthouse ghosts. One of them had been about a young woman who had drowned at sea after following her lover out into the water and discovering his secret. Viktor swallows as his fingers trail down the words of the story, all the way to:

She watches as her lover pulls out from a secret crevasse in the rock a sleek, grey sealskin.

Viktor exhales. He keeps reading. The lover does not speak when he discovers the woman following him, merely wraps himself in the skin and vanishes into the waters.

Selkie,” the Grey Maiden breathes, and Viktor says the word along with her, and slams the book closed.

He trails his fingers down the spines of more and more books — Orcadian, Faroese, Irish legends — pulling out anything remotely promising from the shelves. He’s creating a mess of books all over the floor, and he suspects Seung-gil will probably hunt him down at closing time and kill him for it, but in the meantime, he sits down next to these books and he frantically skims through their indexes, scanning for the vital word. When he finds the relevant pages, he flips to them, devouring each and every entry.

I am a man upon the land,” Viktor murmurs, “I am a selkie in the sea…”

Stories of heartbreak and betrayal pour forward, of hidden identities and secrets kept from spouses and children. An overwhelming sense of loss seeps from each legend, each poem, each story. Viktor’s finger traces the image of a selkie-woman in one of the books’ illustrations, his heart pounding in his chest. Can he really believe this? Could this really be the best explanation he has for the mystery that’s right under his nose?

A mysterious young man using the name of a stillborn child, living a borrowed life, laying flowers on that child’s gravestone like he’s giving thanks for that life.

A mysterious young man, expressive in his silence, who rises from the waves like he had been born in them, sunlight turning the water droplets on his skin to pearls.

Yuuri Katsuki, who are you? Viktor wonders yet again. He dimly feels the book in his hand drop to the library floor, but he makes no move to retrieve it.

It’s a ridiculous, outlandish theory. And yet, it is still so plausible. Yuuri and the seal are probably around the same age, share the same favourite food, behave in similar ways. Hadn’t he been saved by Katsudon once and thought that he’d been saved by Yuuri instead? Hadn’t he been convinced that it was Yuuri, because there’s no way a seal could fold his coat or retrieve his shoes from the bottom of the ocean, and put them both in the boat he’d borrowed? Would it really be much of a stretch to think them one and the same?

Viktor puts his head in his hands and groans. If this is true, then he must’ve made such an unbelievable twat of himself that one time at the secret cove when he asked Katsudon where Yuuri was.

He thinks, then, of the other people in the town. How many of them know?

You never really know with Yuuri; he can be pretty surprising sometimes.

Maybe Katsudon’s just smarter than you think.

It’s a delicate situation. Yuuri may tell you the story himself, on his own time.

How much do you know about Yuuri Katsuki?

In hindsight, it seems as if a lot of people have been pushing him towards this conclusion already. And while Viktor had been blind before, he’s still not willing to buy into this theory completely.

He picks up one of the books, flipping back to one of the legends he had read. “Oh bonnie man, if there is any mercy in your human breast, give me back my sealskin,” he murmurs. “I cannot live in the sea without it. I can not live among my own people without my sealskin.”

If Yuuri is indeed a selkie — if Yuuri is indeed Katsudon — then he has to have a sealskin somewhere. And if Viktor is to believe in this impossibility, then he has to see proof of it somehow, somewhere.

By the time Seung-gil comes downstairs to yell at him to get out of the library because it’s long past six, Viktor is already trying to think of a way to ask Yuuri for the truth.

To: Yuuri ❤
are you busy the night of the 23rd?

From: Yuuri ❤
no why?

To: Yuuri ❤
there’s a dance on the boardwalk and i was wondering if you wanted to go

From: Yuuri ❤
you know i’m not a fan of dances

To: Yuuri ❤
it’s just swing! nothing too wild.
you were an amazing dancer at the leroys
and they’re teaching the steps before the dance starts so if you don’t know then we can learn together ( ´ ♡ ` ʃƪ) ♥ ♥ ♥

From: Yuuri ❤
you don’t know how to swing?

To: Yuuri ❤
i know a little, and it’s just leader stuff
i want you to lead though (*´ ♡ ˘*)

From: Yuuri ❤
well i do know a little too

From: Yuuri ❤
it’s not one of minako’s favourites but i bet celestino begged her so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

To: Yuuri ❤
but will you come with me? (◕♡◕✿)

From: Yuuri ❤
you said it’s on the 23rd?

To: Yuuri ❤
yeah it’s at 8
but there’s a pre-show at 6:30 and dance lessons start at 7
it’s free admission but you can pay £7 for unlimited refreshments
also it’s on the boardwalk so you’re probably going to hear it all night long anyway why not come out and have a good time

From: Yuuri ❤
sometimes i hate living right next to the biggest party venue in town ಠ_ಠ

To: Yuuri ❤
funny, i don’t have that problem at my place at all ★~(◠♡◕✿)

From: Yuuri ❤
i’ll think about the dance

To: Yuuri ❤
i’ll spend the entire night under your window if you don’t come
jk i don’t even know which window is yours
but i’ll be looking sadly towards yu-topia all night long anyway
wondering why my lovely cinderella refused to come to the ball 。゚(゚´Д`゚)゚。

From: Yuuri ❤
ヾ(´▽`;)ゝ ok ok i’ll come

To: Yuuri ❤
you sure? i was mostly joking
i don’t want to guilt you into it

From: Yuuri ❤
no, i’m only coming if you promise you won’t ditch me

To: Yuuri ❤
that’s easy! we’ll dance together all night long!

From: Yuuri ❤

To: Yuuri ❤

Chapter Text

SHALLWESKATE: hey everyone
SHALLWESKATE: this is a psa
SHALLWESKATE: some kids are having a bonfire next thursday on the beach at sundown
SHALLWESKATE: it’s for midsummer’s eve
SHALLWESKATE: we should go ;)
yuripurrsetsky: fucking twats stole our thunder
mila_b: yeah man we’re having a bonfire afterparty at our place after the dance (
leooooo: um who says we can’t do both
sara-crispino: well those kids are gonna get in trouble for their bonfire bc they’re doing it on public property but you guys can probably get away with it so who’s the real winner here ;)
mila_b: i like the way u think ;)))
yuripurrsetsky: ew get a room
gh_kawaii: i wanna go to both tho! sounds like fun :)
pxpxvxch: love is dead (
dirtycocktail: alcohol isn’t! u sound like u could use some!
SHALLWESKATE: u guys know what we should do tho
yuripurrsetsky: why
yuripurrsetsky: this isn’t english class go away
SHALLWESKATE: that means u should wear the donkey head
yuripurrsetsky: i’d like to see u try and put that on me
yuripurrsetsky: i’ll cut u
yuripurrsetsky: don’t fuck w me

Viktor is settling in for a lazy afternoon nap with Makkachin on his living room couch when he hears a banging on his back door. He gets up to go check, ignoring Makkachin’s whine of protest as he extricates himself from the poodle. The light pouring into the cottage is cold and grey, and there’s a strong wind blowing in for mid-June. Through the windows looking out onto the ocean he can see the faint colourful splashes of sailboats on the waters.

None of that prepares him for the visitor at his back door. Yuuri is standing there, draped in what looks like a discarded sailcloth tied together by rope. It looks like something out of a Disney film, and Viktor can’t help but laugh a little at its ridiculousness. But the grin immediately slides off his face when he notices that Yuuri is holding himself a little differently.

There are bite and scratch marks all over his neck, his hands, and his feet. Some of them are bleeding. Viktor winces at the viciousness of the injuries; wordlessly, he lets Yuuri into his kitchen, pushing him towards the table and gesturing for him to sit. Yuuri does so, and the sailcloth bunches up around him in a way that would have been funny had Yuuri not been hurt.

“I’ve got a first-aid kit somewhere,” Viktor says, rummaging in the cupboards until he comes across the tin and the bottle of antiseptic. “What happened to you?”

Yuuri’s cheeks flush a little, and he moves his fists like a boxer with just the faintest hint of a wince. Viktor understands immediately, even if his British Sign Language is nowhere near fluent.

“You got into a fight, huh? Full of surprises again,” he remarks, as he fills a bowl with warm water and soap. “Did you win?”

Yuuri nods, eyes shining. Viktor chuckles, kneeling at Yuuri’s feet with the bowl and a clean washcloth grabbed from the linen closet. He dips the cloth into the water, and waves it at Yuuri.

“I’m going to clean your wounds, okay?” he says. Yuuri bites his lip, his hands moving to protest, but then he winces again, and nods. Viktor nods as well, gently taking Yuuri’s foot in his hand and touching the towel to the wounds on his foot. He tries to make his movements gentle but firm, wiping away the bloodied sand from both of Yuuri’s feet with the towel before placing them into the bowl of water to soak.

“Now, your hands,” he says, and goes to the sink to clean out the washcloth.

He repeats the process with Yuuri’s hands, before throwing out the dirtied water at Yuuri’s feet and refilling it with clean warm water. Then he turns his attention to Yuuri’s neck, where the wounds seem particularly fresh.

“Thank god whoever bit you didn’t hit anything vital,” Viktor remarks. “I mean, I’m not a doctor, so I don’t know why you even came to me…” he trails off, dabbing the towel at the nape of Yuuri’s neck. Yuuri winces. Viktor sighs.

Most of the wounds are shallow, superficial; the watery blood makes it look much worse than it really is. Viktor’s no expert, but he’s pretty sure that these cuts will heal given time and careful cleaning and monitoring. Still, for someone to get bitten on the hands and feet during a fight

He thinks of the gravestone in the cemetery and represses a shudder. He’s not going to think about strange coincidences and conspiracy theories now, not when Yuuri needs his help. So he throws out the dirty water again and goes to get the cotton rounds out of his bathroom for the antiseptic.

“I’m going to put some antiseptic on your wounds,” he informs Yuuri once he’s back at the man’s feet, cotton rounds in hand. He pours a bit of antiseptic on one of them. “This is going to sting a bit.”

Sure enough, Yuuri hisses when the antiseptic first touches his bite marks. As Viktor continues to clean them, he notes that they’re not human.

“What the hell did you do, fight a shark?” he wonders. Yuuri glares at him and shakes his head. Viktor drops the subject, carefully cleaning the rest of Yuuri’s wounds with the antiseptic before applying antibacterial ointment on them, just to be safe.

He rummages through the bandages in the first-aid kit, and sighs when he can’t find anything of decent enough size for most of the wounds other than gauze and pads. So he carefully dresses Yuuri’s hands and feet in those, laughing a little at his handiwork when he’s done.

“You look a bit like a mummy,” he remarks. Yuuri rolls his eyes. Viktor then takes some smaller plasters, and places them on the wounds on Yuuri’s neck. “There,” he says. “Now you’re a walking bandage collection. Serves you right to get mauled by a shark or whatever you did out there today.”

Yuuri makes a writing gesture. Viktor hands him pen and paper, and Yuuri scribbles (with some wincing): I didn’t fight a shark. I fought a seal.

Viktor laughs. “Why are you beating up the seals?” he wonders. “Aren’t they endangered enough?”

He was being rude. Yuuri’s eyes gleam with defiance. It’s remarkably sexy on him. Viktor tries to will the blush away from his cheeks, to no avail.

“Well, as long as it wasn’t Katsudon you fought, I’m fine with it,” he says. Yuuri raises an eyebrow at him, and Viktor smiles. “Now, about your clothes and glasses…”

They’re at home, writes Yuuri. I came here instead of Yu-Topia because the fight was closer to here.

“I don’t remember telling you my address,” Viktor points out.

I see you and Makkachin head out of this house all the time. A pause. That sounds creepy. Sorry.

Viktor laughs. “It’s fine,” he says. If anything, that admission makes him feel a little better about his own prying. “I can call Mari and have her come and pick you up?”

Yuuri makes the sign for ‘thank you’. His stomach then makes an audible rumbling noise, and he smiles sheepishly before writing, Do you have any snacks?

“Um,” replies Viktor, frowning. He still has some salted mackerel from last month that he’s still finishing up, but he doubts Yuuri would be interested in that. “I can make you something?”

Yuuri shakes his head, eyes wide as if he doesn’t want Viktor to go to all of that trouble. Even an apple or a bag of crisps will do, he writes.

“Let me check,” says Viktor, opening his fridge. The smell of mackerel hits him immediately and he throws an apologetic grin at Yuuri over his shoulder, before rummaging through his tupperware until — wait! There’s still the slice of strawberry icebox pie that he’d made a couple days ago. He’d eaten most of it, and he’d been saving this last piece for dessert tonight.

He pulls out the slice with a flourish, as well as a container of whipped cream so he can squirt a dollop onto it to perk up the otherwise rather sad-looking leftover slice. He then takes a fork and sets the entire thing down in front of Yuuri, cutting him a little forkful and presenting it to his lips.

“You were wincing while you were writing,” he explains, when Yuuri frowns at him. And while Yuuri can be a tad stubborn in his insistence on his self-reliance, this time he capitulates and opens his mouth for the pie. Viktor swallows as Yuuri’s lips close around the fork, and he hastily hides his cheeks behind one hand so that Yuuri won’t see too much of his blush.

Yuuri flashes him a thumbs-up when he swallows, so they continue like this, Viktor feeding Yuuri small slices of pie. When Yuuri licks away the extra whipped cream from his lips, Viktor has to look away; when he looks back, Yuuri is grinning at him, because tormenting Viktor Nikiforov seems to be his daily pastime.

(And Viktor’s pretty sure he wouldn’t have it any other way.)

Soon, the pie is all gone, and much to Viktor’s chagrin, Yuuri insists on making sure the fork is clean. Beaming, the dark-haired man then writes: Did you make that pie?

Viktor nods again, taking the dish and putting it in the sink. “Did you like it?” he asks, though it’s a bit redundant to ask at this point, given all the evidence to the positive.

Let me guess, Yuuri writes instead, you learnt how to bake because of Cherry-Flipped.

“I’m very thorough,” agrees Viktor.

Just like how you learnt the flip jump for The King and the Skater.

“Well, if the old adage is ‘write what you know’, then the more you know, the more you can write.”

Yuuri makes an expression that Viktor by now takes as his equivalent to ‘touché’, and then gets up from the table. He sends a questioning glance towards Viktor, gesturing towards the living room, and Viktor nods.

“Let me call Mari, and then I’ll give you a proper tour,” he offers, and Yuuri beams. Viktor then rings the Yu-Topia Resort’s front desk, hoping that Mari’s on duty like she tends to be most of the time. It would be awkward if he got someone else.

Thankfully, she picks up after the third ring. “Yu-Topia Seaside Resort. How can I help you?”

“It’s Viktor,” says Viktor. “Yuuri’s with me, and he needs someone to come pick him up.”

What happened to him?” Mari asks, a note of concern in her voice.

“He got into a fight while swimming, I think? I’ve managed to clean and dress his wounds, but you might want to take him to a doctor just to be safe, since his wounds are bite marks. He’s also going to need his clothes and glasses.”

There’s a pause and a sigh. “I’ll be right there,” says Mari, and hangs up. Viktor nods at Yuuri, who’s looking a bit sheepish.

“Your sister’s coming to get you,” he says. “But in the meantime, let me show you my cottage.”

Yuuri seems enchanted by the living spaces that Viktor takes him through. He admires the matryoshkas on the mantelpiece in the den, and browses appreciatively through Viktor’s small collection of figure skating memorabilia from his King and the Skater research trips.

Do you do most of your writing here? he writes, gesturing to the desk in the den where Viktor’s laptop sits.

Viktor shakes his head. “I prefer to write outside, or in the kitchen. Sometimes in bed, if I’m really lazy.”

Yuuri makes that huffing laugh again, and takes Viktor by the hand and pulls him back into the living room. Makkachin is still slumbering on the couch, dreaming sweet dreams full of buns and ice cream. Yuuri pets him fondly, before sending a pointed look towards an old white upright piano in the corner.

“That came with the place,” says Viktor. “It’s terribly out of tune. I checked.”

But you do play? wonders Yuuri. Viktor nods. Yuuri grins. I don’t remember reading any stories about pianists from you, he muses, and then adds, with a blush, And I think I’ve read all of your published works.

Viktor has never been so happy to find out someone has read his entire corpus before. “No, it wasn’t for a story,” he confirms. “I took some lessons as a kid from my grandmother, before she lost her hearing. And then I started getting back into it about… two years ago? Before I moved to Manchester, anyway. I was missing Saint Petersburg and my grandmother for a while there, so I took a couple classes to try and remember how it felt.”

Yuuri’s smile is worth a million words. He lifts the fall board of the piano, fingers hesitant, and presses the lowest key. Makkachin startles out of sleep with a yelp, causing Viktor to laugh. Yuuri sends an apologetic glance at Makkachin, who glares at him before padding off to go sleep somewhere else.

Yuuri presses a couple more keys, before looking at Viktor, a playful daring in his expression that Viktor understands immediately.

He takes a seat at it, puts his fingers on the keys, and taps out a simple melody. It’s completely improvised, and on the out-of-tune keyboard it sounds kind of atrocious. But Yuuri smiles anyway, his brown eyes dancing, and Viktor can’t help the giddy warmth in his stomach as he looks up at this beautiful dark-haired man standing so close to him.

When he finishes, Yuuri applauds him, beaming. There’s a ring of the doorbell at the front door, so Viktor closes the fall board and crosses the living room to answer the door.

Mari is on the front step, a car parked not too far behind her. She has a lit cigarette in one hand and a tote bag in the other. “Yuuri’s clothes,” she says, thrusting the bag at Viktor. “His glasses are in there.”

“Thanks,” says Viktor, taking the bag. Mari fixes him with a hard glare.

“You better use protection,” she says.

Viktor can feel his cheeks colouring rapidly. “Nothing’s happening,” he protests.

Right,” she says, winking at him. “I’ll be waiting in the car. Get him dressed and out here in five.”

Viktor nods, closes the door. He then turns to Yuuri, who had taken a seat on the couch in the living room, and hands him the bag. The dark-haired man’s cheeks are also bright pink, having heard the exchange between his sister and Viktor.

The air between them suddenly feels tense and heated. Viktor lets his gaze linger a little on Yuuri’s exposed clavicle, and tries to suppress the urge to go and fight this other seal for marking up Yuuri’s creamy skin.

“Um,” he says instead, rubbing at the nape of his neck. “I’ll let you get changed.”

And he ducks into his den and shuts the French doors. Once in there, he seizes his laptop and tries to busy himself with typing up some of his handwritten scribbles, but his ears keep picking up even the faintest of movements from the other room. After what feels like an eternity, there’s a knock on the door to the den, and Viktor opens it to find Yuuri standing there dressed in normal clothes, with the sailcloth and rope discarded to the side.

He doesn’t put on his socks and shoes, understandably, so Viktor helps him out of his front door and across the little porch and garden to the curb, where Mari’s car sits just behind Viktor’s. After Yuuri is bundled into the back, Viktor leans in through the passenger window.

“Let me know how he does,” he tells Mari, handing her his card with his number on it.

“What, are you going to ring the front desk again if I don’t?” she asks.

Viktor raises an eyebrow. “If you insist,” he replies.

“I’ll text you,” she says. Yuuri leans in through the space between the front seats at that moment, and blows Viktor a kiss. Viktor catches it with a wink, and Yuuri’s face flushes.

As Mari’s car drives off, Yuuri waves goodbye out Mari’s back window, and Viktor waves back until the car disappears out of sight.

Showdown at the Torvill Corral: Katsudon Shows Seals Who’s Boss

19 JUNE 2016 — In this suspenseful video taken by Yuuko Nishigori of the Torvill Cove Harbour Watch, resident seal Katsudon is shown fighting with another harbour seal. The four-minute-long confrontation ends with the other seal swimming away, visibly bleeding. Although Katsudon was the victor of the fight, Nishigori reports that he had also sustained several injuries to his neck and flippers.

“We don’t know exactly what triggered this fight. Usually Katsudon is very docile,” she says. “However, he has been known to avoid socialising with other seals, and sometimes will act aggressive in order to get other haul-out groups to leave him alone.”

Numerous studies by Torvill College’s Institute of Marine Research have uncovered similar findings into Katsudon’s solitary behaviour. The seal has been known to reject attempts at socialisation as well as mating offers from other seals. Considering his venerable age of 23 years old, he can be considered odd amongst seals for not having sired pups yet. Nevertheless, it seems that Katsudon will defend his solitude, or perhaps even his territory of Torvill Cove, with aggression.

“He’s not strictly territorial per se, but he’s been known to lash out at intruding seals,” says Kenjirou Minami, one of the youth volunteers at the Torvill Cove Harbour Watch. “Also, I once saw him defend this little kid from another aggressive seal. He’s so brave!”

Torvill Cove Harbour Watch has informed the Reporter as of printing that Katsudon has been treated for his injuries and is expected to make a full recovery.

Despite Yuri’s threats to ban everyone in the group chat from the ice cream parlour for the rest of the summer if they show up to ‘the other people’s bonfire’ before the dance on Thursday night, Viktor decides to go anyway.

He heads into town around five-thirty, however, to get a drink at Kachu and watch the kids pile up driftwood and old furniture on the beach. The sun is dying the sky in purples and pinks, and Christophe looks like he’s dying to capture it all on film.

Viktor downs his shot of vodka. “Are you working at the event tonight?” he asks.

“Sadly, yes. But I have an hour’s break in a bit, so I’ll probably spend it at the bonfire.” Christophe sighs. “Look at that gorgeous sky, though. Working during golden hour in this town is the literal worst.”

Viktor chuckles, raises his glass for another shot. Christophe pours it for him, before going to fill another pint glass with Guinness for an old farmer down at the other end of the bar.

Minako comes down that very moment, deep in conversation with a man who has his hair tied in a ponytail. Viktor doesn’t recognise him, but based on the fact that he and Minako seem to be arguing about whether to teach the Charleston in addition to the basic steps, he must be Celestino Cialdini. The two of them leave the bar together, ostensibly to help with the setup for the dance.

Viktor pays for his vodka and leaves soon after them. The boardwalk is being set up for the dance, with a small stage being erected in front of the closed carnival game booths for the band. White lillies, roses, and St John’s wort are being strung on birch garlands all over the venue, and a refreshments area is being set up on the pier.

Leo de la Iglesia walks by at that moment, carrying a black case and talking avidly with Guang-Hong. Two men follow them, carrying a keyboard between them. Viktor watches them head for the stage, before turning his attention to the budding bonfire on the beach.

He heads down to the beach just as the piles of crates, driftwood, and chairs go up in flames to much whooping and rejoicing. The fire dances wildly in the sea-breeze, extending their bright orange tendrils towards the dusky sky. There’s a sizeable crowd in front of the bonfire now, some of them cheering loudly, others content to watch in awed silence.

It’s not a very big bonfire; Viktor has seen bigger ones in Manchester. But it’s pretty decent for being organised by kids, and maybe that spark of rebelliousness is part of its appeal.

Viktor has been staring at the flames for at least ten minutes when he feels a tug at his jacket sleeve, and he turns to find Yuuri standing there, smiling at him. Viktor’s breath comes up short when he takes in Yuuri’s simple black outfit, as well as the circlet of St John’s wort in his hair.

Phichit made it for me, Yuuri signs, pointing to his flower crown. Viktor takes a moment to parse the gestures properly, but he nods when it clicks, his eyes lighting up in understanding.

“It looks lovely,” he says, one hand reaching up to touch one of the golden flowers.

It’s for good luck, adds Yuuri, smiling. He then makes a couple signs that Viktor doesn’t understand, so Viktor has to tell him so by moving his hand in a fist in a circle over the centre of his chest and then raising both his pointer fingers over his head. Yuuri nods, and takes out his notebook to write, I was saying that your comprehension seems to be getting better.

“Not well enough, though,” laments Viktor. “I couldn’t understand what you just said.”

Yuuri smiles, shrugs. Practice makes perfect, he writes, and takes Viktor’s hand in his.

Together, they watch the dancing flames of the bonfire. Or rather, Yuuri watches them, his brown eyes glittering in the firelight, and Viktor watches Yuuri, unable to tear his gaze away from Yuuri’s enraptured expression. He’s not wearing glasses tonight, possibly because of the dance, and Viktor’s not sure whether he looks cuter with or without them.  

A couple paces ahead, some of the kids are forming a queue to jump over the bonfire. Viktor notices that Guang-Hong and Leo are among the first in the crowd, leaping over the flames in short succession after one another and laughing as they run back up to the boardwalk to continue setting up for the night’s festivities.

Yuuri tugs on his sleeve again, and points to the queue. Viktor raises an eyebrow. “You want to jump?” he asks. Yuuri nods, and steers them towards the back. They get in place right behind Mila and Sara, who turn around and greet them both.

“What’s Yuri going to say if he catches you here?” Viktor wonders, nodding towards the bonfire. Mila laughs.

“He can’t stop me,” she says, squeezing Sara’s hand. “Besides, our bonfire is going to be better. Sara and Mickey are providing the mead at ours.”

That sounds great, signs Yuuri, and Mila grins.

“I know, right?” she exclaims. The queue moves forward steadily, and they move with it. “Your flower crown is lovely, by the way,” she adds.

Thank you, replies Yuuri. Phichit made it.

“Is that St John’s wort?” asks Sara, her grin widening. “Phichit’s such a sneaky bastard.”

“Is there something wrong with those flowers?” asks Viktor.

“Oh no,” says Sara. Her eyes dance with mischief. “It’s just that it’s supposed to be tradition for young women to harvest St John’s wort during Midsummer to determine the name of their future husband.”

Yuuri’s cheeks burn just about as bright as the bonfire, and he does a series of rapid signs that cause Sara to giggle and sign something back.

“What’s so funny?” Viktor wonders.

Mila shrugs. “I’m about as fluent in this as you are.”

Finally, they make it to the front of the queue. Mila jumps over the bonfire first, and then Sara, and the two vanish into the crowd gathered around to watch the jumpers. Viktor turns to face the fire. It’s of a decent height; if he takes a bit of a running start, he’ll clear it for sure.

He leaps over the fire to applause and cheers. The warmth of the flames suffuse around him as he then turns towards Yuuri, his arms open in invitation.

Yuuri seems nervous, staring at the flames with wide eyes. For someone who had suggested the idea in the first place, he certainly looks ashen and hesitant now.

“Come on, Yuuri, you can do it!” Viktor encourages. Yuuri bites his lips and wrings his hands, looking distressed.

“You don’t have to do it, you know,” someone says from behind Yuuri, and that seems to get him to grit his teeth and take a leap, vaulting clear over the flames —

— and barrelling straight into Viktor, knocking them both back onto the sand. There’s some laughter from the other merrymakers, but their voices fall by the wayside as Viktor looks up at Yuuri on top of him, his garland askew in his dark tresses, his breathing heavy with adrenaline.

He hadn’t really noticed until now just how long Yuuri’s lashes are…

Viktor’s breath shudders out of him as he reaches up to cup Yuuri’s cheek, and Yuuri’s eyes widen a little but he makes no move to pull away. Memories rise, unbidden, of another time when Yuuri might have been lying on top of him like this, their breaths mingling together in the sea-salt air and their heartbeats thudding in synchrony.

Viktor tears himself away from the memories just in time to return to the present, and of the whisper-close proximity of Yuuri’s lips to his. He closes his eyes, and leans —

“Oi! What’s the meaning of this?”

Viktor and Yuuri scramble to their feet. The crowd around the bonfire is rapidly dispersing; evidently someone had figured out that the bonfire hadn’t actually been approved and called the authorities. Hand-in-hand, the two of them disappear into the bustle of the boardwalk, ending up squeezed into a crowd gathered for the pre-show performance.

They watch Minako’s pupils showcase their swing moves. The kids move with practiced finesse to the music provided by Leo and his band, their moves playful as they twirl and step together. Viktor notes that one of the older students in particular seems to make the music his own; he and his partner dance as if they are conversing together with swing as their language.

Kenjirou Minami, Yuuri writes into his palm, seemingly following Viktor’s gaze. He’s one of Yūko’s protégés.

“He really makes himself one with the music,” Viktor muses.

Kenjirou Minami and his partner lead the rest of the students in a finale dance together, before exiting the dance floor to loud applause and cheers. They are replaced by Minako and Celestino, who send them off with another round of applause before they begin the swing dance lesson in earnest.

Yuuri looks at Viktor. Are you sure you want me to lead? he signs, tilting his head questioningly. Viktor nods. Yuuri smiles, and extends his hand for Viktor to take.

It turns out that Viktor’s the only one of them who has to learn anything new, and for him it’s mostly just how to shift his pre-existing knowledge of the dance to a follower’s position. It’s a bit trickier than he’d anticipated, but Yuuri keeps on patiently reminding him that he has to start with his right leg instead of his left, and they get the hang of it quickly enough.

Finally, at the end of the hour, the band begins to play in earnest, and Viktor and Yuuri are swept right into it. Yuuri expertly leads them through the dancing crowd, past beginner couples and more advanced ones alike. Though he swings Viktor in and out and moves them around in circles, his hand is a steady constant that never leaves Viktor’s.

“For someone who doesn’t like this style of dancing, Minako sure taught you well,” says Viktor as Yuuri whips him out and reels him back in again. He laughs a little when Yuuri’s arms come around him, a brief, tight embrace, before they’re back to the regular amount of distance between them.

Yuuri shrugs, and pulls Viktor a little closer to write, I’ve had a lot of time to practice, into his shoulderblade.

“I suppose,” says Viktor, when Yuuri sends him out again. “Were you practicing for me?” he adds with a wink the next time he flies into Yuuri’s arms.

Yuuri’s cheeks flush bright red, and he drops their hands so he can sign, I didn’t know you could dance.

“Oh come on. You know I’ve written stories involving dancing.”

Not this, Yuuri replies, gesturing to the swinging couples around them.

“So you only got so good at the Argentine tango because you knew I could do it, too?” Viktor teases, unable to resist. Yuuri gapes at him, before shaking his head vehemently. Viktor chuckles. “Are you sure that’s not what happened? Because you were amazing at the tango. That’s not to say you’re not good at swing, too, but I’m pretty sure I fell in love with your tangoing at the Leroys’, you know.”

Yuuri’s expression is amused. So you admit you only like me for my dancing, he signs, his expression teasing. Viktor splutters.

“No way! I like a lot more than that now!”

Ah, poor Viktor, laments Yuuri, grabbing Viktor’s hands so he can trace the words into Viktor’s skin. He can dish it out, but he can’t take it.

“Hey!” Viktor exclaims in mock offense. Yuuri’s expression is beyond amused. “You’re a terrible man, Yuuri Katsuki. Has anyone ever told you that?”

Yuuri shrugs. Viktor looks down at their joined hands, noticing that the wounds from the fight last weekend have turned into angry scabs.

The song ends, and another one begins with a fanfare of saxophone and trumpet, quickly followed by the drums and bass. Viktor watches Kenjirou Minami and his partner immediately begin dancing once the melody becomes apparent; other pairs swiftly join in. Sara is teaching Emil the Charleston, and Mila is trying to dip a wildly-protesting Yuri.

Yuuri reels Viktor in again before spinning him out, the lights from the boardwalk sparkling in his eyes. Viktor almost forgets his next step when Yuuri briefly dips him, but he recovers with his ears burning and his grin sheepish. Yuuri doesn’t seem to notice, and if he did, he doesn’t care. Instead, he pulls Viktor to his side so they can Charleston past the stage.

As they pass the band, Viktor notices that he now recognises more of the members. He still doesn’t know who the drummer is, but now he can pick out Seung-gil as the bassist and Michele Crispino as the trumpet player, in addition to Leo on sax and Guang-Hong on piano. However, tonight there seems to be a new addition — the dark-haired brooding man that Viktor has seen talking to Yuri a lot recently is playing an electric guitar solo in this piece.

“Do you know that guy?” Viktor asks, as the solo ends and is taken over by a double bass solo by Seung-gil. At Yuuri’s gentle prompting, Viktor twirls ‘round to face him and takes his hands. As they turn, Yuuri looks over at the stage. “The one on the electric guitar,” Viktor explains, as the bass solo transitions into a drums-and-brass duet.

Yuuri shakes his head. Must be new, he writes into Viktor’s shoulderblade the next time they circle.

“Fair enough,” says Viktor, and then he gets twirled out of Yuuri’s arms.

The melody starts up once more, and Yuuri moves with it, expressive even in an informal partner dance. Viktor can’t look away, not even when he fumbles a step and they have to start from the next top of the beat. He’s desperately attuned to the changes in Yuuri’s tension, to the shifts in the line of his body; he moves where Yuuri sends him, and Yuuri sends him to the moon.

The piece finishes with a loud flourish of trumpet, sax, and electric guitar, and everyone applauds wildly as the mystery guitarist takes a bow. Viktor notices Yuri being particularly enthusiastic about it, and the guitarist flashing him a thumbs up in response as he rises.

Leo takes the mic. “Give it up for our special guest artist tonight, Otabek Altin!” he shouts, and everyone cheers as Otabek takes another bow. Yuri whoops. Viktor chuckles. Trust Yuri to befriend someone who wears black leather on Midsummer’s Eve and plays electric guitar.

Another piece begins, and Yuuri pulls Viktor in once more. Sometimes it’s not so much dancing as it is just moving their feet and bodies together, spinning ‘round and ‘round to the upbeat music while lost in each other’s eyes. Yuuri’s hands are never far from Viktor’s, his grip firm but guiding, always sure to tense whenever there’s a change in direction or move.

“So, how many people have you danced this with before?” Viktor asks the next time they circle, his face just a breath away from Yuuri’s. The lights shimmer against Yuuri’s bottom lip, and Viktor suddenly finds it hard to breathe.

Yuuri looks up at him, amused. He moves them into a Charleston so he can hold up two fingers.

“Me and Minako?” asks Viktor. Yuuri nods. “Am I a better partner than Minako?” Viktor teases.

Yuuri seems to ponder it for a comically long time before shrugging. Viktor clutches his chest in mock offense, and Yuuri laughs, before joining their hands and spinning Viktor out again.

After this dance, they head out towards the refreshments table on the pier. Viktor pays for both of their passes; Christophe snaps on their wristbands and pours Viktor his usual vodka and tonic, before looking at Yuuri inquisitively.

Yuuri points to his order on the menu. Christophe raises an eyebrow, but obliges anyway, pouring Yuuri a glass of mead. Once they both have their drinks, Viktor clinks his lightly against Yuuri’s.

“Cheers,” he says, and they both drink.

Already the shortest night of the year has fallen around them, stars twinkling brightly above them in the inky blackness of the sky. The moon is round and bright, glistening on the rippled surface of the water. Viktor and Yuuri head past the tables of the refreshments area, walking down to the end of the pier.

Down here it’s a little dimmer than where the dance is raging, but the pier’s lights are soft and warm, bathing Yuuri’s face in gentle golden light. He looks otherworldly; the circle of golden blooms in his hair only adds to his fey-like appearance. Viktor’s half-convinced that if he’s not careful, Yuuri will vanish right in front of him.

“How’s your feet?” he asks quietly.

Better, signs Yuuri, before looking down at the scabs on his hands. Viktor takes them, presses kisses to each one.

“So they’ll heal faster,” he explains when he looks up. Yuuri’s flush is adorable in the golden light. Viktor is tempted to take a picture of it.

The music from the dance is still audible from here; Leo is singing now in a silky, warm baritone. Pulling Yuuri close, Viktor begins to lead him in small swing circles, the two of them rocking together to the beat.

I don’t know why you insist on making me lead, Yuuri traces into Viktor’s shoulder. You’re perfectly good at it yourself.

“Maybe I just like having you lead me,” Viktor murmurs into Yuuri’s ear. He can feel the other man tremble, and he smiles against the crook of Yuuri’s neck.

But then it’s not fair, replies Yuuri. Pull your weight, Viktor Nikiforov.

Viktor laughs. Yuuri flinches a little, ostensibly from the tickling sensation. “I’m leading you now, aren’t I?” he asks.

Out there, explains Yuuri. I’m tired. You take over.

Viktor chuckles, swinging Yuuri out before reeling him back in. “How about you lead me for one song, and I lead you for the next?” he suggests.

Yuuri ponders it for a moment, and then nods his agreement. As the song finishes, he takes Viktor’s hand and leads him back towards the dancing crowd.

They spend the rest of the night like this, alternating the lead in several songs before taking time to grab some refreshments. There’s a veritable smorgasbord of snacks and desserts at the table next to the bar. To Viktor’s surprise, Yuuri helps himself to a couple slices of pickled herring without even batting an eyelash.

Christophe is nothing if not a conscientious bartender, plying them with sparkling elderflower cordial when he thinks they’ve had too much alcohol. Viktor doesn’t complain; the juice is sweet and heady even if it doesn’t warm him like vodka does. His head is a pleasant buzz from the adrenaline of dancing as well as the drinks, not to mention being in Yuuri’s company for so long. The dark-haired man, having devoured his herring, is now snacking on strawberries dipped in whipped cream, and somehow that’s even worse than the fish.

Viktor reaches out before he really even realises it, and wipes away a stray spot of whipped cream from the corner of Yuuri’s mouth. He pops his finger into his mouth, keeping his movements slow and languorous, and watches with satisfaction as Yuuri’s eyes darken even more in response.

Back on the dance floor, they cut an impressive figure with their constant lead-swapping, although Viktor begins to feel the fatigue after what feels like the tenth song. Yuuri, on the other hand, seems energetic as ever, and Viktor has to stop his train of thought on Yuuri’s impressive stamina before it drives itself into the gutter.

“I’m tired,” he protests when the eleventh song begins. Yuuri raises an eyebrow, and then he begins to look around, as if trying to find someone else to dance with. Viktor tries to tamp down his disappointment at the prospect of losing Yuuri as a dance partner, even for a couple songs, but he’s also sure if he does one more he might give out in the middle, and what good would that be?

“Yuuri!” Phichit’s voice cuts in suddenly. Yuuri perks up, and he looks at Viktor eagerly.

“Yeah,” wheezes Viktor, clutching his side. “Go dance with Phichit. I’ll be… I’ll be right here.”

And he watches with a growing sense of loss as Yuuri grabs a laughing Phichit and disappears into the crowd. Viktor heads for the bar, getting a glass of mead from Christophe once he’s there.

“Where’s Yuuri?” Christophe asks as he hands Viktor his mead. Viktor downs it in one go, before answering.

“He’s dancing with Phichit.”

Christophe snorts. “Did he tire you out?” he asks with a salacious eyebrow waggle.

Viktor glowers. “You try dancing ten songs in a row with him,” he says.

Christophe whistles. “What a catch,” he says, his grin suggestive.

“It’s not like that,” splutters Viktor, feeling his ears heat up, and not from the sweet burn of the mead.

Christophe raises his eyebrows. “Damn,” he says. “You two go off on regular excursions to Lovers’ Point and still haven’t done the deed? Are you guys waiting until marriage or something?”

Viktor’s glad he isn’t drinking at that moment, because he’s pretty sure he would have spat it all out. “I thought I told you I didn’t want to mess it up,” he says. “And since I don’t really know how he stands on… you know…”

Christophe waggles his eyebrows before making a circle with one hand and pointing with his other hand into it. Viktor groans.

“I’m pretty sure that’s not the BSL for it,” he points out.

“No, but you get the point.” Christophe refills Viktor’s glass. “You really don’t know how he feels about you?”

Viktor downs the shot. He then looks over towards the dance floor, where Yuuri is twirling Phichit around and around, smiling as Phichit screams with wild laughter. “I just want to be sure?” he wonders.

“Viktor,” says Christophe, the sombre tone of his voice causing Viktor to look at him. “I know writers tend to get lost in their own feelings, but you’ve really got to get your head out of your ass on this one. He’s taking you to Lovers’ Point on a regular basis.”

“To write,” Viktor points out. “It’s private there, so I don’t get interrupted.”

Christophe snorts. “Have you seen the way he looks at you, then?” he demands. At that moment, Yuuri and Phichit come dancing by; Yuuri looks over and waves at them. Viktor waves back.

“That’s how he looks with everyone,” Viktor says, as Phichit waves as well before being dragged back into the circling couples.

“You’re hopeless,” declares Christophe. “That boy is sending you ‘fuck me’ eyes every chance he gets. He’s never looked like that at anyone else in town, let me tell you.”

“You sound like you’re speaking from personal experience,” Viktor remarks.

Christophe snorts. “What, with a cute little slice like Yuuri Katsuki? The success rate’s about the same as getting kisses from Katsudon,” he agrees. “So, you know, zero for everyone except you.”

Viktor taps his glass for another shot, and Christophe gives it to him. Viktor feels the liquid courage burn down his throat, slow and sweet. “Well, nice to know I’ve no competition to worry about,” he declares when he sets down his glass and salutes Christophe. “I think I’ll go dance some more.”

“Good luck!” Christophe calls as Viktor makes his way back to the dance floor.

The next song is slower, and Yuuri’s eyes light up when Viktor cuts in between him and Phichit. Viktor remembers Christophe’s words to him, and feels the tips of his ears burning as he spins Yuuri into his arms and dips him briefly.

I’m in heaven,” croons Leo from the stage, “and my heart beats so that I can hardly speak…”

And this is pretty close to heaven, Viktor thinks as he circles with Yuuri in his arms, their cheeks pressed together and their bodies flush. He can feel Yuuri’s breath tickling his skin, can almost sense his heartbeat in his chest.

They pull apart and come together again and again, Viktor’s eyes never leaving Yuuri’s. Maybe there is some merit to Christophe’s words; Yuuri’s cheeks are flushed an attractive pink from all of his exertions, and there’s something dark and exciting in the flash of his brown eyes when Viktor spins him into his arms.

He’d invited Yuuri to this dance for the opportunity to ask about his secret, about the gravestone in Bowhill Cemetery, but the longer Viktor dances with him, the farther these questions drift from his mind. What does it matter who Yuuri really is? As long as he’s here with Viktor, dancing in his arms and smiling at him every time their eyes meet, he could secretly be from outer space and Viktor wouldn’t care at all. So he keeps holding on, preserving every smile, every touch, every moment in which the lights of the boardwalk make Yuuri’s eyes shine.

The last song of the dance is at eleven, and the band goes out with a bang with one last fiery upbeat song that has everyone joining in. Someone starts a conga line, even pulling the musicians off the stage to join in. Yuuri and Viktor are swept up in it in between Phichit and Christophe, who has also been roped into the fun.

By then, Viktor is nothing but movement and sensation, lost in the energy of the crowd as the line snakes around the boardwalk. His only anchor is Yuuri’s soft waist under his fingertips, and he focuses in on that, on the sweep of Yuuri’s shoulders, on the golden flowers in his hair. He’s only dimly aware of the sight of Yuri Plisetsky and Otabek Altin finally breaking the conga line so that they can dance together, the crowd rapidly following them without rhyme or reason. Viktor is briefly caught in a swirl of skirts before he finds Yuuri again, whose eyes are closed and whose arms and feet are unconsciously moving to the rhythm with practiced grace.

Viktor joins him, exhaustion burning low within him, but he doesn’t care. Yuuri takes his hand, and Viktor is lost completely.

He finds himself again sometime during the afterparty, which is less of a party now considering how tired everyone is, and more of a gathering at a bonfire up at the lighthouse. According to Yuri, it’s a tradition in Torvill for ‘everyone who isn’t some creaky old geezer’ to try and stay up for the entirety of Midsummer’s Eve, as well as for the night of Midsummer the next day. And this tradition is best facilitated through a bonfire party and lots of Crispino Winery’s award-winning Torvill Mead.

Yuuri dozes off on Viktor’s shoulder sometime around midnight, a half-empty glass of mead in his hands. Viktor removes it from Yuuri’s hand before it spills everywhere, and puts his arm around his shoulders. Yuuri had really overexerted himself at the dance; it’s no surprise that he’d fall asleep now, creaky old geezer or not. Plus, he’s had five glasses of mead since the afterparty started, and the warmth of the the honeyed wine is pretty conducive to sleepiness.

Yuuri burrows into Viktor’s side in his sleep, and a little spot of drool appears on Viktor’s shirt. He rests a hand on Viktor’s thigh; Viktor notices the scabs from the seal bites and remembers the questions he had wanted to ask.

“Yuuri,” he murmurs, nudging him. But Yuuri makes a disgruntled expression and nuzzles in harder. Viktor’s heart caves in, just a little.

“You should get him to bed,” Mila says from her chair next to them. Sara is lying with her head in Mila’s lap, idly checking her phone.

“Yeah,” agrees Viktor. He nudges Yuuri again, but Yuuri only clings tighter to him, limpet-like. Viktor chuckles, finally heaving Yuuri up in his arms in a bridal carry. The man’s heavier than he looks, though, and Viktor staggers a bit before he finds his footing.

Yuuri’s flower crown flutters to the ground, and Mila picks it up and puts it back on his head. Yuuri stirs briefly only to loop his arms around Viktor’s neck and burrow back in. Viktor’s heart skips a beat.

From across the fire, Christophe wolf-whistles. “Maybe you should wait for the morning,” he calls, and Viktor glares. Christophe’s cheeky grin is all he gets in response. Sighing, Viktor turns for the cliffside trail that will lead to his cottage, ignoring the chirps and whistles from everyone as he leaves.

It takes far too long for him to stagger-walk down to his cottage, as he’s desperately trying not to drop Yuuri as he does so. He’s never seen Yuuri lit by the moon before, but it appears that this raven-haired sleeping beauty is destined to look good in every single kind of lighting ever conceived by man and nature. The moon only highlights the contrast between Yuuri’s pale skin and his dark tresses, and when his lashes flutter a bit in his sleep, Viktor has to pause and remember how to breathe.

Viktor finally makes it into his cottage. He’d left the back door to his kitchen open earlier in the evening so that Makkachin could go out when he needed to, and he had closed it on the way up to the lighthouse for the afterparty, but now he’s kicking himself because he has an armful of Yuuri and no free hands to open any of the doors.

He sighs, and shakes Yuuri. “Hey,” he says. “We’re at my place. I need to open the door.”

Yuuri opens one bleary eye, staring at him. Viktor sighs. His arms are going to give out soon, if Yuuri doesn’t get off. He hates that they will, though. Maybe he should lift more.

As if sensing this, Yuuri begrudgingly lets Viktor set him down. He keeps his arms wrapped around Viktor’s neck, though, as Viktor opens the back door and guides them both into his kitchen.

“You take the bed,” Viktor says, gesturing towards the door at the end of the hall. “I’ll take the couch.”

Yuuri shakes his head. He staggers back to free his arms, brings his hands and fingers together, and then points to himself. With me.

“It’s a small bed; I’ll squish you,” protests Viktor as he opens his bedroom door, and nudges Yuuri through. Yuuri’s hands grab his, pulling him into the room as well.

Makkachin is asleep on the ground at the foot of the bed, nestled in pillows clearly pilfered from the bed itself. Yuuri takes a seat on the edge, still holding Viktor’s hands. He kicks off his shoes and lets Viktor’s hands go to take care of his socks and trousers, before tossing his flower crown onto the nightstand. He lies down on his side, pats the spot next to him, and then curls his thumb and forefingers before bringing them downwards. Stay.

Christophe’s words from earlier in the night echo in Viktor’s ears, and he swallows as he also discards his shoes, socks, and trousers, and climbs into bed with Yuuri.

For someone who had been used to a king-size bed in his flat in Manchester, the double bed in this cottage is positively tiny. And yet it is just big enough for him and Yuuri, who rubs at his eyes briefly before his hand freezes and he sits up in bed.

“Something wrong?” Viktor asks. Yuuri flicks his thumb up, mouthing ‘bath’. Viktor points to the door leading off to the side, and Yuuri goes on through, his footsteps quiet across the wooden floor. There’s the sound of running water; moments later Yuuri returns and clambers back into bed, blinking rapidly.

Almost as soon as he settles down, Yuuri hides a yawn behind his hand. He then reaches out for Viktor’s hands, lacing their fingers together, and Viktor’s heart flutters in a frantic staccato in response.

He pulls Yuuri in close, leaning down and pressing his head to Yuuri’s chest. He listens to the beat of Yuuri’s heart, revels in the lazy carding of Yuuri’s hands in his hair. They lie together like this, a gentle silence filling the spaces between them, until Yuuri’s hands slacken and his breathing evens out in peaceful sleep.

Excerpt from “Lir and the Weeping Waves”, from The Ghosts of Torvill Cove, Nikolai Plisetsky, ed.:

On Lir’s seventh birthday, the husband begged the wife to allow him to take Lir to the shore. The wife objected, stating that the tide came in too fast. That night the husband, frustrated for years and impulsive, woke Lir up from his sleep. “Come on, my son,” he whispered. “The ocean is calling.”

Together they navigated the rocky cliffside down to the cove. The Midsummer moon was their only source of light, and it caught the ocean’s surface in shimmering wonder. Lir was tired, and watched the waves quietly kissing the rocks with sleep-drenched eyes. “Da,” he said with a yawn. “Why are we down here?”

“I'm going to teach you how to swim,” said the husband.

“Will Mum be joining us?”

“No, my lad. She won’t. Now take off your clothes and get in the water.”

Lir did as he was told, taking cautious steps into the waves.

Viktor can’t sleep. Yuuri’s heartbeat is steady and slow beside him, but Viktor’s own mind is too full of thoughts that dance beneath his closed eyelids, delaying his rest.

After a moment, he can’t bear it any longer. Gently extricating himself from his sleeping beauty’s arms, Viktor silently steps back from the bed.

The moonlight filters in from the sheer curtained windows and French doors, plays over Yuuri’s slumbering features. Viktor’s heart feels lodged in his throat; it would be just be too easy to capitulate and to lie back down in his arms. But he kneels and picks up his trousers from the pile on the floor, and leaves the room as quietly as he can.

He dresses in the half-darkness of the kitchen and slips out the back door, a silent shadow across his back patio and down the rickety staircase to the little beach. Up at the lighthouse the beacon light still spins and the bonfire still roars, and he can dimly hear drunken laughter and singing. Someone has brought an acoustic guitar to the afterparty and they’re singing a Scottish shanty, voices slurring in the night wind:

Must I go bound while you go free? Must I love a man who doesn’t love me? Must I be born with so little art as to love a man who'll break my heart?”

Viktor pauses halfway down the stairs. The sea churns below him, the tide coming in rapidly against the shore, swallowing almost every strip of sand on the beach below. He rolls up his trousers, grits his teeth, and continues.

Viktor hisses when his feet hit the cold whitewater from the bottom stair. The water swirls around his ankles, splashing at his clothes. Viktor rolls up his sleeves as well, and continues down the beach towards the rocks.

The rocks cut at his feet as he steps upon them in the dark, as if they know he’s out for the truth and are trying to stop him. Viktor grits his teeth and soldiers on, ignoring the pain blooming in the soles of his feet as he searches through every nook and crevice. Time begins to lose meaning in the beating of the waves; the only thing that seems to indicate any passage of time is the slow dwindling of singing from the lighthouse as everyone at the party begins to leave or fall asleep.

Viktor presses on, despite the cold winds and colder water, despite the slippery yet sharp rocks and the near-blindness in which he searches. Though he’s using his phone as a flashlight in the dark, he knows it won’t last long and he still has so much rock and beach to cover. And the pain is building up behind his eyes; the next time Viktor reaches up to feel his face, he dimly registers the trickle of tears.

One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Viktor wipes them from his eyes, lets the surf wash them away, and continues his search.

Finally, when the first tendrils of light begin to appear in the sky, Viktor finds it. His phone has given up on him hours before, his hands and feet are scraped and cut from the rocks and barnacles, but finally the beach has yielded him the truth.

He pulls the sleek black sealskin from its hiding spot in the rock wall, and watches it shine in the early morning light with his heart heavy like a stone in his chest.

Excerpt from “Lir and the Weeping Waves”, from The Ghosts of Torvill Cove, Nikolai Plisetsky, ed.:

The husband noticed the water was growing choppy, and called out reassurances from where he stood on the shore. His son looked back at him, a bit frightened, and turned his back to the open sea. The water, which previously was at his hips, surged inward and rose up to his chest.

“Da,” the boy cried. “Da, help! The water is pulling at me!”

The man looked back at their silhouette of a house, and he wondered if the wife could hear her son’s calls. “You’ll be fine, Lir,” he said. “I’m coming to join you. It’ll be alright.”

But when he turned back around, his son was gone. The sea was no longer choppy, no longer alive. Instead it was still, and not one wave kissed the rocks. The husband yelled Lir’s name for hours on end. He dove underwater to look for him, but could not find him. By the time the sun rose and the sky turned pink, his heart had broken five times over with each tear he shed.

Viktor wakes to the sensation of Makkachin licking his face. He opens his eyes and stretches, groaning as he feels the kinks in his back from sleeping hunched on a sofa all night. He’s not entirely sure how he’d moved from the bed to the sofa, but he did have a strange dream in-between. Which is doubly strange, as he’s not prone to sleepwalking.

A cursory glance towards where his phone is charging on the coffee table tells him that it’s ten in the morning. The smell of pancakes fills the air. Viktor rubs his eyes, frowning, as he clambers to his feet and slowly pads into the kitchen with Makkachin following him.

Yuuri is there, dressed in his outfit from last night, making pancakes with varying degrees of success. Viktor leans against the little partition separating the living room from the kitchen, memorising the sight in front of him for a rainy day.

Yuuri looks up after a moment and smiles sheepishly, rubbing at the nape of his neck before signing ‘good morning’ at Viktor. He mirrors the gesture, and then looks pointedly towards the stove.

“Need any help?” he asks. Yuuri purses his lips, shakes his head, and reaches for a spatula to turn over his latest pancake. Viktor crosses over to the stove anyway, noticing the sizeable already-done pile on the platter next to the stove as he goes to get Makkachin his breakfast.

“I think that’s quite enough, don’t you?” he asks, gesturing to the piles of pancakes already there. Yuuri points to the bowl of mix, which is strangely still half-full.

Viktor straightens up as he puts away the bag of dog food, and crosses to the sink to change Makkachin’s water. “Why are you making so many, anyway?” he asks.

Yuuri puts his right elbow on his left hand and rotates his right wrist, mimicking a light. He then spells out ‘Yurio’, and points to the platter once more.

“You’re making pancakes for Yuri?” Viktor guesses after he sets down Makkachin’s water dish. Yuuri nods, tapping at his head and making a pained expression. He then slides the latest pancake onto the platter and doles out another.

“Here,” says Viktor, taking the pan from Yuuri. “It’ll go faster if you flip them.”

Yuuri moves his pointer and middle fingers up to bracket his eyes, and then shakes his head. Viktor makes a small ‘ah’ of recognition when he gets it.

“You don’t have your glasses,” he states. Yuuri nods. “So you’re not flipping them because of a depth perception thing?” he asks, and Yuuri nods again. Viktor hums, and ladles a scoop of batter onto the pan anyway.

“Well, let me help you make it go a bit faster, then,” he offers, and Yuuri moves to protest, but then slumps and lets him continue.

They deliver most of the pancakes up to the hungover revellers at the lighthouse, along with some syrup, butter, and whipped cream. The food seems to be well-received by the remaining partygoers huddled near the ashes of the bonfire; Yuri Plisetsky himself eats at least a third of the pancakes delivered and holds a disgruntled conversation with Yuuri through sign while Viktor helps Mila cut her pancakes.

The pancakes they had set aside for themselves are cool by the time they return with the empty platters, but after a quick reheat on the stove they’re good to go again. This time, Viktor washes and chops some berries to go with them. He and Yuuri eat their breakfast in warm silence, punctuated by Makkachin finishing his breakfast and going to demand pets from both of them. He’s especially playful with Yuuri, who takes it stride, scritching him behind his ears and making little kissing noises with his lips.

“Makka really likes you,” Viktor remarks, grinning.

Yuuri flushes lightly. Good, he signs. I like Makka.

“More than me?” wonders Viktor.


Viktor clutches at his chest. “Oh, you’ve wounded me. I don’t know if I can recover from that.”

Yuuri’s expression grows pensive after another moment of petting Makkachin’s head. I miss my old dog, he signs after a moment. He looked like Makka, but smaller.

“I know. Mari told me about him,” says Viktor. “I heard his name was Vicchan.”

Yuuri bites his lips. Yeah, he signs. I named him after Queen Victoria.

Viktor snorts. “That’s the most British thing I’ve ever heard,” he says, and Yuuri briefly hides his face behind one hand.

I was seven when I got him. I didn’t know any better.

“Still adorable,” replies Viktor, grinning. Yuuri hides his blush by staring at his pancakes instead, as if they’ll tell him the secrets to the universe if he looks at them long enough.

After they’re done eating, Viktor does the washing up while Yuuri pets Makkachin. Finally, when Viktor finishes, Yuuri signs to him that he should go.

Viktor doesn’t want him to, obviously, but Yuuri seems to be fidgety about something, so he nods and walks Yuuri to his back door, opening it for him.

“Come back anytime,” he says, opening his arms for a hug. Yuuri, who’s been tying his shoelaces, straightens up and nods, before folding himself into Viktor’s arms. Viktor closes his eyes, buries his nose into the crook of Yuuri’s shoulder and inhales. Yuuri smells of smoke and sweat and pancakes, but Viktor craves him all the same.

He feels the brush of lips against his cheek, and then Yuuri is pulling back from the hug, smiling. Viktor watches him leave with Makkachin whining at his side, feeling that too-familiar emptiness in his chest as Yuuri fades from view.

“Okay, okay, you spoiled boy,” he says, his eyes now riveted on the distant gleam of Yu-Topia. “Let’s go for a walk later, okay? I gotta clean up.”

Makkachin boofs reproachfully, but subsides all the same. Viktor heads into his room, unbuttoning his shirt as he goes. His laundry basket’s getting full; he’ll have to do it soon. Maybe today, since he’ll need to do his sheets anyway, and those take forever to dry.

After a quick shower and a change of clothes, Viktor shoves the sheets and pillowcases from his bed into the washing machine in his kitchen and starts it up. He then takes Makkachin into town, where the flower garlands from the dance last night are still up for Midsummer.

They spend some time at the ice cream parlour. Yuri isn’t behind the counter today, obviously due to his hungover state. Viktor has to admit, it feels weird to get ice cream from someone else. It’s like he’s cheating on Yuri in some weird convoluted ice cream-involved way. Though of course, it’s not like he has a choice. And the other guy charges for the doggy cone.

After Makkachin finishes his cone, they stroll around the pier while Viktor reads over some emails from Yakov. The man seems to have finally given up pestering him about a pitch; his latest message is a rather passive-aggressive ‘email me whenever you have some semblance of an idea’, and Viktor grins as he marks it as read.

The gulls are flocking wildly about at the end of the pier, where some fishermen are casting their lines. Had it really only been just last night when he and Yuuri had stood on this very spot together and danced? The boardwalk has become an entirely different entity in the daytime, as if last night had taken place under the auspices of the Fey folk. Given the timing, it may very well have.

Viktor thinks back to the golden blossoms of St John’s wort in Yuuri’s hair, and smiles.

On the way back to the cottage, Viktor and Makkachin decide to stop by the little beach. They descend the stairs together, Makkachin bounding eagerly ahead almost two, three steps at a time. The sand on the little beach is damp from the tides, but now the waves are lapping much lower than they had last night, and Makkachin eagerly bounds into the surf, barking happily.

Viktor whistles for him to come, and Makkachin does, but then suddenly he perks and turns towards the rocks, barking happily. Viktor frowns; there are no gulls for Makkachin to have spotted, and Katsudon can’t —

Yuuri Katsuki emerges from behind one of the rocks. Makkachin bounds towards him, and this time Yuuri braces well enough when the poodle pounces on him, so he only staggers back a little. Viktor runs over to them, drawing up short in alarm when he sees that Yuuri hasn’t changed out of last night’s clothes and that his eyes are red.

“What’s wrong?” he asks. Yuuri fidgets, visibly distressed yet reluctant to explain. His hands, when he does begin to sign, are shaky and uncertain.

Viktor shakes his head and signs that he doesn’t understand at him. Yuuri exhales, casting about him until he finds a stick of driftwood. He then walks over to a firm patch of unblemished sand, and writes:

Have you seen a black sealskin?

Chapter Text

Excerpt from page 1 of On the Geometry of Snowflakes:

stammi vicino, non te ne andare

I hear a voice that calls from far away —
Have you been left forsaken in your love?
Come drink your winèd sorrows dry with me,
and let us curse this parting from above.
Had I a sword to cut the throats of those
that mock the beating of my lovelorn heart!
My hands would freeze their heated passion-verse
and cast this senseless story to the stars.
But then perchance I’ll catch a glimpse of you,
and from the ash of hope will spring a spark —
Stay close to me, my love, and never leave;
your loss would plunge my world into the dark.
Our hands, our legs, our heartbeats fused as one —
As one we leave; our lives have just begun.

They’ve searched everywhere on the beach. Every nook and cranny, every crack and crevasse. Yuuri’s expression gets more and more frantic as the day wears on with still no sign of the sealskin.

“Are you sure it’s on this beach?” Viktor asks for the umpteenth time. And for the umpteenth time he gets a vehement nod.

According to Yuuri, he had washed up on this beach as Katsudon after the fight, stowed his sealskin, dressed himself in a discarded sailcloth that he had grabbed from a passing sailboat on the way here, and headed up to Viktor’s to ask for some first aid. Viktor’s brain had stopped after the first part of that story.

Yuuri Katsuki is a selkie.

Viktor’s still trying to wrap his head around it.

(He’d thought he’d dreamed all of that.)

It’s not that he didn’t do the research, because he did. It’s not that it doesn’t make sense, because it does. It explains so much, actually.

But Viktor’s still having difficulties trying to reconcile the existence of this kind of magic — the stuff of fairytales — with, well, existence as he knows it. It’s one thing to dream, in a fit of Midsummer madness, about holding irrefutable proof of the existence of selkies in his hand, but it’s another to hear it confirmed straight from the horse’s — or rather, seal’s — mouth. Hands.


Viktor shakes himself from his thoughts when he notices Yuuri take a seat on one of the rocks, staring dejectedly out towards the waves. They’ve spent an entire afternoon looking, so preoccupied with the search that Makkachin eventually gave up demanding attention from them and climbed the stairs back to the cottage alone. And though it is Midsummer’s day, and the sun’s not going down until eight, Viktor can tell from the slump in Yuuri’s shoulders that he’s on the verge of giving up.

“I’m sorry. Maybe it’ll turn up soon?” he offers, patting Yuuri’s shoulders. Yuuri doesn’t say anything, only sniffles. Viktor feels his heart ache along with him, and sits down on the rock next to him, draping an arm over the other man’s shoulders.

Yuuri turns, buries his face into Viktor’s shoulder. The sea rushes up to the rocks, white foam spraying them with each successive crash of waves against the stone. The corner of Viktor’s shirt grows wetter and wetter, and not from the sea.

He holds onto Yuuri’s trembling frame, his stomach churning like the sea. To take his mind off that, he focuses instead on the gulls flying overhead, their cries bleak in the greyish afternoon sky.

After a moment, Yuuri’s sobs subside, and he pulls back from Viktor with a watery smile. Thank you, he signs, for helping me.

“It’s what anyone would’ve done,” replies Viktor.

I don’t mean just this, replies Yuuri, frowning slightly. I mean for everything. He pauses, hands fidgety, as if he knows he’s about to get into signs that he’s not sure if Viktor will understand. So he takes Viktor’s hands, and he traces into his palms: I used to doubt my own voice a lot more before I met you.

Viktor’s insides melt at the tentative, waterlogged smile on Yuuri’s face. “You’ve helped me, too,” he says. “Writing after the Ice Triad felt like shackles around my neck. You freed me. You reminded me of how beautiful writing can be.” He pauses. “No, you are why writing is beautiful, Yuuri.”

There’s an amused quirk in Yuuri’s brow. You’re not just saying that because I’m a selkie, right? he wonders, fingernails lightly scraping across the skin of Viktor’s forearms. Viktor shivers a little, feeling goosebumps rise where Yuuri touches him.

“No,” he says. “I’m saying that because I think you’re the most wonderful thing to have ever happened to me.”

There’s a long silence between them, then, punctuated by the sound of the waves rolling in, the smell of the salt-spray in the air. Had it been anyone else, Viktor might have found the silence odd, uncomfortable. But the warmth in Yuuri’s eyes speak otherwise; he plays with Viktor’s fingers, a small smile tugging at his lips. All Viktor feels is that same giddy rush all the top 40s teenybopper love songs talk about.

“I want to take you to dinner,” he blurts out abruptly, and cringes at how blunt it sounds. The only way he could have made it worse is if he’d asked Yuuri to ‘go out with him’ like they’re a bunch of teenagers. But Yuuri grins at him anyway and nods, and Viktor feels like he could hang off the nearest lamppost and break out into song.

Where? Yuuri signs. Please don’t say Yu-Topia, he adds.

“Dammit,” jokes Viktor, snapping his fingers. He then taps his chin thoughtfully. “How about the Crispino Winery? I hear they serve meals if you book them in advance.”

Yuuri’s expression lights up. That sounds lovely, he replies, and leans his head on Viktor’s shoulder, watching as Viktor pulls out his mobile and texts Sara about the arrangements.

“When are you free?” Viktor asks as he opens a calendar app. Yuuri points to the relevant dates and times. Viktor nods, humming as he texts Sara with the information. Moments later, he gets a confirmation, and flashes it at Yuuri with a grin.

“It’s settled then,” he says. “I’ll pick you up at five for dinner next Tuesday?”

Yuuri traces Can’t wait into his palm, and squeezes his hand.

SHALLWESKATE: @ykatsuki i know ur lurking in this chat
SHALLWESKATE: u cant just get carried off to vn’s house last night and not give us deets
SHALLWESKATE: come on @ykatsuki dont disappoint me this is an integral aspect of our friendship
sara-crispino: i don’t have deets per se but i can tell u vn just texted me about setting up a dinner wine tasting for two next tuesday
Viktor Nikiforov: you guys do know i can read this chat right
Viktor Nikiforov: what so you can publish it in the torvill cove reporter?
SHALLWESKATE: um who said i could publish anything in the reporter
Viktor Nikiforov: you’re responsible for coved secrets aren’t you?
SHALLWESKATE: …...nooooooooooo?
mila_b: lmao that was the least convincing reply ive ever heard
mila_b: it’s both of us btw
Viktor Nikiforov: right
Viktor Nikiforov: well
Viktor Nikiforov: no deets for you two
mila_b: come ON
mila_b: услуга за услугу, витя, эээээээй )))
Viktor Nikiforov: нет ))
mila_b: ((((
ykatsuki: @SHALLWESKATE i don’t kiss and tell
SHALLWESKATE: but you did kiss right?
ykatsuki: why would i tell you that
SHALLWESKATE: um bc ur adoring fans have a right to know #viktuuri
ykatsuki: what fans
SHALLWESKATE: if ud actually bother reading the chat ud know weve been following ur passionate romance with vn all summer lol
ykatsuki: you know i have notifications for this chat turned off
ykatsuki: mostly because /someone/ insists on blowing up the chat at 3 in the morning
SHALLWESKATE: i feel called out
ykatsuki: good
ykatsuki: go to sleep you sns gremlin
SHALLWESKATE: :’( i thought we were friends
dirtycocktail: am i really seeing @ykatsuki interacting with us mere mortals in the chat with my own two eyes
SHALLWESKATE: i know right? it’s like the white whale
ykatsuki: shut up
dirtycocktail: aw yuuri, don’t be coy. viktor told me about your amazing stamina ;)
ykatsuki: bye

To: Viktor Nikiforov (
From: Sara Crispino (
Dinner and Wine Tasting (Tues 28/6/2016 at 6PM)

Hi Viktor,

Just checking in to confirm that you have reserved a private dinner and wine tasting for two at the Crispino estate for this upcoming Tuesday (28 June 2016) at 6PM. We are really looking forward to having you at our table! My brother and I are hard at work coming up with a memorable and romantic night for you!

If you need directions, I would recommend taking Market Street up to the roundabout just before the A830, but then taking the northeast exit towards Altwegg and Belita instead of the highway. Our gates are located just past Keiller Road; we will open them for you when you arrive! From there it’s a bit of a winding drive up to the estate, but you’ll get a nice view of Torvill Cove from our terrace so it’ll be entirely worth it.

Also, just a reminder: cologne will probably mess with the tasting experience. So freshen up, but don’t put on any fragrance. And come hungry! We’ve got a five-course meal planned and paired with some of our best wines, and it’d be a shame for you not to be able to try all of it.

Let me know if you need help finding us, or if you have any questions!


P.S. I hear Yuuri loves camellias. ;)

It’s four-thirty on Tuesday night, and Viktor is still fretting over his outfit.

Makkachin is half-buried under the piles and piles of clothes on his bed; the only sign that the poodle is there at all is a wagging tail and an occasional amused ‘boof’ from beneath the pile. Viktor sighs, yanking off his tie and throwing it onto the pile.

“It’s impossible, Makka,” he whines. “I can’t find anything good!”

Makka huffs a bit, and some shirts go flying onto the floor as he tries to move. Viktor frowns at his current shirt and trouser combination, and moves to unbutton the shirt.

Makka barks suddenly, emerging from the pile with another tie in his mouth. Viktor takes it, his eyes lighting up.

“Makka, you’re a genius! This one might work with the shirt! But then what do you think about the pants?”

Makka gives him a look that roughly translates to ‘why are you asking me; I’m colourblind’. But Viktor is already digging through the clothes pile, his movements frantic, until he finally pulls out a suit jacket with a triumphant grin.

It’s a nice grey one that complements both the shirt and the trousers, and allows the tie to be a tasteful splash of blue that brings out Viktor’s eyes. And he has the right coat for this ensemble, too, a light spring pea coat that won’t make him feel overheated, but will also help with the evening winds. Viktor grins, buttoning up the jacket as quickly as he can before going to grab his coat and a pair of black dress shoes. If he hurries, he’ll have time to stop by the florist before heading to Yu-Topia.

“Makka, I’m going to let you out back,” he says to his dog. “Don’t wander too far!”

He also sets out the food and water bowls in the back, just in case. Makkachin doesn’t get too hungry in the evenings, but you never know. Viktor would rather have the food there, instead of worrying about Makkachin possibly stealing food from passing tourists on their way to the lighthouse.

Viktor picks out a simple bouquet of pink camellias at the florist before taking the back alley road between the movie theatre and a boutique bath and beauty store that connects Market Street with Bowhill Lane. It’s a narrow alley, barely wide enough for Viktor’s convertible. He makes a mental note to use the larger connecting road between the library and the church when he’s heading back from Yu-Topia.

Yuuri is waiting for him at the curb when Viktor pulls in through the roundabout. “I’m not late, am I?” Viktor asks by way of greeting before he takes the flowers out of the passenger seat and presents them to Yuuri. “For you.”

Yuuri’s entire face lights up at the sight of the camellias; he makes the signs for ‘thank you’ and then ‘wait’, and disappears back into the resort. Viktor idles the engine, sending an apologetic look towards the grouchy holidaymakers in the car right behind his who have to drive around him to access the curb and unload.

Yuuri returns moments later, one of the camellias tucked into his suit jacket pocket. It fell off, he signs apologetically, but Viktor smiles.

“It looks great,” he says, as Yuuri piles into the passenger seat next to him. “You look great.” And he kisses Yuuri’s hand.

Yuuri’s cheeks flush as pink as the camellias. He’s also dressed in a suit and tie, but his suit is navy and his tie is grey, and it all looks very carefully curated. Viktor suspects that’s why Phichit had sent him a text message saying ‘you’re welcome’ while he had been buying the flowers.

The drive through Torvill doesn’t take long, even with the tourist traffic. The town seems more alive now than it had been since he first arrived, and surely tourist season has something to do with that. Some of the shops are closing for the night, though; Viktor waves at Guang-Hong who is locking the door to the bookstore with Leo next to him. They wave back.

Finally they’re at the roundabout out of the main part of the town, and Viktor follows the instructions that Sara had sent him to find the gate to the Crispino Winery. They pass fields and pastures, farms and houses, until they reach Keiller Road and the pine-lined driveway just one kilometre past it.

At the gate at the end of the driveway, Viktor checks in, and the wooden gates bearing the Crispino Winery logo on them swing open to admit them. The driveway, already little better than a dirt road, turns at the base of a hill and begins to climb upwards. As they drive, they can see groves of fruit trees and bushes, as well as an extensive apiary.

Finally, they pull into the gravel drive in front of a wood-and-glass lodge building surrounded by pines. The lights seem to be on in every window, and the gardens sprawling out around the house are bursting with colourful blooms.

Viktor parks the car, and he and Yuuri both get out just as Sara Crispino comes running out the door of the lodge and down the steps towards them, her brother Michele following at a distance with a disgruntled expression on his face.

“Yuuri!” exclaims Sara, pulling him into a hug and pressing kisses to both of his cheeks. “It was about time you came back!”

Yuuri makes a couple apologetic signs and then bows, before waving at Michele and bowing as well. He waves back, although his expression doesn’t waver from disgruntled at all.

Sara turns to him next. “Viktor. So glad you could make it.” She hugs him and kisses his cheeks, too. “I’m sure you’ve already met him, but in case you haven’t — my brother, Michele.”

“Nice to meet you,” says Viktor, his placid smile firmly on. Michele nods at him, shaking his and Yuuri’s hands briefly.

“You’ll have to pardon his manners. My brother didn’t get any of the family charisma.” Sara’s dark eyes twinkle as she leads them into the house. “It’s such a nice night out, so I thought you guys could have dinner on the terrace! It’ll be heated, so you can leave your coats at the door here.”

Viktor helps Yuuri out of his coat, still marvelling at how flattering the man looks in navy. Sara takes both of their coats and hangs them in a closet by the door, and then leads them through the foyer.

“You guys are the only ones with something booked at this time,” she says, “So you’ve got our — and our staff’s — undivided attention.” She then looks at Yuuri and signs something with all the familiarity of an old friend.

Yuuri thanks her, smiling. Sara then leads them into a small room that’s evidently part of a tour route, based on all of the plaques and photos on the walls. Viktor can see the dramatic deepening of the sky from the floor-to-ceiling windows leading out the side.

“Do you guys want the tour?” asks Sara, and Yuuri nods enthusiastically. Sara beams. “All right, then! Crispino Winery was founded in 1970 by my grandparents, who had come to Torvill from Italy to escape the political unrest back home…”

Viktor lets the spiel wash over him like waves against the shore. It’s not that it’s not interesting — apparently Sara and Michele’s grandparents had brought grape cuttings with them, but quickly found out that Scotland’s climate was not suitable for grape cultivation, and so had turned to making mead and fruit wines instead. But, as always, he finds himself more entranced by Yuuri’s avid expression as he listens to Sara speak. Even though Yuuri has probably heard all of this before, no one would have been able to tell that from the look on his face.

Sara then leads them outside, guiding them through the groves of fruit trees and fields of berry shrubs. Yuuri walks practically at her side, clearly familiar with the place, and Viktor follows just behind, content to watch the golden afternoon sunlight play across Yuuri’s lithe figure. In the golden hour, his otherworldly nature seems all too apparent. As Yuuri tastes a berry that Sara picks for him, the light from the early sunset casts his face with an ethereal glow that Viktor yearns to capture and preserve.

How could he have been so blind? And more importantly, how could he have been so fortunate?

Yuuri heads over to him with his hands folded behind his back, stopping just short of his personal space. Smiling, he raises his hand and presses a small strawberry to Viktor’s lips. Viktor eats the strawberry, his lips lingering against the tips of Yuuri’s fingers longer than strictly necessary, and thrills at Yuuri’s flush and his secret little smile which he hides with his other hand.

From the fields they move into the winery buildings, where several workers are already cleaning up for the day. Sara shows them the vats in which the various wines and liqueurs are made, including the Torvill Mead that had been served at the afterparty on Midsummer’s Eve, as well as the elderflower cordial served at the dance.

“We’re finished with elderflower cordial production now, and we’ll be focusing on turning some of that batch into elderflower wine,” Sara says, as she weaves through the vats with ease. The air seems suffused with the sweet aroma of flowers and berries, along with a hint of citrus. Yuuri folds his hands behind his back and inhales deeply; Viktor is content with savouring that image instead.

Sara then leads them through another set of doors and a tunnel into the cask room. Here she shows them the barrels in which the wines and liqueurs are aged. Each one is labelled with a specific batch number and type of fruit, along with any other additions such as herbs and citrus extracts. From this room there is a passageway past the bottling rooms, and soon they are in the cellars where the bottled products wait to be shipped into Torvill and the other nearby towns that sell Crispino Winery wine.

“What’s your best-selling product?” Viktor asks, once they’re out of the cellars and Sara is leading them through a small herb garden back to the main house.

“The mead, actually,” replies Sara. “But I think the strawberry wine comes in as a close second. It’s a very popular dessert wine. Though I’ve taken care not to fall into that cliché for dinner tonight!”

And with that, she leads them up a small flight of stairs to the heated backyard terrace. Viktor’s breath catches when he sees the setup, because it’s as if Sara has taken his wildest first-date fantasies and put them into reality.

The terrace is shaded by the boughs of two old oaks, and commands, as promised, a beautiful vista of the sunset at Torvill Cove. Hanging from the boughs are Japanese paper lanterns of all sizes, casting a soft warm glow onto a little table set for two. Two heaters are unobtrusively placed near this table, so that the nighttime breeze does not affect them too badly as they take their seats at the table.

There are already servers in white suits at the ready, filling their water glasses and helping them unfold their napkins. Yuuri’s glasses flicker in the candlelight from the tea votives on the table, and he smiles, reaching up to tuck a stray strand of hair back into its gelled position. Viktor couldn’t ask for a sight more perfect even if he tries.

“Are you sure you don’t want to eat with us, Sara?” he asks cheekily. Sara laughs.

“I wouldn’t dream of intruding,” she says. “Besides, Mickey and I ate before you two showed up. We had to test the dinner to make sure it tasted good, after all.” She winks.

“Fair enough,” Viktor says. “What do you have planned for us, then?”

Sara beams. “Well, for starters, we have a charcuterie platter of smoked meats and strong cheeses, to be paired with our elderberry wine and our sweetest Torvill Mead…” and with that, she gestures to the servers, who pour them glasses of wine and mead, and set down in front of them a charcuterie board with three types of cheese and an assortment of delicate-looking smoked meat, as well as a basket of crackers and small bread slices.

Viktor reaches out to the basket and piles a cracker with some brie and smoked ham. He takes a bite, alongside a sip of elderberry wine, and grins. “Vkusno,” he declares, and Yuuri hides his replying grin behind his hand.


private wine dinner for
Viktor Nikiforov and Yuuri Katsuki
28. 6. 2016 | 6PM

fresh wood-smoked charcuterie meats
roquefort bleu, brie, & stilton
paired with torvill sweet mead & elderberry

first course;
spring salad with goat cheese, apples, & cranberries
paired with elderflower cordial & sparkling strawberry

second course;
crab linguini with chili & parsley
paired with gooseberry

third course;
braised duck breast with pomegranate citrus glaze
roasted herbed mushrooms
paired with blackberry

crème brûlée | cherry port
torta caprese | raspberry dessert

Viktor’s never had so much wine in one sitting. He’d never been much of a wine drinker, personally, though he does know about the minute details of wine and food pairings. Several scenes from several stories had depended on it.

And from what he can tell, the Crispinos have really outdone themselves. Each dish is portioned just the right amount to give a good taste, to last about as long as the wine it’s meant to be paired with, and to still leave room for more. By the time he’s finishing up the flourless chocolate cake that’s supposed to be the one of the two desserts, he’s near bursting and more than just a little buzzed from all of the wine.

He’d tried to take notes like he knows he should for a wine tasting. In fact, he had noted that the gooseberry wine had hints of elderflower in it and a sweetness to rival most dry grape wines. But somewhere between the gooseberry and the blackberry wine, his brain had gotten derailed at the sight of Yuuri Katsuki licking idly at his fork, and it had only gotten worse as the night wore on and Yuuri consumed more wine.

Halfway through the duck, Viktor had been convinced Yuuri was purposefully sliding his foot against Viktor’s leg under the table, but whenever he asked about it, Yuuri had batted his damned long eyelashes at Viktor and feigned innocence. Viktor had given up trying to offer feedback on the wine after that.

He’s going to get his revenge, sometime, someday. But in the meantime, the slow drag of Yuuri’s perfect pink tongue along his dessert spoon is doing terrible things to Viktor’s heart, and it’s taking all of his self-control not to pounce across the table and show Yuuri better uses for that tongue right then and there. He’s pretty sure his palms have crescent indents from his nails at this point, and the soft flutter of Yuuri’s lashes against his cheeks only drives the indents deeper.

This was delicious! Yuuri writes cheerily to Sara as she comes by with the servers to take their dessert plates, apparently completely oblivious to Viktor’s little crisis across the table. Did you cook any of it?

She laughs at that. “No, it was a joint effort between Michele and our resident chef. Michele’s always been a bit more talented on the kitchen side of things.”

My compliments to him, then, writes Yuuri, smiling. Sara responds with the ‘thank you’ gesture.

“Could I get you two anything else? Tea? Coffee?” she asks. She smiles at Viktor, and he shifts nervously and asks for a latte. He knows he shouldn’t be on the road in this weird half-drunk, half-aroused state, so he also asks for time to recover from the sheer amount of alcohol he’d just consumed. Sara nods, and tells him they’re free to remain as long as they like.

Night has now drawn its curtain of darkness over them. Out here on the hillside the stars seem a little brighter, a little closer. When Yuuri moves his seat from the table to the terrace’s edge, Viktor follows, leaning against him as they look up towards the sky together. Each little whiff of Yuuri’s clean-smelling shampoo makes his heart twist a little more.

“My grandmother once told me the stars in the sky represent the souls of all the people on Earth,” he says after a moment. Yuuri purses his lips like he’s humming, his fingers entangling playfully with Viktor’s on the armrests between them.

A shooting star bursts across the sky at that moment, and Viktor points at it.  “She said that when people die, their stars fall from heaven, just like that. One last act of beauty before the touch of oblivion.”

That’s poignant, Yuuri muses into the soft skin of Viktor’s forearm, sending shivers down his spine. It reminds me of your earliest poems.

“I still can’t believe you’ve read those,” Viktor says, sighing.

They gave me comfort when I was mourning Vicchan, replies Yuuri. Your words have always meant so much to me.

“You are possibly the only fan in the world who can say that and make me feel light inside,” Viktor says, lost as ever in the sparkle of Yuuri’s eyes and the soft-focus glow of his cheeks. He reaches out, brushes a knuckle against soft, smooth skin. “I mean, I’m happy when I hear it from other people, but with you, it’s like… it’s like you’re pouring sunshine into my soul.”

Is that healthy? wonders Yuuri, a teasing smile tugging at his lips.

Viktor pouts. “I’m trying to be romantic, here,” he mutters.

I know. Yuuri rests his head on Viktor’s shoulders and squeezes Viktor’s hands, and all of the petulance inside him melts.

From here, Torvill Cove is a cosmos as well, where the lights of the lampposts and the boardwalk twinkle in the darkness of the rest of the town like little stars. The boardwalk lights will go out soon, when it closes at eleven, but until then it is a beacon in the distance, calling for Viktor to come home.

Sara brings out Viktor’s latte, though Yuuri takes a sip of it as well. Some foam gets onto his nose when he does, and Viktor leans forward and swipes it off with his finger before he even really thinks about it.

Yuuri flushes at that, pink deepening to red as Viktor pops the finger into his mouth and sucks lightly, his eyes never leaving Yuuri’s.

Too bad the rest of the coffee isn’t nearly as entertaining.

Viktor purchases a flask of mead and a bottle of strawberry wine before they leave the winery. Yuuri holds onto them for the drive back, curled up in his seat with the bottles in his lap while Viktor concentrates on the road. He might be sober enough to drive now, but he’s still drunk on Yuuri, and the last thing he needs is to get them lost, or into an accident, or anything else that could happen when one is drunk on Yuuri and driving.

But nothing happens, and they pull onto Market Street just as the lights of the pier and the boardwalk shut down for the night. The streetlights cast the town in eerie fluorescence as Viktor takes the intersection to Bowhill Lane past the church and the library.

Yu-Topia’s porte-cochère is lit when they pull in, with the lobby lights flooding out onto the threshold every time a bellhop or a customer goes in or out. Viktor parks the car at the curb and walks Yuuri up to the door, still not quite ready for the night to be over.

“Well,” he says when they reach the hotel door. “This is probably the part where you invite me up to your flat for coffee and snogging, but I’m not quite sure what the protocol is when one lives in a hotel.”

Yuuri’s smile is exasperatedly fond. Well, for one, I don’t invite people up for coffee on the first date, he signs.

“You’ve had other first dates before? But I thought you said you had no exes!”

Yuuri rolls his eyes. If they don’t get second dates, do they really count as exes?

“Point,” concedes Viktor. He pauses. “What about me, then? Do I get a second date?”

Yuuri smiles coyly, tapping his lips as if he’s thinking about it in the most coquettish, torment-Viktor-Nikiforov way possible. Viktor tries to keep his smile firmly in place, even though his heart is racing a mile without leaving his chest.

After a teasingly long deliberation period, Yuuri nods. Had Viktor been a lesser man, he would have broken out into dance or song, or something. But he isn’t, so he just settles for a fist pump.

“Where would you like to go next?” he asks, and Yuuri’s grin is immediate.

To: Yuuri ❤
want to catch a movie? (*´♡`)

From: Yuuri ❤
what did you have in mind?

To: Yuuri ❤
there’s a film coming out this week by a local filmmaker?
i thought it’d be interesting

From: Yuuri ❤
oh my god

From: Yuuri ❤
you actually want to see the geoff blair film

To: Yuuri ❤
well, i’m all about supporting local artists

From: Yuuri ❤

From: Yuuri ❤
the only reason geoff blair gets his films screened here at all is bc he’s been mates with georgi since they were at uni in glasgow together

To: Yuuri ❤
yeah but it’s about the ocean and the ephemerality of time!
also the other films are imagine me and you and angry birds so

From: Yuuri ❤
ok fine we can go see the geoff blair film

From: Yuuri ❤
you do kinda have to see his films to believe what i’m talking about anyway

From: Yuuri ❤
but for the record i did warn you

One thing Viktor definitely misses about Manchester (and, to a lesser extent, Hartford and Saint Petersburg) is the fact that on any given weekend, there’s at least a couple different things happening.

In a place like Torvill Cove, the only things that happen besides the tourist attractions are parties on Bowhill Lane, the odd concert and Ballroom on the Beach class taught by Minako and Celestino, and whatever three films are currently being shown at the theatre on the corner of Market and Dean. And on a day when there isn’t a concert on the boardwalk or a party on Bowhill Lane (which Yuuri wouldn’t even have fun at without pregaming at least half a bottle of champagne), the only option left is the theatre.

Of course, there are definitely ways to make seemingly boring places fun. There’s the art gallery and museum wings of the Town Hall. There’s the lighthouse. There’s the beach itself, and the secret cove at Lovers’ Point. There’s the option of taking a boat out to the middle of the bay and hope a storm doesn’t come through.

But Viktor had only thought of those things after he’d gotten about ten minutes into this film about the Torvill Cove shoreline and realised there were a hundred and seventy minutes left to go.

Yuuri is sitting in the seat next to him in this mostly-deserted movie theatre, his head leaning on Viktor’s shoulder and his feet propped up on the armrests of the seat in front of him. Even Yuuri’s socks, which are blue and printed with pictures of little seals, are more interesting than the unchanging scenery being projected onto the screen in front of them.

“If I wanted to stare at the ocean for three hours, I’d go to the beach right outside this door,” Viktor mutters, and Yuuri huffs in laughter.

The actual ocean would be more interesting, he writes into Viktor’s palm. More fish.

“Do you think you’re in this film?” Viktor wonders.

As myself or as Katsudon? wonders Yuuri.

“I don’t know, both?”

They get a couple dirty glares from an old woman in the third row. Viktor flashes her a sunny smile, while Yuuri writes, Why is she glaring? Nothing is happening into his hand. Viktor has to stifle a giggle, so as not to re-incur the wrath of the apparent cinephile in the third row.

Twelve minutes of tedious ocean later — how could someone turn the endless, beautiful expanse of the ocean into something so dreadfully dull is completely beyond Viktor’s comprehension — the scene finally changes to another shot of the ocean at a slightly different angle. This time the camera has been placed on the end of one of the Bowhill Lane mansions’ little private docks, so that it can capture the side of the pier and the distant jut of Torvill Point and its lighthouse, alongside faint cottage-like spots of red and white against the greenery of the cliff.

“Is that you?” Viktor wonders, quietly whispering this time so the old lady won’t hear him.

Where? Yuuri asks.

“Over there,” Viktor points to the screen.

I can’t see it, signs Yuuri.

There!” hisses Viktor.

The old woman glares again. Viktor sighs, slumping against Yuuri. The little black spot vanishes beneath the waves. The camera still hasn’t budged at all. A gull flies past.

Viktor drapes an arm around Yuuri’s shoulders. Yuuri snuggles up closer, and Viktor curses the fact that movie theatre armrests are fixed in place.

Five minutes into this next shot, Viktor becomes aware of a strange wet sound coming from behind him. He glances back, catching a glimpse of blond hair and leopard print in what is possibly the darkest back corner of the theatre. Sighing, he turns back to Yuuri, who has noticed his shifting and looks up at him, eyes questioning.

“Yuri’s here,” Viktor whispers. Yuuri hides a grin behind a hand.

He sounds like he’s here with someone, he signs after a moment.

“Well, they’re definitely having more fun than the rest of us,” declares Viktor. The old woman turns around again to shoot them what could possibly be the dirtiest glare known to humankind, and Yuuri waves back cheekily.

Viktor laughs silently at that, leaning in and nosing at Yuuri’s hair, revelling in the smell of his shampoo. “You’re horrible,” he whispers.

If this was any other film her anger would have been justified, replies Yuuri.

“Fair enough,” agrees Viktor. He then spots the black spot in the waves again. “Look, you’re back on screen.”

Yuuri squints, and shakes his head. That could be anything, he writes along Viktor’s forearm, underlining the last word.

“Yeah, but it could be you.” Viktor ruffles Yuuri’s hair. “You could be a movie star.”

Yuuri makes a face. I don’t want my big break to be an incidental role in a shitty experimental film, he writes.

“All right,” says Viktor, “then what would you like your big break to look like, hm?”

Yuuri ponders this for a moment. How about a Studio Ghibli film? he wonders.

Viktor grins. “You know, I think I could see you as an animated character.”

They hear a groan of frustration from the third row, but this time the woman doesn’t even turn around. Evidently she has given up.

Yuuri yawns after a couple more minutes of rippling ocean, and slumps more heavily against Viktor now, idly playing with the arm draped across his shoulder. Viktor lets him, watching the waters for the return of the black dot that may or may not be a seal. He stifles a yawn as well when the scene finally changes again, this time to a shot taken from the back of the pier in the early morning, before the usual fishermen come to cast their lines. Even the presence of fishermen would have made the film a little more interesting.

And then the head of a black seal pops up in the space between the railings of the pier.

“Yuuri!” whispers Viktor, nudging a dozing-off Yuuri. “Look, it’s you!”

Yuuri opens his eyes and squints at the screen. He raises an eyebrow, and then looks at Viktor with wide eyes.

“This director should have credited you,” Viktor complains.

Yuuri snorts. I’d rather not be linked to this, he writes.

Viktor shrugs, and shifts in his seat so he can watch Yuuri slip back into sleep against his shoulder. The interplay of shadow and light across his face from the images on the screen makes for a much more fascinating sight than whatever is actually on the screen at this moment. Viktor reaches out to straighten out Yuuri’s glasses, and privately thinks he’d gladly watch so many more films if they could be projected onto Yuuri’s body like this one is now.

After what feels like an eternity, the image changes again to one shot from underneath the lighthouse. This time it’s an overhead shot of the waves crashing against the rocks below, though the smallness of the only interesting portion of the shot — as if the director doesn’t seem familiar with the concept of closeups — renders moot any tension between the white sea spray and the dark rocks. But projected onto Yuuri’s face the film seems to take on a completely different dimension, as if Yuuri’s features are one with the natural beauty of the cove.

Of course, how could he not be? Selkie, thinks Viktor, rolling the word around in his head over and over like a child playing with a new concept. Selkie. It’s been more than a week since Yuuri told him, and it still seems so outlandish.

Viktor smiles at the little cartoon seals on Yuuri’s feet. Selkie. He pulls Yuuri even closer, leaning his head against the top of Yuuri’s, savouring the way Yuuri leans back even in his sleep. The movie theatre’s armrests dig painfully into his side, but he he doesn’t mind at all.

“Oi, you two, get a room!” Viktor turns at the shout to see Yuri Plisetsky, leopard print jacket and all, with his hair mussed and a flustered-looking Otabek Altin in the seat next to him.

“You’re one to talk!” he shouts back, and the old woman rises to her feet in high dudgeon.

“That’s it!” she shrieks. “I’m calling the manager!”

My Heart Belongs to the Roaring of the Waves and the Stillness of the Sand
dir. Geoffrey Blair
Reviewed by Mollie Conway on 2 July 2016

Last Thursday marked the premiere of local director Geoffrey Blair’s fifth attempt at creating cinematic art, and well. He succeeded at the art part, if raising an eyebrow and exclaiming “aaaaaaaart?” as your only proper description of the piece makes it count as art. Blair, who has brought us such treasures such as I am a Cavern of Longingness for Your Skin (which, lest we forget, was a four-hour ‘exploration’ of his ex’s naked body in a bathtub) and The Concavity of My Soul and its Esthetics (a time lapse of a tree on Lovers’ Point that was seven hours too long), continues in his relentless quest in “preserving the ephemerality of the Now [sic]” by crafting this three-hour examination of Torvill Cove’s shoreline.

For anyone new to Blair’s œuvre, My Heart Belongs to the Roaring of the Waves and the Stillness of the Sand is his shortest work to date.

Following in the footsteps of Abbas Kiarostami’s Five Dedicated to Ozu, Blair’s My Heart Belongs to the Roaring of the Waves and the Stillness of the Sand (which I will shorten to My Heart from here on out to save my fingers) features seven extremely long takes (ranging from 25 to 30 minutes each) of various locations in Torvill Cove, from the end of the pier to the middle of the bay to the edge of Torvill Point under the lighthouse. However, while Kiarostami’s film is compositionally stunning, creates an interesting tension within the shot, and forms dialectical relations in the assembly of the shots, Blair’s piece wants for all of that. Despite his access to quality film and beautiful scenery, his end product fails to contribute anything meaningful to the discourse on long-take experimental cinema that has not already been said and done by filmmakers more talented than him.

Of course, there will always be people in this town who will be appreciative of the attempt to preserve the local scenery as it is before our increasingly global society completely develops the area, so I’m sure this film will resonate with them. As someone who has seen Five Dedicated to Ozu and various other long-take works by other directors, however, I have to say that My Heart only feels like a half-hearted copycat of what has come before. Even the infamous Empire (dir. Andy Warhol) is more watchable than this.

The Corner Cinema is screening My Heart for the next two weeks, alongside Me Before You (dir. Thea Sharrock) and The Angry Birds Movie (dir. Clay Katis and Fergal Reilly)

After an apologetic Georgi kicks them out of the theatre (“Sorry, it’s in the rules that disruptive guests can be kicked out anytime; Anya and I were a lot quieter when we… nevermind”), Yuuri leads Viktor to the pier. As they step onto the boards, Viktor feels, with a thrill of his heart, Yuuri looping his arm with his.

“Sorry I got us kicked out,” he says.

It was my fault too, Yuuri signs, though he has to let go of Viktor’s arm to do so. Would you have sat through that any longer?

“Point,” concedes Viktor. “But it would just feel more satisfying to have walked out instead of being kicked out, you know? More agency that way.”

Yuuri snorts. Because agency is what matters here, he signs with dry amusement clear on his face.

“I didn’t know you could convey sarcasm in sign language.”

Try me, retorts Yuuri. It’s all in the accompanying body language, you know.

“Does it ever get tiring, having to be so expressive with the rest of your body in order to convey a specific meaning?” wonders Viktor. “Don’t people start thinking you’re an open book?”

Yuuri taps his chin briefly, before shaking his head and taking out his notebook. You’re discounting the full range of human expression, he writes.

Viktor hums, and watches the sea breeze ruffle Yuuri’s hair. “I guess I’m just used to having a voice,” he says after a moment. “I’ve never really had to think that there’s more to expression than just modulating your tone and your facial expressions.”

People do tend to take it for granted, muses Yuuri.

Viktor purses his lips. “Is it a selkie thing?” he asks after a moment. “You know, not being able to speak. A bit Little Mermaid-esque, if you ask me.”

Yuuri snorts. The difference between the Little Mermaid and me is that I already live where the people are, so I know their sign language, he writes.

“And I suppose you don’t need to get a prince to kiss you in three days or else turn into sea foam or something,” Viktor adds.

Yuuri’s eyes twinkle as he writes, and Viktor nearly chokes on his own spit when he sees the response: I’m not so sure about that.

“Well, if it’s in the name of preventing you from turning into sea foam, then I’d gladly volunteer to kiss you,” he replies, though he can feel the tips of his ears burning. “Though, I’m not a prince or anything.”

Given that the alternative would be JJ ‘the King’ Leroy, I think you might have to do, replies Yuuri with a smile that causes Viktor’s insides to flutter.

“I’m so flattered that you consider kissing me as nothing but a better alternative to kissing JJ Leroy,” he intones drily, and Yuuri’s shoulders shake with silent laughter.

They take a lap down to the end of the pier and back, the silence between them now vibrating with a strange, playful tension, before Yuuri tugs Viktor over to the Ferris wheel.

Apparently the ride operator knows Yuuri, because she lets them on without even asking for tickets. Viktor vaguely remembers the last time he’d ridden a Ferris wheel. He had gone up in the London Eye alone amongst a crowd of tourists, and though he had enjoyed the spread of the city below him, he had still felt isolated from the happy couples and families in the gondola with him.

It had been the same feeling the last time he had gone to a film, too, come to think of it. He’d been going to the cinema alone for almost as long as he started living on his own. He’d had colleagues, acquaintances, even weird writing rivals. He’d made many of these connections over the Internet.

But he’d never really had a friend, let alone someone like Yuuri. And given everything else that Yuuri is, Viktor’s certain he’ll never meet anyone quite like him ever again.

The wheel pauses to let on more people halfway to its zenith. Already the pier looks so small below them; the waters of the bay sparkle in the afternoon sun like diamonds. Yuuri holds onto his hand as their gondola keeps climbing, and Viktor looks down at him with his heart in his throat.

“Did you really mean what you said?” he asks after a moment.

Yuuri looks up at him, an eyebrow raised.

Viktor feels his cheeks heating up. “The whole kissing thing,” he says. “Did you mean that?”

I’m not going to turn into sea foam, Yuuri signs with amused exasperation.

“But would you still kiss me?”

The wheel reaches the top. Yuuri’s brown eyes shine like amber as he looks up at Viktor, as if pondering the question. Viktor’s certain his heart is one more beat away from bursting, the longer Yuuri seems to deliberate.

“I’m sorry,” he says, as the wheel starts to descend. “I should have known that was a —”

He’s cut off by the sudden overwhelming presence of Yuuri all around him. Yuuri’s lips are soft against his; his hands grip tightly at Viktor’s collar. Viktor closes his eyes and inhales in the scent of Yuuri’s shampoo, relishing in the smell of clean linen and sea spray. His hands come up almost reflexively to cup the back of Yuuri’s head, holding him close. Yuuri deepens the kiss, his mouth opening up to Viktor’s like the blossoming of some exquisite flower, and Viktor drowns in the taste of Yuuri for the first time and realises with blinding quickness that he wants more.

When they break apart, Yuuri’s eyes are wide and his cheeks are flushed. That was my first kiss, he signs.

Viktor smiles, though he feels more winded than anything. His lips are still tingling from the ghost of Yuuri’s kiss. His stomach is swooping and fluttering, and not from the Ferris wheel. “Are you sure about that?” he asks.

Yuuri nods. Viktor whistles.

“Must be raw talent,” he says, and smirks a little. “Maybe you just need a little extra coaching.”

And you think you’re the one to do it, retorts Yuuri.

“Well, you know what they say,” replies Viktor, and he leans in and returns the kiss. “Practice,” another kiss, “makes,” another, “perfect.”

Yuuri’s shoulders shake with giggles when they break apart. I’ve made a mistake, he signs, brown eyes dancing, Clearly kissing you is not enough.

Viktor could have leapt from the gondola and been buoyed right into the air, that’s how light he feels in this moment. “Not enough for you, hm?” he asks teasingly.

Nor you, it seems, replies Yuuri.

“You got me.” Viktor chuckles, as their gondola circles around for another rotation. “Clearly this needs to be remedied.”

You’re terrible, says Yuuri, but he kisses him anyway.

mukai osamu as yuuri in a cafe

Viktor Nikiforov @v-nikiforov
Why is he so beautiful #thisboy

After several rounds on the Ferris wheel, and several more kisses, Yuuri takes Viktor to a little café just off Market Street where the pastries are baked fresh and the owner owns a little terrier that wears a bright red bow in her hair.

The croissants in this bakery are just as good as the ones in Paris, Viktor thinks, as he breaks off another bit of the flaky buttery croissant in front of him. Across from him, Yuuri is stirring his latté with a soft, pensive look on his face, his own croissant still in its bag.

“If you don’t eat that, I might,” Viktor warns.

Yuuri smiles and shrugs, before folding his hands together in front of his face. Viktor can’t help it; he takes a picture of Yuuri and shows it to him.

“I want to post this,” he says. Yuuri deliberates for a moment, before nodding. Viktor uploads the picture to Instagram before putting his phone away, taking Yuuri’s hands and pressing kisses to the tips of each finger. This time, he unabashedly revels in the way Yuuri’s eyes darken in response.

“Has anyone told you lately that you’re staggeringly beautiful?” Viktor wonders.

Yuuri considers it for a moment, before pulling out his notebook. Phichit said I was ‘hot stuff’ this morning when I sent him pictures of this outfit, he writes. Does that count?

Viktor chuckles. “I suppose so.” He sips his latte, and then checks Instagram. “Ah, he just replied to my photo saying you’re ‘naturally irresistible’.”

Yuuri grins, sticks out his tongue. Viktor feels his heart jolt at the sight of Yuuri’s tongue, so he busies himself with ripping another piece of his croissant.

“Maybe I should be honest with you,” he says after a moment. Yuuri raises an eyebrow, as if encouraging him to continue. “I’ve spent so much of my life alone or in brief flings that I can’t really remember what it’s like to be in a long-term relationship.” He pauses. “If that’s something you’re interested in, that is. I mean, I understand if you want to stay just —”

He’s cut off by Yuuri swooping in to peck the corner of his mouth. There was a crumb, the man signs when he sits back down in his seat. He then writes, Also, I wouldn’t kiss you so many times if I wasn’t interested in a relationship with you.

“That’s not necessarily —” begins Viktor, but then he cuts off at the look on Yuuri’s face. “Right.” He swallows. “Shutting up now.”

Yuuri smiles. I know kissing isn’t necessarily a romantic gesture, he writes. But for me it is.

Viktor vaguely wonders if that’s because of British culture, Japanese culture, or some subconscious selkie imperative. But he doesn’t say anything, only sips his latte and nods for Yuuri to continue. But Yuuri doesn’t; he takes his croissant out of its bag instead and rips it into two.

Want one? he signs. Viktor shakes his head, gesturing to his own almost-gone croissant. He takes a long sip of his latte, and when he sets it down he notices that Yuuri has gone ahead and put one of the halves in front of him.

Viktor sighs and takes it. “Thank you,” he says, before finishing up the other croissant in order to start on this one. They eat for a moment in silence, before Viktor speaks up again.

“So, then, what are we?” he asks. “What would you like me to be to you?”

Yuuri smiles, and he reaches out to pat Viktor’s hand. He looks so unbelievably soft in the afternoon light that it takes Viktor’s breath away. Already he suspects these skips in his heart and these stops in his breath are going to be a regular occurrence around Yuuri; what thrills him, though, is that he doesn’t mind at all. It seems like a small price to pay.

I want nothing from you, signs Yuuri, except for you to keep being yourself. Be Viktor to me, and I’ll be content.

That’s the least and yet the most anyone has ever asked of him. The world has always asked for him to be Viktor the writer, Viktor the wordsmith, Viktor the purveyor of constant literary surprises.

But Viktor the human being? Such a simple and yet daunting request. Even if that’s the entire reason for him to be in this town, Viktor’s still on guard all the time, careful not to let his professional author veneer slip around the townspeople and tourists. But here Yuuri is, punching holes into that cover without even asking or knowing he’s doing it.

It delights Viktor to the very core.

“Then don’t hide anything from me, either, Yuuri,” he says, reaching out and cupping his cheek. “I want to know everything about you. Everything there is to know, and then some.”

You already know my biggest secret, Yuuri replies.

“But I don’t even know your most basic pet peeves. Or your favourite colour. Or the one thing that makes you, without fail, crinkle up your eyes in that adorable smile.” Viktor’s thumb brushes against Yuuri’s bottom lip, eliciting a tremble. “I want to map out the curves of your body and understand the timing of your heartbeat. I don’t just want the shy wallflower or the mysterious selkie, Yuuri. I want you, in your entire being, just as much as you want me.”

Yuuri’s eyes look a little watery when Viktor’s thumb leaves his lips, and he pulls off his glasses, wiping them absently on his shirt before putting them back on. He fidgets with his fingers, as if not sure what to say in response, before reaching out and squeezing Viktor’s hand.

That’s all I have to give, he replies, and Viktor’s heart soars at the smile on his face.

The Shoe Fits! Yuuri Katsuki and Viktor Nikiforov’s Summer Romance is #Confirmed

You heard it here first — bestselling author Viktor Nikiforov is now officially off the market. In an Instagram post on 3 July 2016, Nikiforov pretty much #confirmed that he’s been dating the local mysterious heartthrob, Yuuri Katsuki. According to certain anonymous sources, the two were also caught that same day kissing on the Ferris wheel, and not-really-paying-attention to a showing of the film My Heart Belongs to the Roaring of the Waves and the Stillness of the Sand.

“It was about bloody fucking time,” is the consensus amongst many residents of Torvill Cove who have been privy to the blossoming romance between the two, which included things such as frequent (apparently platonic?) trips to Lovers’ Point and spending almost the entirety of the Midsummer dance stuck to one another. According to other anonymous sources, Nikiforov even wined and dined Katsuki at the end of last month at the Crispino Winery. So by the time this picture came out, it only really just confirms what we at Coved Secrets have been suspecting for a long while — these two are indeed an item, and they’re #adorable.

For more Katsuki-Nikiforov adorableness, visit the #viktuuri tag on Instagram!

Emil Nekola’s birthday is the following weekend, and he celebrates it with a party on the beach at twilight. Yuuri and Viktor go, along with most people they know. It’s fairly informal; Michele brings a small grill for cooking, and Emil provides the sausages and other pieces of meat, as well as a giant cask of Pilsner Urquell from who knows where.

Yuuri lingers by Viktor’s side for most of the beginning of the night. He sips at his cup of beer with a little wrinkle in his brow and a little shudder in his shoulders at every sip. Viktor had never been much into beer, either. He could drink it, of course, but he wasn’t about to go seek out microbreweries or something. Besides, his exposure to quality beer had been limited most of his life. Russia hadn’t been particularly the best place for it, and the stuff regularly available in the United States tasted more like canned piss.

“Pilsner is cheaper than water in Prague, you know.” Emil approaches Viktor after Yuuri goes off to get some food. “Of course import fees and taxes drive up the prices here, but I always make sure to stock it anyway. Reminds me of home.”

“I do remember being surprised at the cheapness of the alcohol in the Czech Republic,” agrees Viktor as he takes a sip of his own beer. “I think it might even be cheaper than in Denmark or Germany?”

“Probably,” says Emil, shrugging. “Which unfortunately makes Prague a fairly popular setting for British stag parties.” He shudders, almost as if he’s having flashbacks to the last time he’d encountered one of those. Viktor’s personally glad that he hasn’t run into any particularly obnoxious stag dos in Torvill Cove yet.

“I’ve encountered my fair share in Manchester,” he tells Emil. “I remember seeing this one girl drink an entire rum and Coke in a bucket roughly the size of her head.”

Emil snorts. “That’s actually quite tame, if you ask me,” he says. “I’ve seen British people drunk on the trams going to Prague Castle at ten in the morning. Ten! Those are the mornings where I feel like I’ve accidentally taken bit of Torvill back home with me.”

“How long have you been here?” wonders Viktor. He remembers hearing from Phichit that Emil was actually extremely young — no more than seventeen at the time, in fact. But he doesn’t look it, of course, given his goatee and the cheery calm with which he handles the day-to-day business of the store.

“My father came here when I was young to start the store,” says Emil, looking out towards the sea. Yuuri rejoins Viktor with a platter of sausage; he holds it out, and Viktor takes one of the slices with an appreciative smile. “My mother sent me over here a couple years later because she thought the education would be better here. I usually fly home every summer, though, so this is the first year I haven’t.”

“Do you miss Prague?” Viktor wonders as he nibbles at his sausage, watching Christophe take group pictures of the other partygoers against the backdrop of the setting sun.  

“Do you miss Russia?” retorts Emil. Viktor laughs a little, shrugs. He knows, deep down, that there will always be a part of him that misses the gulls crying on the Neva, that misses the rumble of the trams across the bridges and the feeling of a frozen canal below his skates. Saint Petersburg is etched into his bones; no matter how far he strays, he’ll still have to return someday, even if it’s just to visit a little garden on the banks of the Smolenka River and think of piano music and pirozhki.

“Depends on the day,” he admits. “But not today.” Today the light is golden and the wet sand seems to reflect the hues of the sky. Michele is trying to fend off gulls from his carefully-grilled sausages, while Sara laughs at him. Christophe and Phichit are taking pictures of everything, though using different equipment and probably with different intentions in mind.

Viktor’s had several poignant life experiences before this. He’s not nearly stupid enough to think this will be the last. But there’s something magical in this particular moment, when he’s eating freshly-grilled food on a beach in Scotland with the sun slipping below the sea just in front of him, when all of the people that surround him are friendly and care about him to some degree — when somebody who never fails to make his blood pound and his heart sing is standing by his side — that all other moments feel like pale imitations of life compared to this one.

This is the sort of life Viktor has been looking for, and he doesn’t want to let it go.

As the light fades slowly from the sky, some of the partygoers decide to start another bonfire on the beach. Viktor is starting to suspect that this might be a regular occurrence amongst the younger denizens of the town — the beach itself has no established firepits, but having a bonfire on the beach is just far too tempting a notion to ignore. He wonders how long it’ll take the local constable to show up this time.

When the fire flickers and sparks into life, someone (possibly either Leo or Guang-Hong) brings out a small box of sparklers. Viktor isn’t quite sure what to do with his at first, but Yuuri shows him by sticking his own into the fire. He and Yuri then begin chasing one another with their lit sparklers, weaving in and out of the other people and laughing. Viktor can only light his own and join in, smiling when he notices Christophe taking pictures of them. He draws pictures in the air for Christophe, traces hearts and writes his name. Though his sparklers quickly fizzle out, others quickly take their place.

The night is soon filled with dancing, glittering lights. Even Christophe, erstwhile photographer that he may be, ends up lighting up a couple sparklers, leaving his camera for Viktor to look after. It’s a different camera from the one he used the first time Viktor met him. This one’s a digital DSLR, and it seems that Christophe has lowered its shutter speed so that he can capture the ribbons of light created by the sparklers. Viktor tries a couple shots, capturing a bright blue streak and the faintest glimpse of Yuri’s face as the kid runs past in pursuit of Yuuri.

He takes several more pictures of all the party guests, including Yuri getting distracted by a lightsaber duel with Otabek, Christophe doing various exciting twirls with his sparklers, Mila and Sara filling the air around them with hearts. But he has to admit, he keeps returning again and again to Yuuri. The dark-haired man is dancing in the sand, his head thrown back and his eyes closed, completely lost to some music that Viktor can somehow hear through his body movements, despite not even knowing the name of the tune.

How could someone as divine as Yuuri Katsuki ever want him? How could someone so whole ever want someone so broken as he? Viktor knows he’s being selfish, knows he’s being impatient, knows he’s being immature. It’s all he’s ever known, and all he’ll ever be.

Yuuri looks at him in the moment he raises the camera for one final shot of him. He seems to lock eyes with the camera, and Viktor shivers a little despite the warmth of the summer night. Yuuri looks at the camera with eyes half-lidded, a dark something in his gaze that sends warmth coursing through Viktor’s body down to the tips of his toes. He burns, he pines, he perishes — and he’s terrified of being given permission to take.

It’s like the lapping of the tides against the sand. All he can do is take, take, take, with each incremental increase inwards upon the shore, until all of the beach is flooded beneath his waves. It’s inexorable, inevitable. But with Yuuri, he wants to keep this tide at bay as long as he can.

(He wants to keep Yuuri as long as he can.)

Christophe looks through his photos when he reclaims his camera at the end of the night, and chuckles when he sees the photos Viktor has taken. There’s five that Viktor is proud of, each one of Yuuri dancing with the sparklers. The lights of other people’s sparklers whip around him in ribbons of colour, contrasting with the darkness of the night and the paleness of Yuuri’s skin as he throws back his lissome limbs with wild abandon.

“I’ll send you the files,” Christophe says with a grin.

Viktor traces the image where Yuuri looks at the camera, his gaze sultry and yet challenging. “That would be great,” he murmurs.

“You did a good job. Maybe I’ll even make some prints out of them.” Christophe’s wink is salacious. Viktor snorts.

“I don’t think Yuuri would appreciate you selling prints of his face,” he says.

“Who said I’m selling?” wonders Christophe, eyes twinkling. Viktor can’t help the burble of jealousy in the pit of his stomach, but he says nothing to that, only smiles placidly and goes to find Yuuri to walk him home.

Those images are of a side of Yuuri that he wants to keep to himself. Possessiveness is not a new feeling for him. But what’s different this time is how much he knows he shouldn’t feel this way, and it only fills him with guilt when Yuuri takes his hand and presses a kiss to his cheek.

How could he ever, with all of his flaws and scars, deserve someone like Yuuri?

To: Viktor Nikiforov (
From: Christophe Giacometti (

all right, romeo, ask and you shall receive ;) it’s in a .zip so there might be compression but I tried sending you the highest resolution possible. if you really want better quality pop by my darkroom again and we can hook up your external hard drive to my laptop ;)))

also if you want prints too i can make them for you, so you can frame them like the smitten fool i know you are <3





25 June 2016


25 September 2016





I’ve been wondering about my sealskin, Yuuri writes one afternoon while they had been downstairs in the library. Viktor had been idly browsing through Nikolai Plisetsky’s book, reading some of the stories about the town in its earliest days. He looks up when he feels Yuuri tap his hand, and sees the message.

What about your sealskin? Viktor asks on the paper right underneath, and then returns to his reading. Moments later, he gets another tap.

I haven’t been able to return to the little beach and look for it again, because it’s been closed off for pupping season, Yuuri explains. But usually when I misplace my skin it turns up again in a couple of days, and Yūko will usually let me know if she spots it lying around. I’m starting to think someone stole it.

Viktor pauses, swallows at that. “Do you really think that?” he whispers. Yuuri nods, so Viktor sets down the book and turns to face him at the desk. “Then who do you think might have done it?” he wonders.

Do you mean, who knows about my secret? Yuuri asks. Viktor nods. Yuuri taps thoughtfully at his lips with the pen for a moment. My parents, he writes. Mari. Yūko. Minako. But I know none of them would ever hide my skin from me.

“So you parents knew all along who you were,” Viktor whispers.

Yuuri smiles. They were the ones who found me and took me in as an injured pup.

The gravestone in Bowhill Cemetery is suddenly brighter, clearer. It’s as if a fog has been lifted from Viktor’s head; all the pieces are now sliding into place. Yuuri Katsuki had been a miracle. He had given, completely unwittingly, a set of grieving parents the second chance they had always wanted. Viktor feels his heart swell with pride at the thought, and, without really thinking about it, he leans in and kisses Yuuri gently.

Yuuri blossoms beneath his lips, mouth opening to deepen the kiss, fingers reaching up to trace Viktor’s cheek. Viktor feels warmth coursing through him, heady and sweet, and with each brush of Yuuri’s lips he loses more and more of his train of thought.

Kissing Yuuri is dangerous; the slightest brush of Yuuri’s tongue against his makes him briefly forget his own name. He chases Yuuri’s lips, dragging Yuuri’s bottom lip lightly between his teeth before soothing them with his tongue, savouring the soft sighs the other man breathes into the spaces between their mouths. The world around them loses place, time, and meaning; all that matters is the way Yuuri’s hands tangle in his hair and the way he leans out of his chair to press as much of himself against Viktor as possible.

Viktor craves a greater proximity now; getting closer to Yuuri’s body, feeling Yuuri against him is not just a want, but a need. He briefly breaks their connection to get out of his seat, nodding his head towards the stacks, and Yuuri’s cheeks flush but he nods and follows.

And that’s how Viktor finds himself breaking rule six of the Torvill Cove Public Library as he presses Yuuri against the shelves in the back corner of the stacks, taking off the other man’s glasses and sliding them into his pockets. It’s not that he’s not aware of it; Seung-gil has it plastered all over the entryways and on the front desk. Under most other circumstances, he would have had no inclination to break it.

However, adding a certain dark-haired selkie into the equation throws all other inclinations out the window.

Yuuri’s back hits the shelf with a thud as Viktor mouths at his neck, eliciting a little gasp of surprise from the dark-haired man before he seizes the back of Viktor’s neck to pull him back up for a kiss. This one is hard, a bit bruising, as if Yuuri is making up for the gentleness of the previous ones that they’ve shared. Viktor’s blood sings as he feels Yuuri’s teeth scrape at his lips.

“Are you sure you’ve never kissed before the Ferris wheel?” he murmurs when they break, surveying Yuuri’s flushed cheeks.

You must be a better coach than you thought, retorts Yuuri in sign before he drags Viktor’s lips back to his, his hands roaming the expanse of Viktor’s shoulders. Viktor can only respond by pressing himself closer, slotting his hips against Yuuri’s. His hands trail down the small of Yuuri’s back and slip into Yuuri’s back pockets.

Yuuri squirms a little, but he makes no move to push Viktor away; instead, he smiles against Viktor’s lips and opens his mouth further, his fingers entangling again in Viktor’s hair. Viktor moans a little when Yuuri pulls, and he hears a soft voiceless chuckle in response. In revenge, Viktor breaks the kiss to gently suck against Yuuri’s collar, marking him just high enough that Yuuri will have to button his shirt collar in order to conceal it. He then presses gentle kisses down the column of Yuuri’s neck, paying attention to the spots that elicit little sighs and committing them to memory.

But he can’t stray from Yuuri’s lips for long, and he returns to them again for several breathless minutes, his pulse pounding in his head as Yuuri’s lips move perfectly with his own, his tongue slipping into Yuuri’s waiting mouth and his arms hoisting Yuuri up by the legs with the bookshelves as leverage. Yuuri’s legs wrap around him like they were born to do it, his pelvis pressing against Viktor’s, and Viktor can’t deny the thrill of knowing, in the sweet yet excruciating grind between their bodies, that Yuuri wants him just as much as he wants Yuuri right now.

Yuuri’s name fills the space between their lips when they break apart. The dark-haired man’s face is flushed, his eyes darkened with arousal. The impatient part of Viktor craves him like a man in the desert craves water, wanting to throw all caution to the wind and take him right here amid the books on 15th-century Scottish fishing practices. But another part of him reminds him to wait. To take it slow. Yuuri doesn’t deserve to have his first time be in the library stacks, especially if Seung-gil comes by.

“Yuuri,” Viktor repeats. “We should stop.”

Yuuri raises an eyebrow, the question evident in his gaze. Why?

“Someone will catch us.”

This was your idea, Yuuri writes into Viktor’s shoulder.

“I know,” breathes Viktor against Yuuri’s ear, pressing kisses to the side of his head. “I just — if we continue, I don’t know if I can — you deserve better than the library stacks —”

He’s cut off by Yuuri grinding his hips against Viktor’s. I get to determine when and where I want it, Yuuri’s expression says, in the slant of his brows and the steel of his eyes. He is breathtaking like this, and had Viktor been lacking in self-control he might have come right in his trousers at the sight.

“Yes, but what if —” begins Viktor, but Yuuri growls at him, yanking him back in for another kiss, and all thoughts of protest fly out of the window. The world narrows again, to just him and Yuuri and the heat between their bodies, and Viktor knows he’s not going to last long if Yuuri keeps kissing him like this —

“What the hell?” The two of them immediately fly apart at the sound of a new voice. It’s Yuri Plisetsky, hand-in-hand with Otabek Altin, an expression of shock on his face.

“Yuri!” Viktor exclaims, immediately dropping Yuuri to his feet. He smooths back his hair as Yuuri straightens his clothes.

“Ooh, Seung-gil’s going to love this,” says Yuri, and Viktor’s blood freezes. Yuuri has paled as well, and is rapidly gesturing something that Viktor can’t quite decipher.

Yuri signs back in equally rapid succession, his expression not giving Viktor any clues as to whether or not Yuuri has convinced him not to tattle. Panicking, he says:

“Yuri, didn’t you really want that plush cat that Guang-Hong put up in the window of the bookstore?”

Yuri stares at him. “Are you trying to bribe me?” he demands.

“How much do you really want that plush, then?” Viktor asks.

Moments later, while nursing an acute case of blue balls, Viktor finds himself buying Yuri Plisetsky a hand-stitched plush doll of a cat in a little leather jacket that Guang-Hong had put in the window display of the bookshop. The gifts on sale in here are all from local artists and craftspeople, and the majority of the proceeds go towards the artists themselves. Viktor notices with some satisfaction that while Christophe’s most recent photographs of the beach during Emil’s party are now on sale as prints, none of them are the ones he took of Yuuri.

“You know, Piglet,” Yuri remarks as soon as Viktor hands him the purchased plush. “You should be careful next time you kiss Dogbreath here, since he shares his ice cream with his dog.”

Yuuri immediately slams his hands over his mouth, and Viktor gapes at Yuri in mock-offense.

“You give me back that cat plushie, right now,” he demands.

Yuri licks it in response. Viktor grimaces.

“For the record,” he adds to Yuuri, “I don’t actually share my ice cream with Makka. I actually finish most of it and give him the rest.”

“He’s just saying that to save face,” adds Yuri in a stage whisper. “The first time we met he told me that the inside of a dog’s mouth is cleaner than the inside of a human’s.”

Viktor snorts. “That’s a scientific fact. It proves nothing about my sharing habits.”

Yuuri shakes his head. I’ll believe it if I see it, he signs, and Viktor kisses his cheek loudly in response, causing Yuri to swear and put his hands over both his and Otabek’s eyes.

“Good,” declares Viktor, nuzzling into Yuuri’s side, “because I don’t actually do it.”

“It’s like watching your parents kiss,” grumbles Yuri, staring at the two of them with a sickened expression. “Let’s go, Beka.”

“Bye!” chirps Viktor as Yuri and Otabek head for the bookstore exit. He gets a rude hand gesture in response.  

After the door to the bookstore swings closed, the two of them begin browsing through the gifts section again. Yuuri’s fingers entangle with Viktor’s, none of the heat from the library stacks present in his touch. Viktor finds himself missing it a little.

My father, signs Yuuri suddenly, pointing to a display case showing a ship in a bottle. He moves his right fist up behind his left hand like a flower blossoming out of the ground. Viktor smiles.

“He made that?” he asks. Yuuri nods. “It’s beautiful.”

Yuuri nods, moving two thumbs up against his chest. Proud. Viktor’s smile broadens.

“I’d like to go to Yu-Topia for dinner, if you don’t mind,” he says, and Yuuri nods, taking him by the hand and leading them out of the shop.

It’s only five right now, and the sun is still high in the sky, though tufts of grey clouds occasionally obscure it from view. A wind whips through Yuuri’s hair as they walk hand-in-hand along the boardwalk, and when Yuuri leans into Viktor with his small, secret smile, Viktor’s heart pounds harder in his chest. Every time feels like the first time, and Viktor never wants it to end.

“Do you think your mother will make katsudon for us?” he asks. Yuuri shrugs and smiles, resting his chin on Viktor’s shoulder briefly. Viktor marvels at the length of Yuuri’s lashes against his cheeks, and leans in to kiss him, soft and sweet.

They walk past restaurants, shops, Kachu Snack Bar. The lights are on inside and Christophe is serving Guinness to some old fishermen at the bar. Viktor waves at him when they pass, and Christophe waves back, causing the fishermen to turn and grin at him and Yuuri as well.

Finally, they pass the outdated arcade with the pool table and the vintage video games (and the prizes hanging in the window that clearly haven’t been moved since 2005), and pull up to the end of the boardwalk where the roundabout for Yu-Topia lies. Yuuri suddenly stops short, his eyes widening in a comic approximation of fear at the sight of two large tour coaches sitting in the road just past the roundabout, wheels halfway on the pavement so that other cars can pass them.

“What’s wrong?” Viktor asks. Yuuri shakes his head, pulling Viktor around to head in the opposite direction. It’s not until they’re halfway past Kachu again when Yuuri lets go of Viktor’s hand and makes a sign that Viktor doesn’t quite understand.

He frowns, moving his fingers past his head to show he doesn’t get it, and Yuuri takes out his notebook with a sigh.

Tour groups, he writes. They’re going to take over the restaurant. I don’t want to burden my mum. Can we have dinner at your place?

Viktor hadn’t anticipated cooking, but he nods anyway. “Let’s get some groceries, then. You could teach me how to make katsudon!”

Yuuri nods in eager assent, and links his hands with Viktor’s as they set off for Nekola’s Market.

gh_kawaii: ugh the one night i’m craving tonkotsu ramen and yutopia is stuffed with chinese tourists
gh_kawaii: i apologise on behalf of all of my countrymen
leooooo: we still love you guanghong
yuripurrsetsky: no we don’t, this one brat kept saying everything at the lighthouse is fake, i have to fight him for my family’s honour
yuripurrsetsky: also they kept taking pictures of everything
yuripurrsetsky: e v e r y t h i n g
yuripurrsetsky: even things they’re not allowed to take pictures of
Viktor Nikiforov: i thought you guys are supposed to be nice and friendly to tourists
yuripurrsetsky: THERE IS A LINE
gh_kawaii: u should’ve told me sooner i could’ve gone over and translated
yuripurrsetsky: are you willing to swear in mandarin
yuripurrsetsky: because i want a word-for-word translation. none of that euphemism crap. they need to feel my fury
gh_kawaii: ^^;;
yuripurrsetsky: thought so
gh_kawaii: i’m so sorry though, that was rude of her
sara-crispino: that sucks! i can’t complain as much since they all bought lots of wine lol
sara-crispino: one of the kids said they’d been on the road since 8 in the morning tho, can’t blame them for being cranky
dirtycocktail: i always feel bad for bus tours lmao
dirtycocktail: u can never experience anything when ur on a tight schedule that forces u on a bus at ass o clock in the morning and only stops at most destinations for half an hour at a time
dirtycocktail: also love it when all the disgruntled spouses come by and buy rounds for each other and bitch and complain about being dragged along
dirtycocktail: keeps me in business ;))
mila_b: that lady who took pictures of yuri’s cat got left behind by the tour group bc she was busy taking pictures at the point
yuripurrsetsky: lol karma
mila_b: i tried to take her to yutopia but she kept stopping to take pictures of the pier
mila_b: i know we’re a pretty gorgeous town but u literally just got ditched by everyone so maybe time and place lmao
Viktor Nikiforov: yuuri said you looked like you were going to throw her camera into the ocean
mila_b: lmao i almost did

They make katsudon for dinner. Or rather, Yuuri makes katsudon, and Viktor watches while resting his head on Yuuri’s shoulder.

I thought you knew how to cook, Yuuri writes as he’s whisking the eggs. Viktor chuckles, pressing kisses to Yuuri’s hair. On the stove next to them, a thick golden breaded pork cutlet is frying in a pan, the oil bubbling energetically around it.

“I do, but I don’t know how to cook Japanese food,” he says, closing his eyes and savouring the smell of the cooking pork.

He can almost feel Yuuri rolling his eyes at him. Why don’t you help me chop the onions and scallions, then? he writes.

Viktor makes a whining noise, like the one Makkachin makes whenever Viktor moves his food out of his reach. “But then I’d have to let go of you,” he complains.

Yuuri sets down the whisk and turns around in Viktor’s arms, cupping the side of his face and kissing him like he’s never going to be kissed again. Viktor melts into it, boneless with happiness in Yuuri’s arms. He doesn’t even notice Yuuri walking them backwards until his back hits the kitchen table and his eyes fly open.

Yuuri then breaks the kiss and steps out of Viktor’s arms, before pointing behind him to where the onions and scallions lie. Viktor wobbles his bottom lip and widens his eyes, but Yuuri shakes his head, smiling, and hands him a knife.

Chop, and then we’ll consider, Yuuri signs, before returning to his eggs. Viktor sighs, and dutifully begins peeling and cutting the onions and scallions.

Makkachin enters the kitchen just as Viktor’s finishing, tail wagging and tongue drooling in anticipation of being fed. Viktor shakes his head at his dog, going over to the cupboards to get him his kibble instead. Makkachin plants himself by the kitchen table, though, even after Viktor pours out a generous scoop of dry food for him, and continues to look expectantly at Viktor even after he’s gestured to the food bowl several times.

“We’re not feeding you katsudon,” Viktor scolds.

Makkachin whines.

“You don’t even eat that much for dinner. Why do you suddenly care?”

Makkachin wags his tail and looks over at Yuuri, who shakes his head in amusement. The poodle then eyes the pork cutlets on the cooling rack by the sink, and Viktor shakes his head at his dog.

“Nuh-uh. Don’t even think about it,” he warns. Makkachin then makes the same face Viktor made when Yuuri first set him to cutting the onions. Viktor sighs.

“They’re too hot for you right now,” he says.

Are you trying to sneak my pork cutlets to your dog? demands Yuuri.

Viktor freezes. “Unlike you, I’m actually susceptible to a cute begging face?” he asks.

Yuuri clucks his tongue. I’m amazed Makkachin isn’t fatter, considering how you spoil him so, he signs, before setting up the frying pan to cook the egg into the cutlets.

When they finally sit down with the finished katsudon, Viktor sneaks a strip of pork to Makkachin anyway. Yuuri rolls his eyes at him from across the table, but Viktor notices that Yuuri sneaks some of his food to Makkachin under the table as well. He hides his grin by tucking into his bowl, groaning at the bliss of tasting the melt-in-mouth cutlets and egg on his tongue.

After dinner, Viktor does the washing up again, while Yuuri tries to teach Makkachin some basic gesture commands. Viktor’s not sure how well Makkachin is grasping them, especially considering that Yuuri is bribing the dog with leftover pork cutlet. Either way, it’s an adorable sight.

“Want some dessert?” he asks. “I have strawberry gelato in the freezer.”

Yuuri nods, so Viktor takes out the container of gelato and two spoons, and they settle down at the table to eat it. Viktor tries not to focus too hard on the way Yuuri’s lips close around the spoon; his self-control has been tested enough today.

But Yuuri has other plans, it seems, because after his next bite of gelato he leans and kisses Viktor, and as Viktor runs his tongue through the strawberry sweetness of Yuuri’s mouth, he wonders if this is what heaven tastes like. He quickly leaves his own spoon in the container, hands coming up to cup the sides of Yuuri’s face and bring him closer.

Yuuri’s glasses skew a bit on his head as Viktor leans in to deepen the kiss, but it doesn’t bother him nearly as much as it should; he is too lost in the moment, drowning in the sweetness of Yuuri’s lips. When he pulls back, Yuuri’s lips are kiss-swollen, his hair is mussed, and his glasses are askew. Viktor wants to preserve him like this.

“Come to bed with me,” he says. Yuuri’s blush deepens. “We don’t have to do anything.” He pauses. “Or would you rather I take the couch, or call Mari to pick you up —”

No, signs Yuuri. I want to stay with you.

“We can keep it above the belt, if you like.”

Yuuri nods, his expression pensive. He then gestures for pen and paper, and Viktor provides it. I’d like that, writes Yuuri. As exciting as this afternoon was, I think it might be better if we did take it slow.

Viktor chuckles. “So you’re glad we got interrupted?”

Yuuri nods, but then shrugs. I’m completely new to all of this.

Viktor raises an eyebrow. “You’ve never had sex before?” he wonders. Yuuri shakes his head. “Not even as a horny teenager at Lovers’ Point? Or in uni at St Andrews?”

I was always scared of letting people in too close, writes Yuuri, his brown eyes sad. I don’t tell many people about my secret, for fear they’ll use it against me. If I can’t tell someone my secret, then how can I trust them enough for sex?

Viktor’s breath comes short in his lungs. “Has that happened before?” he asks quietly. “Someone using your secret against you?”

Yuuri shakes his head. Besides you, Yūko and Minako are the only people not in my family who I’ve told, he writes. I’ve never made many friends because I would always get scared that they’ll turn on me if I told them who I really was.

Viktor frowns. “But you have many friends now, don’t you? Phichit and the others? What about them?”

Yuuri snorts. I know Phichit means well, but if I told him he would upload a video of Katsudon and tag me to it, and then the world will know, he says.

Viktor chuckles. “He could,” he agrees. “But I’m also pretty sure he knows where to draw the line, and will do it if you asked. I mean, he did eventually take down that video of me and…” he pauses, and shakes his head at Yuuri. “You little liar,” he says.

What? signs Yuuri with an amused quirk of his eyebrow.

“That video. Your first kiss wasn’t on the Ferris wheel. You kissed me as Katsudon on the little beach!”

Yuuri’s eyes widen and his shoulders shake in silent laughter. Does that really count? he asks.

Viktor scoffs. “Don’t play coy with me, Katsudon. You’ve been hitting on me as a seal this entire time.”

Yuuri grins. So what was that about not wanting to fuck a seal, then? he retorts.

Viktor gapes at him. “Well, objectively speaking I still don’t, but —”

Or not wanting to date a seal because humans are more your type? Yuuri’s eyes are mischievous, daring. Viktor shakes his head.

“I didn’t know you were Katsudon at the time, so you have no right to hold those words against me,” he declares, though the words come out much more petulant than heated. “You, on the other hand, kissed me as a seal knowing full well who you were and who I was.”

Or we can just drop this argument because clearly neither of us want to own up to our past actions, writes Yuuri. Viktor opens his mouth to protest, but then Yuuri adds, I mean, if you want to keep arguing, that’s fine, but then you can sleep on the couch.

“You’re making me sleep on the couch in my own house,” states Viktor.

Yuuri arches an eyebrow. I recall you did offer, he points out.

“That offers has nothing to do with —” Viktor sighs, knowing when he’s beat. “Fine. You win. Seal kisses don’t count.”

Yuuri grins triumphantly and leans in to bump his nose against Viktor’s. He then pulls away, and writes, Are you still sure you don’t want to fuck the seal?

Viktor shakes his head. “Besides the fact that I am only attracted to human Yuuri, I don’t think it would be safe.” He pauses. “I would love to cuddle the seal, though.”

Yuuri presses a kiss to Viktor’s shoulder. Well, until I find my sealskin again, you’re going to have to make do with the human instead, he writes, and Viktor’s stomach does a flip.

They quickly get ready for bed, then, with Viktor offering up an old t-shirt and shorts for Yuuri to sleep in as well as a spare toothbrush. However, when Yuuri exits the bathroom clad in those clothes — his clothes, Viktor’s brain reminds him — and joins him in bed, Viktor has to subtly pinch himself to make sure he’s not dreaming.

Yuuri folds up his glasses, places them on the nightstand by the bed, and clambers under the covers. Viktor is suddenly reminded of the last time Yuuri had been in his bed with him, and his heart pounds a little harder as he pulls the other man close, peppering soft kisses around his face.

Yuuri sighs, the little noise sending shivers down Viktor’s spine. One hand grips the nape of Viktor’s neck, keeping him close as Viktor shifts their bodies, half-pinning Yuuri down on the bed so he can press kisses to the other side of Yuuri’s neck.

Exploring Yuuri’s body is a little different from those of his previous flings. Viktor hasn’t really realised until now just how much he’d taken vocal responses for granted, teasing out moans and hums and little cries of his name from the lips of lovers past. Yuuri shows his response in other ways: in tugs at Viktor’s hair, in breathy gasps and sighs, in the lingering trace of his fingers across Viktor’s cheek when Viktor raises himself on his elbows to look at him. It’s different in the best possible way; there’s an intimacy in Yuuri’s silent affirmations that Viktor craves.

He doesn’t venture much farther tonight below Yuuri’s collar, keeping his touches above the boundaries delineated by the faded SPBSU t-shirt currently on Yuuri’s body. When he next leans back up to touch his forehead against Yuuri’s, his whisper of “hello” is greeted with a smile.

Yuuri then entangles their hands, bringing Viktor’s knuckles to his lips. He presses kisses to each one, before stifling a yawn with the back of Viktor’s hand. Viktor chuckles.

“Maybe it’s time to sleep,” he suggests.

Yuuri nods, and pulls him in for a goodnight kiss. Viktor tastes his toothpaste in Yuuri’s mouth.

This time, he welcomes the inexorable waves of sleep that overcome him in Yuuri’s arms, and does not think of anything else.

Chapter Text

the moment of truth (dancingblades) wrote in ontd_icetriad:

to no one’s surprise: vicky nicky is at it again

...and by that i mean he’s not writing

who is this boy, vn. tell us. all we know is that his first name is yuuri and he’s fucking gorgeous and i’m upset.

tagged with: vicky nicky, instaventures, vn continues to be extra, does viktor nikiforov is gay?, hashtag confirmed



Your title suggests that he’s done this many times before. As someone who’s gone through vn’s entire Instagram I have to disagree. His last boyfriend post was in like 2011 with that Russian underwear model iirc.

Hahaha and we all remember how well that went. “Irreconcilable differences” my ass, Vicky just wanted to chase tail in the US lol.

omfg who remembers the thing in 2013 where he showed up at like ten frat parties in hartford and seven people claimed they slept with him

^^^ those were the fuckin daaaaays! he got so boring when he hopped the pond

… also clearly vicky has a type, lmao. didn’t that russian model wear glasses when he wasn’t being stupidly hot in underwear?

Guys. Guys omfg this is such old news if you’ve actually been to Torvill Cove where vn’s settled down for the year. Everyone in that fuckin town has been talking about this shit since May; it’s been all over their local gossip rags and stuff. I stopped by Torvill last week on holiday with my family and found this gem at the bookstore: [link].

As you can see from the article, mystery boy’s name is Yuuri Katsuki and he’s apparently the “local mysterious heartthrob” (I swear to god it’s the paper’s words not mine). good job viktor

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But stardustandsoulmates how could you leave out the best part which is that the town literally has a ship name for them? #viktuuri on Instagram is a fucking goldmine, thank you phichit+chu whoever you are, you are doing the lord’s work

Expand 159 more comments




Viktor wakes to the brightness of the sunlight assaulting his eyelids. Groaning, he tries to sit up in bed, only to find that he’s being pinned down by something much heavier than a poodle.

Viktor’s eyes fly open and his heartbeat quickens when he sees the slumbering form of Yuuri Katsuki sprawled partway on top of him. Sometime during the night, Yuuri must have flipped their positions so that he’s lying on top of Viktor. He’s still asleep now, and Viktor feels guilty for extricating himself from Yuuri’s embrace so that he can get dressed and make breakfast, but he does it anyway.

After showering, shaving, and brushing his teeth, Viktor pads into the kitchen in nothing but his bathrobe to start making breakfast. He throws some eggs onto the skillet and some bread into the toaster, and then replenishes Makkachin’s food and water bowls. The poodle himself is asleep under the table; Viktor decides against waking him as well and goes digging through the fridge for some sausages instead.

He’s plating up two breakfasts of sausage, egg, and toast when Yuuri comes in, yawning widely still. Viktor smiles at him as he takes a seat at the table, inadvertently waking Makkachin as well.

“Good morning, Yuuri,” he says, as the kettle boils on the counter and he goes to turn it off. “Would you like a cuppa? Or I can make coffee, if you prefer.”

Yuuri holds up his left hand with the thumb and pointer fingers together, as if he’s sipping from a teacup in the most posh way possible. Viktor chuckles.

“All right, then. The left cupboard by the sink has all of the kinds. I’ve got Russian Caravan, Earl Grey, English Breakfast…”

Yuuri pads over to the cupboard and checks, eventually pulling out a little tin and setting it on the counter. It’s the green tea that Viktor had picked up in New York’s Chinatown during his stay in Hartford, but he had never really gotten around to drinking much of it. Yuuri sniffs it gingerly before taking one of the strainer balls in the cupboard and measuring out a small scoop.

Viktor sets down the matryoshka mug in front of him and pours him the water, Yuuri holding the strainer ball of green tea in it as he does so. Viktor then prepares himself a mug of English Breakfast as well and stirs in a little milk.

“Milk? Sugar? Honey?” he offers. Yuuri shakes his head, still whirling his strainer ball around. After a minute he sets the strainer ball aside and takes a sip of the tea, closing his eyes with a smile. His glasses fog up comically.

Viktor chuckles as Yuuri sets down the mug to wipe his glasses. After he puts them back on, Yuuri then leans up and kisses Viktor, before holding his right thumb up and then pointing twice across his chest. Good morning, he mouths, and Viktor smiles.

“Sleep well last night?” he asks, heading back to the table and taking his seat. Yuuri follows with his tea, sitting at the spot across from him. Makkachin pads out from under the table to eat his breakfast.

Yuuri pokes at his sausage and nods, a slight pink flush dusting his cheeks. Viktor wants to kiss it darker, but he reins himself in and starts eating instead.

They eat breakfast in companionable silence, Viktor idly checking his mobile in between bites of buttered toast and Yuuri scratching behind Makkachin’s ears (and sneaking him sausages under the table, the bloody hypocrite) in between bites of egg. As he watches Yuuri yawn and stretch, the SPBSU shirt riding tantalisingly up over his hips, Viktor thinks just how lovely it would be to spend more mornings like this.

After breakfast, Yuuri does the washing up while Viktor gets dressed for the day in a white long-sleeved t-shirt with blue stripes and a pair of olive-coloured capris. Yuuri dons his clothes from yesterday. Together, they take Makkachin out for a walk into town in order to drop Yuuri off at Yu-Topia.

Yu-Topia’s lobby is in pandemonium when they arrive. The tour group people from last night, some of them apparently nursing hangovers, are all in stages of checking out or eating breakfast — or in some cases, both. According to the board set up just in front of the noren leading to the restaurant, the only kind of complimentary breakfast served at Yu-Topia is a basic continental one; the traditional Japanese and Scottish ones all cost extra.

Makkachin boofs in excitement at seeing all of the people, and it takes Viktor some effort to rein him in. “Well,” he says once he does, “text me if you wanna do something?”

Wait, signs Yuuri, looking out apprehensively at the crowd of tourists and at Mari’s harried expression. Let me give you a tour of Yu-Topia.

Viktor opens his mouth to question this decision, considering how many people seem to be moving to and fro in this place, but the look on Yuuri’s face is a plaintive plea not to leave him with all of these people, and Viktor can’t deny him anything.

“All right, then,” he says, taking Yuuri’s hand. “Show me around.”

Yuuri leads them up the grand staircase. Not many guests are taking the staircase; Viktor suspects it has something to do with the presence of an elevator that leads directly to the lobby, as well as the lack of guestrooms on the second floor. The Katsuki family’s rooms apparently take up a small wing on the second floor, and the rest of the rooms are all facilities of some sort, or lodging for hotel staff who need it.

Yuuri first leads him through the rooms open to guests. Some of the rooms, like the old music room, the old dining room, and the old sitting room have all been converted into more modern living spaces, with the only indication that they had once served a different purpose evident in the old photographs on the walls. The old sitting room is now a small bar and lounge; the old music room is a recreation room with a pool table, a giant chessboard carpet, and several shelves full of other board games; and the old dining room is now a conference room complete with a projection screen and conference call capabilities.

However, not all of the rooms have been completely redone. Yuuri leads Viktor into the library, which has maintained most of its original wood shelving and panelling, as well as its furniture and book collections. Viktor can’t help but marvel at the contrast of this room with the rest of the hotel. It is incongruous, and yet strangely harmonious at the same time, not unlike the nature of the man currently holding his hand.

He walks past a table sporting two Mac desktops and a printer, heading over to the high mullioned windows looking out towards the sea. Pulling back the curtains, Viktor marvels at the expanse of sparkling blue stretching out as far as the eye can see, framed by just the faintest strips of sand. He knew parts of Yu-Topia sit practically on the beach, but it’s one thing to see the resort from afar and another to stand inside it.

“What’s this?” Viktor asks, when he looks up and notices that the window he’s standing at bears a stained glass crest of some sort.

The Torvill family crest, signs Yuuri. He then takes out his notebook and adds, It used to be all over the house. Most of them got taken down at the family’s request when we renovated, but we were allowed to keep the ones on the windows in here.

Viktor examines it more closely. It seems to be some sort of grey teardrop-shaped blob standing on a golden sword with a blue background. “It’s a seal,” he remarks after a moment of squinting. “And it’s on a… sword?”

You can barely tell that it is, Yuuri replies, shrugging. We have lots of other relics of the Torvill family where you can see the details of the crest better.

“Wow,” says Viktor, stepping away from the window. He then notices a half-finished painting of a young boy framed on the opposite wall of the library, and goes to look at it closer. “What about this painting? Did the artist get blocked or something?”

Yuuri laughs. No. The boy died before the artist could finish painting him, he signs.

“Oh,” says Viktor, suddenly sombre. “That’s… tragic,” he murmurs.

You know the book about the ghosts of this town, right? Yuuri asks. I saw you reading it in the library yesterday.

Viktor nods. “Is this boy a ghost in this hotel?” he asks.

Well, no, says Yuuri, but sometimes if you stand at the windows in here on Midsummer you can hear his mother crying.

“Oh!” exclaims Viktor. “So this is Lir, then? That kid who drowned on his seventh birthday?”

Yuuri nods. There was no body, so we don’t actually know how he died, he admits. Everyone thinks he drowned because he was last seen at the shore. He then writes something in his notebook, and moves in closer to Viktor with a conspiratorial grin to show it to him:

Some versions of the story actually say that after Lir disappeared, a young seal would appear in the bay once a month and look up at the house. It kept coming back for the next ten years, until the parents died.

Viktor raises an eyebrow, while Yuuri’s eyes dance with amusement. “A possible relation?” Viktor asks, and Yuuri shrugs.

Who knows, he replies, before leading Viktor out of the library and down the hall. At the end of the hall is a door with a sign saying ‘PRIVATE’ on it. Yuuri unlocks this door, and it opens up to tatami mats and rolling paper screens — the Katsuki family’s residence in the hotel.

The Katsuki wing is much quieter compared to the rest of the hotel, though today that goes without saying considering the number of guests trying to check out. Still, Viktor can’t help but be entranced by the peacefulness of the room, punctuated by the burbling of a small water fountain somewhere in the near vicinity.

Yuuri dons a set of house slippers, handing Viktor a set as well. The flat is mostly hardwood flooring, though the sitting room immediately off to the entryway bears tatami mats and several cushions and a low table with clementines in a bowl. On the other side, the fountain that Viktor had heard is sitting on the side table in what seems to be a little office, piled high with books and binders and paperwork.

Yuuri drifts down the hallway, his steps quiet and ghost-like against the wood floor. Viktor follows, peering through the rooms with open screens. There’s a kitchen up here as well, and a dining room with tatami flooring. The sink bears a drying rack piled high with dishes, and the low table in the dining room still has some cups of sake lying on its surface.

Toshiya Katsuki is watching a Japanese soap of some kind with the subtitles on when they pass the living room. He turns when they pass by, and signs something at Yuuri, who responds. Viktor, who still only knows British and Russian signs, is immediately left behind in the conversation.

He waits until Yuuri bows slightly and turns away, before smiling and waving at Toshiya, who waves back.

“What does your father want?” he asks, as Yuuri begins leading him down the hallway again.

He just wanted to know if I’d stayed with you last night, Yuuri signs.

Viktor raises an eyebrow. “Does he know about us?” he asks.

Yuuri flushes, extending his right pinky and thumb and shaking them back and forth. At least I haven’t told him more than what’s already in the town gossip, he adds.

“And he and your mother are fine with it,” states Viktor.

Have you told your parents? Yuuri retorts.

Viktor shakes his head. “I don’t really call them too often,” he admits. “They tend to be busy coaching skaters in Saint Petersburg.”

Ah. Yuuri smiles. For the record, he adds, my mother already has Japanese names lined up for her grandchildren.

Viktor can feel his ears burning. “That’s… prescient of her,” he remarks.

She likes you, you know. Her favourite poem by you is “Fireflies on a July Evening.”

Viktor raises an eyebrow. “That wasn’t published,” he points out. Yuuri raises an eyebrow and taps at his mobile, and Viktor makes a small ‘ah’ of remembrance. He had taken a snapshot of his notebook with the poem and put it on Instagram. No wonder.

I’m sorry, that must have sounded creepy, Yuuri apologises.

Viktor chuckles. “No, it’s actually pretty…” he begins, but he trails off as Yuuri slides open the door to his room and he notices the large poster of himself laughing on a wintry park bench while wearing a set of gold-bladed skates.

As if realising what he’d just revealed, Yuuri’s face turns bright red. He immediately darts over to the wall and begins picking at the corners. Viktor laughs.

“No, you don’t have to,” he says, crossing the room as well to try and keep the poster up. “I’m glad you got this one! It’s one of my favourites out of all the promotional stuff they did for The King and the Skater.”

Yuuri fidgets anyway, his eyes darting around the room, and Viktor follows his gaze to notice the other images in the room. There’s a movie poster for The King and the Skater, of course, but there’s also prints of the book covers for the Ice Triad, as well as a typographic art poster with some of his more well-known quotes on it. All in all, a collection of Yuuri’s devotion that Viktor can’t help but treasure.

He goes to the small single bed and lightly brushes his fingers over the books on the nightstand. Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, Sei Shonagon’s The Pillow Book, and his own On the Geometry of Snowflakes. Also by Yuuri’s bedside there are photographs of Vicchan taped to the wall, surrounded by little cartoon stickers of samurai and seals.

Viktor turns from the bedside table to take in the stuffed animals arranged neatly on a window seat next to a large bay window overlooking the ocean. He can almost imagine a little Yuuri sitting on that seat, sleek black sealskin tucked under his chin, looking wistfully out at the sea. Next to the window seat is a telescope; Viktor’s fingers lightly skim along its silvery surface before he turns to Yuuri’s desk.

Yuuri’s desk is neat, minimalist; it holds his laptop, a tub of pens and pencils, a framed photograph of a young Yuuri with Vicchan, and several black hardbound journals that look like larger versions of the notebook Yuuri keeps on him at all times.

“What are those?” Viktor asks, gesturing to the journals.

My writing journals, signs Yuuri, his cheeks flushing bright pink.

Viktor raises an eyebrow, his curiosity piqued. “Could I?” he asks, but Yuuri shakes his head, his flush deepening.

They’re not very good, he says. It’s all old work anyway.

“You like my older work,” Viktor points out.

You haven’t published another poetry anthology since Snowflakes, Yuuri replies.

Viktor has to concede that. “Point,” he says. “Still, I’d love to read your work sometime.”

Yuuri purses his lips. It feels awkward showing you my writing.

“How so?”

Wouldn’t you feel awkward showing Shakespeare your writing? Even if you’re proud of it?

Viktor’s expression lights up. “You think I’m like Shakespeare?” he asks, grinning.

It’s just an example. Yuuri briefly hides his face behind his hands.

Viktor chuckles. “But you’ve seen my writing process now. You’ve even helped me with my work. Is there anything I can do to help you become more confident in sharing your own work with me?”

Yuuri shrugs. Viktor sighs, looking wistfully at the notebooks again before an idea pops into his head.

“Write something with me,” he says.

Yuuri blinks at him. What? he signs.

“Write something with me,” repeats Viktor, taking out his own notebook and ripping out a page of paper. “We’ll each take turns writing a sentence or a line of dialogue. You don’t need to come up with something good, just something surprising.”

Yuuri ponders it for a moment before he nods, taking a seat on his bed and patting the space next to him. Viktor sits down next to him with paper and pen, tapping his lips as he tries to think up a good opening sentence.

He suddenly notices on the window seat a poodle plushie (possibly by the same person who had made the doll he’d gotten Yuri) wearing an eyepatch, and immediately an idea springs to mind.

Once upon a time there was a pirate, he writes, who sailed a ship with his loyal dog in the middle of the ocean.

Yuuri raises an eyebrow at him, smiling, before taking the paper and responding with, Now this pirate was an unusually careless pirate, as he had driven away all of his crew members in search of a merman he had seen one night in a vision.

Viktor laughs at that. But the pirate was determined to find the merman again, for he had been captivated by his song and his immense beauty.

Yuuri’s eyes sparkle as he takes the paper back. So he sailed day and night, tirelessly searching for some kind of sign that the merman was alive and real.

And on and on they write, passing the paper back and forth between them. Time slows down, loses meaning; their hands mark each minute with the writing of words and the passing of paper, and eventually even that is cut down when Yuuri sprawls into Viktor’s lap so that he can write without having to have the paper be passed to him. Together, they fill up the page, and then the back of it, and then another two pages for good measure. However, just as the pirate in the story finally meets the merman and asks for his name, Yuuri’s stomach growls. Viktor laughs, pressing a kiss to the side of Yuuri’s head and looking down at what they’ve written.

“You write so well,” he says. “You were really keeping me on my toes during the storm scenes.”

Yuuri smiles. You asked me to, he signs.

Viktor laughs. “I legitimately feared for a second there that you were going to have the merman drown the pirate.”

Why would I do that? wonders Yuuri, tapping at his lips and leaning back against Viktor with a scrutinising look.

“Well, I might have done it,” Viktor admits with a sigh. “Or have the merman transform him or something.”

You know this isn’t the end, right? asks Yuuri. We could continue.

Viktor nods. “Maybe another time, though,” he suggests. “We should get you something to eat, first.” And with that, he hugs at Yuuri’s soft midsection, pressing kisses along his shoulder. “I’m sure the tour buses have cleared out by now, so there’ll be plenty of katsudon to go around.”

He feels more than hears Yuuri’s soft chuckle. We just had katsudon last night, Yuuri points out.

“I’ll never get tired of katsudon,” Viktor replies cheerily, as Yuuri rises and extends a hand. He takes it, and together they leave the room in search of lunch.

Once upon a time there was a pirate who sailed a ship with his loyal dog in the middle of the ocean. Now this pirate was an unusually careless pirate, as he had driven away all of his crew members in search of a merman he had seen one night in a vision.

But the pirate was determined to find the merman again, for he had been captivated by his song and his immense beauty. So he sailed day and night, tirelessly searching for some kind of sign that the merman was alive and real.

One night, while the pirate was in his cabin eating his dinner, he felt his ship lurch. From where she lay by the door, the dog barked in surprise and began to scratch at the cabin’s closed door.

“What’s the matter, Skipper?” the pirate asked as he passed her on the way up above deck.

The dog did nothing but whine in response, tail curling between her legs. So the pirate went up alone above deck, and saw that the moon was covered by thick grey clouds brimming with lightning — a storm was heading straight for them.

“By Davy Jones’s left barnacle,” he swore, quickly climbing the mast to lower the sails. Having lowered the sails, he then swung down from the mast and headed for the wheel, intending to steer the ship away from the storm.

But then suddenly he heard it — a beautiful song like that of far away wind chimes. And, to his growing consternation, it was coming from the heart of the storm.

He shook his head once, twice, only for the memory of his vision to come back in waves; he’s heard that song before. It was the siren call of the beautiful merman, and his own heart longed to respond to it. Yet his mind reasoned not to, as it came from inside a beast of a storm.

And while he stood there with his hand on the wheel, his heart and mind clashing in their separate desires, the first drops of rain began to fall. He had to make up his mind — and soon. He could hear the song growing louder, echoing off the swelling sensation in his chest. Eventually he couldn’t ignore the call anymore and, with a fiery impulse, steered the ship in the direction of the storm.

The rain began to fall harder and the swells began to rise, but the pirate kept following the song of his merman. “Where are you?!” he yelled. “I know you’re the one singing! Where are you?”

But the song seemed to continue without any acknowledgement of his shouting. Thunder rolled and lightning lit up the dark sky, and they mocked him with silhouettes swimming in the ocean. The wind whipped at his hair and the rain stung at his eyes, but he kept sailing onwards through the towering waves. Said waves grew harder and harder to climb with every passing swell. However, just as the pirate began to wonder if he should keep following the song, he saw a flash of bright silver-blue darting between the waves.

A flutter of hope sprung to life within him — surely that was his merman? — but it vanished as quickly as it came with the feeling of cold water hitting his body. The pirate held on for dear life as the waves came crashing down and the ship keeled dangerously to port. I won’t go down to Davy Jones’s locker just yet! I can’t! he thought, closing his eyes because of the water.

But suddenly, he heard panicked barking, and his eyes flew open to see Skipper, a loyal first mate as there ever was, being taken by the swirling waves.

“No!” he yelled out, and the next thing he knew he was letting go of the ship’s wheel. He dove into the cold water after his dog, swimming as fast as he could towards her frantic barks. He didn’t stop until he felt her damp fur in his hands.

Skipper gave him plenty of wet doggy kisses as he held onto her, but then she suddenly tensed, and he turned to see yet another wave bearing down on them both. He felt it hit him, he felt it tear Skipper from his hands, he felt himself get tugged underneath and further down. Kicking back blindly, he struggled against the current as he tried to break the surface again. But no matter how hard he tried, his legs weren’t strong enough. His lungs began to burn for air; everything in his mind began to grow fuzzy — until the song came back, echoing eerily all around him under the water. Something warm — hands? arms? — wrapped around his chest from behind him, pulling him close.

Blindly, the pirate struggled, trying to kick towards the surface and to where he might have last heard Skipper struggling, but the arms continued to hold him in place. They flipped him around deftly, like a toy; and before he could distinguish what the creature looked like, he felt a pair of lips on his, breathing life into his burning lungs. A warm tingling sensation shot through his body, and suddenly the panicked fog in his brain was gone. In its place he felt tired, lethargic, and the last thing he remembered before drifting into unconsciousness was a hand caressing his face.

When the pirate woke up again, he wasn’t quite sure what time or day it was, nor did he know where he was, or even if Skipper was all right. He looked around dazedly and, with even more confusion, realised he was in an enclosed cavern of sorts with a small pool of deep water not too far away.

Hearing a bark suddenly caused him to turn around and see Skipper sitting just a little ways away from him, drenched but alive with her tail wagging. The pirate felt happiness prick his eyes, and he quickly crawled over to where she sat.

“Skipper! I can’t believe you made it, old girl!” he exclaimed, laughing as she shook out her fur all over him. “Do you know where we are?”

As usual, there was no response, so he answered for her in a slightly higher voice, “It seems we’re in a cavern, Jack.”

“Yes, Skipper, but whose cavern? And where would the cavern be?” wondered Jack.

“For Davy’s sake, stop talking to yourself,” complained an unfamiliar voice not too far away. “I didn’t rescue you for this.”

“Well, it gets lonely sometimes out on that big wooden ship all by yourself,” reasoned Jack, turning around to face who was talking. “So sometimes you’ve gotta give your best friend a voice…” he trailed off when he realised who the voice belonged to.

In the cavern’s pool floated a merman, his dark, strong arms resting on the rocky ground and his blue-silver tail flickering up and down idly. Jack’s gaze, though initially riveted by the blue-silver tail, became utterly transfixed by the merman’s mesmerizingly warm chocolate-brown stare.

“I knew I didn’t make you up,” he said, scooting over to the water’s edge. “No one believed me, and yet here you are.”

The merman gave Jack a smug look before reaching a hand out and fingering the buckle of his waterlogged boot, asking innocently, “Tell me, Jack, have you been following me?”

“Well, I had to prove to myself that you existed,” said Jack, feeling his cheeks heat up. “And when I heard you singing in that storm, I knew I had to try and find you.”

“Reckless,” admonished the merman. “You don’t even know my name.”

“I have nothing to lose except Skipper here,” replied Jack. “Consider it a leap of faith.”

The merman cocked an eyebrow and leaned forward in intrigue, letting his fingers travel up to Jack’s leg while he asked coyly, “Leap of faith?”

“I should think so,” replied Jack, his voice shaky. “I left my crew in port to go chasing after you, and I steered myself into a storm just following your beautiful song, all the while trusting that you weren’t luring me to my death.”

The merman grinned wickedly at him. “What makes you think I’m not luring you to your death right now?”

“You saved Skipper too, didn’t you?” wondered Jack. “You wouldn’t kill me in front of my old girl, now would you?”

“No, I would not,” conceded the merman with a flick of his tail.

Jack grinned. “So, then, now that we’ve got that settled, could I ask you for your name?”

There was a small silence when the merman’s fingers leave Jack’s body to rest again on the rock; however, before the pause could become awkward, he answered, “Toriano.”

July seems to be the peak of tourist season in Torvill Cove. While August is also purported to be fairly busy, it’s July that has the most events and the best weather; consequently, it has the most visitors.

Viktor quickly realises that peak tourist season in a small town is a bit different from peak tourist season in a big city. Though the number of visitors is still relatively small compared to other, much more popular holiday destinations, it’s still quite a lot when one takes into account the amount of resources that Torvill Cove can offer as a small town. The restaurants, bars, pubs, and cafés all seem perpetually full of people, not to mention the ice cream parlour and the fish and chip shops. Yuri keeps blowing up the group chat with rants about the number of double-fudge waffle cones that he’s had to make in a given hour. Christophe counters with anecdotes about customers demanding vegan beer at Kachu.

Isn’t yeast a fungus? Yuuri wonders after the tenth complaint as he checks his mobile while sprawled out next to Viktor on a picnic blanket. They’re at the cove at Lovers’ Point once more, though this time they have to share the beach with several harbour seals, who are all hauled out in the midday sun and napping. Occasionally another seal will pop up from the surf and join them, but the numbers remain relatively small compared to those of the beach behind Viktor’s cottage. Pupping season has reached its peak for the seals of Scotland, and the smaller beaches of Torvill Cove have become a temporary haven for mothers and pups alike.

Viktor shrugs, shifts so that Yuuri can move his head into his lap. He begins to run his hands through Yuuri’s hair. “I’ve heard some cask ales use animal products in the filtering process; maybe they’re worried about that,” he points out.

Yuuri purses his lips. I guess, but beer itself shouldn’t be a problem, right? he replies, and flops over so that he can watch the seals instead. Viktor notices the wistful glint in his eye, but he says nothing, only continues to card his hands through Yuuri’s inky locks.

Sometimes their excursions to the cove are just them watching the seals together at a distance, lying together on the blanket and waiting for the seals to do something camera-worthy. Sometimes their excursions involve more writing, where they continue the story of Jack and Toriano together, or Viktor continues to work on his own writing with Yuuri occasionally adding in some input.

But Viktor has to admit his favourite excursions are a mix of the two, with an added touch of using the cove for its intended purpose — that is, an ideal location for passionate trysts. Here, the waters of the cove are so clear and sheltered, the scenery is so lovely, and Yuuri is so warm beside him. Every time they kiss, Viktor becomes more certain that he never wants to part from Yuuri’s lips again.

No one in town ever mentions the cove at Lovers’ Point to any tourists, so their little spot stays secret for a while longer. Eventually it seems as if they’re going every day, as Yuuri keeps on taking them down there to escape the crowds at Yu-Topia. They’re usually back up again in time to help Hiroko with dinner, and then Yuuri packs a bag for the night and heads to Viktor’s cottage with him.

It’s a routine Viktor loves. He wakes in the mornings to Yuuri’s sleepy smile, or the smell of breakfast cooking in the kitchen. The spare toothbrush is more often in a cup by the sink rather than tucked away in the medicine cabinet; Yuuri’s razor after a couple nights also joins Viktor’s on the counter. He doesn’t always spend the night — he only stays over when the hotel is too crowded for him to handle — but he at least spends time there most nights, and Viktor will sometimes drive him back to Yu-Topia if need be.

Still, Viktor clears out some space in his already overstuffed closet for Yuuri’s clothes, donating yet another boxful of clothing to the local church for their biannual flea market. Looking back through the months, he has to admit he’s surprised that the summer is flying by so quickly. Of course, it’s difficult to keep track of time in a place like Torvill Cove, but for each day that passes, Viktor clings to each and every single moment. Every smile, every touch, every kiss from Yuuri is something he must preserve and tuck away, because a part of him still feels like he’s on borrowed time and stolen happiness.

“Are you happy here?” Viktor asks one morning, as he watches the dust motes swirl in the sunlight above his bed. Next to him, Yuuri tucks his chin against Viktor’s shoulder for a while before leaning up on his elbows to face him and nod.

“Here in Torvill Cove, or here with me?” Viktor asks, because he can’t help himself (or the little nagging persistence in his head that all of this will fall around his ears if he doesn’t pay attention). Yuuri considers that a moment longer, before making a small ‘V’ with his right pointer and middle fingers and waving it from side to side. Both. Viktor’s heart skips a beat.

Yuuri kisses him as he gets up, and Viktor sits up in bed and watches the selkie slowly stretch out his lissome body, yawning widely before padding over to the closet to find some clothes. He pauses when he hears the gulls cry just outside the window, though, and a strange shadow passes over his face.

Viktor suspects it’s similar to how he feels about Saint Petersburg. Yuuri’s heart will always be half-claimed by the sea, no matter where he goes or who he’s with. So it’s natural for him to miss being amid the waves as a seal while his sealskin is still missing.

But still, he can’t help but worry, just a little, and hope Yuuri finds his skin soon.

Excerpt from the script of ‘The Lighthouse Keepers’, an adaptation of Nikolai Plisetsky’s retelling of the same in The Ghosts of Torvill Cove:


What’s wrong, brother mine?

DUNCAN (showing her the burned will)
I found something in the grate when I was cleaning it, Elspie.

ELSPETH (feigning surprise)
Why would I care to know about what you found in the grate?

Why would you hide something like this from me?

ELSPETH (still feigning)
I’m afraid I haven’t the foggiest idea what you mean.

DUNCAN (advancing on her with the pieces of the will in his fist)
The will, Elspie! You burned our parents’ will! Why would you do something like that?

ELSPETH draws herself up to her full height, dropping the ignorant façade with a fury.

Why would I? — Why would I?! — You want to know why I would do something like that? Because they left you everything. Everything, you little ingrate! I am the one who works for hours on end every day to provide for the remnants of this family, and for what? For you to reap the benefits because you’re momma’s boy? All you do is sit in your room with your bottles of sherry and your Bible and your black crepe, and you never question how you’re fed and warmed each night, and — you think I’m going to be so stupid as to let you take this lighthouse from me? I am the only one of us who’s earned it!

One morning near the end of July, Yuuri suggests that they go to the Town Hall. Viktor, who had not heard of anything particularly interesting going on at the Town Hall that morning, shoots curious glances at Yuuri for the entire walk, especially as the dark-haired man keeps smiling and typing at his mobile. Probably texting Phichit, Viktor thinks, smiling as well.

As they pull up to the castle-like building that is Town Hall, they nearly collide with the Nishigori triplets, who are carrying a giant stack of flyers, a staple gun, and a tub of thumbtacks, and smiling entirely too gleefully for their endeavour to be anything but plotted.

“Yuuri!” exclaims Lutz when she catches sight of him. “Why aren’t you in the festival this year? Everyone loves your sign language poetry!”

Yuuri makes a couple apologetic signs before adding, I got busy this summer so I don’t have anything prepared.

“Tch, yeah, busy with Mr Nikiforov,” says Loop, before sending Viktor a look that looks entirely too threatening to even be on a six-year-old’s face.

“We’ve been writing together,” Viktor says, mostly in his own defense. He turns to Yuuri. “You perform sign language poetry? You should have told me! We could have —”

Yuuri shakes his head, cutting Viktor off. Signups for the Arts Festival were in mid-May. I didn’t submit anything this year, he signs. Viktor pouts.

“Now I feel like I’m stealing you away from your town,” he says.

Yuuri rubs the nape of his neck. You’re not, he signs. I feel more guilty for distracting you from writing.

“Yuuri!” Viktor sighs. “How many times do I have to tell you that you’re the reason I’m writing at all these days?”

Axel takes this moment to interject. “This is really cute and all,” she says with an air of importance about her, “but we must be going. The festival flyers aren’t going to put themselves up, you know.”

“Yeah, and we have to put them up everywhere,” agrees Lutz.

“You’ll at least go to the festival, right, Yuuri?” adds Loop. Yuuri signs, of course. Satisfied, the three girls head off on their quest; Viktor sighs as soon as they’re gone.

“Precocious kids,” he remarks.

Yuuri huffs in laughter and heads for the doors again, but Viktor reaches out suddenly and takes his wrist. Something is rising in his chest, something thick and dark and guilty, and he can’t choke it down like he usually can when he feels it coming for him.

“Are you sure I’m not stealing you away from your town?” he asks, hating how small his voice feels. Yuuri turns to stand in front of him, a warm smile firmly on his face, and still Viktor’s heart races like a frightened rabbit’s at it.

Silently, Yuuri enfolds him in an embrace that Viktor privately thinks he does not deserve. Viktor takes a deep breath, inhaling in the scent of his own shampoo in Yuuri’s hair. He feels Yuuri’s lips press against his shoulder, the warmth burning in him long after the contact fades.

When Yuuri pulls back, he signs, It’s not stealing if I’m willingly here with you, and then pushes the door open and leads Viktor inside.

Phichit Chulanont greets them in the lobby, holding a stack of papers in one hand and a giant travel mug of coffee in the other. “Yuuri! Viktor! So nice of you two to make it!” he exclaims, leading them towards a set of double doors at the other end of the lobby. Viktor shoots Yuuri an odd look; Yuuri shrugs.

“Yuuri was being mysterious about why we were coming here and what we were doing,” Viktor tells Phichit as the other man opens the doors for them. “So please, tell me — what’s going on?”

Phichit grins. “I asked Yuuri to come to our first rehearsal for our entry in this year’s Torvill Cove Arts Festival!” he says.

“The Torvill Cove Arts Festival,” echoes Viktor. That must have been the thing the triplets were talking about. He remembers reading something about it once, maybe on the Wikipedia page for the town, though he doesn’t remember the exact details.

“Yeah! Every year the arts students at the college that are on or near campus during the summer put on this festival with the help of the town,” says Phichit. “There’s theatre and dance performances, poetry readings, film screenings, a gallery exhibition — and the winner of the festival gets their work displayed at the Town Hall for the rest of the year.”

“I knew that,” says Viktor. “I just didn’t know it’d be happening so soon.”

“It’s at the end of the month,” Phichit points out. “Pretty much everyone who’s into the arts here gets involved somehow. Yuuri did some sign language poetry at the last couple of festival performances, right?” He nods towards Yuuri, whose cheeks flush again.

“I would have loved to see that,” Viktor agrees, adding to Yuuri’s blush.

Phichit laughs. “I’m sure the triplets have uploaded last year’s video if you want to see that,” he says. “He translated one of your poems last year for his performance — I think it was a sonnet? — anyway, the point is, everyone knows Yuuri was robbed at the competition last year, because we all loved it.”

Yuuri hides his face behind one hand, but still smiles at Phichit. I liked the winning entry last year, he says, a little petulant.

“Doesn’t make you any less robbed,” replies Phichit, before leading the two of them into the room and shutting the doors behind him.

Viktor looks around. They’re in an auditorium of some sort, with rows and rows of folding seats before a decently-sized stage. Its red curtains are drawn, and Mila Babicheva is pacing in a small circle at centre stage with her script in hand.

Yuuri takes Phichit’s script and flips through it as he leads Viktor towards some seats near the front. Minako is already sitting there, with Yuri Plisetsky and Otabek Altin a couple chairs behind her.

Viktor peers over at the script in Yuuri’s hand as they take their seats. “What’s the play about?” he asks.

“It’s a ten-minute adaptation of Kolya’s ‘The Lighthouse Keepers’,” says Mila. “The theme for the festival this year is ‘Legends and Folklore’, so we wanted to do something local.”

“Yuuri helped us adapt it back in April,” adds Phichit. Yuuri raises a thumbs-up at them once he’s finished perusing the script. Beaming, Phichit hops onto the stage and grabs another copy.

“From the top, then?” he asks Yuuri, who nods in agreement.

The play — and the story it’s based on — is about two siblings who, in their jealousy and madness, destroy each other. Viktor sits through the first run-through without saying too much, smiling and nodding at the right moments, but focusing more on Yuuri’s expressions instead. The man is concentrated on the script, tongue poking out of his mouth and brows furrowed. Occasionally he takes out his pen and jots notes in the margins, before returning to the scene being played out in front of him.

Phichit and Mila are still on the book, of course, but they’re acting and doing basic blocking actions, and Viktor can almost see the finished product already — Phichit, confronting Mila about her destroying their parents’ will in a fit of drunken jealousy, Mila scorning him, the two of them fighting —

Viktor jiggles his foot, suddenly restless. His head is buzzing like it’s full of bees. He distracts himself briefly by looking around the room at the historical photos on the walls, the glass display cases in the back, the lectern at the foot of the stairs with the city’s coat of arms on it. It looks very similar to the Torvill family’s crest, except with just the head of a seal instead of an entire one. The seal’s eyes look like they’re judging him, turning him inside-out and examining each and every one of his sins...

Viktor is startled out of his thoughts by a tap on his shoulder. Yuuri points at him before moving his thumb up in a circle. Are you okay? Viktor nods, flashing a thumbs-up back at him before trying to pay attention to Phichit and Mila again. Yet all he can feel is his stomach churning. Why does this ten-minute play feel like the length of an opera? What’s wrong with him? Why can’t he just stay still and enjoy this?

Onstage, Mila has just straightened up from Phichit’s body, reaching blindly towards the audience with one hand.

Oh, I must be good, I must be good. I was not raised like this. I did not do it. God have mercy on the one who did, for surely it isn’t me!” she cries, already half from memory. Her eyes cast towards heaven, and Viktor feels a resounding curling in his own gut. He feels Yuuri tapping at his hand, and he looks down to find his knuckles turning white on the seat.

Viktor smiles, and relaxes his hand. Yuuri raises an eyebrow, as if to ask if he’s okay. Viktor nods. On the stage, Mila finishes her soliloquy and lowers her head. Viktor imagines the stage lights going out. Yuuri applauds.

“That was lovely, you two! Really lovely!” Minako calls. Mila raises her head and grins, as Phichit gets up from where he’s fallen on the stage.

“Any notes for us?” Phichit asks.

“Oh, there’s a lot I would do differently blocking-wise,” concedes Minako, “but I don’t think that’s something to discuss on the first rehearsal.”

“Yeah, this was definitely more of a read-through than anything else,” agrees Phichit.

“Who’s on tech for you guys?” asks Minako.

“Leo and Cao are doing sound and lights, respectively, and Georgi’s doing costumes,” says Phichit.

Minako chuckles. “Try not to let him get too carried away. Remember the last time we did Midsummer?”

Phichit shudders. “I’d prefer to forget, thanks,” he intones drily. Viktor vaguely wonders what could have been the costume scheme for Georgi’s Midsummer that would make Phichit want to forget about them.

Almost as if he’d read Viktor’s mind, Yuuri signs, Think Hot Topic meets excessive amounts of woad. Viktor snickers.

Phichit then turns to Yuuri and Viktor. “Any changes to the script?” he asks. Yuuri purses his lips, before tapping at his paper and signing, Later.

Viktor swallows a little when Phichit looks towards him. “Wait, me?” he asks.

“Well, sure. You’re Viktor Nikiforov, surely you’ve got some feedback for us,” says Phichit, smiling in a way that Viktor supposes should be encouraging, but all it really encourages is the churning in Viktor’s stomach, and he’s not entirely sure why.

“I liked it?” he offers, hating how tentative his voice sounds. “I only read the original story once, but I think you guys did a good job of adapting it. You really delved into the feelings of each character, so it felt like we were breaking down with them instead of simply reading about it.”

He says nothing about the racing of his own heart.

“Anything we could work on? Any lines that didn’t make sense?” asks Phichit.

Viktor swallows. “I… can’t think of anything right now?” he offers, smiling weakly.

He can feel Yuuri’s concerned stare boring into the side of his head, so he puts on a smile and looks back to the stage just as Phichit turns his attention to Yuri and Otabek.

“What about you, Yuri?” he asks, grinning cheekily. “I know Mila dragged you out here because of some important function up at the lighthouse, but do you have any notes for us?”

“You know what would be cool?” says Yuri. “If Mila stabbed you instead of strangling you.”

“We’re trying to stick to your grandpa’s original story,” replies Phichit.

Yuri rolls his eyes. “Yeah, but the siblings in the original story were Scottish, so it’s not like you guys are being completely accurate anyway.”

“You just want to see stage blood spurting everywhere, don’t you?” teases Mila.

Yuri shoots finger guns at her. “You got me,” he says.

“Go put on your own play, then,” she retorts.

“I would, but apparently ‘the fight scene from Hamlet, but with flamethrower guitars and Hamlet wearing black leather and leopard print’ isn’t a local legend or folktale,” Yuri replies drily.

“Maybe in some dystopian future it will be,” mutters Mila, rolling her eyes.

“Yeah, well, it’s at least a better idea than the crap JJ comes up with,” snips Yuri. “I can’t believe he won last year. How the hell did he even qualify? He doesn’t even live here most of the time.”

“To be fair, it was a decent song —”

“It was about how great he is! That’s not a decent song; that’s bullshit!” Yuri groans. “You two better nail it this year. I’m not going to live in a town where the pathetic discography of JJ’s stupid band is on display at the town hall for two years in a row.”

Mila chuckles. “No pressure, right?” she asks, before turning to Otabek. “What about you, Beka? Did you like it?”

Otabek shrugs and nods. “It reminded me of the works of Henrik Ibsen,” he deadpans.

“Wow,” says Phichit. “Yuuri, did you hear that?”

Viktor notices Yuuri’s ears turning red, and laughs. “I think he did,” he says. Phichit grins, and then turns to Mila to go over a couple lines. They then begin another run-through, but slower and with more pauses to adjust their line delivery. Viktor sits through most of it, but when they get to the confrontation scene again, he feels his stomach churning once more, and has to take several deep breaths to calm himself down.

Do you need to leave? Yuuri writes into the back of his hand, the scrape of his nails sending shivers down Viktor’s spine. He clenches his jaw and closes his eyes, before exhaling and nodding.

Phichit and Mila have just finished the bulk of the confrontation scene and are talking with Minako about basic blocking for the ensuing fight when Yuuri whistles to catch Phichit’s attention. He signs to them about the situation. Mila responds, and Phichit smiles at Viktor.

“I’m sorry to hear you’re not feeling well,” he says, and Viktor hates how he doesn’t feel his own smile. He really has nothing against the play. Nothing at all. Maybe he just had something bad at breakfast and now it’s kicking in.

“I’ll be sure to come see the performance,” he offers. Phichit beams, and the guilt recedes just a little as Viktor rises to his feet and leaves with Yuuri by his side.

Excerpt from the script of ‘The Lighthouse Keepers’, an adaptation of Nikolai Plisetsky’s retelling of the same in The Ghosts of Torvill Cove:

Oh, oh! Oh God Almighty, what have I done? My poor Duncan… please, let there be a heartbeat. (pause) There is none. I feel no breath upon my hand. The poker is still hot upon my eyes, but I am sure if I had my sight I would not see life in him. My own brother! Is this how Cain felt when he cast the first blow? How could I have come to this? My own — no, I mustn’t think. I cannot think. This is not something I was raised to do. (rocking back and forth on her knees) Oh, I must be good, I must be good. I was not raised like this. I did not do it. God have mercy on the one who did, for surely it isn’t me!

She rises to her feet and blindly feels her way past DUNCAN’s body

It must have been the heat of the moment. My mind went blank. I can’t possibly remember what happened. It was a crime of passion. These hands that took the life my mother gave are not my own. (she raises her hands and begins tearing at her hair) I was not raised like this, oh no, oh no, oh no. I am a good woman, a goodly, God-fearing woman. I did not do this. I am sure someone else must be responsible — but if it were me, I would not — unconscionable! I have lost the last person dear to me on this Earth — but by my hands? Surely — surely there must be another in this room who did the deed, for surely —

She goes still — oddly, deathly still, and raises her hands to her eyes.

ELSPETH (whispering)
Lord have mercy on my soul.

Yuuri goes to more of the rehearsals. Viktor really doesn’t begrudge him for it; he knows he has no exclusive right to Yuuri’s time just because they’re dating — and yet the cottage feels lonelier without Yuuri in it almost every night, curled up with him in one of its rooms and helping him with his writing.

It reminds him of the days when he was sad about going to the cove without Yuuri, and so sometimes he brings back the imaginary one, now updated with all of the new information he’s learnt about the man. Yuuri’s favourite colour is blue. He’s grown up in Torvill Cove all twenty-three years of his life. He’s a selkie, though granted Viktor hadn’t originally anticipated that to be something he’d learn about Yuuri when he first met him.

But there’s still so much left to know, and so little time left with which to do it.

There had once been a time when he didn’t have Yuuri in his life, Viktor knows, but he can’t quite remember how it feels. Meeting Yuuri Katsuki was like a recalibration of his life; now he can divide it into pre-Yuuri and with-Yuuri stages. And though he doesn’t ever want to think about a post-Yuuri period of his life, that little voice in his head keeps telling him that someday soon he’ll have to.

It’s not the first time he’s hated that little voice in his head. He suspects it won’t be the last.

It’s a Thursday night, and Viktor is spending it in his kitchen while Makkachin gnaws at a bun-shaped chew toy, because Yuuri is off at a rehearsal that’s scheduled to end late, and might not come over at all. He’s been keeping Viktor updated on rehearsal shenanigans via text, though, and Viktor perks up every time his mobile lights up with a text from Yuuri, because apparently this is now the state of his social life when pretty much all of the people he knows are involved in the local arts festival at the end of the month.

Well, it’s not like he’s not being productive himself. Instead of working on his poems, or the barest hint of a novel outline that he’s considering sending to Yakov next week, he’s baking. The entire world might complain about the difficulties of rolling out pie crust, but for Viktor, it’s actually a fairly calming exercise. Sure, making lattices can be exhausting, but there’s something enjoyable in rolling out dough, in turning piles of sugar, butter, and flour into something workable and delicious.

He’s just started to cover his berry medley lattice pie in egg wash when he hears a knock at the back door. Makkachin barks joyfully, so Viktor suspects he knows who’s on the other side before he even gets up to answer.

Sure enough, Yuuri is on his doorstep, his bag at his side and the script in his hand. He smiles when Viktor lets him in, and sets his stuff down on the kitchen counter before stepping over to Viktor and kissing his cheek hello.

Rehearsal ended early, he signs. Phichit got called for some sort of delivery job.

“Weird,” says Viktor, looping his arms around Yuuri’s waist and bringing him close. Yuuri chuckles against his ear.

Apparently some old biddy from the Book Club needed a crate of wine shipped to her from the winery within the hour, he signs, and Viktor laughs.

“And he ended rehearsal to do that?” he asks.

Well, we’d been at it for hours and there wasn’t much progress, concedes Yuuri. I think Phichit just wanted an excuse to get out and clear his head before other people’s heads started rolling.

“Phichit? Making people’s heads roll? Surely you jest,” teases Viktor.

You’ve never seen him under duress. It’s a pretty amazing sight. Possibly the eighth wonder of the world.

Viktor laughs, kissing Yuuri’s nose. “Well, there’s only so many times a guy can practice poking out his costar’s eyes with a red-hot poker and then being strangled while still being on-book,” he points out. Yuuri rolls his eyes, and loops his arms around Viktor’s neck to draw his lips closer.

The familiar feeling of butterflies in his stomach engulfs him. When they part, Viktor watches the slow fluttering of Yuuri’s lashes in the kitchen light. “How many times have we kissed by now?” he wonders.

Yuuri shrugs. I’ve lost count, he signs.

“How can each time still feel like the first one, though?”

Yuuri shrugs again. Because you’re an incurable sap? he wonders.

Viktor laughs. “You’ve just noticed?”

I’m pretty sure anyone who’s read your work would have noticed, replies Yuuri drily.

“Damn, and here I thought I could be subtle in my romancing.” Viktor chuckles, already missing the warmth of Yuuri’s body as the other steps away to close the door. He picks up Yuuri’s copy of the script, noticing all the marks and notes all over it. “You really did a number on this,” he remarks.

Mostly delivery notes, says Yuuri, shrugging.

“Well, take your mind off it for a bit,” suggests Viktor, “because I’m going to be putting a pie in the oven soon, and I’ll need your feedback for it when it’s done.”

Yuuri smiles and nods, before taking his bag into Viktor’s room. Viktor feels his heart skip a beat, and he follows Yuuri into his room to find the other man unpacking enough outfits to last through the weekend. His stomach swoops at the sight.

“That’s a lot of clothes for one night,” he says, trying to make it sound nonchalant.

Yuuri shakes his head. It’s for the weekend, he confirms. There’s a concert on the boardwalk Friday, at least two parties on Bowhill on Saturday, and some bagpipe exhibition on the pier on Sunday morning.

Viktor laughs. “Not a fan of bagpipes?”

Not when I’m trying to sleep in, replies Yuuri, frowning.

“Fair point,” says Viktor, chuckling. “All right, hang tight. I’m going to put my pie in the oven.”

Moments later, they’re both in the kitchen as the pie bakes, Viktor idly tapping at his word processor while Yuuri marks up his script some more. Viktor looks up just as Makkachin begins pestering Yuuri for pets and scritches, smiling as he watches Yuuri capitulate to his dog’s demands.

It hits him now, as it hits him everytime he sees it, how much he longs for this to be something he can experience every day. To have Yuuri by his side, living with him, sharing his space — it fills Viktor’s chest with a lightness that he really can’t describe. Is this how other people find the one? By looking at them across the kitchen table and realising they’ll always want that person there for the rest of their lives?

The longing for permanence and the fear of ephemerality clash in his mind more and more each day. Shaking his head to try and clear away those thoughts, Viktor tries to concentrate on the words he’s typing into his processor instead.

Slowly, the smell of baking pie fills the cottage. Makkachin barks happily, though Viktor has no intention of giving him any of the pie — he’d already given him some of the extra berries from the filling, and Makkachin had yet to finish the strawberry still in his dish. Yuuri, on the other hand, is already getting out the whipped cream from the fridge, as well as plates and forks.

When his phone’s timer rings, Viktor takes the pie out of the oven and puts it on a rack to cool. It’s come out nice and golden, and Yuuri’s eyes widen in appreciation when he sees it. Moments later, two slices have been cut and adorned with whipped cream, and Yuuri’s cheeks flush with pleasure as he eats a bite of his slice.

It’s delicious, he declares.

Thanks, Viktor signs. Yuuri beams at him through another bite of pie.

I don’t know what to thank more, your attention to detail in researching things or the fact that you actively chose to write about pie-baking hockey players, he jokes as he finishes his slice, and Viktor can’t help but laugh.

“I’m thinking it’s probably a combination of the two,” he says.

Yuuri shrugs. Viktor watches him cut another slice with the same fluttering sensation in his stomach that he felt earlier. Smiling, he swipes a dollop of whipped cream from Yuuri’s new slice and dabs it onto Yuuri’s nose. Yuuri stares at him, wide-eyed, before Viktor leans over and kisses it off with a flick of tongue.

Yuuri’s eyes noticeably darken. Viktor feels a tremor run through his body.

Soon, their desserts and writing obligations lie forgotten on the kitchen table as Yuuri straddles Viktor, his mouth hot and greedy against his. Viktor can do nothing but lean heavily against both table and chair, groaning as Yuuri grinds wantonly against him mid-kiss. His hands roam the expanse of Yuuri’s shirt-clad torso, itching to feel the smoothness of skin instead.

And as if he’d read Viktor’s mind (he seems scarily capable of doing so; is it a selkie thing?), Yuuri leans back from the kiss and tugs his t-shirt over his head, and all of a sudden Viktor sees nothing but smooth skin, lightly tanned from the Scottish summer sun. Yuuri’s body is a harmony between the hard edges of his collarbones and chest and the softness of his torso. He’s put on a bit more weight over the summer, Viktor knows, since he’s been swimming less, but he’s still so devastatingly beautiful, and the way he bites his lips and looks down at Viktor through hooded eyes just takes his breath away.

Yuuri reaches up, as if about to take off his glasses, but Viktor shakes his head. “I want you to see me clearly,” he says quietly.

Yuuri bites his lip, but he nods. Viktor angles up for a kiss, and Yuuri bestows it, wrapping his arms around Viktor’s shoulders. His lips are still sweet with the taste of berries and cream; Viktor lingers as long as he can on them, before breaking the kiss to mouth at Yuuri’s neck and collar with his hands coming up to rest just below Yuuri’s shoulderblades.

When his lips latch onto a sensitive spot at the junction of Yuuri’s collar and neck, he’s rewarded with a breathy sigh. Viktor marks the spot, before moving down past Yuuri’s collarbones to his chest. He’s seen this chest before, obviously, and he’s memorised its planes and curves through Yuuri’s shirt by now. But this is the first time Yuuri has exposed it to him with the invitation to touch and mark, and the very thought of doing so sends shivers of warmth through his body.

“What do you say we take this elsewhere?” he whispers against Yuuri’s left pectoral, before looking up just in time to catch Yuuri’s nod. And though he burns for Yuuri’s touch again as soon as the other man leaves his lap, it’s only a matter of minutes before they’re in his room with the door closed to prevent any untimely interruptions, and Yuuri is sitting on the bed watching him expectantly as he unbuttons his shirt.

Come here, Yuuri signs as soon as Viktor’s shirt flutters to the ground, and Viktor does, clambering onto the bed so his legs bracket Yuuri’s hips and he’s looking down at him, at his sparkling brown eyes and sultry little smile. Viktor feels young again, like he’s a stupid horny teenager making out with his crush for the first time. And the way Yuuri crooks a finger at him and then drags him down for a kiss by the nape of his neck makes Viktor’s blood sing.

“God,” he breathes against Yuuri’s lips when they break apart, “if anyone else in town knew you were like this in the sheets, I’d have to start fighting off people trying to steal you away from me.”

Yuuri’s shoulders shake a little. He presses their foreheads together and traces hearts into Viktor’s back, and Viktor’s real heart beats a little faster with each one.

“I know, that sounds possessive of me, and I shouldn’t be so possessive of you, but still. You do know Christophe called you a cute little slice, right?”

That earns him an exasperatedly fond glare and an admonishing tug of his hair, as if Yuuri can’t believe he’s talking about Christophe while they’re both shirtless in bed. So Viktor laughs, and peppers Yuuri’s face with apology kisses, skewing his glasses.

“I’ll shut up,” he offers, and then moves his kisses down Yuuri’s neck to his chest. The hand in his hair clenches, and Viktor smiles against Yuuri’s skin. His tongue circles one of Yuuri’s nipples, and Yuuri’s hand clenches tighter while his breath hitches.

Emboldened, Viktor takes the nipple into his mouth, his tongue laving over sensitive skin. He repeats it with the other nipple, savouring the pleasure-shaken shudder of Yuuri’s breaths, before pressing a line of kisses down Yuuri’s sternum. From here, he can feel Yuuri’s arousal pressing into his stomach, even through additional layers of clothing, and he vaguely wonders if Yuuri can feel the same from him against his thigh.

He grinds down with his hips a little, curious, and Yuuri gasps. “Sorry,” apologises Viktor, but Yuuri shakes his head, his hands now scrabbling with the fly of his jeans. Viktor scrambles off Yuuri as he begins kicking his jeans off his legs, trying to avert his gaze from the fairly obvious bulge in Yuuri’s briefs.

Yuuri finishes divesting himself of his jeans and then looks expectantly up at Viktor, who swallows before clambering off the bed to do the same. Between the two of them, he’s the one with more experience in these matters; why the hell is he fumbling everything now? But soon he’s back on the bed, straddling Yuuri’s hips and looking down at him, entranced with the flush in his cheeks and the lighting in the room glinting off his glasses.

“How far are you willing to go tonight?” he asks quietly. The burning inside him has to know. It’s not like there’s only one way to get off, and he’s fully prepared to jerk one out in the shower later tonight if he has to, but —

Yuuri shrugs at him. I’ll tell you if I don’t want to continue, he signs.

“Fair enough,” murmurs Viktor. After Yuuri removes his glasses and puts them on the nightstand, Viktor captures his lips again. Their chests brush, briefly, and Viktor feels a brief shiver down his body at the touch, before suddenly the world is flipped and he feels the soft duvet press into his back. Yuuri’s face hovers above him, almost moon-like in the glow from the light diffusing through the window. Viktor only has a brief moment to breathe before all memory of oxygen is chased from his lungs with Yuuri’s next kiss.

It’s like that first time that Yuuri dipped him all over again. Viktor barely catches his breath before Yuuri begins kissing and sucking his way down his neck, biting down — hard — at his collar. Viktor gasps at that, his hands scrabbling to grab the duvet, his mind reeling. He knew Yuuri liked a bit of roughness in their kissing, but this?

(He’s not sure if he can possibly get any harder.)

Yuuri licks a line down his sternum, scrapes his teeth against Viktor’s nipples. Viktor feels the moans escaping his throat without really even being cognisant of them. All he can do right now is try and control himself, distract himself from the sinful swipe of Yuuri’s tongue down the planes of his stomach, because if he doesn’t, then he’s going to —

Yuuri’s lips leave his skin. Viktor opens his eyes. Yuuri is regarding him with a curious, dark stare; Viktor feels a shiver run down his spine to be on the receiving end.

“I-Is there something wrong?” he breathes.

Yuuri shakes his head and kisses him again, hard and bruising. Viktor nips at his lips this time, and the growl he’s rewarded with seems to have a direct line to his crotch, because it turns out he can get harder, and it’s nothing but fucking agony.

Then something in him finally snaps, and he flips their positions again, his mouth and hips both punishingly demanding against Yuuri’s. He takes, and takes, and takes, like the crashing of the waves against the shore, carrying the sand of the beach with it out to sea. He puts into each kiss a little bit of the frustration he’s endured from the first time he laid eyes on Yuuri onwards — all of this longing, all of this burning, all of this wanting is now sweeping him into a frenzy of kisses and nips and bites along Yuuri’s skin. He marks, with an almost savage satisfaction, every last inch of Yuuri’s torso with irrefutable proof that Viktor Nikiforov was here.

And oh, how Yuuri blossoms at that. His fingernails dig crescents into Viktor’s back as he returns each bite, each nip, each kiss. For the first time in his life, Viktor feels properly possessed, like he knows with each move of his muscles that he belongs to none other than Yuuri Katsuki. It’s a notion that makes his head spin, his heart race, his stomach flutter. He never thought he’d like being claimed so much before. Yuuri scratches at his back, kisses his neck, bites at his ear, and Viktor’s vision almost goes white from a dizzy mix of pleasure and pain.

When Viktor kisses Yuuri again, his tongue chasing the taste of berries in Yuuri’s mouth, he almost forgets his name. When he grinds their hips together again, release hits him like the world has just been pulled out from under his feet, and he’s tumbling from the stars with no sign of the ground in sight.

Yuuri meets him halfway, his hands and forehead grounding Viktor again, reminding him of where and who he is. Viktor breathes Yuuri’s name like a prayer, his breath shuddering out of him as he opens his eyes to see the mess in his pants, as well as Yuuri’s flushed cheeks and heaving chest.

“Did you…?” Viktor murmurs. Yuuri shakes his head. Viktor feels guilt douse him in cold water. Selfish, as always.

“I could —” he begins, but Yuuri shakes his head, nodding towards the bathroom. Viktor swallows, wanting nothing more than to curl up in a ball and forget his own existence. Stupid, selfish, childish.

“I’m sorry,” he says.

I got to see you lose control, traces Yuuri into his back with a smirk. It was worth it.

“But you didn’t —” He’s cut off with Yuuri’s lips against the corner of his own. Smooth, quiet, forgiving. He feels the knots in his chest loosen a little.

It takes more effort for me, explains Yuuri as he ghosts his fingers across Viktor’s shoulderblades. You’d actually have to use your hands.

“Which I could do, right now, if you’d let me,” replies Viktor, though he keeps his hands by Yuuri’s shoulders. Amused, Yuuri flips them again so that he’s straddling Viktor’s hips; Viktor’s gaze falls to Yuuri’s bulge again, half-guiltily, half-hungrily. His breath shudders out of him when Yuuri rocks his hips just slightly.

“Is this like, a selkie thing? Being unnaturally talented at this?” Viktor wonders.

Yuuri’s dark eyes shine with mischief. Wouldn’t you like to know, he signs.

“You horrid tease.”

Come to think of it, Yuuri muses as he rocks his hips a little more, a small sigh shuddering out of him before he traces the next sentence into Viktor’s chest, the Grey Maiden did mention that her lover was, and I quote, ‘preternaturally gifted in bed’.

Viktor grins. “Lucky me, I suppose,” he drawls, before sitting up to capture the sides of Yuuri’s face and bring him in for another kiss. Yuuri’s hands tangle in his hair, and Viktor moans as he feels a light tug from Yuuri’s fingers.

And then he’s being pushed back onto the duvet again, but this time Yuuri clambers off him. Next time we do this, Yuuri signs, I’ll let you touch properly.

Viktor feels his heart pound a little faster in his chest at that promise. “Next time we do this, I’m not coming in my pants like some teenager,” he warns.

I should hope not, replies Yuuri, and — damn him — tosses a wink over his shoulder before vanishing into the bathroom. Viktor flops back onto the bed, clapping a hand over his face with a groan. Of course he’s half-aroused already at the slightest promise of more, and he has to actively tell himself not to listen to what Yuuri might be doing in the bathroom in order to keep his thoughts from straying.

When Yuuri exits the bathroom, yawning widely in Viktor’s old SPBSU shirt, Viktor immediately slips in past him with the full intention of taking the coldest shower possible. Just before he runs the water, though, he can hear Yuuri opening the bedroom door to admit Makkachin, and he’s almost thankful for that — there’d be very little chance for temptation with his dog in the room, for sure.

Yuuri is almost half-asleep with Makkachin in his arms by the time Viktor exits the bathroom, now properly ready for bed. His kisses are soft and sleepy now, a slow tangle of mouths and tongues that nevertheless makes Viktor’s toes curl. Once they part, Viktor peppers gentle kisses across Yuuri’s cheek to his ear and takes him into his arms, burrowing into the crook of his neck and holding him close.

And so his mind wanders away from his usual restless thoughts, as he drifts to sleep with Yuuri and Makkachin in his arms.

mukai osamu as yuuri

Viktor Nikiforov @v-nikiforov
I could wake to this every morning

Viktor is greeted in the morning to the sight of Yuuri’s eyes, enigmatic yet warm, watching him in silence. For a moment he just lies there, content to look back into those eyes, but after a moment Yuuri breaks the illusion by wrinkling his nose and sticking his tongue out, and Viktor laughs.

There’s a bark, and Makkachin’s head appears over the divot in the line of Yuuri’s waist, and Viktor reaches out to ruffle his dog’s hair with a small chuckle. “Good morning to my two most favourite boys in the world,” he declares, and Yuuri rolls his eyes with a smile.

Good morning, he signs.

“Have you been watching me sleep this entire time?” wonders Viktor, nosing in towards Yuuri’s face for a good morning kiss. Yuuri relinquishes it willingly, sighing into the space between their lips when they part.

Maybe for the past couple of minutes, he signs when Viktor opens his eyes again, and Viktor chuckles at that, reaching out to tuck a strand of hair behind Yuuri’s ear.

They lie there a moment longer, Viktor slowly growing more aware of the pitter-patter of rain against the windows by their bed. “Has it been raining all morning?” he wonders. Yuuri nods. Viktor pouts. “Now I don’t want to get up at all.”

Then don’t, replies Yuuri, softly entangling their fingers and kissing Viktor again. Viktor feels like he’s melting.

“Shit,” he says suddenly, eyes flying open as he pulls back and sits up. “Did we leave the whipped cream out on the counter last night?”

Yuuri’s shoulders shake in silent laughter. Viktor wrinkles his nose at him and gets up to pad into the kitchen, partly to clear last night’s dishes (and ensure the whipped cream ends up back in the fridge where it belongs) and partly to feed Makkachin. After filling his poodle’s bowl, Viktor cuts another slice of last night’s pie and heats it up, bringing it back to the bedroom for them to eat.

“Just in case,” he explains when he clambers back into bed, and Yuuri chuckles at that, looping his arms around Viktor’s neck and kissing him again.

They spend the morning warm beneath the duvet in bed, while the rain falls outside the window. They write some more of the story of Jack and Toriano, punctuating several lines with several more kisses, until Viktor’s stomach is a warm, fuzzy mess of feelings and Yuuri’s cheeks are flushed. And as the overcast morning light filters across Yuuri’s face, Viktor feels his heart rise in his chest and a jumble of words fill his throat, each one more terrifying and exhilarating then the last.

What are you thinking about? Yuuri wonders, writing the question in the margins of their story as he ponders their next sentence. He’s nestled in the crook of Viktor’s arm, curled into his side with his head leaning against Viktor’s collar. Viktor presses a kiss to the side of Yuuri’s head, inhaling the musky scent of his hair with a small smile.

“I was thinking about waking to you every morning,” he replies, and feels Yuuri’s responding smile against his lips.

Yuuri cancels his other obligations for the weekend. They spend most of Friday in bed, cutting up more slices of pie whenever they get hungry. Viktor brings his laptop to bed and they watch some films together with Makkachin between them, Yuuri signing his frustration at the characters on screen whenever they do something stupid. Viktor is content just to watch the play of light and shadow across Yuuri’s face, and press soft kisses to Yuuri’s cheeks when he’s looking particularly agitated.

They walk Makkachin in the afternoon when they go visit Yuri at the ice cream parlour. The rain is lighter now than it was in the morning, but Viktor still carries an umbrella and thrills when Yuuri huddles against him under it. Makkachin darts away from them to sniff at every pole and railing, barking happily as he splashes through puddles on the boardwalk.

The sound of acoustic guitar fills the air when they enter the parlour. Otabek is strumming one at the counter, murmuring soft melodies to himself while Yuri watches him. Viktor has to laugh at the expression on the boy’s face — it’s the softest he’s ever seen on him before.

But that expression hardens the instant Yuri catches sight of them. “Oh, joy, Piglet and Dogbreath here to make my day,” he declares.

“I thought I was making your day,” remarks Otabek with a wry quirk of his eyebrow.

“You are. They aren’t,” says Yuri. “What do you want?” he adds.

“A strawberry shake, please,” says Viktor cheerily.

Yuri audibly groans. “And have you two hanging out here being lovey-dovey in my face? I’d rather scoop out my eyes, thanks.” But he shuffles off to fill the order anyway, and Viktor leaves the payment on the counter before leading Yuuri and Makkachin to the nearest booth.

Yuri is a positive little thundercloud when he puts the (beautifully crafted with a cherry on top) shake down in front of them. “Enjoy,” he says, before retreating behind the counter. Viktor laughs. Yuuri pops the cherry into his mouth without further ado.

“So,” Viktor remarks as he tucks into the shake, nodding towards the guitar. “Is Otabek entering the festival?”

“The sign-ups are already closed,” Otabek states. “Besides, I’m only here for this summer.”

“Ah,” says Viktor. “I’m only here for this year, too. Though, I gotta ask — don’t you want to stay here?”

Otabek considers it, shrugs. “It’s very different from Kazakhstan,” he replies.

Viktor snorts. “No, really,” he deadpans. “A good different, I hope?”

Otabek hums in affirmation, before striking another chord. Yuuri and Yuri look up from their own conversation, just as Otabek begins to sing softly. It seems to be some sort of original melody without much of the words, but it tugs at something in Viktor in a way that defies words anyway.

Even Makkachin goes still as Otabek continues his song. Viktor thinks of little gravestones and the roaring of the sea, and old Scottish ballads gathering dust in his memory.

My dear, I’ll wed thee with a ring, with a ring, my dear, I’ll wed with thee…” The words come to him without bidding. Viktor murmurs them to the rhythm and the tune, feeling Yuuri’s hands clench his own in response. He smiles, turning to Yuuri and pressing a kiss to his hair, the strange melancholy of Otabek’s tune seeping into his bones.

When Otabek finishes the song, they applaud him. The man smiles, briefly, before returning to his usual chord strumming. Yuuri grins teasingly at Yuri, who flips him off in response.

“How long have you been playing guitar, Otabek?” Viktor asks.

Otabek looks up from his strumming and shrugs. “Eight years,” he replies.

“You were really good at the Midsummer dance; did you have any music training?”

Otabek hums, tapping at the body of his guitar after another chord. “I did some piano when I was younger,” he says. “My uncle runs a piano store in Almaty, so I’d drop by after school and play around on some of the stuff at the shop with him. I learned a thing or two about tuning pianos from him, too.”

Yuuri’s expression brightens up. You could have him look at your piano! he signs to Viktor, who chuckles.

I guess, he replies, before turning to Otabek. “I have an old piano that came with the cottage I’m renting. It’s out of tune; you think you could look at it for me?”

Otabek shrugs. “I can see what I can do,” he offers.

“Great,” says Viktor. “I can compensate you for your troubles. When would you want to come by?”

“After next week,” interjects Yuri. “We’re going monster hunting next week.”

“My mother said it was just touring the lochs,” says Otabek.

“Yeah, but what she really means is that we’re going to get a picture of Nessie,” says Yuri. “Come on, it’ll be fun. We’ll become famous.”

Otabek chuckles, and begins strumming his guitar again. “If you say so,” he says easily, and Viktor smiles at them from behind his shake.

On Saturday, the rain still hasn’t let up. Viktor pays for Phichit to deliver some groceries so he can make dinner, and does some long put-off chores while Yuuri sits at the kitchen table with one of his writing journals, which he would slam closed whenever Viktor happens to be in the room. It’s both endearing and infuriating, but Viktor tries not to let that show too much.

Phichit shows up sometime in the afternoon, as Viktor’s hanging up the laundry to dry in the living room. The Thai man is all smiles as he hoists a boxful of groceries out of the trunk of his little car; Viktor scrambles out with an umbrella to help him get most of them in before they get drenched in the rain.

“Where’s Yuuri?” Phichit asks, once Viktor closes the front door. Yuuri appears moments later from the kitchen, darting over to help Phichit carry the groceries into the kitchen. Viktor’s laundry flaps a little in their wake; he returns to hanging up his socks while listening to Phichit talk about Georgi’s costume designs in the next room.

This is just a natural part of intersecting his life with another’s. Yuuri’s life is his own. Even if they practically have the same social circle, the interactions they have with them should be different. Phichit might have been called here to deliver groceries, but he’s also Yuuri’s friend, and has just as much of a right to Yuuri’s time as Viktor does.

Still, it’s strange, watching real life creeping into his idyllic thoughts of having Yuuri all to himself in his little cottage by the sea. He’d never been quite good at reconciling his fantasies with reality when it came to relationships — that’s why his last flings were just that. Flings. Bright burning moments of whirlwind passion where every meeting was dedicated to them and them alone, and where the rest of their lives had no business intruding in.

As soon as any one of those past flings had suggested something more permanent — as soon as anything resembling a problem even began to poke out from the golden glow of their connection — Viktor had left. His writing had been more important to him then. He’d channel his emotions into his words, crafting literary what-could-have-beens and happily-ever-afters, and never really sought out his own. Lovemaking is easy. Love itself is harder.

Phichit and Yuuri look up when Viktor enters the kitchen. Viktor gestures for them to continue talking as he starts to make preparations for dinner using some of the stuff Phichit has brought over. There’s some shrimp, some arugula — he could make some scampi pasta with that. And he sets forth with it, shaking his head whenever Phichit offers his and Yuuri’s help.

So many of the things he’d picked up while researching his novels had turned out to be good things to do while he was deep in thought. Cooking was not always one of those, but this recipe is easy. The repetitiveness of peeling and deveining shrimp helps him think. Slowly, the sounds of Phichit and Yuuri’s conversation — or rather, Phichit talking, and then pausing to read Yuuri’s responses — fall into a gentle murmur in the background.

Is he worth it?

The thought runs across Viktor’s mind for possibly the first time. The knee-jerk response is of course he is, you idiot, but Viktor looks past that, rolls the question around in his head some more.

What makes Yuuri Katsuki different from all the rest? What is it about him that makes each kiss feel like the first, each touch feel like the last? And once he has claimed every last atom in Yuuri Katsuki’s body as his, will his thoughts change?

The pasta water on the stove boils and churns like the feeling in his own gut. Viktor sets down a wooden spoon on the pot and fills it with pasta, quietly counting the beats of his heart. The fear of separation isn’t a new feeling for him, but this might be the first time he’s felt it about someone who wasn’t related to him. He’d been the heartbreaker so many times, but now he’s terrified of having his heart broken. Even if he knows that Yuuri isn’t about to do something like that anytime soon, deep down inside he still fears what could very well be an inevitability.

Is he worth it? Viktor wonders again, looking towards Phichit and Yuuri, who now seem to be searching up hamster videos on YouTube. The afternoon sun filtering in through the windows in the kitchen make Yuuri’s laughing expression look almost ethereal.

Yuuri suddenly notices him. Viktor, come here and look at this, he says, and Viktor silently follows, laughing when Yuuri shows him a video of a hamster running around and bumping into things with a cardboard tube on its head. Yuuri’s smile softens him, calms the fears and doubts in his head even just for a little while. He presses a kiss to the top of Yuuri’s head, ignoring the camera shutter sound of Phichit’s phone, and returns to the stove to finish cooking dinner.

When he walks Phichit to the door after dinner that night, the Thai man stops him just at the threshold. “You seemed a bit upset about my coming over,” he remarks.

“No,” says Viktor immediately, his placid smile firmly in place.

Phichit’s having none of it. “Don’t give me that look, Viktor. You’ve been here for months; I can tell when you’re smiling just to be nice.”

Viktor sighs. “It’s just something I’m working on,” he admits. “I’m not — I know you’re his friend, so —”

“Yeah,” interrupts Phichit. “I’ve been his friend since I came here for university. Which, you know, is a lot longer than you’ve known him.”

Viktor inhales, braces himself for the inevitable.

Phichit smiles, though. “I’m glad that you’re here for him,” he says. “Yuuri’s always been a little nervous about putting himself out there. He only performed at the festival because he knew we’d be there, but the publishing world itself is too big and too daunting for him, and he’s been burned by it once or twice when he was at St Andrews. So it’s nice to see that you’ve taken an interest in his writing, alongside… other parts of him.”

Viktor exhales. But then Phichit raises a hand, and he stiffens again.

“That being said, there was a lot of talk amongst the rest of us about whether or not you were just using him as emotional fodder for your next novel. I mean, I can see now that you’re more serious about the relationship than what we’ve given you credit for, but…” Phichit trails off, as if he’s looking for his next words. Viktor waits, wondering when Phichit’s eyes had become so steely.

After a moment, Phichit nods. “Don’t hurt him,” he says, and Viktor hopes the unease in his own stomach doesn’t show on his face. It’s been getting worse and worse since he saw the play; his brain keeps on telling him there’s something he’s forgotten. But he doesn’t know what it is, or why he’s forgotten it, or even if it has something to do with his current happiness.

“I’m trying my best,” he replies, because there’s nothing else he can say to that. He is too flawed, too human for someone like Yuuri, and it seems like everyone knows it.

Phichit hums, accepting it. “Let me know when the wedding is,” he jokes, and Viktor laughs. Phichit turns, heading out into the light early evening rain towards his parked car. He waves as he opens the door, and Viktor waves back, only retreating back inside when Phichit pulls away.

Yuuri is writing at the kitchen table again, and though this time he pulls the notebook closer to him and hunches over, he makes no move of closing it entirely. Viktor smiles, and turns towards the sink full of dishes.

“I’m not going to ask you to show me anything you don’t want me to see,” he says, and he dimly hears an exhale of relief.

Viktor can’t sleep that night, tossing and turning on his side of the bed while Yuuri dreams on next to him. The question from earlier seems to fill the silence of the bedroom until it’s practically screaming in his ears.

He regrets ever asking himself that question. He should’ve just accepted the knee-jerk reaction and forgotten about it. But now here he is, his heart feeling like it’s going to explode from all the abuse it’s suffered over the past few months, and he’s nowhere closer to an answer.

He looks over at his nightstand and sees Yuuri’s glasses perched on his notebook, and he gets an idea.

Viktor silently extricates himself from his bed and pads silently through his cottage. He passes through the ghostly fluttering of his drying laundry in the living room and into his den. Grabbing his laptop from the desk and bringing it into the kitchen, Viktor listens to the hum of the fridge and the rumble of the dishwasher as he sits down at the table and starts to write. He pours his fears, his worries, his hopes onto the page, vomits out his feelings in the form of words. It’s easier — it’s always been easier — to get his thoughts out on the page, to sublimate his emotions through a more detached form of self-expression. Words can be reinterpreted by the reader, can be divorced from and married to different contexts.

He fills page upon page with these words, finishing just as the sky outside begins to lighten from indigo to grey-blue. Saving the document and closing his laptop, Viktor silently tiptoes back into his bedroom, his brain feeling more at peace than it’s been for quite some time.

Yuuri opens a bleary eye when he clambers back into bed. Where did you go? he signs, his gestures a little sloppy with sleep. Viktor presses a kiss to his forehead.

“I was thinking about you,” he says.

That’s not an answer, Yuuri replies.

“I know,” says Viktor.

Tell me in the morning, suggests Yuuri.

“I will,” promises Viktor, and closes his eyes.

In the morning, as Yuuri enters the kitchen with the Torvill Cove Reporter in his hands and his hair still tousled from sleep, Viktor points to himself, crosses his hands over his chest, and then points to him.

“Move in with me,” he adds.

Yuuri drops the paper as a smile breaks out over his face.

Seal Watching at Torvill Cove?
posted by arosiehaze,
Metuchen, USA | 13 August 2016 @ 18:00

Hi TravelForums, I have a quick question. I’m going to be in Torvill Cove next week on my trip through the Western Highlands, and I was just wondering how likely I’ll be to see “Katsudon” or any other seals while I’m there. If so I would like to know the best spot to see them.



Torvill Cove, UK | 13 August 2016 @ 18:32
Hi Rose, nice to hear that you’re coming to visit! Unfortunately Katsudon hasn’t been making any appearances lately, but there are many other harbour seals who haul out in Torvill during the summer, especially now considering that we’re heading into moulting season. There is a small beach just before Torvill Point that is pretty popular with the mothers and their pups; it’s usually closed off during pupping and moulting season, though not a lot of people are willing to make the rickety descent on the stairs that leads down to it anyway! You’ll be able to watch from the middle of the stairs, if you’re brave enough; if not, there should be some harbour cruises that take you pretty close by as well. Other good places to spot seals are at the rocks of Torvill and Lovers’ Point, but those definitely will require you to take a boat out! Hope this helps!

Dover, UK | 13 August 2016 @ 18:48
Is anyone else finding it sad that Katsudon hasn’t been showing up? The town makes such a big fuss about their special resident seal but now he’s nowhere to be found :(

Detroit, USA | 14 August 2016 @ 1:20
Makes me wonder if Katsudon is real at all or if he’s just the next Nessie ;)

Torvill Cove, UK | 14 August 2016 @ 3:59
eXCUSE ME;;; katsudon is very real there are so many pictures of him on instagram. sometimes he just leaves for periods of time to go feeding out in the ocean but he always comes back so who knows

Dover, UK | 14 August 2016 @ 11:44
I just find it disingenuous for the town to make such a big deal out of that seal but end up having nothing to show for it, even if it’s not the seal’s fault

Torvill Cove, UK | 14 August 2016 @ 13:27
look i’m about as bummed about the lack of katsudon sightings as you are ok, and i live here so i have the chance to see if he’s shown up at all every single day. but he hasn’t. i think the last time we saw him was in june after he got into a fight with another seal. maybe it’s just taking him longer to recover than we thought

Metuchen, USA | 15 August 2016 @ 15:09
Thanks for everyone’s comments! I’m sorry to hear that Katsudon got hurt! Sending him wishes for a quicker recovery :)

Yuuri begins moving in one box at a time, usually brought over after rehearsal. He doesn’t bring everything over, of course — there’s barely room on the shelves for Viktor’s books, let alone Yuuri’s — but the important things are there: a light blue mug with poodles on it sits on the counter next to Viktor’s own mugs, a box of genmaicha has been added to Viktor’s tea collection, a wide array of stuffed animals now sit on a windowsill in the living room. Viktor had even tried to convince Yuuri to bring his posters over, but Yuuri had refused. Still, at least now the desk in the den sports a picture of Yuuri with Vicchan next to the photographs of Viktor’s own family, and the matryoshka dolls on the mantelpiece now coexist with a family of kokeshi dolls in brightly-coloured kimonos.

Now Yuuri heads to rehearsals in the afternoon from Viktor’s cottage, and returns at night after Viktor’s long finished dinner and is writing at the kitchen table. Viktor usually keeps some food heated up for him, which Yuuri always smiles at appreciatively before telling Viktor about his day. Viktor can’t help but look at how their coats hang on pegs right next to each other by the kitchen door, and smile.

Until now, he hadn’t really realised how busy Yuuri keeps himself sometimes — the man is always heading off to help Phichit, or Yuuko, or his parents in the morning, and then he goes to rehearsals in the afternoon. Mid-August is seeing a slight drop in the number of tourists in town, but there’s still enough to crowd stores and restaurants, so sometimes Viktor goes with Yuuri on his morning errands to keep him company amongst the crowds. And every time he does, every time he watches Yuuri hoisting boxes with Phichit, or studying tide charts with Yuuko, or even just reaching for a high-five with a beaming Kenjirou Minami, he feels himself falling more and more in love.

It had been one thing to admit it to Yuuri, but it’s another to admit it to himself, to reaffirm to himself every day that this is what he’s chosen, this is the leap of faith he’s making even though parts of his brain keep telling him it’s going to blow up in his face someday. To find even the mundane aspects of Yuuri’s life beautiful and fascinating — isn’t that part of aligning the pieces of his life with the pieces of Yuuri’s?

He doesn’t go to rehearsals with Yuuri, though. Phichit is always happy to see him picking Yuuri up after rehearsal, and keeps on suggesting he drop by during the next rehearsal and offer more feedback before tech week starts, but Viktor always declines, finding one excuse after another to try and avoid seeing the play until the festival. Yuuri doesn’t question it openly, though Viktor always sees a strange thoughtful look in the man’s eyes each time he turns Phichit down.

He won’t have to worry about it for long, though. The festival is coming up in a week, and after that Yuuri’s afternoons will be free again. Then they’ll be free to spend their afternoons together at the cove like they used to, or at the little beach once it reopens to people after moulting season. By then, fall will have settled into the town, and Viktor is excited about what the seasonal changes might bring. The highlands are supposed to be stunning in the fall, with the leaves on the trees turning all sorts of lovely bright colours.

He can’t wait to spend fall with Yuuri, to bake apple pies with him, to bundle up with him as the days get shorter and colder. The future just seems so promising right now; Yuuri moving into his life in a more permanent fashion now opens up new thoughts of spending the other seasons together. He might even like celebrating his birthday this year, and the thought of that makes something warm explode inside his chest.

But right now, it is still summer, the little beach is still closed, and its sands and rocks are covered with hauled-out seals. Viktor spends many afternoons on the stairs leading down to it, watching the seals rest and regrow their fur for the winter. Sometimes he catches himself looking for Katsudon amongst those seals, and reminds himself that it’s not possible — Yuuri still hasn’t found his skin yet.

One afternoon, while Yuuri is away at rehearsal, Otabek Altin and Yuri Plisetsky show up at the cottage. “We’re here to tune the piano,” Otabek says by way of greeting, and Viktor lets him in and shows him to the living room, where the old white piano sits. Otabek sets down a toolkit on the bench and opens up the lid, wincing as he presses the keys.

“When was the last time this thing got tuned?” he wonders.

Viktor shrugs. “You’d have to ask the owner of the cottage,” he replies.

Otabek grunts in displeasure, and opens the top board of the piano. “I’m going to need absolute silence,” he says. Yuri and Viktor head for the couch, watching Otabek open up the top panel for tuning.

“Wow,” breathes Otabek after a moment. “This old thing really needs a good clean. You got a vacuum hose or something?”

“Yeah, I think it’s in the closet next to the door,” says Viktor. Yuri gets up and goes over to the closet, opening it up.

“I don’t see it,” the blond calls.

“Go deeper,” Viktor says. “It’s a much bigger closet than you think; the vacuum should be up against the back somewhere.”

He hears Yuri rummaging around in there for a moment, before the sounds of movement go utterly, utterly still.

And then Yuri lugs the vacuum out of the closet with an utterly unreadable expression. He brings it over to Otabek without a word, and heads for Viktor immediately after. Wordlessly, the teen seizes Viktor’s wrist with a bone-crushing ferocity and drags him over to the closet door, before stepping into its depths and reemerging with a sleek black pelt.

“Care to explain this?” Yuri demands sweetly, and Viktor’s heart sinks like a stone.

Chapter Text

Midsummer’s Eve is liminal. Dark. Partygoers dance the night away somewhere far off. It hears like an alternate world.

The cove is silent. Waves creep the shoreline. He climbs down the stairs in the dark. Wood creaks and moans underfoot. The sand grates against his skin.

Pupping season begins soon. The beach will be closed. Seals will rest on the rocks. None are like Katsudon, though. He stays all year. All year Katsudon sta...

Yuuri? His heart bonfires at his name. Yuuri. An enigma. A puzzle. He has to know.  He has to figure him out.

But wouldn’t this be betraying him?

No. He just wants to know the truth.

“I…” Viktor stumbles back towards the den. “I have no idea what that is.”

Really,” deadpans Yuri, his face the very image of fire and brimstone. With a look towards Otabek, the blond pushes Viktor into the den and slams the French doors.  “So you don’t happen to know this is a selkie’s sealskin?” he hisses once the doors are closed.

“What?” Viktor whispers.

“Don’t play stupid with me, Nikiforov!” snarls Yuri, shaking the sealskin at him. “What on earth is this doing in your closet?”

“Maybe the owner left —”

Yuri Plisetsky flings the sealskin at him at that, blue-green eyes burning. Viktor catches it without even really thinking, his fingers running through coarse black fur.

“When did you take it,” Yuri states, his voice low and deadly.

“What?” Viktor asks.

Yuri raises an arm, as if to hit him, but then seems to think better of it.

Viktor winces anyway. “Yuri, I swear, I have no idea — maybe Midsummer? I had a dream I went down to the little beach and found a sealskin, but I thought — I thought that was all just a dream and maybe I’d just sleepwalked to the couch that night, even though I swear I’ve never sleepwalked before —”

“You. Fucking. Idiot,” Yuri grinds out before he can keep babbling. “You’ve read my grandfather’s stories. You know perfectly well how dangerous it is to antagonise a selkie. And here you are, like the stupid little shit you are, antagonising a fucking selkie!”

“I didn’t —”

“How could you have fucking forgotten taking a selkie’s sealskin?!”

“I —” Viktor frowns. “How do you know what a selkie’s sealskin looks like?” he demands.

“That’s none of your fucking business,” spits Yuri. In the silence that stretches between them after that, Viktor hears the sound of the vacuum starting up. The pelt is heavy in his hands.

He remembers now. The feel of it, the smell of it, the coldness of the water swirling around his ankles. Viktor sets the sealskin down on the desk. He doesn’t meet Yuri’s eyes.

Yuri’s next question is softer. “Does he know?” he asks.

“Who?” asks Viktor.

“Piglet,” says Yuri.

“You know he’s a…?” Viktor breathes.

“I’ve known since I watched him save your sorry arse back in the spring, you idiot,” growls Yuri. “Before then, I’d only suspected it. My dedushka knows a lot about selkies, you know.” There’s a strange sadness in Yuri’s expression when he says that. Viktor suspects there’s more that Nikolai Plisetsky knows about selkies than what his grandson is willing to divulge.

“I’m sorry,” Viktor says, not sure what he’s apologising for. Probably everything.

“I’m not the one you should be saying that to,” Yuri points out drily. Viktor stares at the sealskin sitting on the desk. It shines accusingly at him.

He sighs. “I know,” he says.

“Return it to him,” growls Yuri. “Maybe he’ll understand. Piglet is fuckin’ arse over tits for you. Maybe it’ll be different this time.”

Viktor has a sneaking suspicion it won’t be, but he smiles and nods anyway.

The sound of the vacuum gets louder when Yuri opens the doors of the den and leaves to watch Otabek clean and tune the piano. Viktor doesn’t follow immediately. Instead, he stashes the sealskin in one of the drawers of the desk. Yuuri never comes in here, and the drawers are lockable even if he does. This way, Viktor can bring the skin out to give back to Yuuri when he’s ready.

The problem is, he suspects he’ll never be ready.

When Otabek finishes cleaning the piano with the vacuum and a can of compressed air, he then starts tuning it. The cottage is silent except for him pressing the keys, listening, and adjusting; the silence that stretches between Viktor and Yuri is thicker than molasses. Viktor can barely even look in Yuri’s direction, let alone talk to him. Guilt bubbles in his stomach every time he tries to, strangling any words he might have wanted to say. So he says nothing instead.

Otabek has just finished putting the panels of the piano back in place when the back door to the cottage swings open and Yuuri steps through, shrugging off his coat and setting down his bag on the kitchen table. Viktor’s heart rises to his throat and his stomach churns at the sight of the selkie, but he hopes none of it shows up on his face as Yuuri shucks off his shoes in favour of house slippers and comes over to watch the piano being tuned.

Hello, Yurio! he signs to Yuri, and Yuri responds with a disgruntled expression. Viktor’s heart stutters at that — there’s a very good possibility Yuri may let the cat out of the bag through sign language, since both of them know Viktor’s still not very good at deciphering particularly fast signs.

But Yuri doesn’t sign anything else. He turns towards Otabek, who is testing out the newly-tuned keyboard with an intent expression on his face. Yuuri looks at Viktor, frowning.

He seems grumpier than usual, he signs.

Viktor shrugs. I wouldn’t know, he signs back. He always seems grumpy to me.

“Done,” says Otabek all of a sudden, closing the lid and dusting off his hands. He then vacuums the area around the piano, where all the dust that didn’t get sucked out in the initial cleaning has gone. Stashing his tools and patting the piano gently, Otabek straightens up and looks expectantly at Yuri.

Viktor grabs his wallet. “How much should I —?” he begins, but Otabek shakes his head.

“I’m just doing a favour for one of Yura’s friends,” he says. Viktor would have felt a lot better about being considered one of Yuri’s friends if the blond in question hadn’t blown up at him just a couple hours ago. As it is, Yuri only glares at him and then nods imperceptibly towards Yuuri, as if reminding him about what he has to do.

Viktor nods just as imperceptibly, but it feels more like the sort of agreement one would give a nagging parent. Yuri accepts it, for now, and turns to Otabek.

“Let’s go,” he says. “JJ’s house isn’t going to egg itself, you know.”

Why don’t you two stay for dinner? Yuuri asks.

“Don’t mother me, Piglet,” retorts Yuri, with the accompanying signs to really drive the message home. Yuuri frowns.

I’m not allowed to be concerned for you? he asks.

“I can handle myself, thanks,” snips Yuri, with an added rude gesture for emphasis, before heading for the door. Once there, he glares at Viktor before looking towards Otabek, who has paused to grab their jackets.

Viktor can only watch as the two of them leave, and then he turns to Yuuri, who is staring at the front door with a small frown on his face.

“He’s been here all afternoon; I bet he was getting a bit stir-crazy,” he says. It’s a flimsy explanation, and the look Yuuri levels him tells him he’s not buying it.

“Sorry, maybe I’m just projecting.” Viktor laughs, rubbing sheepishly at the nape of his neck. He tries not to look at his den; the desk drawer is boring holes into his conscience. “Why don’t we go out to eat?”

You do know that Yu-Topia doesn’t really count as ‘eating out’ for me, right? Yuuri asks drily.

Viktor raises an eyebrow. “Who says I wanted to go to Yu-Topia?” he asks.

Moments later, they’re at a table in Kachu instead. Viktor nurses a vodka and tonic, while Yuuri idly sips an Irish Coffee. A platter of fish and chips sits on the table between them, the lemon already squeezed out over the fish.

If you wanted fish and chips, you could have gone to the stand, Yuuri says, as Viktor cuts into his giant slab of fish and dips a bit of it into tartar sauce.

“But then I wouldn’t get a drink with it,” he replies. “At least, a drink that isn’t beer.”

Yuuri snorts. You’d rather pay more for fish and chips, then?

“Consider it me paying for fish, chips, an alcoholic drink that I actually like, and Christophe Giacometti coming by to deliver our drinks with the latest gossip,” replies Viktor, grinning.

Yuuri consider it. Point, he concedes.

“Cheers,” replies Viktor, clinking his vodka and tonic against Yuuri’s Irish Coffee. Yuuri sips his drink again, the cream clinging to his upper lip. Viktor licks his own lips in response, but any happiness he should have felt at the hitch in Yuuri’s breath is drowned by his burgeoning guilt.

Maybe you should give dark beers a try sometime, Yuuri muses after a moment. They tend to have less of that bitter hops taste.

“I’d never have pegged you as a beer snob,” Viktor says.

Yuuri snorts. Hardly. But I did know some beer snobs at St Andrews, so that’s why I know a little bit about it.

Viktor chuckles. When his vodka and tonic runs out, Christophe is there with another, and another, and another. The numbers get a little blurry, but that’s fine. If he lets something slip while inebriated, chances are Yuuri might not take it seriously, but then at least the words will be out there, just like he’d promised Yuri.

Are you alright? Yuuri signs as Viktor sets down his fourth glass and waves at Christophe for another refill. Viktor tugs at the collar of his shirt, as if that will help loosen it.

“Just fine!” he says, smiling brightly as Christophe comes with another drink. He practically swipes the glass from the blond’s fingers and takes a long sip.

Are you sure? Yuuri cocks his head to the side, frowning. You’re drinking a lot today. Did something happen during the piano tuning? Did Yuri make fun of your age?

Viktor nearly spits out his drink. “What? No!” he splutters. “Maybe I just want to drink a bit more tonight than I usually do?”

Yuuri raises an eyebrow, taking a chip and chewing at it thoughtfully. If you say so, he says after a moment. I’m just concerned about you, that’s all.

Viktor sighs. “I’ll be all right, Yuuri,” he says, and doesn’t look too hard at both Yuuri and Christophe’s reasonably concerned expressions.

When they return home after dinner that night, Viktor’s head is swimming a little but the words he knows he has to say still don’t come. Still, the desk in the den doesn’t seem to stare as accusingly, and surely that should count for something.

Haven’t you had enough to drink? Yuuri wonders when Viktor reaches for the flask of mead they’d bought in what seems like another lifetime. Viktor’s hands fumble with the corkscrew, but he eventually gets the flask uncorked and sloshes himself a glass.

“Do you want any?” Viktor asks, raising the glass. Yuuri’s face isn’t swimming yet, so that means he can still drink a little more. Yuuri shakes his head. Viktor shrugs. His loss. He downs the glass.

He fills the glass again almost as soon as it’s empty and carries it with him into the living room, where the newly cleaned and tuned piano sits. “I want to play something, Yuuri,” Viktor declares as he hears the selkie’s footsteps behind him. Yuuri says nothing to that, obviously, because he can’t talk, but he does take Viktor’s glass and lifts up the fall board for him, and sits down next to him on the bench almost expectantly.

Viktor can’t quite decipher what Yuuri signs at him — maybe it’s What would you like to play? — but he puts his hands on the keys and starts going through the motions of a song his grandmother had taught him when he was little. He’s not quite sure why the notes aren’t working the way they should, because the piano is supposed to be tuned now, but Yuuri smiles and claps for him when he pauses anyway. So maybe it’s fine.

He tries to put together another melody, but as he plays he feels a weird wetness sliding out of his eyes. Yuuri puts a hand out to stall his, reaching up to stroke his cheek. Viktor blinks rapidly, watching Yuuri’s face swim in and out of his vision. Blindly he reaches for Yuuri’s hand on his cheek, and moves it to his lips, pressing kisses to each digit.

“You deserve so much more than I can give, Yuuri,” he babbles in between Yuuri’s fingers. “Look at me. I’m such a mess. I can’t do anything right. I’m a failure and you deserve better.”

He feels Yuuri’s other hand pull him closer to him; he feels Yuuri’s lips against his hair. Yuuri is so good, so gentle. Viktor is selfish, again and again. He should just tell him about the skin, and stop being selfish for once in his life.

Maybe it’ll be different this time.

Viktor’s read the stories; he knows it never ends well. There’s no evidence that this time will be any different. The deed is done, even if he doesn’t quite remember how or why. So it’s not a matter of if Yuuri finds the skin, but when.

(And now it’s not a matter of if Yuuri leaves him, but when.)

So far, Yuuri doesn’t suspect him yet. If this skin is a guarantee of the end of the relationship, like it has been in all of the other stories he’s read, then maybe the longer he holds onto it, the longer Yuuri will stay.

It’s not a thought he’s proud of. But Yuuri has just moved in; Viktor doesn’t want to drive him away just now, just mere days after telling him he loves him. Maybe he could return the skin after an irreparable fight, make the break as clean as possible. But even the thought of having an irreparable fight with Yuuri makes his stomach churn.

It’s going to be all right, Yuuri writes into his shoulder. I believe in you.

Viktor hasn’t prayed since he was nine. But now, as he clings onto Yuuri, he prays to every single deity he can think of for what’s left of his and Yuuri’s time together.

It’s in all the stories. Something old, something new, something stolen, something fallen through. Pilfered sealskin shatters into heartbreak.

But that’s the problem with him, isn’t it? Reading isn’t enough. Ice skates and baked pies and an almost drowned body. Cold, warm, burning.


His entire body feels like it’s burning now.

Turn back turn back turn back turn —!

He presses on. Shells cut his feet. Blood sprinkles the sand. The cove…

The cove warns him. Do not.

The last things Yuuri brings to the cottage from Yu-Topia are his writing journals.

There’s more of them than the ones Viktor has seen on his desk. They fill up an entire milk crate, and Yuuri stashes them in the bedroom closet with a blush when Viktor asks where he’s going to put them.

“I don’t know if I would hide your writing like that,” he says.

Yuuri shrugs. They’re old works, he defends.

“What about your most current writing journal, then?” asks Viktor. “Are you also going to hide that?”

Yuuri blushes. I was going to share it with you, but since you’re being facetious — he begins, but Viktor shakes his head, and Yuuri stops mid-sign to raise an eyebrow at him.

“I’m sorry,” says Viktor. “I’d love to see your work.”

Yuuri nods, then, and heads out of the bedroom back to the kitchen, where his bag sits with his script, his laptop, and his writing journal. He brings the bag back into the bedroom, setting it down on the bed and taking out the big black notebook from its compartment, handing it to Viktor.

It’s not very good, he prefaces, but Viktor shakes his head.

“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” he says. “I loved what you wrote for the story of Jack and Toriano, didn’t I?” They had finally wrapped up that story a week or so ago, after one particularly rainy day had left them stranded in bed with their notebooks and each other. Viktor had discovered, in between his sentences, that the softness of Yuuri’s stomach was an excellent place to blow raspberries on, and that Yuuri was liable to laugh with his entire body whenever Viktor did such a thing.

(He’s preserved the memory of feeling Yuuri’s full-bodied laugh against his lips in his mental bank of Yuuri-related memories, like a squirrel hoarding nuts for winter. He knows someday it’ll be all he has left.)

Yuuri now flushes, his hands flying to his stomach as if he’s remembering the same thing, and Viktor hides his grin behind Yuuri’s notebook as he starts to read.

“This is beautiful,” he says quietly after a moment, going over to sit on the bed and continuing to read.

It’s just word vomit, replies Yuuri.

Viktor snorts. “I wish I could word vomit like this,” he replies, flipping through the pages of Yuuri’s careful, steady script. “The way you choose your words is like making music. Each note — each word — has meaning. Ten out of ten would vomit again.”

Yuuri giggles a little at that. You flatterer, he rebukes.

“I can’t flatter with the truth?” wonders Viktor. He looks up, closes the book. “I could get you in contact with my agent, you know. Maybe he’ll take some of your journals. It’s not like I have anything to show for my time here.”

I thought you were working on something, Yuuri remarks. You’ve written so much this summer.

Viktor laughs, but with less humour than usual. “It’s nothing my agent would take,” he admits.

Yuuri frowns. But from what I saw, it was good. Maybe I shouldn’t send anything to your agent.

“Nonsense,” says Viktor. If Yuuri leaving is only a matter of time, then he can give him this at least. “His criteria for you won’t be the same as it is for me. You are a diamond in the rough; he’s already carved and set me up. He’ll be expecting something surprising, none of this sappy ‘Yuuri’s eyes are nothing like the sun’ stuff I’ve been writing all summer.”

Yuuri raises an eyebrow. You’ve been writing about me all summer?

“Well, um.” Viktor shuffles nervously in his seat. “Sorta? I mean, it wouldn’t be obvious to anyone at first glance but yeah?” He pauses. “I’m sorry?”

Why are you apologising? wonders Yuuri, sitting down on the bed next to him and taking his book back.

“Everyone in town expected me to write about you. They all thought I was using you for emotional fodder for my books. They were right, in a way, since you inspired — you continue to inspire — me, but I swear, I —”

He’s cut off when Yuuri kisses him, soft and sweet, his lips a light brush against Viktor’s own. When he pulls away, Yuuri’s blush is rosy in the golden light of the room; with each passing second Viktor finds it a little harder to breathe.

You write about what you know, Yuuri says, and you know me. Why are you scared to admit you write about me?

“Because then people think I’m just using you,” Viktor says flatly.

Maybe I should be the judge of that, Yuuri replies. Show me what you’ve written about me.

Viktor swallows and reaches for his laptop. He pulls up an entire folder of poems and passages transcribed from his own notebooks, and sets it in Yuuri’s lap.

Yuuri reads and reads, the blueish glow of the screen reflecting off his glasses so that Viktor can’t see his eyes properly. His lips fall open at one point, but other than that Viktor can’t tell what he’s thinking, and it exhilarates and terrifies him simultaneously.

“Yuuri?” he asks quietly when Yuuri closes his laptop, his eyes downcast. Yuuri doesn’t look at him for a moment, but then the smallest of smiles appears on the selkie’s lips, and his brown eyes sparkle with the hint of a new idea.

Write about us, he says.

Viktor stares at him. “What?”

Write about a man who’s lost the drive for something he’s been doing his whole life, but then he moves to a new place and finds new inspiration in love. Yuuri’s eyes sparkle brighter and brighter as he continues to sign. You could even make it about Jack and Toriano, or figure skaters, or anything else you’d like. But I know you can do it, Viktor; you’ve always found ways to breathe new life into old stories.

Viktor feels guilt seize at his stomach at the warmth in Yuuri’s eyes. So much love, so much trust. Yuuri believes in him far too much for his own good; can’t he see all the cracks beneath his surface, like scratches on what looks like an unblemished ice rink?

“I —” he begins, but he finds himself lost for words. What else can he really say? The gleam in Yuuri’s eyes are worth a thousand — no, a million — words. So he reaches out instead, and kisses Yuuri’s hand.

I don’t deserve you, he thinks, again and again. Maybe it’ll help soften the inevitable blow, whenever it comes. He knows he should do the right thing, but would it really be the right thing if all it’ll do is cause them pain?

Yuuri’s hand caresses his cheek. His very touch is a brand against Viktor’s skin, and Viktor flinches without really thinking about it. He does, however, catch the brief flicker of confusion and hurt in Yuuri’s eyes; immediately he surges forward to make up for it, soothing away the hurt with soft kisses.

Laptop and notebook are set aside quickly as the kisses grow harder, hotter. Viktor presses Yuuri against the bed, all previous thoughts in his brain flying out the window as he claims Yuuri’s lips again and again. Yuuri arches up into his touch, his body soft and pliant under Viktor’s hands, and his little gasps and tugs at Viktor’s hair never fail to set Viktor’s blood coursing madly through his veins.

Yuuri makes short work of both of their shirts before flipping their positions, straddling Viktor’s hips with that sly dark smile playing about his lips. It’s in moments like this, when soft kisses grow hard and tender caresses gain an edge, that the fey nature of the selkie really comes out, and every time Yuuri shows it Viktor’s breath is usually taken away.

But this time, Viktor stiffens the instant Yuuri kisses his neck. Guilt hits him like a cold shower, and he sits up, shaking his head. “I’m sorry,” he says quietly. “I can’t do it tonight.”

Yuuri swallows, nods. That’s fine, he signs, though Viktor can clearly see the disappointment brimming in his eyes. He wants to crawl into himself and never look at anyone again, let alone this beautiful, wonderful man whom he’s let down once more. But instead, he brushes a stray hair out of Yuuri’s face, presses a kiss to his forehead.

“Another night,” he promises. “We’ll go as far as you’d like.”

Yuuri nods again, looking down at his hands as if they’re the most fascinating things in the world. Of course, in Viktor’s opinion they are, but that’s neither here nor there. He swallows, and cups the side of Yuuri’s face.

“What are you thinking about?” he wonders quietly.

Yuuri signs nothing, only smiles a fey, enigmatic smile that reminds Viktor of the depths of the ocean. He is struck all of a sudden with just how much of Yuuri there is left to learn, too.

When they go to bed that night, Makkachin insinuates himself between the two of them like a child. And for once, Viktor is glad for it.

Katsudon will no longer be here. Taken. Stripped from the sea.

He knows. He knows he knows he knows.

He’ll give it back. The sealskin. He’ll give it back. Slide it on the front desk of Yu-topia.

But what if no one else knows? Yuuri, all alone with this secret? He knows. But he cannot say it aloud. He would be the sea. Yuuri would be Katsudon. Taken. Stripped from him.

Why not wait for Yuuri to tell him what he is?

No. Yuuri would not. Not after this. The trust long gone. Taken. Stripped from them both.

the tenth annual

join TCArts and the town in celebrating

27 august 2016
8am — 8pm
market street and the boardwalk

studio artists at work | ten-minute theatre productions | dance performances | live music | film screenings | culinary demonstrations

free admission
donations to TCArts strongly encouraged


The last Saturday of August hits the town in a burst of bright colours, from streamers to banners to balloons. Booths are set up along the lower end of Market Street similar to the monthly farmer’s market, cars are forced to take alternate routes to get anywhere else in town, and parking rates in public lots somehow manage to go up without anyone noticing.

Viktor and Yuuri walk into town together around mid-morning, just in time for Phichit and Mila’s play. The boardwalk and Market Street are thronging with people both local and visiting; Viktor notices tourists of all nationalities watching the artists in their booths with wide-eyed fascination.

“Is your father here?” Viktor wonders suddenly as they walk past a crafter making hand-sewn plush dolls. “I thought his ships-in-a-bottle were lovely.”

Yuuri shakes his head. He doesn’t like pulling my mother or Mari away from managing Yu-Topia to translate, he says.

“That’s too bad.” Viktor loops an arm around Yuuri’s waist. “I mean, it’s too bad that he has to do that. What if I learnt JSL so I could translate for him?”

Yuuri giggles. You would also have to learn Japanese, he points out.

“But aren’t sign languages their own language?” wonders Viktor.

You would still need to learn the writing system, because JSL uses kanji, says Yuuri.

Viktor sighs. “It was a thought,” he complains. “I still want to learn, though.”

I can teach you a little, offers Yuuri, and bumps his head against Viktor’s shoulder. Viktor’s heart flutters a little.

The performance stage is on the boardwalk, just by the ice cream parlour and the carousel. Right now there are some young women dancing a Scottish reel to a bagpipe accompaniment on it. The audience is clapping and cheering along; some are even dancing. Children are riding their parents’ shoulders for a better view, double-fudge waffle cones slowly melting in their hands and into their parents’ hair.

Yuuri leads them to the tent at the side for performers. Phichit spots them, and tells the local constable guarding the entrance to let them into the tent, where the next three acts are bustling to and fro. Mila is perched on a chair in front of a small card table with a mirror propped up on it, powdering her nose while Sara styles her hair. Leo and a Chinese man Viktor doesn’t recognise — possibly Cao, the lights person? — are going over the scripts with the prop box on the ground between them.

“Yuuri!” exclaims Sara when Yuuri approaches the table. “Come by to say hi?”

Yuuri nods. Anything I can do to help? he asks, and Sara hands him a couple hairpins to hold. Viktor stands there, not quite sure what to do with himself. He smiles and waves at some of the other acts; a young woman in a grey lace dress hides a giggle behind her hand.

“We have a pretty decent view of the stage from the green room here,” remarks Mila. She then pauses as Sara sprays a liberal coat of hairspray over her head. Once the cloud has settled, she adds, “Beats shoving through that crowd, at least.”

I’d rather not, agrees Yuuri. He catches sight of the girl in the grey dress and, with a smile that clearly shows all of his teeth, loops his arm around Viktor’s and pulls him closer, a little gesture of possessiveness that simultaneously overwhelms Viktor with happiness and guilt.

The song ends, and the dancers and bagpipe players exit to the green room to applause and congratulations by the other performers. Viktor smiles at them, earning himself a couple blushes from both the musicians and dancers. Yuuri pulls him just a little closer, and Viktor laughs in response.

“We’re up next!” Phichit exclaims, taking the prop box from Leo and Cao, who vanish into the crowd towards the tech tables. Mila also gets up, the black bustle of her dress falling into place. It’s a far cry from ‘Hot Topic with excessive woad’, Viktor notes, which is probably fortunate.

Yuuri helps fetch Mila her shawl, and then flashes her a thumbs-up before moving his pointer finger down his nose. Break a leg. He then gestures to both her and Phichit. Both of you.

They beam at him. Everyone else in the tent offers their well-wishes as well, as the two of them head up the stairs to the stage to loud cheering from the crowd.

Viktor watches the play in this makeshift green room with Yuuri at his side. Phichit and Mila have definitely switched things up since the first rehearsal, but that’s to be expected. The addition of lights and sounds into the staging add an extra dimension to the events being played out. Mila is every bit the passionate and scorned sister; Phichit every bit the sensitive yet wrathful brother. Viktor feels a chill run down his spine as he watches them interact.

The confrontation scene comes. Viktor braces himself, but his stomach doesn’t churn like it did before. His heart still races, but he imagines everyone else is feeling that — the fight between the siblings is intense. Though they’re mostly circling each other and shouting, it seems like things are just a breath away from becoming violent —

And then Phichit seizes a poker and slashes at Mila’s eyes. Viktor’s heart lurches into his throat as Mila reels back, screaming and clutching her eyes. He feels Yuuri’s hand tighten on his forearm, and looks down to see Yuuri’s pale expression.

It looks so real, Yuuri traces into his palm. Even I forget sometimes, and I’ve seen this played out thousands of times already.

Viktor presses a kiss to the side of his head. Onstage, Mila stumbles backward, sinking to her knees. Phichit drops the poker, reaching for her — only for Mila to lurch forward, eyes closed, her hands coming around his throat. The crowd gasps. Yuuri grips Viktor’s hand.

“Think they’re going to win?” Viktor whispers into Yuuri’s ear.

Yuuri smiles and shrugs.

As Mila backs away from the still body of her costar, guilt and regret shining brightly on her face, Viktor’s own grip around Yuuri’s hand tightens. Mila begins to deliver her final soliloquy, reaching towards heaven in supplication. Almost in response, Viktor’s breath catches in his throat. It’s like watching a picture of his own guilt being painted right before his eyes.

How the water had swirled around his ankles, how the sealskin had weighed in his hands, how the rocks had cut at his hands and feet — how could he have thought any of that had been a dream? Even worse, how could he have forgotten making the decision to keep the skin?

It must have been the heat of the moment,” declares Mila, but what sort of heat of the moment could have possessed him to so preemptively betray Yuuri’s trust?

He couldn’t have done it, and yet the desk drawer in his den tells him otherwise.

Mila freezes on the stage, raising her hands to her eyes. “Lord have mercy on my soul,” she breathes, and bows her head. The lights go out, and Viktor exhales one long, shuddering breath.

Are you alright? Yuuri asks as the crowd roars its approval of the performance, and the lights come back on to show Phichit and Mila grinning and bowing.

Viktor smiles. “Perfectly fine,” he says, smoothing back his hair to give himself something to do, and not show Yuuri how untrue that statement is.

They congratulate Phichit and Mila with the rest of the crew and other performers. “God, I can’t wait for my filmography to be posted in Town Hall!” Phichit exclaims as Yuuri hugs him.

“Hey now,” chides Sara. “You’ll jinx it.”

Phichit chuckles, rubbing at the back of his head as Yuuri steps back towards Viktor. “Sorry, sorry!” he says. “I just hope the judges know what they’re doing this year!”

“Well, JJ’s at a disadvantage this year because the theme is pretty specific,” Cao points out, patting his back. “Harder to write songs about your own greatness when you also have to apply it to some sort of local legend or folklore.”

After they leave the green room tent to make space for an entering act, everyone parts ways for the day with the promise they’ll meet up again at six for dinner and watching the closing ceremonies of the festival together afterwards. Yuuri then takes Viktor’s hand and leads him back to the art booths on Market Street, and they spend the rest of the morning browsing the various arts and crafts. Viktor buys another mug, this one handcrafted and painted by a local artist and showing a panorama of the cove. Yuuri buys some cotton candy for them to share. Viktor takes this to mean stealing candy floss from Yuuri’s fingers and lips, grinning at the pink flush in the selkie’s cheeks as he does so.

Get your own candy floss, Yuuri chides after the fifth time this happens. He waves the bundle in front of Viktor’s face, before tucking it into the crook of his arm and adding, There’s an entire bag of it right here; stop stealing it from me.

“Why?” wonders Viktor, though he takes a pinch of candy floss and pops it into his mouth, careful to show as much tongue as possible. “It doesn’t taste the same when it doesn’t come from your fingers or your lips, Yuuri.”

You shameless flirt. Yuuri shakes his head at Viktor. We’re in public!

“That’s never bothered you before,” Viktor points out.

Yuuri flushes bright scarlet. There’s so many people, he signs, before hiding his face briefly behind one hand. Viktor laughs, pulling Yuuri closer to him.

“You’re so adorable when you’re flustered,” he says in Yuuri’s ear. Yuuri smiles, looping his arm around Viktor’s waist with his free hand. Together, they walk back through the crowd towards the boardwalk and pier.

As part of the festivities, the carnival attractions and rides at the boardwalk and pier are free of charge today. As a consequence, the queues for all of these are ridiculously long, but Viktor finds that he doesn’t mind waiting as long as Yuuri is next to him, leaning his head on Viktor’s shoulder and signing wry little observations about the other people in the queue.

That poor mother, Yuuri remarks as a young, harried-looking woman strides past them with a toddler who is busy vocalising his displeasure at having been forced to get off the carousel.

“I wonder how often she has to deal with such tantrums,” Viktor murmurs.

They’re probably not from around here, says Yuuri. At Viktor’s questioning eyebrow, he adds, No self-respecting British kid will throw a tantrum about getting back in queue.

Viktor snorts. Yuuri’s eyes sparkle in jest. The queue moves forward. Viktor notices Leo and Guang-Hong walking past, Guang-Hong holding a giant teddy bear while Leo beams with pride.

They finally make it onto the carousel, scrambling to get mounts next to each other. They do succeed in locating a set of animals next to one another, though Viktor has to hide a grin when he sees that one of them is a seal. He takes the other one — a white horse saddled in gold and magenta — and snaps a picture of Yuuri strapping himself onto the blue-and-black seal next to him.

You intended this, didn’t you, Yuuri says. Viktor chuckles.

“I can’t say I totally intended it. I didn’t even know the carousel had a seal,” he replies sweetly. “But did I let you have the seal? Yes, I did.”

Yuuri rolls his eyes, and leans against the golden pole. The lights inside the carousel reflect off Yuuri’s glasses and cast the rest of his face with a warm red-orange glow, and Viktor’s breath hitches in his throat as the music begins to play and they begin to move. The lights dance in Yuuri’s eyes as he holds onto the pole; Viktor takes a couple more pictures.

Did you know all of the animals of this carousel were made by hand? Yuuri asks.

“No, but that’s amazing,” replies Viktor. “I do know some of them are supposedly haunted.”

Yeah, that’s why none of the locals ride the sleighs, says Yuuri, nodding behind them to a couple bundled up on one of the sleighs. At least one of them was supposedly the site of a murder back in the 30s.

“Creepy,” says Viktor.

No one knows which one of the sleighs it is, even though each one is just slightly different from the others, so no one rides on any of them. Yuuri pretends to shiver. It’s supposed to be bad luck, especially if you’re sitting with your significant other.

“Well, then, aren’t you glad we got animals instead?” asks Viktor, extending his hand. Yuuri nods as he takes Viktor’s hand, and as they continue to go around Viktor tries not to think too hard about the harbinger of bad luck sitting in his own desk.

After they get off the carousel, they head down the boardwalk once more, skirting the crowds around the stage to get to where the carnival games are. Both of them try their hand at the game booths; Viktor somehow manages to puncture enough balloons with darts to win a plushie shaped like a big ball of rice. He gives it to Yuuri, who presses a kiss to it and signs his thanks. Viktor feels his ears go red at that.

They run into Yuri and Otabek at the shooting gallery just as the operator is handing over a giant stuffed tiger to Otabek.

“For you,” Otabek says, handing the tiger to Yuri, who squeezes it.

“My god, it’s almost half my height. This is amazing.” Yuri hefts it in his arms. “It’ll take up like half of my bed, though.”

“Then don’t put it on your bed,” says Otabek. Yuri gapes at him, as if he had just blasphemed.

“You know all of my cats must go on my bed, Beka! Don’t be ridiculous,” he snaps. “I’ll just lie on this tiger for the rest of my life. Or until I get a bigger bed.”

Otabek chuckles. Yuri squeezes the tiger again, and then he catches sight of Viktor and Yuuri. He immediately hands the tiger to Otabek and signs, Hello Piglet.

Yuuri waves back. Nice tiger, he replies. Did you see Mila’s performance?

Yeah, loved the changes they made to the fight scene, says Yuri. They better win, or I’m vandalising JJ’s exhibit at Town Hall.

I think that might actually get you arrested this time, remarks Yuuri.

Yuri responds with a rude gesture. Yuuri shrugs. Viktor watches, unease churning in his stomach as he waits for Yuri to slip up. Just one hint of ‘Has Viktor told you about your sealskin yet’, and this day would go from good to the absolute worst in the blink of an eye.

Yuuri suddenly puts the rice ball plushie in Viktor’s arms and signs something about the loo, and as soon as he’s out of earshot, Yuri turns to Viktor.

“Have you told him yet?” he says immediately.

“Have you told him yet?” Viktor retorts.

“Why would I do that?” demands Yuri. “It’s your dirty secret to tell, Dogbreath. Besides, if I told him, then I’d have to explain how I know he’s a selkie, and that’s another can of worms I really don’t want to open today. So do us both a favour and tell him already, idiot!”

The last word is practically spat into Viktor’s face. Viktor wipes at one cheek.

“I’ll tell him when I find the right opportunity,” he says.

Yuri groans. “I’m not stupid, Viktor. You’re clearly stalling for time.”

“No, I really do want to tell him; I just — I don’t think I’m —”

“If you wait until you’re ready, you’re always going to find excuses to consider yourself ‘not ready’,” Yuri snaps. “It’s like getting into a freezing pool: prolonging it doesn’t make it any better.”

“How do you know I’m not someone who wouldn’t dip a toe into a freezing pool and then slowly wade in inch by inch?” demands Viktor.

Yuri snorts. “You’re the one who reportedly ended up in the hospital for writing research, Viktor. Just cannonball into the damn pool already and tell him.”

“Easier said than done,” begins Viktor, but then he notices Yuuri heading back towards them, and he feels every muscle in his body tense. He puts on a smile, as Yuuri takes back the plushie as well as Viktor’s arm.

Yuri fixes him with a glare. Do it soon, it seems to scream. Viktor swallows, but before he can say anything, Yuri has turned on his heel and left, with Otabek following him holding the tiger plushie under one arm.

What was that? Yuuri asks Viktor, who laughs sheepishly.

“Nothing,” he lies. “Let’s go on the Ferris wheel!”

They head into the queue for the Ferris wheel then, their fingers tangling together as they wait for a gondola to open up. As they head up, Viktor thinks about the last time they had ridden this Ferris wheel together, and feels his ears heating up.

He turns to look at Yuuri, whose cheeks are also flushed as if he’s remembering the same thing. Yuuri then leans his head on Viktor’s shoulder, a small smile playing at his lips. The Ferris wheel ascends to the top, all of the town and the arts festival crowd falling away below their feet, and Viktor leans in once they reach the very top and kisses Yuuri’s forehead.

Look how far we’ve come, he thinks, taking Yuuri’s hands and pressing kisses to the knuckles. Yuuri’s breath hitches just slightly, and he then leans up and captures Viktor’s lips. Viktor feels a slow, sweet burn in his gut that he wishes he didn’t feel like he didn’t deserve.

“I still don’t know how I could have been so lucky to find you,” he murmurs against Yuuri’s lips just before they break apart. Their gondola is descending back into the crowds, the people in the queue getting larger and larger. Viktor’s stomach swoops a little as they descend, and Yuuri leans back against Viktor’s shoulder and frees his hands to reply.

I’m pretty sure I am luckier, he says, and Viktor swallows his guilt and shakes his head.

“Definitely not,” he says, grinning, as he kisses Yuuri’s cheek.

Yuuri raises an eyebrow at him. Your words have been my inspiration for so long, he points out. And besides, look at me. I’m an unpublished nobody from nowhere.

“Just because you’re not published doesn’t make you a bad writer, Yuuri,” Viktor scolds, frowning a little. “Plenty of published writers are absolute shit at writing. You, on the other hand, have a beautiful voice.” Yuuri raises both eyebrows, and Viktor laughs. “Yes, the wording was deliberate. Your writing is your voice, and the world is missing out.”

Yuuri exhales. I don’t think you understand how much it means to me that you think that, he says.

The wheel begins to ascend again, and Viktor thinks about all the other things he has left to say, all the things that now race through his mind. Declarations, wishes, apologies — everything jostles with each other in his head until he just doesn’t know what to say anymore. So instead he swallows down his words, and pulls Yuuri closer to breathe in his scent, revel in his warmth. Yuuri leans into him, and Viktor wishes that he could freeze time so that they can stay like this forever.

At six, they meet with Phichit and the crew for a quick dinner at one of the little boardwalk cafés. Already the upcoming seasonal change can be heard in the topics discussed: Phichit, Mila, Leo, and Guang-Hong are comparing class schedules for the impending school year, while Yuri watches them all with the grandmother of sour expressions on his face. Otabek must be returning to Kazakhstan soon, Viktor realises with a jolt. Yuri’s time with him is also running out.

“Relationships never work out well long-distance,” Georgi Popovich laments from next to him. Viktor raises an eyebrow. He hasn’t really gotten to know Georgi, mostly because the dark-haired Russian man keeps mostly to himself. Now the man only has eyes for how close Yuri and Otabek are sitting together, a strange yet familiar sadness in his gaze. “Anya and I swore we were going to stay in contact when she went back home, but then she never responded to any of my texts and messages once she was away. I only found out she’d left me for someone else more local secondhand on Instagram.” He sighs, his blue eyes downcast. “Love withers with distance and absence.”

Viktor hums. He’s not sure if he agrees, but clearly Georgi has issues of his own that need working out, and it really isn’t Viktor’s place to pry. So he smiles instead, and pulls Yuuri closer to him, and doesn’t think about his own love withering.

(He doesn’t think about a lot of things these days, it seems.)

After dinner, the entire group heads over to the stage to find out the results of the competition. While many visitors have already left, there is still quite a sizeable crowd around the stage. Music is pouring out of the speakers and some people are dancing. A cold wind ruffles at Viktor’s nape, causing him to shudder. Fall is coming, as inexorable as the sunset currently dying the sky in shades of red and gold, and that same bright future that he had imagined with Yuuri now feels more muted and sombre with the new revelations that he’s had.

Will he get to herald the changing of the seasons with Yuuri, now that he knows what he’s done? What had once been bright is now fading fast. Time is running out, even if Yuuri doesn’t know it yet. Each day that goes past without telling Yuuri about the sealskin in his desk is another day against Viktor’s conscience.

Minako brings forth the judges. They announce runner-ups for each artistic discipline — JJ and his band are amongst them once more — and then they pass forth an envelope for the winner of the festival.

And Minako’s grin when she reads, “The winners of the 2016 Torvill Cove Arts Festival are Phichit Chulanont and Mila Babicheva with their ten-minute play ‘The Lighthouse Keepers’!” says everything.

And everything happens all at once, a loud eruption of noise that batters Viktor’s eardrums all of a sudden. Phichit is hugging Mila, Yuuri, Leo, basically anyone he can reach. Viktor is pulled in for a hug as well at some point, and then Phichit and Mila are heading up onto the stage and accepting a golden trophy and shaking hands with probably the entire Torvill College Arts Department.

“I just want to say a couple words,” Phichit says when he manages to get his hands on the mic. “First off, I’m eternally grateful to Mila for doing this with me. I mean, it was actually her idea to adopt one of Old Man Plisetsky’s stories into a play for this festival. She’d just sorta brought it up as we were stalking Instagram for our special feature column in the Reporter —”

“The best column!” someone shouts, to laughter from the other locals.

Phichit laughs a little and winks at the person who’d shouted. “Anyway, we’d dug into the background of the story and found out that the town of Torvill Cove had actually believed the rumours that formed the foundation for this play, and so didn’t seek a replacement lighthouse keeper until the 1920s, when a medium named Mikhail Plisetsky came over from Moscow to talk to the town’s ghosts. So our play is tribute to our bread and butter, the rumour mill, as well as to the Plisetsky family.”

Viktor raises an eyebrow. Did they really, he signs at Yuuri, who chuckles.

They’ve been here longer than my family has, at least, he replies.

Viktor hums, turning back to the stage just as Phichit mentions Yuuri’s name.

“...couldn’t have done it without his help in adapting the story and writing such heartbreaking dialogue. I’m not going to embarrass him by making him come up here, but Yuuri, thank you so much. I know you didn’t want your name on this because you like your mysterious heartthrob aesthetic, but you at least deserve some recognition for your writing.”

Viktor laughs as everyone around them cheers and applauds.”Mysterious heartthrob aesthetic?” he asks.

Yuuri flushes bright red, waving briefly at some people who are smiling at him. Phichit thinks everyone thinks I’m a dark brooding stranger, he complains.

Viktor taps his lips. “I mean, it is a pretty good look on you.”

Yeah, maybe if you use a chicken’s definition of ‘brooding’, replies Yuuri, rolling his eyes. Viktor laughs.

Mila also thanks a couple people — notably Yuri, who apparently had ‘motivated [her] to succeed’, which Viktor takes to mean countless reminders to beat JJ Leroy. Finally, they leave the stage, Minako makes some closing remarks, and the music begins again. Yuuri tugs at Viktor’s hands, pulling him into a dance. Viktor willingly goes, pressing Yuuri close to him as they move to the music together. In the distance, the sun slips over the horizon and the first twinkling stars begin to emerge from the dark purples of the sky.

Viktor twirls Yuuri into his arms, leaning down briefly for a kiss before spinning him out. He’s reminded of a different dance on a different night, when Yuuri had looked otherworldly in a crown of golden flowers. Everything from the summer already feels like a lifetime or two ago, and Viktor hates it.

Yuuri traces a heart into Viktor’s cheek the next time they get close in their dance, and Viktor can’t help but feel his own heart beating wildly in response. Their time together now may be limited by the extent of Yuuri’s (blind, undeserved, his brain helpfully supplies) trust in him, but until the judgement day comes — until Yuuri finally finds the skin, or his own resolve snaps — he will live each day leading up to it like it will be the last one he has with Yuuri.

And with that thought in mind, Viktor captures Yuuri’s lips with his own and doesn’t care who sees.

There’s medals. They line up against the wall.

Vitya could have been great on the ice, you know, they say at family gatherings, on his birthday. He could have been a legend like his parents.

But he had loved words more.

There’s nothing in words, Vitya, they say. Words won’t give you sustenance.

But he never listened to them. So selfish. So childish. So impatient.

No one stayed. No one got it. They all left. Nanny after nanny after nanny. Only Grandmother understood.

But she understands in dreams now. Dreams unhearing, dreams unseeing. She rests underneath daffodils and roses. Her bed the banks of the Smolenka River.

He is a lone snowflake. Misplaced. Drifting drifting drifting. Lost in the white, white winter.

After the festival, it’s as if summer has officially ended. The vacation rentals and beach cottages along Dean Street and the summer homes on Bowhill Lane and its surrounding streets empty out. The Leroys and many other families return to their primary residences in other cities, other countries. One morning, as he’s walking Makkachin at the pier, Viktor catches a tearful parting between Otabek Altin and Yuri Plisetsky. Neither of them seem willing to leave the other, even as Otabek’s parents keep shouting reminders at them that they’ll miss their flight if Otabek doesn’t get a move on.

Viktor turns away from them. His stomach feels like it’s twisting into knots. Makkachin whines as they pass by the lamppost on the pier where Viktor and Yuuri had danced, where Katsudon had jumped out to greet Makkachin. Viktor reaches down, scratches lightly behind his dog’s ear.

“I know,” he soothes. “Everything feels so different now.”

But the departure of the tourists only heralds the arrival of the students. Torvill College reopens for Welcome Week, and countless students, ranging from local to international, descend upon the town to begin a new semester. Of course, a majority of the arts students had returned earlier for the festival, so the new numbers are mostly for other departments at the college.

Viktor gets recognised almost every morning now. It hadn’t been so bad during the summer — most tourists during the summer seem surprised to run into him at the pier, and so often aren’t prepared to meet him. The students, on the other hand, seem unnervingly well-prepared every time he runs into one. They ask for selfies, autographs for their copies of the Ice Triad, even ask questions about his intents and writing processes. The last one in particular has Viktor feeling woefully underprepared, especially when the questions invariably turn around to the topic of future novels.

“I was just wondering, Mr Nikiforov,” a fan says one Friday morning in early September, walking alongside him and Makkachin as they make their usual lap of the pier, “if you were working on something set in Torvill Cove now that you’ve lived here for a summer.”

“Hm?” wonders Viktor. He’d been distracted by the sight of Yuuri talking to Yuuko Nishigori at the Visitors’ Centre up ahead, and so had only dimly heard the question. “Sorry, I was —”

“No worries,” says the fan cheerily. Viktor looks at her. She seems unfazed by his obvious distraction. “I was just wondering if your next novel is going to be set in Torvill Cove, since you seem to like setting your stories in places where you’ve lived.”

“Oh,” says Viktor. “Well, I do do that, yes, but…” he trails off, thinking about all the writing he has done during the summer, all of it too personal to be really publishable.

Write about us. Yuuri’s words fill his mind out of nowhere. He looks over at the Visitors’ Centre, only to find just Yuuko and the tour company’s representative there, both of them deliberately ignoring the other. Yuuri always did have a way, especially back in the earlier days of their acquaintance, of slipping right through Viktor’s fingers. He doesn’t want to think too hard about the implications.

“I’m sort of developing a story that’s inspired by my summer at Torvill,” he says after a moment. “I can’t say much,” he adds, when the fan’s eyes widen, “but I can tell you that it’s about love.”

She smiles at him. “That sounds wonderful,” she says.

Viktor smiles for a selfie with her, and hopes she doesn’t blab too much about this currently-nonexistent book on the internet where Yakov might find it.

The advent of the new semester at the college also marks a start in the school year for all the other schools in town. Now Yuri only works in the ice cream shop in the afternoon, and sightings of Kenjirou Minami and the triplets in the Harbour Watch boats also get rarer in the mornings. Mila, Phichit, and Guang-Hong’s shifts at their respective places of work are now part-time, and the librarian behind the desk at the public library is now more often someone else rather than a grumpy Seung-gil and his army of dogs.

Probably the strangest change, though, is when Viktor steps into Nekola’s Market on a Wednesday to find an older man with a passing resemblance to Emil managing the place.

“Where’s Emil?” Viktor asks as the man checks out his groceries for him. He’s been getting larger hauls than he’s used to, now that he’s cooking for two. Yuuri now keeps regular inventory of the fridge and cabinets and leaves him shopping lists on the counter every Wednesday morning. Viktor is actually quite grateful for it, as it means he doesn’t have to come up with the list himself.

(Yuuri’s also careful to include coupons or notes to buy the generic brand whenever possible, so they can save a little more. Viktor’s honestly not quite sure how he’d survived at all before he met this man.)

The man, who has helped Viktor pack some of his groceries into his bags, pauses. “He’s gone back to Prague for university,” he says tersely. “He’ll be back for the holidays. Are you a friend of his?”

Viktor bites his lip. “I suppose you could say that,” he says. “But I had no idea he was returning to the Czech Republic for university.”

The man grunts. “Now you do,” he says, his voice a bit gruff, and Viktor sighs as he shoulders his bags for the long walk home.

He knows change is inevitable — that it’s the only real constant in life, even — but it is strange to see it precipitating so quickly around him. Perhaps it’s because he’d never been so involved in a community before, to the point where even the smallest changes in said community are noticeable to him. Torvill Cove is like a little pond compared to the lakes and oceans that were the other places he’s lived in; even the smallest rocks cause big ripples here. It’s a miracle anyone has any secrets in this town anymore.

Viktor passes by the little beach on his way home with the groceries. In a couple of days, it will be opened to people once more. Out in the waters near the beach he spies the sleek yet rotund bodies of harbour seals rolling about in the waves. Many of them seem to be paired up with one another, twirling together until they disappear from view.

There are considerably less of them now than there were during the peak days of summer, as most of the haul-out groups have moved on to other harbours and islands. It’s what had made Katsudon special, the fact that he had stayed. And now…

Viktor slams the door to his cottage with a bit more force than necessary. Yuuri’s not home right now, which is good, because Viktor would be ashamed for him to see him like this. He grits his teeth, his fists clenching reflexively as he passes a tantalising stretch of wall, as he passes the glass vase full of pink camellias on the windowsill of the kitchen. He wants to punch the wall, wants to shatter that vase on the floor and then pick up the pieces with his bare hands. But instead he sets down the grocery bags, and whistles for Makkachin instead.

His dog comes, concern etched in his expression, and Viktor sits down on the tiled floor of the kitchen with his dog between his knees, and rubs and scritches at Makkachin’s fur until the angry, self-hating thoughts ease back into the background radiation of his mind.

“I don’t know how you’ve been able to put up with me for so long, Makka,” he says after a moment, pressing his cheek against his dog’s collar. Makkachin responds by licking at his face, and Viktor laughs ruefully.

Yuuri returns from town in the early evening, just in time for dinner. Afterwards, he and Viktor take Makkachin out for a walk in the gathering twilight. The autumnal breeze blows through Yuuri’s dark locks as they head down the coastal trail into town, and he drifts a little closer to Viktor in response, linking their arms together.

Their walk is largely quiet and uninterrupted, though Viktor is dimly aware of people surreptitiously taking pictures of them on their phones as they walk down the boardwalk. Yuuri presses his face against Viktor’s shoulder, taking the leash from Viktor for a moment, and Viktor wraps an arm around Yuuri’s waist and draws him close in response.

Out on the pier, they pause at the railings while Makkachin barks at the seals frolicking in the waters below, whining when none of them respond to him like Katsudon used to. The breeze pushes back Yuuri’s hair, and in the glow of the lampposts Viktor can see a certain wistfulness playing about the selkie’s handsome features as he stares out at the sea.

“Yuuri,” whispers Viktor, reaching for him. Yuuri smiles when he notices Viktor, and leans his cheek into Viktor’s touch, but he signs nothing in response, and Viktor’s heart pounds guiltily as he watches Yuuri’s gaze slide back towards the seals cavorting in the waves.

“Do you miss it?” he asks.

Yuuri shrugs. It’s mating season, he signs after a moment. I used to avoid changing as much as possible during this time of the year.

Viktor laughs shortly. Yuuri raises an eyebrow at him. “I just thought of all the papers those college kids wrote about Katsudon,” Viktor explains. “All those observations and theories about his antisocial behaviour and his lack of pups, just because you tend to avoid changing into a seal during mating season.” He laughs again. “Imagine the looks on their faces if they find that out.”

Yuuri shudders, but there’s a small smile on his face. Let’s just keep that to ourselves, hm? he signs.

“Is that what you told Yuuko? Because she’s been involved with a lot of those papers, you know,” Viktor grins, pulling Yuuri closer and bumping their noses together. “Did she really put a tracker on Katsudon? Or did you just report to her after each time you change?”

Yuuri giggles. That’s confidential, he replies.

“Ooh, let me put on my tinfoil hat,” retorts Viktor. Yuuri’s shoulders shake at that, and Viktor can’t help but chuckle as well.

After a moment, he looks out to the waters again, and another thought strikes him. “How long?” he asks.

What? signs Yuuri.

“How long can you go before you have to change again?” Viktor asks. “Sorry, I should have probably asked this months ago, but —”

A while, says Yuuri, his expression unreadable.

Viktor exhales. “That’s not an answer,” he says.

Yuuri shakes his head. Unless you have any ideas as to where my sealskin might be, it’s the best answer you’re going to get, he snaps. Viktor nods, guilt crashing down on him like a wave, and turns his head to watch the play of lights on the Ferris wheel instead of Yuuri’s face.

Later that night, after they’ve returned to the cottage, Viktor does the washing up while Yuuri writes away at his laptop. After he sets the last fork onto the drying rack, Viktor moves to head into the den and do some writing himself, but Yuuri closes his laptop, removes his glasses, and stops him at the doorway with a kiss.

Viktor surrenders to it easily, as even now there is still very little that he’d deny Yuuri. They still haven’t made good on the promises of ‘next time’, but Viktor is willing to wait. Whenever Yuuri is ready, Viktor will be, too.

(After all, maybe if the longer he holds out, the longer Yuuri will stay.)

They back up slowly into the living room, each press of their lips sending sparks coursing through Viktor’s blood to pool in his stomach. The back of his legs hit the couch, and he lets Yuuri press him down onto the cushions, their lips never fully parting from one another until Yuuri straddles his hips and rises up to begin toying with his shirt buttons.

I’m sorry I snapped at you on the pier, he signs, before his finger teases against his top button, and Viktor takes his wrist.

“It’s fine,” he says quietly, pressing a kiss to the sensitive skin on the inside of Yuuri’s wrist, smiling as he feels the rest of him tremble. “I probably shouldn’t have pried.”

Yuuri slips, with some reluctance, his wrist out of Viktor’s hands to sign, I’ve just been feeling more exhausted lately.

“Then we don’t have to do anything,” says Viktor, but Yuuri shakes his head.

No, I do want to do this, he says, and then, as if to make things absolutely clear, he grinds their hips together as his fingers deftly flick through the buttons of his shirt. Viktor watches, fascinated; as Yuuri’s lightly-tanned chest is exposed to him inch by inch, he can’t help but lean up to kiss and touch. Yuuri gasps, before burying his face in the crook of Viktor’s neck, his teeth digging into soft flesh. Viktor yelps at the initial flash of pain, but quickly it melts away into pleasure as Yuuri’s tongue flicks almost apologetically over the mark he’s made.

“Yuuri,” breathes Viktor reverently against Yuuri’s skin, his hands skimming against the small of Yuuri’s back. Yuuri straightens up, his cheeks bright pink as he traces a finger down Viktor’s cheek. His shirt has fallen off his shoulders now, and a small flush creeps farther down his chest with each minute Viktor spends with his hand toying at the waist of his jeans.

Then Yuuri nods, and Viktor undoes his belt buckle and zipper with a speed he hadn’t thought himself capable. He shoves them down over Yuuri’s hips, his hands reaching back up to squeeze briefly at Yuuri’s brief-clad ass. Yuuri clambers off him to take his jeans off properly, and Viktor watches hungrily, already longing for the selkie’s touch even though they’ve only been parted for less than a minute.

When Yuuri straddles his lap and captures his lips again, Viktor takes the opportunity to flip their positions mid-kiss, pressing Yuuri into the cushions and bracketing his hips with Yuuri’s thighs. He dusts a line of soft kisses along Yuuri’s neck, from just behind his ear down to the hollow of his throat, before sucking a mark at his collar. Yuuri exhales; as Viktor’s lips move from his neck down his chest, his nails dig crescents into the back of Viktor’s neck.

It’s a dance between pain and pleasure, hard and soft, bites and caresses. Viktor’s already heated blood sings in his veins as he explores Yuuri’s abdomen, across the planes of his stomach and down to his brief-clad hips. He skims a teasing finger there, along the skin just above the waistband of his briefs, before reaching back up and pressing a kiss to his navel. Yuuri gasps, arching into Viktor’s smiling lips.

He looks back up, meeting Yuuri’s eyes and seeing the mix of emotions there, and his breath comes up short in his own lungs as he leans up to recapture Yuuri’s lips. Yuuri’s arms loop around his shoulders, pressing him close, and all Viktor can think about is the exquisite rightness of this man’s body below his own, the curve of his ass now filling Viktor’s hands, the sinful slide of his tongue in Viktor’s mouth.

The world narrows to just them on the couch, to the push and pull between their bodies and the heat between their mouths. Yuuri’s hands now skim down Viktor’s back before trailing up under his t-shirt, splaying across the planes of his stomach; Viktor responds by breaking their kiss to tug the shirt over his head, licking his lips when he sees Yuuri’s eyes noticeably darken.

“Should I?” he asks, his fingers hooking into the waistband of his own jeans, and Yuuri nods. They’re thrown to the floor not a minute later, and Yuuri wriggles a little when Viktor settles back between his legs again. He presses a kiss to each of Yuuri’s knees, before trailing a line of kisses up the ample flesh of one of Yuuri’s thighs, right to the blue cotton boundaries of his briefs. Yuuri’s eyes swim with emotion when Viktor checks up at him again, but he makes no move to stop him, so Viktor continues up until he reaches Yuuri’s hips.

He feels a small tug in his hair, and looks up. Yuuri is biting his bottom lip now, his gaze caught between nervousness and arousal, and Viktor feels trepidation squeeze his stomach in a cold vise. Swallowing, he shifts back up to kiss Yuuri’s cheek again and press their foreheads together.

“How many times do I have to tell you that we don’t have to do what you’re not comfortable doing?” he whispers, and Yuuri traces exclamation points and question marks into his shoulder in response. “I’m sorry if I overwhelmed you,” Viktor murmurs, kissing Yuuri’s forehead, and he hears a sigh tickle at his neck in response.

When they pull apart, Yuuri draws a sad face into Viktor’s shoulder, before adding a question mark. Admittedly, Viktor is a little disappointed, but he hides it anyway with a shake of his head and a smile. Nevertheless, Yuuri’s brows furrow, and he sits up to capture Viktor’s lips, pinning him against the back cushions of the couch. His teeth lightly tug at Viktor’s bottom lip, biting down just hard enough to elicit a moan. The tension melts out of Viktor’s stomach; the warmth that returns only gets hotter the lower Yuuri’s mouth roams, from his lips to his neck to his sternum, inching closer and closer to where Viktor is hard and aching for him with each separate kiss and nip. Viktor’s legs fall open almost as soon as Yuuri’s lips reach his navel; he gasps when Yuuri’s fingers skim across the soft silvery hair leading to the waistband of his pants.

“Yuuri,” he chokes out when Yuuri’s fingers slip just under his waistband. The selkie looks up at him, dark eyes questioning. Viktor’s entire body is aflame with longing, and he suspects it shows in the flush on his face and down his chest. “I — we — you don’t have to do this, you know. I don’t want you to feel like it’s some sort of —”

Do you want me to touch you? Yuuri traces into his thigh.

Viktor inhales sharply. That has got to be the million-pound question. “Well, yes,” he says. “But I’d feel bad about it if you don’t get off as well.”

Don’t worry about me, Yuuri replies, tugging down Viktor’s pants just far enough to expose the already-weeping head of his cock. His breath already too hot against Viktor’s sensitive flesh. Please, just let me take care of you.

Viktor’s heart races as he watches Yuuri’s mouth move closer to him. Those dark eyes keep looking up at him, shining with a desperation that wrenches at Viktor’s heart. And god, Viktor wants it too; he’s wanted this for ages. This very image of Yuuri sprawled out halfway in his lap, his mouth just breaths away from Viktor’s aching cock, his eyes pleading as he moves to take Viktor into his mouth —

He’s got his hands in Yuuri’s dark locks now, his fingers tightening just a little. Yuuri’s eyes flutter shut as he closes the distance —

Viktor grits his teeth. “No,” he says.

Yuuri freezes, his eyes opening again to look up at him. Viktor feels his heart skip a beat.

It’s the hardest word he’s ever said, especially when Yuuri’s lips are right there, already poised to turn his brain into absolute mush. But he cards his hand through Yuuri’s hair before tilting his chin up, away from the temptation. Yuuri licks his lips, and Viktor swallows down the urge to take that ‘no’ back and let the selkie have him.

Yuuri’s brows quirk quizzically. Why?

“I want it to be reciprocal,” Viktor says, his voice oddly hoarse to his own ears. “I can’t stand the thought of being pleased by you without the chance to return the favour. So if you’re not ready, then I’m not, too.”

He slowly lowers his hands, watching Yuuri’s shoulders slump. The selkie’s dark eyes are unfathomable when they next lock with Viktor’s, and he has to swallow his guilt as he watches Yuuri rise into a sitting position next to him.

Yuuri’s kiss is softer now, a hint of melancholy bleeding through his lips. Viktor’s heart chips a little as he watches the shadows lengthen across Yuuri’s face, watches him turn away and shrug his shirt back over his shoulders, watches each of his little marks against Yuuri’s skin get covered by white cotton.

“I’m sorry,” he says after a moment. Yuuri doesn’t respond, only picks up his jeans and folds them neatly in his hands. Each of his movements seem slow, almost resigned. Viktor’s breath hitches in his throat. He kicks himself a little as he moves to pick up his own discarded clothes, watching the selkie slip quietly through the doorway back to the kitchen.

Would it have been any better, though, if he had let it continue? If he had let Yuuri, who had admitted to his inexperience, do this to him without asking for anything in return? No, he’d made the right choice here. He wouldn’t have been able to live with himself if he’d just taken what Yuuri had been offering.

Take, take, take, like the slow inexorable pushing of the tides against the shore. Viktor walks into the kitchen with his clothes in his hands, noticing that Yuuri is seated at his laptop in the darkened kitchen, the blue glow of the screen obscuring his eyes behind his glasses.

“I’m going to bed,” Viktor declares. Yuuri nods, but makes no gesture to follow.

He lies in bed for a long while that night before Yuuri joins him.

His phone goes dark. The sky begins to lighten. Waves drench his trousers. Hands scrabble along rock and sand. The salt-spray stings tears out of his eyes.

The Grey Maiden cried seven tears. Seven tears to her selkie lover. He does the same. He cries and cries and cries. His tears join hers in the water…

The ocean’s creation.

Maybe that’s how it had come to be. The ocean. Created out of the tears of everyone searching for loved ones within its depths.

One morning in October, Viktor wakes up to find Yuuri missing.

His first instinct is to panic, and rush into the den to unlock the drawer. But the sleek black sealskin is still there, glaring accusingly up at him. Viktor covers it with some books and slams the drawer closed, locking it up again with a viciousness he wishes he didn’t feel.

He then goes through the rest of the cottage, searching every nook and cranny for Yuuri. Yuuri had left his mobile on the kitchen table, as well as his laptop, so there’s very little chance that he’s gone too far. He might still even be in town.

Viktor goes outside, and looks down the rickety staircase to the now-reopened little beach, and sees a familiar figure down on the sand with Makkachin at his side.

He descends the staircase carefully, the cold autumn wind whipping furiously at him. With each step down he remembers that nightmarish Midsummer evening, and shudders.

Yuuri is sitting at the edge of the water, the waves washing over his legs. His clothes are soaked with seawater from the waist down, but he seems impervious to the cold. Makkachin licks at his face, and Yuuri scratches at his head, but there’s a strange, dead sadness in his eyes that tugs at Viktor’s heartstrings.

“Yuuri,” he says, and Yuuri turns to him, a small smile playing about his lips. The waves wash over Viktor’s legs, the cold shocking him briefly. He stands up and extends his hand.

“Come back inside; you’ll catch your death of cold,” he says, and Yuuri readily assents, though it’s clear his heart isn’t in it. Viktor wraps himself around Yuuri as they make their way up, and when he holds Yuuri’s hand he notices that it’s clammy.

They get back into the cottage, and Viktor ushers Yuuri into the bathroom, slowly stripping him of his wet clothes with clinical ease. Yuuri’s gaze is downcast as Viktor unbuttons his shirt, as Viktor undoes his trousers and peels them and his briefs away from cold, sea-soaked skin. He shrugs out of the clothes without much energy, and Viktor keeps his gaze averted as he then moves to fill the bathtub with warm water and bubbles.

Yuuri steps into the bath once it’s full, sinking back as far as the tub will allow. His head ends up propped on the edge of the tub, his lips inches away from the water and the submerged portions of his hair floating in the bathwater like seaweed. Viktor exhales slowly, and reaches for the shampoo.

“Do you want me to?” he asks. Yuuri nods, so Viktor squeezes a dollop of shampoo into his hands and works it into a lather before carding it through Yuuri’s black tresses. He keeps his hands as gentle as he can, but somehow it still feels like it isn’t enough. He’d fantasised about this before — about washing Yuuri’s hair for him, caring for him in this particularly intimate way. But he had also anticipated Yuuri reacting more in those fantasies with soft, pleasured sighs and happy kisses.

But even if Yuuri seems mostly unreactive now, he at least closes his eyes and makes his body pliable to Viktor’s prompting. Viktor nudges him back to wash out the shampoo, and Yuuri willingly submerges his head beneath the water. Viktor hauls him back up so that he can lather up a loofah with body wash and scrub at his back, and Yuuri willingly sits back up, the water dripping in his eyes and down his face as he leans forward and lets Viktor wash him like a child.

Viktor isn’t sure if he loves or hates it.

It’s after Viktor has run the conditioner through Yuuri’s hair, though, when the man finally looks up and signs at him that he would prefer to be alone. Viktor lets his hands fall, then, skimming the surface of the bathwater. Most of the bubbles have vanished by now, but the bathwater is already cloudy. Viktor rises, wordlessly, and washes his hands in the sink before heading to the bathroom door.

“Whistle if you need anything,” he says. Yuuri nods, and submerges himself back into the water. Viktor’s heart rises to his throat; he’s tempted to linger to make sure Yuuri doesn’t drown himself. With a great effort, though, he turns his back and leaves the bathroom, and hears the sound of Yuuri resurfacing as he closes the bathroom door.

It’s only hours later, once both the bathwater and the breakfast have gone cold, when Yuuri finally emerges in his bathrobe and kisses Viktor hello. Viktor’s heart pounds a little harder in his chest as he watches the selkie silently move through the kitchen to reheat the kettle for a cup of tea, and he begins to wonder if it might be a good idea to drop the sealskin bomb soon after all.

He feels it. It’s soft and sleek and breathtaking. He pulls it out and looks. It’s almost iridescent in the early morning light.

It is ethereal. Calls out to him with magic.

He turns it over in his hands. If he puts it on, could he become Katsudon, too?

It catches the gleam of the morning light. Or does it work for Yuuri only?

But then a week passes, and another week, and the sealskin still remains un-returned in Viktor’s desk drawer. He keeps justifying to himself why he’s not doing it today — Yuuri has had a long day in town where he had to help at the grocery store and the Corner Cinema; Yuuri has clearly had a bad day at the ice cream parlour when he helped there this morning; Yuuri looks a bit sick and shouldn’t be upset further — but deep down, he knows he’s just procrastinating at this point. ‘Tell him tomorrow’ can be pushed off as long as there’s still a tomorrow.

He begins to wonder if anyone else in town might have had experience with Yuuri’s newfound listlessness before. When he broaches the topic to them, Yuuko shakes her head, and Minako looks worried but can only offer a shrug. Viktor can only sigh and thank them for their time and leave.

Mari, on the other hand, is at least marginally more helpful. “It’s the sea-longing,” she says gruffly, when Viktor corners her on the deck of the seaside spa at Yu-Topia and asks her about it. “He doesn’t always have to change into a seal, but if he goes for a long time without changing, it does tend to come back and bite him in the form of sea-longing.”

“And I’m to understand that sea-longing is exactly what it says on the tin,” says Viktor.

Mari nods. “Yeah. You’re going to catch him staring out at the sea a lot. It’s not going to go away until he changes again. He does have his sealskin, right?”

Viktor purses his lips. “Yes,” he lies.

Mari sighs. “Stupid,” she mutters. At Viktor’s questioning gaze, she adds, “He was like this when Vicchan died, too. He refused to change for months, and then in the end the sea-longing took him and pretty much forced him to change.”

Viktor cringes. “How long did he resist it?” he asks. “And how long did he spend as a seal before he came back?”

Mari hums. “I’d say he resisted the longing for about a month?” she says. “It’s a bit of a sad blur in my head, because he literally did nothing but mope and eat and sit on the beach for weeks on end, but when he finally changed, he didn’t come back for at least another month.”

“And you and your parents were fine with this,” states Viktor.

Mari shrugs. “None of us had any say in the subject. We’d accepted that when he started changing at seven. Dad used to keep him company in a little boat, and we asked him not to swim out too far since he was only the size of a juvenile seal, you know, so he would’ve been easy prey for a killer whale or a shark, but other than that he played it pretty safe, and only started venturing out of the cove after he hit puberty.”

Viktor can’t help but smile at the mental image of Toshiya and a younger Katsudon out in the bay together. “That’s lovely,” he says quietly.

Mari nods, and offers him a cigarette. Viktor takes it, and they venture out of the deck spa area to light up. It’s been years since Viktor last smoked; he coughs a little when the smoke hits his lungs. Mari laughs.

“Well, tell him to get his ass in the water before it gets too hard to resist,” she says, and Viktor nods silently, watching the smoke from her cigarette disappear into the grey-blue sky. He has a little less than a month left, it seems, before the sea-longing will wear Yuuri out. And maybe it won’t be so bad if he just vanishes for a month, right? Viktor can apologise and grovel and sleep on the couch and everything, and swear on his grandmother’s grave that he’ll never hide the skin again, and maybe Yuri Plisetsky’s words will come true.

Maybe it’ll be different this time.

That traitorous part of his brain still points out that the Katsukis had never hidden Yuuri’s sealskin in the first place.

To: Phichit the Nosy
have you seen yuuri acting weird lately?

From: Phichit the Nosy
yeah!! i was about to text you and ask what the hell you did but i guess you beat me to it

From: Phichit the Nosy
that being said WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO

To: Phichit the Nosy
i swear it wasn’t me

From: Phichit the Nosy
allow me to put on my skepticles ¬__¬

To: Phichit the Nosy
look i’m just as concerned about it as you are ok
any suggestions

From: Phichit the Nosy
maybe he’s going stir crazy

From: Phichit the Nosy
i mean the rest of us are all in school lmao

From: Phichit the Nosy
i know! a change of location might just do the trick! we’re going apple picking next weekend at the keiller farm orchards! because it is now PUMPKIN SPICE AND APPLE SEASON~~

From: Phichit the Nosy
sorry my inner basic bitch is just so happy rn

To: Phichit the Nosy
lol PSLs are amazing though

From: Phichit the Nosy

From: Phichit the Nosy
also fyi yuuri makes amazing hot chocolate during the winter

From: Phichit the Nosy
also also, his birthday is 29 november

From: Phichit the Nosy
you’re fuckin welcome

To: Phichit the Nosy
i had been meaning to ask lol

From: Phichit the Nosy
you’re lucky i’m like his best friend in the world ok

Now or never. The final chance at redemption. Put it back.

Don’t do it.

Selfish! Childish! Impatient!

Why is he taking it? Why? Yuuri will never love him. Why?

Oh. Maybe it’s for the best. Maybe…maybe he had been born to be unloved. Too foolish to garner romance.

So he strips any chances. He takes it. Takes the sealskin.


Viktor and Yuuri join Phichit, Mila, Leo, and Guang-Hong at the Keiller farm the following Saturday. The Keiller farm and its vast fruit orchards are situated just beneath the hill from the Crispino Winery lands. The proprietors of the farm usually send up a sizeable portion of their apples to the winery to be made into cider, and sell much of the remainder to local grocery stores like Nekola’s Market, but this year had yielded a bounty that required even more help than usual. Hence the students at Torvill College have all flocked out to help with the apple harvest.

“Yuuri!” Phichit greets, rushing to hug his friend. Yuuri’s expression lights up just a bit, but it somehow makes the shadows under his eyes more pronounced. Phichit notices it too, and his brows furrow just a little as he pulls back and looks at Viktor over Yuuri’s shoulder.

Viktor shrugs at him, worry clouding his own face. He knows what he has to do, but at this point he might as well be six again, hiding a shattered vase from a cane-wielding nanny. Even though it pains him to see the deadened look on Yuuri’s face, to see the dull gleam in his eyes, he is also too terrified to face the consequences of telling him about the skin.

They begin to move through the groves of apple trees, spotting the ones they like and climbing up on ladders to fetch them. Each person has a metal can to fill that they can take home; the part of Viktor that is still excited about the future is looking forward to baking a nice buttered rum apple pie with some of these apples.

“I should save some of these for an apple sorbet,” says Mila cheerily as she admires some of the ones she’s already picked. “Yuri will die before he admits it, but he loves apple sorbet. Especially drizzled with caramel.”

“That does sound delicious,” agrees Leo. “Maybe you should have it at the Halloween party!”

“Halloween party?” echoes Viktor, keeping an eye on Yuuri as the selkie ascends a ladder into one of the trees. “I thought that was just celebrated in America.”

Leo snorts. “Then you’ve clearly never seen Scottish Halloween. I mean, the Celts technically invented it, you know.”

Viktor hums. “I’ve heard about that, yes,” he agrees. “But I mean, nothing beats America for over-commercialisation of the holiday. I remember seeing decorations already on sale in September when I lived in Hartford.”

No one beats us Americans for over-commercialisation, period,” Leo points out. “But Torvill Cove’s Halloween stuff is pretty great, considering all the ghost legends in town. Every year there’s guising from the neighbourhood kids, and loads of parties and bonfires on the beach.”

“The best one is always the one at the lighthouse,” adds Mila, winking. “You’ll get a ghost tour and everything. Yuri and I have been planning some great stuff since September.”

“Will there be an encore of ‘The Lighthouse Keepers’?” asks Guang-Hong.

Mila laughs. “I might be persuaded,” she says, winking at Phichit, who grins. “Anyway, all of you are invited. I expect to see some great costumes this year.”

“You got it,” says Leo, pausing in his ascent on another ladder to salute her. Mila laughs.

Viktor turns to Yuuri, who had just come down from his own ladder bearing a couple more apples in his can. “We just got invited to the Halloween party at the lighthouse,” Viktor says, and a little twinkle appears in Yuuri’s eyes at that.

We better plan a good costume, then, he signs. It’s pretty much the first thing he’s signed all morning, and Viktor treasures it by kissing his hand.

“I’ll think of something,” he promises. Yuuri chuckles quietly.

I’ll also think about it, he offers, but part of Viktor wonders if he really will, or if the sea-longing is going to take him again as soon as they move on from the topic. Sure enough, as they wear on through the orchard just behind the others, the spark burns out slowly in Yuuri’s eyes like a candle reaching the end of its wick. But it had been nice while it lasted.

That night, as Viktor supervises the baking of his buttered rum apple pie in the oven, he hears the sounds of crashing waves coming from the bathroom. Going over to investigate, he finds Yuuri lying in the bathtub, his eyes closed and his head tilted back to expose the smooth line of his throat. On a chair next to the tub, Geoff Blair’s terrible three-hour-long film about the ocean is playing on Yuuri’s laptop, the tinny sound of the waves echoing eerily around the tiled bathroom.

“Yuuri?” Viktor asks. “I know you’d never play that film if you were feeling well. Is everything alright?”

He gets no answer. Viktor frowns, crossing the bathroom to perch on the edge of the tub.

“Yuuri?” he repeats, and suddenly Yuuri’s eyes open and Viktor nearly jumps out of his skin.

He has never seen such lifeless-looking eyes. It’s like Yuuri is under some sort of spell, like he’s being hypnotised by the very sound of the waves coming from the laptop. Viktor feels a shiver run down his back that has nothing to do with the cold breeze filtering in through the open window, and he reaches out to shake Yuuri’s shoulder.

“Yuuri,” he says. Yuuri doesn’t stir any further. “Yuuri!” Viktor insists, shaking him a little harder.

Yuuri blinks, shaking his head doggedly and looking up at Viktor. There’s a little spark in his eyes now, but it seems wavery, fragile. Viktor feels his heart crack just seeing the despondency hanging about his lover like some thick grey cloak.

“Yuuri?” he asks, and Yuuri flashes him a weary thumbs-up before turning to watch the images of the waves crashing against the shore. Swallowing his guilt, Viktor turns away and returns to the kitchen without another word.

He eats the pie alone. It doesn’t taste as sweet as he remembers.

It is a heavy weight all the way up the stairs. Where to hide it?

Don’t. Yuuri will find it. Give —  it — up. Give it up give it up give it...

But to give it up would mean…


Hide it. Somewhere. Somewhere Yuuri won’t find it immediately.

Or him.

Disgusting. He ruins everything good in life.

Spooky Scary Scotland 2016: Things to Do in Scotland on Halloween

City of the Dead Hallow’een Festival (Edinburgh)
Gather for a night of history and horror on this special Halloween graveyard tour, featuring the most well-documented supernatural case in the world — the Mackenzie Poltergeist. More information available at
31 Oct, tour departs 8:30 PM from Parliament Square, High Street, Edinburgh. £8.50 general, £6.50 children

Annual Celtic Samhain Festival (Loch Tay)
Book your spots now for a chance to celebrate this ancient Celtic festival. Dress up and bring a lantern to keep evil at bay for the torch-lit procession through the woods by the loch, followed by storytelling, music, apple-ducking, and fire shows. More information at
31 Oct, 6 PM, Scottish Crannog Centre, Loch Tay. £6 general, £3.50 children

Ghoulish Guising (Altwegg, Belita)
Dress up the entire family for some guising fun through the streets of Altwegg and its neighbouring town Belita. The night will begin with lantern carving and end with a bonfire at Towler Green in Altwegg. More information, as well as maps of the route, are available on
31 Oct, lantern carving at 6 PM / guising at 7:30 PM / bonfire at 9 PM, Altwegg and Belita. £3 for lantern carving, free for the rest.

Coven at the Cove (Torvill Cove)
Visit the sites of Torvill Cove’s scariest hauntings on this night on a guided tour courtesy of Haggis Adventures. Then sip from a blood-red berry wine or cordial from Crispino Winery, listen to ghoulish stories at the beach bonfire, and duck for apples on the Boardwalk with your little ones. Space is limited, so book today! More information available on
31 Oct, tours depart 7 PM from the Visitor’s Centre at the Boardwalk, Torvill Cove. £6 general, £3 children under 16.

Viktor finds them costumes in time for Halloween, though he can’t really take full credit for it, as Georgi had been the one to let him into the Torvill College Art Department’s costume shop. Said costume shop, which had taken up an entire small warehouse behind the arts building on campus, is a mess of theatre and dance costumes alike. Viktor had pulled a set of matching military-inspired jackets in magenta and blue, and after a series of fittings and alterations with Georgi, had gotten them to fit him and Yuuri respectively.

Yuuri, on the other hand, has spent the weeks leading up to Halloween spending long hours in the tub, that terrible Geoff Blair film playing in an endless loop on his computer. If Viktor hadn’t considered the film bad before, he definitely considers it bad now. The sound of the tinny waves grates on his nerves every time he catches a snippet of it on his way to use the toilet, and sometimes he can even hear it from the kitchen as he makes dinner. Makkachin has quickly learnt not to bother Yuuri when he is in the tub; no matter how many times he perches against the side of the tub on two legs and wags his tail, he’s still not going to get petted.

It’s pathetic, really, but Viktor has no idea what else he can do besides return the sealskin. He wants to sneak it out to the little beach and stow it back in its crevasse, but then he has to find one of the now increasingly rare opportunities when Yuuri is in town to do it. After all, the bathroom has a set of French doors looking out onto the patio, and Yuuri would be able to see him leaving from the tub.

But he has to do it soon, because time is running out and he doesn’t want to test the limits of Yuuri’s endurance against the sea-longing. So he’d planned to take Yuuri to the Halloween party at the lighthouse, and sneak back out during it to replace the sealskin. Yuuri could then find it on the beach in the morning without ever needing to know that it had been Viktor who had taken it in the first place.

It’s about as cowardly as taking the skin to begin with, but if it means Yuuri can return to Viktor instead of fleeing to the ocean forever, then Viktor’s willing to take the chance and make it up to Yuuri for the rest of his life afterwards.

The problem is, he did not plan for Yuuri to wake him up on the morning of Halloween with a kiss, the lights dancing in his brown eyes without a hint of sea-longing in them.

But now here he is, sitting numbly at the breakfast table, staring dumbfoundedly at the selkie who is currently flipping pancakes for breakfast and whistling.

Goddamn whistling.

As if he hadn’t put Viktor through the wringer of abject emotional misery for the past two months.

“Are you alright?” he asks hesitantly. Yuuri sets down the pan to flash him a thumbs-up. Viktor pinches himself. Maybe he’s dreaming again. He doesn’t really know if he can trust his brain around Yuuri anymore.

The pancakes are delicious, though Viktor keeps on surreptitiously stabbing his hand with the fork under the table while Yuuri scratches Makkachin behind the ears and makes little kissy noises at him. That plus the whistling has got to be the most noise Viktor’s ever heard the selkie make. The fork digs harder into the back of his hand.

Yuuri walks Makkachin with him after breakfast, leaning into his side and taking his hand like before. Viktor is tempted to text Phichit or Mari about it, but he doesn’t. Instead, they take a couple laps around the pier, letting Makkachin off the leash to chase some seagulls while Viktor presses kisses all over Yuuri’s face as if to remind himself that all of this is really real.

“I haven’t seen you like this since summer ended,” he tells Yuuri as they make their way back up to the cottage. “It’s good to see you smiling again.”

Yuuri flushes. That’s another thing that Viktor had missed — Yuuri’s beautiful tan had faded to a rather sickly pallor during the sea-longing, but at least for today it seems the colour is seeping back into his cheeks. To accentuate it, Viktor kisses both of them, and chuckles as Yuuri hides his blush behind his hands like he used to.

“There’s my beautiful Yuuri,” he says, and kisses his lips. Yuuri’s hands fly up to cup his face, and he even smiles into the kiss, and Viktor could almost cry with how happy he feels at all of this. Surely this must be some deity’s sign to him to return the sealskin, a brief taste of the happiness he could have if he’d just restore Yuuri to himself again. He resolves now, once more, to make sure he does it tonight.

The night can’t come faster, though part of Viktor wants to freeze time so as to prolong the return of this smiling, bright-eyed Yuuri. But as the hours pass by, Yuuri seems to get more and more lively, more and more fey-like. By the time Viktor is handing him the blue jacket and instructing him to wear it over a black dress shirt and trousers for the party, he can’t help but notice that Yuuri almost seems to be glowing, like he had on Midsummer’s Eve.


Viktor had almost forgotten that tonight is another one of those liminal nights.

When Yuuri steps out of the bedroom in his costume, adjusting the silver epaulets on his shoulders, Viktor is struck by the sheer otherworldliness that Yuuri seems to exude. In this outfit, Yuuri is a prince of the sea and the stars; even though it’s a new moon tonight the starlight seems to bathe him in a silvery ethereal glow. It’s moments like these that remind Viktor that Yuuri isn’t entirely human, and then it hits him again just how fortunate he is to have won the affections of a being so divine.

Yuuri practically glides all the way up to the lighthouse. Viktor is enchanted.

The lighthouse tower doors are thrown wide open when they arrive, and music is spilling out onto the side lawn. However, a strange hush falls over the crowd when Viktor and Yuuri come through the doorway — clearly Yuuri’s preternaturally stunning beauty tonight had not been a vision for Viktor alone.

“Are you seeing this?” Viktor hears Phichit mutter to Mila. “They really took that Cinderella motif we used for their articles over the summer and ran with it.”

The old lighthouse on Torvill Point consists of an actual house, as well as the lighthouse that it’s connected to. The house itself seems to be closed with the exception of the occasional ghost tour led by Mila or the Plisetskys, but the tower, with its magnificent spiral staircase leading up to the lantern platform at the top, is where the party is taking place. It has been decorated for the occasion, of course, with ghosts dancing from the oaken banisters, fake cobwebs hanging from the shelves, and suspiciously authentic-looking gothic décor sitting on each table sporting refreshments. There are caramel-drizzled apples and pork rolls and sausages, not to mention ghoulishly-decorated cupcakes and a cauldron full of dark red punch. Viktor pours himself and Yuuri glasses. It tastes like someone has spiked it.

It doesn’t take long, or very much of the punch, for Yuuri to come out of his shell and grab Viktor by the hand, leading him over to where other couples are dancing. Part of it must be because of the alcohol, but Viktor is sure most of it is because of the power of this particular night. Like on Midsummer’s Eve, Yuuri is fey again tonight. His brown eyes sparkle, merry and dangerous, as he leads Viktor in a dance; his very touch sends sparks of excitement coursing through Viktor’s body. This new Yuuri could kill him, or spirit him off to fairyland, and he would follow with only very mild complaining.

They dance and dance, Yuuri once again showing no signs of fatigue. On the other hand, all thoughts of the sealskin fly from Viktor’s mind as he now occupies himself with not collapsing into Yuuri’s arms from sheer exhaustion. After the eighth song, he excuses himself and heads over to where the Nishigori triplets (who are, of course, coordinated as peas in a pod) are bobbing for apples with Yuri Plisetsky (who is, of course, dressed as a cat) ‘supervising’ them.

“Yuri,” Viktor says when he approaches. Yuri looks up from his mobile before quickly stowing it in his pocket and feigning nonchalance, but Viktor had caught sight of Otabek Altin’s face on it, and he grins.

“Still in touch with Beka?” he asks.

“That’s none of your fucking business,” snaps Yuri. He nods pointedly over towards Yuuri. “Have you done it yet?”

Viktor swallows. “Um,” he replies.

“I’m going to take that as a ‘no’,” says Yuri, his scowl deepening. “How long is it going to take you to get your head out of your arse, Dogbreath?”

“Look, if it makes you feel any better, I’m planning on doing it tonight,” says Viktor.

Yuri raises an eyebrow. “You’re going to, what, sneak out of the party and hide it on the beach while he’s distracted?”

Viktor gapes at him. “How did you —”

“I thought to myself, hey, what’s the most cowardly way to solve this problem? and found it.” Yuri narrows his eyes. “I can’t believe you actually think that’s going to work.”

Viktor feels as if his blood has been replaced with ice water. “Why not?” he asks.

Yuri snorts. “Well, for starters, he’s still going to wonder who took it in the first place. And then he’s going to connect the dots, and he’s going to realise the dots lead to you.”

“You can’t guarantee that,” Viktor snaps.

“No, I can’t,” agrees Yuri. “But trust me. He’s going to find out eventually.”

“But he’s ‘ass over tits for me’, like you said,” Viktor points out. “Maybe it won’t be so bad.”

“Did I say that?” wonder Yuri, quirking an eyebrow. “Oh, right, I said that at the very beginning, dumbass. The longer you go without returning that skin, the less likely it’ll be for that selkie to return to you. But no, you had to procrastinate away your own damn happiness.”

“How the hell do you even know that?” demands Viktor.

Yuri snorts. “You can’t tell?” he asks. “Look around.” And he takes his mobile out of his pocket and resumes ignoring Viktor.

Viktor does look around, slowly ascending the spiral staircase and looking at each of the portraits on the walls. Countless generations of lighthouse keepers fill these walls, all draped in black crepe bunting for the night. Viktor hums, wondering what could possibly be the clue that Yuri had given him, before he notices a series of photographs showcasing the Plisetsky family, the lighthouse’s current keepers.

There’s the famous spiritualist couple from the 1920s who had supposedly calmed the ghosts in the lighthouse. Then there’s their son, dressed in the Seaforth Highlanders uniform and saluting the camera. Then there’s a younger Nikolai, wearing the same newsboy cap that the older one still wears today, a young fair-haired woman smiling on his arm. She’s gone in the next photo, where a more bent and saddened Nikolai stands next to his son, whose expression is pensive yet familiar.

Finally, the last photo. It’s in colour, and Yuri is a young boy holding onto both his grandfather and his mother’s hand. His father, the fair-haired man from the previous photograph, is also nowhere to be seen, and Nikolai’s smile in the picture clearly doesn’t reach his eyes. Viktor traces the images with a finger, a strange lump rising in his throat. What could have possibly caused Nikolai Plisetsky so much pain? He suspects he already knows.

“Mr Nikiforov.” Speak of the devil. Viktor jumps a little when he hears Nikolai’s voice behind him.

“Hi,” he offers weakly, smiling at the old man. Nikolai casts a wistful glance towards the photographs, before turning to Viktor and fixing him with a very piercing gaze.

“Come with me,” he says gruffly.

And Viktor does, his heart beating apprehensively as he follows the old man down the stairs and into the main house.

The fireplace in the living room is lit, casting ominous shadows on the walls of the mannequins that Mila and Yuri had placed in the armchairs for the benefit of the people on the ghost tours. Nikolai ignores them, taking a bowl of hazelnuts from the coffee table and handing two to Viktor without a word.

“Um,” begins Viktor, unsure of what to do with the nuts, but Nikolai gestures wordlessly to the fireplace, and Viktor swallows and nods, throwing the nuts into the fire. They immediately begin to pop and spark, causing Viktor to jump back a little.

“That’s what I thought,” says Nikolai after a moment. Viktor blinks at him.

“Sorry?” he ventures.

Nikolai shakes his head. “You did not heed my warning, Mr Nikiforov,” he says gravely.

“I’m sorry,” says Viktor, as the nuts continue to snap and crackle. “but I’m not sure if I follow.”

“The sea has chosen you,” replies Nikolai, “and you have scorned her.”

A chill runs down Viktor’s spine as he looks at the nuts. “How,” he begins, but then closes his mouth, remembering the photographs he had been looking at just before the old man had found him.

“Is there still time to fix it?” he asks instead, but Nikolai Plisetsky says nothing, only puts the bowl back on the table with trembling hands. The silence stretches between them, punctuated only by the popping of the nuts in the hearth.

“There is always time,” says Nikolai after a moment, “but it is as fickle as the sea herself. You must act now, before the tide turns.” And with that, he steps back towards the sounds of the party in the tower, leaving Viktor with an uneasy curling in his gut and goosebumps running down his forearms.

Into the closet. Hide it in plain sight. Nothing but winter coats and vacuums. Yuuri won’t go in here unless he starts living here.

Yuuri. Living here…


Yuuri smiling over tea. Yuuri reading the paper…

No. Yuuri may love him now. Keyword may. But he won’t for long.

Not while the skin is hidden. A dark secret of his. Shameful.

Yuuri is pleased to see him again when Viktor finally returns to the party, and remains resolutely by Viktor’s side for the rest of the night. Viktor keeps trying to find ways to distract the selkie — Are you sure you don’t want to dance with Phichit? Or talk to Mila and Yuri? Or go on a tour of the lighthouse? — but each one of them seems to be meet with a shake of the hand and a repeat of the signs for ‘I want to stay by you’.

Had it been any other night, with anything else other than Yuuri’s very well-being at stake, Viktor would have felt lighter than a feather, happier than any other man on Earth. But tonight, Yuuri’s clinginess only frustrates him further. He doesn’t let it show, though, readily agreeing to a couple more dances and smiling at the stars that seem to sparkle in Yuuri’s eyes as he twirls the selkie in and out of his arms.

Finally, a clock somewhere in the lighthouse begins to strike midnight, and people begin to make their way to the door to leave. Viktor and Yuuri are swept up in this crowd, too, holding hands all the way from the Point down to Viktor’s cottage. The starlight dances across Yuuri’s skin, though slightly less brilliantly than before — the spell will fade soon, with the passing of the night into day and the obscuring of the other world from this one. Viktor runs his thumb across the back of Yuuri’s hand, and kicks himself for having waited this long to give Yuuri his sealskin back.

Yuuri kisses him at the threshold of the cottage, eliciting a couple wolf-whistles from passing revellers. Viktor ignores them, though, and pulls Yuuri into the cottage and closes the door. Now alone except for Makkachin sleeping on the kitchen floor, Viktor gathers Yuuri close to him again and captures his lips properly, kissing him like it’s the last chance he’ll ever have to do so.

They break apart gasping for air, a thin strand of spit briefly lingering between their mouths, before Yuuri wipes at his and signs, Give me a moment, and vanishes into the bedroom.

Viktor blinks, unsure of what to make of it, before heading to the den. Once sequestered in there, he unlocks the desk drawer and puts aside the books to look at the sealskin lying at the bottom. Running his fingers through the coarse hairs of the pelt, Viktor takes a deep, resigned breath. Time is running out. You must act now, before the tide turns.

He is startled out of his thoughts by the sound of soft footsteps against wooden floors. Viktor closes his desk drawer and locks it again, straightening up just as Yuuri knocks at the French doors to the den.

“Come in,” Viktor says, his voice a bit hoarse, and his eyes widen when Yuuri does.

The dark-haired man is dressed in nothing but a robe that Viktor is fairly certain he’s never seen before. It’s made of some black silk-like material with portions of it cut with silvery gossamer. Splashes of crystal-like beading at his right shoulder and waist sparkle in the dim light of the den. Viktor feels his breath hitch as he watches Yuuri toy with the sash holding this entire contraption closed; Yuuri licks his lips, and Viktor feels his blood rapidly migrating southward.

“Yuuri,” he breathes, as Yuuri steps closer to him, dark eyes burning with ardour. Slowly, he undoes the knot on the sash, and the robe falls to the floor of the den with a quiet little whisper.

Forget dreaming; Viktor is certain he must have died and gone to heaven. Or maybe Yuuri has spirited him away to his dwelling in fairyland at last. Either way, he’s not fully convinced that what he’s seeing is real — that Yuuri Katsuki is indeed standing naked in his den, the dim lamp caressing the planes and curves of his body. Viktor lets his eyes feast; they wander along the familiar roads and ridges of Yuuri’s jaw, his throat, his collar, down the magnificent expanse of his chest and abdomen, and finally culminating at his cock, flushed and half-hard already. Viktor burns with a sudden need to touch it, to take it into his mouth, to worship it.

Here I am, Yuuri says plaintively, his arms open and inviting. Please, Viktor, I don’t think I can wait any longer.

Viktor’s mouth goes dry. He licks his lips, rising to his feet. “Neither can I,” he admits, and closes the distance between them.

Kissing Yuuri in this very moment is both sin and salvation. Viktor’s hands tremble a little as they roam up the curve of Yuuri’s back, counting the bumps of his vertebrae. Yuuri’s dark gaze locks with his own, eliciting shivers down Viktor’s spine and a resolute hardening in his trousers. He inhales sharply when Yuuri’s fingers begin to play with the fastenings of his costume, his heart pounding as they unhook the clasps of the magenta jacket and push it off his shoulders. Quickly, he shrugs out of it; it drops gracelessly to the floor as Yuuri’s fingers begin to unbutton Viktor’s white dress shirt. That, too, barely falls to the floor before Yuuri’s fingers are hooked in the waistband of Viktor’s trousers, his lips pressed hungrily against Viktor’s as Viktor walks them back towards the bookshelves in the den.

He presses kisses to Yuuri’s jaw, down his neck, along the shell of his ear. He licks a wide stripe down his chest, slowly sinking to his knees like a supplicant before his deity. His hands drag themselves down to rest on Yuuri’s hips, holding him in place as Viktor presses kisses into the soft flesh of Yuuri’s inner thigh, his eyes flickering back up to meet Yuuri’s with each one to make sure he’s alright.

Yuuri leans heavily against the bookcase and buries one hand in Viktor’s hair. Emboldened, Viktor surges upwards and presses a kiss to the base of Yuuri’s cock. He’s rewarded by a gasp and the tightening of Yuuri’s fingers in his hair. Taking Yuuri into his mouth, then, earns him a tug and a shuddering sigh of pleasure.

If he could, he would gladly atone for his mistakes like this. He would grovel on his knees again, and again, and earn his forgiveness from his love with each swirl of his tongue around the head of his cock. If there had ever been a last day to love Yuuri Katsuki, these last few hours of darkness before the sunrise would probably be it, before the spell that had reanimated the fey spirit within his beloved selkie for just tonight breaks. Now more than ever Viktor wishes that that night on Midsummer’s Eve had really been a dream, or that he could wake up tomorrow on the morning of that day and change just that one decision.

(Would things have gone differently for him and Yuuri as a couple, then? He wouldn’t know. But then at least he would have spared Yuuri the pain of losing his sealskin to Viktor’s own selfishness.)

Yuuri tugs at his hair, as if to remind him that he’s thinking too much. Viktor obeys, moving one hand to grip at Yuuri while he quickens the pace of his mouth. He can tell, from Yuuri’s increasingly ragged breathing, that he’s getting close, his entire body tensing as he refrains from bucking his hips into Viktor’s mouth.

Viktor pauses, his mouth sliding off Yuuri’s cock with a ‘pop’. “You don’t need to hold back, love,” he says. “Just do what feels right.”

Yuuri arches his hips in response to that, Viktor meeting him halfway at each thrust, his eyes never leaving Yuuri’s face. His selkie’s cheeks are flushed; his eyes are closed but his mouth is open, little gasps and voiceless moans filling the air as he fucks into Viktor’s mouth. It’s quite possibly the most erotic thing Viktor has ever seen, and he has the erection to prove it.

Yuuri comes clutching at both the bookcase and at Viktor’s hair, his eyes flying open and his mouth soundlessly forming the shape of Viktor’s name. Viktor swallows him greedily, savouring his taste. He can feel Yuuri’s eyes on him as he does so, so he carefully licks the corners of his mouth to make sure he gets every last drop.

Slowly, he rises to his feet, ignoring the little wobble in his knees as Yuuri tugs him close to palm him through his trousers. He’s already impossibly, uncomfortably hard, and the curve of Yuuri’s smirk against his lips tells him that his selkie knows that too.

“We should move this,” Viktor breathes against Yuuri’s mouth as they part. His hands move down the small of Yuuri’s back, cupping the swell of his ass. Yuuri gasps a little, as Viktor takes the opportunity to sweep him into his arms and carry him out of the den.

His arms are straining by the time he reaches the bedroom, but he tries not to let that show, setting Yuuri down on the bed with a smile before taking a step back to catch his breath. However, when he looks down at Yuuri again, that becomes a futile exercise.

Yuuri had been ravishing before in the dim lamplight of the den, but clothed in only starlight he is radiant. Viktor’s heart stutters at each flutter of Yuuri’s long lashes against his cheeks, at the graceful line of his throat and the smoothness of his skin. His fingers fumble in their eagerness over the button and zip of his trousers, but soon the rest of his clothes are discarded, and he clambers onto the bed to claim Yuuri’s lips once more.

Yuuri pulls him down, crushes their lips together with his fingers tangled in the hairs at Viktor’s nape. Viktor gasps into the kiss, heat jolting through his body as Yuuri’s legs bracket his own. He can feel the shape of Yuuri’s cock press against his hip, already hardening once more, and chuckles a little as he pulls away to look down at the selkie.

Now more than ever he wishes he could freeze time, so that he never has to leave the circle of Yuuri’s arms ever again. But instead he commits this brief moment of tenderness to memory, preserving with his eyes and his fingertips the sight and the sensations of Yuuri’s body beneath him. Stay close to me, he thinks wildly. I don’t know what I’d do without you.

He’s trying so hard not to be selfish, not to just take and take and take from Yuuri who is still so warm and receptive. His kisses linger on Yuuri’s neck; he sucks little marks into his skin like stars, constellations of proof so that in the morning he knows all of this had really happened.

(It might as well be a dream, given what had happened on Midsummer.)

The burn between their bodies is slow, exquisite. Viktor grinds his hips down to meet Yuuri’s, a low moan escaping his throat as he feels the sparks burst behind his eyes. Yuuri gasps below him, his eyes wide, his hands moving to cling to Viktor’s back. Viktor kisses down the line of Yuuri’s throat, feeling his selkie’s pulse flutter beneath his lips.

His hips pick up the pace, craving more friction, more heat, more Yuuri. Yuuri’s body moves with his; briefly, Viktor thinks of the cavorting seals in the waters just off the little beach before the world completely falls away and there is nothing but him and Yuuri, their bodies dancing and entwining as they chase climax together. Tears are rolling out of Yuuri’s eyes now; Viktor kisses them away but the salt taste lingers on his tongue.

He reaches down, taking them both in his hand. Yuuri turns his head to the side, his fingernails scraping along Viktor’s shoulderblades. Pain and pleasure blossom from the touch, and Viktor whispers Yuuri’s name like a mantra, a prayer, a plea.

Please don’t leave me.

He is adrift in a sea of sensation, lost in a cosmos of pleasure. Climax washes over him like a wave, inexorable and unyielding, and then it is nothing but falling, his mind reeling in bliss, until the sensation of fingers against his cheeks and the sight of watery brown eyes beneath him bring him back to the present once more.

Yuuri is crying.

Viktor’s stomach lurches unpleasantly.

He sits up, clambering off of Yuuri and heading into the bathroom. Returning with a wet washcloth, Viktor silently cleans the mess between them and checks the clock. Sunrise is in about four hours. They still have some time.

Slowly, he reaches up, brushes away one of Yuuri’s tears with his thumb. “What’s wrong?” he asks. Yuuri shakes his head, his hands fidgeting in his lap. Viktor feels his heart crack. “Darling, please. Tell me.”

Yuuri’s hands are shaking when he tries to sign. Viktor isn’t sure what to do. He reaches for the notepad and pen on the bedside table and offers them to Yuuri. Slowly, the man writes:

I could hear the ocean calling me.

Viktor’s breath hitches in his throat. Yuuri sets down the pen, the tears rolling fast and thick down his cheeks. Viktor holds him, his stomach churning and his heart racing. It’s now or never. The tide is turning.

“Yuuri,” he says quietly, “I’m so sorry.”

Yuuri blinks owlishly up at him, confusion etched in each line of his handsome face. Viktor swallows.

“I have something to give you.”

His heart is heavy as he strides through the silent rooms of the cottage, as he unlocks the desk drawer and retrieves the sealskin. It gleams at him in the starlight, shimmering with a mysterious, familiar magic that reminds him of the brilliance of Yuuri’s smile. Viktor clutches the pelt to his chest and walks back to the bedroom, his feet and heart heavier than lead with each step he takes closer to Yuuri. Finally, he’s at the doorway to the bedroom, and he steels himself with a deep breath.

He walks in, striding to the bed swiftly and placing the sealskin in Yuuri’s lap like a chastised child, taking a step back for good measure. Yuuri’s eyes widen, and he looks down at the sealskin and back to Viktor several times, as if in disbelief. Viktor shuffles from one foot to the other, his stomach feeling like it’d been replaced by worms.

Finally, Yuuri holds the sealskin to his chest, bowing his head as he breathes it in. He looks up, once more, and smiles.

Viktor’s heart stutters in his chest.

Yuuri wipes absently at his eyes before setting the sealskin back down, smoothing it out over his lap. He looks up at Viktor and briefly touches his chin. Thank you.

Viktor nods, exhaling deeply and managing an unsteady, nervous smile.

Yuuri then toys with the skin, tracing patterns into it for a moment before folding it up. He hefts it into his arms and rises to his feet, walking over to Viktor and pressing a soft peck to his lips.

I’ll be right back, he signs, his eyes still sparkling with something unfathomable, and he heads into the bathroom and closes the door.

Viktor bites his lip, sinking down heavily onto the bed, and waits.

Repress it. Forget it. Bury it deep deep deep.

Shameful secrets are meant to disappear. Pretend they never existed at all.


A part of him just wants Yuuri to stay forever. Forever and a day with him. Was that wrong?

Yuuri doesn’t return for hours.

This is all just a dream.

He only saw the skin. He never took it.

It wasn’t him. He was raised right and proper and his parents loved him very much.

He would never do something like this.

harbour seal on a rock

Phichit Chulanont @phichit+chu

Viktor is startled awake by the sound of his mobile notifications. Phichit is blowing up the group chat, it seems, squealing about something down at the little beach.

He sits up, rubbing the sleep from his eyes as he scrolls through the messages. It’s now ten in the morning; the sun is only barely diffused through the white curtains of his bedroom. He’s naked in bed, his trousers and pants lying on the floor, and Yuuri —

His heart jolts. The spot beside him on the bed is cold. Memories of the events from last night come flooding back to him, and he feels his cheeks heating up in response. Had that all really happened? Or had he been dreaming-not-dreaming again?

That’s the real problem with liminal holidays in this town, it seems. Everything still feels slightly unreal.

Viktor scrubs at his face and yawns, and keeps looking through the messages until the word ‘Katsudon’ pops out at him and he frowns.

Apparently Katsudon is back in the harbour.

Viktor is on his feet in an instant.

The doors leading from the bathroom to the patio outside are wide open, the bright light of the outside causing Viktor to wince when he first opens the door. He flings on the bathrobe hanging on the back of the door to the bedroom and crosses the bathroom in three strides, heading straight out the open French doors into the grey November morning. The gulls are crying outside, and dark clouds are gathered on the horizon.

Viktor quashes the uneasy churning of his stomach and heads to the stairs leading down to the little beach. Makkachin is already down there, playing with a dark figure in the waves. That’s all Viktor needs to know to confirm that it is, indeed, Katsudon, his black fur sleek with water as he swims circles around Makkachin in the whitewater.

Viktor’s heart rises to his throat as his feet hit the shell-encrusted sand. “Makka!” he shouts, and his poodle barks and runs out of the waves towards him. Katsudon notices him shouting, of course, and scrutinises him for a long while with unfathomable dark eyes, before silently turning his back on him and disappearing into the water.

And as he watches the seal vanishing into the dancing waves, Viktor Nikiforov’s glass heart shatters.

He would never do something like this.

He would never —

It was all a dream. Just a dream just a dream just a dream.

He didn’t do this.

Chapter Text

Excerpts from the personal journal of Yuuri Katsuki:

24 Oct 2016

things i miss: the taste of saltwater. the coldness of the waves. the sleek glide of the waves. the heavy warmth of blubber. the currents passing over my whiskers. the brightness of the world just after resurfacing from the darker depths of the ocean.

the thrill of the chase. the joy of the hunt. my blood pounding in my veins. the pulsing crimson that joins sparkling blue when my prey is caught.

the warmth of the sun. the indolent bliss of basking on the beach. moving my flippers to cool my overheated blood. makkachin’s bark when we play together.

my sea-mother’s eyes.

It gets dark at four in the afternoon in November.

Viktor has complained about this before, in other cities and in other times. In Saint Petersburg the sun would set early, too, but the city is still fairly alive after dark, covered in lights and bursting with the sound of cars and trams and buses.

Torvill Cove is too quiet after dark in November. The only things open after five are Nekola’s Market and the eateries. The only things open after ten are the chips shop, the bars, and the pubs. People shuffle to and fro in little clumps, bundled against the cold in hats and coats.

Everything feels greyer, more monotone. The bright reds and golds of autumn are fading, muting into smoky browns. The light fails fast, and Viktor finds himself spending more time writing in his den in the dark than anywhere else.

It’s fine. He can’t go to the secret cove anyway. It just feels like a place closed to him right now, as if maybe Yuuri (or his ghost) is hiding out there. The very thought of Yuuri causes his fingernails to dig into the back of his thumbs.

He hasn’t touched any of Yuuri’s belongings. It would be strange for the man to return after a month to find his things moved, after all, and Viktor isn’t interested in intruding on Yuuri’s life more than he already has. Of course, a month is the only precedent he has — a part of him strongly suspects the separation may be for good.

Still, he goes through the movements of daily life as if Yuuri is still in it, dancing a dance for two alone in this cottage. Every day he pretends Yuuri has just gone out to help someone out in town. Every night he pretends Yuuri has been kept late at Yu-Topia and will be back after he falls asleep. The back door remains unlocked, and he still cooks for two most nights. The extras and leftovers get eaten on the nights when he has no energy to cook.

He finds he often doesn’t have much energy to do anything other than go through the motions of living, and then collapse into his now too-large bed at night and sleep restlessly until the next morning, when he gets to repeat that all over again. The days are too cold, the nights are too long, and Yuuri’s absence gnaws at him in every waking moment.

The only times in which he has a respite from the musty darkness of the cottage is when he is walking Makkachin outside, but his dog is not too fond of the increasingly colder temperatures, and Viktor himself is also now less fond of being stopped by students and other people in town and interrogated about his writing. He smiles through it, of course, offers non-answers in reply to their questions, poses for pictures as always. Once upon a time, interacting with fans had actually been pretty fun. Now it’s just another expense of his energy that he’s forced to undertake for the sake of good public relations.

In previous years, he had always taken such great pains not to become the stereotypical hermit writer who holes up in their house and never leaves, but now there is a strange comfort in that. He tells himself it’s because he wants to make sure he’s home for when Yuuri returns, but deep down, he knows it’s because he’s too ashamed to show up in public, in the spaces inhabited by people like Phichit and Yuuko and Minako and Yuuri’s family, and admit that he had driven away the one person that had brought them all together. That despite his promises and assurances not to, he had broken Yuuri’s heart.

So he retreats to his cottage, but he keeps the door unlocked, because hope springs eternal and Viktor Nikiforov lives for second chances.

10 Oct 2016

i dreamt last night of finding my skin in the shallows of the little beach. i stood on the shore with it in my hands. the light of the moon shimmered even on the wet sand that reflected it and the stars, so that my feet can could stand upon the sky. i was weightless, like a bird, my body drifting through space and time.

the grey maiden came to me out of the fog, her tearstained cheeks filling my mind. she had hair like winter and eyes like ice. she reached for me as she fell, but her hand went straight through me. i could not save her. she cried snowflakes that fell up and clung to my lashes.

she cried my name, and her voice was viktor’s, echoing like the north wind through my ears until it filled my head. she became viktor, too, wading into the water after me, his body breaking through the waves. he didn’t stop walking, not even when the water came to his hips to his chest to his neck to his head

and i could not stop him

i could not stop vicchan.

There is a bonfire on the beach for Guy Fawkes Night. This one is sizeable, drawing crowds from all over town, especially students from the college eager to set something on fire. Most attendees have brought something to the bonfire, be it kindling (anywhere from driftwood to old furniture to empty crates) or snacks and drinks. Viktor accepts a cup of mulled mead from Sara with a smile, and tries not to look her in the eyes.

What if she knew? What if she hated him now? What if the entire town hated him now for driving away their local hero? He knows most people’s sobered expressions are due to the oncoming winter, but part of him can’t help but wonder if there exists some hostility in town towards him as an outsider who came and seduced a local. And now the local is nowhere to be seen, so obviously something bad must have happened or is going on, and he can’t be trusted —

“I thought it was weird when my brother didn’t come home to help out like he used to.”


Viktor turns to look at Mari, who is scrutinising him over her own cup. He stalls for time in answering her by taking a copious swig of mead, and looking over at the giant pile of kindling on which an effigy of Guy Fawkes has been set. The schoolchildren are passing around little sparklers, and Viktor is reminded of a different bonfire in July and the dancing ribbons of light wielded by a certain selkie.

His fingernails dig into his thumb, and he swallows and looks back at Mari. She is still watching him carefully, almost expectantly. He sighs.

“He had to answer the sea-longing,” he says. It’s true. The circumstances surrounding it have been omitted, but he did return to the sea in response to the sea-longing.

Mari exhales. “Phichit posted about Katsudon being sighted again, and I know it was also in the Reporter, so I reckoned it was something about the sea-longing. But did he happen to mention how far out he says he’s going, and for how long?”

Viktor shakes his head. “He just left,” he says. Mari doesn’t need to know the context.

I’ll be right back.

No one says that before leaving someone forever, do they? Unless that means Yuuri had been lying. And Yuuri has lied before; what’s to say he won’t be back at all, and all of his belongings in Viktor’s house will have to be brought back to Yu-Topia or put into storage or something? Surely he can’t be expected to keep all of it; he gets heart palpitations every time he sees the extra toothbrush still in the holder, or the clothes taking up half the closet, or the extra razor in the bathroom, or even that mug that Viktor had bought from the arts festival half a lifetime ago. Life feels like a strange, horrible dream right now, and Viktor wants nothing more than to wake up.

The bonfire goes up, flames licking at heaven. The schoolchildren cheer at the sight of Guy Fawkes’ effigy burning in heart of the fire. A tiny, ugly part of Viktor wonders: if the schoolchildren knew, would they be burning his likeness instead of Guy Fawkes’ instead? In a way, he’d almost welcome that. Knowing the townspeople’s hatred would be almost a relief compared to this current air of tenseness.

“How many people in town know about Yuuri’s secret?” Viktor asks.

Mari hums. “We don’t tell anyone without Yuuri’s permission,” she replies. “But sometimes people figure it out.”

“Do you know who?”

Mari shrugs, taking a swig of her mead. “They’ve never come to us demanding confirmation, if they have,” she says.

Viktor watches Yuri and Mila light up their sparklers with the bonfire and begin to chase each other across the beach with them, the other kids joining in after a while until the night is lit with sparkles and flames. Nikolai Plisetsky is in the crowd by the fire, too, standing just a little apart and pensively mulling over his mead. Viktor wonders what he’s thinking about.

“But you do know that Yuuko and Minako know, though,” says Viktor.

Mari nods. She looks over at Minako, who is talking to Celestino about something as they watch the bonfire. It does feel as if everyone in town is here, though that seems to make some people’s absences seem all the more keen. Emil Nekola is in Prague, Seung-gil Lee is probably doing something more useful to him than standing at a bonfire, and Michele Crispino is back at the winery. Even Jean-Jacques Leroy’s absence is a little odd, even though Viktor objectively knows the man is in Canada.

And Yuuri —

Viktor digs his fingernails into his thumb yet again. Mari’s gaze flickers down to his left hand and back up again. Her expression softens, and she pats his shoulder.

“Yuuri will be fine out there,” she soothes. “Yuuko says harbour seals are loyal to the places where they rest. He will come back. And in the meantime, we just tell everyone who asks that he’s on a fishing trip to the Hebrides.”

Viktor nods. “I hope he returns soon,” he mumbles against his wine.

Mari chuckles. “It’s only been, what, five days, and you miss him already?”

Viktor frowns. “Has it really? It feels like longer.”

Mari shakes her head. “You’re hopeless,” she chastises, and Viktor chuckles as he takes another sip of the mead. Its mulled warmth feels like a honeyed kiss upon his lips.

He says nothing more as he watches the flames dance, the children play, and the whitewater seep in along the sand.

29 Sept 2016

this is how you let him go —

you carve your name into his skin, you trace your fingertips across his ribs. you kiss each freckle on his body like you’re joining together the stars, trying to discern some greater cosmic artwork.

(you fill your pockets with stones and your head with water and you let the waves consume you.)

you kiss him good morning, good night, you smile when he makes you a cuppa, you read the paper with him leaning over your shoulder and pressing kisses to your neck. you let him mark you. you let him own you.

(you wrap yourself in your skin and you sing the song of the sea and you feel the warmth of the magic overwhelm you.)

you take him to your secret coves, your private beaches. you let him kiss your mother’s hand and sweet-talk your sister. you watch him write with his tongue poking out of his mouth and you think maybe you aren’t cursed to be alone forever after all.

(you fly into the blue and your flippers are wings and your skin is feathers and you are free.)

you offer to please him, to touch him, to give him this one night before the sea pulls you back into her waiting bosom. but he refuses, because he wants to give back, too, but all you’ve ever done to him is take and take and take. does loving a human always come with an expiration date?

so you let him sleep in your arms and you feel your heart slipping away from him and back towards the roaring sea.

Viktor calls his mother a couple days later. She picks up on the third ring, her voice gently reproachful. “Vitenka, my little sun, it’s been so long since we last talked,” she says.

It takes Viktor a couple seconds to dust off his Russian to reply to her. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I’ve been busy.”

She sees through the lie, of course. “You always say you’ve been busy,” she chides. “Is calling your old mama so much of a burden that you’ll only do it twice a year?”

“I call more than that,” Viktor complains.

It feels like only twice a year. On my birthday, and then on yours.” Mama sighs. “Is this payback for us going away to competitions all the time and leaving you behind with those nannies?”

Viktor splutters. “Mama! Why would you think that?” He pauses. “And today’s not your birthday, so I do call you more than twice a year.”

Then it must be my lucky day,” she replies. “How have you been? Any news for your mama?

Too many words choke at Viktor’s throat as he struggles to respond to that. “What news have you heard?” he asks after a moment, testing the waters to see if she’s heard about Yuuri yet. After all, he’d practically announced their relationship via Instagram posts.

I heard you were settling down just fine in Torvill Cove,” she says. “Auntie says you seem to have made some friends, too, which I think will be good for you considering how lonely you’d been in Manchester. Have you been using the samovar I gave you?

Viktor can feel his ears heating up. “Oh, I left that in Manchester, Mama,” he admits, hanging his head even though he knows she can’t see him. “My cottage is far too small for it.”

She clucks her tongue. “Well, send for it soon; winter is coming and you’ll need it,” she instructs.

Viktor rolls his eyes. “Yes, Mama,” he says. Suddenly restless, he gets up from the kitchen table where he’d started the call and paces over to the refrigerator, poking his head in to see if there’s anything to snack on.

You missed out on the annual visit, you know,” adds Mama, her voice slightly reproachful. “I know air travel is difficult, and you must have been very busy, but I’m sure Grandma missed you this year.”

“I’m sorry, I’ll see her next time I’m back,” says Viktor, balancing the phone with his shoulder as he takes out a tupperware full of leftovers from last night. He crosses to the microwave to heat it up.

And when do you expect that to be, huh?” wonders Mama.

Viktor sighs. “I’m not sure. Maybe soon?”

Your birthday?

Viktor hums. “No, I don’t think so. Too late for decent prices, even with Aeroflot.”

He hears his mother laugh at that, her voice tinny over the connection. “Maybe after the season ends, then, hm? Your Papa and I are getting ready to go to Paris with Misha and Anya, you know.”

Viktor remembers them. They’re the young ice dancing couple that his parents are coaching. “Well, send them my well-wishes,” he says almost automatically. “It’ll be nice to see them finally make it to the final.”

We’ll see,” agrees Mama. “They have great programmes this year. You’ll be sure to watch them, won’t you?

Viktor hadn’t been following this season, and he admits as much. “Sorry, I’ve had a lot on my mind these past couple of months,” he admits. “But I’ll try to tune in when I can.”

Is that really the best you can do?” scolds his mother. “Take a break from your writing and watch them dance! They got silver in Skate Canada, you know, so if they do well in Paris they could actually have a shot of making it to the final this year.”

Viktor sighs. The microwave ‘dings’ to signal that it’s done reheating his leftovers, and he takes it out and grabs a fork, carrying the entire contraption back to the table with his phone. “That’s great, Mama,” he says, his voice dripping with unsaid apologies. “I’ll try my best, I swear. You know how I can get when I’m writing.”

I’ve never seen it get to the point where you’d forget about skating, Vitenka; didn’t you write three books about it?

“And a novella,” Viktor points out. People tended to forget about the existence of The Dancing Blades. Even former ice dancers like his mother.

Yes, I know.” Mama sighs. “What happened, then? You mentioned the last time you called that you were blocked. You got over that, didn’t you?

“Well, yes,” says Viktor, and then he pauses. “And no,” he admits. “Mama, I did something.”

There’s a moment of silence on the other end, and then his mother sighs. “My little sun,” she murmurs, “what happened?”

Viktor pauses, takes a bite of the leftover curry, and sighs. “I met someone, Mama,” he says.

She clucks her tongue. “I know you did; we all see your Instagram pictures,” she says, confirming his suspicions.

He laughs shortly at that, and takes another bite of food. “Well then,” he says, but the next words are lodged in his throat, unable to get out. He suddenly realises he can’t bring himself to admit to his own mother that he had hurt Yuuri and driven him away. What kind of coward is he?

Vitenka?” his mother sounds concerned. “Is everything alright?”

“Yeah!” he says almost immediately. “Sorry I didn’t tell you about him beforehand.”

His mother laughs. “I am a little less surprised now that you took so long to call,” she admits. “Things must be pretty serious between you two.”

That comment hits a little harder than he’d anticipated. “Yeah,” he says, setting down his fork. “We’re living together now, so…” Well, were. They were living together. But he can’t bring himself to tell his mother that right now.

That’s wonderful! He looks like such a lovely boy in your photos. Are you thinking of bringing him over the next time you come home?”

Viktor splutters a bit. “Maybe?” he manages.

We had to figure out the boy’s name through clues left by everyone else on the site,” continues his mother blithely. “His name is Yuuri, right?”

“Yeah,” says Viktor, digging his fingernails into his thumb.

Is he here? Could I talk to him?”

Viktor shakes his head, before he realises that’s a futile gesture. “No, he’s busy,” he lies, the words coming off smoother than he’d anticipated. “Besides, he can’t speak, so he wouldn’t be able to talk to you.”

There’s a small pause, a little ‘oh’ of surprise. “Well! That’s too bad,” says Mama, her voice hastily recovering. “Maybe another day, then, and on FaceTime? You could interpret his signs for me — you used to be so good at talking with Grandma —”

Viktor laughs. “Yeah, maybe,” he says. “I should go. Tell Misha and Anya I wish them luck?”

Yes, yes,” agrees his mother. “Goodbye, my little sun.”

“Goodbye, Mama.” And Viktor hangs up, setting his phone down before putting his face in his hands and slumping at the table. Yuuri’s laptop sits, connected to its charger and glowing gently, on the side counter. The shadows in the kitchen have grown longer since he started the call, and with a sigh, Viktor gets up to turn on the lights.

The door could open any minute and Yuuri could step through, sealskin in hand and lights in his eyes. Viktor almost chuckles at the imaginary Yuuri hanging up his sealskin like a coat, signing Honey, I’m home at him before coming to eat his leftover curry.

His fingernails leave crescents in the back of his left thumb, and the coat hooks next to the kitchen door remain stubbornly devoid of sealskins.

21 Sept 2016

sometimes i wish i had already lost my virginity to someone else in a drunken fumble in the bathroom of a smoky bar in st andrews so that the very real fear of losing viktor because i am still somewhat uncomfortable about having sex with him is not a problem anymore.

sometimes i wish i could just tell myself to get over it, to stop being so squeamish about wandering hands and roaming lips. i told him i would let him touch next time and i have yet to make good on that promise and i’m scared that if next time comes and i don’t let him touch me he will finally see what a loser i am and leave.

but everything else is so good. everything else feels so good. i know sex should feel good, too, but it’s so hard to make that next move. it’s so hard knowing how much i want him and yet never really finding the courage to reach out and take him. what if i do and he leaves anyway? he had his pick of the university students in hartford and the socialites in manchester, though i know nothing was ever confirmed, but i’ve seen the students at torvill college practically throwing themselves at him. it’s only a matter of time before he tires of the chase and turns to someone else. how could i alone satisfy him when i don’t even know how?

It’s sometime around the end of November, on Yuuri’s birthday, when Viktor runs into Phichit at the café with the little dog. Phichit’s table is covered in books and he has his laptop out, studiously typing away, but when Viktor walks past to go to the counter the man grabs him by the wrist without even breaking eye contact with his screen.

Viktor swallows. Phichit finally looks up at him after finishing his sentence, and nods his head towards the chair across from his. Viktor takes it silently. Phichit closes his laptop and regards him coolly for a moment over a pair of folded hands.

“Have you seen Yuuri lately?” he asks, his voice sweet but his expression hard.

Viktor swallows. “He’s on a fishing trip in the Hebrides, why?”

Phichit hums. “And he’s not even going to be back in time for his birthday?” he asks.

Viktor shugs. “He gets back when he gets back,” he replies, shrugging. “Lots of fish to be caught, I imagine.”

“Right,” deadpans Phichit. “Because I asked the Nishigoris about him and they said they had no idea where he was.”

“It’s a thing he does on his own sometimes,” says Viktor, the lies rolling easily off his tongue. “He goes out there to fish for a month or so. His family knows about it.”

“He hasn’t been answering texts or calls. I know the Hebrides are pretty out there, but at least they have signal.”

“Sometimes he’s just really into getting the fish, I guess,” says Viktor, shrugging.

Phichit’s eyes narrow. “I’m surprised you didn’t go with him. I mean, the Hebrides are pretty gorgeous even this time of the year.”

Viktor can feel the palms of his hands beginning to sweat. He hides them between his thighs, under the table. “Look, sometimes a man just needs his space,” he reasons.

Phichit raises an eyebrow. “So you two had an argument,” he deadpans.

Viktor blinks at him. “What gave you that idea?” he demands.

“You’re talking about giving him his space,” replies Phichit. “Ergo he must be mad at you, ergo some sort of argument must have happened.”

Viktor gapes at him, before quickly recovering himself with a winning smile. “Well, then, you’ll be glad to know that that’s not the case,” he declares, even though Phichit had actually hit a lot closer to the truth than he’d anticipated.

Phichit hums. “What’s the case, then?” he asks, his dark eyes scrutinising.

Viktor swallows. “He had an urge to go fishing in the Hebrides without me, so he went,” he says. Phichit snorts, clearly not buying it.

“Look, the more you lie about this, the worse it looks for you,” he points out. “I think you’re a good guy, Viktor, please don’t ruin that for me.”

Viktor sighs, fidgets with his hands under the table. “I actually wish I could tell you more about it, Phichit, I really do. But I really can’t.”

Phichit hums, idly playing with the corners of a book next to his laptop. “I can respect that,” he says after a moment. “I just wanted to know, though — was there an argument involved? Like, is there some sort of trouble between the two of you that would’ve resulted in him suddenly going off to the Hebrides for a month?”

Viktor’s smile is a frozen lake. “No, there wasn’t,” he says. It’s the truth, anyway. Yuuri had not argued with him when Viktor returned the sealskin. He had even smiled and thanked him. And then he had left.

But Phichit does not need to know any of that. Viktor takes his leave and goes to the counter to order a latté and a croissant. As he sips from his drink moments later, he quietly wishes Yuuri a happy birthday, wherever he may be.

10 Sept 2016

is he drifting away from me already? he keeps telling me he doesn’t deserve me, that i am too good for him. but he shies away from my more adventurous touches like some wounded animal, and it’s all i can do not to burst into tears whenever we defer our intimacy.

maybe he wants someone he can actually talk with. or someone who will vocally let him know how he’s doing in bed. someone who doesn’t require him to learn another language just to communicate. maybe he just wants something easier with someone easier. maybe i am too much. maybe i am not enough.

The month ends. Yuuri still doesn’t return.

27 Aug 2016

loving viktor nikiforov is like chasing a tornado, like tracing the course of a flash flood, like jumping into a volcano. loving viktor nikiforov is like standing in a supernova, like flying into the stratosphere, like skating off the edge of a frozen waterfall.

but loving viktor nikiforov is also like basking in the sun, like the cool taste of water after a long sojourn in the desert, like the warmth of mulled mead on a winter morning. loving viktor nikiforov is like listening to the rain against the windowpane, like opening a box of fine chocolates, like watching a bonfire burn on the beach.

With each day that passes without the familiar steps of Yuuri’s feet against the cottage floors, Viktor grows more and more worried. Every morning finds him at the clifftop above the little beach and looking out to sea, trying to find Katsudon’s familiar head out in the sprawling blue. Every evening finds him waiting expectantly at the kitchen table, listening for someone outside his back door.

But Yuuri doesn’t return. The days grow shorter and colder still. Wreaths and garlands begin to adorn people’s doors. December is here, and with it comes all the holidays, as well as his birthday. It had been fun when he was young, especially when he found out his birthday was Christmas Day in many other countries, but as he grew older it became less and less fun to celebrate. Less milestones to attain, more reminders of the inevitability of age and decay and, eventually, death.

Had it really been just months ago when he thought he’d be able to celebrate the passing of time with Yuuri by his side? Commemorating Yuuri’s birthday, and his, and all the changes in the seasons and the delicious opportunities they’d offer? Their first bright-coloured autumn together, warmed by the smell of apple pie and pumpkin spice. Their first snowfall together, bundled in scarves and coats and never letting go of each other’s hands as they face the cold winter together. They seem, now moreso than ever, to be unattainable dreams. The worst part is just how close he’d come to making them a reality.

In December the snow begins to fall, though at sea level there isn’t much and it never sticks past a couple of days. Viktor used to take solace in snowflakes, used to love the familiarity of wintertime. Now he’s not so sure.

10 Aug 2016

reasons why i am still dreaming: i am officially moving out of yu-topia to live with viktor nikiforov, who told me just three days ago that he loves me.

He goes to Yu-Topia after a while, after the guilt gets too much for him to bear. Mari Katsuki is on break when he arrives; she leads him out to the deck at the back of the hotel.

“Have you seen Yuuri yet?” he asks.

Mari surveys him with a raised eyebrow. “I could ask the same for you,” she replies.

Viktor’s stomach churns. “So he didn’t return to Yu-Topia either,” he states.

Mari hums. “He might just be taking a longer time to return,” she muses, before offering him a cigarette. Viktor shakes his head, and she pops one into her own mouth and puts away the pack with a shrug. “Any idea as to what might be taking him so long?”

“I… I haven’t actually been very truthful about his sealskin,” admits Viktor. Mari’s hands, which had been trying to light her cigarette, abruptly stop. She raises her head to look at him, her eyes narrowing.

“You what,” she states.

“I hid his sealskin,” confesses Viktor. “I took it on Midsummer and I hid it. I didn’t really mean to —”

“What do you mean, you didn’t mean to hide his sealskin. You either did it or you didn’t,” snaps Mari.

“That’s the thing. I didn’t know that I had done it until it was found.” Viktor looks out at the sea. The lighter clicks; he smells Mari’s cigarette smoke seconds later. “So maybe it means he’ll be gone for longer? Because he couldn’t change for four months instead of one?”

Mari snorts. “I wouldn’t know how it works, since I’m not the one who decided to hide his sealskin,” she snaps. Viktor can almost sense the anger bubbling in her like a cauldron about to overflow. “What the fuck am I supposed to say to you now? Why would you do something like that?”

“I know, it was a bad thing to do, and I was wrong to —”

“It wasn’t just bad, it was stupid. You know the stories, Viktor; they all say that selkies who’ve had their sealskins hidden from them never return.”

“I know, but —”

“But what? I might have just lost my little brother forever because of what you did!” Mari angrily jabs a finger in his face. “Did you even stop and think about that when you were busy stealing his skin, huh? That you were hurting my little brother? My parents’ son? Yuuko’s childhood friend? Minako’s protégé? Or hell, the friend of a lot of people in town, as well as their favourite tourist attraction? He’s connected to so many other lives than just yours, you know. I hope you’re happy.”

“I’m not,” snaps Viktor, willing down the lump in his throat, wiping furiously at his eyes. “I know how much he means to everyone here. I’m well aware of it every time I pass someone in the street and I have to wonder if they know Yuuri and if they are concerned about his disappearance and if they think I have a hand in it. I don’t even remember stealing the skin, but apparently I did. It was found in my cottage, and then I was stupid and hid it for a couple more months, and I’m sorry. I have to live with this just as much as the rest of you.”

Mari exhales smoke too close to his face for comfort, though Viktor reckons he deserved that. It stings at his eyes. He closes them for a moment.

“You’re welcome to hate me,” he says. “But I just thought you deserved to know the truth.”

“I appreciate you telling me the truth,” she replies, her voice cold. “Perhaps it’s time you left.”

Viktor nods. He puts on a placid smile, but says nothing else as he turns away from her and heads down the deck towards the steps that lead to the beach. Sand gets into his shoes as he walks across the beach to the boardwalk, but only once he has hit the boards does he turn back to watch the now-dim figure of Mari Katsuki blowing blueish smoke into the grey sky.

7 Aug 2016

he said he loves me.

There’s a smaller tourist season to the cove during the winter holidays, so everything is spruced up again in time to attract the Christmas (and, to a smaller extent, Hanukkah) crowds. The boardwalk sets up its annual pop-up rink. Viktor walks by it with Makkachin one morning and watches a couple students skating, laughing and clutching to one another, their books and papers temporarily forgotten to the side.

He comes back later in the day alone, with his skates. They are a bit stiff on his feet, made foreign through months of disuse, but he pushes out along the boards with the rest of the afternoon crowd, weaving through stumbling schoolchildren and shaking adults alike. It’s a small rink, so there’s barely room to weave and definitely no room to do figures. Not like he would, though.

He watches a couple skate by, hand in hand, and the Yuuri-shaped hole in his heart reopens. He digs his fingers into his thumb and presses on, seeking that perfect blankness in his mind where all that matters is the push of the blades along the ice.

A couple laps around the rink later, he becomes dimly aware of a pair of eyes on him. However, when he turns, all he sees are laughing children and students on study breaks.

Frowning, he returns to his skating, pushing thoughts of Yuuri down until they vanish like snowflakes on his tongue. He mentally runs through the choreography for one of Arthur’s routines in The King and the Skater, and wishes that he had the space to do it here in this little pop-up rink.

“Excuse me,” he hears after a moment. “Are you Viktor Nikiforov?”

He turns and stops to see three students staring wide-eyed at him from the boards. He skates over with a smile and a nod, and their eyes light up.

“Wow!” one of them exclaims. “No wonder you write about skaters! You were really good!”

Viktor blinks. “I was just going around in circles,” he said.

“You did some really cool twists and turns while going around in circles,” explains another student.

“And a spread eagle,” adds the third.

Viktor laughs, rubbing at his nape even as a small chill runs down his spine. How could he have forgotten any of that? It had just happened! “I was running through some choreography I’d come up with for a character in one of my books,” he says.

“Was it from The King and the Skater?” the first student asks.

Viktor is suddenly aware of a prickling at the back of his neck. He shivers a little, turning around just in time to see a young man staring at him from across the rink. He has a mop of dark hair and keen dark eyes, and he looks oddly bedraggled in the middle of a busy skate rink.

Viktor blinks, rubs his eyes. The young man is gone.

“Mr Nikiforov?” he hears. He turns to see the three students looking at him, concern etched all over their features. “Are you alright?” continues the second student.

Viktor immediately plasters on a smile. “Just fine,” he says. “And yes, I was thinking about one of Arthur’s routines…”

He keeps an eye out for the strange young man for the rest of the skate session, but he doesn’t appear again.

30 Jul 2016

i sometimes wonder if i’ve escaped the usual selkie love story, or if i’m caught up in the middle of one and the other shoe just hasn’t dropped yet.

Viktor wakes in the middle of the night, gasping for air. Makkachin is at his side in an instant, licking at his face. Viktor buries his face into his dog’s fur, feeling the warmth of tears burning at his eyes.

“Makka, please,” Viktor babbles as he runs his hands through Makkachin’s brown curls. “Please don’t leave me.”

His poodle boofs in response, and Viktor takes several deep breaths as his fingers feel the steadiness of Makkachin’s heartbeat.

He can’t go back to sleep for a long while after, even with Makkachin tightly clasped in his arms. The images resurface every time he closes his eyes: that young man from the rink, the edge of the water at the little beach, the failing light of the water’s surface above his head.

He clutches at his chest a little even at the remembrance, looking forlornly at the empty space on what had once been Yuuri’s side of the bed. Makkachin sprawls out in it now, and Viktor scritches behind his ears and presses kisses to his nose, sighing as he hears Makkachin snore loudly. He casts a glance to the nightstand where Yuuri’s glasses still lie. It’s a strangely comforting reminder that Yuuri really had once been here. Sighing, Viktor reaches out, his fingers brushing against the cold metal of the frame before he retreats into the warmth of Makkachin’s fur and closes his eyes once more.

In the morning, there is yet another light dusting of snow on the clifftops and on the little beach. Makkachin barks excitedly when Viktor clips on his leash for their morning walk, clearly chafing to go play in the snow. It’s not going to last long, Viktor knows — it’s too warm out for this snowfall to stick — but Makkachin makes the funniest noises when snowflakes land on his nose, so it’s entirely worth taking him out anyway.

The skaters are out on the rink again. It’s a Saturday, so the ice is more crowded than usual. Holiday-makers are also crowding the Ferris wheel and carousel, reminding Viktor of the summertime crowds for a brief moment before he digs his fingers into his thumb and tries to think of something else.

He looks up after a moment of aimless walking, and finds himself near the porte-cochère leading to Yu-Topia. Makkachin barks excitedly, pulling Viktor towards the resort, but Viktor shakes his head, and begins to move in the opposite direction.

“Not today, Makka,” he scolds. Makkachin whines. Viktor sighs, tugging lightly at the leash, and his dejected poodle turns around with him to head back towards the pier.

They run into Yuri Plisetsky just outside the ice cream parlour. The winter hours are quite truncated for this establishment, as no one really wants to get ice cream in the dead of winter. Yuri is just starting to unlock the doors; his breath puffs up and the pom-pom in his hat is dusted with snow. Makkachin barks, and Yuri grimaces as he looks at Viktor.

“You look like shit,” he says bluntly. Viktor runs a hand through his hair. It’s a little longer than usual, he’ll grant, since he hadn’t cut it since maybe mid-September.

“I’ve been busy writing,” he defends.

Yuri snorts. “Right,” he deadpans. “Piglet used to get into writing spells, too, and he never let himself go like that.”

“Used to?” echoes Viktor.

Yuri raises an eyebrow. “What, have you seen him around lately?”

Viktor swallows. “How many people have noticed?” he asks.

Yuri shrugs. “Everyone who knows him thinks you’re keeping him locked in a dark dungeon somewhere,” he says. Viktor opens his mouth to protest, but closes it when he sees the mischievous grin on the blond’s face. “No, they’re concerned, but I bet most of them think the two of you had a row and now he’s holed up in Yu-Topia or something. Besides, the gossip column didn’t mention anything, so clearly it isn’t a pressing issue, unlike the sheep that got lost at the roundabout the other day.”

Viktor sighs, runs a hand over his chin and the faintest hint of stubble lying there. “I returned the skin,” he says.

Yuri hums. “That would explain Yuuri’s absence,” he remarks drily.

Viktor frowns. “Not going to yell at me about it?” he wonders.

Yuri quirks an eyebrow. “I already did,” he points out. “Multiple times.” He turns to the door, just as Makkachin begins to growl suddenly, his entire pose stiffening at something just behind Yuri. Viktor follows his dog’s gaze, and his blood freezes in his veins.

It’s the young man again. He’s covered in seaweed now, and he stares at Viktor from the carousel, his expression haunted even from afar. Viktor takes a step backwards, dimly hearing Yuri’s concerned voice but not quite parsing the words until he feels a hand on his forearm and tears his gaze away from the sight.

“What?” he asks, his head feeling like it’s being stuffed with cotton. Yuri frowns, his hand on Viktor’s forearm tightening until his knuckles turn white.

“What are you two looking at?” demands the blond.

Makkachin barks; Viktor nods towards the young man over Yuri’s shoulder.

Yuri turns to look and his frown deepens. “There’s nothing there,” he snaps.

Viktor blinks. He looks back towards the carousel, but the young man has vanished. Viktor frowns, rubs his eyes. “He was there, I swear,” he breathes.

Yuri frowns. “Who?” he asks.

“This guy, standing next to the carousel. He had seaweed in his hair.”

Yuri’s frown deepens. “Seaweed?” he echoes. Viktor nods, wincing as Yuri’s hand tightens even more around his forearm.

“Yuri?” he asks quietly. Yuri looks down, realising what he’s doing, and then lets go of Viktor’s forearm with a grimace. Viktor rubs his arm gingerly, frowning at the teenager. “Are you alright?” he asks.

“None of your business,” snips Yuri, turning towards the door again. He opens it, finally, and steps inside. “Have you seen that guy before? The one with the seaweed?”

Viktor frowns. “I’ve seen him without seaweed once, at the rink. And in a dream.”

Yuri purses his lips. “Right.” He nods. “And what day is it?”

Viktor checks his mobile. “The seventeenth,” he replies.

Yuri exhales. “That’s what I thought.”

“What?” Either Yuri has lost it, or Viktor is losing it, and he doesn’t quite know which is a more terrifying prospect. “Is there something —”

“Look, anything covered in seaweed and staring weirdly at you and disappearing whenever you get too close is a bad sign, okay?” snaps Yuri. “My dedushka might be able to sort you out. Come by the lighthouse on Wednesday. He’ll have an answer for you then.”

“I didn’t even ask —” begins Viktor, but Yuri has already slammed the door of the parlour in his face. Viktor blinks, and looks back towards the carousel, which is still thankfully devoid of strange young men covered in seaweed.

Makkachin whines, as if similarly relieved. Viktor reaches down, scratches at his dog’s head.

“You’ll let me know if you see anything, right?” he asks. Makkachin wags his tail. Viktor sighs, and straightens up again to head back to the cottage. He’s had enough excitement for the day.

It’s only when he’s halfway up the coastal trail, with the snowflakes whirling around him in bigger and bigger flurries, that he realises that the seaweed-clad young man bears a remarkable similarity to Yuuri.

12 Jul 2016

sparklers on a july evening
there are no fireflies in scotland
but the sparks of bonfires glow embers red
and the sparkler wands light ribbons of rainbow
in a darkening july sky

i see your roving camera-eye
eager watching observing capturing
preserving the memory of my body
against a darkening july sky

i dance for you, my body
twisting in time to an unheard song
the lights in my hand bringing colour
to a darkening july sky

Wednesday is the longest night of the year, and although Viktor is not inclined at all to head over to the lighthouse in the cold and the snow, he does it anyway, bringing Makkachin with him as well as an overnight bag, just in case. The howling of the winds and the heaviness of the snow certainly suggest that a storm is on the way.

He’s practically blown into the lighthouse by the winds when he tries to knock, and once they’re both admitted by Mila, Makkachin quickly shakes the snow off his coat and onto Viktor before pouncing at Mila and licking her face, and then sniffing all over the room in search of something edible. Viktor looks around as well. The entryway of the main house is decorated for Christmas, with a tree bedecked with numerous cat-shaped ornaments sitting in the living room, as well as garlands of holly and juniper draped over practically every single visible railing.

“It looks pretty bad out there; we thought you might not come,” says Mila as she helps him with his coat. Viktor smiles as she hangs it up in the closet near the door, and straightens himself out in the mirror a little. He’d shaved off the stubble, washed and combed his hair, and even donned a jumper for the occasion. It’s not anything approaching an ugly holiday jumper, of course, but today isn’t a holiday that usually warrants ugly jumpers anyway.

“If I’m going to end up snowbound by this storm, I might as well not be alone,” he says.

Mila raises an eyebrow at him. “Yuuri’s not with you?” she asks. Viktor frowns. He’d imagined that the word had already gotten out that he had broken Yuuri’s heart or something.

“No,” he says shortly. Mila nods, not entirely understanding, but accepting anyway.

“That’s too bad,” she says. “I’m sure you’d have loved to be trapped in a house with him.”

Viktor chuckles, suddenly wishing he was anywhere but here. He takes off his boots and gestures to his bag. “I packed extra clothes, in case the storm picks up. Where do I…”

“Oh, we have another guest room,” says Mila, smiling. “It’s an old breakfast room and pantry. I’m only telling you because sometimes that pantry smell comes out when the winds get heavy.”

Viktor laughs. “As long as there’s space for me and Makka,” he says, and follows her down the hall. There are more portraits and photographs lining the walls that he hadn’t really noticed on Halloween, mostly because the main house had been mostly in darkness. He can see a dining room and a kitchen through sets of mullioned French doors, and then Mila is leading him through another door into a guestroom with a set of sliding glass doors leading out to a deck and the snow-covered Point beyond. Maybe when the snow has settled, there will be a stunning view of the sea beyond these doors, but currently all he can see are giant, rapidly mounting snowdrifts pressed up against the glass.

Someone has lit a fire in the grate to chase away what is otherwise quite a chilly room. A little bed and nightstand lie opposite from the doors to the deck. Viktor sets down the bag on this bed; Makkachin sniffs curiously at one of the cushions on an armchair next to the little fireplace.

“Like it?” asks Mila. Viktor grins.

“It’s delightful,” he says.

She chuckles. “Hungry? I could get you something.”

Viktor shakes his head. “Where’s Yuri and… Mr Plisetsky?”

“Yuri’s in his room, talking to Otabek,” says Mila, rolling her eyes. “Apparently Beka’s coming down for Christmas in a couple of days. Yuri’s been talking about it for weeks.”

Viktor laughs, following Mila out the room and into the kitchen. Makkachin follows them both, wagging his tail expectantly.

Mila begins bustling around in the cupboards, fetching some mugs. “Kolya usually takes a cuppa right around now; he’ll be in the office at this time, unless we’ve got visitors who want to see the tower. You wanna see the tower? I know you were here at Halloween, but —”

“It’s fine,” says Viktor hastily. “I saw a portion of it at Halloween. Don’t go to any trouble.”

Mila shrugs. “Suit yourself,” she says, and sets the water to boil. “Want a cuppa too?”

Viktor shakes his head again. Mila drums her fingers against the counter as the kettle boils. Makkachin sniffs at all of the visible containers curiously, until Viktor urges him to stop.

“Is Makka hungry?” asks Mila once the water is boiled and she’s steeping the tea. “I could find him some scraps.”

Viktor groans. “He’s just being greedy,” he says, ruffling his dog’s head. “Feeding him now will ruin his appetite. Besides, he doesn’t even eat that much for dinner.”

Mila hums, and then tosses the used teabags and swirls in a little milk and sugar in each. “All right, then, hang tight. I need to get this to Kolya.” In a louder voice, she hollers, “Yurochka! Your cuppa is downstairs!”

Moments later, the reply: “Bring it up here!”

“No, you come down here and get it yourself,” Mila shouts back as she takes the mug for Nikolai and starts heading out of the kitchen. “Vitya’s here, too.”

There’s a loud groan, and then angered stomping all the way down the stairs. Yuri glowers at Viktor as he brushes past him to get his mug of tea. He is followed by an extremely fluffy Siamese cat, who immediately darts away from Makkachin when the poodle turns towards it.

“Ugh, you brought your dog,” grumbles Yuri, leaning against the kitchen counter and surveying Viktor over the rim of his mug.

“I’m not about to abandon Makka to the storm,” retorts Viktor.

Yuri rolls his eyes. “Yeah, whatever,” he says. “Make yourself at home. You look stupid standing around awkwardly like that.”

Viktor chuckles as Yuri pads back out of the kitchen, the Siamese cat following quickly at his heels.

He does manage to get a little writing done in his room, with the fire crackling cheerfully in the grate and Makkachin asleep at his feet next to the armchair. The thoughts pile up on his hard drive; the only connection he has between each of these passages is that they’re about Yuuri.

Write about us.

Viktor sighs, looking up from his laptop. The only light in the room is from the dying fire; all remaining daylight has fled the room and the shadows are long against the ground. The sounds from the kitchen are extraordinarily loud; Viktor can hear Mila and Nikolai talking in rapid Russian on the other side. But he’s not exactly sure what they’re talking about; it sounds distorted, like he’s listening to them from underwater. In the distance, there’s a faint rumble of thunder.

He looks out the door, noticing a set of tracks across the outside that look caught between feet and flippers. He blinks again, and the tracks are gone, and Mila is shouting about dinner.

Dinner is borscht, which Viktor had been missing for months because it’s one of those few Russian dishes he could never quite figure out how to make. He eats it readily enough, ever-aware of Nikolai Plisetsky’s piercing gaze at the top of his head as he does so.

“Is my hair getting thin?” he jokes after a long moment of silent staring.

“You’ve got a bald spot,” interjects Yuri.

Yurochka,” chides Nikolai, but he says nothing more. Viktor chuckles, reaching up to pat his hair part. It feels fine, but maybe it looks a lot worse.

After dinner, Viktor decides to wander. Makkachin looks at him reproachfully from under the dinner table as he leaves the room, before returning to gnawing at the bones that Mila had tossed down to him. There’s another ominous rumble from far off, though it is largely overshadowed by the sounds of Mila and Yuri doing the washing up — or at least, attempting to, since there’s a lot of shouting and splashing coming from the kitchen.

Nikolai seems oblivious to all of that, as he’s poured himself a glass of whiskey and is sitting by the fire in the living room, the glow from the hearth casting the lines of his face into stark relief. He looks up when Viktor heads towards the door leading to the lighthouse tower, and warns, “Don’t go too far.”

“I won’t,” promises Viktor, and opens the door.

The lantern of the Torvill Point Lighthouse is fully automated, and Viktor can hear the hum of the electric machinery echoing through the tower. As Viktor climbs the staircase, he looks at all of the portraits of former lighthouse keepers lining the walls. Clearly the automation of the lighthouse has reduced the duties of its keeper to little more than a glorified tour guide, but Viktor is sure that Nikolai Plisetsky has, in the past, actually performed the traditional maintenance work of a lighthouse keeper. It’s nice that the town has let the family keep living in the building — after all, the Plisetskys have been here for almost a century, and this lighthouse is as much a home to them as it is a museum and a workplace.

The tower has two landings before the platform with the lantern, all connected by the spiral staircase. Each landing is furnished with benches and little glass cases of old log-books and maps. Viktor turns on the lights along the tower staircase to better light his way, climbing ever upwards to the lantern platform and the observation deck.

It gets colder and colder the higher he climbs, and a sudden rumble of thunder causes a shiver to run down his spine, but eventually he makes it to the top. The lantern shines brightly just above him, direct access only possible through a hatch in the ceiling of this platform. There is a door leading out to the observation deck, though when he opens it the cold air of the storm hits him like a sudden punch to the face. The snow up here has already significantly piled up.

Viktor steps out into the snow, wincing briefly when it (predictably) soaks through his socks. He’s going to regret this in a moment, but first he steps out onto the deck, braving the cold to look out over the railing of the deck at the ocean below.

The view is breathtaking from here. He’s a little disappointed in himself that he didn’t come up here sooner. The beam from the lighthouse seems to cast a spotlight out into the clouds and over the water, lighting up the snow flurries of the storm as they dance wildly around Viktor.

It’s almost spiritual, standing out here in the cold on a bleak Midwinter night, listening to the howling of the wind and the rumble of the thunder in between the flashes of the lighthouse lantern. Up here, he commands a vista of the sea; though the darkness and the snow obscure most details of the waters below, Viktor is sure that on a sunny day he could look out here with a telescope and see the faint shapes of the Hebrides on the distant horizon.

(And maybe he’ll be able to see if there are any familiar seals returning to the cove.)

After a moment, Viktor turns back towards the door to return into the tower. However, he does it just as the lantern flashes in his face, temporarily blinding him. Blinking bright spots out of his eyes, Viktor stumbles towards the door only to find his pathway suddenly blocked by a too-familiar figure.

It’s the young man from the rink, the one who looks eerily like Yuuri. But there’s something wrong in the gleam of his eyes, in the pallor of his skin, the curve of his lips. He looks like some other creature wearing a Yuuri-skin, and it sends a shiver coursing through Viktor’s body that has nothing to do with the frigid temperature outside.

“What do you want from me?” he asks this not-Yuuri, watching the slide of the seaweed cascade over the creature’s bony shoulders. It tilts its head curiously and steps forward, and Viktor backs up towards the railing of the deck, fingers scrabbling at cast iron. His feet have gone numb; he wants nothing more than the chance to return to the warmth of the tower.

“You’re just a ghost,” breathes Viktor, his heart rabbit-quick in his chest as he inches to the side, away from the slowly advancing apparition. “You’re not him. You don’t exist.”

The creature moves towards him again, its movements slow and jerky like a marionette’s. Viktor’s the farthest thing from religious, but he crosses himself just to be safe.

Undeterred, the figure continues to advance. Thunder rolls, louder and louder. The light of the lantern flashes. With each burst of darkness and light, it moves closer towards Viktor, until all that fills his ears is the pounding of his pulse and the shakiness of his breath.

It’s now or never. Viktor dives past the creature in a sudden burst of adrenaline. It whirls around, just as Viktor rushes through the door back into the tower and slams it, locking it for good measure before leaning heavily against the freezing metal. He removes his bedraggled socks, and exhales.

Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. Four knocks upon the door. Viktor clamps a hand to his mouth, biting down the urge to shriek in fear. His blood feels about as cold as the ice outside. His knees feel about as sturdy as a house of cards, and he lurches a little at his next step.

There’s a sudden crack of thunder. The sound of pounding footsteps. A sudden flash, and all of the lights in the tower — save the lantern — go out.

Viktor breathes heavily for one… two…

Boom. Viktor’s hands fly to his ears, trying to block out the noise. Boom. The knocks echo in Viktor’s chest and pound at his heart. Boom. He prays wildly that the door holds, as whatever is outside is knocking loud enough to cause the door to quake. Boom.

He feels rather than hears the thump of footsteps against the staircase. Looking up, he sees Nikolai Plisetsky looming out of the darkness of the stairwell with a torch in his hands, the light beam wavering in his shaky grasp. Viktor stumbles towards him, his hands still clutching at his ears. Nikolai wraps an arm around his shoulders and hurries him back down the stairs.

“What was that?” Viktor demands as soon as they’ve put both landings between them and the creature. They stand now on the ground floor of the tower, Nikolai leaning against the banister to catch his breath while Viktor paces in a small circle with gritted teeth.

The silence stretches between them for a moment before Nikolai straightens and directs the flashlight towards him, fixing him with a steely look. Viktor winces a little from both glares.

“What did you hear?” Nikolai asks, his voice quiet.

“Knocking,” says Viktor, swallowing and looking back up to the brief flickers of light from the lantern visible through the windows. “In fours.”

Nikolai hums. The darkness of the tower stretches all around them, punctuated only by the flickering of the flashlight.

“I told you not to go too far,” the old man says after a moment.

“I was just out on the deck,” says Viktor, a little defensive. “I didn’t expect to run into — into whatever that was.”

“What did it look like?” asks Nikolai.

Viktor grimaces. “It looked a little like Yuuri, but not really, and it was covered in seaweed and it moved like a zombie.”

Nikolai’s eyes widen slightly. “Yurochka mentioned that you’d seen it before. How many times?”

“Twice,” says Viktor. “Once at the skating rink, once when I was talking to Yuri.” He pauses, and adds, “But I also saw it in a dream.”

Nikolai nods. “I will give you something to help you rest tonight,” he says. “And I must ask you to stay here until New Year’s, because once you return to your cottage I cannot help you. You have angered the sea with your actions; she is a proud mother, and she does not like being taken lightly by the likes of you and me.”

Viktor’s breath hitches. “You —” he begins, but Nikolai is already heading towards the door back into the main house, and Viktor can only scramble to follow suit.

The main house is just as dark as the tower — clearly the storm has caused a power cut of some sort. Yuri and Mila are in the living room, reading by the light from the fireplace. Yuri’s cat is curled up in Yuri’s lap, batting at the pages as the blond turns them. Viktor only has a moment to appreciate the sight before he notices Nikolai struggling to light a set of candles in the kitchen, and goes over to help.

He lights the candles for Nikolai, casting the kitchen in soft shades of reds and oranges. Immediately Nikolai begins rummaging through the cupboards, poking around for something. “Mind boiling the water for me?” he asks.

Viktor nods. “Sure,” he adds, just in case Nikolai didn’t see him, and grabs an old-fashioned kettle from one of the cupboards as well. He turns on the stove — the gas still seems to be working — and sets the kettle on it. As the water starts to heat, Viktor watches Nikolai take down various jars and hold their labels up to the light to divine their contents.

“Do you need any help with that?” he asks. Nikolai grunts and shakes his head as he opens a couple of the jars and puts little scoops of their contents into a small muslin drawstring bag. He then fills a strainer ball with a scoop of yet another herb, and places it into a mug.

“Been a while since we had to make tea the old-fashioned way,” he remarks after a moment.

Viktor nods. “Yeah. I forgot how long it takes for water to boil.”

Nikolai chuckles. There’s the scuffle of doggy paws against the floor, and moments later Makkachin wanders into the kitchen, tail wagging when he sees Viktor. He pounces — Viktor braces against the counter — and Makkachin rests his paws on Viktor’s shoulders to better lick his face.

“Silly Makka,” chides Viktor as he rubs at his dog’s fur. “Did you miss me?”

“How long have you had him?” asks Nikolai.

“Got him as a puppy when I was twelve,” replies Viktor.

Nikolai raises an eyebrow. Viktor smushes Makkachin’s cheeks, laughing quietly. Makkachin tears away from that to go sniff curiously at Nikolai, who pets him briefly before returning his attentions to the jars of herbs.

The water suddenly boils with a shriek, and Nikolai immediately crosses the kitchen to take the kettle off the stove. After filling the mug, he then steeps the herbs in it for a moment before passing it to Viktor.

“Drink,” he commands, and Viktor does. The hot water burns his tongue a little, but he tastes a bit of lemon zest in it. He takes a slightly larger sip, wincing at the pain of the burn on his tongue.

“What is this?” he asks.

“Vervain,” says Nikolai, before he hands the muslin bag to Viktor as well. “Put this under your pillow before you go to bed.”

Viktor sniffs it. There’s hints of anise, rosemary, and other woodsy things that he can’t quite name. “What’s this for?”

“Your dreams,” replies Nikolai. “Unless you want to dream of the omen again?”

“That was an omen?” asks Viktor, frowning.

Nikolai nods. “It is a sign of what will come if you do not seek forgiveness from the sea,” he says, his expression grave.

“You mean…” Viktor’s frown deepens, and he tries to gather his thoughts a moment longer by sipping the tea, “you mean Yuuri’s going to die if I don’t?”

Nikolai shrugs. “Only you can see that omen,” he says. “How you choose to interpret it is entirely up to you.”

It suddenly becomes strangely impossible to swallow down the lump in his throat. Viktor wipes absently at his eyes, massages at his temples. He sets down his mug and the muslin bag, and leans heavily against the counter.

“What do I have to do?” he asks.

Nikolai sighs. In the candlelight, Viktor is struck by how old the man really looks. The ruddy glow of the tiny flames only seems to throw the lines of his face into sharper contrast.

“There is no one way to beg forgiveness from a selkie,” he begins, “but perhaps I could tell you about my wife and son.”

Viktor nods, and follows the old man as he takes one of the candles and leads him upstairs into a room filled with maps and books. Makkachin follows, nosing curiously at an atlas before clambering onto the sofa and curling up. Viktor takes a seat by his dog, the mug of tea warming his lap. The room is cold and dark, but Nikolai uses his candle to light another set of candles already sitting on the coffee table in front of the couch, and then takes a seat in the adjacent armchair.

“This town has had a long relationship with the Fair Folk and the sea,” Nikolai begins, as Viktor watches the interplay of lights and shadow across the spines of the books on the shelves. “As you might know, my grandfather came here in the 1920s because the hauntings at this lighthouse had made maintenance of the lantern almost impossible. He stayed on as keeper after realising that the entire town had a rich history of supernatural encounters.”

Viktor sips at his tea, patiently waiting as Nikolai pauses and looks up towards the books, as if trying to reorganise his thoughts. There’s a roll of thunder, a flash of lightning. Makkachin whines, and Viktor pats him to calm him down.

After a moment, Nikolai continues, “It was my grandfather who compiled the accounts of many local ghost encounters, and who inspired me to write the book on the ghosts of Torvill Cove. One of those ghosts is the Grey Maiden, who went to her watery grave after her selkie lover abandoned her to the waves. That story has been around for centuries, so the town’s had encounters with selkies long before you and I met ours.”

“So your wife was a selkie,” states Viktor, cutting to the chase. Not that he’s not interested in the town’s history with the supernatural — he just wants to know what Nikolai had done.

“Her name was Maryara,” replies Nikolai, “and she had hair like sunshine and eyes like the sea. I see much of her in Yurochka every day.”

“Did you hide her sealskin?” asks Viktor.

Nikolai nods, his expression lined with regret. “She had been bathing at the cove at Lovers’ Point with her sisters, their skins discarded on the sand. I took hers. The others fled, but she could not. I kept the skin, and asked her to come home with me. We were married in a month.”

“What about the sea-longing?” asks Viktor, frowning. “How long did she last?”

“Years,” says Nikolai. “Long enough to bear a son. I hid the skin carefully. Always kept the key to its hiding spot on my person. But one Midsummer I had too much to drink, and she slipped the key from around my neck, unlocked my safe, took the skin, and fled. My son, who had been born as silent as his mother, was never quite the same after that.”

“But he was only half-selkie,” Viktor points out. “Could he, you know, change?”

Nikolai shakes his head. “He grew up, he met someone, he had Yurochka. But I think his heart had been claimed by his mother, and by the sea. He was always rowing out to the middle of the harbour, watching the seals. There was nothing I could do for him.”

Viktor frowns. “What about the omen?” he asks. “What did you see for yours? Did you ever get rid of it?”

“I warded the lighthouse the morning after I first dreamt of my son being reclaimed by the sea,” replies Nikolai. “I reckoned that as long as he lived here, he would be safe.” He pauses, and Viktor’s breath hitches as he notices the watery gleam in the old man’s eyes. “Yurochka was only two when my son took his boat out to sea and never returned.”

“Did he —” begins Viktor, but Nikolai shrugs.

“I do not know. Perhaps it is like the story of young Lir Torvill, who was claimed by the sea and — according to some accounts — turned into a seal. All I know is that after he vanished, the omen stopped appearing in my dreams and hounding me every time I set foot outside the lighthouse.”

“Seems like an unfair custody battle,” quips Viktor. Nikolai laughs shortly at it. “So you think the selkie sends the omen?” he asks.

Nikolai hums. “Perhaps, perhaps not. I had always thought it was the sea, acting on their behalf. The other stories do not talk of omens, so they are of no help: sometimes the hapless fishermen who marry selkies are seen wandering the coast in fruitless search for their love; sometimes the selkie returns but never changes into human form again. Each selkie grants and denies forgiveness differently; Maryara was only satisfied when our son joined her. I do not know what Yuuri wants from you.”

Whatever it is, Viktor knows he is willing to do it. “It was a mistake. I didn’t mean to take his skin,” he says, finishing the now lukewarm tea in his mug and playing with the handle. “But why then is the omen showing Yuuri? You said yourself your omen was of your son, so if the selkie sent it with the intention of demanding something, then why would Yuuri show me himself?”

Nikolai shakes his head. “That is for you to figure out, Viktor,” he says, before rising to his feet. “It is getting late. They will have the power back in the morning, if the storm abates. But I want you to stay here until the New Year; the wards on this lighthouse will protect you until then.”

“You think it’s that serious?” asks Viktor as Nikolai begins heading back down the stairs, ostensibly to call Yuri and Mila upstairs.

Nikolai pauses, one foot on the last step. “If there’s one thing I have learnt about the Fair Folk in my time here in Torvill Cove, it is that even the most scientific and sceptical of the locals still would not cross a ring of mushrooms if they can avoid it. The Good Neighbours are not to be trifled with.”

Viktor swallows, padding towards the kitchen with that weighing on his heart. As Nikolai herds Mila and Yuri upstairs for bed, Viktor takes the bag of herbs from the kitchen counter, looking down at where Makkachin sits, wagging his tail expectantly.

“We’re going to bed,” Viktor says as he leads his dog back into his room. The fire here has died into embers; Viktor fans it back up and adds some more kindling. Finally, he clambers into bed with Makkachin curled up next to him, and stares for a long moment at the ceiling, listening to the howling of the wind and snow, and the tinkling of silver bells somewhere up above.

He then slides the bag of herbs under his pillow, closes his eyes, and tries to summon sleep.

5 Jul 2016

on love, eros: every time i kiss him i find i hunger for more. i crave the caress of his fingers, the heat of his lips. every part of my body that he touches tingles long after he is gone.

i want to lie in his arms until i cannot smell the differences between our bodies anymore. i want to be filled with him in every way i can, so full that my heart bursts with joy every time our eyes meet. i want to crawl inside his skin and make it my own, inhabit his soul so completely that there is no room for anything or anyone else.

what terrifies me is that this is not just a mere fancy or whim; it is a bone-deep need that fills me from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. every atom of my body screams for him.

is it possible to die from longing?

After that first night, the subsequent nights leading up to Viktor’s birthday are downright boring. The storm does abate by the morning of the twenty-second, and the power is restored, but the roads are not fully cleared until the twenty-third. Several volunteers, including Georgi, Seung-gil, and Christophe, are tasked with clearing the walkways and pedestrian routes in town. Naturally, they end up at the lighthouse in the afternoon, and Nikolai sends Yuri and Mila out to greet them with hot cocoa and mulled wine.

The volunteers all pile into the main house to warm up by the fire with their drinks, and Viktor watches from the doorway as Makkachin goes to each of them to demand attention. Christophe raises an eyebrow at him from across the living room; Viktor says nothing in response, only looks away.

He tries to busy himself in the kitchen; he’d helped Mila with a batch of gingerbread biscuits earlier in the day and now he’s carefully icing them, decorating the little people and snowflakes with little dots and lines of icing. He can hear her laughing in the living room at something one of the other volunteers says; at this rate, he’ll have decorated all the biscuits before she gets back.

“…odd to see Viktor at your house without Yuuri Katsuki around?” Christophe suddenly asks, and Viktor’s hand goes still on the piping bag. “Did they have a fight?”

“I’m not sure, honestly,” says Mila. “He wouldn’t say anything.”

“Because it’s none of your business, Baba,” snaps Yuri. “Why do you care about Dogbreath and Piglet so much anyway?”

“Now that you mention it, Katsuki hasn’t been seen in town since October,” remarks a volunteer whose voice Viktor doesn’t recognise. “He was looking pretty despondent then. Think something happened?”

“Have you asked up at Yu-Topia?” wonders another volunteer. “Katsuki’s family must know what’s happened to him.”

“Minako said when she went to give him his birthday present last month Mari took her parcel and said she’d give it to him when he comes back,” says Christophe.

“Back from where?” someone asks.

“I’m not sure. I’m just surprised he left Viktor behind. They seemed inseparable when they were together.”

Viktor feels a weird wetness on his hands, and realises that they’re tears. He wipes at his eyes, sets down the icing bag, and leans heavily against the counter. The sounds from the living room blur into noise, drowned out by the pained throbbing of his own heart.

That night, as he lies awake in bed with Makkachin at his feet and the tinkling of the bells in his ears, he mulls over Nikolai’s words to him from the first night.

There is no one way to beg forgiveness of a selkie.

“What do I have to do?” Viktor asks the room, digging the heels of his hands into his eyes. “How do I prove to you how sorry I am?”

The days continue to ebb and flow like the tides, Viktor following dazedly in their wake. Before he knows it, it’s the twenty-fourth, and Yuri and Nikolai are nowhere to be found on that morning because they are taking the two-hour drive up to Inverness.

Otabek Altin appears in the house shortly before sundown, bundled in layers of flannel and leather and wearing a scarf that Yuri keeps batting at like a cat. Yuri has apparently set up a cot in his room for him, but Viktor is fairly certain that that cot is only going to see Otabek’s duffle bag on it for the duration of his stay.

“So, Vitya,” says Mila over dinner that night. “I’ve invited over everyone in the group chat who’s here for the holidays for your birthday tomorrow.”

Viktor says nothing for a moment. Nikolai’s pirozhki are too good and must be savoured in silence. When he finally swallows, he sets his down and smiles at her. “That sounds good,” he says. “Who’s coming?”

“Christophe and Georgi seem interested,” replies Mila, pulling out her phone and scrolling through it. “Sara, too, and she says Mickey will probably tag along, and Emil’s back from Prague so he’ll probably come by, too.”

Viktor raises an eyebrow. “What about Leo and Guang-Hong? Or Phichit?”

“Phichit went home to Bangkok after finals,” says Mila. “He liveblogged his entire flight on the group chat; how did you miss it?”

Viktor laughs. “I muted the notifications,” he explains.

“I keep meaning to, but then I don’t,” Mila sighs. “Anyway, Leo went back to California to visit family, and took Guang-Hong with him. So they’re not in town, either.”

“Still, that’s more people than last year,” Viktor jokes. “Last year it was just me and a bottle of vodka and all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls on Netflix.”

“God, that’s pathetic,” sneers Yuri.

“That’s what happens when you’re too busy writing to make friends,” retorts Viktor. “You look up one day and realise that you’ve turned twenty-seven and you’re not comfortable enough with anyone in your life at that moment to celebrate it with them. And then all you get for your birthday that year is writer’s block. And socks from Mama.”

“Sounds like a personal experience,” remarks Otabek wryly. Viktor chuckles.

His birthday last year hadn’t been too pathetic; he’d had a long call with his mother thanking her for the socks, and then Yakov had taken him to dinner (at a Chinese restaurant, since they were the only ones open on Christmas). But then Yakov spent the entire night complaining about his ex-wife, and Viktor had had to drag his own agent out of the bottom of a bottle of wine and hail him a cab home. He himself had at least waited until he was back in his flat to start the drinking and the Gilmore Girls marathon.

Objectively, it was not the worst birthday. But this year at least sounds like it could be shaping up to be better. Though, of course, it’s one selkie short of being the best.

The next morning is full of cooking and baking, all of which Viktor has been strictly barred from on account of being the birthday boy. So he plays with Makkachin out in the snow, always keeping an eye out for dark-haired figures covered in seaweed. But none appear.

The guests start arriving around six, when the night has already cloaked the town and the moon is shining bright onto the snow. The house is warm and cosy; its light spills out of the windows onto the snowy landscape outside. In the living room, the fairy lights on the Christmas tree blink merrily, and presents spill out from under its lowest branches.

Sara and Mickey are the first to show up, bearing bottles of berry wine and mead. Mila takes them from Sara with a kiss before heading to the kitchen to set them down on the counter. It is joined minutes later with a bottle of Becherovka from Emil, a carton of (probably spiked) eggnog from Christophe, and a box of liqueur-filled chocolates from Georgi.

“I’m sensing a theme here,” says Viktor, looking at the ever-growing pile of alcohol in the kitchen. Mila laughs.

“I did tell them to provide the drinks so we can focus on food instead,” she says. “Georgi just got creative.”

Viktor hums. “Are you sure you don’t need my help with the food?” he asks.

Mila clucks her tongue at him. “I’ve got Yurochka and everyone else on it!” She swats his hand away from a platter full of mince-pies. “Don’t even think about it!”

Viktor sighs, and turns to pour himself a glass of eggnog. Sure enough, it’s been spiked with rum. He pours himself some more.

The alcohol loosens him up a little, warms his stomach, makes his head swim pleasantly. The loud Christmas carols playing in the living room are less grating in this state, and everything seems just a little bit funnier than before. Of course, he would’ve laughed and smiled even if he’d been sober — years of pretending to smile at family parties has certainly prepared him to do so — but everything just seems a bit less daunting without his brain trying to second-guess who knows about Yuuri’s secret and who doesn’t.

“How’s Prague?” he asks Emil as they sit side-by-side on the couch in the living room, watching the flickering of the fire in the hearth. Mila has brought out the mince-pies, as well as some leftover pirozhki and the gingerbread biscuits from a couple days ago. The smell of more food being made wafts in from the kitchen, followed by sounds of Michele and Yuri bickering over the exact amount of garlic that should go into something.

Emil chuckles a little as he accepts a cup of eggnog from Georgi. “Busy,” he says. “A little cold, too, but not nearly as bad as here.”

“Your father’s running things at the store, right?” asks Viktor, as Georgi insinuates himself onto the couch on his other side, idly scrolling through his phone. “He said you’d gone for university but he didn’t say which one.”

Emil chuckles. “Ah, it’s Charles University,” he says.

“What’re you studying?”

“Finance. Hoping to run the shop properly in the future, you know.”

“So you’re not staying in Prague after you graduate?”

Emil laughs. “I just started!” he protests. But his gaze then slides over to a gilded mirror, where Michele Crispino can be seen bustling about the kitchen in it, and his expression visibly softens. Viktor suddenly finds his eggnog quite fascinating.

Emil coughs, a little uncomfortably. “How are you, though?” he asks. Viktor shrugs, taking a sip of his eggnog and looking over at the framed photographs on the walls. Maryara Plisetsky’s soft, sad smile peeks out from the corners of family portraits.

“I could be better,” says Viktor.

He can almost sense Emil nodding thoughtfully next to him. The Czech man seems lost for words, or at least trying to find ways to ask about his well-being without bringing up certain dark-haired selkies along the way. Viktor’s about to try and change the topic, but Georgi beats him to the punch by holding up his phone, showing them both a photograph of a dark-haired woman kissing a man on the cheek.

“Look at her,” Georgi complains. “It’s like I don’t exist.”

Emil looks down and then back up at him. “She lives in Russia,” he points out. “She’s probably just forgotten about you.”

“But I haven’t forgotten about her!” Georgi viciously turns off his screen and scrubs at his face. “Even now, I can still hear her heartbeat next to mine.”

“Man,” chortles Emil. “Maybe you need to let her go.”

“I can never be free of her!” Georgi moans, leaning on his elbows with his chin on his hands. “She’s in my veins, like vodka!”

“You do eventually metabolise vodka, though,” Viktor points out, although his pulse races a little faster with each impassioned declaration from the man next to him. Georgi’s pain is a phantom ache in his own heart.

He reaches out and pats Georgi’s back. Georgi makes a noise akin to that of a tyre being deflated, and reaches for his phone again. And Viktor thought he was masochistic.

Christophe chooses that moment to enter the living room with a gingerbread biscuit in his mouth and another in his hand, taking a seat in the armchair opposite them. Viktor nods at the Swiss man, who nods back, taking out his mobile and scrolling idly through it.

“Phichit’s updated his Insta,” he says by way of greeting, holding up a photo of Phichit at the centre of a selfie with some family members. “He seems to be having a nice Christmas.”

“We should take photos of this party,” suggests Emil.

Christophe snorts. “What, and trigger his FOMO? That’s cold.”

“Well, he could have stayed here in Torvill with us,” replies Emil, shrugging. “His loss?”

Viktor’s more glad than anything that Phichit’s not here. He’s not sure if he would have been able to survive Phichit’s probably inevitable interrogation regarding Yuuri’s whereabouts without caving and informing everyone about the existence of selkies. And that would only make things worse.

Dinner is served moments later, consisting of borscht, pierogies, and roasted pork as well as mince pies and trifle. Viktor eats until he can’t, and collapses back onto the couch in time for Mila and Sara to bring out the cake and for Yuri to begin (gleefully) tugging his ears. Everyone sings Happy Birthday to him, and he blows out the candles, and begins to unwrap the presents that Mila bring to him from the tree.

He hadn’t anticipated getting presents at all, if he’s being honest. But then again, he’d also anticipated no one willing to celebrate his birthday with him on account of Yuuri. Yuuri was so much more rooted in this community than he, so much more beloved by the town than he; it’s a miracle they haven’t chased Viktor out of town already on mere suspicion.

He unwraps Christophe’s present, and snorts when he sees that the Swiss man has gotten him a pair of black pants with rhinestone quills on them. “Tasteful,” he remarks, dangling it from his finger. Christophe’s smirk is nothing short of lascivious.

As he moves onto the next package, he vaguely wonders what Yuuri would have gotten for him, had things worked out better between them. He hadn’t thought too hard about what he would have gotten Yuuri — he had spent most of November trying not to think too hard about Yuuri — but as he uncovers a lovely notebook with a pair of figure skates embossed in gold on the cover, he can’t help but think about the mess of journals Yuuri had left behind.

He gets more things, though. Yuri gets him a plushie of a poodle that looks just like Makkachin (Viktor takes a picture of both of them side-by-side and uploads it to Instagram), Georgi gets him a pair of tickets to be redeemed at the Corner Cinema, and Otabek gets him a wooden fountain pen carved with his initials. After he thanks everyone for their presents, Nikolai then hands him a brown paper package, and tells him to open it later.

Later comes, eventually, with everyone else piling out to head back home in the wintry night, singing loudly and clinging onto one another. Viktor watches them from the doorway with Mila, Yuri, and Otabek, Nikolai having gone to bed hours before. The grandfather clock in the hallway strikes midnight.

“Well,” says Yuri, yawning widely and stretching. “I’m going to bed now. Come on, Beka.”

“You should help clear the cups,” Mila grumbles.

“In the morning,” protests Yuri, already leaning up against Otabek, who seems to be swaying slightly on his feet. “Bed now. Happy birthday, Viktor.”

“So you do know what my name is,” Viktor chirps.

“Shut up, Dogbreath,” retorts Yuri, turning and leading Otabek by the hand up the stairs. Mila smiles at Viktor, hugs him briefly, and follows them.

“Happy birthday,” she adds, at the staircase.

“Happy Christmas,” Viktor responds.

Mila laughs. “This house doesn’t celebrate Christmas until January,” she points out.

“Could’ve fooled me,” replies Viktor, grinning. “Thanks for the party.”

Mila smiles and nods, and disappears up the stairs. Viktor collects his presents, including the brown paper package, and heads into his room.

Makkachin, who had spent the party nosing at the leftovers and being petted by Georgi, is now curled up at the foot of his bed. Viktor lights a fire in the hearth to warm up the room a bit, and settles down on the armchair to open the package.

It’s a black notebook, with a note attached written on stationery from Yu-Topia. Viktor feels a lump rise in his throat as he reads the note. With a sigh, he puts the package aside with his other presents, and clambers into bed. The flames in the hearth, wavering and dancing like lovers beneath a Midsummer moon, are the last things he sees before sleep claims him.

3 Jul 2016

reasons why i am sure i am dreaming: viktor nikiforov kissed me on the ferris wheel. not once, which could have been a shock response to my stupid move, not twice, which could have been an accident or a joke, but eighteen times, and i counted every last one of them.

The remaining days until the New Year pass in a flurry. It is apparently Scottish tradition to begin cleaning the house in preparation of the New Year, and the lighthouse is no exception. Viktor is roped into helping out with the cleaning, from beating rugs to mopping floors and unclogging various drains around the house. On these days, he pretty much flops into bed right after dinner, too tired to even dream. And not dreaming is perfectly fine with him.

They finish cleaning out the lighthouse tower the night before New Year’s Eve, but that night, Viktor dreams once more. He dreams of the bright full moonlight shining in the eyes of his selkie lover, and how he feels in Viktor’s arms as they twirl along the beach. There are blue roses in Yuuri’s hair, and Viktor’s body tingles in all the places where Yuuri’s fingers touch.

But as they come in closer to one another, Yuuri’s lips mere breaths away from his own, a strong and brisk sea-breeze begins to blow, whipping at their hair and clothes. Slowly it peels away the thin veneer of health from Yuuri’s face, revealing the twisted grimace of the omen below. Viktor’s heart stutters at the sight; his blood freezes.

Then the tide rises farther along the shore, its waves coming forth inexorably like a tsunami, knocking Viktor off his feet. The omen watches him almost curiously, blue roses curling into rotting seaweed, moonlight glinting off its sharp teeth as it moves closer and closer to him. Viktor struggles against the current, but it bears him with alarming alacrity towards the omen, whose jaw seems to be distending, opening wide as if it will swallow him whole —

Viktor jolts awake. He looks at his mobile. It is New Year’s Eve. Slowly, he removes the muslin bag from under his pillow, and smells gingerly at the herbs.

He places it back, curls up to Makkachin, and listens to the tinkling of the bells and the crashing of the waves on the rocks below the point until he falls back asleep.

The morning comes too soon for his liking, though it announces itself with the smell of baking coming from the kitchen. Viktor lies in bed a moment longer, watching Makkachin perk his nose at the scents in his sleep, and listening to the sound of the telly playing a New Year’s Eve special for a show called “Saturday Kitchen”.

“…first-footing two houses, so he’ll be needing some black bun too…”

Viktor groans quietly to himself. First-footing. He remembers a similar thing happening in Manchester, though to a significantly less extreme degree. He’d never really bought into it, though, which could explain the loneliness. 

He’ll have to get someone to walk into his cottage on the New Year, even if he hasn’t been living in it for a week. Once the roads had cleared out, he’d only gone back there once for more clothes. The cottage had felt strangely melancholy in its airy whiteness, pieces of Yuuri’s existence still scattered in its rooms like little boats at sea.

The day passes lazily in comparison to the previous couple of days. Viktor spends most of the morning in bed, watching Yuri and Otabek play in the snow out in the yard. He also goes for a walk in the early afternoon, accompanied by Makkachin, and returns to the sound of cursing from the living room as Yuri and Otabek play a vicious round of Mario Kart. Whatever had been baking in the morning has long since cooled on the counter now — Viktor sees that it is a loaf of pastry vaguely in the shape of a brick, and Nikolai is wrapping up a basket full of coal, shortbread, and whiskey.

“What’s that?” asks Viktor, gesturing to the basket.

“Gifts,” says Nikolai. “Otabek was asked to be the first foot with the Crispinos and the Nekolas.”

“Oh,” says Viktor. “Any chance I could get him to stop by my cottage on the way back?” Superstition or not, he’s going to need all the luck he can get this upcoming year. 

“Ask him,” suggests Nikolai. “I am sure he won’t mind.”

Otabek agrees willingly enough, considering that he’s already slated to go to two other houses that day. With that settled, Viktor returns to his room to cuddle with Makkachin and type up a greeting for Yakov.

Night comes soon enough, and with it the town comes alive for Hogmanay. It’s another night of feasting and carousing out on the boardwalk, in the presence of yet another bonfire on the beach and more than enough mulled wine and champagne to go around. The crowd gathered at the boardwalk is sizeable and rowdy, but it’s also missing a great number of people. Phichit’s absence in particular seems particularly strange.

Around eleven, Christophe comes by and presses a candle into Viktor’s hand. “It’s for the candle walk,” he explains.

“I don’t remember this being on the Wikipedia page for Torvill Cove,” retorts Viktor.

“It’s a secret tradition,” replies Christophe with a wink. He holds up a lighter and helps light the wick. “Careful not to let it go out before midnight,” he warns.

“Why?” asks Viktor.

“Because then you don’t get a wish,” replies Christophe. “At eleven-fifty everyone starts heading out into the water. You go out as far as you can and make a wish, and at midnight you blow out the candle. If your flame goes out before then, you’ll have bad luck the next year.”

“That’s stressful,” Viktor remarks.

“That’s why most people don’t get out very far into the water,” replies Christophe, and moves on with his basket full of candles.

Sure enough, as midnight starts drawing closer, people start heading out into the water. Viktor watches some of the younger people head out past the waves, bobbing up and down with their candles held up out of the reach of the water. He leaves his shoes at the boardwalk like everyone else and heads out across the sand.

The snow-covered sand feels strange beneath his bare feet, and the icy waves only make it worse. He stands at first with most of the community at the very edge of the water’s reach, his flame flickering dim against the vast blackness of night. All around him are similar dots of red, held in the hands of other people, other stories.

He presses on into the waves. How far out would Yuuri go when he last did this tradition? Would he be out there beyond the whitewater like those brave (foolhardy) kids? Would he be closer to shore? The icy water shocks Viktor’s skin as he heads into the whitewater, letting the waves soak the bottoms of his trousers. The salt spray causes his flame to dance, but he shields his candle before the spray puts it out.

Viktor looks out at the darkened horizon. A wish. He has no idea what to wish for. He didn’t wish for anything when he blew out the candles of his cake a couple days ago. He’s not sure what to wish for now. The wind ruffles; Viktor puts his hand in between his flame and the elements, shielding it.

Images resurface in his mind, unbidden, of Yuuri dancing with blue roses in his hair. He feels that strange prickling again, and nearly jumps out of skin when he turns to see the omen looking at him.

“Don’t come closer,” he warns. The omen tilts its head, but it doesn’t move closer. Viktor can see a crown of seaweed on its head, and its eyes are unfathomable.

He looks at the omen, looks and wonders and pretends that this creature has a warmer hue, a brighter smile, more lively eyes. He transforms it into the imaginary Yuuri he’d conjured up in his lonelier summer days, places this new skin upon the creature’s form, and prays.

“Yuuri,” he murmurs. “I’m sorry for all that I’ve done to you.”

People are laughing and shouting around him, their voices loud and merry. Viktor, on the other hand, bows his head and feels the heat of the candle against his fingers.

“I was wrong to have taken your sealskin,” he whispers, “to have forced you to choose sides in your identity. Whether or not I meant to at the time, whether or not I remembered doing it after, I was wrong.”

He looks down at the water swirling around his knees, and closes his eyes.

“So this is my wish, Yuuri,” he murmurs, letting himself feel the coldness of the water and air, letting himself smell the crispness of the salt spray, hear the sounds of people counting down. He can hear Hiroko’s voice in the crowd. Is she wishing for her son to return?


“I won’t ask you to come back. I won’t ask you to stay. I can’t even ask you to forgive me.”


“But I do want you to understand. So that is my wish.”


“Please, Yuuri. I have nothing left to hide from you. Nothing left to ask.”


“Please, just understand me.”


“Understand that I love you, and that I was terrified of losing you.”


“And above all, understand that I am letting you go.”


His candle-flame flickers, but it does not fade.


Viktor inhales, and for a brief, fantastic moment he looks to his side at where the omen should be, and only sees Yuuri, his eyes dancing in the light of the candle flame, with blue roses in his hair.


He blinks, and the image is gone.


At one, and as one, everyone blows out their candles and the beach goes dark. In this new darkness, Viktor feels someone taking his hand. He clings on, ignoring the numbness in his toes, and reaches out with his other hand for another one to hold.

Someone begins to sing, and one by one, everyone else joins in. It’s an old song, a familiar song. Viktor’s heard it many times, at many New Year’s Eve parties. But there’s nothing quite like hearing it on a beach in Scotland at midnight of the New Year, with a recently-extinguished candle in one hand and a strange flickering of hope in his heart.

He stumbles along verses he’s unused to singing, mumbles the words for others that he doesn’t quite know. But no one particularly cares; everyone else is singing the song as best as they can. Slowly, haltingly, they reach the final verse, and they cross their arms.

For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne.

We’ll take a cup of kindness yet for auld lang syne.

As the song ends, and with their arms still crossed, everyone rushes closer towards one another and the sea. And despite the coldness of everything around him, Viktor feels nothing but warmth.

24 Jun 2016

places where i might have left my sealskin: the little beach, in the old crevasse that sometimes is filled with crabs. the secret cove at the base of lover’s point, beneath the rocks that cut at the waves crashing into its sharp points. below the outside deck of yu-topia, but not during tourist season lest some kid find it. under the ropes in yuuko’s boat, where it tends to end up anyway if she comes across it anywhere.

places where i might have left my heart: with viktor nikiforov, who took my secret surprisingly in stride and then asked me to dinner. pinch me; i must be dreaming.

He’s being smothered by smoke.

The fire burns at him, choking the air out of his lungs. Viktor’s heart races; he desperately gasps for air and inhales nothing but smoke. The entire room feels like an inferno. He’s not sure if he’s having a nightmare or if he’s actually about to die.

His eyes fly open, though he quickly has to close them again due to the stinging sensation of the smoke in his eyes. But when he opens them again, he finds himself sitting in a musty living room, the smell of juniper heavy in the smoke-filled air.

“This is the worst part of New Year’s,” grumbles Yuri from across the table at him. Viktor raises an enquiring eyebrow, but only gets a bout of coughing for his troubles.

“From what I understand, your grandfather’s doing this to bless the house,” remarks Otabek from next to him. He looks relatively chipper for having spent most of his first hours after midnight being the first person to step over not one, not two, but fifteen different houses’ thresholds and offer gifts for prosperity in the New Year. Of course, he had also been richly rewarded in return with alcohol and money, and so had returned to the lighthouse a rather rich and drunken man.

(He had also been the first person over the threshold at the lighthouse, too. And Viktor had made sure he stopped by to first-foot Viktor’s cottage on the way back.)

“Bless the house, sure, but at what cost?” grumbles Yuri, and sneezes.

“I read somewhere that this custom is supposed to be the namesake for Hogmanay,” says Viktor placidly, as the smoke continues to engulf them. Rubbing his eyes is probably a bad idea, but that doesn’t discount just how much he wants to do it. So he sits on his hands to avoid the temptation.

“I would rather be doing the old village custom instead,” Yuri snips. “You know, dress up as a cow and have other people chase you around town with sticks. I would rather be beaten up while dressed like a cow than deal with this smoke for another second.”

“Do they really do that?” asks Viktor, raising an eyebrow.

“Not so much anymore,” replies Yuri, shrugging. “I remember seeing it happen when I was a kid, though. When we were in P2, Tommy Muir told me that cats were for girls, so I hit him with a stick and said it was for New Year’s.”

Otabek snorts. “So you’ve always been this charming,” he says drily, and Yuri grins.

After what feels like an eternity, Nikolai finally returns to the living room with his burning juniper branch, and extinguishes it with a hearty puff of air. Mila emerges from the kitchens with a bottle of whiskey and several shot glasses, pouring some for everyone.

Yuri immediately takes his glass and runs to the nearest window, flinging it open and gulping down a large lungful of air before downing his shot of whiskey. Otabek helps him open up a couple more windows and doors, though Yuri’s the only one over-exaggerating the freshness of the air coming in through the windows. Mila snaps of picture of him breathing heavily out of every window until Yuri notices and yells at her to stop.

Viktor, in turn, takes his glass of whiskey and heads back to his room. He opens the windows first, and then the door, and takes a step outside into the cold winter morning.

The fresh air of the New Year hits him like a bolt out of the blue, and as he gasps it into his lungs, Viktor Nikiforov makes a decision.

4 Jun 2016

today i did not see viktor but i did visit my namesake again, and laid flowers on his grave.

i have known viktor for more than a month and i am still terrified to let him in. every minute we spend together is precious but borrowed and i can’t help but think he could be spending his time in better ways with better people. i want to help him write his next project in whatever way i can, but i also feel like i’m being an annoying burden hanging around him all the time. but he did reach out first so maybe i have some chance of being his friend? i would like a silly dedication to me in his next book. like maybe:

to yūri
for introducing me to his mother,
who makes the best katsudon in the world

that would be funny right?

To: Yakov Feltsman (
From: Viktor Nikiforov (
Stay Close to Me

Great title for my next poem anthology, right? But you wanted a novel, so here I am to tell you that yes, you’re getting a novel. Just imagine:

A retired Japanese figure skater escapes to the Highlands of Scotland and falls in love with a shapeshifting swan.

There’ll be skating on the loch! And bagpipes! And Hogmanay! And the skater isn’t going to realise the cute boy he meets at the Samhain festival is a swan until Midwinter!

It’ll be fun and a little experimental but definitely worth it!


ps: belated I know but I hope you had a happy Hanukkah!

To: Viktor Nikiforov (
From: Yakov Feltsman (
Re: Stay Close to Me


You really need to brush up on your pitching.


P.S. It was fine.

To: Yakov Feltsman (
From: Viktor Nikiforov (
Re: Re: Stay Close to Me

But you’d read it, right? Here’s an excerpt of what I have so far.


ps: no comments on how it went?


To: Viktor Nikiforov (
From: Yakov Feltsman (
Re: Re: Re: Stay Close to Me


It sounds like you’re really enthusiastic about this. I can’t fault you for that. And the excerpt is really quite nice. Your grasp of emotional prose has improved. It used to lack sincerity — you spun love stories that were less about love and more about story, and it’s nice to see the opposite coming from you for once.

Seems like you’re going back to your roots in poetry and being more honest with the reader, which is also nice. Though I don’t know if writing about something so clearly personal will be good for you.


P.S. Absolutely not.

To: Yakov Feltsman (
From: Viktor Nikiforov (
Re: Re: Re: Re: Stay Close to Me

I almost forgot you’re stalking my insta.


ps: really? that bad?

To: Viktor Nikiforov (
From: Yakov Feltsman (
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Stay Close to Me


When you don’t call me, I resort to other means of keeping tabs on you.

Anyway, I’m willing to give it a shot. How long will it take you to give me a manuscript?


P.S. All I can say is that someone had to call the fire department.

To: Yakov Feltsman (
From: Viktor Nikiforov (
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Stay Close to Me

Already working on it, will give it to you maybe March/April. You want it in an email or a physical copy?


ps: wow.

To: Viktor Nikiforov (
From: Yakov Feltsman (
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Stay Close to Me


You know my old eyes can’t handle these newfangled screens. Email it to me and I’ll have one of my interns print it.


P.S. Wow is correct. Also, for future reference: never let a kid light a menorah with a blowtorch.

10 May 2016

viktor nikiforov is an idiot. he should have worn a life vest when he went out to the middle of the bay to write, of all things, because of course he would get caught in a storm, and of course i’m not going to let him die without knowing what his next book will be about so i had to save him.

my face still tingles from where his hand touched my cheek.

Viktor cleans out the cottage in the first couple of days that he’s back in it. He scrubs down the countertops, regrouts the bathroom tile, reorganises his belongings. He even makes sure his convertible’s covered properly, though he hasn’t really driven in it since the summer.

The reorganising is, of course, a way for him to separate out his and Yuuri’s belongings, and pack the latter back into the boxes that they’d arrived in. He puts these boxes and suitcases into the hall closet, to be fetched at a later time and sent back to Yu-Topia. It’s not that he’s kicking Yuuri out; it’s that he needs to let him go and move on with the possibility that he may never come back.

So in a way, it is kicking him out. But Viktor knows he’d unpack those boxes again if Yuuri showed up and asked him to. He’s just no longer expecting that to happen.

Still, his bed is too large, even with Makkachin in it. His table is too long. His cottage is too empty. Had it always been like this? Is it really possible for someone to have so stretched his concepts of space that their absence skews everything larger than it should?

But once his cottage is cleaned out, once every trace of Yuuri has been folded into boxes and tucked away behind closet doors, Viktor can sit down at his (too long) kitchen table and start to connect his poems and thoughts into a coherent narrative for his manuscript.

Not everything should be the same, of course. Identities are changed. Locations are renamed. Neither the skater nor the swan have names — they are I and You, respectively; Hasetsu, Japan and Aviemore, Scotland. Tiny little stations barely stopped at on their train lines, quiet tourist towns connecting in the most unexpected of ways.

I trace the curve of your spine, the line of your neck. Your body is a ballet; loving you is a pas de deux.

He hasn’t felt this liberated since the first poems he penned for On the Geometry of Snowflakes. And maybe that says a lot.

7 May 2016

i need to feel the sea i cannot go to the meet and greet my stomach is crawling out of my throat my heart feels like it is trying to escape my ribcage i cannot go i have to be in the sea

In late January, the students begin to return in anticipation of the new semester. Some new students arrive, too, mostly from study abroad programmes. Viktor runs into a girl who says she’s from the University of Hartford, and is glad he doesn’t recognise her from his research trips to the campus’s various fraternities.

Guang-Hong, Leo, and Phichit are also part of the returning crowd, though that also makes Emil one of the departing crowd as he flies back to Prague for the new semester. Otabek, too, has to return to Almaty almost the day after Hogmanay celebrations properly end, a week after New Year’s. According to Mila, Yuri had not been particularly happy about that, but he also had to deal with school starting, so he had at least understood.

“How was California?” Viktor asks Guang-Hong one afternoon as he browses through the new arrivals in the bookshop. With Valentine’s Day looming in the distance, the bookstore is replete with gifts in shades of red, white, and pink, and romance novels occupy a large portion of the new arrivals.

“It was a lot of fun!” says Guang-Hong, sipping at a mug of coffee and beaming at Viktor from behind the counter. “Leo’s family is really nice, especially his abuelita who makes such good food! And he took me to Disneyland for my birthday, and we also went to Santa Monica, and even La Jolla, even though driving down there and back up was a total nightmare. He used to go to university in San Diego before he transferred here, you know.”

“Really,” says Viktor, pausing as his finger skim across the cover of some sort of Highland romance featuring a very scantily-clad Scottish warrior. He has to chuckle a little at that.

“Yeah.” Guang-Hong sighs. “I can’t say much; it’s really personal.”

Viktor hums in agreement, flipping through another Highland romance novel. “Lots of objectified Scotsmen on the shelves here,” he remarks.

Guang-Hong seizes the topic change with an exhale of relief. “The owner of the store has a weird sense of humour,” he says drily, “though I think she also unironically likes Outlander, so…”

Viktor snorts, placing the book back onto the shelf. “I’ve only been to Southern California on promo tours, so I’m afraid I haven’t seen much besides LA and bookshops in downtown San Diego. Do you think I should go there next?”

“Next?” wonders Guang-Hong. “What, like… move there?”

“Maybe,” hedges Viktor.

“What about Yuuri? Would he go with you?”

Viktor shrugs. “Is it as sunny as they say it is?”

“It was raining almost every other day we were there,” says Guang-Hong, his brows furrowed slightly. “We wanted to go see the Hollywood sign at Griffiths Observatory — especially after we heard someone had vandalised it — but we couldn’t stay long because of the rain.”

“But it didn’t rain when you went to the other places, right?”

“Well, it also rained when we went to Disneyland but that meant less people were there, so we got to go on more rides.” Guang-Hong’s cheeks flush a bit pink, probably reliving some other memories that he’s unwilling to divulge. “But the Santa Monica pier and La Jolla had good weather, and it’s actually pupping season in La Jolla so we got to see baby seals!”

Viktor’s hand, which had been taking another book off the shelf, pauses as he turns to look at the clerk. “Baby seals?” he echoes.

“Yeah, La Jolla’s a rookery for seals. Kinda like Torvill, except most seals tend to only come here for pupping and moulting, and they’re pretty much always there at La Jolla.”

Viktor hums, half-heartedly flipping through this next book before putting it back on the shelf. “Did you take pictures?”

“Yeah, actually. I thought I saw Katsudon there at one point, but Leo was like, ‘Katsudon probably wouldn’t be in SoCal’, so I took a picture and uploaded it and tagged Phichit to it.” Viktor watches Guang-Hong pull out his mobile and flip through his photos. “Look,” says the clerk, and Viktor heads over to the counter to look at the image on Guang-Hong’s phone.

He squints at it. “Most seals look black just coming out of the water,” he points out.

“That’s what Leo said,” says Guang-Hong, before pulling up a video. “But look at him move.”

Viktor has to admit, the black seal’s movements in the video do look familiar. “Still, it’s too blurry for us to be sure,” he says, ignoring the racing of his heart and the fluttering in his stomach. “But it’s really cute.”

“You haven’t even seen the entire — there!” And Viktor stares. Because the seal in the video has clearly noticed the camera and is waving a flipper in response.

“Wow,” he remarks, smiling (though mostly for Guang-Hong’s sake; he’s an utter mess inside). “Think he recognised you?”

“Maybe!” exclaims Guang-Hong, beaming. “What would Katsudon be doing in San Diego, though?”

“I’m not sure,” says Viktor, as Guang-Hong plays the video again. The seal waves at the camera again. “Could still be a coincidence.”

“Yeah,” mumbles Guang-Hong, deflating slightly. “But I like to think it isn’t.”

Viktor hums in agreement, that strange warmth from the beach on New Year’s returning to his chest as he watches the seal wave at the camera and listens to Leo and Guang-Hong’s recorded laughter.

24 Apr 2016

reasons why i am dreaming: viktor nikiforov says we danced at the party last night and walked me back to yu-topia after makkachin ran into me at the farmers’ market. either i am dreaming, or i am still drunk from last night and hallucinating the morning after. i don’t even enjoy myself at parties, so how can someone like me ever capture the attention of someone like him?

so if this is reality then why is it so cruel to take away my memory of what happened last night? i know i drank a lot and phichit said that viktor had been looking at me during a good part of the evening but i never thought i’d get the chance to meet him. and what about the signing. a lot of people are put off by the signing. i mean i can’t help that i can’t talk, but they’re still so uncomfortable about it. the worst part is when they think my sign usage means i can’t hear them say things about me.

but it seems like viktor isn’t deterred at all.

please don’t make me fall harder for him than i already have. what have i done to deserve this? i know it’s possible but that just makes it hurt all the more, knowing he’s here and available but still so far from my reach.

It’s strange, being caught between yearning for someone and knowing you shouldn’t.

Well, not necessarily strange. Viktor knows he’s felt this before, once or twice, but usually in the context of longing for people he knows he cannot have. Or, at least, of being attracted to the idea of them, whose forbidden nature is only part of the thrill. This is different — this is thinking of Yuuri, and missing Yuuri, and wanting Yuuri back in spite of his promises to let the selkie go.

In those moments, he writes instead, channeling his emotions into words for characters that are not him, describing experiences that are not quite his but evoke the same sort of feelings. Tear me apart and pull me back together. It is not that I am not complete without you, but perhaps an amalgamation of our parts can form two unique wholes. His life had been more beautiful with Yuuri in it, but he had not been a broken half before he met the selkie, and he is not one now.

He had not always believed that, though, and that makes all the difference.

Some nights he is weaker to the pull of longing. Some nights he lies awake at night, watching videos of Katsudon on Instagram. The black seal jumps into the air from the pier at Makkachin’s urging; he hauls out onto the land and looks curiously at the camera before returning into the waves; he pokes his head up over the side of a boat with the Nishigori triplets in it, Lutz pointing and shouting at the fish wriggling in his mouth. Viktor goes through his own photos of the seal playing with Makkachin, and feels his heart flutter like it’s caught in a brisk sea breeze.

Some nights, though, he is a little stronger. A little more determined to cut away at the memories of Yuuri that fill his thoughts and tuck them down into the vaults of his brain for a rainy day. What they had shared, before the missing skin became an issue, before summer ended, had been good. He knows he’ll always remember them with fondness, no matter how far away the events become in his personal timeline.

And so, one Thursday night after Valentine’s Day, he stops by Kachu as Christophe is cleaning glasses, ignoring the other lonely hearts at the bar as well as the happy couples tucked away in dark booths and tables snogging over their drinks. “The usual, Viktor?” asks Christophe as Viktor idly peruses the drinks menu.

“Hm,” says Viktor, frowning. “How about a sex on the beach instead?”

Christophe smirks. “Is that an request?” he asks. Viktor raises an eyebrow at him from just over the menu.

“Depends,” he replies. “Are you any good?”

Please,” purrs Christophe. “I could whip it up in my sleep.”

Viktor chuckles. “Any other specialties?”

Christophe purses his lips. “Ever had a screaming orgasm?”

The other eyebrow goes up. “Sounds delightful.”

He has both drinks served to him within the hour, and the buzz of vodka in his head is a welcome respite from the mishmash of feelings about Yuuri and words. Christophe idly chatters at him about some prints that he’s making for an upcoming exhibition in Altwegg, and Viktor nods and hums in assent with his stories about the trials and tribulations of nature photography in rural Scotland.

“…and I told him I was sick of photographing hedgehogs, because apparently that’s all that exists on that damn island; not even seals bothered hauling out when I was there — Viktor? Are you alright?”

Viktor blinks at the concerned look on Christophe’s face, and smiles. “Just fine,” he says.

“Must be hard,” says Christophe, pouring him a glass of water to go with his alcohol, “to have to spend Valentine’s Day alone.”

The sex on the beach is already half-gone. Viktor vaguely wonders where it went. “Did that already happen?” he wonders, his smile slipping somewhat.

“Yes,” says Christophe. “It was also my birthday. I invited the group chat over to my place for drinks. You didn’t show up.”

“I stopped checking the group chat,” says Viktor, sighing. “Everything’s been a blur since New Year’s; I’ve lost track.”

Christophe hums thoughtfully at that. “You still haven’t been able to get in contact with Yuuri?”

Viktor shakes his head and finishes up his sex on the beach. Christophe fills a pint of beer for another bar patron, but his gaze is fixed on Viktor.

“At this point, do you think he’ll come back?” the Swiss man asks. Viktor thinks about the video that Guang-Hong had showed him. He shrugs.

“Guang-Hong seems to think he’s in Southern California,” he says, starting on his screaming orgasm. It’s a smaller drink, but there’s definitely more alcohol in this than in the other one. He shudders a little as it hits his system.

“Why would he say that?” Christophe asks, and Viktor blinks. He’d forgotten that not everyone in town knows Yuuri’s secret. He can feel his cheeks heating and his stomach churning at the implications of his slip.

“I’m guessing he just mistook someone else for Yuuri, probably,” he says hastily. It’s not too far from the truth; at first glance Yuuri tends to escape notice as both a human and a seal. Not that Viktor would ever fail to notice him in a crowd, of course.

Christophe nods. “I suppose,” he says. “You’re not the only person wondering about where he is, though. We’re all pretty concerned, and the Katsukis aren’t exactly forthcoming about his whereabouts. Though it’s weird that you hadn’t been looped in, being his partner and all…”

“Yeah,” says Viktor. He takes a sip of water.

“Phichit says he asked you and you said he was fishing in the Hebrides, though,” Christophe points out. “But that had been in November. He can’t possibly still be out there, right?”

Viktor shrugs. “No one knows where he is,” he replies. “Least of all me.”

“I’m sorry,” says Christophe. “That sounds like a terrible fight.”

Viktor frowns. “Why does everyone think we fought?”

“How else do you explain him not telling you anything about where he’s been or where he’s going?” Christophe’s eyes are sad. “I mean, I might be a bit of a love-‘em-and-leave-‘em sort of guy, but even I wouldn’t leave a long-term partner alone for months without letting them know where I am.”

Viktor sighs. Christophe has a point. And he did hurt Yuuri, despite there not having actually been a fight between them. He knows that.

“I don’t really want to talk about it,” he admits. “I just want to put it behind me.”

“Hence the drinking after Valentine’s Day,” says Christophe. “Smooth.”

Viktor snorts. “Shut up and refill my glass,” he retorts, and Christophe gladly does so.

Several drinks later, the bar is closing and Viktor is slumped at the counter, his head buzzing pleasantly as he listens to Christophe collecting tabs and kicking people out of the establishment. The Swiss man then collects the drink glasses and turns the sign in the window to closed, before wiping down the tables and counters. He pauses a little when he sees Viktor, and sighs.

“Aren’t you going to go, Viktor?” he asks.

Viktor frowns. He wants to move, but everything feels like lead. “Unno,” he says, with a bit of effort.

Christophe sighs. “Is it that bad? I have a couch, if you want to sleep there for the night.”

Viktor’s not sure how stairs work, or even how gravity and existence work in general, but with some coaxing and prodding from Christophe he manages to get himself upstairs to the landing just above the bar. He can hear music playing from Minako’s flat; it pulses at his ears and makes him want to dance.

“Hey there,” says Christophe, unlocking his door and pushing Viktor through, pushing him down onto the couch. “Let’s not hurt ourselves trying to dance in the hallway, huh? Lemme get your shoes.” And he does.

“Makka,” says Viktor suddenly, realising he hadn’t let the dog out for the night.

“Makkachin will be fine,” says Christophe. “You’re in no state to head back, are you?”

Viktor shakes his head. Christophe is already calling someone. His voice is too quiet for Viktor to hear. He lies down on the couch in this little studio apartment and stares up at the popcorn ceiling. Is that a little bit of damp in the corner? Gross.

“…I’ll tell him you volunteered, thank you. Bye,” says Christophe, and hangs up. He looks down at Viktor. “Phichit says he can let your dog out,” he announces. Viktor smiles, sitting up again and tugging at his jumper and shirt collar. He’d been slowly overheating for the past couple of hours, but he hadn’t bothered to do something about it until now. So he takes off his jumper, noticing Christophe’s expression waver a bit in the half-light from the windows.

“Sorry, I’m hot,” he explains.

Christophe chuckles. “You can say that again.”

“I am,” protests Viktor, already tugging at the collar of his shirt again. “Very hot in here.”

Christophe’s response sounds more like a choke, which Viktor finds hilarious. He begins unbuttoning his shirt, savouring the relative coolness that comes from stripping off clothes in a hot room. Christophe’s gaze trails down his chest, his jaw visibly tightening. Viktor licks his lips, and Christophe startles a little in response.

“I’m… gonnagodownstairsanfinishcleaninup,” he says, and is out of the room in a flash.

Suddenly restless, Viktor gets up and wanders through the flat, opening cupboards in the kitchen and poking his head out of one of the windows. The sea sparkles in the moonlight, and the lights on the pier have gone out. It is dark, and cold, and he quickly shuts the window, feeling the fog in his brain clear a little.

There’s the sound of footsteps on the stairs again, and Viktor returns to the couch just as Christophe reenters his flat, closing the door behind him and dropping his keys on the table just by the door. “Do you need a toothbrush?” the Swiss man asks. “Pyjamas? Food?”

Viktor shrugs, swinging up onto his feet. The world spins a little at the sudden change in equilibrium, but Christophe catches him just before he falls completely. Viktor giggles a little, his arms looping around the Swiss man’s shoulders as he looks up into his eyes.

“You have such long lashes,” he says, completely randomly. Yuuri had long lashes, too. They looked so pretty against his lightly tanned cheeks. Yuuri — no. Not now.

“Thanks, it’s Maybelline,” intones Christophe drily. Viktor laughs, his arms still not moving even as Christophe steadies him back onto his feet. “Viktor?”

“Vitya,” insists Viktor. A sudden thought strikes him. “You said the personal life section on my Wikipedia page was boring.”

Christophe laughs. “Well, it is. Nothing but a comment about your supermodel ex and how you’d mentioned in an interview that you broke it off because of some differences.”

“You said I couldn’t seduce anyone,” whines Viktor, adding a pout for good measure.

A strange, winded groan creaks out of the Swiss man. “Consider me mistaken,” he manages.

“Why? Are you being seduced?”

Christophe snorts. “You’re drunk, Viktor.”

“Which is entirely your fault, you know.”

“I know.” Viktor feels himself being pushed back onto the couch. “So I find it my responsibility not to take advantage of you in this state. I mean, what —”

Viktor shuts him up the only way he knows how. Christophe freezes momentarily, before relaxing into the kiss, one hand coming up to cradle the back of Viktor’s head as his tongue flicks briefly against Viktor’s lips. Viktor opens his mouth to let him in with a small sigh, his own hand ghosting along Christophe’s thigh as it presses against his own.

But then Christophe freezes again, breaks the kiss, swats Viktor’s hands away. He backs up several steps from the couch, shaking his head and rummaging through the cupboards near the bedroom space until he finds a spare t-shirt and a toothbrush, and tosses them onto the coffee table. Viktor shrinks back from them, his own stomach is a dizzying swirl of emotions that he can’t quite name or sort, but he’s fairly certain disappointment in himself is part of it.

Christophe seems to notice it, too, and he sighs, his expression softening as he kneels down in front of him. “I’m sorry,” he says. “It’s for the best. If we go further, you might regret it in the morning.”

Viktor blinks at him, feeling the prickling of tears in the corners of his eyes. Christophe sighs, reaches out, cups his cheek.

“I don’t want to be a rebound from Yuuri, you know. That wouldn’t be fair to our friendship.”

Viktor nods. He has a point, even if part of Viktor feels like he’s crumbling in on himself. He removes Christophe’s hand from his cheek anyway, watching the other man’s expression briefly flicker with disappointment before he tucks it behind a smile again.

“I’ll get you some blankets,” Christophe offers after a moment, rising back to his feet. “We can talk in the morning. I’m not mad — I think very few people would be mad about Viktor Nikiforov kissing them — but… yeah.” He rubs at his nape, chuckling sheepishly before heading back towards the cupboards to find a blanket.

Viktor sits on the couch for a moment before pulling on the t-shirt and shimmying out of his trousers. The buzzing in his head feels more diminished now, and he looks over at the kitchen just in time to see the curtains move, and Christophe’s white Persian cat pad silently into view. She takes one look at him, and darts back behind the curtain again. Viktor sighs, putting his head in his hands.

He feels the warmth of a blanket on the couch next to him moments later, and looks up to see Christophe’s sad little grin.

“Good night, Vitya,” the Swiss man offers.

“Night,” Viktor replies, and pulls the blanket around him. The beating of his heart has slowed back to normal; all he wants to do now is crawl into the depths of the earth, or head down to the beach and let the waves take him out to sea. He digs his nails into his palms as he waits for Christophe to exit the bathroom and head to the bed, turning off the lights around his bed. He then fumbles in his trouser pockets for his phone, and tiptoes with it and the toothbrush into the bathroom, closing the door.

Once in there, he closes the lid for the toilet and sits down on it, propping one foot up on the edge of the tub. The linoleum warms slowly to his touch; he sighs, and rings his mother.

She picks up after a couple attempts. “It’s four in the morning, Vitenka,” she complains. “What’s going on?”

Viktor tries to swallow the lump in his throat. “He’s gone, Mama,” he says.

Vitenka?” she asks. “What are you saying? Who’s gone?”

“Yuuri,” he says. “I meant to tell you last time, but I —”

She shushes him. “That’s all right, my little sun. Tell me now. What happened?”

“I hurt him,” says Viktor, feeling the warm wetness of tears sliding down his cheeks. “I took something dear to him because I didn’t want him to leave but I hurt him and he didn’t even get angry at me, he smiled at me when I gave it back and thanked me and left.”

There’s a pause, as his mother tries to comprehend all of that. After a moment, she sighs. “I’m so sorry,” she says.

It’s too much like what she used to tell him. Viktor’s stomach churns; his tears heat into something angrier. “Is that the best you can do?” he demands, scrubbing furiously at his eyes.

He can hear her gasping on the other end, but he barrels on, his heart racing too fast for him to stop. “Is that all you can say after making me like this? After years of leaving me at the mercy of those… those wolves you called nannies? Anka called me selfish for pointing out she never made enough food! Elena locked me in the closet for not writing my letters right! And Sergei —”

Vitenka, please,” pleads Mama, her voice reedy and feeble. “No more. I may not have always known, but I know now, and I regret every day I could not have been there for you. I’m trying to be here for you now.”

Viktor takes a couple deep, steadying breaths. “I know,” he says. “I’m sorry. I — I just. I miss you, Mama.”

I miss you too, Vitenka,” she says.

Viktor swallows, and wipes at his tears. “I want to come back,” he whispers.

There’s a small pause. “When? And for how long?” asks his mother, the delight palpable in her voice.

“As soon as I can,” Viktor replies. “And it’ll be for good, I think. I want to come home.”

His mother sighs. “Oh, my little sun,” she says, and he imagines her holding him in his arms like she should have, long ago. “Of course you can. For however long you need.”

“Okay,” says Viktor, and for the next couple of minutes neither of them say anything, just listening to each other’s breaths over the static connection of the phone.

After a moment, his mother sighs. “Vitenka, are you still awake?”

“Mm,” says Viktor. His eyelids feel like lead.

Call me again when you have travel plans, okay? Papa and I will have to clean out your old room.”

“Okay,” says Viktor. “I love you.”

I love you, too,” she says. “Good night.”

10 Apr 2016

phichit tells me the rumours are true. viktor nikiforov has moved to torvill cove. he’s rented a cottage on dean and walks makkachin at the pier almost every morning. i could go and run into him. i could meet him.

but every time i think about it my stomach feels like it’s eviscerating itself.

To: Viktor Nikiforov (
From: History Maker Airlines (
Flight Confirmation: INV-LED on 24 March 2017

Dear Viktor Nikiforov,

Thank you for booking with History Maker Airlines! Your confirmation code is DNFJ1KA.

Your itinerary is as follows:

Flight 1
Date: 24/3/2017
Departs: 13:15
Arrives: 15:55
Route: Inverness (INV) - Amsterdam (AMS)
Seats: 1A, 1B
Terminal: Main
Special requests: Pet in attendance

Flight 2
Date: 24/3/2017
Departs: 20:30
Arrives: 01:30 (+1)
Route: Amsterdam (AMS) - Saint Petersburg (LED)
Seats: 2A, 2B
Terminal: Main
Special requests: Pet in attendance

For up-to-date information on your itinerary, please visit our website or download our app.

To: Rosemary McNamara (
From: Viktor Nikiforov (
Re: Notice to Quit

Hello Rose,

I’m sorry it took me so long to get back to you about this. In our original agreement it said I should give you at least one month’s notice if I wish to end the tenancy, so I’ve been putting off this decision for some time. But some extenuating circumstances have made it that I no longer wish to stay on for another year. This may change in the future, but as of now I plan to leave a week in advance of the original fixed term, on 24 March 2017. I will still pay through the rest of the month, though, so no worries.

Please feel free to send me any necessary documents regarding the repossession of your cottage, as well as the inventory so that I can ensure everything is back in order (I did retune your piano; hope you don’t mind). Also please let me know when you intend on conducting any viewings.

Viktor Nikiforov

To: Viktor Nikiforov (
From: Rosemary McNamara (
Re: Re: Notice to Quit

Hello Viktor,

Thank you for letting me know. I am sorry to hear you will not be staying on! I have attached your notice to vacate the premises as well as a copy of the inventory I took at the start of your tenancy. And I’m in no hurry to find a new tenant, so I won’t be doing viewings for a while. Let me know if you’re back in town, though. I would love to have you here again.



20 Mar 2016

there’s a rumour viktor nikiforov is moving up to torvill cove. he gave an interview saying he was looking for inspiration and was considering moving to the highlands. he’s also apparently been talking to people who own summer houses in torvill cove. my heart feels like it’s going to burst every time phichit updates me on these conspiracy theories.

i don’t know what i would do if the rumours become true. in a way i don’t want them to. i don’t want him to be here, within walking distance of me. my heart wouldn’t be able to handle it.

please don’t let him

In late February, Viktor heads out to the secret cove with Makkachin, toting a bag with his laptop as well as drinks and snacks for the day.

He spreads out a towel on the sand once he reaches it, while Makkachin heads down the beach to splash in the water. There’s still a bit of snow on the ground, but most of it has melted by now. The air is still piercing cold, though not nearly as bad as it had been back in November and December.

He has been tirelessly writing for weeks, and today is no different. His laptop is fully charged, and out here there’s no connection to distract him from typing. So he does, only occasionally looking over to make sure Makkachin isn’t up to something worse than just constantly digging holes in the sand.

I love you. I hate you. The only thing I fear is becoming indifferent towards you.

He knits together poems and thoughts and observations, his fears and hopes and dreams. He writes out his love for the world to see, stitching his heart onto his sleeve with each word.

Our love — while we had it — burned with the fervour of the Samhain bonfire where I first met you, but in the scheme of an entire year it is but a candle’s flame. And still I am a moth drawn into the orbit of your fire, content to risk the burn in order to be near your warmth.

It is no longer something I deserve,” Viktor mutters quietly as he types out the words. “But as with all things that I have lost, I still yearn to find it again. To find you again.”

He writes and writes, until there’s nothing else left to write except ‘the end’. Viktor types those six letters with a strange, hollow feeling in his heart. His limbs feel light and heavy all at once, and the crashing of the sea suddenly feels loud to his ears.

He saves the document and closes his laptop, sitting back on his towel and watching Makkachin dig more holes in the sand. His dog spies him after a moment and straightens up, almost guiltily, but Viktor smiles and holds out his hand, and Makkachin bounds up to him to give him several sandy-nosed kisses. Viktor laughs a little, his fingers curling into Makkachin’s fur as he cuddles up close.

“We’re going to be leaving soon, Makka,” he says with a sigh. Makkachin boofs in response. “Yeah, I know. You like it here. Lots of people to take you out when I can’t. But we’ll be going back to Saint Petersburg soon! We’re going home!”

Makkachin barks reproachfully at him, as if calling him out for how hollow his enthusiasm is. Viktor sighs.

“I know,” he says, again. “But it’ll be until I figure out where to go next. If we go anywhere at all. We could just stay in Saint Petersburg for good. We could get our old flat back! You’d like that, right? I could walk you in the Gardens again, where they held the first ice skating competitions. And we could visit Grandma…”

He sighs, and buries his face in his dog’s fur. “I’m glad you’re still here with me, Makka,” he says after a moment. “You’ve been the only one who’s never left me.”

They stay out on the beach for some time, until the gathering clouds look more and more heavy with rain and Viktor decides to try and get back up the cliff before it becomes dangerous to do so. He and Makkachin make it back into town before the storm hits, but as they run along the coastal trail with the rain coming down harder and harder around them, Viktor spreads his arms and laughs, wild and unrestrained, for the first time in months.

14 Feb 2016

phichit and i drove all the way to inverness just to catch the midnight release of the king and the skater. we started out after his class ended at 4 and we made it to the city in time for dinner, where we watched on phichit’s phone the live footage of the premiere event in london. god i wish i could have been there to see viktor nikiforov in person.

foods to try:
venison burger
turkish coffee
cranachan smoothie
hazelnut and chocolate cake

we are spending the night at an airbnb and then heading back to torvill in the morning, though i don’t know what state phichit will be in to drive because he has spent the entire drive up raving about how attractive the actors look in the posters. he might not survive the night.

I have forgotten what it feels like to love and be loved in return, without reservation or condition. My heart has been bruised too many times in my childhood, and hardened by years of neglect. It is a scarred heart, a poor heart, a glass heart barely glued back together. But it is yours, if you will have it.”

Viktor looks up from his laptop at the gathered members of the Torvill Cove Book Club. He bites his lip and raises an eyebrow at them. “Well?” he asks.

“Well, what?” demands Phichit from across the table. “Keep reading!”

His words are met with nods of agreement from everyone else. Viktor notices that Georgi is wiping furiously at his eyes. He clears his throat, takes a sip of water, and continues.

You take my hand. You press kisses to my wrist and lead me out onto the frozen loch. Snowflakes fall in your hair, and the cold brings out the apples in your cheeks. I am enchanted by you, caught with the golden wool over my eyes. The very puff of your breath against my cheek, the slide of your fingers along my waist — I am drowning in you, intoxicated by your presence.”

Viktor watches the faces of the Book Club members. Several of the old ladies have set down their knitting or forgotten to place their teacups back on their saucers. He grins a little, and returns to his document.

I forget the very meaning of time when I am with you, gliding hand-in-hand on this loch that we call home. Your laughter fills the air, bell-like, as I twirl you into my arms. I briefly lift you, and you caress my face, and my skin tingles long after your fingers leave.

I have never known such bliss before, and I doubt I will ever find its like again. I chase the euphoria in the wake of your kisses; I savour the magic of your hand in mine. Even after we part, I find myself looking out my window at the lights that come from yours, and liken them to stars in the night sky.

My heart may be damaged goods, but it is also steadfast, and happier with you.”

He closes his laptop. “That’s the end of the excerpt,” he says. “I can’t spoil the entire thing, you know.”

“So you don’t have names for the two main characters?” asks one of the old ladies.

“No,” says Viktor. “I’m trying to make them a bit more universal. You know, besides them both being male, and the skater being Japanese while the swan is Scottish.”

“It reminds me of Hiroshima Mon Amour,” remarks another one of the ladies. Viktor recognises her as the cinéphile who had gotten Georgi to kick him and Yuuri out of the theatre, and feels his face heat up.

“Well, I do find Marguerite Duras to be an inspiration for my own work,” he says, rubbing at his nape and laughing a little. “Does that mean you like it, though?”

She nods. “Your deliberate construction of the characters so that the entire story is is carried out in apostrophe is fascinating.”

“It’s experimental, but it works, in a way,” agrees Christophe. “I like it.”

Viktor feels a little pang of guilt in the depths of his gut, but he smiles at Christophe anyway.

“What inspired you to write something like this?” someone else asks. “We all know how much you care about your research, so it was a bit surprising not to find much evidence of that in this one, at least from what we heard. We’re not really grounded in the characters’ actions or the setting. It’s very airy, light. Like we’re floating through space and time with the main characters.”

Viktor smiles. “That’s what I was going for,” he agrees. “And well. Something personal spurred me to write this, so there’s not much else I can say about it.”

“Fair enough.” Viktor watches them shuffle through their phone, as if a little nervous. The conversation turns to the book of the week, which is apparently a southern Gothic memoir about a family told through the nine reincarnated lives of their pet cat. Viktor, who had not read the book before, makes a mental note to get a copy to read on the plane ride home.

The plane ride home. That’s in less than a month now. March is swiftly coming, and he still hasn’t started any of the things he needs to do before he leaves. The thought makes his stomach churn — he just wants to be able to pick up and leave now, without any of the logistics and planning and having to say goodbye to everyone.

But in a way, this Book Club meeting is a bit like a goodbye. The looks on the faces of the people here, whenever they glance at him, seem bittersweet. It’s a shame he didn’t really get to know as many people as he would have liked, having spent so much of his time in Torvill Cove obsessed with Yuuri Katsuki. And even now, with Yuuri gone, it still feels as if his spectre looms over all of Viktor’s interactions with the rest of town.

He had intertwined himself so fully with Yuuri that it had become strange for everyone else to see them as separate beings. And Viktor’s not sure what to do about that.

Georgi Popovich corners him after the meeting, and extends a hand. Viktor takes it, and the other Russian pulls him into a hug. “I understand perfectly,” Georgi tells him. Viktor doesn’t need to hear anything else; he hugs back, rests his head on Georgi’s shoulder, and briefly closes his eyes.

19 Dec 2015

flickers of desire in the candlelight: sakchai’s fingers undoing the clasps of arthur’s tunic, arthur tracing patterns on the king’s chest as he lies beneath him on the bed. fingers replaced by lips, mouths dropping open in pleasured sighs, a landscape of skin against skin. arthur’s hands tangle in sakchai’s hair, move along his back.

breaths of love in the moonlight: arthur pressing kisses to sakchai’s jaw, languid and indolent. the king’s fingers tracing gently along his spine, eyes downcast, chest heaving, hands creating a topographic map of arthur’s body and committing it to memory. coming down from heaven, from the very spires of pleasure. holding each other like drowning men given one last chance to live.

twenty-seven years of living and sakchai hasn’t felt alive until this very moment. five years of ruling this kingdom — five years of hard work and sacrifice — and he is finally able to rest in the arms of this exquisite man from another world, this figure skater, extraordinary in his ordinariness. he tries to speak, but arthur presses a finger against his lips. “shh,” he says. his lips are soft. they are magic. sakchai breathes him in. “don’t think too much, just hold me.”

so he does.

Most people in Torvill Cove that Viktor talks to seem to like the excerpts of Stay Close to Me that he shares with them. Of course, everyone in town seems to know that the inspiration for the novel had clearly been Yuuri Katsuki, though not everyone knows just how deep the comparison runs. Nevertheless, even Yuuko and Minako consider the story to be “intensely romantic” and “beautifully emotional”. Minako had even cried at one point.

So it seems that most people are eagerly anticipating the book’s release, which, knowing Yakov’s priorities with anything vaguely Viktor Nikiforov-related, would probably have it hitting the shelves early next year at the very latest.

But of course, not everyone in town is happy with it.

“Are you sure you really want this to be published?” Yuri Plisetsky asks on Wednesday as they’re sitting across from one another on the terrace of one of the boardwalk restaurants. It’s Yuri’s birthday, and Viktor is treating him to an early dinner. Though there’s a brisk breeze blowing in from the sea, the space heaters chase away a great deal of the chill and the view is quite splendid.

“Why not?” asks Viktor. “Yuuri gave me his blessing to write about us in some way.”

The blond hums, sips idly at the bottle of beer he’s opened. He grimaces, too — just because he wants to take advantage of being newly sixteen doesn’t necessarily translate to him actually enjoying his beer — and closes Viktor’s laptop. “Yeah, but Piglet hasn’t read this yet, has he?”

“He’s seen a little bit of it, back when I was actually writing about him,” says Viktor.

“But that was before he found out you hid his skin from him,” Yuri deadpans.

Viktor swallows. “True,” he says.

“So he might not be as happy about you writing about the two of you now than he had been before.” Yuri presses.

Viktor sighs. “Point,” he concedes.

“So if you publish this now without showing it to him first, it could be kind of a dick move to do,” Yuri continues.

Viktor grits his teeth. “My agent is expecting this before I fly out in a couple of weeks,” he says.

“Yeah, but if I were Piglet, I’d be upset at coming across your book in some bookstore and realising my ex exploited the story of our relationship and subsequent breakup.”

Viktor gapes at him. “Yuuri wouldn’t —”

“You’re, like, the last person I trust to know what Yuuri would or wouldn’t do,” Yuri points out, as the servers come by with their food. He immediately starts working on his sandwich, almost as if he’s trying to deter Viktor from replying to him immediately.

Viktor sighs, and starts picking at his own sandwich. “Is it because of the skin?” he asks,

“No shit, Sherlock,” replies Yuri, and takes another swig of beer.

That night, Viktor dreams that he’s on the little beach, the wind in his hair and the waves at his feet. In the distance he can hear the gulls wailing, like mourners in a funeral procession. A shiver runs up his spine, and not from the coldness of the air.

The sky is lightening shade by shade, from deep purple to indigo to grey-blue. In the half-light of the early morning, Viktor sees a dark figure out on the sea, heading towards the shore. At first, it looks like a seal, and his heart soars into his throat.

Then the creature raises its head, and his heart plummets.

It’s the omen, looking even more dead than before, shrouded in grey clothing with seaweed clinging all over its body. Viktor’s heart races as he stands, rooted into the sand, as it lurches out of the waves towards him like some twisted version of the birth of Venus, its feet and body covered in lacerations.

“I thought I got rid of you,” he breathes, but the creature only makes a noise like a death rattle, its hands working feebly and uselessly as it slowly advances out of the waves. Viktor wants to run, wants to scream, but no noise comes out and no movement is felt. His body seems impervious to his commands, and the omen is drawing ever closer.

“What — what do you want?” Viktor demands. “Is this about the book?”

The creature is almost inches from him now, and Viktor can just how skull-like its features look, just how close and how far it is from resembling his beloved Yuuri…

“I’ll do anything,” he gasps, not sure what exactly he’s begging for, but saying the words anyway. “Please —”

Water engulfs him, cold, tinged with salt. It closes over his head, and burns at his lungs. Viktor opens his mouth, and nothing but bubbles come out. The light is fading, fading; to his side the omen swims, head tilted to the side like it’s regarding a curiosity at the zoo.

Viktor wakes in a cold sweat, eyes flying open and chest heaving. Makkachin yelps from next to him, startled when Viktor jostles him awake in his rush to get out of the bed and into the bathroom to splash cold water onto his face.

When he looks up, for a brief, terrifying moment he thinks he glimpses the omen in his bathtub, lying like Yuuri used to in the throes of his sea-longing. He looks back, and the tub is empty again.

Viktor exits the bathroom and seizes his mobile, ringing Yakov as he paces the room. His agent picks up on the third ring. “Vitya, there had better be a good reason for this.”

“I can’t publish the book.”

There’s a pause, and a sigh. “And why is that?” asks Yakov.

“I…” Viktor tries to rack his brain for a better way to phrase ‘I’ve been getting visitations from an omen’. “I just feel like it’s not right,” he says lamely.

Yakov grunts. “I told you it was too personal,” he says.

“Yeah,” says Viktor, sighing. “I’m sorry.”

To his surprise, his agent chuckles. “Don’t be. You sound like you’ve had a very trying year, Vitya. But sometimes the art you create at the worst times of your life are not going to be things you will revisit with fondness later on.”

Viktor nods, before realising it’s a wasted gesture. He exhales. “Yeah,” he repeats.

I think it’s a good thing for you to go home,” says Yakov. “See your family again. Mend any ties you think are worth mending. And then from there, you might have a foundation from which to write again.”

“Okay,” agrees Viktor. He pauses. “Sorry I’m a mess.”

Yakov snorts. It sounds strange coming from the other side of a phone. “I’ve seen worse,” he replies darkly.

Viktor laughs. “Really?” he presses.

Oh, definitely. I remember one author a few years back who dropped off the face of the Earth for two years, and when he resurfaced he insisted he’d had ‘two surgeries, three illnesses, and a broken computer’. As if admitting to being blocked was something shameful.”

Viktor laughs. “Not as bad as ‘impulse-moving to the Highlands and getting caught in a whirlwind summer romance’, though,” he points out.

Yours sounds more interesting,” concedes Yakov, and then he yawns. “Get some sleep, Vitya. And don’t call me at two in the morning again. Some of us actually have lives and jobs, you know.”

Viktor chuckles. “Yeah, yeah,” he says. “Bye, Yakov.”

Good night,” says Yakov, and hangs up on him. Viktor sets down his mobile with a sigh, running his hands through his now shoulder-length hair. Another thing to take care of.

But it can wait until morning. Viktor clambers into bed next to Makkachin, who gives him a disgruntled snort as he cuddles up to him. With a sigh, Viktor listens to the sound of the waves in the cove just outside his window, and drifts back into an uneasy sleep.

4 Apr 2015

why viktor nikiforov should write more poetry:
because you can clearly tell,
(in the pauses between his words, in the silences between his sentences)
that there is something he is missing
he knows it

he cannot quite pinpoint it. he prunes his chapters
like the branches of a bonsai tree
each scintillating word
chosen with care to decorate its branches

this is a poet who has been forced into novel-writing
who must create tomes of 50k or more when he’d rather play
with words and rhythms and structures
the syllables of a haiku
the cuts and montages of abstraction

let him rest;
he sets down his pen
and his weary head.

Viktor has forgotten how much of a hassle moving can be. He has to call the current tenant of his flat in Manchester and ask her to ship the rest of his belongings out to Saint Petersburg. He has to go pay his remaining utility bills and council taxes. He has to pack up his belongings from the cottage and have them shipped out as well.

It’s a good thing his mother is helping cover half of the cost of moving back. Even with the royalties from the Ice Triad as well as the film filling up his bank account, the costs of international shipping are nothing to sneeze at.

He’s just gotten off the phone with the shipping company, who will be swinging by to pick up his boxes on the 20th, when his gaze falls on the closet door. Yuuri’s belongings are in there, tucked up and hidden away. Even now his heart lurches a little, though it doesn’t hurt as much anymore.

He sighs, opens the closet door. He lugs out each one of the boxes to his car, opening the boot and lining them up in there. It fills up pretty quickly, and he has to put the rest in the car itself, but he eventually gets all of them in, with Yuuri’s box of writing journals sitting on the passenger seat to his left.

He pulls up at Yu-Topia moments later, pulling into the roundabout just behind a carload of students on spring break. He heads over to one of the bellhops and gets him to help unload Yuuri’s boxes onto one of the luggage trolleys. He carries the journals himself.

Mari looks up from her desk when Viktor enters the lobby. “What do you want?” she asks, though the anger that had burned in her eyes the last time he saw her is now just a low smoulder. Viktor smiles, if only to be polite, and sets the crate of journals onto the desk.

“I’m leaving Torvill in a couple of weeks,” he says. “And I’d like to return Yuuri’s things.”

Mari nods. She talks briefly with one of the other concierges behind the desk before stepping out and heading towards the elevator. “Come on,” she calls over her shoulder. Viktor follows, with the bellhop just behind them.

The Katsuki wing is quiet, except for the playing of the fountain in the hallway. Toshiya is hard at work crafting one of his ships-in-a-bottle (this one seems to have a more Japanese design to it) in the living room, while Hiroko reads a book next to him. They smile and wave at Viktor when he passes by with the boxes, and even go and help the bellhop unload the other ones so that he can head out and tend to other arriving guests.

“Vicchan, it’s been awhile since you visited,” says Hiroko as Viktor passes her in the hallway to grab more boxes. “Mari says you’re leaving town. Is everything alright?”

“Yeah,” says Viktor. “I… how much did Mari tell you?”

Hiroko hums. “You read my note, didn’t you?” she asks.

Viktor blinks. “Note?” he echoes.

“From Christmas,” she explains. “I had it sent to the lighthouse.”

Viktor exhales. “Oh, right. That. Yes. I’m sorry, it slipped my mind. So you do know.”

She nods. “Did you…?”

Viktor shakes his head. “I couldn’t bring myself to,” he admits.

“Understandable,” she says, smiling. “Take your time.”

They move all of the boxes into Yuuri’s room, but before Viktor turns to leave, Hiroko briefly hugs him with all of the warmth of a mother’s love. He sighs a little, and smiles when she pulls back.

“We’ll miss you, Vicchan,” she says.

“I’ll miss you, too,” he replies, and bows slightly.

Mari walks him back to the lobby, though her expression is still stony whenever he looks over at her. Viktor can’t help but feel a churning in his gut as they head down the stairs; he twists his hands behind him, and notices his palms are clammy with sweat.

“I’m not publishing the book,” he says suddenly, as they’re halfway across the lobby.

Mari pauses, turning back and looking at him. “What?” she asks.

“The book. Stay Close to Me. I read an excerpt to the Book Club?”

“Oh yeah,” she says, her tone dismissive. “I’d expected you to do something like that.”

“I’m not publishing it,” repeats Viktor.

Mari exhales. “Good,” she says, gesturing to the door.

Viktor takes it. “Goodbye, Mari,” he offers, and leaves before he can hear her reply.

The drive back to his cottage is oddly exhilarating, like some great weight has been taken off his chest. Viktor rolls back the roof of his car and lets the late afternoon wind ruffle through his hair. There’s only one thing left to do about this book.

That night, he takes his own notebooks down to the little beach, along with his laptop and some other supplies. Once settled on a part of the beach where the tide won’t reach him immediately, he deletes on his laptop the files of his manuscript draft and all of the other documents that he had compiled about Yuuri, and empties the recycling bin. It might still lurk on his hard drive somewhere, but at least he’ll be deterred from trying to send it out in the future.

Then, he takes a pair of scissors in one hand, gathers his hair in the other, and cuts. The wind tickles at his nape when he pulls his hand back to look at the silver strands, and he gingerly rubs at it before tucking the hair into the pile of notebooks at his feet.

Finally he flicks his lighter and holds the corner of one of his notebooks to the flame. The papers begin to crumple in on themselves as the fire catches and grows, and he drops this notebook back onto the pile. The fire spreads; the smell of burning paper fills the air.

Makkachin comes bounding down the stairs and joins him by this little bonfire, this strange little offering of words to the sea. His dog barks, as if questioning what Viktor is doing. Viktor sighs, and rubs the poodle’s back.

In silence, they watch the golden flames dance against the darkening twilight, and listen to the roaring of the waves.

2 Jun 2014

reasons why i want to crawl under a rock and die: the new grocery delivery boy from thailand who is here because he’s studying film and journalism or something else to do with the media arts at torvill cove who knows is a big fan of viktor nikiforov’s the king and the skater, but when i asked him if he likes anything else viktor nikiforov has written he was surprised that viktor nikiforov has written shorter works that aren’t novels and now i look like someone who has no life except reading viktor nikiforov’s works and stalking him on the internet because i have no life.

the entire town is obsessed with the king and the skater now because grocery boy lauded it at a book club meeting and everyone else loved it too and now the library is circulating a copy and the bookstore needs to backorder fifty copies and even the oldest farmers and fishermen in the area seem to know who viktor nikiforov is. they weren’t like this the last time i was home so it is strange seeing new people like something i have liked for years already especially when they only like a specific thing of this something i have liked for years in its entirety. no one else cares about viktor nikiforov’s poetry.

apparently they are going to make a film out of the king and the skater. his agent sent a manuscript to some production company and the producers and viktor nikiforov have been working on a screenplay since the release of the book earlier this year and i know it will be good but it’s going to lead to more people who only know viktor nikiforov for that one book and i don’t know how to feel about that. it’s a good book, but he is so much more than just one good book.

There’s a week left before he has to leave, and Viktor still hasn’t packed any of his boxes or suitcases. Perhaps part of it is just him delaying the inevitable; he’s always hated the panic that goes into having to pack his bags for a trip or a move. Even if he knows he has to bring everything, there’s always something telling him there’s something else he’s forgetting.

He stumbles across his birthday presents again while going through his den in a half-hearted attempt to start compiling things to pack away. One of them is the black notebook with the note from Hiroko attached to it, and he reads it with a strange frantic fluttering in his chest.

When he finishes reading the note, he turns the notebook over and over in his hands. It looks just like Yuuri’s writing journals, except the page edges are embossed with gold and there’s a little ribbon bookmark. He flips through it, noticing page upon page of Yuuri’s lovely script. There are even little doodles in the margins, usually of poodles. Viktor smiles, his heart pounding harder as he turns back to the first page.

There’s a folded-up piece of paper taped to the first page. Viktor unfolds it, blinking as he sees his own face beaming up at him. It had to have been no later than 2011, as his hair is in a ponytail and his eyes are shining with excitement at having recently won the Rubery Book Award. But the rest of the paper is more telling — it’s a flyer for a book reading at the University of St Andrews.

Viktor’s breath flees him as he turns the page and begins to read.

15 Dec 2011

there was a book reading at the byre being billed as a study break for finals.

some new author was there, doing a reading from his new novella which had won the rubery book award this year. he had a light russian accent and said he was from saint petersburg, but he was moving to hartford in a month to get away from his underwear model ex boyfriend who was a bit hung up about them. he was dressed in an oversized plum cable-knit sweater. his hair was the colour of winter; it was long and tied in a messy bun. his eyes were the colour of ice.

after he read some portions of his novella he read a couple poems from his poetry anthology, too, and he talked about the beauty of winter and the ephemerality of life in his work. they were both available to buy for £6 each so i bought them. his smile was heart-shaped and he offered to sign them but i was running late to an exam so i shook my head and left and i am so stupid because he was very nice and kind of cute.

i have copied one of his poems in here:

on the geometry of snowflakes
they say each snowflake is unique,
but i believe you
and i
must have frozen from the same drop of water.

when you fell towards me,
it was as if we formed one beautiful creation together —
one entity, beating with one heart, our limbs
fused together like the grecian souls of old.

but then your jagged edges ripped into mine;
we fell apart,
across the frozen grounds of winter.

yet still i long to return
to the oneness that we had shared
and the crystalline perfection
that was once our beating heart.

there is something so soothing and beautiful about his work. it is as deceptively simple as a snowflake, masking in beautiful imagery a deeper meaning that takes multiple reads to fully uncover. his novella is also good, though the prose stifles the perfection of his word choices.

he is exactly the breath of fresh air i needed after everything that had happened at home, with vicchan and all the other terrible things. though, i do have to wonder if this is a sign.

am i really meeting a man named viktor nikiforov mere weeks after vicchan dies?

perhaps there is something of merit in the concept of reincarnation.

Chapter Text

Viral Video of Killer Whale Attacking Seal Sparks Online Debate

  • Shocking video of killer whale attacking a harbour seal goes viral
  • Killer whales implicated in declining harbour seal populations in Scotland
  • Internet debates whether or not the seal could have survived

PUBLISHED: 10:24, 19 March 2017 | UPDATED: 15:19, 19 March 2017

Holiday-makers in Shetland were shocked when their seaside idyll was disrupted this morning by the sight of a killer whale hunting down a common seal in Lerwick Harbour. Several people caught the event on their phones, and within moments one of these videos, uploaded by costellations, has gone viral. While gruesome and disturbing, the video at least shows a happy (?) ending — the seal manages to escape.

Killer whales, according to a 2008 study by Andrew Foote of the University of Aberdeen, have been implicated in the decline of common seal populations in Scotland. While the 2008 study shows that killer whale sightings in Scotland have largely correlated with the timing of pupping season for the common seal, this attack shows that not all killer whales are content to wait until June-July to hunt down seals in Scotland. However, this particular whale may have bitten off more than it could chew with this seal, as after a terrific struggle — all captured on camera — the (badly injured) seal did manage to escape out into the sea.

“There’s not a very high chance that the seal escaped,” said Dr Richard Pittsburgh of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in California. “It was clearly badly injured by the killer whale and couldn’t have escaped very far, not to mention the blood trail it would have left behind that could attract predators.”

Despite these gloomy predictions, the Internet has sparked a debate as to whether or not the seal got away. Some people are of Pittsburgh’s opinion; others are more hopeful.

“The killer whale didn’t immediately go after the seal in the video after it escaped,” said Dr Min-so Park of the Institute of Marine Research at Torvill College in Scotland. “There is a slim chance that the seal could have hid from its predator, though I agree that as it was bleeding, it would not have lasted very long without a rescue.”

As of now, the seal’s whereabouts are unknown, though the killer whale has been spotted out at sea. We do not know whether it has managed to capture the seal after all.

The cottage is full of boxes once more, but this time it’s all Viktor’s belongings. His mugs, his photographs, his books, his figure skating memorabilia — everything is packed up into boxes, ready to be shipped out to Saint Petersburg today.

It feels a little strange, putting everything else back in its place. The cottage seems a little more bare, a little more empty. A little like his own heart, after tucking his memories of Yuuri into the back corner. Time and distance will take care of the rest.

Georgi Popovich has a point. He just needs a wider distance and a longer absence, to sever himself from this town which seems so inextricably linked with Yuuri. Each plank of the boardwalk is one the selkie has walked on; each crash of the waves and each cry of the gulls seem to echo with his name.

Viktor is leaving in four days. In approximately ninety-six hours, he will drive to Inverness Airport and board a flight to Saint Petersburg from there, with a four-hour layover in Amsterdam. Approximately nine hours after that, he will be sleeping in his old room back home on the 26th. It’s a little surreal just thinking about it, and Viktor knows if he’s not careful he’ll get completely caught up in a pre-travel panic, so he decides to push it off by taking Makkachin out on their usual morning jog.

A thick morning fog rolls around them as they head down the coastal trail, the beam of the lighthouse the only thing visible through it. Viktor has to step carefully to avoid any potential accidents, as he can’t see much past his own nose.

The town seems weirdly deserted when they make it to the boardwalk. All the shops are open and staffed, of course, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of patrons in any of them. The only people on the pier are the fishermen, accompanied by the tinny noise of an old radio as they prepare their lines. The fog obscures anyone who might be out on the water, though he can hear the sound of a motorboat somewhere out there.

Viktor hasn’t been cooking lately; he’d just cleared out the remaining groceries in his fridge, and he doesn’t want to deal with coming up with meals for four more days. So there’s nothing but a sandwich from the shop in town in there, as well as leftover haggis from one of the pubs. Just the thought of having to heat that up for breakfast makes Viktor veer towards one of the cafés on the boardwalk to grab a croissant and coffee instead.

Viktor takes his dog around the pier once more before starting towards the cottage again. The fog is thinning a bit now, but the town is still half-asleep, and Viktor snaps a couple pictures of the coastline on his phone as they head up the trail again.

They’re passing the staircase to the little beach when Makkachin barks suddenly, his gaze fixated by something down in the sand. “What is it, Makka?” Viktor asks. Makkachin barks again, so Viktor follows his dog’s gaze down, and gasps.

There’s a black figure down on the beach.

Makkachin is immediately rushing down the rickety staircase along the cliffside, with Viktor following at a mad scramble. “Makka, wait!” he shouts, but his dog presses on, barking joyfully as his paws hit the sand and he scampers over to the lump. As Viktor draws closer, he, too, realises with a jolt that it’s Katsudon.

But something seems off. Katsudon usually responds to Makkachin’s barking.

Makkachin barks once again at Katsudon’s side. He licks at the seal’s snout; there’s a small twitch at that, but no other response. Viktor’s heart hammers in his chest as he kneels down at the seal’s side and notices how slow Katsudon’s breathing is.

“Yuuri?” he whispers. The seal cracks one eye open. Viktor swallows at how pained and confused his eyes look. “Yuuri, are you —”

His breath hitches when he sees the crimson blossoming in the sand, the angry-red cuts and bite marks on the seal’s torso. It looks like he’d been attacked by something much bigger than him, and had barely managed to escape. Viktor’s blood runs cold at the thought of Katsudon stranded on the beach, gravely injured and just lying there, so close to help and yet so far, until —

No. He can do something about this.

“Makka, stay,” he says. Makkachin obeys. Viktor takes out his mobile and rings Yuuko.

She picks up almost immediately. “Viktor! What’s going on?

“Katsudon’s back,” says Viktor.

Oh!” A pause. “Is there something wrong with him?

“He’s badly injured.” Viktor looks down at the seal. “His breathing’s off, too, and he didn’t respond to Makkachin.”

Oh.” A hissing intake of breath. “Where are you?”

“The little beach,” says Viktor. “You should come by boat. I wouldn’t want to carry him up the stairs in this state.”

Yeah,” she agrees. “We’ll be there as soon as we can. Try to keep him warm, but don’t touch him. Hang on tight.” And she hangs up.

Viktor does as he’s told, taking off his coat and draping it over Katsudon, careful not to linger in his touch as he tries to tuck it around the seal’s body. He then moves back a little, whistling for Makkachin to come to him. He pets his dog reassuringly, though his eyes never leave the injured seal in front of him.

Yuuko takes what feels like an eternity to arrive. When she finally appears, she drops anchor just past the waves and rows ashore in a raft with Kenjirou Minami accompanying her. They have a large animal carrier with them, which Kenjirou places just a couple feet away from Katsudon. Yuuko kneels down next to the seal and moves the coat back to assess his injuries.

“Does it look bad?” asks Kenjirou.

Yuuko nods. “Let’s get him onto the boat,” she says.

“Is there anything I can do?” Viktor asks, as Yuuko hands him back his coat. He folds it up, tucking it under his arm.

“You could help us carry him,” replies Yuuko, as she and Kenjirou wrap Katsudon up in towels.

“I’m not in a wetsuit like you two,” Viktor says, one hand already the hem of his jumper. “Should I strip down?”

“Do whatever you think is best,” replies Yuuko, and Viktor begins to strip down. Kenjirou moves the animal carrier closer to the seal, and Yuuko starts coaxing him into the carrier.

Katsudon clambers in, slowly and labouriously but without protest. Once he’s in, he curls up in the towels and closes his eyes, and Yuuko closes the door. Now stripped to his briefs, Viktor takes a proffered handle on the carrier, and helps the two of them lug it down to the water’s edge. Thankfully, the waves aren’t too big here, but the carrier is large and heavy, and with some effort they manage to get it onto the raft.

Viktor helps them paddle the raft out to the larger boat, and they load the carrier onto the deck. Yuuko ties the raft to the back of the boat, and then looks towards the beach where Makkachin is guarding Viktor’s clothes and watching them curiously.

“Thanks for your help,” she says, smiling. Viktor nods.

“Let me know how he does,” he says.

She nods, reaching out and shaking his hand. “When are you leaving, again?” she asks.

“Four days,” he says.

She hums. “I’ll keep you posted,” she agrees, nodding towards the animal carrier. “It’s a shame you’re leaving, though.”

Viktor shrugs. “It’s probably for the best,” he admits. She purses her lips.

“Does this change anything, then?” she asks, gesturing again towards the animal carrier. Viktor shakes his head.

“It’s a bit too late,” he admits. “But I’ll come and say goodbye.”

He dives off back into the water and quickly swims to shore, the cold air and water shocking against his skin. He dresses himself as soon as he’s ashore, and waves at the boat as it pulls away from the little beach to head across the bay.

He heads home soon after that. After tossing his clothes into the wash and scrubbing away as much of the blood as he can off his coat, Viktor draws a bath and looks over at his mobile, feeling a giddy warmth shooting through his body. Katusdon is back. Yuuri is back. His stomach is a Gordian knot of emotions at the very thought.

A sudden memory of a dream flashes before his eyes. An omen, clad in grey, crimson running down its torso, seaweed wrapped around its face —

Viktor sits up in the bath, clutching at his head as his heart frantically races in his own chest. Yuuri is back, but he’s at death’s door, and there’s nothing Viktor can do now, all this time the omen had been warning him about this and he hadn’t realised, not until now —

His mobile rings. Yuuko’s caller ID pops up. Viktor gulps in lungfuls of air, trying to steady the beat of his heart, and picks up.

Viktor Nikiforov?” Kenjirou’s voice chirps.

“Hi,” replies Viktor. “What’s up?”

It’s Katsudon,” says Kenjirou, and a bit of awe and fear can be heard in his voice. “Yuuko let him out of his carrier and he magically transformed into Yuuri Katsuki and Yuuko called an ambulance and we’re going to the hospital now so if you need to come and visit we’ll be at Central alright?”

All of that comes out in one breath. Viktor whistles.

“Take it slow,” he suggests, and he hears a gasping inhale on the other end. “You’re taking Yuuri to the hospital?”


“How do his injuries look on a human?”

There’s a pause, as if Kenjirou is assessing the damage. “Pretty bad,” he says. “Lacerations and avulsions to the abdomen and feet, and Yuuko’s helping them irrigate and sterilise his wounds. Not sure if anything’s broken, though. But he’s lost a lot of blood, so they’re giving him emergency transfusions.”

Viktor raises an eyebrow at the sudden shift in tone from the kid. “Wow,” he says.

My parents are doctors,” explains Kenjirou. “They’re actually on call today, so they might be the ones to treat him. Um. Did you know Yuuri could — ?”

“Yeah, and so does Yuuko,” says Viktor. “I’ll be at the hospital in a bit, too.” He hangs up before he can hear the boy’s response, and immediately scrambles to rinse himself off and head back into the bedroom to get dressed again.

The drive to the hospital is harrowing, panicked. Viktor almost gets lost on the way because he gets distracted and misses his turn. But he gets to Torvill Central Hospital eventually and rushes for the doors of A&E almost as soon as he’s parked.

“I need to see Yuuri Katsuki,” he says almost as soon as he’s in the waiting room. The receptionist at the desk looks up at him with a quirked eyebrow.

“Are you family?” she intones.

“I…” Viktor trails off. “I’m his partner,” he says, even though it feels like a bit of a lie.

“Legally?” she asks.

“We’re not married,” Viktor says, shaking his head.

“Then I’m sorry, I can’t let you in,” she replies. “Only family is allowed back there. Depending on how his condition changes, he may be moved into a recovery ward, and you will need to consult with a family member about being admitted to see him.”

“What can you tell me about his condition?” asks Viktor.

She purses her lips. “I’m sorry, I can’t tell you much if you aren’t legally his family, Mr…”

“Nikiforov,” says Viktor. Her eyebrows arch a little, but besides that, she shows no signs of having recognised the name. So he puts on his most winning smile, and wheedles, “Just the littlest morsel of information?”

She sighs. “He’s in critical condition. That’s all I can say about it, Mr Nikiforov, I’m sorry.” And she returns to whatever form she had been reading before he showed up. Pouting, Viktor stomps over to one of the chairs in the waiting room, sits down with a huff, and waits.

He checks the group chat for the first time in ages — Phichit hasn’t freaked out about Katsudon yet, so chances are the news hasn’t spread. Maybe it never will, since maybe Yuuko will swear Kenjirou to secrecy about Katsudon’s true nature. He scrolls through his Twitter feed, his Instagram, anything to stop the buzzing in his head at the thought that Yuuri might not make it.

The doors to A&E open again, and the Katsuki family steps through. Viktor watches Mari go up to the window and talk with the receptionist, who then waves them through the door. Viktor tries to look away as they pass, but too late — he catches Mari’s eye, and there’s a flash of something unfathomable in her eyes as she walks by. Viktor feels a chill run down his spine, feels shame and worry curl in his gut.

The Katsukis vanish through the doors, and Viktor fiddles anxiously with his phone as he sits and hopes and wonders if maybe he should just head home and wait for Yuuko or Kenjirou to update him.

He’s not sure how long he sits in the waiting room fretting, but a couple people get called in, a couple others emerge, and he’s scrolled so far down his Twitter feed that the app is starting to crash on him. So he refreshes the app and tries again, keeping an eye on the group chat in case someone else in there gets ahold of any rumours about Yuuri. So far, though, he doesn’t have to worry. Phichit is sharing screenshots of some sort of Neko Atsume-styled game but with hamsters, and Yuri is retaliating with screenshots of his Neko Atsume cats. Viktor notices that both he and Yuuri have cat counterparts in Yuri’s game.

In any case, he’s not sure how long he’s out there waiting, but his phone is at roughly 30% battery when Mari Katsuki returns to the waiting room and makes a beeline straight for him.

“Hey,” she says without preamble, coming to a stop right in front of him. Viktor looks up from his phone at her, smiling.

“Hello,” he says coolly, smiling a smile he does not feel. She folds her arms behind her back and continues to watch him warily for a moment, before looking back at the receptionist and fiddling with something in her pockets.

“Want a smoke?” she asks.

Viktor sighs, runs a hand through his hair. “Why not,” he replies, and follows Mari out of the waiting room doors.

Torvill Central Hospital faces a small park just across the street. It’s empty now, save for the occasional dog walker or pram-pushing caretaker, so they easily find a bench with a view of the hospital building. Mari takes out a pack and hands a cigarette to Viktor, before lighting one up for herself and tossing the lighter at him.

He lights his and takes a drag, exhaling as the nicotine hits his system. He doesn’t really want to get more than a couple puffs in; he’s more interested in hearing whatever news Mari might divulge. So he just watches his cigarette burn in his hands, smelling the smoke from Mari’s as she looks pensively up at the hospital building.

After a while, the suspense gets too much for him to bear. “How is he?” Viktor asks.

Mari exhales smoke at him. Viktor coughs, and subsides. Mari chuckles a little, before taking another drag.

Viktor leans over towards the ashtray on the nearby rubbish bin, and grinds out his cigarette into the sand. Mari quirks an eyebrow.

“Waste of a bloody good cigarette,” she remarks drily.

“I’d rather not pick up the habit again,” Viktor replies.

“Then why’d you come out, if you’re trying not to pick it up again?” she asks.

He shrugs. “Might as well get out of that stuffy waiting room,” he says. “I don’t think they’ve redone that wallpaper since the nineteenth century.”

“This hospital wasn’t even here until the twentieth,” retorts Mari, rolling her eyes. “It started as an auxiliary hospital in World War One, and then again in World War Two, and after that it just sort of forgot to return to being… whatever the building had been before the wars happened.”

Viktor chuckles. “Still might explain the terrible wallpaper,” he replies. Leaning heavily against the bench, he fiddles with his fingers and watches the smoke of her cigarette vanish into the grey-blue sky.

After a moment Mari speaks up. “He’s in surgery,” she says.

Viktor’s heart stutters. “What for?” he asks.

“Broken feet. Both of them. Also, they need to stitch up his open wounds.”

Viktor exhales. “Anything else?”

“Broken ribs,” replies Mari. “They’re not sure what bit him exactly. Yuuko Nishigori thinks it’s probably an orca, though of course she didn’t tell them why Yuuri would be attacked by an orca in the first place.”

Viktor nods. “Understandable,” he murmurs.

“She told me that you were the one who called her about Katsudon,” Mari adds, and Viktor nods. “Thank you for doing that.”

“It’s what anyone would have done,” says Viktor.

Mari purses her lips. She takes another drag of her cigarette and blows the smoke out with a sigh. “They gave him an emergency blood transfusion,” she says after a moment.

“I heard about that,” Viktor replies. At her questioning gaze, he adds, “Kenjirou Minami mentioned it.”

“Ah.” Mari nods. “He did lose a lot of blood,”

“Do you think it’ll change…”

“Whether or not he can transform?” asks Mari. She shrugs. “I wouldn’t know. He’s never had to do this before. We’ll have to wait until he’s recovered to figure that out.”

Viktor nods, looking over at the hospital buildings again. “I hope it won’t be too bad,” he says, and hears a hum of agreement. Mari’s expression is pensive when he turns to look at her; she takes one more drag on her own cigarette before discarding it.

“I hope so, too,” she says. “And really, thank you for helping my brother. The doctors said he might have died from blood loss and exposure if he’d been left out on the beach any longer.”

Viktor smiles, and rises to his feet. “I should go home. Let me know how he’s doing,” he replies.

“I’ll let you know when he’s awake, and you can visit him,” she offers.

His smile grows warmer. “I’d like that,” he agrees.

From: Mari Katsuki
hes out of surgery

To: Mari Katsuki
how is he?

From: Mari Katsuki

From: Mari Katsuki
they pumped him full of drugs for surgery so im not surprised

To: Mari Katsuki
when can i come visit?

From: Mari Katsuki
hes staying in the recovery ward until he wakes and then hell be transferred to inpatient

To: Mari Katsuki
let me know the second you know i can visit

From: Mari Katsuki
will do

Yuuri wakes from surgery in the late evening, though he’s sleeping when Viktor arrives at Yuuri’s room in the inpatient ward. Mari is already there, the sealskin folded up in her arms as she watches Yuuri lying with his eyes closed on the bed.

“How is he?” Viktor asks. Mari shrugs, her eyes glancing towards the monitors that show Yuuri’s vitals. Everything looks, thankfully, quite steady.

“He didn’t have a reaction to the blood transfusion,” she says. “And honestly that was the one thing I was fearing, so it could have been worse.”

Viktor hums. He remains at the foot of Yuuri’s bed, watching Mari sit in her seat next to her little brother, her hand absently stroking over his knuckles. Yuuri’s eyes flutter and his mouth moves, but no sound comes out. His fingers twitch a little, but he makes no other movements.

“Everything else went fine?” Viktor asks.

“Well, he lost so much blood that they were concerned about brain damage,” says Mari, “but it seems like he’s fine now. He’s been drifting in and out of consciousness ever since the anaesthesia wore off, and I’m pretty sure at this point he’s higher than a kite considering all the drugs they’ve put into him.”

Viktor makes a face, still leaning against the foot of Yuuri’s bed. “Think he’ll be all right?” he wonders.

Mari shrugs. “The doctors seem to think he’ll be fine,” she replies, and then checks her mobile. “I’ve got to get home; there’s supposed to be a tour group coming in late tonight,” she says, setting the sealskin down on the bedside table and getting up. “Are you going to stay?”

Viktor nods. “I’m not going anywhere,” he declares. “Though I will need someone to take Makkachin out for the night. I mean, I can do that, but it’ll mean leaving Yuuri alone —”

“Don’t worry; he’s in a hospital. There’s always a nurse on call,” Mari points out.

“Yeah, but I could interpret if needed.”

“Fair point,” says Mari. She heaves a sigh. “I could take your dog out for you on the way back.”

“That’d be great,” says Viktor, already taking her place in the chair at Yuuri’s bedside. “Have fun with the tourists.”

“Take care,” replies Mari, with a pointed look towards Yuuri and an expression that clearly says, don’t fuck this up. Viktor smiles, feeling more confident in this second chance than he knows he should be.

After Mari leaves, Viktor turns to look at Yuuri, whose eyelids are fluttering in his sleep. Viktor wonders what the selkie is dreaming of, if he is dreaming at all. A stray bit of hair falls across Yuuri’s eyes, but Viktor doesn’t dare to touch. Part of him is convinced he’s the one dreaming right now, after months of wishing and hoping for what he had thought had been an impossibility. Surely, if he touches him now, Yuuri will disappear again.

Yuuri suddenly shivers in his sleep, curling in on himself. His face suddenly contorts in pain, causing him to return to sleeping on his back. Viktor takes the clipboard with Yuuri’s patient info from the foot of the bed and reads it over again. Apparently, the selkie has a couple broken ribs on both sides as a result of the killer whale’s bites to his abdomen, not to mention two broken feet and numerous stitches. The hospital is hoping to keep him as an inpatient for at least six weeks to make sure everything heals properly.

His gaze falls on the sealskin again, and he suddenly remembers the question about the blood transfusions. What if Yuuri could never change again? He certainly has no idea how Yuuri manages to transform in the first place, so anything seems possible at this point. And even though he knows it’s mean-spirited and selfish to think so, a little part of him is glad at the possibility that Yuuri may end up becoming fully human as a result of the transfusion.

But thinking like that had lost him Yuuri in the first place. Maybe leaving for Saint Petersburg is for the best, after all — then Yuuri would never have to deal with someone he could very well hate now. Someone who betrayed his trust and hurt him, even if Viktor has done all he can to atone for his actions.

Despite these thoughts, his eyes still drink in the sight of the selkie like a desert traveller at an oasis. Yuuri’s dark lashes are as lovely as he remembered, sweeping soft against his cheeks. His hair is as unruly as ever, though now it has grown past his ears in length. He is also much thinner and paler, too, possibly from too much time swimming in the ocean and not enough time hauled out in the sun. This Yuuri is clearly one who has seen a lot of hardship; he’s a far cry from the well-fed and well-loved Yuuri with soft cheeks and a sweet belly and mountain-crushing thighs that Viktor had first fallen for.

But it’s still Yuuri, and that’s what matters. Just looking at him makes Viktor’s heart stutter a little, like it’s collided with the halves of Yuuri’s heart and isn’t quite sure how to proceed. His fingers twitch a little, before digging crescents into the backs of his thumbs.

Yuuri shivers in his sleep again, and, without really thinking about it, Viktor takes the sealskin and wraps it around Yuuri’s shoulders, tucking him in. He sits back in his chair, his heart racing as he anticipates a reaction. But Yuuri snorts a little in his sleep and snuggles in a little deeper into the skin, and Viktor relaxes, too.

His right hand, which had been resting on the side of the bed, briefly brushes against the fingertips of Yuuri’s left. Yuuri doesn’t disappear.

Viktor’s fingernails on his other hand dig harder into his thumb. Surely this is just some elaborate lucid dream or something. He can believe in selkies and the Fair Folk, but surely one man can only have so many miracles in his life, and he’d exhausted all of his own asking for someone like Yuuri in the first place.

There’s another shift, and suddenly Viktor finds his hand covered by Yuuri’s. He looks towards the faintest glimmer of brown peering through eyelids, smiles sheepishly, and tries to move his hand away.

But all Yuuri does is frown and grab at his hand again, and Viktor’s heart soars at the feeling of Yuuri’s hand in his. The faintest hint of a smile plays at Yuuri’s lips, but then his eyes close again, and his breathing slows. Viktor reckons it has something to do with the IV pump attached to his arm; there’s a very distinct possibility that Yuuri might think differently of his presence once the morphine wears off.

He tries to pull his hand away, but Yuuri only clings on harder. Something warm and fuzzy blooms in Viktor’s stomach at that, and he capitulates, turning his hand and running smooth circles with his thumb along Yuuri’s knuckles. Yuuri exhales, a note of contentment on his breath, and Viktor feels himself go boneless in response. He’d forgotten how nice Yuuri’s breathing sounds, especially in sleep.

And with that thought, Viktor leans down to brush his lips briefly against Yuuri’s knuckle, and smiles when he sees the readings on Yuuri’s EKG pick up a little, and the corners of his mouth twitch upwards. It probably doesn’t mean anything — it’s neither a declaration nor an absolvement. But it does seem to be a plea to stay by him, if only for tonight. So Viktor does.

Excerpt from the writing journal of Yuuri Katsuki:

there are as many ways to say i love you
as there are cherry blossoms in japan
i tried counting once;
and i gave up around ten-thousand.

but i think my favourite way
is when you take my hand
and you don’t let go.

Viktor is woken by a set of hands shaking his shoulders. It’s Minako, and her expression is slightly amused as Viktor groggily rubs his eyes and tries to remember where he is.

Somehow he’d gone from sitting at Yuuri’s bedside to using Yuuri’s thigh as a pillow. The selkie is still asleep, little growl-like snores escaping his throat. Viktor wants to laugh — he remembers Yuuri sometimes making noises like that when they had been living together, and he’d almost forgotten how comical they sound.

Minako nods at a nurse standing just behind her. “They need to check his bandages,” she says bluntly.

Viktor grimaces. “I hope I didn’t hurt anything,” he says as he regretfully extricates his hand from Yuuri’s. The selkie frowns a bit, and Viktor briefly squeezes his hand before stepping away. “What’s the time?”

“Half past eight,” replies Minako, “or rather, time for you to go home and get some proper sleep.”

Viktor acquiesces, letting the nurse approach the bed as he and Minako step out into the hall.

“How’s he doing?” the dancer asks, once the door closes behind them.

Viktor looks up and down, noticing how the hallway looks so different with daylight added to the fluorescent hospital lighting, and shrugs. “The doctors need to keep him here for six weeks for his broken bones to heal,” he says.

Minako exhales. “Mari told me,” she replies. “Has he actually woken up, or?”

“He’s been in and out,” says Viktor.

She hums. “I heard about the transfusion. You don’t suppose he’d —”

“I’m not sure, and I haven’t asked.” Viktor shrugs. “You’re here to visit him, right?”

“No, I’m here for someone else,” says Minako, deadpan. “Of course I am, and the hospital doesn’t need you as a patient, too. So, scram.”

And Viktor does, going home to shower and change his clothes. Mari has texted him about Makkachin being cared for at Yu-Topia, so he swings by to pick up his dog. Makkachin nearly bowls him over with kisses, and Hiroko is all smiles when Viktor thanks her for looking after his dog.

“It’s quite all right! We still have some of Vicchan’s old things, so Makka was very happy here.” Hiroko pats his forearm. “You look like you could do with some breakfast, too. I could make you something, if you’d like.”

Viktor smiles. “I could never refuse your cooking,” he says, and Hiroko flushes happily and gestures to the noren of the restaurant.

The table in the family section of the restaurant has been transformed into a kotatsu with the addition of a heavy blanket, and Makkachin immediately situates himself underneath it, tail poking out beneath the blanket. Viktor sits down, too, and grins when he feels the table’s warmth against his legs.

“I’ve always wanted to try one of these,” he says, and Hiroko laughs.

“We have another one up in our rooms,” she says. “Yuuri used to love falling asleep under them; we’d have to wake him up and remind him to go to bed.”

Viktor chuckles, watching Hiroko disappear into the kitchen and reemerge moments later with a tray full of breakfast. It’s fairly simple, consisting of steamed rice, miso soup, a small rolled-up omlette, a little grilled mackerel, and some natto. Viktor carefully eats it, and Hiroko quietly sits across the table from him, sipping a mug of tea and reading a magazine printed in Japanese.

“I read the notebook,” he says after a moment. Hiroko sets down her mug and fixes him with her warm brown eyes. Even if she isn’t Yuuri’s biological mother, there’s still so much of her in him that it gives Viktor pause.

“That’s good,” she says. “I don’t know what it says, but I can probably guess.”

“Do you think he’ll want it back?” Viktor takes a bite of the omlette. The egg is just a little sweet. He likes it.

Hiroko shrugs. “I am sure he will tell you if he wants you to return it,” she says.

Viktor exhales. “I’m not really sure if I deserved it,” he admits.

Hiroko reaches across the table and pats his hand. Viktor looks down at it, pursing his lips with confusion. When he meets her eyes again, however, he sees nothing but understanding and love.

“There are two things that Yuuri treasures most in this world,” she says quietly, “and they are his sealskin and that notebook. They are both part of him — that sealskin has been with him since Toshiya and I first found him, and that notebook has been where he hides his innermost thoughts even from all of his other writings. Not many people know about this notebook, Vicchan, just like not many people know about his secret, or possess his heart.”

Viktor swallows. “The more I read those entries, the less I felt like I had any right to his heart,” he confesses, unconsciously tangling his fingers in Makkachin’s fur. His dog nudges against his knee under the table, and Viktor sighs. “He’s loved me and my words for so long that I can’t imagine how terrible it must be for him, to be betrayed by his idol like that. He kept saying that he never let anyone close to him lest they use his secret against him, and I only proved him right.”

Hiroko raises an eyebrow. “What exactly did you do?” she asks, though Viktor has a feeling that she knows. Mari probably told her the moment Viktor confessed. He looks down at his breakfast, unwilling to meet her eyes.

“I took his sealskin and hid it,” he says.

She nods. “And yet, even after he came to me, before he set out for the sea, he told me to give you his personal journal, the closest thing he has to his heart. He wanted to leave it in your care so that you would come to have a better understanding of him.”

Viktor feels a stinging behind his eyes. “I do not deserve that,” he says. “I let the sea-longing destroy him because I was weak and cowardly and too scared to lose him.”

“But you love him,” Hiroko muses, folding her hands and examining him shrewdly from over the rims of her glasses.

“More than breathing,” agrees Viktor.

Hiroko takes a deep breath. “It’s been hard for all of us to accept his extended absence because of your foolish actions,” she says after a moment. “But I think we’ve come to realise that you were acting out of love, even if it was misguided. We can’t fault you for that. And he’s back now, thanks to you.”

Viktor finishes his miso soup, because he has no idea what to say in response to that. Hiroko sips her tea, her brown eyes sparkling. There’s a little thump as Makkachin’s tail hits the floor repeatedly in contentment.

“I’m still leaving, though,” Viktor says after a moment.

Hiroko nods. “I know,” she says. “You should tell him that yourself.”

Viktor smiles. “He deserves that,” he agrees, and finishes the rest of his breakfast in silence.

It’s quite cold and windy when he and Makkachin set out for home after breakfast, despite it already being mid-morning. Viktor doesn’t want to linger too long in this cold; he already misses the warmth of the kotatsu at Yu-Topia. Similarly, Makkachin seems restless all the way up the cliffside trail, and wags his tail when he reaches the staircase to the little beach. Viktor looks down to the sand, where twenty-four hours ago he had found Katsudon lying down there at death’s door, and feels his stomach lurch a little.

“Do you wanna go see Katsudon?” he asks.

Makkachin barks his assent. Viktor laughs.

“Well, maybe another day,” he suggests. “Today we need to get the rest of our packing done.” Even though the shipping company has taken away the boxes, there’s still the suitcases that Viktor’s going to take on the plane left to pack, and some laundry to do. So Viktor dedicates his day to that, puttering around the house with some final chores while Makkachin preoccupies himself with his chew toy under the kitchen table.

“We should get one of those heating tables when we’re in Saint Petersburg, huh?” Viktor asks Makkachin when he passes by the kitchen table with a basket of freshly-washed clothes to hang up in the living room. Makkachin boofs in agreement. Viktor chuckles, heading into the living room to string up the clotheslines and hang up his laundry.

It’s so odd, thinking that this will be the last time he does this here in this cottage. He’d hoped, at least this time last year, that his temporary stay in Torvill Cove might stretch into something more long-term, and the landlady who’d let him the cottage had hoped for it as well. But the dice had fallen as they did, and now he’s going home even though a part of him is already starting to question the decision.

But you love him.

More than breathing.

Viktor feels his breath come short and his heart speed up, and suddenly he’s drowning in a torrent of feelings that he had tried to lock away during these months without Yuuri. He’s powerless in his protestations now, standing there in the middle of his living room with a pair of socks in his hands, with his mind racing out of control with all that he had left unsaid — all that he still needs to say.

He has to see him again. He has to look Yuuri in the eye and apologise and say goodbye. Just holding his hand at his bedside is not enough.

But even the task of finding the right words for an apology seems practically herculean, when there’s so much that he wants to say and not nearly enough time to say them.

So with a sigh, Viktor pins up his socks, and tries to slow the racing of his heart.

a white sunroom with a wicker couch

Viktor Nikiforov @v-nikiforov
Packed for #saintpetersburg! Everything looks emptier now :( #torvillcove

a poodle on a rocky cliff

Viktor Nikiforov @v-nikiforov
Makka doesn’t want to leave #torvillcove

gulls flying over the beach

Viktor Nikiforov @v-nikiforov
#torvillcove #torvillpoint #scotland


Viktor Nikiforov @v-nikiforov
We danced the night away #torvillcove#torvillcovepier

cropped image of a young man in a blue cardigan

Viktor Nikiforov @v-nikiforov
Thinking of the good times <3 <3 <3

The next morning, he heads down to the florist for a bouquet of pink camellias before going to the hospital. Makkachin rides with him this time, peering out of the window excitedly as the town races by.

The hospital doesn’t let Makkachin in, possibly because Viktor hadn’t trained his poodle well enough to even begin passing him off as a service dog. So Viktor texts the group chat about his current predicament, and finds, to his surprise, that Phichit is actually at the hospital.

The Thai man meets him in the reception area moments later, accompanied by the Katsukis. “Vicchan!” exclaims Hiroko when she sees him. “I heard you need some help with Makka?”

“Yeah, the hospital won’t let him in,” says Viktor, moving the flowers slightly behind his back.

Hiroko waves a hand. “Oh, but Yuuri would love to see Makka,” she sighs. “He’ll be heartbroken to hear he can’t.”

Viktor’s stomach jolts. “He’s awake?” he asks.

“He’s still drifting,” Mari cuts in. “So he might not be really awake when you go in.”

Viktor makes a little ‘ah’ of understanding, before looking down at Makkachin. “You don’t mind going with Yuuri’s family, do you?” he asks cheerily. Makkachin wags his tail, so Viktor hands the leash over to Hiroko, and kneels down to pat his dog. “I’ll come for you later, alright?”

Makkachin boofs. Viktor smiles at Hiroko and bows slightly, before following Phichit down the hallway to Yuuri’s room.

Yuuri is asleep, propped up against a couple more pillows with the blankets tucked in. Viktor notices that the sealskin is folded like a quilt at the end of the bed. Phichit only glances briefly at it as he takes a seat, and Viktor wonders if Phichit knows about Yuuri’s secret now.

He looks around the room. “Think the nurse will kill me if I call her in to ask if we could find a vase?” he asks, partly to break the awkward silence in the room. Phichit laughs a little.

“She might take it better if you just go outside and ask,” he suggests, so Viktor does so. The nurse comes out of the break room with a vase for him, and helps him fill it with water. The camellias are a bright splash of pink in the room when Viktor sets it down on Yuuri’s bedside, and he wishes just briefly that the selkie could be awake to see them.

For a moment, the two of them stay there in silence, watching the beeping of the various monitors next to the bed. Yuuri sleeps on, only slight crinkles in his brow giving away any hint of discomfort in his rest, and Viktor wishes he could smooth them away.

“He wouldn’t tell me anything about where he’d been,” Phichit says after a moment, his eyes trained on Yuuri. “He said he was just ‘travelling around’. I asked him why he never answered his texts, and he said he didn’t have his phone on him.”

Viktor hums. “He did leave his phone at my place. It’s at Yu-Topia now with the rest of his stuff.”

“So it’s final, then?” asks Phichit. “You’re leaving?”

Viktor nods. Phichit sighs.

“That’s too bad,” he says. “Right when Yuuri comes back, too.”

“Well, I didn’t anticipate him coming back.”

“You two broke up?” Phichit’s eyes are wide, looking between him and the slumbering Yuuri with confusion evident all over his face.

Viktor laughs, shakes his head. “I mean, as broken up as we can be with his belongings back at his place and me flying off to Saint Petersburg in a couple of days,” he says.

Phichit squints at him, disbelief etched all over his face. “That sounds pretty broken up,” he points out.

“Yeah,” sighs Viktor, “it does. But we never really had the talk, so…”

Phichit hums. “I mean, I guess him disappearing on you for, like, four and a half months is a pretty strong statement,” he muses. “You did what you could, I guess.”

“I deserved it,” says Viktor. Phichit raises an eyebrow.

“So you two did fight.”

“No, but I hurt him all the same.” He doesn’t look at the sealskin, but Phichit glances briefly at it all the same and looks back up at him.

There’s a pause, and then the Thai man says, “I have, like, so many questions.”

Viktor raises an eyebrow. “Yeah?” he asks.

“There was a rumour that Katsudon had reappeared a couple of days ago as well,” begins Phichit, already pulling out his mobile. “A few days before that, there was this viral video of a seal being attacked by a killer whale, and —” he shows his phone screen to Viktor, pressing play on the video.

Viktor’s breath flees him in an instant when he sees a familiar black seal leaping out of the water to avoid the black-and-white arc of his orca pursuer, only to be bitten in the side and briefly dragged down beneath the water’s surface. There’s a moment of splashing, and then the seal’s head appears above the water for a moment before diving back down again.

“You think that’s Katsudon,” says Viktor, even though the video shows the seal sustaining the exact same injuries that are on Yuuri’s body. The universe may love coincidences, but Viktor highly doubts that this is one.

“I don’t know,” replies Phichit. “I don’t know who to believe. Katsudon’s last appearance — at least, that I know of — was the day after Halloween. After that, both he and Yuuri disappeared off the face of the earth. Then Yuuri reappears, and now there’s a rumour Katsudon’s back, too, but I haven’t seen him anywhere.”

Viktor swallows, shifting slightly on one foot to the other. Deliberately ignoring the sealskin at the foot of the bed, he moves so that he can sit at Yuuri’s bedside as well. On the other hand, Phichit’s gaze seems transfixed at the folded pelt, as if he’s trying to add two and two together.

“You know, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the two of them together at the same time,” he muses.

“Who, Yuuri and Katsudon?”

“Did you know about this?” Phichit asks. Viktor blinks.

“About what?” he asks.

“Please,” says Phichit. “Don’t insult my intelligence, Viktor. I know you wrote Stay Close to Me about Yuuri.”

“I didn’t exactly make that a secret,” Viktor points out.

“The love interest in the story is a swan shapeshifter,” Phichit replies. “I’m not stupid, you know. The clues are staring me in the face.”

Viktor’s smile is terribly fake, and he suspects Phichit knows this. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he says.

Phichit sighs. “So you do know.”

Viktor shifts slightly. “It’s not my place to tell you.” God, he’s starting to sound like the Katsukis. He’s not sure if that’s a good thing or not.

Phichit nods. “Yeah, I guess,” he says. “Why didn’t Yuuri tell me himself? I thought we were friends.” It seems to be more of a rhetorical question, though, so Viktor doesn’t bother to answer. Phichit continues, “I mean, I guess he probably didn’t tell me because he’s so private and I’m one of the writers of Coved Secrets, but…” he trails off, and sighs. “Wish he’d had more faith in me, though.”

“Maybe if you deleted some videos off Instagram?” Viktor wonders innocently.

Phichit gasps. “He thought I’d tag him to videos of Katsudon if he told me about this?” he demands.

Viktor shrugs. “I mean, these are all questions you should ask him, not me,” he points out.

Phichit sighs, puts his mobile away. “Yeah, I guess,” he says. “I’m sorry. I’m sure he had his reasons for hiding this from me. I just…” he exhales, and smiles at Yuuri’s sleeping form. “We’ve known each other for so long, and I thought I’d pretty much figured out everything there was to know about him, but then you come along, and this…” he gestures to the bed. “He’s never going to stop surprising us, is he?”

Viktor laughs a little at that. People used to say that about him, too. “I like that about him,” he says, watching the play of the sunlight across Yuuri’s face. “No matter how much I learn about him, there’s always something new to discover.”

“Yeah,” says Phichit, smiling. Viktor lets his eyes linger on Yuuri’s hand, thinking back to how Yuuri had refused to let him go the last time he was here. His fingers twitch a little, and he folds his hands behind his back to resist the temptation to touch again.

He might as well admit it now that, even with the journal, Yuuri is always going to be an enigma he can’t ever fully uncover. And maybe that’s fine. Like the ocean itself, only five percent of him has been charted, and Viktor only wishes he’d had enough time for the rest.

He’s interrupted out of his thoughts by the mischievous grin on Phichit’s face. “So, what’s he like in bed?” the Thai man asks with a salacious grin.

“Like that,” says Viktor, nodding to Yuuri’s current position. Phichit laughs, and Viktor shakes his head. “No, he’s… I don’t kiss and tell.”

“Oh, come on. You’re probably the only person in the world who can answer that question, and I’m terribly curious.”

Viktor shakes his head. “No deets,” he says.

“So then I’ll just have to wait for you to release Stay Close to Me and figure it out myself?”

Viktor laughs sheepishly, rubbing the nape of his neck. “About that,” he begins, and Phichit’s eyes go wider.

“Wait, so you’re really not publishing it?” he demands.

Viktor gapes at him. “How did you —” he begins, before dropping the question with a sigh. Phichit is probably friends with the entire bell desk at Yu-Topia or something. He really should stop underestimating the lengths to which this man would go for news.

Phichit puts his chin on his hands and sighs. “What a shame,” he says, looking at Yuuri. “I was really hoping to read more about how Yuuri stole your heart.”

Viktor chuckles. “That’s a story I think I’ll keep to myself,” he admits, and together they subside and watch the rise and fall of Yuuri’s chest together.

At noon, the door to Yuuri’s room swings open again and Christophe enters, collapsing into a chair with a dramatic sigh.

He scrubs a hand through his hair before looking at them, and asks, “What was the maximum number of visitors for Yuuri’s room, again?”

“Something like three or four,” says Phichit, shrugging. He takes out his phone, scrolls through something rapidly. “Mari says four.”

“Cool.” Christophe stretches out in his seat. His gaze briefly locks with Viktor’s before he turns away, a slight spot of pink appearing on his cheeks. Viktor can feel his own ears burning.

Phichit looks between the two of them for a moment, his brows furrowing (because clearly not even God Himself can hide secrets from Phichit Chulanont). But he doesn’t say anything about whatever he may have picked up from his glance, and turns instead to Yuuri, whose eyelids are fluttering again as if caught in a dream.

“Has he opened his eyes at all?” Christophe asks, leaning against the footboard of the bed.

“Briefly,” says Phichit. “I think sometimes he just pretends to be asleep so he doesn’t have to try and converse with us.”

Christophe laughs. “Smart,” he says, his gaze flickering briefly to the monitors. “He’ll be able to hear all the terrible things we say about him behind his back.”

“Chris!” gasps Phichit in mock affront. “You talk about Yuuri behind his back?”

“Of course,” replies Christophe, grinning. “Yuuri Katsuki is a menace to society. He’s too pretty and he can dance the tango.”

“Atrocious,” agrees Phichit. “And Viktor Nikiforov won’t even tell us how good he is at the horizontal tango, either. A real disservice to the community.”

Viktor laughs at that, noticing that the faintest twitch of a smile has graced Yuuri’s lips. Christophe looks over at him, too, his hazel eyes twinkling just the slightest bit, and Viktor briefly smiles before looking back down at his hands. He can almost feel Christophe’s gaze burning into his head; guilt squeezes at his stomach in turn.

The morning after their kiss, he had woken up on the couch with less of a hangover than he’d anticipated, changed back into his clothes from the night before, and snuck out of Christophe’s flat while he slept.

Neither of them had brought up that night since; Viktor had carefully avoided being left alone with him, and Christophe had been the picture of professionalism in all of their encounters as well. But now that Viktor is leaving, the conversation has gone past overdue to another piece of unfinished business that must be taken care of before Viktor leaves for Inverness.

“I’ll be right back,” Viktor says, rising to his feet and leaving the room in search of the nearest toilet. The nurse points him in the right direction, and once there, Viktor busies himself with washing his hands until the door opens and Christophe enters.

“Finally,” says Christophe, not looking at Viktor as he turns towards one of the urinals. Viktor watches his back in the mirror, turning off the tap and flicking extra water from his hands.

“I’m sorry I left before we could talk,” he says.

Christophe laughs. “I have to confess, I was a bit hurt. You kissed me and then you ran away.”

“I’m sorry,” repeats Viktor. “I was going through a rough patch. And I’m not good with difficult emotions.”

“At least you admit it.” Christophe finishes, flushes, heads for the sink. Viktor lingers at the counter, staring at Christophe’s reflection instead of the man himself.

“Yeah,” he sighs. “Better late than never, though. I didn’t really want to leave town without talking about it, but I couldn’t really figure out how —”

Christophe turns off the tap; the abruptness makes Viktor stop short and look at him.

“Don’t,” says the Swiss man, his eyes deliberately trained on Viktor’s hands. “Don’t make excuses, Viktor; if you really wanted to do it, you would have found me.”

Viktor bristles. “Don’t make it sound so easy, Christophe,” he snaps.

He is immediately accosted by the other man’s sharp hazel glare. “Is it?” demands Christophe. “Is it really that hard to just tell me that you can’t return my feelings because of Yuuri?”

“That’s not the point!” There’s too much emotion in his voice. Too much anger and frustration and hurt. So he takes a couple deep breaths, and continues, “After you went to bed that night, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to feel, or how to react to you being so — so gentlemanly.”

And the words long bottled up now come spilling out, breaking through the dams of his usual filters. He really could have used this months ago.

“It would have been easier if I could just get my frustration taken care of. But you were right — you didn’t deserve to be a rebound. It just made me feel worse. So I called my mother and asked if I could go home.”

Christophe gapes at him as he finishes. “You’re leaving because of me.”

“No,” says Viktor. “You were just the final straw.”

He sees the angry light fade from Christophe’s eyes at that, replaced with a strange, sullen sadness. The Swiss man nods, folds his hands behind his back.

“I’m sorry, Viktor,” he says. “I suspected you were hurting because of Yuuri. I wasn’t really aware of how much.”

Viktor shakes his head. “I was wrong for treating you the way I did. You deserve better.”

Christophe laughs a little. “Like I said, very few people can get mad about being kissed by Viktor Nikiforov. I only wish it had happened under better circumstances.”

“Let me make it up to you,” offers Viktor. Christophe arches an eyebrow, and Viktor laughs. “No, I’m not going to kiss you again,” he warns.

“Damn,” says Christophe, dramatically snapping a finger.

“But I can treat you to dinner tomorrow night. What’s your favourite restaurant in the area? We’ll invite the group chat and call it the last supper.”

Christophe laughs at that. “That sounds excellent. I’ll accept this apology, with the caveat that you have to look at every single photo of Julia on my phone. With commentary.”

Viktor chuckles. “Done,” he says.

They exit the washroom together and return to Yuuri’s room. Phichit is reading Instagram posts to the selkie, whose eyes are sparkling as he listens. He makes no gestures when Viktor enters, though the smile tugging at his lips fades just a little, and guilt squeezes Viktor’s stomach again as he watches Yuuri’s head turn to give Phichit his full attention once more.

Christophe briefly pats Viktor’s forearm, a sympathetic look on his face as he takes a seat next to Phichit, and Viktor sighs, rubbing at his nape. The things he wants to say to Yuuri are for him alone, so he’ll have to wait for some other time to tell him. Yet another thing to take care of before he leaves, and for some reason, part of him would rather be back in the washroom during his confrontation with Christophe again.

With a sigh he takes a seat on the other side of the bed, and tries not to look too disappointed when he sees Yuuri shifting away from him in response.

SHALLWESKATE: guys this just in
SHALLWESKATE: viktor’s taking us to dinner tomorrow
SHALLWESKATE: because it’s going to be his last night in torvill and he’s a drama king who wants to call it the last supper
dirtycocktail: i got to pick the place! we’ll be going to the doggy paddle in altwegg ;)
gh_kawaii: ooh! is it good?
dirtycocktail: they make great coffee and sandwiches
dirtycocktail: i go every time i’m in town
mila_b: i’m guessing we all need to figure out our own transport there?
sara-crispino: mickey and i can take you! but then we can only take 2 more
SHALLWESKATE: chris and i have rides from viktor
leooooo: @sara-crispino gh and i need rides
yuripurrsetsky: who am i with
SHALLWESKATE: me and chris i guess
yuripurrsetsky: fuck that i’ll walk
SHALLWESKATE: to altwegg? yer killin me smalls
yuripurrsetsky: i’ll kill you for real if you call me smalls again
SHALLWESKATE: god yuri are you my appendix
SHALLWESKATE: because you’re so extra
gh_kawaii: lololol
yuripurrsetsky: (ノಠ益ಠ)ノ彡┻━┻
SHALLWESKATE: @yuripurrsetsky viktor chris and i will pick u up from the lighthouse @ 5 tomorrow be there or be ⬛
yuripurrsetsky: ugh fine

Viktor had never been to the neighbouring town of Altwegg before, and he’s starting to regret not going there earlier. The sky is darkening as his convertible pulls into the town, which looks like a smaller, sleepier, and more inland version of Torvill Cove.

“Take a left at Towler Green,” says Christophe, gesturing to the park stretching out up ahead to their left. The streetlamps are already coming on, dousing the town in soft, warm hues in contrast to the lengthening shadows of the twilight. “It’s on Martin Street. There’s no carpark nearby, so you might need to park on a meter — you have change, right?”

“Maybe,” says Viktor, gesturing vaguely to the glove compartment on his left. “I keep a bag full of change in there somewhere.”

They turn at the end of the park onto Martin Street and head down until Viktor spots a dog-shaped oar hanging from a building with the words ‘The Doggy Paddle’ on it. Unfortunately, there are no free parking spaces at the curb near the building, so they have to park farther down the road and come back, coats and collars turned up against the cold March evening. Makkachin tugs at his leash, evidently smelling the aroma of baking bread wafting from the small restaurant.

“I called ahead and got reservations for nine,” says Christophe. “We’re sure Georgi’s not coming?”

“He said he had dinner with someone,” Phichit says immediately. “Mila was excited about it.”

“Ooh, a date?” asks Christophe.

“I’m guessing so,” replies Phichit.

“Good for him,” says Viktor, trying not to think about Yuuri, asleep in his hospital room. Next to him, Yuri shoves his hands into the pockets of his leopard-print jacket and scuffs his boots against the pavement.

Mila, Sara, Mickey, Guang-Hong, and Leo, who had all driven over from the college, are already waiting for them at their table when they arrive. They take their seats, then, and Viktor opens his menu to peruse the items.

“Christophe, you said this was your favourite restaurant in Altwegg. What do you recommend?” he asks. Christophe leans over, and points at a couple selections.

“The au jus for the roast beef is really good,” he says. Viktor hums and nods.

“What about the chicken pesto?” he wonders.

“Also pretty good,” agrees Christophe. “Honestly you can’t go wrong with anything they serve.”

A server comes by moments later to take their orders. Once they’ve taken the menus as well, the table dissolves into quiet conversations. Viktor nudges Makkachin under the table, who shifts to put his head in Viktor’s lap.

“Did you get him the doggy special?” asks Christophe. Viktor nods, scratching Makkachin under the chin.

“He’d never let me eat my dinner in peace otherwise,” he says, before making a couple kissy noises at Makkachin, who woofs in agreement. Viktor chuckles; Phichit snaps a picture.

That reminds Christophe to pull out his phone and make good on his caveat about the pictures of his cat, Julia. Viktor had expected there to be only twenty or so pictures; to his chagrin, Christophe pulls out an album of 384 of them. And then another one consisting of 163 saved snapchats.

And Viktor thought he liked taking pictures of Makkachin.

Viktor lets Christophe’s voice draw him in, wash over him: Christophe talks about Fibonacci spirals and Romantic paintings, about the rule of thirds and perspective. Each photograph is a work of art, and there’s so many of them that they blur together in Viktor’s head. Add that to the fact that others in the group are also listening, even if only to prod Christophe into recounting increasingly more outlandish tales about his cat.

The stories pause, briefly, when the server returns with their food, but almost as soon as they’re gone Christophe picks up the stories again. Viktor knows it’s almost a form of punishment, but there’s something lovely in the way Christophe talks about Julia’s misadventures. Even if some of them sound too strange to be true, Viktor enjoys them anyway.

Finally, though, Christophe reaches the last photos, taken of Julia at the shelter where he’d picked her up just mere weeks after arriving in Torvill Cove. She looks a bit malcontented in her cage; Viktor has to smile at the difference living with Christophe has done for her.

It’s overall a good night, surrounded by laughter and conversation and friends. Viktor’s not quite sure how he ended up like this; he’d never managed to cultivate a friend group this close before, not even in Saint Petersburg. He’d had drinks with some classmates, some colleagues, and he’d had flings with various people of various genders. He’d even had that long-term relationship with Alexei, the underwear model, that had gotten him through most of university. But he had always felt alone, drifting far from the people surrounding him.

“What are you going to do with your car, Viktor?” wonders Sara. Viktor looks up from his half-eaten sandwich, shrugging.

“I’m not sure, but it’s probably not going back to Russia with me,” he says, laughing. “Russians drive on the right side of the road.”

“You drive in Russia?” asks Mila, raising an eyebrow.

“Hypothetically,” says Viktor, shrugging. “I prefer public transit.”

“The public transit over here is pretty atrocious, yeah,” says Phichit. “But at least there’s buses, though most of them are run by the college.”

“There’s the public one that goes from the boardwalk in Torvill to the bell tower in Belita,” says Sara. “And it has stops in Altwegg, too.”

“Yeah, I take that one to the gallery,” says Christophe. “Shame you won’t see the opening, Viktor, it’s only in a couple of weeks.”

“Sorry, I didn’t know it was coming out after my departure date,” says Viktor drily.

“I got to see a preview for the Reporter,” says Phichit, grinning. “He has some great pictures of Katsudon.”

“I still think I saw him in La Jolla,” adds Guang-Hong. “I miss Katsudon.”

There’s a moment of silence. Viktor thinks of the sealskin folded at the foot of Yuuri’s bed, and the possibility that he might not be able to transform anymore because of the blood transfusions. He quietly counts the beats of his heart, before smiling.

“I’m sure Katsudon’ll be back soon,” he says. “Yuuri’s back already, and I thought I’d never see him again, so I’m sure you’ll get your wish, too.”

He ignores the pointed look that Phichit sends him at that, and holds up a smaller dessert menu.

“Anyway, anyone for dessert? Tonight’s my treat.”

The table agrees to split a couple small chocolate cookie sundaes, and afterwards Viktor pays the bill for dinner and everyone begins to gather their things to leave. Makkachin, who had clearly enjoyed his doggy special (a small doggy sandwich and some fresh fruit) based on the cleanliness of his bowl, leads the way out into the cold March night back to Viktor’s car.

“You know,” says Viktor as he clambers in, watching Phichit and Yuri pile into the back with Makkachin and Christophe join him in the passenger’s seat. “If you’re interested in looking after my car, Christophe —”

He’s cut off by a small gasp and a stubbly kiss to his cheek. “That would be amazing,” the Swiss man gushes. “I’ve been debating whether or not to get a car for some time, since I’ve mostly been getting lifts from Sara if I want to go anywhere else to take pictures, but — yes. I’d love to take this car off your hands for you.”

“Then that’s settled, then,” replies Viktor as he pulls from the curb. “I’m probably going to go visit Yuuri one more time tonight, so I’ll probably leave it in the hospital carpark for you.”

“How are you getting to the airport, then?” asks Phichit as Viktor takes a right onto High Street to get out of the town.

He drums his fingers against the wheel. “I’m calling a cab,” he replies.

“Why?” asks Yuri. “My dedushka can take you. I’ll ask him about it.”

“I wouldn’t want to impose,” says Viktor.

“He got Beka from the airport for Christmas, remember?” Yuri is already tapping away at his phone. “He doesn’t go out to Inverness too much, but I know he can handle it.”

“Well, if he agrees, tell him I said thank you,” says Viktor, as they get onto the highway leading back down to Torvill Cove.

As arranged, he drops Phichit and Christophe off at the boardwalk, and Yuri up at the lighthouse. Then he turns his car around and makes his way back to his cottage, instructing Makkachin to stay in the car while he goes inside to fetch his bags.

He’s been preparing for this. He’s done all of the remaining chores, thrown out the last of the food and the rubbish. Now he goes through each room, checking to make sure everything is in order, before grabbing his suitcases, shouldering his backpack, and heading back out the front door.

He’d locked the back doors this morning. Now he locks the front door, and drops the key into the little flowerpot next to the nearby window, as instructed by his landlady. His suitcases clatter down the little path, through the kissing gate, and to the car.

The drive to the hospital is quiet. Viktor had turned off the radio after he’d dropped Yuri off, and the silence seems to fill the spaces in the convertible that had been left behind. He’d rolled up the roof of the car to bring up the windows, so Makkachin plasters his nose to the glass, fogging it up with his steady panting.

They pull into a long-term spot in the carpark, and Viktor takes his bags and Makkachin with him into the hospital.

The hallways are relatively dark and quiet at this time of the night, most of the staff having gone home except for some people on night shifts. The nurse on duty for Yuuri’s ward sends him an odd look as he approaches him. “Your dog’s not a guide dog, is he?” he asks.

Viktor shakes his head. “I can explain,” he says.

“No,” says the nurse. “We can’t allow dogs into the ward. Or that sheer amount of luggage.”

Viktor sighs. “I can explain that, too,” he says, and approaches the desk with his best pleading expression. “It’s my last night in Torvill, sir. The love of my life is confined to bed rest in this ward, and I want to spend the night by his side.”

The nurse raises an eyebrow. Viktor barrels on, adding a slight note of hysteria into his voice.

“He loves this dog more than anything, you know? Definitely more than me, at least. And we’ve had a bit of a separation lately, so he hasn’t seen this dog in months. And since it’s our last night in town, I thought it’d only be fair to let them say goodbye.”

The nurse raises the other eyebrow. “What about the luggage?” he asks.

“I’m leaving for the airport first thing in the morning,” says Viktor. “I don’t see the point of going back to my rental if I can just spend the night with my love.”

The nurse’s expression becomes considerably pained, as if he’s trying really hard to weigh the pros and cons of taking Viktor at his word. Finally, he sighs. “You’re not making any of this up, are you?”

“Nope,” says Viktor.

“I would’ve given you points for the story, but… damn.” The man shakes his head. “What would you do if I told you no?”

“I’m hoping you don’t,” replies Viktor. “Please. It’s our last night, I swear.”

The nurse sighs. “Fine,” he says, and Viktor practically skips the rest of the way down to Yuuri’s room.

Yuuri is asleep when Viktor enters, the moonlight filtering through the window to light his face in silver. He’s as breathtaking as ever, and Viktor sets down his bags on the ground with a sigh and takes his seat next to his bed. Makkachin perches his front paws at the side of the bed, peering curiously at Yuuri as well.

“He’s got broken feet and ribs, Makka, so behave,” says Viktor.

There’s a sudden shift in the bed. Viktor’s heart jolts when he sees Yuuri crack open an eye and look at him. He smiles brightly, even if Yuuri doesn’t answer it.

“I brought you someone,” he says. Makkachin woofs at that, and Yuuri’s lips finally curve into a smile. He reaches out a hand to pet Makkachin’s head, fingers running through tight brown curls.

Viktor sits back, watching the two of them reunite. Yuuri’s attention is devoted entirely onto Makkachin, and it makes the warmth in Viktor’s heart return. He’s looking a little less sickly with each day, though Viktor knows there’s still many days ahead before Yuuri can be discharged from the hospital. He sighs a little, and that draws the selkie’s attention.

What are you doing here? The gestures are a little thick, a little slow — must be the morphine.

“I wanted to spend my last night in Torvill Cove with you,” says Viktor.

You’re leaving?

Viktor nods. Yuuri blinks at him, and then says nothing else, as if he’s trying to process that. The corners of his mouth visibly downturn, and Viktor can’t help but feel his pulse speed up a little at that.

“Yuuri, there’s something I want to tell you,” he says. Yuuri raises a finger to stop him, and Viktor nods, watching Yuuri shift a little to accomodate Makkachin clambering onto the bed. Yuuri winces a little when the poodle bumps up against his chest, so Makkachin settles in his lap instead. Clicking a couple buttons at his side, Yuuri then raises his bed into more of a sitting position and nods at Viktor to continue.

Viktor sighs. “I wanted to apologise for stealing your sealskin,” he says. “I don’t remember doing it, but that doesn’t matter. I was terrified at the time of losing you, but that doesn’t matter, either. I hurt you. And I’m sorry for that.”

Yuuri says nothing, only idly runs his hands through Makkachin’s curls. Viktor bites his lips, and continues.

“I’m leaving Torvill because I thought you weren’t going to come back. I couldn’t live with knowing my legacy in this town was to be the one who drove you away. To look everyone in the eye and think about how I betrayed their kindness by hurting you.”

Yuuri exhales and nods, still saying nothing. His hands have stilled in Makkachin’s fur, however, and the poodle gives a little snore and thumps his tail, having fallen asleep to Yuuri’s petting.

Viktor watches the play of light and shadow against Yuuri’s face, that familiar warmth of breathlessness seizing him as his eyes feast along the lines and curves of the selkie’s handsome features. He memorises Yuuri’s face again, recapturing the sparkle in his eyes and the faint, soft shine on his lips. Are they as smooth as he remembers? Or have they been roughened by months at sea?

He feels a hand on his chest, and he realises he’s been moving in without really realising it. He coughs a bit, and returns to his former position, feeling his face heat up. “Sorry,” he says, rubbing at his nape. “I got a bit lost.”

Yuuri smirks a little. Viktor feels his heart stutter.

“Um. Well. We have…” he trails off to check his mobile. It’s nearing one. “Nine hours before I leave for Saint Petersburg. I just wanted to say goodbye, and apologise, and I had been planning to wait until you woke up to do that, but since I did say most of what I was ready to say, I guess… well. If you hate me now, and you want me to leave, just tell me. And I’ll leave. I mean, I was going to leave in the morning anyway, but —”

You ramble, Yuuri signs.

“I’ll shut up,” offers Viktor.

It’s fine. Yuuri smiles. I like hearing you talk.

Viktor laughs, feeling a bit winded just looking at the curve of Yuuri’s lips. “I missed you,” he admits. “I know I deserved that, that going out to sea for months thing, but I missed you anyway.”

I missed home, Yuuri signs. Viktor exhales.

“What were you doing out there? Where did you go?”

Yuuri shakes his head. Long story, he says.

“We do have nine hours.”

I’m tired.

“Point,” Viktor concedes. His smile has grown bittersweet, matching the wistful expression on Yuuri’s face. “Do you want to sleep?”

Yuuri yawns and nods, before shivering a little at a sudden draft from the window. Viktor’s gaze falls on the sealskin at the foot of his bed, and he brings it up and presses it into Yuuri’s hands.

“Would you like me to tuck you in?” he asks. Yuuri nods, and Viktor tucks the sealskin around his shoulders. It gleams at him in the moonlight, almost iridescent, magical. Yuuri snuggles into it, eyes sparkling as he looks at Viktor, and Viktor feels his heart racing in his chest as the selkie slips a hand out from under his sealskin, palm open and inviting.

He takes Yuuri’s hand, feeling a little squeeze. Maybe this is forgiveness, maybe this is just drug-induced friendliness. But Yuuri’s emotions are all over his face; there’s a bit of melancholy, a bit of regret. But there’s also overwhelmingly the same soft look he’s given Viktor before in the past, one that Viktor thinks is much better than all the ways to say ‘I love you’ in this world combined.

Stay with me, Yuuri traces with his other finger against the back of Viktor’s hand.

“Always,” replies Viktor, and he rests his head on the railing of Yuuri’s bed to watch his eyes close in sleep.

Excerpt from the cover liner of Leo de la Iglesia’s first EP album, Infrared:

“To My Lost Love”
from a traditional folk song

To my lost love out in the waves
I swear each day I’ll love you more
And with each day you’re gone from me
I’ll pray for your return to shore

My love, he wore a ring of gold
In his black tresses sparkling
His dark eyes were mysterious
As the deep caverns of the sea

We danced all day, we loved all night
Beneath the stars, beside the sea
But when the summer died, my love
Returned and thus abandoned me

Yet to this day, I know my love
Will find his way back to my heart
He’ll stay by me with rings of gold
And then as one we shall depart

To my lost love out in the waves
I swear each day I’ll love you more
And with each day you’re gone from me
I’ll pray for your return to shore

Viktor is awakened by the buzzing of his mobile in his pocket. Pulling it out, he realises that it’s a call from Nikolai.

Yuuri is still asleep in the bed, his chest rising and falling gently. Sometime in the night, Viktor’s own head had slipped from the railing of the bed onto the bed itself just by Yuuri’s lap, inches away from the slumbering form of his poodle. Makkachin cracks open an eye as Viktor accepts the call with his other hand, pressing the mobile to his ear.

“Hello?” he asks.

It’s nine-thirty,” says Nikolai. “I intend to take you to Inverness in fifteen minutes.”

Viktor raises an eyebrow. “We need to leave that early?” he asks.

When is your flight?” asks Nikolai, his voice gruff.

“One-fifteen in the afternoon,” says Viktor.

Then I’ll come to pick you up in thirty minutes,” amends Nikolai. “Are you at the hospital?”

“Yeah,” says Viktor. “Thank you for doing this, by the way.”

You’re welcome. See you in thirty.” Nikolai hangs up. Viktor sighs as he puts his mobile away, and looks over at Yuuri again. He’s still holding the selkie’s hand; the press of their skin together sends shivers down his spine.

Quietly and gently, he extricates his hand from Yuuri’s. Yuuri shifts a little in his sleep, but makes no sign of waking up. Viktor leans against the railing of the bed, watching the sunlight warm the apples in Yuuri’s cheeks.

In this moment more than ever, he wants to toss all caution to the wind and miss his flight. He’s done stupider things in his life before, after all, and it looks like Yuuri has forgiven him for what he’s done. But a part of him maintains that all of Yuuri’s softness towards him has been but a drugged-up haze, that this moment is just the eye of the storm. Once the morphine wears off, it’s anyone’s guess how Yuuri will be. He might not even want Viktor to stay after all.

No, this is his chance to end his time in Torvill Cove on a happy note. The sunlight makes the dust motes in this room sparkle as they dance through the air, makes Yuuri’s face glow with that otherworldly beauty Viktor remembers so well. He’s like Sleeping Beauty, waiting for true love’s kiss — but this time, Viktor knows he can’t be the prince.

“Your timing is terrible. I was almost going to try and forget you, and then you come back into my life,” he murmurs wistfully, one hand reaching out to brush a stray strand of hair from Yuuri’s face. Yuuri’s mouth curves in response, and Viktor chuckles. “Stop pretending to sleep, Yuuri, you’re fooling no one.”

Yuuri cracks open an eye and raises an eyebrow at him. Viktor’s smile is so wide his cheeks hurt, and he lets his hand linger by the side of Yuuri’s face. Yuuri turns his head, pressing his lips briefly against the skin of Viktor’s wrist, sending shivers down Viktor’s spine as he does so.

“Loving you is going to be the death of me,” he admits, and Yuuri’s smile broadens.

There’s a sudden knock at the door, and Viktor retracts his hand as it opens to admit Nikolai Plisetsky. Viktor springs to his feet in an instant, heart lurching at how quickly Yuuri’s smile fades at that. Nikolai looks briefly between them both, before going over to Viktor’s luggage and taking one of the suitcases.

“Let’s go,” he says gruffly. “It’s a long drive up to Inverness.”

Viktor swallows, turning to Yuuri, whose brown eyes sparkle with some unknown plea. The selkie runs his hands through Makkachin’s fur, briefly, before the poodle leaps off the bed and goes to follow Nikolai to the door. Tears pool in the corners of Yuuri’s eyes.

Viktor’s heart cracks a bit at the sight, but he steels himself anyway. “I’m sorry, Yuuri, I have to catch this flight,” he says.

When will you be back? asks Yuuri.

Viktor shakes his head. “I don’t know,” he admits.

A tear rolls down Yuuri’s cheek. Viktor’s heart shatters all over again.

“I’m sorry,” he repeats, and adds, “I love you.”

Yuuri blinks rapidly, his tears sparkling like jewels as they fall. Shards of Viktor’s heart pierce through his chest at the sight, and he leans over and presses a kiss to the selkie’s forehead.

“Take care,” he says, and tucks Yuuri in before turning to grab his bags and leave the room. He can hear a loud sniffle from behind him, but he doesn’t look back as he steps out the door. He’s not sure if his heart could handle the sight if he does.

Viktor leaves his car keys at the reception, telling them to give it to Christophe Giacometti (who he describes for their benefit). From there, the walk down to Nikolai’s car is quiet. Once his things are loaded into the boot and Makkachin is in the back seat, Viktor clambers into the passenger side and slams the door with a strange sense of finality. Nikolai pulls out of the carpark, and Viktor watches the hospital recede in the rearview mirror as they drive away.

Market Street is fairly busy this morning, as holidaymakers come into town for Easter. The smell of spring is already in the air, even though the weather is still winter-cold. They’re too far up the street to pull by any familiar locations, but Viktor does see Guang-Hong riding his bike down to the bookstore, and he waves.

Soon, they are pulling up to the roundabout, to the sign welcoming people into Torvill Cove. Viktor watches it pass by out the window, and then he watches the image of it and the town diminish in the rearview mirror until they are but little blurs in the distance on a faraway Scottish road.

Chapter Text

lullabye for a scottish seal

the moon on the bay
will pull in the tide
and you, little child
will learn how to fly
with each wave that comes
we join with the sea
‘till no end is found
between you and me

Of the things that Yuuri Katsuki is certain of in this world, time is currently not one of them. It ebbs and flows from him like the tides, constantly slipping through his fingers whenever he tries to get his bearings. He’s given up measuring it in the cycles of wake and sleep; the morphine makes him a lot more drowsy than he usually is.

The nurses change him from morphine to Vicodin one day, or so they say they do. Everything gets a little clearer after the shift, but just barely. The pain in his ribs and feet are dull throbs in the back of his mind, easily ignorable when he has something else to preoccupy him with. But the problem with that is that he can never focus on anything for too long — he tried reading the Reporter once, and he’d read the same headline ten times without really absorbing what was going on. It could have been something about Mr McDougal’s cows breaking into a bakery, or it could have been something about how Nekola’s Market is rolling out a recurring grocery delivery service. He’s not really sure which one is which; maybe the cows broke into Nekola’s Market. Wouldn’t be the first time, after all.

The faces of the people who visit him are all familiar, though it takes him a couple minutes to remember who’s speaking to him on any given visit. He smiles through most of it; people talk at him and around him all the time, so it’s not like they’re expecting an answer. And his hands often feel like lead anyway, so he rarely ever replies.

Even before the morphine and the Vicodin, his grasp on reality had never been the most secure. Often he found his mind racing ahead of him, spinning worst-case scenarios of everything he has ever confronted. Perhaps at one point it had been a defensive measure, but now it hinders him more than it helps. He’s honestly not sure how, in spite of this block of his, he’d managed to make his favourite author even look twice at him, let alone fall in love with him. Most of him is still fairly sure he’s in a very long, very tumultuous dream.

And now Viktor Nikiforov isn’t showing up in these dreams anymore, and Yuuri is growing a little concerned. His hand still tingles a little from the one he’d had some time ago, when Viktor had burst in with Makkachin and spent the night at his bedside. He doesn’t remember what was said, or what he’d said (if he said anything) but surely there must be an explanation for why Viktor is no longer appearing anymore? Did they argue about the sealskin or something? Had he finally driven the man away?

Yuuri rubs at his temples. He tries to take a deep breath, like the nurse instructed, but only gets a jab of pain for his troubles. He looks over at Yuuko Nishigori (he thinks?), who is sitting at his bedside with a book propped open in her hands. He’s not sure how she got there in the first place. Maybe he’s dreaming again.

‘What are we doing?’ Yuuri asks. Yuuko pauses when she sees his signs, her brows furrowing as she tries to remember what he means.

“I’m reading to you,” she says.

‘When did you get here?’ wonders Yuuri.

“I’ve been here for hours,” she points out. Her voice is patient, understanding. Has this happened before? Yuuri asks her that, and she laughs. “Yeah. It’s probably the Vicodin, so don’t worry about it.”

The world spins a little around him, and Yuuri lies back heavily against his pillows, his hands pressed to his brows to try and get everything to stop, just for a moment.

“Yuuri?” he hears Yuuko ask. “Do you need to be left alone?”

Yuuri shakes his head. Wildly, he thinks of Viktor — Viktor’s cologne, Viktor’s smile, the warmth of Viktor’s hand in his. ‘Viktor,’ he says. His eyes are closed, but he still signs the sign name he’d made for Viktor after their third trip to the secret cove together. Heart-mouth. Where is heart-mouth?

Yuuko bites her lip and shuffles in her seat, her expression frozen as if he’d caught her with her hand in the biscuit tin. “Yuuri, how much do you remember about last week?” she asks.

Yuuri frowns. ‘I remember Viktor,’ he says, rubbing at his temples as if hoping that’ll trigger more memories. ‘I remember holding his hand. He fell asleep with his head in my lap.’ Viktor had been warm, and he had smiled, but he had also looked like he hadn’t slept or washed in days. There had been shadows under his eyes, and the faintest hint of a five o’clock shadow about his jaw. His eyes had been wide, as if he hadn’t been sure that Yuuri was entirely there. Maybe this is how ghosts feel whenever people look at them. Yuuri can relate.

Yuuko nods, looking down at her book and fiddling with the pages. “Right,” she says, and takes a deep breath. Yuuri vaguely wonders why.

He doesn’t need to wonder for long, though. Yuuko’s jaw tenses, like she’s steeling herself for something. An unpleasant churning begins in Yuuri’s gut at the sight.

“Viktor’s left,” says Yuuko, and Yuuri’s stomach suddenly feels like it’s falling out of him.

‘Gone?’ he asks, just to make sure. His breath comes short; his heart thunders in his chest. The room is spinning slightly, or maybe it’s just never stopped spinning since he first became aware of his surroundings again. Viktor is gone? But why? And when?

Yuuko sighs, and Yuuri realises he must have signed something without realising it. “He left last week, Yuuri,” she says.

Yuuri’s fingers feel numb. Viktor is gone. His hands lie uselessly in his lap, and he leans heavily against the bed for a moment, staring up at the ugly stucco in the ceiling of his hospital room. How did the light get so bright? How did his heart become so painful in his chest? Viktor is gone. Viktor left last week and Yuuri didn’t get to say goodbye.

“Do you need more Vicodin?” asks Yuuko, her voice echoing to him like he’s hearing it underwater. Underwater. His skin, tucked around him. He needs to swim. But he can’t while it hurts to breathe and move his feet.

He dimly feels himself nodding. What’s Vicodin again?

The nurse comes in and reminds him with another dosage.

saint petersburg in the dark

Viktor Nikiforov @v-nikiforov
landed in #SaintPetersburg!

benjamin jarvis in a tub

Viktor Nikiforov @v-nikiforov
в гостях хорошо, а дома лучше

pirozhki and milk

Viktor Nikiforov @v-nikiforov

benjamin jarvis by the window

Viktor Nikiforov @v-nikiforov

Breathe in. Hold. Hold. Breathe out. Breathe in. Hold. Hold. Breathe out. A little twinge of pain in the bottom of his ribcage when he tries to huff. The nurse is watching him.

Breathe in. Hold. Hold. Breathe out.

The door opens, and Minako enters, gliding to a seat next to his bedside. The nurse lets him stop huffing. The scratching of her pencil across the paper of his patient chart seems strangely loud to his ears.

“How are you doing, Yuuri?” Minako asks him when the nurse leaves. Breathe in. Breathe out. Yuuri gingerly presses his fingers to his ribcage. Breathe in. Breathe out.

‘Could be worse,’ he replies, listening to the beeping of the machines that time the beat of his heart. How many beats has it been since Viktor left?

“They say you’re progressing well,” she says. “You might even be released by the first week of May, provided things continue this way.”

‘That’s nice.’ Yuuri smoothes his hand over his sealskin, draped across his duvet like a security blanket. The nurses haven’t questioned it. Neither has anyone else. Phichit might have looked at him oddly once or twice, like he’s recalibrating him. Yuuri isn’t sure how to feel about that. The room tilts on its axis again and he closes his eyes.

“Do you need to rest, Yuuri?” Minako’s voice asks out of the darkness. Yuuri shakes his head. It’s just a bit of disorientation, nothing too bad. He opens his eyes, and the room pulses gently.

Minako’s face swims in and out of view, worry evident in her eyes. Yuuri takes a moment to listen to the thrum of his heart against the beeping of the monitors, and then asks, ‘Isn’t it busy at the bar right now?’

She takes a moment to read his signs, her brows furrowing. “Are we… busy? Well, it’s noon, Yuuri.”

Yuuri frowns. And then he remembers that the bar isn’t usually busy during midday.

Minako pats his hand. “It’s all right. The drugs can’t possibly be helping with your current mental state.”

Yuuri wrinkles his nose at her. Time is arbitrary anyway. Breathe in. Hold. hold. Breathe out. Maybe this is all that should matter now, now that Viktor is gone. Breathe in —

“How are you feeling about the transfusions?” Minako's voice cuts in again. Yuuri exhales and looks at her, not quite sure if he heard her correctly.

‘Sorry?’ he asks.

“Transfusions,” she repeats. “You lost a lot of blood in the attack, so the hospital gave you blood transfusions.” A beat. “You know, human blood.” She studies his face, as if expecting to find a reaction.

Someone might have told him that some time ago, but he doesn’t quite remember it right now. Maybe it had been Viktor, or Mari, or a nurse… or all of them…

‘So?’ he asks.

“Do you think that’ll affect your transformation?” asks Minako.

Yuuri tangles his fingers in the hairs of his sealskin, and shrugs. ‘We’ll see after I get cleared to swim’, he replies.

She sighs. “You’re not concerned about it at all?”

Yuuri shrugs again. ‘What’s the point?’ he wonders, absently running his fingers through the hairs of his sealskin. Maybe it’s the Vicodin talking, but he really can’t be bothered to care about the implications of blood transfusions right this moment. Why does he have to worry about something that he can’t even assuage until May?

“Well, have you considered what you would do if you couldn’t transform?” wonders Minako. Yuuri blinks. What an odd question. And yet, what is he, if not a selkie? Neither fully human nor seal, always shifting between one or the other. Ever-changing, ever-liminal. Like the tides.

What would he be if he couldn’t change? Just another dime-a-dozen writer in the English-speaking world, trying to get published, unsure of what to do with his life. Viktor had tried to salvage that, had tried to make him believe in himself and his stories. But where is Viktor now? Gone. Traitor. He took Yuuri’s skin but then he returned it and now he’s gone without apology or explanation as if Yuuri had been the one to hurt him —

Breathe in. The lights in the room are too bright and Minako’s movements are slower than molasses. Her mouth is moving, but all the noises coming out are garbled somehow. Did she say his name? All he can hear is the thud-thud of his heartbeat and the responding beeps from the monitors. Are they picking up? He can’t really tell.

“Yuuri!” Minako shakes him. Yuuri exhales as the world crystallises for a moment. Minako pats his hand, the touch anchoring him in the chaos echoing through his head. “Are you alright?”

Breathe in. Hold. Hold. Breathe out.

Yuuri nods. These are thoughts he doesn’t want to have, not now, not when it is still painful to breathe. Minako’s face is an apology. Yuuri accepts it. Breathe in. She’s now straightening up in her seat, turning towards the door. Breathe out.

He hadn’t realised that someone had knocked at the door. How could he have missed it? It swings open now, anyway, and Phichit comes in, his cheeks flushed from the cold as he unwraps a scarf around his neck. Minako’s expression seems a little wary. Maybe she’s concerned that Phichit heard them talking about transformations?

“Think you’ll be able to dance when you get out?” she asks, her voice a little louder than strictly necessary. “Lying around in bed doing nothing for six weeks will probably show on you after a while!”

‘Not with the hospital food they serve,’ Yuuri points out drily. Minako laughs.

“Still, my studio is always open to you, if you can’t swim,” she says kindly. Yuuri thinks of the numerous times he’d done so, pirouetting away his problems while she watches and corrects his form. Her studio had been one of the many on-land sanctuaries he’d carved out for himself during his twenty-three — now twenty-four, apparently — years of life here in Torvill. Though, contrary to most of those other sanctuaries, he hadn’t shown this one to Viktor just yet. And maybe he never will.

‘Thank you,’ he tells her.

“Are you sure you don’t ever want to help me and Celestino teach ballroom on the beach?” she adds, with a sparkle in her eye. “You could help with tango night, you know.”

‘I’ll consider it,’ replies Yuuri. Minako stands at that. ‘Are you leaving?’ he asks.

“You two should catch up by yourselves,” she explains, shrugging. “I have a lot of work, anyway. I’ll come by and see you again soon!”

Yuuri waves her out the door. As it closes behind her with a quiet click, Phichit grins.

“Minako has so many fingers in so many pies that it’s a miracle she can get them all straight,” he remarks. Yuuri chuckles a little, but then winces as pain shoots up from his ribs.

Phichit produces pen and paper at his request, and he writes: Running the college’s art department, a dance school, and a bar. Yuuri purses his lips. I don’t know how she does it.

“No wonder she’s practically a functioning alcoholic,” replies Phichit, and Yuuri stifles a snort. “Hey, I’d drink too if I had to manage that many things at once.”

Yuuri chuckles. The chief difference between Phichit and Minako is that Phichit would never consider drinking alone. He almost wants to say that, but then Phichit's eyes light up, briefly, as if he’d remembered something else.

“Oh, speaking of art, are you doing this year’s festival?”

A twinge of something resounds in Yuuri’s gut. He shrugs.

Phichit hums. “Well, the theme this year is love, so you’ve got a lot to work with already,”

‘I’ll think about it,’ signs Yuuri, and tucks the sealskin tighter around himself in response. Love. What a strange word. Why does the English language only have a single word to describe such a myriad of expressions like love? It’s like the term selkie. One word for so many different kinds.

Phichit’s gaze seems fixated on the sealskin. Yuuri raises an eyebrow, daring him to ask. Phichit bites his lip, his cheeks flushing deeper when he meets Yuuri’s gaze.

“I’m sorry,” he says. “I didn’t know you were Katsudon.”

Yuuri exhales. ‘You know?’ he asks.

Phichit slumps at that. “Well, I definitely do now,” he replies. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

Yuuri raises his other eyebrow. Phichit gets it, though, and takes out his phone.

“I could delete those videos if you want,” he says, but Yuuri shakes his head. Katsudon is simultaneously him and not him. Katsudon is a seal; Yuuri is a human, and it is the intersection of the two that is kept a secret. No one who doesn’t need to know will ever know.

Next time show me the videos before you post them, he writes. Phichit laughs.

“So you can make sure I got your best angles? Definitely.” He scrolls through his camera feed, as if ready to find another video for him to vet, and Yuuri can’t help but smile at that.

I’m sorry I doubted you, he writes, and Phichit laughs a little.

“It’s all right. I mean, I’m sure you had your reasons. It makes you seem lot more mysterious than you are. The group chat had the wildest theories as to why you were disappearing for days and weeks at a time, you know — stuff like ‘maybe he works for MI5’ or ‘maybe he’s secretly a famous J-drama actor and we just don’t know because he has a stage name and British Google never gives us the deets’. I have to say, though, ‘transforming into a seal’ is a much cooler explanation than anything we ever came up with.”

Yuuri purses his lips. By all means, tell them I actually work for MI5, he suggests, and Phichit snorts.

“Right, because someone from MI5 would definitely tell people that,” he says, and Yuuri shrugs.

He settles back against the pillows now, casting a glance towards the camellias on his bedside table. Someone’s been changing the water, but some of the petals hold a hint of brown along the corners, a little hint of the inevitability of decay. He frowns, and clears his throat, wincing at the flare of pain in his chest.

“Yuuri! Are you okay?” Phichit asks. Yuuri nods.

‘Do you know who sent those?’ he asks, pointing to the flowers.

Phichit laughs. “Viktor sent them, silly. You were there, weren’t you?”

Yuuri frowns. ‘He’s gone, though.’ Phichit nods, slowly. Yuuri’s not sure if that’s the Vicodin or if Phichit is just taking some time to decipher his signs. ‘When did he give them?’

“The second day you were here, I think,” says Phichit. “Or the third. Maybe the third. I was there, too, and he asked if we should call the nurse in to ask her to get a vase.”

Yuuri frowns. ‘Hazy,’ he says. It’s a bit vague, but Phichit seems to get him.

“Yeah,” he says. “I bet. You were on morphine at the time. Is Vicodin any better, though?”

Yuuri wrinkles his nose. He’s not quite sure how to explain that while he’s no longer prone to floating outside of himself, he still feels like he’s half-drunk and viewing the world from underwater. But Phichit laughs at his expression anyway, and pulls out his phone to scroll through Instagram.

His expression suddenly softens, a strange melancholy playing at his brows. Yuuri wants to know what’s wrong, so he reaches out and taps Phichit’s hand.

“Yeah?” asks Phichit, smiling at him. The room tilts a little, but all Yuuri knows for right now is that Phichit’s hand is warm. He points to the mobile clutched in the Thai man’s other hand, and Phichit shows him the screen. It’s a bit bright; Yuuri has to blink and squint to see what Phichit wants to show him.

“Oh, sorry, let me describe it for you,” Phichit says. “It’s Viktor’s Insta; he just posted about a selfie of him chilling in Saint Petersburg.”

Yuuri lies back against the bed. That feels so final, somehow, even in the ephemeral void that is the Internet. Things simultaneously existing for a minute and yet forever. Traversing two oceans in four months and yet knowing so little of the world outside his hospital room.

Viktor is simultaneously here and in Saint Petersburg — a strange little denial now fully shattered with the confirmation that yes, he is not here. He is gone, at last, as far from Yuuri as he has ever been. And the only things left to bridge the distance are the flowers at Yuuri’s bedside.

The room pulses. His head spins. Breathe in. Hold. Hold. Breathe out.

“Want me to read other people’s posts, Yuuri? I could go through the puppies of Instagram tag! Or Katsudon’s. I’m sure someone’s got something really nice to say about you in there.” Phichit’s voice drags him out his thoughts, brings him back to a version of the now that the Vicodin will let him have, and Yuuri smiles and nods at his offer, signing for his glasses and smiling wider when Phichit presses them into his hands.

The world becomes a little too clear when he puts them on, like he’s staring at a film shot at forty-eight frames per second. But he smiles through it, turning his head to watch Phichit pull up that infamous video of Katsudon being lured out onto the beach with pork cutlets, and laughs until his ribs hurt and he has to up his Vicodin dosage to keep going.

“Yuuri,” says Phichit suddenly, as he opens another video of Katsudon leaping into a boat. “Do you know what this means?”

Yuuri clutches his side, raises an eyebrow. Phichit’s eyes are dancing with excitement.

“You could start an Insta account for Katsudon! I bet everyone would love it.” Yuuri snorts at that. As if more attention to Katsudon is the thing he needs right now, what with none of them even knowing if he’ll be able to change ever again.

‘I’ll think about it,’ he offers, and Phichit grins.

“Yeah! I mean, it was about time you got an Instagram anyway, so…” He shrugs and winks, and, at Yuuri’s insistence, starts pulling up videos of puppies.   

Phocine Distemper Virus in Harbour Seals from Western Scotland, 2002

Min-so Park and Nicholas R. Halloran, Institute of Marine Research at Torvill College, University of the Highlands and Islands, Scotland

In 2002, an outbreak of phocine distemper virus (PDV) greatly affected harbour seal (Phoca vitulina) populations in north-western European waters. In Torvill Cove specifically there was an increase in seal deaths amongst the haul-out groups that come during pupping and moulting season. We isolated a virus from a tissue sample taken from one of the seals that died and compared the viral hemagglutinin, phosphoprotein, and fusion (F) and matrix (M) protein gene sequences with those from other outbreak points in north-western Europe, as well as samples from the 1988 outbreak in Hokkaido, Japan. We discovered that, contrary to the outbreaks in other parts of Europe, the virus found in Western Scotland had the highest similarity to the 1988 Japanese strain. This suggests that the outbreak in Western Scotland developed independently of the other outbreaks in North-western Europe and that there exist multiple lineages of PDV amongst harbour seal populations in Europe. As Japan and Scotland are geographically isolated from one another, and harbour seals are not a migratory species, further research is necessary to determine how the Japanese virus managed to travel to Europe. (more…)

Yuuri asks for his most recent writing notebook after they change his Vicodin dosage again, because now he has more energy to write and things are starting to stick in his mind once more. But the next time she comes to visit, Mari brings him the entire crate of notebooks instead. She sets it on the bedside table, ignoring his dismay, and places a couple of them on his lap.

‘I just wanted the most recent one,’ Yuuri complains, and Mari flips him the bird in response.

“I’m not about to paw through your journals looking for your most recent one,” she retorts. Fair enough, Yuuri thinks, and starts thumbing through them himself, cringing at some of his older works.

He then notices a familiar waterlogged notebook amongst the rest, filled with Viktor’s spidery script. This must have been the one he fished out of the bay last May. Maybe Viktor accidentally left it in Yuuri’s crate while packing up the cottage. He sets it aside.

‘Viktor left a notebook in here,’ he explains to Mari when she raises a questioning eyebrow. She nods, crossing her arms.

“Are you going to read it?” she asks. Yuuri shrugs.

‘I’ll text him about it,’ he says, and gestures for her to replace the rest of the notebooks on his lap. She pushes the crate closer to his bedside in response and he pretends not to be able to reach, which makes her roll her eyes but replace his books anyway.

“Can’t wait for when you’re all healed up,” she remarks as he starts flipping through some of the other notebooks as well, trying to find the one that is his most recent. “Tourist season will be starting up when you get back, you know.”

Yuuri wrinkles his nose, causing Mari to laugh. “That’s what you get when your parents start a resort in Scotland,” she points out, though something in that remark feels muted, as if she’s guessing at part of the reason for his extended absence, and is just not asking him about it. But it’s not like he can answer her even if she asked. His extended absence from Torvill is not a story he can easily retell in sign, not even to someone like Mari.

‘They’re your parents, too,’ he replies, his usual response. She chuckles and lightly swats at his shoulder, that brief moment of bittersweetness forgotten like sunlight passing out of a cloud.

After a moment of digging, though, he finally finds the journal with the largest amount of blank pages in it, and leans back against the pillows to look at the last poems he’d written before he left. Mari makes herself comfortable at his bedside, taking out her most recent attempt at finding a hobby that isn’t smoking. When Yuuri notices it, he has to laugh — maybe at some point the thing she’s holding had been a knitted scarf, but now it’s really quite difficult to tell.

Mari rolls her eyes at him. “Yeah, sure, laugh it up, little bro,” she says. “You should see Minako’s; it’s much worse.”

Yuuri shakes his head. ‘I don’t even want to know,’ he declares, and returns to his journal.

Excerpt from the writing journal of Yuuri Katsuki:

tears from the goodwife of wastness

my first eyes were not mama’s,
nor my first sensation of her arms.
the coarse sand and the cold sea
are my firsts, with
a seal’s whiskered kisses on my face. 
but will the one who sang my first lullabye
remember that i am the one she lost?

what a strange dream, says mama
did you make it up yourself? your teacher
thinks you have a head for stories. 
i was not born to speak my words aloud
but there are so many other ways to make a voice heard
than through the modulation of wind down my throat
and the movement of my lips.

in my dreams i see seals,
dancing all around me, their bodies
carving out languages i cannot speak.
and when i wake, the little voice
that i have carried since i was born
tingles like a thing alive.

when i am seven the world shatters,
like cracks in a mirror, or on an ice surface
and i am bleeding, or freezing, or both
plunging into the unknowns of a cold winter
not knowing who or what i am.

selkie, they say. you are born of the sea
a gentle silent creature to be loved and lost
a maiden robbed of her voice, or a man
used only for love and then thrown back 
into the waves, the playthings of humans
like all other creatures on this earth.

and maybe i have swum into the nets
of your usual selkie love song, perhaps
you cried those seven tears to bring me to you.
but i am not yours, nor am i beholden
to the others of this seaside town; i
will not change to fit your stories.
you are no longer the sole keeper
of our shared experience.

when you give me back my voice,
i take it and flee, fast fleetfoot flying
into the welcoming bosom of the sea.
gone are the days when i would wait
for the return of those who lost me;
the light on the horizon
has never been more clear to me now.

To: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
i found one of your notebooks with some of mine

To: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
should i post it to you?

From: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
i thought i burnt all of them

To: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
why would you burn your notebooks

From: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
just wanted a new start (◡‿◡✿)

To: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
what do i do with this one then?

From: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
burn it

To: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
besides burning it

From: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
whatever you want then
it’s yours now
do with it what you will

To: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
I can read it then?

From: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ i’m not stopping you

Yuuri flips through Viktor’s waterlogged notebook the instant he gets permission to read it, and finds that most words in it are hard to decipher partly due to Viktor’s terrible handwriting and partly due to the water damage. Still, he persists, and finds that they’re nothing but little observational poems on the people in town.

Phichit had mentioned during his last visit that Viktor had written a novel, though, and Yuuri is nothing if not tuned in (through a combination of stalking his Instagram and helping him first-hand this past summer) to Viktor’s creative process. He knows Viktor used to fill at least ten notebooks with ideas while developing a new novel, so the fact that he burned them all must mean that the novel’s manuscript is finally on its way to the publisher. That, and the fact that it sounds like the entire town knows about it already.

He doesn’t find out about most of the details of Stay Close to Me until Yuri Plisetsky visits him one afternoon, all grouchiness as he sets down a cup of mint chocolate chip ice cream in front of him. In between bites of ice cream, Yuuri takes the opportunity to ask him about Viktor’s new novel, and only gets a grimace in response.

‘It was some weird experimental novel about a figure skater and a swan,’ Yurio says, folding his arms and leaning back in his seat. ‘He’s not publishing it, though.’

Yuuri’s hand pauses with the ice cream only halfway to his mouth. He sets down the spoon and frowns at the blond, who sighs and explains:

‘I told him it would be shitty of him. Classic Viktor, really, milking rejection for what it’s worth.’

Yuuri snorts. He notices, too, with a little thrill, that Yurio has finally accepted ‘heart-mouth’ as Viktor’s sign name, instead of ‘dog-breath’. Glad to see his own sign had won out.

‘It was about us?’ he asks.

‘Yeah, it’s pretty obvious when the love interest in the story is a shapeshifting swan, you know.’

Yuuri frowns. ‘You know?’ he asks, even though all this really does is confirm a long-held suspicion. That quiet man who used to sit in his boat in the middle of the bay, who had been reclaimed by the sea, once had Yurio’s eyes.

Yurio nods. ‘I’ve known for a while,’ he admits, with a glance to Yuuri’s sealskin. ‘I saw you saving Viktor from the storm.’

‘Did you know about the skin?’ Yuuri wonders.

Yurio flushes suddenly at that, and starts fiddling with his fingers as if unsure what to say next. After a moment, he nods brusquely and then rises, as if trying to make an escape. Yuuri quickly grabs the sleeve of his leopard print jacket, keeping him in place.

“I’m sorry!” snaps Yurio at him, his voice somewhere between heated and sad. Yuuri points for him to sit back down; the blond complies with a scowl.

‘How did you know about the skin?’ Yuuri asks.

Yurio swallows. “I found it in Viktor’s closet, actually, and I told him to give it back to you, but he kept on putting it off, and I know I should have bothered him about it more, or told you myself, but —”

Yuuri cuts him off by squeezing his hand and shushing him. ‘That would probably have been a difficult conversation for us at the time, Yurio,’ he reasons. ‘So I don’t blame you for keeping silent about it.’

‘I could have gotten you your skin back earlier if I hadn’t been a coward,’ grumbles Yurio.

‘What’s done is done,’ declares Yuuri, and Yurio sighs. Yuuri decides to change the subject. ‘Was Viktor’s novel any good?’ he asks, and Yurio purses his lips in thought.

‘It was okay,’ he hedges. ‘Like I said, it was experimental. Less plot and more emotion. But he did sound pretty remorseful about fucking everything up, as he should.’

Yuuri nods, returning to his ice cream. Of course it’d be his luck that when Viktor Nikiforov finally does write a novel about them, he wouldn’t be around to read it. Maybe that had been the point, though — Viktor had waited until he was gone to really write out how he felt. To turn the narrative around to make him out to be the wronged one. The one who had lost some great love, rather than the one who had been betrayed by someone they had thought they could trust —

The mint chocolate ice cream is cool and creamy on his tongue. If he focuses on that, maybe he’ll be able to slow the racing of his heart. The room tilts. Yuuri clutches his spoon so hard his knuckles turn white.

‘Oi, Piglet, riddle me this,’ Yurio says after a moment, and Yuuri raises an eyebrow as he looks back up. The room seems to settle around Yurio’s grumpy expression. ‘You fuck off for four months without telling any of us, and now you’re back and you won’t even tell us where you’ve been? What the hell is up with that?’

Yuuri sighs, grateful for the distraction. ‘It’s a long story,’ he replies. ‘I’d have to write it all down.’

‘Turn it into a book. I’d read that,’ replies Yurio, before catching himself again. ‘I mean, I’d probably end up being peer-pressured into reading it anyway, no thanks to the stupid book club having nothing better to do than to press-gang the entire town into reading their latest obsession.”

Yuuri huffs in amusement. ‘Well, when the alternative is another Geoff Blair film…’ he points out, and Yurio laughs in response to that.

‘I’d take JJ’s mother over another one of those monstrosities,’ he admits, and that causes both of them to giggle.

‘Though, in all seriousness,’ the blond says after the laughter has subsided, ‘why did you leave in the first place?’ Yuuri sends him a pointed look, and Yurio groans. ‘I mean, I know your sealskin was involved, but the rest of the story seems incomplete.’

Yuuri sighs, and sets down his journal, finishes his ice cream. ‘I was mad at Viktor,’ he says.

‘I gathered as much,’ replies Yurio, shrugging. Yuuri notices how his gaze flickers to the spoon. ‘You wanted your space, blah blah. But you could have done that here, instead of out in the ocean with killer whales.’

Yuuri chuckles. ‘Yeah, I suppose,’ he admits. ‘But I also wanted to find my selkie family, and putting space between me and Torvill helped with that.’

“Did you find them?” Yurio asks, his voice a little loud in the previously silent room. Yuuri swallows, shrugs, looks towards the window.

‘I did,’ he replies after a moment, and then looks down at his hands. ‘But harbour seals can travel the entire world, and still end up returning to the same rocks and beaches.’

There’s a pause. ‘So you came back out of habit,’ says Yurio.

Yuuri shakes his head. ‘No,’ he replies. ‘I came back because I looked backwards and found home waiting for me.’

Excerpt from the writing journal of Yuuri Katsuki:

the grey seal

i met the seal at skye, he was
a curmudgeonly old gentleman
thirty in seal years, they say, past the typical age
but they never account for
the old wizened fisherman rocking at the hearth
with his pelt in his lap like an afghan.

the original selkies of alba are grey,
he tells me, his hands
slurring his signs ‘til i ask him to write.
but we don’t see harbour seals too often ‘round here;
from where do you hail, my lad
i shrug; i’ve asked myself that question
too many times to count.

he pours me a cuppa, hands shaking,
his eyes fogging over with wear.
well, where are you going? i thought your kind
tend to stay close to your rocks and your shores
but how can i know where i’m heading,
if i don’t even know where i’m from? i chase only
the ribbon of sun to the west.

have you seen anyone that looks like me?

he ponders the question, his hands
skimming the rim of his mug. i do recall
a young pair of harbour seals many years ago.
dark hair and eyes, wife pregnant, no sign
out of their hands that made sense.

know where they are?

he shakes his head, the joints
in his knees loudly in need of reoiling.
she left for warmer climes years ago,
no pup or husband beside her; she’d lost
all she held dear, she said.
she had your exact look in her eyes.

have i lost all i hold dear? perhaps,
when my love takes all i can and cannot give,
like the tide when it washes our footprints away
as well as the castles we built in the sand.
which warmer clime
? i must sound desperate
looking for cords long forgotten.

she chased the sun, he says, but i
don’t know the name she spoke.
i have spent
too much of my life on this rock, with my boat,
to know where she was going.

i thank him, as the rainstorm lets up
and the tea in my mug is cooling.
the old seal gives a nod, burrows deep
into the warm blanket of his skin.

hope i could help, he says. his smile is brief,
like the wash of a wave onto shore. someday,
i’ll find him in skye again, and ask
about the other seals he has known.

April rolls in, and with it each day feels less and less like some terrible waking dream. He still has days when he’s too groggy to function, but for the most part he’s more awake than asleep, and that should count for something.

He marks the passage of time now in visits. The nurses come in twice a day to assess him and help with his breathing exercises, and his friends all visit him whenever they can. Phichit and Mila keep him updated on the town gossip, Yurio brings him ice cream, Christophe shows him new pictures of Julia, Guang-Hong and Yuuko both read to him, and Leo plays his latest music compositions. Even Georgi stops by once or twice, except those visits tend to be more of him gushing about his new girlfriend, and Yuuri listening patiently as a captive audience.

I’m glad you’re moving on, Yuuri writes after the umpteenth story about another part of Georgi’s new art installation being dedicated to his new girlfriend. You seemed so miserable about Anya.

“Time and distance will mend even the most broken of hearts,” replies Georgi, his expression melancholy. “I’ll be glad to see Viktor healed, of course, though I think what he had written in your absence had been his most beautiful work to date.”

Yuuri raises an eyebrow. You got to read the novel? he asks.

“Yeah, Viktor did a reading at a book club meeting. I cried, like, three times.” Georgi mimes wiping away tears. Yuuri sighs.

Of course he would share it with the town while I’m not here, he complains. I’ve read every single word he’s ever put out there, except for this novel that he supposedly wrote about me. I’m so mad at myself.

Georgi laughs at that. “He had a manuscript, I think, and it was all set to go,” he says, “but there’s been some rumour lately that he’s not publishing it anymore. Do you know if that’s true?”

Yuuri nods. Yurio told me, he writes.

Georgi sighs. “What a shame,” he declares. “It was pure art.”

I’m glad, in a way, muses Yuuri. Georgi looks at the paper on which he’d been writing these responses, and quirks an eyebrow. I mean, it’s also my story, and he didn’t ask for my opinion about it.

Georgi purses his lips. “Though, he couldn’t actually ask you at the time. And doing it now just seems awkward,” he points out.

Yeah, but he’s not any more entitled to controlling the narrative just because he’s Viktor Nikiforov, snaps Yuuri.

“Point,” concedes Georgi. “Maybe you could ask him for his manuscript and contribute your side? And then the two of you could publish it together.”

Yuuri cringes at the very thought. He sounded mad when I last tried to talk to him, he hedges, tapping his chin with the pen as his heart races. I don’t know if I should do it again.

“Ask him.” Georgi’s voice is surprisingly insistent. “I would have given anything to know what Anya was thinking in the time we spent apart. I kept reaching out to her, only to find silence. It was like screaming my heart out into the void. Viktor wrote Stay Close to Me to reach out to you one last time. Reach back to him.”

To: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
everyone in town says you wrote a novel about us while i was away

To: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
admittedly that kinda gives me pause but i’d love to read the manuscript just so i know what terrible things you’ve written about me ヾ(*ゝω・*)ノ

From: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
i’m not publishing it

To: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
i heard, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a manuscript

From: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
i don’t
i destroyed it

To: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
why would you do that

From: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
you seem to be asking that a lot lately

To: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
i missed a lot while i was away

From: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
you could say that again

To: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
i’m sorry

To: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
please don’t be mad

From: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
i’m not

To: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
ok good (;^ ▽ ^)୨

To: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
but why did you destroy the manuscript

From: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
i just didn’t think it was my story to tell

Yuuri starts to write again, in the spaces between visits and sleep. He measures out time in heartbeats and spends each one on another word, another thought. He collects the emotions of the past four months and spills them carefully onto the pages.

He tries not to think too hard about Viktor’s last words to him. I just didn’t think it was my story to tell. Viktor sounds so melancholic in his texts, like a part of him has withered in the four months of their separation.

But Yuuri has no idea how to fix that. The Vicodin dosage he’s on lets him keep just enough of his energy to write, so he has none left over for worrying himself sick about whether or not he’s completely ruining whatever’s left of their relationship by not reaching out more. Still, the next time Phichit comes around, Yuuri shows him the texts and asks him what to do.

“I don’t know,” admits Phichit. “He does sound like he’s trying to distance himself.”

The room suddenly tilts and spins, like some inexperienced magician is trying to pull the rug out from under him. Yuuri pinches at the bridge of his nose, though that does very little to reestablish his equilibrium. You didn’t have to say it like that, he writes, and Phichit laughs sheepishly.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know you’d react so badly,” he defends. “But that’s pretty much what it looks like, you know.”

How do I fix it? demands Yuuri. How do I make him not mad at me?

“I don’t think he’s mad at you,” says Phichit.

Why not? He has every right to.

Phichit sighs. “And why would you say that?” he asks.

Yuuri frowns. I left him without explanation or any indication of where I was or where I would be going?

“But you were mad at him, though,” Phichit points out. “Viktor kept insisting that while the two of you didn’t fight, he still hurt you.”

He took my sealskin, writes Yuuri, and frowns. I think it was around Midsummer? He prevented me from turning into a seal for four and a half months.

That’s why Katsudon didn’t show up after mid-June!” Phichit claps a hand to his forehead and groans. “This explains so much!”

Yuuri snorts. ‘Yeah, I bet.’ He takes his mobile back, scrolling through Viktor’s texts again before setting it down. ‘I’m not saying what he did wasn’t wrong. I just still feel bad for leaving him alone for so long.’ Everything feels awkward now, he adds in writing, and Phichit sighs.

“Well, if you cared to know, he took every responsibility he possibly could for your unexpected departure, even if it made everything look a lot worse than it really was.” Phichit laughs. “We’d actually even planned a heist on his cottage to rescue you from whatever dungeon he’d stashed you in, if it came down to that.”

Yuuri chuckles. ‘That didn’t happen, right?’ he asks.

Phichit snorts. “The point is, he didn’t tell anyone about your… you know.” He gestures to the sealskin. “Not even to make himself look less suspicious.”

‘You guys must have hated him,’ Yuuri remarks.

“We were concerned,” Phichit insists. “After a while it just seemed like there had been some sort of fight and you’d left him. He started acting a lot like Georgi, you know. Moping around, wandering around town looking haunted, writing Stay Close to Me…”

‘He destroyed it,’ Yuuri says. Phichit raises an eyebrow, so he explains, ‘The novel. He destroyed it. I’ll never get to read it.’

Phichit makes a pained expression. “He really doesn’t want you to find it, huh?” he jokes. “It was a really good novel, though. You could really tell he was in love; I don’t think that swan ever had a bad angle.”

Yuuri snorts. ‘I have plenty of bad angles,’ he points out.

“You can’t blame Viktor for trying to remember you at your best,” Phichit reasons.

Yuuri shrugs. ‘I suppose,’ he concedes. Thinking about this novel, about Viktor — it makes the beeping of the monitors pick up a little more, tightens his chest a little more. Breathe in. His emotions are a snarl of anger and forgiveness, the two tangled so tightly together that he no longer knows which is which. All he knows is that neither one wants Viktor in Saint Petersburg. He has to come back. Yuuri craves him too much.

Breathe out. Yuuri underlines his first question to Phichit. What do I do? How do I fix it? Phichit’s eyes are sad, confused. Yuuri’s heart sinks like a stone as Phichit shrugs at him.

“Maybe you should just tell him how you feel,” he suggests, and pauses. “How do you feel about him, though? Even after all that’s been said and done between you two?”

Yuuri ponders it. ‘I love him,’ he says quietly, skimming his hands across his sealskin for reassurance. ‘More than breathing.’

With each repetition of these words in his head, the world falls back into place piece by piece. Somehow, just knowing that he can think these words without the usual accompanying fear and worry makes everything just a little better. Part of him wishes he could shout it from the rooftops, but another part of him is fine with that never being a physical possibility.

Phichit squeezes his hand briefly, his eyes kind and understanding. He knows, Yuuri thinks. Phichit has watched them both flounder through this, and now that he knows the full story, there’s no one Yuuri trusts more to give him advice about this. Phichit’s hands are a bit slow and uncertain when he finally responds to Yuuri’s declaration, but he signs, anyway:

‘Then tell him.’

To: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
when are you coming back?

From: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
i don’t know

To: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
why not? everyone misses you

From: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
do you miss me?

To: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
what do you think

From: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
i think maybe it’d be better if we just moved on

To: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
why would you say something like that?

From: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
i’ve hurt you so much and i’m terrified that if i come back i’ll hurt you again

To: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
you’ve already done the worst thing you could do to a selkie and i’m still here

From: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
but there are so many other ways i could accidentally hurt you as a human
i want to be with you more than anything but that would be selfish of me
i’m still convinced i don’t deserve your forgiveness
so maybe you’d be better off forgetting me

The next time Christophe visits he brings a black-and-white photo print on a grey mat board, and gives it to Yuuri. It is a photograph of Katsudon, perched on a rock looking out towards the sea.

How did you get this shot? writes Yuuri onto the little whiteboard the nurses have given him. Christophe chuckles, rubs at his nape almost sheepishly.

“I have very good telephoto lenses,” he replies. Yuuri huffs in amusement, before remembering that he hadn’t told Christophe about his secret, either.

It’s a lovely picture, he writes, but why are you giving it to me?

Christophe takes the photo back and sets it on the bedside table, before taking a seat next to Yuuri’s bed and looking down at his sealskin. “I can also put two and two together, you know,” he drawls. “I’d always suspected Katsudon wasn’t an ordinary seal, but the fact that he and you tended to disappear and reappear at the same time? After a while it stops being a coincidence.”

You could have asked, Yuuri points out.

Christophe laughs. “Right, because that’s such a good idea. Would really make me look sane, going up to you and asking if you can transform into a seal.”

Yuuri shrugs. I wouldn’t have denied it.

“Would you?” wonders Christophe.

Well, I’m not denying it now. Yuuri leans back against the pillows, looking over at the photo once more. It’s very nice, Chris. Thank you.

“You’re welcome.” Christophe crosses his legs and smiles. “And for the record, someone wanted to buy this print at the gallery exhibition I put on in Altwegg, but I said it wasn’t for sale. So, once again, you’re welcome.”

You had an exhibition? wonders Yuuri. Why didn’t you tell me?

“Well, it’s over now,” Christophe points out. “It was just a brief thing. But the town wants me to contribute some of the other prints to the public library; they’re thinking of moving the contemporary art there so that they can bring out more historical artefacts to go with the older artwork at Town Hall.”

Yuuri nods. That sounds great, he writes.

“Yeah, I guess.” Christophe sighs, the corners of his smile a little strained. “It’s almost everything I’ve ever wanted.”

Almost? echoes Yuuri.

Christophe laughs, but there’s no warmth in it. “I’m just starting to wonder if I’ll always be alone,” he admits. “If I’ll always just be standing at the bar, watching life and love carry on in front of me with no way to join in myself. If I’ll always just be taking the wedding photos, and not be in them myself.”

What’s making you think like this all of a sudden? wonders Yuuri, reaching out to pat his forearm. Christophe flinches, just briefly, before hanging his head.

“I kissed Viktor,” he admits. “Well, no, he kissed me — he was drunk, though — I kissed back. But it was just that.”

Yuuri raises an eyebrow. ‘So?’ he signs, with a shrug.

Christophe sighs, and continues. “Apparently that had been the thing that finally got him to decide to go home,” he says. “He had been in a bad place already, and I only made it worse.”

How so?

“I stopped it before it could get past more than a kiss.”

That doesn’t sound like making it worse.

“He needed a distraction and I couldn’t help him.”

A distraction from what?

“From you. From missing you. From begging for your return while simultaneously knowing he’ll never be good enough for you ever again.” There’s an edge to his voice now, but Yuuri isn’t sure whether it’s directed at him, or Christophe himself, or both of them. “It was eating him alive in the end. I honestly don’t know what he would have done if he’d stayed here and you never returned. Or even if you returned but you refused to see him.”

Yuuri sighs, and pulls out his mobile, showing the texts that had passed between them since Phichit encouraged him to reach out once more. Here, he writes, his whiteboard marker squeaking loudly in the silence of the room. Check your answers.

Christophe hums when he does check the texts. “I was right, in a way,” he says, frowning and running a finger across his upper lip. “But why are you showing me this?”

Yuuri hangs his head, and writes, I don’t know how to convince him to stay.

“You can’t,” replies Christophe. Yuuri scoffs, because of course he knew that; he follows Viktor’s social media and consumes every one of his words. Viktor Nikiforov does things with a single-minded clarity and passion. If he makes a decision, not even God Himself will convince him to change his mind.

But what if I could? he wonders.

Christophe shrugs. “Then you’d have done something not even the hottest male model in Russia could do,” he replies with a smirk, and Yuuri feels the tips of his ears heating up at just the notion of being better than the rest of the world at something.

He might not ever transform again. He might end up as one of the dime-a-dozen writers in the English-speaking world. But if he could, somehow, convince Viktor Nikiforov to change his mind, then maybe being human won’t make him so ordinary after all.

To: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
you can’t tell me what’s best for me

From: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
all i know is that i’m not what’s good for you. i took your skin and forced you to fall in love with me

To: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
where the hell did you get that idea

From: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
isn’t that what all the stories say? the selkie is forced to follow the person who stole their skin?

To: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
you’re an idiot

To: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
i fell in love with you of my own free will long before you took my skin

From: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
but that was just my writing. you didn’t know me.

To: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
i got to know you even before midsummer, didn’t i? or was that someone else named yuuri katsuki that you were going on all those trips with

To: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
and fyi my skin is not my heart

To: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
my journal is

To: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
and that i gave you willingly

From: Viktor ( ´ ♡ ⁾⁾⁾)
which i still don’t think i deserve

Excerpt from the writing journal of Yuuri Katsuki:

i taste bitterness on sunday by the side of the children’s pool in la jolla, in a seaside café dressed in borrowed clothes. the coffee burns my tongue; it is not the earthy flavours i remember. the slice of pie i’ve ordered is strawberry, but it tastes nothing like your kisses. still, i am brought back to the circle of your arms just thinking about you. you, who i have left behind, who i thought i would forget, have embedded yourself in me so deeply that i cannot remove you without destroying myself.

she, too, had thought she would forget me. she folds her hands across the table, sprinkles of salt streaking her pepper hair. we sign only in japanese, but her hands tremble over her kanji. she looks at me every other word like she has seen a ghost. not unwelcome but unexpected, i am merely a prodigal son returning at last. i take another sip of coffee. it is bitter, with just the faintest hint of sweet.

sweet is the line of her smile when she makes it, though it comes nothing close to the heart of yours. she is gracious, graceful, the roundness of her face and body familiar and yet different. i have dreamt of her eyes for so many years and never known that my cheeks dimple in the exact same way as hers when she hears about my life in scotland. have i really come all this way? swum all the way around the coldest ends of the earth to find her?

but now that i have, i do not know what to do next. cloistered in the little café with a foreign ocean sparkling beyond the window, i taste the rue on my tongue. it is not for what i set out to find — for i have found it — but for what i left behind. how is this moving forward? it takes the ocean centuries to carve itself into the sides of sea-cliffs; i cannot carve myself back into her life in just one afternoon.

she has a new husband now. he is american, and deaf, and between the two of them they parse together enough signs to raise a child. i do not ask, but she shows me their pictures anyway. my half-brother’s smile is the same as mine when you hold me. i do not ask, but she tells me he is eight, and in primary school, and is losing his baby teeth. i ask instead about father, and she says the end had been kind for him, when the sickness that we had left hokkaido to escape had finally caught up to him in europe. she only sheds one tear; time has erased the rest.

there is a paper screen between us, thin enough for us to see each other’s shadows, but obscuring our lives from view. she is no longer the eyes i remember, no longer the voice that used to haunt my dreams. instead i find, with each bite of my pie, that my mind is overwhelmed with the memories of your fingertips, your voice, your lips. i am suddenly in your cottage again, resting against the kitchen table as you feed me forkfuls of your latest creation, smearing whipped cream onto my nose before kissing it off. your words, your eyes, your heart-shaped smile — i eat a pie in another country, and i think of you.

The rest of April seems to blur by in a stream of words, spoken and unspoken, written and signed. Sometimes his chest still twinges when he coughs, but breathing itself is becoming less and less of an ordeal. The nurses seem optimistic about letting him out at the end of the month, though they also warn him not to test it. Even if he gets discharged, he’ll still have to be on bed rest back at Yu-Topia.

Yuuri watches Phichit read through his journals, his tongue poking out of his mouth and his perfectly sculpted brows furrowed in concentration. Finals are creeping up for the students at Torvill College, but Phichit had come in wringing his hands about Housewarming Week instead. He’d been going insane with the schedules, gathering up all the information he could on the returning families. Apparently news of Viktor Nikiforov’s brief sojourn in the town had sparked interest in some families that had not returned last year. Most of the rant had gone over Yuuri’s head, in a combination of the Vicodin and Phichit’s rapid-fire babbling, but he had smiled and nodded whenever possible to make sure his friend felt validated in his frustrations.

And now Phichit is reading over what Yuuri has written of his travels during his extended absence. He gasps in all the right places, makes little smiles and coos of appreciation, and even laughs at Yuuri’s account of meeting the sea lions in California.

“You can actually understand them?” he asks.

Yuuri grimaces. ’I wouldn’t say understand,’ he hedges, before writing, It’s practically a different language. Like American sign versus British sign.

Phichit raises an eyebrow incredulously. “Hold up, you never told me seals had a language.”

Yuuri frowns, and writes, Isn’t it a little arrogant to assume that humans are the only creatures on this planet with language capabilities?

“I’m still trying to wrap my head around the idea that you can transform into a seal, Yuuri, give me a break.” Phichit shakes his head. “How do you know seal language, anyway? I mean, unless the Katsukis —”

Yuuri shakes his head. You learn it immersively, he writes with a shrug. But I couldn’t understand anyone in La Jolla. It’s a miracle I even found my birth mother.

“Could you understand her?” wonders Phichit.

‘In bits and pieces,’ replies Yuuri. We signed in Japanese and wrote in both Japanese and English, he adds.

“Then how did she recognise you as her son?” wonders Phichit. “I mean, especially if she lost you when you were really young.”

Yuuri shrugs. ‘I don’t know. She just did.’

“And how was she? Do you think you’ll return to La Jolla now that you’ve met her?”

Yuuri shakes his head. ‘It was a good visit,’ he says, ‘but it’s better to be home.’

Home. That word had been more abstract to him once, something relegated to the future, to mysterious dreams of seals and the idea of being with his selkie family. He had tried, for so much of his adult life, to divorce the word ‘home’ from ‘Yu-Topia’. He’d always been the Katsukis’ second chance, but he hadn’t always thought of it so kindly. Living with the name of the other Yuuri was like wearing someone else’s skin, even in human form. Every time he hears his name he wonders what the other Yuuri would have done, had he lived. Would the other Yuuri name his dog after Queen Victoria? Would the other Yuuri have fallen so fast and hard for the words of a Russian poet-turned-bestselling novelist? He’d spent so much time worrying about whatever the other Yuuri might have done that he’d forgotten that the other Yuuri had died before he was even born.

(And there’s still so much left unpacked about the other Yuuri in his brain. He still doesn’t think he has the courage to examine any of it. Some memories are knots and snarls for a reason.)

Yet somewhere between the Atlantic and the Pacific, between the ice floes of the Arctic circle and the sunny shores of La Jolla, he had accepted that his bones were of the ocean, but his heart was of Torvill Cove. It had been indelibly marked upon by the Katsukis, Yuuko, Minako, Phichit, the rest. Even before Viktor, Torvill Cove had been the epicentre of his life and love. He had been waiting for no one.

Phichit smiles at him. “I’m glad you’re back,” he says.

Yuuri takes his notebook back, smiling. Phichit then pulls out his phone, and runs his hand through his hair with a frustrated groan.

“Speaking of people returning home, though,” he says, “the Leroys are coming to town at the end of the week, and Housewarming Week itself is starting to look really crowded with, like, two concurrent parties every night, and you have no idea how bad my FOMO is getting right now, Yuuri.”

Yuuri sighs. Breathe, he writes, and Phichit heaves a sigh along with him. Yuuri waits until he looks slightly less panicked, before adding, I don’t know if I can help you; I’m confined to the hospital for Housewarming Week.

“Ugh,” grumbles Phichit, his face screwing up at the grin on Yuuri’s face. “You would see this as an excuse to miss out on the fun. But didn’t you meet Viktor at the Leroy party last year? If it hadn’t been for my wheedling —”

It’s not like Viktor’s going to this year’s party, retorts Yuuri.

“True.” Phichit rolls his eyes. “Still, I’ll be sure to take plenty of pictures and videos of people telling you they wished you were there.”

Yuuri snorts. Thanks, he writes, with an amused eyeroll. What on earth did he do to get a friend like Phichit?

SHALLWESKATE has shared a video

SHALLWESKATE: everyone’s wishin u were here like i said they would
mila_b: get better soon!
dirtycocktail: we’re pouring one out for you ;)
sara-crispino: we miss u yuuri! <3
nekofola: what! it’s already housewarming week? i’m still in prague :(
nekofola: also wait @ykatsuki’s back in town?
m-crispino: Yeah, he came back mid-March. Apparently he was injured. Sara visited him at the hospital.
nekofola: oh no! get better soon yuuri!
SHALLWESKATE: @nekofola we also miss u too!

SHALLWESKATE has shared a video

nekofola: thanks :)
gh_kawaii: when are u coming back @nekofola?
nekofola: 1 july :(
gh_kawaii: why so long? :( our exams end 15 may
nekofola: i don’t know ask the rector? :’D
nekofola: i miss all of you though! *offers hugs*

SHALLWESKATE has shared a video

yuripurrsetsky: TAKE IT DOWN
SHALLWESKATE: the internet is 5ever
yuripurrsetsky: i hate you
mila_b: be glad he didn’t send it to beka
yuripurrsetsky: ughh
SHALLWESKATE: omfg what’s beka’s # i wanna add him to this chat
yuripurrsetsky: NO
yuripurrsetsky: what’s the point? he’s not coming back this year
mila_b: lmao did he tell u that
yuripurrsetsky: he didn’t tell me anything he said he might be following a band called the endless nights on a european tour with his friends
yuripurrsetsky: you know, his cool friends from almaty
mila_b: you mean the friends that strung up some bloke’s underwear from a flagpole?
SHALLWESKATE: in the common parlance thats top-notch banter mate
mila_b: wot an absolute LEDGE
dirtycocktail: bantersaurus rex
yuripurrsetsky: i am going to murder all three of you
leooooo: i never really got that meme
dirtycocktail: you haven’t spent enough time down at the pub with the lads my sweet musical child

SHALLWESKATE has shared a video

SHALLWESKATE: hey @Viktor Nikiforov
SHALLWESKATE: this is just to say
SHALLWESKATE: i might also be drunk
yuripurrsetsky: someone take his phone
SHALLWESKATE: this is @mila_b, phichit is sobbing into a bowl of cornflakes. i have no idea where he got them. jj leroy is patting his back and trying to tell him about his cousin jack.
SHALLWESKATE: more news at 11

On the last day of April, Torvill Central Hospital discharges him. They remove the cast from his feet, and for a brief moment Yuuri could have sworn they look more like his flippers instead, all soft and scaly and covered in scabs from the orca’s bite marks.

Dr Minami gives him strict instructions to rest up while at home and to keep as much pressure off his feet as possible for another week or so, just to ensure that his bones are properly healed. Mari covers his shoulders in the sealskin after he is changed out of his hospital gown into his clothes — and has it really been almost six months since he’d last been in these clothes? — and wheels him out to the car. He is barely able to clamber into the back seat.

The drive back to Yu-Topia is quiet, save for the blaring of some new top 40s craze on the radio. The song is irritatingly perky, and after a moment Mari changes the channel.

What a great Sunday! And they say tomorrow’s a bank holiday for May Day. The highs are at 12 today and the lows are at 8, and we’ll probably see the same tomorrow, barring a couple sporadic showers — but you know what they say, April showers bring May flowers — though if the showers are on the first day of May, could they still be considered April showers? Who knows!”

Mari groans, and turns off the radio. “Do they really need to get Piers Duncan to do the radio show? I hate the sound of his voice.”

Yuuri says nothing, because it would be dangerous for Mari to turn to read his hands. So he looks out the window instead, the sealskin still wrapped around him. His notebooks, Christophe’s photograph, and all the other well-wishes sent over during his time at the hospital are all lying on the seat next to him, and he’s strongly considering knocking them all off so he can stretch out instead. The air crackles today with a static he hadn’t felt since midwinter, and he can’t quite remember why.

Mari pulls into the roundabout at Yu-Topia so that the porter with the wheelchair could get Yuuri out of the back seat. He keeps his sealskin with him, along with one of his notebooks, and Mari promises to deliver the rest after she parks in the carpark on the other side of Bowhill Lane. Yuuri is, in turn, wheeled through the main doors of the resort into the lobby, and — to his embarrassment — greeted with cheers and applause from everyone in it. Even some tourists who had been passing through clap for him briefly.

“Welcome back, Yuuri!” cheers Phichit, before blowing a noisemaker. Yuuri can’t help but smile at that; what on earth was Phichit doing, arranging a welcome back party for him with exams barely a week away?

“We all needed the study break,” Mila explains, clearly having read his mind (or maybe his expression had been too obvious). “Also your mother made katsudon, and we couldn’t resist.”

Yuuri chuckles at that. ‘Thank you,’ he signs, before pulling his sealskin closer to him. His mother steps forward then, taking control of the wheelchair from the porter.

“Let’s go celebrate with the katsudon special,” she says, and Yuuri can’t help but smile the entire way to the dining room.

He might have spent most of his recent years running away from all of this, with the idea that maybe there was a better life out there with his selkie family, or in some big city where he didn’t have to be someone else’s second chance. But as he sits down at the familiar old table in the dining room with his friends all around the table and a piping hot bowl of katsudon in front of him, he thinks about that afternoon in La Jolla, and he doesn’t regret coming back one bit.

The katsudon is as delicious as he remembers, pork cutlets melting on his tongue and mixing perfectly with the egg and rice. Everyone around the table also eat their fill, and Minako cheers when his mother brings out a bottle of Junmai Ginjo for everyone to share.

You feeling better from the Leroy party? asks Yuuri after a small round of sake. Phichit, who had refused a round, chuckles sheepishly and rubs at his nape.

“I’m not going to be touching alcohol for a while,” he says.

Yuuri huffs and downs his cup. Sake is always just a little sweeter than most wines to his tongue, and it warms him like a hug. Mila told us everything, he writes, grinning widely at Phichit’s horrified expression. How does your own medicine taste?

“Look, I’m more surprised there aren’t pictures of me and the bowl of cornflakes on the internet,” declares Phichit, raising his hands in defense. “It could have been worse.”

Yuuri snorts, but then Phichit tugs him closer by the elbow and leans in.

“Christophe hooked up with someone at one of the other parties,” he whispers. Yuuri raises an eyebrow and casts a glance to the Swiss man, who is grinning at his mobile for some reason. “Yeah, I think they’re still in touch. Not sure if the person’s here to stay or if they’re just a tourist who got swept up in the Housewarming Week madness.”

Yuuri raises an eyebrow. Good for him, he writes. He sounded really lonely the last time he visited me.

“Yeah.” Phichit’s smile is a little wistful. “Good for him.”

Yuuri spends most of the party catching up with people who hadn’t visited regularly. Apparently Seung-gil has adopted yet another dog, the Crispinos are rolling out a new strawberry blossom mead, and Takeshi’s fishery has won a local Business of the Year award for the new sustainable fishing practices that had been implemented by Yuuko. Yu-Topia itself has also apparently been nominated for a CIS Excellence award for Best Independent Hotel of the Year, which Yuuri’s parents are of course quite excited about. Life has carried on in his absence, but that doesn’t seem to diminish the fact everyone has missed him all the same.

Still, as the light from outside begins to fail, everyone begins to disperse. Yuuri feels the air tingle a little as he watches them leave from the deck out back, the familiar shapes of his friends vanishing into the crowds on the boardwalk. The sun has begun to dye the sky different colours, a sight that he has missed during his stay at the hospital. Farther down the beach, someone has started a bonfire.

“It’s Beltane, I think,” says Mari as they watch the distant blurs of people move around the fire. Yuuri looks down at the sealskin folded in his lap, watches it shine in the light of the sunset. His mind feels oddly quiet in this moment, as if he is facing an inevitability of some sort. He looks up at Mari, and tugs at her sleeve.

‘I want to swim,’ he tells her, and her eyes widen slightly. She opens her mouth to protest, probably because of the doctor’s orders not to exert himself, but then she sighs and nods. Maybe it’s something in his gaze; maybe it’s just knowing him.

Yuuri feels his heart race as she begins to push him down the ramp at the side of the deck. What if all of this goes wrong? What if the transfusions he’d had at the hospital had made him unable to transform after all? Nothing had happened immediately following the transfusions, so maybe everything will be fine. But he still can’t help but worry, especially now since the painkillers aren’t smothering his thoughts anymore.

He feels the wheelchair ease from the ramp onto a small wooden dock half-sheltered by the deck of the resort, and tangles his fingers into the sealskin. There’s a familiar humming warmth in it, which seems encouraging.

Something pulls at his gut. The faintest siren-call of the sea. In the months before Halloween he had heard nothing but this call, this pull. It had seeped into every cell of his body, consumed every corner of his thoughts. He had even dreamed of the ocean, lying at night in the bed beside Viktor. There’s an itch crawling up his feet now, a need to be submerged.

At the end of the dock, Yuuri quickly discards his shoes and socks, and slides off the wheelchair onto the wood. He looks up at Mari and flashes her a thumbs-up.

“I’ll be smoking on the deck,” says Mari, averting her eyes as Yuuri begins to strip off the rest of his clothes, “just in case you need something.”

Yuuri nods. He dips a toe into the water, feels the itch ease back and the warmth of the magic waking inside him at the touch of the water against his skin.

“Don’t go too far,” she adds.

Yuuri nods again, and waves as she starts to push the wheelchair back towards the deck. Once she is gone and he is