As Yuuri woke, he remembered that he was on a plane. His seat rumbled beneath him, and he was vaguely aware of some soft beeping coming from somewhere. His head was leaning awkwardly against his seat and his glasses were pressing uncomfortably against his face, but he was still warm and sleepy, so he made no effort to adjust it.
Then Viktor's hand moved in his, and Yuuri was suddenly wide awake.
Viktor had hardly let go of Yuuri since the end of his free skate in China, since photos of their fireworks were splashed across every front page online and off of it, and replayed several million times on YouTube. Yuuri was trying not to think about all of that, but it was hard when his social media was blowing up with it, when the barista at the airport Starbucks recognized them. His parents and Mari called to congratulate him the moment he got back to their hotel room (with his sister screaming about how she called it) while Viktor had gotten a group phone call from the St. Petersburg skating team (and turned alarmingly red during that long Russian conversation).
Phicit had called him and spent more time sobbing into the phone than talking. At that time, Viktor had been in the shower, so he didn't hear Yuuri crying too.
Yuuri opened his eyes and looked to his left. Viktor's head was on his shoulder. He was sound asleep, but his fingers were still entwined with Yuuri's. With the rush to get to Moscow, his locket was still around his neck, the heavy pendant out of sight under the blankets. Yuuri made a mental note to mention it to Viktor later, before his eyes drifted back up to Viktor's mouth.
A faint star shimmered there, a brilliant sunburst. Yuuri's face had burned when he saw their faces on the big screen back in China and what had happened started to sink in, but Viktor threw his head back in laughter beside him, grinning widely at the camera. Yuuri could feel his face turning pink just at the memory.
Viktor's hand twitched in his again before tightening around his fingers. A small smile spread across his face before he opened his eyes. Viktor looking at Yuuri still felt like going out into a star-filled sea, like sunlight bouncing off the ocean. "You're awake," he said.
Yuuri didn't think he'd ever tire of Viktor's smile, his own sunburst reflected back at him. He touched his own mouth. "I guess I will have to live with this for the rest of my life, won't I?"
Viktor grinned wider, and leaned forward to kiss Yuuri gently. "I suppose you will."
As Viktor is hailing a cab, Yuuri's has his phone in his hand, scrolling through his contacts to hit Yura's number. They were finally in the same country for the first time in several weeks, and hadn't seen each other outside of their respective televised skates.
"Yuuri." Viktor's hand on his wrist, warm and sure. "If I know him as well as I think I do, Yura's probably with his grandfather right now. Maybe wait a bit?"
Right. Yuri hadn't seen his grandfather in months, and he was finally back in Moscow. Yuuri nodded. "The hotel, then."
After they pushed the beds together in their hotel room, Viktor pulled Yuuri down to sit with him. Yuuri was still a little bleary from the long plane ride here, but Viktor looked strangely intense, his blue eyes shining in the dim light of their room. While Yuuri leaned back on their pillows, Viktor sat upright in front of him. "I want to try to open my locket."
Yuuri blinked. Of course he knew about Viktor's complicated feelings around it, but wasn't it empty now? "Okay." Viktor's locket was around his neck, hanging between them. Yuuri reached out and weighed it in his hand. It was heavier than any that he had owned in his life, heavier than even Phicit's locket, when he had five lights to hold.
Viktor had gone very still, and Yuuri realized he had never touched his locket before. Not many people had, he guessed. Yuuri let go abruptly. "Um —"
"That's fine, I just —" Viktor frowned, and pulled the locket over his head. "Oh. Oh, I haven't told you yet, have I?"
Yuuri was more confused than ever. "Told me what?"
Viktor bit his lip, not quite meeting Yuuri's eyes. He fidgeted with the locket chain, winding tight around his fingers. "Sorry — everything just seemed… fixed, after your free skate. I… forgot."
Yuuri took Viktor's hands and began to gently unwind the chain from them. "Forgot what, Viktor?"
"Fifteen years ago, when I... when I left you, it was because I was scared." Viktor was frowning deeply, his shoulders curving inward. Yuuri wasn't surprised — Viktor had felt terrible about this for years and years — it wouldn't just disappear overnight. Something curled in his gut — anger? It wasn't exactly directed at Viktor, and in his head and heart, Yuuri was so, so happy he had his soulmate back. But there it was. "My father left my mother for his soulmate. I never knew him, other than the terrible stories she would tell me about him. I know that your sister is fine without a soulmate, but my mother... while she never said it outright, she hated not having one."
Yuuri was just holding onto Viktor's hand now. "Was she the reason why you disappeared so often?"
"She hated it when I spoke with you," Viktor said quietly. "She grew more… aggressive as time went on."
Yuuri's gut twisted, and he saw red. Of course. He wasn't angry at Viktor. He was angry at his mother, at a world that turned her into who she was. Angry at a world that made Viktor a target, which made him feel as though he needed to hide. Yuuri didn't let that show on his face, did not let the thrum of his anger pass through his hands to Viktor. There was no use being angry at someone long dead, but he could help her living son. "Did she hit you?"
"I was afraid she would." Viktor nodded towards the locket, still on the bed. "Especially when my… when my second soulmate was born."
"You have another…? Oh, Viktor, that's wonderful." Yuuri looked up at him, but Viktor looked troubled. "Ah. They wouldn't know you at all."
"I'm not sure how to explain all of this to them, but I want to try." Viktor picked up his locket, turning it around in his hands. He let it fall through his fingers. "Hah… I'm actually a little nervous."
"Just be honest." Yuuri pressed the locket back into Viktor's hands. "They might not know you, but they're still your soulmate. Someone meant for you, right?"
"Right." Viktor gave him a shaky smile. "Well, here goes." In one motion, Viktor undid the clasp of the locket, but stopped there. He was still holding it closed with his other hand.
"Hey. Breathe. I'm right here," Yuuri said. Viktor shut his eyes for a moment and breathed. He let go.
The locket clicked open. A new light bloomed between them, a tiny white star floating in Viktor's hands. Inside, the locket shone gold and reflected that white light into yellow. It danced across Viktor's face, and he looked as if he was about to cry.
The star flickered and Viktor started a little. Something stung behind Yuuri's eyes, but he blinked it away. "Go on, Viktor."
Viktor reached out, his hand closing around the light hesitantly. His signalling was clumsy and out of practice, but he hadn't forgotten it. H-E-L-L-O
The light sputtered and actually winked out for a few seconds. But their first words to Viktor came along soon enough. H-I T-H-E-R-E
"Yuuri! They're talking to me!" Viktor briefly grabbed Yuuri's hand before refocusing on the light. The message kept going.
D-O I H-A-V-E A N-E-W S-O-U-L-M-A-T-E-?
Y-E-S I-N A W-A-Y
Yuuri had spent the past few years speaking with his soulmate through light regularly, but this was the first time in a while that Viktor had done this. Yuuri had been without a light for a few months now and missed it terribly, so he wondered at how Viktor wasn't bursting at the seams at this moment. The rhythm of Viktor's soulmate's Morse code was so… comforting to Yuuri too. It made his heart ache.
R U T-H-E P-A-R-E-N-T-?
"What?" Viktor reeled back, looking utterly perplexed. "Am I the — what?"
"They must think their new soulmate is a baby," Yuuri said, barely holding back a smile. "They probably think you're the parent talking for it."
"Uh —" Viktor seized his light again. N-O I-M N-O-T T-H-E P-A-R-E-N-T
Viktor huffed, but Yuuri was positively grinning.
V-E-R-Y S-O-R-R-Y B-U-T I H-A-V-E 2 G-O NOW-. W-I-L-L T-A-L-K L-A-T-E-R
"Well this is anticlimactic," said Viktor. Yuuri patted his arm, and Viktor sent one last message. O-K-A-Y
The light between them blinked once before it went dark. And that — that gave Yuuri pause.
"Come on, I suppose we've got to go too." Viktor was moving, but Yuuri's mind was racing too fast to process much of that. He distantly heard the snap of a locket click close. "We can meet up with Yura at the ice rink."
The style of the messaging, the rhythm of the blinks. That last dot, before they signed off. And the timing — fifteen years, Viktor said. Fifteen years ago, N went silent, because his second soulmate was born. Well, Yuuri's second soulmate was also born fifteen years ago.
They were always meant to find each other, weren't they?
He felt a hand cupping his cheek. "Yuuri? Yuuri are you alright?"
"What?" A broad smile was spreading across his face, but Yuuri looked up to see Viktor seated in front of him, looking concerned. As Yuuri's grin widened, Viktor's frown deepened. There was something wet on his cheeks.
"You're crying, Yuuri. But you're also smiling?"
Yuuri couldn't take it anymore. He pitched forward, burying his face in Viktor's shoulder and laughing into it. As small circles began being rubbed on his back, Yuuri realized it just sounded like more crying. He leaned back, wiped the tears from his eyes and kissed a confused Viktor on the mouth. "Oh, I have something wonderful to tell you, Vitya."
Yuri leaned against the railing by the river, tapping on the locket strapped to his left wrist. He was right outside the rink, waiting for Yuuri and Viktor to arrive, but he needed somewhere to think. Small cruise ships passed him by, filled with tourists and locals with too much time on their hands. If he squinted, Yuri thought he could see tiny blinking lights — soulmate lights, or the flash of smartphones.
Another soulmate. Yuri remembered that just a few years ago, he hadn't wanted any at all. He hadn't believed in them, not in the promise of unconditional love, not even that these random people were somehow meant for him. But it seemed that his stupid romantic of a soulmate Yuuri was starting to rub off on him. Here were all these lights, linking him to strangers. Here Yuri was with this new light, and he didn't hate it.
"Tch." Yuri kicked at a rock by his foot and watched it drop down and down, vanishing into the dark water. He had missed Moscow — the bitter cold and grey skies, the hugeness of it all. St. Petersburg and Hasetsu were beautiful in their own ways, but Moscow was all strength, with its sprawling buildings, its ring roads and highways, everything leading to the Red Square. This was his home.
His phone pinged — it seemed that Viktor and Yuuri had nearly reached him. Viktor knew where Yuri was — this spot was near the rink, and they had known each other for years, after all. It seemed that no matter what city they were in and wherever Yuri skulked off too, Viktor always seemed to find him.
He could hear laughter distantly, and Yuri sighed. He was happy for them — he couldn't deny that, though he'd never say it out loud. Yuri vowed that he wouldn't even say it on their wedding day, whenever that would be.
They were going to be insufferable enough together.
"Yura!" Viktor's voice rang out, and Yuri turned slowly, putting his hands in his pockets. He and Yuuri were stumbling up the path like bumbling fools, with those matching ear-to-ear grins on their faces. Yuri blew a few strands of hair out of his eyes in annoyance. It was going to be like this for the rest of their lives, wasn't it? "Yura, I'm not the parent!"
In that moment, it was as if all the air in Moscow had frozen. Yuri couldn't breathe. "What did you just say?"
Viktor finally reached the top of the hill, his arms spread wide, Yuuri just a step behind him. "Yura!"
"Stop saying my name!"
Viktor was still smiling down on him, with that dopey happy face of his. "Yuuri says it all lines up. We're soulmates!"
For once in his life, Yuri fell completely silent. He wanted to deny it, deny everything. He wanted to forget believing in soulmates again. Him and Viktor? The most idiotic idea of all time.
And yet, Yuri couldn't help but feel that something he had long forgotten about had finally been nudged into place. For the first time, he felt he understood why the poets called these lights a miracle, why there were thousands upon thousands of cheesy stories written about these things.
But those feelings didn't make the situation any less horrifying.
"Holy hell." Yuri dragged his hands down his face, mumbling to himself. "This can't be happening."
Viktor had his arms crossed around himself now, unease creasing his brow. "I am sorry for vanishing, Yura. My actions must have hurt you too. I can… see things better now, but still…all those years ago…."
Oh, this was far worse. "Shut up old man, I know all of that already!" Yuri curled his lip into a snarl, but Yuuri just started smiling at him. Eventually, Viktor did too. "Ugh, I don't want our mark to be anywhere visible. Put it on my foot, or something!"
"So cruel." Viktor pouted. Yuuri laughed and put an arm around him and Yuri, pulling them close.
"We're all soulmates with each other!" Yuuri said. His arm was warm across Yuri's shoulders, and this close, Viktor's big head seemed to fill in the entire sky above him. "Isn't that incredible?"
"You're the most annoying soulmate I have, Viktor," Yuri mumbled. As they huddled together in the Moscow chill, something warm bloomed in Yuri's chest — not the burn of a soulmate mark, but something else. Something that mattered — more than marks, more than lights, maybe.
When Yuri pulled back, an idea struck him. "Maybe we don't have to let our light go. Not just yet."
Viktor blinked. "What?"
"We've hardly used it." Yuri bit his lip, but he pushed on. "And you'll always be hanging around Yuuri anyway, so all three of us can speak whenever."
"Yuri, that sounds wonderful, but…" One of Viktor's hands had gone to his locket, still around his neck. "I don’t want to wear this anymore."
"You don't have to — I'll take care of it," Yuri countered. "Just text me when you need it dark or something—" The idea was sounding stupider the more he said it. "Oh, forget it —"
"You're right about everything." Viktor was beaming now. "And Yuuri's been saying that he misses talking to you on airplanes."
All of this was so embarrassing, but Yuri found himself reflecting Viktor's smile right back at him. "If we happen to lose it later, that'll be okay. But just… for now."
"For now," Viktor repeated. He looked almost dazed by happiness. Yuuri was looking at Yuri with so much fondness in his eyes that he almost felt like throwing up.
"Okay, anyway, I'm going to practice now." Yuri ducked around the two of them and stuck his hands in his pockets. "Uh… talk to you later."
Yuuri nodded at him. "We'll catch up to you, Yura."
As Yuri was walking back to the ice palace, he pushed up his left sleeve a bit. There was his locket, that midnight blue thing that too many people now knew about. It was also Viktor's, in a way, since Yuri offered to carry this weight for him. And since he was positive Yuuri would be sharing that light, it was his too. Theirs.
Thinking back the disgusting, corny scene he had just been a part of, Yuri realized something. In all the years he had known him, ever since he first saw him on television, even after Viktor met Yuuri, Yuri had never seen Viktor so happy.
"Are you sure you want to do this?"
"Yes." Viktor reached up and pulled the locket over his head. The metal chain was still warm, but the pendant was empty, a cold thing. He never wanted to feel it on his skin again. "I should have done this years ago."
Yuuri nodded. Out there, the Moskva River was a living thing, moving slowly but surely through Moscow. It would go on south to flow into the Oka, then to the mighty Volga, the life-blood of Viktor's country. This water has carried the weight of his people, thousands of times over, tracing back through the centuries. It could carry one more.
Viktor cocked his arm back and he hurled his locket as hard as he could. That blue thing on its chain twisted in the air in a wide arc, wrenching under the sunlight. It struck the water with a splash, flashing gold once more before disappearing beneath the dark current.
A literal burden off of Viktor's chest. The city seemed to breathe it in, shifting its weight a bit before settling back into that great, lumbering beast it always has been.
"So dramatic," said Yuuri softly, taking Viktor's hand. Viktor turned to him and hugged Yuuri tight, nothing but their overcoats and warm sweaters between them. As Yuuri held him back, Viktor remembered that not long ago, he couldn't have imagined this for himself.
Viktor pulled away to give Yuuri a kiss, but a bright light appearing near his eye made him reel back. Yuuri held onto him, laughing as he guided Viktor in a step to the side, where they could both get a look.
W-I-L-L U 2 H-U-R-R-Y U-P-! I-M B-E-I-N-G S-W-A-R-M-E-D B-Y Y-A-K-O-V A-N-D M-I-L-A A-N-D E-V-E-N J-J-!
Yuuri grinned, and Viktor plucked the light out of the air and handed it to him. O-N O-U-R W-A-Y, Yuuri signalled. S-I-G-N-E-D-, K
Viktor smiled and gave Yuuri one last kiss before they turned to leave.