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Translations: Initiations

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They dressed in the locker room, quickly, and then Yakov drove them across town. They sat in the back seat of his car together, hip to hip. Yakov’s eyes stayed fixed to the road ahead.

Victor kept glancing at Yuuri, grinning, and then looking away with a disbelieving shake of his head. Yuuri felt something bubbling up inside, pride and amazement and a little giddy giggle that he’d actually made it, that he was here, that they were together, that he’d actually done it.

By the time they got back to Victor’s apartment, when Yuuri turned on his phone, it immediately tried to vibrate out of his hands with notifications.

He looked around, realized the couch was the only piece of furniture visible in the apartment not covered in boxes, sprawled on it wearily, stared at the list of missed calls for a long moment, and then called Minako on speaker.

“They want you back here by tomorrow,” she said, without preamble.

“I don’t think that’s physically possible,” Yuuri said.

“No, it is,” Victor said from the hallway. “You’d have to leave in a few minutes, but you’d catch a local flight to Moscow, then the nonstop from Moscow to Tokyo. They do want him in Tokyo?”

Minako said, “Yes. In fact, they said they would charter a flight directly if they had to, to get you here for the exhibition. I told them I didn’t think you were coming back, but when they saw the clip, or, rather, the media interest the clip was getting…”

Yuuri stared at the phone for a long moment, saying nothing.

“Yuuchan?” Victor asked, coming over and draping himself over the back of the couch to run his fingers through Yuuri’s hair.

“21 hours,” Yuuri said. “I left after midnight, and traveled for 21 hours, and it’s not even six in the evening, and you want me to go back?”

“Did you sleep?” Victor asked.

“Yes?” Yuuri said, puzzled.

“You skated well,” Victor said. “I bet you could do it again tomorrow.”

“Yuuri, I understand if you don’t want to do it, but the sponsors are telling me that if you will come, they will fly you here. There’s a car out front for you.”

“I just got here. It’s Victor’s birthday. I’m not leaving him,” Yuuri said, dazed.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Minako said. “They want him, too. There are three sponsors who want to talk to both of you.”

“Did they ask Minami to perform?” Yuuri said.

There was a flurry of conversation in the background. “They will let Minami skate if you want, but only if you come.”

Yuuri sighed, and Victor disappeared down the hallway.

“I just don’t know,” Yuuri said. “There was so much chaos here…”

“Come home,” Minako said. “You did what you set out to do, and this way you can make some goodwill and have Victor with you, too.”

Yuuri looked dazed.

There was a pounding on the front door. Victor went to look. When he opened the door, he was bowled over by an angry little hellcat. “Is it true? Are you both going back?”

“They want us for an exhibition tomorrow,” Victor said. “How did you know?”

“Yuuko called me when Minako couldn’t get Yuuri-san. He just got here. You can’t both leave me.”

Yuuri sat up, and then said to Minako, “If we can bring Yuri, it’s a deal.”

“Wait, what?” Yuri said. “Bring me…”

“You have your travel papers in your skate bag, no?” Victor asked.

“Yes, but…”

“And your bag is downstairs in your grandfather’s car, yes?”

Yuri stared at him.

“They said yes,” Minako said.

Yuuri stood, picked up his suitcase, and said into the phone, “Tell them we’re going to need them to do a rush cleaning of our costumes the minute we get there, and I want a week of expenses covered for all three of us, plus return flights to Russia.”

Victor disappeared into his bedroom for a moment, and then returned with a suitcase. He stuffed his skating bag into it, and said, “Okay, I’m ready. Oh, and Yakov is coming. I told him to park in our garage. He hadn’t gotten very far.”

“Done,” Minako said. “They say you can bring whoever you want. But you have to go.”

“We have a garage?” Yuuri said, as Victor and Yuri dragged him out the front door.

The surreality of the day became even weirder as they were driven directly onto the tarmac, where a private plane was waiting for them. They climbed the airstairs up to the cabin, where a woman in her thirties greeted them and directed them back into the aircraft. Yakov eyed the galley as they walked through. He asked the neatly dressed woman—whose name tag read “Katya”—“Is there vodka?”

She smiled and nodded. “The galley is fully stocked, sir.”

The interior of the plane was opulent, glittering gold, marble, leather, and satin everywhere, pushing but not quite overwhelming the boundaries of good taste. They made their way past two neatly made single beds, to two pairs of rich leather seats facing each other across an inlaid table.

“This is the conference room,” she said in smooth English with a European accent that was impossible to place. “You should make yourselves comfortable here, buckled in, until we reach cruising altitude. We’d be happy to stow your luggage in the credenza,” she said, pointing at a long cabinet across from the tables. Then she gestured at the back of the plane. “We can make two singles or one double bed back there in the lounge. There can also be couches, but we will be flying through the night.”

“Double,” Yuuri and Victor said at the same time. She nodded.

“Gross,” Yuri complained.

They stowed their bags in the side compartment, and sat gingerly down in the very comfortable seats.

“I’ve seen sponsors throw money around,” Victor said. “But this is something else.”

“You two idiots made the news in a big way,” Yuri said, fondly. “I was looking after we left the rink, and I am betting it wasn’t a Japanese company at all, but some American one trying to make bank.”

“But why drag us back to Japan?” Yuuri asked.

“Because there was no way the Russian government was going to allow a US company to come in right now and film a commercial with you two in St. Petersburg,” Yakov said wearily. “They tried to stop the tape of the gala from going out at all, but ESPN beat them to punch. It had already been live long enough for people to copy it and make it viral by the time the order went out for it to come down. ESPN apologized but said it was too late.”

“Someone did a compilation of all your routines from the two events,” Yuri said. “You should coordinate that way more often.”

“We didn’t really,” Yuuri said.

At the same time, Victor grinned and said, “Amazing idea!”

Yakov put his head in his hands. “Is this ice dancing or is it competitive figure skating?”

“Why choose?” Yuuri asked.

“I thought you were supposed to be the respectful one,” Yakov muttered.

Victor snorted. “He’s worse than me. I can’t make him do anything.”

“It’s really going to piss people off if you two coordinate all your routines when you’re skating in the same competitions,” Yuri said. “They’re going to accuse you of somehow rigging the skating.”

“I figured we’d set our base choreography with identical levels of difficulty, and then see who can do it better,” Victor said. “That way people can’t accuse me of throwing things as his coach, or sabotaging him, and we’ll have fun seeing who does better at any given time.”

“You think he’s going to beat you,” Yuri said.

Victor leaned back against his seat. “Sometimes. Maybe. I’m not over the hill yet, but I can see the top of it and it’s not very far away.”

“It won’t stop me from making mine harder,” Yuuri said.

“That stamina,” Victor said. “It is very impressive.”

“Gross,” Yuri muttered as the engines whined into a higher pitch. The plane began to taxi out onto the runway. They all buckled up at the request of the stewardess, and Yuuri watched as the tarmac rolled away from them, changed directions, and then blurred as the plane accelerated.

“It always feels like the plane is still to me, and the rest of the world is moving,” Yuuri said. “No matter how many times I fly.”

“It’s all a matter of perspective,” Victor said, taking Yuuri’s hand.

“I never got to see more than the living room of your apartment,” Yuuri sighed regretfully. “I was looking forward to it.” The ground dropped away from them as the nose of the plane lifted up.

“Soon enough,” Victor said. “I cannot believe you were going to skip an exhibition. As your coach I should be very put out. And where’s my dog?”

“Minako was going to bring him in a week, once we were settled. I didn’t have him with me in Tokyo. I just wanted to be with you on your birthday,” Yuuri said. “Happy birthday?”

“Merry Christmas,” Victor said, laughing.

“Ugh, when I can I get up?” Yuri asked.

“After you tell me how you are,” Yuuri said, curling his legs up in the wide seat and leaning over the arm to rest his head on Victor’s shoulder.

“My legs hurt,” Yuri said. “I barely did any jumps today, and people were commenting on it.”

“I told him to take it easy,” Yakov said. “No need to damage himself for an exhibition.”

Victor wrapped an arm around Yuuri’s shoulders and dropped a kiss on his hair. “You’re telling that to the wrong man.”

“I didn’t hurt myself coming here, though the idea of going back so soon is exhausting.” Yuuri looked around. “Though, the reality seems like it might be less exhausting?”

“Have you looked at the news?” Yuri said, flipping through something on his phone.

“I haven’t seen my phone since before the competition,” Victor said.

Yuri’s eyes widened. “I forgot.” He dug Victor’s phone out of the pocket of his hoodie.

“You sneak! I spent an hour looking for that!” Victor reached out to take it.

“Don’t blame him,” Yuuri said. “He was making sure your surprise wasn’t ruined.”

Victor turned his phone on, and waited as it booted up. “Well, I won’t be getting any news right now.”

“There’s wifi,” Yuri said, across the table. “Let me.”

“I’m perfectly capable of…”

But Yuuri slyly plucked the phone out of Victor’s hands, and deftly set it up.

“How did you know the wifi password?” Victor asked.

Yuuri and Yuri both said, “It was on the wall when we came in.”

Yuri pointed over his shoulder. “Right up front.”

“Hey, we’re leveling out,” Yuuri said.

A moment later, a lanky, dun-haired man came in from the galley as the stewardess unbuckled herself from the front of the cabin. He opened the door behind them and they could see a couple of couches in the back. In short order, one of the couches was converted into a bed, and sheets applied. Victor called out, “Do you usually do that in-flight?”

The stewardess looked forward and said, “Not usually. But we usually have a little more notice before we have to take off. But the orders were clear. Get you off the ground as soon as possible, before they realized what was going on.”

“You really pissed some people off,” Yuri said. “People are calling for an investigation.”

The steward looked back at them from the doorway and said, “Some of us think you were very brave.”

“It didn’t feel brave,” Yuuri said. “I just missed him and wanted to surprise him.”

“It’s not like we hadn’t done it before,” Victor said.

“It’s one thing when you’re in Spain and Russian television doesn’t even show the performance, and another when it’s on live TV,” Yakov said. “If you’d asked, I would have told you not to risk it.”

“Are we going to be able to go back?” Victor asked.

Yakov shrugged. “I’m sure you can go back. Whether you’re safe and happy going back, I don’t think anyone knows. But this way, we can negotiate for your safety with some cards in our hand.”

“Cards…” Yuuri said.

“We have two of their best figure skaters and their best coach,” Yakov said. “That will matter more than the goluboi thing.”

“Yakov,” Victor said reproachfully.

“What do you want to call it? Gey? Gomoseksualizm?”

“Do we have a problem here?” Victor asked.

“I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t on your side, but I’m not going to pretend I understand,” Yakov said. “You could have had this,” he gestured between Yuuri and Victor, “without making a spectacle of it. No one would have cared.”

“Our relationship was born from dancing together, and skating together,” Victor said. “Skating is my life, and I’m sorry if it’s inconvenient if the best skating I’ve ever done, the best choreography I’ve ever made, the truest story I’ve ever told, was about loving the person who has inspired me the most. But I wouldn’t begin to know how to hide it. If I was any good at hiding, I never would have become a figure skater in the first place.”

“If he’d fallen in love with a girl skater,” Yuri said, “They’d be falling all over themselves for them to do exactly what Victor and Yuuri did.”

“If it wasn’t for my competition performances,” Yuuri said quietly, “I don’t think we would have a relationship at all. We’ve both thrown our whole lives into skating, and we’re better at talking on the ice. With the ice. So I don’t think we could have had this and kept it secret. We just never would have figured it out.”

“Idiots,” Yuri said. “I don’t see the big deal. It would be gross if one of them was a girl and it’s gross now, and I don’t see why it’s grosser just because it’s them.”

“A lot of people think it’s wrong,” Yakov said, then sighed. “And I can’t say that I agree with them. But there will be… backlash.”

“In the meantime, we’re stuck on this plane for the next eight hours and there’s nothing we can do about it. I’m going to go listen to music,” Yuri said, unfolding himself from his seat next to Yakov and flicking the buckle open. “Yakov, you should ask for headphones, they’ll have that geezer music you like.” He blatantly avoided looking at Yuuri or Victor.

“I should call Lilia,” Yakov said.

“You’ll want headphones,” Yuri insisted.

The steward and stewardess came from the back compartment, and she said, “The berth is set back there. Ivo will start dinner preparation, and we will have food service in about half an hour. We can serve dinner anywhere in the aircraft.”

“I think Yuuri and I will take our meal in the back,” Victor said, glancing over his shoulder. “It’s been a long day.”

She nodded. “Are there any food issues we should know about?”

“Surprise us, please,” Yuuri said. “Victor likes that, and it’s his birthday.”

She nodded, and smiled. “I think you’ll be pleased. Ivo has a knack and our supplier is very good.” Then she straightened, remembering. “Oh, we were told you might have some clothing that needs freshening before we get there?”

Yuuri blinked. “You can do that?”

“It’s not full laundry, but we have our ways. I’d be happy to touch something up?”

“We skated and our costumes smell like sweat, and we’re supposed to land and perform tomorrow,” Yuuri said. “There are sequins.”

“I can probably freshen them up with the handheld steamer,” she said. “They won’t be perfect but they won’t be smelly. I’ll bring you a bag.”

They fished their costumes out of their luggage to hand over, and then Victor opened the door to the back compartment. “That’s cozy.”

There was very little floor space left between the couch along one wall and the bed along the other. Victor slid out of his shoes and nudged them out of the way, and then flung himself onto the bed, stocking-footed. “Oh my god.”

Yuuri laughed and carefully removed his shoes, lining up both pairs next to the door, then closing the door behind him.

Victor looked up at him and said, “I still can’t believe you’re here. And why aren’t you HERE?” He pointed at his shoulder, holding out his other arm.

Yuuri sidled next to the bed, and lowered himself onto it.

“It won’t break,” Victor said, tugging him over, wrapping his arms around Yuuri and throwing a leg over Yuuri’s hips. “God, I missed you.”

Yuuri gave a tolerant chuckle as Victor looked down at him, and then Yuuri wrinkled his nose and pulled his glasses off. He sighed. “I was hoping to just spend time with you. It feels like everyone wants something from us. We haven’t had a chance to breathe since Barcelona.”

“You can breathe, now,” Victor said. “You’re amazing, you know? When I heard that music…”

“Yuri swapped it for me,” Yuuri said. “I still don’t know how.”

“I just had this moment of panic, and then this hope, but it seemed impossible, and then you were there…”

“I hope it doesn’t mess things up too much,” Yuuri said. “The last thing I wanted to do was make things worse, but when I realized I could get there in time to see you skate… it felt necessary.”

“If I hadn’t already been madly in love with you, that would have clinched it for me,” Victor said. “The whole time I was out there on the ice, I just missed you so much, and then you were there, like a miracle or the answer to a wish.” He pulled out his phone and said, “I want to see it.”

Yuuri was faster. “Phichit already sent me links,” he said, putting his glasses back on. He glanced around the room, found a video console, and said, “Hang on.”

He sat up for a moment, with Victor’s hand playing up and down his back, did something on his phone, and then pointed to the console. “This plane has an app.”

Victor rolled on his side and propped himself up on one elbow as the video started.

Yuuri sat behind him, cross-legged, playing with Victor’s hair as their routines spun out in front of them.

“You were so good,” Victor murmured. “I don’t know whether I feel more proud or unnecessary to know you did so well without me.”

“I wasn’t without you,” Yuuri said. “Not once. You’re actually a better coach in my head though.”

“Hmmph,” Victor said with mock pique, but he scooted until he could put his head in Yuuri’s lap. “Play with my hair more. I like that.”

“I like what you did with the routine for the free skate,” Yuuri said. “But we really do need some new music.”

“Already on it,” Victor said. “But I can’t decide whether I want to skate to it or whether I want to watch you skate to it.”

“Why choose?” Yuuri said, laughing. “But when can I hear it?”

“When we get back,” Victor said. “Or sooner, if they get it done before we leave.”

“Your short program was really funny,” Yuuri said.

Victor reached up without looking away from the video, and stroked his fingers down Yuuri’s cheek. “Yours made me cry.”

“You didn’t make a fool of yourself,” Yuuri said. “I just… I didn’t know how I was supposed to react.”

“I made an absolute fool of myself,” Victor said. “I’m just glad I didn’t succeed in driving you away.”

“I was the one pushing you away,” Yuuri said. “Thank you for not letting me.”

“If I was a better man, I would have,” Victor said. “But nothing made sense and I couldn’t let things go until I figured it out. Figured you out.”

“You mean the part where I’ve been in love with you since I put skates on my feet?” Yuuri said. “Or the part where I’m an inexperienced dork terrified of human attachment?”

“Ha, yes,” Victor said. “Both. Oh, you were so good.” The last was said in response to Yuuri’s combination in the short program.

Yuuri grinned. “I had a good teacher.”

“I really am a terrible coach,” Victor said.

“True, but you’re exactly what I needed, and you really did teach me what I had to know to succeed,” Yuuri said, bending down until he could just touch a kiss against Victor’s forehead.

When he straightened, Victor’s hand came up, brushing Yuuri’s lips. “When we’re done watching this, I want you to kiss me more.”

“They’re going to want to feed us dinner,” Yuuri said. “And I am hungry.”

Victor glanced up at him. “You’ll just have to be dessert, then.”

Yuuri felt a rush of heat tingle through him. “Me?”

“Or I could be your dessert. Either way.” Victor’s attention was fixed on the screen, where Yuuri’s image spun and twisted and ended the routine, arms wrapped tightly around his own torso.

“I have… what we need to do whatever you want for your birthday,” Yuuri said in a rush. “You can pick.”

Victor didn’t move or respond.

On the screen, his routine began.

“What are you thinking?” Yuuri asked after the first jump.

“I was thinking that I want to marry you in that outfit,” Victor said. “And that after dinner I want you to fuck me into this very comfortable bed.”

Yuuri turned a deep shade of pink. “Okay. Where?”

“Well, if I wanted it in my mouth, I’d have asked to give you a blow job, so the usual place for such things,” Victor said. And then he laughed. “Oh, you meant the wedding. On the ice somewhere. I don’t care who’s there, but I want to marry you and I want to skate with you and I want us to wear those outfits and it’s easier if it’s on the ice.”

“The first competition where it will be legal is Worlds,” Yuuri said. “In Finland.”

“You looked it up,” Victor said, grinning. “I love that you looked it up.”

“I figured since I said no to doing it in Barcelona, I ought to know what alternatives there are,” Yuuri said.

“And what are the other alternatives?” Victor asked.

“Well, next fall, if either of us gets assigned to Skate America, the Trophée de France or Skate Canada, we could do it then. Or we could make a special trip some time, when we choose, but if you want to marry on the ice…”

“Worlds is good,” Victor said. “Finland is close. Though it might make me nervous, thinking about marrying you while I’m competing.”

“I thought about marrying you the entire time I was competing,” Yuuri said.

Victor froze, barely breathing. “That’s what you were thinking about?”

“It steadied me, knowing that no matter what I did on the ice, you still wanted me, that you wanted to be with me. That I could be the one to inspire you. That you understood what I was saying on the ice better than I could ever express in words.”

They watched Victor’s free skate finish, his arm outstretched, and then watched Yuuri’s program start.

“You thought about marrying me, and you skated like that,” Victor finally said.

“To be fair, I’ve thought about you on the ice most of the time that I’ve been on the ice. It’s just now that I’m not panicking about whether I’m good enough for you, it’s easier to be good enough for you.” Yuuri played with strands of Victor’s hair.

“That is…” Victor pushed himself up and sat back on his heels, eyes still on the screen. “This isn’t fair. I need to hug you now, but I want to watch you skate, too.”

Yuuri laughed and tucked himself into Victor’s arms, peeking at the screen over Victor’s elbow. Victor dropped a kiss onto his hair and then said, “You are perfect for me. Don’t ever doubt that.”

The program continued, and Victor whispered, “Look at you there. Look at that.”

“It’s all because of you,” Yuuri said. “It always has been.”

“That you were out there, learning to skate, and I didn’t know…”

“Thank you for not giving up on me,” Yuuri said. “I’m sorry it took me so long to understand.”

“You gave me a future, Yuuchan. You gave me another chapter when I thought my book was over. Never apologize for surprising me.”

Yuuri buried his face in Victor’s shirt.

“Look, here’s the exhibition now,” Victor said.

Yuuri sat back up, and took Victor’s hand as the first bars of the duetto played. He laughed. “Your reaction was beautiful.”

“I was so shocked. If I hadn’t been through that routine a thousand times, I don’t think I could have stayed upright just then.”

“I thought I was going to vibrate out of my skates,” Yuuri said.

“Oh god. When I saw you there… Oh, I’m such a mess.” Victor chuckled and wiped his eyes with his free hand.

“I love skating with you like that,” Yuuri said. “I say when we join Phichit’s show, we tell him we’re never skating apart again.”

“Phichit, hmm?” Victor said absently. “I was thinking we might open a school.”

“We could do both. Oh, that’s…” Yuuri stared at the screen. “That’s beautiful. No wonder they were calling it propaganda.”

“It’s not our fault that we make gay look that good,” Victor laughed.

“I’ve never really thought of myself as gay,” Yuuri said. “But the amount of time I spent thinking about my sexuality before I met you could probably fit in a thimble.”

Victor laughed. “Is that why you pulled away from me so hard?”

“No, that was sheer terror,” Yuuri said. “Skating was always where I put that energy, and Yuuko said I imprinted on you when you hit seniors. Though it might have been sooner. Phichit teasing me about marrying you in the summer of ’15 was probably the first time anything resonated for me in that way, and of course, it was impossible.”

“Of course,” Victor said.

“Honestly I think that you were the first person I saw looking at me that way that I ever wanted back, and I didn't know what to do with that feeling. I didn’t know what to call it. Love stories never made sense to me before that. Why throw caution to the wind? Why pursue? Why surrender? Why bond? I knew it was something people did, but the thing that drove me was always beyond my reach. Until it wasn’t. And then I really had no idea.”

They watched themselves on the screen, lifting each other, spinning, dipping. “I was so confused,” Victor said. “You’d been so forward, so incredibly sexy. And then…”

“I don’t know how to drink just a little,” Yuuri said. “It’s probably genetic? It shorts something out in my self control, and I don’t know how to stop, and I can’t make memories of it. And apparently everything I don’t do sober, well… I learned a long time ago not to drink if I cared about waking up with any dignity left. That night I just didn’t care. But never ask me to drink just a little. I don’t like being that way and not being in control of myself.”

“The amazing thing was how much control you still had over your body,” Victor said. “But I can see how that could be terrifying.”

“I feel like…how I imagine drunk must feel to people who can drink just ‘some’ when I kiss you,” Yuuri said. “It’s spinning and dizzy and giddy, and feels like falling without landing.” They watched their routine come to an end, Yuuri enfolded in Victor’s arms on the screen. Yuuri fumbled for his phone and stopped the next video from playing.

When he looked up from the screen, Victor was kneeling in front of him on the bed. “I feel that way, too.” Victor’s hands came up to cup Yuuri’s face. “I love that feeling.”

And then they were kissing, savoring it, drowning in it, until a knock on the door interrupted them.

Victor climbed off the bed, and opened the door, running a hand through his hair in a futile attempt to smooth it back down. Ivo stood there with a tray and a completely composed expression. “Appetizers, sir. The main course will be ready in a few more minutes, but I could hold off on finishing it.”

“If you could…” Victor hesitated.

“I could bring it as soon as it is ready, and let you serve yourselves?” Ivo said with a small smile.

“Are we that obvious?” Victor said, blushing.

“I may have seen your routines,” Ivo said. “I know what I’d be doing if my boyfriend showed up that way and danced like that with me.” His eyes widened. “Forget I said that.”

Victor laughed. “No, that actually makes it better. Yes, please bring the main, and the dessert for that matter, as soon as they’re ready. We’ll put the tray out when we’re done.” He picked the tray up with both hands, and Ivo draped a towel over Victor’s arm.

“Champagne?” Ivo asked. “Or something else?”

Victor snorted. “No, not champagne. Something without alcohol? Surprise us with the main.”

Ivo looked curious, but simply nodded.

With a small smile, Victor backed out of the doorway and turned to set the tray down on the couch. He shut the door, and then lifted the cloche to find a series of rectangular plates, each with a few hors d'oeuvres. He grinned, and brought a plate over. “Have you ever had caviar?”

“I’ve had fish eggs, of course,” Yuuri said.

“Ah, but this is the good stuff,” Victor said, folding a leg under him to sit in front of Yuuri. He picked up a tiny pearled spoon. “Open your mouth.”

“Is it just caviar?” Yuuri asked.

Victor shook his head. “Some kind of salmon, and, hmm, avocado? And the caviar.”

“All right,” Yuuri said, closing his eyes and opening his mouth.

Victor froze, taking in the moment, and then put the spoon between Yuuri’s lips.

Yuuri stayed there for a long moment, then swallowed, and opened his eyes. He reached out and picked up a spoon. “Your turn.”

Victor took the bite, and his eyes widened. The salmon was sweet, raw, very fresh, wrapped around a small, creamy chunk of avocado, the pop and brine of the caviar complementing both perfectly.

The other spoons were other variations, one with tuna and paper-thin lemon with caviar, and another with a tiny blini and crème fraîche. They traded bites, and then salty kisses. “There are more plates,” Victor said.

The next plate had cured olives, miniature balls of mozzarella, impossibly red cubes of tomato and curls of prosciutto, with a shotglass of toothpicks shaped like swords. “How fun!” Victor said, immediately stabbing one of everything. “Open up!”

“Like a baby bird?” Yuuri asked, grinning, and then opened his mouth.

Victor fed him, and laughed when Yuuri made a face over the olive.

“They might be an acquired taste,” Victor said, and waited while Yuuri skewered things for him. “Which I have definitely acquired. Oh, you might like the green one better. It’s more sour, less… I don’t know the word in English for how a real dark olive tastes.”

“Bad,” Yuuri said. “I can deal with the ones they put on pizza in the US. I keep trying them because other people enjoy them, but…”

Victor made a skewer with tomato and prosciutto and mozzarella. “Better?”

Yuuri nodded.

“I won’t make you taste the others,” Victor said, swiping an olive for himself. “One more plate?”

The last plate held two small goblets full of tiny translucent vegetal cubes flecked with green.

“I don’t know what this is,” Victor said, tasting it, “But it’s very fresh.”

“It makes all the fish and olive taste disappear,” Yuuri said. “Water chestnut maybe? Apple? Both? Some kind of citrus?”

There was a gentle knock on the cabin door. Victor stood, and found Katya on the other side with a service cart. She pointed to the larger of the two trays. “Grilled lamb chops with Moroccan rice and vegetables for dinner. And under the other, dessert.” From underneath, she brought up a round bellied pitcher, lidded, of an iced brown liquid. “This goes well with it, it is a tamarind-mint pomegranate lemonade. Not alcoholic.”

She handed him first one tray, then the next, then the pitcher and glasses. Victor lined them up along the couch, setting the pitcher on the end table, and then closed the door.

He sat down on the bed, and then lay back. “It’s my birthday,” he said. “You should feed me.”

Yuuri laughed, and scrambled over to lift the larger cloche. “Saffron rice?”

“Moroccan, she said,” Victor supplied.

“I suppose I can feed you like a baby bird,” Yuuri said. “But I’m afraid I’ll get rice and raisins up your nose.”

“Maybe for dessert, then,” Victor said, and sat up.

Each plate had two small lamb chops, seared, rare, coated in seasoning, with a scoop of golden rice and grilled vegetables, and a little divided ramekin of chutneys on the side offering heat.

“Well, if I’d wanted to take you out for dinner on your birthday,” Yuuri said, “I’m not sure I could have done better if I tried.”

“I’m curious to meet these sponsors of yours,” Victor said. “They seem to be sparing no expense.”

“Is it like Persephone in the underworld?” Yuuri asked. “If we eat their food, will we have to stay in Japan for six months out of every year?”

“Oh, I want to try that pomegranate drink,” Victor said. “Whoever it is wants to capitalize on the love story and the political situation. I wouldn’t personally mind letting them.”

“It’s weird that loving you is a political act,” Yuuri said around a bite of lamb. “It’s just me. And you.”

“And my country is behind the times, the Americans are mad at my government, my government is mad at me, and I’m sure that makes me someone’s friend who otherwise wouldn’t care,” Victor said. “It’s ridiculous, but if they’ll throw money at you and maybe we can help someone, I don’t see the harm.”

“Help?” Yuuri asked, taking a bite of rice.

“I’ve been getting fan mail from teenagers since I kissed you on the ice,” Victor said. “They go like this, mostly. ‘No one knows that I like boys, and maybe it was something like the media says, enthusiasm, but it made me feel less alone and more like maybe someday I won’t be alone.’”

“I don’t read the comments online,” Yuuri said.

Victor picked up his phone, and found a version of the video they’d just finished watching. “Maybe seeing something as beautiful as this will make people stop thinking gay people are gross.”

He scrolled down. “This is so pure, how anyone could call this sin, I don’t understand. God gave them talent and God gave them love, and I for one can’t wait to see what kinds of stories they will tell us together.”

He scrolled down, and made a face at one comment, then said, “Oh, here. This one. ‘If Katsuki Yuuri can fly into one of the most hostile countries on earth to hug his boyfriend on international television, maybe I can find the will to tell my parents I’m trans.’”

“I feel almost guilty that I’ve never for a moment doubted my parents would still love me for loving you,” Yuuri said.

“I haven’t seen my parents in years,” Victor said. “I don’t know what they’d think, and I don’t care.”

“You never talk about them,” Yuuri said.

Victor shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. Why waste breath on it?”

“I can’t imagine you belonging to someone and them not being incredibly proud of all you’ve achieved,” Yuuri said.

“I’m pretty sure they’re both too far gone to care. They took my prize money from my first three years of senior competition, and drugged themselves into stupors. I cut them off when I gained control of my finances, and haven’t looked back since the day my mother tried to guilt me over all her sacrifices while she was high out of her mind.” Victor shrugged. “It’s an old thing, and I just don’t have anything left to care about them anymore. But no, I won’t push you to drink if you don’t want to.”

“I think my family has already adopted you,” Yuuri said.

Victor grinned. “They have, haven’t they? I love it when Okaasan calls me Vicchan.”

“I’d call you that, but it reminds me too much of my dog. If I’d known I’d someday marry you, I might have named him something else.”

Victor laughed.

They finished the main, and Yuuri peeked under the dessert cloche. “A cake!”

Victor laughed. “Should we put 28 candles on it? Or would that set the plane on fire?”

“Pretty sure we’re not supposed to have open flame,” Yuuri said. “But there’s no candles. There are flutes of something chocolate, though.”

“Best not eat those with clothes on,” Victor said, grinning as Yuuri blushed. “Hey, I said I wanted you for dessert.”

Yuuri raised his eyebrows, and began unbuttoning his shirt.

Victor swallowed, and said, “I’ll be back in a moment.” He stood up with more haste than necessary, and stepped through the door at the back of the compartment, and into the lav.

Yuuri stopped unbuttoning his shirt long enough to clear everything but the dessert, setting everything on the cart Katya had left just outside the door, and then retrieving his overnight case from his luggage.

Victor hadn’t come out yet when Yuuri closed the door. Yuuri grinned, and removed all his clothing quickly, then folded them and set them to one side. When Victor finally emerged, wearing only a bathrobe, Yuuri was lying on the bed, naked, holding a flute of chocolate mousse.

“You said you wanted me as the dessert?” Yuuri asked.

“I also said I wanted you to fuck me,” Victor said.

“Again, why choose?” Yuuri said.

Victor laughed. “Oh, Yuuchan, I’m afraid I’ve corrupted you.”

“I don’t feel corrupted,” Yuuri said. “I feel like seductive chocolate. Although, if you eat this off of me, I’m really not sure who would really be seducing whom.”

“Why choose?” Victor echoed, and dropped the bathrobe on the couch. “Look at you.”

He took the flute out of Yuuri’s hand, and dipped a finger in it, tasting the chocolate. “Hmm,” he said, looking slowly from Yuuri’s feet, all the way up. “Where to begin?”

Yuuri reached up, dipped a finger into the rich mousse, and then trailed the chocolate up his ribs and around his right nipple.

“Interesting choice,” Victor said, and bent to lick it slowly off. “Wouldn’t want to leave you sticky,” he said, as he finished at Yuuri’s nipple.

Yuuri, back arching, said through gritted teeth, “No, sticky would be bad.’

Victor sat up and said, “Turn your head.”

Yuuri did, and Victor painted a line from Yuuri’s nipple up his neck, then followed with his tongue, cleaning it off. “You are delicious,” he murmured against Yuuri’s earlobe.

Yuuri’s breath was coming in short panting gasps, and Victor painted his lips with chocolate, then licked them clean.

Yuuri laughed, and Victor popped a fingerful of mousse into his open mouth.

“Mmm,” was all Yuuri managed before Victor was there with his tongue.

Yuuri managed to snag the flute from Victor while they kissed.

“Hey,” Victor said, pretending a pout.

“Shhh, my turn,” Yuuri said, nudging Victor back. “Turn your head.”

Yuuri painted a careful line in several strokes from Victor’s earlobe, down his neck, to his nipple. As he started sucking the line of chocolate off of Victor’s skin, he continued painting the chocolate down Victor’s abdomen, chasing the line slowly with his tongue.

Then Victor took a short, sharp breath in as a cold finger traced a line from the base of his cock up to the tip.

“Don’t worry,” Yuuri said. “I plan on being very careful.”

“I’m not worried,” Victor said. “Oh god.”

Yuuri chuckled as his tongue carefully cleaned the mousse from Victor’s cock. “I like this kind of dessert,” he said, swirling first a cold finger and then a hot tongue around the tip.

“Jesus,” Victor said, his back arching. “I still want you to fuck me.”

“Oh, I will,” Yuuri said. “But no rush.”

“My brain is going to explode,” Victor said. “Pffttt.”

Yuuri said nothing, being too busy working on sucking the last of the chocolate off of Victor’s skin.

Victor whimpered. “I want to feel you in me.” Then he whimpered again as the heat of Yuuri’s mouth disappeared.

“I need to wash my hands,” Yuuri said apologetically, stepping into the lav. “They’re getting sticky.” A moment later he stepped back into the room with a damp washcloth on a small tray, and a towel. He placed them on the couch, next to a ziplock bag full of lube packets and condoms.

Victor laughed. “So prepared, my love.”

“I don’t want to sleep on a wet spot,” Yuuri said. “And there’s no shower.”

“Just come here and fuck me please,” Victor said, taking the towel and sliding it under his hips.

Yuuri held up one finger, and then rolled a condom on himself. He opened a lube packet and then Victor’s head was arching back as Yuuri’s fingers found their slick way in, one, then the next, and a third, working gently until they moved easily and Victor relaxed around him.

“Please,” Victor said again, as the fingers withdrew.

Yuuri pressed himself in, slowly, easily, and said, “I’m here.”

“God, I missed you,” Victor said with a gasp as Yuuri bottomed out, and then started sliding slowly back, only to thrust in again a moment later.

“Missed me, or missed me fucking you?”

“Both,” Victor said. “I swear to god you get better at this every time.”

Yuuri laughed and let his whole weight press Victor deep into the bed, as he worked into a rhythm. “That first time wasn’t a high bar to clear. I like learning your body.” His hands roamed over Victor’s skin, touching, stroking, feather light and then deep pressure as he gripped and pressed in deeper. “And I love fucking you.”

“Harder, now,” Victor said. “Oh, more like that.”

Yuuri settled into a deep, hard pace, with a little swivel and a little push at the end of each stroke that sent Victor’s head lolling back, his arms scrabbling for purchase until he finally settled on just holding tightly to Yuuri. His feet hooked around Yuuri, as if to pull him even deeper in.

“So good, Vitya,” Yuuri said. “I could fuck you for hours like this. How fast do you want it?”

“Your stamina is going to kill me,” Victor mumbled. “But I’ll die a happy man. Just keep doing that. Oh, god, just like that.”

They lost themselves to it, to the deep contact and the tingling buzz spreading everywhere. Something about Yuuri’s lack of concern for completion let Victor just abandon himself to it, and they rode the buzzing pleasure together for a long time before Victor shifted to reach between them, Yuuri making room instinctively and speeding up his tempo to match the pace Victor set on himself with his hand, until they both tightened, and spilled, and collapsed together.

They lay there, limp, for a moment, before Yuuri reached over and grabbed the cool washcloth, handed it to Victor, then gingerly reached down to pull away the condom, which he knotted and dropped into the washcloth Victor held out for him.

“Good planning,” Victor murmured, drying them both with the towel. “But I think I want to be under the covers, not on top.

“Hmm,” Yuuri grunted, and rolled off the bed. “Have to stop lying on it,” he said.

“Might be too much trouble,” Victor said, but he rolled off anyway, then fell into bed as soon as Yuuri had the covers pulled back. “I want to be the little spoon.”

“It’s your birthday,” Yuuri said. “You can be whatever spoon you want.”

“Is it still my birthday? Or did we fly too fast to midnight?”

Yuuri pulled his phone off the couch and poked at it for a few minutes. “It’s still your birthday for a while, but I think I’m falling asleep.” He poked at his screen again, and the lights dimmed. “Can I sleep now?”

“Sleep, Yuuchan,” Victor said.

“Alright, Vitya,” Yuuri said, wrapping himself around Victor back. They let themselves be pulled into sleep by the afterglow and the thrum of the engines.

Victor woke a few hours later, disoriented, and sat up.

Yuuri blinked at him in the dim light. “Something wrong?” he said sleepily.

“I didn’t eat my cake,” Victor said.

Yuuri sighed. “You could have it for breakfast.”

“I could have it now,” Victor said, climbing awkwardly over Yuuri to the narrow gap between the bed and the couch. “I can’t see.”

Yuuri picked up his phone, and squinted at it, then stabbed it until the lights came on. He let it fall back onto the end table, and pulled the blankets over his head.

“Yuuuuuuuchan,” Victor whined.

“What, Vitya?” came the mumbled reply.

“Eat cake with me.”

Yuuri sat up, and managed to open one eye to look at Victor. “Really?”

“It’s my birthday.”

“I’m pretty sure that your birthday ended two time zones ago,” Yuuri said.

“Cake, Yuuchan. There’s cake.”

“I’m not going to get back to sleep until I eat cake with you, am I?” Yuuri said, plaintively.

Victor grinned. “Nope!” He pulled the cloche off, and stared for a moment at the remaining flute of mousse, sadder and worse for the sitting. “But I must never eat mousse again in public, for fear of embarrassing myself.”

Yuuri grinned, sleepily. “Fair.”

Victor cut into the small cake with a fork, took a bite, and groaned. “I am considering every life choice that has brought me to this point,” he said. “They’re all perfect.”

Yuuri leaned over and said, “If you insist I must eat cake with you, you’re going to have to feed me.”

Victor placed a bite on Yuuri’s tongue, and said, “See?”

“I’m just glad I’m skating for the fourth time in four days tomorrow,” Yuuri said, once he’d swallowed. He leaned against Victor’s shoulder, occasionally opening his mouth for a bite while Victor finished most of the small cake.

A few minutes later, they were curled up together again, Yuuri now the little spoon, cabin darkened, looking out the window of the plane into the deep blackness of a moonless night. “You are all the stars in my sky,” Victor whispered in Yuuri’s ear.

Yuuri gave a sleepy chuckle and said, “I can’t even see the stars without my glasses on. I’ll have to take your word for it.”

“Hmph,” Victor said, but Yuuri snagged his arm and dragged it over himself, pinning it under his own.

“You’re everything to me, Vitya,” Yuuri said. “Thank you for not giving up on me.”

“I never could,” Victor said.

They drifted back to sleep until someone knocked on the door half an hour before landing.

By the time they were on the ground, the quiet bubble of peace that had been their little compartment was nearly forgotten in a rush of phone notifications, messages, and missed phone calls.

A customs official came on board the aircraft to clear them, and they were dumbfounded when Yakov handed over diplomatic credentials that looked exactly like Yuri’s.

“How is it,” Yuuri whispered to Victor, “that those two are diplomatic? Ever?”

“I was going to come get Yuri,” Yakov said. “Then he came home anyway.”

They were cleared quickly. As they disembarked, Ivo said, “Good luck, you two. We’ll be happy to take you back once everything is arranged.”

“Are you staying until then?” Victor asked.

“We have a few charter bookings,” Ivo said. “And I think we’ll be in Australia over New Years.”

“With your…” Victor asked.

“He flies the plane,” Ivo said. “So I should hope so.”

Victor grinned. “That would make it easier.”

“Thank you for your help,” Yuuri said.

“We were well-paid to take care of you,” Katya said. “It was our privilege.”

Inside the terminal, past security, Minako was waiting for them, with a small herd of Japanese businessmen, Americans, and the largest media crowd Yuuri had seen in person in his entire life. His hand found Victor’s hand, and a couple dozen bulbs flashed.

“Victor,” Yuuri said, as they neared the double doors, “What have I done?”

“Just smile,” Victor said. “I love you, and we’re going to be happy, and they’re going to ask ridiculous questions, and we’re going to be okay. Look up at me.”

Yuuri looked up. Victor smiled, a real, loving, genuine smile, and said, “This is a performance like any other, this part. Just remember it’s me you seduced. Let yourself be that Yuuri, and the world will love you as much as I do. Shall we begin?”

Still looking at each other, they stepped across the threshold.