Yuri's late to get up - Yuri is always late to get up, though, it's like he wants Victor irresistibly tempted to go into his room and wake him up with kisses and cuddles, or failing that, a cold washcloth to the nape of his neck.
Victor dithers for about five minutes, because he really wanted to get going early, but if he goes in, Yuri will be curled up in the bed with his arms around a pillow like he needs to hold something while he sleeps, sweet and soft-lipped, and Victor is but a man. It's just Victor's good fortune that Makkachin slept with him instead of Yuri last night. Victor doesn't think he could face Yuri and Makkachin looking so cozy and cuddlesome without damning the entire day of training and climbing in the bed with them.
He pushes the door open. "Yuuuri," he says, softly. "Yuuuuri, wake up."
There's no reply, not even a sigh, and Victor ventures to look in.
There's no Yuri in the room, either, just a mess of blankets and a pretty, round-looking seal-brown cat, sleeping tangled up in Yuri's night shirt.
"Huh," says Victor, very thoughtfully. He pulls out his phone, takes a picture, and then closes the door to make sure the cat stays in and Makkachin -- who adores cats -- stays out.
First things first: Victor texts Yuuko and Minako to make sure Yuri isn't at the studio or the rink, and then wanders around Yutopia, looking for Yuri. "Mama," he says to Hiroko, "Have you seen Yuri?"
"Still in bed?" says Hiroko. "He hasn't come down for breakfast yet."
Victor goes and checks for Yuri's shoes, too, but both his trainers and his regular shoes are still in the little cubby, and Victor was pretty sure that he'd seen Yuri's slippers in his room.
He texts Phichit next.
PHICHIT: KITTEH???? SO CUTE hahaha he looks like a little human with his head on the pillllloooooowwwwww
YOU: xaxa right right so cute )))) have you seen this one before
PHICHIT: ??? no but I dont usually go looking for cat pics it's real cute tho
YOU: never? not even in detroit?
PHICHIT: ????? why would I see a cat like this in detroit
YOU: just checking!
PHICHIT: is something going on
PHICHIT: something better not be going on
YOU: what could possibly be going on for you to worry about?
PHICHIT: what have you done to my son, victor aleksandrovich nikiforov
PHICHIT: ANSWER ME RIGHT NOW OR SO HELP ME
YOU: [ ✓ seen 9:00AM ]
Victor makes sure Makkachin is shut up in his room, giving him a Kong full of peanut butter and an extra pat in apology, and goes back to Yuri's room. The cat is still asleep, of course, although he's shrugged free of Yuri's clothes. Victor looks at him again, more closely.
It's a beautiful cat, really, with Yuri's graceful lines and strong muscles. Victor scoops him up in his arms and the cat only makes a sleepy chirp before cuddling in and beginning to purr. He's so soft and warm.
Definitely Yuri, thinks Victor.
He carries the cat down to the family area, where Toshiya, Hiroko, and Mari are just finishing breakfast.
"Did you find Yuri?" says Hiroko. "His breakfast is going to be cold. Yours too, Vicchan!"
"Hmm," says Victor. "Almost! Do you know if he has turned into cat before?"
"What?" says Mari. They all turn and stare at him. Victor cuddles the cat closer and sits down. "What do you mean, 'has he turned into a cat before'?"
"I think Yuri turned into cat!" chirps Victor, smiling big, looking happy, beaming down at Yuri in his arms, who is beginning to wake up a little.
"What," says Mari. "How."
"In Russia, usually happens to hockey players," says Victor, with a shrug. "In Canada too, they tell me! They're very secret though, so who knows for sure."
Yuri's family stares at him blankly. Yuri's body has gone still and stiff in Victor's arms. He's definitely awake and aware. That's good.
"Hockey players," Victor clarifies. It's very annoying to not have Yuri to translate for him, but he'll manage somehow. "Hockey players keep secret in their pads, that's why they're so bulky."
"Victor," says Mari, "do you mean to tell me that Yuri turned into that cat?"
"As long as he recovers before competition, no problem!" says Victor. He looks down at the frozen bundle of seal-brown fur in his arms. Yuri's eyes are almost all pupil. His tail is puffed out in horror. "Yuri is very cute, very cute!" he coos. "It will be pleasure to look after him."
Yuri rewards him by kicking off with his powerful back legs and scrabbling violently free, his razor claws leaving bleeding marks all down his arms. He streaks out of the room and upstairs like all the hounds of hell are after him.
"Mama, may I have chicken?" says Victor finally. "Also, bandage?"
"Why not a poodle?" says Mari.
That's a good question, honestly.
Victor spends the next three hours on the floor of Yuri's childhood bedroom, patiently holding a piece of chicken out to the lump of fur that has chosen to shove its face against the corner like a tiny, adorable ostrich. Victor can't quite reach him and Yuri has swatted him a few times for trying.
Yuri is very fast and very, very panicked.
"Yuri, hiding under the bed won't help anything," says Victor, trying to sound reasonable. He's getting stiff from lying on the tatami this long, but he dragged down Yuri's pillow and is taking a mean pleasure in knowing it will smell like Victor's cologne for days. Serves Yuri right. Also, it smells like Yuri, and Victor had become addicted to Yuri's scent on the dance floor at Sochi. He doesn't get to smell it enough. If it weren't for his knee screaming at him he could stay here for the rest of the day.
Yuri turns his head long enough to hiss at him.
"I texted my hockey friend and asked, he says you should be back to normal in a week," says Victor. "It's probably the stress, as soon as you relax again, it will be fine."
Yuri twists his head again and gives him an absolutely incredulous look, so clearly meaning 'how do you expect me to not be stressed out?' that Victor can almost hear his voice.
"Also, you haven't eaten all day, why not try a little bite of this chicken?"
Yuri slaps at his hand again, but Victor can be quick too: his hand snakes out and grabs the scruff of Yuri's neck, twisting to keep his wrist away from Yuri's needle-sharp fangs, and drags him, hissing and yowling, from under the bed and wraps him in a towel so he can't escape.
Yuri makes a noise somewhere between a kettle boiling over and a demon from hell and tries to kick his way free again, but Victor is still in good shape, still lifts weights and exercises like he's an active competitive skater. Yuri's struggles are fruitless. He carries him to his own room and drops the bundle on his bed, beside Makkachin.
It's a bit of a bet, but Yuri is not someone to hurt a dog, no matter what, and so when Yuri rips his way through the towel, Victor is safely out of reach and Makkachin is looking at Yuri with puzzled interest. Yuri goes from Halloween-cat to not calm, exactly, but not murderous, in the blink of an eye.
Makkachin licks his face.
Victor leaves Makkachin to calm Yuri down, if possible, and cleans up the chicken from the floor of Yuri's room, and goes back to his room to keep an eye on Yuri so he doesn't claw his way into the walls of the house.
Then he finally answers Phichit's frantic demands that he or Yuri FaceTime him.
"What did you do to him?" hisses Phichit. For someone who is usually so easy going, Phichit is doing a pretty good impression of a mother bear.
"I didn't do anything to him," says Victor. "Everybody always says, 'what did you do to him, Victor'. What if I didn't do anything?"
Phichit says, "That's because I've talked to Chris before. Seriously, where is he?"
Victor flips the camera around to show Yuri, curled up tentatively next to Makkachin. His ears are still pretty far back. "He turned into a cat for a while," he says.
"What, like a hockey player?" says Phichit. "Are you shitting me?"
"No shit," says Victor.
"Only Yuri," sighs Phichit. "Let me talk to him?"
Victor sets the phone down on Makkachin's side.
"Oh Yuri, what did you do this time?" says Phichit, his voice chiding and affectionate.
Yuri's eyes go big and his ears flip up, and he meows at the phone. He stands up and noses at the phone, chirping and chattering anxiously.
"Of course nobody blames you," says Phichit.
"I know, buddy, I know," says Phichit. "Anxiety brain, huh? Sucks."
Victor leaves the room.
He spends the next hour talking to Yuri's family. Papa and Mama and Mari are confused, but it's easy enough to make them understand that this should be kept quiet for Yuri's own good.
Yuuko is also pretty easy: he tells her that Yuri has a flu, and to keep her children away, and she agrees easily. It's important that they don't give the triplets a hint that there's something going on, and flu is boring enough and grownup enough that the triplets will probably lose interest quickly. Possibly Victor will have to do something outrageous with them, but hinting he's working on a new routine for Yuri and letting them secretly film it is a small price to pay.
Minako slams her way into the banquet hall, looking like she's going to commit a murder: Victor wouldn't put it past her. "Where is he?" she snarls. "He was supposed to practice with me today, and he never misses it! What did you do!"
Yuri, who has calmed down enough to be allowed out in the banquet hall and fed lean pork cubes and rice, chirps. Then he looks shocked at himself and slides under the table.
Minako blinks, once, twice, and says, "Yuri?"
"Yuri, don't be rude!" says Victor, heartlessly throwing him to the wolves.
Makkachin dives under the table too, clearly convinced this is a game: Victor lets him huff and nuzzle at Yuri until Yuri comes out, tail first, followed by his dark-chocolate rump. Victor could get a thousand - a hundred thousand - likes on Instagram over it. Yuri is just so cute, Victor can't stand it. He holds it in through, because if he picks Yuri up and covers his little furry face with kisses, Yuri will turn his face into so much hamburger.
A pity, really.
Minako stares at Yuri for a long moment, then turns and looks at Victor. Her face looks like a picture of a Nemesis Victor had seen once at the Louvre. Victor divines, correctly, that he had better have a fucking good explanation for this, or Minako will have his balls to put in a presentation case for Yuri.
"He woke up like this!" he says. "Isn't he cute?"
Minako's face contorts into protective fury.
Victor survives, somehow, but only Yuri refusing to leave Yutopia, claws digging in tatami, has saved him from Minako confiscating Yuri until he turns back.
Victor tries to get Yuri to sleep with him and Makkachin, but Yuri puts his ears back in such a way that even Victor takes a step back, and Yuri and Makkachin spend the night on Yuri's bed, curled up cutely together while Victor sulks alone in his king-sized bed he bought with one eye toward sharing it with an adorable Japanese boy and a full-sized dog. There's no way Yuri's single bed is big enough for a cat and Makkachin. It's not fair. Victor could be nuzzling up to Yuri right now and listening to him purr, but here he is.
Victor falls asleep and dreams that Yuri actually comes in the room and curls up in a small, silky pillow on his bed, and when he wakes up and finds he's still alone, it's like a hard fall onto the ice.
The next morning, Victor wakes up with a soft paw in his mouth and Makkachin standing, more or less, on his kidney. Victor flails awake and regrets the loss of the paw instantly: Yuri retreats to the end of the bed and stares at him. In the cold light of dawn, he looks like a dark sepia painting of a cat, unreal, beautiful, ideal. His eyes are golden, his tail a feathery, elegant sweep. He looks like he belongs to Hecate, to Bastet, like he should be in a temple to be worshiped.
Makkachin breaks the spell by licking Victor's ear.
"I'm up, I'm up," says Victor, sitting up. Yuri stares at him with his eerie golden eyes and jumps lightly off the bed, and noses at Victor's skates.
"At this hour?" says Victor.
Yuri flicks a look at him and stretches up to put his paws on Victor's favorite cushion. His claws dig in.
"I'm coming, I'm coming!" says Victor.
Yuri lets the cushion go.
Makkachin goes back to sleep in Victor's bed, but Yuri shadows Victor's heels as he gets dressed in training gear and puts his skates in their bag. The onsen is quiet and strange, this early in the morning, as Victor puts his shoes on at entrance and slips out the gate. He doesn't bother taking the bicycle, instead walking with Yuri a dark shadow trotting at his feet. It's so early that not even the fisherman has come to take his place on the bridge. The air is cool and salty. The light is fragile, cold, before day takes hold.
Victor wants to take Yuri up in his arms, but he's afraid to touch him, lest this also be a dream. It would be nice, though, to have Yuri curled up warm and living in his arms or around his neck where he could feel the quick, small beat of his heart. They walk in silence to the Ice Castle, and Yuri waits patiently while Victor unlocks the door and goes inside.
Yuri disappears while Victor is putting on his skates, and when Victor comes out from the locker room, he finds Yuri sitting sentinel on the boards by the entrance, waiting for him.
Victor takes off his skate guards and skates out to the center of the ice. Yuri is a little, black spot on the white of the boards, sitting like a guardian statue.
Victor doesn't know what Yuri wants.
He warms up a little, skating in circles and figure eights, before he skates back to Yuri again. He holds his arms out and Yuri jumps lightly from the boards into Victor's arms. He feels so little and real in Victor's grasp that Victor's heart feels like it's going to explode. He lets Yuri slide up onto his shoulders and makes slow laps around the ice.
It's faint at first, so faint that Victor is convinced he's imagining it, but slowly, Yuri begins to purr.
It will be all right, Victor thinks. It will be all right.
Yuri wakes up three days later in Victor's bed: he's tucked up against Victor's chin and he's nakeder than Victor had ever been in the onsen.
"Yuri, you're so cute," mumbles Victor.
Yuri hits him with his pillow.