Christmas is on a Friday this year, and someone above Yuuri’s pay grade decides to have the company party on the day itself. Projected attendance is high, based on positive RSVP feedback, even among expats who normally leave the country for the last two weeks of the year. Yuuri hears this all from Sara Crispino, the head of the HR Department, who it appears has swung by his cubicle for the sole purpose of conveying that information to him. She looks back and forth between him and the office down the hall, which has a hastily-printed sign taped to the door. Black text on a sheet of white A4. NIKIFOROV.
Apparently Viktor was supposed to sit on the eighteenth floor for his new assignment.
Instead he has put his name on the fifteenth floor spare office for visitors from other branches, or consultants, or careful supervisorial scoldings. He has a clear line of sight to where Yuuri and Sara are chatting from his desk - thanks to a fancy glass wall, and the mysterious disappearance of the divider between Yuuri’s cubicle and Minami’s - and he's been making full use of that line all morning. Sara laughs at something Yuuri can't remember saying. Viktor winks at her. Them? Viktor winks, and waggles his fingers, before swiveling himself around 90 degrees to face his laptop screen.
Maybe now Yuuri can get some work done.
“People are very excited to celebrate together again,” Sara is saying, “considering last year.”
May the cubicle gods come for Yuuri’s soul in the night, not this. He pushes himself roughly away from his desk and lets the momentum carry him to stand. Sara has a mischievous air about her, even though the expression on her face is fairly innocent. Yuuri’s hands move reflexively to cover his burning ears. And yet. “Yuuri!” Viktor is at the entrance to Yuuri’s cubicle, somehow. “The most terrible thing has happened… could you help me with my computer?”
Yuuri is not particularly good with computers, but he’s got a few tricks. Sure, he usually needs Phichit to help get him started with new apps on his phone. And in October he had to spend 6 entire hours with someone from the IT department because his monitor kept flickering between black and static and he got scared. But he knows how to turn things off and on again. He can google on his phone. He can stand behind Viktor and offer moral support.
“Yes,” he says intensely, definitive. “Of course.”
He follows Viktor out to the hallway, past Sara, who watches them go. She says something to herself and takes her phone out of her pocket. Starts to type. Yuuri walks faster.
“What sort of problem are you having?” he asks when they reach Viktor’s commandeered room. Viktor waves wordlessly at his laptop, and Yuuri absentmindedly settles himself into the chair in front of it. Maybe if he clicks around a bit he’ll look - “Is your wireless adapter off?”
“How strange,” Viktor smiles, categorically unsurprised, “for that to have happened.”
Yuuri has the adapter back in three clicks; this is one of the handful of computer problems he can actually solve. This is one of the handful of computer problems anyone can solve, and he worries a little about Viktor not being able to. He refuses to believe Viktor Nikiforov is nothing but a pretty face, muses on that as Viktor Nikiforov’s pretty face appears in his peripheral vision.
“So,” Viktor hums. One of his hands places itself next to Yuuri’s. His other arm drapes along the back of the office chair. It must be an uncomfortable position, crouching like that, but all Yuuri can think about is not crushing Viktor’s mouse to pieces and not jumping out of his seat. “So,” Viktor repeats himself. “Was that your lover, Yuuri?”
Yuuri barely escapes from the office alive. His dignity does not.
Viktor continues to steal glances at him throughout the rest of the afternoon, even after Yuuri finds where his errant cubicle wall was stashed – the fourteenth floor stairwell, Yuuri’s calendar and Minami’s vacation pictures still pinned to its faded grey sides – and replaces it.
The wall is a clunky thing to carry up the stairs by himself, but Yuuri manages. The other option is texting Phichit to ask for help, and that would require explaining why he needs the help in the first place. That is not an option at all. Yuuri almost gets trapped between the wall segment and the heavy stairwell door, and by the time he drags the thing back to his desk and pops it back into place he is a sweaty mess.
Sara’s brother finds him like that a few minutes later: shirtsleeves pushed up haphazardly, tie loosened, hair a complete mess. His suit jacket was the first thing to go; he’ll retrieve it from the stairwell once he retrieves his breath. The look on Mickey’s face shifts from murder to mortification, almost, but he slams both palms flat against the surface of Yuuri’s desk anyway.
“I thought I told you to stay away from my sister, Katsuki!” he barks. Mickey Crispino is very much like a terrier, if taller, and Yuuri will never, ever say that to his face. “I heard you were flirting with her again.”
“I. What?” Yuuri manages between shaky breaths. He needs to start actually running again, and not just from his problems. “I’ve never flirted with Sara.” He fidgets with his glasses, wonders how long the bluster will last this time. In the past he has always waited quietly for Sara to drag her brother away, or for Mickey to run out of steam, or for someone to distract Mickey so he could run to the bathroom and hide. This time he weighs all of that against throwing his hands up and flat out walking away. It’s been that kind of a day.
Mickey’s face turns a deeper red.
Yuuri loses his last fuck.
“Hey! Oi! Katsuki, where are you—!?”
Yuuri undoes the top two buttons of his rumpled shirt and steps calmly back towards the stairwell. Something pushes him to look back, though, and when he does Viktor is there at his office wall again. He’s written something on a piece of paper in thick black marker, and has it pressed up against the glass.
LOVER?, it reads. Below that, EX-LOVER?
Yuuri’s face and hands are magnets with opposing poles. He moves the rest of the way to the stairwell on muscle memory alone.
Phichit loans him a smooth grey tie with light silver hatching the next day. “For your date tonight!” he says as he makes Yuuri model a fifth outfit. “Also, it’s gunmetal.”
He tries to push a pair of slacks and a silky dress shirt onto Yuuri too, but luckily Yuuri’s legs are just long enough, and his shoulders just wide enough, that they don’t fit. Phichit and Yuuri can sometimes share clothes, but Yuuri would look absolutely ridiculous in Phichit’s club wear, and they both know it. The tie, on the other hand, is nice.
“If you don’t text me from the bathroom after an hour I’ll assume he’s abducted you,” Phichit says, a pile of discarded shirts in his arms. “For sex or murder, one of those. Probably the first one, but you never know with executives, do you?”
“Phichit!” Yuuri does not squeak.
“He’s not allowed to take you back to some Russian sex cabin before movie night,” Phichit disappears into the crowded abyss that is his closet. “I found a good copy of A Dog Named Christmas, this year, just for you. You love A Dog Named Christmas!”
So help him, but Yuuri does. “There are no Russian sex cabins.”
“Everywhere the two of you are standing when he looks at you is a Russian sex cabin,” Phichit responds without losing a beat. He’s wearing a wine red shirt and no shame. “Or so I’ve heard.”
“You’ve heard,” Yuuri repeats.
Phichit hears the question Yuuri does not have the ability to ask. “Around,” he says, stepping past Yuuri and into their shared bathroom. The door shuts in Yuuri’s face just as he remembers he left his phone next to the sink. “From my sources.”
The sad thing is Phichit has so many sources it could be anyone. It’s probably everyone. Viktor walked Yuuri to the subway the day before, even though the company hired a driver to shuttle him between the office and his hotel. Yuuri refuses to think about what that means, but he knows there are plenty of people who don’t have the same holdups. The building’s windows are mirrored, but Yuuri still swears he saw silhouettes standing there, watching them leave.
“You’re the worst roommate,” he says with the expectation Phichit can’t hear him.
“I’m the best roommate,” Phichit corrects, voice muffled through the bathroom door.
Yuuri wears a plain white shirt and blue tie to work. He has a deep blue shirt and the grey tie in his backpack, and he keeps them there all day under orders from Phichit – “They won’t wrinkle if they stay how I folded them! No touching until 5PM!” – even though he is tempted to hide them in the very bottom drawer of his desk, where he hides all the other things he is ashamed of, namely:
The company newsletter that featured rising star Viktor Nikiforov. The company calendar that featured rising star Viktor Nikiforov. A dogeared copy of Cosmopolitan magazine opened to an article detailing ‘35 ways to drive him crazy’. Three packets of premium sesame ramen. A copy of The Architectural Review that featured rising star Viktor Nikiforov, and his contributions to the design of the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Yuuri’s shame drawer might as well be called his Viktor Nikiforov drawer.
Halfway through the day Yuuri remembers they only made plans to get ramen, and he is an idiot for reading into that, or worse, for dressing up for it. After lunch he hides in the third from the last bathroom stall – one of his favorite places for this purpose – and thinks himself through what he knows. Viktor already knew where he wanted to eat because he read about it on the plane, in a magazine he bought at his stopover in Seoul. Viktor said they don’t really celebrate before Christmas in Russia. Viktor keeps stopping by Yuuri’s cubicle to practice his Japanese. Viktor is Viktor.
Yuuri let Phichit talk him into thinking this was a date, and he feels like a slowly deflating balloon to realize that’s not it at all.
What Viktor wants is a Japanese tour guide, and Yuuri might as well have a loudspeaker and a flashy company-branded cap on his head already. At least he didn’t cancel movie night. He’s going to need every minute of every Hallmark movie Phichit can find to get him through the holiday now.
Hopefully Phichit will let him watch A Dog Named Christmas twice.
Viktor meets Yuuri at his cubicle at five to 5PM. He pantomimes knocking softly on the divider wall, says, “Are you ready? Am I early?”.
When Yuuri looks up he chokes on nothing. “I. You. Why are— but… no,” he pulls himself into some semblance of cognitive function. “No, I. Yes.”
“Yes? You wanted me here earlier?” Viktor leans against the wall with one arm. The position puts him at an angle, takes up all the space of Yuuri’s only exit. He adjusts the silver cufflink on the sleeve of his resting arm.
He’s wearing cufflinks.
He looks like he belongs in an art gallery.
Yuuri has ramen flavoring dust on his shoulder, and he doesn’t remember when or how it got there.
“No!” his traitor mouth bursts like a traitor, “You’re fine. Fine, I mean I’m ready. Let me power down and put my computer away, and then we can go.”
They leave at 5PM, exactly, and Yuuri can’t tell whether people watch them go this time or not. He’s too busy avoiding the mistletoe Minami and Omiki put up in all the hallways as a joke like a man clearing a minefield. He absently realizes he threw his computer on top of his spare shirt and Phichit’s carefully-folded tie in his hurry to leave. But does it really matter? Even Phichit’s clothes couldn’t help Yuuri match up to Viktor, Yuuri realizes this now. Nothing but an intervention by the cubicle gods could.
Viktor sighs loudly when they reach the elevator. Yuuri does not want to read into it. He looks everywhere but at the person standing next to him. “Have you been looking forward to this meal?” he asks in what he hopes is an acceptable mimicry of politeness. The ramen dust still graces his wrinkled, sweaty shirt.
The elevator arrives, and they step into it, alone. “Just disappointed you’re not wearing my tie again,” Viktor says.
“Cubicle gods,” Yuuri whispers with dread and fear as the doors close behind him.
Yuuri has spent an entire year avoiding this. At the moment he realizes he can’t really do that anymore, Viktor realizes he’s been doing it at all.
Viktor tells him.
It takes the first thirty seconds of a lap dance for Viktor Nikiforov to feel the ground disappear from underneath him. The room is steady, and he is sitting, but something is wrong with his heart. It might be the sake his hosts keep filling his cup with, or maybe residual altitude sickness from the mountain he had been at the top of earlier in the day. He felt fine at noon, but sometimes those sorts of things take time, right?
Or, possibly, it is the lap dance.
More specifically, the man giving it.
Two seats down from Viktor, Georgi pulls two 100 ruble bills out of his pocket and walks closer to the makeshift stage. Mila is already there with her phone at the ready, likely taking videos. Viktor would be there with her if he could remember how to walk.
“Who is that?” Viktor breathes. The obvious answers are that he’s watching an angel, or a siren, or an incubus. A sorcerer who has used his hips to cast a spell on Viktor.
Next to him, Yakov’s cousin’s son and intern pointedly continues to stare at his phone. He scrolls furiously from app to app. Reddish cheeks give him away, along with the fact Viktor saw him slip Georgi three extra bills. “Who cares,” Yuri spits out, “some drunk loser.”
“He is an intoxicated winner,” Viktor corrects quickly.
Georgi just manages to get close enough to slip the 500 rubles into Viktor’s muse-and-or-cardiac-condition’s waistband before he is shoved out of the way by Christophe Giacometti. Viktor likes Chris more than most, has since the time they worked together in Paris. As he watches Chris pull his belt off, buckle first, he regrets everything that led to their diverged paths in life. He despises all the things that put Chris pantsless on that stage, and Viktor stuck in his chair, ten meters away, pants firmly attached.
“Is that Giacometti?” Yuri mumbles. Yakov specified he was allowed one cup of sake for the experience, and ever since drinking it he has been cagey and flushed. That he finished it in one pull after Viktor’s destiny first began to pull up his shirt while holding a microphone in one hand and a bottle of Brut in the other may also have something to do with it. “What an embarrassment.”
Once Chris makes it up onto the table stage as well his motivation becomes clear. He waves the Most Beautiful Man in the Room aside after pushing some crisp bills at him and climbs into the lap of the lucky fool sitting frozen in the center of the pushed together tables. Crispino’s brother, Viktor thinks. He’s seen the pictures on Sara’s desk, has been interrogated for having a conversation with her about hedges.
Crispino’s brother knew what he had before he lost it, Viktor notes, though if it were him he would have the grace to go soft once anyone but his Future Husband began writhing sinuously over his body.
And speaking of Viktor’s Future Husband. “Hey, hey, hey. Hey. Viktor!”
Viktor still can’t move, but that doesn’t matter, because The Love of His Life has stumbled through the crowd only to end up swaying right in front of him. He’s wearing dark blue boxer briefs, black socks, and a godawful tie. His glasses are hanging off one ear. He is completely wasted, and Viktor wants to take care of him until they both die, old and comfortable. “That’s who I am!” he says, feeling like the prince at the ball, “and you’re…”
“Get it, Katsuki!” a woman with bright red cheeks and the top three buttons of her blouse undone shouts in rough English. She hooks several crumpled yen between Katsuki’s tie and his neck, and pats him unceremoniously on the ass. Oh, to be that hand.
“Katsuki…” Viktor repeats. He realizes distantly that he is acting like he is thirteen and in love for the very first time. Viktor earned five separate prestigious international design awards before he turned thirty. He’s appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair. Twice. He’s lived a public life, with public loves, and still he feels a certainty that all of those experiences and years were just preparation for this moment, and this man.
This man pitches forward and grabs Viktor directly around his middle. His legs splay on either side of Viktor’s. Yuri jumps. Viktor has to catch His Prince and hold him up before they both go sliding to the ground.
Chris might still be giving Sara’s brother the ride of his life, but Viktor is well aware most of the several hundred people in the lobby aren’t looking at the stage anymore.
Let them watch.
“Katsuki Yuuri,” Viktor’s muse corrects. He is a very insistent drunk, and his grip around Viktor’s chest tightens on the emphasis. Viktor is not complaining. Yuuri’s arms are lean, and strong, and, Viktor is sure, could hold him up against any number of walls.
“May I call you Yuuri?” he asks.
“You can call me anything baby ‘cause I’ma sweep you off your shoes,” Yuuri says in very garbled, very drunk, Japanese. Viktor knows how to say yes in Japanese, and it is fewer syllables than whatever Yuuri just intently said to him. He knows how to say no in Japanese; also fewer syllables. He kicks himself for not learning his angel’s native tongue sooner, resolves to hire a tutor as soon as he leaves the party.
Yuuri presses his cheek against Viktor’s and hums. And then, “I don’t need water,” he shouts, incomprehensible, wonderful, right against Viktor’s ear. “I need this!” He sits up, and when he does he’s got Viktor’s tie in his hand. He scrabbles at his own neck next.
Viktor helps Yuuri remove his horrible polyester tie from his beautiful body when his horrible tie gets stuck around his head. Four thousand yen and fifty euros flutter to the ground when the fabric loosens enough, like petals from a flower crown. The King of Viktor’s Heart sways on Viktor’s lap once his mysterious task is achieved, an unstable echo of his earlier dance. Viktor takes a deep breath. Counts to ten. Does it again in French. Does it again in English when Yuuri takes his eyesore tie, and wraps it twice around Viktor’s right wrist before clumsily knotting it. He looks so pleased once he’s done Viktor only just stops himself from applauding.
He takes his own superior tie back from Yuuri with a gravity he thought he would only employ on his actual wedding day, and not at a corporate holiday party surrounded by strangers and a seventeen-year-old pantomiming his own death.
He carefully knots his tie on Yuuri’s right wrist.
The edges of the world become a little more crisp.
Yuuri smiles wide, goofy, still drunk. “There. Now we’re married,” he says. Then, when Viktor’s confused, flushed, entranced expression doesn’t change, says, “Married!” in loud, overenunciated English. “I should call m’parents, okay, I need to tell them.” He carefully leans closer to Viktor.
Their noses touch, just barely. “Boop,” Yuuri says.
Viktor may never recover from this.
“That’s insane,” is all Yuuri manages to say on the ride to the restaurant. His hands are magnets again, this time to his temples. Viktor rubs his back soothingly. The driver does not comment. “That’s insane. That’s insane.” He knows it’s true; it fits with the year he’s been having. It doesn’t matter. It is still insane.
“Well,” Viktor huffs, “maybe we will have to lie to our children at first, but I think it’s a cute story for when they’re old enough to know about how we really met.”
“Ridiculous,” Yuuri breathes.
It takes him the entire dinner - four hours, four hours - to pick up his scattered nerves and cradle them to his weakened heart. By then Yuuri is late for movie night and he doesn’t remember what day it is, which is inexcusable, because the restaurant even has an employee dressed up like Santa.
“So you,” he starts, as Viktor walks him to the nearest subway entrance, “You came all the way to Japan because of that night?”
“I came here for you,” Viktor says, means it.
Yuuri is a pumpkin.
Viktor thinks Yuuri is a sexy, outgoing, table-dancing prince, but Yuuri is and always will be a pumpkin. He sits in a cubicle forest all day, and mice dance around him because of the crumbs. “I’m not,” he starts, waits for Viktor to cut him off, talk over him, something. Viktor waits for him to finish, the jerk. “Like that. Normally.”
They reach the stairs to the subway. Viktor’s car is idling on the street next to them, because his driver followed them, because nothing in Yuuri’s life can be not embarrassing.
“Will you let me learn how you are?” Viktor asks. He clasps Yuuri’s gloved hands in his, looks down at Yuuri through the fringe of his styled hair.
Yuuri takes a deep breath. Counts to ten. Does it again in English.
The edges of the world become a little more crisp.