The airport was a blur of shouted questions in multiple languages, flashbulbs, and the usual Monday morning rush of travelers. The four of them were swept through to the most American-looking vehicle Yuuri had ever seen: a stretch SUV limousine.
They climbed in and found seats, to be followed by the Americans and Minako.
“They’re taking you back to the hotel,” Minako explained. “We’ll meet the skating officials there, and the Japanese sponsors. Someone arranged for a conference room.”
Yuuri nodded, dazed. He smiled nervously at the tall, grey-haired woman sitting next to him. She smiled back and offered a hand to shake. “Gloria,” she said. “You must be Yuuri.”
He nodded, shaking her hand. She looked past him, and said, “And Victor?”
Victor offered a media smile and shook the offered hand. “Lovely to meet you. And you are with?”
She smiled. “I’m with Versa. Let’s just say that your story fits our current narrative.”
“You’re not worried about backlash?” Yuuri asked.
She smiled. “Given the current political climate, our marketing department says the boost in business for LGBT-supportive companies far outweighs the backlash, and the narrative of spending money to do something priceless… it works for us.”
“It wasn’t actually all that much more expensive than what I’d have had to do anyway just to move there,” Yuuri said.
Gloria laughed. “That doesn’t matter. The optics of the romantic dash across the country to end up ‘just in time’ to surprise someone you love? That’ll appeal to a broad cross-section. We’re already sponsors for the event this evening, so we were happy to provide support to the event organizers to get you here.”
“I didn’t intend to put people out,” Yuuri said. “I honestly didn’t expect anyone to care so much.”
“Is he for real?” Gloria asked Victor.
Victor snorted and nodded. “He really has no idea.”
Yuuri frowned. “You’re the one who’s used to being a world champion. I’m just me.”
“Yuuchan, you’ve been an icon in Japan for years. You must know that.” Victor ruffled Yuuri’s hair fondly.
“I try not to,” Yuuri said. “It always felt like someone was confusing me for someone else.”
Gloria smiled. “Well, I can see why you like him. It’s adorable. Anyway. We would very much like to use footage from your skate tonight, with your permission, and if you’re willing to film some additional shots for us afterwards, we would be prepared to compensate you both.”
“How much?” Victor asked.
“One million US dollars for the coming year, each,” she said.
“It should be higher, and there should be a clause for each of us if either of us medals at other events this year for bonuses, higher if we both medal,” Victor said. “I won the last five world championships, plus several before that. Do I need to go into the others? And Yuuri is the whole reason you’re interested at all. Putting our story out there for public consumption appears to be unavoidable at this point, but if you’re going to capitalize on it, it should be proportional to the value we bring as top international athletes. Yuuri just beat my world record. And if you’re smart, you’ll talk to little Yuri here, as well. He came dashing over to Japan to get my help, and ended up taking the Grand Prix final because of it. And that’s a story that will play well even in markets where our story might be too challenging.”
Yuri stared at him. “You want me to be in a commercial?”
Victor made an expansive gesture. “Why not? You’re young. You’re cute. You have a following.”
“Does he have representation? I’m not sure we can negotiate with a minor,” Gloria said, frowning.
“I’m his guardian,” Yakov said. “We hadn’t planned on pushing endorsements for another year or two.”
Gloria was busily entering figures on a tablet.
“One million now. $50,000 bonus for international gold medals between now and the end of the contract. $25,000 for silver, $10,000 for bronze. If you two take gold and silver, in either order, an extra $25,000 for each of you. Little Yuri will get paid for appearances, $100,000 per commercial. $50,000 for personal appearances. We’ll broach the subject of ongoing endorsement from him pending analysis of our first efforts, and we will boost his per-appearance fee by 10% for gold medals, 5% for silver and 2% for bronze. This assumes we can get ISU permission to use footage from recent events. We’re not counting on the Russian government to be cooperative.”
“Neither are we,” Victor said. “I don’t think they will pull me from the Worlds team, and I know they won’t pull Yuri, but we’re going to have to play hardball to get them to allow my Yuuri back into the country.”
“We are aware,” Gloria said. “We had more than… selfish motivations for getting you out of the country when we did. If you’re determined to go back, we may have some ideas for you on negotiation tactics.”
“I will negotiate,” Yakov said.
“The owner of the plane that flew you here may have some… pull… with the Russian government,” Gloria said. “I hear he’s a fan of yours. I think he’s willing to provide you with personal security when you go back.”
“A bodyguard?” Victor said.
“Bodyguards,” Gloria amended. “There’s two of you. Three if you think little Yuri needs one too.”
“Call me Yuuri-san, if you must, to distinguish us, please,” Yuuri said. “I know he isn’t enthusiastic about being called little Yuri.”
“Yuuri-san,” she said, nodding. “In any event, it depends primarily on how vocal Yuri is about supporting you. If he is as vehement about it as he has already been, he should probably have security.”
“I’m not going back to Russia without them, and I’m not going back unless they’re protected,” Yuri said. “I’m young enough that if I wanted to persuade someone to adopt me, I could be skating for any country I wanted to at the next Olympic games. If Russia wants medals, they’ll let us all go back, and they’ll protect us.”
Gloria smiled. “That attitude will make you a hero in some circles.”
“I just want to skate,” Yuri said. “And I want to learn from the people who are capable of making my skating better. I’m not a hero. I’m just selfish enough to know that if I want to do my best, I need those assholes around to keep me on my toes.”
“We love you, too, Yuratchka,” Yuuri said.
“Shut up, Katsudon,” Yuri said, and stuffed his headphones in his ears, refusing to look at anyone.
“How old is he?” Gloria asked quietly.
“Almost 16,” Yuuri said.
The vehicle pulled to a stop at the hotel, and they all climbed out. One of the other Americans shook Yuuri’s hand and then Victor’s as they climbed out, saying, “I’m Simon Pershing, we all agreed to give Gloria first crack because they were the ones who managed to get you here, but I represent the You Can Play project, and we’re very much hoping that you’ll be willing to work with us. We don’t pay as well as Versa, but I think the cause is probably pretty close to your hearts.”
“Simon, it’s freezing out here. Let’s get up to the conference room before we completely overwhelm everyone,” another man said.
The conference room was on the second floor, behind a restaurant. “Have you eaten?” Gloria asked. “We can order from here.”
“Whatever is convenient,” Yuuri said. “We had breakfast on the plane, but something now would be helpful since we’re skating later.”
Gloria spoke to one of her assistants, who hurried off as they all sat down around a large conference table.
The Japanese men in suits, some of whom looked vaguely familiar to Yuuri, came into the conference room a few minutes later.
Yuuri gave them a polite greeting and one, who he realized abruptly was the head of the Japanese Figure Skating organization, said in rapid Japanese, 「We were very unhappy that you planned to skip the event today. We appreciate your willingness to come back, but please do not do that again.」
「Watanabe-san.」 Yuuri gave a small gesture of respect. 「It would be helpful if next year the Japanese event did not take place at the same time as the Russian event. After next year Victor may be retired, but if you want me to stay for a gala, making sure that I don’t have to be apart from my husband on his birthday would be helpful. I understand that you did not know this year, but if the situation is to be avoided in the future, this is important.」
「You are married?」 the official asked, looking perplexed.
「We will be by next year,」 Yuuri said. 「Whether or not this country recognizes it is irrelevant to my willingness to stay after Nationals are over.」
「I will see what I can do,」 Watanabe said. 「We have been advised that your presence today will likely boost our viewership numbers significantly. If that holds true next year, accommodations can likely be made.」
An American man standing behind Gloria said, in English, “You’re getting married soon then?”
“Probably just after Worlds,” Victor said. “Finland has legalized gay marriage. And who are you?”
“Oh, sorry. I’m Jack Reynolds, with Comte Agré Publishing.” Reynolds tapped something out on his tablet, and then said, “It will be legal starting that month. You might want to consider a country with a more established route for foreigners.”
“We were wanting to get married on ice,” Yuuri said, looking slightly bewildered.
“We can help with logistics. If you’re willing to allow photographers, I’m pretty sure that one of our publications would foot the bill and pay a consideration for publication rights. But we can talk about that later.”
Yuuri looked at Victor, eyes wide, overwhelmed. Victor slid his arm around Yuuri’s shoulder and squeezed, then said, “I’m sure talk of logistics can be saved for another day. Why don’t you make up a couple of suggestions and talk to us about it tomorrow?”
It was another hour and a half before the suits were done talking about baffling quantities of money and contracts. Yakov intercepted the contracts and said, “We must go over these in private before they sign anything. I’m sure you understand.”
“We do have an agreement in place already with the JSF,” Gloria said. “But we would much prefer to have more extensive participation.”
Victor looked at his watch. “It’s 10:30. If there is a hotel room where we can freshen up and store our things, we will talk to anyone who must have a contract before the event before we head over for warmups. Watanabe-san, when is the practice skate?”
“3 pm. We can give you dedicated ice time at 2:45 if you require it.”
“Yes, please. At 1:30 we will be available again for discussions,” Victor said. “In the meantime, please excuse us.”
Gloria looked at her assistant and raised an eyebrow. The young woman stepped forward and handed them a packet with hotel keycards inside. “Two rooms have been reserved for you on the penthouse level,” she said. “The room number is on the folder.” She handed another packet to Yakov. “We figured you and your ward might prefer separate accommodations. There is an adjoining double door which can be locked. Feel free to use room service.”
So this one is complicated and has a lot of moving parts. I have no idea how some of these things work and I’m willing to do a certain amount of research for fanfic but only to a point. Would they already have agents? Probably? But there’s no mention in the series. Victor has money and Yuuri’s not exactly broke by the end but he’s also not particularly careless. Prize money is pretty good at the upper levels, and the big competitions pay expenses, so Victor is probably doing pretty well, but in my little corner of this particular multiverse, he’s missed some of the biggest endorsement deals because of a combination of factors. And Yuuri has probably done some really cheesy shit in Japan, but it’s the kind of stuff that pays for college and pays for skates and costumes but doesn’t leave a lot left over for splurging and he maybe fired his agent when he fired Celestino if he had one at all, and has been distracted since.
Someone should write fic about how these guys and Jack Zimmermann (from Check, Please!) all end up with the same agent, but I’m not the one to do it. Call it Jerry McGayer.
The suite had a deep bath ensuite, and Victor laughed at Yuuri’s look of naked hunger.
“I’ll start it filling,” Victor said.
“I could cry,” Yuuri said. “The shower yesterday at the rink was nothing close to enough to make me feel clean.
“Maybe you should cry?” Victor said. “You seem to be getting very tense.” He dropped a plug into the drain and started the tub filling with steaming water.
“It’s so much,” Yuuri said. “The money sounds like it would be helpful, but I’m still not used to the idea that people care so much? I can’t get my mind around it.”
“I confess that I like the luxuries,” Victor said. “But the attention that comes with it has a high price.”
“Is it too late for us to run away to Hasetsu and train babies to skate?” Yuuri asked.
“Probably,” Victor said. “Besides. We love competitive skating too much.”
“It feels like a whole new weight of expectation,” Yuuri said, unbuttoning his shirt and kicking off his shoes.
“It’s not,” Victor said. “They don’t matter. No matter what else happens, you have me, and I have you, and we will do beautiful skating together.”
“I get that it’s somehow this revolutionary thing,” Yuuri said, shucking his clothes off. “But it will never make sense to me.”
Victor stood, watching Yuuri as he climbed into the tub. “You take my breath away.”
Yuuri looked around, confused, and then sank down into the hot water.
“The lines of your muscles as you move,” Victor explained, taking off his own shirt. “The curve of your ass. Your neck. Your shoulders. The tiny silver lines on your sides. The way your hair has a mind of its own.” He pushed his pants down and stepped out of them. “The way your cheeks turn pink and I don’t know if it’s because of the bath or because we’re naked or because I’m saying nice things about you.”
He stepped into the tub, and drifted over to wrap himself loosely around Yuuri. “The fact that I get to do this and you don’t pull away. It’s amazing I still breathe at all.”
Yuuri smiled against Victor’s forehead. “All three,” he murmured. “And I get dizzy when I think about the fact that you’re here, like this, for me. I forget to breathe sometimes when I look at you. And part of me wants to yell at the world that you want me and that I want you and that we’re together. And another part of me wants them to leave us alone, because this feels so precious and fragile that I’m afraid they’ll try to break us if they can.”
“If it ever comes down to a choice between you and fame, you and skating, I will choose you, every time,” Victor said. “I already did, once, and I care a lot more now.”
“I never want to ask that of you,” Yuuri said. “I’ll sign their contracts. I’ll accept the help we’re offered, if you think we should. And I already tried to give up skating for you.”
“Yuuchan,” Victor said.
“I’ve never been in love with anyone the way I’m in love with you right now. I’m having a crisis because I think that almost everything I ever skated about love was completely inadequate to the truth of the emotion.”
“Welcome to my world,” Yuuri said. “It took me a couple weeks to figure out that the feeling in my chest when I thought about you was happiness, and not some sort of heart problem or anxiety.”
Victor chuckled and nuzzled his nose at Yuuri’s neck. “And now?”
Yuuri sank deeper into the water, and slipped into Victor’s arms. “I’m having a hard time remembering what it felt like before you loved me. I know that time existed, but it doesn’t make sense.”
“Good,” Victor said. “My life has been before Yuuri/after Yuuri for a while now.”
They lay in the deep tub in each other’s arms for a while, Victor’s hand trailing idly up and down Yuuri’s back, Yuuri tipping his head up for light, weary kisses.
“I want you to fuck me later,” Yuuri said after a while. “After they let us go this evening.”
“That could happen,” Victor said. “Assuming you don’t wear me out on the ice.”
“You sound skeptical. I’m an old man. I fatigue easily,” Victor said.
“You have more energy than ten of us,” Yuuri said.
“Sure you don’t want it the other way around?” Victor asked.
“How would I know?” Yuuri said. “But I know I like putting myself in your hands sometimes.”
“I like it when you take control,” Victor said. “You’re always hot, but the feel of you over me…”
Yuuri dropped a kiss on Victor’s chest. “I could still be over you.”
“I’ll take care of you, Yuuri. However you need me,” Victor said.
“That sounds almost like a proposal,” Yuuri whispered against Victor’s neck.
Victor shifted to find Yuuri’s lips, and then pulled back and said, “Good.”
“So if Finland won’t work,” Yuuri started.
“Denmark is easy,” Victor said. “We can go after Worlds. There’s a company that will handle everything, if we don’t want a magazine doing it.”
“You looked it up!” Yuuri said, delighted. “Is it terrible if I want magazine photos of you?”
Victor threw his head back and laughed so hard the water bounced in ripples. “Yes, but I love you for it. Do I ever get to tease you about being my biggest fan?”
“Do I ever get to tease you about being mine?” Yuuri shot back, splashing Victor and scooting to the opposite end of the tub.
“I don’t know, Yurio seems awfully fond, even if he won’t admit it,” Victor said.
“Gross,” Yuuri said, in a passable imitation.
“I am absolutely your biggest fan,” Victor said. “I will never apologize for that. I see it as a mark of my discerning taste and my ability to spot greatness.”
“I don’t know why that would be a great shock,” Victor said.
“Every time I think I’ve wrapped my mind around the idea that I’m going to marry you,” Yuuri said, “you go and say something like that and I remember that I had your posters on my wall and that you think I’m…”
“Amazing,” Victor said. “Adorable.” He shifted over until he was braced over Yuuri. “Talented.” He dropped a kiss on Yuuri’s upturned lips. “Dedicated.” He straddled Yuuri, sitting on his thighs, and sucked Yuuri’s earlobe, then said, “Inspiring.” He reached down and grabbed Yuuri’s ass under the water. “And sexy as fuck.”
Yuuri blushed hard, and whispered, “I really wish you could fuck me right now, but I won’t be able to skate later.”
“No?” Victor said in a quiet, low voice against his neck.
“I’d be completely boneless. I’d just flop around the ice like a fish out of water. Sorry, Japan. No fancy ice dancing. My lover fucked me too hard, and I had to take a nap. But we’ll be better prepared next time and I can wear a mermaid costume and we’ll pretend we planned it that way.”
Victor started giggling, his shoulders shaking. “I am absolutely going to choreograph that one of these days. We’ll title it ‘Fucked out Yuuri is now a fish.’”
“Yurio would be so mad,” Yuuri said.
“Yes, but that’s a low bar to clear,” Victor said.
“I’m going to marry you,” Yuuri said.
“Nope,” Victor said, a devilish smile on his lips.
“No?” Yuuri asked.
“I’m going to marry you first,” Victor said.
“I thought that all happened kind of at once,” Yuuri said.
“Who do we want there?” Victor asked, his tone changing. He settled in next to Yuuri.
“My people will want to come.” Yuuri said.
“How many is that?” Victor asked.
Yuuri ticked things off on his fingers and said, “I could get away with as few as a dozen.”
Victor blinked. “I’m not inviting my parents,” he said. “Yakov might want to come. Mila. Yuri will make noises but he will come.”
“Chris?” Yuuri asked. “Georgi?”
“If he’s still seeing that girl in 2 months,” Victor said. “Chris might, though it’s a risk.”
“Pole dancing?” Yuuri asked.
“That and he was maybe half my previous, er, life experience before you.”
Yuuri looked more curious than upset. “Oh? Now I’m intrigued. I didn’t know you dated.”
“Dated would be overstating it. Post-medal-ceremony handjobs in the shower after we first hit gold and silver together,” Victor said. “Happened twice, and then we decided it was probably not something either of us had time for. Or that much interest.”
Yuuri considered that for a long moment. “And the other half?”
“A ballerina back in Russia. More a date of convenience for both of us, but we… once. That was when I realized that girls didn’t do it for me very much. I mean, I could perform, but it didn’t feel like anything I wanted to invest a lot of energy in. You said you never had a girlfriend? A boyfriend?”
“Like I said, a few expressed some interest but I just begged off. Phichit and I messed around once but it wasn’t… we’re really good friends and it just felt so silly, and not sexy silly. We sort of figured at that point that I must be asexual or something, or as he put it, Victor-sexual. Which is accurate enough, I guess.”
Victor laughed. “I can’t even tease you for that. Not after how I threw myself at you. You’re the first person I’ve ever craved.”
“I wish I could remember dancing with you.”
“I put a lot of the moves into Eros,” Victor said. “But I’ll show you, later, if you want. Sober.”
Yuuri dropped his head back against the side of the tub, and Victor snuggled in beside him, toeing on the hot water to get the temperature back up. “I’m not sure I’m capable of resisting dancing with you,” Yuuri said.
“Why would you want to resist?” Victor said. “I’m irresistible.”
“Fact,” Yuuri said. “I never had a chance.”
“Fact,” Victor agreed. “Lucky you don’t need one.”
“Are they really going to give me a million dollars?” Yuuri asked.
“Some of it goes to taxes. Maybe a lot. I don’t know about Japan. But it will leave you with a fair amount. The first thing you do is hire an accountant,” Victor said.
“How many times have you had endorsements like this?” Yuuri asked.
Victor laughed. “It’s complicated. I’ve got enough money to mostly do what I want, within reason, for as long as I feel like it. Russian companies want me all the time but they don’t pay all that well, so I usually don’t bother. Foreign companies have to pay bribes to get it through the RSF sometimes, but we’ve got a lot of pull right now with Russia.”
“Even though they’re probably furious with us?” Yuuri asked.
“The Olympics are in just over a year,” Victor said. “Yurio and I are the best chance for Russian gold. You and I are also the best chance for an ongoing skating training dynasty if Yakov retires, which he threatens to do every few competitions. And the irony is that they can’t even yell at me for ‘acting gay’ when most people think that simply figure skating is acting gay. But we are beautiful to watch and there are few things Russians like more than the combination of winning and ice sports. If we were hockey players, I think they’d kill me. Someone would. But the people who care about figure skating already love to see men dance. If they want me to win them medals, they’ll stay out of our way. They can’t afford to turn down the tax revenue, either, from the endorsements. But usually I’m not appealing enough to the west. Some European companies like me, though. Yakov has handled most of those arrangements.”
“It’s just weird, the Americans going for foreign athletes at all,” Yuuri said.
Victor laughed. “The enemy of my enemy… The magazine publisher, they’ve been getting into fights with Trump about Putin.”
“Comte Agré?” Yuuri asked. “Which magazines?”
“Vague, Mirror Mirror, and the New Gawker,” Victor said. “I did a photo shoot with Mirror Mirror a couple years ago, so I follow a couple of their editors on Twitter.”
“So them featuring us…”
“Is a way of snubbing Trump, Putin, and everyone who voted for them, without actually saying their names once. We’re cute, we’re gay, and we made the Russian government look bad. That apparently plays well for subscriptions right now.”
“My head hurts,” Yuuri said. “It used to be you had to be as uncontroversial as possible.”
“Things are different now,” Victor said. “How that works out in the long run, I don’t know. Versa plays a longer game, and I think they just know which way the wind is blowing. And they love a good story.”
“I’m still surprised that my skating federation is being so supportive,” Yuuri said.
Victor grinned. “Did you see the hit counts for the clips of your performances on the JSF YouTube feed? They’re playing for more advertising dollars because more people will tune in to watch if you’re going to be there.”
“If we’re going to be there,” Yuuri said.
“You matter more, here.” Victor sounded supremely unconcerned by this. “Though I bet they’d love it if Yuri could skate.”
“He needs a break,” Yuuri said.
“I know, you know, even he knows, but the public wants what it wants,” Victor said. “But maybe next time, if his body settles down.”
“He managed a 300+ combined,” Yuuri said. “I think he’ll be all right.”
“And you managed 331,” Victor said, “I can’t think about that too much, or I’ll be skating with an erection.”
“Leave that to Chris,” Yuuri said, laughing. He flipped over, grabbed a washcloth, and used it to pick up his phone to check the time. “I guess it would piss them off if we refused to get out forever.”
“We can come back,” Victor said. “And when we get back to Hasetsu, there will be the onsen.”
“If they send us back on a private plane again, we can take Makkachin ourselves,” Yuuri said.
“And Minako, if she wants,” Victor said. “Why was she coming?”
“She said you’d want your dog and she wanted to see Lilia,” Yuuri said. “Otherwise getting him there might have been complicated. I guess they’re good friends.”
“I itch to know the story there,” Victor said.
“Minako is older than my mother,” Yuuri said. “I try not to think about it.”
“Spoilsport,” Victor said.
Yuuri sighed, and then used his toes to pull the plug out of the drain. “Come on. We have to go talk to people soon.”
“We’ve been talking,” Victor said, but he followed Yuuri out of the tub.
This chapter has a small reference to body anxiety, canon-typical for both Victor and Yuuri.
There were a dizzying array of details, but reading the contracts and comparing them to others that Victor had had, they looked fairly standard. If anything, more permissive than a few had been. The amount of money seemed staggering. “Should I get an agent?” Yuuri asked Victor.
“Probably,” Victor said. “I’ll talk to JJ and see who he uses.”
It was nearly time for the practice skate when they escaped the suits to change into their freshened costumes. As they rode over to the rink with Yakov and Yuri, Yakov said, “I talked to the Russian government while you were with the Americans.”
“And?” Victor said, his voice devoid of emotion.
“They yelled. I yelled. Yuri yelled. I honestly think he was the one who made the most difference. They know he’s their best chance for another long dynasty. When he threatened to skate for Japan on the grounds that he was unwilling to skate for a country that refused to protect its citizens from discrimination, I thought they were going to explode. Of course they protect their citizens. It’s in the law. And then Yuri said, ‘And their spouses.’ And they agreed. I cannot believe I’m going to say this, but you might be better off getting married sooner than later.”
“Even though Russia does not recognize…” Victor started.
“They said very rude words about the idea of an unmarried gay lover. It’s a much harder sell, socially, to reject a citizen’s spouse, even if they don’t like or approve of a same-sex marriage, the weight of that in the international community is much greater and much harder to deny. They don’t really think about married people having sex so much, I guess? So there’s maybe less scandal?”
“Why anyone but us needs to be concerned about our sex life is beyond me,” Yuuri said.
“Are we concerned about our sex life?” Victor asked.
Yuri clapped his hands over his ears and said, “Lalalalalalala,” until they all stared at him.
“What?” he said.
“Are you done?” Victor asked.
“Are you?” Yuri shot back.
“IN ANY EVENT,” Yakov said, “You will be safe enough to go back, with private security, but if you are serious about marriage you should do that soon. Things may get very strange once the Americans change their government. No one really knows what’s going to happen, so even in the US they’re telling people to marry sooner. There are reactionary movements all over Europe right now, so what is true this month and in January may not be true in April or next year. Lilia and Minako and I all agree that you have a window of opportunity here to tell your story and establish yourselves as a couple in a positive way. You should save as much of your endorsement money as you can, for the long run, because we don’t know what the climate will be like once you aren’t competing anymore. Not for sure.”
“We aren’t doing anything to be ashamed of,” Victor said. “But Yuuri knows I’d marry him tomorrow if he wanted.”
“Maybe before the European championship?” Yuuri said. “If we can get the paperwork in time?”
Victor grinned. “In January?”
Yuuri smiled and nodded. And blushed.
Getting back on the ice felt good, and strange. It had been over a week since they’d actually practiced together, and most of their 15 minutes of dedicated ice time was not particularly productive, though the light designers managed to get a feel for what was needed. Other skaters started trickling on the ice, including a very excited Minami.
「You won this last year, but you seem happier this year?」 Yuuri said.
「Last year was a fluke. Four top skaters with injuries or major falls. I skated my best performance this year,」 Minami said. 「I’d rather lose with my best than win because other people messed up. But 4th out of 30 isn’t bad, especially when the guy who beat me skated the best anyone’s ever seen in this country. And then asked for me, specifically, to skate in the gala. My score last year would have put me sixth this year. Of course I’m happier.」
「I like watching you skate,」 Yuuri said. 「You have a great style. You just need to work on your consistency. But even when you fall your artistry and recovery are very interesting and good.」
「I’m just amazed I get to skate with you, and with Victor, in the same showcase,」 Minami said. 「Thank you!」
「It’s our privilege.」 Yuuri smiled, and skated back to Victor, leaving a flustered Minami in his wake.
Victor smiled at him and said, “You’re getting so much better at that.”
“I learned from the best,” Yuuri said. “Let’s practice the quad toe loops.”
Yuuri had always had a knack for matching Victor’s pacing and moves, but something had changed, and it was obvious on the ice as they matched stroke for stroke and spin for spin as they rehearsed the jump. They were laughing by the time they came to a spinning stop in each other’s arms. When they looked out, the other skaters were staring at them. The pairs gold medalists skated over.
「Are you going to be doing any throws?」 Ryu Ihara asked in Japanese.
Yuuri laughed. 「No, we haven’t had time to practice any yet.」
「Too bad,」 Miho Suzuki said. 「I’d love to see that. I’d say it’s too bad you can’t compete together in pairs, but I’m glad we don’t have to compete against you.」
Yuuri blushed. 「We just like skating together,」 he said. 「And since I knew his routine, it made sense…」
「We’re rooting for you two,」 Ryu said. He looked down at the ice. 「It… matters to a lot of us.」
「We’re not the first to come out,」 Yuuri said.
「But you show no shame on the ice,」 Miho insisted. 「You skate perfectly, strong, athletic, and you aren’t afraid to play with gender, and you’re calling the shots. You’re making them bend to you instead of just going along with ‘Skaters might be gay but they can’t act gay and boys must be boys and girls must be girls.’」
「I think it is just that I’m not that tactful,」 Yuuri said.
They laughed. 「Whatever the reason,」 Miho said, 「the result is beautiful. If you ever want to learn throws…」
「We’ll be in Russia soon,」 Yuuri said. 「But I’d love to learn.」
Victor, getting bored, draped himself over Yuuri’s shoulders. “Learn what?” he said in English.
“Throws,” Yuuri said. “I bet I could throw you.”
“I already know how to do throws,” Victor said. “It’s the air position you’d have to learn.”
“It would be funny for you to throw each other at different points,” Miho said with a giggle. “I tried throwing Ryu once, but he didn’t go very far.”
“It would be easier to throw Yura,” Yuuri said. “For a little while, anyway. How tall is his father?”
“You know,” Victor said, “I have no idea. His grandfather’s not short.”
The lights flashed, and the skaters made their way off the ice, a knot of people putting on guards just beyond the rail. The Zambonis slid out to wipe the ice clean.
One of the event staffers was posting the order of skating. Yuuri blinked. “We’re last,” he said, pointing.
Victor put his chin on Yuuri’s shoulder from behind. “I see that. Would you not be, normally?”
“Well, then we wait,” Victor said. “It’s what, 2 hours or so until we need to skate?”
“About that,” Yuuri said.
“Come, then,” Victor said, grabbing Yuuri’s hand and dragging him farther from the ice, back into the arena until they found a small, darkened gymnasium with a stack of mats against one wall. “Perfect.”
Victor sat down with his back against the wall on the mats, and dragged Yuuri down after him. “We can have a little quiet time. I’m sure someone will find us eventually, but in the meantime…”
Yuuri looked at Victor, arm stretched invitingly against the wall, and a tiny smile played at his lips as he scooted closer to Victor, then put his head against Victor’s shoulder.
“I want to go home,” Yuuri said. “But I’m not sure where home is anymore.”
“My home is where you are,” Victor said. “But I do believe you earned a bowl of katsudon, and so did I. And I’ve been told that the best katsudon in Japan is found in Hasetsu, at this little onsen, across the bay from an ice rink that will let you practice whenever you want.”
“Are you afraid?” Yuuri asked.
“Of what?” Victor asked.
Yuuri didn’t answer right away, just closed his eyes and pulled a knee up to start unlacing his boot. When he switched feet to take off the other skate, he said, “Of rushing in, of what they might do to us, of making a mistake.”
“I am more afraid they will hurt you. Rushing in… it would be scarier to me at this point in my life to hold myself back when I can see such joy right in front of me. I make mistakes all the time, even with you, but you are not a mistake,” Victor said, leaning forward to untie his own skate.
“I hurt you, though,” Yuuri said. “I’m so afraid that I will hurt you and I don’t want to ever be the one to cause you pain.”
“I’m no expert on relationships,” Victor said. “But I’m pretty certain that you will hurt me, and I will hurt you, and it won’t matter because we will be looking for ways to make it better all the time. I’d rather be with you, and take the chance of pain, than die a slow death of numbness by myself, never having taken the chance. You’ve hurt me more than anyone else ever could, but you’ve also cared more about me than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s worth it.”
“I wish I knew how to be better for you,” Yuuri said. “You’ve been so good to me.”
Victor laughed. “We will figure it out together. You have always been surrounded by people who loved you deeply and hurt you without even understanding they were doing it. I just have to remind myself where you come from, and where we are going, and remember that the times you have hurt me most were the times you either thought you weren’t good enough, or thought you were protecting me. I hope you always care enough to try, even if sometimes it doesn’t work very well. I know that I’ve hurt you, too.”
“You’ve helped me,” Yuuri said, indignation coloring his voice. “You had more faith in me than I had in myself. I like who I am better when I’m with you.”
Victor laughed, and tugged Yuuri back against him. Yuuri resisted and turned to look at him.
“Victor, you’ve done so much for me!”
“Yes, but at the cost of your tears, of making you think that I could ever want anything more than I want you,” Victor said. He reached up and stroked Yuuri’s cheek. “Do not absolve me of my mistakes so easily. I want to do better for you. You deserve better from me.”
Yuuri’s breath hitched, and he leaned into the caress. Then he smiled. “If our goal is to always do better for each other, I’m not sure how we can go wrong.”
“I’m sure we’ll find ways,” Victor said. “But I am on your side, and you are on mine, and as long as we remember that, even when we’re feeling low, I think it might be okay. So no, I’m not afraid of being with you, of marrying you. I fell in love with you when you thought you’d failed the most. Remember that. And you fell in love with me when I was doing something new, badly, and behaving ridiculously. We’ve seen each other at our most inept.”
“I might get fat someday,” Yuuri said.
“And I might go bald,” Victor said. “So? You’re cute when you’re round. It’s just harder to skate that way. Easier to get hurt. Someday we won’t be skating. I think we will still find things to love about each other. We can live next to the ocean and teach young people to fly, and own dogs and go for long walks on the beach.”
“I’d like that,” Yuuri said.
“Oh, I forgot to ask, and maybe it’s important,” Victor said. “Do you want kids?”
Yuuri froze. “I… have never thought much about it. That always seemed like something other people did. Do… Do you?”
Victor was silent for a minute, then said, “I don’t know. I don’t know that I’d be much good at it. I’m very self-centered.”
Yuuri snorted. “You’re really not. You just focus on one thing really hard. Sometimes that’s your skating. Lately it’s been me. If you had a child, I can’t imagine you wouldn’t throw everything you had into being a good parent to that child.”
“True, but maybe since neither of us is desperate to be a parent, it can be a discussion for another time,” Victor said.
“Another decade,” Yuuri said, laughing, and then stopped. “We’re going to be together in a decade, aren’t we?” He buried his face against Victor’s warmup jacket.
“’Til death do us part,” Victor said, and then looked down. “Are you crying? Does this upset you?”
Yuuri shook his head, nose still buried.
Victor pushed Yuuri gently off his shoulder and brought Yuuri’s chin up with his hand. Yuuri’s face was wet, his eyes full of raw emotion. “Hey,” Victor said. “It’s good, yes?”
Yuuri nodded, and then used the sleeves of his own warmup jacket to dash the tears off his cheeks. “I never let myself think of a future beyond skating. I barely let myself think of it at all. And you are giving me everything I never let myself admit that I wanted. It’s just so much. I think part of me assumed always that in ten years I would be working at the onsen, completely forgotten, quietly growing fat while others reached greatness around me.”
“That doesn’t sound so bad,” Victor said. “I can think of worse places to retire.”
“But in that vision, I was always alone. And now… I won’t be, and I’m just afraid I’m going to mess it up.”
“Don’t threaten to leave, don’t try to protect me from you, and tell me what you’re afraid of,” Victor said. “If you can do that, I don’t think there’s a lot of ways you could mess it up. Please believe me… I want this, I want you, I want all of it. With or without kids, or dogs, or any of the rest of it, I want you , and that hasn’t changed since you first asked me to come to you. And it doesn’t feel like rushing.” Victor leaned forward and kissed Yuuri’s cheek. “You’re all salty now.”
Yuuri reached up and brush at Victor’s cheek. “So are you.”
Victor touched his own face, and then smiled sheepishly. “So I am. Look, if you want to wait, I’ll wait for you, as long as you need me to. I’m just a little scared that this window of possibility won’t be open forever, and I don’t want to miss our chance.”
Yuuri straddled Victor’s lap, stocking footed, and cradled Victor’s face in his hands. “I’m going to marry you, Victor Nikiforov. I’ll marry you as soon as you want.”
Victor stared up at Yuuri, eyes wide. “Good,” he whispered.
And then Yuuri was kissing him.
“Ugh, disgusting. Typical. They’re looking for you,” Yuri’s voice broke through their reverie. They broke apart, looking over to the doorway, where Yuri stood with his arm thrown up over his eyes.
“Thank you, Yurochka,” Victor said. “We’ll be there in a moment. I thought we had more time?”
“Your turn isn’t for an hour yet,” Yuri said. “The sponsor lady from Versa wanted to talk to you.”
Yuuri sighed and said, “So it begins.”
“We’ll have plenty of time,” Victor said.
They grabbed their skates, and followed Yuri to meet Gloria.
Gloria’s assistant handed them an itinerary.
“Airport tomorrow night?” Yuuri asked.
“We want to film you buying a ticket at night. We’ll provide you with a card and pay for it. It won’t be to Russia, but we’ll edit that in later.”
“Can it be to Hasetsu?” Yuuri asked. “I see you want sightseeing photos?”
“That would work. Does that little resort where your parents live accept our competitor?”
“I have no idea,” Yuuri said.
“Do you think your parents would be willing to go on TV?” she asked.
Victor laughed. “They’ll do anything to help their inn and the ice rink.”
“So we’ve got two commercials to film,” Gloria said. “One that will remind people of how you got to Russia. ‘Skyliner to Tokyo International Airport, ¥2,670. Airplane to St. Petersburg, Russia, ¥139,202. Private car to the Ice Palace…’”
“3500 rubles, I think it was,” Yuuri said.
“Winning Nationals and then surprising your boyfriend on his birthday, priceless,” Gloria finished.
“Fiancé,” both Victor and Yuuri said.
She laughed. “Even better. The other one will be about returning home with your fiancé, with your medals, to see your family.”
“The first one is fine,” Yuuri said. “But I’m not going to run through things with my parents a dozen times. I don’t care if you film, but this is personal to us, too.”
“We just want to get some shots of where you live, and your home rink. If this campaign does well, we will probably want to do some longer sponsorship spots for Olympic coverage, and this will be good backstory. The cameras don’t have to be invasive.”
“I see all footage and approve what goes into your… file.” Yuuri said.
“We would not want to embarrass you if you are one of the faces of our company,” Gloria said.
“Still,” Yuuri said. “If you follow me home, I need some control over what is available to the public. That was in the contract, that I would have control over which appearances I made.”
“All five of us are headed back there. You will pay our way?” Yuuri asked.
“We’ll be having you buy one ticket, but one of the company jets can take us to Hasetsu. Oh, and after the performance here is over, we would definitely like to film the start of your routine done with Victor skating the beginning, the way you did yesterday.”
“The Russians didn’t want to give you rights to the footage?” Yuuri asked.
“We don’t need it,” she said. “They want to be petty about it, because they don’t have to give it to us, but Yakov’s contract with them for your safety and return to Russia explicitly states they will not interfere with your endorsement deals. So they don’t have to give us the footage, but they can’t stop us from making new.”
“You helped Yakov?” Victor asked.
“We have some… resources. You have friends in Russia. They are not without power.”
Yuuri turned to Victor and muttered, “How is this our life now?”
“Because you dared to be amazing,” Victor murmured back. Then he said to Gloria, “I think we can help you, but for now we must go focus on our upcoming skate.”
She nodded. “Of course. I look forward to seeing it.”
They got their skates on just in time to watch Minami’s routine.
“Is that…” Victor started.
“One of my old routines, yes,” Yuuri said, completely bemused. “Fitting, I suppose.”
“As long as you don’t leave me to go train him,” Victor said, wrapping his arms around Yuuri as they watched together from the darkened side of the rink.
“He’s doing well,” Victor murmured a moment later. “Might give Yura a run for his money, someday.”
Minami skated to a flourishing finish, and took his bows. The audience responded enthusiastically.
Yuuri sighed. “At least they’re not likely to yell at us like they did last night. That was unsettling.”
“The rest of the world liked it,” Victor said, giving Yuuri a kiss on the cheek. “They’ll love it here. It’s just us, telling our story.”
Yuuri squeezed Victor’s hands and kissed his ring and skated out to center ice once Minami’s flowers were cleared.
The duetto started as “Stammi Vicino” always started.
And the rush of Victor coming to him after the first several jumps was if anything more profound than it had been the previous two performances.
Yuuri could usually tell when skating was working, and he’d never felt more right. Every time they faced each other, their eyes met and Yuuri thought, I’m going to marry him. It evidently showed, from the way the audience responded.
It ended with a standing ovation, and with Victor and Yuuri, tears streaking their faces as they kissed under a spotlight as the music faded.
There was a closing procession of all the skaters. Afterward, the camera crew from Versa dropped green drapes over the other logos around the rink, and then they ran through the first part of the duetto twice with Victor skating the intro.
“We can cut in our logo, and the placements in post,” one of the camera operators explained to them. “And since your routine was the same after, today, we can just use that, you don’t have to skate it all the way through.”
Victor nodded. “Probably better that way, I don’t think I’ve got any more lifts left in me right now.”
They exited to a lot of press, and the camera guy whose only job seemed to be to follow them around. The general crush ended up with them back in the limo headed back to the hotel for a banquet.
The camera guy seemed ready to come into their hotel room (“Just for a few candid shots!”) but they firmly closed the door with him on the other side of it, and then stared at each other for a long moment before bursting into relieved laughter.
Then Victor was kissing Yuuri, hands everywhere, whispering in his ear, “Can I fuck you yet?”
“A…After…After the banquet,” Yuuri said. Then in a rush, “I’ll never live it down if I’m walking funny after skating so well.”
Victor threw back his head and laughed, and then spun them and walked Yuuri back to the bed. “Fine. But please let me give you a blow job. You were so good out there.” As he talked, he unfastened Yuuri’s costume.
“Just get the costumes off us first,” Yuuri said. “I don’t want to have to explain something awkward to the dry cleaner in Hasetsu.”
Victor snorted. “Spoilsport.” But he shed his costume while watching Yuuri strip.
They were more than fashionably late to the banquet, but not late enough to miss three sports agents wanting to sign them and an astonishing number of people wanting to talk to both of them.
“Remind me that it would be a bad idea for me to have some champagne,” Yuuri hissed to Victor when they finally had a moment to sit. “Also, we should probably have maybe three people at our wedding, and no media.”
Victor laughed. “Lyubov' moya, it will not be like this.” Then his expression shifted. “And I wouldn’t want you to have champagne right now.”
Yuuri stood up. “Can we leave?”
“We just got here,” Victor said. “Another half hour or so, and we can make a dignified escape.”
It was closer to 45 minutes, three sponsor chats, and a dozen quick photos before Victor finally said, “Yuuri has been traveling for 28 hours of the past two days, and has done a full performance every single day for the past four. He needs sleep.”
When they were alone in the elevator, Yuuri said, “I’m not really that tired.”
“No, but ‘He needs my dick in his ass’ probably would have upset people,” Victor said, running his hands over the soft, smooth fabric of Yuuri’s dress shirt.
Yuuri closed his eyes as Victor’s hands roamed, until the elevator chimed, and the doors opened, and they rushed for their door, laughing, with undignified haste.
Once Yuuri had fumbled the door open, Victor made a beeline to Yuuri’s travel bag. “Which pocket?” he demanded.
“Inside the top panel,” Yuuri said, working at his buttons.
Victor unzipped the top panel with a flourish, and then held the container of lube packets aloft in triumph.
Yuuri giggled. “It’s like on Zelda. You have found the lubricant! And 50 rupees.”
Victor looked completely baffled.
“It’s a video game,” Yuuri said, with a sigh.
“Yakov discouraged wasting time on such things,” Victor said.
Yuuri grinned. “Good. Something I can teach you, then. But why are you wearing so many clothes?”
A few moments later, they were naked, and Victor had thrown a towel onto the wide bed, while Yuuri took a little time in the bathroom.
He came out to Victor lounging naked on the bed. “Yuuchan,” he said.
“Y… yes, Vitya?’ Yuuri replied.
“I’ve been tested since the only time I ever did anything remotely… potentially risky with anyone other than you.”
“Okay?” Yuuri said.
“And if I understand correctly, you have not done anything with anyone that would be considered risky, except for me.”
“Yes?” Yuuri said.
“How important is it to you that we use a condom?” Victor asked.
“For now,” Yuuri said. “I’d prefer it. It can be a new thing to try, going without, later.”
“Okay,” Victor said. “Do you want to be on top?”
Yuuri thought, and then said, “Do you want me there?”
“I will take you wherever you want me,” Victor said.
“I think I want you to,” Yuuri said. “To take me, that is.”
Victor sat up, grinned, and pulled Yuuri down onto the bed next to him. “Take you?” he asked.
“Well, you know,” Yuuri said, blushing.
Victor straddled Yuuri, and bent to whisper in his ear, “I would love to.”
now with 95% more smut and bubbles
Yuuri was fairly certain his brain was going to explode long before Victor actually got to the point.
Victor had spent twenty minutes already simply teasing with lips and teeth and tongue, looking for surprises, he’d said, but mostly just working Yuuri up.
“God, Vitya, please,” he groaned, as Victor nibbled on the inside of his goddamned elbow.
The first lubed finger was a shock.
“Oh, that’s strange,” Yuuri gasped. Victor waited, motionless, and Yuuri picked up his free hand, studying it. Victor grinned and held up a single digit, and then wiggled the same finger on both hands a little. Yuuri made a laughing gasp and said, “Silly.”
“I’m just showing you what I’m doing,” Victor said, crooking both fingers gently.
“Have I told you how much I love your hands?” Yuuri asked, and then made an entertaining squeaking noise as Victor held up two fingers on his free hand.
“Still?” Victor asked.
Yuuri nodded, and ground down against Victor’s hand, bringing the two fingers of the free hand up to his lips, and kissing them.
“I’ve been thinking about this all day,” Victor said. “Longer, actually.” He slid the fingers Yuuri had just kissed into Yuuri’s mouth, tracing lips with one hand, echoing the motion with his other hand. “You’ve been learning, but I’ve been learning, too. And it’s important to relax here,” he said, stroking around Yuuri’s rim, spreading the slick lube. “But also here,” and he worked at Yuuri’s lips with his other hand until both hands encountered minimal resistance.
A third finger. “The more I let you in when you fuck me,” Victor said, “The better it feels. To surrender to your touch, to let you open me up, let you fill me… I was nervous, that first time, but you were so gentle with me.”
Yuuri pulled his head back and Victor withdrew the fingers from his mouth immediately.
“I barely got inside you before I came,” Yuuri said.
“You waited for me to be ready. You didn’t rush me,” Victor said.
“I was so nervous,” Yuuri said, and then threw his head back, “Oh god, that feels, I don’t know how it feels but…”
Victor twisted his fingers and waited.
“No, keep going,” Yuuri said. “It’s good, it’s just strange.”
“Any pain?” Victor asked, moving his hand a little faster.
“No, just… my body feels confused.”
Victor laughed. “It probably is. Are you ready for me?”
“Don’t you want to surprise me?” Yuuri said.
“Not this time, no,” Victor said, sliding the condom on with his free hand.
“Add lube to the condom,” Yuuri said.
Victor withdrew his hand, wiped it on the washcloth Yuuri had brought, and found the lube packet again.
“Slippery,” he said.
“Good,” Yuuri said, as Victor lined himself up and pressed gently in. “Oh! Yes, very slippery…” His breath came in little short panting bursts.
“Are you okay?” Victor asked.
Yuuri nodded, and shifted. Victor gasped in response, and Yuuri grinned.
“I’m going to move,” Victor said.
“Oh god, so am I,” Yuuri said, meeting Victor’s thrust.
“Tell me if I need to stop, or slow down, or…”
Yuuri picked his feet up and used the motion to deepen another thrust, his feet landing on Victor’s ass encouragingly.
Victor laughed, and rocked in again.
“More,” Yuuri said, head thrown back, arms thrown out to the sides.
“You are so beautiful,” Victor said. “And I want you to feel the way you make me feel.” He shifted a little, braced himself, and let himself move.
Yuuri met his thrusts with little swivels that were driving Victor very quickly toward a precipice.
“I could come so soon,” Victor said. “But I can keep going if you want…”
“Keep going,” Yuuri said.
Victor reached down and held the base of his cock, and then resumed his rhythm once he felt more in control.
Yuuri looked completely gone, eyes glazed, mouth open, breath coming hard and fast, rising to meet Victor. Victor reached for the lube, and then wrapped a hand around Yuuri’s cock, letting the motion of his own thrusts guide his hand.
Yuuri made an extremely gratifying noise, and came without warning. Victor lost it soon after, completely unprepared for the intensity of riding through Yuuri’s orgasm inside of him.
When he was able to move, Victor shifted, leaned, and kissed Yuuri, saying, “So, any feeling for which you like better?”
“Both,” Yuuri said. “Definitely both.”
Victor laughed. “Agreed.”
“Better grab that,” Yuuri said, and Victor reached down to catch the condom as he withdrew. Yuuri grabbed for the washcloth, and then said, “I’m going to shower.”
“I could draw a bath,” Victor said.
“Yes, for after I shower,” Yuuri said.
“I don’t like being sticky. I like getting sticky, but I don’t like being sticky,” Yuuri said.
“I really like making you sticky,” Victor said, with a leer, and offered a hand to pull Yuuri to his feet.
Yuuri swayed and then walked unsteadily to the suite’s ample bathroom. “I can’t believe I spent my whole life never doing that,” he said, before he turned the water on.
Victor started the deep tub filling, stared at it for a minute, and then poured in an entire small bottle of shampoo. A satisfying head of foam formed as the tub filled.
When Yuuri came out of the bathroom, Victor was hidden entirely behind a mound of bubbles.
“Vitya, what did you do?” Yuuri asked.
“I made you a bubble bath. Plus me. Come into the bath, Yuuchan.”
Yuuri laughed, and climbed into the cloud, finding Victor by feel. “How much soap did you put in, anyway?”
“Not that much? But I turned on the jets for a minute and…”
“We’re in a bubble of bubbles,” Yuuri said.
Their faces were close together at the end of the tub, bubbles surrounding them on three sides.
“I can’t think of anyone I’d rather be in a bubble with,” Victor said.
Yuuri sighed, and wrapped himself around Victor. “Will it always feel like this? It almost hurts, how strong I feel right now.”
“I think love always changes, over time,” Victor said. “But I think the parts that ache are the parts that are getting stronger. Neither of us has exercised these muscles much before, in our lives. Every time I look at you and think, ‘Ah, so this is what love feels like,’ a week, a month later it is something else entirely, and more of it. I don’t know that that ever stops. People say the honeymoon period ends, that things can be hard sometimes, but I think the best loves keep finding new ways to inspire each other. And you certainly keep finding ways of inspiring me.”
“It scares me, how full my heart is,” Yuuri whispered. “Like I keep having to be bigger, to contain it. And I’m not used to feeling sufficient.”
“Shhh,” Victor said. “You are enough for me.”
Yuuri actually fell asleep in Victor’s arms in the tub, waking when Victor was trying to turn the hot water on with his feet an hour later when the water had cooled too much.
“Oh, sorry,” Yuuri said sleepily. “We were having such a nice conversation, too.”
“I like holding you,” Victor said. “I didn’t want to wake you.”
“We should go to bed though,” Yuuri said. “Then you can sleep, too.”
They’d ended up stumbling into bed, slightly damp around the edges and completely naked. They woke up entangled the next morning in a sleepy mutual grind that turned into shower sex which turned into another nap and finally Yurio pounding on the door at 10:30.
Victor threw on a bathrobe and poked his head out. “What?”
Yuri sighed, and said, pointedly not looking at Victor, “That lady from Versa wants you two for ‘filler footage,’ whatever the hell that is. I already did mine. You should get dressed.”
“Thank you, Yura,” Victor said.
They dressed quickly, packing as they went. “I like bathing with you,” Yuuri said, looking at the tub as he pulled his socks on.
“I wondered, after the first few times, with how skittish you were,” Victor said. “You know, our apartment has a big tub.”
“I didn’t know what to make of you, and you were naked all the time.” Yuuri laughed. “It feels so strange that all I got to see of your place was the living room, we were in and out so fast.” Yuuri slipped his feet into his shoes.
“Our place, though I suppose we can afford better now,” Victor said.
Yuuri smiled shyly down at his feet, and then looked at Victor. “I don’t need something fancy. Let’s keep the money for things like traveling and not having to worry about stuff, and not waste it on having a fancy place we’re mostly going to sleep in between practices and traveling.”
“It would be hard to find something nicer any closer to the rink,” Victor said. “And we’ll value being close to the rink when it’s the middle of winter.”
When they opened the door to their hotel room, the camera guy was sitting against the far wall, his gear next to him. “I’m just here to follow you while you do some sightseeing,” he said to them. “Try to ignore me.”
Yuuri and Victor looked at each other, shrugged, and Yuuri said, “Yeah, okay.”
It felt strange at first, but they dropped their bags with the front desk and met Gloria in the lobby, and by the time they left the hotel, they’d mostly forgotten about the camera guy.
Gloria handed them each credit cards. “Go shopping,” she said. “Eat. Do something fun. Let our guy follow you. Get some nice casual clothes. Higher end.” She nodded at Victor. “You can help him get something a little more fashionable?”
Victor grinned, took a daunted Yuuri by the hand, and said, “Food first!”
They had been shopping for a couple of hours when they passed an eyewear shop. “We should get you new glasses,” Victor said.
“Maybe contacts?” Yuuri said. “They always seemed like a lot of expense but…”
“You look cute in glasses,” Victor said.
Yuuri laughed, “If you like how I look in glasses, then why do I need new ones? If we’re skating close together, it might be safer if I had contacts.”
An hour and a half later, they walked out with Yuuri looking dazed and instructions to return in an hour to pick up the order.
“I can barely see now,” Yuuri said. “I didn’t realize how much my vision had changed since the last eye exam.”
“When did you last get glasses?” Victor asked.
“Before I left for Detroit,” Yuuri said.
Victor stared at him. “How can you even see at all?”
Yuuri shrugged. “I guess my eyes adapt? It didn’t seem that bad?”
The sun was low in the mid-afternoon sky when they went back for the contacts, and setting when they came out of the shop with Yuuri’s new contacts and a new pair of glasses.
They wandered down near the waterfront as the light went strange and gold under the dark clouds overhead. Yuuri leaned into Victor and said, “Are you doing this because you want to be nice to the guy with the camera?”
“He’s so giddy right now,” Victor said. “But I just wanted to watch the sunset with you, now that you can see clearly.”
“Everything sparkles,” Yuuri said, looking up at Victor, who was staring at him. “What?”
“I just usually only see your eyes like that when we skate,” Victor said. “I want you to look at me like that always.”
Yuuri looked down and blushed.
“Hey,” Victor said, leaning in to kiss him. “I was looking at those.”
A group of girls nearby started giggling, and they ended up signing autographs until the sun sank below the horizon.
“We should head back to the hotel,” the camera guy said. “I got a lot of great footage, but I think Gloria wanted to get the airport shots dealt with, and you guys probably want to get home?”
They walked back amidst a huge bustle of people and fairy lights that had come on everywhere.
“Everything sparkles so much,” Yuuri said. “It’s overwhelming.”
“Yes,” Victor agreed, staring at him.
Yuuri caught an emotional note in Victor’s voice and looked over at him. “What are you thinking about?”
Victor smiled. “Barcelona, and how focused you were before you bought me my ring. Your eyes were sparkling then, too.”
Yuuri grinned, remembering. “I still don’t know how I got so brave to give that to you.”
“You called it a good luck charm, and a thank you, and all I could think was, ‘I’m going to marry him.’”
“My heart nearly stopped when you said it was an engagement ring.”
“But you didn’t argue,” Victor said.
“I was too busy trying to keep breathing,” Yuuri said. “You said those words and everything I’d been trying to explain away, I couldn’t anymore.”
“It’s easier now that you’re not trying to run away,” Victor said.
Yuuri laughed. “No, I think I finally managed to run in the right direction. Even if they did pull me back.”
When they got to the hotel, Gloria was waiting, talking with Yuri and Yakov. She grinned when she saw Yuuri wearing a well-fitted button-down leather jacket, and said to Victor, “Much better! And the glasses are gone?”
“He hadn’t gotten a new pair in years,” Victor said. “He decided to get contacts.”
“It works, though we don’t mind having you in glasses, if you need to take those out. When I got contacts for the first time, I don’t think my eyes forgave me for a week. If you want to retrieve your luggage, we’d like to send most of your stuff on over to our private jet, but Yuuri-san, if you can show us how you got to the airport?”
He laughed. “I had on a hoodie, so no one looked at me much, and I hailed a cab from the rink, and just went. The airport wasn’t very busy, because it was after midnight.”
“You still have that hoodie with you?” she asked.
He nodded. “If you want it as accurate as possible, I should have glasses on, too.”
“For this… Yes, I think so. We’ll have to do this later, just before we leave. It won’t be midnight, but I think we can manage.”
“Are you going to get footage in Russia?” Yuuri asked.
“We thought maybe when you went back, Victor might take some for us. It won’t have the same feel, exactly, but it’s a different country, so that’s actually good. We’re going to need a couple of different commercial lengths, so it’s okay if we get a little footage later.”
“Where will it run?” Yuuri asked.
“Well, if it’s what we think it’s going to be, this one will be done just in time to debut in full at the Super Bowl. It would be fantastic if you two would be available for a little media tour the next week. Oh, that’s early February.”
“Four Continents starts on the 14th of February,” Victor said. “Yuuri will be very busy in the lead up. And The European Championship is the last weekend in January. Plus we’d like to get married just before that.”
“Oh, Jack had some information on that. He’s meeting us for dinner in a few minutes,” Gloria said.
Dinner happened at a high-priced restaurant—with pretty but underseasoned food—that catered to a mostly international clientele. Victor and Yuuri sat across from each other, while Minako chatted with Gloria about Hasetsu and Yakov and Yuri spoke in rapid Russian a few seats down. Jack Reynolds had his tablet out and was going into great detail about the possibilities for weddings in five different countries.
“Denmark,” Victor said, interrupting. “I think it’s easiest there. We will keep it small. Maybe 20 guests, only people we know. We need an ice rink, and an officiant, and the logistics dealt with. We will choose the music, and it should be not too formal. Does that sound good, Yuuri?”
Yuuri tangled his foot with Victor’s under the table, and nodded.
Victor turned his attention back to the American. “And you may send a photographer, but not a video camera.”
Reynolds nodded, and said, “Since touring your place in Russia won’t happen with our crew, we’d like to send a photographer with you to Hasetsu tonight.”
Yuuri shrugged. “If you want to follow us around Hasetsu for the next couple days, I don’t really care. You can’t take a camera into the onsen, and we will need some uninterrupted practice time, but you can get some shots.”
Reynolds turned to Gloria and started talking logistics.
Yuuri looked over at Victor, wiggled his foot out of his shoe, and used his toe to find the skin on Victor’s ankle.
Victor blushed, and stopped chewing, and looked back at Yuuri. Yuuri tried to hide his grin and focused his attention on his plate while he ran a toe up and down Victor’s ankle.
A sudden laugh drew their attention, and they realized that Minako and Gloria were watching them.
“I see what you mean,” Gloria said.
“What?” Yuuri asked.
Minako said, “You two were just in your own world there, completely oblivious. It’s cute.”
“Disgusting,” Yuri said. “It’s terrible, and I’m going to be spending years having to deal with this. And it just keeps getting worse.”
“Aw, I think it’s nice to see people happy,” Gloria said. “There’s been precious little of that lately.”
“How long are you staying in Hasetsu?” Minako asked Yuuri.
“I don’t know,” he said after gulping down a bite of pasta. “Maybe New Year’s?”
“We’ll send our crew for two days,” Gloria said. “I’ll let Mike be the lead on what shots we need there.”
“Mike?” Victor asked.
The guy who’d been following them around all day waved from the far end of the table.
Yuuri looked embarrassed. “I feel like I should have known that already.”
“Most people call me ‘that camera guy,’” Mike said. “I’m used to it.”
Yuuri turned back to Minako. “Do my parents know I’m coming?”
“I called your mother this afternoon,” Minako said. “She’s very excited.”
It was strange, retracing his steps, later, in his old clothes, pulling his suitcase, the world uncomfortably sharp through his new glasses. Victor hung back next to Mike and Gloria, watching as Yuuri hailed a cab, watching as he walked up to the ticket counter and purchased a ticket he would never use to a place he had no intention of going, and then up through the security checkpoint but no further. Afterwards, Gloria took them to the private airfield.
There were already a couple of staff on the airplane, which was smaller and much less fussy than the plane they’d flown in on. That airplane had spoken more of social power and profligate wealth. This was a company plane, aimed at executives used to certain levels of comfort, but the clean lines and absence of ornamentation were all business.
“Take the couch,” Gloria said. “We won’t be in the air all that long, but you can at least get comfortable there.”
“No beds this time?” Yuri asked.
“We won’t be up long enough,” she said.
He looked nearly gleeful at that. “Thank god.”
“Tired of traveling?” Gloria asked.
Yuri nodded at Victor and Yuuri, who, despite buckling themselves in, had apparently already braided their limbs together. “This way they’ll keep their clothes on.”
Gloria laughed. “Someday you might fall in love, kiddo. And you’ll probably be just as gross.”
Yuri looked positively repelled at the notion. He shuddered, and took the first open seat that didn’t face in the direction of the couch.
Almost every seat on the flight was taken. They’d been in the air for an hour when Yuuri untangled himself from Victor long enough to ask Gloria, “Where’s everyone going to sleep?”
“We’ve booked rooms at the Hyatt near the airport for tonight,” she said. “It’s late. We’ll go to Hasetsu in the morning.”
Yuuri nodded, and Victor snuggled back up to him, half-asleep.
A chartered shuttle met them on the tarmac and took them to the hotel. The lobby was a high, bright, glassy place filled with green things and golden wood. The not insubstantial trees growing in the corners were festooned with little white lights.
The concierge was ready for them, leading them up to the sixth floor, where they filled the suites.
Victor and Yuuri ended up alone, finally, at nearly midnight, in a spacious hotel room with a king-sized bed.
“I could get used to this, I think,” Yuuri said. “Pity we’ll be checking out so early.”
Victor stared at the room for a long moment, dropped his suitcase where he stood, kicked off his shoes, dropped his coat on the chair, and belly-flopped onto the big bed.
“Vitya, you should at least take your pants and shirt off,” Yuuri said, taking his own clothes off more carefully and hanging up his coat in the closet.
Victor made a mumbling noise into the mattress, and Yuuri smiled, then picked up Victor’s bag and coat, putting them neatly in the closet, lining their shoes up, and folding his own clothes.
Victor had not budged.
Yuuri sighed, and lay down next to Victor on the bed, worming a hand under Victor’s belly in an attempt to get at his belt. Victor reacted vigorously, jerking onto his side and protecting his belly.
“I’m trying to take off your belt,” Yuuri said.
Yuuri rolled his eyes and took advantage of the improved access to get the buckle undone and unbutton Victor’s slacks. He stood and briskly tugged the pants down.
“Too tired to play,” Victor mumbled.
“I just don’t want to cuddle your belt or your buttons,” Yuuri said. “They’ll leave marks.” He folded the pants and went back to try to get the shirt off.
Three buttons in, Victor sat up looking decidedly put out, and unbuttoned the shirt himself.
Yuuri pulled the duvet back and Victor, now only in his underwear, flopped into the bed with an undignified groan of relief.
Yuuri put the shirt aside, turned off the lights, and crawled into the bed. Victor was spooned up against him before he could get the covers up.
There was something about having skin up against his own from neck to toes—he felt something in him unwind.
“I don’t care how ridiculous today was, with the cameras and the flying and everything.”
“This makes it worth it. You make it worth it.”
Victor’s arms tightened around him and then relaxed, and sleep pulled them both in.
Yuuri woke to find Victor’s face about three inches from his own, eyes wide open.
Yuuri smiled. Victor kissed his nose and then rolled out of the bed.
“What was that for?”
Victor answered in not-terrible Japanese, 「You are adorable when you’re sleeping.」
“How long were you watching me?” Yuuri asked.
Victor shrugged, and found their luggage.
“What time is it?” Yuuri asked.
“Seven,” Victor said.
“Why are you over there, then?” Yuuri asked.
Victor held up a finger, and continued rummaging.
Yuuri closed his eyes and rolled on his back, stretching. A few minutes later, he heard water running, then opened one eye as Victor walked back into the room, naked, a towel over one arm.
Yuuri grinned and reached under the covers to slide his own boxer briefs off. He threw them in Victor’s general direction.
Victor grabbed them out of the air, laughing, and tossed them without looking in the general direction of the closet, then set everything he was carrying down on the side table.
Yuuri stretched as Victor pulled back the covers, and said, “Do you have something specific in mind? Or do you just want to surprise me?”
Victor grinned, and plastered himself along Yuuri’s side, hands roaming. Yuuri’s hands found him, tracing along skin and following the lines of muscles.
Victor shifted, straddled Yuuri’s thighs, and then rolled a condom onto Yuuri, keeping a hand on his shoulder to keep Yuuri in place.
“You want me to prep you?” Yuuri asked.
“Already did,” Victor said, rising up on his knees.
“Oh,” Yuuri squeaked, as Victor ran a slick hand over the condom and lined things up, then seated himself slowly, grinding his hips down.
They made it out of the hotel room by 8:30, and found their people in the airy restaurant, eating breakfast.
Half an hour later, they were on the road to Hasetsu in a rented bus. Yuuri and Victor found a pair of seats in the back. Yuuri sat closest to the window and when Victor threw an arm over his shoulder, Yuuri shifted until they were fit together, Yuuri’s head tucked against Victor’s neck.
The others filed in and took seats nearer the front. The front half of the bus had seats facing forward, the back had them lining the walls, facing a central table. Mike laid a bunch of equipment out on a bench at the front of the back section, and another of the production crew sat down across from him, but Yuuri and Victor had most of the back section to themselves.
Simon Pershing came back and sat down in the seat in front of them about ten minutes into the journey. “Are you familiar with You Can Play?” he asked.
Yuuri shook his head, and Victor nodded. Simon directed his attention to Yuuri and said, “We are a nonprofit dedicated to increasing access for LGBT athletes to sports at all levels. It was started by people involved in hockey, but has reached out to a much wider range of athletes. We have had out athletes and allies from a variety of sports post supportive videos, and we were hoping that you two would be willing to help out? It might involve a couple of takes, and if we can get some action shots, we’d love it.”
“We’ll be practicing today,” Victor said. “Do you want one of us, or both of us?”
“Both would be great,” Simon said. “The basic script is usually, ‘If you can play, you can play,’ but in your case it would be, ‘If you can skate, you can skate.’ Some athletes add a personal note, or note their accomplishments. Some say that they’re gay, some don’t.”
Victor looked thoughtful. “Something like, ‘I’m Victor Nikiforov, and I’m the reigning world champion and Russian champion in men’s figure skating,’ and then Yuuri says, ‘And I’m the Japanese national champion and silver medal winner at this year’s Grand Prix Final in men’s figure skating,’ and I say, ‘And we’re getting married in January.’”
Yuuri grinned. “I can say after that, ‘And then we’re going to compete against each other at the World Figure Skating Championships in March.’”
Simon laughed. “Sounds great! I’ve got to ask, though, is it going to be challenging skating against your husband?’”
Victor smiled an almost predatory grin. “Oh, I hope so! He and Yuri Plisetsky both beat my world records at the Grand Prix Final, so I have to come back and see if I can reclaim my glory.”
“What he’s not telling you is that he choreographed both of the programs that beat him,” Yuuri said. “So he’s actually not all that mad. I can’t wait to skate against him. It’s almost as fun as skating with him. And I really enjoy winning.”
“Add in the tag line and some skating, and I think we’ll have it,” Simon said. “Warmup clothes are fine, and we’ve done a lot of these rink-side. I’ll be out of your hair after that.”
“How did you end up coming to Japan in time to talk with us?” Victor asked.
Simon laughed. “Well, actually, it wasn’t Yuuri traveling across the country that got me on a plane, it was the exhibition skate from the Grand Prix final, combined with that really lovely call-and-response you two did with your competition performances. I planned on talking with Yuuri at the Gala. How long did you rehearse that?”
Yuuri and Victor looked at each other, and Victor said, “I spent almost my entire preparation time working on the basic program, getting it up to speed. I didn’t add the emotional component until I got back to Russia, two days before the championship. So Yuuri hadn’t seen it until I skated it during the competition.”
Yuuri smiled shyly. “I saw his performance and went out on a little public rink in Tokyo after hours to work on a few changes to mine, to adjust the story and emotional tone, because the previous story no longer fit the story of Eros as I now understood it. A… A lot happened between the Grand Prix Final and Victor leaving. And seeing how he changed the Eros program, well, he told a very silly story that was kind of hard on him, and I saw it a little differently, so…”
“And I don’t know if you’re aware, but I wasn’t actually planning on returning to skating at all,” Victor said, “so there was a very short time between the GPF and nationals, and all my best choreography had gone to my competitors, but Yuuri suggested, or rather, challenged me to use his programs, since we weren’t actually skating against each other. I knew those very well, because we’d developed them together. So changing the emotional tone and rearranging a few jumps was about all I had time for. So when he suggested I use Eros, I decided to surprise him by skating Yuri on Ice as well, but with my own spin. So to speak.”
“He skated his feelings for me,” Yuuri said. “But my skating has always been about my feelings for him.”
“Even if you did say it was about katsudon at first,” Victor laughed.
“Katsudon?” Simon asked.
“It’s a dish we’ll have at his parents’ onsen,” Victor said. “Rice with pork and egg. It sounds so simple, but it’s really one of the better things I’ve put in my mouth. And it’s amusing because of his surname. A pun of sorts.”
“Katsudon on Ice would be messy,” Yuuri said. “My free skate didn’t come together until I started doing it for him. I’d had a crush on him for the longest time. Well, maybe not a crush, exactly. I idolized him. Who wouldn’t?”
“So you fell in love with a fan?” Simon laughed, looking at Victor.
Victor gave a soft smile and said, “No, I fell in love with the brightest spot in a very dull room, a boy who could dance like no one I’d ever seen. He swept me off my feet, and then he did something very few people have ever done… he walked away and disappeared. The next time I saw him, he was skating my program, with better understanding and emotion than even I could, even if his jumps were not at the level mine were. Then.”
“Are they now?” Simon asked.
Yuuri shook his head, but Victor laughed and said, “When we’re both completely at peak conditioning, I think I still have an edge on any given jump’s execution. But he has the advantage when it comes to stamina, so it’s possible he could beat me simply on order of jumps. And I don’t think any of the three of us knows where the limit is right now, or who is going to get there first. I’m just glad to have people to skate against who can match me.”
“No one’s going to be trying to give the other the win, or sabotage the other?” Simon asked.
“I want Yuuri to win, of course,” Victor said. “But I also want to do my best and I would not insult him by holding back.”
“Victor’s one of the best skaters who has ever lived,” Yuuri said. “No matter what I do, I don’t pretend that I’m going to catch his level of perfection. He’s been at or near the top of men’s figure skating for over a decade. I just started reaching my potential, and I have maybe five more seasons left, if everything goes perfectly. But I’d rather leave skating than stop him from skating. I love watching him skate, and I love learning from him, and our biggest fight was over me not wanting him to give up competing for me. I’d love to beat him in competition, even if I think that’s unlikely, but I wouldn’t want him to make it easy on me… because Victor is not easy, and it wouldn’t be the same as beating him when he’s doing his best. I’d rather lose fairly than win because he was coddling me. The same is true for any other skater. Yuri beat me at the Grand Prix Final because he skated so much better than I did in the short program. I don’t wish that he’d fallen just so that I could have won—I want to get the world record if I can. I think any skater would say the same. But I want to win because I do it perfectly, and better than everyone else, not because I’m the one who failed the least.”
The crew member across from Mike asked, “Do you think you can beat Victor?”
Yuuri blushed, and Victor said, simply, “Yes. If we went head to head today, he would. In three months, when my conditioning is back at peak? Who knows? And we can’t count out Russian Yuri.”
“Damn right,” Yuri called out from the front of the bus.
“Victor is the best,” Yuuri said. “If I ever beat him, it will be because of what he’s taught me about skating, and love, and what he’s taught me about myself.”
“I can’t lose,” Victor said, laughing.
“Thanks,” Simon said with a smile.
“That was great, guys,” Mike said from behind his steadicam.
“How much of that did you get?” Simon asked.
Mike turned off his camera, and said, “Most of it. We can filter out a lot of the bus noise in post.”
Yuuri laughed. “I’m glad I didn’t know you were filming.”
“It’s usually better if people don’t notice me,” Mike said. “I’m pretty good at not being noticed.”
“Who owns the footage?” Victor asked. “You’re with Versa?”
“Versa is actually funding me right now,” Simon explained. “Well, they made a donation to You Can Play, and part of that donation is in-kind.”
“When do you think the video we’re doing is going to go live?” Yuuri asked.
Simon shrugged. “It could be in a couple days, it could be coordinated with your wedding, or with the European Championships, or with the Super Bowl footage. That depends partly on you, and partly on Versa. Gloria?” He projected his voice, and she pulled earbuds out and came back to join them.
“What’s up?” she asked.
“Timing question. I could have video ready for a basic YCP spot as early as tomorrow if things go well today. Our production standards aren’t Super Bowl. If we wanted to do a longer spot, with conversation and background, that could be ready in a couple weeks. I know you probably have plans for more in-depth stuff around your campaigns, and we definitely don’t want to undermine that.”
“Short spot ASAP would be ideal,” Gloria said. “Let’s see what we get in Hasetsu. I’d like to do a buildup to the main event, but without undermining the emotional punch.”
“You should see what we just got,” Mike said.
“Is there a reason why we wouldn’t want to have it out sooner?” Yuuri asked.
Simon shrugged. “The public’s attention span is short. You went viral a couple days ago, and that usually means a big hit of publicity and then it tapers off pretty quickly. You’re never going to go ‘back to normal,’ but it really depends on how much advocacy you plan on doing, or if you just want to get back to living your lives, given that your lives are going to involve some heightened media awareness no matter what you do now. But every time we put something out, or Versa does, or Mirror Mirror, it will flare. It can be disruptive, and make it hard to carry on with living your life.”
Victor shrugged. “I’m not interested in hiding. It’s not my first time in the spotlight. Chances are, when we stop performing, they’ll stop caring. Do your thing. We’ll do ours.”
They stopped first at Yu-topia, where Victor was reunited with a giant, enthusiastic ball of wiggling dog.
“He really wants to go for a run,” Hiroko said. “None of us are as active as you two.”
“We could run up to the rink,” Yuuri said. “We both need it. Yura, too.”
“Can you film from a bicycle?” Victor asked Mike.
Mike blinked. “I can try.”
Yakov frowned. “I am past running.”
“Oh, the rest of us can drive over, I’m sure,” Gloria told him. “We have reservations near the rink, anyway, for hotel rooms. Yuuri, do you want to stay with your parents? Or at the hotel?”
Yuuri blinked, looked at his mother, and then at Victor, and then blushed.
Minako whispered something to Hiroko, who cackled, and said, “Go stay at the hotel if you want. Victor’s room isn’t set up anyway. You can come back for dinner.”
Minako said, “I’ll see you then. I’m going home.”
Yuuri turned to Minako and said, “Thank you for handling everything.”
She waved dismissively. “It’s been well worth it. And I’m going to have fun in Russia next week. Now I get to go figure out if I can get half my plane ticket refunded.”
Gloria laughed, and said, “Actually, I have something for you. You did us an incredible favor getting them back here and facilitating so much. Talk to my assistant so we can send you a referral fee.”
Minako blinked. “A what?”
“You acted as a liaison in the absence of an agent, helped us navigate an awkward situation, and acted as an able escort. You delayed your plans and rearranged your travel schedule, and allowed us to successfully engage the services of our newest talent. There are considerations that are common in our industry. Consider it a finder’s fee. It should be enough to offset the inconvenience to you.”
“I couldn’t…” Minako started.
“Don’t listen to her, she absolutely can,” Yuuri said.
Gloria looked momentarily confused, but said, “Do please talk to my assistant.”
Minako blushed and nodded.
“I think we’re going to head over to the hotel to get checked in,” Gloria said to Mike. “It looks like they might be a bit, just get whatever you think looks good, and we’ll meet you at the rink in an hour or so.”
Mike nodded, and pointed his camera at the dog.
Hiroko went over to where Yuuri, Victor and Yuri were playing with Makkachin, and put a hand on Victor’s shoulder.
“Vicchan,” she said.
Victor beamed up at her. “Yes, Okaasan?”
“Is it true you want to marry my Yuuri?”
Victor nodded. “Very much. He’s amazing.”
She grinned. “Welcome to the family. It’s good to see you both so happy.”
Yuuri stood up and hugged her. She laughed. He said, 「Will you come? We have to do it in Denmark.」
A glimmer of sorrow moved across her face. 「It’s so far.」
「I can take care of everything,」 Yuuri said. 「Tickets, hotel, all of it.」
She looked around the onsen and he said, 「Hire someone to staff it that weekend. You’re not going to have money going out for my skating anymore. I can even pay you back for what you’ve spent the past few years.」
Her eyes widened, and she shook her head. 「No, no. We will come. You keep your money.」
「Please, Mother, I just signed contracts for more than a million dollars, and so did Victor, and we’re not even having to pay for the wedding.」
「I don’t know,」 she said. 「I am not so old that I should need your money yet.」
「Mother, please let me. It would be a great honor to me if you allowed me to do this for you. A thank you for the support you’ve given me for so long.」
She blinked, and then nodded. “Okay.”
After a brief adjustment period for Mike to the combination of the bike and the camera harness, they took off at a brisk jog toward the Ice Castle.
“We should retire here someday,” Victor called out to Yuuri, on the middle of the bridge.
“I tried, you wouldn’t let me,” Yuuri said, and then squeaked as Victor tackled him playfully, spinning him around.
Yuri dodged them and kept running with a muttered oath in Russian.
Makkachin was thrilled to be out and running.
They realized as they got closer that there was a cluster of news vans in the parking lot, by the little knot of satellite dishes visible beyond the rise that led to the skating rink. They slowed to a stop and Victor flipped up the hood of his jacket, and said, “Tuck your hair in, Yura.”
“Why is it different with the vans than with Mike?” Yuuri asked.
“Mike is working for us, at least, so we have some control over what he does with his footage, and he’s on our side and we know it. We don’t know who they are,” Victor said. “So I don’t want to have them chasing us down here. Makka is going to be telltale enough, but I don’t need them spotting our pale hair this far away. We’ll never get up there. The less time they’re in contact with us, the more we’ll get done today.”
Yuuri leaned against a large boulder and stared up at the uplinks, sighing. “Let’s go around back then. Mike, can you meet us? This isn’t a good route for a bike.”
They climbed up the embankment with Makkachin, and Yuri sent a text message to Yuuko, who met them at the back door, and then went out front to let Mike in.
“They’re camped out there,” Mike said, setting up his equipment. “Want me to tell them that you’ll give them 5 minutes if they’ll leave after? Otherwise they’ll stay until you come out, and they’ll stake out both doors.”
“Do you really think they’ll leave, after?” Yuuri asked.
Mike shrugged. “I would.”
There was a commotion at the front door, loud Russian swearing, and Gloria’s voice carrying over some shouted questions. Takeshi was arguing with someone, and a minute later, Simon, Gloria, Yakov, and the small bevy of assistants and ad reps came in.
“Or we could just pile you onto the bus later,” Mike said. “We have enough people now.”
“How rude were they?” Yuuri asked Gloria.
“They recognized Yakov,” Gloria said. “Some inappropriate questions were asked. I’d avoid this lot.”
Victor frowned. “What kind of inappropriate questions?”
“Someone wanted to know if Yakov was worried about Yuri’s safety,” Takeshi said. “I told them that Yuri was perfectly capable of kicking ass, but that I’d never met a better man than Katsuki Yuuri and that Victor was so focused on his fiancé that the idea of him looking anywhere else, let alone a child he thinks of as a kid brother, was laughable.”
A complex series of emotions worked their way across Victor’s face, but at the last, he snorted. “That’s accurate.”
Yuuri stared at Takeshi, eyes wide.
“Don’t let it go to your head, Katsuki. They were assholes.”
Gloria handed her briefcase to an assistant and said, “What’s your normal routine?”
Victor said, “Stretching, warm ups. Those are critical. If we went right into jumping, we’d injure ourselves.”
“How disruptive would it be for someone to ask you questions while you warm up?” Simon asked.
“That depends on what we’re doing,” Yuuri said, starting some simple stretches. “If it’s simple stretching, fine. If we’re moving slowly, fine. If we’re breaking a sweat, or jumping, there’s no point. Especially once we get into the routines, it’s actually dangerous to talk to us, even if Victor is talking to me or Yakov is talking to either of them. Our coaches know when to talk and when not to and what to say that won’t distract us too much. Usually.”
Yakov said, “We’re going to be here for a long time today. We’ll need some uninterrupted time later, but if you’re wondering if it’s an okay time to interrupt, you can ask me.”
“And I’ll want all cameras out, probably all of you out, when I start working on my newest routines,” Victor said. “I’m composing, and I’ll need some quiet time for that.”
Mike said, “I can do some recording for you if you want, then.”
“I don’t want my program revealed before the next competition,” Victor said.
“This would be for your own use,” Mike said. “And we might want to use it if you go to the Olympics, but not before then.”
“Maybe,” Victor said. “I’ll probably send you out if it interferes with my concentration.”
“I can live with that,” Mike said. “But it would be fascinating to document your process, for posterity.”
“You can document his posterior for me,” Yuuri said, and then blushed.
Victor threw his head back laughing. “That settles it, then.”
“Augh,” Yuri said. “I’m going to the weight room. So gross.”
Simon waited until they were almost completely warmed up to do the You Can Play video, catching them at the rail and then having them skate off together after. They spent some time before getting into routines having Yakov walk them through thrown pairs jumps.
Yakov shook his head and rolled his eyes when they asked, but when Victor said, “Well, we’ll just have to wing it, and we’re going to start with Yuuri throwing me,” Yakov promptly relented.
“He’s bluffing,” Yuri yelled across the rink.
Yakov waved Yuri off. «Practice spins. No jumps».
Yuri made an incoherent noise of frustration that spanned three octaves, and flung himself into a spin.
Yakov turned back to Victor and Yuuri, who were taking the basic position, hand to hip, hand to hand, and giggling. «You’re worse than our six-year-olds», he snapped at Victor.
“Hmm?” Yuuri said, missing the Russian.
“He says we’re acting like children,” Victor said.
“We’re doing baby jumps,” Yuuri said. “So that seems fair.”
Victor goosed him with the hand on his hip, and Yuuri doubled over, saying. “We shouldn’t waste Yakov-san’s time.”
“No, you shouldn’t. Show me the half turn,” Yakov said, mollified.
Pivot, and pivot and toss and spin, they worked up to a double rotation before Victor shook out his arms ruefully and said, “I can see I’m going to have to do a little upper body work.”
“You’ll ruin your spin speed,” Yuri said nearby.
“I didn’t say I was going to bulk up like a wrestler,” Victor snapped. “I don’t need to build muscle, I need to build strength.”
Yakov called out, “Victor. Have you settled on music yet?”
“They’re working on it.”
Gloria asked from the side of the rink, “You can’t use what you did at Nationals? Or is it tacky for two skaters to show up wearing the same music?”
“It’s not ideal,” Victor said. “But I’ve got them working on a related theme, and it will line up nicely, so it shouldn’t be a problem.”
“Something romantic?” she asked.
“As if he could do anything else right now,” Yuri said.
“I’ve skated a lot of nonsense about love,” Victor said. “I’d like to create a performance that does it justice.”
Yuuri laughed. “Your performances were everything I knew about love.”
“That explains why you reacted the way I did when I showed up in Hasetsu for the first time,” Victor said. “I’m a terrible teacher.”
“How did he react?” Gloria asked.
“Badly,” Yuuri said, skating a figure.
Victor stretched against the rail. “To be fair, I was naked, and you had no idea why.”
“VICTOR!” Yuuri said, turning purple and stumbling out of the figure. Then, to Gloria, “He was in the onsen. Everyone is naked in the onsen. I just wasn’t… expecting to have my first conversation with him that way.”
She put her hand over her mouth and tried not to laugh.
“Don’t put that in the video,” Yuuri said.
Gloria did laugh at that. “No, I wouldn’t.”
They worked for a while, and then Victor sent everyone but Yuuri away.
“Even me?” Yakov said.
“I’ll need your input later,” Victor said. “I’m going to send Yuuri out soon, too. Don’t feel bad.”
It took a little while to clear everyone out. The others decided to get lunch, and Gloria’s assistant got orders from both Yuuri and Victor.
With the rink devoid of people, winter light filtering in through the high windows, just the two of them skating slowly, side by side, in silence, something inside of Yuuri relaxed. He smiled, and let out a breath that he hadn’t known he’d been holding.
Victor chuckled. “I thought so.”
“Hmm?” Yuuri said, looking over at Victor.
“Too many people for too long. You need the quiet.”
“It’s okay with you here,” Yuuri said.
Victor blushed at that, and looked down at the ice. “I know. Show me that quad flip again.”
“I want to learn a quad loop,” Yuuri said.
Victor laughed. “Let’s work on it.”
“You need to do your new routines,” Yuuri said.
“I don’t have the music yet,” Victor said. “Let’s see if you can do a quad triple triple.”
An hour later they sat collapsed on the floor outside the rink, exhausted, as the rest came bustling back in.
“Well, at least they’re dressed,” Yakov muttered, as Gloria handed a take-out bag to the worn-out skaters.
“I did a quad flip, triple toe, triple loop,” Yuuri said.
“I landed a quad loop for the first time in nine months,” Victor said.
“I didn’t,” Yuuri said.
“Do I need to know what all those mean?” Gloria asked.
Yuuko said, “I have videos, come see!”
“You really don’t,” Yuuri said with a wry laugh. “Unless you’re skating or judging, it’s minor. They all look very spinny. Are the paparazzi still out there?”
“They saw us leave without you and got very confused and went looking for you somewhere else,” Yuri said. “I might have suggested that you’d already left again, with the dog. For Russia.”
Yuuri laughed wearily. “You're a good friend, Yuri.”
“Oh, I don’t think they believed me, but Takeshi got scary looking, and Gloria told them their footage wouldn’t be worth anything because you’re talking to the media voluntarily.”
“Takeshi always looks scary,” Yuuri said.
“Hey!” Takeshi sounded aggrieved.
Yuuko patted him on the arm and said, “It was useful.”
“If it made them leave, it was genius,” Victor said.
“I think we’re done skating for the day,” Yuuri said.
“I’m not,” Yuri said.
Yakov frowned. “Yes, you are. You’ve grown two centimeters in the past two days.”
“Don’t remind me!” Yuri said. “At this rate I’m going to be lucky if I can land a double at Worlds.”
“You’ll be fine as soon as it settles down,” Yuuri said. “But when you’re shooting up you’re likely to fall, and if you do that while you’re actually growing, you could grow crooked and then forget ever reaching your potential.”
“That’s not… That’s not true, is it, Yakov?”
Yakov shrugged. “Injuries are much more common when you’re growing. If you get hurt, you won’t be skating at Worlds.”
“Keep your muscle mass, and stay strong and flexible,” Yuuri said. “Keep skating and keep feeling how your body moves. Then you learn some of it over again, but you know already you’re going to be able to do it, you just need your body to stay the same for a bit so you can adapt. My growth spurt was pretty much done in six months.”
“SIX?” Yuri shrieked.
Victor shrugged and smiled. “Maybe this isn’t your season for Worlds. But next season is the Olympics, and you’re well-placed for that already. Keep your eye on what you really want. I’ll be there through the Olympics, at least.”
“Victor wants me to skate five more seasons,” Yuuri said.
“Yeah, but what do you want?” Yuri asked in spite of himself.
Yuuri blushed and said, “I like making him happy.”
“Ugh. I’m going shopping,” Yuri said.
“And you two?” Gloria asked Yuuri and Victor.
They looked at each other. “I think we need to get cleaned up and take a nap,” Yuuri said. “Let our muscles recover.”
“I need to spend time with my dog,” Victor said.
“Mike, you want to go with Yuri?” Gloria asked. “Get some filler shots?”
“I think I will go back to the hotel,” Yakov said. “My skaters are just getting to the rink back home, and I need to call them.”
“Is it disloyal to use a different onsen?” Victor asked Yuuri as they sank into a hot pool at their hotel.
Yuuri laughed. “I won’t tell, if you don’t.”
“I like the one at your parents’ place better.”
“Tell Okaasan that,” Yuuri said. “It will please her.”
“She seems happy about us,” Victor said.
“She worried about me finding romance endlessly, because I was so shy and so focused. I think she’s just grateful that I’m happy, and not alone.” Yuuri stretched and then sank into the water up to his neck.
Victor smiled at him softly. “You’re happy?”
“The happiest,” Yuuri said, sitting up and putting his arms along the stone edge of the pool. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, and I don’t know how it’s going to be once we’re in Russia, but I… I think I’m finally letting myself believe that maybe I get to have this. With you. And skating together. And not being afraid all the time.”
Victor tucked himself under Yuuri’s arm, and put his head on Yuuri’s shoulder. “Believe it.”
Yuuri smiled and leaned his cheek against the top of Victor’s head.
They napped together on a futon in their hotel room after their soak. They woke slowly in a puddle of winter sunshine, Makkachin flopped up against Yuuri’s chest, with Victor’s arm flung over Yuuri and his hand buried in his dog’s fur.
Victor lay there, eyes closed but awake, soaking in the perfection of the moment and the glow behind his eyelids.
“I don’t think it’s possible to skate perfect peace,” Yuuri murmured.
“Was I thinking that loudly?” Victor said into Yuuri’s hair.
“It feels good right now,” Yuuri said. “I don’t want to move. It’s…”
“A perfect moment,” Victor said. “And it would be the laziest routine I ever made.”
“Watch Victor Nikiforov lie down in a puddle of sunshine with his lover and his dog,” Yuuri said. “It wouldn’t score very high.”
“It’s hard to do a quad when you don’t ever want to move again because it would wake the dog up,” Victor said.
At that, Makkachin looked back at him, and rolled on his back for stomach pats.
Yuuri stretched, and shifted onto his back, wrapping an arm under Victor’s head.
“What, you want stomach pats, too?” Victor asked.
“Been awhile since I slept on a futon,” Yuuri said.
“You want to switch to a Western style room?” Victor asked.
Yuuri shook his head. “No, I just want to stretch.”
Victor slid his hand across Yuuri’s stomach, where his t-shirt had ridden up.
“Mmm,” Yuuri said, and then yelped as a cold dog nose poked at his stomach and under Victor’s hand. “I don’t think he wants you to stop petting him.”
“Makkachin,” Victor grumbled. “What ever are we going to do with you?”
“Scratch his ears,” Yuuri said, bringing up his free hand to do just that. “And tell him he’s a good dog.”
“For now,” Victor said. “Later I think we make him go sleep with Yuri.”
They spent a few hours showing Mike around Hasetsu, watching the sunset from the beach near the hotel, the long rays of the sun cutting through spotty cloud cover in the chill afternoon. The bus dropped them all off at Yu-topia in the early evening.
“Just get the katsudon,” Victor said to Gloria. “They do a lot of fancy fish, but the katsudon is good enough to motivate Yuuri to win gold.”
“I thought that was your job?” Gloria said, teasing.
“At first I was offended that his inspiration for Eros would be a bowl of pork and rice,” Victor said. “But then I remembered how good it is. I’m a realistic man. I can never truly compare.”
Yuuri rolled his eyes. “I literally gave up katsudon to skate with you.”
Victor looked delighted. “You did! Why did I never realize? You always did love me best.”
“Duh,” Mari said in the doorway. “What can I get everyone? Or should I even bother asking?”
Simon said, “I actually don’t eat pork.”
“You eat raw fish?” Mari asked.
“We can do kaisendon. Sashimi on rice. We’ve got a good variety today. Or something else?”
“No, that’s fine,”
“I think everyone else wants to try the katsudon,” Yuuri said.
“I figured,” Mari said. “You only won the national championship, and Victor, too. And Yuri hasn’t been back since he won the Grand Prix Final, so…”
“Katsudon all around!” Victor said. “Vkusno!”
When the food came, Yuuri stared at it for a long moment, and then took a small bite, and closed his eyes, chewing slowly.
“So, best thing you ever put in your mouth, right?” Victor said to no one in particular.
“It’s very good,” Gloria agreed.
Yuuri opened his eyes, looked at Victor, smiled a slow, sultry smile, and said, “I used to think that.”
Victor turned a dark shade of pink, and coughed.
“Shut up and eat your katsudon, Katsudon,” Yuri said. “You’ll make me lose my appetite, and this is too good.”
Yuuri just grinned at Victor and took another bite.
When they got back to the hotel, Yuri took Makkachin to the room he was sharing with Yakov.
Victor frowned, but Yuuri elbowed him, saying, “I’m sure Yuri missed the dog, too.”
It was raining outside when they lay down, and they curled up together on the futon as it misted onto the window, sparkling in the lights outside.
Victor wrapped himself around Yuuri’s back, dropping a weary kiss on Yuuri’s shoulder and running hands slowly down Yuuri’s side.
He was almost asleep when Yuuri whispered, “I thought I didn’t need this.”
“Hmm?” Victor murmured against Yuuri’s neck.
“I was convinced that touch was something other people craved. That relationships weren’t worth the drama,” Yuuri said.
“And now?” Victor asked.
“I feel like I was a dry well. And you’ve filled me. Like I’m overflowing with something I didn’t even know I could have. I’ve lived without you. I spent 23 years of my life living without you. And I hope I never do again. And I don’t understand how I survived without water for so long. That probably sounds silly.”
“I’m not your only source of love,” Victor said. “You are surrounded. It’s like air, you don’t even see it, but just coming here, even before you opened up, it started to fill me, too. I don’t even know if I breathed before I met you. It all seems so unlikely that I could. So, if it’s silly, we’re a pair of fools together.”
Yuuri rolled over and brought Victor’s hand up to his lips. “But I don’t remember people touching me. Not since I was small. And your touch, it changes me.”
Victor stared at him, and then traced Yuuri’s cheek with his fingers. “You have been changing me with your touch since we first danced. I didn’t even know I needed it until then, and then just as quickly, it was gone.”
Yuuri hesitated, ran his hand flat down Victor’s side, and then pulled him in close, so he could stroke Victor’s back. “I’m here. I’m here as long as you’ll have me. I’ll take care of you, as well as I know how.”
They fell asleep like that, Yuuri’s head on Victor’s arm, Yuuri’s left hand tucked up between them, legs entwined, holding each other close.
They woke early, aroused, and took each other in hand, lazily finding their way to completion.
They ate a simple breakfast together in their room a little while later.
“I think I’m ready for the cameras to go,” Yuuri said.
“They’ll be gone tomorrow,” Victor said.
Yuuri shrugged. “It just feels like I need to be someone else when they’re here. I mean, it’s fun to put on this persona, sometimes, but it doesn’t feel like me.”
“I wouldn’t have you be anyone but you,” Victor said. “But there’s something I’ve always found reassuring about the fact that the world sees me one way, but they don’t know me. Not the way you do.”
There was a knock at their door, and Yuuri unfolded himself from his position at the low table to open it.
Makkachin gave a low, slightly reproachful woof, and Yuri, looking sleepy and grumpy, said, “He woke me up scratching at the door.”
“You want to come eat with us?” Yuuri asked.
“You’re not being all lovey and gross, are you? No, nevermind, of course you are. Do I need to order?”
“I think we’ve got enough,” Yuuri said. “I’m saving room for eating with my parents later.”
Victor handed Yuri a bowl of rice, and a pair of chopsticks, and Yuri started taking bits of vegetables and fish out of the bowls in the center of the table and adding them to his bowl.
“My feet were farther away when I woke up this morning,” Yuri said. “This growth spurt thing is for the birds.”
Yuuri loaded some omelette into Yuri’s bowl. “You need the protein. The growth spurt is going to happen, better let your body be healthy for it.”
“Don’t mother me,” Yuri grumbled, but he ate the omelette anyway.
“I was hungry the whole time I was growing,” Victor said. “I just grew slower than you are.”
“I hate you right now,” Yuri said.
Victor shrugged. “What else is new? Have some soup.”
Gloria knocked on their door as they were finishing. “We have some things for you watch,” she said when Yuri answered. “All of you. I’d come in and show you but my knees don’t handle the floor well. Mike has things set up in his room.”
Yuuri gave a little bow and said, “We can be out in a few minutes.”
Makkachin came over and she scratched his head absently. “No rush, but I think we can get out of your hair once you’ve approved the video.” She laughed at Yuuri’s look of relief. “I know it’s a lot, Yuuri-san. You’ve been a good sport. Oh, and it looks like the plane that brought you here will be able to take you back on the second of January. They’ll be at Saga airport, and we can send a van for you that morning, around 10 am.”
“Thank you,” Yuuri said. “It was very comfortable.”
The first thing they watched, sitting around a table in Mike’s room, was the You Can Play video. The second was a rough-cut of the Super Bowl ad.
“The music—can I get contact information for the copyright owners?” Mike asked. “I’ve got it roughed in, but we’ll need permission, and a license fee usually needs to be paid.”
Victor pulled up his phone and said, “I have it right here.”
Yuuri nodded. “I have her email.”
“The transitions will be smoother and the sound better when we’ve polished it, and of course there will be a voiceover, but this is the gist,” Mike said, cueing up the ad on his laptop. It started in a small window, surrounded by controls and graphs, but he brought it to full screen and hit play.
It began with the familiar piano, and Yuuri, seen from behind, hailing a cab in Tokyo at night, with a flash of the scenery outside a car window. Bare trees covered with white lights flicked by. The next shot, Yuuri dragging his suitcase through the airport, buying a ticket. Then a shot of Yuuri’s face next to a plane window, and a shot of the carpet of lights below the plane. A placeholder marker came up, and Mike said, “I’m hoping Victor will get some footage for us when you get to Russia.”
“Should it be on a better camera than my phone?” Victor asked.
Mike took a small camera out of his pocket and tossed it to Victor. “We were going to have you use that today while you’re practicing.” From another pocket, he pulled out a handful of strapping. “This is the head mount. You don’t have to use it in Russia, but you’ll want it while you’re skating. Oh, and it’s voice activated, but it doesn’t understand Russian. It does understand English and Japanese.”
The video switched to footage from the skate, Victor leading into a jump, and Yuuri coming into frame, “Stammi Vicino” playing.
“Hey, you look almost as shocked there as you did in St. Petersburg,” Yuuri said.
“I was remembering,” Victor said. “I knew what they wanted.”
A quick series of short clips of them skating together culminated in them in each other’s arms, laughing and crying, closing on a lingering shot of their hands, rings visible.
Yuuri’s breath caught. He looked at Victor, who swallowed and blinked and pressed his lips together. Victor said, “I’ll get you that video you want.”
“Great!” Mike’s fingers flew over the laptop keyboard and another video came up. This one had a heavy rock and roll backing track, and followed Yuri on a shopping trip which started with t-shirts, leather boots, and a leather jacket, and ended up with him at a pet store covered in kittens.
“Is that Yuuko’s girls handing him all those kittens?” Yuuri asked, but it was obvious a moment later, as the video showed Yuri laughing over sweets with the three girls and Yuuko.
Yuri flushed but didn’t say anything.
Yuuri’s eyes narrowed, and he asked Gloria, “Just how much of a fee did they demand?”
“I see you’ve met them,” Gloria said, laughing. “Not as much as Yuri’s. But yes, it was their idea, and the end result was so cute I didn’t mind in the least. It will be perfect for the Japanese market.”
“It’s adorable,” Victor said. “I’m surprised he let you.”
Yuri shrugged. “It seemed like a good way to make the girls happy. I had fun.”
Victor grabbed his chest and flopped onto the bed in feigned shock. “Yuuchan, make a note of this date. Yura has confessed to having a good time.”
“Otvyazhis',” Yuri snarled at Victor.
“Rude,” Victor said.
“I like Yura’s video,” Yuuri said to Victor, and then to Yuri, “You did a good job. And it looks like it was fun.”
“We’re doing another one with Yuri that is about the amount of work he puts in. We have permission to use some footage from Barcelona, but we don’t have that one roughed in yet,” Mike said.
“Well, ours is good, I think. It reminds me a lot of the whole mood of that day, and the emotions,” Yuuri said.
“Yes, I love it,” Victor said. “I assume you’re going to have a voiceover?”
“Probably,” Gloria said.
“Can I have a copy of it finished, but without that?” Victor asked.
“After the Super Bowl, but we may ask that you not repost it that way,” Gloria said.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Mike said. “It’s still good advertising without the voiceover, if it goes viral.”
“What about all the other footage you took?” Yuuri said. “You followed us around long enough.”
“Oh, I’ve got ideas for it. I’ll link you to the video before it goes public once I’ve put them together. You two may have out-cuted Yuri over there, in Tokyo especially.”
Yuuri blushed, and Victor laughed. “Careful,” Victor said. “You’ll start a cute race, and no one will be safe.”
They spent much of the day at the rink, working hard. They took turns wearing the camera. Yuri tried jumping with it on, and then fell, and then got up and tried again until he was landing doubles consistently.
“That’s actually great,” Mike called out from behind his steadicam. “Even the falls I can use.”
Gloria asked Yakov, “I get that puberty is messing with him, but is it normal for it to mess with a skater this much?”
Yakov said, “Yura is actually ahead of where I would expect him to be with how much he’s grown just this week. We will probably keep him at triples for Ostrava, if he can get back to doing those by next week and doesn’t have another spurt between now and then. But some skaters never recover. Some have to relearn jumping from scratch. You cannot underestimate how much of what they do comes from muscle memory, and their sense of balance, and it’s as if, oh, if you took a very good, precise motorcycle engine and tried to drive a car with it. His engine needs to adapt, and that takes time, and he has a big gap between what his brain remembers and what his body is really like right now. We think he’s got maybe another fifteen centimeters to grow. If he grows much more than that, his singles career is probably over. But his parents were not that tall. It might only be ten centimeters more, in which case he’ll be just fine.”
Gloria tapped something into her phone and then said, “Oh, 6 inches. Yes, I can see how that would be a big change.”
Jack Reynolds took Victor and Yuuri aside mid-afternoon to discuss logistics. “My people at Vague want to handle the fashion side of things, Mirror Mirror wants to write up the ceremony, and New Gawker wants to talk politics. We’ve talked with a wedding planning service in Denmark that is willing to comp their services for mentions, and they’ll be purchasing ad space in all three publications.”
“We had talked about using our free skate costumes,” Victor said.
“I mentioned that to Vague , and they have a couple of designers they think you should talk with about creating looks similar to them, but higher end.”
“That sounds time-consuming,” Victor said. “We have about three weeks.”
“Oh, the one we think is most likely to do it is here in Japan,” Reynolds said. “They’ll fly down here from Tokyo for a fitting and consultation. They’ll probably want to hire you for an ad campaign.”
Victor looked over at Yuuri, who looked daunted. “You said you wanted magazine pictures.”
Yuuri put his head down on the counter and sighed.
“In any event, they’ll be emailing you today about paperwork and logistics. If you keep me in the loop, I’ll have my people take care of the nitty gritty.”
“We have a lot of work to do between now and then,” Victor said. “The more your people and the planners can take on, the better.”
“If you’re flexible about the food and flowers and invitations, I think we have it under control,” Reynolds said. “I’m handing this off to my best administrative assistant when I get back to New York. I think you’ll find him to be extremely efficient.”
“So you’re doing articles in three magazines about them?” Yuuri asked.
“Not just them,” Reynolds said. “We’re doing a cross-publication campaign highlighting stories that bring civil rights issues into sharp contrast. There are other publications involved, but these three are the best suited, so to speak, to your current circumstances.” He looked over as Yuri skated off the ice, and said, “One of our teen magazines is interested in a photo shoot with Yuri P. as well. We’ll be sending a photographer to you a couple days prior to your wedding, with the goal of taking care of all of that.”
“You assume I’m going to their wedding,” Yuri said, putting on his skate guards.
“We wanted you to throw flowers,” Victor said.
“We did?” Yuuri asked.
“We’re inviting Otabek, too,” Victor said.
“We are?” Yuuri asked, and then said, “Oh, yes. Of course we are.”
“Otabek?” Gloria asked.
“His friend from Kazakhstan. He’ll be at Four Continents,” Yuuri said. “But not Europeans, and Yuri won’t be at Four Continents, so…”
“Oh, are you two a thing?” Gloria asked Yuri.
Yuri made a face. “I’m fifteen. If you hadn’t noticed, I think things are gross. He’s a friend, and I don’t get to see him very often. They’re not playing fair.”
Gloria laughed. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply…”
“I’ll come, but I’m not throwing flowers. And only if Otabek is there, so I won’t have to spend the whole time watching you two.”
Victor grinned. “Great!”
That evening, with the camera crew and the rest of the Americans gone, the four of them returned to Yu-topia.
“Yuuri,” Mari said, “we’re going to put you and Victor in Victor’s old room, and Yakov upstairs. Yuri can stay in your old room.”
“Because the bed is bigger,” Mari explained.
Yuuri turned pink, and Victor grinned. “Perfect, thank you.”
Dinner was pleasant, and Yuuri’s parents actually joined them at the table in the private dining room. They spoke careful, hesitant English, and Victor spoke even more faltering Japanese until Yakov growled at him. “English is hard enough. I am too old to pick up Japanese, too.”
Victor switched to English, then, and said, “I was just telling them about our apartment.”
Yuuri laughed. “That’s not exactly what you said, but it was a good try.”
Victor sighed. “It’s very nice. Two bedrooms. A nice big soaking tub, because I have discovered the joy of onsen. Not that it can compare. We will be less than ten minutes from the rink by car, even on the worst winter days, and it would take 20 minutes to walk to the rink. I think Yuuri and I can jog it easily in about 8 minutes.”
Yuuri’s mother asked, “Vicchan, I hear nothing about your family. Will they welcome Yuuri?”
Victor’s face went blank, and he looked down at his plate.
Yakov said, “He doesn’t like to talk about them. I am his family now, and your son is welcome in my home.”
Hiroko looked concerned. “I do not mean to pry. Family is important… to us. I am… curious, but it is not my business.”
Victor looked at Yakov, and said, «You can explain it better than I can.»
Yakov said, “Victor spent most of his childhood, from age 7, training intensely for figure skating. Much of that time he lived with me. Sponsorships and the government paid much of his expenses because of his talent. When he started earning money, his parents took the excess and didn’t do what they were supposed to do with it. Their actions cost him a world championship one year, and when he became an adult, they pressured him to give them all his earnings. They were doing drugs with it. I supported him in ending his connection with them.”
Toshiya looked at Victor and said, “I am… sorry that you do not have a strong family behind you. It is often the case in Japan that a son will bring his… Haigūsha?”
“Spouse,” Yuuri said.
Toshiya nodded and continued. “He will bring his spouse into his family. This is traditional, though usually it is a wife. We do not have traditions for this,” he waved between Yuuri and Victor. “But we will have to make them as we go. We decided long ago that whoever our Yuuri brought home, we would welcome. And it is easy to see that you make him happy, and bring him great success.”
Toshiya looked at Yuuri and said in Japanese, 「English makes my head hurt. Can you please tell him that while I would not wish on anyone to have a family treat them so, that I confess a certain relief to know that we will not lose you to his family, and that we would be more than happy to welcome him as our second son.」
Yuuri said, 「Truly?」
Yuuri blinked, and gave a deep nod. “Victor, my father expresses his regret that your family has treated you this way, and that he would not wish that upon you or anyone, but that he is on some levels relieved that he will not lose me to your family. And he welcomes you into our family, and will treat you as a son.”
Hiroko nodded. “I had friends when I was your age—their families could not accept them for loving the wrong people or choosing the wrong life. I would not do that to my child. You are welcome here.”
Victor looked completely stunned, his mouth slack, his eyes wide, his cheeks splotchy. He drew a shuddering breath and then let out a long sigh. His voice came out in a whisper, “Arigatō.” Yuuri took his hand, and squeezed.
«Is that why you’re my guardian? So my mother can’t steal from me?» Yuri asked Yakov.
«She never tried. When she did not stay involved, I went to her and asked for guardianship so there would be no temptation. I wished to keep you safer than I kept Victor.» Yakov gave Victor a look full of apology. Victor shook it off with a dismissive half-smile.
«You did not know, because I did not tell you,» Victor said to Yakov.
“Vitya?” Yuuri asked, lost in the flurry of Russian.
“Yuri was wondering if what happened with my parents was why Yakov has guardianship for him. The answer is, well, not exactly, but a little.”
“My mother doesn’t take an interest,” Yuri said. “I have not seen her in years. I don’t know my father. My grandfather loves me, but he is not well and cannot travel.”
“Victor treats you like a brother,” Hiroko said.
Victor laughed. “That’s true. The annoying little brother I never had.”
Yuri hesitated, then shrugged with a little nod.
“You have been fighting for Yuuri and for Victor,” Toshiya said. “Mari said.”
“They’re idiots, but they’re my idiots,” Yuri said. “And I need them. They make me better.”
“You have a place here,” Hiroko said. “Family, if you want it. Home, if you need it.”
Yuri gave her a precise and respectful bow. “Arigatō, Hiroko-san.”
She laughed. “You can call me Okaasan like Victor does.”
“Okaasan, then,” Yuri said.
Yuuri looked over at Victor, who was staring down into his food with a strange expression on his face. Yuuri wrapped an arm around Victor, hand resting on Victor’s upper arm, and squeezed. Victor sighed, looked first at Yuuri, and then at his parents, and said in a rough voice, “I’ll try to be worthy of such generosity.”
Hiroko snorted. “You make my son happy. That is enough.”
There was a quiet reverence between them that night, though the quiet was mostly because of the thinness of the walls. But Victor touched Yuuri everywhere, as if to make sure he was entirely there, and every part of their connection felt like being home.
The next few days spun by in a routine almost like the one they’d had before, but this time Yakov adopted the bicycle, and all three skaters ran to the rink each morning, worked a couple hours on the ice, then off, spending the afternoon in the ballet studio with Minako, who argued with Yakov with an easy familiarity, in almost fluent Russian. Yuuri did not ask them to switch back to English, and while he still found his tongue locking up if he tried more than a word, he thought he was starting to understand it better. Sometimes, if he looked confused, and Victor or Yuri noticed, they would translate a little for him. But mostly he listened, and danced, and between the universality of ballet French, Minako’s constant bickering about form with Yakov, and watching Yakov coach both Yuri and Victor in Russian, he quickly picked up the basics he’d need for learning.
That Thursday, a woman with a name that defeated all of them called to go over the legal necessities for marriage in Denmark, her English only faintly colored by a lilting Scandinavian accent. They faxed signatures and spent an hour preparing documents and taking care of the travel arrangements.
Friday, one of Jack Reynold's people called in their afternoon. Victor and Yuuri took the call on speaker in Minako’s office at the ballet rink. “I think have found a private rink in Copenhagen,” the administrative assistant said. “Indoors. They say they can accommodate you at 10 am or 9 pm on Thursday, January 19. That's the absolute soonest we can pull everything together, regardless. Will you be honeymooning in Copenhagen after?”
“10 am would be better,” Victor said. “And no, I think our honeymoon will have to wait, as I have a competition the next week. We will need a hotel that night, and will be traveling the next day to Ostrava.”
“I'll check with some of the other sponsors. Shall we book those for you when plans are finalized?”
“Please do,” Victor said.
“I’ll send you an email with the other arrangements,” he said. "My intern may be the one contacting you, she's got a knack for events and knows more about you guys than I do."
“Thank you.” Yuuri disconnected the call and looked at Victor.
“We have a date,” Victor said.
Yuuri nodded, spots of color appearing on his cheeks.
Victor caught him up in a rough hug, pressing a kiss into the hair on the side of Yuuri’s head. “I am going to marry you in three weeks.”
Yuuri laughed. “We better start getting tickets for people.”
“They’ll take care of it, they have the list,” Victor said.
Yuuri pulled back far enough to kiss Victor, and then said, “Three weeks. Can it be that easy?”
“If we end up married at the end of it, does the middle matter all that much?” Victor asked. “The people who can come, will come. We will say words, and they will give us a paper, and there are places in the world it means everything.”
“It will always mean something to me,” Yuuri said, resting his head on Victor’s shoulder. “No matter where we are.”
“We don’t have to stay in Russia,” Victor said. “You and I can go far, even without Yakov.”
“I know he’s important to you,” Yuuri said. “I’m willing to try.”
Friday afternoon, a designer from Tokyo met them at the ballet studio to take a dozen measurements each and rough-fit a sample.
Made some tweaks to this chapter for continuity, so if it seems different in the minor details, you're not losing your mind.
This thing thing was already large, with a lot of moving parts, but with the addition of the Transitions stories, it got an order of magnitude more complex. Fun times. Whether I change what I'm working on, or this part of the story really depends on which is better. :)
New Year’s Eve brought ritual and an elaborate “family-style” meal in the onsen. The new year rang in, literally, with every temple bell, and Victor gave Yuuri a gentle kiss for luck while they stood in the temple.
Yuuri dragged Victor out of bed early on New Year’s Day to watch the sunrise. The onsen was closed to the public and the afternoon meal was truly a family feast. Yuuri and Mari dressed their Russian guests in traditional clothing, which Victor enjoyed, Yuri complained about but secretly liked, and Yakov barely tolerated, but wore anyway.
Late that night, when everyone else was asleep, Victor and Yuuri went down to the outdoor pool together, trying not to laugh as they stripped naked, washed each other, and then slid down into the mineral bath. Victor sank into his favorite spot, and Yuuri walked down the steps.
“I can’t believe the first time we spoke, you were here, naked,” Yuuri said.
“I don’t know if I will ever live this down,” Victor said.
Yuuri grinned. “So what did you think was going to happen?”
“I have no idea,” Victor said. “I just knew I needed something and you… something inside just said, ‘Go to him.’ So I did. And the hot springs were something to do while I waited. I don’t think I thought it through very well.”
Yuuri stood in the water, and said, “Oh, I think you thought it through.”
Victor’s eyes widened. “Oh?”
“I think you remembered me dancing for you. With you. I think you thought I would see you naked, and if I was out here, I’d probably be naked, too.”
Victor’s gaze dropped to the water just in front of him, lashes nearly brushing his cheeks, and he blushed, a tiny smile on his lips.
“The last I’d seen you in person, you were barely wearing clothes. That image had been in my head for months. I could remember the way your body moved. The soft places. The places where the ice had carved you like marble. Maybe I hoped…” Victor looked up to find Yuuri standing closer, but still out of reach.
“I think you hoped that I would fling myself at you again,” Yuuri said. “Come to you in the water, naked, smiling, begging you to dance with me, to teach me.”
Victor shrugged a sheepish half-shrug, and a wry grin pulled at his face. “And I flung myself at you, instead.”
“I think,” Yuuri said, stepping closer, until he was almost touching Victor, completely naked, “That you hoped I’d wrap myself around you like a dance pole, and make you forget completely about ice skating.”
Victor looked up at Yuuri, expression raw and open.
Yuuri placed one foot to either side of Victor’s legs and sank down into the water, letting himself drift, barely touching anywhere, almost touching everywhere, only separated by water. Victor closed his arms around Yuuri’s waist, and pulled him in until they were pressed together.
“I wanted to see you skate perfectly,” Victor said. “I wanted,” and here he dropped a kiss on Yuuri’s shoulder, “to understand how you’d captivated and surprised me so completely.” His hips rocked up and Yuuri gasped at the pressure, leaning his cheek on Victor’s shoulder.
“You saw potential, and you wanted to shape me,” Yuuri said.
“I saw passion, and I wanted to feel it,” Victor said. “And then I met you, and started to understand, and I only wanted to see you thrive. I wanted you to have the things you wanted. I wanted to see joy on your face.”
Yuuri sat up, resting on Victor’s thighs, feet tucked under Victor’s legs. He smiled, a real, radiant grin. “Sometimes I’m a slow learner.”
Victor snorted. “I kicked myself for months for reading things so badly, for messing things up. For thinking you wanted me.”
Yuuri laughed. “Oh, I wanted you. I just didn’t think I could have you. The very idea was absurd. That you would want me.”
“Even with me throwing myself at you? Would it have been better or worse if you’d remembered the banquet?” Victor asked.
“Worse. So much worse,” Yuuri said. “I’d have thought you were making fun of me. That Yurio was making a prank. I don’t think I could have looked at you, let alone spoken to you.”
“I think it’s going to be my life work, convincing you that you are worth my time, that I am here with you because you amazed me. Amaze me still. That even when you don’t win you can find such passion in just existing.”
“So did it comfort you to realize you hadn’t read things so wrong?” Yuuri asked.
“I have nearly every desire of my heart,” Victor said. “Yes. You have shown me perfection. You have opened to me and opened me. You have agreed to compete with me, and to wed me. Almost every single thing I’ve asked of you, you’ve given me more.”
“Except the gold medal,” Yuuri said.
“That will come in time, I think,” Victor said. “Have you not seen that you are stronger than I am now, Yuuchan?” Yuuri pulled back, eyes wide. Victor continued. “Yurio will not stabilize in time to give his best performance at Worlds. If you fall, maybe I will catch you. Possibly on the short program, probably not on the free skate. And I don’t want to watch you fall, and I don’t want to win because of mistakes. You have been training, and training well, for nine months. It will be almost a year of continuous training for you, come Worlds. It will be three months for me. If I am to catch you, to beat your records, it will be at the Olympics. Yura might manage it by then, too, though I think he will not hit his perfection again until he is closer to 20, and then he will outmatch both of us and do things we can only dream of now. Tell me you understand this, that you know that you are strong enough to win.”
Yuuri opened his mouth, started to shake his head, then closed his eyes and nodded. “I’m stronger than I’ve ever been,” he said. “And no one expects me to actually win, except you. You’re the only one who ever seems to see me clearly. I always tried to hide.”
“Your biggest rival at Worlds, it’s you,” Victor said. “And even there, I think we have found our way through that battle.”
Yuuri let himself relax completely against Victor, supported by Victor’s arms, and the water. “It’s not a battle. I just have to tell the story. You already caught me. I don’t need to be afraid of falling.”
“This, I think,” Victor said.
“Hmm?” Yuuri murmured against Victor’s neck.
“This is what I hoped for. My arms full of Yuuchan, trusting me completely. I don’t even know if I knew it, but this is what I wanted.”
“I knew what I wanted,” Yuuri said. “I just had no idea it could happen, that it could feel like this.”
They stayed another ten minutes, then eased out of the water, yawning in the crisp, cool late evening air.
They rinsed, and dried off, and slipped into their yukata. Yuuri stopped at the doorway, looking back. “You know, the next time we’re here, we’ll be married.”
Victor grinned, and said, “I know! Delightful!”
“When I left for Detroit, I didn’t make it back for five years,” Yuuri said.
“Not even after Nationals?” Victor asked.
Yuuri shook his head and went inside to put on a robe. Victor followed.
“It was expensive, and I couldn’t afford the time or the extra flight.”
“That’s not a problem, now,” Victor said. “We should come back after Worlds, for a while.”
They made their way upstairs, to the room Yuuri would always think of as Victor’s. Makkachin was asleep on the bed, in the middle.
Yuuri frowned, and Victor grinned. “You had something in mind that didn’t involve a dog on the mattress?”
“I love your dog, but I’m not sure I can… in front of him,” Yuuri said.
“He’s not facing the sofa,” Victor said, looking thoughtfully at the chaise in the corner.
Yuuri grabbed the travel bag of supplies, and wrapped his other hand around Victor’s wrist. “Come on,” he said.
Victor let Yuuri pull him, a smile growing on his face, as they went back downstairs.
Yuuri let go of Victor’s wrist to grab a couple of towels on the way into the locker room. He laid the towels down to cover the plush red bench, dropped the travel pack on one corner, slid the door shut, and turned to Victor.
“What do you desire, Yuuchan?” Victor asked, standing near the door in his yukata. His voice was seductive but his face was open, vulnerable, and Yuuri grinned.
“I want to dance with you,” Yuuri said, holding out his hands.
Victor blinked, and then grinned back. “I can definitely do that.” He stepped forward into Yuuri’s arms, smiling wider as Yuuri’s hand found the small of his back, other hand coming up to meet Victor’s hand. “There’s not much room. I’ll let you lead.”
“I don’t need much room,” Yuuri said, pulling Victor close until their bodies touched from knee to chest. Yuuri walked them back a few slow steps, and then with a sparkle in his eye he turned his hand over and lifted Victor’s arm to spin him a half turn.
“I like this dance,” Victor whispered, as Yuuri’s lips found his shoulder and his free hand slid inside Victor’s yukata, their bodies swaying to an inaudible rhythm. Victor brought his hand up and reached back to caress Yuuri’s hair.
“I want to strip you bare,” Yuuri said, voice hushed as he brought both hands to the obi at Victor’s waist.
“Please,” Victor said, the word barely voiced, and almost as soon as he the word left his mouth, the garment fell open.
Yuuri’s hands danced lightly over Victor’s skin, across tiny hairs, over his nipples, up to his shoulders to push the robe off and down. Yuuri’s lips were still finding places to make Victor shiver, light kisses and tiny nibbles on Victor’s neck and ears, while Yuuri draped Victor’s robe over the edge of a hamper.
Yuuri found Victor’s hand with one hand, his belly with the other, and spun him again, bare in his arms. Victor reached between them for Yuuri’s obi.
Yuuri stroked over the skin of Victor’s ass, and up, feather-light, while Victor fumbled at the knot. “I’m afraid this isn’t my best dance,” Victor said.
Yuuri caught Victor’s hands, stilling them, and then deftly opened the knot. “You just have to know where to pull,” Yuuri said, as Victor pushed the yukata off of Yuuri’s shoulders.
“I know where you like me to pull,” Victor said.
Yuuri snorted, and then shook his head, and then burst out laughing, trying to keep it quiet, but finding it difficult to breathe.
Victor frowned, and then got concerned as Yuuri turned and put his forehead on the rack of lockers, giggling helplessly.
“Am I that bad at this?” Victor asked.
“Oh god, oh no, you’re not,” Yuuri said. “It was just that I was trying to be so smooth, and then you said that, and then I wondered if I was really as smooth as I thought, and then it just…”
Victor slid the yukata the rest of the way off of Yuuri’s arms, and draped it over his own. “Maybe the absurdity of what we do with our bodies sometimes needs laughter.”
“I’m sorry,” Yuuri said. “It’s just…”
“Shhh,” Victor said. “We were going to dance.” He ran his hands down Yuuri’s body, to his thighs, and grazed his teeth lightly down Yuuri’s neck. “You were seducing me. Very smoothly, I might add.”
“I’ve had a lot of practice,” Yuuri murmured, reaching back blindly to find Victor’s ass with his hands.
“And what do you want tonight?” Victor asked.
Yuuri turned in Victor’s arms, reached up and pulled Victor close until his lips were next to Victor’s ear. His words were more breath than voice, and the air against the fine hairs on victor’s earlobe made him shiver. “I want to be inside of you,” Yuuri said. “I want to feel you around me.”
Victor grinned, and whispered in Yuuri’s ear, “I would love that. How do you want me?”
“The bench is small,” Yuuri said.
Victor’s chuckle thrummed against Yuuri’s neck. “I think it’s just the right size.”
Yuuri found Victor’s hand, and led him in a half turn. “I like the way you think,” he said, and then let go.
Victor glanced back at him, and then lay down on the towels that covered the sturdy red bench, on his stomach. “Something like this, Yuuchan?” he said, knees spread a little so that his weight could rest on the bench.
Yuuri swallowed and then said, “Um. Yes. That’ll… that will work.”
Victor grinned, and handed back the little bag.
“Vitya, do you have any idea what you look like right now?” Yuuri said as he opened the bag and pulled out what he needed.
“I look like I’m yours,” Victor said, laying his cheek against the towel and waiting.
Yuuri threw a folded towel down behind Victor and knelt on it, reaching down to run a finger from the back of Victor’s knee, slowly, up the back of his thigh, all the way around and up to the back of Victor’s neck. “You look like art. Like a sculpture. Perfect.”
“You wouldn’t want to fuck a sculpture, Yuuchan,” Victor said.
“You’re much softer than a sculpture,” Yuuri said, stroking his hand back down to rest on Victor’s ass. He squeezed lube out and Victor shivered. “And much warmer,” he said, easing a fingertip inside.
“I want you, Yuuri,” Victor said, still completely relaxed.
“I know,” Yuuri said.
With Victor so relaxed, it didn’t take long for Yuuri to ease him open, and then slide slowly, slowly inside. Once, they’d rushed this part, and it had not gone well, but they had found their way to enough experience with each other to know when to move, and when not to. Usually Yuuri waited for Victor to ask, but he could feel, now, the familiar internal yielding that let him bury himself entirely and start to move.
“Yes, just like that,” Victor said, voice still hushed, as Yuuri set a slow, deep pace.
Yuuri ran his hands along Victor’s shoulders. “I miss seeing your face while I do this,” he said. “But I like how deep I can get, and how freely I can move.” He punctuated his words with a grinding swivel. Victor grabbed the legs of the bench and pushed back against Yuuri.
Yuuri took advantage of the space this created, and reached under Victor to grasp him with a slick hand.
“Not too fast,” Victor said. “I’m not ready to be done.”
Yuuri chuckled, and kept his pace steady, the friction and slide building slowly into something more.
Victor made a quiet, low groan.
“This okay?” Yuuri asked.
Victor nodded. “It’s good. More than good…” The last word stretched into another groan as Victor pushed back against Yuuri. “A little faster…” his breath caught. “Please.”
Yuuri’s answer was a abrupt “Hai,” that made Victor chuckle, and then gasp as the pace increased. Then Yuuri stopped for a moment, deep, and said, “Up here.”
It was the hand tugging at Victor’s shoulder that made it clear what Yuuri was after, and Victor eased himself up until Yuuri could pull him the rest of the way with his free arm wrapped around Victor’s chest.
Yuuri started to move again, one hand on Victor’s cock and the other teasing at a nipple. It was when his mouth found Victor’s neck that Victor lost control and came. Yuuri did not break his rhythm, though his hands stilled, until he had to muffle a cry against Victor’s shoulder as his climax finally overtook him.
Yuuri sank back onto his heels, bringing Victor with him. Victor leaned back against him and let Yuuri hold him up.
“You are so strong,” Victor said. “You should be throwing me.”
Yuuri’s quiet laugh vibrated through both of them. “Too tired to throw you right now. Maybe, hmmm, Tuesday.” He reached down to ease himself out. “Besides, I have to clean up in here now.
Victor let his head loll against Yuuri’s shoulder and whined, “But that means I have to get up.”
“Vitya, I’m not carrying you back up to the room,” Yuuri said.
“But I’m all floppy,” Victor said, lifting up an arm and letting it drop. “I’m a fish now.”
“Vitya,” Yuuri said. “It’s not my fault your dog was sleeping in the bed.”
“Ooo, we get dog cuddles, don’t we?” Victor said.
“I’m going to let go now,” Yuuri said, “You probably don’t want to lie down on this floor. Who knows what people have done in here?”
Victor sat up a little. “Probably nothing worse than what we just did. And your parents clean it fanatically.”
“I don’t know,” Yuuri said. “Have you ever seen udon puke?’
“Eeuuugh,” Victor said. “Mood killer. I’m getting up. And showering. Oh, hey, you planned that, didn’t you?”
Yuuri began collecting their things and cleaning the space. “It did seem like it would be convenient.”
They rinsed off in the low shower around the corner, dried, and then slipped their yukata back on. Yuuri made sure the room was ready for the next day’s business while Victor leaned wearily against a wall. The towels went into the laundry room, and Yuuri tucked the condom in the outdoor trash while Victor watched from the doorway.
“I want to learn how to take care of you,” Victor said softly, as they climbed the stairs, “the way you take care of me.”
Yuuri blushed and then said, “I think that will happen when we’re in your country, and I have to learn to do things your way. And I like taking care of you.”
When they pulled back the covers in the bedroom a minute later, Makkachin stood up, waited for them to snuggle, and then laid down behind Victor, with his head under Yuuri’s hand.
“I’m the filling,” Victor said sleepily. “It’s a Victor sandwich.”
“Go to sleep, Vitya,” Yuuri said, tucking his cheek against Victor’s shoulder.
Chapter 1 of Transition: Puberty is about Yurio's experience of the time between Russian Nationals and getting on the plane in Chapter 13 of this story. You may want to read it now, or you can wait if you want to read that story as one unit. Link provided for your convenience if you came back to read this to catch up.
Chapter 12 only half posted at first. It's fixed now, so you might want to start there if you already read the half-chapter that posted.
In the morning, a very nice shuttle van showed up with Minako already sitting in the back with three suitcases. Yuuri’s parents insisted on loading several boxes’ worth of preserved and canned foods into the van on the grounds that Yuuri wasn’t going to have to pay for the shipping or checked baggage.
When Yuri saw, he insisted that they stop at a store so he could pick up three cases of sweets, which he got Yuuri to pay for.
“He has his own money now,” Victor said. “Let him buy his own Pocky.”
“It’s fine,” Yuuri said. They picked up their costumes from the dry cleaner a few minutes later, and then settled in for the hour-long drive to Saga airport.
They were well on the way to Saga when Yuuri got a notification on his phone. He looked, and told Victor, “Simon just told me that the You Can Play videos are going live soon. They’re doing two. He used some of the bus footage in the second one, to do a longer version.”
Victor shrugged. “I’m surprised he didn’t put it out last week.”
“He says it’s better this way. He sent me a link.”
Yuuri loaded the video, and held it up for Victor to watch. There was a rustle behind him, and Yuri’s face appeared over his shoulder. “I want to see.”
The video began with them practicing a throw, and laughing, and then cut to each of them landing a quad while the other watched. Another cut, and they both skated up to the rail.
Victor, looking at the camera, said, “I’m Victor Nikiforov, and I’ve won five world championships in figure skating.”
Yuuri looked from Victor to the camera and said, “I’m Yuuri Katsuki, and I just won the Japanese national championship, and took silver in the Grand Prix final.”
Victor wrapped an arm around Yuuri as they both said, “We’re getting married in January!”
Then Yuuri added, “And then we’re going to compete against each other at Worlds.”
Someone offscreen asked, “Who’s going to win?”
“He will,” they each said, pointing at the other, and then laughing.
Then Victor looked at the screen and said, “Loving Yuuri has helped me improve my skating.”
“We skate about love all the time, and the better we do it, the higher we score,” Yuuri said. “And I didn’t really understand love at all until Victor. ‘Aisu’ is how we say the English word ‘Ice,’ but in Japanese, ‘Ai’ means ‘Love.’ Loving Victor makes me strong on the ice.”
“If you can skate, you can skate,” Victor added. “There’s no place for hate on the aisu…”
The video ended with them skating away, hand in hand, smiling at each other.
“That’s a terrible pun,” Yuri said.
“I like it,” Minako said.
“Shall I tell him to go ahead and post it?” Yuuri asked.
“Wait until after we clear customs,” Yakov said, his voice gruff. “No reason to give them an incentive to try to keep Yuuri out.”
“So 18 hours?” Yuuri asked.
“We’ll be on the plane for ten or so, that should be enough,” Victor said.
Yuuri’s thumbs flew as he messaged Simon.
“You said two?” Yuri asked.
The second video started in Hasetsu, with Yuri, holding a bunch of shopping bags in one hand and feeding a seagull with another. He looked at the camera, and said, “I’m Yuri Plisetsky, and I broke the men’s figure skating world record for the short program when I won the Grand Prix of Figure Skating in 2016.”
Offscreen, Simon asked, “You often share the ice with other figure skaters, some of whom are out as gay. How do you feel about that?”
Yuri rolled his eyes. “It doesn’t matter to me. They’re the best skaters in the world, and they help me get better.”
“So you don’t care?”
“I mean, it’s gross when anyone gets all kissy-kissy around me, but it’s not grosser just because they’re guys,” Yuri said. “I’ve seen much worse from the pairs skaters. And some of the other singles skaters. I just want to skate, and these two make me skate better. They don’t have to, but they do it anyway, and they’re making the sport grow, being willing to work with people. It’s an honor that they are willing to risk me beating them to help me.”
“You help them, too, if I understand correctly,” Simon said.
Yuri laughed. “Well, there’s not so much anyone can do to help Victor skate better, but yeah, I helped teach other-Yuuri to land one of his jumps. It wasn’t enough for him to beat me when it counted.”
“Cheeky,” Yuuri muttered, watching.
“So if someone can skate?”
“They can skate,” Yuri said. “It would be boring without them. And someday I’m going to beat both of them.”
The video cut to a clip of Yuuri and Victor doing side-by-side quads and then moving quickly into a pairs spin, and then transitioned with a closeup of a toepick grabbing the ice for a jump, to the footage from the bus, which had been edited down.
On screen, the view was of the drive from Fukuoka airport to Hasestu. Offscreen, Simon said, “Yuuri Katsuki and Victor Nikiforov, two of the top male figure skaters in the world, announced their engagement recently. They’ll be getting married in January, and skating against each other at the World Championship in March. You may have heard about their dramatic exhibition skates at both the Japanese and Russian national championships. Each of them won their respective competitions, and then Yuuri surprised Victor by flying to Russia in time to skate with him. They flew back to Japan together, and we talked on the road back to Yuuri’s hometown.”
The scene changed, to show Simon sitting across from where Victor was cozy against Yuuri’s side. Simon was saying, “...is it going to be challenging skating against your husband?”
The clip shifted to Victor saying, “Oh, I hope so! He and Yuri Plisetsky both beat my world records at the Grand Prix Final, so I have to come back and see if I can reclaim my glory.”
“What he’s not telling you is that he choreographed both of the programs that beat him,” Yuuri said. “So he’s actually not all that mad. I can’t wait to skate against him. It’s almost as fun as skating with him. And I really enjoy winning.”
There was another edit, and it cut to Victor laughing and saying, “I don’t think any of the three of us knows where the limit is right now, or who is going to get there first. I’m just glad to have people to skate against who can match me.”
“No one’s going to be trying to give the other the win?” Simon asked. The tiny edit was almost invisible.
“I want Yuuri to win, of course,” Victor said. “But I also want to do my best and I wouldn’t insult him by holding back.”
“Victor’s one of the best skaters who has ever lived,” Yuuri said. “No matter what I do, I don’t pretend that I’m going to catch his level of perfection. He’s been at or near the top of men’s figure skating for over a decade. I just started reaching my potential, and I have maybe five more seasons left, if everything goes perfectly…”
There was a brief cut, and then Yuuri continuing, “Yuri beat me at the Grand Prix Final because he skated so much better than I did in the short program. I don’t wish that he’d fallen just so that I could have won—I want to get the world record if I can. I think any skater would say the same. But I want to win because I do it perfectly, and better than everyone else, not because I’m the one who failed the least.”
An offscreen voice said, “Do you think you can beat Victor?”
Yuuri ducked his head and smiled, and Victor said, “Yes. If we went head to head today, he would. In three months, when my conditioning is back at peak? Who knows? And we can’t count out Russian Yuri.”
“Damn right,” came Yuri’s voice from offscreen.
“Victor is the best,” Yuuri said, his hand tightening on Victor’s arm. “If I ever beat him, it will be because of what he’s taught me about skating, and love, and what he’s taught me about myself.”
“I can’t lose,” Victor said, laughing as the video ended with the You Can Play logo.
“Oh! I like that!” Victor said.
Minako laughed. “You’re really going to turn some people upside down with that one.”
“There will be many who don’t understand helping your opponent to improve,” Yakov said.
“If he makes my skating better while I do it, why not?” Victor said. “I’ve won everything not helping anyone. And for a long time no one came close to me and I stopped caring. I step down and help someone and the whole sport improves, and it’s interesting again. I don’t know why that would be hard to understand.”
“Vitya,” Yuuri said, amused, “I’m not sure everyone can relate to being the best in the world for so long that you get bored with it.”
Yuri snorted. “Leave it to Victor to assume that is the relatable part.”
“I love figure skating,” Victor said. “It’s a beautiful thing that pushes the limits of the human body. If I love it, wouldn’t I want others to do it well? I can’t watch myself skate in real time.”
“In other words, it’s no fun being the only perfect one?” Yuri said, rolling his eyes.
“I get it,” Minako said. “Ballet is competitive, but we are always pushing each other to be better, because the better more of us are, the more interesting things we do, the more people watch, and that’s good for all of us.”
“So I should tell Simon to go ahead, once we land?” Yuuri asked.
Yuri nodded, and Victor said, “Yes, please.”
Yuuri sent the message and then turned to look at Yuri. “You said nice things about us, Yura.”
“Don’t make me regret it, Yuuri-chan,” Yuri said, trying to scowl and failing when Yuuri laughed at the diminutive.
Victor turned and said, “Shouldn’t that be senpai?”
“If he was being polite,” Yuuri said. “It’s strange to hear -chan from him, but he’s being a nicer kitten than usual, so I’ll let him.”
Yakov looked curious, and said, “You called me Yakov-san?”
“I should have said ‘Yakov-sensei’, because you’re a coach, but Victor was tickling me,” Yuuri said.
“Sensei,” Yakov said, thoughtfully.
“I can call you sensei,” Yuuri said, “But I’m afraid Victor will insist I do that to him, and his head will explode if it gets any larger.”
Victor looked down and said, “I like it when you call me Vitya.”
Yuuri laughed and took Victor’s hand, squeezing it fondly. “If you prefer sensei, you are certainly deserving of the honor,” he said to Yakov.
“Now he’s going to make the rest of us do that too,” Yuri muttered.
“It would be good for you to show your coach respect,” Yuuri said. “He helped you win.”
“I think Yakov should coach you, Yuuchan,” Victor said suddenly.
Yuuri blinked. “You’re my coach, Victor.”
“We can all help each other,” Victor said. “But you deserve to have what Yakov can teach you. It’s no accident that Yuri and I are as good as we are.”
“Celestino has helped some amazing skaters,” Yuuri said, “but his style wasn’t a good fit for me. Yakov is amazing, but I don’t know if his style would help or hurt at this point. I need people to be confident in me more than I need yelling, and I need to know what I’m doing wrong, but in ways that help me do it right, rather than ways that make me afraid of doing it again. Part of the reason you succeeded with me was that you were not… traditional. The times you succeeded the least were when you were trying to imitate what you knew a coach ‘should’ do.”
“He’s right,” Yakov said. “But he’s also wrong. Yuuri-san, I think you might have something to teach an old man. And I might have something to teach you. I can’t promise not to fall back on how I’ve always done things. I’m too old to change so quickly. But Victor is right. You have made both of my top skaters better, and I need to understand why, and I think it would be interesting to see what you do with… a better fit. Also, it appears I must teach Victor more than just how to improve his own program, if he’s determined to teach the rest of the world to be better for his amusement. So I will help Victor coach you, if you are willing. And both of you will help with Yuri, since he has made it clear that he considers both of you his teachers.”
“It would be an honor,” Yuuri said. “On both counts.”
Yakov turned to Minako. “Do you know how long you’re staying?”
She shrugged. “Until those two are married, at least. After that? I have a 90-day visa and a surprising amount of money.”
“Lilia might want your help,” Yakov said. “You’ve done good things with Yuuri-san.”
“Lilia doesn’t need my help,” Minako said with a laugh.
“She likes focusing on just a few skaters,” Yakov said. “And it is good for the skaters to get different perspectives.”
“We should let Yuuri teach pole dancing,” Victor muttered.
Yuuri turned bright red.
“If that is what helps him stay strong all the way through his routine,” Yakov said, “so be it.”
Minako said, “Huh?”
Yuri sighed, flipped through to his photo folder, and handed his phone to Minako before Yuuri figured out what was happening.
Minako crowed. “Yuuri-chan, you’ve been holding out on me.”
“What? YURIO!!!” Yuuri made a futile reach back across the seats in Minako’s direction. “It was a college class!”
She held up a picture of him holding Chris on the pole. “That doesn’t look like college to me.”
“I was really drunk,” Yuuri said, covering his face with his hands. “I don’t even remember doing it.”
“I bet Chris remembers,” Minako said, laughing. “Reminds me of my college days, actually.”
They all stared at her.
“Give me my phone back,” Yuri said. “I don’t want to know.”
She laughed, and handed it back. “I wish I’d thought of that five years ago. It really is excellent strength and endurance training.”
“I am never going to live that banquet down,” Yuuri said into his hands. “Never ever.”
“No, but you got me out of it,” Victor said. “So that’s something.”
“It’s everything,” Yuuri said. “But it’s still embarrassing.”
The plane was waiting for them out on the tarmac. An airport staffer checked their various IDs and credentials with minimal fuss, and they boarded a few minutes after arriving at the airport.
Ivo and Katya, who had been their stewards on the flight to Japan, were not the only people to greet them as they boarded. Once they were seated, Ivo introduced the co-pilot, Stefan, a tall, soft man with narrow shoulders and a round, bearded face.
Stefan smiled, and offered a hand to each of them, saying in heavily accented English, “I am so pleased to meet you. Ivo and I watched your skates. My sister is a big fan of all three of you, and I can see why.”
“You are from Russia?” Yakov asked.
“We are based there now,” Stefan said. “My mother is Ukrainian, and I grew up there. But my father is Russian. But I know that Yuuri and…” Ivo whispered something in Stefan’s ear. “…Minako are probably more comfortable in English, yes?”
“If it is no imposition,” Stefan said, “my sister, Yuliya, is in the crew compartment, and would very much like to meet you.”
Victor and Yuuri glanced at each other, and Victor made a tiny affirmative shrug. “It would be fine,” Yuuri said. “How old is your sister?”
“Fourteen,” Stefan said. “I will send her back, and then we will take off.”
Makkachin, long used to travel in crates, seemed thrilled by the plane’s interior, sniffing everything in sight and then curling up in one of the front seats.
Yakov took the seat closest to the door, Minako the seat across the aisle from him, and the skaters took three of the four seats around the conference table. As they were buckling in, a girl with long, ashy brown hair and wide eyes came up to the table.
“You must be Yuliya,” Victor said, with a well-practiced smile. “Have a seat next to Yuri, if you like.”
“I don’t want to impose,” Yuliya said in a smooth British accent. “I just, I really wanted to meet you all.”
“Sit,” Victor said with a smile. “We shall get to know you, no?”
She looked hesitantly at Yuri, who shrugged, and then sat down.
“Stefan said you are a fan? Do you skate?” Victor asked.
She shook her head. “I have horrible ankles, but I love watching. It looks like flying. I remember seeing you, Victor, when I was very young. I made Papa take me to all the major events, for years.”
“The events in Russia?” Yuuri asked.
“All over,” she said. “Papa was traveling all the time, and I made him plan business trips around skating events.”
“She did,” Katya said, checking that the cabin was secure. “My first flight with the family, she sweet-talked her father into taking her to see the Olympics in Vancouver.”
“Maybe I’m not your biggest fan,” Yuuri said to Victor, teasing. “I didn’t even get to see those in person.”
“Oh, I adore all of you,” Yuliya said. “I love watching pairs and the women skating, too. It’s just that Victor has been at so many of the major events for years, and skated so beautifully that one can’t help being a fan.”
“True,” Yuuri said. “Wait, your father… who is he?”
“Papa?” She looked momentarily uncomfortable. “He is… very busy in international business.”
“Your father owns the plane?” Yuri asked.
She nodded. “Stefan and I don’t usually stay in Russia, it isn’t safe for us to be there for too long. Stefan stays with the plane, I go to school in London, we were visiting my grandmother in Saint Petersburg over winter hols.”
“Just in time for Nationals?” Victor asked.
“I was so thrilled you came back for them!” She grinned widely. “I cried when they said you retired. And I haven’t been able to get to all the events in a couple of years, school has been too busy. I always watch, though.”
“You weren’t the only one,” Yuri muttered, and Victor stared at him.
“Really?” Victor asked.
“Shut up,” Yuri said.
“Oh, but your performance at the Grand Prix was so beautiful,” Yuliya said to Yuri. “What happened at Nationals?”
Yuri put his head down on the table, and she immediately stammered, “Oh, I’m sorry, that was rude.”
“He’s having a growth spurt,” Yuuri said. “It messes with your balance. It will be fine when he settles down.”
“I was so excited to see you two skate together,” she said to Yuuri. “Stefan was put out that he missed seeing it in person. I told him it was his fault for skipping out on the Exhibition.”
As she spoke, the plane started moving out onto the airport’s only runway. “Oh, good, we’re taking off soon,” she said. “This is my favorite part.”
“I’m surprised you didn’t introduce yourself that day,” Victor said. “Since we ended up on your father’s plane a few hours later.”
She blushed. “I don’t like to intrude. Everyone wants something from you, all the time, when you’re rich or famous. And I knew it was your birthday, and you were filming that commercial. And when I saw what was happening online…”
“How did we end up on your father’s plane?” Yuri asked.
“Papa knows so many people,” she said. “And the plane runs charters when the family isn’t using it, and we were the only one in place when the request came in, and when Stefan heard what you’d done, he asked Papa if he could help get you out. He said that they needed a cooling off period, and you’d be safer if that happened with you out of the country. When Versa offered to pay, it became simple. My grandmother would not let me go that trip.”
“So how are you here, now?” Yuuri asked.
“Stefan came back for us and took our parents back to London with Grandmother, and then I came along for a couple of charter runs, and we ended up back in Japan for the New Year. It’s lovely here. We’ll drop you off in St. Petersburg and then I’ll go back to school in London in a few days. My friends are going to be so jealous.”
“Hand me your phone,” Victor said. “I’ll get a picture of you and Yuri.”
She grinned, and handed the phone over. The case had Olympic rings on it, and Victor said, “Smile, Yura.”
Yuri managed half a smile that didn’t actually manage to get to his eyes.
“Oh, you can do better,” Victor said. “Just think, ‘Pirozhki.’”
“Think about the triplets with kittens,” Yuuri suggested, and Yuri cracked a smile in spite of himself.
“You can get pictures with us once the plane is at cruising altitude,” Victor said, turning off the phone as the engine noise ramped up. Makkachin came and planted himself under Victor’s legs.
Once the plane leveled out and Katya got up to offer them drinks, Victor insisted on Yuliya getting her selfie with the two of them, and she excused herself.
Victor said, “You know you can stay back here if you want, we don’t mind.”
She shook her head. “You all must get mobbed everywhere you go, and I don’t want to add to that. I’m not famous, but people get weird when they find out my father is rich, and I don’t want to be one of those fans. But I might send Stefan back. You made his whole month, I think, with the two of you skating the way you did. Ivo, too.”
“We’d be happy to say hello,” Victor said, and Yuuri smiled.
“Tell me he just wants to meet those two?” Yuri asked.
She laughed. “Yes, it’s because they’re together. You’re off the hook.”
At that, Yuri gave her a genuine grin. “I don’t suppose you like cats,” he said.
“My uncle has tigers,” Yuliya said. “Mama doesn’t like it, but he lets me pet them. Do you want to see pictures? I can get my laptop from the crew compartment.”
“Is the crew compartment at the front?” Yuri asked.
“Can I just go there?” Yuri asked, sounding almost eager.
She looked up at Katya, and said, “Katerina, can Yuri be in the crew compartment to look at cat pictures?”
Katya raised an eyebrow and said, “No funny business.”
Yuri and Yuliya both shuddered reflexively. “I’m trying to get away from the gross stuff,” Yuri said, glancing back at Yuuri and Victor, who had already shifted to sitting as close together as the seats would allow.
“I’m 14,” Yuliya said. “Ew.”
“Fine, go,” Katya said, waving them off. “But you get your own drinks up there.”
“I know where they are,” Yuliya said with a grin. “Come on, Yuri.”
When the door closed behind the two teens, Victor said to Katya, “Do you always mother her?”
“When she’s on the plane, I’m her bodyguard and, oh, she’s too old for a nanny, but she sometimes calls me her ‘loco parentis.’ Her brother is great, but he’s her brother, and she doesn't listen to him the way she does me. But she’s a good kid, and I think it’s good for her to have people around her who aren’t intimidated by her father’s wealth.”
“I noticed she didn’t tell us his name?” Yuuri said.
“He is a wealthy and powerful man, and in Russia that means that his family is at risk. People figure it out from her family name if they hear it, or from the news. His support of his son has been making him almost as many enemies as his money does. She is not in the habit of trading on her family name, because it has been impressed upon her that to do so could cause harm to her or to her family.”
“She uses a patronymic at school then?” Victor asked.
“Matronymic, actually,” Katya said.
“Wise,” Victor said.
The door opened, and Stefan walked through. “I see Yulinka made a conquest,” he said to Katya.
“I think she managed to be the least irritating person in the room where Yuri was concerned. Also, he likes cats.”
He snorted, and turned to Victor and Yuuri. “May I join you for a few minutes?”
Victor gestured at the seat across the table from them.
Stefan sat down, and said, “It was a brave thing you did.”
Yuuri and Victor looked at each other, and Yuuri said, “I’m not sure I grasped quite how much trouble it would cause before I did it.”
“Would you have done it anyway if you’d known?” Stefan asked.
Victor laughed. “He wouldn’t have surprised me and he would have been very nervous, but I am glad he did it. It’s not like we’ve been hiding.”
“You haven’t, but the Russian media wasn’t reporting much on you when you were retired, or nothing good.”
“I have more freedom,” Victor said, “because I am no longer dependent on their money. The RSF, on the other hand, likes my money very much. And I have nothing to lose—for all they knew, I was already retired.”
Stefan looked worried. “They could kill you. There were threats when our family was in St. Petersburg and people… found out about about me. We have arranged bodyguards for you for the time being.”
“That sounds expensive,” Yuuri said.
“Father is willing to pay. Also, we know you just moved into a place, but it is not very secure. There is one nearby, in a building my father owns, which has security, a concierge. If you are willing, your things can be moved over while we are in flight.”
Victor blinked. “Does it have a deep soaking tub?”
“It sounds very expensive,” Yuuri said.
“We have the money,” Victor said.
“For my sake and Yuliya’s sake, Father is willing to become a patron, a sponsor, and provide these things. There would not be a charge.”
“Would we owe him anything in exchange?” Victor asked. “I would not want to be beholden…”
“He makes many donations to the arts, the ballet, skating schools. Some of them thank him in their buildings. But this is for us, and we give him all the recognition he requires. And yes, it has a good tub. Three bedrooms. It is spacious, and across the bridge from where you practice.” Stefan tapped a button to pull up a console from the wall next to the table, and then used his phone to bring up a website on the console. A moment later, they were looking at pictures.
“Is it really that pink?” Victor asked.
“The management company photographer is terrible,” Stefan said. “The decor can also be adjusted. But it’s a nice place.”
“It looks better than my place,” Victor said. “I’ve got no attachment to mine, I was only there for two weeks, just to sleep. So, if they’ll move us…”
“I didn’t see more than his living room,” Yuuri said. “And that was full of boxes. You used to live in St. Petersburg?”
“When I was outed, there were threats, and Father moved us all, but yes, I grew up there.”
“And now you pilot?” Victor asked. “That sounds like fun!”
“I can. Mostly I’m the co-pilot and only take over sometimes on long trips, and we essentially live on the plane when we’re in Russia. Which was the point. Father prefers we be able to leave, quickly.”
“You think it will be that bad for us?” Victor asked.
Stefan shrugged. “I don’t know. Father had enemies before I was out. People assume things about figure skaters. The mood in St. Petersburg is not very good right now, but you might be fine? I don’t know. If we don’t publicize where you live, it might be okay. The media won’t bother you, but the Volki are getting more and more dangerous.”
“Volki?” Yuuri asked.
“It means ‘wolves,’” Victor said.
“They describe themselves that way,” Stefan said. “They mostly try to get people fired, make them leave, but there have been incidents. They are cowards, though, and most of the people they attack lack resources. You don’t.”
“I don’t understand why they care about us,” Yuuri said.
“They worry about declining birthrates, and blame them on us,” Stefan said. “And there is a strong religious movement, the Church and other conservative religions have been pushing. People grasp at anything right now for meaning, and having someone to fault gives them a distraction.”
“We will see how it is,” Victor said. “We have options if it doesn’t work there.”
“When Ivo and I are in Russia, off the plane, we do not hold hands in public. We act like friends, not husbands, whenever we are where people can see us. If they can ignore us, it is better. You get a feel for the safer spaces. Even being out in general, people don’t always recognize us directly. And having a friend along helps. Katya comes with us sometimes, in the evening. If it is three, people don’t pay so much attention as if it is two.”
“I’m afraid we’re going to be more obvious,” Victor said. “People recognize me all the time, and Yuuri is beautiful but his look does not blend in easily here.”
“Yes, but you will have your bodyguards with you outside, and at the rink, and if you can have more people with you, there will be safety in numbers. The advantage of the apartment we offer you is that the bodyguards can be next door. My point is that you will be safer, moment to moment, if you do not call attention to your relationship.”
They stared at him, frozen.
Ivo set a tray of snacks in front of them and sat down next to Stefan. “The looks on your faces… it is not as bleak as Stefan makes it seem. You will find your safe places, you will spend most of your time there. You will leave a lot, and travel, and you will find that it is only a small part of your time that you must be so careful as gay men.”
Yuuri stared down at the berries and cheese and crackers on the tray. “I have not… I don’t have much experience with relationships with anyone. I didn’t spend much time thinking about them, growing up, and it is not something that— In Japan people don’t consider it shameful, but it’s also not… supported? It was easy not to think about it much. I don’t… I haven’t thought of myself as gay? I mean, I am, obviously, but it isn’t something I spent my life knowing about myself.”
“Not core to your identity?” Ivo asked.
Yuuri shook his head. “It’s a new thing to think about, that there are people who liked me before who hate me now just because I fell in love. Victor is the best thing that has ever happened in my whole life, and that people could look at that and say, ‘This is wrong’ or ‘this is evil’... I don’t understand it.”
“I grew up with people assuming they knew everything about me,” Victor said. “I have always tried to push the envelope, make things beautiful that people did not expect. There is this idea of what it means to be a man that never made sense to me, and I make sense of my world on the ice. But I've never had someone I cared so much about that it hurt to be apart from them, before Yuuri, nor someone I loved so much that I could be frightened for their safety. Most of my life has been skating, and little else, and I just didn’t have time to think about it that much. When everything they say about men doesn’t make sense to you, it’s hard to get really attached to the label ‘gay.’”
Ivo laughed. “You’re telling me that you two are the absolute icons of out gayness right now, and neither of you even really has experience identifying as gay?”
“I’m just me,” Yuuri said, after some hesitation. “I never expected to be an icon of anything. Victor’s the only human being I’ve ever really been in love with, and part of what drew me to him was how he skated the feelings I had about gender.” Something crystallized for him and he grew more intense as he continued. “Most of which have been frustration that nothing people said about gender seemed to apply to me. My skating didn’t really start to get to the next level until I told Minako to teach me to move like a woman. And the costume I picked was the one that Victor had specifically designed to be both male and female.”
“The gay community has a long tradition of drag,” Stefan said.
“So does Japan,” Yuuri said, dismissively. “But it’s not really about wanting to be, or even pretending to be a woman, for me; it’s about the things that make me the most me involve both, and neither, and mostly I’ve just muddled through and thought about anything but that.” He paused, look down at his hands, almost surprised to see Victor’s hand wrapped around one of his. He smiled wryly, and looked back at Stefan. “When I do start to think about it, my head hurts, and I go skate until it passes. But part of what drew me to Victor was that his skating—it wasn’t just beautiful, it made me feel like someone understood. Like I could be who I am, and different, and maybe someday be the best in the world anyway.”
“It’s being different that helps make you the best,” Victor said. “They yelled at me about my performance in that costume for being too feminine, and then I won, and they stopped yelling. I’ve known for years that men were a little more interesting to me than women, but it is Yuuri’s ability to channel both that… caught my attention, over and over again.”
“I don’t think anyone is going to deny your right to claim the word ‘gay,’” Stefan said. “Whatever you think about gender, you are a same-sex couple regardless, no?”
Yuuri gave a small smile, and looked up. “I’m not ashamed of it. I never have been.”
“The very idea that I could be ashamed of Yuuri, it makes me angry,” Victor said. “But maybe we can be careful in Russia. We can try.”
“We want you to be safe,” Stefan said. “You two, safe, telling the stories you tell, it gives me hope. But of all the places I’ve personally lived, Russia is the hardest.”
“I think you’ll be okay,” Ivo said. “The media in Russia won’t talk about you two much, so if you keep your heads down when you’re out in public, it might not be so bad? You have no performances in Russia for a while?”
“No,” Victor said. “Not until Rostelcom Cup next year, if they assign either of us there. November. Otherwise, Russian Nationals.”
“There you go,” Ivo said. “We might be in town for that one. But we have kept you long enough. The back compartment is available, though not set for sleep unless you want that.”
“I think the couches will be fine,” Yuuri said.
“We will be having lunch in an hour,” Ivo said.
“I look forward to it,” Victor said.
Ivo and Stefan rose, and returned to the front of the plane.
“I think I want to go back there now,” Yuuri said, his voice just raw enough to make Victor look sharply at him.
“Of course,” Victor said, standing immediately and holding out a hand to Yuuri. Makkachin, with a small, worried whine, followed.
For an in depth look at Yurio's conversation with Yuliya, see Chapter 2 of Transition: Puberty. Usual caution applies: That story keeps going, so come back when you're done with that chapter. You can wait to read that story all as a unit, this is provided for convenience, to help people connect which part is where. (It's complicated enough that I had to make a spreadsheet. Again.)
As soon as the door was closed, Victor pulled Yuuri into his arms as Yuuri let out a ragged breath. “Shhhh, lyubimaya. We’ll be fine.”
Yuuri buried his face against Victor’s neck and shook. Victor walked them forward another few steps into the room, and pulled Yuuri down with him onto the couch.
Yuuri folded onto Victor’s lap, and Victor looked up at him, saying, “You’re taller than me this way.”
Yuuri snorted, and dashed the moisture from his cheeks. “Victor, what are we going to do?” He shifted until his head was on Victor’s shoulder, one hand working its way into Makkachin’s fur.
“Take Stefan up on his offers, I think,” Victor said, running his fingers through Yuuri’s hair. “And if it gets to be too much, we go someplace else. We have options.”
“The idea that someone would want to hurt you because of me…” Yuuri sounded bereft.
Victor shook his head. “It would never be because of you. It would be because of their ignorance and hatred, but never, ever your fault. And we will have bodyguards. It won’t be the first time I’ve used a bodyguard.”
“What happened before?” Yuuri asked.
“An overwrought fan made threats,” Victor said. “Eventually they made her stop.”
“I knew in the abstract,” Yuuri said. “I’ve had bullies call me names, push me down. But this seems like something else.”
“There has always been fear around me,” Victor said. “I try not to let it rule my life. We will skate. We will be beautiful. We will make a life together, and maybe it won’t be in Russia for long.”
“I really do want to learn from Yakov,” Yuuri said. “And you need your coach.”
“I do, but only just,” Victor said. “You have a good eye. We work well improving each other.”
“Are we making a mistake, going back?” Yuuri asked.
“Maybe,” Victor said. “I’m not willing to give up on my country just yet. I have to think that we might maybe help things.”
“I’m not a political person,” Yuuri said. “I just wish they would leave us be. I don’t see how we hurt anyone? That someone could think that the most incredible thing to ever happen to me is somehow wrong? A tragedy? A crime?”
“Don’t look for trouble,” Victor said. “I think Stefan’s father must be one of the oligarchs, and their lives are dangerous enough for that alone. People in Russia won’t be thrilled with our relationship. They will say some ugly things. But not in our home. And not at the skating rink. And we’re going to be so busy that I don’t think there’s going to be much in between those.”
“When do we decide we need to leave?” Yuuri asked. “If it’s bad?”
“I…” Victor sighed heavily. “I don’t know. Maybe just, at some point, we don’t go back. Maybe you say to me, ‘We need to go.’ Maybe I say to you, ‘This isn’t worth it.’”
“I want to be where you are,” Yuuri said.
“Lyubb-lyu tebya vsem sertsem, vsey dushoyu,” Victor murmured.
“I got love, you, and all,” Yuuri said. “I don’t know the rest.”
Victor made a tiny chuckle, and pressed a kiss at Yuuri’s temple. “I love you with all my heart, with all my soul.”
“Lyubb-lyu tebya…” Yuuri said.
“Vsem sertsem,” Victor supplied.
“Vsem sertsem,” Yuuri repeated. “Lyubb-lyu tebya vsem sertsem. Vsem…”
“Vsey dushoyu,” Victure said.
Yuuri nodded. “Vsey dushoyu. Ugh, now I’ve forgotten the first part. Lyubb…”
“Lyubb-lyu tebya vsem sertsem, vsey dushoyu,” Victor repeated.
“Lyubb-lyu tebya vsem sertsem, vsey dushoyu,” Yuuri said earnestly.
Victor kissed him firmly and said, “Yes, exactly.”
“I wonder if people would care as much if one of us grew out our hair,” Yuuri said.
Victor snorted. “I stopped being able to pass as a girl about ten years ago. Well, without a lot of makeup and padding.”
Yuuri grinned. “For me, it takes a wig and the right clothes.”
“Oh?” Victor said.
“Phichit has pictures, I made him promise not to post them.”
Victor blinked, and pulled out his phone, and sent off a text message.
Yuuri’s phone buzzed, and he glanced at the message from Phichit, and fired back, “Yes, fine.”
Victor’s phone buzzed a few minutes later. Victor opened the message and his jaw dropped. “How?”
Yuuri shrugged. “I have a soft face. And the clothes, you know…”
“But you’re not even in a dress in that.” The picture was of Yuuri, with shoulder length black hair, light makeup and a button down tied at the ribs, no glasses, grinning.
Yuuri gave a small grin.
“You don’t look like a girl right now,” Victor said. “But that looks like someone else entirely. How much makeup is that?”
“A little foundation, a little contour, not much. Mascara. Lipstick, lipliner. A little eyeliner and shadow. The girls from my class put it on me when they were threatening to make me their mascot.”
“Did you do a routine like that? On the pole?” Victor’s voice had a strange catch to it.
Yuuri turned bright pink. “It wasn’t very successful, the extensions were combs and didn’t hold when I went upside down.”
“Remind me to install a pole at our apartment,” Victor said.
“It feels like you’ve already started a pole,” Yuuri said, shifting against Victor’s lap.
“I knew you were a gorgeous man,” Victor said. “I had no idea what a beautiful woman you could be.”
“I like being able to be either,” Yuuri said. “It’s fun stepping into another persona. Like I do on the ice.” He looked down and then said, “Sometimes I worry that you have fallen in love with the personas, and not with me.”
“I love who you are on the ice. I love who you are when you dance,” Victor said. “I won’t lie about that. But if all I ever got to see was those things, I would be… like the rest of the world. On the outside. And there is nothing more precious to me than who you are when we are alone together, without the personas. You don’t let many people in. But I think you let me in. And that’s everything to me.”
“Even when I’m an awkward lump of anxiety?” Yuuri asked.
“You trust me enough that when I wrap my arms around you, the anxiety goes. So maybe especially then,” Victor said. “It makes me feel needed.”
“How is this my life?” Yuuri asked.
“The way you wrap around me, how it makes me stronger, how you can look at me falling apart and still think, ‘That’s who I want’... I looked at you my whole life and thought, ‘That’s who I want to be like,’ and I don’t understand how I got so lucky,” Yuuri said.
Victor laughed. “And I didn’t think I’d ever even be able to feel about anyone the way I feel about you. I ask myself the same question. That there is someone who just wants me, who I am, all of it. Not just one part. That you might want me even when I make mistakes. I was never supposed to make mistakes, but you welcome me anyway.”
“Your mistakes remind me that you’re human, like me, and not some strange angel who has taken an inexplicable interest in my life.”
“Strange angel,” Victor said thoughtfully. “I need a notepad.”
“I have one in my suitcase,” Yuuri said, climbing off of Victor’s lap and over Makkachin. A few minutes later he handed Victor a notebook and a pencil, and Victor took them and started sketching out choreography and musical composition notes.
Yuuri watched Victor work, fascinated. Makkachin hopped up next to him on the couch and demanded pets, which Yuuri gave, his attention still on Victor. There were hand gestures, and little la-di-da snippets of melody hummed half under the breath, and on the paper a series of swirling lines and mostly English notation, with a smattering of Cyrillic exclamations and commentary in Russian. Then on another page, Victor sketched out a few staves and rough notes about the melody in his head, with comments in many languages.
Victor went still at one point and stared at the choreography notes, and then looked up at Yuuri and said, “Stand up, I need to check something.”
Yuuri stood, curious, hesitant, and was not the least surprised to feel Victor’s hands on him, setting his right leg at a precise angle, and then wordlessly picking up Yuuri’s left leg, and arranging it in a particular curve. Yuuri felt what he was trying to do, and found his balance, arching his back and extending his arms.
“Hold that, will you?” Victor said.
Holding the position against the vibration of the plane was novel, but not particularly difficult. Victor stepped back, stroked his chin, and then opened the door. “Minako?”
“Hmm?” she said, pulling off her headphones.
“I’m working on a new program and I need a second opinion on a position.”
“Let him relax while I get up,” Minako said.
Yuuri put his leg down, and shook his arms out while Minako made her way back. Yakov was sleeping partly reclined, snoring gently.
“This might be one of the more awkward spaces I’ve seen someone choreograph in,” Minako said, as Yuuri went into an arabesque, and then shifted into an attitude once his balance was steady, then stretching until his body was curled almost horizontally.
“I had an idea,” Victor said with a shrug. “Couldn’t lose it.”
“It’s a start,” Minako said. “For a spin?”
Yuuri said, “If it’s a spin, I could tighten it like this…” He twisted a little more in place, extending his arms down and up along the axis, and then elongating his body like a spring stretching into a narrow profile until he was upright, arms twisted together, ankles crossed.
“I have to try that,” Victor said. “In motion it would look like you were…” He made a graceful juggling motion with his arms. “…thread winding onto a spool.”
“Stretch first,” Yuuri said, shaking his arms out and then stretching his back. “I think I could get that a lot tighter if I was loose.”
Victor grinned. “That sounds dirty.”
Minako laughed. “If you switched feet and reversed the motion to come out of it, it would be really interesting.”
“Glide into a triple axel?” Yuuri asked.
“That I’d have to see on the ice,” Victor said. He handed his notes to Minako.
She traced the line from the starting point, nodding occasionally. “The music?” she asked.
“Notes on the next page,” he said.
She flipped the sheet over and hummed the bars idly. Then she stopped, and said, “Russian, Japanese, English, French, Italian… is that German? And I’m not recognizing the last.”
“Greek,” Victor said.
“Why?” she asked.
“Every language, every culture, has different words about love,” Victor said. “Those are just the ones I know.”
“You speak seven languages?” Yuuri asked.
“Well, for varying levels of the word ‘speak,’” Victor said with a self-deprecating laugh. “I’m fluent in Russian, of course, and enough in English. My Japanese is…” he shrugged. “Well, you know. One picks up a fair amount of French in the ballet studio, and more if you want to try to date a French ballerina.”
Minako was nodding. Yuuri looked at her suspiciously. Victor laughed, “Do you also have experience trying to date a French ballerina?”
Minako shrugged, and looked coy.
“I’m having sympathy for Yurio right now,” Yuuri said. “So, German, Italian, and Greek?”
“Christophe, opera (and Christophe, again), and if you want to bridge the gap between Russian and English, you study Greek. If you study philosophies of love, you study Greek. I’m far from fluent, but the words are relevant.”
“Christophe baited you for not knowing as many languages as he did, didn’t he?” Yuuri said.
“I was on planes a lot. I listened to language lessons. And I’ll have you know that Christophe’s Russian is truly mediocre. Oh, and I have a little Spanish.”
“Which is still ahead of mine,” Yuuri said. “I’ve got some Thai, Cantonese and Mandarin, ballet French but I never tried to date a ballet dancer, Italian because of Celestino, and I’m working on Russian, of course.”
“Your English is better than mine,” Victor said. “And I am a passable dancer.”
“I lived in the US for five years, after seven years of English in school, so I hope it is,” Yuuri said. “And passable? Really? You’re amazing.”
Victor looked at Minako. “Ballerina or ballerino?”
Minako grinned. “Yes.”
“Victor!” Yuuri said.
“I was curious!” Victor said. “Wait, does that mean you and Lilia…”
Minako didn’t answer, but she didn’t deny it.
There was a knock at the bulkhead door, and Victor stood to open it. “Will you be having lunch back here?” Ivo asked.
“Come eat up front with us,” Minako said. “Be social. I know you’re going to be too busy to chat once we’re in Russia.”
Yuuri was already standing up, so Victor followed, his dog trailing behind.
Yuri and Yuliya joined them for lunch, mostly because Katya insisted on them eating in the main compartment. They sat in the front of the passenger compartment, while Victor and Yuuri sat across from Minako and Yakov at the conference table.
Yuuri and Victor watched with fascination as Yuri actually laughed and got excited about something on Yuliya’s phone.
Yuri glanced up, saw them watching, scowled, and said, “What?”
Yuuri and Victor looked at each other, and Victor said, “Oh, we’re just shocked to see…”
Yuuri elbowed him, and said, “It’s just good to see you smile.”
Yuri rolled his eyes and returned his attention to the screen, laughing at something Yuliya was pointing to, and making a surreptitious rude gesture at Victor.
They turned back to the conversation with Yakov and Minako, a lively breakdown of how different coaching styles affected different competitors.
“I’m not afraid to work hard, and I don’t mind correction,” Yuuri said. “I want to know what I’m doing wrong, I just want to know that my coach has confidence that I can fix it.”
“Whereas if someone tells me something is impossible, it becomes my mission to prove them wrong,” Victor said.
“Yuuri has always done better with a lot of quiet time to process,” Minako said.
“I don’t know, Victor talking to me usually helps, as long as he’s not trying to be coachy,” Yuuri said.
“What is ‘coachy’?” Yakov asked.
Yuuri looked thoughtful for a moment and then somehow managed to yell under his breath, “What was that back there? So sloppy! And that triple axel entrance…”
Victor stared at him. “I sound like that?”
Yuuri shrugged. “Louder, I didn’t want to really yell on the plane, but yes.”
“That sounded like Yakov after a performance,” Victor said.
“Do I sound like that?” Yakov asked.
“In Russian it’s more yelling,” Victor said. “But mostly.”
“I just tell Yuuri what I see, and how it could be better,” Minako said.
“Yelling feels like I will never get it right,” Yuuri said. “I want to know how to fix it, so I can fix it. I feel bad enough about my mistakes that it’s too easy to slip into anxiety.”
“Hmm.” Yakov said. “It is how I was taught to teach. To insist on strength.”
“We’re strong,” Yuuri said. “Physically. But yelling me out of anxiety is trying to save a drowning person by hitting them over the head with an oar. Put the oar in front of me and I’ll pick it up.”
“So what is it about Yuuri that inspired you to quit?” Yakov asked Victor a few minutes later. “I get that you are in love with him, but I don’t understand how you went from drunken nonsense on the dance floor, to four months of silence, to flying off to Japan on a moment’s notice?”
Victor smiled down at his plate. “There was a spark to how he moved, always, that I found astonishing. And if it could surprise me, and I could learn it, maybe I’d learn how to surprise people again. I think it’s worked very well, so far.”
“That remains to be seen,” Yakov said. “We’ll see how well you do this month. You still have not created your new routines?”
“Worst case, I’ll do the old ones, since Yuuri won’t be skating there,” Victor said. “Then I’ll have another six weeks before we’re skating in the same competition.”
“You would do a completely new routine for Worlds? Untested?” Yakov said, aghast. “And I assume you’d go with him to Four Continents, so you’d lose a week to travel.”
“Yakov, I know I may not win Worlds, but I know, and you know, that I’m capable enough to adapt a new routine in this timeframe. Of course it’s not ideal. But I beat every other skater you trained at Nationals, so I would hope you might give me the benefit of the doubt.” Victor’s tone was brittle, defensive.
Yakov sighed. “You did. I just know the next few weeks are going to be busy, and I want you to succeed.”
“You’re the one who suggested we marry sooner than later,” Yuuri said with a tight smile.
Yakov started to say something, and then frowned, and then look puzzled, and finally said, “I did, didn’t I?”
“It was a rare moment of concern for something beyond skating,” Victor said lightly. “I was very impressed at the time.”
Yakov sighed. “It’s not like you’ll do anything I say.”
“Probably not,” said Victor. “But it’s good that you say them anyway.”
“I think you’ll be fine,” Minako said. “You both have a knack for improvising, and emoting on the ice. Your skating skills are certainly up to the task, if you don’t get in your own way.”
“That’s me, not Victor,” Yuuri said.
“Oh, I don’t know. I could see his heart wasn’t in it at Worlds last year. It was perfection in technique, but the sense of the performance was off.” She took a bite of her salad. “But what do I know?”
Victor stared at her. “You’re not wrong. It was why I was so willing to make a drastic change. I couldn’t get into it, not with my whole heart. I was actually surprised they marked artistic impression so high. I wouldn’t have. Yuuri was actually better, and skated it more like I knew it should be skated.”
“I just think you’re going to do okay at Europeans,” Minako said. “Yuuri’s going to kick your ass at Worlds, though.”
Victor laughed. “That would be something to see.”
Lunch devolved into detailed discussion of Victor’s new choreography, including a memorable moment where Victor picked up a fork and ran it through his routine, humming the little bars of melody he’d been working on.
“A metal -winning performance,” Yuuri said, laughing. “Too bad it’s only silver.”
A laugh from next to the table drew their attention to Yuliya, who was leaning against the credenza watching. “I think it has quite a bit of promise. It just needs a little more tine…”
They all groaned.
“You should have used the spoon,” Minako said. “Better curve.”
“He saves spooning for off the ice,” Yuuri said, and then blushed.
“Augh, enough pun ishment,” Yuri whined. “Can we please go back up front and look at cat videos again?”
They landed in the early afternoon, and Yuuri had to remind Victor to use the little camera. Customs was surprisingly cursory, and they were quickly released. Yuri gave Yuliya a friendly hug as he got off the plane.
Victor trailed behind Yuuri while they walked through the airport to where a man in a dark overcoat held a sign that read “かつき”. Yuuri followed him to the private town cars waiting in the pickup area. Victor and Makkachin rode with Yuuri and the other three followed in another town car.
Yuuri kept peeking over at Victor and grinning, and Victor waggled his finger, which only made Yuuri grin more and then gaze out the window. Makkachin seemed very pleased to ride in the front seat next to the very tolerant driver.
The car stopped, not at their new apartment, but at the Ice Palace where the competition had been held.
“I’ll wait,” the driver said, his voice gruff and heavily accented. “They said you’d want to get him going up to the front door.”
Victor nodded, and Yuuri played the part, jogging up the steps while Victor filmed, until his hand was on the door.
They returned to the car, and Victor checked the camera. “It already uploaded,” he said. “Mike did a thing with my phone so that it would do it as soon as we recorded.”
“So we’re done with commercials for a while?” Yuuri asked.
“Done until February, I think. Unless they do something in Denmark in two weeks,” Victor said.
“Two weeks until Denmark,” Yuuri said, eyes wide.
“Well, 15 days,” Victor amended. “But close enough.”
“It’s more than that to the wedding,” Yuuri said.
Victor laughed. “16 days and about 20 hours until the wedding, but we do fly over there first, so we can be fresh for it.”
Yuuri made a faint squeaking inhale and Victor reached out to take his hand. “It’s good, right?”
Yuuri nodded silently, managed to inhale, and said, “It’s very good. But it’s so soon.”
A few minutes later, the town car slowed along a lovely old row of stately art deco apartment buildings and then turned to drive into an underground garage. The driver pulled in next to the elevator, where two tall, dangerous-looking men stood. “Your bodyguards,” the driver said. “They will escort you to your apartment. Your things have already been dropped off.”
“Where is the car for Yakov, Yuri, and Minako?” Yuuri asked.
“Oh, they’re going to Lilia’s, all of them,” Victor said. “We’ll see them tomorrow at the rink.”
“I’ll be here at 8 am to drive you over,” the driver said. “Unless you need another time?”
“Wait, so you’re a regular thing now?” Yuuri asked.
“Miss Yuliya insisted. I normally drive for her grandmother, but her needs are few and she lives… nearby. If there is a time when I can’t drive you, one of your bodyguards will.”
“I must know your name, in that case,” Victor said.
The man smiled politely, and said, “You can call me Lev.”
“Lev,” Victor said. “Spaciba. 8 would be fine.”
As soon as they were inside, their bodyguards relaxed and the taller of the two grinned, and said in an Estuary English accent, “Right, so I’m Jamie, and this is Tony. Your flat is up on the sixth floor, and we’ve already set it up.”
With their faces relaxed, they looked friendly, and their differences became more pronounced. Jamie’s hair was lighter, Tony’s a darker brown with a hint of wave, though both wore their hair cropped close. Both were muscular and taller than Victor.
“Will you be our only bodyguards?” Yuuri asked as they all stepped onto the elevator.
“Nah, we have another team we split shifts with,” Tony said in an American accent.
“Do either of you speak Russian?” Victor asked as the elevator began to rise.
“Da,” Jamie said. “We’re both Russian. Tony lived in the States for a while, I spent years at school in London. We just use our anglicized names on the job and speak English if our charges do, because people make assumptions and forget we understand them. Which has proven useful in the past.”
“Do you need to know anything about us?” Victor asked. “I assume you’ve been briefed.”
Tony said, “Once you’ve gotten settled in, we can sit down and go over your schedule, and talk about staying safe. But I assume you aren’t planning on going out right away?”
“Is there food?” Victor asked.
“The pantry is stocked, and we went over your takeaway menus, added in a few suggestions for the neighborhood and set aside the ones that don’t deliver here. We can send someone to pick up, as well,” Jamie said as the elevator opened and they moved down the hall to an inlaid door.
Yuuri looked slightly dazed.
Victor nodded. “Then I think we can talk in the morning, perhaps? Do you stay here?”
Jamie unlocked the door. “No, we’re one floor down, directly under you. Wait here, I want to walk through.”
“Does that get noisy?” Yuuri asked Tony.
“The soundproofing here is very good,” Tony said. “We monitor the hallway, the outside of the building, the lobby, and the parking garage. If your front door opens, we know about it, and there is a camera pointed at it. But you don’t need to worry about us.”
“You really think that’s necessary?” Victor asked.
“It might not be,” Tony said as Jamie came back and beckoned them in. “Ideally our presence will make it seem like we’re not needed. But some people have been vocal about their opinions, and we’re here to make sure that they don’t think it’s going to be easy to hurt you.”
They stepped through the front door into a foyer, and slipped off their outdoor shoes. Their own house shoes were already there, ready to walk into, and Tony slipped covers over his shoes. Jamie was already wearing them. Makkachin went bounding ahead into the apartment, his nails clicking softly on the wood floor.
The place was bright, with interesting sloped ceilings that were quite high in parts and low near the dormered windows. There were built-in shelves in the foyer, and a closet mostly filled with Victor’s coats, Yuuri’s three coats looking almost forlorn next to them. They took off their winter gear and hung it up, and then followed Jamie for a brief tour. Down one hall, there were three bedrooms and a bathroom. One of the bedrooms was completely, echoingly empty. “If you wish, we can put up a barre in here, with a mirror,” Jamie said. “We thought we’d wait on that for your approval.”
Yuuri blinked. “It would be a little small for a studio, but it would be nice to have a place to dance at home.”
“We could put the pole in here,” Victor said with a leer.
“Victor!” Yuuri’s tone was indignant but he looked thoughtful.
The next bedroom had a single bed in it, and two desks, plus bookshelves already laden. There was no question as to whose desk was whose. Victor’s desktop computer was already set up, and an assortment of memorabilia was arrayed on the other, with room for Yuuri’s laptop.
The master bedroom had a king-sized bed, a plush new-looking dog bed on the floor, a potted plant, dressers, a walk-in closet, and its own ensuite bathroom, with a rounded corner tub and an adjacent walk-in shower.
They walked back down the hall to the kitchen, which despite modern appliances had a quirky, cramped feel, but a bank of windows looking over the courtyard let in so much light that it wasn’t oppressive. There was a little kitchen table with two tightly spaced chairs on either side. Victor pulled open the fridge, and nodded.
They followed the bodyguards out and down a short hall to the living room, which had a dining room table at one end and the couch from Victor’s previous apartment at the other.
“Oh, I recognize the couch!” Yuuri said. “None of the other furniture looks familiar without boxes.”
“We unpacked,” Tony said. “I’m sure you’ll want to rearrange things, but we gave it our best shot. Anything that wasn’t obvious is probably in the closet of the guest room.”
“Thank you,” Yuuri said.
Jamie handed them each a slim, leather-banded watch. “There’s a panic button on the side. If you tap it a couple times, we’ll come running. Please, please wear them or keep them very close. We can’t help you if we don’t know you’re in trouble.”
“And we’ll get out of your hair now,” Tony said. “We’ll be directly downstairs.”
“I’m going to need to take Makkachin for walks,” Victor said.
“One of us can do that,” Jamie said.
“No,” Victor said. “I need that time to think. And Yuuri needs to run, well, we both do.”
“Victor, it’s freezing out there,” Yuuri said. “The wind would chill me solid. I can exercise at the rink.”
“Bundle up when you go, please,” Tony said. “Your hair, especially.”
Makkachin sniffed around the entire apartment, ate some food that had already been set out in the kitchen on the floor near the little table, and then curled up on the couch in the living room. Yuuri stood for a long time looking out the tall windows over the snowy street below.
Once Makkachin seemed comfortable, Victor came up behind him and put a hand on the glass. “Someone went to a lot of expense putting new windows over the old here,” he said. “It’s not even cold. You can see where they put glass on either side of the old art glass.”
“I’m glad they kept it,” Yuuri said.
“Are you okay?” Victor asked.
“I don’t know yet,” Yuuri said, leaning back against Victor. “It’s so much.”
Victor ran his hands down Yuuri’s upper arms and nuzzled Yuuri’s cheeks.
Yuuri closed his eyes, smiled, and reached a hand back to cup Victor’s cheek. “I think I will be, though.”
So, this is also probably one of the sappiest things I’ve ever written. A veritable maple forest in February. As my beta reader points out, however, their sap level is canon. My god. These two getting past the communication issues and being up front about their feelings? They’d be just about exactly this sappy. Poor Yurio.
The tone I’m trying to strike with them at this point in their relationship is the point where you’ve fallen in love with someone and they love you back and this is your first major relationship and you hope your last, and sex is really NEAT and you finally understand why people bother and you want to try everything and it is entirely possible you will look back on this period in your life and realize how completely wildly uncomfortable you’ve made everyone around you because you just CANNOT STOP TOUCHING this perfect person who has dropped into your life like an angel from heaven. And looking at them. And talking about them. And kissing them. And blushing. My god. The blushing.
If it was anyone other than these two, I’d be advising extreme caution because limerence tends to be pretty temporary, but there is this little thing that makes it different for them, and that is the thing where they are deeply, 100%, profoundly on each other’s side. And that’s the make-it-or-break-it that makes a relationship appealing to me or not. I don’t care how hot a couple is, if they’re trying to score points on each other by being mean, or only focused on their own needs, I can’t get invested. What invests me is when they’re actually thinking about what the other needs and trying to make that happen, even if sometimes they don’t get it right. Victor came to Yuuri at Yuuri’s worst, and Yuuri managed to make the leap from adulation to affection while Victor was constantly trying and failing to get things right. And they bring out the best in each other. So my hypothesis is that getting past their innate communication difficulties, they’d end up here, wildly in love, completely bemused by the whole process, and sappy as hell.