Yuuri struggled on the bed, pushing back against Victor’s hands, but Victor had caught him too easily, was stronger than him. Victor took a second to savour the moment: bare inches apart, chests heaving together, skin sticky where it touched. Yuuri’s shirt had been torn some time ago; Victor hadn’t bothered wearing one in the first place, and he had scratches from Yuuri’s nails down his back as his reward. He bent close over Yuuri’s struggling body, using his legs to hold Yuuri down, taking in the smell of him, sweat and fear, unable to stop himself from pressing his lips to Yuuri’s neck, tasting salt and feeling Yuuri’s whole body shudder.
“You— you bastard,” Yuuri panted, and Victor bit him, not hard enough to draw blood, but hard enough to show him who he belonged to. “I’m going to kill you.”
“I’d like to see you try.” He pressed down with his hips. Yuuri’s thighs were muscular, and he had some strength; this hadn’t been an easy chase, and he eagerly anticipated Yuuri squirming under him once they hit the inevitable conclusion. “You’re so pretty when you’re angry.”
With a wrench, Yuuri pulled free — Victor almost lost him, but managed to pin him down, this time with Yuuri on his front, Victor plastered against his back, crooning in his ear.
“You won’t get away from me,” he said, nipping at the shell of Yuuri’s delicate, pale ear. “You’re mine, you know. I’m going to mark you up outside and in, so that everyone knows you’re mine.”
Yuuri exhaled a shaky breath. “Victor,” he managed, between gasps. Victor used his hair to yank him up, and caught a glimmer of tears in Yuuri’s eyes as he kept that hand clutching Yuuri’s hair tight enough to hurt if he tried to move, and he finally and inelegantly managed to divest Yuuri of his pants with the other.
“No-one’s coming to help you,” he said, as Yuuri started to cry in earnest. “I’m going to take what I want from you, and no-one’s going to object. They’d probably like to watch. I should livestream this. Sell tickets.” He slipped out of his own briefs, and Yuuri made a broken, needy noise as Victor pressed against him, no prep but the sweat on their bodies.
“D-don’t,” Yuuri said, as Victor drew his head back to rest against Victor’s neck, Yuuri’s back on Victor’s chest, Yuuri’s tears on Victor’s lips. “Please, please, don’t do this, don’t—“
“That’s it,” he groped blindly for the lube, and god, god, he was so hard it hurt. Yuuri’s heart was fluttering like a bird’s, his solid little body undulating, still weakly trying to escape, and Victor was going to—
“Please,” Yuuri begged, as Victor managed to slick himself, pressing carefully against Yuuri’s body. “Stop, please, please…” His Yuuri was hot inside, and he was heaving and sobbing, begging him to stop, calling him a bastard and begging him to stop, please, telling him how much it hurt, and Victor was—
— suddenly the recipient of a powerful and angry flurry of blows.
“Get off him!” Another punch. “Get the fuck away from him!”
Yuri. It was Yuri, incandescent with rage, shoving Victor away from Yuuri, lining up to hit him again.
“Yuri!” said Victor, holding up his hands. “Yuri!”
Yuuri had scrambled backwards, scrabbling for something to cover himself with while Yuri screamed almost incoherently at Victor — “…can’t believe I ever admired you, you fucking monster, get out, get out now, leave him alone…” — and Victor looked helplessly at Yuuri. His poor darling was still tear-stained and flushed pink; he tried to step toward Yuuri, but was blocked by Yuri, who shoved him backward again.
“Try to touch him again and I’ll break your knees,” said Yuri. “I’ll break both your knees, and if anyone questions it I’ll go on live television and tell them all about how the great Nikiforov is an asshole rapist.”
“Yurio,” he said, still holding up his hands. “It wasn’t what it looked like.”
“I didn’t need to see it,” said Yuri. “I heard everything. You forgot that you told me to drop by and pick up that blue costume, didn’t you?” He lashed out again, and Victor could probably easily overpower him, if he needed to, but that would do nothing at all to help the situation. “How long? How long have you been doing this to him?” Victor felt like he’d been hollowed out on the inside, his heart breaking. “Is this why you gave him Eros, even when he didn’t want it?”
“Yuri,” said Yuuri, hoarsely. “Please let Victor come over here.”
“No,” said Yuri, fiercely. “I heard what he was doing to you. If you’re scared of him, or whatever, you don’t have to be. You don’t have to lie for him.”
Victor’s stomach had turned to ice. “Yuri, give us a chance to explain.”
“There is nothing you can say to explain,” said Yuri, backing toward Yuuri protectively. “There is nothing you can say that will ever explain. And don’t say us. Don’t try to control him or intimidate him.”
“We were playing,” said Yuuri, and now that he wasn’t red, he’d gone white and he was visibly shaking. “It was a game.”
“No,” said Yuri. “Chess is a game. This was — you were — this wasn’t a game! I told you, you don’t have to lie for him!” He picked up the blanket from where it had been pushed to the floor during the game, and wrapped it around Yuuri. Victor’s insides were in cold knots, and he could feel himself starting to crack into a million, million pieces.
“Please let him come over here,” said Yuuri, once Yuri had tucked the blanket around him. “Please. It’s important.” He smiled weakly. “I swear to you, on my life, it was with my consent. Victor is — Victor isn’t capable of hurting me.”
Yuri shook his head. “You don’t know what you’re saying.” He very, very gently touched Yuuri’s cheek. “You don’t have to be afraid, Yuuri. You can come and stay with me. We can go and report—“
“Please,” said Victor, because that was enough to cut through the cold fugue that was enveloping his body. “You have to believe us, Yurio.”
“I don’t have to do anything,” said Yuri, and Yuuri got shakily to his feet. “And don’t call me that. I don’t ever want to hear that name again. You don’t have the right to call me anything.”
“Listen to me,” Yuuri said, taking Yuri’s hands in his and saying something in a low voice that Victor didn’t quite catch, but the conversation ended up with Yuuri making his way to Victor. It was clear that Yuri didn’t know what to do — he wasn’t about to raise a hand to Yuuri, but he obviously didn’t want Yuuri going to Victor, just in case — in case what? In case Victor had been abusing Yuuri for months, apparently. Yuuri practically stumbled into him, opening the blanket to envelop Victor, too. Yuuri was as ice-cold as Victor felt, and they sank to the floor in each other’s arms, Yuuri holding Victor to him, petting him soothingly, saying something in Japanese that Victor knew translated to a jumble of words about how much Yuuri loved him. Yuuri’s shaking stopped quickly, but Victor still felt sick.
“Yuri,” said Yuuri. “Makkachin is in the living room. Can you please…?”
“Are you sure you’ll be—“
“I’m fine,” said Yuuri, sounding completely not fine. “But I don’t want to leave Victor alone while you and I talk, and I think you and I should talk in the other room, so that you know what I say is the truth. I can show you some things, if that will help reassure you.” Yuuri smoothed Victor’s hair. “I’m honoured, Yuri, that you would jump in to protect me. Go and get Makkachin, and I’ll get something to put on, and then you and I can talk.”
Yuuri used the time to help Victor into bed, gentling him and kissing him and assuring him that he’d set Yuri straight, that Yuuri loved him, loved him so much, that it would all be okay, he promised. He wrapped Victor in his dressing gown, and took Victor’s own for himself to wear. Makkachin cuddled with him, but Victor still felt so cold and numb that even loving licks from his best dog couldn’t break the spell. He heard the kettle boiling in the kitchen, and Yuri came in with tea.
“He says he wants you to have this,” he said, not looking at Victor. “If I didn’t think it would upset him more, I’d tip it on your lap.”
It was Yuuri’s favourite tea, with a generous spoon of honey in it. It smelled like Yuuri, and Victor suddenly couldn’t keep tears from his eyes. Yuri made an angry, inarticulate sound, and left him; Victor wiped away the tears, and then couldn’t stop crying. He could hear muffled voices in the other room — a sudden burst of anger from Yuri, and Yuuri’s calm voice. Still, he couldn’t stop crying; he tried his best to muffle his tears, and Makkachin started to whine, pawing at him gently. It was too much; he curled up into a ball. He felt Makkachin get off the bed, and start scratching at the door — what felt like years later, Yuuri had his arms around Victor, back to murmuring endearments in three languages — his own, English, and little bits of Russian he’d picked up in his time here in St Petersburg.
Somewhere, far off, he heard Yuri asking, “What’s wrong with him?”
“I don’t know; he’s ice cold,” said Yuuri. “Sit with him. I’ll go and draw a bath.”
Victor choked when the warmth of Yuuri’s touch left him. Instead, Yuri used Victor’s hair to drag his head up, so that they were looking into each other’s eyes. Makkachin shifted, nosing at Yuri to no avail; if anything, his grip got tighter.
“Tell me you didn’t hurt him,” said Yuri. “Tell me, truly. Swear it on your mother’s grave. He says it was his idea. He showed me — showed me where you’d set up spare clothes, set up the tea, got everything ready for when you needed to come down.”
“I swear on my mother’s grave,” said Victor. “It was his idea. If he’d safeworded, I’d—”
“You should never have agreed to it,” Yuri spat, shoving him back.
“I know,” said Victor, and he realised that Yuri was crying too. “Yuri, I never meant—“
“I didn’t ever want to see you like that!” Yuri replied, and then he put his face in his hands.
“Yuri,” he said, reaching out. Yuri flinched back, and it was like a punch to the gut.
“Bath’s ready,” said Yuuri. “Come on, let’s get him in it.”
“Yuri, sometimes adults —“ Victor began.
“I am an adult,” spat Yuri.
“Fuck you, Victor—“
“Stop,” said Yuuri, from behind them. He reached out to Yuri, though, and for the first time ever in Victor’s recollection, Yuri let Yuuri hug him without complaint. “You’re so brave, Yuri. Not many people would have interfered, especially not to save a rival from — well, from Victor.” Yuuri pressed his cheek to Yuri’s hair. “Knowing you have my back means a lot to me.”
Victor heard Yuri weeping, and knew he couldn’t do anything to help. Still cold on the inside and strangely unable to move, he sat helplessly, until Yuuri disentangled from Yuri, and sent Victor off to warm up in the bath. Later, Yuuri tucked him into bed with Makkachin, joining him after Yuri had gone home, curling himself around Victor and burying his face in Victor’s nape.
Victor threaded their fingers together, and they didn’t need to say anything.
In the morning, he felt fine, but Yuuri was miserable and clingy. The blue costume was still on the floor in the living room. Victor packed it away while Yuuri talked with Yuri on the phone, Makkachin cuddled in his arms. Victor pressed a kiss to Yuuri’s hair, and joined him when the call concluded.
“What are we going to do?” Victor asked. “Yuri will have to learn not to barge into rooms.”
“I don’t know,” said Yuuri. “What if he doesn’t believe me? What if he tells someone and they want to drag you off?” He wavered, a little. “I won’t let them.”
Yuuri and Yuri had been developing a friendly rivalry in the weeks since Victor and Yuuri’s return to St Petersburg. Victor had been secretly delighting in it; they pushed each other further and higher, and they each had strengths where the other was weak. He hoped this didn’t — well. He took Yuuri’s right hand and held it up, holding his own right hand next to it, the light giving their rings a matching glow.
“I love you,” said Victor. “I love you, and you love me, and this will pass.”
Yuuri nodded, sniffing a bit Makkachin, bored with being ignored, licked Yuuri’s face. Yuuri made an undignified noise and practically rolled off the couch.
Victor caught him and kissed him, before ruffling Makkachin’s fur.
“I feel awful that he’s blaming you; it wasn’t your fault that he misread the situation,” said Yuuri, taking the hint and petting Victor with one hand, Makkachin with the other. “I’ll try to talk sense into him.”
“He’s Yuri. That won’t work,” said Victor, because at no time in the rest of his interactions with Yuri had ‘talking sense’ into Yuri ever worked.
“I know. But it’s worth a try,” said Yuuri. He reached up and scratched fondly at Victor’s scalp. It felt divine; he leaned into it. “How do you feel, after last night?”
Victor hesitated, as Yuuri played with his hair. “Better now,” he said. “But I feel like — it’s hovering there. The cold feeling.” He smiled at Yuuri. “But you make it go away.”
Yuuri made a little huffing sound. “That’s how I feel about you,” he said. “We should do something.”
“Mmmm,” said Victor, but somehow, Yuuri managed to wordlessly convince him to take Makkachin for a walk, so the two of them went hand-in-hand, finding comfort in the familiar.
In the awful week after Yuri had rushed in and assumed the worst, Victor dropped a few times into that odd feeling that had him freezing on the inside. He’d thought he was okay, when he’d woken up the day after, but apparently no, he wasn’t. Yuuri wasn’t much better; he had four separate panic attacks, each one after someone sneaking up on him or surprising him in some way. One made him throw up with stress, which meant they were both sent home early from the rink, and everyone texted Victor to make sure Yuuri wasn’t coming down with something. If only they knew.
Victor and Yuuri were barely apart when they weren’t training, curling together on the couch or in the bed, Makkachin spread over their feet, breathing each other’s air. After three days of mixed feelings and misgivings gnawing at both of them, Yuuri organised for them to Skype in together to his regular therapist, and organised a meeting for Victor on his own to talk things through with a neutral party. Victor felt guilty that Yuuri was being the one to organise things, until he realised that caring for himself and Yuri was how Yuuri was coping.
He booked in for more regular appointments on his own, and the coldness in his gut unthawed. He was still all over Yuuri at every second of the day, and Yuuri was all over him, and as the year turned, they both got on with life, love, sex and happiness. One hiccup — no matter how traumatic it had been at the time — wasn’t enough to destroy their connection.
When it came to Yuri, though, things changed noticeably.
Yuri avoided Victor like the plague, but seemed to latch onto Yuuri like the world’s angriest guard dog; if Victor wasn’t working directly with Yuuri on the ice, Yuri monopolised him. Often, the pair of them were together rinkside, golden and dark heads bent together as they talked; plus, Yuri convinced Yuuri to schedule their ballet sessions together, which meant that they had lunch together three days a week, which also meant that almost no-one else got to speak with either of them for any length of time. If people did venture to approach, Yuri would be almost unconscionably rude, particularly in response to any perceived slight against Yuuri. Always, he was cold and nasty to Victor — if he was spoken to at all, it was with venom and with hideous epithets.
The worst thing was that he dropped the program elements that Victor had helped choreograph. It made everything obvious, and when Victor tried to extend an olive branch, Yuri snapped back, “I want nothing to do with you,” followed by a string of foul language that would make a sailor blush. Victor didn’t tell Yuuri, but Yuuri made katsudon for dinner that night and after, held Victor without question or comment, so he guessed that Yuuri knew.
Yuri still avoided Victor even after Yuuri organised for all three of them to have a mediated meeting to talk over what had happened; practical, darling Yuuri. The meeting didn’t exactly fix things, but it did allow them to speak to one another again, even if Yuri wouldn’t meet his eyes.
Ridiculously, the internet was starting to rumble about a rift between Victor and Yuuri, and a Yuri/Yuuri coupling.
“He’s sixteen,” said Yuri, when Victor expressed his fears. “We scared him badly; he doesn’t know many people who are in happy relationships, and the thought that ours was a lie broke him a bit, I think.”
“Ours isn’t a lie,” said Victor, lacing his fingers through Yuuri’s.
“We know that,” said Yuuri, bringing Victor’s hand to his mouth, kissing Victor’s fingers, his ring. “But Yuri hasn’t had a happy life. He’s used to things going wrong, and people leaving him.” Victor took the opportunity to press his fingers to Yuuri’s jaw. “You’re the best part of my life, Victor. I want Yuri to have the chance to find his best life without being frightened of being hurt.”
“I love you,” he said, and Yuuri smiled his smile that meant I love you too. He also took a few strategic pictures that wound up on his Instagram, as well as allowing himself to be ‘caught’ by some fans kissing Victor at an open practice, which put paid to the breakup rumours for another month.
As they got closer to Worlds, Yakov dragged Victor aside.
“What is happening between the three of you?” he asked, and it wasn’t the demanding bark of Yakov the coach, it was the gentle gruffness of Yakov the father-figure.
“Yura thought I was hurting my Yuuri,” said Victor. He wouldn’t keep secrets from Yakov — he was surprised Yakov didn’t already know. Perhaps he did, but just wanted it from Victor’s lips. “He walked in on us together, and he got the wrong idea.”
“Were you hurting him, Vitya?” Only Yakov would ask so bluntly, but with such gentleness.
“We were playing a game,” said Victor, going a bit red.
Yakov chuckled knowingly. “Ah, those kinds of games. And what did Yura do, threaten to cut your balls off?”
“Break my knees.”
“Poor Yura,” said Yakov. “No wonder he handles Katsuki like eggshell. He would not understand the difference between play and real.”
“Yuuri’s been trying to support him,” said Victor, grateful that he could talk with Yakov this way — grateful that Yakov understood. Even five years ago, this kind of conversation would have been unthinkable. “But he thinks I’m some sort of old pervert who can’t be trusted. Which is ridiculous — he knows I wasn’t hurting Yuuri, and that Yuuri still loves me, but he’ll still refuse to talk to me. Yuuri feels so guilty.”
“He does not trust,” said Yakov. “It’s why I never pushed him into pairs skating. He doesn’t understand what it’s like to put yourself in someone’s hands, to rely on them completely and be rewarded for your faith. Not like you.”
“You never pushed me into pairs skating either,” Victor said, miffed.
Yakov waved a hand. “You were too pretty for pairs skating,” he said. “And besides, you found your own stubborn way there.”
Victor smiled, thinking of Yuuri. “Yes,” he said. “I suppose I did.”
They were quiet for a few long moments, and then Yakov reached out and squeezed his shoulder.
“He is young, and he loves your Yuuri, even if he doesn’t know it himself,” he said. “You are being kind to him. I see that, when you are here for practice. That’s why I wanted to know from you.”
“It must be punishment for the hell I raised when I was his age,” said Victor. “I — Yuuri and I have made our peace with it. But Yura; he still looks at me like I’m a monster. And sometimes I wonder if he’s right.”
Yakov snorted. “You are stupidly in love with Katsuki. You have been since that godforsaken banquet. I do not believe you would hurt him with intent. I do not believe you have hurt him. He’s wise enough to know when to walk away, but he hasn’t; he still looks at you like you hung the moon and stars. He is just as stupidly in love with you as you are with him.”
Victor felt himself unthaw a bit, realising as he did just how much Yakov’s opinion mattered to him.
“Thank you,” he said, and Yakov squeezed his shoulder again.
“My boy,” he said. “Anything for my children.” He seemed to consider this statement, briefly. “But see if you can make things right with Yura. He will need you, as he gets older, and we are all he has.”
“I’ll try,” said Victor. “And if I don’t manage, he’ll have Yuuri.”
“Yes,” said Yakov. “It was good to bring your Yuri here. He’s been good for you and Yura, and Mila, and even Georgi. But he doesn’t know what it’s like to be so excellent, so young. You do.”
“I’ll do my best,” said Victor, and Yakov nodded, letting him go.
When Yuuri confessed that he was scared that Victor would be angry with him, because playing like that had indeed been his idea in the first place and Victor had borne the brunt of Yuri’s anger, Victor was shocked; he was annoyed with Yuri’s inability to forgive and forget, yes, but he wasn’t angry with Yuuri. It had been hot, right up until they were disrupted.
When he expressed this, Yuuri perked up.
“Really?” he asked, wrapping both arms around Victor’s neck. “You don’t think there’s something wrong with me? I mean — you don’t think I’m a pervert?”
“If you are, so am I,” said Victor.
Yuuri sighed happily, settling himself rather distractingly into Victor’s lap. “If you wanted to be perverted with me, I’m sure I could take it,” he said.
“And what would I do, if I were perverted with you?” asked Victor, delight thrilling through him.
“You might hold me down,” said Yuuri, biting his lip. “Or leave a — I don’t have the English word for it — a kiss on my neck. A mark. Where it would stay tomorrow, and people would see it.” He kissed Victor, shifting his hips forward. “Of course, I’d have to reciprocate.”
“Of course,” Victor said. “What else?”
“You might dress me up how you want me,” said Yuuri, because of course Yuuri knew how much Victor liked making Yuuri look lovely. “You might even do my makeup, like I was going out for competition, but then ruin it.”
Victor couldn’t even choke out a word — the noise he made seemed to please Yuuri, though, who kissed him.
“And I might sit on your lap like this,” said Yuuri, as Victor ran both palms up his sides, marvelling at how compact Yuuri was when he was in peak form, how delightfully warm and soft he felt, how much Victor wanted him. “And ride you. Would you like that?”
“Yuuri,” he breathed, getting both hands under Yuuri’s shirt, dislodging him for just a minute so that he could strip it off. “Yuuri, you beautiful man.”
“Mark me,” Yuuri said, almost a complaint. “Mark me, make everyone see I’m yours.”
“Yuuri,” he said again, like a prayer, and bent his head to mark Yuuri’s neck, right where everyone would see, before pushing Yuuri down under him and fucking him slowly, face to face, bodies sliding together with sweat, the crush between them almost uncomfortable, the only sound in the room Victor’s low monologue about how lovely Yuuri was, how much he was loved and cherished and wanted, and Yuuri’s soft, desperate gasping with every press of Victor’s hips.
And, best of all, Yuuri looking up into his eyes through everything with so much love that Victor never wanted to let this moment go.
Victor did do his best to make things right with Yuri. He knew he was a flaky jerk a lot of the time, and self-absorbed as hell most of the rest of the time, so he made an actual effort not to give up on Yuri. He was reminded, a little, of when he first went to Hasetsu, and Yuuri had been so hot and cold to him; he’d made an actual effort then to understand and woo Yuuri, and once he’d realised the mistakes they were both making, and that Yuuri adored him just as much as he adored Yuuri, he was glad he’d made the effort.
Well, he wanted to make an effort with Yuri, but it felt a lot of the time like struggling uphill; like the trust between them had been far more fragile than Victor had ever expected it to be. He’d always just told Yuri his opinion, and expected Yuri to soak it up like a sponge. Now, things had changed.
“Ugh,” said Yuri, when Victor came to pick up Yuuri from the ballet studio. “Get out.”
Yuuri didn’t say anything, just greeted Victor with a kiss and by getting close enough that Victor could get an arm around his waist without it seeming weird or grabby. Not that he minded being weird and grabby most of the time, it was just that he was on his best behaviour.
“Hello Yuri and Yuuri,” said Victor, as Yuuri snuggled in to him. “Productive session?”
“Very,” said Yuuri. “You should drop by early some time and see Yuri’s extensions.”
“Don’t even think about it,” said Yuri, scowling.
Victor, though, listened to Yuuri; he dropped by early a few days, catching sight of Yuri working beautifully with his Yuuri. Yuri was as flexible as a green willow branch, waiting to be bent into shape, and Victor was momentarily jealous — such beauty and grace — but then he remembered all the good things that came with being himself. Yuuri, for instance, seemed completely immune to Yuri giving him sly, hopeful looks; perhaps gazing wistfully at Yuuri through your hair only worked for Victor.
One day, he came in early enough to catch an actual conversation before Yuri saw him and clammed up. He hid, a little, and observed.
“I don’t like you coming to training with bruises on your neck.”
“It’s a good thing I don’t act only according to your whims, then,” said Yuuri.
“You’re a disgusting pork chop.”
“You’re a sweet little kittycat,” said Yuuri, in return, ruffling Yuri’s hair. Yuri’s expression of disgust and furious batting at Yuuri’s hand was rather delicious; clearly, this insult game was one they’d perfected in their time together. “Come on, Yuri, splits.”
Yuri slid into a perfect front split; Yuuri managed to follow, but without the ease of Yuri’s youth. Yuuri groaned.
“I’m sore,” he said, reaching out for one foot. “So, tell me what he emailed back?”
“No,” said Yuri. “Because you have no useful advice.” He got to his feet, shaking out the strain from his legs. “And because you don’t get details when you’ve let him mark you.”
“I like it when he marks me,” said Yuuri.
“Shut up, Yuuri.”
Yuuri groaned. “Since you think I need looking after, help an old man up.”
“You do need looking after,” said Yuri. “You make such stupid choices.”
Yuuri reached across — such flexibility, Victor would have to remember that — and poked Yuri in the side, eliciting a curse. “One day you’ll understand what it’s like to be in love. And you’ll be embarrassed, and you’ll come to us with a thousand apologies.” He paused, beaming. “Chocolates and flowers are nice, if you need to make an apology.”
“Get yourself up, then!”
Yuri turned, saw Victor, and rolled his eyes. “I’m not even,” he said, inexplicably.
“I’ll help you up,” said Victor, taking Yuuri’s hands and dragging him to his feet. “Good sore, or bad sore?”
“Nothing a massage won’t fix,” said Yuuri.
Victor was happy with that suggestion. “And a hot bath?”
“Mmmm,” Yuuri replied. “Rest day tomorrow?”
“All day,” Victor promised. “You and me and Makkachin.”
“You just have to show up and ruin a perfectly good session,” Yuri grumbled.
“If you wanted, I could come earlier and actually work with you,” said Victor, his mouth working before his brain did.
Yuuri lit up. “Yuri, what do you say?” He took Victor’s hands. “The three of us haven’t worked together in a dance studio since Hasetsu.”
“Are you two conspiring against me?” asked Yuri, and Victor, because he was trying to notice what he didn’t usually pick up, noticed that Yuri had his arms folded across his middle. Oh, Yura, he thought. Yakov was right about trust.
“No, actually,” said Victor, and disappointed as he was at the thought of not training with them, he reined himself in. “If you’re unsure, I won’t. It was simply an idea.”
Yuuri wilted a little, and Yuri must have caught it, because he sighed heavily. “Fine. Come half an hour early next time.”
Yuri and Yuuri were much better dancers than Victor; Yuuri was actually the best out of all three when it came to putting things together, and he held court during the short studio sessions. Victor was enthused about the dance, about Yuri finally forgiving him enough to share this time, and about having Yuuri as his teacher, and about all of it, to be honest, and he leapt into it all with a joy in his heart that he hadn’t realised he’d missed — it even elicited a laugh out of Yuri, once or twice, when he fell, or when he couldn’t make the same graceful step sequences that Yuuri demonstrated. He came half an hour early for a fortnight, but then Yuri said he may as well come for the whole thing, because Yuuri kept looking at the door, and suddenly the three of them were working together again, even if Yuri froze him out whenever they weren’t in the studio.
It felt like something was mending, slowly, like skin growing back over a huge graze, filling in the edges, leaving only the smallest scar.
Worlds, though. First, Yuuri got overwhelmed; there was too much media, too many questions, and even the other skaters kept at him about his relationships, and did he think he could out-skate either of the two men he was romantically linked to, and did he have any comment about the fact that he was allegedly dating a teenager? Yuri made the gossip temporarily worse by furiously defending Yuuri to an American news channel, which had managed to catch Yuuri heading into a full-blown anxiety attack. Thankfully Yuri then dragged him off to find assistance with Phichit, who rather more sensibly steered both Yuri and Yuuri to the Team Russia hotel suite and phoned Victor. Victor rushed upstairs to find a practically catatonic Yuuri, Yuri pacing and raging about the stupid media, and Phichit offering a running commentary on the footage of Yuri defending Yuuri, which was by now all over the skating blogosphere.
Thank goodness the others were still at the sponsor event that Victor had skipped out on.
“My darling,” said Victor, quietly, and he folded Yuuri into his arms, wrapping his coat around both of them, trying to block out as much of the world as he could. He could feel Phichit and Yuri ceasing their fussing to watch Victor and Yuuri, but he didn’t care. “That’s it. Listen to my breath, breathe with me. That’s it, Yuuri.”
Eventually Yuuri was calm enough to let go, but he didn’t go far. He curled up in Victor’s lap on the hotel sofa, and Yuri went to fetch him some tea, and then sat closer than he’d sat to Victor in months. Even on planes, he’d contrived to sit with Yuuri between them. Yuri held out the mug of tea, and Yuuri took it.
“Thank you,” said Yuuri, softly.
“He really does calm you down, doesn’t he?” asked Yuri, as if Victor weren’t there.
Yuuri caught Victor’s eye, and smiled weakly. “Yes,” he said. “He does.”
Later, when Yuuri was in bed, Victor sat with Yuri and explained what to do in the rare case of Yuuri’s anxiety overwhelming him. Yuri listened attentively — don’t fuss at him, don’t threaten him; just hold him, and breathe with him. The measured breathing was the important part, but it didn’t hurt to remind him how much he was loved. He thanked Yuri, though, because by then he’d seen the clip of his beautiful Yuuri being crowded into a corner, bombarded with questions and opinions, so obviously terrified that his heart hurt to watch it. And then Yuri had arrived like a wildcat, snapping back at the reporters about how it was none of their business, and they were here to skate, and if they hadn’t got invites to the Katsuki-Nikiforov wedding, that wasn’t his fault, and he’d break their knees if they got any closer. Victor wondered if broken knees were the worst thing Yuri could think of. He hoped they were. At least this olive branch — learning to help Yuuri — wasn’t shoved away.
The second thing that happened at Worlds was that Yuri’s Angels decided that Yuuri and Victor were a genuine, legitimate threat to their one true fairy prince. Which meant that everywhere Victor went, he had people popping up to berate him for being a perverted old man trying to get his hands on Yuri. Which he wouldn’t have minded so much last year — he’d have thought it was funny — but it was so close to what Yuri thought of him that a nasty little voice in his head started up berating him again and he had to go and seek refuge with Chris in the pool.
Chris was unsympathetic to Victor’s woes.
“You could always just live down to their expectations,” he offered, stretching out a limber leg. “Or you and I can take a few risqué photos together; set the gossip train on a new track. Or would Yuuri be upset?”
“My Yuuri would think it was funny,” said Victor. “The other Yuri, though…”
“Your Yuuri would think what was funny?” asked Yuuri, from behind him.
“Faking a sex scandal with me,” said Chris.
Yuuri gave him a bright, quizzical look. “We could make it a fake threesome,” he said, and Chris howled with laughter as Yuuri slipped into the pool with them and immediately plastered himself to Victor. “But you’re right. Yuri would be devastated, and I won’t do that to him.”
“What’s the reason?” asked Chris.
“Won’t do it to him because there’s something low-key happening, or won’t do it to him because there isn’t?”
“Chris,” said Yuuri, going bright red. “Nothing is happening.” Then he dropped a bombshell. “As far as I know he’s interested in Beka Altin.”
“Otabek?” asked Chris, at the same time as Victor asked “Beka?”
“Mmm,” said Yuuri. “I’ve texted them to join us up here. And a few of the others.”
“Yuuri,” said Victor, lifting him. Yuuri went with it, letting Victor cuddle him and swish him a bit in the water. “What are you plotting?”
Yuuri blinked at him, as sweet as could be. “I’m not plotting anything,” he said. “Why would you think I’m plotting?”
The others joined them — somehow, it seemed Yuuri had the numbers of everyone who was competing, and, extraordinarily, they’d all come to see what was happening in the pool. The more brazen contingent jumped straight in, but Victor caught a few stepping carefully in, including Otabek.
“Otabek!” said Victor, waving at him. So this was Yuri’s friend? Interesting.
“Hello,” said Altin, guarded. “You do not mind us joining you?”
“You’re very welcome,” said Victor. He’d seen Otabek before, but they’d never particularly talked. He could at least tell him apart from the others, which had been a major issue for a while with JJ. Yuuri had stayed within arm’s reach of Victor, and he popped up from where he was leaning comfortably against Victor’s side to shake Otabek’s hand, because Yuuri was sometimes ridiculously formal, and ridiculously sweet.
“Thank you for the invitation,” Otabek said to Yuuri, a little stiffly.
“I’m glad you came,” said Yuuri, with a soft smile.
Yuri swam up between them. “So are we talking like boring old people, or are you going to run one of your recovery sessions?” he asked, blandly.
“Talking like boring old people,” said Victor.
“Recovery?” asked Altin.
“Victor, please?” asked Yuuri.
Victor clapped his hands. “All right, everyone! In the pool if you’re in!”
“Ah, yes,” said Chris. “Victor’s back.”
When Victor was younger, water recovery had been all the rage; stretch out the soreness in warm water. This pool wasn’t really hot enough for it, but no hotel pool was. Victor’s somewhat infamous group recovery sessions had begun when he’d been caught stretching out in the pool one evening by Chris and a few of the others who were now no longer competing; after that, he’d led evening pool sessions at most of his major competitions until Yakov had growled at him about getting too cosy with the competition.
He’d forgotten how much fun it was. They were all a bit stiff and sore from the Short Program, and most of the people there had coaches and teams who would kill Victor if they knew what he was up to, but the water buoyed them up, Victor swimming from person to person, checking in with where there was tension or tightness, shouting out orders.
Someone — Chris, probably — put on some music, and Victor caught Yuuri’s subtle head incline to where Yuri was adjusting poor Otabek.
“Oi!” Yuri demanded. “Come and fix Beka.”
He helped Otabek loosen a horribly tight shoulder, under Yuri’s watchful gaze, and then gasped when someone swam up and grabbed him around the waist, pulling him back into the water. Yuuri touched his cheek, underwater, and Victor laughed a stream of bubbles.
“The dreaded Hasetsu shark!” Victor announced upon surfacing, and Yuuri blushed but stayed firmly attached to him, even when Chris joked about the Hasetsu shark being a man-eater. It was a shame they were sharing a suite, Victor thought, because he could go a round or two of being the merman to Yuuri’s shark, once they were in the soft hotel bed. Yuuri’s playfulness did the trick to break things up — everyone was tired and flexing and happy. Victor caught some splashing out of the corner of his eye, and he realised that Yuri and Otabek were involved in some sort of game. He ignored them, leaning down to kiss Yuuri.
“And posted,” said Phichit, happily.
“Hmm?” asked Yuuri.
“Fixing your image,” said Phichit. “No more questions about relationships, thanks to Phichit.”
Later, in the plush hotel bed with Yuuri snuggled up against him, scrolling through Victor’s phone together, he saw what Phichit meant, and gave silent thanks. Victor and Yuuri in the foreground kissing, Otabek and Yuri in the background making dramatic faces. No hint of artifice or fight.
Without warning, Yuri barged in.
“You losers see what’s breaking the internet tonight?” he asked, leaning against the doorframe.
“You do a lovely Victor impersonation,” said Yuuri. “How have your Angels reacted?”
“They think you’re both gross old men who are weirdly obsessed with each other,” said Yuri.
“I don’t mind that,” said Yuuri. “I meant more how did they react to you and Beka?”
Yuri shrugged. “Good, I guess.” He tucked back his curtain of hair. “He asked me to thank Victor for fixing his shoulder.”
“Tell him to buy you a coffee; that’s his payment,” said Victor.
“No, you deserve a reward,” said Yuuri. “Make it a cake.”
“Or I don’t do either of those things, because they’re stupid,” said Yuri.
“Out,” said Victor, throwing a spare pillow at him.
“Goodnight, Yuri,” said Yuuri.
“Night, Yuuri,” said Yuri. He pulled a face at Victor, which seemed to serve as a goodnight.
“Sleep well, Yura,” said Victor. “Dream of beating us on Saturday.”
Yuri rolled his eyes, and the door snicked shut. Yuuri rolled over in Victor’s arms, kissing him before reaching over him to turn off the light, tucking his head onto Victor’s shoulder as Victor stayed up a little longer to flick through the photos that Makkachin’s dog-sitter had sent, Yuuri’s gentle breathing and the light of the phone lulling him into a deep, warm calm.
The third — and worst — thing to happen at Worlds was that Yuri fell during his Free Skate. He was going for a stupidly impossible jump, one that Yakov and everyone else had told him not to do, and he didn’t land it. He struggled to his feet and skated the rest of his program, but Victor could see the tears in his eyes when the cameras zoomed in, and he collapsed to the ice like a sack of potatoes once he finished. This wasn’t an exhaustion collapse. This was something more than that. Frightened, Victor made eye contact with Yuuri, and then they were both bolting for the barrier together.
“Yuuri,” said Yuri, when the attendants got him to the side of the rink. “I think I’ve broken my ankle.”
“You’ll be all right,” said Yuuri, gently. “You’ll be fine.” He took Yuri from the attendants, and held him close.
“Don’t make me leave before I get my score,” Yuri said. “Don’t let them make me leave.”
Yuuri nodded. “Come on, let’s get you over to find out your score. Victor, can you…?”
The crowd roared when Victor picked up Yuri. He was damn heavy, and Victor half expected him to stiffen and wriggle free, but instead he put his arms around Victor’s neck.
“I’m sorry,” said Yuri, and then he rested against Victor, probably because he didn’t really have any other choice. “After everything I’ve said, you shouldn’t be… I’m sorry.”
Victor adjusted his grip, and Yuuri gave him a bit of an assist.
“Forgiven,” he said, and he felt lighter, even though Yuri weighed a ton.
“How? The things I’ve accused you of—” asked Yuri, and Victor decided to cut him off at the pass.
“You know we both love you,” he said. “You heavy monster.”
There weren’t enough seats for all of them plus Yakov in the kiss-and-cry, so Yuri and Victor got to sit, Yuuri hugging them both from behind, Yakov watching over all of them.
“Bronze,” said Yuri, when the scores were announced. His eyes were distinctly shiny. “Fuck.” He sucked in a breath. “Fuck everything, I think I’ve broken my ankle and I only got bronze.”
He was holding Victor’s wrist very tightly, and Victor was reminded of when he was much younger, and a tiny, fierce Yuri had come to join Yakov’s team for the first time, determined to succeed, to never show when he was hurting. And look at him now, still fierce, but big enough and talented enough to be his and Yuuri’s peer. Stubborn enough to skate on an injury. It wasn’t surprising that Yuri was a little shit, given that he’d grown up in the company of Victor and the others, but he was their little shit, and Victor and Yuuri would look after him.
“You’ll come back stronger,” said Victor. “And we can change up your image a bit, right? The badass who skated on a broken ankle and won bronze anyway. Think of how much you’ve just pissed off JJ.”
Yuri snorted, and looked up at Victor. “I would have beaten you if I hadn’t fallen.”
“Maybe,” Victor conceded. “Maybe not. But you wouldn’t have caught Yuuri, and that’s still a win for me, because I’m his coach.”
“It’s a win for Yuuri, not you, glory-hog.”
Yuuri tucked a loose strand of hair behind Yuri’s ear. “I’ll let you play with my gold if you like.”
Yuri grinned a feral, tearstained grin. “Not a chance,” he said. “I heard if you touch it, you have to marry Vitya.”
All right, so some good came of Worlds — Yuri and Yuuri curled up together, fast asleep on the hotel sofa bed. They’d folded it out into a bed so that Yuri could watch replays of the competition and the gala; Yuuri had insisted on staying with him, and the pair of them fell asleep, exhausted from competition and injury and everything else. Victor and Yuri had skated the gala, but returned to their room, Victor explaining in no uncertain terms to the press that they had offered to help their younger rinkmate recuperate.
Victor yawned as he tucked the two Yuris in, made some tea for himself from his and Yuuri’s stash, and as he returned to sit in the armchair and catch whatever was on the television, realised that Yuri watching him.
“Where’s everyone else?” asked Yuri.
“At the post-gala celebrations.”
“Why aren’t you?”
“Because I wanted to look after my Yuris.” He yawned again. “And perhaps get some sleep.”
“Your Yuris?” Yuri looked, for a moment, lost. “Victor…”
“You called me Vitya, yesterday,” said Victor. He paused, at a loss for what to say. “Would you like some tea?”
“Yes,” said Yuri. “And some more of my painkillers.” He swallowed, looking up at Victor. “So you two really getting married, now that he’s won gold?”
“We were really getting married anyway,” said Victor. “But I’m bursting with pride that he won.”
“Me too,” said Yuri, and then he went pink, looking away. “I’ve been an asshole to you.” He took the tablets that Victor handed him, and then looked Victor squarely in the eye. “Vitya. Be honest. Did you mean that yesterday?”
“That we love you, or that I forgive you?” asked Victor. “Of course I meant it.” He sat on the sofa bed next to Yuri, and for the first time in forever, Yuri accepted a hug from him, resting against his side as they both watched the recordings of the gala.
“Good,” said Yuri. “I deserve it.”
Victor laughed, despite himself. “You do,” he said, Yuri’s head tucked under his chin. “I’m glad you’ve forgiven me.”
“You hurt him, ever, and that threat to break your knees is still on.” Yuri put his empty cup down, and yawned like a cat. “But you’re okay. Both you losers are.”
Victor knew that was as close as he’d ever get to a declaration of affection from Yuri, and he held it close to his heart. Yuri raised his phone, briefly, clicked a selfie, applied a few filters and then posted it. Victor briefly considered the reaction of the more militant wing of Yuri’s Angels to a photograph of himself with an arm around Yuri, but shook off the worry. He trusted Yuri.
And from the look of things, and the way Yuri fell asleep snuggled up against him, Yuri trusted him, too.
The next time Yuuri had a panic attack at a major competition, Victor couldn’t help. They’d been programmed to follow each other, and Victor had seen all the impending signs, and then Yuuri panicked even more when he thought he was distracting Victor, which made Victor start to wobble a bit, too, because he couldn’t bear to see Yuuri so unhappy, and trying so hard to hide it. Anxiety, right? Hell of a thing. He’d been so long without an attack, too. Victor considered how painful Yakov would make his death if he didn’t skate today.
“Go,” said Yuri, shoving him out of the way. “You need to be on the ice. Then you need to be watching Yuuri. And then me, when I beat both of you.”
“We need to watch…” Yuuri began, but couldn’t finish the sentence.
“We will,” said Yuri. “Vitya, get on the fucking ice. Yuuri and I’ve got this.”
“Go on,” wheezed Yuuri, and Victor kissed him one last time, got called lovesick by Yakov and about fifty other people when he came racing in just in time to make his skate, and then skated Life and Love perfectly, beautifully, unbeatably. And then he stumbled into the kiss and cry, and after, still in his costume, watched Yuuri. Watched Yuri and Yuuri, heads bent like they were chatting back home at St Petersburg, each with a hand on the other’s chest. Matching their breathing, Victor thought, and his heart felt light with happiness as Yuuri got onto the ice. He didn’t manage to catch Yuuri until the end of Metamorphosis, but he knew by then that Yuri’s care and attention had done what they needed to.
Yuuri let Victor hug him from behind as they watched Yuri, right through to after the scores were given and Yuri sat in third, just behind Yuuri; a fantastic score, coming back from injury. Chris was heading onto the ice; Victor wondered whether he’d knock Yuri off the podium. They still had their Free Skate — a lot could change between now and then.
“How are you?” Victor murmured, into his ear.
“Happy,” said Yuuri, leaning back against him.
Yuri joined them like a human tornado. “Last time I help you, if you’re going to beat me.”
“You’ll have to do better in the Free Skate,” said Victor.
“Says the man who can practically taste gold.”
“We’ll just have to steal it from him,” said Yuuri, smiling at Yuri. “You were wonderful.”
Yuri frowned a bit. “You okay?” he asked.
“I wouldn’t have been, if not for you.” Yuuri hugged Yuri, and then Victor decided to join in, and someone got a photo. Rather than spitting and hissing to get free, Yuri yielded to it.
Victor would have been happier if he hadn’t later found the photo on Instagram with the caption “TFW your gay dads are beating you at skating but they’re so proud of you anyway”, because he was not old enough to be Yuri’s father, but when he complained, Yuuri, who was snuggled up in their hotel bed, just smiled. They had a room this time, not a Team Russia suite — Victor rather suspected that Yakov hadn’t wanted Yuuri and Victor distracting the other skaters. Or possibly he’d been afraid that Yuuri would poison Georgi if poor Yuuri had to listen to another evening of Georgi’s dramatic recitation of his life story.
“At least they don’t think the worst of us anymore,” he said.“It’s rather a relief, actually.” He rolled over, letting the sheet drape just so. “Vic-tor.”
Victor knew that tone. “Yu-uri.”
“Put the chain on the door?” Yuuri asked. “I told Beka that if he didn’t keep Yuri busy tonight, he wasn’t getting a wedding invite. And that if he kept Yuri busy in a way that involved damaging him for his free skate, I’d break both his knees.”
“Hmmm, dirty tactics. Yuri tactics, if I’m not mistaken,” said Victor. He realised that Yuuri wasn’t wearing anything under the crisp white sheets. “So no chance of interruption.”
“No chance,” said Yuuri, looking up from under his eyelashes.
Victor put the chain on the hotel door. “Good,” he said, watching Yuuri’s eyes get hungry as he slowly removed his shirt. Yuuri licked his lips, unselfconsciously. “You’ll be the death of me.”
“Come here,” Yuuri commanded, and Victor smiled, checked the chain one last time, and then went to his Yuuri, everything right with the world.