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Even if I Tried

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He watched Viktor walk away, and felt solitude return like a crushing weight.

It wasn’t the first time Yuuri stood alone, cast aside from the bubble of fans and friends gathering around Viktor.  Sometimes when it happened, he found himself caught up in it by virtue of Viktor’s arm around his shoulders, or the press questioning Viktor’s decision to coach and Viktor deflecting into comments on Yuuri’s programs.  Usually it was like this, though.  Viktor was a peacock- Yuuri had known that before even meeting him in person.  He preened when the adoration from the crowd shone on him like a spotlight on the ice.

“It’s a grave sin to keep Viktor off the ice,” Christophe murmured into Yuuri’s ear.  “The whole world is waiting for him to return, you know.”

Yuuri startled a little.  He’d been focused on Viktor, on his comfortable, confident expression as he chatted with two of the women’s single skaters, on their pouting comments that Viktor should come back to the fold, what was he doing coaching a third rate skater anyway.  He hadn’t noticed Chris standing next to him.

He swallowed.  “I…” he mumbled, then trailed off into silence.

Viktor chose this for himself, he didn’t say.

He told me he wanted this.

I’m not keeping him anywhere.

Chris peeled away from Yuuri, joining the growing crowd around Viktor.  He insinuated himself into the circle easily, slinging his arm around Viktor’s shoulders with a familiarity that Yuuri had never been able to manage.  Viktor just smiled at him and kept on talking.

That’s right.  If Yuuri didn’t make it to the Grand Prix Final, his time with Viktor…

Chris turned his head to whisper something into Viktor’s ear.  Viktor laughed, that bright, charming laugh Yuuri had heard so many times in press conferences, in interviews, in TV specials on the great Viktor Nikiforov.

Something began to burn deep in Yuuri’s chest.

He peeled away from the crowd of fans gathered around Viktor- his Viktor- to go warm up alone.

-

Pichit took the music that so many skaters had chosen, and made it his own.

Yuuri watched the performance on the monitor with his hands pressed over his mouth.  Pichit had really done it.  Taken something that had belonged to all of them, and stolen it out from under their feet.   Shall We Skate would never be anything but his, now.

The ember scorching Yuuri’s lungs flared a little brighter.  If Pichit could do it…

The people who wanted to see Viktor skate would never be satisfied with Yuuri.  If that was the case, then fine.  He would be the skater who stole Viktor Nikiforov away from the ice.  They could hate him all they wanted.  They should hate him, because Viktor was his .

He didn’t belong to the rest of the world anymore.

“The time for thinking about katsudon and women is over,” Viktor said quietly, his fingers pressing ever so slightly into the back of Yuuri’s hand.  “You can seduce me with your own charms.  You know that, right?”

You belong to me, and me alone.

“Don’t you dare take your eyes off me,” Yuuri said.  He grabbed Viktor’s hand in a tight grip that no one could break, pressed his forehead to Viktor’s.   Mine.

He skated out onto the ice, burning, burning, burning.

-

The flame burned out as soon as his skates touched solid ground again, nothing to scorch without the ice to fight against.  He took his place next to Viktor in the kiss and cry, floating like ash over the wreckage of the fire.  He couldn’t quite bring himself to meet Viktor’s eyes.  He took the water bottle Viktor offered with a murmured thank you, and stared out at the ice.  Distantly, he couldn’t quite believe that the surface was still frozen.

“Did it really feel that good?”

He blinked.  His eyes flickered over to Viktor, then back to the ice.  There was a different kind of heat invading his cheeks now, all too familiar and unwelcome.  “Um,” he said quietly.  “Mostly I just wanted people to feel good watching it.”

Lie.  He’d only thought of one person.  The man who’d regularly had underwear thrown onto the ice along with the flowers, the man who’d had four scandalous and highly publicized affairs with models and other skaters before the age of twenty, the man that Yuuri couldn’t hope to keep but desperately wanted to.

He squinted in disbelief at his scores, and treasured the feeling of Viktor’s arms around him.

Viktor kept his hand on Yuuri’s shoulder blade as they made their way back to the green room.  A coach-like gesture, guiding him forward and providing a comfort in the face of the aggressive reporters and fans- except Celestino never would have traced aimless designs into Yuuri’s skin, trailing heat and shivers down his spine.  Viktor only dropped the hand once they reached the relative safety of the green room, leaving the interviews for later.

Yuuri glanced at him and found Viktor watching him with an odd look in his eyes.  “What is it?” he asked.

A tiny smile brushed Viktor’s lips.  “I’ve never seen you skate like that,” he said quietly.  He spoke like they were the only people in the room, in the building, in the world.  Yuuri’s response caught in his throat.  Viktor’s face- Viktor Nikiforov’s, the man he’d been infatuated with since he was eleven years old- was only a few inches away from his own, his breath brushing his cheek, his blue eyes practically glowing.

Say something.  “Ah- um,” he stammered.  Suddenly all his years learning English flew out of his head; absurdly, the only English he could remember right now in this moment was the chorus to that one song that played ceaselessly on the radio last year.   Too hot, hot damn, his brain helpfully supplied him.

Viktor’s eyes twinkled under the fluorescent lights.  “Any more surprises for me?” he asked.

English, right.  “Um,” he said.  Not ten minutes ago he’d known exactly what to say, how to show Viktor what he was feeling.  Now he couldn’t even form a sentence.

“Viktor!” someone shouted, and Viktor’s eyes turned away from Yuuri like it was nothing.  Some of the Russian skaters, Yuuri guessed as the women began gushing to Viktor in their mother tongue.

Viktor waved and responded in the same language, sounding far more comfortable speaking to them in his native language than he ever did with Yuuri.  And suddenly it was as if the short program, Viktor’s eyes on him the whole time, never happened.

The coal began burning again in Yuuri’s chest, but this time he had no outlet for it.  All he could do was watch as Viktor chatted with his fellow Russians, laughed at some joke by the graceful brunette, winked at her and let her sidle up next to him like he didn’t already belong to Yuuri.

And.  That was the thing, wasn’t it.  Viktor didn’t belong to Yuuri, not really.  Even as his coach, there was no guarantee that Viktor would stick around longer than the next time Yuuri missed a podium.  As for the rest, the playful smiles and the gentle touches-  Well.  There was no guarantee for any of that at all, just wishful thinking.

“Yuuri?  Leo just started his program, did you want to watch?”

Yuuri startled.  Viktor was beside him again, when did that happen?

Viktor frowned, a tiny crease of worry on the bridge of his nose.  “Are you alright?”

“Fine,” Yuuri answered automatically.  He let Viktor lead them toward the TV on the other side of the room, but stopped in his tracks before they moved two paces.  “They seemed friendly,” he blurted.

“Hmm?”  Viktor turned in confusion.

“Those girls,” Yuuri said.

“What about them?”

Yuuri gritted his teeth.  “They seemed very interested in your conversation.”

“Oh,” Viktor said with a smile far too pleasant for the situation.  “Yes, I’ve known Anna and Valentina since they were in the junior division.”  He glanced over at the two girls, then hesitated before turning back.  “Yuuri…”

“We should watch Leo’s program,” Yuuri said quietly.  He led the way over to the TV, not checking to see if Viktor followed him.  Viktor knew him too well, sometimes.  He didn’t want to give Viktor the satisfaction of knowing he was jealous, like a schoolboy with a crush.

Later, when Viktor draped himself over Yuuri’s back to watch the program, neither one of them mentioned it.

-

A quad flip.  A quad flip, at the very end of the program, when Yuuri hadn’t slept, had been sobbing in a parking garage only a few minutes ago.  Viktor ran over to the gate, floating like he was in a dream, running toward Yuuri.  To Yuuri, always to Yuuri.

“Viktor!  I did great, right?”

Yuuri.

He was floating- actually floating now, feet off the ground and arms outstretched, Yuuri’s shocked face coming closer and closer until-

Their lips met, and Viktor’s brain short circuited.

Yuuri’s lips were chapped- of course they were, Yuuri never used lip balm unless Viktor forced it on him.  They were chapped, and warm.  Viktor’s nose was jammed uncomfortably in Yuuri’s cheek, Yuuri’s hair was matted with sweat where Viktor tangled his fingers, and they were falling backward towards an inevitable collision with the ice, and yet.  And yet.

He was kissing Katsuki Yuuri, and he’d never lived until this very moment.

They landed on the ice with a thump, Viktor’s knuckles smacking the surface hard enough to bruise where he cradled Yuuri’s head.  The impact dislodged their lips and left Viktor’s head smashed into the crook of Yuuri’s neck- hardly an unpleasant place to be, truth be told, but not where he so desperately wanted to be.  He pulled away, ready to kiss Yuuri again, and again, and again, not stopping until they both burst with happiness.

Except- right.  Yuuri’s eyes were wide and startled, his whole body tense underneath Viktor’s, and Viktor tried to catch his breath, calm his heartbeat long enough to say something.

He tried to flash a smile, but from the uneven cadence of his own breath he could tell he looked more dazed than anything.  “I-” he tried, then swallowed.   Say something.  “It was the only thing I could think of to surprise you more than you’ve surprised me.”

Maybe not that.

Before he could stammer out an explanation, blurt out that he’d wanted to kiss Yuuri for months, mutter something self deprecating about Yuuri never showing any interest and maybe now hadn’t been the best time- before he even opened his mouth, Yuuri smiled and tightened his arms.

“Really?” he said, light and joyful and wonderful.

Their faces were only inches from each other.  Viktor glanced down at Yuuri’s lips and swallowed, captivated by the way they parted ever so slightly.  He leaned down, ready to catch them in his own, when a bright flash blinded him.

He blinked, looking around them, and- oh.  Oh shit.  Cameras flashed more brightly and continuously than when he’d actually won a gold metal, including thousands of phones pointed squarely at them.  The roar of the crowd, muted under the influence of Yuuri’s lips on his, came back to full deafening volume.  Because yeah.  He’d just kissed Yuuri in front of the whole goddamn world.

His face flushed just as deeply as Yuuri’s for once as he helped Yuuri to his feet.  Viktor’s dress shoes slipped unsteadily on the ice, because he was an idiot who just tackled Yuuri without a single thought in his head.  The last time he’d tried to walk on ice without skates was when he got drunk with Chris and decided he didn’t need skates to do his short program.  He supposed it wasn’t exactly new information that Yuuri affected him with much the same force as a bottle of vodka.

They made their way unsteadily back to the gate.  The cameras were still flashing, the crowd still roaring, and really, Viktor should have been more concerned about that, the public image he and Yuuri were presenting, but.  Well.  He touched his lips where they throbbed, probably bruised from hitting Yuuri’s so hard.  He thought maybe he was smiling, delirious and dazed.  He thought maybe he wouldn’t ever stop.

-

They didn’t talk about it.

Viktor had thought maybe they would- maybe they should- but they didn’t.  They’d sat in the kiss and cry scant inches away from each other, and Viktor found his attention more focused on the warmth of Yuuri’s body than Yuuri’s scores, and they didn’t talk about it.  They stood by the boards as the medal ceremony was set up on the ice, and Yuuri’s hand pressed right up against his on the wood, and they didn’t talk about it.  Viktor watched with pride bursting in his chest as Yuuri accepted his silver medal, sure that even if Yuuri had fallen to last place he would be just as proud, just as in love.  He’d pretended at the beginning that this was about Yuuri’s skating, that it wasn’t purely about Yuuri himself, the music of his body even when he wasn’t on the ice, his passion and determination hiding under the shy exterior, the way he enchanted everyone in a room without even realizing it.  He’d pretended he hadn’t fallen in love with Yuuri at the banquet a year ago, when the drunk sixth place skater dragged the five time gold medalist into a messy, whirling paso doble and then begged him to be his coach.  He was long past pretending now.

They fielded questions from the press, avoiding even mentioning the kiss by unspoken agreement, and slowly made their way back to the hotel.

And they didn’t talk about it.

There was a moment, somewhere in the short ride from the rink to the hotel, when Viktor opened his mouth, ready to say something.  It was just the two of them in the cab, not including the driver- Viktor doubted he spoke much English anyway.  Yuuri had his head resting on the window, his eyes half closed, his breathing slow and even.  In the passing streetlights and gentle glow of the city at night, he was the most beautiful thing Viktor had ever seen.

“Yuuri…” he said.

Yuuri lifted his head slowly.  He blinked at Viktor, exhaustion pulling at his eyelids and deepening the shadows under his eyes.  He hadn’t slept the night before; Viktor had almost forgotten.

“Yes?” Yuuri murmured, soft and tired, but there was something guarded in his expression.  A reluctance that made Viktor’s heart pound with sudden anxiety.

Viktor opened his mouth, then closed it again.  He shook his head, giving Yuuri a small smile.  “It’s nothing.”

Yuuri frowned a little, but slumped against the window again instead of pressing it.  Viktor sighed and looked out his own window to keep from staring at his student with an absurdly fond smile.

Maybe it would be better not to talk about the kiss.  Yuuri ran so hot and cold with him as it was, in one moment welcoming his touches and smiles or even initiating them, then pushing him away in the next.  He’d dismissed it in the beginning as Yuuri being starstruck- he knew Yuuri had been a fan of his for a long time, thanks to a glimpse of a stack of posters under Yuuri’s bed, Yuko’s teasing whispers, and Yuuri’s own drunken mumblings about a dog named after him.  Some part of it might have been embarrassment, too, given how rowdy Yuuri had behaved at the banquet.  Either way, Viktor had figured that once they got to know each other as real people, skater to skater, coach to student, man to man, that the push and pull would ease, or stop altogether.  And yet here they were, five months later, and he had no more idea of where he stood with Yuuri than that day he’d impulsively booked a flight to Japan.

He gave in to the temptation to glance over.  Yuuri was staring out the window, his expression distant, almost lost.  Viktor fought the urge to lean over and smooth the hair out of Yuuri’s face.

Maybe he shouldn’t have kissed Yuuri at all.

Because now he wanted to kiss him again, and again, kiss him daily for the rest of their lives.  Kiss him until the frown disappeared from his face, until he smiled like he had on the ice, bright and burning.  The urge was far, far stronger now than it had been before he knew what Yuuri’s lips tasted like.  And he couldn’t kiss Yuuri again yet, because he didn’t even know if Yuuri wanted him to.

They’d found a good balance between them, these past months in Hasetsu.  An intimacy, even.  Viktor knew more about Yuuri than he did about anyone else in his life; he’d shared more of himself with Yuuri than he’d even thought possible.  He’d been content with that, emotional closeness without physical intimacy- it wasn’t everything, but it was enough.

And now he might have ruined everything.

He startled out of his thoughts at the sudden squeal of breaks and lurch of the car.  They’d arrived at the hotel without him even noticing, and now the driver was staring at him with expectantly raised eyebrows and impatience with these two foreigners taking too much time to pay and get out.

Hastily he counted out bills and shoved them into the driver’s hand with a clumsy, “Xièxiè.”  He followed Yuuri out of the cab, barely getting clear before it sped away.

He brushed a hand through his hair.  “Is it just me, or are cab drivers rude in every country?”

“We should have shared an Uber with Pichit, they’re usually nicer,” Yuuri said, wrapping his arms around his torso with a shiver.

Viktor noticed with a surge of affection.  For a professional ice skater, Yuuri was strangely susceptible to the cold- or maybe that was just because Viktor’s Russian blood made him immune to the cold snaps that floored everyone else.

Without thinking about it, he wrapped his arm around Yuuri’s shoulders and rubbed his arm to try to impart some warmth.  Yuuri tensed a little, but didn’t pull away, which.  At least it was something.  “As your coach, I recommend a good night’s rest,” he said lightly, leading Yuuri toward the entrance to the lobby.  “In fact, if you like I can carry you up to the room so you can get started on that.”

He felt rather than saw Yuuri roll his eyes.  He smiled to himself.  Perhaps it was wrong to take such pleasure in irritating his student, but he couldn’t help it.

The hotel lobby was significantly warmer than it was outside, but Viktor didn’t drop his arm from Yuuri’s shoulders, and Yuuri didn’t try to remove it.  There were quite a few people crowding the lobby- some reporters still interviewing skaters and their coaches, of course, as well as a few clusters of fans watching the interviews excitedly.  A large, boisterous group ambled ahead of Viktor and Yuuri towards the elevators, talking and squealing about the programs earlier, altogether too loud after a long day of competition.  Underneath Viktor’s arm, Yuuri’s shoulders tensed with every raucous bought of laughter; Viktor tightened his grip ever so slightly.

They reached the elevators at the same time as the fans.  Unfortunately, that’s when the gaggle of young women noticed that Russia’s living legend Viktor Nikiforov and Japan’s ace Katsuki Yuuri were standing right behind them.

Viktor plastered on his best public smile as the loudest of the girls squealed.  “Katsuki-san!” she gasped, her eyes sliding right past Viktor to land, simperingly, on his student.  “Ah! Honto ni Katsuki-kun da!

Well.  That was unexpected.

Viktor found himself brushed gently but firmly to the side while the fans crowded around Yuuri.  His Japanese was still hovering around the level of a six year old, according to the language app he’d downloaded; and yet, in all the time he’d spent in Hasetsu surrounded by incomprehensible Japanese, he’d never felt so out of place as he did right now.

The girls chattered at Yuuri, holding out posters for him to sign with respectful bows.  To his credit, Yuuri smiled at them, murmured back his gratitude for their support, never letting on that he hadn’t slept in twenty four hours.  Viktor, still a novice in Japanese but becoming an expert in Yuuri, understood enough from Yuuri’s response to gather that the girls had come to Beijing to cheer him on specifically.

He shouldn’t be surprised that Yuuri had fans- he’d be more shocked and offended if Yuuri didn’t have fans- and yet…

Yuuri smiled and nodded, a faint blush on his cheeks as the girls jostled towards him to get in place for pictures.  His posture for the camera was awkward, half hunched so that he would be the same height as them, but his smile was genuine.  He glanced at Viktor after the first photo, looking uncertain.  Viktor smiled at him and gave him a thumbs up.

One of the girls pressed closer to Yuuri when the group photos were done, directing her friends presumably so that she could get a solo picture with her idol.  Yuuri’s blush deepened at something she said, but he leaned into her for the picture with a smile, his arm around her shoulders.

Viktor felt the smile slip from his face.

The girl was beautiful, somewhere near Yuuri’s age, with a sparkle in her eye and a twist to her lips that reminded Viktor of Yuuri himself.  She murmured something to Yuuri, and he laughed, full bodied and bright and beautiful.

Whenever Viktor tried to make Yuuri laugh like that, more often than not Yuuri apologized instead of laughing, or worse, ran away from him.  And yet this girl who didn’t even know him pulled it out of him without even trying?  Viktor gritted his teeth.

The girl giggled and kissed Yuuri on the cheek.  Yuuri immediately turned beet red- but he didn’t pull away.

Viktor couldn’t breathe.  Grebanyy suka.

“Ah, sumimasen,” Viktor said in his clumsy Japanese, shouldering his way through the group to reach his student.  Yuuri gave him an odd look- so maybe he hadn’t been quite successful in masking the bitterness and fury stewing in his gut.  “We should be getting back,” he said, switching to English and hoping the fans would understand him.  “Yuuri needs some rest after a long day.”

Yuuri was still frowning at him, a little too perceptively, but he turned to the fans when Viktor nudged him.  He mumbled something to them that Viktor didn’t quite catch- hopefully a translation of what Viktor just said.  In any case, he let Viktor lead him the rest of the way into the waiting elevator, with a little wave at the fans as the door closed behind them.

As eager as Viktor had been to get Yuuri away from the fans, the air in the elevator was suffocatingly tense.  Or maybe it was just him, still fuming about that kuritsa kissing Yuuri- his Yuuri.  Yuuri seemed unaffected, leaning against the rail with a weary slump to his shoulders.

Viktor took a deep breath, taking in the smell of stale carpet cleaner, his own cologne, and the faintest hint of the Old Spice deodorant that Yuuri always used too much of.  It wasn’t as grounding as he’d hoped it would be.  He was still buzzing with anger, at the girl, at Yuuri, at himself.  But really, who did she think she was, kissing Yuuri not two hours after Viktor had done it first?  In front of thousands of spectators, too, broadcast live to the whole world.  There could be no doubt that Yuuri belonged to him, not to some fangirl who didn’t know the first thing about Yuuri.

Except.  That was the real problem, wasn’t it.  Yuuri wasn’t his.  His student of course, his friend maybe- but Yuuri didn’t belong to him the way he wanted.  Kissing him on the ice hadn’t suddenly fixed everything, hadn’t chased away the shadows of ambiguity and doubt from their relationship.  They still hadn’t even talked about it.  That girl had just as much right to kiss Yuuri as Viktor did- only as much right as Yuuri allowed them.

“Viktor?”

He blinked.  Yuuri had moved without him realizing, standing in the hall outside the elevator and holding the door open.  He hadn’t even noticed that they’d reached their floor.

“Oh, sorry,” he said.  Yuuri frowned but didn’t say anything as he fell in step beside him.

The backs of their hands brushed against each other as they walked.

-

Every muscle in Yuuri’s body ached with fatigue and the leftover shivers of anxiety, some of them still rippling through his body every five minutes or so.  He didn’t think he’d ever been this tired in his life, not when he’d worked himself so hard in training he’d nearly fainted in the onsen, not when he’d taken that dumb pole dancing class with Phichit and worked muscles he hadn’t even known existed, not when he’d stayed up all night sobbing about Vicchan right before the Final last year.  It wasn’t because he hadn’t slept- or, it was a little bit because of that, but he knew his body well enough to know that wasn’t the whole story.

Mostly, it all boiled down to Viktor, walking beside him in silence.

Viktor, who had staked his entire career on Yuuri, who Yuuri had gone into a panic over because he couldn’t bear to let him down.  Viktor, who had threatened to do the very thing Yuuri had been dreading- I’ll take responsibility and resign as your coach- as if their relationship hadn’t become the backbone of both of their lives.  Viktor, who had looked downright horrified when his words made Yuuri break down in front of him.

Viktor, who had kissed him.

They reached their shared hotel room without a word spoken between them, and Viktor stepped ahead to dig his keycard out of an inside pocket.  Yuuri took the opportunity to trace the outline of his own lips, half-expecting them to feel different now that they’ve touched Viktor’s.  They didn't.  Maybe they were a little bruised, swollen from the hard impact of Viktor’s mouth against his, but still the same all told.  He was almost disappointed.

Maybe further experiments needed to be undertaken.  Yuuri’s eyes drifted over Viktor’s profile, tracing the familiar line of Viktor’s brow, his eyes, his nose, down to his lips slightly parted.  How many more kisses would it take to change the shape of those lips, of Yuuri’s lips, until they fit perfectly together like puzzle pieces?  Or were they already there, made to press against one another by some higher power?

He didn’t want to think that maybe their lips didn’t- wouldn’t- couldn’t fit together like that again.  The acidity in his bones, left behind when adrenaline finally left them, was already too much for him right now; he didn’t want to add longing and despair to that mix.

The door beeped and opened with a soft swish against the carpet.  Viktor stepped into the room without a word, held the door for Yuuri without a word, went into the en suite bathroom and closed the door without a word.  He hadn’t spoken since an absent apology at the elevator, hadn’t said much of anything since they left the cab.

Trepidation curled in Yuuri’s stomach like an unwelcome stray.

He set his bag down by his bed and took his phone out, the old habit of scouring the internet for critiques of his program too much to resist.  Except this time he didn’t even have to search for articles- Yuko, Minako, Phichit, and Mari had all texted him the same link with varying emojis and exclamations.

LOVE ON THE ICE!! Viktor Nikiforov kisses Yuuri Katsuki after Katsuki’s FS~~”  The video wasn’t the best quality, the camera shaking wildly when whoever was filming it gasped and nearly dropped their phone at the end.  But it was clear what happened.  Yuuri stood gasping for breath, arm outstretched toward Viktor, uncertain.  He skated toward the boards with a growing smile, and then- and then.

Yuuri paused the video, taking a deep breath.  Viktor had kissed him.  Viktor had kissed him.  He hadn’t imagined it, or misconstrued it somehow.  Whatever was wrong with Viktor now, whether he regretted kissing Yuuri or just wasn’t sure where to go from here- for that one moment, now immortalized on the internet, Yuuri hadn’t just succeeded in keeping Viktor’s eyes on him.  In that moment, he’d made Viktor Nikiforov his.

The knowledge settled in his gut, a perfect counterweight to the anxiety that usually lived there.  For right now, everything was perfectly balanced, two thin blades sliding almost effortlessly across the ice, a quad flip landed almost right.

By the time the bathroom door slid open again, he’d moved on to the Instagram he rarely used, noting with dread how many notifications he had- mostly from Phichit tagging him in selfies, unsurprisingly, but also a few pictures from the fans he’d met in the lobby.  He blushed at the one of the fan kissing his cheek, mortified at the deer-in-the-headlights look on his face.

“What are you looking at?”

Yuuri jumped.  He hadn’t noticed Viktor leaving the bathroom and coming up behind him.  “Ah- just Instagram.  Those girls posted the pictures they took with me.”

“Hmm.”  Viktor was leaning over his shoulder to peer at his phone.  Yuuri shivered despite feeling Viktor’s body heat along the length of his spine.  “What a flattering picture, lyubov moya.”  A long finger tapped on Yuuri’s jaw, the exact spot where an extra chin appeared in the photo.

Yuuri turned his head to look at Viktor.  His tone was light and teasing as usual, but something was off about it.  The same something that lingered at the corner of his smile, a tension he was desperately hiding.  “Are you insulting me in Russian because you know I don’t understand?” Yuuri asked, watching the uneasy edges of Viktor’s cheer.

Viktor gasped in mock horror.  “Yuuri!  Moye solnyshko, I would never do such a thing!  Vy prekrasny vo vsekh otnosheniyakh, i ya vlyublen v tebya.

A flush crept up the back of Yuuri’s neck.  He pretended it was from embarrassment and irritation at Viktor being intentionally ridiculous.  He made a point of liking the photo that was actually extremely unflattering; he’d never claimed he wasn’t petty.

Viktor moved away from him abruptly, collapsing on the stiff armchair on the other side of the room.  His eyes, normally the cheerful blue of Hasetsu’s ocean, were now stormy in the shadows.  Yuuri frowned and set his phone down.  Part of him didn’t want to ask, afraid he wouldn’t like the answer- but it was Viktor.  Even before he’d met him, Yuuri had never wanted to see Viktor upset.

“Viktor?” he said quietly.  “Are you okay?”

Viktor flashed him a completely unconvincing smile.  “Of course!  And you?  You must be tired, did you want to sleep?”

He shook his head- not because sleep didn’t sound like the best idea in the world right now, but right now there were more important things.  “Something’s bothering you,” he said.  Viktor had seemed fine, chipper even when they left the rink, but maybe he’d started regretting the kiss somewhere between here and there.  “Talk to me.”

Viktor looked down at his hands, uncharacteristically hesitant.  Eventually, he leaned forward to brace his elbows on his knees, a sigh dropping his shoulders until he looked almost vulnerable.  “Yuuri…” he began, but fell silent again.

Dread was like bile in Yuuri’s throat.  “Is this about…”  He trailed off.  He couldn’t ask the question that really needed to be asked- do you regret kissing me.  Instead he took the coward’s way out.  “My program today?  Or something in the cab ride?  Or… or….” he cast around for possibilities, anything but the one looming over him.  “Or those fans?  I don’t-”

He stopped.  The lines of Viktor’s shoulders tensed up the second he mentioned the fans, Viktor’s eyes darting away nervously.  Yuuri frowned, glancing at his phone.  Viktor had been quiet around the fans, almost rude, and then he’d walked away when Yuuri liked the photo…  He still felt nauseous with the possibility that Viktor was rethinking the kiss- and yet.  Viktor had only started acting odd once they reached the hotel.  “The fans?” he said.  Viktor’s shoulders tensed even more.  Huh.  “You didn’t like them, or something?  Weren’t you the one who said I should be more open with my fans?”

“You let her kiss you.”

Yuuri blinked in surprise.  Viktor’s eyes widened and his cheeks flushed- he obviously hadn’t meant to say anything at all.  “I-” Yuuri said, utterly confused.  “She just kissed me, I didn’t-”  He stopped, a ridiculous thought occurring to him.  Completely absurd , but it was the only thing that matched the uneasy twisting of Viktor’s fingers.  “Viktor, are you jealous?”

From the wide-eyed look on Viktor’s face, he knew he’d struck gold- which.  Wow.  Viktor was jealous of Yuuri.  It barely made sense to even think it, let alone say the words out loud.

“I-” Viktor said.  His face was completely red now.  “Yuuri, I-”

Yuuri snorted.  Tried to keep another from escaping, and failed.  He snorted again, then he was chuckling, then giggling, then laughing like he so rarely did.  It was ridiculous.  Viktor Nikiforov, five time world champion, the most graceful and elegant skater in the world, celebrity heartthrob and playboy, was jealous because a fan kissed Yuuri on the cheek.

“Why is this funny?” Viktor muttered, just barely audible under the sound of Yuuri’s uncontrollable laughter.  If Yuuri didn’t know any better, he’d say that Viktor looked… he looked…

Insecure.

Maybe even hurt.

Yuuri’s laughter caught in his throat.  “I’m sorry,” he said automatically, still shaking with the laughter bottled in his chest.  “I just- Viktor, you have thousands of fans all over the world.  Those girls are only cheering me on because I’m from their country, you’re still way more popular than I am.”

Viktor straightened in his seat, mouth falling open to match the bewildered look in his eyes.  “What?” he said blankly.

Yuuri gave him a reassuring smile.  “You don’t need to worry about me getting more fans than you,” he said.  As if he could ever come close.

Viktor was still gaping at him.  “ What?” he said.  “Yuuri, I don’t want your fans, I want you!

What.

Viktor was-

Viktor wanted-

Oh.

Oh.

The air in the room was close, stifling.  Maybe the fan was broken, the windows shut and the air ducts sealed.  Yuuri wasn’t entirely sure he was still breathing.  He wasn’t sure Viktor was, either.

He ran Viktor’s words through his head again.  And again.  And again.  Looked for inconsistencies, the misunderstandings and mistranslations that Yuuri had to have done to reach this conclusion.  But each iteration yielded the same result.  Viktor kissed him, got jealous when a fan kissed him as well, and said he wanted him.  Viktor wanted him, got annoyed at a fan for kissing Yuuri, and kissed Yuuri on the ice.  Viktor was jealous because he wanted Yuuri.

Yuuri felt wildfire warmth spread uncontrolled from his spine to his whole body, swirling low in his core.  He couldn’t make any sense out of it- but his body was already ahead of his mind, coiling tight with humming anticipation.

He was on his feet before he knew where he was going.  Towards Viktor, it would seem.  Viktor watched his approach with wary eyes, just as unsure about his intentions as Yuuri was.  Yuuri stopped before he walked into Viktor’s knees; he was still close enough to feel the minute tremble of Viktor’s pant leg against his.

“You really mean that?” Yuuri heard himself ask.

Viktor’s face was open and vulnerable, more so than Yuuri had ever seen it.  They’d gotten close these past few months, closer than Yuuri had ever been with even his best friends- but this was the first time he’d seen Viktor like this, laid completely bare before Yuuri’s eyes.  “How could I not?” Viktor said quietly.

Yuuri kissed him.

Their lips crashed together only slightly more gently than they had on the ice.  Yuuri savored the bruise almost as much as the taste of Viktor’s lips beneath his.  He reached his hand up, mimicking Viktor’s position earlier, one hand curling in Viktor’s hair, the other pulling him closer, closer.  Viktor gasped into Yuuri’s mouth, his hands grasping at the front of Yuuri’s track jacket.  His lips were warm and soft and just a little bit wet, and it set Yuuri’s head spinning.

Viktor tilted his head and let his lips part just a little, a hint of tongue tracing Yuuri’s lips.  Yuuri made a sound he thought might be a whine.  He couldn’t really be sure though, because he was too busy deepening the kiss, trying to get closer, closer, closer.  In a sudden burst of inspiration he braced his knee on the chair; then, with Viktor’s hand moving around to Yuuri’s back and pulling him impossibly closer, it made sense to bring his other knee up as well, so that he was kneeling over Viktor’s lap as he kissed him.

His breath burned in his chest and it felt so good.  Like the ragged ache of catching his breath after landing a quad salchow in the frigid air of the rink.  Viktor’s lips tasted like that stupid lip balm he was always trying to force onto him, and underneath that just skin and more skin.  He tightened his fingers in Viktor’s hair and pulled his head back.  The gasp that hitched Viktor’s chest was intoxicating, almost as much as the taste of his skin as Yuuri kissed down the curve of his neck.

“Yuuri,” Viktor purred.  His hands fell to Yuuri’s hips, slipping on the hem of his jacket and sliding underneath almost by accident.  Yuuri shivered at the soft play of Viktor’s fingertips against his skin.  “Ah- what has gotten into you?”

Yuuri pulled away from the delicious expanse of Viktor’s neck just long enough to mumble, “You wanted to me to explore what eros means to me.”  He tugged Viktor’s collar open to give himself better access.  “I’m just following my coach’s instructions.”  He licked the skin above Viktor’s collarbone.  He could practically hear the music from his short program, sultry and seductive, calling out that part of him he hadn’t even known existed before Viktor coaxed it out of him.  He sighed into Viktor’s skin and bit down on his collarbone, sucking a mark that would be visible from space if he had his way.

Mine.

Viktor shivered beneath him.  “Yuuri-”  He sat up abruptly, dislodging Yuuri from his neck but slamming their lips together immediately as a replacement.  “You’d think that you were the jealous one here,” he murmured against Yuuri’s lips, the teasing lilt back in his voice.

Yuuri kissed him, hard.  Viktor responded just as enthusiastically, hands twisting in the fabric of Yuuri’s jacket. “I’ve loved you since I was fifteen years old,” Yuuri gasped into Viktor’s mouth.  He hadn’t ever meant to tell Viktor that, but he didn’t have the capacity to be embarrassed about it when Viktor was looking at him like that, debauched and needy.  “Now that you’re mine, I’m going to make sure that everyone knows it.”

Viktor swallowed and pulled him back in for another kiss.  This one felt different from the other ones, gentler, more tender.  Viktor untangled his hands from Yuuri’s jacket and brought them up to cradle Yuuri’s jaw.  Yuuri felt like he was melting, overwhelmed with the feeling of Viktor loving him, as if he was somehow worthy of it.

He pulled away from the kiss and rested his forehead against Viktor’s.  It felt familiar, the same place they’d been in only yesterday; but where yesterday he’d felt something fierce and possessive, now all he felt was peace.  “You’re the only person I can see,” Yuuri murmured.  “And you- keep your eyes on me, okay?”

They were too close for Yuuri to see Viktor’s expression, but he felt him smile anyway.  “Solnyshko , I couldn’t look away if I tried,” he said.