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centripetal force

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centripetal force - (from Latin centrum, "center" and petere, "to seek") a force that acts on a body moving in a circular path and is directed toward the center around which the body is moving.

 


 

Victor speaks seven languages.

(Physics isn’t one of them.)

“Don’t take it,” Christophe urges over the phone, most likely sick of hearing about how Victor is dreading the class.

Classes haven’t even started yet—they begin in a week’s time. Christophe is still in Switzerland, Mila is still in Russia. There’s practically nobody on campus except for those who had taken summer courses or those who had arrived early.

It’s starry out, a little past nine at night. Victor had spent the entirety of the day at the Stammi Vicino Library with his brother, Yurio. They’d reenacted the experiment that they’d seen on MythBusters a few weeks ago, the one where they’d folded the pages of a book inwards and seen how resilient it could become.

(The answer is, in fact, very resilient.)

“Yakov says I need a science credit,” Victor complains.

“Well why don’t you—”

The audio cuts out.

Victor sighs and looks down at his broken earphones, a wire popping out of them. It’s a miracle that they work at all, really, but it’s still frustrating. There’s a step in front of him and he hops deftly, the skateboard sticking to his feet and landing perfectly on the elevated path. Then, he gets to work on the earphones.

He takes one wire in each hand, angling them just so. “—special treatment.”

“What did you say?” Victor asks.

“Doesn’t matter, you’ll just have to get a tutor,” Christophe says.

Victor doesn’t want a tutor. He has never needed one in the past, and he certainly won’t need one in the future. Besides, it’s not as though he’s stupid. Science just isn’t his thing. Everybody has a thing. Languages happen to be his thing.

Not science.

“Then—if—try—when—” Christophe’s words come in cut-off fragments.

“Hang on a minute,” Victor mutters.

He takes one wire in each hand again, wincing—they’re hot to the touch. He just hopes that they don’t catch on fire because that would be a very pathetic way to die. Licking his lips, he straightens the left wire with the microphone attached to it. The audio comes back, just for an instant. He’s getting closer.

Victor keeps the left wire there, then turns his attention to the right. He holds it gently in his fingers, still hot to the touch, and angles it just so. The audio cuts back in, but only for a few seconds, and he wonders which one isn’t in the perfect position. So he tries straightening the right one as well to match the left, and—

SLAM!

(A throbbing behind his eyes.)

(Won’t go away, won’t stop.)

(Gets worse and worse.)

He’d hit something.

(There’s a voice to his right. A voice? No, not a voice.)

A groan.

(No, no. Someone?)

(No. Yakov will never forgive him if he just killed a student before classes have even started.)

Still a groaning, though. A little quieter. More reserved.

Victor opens his eyes—stars. Real stars, or is he imagining them? No, they must be real. The sky is dark, beautiful. He takes a moment. There’s a building behind him, the roof just barely visible in his peripheral vision, and it clones itself. He blinks until there’s just one copy of it, until his vision has returned to normal.

Then he focuses on the groaning.

Victor scrambles to his feet. “Are you okay?!”

He stumbles, almost manages to catch himself, but manages to stand on the second attempt.

There’s a figure on the other side of the path.

Victor catches sight of his skateboard slowly rolling away from them and ignores it, heading towards the figure instead. He—or is it a she?—is face down, a bundle of clothes and a puffy, spruce-colored scarf. He sees a blue bike to their left, one wheel still spinning, and a red backpack to the right. Binders had spilled out of it, and there are papers blowing away in the wind.

He touches the figure’s shoulder, or at least what he thinks is his shoulder, but all he receives is a groan as a response. Yes, definitely a boy. “Do you want me to call someone? The hospital?”

“No,” comes a muffled response.

Without thinking, Victor sprints after the papers, reaches desperately in the air to catch them and sprinting down the path to retrieve the few had escaped. He shoves them back into the front pocket of the binders, squinting in the darkness to see if he’d missed any. There’s a packet of notecards on the path, and he fetches those, too.

(Math equations. Lots of them.)

When he turns back around, zipping up the backpack, the boy is sitting up.

Except…

Except he’s holding a pair of broken glasses.

Victor grimaces.

“I’ll pay for them,” he hurries to say, setting the boy’s backpack down beside him. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

Charcoal-colored hair falls down across the boy’s forehead, sticks up in every direction, disheveled. Colossal, disoriented caramel eyes stare up at Victor. His cheeks are flushed, but it’s hard to tell if it’s from the cold or the fall. It’s far too dark to see much else, so Victor takes a step closer, squinting to get a better look.

He puts his glasses back on his face.

(It makes Victor feel twenty times worse.)

(Because there is no way he’s able to see anything through those.)

“I’ll pay for them,” Victor repeats lamely.

The student’s voice is small. “Do you know how much glasses cost?”

For a second, Victor is paralyzed by shock, guilt rising and coating his lungs, his stomach, his heart, taking control of his organs and setting them on pause.

(Then he realizes that it’s not passive aggressive.)

(He realizes that if anybody else were to say those words to him, they would sound passive aggressive.)

(But this is just a genuine question.)

So he gives a genuine answer.

“No.”

“It’s fine,” the boy mutters, standing up. His legs are wobbly—he almost falls. Victor catches him by his forearms but the student pulls away like he’s made of fire, blinking at him, as though surprised by his own actions.

Victor backs away. “Sorry.”

“It’s fine,” he repeats, like a mantra. The student picks up his bike and sets it upright. Swings a leg over it. Runs a hand through his hair, uselessly trying to sort out the tussled strands.

Say something, say something, say something, Victor chastise himself.

(He doesn’t.)

And then the boy is gone.

Just like that.

 

~

 

“Bike Boy. You’re going to call him Bike Boy?” Yurio asks the following day as they sit underneath a tree at the Quad, eyes focused on a tiny ant climbing up the trunk. He places his finger on the wood above the ant, watching as the insect shifts to the left to avoid it.

Victor shrugs. “It’s as good a name as any.”

“First there was Boxers Boy,” Yurio laments, “and now Bike Boy. What’s next? Basketball Boy? Baked Potato Boy?”

Yurio is his little brother. Yakov is their adoptive father and also the college dean. Thus, Yurio spends plenty of time on campus during afternoons and weekends, insisting that it’s because the surrounding college town is boring. Victor knows the truth—Yurio secretly adores him. Or at least he’d like to think that’s true.

“This one is different,” Victor promises.

“How?”

He shuts his eyes, remembers Bike Boy’s eyes, remembers the nervous tilt to his voice, remembers the sight of him wearing his broken glasses, the shards of glass reflecting the moonlight. Perhaps it hadn’t been the best first meeting, but he was attractive. And Victor wants to apologize properly. In fact, apologizing is all he has been able to think about.

Yurio kicks him in the shin. “Stop daydreaming. How is this one different?”

“I know what he looks like,” Victor insists.

(Victor hadn’t known what Boxers Boy had looked like.)

He’d been drunk at a fraternity party. The memories are blurry, painful to think about, sort of like trying to remember a word on the tip of one’s tongue. There are snippets. The stench of alcohol, the feeling of fingers splayed on his hips, a voice that had gradually become more and more muddled over the months of summer. The nickname is sensical, though—he and a few others seem to remember the guy stripping and pole dancing.

Victor just wishes he could remember.

Thinking about it hurts. Victor rubs at his temple absent-mindedly.

Yurio looks surprised. “You actually know what he looks like?”

“Well, it was dark,” he says regretfully. “But I would recognize him in a heartbeat. He had black hair—it looked soft, really soft—and brown eyes. I think there were little flecks of gold in them, but it was hard to tell. Either way, though, they sparkled, that was easy to tell. The moon was showing and the crescent was reflected in his pupils, it was like—”

“I think you’re missing an important detail here,” Yurio interrupts.

Victor blinks. “An important detail?”

(Is it his lips? His eyelashes? Maybe the scarf, the coat, the red backpack?)

“You hit him on your skateboard. Like, hard. How do you know you didn’t concuss him?”

“I… I didn’t… We…” He starts uselessly. Yurio stops paying attention to the ant, deciding to raise an eyebrow at Victor instead, as if saying I-told-you-so. Victor lays down on the grass beside his brother, looking up at him desperately. “You’re right. He could hate me. I didn’t even get a chance to introduce myself, and he hates me.”

His brother shifts uncomfortably. “Just find him and apologize. Pay for his broken glasses.”

“I offered to,” Victor complains. “He just kept saying it was fine and hurried away, as if he thought I’d get back on my skateboard and hit him again. Yurio, he hates me.”

“If he was able to bike away, he couldn’t have been that hurt,” Yurio adds. “Besides, you said he didn’t sound mad.”

Victor thinks, shutting his eyes again, remembering his voice, his words, those eyelashes. “It almost sounded like he was sorry. Which is ridiculous. You know what, though? He also sounded familiar. I don’t know why.”

“Maybe you’ve had a class with him.”

“Maybe. But, oh Yurio, he looked so sad but he didn’t even get mad at me, just left. And when he was sad, his jaw clenched, like he was trying to hold it back. It was heartbreaking. You know those sad commercials where they show all of the puppies in kennels shivering? It made me feel like that.”

“Oh my god, please find this guy,” Yurio groans. “Either find him or stop talking now. I won’t have this be another Boxers Boy situation, alright? You know what this guy looks like, so there’s no excuse.”

There’s a pause.

“Do you think he likes dogs?” Victor whispers.

“Stop talking.”

“Or is he more of a cat person? No—I think he’s a dog person. Will he like Makkachin?”

“I said stop talking.”

 

~

 

Victor calls it plan B.

(B for Bike.)

(B for Boy.)

(B for Beautiful.)

(All of those work, all of those fit.)

He takes advantage of the time before classes start, because if Bike Boy is here, then it’ll be far easier to find him now than it will be when the campus is flooded with students. Victor makes a list of all of the things he knows about him, practices his apology in his head over and over again and recites it to Yurio.

He has a red backpack, a blue bike, is some sort of math or science major. And he’s gorgeous. Stunningly gorgeous. And he wears scarves—surely that helps? Scarves aren’t for everyone, after all. Oh, and glasses. Though perhaps not anymore. So maybe he’ll be squinting? Victor plans on looking for anyone who is squinting.

So he stays outside of Stammi Vicino on Tuesday. It’s the hub of social life, a large, cylindrical building in the center of campus. Five floors tall with a bell tower on the top. The bells ring once every hour, on the hour.

They ring once.

Twice, three times.

Four times, five times.

Yurio meets up with him at some point, asking him why he’s sitting here pointlessly, and eventually convinces Victor to come get lunch with him, because he’s supposedly starving. Victor keeps staring at the library doors for as long as possible, a few students moving in and out, studiously preparing for their classes or hanging out with friends.

“He might not come here,” Yurio points out. “Not everybody does.”

Victor has considered that, yes, but he’d shoved that thought into the dark recesses of his mind. “I’ll find him.”

Yurio sighs. “God help this guy.”

“Hey! I just want to apologize to him.”

Sure you do.”

Victor glares at him. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means that if you just feel bad and want to apologize to someone, you don’t usually talk about their scarf color for five hours on end. In fact, even if you just want to date someone, you don’t talk about their scarf color for five hours. I don’t even think you were this obsessed with Boxers Boy, and everybody knows how bad that was.”

“You didn’t see him, Yurio,” Victor insists. “This one’s worth it.”

“Let’s talk about food now. I want to talk about food.”

“I wonder what Bike Boy’s favorite food is…?”

Obsessed.

“I am not.”

“You definitely are.”

“Not.”

“Are to.”

Victor pauses. “Do you want food or not?”

“Okay, okay, fine. You can talk to me about this guy as long as you pay for my pizza.”

 

~

 

The moment Mila and Christophe arrive on campus, he tells them all about Plan B. He even informs Sara, Mila’s friend who he doesn’t know all that well. She seems nice enough, listening intently as he goes on and on about that momentous interaction.

“So it’s like the Boxers Boy situation?” Christophe asks, grinning.

Sara frowns. “Who’s Boxers Boy?”

“A guy Victor was obsessed with over the summer,” Mila explains to her. “He met him at a party. I wasn’t there, but he got drunk, and apparently this guy was all over him.”

“He was!” Victor insists. “And he was attractive, too, but like I told Yurio, this is different.”

“Good luck,” Christophe says, clapping him on the back. “Don’t you think you might have a rough start if you hit him on your bike?”

“I’m going to apologize. Properly.”

“Good idea.”

 

~

 

Tragically, he doesn’t see Bike Boy before classes start.

Plan B is not going well.

They’re waiting in line for their room assignments a few days later. Victor is rooming with Christophe this year, and Mila is rooming with Sara for the second year in a row. Eventually, though, the two girls step out of line, smiling at each other. They’re in the Honors College, and so are Victor and Christophe, so they get the best rooms—each a double with a private bathroom. A luxury that nobody else on campus is provided.

Yurio waits to the side while Victor and Christophe wait for their key. The woman behind the desk glances at both of them. “You two are rooming together?”

They nod.

“Last name?” She only says it to Christophe. Victor assumes she already knows his last name, given that his father is her boss.

“Giacometti,” Chris says.

The woman reaches for the keys, and Victor leans forward to take them. But then she halts. Stares at the screen, confused.

“Is something wrong?” Victor asks.

He and Christophe have lived together for two years. And, sure, they’re not perfect roommates, but Victor can’t name any two people who are other than Mila and Sara. So the fact that the woman is now typing something quickly on her computer is worrying.

He shifts his weight from one foot to the other, glancing at Chris, who just shrugs.

“There’s… It appears there’s been a mistake,” the woman says slowly. “Are you two aware of the new policy with roommates in the Honors College?”

“What new policy?” Christophe asks.

She smiles sympathetically, except there’s not a single ounce of sincerity to it. “Your father put in a new policy for this year,” she says, looking at Victor. “He sent out several emails about it but I’m assuming neither of you saw them.”

With a quick glance between them, she seems to notice their blank stares and leans back in her chair. “The new Honors College policy is that every student is to be paired with a student of a different major. You two are are the same major, I’m assuming. We had another mix-up earlier with a group of two, they had the same problem and were separated.”

Yurio whistles, the sound low and stretched out. “That’s rough.”

Victor and Christophe look at each other.

“But that’s stupid,” Victor points out. “Why not just put that other pair of two back together then let Christophe and me room together?”

She taps her fingernails against the wooden desk. “It’s to promote interdisciplinary relations and learning outside of the classroom.”

Victor sighs and turns to Christophe. “We’ll just take the separate rooms and then switch back later.”

“I can hear you,” the woman points out, a little annoyed.

He spares her a glance, then accepts his key from her. She hands a separate one to Christophe. “I’ll talk to Yakov about it,” Victor promises.

 

~

 

“Well, this is ridiculous,” Phichit announces as they stand outside Yuuri’s door. Just Yuuri’s door.

(Not their door, like it had been last year.)

Yuuri shrugs. “I mean, at least we’re still in the same building. And I’m sure we’ll be able to switch back and be roommates later on.”

He opens the door to his room and glances around inside, Phichit stepping in after him. Yuuri had moved in a few weeks ago, taken a short class to fulfill one of his credits. Therefore, all of his furniture is already set up. “This is nice,” Phichit notes. “We’re definitely moving in here instead of my place. I hope your roommate is nice, though.”

“Yeah, so do I.”

“Maybe he’ll even be attractive.”

“Phichit…”

Phichit climbs up and lays down on Yuuri’s lofted bed. “I mean, he won’t be Victor Nikiforov, but…”

“Shh, Phichit, people are moving in all across the hall right now,” Yuuri urges. “Don’t say his name out loud.”

“What, like Voldemort? You can say the name of my crushes out loud. Let’s see… Zac Efron. Mario Maurer. James Franco. Who else, let me think…”

“Those are celebrities,” Yuuri reminds him.

Phichit hums, agreeing. “That’s true. I guess they won't hear me. Oooh, what if you got paired up with Victor?” He asks, whispering the name and poking Yuuri in the shoulder.

Yuuri rolls his eyes. “Not in a million years. He’ll room with somebody else from Psi Omega Iota, obviously.”

Victor Nikiforov is well-known on campus.

Which is impressive, because it's a large college.

He’s a third year, has been in a fraternity called Psi Omega Iota since he came here. His father is the dean, and his little brother is often hanging around him. Along with Mila, who Yuuri knows from figure skating club. And sometimes Christophe Giacommeti, who’s another linguistics major. Victor rides a skateboard around campus, throws the best parties, and practically everyone adores him. Whenever Yuuri sees him, he’s waving to people, talking to people, smiling at people.

And he’s attractive.

Model-level attractive.

(Ridiculously attractive.)

(But a playboy.)

(Which is a trait that normally repulses Yuuri, but on Victor it seems to work.)

“I know, but I can dream,” Phichit sighs. “That would be so romantic. Oh god, what if I got paired up with Victor? That’d be funny.”

Yuuri takes a pillow and presses it against his friend’s face. Phichit laughs and dodges it. “Don’t say his name,” Yuuri insists.

“Okay, okay, I’ll stop. You’ve always been fun to tease, Katsuki.”

“Let’s go check out your room,” Yuuri suggests.

“Sure.”

 

~

 

Victor and Chris head to the building together, separate keys in hand, laughing off the situation. Interdisciplinary learning. Who does Yakov think he’s kidding?

Victor does, however, check his email. And the woman hadn’t been lying when she’d said that plenty of emails had been sent about the topic. Whoops.

They arrive at the building, but it turns out their rooms are on separate floors. Victor had piled most of his items into his car, which is parked outside. However, he’s not sure where he’s taking them yet, so he’d left his stuff behind and gone in empty-handed.

He heads to the room number the woman had gave him on a small slip of paper and heads down the hallway, key in hand.

The door is shut.

Perhaps his roommate isn’t here yet.

So he cracks the door open.

There are two lofted beds.

One on the right, one on the left. A small bathroom door on the right wall. A desk underneath each bed. It’s clean—perfectly clean, but the desk on the left is covered in knick knacks and a small plant. There are a few photo albums turned towards the desk chair, just barely out of Victor’s line of sight.

The only light in the room is blue, emitted from a laptop screen up on the bed. There’s a shadowy figure behind it, and Victor jumps, startled. “Oh, hi.”

“Sorry, you can turn on the light,” the figure says.

But the voice is familiar.

Too familiar.

Victor swallows.

Flips the light switch.

Stares.

Because…

Because…

No, no, this can’t be happening.

(Because he’s gorgeous.)

(Because the broken glasses are sitting on the desk.)

(Because the guilt is back in an instant, swallowing him whole, eating him alive.)

“Oh,” the boy says from the bed.

He looks surprised.

(Obviously he looks surprised.)

Victor can’t stop staring. “Hi.” Then he remembers that Bike Boy probably hates him. No, he remembers that there’s almost a zero chance that Bike Boy doesn’t hate him. “Sorry about this. I heard you were separated from the guy who was supposed to be your roommate, and so was I. So we can switch rooms, get it the way it’s supposed to be. They’re just a floor down from us.”

The student licks his lips, just keeps looking at him. Then his eyes drift back to his laptop screen. “Okay.”

For some reason, that stings.

Because the boy isn’t being aggressive, per se, but he’s also not being warm.

But then he looks up again. “You’re Mr. Feltman’s son, right?” It sounds less like a question and more like a statement.

Victor nods. “We don’t share a last name, though. I’m Victor. Victor Nikiforov.”

There’s a smile, then.

(It’s weak, doesn’t reach his eyes, but it’s there.)

“Katsuki Yuuri.”

“Nice to meet you,” Victor offers, leaning against the doorway. “Anyway, I’m guessing this is sort of an inconvenience for both of us, so I’ll just call Yakov—I mean Mr. Feltsman—and get this sorted out.”

The smile fades. “Right. Okay.”

Victor feels awkward, so he exits the room, letting the door shut naturally behind him. He presses his forehead against the wall beside it and sighs. He has Bike Boy right in front of him and doesn’t even have the decency to apologize for almost killing him. Can’t remember any of the words he had planned out, can’t remember the endless practice sessions he’d had with Yurio.

He opens the door again. “I wanted to add, sorry for hitting you the other day. I was being stupid, I should’ve been looking. And I’ll pay for your glasses, if you want.”

Yuuri looks surprised, shutting his laptop. “Um, thank you, but I actually already ordered a new pair.”

Victor swallows.

Say something else, say something else, say something else.

“What color?”

He hates himself.

(Why, why had he said that?)

Yuuri blinks. “Um, the same frames, actually.”

“Oh.”

A pause.

Victor scrambles to find something else to say, desperate to appease the palpable tension in the air. “That’s good. That they’re the same frames, I mean. Because if they work, then why change them, right?”

Another pause.

He wants to sink into the floor.

(Because this isn’t right. Victor isn’t awkward. No, normally he’s the epitome of confidence, the poster-boy for calm, cool, and collected. So why are there goosebumps on his arms? Why is he sweating? He doesn’t even sweat.)

But then.

Yuuri laughs.

Laughs.

(Laughs at him.)

Victor laughs, too, a bit off-put but also a bit relieved.

“I guess you’re right,” Yuuri decides.

Victor grins. “Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“Anyway, I’ll see you.”

He darts out of the room again, thinking that Katsuki Yuuri probably thinks he’s insane. Absolutely insane. Because he’d just swept into his room, then left, then entered again, then apologized for almost killing him and complimented his choice in glasses, which he’d never even properly seen him wear before, then left again.

A great first day of his third year at college.

He steps into the common area at the end of the hall and presses the phone to his ear. “Yakov, we need to talk about your interdisciplinary rule. Chris and I can’t room together because of it.”

Yakov doesn’t sound impressed. “Did you listen to my last two voicemails?”

“…No.”

“They said something along the lines of ‘Victor, you and Chris won’t be able to room together, you should probably change your plans.’”

Victor leans the heel of one foot against the wall, tilting his head back. “But Yakov. This is ridiculous. You know it’s ridiculous.”

“There has been a big push for interdisciplinary studies over the last year,” Yakov tells him.

“But the two guys that both of us are stuck with were supposed to room together, too,” Victor insists. “Plus, if we switch back, nobody would even know.”

“Give it a week.”

“But, Yakov—”

“You don’t get special treatment, Victor, you know that. And everybody in the Honors College is following the same rule. So you can, too. You might even learn something.”

“But—”

“Goodbye, Vitya.”

Yakov hangs up on him.

He heads down a flight of stairs to talk to Chris, explains the situation to him. His new roommate is there—Phichit Chulanont, physics major—and they seem to be getting along well, already exchanging social media account names. Victor wishes things were going along half as well for him and Yuuri, but instead all he’d done is made a fool of himself.

Chris offers to get gelato with him.

He recalls his tale of woe.

Chris, however, has no pity for him.

“I can’t believe you asked him what color glasses he’s getting,” he laughs, digging his spoon into the chocolate.

Victor buries his face in his hands. “It was humiliating. He laughed at me.”

“He must be really attractive,” Chris notes. “I’ve never seen you swept off your feet before, Nikiforov. Normally you’re the one doing the sweeping.”

He frowns. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Chris claps him on the back. It hurts. “You’re a flirt, Vitya. Not the bad kind, though. The fun kind. I’ve seen you seduce guys in five different languages before.”

Victor doesn’t respond, just sighs. 

“How cute is he?”

“Very.”

“Very?”

“I… I can’t… Very.

 

~

 

Yuuri doesn’t expect Victor Nikiforov to enter his room.

(And it’s like the universe is playing a cruel joke on him.)

Part of him even suspects that Phichit had hired Victor to come into his room as a prank.

A really, really unfunny prank.

Because Yuuri had harbored a crush on him all of last year. A subtle crush, yes, but a crush all the same.

Turns out it’s not a prank.

However, it is a cruel joke from the universe, because practically all Victor talks about is getting their rooms switched back. Which is understandable, because of course Yuuri wants to room with Phichit, and it makes sense that Victor wants to room with his friend, but…

(It does hurt.)

(More than it should.)

A while after Victor leaves, he texts Phichit and tells him to come up to his room.

“Victor Nikiforov?!” Phichit shouts after hearing the news.

This time, Yuuri doesn’t miss with the pillow.

Phichit repeats it, but it’s incomprehensible as his mouth is pressed against the white cushion. “Shut up,” Yuuri says. “Shhhh.”

“Oh my god, I was kidding about you rooming with him earlier.” Phichit is delighted. “Am I magical? Can I predict the future? Like That’s So Raven? Yuuri, am I Raven?”

“He’s trying to switch our rooms back,” Yuuri points out. “It’s not as though it’s going to last. He’s supposed to be with your roommate, and I’m supposed to be with you, so it makes sense.”

Phichit is just staring at him, amazed. “Yuuri, you need to take advantage of this. His dad is Mr. Feltsman. He could give us both automatic 4.0s, I bet. And he owes you one, because he hit you on your bike! Not to mention I’ve heard that he speaks, like, fifty languages.”

“Fifty languages?” Yuuri questions, folding his arms across his chest.

“Okay, the real rumor was ten, but I bet he actually speaks fifty. He’s supposed to be, like a prodigy, you know. I heard that the government uses him for secret projects. Like that movie with Amy Adams—Arrival? Did you see that one?”

Yuuri shakes his head.

“Well, Victor is like Amy Adams in that movie. I’ll show you sometime.”

“I’m not going to blackmail him into forcing his dad to raise our grades.”

“Hmm. What about giving us better meal plans? Where do you draw the line?” Phichit grins.

He laughs and nudges Phichit’s shoulder with his own. “Are you going to be this extra-annoying all year?”

“Probably. I know you love me, though.”

Yuuri whacks him with the pillow again, and Phichit darts across the room to grab one from Victor’s bed, whacking him back. They continue like that for a few minutes, until Yuuri collapses on the bed, defeated.

And then there’s the sound of a key turning.

“Be cool,” Yuuri whispers to Phichit, putting as much ice in his voice as he can manage.

The door swings open, and Victor glances between them, surprised. “Hello.”

Phichit jumps down from the bed and smiles at him. “Hi, Phichit Chulanont.”

“Victor Nikiforov.”

“Oh, I know who you are.”

Yuuri keeps his groan silent, opens his laptop and practically buries his face in it until he’s certain the radiation is frying his brain.

Victor smiles back. “You do?”

“You’re Mr. Feltsman’s son, everybody knows who you are,” Phichit explains.

Yuuri exhales with relief.

Victor laughs. “Is that so? I wasn’t aware.”

Phichit sits down on Yuuri’s desk, places his feet on the rolling chair. “You’re a linguistics major, right?”

“Right. And you’re a…?”

He nods. “Physics major, so is Yuuri. I prefer the term subtly undecided, though. Anyway, I’d better be going. See you, Yuuri. See you around, Victor.”

“Bye,” they both say at the same time.

And then Phichit is gone.

“He’s nice,” Victor says, and there’s a flicker of amusement in his tone that makes it seem like he's staring straight into Yuuri’s soul.

“Yeah.”

“You two roomed together last year?”

He nods. “Took an interests survey and were assigned to live together. It worked out.”

“Mm. You’re not dating, though?”

Yuuri blinks.

What does he…?

(What?)

“What?” The syllable comes out squeaky, so he clears his throat and tries again. “What?”

“You and Phichit,” Victor clarifies. “You’re not dating?”

“We’re… We’re just friends.”

Victor nods slowly, as if letting the information sink in. “Got it.”

“Are you and Christophe dating?” he asks, unsure of where the courage is coming from but sticking with it, keeping his hands folded in his lap.

Victor blinks, as though he’s also unsure of where that had come from. “No, we’re not.”

He doesn’t respond, just nods and pulls out his phone, yawning and checking Instagram.

 

~

 

An hour passes.

Yuuri is staring at him.

His gaze feels like the type of lead blanket that one wears when getting an x-ray. Not exactly uncomfortable, but heavy all the same. Victor sits at his desk with his laptop in front of him, checking out the locations of his different classes.

He turns around and Yuuri’s eyes dart away, as though he’d been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Victor remembers the silent exchanges he’d had with Phichit earlier, the knowing smile on Phichit’s lips, the way that Yuuri’s eyes had been downcast, cheeks flushed. Definitely interesting.

“Are you looking at me?” he asks, making sure to keep his tone light, because the last thing he wants to do is scare Yuuri off.

“Oh. Sorry,” Yuuri says quickly.

Victor shrugs. “I don’t mind, I’m just curious as to why.”

“It’s… I was… Nothing, it’s stupid.”

“Doesn’t sound like nothing.” He smiles at him and turns, legs hooking around the back of the desk chair and crossing at the ankles. He runs a hand through his hair, noticing with amusement the way Yuuri’s focus is drawn to the movement.

“It’s nothing, really.”

Victor raises an eyebrow, can practically feel Yuuri’s resolve crumbling in front of him.

“Your hair,” Yuuri blurts suddenly, as though his lips are forcing the words out before his mind can stop them.

“Is there something on it?” Victor asks, running his hand through it again, tugging on the ends of his bangs.

Yuuri is a sight up there on the bed. Covered in shadows, the blinds drawn and his laptop lighting up his features with a blue reflection. He’s wearing jeans and a black hoodie, and he’s still squinting, which only brings back the guilt Victor had felt earlier.

“No,” he assures him. “I’ve just never met somebody with silver hair.” Yuuri winces. “Sorry, I know that’s dumb of me to say.”

Oh.

(Well that’s…)

(Unexpected.)

“It’s just a unique shade of blond,” he explains. “It’s natural.”

“It’s weird,” Yuuri mutters in awe.

A pause.

“Not weird!” he backtracks. “Not weird, that’s not what I meant. I meant… I meant… It’s not weird, it’s… Unique, like you said.”

Victor sighs and turns back around, laying his head down on his keyboard. “Yuuri, you wounded me.”

“No, no, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean it. I really, really didn’t mean that.” Yuuri sounds horrified, and Victor’s guilt is back.

“I’m only kidding,” he promises, getting back up.

The boy on the bed blinks. “Oh.”

“I guess we need to get to know each other better before you can tell if I’m joking or not,” Victor teases.

Yuuri ducks his head. “I thought that I’d just condemned myself to life with a roommate who hates me.”

“No, no. It’s too bad that you think my hair makes me look old and grey, though.”

Another pause.

“That was a joke,” Yuuri guesses quietly.

Victor grins. “Ding ding ding.”

I bet you wouldn’t even get carded if you went out to buy alcohol. Maybe you should dye it to look younger,” he suggests.

He frowns. “Really?”

“Joke.”

“Ohhh, Yuuri, you’re learning,” Victor praises. “Now I’m going to be self-conscious regarding my hair when I’m around you, though.”

“No, don’t be,” he insists, offering a kind smile. “Back in Hasetsu—my home town—I volunteered at a retirement home once a week.”

Victor’s eyes widen. “Okay, you’re a little too good at this.”

Yuuri just laughs.

(And if his smile is disarming, his laugh may as well be a nuclear warhead, because Victor laughs back, can’t really help himself, can’t take his eyes off of Katsuki Yuuri.)

“What did your father say about the room situation?” he asks, a bit quieter, now.

“He said he doesn’t mind if we switch back in a week.”

Yuuri hums, dejected. “I guess I can put up with you for a week.”

Ouch.

Victor turns back around to his desk, tries to hide his offense.

“Joke,” Yuuri says.

He covers his face with a hand. “Oh, you got me with that one.”

“I got you good,” he agrees happily.

 

~

 

Later that afternoon, Victor meets up with Mila, Sara, Yurio, and Christophe at the Stammi Vicino Library. They claim a circular table and Mila is interrogating him, chin on palms, elbows on table. “Bike Boy is Yuuri?! I know Yuuri!”

Victor blinks. “You do?”

“We’re all in figure skating club together,” Sara adds. “He’s nice—really nice.”

Then Mila gapes. “Does this mean you hit Yuuri on your skateboard?” He nods regretfully. She leans forward and whacks Victor on the arm. Hard.

“Ow.”

“At least you found him,” Yurio sighs. “This means that instead of talking to us about him constantly, you can just talk to him constantly.”

“Or both,” Victor says, ruffling his brother’s hair. He looks at Chris. “How are you and Phichit getting along?”

“Well,” he answers. “He’s nice.”

“Phichit is head of the club,” Mila tells them. “You guys should come sometime. That’d be fun.”

“I used to skate,” Victor says. “So did Yurio. Maybe we’ll go sometime.”

Mila grins and lifts Yurio up into the air with ease. “Aw, Yurio! You’ll join our club!”

“Put me down,” he demands. “We’re in a library, Mila.”

She does, but she’s still smiling at him.

 

~

 

Turns out Yuuri is a night owl.

Because their first night in the same room, Victor starts debating whether or not he’s a robot. He has been on his laptop for hours, earphones plugged in, eyes glued to the screen, legs crossed.

Victor can’t sleep. Rolls over at two in the morning, glances at Yuuri. “You’re still awake?”

You’re still awake?” Yuuri asks, surprised. “Is the light keeping you awake, because I can lower it.”

“What time do you normally go to bed?” He yawns, his body protesting the very idea of speaking.

Yuuri frowns, as though the question is confusing. “Um… I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?”

“Whenever I’m tired,” he answers, shrugging.

Victor tugs the blankets up to his neck. “And what are you doing on there?”

Yuuri shuts the laptop. “Nothing. Just on the internet.”

“‘On the internet?’”

“Yeah.”

Victor raises an eyebrow, but the moment is ruined when he yawns again. “Suit yourself. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”

He wonders about Yuuri.

It feels as though he knows nothing about him, even though that’s not necessarily true.

His gaze is almost always analytical, as though he’s constantly recording everything around him, taking note of everything said and done in the space around him. Victor figures that must just be his intelligence. After all, he is in the Honors College. Victor is, too, sure, but that’s only because of his language exam scores. Yuuri is quiet, too, and Victor remembers people like him in high school, the kind that kept to themselves but also knew everybody’s middle name and their mother’s place of birth.

It’s a little intimidating.

And then there’s another fact—he’s funny. A little too funny. Yuuri’s banter earlier had thrown him off balance, had come out of nowhere. But Victor likes it. Hopes he keeps doing that in the future.

He knows that Yuuri is Japanese, that he’s a physics major.

Knows that he really seems to like the color blue. Blue bedsheets, blue clothes, a blue laptop background, which he has yet to see but that he constantly sees the reflection of. Knows that he’s definitely not the outgoing, extroverted type, but that he’s not a recluse, either. After all, he’s in the figure skating club, seems to have plenty of friends.

He keeps the curtains drawn, keeps his thoughts to himself unless pushed to express them.

Victor stores all of these little thoughts in his Katsuki Yuuri fact bank.

(And there’s still something itching at the back of his mind.)

(A frustrating familiarity.)

With that thought, he finally falls asleep.