Even in the earliest days of his fixation, Yuuri never actually dreams of being Victor Nikiforov.
They watch him skate the Junior World Championships on the small, boxy television in the changing room of Ice Castle Hasetsu. The picture is distorted, not very good quality, but Yuuri stares with spellbound awe as Victor soars across the screen, glittering and graceful as he skates his way through the competition.
“He’s amazing, isn’t he?” Yuuko exclaims later, her eyes shining as Victor smiles down at the world from atop the podium. She claps her hands together, sighing deeply. “I wish I could be just like him.”
Yuuri can’t think of anything to say, so he just keeps watching. Keeps his eyes fixed on Victor as he waves at the screen; his gracious smile, the gold medal around his neck.
When he drifts off to sleep that night, he replays Victor’s routine over and over in his head as he imagines it: skating on the same ice as Victor. Watching him move, taking it in. Skating with him, their bodies moving together in aching harmony.
He imagines what it would feel like to have Victor watch him in return. For Victor, famous and talented and beautiful, so beautiful, to look at Yuuri and know all the very best parts of him; what it would be like if Victor could look at him and know him – not how he is, but how he should be.
As someone worthwhile. Someone special.
Yuuri sleeps, and dreams of bright blue eyes watching him as he glides over the endless ice.
He buys his first Victor poster when he’s thirteen years old, orders it special from one of the skating magazines they keep at the Ice Castle. It arrives in the mail six weeks later, a large brown parcel that barely weighs anything when his mother hands it to him after school.
“You can open it, Yuuri,” his mother says, laughing a little. He stares reverently down at the package in his hands, his father watching fondly from the corner. “It’s all right.”
It’s a quiet day at the onsen; there are a few women smiling and talking over cups of tea, one older gentleman in the corner. Yuuri glances around anyways, hesitating. He can’t explain why he doesn’t want to open it with other people watching. It feels too private, too special.
His mother seems to understand anyways.
“Go on, then,” Hiroko smiles, and he nods hastily in gratitude as he scrambles out the door, the package cradled carefully against his chest as he goes.
Yuuri slides the door closed once he’s safely inside his room, plunks down onto the floor and begins to carefully ease the package open. He pulls the long white tube out with trembling fingers, pulling the lid off with a quiet pop! before he slides the poster out and slowly, slowly rolls it open.
“Victor,” Yuuri breathes, exhales the word softly and reverently as he stares.
Victor Nikiforov stares back at him from the poster’s glossy surface. He’s wearing the costume he wore to the Junior World Championships – the one that looks like the night sky – and his long silver ponytail is trailing behind him. His expression is somehow eager and serene all at once as he skates on one foot across the ice, both of his arms outstretched and one leg extended behind him.
A spiral, Yuuri thinks, feeling vaguely proud – as though, by knowing the name of the technique, it means that he and Victor have something in common.
He puts it on the wall across from the foot of his bed, stares at it for long minutes before he turns off the lights. Knows with a thrill he can’t put into words that Victor is watching over him as he sleeps.
It’s the first poster of Victor that Yuuri buys, but not the last.
Yuuri’s room fills up with them over the years; Victor skating, Victor smiling, Victor with his face pressed into his poodle’s fur. It’s one of his only extravagances, other than skating: collecting pictures of Victor to hang on his wall, surrounding himself with perfect moments of Victor frozen in time like a silent embrace.
When he’s fourteen years old, Yuuri touches himself for the first time beneath Victor’s unseeing gaze. One arm thrown over his eyes and choking back his own gasps, hand moving slow and stilted beneath the sheets as he thinks about long silvery hair and that bright, familiar smile.
By the time he’s sixteen, Yuuri has so many posters that he has to start changing them out; has to alternate and rearrange and adjust them over time as he adds more and more to his collection.
Victor watches over him as he nurses his bruised feet and stretches his aching muscles, as he works his way up painstakingly through local competitions — is there to celebrate with him on the day he finally qualifies for his first national competition, watches over him kindly as he sobs with relief when he manages to just barely eke out a gold medal in the Junior World Championships.
On the hardest days, when his nerves are too much and he feels so weak and useless he can barely drag himself to practice in the morning, Yuuri will close his eyes and imagine Victor’s voice in his ear.
You’re so good, Yuuri.
I’m so proud of you.
I can’t wait to meet you.
Victor is there for Yuuri to stare at in disbelief on the day Minako calls him, her voice shaking with pride and excitement, and tells him that Celestino Cialdini has agreed to take him on.
When he moves to Detroit, the very first poster is the only one that Yuuri takes with him. He rolls it up carefully and slides it back into the original tube it arrived in, nestles it into his luggage amidst a pile of neatly rolled-up socks as Vicchan nips at his feet and begs for attention.
He never takes it out or hangs it up while he’s there. It seems too much, like putting a piece of his heart on display to be picked-apart by anyone who looks at it. Even when he moves in with Phichit a year later, the poster remains innocuous and unopened on his bedroom shelf.
It helps having Victor there, anyways — like the silent gaze of a friend always watching over him.
Yuuri doesn’t date while he’s in America.
He tells his parents he doesn’t have time when they inevitably ask about it during their bi-weekly calls, politely changes the conversation to how practice is going or his most recent class assignment whenever they bring it up. He talks with them about practically everything else with relative ease, the language barrier keeping the conversation private as Phichit types away on his laptop or reads or scrolls through Instagram on his phone from the other side of their room.
It’s not that he’s not interested, exactly. Yuuri might expend most of his energy on the ice, striving and sweating and struggling to be better, but he still has urges. He still takes advantage of the times when Phichit isn’t there to slide his sleep pants down over his hips and take himself in hand, stroking himself to fullness with the stifled eagerness of someone who doesn’t get to do this very often. To linger over the half-formed thoughts and impressions at the edges of his mind; the ones he doesn’t look at directly, most days.
Yuuri always skates a little looser, a little more relaxed after he does it, as though he’s giving himself a reprieve from the wound-up tension that lives in the pit of his stomach. It’s a bit like stretching a sore muscle, like eating something healthy: not usually a primal need so much as a good thing to do for his physical and mental well-being, another part of himself that needs tending to if he wants to be his best.
“Yuuri,” Phichit says, groaning in overstated exasperation as the two of them leave the rink, beginning the walk home from a long evening practice. Phichit’s arm is linked loosely through his, as though the two of them are a pair of schoolgirls walking home together.
It had taken a while for Yuuri to get used to this particular one of Phichit’s habits; he’s not a very tactile person, can still be a little overwhelmed by how physically affectionate everyone seems to be in America. He’s used to it by now, though; just another quirk of Phichit’s personality for Yuuri to get his head around. Like his tendency to bookmark all the cutest animal gifs he comes across throughout the day to show Yuuri before he goes to sleep, or the way he always borrows Yuuri’s chapstick without asking.
“Mm?” Yuuri asks, gives him a tired smile. Celestino has been working both of them hard lately; the competitive season is coming up fast, and there’s a chance Yuuri might qualify for the Grand Prix Final if he puts in his best effort.
The two of them pass under a streetlamp, the yellow glow of the light briefly illuminating Phichit’s dubious expression.
“That girl at the rink was flirting with you,” Phichit explains, raising his dark eyebrows in exasperated affection. He cocks his head to one side. “Couldn’t you tell?”
“Oh,” Yuuri replies. He looks down at the sidewalk.
There’s a pause.
“You know, it’s none of my business,” Phichit begins, in the way he does when he’s about to make something his business. “But… Yuuri, do you like girls? Boys? You never seem to respond, even when people are interested in you.”
He can feel himself tensing up even though he tries not to, carefully avoiding Phichit’s gaze. For a second, his mind flashes to Yuuko; the way he used to admire her when they were children, how kind she always was while they were in school. Almost seamlessly, though, it flickers over to someone else: to long silvery hair and graceful limbs and bright, icy blue eyes.
Yuuri shifts uncomfortably at the thought, tries to subtly disentangle his arm in a way that won’t offend his friend. Phichit lets him go without issue, still regarding him quizzically.
“People aren’t interested in me,” Yuuri murmurs, his response automatic. He can feel familiar heat rising in his cheeks
Next to him, Phichit snorts with so much contention that Yuuri shoots him a reproachful look.
“Sorry, sorry,” says Phichit. “But… Yuuri, you know that’s not true, right? Remember Matthieu?”
Eyes still trained on the ground, Yuuri shakes his head stiffly – as though to shake away the memory. One of Celestino’s former students, Matthieu had spent a few months training with them at the beginning of the year. He’d been… uncomfortable to be around; always touching Yuuri when he least wanted to be touched, his hands forever wandering to linger along Yuuri’s arm, the small of his back.
Yuuri had never said anything about it, but he’d been more than a little relieved when Matthieu decided to return home to Paris after the holidays; when Yuuri had finally been able to settle back into the comfortable distance that exists between himself and his own body.
“Not like that,” Yuuri says quietly, and it takes him a second to realize that Phichit has physically stopped in place a few feet back. Yuuri turns back to look at him, confused.
“I’m sorry,” says Phichit, sounding genuinely apologetic this time. His sweet face is twisted into a pained expression. “I upset you.”
“What? No no no no no!” Yuuri says in a rush, raising both hands palm out and shaking his head emphatically. He gestures at Phichit to start walking with him again, his friend reluctantly complying. “It’s fine, Phichit! I don’t mind. It’s just…”
Yuuri hesitates on his next words, swallowing them down and taking a long moment to consider. His English has been improving ever since coming to Detroit, but he’s still painfully aware of his own inadequacies when it comes to his second language. He still worries about unknown implications in the words he chooses, would often prefer to remain silent rather than give the wrong impression.
“It just hasn’t come up very much,” Yuuri says eventually, uncomfortable aware of the sound of the words in his own mouth as his speaks them.
That’s… not quite right, he thinks, but it’s as close as he’s going to get for now. He smiles a little weakly over at Phichit, who regards him silently for a long moment.
Then, all at once, a bright smile washes over Phichit’s face.
“You’ve just got very high standards!” Phichit declares with tremendous confidence and enthusiasm, turning to focus on the sidewalk ahead of them as though this is an entirely normal conversation. “That’s a good thing, Yuuri. You’re too good for most people, so it’s only fair that most people aren’t good enough for you.”
“Phichit,” Yuuri hisses, feeling his face start to heat up again. Phichit throws back his head, laughing brightly.
“You’re so easy to embarrass!” says Phichit, giggling a little as Yuuri flails ineffectively next to him. He tucks his hands into the front pocket of his jacket, and Yuuri is silently grateful; he doesn’t particularly feel like linking arms again right at the moment.
“So what do you think of Victor’s latest Instagram post?” Phichit asks, changing the topic.
It never comes up again.
Yuuri has never understood the intrinsic allure that so many people attach to nakedness.
Maybe it’s an attitude he’s developed out of necessity. Growing up at an onsen has meant that, somewhat unavoidably, Yuuri has spent his life surrounded by impersonal, uncaring nudity. Sagging skin and knobbly knees, rounded stomachs and private parts – Yuuri’s seen it all. In general, the sight of other people naked doesn’t do much to excite him by itself: bare skin is a fact of life, the simple reality of what everyone looks like beneath their clothes.
Seeing Victor Nikiforov in the hot spring, standing tall and proud and utterly exposed in front of him, isn’t mortifying because of his nudity, exactly. It’s mortifying because this isn’t a part of Victor he’s meant to see; because he’s just arrived on Yuuri’s doorstep because of a stupid private routine that was never meant to go public, has come halfway around the world for – for –
“Yuuri!” Victor declares, a confidently brilliant smile on his face. “Starting today, I’ll be your coach. I’ll make you win the Grand Prix Final.”
Yuuri chokes, eyes widening as he realizes that he’s already gaped too long without meaning to. He averts his gaze sharply, face burning as he stares down at the ground, but it’s too late: the image is already burned into the back of his eyelids, seared onto his brain.
Victor Nikiforov is standing in his family onsen, the steam doing nothing to obscure him. The sight of is him surreal, his body strangely impersonal in its perfection; the obvious strength in his muscles, the water sliding down his smooth skin. And between his legs, not even hidden by a towel, is—
“Are you happy to see me, Yuuri?” he hears Victor ask, and it’s almost as though there’s a challenge in his voice beneath the lighthearted tone, and Victor’s here, and he can’t – he doesn’t –
“I’m sorry,” Yuuri replies numbly, his hands sliding up to cover his face as he stares down at the ground, crippling anxiety churning at his insides. “Welcome to – I mean –”
He spins on his heel, shouts something unintelligible over his shoulder, and stumbles blindly back inside.
Later, once some of the shock has worn off, Yuuri stands in his room and stares in numb incomprehension at the panoply of Victor posters on his walls. He’s dimly aware that keeping them up is a dangerous game to play at this point; that, now that the object of his adolescent admiration is staying just a few doors down the hallway, chances are his collection will be discovered in the most humiliating way possible unless he takes the proper measures.
It’s difficult to convince himself to do it, though, when — in his heart of hearts — Yuuri still can’t bring himself to believe that Victor is actually here in the first place.
He stares at the posters for a few long minutes; carefully staged photos of Victor posing in his skating costumes, iconic moments from his most well-known routines. It feels as though his heart is stuck in his throat as something small and bright and tentative starts to take root within his chest; as the full weight of it begins to sink in.
The realization that somehow, Victor — blunt and dramatic and absurd Victor, who by all rights should be in the process of gearing up for yet another wildly successful competitive season — looked across the world and saw him despite his failures. Beneath the botched jumps of his last Grand Prix Final, beyond the layer of fat that still clings to his cheeks and belly.
Victor looked, and saw something in Yuuri worth encouraging — something worth sacrificing for.
Yuuri stares, and stares, and tries to reconcile the familiar, glossy images with the reality of the man just down the hallway.
In person, Victor is different than Yuuri has always imagined him.
It’s subtle things, mostly; small, almost imperceptible differences between this Victor – warm and alive and so close Yuuri could reach out and touch him – and the Victor Nikiforov that has existed inside Yuuri’s head for so many years.
The broad strokes are mostly the same. Victor has always presented himself to the world as vivacious, beautiful, talented; has always had a flair for the dramatic that’s served him well in competitions and press conferences, that has kept the public interested in him over so many competitive seasons.
That tendency towards the dramatic feels different, though, when the person in question is flailing in overblown horror at a centipede in the corner of the room, or enthusing at Yuuri to translate for his mother how dinner is completely delicious, Hiroko; amazing! with his cheeks stuffed full of karaage.
Victor is blunter than Yuuri ever expected, with all the subtlety of a hammer to the face whether he’s dealing out compliments or criticism. He’s shameless in both his enthusiasm and his excesses, throws himself wholeheartedly into whatever he does. Whether it’s coaching Yuuri or mangling new Japanese phrases or exploring the town, Victor just goes for things in a way that makes Yuuri want to die of secondhand embarrassment one minute and watch in admiration the next.
Yuuri thinks that maybe he should be more fascinated by watching Victor skate in person every day than he is by watching the other man painstakingly floss his teeth at night.
He isn’t, though; he holds them both equally close to his heart instead, quietly treasuring every little part of Victor that belongs to Yuuri, now, and no one else.
All of the little moments that are singularly theirs.
This is dangerous, Yuuri finds himself thinking one night, idly watching as Victor starts to fall asleep at one of the tables in the onsen front room, his head pillowed in his own arms. Makkachin is cuddled up beneath the table, his curly brown head resting on Victor’s feet. Victor’s chest rises and falls slowly, his green robe falling slightly open in the front as he settles and shifts.
He makes it difficult to remember that Victor’s presence in Yuuri’s life is something fleeting rather than permanent; something to savour while it lasts, not depend on for the future.
It doesn’t help that Victor keeps touching him.
He starts doing it almost as soon as he arrives, no hesitation or reticence in the way he reaches out freely into Yuuri’s space. Victor touches the small of his back to guide him back to Yutopia after a particularly grueling stair run leaves Yuuri gasping for breath as his lungs burn in his chest, places his hands confidently on Yuuri’s arms and legs to guide him into near-painful stretches and positions.
The touches aren’t just restricted to his coaching, either. Yuuri finds himself on high alert almost constantly at first, waiting for the touch of Victor’s with barely-restrained nerves twisting in the pit of his stomach. He tenses imperceptibly whenever Victor steps in close and adjusts Yuuri’s glasses, or reaches out unthinkingly to wipe a bit of broth from Yuuri’s chin when they’re eating soba with his family.
There’s no respite from it, no real end to his formal coaching hours so that Yuuri can have a chance to pull himself together.
Instead, Victor is always there: eating with him and asking him questions and bathing with him in the hot springs, brushing stray eyelashes off of Yuuri’s cheek and massaging the back of his neck once training is done for the day. The glowing idol from his childhood suddenly everywhere at once, his hands on Yuuri’s skin as though they’ve always belonged there.
It’s as though Yuuri has missed some kind of fundamental step between them, as though Victor has simply skipped over the part of their relationship where they figure out boundaries.
It’s just that he’s a foreigner, Yuuri tells himself on the day Victor finally allows him back onto the ice, acutely aware of Yuri Plisetsky and Yuuko’s eyes on him from the side of the rink as Victor moves in close to him. He flushes when Victor reaches out and takes his chin in his hand, breath coming shakily when Victor rubs his thumb over his bottom lip. They’re different about intimacy. It doesn’t mean anything.
No matter how many times he tells himself that, he still has trouble remembering.
It’s strange, too, because the touch of Victor’s hands against his skin feels subtly and uncomfortably different from when other people have done the same. There have been people in his life who have pressed into his space without his permission, whose hands were never anything but unwelcome on skin.
Yuuri is tense and flustered beneath Victor’s hands, but his touch has never been accompanied by that same visceral sense of invasiveness that has always been so deeply interwoven with physical contact in his mind.
He wonders whether years of watching him from a distance has made something of Victor lodge itself irrevocably beneath Yuuri’s skin. Maybe that’s what makes Victor’s touch feel so familiar even though he’s barely more than a stranger; why Yuuri has to jerk away in order to stop himself from leaning into the brush of his fingertips, the warm press of his palms.
During the lead-up to the Hot Springs on Ice event, Yuuri rises from his bed one night to get a glass of water and ends up nearly running right into Victor in the darkened hallway. He snatches himself back just in time, suddenly wide awake as he pulls himself sharply out of the other person’s space. He realizes it’s Victor even before his eyes have a chance to adjust to the dim moonlight coming in the hallway window; from his height or his smell or the way that Yuuri can feel Victor’s eyes on him even now.
“Sorry,” Yuuri exclaims softly, steadying himself on his feet. He looks up at Victor, blinking as the other man’s face slowly begins to become more visible. “It’s… dark.”
“Yuuri,” Victor replies softly, his voice barely audible, and it’s mortifying that the sound of his name on Victor’s tongue is enough to make heat rise in his cheeks.
He swallows, abruptly reconsidering just how badly he wants that water. He starts to turn on his heel, to move back towards his bedroom — but is stopped in his tracks when Victor reaches out through the darkness and places a hand on Yuuri’s shoulder.
The gentle touch stops him just as surely as if he’d been frozen in place. Yuuri sucks in a breath, incredibly aware of the warmth of Victor’s hand through his clothes. The silence hangs heavily between them for a long moment, the hallway so dark that Yuuri can’t quite make out the expression on Victor’s face.
“Yuuri,” Victor tries again, as though he’s trying to convey something in the way he says it. His gaze is heated, so intense that Yuuri can feel his eyes like a physical touch. His thumb slips under the fabric of Yuuri’s shirt for a moment, dragging over his skin in a brief caress. “I wanted to –”
It hits Yuuri then like it never has before; heat pooling in the pit of his stomach so forcefully it makes him want to squirm beneath Victor’s touch, an urgency surging under his skin. Yuuri’s breath catches violently in his throat, mouth falling slightly open as it finally dawns on him why, exactly, Victor’s touch is so different from everyone else’s.
It’s because Yuuri wants Victor to touch him; wants that casual intimacy to mean so much more than it does. In that moment, he wants Victor to step into his space, to crowd him up against the hallway wall and take; to find satisfaction in whatever Yuuri has to offer him.
He can feel himself getting hard beneath his sleep pants, his face burning and his skin electric beneath Victor’s touch, and it’s too much, too much, too much –
“I’m sorry,” Yuuri whispers abruptly, throat suddenly dry. He pulls himself back, stepping out of Victor’s reach. The absence of contact when his hand falls away is physically painful . “I have to —”
Yuuri thinks he might catch an expression of disappointment on Victor’s face as he turns to leave but he can’t be sure, is too focused on making his way back to his room as quickly and quietly as possible. He slides the door shut when he gets there, scrambles back into bed and pulls the sheets right up to his chin as though to protect against the outside world.
His heart pounds in his ears as he lies there in the dark, his breathing too loud on the quiet night air. The hardness between his legs is impossible to ignore, yearning and unsatisfied as his hands flex in his sheets, as he shifts and squirms helplessly beneath the covers.
It takes a long time to fall into an uneasy sleep after that, the unfamiliar spark of primal arousal still burning bright in the pit of his stomach by the time he finally drifts off.
Trying on the Eros costume makes something fundamental slot into place inside his head, disparate pieces finally coming together.
It’s the costume Victor wore to the Junior World Championships when he was sixteen years old, the one that he and Yuuko and Nishigori first watched all those years ago in the back room of the Ice Castle. It’s the same one that Victor was wearing in the very first poster of him that Yuuri bought all those years ago, his good luck charm during his time in America.
It looks like the night sky spilling over his hands. Yuuri holds it reverently, remembering the way Victor’s long, silvery ponytail streamed behind him when he wore this; when he won gold with the highest score in the competition’s history.
Yuuri tucks himself away in his bedroom, locks the door, and tries it on for the very first time.
When he drags the final zipper all the way up, he turns to look at himself in the mirror – and finds himself staring at what he sees.
Even though he’d known that the size was ostensibly correct for him, Yuuri had been half-expecting it to fit at least somewhat poorly. Victor had worn it when he was sixteen, willowy-limbed and slender, and at the very least Yuuri had anticipated a few unseemly lumps beneath the fabric.
It fits like a glove instead, clings to his body seductively as its sequins gleam in the low lamplight.
He raises his chin, turns around so that he can see himself from every direction. He licks his lips, eyes following the costume as he moves; the way the sewn-in shards of crystal catch the light, the way the half-skirt flutters as he shifts in place.
This costume has touched Victor just like it’s touching Yuuri now; holding him, fondling him, a whisper of fabric against his skin. Wearing it feels like being wrapped up in Victor, contained by him, encompassed by him — as though he is enfolded in everything Victor was, everything he is .
Everything he wants Yuuri to be.
Intellectually, Yuuri knows that it doesn’t mean anything; that Yuri Plisetsky will be competing dressed in Victor’s old clothes just as much as he is. That wearing one of Victor’s old costumes is a matter of convenience rather than a statement of something profound.
It feels like being claimed by him anyways.
Look at you, the costume seems to say, Victor seems to say inside his head when he wears it. He tilts his head to one side as he takes himself in. Yuuri’s face looks flushed, heated; he drags his eyes over his own reflection, exhaling deeply. Just look at you. So beautiful, so untouchable.
He only takes it off when he hears his father calling him to dinner, startling sharply. He struggles out of it quickly before folding it with painstaking care, setting it down onto his bed right above where his hidden posters of Victor should be.
Yuuri tries and fails to not stare at Victor for the rest of the evening, as he lingers over the idea of the costume in the back of his head. Of what it would be like to wear it to a proper competition with Victor as his coach: his eyes fixed on Yuuri as he dances across the ice, the brush of the glittering fabric against his skin an indirect kiss twelve years in the making.
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Standing atop the small podium in the middle of the rink, sweat-damp and flushed and still reeling from winning Hot Springs on Ice, Yuuri can feel everyone’s eyes as though they’re pressing down on his skin.
Their applause is like white noise in his ears, and for all that his legs just skated him to victory a few minutes ago, they feel unsteady beneath him now. He barely had time to process what was happening before Victor was announcing his name out to the crowd, ushering him up onto the podium and planting himself behind Yuuri like a flag in the ground.
Morooka is saying something down below him on the ice, asking him for a statement when he barely knows what he’s feeling himself, and —
The warm touch of Victor’s hand curling around his arm is surprising at first, Yuuri’s eyes widening at the unexpected contact. And then Victor’s other hand is there, too; wrapping around his other arm as Victor moves in closer, until his chest is against Yuuri’s back.
As though he’s showing Yuuri off to crowd, the cradle of his arms a podium all their own. As though Victor is putting him on proud display for everyone to see.
The world realigns itself around the grounding touch of Victor’s hands on him, the tension draining from his shoulders like water, a small exhalation of relief escaping his lips as he thoughtlessly relaxes into Victor’s touch. He feels himself stand a little straighter even as the overwhelmed flush still lingers in his cheeks, raising his head to stare out at all of the people in the audience. To all of the people of Hasetsu who never stopped believing in him, who never topped cheering him on.
“I’m going to try and win the Grand Prix Final with Victor!” Yuuri declares to the crowd, feeling as though he can’t look directly at his own happiness. As though he’s floating above the world, riding the inescapable force of Victor’s pride in him, the unthinkable exhilaration of winning after drowning in so many failures. “Thank you for your continued support!”
It hits him then, in the heartbeat after he says the words out loud: what it means that he won, that he did it.
It means that Victor is staying with him, every part of this victory bitterly and gruellingly won.
He wants to spend the rest of his life living and breathing the memory of what it had felt like to win with Victor’s eyes on him; to spend what’s left of his career rising to meet Victor’s expectations. To prove that he deserves this place in the cradle of Victor’s arms.
“You deserve this,” Victor whispers, leaning in so close that his breath tickles against his ear, and Yuuri feels something immediate and urgent surge inside of him response. It makes him feel like something more than himself; as though there is too much inside of him to be contained by flesh and sinew.
As though he is becoming the person that Victor believes he can be.
Yuuri and Victor head back into the storage room a little while later, once Yuuko ushers them both off the rink, and the performance’s spectators start emptying out of the building like sand through the narrow point of an hourglass.
They walk across the floors scraped from years of customers too careless to wear blade guards and into the worn-down heart of the Ice Castle, a quick detour so that Yuuri can change out of his skates in private before they leave. Yurio is gone already, having left without a word before the results were even announced, and it’s just the two of them who tuck themselves back inside.
And it’s silly — ridiculous, really — but Yuuri can’t stop smiling. His face aches a little with it as he walks over to where he left his shoes, smiling with quiet pleasure as he begins unlacing his skates.
“You should definitely use this as your short program for the rest of the competitive season,” Victor tells him in a rush. He’s standing in the middle of the room, gesticulating emphatically, and he’s been talking pretty much consistently ever since they got off the ice, ever since they moved out of sight of other people's’ prying eyes. “And keep on wearing my costume too, of course, it’s such a good fit with the music.”
Yuuri glances up at him covertly as he slides off one of his skates; catches a glimpse of Victor as he gestures, clearly lost in thought. His eyes are alight with energy and focus, but his lips are stretched wide in a matching smile that lights up his entire face.
It makes him look even more beautiful, even more alive than he usually does, and Yuuri ducks his head quickly to hide his own smile as he begins unlacing his other skate. For a moment, he lingers over the idea of what that would be like: wearing this costume at the Grand Prix Final, wrapped up in Victor for everyone to see.
He has to wrench himself away from the thought, heat already rising in his cheeks.
“You really made the choreography your own, too,” Victor enthuses, letting out a pleased sigh as he raises his index finger to his mouth. “That triple axel really was awful, but we have plenty of time to make sure it’s strong before the qualifiers. Yakov always let me have the morning after a competition off, so we’ll have our first practice tomorrow evening.”
There’s a brief pause.
“Does that sound good to you, Yuuri?” Victor asks, and it takes a moment for Yuuri to register that he’s looking for a response. He nods as he finishes tying his sneaker, that barely-there small smile still curled across his lips.
“Mm,” Yuuri replies, getting to his feet. He reaches down and plucks up his federation jacket, slowly pulling it on over his costume as he tries and fails to wrap his head around the idea that Victor will be spending the next six months here with him. That Victor will be staying in his house still, that he won’t be going back to Russia anytime soon.
The thought barely feels real; as though it’s an idle daydream, or some kind of fantasy come to life. He came so close to losing Victor just now; to letting him slip through his fingers.
It’s hard to believe that Yuuri actually won the right to keep him, for a little while.
“My mother says that she’ll be making katsudon tonight,” Yuuri tells him softly, quiet pleasure humming beneath his skin as he zips up his jacket. He rubs the back of his head as he looks over at Victor, suddenly abashed. “Ah, it’s been so long since I earned that meal for myself, you know?”
From across the room, Victor watches Yuuri without saying anything; his movements stilled, his words silenced.
Yuuri swallows, his throat suddenly dry.
“I’m so happy,” Yuuri admits, pinned beneath his gaze, and the words feel like a confession on his lips. As though saying it out loud makes it real; his own joy, but also the strangeness of feeling it. The reality that he hasn’t felt happy in a very long time; how desperately he wants to hold onto this feeling, to cherish it.
There’s a pause as the words settle around them in the room; joining the dust that lingers in the storage room corners, pressing down lightly on his skin.
“You deserved to win,” Victor tells him, his voice pitched lower than Yuuri expects it to be. He blinks, staring at him as Victor takes a few steps forward — until they’re standing so close they could reach out and touch. He looks just as perfect right now in his coat and scarf as he ever did on the ice, wrapped up in gold and feathers and glittering sequins, the whole world wrapped around his finger. “You know that, right, Yuuri? You deserved it.”
There’s a quiet intensity in the way he says it, his eyes dragging slowly over the lines of Yuuri’s face. For a moment, the touch of his gaze feels so good that Yuuri almost shivers with it, feels abruptly unsteady on his feet.
He nods quickly and Victor seems to relax somewhat, shooting Yuuri a softer, quieter smile.
“You must be looking forward to celebrating with your family tonight,” Victor says, and Yuuri just... moves, without thinking.
He steps forward into Victor’s space, heart hammering in his ears as he latches onto Victor’s waist; as he presses his face against the warm solidity Victor’s chest. He feels Victor go still within the embrace; hears the sharp inhalation of breath he makes close to Yuuri’s ear.
It’s the second time that Yuuri has done this today; initiating this kind of contact between them, shattering the invisible barrier around their skin. Part of him is shocked by his own boldness, but another part… isn’t.
It feels right, Yuuri realizes distantly, the way that no one else’s touch ever has. As though being in Victor’s arms is something he’s always longed for rather than something recent; something that’s always been there, and he’s just never been able to put into words.
“Thank you,” Yuuri tells him, the words coming out too forceful, too true. He squeezes his eyes shut, tightening his grip around Victor’s waist; as though Victor might try to pull away if Yuuri lets him go. “Thank you, Victor. For coming to Hasetsu. For being my coach.”
There is a long moment where Victor doesn’t respond; where he just stands there instead, still and contained within the tight circle of Yuuri’s arms. It lasts so long that Yuuri very nearly starts to pull away; just barely begins to register the slow creep of mortification up his throat, can feel the stilted beginnings of an apology building on his lips.
And then Victor is wrapping his arms around him in return, drawing him tight and close to his chest. There’s an urgency to the embrace that catches Yuuri off guard; that makes his eyes fly open in surprise even as he surrenders to his touch. It’s the longest they’ve ever stayed like this before; wrapped in each other’s arms, their bodies pressed so close.
He smells good, Yuuri realizes, the thought making something heated and illicit shiver up his spine. His eyes flutter closed as he breathes, leaning into his touch, surrounded by his warmth. He feels… safe, like this. As though he could stay here forever and nothing could ever hurt him, wrapped up and protected in Victor’s arms.
“I’m so happy you wanted me to come,” Victor says eventually, almost whispering. There’s a strained note to his voice as he says it; his arms tightening around Yuuri, holding him even closer.
Yuuri barely gets to think about that before Victor’s pulling away. He draws back, hands lingering on Yuuri’s shoulders as he smiles softly down at him.
“Come on,” Victor tells him warmly, looking more at ease than he has all afternoon. He tosses his bangs out of his eyes, huffing out an easy breath as he grins teasingly. “You’ve earned that victory meal, haven’t you? Let’s go see your family.”
And half the town, probably, Yuuri thinks with fond exasperation, managing to swallow the words before he says them out loud. He remembers other victories he’s had in the past; coming back to the onsen only to find it teeming with friends and regulars, all of them eager to pass on their congratulations over a cold glass of sake.
He doesn’t want Victor to think he’s unappreciative, though, so he just nods instead; allows Victor to take his hand and drag him out of the back room, following behind him as Victor leads them both out of the rink.
Even after he and Victor begin training properly, Yuuri still goes to Minako’s studio to practice sometimes.
It’s an old habit whenever he’s back in Hasetsu, a holdover from when ballet was as much a part of his life as breathing. Yuuri danced while he was in Detroit, too, of course — he’s always considered it to be part of his training, has never been able to uncouple dancing and skating, the two concepts always too deeply interwoven within his mind.
His instructor in Detroit had been friendly enough, but it’s good to be back in a place where he always feels like he has a place to go practice; where Minako’s enthusiasm and ease has never made him feel like he’s intruding.
She raises an eyebrow as she opens her door to him tonight, still wearing her daytime clothes as she takes a step back to allow him inside. It’s not too late in the evening yet; just a little after dinnertime, the sun still a deep red in the sky as it sets behind him.
“I’m surprised you’re here,” Minako comments wryly, and Yuuri nods his gratitude as he darts inside, toeing off his shoes inside the entrance area, turning them carefully to face the door. “I thought you said Victor’s been pushing you hard lately.”
“He has,” Yuuri agrees, but his mind is already inside the studio. He glances down the hallway, shifting restlessly. “Sorry, can I…?”
“Yes, of course,” Minako says, waving a hand at him dismissively. “I’ll be reading in the other room. Let me know when you want to head out!”
A few minutes later he’s at the bar, melting into his own body as he moves into an arabesque, arms raised in the air and leg outstretched behind him. Yuuri’s eyes drift half-shut as he flows upright, uncoiling seamlessly into a croisé devant. He moves through the positions of the arms a few times before he drifts into the centre of the studio, begins running through what he remembers of an old routine.
It’s only then that his mind finally unspools enough to go over the conversation he and Victor had a few days ago; to look directly at the things he’d said that had gotten under Yuuri’s skin rather than avoiding them; rather than running his fingers over them, half-noticed, in the back of his mind.
What do you want me to be to you? Victor had asked him, the two of them perched on the sand with Makkachin between them, staring out at the wide expanse of the grey sea.
He runs through the steps mindlessly, lost in the padding of his own feet on the wooden floor as he moves. It’s taken a few days for this to creep up on him; to steal over his thoughts and snare him in its grasp.
The conversation itself had been good; better than good. It had made Yuuri want to reach into himself and open up his heart for Victor more than he already has, to dare to risk showing him the parts of himself that Yuuri has always tried so hard to keep hidden.
All the same, it’s as though part of what Victor said had become stuck in Yuuri’s teeth, niggling at the back of his mind as Victor has drilled him through his jumps these last few days, as they’d waited for his free skate music to arrive.
A lover, maybe.
Yuuri wavers a little but quickly regains his centre, arching and spinning to the music inside his head, the notes so clear and tangible they may as well be playing out loud.
It bothers him, he realizes again; the idea of Victor changing himself to suit Yuuri’s needs. The very idea makes him want to recoil away from it instinctively, to shake his head in denial at the thought of Victor trying to become someone else to please him, to elicit whatever response from him that Victor pleases.
It’s unbearable, and Yuuri surges with the sense of nameless longing that floods through him, flowing effortlessly through his limbs. He reaches out with both arms in a way that thrums with yearning as he dances, throwing himself into the imagined rhythm. He whirls across the floor, moving faster and faster as he thinks about how easy it’s been to draw Victor’s gaze since he arrived, how effortlessly Victor had offered to be whatever he wants.
His mind snags violently on the idea, and he nearly falters — of Victor sensing what Yuuri wants and mirroring it back to him, thoughtless and meaningless.
That’s not what I want, Yuuri thinks sharply, even though he couldn’t articulate what he does want even if he tried. He reels himself in, pushing himself harder until his breathing becomes laboured. Until he can’t think without his mind closing off, too focused on the grace and precision of his movements.
It goes on like that for a long time; tearing his thoughts apart and putting them back together again, dancing himself ragged as he spins, and flies, and strains. As he pushes himself past the exhaustion of today’s training and into something mindless and unthinking, too worn to the bone to think, to feel.
By the time he comes to a stop, Yuuri is panting; his clothes damp with sweat and his face heated with exertion as he clings to the bar. He gasps wetly for a moment, lungs burning cold as he clutches at his chest, tentatively reaching out into his own mind.
He lets out a sigh of exhausted relief when he finds it finally and mercifully empty.
Yuuri says goodbye to Minako after that; wraps himself up and drags himself back across the city to Yutopia, to Victor. It’s well past dark by the time he gets home, and he can barely string his thoughts together by the time he crawls into bed, muscles loose from a hot shower and a barely-conscious soak in the hot springs.
Yuuri is asleep almost as soon as his head touches the pillow.
He doesn’t dream.
When his free skate music finally arrives, it’s so perfect that Yuuri can’t wait another minute to show Victor after the e-mail appears in his inbox. He goes charging into Victor’s bedroom well past midnight instead, slamming the shoji to his room open and stepping on Makkachin’s tail as he clambers eagerly onto the bed.
The next morning Victor drags him to the Ice Castle far too early, grinning with barely-restrained excitement as Yuuri blearily rubs sleep from his eyes.
I need to start going to sleep earlier, Yuuri thinks for the umpteenth time in his life, guiltily aware of the fact that it won’t happen even as the familiar thought runs through his head. Victor goes and gets the sound system ready while he sits in the changing area and slowly inches towards wakefulness, savouring the last few sips of cooling tea from his travel mug.
They lace up their skates together and then Victor is taking him by the hand and dragging him out onto the ice, his bubbling enthusiasm clear in every line of his body as he moves. Yuuri watches him fondly out of the corner of his eye; thinks, not for the first time, just how much Victor resembles an eager puppy when he’s excited about something. He’s so much less controlled in person than he always has been in interviews, when even the scandalous things he sometimes said were couched in cool words and polite smiles.
Yuuri had never thought of Victor as being a particularly restrained person in public until he saw him like this in Hasetsu; unfettered and impatient and wholly driven by his own excitement.
“All right!” Victor begins, his hands on his hips as he looks across at Yuuri. “What are you hoping to convey with this piece?”
It’s a big question, and Yuuri blinks at him; stares blankly for a moment as he comes back to himself. He tries to think, and finds that his mind has gone completely empty — all of the vague thoughts and impressions that have been gathering at the edges of his consciousness suddenly vanished into thin air.
“Um,” Yuuri begins uncertainly, resisting the urge to shift beneath Victor’s gaze. “I think…. I think it’s about my career as a skater.”
Victor nods, business-like. “But what are you hoping to convey?” he asks, tilting his head a little. “Hope? Aching triumph?” He smiles at him. “This isn’t about me, or what I want, Yuuri. It’s about you. I want you to be involved in this process from start to finish. The music, the emotion, the choreography… I want you to own this piece with every part of your being.”
It is about you, Yuuri thinks, because everything to do with his career as a skater is about Victor in one way or another. Victor has always been the foundation upon which Yuuri built his livelihood; the standard by which he measured success and failure. On good days, it used to feel like Victor was right there in front of him, beckoning him in; just out of reach but getting closer every day. On bad days, Victor became an unreachable goal: so far above him it was staggering, always slipping farther and farther out of his reach.
Victor has always been the force that motivated him, that drove him: the pinnacle of achievement that Yuuri has spent half his life trying to catch up to.
Yuuri doesn’t say anything for a long few moments, but Victor must see something in his expression anyways. He frowns thoughtfully, staring at Yuuri as though he’s trying to decipher something complicated in the lines of his face.
“Just one second,” Victor says abruptly, before turning and skating over to the side of the rink. He’s back at Yuuri’s side in an instant, his eyes bright with determination and the sound system remote in his hand. “All right, now.”
He clicks play — and then the music for Yuuri’s free skate begins playing on the speakers in the rink, the yearning strains of the piano echoing off the walls around them and the ice beneath their feet.
“There,” Victor says conclusively, crossing his arms with a look of profound satisfaction on his face. “Now: tell me what you feel.”
For the briefest moment, Yuuri stares at him — before his eyes slide shut almost against his will, exhaling deeply as the music begins to flow through him. It’s a beautiful song, and even though he listened to it so many times last night before he fell asleep, it’s still just as easy to fall into into it this time. The sound of the piano shivers through him, tugging softly at his heart.
“It’s yearning,” Yuuri murmurs, the words escaping from his lips before he even registers their meaning. He frowns a little, falling into the melody as the piano goes and goes and doesn’t go anywhere, threads of hope and dissatisfaction woven through the aching notes. “And frustration. Standing in place, not able to move forward.”
Far above him, the piano rests on a single high note before the sentiment is echoed — lower and deeper as it builds, as it flows.
“That sense of longing,” Yuuri says, his arms slowly moving without thought to rise above his head; extending, reaching. “Of wanting to break free.”
Around him, the piano runs are building, unfurling; gaining momentum as they strain at their confines, picking up speed. The sweet brushes of percussions begin to surge beneath the melody, urging it on.
And then the violin comes in, those beautiful long notes so high above the music, drawing it upwards.
“Hope blossoms,” Yuuri says, smiling softly as his feet begin to move beneath him; gliding over the ice, circling he draws his hands down to cover his heart. He can feel the piano swelling inside of him; stronger and more confident as he moves in concerted figures. “Not being alone anymore. Surging towards potential, embracing it.”
He changes direction, picking up speed. Moves into something that resembles an actual step sequence; his eyes flying open and his heart in his throat as he spins on one foot, deep edges that send him soaring across the ice, ready to take off.
“Preparing to fly,” Yuuri says, not even sure if he’s talking to Victor or himself anymore. He feels the smile spreading wider across his face, the certainty that settles inside him as he gains speed. “Knowing that you can.”
He moves without thinking, flinging himself into the air at the very moment the music soars, goes into it fast and lands with a running edge and keeps going, the entirety of his being completely in tune as the music moves with dazzling speed, singing with joy, and then —
The music grows still, and so does Yuuri. It hangs in the air around him as he glides, arms outstretched, all of the charged energy falling away until there’s only him left. Just him, and the ice, and his body so full with feeling that it strains at his skin.
“Contemplation,” Yuuri murmurs, something nameless and heartfelt shivering through him. He feels the weight of it settle inside as it becomes a part of him, sinking into his bones.
He doesn’t speak for a while, after that; simply moves in the way that feels right for this, right for him. Loses himself to the aching notes that fill him from the tips of his toes all the way to his soul; becoming one with them, his body riding out the music in perfect harmony as he glides.
When he comes back to himself, the music is building again; the piano and violin soaring together this time, pushing him forwards, gripping at his heart.
“Anticipation, now, no more longing,” Yuuri says weakly, slightly out of breath, not used to speaking out loud as he skates. “That sense of belonging, of fitting together. Of finally finding something you’ve wanted forever, but was always just out of your reach.”
The words grow quiet on his tongue, and for a little while Yuuri just lives inside his own body; moving exactly how he feels, as though every step and turn is an echo of his own soul. Everything he wants to become put on display for Victor to see; the staggering heights of his desires, the boundless strength of Victor’s incomprehensible belief in him.
And then the final notes are drifting up to meet him as he spins, Yuuri’s body slowing in perfect time with the notes that hang above him in the air.
“And then…” Yuuri wavers, his throat suddenly tight as he stares up at the ceiling as the last lingering hints of music disappear around him, the entirety of himself so immensely full of feeling despite its absence, as though the song itself has made a home in his heart. He smiles, bittersweet; missing the music even though he was so incredibly fortunate to have it in the first place, even though he’ll savour its memory long after it comes to a close. “... it’s done.”
He stays like that for a long silent moment before the world seems to rush back to him, slamming into his awareness in a rush of sensation. Yuuri blinks, wrenching his head sideways to look at Victor, suddenly embarrassed at how thoroughly he managed to lose track of himself, to nearly forget that Victor was watching.
His apology dies on his lips when he sees the expression on Victor’s face; at the way he’s staring at Yuuri as though he hasn’t breathed since he started skating, eyes wide and lips slightly parted.
“Yuuri,” Victor says quietly, and Yuuri ducks his head; can already feel the flush of exertion in his cheeks changing into something else. He feels Victor’s eyes on him and quietly revels in it, stomach twisting as he remembers all over again just how much he likes this. How very badly he wants to live the rest of his life with Victor’s eyes on him just like this, to hear the sound of his name on Victor’s lips.
Well, Yuuri thinks, boldly raising his head to stare back as Victor watches him, drinking in the sight of his quiet awe. It would be ungrateful not to enjoy it while it lasts.
“So that’s what I was thinking,” Yuuri finishes lamely, letting out a quiet breath. He smiles a little, his whole body singing with the joy of having this; of owning Victor’s attention completely, even if it’s only for a little while. “Was it good?”
The straightforward ease with which Victor settles into Hasetsu is enough to make Yuuri marvel; to make him stare with quiet awe as Victor carves out a place for himself with his endless enthusiasm and charming smiles.
Victor makes room for himself in Hasetsu in the same way he does everything else he cares about: with all of his attention and energy and commitment, hurling himself into it with abandon. He’s determined to learn Japanese no matter how many times Yuuri tells him he doesn’t have to, that Yuuri is more than happy to translate for him whenever he needs it. It makes him feel guilty every time he hears Victor stumbling brightly over his formal and informal distinctions, plowing forward with a headstrong commitment to being understood and an utter disregard for embarrassment.
It’s so unnecessary, too, because it’s not as though Victor needs Japanese to communicate with Yuuri, anyways. His parents don’t have much English, but Mari’s is fine. Minako speaks excellent English, and Yuuko’s has always been surprisingly strong for how few opportunities she’s had to practice it.
Whenever Yuuri tries to point this out, though, Victor always seems to cajole him into language lessons anyways. He asks innocent questions that build and bubble over, diverting Yuuri’s attention until he blinks and realizes that he’s sitting in the Yutopia front room at a table with Victor, correcting his hiragana alphabet, tricked into helping him yet again.
“You really don’t have to do this,” Yuuri insists for what feels like the hundredth time, an exasperated blush rising in his cheeks. “I can translate for you, really, it’s fine.”
“Yuuri,” Victor says, leaning his head against Yuuri’s shoulder as he draws out his name. “How do you say ‘international competition’ in Japanese?”
It’s exasperating, because Yuuri knows how difficult it is to learn another language; how horrible it can feel when you have to use it before it’s ready. He remembers his first year in Detroit being defined by his persistent discomfort with English: the way that words had felt so inelegant and uncertain on his tongue, his shortcomings put on display every time he opened his mouth. It’s not as though Japanese is particularly useful anywhere else in the world, and it’s more than a little painful to see Victor committing himself so wholeheartedly to something he isn’t going to need soon, anyways.
At the same time, though…
At the same time, there’s another, deeper part of himself that wants to crawl into Victor’s lap every time he gets a particularly challenging sentence right. Those moments when Victor’s ruthless determination to make an entire language yield before the force of his personality makes Yuuri slightly weak at the knees.
When Victor gets something right and knows that Yuuri is watching, Victor searches him out immediately; latches onto Yuuri’s eyes as though he’s eager for his approval, a beaming smile on his shockingly beautiful face. His reaction is more subdued when he doesn’t realize that Yuuri can see him; a subtle kind of satisfaction that lights up his eyes whenever he conquers the language barrier. A quiet kind of victory that Yuuri can feel him savouring when it happens.
Victor learning Japanese is a tangible reminder of his place here in Yuuri’s life; a skill he would never have otherwise, if he hadn’t thrown caution to the wind and forcefully made Yuuri a part of his life.
And that’s… nice. It’s lovely; the thought that this is something of Yuuri that Victor can take with him after he’s gone; a handful of words and ideas that will still linger inside his head once their time together is over.
They keep skating, keep training; continue working on his free skate program until it finally starts to come together. Until it feels as though this routine is the recreation of his very self by Victor’s hands: channeling Yuuri’s emotion into movement, putting together an incredibly difficult series of moves and jumps to highlight Yuuri’s strengths, to show off the very best parts of him to the world.
And then summer arrives, and Victor effectively loses the ability to function.
“Yuuri,” Victor whines, flopping dramatically on a nearby bench. They’re on the way home after a long practice, the summer heat oppressive and humid as it weighs heavily down on them. Victor’s hair is a complete mess after only a few minutes outside, an utterly miserable expression on his face. “Yuuri, I’m dying.”
Yuuri gives him a look.
“You’re not dying,” Yuuri chastises, walking over to him and tugging at his shoulder. “It’s just hot. I’m hot too, and you don’t see me complaining. Get up.”
“Hot?” Victor demands, looking scandalized. There’s a thin sheen of sweat across his face, his hair frizzing out slightly around his head. “Hot? It’s like walking through a sauna. Yuuri, this the hottest place that has ever existed, how do people live like this?!”
Yuuri snorts softly.
“How do people live in Saint Petersburg, or Detroit, where it gets so cold?” Yuuri asks pointedly, trying to stifle his smile. “They deal with it. Now get up! The sooner we get home, the sooner you can sit in the front room where there’s air conditioning.”
“Air conditioning,” Victor repeats, eyes shining. Then he says it again, but in Japanese this time — one of the first words he’d begged to be taught as soon as the summer heat descended upon them, both he and Makkachin looking hot and miserable after one of their runs. He braces himself, takes a deep breath — and drags himself to his feet, as though every centimetre is a struggle.
“Ughhh,” Victor groans, looking so disgusted that Yuuri can’t help himself.
He laughs, open and unrestrained.
“I’m sorry, just — your face,” Yuuri says, snorting inelegantly and quickly raising a hand to his mouth to cover the sound. He giggles behind his fingers a little anyways, glancing back at Victor apologetically once they’ve died down to little more than choked-off breaths, and —
He grows still when he sees the way Victor is staring at him.
“What?” Yuuri asks, and Victor shakes his head.
“Nothing,” Victor says, a funny sort of smile on his face. He lets out a dramatic sigh, then finally gets to his feet. “Come on. Let’s go home.”
The heat isn’t as bad in the evenings, and a few days later Victor accepts an invitation on both their behalves to go out for dinner with Yuuko and Nishigori.
It’s a nice idea, as it happens, and they end up going to a small restaurant in town on a night when Yuuko’s mother is available to babysit. Nishigori’s English is a bit rough around the edges, but Victor’s burgeoning Japanese more than makes up for it. The four of them have a surprisingly nice time, and around nine thirty Yuuko and Nishigori say their goodbyes and head home to relieve Yuuko’s mother of the triplets.
The problem comes afterwards, and for two reasons. First, because Victor wants to keep drinking. And second, because Yuuri is a fundamentally weak person who has, it would appear, absolutely no defenses against Victor Nikiforov giving him puppy dog eyes while he waggles an empty sake glass in front of his face.
Several hours later, flushed and staggering with the weight of Victor’s arm flung over his shoulder, Yuuri suspects that they might possibly have overdone it just a little.
“Yuuri,” Victor hums, pressing his face shamelessly against Yuuri’s neck as they walk. He doesn’t seem to be capable of standing on his own just about now, his legs unsteady like a newborn deer beneath him. Which is fair, Yuuri thinks, because he saw how much they both drank, and it was… a lot. “Mmmmm. Are you taking care of me, Yuuri?”
Yuuri drags in an uneven breath. He’s less drunk than Victor, he thinks — can feel himself right on the cusp of losing his inhibitions, but has managed to not quite careen over the edge yet. Which is good, he thinks distantly, hauling Victor a little more firmly over his shoulder. He might even remember this tomorrow.
“Victor,” Yuuri says, his voice strained as he tries to make himself sound low and chastising. He swallows, thinking about the ten long minutes of walking they have left until they can make it back to Yutopia. He shivers at the press of Victor’s face along the side of his neck, the tiny huffs of breath silent proof that Victor’s mouth is pressed against him there. “That’s… you’re drunk. I am going to get you home safe.”
He enunciates the last part rather slowly, because it seems important, but Victor just laughs against the side of his neck, reaching up to clumsily run his hand along Yuuri’s waist before it falls to his side again, dangling uselessly. Yuuri’s eyes flutter half-shut at the touch for a moment anyways; at how handsy Victor is when he’s like this, how much he seems to enjoy draping himself all over Yuuri, clutching him close.
“You never come out with me,” Victor says, his words jumbling together a little. “I’m always by myself when I drink here. It’s so sad, Yuuri. So sad.”
And this whole experience is surreal, absurd, but he relaxes into Victor’s touch anyways. He isn’t going to get all that many opportunities to do this, after all. He should be savouring this. To… let loose. Let himself enjoy it. Why shouldn’t he enjoy it?
For a second, the thought process sounds exactly like his father does when he’s been drinking. Yuuri sucks in a shaky breath, holding himself a little more rigidly as he clutches onto Victor’s waist.
“Well,” says Yuuri thickly, extremely aware for a moment of the picture they make: the ‘hometown hero’ and the famous foreigner stumbling drunkenly along the nighttime streets of Hasetsu. “I’m here now, aren’t I.”
“You are!” Victor enthuses loudly, startling an old woman who’s walking past them. Yuuri shoots her an apologetic look over his shoulder. “You are, you are. And you’re not… on a pole. This time.”
“What?” Yuuri asks, completely bewildered, but Victor just giggles, muttering something unintelligible under his breath.
They avoid the night market as they walk but the streets are still dotted with people, the dim glow of the shop lamps lighting their way home. The tide must be in, because it smells like the sea; the salty air mingling with the wafting smell of sake and street food and Victor pressed up against him, and Yuuri finds his mind wandering as they hobble the rest of their way home in relative silence.
He thinks about sitting next to Victor in the sake bar they went to after Yuuko and Nishigori left; the way that every drink had made Victor looser with his hands, how freely he’d reached out and touched Yuuri’s arm, his back, even his face. The way he’d watched Yuuri with absolute delight in his eyes every time Yuuri finish a drink, as the heady flush rose higher in his cheeks and his restraint slipped further and further, the whole world becoming a little wilder, a little more untamed.
The way Victor had wrapped his arm around Yuuri’s shoulders, drawing him in close; draping himself over Yuuri’s body as though it belonged to him, his grip tightening ever-so-slightly whenever anyone else came close.
I wonder if he’s like that with everyone, Yuuri thinks dimly as they start to ascend the low-sloping hill up to Yutopia. Victor says something under his breath that might not even be English, pressing his face against Yuuri’s neck again. He shivers. Everyone that he —
Yuuri tenses, cutting off that dangerous thought before it can go any further.
“Yuuri?” Victor asks thickly, and Yuuri gives him a small squeeze.
“Almost home,” Yuuri tells him as they pass beneath the ornate front gate of his family’s onsen.
It doesn’t take long before they’re at the front door. Yuuri lets them inside — and the sudden rush of cool, dry air as they step into the front room is such an immediate relief that both of them let out a little groan as they come inside, as they close the door behind them.
“Tadaima,” Victor sighs, happy and relieved and just a little bit too loud as he clumsily kicks off his shoes. Makkachin bounds up to them from where he’s been sleeping in the front room, and Yuuri shushes them both quickly, doesn’t want to disturb anyone if they’re not —
It’s Mari’s voice, and when Yuuri turns to follow it he finds her leaning by the door that leads to the kitchen, wearing her work clothes and her hair pushed back, ever practical. He relaxes a little at the sight of her: she must’ve still been up doing chores, and it’s better than disturbing his parents.
Mari raises an eyebrow. “You two look like you had fun,” she says, in English.
She looks them up and down, and Yuuri is aware all over again of what they must look like: Victor hanging off him clinging to him, both of them glassy-eyed and unsteady on their feet. Her gaze feels different than the other people who had seen their on their way home; more knowing, more personal. As though Mari looks at them and sees something about them clearly, implicit and unspoken as she watches them.
Yuuri holds his ground; doesn’t shy away from her gaze. He’s surprised at the curl of pleasure that runs through him at someone they both know seeing them like this: Victor’s hands on him, pressing into his space even more than he usually does.
He smiles, ducking his head.
“Ah, yes,” Yuuri says, adjusting his grip on Victor’s waist. “We… went out with Yuuko and Nishigori.”
Mari nods, then gestures silently over to Victor. “Need help with him?”
Victor’s grip tightens around him, immediate and anything but subtle.
Yuuri feels fresh heat rise in his cheeks. He shoots his sister a vaguely apologetic look, raising his free hand to rub the back of his head.
“No, we should be fine,” Yuuri says in slightly strangled voice, and almost jumps out of his skin when he hears Victor let out what almost sounds like a purr against his neck.
Mari nods again, the barest hint of a smile curling on her lips.
“All right,” she says, turning back towards the kitchen. She raises a hand in a single, silent wave as she leaves. “Goodnight, you two.”
“Goodnight!” Victor calls after her, bright and airy.
And then Yuuri is leading them out of the room; heading down the hallway until they reach the shoji to his bedroom, Makkachin padding behind them quietly. He slides it open one-handed, guiding both of them inside. Makkachin hops onto the green couch in the corner as soon as the door is open, his tail wagging contently.
Victor turns to face him as soon as they’re inside, a lopsided smile on his face. He seems to be doing considerably better now that they’re back in a place that has air-conditioning, as though a reprieve from the oppressive humidity has physically made him lighter.
It’s dark in the room, but Yuuri can discern most of his features anyways; the sharp lines of his nose and cheekbones inexorably burned into his mind after years of hero worship and months in close proximity.
“Wow,” Victor drawls slowly, his eyes shining. He’s mostly standing on his own two feet now, his hand resting loosely over Yuuri’s shoulder. “Yuuri… you brought me to my bedroom.”
He leans in a little closer — and then slowly trails his hand down until his palm is flat against Yuuri’s chest, raising his other hand to press a contemplative finger to his lips. Yuuri tenses beneath his touch, far too aware of the heated drag of Victor’s eyes over his face, his chest, and right back up again.
“Quiet the role reversal, isn’t it?” Victor asks delicately, his voice pitched low in a way that makes Yuuri shiver, a whole world of meaning simmering beneath his words.
It’s not any meaning that Yuuri is familiar with, though. The glimmer of confusion is enough for him to gather himself; to scrape together what’s left of his self control.
“Come on,” Yuuri says, relieved when he sounds steadier than he feels. “Let’s get you into bed.”
Victor pouts ferociously, but allows himself to be guided over to the bed; he sits on the edge as Yuuri turns on one of the lamps beside them. It floods the room with a warm, dim light; makes everything around them feel somehow simultaneously more and less real.
When Yuuri reaches over and starts helping Victor out of his jacket, Victor makes a sound of obvious pleasure in the back of his throat, leaning unashamedly into his hands like a cat wanting to be stroked. Once that’s off, Yuuri begins the process of undoing the buttons of his shirt — and Victor makes a noise in the back of his throat that’s so abjectly filthy that it feels as though Yuuri’s whole face is on fire. His hands shake a little as he undoes the last button, as he slides Victor’s shirt off over his shoulders.
“Ah,” Yuuri says, his voice thick, hands hovering uncertainly over the waistband of Victor’s jeans. He glances up at Victor’s face — and has to look away quickly at what he sees there. Those blue eyes watching him so intently, Victor’s lips slightly parted. Yuuri swallows, telling himself that it really would be more awkward to stop now than to keep going. He sets his jaw, a surge of determination flowing through him. “Raise your hips, please.”
Victor hums softly.
“All right,” Victor says, obediently raising his hips off the bed. And it’s… it really can’t all be in Yuuri’s head, how seductive he looks when he does it: his eyes fixed on Yuuri as he hitches up his hips, just barely licking his lips as he does it.
Yuuri tries not to look at him as he unbuttons Victor’s jeans, dragging them over his taut waist and pulling them off in a graceless rush. He keeps his head bowed once they’re off, cheeks burning, suddenly aware of the possibility that Victor might not be wearing anything underneath them. He’s seen Victor naked before, but this is different — the air between them charged and electric, something hot and uncomfortable twisting in the pit of his stomach.
He reaches down and snatches up two handfuls of the blankets piled at the foot of the bed, quickly pulling them overtop of Victor just in case.
“There,” Yuuri says abruptly, taking a step back. He’s done everything he can, he thinks, swallowing thickly. He keeps his eyes fixed on the floor as he turns and begins to leave. “That should be good. I’ll just —”
He’s stopped by a hand wrapping around his wrist; long-fingered and gentle but surprisingly firm as it holds him in place. Yuuri freezes, slowly turning his head and raising his gaze.
The blanket is drawn up over Victor’s stomach but his pale chest is exposed to the night air; pale and sculpted and unfairly perfect. He’s loose-limbed where he’s sprawled back against the mattress, his light hair a delicate contrast with the warm gold of his pillowcases.
“Yuuri,” Victor breathes, the sound of his name achingly perfect on Victor’s lips as he glances up at Yuuri through his eyelashes, through the curtain of his silver hair. His blue eyes shine with something sensual and inviting. He stares Yuuri intensely, as though he can physically draw him in by doing it. “Yuuri, don’t go. I want you to stay with me. I want you close to me.”
It’s as though Yuuri can’t look away; can’t bring himself to drag his eyes away from how beautiful Victor looks like this — real and wanting and here, he’s right here, the man he’s spent half his life trying desperately to reach, whose perfect gaze stared down at him from the posters that lined the walls of his childhood bedroom. Victor is here in his home, his hand on Yuuri’s wrist as he offers up unspeakable things, and it all makes Yuuri feel so weak he can barely think straight.
When Yuuri lets out a small, helpless noise Victor mindlessly moves closer, staring at him as the moment hangs between them, a deep breath before an exhalation.
“Please,” Victor says softly, brushing his thumb over the sensitive skin of Yuuri’s inner wrist in a quiet caress. The movement sending sparks of raw sensation up his arm, his whole body yearning to lean into his touch, to give in completely. Victor holds Yuuri’s gaze steadily, his eyes burning. “Yuuri… please stay.”
And for a moment — one fleeting, surreal, insane moment — Yuuri considers it.
There have always been rumours about Victor Nikiforov’s love life, the names of the various skaters and models he’s meant to have been with splashed across social media. Yuuri had never seen any reason to disbelieve them; he could never imagine anyone being able to resist the full force of Victor’s intention directed towards them.
He thinks about all the people that Victor must have been with over the years, the ones he would famously allow into his orbit for a short time before leaving them just as quickly. No hard feelings — and, if Christophe Giacometti is to be believed, some of them even remaining his friends.
Yuuri has always thought of himself as a meager offering; plain and painfully inexperienced, worlds away from the kind of people that Victor must have been with in the past.
His mind catches on the gentle caress of Victor’s thumb against his wrist, remembering the press of Victor’s mouth against his neck during their walk home. And he thinks, maybe there is something he wants from you — a half second before the entirety of his self rejects the idea with a visceral revulsion that leaves him reeling, like a punch to his stomach, a slap to his face.
It wouldn’t mean anything, Yuuri thinks sharply, jerking his hand away without consciously deciding to do it. A fractured expression crosses over Victor’s face and he lets go immediately, allows Yuuri to draw his hand back the rest of the way. Not to him. Not like this.
Because the last thing Yuuri wants is to ruin whatever this fragile, precious thing is that’s been blossoming between them. It’s more than being a coach and skater, deeper than any friendship Yuuri has ever had.
What they have is worth so much more than some cheapened encounter in the early hours of the morning; handing himself over with pathetic eagerness when they’re both too undone to think better of it, when it’s not as though Victor would actually want him otherwise. Becoming something disposable to Victor and losing something of himself in the process, surrendering a fragment of his heart that Victor would unknowingly take with him when he leaves.
There’s an awful expression on Victor’s face, and Yuuri wants to make it go away. He swallows hard, tries to think.
“You’ve been drinking,” Yuuri says thickly, isn’t even sure what he means when the words leave his lips. “You… you need to sleep. We need to sleep.”
Victor stares at him for a long moment, and it feels like being frozen in time; like being pinned beneath his gaze, unable to move or breathe or think as Victor watches him.
And then, all at once, his expression softens.
“You’re right,” Victor says, as though he’s trying to convince both of them. He gives Yuuri a smile that’s only slightly too wide. “Of course you’re right, Yuuri. Have a good sleep, okay?”
Yuuri hesitates for a moment, before saying, “You too.”
He turns on his heel and leaves the room before he can reconsider, just barely catching sight of Makkachin trundling over to the bed to take his place as he leaves. Yuuri quietly slides the shoji closed behind him, heading down the hallway towards his room, his back too straight and his thoughts roiling silently inside of him.
Later, Yuuri lies in bed and thinks about all the other figure skaters that Victor has been rumoured to be involved with over the years: Stéphane Lambiel, Christophe Giacometti, Svetlana Stepanova. All beautiful, all talented. He imagines each of them catching Victor’s attention, thinks about Victor watching them skate, spellbound and enthralled. He thinks about Victor kissing them, having them after an incredible performance, everything charged with exhilaration and triumph.
The thoughts make him seethe with desperate bitterness. Not over what has already been, Yuuri realizes slowly: all of that is done and over and set in the past, a vital stepping stone towards Victor becoming the person he is today.
It’s the idea of it happening again that leaves Yuuri so thoroughly on edge. It makes him feel slightly unhinged, wild and frantic and desperate to prove himself. To earn Victor’s attention, to keep it for his own.
He wants Victor to watch him like that, no one else. Not on the ice, or out on the street, or from the intimate privacy of his bed. For whatever it is they have to mean something to both of them in equal measure; can’t stand the idea of handing himself over to Victor like that, losing himself in hollow pleasures, desperately trying not to fool himself into pretending that it meant something to him.
That night, Yuuri allows himself to indulge in fantasies of skating against each and every one of Victor’s old lovers and beating them; of showing Victor just how good he can be while the whole world watches, proving just how much Yuuri deserves Victor’s faith in him.
It’s a ridiculous thought, but he wants it anyways; wants it so badly that he allows himself to believe, as he drifts off to sleep, that he is capable of doing it.
And maybe — maybe — he is.
A few weeks later, shielded from the muggy heat of high summer within the walls of Ice Castle Hasetsu, Yuuri has his first clean runthrough of his free skate routine.
It’s a hard program — a winning program, as long as he can pull it off. Yuuri has never had any doubts about the choreography; knows with utter certainty that Victor would devastate the competition if he were the one to skate it. It’s Yuuri’s own inconsistency that has always been his downfall; the little voice inside his head that tells him he can’t do it, the doubt that strikes him mid-way through the air and sends him crashing down onto the ice in a flurry of wounded pride and squandered technical points.
Yuuri doesn’t feel that doubt today.
Instead, he soars.
Yuuri soars across the ice, overflowing with emotion as the music courses through him. Arching and reaching and yearning, so incredibly aware of Victor’s eyes on him as he moves. It’s overwhelming, how beautiful he feels as he skates this routine today; delicate and strong and graceful beyond words, as though the entirety of his self is a work of art on display for only Victor to see.
With every jump he lands, that certainty swells inside of him — that bone-deep knowledge that this is it, he can do this, he knows he can. Victor knows he can. He can practically feel the touch of Victor’s formless hands guiding him into every movement that Victor choreographed for him and no one else, commanding Yuuri’s body without even laying a hand on him.
Yuuri skates, legs quivering as he dances through his step sequence, towards the final quad at the end — the one he’s had nightmares about, the one he’s almost never landed successfully during any of their run throughs before.
Only this time, it’s not insurmountable.
Only this time, he can.
Watch me, Yuuri thinks, surging with a confidence that fills him to the brim, that sings in his soul as he flies. Watch me, Victor.
He pushes off and jumps, spinning through the air, flying —
— and knows it’s perfect before he even hits the ice.
Someone is shouting but Yuuri can’t hear them over the roaring in his own ears, the indescribable delight that surges inside of him, spilling over his skin, all-consuming and alive. He can barely breathe as he glides his way through the final twists and spins of his routine, isn’t capable of thought until he raises his arm up in that final aching pose.
Until he sees that Victor is already skating towards him, a look of incredible happiness on his face.
“Victor!” Yuuri calls out as he gets closer, heart pounding in his chest as he releases his pose, the smile on his face so wide it almost hurts. “Did you see —?”
And then Victor is slamming into him so hard it nearly sends them both tumbling to the ice, so hard that makes Yuuri let out a wordless cry of surprise as he desperately tries to steady them. Victor doesn’t seem to notice or care, just wraps his arms around Yuuri and squeezes, holding him tight to his chest.
“Yuuri, it was perfect,” Victor says in a rush, his eyes alight with excitement, with joy, with pride. “The last jump was perfect, you’re perfect —!”
And Yuuri can’t help it: he laughs, tears starting to gather at the corners of his eyes.
He can’t remember the last time he felt so happy; doesn’t know if he’s ever been this happy, not in his entire life. He doesn’t know what to do with it; how to hold on to all this joy without it spilling through his fingers. It feels so real inside of him, so clear — as though he’s lived his entire life with the colours turned down, and it’s only now that Victor’s here that he can see it the world in all its vibrancy, its beauty.
I love him, Yuuri thinks, and it stuns him — how inadequate the word is, the way it barely scrapes the surface of the depth of what he’s feeling. He reaches up and wraps his arms around Victor in return; clutches him close with quiet desperation, his whole body reverberating with the slowing throb of his own heartbeat in his chest.
Please, Yuuri thinks, not for the first time. He squeezes his eyes shut against the world as they hold each other close, as Victor murmurs litanies of praise in his ear. He shivers, reeling at what it feels like to have Victor’s admiration and pride directed right at him the way he’s always dreamed of; the way he used to fantasize about when he was growing up.
It’s better like this than he ever could’ve imagined; real and tangible, everything they have perfect in its imperfections.
Please let it stay like this, Yuuri thinks, a note of unfettered longing echoing deep within his heart. For as long as he’ll have me, please let him stay.
Thank you so much for reading! If you enjoyed this chapter, please consider leaving a comment; there are no words for how much I appreciate your feedback and thoughts.
The rebloggable post for this chapter can be found here.
My apologies for the delay on this chapter. Work has been very busy for me this month, and it ended up requiring more revision and expansion than I'd initially expected. Thank you all so much for your patience. <3 There's also a rating increase for this chapter as well as a few new tags added, so please keep that in mind.
As always, thank you to Aubrey for her hard work in shaping, encouraging, and editing this chapter. She's worked so hard to make this fic the best it can be, and I am endlessly grateful to her.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Wow, Yuuri!” Victor exclaims, his voice a loud contrast against the quiet bustle of the Hasetsu train station around him. “There really are a lot of posters of you here, aren’t there?”
Yuuri’s head snaps up from where he’s sorting through their train tickets. Victor has let go of his luggage and put his hands on his hips, earnestly regarding a particularly egregious poster that’s hanging framed on the wall beside the ticket kiosk. He raises his hand to point at it helpfully, as though to make clear exactly which horrible poster he’s referring to.
“Victor,” Yuuri warns, but his voice comes out feeble instead of stern. Nishigori chuckles and Minako throws back her head and laughs, and Yuuri has to resist the urge to cover his face with his hands.
The poster in question features a slightly younger version of Yuuri splashed across it, his arms raised in the air and wearing the white and blue ruffly costume he wore a few years ago. There are stylized waves crashing down around him, a slightly simpering expression on his printed face.
His actual face is starting to grow hot beneath his surgical mask. Yuuri darts a look over at Victor — and then experiences a brief moment of panic, because Victor is staring at the poster almost speculatively now, and oh god, he isn’t going to ask someone if he can buy it, is he?
“Victor!” Yuuri hisses, scurrying forward and snatching at Victor’s hand, yanking it down before he can attract too much attention. A few people are already staring, and it would be anticlimactic, wouldn’t it, if Yuuri were to die of embarrassment before they even make it to their first competition together.
And then Victor turns to look at him, an unexpectedly soft expression on his face.
“Hasetsu really loves you,” Victor tells him, so matter of fact and straightforward that it throws Yuuri completely. He smiles at Yuuri, and a whole different kind of heat unfurls in the pit of Yuuri’s stomach when Victor gives his hand a squeeze, the contact between their bare fingers suddenly far more intimate than it should be.
He feels a pang of loss when Victor pulls away, reaching for the handle of his luggage again.
“That’s our Yuuri!” Minako proclaims brightly, startling Yuuri out of his own head as she wheels her suitcase past him towards their platform.
“Japan’s ace!” Nishigori declares dramatically, already right behind her.
Yuuri stares at both of them in silence for a second before following, his lips pressed together and his fingers tingling, the low sound of Victor’s chuckles chasing at his heels.
The train station has barely changed at all during the years that Yuuri’s been away. The building is small and unobtrusive and worn around the edges, the outdated posters an accurate reflection of its decor. There’s a familiar smell about the place that fills him with continuous waves of nostalgia as they feed their tickets to the machine, as they walk to their platform and wait for the train to arrive. It reminds him of travelling around Japan with Minako as a teenager; leaving Hasetsu and returning home afterwards, the inevitable bookends to countless competitions.
There’s something about being here now that’s different from the way it used to be. Yuuri can’t quite put his finger on it, like a word on the tip of his tongue.
Victor is the biggest difference, of course: like the sun itself has come down from the sky, and Yuuri’s whole world has adjusted to keep orbiting around him. He trails behind Yuuri as they head to the platform, looking around the station as though charmed by how quaint it all is. Yuuri finds himself incredibly aware of how other people react to him as they walk; everyone’s eyes drawn to the beautiful and slightly too loud foreigner.
It’s strange to being going to a competition again. There’s a surreality that mingles with the familiar nerves in the pit of his stomach at returning to something he almost said goodbye to.
None of that is quite it , though. It feels as though something had shifted in Yuuri, only he isn’t sure what about himself has changed. As though he’s experiencing the world through a slightly different lens.
They climb aboard when the train to Fukuoka arrives, rolling their bags down the aisle as they search for the best seats. Yuuri is immediately conscious of the way the people they walk past turn and crane their necks to get a better look at Victor as he passes. One teenaged girl turns to her friend, whispering something to her behind a cupped hand, subtly pointing out Victor as he walks past.
He looks like an American movie star, Yuuri realizes, a strange hollowness settling in his stomach. It shouldn’t be surprising: Victor has always been conspicuous and magnetic, has always managed to draw everyone’s eyes to him.
They come to a stop as soon as they find good seats, and Nishigori stores their bags. Victor takes a seat by the window and Yuuri ends up next to him, Minako and Nishigori slotting into the seats behind them.
And then the train is lurching to a start, smoothly pulling out of the station. Drawing them out of the comforting familiarity of Hasetsu and towards Yuuri’s return to competitive skating; to his first competition with Victor Nikiforov as his coach.
A shiver of something nameless and electric runs up Yuuri’s spine.
“I’ve never been to Okayama before,” Victor says, his words startling Yuuri out of his own thoughts. He turns to look at him quickly, his heart pounding slightly in his chest at Victor’s use of his regular speaking voice rather than lowering it politely for the other passengers. “Just Tokyo and Nagano, for the NHK Trophy. What’s it like?”
For a moment, Yuuri is struck all over again by the differences between them. There’s nothing about Victor that doesn’t stand out like this; his too-loud voice in a place where people are meant to be quiet, the way he holds himself in his seat, how exotic he looks compared to everyone around them.
The way he’s looking intently at Yuuri, waiting patiently for him to speak even though everyone’s else’s eyes are on him.
Yuuri hooks a defiant finger over his surgical mask, tugging it down over his chin.
“It’s nice,” Yuuri tells him, revelling perhaps a little too much in having Victor’s focus so firmly fixed on him. “Bigger than Nagano, but not as big as Tokyo.”
Victor nods, looking oddly thoughtful. Through the window beside him, the last buildings on the outskirts of Hasetsu fly by as the train enters the countryside proper; the deep green and grey of the craggy rocks that make up the coastline, the vastness of the ocean beyond.
“You’ve been there before, right?” Victor asks, and Yuuri nods.
“Mmm,” Yuuri replies, because he has, even if it was only ever for competitions. It’s a nice city, he thinks, if somewhat off the beaten track.
Victor smiles at him, a deeply private expression. He leans in closer, and Yuuri is deeply aware of how warm Victor feels, pressed against his side. Of how good he smells this close, clean and warm and intimate.
“You’ll have to take me sight-seeing, then,” Victor murmurs against the shell of his ear, his voice low and confident and sure.
For a second, Yuuri considers objecting; he’s never been one for sightseeing when he travels for competitions. But then Victor is sliding an arm around Yuuri’s shoulders, drawing him close as though it’s the most natural thing in the world. Bringing him into Victor’s space until Yuuri’s head is almost resting against his chest, Victor’s hand curled assuredly round his upper arm.
Yuuri momentarily goes still beneath his touch. He can feel his cheeks growing warm at the overtness of the display, at how public it is for Victor to touch him like this where so many strangers can see. And then the knot of tension he hadn’t even realized was building in the pit of his stomach releases all at once, like a held breath exhaling. Yuuri’s eyes slide shut as he gives himself over to the touch, leaning into Victor’s side.
It feels like a claim, like a quiet declaration, and Yuuri can feel his breathing grow slower and more even. Because right now, Yuuri is the person that Victor wants to be with; to speak to and touch, without caring who sees.
They stay like that for a long time; Yuuri held against his side as Victor asks him idle questions about what Okayama is known for, about the competitions Yuuri has attended there, what the dialect is like. It feels as though he couldn’t pull away even if he wanted to; as though this is where he belongs, where he needs to be.
They’re heading back into the real world, away from the comfort and safety of Hasetsu, but being with Victor makes it feel private anyways. As though it’s just the two of them here, Victor’s opinion of him the only one that matters.
Maybe that’s what’s different, Yuuri thinks, losing himself a little as Victor’s thumb drags in slow circles along his upper arm. He’s on his way to a competition, and he hasn’t thought once about what the audience will think, what the other skaters will think; whether his comeback performance will be enough to make up for his failures in their eyes.
It’s the first time Victor is going to show him off to the world, and all Yuuri cares about is meeting his expectations. Proving that he’s worthy of Victor’s time and hard work and attention; that he deserves to be here, wrapped up in the comfort of Victor’s arms.
A sudden visceral memory slams into him; crashing down onto the ice in a slam of impact and battered pride, a mess of numb limbs and glittering blue sequins, breathless and horrified as the weight of the world’s shattered expectations pushed down upon him.
Yuuri wrenches himself away from Victor with a jerk, heart hammering inside his chest.
You haven’t earned this yet, Yuuri thinks, sharp and chastising within the privacy of his own mind.
“Yuuri?” Victor asks, sounding concerned. “Is everything all right?”
“Yes,” Yuuri says, forcing a smile. “Sorry. I didn’t want to fall asleep.”
Victor seems to accept the words at face value, withdrawing his arm and turning easily to look out the window. Yuuri joins him; watching as the scenery transitions from craggy shores and rolling fields into shining buildings as they approach the outskirts of Fukuoka for their transfer to Okayama.
As they approach Yuuri’s first chance to prove that he is worthy of Victor’s hands on him.
Neither of them are perfect for their first competition together.
On the first day, Yuuri is cold. He gets that way sometimes, when the pressure becomes too much: retreating into the depths of his own mind, as though he can make his own nerves go away by refusing to look at them. He’s rigid and focused throughout his short program, ends with an unofficial personal best and Victor brutally chastising him for sacrificing performance on the altar of his shaky technique.
On the second day, Yuuri is disobedient; clinging to his quad jumps even though he promised Victor he would cut them, flagrantly ignoring his coach’s direct orders in a fit of pride and desperation. He performs his free skate debut with impatience bursting in every move, ends with a bloody nose and a score much lower than he knows he’s capable of.
Victor isn’t impressed by either performance. He’s all excitement at first, but wields his words like blades whenever Yuuri disappoints him: smiling in that false way that doesn’t reach his eyes, ruthless in his criticism of both Yuuri’s skating and his conduct. Victor asks him to make compromises that Yuuri can’t stomach, is blithe and irreverent when all Yuuri wants is for Victor to take this seriously.
It feels as though they’re talking across each other for almost the entire event; their first foray into a real working relationship a symphony of imperfections, nothing quite going the way that Yuuri wanted it to.
It’s the most Yuuri has ever enjoyed himself skating in competition anyways.
“Yuuri!” Victor calls out to him as Yuuri steps down from the top of the podium, his first place certificate held carefully in his hands. He’s smiling at him as he and Minako and Nishigori all cluster around him; a genuine smile this time, one that shines in his eyes and settles across his skin.
He looks the way he did when he was applauding for Yuuri a few minutes ago, and Yuuri feels an immediate rush of contented pleasure flow through him.
“Acceptable, I hope?” Yuuri asks demurely as he holds up his first place certificate, the bright smile stretched across his own lips a contrast to the subtle wryness buried beneath the question.
Victor makes a gleefully dismissive gesture, as if to disregard the entire competition.
“You’re only going to get better,” he says with unthinking certainty, plowing forward as though he hasn’t given Yuuri a compliment. “I want to talk with you about our training regimen leading into Kyoto for Western Section Championships and Beijing for the first GPF qualifier. I have some ideas for how to strengthen your jumps without sacrificing technique, and — Yuuri? Yuuri, what’s wrong?”
Yuuri shakes his head, raising a hand to cover his mouth as he shakes with quiet laughter. Victor is staring at him with a politely bewildered expression on his face, but Minako and Nishigori seem to understand: Minako is staring up at the ceiling in incredulous disbelief, Nishigori awkwardly rubbing the back of his neck.
“Come on,” Yuuri says, regaining enough composure to get the words out. He gives Victor a smile, feeling a rush of desperate fondness despite it all. “Let’s go back to the hotel. You can tell me all about it over dinner, all right?”
They do just that, trooping back to the hotel and heading to their own rooms so that Yuuri can shower, regrouping in the hotel restaurant a little over an hour later. The food is obscenely expensive but Victor insists that none of them worry about it, orders a round of drinks, and proceeds to spend the entire meal breaking down every possible aspect of Yuuri’s performance.
At first, he can see Minako and Nishigori exchanging uneasy glances — but to Yuuri’s own surprise, the flood of shame and regret never comes. Victor aggressively looks forward as he picks Yuuri’s performance apart, bluntly praising his strengths and determinedly planning for exactly how they’re going to build upon his weaknesses.
“If you’re going to disobey me like that, you should at least be successful when you do it,” Victor tells him in a disapproving voice, furrowing his brow as he gesticulates with his chopsticks. “That’s why we’re going to work on getting that quadruple salchow down so hard that you could nail it in your sleep. Right, Yuuri?”
“All right,” Yuuri replies, nodding shyly along as Victor speaks. He says it all with so much conviction it’s almost impossible to not believe him, to dwell in the past when Victor is already living in the future. “I mean… yes. Yes, we will.”
It’s never been like this after a competition before; talking and strategizing and planning ahead, knowing when someone’s praise is sincere because brutal honesty is the only other option. As though the imperfections don’t matter because they’ll be improved upon for when it counts.
As though another person is just as invested in his own success and failure as he is.
A few hours later, curled up with his phone on the bed in his hotel room, Yuuri searches for the photos of Victor hugging him before his short program yesterday.
There are a surprisingly number for him to choose from. Most of them accompany articles that he pointedly ignores in favour of the pictures. A few of them are unflattering; taken at a moment where he looked particularly shocked by the embrace, eyes wide and mouth hanging open.
Most of them are from after that, though; from after Victor started whispering to him, his voice low and intimate in Yuuri’s ear. He feels a shiver of heat run through him as he looks at the photos, drinking in the sight of Victor with his arms wrapped around him, Yuuri’s back to his chest — as though Victor had been subtly putting him on display.
His favourite is one that features himself with his eyes downcast, a faint blush spreading over his cheeks as Victor leans in close. Yuuri stares in quiet fascination at the intent expression on Victor’s face in the photo; his eyes heavily lidded, the slightest hint of a smirk on his lips as he whispers in Yuuri’s ear.
A low shudder runs through him as he stares at it, its unfulfilled promise making heat and yearning spread through him, from the depths of his stomach to the tips of his fingers. Yuuri’s toes curl beneath the crisp white sheets, an unsteady breath escaping from his slightly parted lips. He turns so that he’s lying on his back, cradling his phone carefully to his chest as he stares up at the ceiling, his body slowly coming to life around him.
Yuuri isn’t used wanting like this; in this way that takes hold of him, that surges inside. His own desire has always felt so separate from himself, as though it was something he experienced from a distance.
What he feels right now is alive and persistent as it burns in his veins. It settles deep inside, making a home inside of him even as it urges him forward, imploring him to move, to captivate, to become .
Impressing Victor feels impossible sometimes, his standards so high it’s like Yuuri has to build himself up to reach them when all he has are his own two hands.
He wants to do it anyways. To push himself beyond every boundary he ever thought he had; straining his body and his mind, bruised feet and screaming muscles and conquered nerves until there’s more of him than he’s ever been aware of, new parts of himself that Victor keeps on dragging out of him through sheer force of will. To leave a permanent mark on Victor’s life, just like Victor has for him; to become unforgettable in Victor’s eyes.
He didn’t do that today.
But I can, Yuuri thinks wildly, his hand sliding along his chest, his stomach. Down to the waistband of his sleep pants, to the obvious hardness straining at the thin material.
He shivers, eyes sliding shut as he thinks about becoming the most enthralling thing that Victor has ever seen on the ice; daring to imagine Victor putting his hands on him because he can’t keep them off a second longer.
I will, he thinks, and takes himself in hand.
Three weeks later, alone in a bathroom stall before his short program performance in the Western Japanese Sectionals, Yuuri has a breakdown.
He’d been fine when they arrived in Kyoto, fine until public practice yesterday, the memory of last year’s failure more and more immediate with every skater who looked at him with recognition in their eyes. Too familiar and too much, that horrible feeling gnawing at the edges of his stomach every time someone called out to him from the stands, an entire country’s disappointment weighing more and more heavily on his shoulders.
All he’d wanted was a few minutes in private to deal with it.
Except now he can’t stop shaking, as though he’s going to shudder apart if he doesn’t claw himself back together right this second. He clutches at his own face, practically bent double as he struggles for breath, raw fear pounding inside his chest like he’s fighting for his life. That horrible feeling is mounting inside of him, spiralling out of control, flaying at his insides.
Victor’s old costume feels like a cruel joke against Yuuri’s skin.
You have to breathe, Yuuri thinks frantically, desperately trying to will himself to suck down air. He tries, he does, but his lungs are too shallow, the sound of his own rasping inhalations too loud in his ears. Breathe, you have to breathe, how can you skate if you can’t even breathe?
He shouldn’t be doing this, not right now. It’s not even a real competition; no ISU and no medals and no serious rivals, and that just makes it worse . Because if Yuuri can’t do it now there’s no hope he’ll ever be able to do it for real, will never be able to do it when it counts, and he can’t believe he was ever so stupid to trick himself into thinking he was worth Victor’s time.
He clings to every last minute before his performance, staying tucked away for as long as he can as he wills himself to pull myself together, please god, let me pull myself together.
Pushing all of it down is like forcing a live and clawing creature into a too-small cage; it strains at its confines, threatening to burst out again with every unsteady breath he takes.
When he has to, Yuuri steels himself and pushes the bathroom door open anyways. He lurches forward on unsteady feet, flinching instinctively at the harsh lighting. He takes a few precious moments to to splash cold water on his face, drying himself haphazardly with paper towels. His heart is numb and heavy as he heads for the door, pushing it open with trembling fingers —
— and almost colliding with Victor in the process.
“Yuuri,” Victor snaps, somehow managing to sound relieved and irritated all at once. There’s a stormy expression on his face, as though he’d been preparing to scold him. When Victor frowns at him, it sends a jolt of something nauseating and awful through Yuuri’s insides. “You have to be out on the ice in five minutes, what do you think you’re —?”
He cuts himself off abruptly, and there’s a heartbeat where Victor just stares at him blankly. His eyes rake down Yuuri’s face, wordlessly taking him in. Yuuri can feel his heart throbbing in his ears, suddenly terrified of what Victor sees when he looks at him.
All at once, Victor’s expression turns sharpened and icy cold.
“What happened?” Victor asks him, his voice low and devastatingly calm. His eyes narrow, and Yuuri feels a shiver of something he can’t describe deep inside of him. Part of him wants to flinch away but the rest of him is frozen in place, pinned beneath the intensity of Victor’s gaze. “Yuuri. Tell me what happened.”
Yuuri swallows, his throat suddenly dry.
“Nothing,” Yuuri says weakly, and it sounds unconvincing to his own ears.
There’s a horrible moment where the two of them stare at each other, Yuuri’s heart pounding rabbit-quick inside his chest, Victor’s cold blue eyes staring at him as though he’s trying to determine something. To open Yuuri up so he can see what’s wrong with him, and he can’t, he can’t —
He lurches forward blindly, clutching at Victor’s shoulders. His suit is probably too expensive to rumple like this, but right now Yuuri doesn’t care ; he pushes until the bathroom door falls closed behind him, until the two of them are alone in the empty hallway.
“Victor,” Yuuri says in a rush. “Victor, nothing happened. I have to go skate now, all right? Please take me to the ice. It’s time, we have to go. ”
For a second, Victor hesitates.
And then that ruthless pragmatism takes hold of him, that part of Victor that’s always aggressively looking forward when everyone else is still tangled in the present. He nods perfunctorily, reaching down to put his hand in the small of Yuuri’s back so he can guide him back to the rink, seeming to remember just in time to accommodate Yuuri’s bladeguard-covered skates slowing them down.
He stares straight ahead as they walk, his silvery sweep of hair obscuring his expression
It’s less than two minutes before Yuuri is out on the ice, the half-skirt of his costume fluttering behind him as he skates over to meet Victor at the edge of the rink.
Victor, who has Yuuri’s federation jacket folded over one arm; who is staring at Yuuri with quiet intensity, as though he’s trying to see inside his head.
He reaches out a gloved hand to Yuuri over the divider and Yuuri takes it without thinking, caught off guard by how by how tightly Victor grips him. There are people cheering for him, but it sounds like white noise to his ears; the whole world narrowed down to the singular point of Victor in front of him.
Yuuri raises his eyes to look at him, the entirety of his being suspended between them as he waits for Victor to speak.
“Don’t think about them,” Victor tells him, his voice low with intensity, his eyes flashing. “You’re not here for them, you’re here for me. Focus on me. Skate for me.” He squeezes Yuuri’s hand even harder, leaning closer. “I know you can do this. And when you do, I’ll be watching.”
Yuuri sucks in a sharp breath, staring somewhere in the vicinity of Victor’s chest as the world goes indistinct around him.
He squeezes Victor’s hand back, nods sharply, and turns to skate into the centre of the rink.
I’ll be watching.
The words resonate through him as he gets into position, the rest of the world falling away as he lets himself fall into that thought: Victor’s eyes on him, following every move. Showing him off to Japan with his old costume flush against Yuuri’s skin, wrapped around him like an embrace.
He clamps down viciously on the nerves threatening to spill free from where he’s shoved them deep inside, takes a deep breath, and raises his arms as the music starts around him.
“Second place isn’t bad for the short program component!” Minako tells him cheerfully in Japanese outside the rink afterwards, slapping Yuuri on the back. He stumbles a little, and she grins wolfishly. “It’s just going to make it better when you wow them with your free skate, isn’t it, Yuuri?”
Mari watches on coolly, her impassive eyes taking in the flustered expression on Yuuri’s face.
“You did well,” Mari adds, nodding at him. “You’ll make a dramatic comeback tomorrow, as usual. It’ll be good.”
“Yes,” Victor adds, catching him off-guard by contributing in Japanese as well. Yuuri turns on his heel to stare at him, pushing his glasses up his nose. “Yuuri did just fine, and Skater Fujiwara only beat him by a small amount. You’ll do even better tomorrow, won’t you, Yuuri ?”
Yuuri blinks at him, unsure of what to say. He remembers the way Victor had spoken to him after his short program performance in Okayama; unremittingly critical, even though he’d earned a higher score and ended up placing first by an enormous margin.
He’s not sure how to interpret this change in him; this shift in Victor’s behaviour from one competition to the next.
“Yes,” Yuuri replies, because it’s the only thing he can say.
He’s quiet during the journey back to the hotel, excusing himself to go upstairs to his room for a proper shower as soon as they get there.
Thirty minutes later, midway through towelling his hair dry and still deep inside his own thoughts, Yuuri tenses at the sound of knocking at his hotel room door.
“Just a second!” he calls out, snatching his glasses off his bedside table and sliding them on. He crosses the room, opens the door.
It doesn’t surprise him that it’s Victor standing there.
“Yuuri,” Victor says. He’s changed out of his suit and into something more casual; a long-sleeved shirt with a deep neckline and jeans. He tilts his head to one side. “May I come in?”
Yuuri swallows, nodding as he steps back to allow Victor inside.
By unspoken agreement, both of them silently take a seat on the bed. For a minute they both stare out the window at the urban sprawl of Kyoto beneath them; high-rise buildings with the shadows of mountains in the distance.
Yuuri feels a distant ripple of guilt at the thought that this is the only side of the city that Victor’s going to see while they’re here; industrial and urban, the parts of the city where the hotel and rink are located so different from the traditional beauty that Kyoto is known for.
He’d like the temples, Yuuri thinks, remembering how delighted Victor had been by Hasetsu Castle when he first arrived in Japan.
“When I was fifteen,” Victor begins, and Yuuri turns his head to look at him in muted surprise at the unexpected opening, “a fellow skater came up to me before my free skate at a junior GPF qualifier. He’d been a favourite to win, and I was the young upstart ruining his chances. He said some… very unpleasant things.” Victor laughs, the sound a humourless chuckle. “I think he figured he could throw me off my game. People still used to underestimate me, back then.”
Yuuri frowns, letting the words wash over him. He hadn’t started watching Victor until a year after that would’ve happened, but he clearly remembers what he had looked like around that time: willowy and long-haired, beautiful and ethereal. Delicate, Yuuri supposes, although he’d never thought of Victor that way at the time.
“What happened?” Yuuri asks slowly, and a dry smile quirks at the corner of Victor’s mouth.
“I beat him to second place,” Victor says, almost conversational. He smiles, and there’s something quietly victorious in the way he does it. And Yuuri thinks, there he is. It’s a side of Victor that he hasn’t seen much while Victor’s been here in Japan: Victor Nikiforov, the proud and peerless competitor. The man who conquered the figure-skating world, who dominated it for years with a smile on his face and raw talent in his veins.
“He stopped competing not long after that,” Victor continues. “I have no idea what happened to him, and I don’t care. If the only way you think you can win is through underhanded methods, then you don’t deserve to compete in the first place.”
Yuuri nods slowly, turning to look out the window again, letting the story settle inside of him. Uneasiness tugs at his heart, and he can almost feel what Victor’s going to say next before the words even leave his mouth.
“Yuuri,” Victor begins, suddenly serious. “Did something happen today? You looked… upset, before your short program.”
Not the that way you think, Yuuri thinks, his throat suddenly tight again. He draws his legs up to his chest on the bed; wraps his arms around himself as he tries to figure out what to say. His hair is still slightly damp from his shower, and he can feel drips of water running down the back of his neck.
“No,” Yuuri replies slowly, tasting the word as it leaves his mouth. He thinks for a long moment, trying to put the slow-whirling tangle of thoughts into words. After a pause that probably lasts a little too long, he continues. “It’s like I’ve told you before. I get... nervous, sometimes, before competitions. Upset.”
They’re not quite the right words, but Yuuri has never been able to properly describe the way it gets for him sometimes, not even to himself. As though he comes undone in the face of things that normal people can handle without even thinking about it. Unravelling into a version of himself that’s driven by his basest fears, drowning inside his own head.
There’s a moment where Yuuri could leave it at that; where he could stop talking without consequence, his point sufficiently made.
Something urges him forward anyways, and he’s speaking again before he even realizes what he’s saying.
“I didn’t want you to see me like that,” Yuuri admits in a rush, and it’s only as he says the words out loud that he realizes just how true it is. He sets his jaw, looking determinedly forward. “I didn’t want you to see me like that and think that I was —”
Weak, Yuuri thinks, but the word won’t come.
Because there’s a difference, he thinks, between Victor thinking that he isn’t and seeing that he is; the incontrovertible proof of Yuuri falling to pieces in front of his eyes. Self-destructing in that way he can never pull himself back from, once it gets bad enough; to know just how hard it is for Yuuri even when the stakes are so low they must be a joke for Victor. The memory of everything that Yuuri hates most about himself permanently seared into Victor’s memory, tainting everything about who he is in Victor’s eyes.
The silence wraps around them like a blanket that smothers. Yuuri hesitates, then opens his mouth to tell Victor that he’s fine, that Victor can leave because it’s not like anything actually happened to him, and —
“Yuuri,” Victor says, his voice sounding so much more calm and measured than Yuuri feels. He sucks in a breath, holds himself very still. “I’m your coach. That’s why I came to Japan in the first place; to support you. To help you achieve everything you are capable of, even when you doubt yourself.”
When Victor turns his head to face him, Yuuri can’t help but look back at him.
“Do you really think I would’ve come here if I didn’t want every part of what that means?” Victor asks, his brow furrowed, his words overflowing with meaning.
Yuuri sucks in a quiet breath, unable to speak. Victor keeps holding his gaze in a way that’s painfully intense, as though Yuuri can feel the touch of his eyes against his very soul.
“Even when it gets difficult,” Victor urges, his voice low and intense as he leans in closer. “Even when it’s hard and ugly and you don’t want me to see, I am your coach . I am here for you ; to help you win, to make you win. And I can’t help you if I don’t know what’s wrong.” Victor pulls back ever-so-slightly, straightening his back as he takes Yuuri in. He tilts his head over one side, silver hair spilling over his cheek. “That means not hiding yourself away from me anymore. That means letting me help you when you need it, all right?”
Yuuri stares at him, speechless as the man he has idolized since childhood asks with righteous conviction to bear witness to the worst part of who he is. As Victor reaches into the heart of him and demands to share that burden; to lend him strength and support him in a way Yuuri never even imagined he could be supported.
Victor swallows, his gaze still locked on Yuuri’s eyes.
“All right?” Victor asks again — and this time Yuuri can sense the slightest hint of a waver in his voice beneath the offer.
It’s not something he would have been able to pick up on even a few months ago, that uncertainty. That hairline fracture of fear that runs along Victor’s demeanour as he says it; fear that Yuuri might deny him this, tell him it’s too much.
That Yuuri might push him away.
When Yuuri exhales, it feels as though twenty-three years’ worth of weight has been eased from his shoulders. Not gone, but lighter somehow.
It feels as though he’s floating, as though he’s being cradled by the knowledge that if he falls, Victor will be there to catch him. That even in this deepest and most solitary struggle, Victor won’t allow him to keep fighting alone.
“Yes,” Yuuri tells him, the word slightly too eager to escape his lips. His eyes are stinging sharply, his throat suddenly tight again as a wave of emotion, awe-inspiring in its vastness, rolls through him. He unravels himself where he’s curled on the bed, turning to face Victor head-on. “Yes, I’m… I…”
He struggles to find the words for a few long seconds, wholly overwhelmed at the sudden inadequacy of language in his mouth.
“Thank you,” Yuuri tells him softly, and it’s not enough to capture everything he’s feeling; the gratitude, the relief at the easing of this burden. Of just how much it means that Victor is willing to stay with him when he gets like that; the fact that getting a glimpse of how bad it can be hasn’t made Victor lose faith in him.
Yuuri ducks his head, riding out the hot swell of emotion that threatens inside of him.
“Thank you, Victor,” Yuuri says again, the exposed honesty of the words echoing right down to his core.
The next few seconds seem to stretch into infinity between them; a frozen moment laden with unspoken sentiment, a silence brimming with connection and meaning.
“Good!” Victor exclaims brightly, the word so cheery and forceful it makes Yuuri startle in his skin. He wrenches his head up to look at Victor and finds the other man beaming at him, the energy in the room shifting so suddenly it leaves him blinking. Victor makes a small, pleased sound in the back of his throat. “I’m glad.”
Victor stands up off the bed, taking a few steps away before stretching his arms above his head in exaggerated sleepiness.
“What a long day!” he exclaims, drawing out the last word in an almost sing-song way. He turns towards Yuuri again once his arms are back by his side, his eyes shining in an intimate tease. “I’m going to order something to my room, then go to bed. I know it’s been a long day for you too!”
Yuuri nods wordlessly, getting unsteadily to his feet. He feels… full. Slightly surreal, in a way that still needs to settle into him. He walks Victor to his door, quiet and contained.
A rush of sudden urgency fills him as soon as Victor’s fingers are on the handle.
“Victor!” Yuuri calls out to him, loud and uncaring of how ridiculous he must sound. Heat flares in his cheeks, but determination burns so big and bright inside his chest there isn’t room for anything else.
Victor obediently hesitates at the sound of his voice, looking over his shoulder questioningly.
His hands curl into fists at his sides.
“I’m going to win tomorrow,” Yuuri declares with unwavering conviction, and he knows that it’s true with every part of his being. Knows that saying it out loud makes it real in a way it wasn’t a few seconds ago, handing over the words to Victor like a certainty. He surges forward, boldly taking hold of Victor’s free hand in his own, giving his fingers a squeeze as he holds Victor’s gaze. “I’m going to win tomorrow with you watching me.”
Yuuri doesn’t know how what he expects Victor’s reaction to be; whether he thinks that Victor will smile, or laugh, or say something encouraging.
He doesn’t expect the way Victor’s gaze softens ever-so-slightly as he stares at him; the unmistakable fondness that smoothes the last of the tension from his expression. Victor gives him a quiet squeeze in return, dragging his thumb gently over Yuuri’s hand in his own.
“I wouldn’t expect anything less from you,” Victor says, earnest and straightforward as he holds Yuuri’s gaze.
Something warm and nameless unwinds deep inside of him, but it barely even registers over the determination throbbing through him like a heartbeat. They stare at each other, wordless and suspended in the moment.
Then Victor turns, lets Yuuri’s hand slip from his fingers, and closes the door behind him as he leaves.
Yuuri’s skating has never been just about himself.
He thinks about that during his warm-up the next morning, his eyes instinctively chasing the dark blur of Victor’s coat at the edges of his vision as he moves.
His skating has always been a reflection of his family, his hometown: each performance the sum of all the people and places that have shaped him, who have sacrificed parts of themselves so that Yuuri could live his life on the ice. Each performance used to be a reflection of Minako, of Celestino; every time he competes internationally, how well he skates is a reflection of Japan.
Skating with Victor as his coach is different; his presence so boundless and overwhelming that he can outshine everything else inside Yuuri’s mind, overtaking everyone else’s expectations.
Yuuri had been scared by that, at first. Of losing himself in Victor; putting too much of himself in Victor’s hands.
Now, he’s reveling in it instead: the touch of Victor’s eyes on him like a caress as he skates, the whole world narrowed down to one singular point of focus, the only expectation that matters.
Victor meets him at the edge of the ice once the warm-up is complete, Yuuri’s attention subsumed by the press of Victor’s gloved hand in the small of his back as he leads them back to the ready room. Bright white flashes dazzle at the edge of his vision, and Yuuri is deeply aware that the photographers are taking pictures of both of them like this: the two of them walking side-by-side, the touch of Victor’s hand firm and proprietary in the small of his back.
Earplugs block out the world once they’re back in the ready room, Yuuri stretching to keep his muscles loose and ready beneath Victor’s silent gaze. He thought it would feel strange, doing this while Victor watches him. All the idiosyncrasies of his pre-performance routine on display for him, so exposed instead of Yuuri tucking himself away like he’s always done before.
It feels as though the two of them are suspended inside their own little world instead; thrumming with potential energy until they can get Yuuri out on the ice, the heat of Victor’s attention keeping him warm and ready until he can do what Victor brought him here to do.
Yuuri waits, and stretches, and feels that want taking hold of him again. Flooding his mind as it urges him forward, thrumming through his body like a second heartbeat.
He wants the whole world to watch as he soars to triumphant victory today, an unveiled masterpiece of Victor’s creation. To watch him dance on the edge of his blades and see him reborn, captivating and beautiful because Victor wants him to be.
He wants the whole world to see Victor in every move that he makes, like invisible handprints all over his skin.
The moment comes, marked by the warmth of Victor’s hand on his shoulder. They return to the ice together, its vast expanse ready and waiting as it beckons Yuuri forward. His blades touch the ice and Victor speaks to him, his words a reflection of something Yuuri already knows to be true. He takes his position in the centre of the ice.
The music starts.
The hour after his free skate blurs together, a drawn-out echo of the performance he barely remembers.
Later, Yuuri will remember Victor wrapping him up in his arms as he comes off the ice, his breath still coming hard where he’s pressed against Victor’s chest. He will remember Victor’s hand clutching at his shoulder when his score appears on the screen, the announcer’s voice declaring that it’s 191.35! If this was an official score, it would surpass his personal best! echoing in Japanese around them. He’ll remember what it feels like to stand on top of the podium with his certificate clutched in hands, actually proud of his own performance for the first time in what feels like a lifetime.
A pleased flush unfurls across his cheeks at the touch of Victor’s eyes on him, their connection palpable and electric across the distance between them.
When he steps off the podium, Victor pulls him into his arms again — but this time, Yuuri keeps him there as the flashes go off around them. He clings to him with unyielding fingers, closing his eyes as he savours the closeness.
Yuuri wants there to be photographs of Victor holding him like this; his face pressed into Yuuri’s neck, his hands pressed against his body like they belong there. He wants this moment of intimacy to be splashed all over the internet for everyone to see, for there to be proof of this so that he can treasure it forever.
The moment where he finally managed to earn Victor’s touch.
Yuuri only settles back into himself once the event itself is over, their progress in getting out of the rink impeded by a cluster of young fans eager for his attention. Minako and Mari hang back to give him space, but Victor stays by his side like a constant, watching with a fond smile as one young girl babbles excitement at Yuuri in rapid Japanese. Yuuri ducks his head self-consciously as he signs their posters, but he doesn’t feel as embarrassed as usual when one of the fans takes out their phone and haltingly asks him for a selfie.
Victor obliges them instead; he takes the phones from their shaking hands and snaps photos of them with Yuuri with seemingly genuine pleasure.
“Everyone, thank you for your continued support,” Victor announces a few minutes later, just as Yuuri can feel himself starting to get overwhelmed with the attention. His voice is full of cheerful gratitude and his Japanese is more fluid than Yuuri can remembering hearing before. Victor places a gloved hand on Yuuri’s shoulder, tilting his head to one side. “Yuuri has to go rest after a long day, but it’s love from fans like you that make him skate his best!”
The overwhelming gratitude that’s been building inside Yuuri’s chest since last night hits him then, like a slow-growing tidal wave crashing over him all at once. It leaves him almost shaken with how forceful it is; how strong the need to thank him is as Victor leads him back to Minako and Mari, as the four of them make their way back to the hotel with the midday sun still high in the sky.
But words have never been Yuuri’s strong suit, and the right ones won’t come.
Words have never been Yuuri’s strong suit, so he’ll just have to show Victor instead.
Hi Victor. I know we just got back to the hotel, but is there a chance you might want to head out with me again in about 20 minutes?
Sure! :D :D :D :D
Where are we going??
It’s a surprise
Yuuri!!!!! <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
Okay, I’ll get ready now. <3
I will meet you at your room
Wear normal clothes
When Victor opens his door twenty minutes later, Yuuri is relieved to see that he’s changed out of his suit. He’s wearing a brown jacket and jeans instead, his eyes shining with obvious excitement. Yuuri shifts a little where he stands, a rush of eagerness and a whole different kind of nerves flowing through him.
“Hi,” Yuuri says quietly, biting his lower lip. He glances down for a second before raising his eyes to Victor’s again, certainty settling low and warm inside his stomach. He smiles at him. “Do you still want to go sightseeing with me?”
Yuuri has never spent much time in Kyoto outside of hotels and the Aquarena for competitions, but the city is set up to direct flows of tourists from one shrine to another, and it isn’t too difficult to get his bearings. Victor is practically vibrating with excitement as Yuuri leads them to the station, hovering at his shoulder and staring with delighted fascination as Yuuri buys their tickets.
He’s still lost in his own relief from the competition by the time they settle into their seats on the subway, as the doors slide closed and the train starts up again around them.
“Please can you tell me about the places we’re going?” Victor asks him in halting Japanese from his seat next to him on the subway, and Yuuri blinks and smiles softly as he responds in kind. The journey passes quickly as they practice his Japanese; slowly expanding his fledgling vocabulary, talking about the morning’s competition.
When they arrive at Ginkakuji Temple, the conversation stays in Japanese somehow as they explore the grounds: the sand garden, the ponds and the trees, the temple itself surveying the thoughtful beauty all around it like a benevolent deity.
Victor is different like this, when it’s just the two of them. Everything about him feels more real : the way he leans a little closer as they wend their way through the gardens, his smile a little fonder whenever he looks at him. He keeps his phone in camera mode the entire time, ready to snap a picture or a selfie at the slightest provocation.
It almost surprises Yuuri, how much he likes it when Victor does that: the way he wraps his arms around Yuuri’s shoulders and draws him into the frame, the two of them pressed together as they smile up at the camera.
Their conversation finally slips back into English as they’re leaving, heading to their next destination. Victor lets out a sigh as they walk back down the path, seeming both relieved at the return of conversational freedom and triumphant at how long he managed to last without it.
“It’s the longest I’ve ever spoken Japanese, Yuuri!” Victor exclaims with quiet pleasure, reaching out to squeeze Yuuri’s hand. He gets a look in his eyes as he smiles at him; intimate and slightly teasing. “Are you proud of me?”
“Of course I am,” says Yuuri honestly. His heart catches in his throat as Victor’s fingers twine with his for a moment, only pulling away to snap a picture of the gateway as they leave.
It’s a bus ride to Kiyomizu Temple from there, which Victor seems to enjoy as though it’s a novelty. The grounds are full of people, but Yuuri loses himself in the beauty of it anyways; the yellow-green of turning leaves that surround the temple’s main hall, the sense of peace that comes from being in this sprawling island of trees and shrines, hidden within the bustle of the city.
There isn’t anyone else in the world that Yuuri would rather see this with. He feels so full as they make their way through the sprawling grounds, brimming with so much contentment and happiness he can’t keep it all inside of him — doesn’t want to. It keeps slipping out; in little smiles that break through his composure and make Victor beam at him, in little sighs of pleasure whenever they walk past anything particularly stunning. He blushes when they make their way through Jishu Shrine, the clusters of excited young women and tourists deep in prayer not quite enough to detract from the hidden meaning behind the two stones.
“It’s beautiful,” Victor remarks as they lean against a railing to observe an ornate waterfall sculpted from stone, the sound of falling water so peaceful in the air around them.
Yuuri watches him for a long few moments without speaking. He drinks in the open expression on Victor’s face, the relaxed line of his shoulders, the genuine smile on his lips beneath where his index finger is pressed up against them.
“Mm,” Yuuri hums, and leans closer so that their shoulders are brushing against each other.
They explore the sprawling temple grounds until the site begins to close, taking one last picture together at the main gate: the red and white winged architecture bold and vibrant behind them, their smiling faces nestled together in the corner of the screen.
Yuuri’s plan is for them to go to dinner at a nice restaurant in Gion, a geisha district that’s only about thirty minutes away on foot. The pictures look beautiful online, and he’s mentally picked out a few more places there that he thinks Victor might enjoy for dinner. They’re mostly expensive, but Victor loves good quality food, and it will be worth it to take him somewhere nice.
They make it to Gion, wandering around and admiring the traditional wooden houses, and the plan looks as though it’s going to work until they get a little too close to the outskirts of the district.
“Yuuri!” Victor exclaims, gesturing excitedly at an unremarkable-looking set of storefronts. He drags them closer to one of them in particular, looking through the window before raising his hands to his chest in excitement and staring at Yuuri with wide eyes. “Japanese conveyor belt sushi! ” he raves, almost whining with excitement as he tugs at Yuuri’s sleeve. “Can we go? Yuuri, can we go?”
Which is how they end up eating sashimi instead, Victor excitedly taking more plates than they can possibly eat and then taking a video of the conveyor belt itself with his phone.
“I didn’t realize you were paying for dinner,” Victor tells him afterwards, the slightly apologetic look in his eyes only somewhat undermined by how contentedly full of food he looks. He frowns a little where he’s walking at Yuuri’s side as he leads them to Sanjo Station, the last hint of lingering sunlight just disappearing from the sky. “You won today. We should’ve gone where you wanted to go.”
Yuuri shakes his head.
“I just wanted to be with you,” he admits, the words escaping his lips before he realizes just how exposed they leave him. His cheeks feel warm as he walks, ducking his head self-consciously. “To say thank you,” Yuuri finishes weakly, and doesn’t turn even though he can feel Victor’s eyes on him.
By the time they arrive at Fushimi Inari Taisha, full darkness has settled over the sky. The endless vermillion torii gates are lit with hanging lanterns, creating an almost otherworldy feeling as they wander beneath them. There aren’t many other people around this late at night, and their footsteps echo on the stone paths beneath their feet.
“Wow,” Victor breathes, staring around them in quiet awe. The warm yellow lamplight catches in his hair, illuminating the sharp lines of his face, pouring over his skin. He looks enraptured, captivated by the endless beauty of the shine sprawling out around them.
He turns to look at Yuuri, the same expression of quiet wonder on his face, and Yuuri feels their connection in the weight of their held gaze. As though Victor is staring into him, seeing everything that’s inside.
The sense of yearning that unfurls inside of Yuuri’s chest is so powerful it makes him suck in a breath. He wants so badly for Victor to reach out and touch him, aches at the thought of Victor closing the space between them. The two of them cocooned by darkness and lamplight, every inch of Yuuri’s skin his if he has a mind to claim it.
When Victor reaches out and deliberately laces their fingers together, Yuuri’s whole body sighs with relief at the touch. Yuuri glances down at the ground as he curls his fingers around Victor’s, a light flush in his cheeks and longing thrumming along his skin as Victor leads them forwards.
They spend the next hour walking through the lamplit gates, the curtain of the dark night sky keeping them wrapped up in its embrace. Their tangled fingers feel like a channel between them, the touch of skin against skin giving Victor permission to voice all the words he’s left unspoken throughout the day; you were so beautiful on the ice today and I knew you could do it and I never want to stop watching you, Yuuri, never.
The words leave Yuuri breathless, squirming beneath his skin as though he’s been submerged in unexpected heat. He presses his lips together as Victor says things to him, too overwhelmed to speak for fear that he’ll ruin it somehow. That he’ll misstep and shatter whatever this is between them; this charged intimacy that is both everything he’s ever wanted and not even close to enough, as though Victor just keeps on unlocking new depths of want inside of him.
When they finally make it back to the hotel a little while later, Victor walks Yuuri to his room.
They make it to the door before Victor is moving into his space, and Yuuri responds without thinking; he slides his arms around Victor’s waist, pressing his face against his shoulder as Victor holds him close.
“You did so well today,” Victor murmurs into his hair, and Yuuri shivers at the rush of heat and yearning up his spine. “You’ve come so far, Yuuri. I can’t wait to be in Beijing with you.”
Yuuri swallows hard, squeezing his eyes shut and reeling as he nods against Victor’s shoulder. The words are so good it almost feels like he’s floating outside himself, Victor’s embrace the only thing keeping him anchored to the ground.
When Victor pulls away, there’s an aching absence where his body used to be, and Yuuri feels bereft and breathless all over again.
“Thank you,” Victor tells him, reaching between them to take Yuuri’s hand. He raises his eyes to meet Yuuri’s, an incredibly fond smile on his face before he gives Yuuri’s hand a squeeze. “I had a wonderful time.”
“Me too,” Yuuri says, tentatively squeezing back.
And then Victor’s hand is drawing away from him, their fingers slipping through each other as he takes a step away. They say their last goodnights, and Yuuri resolutely doesn’t look away from the door as he unlocks it, slips inside, and closes it behind him.
Yuuri feels antsy in his own skin as he gets ready for bed, his mind lingering over everything that happened today. It had been perfect, like a dream, but somehow Yuuri feels unfulfilled anyways; his skin too sensitive, a strange ache that seems to have settled deep inside of him. His thoughts are distracted and keep turning to Victor; the way Victor’s eyes had caressed him during his routine today, the quiet words Victor whispered to him tonight while they were bathed in lamplight.
It isn’t until Yuuri’s lying in bed that he realizes that what he’s feeling is both desperate need and tremendous relief. Because he wants so much, so badly; wants Victor to have every part of him that matters, for Victor to own him wholly in all the ways he doesn’t already.
Because in that moment, Yuuri knows he would’ve given Victor anything he asked for.
Lying in bed, Yuuri’s want feels as vast as the ocean; deep and fathomless and unknown, as though there isn’t enough space inside of him to encompass it. It mingles and twines with all the other things he feels for Victor until it’s indistinguishable from itself; warmth and admiration and devastating need, emotion straining at his lips as it tries to escape him.
A depth and immensity of feeling that cannot be contained.
One week later in Tokyo, after laying himself bare like a challenge to the world, Yuuri returns to his hotel room after the press conference and spends the next twenty minutes desperately sobbing into his own fingers.
It feels like catharsis, like a dam breaking; as though everything that’s been held so tightly inside of him has been released all at once.
It’s a relief, but he’s known since he made the decision that this would be the aftermath; tears streaming down his face amidst hiccuping sobs, hands clamped over his mouth as he slides down onto the floor and shakes with it. A rumpled pile of suit and trembling limbs, the depth of what he feels truncated into words and broadcasted for the entire world to see.
Victor is the first person I’ve ever wanted to hold onto.
I don’t have a name for that feeling, but I’ve made the decision to call it ‘love’.
There’s no coming back from this kind of decision, and even though Yuuri doesn’t regret it, he can’t help the rush of instinctive panic that comes afterwards. The moment after throwing oneself off the edge of a precipice, the full implications of his actions hitting him for the first time.
His family heard him. His competitors heard him.
Victor heard him; will know in plainest terms, soon, exactly what Yuuri feels for him.
Once he’s cried himself out, Yuuri drags himself up onto his feet on unsteady legs, dries his eyes with scratchy hotel tissues before looking at himself in the bathroom mirror. He can feel a sense of calm tranquility settling over him even as he takes in the sight of himself, a mess of tear-stained cheeks and swollen eyes.
Yuuri has declared his love to the world, and he refuses to be ashamed. He’ll prove just how much he meant it with a gold medal around his neck; undeniable proof of everything Victor means to him, the fulfillment of every promise that underpins their relationship.
A hot shower makes him feel even better, and by the time Yuuri steps out of the steaming bathroom it’s been almost an hour since the press conference went live. He crawls on top of his bed with his sleep clothes on and his hair still damp, glasses perched on his nose as he plucks up his phone, swipes to unlock it —
— and blinks at the sheer number of notifications on his screen.
For a moment, Yuuri is unpleasantly reminded of the morning after the ‘Stay Close to Me’ video went viral. He presses his lips together, takes a deep breath, and taps the ‘text message’ icon.
what do you mean, our support was abstract??? ｡ : ﾟ (;´∩`;) ﾟ : ｡
just kidding! we love you, yuuri! takeshi and the girls and i are so happy for you!!
Yuuri, is this translation accurate?????
AFTER ALL THAT I HAVE DONE FOR YOU.
your mother and i are so proud of you, yuuri
Did you just declare your love for Victor Nikiforov on national television??? Yuuri???
my love and support will be impossible to ignore when I’m cheering in person as you win a gold medal at the grand prix final
Its only 17:30 in Tokyo, I know you’re awake
Katsuki Yuuri, if you don’t text me back RIGHT NOW
I think you broke him.
It takes Yuuri a moment to realize that he’s smiling; a sudden rush of warmth inside his chest amidst the lingering prickle of nerves. He knows he couldn’t have done it today if any of them had been watching in person, but having their messages written down like this, a collection of thoughts and sentiments from the people he loves most…
He lingers the longest over the text from Victor; stares at it for a few drawn-out minutes, trying to will those two little words into giving him some kind of hint about what Victor might be thinking. It doesn’t work, and after a little while longer he gives up: hits the ‘call’ button on Victor’s contact profile, and waits with his heart in his throat.
It only rings a few before Victor picks up, and for a second Yuuri thinks he can hear a slight clatter over the line.
“Yuuri?” Victor asks, sounding slightly out of breath. He can hear footsteps, movement.
“Hi,” Yuuri replies quietly, leaning back against the pillows. He lets out a breath, glancing around the quiet sterility of his hotel room. “Sorry, did I interrupt dinner? I should’ve waited to call until later...”
“No,” says Victor immediately, and Yuuri thinks he can hear the slide of a door closing in the background. “ No no no, Yuuri, I’m glad you called. I wanted to talk to you .”
Yuuri swallows, shifting a little in place on the bed as he waits for Victor to continue. The pause goes on for so long he almost starts to say something, words forming in the back of his throat, before Victor speaks again.
“The press conference seemed to go well,” comes Victor’s voice, sounding strangely reserved. “It looks like your theme was received quite positively.”
Unable to help it, Yuuri smiles down at his lap.
“Thank you,” he replies earnestly, wondering after he says it whether Victor had been able to understand everything he’d been saying. He’d been so worked up by the end: it had felt like the words were fighting to escape his mouth, bursting out of him in a flurry of sound and feeling. It would’ve been difficult to understand for someone still learning the language. “I… might’ve been a bit nervous. I’m glad that it’s done now.”
There’s a beat of silence that hangs between them over the line. Yuuri can hear Victor’s quiet breathing in his ear; in and out, in and out, as though Victor is right here next to him.
“Yuuri, did you mean it?” Victor asks, his voice low and subtly urgent on the other end of the line. “Mari helped me translate. Did you mean what you said about wanting to hold onto me? ”
Yuuri swallows, straightening up in bed a little as he breathes. His fingers suddenly feel slightly weak where they’re clutching at his cell phone, a shiver of anticipation running through the pit of his stomach. He lets out an unsteady breath.
“Yes,” Yuuri tells him, and it feels like a confession; a private declaration to match the public one. He feels a jolt of sudden nervousness shoot through him. “I’m sorry, I know I should’ve said it in person, I just —”
“It’s okay,” Victor tells him quickly, insistently. “It’s okay. Yuuri, I…”
He trails off for a moment. Yuuri’s breathing sounds loud to his own ears.
“Yuuri, when I first arrived in Japan, I thought… I thought maybe I’d gotten the wrong idea.” His voice sounds warmer, now. Somehow closer, despite the distance between them. “That maybe I’d… misunderstood.”
Yuuri frowns in quiet confusion, not quite understanding what Victor’s talking about. This happens, sometimes; a failing in their mutual grasp of English, some word or concept or context that doesn’t quite translate. He keeps listening because it doesn’t sound like Victor’s finished, and Yuuri can work out what he actually meant later.
“But I think I understand now,” Victor continues, speaking a little faster. “You and I are so different, you know? It’s… harder for you to follow your heart than it is for me.”
“Victor,” Yuuri murmurs, the air around him so suddenly charged that he’s afraid to breathe. He holds his phone a little too tightly to his ear.
“And I just wanted you to know that I heard you,” Victor says, as though this is important. As though there is a weight to his words that he wants Yuuri to understand, that he needs Yuuri to understand. “And that… I want to hold onto you, too.”
The words are like a jolt of electricity running up his spine. Yuuri gasps, breath hitching violently as he clamps a hand over his mouth. He can feel an unexpected heat surging up from the pit of his stomach; a sudden tingling in his fingertips as he clutches at his phone.
“Yuuri?” Victor asks, sounding suddenly worried. “Yuuri, are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” says Yuuri weakly, pulling his hand away from his mouth just long enough to get the words out. He draws in a shaky breath, blinking back the stinging in his eyes. “I’m just… so happy.”
It’s not quite the right word, doesn’t express the proper weight of what he means. Victor doesn’t seem to care, though; he lets out an audible breath on the other side of the line.
“Yuuri. Yuuri, I’m so glad I came,” Victor says in a sudden rush, the heated urgency in his voice as though he physically can’t hold back the words any longer. “I’m so glad I’m your coach. You’re so incredible, I’ve been never been happier. I’m yours, Yuuri, you know that? I never want to let you go.”
Yuuri’s head is reeling, the stream of words washing over him in an overwhelming rush. His hand is back over his mouth again and he’s shaking, something desperate and needy throbbing deep inside of him.
His mind snags violently over the words; you’re so incredible and I’m yours, Yuuri and I never want to let you go running through his head over and over again, shuddering through him. Stoking the heat inside his chest until it’s burning, he’s burning.
He barely manages to hold back a groan at the sudden realization that he’s getting hard.
“I feel so much for you, too,” says Victor, unaware of what his words are doing to him. “I don’t have a name for all of it either. But I’ve decided to call it love, too, okay? Please don’t be scared. Please, Yuuri.”
Yuuri shudders, his hand dragging down his face until he’s clutching at his shirt instead. He swallows hard, shakes his head.
“I’m not scared,” Yuuri tells him, working hard to keep his voice even, and it’s only when the words are out that he realizes how true they are. He shivers, licking his lips. “I’m happy… I can’t wait to see you. I can’t wait to skate for you.”
There’s a quiet, helpless groan from the other end of the phone.
“Yuuri,” says Victor, almost whining. “Yuuri.”
And that’s — he’s —
“I have to go,” Yuuri blurts out in a rush, flushed and overwhelmed and practically writhing at the way his name sounds when Victor says it like that. “I’ll – I’ll see you tomorrow. Goodnight.”
He hangs up the phone before he can say anything he might regret, squeezes his eyes shut and shudders on the bed for long moments. Replaying everything Victor said to him over and over and over until he has the full breadth of it memorized; searing every word into his mind so that he can run his fingers over them again and again, so that he can savour them endlessly.
So that even if Victor changes his mind, even if he gets back on a plane to Russia tomorrow, Yuuri will still have this.
Then he puts his phone down on his bedside table with shaking fingers, reaches down past the waistline of his sleep pants, and slowly takes himself in hand.
He lets out a helpless little cry at the first dragging touch, his hips arching up off the bed as he presses his other hand over his mouth to stifle the sounds. He closes his eyes and imagines it’s Victor’s hand touching him, murmuring heated words as he touches Yuuri like no one else ever has. He rides the waves of pleasure for a little while, whimpering into his own hand, trying to ignore the unyielding ache of want deep inside.
It feels good, but it’s not enough. Yuuri snatches his hand away after a few minutes, hard and unsatisfied and gasping where he’s tangled up in the sheets. He breathes hard, eyes stinging, and hesitates for a long moment, uncertain.
Then Yuuri shakily gets out of bed and walks into the bathroom. He picks up the small container of lotion beside the sink, then walks back across the room as though he’s in a dream before setting it down on his bedside table. It seems to stare back at him from where it sits, the innocuous little bottle so laden with implication.
Yuuri has never done this before, has never even considered trying it before this moment. His face feels hot as he takes off his clothes, as he slowly crawls back onto his bed and opens the container with unsteady fingers. He feels strangely self-conscious as he coats his fingers with lotion, as he reaches tentatively down between his legs.
The idea of Victor drives him forward; bold and bright and beautiful, everything that Yuuri has ever wanted before he even realized what wanting meant, coming to him, kissing him. Wanting to claim every kind of satisfaction from Yuuri’s body.
He rubs a cool, slick finger over his entrance — once, twice — and then slowly begins to push inside.
It’s uncomfortable at first; foreign and invasive and strange, so strange, and for a second Yuuri pauses, uncertain. He keeps going doggedly, pushing in deeper, moving experimentally. Adds a second finger after a long moment of adjustment, shifts, and –
Sparks burst behind his eyelids and he gasps, a sudden shudder of bone-deep pleasure catching him off guard. It stokes the heat inside of him again, leaves him hard and desperate and wanting all over again. After a moment he reaches up with his free hand, takes hold of himself – and shudders at the dual sensation, rocking back onto his fingers as he grinds up into his hand.
He lets his head fall back against the pillow as he urges himself closer to the edge, his voice escaping out of his mouth in breathy little gasps of air, ah, ah, ah as he discovers this, lets it overwhelm him. Imagines that it’s Victor who’s filling him up rather than his own fingers, his mouth pressed into the side of Yuuri’s neck as he takes him, claims him, whines Yuuri’s name with heated desperation.
You’re so good, Yuuri imagines him saying. You feel perfect, Yuuri, I want you, I need you, I never want to let you go, Yuuri — Yuuri —
He throws his head back and gives in, at that. Tumbles helplessly over the edge, shuddering and shaking as he rides out this new and world-ending sensation.
As he comes apart at the memory of his name on Victor’s lips.
Thank you so much for reading! If you enjoyed this chapter, please consider leaving a comment; I am endlessly grateful for your support and feedback.
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