“I’ve been looking forward to this all year,” Viktor’s voice startles Yuuri from much too close.
He whirls around only to find Viktor less than a step behind him, wearing a pleased smile and a cable knit sweater. How he manages to look more like a fashion model than a kindergarten teacher Yuuri will never understand. He himself is a high school history teacher and somehow he still manages to get covered in paint and tears every week? His students are sixteen? It makes no sense. Teaching is a hazardous occupation. It is unfair how Viktor is able to float above the fray.
“It’s only January,” Yuuri says, stepping back to leave room for the god of aquariums and also his massive whirling embarrassment. “And we’re working, Viktor.”
“Still,” Viktor says, wrapping Yuuri in a brief hug before swanning away towards a loose grouping of yellow-hatted children.
They’ve been dating for eight months now and Yuuri still feels surprised whenever he and Viktor are out in public together. Viktor will hold Yuuri’s hand, and Yuuri will hold Viktor’s hand, and it will all be wonderful, but the entire time they’re out Yuuri will be wondering if that will be the last time they ever touch. It’s just; they don’t match. They don’t match and he keeps waiting for Viktor to tell him they’re done. Viktor has yet to tell him they’re done.
Last night Viktor texted kiss me by the stingrays tmrw bb xxxxx. Yuuri doesn’t understand what that’s supposed to mean – the Fukuoka aquarium doesn’t have any stingrays? – but he doesn’t have too much time to agonize over it because he’s a high school teacher and his entire school is on a field trip. It’s his job to ensure the students of class 2-A make it through this, and he takes that job very seriously. The last time the school went on a field trip class 3-C lost a student in a 7-11 for two days and no one wants a repeat of that.
“Mr. Katsuki! Will you walk with us?”
“Get lost, Emi, he’s going to walk with us!”
Yuuri trudges off to diffuse the situation. He wonders what kinds of pranks his students have in store for him today.
“Omiki? Fujiwara? What’s wrong?” he asks.
The boy and girl flush in embarrassment when they realize he’s noticed their quarreling. They mumble something he doesn’t understand, but chalks up to hormones. Maybe they have crushes on each other? He really doesn’t know. Teenagers are confusing.
Somehow he ends up caught between them standing in front of the tidal pools. He’s surrounded by Fukuoka High School uniforms, but no little children in bright yellow hats. He sees no silver hair. He’s not disappointed because he emotionally prepared himself for this the night before when he stared into his bathroom mirror and repeated ‘I am going to be professional at work tomorrow’ twenty times. When he finished he had twenty new texts from Viktor waiting on his phone.
Possibly Yuuri is a little in love with Viktor.
He hasn’t said it yet.
But Viktor hasn’t either, so.
He might not say it at all, of course, because he might not feel it at all and Yuuri begins to quiz the students around him on the feeding patterns of the Asterias amurensis to have something else to think about. They groan when he picks them one by one, and he would feel bad for it, but having the power to compel students to answer him is his favorite part of teaching, so he doesn’t. Some of their groans are very exaggerated, and Yuuri rewards that with even more relentless questioning. Sometimes his students are very rude to him. He wishes he knew what he had to do to make them like him more.
After he runs out of the facts he memorized from one of the nearby signboards he switches to Japanese maritime history. His group has drawn a lot of attention, he’s embarrassed to realize, with maybe fifteen students from other classes lingering around the edges of his class. He’s about to ask them where their teachers are when he feels his pocket buzz.
If Yuuri were a good employee he would ignore it, but he’s a bad employee who gave his boyfriend a unique notification pattern. Three short bursts.
Viktor’s trying to tell Yuuri something and Yuuri is weak.
miss u, Viktor’s text says. He’s killing Yuuri here. He’s on a one man mission to leave Yuuri crying at a table by himself at a Mister Donut at two in the morning. He could be exaggerating. Just a little. want 2 kiss u, Viktor sends next. Yuuri wishes he could ask his students what this all possibly means, but they’re too busy staring at his blushing face with extreme judgment. Teenagers know no kindness.
Yuuri asks another teacher to watch his students for a moment so he can go hyperventilate in relative seclusion. He keeps the second part to himself. Minami nods at him twice and Yuuri watches him begin to rattle off quick facts to the rapidly-growing crowd. There are even regular members of the public listening now; grandparents with grandchildren, art students, kids skipping school only to find themselves surrounded by it. Minami is up for a job in the history department this spring. As he slips away Yuuri wonders if he’s going to be replaced.
He's got to stop thinking like this.
It’s very inconvenient to think like this.
His best friend is his therapist.
Is he allowed to call his therapist his best friend?
Yuuko I am worthy of being loved, he types as he wanders past the vending machines. People are staring at him. He hates it. His phone buzzes with Yuuko’s pattern.
Yes you are! She sends back quickly. She doesn’t always respond back immediately, and she doesn’t have to, because Yuuri knows when she doesn’t respond it’s for her own reasons, usually other clients, and not because she’s ignoring him or hates him. He knows that. He’s really grateful she responded so quickly this time, though.
He finds a relatively quiet spot in a dark seating area with a large glass pane showing a view into the beluga tank. They’re doing a demonstration above right now, so the only people sitting in the dark are him and an older man taking a nap on a bench on the other side of the room. Yuuri slumps down onto a carpeted block meant for children and evaluates his life like he’s practiced. He remembers to think of the positive things before jumping onto the terrifying uncertainties.
This isn’t how he’s supposed to practice. He makes a mental note to confess all this to Yuuko on Wednesday.
“There you are,” he hears against his ear, startling him out of his blind stare at the cool blue water behind the glass. Viktor has found him. Is sitting next to him. Is grabbing Yuuri’s hands between his to warm them up. “I thought we’d never have time for the two of us with your students monopolizing you like that,” he says like it’s nothing.
“Our students are the reason we’re here,” Yuuri reminds him, leaning into him.
“No,” Viktor moves an arm around Yuuri’s shoulder. He smells like a fashion magazine. “You’re the reason I’m here and I’m the reason my students are here. Perks of the job. I get to choose where we go.”
Well when he says it like that it makes it sound like he moved his entire schedule around Yuuri’s day and that is too dizzy a thought for Yuuri to really examine right now.
“You better not have abandoned your students.”
Viktor laughs. It does things to Yuuri. “Another perk of the job is all the parent volunteers. I told them if they gave me half an hour alone with you I’d distract you so they could look at you.”
Why would anyone want to look at me, Yuuri does not say.
“Because you’re wonderful,” Viktor answers anyway, somehow. It is possible he knows Yuuri better than Yuuri gives him credit for. It is possible Yuuri is a lot in love with him. “And your butt looks amazing in your work clothes.”
Yuuri swats at him. Not hard.
They sit together and stare at the beluga tank. They don’t see any belugas because of the demonstration. The man in the far corner continues to sleep.
The thoughts in Yuuri’s mind begin to settle, one at a time, into a low hum of content.