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It had been five days since their last argument. Five days since Viktor slipped through their front door and out into the cold. It wasn’t as cold outside as the ice between their hearts. Viktor wasn’t even wearing a coat, but he didn’t notice. Like he didn’t notice the way their relationship was falling apart because of him.

 

Five days of wondering if Yuuri should call Viktor and beg him to come home. To beg him for his forgiveness, and his understanding, and his willingness to help if not himself then Yuuri. He didn’t know how many time he dialed his number. He didn’t know how many times he clicked his phone off instead of pressing the call button.

 

Five days and now Yuuri was sitting in one of Viktor’s oversized sweaters that still smelled like him, and eating his mother’s recipe for ramen out of the white and blue patterned bowl that he stole from Japan. The TV blared the tragedies of that day. Yuuri didn’t realize one of those tragedies would be his own.

 

“An unidentified body has been found in the Liberty Motel earlier today with no identification and a dead phone. He is 5’11’’ with silver hair and blue eyes. Age estimates place him at 30 years old. An autopsy revealed he died of a prescription drug overdose. There were no signs of foul play. If you know any information on this man, please contact the number below,” the news anchor listed the standard information given whenever an unidentified body was found.

 

The only difference this time was that is sounded too much like Viktor who hadn’t returned to their apartment in five days. Viktor who was taller than him. Viktor who had the prettiest shade of silver hair that he dyed once a month in their sink making a mess with dye imported from Russia. Viktor who had eyes that were that rare shade of the winter sky on a sunny day. Viktor who had celebrated his 30th birthday a month ago. The Viktor who was slowly killing himself with rainbow drugs that took away the pain, but caused so much pain to both of them.

 

Yuuri dropped the bowl of ramen, shattering it like his heart into so many sharp pieces. The pieces went everywhere a mix of white and blue porcelain. Yuuri grappled for his phone, and for the first time in five days, pressed call.

 

“Pick up, pick up, pick up,” Yuuri chanted in a fevered whisper. “God, Viktor, please pick up.” But he didn't, and the phone went to voicemail far too soon.

 

“Hello, you have reached Russian skating legend Viktor Katsuki-Nikiforov’s voicemail,” the voicemail said in Viktor's bright tone. It felt far too wrong. “I am not available right now, so leave a message after the beep. I'll try to get back to you as soon as possible.”

 

It then repeated the message in Russian. Then Japanese. Then French. And then finally that dreaded beep.

 

Yuuri tried again.

 

And again.

 

And again, until he chucked the phone at the wall.  “Goddammit, Viktor. You can't be dead, so answer your fucking phone,” he pleaded. He picked up his phone with its shattered screen and texted him.

 

But the text didn't deliver. And then he called the non-emergency line to see if in fact his husband, the great Viktor Katsuki-Nikiforov, was dead.

 


 

 

The last several hours had blurred by with Yuuri's only thoughts being on Viktor. He told the police officer that maybe that…that body was his husband who'd been missing for five days. Maybe that his husband was dead.

 

So now here Yuuri was, standing outside the morgue, waiting to see if that body found was Viktor.

 

“Are you positive you are ready to go in?” the medical examiner asked. She was an older woman with graying hair. It was a different shade than Viktor's. No one else had that shade. “It may be alarming for some people to see the dead.”

 

“I'm ready,” Yuuri admitted. He was not ready if Viktor was in there. He didn't think he would ever be ready. She entered the key code and pushed open the door.

 

“Come in.” Entering the room, Yuuri noticed the cold bite of the room, but it was not as unbearable as not knowing. The room was well yet, and almost completely metallic. She led him to a table with a white sheet over a body.

 

“Are you ready, sir?” No. Yes. I don't know. And instead of saying anything, he nodded, knowing that the sound would come out choked and half afraid. Deep breaths.

 

The medical examiner pushed back the white sheet revealing the body. His throat closed up. For a moment, Yuuri almost collapsed thinking that that was his husband Viktor Katsuki-Nikiforov. But the silver hair was wrong.

 

For a moment, Yuuri almost started crying. But the face shape was wrong. For a moment, he was so relieved that Viktor wasn't here. The medical examiner looked at him with her head cocked wanting to know if he had any answers.  “That's not my husband. I'm sorry for wasting your time.”

 

“No, thank you for helping us. I'll lead you out.”

 

Yuuri didn't think he'd ever felt this relieved. Until he realized that Viktor was still out there. That he wasn't answering his phone. That Viktor may never be coming back anyway. That he may be dead in another spot.


 

 

Yuuri thought that the silence- the not knowing was going to kill him. For days, he had tried to learn where Viktor was: calling again and again but being sent straight to voicemail. For days, texting strings of please come home and baby I love you . Perhaps he should try again. Yuuri pressed call for the hundredth time when there was a knock on the door. Yuuri opened the door with his phone to his ear. Perhaps this time, there would be something besides Viktor’s voicemail voice that seemed to haunt even his dreams now.

 

Opening the door, Yuuri’s response was a phone that fell out of his hand, and a soft oh god . There in all of his glory was Viktor Katsuki-Nikiforov. Glory perhaps was too kind of a word for the skating legend whose heartbreakingly silver hair was a disheveled mess, yet still somehow managed to be charming. Still managed to be as charming as the man he fell for. His eyes were still the rare shade of the winter sky on a sunny day, even though they had shadows that were too dark, and too deep, and spoke too much of the past couple of months in their relationship. Even though he smelled like shit, there was still the underlying musk of the pine soap that he used.

 

There were 18 inches of distance between them, but that distance felt longer than the eight days they had spent apart. There was so much anger, and hopelessness, and a desperate quality to it all along with the underlying of love.

 

Viktor broke first.

 

“I’m sorry.” There was a slight sob and a holding back of tears. It broke something inside of Yuuri, too, and the eight days between them no longer mattered as long as they had even the slightest possibility of holding each other again.

 

And suddenly, they were clutching each other on their knees in the doorway of their apartment with tears running down both of their faces. And suddenly, those 18 inches were gone to no distance at all. And suddenly, those eight days didn’t matter anymore.

 

And suddenly, for the first time in eight days, they both felt like they were home.

 

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Viktor chanted over and over again into Yuuri’s shoulder. Yuuri chanted the same thing into Viktor’s shoulder which had an odor coming from it, but neither of them cared. Neither of them cared for any fact besides the one that they were together again. “Forgive me. Please, darling, I’m so sorry. Those were some of the hardest days of my life.”

 

“I didn’t know where you were,” Yuuri confessed and for the first time in eight days let himself completely and utterly fall apart. Yuuri was safe now.

 

They both were safe now.

 

“I know, I know,” Viktor murmured. “I’m so fucking sorry.”

 

“I thought you were dead .” It was not an accusation, just part of letting it go.

 

“No-”

 

“I thought you were dead. They found a body that had silver hair and blue eyes. And I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know what to feel.” And those eight days of keeping it all in had broken out and it was half babbling. Yuuri just wanted the reassurance that Viktor was here now.

 

“Shh,” Viktor tried to soothe, pulling him tighter. “It’s okay, baby. I’m here now.”

 

“I thought it was you. I went to see if it was you. It wasn’t you. And then- then I was relieved that you were alive. But then- then I was scared of not knowing if you were dead or alive or where you were.” It was an ugly sob that echoed through his entire body.

 

“I’m here now, darling,” Viktor tried to keep his own sobs held back. He kissed where his neck met his shoulder. “I’m sorry- so sorry.”

 

“I was scared that you weren’t coming back. And that it would be- it would be- be my own fucking fault.”

 

“No- no, it was my fault,” Viktor said trying to take the blame that he was his.

 

“It’s my fault for fighting with you- for making you leave.”

 

“It’s my fault for this whole situation.”

 

“I-”

 

“I want to get well,” Viktor interrupted with his own confession.

 

“Really?” Yuuri asked with disbelief and so much hope and love. Yuuri pulled back to look at Viktor’s diamond blue eyes. They were actually looking at each other for the first time in eight days.

 

“I want to get sober. For me, and for you, and for both of us,” Viktor elaborated. “I want- no I will get well, Yuuri.” And Yuuri broke down for the fact that this was going to get better, and that was the first time in eight days that he’d heard his name spoken with so much love.

 

“Viktor, I love you.”

 

“I love you, too, Yuuri. And I’m going to get better.”

 

They stayed holding each other on the floor for a long time. Neither of them wanted to let go again.

 


 

 

Viktor stared into the mirror. There was nothing good in the mirror. There was what he hoped were not lies to his husband about getting better. But definitely without a doubt, there was a twisted version of the great skating legend Viktor Katsuki-Nikiforov.

 

A version whose bags under his eyes so deep you could drown in them. A version whose trademark blue eyes were glassy, about to break with tears that threatened to spill over.  A version whose hair had lost its shine somewhere in the eight months in which he had lost himself.

 

He used to be beautiful enough to be a model. Now- now he looked like the poster child of how drugs bury deep into your soul and do not let go no matter how much you struggle to push them off. Looked like someone who had lost a fight for his life and was accepting his own execution.

 

But not yet.

 

There was still time for the confession that could both save him and damn him. Save him from drowning in his desperation and his storm of self-destruction. Damn him to a hard life of temptation and fighting, knowing the fact that if he wanted to slip back into the ease he was living with these pills, it would kill him quickly like a knife straight to the heart.

 

But the itch to simply slip back to those rainbow pills would rise so high. An itch that threatened him now. An itch that he wanted to sate one final time before facing the final battle of getting sober. A battle Viktor didn’t know if he would win.

 

So he would live while he knew that he could. He would live knowing that he may die. He would satisfy that itch one final time. So Viktor Katsuki-Nikiforov pulled out the pills that his husband hadn’t flushed away this time and tossed them back.

 

Pill after pill.

 

Pill after pill.

 

And for a moment he was finally floating instead of drowning. And for a moment he was happy. And for a moment his demons were satisfied.

 

But then he realized that he was falling. That he was trapped. That he had just sold his soul away, and there was no way to get it back.

 

Then he realized that he didn’t want this. Any of it. So he tried to fight to regain any semblance of self-control. His soul tried to bang itself out of a self-made prison that had lost the key. He tried to slow down the racing flutter of his heart which sadly was for a far less poetic reason than love. But perhaps Viktor loved his own destruction.

 

He was gasping for breath for a different reason than a gold winning performance. This was a different sort of performance. It was a performance of his self-destruction, and this would be the finale if he did not fight. He wanted to fight. He wanted to live.

 

But instead, he bowed over the bathroom vanity, sending several bottles of pills and a bottle of soap to its grave on the floor. Perhaps this bathroom floor would too be his grave. A resting place for a skating king who froze himself in his foolishness. He had to fight.

 

Viktor realized that the bottle of soap shattered when he stepped on the shards that dug into his feet after feeling a sharp harsh pain deep within him. He knew that the bottle of soap should have drawn blood, but he didn’t feel it if it did. He hadn’t felt anything besides the haze of what he thought was heaven on Earth for about eight months.

 

Viktor tried calling out but his throat felt like ashes. Perhaps they were his own, even though he knew it was from the mixing of far too many pills that felt like daydreams but were nightmares. He still tried to cry out his pleas for help.

 

“Yuuri,” he would have cried out if he had his voice.

 

“Please,” he would have cried.

 

“Help.”

 

But even if Yuuri or anyone had come, this was a battle with himself. This was his battle alone. A battle that he was losing. Losing fast.

 

Viktor Katsuki-Nikiforov tried to grab onto something, anything. Hating the fact that he grabbed onto an open bottle of the very thing that was killing him. Hating the fact that it was not his husband. The very same husband who he had broken his promise to.

 

Viktor Katsuki-Nikiforov fell less of the way a god fell, but more the way that a villain fell. Alone. And happy that they died. Happy with the realization that their lovers could still be heroes.

 

Yet, Viktor still had so many regrets swirling in his head when he fell with a thud, thinking that this was it. This was the end of running from himself for thirty years.

 

His biggest regret was selfish. His biggest regret was that he couldn’t say goodbye to his husband who he was slowing choking alive when both of them wanted to hold onto each other.

 

Perhaps this would be the best way to say goodbye, not at all. Eight months had already driven their hearts to ice. Eight minutes on the floor holding each other and promising I’m going to get better was not enough time to truly thaw out their hearts. Eight minutes was not enough to break through the eight days of silence where they wished each other dead.

 

So Viktor Katsuki-Nikiforov slipped away into the world of admitting his sins without thinking that he would live to see his husband again save for his haunting memories.

 


 

 

Eight seconds. That was how long it took to get to the master bathroom from the kitchen. Eight seconds since Yuuri heard a thud that sounded too loud to be considered safe. Eight seconds since Yuuri went running to the master bathroom. Throwing open the door, he was not prepared for what was waiting for him.

 

Viktor was on the tiled floor of the bathroom, twisting his body into itself. Wearing a classic Viktor outfit of fitted jeans and a tee shirt, he was barefoot, yet there was blood on his feet. Yuuri didn’t know from what. His eyes fluttered open and closed, and he gasped for breath.

 

“No,” Viktor whimpered when Yuuri went to touch him. That’s when Yuuri noticed what Viktor was holding onto, an opened bottle of pills that he thought could take the pain away. Yuuri was hurt that Viktor would rather hold onto the thing that was tearing him apart piece by piece over his husband who wanted to build him back up piece by piece.

 

Then Yuuri noticed the rest of the floor. Rainbow pills of all shapes and sizes mixed on the floor spilling out of orange plastic bottles with lids missing. Orange plastic bottles that were all out of their home a couple of days ago. Yuuri didn’t want to think about how he got them back.

 

Suddenly, those eight seconds were not fast enough.

 

And in a different eight seconds, Yuuri was straddling Viktor, prying the bottle of pills from Viktor’s death grip on the bottle in his palm. He kicked the other bottles away. He didn’t want to see them right now.

 

If Yuuri had been thinking, he would have called Poison Control Center. If Yuuri had been thinking, he would have called 911. If Yuuri had been thinking, he would have held Viktor tighter when he had the chance. If only Yuuri had been thinking.

 

Instead, Yuuri pried open Viktor’s jaw to see if there were any pills still inside. Viktor tried to kick him but missed. There were four different pills inside that he miraculously had not choked on. He dug them out. Viktor squirmed under Yuuri to get away.

 

“Don’t touch me,” Viktor cried, half delirious. “You deserve to touch someone better!” Perhaps he was less than half delirious. This was worse. Viktor kicked and struggled. It was a new kick to Yuuri’s heart every time that he fought back. He was only trying to help. Trying to save Viktor from his own storm that was swallowing him whole.

 

Yuuri panicked and half-remembered what he was supposed to do in a drug overdose: wash it out of their system. Yuuri let go of Viktor and tripped over his own feet to turn on the lavish shower. Instead of fighting Yuuri, Viktor now fought the air. Fought whatever of his own demons attacked him. It looked like he was fighting for his life; perhaps he was. Yuuri just wished Viktor knew that he didn’t have to fight alone.

 

The showerhead sang to life, pelting icy cold water that reminded Yuuri that this was not his twisted worst nightmare; this was real life no matter how hard both of them wished it wasn’t.

 

Yuuri half dragged, half carried Viktor into the shower. Yuuri winced when Viktor’s legs hit the metal track that the glass shower door slid on. He was still fighting. Then he stopped. Stopped fighting. Stopped fluttering his eyelids.

 

And for eight seconds, Yuuri worried that Viktor was actually dead. Worried that his worst nightmare of losing him for good was coming true in his arms. And he would have given anything to have him fight him again because it meant that he would have been alive.

 

“Viktor please,” Yuuri begged, but he wasn’t sure for what. “I’m sorry. Please.” They were both in the icy pelt of the water now, Yuuri holding Viktor, not caring that their clothes were both getting soaked. Viktor when telling this story of how he nearly died would probably make a comment about how it was the worst day of his life because his favorite jeans were ruined. He would not talk about how he ruined Yuuri’s heart.

 

Viktor finally snapped open his eyes: glassy and bloodshot. Yuuri let out a sob in relief. We’re both going to be fine. We’re both going to be fine. We’re…

 

“Yuuri,” Viktor whispered, interrupting Yuuri’s thoughts that were failing to calm him down. His voice sounded like sandpaper instead of his usually smooth voice. It sounded like he had been screaming.

 

“I’m right here, Viktor darling,” Yuuri coaxed, pushing his wet mop of silver hair from his still glassy eyes. If Viktor had heard, he made no indication. He seemed half in this world half out of it.

 

“I’m sorry, Yuuri. I want to go home. Please, Yuuri I want to go home to you. It’s so cold out here. Why is it so cold? You were always so warm when we held each other,”  Viktor babbled. Yuuri just wanted to know whatever half-crazed fantasy Viktor was in, so he could help him. Yuuri just wanted to help Viktor no matter the price. Any price was worth paying for his husband.

 

“I’m right here, Viktor darling, I’m right here and I’m not going anywhere. We’re together in the bathroom at our house. You’re safe. No one is going to hurt you,” Yuuri tried to soothe Viktor, but it is hard to soothe someone who is fighting something that isn’t real. “You are safe with me.”

 

“Please,” Viktor begged. “Please, Yuuri, I want to feel like I deserve your love again.” Yuuri bit back a large sob. He didn’t know what to say to that; he pulled him closer to him on the floor of the shower instead. Yuuri would give anything to see Viktor happy again.

 

“I-” Yuuri started, but what was he to say to a husband that didn’t think they deserved anybody’s, let alone his partner’s love? “I-” Yuuri tried again, but all the words seemed to fail him. He just went with something simple. “I love you, and I have never stopped loving you, and I never will. I love you so much, and you don’t need to earn my love.”

 

“This is all my fault,” Viktor sobbed. He didn't stop when he pushed himself deeper into Yuuri's arms. Neither of them cared that they were drenched in icy water that sank deep into their bones. Viktor only cared about the fact that he was in Yuuri's arms. Yuuri only cared about the fact that Viktor was alive.

 

Viktor started slipping slowly back into reality with loud sobs and soft whimpers and curling more and more into Yuuri's arms. At one point he takes Yuuri's hand to pull himself closer. It takes more than the eight seconds it took to take to get to the bathroom, but they both are like fawns on new legs when it comes to each other now.

 

Viktor pulls away, and it hurts more than the eight days not knowing where he was or the eight seconds after hearing the thud. He seems too disgusted with himself to want to be held. They both wait in silence, the only sound their breathing and the rhythmic drops of the icy water. Yuuri reaches for Viktor first.

 

“It’s okay, Viktor, you can trust me.”

 

“That’s not the problem, Yuuri,” Viktor said with so little love for himself, yet so much love for Yuuri. “The problem is- the problem is I don’t know if I can trust myself.”

 

“Viktor-”

 

“Go ahead,” Viktor interrupted instead. “Go ahead and ask why I fell into this entire mess. Why don't you just ask?”

 

“I don't care about that, Viktor. What I care about is you.”

 

“Stop. I don't know how many times I've heard that and I don't want to hear it from your mouth, too.” There was so much self-loathing and heartbreak in his own words. They were words from a man who'd never really felt love before this.

 

“I'm not lying, I'm telling the truth,” Yuuri tried to assure. “I love you.”

 

“Why are you so forgiving? Why don't you push me on it like everyone else does?” It was not a question that was meant to be answered, but Yuuri did anyway.

 

“Because I love you. You don't want to talk about it, and I understand. It's up to you when we bring it up.”

 

“Can we bring it up now?” Viktor asked nervously.

 

“Of course, darling.”

 

“I just wanted to feel good for the last time in a while, before I went through the painful process of getting well and sober. I don't realize how painful even this was. I never want to put you through that again.”

 

Instead of giving a response, Yuuri pulled Viktor back into his arms, giving a feather kiss to the shell of his ear.

 

They waited eight more minutes before turning off the icy water, drying off, and heading to bed in each other's arms.

 

Eight seconds. Eight minutes. Eight days. Eight months. All of them allow for enough time for an entire world to change.