Yuuri used to have a perfectly reasonable system in place for handling the press. It was a simple, foolproof, easy to remember process:
Step one: see them coming,
Step two: pretend he didn't,
Step three: walk away quickly.
If he did find himself cornered, he'd give curt, stilted answers until the second-hand social anxiety overwhelmed whoever was trying to interview him. They generally left him alone pretty quickly. He barely even had to try for it, he was just that good.
Minako-sensei described it as Yuuri being 'standoffish'; Phichit called him an 'awkward turtle'; Mari told him he was 'kind of a jackass sometimes'.
After Victor, though, that all changes. It's like Yuuri's incapable of doing things the old way: he opens his mouth and can't even remember what he's said by the time he's done talking, or why he's got his fists raised in the air.
Minako-sensei describes it as Yuuri 'opening up'; Phichit calls him a 'walking meme'; Mari tells him to 'please never say the words power of love ever again, people here know I'm related to you'.
All Yuuri knows for sure is that he's different now, in ways he can't entirely predict or control. He's different because of Victor. He wants to understand and be understood; he wants to reach out to other people instead of shying away when they reach out to him.
Which means it's entirely Victor's fault that he winds up breakdancing at the press conference after Nationals.
He's not even drunk. Of course he isn't—it's a press conference. But at least drunkenness would explain his extended moment of madness.
It's just—some brash young reporter asks a few leading questions about Worlds, trying to drum up a confession of hate-fueled antagonism between Yuuri and Yurio. The man wants conflict—he wants Yuuri to swear vengeance on Yurio, or to say his GPF SP was underscored, maybe even to complain that the Russians get unfair favoritism in international events (the Nikiforov Effect, according to those who believe it: the judges are so used to handing out high scores that they just can't help themselves anymore). Yuuri's seen comments like that online, and they leave him feeling sick to his stomach.
He's so uncomfortable that he makes an offhand comment about how even if he loses to Yuri Plisetsky at Worlds, at least he's ahead 2-0 in their breakdancing contests.
The reporter doesn't expect that—no one does. A few people laugh uncertainly, politely, like they think he's making a bizarre joke and don't want him to feel bad about it flopping. He's sure he'll appreciate the effort later, when he feels less like disappearing into thin air, never to be seen again.
To be fair, even he finds it hard to believe that he's not making that up. He still doesn't understand how he managed to drag Yurio into a dance-off in the first place, or why they found themselves going for round two in Barcelona.
Unfortunately, not everyone assumes he's joking. Morooka, who knows him better than most, gapes. And young Minami, his bronze medal proudly on display, gasps out loud—then demands they have a dance-off, right then and there.
Yuuri's not sure where the music comes from. He's not sure how Minami clears all the chairs away in roughly two seconds, or why the silver medalist helps. He's not sure who even allows Minami-kun to leave his house in the first place. He's not sure who allows him to leave Yu-topia. If his family actually loved him, they'd lock him in a storage room and feed him katsudon until he's too big to fit through the door.
All he knows is that Minami throws himself into dancing, Minami's coach looks positively tortured but also resigned to this really happening, and it hits Yuuri that there's only one way to keep Minami-kun from becoming a joke to the entire world.
At some point, when Yuuri's upside down and spinning, he realizes he's close enough to Marooka to sincerely, if breathlessly, apologize for the trouble.
His despairing, "I don't know why this keeps happening to me," is also picked up by the mics, he discovers when he watches the video the next day.
The video goes viral. Just like his backstage hugging spree. Just like the lip-lick at the Cup of China. Just like the kiss at the Cup of China.
All of it, entirely Victor's fault.
Russian Nationals still have a day to go. Mila sees the video first, as Victor and Yuri have both had their phones confiscated by Yakov due to their inability to stop checking up on the Japanese Nationals, and she promptly organizes a viewing party that evening. All of Russia's best skaters in a room, watching Victor's fiance prove he can move—even when it's entirely inappropriate.
No, Mila thinks, that doesn't quite fit with what she knows about Katsuki. More like...especially when it's entirely inappropriate.
"Hmph," Yuri Plisetsky grumbles, sneering. "That Minawhatsit sucks, I'm way better."
"Are you jealous?" Mila asks, delighted. "Aww, Yuri, you're sad he breakdances with other boys?"
"Shut the fuck up, hag, I am not!"
"Yuuri's so perfect," Victor says, gasping, eyes wide and his hands pressed to his cheeks. He looks ridiculous, like a small child staring through a bakery window at the biggest cake—or like Yuri finding a leopard-print bathrobe in a department store. "Did you hear him apologize? It was so cute. He's so cute. So eros.”
Someday, someone's going to tell Victor that using 'eros' as a description will never actually catch on, no matter how hard he tries to make it a Thing. Mila hopes she's there when it happens; the pouting will be epic.
“I can't,” Victor declares. “I can't even. My phone, I need—Mila, let me see your phone. Please."
Yakov will never forgive her if he finds out, but Mila is, first and foremost, in it for the lulz. "Sure, I guess," she agrees, passing it over. Victor grabs at it like it's bread and he's been starving for days.
"ARE YOU BOOKING AN OVERNIGHT TICKET TO JAPAN? YOUR FREE SKATE IS TOMORROW, JACKASS."
"Yuriooooo nooo give me back Mila's phone whyyyy—"
Mila's so glad Katsuki swept Victor off his feet the year before. Who knew that under all that detached charm and steely perfectionism beat the heart of a hopeless fanboy?
"Ah, love," Georgi sighs, mascara and eye shadow smearing his face as he weeps. He clasps his hands to his heart and watches Victor all but tackle Yuri to get at Mila's phone. If they break it, she's breaking both of them. "So beautiful. So out of reach. Anyaaaaa, my heart and soul..."
Anya shudders and scoots a little further away.
Several other skaters—less important because they're not team Yakov, obviously—stare in open bewilderment as Mila's rinkmates collectively lose their shit. Ah, to think they'd once maintained a reputation as unreachable, untouchable—too cool for school, basically. And now everyone gets to see Victor whining like a toddler for his boyfriend and Yuri being adorably territorial over his breakdancing rival.
To be fair, no one is surprised by Georgi or his mascara-tinted rivers of tears. Georgi doesn't so much feel emotions as he does broadcast them to the universe. Loudly.
Mila considers the evening to be a great success. And not only because she was clever enough to have Anya film Victor and Yuri's reactions to the video.
They post it online later that night, inciting a flurry of similar videos from other skaters around the world. Mila reblogs Otabek's twice: he watches the entire breakdance blank-faced, and then turns to whoever's filming him, says, “Yuuri Katsuki, everyone,” and slow-claps expressionlessly for a solid thirty seconds.
"Victor's the greatest thing that ever happened to you," Phichit says when Yuuri informs him over Skype that everything, everything is Victor's fault. "Do you have any idea how many new followers I have because you can't keep your private life private anymore? I'm the top source of Yuuri Katsuki pictures and videos in the world. Sooner or later, all your new fans find me—they come for you and they stay for pics of my hamsters wearing tiny knit hats. My follower count is through the roof."
"So what you really mean," Yuuri says dryly, "is that Victor's the greatest thing to ever happen to your Instagram."
"And my Twitter, Yuuri, and my Facebook and Tumblr and Youtube. Don't downplay his importance in our lives. And don't you hurt that man, you hear me? Cherish him. Treat him right."
"...You're my best friend. Shouldn't you be giving him the shovel talk?"
"He came into your life and now you breakdance at press conferences and go on zombie hugging sprees and declare your love on live television, Yuuri. The man's a god. He doesn't need a shovel talk, he needs another gold medal. And that's something I never thought anyone would say about Victor Freaking Nikiforov."
“Freakingevich,” Yuuri corrects him officiously, adjusting his glasses. He's been studying.
Yakov watches the video in silence, and Victor braces himself for the usual outburst—asking the universe at large why this is happening to him, demanding to know what he's done to deserve yet another troublemaker at his rink, loudly bemoaning every life choice that's led him to this moment.
Victor's so proud of his Yuuri for inspiring one of Yakov's legendary rants before even setting foot in St. Petersburg.
Yurio's smirking, waiting for the anticipated storm. Victor has no doubt he'll relay every last word to Yuuri, because that's how Yurio shows his love: spite and pettiness.
"Hmm," Yakov says mildly, passing Yurio's phone back to him. "That was kind of Katsuki. That other boy still made a fool of himself, but it would've been much worse if Katsuki hadn't played along."
"Are you fucking kidding me," Yurio says flatly when they realize that's all Yakov has to say on the matter.
Victor doesn't stop laughing for a solid minute. And then he spends the next hour demanding reassurances from Yakov that he's still his favorite.
“You were never my favorite!” Yakov roars. “You are a headache in human form! I hate everyone here!”
“Yes, yes, but you hate me less than the others,” Victor insists. He wants Yuuri to get along with Yakov, of course, but there are lines. “Yurio's a PR nightmare and Mila keeps lifting small children over her head.”
“I'm not a small child!” Yurio hisses. Victor pats him absently on the top of his head and then skids backwards to avoid being gutted by skate-kick. Mila winks, glides up behind Yurio, and hefts him easily up into the air.
“I HATE EVERYONE,” Yurio shrieks. “EVERYONE.” His legs and arms wave uselessly through the air like he's a turtle turned on his shell, struggling to right itself. Mila spins slowly in place, grinning.
“And Georgi!” Victor says to Yakov, ignoring Yurio's bellowing with the ease of long practice. “I must be less annoying than Georgi, at least.”
Georgi looks to the heavens and asks, “Have I offended you? Is this why I suffer?” He's never sounded more like Yakov.
“Stop talking to the ceiling, asshole,” Yurio snaps, beginning to look a little green in the face as Mila's spins pick up speed.
“PUT THE BOY DOWN,” Yakov shouts, clutching at his hair. Well, what remains of it. Yakov has such a sad and empty existence; Victor's glad his triumphant return can at least bring a little life and love back into it.
“And you'll learn that my Yuuri never does what he's told to do, even if he agrees out loud,” Victor adds, shamelessly selling out his own student and future husband.
Yakov pauses, turns back to him, and then smiles slowly. “Are you saying you have a student who doesn't listen? Who puts you through the misery you've piled on me for years?”
Victor senses he may have miscalculated. “Oh, I wouldn't say that—”
“Japanese Yuuri is my new favorite. I already like him more than any of you.”
“But I try so hard,” Georgi whispers sadly to the ice. “So hard.”
"Best press conference ever," the Japanese Nationals silver medalist says when asked. “Ten out of ten, would medal again.”
"I would die for Katsuki-kun," Minami declares, with terrifying sincerity.
As with every other time a video of Yuuri's gone viral this year, the internet has...opinions. Opinions that Yuuri does his best to avoid and ignore, in spite of his own morbid, self-destructive curiosity.
Of course, a self-imposed media blackout means nothing in the face of Thailand's premier figure skater and the world's greatest selfie artist. Phichit calls Yuuri and spends forty minutes reading out Youtube comments like they're some kind of twisted bedtime story. He does voices, too.
“Remember the tongue thing,” Phichit reads in a breathy, inexplicably Southern American Belle accent. “Mmm, China Cup SP. Never forget,” he adds, sounding deeper, huskier, and vaguely Austrian.
“Why,” Yuuri asks, cradling his head in his hands. “Why are you like this, Phichit.”
Phichit cackles but otherwise ignores him. “Oh, here's a good one,” he muses over the line. Yuuri's pretty sure he could've happily gone his entire life without hearing Phichit shout 'YUURI KATSUKI MORE LIKE YUURI FINE BOOTY TAKE ME NOWWW UNF UNF'.
“You're making that up,” Yuuri says. Prays.
“I actually left off two unfs,” Phichit says gleefully. “And an 'amirite or amirite'. I thought that might be a bit much for you.”
“You're a true friend.”
“Thank you, Yuuri Fine Booty.”
“You're the worst friend.”
“What if you become more famous than me,” Victor asks over Skype, as Yuuri finishes packing up his room. He's been back in Hasetsu for less than a year; how has he accumulated so much unnecessary stuff? “What if one day I'm just the pretty nameless man married to Breakdancing Sensation Katsuki Yuuri.”
He looks like he's not sure whether to be excited or desolate, eager or insecure.
Yuuri groans and shoves another sweater into a box.
Mari sticks her head through the door, a pile of towels in her arms. “Wouldn't it be Yuuri Katsuki-Nikiforov?” she asks. “Nikiforov-Katsuki, maybe.”
Victor blinks, eyes going distant and dreamy. Yuuri stares for a moment, stupidly besotted. “Oh. Oooh. Yes, I like that. I think I can be a trophy husband after all.”
Mari nods, like this is a reasonable conversation to be having, and then continues on her way without so much as a 'hi' or a 'bye'. Victor doesn't seem bothered.
Yuuri, who has spent over a decade doodling lopsided hearts around variations of 'Victor Katsuki' and 'Yuuri Nikiforov' on every scrap of paper he can find, tells him, “Nikiforov-Katsuki is best,” with absolute certainty. Then coughs and says, “I mean. Maybe. Not that I've thought about it or anything.”
“Well, it won't affect me,” Victor says dramatically. “Not when I'm just Breakdancing Sensation Yuuri Nikiforov-Katsuki's unnamed but spectacularly beautiful husband.”
“You'd better be Figure Skating Legend Yuuri Nikiforov-Katsuki's unnamed but spectacularly beautiful husband,” Yuuri mutters, vowing to never dance in public ever again.
Victor gasps, and Yuuri knows without looking that he's clasped his hands over his heart. He looks anyway, because Victor is a stunningly pretty human being and Yuuri is weak. “You think I'm beautiful?” he demands, eyes shimmering and cheeks gone pink.
“Spectacularly beautiful,” Yuuri reminds him, a little shyly. He ducks his head, reaching for the next pile of clothes, embarrassed by his own words.
“Oh, my precious Yuuri,” Victor sighs. “I—what are you doing. No, no, stop that right now. Put down that tie, you're not bringing that into my country.”
“You and me, right here, right now,” Yurio snarls in his face while a bevy of journalists look on. “I'll show that Minawho what a real dance-off looks like.”
Victor holds up a boombox like he's starring in an eighties romantic comedy, winking at the cameras as he hits play.
Yuuri literally just stepped off the plane ten minutes ago. He's tired and feels disgusting and he hasn't even had a chance to get his luggage from the baggage claim fifteen feet away—though, he notes sullenly, Victor's somehow found time to fetch Makkachin. He's spent the last ten hours downing tiny overpriced bottles of vodka just to make the day bearable.
He's upended his entire life to come to St Petersburg. He's spent the last week packing everything he owns and apologizing to his family for leaving again. He's moving to a country he's only ever visited for competitions, and he doesn't speak more than a few stock phrases of Russian. He spent the entire flight writhing in guilt over the sad noises Makkachin made as he was taken away to be stowed with the luggage, agonizing about every possible thing that might conceivably go wrong.
Victor hasn't even kissed him yet. Yuuri's not saying he's been dreaming of another running-into-each-others' arms reunion like after Rostelecom, but he's been dreaming of another running-into-each-others' arms reunion like after Rostelecom. Instead, Victor's holding onto Makkachin and a boombox.
He is going to trash Yurio for this.
But first, he narrows his eyes at Victor and speaks the words he knows will hurt him most.
“I brought the tie.”
“'Breakdancing Sensation Yuuri Katsuki Inspires Impromptu Airport Flash Mob'!” Phichit crows over the phone, not even bothering to say 'hello'.
“Victor's fault,” Yuuri says, snuggling into Victor's softest robe, taking a bite of the omelet Victor woke up early to make for him. Breakfast in bed is, he decides, the greatest invention of all time. “All of it.” He absolutely does not smile at all as Victor waves at him like an absolute dork from his ridiculously enormous walk-in closet.
Then Yuuri realizes Victor's poking at Yuuri's small selection of formal clothes. Also, he's holding fabric scissors.
“Victor, don't you dare,” Yuuri says. He starts to get up, but it's too late—the scissors cut though the tie easily, the bottom half crumpling sadly to the floor. Makkachin paws at it once, then turns up his nose and walks away. Victor doesn't even try to hide his amusement.
“I'm sorry, but I had one rule,” Victor tells him, not sounding sorry in the least. “And as your coach, I must enforce it. No matter how much it might hurt us both.”
“And now he's killed my favorite tie,” Yuuri sighs.
“I love that man,” Phichit says, sounding a little choked up about it. “So, so much.”