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roses by the shining sea

Chapter Text

Everyone knew about time slips, of course – they were always showing up in fiction to kickstart plots and complicate relationships – but it wasn't like they happened to anyone, until one had happened to Victor. Even over a month after he'd shown up in the future, little things tended to give him pause. Waking and expecting to hear Yakov and Lilia murmuring somewhere, or looking something up only to find that a familiar website had long since abandoned its old layout.

It didn't help that nobody seemed to be quite sure what to do with him. Yakov was still trying to figure out if he could get a legal identity, last Victor had heard; apparently, nobody had written laws expecting time slips to actually happen. About the only thing that had been decided on was that he might as well live with the older Victor, even if he had wanted to live with Yakov like he was used to.

At least not everything had changed. Makkachin was older, yes, and a bit quieter, but she was still sweet and cuddly and could work up quite a bit of energy given something sufficiently interesting. Today, for example, she'd chased seagulls until Victor had dragged her away, and there was still a brightness to her eyes as they came home.

"Make sure you drink plenty of water," he told her as he took off his shoes, and even if she didn't understand him, she headed toward the kitchen. Victor started to follow her, only to realize as he went to cut through the living room that the older Victor was in there, talking to someone.

The older Victor looked up and smiled as Victor paused in the doorway. (He smiled a lot. Victor hadn't realized how often he smiled until he saw it from the outside. They were always good-looking smiles, too.) "Here he is," he told his laptop. Oh, it was a video call. "Come here," he said, and curious, Victor did. "I told you that Chris was coming to visit."

Right, Chris. The older Victor had talked about him a few times, always fond. He was a skater, right? He had to be, Victor didn't know anyone who wasn't involved in skating somehow. Victor sat beside the older Victor, wrapping both his arms around one of his and pressing close into his side so he could get a good look. "Hi," he said automatically, peering at the screen, and – oh.

The image quality wasn't perfect, but even so, it was obvious that this Chris was handsome. He smiled at Victor – it went all the way up to his warm green eyes – and waved at the screen. "Other Victor! Victor was just telling me about you. I hope our time is treating you well."

"Sure," Victor said – he'd been through this kind of talk a dozen times over, it wasn't interesting anymore. He cared more about where that accent came from. France? More importantly: handsome man, coming to visit for a few weeks now that they were heading into summer. "Are you his boyfriend?" he asked.

The older Victor burst into laughter. Startled, Victor broke away from him. "Sorry," he wheezed, and pulled Victor back in and put an arm around his shoulders. Victor tried to settle back in, heart still racing a bit. "No, he's not," he said. "He's a very good friend, though." To Chris, he added, "I think he's just a bit early to have met you."

"Ah," Chris said. He hadn't joined in on the laughter; he was smiling, but it was different from before, somehow. "I was wondering. You look about the right age. We were – you had just turned eighteen, I think, when we met."

"I was about to turn eighteen in a few months," Victor said – that was one of the more confusing things, going from getting ready for the competition season to being dumped at the end of it. At least the extra summer was nice. "So a little early," but enough about him.

The older Victor let him pester Chris with questions for a couple of minutes before gently shoving him off so they could finish talking details about the visit or whatever. Victor left with a huff, and he only went as far as the entrance to the kitchen, where he knelt down to pet Makkachin and eavesdrop. Mostly it wasn't that interesting, but towards the end, he could hear Chris say, "You two seem to be getting along well."

The older Victor made a noise of agreement. "He gets a little annoying sometimes," (and so did the older Victor), "but he's cute. You saw how he looks. It brings up some good memories, doesn't it?"

He couldn't hear what Chris said in reply, only that it made the older Victor laugh softly and lower his voice for the last minute of their conversation.

Victor didn't move when he heard the laptop click shut, when the older Victor stood and stretched and came into the kitchen. "I think you'll like him," the older Victor said, stopping to pet Makkachin as well. She looked very pleased at having the attention of both of them.

"I like him already. Of course I do, you like him. And he's nice." For one thing, Chris had actually talked to him, instead of talking about him to the older Victor. A lot of people tended to do that. It was irritating beyond belief.

"Very nice," Victor said, "unlike certain nosy teenagers." He poked Victor in the forehead, who didn't even bother trying to feign guilt. If the older Victor had actually wanted a private conversation, he would have gone somewhere else.

Makkachin decided that she wanted more water, and wriggled away from their hands to go get it. Victor reached mournfully after her, then looked up at the older Victor when she was well beyond his grasp. "Say I'm cute again."

"Nosy vain teenagers."

"Says the one who couldn't keep his hands off me when I first got here and then kept lamenting that he was going bald, even though you're not." The older Victor had kept touching his face, his hair, like he couldn't believe that he was real, those first couple of days. It had been kind of weird, but everything had been kind of weird, and Victor had liked the attention.

The older Victor leaned down and brushed a strand of hair from his face. "Cute," he said, his voice teasing. Despite the tone, and no matter how many times Victor had been called pretty and beautiful and handsome and cute, it still gave him a little thrill to hear a compliment.

"I guess you haven't lost all of your charm, either," he said, and the older Victor shook his head and pushed on his shoulder.

"Go set the table or something. I don't know. What are you supposed to make annoying teenagers go do?"

"Homework?"

"Ah. Go work on your French or something."

"Does Chris speak French?" Older Victor nodded. Hah, he'd been right.

Over dinner, Victor used his shiny new smartphone, so much better than anything from his time, to look up things about Chris on Wikipedia. When he got bored of that, he skipped to watching his routines, which older Victor scooted in beside him to watch as well. He certainly had a style. Victor hadn't known this kind of stuff was legal to skate. And besides the fact that he dripped sex all over the ice, he was actually really, really good.

"He almost beat me with this one," the older Victor said fondly, as they watched one that was a little less overt than some of the others. Chris had an awful lot of glitter on his cheeks in this one, sparkling beneath his pretty eyes. Victor approved.

When the older Victor eventually returned to his place, Victor clicked back to Wikipedia and scrolled down. Silver. Silver. Silver. Gold, but he checked, and older Victor hadn't been at that one. Silver. Silver. Oh, he thought, not quite sure what to make of it.

By the time Chris actually arrived, Victor knew a lot about him. Not just the things Wikipedia could offer up – that he was from Switzerland and born on Valentine's Day and always came in second place behind older Victor. Older Victor happily told him stories about him, too, since neither Victor subscribed to the thing people had in lots of movies about not telling anything about the future. (Well, he didn't look at anything that had to do with the older Victor's routines or costumes or the like. And he didn't ask about his love life, aside from that one time, or his short hair. Some things were better left as surprises.)

He even got to talk to Chris again, if only for a few minutes; the older Victor left his laptop out when he went to take a shower, and Chris called him on Skype about some final detail. Victor was the only one in the room, so he sat on the floor by the coffee table where the laptop was set and answered for him.

It turned out that Victor couldn't help him, but Chris asked him how he was doing, again, and then thankfully skipped most of the usual boring list of questions about his time slip to simply chat with him. It was nice, almost comfortable, like Victor actually knew him. Victor kept smiling, winding a strand of hair around his finger and letting it fall back into place as they talked.

When the older Victor finally showed up, he draped himself dramatically over Victor's shoulders. "Chris," he sighed. "Are you replacing me with the younger model?"

While Victor tried and failed to shove him off – he was heavy and leaning in too much – Chris laughed and replied, "Who said anything about replacing? Really, Victor, why would I throw you aside when I could have two of you?"

Victor thought about that, later, when he walked Makkachin, the way he'd said it, the wink he'd thrown in at the end. The way the older Victor had smiled back and responded in kind. Thought about it and thought about the way the older Victor had laughed so hard when Victor had asked if they were dating and couldn't help but wonder why not, because they seemed like a good fit and Chris was certainly handsome enough for him. But he didn't ask. There were lots of possible reasons.

The day that Chris was supposed to fly in, Victor came home from practice expecting an empty apartment. But there was the older Victor, lounging on the sofa, staring at his phone, when he should have been at the airport like he'd left practice early to go to. "Chris called and said his flight was delayed," he explained before Victor could ask. "We might be deprived of his company for a few hours longer."

Victor was tired from practice and waking up too early when the summer sun had slipped through the curtains that morning. As the older Victor grumbled about the delay and the airline, he sat beside him, then rolled over to lay his head on the older Victor's chest as he stretched his legs down the couch.

"What are you doing?"

"I want to take a nap," he said, snuggling into the older Victor's shirt, which was very soft.

"You should go to bed, then. I'll have to get up when Chris's flight gets here." But he let Victor stay after shifting him down a bit, and even threaded fingers into Victor's hair as he returned his attention to his phone. Victor could hear his heartbeat, out of sync with his own, felt each gentle breath beneath his cheek. It was much better than the empty bed with its cold sheets would have been, and he fell asleep quickly.

He didn't dream, and he didn't wake until there was a light tug on his hair. Victor yawned and let the older Victor move him out of the way and resettle him flat on the couch. He rubbed his cheek against the cushion as he listened to the older Victor murmuring something soft to Makkachin, putting his shoes on, the click of the door locking. The bare couch was comfortable, but not as good to sleep on as a warm body had been, and maybe his body had had enough, because Victor ended up waking up gradually instead of falling asleep again.

Eventually he sat up and combed his hair with his fingers as his brain finished getting its bearings. He was kind of hungry, but they would be having dinner soon enough, and he wanted tea. He might as well make it for all three of them, while he was at it.

Makkachin followed him around the kitchen as he put the water on, then pulled down mugs. The two at the front – the two he and the older Victor always pulled down – were fine, but the third in the matching set was covered in dust. Victor made a face and washed it.

When the tea was steeping, he checked his phone; nothing from the older Victor, though it was later in the day than he had thought. So either he was still waiting on Chris's plane or he'd forgotten to text him after picking him up.

He dropped a spoonful of jam into the older Victor's mug for him, and then, since nobody was around to see him do so, stirred a much larger spoonful into his so it was nice and sweet. He wondered how Chris took his, looking at the last mug, but he could put what he wanted into it when he arrived, so Victor just carried it out to the living room with the others.

Victor drank his tea, fiddling with his phone all the while. No update.

He spent a few minutes on the floor with Makkachin, rubbing her ears and back and belly as she rolled about, until she'd had enough for the moment. No update.

He wandered around a bit, seeing if there was anything to put away, but the older Victor had already cleaned, and it wasn't like either of them got the place too messy in the first place. The only thing out of place was an artsy stack of books in three languages on an end table, which he didn't bother sticking back on the shelf. No update.

...this apartment was really depressing when nobody else was in it. It was so quiet he could hear the noise from his ears, and the sunlight only highlighted how stark the grey walls (really, grey walls?) looked with their boring black-and-white photographs of generic city sights. It wasn't the kind of place he would have imagined living in at all. There should at least be ballet pictures or something else interesting on the walls, maybe Japanese woodblocks or watercolors by a local artist or postcards from the different countries he'd been to. Something.

Victor made himself another cup of tea. Just as he had finished stirring in another large spoonful of jam, Makkachin perked up and raced from the room. The front door opened a moment later, bringing with it two voices. Victor peeked out to see both the older Victor and Chris crouched by Makkachin. Ah, good, he was nice to Makkachin. That was a requirement for visitors, as far as Victor was concerned.

Chris glanced up and saw him, smiled, stood and greeted him. At that moment, Victor realized three things about him:

One, that he was tall, taller than older Victor.

Two, that he wore glasses. Victor hadn't seen him wearing glasses before; he must wear contacts otherwise. But they suited him well, framing those pretty eyes of his.

Three, that even looking tired from his flight, he had a warm smile.

Victor could feel his cheeks heat a little as he smiled back. It would be nice to have someone else around for a few weeks, and someone who so far seemed kind and who was so good to look at, that was an excellent bonus.

"I made tea for everyone," he said. "I didn't know if you wanted anything in yours."

"Thank you," Chris said. "Plain is fine."

Victor returned to the living room while the older Victor helped Chris take his things to the guest room, and curled up there at one end of the couch. At least the view out the windows was nice, lots of natural light. If he was going to be here for long, and it seemed like he probably was, maybe he could get the older Victor to redecorate a little. At least get a few flowers to bring some color into the room.

"I did have one question," Chris was saying when he came back with the older Victor, and then he looked at Victor and amended it to, "Two questions. Are you both going by Victor?"

"It is our name," the older Victor said. He sat down next to Victor and reached for his cup, sipped at it. Chris took the armchair set at an angle to the couch. "It does get confusing, though, and we haven't figured out anything else that works."

"Especially at the rink. Like when Yakov's trying to go, Vitya this and Vitya that and both of us keep looking up and thinking he's talking to us, and it's always, no, other Vitya. Ah, but Yuri just calls me 'hey, you', so that's one way."

The older Victor snorted into his mug. "Maybe I should just avoid names," Chris said, curling his hands around the last mug and taking a long sip. Victor was distracted enough by watching him that he didn't notice the older Victor reaching to snatch his own cup away.

"Hey!"

The older Victor drank a bit. "Yours is sweeter," he said, arching his eyebrows, and Victor huffed and grabbed it back, only just managing not to spill any on the couch.

"If you want it sweeter, do it yourself," he grumbled, and said more loudly, "What was your other question?"

Chris looked amused at their little spat. "I was just curious," he said, leaning back in his chair as the older Victor tried to steal Victor's cup once more. "If I'm sleeping in the guest bedroom, then where are you sleeping? I don't want to force you out onto the couch or anything."

"I've been sleeping—" with him, he almost said, but whoops, that wasn't what he meant. "In his room."

"Ah, right. You have the thing about sleeping alone."

It wasn't that he couldn't. He was just spoiled by having Makkachin there all the time, and he missed her too much when he was away and there was no-one to snuggle with. So it always took longer to fall asleep when he was by himself, and then Yakov would get mad at him for sleeping in so late before competitions but then let him nap on his shoulder later if there was time.

Anyway, there was only one Makkachin and now there was two of him, and the bed was big enough, so. Usually they both curled up to Makkachin, but sometimes she wanted to sleep at the foot of the bed, and Victor curled up against himself instead. And if they had woken up a few times with their feet tangled together and someone's head on a shoulder or an arm around a waist, well, Victor really liked cuddling, so he hadn't complained, and the older Victor hadn't said anything about it, either.

"So you're sleeping together," Chris said slowly, raising an eyebrow at the older Victor.

"Just because you would jump into bed with yourself after five minutes," the older Victor laughed. And thankfully they moved on from that, because Milla had already used up all of the jokes about screwing himself weeks ago.

They'd been planning on going out for dinner, but thanks to the stupid plane it was now getting late, and Chris looked tired, so instead they moved into the kitchen at some point, and the older Victor started to put something together. He and Chris chatted for a while, and just as Victor was getting bored and about to wander off, Chris turned back to him. "Has Victor caught you up on the last decade of skating at all?"

Victor shook his head. "Mostly he's been teaching me jumps."

"He doesn't want spoilers, so I haven't shown him any videos," the older Victor added from by the stove.

"Well, but I watched a bunch of yours," Victor said. And oh, Chris paused at that, his eyes flicking back over to Victor. There was surprise on his face, and something in Victor felt very satisfied at seeing it. "I liked them. You're going to come to the rink with us, right? I want to see you skate in person."

"Of course," Chris said, his voice gone warm. "Though I'm sure you've had your fill of excellent skating with Victor, here."

"No, that's kind of boring," Victor said, and the older Victor made a strange choking noise. "He's a lot like me, except better. You're different." Both Chris and older Victor gave him looks, and hah, he'd surprised them both.

"I shouldn't have let you watch," the older Victor lamented as he brought over their food. "Or at least warned you before you started to fall for his seductive skating." Let him, right, he had yet to try and stop Victor from doing anything, and it wasn't like he was Yakov.

"Why not?" An idea suddenly hit. Before the older Victor could answer, he turned and asked Chris, "Do you have a boyfriend who isn't him?"

"Not currently, no," Chris said. Victor expected the older Victor to answer his question, but instead he changed the subject to their plans for tomorrow.

The next day, they took Chris around the city, though it turned out that this wasn't his first time in St. Petersburg and the older Victor had already shown him most of the more famous touristy places. There was still plenty for them to do, of course. They set off early, and for a while Victor enjoyed himself, the pleasant sound of older Victor and Chris chatting, the feeling of the morning air.

But there wasn't much to say when Chris and the older Victor were talking about things he'd never experienced and people he didn't know, and of course the city itself was nothing new to him. Was this was people meant by 'feeling like a third wheel'? Huh. Because it really wasn't fun, following behind the older Victor and the older Victor's friend, reminded that he was wearing clothes the older Victor had paid for, wishing that he could at least play around on the phone that the older Victor had paid for, or that he could be skating right now (all the fees for which the older Victor had also paid for).

And then Chris turned around and asked him if much had changed since his time, and Victor found a way to turn that into a more interesting conversation, and suddenly it was the two of them trailing behind the older Victor as he tried to guide them toward something-or-other.

They wandered around during the morning, taking pictures here and there – the older Victor was very happy for Victor to take good photos for their social media. (He was still supposed to be laying relatively low for the moment, and thus none of the pictures with him went up. Maybe someday.) Victor chose where they went for lunch, a cute and tiny place with the outside covered in ivy. Then the older Victor decided that they were going to an art museum for the afternoon, a place called Erarta that Victor had never heard of (no wonder, it was so new it hadn't existed in his time), before they lingered outside in the long hours of sunshine until it was late and Victor was sleepy and content.

The older Victor woke him up coming into bed that night. "Did you enjoy yourself?" he asked, reaching over Makkachin to tug the end of Victor's braid from his face.

"You were there," Victor mumbled into Makkachin's fur.

"Yes?"

Victor's mind put together a snapshot of memories from the day: Chris smiling at a clever remark he had made, a strange piece of art from the museum that he couldn't help but stare at until Chris wandered along and started staring at it with him, their tasty and hearty lunch, the older Victor sliding a warm arm around his shoulders at a crowded crosswalk, breezes constantly blowing the shorter strands of hair in and out his eyes. "Mm. Yes."

"Good." The hand brushed the edge of his face, then retreated, and Victor fell back asleep in moments.

The day after, it was back to the rink. By now, Victor had mostly gotten used to his new set of rinkmates. Georgi was mostly the same as ever, except maybe even more dramatic than before, and possibly having better luck with girls. He didn't know exactly what to make of Milla and didn't talk to her that often, though she seemed nice enough and liked to joke with the older Victor. Yuri was annoying and rude and clearly being set up to be the successor to older Victor, except he was worse at taking advice than Victor had ever been and had little sense of artistry. Victor didn't understand why the older Victor liked him.

He did make the most wonderful faces whenever Victor would show him up, though. Even if Yakov sometimes yelled at him for it. (Bonus: Yuri usually went more serious and focused and shut up for a little while afterward. If he was like that more often, maybe Victor would someday like him, too.)

Victor let himself get distracted watching Chris skate – there was something to the way he moved here, on the ice, even when he wasn't running his hands down his body, and he had such huge jumps.

Then the older Victor finished what he was doing and came over to tug on his arm, and it was time for their mini-lesson of the day. Yakov watched them for a few minutes, but it seemed that he didn't have anything to yell at the older Victor over this time, and he left them to go help Milla. Today it wasn't jumps they were working on, but rather step sequences from the free skate he was supposed to have performed in the upcoming season. And now might or might not get to perform at all. But Victor tried not to think too hard about that.

"You need to do it more beautifully," the older Victor told him.

"Don't just say, 'do it more beautifully'. You aren't Lilia." Besides, Lilia would soon start shouting at him about his hands or arms or whatever else being out of position, leaving little doubt as to what was not beautiful.

"I always wanted to say it once," Victor said, smiling, and then started to give him actually useful advice. Or useful some of the time, at least.

When they paused to get water, Victor saw that Chris was now there, watching them. "Victor," Chris said, looking at the older Victor. "Please tell me that the two of you have tried skating together at least once."

"We did," Victor said. "But then Georgi and Milla egged us on too much and he tried to pick me up and then he dropped me," and here he couldn't resist throwing the older Victor a pout. "Yakov got really mad at him for that." Actually mad, even, because he could have hurt him, though Victor had been just fine.

"Alas. So does that mean that we won't be seeing 'Victor Squared on Ice', or...."

"Not yet, at least," the older Victor said. He caught Victor around the waist. "You'd be such a crowd draw. I mean, we'd have a lot to fix in your skating, first, but you're so pretty. Maybe the audience wouldn't notice. What do you think, Chris?" he asked, half-turning the both of them so fast that Victor had to grab him for balance.

Before Victor could ask what do you mean a lot to fix, he noticed how Chris was staring at them. "I think," Chris said slowly, "that you won't have to worry about the audience enjoying it."

The two of them were pressed pretty close together. If Chris was looking at them like that, it must have made for a nice picture. Well, he could make it nicer. Victor turned up the corners of his mouth and leaned his head into the older Victor's shoulder. The hands on his waist moved a little, but it was a long moment before they fell away. "Let's get back to practice before Yakov yells at us for slacking off," he said, leaving Victor feeling suddenly cold as he skated off and returned to practicing on his own.

"Hmph."

"Oh, well," Chris said, watching the older Victor, before he turned his gaze back to Victor. "It looks like he's gotten better at teaching. Is that right? When we were younger, he once tried to give me advice, and it was... not helpful. Very good at the doing, not so much the explaining."

"He's not bad," Victor said with a little shrug. "Not as good as Yakov. But Yakov's a very good coach." Speaking of: Yakov shifted a glare their way, so Victor tugged on Chris's arm. "Chris, teach me how to do a quad Lutz like yours," he demanded.

"Older you isn't doing well enough?"

"Yours is higher, and he's busy now anyway. Please?" He ducked his head slightly, made sure his smile wasn't turned up all the way, looked up through his eyelashes. The only people who could resist his pleading looks consistently were Yakov and Lilia, and Chris was no exception.

"I probably shouldn't be teaching my favorite rival to jump better," he said, but his face had already shifted, and he ended up working with Victor for a while.

The three of them went out for dinner together that night – at the same place that older Victor had meant to take Chris the first night – before taking the long way home and settling in to watch a movie. Makkachin wandered in and sat by Chris while the older Victor was trying to finding whatever he was trying to find. She looked so cute looking up at them, clearly curious as to what was going on, that of course Victor had to slide off the couch and go pet her.

"Let me take a picture," Chris said from above them, so Victor threw his arms around Makkachin and smiled, then yelped when she wriggled out of his grip to go lay down somewhere else. Chris laughed at his dismay, but he also said, "Very cute."

Victor scrambled up beside him to see the photo (which was adorable, and Chris promised to send it to him), and then the older Victor finally managed to get the movie going and sat next to him. It turned out to be some kind of strange art film; Victor didn't quite understand most of it, but the main characters were all ballet dancers, which must have been why older Victor chose it. And they'd found actors who could actually dance, too.

...oh, right, they had ballet practice scheduled for tomorrow. With someone who was not Lilia. That had been one of the biggest shocks the future had to present: that somewhere in the last few years, Lilia and Yakov had gotten divorced and she'd gone to Moscow to teach. Victor still didn't know why; when he'd asked, the older Victor had looked sad and a little tired and said that it was complicated. And Victor wasn't stupid enough to go asking Yakov, so a mystery it remained.

It just didn't make sense to him. They had fought sometimes, but not over anything really serious, and they had never been lovey-dovey, but that didn't mean that they never showed affection for each other.

Anyway, their new ballet instructor was... she was fine. It was just a change.

As pretty as the dancers in the film were, he was half-asleep when it ended, his head on the older Victor's shoulder as he tried to blink himself awake through the long ending sequence with its soft music. He did fall asleep when it was finished; the room was dark and the older Victor didn't shove him off as he talked with Chris over Victor's head.

"Wake up, sleeping beauty," he heard some time later.

It only took him a few seconds to wake up; the light was still dim, but he could tell that Chris was gone, and so was Makkachin. "Not sleeping beauty without a kiss," he said, yawning. He started to hum The Lilac Fairy, still familiar after he'd used it for his short program in his last year of Juniors.

"Okay," the older Victor said with a little laugh, and then there was a quick touch to his shoulder, a kiss pressed to the part of his hair. "Awake?"

Victor made a big show of stretching as he sat up properly, shook his head, then bounced off the couch. "Thank you, prince Victor," he laughed, doing a half spin. Then he danced away, still humming, to get ready for bed for real.