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darling, stay by my side

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Many believe that there is something that decides about them and their life. Their will is nothing: everything is planned and will happen, no matter what we’ll change. Some people call it God - others will say it’s fate or destiny. It’s quite a funny thing. There can be many options, but the result is always the same, always leads one way and one only.

Yuuri thinks that this is bullshit.

He had to work hard almost his whole life. Ice is unforgiving and demanding and if you can’t handle it, you have no chance to succeed. His career, no matter how small or disappointing, is full of blood, tears and bruises. Nothing was given to him - maybe only an easy access to a skating rink - and he had to climb where he is now alone, without help or something as stupid as fate. He chose his path, dedicating his whole life to ice.

Maybe he is destined to be an average, time-a-dozen skater, but he climbed there with purple feet and broken nails. He likes to imagine that he has chosen this, fully knowing consequences. Nothing higher to punish him or make him a winner - only his skill.

After his not so bad short program at GPF in Sochi, he has hope. Sure, his hands shake with anxiety, but he always was better at scoring more with his free program, where he could focus more on dancing and music, not worrying about scores and jumps. Fourth place isn’t so bad - yeah, he always could place sixth if he completely screwed up (nope, not thinking about that, turn around Yuuri), but he is determined. He won’t fail. It’s his first Grand Prix Final, and sure, with Worlds and even Olympics it’s not so important, but. Yeah, he has to prove himself.

With his slightly shaking hands, he’s holding a phone - his sister’s face, caught between smile and frown, is there.

“You know I’m shit at comforting you, but you can do it, Yuuri,” she says, and maybe Yuuri would loudly disagree, if not for her eyes. “I think you had sacrificed more than anyone for this godforsaken sport and you deserve to place. Just let your body do what it’s doing best.”

Yuuri doesn’t see it that way. Maybe he deserves to place, maybe not. Maybe he isn’t destined to stand next to Victor on a podium, perhaps he is stupid for trying so stubbornly to stick with the ice, no matter how many times universe tries to tell him that it’s not his thing.

Yeah, so much for inspiring speeches and pep talk inside his mind. Yuuri’s anxiety always knows better.

But then there is small yapping coming from Mari’s end and a small, curly head sticks itself to the phone. Dark, warm eyes look at him and Vicchan stars barking, excited and then begins to lick Mari’s phone vigorously.

“Vicchan! No! Stop!” she says, but she’s laughing, holding the dog’s small body. Vichan is almost shaking, visibly happy.

“Hey, boy,” says Yuuri, and his voice cracks only a little. His dog is so happy, and he only sees Yuuri on a small screen. It brings tears to his eyes. “How are you?”

Vicchan barks at the sound of his voice, his tail wiggling energetically. He’s poking his nose into the phone and Mari sighs somewhere in the distance, clearly resigned.

“He misses you,” she says, slightly louder, to be heard amongst happy barks and yips.

“I miss him too,” Yuuri says and Vicchan barks. In his excitement is only love and longing and Yuuri wants to cry.

“You should come,” Mari says, hugging Vicchan and holding the phone so Yuuri can see them both. “I know that you have your reasons, but… Do it for him.”

“I’ll think about it,” he says, sincerely for the first time in a long time. He misses his family, his precious dog, his friends - there aren’t many, but he would love to see Yuuko. He’ll graduate soon. He should visit his family.

But only if he doesn’t do terribly the next day.

Mari is distracted, looking at Yuuri and Vicchan again licks the screen. She groans.

“Ugh, Vicchan, it’s gross,” she says - but she’s still hugging and petting him

They talk a few more more minutes, but it’s a small talk - Mari gives him the newest gossips from Hasetsu, Yuuri talks about how ridiculous Americans are. His Japanese is a little stiff, because for almost five years he used it only to talk with his family, but with every minute he grows more comfortable, like you can do only with your first language. Mari pokes fun at his accent and his mom even showes up for a second between serving the guests, smiling wide and waving. Yuuri feels warm and doesn’t even think about tomorrow. His dog’s barks are soothing him and Mari’s jabs and dry humor are comforting with their normality. He only wishes he could hug Vicchan and sleep with his warm body, like he did many times when he was younger and anxiety overwhelmed him.

When Yuuri goes to sleep, he feels a little nervous - but it’s nothing compared to shaking and feeling like your insides are frozen and overcooked at the same time, to the feeling of so overwhelming panic that you can only think about your breath. If he sheds some tears because he misses his dog, nobody has to know.

The next day, the first thing that awaits him in the morning is the picture of Mari and Vicchan, with dog’s nose ridiculously pressed to the phone.


Yuuri feels bitter.

His free skate was better than he could anticipate. Who’d guess that sleeping in the night and only feeling good things while skating because of your dog and family could be better than anxiety and insomnia filled skate. His bronze medal weighs heavy in his hand and he’s one of the three people who bring the most attention. He feels overwhelmed, a small smile on his face, like he can’t exactly believe what is happening.

Third place is good - more than he could imagine in the times of despair and self-loathing. Victor is standing next to him, to the left, so, so high. He’s smiling slightly and it’s a fake, empty smile. Yuuri is his fan long enough to know the difference. He feels bitter. Victor isn’t satisfied and yet he’s 34 points above Chris, it’s ridiculous. He probably doesn’t even look twice at the person on the third place. Yuuri is not even a point higher than JJ. JJ most likely hates him.

It doesn’t taste good. Yuuri could do better.

 

 

It isn’t like he never won any medal. He has his fair share of bronzes, silvers and even a few golds from Nationals and some of his Grand Prix assignments. But he feels a little overwhelmed, like he always does after he places and self doubt is slowly creeping in. The toilets are a blessing in disguise - it’s quiet, calm, nobody is talking, interviewing him or asking how he feels about so minimal difference between him and JJ. He feels bitter and disappointed, but of course he can’t say that.

He’s talking with his family and they’re loud, happily congratulating him. He hears triplets and Yuuko’s screams and Mari is saying something, but he can’t figure out what. Vicchan is barking, because apparently he loves chaos. When he ends the call, he let himself breathe and rests his head on his hands. After a minute he stands and opens the door of the cabin, only to see Yuri Plisetsky, Junior Grand Prix Final gold medalist in person.

Plisetsky is scowling and raises his finger in the air.

“What are you doing?” he asks sharply and Yuuri blinks.

“What?” Yuuri asks, dumbfounded.

“I said: what the hell are you doing?” Plisetsky repeats, coming closer, like he is trying to scare him. “You have bronze. Why are you sitting alone in the toilet like a complete loser?”

Wow, rude. Is every teenager like that?

“I don’t understand how is that any of your business,” says Yuuri, because apparently bewilderment is making him blunt.

Plisetsky bristles.

“You should be embarrassed! You almost lost to this fucker!” he cries, poking his finger into Yuuri’s chest. “Also, why the fuck aren’t you laughing in his face? I would do it.”

Yuuri blinks.

“I’m not an asshole?” he says and then understand what that implies. “I mean! It wasn’t even a one point.”

“Exactly!” Yuri throws his hands in the air. “What the fuck,” he says and then storms out, because apparently he’s too angry to stay there.

Yuuri only looks at the violently swinging doors and wonders what the hell just happened.

 

 

“You should come,” says Celestino, probably for the fifteenth time. They’re walking slowly in the hall and somehow nobody disturbs them. Maybe it’s Celestino’s eyebrows.

“It’ll end with me standing alone in the corner with too many champagne,” Yuuri says, shaking his head.

“You’re the bronze medalist, you must be there,” Celestino says, firm. “Also, there’ll be some sponsors who probably would like to talk to you. You know every sponsor is important.”

Before Yuuri could respond to him, he hears loud “Yuri!” and he automatically turns, before his mind register the voice.

It’s Victor, but he’s not talking to him - of course he isn’t. Yuuri tries to swallow the bitter taste, but he always was a petty human. Victor is turned to Plisetsky, talking to him in Russian and Yuri is rolling his eyes. Then he spots Yuuri, looking at them and something akin to blush shows on his face before he turns his head.

Victor looks behind himself, curious and then he sees Yuuri. He smiles.

“Yuuri, right?” he says and Yuuri tells himself to calm down. He is the bronze medalist. It would be fucking rude if Victor didn’t know his name and Victor is anything but not rude.

“Congratulations.”

“Thanks. You too,” says Yuuri, because he is the type of person who tells the waiter “you too” to theirs “enjoy your meal”.

Victor smiles slightly and they’re looking at each other for a moment. Victor looks like he doesn’t know what else they could say and Yuuri, because of his past teenaged obsessed self, is waiting for something - maybe for more talk, maybe for Victor to confess his love and his desire to marry Yuuri.

Yakov says something to Victor and he turns his head, then nods. He looks at Yuuri.

“See you around?”

“Yeah,” Yuuri responds and he doesn’t know what to feel - some part of him is excited, because Victor! was! talking! to! him! But other is so deeply tired, so cold and detached, that he can only watch Victor leave.

“Yuuri?” Celestino says and Yuuri blinks. He forgot he was here.

“Yes?”

“Is everything okay?” Celestino asks and Yuuri sighs.

“Sure. It was a long day.”

Celestino smiles and places a warm hand on his shoulder.

“But how amazing. And it’s only a beginning of the season. You’ll see what you’ll accomplish,” Celestino tries to cheer him up, because Yuuri is the bronze medalist and he should be so happy, but he’s only tired. Your brain can be a funny, treacherous thing.

“Sure,” Yuuri tries to smile and maybe it’s weak, but not fake. Yuuri can do better, he can be better and impress people. He just has to work harder.

 

 

Celestino, like coaches often are, is right. Yuuri visits Hasetsu when they come to the Japan for the Nationals and hugs Vicchan for almost twenty minutes straight. His mom is bright and full of comfort, his dad is constantly hugging him and messing his hair, and Mari just stands there and smiles, but Yuuri feels warm and relaxed. He visits Yuuko and her triplets and is shocked to see how much they like him as a skater. Yuuko side eyes him. “They have a good taste,” she says and Yuuri wants to laugh, but. If six years olds think of him as their idol, who is he to tell them how terrible he is.

He places first and in the background is the sea of Japan flags. He slowly, surely grows into his program, making it his, feeling whole. Maybe his feet are purple, but his smile is wide and honest and this medal feels good, like it’s his and he fully deserves it.

Minami Kenjirou, the silver medalist, is looking up at him only with stars in his eyes.

 

 

At the Four Continents, he has a silver medal on his neck and has to look up to see Otabek Altin. The Kazakh, normally so serious, has a smile on his face and Yuuri can’t even be jealous. Otabek deserves it - his program was beautiful and his jumps are so much better than Yuuri’s. He smiles at him.

“Congratulations,” he says to the sound of cameras and screams, and Otabek looks at him with a serious face.

“You too,” Otabek says, and he looks at Yuuri as if he considers him his rival, like Yuuri can be a difficult opponent.

“Don’t forget me,” whines JJ next to them. He’s four points below Yuuri and Yuuri can now stand straight and be prideful of his medal. “I will beat you, Katsuki. Just you wait.”

“I will,” says Yuuri and reporters are really happy.

 

 

After the first day of the Worlds, Celestino visits him in his room, where Yuuri just lays and blankly stares at the white ceiling.

“I have to talk to you,” he says seriously and Yuuri feels nervous. He knows he messed up - like always, he didn’t sleep almost whole night and focused too much on the jumps, only making them worse. And in the short program jumps are really important. He’s lucky he’s fifth, not so low that he can’t even skate the next day.

“Yuuri, calm down, it’s nothing bad,” says Celestino and Yuuri tries to breathe.

Celestino sits on Yuuri’s bed and places a comforting hand on his shoulder.

“We must talk about something important,” he says and Yuuri laughs shortly.

“That doesn’t sound bad at all,” Yuuri says and Celestino rolls his eyes.

“Alright, smartass,” he smiles. But then he straightens and looks Yuuri in the eyes. “Yakov Feltsman talked with me, because he couldn’t find you.”

Yuuri’s first thought is “oh shit”, like always when somebody wants something from him. But then he register Celestino’s words and his second thought is “oh shit, is this about that weird situation with Plisetsky”. What could Feltsman possibly want from him? Maybe Plisetsky told him all about this shitty skater and Feltsman will report him, because Plisetsky had told him that Yuuri attacked him, and Yuuri will have problems, and…

“He wants to coach you.”

What.

“What.”

Celestino sighs.

“He wanted to talk to you about it, present his proposition. I told him that you and I will discuss it.”

“Wait,” says Yuuri. “I’m still processing the whole “he wants to coach you”. I have a coach.”

Celestino rubs his nose.

“It’s an amazing offer Yuuri, you must consider it. In April you will graduate and nothing will keep you in Detroit.”

Yuuri lays on the bed, because it’s too much.

“He’s one of the most successful coaches,” Celestino continues, apparently not seeing Yuuri’s existential crisis. “He coaches Victor Nikiforov - I mean, do I have to add anything else.”

Yuuri makes a weird sound, because his thoughts are fast and-- Yakov. Coaching him. Russia. Victor. Victor. Training on the same ice as Victor . Oh my god.

“He’s Yuri Plisetsky’s coach, the two-time consecutive Junior World Champion and two-time consecutive Junior Grand Prix Final Champion. And Mila Babicheva, do I have to introduce her with her three ladies’ world records?”

“I’m not sure if you still want to be my coach, with how you are advertising him,” says Yuuri weakly from his spot on the bed.

“Don’t be silly, Yuuri,” scoffs Celestino. “I only want what’s best for you and if you have to choose between me and him, go to Russia. He is a coach on a completely different level.”

Yuuri wants to throw up.

“Why he wants to coach me at all?”

“Yuuri. You won bronze at the GPF, gold at Nationals and silver at Four Continents in this season. You will skate your full program tomorrow and it really is a big deal. He probably sees in you what other coaches see when they try to take you away from me. And I noticed that he looked at you ever since your NHK Trophy’s gold. He observed you all the time in Sochi.”

Yuuri opens one eye and looks at Celestino.

“You aren’t serious.”

“I am,” Celestino nods and small smile shows on his face. “I know you, Yuuri. I can’t say that I know how your mind works, but I have an idea. And I want to tell you - do it. You deserve Yakov as a coach. He’ll make you unstoppable, will bring out what’s best in you. It’ll be tough but you like working hard, so I don’t see why you can’t just pack and fly to Russia after you graduate.”

“It’ll be too expensive,” Yuuri says, because he wants, he wants it so much. Yakov is such an amazing coach, his students can do a couple of quads thanks only to his regime. And Yuuri feels like he’s betraying Celestino - Ciao Ciao was so good to him and tolerated his anxiety and weirdness. But he could skate with Victor. Yuuri can even bear Plisetsky’s screams and curses. It sounds so amazing.

But, at the same time, Yuuri isn’t sure he’s ready to leave for another foreign country. He misses Japan and his family and his visit three months ago painfully reminded him that. Russia is so different from America and Japan and is he ready to live alone in this cold country? What if Victor hates him and Yuuri will have to train with a coach whose pupils can’t bear him and it’ll be miserable for everyone. Then Yuuri will have to retire and probably return to Hasetsu and run Yu-topia with his sister and as much as he loves his family, he can’t do that.

“That’s why you have to talk to him,” says Celestino and Yuuri thinks what , because why does he need to talk to someone about how he doesn’t want to run an onsen, but then, yeah, he remembers what they were talking about. “You were on a scholarship, so you aren’t in a terrible debt for college and you know that between us everything is settled. With your new sponsors I think you could somehow handle it at the beginning, but then you would have to place in the next season.”

As a child who always felt like a burden for his family, Yuuri hates money talk.

Celestino looks at him sympathetically and pats him on the thigh and then stands.

“Think about it, but not too much. You should be rested tomorrow.” He grimaces. “I know I probably should tell you that later, but I didn’t want to keep it away from you.”

“I understand,” says Yuuri, because his head is a mess, his emotions are a mess and his thoughts are a mess. He doesn’t know if he’ll even sleep tonight.

“Goodnight, Yuuri,” Celestino says, at this point knowing that any pep talk will probably do more damage than good.

“Goodnight.”

(Later, he facetimes Phichit - his friend’s face is worried, but still a little happy to see him.

“Yuuri!” he cries. “I know you have this weird insomnia thing, but for the love of god, get some sleep. Or at least turn the phone down. I know it’s after midnight there.”

“Holy shit, Phichit,” says Yuuri. “Yakov Feltsman wants to coach me.”

“Holy shit,” Phichit agrees, wide eyed.)

 

 

 

It’s not really surprising that Yuuri places eighth in the end. He hadn’t slept for two nights straight and there’s only so much your body can handle, even as durable as Yuuri’s. His jumps and landings are wobbly and when he falls, he needs a few seconds to get rid of black spots behind his eyes.

He sits in the Kiss and Cry and when his scores are displayed, he just nods and clenches his teeth. He’s fourth, but there are some people after him, so he probably will end low. He hates losing so much. Celestino doesn’t touch him, knowing that this isn’t what he needs. When they are going away to watch other skaters, Yuuri feels that someone stares at his back. He turns around and sees Yakov and Victor looking at him. He feels a bitter taste in his mouth. How embarrassing, that when Victor finally notices him, he truly doesn’t deserve this. Victor waves to him and Yuuri nods, uneasiness making him fidgety. He always loved and worshipped Victor, but he likes to think that he isn’t an obsessed fan. He’s a fan long enough to at least think that he knows him and maybe it’s a foolish thought, but. Yuuri’s a skater too - you can’t really worship someone when you know exactly how much that sport takes, when you feel like you understand them.

But he still hears his heart beating loudly in his ears and immediately starts sweating when Victor goes his way. Of course he’s skating last - he’s first after short program, so he has time.

“Hey,” says Victor, a brilliant smile on his face.

“Hello,” says Yuuri and thank gods that his voice doesn’t crack.

“It’s a shame how your free program ended,” says Victor, because apparently every Russian is blunt. Yuuri blinks. “I saw you skate it at Nationals - you could do much better today.”

Yuuri tries to register a few things at once. First: Victor saw his program? Victor saw his program even when he didn’t compete there? Second: should he thank him for saying that he can do better or be angry? How do people interact?

“It isn’t a good day,” Yuuri says, not trying to excuse himself - he just states a fact. He’s at least self-aware like that. He can feel tiredness in his bones, deep ache trying to lull him into a sleep even there and now.

Victor nods and Yuuri wonders if their every interaction will be awkward. Damn his social skills. Victor probably wants the person he talks with to be at least a little interesting. Maybe Yuuri should tell him how his childhood bedroom is literally a Victor’s shrine to break the ice.

“Did you hear Yakov’s proposition?” Victor asks and his eyes are calm, a little cold. Yuuri tries not to feel wounded - he’s just an odd, average skater to Victor, he doesn’t know him. It’s not like other way around, where Yuuri knows Victor’s every program, even these from his rebellious phase.

“Yes. I’m thinking about it.”

“You should accept,” says Victor honestly and Yuuri dies a little inside. “You would be a good addition to our team. Maybe you could teach us something too.” He smiles.

“Me?” Yuuri squeaks. “I’ll probably place eighth, maybe ninth. What could I possibly teach world champions? I can only land one quad.” Yuuri apparently loves to embarrass himself in front of his idol.

“Believe it or not, jumps are not everything,” says Victor, like he can’t land five quads with ease. He opens his mouth to add something, but a small personification of rage stomps to them and stops in front of Yuuri, clenching his fists.

“You!” he says, pointing to Yuuri, and Yuuri is experiencing deja-vu. “I heard that you will train with us. Don’t thinks that you deserve it, you loser. Your free program today was pathetic! Yakov is an idiot.” As fast as he showed up, he stomps away to Yakov. He starts angrily talking with him and his cheeks are red from rage.

Yuuri can only look blankly at Victor.

“Don’t worry about Yura,” says Victor and small smirk plays on his lips. “That’s how he shows affection.”

“It’s not the first time,” Yuuri can only say.

Victor shrugs.

“Believe it or not, he really admires you. I think that he’s just embarrassed and thinks you deserved better. I agree with him.”

Oh wow.

Yuuri laughs nervously, at the lack of words.

“Vitya!” Suddenly Yakov says loudly, causing them to turn around. Yuri is standing near him, but he’s not looking at Yuuri. “Enough with the chit chat. Go stretch.”

“Yes, coach,” says Victor and then turns to Yuuri. He smiles and it’s a small thing, but so different from his blindingly white winning smiles. It almost feels like he likes Yuuri. “I hope that we’ll see each other soon. I really would like to train with you. Wish me luck.”

“Yeah,” says Yuuri, because how can you respond when your idol says that he would like to train with you. “Not like you need any.”

Victor looks at him for a few seconds, seemingly searching for something and then he sighs. “I guess not.” He sounds defeated, like all life force suddenly left him. He doesn’t look like a champion who most likely will win again.

Victor waves a little and then goes away and Yuuri again can only watch him go. He lost, placed so low, but he doesn’t feel like a shit. Yeah, he has a little mantra in his head telling him how awful he is, but a bigger part is determined to show Victor his highest potential. Victor saw something in him - and Yuuri would like to disagree, because he’s just a time-a-dozen skater, but well, Victor saw him, saw his failure and still wanted to train with him. And he didn’t sound like he was lying.

“Yuuri Katsuki.” Says voice behind him and he turns, looking at Yakov Feltsman in person. “I’ve been meaning to talk to you.”

“Coach.” He nods and licks his lips nervously. “Celestino told me that you talked with him.”

“Then you know what I want,” Yakov says, rising an eyebrow. “It’s a simple question.”

“I’m just not sure why me, though,” Yuuri says and his mind screams “what the fuck, just accept his proposition!”, but, well.

Yakov tsks.

“Katsuki, don’t play coy. You have a potential and as much as I respect Cialdini, he can’t form you. He doesn’t give you the best choreography and you aren’t developing with him,” he says roughly. “I can do that. I can make your name big. I think I know how to create a program which will show your skills and potential. You just have to say yes.”

Yuuri swallows, because, wow, so much praise in one day, his brain can only handle so much.

“I’m pretty much sold,” says Yuuri honestly and Yakov frowns for a second, trying to understand the expression. “There’s just a matter of coach fees.”

Yakov nods.

“I’m not expensive,” he says and when Yuuri looks at him surprised, he rolls his eyes. “I just have high standards. We can discuss it later, but when you win gold in an international competition next year, it’ll be cheaper. I have this rule.”

“Then I say yes,” says Yuuri and it feels so official, like he’s starting a new chapter of his life at this moment, in Helsinki  Yakov smiles thinly.

“I’m glad. I have high hopes for you.”

Sure, no pressure.

 

 

The next few months are a blur of exams, graduation, training and preparing everything connected to living in Russia and flying there. Money are tight, especially when he didn’t place in Worlds, but hey, Yuuri is excellent at working the weirdest jobs and meeting the ends. He regularly calls his family and he can’t afford meeting them again, but they understand. His parents are overjoyed to hear that he will have a new, excellent coach, but as always, they really don’t know what anything in figure skating means. At least the time difference between Japan and St. Petersburg are smaller than almost a whole day between Detroit and his family.

Mari, of course, immediately understands what training with Yakov means and smiles slyly the whole video talk and Yuuri, of course, blushes the whole time.

“I must say, bro, you’re really living the dream. At least tell me when you’ll bring him to meet parents, so I can show him all of your posters.”

“Shut up,” Yuuri scowls, an angry blush on his face. “It isn’t like that. I talked with him a little. He’s nice, but that’s it.”

“You’ll be spending hours with him,” she says, a smirk on her face. “All this alone, full of sweat training…”

Yuuri screams and throws the phone on the bed, and Mari’s laugh is an loud, obnoxious thing. He hates her so much.

Phichit, of course, is no better.

“I think you should take it,” he says seriously some day, when Yuuri pretends that he’s packing, when in reality he’s stalking social media. Ah, procrastinating.

“Hmm?” Yuuri says, not even looking up from his phone. Oh my god, he loves videos of hedgehogs.

“You know, this poster.” Phichit says, pointing to Yuuri’s favourite poster, which came with him all the way from Hasetsu. Yuuri looks at Phichit and his friends is smiling. “I mean, I know that you’ll have a real thing to stare at whole day - and I remind you that I demand many sweet, embarrassing photos of him - but, you know. When you’ll miss his face after fourteen hours of training.”

“I hate you,” Yuuri says and he proudly holds his chin high. “This’s limited version. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

“I know.” Phichit sighs dreamily. “Look at his hair and eyes and Phichit, do you see how his vest matches his--”

“I still can kick you out of bed,” Yuuri says seriously and Phichit yelps when he falls down after a powerful kick.

“Cruel! Just cruel! I hope you won’t treat your future husband this way!”

“Phichit!”

 

 

He won’t hide it, he cries a little (a lot) when he’s saying goodbyes to Phichit and Celestino and a few of people who trained with him and were his ice skating friends  - Mark often helped him with jumps and Kate was always joking around, making Yuuri laugh until his belly hurt. He’ll miss them. Phichit hugs him almost five minutes straight at the airport.

“You must text me at least once a day!” he says and tears up a little. “And remember, embarrassing photos of Nikiforov!”

“I’ll remember,” says Yuuri and smiles watery. Celestino is watching them with a sad smile and when Phichit steps away, he hugs Yuuri.

“It was amazing working with you, Yuuri,” he says. “We’ll all miss you. I hope that you’ll be happy in Russia.”

“Thanks, Ciao Ciao.”

“Although,” Celestino steps away and rises an eyebrow, “don’t think that you’ll be unstoppable. Let me tell you, Phichit will make a strong rival.”

“I don’t doubt it.” Yuuri smiles wide at Phichit and wipes away tears.

 

 

Russia is everything and yet nothing he ever thought it’d be. In his most obsessive years, rest in peace fifteen year old Yuuri, he was really interested in Russian language and culture. Of course, like all of teenage fixations, his interest passed away really quick, but he still remembers a bit of Cyrillic. But it’s still a new country, a new culture, new people. Yuuri is a mix between polite, reserved Japanese culture and loud, obnoxious American behaviour and he doesn’t know how he’ll fit here.

Yakov picks him up at the airport and at first it’s awkward, but then Yuuri gets that Yakov is just a serious, no small-talk person and he relaxes. He can work with that.

“I don’t know if you’d looked for a flat,” starts Yakov when they’re driving through crowded city. At least this is a comforting sight - no matter what country, big cities will always be big cities.

“I looked some up, but I don’t really have a place right now,” Yuuri says honestly and nobody has to know that thoughts of this made his anxiety a happy mess. What if he’ll have to live at the streets - sure, right now isn’t cold and summer is slowly coming, but. He doesn’t even know Russian to fight with other homeless people for a place to sleep. He’ll be this loser Japanese homeless man who can streetdance to have money for food, but can’t communicate with you, because he’s too stupid to learn a language which could help him.

“Yura hasa room where you can live for now,” Yakov says. “His apartment is small, but he’s a boy living alone who can’t even cook, he doesn’t need a big house. And it’s close to the rink.”

“I’ll have to live with Yuri?” Yuuri says dumbfounded, because. You know, it’s better than fighting with Russian homeless people while not knowing Russian language, but seriously, Yuri? Yuuri’s only encounters with him ended with screaming and almost violence.

Yakov looks at him for a second and then again looks at the road, but he grimaces.

“Yes. It’s only temporary. I thought that you didn’t really know what to search for.”

“Thank you,” Yuuri says honestly. “I’m sorry if I’d caused any inconvenience.”

“Just don’t get used to it. The day after tomorrow I expect you at the rink at 6 a.m and I hope that whatever you’ll show me, will be better than your Worlds’ performance.”

“Yes, coach,” says Yuuri, slightly embarrassed.

“Good,” Yakov says gruffly and then it’s quiet for the rest of the drive.

 

 

Yuri, surprisingly, isn’t shouting when he opens the door. He just scoffs, leaves the door open and returns to the flat, leaving Yuuri alone with his two suitcases and one big, heavy shoulder bag. Yuuri shrugs and goes inside, panting a little from exercise. Yuri’s flat is high, on the fifth floor. Yuuri supposes that even a champion like Plisetsky must save money and nothing saves money like having a flat very high without an elevator. Well, if anything, it can be a good way to exercise.

When he finally gets inside, huffing and sweating, he notices how normal the flat is. It’s a little messy, like you can expect from a teenager, but nothing tragic. Kitchen is small and doesn’t look like it’s used often and in the living room there’s a worn out couch and small TV with a console. Yuri’s half-sitting, half-laying on the couch and he looks at Yuuri.

“The room on the right is yours,” he says and slurps on his drink. “I hope you don’t expect anything fancy.”

“I’m just glad I have a place to sleep,” Yuuri says honestly. He doesn’t know how long he’ll have to live there and he doesn’t want Yuri to hate him.

Plisetsky scoffs.

“Just don’t trash the place and I’ll pretend that you don’t exist.” He looks at the TV, visibly ending the talk and Yuuri shrugs. He’s exhausted and just wants to lay and sleep for fifteen hours. Time difference is messing with his head.

Yuuri goes into his temporary room and it’s nothing special, but it’s clean and nice. He lays down his bag and suitcases and starts undressing. He knows that it’s gross, but a shower can wait. He must sleep.

Even with his anxieties and doubts, he’s asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow.

 

When Yuuri wakes up, he’s feeling like he’s hungover. He’s dying from hunger and thirst and his limbs feel heavy. He gets up and groans, stretching out. He puts on his old jeans and a shirt and leaves the room feeling a little ill. His sleepy haze is slowly disappearing and a few things finally register in his mind. He’s now truly living with Yuri Plisetsky, an angry boy whom he doesn’t know. He’s a little scared.

Yuri is still sitting on the couch, now eating cereal, with one hand handling remote and constantly changing channels. He notices Yuuri and doesn’t even say anything.

Yuuri gulps and stands awkwardly for a minute, before his hunger wins. He supposes that he lives here, so he can go to the kitchen.

“There’s no dinner,” says Yuri from the couch and Yuuri looks at him. “Make some sandwich or something if you’re hungry, I don’t care.”

Yuuri nods and opens the fridge. It’s a sad sight - there’s only milk, some mustard, one egg and one slice of cheese. Yuuri shrugs and gets the milk and finds some cereals. It’s still food.

He looks around with a bowl in his hands (which he’d searched for a while, but it doesn’t matter) and only place to sit on there is the couch. Yuri apparently doesn’t think that a table is an important thing. He carefully sits on the couch, as far as he can from Yuri and eats his cereal fasts.

It’s awkward and quiet, except for some news, but of course Yuuri doesn’t understand much. If living together will look like that all the time, Yuuri supposes that he’ll have to look for a new flat really soon.

“Can you cook?” asks Yuri suddenly and Yuuri looks at him. He doesn’t turn from TV, but he isn’t scowling either, so it’s really good. Maybe he won’t scream at Yuuri tonight.

“Yeah,” says Yuuri, because he’s a son of an inn owners and was a student far away from home for five years. Of course he can cook.

“So you’ll cook,” says Yuri firmly. “I can do the… You know, I’ll clean the dishes or something. I don’t care. You cook.”

“Okay,” says Yuuri and smiles softly into his spoon. It’s not much, but it’s something.

So his first week in Russia looks like this. He’s still fighting the jet lag, but Yakov doesn’t care and Yuuri is so worn-out after every training that he can only go to Yuri’s flat and cook something, half sleeping the whole time.

But Yakov is good - he’s strict, demanding and maybe a little cold, but Yuuri doesn’t feel like he’s disappointing him. Mila Babicheva walks to him once and whispers conspiratorially, “I think Yakov likes you the best. He didn’t scream at you even once.”

“I’m here only for three days,” responds Yuuri, also whispering and Mila shrugs.

“He screamed at me after fifteen minutes when he began to coach me. I think that Yura learned that from him.”

“Huh,” Yuuri only says and Mila smiles brightly.

“It’s good to have you here,” she says and Yuuri, as always, is a little overwhelmed from all of this attention.

One of the most surprising things: most of the Russians like him or at least it seems that way. Mila is funny and cheeky and she really reminds him of his sister, so he likes her immediately. She often talks with him and asks about some things and also shares some tips, but it doesn’t feel like she’s making fun of him.

Georgi Popovich is… Well, he’s definitely an emotional mess and is really talking too much about his girlfriend, but he’s nice too. Yuuri didn’t talk to him a lot, because Georgi is worse than Yuri or even Yakov at English and he obviously doesn’t know any Japanese. Yuuri thought about some lessons in Russian many times, but he doesn’t really have time for anything except skating these days. He’s new so he has to show what he’s worth and Yakov must understand him as a skater so he can train him the best.

And there’s also Victor. He’s a little closed off, not really talking with anyone. He isn’t rude - he always smiles and greets Yuuri and when they’re standing next to each other, he talks with him a little.

“He’s just like this.” Mila shrugs and looks at Victor, when she and Yuuri have a little break. “He’s great with publicity, but he isn’t… what’s this word… You know, he doesn’t have many friends and doesn’t make any new…”

“Social butterfly?” Yuuri suggest, because English language is a bitch and she snaps fingers in his direction.

“Exactly! His fans and everyone see him as this playboy, a social butterfly, but he’s just like everyone else, a little closed off.”

“Huh,” says Yuuri. He is a fan - or maybe was. He really doesn’t know. He doesn’t blush when Victor is near and can talk to him like he does with Mila, so he guesses his hero worship passed, but he still catches himself looking at Victor enchanted when he trains. He guesses that his admiration for Victor’s skating will never really pass. It’s a too big part of his life and skating. But he and Victor are now rinkmates and you can’t really treat someone as a god when you see them sweating and panting and groaning like every one of them.

Victor’s skating is also a little off, he can’t help but notice. It’s somehow emotionless, like Victor is only doing what his body remembers, but not feeling this. Yuuri doesn’t want to worry and be nosy, but it’s really sad, to see a person he loves so much as a skater, skate without love.

Yuri Plisetsky, surprisingly, shouts at him only once within two weeks and it’s really Yuuri’s fault, because Yuri slipped on his scattered sock.

They have a system while living together and it works. Yuri stops looking at him like he’s a shit he stepped in and Yuuri stops being scared of angering Yuri. It seems like anger and Yuri are an inseparable duo and it doesn’t matter what Yuuri’ll do, he’ll be angry, so Yuuri likes to tease him sometimes.

He even saw Yuri smile once, so who’s the winner here.

 

 

Yakov asks him once to stay after the practice and when there’s only Victor on the ice, he sits and looks at Yuuri.

“You’re a dancer, right?”

“Yes.”

“Who taught you?”

“Minako Okukawa, sir,” says Yuuri, a little confused, because, well. Yakov should know that. “Then I minored in dance.”

“Minored?”

“It was like my second important subject in college,” explains Yuuri and Yakov nods.

“I met Minako a few times,” he says and Yuuri looks at him shocked. “She’s really good. I have a proposition - I have someone who can create your free program. She’s a prima-ballerina. Do you want to meet her?”

“I-- Of course. It’d be amazing.”

Yakov nods again, sharply.

“I don’t think you will say this again after you meet her, but it’s too late. She’ll come tomorrow.”

Oh god.

Lilia Baranovskaya is one really scary lady. She inspects Yuuri and it feels like she’s examining him and he’s failing. Then she sharply commands a few ballet poses and Yuuri does them without thinking, because you can’t really have Minako as your teacher and don’t automatically do whatever a sharp voice commands. After fifteen minutes and burning muscles, Lilia nods and then looks at Yakov.

“I can train him. He isn’t terrible.”

It doesn’t really feel comforting, but well. Beggars can’t be choosers.

“Yura on the other hand…”

Yuuri frowns and looks at the teenager on the rink, who’s looking at them, trying to be discreet. He doesn’t really succeed.

Yakov sighs.

“But you can do it?”

Lilia snorts.

“Please,” she says and Yuuri thinks that’s she a person he could have as a role mode. She looks at Yuuri and he immediately feels smaller.

“You live with Yura, correct?”

“Y-yes…”

“Good,” she nods. “I thought about moving him to my house, but it’ll do. You can affect each other in a good way.”

Yuuri gulps and nods and she looks satisfied.

“We’ll see each other tomorrow,” she says, clearly dismissing him and he looks at Yakov, who nods. Yuuri shrugs and goes to sit on a bench and put his skates on. When he’s lacing them, he hears a sharp sound of someone stopping on the ice in front of him and he looks up to see Yuri, who’s, no surprise there, scowling.

“What did she say?” he asks and rests his hands on the barrier. Yuuri straightens and licks his lips.

“She’ll coach us,” he says and Yuri nods, but is still looking at Yuuri like he expects something else.

“Well? What did she say about you?” he asks, visibly curious and Yuuri shrugs and finally finishes putting his skates on.

“Well, she said I’m not terrible,” he says and stands up, frowning a little. “I mean, I know I’m not prima-ballerina, but I’m good at ballet.” It’s maybe the only thing he can say surely about his skills. He learned basic ballet forms faster than he learned how to walk.

Yuri, however, is looking at him with wide eyes.

“Seriously? She said that I’m basically trash and terrible and it’s a miracle I can even do a piruet,” he says angrily, throwing his hands up. Yuuri steps on the ice and the familiar feel of his feet on the slippery ground comforts him.

“Well, not everybody has a gift, Yuri,” he laughs and skates away before Yuri can attack him.

“At least I can jump a quad Salchow, you loser!” cries Yuri behind him and Yuuri chuckles to himself, not taking the insult seriously. He stopped doing that after the second day in Russia, because if he would take seriously everything that Yuri says, he probably would just lie and cry all day.

Someone shows up next to him and Yuuri is a little surprised to see that Victor skated to him.

“You’re good with Yura,” he starts, with a light tone. “I think you’re a good influence.”

Yuuri begs his feet not to trip. Thank gods, it’s too natural for his body to skate mindlessly to fall.

“Thanks,” he says, a little flustered, and Victor smiles. It’s a cute smile.

“I saw that he was showing you how to jump quad Salchow yesterday,” Victor continues and Yuuri looks at him and begs the shame to go away.

“I guess that he was pitying me,” he admits and Victor shakes his head. They’re doing slow circles around rink and Mila is trying to tie her combination, but she falls after her axel and Yuuri grimaces. Yuri is angrily skating far away from them and Georgi went home earlier. Yuuri feels a little uncomfortable when skating with Victor alone like that.

“I’ve known Yura for a long time and he really is different after a few weeks with you,” Victor shrugs and starts skating backwards to face Yuuri. Yuuri can’t figure out if he does it to show off or he just wants to look into someone's eyes while talking to them. “I was afraid that he’d be stuck, so convinced of his invincibility that he won’t really grow more.” He frowns a little and Yuuri stares at his face because it isn’t perfect, Victor has small scars and wrinkles which they don’t show on posters. Yuuri thinks he’s even more beautiful like that, with his hair mussed from practice, flushed, red cheeks, beads of sweat on his forehead, and under-eye bags from exhaustion.

Oh.

“He treats you as his rival and wants to be better than you,” Victor continues, finally turning, so he’s not looking at Yuuri all the time. Yuuri breathes out slowly. “I don’t think it would be the case if you didn’t start to train with us.”

Yuuri doesn’t really know what to say, because he didn’t even notice this, so they skate together a little longer. It’s a surprise Yakov doesn’t shout at them to stop lazing around.

“I’m sorry if you ever thought I don’t like you, Yuuri,” Victor says and Yuuri’s name on his tongue sounds really good. “I’m just… Not the best at making friends,” he says, slowly, like it’s a pain to admit that.

“Yeah, same,” says Yuuri, a little flustered and he looks to his right, only to avoid looking at Victor.

“I’d like to be your friend, Yuuri,” Victor says and stops, so Yuuri does the same and finally looks at him. Victor smiles a little. “What about that?”

“I-- I think it sounds nice,” Yuuri says and hopes that he doesn’t blush. He smiles shyly.

But then Yakov finally notices that they’re not really training and screams at them, until they quickly start their steps far away from each other.

 

 

Friendship with Victor is a little odd, but overall a good thing. They talk a little at the rink and even joke sometimes and when Victor laughs, Yuuri feels like something punches him in the stomach. Wow, it’s even worse than he thought.

They make fun of Yuri together to his snarls and when Yuuri suggests that maybe Yuri should practice his footwork if he wants his senior debut to be good, Yuri shouts “fuck you!” but then trains his steps for three hours straight. Victor smiles at Yuuri knowingly.

Yuuri has a vague idea how his free skate will look like thanks to training with Lilia (who is even more scary than he thought, but after every lesson with her, Yuuri feels deep satisfaction in his exhaustion, because ballet will always be his first love), but his short program is one big enigma. Yakov wants him to choose some music and train jumps for now, but, well, almost everyone is slowly trying to practice their programs and only he doesn’t even know what he wants to focus on this season.

Victor, even though he was polishing his programs ever since last season ended, has the same problem.

“I just can’t decide,” he whines a little when they’re stretching. Yuuri, who saw both Agape and Eros, shrugs, because, well, they’re both beautiful, breathtaking programs. It seems like a couple days ago Victor really begun to feel his programs - they’re not lifeless choreographies, which could get many technical points, but appallingly low presentation points, but Nikiforov worthy programs full of emotion. If he was Victor, he would have a problem deciding between those two, too.

“It’s a matter of what do you want to show people,” he says, when he leans and has his head between knees. His voice is a little strained. “What is closer to your heart? Do you want to surprise people or touch them deeply?” He looks up and see Victor, who’s staring for him for a long time. He blushes and stands straight. Victor smiles a little. He’s doing this more often now.

“I think I’ll go with Agape,” he says and Yuuri blinks. Victor is good at delicate programs - Stammi Vicino is a proof - but Agape has some innocence that he wouldn’t think Victor has. Victor, seeing his expression, shrugs.

“I was almost convinced with Agape, but you assured me with this choice,” he only says and Yuuri stares at him and then shrugs. Well, he can’t even pretend to understand Victor.

Though…

“I have something to tell you,” Yuuri says, a little nervous, and looks around to see if Yuri is standing near. He isn’t at rink, which means he’s training with Lilia.

“Oh?” Victor stops stretching and leans on the barrier.

“Yeah. Yuri accidentally mentioned something. You’ve promised that you would choreograph his first senior short program and he doesn’t think you remember.”

Victor blinks and then straightens. He frowns a little.

“He really thinks I forgot? I know I’m little forgetful, but--”

“I think that if you’ll talk to him about it, he would be a little calmer,” Yuuri says, because living with a fifteen year old for almost a month makes you care for him, no matter how loud and messy he is.

Victor looks a little flustered.

“Yeah, I think not talking with him wasn’t really smart.”

Yuuri smiles and places his hand on Victor’s shoulder.

“You have a full program for him?”

“I think,” Victor says, licking his lips. “I thought about Agape, but, well, it means too much to me. But I have something delicate and subtle for him, too.”

Yuuri snorts. “Delicate and subtle, sounds exactly like our Yuri.”

Victor smiles wide. “That’s what this is about, Yuuri. He can’t always skate to passionate, loud songs with fierce power. He’ll get boring real quick.”

“You’re really rude sometimes, you know?”

Victor shrugs and Yuuri notices that he still has his hand on Victor’s shoulder. He quickly takes it away.

“I’ve been told. It’s just honesty.”

Yuuri smiles a little and goes on the ice, taking away his skate guards.

“You are lucky that I don’t care about it.”

“Yeah,” Victor says, when Yuuri is skating away to finally train on the ice. “I really am.”

 

 

When Yuuri finally visits Victor in his home, he hugs Makkachin for almost five minutes.

“Did you come here for her or me?” says amused voice above him and Yuuri just hugs Makkachin tighter. Luckily, she doesn’t mind and just licks him and happily wags her tail.

“Shhh,” Yuuri says. “It’s happy dog time.”

Victor snorts, but doesn’t say anything else.

When Yuuri finally separates himself from Makkachin, she happily bounces next to him when he goes to Victor. She’s so big, bigger than Vicchan, but just as cute. Yuuri just loves dogs and really misses his.

“I have a poodle, too,” he says, when they’re sitting on the couch and Makkachin lays satisfied on Yuuri’s lap.

“Oh?” Victor says excited. He noticed that Yuuri has a poodle phone case, but you can be a poodle lover and still don’t have any.

“Yeah.” Yuuri scratches his neck a little embarrassed. “I was your big fan when I was younger and when you got Makkachin, I really wanted to have a poodle too.”

“That’s so sweet,” Victor says, with big eyes. He doesn’t seem to think that it’s weird or creepy and Yuuri relaxes a little. “I mean, I knew that you were my fan, but you got a poodle because of Makka! That’s the sweetest thing anyone did because of me.”

“You knew I was your fan?” Yuuri says a little puzzled.

“Yeah,” Victor says, scratching Makka’s head and she happily pants. “Your programs were a little similar to mine. I’m not saying that you plagiarized, just certain things reminded me of my style.”

“That’s embarrassing,” Yuuri says and hides his face in Makkachin’s fur. Victor playfully pokes him in the cheek.

“No, it’s not. I’m really honoured that you liked me so much.”

Yuuri lifts his head a little and looks at Victor with one eye.

“Really?”

“Really,” Victor smiles, warm. “You can really breath life into your skating, Yuuri, and you have no idea how much that helped me. I couldn’t find any inspiration and you helped me find it.”

“Oh,” says Yuuri, because maybe he’s closer to Victor now, but it still can be a little overwhelming. “I’m glad.”

They look at each other for a while and then Makkachin whines, so Yuuri starts petting her again.

“I have something to tell you,” say Yuuri after a couple of minutes, when Victor is watching the news, drinking his tea and Yuuri hugs Makkachin. He’s proud of himself, because he can now almost completely understand what weather lady is saying - his Cyrillic is a little worse, but hey, when you go to the shop or lose yourself in the city, speaking language will help you, not writing in it.

“Hmm?” Victor hums and Yuuri feels so warm, because he has a beautiful dog on his lap and his long-time idol is sitting next to him in sweats and turns out that this perfect idol is just an awkward dork.

Of course, soon season will begin and Yuuri probably will be walking as a living 24/7 anxiety embodiment, but hey, that’s future Yuuri’s worries.

“When I was younger, I often copied your programs with my friend.” He awkwardly shrugs and continues. “In April, when I really missed my family, I started training Stammi Vicino, because skating your programs always reminds me of my childhood. I just wanted you to know, so it wasn’t creepy.”

“Hmm,” Victor says, visibly thinking and Yuuri suddenly feels nervous. “Then you must show me how you skate Stammi Vicino. And I guess that it’s my turn to learn your program.”

“What?” says Yuuri, alarmed. “Oh no! Please don’t!”

“It’s only fair, Yuuri.” Victor smirks. “I’d really like to learn your program. Which one do you like the best? My favourite is definitely that one to the “View of Silence” from Joe--”

“Oh my god, Victor, stop!”

“But why?”

“It’s embarrassing,” says Yuuri, blushing furiously. “How do you even know about this program?”

“I like your skating, Yuuri, I’ve never hidden it. If I was inspiring enough for you to learn my programs, then I should learn yours too, with how much you inspired me.”

Yuuri wants to say that it’s not like that - Victor is a champion, a skater admired by everyone, who holds every world record in men’s singles. Yuuri won a few gold medals, wow, big deal. He placed third in his first Grand Prix Finals, almost ended fourth. He was eighth in the Worlds, for god’s sake. Why would Victor want to skate his program?

But Victor is smiling really wide and he has cute dimples which you can’t see in any of Yuuri’s twenty-three posters, so of course Yuuri can’t say anything.

Victor probably is just joking anyway.

(An hour later Victor is playing with Makka on the floor, rolling around with her and laughing loud and it’s not a cute laugh, a little obnoxious really, but Yuuri still thinks it’s sweet.

He discreetly pulls out his phone and takes a photo, which he looks at for a long moment and then sends to Phichit. He didn’t really send anything Victor-related to him, like he promised. It felt too creepy when they weren’t even talking.

spicy boi: !!!!!!

spicy boi: damn now i know why you weren’t responding today
spicy boi: i don’t blame you though
spicy boi: that’s some cute doggo and boy you have there

spicy boi: nice yuuri, nice ;--)

Yuuri wants to block him.)

 

The next day, Yuuri goes to the rink a little earlier. He sometimes goes together with Yuri, because it’s ten minutes away from their flat, but there are some days when they need to be alone and go separate ways, not at the same time. When he arrives at the rink though, Victor and Yuri are there and there’s no sight of anyone else. He shrugs and tries to be quiet not to disturb other skaters.

They are talking in Russian - of course they are, because it’s their native language and they talk in English only for Yuuri to understand them, but it’s still disappointing to not understand everything they say. But it’s not like he’s curious.

They seem to argue a little and then Victor spots Yuuri and waves to him.

“Yuuri!” he says loudly and Yuri looks at him. Yuuri sighs. He just wanted a quiet training.

“Yes?” he asks and stands, his skates laced, and goes to the barrier.

“I showed Yura his short program,” says Victor and Yuuri’s a little disappointed that he haven’t seen this. Victor throws Yuri a nasty look. “He says it’s boring and bland.”

“It’s so sweet and delicate, about love” says disgusted Yuri and he folds both arms across the chest. “Gross!”

Victor looks at Yuuri pleadingly and he sighs. He leans to take off his blade guards and steps on the ice. He slowly skates to them and looks at both of them - stubborn Yuri and offended Victor. Who’d thought that training with world champions would include so much drama - Yuuri’s been avoiding Georgi for the last week, because his girlfriend broke up with him and he was being insufferable.

“Yuri, I’m sure Victor wouldn’t choreograph a program for you which won’t guarantee you a good senior debut.”

“If I’d skate that, I’d have gold,” mutters Victor and Yuuri throws him a warning look. He rolls his eyes. “I tried to explain him that he needs something different, something to surprise everyone. You won’t be remarkable if you only can jump good,” he says to Yuri, who scowls.

“It’s stupid.”

“You take it or not, it’s easy,” says Victor a little more sharply. “Like I said, I’d win with it. What you do, it’s your choice. I promised a program and I’ve done a program. I’m done here. Do you want me to show this choreography to Yakov or not?”

Yuri squints and then angrily skates closer to Victor, poking him in the chest.

“I’ll skate it,” he says firmly, though his voice cracks a little. “I’ll skate this and make it powerful and you won’t have even a chance to win gold.”

Victor smiles, but it’s different than the smiles Yuuri saw since becoming friends with him. This smile is a little more sharp, dangerous.

“I’ll wait for it,” he says and then he and Yuri stare at each other for a while.

Yuuri coughs discreetly and they look at him. Yuri starts skating to the barriers.

“I have a training with Lilia, bye,” he says and then quickly leaves. Yuuri looks at Victor and frowns.

“Did you have to be so intense?” he asks.

Victor shrugs and he again becomes his relaxed, dorky self, which Yuuri became so familiar with.

“He must be motivated. He was far better than anyone in the Junior division and became too sure of his invincibility. He has to train hard to beat you and me.”

“I still don’t understand why you place me on the same level as you,” says flustered Yuuri and Victor sighs, shaking his head.

“We’ll work on it. In the meantime-” he says and twirls in the place “-I want you to show me how you skate Stammi Vicino.”

Yuuri stares at him wide eyed and then splutters.

“No way! I’m not ready!”

Victor pouts and then smiles cutely. “Please?”

Yuuri frowns and thinks quickly about it - he can do this program, he knows it. He’s in good shape and maybe he practiced it only twice since coming to St Petersburg, but Victor’s programs have a way to stay imprinted in Yuuri’s body.

“Okay,” he says and straightens his back. He can do it. “But don’t laugh!”

“I won’t,” says Victor sincerely and he smiles so, so wide, Yuuri feels warm all over. “But I don’t have music.”

“Don’t worry. I’ve got this.”

Victor stares at him for a moment and maybe Yuuri should be embarrassed, because he just admitted that he knows other skater’s program so well that he can skate it without music, but, well. Yuuri changed a little since coming to St Petersburg.

Victor nods and slowly skates out of the rink, leaving it empty only for Yuuri. Yuuri makes a small lap across the ice and stops in the middle, in the beginning position. He exhales slowly and his mind is blank. It’s comforting - he thinks that if he told Yuuri from last year that he would skate Victor’s program in front of Victor without dying from anxiety and embarrassment, he would laugh in his face, but. He’s not Yuuri from last year.

He hears, almost feels, the beginning violins and rises his head. He pours everything he has into this skate - he can feel the longing, so, so powerful, that you can only weep and grasp your chest because it hurts so much. When he learned this program, he felt miserable, missing his family and constantly not being satisfied with himself. While now it’s better, Yuuri thinks that he will always feel this empty inside himself and this choreography is perfect. In his mind he hears pleading voice of the singer and he jumps and lands and he doesn’t even feel it, because he lets himself be led by music.

The only jump he doesn’t do is quad flip, because of course he can’t do it - he changes it to a triple, but tries to compensate in the footwork. The only sound in the rink are his blades against ice and his breath, but Yuuri is in his world, full of sound and violins and longing and pleading. He ends, reaching for something that isn’t here, won’t ever be and then only breathes for a few seconds. This program was always close to his heart and he fell in love with Victor’s skate, with his emotions visibly displayed on the ice. Minako laughed that it was a game, that Victor was just playing with his fans’ emotions, but Yuuri always felt like Victor was also reaching, so far, and never touching. He hopes that he did this choreography justice.

He opens his eyes and looks at Victor. Victor has his hands pressed to his eyes and Yuuri is scared for a moment that Victor hates him and can’t even look at him. Then he takes his hands away and Yuuri sees red cheeks and glassy eyes and suddenly Victor is again on the ice, skating fast to him. He reaches Yuuri, at full speed, and hugs him. Yuuri can’t stand upright with the hit and falls, helplessly waving his hands, but it’s for nothing. They crash painfully and Yuuri’s back makes a dangerous sound, but then Victor leans back a little. He was crying - there are tears on his cheeks and his face is red and of course he looks perfect.

“That was beautiful,” he whispers, his voice hoarse and Yuuri can feel himself blush. His back is cold, so cold and pulses painfully, but it doesn’t matter when he has Victor Nikiforov in his arms, laying on him. “Thank you so much.”

“Umm,” says Yuuri, not really knowing what to say and looks into Victor’s eyes awkwardly. “Well, you’re welcome?”

Victor laughs and then sits on his knees, going off Yuuri. Yuuri wants him to stay right here on him, but that would be weird, right?

“Sorry, I was a little over excited,” Victor says a little abashed. “Did I hurt you?”

“Not really,” Yuuri says, because Victor hugged him, of course he won’t complain. Victor looks at him, doubting, knowing how full of shit Yuuri is.

“Okay, you really could just hug me, not throw yourself and make us fall,” he says honestly, sighing, and sits.

Victor scratches his neck and stands, then helps Yuuri stand up too. He holds his hand for a while and then lets go. Yuuri firmly tells himself not to do something stupid.

“Sorry,” Victor says, but then smiles brightly. “But now I have to learn how to skate your program as beautifully as you did, right? I think that will be hard.”

Yuuri sighs.

“I don’t believe that you still say that.”

“Yuuri.” Victor looks at him like he’s silly and wipes away his tears. “It’s only fair after your glorious skate a few minutes ago. Though I don’t think I’ll ever do it like you.”

Yuuri can only blush.

(Later, in the evening, when he somehow survives the day and successfully trained and even cooked one of his mother’s recipes for Yuri, he just texts Phichit.

you: i’m so screwed.
spicy boi: victor?
you: yeah.

spicy boi:  b o i

spicy boi: is that really surprising, tho?

you: not really
you: but now that i realized how smitten i am, i’ll die every time he smiles at me

spicy boi: lmao rip

Yuuri screams into his pillow.)

 

 

After this, the next couple of days aren’t really different than before - Yakov still works him until he can’t breath and demands him to jump and spin and do a step sequence for his free program again and again and again. After the training, when his hips and ankles hurt from falling and landing the quads, he lays on the floor. Yuri stands above him.

“Pathetic,” he says, though there’s some awe in his voice. Apparently “pathetic” is just Yuri’s favourite word, no matter what context.

Mila stops her skates next to them and smirks.

“He’s just jealous he can’t train as long you do.” She winks and smiles almost suggestively to Yuuri. “There’s some good stamina you have. Would you want to show me sometime how long can you last?”

Yuuri maybe would blush, if not for his tiredness.

“Let him rest,” says Victor, who suddenly appears next to Mila. She looks at him and then snickers.

“Yeah, fuck off, you gross hag,” spits Yuri and she scowls and then grabs him by his hips, like a small kitten.

“Don’t be so angry, you’ll have wrinkles before twenty,” she says, playfully, but there’s a small threat in her voice. Yuri squeaks.

“Let me go!” he screams and she giggles - it would be adorable if not for how easy she holds Yuri in his skates above her head.

Yuuri shakes his head and just hopes that whenever Yakov notices and will punish them, he won’t face the consequences too.

He sits and wipes his forehead, combing his hair.

“You okay?” asks Victor, still standing next to the barrier, while Mila and Yuri’s screams fade away after they skate further. Yuuri can see Mila twirling a little on the ice and Yuri screeches something in Russian.

“Yeah, one minute and I can go back to the training,” Yuuri says and stands, groaning a little as his joints crack. Victor frowns, but Yuuri shrugs and stretches a little. In the afternoon he has a training with Madame Baranovskaya and her students and she really doesn’t care if he’s dying or not.

Yuuri likes her - he can admire her pure strength and iron will - and Yuri thinks she’s devil incarnated.

“I’m worried you’ll overtrain yourself,” says Victor and Yuuri smiles a little and touches his shoulder.

“You’re really one to talk. And also I’m tougher than you think. I like training hard.”

(Yuuri can hear Mila saying “I bet” in the background.)

Victor sighs.

“Okay, I’m not the best person to tell you that,” he admits - just yesterday he was training Agape until he had to sit on the bench, because his knees hurt too much.

Georgi approaches them after his emotional step sequence and Yuuri can already see tears forming in his eyes. Apparently Yuuri is Georgi’s favourite person to tell about his emotions - maybe because he thinks Yuuri can’t understand (and Yuuri doesn’t want him to know that he can practically understand everything, because, well, it’s rude of Georgi to talk to him in Russian. It’s like Yuuri’d began talking to everyone in Japanese).

Victor looks at Yuuri panicked and then smoothes his face, making it stony cold. It’s always a little surprising how different Victor can be while talking to someone else. Yuuri almost forgot about Victor in his first weeks in St Petersburg, when they weren’t talking and Victor was this cold, untouchable thing in the distance. It’s shocking how warm and adorable Victor is and it’s shocking how it’s not a surprise for Yuuri anymore.

“Sorry,” whispers Victor, before skating away, and Yuuri thinks traitor . Then Georgi reaches him.

“He’s really cold, right?” he says in English. “I don’t know if I admire him or hate him. He’s just so closed off and thinks he’s better than anyone. You know?”

“Yeah,” says Yuuri, though he doesn’t know, because, well. Victor isn’t really like that - he knew that when he was a fan and he knows that now, when they’re friends. Victor just likes to have an unbreakable opinion, like he’s a diamond, so tough and invincible. But Yuuri sees his cracks - when he smiles so, so lovingly at his dog, or burns something in the kitchen, or when he has to rest, because his body protests too much, or forgets word “potato” in English, every time. Victor isn’t an unbreakable champion, he has a glass heart like Yuuri. That’s why Yuuri loved and loves him as a skater - he can be untouchable off the ice, but on the ice every emotion is true, and Yuuri saw all of his feelings when he skated. Yuuri everyday thinks he can’t love Victor more and then Victor likes to always prove him wrong.

But. Who can blame him.

Georgi starts to rant about something, but Yuuri gently stops him, saying how he must practice his steps. Georgi nods and then skates off - to rant to someone else or again train his dramatic program, Yuuri’s not sure. He sighs and then looks around. Mila is skating mindlessly, deep in thoughts, Yuri nowhere to be seen. Victor is practicing something and Yuuri just lets himself look, because maybe they’re friends, but seeing Victor skate is as breathtaking as it was when Yuuri was twelve.

“You’re so gross,” says Yuri, skating next to him.

“I know,” Yuuri just says and Yuri snorts.

 

 

There’s a little change when Yuuri’s tying together his short program. He decided his theme for this season is “love” - love for his family which helped him last season, his love for Vicchan, his love for ice, even for Victor and somehow Yuri. It’s not focusing on any kind of love - just a vague feeling, something which motivates him to be better, to work harder.

But Victor states that his short program must be fierce, not delicate.

“Your free program is strong, but subtle. You must come off strong in the short program if you don’t want anybody to be bored.”

Yuuri maybe would be offended, but that’s Victor, a person who’s not closed off, just socially awkward.

“So you suggest…?”

“Something erotic, maybe just steamy. Something like Eros, but I won’t give you Eros - it lacks something, you don’t deserve this.”

Yuuri clears his throat. Yeah, Eros was a good program, but it lacked something - like an idea or inspiration for it. It should tell a story, but you don’t really feel it. Yuuri can see why Victor had chosen Agape at the end.

“I’m not really cut off for erotic programs,” he admits flustered and he quickly remembers his short experiences. It’s not really worthy telling.

Victor looks at him like he’s kidding.

“Really!” he says, embarrassed, waving his hands. They’re at his and Yuri’s flat and the teen is in his room, visibly ignoring them. Potya is comfortably lying in Yuuri’s lap. He isn’t really a cat person, but he likes this angry, picky cat and it seems like the feeling is reciprocated. Yuri, when he first saw Potya comfortably lying on Yuuri’s chest, just scoffed, said “traitor” and didn’t let her into his room for two (2) days. Since then it seems like Potya still remembers that and likes Yuuri more, because he lets her sleep in his bed. He has a soft heart.

Victor just snorted. “Yuuri, I know you don’t really believe in yourself, but that’s now you’re outrightly lying to me. You can’t honestly say you believe you can’t skate an erotic program.”

Wow. What can you even say to something like this.

Like always, Yuuri just pets Potya, trying to will an embarrassment down. “You’re ridiculous.”

“You’re ridiculous,” says Victor, like a five year old. “Find a music and show it to Yakov’s choreographer. You’ll see I’m right.”

“I’m not really convinced,” Yuuri says, unimpressed.

“You’re scared?” Victor rises an eyebrow.

It’s a trap, it’s a trap, it’s a trap--- “You’re on.”

(It seems like every one of Yuuri’s important decisions is caused because of anxiety or trying to show he’s not a coward.)

 

After a month he has a program, choreographed to the song he had chosen with Victor. He trains and trains and trains and when he finally skates it to Victor, while imagining he’s flirting with him, feeling more bold than he really is, feeling wanted, Victor can only whistle.

Mila fawns herself, sighing like a virgin from 50’s, even though Yuuri can see how full of shit she is.

 

So it goes - the summer comes in full heat and they train and go to the beach and Yuuri talks to Mari and Vicchan at least once a week. He’s not really sure what his relationship with Victor is - no matter how many times Phichit sighs how “totally married they are” - but it’s comfortable and easy and Yuuri tries to let it go. Sometimes there are reporters outside the rink and Victor always smiles politely and answers their questions. Yuuri tries to avoid them, but sometimes they catch him and he has to answer, full of anxiety - but Victor is always right beside him, so it’s better. Phichit once sends him a photo from Tumblr where Victor is looking at him, a small, so small smile in the corner of his lips, while Yuuri looks at the reporter and answers some question. He saves it.

(Yuri just curses and storms out when he’s being interviewed and it seems like reporters are avoiding him more than he is avoiding them.)

 

So it goes - Yuuri sometimes sleeps on Victor’s couch when he visits him after a training or comes to give him some of the leftovers, because god knows Victor is even more helpless than Yuri in the kitchen. Yuuri goes out with Makkachin and chases gulls with her and he honestly feels happy in St Petersburg, like he would never anticipate. He misses Phichit and Celestino, but it’s not a devastating longing like when he was in Detroit and nights were long and alone.

Yuri’s grandpa visits them twice and at first it’s awkward, but then Nikolai jokes and Yuri screeches, red in the face, and Yuuri relaxes. He doesn’t exactly understand - it’s some sort of slang he doesn’t know and Nikolai’s accent is different from people at the rink. But he somehow talks with Nikolai, even though most of the time Yuri is their translator. Nikolai teaches Yuuri how to make piroshkis, from the scratch, and maybe they’re a little wanky, but they’re even better than from that restaurant next to the rink. Yuuri shows Nikolai how to make katsudon and okonomiyaki, which rises some eyebrow, but then it seems like Nikolai and Yuri really like it.

“You’re good for Yurochka,” says Nikolai when he’s leaving and Yuri stands next to his car. “I’m glad he’s not alone.”

Yuuri smiles. “He’s a good kid. You have a great grandson.”

Nikolai nods. “I know.”

 

So it goes - Mila finds a girlfriend and then breaks up with her. She has dark circles under her eyes and she’s really quiet, so Yuuri visits her once and they eat ice cream and watch stupid Russian dramas, because apparently post break-up looks  the same everywhere. Georgi tries to form with her a club of broken hearts, but she softly refuses and he just hugs her. Yuri is a little nicer than normally and doesn’t call her “a fucking hag”, just “really annoying”. Victor tries to train with her to take her mind off her ex-girlfriend, because the only language of comfort he knows is ice, but it seems like they’re slowly helping her. She stops floating around with no life, only doing what Yakov demands. She slowly starts joking and poking fun at Yuri and teasing Yuuri. Things are getting normal.

She hugs Yuuri once and he just rests his chin on her head.

She whispers, “You really should tell him” and Yuuri doesn’t even ask what she means.

 

So it goes - the summer passes and they get their Grand Prix assignments and they train even harder, because it’s finally sinking in that the season will soon begin.

Victor’s free program is a light, funny thing, so different from his last year’s skate. He still didn’t skate any of Yuuri’s programs, but they don’t really have time to laze around. But he skates Agape with his whole heart, pouring his whole being into it and Yuuri can only discreetly wipe away his tears when Victor skates it with a costume and on the empty rink. He hugs Victor when he goes off the ice and it seems like Victor is holding him just as tight as Yuuri.

Yuuri’s having a bit of problem with his short program, but every time before he starts skating the whole routine, Victor looks at him so, so intense and it really helps Yuuri on ice, where his mind wander about hands and legs and closeness.

Yuri’s angry at them, working harder than ever.

“I won’t lose to you losers,” he spits when it’s his time and his short program is delicate, but still powerful. He makes it his - he’s an angel, a powerful warrior you must respect. Victor seems proud. He trains on his free program with Lilia, not even complaining when she demands and demands and demands. Even Yuuri is tired, but Yuri still works. It’s a little heartbreaking to see, so Yuuri’s sure to always make a good meal after their trainings and when he sees Yuri’s shy smile, it seems worth it.

“I said it,” says Victor once, when they both observe Yuri working on his footsteps, trying to dance with the music. “He learned so much from you.”

Yuuri just hums and maybe he has a point - he sees a bit of himself in Yuri’s steps, just as Victor saw himself in Yuuri’s programs. He feels like he’s not worthy of it, but stays quiet - if he’s an inspiration for Yuri to develope into a mature skater like he deserves, then who is he to say no.

 

 

Yuuri’s first assignment is Rostelecom Cup where Yakov goes with him. He places second, where JJ looks at him satisfied from the top and Yuuri just smiles and grits his teeth. He worked so hard - he can do it. Reporters are constantly interviewing him - about his fallout with Cialdini (“It was a mutual decision.”), about training with Yakov and being rink mates with Victor Nikiforov, Yuri Plisetsky and Mila Babicheva. He answers every question and he’s exhausted and he remembers why he hates competitions.

Yuri only sends him a text saying “i hoped that you’d crush him” which is Yuri’s way of patting on the back.

Victor sends him a photo of Makkachin and Yuuri remembers why he loves him so much.

Yuuri doesn’t actually compete against Yuri or Victor in any of their assignments, so the only way they can compete with each other is in the Final. Yuuri supposes it’s a great motivation - it’s different training with someone than competing against them.

Victor of course places first in both of his assignments - everybody calls his Agape the most heartbreaking, touching 3 minutes of their lives, which kinda misses the point, because Agape is about love, it should be hopeful. But yeah - Victor’s version has some bitter taste to it, like his unconditional love is a source of pain. After Victor’s first public show of Agape, Yuuri sends him a picture of Makka he’s taking care of and Victor’s response is just twelve hearts.

Yuri loses to JJ in Skate Canada and Yuuri hopes he doesn’t explode from rage. When Yuri is sitting in the Kiss and Cry, television has to censor him, which makes Mila crack up as they watch furious Yuri ranting with beeps in the background. Yuuri sends him a picture of Potya lying on the back with her paws in the air and Yuri doesn’t send him twelve hearts, but simple “you don’t suck”, which honestly counts as hearts.

Yuuri again gets silver in the Cup of China, but he’s not bitter - Phichit excited face is above him and Yuuri just feels love for his friend, who gave up so much and deserves his gold. They hug on the podium and it’s a happy day. Phichit takes million selfies of them with their medals, posts half of them, and Victor likes every single one.

At the end, Yuuri gets in the final again, so does Victor, Yuri, Otabek, Phichit and JJ. Chris Giacometti had high chances, but broke his ankle in his free program in France and Yuuri can’t help, but pity him. Chris is a good skater and a nice friend - but life as a skater is dangerous and you never know when something will happen to you, some minimal mistake while jumping, where you know that your blade was bent a millimetre too much and you can only crash.

Victor is asked in one of his interviews what he thinks about his competitors. He says something about Otabek, Phichit and JJ, then praises a little Yuri and then spends five minutes talking about Yuuri. Phichit sends the interview to him, texting “ im not even mad how little he said about me tho, #smitten” and Yuuri hides his face in his scarf as he watches it, burning from embarrassment.

“He’s an inspiration to everyone who knows him,” Victor says, staring at the camera. “I didn’t feel happy before he began training with us - but he showed me how I can feel excitement just from skating again. He’s a truly remarkable skater and friend.”

“So you want him to win?” asks the reporter, raising her eyebrow.

“I won’t just let him win - I won’t let anyone in that matter. It’s a final. But I won’t be surprised if he beats me. He’s capable of it.”

Yuuri just hopes he doesn’t disappoint him.

 

Of course, it ends with Yuuri not sleeping and placing fourth. It’s almost a tradition. But how he can skate successfully a sexy program, when he doesn’t even feel worthy of the person he desires.

Yuri throws him a couple of concerned looks, when he thinks nobody will notice. He’s first, almost breaking the world record and Victor’s very close to him and Yuuri’s happy for them - but he’s so disappointed in himself. Everybody had high hopes for him, Yakov had taken him as a student, and he still disappoints everyone, like always. It doesn’t matter if he has one of the best coaches and a prima-ballerina to train him, the problem lies with him.

He’s sitting alone in his room, not really feeling like socializing, while everybody goes sightseeing. He sees Phichit’s selfies on Instagram and likes it, likes some of photos of Yuri and his fans from a couple of Yuri’s Angels he follows. He’s doing anything to keep his panic at bay, but it’s not really working, and there’s a quiet knocking on his door. He looks at the door from his bed and says, “Come in!” because he’s not feeling like standing.

It’s Victor and it’s not really surprising.

“Hey,” he says and he has two cups in hands, like he grabbed them at the buffet and brought to Yuuri. It’s a sweet thought. “I’m not interrupting?”

“Nah,” says Yuuri. He blocks his phone and sits, looking at Victor. He sits near Yuuri and hands him one of the cups with green tea. Yuuri starts drinking, thankful for something to occupy his mind.

“I want to retire,” says Victor suddenly and Yuuri looks at him with wide eyes. Victor lies on the bed and hides his face in his arm.

“Why?” Yuuri asks and maybe year earlier he would loudly protest, because Victor Nikiforov, figure skating god, retiring? But Victor’s not a god anymore, but a friend, and Yuuri wants to support him.

“I’m so damn tired.” Victor sighs and it’s a weary, exhausted sound. Yuuri remembers his first weeks in St Petersburg, when Victor was just skating, quiet, exhausted and so painfully human. Maybe he was like this all the time and their friendship just blinded Yuuri. “My body hurts everyday I wake up. I don’t think I can do it anymore.”

Yuuri quietly places his cup on the bedside table and lies next to Victor, looking at the ceiling. They’re quiet for a moment, just breathing together.

“It’s your decision,” he says quietly and finds Victor hand. He squeezes it gently and Victor does it, too. “I will support you.”

“Thank you,” Victor breathes. “Everytime I mention it, everyone just says how I can’t, because I’m too good, I’m a better skater than anyone, I’m invincible. And I’m just tired.”

Yuuri squeezes his hand again.

“I will love your skating no matter if you’ll win gold with it at every competition, will just do an exhibition programs or if you’ll skate occasionally, when Yakov asks you to show something. I hope you know that.”

Victor turns to him and Yuuri does it too, and they just look at each other. Victor smiles gently - his eyes are warm and full of love.

“I know."

Yuuri smiles, too.

 

 

They spend night together, just lying next to each other. Yuuri’s mind slowly fades out, calming him and he feels like he can breathe again. Victor’s a comforting warmth next to him and when he finally falls asleep, it isn’t about scores or falls or combinations, but ice and love and twirling in the air.

At the end, Yuuri gets gold, because he thinks about Victor’s skating, about his decision and feels himself lose a little part of his life. He’ll lose Victor a competitor, an idol, but Victor, a friend, will hopefully stay. His free program, a passionate piece, is full of his devotion and thankfulness for making him fall in love with the ice. It’s an ode to Victor’s skating and his impact on Yuuri’s life. Of course this competition won’t be Victor’s last - he’ll retire after Nationals or Worlds. But it feels final that day.

He breaks Victor’s world record and isn’t it ironic, that he does it with a program dedicated to Victor’s skating. Victor hugs him after he gets his scores and just smiles.

While asked by a reporter, he just says, “I told you so”.

Victor places second and the medal matches his hair. Silver looks good on him. Yuri states the same, claiming that the next time the silver will look good on him will be when Yuri places first. Then he looks at Otabek, a fourth placer, and says, “Nope, you’ll have to be third, me and Otabek will find out who looks better with silver”.

While it’s surprising, Yuuri’s happy that Yuri found some friend who’s not his roommate or a rinkmate he has to train with.

 

It’s not the worst day - Phichit is happy even with his sixth place, because he’s an optimist, a mystical concept that Yuuri never understood. Yuri plays with his bronze and shrugs, saying, “I’ll crush both of you at Worlds,” which Yuuri doesn’t doubt. He was close to breaking the short program record - it’s a wonder what he’ll do after three more months of practice. And he’s only fifteen.

That evening, at the banquet, Yuuri’s surrounded by sponsors and people wanting to talk to him, which definitely didn’t happen last year. But that’s the difference between gold and bronze for you. Victor saves him, smiling politely to everyone and he subtly goes away with Yuuri, saying so much bullshit, until they’re alone. Yuuri laughs and he knows that he probably should stop with the champagne and that his eyes are really bright and his cheeks really red, but, well, if he can’t be like that after winning gold, when he can?

“My hero,” he says jokingly and Victor shakes his head fondly, taking away Yuuri’s half-full flute.

“That’s enough for you,” he says and Yuuri rolls his eyes, but agrees. He doesn’t want to invoke any scandal.

“I think fifteen people asked me in the last hour if there’s any hatred between you and me and if situation in St Petersburg will be full of tension,” Yuuri says, dramatically sighing. “Do we have to attack each other with our skates now, Victor?”

“I think that Yakov should definitely find us separate rinks, because our hatred will crack the ice,” says Victor with a serious face and they look each other in the eyes heavily.

“Poor Yuri,” whispers Yuuri. “Who can he trash on when we won’t pay any attention to him while fighting with our blades? Imagine that: a fight of the century, throwing our skates at each other.”

Victor cracks first and starts snickering. Yuuri follows him and they’re just laughing together about how ridiculous all of this is. Yuuri doesn’t even care if people stare at them. Maybe they’ll think it’s some way of fighting, because they’re such enemies.

Yuuri talks with Celestino, spends ten minutes with Mila when they just congratulate the other with tears in their eyes all the time, because she won gold, too. He gossips about some skaters with Phichit and breakdances with Yuri, because of course he does (“You won’t win this, you loser!” but he wins, and then everybody starts challenging him to dance-offs, because apparently if you out-dance a gold medalist, you automatically become the gold medalist). Mila winks at him when he notices her talking with Sara Crispino, the silver medalist, and he hides his smile in the flute.

It’s a good night - Yuuri’s sweaty and red and a little dizzy, but there’s happiness in his veins and he hopes that Victor had a good time, because he deserves it. Victor deserves all the good things in the world.

“Thank you, Yuuri,” says amused Victor, while opening the door to his room and wow, did he say that out loud? Well.

Yuuri laughs a little and then throws himself at the bed. He pats the spot next to him, murmuring quietly and Victor takes off his shoes and tie and Yuuri’s shoes, and then lies beside him, not even saying anything.

It’s a good night.

 

The next day there’s exhibition and Yuri skates to an angry, screaming rock music and Yuuri can only think how he probably waited for it whole year, between Victor’s subtle program and Lilia’s demands to be beautiful and graceful. He throws his clothes off and Otabek takes his glove off with his mouth and wow , Yuuri was definitely different when he was fifteen.

But it’s still a good program and Yuuri claps, while he and Victor look at each other a little shocked.

Yuri goes off and then it’s Victor’s turn. He has one of his old costumes on and he stands in the middle and when he raises his hands, Yuuri know what he’ll skate, even when music doesn’t play yet.

“Now I present Victor Nikiforov, this year’s silver medalist, who’s skating Yuuri Katsuki’s free program “Yuuri on Ice” from last season.”

Victor looks up at the ceiling and Yuuri’s eyes immediately water, because they were joking, but of course he skates Yuuri’s program, because he is Victor. He lives to surprise people.

It’s one of the closest programs to his heart. Typically Celestino chose his music and choreography, but Yuuri wondered about retiring that year, when it became clear that he won’t achieve anything. He wanted the last one program - about how much he sacrificed, which showed his loneliness and longing. It’s not the best program, but it’s special to him and to see that Victor knows him, that he chose it…

Victor, of course, does it beautifully. He mixes his feelings with Yuuri’s and all the time reaches out to him and the piano is the only sound in Yuuri’s head. When Victor finishes, he’s not reaching to the ceiling, like Yuuri had, searching for, but not quite grasping his dreams. Victor’s pointing at Yuuri and when he finally opens his eyes, he’s smiling softly to the deafening applause. He does a few rounds around and bows a few times, then slowly skates to the barriers and when he’s close enough, he opens his mouth to say something, a bashful expression on his face. But Yuuri doesn’t let him - he pulls him closer and kisses him, showing every bit of his love and admiration and gratefulness with it. After a while he leans back a little and he doesn’t care about people here, reporters or anyone in that matter.

“I’m sorry I didn’t ask,” he says, his ears red and Victor blinks slowly, but then smiles and grasps Yuuri’s hands on his chest.

“I can only forgive you if you do it again,” Victor says playfully and Yuuri snorts, but leans again with a smile on his face and maybe his heart is beating fast and he’s red and some people are screaming, but who cares.

Maybe there is fate. Maybe from the moment Yuuri saw Victor skating, his heart was tied to Victor’s, maybe he created a red thread between them, like from his mother’s stories. When he’s feeling especially sappy, he wonders if they were destined to find each other. He doesn’t know.

But that’s what he knows: it’s not the end. They have their whole lives ahead of them. Maybe it won’t always be perfect, but Yuuri’s sure that they can do it, because it’s not possible to love someone as much as he loves Victor and still be whole. Victor can retire, but it won't change anything. Yuuri doesn't care about having him as rival, he wants Victor, all of him. He’s tied with Victor, and who cares if fate, destiny or their own actions lead them to it, made them meet and fall in love, no matter what the circumstances.

It’s only the beginning.