somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
Yuuko asks Yuuri to come with her to the Device Office for her implantation.
“And will you get yours, too?”
Yuuri is technically old enough for a Device implant, but he was planning to wait until after graduation like most of his peers do. Yuuko looks drawn and pale, though, and her smile is strained. And she asked him, not Takeshi, who is older. He nods.
Yuuri studied the history of Devices in school; they were invented in Europe somewhere in 1806. The man who crafted the first Device did it to escape an arranged marriage. His creation led him to a beggar woman he'd passed in the street everyday for years without a second glance. Upon their hasty marriage, they were very happy with each other, and so the man was visited by those searching for true love for the rest of his days.
One of his descendants used the family secret to found Device Corp, which refined and began mass marketing Devices, in 1955. The current models are cheap and boast one hundred percent accuracy; Device Corp guarantees all of their Devices will go off. Now everyone can have true love. Even Yuuri.
They fill out the paperwork in the waiting room, hand over their IDs and birth certificates in turn to verify their identities, and then are led into the procedure room. Someone has made an attempt to make the room cheerier with yellow paint and floral curtains, but the enormous machine in the center, with its long, gleaming needle, makes that impossible.
Yuuri and Yuuko hold each other’s hands in turn while the Devices are placed. Yuuko picks silver; Yuuri, imitating Viktor’s choice based on a magazine interview he read, opts for a rose gold. Her fingers leave indentations in the backs of Yuuri’s hands at the bite of the needle, and when it’s his turn Yuuri screams like a horror movie victim and has to sit down and drink some juice until the dizziness fades.
But then, their wrists match, discs of shiny metal embedded on the inside of their right wrists, the light in the center a cool white. It’ll change when they Match, although what color, no one knows until it happens.
Yuuri tries to look into Yuuko’s eyes, just to be sure, but she keeps her gaze trained on the linoleum, even as she tugs the sleeve of her shirt down over her wrist.
“Walk with me to the rink,” she begs.
The rink isn’t far. Yuuko watches the ground intently the entire time they walk—Yuuri has to steer her out of the way of obstacles like fire hydrants and cars—and when they’re standing in the rink lobby, he gets up the courage to ask her what’s wrong.
“Yuuri, what if it isn’t him?”
She clutches her stomach.
Yuuri’s not sure what she means, but he loves her. “It will be.”
She takes a deep, deep breath, brings her shoulders back, and lets go of her arm. “Okay.”
Yuuri understands without being told he’s not needed. He stands awkwardly by the door into the rink as Yuuko steps inside, looks around, and see Takeshi standing at the skate rental desk, putting away newly sharpened skates.
She takes one step. Another. Another. Takeshi turns around and sees her.
Yuuko starts running. She doesn’t stop until she’s close enough to fling herself into Takeshi’s arms.
Not even when, a few feet away, her wrist starts ringing in time with Takeshi’s.
They hold onto each tightly, voices too low to be heard. Yuuko is crying and laughing at the same time.
Yuuri leaves. He stops at a convenience store on the way and buys a pack of skin-tone patches; he opens the package in the store’s bathroom and peels off the paper backing and slaps the patch over his wrist. In the right light, it could almost be his skin, like the Device isn’t there.
He walks home alone.
(He accepts an offer to move to Detroit after graduation a few weeks later. Yuuko and Takeshi are getting married; Yuuri’s got to move on, too.)
When Yuuri is fifteen, he has a dream about being Viktor Nikiforov’s soulmate.
In his dream, they’re on the ice somewhere together. Viktor is skating, and Yuuri is following him, and somehow they can do all the same jumps and spins in perfect sync. Viktor’s hair floats like he’s underwater. Yuuri reaches out, brushes it with his fingertips. Viktor turns, their eyes meet, Yuuri’s wrist starts to burn—the Device beeps, the chime of destiny—
And then the familiar sound of a Match turns into Yuuri’s alarm clock, blaring in time with his mother’s “Yuuri! Time for school!”
Yuuri is flushed, and sweaty, and can’t meet anyone’s eyes until he reaches school.
It’s fine, he tells himself. It’s only a dream. Everyone thinks about being Viktor’s soulmate. Besides, it must be someone—so why not—
Almost a decade later, Yuuri really will meet Viktor. Weighed down by the death of Vicchan, by his last place finish at the GPF, by his own self-destruction, he won’t even remember all the stupid, adolescent fantasies he’s had about this moment. He’ll just think, I have to get away, and go.
It’s only on the train to Hasetsu, cradling his right wrist in his hand, that it will occur to Yuuri that he met Viktor in silence. That this, too, is something he’s lost.
When he asks Yuuko to watch him perform Stammi Vicino, he means it to be the last time he ever performs it. Goodbye, he thinks, and he imagines all the misplaced disappointment over Viktor being flung away by the force of his spins. Goodbye.
In retrospect, considering the ironic trajectory of Yuuri’s life, he shouldn’t be at all surprised when Viktor makes his appearance only a day later.
(And if Yuuri’s eyes flick, involuntarily, to the skin-colored patch on Viktor’s right wrist, covering his Device, well. He’s weak. He’s always known it.)
Yuuri has no idea what to do with Viktor.
He’s just so present, like he takes up all the air in the room. He asks questions. He smiles too much. He has a dog who makes Yuuri’s heart hurt. His hair falls in his eyes and his jinbei slides down his shoulder and he says “And you’re going to win,” with all the confidence in the world.
Should Yuuri be scared? Angry? Sad? His heart is pounding and he has no idea why.
Is this happiness, he wonders, feeling the blush in his cheeks. This swooping in his stomach, like Viktor has thrown him into a jump and Yuuri is suspended, midair, by Viktor’s belief in him: is this a good feeling?
He buries his face in his pillow and tells himself to take it one day at a time.
And so they begin. Viktor coaches him.
Well, sort of. Yurio arrives, and so begins the first test: Onsen on Ice, with Viktor’s attention as the prize.
“Can you show it to me?” Viktor asks, his thumb again on Yuuri’s lip—too close, too close—and Yuuri yelps as he flings himself away. He wishes Viktor would stop touching him so much. He wishes Viktor would do it again, and feels vaguely ashamed for wanting it.
Calm down, he thinks. It doesn’t mean anything. You know he’s not—
Eros is foreign to Yuuri. Sure, he’s had...experiences, while abroad. Americans aren’t as conservative as the Japanese are about pre-Match relations; people have casual sexual relationships while they wait to meet the one. Even Yuuri, anxious and obsessive as he is, managed to have sex semi-regularly.
But it’s one thing to be that person in a dark room, with no one but your fellow sinners to see, and another to display it on ice, in public for everyone’s and God’s and Viktor’s eyes. Yuuri feels naked, exposing some part of him that he always imagined reserved for his future soulmate.
Not that deciding his Eros is a pork cutlet bowl is actually any better. Someday, Yuuri will learn to say things that are intelligent, but today is not that day.
“...sure.” Viktor blinks at him. “It’s nice and unique, at least!”
He expects a scolding, but Viktor just smiles. The next day he flings himself into the Eros of the pork cutlet bowl with alarming enthusiasm. He tells Yuuri to be a juicy piece of pork and embody the entangling of the egg with rice, and neither of those things were sexy before, but Yuuri is terrified to ever eat pork cutlet bowls in public ever again, because he’s pretty sure if he does he’s going to get a boner.
“Again!” Viktor calls. “Control your free leg, Yuuri! You’re like a dead fish!”
Viktor is a terrible teacher.
“Make it lighter!” he yells as Yuuri falls out of the salchow again. Viktor won’t let him practice it too hard; he says doing wrong too often will only build bad habits.
Yuuri is used to learning things by obsessing about them, and doesn’t like Viktor’s restraint. At least Viktor hasn’t found about his secret sessions with Yuri.
“What does that mean?”
“You know. Less…heavy.” Viktor skates by him and does it himself, easy as breathing.
“What does that mean?”
“Hmm.” Viktor skids to a stop in front of him. He tips up Yuuri’s chin, the way he does when he’s trying to…to…something. Yuuri doesn’t know. Viktor’s hands are an enchantment, come to steal away all Yuuri’s good sense. Yuuri can’t analyze it well enough in the moment; his heart starts pounding, Viktor’s voice makes him drown.
“I don’t understand.”
“When you jump, what are you thinking about?”
“N-nothing. Just the position of my legs, and my arms, and my blades.”
“That’s no good.” Viktor’s thumb catches at his lip. Yuuri wants to bite it. He wants it and he wants not to want it. “Just do it. Without thinking about your body at all. Jump with your soul.”
Yuuri wants so badly to obey him. He wants to make Viktor smile.
“I still don’t understand….”
“You’re making it harder than it is. I know you can do it. One more time. Don’t think. Just,” Viktor gestures broadly. The patch on his wrist is a stark white color. “Jump.”
I know you can do it.
Yuuri gets into position. He tries to think of nothing, and fails; instead he thinks about Viktor instead. He focuses on Viktor, arms folded, ten feet away.
He lands it.
(Maybe Viktor is a good teacher.)
Every time Yuuri does a jump in front of Viktor, he’s caught between warring emotions: he’s terrified that he’s going to flub it like he did at the GPF, but when he does it right and Viktor says “Good job!” Yuuri feels it in his whole body, like Viktor’s lips are a live wire that’s put a current in Yuuri’s veins.
Celestino, for all that he was steady and supportive, never made Yuuri feel like this. Maybe it’s just that Viktor is his idol. Maybe it’s just that Viktor is so beautiful.
The competition approaches. Yuri gets better and better, expressing an emotional delicacy that Yuuri would never have guessed he could feel. Yuuri’s salchow continues to suck. He learns the steps, the turns, the jump composition of this program Viktor crafted for him. It’s such a good program, is the thing. It’s the kind of program Yuuri’s always wanted to skate. It’s like Viktor saw into his soul and plucked out one of Yuuri’s dreams, and then set it to music.
And he can’t do it justice.
On the morning of Onsen on Ice, even with Minako’s help, he’s not sure he’ll ever do it justice.
The room tilts; the air is thin, or maybe Yuuri’s lungs are too terrified to manage deep breaths. Yuri’s skating is powerful, and he’s so young, and Yuuri feels so small. He’s been dancing for so long with this idea in his head, Viktor will watch me, and now Viktor is here.
And if he looks away—
“Of course.” Viktor’s arms are warm. He folds Yuuri into them, returning Yuuri’s desperate embrace, and his breath brushes Yuuri’s ear comfortingly as he talks. “I love pork cutlet bowls.”
His heart is pounding again.
Is this happiness?
Yuuri wants to find out. He wants to know what all this means.
There’s only one way.
Maybe I like him, Yuuri thinks, watching Viktor squish Makkachin’s face over dinner. Viktor is going to stay with him for the rest of the season. He’s my coach. It’s all right, isn’t it? I’m allowed to like him. I bet everyone likes him.
(There’s guilt in his throat like he’s swallowed a peach pit.
It’s just for one last season.
Yuuri’s allowed to like him, isn’t he?)