Actions

Work Header

your eyes have their silence

Chapter Text

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.

“Okay.”

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!”

“Okay!”

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.

“Nice!”

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?)

Chapter Text

in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near


Viktor’s never thought of himself as a bad person.

He’s never really thought of himself as a good person, either, but he’s tried to do the right things in life. Be kind to his loved ones, or at least avoid unkindness. Donate some of his income to charity. Use his celebrity status to benefit others, with programs to train upcoming skaters and photo ops at animal rescues. Viktor’s been called many things, but not malicious, not cruel, not unfaithful.

(If anything it’s Viktor’s absolute devotion that’s caused him pain—to skating, and to other things.

Maybe that’s why...)

It’s important that people in Hasetsu like him, if he’s going to live here for a while. It’s important that the Katsukis like him, since he’s trespassing on their hospitality and they’re bearing it with good grace. It’s important that Yuuri like him, since he’s Viktor’s student. His protege. His friend.

Yuuri is complex. The brash Yuuri Viktor was so enthralled by in Sochi is only one facet of him. He has trouble with jumps, yet his step sequences and spins are incredible. He calls himself weak, but he’s dedicated and hard-working and frequently has to be dragged out of the rink or the studio. He acts like he has nothing to offer, and yet he’s got the makings of a gold medalist, clear as day.

What Yuuri conceals in conversation, he reveals on the ice, and so Viktor learns to fall silent and read Yuuri’s thoughts in the sweep of his arms, the flex of his thighs, the tilt of his head. Be who you are, he tells Viktor, but Viktor stopped being himself years ago. People don’t want the real him; they want flash and glamour. They want him to make what’s impossibly hard effortless; they want him to be unavailable enough to be safe to love and accessible enough to keep them coming back.

(Maybe that’s why he lets himself feel this way. Because he’s been hurt by the world. That’s what they say, isn’t it? That only a broken person would want…)

In the mornings, Yuuri runs, while Viktor bikes; they eat breakfast together. Then they skate, or do cross-training; Viktor is aware that he could forgo this, as he’s retired, but the habit is hard to break, and Yuuri’s company is a compelling incentive. In the evenings Hiroko cooks, and Viktor eats with abandon. Yuuri eats with more restraint, often eying Viktor’s bowl with envy. Sometimes when Viktor is feeling bold he’ll pick up a bite of breaded pork and place it in Yuuri’s mouth.

Makkachin is with them; Makkachin is always with them. Loving Makka has been tied with missing her for so long that Viktor has half-forgotten about all the joys and pitfalls of dog ownership. She steals food and she thinks she’s a lapdog and she likes Yuuri better than she likes Viktor; he can’t blame her for that, even if the bed is cold at night without her at his side.

Nothing in Hasetsu feels real. Maybe that’s why Viktor feels no urgency at all.

“Let’s take today off!”

“Viktor…”

“It’ll be fun! We can go to the beach.”

“All right.” Yuuri sighs and pushes back his empty bowl from breakfast. He gets up, rummages in a drawer and tosses Viktor a bottle of sunscreen. “Here. You burn.”

Viktor does burn, and while getting ready he slathers on sunscreen until he’s slick and ashy with it. He can’t quite reach his back, but he thinks it would disconcert Yuuri if he asked for help.

Contact is okay if Yuuri initiates, and sometimes even if he doesn’t. Viktor’s still learning when: when he’s allowed to hug him and when he shouldn’t even give him a pat on the shoulder, when he can be close and when he can’t. It’s hard; Viktor is used to distance, and so part of him is always seeking to close it.

Slowly, he tells himself. You didn’t learn to do a quad flip in a day.

The weather is fine, the sky endless, the beach empty. Makkachin gambols about them as they walk towards the beach in silence. It’s comfortably, except for the brief moment when Yuuri takes off his shirt and Viktor’s mouth goes dry.

He looks down, and makes his way to the ocean.

The water is pleasantly cold. Viktor wades in, trying and failing to not think about what salt water might do to his hair. Behind him, Yuuri is trying to coax Makkachin in. Should he tell Yuuri that if he ignores her for a couple minutes, she’ll jump in?

“Come on, Makka, it’s fun!”

No, best to let him learn the truth himself.

He goes deeper, until the water is licking at his throat. Viktor likes to float; he likes to feel weightless, and he can only do so many jumps in a day. He leans back and closes his eyes. He can hear the waves scraping the shore, and barking, and gulls, crying.

There are gulls in St. Petersburg, aren’t there? Back when Viktor was still allowed to run on asphalt, he used to listen to them.

He’s lost in a reverie, drifting through the St. Petersburg of his youth, when something cold seizes him by the ankle and pulls him under. Viktor inhales seawater and then lets out what is the most painful sneeze of his entire life.

“Yuuri!”

“Sorry!”

Yuuri is laughing. Viktor flicks water into his face.

“What was that?”

“Nothing.” Yuuri shrugs. “Wait, you can swim, right?”

“You have a poster of me swimming.” Yuuri has posters of Viktor doing everything. His merchandise collection is simultaneously disconcerting and endearing; Hiroko has scrapbooks of a younger, softer Yuuri pouring over pictures of Viktor he cut out of a magazine.

“Yeah but...I don’t know, I thought maybe that was photoshop.”

“No, I can swim. Water exercise is easier on the joints.”

“Good.”

“Shouldn’t you have asked me that first? Who’s going to coach you if I drown?”

“I hear Yakov Feltsman has an opening.”

Yuuri’s delivery is so deadpan that for a terrifying moment Viktor thinks he’s serious—he gives Yuuri his sternest, most Lilia-like look—and then he sees the panic break out in Yuuri’s expression as Yuuri squeaks, “Wait, I was kidding!”

Viktor laughs so hard he snorts, which is an ugly habit he was supposed to have broken in his teens. When was the last time I did this, he thinks, and he doesn’t know if he means laugh unchecked or go to the beach or look at another person and feel like his heart is burning. Yuuri is snickering, now that he sees Viktor isn’t angry; he splashes Viktor back.

(Viktor’s given everything he has to the ice, and here in Hasetsu, as spring turns to summer, he melts, reforms, is baked into something new. Into someone new. Into someone else.)

Before long it devolves: the two of them trying to soak each other, and then Makkachin butting in because she can’t bear to not be the center of attention, and then she takes off running through the surf and they give chase, toes sinking into the wet sand.

“What,” Yuuri pants, “what are you feeding her! She’s so fast!”

“I’m not feeding her anything,” Viktor replies. “Your sister, on the other hand—”

Running becomes walking, and walking becomes standing, side by side, at the edge of the ocean while the water laps at their feet. Makkachin shakes herself dry, and the sun leaves streaks of salt on Viktor’s face. The back of his neck is burnt. Yuuri’s shoulders are loose, his perfect posture briefly abandoned. He’s smiling.

“Vicchan—” He stops. “My dog, Vicchan, he liked to swim. I was always nervous though. He’s so—he was so small. What if he got carried off?”

He named his dog after me? Viktor can’t hide his smile. Yuuri looks away for a moment—obviously he’s revealed more than he meant to—and Viktor decides to reciprocate in kind.

“Makkachin used to hide under the bed during thunderstorms.” Viktor laughs. “I didn’t know how to help her, so I used to sit with her all night and sing. Finally my neighbors got sick of it and pooled together to buy me a CD of soothing music.”

“Were you really loud?”

“No, just tone deaf.”

“Seriously?”

“Seriously. I’m a terrible singer.”

“I thought you could do everything.”

“No.” Viktor braces for disappointment.

Yuuri considers this. He gets this look, when he’s really thinking; Viktor has learned to watch for it. Yuuri doesn’t do things halfway; it’s one of the things that makes teaching him so worthwhile.

“You know what this means?”

“What?”

“You have to be on Minako’s team for karaoke.”

“Why?”

“Because she can’t sing, either.” He tugs on Viktor’s arm. “Come on, let’s shower.”

Viktor has no idea what the mineral content of the water from the beach showers is, and he worries aloud about this for ten minutes before Yuuri starts mussing his hair in retaliation. Viktor drags his nails over Yuuri’s scalp, soft wet hair between his fingers, Yuuri grinning as water drips into his eyes. He’s squinting, from the sun or from not having his glasses, Viktor’s not sure.

How bad is Yuuri’s eyesight? He should find out. He’s a coach now; he needs to know these things.

(He needs to know everything about Yuuri.)

The sun is setting as they make their way back to the house. The patch over the inside of Yuuri’s right wrist, held underwater for too long, is starting to peel away. Just enough for Viktor to see a glimpse of metal. Rose gold, he notes, just like mine.

Distracted, he doesn’t see Yuuri has stopped. Viktor walks right into him. The sunset is reflected on the water like fire, and the orange light of it in turn is caught in Yuuri’s eyes. He’s so close; Viktor hears him inhale. His hand brushes over Viktor’s arm, a heated touch, a sudden shock.

The evening light is so beautiful, gilding Yuuri’s face and neck and hands. If Viktor wants to kiss the tip of his nose, his forehead, his lashes, his lips, his wrist—

“Let’s head back,” Yuuri says, flushed furiously.

Viktor nods.

He didn’t come here for this. (He didn’t come here just for this.) But sometimes Yuuri looks at him like he’s thinking the same thoughts, eyes lingering on Viktor’s mouth.

Viktor’s never thought of himself as a bad person, but he thinks for Yuuri, he might become one.

And enjoy it.

Chapter Text

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though I have closed myself as fingers


The night before the Chugoku, Shikoku and Kyushu Championships, Yuuri lets Viktor do his hair.

He feels vaguely guilty about defining it in those terms, because Yuuri doesn’t have a lot of hair to do. Mostly Viktor is just combing in gel and humming, offkey, his voice a perfect counterpoint to the low light of the candles. His hands are warm, and the way he smooths back flyaway wisps of hair feels almost pleasant, nothing like the impersonal touch of a hairdresser that Yuuri always dreads at photoshoots. Maybe it’s just that he knows Viktor likes him.

 It feels good, though, relaxing, like Yuuri is supposed to be doing before a competition. As the gel sets and Yuuri squints at his dim reflection in the glass, Viktor moves about the room. Yuuri’s costume is hanging in a garment bag off the closet door; a suitcase is sitting packed beneath it, a tissue box with a Makkachin-shaped cover placed on top. For all that Viktor plays at being flighty and impulsive, he’s meticulous about practicalities.

Mari teased him, once, asking if he was okay with an inexperienced coach like Viktor, and it’s true that there are points where Viktor (Yuuri doesn’t like to think this, in case Viktor somehow knows) falls short. But the relentlessness of his effort is reassuring. Viktor loves skating, and he seems to like coaching, and Yuuri is his…

Viktor’s fingers brush across the back of his neck.

“Is it good?” he asks. “Will you wear it like this tomorrow?”

Yuuri nods, even though he hasn’t seen it with his glasses on. If Viktor’s made Yuuri half as pretty as he is, it’ll be fine.

“Well, time for bed! We want to get an early start.”

“Okay.”

Yuuri stands up, wishing that the power wasn’t out, and puts his glasses back on. Behind him, Viktor is stretching and yawning; his shirt rides up, showing off musculature that is unfair considering Yuuri’s the one who’s been training to compete. He tries not to look, as Viktor scratches his stomach absently, as he pats a sleeping Makkachin, as he goes over to a train case sitting on top of the bookshelf to dig out what looks like face cream.

Viktor is obsessed with face cream.

Yuuri is obsessed with Viktor: Viktor with his train case of skincare, Viktor who actually cried last week over Makkachin being cute, Viktor who never fails to tell him if he is flubbing his jumps, Viktor who never fails to tell Yuuri ‘good job!’ when he does it right.

Posters and merchandise and interviews only show the half of it; Yuuri is obsessed with this funhouse mirror version of Viktor, who is dabbing at his face with something that smells of green tea and giving Yuuri a mock-stern look.

“Yuuri. Bed!”

Let’s sleep together, the Viktor of months past says in Yuuri’s brain.

Yes, he doesn’t say. I would like to sleep here beside you, and wake up beside you, and in the morning when we both looked terrible, you would still be beautiful to me, and I—

Goddammit, he has to stop doing this.

Viktor isn’t his, no matter how long his touch lingers or how close he stands or how badly Yuuri wants him. If Viktor makes him feel that way, he’ll make his soulmate feel ten times as good. Why can’t Yuuri make himself be content with the way things are? It’s already so much.

(Yuuri wonders if his soulmate will make him feel this way, like his blood is carbonated, like his heart has wings.)

He showers in the dark, gel and water running down his face, and curls up under the covers with Makkachin on top of his feet. If he listens hard, he can pretend he can hear Viktor’s breathing. Tomorrow they’re going to make their first public appearance as coach and student. Tomorrow, Yuuri has to get back onto the ice.

One last season, he tells himself. Make it count.

Sleep, when it comes, is mercifully dreamless.

The morning of the competition dawns grey and chilly. The journey from Hasetsu is a blur; Yuuri barely registers his parents’ good wishes or Minako’s grumbling as she and Takeshi pile into the Nishigori’s car. Viktor sits beside him, a hand on the seat between them, and Yuuri stares at his knees and takes deep breaths. He keeps his eyes down while they get checked in at the rink. He watches the floor intently until it’s time to draw for the performance order.

He’s first, because of course he is. Yuuri is hideously unlucky.

The three younger skaters make Yuuri vaguely uncomfortable—he doesn’t know them and they keep staring and whispering—and Viktor is even worse, announcing that Yuuri is going to wipe the floor with everyone today.

“I think I mentioned this before, a lot, but last season during Nationals I completely bombed everything and people actually thought I was injured but I was fine, I was just mentally weak!”

“Wow,” Viktor says. He’s holding the Makkachin tissue box, which is frankly adorable. Yuuri is still mad at him. “Well, let’s go get warmed up!”

He’s getting nervous. His last two competitions were unmitigated disasters, and now that Viktor is coaching him, people will expect more out of him. Yuuri has to get it together here, if only to prove to himself that he’ll be able to compete during the Grand Prix series. He sucks in a deep breath as he skates, running through bits of his program, trying to get into the groove. Calm, he tells himself. Focus. Don’t worry about anyone else.

Viktor is hopping with excitement, in contrast, which is why Yuuri panics when he disappears right before the competition. Minako and Takeshi haven’t seen him, and the six minute warm-up is about to start, and his coach is missing. What if something happened to him? What if he quit?

Yuuri whips around, and there is Viktor, resplendent in a dark suit and tie, his hair a little fluffier than usual. He’s surrounded by people, who are trying to get his attention and calling out questions and taking his picture.

“Sorry to keep you waiting,” Viktor says. He does not sound sorry.

“Why’d you change?”

“It’s my debut as coach! I thought I should look the part.”

Yuuri doesn’t care what Viktor looks like as long as he doesn’t abandon Yuuri now. He can coach in a hot dog onesie for all Yuuri cares. Viktor continues talking as they walk down to the rink, a stream of pleasant chatter that Yuuri barely registers. He hates skating first; he can’t enjoy the later performances, and the pressure is always more intense when he has no idea what the competition is like. He presses his skate guards into Viktor’s hands.

The warm up feels like it’s seconds long. The ice is clear before he knows it, and Yuuri focuses. This is only step one. He’s got to clear the hurdle if he’s going to be serious later on in the season.

Viktor looks displeased, rinkside, as Yuuri swigs his bottle of water.

“Turn around.”

Yuuri has no idea what he’s supposed to have done—he hasn’t had an anxiety attack yet—but he obeys and—

Oh. Hug.

That’s right, Viktor hugs him before he skates, or after he skates, or when Yuuri says things like “I like poodles,” or “I brought you noodles,” and makes Viktor happy. Viktor touches Yuuri all the time in Hasetsu.

But—that’s Hasetsu. This is in public, with strangers around who don’t know anything, who might assume things. Viktor and Yuuri are both single and unmatched. Viktor shouldn’t hug him here, no matter how much it does help.

Viktor’s arms wrap tightly around him; his hair tickles Yuuri’s skin. He smells like his expensive cologne.

“Seduce me with everything you have.”

“O-okay.”

They’ve done this before. Just like in practice, Yuuri tells himself to cover up the weakness in his limbs, as he takes his starting pose. This is the program that Viktor choreographed just for him. He’s going to show everyone what Eros is. He’s going to become a delicious pork cutlet bowl fatale that enthralls Viktor.

Men, Yuuri thinks as he launches into his step sequence. Men! Not Viktor! He goes for the jumps, mostly lands them, pops a triple. The sound of his own heartbeat almost drowns out the music, but Yuuri loves the rhythm of it, can almost feel the guitar in his bones. The unity of music and choreography is what makes a performance satisfying to him. The audience doesn’t react the way he wants them to—the way this program demands—and he pushes himself, trying to ensnare them all.

He’s fine. He’s fine. The final spin makes him dizzy, but as he skids to a stop, he feels all right.

Apparently he’s the only one who feels that way, because even though Yuuri beat his personal best, Viktor still gives him a long lecture while he fumbles on his skate guards, casually wonders why Yuuri didn’t break into the hundreds, and then suggests that Yuuri lower the difficulty of his free skate program.

It bothers him. It bothers him while he’s getting challenged by a Lohengrin-wearing Minami Kenjiro, and it bothers him at the hotel that night as he takes a shower and lets Viktor order him room service, and it bothers him in his dreams about losing, and by the time the morning sunlight is stabbing him in the eyes and he’s being woken up by Viktor’s endearingly cheery Russian singing, he’s come to a decision.

He’s ready. He’s focused. He’s doing sort of okay. He’s not going to let Minami distract him.

And then Viktor is mad. He gives Yuuri an enigmatic speech about motivation.

“I’m disappointed in you,” he says, like he didn’t just crush Yuuri completely.

At least Yuuri isn’t skating first today, so he has a minute to recover. Minami is up first. Yuuri watches him go; to be honest, he doesn’t quite get it. Sure, Yuuri is older and more experienced, but he’s also already lost to Minami once. Yuuri half-expected the rest of the skaters to be miniature Yuri Plisetskys, encouraging him to retire already.

He’s so young.

Yuuri has vivid memories or being that age, of fantasizing about all the kind things Viktor would say to them when Yuuri crawled onto the podium beside him. It strikes Yuuri that maybe Minami—not that he’s a fan, maybe—but it probably would mean something to him to have Yuuri notice him. He doesn’t know Yuuri well enough to know that Yuuri is a trainwreck.

“Good luck,” he yells, and he’s horribly aware that people are staring. “Good luck, Minami!”

He slips out to the parking lot midway through Minami’s performance, and he listens to his free skate music, and he thinks about it. About what this program means to him.

Love…

“You look beautiful,” Viktor says, and he brushes Chanel lip balm over Yuuri’s lips, holds him close in the last seconds before Yuuri has to go. Yuuri forgets about everyone watching their intimacy, and revels in it. He’s so warm, Viktor is. He’s taking coaching Yuuri so seriously.

Yuuri almost feels bad about not telling him he’s planning on reverting to the original, three quad jump composition.

I used to feel like I was alone on the ice.

Quad-double. Viktor will guess what’s coming. The beginning notes of this piece are somber, but they build, and build, and Yuuri skates, and skates, and the violin starts.

But ever since Viktor came…I’ve been wondering…what he is to me. What ‘love’ is.

The choreography of this program is essentially Yuuri’s, with refinements borrowed from Viktor. It’s more personal than Yuuri’s programs usually are; this is the first one he’s produced himself. There’s something exciting about showing off what he created.

It’s almost fun, when he lands the quad salchow, when every element feels special, when the music seems to be coming from somewhere inside his own head.

Love…love is…

There’s a lightning bolt of pain as his face goes into the wall and his triple jump goes out the window, but Yuuri shakes it off. It’s only a little blood; nothing to stop him from the final elements, from dancing out the last notes of his song.

Even if it’s not the kind of love between soulmates…even if this feeling is unrequited…I still…

Yuuri can’t see Viktor’s face as he points directly at him.

He doesn’t want to.

In the end, Yuuri wins. Once his nosebleed is staunched, Viktor coos over him, nose pressed against Yuuri’s hair, and Yuuri accepts his fussing with good grace and then sends him home with Minako and Takeshi so Yuuri can handle tomorrow’s press conference alone.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to stay?”

“It’ll be boring for you.”

“But I’m your coach!”

Yuuri smiles. “Makkachin misses you, right? I’ll be back tomorrow in time for afternoon practice.”

“All right.”

The press conference is just Yuuri announcing his theme for the Grand Prix series. He and Viktor have already discussed it, in sideways conversations where Yuuri carefully skirted any subject that might cause them pain. When he decided on the theme, he was thinking of Viktor; he still is, but in a different way.

He spends more time than usual that morning fixing his tie and straightening his lapels, and is glad he doesn’t have to face Viktor while he speaks.

“My theme is ‘love’. Not anything as clear-cut as romantic love, but…since Viktor came to become my coach, I…” Yuuri swallows, knuckles white around the microphone. “I’ve been loved by so many people. By my friends, and my family, and my hometown.”

There are different kinds of love, he thinks. Even if the love between Viktor and I isn’t the kind I dreamed about, it’s still strong.

“I want to hold onto those feelings. Love—Viktor’s love, everyone’s love—it’s made me stronger. And I’ll prove it at the Grand Prix Final with a gold medal!”

The fact that he wants to be my coach…that’s more than enough for me.

Chapter Text

you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose


 

Viktor is tired.

Yuuri has the stamina of a god, he thinks, and by this point he’s had so much practice at repression that he barely thinks about how that stamina might translate recreationally at all. If Viktor knew that teaching Yuuri would be so strenuous, he would have...well, he doesn’t know what he would have done.

He’s older, and weaker. That’s not a problem that can be solved.

Hiroko’s home cooked meals are a godsend, if only because they’re better at luring Yuuri off the ice than he is. The two of them collapse at the table after practice, steaming bowls of food appear, and Viktor shoves the problem of human aging out of his mind.

"Ah, I have to go to Nakatsu tomorrow." Viktor scrolls down so he can read the rest of the email. He needs to stop bringing his cell phone to dinner; Hiroko’s cooking deserves his undivided attention. “For a photoshoot.”

“I can practice by myself.”

“Don’t do the flip.”

“But Viktor—”

“Until you can land it consistently I don’t want you doing it unsupervised.”

“But—”

“Yuuri, which of us can do a quad flip?”

“...you?”

“Exactly.”

“Fine,” Yuuri says.

Viktor eyes him skeptically. Yuuri is a lot of things, but tractable is not one of them. Sometimes Viktor can logic Yuuri into doing his bidding, and sometimes Yuuri nods at him, wide-eyed and guileless, and then does what he was going to do anyway. Viktor has no idea where this rebellious streak comes from.

(Somewhere, Yakov is laughing at him.)

“Why don’t you come with me?”

“Huh?” Yuuri pauses, mouthful of broccoli halfway to his mouth. He looks relieved to have an excuse not to eat it. Why does Yuuri insist on eating broccoli if he hates it? Viktor has asked this question, and whenever he does, Yuuri just looks him up and down, sighs, and shakes his head.

“To Nakatsu! We can go out after the photoshoot. It shouldn’t take long.”

“But won’t I be in the way? And shouldn’t I be practicing?”

“You practice plenty, Yuuri. It’s important to take time for yourself. Besides, what if I need a translator? What if I mortally offend someone because I don’t speak Japanese? What if I get lost and die?”

Yuuri ducks his head, smiling. “None of that will happen,” he says. “Probably. But okay, I guess I can go. I can go running during your shoot or something.”

The prospect of a whole day with Yuuri without worrying about coaching is delightful. As much as Viktor has come to enjoy coaching, he still occasionally feels like he has no idea what he’s doing. It will probably do him good to have a break, too, even if the break is partially him attending to his career in a different way.

(His agent was baffled when Viktor told her he was too busy for all the events she wanted to schedule. Too busy, she asked, as if Viktor had never said those words to her. Come to think of it, maybe he hadn’t.)

“We can take the train, right?”

“Yeah.” Yuuri shoves the last bite of food into his mouth, grimaces, and swallows. “What time do we have to be there?”

“They want me in hair and makeup by ten.”

“All right.”

“Do you want to look over your practice footage?”

“Su—” Yuuri breaks off to yawn.

“Later, then.” Viktor wants to linger over dinner, to make Yuuri talk to him. He wants to watch every second of practice footage and give Yuuri corrections as he leans over Yuuri’s shoulder and whispers directly into his ear. Instead he pats Yuuri on the head. “Good night!”

He’s been trying very hard not to be too much. If he’s going to spend the entire day with Yuuri tomorrow, he should give Yuuri the evening to himself. Viktor might be in love with him, but Yuuri’s never said anything to make Viktor think he might transgress the bounds of society to choose Viktor over the hand of fate. And without some sign of reciprocation, Viktor can’t cross the line.

At least Makkachin deigns to come to bed with Viktor this time.

Morning dawns grey and warm, and Viktor dresses with more care than usual, since he’s going to be seen by his sponsors. Mari promises to walk Makkachin, and Toshiya gives them both a hot breakfast as Yuuri droops, sleepy, over the table. Despite his drowsiness, Yuuri still takes the lead at the train station; he guides Viktor onto the train and sits beside him. The swaying of the car makes his eyelids fall closed.

He falls asleep on Viktor’s shoulder, and Viktor doesn’t dare hold him; he leans back and revels in the softness of Yuuri’s hair as it tickles his chin. He wonders why Yuuri is so tired when Viktor sent him to bed early last night. His phone goes off, and Viktor digs it out of his jacket pocket; it’s not a call, just an event notification from his calendar.

Mikhail’s Birthday, it reads. The notification light flashes bright green; it’s the same color as the light in the center of Viktor’s device.

He freezes. Mikhail. Viktor almost forgot about—

Easy to forget someone when they never call or write, Viktor thinks, and then he chastises himself. It’s not like he’s called Mikhail much—once after the banquet in Sochi, out of desperation, and once at the airport waiting for his flight to Hasetsu, out of guilt. Mikhail didn’t pick up. He still hasn’t called back.

He taps out a text, happy birthday, and then adds a heart at the end. Then he erases it because it’s a lie.  Then he adds a smiley face and sends it before he can think about it any more.

Viktor’s not really doing anything wrong. He glances down at the top of Yuuri’s head. Yuuri is a good person, a kind person, the type of person who would be disgusted if he knew what Viktor was thinking: that soulmate or not, Viktor really wants to kiss him on the temple and slide an arm around his waist.

He needs to touch Yuuri less. One of these days he’ll get around to it. As soon as Yuuri tells him to.

Mikhail texts back an hour later, as they’re making their way off the train. Yuuri is rubbing the sleep from his eyes, but he still looks at Viktor oddly.

“Something wrong?”

 Mikhail’s answering message just reads thanks. Viktor hastily locks his phone and puts it away.

“Fine! Let’s go.”

They walk to the photoshoot together. It’s located somewhere called Aonodomon; Yuuri tells him the story as they go. Overheard the clouds start to dissolve.

“A monk dug it by hand during the eighteenth century,” Yuuri explains. “The legends says he did it to atone for a murder he committed, because the original path to the temple was so dangerous worshipers fell to their deaths.”

“It’s amazing what people will endure for something they believe in, isn’t it?”

“No one knows if the story is real, though.”

“If enough people are moved by it, a story takes on a life of its own.”

“Maybe,” Yuuri says. “But just because you believe in something, doesn’t mean it can happen in real life.”

“Are you worried about the Grand Prix? You qualified last year.”

“No, I just—never mind.” Yuuri shrugs. “Come on. We’re almost there.”

The tunnel is wide and tall enough for cars to pass through; Viktor expected something smaller. There’s moss and plants growing on the stone, but otherwise it doesn’t look visually interesting enough for a photoshoot. A railing on one side separates the footpath from the road. A tent has been pitched nearby, behind the roadblock, and there the photoshoot staff are setting up cameras and lighting and a pair of chairs in front of a mirror.

Viktor checks in before he turns to Yuuri. “Do you want to go? I can call you when I’m done.”

“I’ll stay,” Yuuri says. He looks a little pink. “I want to watch.”

A small part of Viktor hopes this photoshoot is going to involve him wearing significantly less clothing.

There’s a tall, dark, voluptuous woman being primped in hair and makeup when Viktor arrives. Unfortunately, he’s been dressed modestly, and the shirt he’s wearing itches. At least it’s a flattering color: royal blue. Viktor doesn’t recognize the woman, but she turns to him and offers a firm handshake. He notes the patch on her wrist is bright green, instead of being skin-toned.

“Hi, I’m Kiris,” she says. “It’s great to meet you. I think we’re working together.”

“Viktor,” he says. She has on fake fingernails in teal, tipped with gold glitter. “I like your nails.”

“Thank you.”

Kiris’s make-up and hair continue the theme of gold; the makeup artist dabs gold glitter over the tops of her cheeks and brushes it down her chest. She’s been dressed in the same shade of blue as Viktor; her dress has feathers piled on top of each shoulder. Viktor suspects he’s going to be picking feather remnants off his clothes for the rest of the day.

They do Viktor’s makeup in silver, down to the flecks of glitter in the gloss they smear on his eyelids and the sheen of the highlighter they brush down the bridge of his nose. Someone undoes the top two buttons of Viktor’s shirt, and brings Kiris a patch in the same ebony shade as her skin. Viktor averts his eyes while she puts it on, and then the two of them are herded to the tunnel to begin shooting.

Fake snow has been piled up in the entrance and scattered over the flora, with big chunks of fake ice sitting in the center for them to pose on. Someone hands Viktor an ice pick and Kiris a hammer.

“What does any of this have to do with selling clothes?” Yuuri asks. He’s been sitting quietly and observing this whole time; Viktor didn’t even notice him following.

“Apparently we’re sexy ice miners,” Kiris replies.

Yuuri smiles at Viktor and then takes a seat off to the side; the photographers start calling out instructions, someone rushes in to fix one of Viktor’s fake lashes, and he resigns himself to a very boring morning. Viktor has a look for ice-themed photoshoots where he needs to look sexy and bored at the same time; he angles his face to avoid them getting his bad side. Then he digs the point of the pick into the fake ice and pouts for the camera.

Beside him, Kiris is posing with her hammer, head turned so that the overhead lighting catches the glitter on her face. She’s a better model than he is. Viktor is out of practice after too many months of doing whatever he wanted, too spoiled by the habit of getting to pick the stories he tells.

“Take five!” someone yells after what feels like years of posing but Viktor’s watch reveals to be only an hour. Yuuri brings him water, snagging it off a tray from a gopher. Viktor sucks it through a straw.

“You look bored,” Yuuri says quietly.

“I am bored. And this shirt is a travesty.”

“I thought you liked this kind of thing.”

“It can be fun,” Viktor says. “I—” I stopped enjoying everything but quad jumps and sleep a few years ago, and I’ve only now remembered other things are fun, he doesn’t say.

“I hate being photographed.”

“Why?”

“Because the camera adds ten pounds,” Yuuri says. Viktor can’t tell if he’s being serious or not.

“But you looked so cute when you were squishy,” Viktor says. “What’s the problem?”

“Viktor—”

A Device starts chiming.

Viktor flinches even as his eyes go immediately to Yuuri’s wrist, half-agony, half-hope: maybe Yuuri is forever out of Viktor’s reach, maybe the first time was a mistake and Yuuri was his all along—

But no, it’s a match, the two Devices playing their songs in harmony. Kiris is frozen in place; a meter away, a woman in black is staring at her with an expression of acute longing. Both of them are clutching their wrists; when a Device goes off, it burns.

Slowly, they each take a step towards each other. Viktor wants to look away, but he can’t. He wants to look at Yuuri, but he won’t.

Why break his own heart twice in a morning?

“Congratulations,” someone calls, and the foreigners clap and cheer. The Japanese members of the crew look away, but Viktor catches a few of them smiling at the ground. Kiris takes her soulmate’s arm, and the two of them retreat to the hair and makeup tent. They’re not gone long. By the time the shoot director is ordering Viktor back into place, Kiris is back. She looks radiant with happiness.

Viktor is practiced at swallowing his own bitterness. He even manages to smile for the rest of the shoot without looking like he’s eaten a raw lemon. They take another hour’s worth of photos before they’re done. The sun has come out; it’s a warm, clear day.

Yuuri, sitting to the side on his phone, looks very pretty. The patch on his wrist is a modest skin-tone color, always.

“I never knew that it would be like this,” Kiris says as they’re helped out of their fashionable clothes and a make up artist hands them micellar water wipes to take off the glitter. Viktor brushes bits of blue feather off his shoulder. “I never knew I would feel this way. Wow.”

“I hope you’ll be very happy,” Viktor manages. A gopher hands him his pants. Viktor means it, too; he’d never want his misery inflicted on someone else.

Yuuri joins him again when he’s done. Viktor’s desire to spend the rest of his day with Yuuri wars with his desire to flee his own raging emotions, and wins; he can’t do anything about how he feels, but he can try to enjoy himself anyways. It’s not like pining from afar has ever done him any good.

They walk out of the tunnel together, and Viktor lets Yuuri guide him again. When he veers off in the wrong direction, Yuuri redirects him with a touch to his arm. The streets aren’t too crowded. Viktor’s stomach grumbles, and a moment later, Yuuri’s does too.

“Lunch?”

“Yeah.”

Viktor declares it a cheat day, just to watch Yuuri’s eyes light up, and they decide to run together to the restaurant. Yuuri looked it up last night, he explains; since Viktor hasn’t done many touristy things in Japan besides what’s in Hasetsu, he wanted to give him an authentic experience for lunch.

Viktor can’t keep up with Yuuri, but he tries. As they stand outside the restaurant, Yuuri barely out of breath and Viktor panting, Yuuri looks at him oddly. His eyes flick down to Viktor’s wrist, which is covered by a patch that’s seen better days, with a smear of ink across it where a pen slipped from his hand. Maybe he’s offended; the Japanese are more discreet about their patches than the Russians are. Viktor’s rink even keeps a bowl of medical-grade white ones in the locker room in case the athletes lose theirs to sweat or mishap.

“Do you have one?”

“What?”

“A soulmate.”

“Everyone has one, Yuuri.”

“Did you meet them yet?”

Viktor wants so badly to lie. He can taste it in his mouth. No, he wants to say, I don’t belong to anyone but you and I never will.

But Yuuri deserves the truth from him, not to be lured in under false pretenses. He asked Viktor to coach him, not to fall in love with him.

“…yes.”

“Oh.” Yuuri stares blankly at nothing. He bites his lip. “Well, congratulations.”

“Thank you.”

They wait outside the restaurant for a long time before Yuuri takes him inside and orders him ramen. He won’t look at Viktor the entire time they’re eating, and finally Viktor can’t bear it.

“What’s on your mind?”

“Nothing.”

“Yuuri,” Viktor says, dragging out the vowel mockingly. “You’re lying. You couldn’t do a single toe loop like this without falling. What is it?” He hesitates, then goes for the kill. “Is it because I have a soulmate?”

“No!”

“Then why?”

“I just…haven’t met mine yet, that’s all.”

“You will.”

“I guess.”

“You’ll be very loved,” Viktor says.

Yuuri doesn’t say anything. He stares into his ramen like his soulmate’s name might be written in the shape of the floating noodles. Viktor swallows heavily—the food tastes like ash in his mouth—and orders himself a beer.

(Yuuri takes him home, hand on his back, steady and solid, his eyes kind even as he scolds Viktor for drinking himself stupid in the middle of the day. Viktor is weak and sinful. He puts his head on Yuuri’s shoulder on the train when they’re alone.

“I want to go home,” Viktor says. He loves Hasetsu, where he can hug Yuuri as much as he wants and no one says a word.

“You’ll be home soon,” Yuuri says back. He touches Viktor’s hair as Viktor dozes on him. “I’ll make sure you get there.”)

Chapter Text

or if your wish be to close me,i and
my life will shut very beautifully,suddenly,


 

Don’t ever take your eyes off me.

Fuck. Yuuri can’t believe he said that to Viktor, right there in the rink where anyone could hear; he can’t believe he held Viktor’s hand or that he leaned in close enough to kiss or that he completely forgot the vow he made when Viktor had told him about his—about his relationship status.

You can love him, Yuuri reminds himself, just not like that, just not so much.

Viktor’s gone off to eat hot pot with Yakov, who insisted that he needed to talk to Viktor--to convince him to come back to skating, if Yuuri has to guess. To ask him what he’s doing here with Yuuri. Neither of them looked really pleased to be going, even though, on the plane, Viktor spent nearly ten minutes rambling about his favorite hot pot dishes and looking at restaurant reviews.

Yuuri was looking forward to eating it with him.

Instead Yuuri is at the hotel alone, his arms full of sadly healthy take-out. He hurries across the lobby, determined to get back up to his room without having to interact with anyone else. If only Phichit was here, he thinks, but Phichit must be out with—

“Phichit-kun!”

“Yuuri!” Phichit stops, his own arms also full of take-out boxes, and grins.

Phichit transfers the boxes to one arm and holds out the other one; Yuuri lets Phichit hug him, he’s missed him that much. Phichit looks browner than usual, his eyeliner navy instead of black, which is how Yuuri knows he’s serious. He’s got on a bright blue patch over his left wrist; Yuuri hates that he checks, but he’s got Devices on his mind lately.

“How’s Bangkok?”

“Hot. Spicy. Not a hockey player in sight.”

Yuuri grins. “You don’t miss Chad?”

“I miss Chad the way I miss mall food court ‘Thai’ food.” Phichit make air quotes around the word ‘Thai’ with his free hand.

“Are you sure? We could find a Noodles & Company. You could eat—”

“If you say ‘pad thai’ I’m allowed to kill you. Legally.” Phichit looks around as someone calls his name. Yuuri follows his gaze to a group of younger competitors, who are waving at Phichit to come over.

“Do you have to go?”

“Nah, we can hang out now. I’ll catch up with them later.”

Phichit walks with Yuuri through the hotel lobby and into the elevator, where they’re finally alone. Ever since he arrived in Beijing, Yuuri has been hyperaware of people staring at him. He’s tried to comfort himself by reminding himself that it’s not him they’re staring at but the shadow of Viktor on him, but it’s not helping.

He wonders what people are saying, and how long it will be before he breaks and checks the internet and works himself into an anxious frenzy. Yuuri’s been good about avoiding the stressful parts of the internet for months, but it’s always under pressure that he cracks.

“So, you ready for tomorrow?”

“I guess.”

Yuuri is not ready. He keeps hearing the commentator on repeat in his brain: Yuuri Katsuki is in first place.

Phichit rubs his nose. “My parents are here.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah, they canceled a big meeting after I told them—”

He shakes his head. Yuuri nods, understanding; he’s seen clips of Phichit’s practice footage. This is the season that Phichit is unveiling his The King and The Skater program, the one he’s been working on for years, the one he’s been waiting to perform since he was a child.

Of course his parents wanted to be here today to see Phichit make his mark on figure skating history.

(The first time he and Phichit ever hung out together, they watched the movie together. Sprawled out on Phichit’s bed side by side, Yuuri had let the familiar music wash over him, while Phichit sang along and gasped and covered his mouth at the emotional bits.

“I have those trading cards. Mint condition,” Phichit bragged during a snack break.

Yuuri swallowed his mouthful of horrible wasabi popcorn. “I have a signed Viktor Nikiforov cardboard cutout.”

“....you what?” Phichit sounded more impressed than disgusted.

“I—I had to import it.”

“He signed it?”

“I have a source.”

Phichit considered this. “...can they get me a limited edition original TKTS poster?”

Yuuri had to take a moment to parse the acronym. “Probably?”

“Excellent.” Phichit stole a handful of Yuuri’s popcorn and then plopped one of his hamsters on Yuuri’s shoulder. “Here, say hi to Arthur.” He hits play on the remote.

These are my hamsters, Phichit had said when he first moved in. He’d bared his teeth, hamster tank clutched protectively to his chest. If anything happens to them, you die.

He scratched the top of Arthur’s soft head as the music played. Onscreen, the king and the skater were on the ice together, and they looked at each other like they were in love. The music of their theme song incorporated the chime of a Match, like so many love songs do.

Fresh from the sting of the Nishigori’s wedding, Yuuri still winced every time he heard a Device go off. Phichit hummed along with the music, with more enthusiasm than skill, conducting with a pretzel stick.

Despite himself, Yuuri smiled.)

“My sisters couldn’t come, and the twins have school,” Phichit says. “You know how it is.”

The only member of Yuuri’s family who consistently comes to his competitions is Minako; he’s luckier than Phichit, though, because on a small screen his family doesn’t have to see Yuuri humiliate himself in detail. He’s still quietly grateful none of them could make it for the GPF last season, and not just because he didn’t want to have to avoid them to go cry in the bathroom.

He’s also grateful they’re not here now.

They reach Yuuri’s hotel room, and he hefts his take-out. “See you later?”

“Why? My parents are coming to my room to eat with me. You come too.”

“Really?”

“Why not? Unless you and Viktor have plans…?” Phichit waggles his eyebrows.

“He’s with Yakov.” Yuuri mutters. “Sure, I’ll come, just let me change.”

Maybe being anxious about Phichit’s parents will distract him from being anxious about competing, like fighting fire with fire.

Yuuri doesn’t know a lot about Phichit’s family, but he does know they’re blessed with wealth and that they have exacting tastes (Yuuri’s seen the commentary on Phichit’s outfits in his family WhatsApp). He can’t go eat with them in his tattered track pants.

“It’s room 1644.”

“Okay.”

After rummaging, Yuuri digs out a pair of jeans from the bottom of his suitcase and puts them on. He decides to take the takeout he bought with him, so that he’s not stealing food from Phichit’s family. Viktor’s texted him, succinctly: with Yakov, back in 3 hrs. There’s not even an emoji to soften it.

Yuuri shoves his phone into his back pocket and carries his food to the sixteenth floor.

Phichit’s parents turn out to be like him; his mother has the same brows, his father the same nose. Their names are Kanchana and Karasin. Both of them are wearing “Support Phichit Chulanont!” buttons with the Thai flag as a background pinned to their shirts. They’re soulmates; they have uncovered wrists with matching red Device lights, which is a Thai tradition but which makes Yuuri uncomfortable. Except for Yuuko in the implant office, he’s never seen anyone’s Deviced wrist bare.

Yuuri has talked to them on the phone, roasting Phichit while he calls home and thanking them when they include him in their care packages. They were kind to him then and they’re kind to him now.

“Phichit talks about you often,” Karasin says. “He says you took care of him when he was away from home.”

“He’s lying,” Yuuri says automatically, and then flushes. “I mean, I tried…”

That is an absolute lie. He and Phichit did nothing but get better at skating and encourage each other to make bad decisions and argue about which of them made real rice and real curry.

“Well, he came home safe, so thank you,” Kanchana says. Her smile is Phichit’s, sweet and wicked at the same time. “Sit down! You must be hungry. Phichit eats like a whale after he skates.”

Phichit’s setting food out on the table in his hotel room; chicken, rice, vegetables. It smells ten times better than what Yuuri bought; his mouth is watering. He glances down at his takeout box, and Phichi reaches over and takes it away from him.

“I was gonna eat that.”

“Yeah, no.”

They all fill up plates and sit down on the too-hard hotel furniture.

“Do you have family here, Yuuri?”

“My aunt,” Yuuri says. He doesn’t elaborate; he doesn’t want to have to explain why he’s not eating with them.

(Minako must understand, because she texted him good luck and told him she’d catch him tomorrow evening.)

As they eat, Karasin and Kanchana dominate the conversation. They talk about their business (they’re in hospitality although on a much grander scale than Yuuri’s parents are), and they talk about skating, but mostly, they talk about Phichit, and how proud they are of him. A stranger listening in on their conversation might think Phichit’s full name was “Phichit Thailand’s First Internationally Ranked Figure Skater Chulanont.”

“And I’m on this great new billboard, you have to come visit me and see it,” Phichit says, after he finishes telling Yuuri about his sponsorship opportunities in Thailand and how they’re improved now that he’s home.

“Did they get your good side?”

“I only have good sides.”

“He was a wonderful photographer at a young age,” Kanchana says.

“He cried when we bought him his first smartphone,” Karasin adds.

The conversation drifts to Phichit’s tourism ad campaign for Thailand, and then the importance of quads in men’s singles skating, where Yuuri tries and fails not to cite Viktor’s most iconic programs. The weather in Bangkok has apparently been beautiful, and they talk about tourists and litter, and Yuuri having to explain onsen etiquette to guests, and how Kanchana has heard so many horror stories from hotel custodians that she’s raised the cleaning fee at all their hotels.

“You boys keep your hotel rooms clean, right?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Yuuri says.

“What about the onion rings?” Phichit asks.

“That was one time, and you’re the one who told me I needed three bags.”

“You said they were buy two get one free. I couldn’t tell you not to buy them.”

“What’s this about onion rings?” Karasin asks. Phichit explains while Yuuri hangs his head: there was a convenience store, a tempting sale, a hard to open jumbo-sized bag of onion rings, the pitter-patter of crumbs as Yuuri ripped the bag open so hard it exploded, a hotel room carpet that could never be cleaned.

Dinner winds down, and Yuuri checks his phone. There’s no message from Viktor, but that’s fine, Yuuri convinces himself; before a competition Yuuri needs some alone time. Kanchana and Karasin both wish him luck when he makes his goodbyes, and to his immense embarrassment, thank him for being a good friend.

“He’s too focused. I’m glad he had some fun in Detroit.”

Yuuri has to stifle a laugh at the thought of Yuuri being the fun friend—Yuuri is the kind of obsessive that drives coaches to drink and has it on good authority he’s only fun with a bottle of champagne in him—but he agrees with them about Phichit being focused. Phichit is one of the most dedicated people Yuuri knows; it’s why he was so easy to live with.

“Thank you,” he says, and then lets himself out.

Phichit follows, to his surprise.

“See you tomorrow?”

“I asked my parents not to say anything,” Phichit says, “and I know you guys haven’t announced it, but congratulations.”

“…on what?”

“You and Viktor.”

The bottom drops out of Yuuri’s stomach. “What about me and Viktor?”

“You’re a Match, aren’t you?”

“No!”

“Seriously?” Phichit blinks.

“Of course we’re not—why would you think that?”

“Look, don’t freak out,” Phichit says slowly, “but everyone thinks that.”

“No,” Yuuri says, and he buries his face in his hands. This cannot be happening. He worried that there would be speculation, that people would think Viktor is going behind his soulmate’s back, that people might misunderstand and think they’re doing something inappropriate. But for anyone to think that he and Viktor are a Match? It is inconceivable. It is impossible.

It makes an awful kind of sense.

“You guys should make a statement.”

“Right.”

“Sorry to spring this on you, I thought—” Phichit shakes his head. “Are you okay?”

“Fine,” Yuuri whispers. People think he’s Viktor’s soulmate. That’s what Chris meant, earlier, when he insinuated that Viktor was keeping him busy. That’s what people think his Eros program is about. That’s why they think Viktor is coaching him.

Yuuri’s head is spinning. He barely hears Phichit’s reassurances as he flees back to the room. Viktor isn’t there, and Yuuri paces up and down, wringing his jacket in his hands, worrying. He can’t make sense of anything. He doesn’t want to face Viktor; in the end, he changes his clothes and hides under the covers and pretends to be asleep when Viktor checks on him.

Sleep eludes him long after Viktor’s breathing has evened out, and the first rays of sunlight are like knives jammed directly into his brain.

“Nap until this evening,” Viktor says at the sight of him. Yuuri wants to explain that if he’s trapped in that room with his thoughts he’ll explode, but he can’t. The words are stuck in his throat. Viktor, people think we’re soulmates. He can’t muster the energy to protest, and so before he knows it he’s been stripped down and tucked into bed, Viktor’s body thrown carelessly over his.

Viktor’s proximity guarantees that Yuuri won’t sleep a second.

By the time they’re back in the rink for the warm up, Yuuri feels entirely disassociated from his body. His skin is crawling, his hands are weak, nothing does what he wants it to. He can’t tie his own laces or pop the cap on his water bottle or land his jumps. And when he comes off the ice, feeling the pressure behind his eyes and in his bones, Viktor’s careful expression does nothing to hide his disappointment.

“Well, just because you didn’t land it during the warm up doesn’t mean you won’t land it during the competition. It happens all the time!”

It’s never happened to Viktor.

Guang-hong is in the midst of his free skate, a savage and fast-paced performance about crime and murder. It’s so far ahead of where he was last season that it feels like a slap in the face. Every bit of improvement Yuuri has wrung from his body over the past year feels like nothing. He watches, mesmerized and full of dread, as Guang-hong moves into first place and Chris takes to the ice.

Chris can do a quad lutz. Yuuri can barely do a quad salchow or a toe loop.

The pressure feels like it’s going to crush him. All these people watching him.

Yuuri stretches on trembling knees, hands against the wall. Turn to the left. Turn to the right. Loosen up—an impossible task. Around him people are talking in low voices. The commentary is playing shrilly on one of the screens. Chris is getting wild cheers, from the hundreds of people in the audience, all of whom are here to see skaters skate, not failures fail.

Viktor takes him by the arm and drags him away.

They end up in the parking garage. There, it’s quieter. Yuuri wishes he had his phone—what if they miss the competition? He’s aware of all the things he needs to do, to be ready, and his eyes are burning with exhaustion, and his fingers are numb, and Viktor is just…looking at him.

“Let’s just take deep breaths,” he says, instead of telling Yuuri the standings so Yuuri can guess at how badly he’s going to lose.

People are cheering.

Yuuri can only imagine the kind of reception he’ll get. Homewrecker Katsuki Yuuri seduces figure skating legend into becoming his coach, wastes his time for six months, and then implodes during his first Grand Prix event. Viktor will look like an idiot, having run off to Japan to coach someone who doesn’t deserve one iota of him.

“Yuuri, don’t!”

One of Yuuri’s earbuds falls to the floor. Viktor’s hands are cold on his face.

It was fine when I thought they would hate me for taking Viktor from skating.

It was fine when I thought that the worst of my sins was taking Viktor’s precious time and energy and attention.

But this is so much worse. They think that I stole his love. No, it’s even worse than that. They think I deserve his love. And when they find out the truth—that it’s not like that at all—will they think I deliberately tried to seduce Viktor away from his—

He can’t breathe. He can’t move. He can’t—

“Ugh,” Viktor says. He has a frustrated look on his face, a tight set to his jaw. “Yuuri, you have to calm down. I know you’re nervous about competing—”

“No, I—”

“I know you feel like there’s a lot of pressure—”

“But I don’t—”

“But when you think about it, it’s not that different from the domestic competitions, or even practice—”

“You don’t understand anything at all!”

A part of Yuuri wants to scream in Viktor’s face that Yuuri knows exactly what is at stake and doesn’t need coddling, but Viktor looks like he’s been punched in the stomach already.

“Ah…”

“I’m not just anxious about competing. Everyone thinks we’re soulmates, Viktor! How am I supposed to face them?”

“Yuuri—Yuuri, I don’t care about rumors—”

“I know!”

Hot, humiliating tears roll down Yuuri’s cheeks.

Of course Viktor doesn’t care. He left his soulmate to come all the way to Japan to coach Yuuri. Even someone like Yuuri can see how much Yuuri must matter to him, which is precisely why trashing Viktor’s reputation with these rumors is the worst thing Yuuri’s ever done.

“I can’t do anything about it.”

That’s a lie, Yuuri thinks. Viktor could do a lot of things, like not hug Yuuri in public so often. But Yuuri doesn’t want him to stop. He’s selfish. He wants Viktor to say that the rumors don’t matter, because they’re true--

“…I didn’t know it bothered you so much. To be thought of as unfaithful.” Viktor sucks in a breath. “I’ll stop, okay? Please don’t cry. I’m sure your soulmate will understand when you meet them.”

“But I don’t want to—”

Something is beeping.

It’s Viktor’s phone. Yuuri sees the screen; the alarm is titled Yuuri’s Free Skate!!! <3 <3 <3

They stare at each other, and then Yuuri makes himself breathe and nods. Viktor produces a handkerchief and concealer from his suit pocket, and holds his phone steady so Yuuri can fix his face using the camera. The parking garage is silent as they make their way back to the rink.

By this point, between Yuuri’s pounding heart and his ear plugs, he can’t actually hear anything. He walks in a daze to the rink, ignoring everyone and everything but the ice in front of him and Viktor’s presence at his elbow. Viktor helps him with his skate guards, and then Yuuri skates to the center of the rink.

It’s almost time.

The music starts to play, and Yuuri’s body moves without thinking, trained after a thousand practice runs. He launches into the opening step sequence, and the the first jump combination.

Viktor’s face when I started crying was priceless. He really has no idea what to do, does he? Did he forget about my anxiety? What an idiot.

Yuuri lands it without a problem. He doesn’t even think about it until it’s over. He continues to skate, body light, and before he knows it he’s landed the second quad too.

Viktor, with his chiseled jawline and his heart-shaped smile and his obnoxious morning cheerfulness as he harasses Yuuri from his bike while Yuuri runs. Viktor, who coos over his old dog like she’s a puppy and who sometimes looks at Yuuri too much. Viktor, with his thickly accented, broken Japanese and his penchant for drama and his wet, pink mouth.

Viktor, who is not Yuuri’s soulmate, who belongs to someone else (someone worthier, someone brighter, someone more).

Yuuri knows better. Falling in love with Viktor is like trying to fish for the moon.

I’ve been trying to convince myself that it was okay to love him, as long as I didn’t love him the wrong way.

Until Viktor brought it up, I never even thought about my soulmate. Whoever they are…I’m sorry.

The violin stops playing, and Yuuri spins, glides, messes up his triple axel. The ice is cold, and yet there’s something warm in Yuuri’s chest, spreading out through his veins, suffusing him with calm. He should be more tired than he is, considering he hasn’t slept.

I love him, even if I belong to someone else.

Triple flip. Spin. A slow dance, speeding up, faster and faster as the music builds to a revelation.

I love him, even if he belongs to someone else.

Yuuri wants to be stronger. He wants to win every medal. He wants to kill his own weaknesses. He wants Viktor to look at him with that wide-eyed look he sometimes has, when Yuuri’s outlasted and outpaced him, like Yuuri’s skating hung the stars. If skating is all Yuuri has to offer to Viktor, who already has someone to love him, he’ll give it all he has.

Faster and faster and faster, into the take-off, blades scraping against the ice so loudly they drown out all his doubts, Yuuri tries for the quad flip.

He falls. But he gets back up, and among the cheers of the crowd, he finishes with a smile.

Viktor’s covering his face with his hands, and then he takes off running. Yuuri skates towards him like his life depends on it; he can’t bear not knowing. Maybe Viktor is furious, and maybe he’s sad, and maybe Yuuri is an idiot, offering up a pale imitation of what Viktor already has, but he can’t help it anymore.

He has to know, one way or the other, what to do with these feelings.

Viktor is smiling at the gate.

Yuuri holds out his arms, alight with relief.

“I did great, right?”

And then Viktor is running towards him and Viktor’s arms are around him and his body is pressed against Yuuri’s body and his nose is touching Yuuri’s nose and his breath is mingling with Yuuri’s breath and his mouth is on Yuuri’s mouth and everything, even Yuuri’s frantic heart, has gone silent and—

Chapter Text

as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;


 

Viktor’s been kissed three times in his life: once by a fellow rinkmate at fifteen, twice by Mikhail at the ages of eighteen and twenty. Kissing them was tolerable, perfunctory. Kissing them was acceptable.

Kissing Yuuri is nothing like that.

It’s rough, and messy, and their teeth click together, and Yuuri’s body is crushing Viktor’s hands, and everything is perfect: Yuuri’s wet lips, Yuuri’s dark eyes, Yuuri’s tiny smile. This is not wanting but needing; this is less a kiss and more a declaration of surrender.

“It was the only thing I could of think of to make you understand.”

“Well,” Yuuri says, “it worked.”

They stagger off the ice together, hand in hand. Yuuri’s fingers interlace with his, sweaty, warm, perfect. They sit in silence at the kiss and cry, while Yuuri’s excellent scores are announced and he slides into second place. People are talking at them; questions are being asked, congratulations are being given, statements are being made. The podium ceremony is a blur of pride and longing. Once the medal is around Yuuri’s neck, Viktor puts a hand on his back and guides him past the press and away.

Yuuri keeps looking at him out of the corner of his eye and then away, like Viktor might be too much to look at head on. Viktor wants to seize him and hold him tight and keep him there, but he can tell whatever euphoria propelled Yuuri into that kiss has passed and the real world is intruding. They have to talk.

They catch a shuttle back to the hotel. In the elevator, Viktor searches all his pockets for his room key, frantic, until Yuuri finally whispers, “In your coat.”

Viktor retrieves the key, and they walk in silence back to their room.

“…me?” Yuuri says. His shoulders are hunched. He keeps rubbing at his wrist; Viktor tries not to stare. “Really?”

“Yes.”

“Your soulmate…they’re alive?”

“He is.”

“Did he hurt you?”

Viktor looks around the room to avoid his gaze. He stares at their suitcases, at the empty garment bag hanging from the closet, at the bed where Yuuri slept while Viktor stared at him and pined and tried to breathe in their shared air because it was as close to intimacy as he could get.

Where does Viktor even begin? Mikhail has caused him so much pain, but Viktor can’t say that it was on purpose, or that Viktor doesn’t have an equal share in the blame. Mikhail hasn’t abused him. If Viktor’s heart couldn’t find anything to love in him, that’s a fault that’s his alone.

“No,” Viktor says, and he’s ashamed that he wishes the answer was yes. “There’s nothing wrong with him.”

“You love him?”

“No.”

“But you said that there’s nothing wrong with him.”

“There isn’t.” Viktor shrugs. “If there’s anything wrong, it’s with me.”

“Oh.” Yuuri bites his lip. He’s probably regretting ever meeting Viktor. “I didn’t know that was…”

“You know me,” Viktor says, trying for wry and failing. “I hate to be unoriginal.”

“Is that what that was? You trying to surprise people?”

“No!”

“I don’t understand,” Yuuri says. He looks around, like the answer is somewhere in their hotel room, and sits down on the edge of the bed. “Why—why you’d want me instead of him?”

“You’re kind. You’re thoughtful. You care about things intensely. And you listen to me.”

“I just did a jump you told not to do!”

“No, you, ah, you listen to me ramble.”

Yuuri blinks and mumbles something under his breath. Viktor moves closer, until his knees are touching Yuuri’s knees. He wants to put his hands on Yuuri’s head, bury them in his sweaty hair. He wants to tip up Yuuri’s face so he can meet his eyes. If only Yuuri could see him, Viktor thinks, he wouldn’t doubt Viktor loved him.

“What is it?”

“I said your soulmate must be a real dick if your standards are that low.”

“We don’t get along. Or speak, really.”

“Then he doesn’t know that you’re—with me?”

The way Yuuri can’t say ‘in love with’ makes Viktor’s heart ache.

“No. I suppose I’ll have to tell him.”

“Fuck.” Yuuri leans his head against Viktor’s thighs. “Are you sure?”

“That I want to tell him?” Does Yuuri want him to lie? Mikhail would notice, eventually.

“No, that you want to do this. Me.”

Viktor swallows the dirty joke that immediately comes to mind; he’s said too many stupid things today. He runs a hand through his hair as he tries to find the words. He wants this so much that he’s terrified he’ll lose it without even knowing it.

“I’m sure. But if you don’t want to, I’ll still coach you.”

“Of course I want to.” Yuuri looks up at him. His eyes are wet, tears smeared across his glasses, but he’s smiling. “Who wouldn’t?”

There’s probably more to say, after that. A thousand logistical things they should discuss, before they embark on what is taboo in every country and society on the planet. A thousand questions they ought to answer, to be sure.

Instead Yuuri closes his eyes, and reaches out, and Viktor sinks to his knees to hug him. They sit there, intertwined, until the cheap and hideous hotel carpet leaves Viktor’s knees sore, and Yuuri lets go of him to shower. They get cleaned up in silence—Viktor orders dinner while Yuuri is washing up—and they eat with only minimal conversation. Yuuri glances at his phone, once, and then shakes his head as he turns it off and tosses it aside.

Viktor hasn’t bothered to look at his phone. He knows what it’s going to show: a lot of nonsense on social media, angry messages from Lilia and Yakov, and emails from his agent and publicist and sponsors. And, maybe, Mikhail will have deigned to call, if he’s seen the press.

He might not have.

“Can we sleep together?”

“What?” Yuuri freezes, halfway to the door in the process of putting their dishes outside.

“Just sleep! Ha,” Viktor says. He is not actually laughing. “I want to be close. Please.”

Yuuri opens the door, drops the plates with a clatter, and slams it shut. He walks back over to the bed he slept in last night, and he takes a deep breath; Viktor watches his shoulders go up and down. He straightens into skating posture.

“Okay.”

Viktor turns out the lights.

They crawl into bed together, from opposite sides of the bed; Viktor remembers how casually he draped himself over Yuuri earlier, and wonders why he can’t regain any of that confidence. He’s been lying in bed alone for ten years. He can’t quite believe that any of this is happening. Yuuri’s body warms the sheets; he curls ups, squints at Viktor in the gloom.

“Good night,” he whispers.

“Good night,” Viktor says, and wonders how he’ll sleep, when his heart is pounding like a runaway train. He closes his eyes, intending to savor this moment with Yuuri soft and drowsy inches away.

But he’s out before he knows it, lost in sweet dreams that are more like reality than ever before.


They start work on the quad flip in earnest when they get back to Hasetsu.

Viktor’s not sure that Yuuri will have it down before the Rostelecom Cup, but Yuuri insists he can do it before the Final, and Viktor believes him.

“Don’t you want to see it, Viktor?” Yuuri asks. “Me, landing a quad flip with +3 GOE?”

No one could resist an offer like that, and Viktor throws himself at Yuuri. He catches Yuuri’s smile as they embrace, and has to hide his own in Yuuri’s shoulder. It’s strange, being able to hold Yuuri as much as he wants, but it’s the kind of strange Viktor felt when he started landing jumps again after puberty; it’s a pure, unexpected happiness.

(Sometimes they touch each other’s wrists, tentatively, like a secret.)

The release of the tension between them has made Yuuri happier, too. He comes off the ice pleased more often, even if he still has to be bodily dragged out of the rink on occasion. Late at night they improvise, and Viktor teaches Yuuri things that don’t relate to his programs—bits of choreography he’s been saving and hasn’t used, old skates that Yuuri admits to having admired. When Yuuri’s practices go well, Yuuri can be coaxed to teaching him in return.

“The Lohengrin program? Seriously?”

“Well, your fans voted it their favorite! And as your biggest fan—”

“My biggest fan?”

“I moved to Japan!”

“Okay, okay. I can teach it to you. If you really want.”

Lohengrin is an opera composed by Wagner. Viktor’s listened to it and even seen a performance, but it never spoke to him. Until he saw Yuuri’s program, it never moved him.

“The first sequence is like this—”

“Wait, wait. Tell about the program first.”

“The music is from the Prelude,” Yuuri says. He skates backwards, like he’s trying to escape Viktor’s questions, and Viktor loops around behind him to catch him in his arms. Yuuri leans back, trusting, and keeps talking. “This was when I first moved up from Juniors. Minako came from Japan to do the choreography for me.”

“And why Lohengrin?”

“Celestino is the one who chose it.”

“You didn’t have any input?”

“Well…” Yuuri looks down at his skates. He mutters, “I thought he was cool.”

“Lohengrin?”

“I was eighteen and dumb! I thought skating as an anonymous knight would give me confidence. And I thought—”

“What?”

“I thought it was something you might skate to.”

“Mm, maybe. Although I would have been Elsa. Or a swan.”

“A swan?”

“Don’t you think I’d make a good swan?”

Yuuri scrapes to a stop, and turns around to take Viktor’s face in his hands. His ears are red. “Yeah.”

“I would?”

“Of course. Swans don’t have hair.”

“Yuuri!”

Yuuri skates off, laughing, and Viktor gives chase until Yuuri launches into the opening sequence of his program. Despite the long hours they’ve put in, despite the exhaustion that must be creeping up on him, Yuuri’s back is ramrod straight as he begins. Viktor watches him once, twice, and then falls into line beside him to try it himself.

It’s deceptively difficult; Yuuri always makes things look easier than they are. Where Yuuri turns and glides to suggest the arrival of Lohengrin in his swan-drawn boat, draws a picture of grace and might with a spin and a spread eagle, Viktor clomps like a child in his first skates. He has to stop and watch Yuuri, again, to get it right.

After a while, Yuuri draws back, and leans against the boards, water bottle in hand, while Viktor picks his way through the sequence slowly.

“You’re doing great.”

“Ha! Lilia would flay me alive if she saw me. Yakov, too.” Viktor sighs. “Your edgework is so clean.”

“Thanks,” Yuuri says. He drinks long and slow; Viktor stops, mid-skate, to watch him swallow. “This is weird, you know. I used to do your programs for practice.”

“Yes, I know. You sneak out here to skate my free skate from last season when you think I’m not looking.” Viktor joins Yuuri at the boards, and Yuuri passes him his water bottle.

The touch of their mouths against the bottle is like a kiss. Viktor amazes himself; he’s allowed to kiss Yuuri now as much as he wants, but small things like this still excite him. He’s never had anyone to share water bottles with, though, never had anyone watch him fumble through a sequence without feeling like they were looking for the quickest way to run him down.

“Hey, Viktor?”

“Mm?”

“For my exhibition skate. I had an idea. If you don’t mind.”

“What were you thinking?”

“Could I do Stammi Vicino?” Yuuri sucks in a breath through his teeth. “And you could teach it to me?”

Viktor’s first instinct is to say no, because the sight of Yuuri performing Viktor’s lovelorn program, imbuing it with more emotion than Viktor ever had, is so dear to his heart, and he would prefer to keep it to himself. And then, selfishly, because the program is so depressingly true that he’s not sure he wants it to ever see the light of day again.

But both of those are poor reasons to deprive Yuuri of something he wants.

Yuuri is dissecting him with his eyes. His jaw sets. “I can reuse my—”

“I’ll teach you,” Viktor says. He cocks his head; an idea comes to mind. “Would you mind using an alternate version of the music?”

“What’s different about it?”

He leans in until his lips touch Yuuri’s ear.

“It’s a duet.”


The people of Hasetsu accept Viktor’s relationship with Yuuri without question; this is, as Yuuri explains, because it doesn’t occur to any of them to question it.

“A lot of them don’t follow celebrity news or ice skating. And since I’m from here, they’re giving me the benefit of the doubt…”

The news coverage has been mostly positive since their kiss. Yuuri and Viktor haven’t registered as a Match anywhere, but since Japanese Match records are sealed to the public, and Russian Matches don’t have to register until they sign a license and have a Match ceremony, no one seems to have guessed they aren’t soulmates. Other than Yakov’s blistering condemnation over the phone and an unnerving silence from Mikhail, there’s been nothing to worry about from the public.

(Not a word from Lilia, which is unexpected until Yuri lets slip in a conversation with Yuuri that she finally moved out of Yakov’s house and ended the pretense of their relationship.)

Eventually, someone will figure it out. There were plenty of people at the banquet who can testify that they didn’t match there, and both Yakov and Yuri were present when he and Yuuri first met. Viktor and Mikhail’s Devices are registered with the Russian Device Registry, and anyone who could get access to those records will be able to see that Viktor’s Device went off ten years before he and Yuuri ever met.

Most damning of all, of course, is the fact that Viktor has a soulmate who could easily reveal the truth. But even if no one ever finds out the truth through investigation, when he and Yuuri continue to cover their Devices and no Match ceremony ever occurs, the truth will be realized.

Viktor has followed the revelations of enough high profile infidelities to know what kind of backlash they’ll endure. They’d have been forgiven sixty or so years ago, before the Device manufacturers rolled out their one hundred percent accurate model and meeting one’s soulmate became commonplace instead of rare. But they won’t be now.  In the days leading up to the Rostelecom Cup, he vows to make the most of every quiet moment at Yuuri’s side.

“I told Phichit,” Yuuri says one night, as he falls asleep on Viktor’s shoulder. They’ve taken to sharing the bed in Viktor’s room.

“Told him?”

“That we weren’t soulmates. Before the—yeah.”

Viktor hums in thought to cover his sudden panic, fingers carding through Yuuri’s damp hair.

“He hasn’t said anything?”

“No.”

“Then he probably won’t.”

Yuuri turns his head into Viktor’s neck. He kisses underneath Viktor’s ear; the softness of his lips is belied by the way his grip on Viktor’s wrist tightens. There’s nothing comforting Viktor can think of to say; what is there, when the best case scenario is that they get to live a sweet lie for as long as possible? He wonders what Yuuri’s told his parents, his sister, Minako, the Nishigoris. None of them have asked, but sometimes the hair on the back of Viktor’s neck stands up.

He knows when he’s being watched.

“Kiss me,” Viktor whispers.

Yuuri draws back enough to look at Viktor. His lashes are fine and black, casting a delicate lattice of shadows on his cheeks. He looks so vulnerable. Viktor knows there’s steel in him, but he still wishes he could shield his glass heart from what will come.

Yuuri kisses him, and when he pulls away, Viktor clings to him, drawing him back in for another and another and another. Their eyes fall shut.

“We should sleep,” Viktor says.

“Keep kissing me,” Yuuri replies.

Viktor can refuse him nothing, not like this.


Mari delivers the news the four days before they’re scheduled to leave for the Rostelecom Cup.

“There’s an article in the tabloids today,” she says. “They’re saying Viktor has a soulmate already.”

(She has no Device, as far as Viktor knows—at least, her wrists, when he managed a look at them while she washed dishes, both were free of patches or Devices or scars. Maybe that’s why she delivers the news sympathetically.)

Both he and Yuuri stare at their bowls in unison. Viktor clears his throat, to explain, to declaim his love, and Yuuri lays a hand on his arm to quiet him.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” he says.

Viktor slumps for a second before he makes himself straighten. Somehow, he’s ended up relying on Yuuri’s strength. He holds Yuuri’s hand under the table the whole time they eat (Viktor is ambidextrous after one too many wrist injuries as a teen), and Yuuri, usually reserved in front of his family, allows it.

Neither of them say anything about it in the four days that come, but their kissing that night is considerably more desperate.

(Viktor left his soulmate to come to Yuuri; it will be fittingly ironic if Yuuri abandons him now. But he doesn’t think about that.)

Chapter Text

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture


 

Yuuri wipes the snow from his glasses as Viktor checks them into the hotel in Moscow. With the surgical mask over his face, and the hat pull downed over his brows, he blends in; when he was alone at the airport, waiting for Viktor to come out of the bathroom, he never merited a second glance.

With Viktor at his side, they draw the eyes of everyone who recognizes them—and in Moscow, the day before the Rostelecom Cup, everyone does. “Viktor Nikiforov,” people whisper as they pass, followed by judgmental Russian that Yuuri can only guess at the meaning of.

Normally competing away from home is better; the expectations of the Japanese public always psyche Yuuri out. But Yuuri’s never felt as out of place in a foreign country as he does here in this hotel lobby, trying not to meet the wide-eyed gaze of the hotel concierge checking them in. She’s got a Match ring on her right hand; will she go home tonight and whisper into her soulmate’s ear about them? About how that disgusting shameless Japanese skater stole Viktor, stood so close to him?

Is that what everyone’s thinking?

“Here,” Viktor says. He hands Yuuri the room keys. “I want coffee. Should I walk you up first?”

“No,” Yuuri says hurriedly. He’ll draw much less attention without Viktor at his side.

Viktor says something in Russian to the concierge, and a bellhop appears. He glares at them; only after Viktor tips him does he whisk away their luggage. Yuuri’s is beat-up; Viktor’s is designer. It’s hard to believe that they’re going to the same room. It’s hard to believe Viktor picked him.

“I want a latte.”

“Decaf.”

Yuuri hates decaf, but Viktor’s right, caffeine won’t do his nerves any good. “Okay.”

There is a brief moment when Viktor leans in, like he’s going to kiss Yuuri goodbye like he always does, and then he remembers himself and straightens. Thank god, Yuuri thinks, the last thing he needs is the stress of having to publicly reject affection from Viktor. He receives a pat on the arm, instead, before Viktor puts on his sunglasses and ventures out into the cold.

It’s only then that Yuuri remembers his Russian is rudimentary at best.

Best to retreat to his hotel room as soon as possible, before anyone actually approaches him. Yuuri pulls down his hat and heads for the elevator.

His luck holds; the only other person waiting for the elevator Is Seung-gil Lee, from Korea. Yuuri doesn’t know him, and if he remembers correctly, Seung-gil isn’t the type to make small talk. There aren’t any skaters that Yuuri is close to here at Rostelecom Cup (not that Yuuri is close to many skaters). The only person he really knows is Yuri, and Yuri is a yeller, so Yuuri does not want to run into him.

Eyes fixed on the elevator door, Yuuri watches the count down. Three floors away. Two. One…

“Oh, hi, Yuuri!” Inside the elevator are Sara Crispino and her brother, Michele, as well as a skater Yuuri doesn’t know much about—a Czech one—Emil Nekola, Yuuri recalls. “Hi, Seung-gil!”

“Tch,” Seung-gil says. He pushes past Sara and her brother into the elevator, and stabs at the door close button.

“Hey, be polite when my sister is talking to you!”

Seung-gil looks up at Michele. “No.”

The doors shut, and Yuuri sighs behind his mask. Now he’s got to wait for the other elevator.

“How rude,” Sara says. “Well, that’s just what he’s like, I guess. How are you, Yuuri?”

“Fine.”

“Don’t talk to him,” Michele whispers. He tugs on Sara’s arm with one hand and on Emil’s with the other. Yuuri has no idea what that’s about; Michele’s lunatic overprotectiveness of his sister is well-known, but why he’s trying to save Emil, Yuuri can’t imagine—unless he thinks Yuuri is some kind of sexual predator, stalking his fellow skaters, determined to seduce them away from their soulmates.

(That’s the way all the articles Yuuri read portrayed him. Viktor told him not to read them; Yuuri just waited until Viktor fell asleep.

Death threats, descriptions of the depraved sex acts he and Viktor no doubt performed, insults in every possible language—and they were posted everywhere. In the comments section of videos of their skating, in their mentions on social media, even in the reviews on travel websites for Yu-topia.)

“Oh, come on, Mickey. Yuuri is perfectly nice. I’m sure all those rumors about him aren’t true.” Sara grins at him. “I bet that Mikhail guy is just pretending Viktor is his soulmate. You see that sometimes when fans get crazy.”

“Right.”

I wish, he thinks.

“Come on, Sara. We’ll be late.”

“There’s no hurry, Mickey,” Emil says. He grabs Michele by the wrist, his thumb right over where his Device must be, and Yuuri has to turn his eyes away. So that’s why Michele is so wound up; Emil is his. The other elevator chimes, and Yuuri mumbles a hasty goodbye to the three of them as he scrambles away.

It’s unfair to Sara, when she’s trying to be kind, but Yuuri can’t help but think that they’re only interested because Yuuri is a scandal and they want details.

(Maybe the reason Katsuki fell apart last season was because of an injury, someone calling themselves NikiforovFan25 wrote. The kind you get from being fucked up the ass one time too many.)

A foot blocks the elevator doors before they can shut.

“What’s with the mask?” Yuri asks. He’s scowling, but not more than usual. “It’s heated inside, dumbass.”

“I’m trying to keep a low profile.”

“Good luck with that. Viktor’s getting swarmed by the press in the lobby right now.”

“What?”

His panic must show in his eyes, because Yuri shifts against the wall uncomfortably. “He didn’t say anything about that. Just about skating.”

At least Viktor has some sense. The pressure to perform is bad enough without Viktor feeding the press’s fire.

The elevator is moving with unbearable slowness. Yuuri realizes he’s forgotten to hit the button for his floor.

“Is it true?”

“What?”

Yuri shrugs. His face is a little pink. “You and him. Is is true?”

There’s no point lying, even if revealing the truth makes him feel like he’s crawling out of his skin. “Yeah.”

“Hmph.”

“Good luck tomorrow.”

“I don’t need luck. I’ll crush you so hard you’ll never recover.” Yurio stares at the door as he adds, “That’s the only thing that really matters. Just so you know. I don’t care.”

Something warm wells up in Yuuri’s chest. It takes him a moment to identify as relief. He’s been on edge all day, expecting a blistering diatribe from all the people he’s offended; he didn’t expect this awkward confession of support, especially not from Yuri, who rarely outright says what he means if what he means isn’t rude.

“Thanks, Yurio.”

“Don’t call me Yurio!” Yuri stomps his foot as the elevator comes to a stop at his floor. “Everyone knows the whole Device thing is bullshit, anyways. It’s because Device Corp can make more money if they sell them to everyone, not just rich people with no brains. It’s marketing. I’m never getting one.”

Yuuri is not surprised that Yuri subscribes to this theory, but he is surprised to find himself in silent agreement. He’s never questioned the Device’s accuracy before—all the soulmate pairs he knows are happy—but if Viktor is unhappy, something with the system has gone wrong.

“Whatever. I’ll beat you tomorrow.” Yuri pulls up his hood.

“You’ll try.”

Finally, Yuuri is alone. He’s deposited on the correct floor (he thinks), and he tracks down what is likely their room. As they were booking their accommodations, Yuuri suggested they get separate rooms. Viktor look so offended that Yuuri backpedaled. They settled on what they’ve been doing: one room, two beds.

There is only one bed in this hotel room.

And Yuuri doesn’t speak enough Russian to call down and fix it, or have the kind of gall it would take to tell anyone he wants a room with multiple beds, in case they ask him why. It’s a king size bed, piled with pillows. There’s a card on the pillow with the hotel’s logo on it, possible welcoming them to the hotel, or asking them not to commit any cardinal sins during their stay.

Calm down, he tells himself. This is your last Grand Prix series. You can’t lose here, over a bed.

This pep talk doesn’t make him feel any better. Yuuri makes an executive decision: it’s time to find out if the hotel has a gym.

A consultation with the guidebook that comes with the room and Google Translate tells him it does. Yuuri strips off his outerwear, although he leaves on the mask, and heads out. The gym is small, but there are only two people there, neither of them skaters, and neither of them give Yuuri a second glance as he make a beeline for the treadmill in the corner, away from the door and windows.

An hour’s workout makes him feel—not better—but tired enough to take the edge off the persistent feeling that something is going to go wrong.

Viktor is waiting for him when he gets back.

“Seems there was a miscommunication about the room,” Viktor says with forced cheer. “Should I ask them to fix it?”

“It’s fine,” Yuuri says. He’s had an hour to think about it and if he’s going to be reviled by the world for being with Viktor, the least he can do is enjoy the perks. Like cuddling.

“Okay! I ordered us dinner and I’ve unpacked your things. You should eat and get a good night’s sleep.”

“Wanna make out?”

“I—what?” Viktor blinks, and freezes; he’s holding Yuuri’s pajamas in his hands, Yuuri’s bag open in front of him. “Don’t you want to talk about—”

“No.”

The pajamas end up on the floor.

Yuuri, red-faced and warm all over, retrieves them several minutes later as he flees to the bathroom to shower and change. He’s kissed Viktor enough that it should be commonplace, but he comes out to see Viktor’s mussed hair and feels an unfamiliar pang of possessiveness.

Anyone who sees them together will hate them.

But no one who sees them together will be able to deny Viktor is his, either.


Russia is too far for Mari or Minako to come see him skate in person, and Yuuri tries to hold onto that reassuring thought as the competition begins. He might be hated by the whole world, but at least it will happen while he’s alone in a foreign country.

Well, not alone, Yuuri thinks. Viktor is behind him, adjusting his gloves. I’d probably get less attention if I was.

He tries to squash the uneasiness as Seung-gil’s music starts to play. They’re are in a back room; Yuuri’s ear plugs are firmly in place. He’s trying to avoid the meltdown he had in China. He’s just got to focus.

Yuuri’s been giving himself this identical pep talk for years; he probably should come up with something more effective.

Both Seung-gil and Emil do quad loops. Seeing his soulmate’s success will improve Michele’s performance. Yuuri has to place third or higher here today to qualify. He does the math in his head, their jumps versus his jumps, their base scores versus his base scores. JJ makes some conversation with Viktor that makes Viktor frown.

Before Yuuri knows it it’s time. The ice is being prepared for Group 2 to skate, and Yuuri is first. They step into the rink proper.

The stands are crowded; Yuuri sees banners with Viktor’s name on them being waved by fans. Some of the signs have his name on them, too, and they’re not decorated or sparkling like the others. Yuuri can’t read Cyrillic all that well—the only words he recognizes are skating terms and Viktor and Makkachin’s names—but he can guess what the signs are saying. The Russian equivalent of ‘go home you filthy adulterer’, no doubt.

Viktor kneels down to check the laces on Yuuri’s skates while Yuuri leans back and tries to fake some poise. He can’t see Viktor’s face, with his head bent, but when he stands up the audience starts to cheer.

Well, half of them are cheering, chanting Viktor’s name. The other half are chanting his name, too, but they’re screaming it with what are unmistakably expletives. Viktor smiles and waves, but it’s not his usual precompetition smile, more like someone made a plastic mold of his face and taped it over the real thing.

That’s right, Yuuri thinks, he left Russia for me. They wanted him to be out on the ice today.

That pisses Yuuri off.

He hasn’t seen this expression on Viktor in a while; he hasn’t missed it.

“Ah—” Viktor’s mouth drops open as Yuuri jerks him over the boards by his tie.

“I’m the one who’s performing today, Viktor.”

“I know.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll give them a reminder they’ll never forget.” Yuuri leans in, his lips close enough to touch Viktor’s cheek. His voice drops. “I’ll show our love to all of Russia.”

He and Viktor are sporting matching blushes as he skates away.

(Completely shameless, a recent guest edited into their previously positive review of Yu-topia. The Katsukis are obviously immoral people and their son is the worst of all. They let Nikiforov live in their house. All of them should be taken out back and shot.)

The audience boos him as he takes center ice.

I’m deep in the heart of enemy territory…I should have expected this.

Viktor is standing at the boards, watching him. Yuuri can’t see his expression, but he can imagine it. He can imagine how intently Viktor will watch; he can imagine that Viktor’s eyes will never leave him.

He’s imagined that gaze as assessing, as looking for fault, as a bar that Yuuri has to clear. He’s imagined all kinds of things in those eyes. He never imagined that Viktor would…

My Viktor.

The crowd’s chanting Viktor’s name. Yuuri shuts his eyes and sucks in a breath, and lets the persona of the program settle over him.

The people who think I stole Viktor from them…they’ll never forgive me.

He blows the judges a kiss.

But that’s fine. I don’t need their forgiveness. Viktor doesn’t belong to Russia, or figure skating, or even his soulmate. He doesn’t belong to me. He belongs to himself.

The first half of the program is a dance. Yuuri thinks of this portion as the actual seduction; this is the time when he has to draw the audience in. He spins, dizzy with excitement as much as rotation, and launches into the step sequence Viktor put together just for him.

He’ll make them love him before they have time to hate him.

Even if all of Russia hates me for taking him, I’ll accept it. If qualifying for the Grand Prix Final is what it takes to hold onto Viktor until the season is over…

Yuuri hands his first jump, the triple axel, clean.

…then I’ll do it.

For once, Yuuri isn’t thinking about katsudon or about being a dangerous woman. He’s not even really thinking about sex. He’s just thinking about Viktor’s face when the audience booed him, and Viktor’s face when Yuuri was so close he could taste Viktor’s breath, and how different they were. He’ll seduce Viktor all right, Yuuri thinks as he lands the quad salchow with ten times the ease he had at practice.

There’s sweat dripping into his eyes as he finishes. The audience is on their feet.

It feels good.

(A few people throw eggs and overripe fruit at him instead of stuffed animals. Yuuri dodges a tomato that smears like blood across the ice.)

Yuri is waiting by the gate when he steps off. He snarls insults at Yuuri as Yuuri passes him, and Yuuri grins at Viktor; they’re going to see something worth seeing now. Yuri is more motivated when he’s mad.

He sits down while they wait for it to start. People are looking at the two of them; what they think, with Viktor’s affection so open on his face, Yuuri shudders to imagine. Viktor distracts Yuuri from all the staring by kissing his skate. Which…does nothing to alleviate the staring. Yuuri sighs.

Make them look somewhere else, Yuri!

Yuri doesn’t disappoint. He’s refined the program incredibly—Yuuri can see the payoff of the ballet training—and he skates so delicately Yuuri would never guess he was an asshole if he didn’t know him. At the end, he slides into second place, and then JJ takes the ice.

“Hmph,” Viktor says.

Yuuri doesn’t ask. JJ is very good, but he doesn’t seem to like Yuuri—he stares at him like Yuuri personally threatened to kill his dog—and if Viktor knows why, Yuuri doesn’t want him to tell him.

He and Viktor start to slip out as the competition winds to a close. Now that the pressure is off, or at least abated, Yuuri wants to go back to hiding; public approval isn’t going to improve after his display back there, and he doesn’t want anyone to say anything to Viktor.

He doesn’t want them to say it to him, either, but Yuuri says awful things to himself all the time, he can take it better.

“I’ll just be a minute,” Viktor says, the traitor, and he leaves Yuuri alone before they can flee to their hotel. Yuuri sighs, and pulls out his phone as a distraction—and notices he has five missed calls from Mari.

Shit.

“Mari?”

“Yuuri,” Mari says. She sounds upset. She sounds like she did at the Grand Prix Final last year. The bottom falls out of Yuuri’s stomach. “It’s Viktor’s soulmate.”

“What?”

“He showed up here at the onsen. He’s furious. He’s making a scene. And he won’t leave until he sees Viktor.”

“He…I…” Yuuri closes his eyes. Send him away, Yuuri wants to say. I want him more. Instead he says, quietly so no one hears, “I’ll send Viktor back right now.”

“Yuuri—”

“I’ll come back later as planned.”

“We can just kick him out.”

“Viktor should see him.” Yuuri hangs up. He looks around—maybe Viktor is still gone and Yuuri can get a moment to breathe—no, there he is. Smiling.

(Poor Mikhail, one of Yuuri’s Twitter followers wrote. Imagine having your soulmate stolen like that. I don’t think I can support Yuuri anymore.)

“Viktor!”

“What is it?”

“You have to go to Japan right now.”

“What are you talking about? Did something happen?”

“It’s your soulmate.”

“Mikhail? In Hasetsu? How did he—” Viktor looks past Yuuri and growls. “Yakov.”

“Go,” Yuuri whispers. He means it to be decisive; it comes out weak.

“You’re skating tomorrow. I’m your coach.”

Yuuri’s heart does flips in his chest at those words, but he has to be strong.

“This is more important. I’ll face it on my own.”

“I’m not going to abandon you! You need a coach.”

“I’ll coach him.”

Yuuri turns around to see Yakov, with Lilia and Yuri, standing behind him. Lilia looks stern, Yuri sullen, and Yakov furious. All three of them look at him like he’s just crawled out of a dumpster.

“I’ll coach him, tomorrow,” Yakov repeats. “Go, Vitya.”

“You went behind my back, Yakov?”

Yakov says nothing.

“Go,” Yuuri says, when the tension becomes unbearable. “It’s okay. I understand.”

“Yuuri,” Viktor says helplessly. Does he expect Yuuri to beg him to stay? As if Yuuri doesn’t know that Viktor is responsible, under the veneer of carelessness. Yuuri could make him stay by asking. But if he doesn’t go, he will wonder what would have happened if he did.

And I’ll wonder, too, Yuuri thinks selfishly. He wants to grab Viktor’s wrist; he doesn’t.

Viktor nods.

If Yuuri’s heart falls at the sight of him, if it stays collapsed in his chest for the rest of the evening, if he buries his face in Viktor’s pillow long after Viktor is on a plane and getting further away by the second, if Yuuri feels like he’s been abandoned after all…at least there’s no one to see his tears.

Chapter Text

compels me with the colour of its countries,


No one comes to pick Viktor up from the airport; a part of Viktor is upset about this. Then he remembers he forwarded no one in Hasetsu his itinerary, and curses himself for the misstep. He doesn’t mind getting himself there—he already did it once—but he wishes he’d let them know when to expect him.

The last thing he needs right now is to be rude. God only knows what Mikhail has said to them.

The train takes Viktor from the airport to Hasetsu, and from there he walks. It’s not at all the triumphant homecoming he pictured. Yuuri was supposed to be here, with a gold medal around his neck and a smile on his face.

Viktor arrives mid morning at the onsen. Standing outside the gates, bag in hand, he braces himself. Then he goes in.

“Hello?”

“Viktor.”

Hiroko is in the kitchen, chopping onions on a wooden board.  Viktor winces; so he’s not Vicchan anymore. She doesn’t look like she hates him, but she works in hospitality, it’s entirely possible she hates him on the inside.

“Good morning,” he says. He’s saved from the necessity of further speech by Makkachin running into the room to greet him; she paws at his legs until he kneels down to hug her. “That’s my girl,” he mumbles.

“Viktor,” Hiroko repeats. “There is breakfast.”

“There’s no need. I should—”

“Breakfast,” she says firmly.

Stymied, Viktor obeys. Once he’s seated at the table, Hiroko brings him eggs, rice and tea, and she sits down with him and starts eating herself. Makkachin curls up against Viktor, begging for scraps; Viktor scratches her behind the ears, but doesn’t feed her. Eggs don’t agree with her.

At least she’ll always love me.

Halfway through his meal, the rest of the family appears. Mari comes in dusty, like she’s been cleaning; Toshiya comes in with armfuls of groceries. Viktor offers his help, and the ensuing silence is worse than an outright rejection.

With all three of them there, eating and watching him without a word, Viktor’s appetite dwindles to nothing. He keeps the chopsticks in his hand, and forces himself to keep eating out of politeness, even though he feels like vomiting. What he wants is to beg their forgiveness, and yet Viktor isn’t sorry—not for falling in love with Yuuri, not for accepting Yuuri’s love in return, not for these past perfect weeks in Hasetsu.

“There you are.”

Mikhail stands in the doorway. He’s wearing casual clothing, which is a shock; Viktor’s never seen him in clothes that didn’t require ironing. His hair is messy. He looks furious, and Viktor is glad he doesn’t speak Japanese.

“Mikhail.”

Viktor doesn’t call him Misha.

“I’ve been waiting for hours.”

Viktor doesn’t say anything. If Mikhail followed Viktor on social media, or could be fucked to Google him once in a while, he’d have known that Viktor was going to be in Moscow. Yakov might have told him that. Or maybe Yakov had been trying in his way to help Viktor avoid further scandal by keeping them from fighting in public at a competition.

He’d have preferred a public confrontation. Viktor is better at this when he doesn’t have to be himself.

“Are you so ashamed you won’t even speak to me?” Mikhail asks. “I want an explanation, Viktor. I—”

“You’re making a scene.”

“I’ll make a scene if I like—”

“I’m not doing this with you in public.”

“Do you honestly think I care what these people think? Raising their son to be a slut—”

“That’s enough!” Viktor snaps.

“Was he a good lay? I hope it was worth it!”

One of Viktor’s chopsticks breaks under the force of his grip. He glances away from Mikhail’s face, twisted in rage, and catches sight of Hiroko’s expression. She can’t have understood what Mikhail said, they’re speaking Russian, but she looks like she’s been slapped.

Viktor gets to his feet. Mikhail opens his mouth to speak, and Viktor slaps his hand over his mouth before any more of his vitriol can spill out.

“That’s enough,” he says. “Come on.”

Mikhail tries to speak, and then to pry off Viktor’s hand, but Mikhail works in a lab and Viktor is a world-class athlete. He grabs Mikhail by the shoulder and drags him out of the room, then down the hall to the banquet room where Viktor’s been staying. The door is locked behind them, and only then does Viktor remove his hand from Mikhail’s mouth.

Mikhail’s gaze flicks to the bed. It’s neatly made, with no evidence that he and Yuuri have been making out in it every night for weeks, but Viktor’s ears still burn.

“Say what you’ve come to say.”

“You left me.”

“I did.”

“I had to find out from your coach. I had to find out you’ve been cheating on me for a year from your coach.”

“It hasn’t been a year.”

“Don’t lie to me, Viktor.”

“I’m not lying. Nothing happened until Beijing.”

“Oh, so you just moved to Japan on a whim?”

“I’m coaching him, Mikhail. You’re the one who was so set on me having career options after I retire.”

“Coaching? You’re going to become a coach?”

“What’s wrong with my being a coach?”

Mikhail scowls. “Aren’t you tired of skating?”

It takes Viktor a moment to figure out to respond to such unmitigated stupidity. Tired of skating? Viktor is a five time World Champion. Viktor has been obsessed with ice skating since the day he was old enough to get on the ice. Viktor was in love with ice skating, long before he had a soulmate or Makkachin or Yuuri.

“No.”

“I suppose it’s a way to transition to a real career.”

“You didn’t come here because you wanted to ask about my career.”

“You’re right. I came here to ask what you were thinking, flying to Japan to fuck another man.”

“It’s not about sex.”

“If this is a cry for attention, Vitya—”

“Oh, so now it’s Vitya again? Has our relationship has reached the point where I have to leave you to get your attention? What, you weren’t interested in me for the past ten years, but now that you can’t have me, you want me?”

“So that’s what this is about.” Mikhail rubs his face with the heels of his hands. “Fine. I’ve brought this.”

He digs a folded sheet of paper out of his pocket. This is more in line with the Mikhail Viktor knows; the paper is folded perfectly, the corners all in line with each other. He shoves the sheet into Viktor’s hands.

Viktor unfolds it.

It’s a Match license.

It’s a half-completed Match license, with Mikhail’s signature with that of two witnesses already there. It’s dated three days ago. All that’s left is Viktor’s signature, his two witnesses, and an officiant to confirm their vows.

“You’re joking.”

“No.”

“You can’t expect me to sign this.”

“We can have a Match ceremony. You can move in. Your dog can come, too.”

“My dog can come, too,” Viktor repeats.

He should say something. He should explain to Mikhail that not even he is so romantically inclined that he’d believe a pretty ceremony would solve the problems in their relationship. He should explain to Mikhail that the fact he felt the need to give permission to bring Makkachin with him, like Viktor wouldn’t push Mikhail into traffic for her, is proof that they could never fall in love.

Instead he just shakes his head.

“What more do you want from me?”

“Nothing.”

Mikhail gapes at him.

“Go back to Russia. Earn tenure. Do whatever you want.” Viktor meets his eyes. “I’m staying here.”

“You can’t stay here—I’m your soulmate!”

“I know that!”

“Then why?”

“I love him more,” Viktor says.

Mikhail flinches like he’s been punched. He blinks back what look like tears.

“Don’t do this to me.”

A part of Viktor is amazed. He would never have guessed he’d have the power to break Mikhail’s heart.

“You should go home.”

“I’m not going anywhere until you come to your senses,” Mikhail says. His fingers clamp down over Viktor’s stupid Device, over the stupid, lying green light that lies underneath.

Their Devices might be a Match, but they clearly aren’t.

Viktor jerks his wrist from Mikhail’s grasp. “I already have!”

He has no idea what Mikhail does for the rest of the day; Toshiya tells him he’s in his room, and Viktor avoids the onsen by taking Makkachin on a long bike ride and then by hiding in his bedroom and burying his face in the pillow Yuuri uses.

He ends up watching the free skate alone, despite the Katsukis offering him a place in their viewing party. Viktor doesn’t think he’s up for company, and if they hate him for bringing this scandal in Yuuri’s life, he’d prefer to not find out about it while Mikhail is here to gloat. He sits cross-legged on the bed with his computer and bites his lip as he waits for it to be Yuuri’s turn take to the ice with his heart in his mouth.

Viktor wants to believe that Yakov won’t neglect Yuuri, if only for Viktor’s sake, but the sight of him at Yuuri’s side still makes his stomach twist with guilt. I’m with you in spirit, Viktor said, but it sounds hollow to him now. What good is he to Yuuri in spirit? The false determination on Yuuri’s face during his precompetition interview is like a stab to the heart. Does Yakov know not to motivate Yuuri with cruelty? Will he let Yuuri hug him for comfort? Fuck. Viktor should have stayed.

Emil’s theme is cyberpunk and his skate robotic. It doesn’t go terribly, and in other circumstances Viktor would have enjoyed it for the novelty alone. Then it’s Michele Crispino, who is in better form than usual. The sad, romantic music only makes Viktor feel worse. Seung-gil Lee is next, but Viktor isn’t worried about him, and he’s proved right when he falls doing his quad loop.

Yuri—Yuri is a monster. He backloads all his jumps. Viktor is proud of him, but it’s tinged with annoyance; his masterful performance will only make Yuuri feel worse. If Yuri’s stamina can be improved, he’s going to be terrifying.

Russia screams for him as he slides into first place.

And then—

“Please,” Viktor whispers, hand over his mouth. “Come on. You can do it, Yuuri, I know you can.”

Yuuri pops a jump, and Viktor bites his tongue so hard he tastes blood. He’s too stiff, he thinks. His nails are digging into his palm, his hands shaking, as Yuuri skates, as he makes mistakes, as he reveals a kind of tragic beauty in every misstep that makes Viktor love him all the more.

Show them, he thinks. My darling. You have everything it takes.

Towards the end Yuuri recovers, and Viktor watches him collapse before stumbling off the ice. Yakov is probably giving him a lecture. Yuuri is in third place; there’s only JJ left. Viktor shuts his eyes. JJ is one of the stronger competitors.

Then he opens them. One way or another he has to watch until the end.

JJ wins.

Yuuri and Michele are…tied.

There is a brief, terrible moment when Viktor thinks Yuuri didn’t qualify, but then his skating knowledge reasserts itself. Yuuri’s silver medal at the Cup of China puts him in the lead over Michele Crispino, barely. He’s made it.

“Yes!”

Viktor throws his arms in the air. Makkachin barks in happiness. There’s cheering coming from the main room, where the Katsukis and the people of Hasetsu are watching.

Second time Grand Prix finalist Yuuri Katsuki. It has a nice ring to it; Viktor repeats it a couple times, practicing it for later, before he lies down with his head on Makkachin’s back and sighs. He misses Yuuri the way he misses bread by the end of the season. Or the way he used to miss bread. Viktor can eat bread now.

Yuuri will be home tomorrow.

(Viktor texts Yuuri a congratulations and as many heart emojis as the message will hold.)

Which means Viktor has to do something about Mikhail.

He watches the live stream, letting the commentary wash over him, until it cuts out. Viktor’s eyelids are heavy, and the long journey from Russia has caught up with him. It would be nice to go to sleep. It’s late. Maybe he’ll confront Mikhail in the morning—

When Viktor was seventeen, he met Mikhail at a bookstore in St. Petersburg, and they Matched. Viktor was doing research for his short program costume; Mikhail was collected something he’d ordered for college. He was older than Viktor was, at nineteen, and already dressed like an adult: slacks, pressed shirts, slicked back hair. In contrast, seventeen year old Viktor was wearing work out clothes. They were designer, but still.

Mikhail looked at him, eyes wide, and then asked him his name.

Viktor was only a little offended that he didn’t already know it.

He’d figured things would happen between them, someday.

They never had.

When Viktor opens his eyes it’s because someone is touching him.

Yuuri, he thinks, but no, it’s Mikhail, sitting on the edge of the bed, hand on Viktor’s shoulder. He’s put his coat on; his hair’s been styled. Viktor almost bats his hand away. Mikhail doesn’t usually touch him.

“There’s nothing I can do to change your mind?”

“No.”

Mikhail swallows visibly. There are high points of red on his cheeks.

“I won’t take you back.”

“I know.”

“He’ll leave you, too. And then you’ll see. You have no idea,” Mikhail says. He grits his teeth. “I’m leaving.”

“Goodbye, then.”

Viktor flinches as Mikhail scrapes the edge of a blunt nail down his face. He watches Viktor with grey eyes for too long, in the dark and the silence, his expression indecipherable.

Finally, he stands up and turns away.

“Adultery is illegal in Russia, you know.”

“Mikhail, for god’s sake—”

The door shuts behind him, and Viktor is left alone.

There’s a sob from the hallway.

Mikhail’s footsteps grow fainter and fainter.

And then he’s gone.


Viktor arrives at the airport too early; he can’t help it. The guards give him odd looks when he brings Makkachin into the waiting area with them, but he pretends to understand much less Japanese than he actually does, and they allow it. He slumps in his seat, for once abandoning the posture that’s been drilled into him since childhood.

With his hair mussed, with no makeup, in clothes that frankly need ironing, he feels unrecognizable. He barely had the wherewithal to wash his face and exfoliate. But Viktor has spent most of the day trying to be useful around the onsen, since none of the Katsukis will let him beg their forgiveness. By the time he left for the airport, he was too wound up to care about what he looked like. He keeps hearing Mikhail’s voice in his head.

He’ll leave you, too.

Viktor has been in this seat for what feels like an eternity. Nothing distracts him, not cute mobile games or his overflowing inbox or the email from his public relations person he’s been putting off about how they’re quitting. (He very determinedly does not think about Mikhail.) He keeps scratching at his wrist; he wants to claw the Device out. Even Makkachin, whining at him for petting until he gives in, can’t keep him from thinking.

Yuuri…

His phone beeps; Yuuri’s flight has landed.

Viktor sits up, gripping the armrests of the uncomfortable plastic chair, eyes fixed on the door. Any minute now, Yuuri will be here. Will he be tired? Has he slept, eaten, had enough to drink? Was there someone to congratulate him after he came off the ice? Did he miss Viktor the way Viktor missed him, like a shard of rib in him was broken and lodged deep in his heart?

Will he look into his soulmate’s eyes one day and forget that Viktor ever existed?

“Bark!”

There he is. Yuuri is unmistakable, even with his mask and hat on to hide his identity. Their eyes meet through the glass.

Viktor is on his feet before he knows what’s happening. He’s running—the doors are opening—Yuuri is there, impatient and lovely—and then they’re both on a collision course, and then Yuuri is in Viktor’s arms again.

He’s never had anyone to hold, before.

“You came,” Yuuri says. He’s panting; exhausted by running a few feet, when he skates circles around Viktor every day.

“Of course I came,” Viktor says. He lays his cheek against Yuuri’s warm hair.

“You stayed.”

Yuuri says the words so quietly Viktor doesn’t know if he was meant to hear them. They come out fragile, so small, so relieved. As if Viktor would be foolish enough to wander away, when his heart is here, nestled in Yuuri’s hands.

“Yuuri,” Viktor says. “Seeing you skate made me miss being your coach.”

“Me, too.”

Yuuri shoves him back, and Viktor barely has time to mourn the loss of his warmth before Yuuri looks at him, with huge dark eyes, with soft tender eyes, with all the love in the world.

“Please be my coach until I retire.”

Be my coach, Viktor!

Slowly, deliberately, Viktor takes Yuuri’s hand in his own. He turns it over, revealing the patch over his wrist, and presses his mouth to it. It’s as warm as Yuuri’s skin. It’s like we’re giving our Match vows, he thinks, but doesn’t say.

“I hope you never retire,” Viktor whispers.

Yuuri blinks at him, wordless, and then flings himself back into Viktor’s arms. He fits there perfectly. Viktor holds onto the back of his jacket, crushes the fabric in his hands; he never wants to let go.

Makkachin paws at their legs, yipping with joy. Viktor keeps Yuuri in his arms, close enough to feel his heart beat.

Yuuri is crying what must be tears of joy.

“Let’s win a gold medal at the Grand Prix Final.”

“Together.”

They stand there together for a long time.


If you’re not back by December 10th, I’m going to the police.

Viktor almost deletes Mikhail’s message right there and then, but stops; it’s a bad idea to erase the evidence.

Adultery isn’t illegal in Japan or in Spain. Viktor’s checked. Mikhail can’t make Viktor come back, and even if he could, no one’s won an adultery case in Russia in thirty years.

What’s the worst he can do? Drag Viktor through years of pointless legal red tape until his reputation is shot, his career is over, and he and Yuuri are both miserable?

The Grand Prix Final begins December 10th. Viktor can go back to Russia, and he can be in Spain supporting Yuuri, but not both.

In the end, he responds with just one word.

No.

Chapter Text

rendering death and forever with each breathing


 

Barcelona is a beautiful city.

Not that he and Viktor see much of it, going from the airport to the hotel to the rink in the dark. Yuuri must look like a complete tourist, staring out the windows of the cab, but Viktor only smiles at him and points out sites of interest between reading on his phone. Yuuri has no idea what is so fascinating; Viktor hasn’t put his phone down since they got off the plane. Hell, Viktor hasn’t put his phone down since Yuuri got back from Moscow.

Yuuri unloads their luggage while Viktor pays the cab—he speaks enough Catalan to make the cab driver warm to them—and they make themselves comfortable in their hotel room. There are two beds, but Yuuri doesn’t bother to uphold the pretense that they’ll use both; he piles the bags on top of one of them before flopping onto the other.

“You need to rest,” Viktor says. “Do you want something to eat first?”

“I’m okay,” Yuuri says.

“You didn’t sleep at all on the plane.”

“I was thinking.”

“About what?”

“Nothing.”

Viktor glances at him dubiously before sitting down to do something on his phone—hopefully find them dinner. Yuuri stares at the ceiling. It’s not the competition looming ahead that worries him so much (right now), or the fact that over the past three weeks he’s had to mute his own name on Twitter because nobody has anything good to say about them. It’s not even his family’s thinly veiled concern, their poorly concealed change of heart about Viktor, that bothers Yuuri.

No, it’s his and Viktor’s future that’s on his mind.

He and Viktor didn’t talk much about Mikhail. He has no idea what Mikhail and Viktor discussed, only that Mikhail was gone by the time Yuuri flew in from Moscow and Viktor didn’t seem worried about what he might do.

“We never signed a Match license, and we’ve never lived together or had any financial entanglements, so he can’t sue for alimony,” Viktor said during their brief conversation, in the car on the way home.

It never occurred to Yuuri that a lawsuit might be a problem they’d have to deal with.

Preparation for the Grand Prix Final has consumed most of their time, and Yuuri is grateful for it; when he’s training he doesn’t have to think about the future. He and Viktor spend most of their time at the rink, alone.

Where are they going to live after the season is over?

What’s going to happen to them when the bubble bursts?

Yuuri doesn’t want to think about either of those things, but he can’t help it. Viktor’s not going to be coaching him forever. Where will Yuuri fit in, when he’s no longer got anything to offer?

“Hungry?”

Yuuri blinks. Viktor is holding out one of the horrible protein bars he imports from Russia.

They taste like wet cardboard, and Yuuri has no desire to eat one. But he accepts it, unwraps it, and shoves it into his mouth anyway.

“I’m going out for a bit,” Viktor says. He ruffles Yuuri’s hair. “Will you come? There’s a pool.”

“It’s December.”

“So what?”

“No,” Yuuri says through his mouthful of protein bar. “I’m gonna take a nap.”

“Okay!”

He doesn’t actually feel like napping, but it’s either sleep or think. Yuuri gives in and goes to bed.

Viktor’s slide under the covers beside him wakes Yuuri up briefly. His phone is lying on his face from where he was scrolling through Instagram. Phichit is here, Yuri is being mobbed by enthusiastic fans in cat ears, and Viktor, Yuuri recalls sleepily, was at the pool with Chris. Yuuri remembers seeing Viktor and Chris posing for the camera, with matching pouts and sunglasses, and rolls over to tug on Viktor’s shirt.

He’s not wearing one; Yuuri ends up slapping at his chest weakly.

“You smell like chlorine,” he mumbles.

“I showered,” Viktor replies. He drapes himself over Yuuri; his wet hair tickles. His fingertips brush Yuuri’s nose as he takes off Yuuri’s glasses.

“I’m tired.”

“My sleeping beauty.”

Viktor’s back is solid under Yuuri’s palm. In the dark room, without his glasses, he’s just a black and white blur. Even so, Yuuri keeps his heavy eyes open until they burn, trying to drink in the sight of him.


Yuuri spends most of their pre-practice breakfast looking at travel websites and scrolling through the #barcelona tag on Instagram. Viktor looks curiously at him, but once Yuuri’s assured him Yuuri isn’t reading tabloid articles about them online, he lets it pass.

He does take the phone from Yuuri before they arrive at the rink.

“You need to focus,” Viktor says. “And don’t try for the flip during practice.”

“I know.”

You keep looking at your phone when you think I’m not paying attention.

“You always say ‘I know’ and then you do what you want.”

“Yeah, I wonder who I get that from. Yakov said—”

Viktor’s eyes widen.

“Nothing,” Yuuri mumbles.

There’s not much to tell. Yakov kept their conversations during the Rostelecom Cup professional. Yuuri is grateful he didn’t berate Yuuri for luring Viktor away from Mikhail, but the similarities between Yakov and Viktor’s coaching styles still depressed him. There are so many things Yuuri would have liked to ask.

They arrive at the rink. Viktor takes the badge hanging around Yuuri’s neck and puts it on. He laces Yuuri’s skates up, and finally Yuuri is pressing his skate guards into Viktor’s hands.

He is determinedly not looking at any of the other skaters. He knows they’re staring, but if he doesn’t see it, maybe he can pretend it’s not happening. The other men’s single skaters, at least, Yuuri knows; he’s terrified to run into the ice dancers or pair skaters or women in singles who will immediately judge him.

It goes well enough. Yuuri doesn’t fall down, but he doesn’t feel right, either. He doesn’t attempt the quad flip. JJ leaves first, after announcing to all and sundry that he’s done. Phichit looks significantly at him before he leaves, but Yuuri doesn’t have the courage to approach him. Yuri remains, but Viktor motions for Yuuri to come, and for once he listens.

“What shall we do for the rest of the day?” Viktor asks. He stands still as Yuuri grabs onto his shoulder to steady himself as he puts on his skate guards. Yuuri still finds things like this kind of thrilling; Viktor Nikiforov, letting Yuuri use him as furniture without a word.

He takes a long drink from his water bottle while he works up the nerve.

“We should probably take it easy—”

“Let’s go on a date!”

“A...date?”

“We never have before,” Yuuri says. He has a whole speech planned out, to convince Viktor, but he forgets it all when he makes the mistake of seeing the Leroys’ expressions over Viktor’s shoulder. “I looked at TripAdvisor. We can go sightseeing or shopping or—”

“That’s a great idea, Yuuri! The euro is weak right now.”

“…okay?”

Back at the hotel, Viktor primps in the bathroom while humming, and Yuuri fumbles through his suitcase for something dateworthy. In the end, he just puts on what he has—coat, scarf, jeans—and spends a few extra minutes cleaning his glasses. Yuuri has never been on a date before, unless he counts pre-hookup coffee. At least Viktor hasn’t, either. Or has he?

Blushing, Yuuri uses the mirror on the back of the hotel door to put on lip balm.

(He and Viktor have ventured out of Hasetsu only once, between the Rostelecom Cup and now. They were thrown out of a restaurant with icy politeness and charged double for their cab ride home.)

“Ready?” Viktor is on his phone again, but he’s looking at Yuuri in between taps to the screen.

“Yeah.”

After a moment, Viktor offers Yuuri his arm.

Yuuri, remembering the glares of the coaches at practice, hesitates.

“Barcelona is more permissive,” Viktor says. “You don’t have to worry.”

“I’m not worried.” Yuuri links his elbow with Viktor’s. “Where are we going first?”

Viktor approaches sightseeing with the same enthusiasm he does everything. There’s no time for Yuuri to worry about anything; he’s too busy downloading a Barcelona walking tour on his phone using only one hand while listening to Viktor talk about Catalan versus Spanish and all the wine he wants to drink.

The high point of Barcelona is apparently the architecture; Yuuri doesn’t know much about it, but he’s still impressed. He finds himself gaping at buildings as they pass.

(Barcelona is more permissive; none of the natives are wearing patches over their Devices, there are people with two bare wrists, and at least one couple with Devices with lights in contrasting blue and orange.)

They start out at the Sagrada Familia, where they end up examining the statues and carvings for so long they get hungry. Viktor flags down a passing tourist to take a picture of them.

“So that we remember,” he explains, and Yuuri grins and does the same dopey peace sign Viktor does in the picture.

Then Viktor insists they have to eat, and Yuuri finds himself in a restaurant eating paella. It’s hot and rich, and he feels a bit sleepy as they climb the stairs to the top of a shopping mall.

The view is spectacular.

So is Viktor’s smile in the pictures.

“Where to next?”

Viktor considers, head cocked, and then scrutinizes Yuuri’s clothes.

“What?”

“Let’s buy you a new suit for your birthday!”

“Viktor, wait a minute—”

“And then we can burn the one you wore at the press conference!”

“But I like that suit!”

As Viktor expounds on the benefits of tailoring, it occurs to Yuuri that he hasn’t seen Viktor look at his phone once.


He never listens, Yuuri thinks fondly as Viktor dashes off to buy the nuts. He drinks his tea as he watches Viktor shop through the front window; a salesperson is handing him a sample of nuts. Viktor’s eyes are closed with pleasure as he chews.

He glances back at Yuuri through the glass and waves.

Yuuri waves back.

He leans back against the bench and sighs. He is disproportionately exhausted after a few hours of sightseeing and shopping; he hasn’t done anything but eat and carry Viktor’s purchases for him. I don’t need him to buy me anything. These past months with him have been the best gift anyone could get.

There have been too many gifts purchased already. Viktor insists that Yuuri will love everything—the souvenirs he picks out for Yuuri’s family, the new suit he insists Yuuri needs over numerous protests, even the delicate flan that Yuuri recoils from after one bite. They hold hands everywhere they go; Viktor drapes an arm around Yuuri as he browses, lets Yuuri put his hands in Viktor’s pockets when they get cold.

No one says anything. Except for the occasional request for an autograph, they pass through Barcelona with perfect anonymity. There’s something freeing about being surrounded by strangers who don’t stare at them.

Yuuri can almost forget that soon enough this night will end.

(He can almost forget that after this season is over, Viktor will—)

The sound of a choir distracts him. He looks around; it’s coming from the direction of a cathedral nearby. The singers are standing on the steps, wearing reindeer headbands, heads tipped back towards the night sky. Yuuri wonders what the occasion is and then sees the couple standing behind them, lit by the gold light of the cathedral, hand in hand.

It looks like a proposal.

Yuuri has to look away.

He wishes he could offer Viktor that kind of permanence. He wishes he could buy Viktor a Match ring and tie them together for longer than a season.

But he can’t. Instead, Yuuri takes Viktor’s bag of nuts as he emerges from the shop.

“I can carry it,” Viktor says. He tugs on the bag.

“I’ve got it.”

“You shouldn’t exert yourself before the competition.”

Yuuri’s pretty sure Viktor’s shopping tour is a lot more exertion than carrying a few bags of clothes and candy is, but he’s not going to ruin Viktor’s nice afternoon by saying so.

“Who says I’m exerting myself? I’m fine.”

“Why don’t you let me carry something? As your coach I—”

“It’s fine!”

“Yuuri, you’re not a pack mule.”

“But I’m your boyfriend,” Yuuri protests.

Those are the magic words, it seems, because Viktor looks quietly, blushingly pleased as he takes Yuuri’s hand and they start walking.

He’s got no destination in mind, but he’s not ready to go back, either; when he doesn’t respond to Viktor’s attempts at conversation, Viktor falls silent. Yuuri looks at him, worried about giving offense, but Viktor just looks thoughtful. His gloved fingers are pleasantly warm.

The bustle of a Christmas market catches their attention. Yuuri lets Viktor examine each stall intently as he stands around, waiting for the right thing to catch his eye. I should buy Viktor a birthday present, he thinks, but he’s only got half-formed ideas of what to buy. Most of the traditional gift ideas are for soulmates; buying Viktor anything that reminds him of Mikhail seems cruel.

Yuuri’s not even sure what Viktor wants that he can’t get for himself, other than for Yuuri to win a gold medal. It’s not like Yuuri is exactly flush with cash right now. And it’s not like Viktor doesn’t have twenty-odd gold medals of his own already.

He cranes his neck, trying to get a good look at the storefronts at the end of the street. There’s a leather goods store, one that must be closed as there are no lights in the window, a jewelry store, a bakery—

There’s a sign in the window of the jewelry store with a symbol that Yuuri recognizes. It’s a small half circle inside another, larger half circle, black on white. He’s seen it online, on posters at the Rostelecom Cup when Yuuri finally gave in and watched the footage, tattooed on the wrists of couples here in Barcelona.

It’s the symbol used by romantic partners who aren’t soulmates. The unMatch flag.

This is a terrible idea, Yuuri thinks, and then, I need to get rid of Viktor.

“You’re having fun, da?”

Yuuri blinks at him. “Yeah. Viktor, can you get me something to drink?”

“Sure! How about some hot wine?”

“I don’t really drink before competitions.”

“...right.” Viktor raises his eyebrows skeptically, which is baffling, but Yuuri doesn’t have time to figure out what he means. “We could share?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“I’ll be right back.”

Viktor beams at him, kisses him on the cheek, and then hurries off in the direction of a stand selling drinks. There’s a line. Now is Yuuri’s chance.

The jewelry store is empty; the Maria Dolores written in gold leaf above the door is intimidating, but Yuuri ignores it in favor of the display of rings. Most of them are in the traditional Match style, with gemstones in the colors of the Device lights, in silver and rose gold and bronze and copper. Gold Devices are out of fashion, these days.

But there, in the corner of the display, are five or six ring designs that look different. There’s a tiny Unmatch flag above them.

“Excuse me,” Yuuri says. His nose is practically touching the glass. “Can I see these?”

The saleswoman sets out the rings, and Yuuri picks up a pair with trembling fingers. He holds them up to the light.

They’re plain gold bands, shining like new medals, with tiny half snowflakes engraved on the inside. No one who saw them would mistake them for Match rings. And yet the symbolism of a pair of rings is unmistakable.

It’s just a thank you gift, Yuuri thinks. It’s just for good luck. It’s not like that.

It is exactly like that. The thought of putting this ring on Viktor’s finger makes Yuuri feel hot all over. His credit card is out before he knows what he’s doing; the signature on the receipt feels like a deal with the devil. Even the exorbitant price can’t put out the flame in his belly.

He foregos the bag and slides the ring box into the inside pocket of his coat. Then he slips out in search of Viktor.

“There you are!” Viktor practically tackles him. He takes half the shopping bags and shoves his cup of hot wine into Yuuri’s hands. “I brought your drink.”

There’s a mark on the rim of the cup; the imprint of Viktor’s lips, the sheen of his Chanel lip balm. Yuuri keeps his eyes on Viktor as he drinks from the same spot.

“Yuuri…”

“I’ll do my best tomorrow,” Yuuri says. “So…tell me something…?”

Viktor’s eyes are bright. He slides an arm over Yuuri’s shoulders. Yuuri puts his arm around Viktor’s waist in response. This close to him, the world falls away; Yuuri could close his eyes and imagine them in a dark room, alone, unseen, together.

“Tomorrow, show me the kind of skating you like best.” Viktor’s lips brush his cheek. “Your sister and Minako texted me. Should we go eat with them?”

The idea of having to sit through a meal, field all the awkwardness of people who know and share Viktor is too much. Yuuri shakes his head.

“Okay,” Viktor says.

They pass Minako and Mari eating with the Grand Prix finalists and Isabella on their way back. Phichit waves at Yuuri to come in, and Chris winks at Viktor in a way that makes Yuuri vaguely jealous, but they don’t go in.

He wants Viktor to himself for as long as possible.


Viktor is holding Yuuri’s hand, rinkside, kissing the back of his hand where a ring would go if he wore one. He doesn’t say a word, just looks at him with a smile of perfect confidence, and Yuuri can’t help but return it. People are screaming from the stands; some of them even sound more excited than hateful.

Yuuri is sweating, his stomach vibrating with anxiety; he’s put a quad flip in his short program, despite the fact he’s still not even close to consistently landing it. He needs the points.

He needs this win. If he falls apart halfway through the season, he’ll lose the few months he and Viktor have remaining. Why did he spend so much time yesterday sightseeing? Why didn’t he practice more between the Rostelecom Cup and now? Why does everyone have to look at him like that?

Yuuri Katsuki, whose skating has been overshadowed by his controversial liaison with his coach, Viktor Nikiforov…

Liaison. Like it’s something dirty. Like there’s something wrong with Viktor for wanting him.

There’s only one way to make those words disappear, only one way to prove he deserves Viktor’s coaching. Yuuri’s heart is loud in his ears as the music plays. He’s been practicing for this moment for months. He’s been clawing his way back up all this time. He’s not going to lose.

He gives it everything he has.


 

It’s not enough.

 


What will happen if I don’t win gold?

After the short program, Yuuri makes it only a few steps out of the venue before he’s waylaid by Chris. Yuuri’s running late; he didn’t dodge the rotten fruit as well today, and he was in the bathroom rinsing orange pulp out of his hair.

Viktor is missing—a phone call, he said—so Yuuri has no way to escape as Chris slides an arm over his shoulders and squeezes.

“Yuuri,” he says. “Come eat with us. All the finalists are coming. We’re having a little party.”

“Tonight?”

“We won’t keep you out late. Viktor won’t mind sharing you for one night, will he?”

Viktor probably won’t, but Yuuri does. On the other hand, he hasn’t had the chance to congratulate Phichit or Yuri yet, and after Phichit’s landmark performance, Yuuri really does want to talk to him. Chris has a soulmate, but he is Viktor’s friend, Phichit is Yuuri’s friend, Yuri has said he doesn’t care…which means Otabek or JJ might still have something to say about Viktor being with Yuuri.

He shrugs. “Okay.”

A part of Yuuri wants to go back up to his room and nurse his wounds—the scrape of his hand on the ice as he touched down on the quad flip, Yuri’s breaking the world record that Yuuri has secretly always wanted, coming in fourth when he was in second at this point in the last Final—but another part of him doesn’t want to go back up and see Viktor.

Viktor, who watched the other skaters with such—he was so—he watched them, smiling. He looked engrossed and pleased. He looked like he was composing new choreography in his mind’s eye.

“He did a great job with your program,” Yuuri says. At the kiss and cry, Yuri is being hoisted into the air by Yakov.

Viktor is grinning, to Yuuri’s relief; he was half-worried that Viktor might be upset to be beaten.

“It’s not really my program anymore, is it?” Viktor shrugs. “He’s come a long way.”

It doesn’t matter, Yuuri tries to tell himself. Just focus on tomorrow. You can still win. Today wasn’t that bad.

The other skaters have taken a private room at a restaurant. Yuuri and Chris are the last to arrive; Yuri is talking to Otabek like he actually enjoys his company, Phichit is doing something on his phone, and JJ has his arm around Isabella as they share a glass of sparkling water.

“Hey, Yuuri!”

Yuuri takes the seat by Phichit. “Congratulations.”

“Thanks.”

“I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Not even from your precious Viktor?” Phichit teases.

“Never,” Yuuri repeats.

Phichit grins and slides the complimentary bread at him; Yuuri wages an internal war before taking half a slice with the tiniest smidgen of butter.

“Speaking of Viktor, where is he?” JJ asks.

“Probably too humiliated to show his face after I beat his world record today,” Yuri says.

“He had something to do,” Yuuri says. He tries to instill his words with confidence, to cover up the fact he has no idea. The menu provides a welcome distraction, and Yuuri pretends to be engrossed by the offerings listed, even though he can’t actually read them.

The conversation turns away from Viktor. Chris starts talking to Yuri about cats, which deteriorates into which is better, cats or dogs; a heated discussion ensues. Yuri and Chris are cat people, of course, and it turns out Potya is short for Puma Tiger Scorpion, which is the stupidest name for a cat Yuuri has ever heard. He’s not going to say that out loud, though, since he named his dog after Viktor. Phichit, of course, makes his case for hamster superiority.

“And you can fit them in your pocket—”

“I like cats,” Otabek interjects. It’s the first time he’s spoken.

“See? Otabek agrees with me!”

“Of course he agrees with you, he likes you—”

JJ yelps before he can finish his sentence. Isabella smiles brightly, as if she hasn’t just elbowed her fiance in the ribs.

“What about you, Yuuri?” Chris asks. “Cats or dogs?”

“Katsudon is a gross dog person,” Yuri says.

“I don’t not like cats,” Yuuri says. He’s interrupted by the arrival of their food. “But I have—I had a dog.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Chris says.

“It’s okay. He was pretty old.”

When Vicchan was a puppy, he was so shy he used to hide under the furniture. Yuuri would sit on the floor of his room, back against the bed, and leave a plate of treats out beside him. Eventually, Vicchan could be coaxed out for a bite; the plate was moved further and further back, until he would sit beside Yuuri and accept petting while he ate. Sometimes when Yuuri was nervous, he’d put Vicchan in his lap and practice talking to him like he was a sponsor or a reporter; Vicchan would never judge him.

The memory hits Yuuri suddenly, and he has to blink back tears.

“He was a good dog,” Phichit says, patting Yuuri on the back.

“Is that what that shrine in your house was for?” Yuri asks.

“Yes. My parents took care of it, since I was in Sochi when he—”

“Wait, he died while you were competing?” JJ asks. “Is that why you were such a wreck?”

Everyone stares at him. Yuuri opens his mouth, and then shuts it; he wants to protest, but he was, in fact, a wreck, and anything he says is just going to incite pity. He doesn’t want pity. Where is Viktor when I need him? If he were here we’d still be listening to him tell Makkachin’s life story.

“Is that why you were crying in the bathroom?”

“Is that why you drank sixteen glasses of champagne at the banquet?”

“What?”

“What?”

Chris has clearly misspoken, or maybe Yuuri is having a stroke. Sixteen glasses of champagne? He has a vague recollection of drinking at the banquet, and he definitely woke up a little worse for wear in the morning, but after everything that happened, and after nothing embarrassing showed up on social media, Yuuri assumed his memory loss was just his brain protecting him from the agony of what must have been an awkward social event followed by a night of crying.

Yuuri would never drink sixteen glasses of champagne. He learned the hard way in Detroit that he was the world’s worst drunk.

“I didn’t drink sixteen glasses of champagne at the banquet!”

“Oh, you’re right,” Chris says. “You did have a bottle afterward, too. Although most of it ended up poured on your naked body.”

“Excuse me?”

“Wait, you don’t remember?” Yuri asks. He scowls. “It was the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen! You challenged everyone to a dance off and then you started taking off your clothes—”

“Yeah, you gotta share your ab workout, it was amazing,” JJ adds.

“I mean, if you were sad about your dog, I guess it was fine, but I still don’t see why you had to hang all over Viktor like that—”

“What are you talking about?!”

Chris, Yuri, and JJ all shove their phones at him simultaneously. Yuuri glances at JJ’s phone and oh, fuck, that’s him in his boxers and a tie pole dancing on Chris’s thighs with an open bottle of champagne in hand.  No wonder he woke up the next morning all sticky. No wonder he doesn’t remember anything; if he did, he would have died on the spot.

“Damn,” Phichit says. “I knew those poledancing classes were a good idea.”

Chris’s phone shows him breakdancing, mostly dressed if disheveled, with Yuri. Yuri cannot breakdance. And Yuri’s phone shows Yuuri dancing, his face alight with happiness, and in his arms is—

“Viktor,” he says, dazed. Viktor looks very happy in these pictures; Yuuri scrolls through them, and in one of them he’s dipping Viktor, who’s looking like Yuuri like…well, like he looks at Yuuri now, like the face of heaven is caught somewhere in Yuuri’s eyes. There’s video, too, and Yuuri dares to watch it and immediately regrets it. He’s undulating against Viktor, pantsless with a tie tied around his head, and he’s rambling at him in Japanese.

That explains why he came to Hasetsu, Yuuri thinks as the drunk version of him tells Viktor how great their onsen is. Well, if the worst thing I did was reenact a tourism ad, that’s fine. People probably thought I was gross for hitting on him, but…well.

Then drunk past Yuuri insists that Viktor be his coach. Be his coach! Viktor has just won his fifth consecutive Grand Prix Final and Yuuri’s asking him to coach him. Admittedly, he needed it at the time, but what must Viktor think of his audacity.

The Viktor onscreen is blushing and doesn’t look displeased at all.

“We all wondered if something was going on then,” Chris says. “But since no one had seen you Match, we thought it was best to keep the evidence to ourselves.” He winks. “Viktor’s got even more pictures than this. Didn’t he show you?”

“…no.” Yuuri says. “I thought…” I thought he came to coach me solely based on merit. He shoves that thought away as soon as he has it; Viktor has said a thousand times he thinks Yuuri is a great skater, and he’s got no reason to lie, since he has no qualms about telling Yuuri when his skating is bad.

Besides, does it matter why Viktor came to coach him? He did.

It matters if he wants to quit, a tiny voice in the back of his mind says. You can’t hold him to a snap decision he made because you ground on him at a party.

He can quit. I’m retiring after Worlds.

Maybe he wants to quit sooner than that.

Yuuri sucks in a deep breath and pushes all three phones away. Just because Viktor enjoyed watching the other skaters skate doesn’t mean he’s dissatisfied with Yuuri. Just because Yuuri couldn’t land his flip cleanly today doesn’t make him a failure.

Viktor would have landed that flip, the tiny voice reminds him, and Yuuri downs his remaining water and digs into his now-cold meal. The others all look at each other, and then loudly start talking about the ISU.

He doesn’t say a word for the rest of dinner, for fear of anyone bringing up the banquet. JJ brags about how after he wins gold he and Isabella will have their Match ceremony, and has Isabella show off her diamond and white gold ring, and Phichit gives Yuuri a quick look of pity like he knows Yuuri has a pair of rings stashed in his suitcase right now. Chris has a ring, too, with a tiny green stone set in it.

Everyone but JJ very pointedly swerves around any talk of romance. Isabella tries to redirect him more than once, but either he doesn’t get the hint or he doesn’t care.

The others discuss dessert. Yuuri gets up so fast he nearly knocks over his chair, ignores their pleas for him to eat with them, leaves the restaurant with his hands shoved in his pockets and his head bowed.

What will happen if I do win gold? If Viktor came all the way to Japan just because I asked him to…will he feel obligated to stay?  

“Hey! Yuuri!”

It’s JJ, following him.

“Hey.”

JJ catches up to him and sticks out his hand. “Good luck tomorrow.”

“You, too.”

“I, uh…” JJ looks around, like he’s scared someone will see him talking to Yuuri. “How did you do it?”

“Do what?”

“How’d you come back after you, you know, messed up?”

No one has ever asked Yuuri for advice on how to deal with pressure. The idea that JJ might ask him never occurred to him, especially since JJ has the brash confidence of a charging bull. He has to fumble for something to say.

“I…” Yuuri shrugs. “I love skating. How could I not come back?”

“You weren’t scared?”

“I’m always scared. But I wanted to win gold, so…”

Yuuri’s never admitted he wants to win gold to anyone but Viktor. He can barely admit it to himself, half the time. But JJ nods, like Yuuri has dispensed great wisdom, and slaps him on the shoulder.

“Later,” JJ says. “You’re not bad, Katsuki. My parents said you’d be…” He trails off, and shrugs. Then he jogs back toward the restaurant, leaving Yuuri alone with his thoughts.

The maelstrom of decisions that lie ahead occupies Yuuri the rest of the way back. He knows what he should do, but he stews in his selfish desires; if Viktor goes back to skating, there’s no guarantee he’ll still want Yuuri the way he does now. Maybe in Russia, with his soulmate near, he’ll change his mind. Maybe when they’re not spending every second together trying to get Yuuri to gold, Yuuri’s attractions will fade.

Yuuri loves him.

How can he ask Viktor to sacrifice anything else for him? He’s already taken on the hatred of the whole world.

“I need to talk to you,” he says, the moment he steps into the hotel room.

Viktor is mostly naked, standing in the bathroom doorway with a towel slung over his arm. He jumps, phone in hand, when he hears Yuuri’s voice.

“Hmm?”

“After you shower.”

“You can go first,” Viktor offers.

Yuuri, coward that he is, needs every minute he can get to gather his courage, so he agrees. The shower does nothing to relax him, but when he’s alone in the hotel room, drying his hair while Viktor sings in French in the shower, his resolve hardens.

He’ll do it now, to spare Viktor the trouble of doing it himself after the competition.

Viktor emerges in a cloud of steam, dressed in the fluffy robe that came with their room. He sits down on the window seat, towel draped over his shoulders, damp hair fluffing up as it dries. He looks happy enough.

“You wanted to talk?”

“Yeah.” Yuuri looks down, and then up; he needs to say this to Viktor’s face, so there are no misunderstandings. “After the final…let’s end this.”

Chapter Text

(i do not know what it is about you that closes


 

“This last season has been better than I could have ever imagined—are you crying?”

“No,” Viktor says, tears running down his face. Yuuri says something else; Viktor doesn’t hear it. He keeps hearing let’s end this on repeat in his brain. Yuuri brushes his hair out of his face; his expression is more confused than anything else. What’s with that face he’s making? Does he enjoy making Viktor cry?

Yuuri’s words cut him like the edges of Viktor’s skates.

The tears keep coming, despite Viktor’s desperate attempts to stem them.

“Please stop crying,” Yuuri says, voice high with panic, and that’s the straw that breaks him.

Viktor sobs into his hands, until his eyes burn and his chest hurts and he’s aware that he’s making a scene and a lifetime of self-control has entirely failed him. He can’t stop crying.

He doesn’t love me.

“Viktor—Viktor, don’t cry!”

“Don’t tell me not to cry! I’m tired of pretending I’m fine and I’m not doing it anymore!”

“Okay! You can cry. Here.” Yuuri thrusts a box of tissues from him, the rough, one ply ones that come with the hotel room. “You have mascara all over your face.”

“It’s supposed to be fucking waterproof!”

“I’m sorry!”

 He stares down at the ground; he can see the slumps of mascara on his lashes. It’s all fallen down around him. Viktor should be grateful, to have been granted these perfect months with Yuuri, but he can’t muster up anything but an unfocused rage at the unfairness of it all. Viktor’s given it everything. Why is he always alone?

“I’ll go,” he hears himself say. He stands up, with every intention of throwing his things in his bag and retreating to another hotel room to lick his wounds, but he gets only a few steps away before Yuuri seizes him around the waist.

“Where are you going?”

“I’m getting my own room.”

“Why?”

“How am I supposed to sleep in here with you?” Viktor wipes at his face. A part of him is aware of how red he must look, how raw his skin will be in the morning, how awful he’ll look on camera. “Good night. I’ll come back in the morning to get ready.”

“No, don’t leave, please.”

“I have to.”

“But why? Why are you mad?”

“Why am I—you just broke up with me!”

“No, I didn’t!”

“You just said you wanted to end things!”

“I meant you coaching me!”

“Oh, so I’m a terrible coach?”

“No, that’s not what I—”

“That’s fine. I’ll refer you to someone else.” Is that what he’s supposed to do? Viktor doesn’t fucking know, and he’s not going to risk angering Yakov again by asking, so he’s just going to have to figure it out. He should care about this, but his heart is too broken for practicalities.

“I don’t need you as a coach, Viktor. I’m retiring. You can go back.”

“Go back where?”

“To skating,” Yuuri says slowly. “I saw how you looked at Yurio. You want to compete, right? I’ll retire after the Grand Prix Final is over, and you can go back for Nationals, or start getting ready for next season. We can move to Russia.”

“…we?”

Yuuri’s entire face suffuses with color. “Or not.”

“I don’t understand. You…want me to compete.”

Yuuri squares his shoulders. “Yes.”

Of course he does. It’s what everyone else in Viktor’s life (except Mikhail) wants him to do; why shouldn’t Yuuri? The idea of having to put together new programs and new costumes and new music and new stories and empty himself out on the ice for another year while Yuuri retires makes him physically ill. But it’s not like Viktor can refuse.

Except he has no choice.

It’s entirely possible his adultery has burned all those bridges. It’s entirely possible by this point Mikhail has made good on his threat and Viktor can’t even risk entering his home country. But even furious, Viktor can’t bring himself to throw that in Yuuri’s face now.

“All right. I’ll let Yakov know.” He hesitates, then decides it’s worth the risk. “Will you finish out the season, at least?”

“What’s the point?”

“Well, there’s Nationals, and Four Continents, and Worlds. You’ll definitely win at Nationals, so Worlds is almost a certainty, and you stand a good chance at Four Continents as well.”

“Yeah, but what’s the point? I failed yesterday.”

“You didn’t fail—”

“I failed. I fell apart, just like I always fall apart. I embarrassed myself. I embarrassed you. I’m not going to do any better tomorrow.” Yuuri rubs his face with his hands. “And you’re so nice about it, but you don’t have to do that. You don’t have to waste your time on me.”

“I’m not being nice.”

“Yes, you are—”

“Yuuri, I have three Olympic gold medals. Do you seriously think I would take off a season—what might be my last season, at my age—unless I thought you were genuinely capable?”

Does Yuuri think he’s making these sacrifices lightly?

“Well—”

“Do you think I’m an idiot?”

“…no?”

“Then stop telling me you fell apart. You didn’t fall apart. You could easily take gold tomorrow.”

“Okay,” Yuuri says.

“Okay,” Viktor says. He’s run out of words; he feels like he just ran a marathon, like he’s just come off the ice and is waiting for his scores. He’s suddenly exhausted, and despite Yuuri’s insistence that they aren’t breaking up, he feels awful.

Yuuri wants him for his skating. Viktor has two, maybe three seasons in him, if he doesn’t injure himself. And then he’ll be what? Yuuri’s already said he doesn’t think Viktor’s coaching is adequate, and Viktor is blindsided by that revelation, because he thought he was improving. So he’ll skate until his body gives out, assuming the ISU doesn’t disqualify him for being charged with a crime. And then Yuuri will leave him.

Better than being left now. Viktor will have time to prepare himself. He learned how to fall; he’ll learn how to brace for this blow, too. Probably.

He wipes at his face with the cheap hotel tissue and then gives up and goes into the bathroom for the micellar water and a cotton round. He dabs at his eyes, trying to take off the mascara; it couldn’t resist his tears but it resists the makeup remover just fine. He has to rub harder; that’s why he’s crying.

I used to be better at lying to myself, Viktor thinks, right before he starts sobbing again.

Yuuri touches his shoulder like Viktor is on the edge of a rooftop and any force might propel him into gravity’s cruel arms. Viktor can’t make himself look at him; he stares at their reflections in the mirror instead.

“Are you still mad?”

“No,” Viktor lies.

Yuuri frowns. “You’re crying,” he says, like this is somehow proof Viktor is angry instead of emotionally shipwrecked. “Why?”

“I’m fine.”

“You just ran into the bathroom to cry!”

“You cry,” Viktor says.

“Not in front of people, that’s why bathroom stalls exist.”

“Well, feel free to leave. You should be resting for tomorrow.”

“I’m not tired.”

“I’m tired,” Viktor whispers. It comes out more desperate than he means it to; Yuuri’s fingers close over his shoulder. He covers Yuuri’s hand with his own. (In the mirror, Viktor sees the tiny robe he’s wearing instead of clothes and wonders what happened to all his optimism.)

He wants, vaguely, for Yuuri to kiss him, but he thinks it would break his heart to ask.

“Come on,” Yuuri says, tugging at his robe. Viktor nods, but he waits until Yuuri retreats before he locks the door and changes into pajamas. He puts on a shirt, which he hasn’t done in weeks, and moisturizes because some habits are stronger than grief. Then he turns out the light and ventures into the hotel room.

It’s early, to be sleeping, but Viktor suspects he’ll start crying again before long, so it’s best if Yuuri goes to sleep as soon as possible. He heads for the unused bed in their hotel room, and then gives up and climbs in beside a stricken-looking Yuuri. He settles his head on the same pillow as Yuuri’s, like they have for the past few months. He’s close enough to touch, close enough that the warmth of Yuuri’s body is palpable.

He breathes deeply, trying to suppress the sobs that are trying to claw their way out of his throat.

Yuuri’s eyes are closed.

“You’re so selfish, Yuuri,” Viktor whispers. “Making me fall in love with you when you never planned on following  through.”

He rolls over, so that he doesn’t have to look at Yuuri, and closes his eyes. He tries to fall asleep.

For about thirty seconds, and then Yuuri speaks.

“What does that even mean?”

The words burst out of Viktor in an avalanche of tumultuous feeling. “I mean you lied to me! All this time I thought we were—I thought you cared about me—and you were going to leave me all long—you don’t even want me to coach you, you don’t even want me to be with you, you just want me to go back to Russia and put on a pretty show—”

He has to stop because the sobs have escaped, and he can’t get his breath enough to talk. Ten years of suppressed crying, and Viktor is paying the price.

He hears the rustle of sheets as Yuuri gets out of bed. This does nothing to help Viktor stop having his third round of hysterics that evening, and he only lifts his face from the pillow when something small and round lands on top of him.

Viktor turns over and knocks the tiny velvet jeweler’s box to the side.

“I bought them today, while you were getting the nuts,” Yuuri says. “They don’t sell them in Japan, so I had to—don’t say I don’t care about you, I care about you so much I can’t even stand it, Viktor, but I don’t know how else to—how can I ask you to give up your life for me?”

“Will I cease to exist, then?” Viktor asks. “If I stop skating?”

“No, but—”

Viktor picks up the box before Yuuri can take it away. “But what?”

“Don’t you want to compete?”

“Don’t you want to compete?”

Yuuri looks down instead of answering.

The buzz of his phone distracts Viktor from pressing Yuuri further; he checks reflexively, in case it’s Mikhail. The deadline he imposed has passed, and Viktor remains defiantly not in Russia. He wonders if Mikhail will actually go through with it; just having to worry about it constantly wears on him. He’s hidden it from Yuuri so far.

Maybe that’s a mistake.

“Yuuri, there’s something I should tell you before you decide anything.”

“What?”

“I…Mikhail…he…” Viktor tries to find a way to put that softens the blow, and then gives up. Mikhail certainly isn’t concerned with Viktor’s feelings; why should Viktor even try to preserve his? “He’s threatening to press charges against me.”

“For what?”

“Adultery.”

“He can do that?”

“Well, no one’s won an adultery case in decades. I don’t even think one’s been tried in thirty years. And the evidence is pretty thin. But in a high profile case like this, it’s possible it would go to court.”

“And then?”

“I’d either have to stay out of Russia or go back and…fight it out.”

“But he—he’s seriously trying to get you arrested?”

“So he says. He wanted me back in Russia by the tenth.”

“Viktor, the tenth was yesterday.”

“I know.”

“And you’re here!”

“I know.”

“But you should have left yesterday!”

“Leave where? You’re competing.”

“It’s not important—”

“It’s the most important.” He seizes Yuuri’s wrist. “Going back there would be the worst possible thing I can do. If Mikhail wants to drag us through a trial, let him. It only proves that I was right to fall in love with you instead.”

Yuuri’s entire face suffuses with color.

Viktor realizes, belatedly, that he just directly said that he loved Yuuri for the first time. He had plans for that, of making some grand and poetic statement while they stood on a balcony drinking champagne and admiring Yuuri’s gold medal. He hoped for a reaction other than complete shock, but Yuuri stares off into space for several seconds, obviously discomfited.

In the meantime, Viktor can’t resist any longer; he opens the box’s lid, and there, nestled in white satin, are two gleaming gold bands. They’re obviously new, expensive, with the luster of real gold. Viktor plucks out the large of the two bands and holds it up to his face. There’s something engraved on the inside of the ring; in the dark room, he can’t quite tell what.

“You bought us Match rings?”

“Marriage bands,” Yuuri croaks.

No one gets married anymore. The increased accuracy and availability of Devices means that most people have Match ceremonies now. Marriage is a relic of a previous society, when not everyone met their soulmate, and people had to pick partners based on something other than fate. Nowadays the only marriages Viktor knows about are the ones performed by people with dead soulmates and second loves, or Match ceremonies that borrow old traditions to be ironic.

“Can we even get married?” Viktor hears himself ask, with terribly feigned casualness. His mouth has decided to abandon him. “In Russia it’s not allowed unless you have your Device removed, if your soulmate is alive.”

“Not in Japan. You need permission from your soulmate if they’re alive, or proof that they’re dead.” Yuuri grinds his teeth together. Viktor sees his hand twitch toward Viktor in an aborted gesture of longing. Hope wells up in Viktor like water from a dry well. “I know we can’t. But I wish you were mine.”

Viktor says nothing for a long moment, turning the ring over in his hands. He bets it fits perfectly; Yuuri is attentive to details.

“It’s legal in Barcelona.” He tries to make the words light but can’t; they drip with wanting. “Even if you have a soulmate already. They have a whole street with late night chapels and florists and musicians. People come from all over the world to elope here.”

“Oh.”

Viktor realizes he’s forgotten to ask a crucial question. “Why are you retiring?”

“I was always going to retire. I just thought—one last season—”

“But why?”

“I thought it would be selfish to keep going,” Yuuri mumbles.

“There’s nothing wrong with being selfish about your career, Yuuri.”

“I guess.”

“I take being your coach seriously, you know.”

“You only came to Hasetsu because I got drunk and asked you to.”

“I was so relieved when you did that.”

Yuuri stares at him. “You were?”

“It gave me an excuse to retire.”

The bed creaks as Yuuri sits down gingerly beside him. He doesn’t touch Viktor, but he doesn’t move away when Viktor inches closer, either.

“You never mentioned it to me,” Yuuri says. “The banquet…”

“Well, you didn’t exactly react well when I first arrived. Were you that embarrassed? It was the most fun I’ve ever had at a banquet.”

“I don’t remember.”

Viktor blinks. He can’t have heard that right. “Any of it?”

“Any of it. I didn’t know anything about it until I saw the pictures at dinner earlier.”

“But—” Viktor flounders. It was one of the defining experiences of his life. Until Yuuri took his hand at the banquet,  a part of Viktor had assumed that he was just incapable of whatever feeling poets waxed lyrically about in romantic ballads, that he was somehow broken and that was why he didn’t relate to love songs. It was only then, dipped back over the carpet, safe in Yuuri’s arms, that he’d tasted the desire that had eluded him for ten long years. “But it was so much fun! I choreographed a program about it!”

“You—wait a minute. Am I the playboy?”

“Of course you are!”

“Fuck.” Yuuri buries his face in his hands. “I can’t believe I did any of that. I can’t believe you took me seriously.”

“Did you not want me to coach you?”

“I think ‘coach’ might have been a euphemism.”

“…oh.”

“I mean, I’m not complaining.”

They sit in silence. Yuuri has his arms around his knees; Viktor lets his head fall back against the pillow. He has no idea what the end result of their argument is; he’d resigned himself to retirement months ago. Truthfully, the idea of going back scares him; what if it was as miserable as it was before? Viktor has enough money to bear the loss of his sponsorships, enough confidence in his own talents that he thinks he would acquit himself well, but he can’t go back to being unhappy anymore.

He can’t replace ‘functional relationships with other human beings’ with skating anymore. And if Yuuri leaves him and he can’t go back to Russia, he has no idea what he’ll do with himself.

“I always thought that this was…” Yuuri gestures widely at the both of them. “Temporary.”

“But you bought these.”

Viktor holds up the rings in the palm of his hand.

“I didn’t say I wanted it that way.”

“What do you want? Never mind our careers or what people think or any of that.”

Yuuri plucks the box out of his hands and stares at it.

“…I want you to stay.”

“I will.” Viktor swallows. “If you’ll let me.”

In the dim room, with the only sound the traffic on the streets below, with exhaustion creeping over him like a distant storm, Viktor feels adrift. He’s not good at saying the right thing without a script. If he didn’t know Yuuri’s been planning to retire this entire time, what else does he not know?

“Seems kind of a waste.” Yuuri turns one of the rings over in his fingers. “Having these rings. Not using them.”

“That sounds like a proposal.”

“If I win gold tomorrow, will you…marry me?”

Yuuri’s halfway confession takes Viktor’s breath away. His explicit proposal makes his heart stutter—Viktor is certain that whatever’s happening in his chest can’t be healthy. He feels suddenly, violently alive.

No one’s ever chosen Viktor before.

“How about you marry me now, and win gold tomorrow?” Viktor reaches out, and Yuuri reaches back, intertwining his fingers with Viktor’s. “I really want to kiss gold, you know? I don’t know that I can wait.”

Chapter Text

and opens;only something in me understands


 

“Wait, wait,” Yuuri says, laughing, as they sneak back into their hotel room. It’s not too late yet, but miraculously, they make it from the street to their room without running into anyone. Maybe they’re all still out eating dinner. Maybe they’re all busy resting for the Grand Prix Final free program tomorrow. Maybe the universe is smiling on Viktor and him, just this once.

“What?” Viktor asks. He keeps looking down at his right hand with an expression of pure wonder. Yuuri wants to kiss him so badly and has had to restrain himself for the entire half hour between their wedding and their arrival at the hotel.

“Tradition,” Yuuri explains. “Here—” and he bends down to put his arm behind Viktor’s knees.

Viktor shrieks with delight as Yuuri scoops him up. “Yuuri!”

“Shit, how do we open the door?”

“Here, let me,” Viktor squirms in his arms, trying to get his room key out of his trouser pocket. “Will I fit?”

“I’ll go sideways.”

Viktor gets the door partway open, and Yuuri opens it the rest of the way with his foot. His foot, on which is his sponsor-gifted sneaker, because Yuuri was just married in workout clothes and the overcoat he bought with Phichit at a Black Friday sale.

He presses his mouth against Viktor’s hair as he maneuvers them into the room without running into anything and kicks the door shut behind them. The sound of it locking is a weight off his shoulders; he looks at Viktor. Viktor looks at him. They both start laughing.

Viktor is still giggling as Yuuri drops him on the bed. He’s wearing a suit; it was pressed when he put it on, but it’s crumpled now where Yuuri held onto him. His tie is loose; his lashes are their natural color. He doesn’t look like five time World Champion Viktor Nikiforov or living legend of skating Viktor Nikiforov or Coach Viktor. This is someone else; this is a Viktor Yuuri has uncovered, layer by layer, peeling back artifice to reveal something bright and messy and true underneath.

“What?”

Yuuri is staring, he knows. His eyes are hungry. He has looked at Viktor half his life; it’s not enough.

“I used to have this dream about you,” Yuuri says. “We were on the ice together. I was chasing you. And when I caught you…”

“When you caught me…?”

Yuuri swallows. “I used to dream that it would be you.”

Viktor’s eye flick down to the patch over Yuuri’s wrist. He must be imagining the Device that lies underneath, the gleaming white light in the center, almost identical to Viktor’s own. Yuuri tips his chin up so that he has to meet Yuuri’s eyes.

“Thanks for making it come true.”

“Oh, Yuuri,” Viktor breathes, and he makes Yuuri’s name into poetry, into an expression of things for which there aren’t words.

Yuuri doesn’t have anything left to say. He loves Viktor, and Viktor loves him. The universe feels like a warmer, kinder place just thinking it; he can’t quite believe only hours ago he was willing to risk throwing Viktor’s affection away.

He lets his fingers wander over Viktor’s cheek, over his eyebrows, down the line of his nose, over his lips. Viktor inhales when Yuuri’s thumb presses down on his lower lip; it’s soft. This close, Yuuri can see imperfections in Viktor’s face, but like craters on the moon, they only add to his perfection. Yuuri would name them if he could, draw constellations in his freckles, title the dents under his eyes after oceans, make a landmark out of the shaving nick on his jaw.

Viktor sighs as Yuuri follows his fingers with his lips. His husband tastes like lip balm.

“Should we rest?” Viktor asks. He slips his arms over Yuuri’s shoulders and pulls him down. Yuuri leans forward to touch the end of his nose to Viktor’s. “You have to skate tomorrow.”

“We could,” Yuuri says. He licks his lips. “But uh, if we’re talking about wedding night traditions…”

There is a silence in which Viktor’s face doesn’t give anything away. Yuuri’s stomach falls; he’s an idiot.

“Sorry. Fuck. Forget I said anything—”

“When I was sixteen, and I was on my way to my first Olympics, Yakov took me aside to give me a talk.” Viktor draws a spiral below Yuuri’s shoulder blade. “About how they were a cesspool of depravity and it was my job to focus on skating and wait for my soulmate and not get sucked into any orgies.”

“...did you?”

“I did not. I waited.” Viktor pauses, and glances off to the side; his nails dig into Yuuri’s skin through his shirt. “In fact, I’m...still waiting.”

“You what?”

“I wanted it to mean something,” Viktor continues. He sounds like he’s practiced this speech before. With Viktor’s track record at saying the right thing, it’s entirely possible he did practice it, so that if Yuuri lost his mind and made a pass at him, he’d be able to turn him down gently.

“But I had sex,” Yuuri says.

“You—really?”

“It’s not a big deal in Detroit…”

America is shockingly permissive about pre-Match sex, as long as no feelings are involved.

“Oh.”

“But—you’re so—I just thought—” Yuuri tries to think of a tactful way to say you’re too hot to be a virgin and gives up. “Didn’t anyone ever offer?”

“Of course they did,” Viktor says. He shrugs. “I wasn’t interested in casual.”

Yuuri turns this over in his head. Viktor doesn’t do anything casually; it makes perfect sense, if Yuuri puts aside all the rumors about dangerous seductive playboy Viktor, that he’d hold out for sex for when it was meaningful. It’s just incredible to Yuuri, after spending a decade suppressing his intense lust for Viktor, that anyone would choose not to—

“Wait, are you telling me your soulmate didn’t want to have sex with you?”

Viktor’s ears are turning red. “Yes.”

“What the fuck was wrong with him,” Yuuri says. It’s not a question. He’ll be mad about this later. “Never mind. Do you want to?”

“Yuuri—”

“It’s okay if the answer is not now, or later, or never, or...I want to know what you want.”

Since guessing hasn’t served Yuuri well so far.

“I want you.” The way Viktor says it, in the same flippant tone he might use to tell Yuuri his free leg is sloppy, takes Yuuri’s breath away. “I want to know what it’s like. Will you teach me?”

“Well, you did show me how to do the quad flip,” Yuuri says. He tries to go for joking, but can’t quite manage it. “I guess I could give you a lesson or two.”

“I’ve spent months teaching you that jump. And you still aren’t landing it consistently.”

“I’m going to do it tomorrow.” Yuuri punctuates with another kiss. “You wanna learn?”

“Of course.”

“Then pay attention, this is going to be on the test.”

“Oh, is it?”

“That’s right. You said you wanted to kiss a gold medalist? Tomorrow you’re going to get the chance.”

He pushes Viktor back onto the bed, and considers. For all his talk, Yuuri’s let his past partners initiate. He’s never taken the lead like this, not sober. But Viktor deserves to be worshiped, and since fate didn’t provide him with anyone to do it, Yuuri’s got to pick up the slack.

He starts with Viktor’s mouth.

That’s easy enough; over the past two months Yuuri has kissed Viktor an endless number of times, in Viktor’s bedroom, at the rink, on the beach, between bites of dinner, trying to store up the taste of Viktor’s kisses for the moment when Yuuri would no longer have them.

Then he kisses down the line of Viktor’s jaw, sharp enough to skate on, and then he presses his lips against the underside and Viktor shivers. His hand comes up to rest on the back of Yuuri’s hair, and Yuuri revels in the warmth of his palm before transferring his attentions to Viktor’s neck.

It’s swan-like, this neck; for all Viktor’s shameless nudity, it’s this neck that Yuuri fantasizes about. When Viktor’s dressed up, the creases in his suit crisp, it’s the only part of him exposed. Yuuri comes off the ice and puts his face against it and always, always wants to bite.

Well, Viktor said he was curious. Yuuri leaves a wet line of kisses down Viktor’s throat, feeling him swallow as he does, until he’s kissing the hollow between his collarbones. Then he tilts Viktor’s head to the side and catches Viktor’s pulse between his teeth. Viktor’s heart is going so fast, like it’s gearing up to jump, and when Yuuri bites Viktor shudders and lets out a tiny moan.

“Ah..”

Yuuri kisses his neck again, aimlessly this time. “Viktor.”

“Mm?”

“Can you take off your shirt?”

“Yes.”

Yuuri sits up. Viktor finishes taking off his tie, and then starts in on the buttons of his shirt; he’s not wearing an undershirt (and a part of Yuuri wonders if he got cold), and when he slips the sleeves over his wrists and tosses the shirt away, god, he is pretty. Viktor looks like he could be cast in marble and displayed in a museum somewhere. Yuuri reaches out to drag his nails down Viktor’s chest, lightly, and when he scrapes deliberately over a nipple, Viktor’s choked off noise of pleasure comes through gritted teeth.

Yuuri kisses Viktor’s shoulder next, over a smattering of freckles. He follows Viktor’s clavicle with his mouth, and then dips his tongue into the line between Viktor’s pecs. He spans Viktor’s waist with his hands, and kisses Viktor right over his heart.

Mine, Yuuri thinks.

Viktor’s nipples look delicate against the swell of his muscles; Yuuri wets a fingertip with his tongue before circling one lightly. It hardens under his touch, pebbling, and Yuuri rubs harder, and harder, until finally he dips his thumb into his mouth and pinches the tip.

“Hah…”

The texture is nice under Yuuri’s tongue. He flicks his tongue against Viktor’s nipple, sucks, catches the other between thumb and forefinger, has to hold Viktor still with his free hand because he can’t keep still. Viktor is panting, his chest flushed. He’s too quiet.

“Feels good?”

“Can you…” Viktor tugs at Yuuri’s hair, mouth moving soundlessly, like he can’t remember how to talk. “Harder?”

Yuuri shrugs and then takes Viktor’s nipple between his teeth. He applies a little pressure and there it is: Viktor makes a tiny, wrung out noise. It’s the first sound he’s made that didn’t sound like he was trying to be quiet. Satisfied, Yuuri bites him again.

He teases Viktor’s nipples until they’re more red than pink, and lifts his head. There’s sweat beading on Viktor’s stomach; he licks it away. Viktor’s hands scrabble for purchase on Yuuri’s head and shoulders as his mouth wanders down. Yuuri traces the lines of his abdomen with his tongue, absently kissing wherever he feels like it. He holds Viktor’s hips as he presses his mouth just beneath Viktor’s navel.

Yuuri didn’t even know it was possible to have an attractive belly button, but Viktor manages it.

He strokes Viktor’s hip, down his leg, pressing his thumb in slow circles on the inside of Viktor’s thigh. There’s a damp spot at the top of the bulge between Viktor’s legs, where the fine fabric of his dress pants is straining. Yuuri undoes the button, then unzips them with his teeth.

Viktor mumbles something in Russian. Yuuri only catches a couple of the words, but what he does understand is filthy. He hooks his fingers in Viktor’s belt loops and yanks down his pants around his thighs.

“You’re not wearing underwear?”

“I had this fantasy that my boyfriend would suddenly go down on me,” Viktor says, breathless. “I wanted to be ready.”

“I’m not your boyfriend,” Yuuri says, as he helps Viktor out of his pants so he can squeeze his thighs. “I’m your husband.” He licks his lips, eying Viktor’s cock: it’s erect and red, the tip glistening, the foreskin drawn back. “Did I mention I have no gag reflex?”

“No, you—oh, fuck.”

Viktor’s cock is deliciously heavy in Yuuri’s mouth. Yuuri sucks him off like a starving man, barely noticing the sting in his scalp when Viktor yanks at his hair. Viktor’s pulse throbs against Yuuri’s tongue as he licks the underside of his cock; the heat of it is enough to make Yuuri weak. He braces himself with one hand on Viktor’s leg and shoves the other down the front of his pants.

God, he’s been so focused on Viktor he barely noticed his own erection, but Yuuri grips himself in time to the thrust of Viktor’s hips against Yuuri’s face and nearly comes right there, from the way Viktor’s cock fills his mouth up like they were made for this.

“Yuuri—Yuuri—”

Yuuri pulls off reluctantly, breathing hard. Viktor has the look of a man who’s been thrown from a cliff, eyes squeezed shut. He’s so lovely. He tastes good; Yuuri tongues at his slit, mouths at the side of his cock, breaks off to bite his thigh.

“Can you come in my mouth?”

“Yes—”

“Okay, do that,” Yuuri says, and then he swallows Viktor down again.

Viktor has both hands on his head, gripping tight as he writhes trying to fuck Yuuri’s mouth; Yuuri doesn’t mind. His jaw is getting kind of tired—he’s out of practice—and he wants Viktor to come in him so bad. His inelegant groping at his own cock is superfluous. Yuuri could come just from this. From the head of Viktor’s cock dragging against the roof of Yuuri’s mouth, stretching the inside of his cheek. He touches himself frantically, loses it, ruins his sweatpants.

His nails leave tiny red crescents in Viktor’s skin. Viktor’s groans have reached a fever pitch, his cock twitching in Yuuri’s mouth—

Ah, there it is. Yuuri swallows, savoring the taste, as Viktor’s cock slips from between his lips. Come drips from the corner of his mouth, and he laps it up. Then he bends his head to clean Viktor’s cock with his tongue.

By the time he’s finished, Viktor is lying still, hands resting loosely on Yuuri’s shoulders. He looks wrecked. He looks sweaty and messy and tired.

All mine, Yuuri thinks, as he lays his head on Viktor’s stomach in exhaustion. Viktor’s abs are a terrible pillow.

“Hey,” Viktor says, hoarse. “Why are you wearing clothes?”

Yuuri laughs.

“You should change. And sleep. You have to skate tomorrow.” Viktor sighs, fingertips skimming over the back of Yuuri’s neck. “Am I a terrible coach?”

“I’m not skating with my mouth.” An awful thought crosses Yuuri’s mind. In all his giddiness over getting to ravish Viktor, he forgot entirely about Mikhail’s threats. “Wait, weren’t you worried about getting arrested for adultery?”

“It’s only illegal in Russia. They’d have to prove we had sex during the Rostelecom Cup, and I don’t see how they could. I wasn’t even there for half of it.”

“Our hotel room only had one bed.”

“It was a clerical error. We got a discount. I have the receipt.”

Of course he does, Yuuri thinks, and despite himself he smiles.

They part reluctantly, and Yuuri rushes through his nighttime preparations, brushes his teeth and wipes himself off and fumbles himself into his pajamas. Viktor goes into the bathroom once he’s done, and Yuuri feels vaguely guilty about not helping him clean up. He’ll be properly guilty about it later, when he’s not so tired.

Viktor comes to bed too many minutes later, freshly washed. He stops briefly to put their marriage certificate in his bag before joining Yuuri under the covers. Yuuri’s already turned out the lights and taken off his glasses. By unspoken agreement, they’ve both climbed into the same bed, the one that’s unused.

That’s going to be misleading for the cleaning crew tomorrow—both beds used when only one was before. People will think they’ve broken up.

“Hey,” Yuuri whispers. He and Viktor are curled up, facing each other. He laces his fingers with Viktor’s in the space between them. “Are we going to tell people?”

They’ve both peeled off their patches. Yuuri could reach out and caress Viktor’s wrist, if he wanted. His Device light is an ugly green color.

“We should make an announcement before the press does it for us.” Viktor yawns. “And you have to tell your parents. They don’t like me.”

“They like you. It’s just…I mean…they’ll probably feel better about it if they know we’re married.”

Yuuri’s conversations with his parents since Mikhail invaded have been…well, his parents haven’t said that they disapprove, but only, Yuuri suspects, because they know Yuuri is stubborn and won’t listen to them. He thinks that their disapproval will fade eventually; they’re as angry with Mikhail and with the world as they are with Viktor, and they’re sensible.

(He thinks, even if they don’t ever approve, they’ll have to adjust, but that’s a problem for future Yuuri.)

“Because they won’t have to worry about me running off?”

“Yeah.”

“Not until after the final. I don’t want any distractions from your gold medal.”

“I might not win a gold medal.”

“Love you,” Viktor mumbles in reply. Maybe he didn’t hear Yuuri; maybe he thinks that’s answer enough.

Maybe it is.

“I love you too,” Yuuri dares to say for the first time. He’s not sure if Viktor hears it, or if he’s already asleep. His dreams overtake him before he can hear any answer.

Chapter Text

the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)


“Vitya, about last night.”

Yuuri’s tone sets off warning bells in Viktor’s mind; it’s the same tone he used yesterday when he said those three awful words. Besides, after the Cup of China, Viktor has decided they need to put a moratorium on important discussions before competitions.

“Mm?”

“What you said—”

“Eat this, you can’t skate on an empty stomach.” Viktor shoves a spoonful of egg into Yuuri’s mouth.

“Vitya—”

“Do you need more water?”

“Shut up about breakfast for a minute,” Yuuri whispers. He puts down his fork. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“Because you kept crying yesterday.”

“I know.”

“I didn’t mean...”

“I know,” he says again. Viktor does know. He’s not mad at Yuuri anymore—he thinks what Yuuri did was idiotic, but Yuuri obviously realizes that, and at least they were able to talk about it. If Yuuri had frozen him out, or refused to listen, then Viktor would have been really angry.

“I’ve never seen you get mad or cry before.”

Viktor looks around; he’s worried about eavesdroppers. It’s pointless; even the tables around them are sparse, like the two of them are contagious.

“I didn’t mean to disappoint you by falling apart.”

“I’m not disappointed. I’m kind of relieved.”

Viktor blinks at him. “Why?”

“I liked it.”

“You what?”

“Not that I liked you crying! But this is the first I ever…felt like you needed me.” Yuuri pauses to eat the last of his eggs. They’re awful, slimy and undersalted, Viktor knows. Someone in the hotel kitchen must dislike them. Yuuri winces as he swallows, then drops his fork with a clatter. “I don’t want to skate with this hanging over us. Are you still mad?”

“Mikhail always made decisions about our relationship without consulting me.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Whether you retire or not is up to you. But you shouldn’t do it because of me. It won’t change my mind about my career.”

“Okay.”

“I don’t even understand why you thought I wanted to come back.”

“It’s hard to tell what you’re thinking!” Yuuri bursts out. “And you’re secretive.”

“No, I’m not!”

“You never told me about Mikhail threatening you. And you were gone at dinner yesterday and I didn’t even know where you were.”

“I was with Yakov. He was worried about me.”

“He was?”

“Mikhail told him about what he was planning. I think Yakov regrets getting involved now.”

“Why didn’t you tell me that?”

“I was going to. But with everything that happened yesterday…”

Viktor doesn’t tell him the other half of it—that after yesterday’s whirlwind of emotional turmoil, Viktor completely forgot any such conversation had occurred. He only concealed what he was doing from Yuuri because he thought Yakov was going to be vicious again, and he wanted to shield Yuuri from that.

“…right.”

He doesn’t want to fight with Yuuri again, and Yuuri’s jaw has relaxed, so maybe he’s decided to let it pass. Viktor hasn’t confided in anyone in years. He’s never thought Yuuri had any difficulty reading him. They’ll have to work on this. Maybe Viktor will tell him about how Mikhail never showed any sign of wanting him, and that’s why he took Yuuri’s words as confirmation that he was inherently unlovable. Maybe he’ll tell Yuuri about coming back after competitions and sleeping for days, drinking wine and skipping meals, crying without realizing it.

Later, Viktor thinks. He decides to change the subject; he and Yuuri can hash out all their complaints about each other another time.

“One of us is going to have to learn what to do when people cry, Yuuri,” Viktor says, laughing. “Otherwise we’ll be apologizing to each other at competitions for the rest of our lives.”

Viktor stares at his ring. When he looks back up Yuuri is staring at his ring, his expression unbearably soft.

“For what it’s worth, Yuuri, I do need you.”

“I need you, too,” Yuuri says. His brows narrow in concentration. Viktor can see him starting to focus, shedding all the worries he’s carrying in favor of the one worry of the upcoming free skate. “It’s time. Let’s go.”


Yuuri goes to the bathroom midway through lunch and never comes back.

Viktor waits at their table with increasing impatience for almost fifteen minutes before he gives up and starts looking for him. Yuuri isn’t in any of the bathrooms nearby, and he’s not answering his phone. That leaves Viktor to search for him systematically.

He can’t even ask for help; he doesn’t want to draw attention to Yuuri in case he excused himself to panic in private.

Finally, Viktor catches the sound of Yuuri’s voice nearby.

“Yuuri?”

No answer. Viktor frowns and checks the nearest door; it’s cracked just slightly, enough for Viktor to peek inside.

It’s a janitor supply closet, and Yuuri is inside, sitting on an overturned mop bucket, arguing with someone over the phone.

“…leave him alone.”

Yuuri sounds upset. Who is he on the phone with? Did a reporter get through? Did a friend turn on him—or worse, did someone track down his personal number and post it online? Oh, god, is it his parents? They’re still treating Viktor with icy politeness, although it’s hard to gauge over text. Viktor flattens himself against the bathroom door to listen.

“Okay, but even if he does come back, what’s the point?”

Whoever Yuuri is talking to is angry. Viktor can’t make out the words, but he can tell it’s not a civil conversation. He wants to rush in and intercede, but Yuuri’s retort stops him short.

“So what, you’re just going to threaten to have him arrested every time he does something you don’t like?”

Viktor covers his mouth with his hand to stifle his noise of surprise. Since when does Yuuri even have Mikhail’s number?

“That’s your idea of love?” Yuuri slams his fist against his leg and nearly knocks his phone to the ground. “No, I wouldn’t! If I were you I’d be here trying to win him back!”

Viktor’s phone, with astonishingly bad timing, goes off at that moment. It’s his free skate alarm.

Yuuri looks up and nearly tips off the bucket he’s sitting on.

“Fine,” he snaps at the phone. He slaps at the screen until the call ends. “Vitya.”

“I was looking for you.”

“Sorry.”

“What did he say?”

“Nothing. He—” Yuuri stares down at the ground. He’s clutching his phone so hard his knuckles are white. “I thought, if he cared about you, I could convince him to not do this.”

“Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me. I think I made it worse.”

“You tried.”

Yuuri’s still staring at his feet. Viktor reaches out and tips his face up until they’re looking at each other.

“There’s nothing he can do to us while we’re here,” Viktor says. “And I would rather be here with you, right now, than alone in Russia. Okay?”

“Okay.” Yuuri rubs at his face with his hands. “Do we have time for me to finish my lunch? I was busy stealing your phone, I didn’t eat much.”

“If we hurry.”


The rankings are as follows: Yuri, Otabek, Chris, Yuuri, Phichit, and finally JJ. Viktor does the math in his head as they pass the hours between Yuuri’s uneventful morning practice and the free skate. Yuri is probably the most dangerous of the skaters, but his inexperience and his relatively low stamina mean he’s also the most likely to make a mistake. Otabek Viktor is on the fence about; he’s obviously someone with hidden depths, and he’s a decisive, forceful skater. Chris is Chris; he’s very good, but Viktor has absolute confidence that Yuuri is better.

Phichit is also very good, but his lack of quads will hurt him. JJ was Yuuri’s greatest competition, but after yesterday’s performance, Viktor has no idea whether or not he’ll recover.

And Yuuri…

Viktor believes in him. Viktor knows he has the capacity to win.

But Viktor believing isn’t enough. Yuuri has to believe it, or it won’t happen. And even after all this time together, Viktor is unsure of the best way to motivate him.

He’s been quiet all day, lost in thoughts he hasn’t yet shared. Other than his disappearance during lunch, he hasn’t left Viktor’s side, but he hasn’t needed anything, either. The tension in Yuuri’s body hasn’t crossed the line into the anxiety he displayed in China, so Viktor lets him think without a word of interruption.

Viktor’s learned what Yuuri’s face looks like when he’s solving a problem; it’s best to let him get on with it.

“It’s starting soon.”

“Yes.”

Yuuri touches his arm, and Viktor covers his hand with his own as they make their way in for the first performance of the final.

JJ is up.

He does better than he did yesterday, but not as well as he has in the past. No longer a threat, but an impressive recovery, Viktor thinks.

“He asked for my advice, yesterday.”

“Oh?”

“About dealing with anxiety.”

Despite himself, Viktor smiles. It’s nice to know he’s not the only one who’s noticed how strong Yuuri is.

Next is Phichit, whose skate goes as expected. He’s going to be very dangerous in the future.

And then—

Yuuri’s face is drawn as he takes off his skate guards. He looks a little pale under his makeup, and Viktor smiles what he hopes is a normal smile.

“Everything will be fine, you’ll see. Just relax.”

“Don’t go turning into a model coach now, Viktor.” Yuuri’s eyes are hard, but the corners of his mouth turn up. “This might be my last performance. Motivate me like you always do.”

Viktor drags him across the boards, close enough to kiss.

“Stop fooling around, Yuuri,” he says. “I held up my end of the bargain, and now I expect you to deliver. How long are you planning to keep me waiting? Bring me a gold medal already. I’m not kissing you until you do.”

Yuuri hugs him; the back of his wrist presses intimately against the back of Viktor’s neck. Even through two layers of fabric it burns.

“I want that kiss when I come back,” he whispers.

As he takes his position, center ice, Viktor brings the ring on his hand up to his mouth and watches Yuuri do the same. He can almost taste Yuuri’s lips, the way he did last night, so many times.

His nails dig into his palms. I’m nervous, Viktor thinks, and then laughs at himself. Yuuri’s the one doing all the work, but still Viktor feels like his heart might explode.

The music begins.

This might be Yuuri’s final time performing this program.

The theme is ‘on my love’.

Yuuri leans his quadruple salchow with such ease, it’s impossible to tell that previously he was unable to land in competition at all. He’s a different skater than he was this morning, or yesterday, or the day before: like surety has settled deep into his bones.

No one can look away—Viktor least of all.

Yuuri turns one of his triples into a flip; Viktor frowns, trying to parse that decision. He and Yuuri have practiced a number of jump possibilities, after Yakov advised Yuuri to be prepared to adapt in case he missed a jump. But this isn’t one of the changes they discussed.

There’s a delicacy in Yuuri’s outstretched hands, a lightness to his steps; it’s so complicated, it looks so easy. This is the portion of the program that’s supposed to represent Viktor’s influence on Yuuri’s life. But Viktor can’t imagine it, watching Yuuri skate like this, how can he have inspired such a thing in anyone when—

Yuuri does a quadruple toe loop, unplanned.

“You know,” Yuuri admitted once, shyly, in between renditions of Stammi Vicino done side by side and hand in hand, “I always wanted to do a free skate with the same difficulty as this one.”

“Next year,” Viktor teased.

That’s four quads. Is he…

He’s got a hand over his mouth. Nothing feels real; Yuuri’s skating seems to exist in another world entirely. There aren’t any flaws, there are no mistakes, not that Viktor would notice if there were, not that Viktor would care if he saw them.

The final notes are playing. Heart in his mouth, Viktor watches—Viktor waits—oh, please, he thinks, praying to no one and everyone, Yuuri—

There is cheering as Yuuri lands his quad flip, the first quad flip anyone besides Viktor has ever landed cleanly, but none of it is louder than Viktor’s scream of joy, or his racing heart.

Fifteen or twenty minutes pass in a blur. Yuuri’s howl of triumph, his rush off the ice and into Viktor’s arms, their passage to the kiss and cry, whatever Yuuri says, however Viktor answers: Viktor would be hard pressed to describe any of it later. He just knows they’re holding hands. They’re waiting.

Yuuri is smiling.

“It’ll be a good score.”

“I know.”

Viktor runs his thumb over Yuuri’s ring, the ring he put on Yuuri’s finger yesterday with shaking fingers. He was so scared he’d drop it. Yuuri almost had; Viktor’s glove had ended up on the chapel floor. It might still be there.

“Yuuri Katsuki’s score is 221.58! He’s surpassed the world record long held by Viktor Nikiforov! He’s jumped all the way to first place!”

“Oh,” Yuuri says. His mouth drops open.

“Seems like I’m destined to have my records broken by Yuuris,” Viktor says. He squeezes Yuuri’s hand. “I suppose if I have to be surpassed by someone…”

“Yakov said you could come back.”

“What?”

Yuuri turns to him, brows narrowed with determination. “I talked to him. He said he’d take us both on, if you—if you decided you wanted to make a comeback.”

“He…did? But Mikhail—”

“He hasn’t done anything yet, right? I don’t know. But if you want to, I’ll come to Russia with you.”

“Oh.”

Viktor never expected that.

He assumed that his competitive days were over. Even charges that were dismissed would have ruined him; an actual trial would have made him a pariah. Viktor’s been the face of Russian figure skating for a long time; he was heavily involved in the reconstruction of the national figure skating program. He’s helped his fellow skaters get sponsorships and donated to ice skating camps for poor children and generally tried to leverage his success for good.

The scandal of being with Yuuri means all of that is gone. And Viktor doesn’t feel guilty about that, because he’s given Russia plenty of gold medals already and he’s so old, but he does regret that his career had to end with ignominy. But if Yakov says he can come back…Yakov is relentlessly practical. If Viktor coming back would hurt the other skaters, Yakov would refuse.

“Just think about it.” Yuuri shrugs. “Don’t make your career decisions based on what I do.”

“You stole that from me.”

“You’re my coach, I’m supposed to learn from you.”

Viktor hugs him, because he can’t stand it anymore. How dare Yuuri say that he never does anything for Viktor and then immediately intercede on Viktor’s behalf like this? It’s too much.

“I’m so proud of you, Yuuri.”

“Thank you for bringing me this far.” Yuuri is blinking back tears. “I’ve been trying so long to catch up to you. I never thought—” He wipes at his eyes, and Viktor dabs at his face with a tissue.

The beginning of Chris’s performance draws both their eyes. Viktor smiles for the cameras, for once without having to pretend anything.

This might have been the last time Yuuri ever skates this program. But if it is, it’s as worthy a sendoff as can be.


Winning makes Yuuri bold. He’s barely got the medal around his neck before he’s rushing to meet Viktor; Viktor opens his mouth to offer him a kiss.

Yuuri doesn’t even let him get out a word. He dips Viktor over his arm like he did at the banquet and Sochi and kisses him like he’s going off to war.

“They wouldn’t engrave my married name on it,” Yuuri whispers when he pulls back.

“That’s going to make the rest of our interviews today interesting,” Viktor says in the same low tone. The official giving out the medals looked disgusted; Viktor was afraid he’d have to go pry Yuuri’s gold out of his hands. He stands back up, Yuuri’s arm around his waist, and ignores the way people are staring and whispering behind their hands. He suspects they’re going to be asked some nasty questions before the final is over. He half wishes Yuuri hadn’t told anyone, just so that Yuuri could have his fair share of congratulations for his win.

“Vitya, I’ve decided. Please stay and coach me for another year!”

“Coaching you and making a comeback? That’s going to be difficult.” Viktor rests his forehead against Yuuri’s. “You have to make it worth my while. Excite me.”

“Yeah? How should I do that?”

“I expect you to win five World Championships,” Viktor says. He kisses Yuuri again; he can’t help himself. It’s not like he hasn’t already committed the worst of the carnal sins with him. He might as well go to hell properly. “At least.”

In answer, Yuuri holds his medal up to Viktor’s lips. They kiss, gold between them.

Out of all the gold medals in the world, Viktor thinks he likes this one best of all.


Viktor commissioned the duet version of Stammi Vicino on a whim.

He toyed with the idea of actually skating to it, and made all kinds of excuses, but he knew the truth if he cared to look at himself in the mirror. He could never have portrayed the joy of the singers upon being united. How could he, when he’d lived his life without ever tasting that kind of love?

Sento una voce che piange lontano
Anche tu, sei stato forse abbandonato?

Yuuri…I’ve learned so many things about life and love from you.

He came to Hasetsu to offer Yuuri his services as a coach. He meant to teach Yuuri the program as a gift for all the joy he’d found at Yuuri’s side. And yet, as Viktor waits in the wings, as Yuuri creates and destroys a world of lost love in a shower of ice shavings in a halo of blue light, he realizes that this is the only way it could have ended.

Orsù finisca presto questo calice di vino
e inizio a prepararmi

The music is familiar, and yet entirely new; Yuuri’s skating is Viktor’s skating, and yet no one could mistake them for one another.

Adesso fa’ silenzio

When Viktor finished his free skate at last year’s Worlds, he meant it to be the last time he ever performed it—the last time he ever performed anything.

He’ll have to come up with something good for his comeback; he’d hate to stop surprising people now.

Stammi vicino, non te ne andare
Ho paura di perderti

As Viktor takes to the ice, it’s like the first time all over again—the cheering of the crowd is too loud, the lights too bright, his legs unsteady—

And then Yuuri turns to meet him, hand outstretched, and catches him without ever taking his eyes off his face. Their right wrists brush against each other as they hold on, let go, take hold again. Hello, Viktor thinks, and as they turn around each other he imagines every ounce of pain he’s carried being flung far away. I’m here now.

Le tue mani, le tue gambe,
Le mie mani, le mie gambe,

Their arms are sure as they lift each other. If he touched Yuuri’s wrist, the pulse there would be in perfect sync with his.

e i battiti del cuore
si fondono tra loro

There is a world out there, somewhere beyond the confines of this rink, full of people who will hate them and try to tear them apart: who will call their marriage a fraud and their love a sin and their hearts stolen. Russia is much more conservative than Spain, much less understanding than Hasetsu. Viktor’s already heard from his new public relations person (his old one quit, citing ideological conflict) and been told that all his social media is being locked down due to an influx of spam and death threats. His agent called, voice grim, to tell him more than half his sponsors wanted nothing to do with him.

Yakov spoke to him, afterward. I’ll be your coach, he said. But don’t expect anything more. I’m still ashamed of you.

Partiamo insieme
Ora sono pronto

But in this moment, Yuuri’s place at his side is as natural as breathing, his love written by every mark on the ice left by his skates and by every touch of his face under Viktor’s hand and by his eyes, which never look away, which never let Viktor go.

If this is a dream, Viktor has no desire to wake. If this is a lie, it’s more honest than any truth. If Yuuri isn’t his soulmate, Viktor is happy to live without a soul for the rest of his life.

Stay with me, he thinks, following the gleam of gold on Yuuri’s hand the way flowers turn toward the sun. It’s not a desperate plea, not anymore.

In this moment, Viktor has absolute faith that Yuuri will.

Chapter Text

nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands


 

Yuuri’s wrist still aches in the cold, but the Spanish doctor who removed his and Viktor’s Devices promised him that would pass. So he wears a sweatband around it for extra warmth, as winter in St. Petersburg is both long and cold. It’s a very different city from Hasetsu or Detroit, but Yuuri is learning to enjoy it.

He thinks that he could live anywhere, if it were a place Viktor loved as much as he loves his hometown.

The path Yuuri runs in the mornings is beautiful, with bridges and old buildings and the sound of gulls crying in the distance. If he gets homesick, sometimes, the rink at the end of his run is familiar enough; if he’s still homesick after that, Viktor is there, too, and his arms are open. Yuuri’s parents have promised to visit, too, and Yuuri tries to take in everything with an eye to describing it to them in a way that will convince them he is happy.

(He is happy.)

Sometimes the only thing that gets Yuuri out of bed and going so early is knowing that if he gets there, he can kiss Viktor as much as he likes. Viktor has promised him that this wealth of affection will run out if Yuuri doesn’t win at Four Continents, but Viktor couldn’t even wait until the scores were announced at Nationals, so Yuuri only smirks whenever he makes this particular threat.

The news coverage of them kissing over the boards at Nationals was ugly, but Yuuri did better this time than he did after his win at the Grand Prix Final, and only read a few of the comments before he put away the phone.

Maybe it will die down over time, and maybe it won’t. They’ve submitted their application to have their marriage recognized, with the letter from the doctor certifying the removal of their Devices and legal documents declaring the renunciation of their soulmates. All that’s left is the waiting.

Viktor said that Mikhail would be notified of the legal termination of their relationship. He must have heard by now, but he hasn’t tried to contact them. He hasn’t contacted the police, either, so they’ve decided to move forward for now.

Yuuri jogs in place at crosswalk, waiting for traffic to ebb; there are people around, and they are looking at him. A woman behind and to his left drops her folded umbrella as she fumbles for something in her purse; Yuuri bends down to pick it up and hands it over.

(She’s got green eyes, Yuuri notices.)

The oncoming cars skid to a stop, and he takes off running again. Behind him, there’s Devices going off, or so Yuuri thinks; it sounds like just one.

A ringtone, maybe, he thinks, and forgets all about it as he reaches the bridge.

The sky is blue, and the sun is shining, and there is Viktor, standing with his bike and Makkachin, Yuri slouched against the railing beside him. Viktor lifts a hand and waves, enthusiastic, as if they last saw each other months ago instead of at breakfast this morning. Yuuri can’t help himself. He runs faster.

There are places that Yuuri could never reach before, until he was borne there by others. There are dreams in his grasp now he never dared to think would be fulfilled.

Viktor was right when he said that Yuuri would be very loved.

“Yuuri!”