Chapter 1: Love Gone Viral
What am I supposed to do now?
A five time world champion. It's a huge honor, of course, and I appreciate that. But I've found, over the years that, with honor, comes expectation. I've always been able to surprise people with bold new programs. Every year, I rip up what I did before, and I do something different. I think of a story I want to tell, and I have music composed to tell it. I design moves that work with the music to create the elaborate illusion that will enthrall the audience. A figure skater is a performer, someone who entertains others by showing them original creations.
The one thing the audience never sees…is me.
It was easy to do this before. When I was younger and just another Russian skater with notable talent, no one knew what to expect from me, and that made it easy for me to find stories to tell and to grip people's senses with exciting music and visually stunning moves that my younger body could do. Costume design was easier too, because there were no expectations there either. I could create anything I wanted to. It was a joy to do that. But, at the time, I didn't realize that each new program grew a hunger in my audience to see something new and different from me.
And there was something else that was happening with each new program. Little bits of me were escaping. Patterns began to appear in my work, little flashes of me that escaped into my work. With so many eyes on me, I was revealing more and more of myself. In public appearances and interviews, I was being displayed, and all of a sudden, it mattered what I did, both on and off the ice. As soon as I became aware, I knew I had to do something.
So, I started to weave an illusion for everyone to see. No matter how I felt inside, I smiled every time I went out in public. I never turned down a request for a photo with a fan, or to encourage other skaters who competed with me. I crafted an illusion even more grand than any of my performances
It worked perfectly…until the first time I fell in love.
People get mesmerized by a good performer, and I was good in my performances, so I had plenty of people interested in me. To be honest, I was flattered when they started calling me the world's hottest bachelor. Who wouldn't like that? It feels good to be desired. And to have so much desire focused on me was intoxicating. But, there was something I didn't realize at first, when I was accepting invitations and indulging in those first few romances. Unfortunately for me, and for the women I dated, they were falling in love with the fantasy I had created. It wasn't really their fault. It was the performance that snared them, and then, the public image I created that made them think the man beneath the performance would be even more enthralling.
The only way that equation could end is with disappointment. A good performer learns to give a flawless performance, and then, the audience expects flawlessness. How disappointing must it have been for those women to realize that I get up early every day, that I go immediately to work and concentrate all of my effort on the next performance, to the exclusion of everything else? I barely have time to give a few minutes to Maccachin every day, and I was trying to include a romantic partner too? Of course those relationships failed. I was giving so much effort to my work that I wasn't physically or emotionally available to anyone…not even to myself.
I stopped having romantic relationships once I realized that. Now, I go out for fun, but I never take anyone home with me. Okay, sometimes, I can't help it. I take someone home because I am lonely and it makes that lonely feeling go away for a little while. As long as I let my work keep my mind busy, I won't think about the fact that even physical love feels empty and unreal.
God, I am losing my motivation.
And once my motivation is gone, I am as good as dead.
I won't think about that. I will just do what I've always done and concentrate on my new programs. I have the music for my short program. On Love. If I could just decide which story I want to tell…Eros or Agape?
At first, I thought Eros, because I could think of plenty of good moves and I know how to rile people with music and motion. But, if I wanted to surprise my audience, then I shouldn't go with something they would expect from me, should I? So, I also began to create moves to go with the more innocent Agape. It actually wasn't bad, but then Yakov said something that he never had before.
"You're too old for that, Vitya. Maybe when you were a younger skater, you could do something like that, but you are twenty-seven, not fifteen. It would surprise them, but maybe not in the way you want to surprise them.
It's been a long time since I felt humiliated like that.
Now, I just don't know what to…
Hmm? A message from Georgi?
Victor, take a look at this!
Yuuri Katsuki takes a crack at Victor's Free Skate program?
I remember Yuuri Katsuki, of course. The Japanese skater who qualified for the Grand Prix Final for the first time this year. I remember seeing him in some of the preliminary competitions. He wasn't bad when he wasn't nervous, but the pressure is sometimes too much for some skaters. I felt bad for him, because he's good on the ice, and he wasn't able to show his best. He looked humiliated when I saw him leaving the arena, so I offered to take a photo with him. He looked heartbroken and just walked away.
Yuuri has a reputation for choking in competition, so it's hard to know how good he really is. It's hard to know anything about him, because no one knows him. He doesn't talk to the other skaters. He doesn't socialize…although…once he was drunk enough at the banquet after the final, he socialized plenty. He's a very good dancer. I had the pleasure of dancing with him and being dramatically dipped at the end. I was pretty shocked when he grabbed me and said if he won the next dance off, he wanted me to be his coach. But, Yuuri was very intoxicated. He couldn't have been serious. Being a good skater doesn't mean that I would be a good coach, and I know nothing about Yuuri Katsuki's potential as a skater. It wouldn't be a good idea.
Still…there's something about him. I wonder who took this video. I wonder if he knew it was happening.
He can't have known. I've never seen Yuuri Katsuki skate like this…like the music is inside him and flowing out of him as he moves. His step sequence is better than mine…and I'm the one who made this program. I won my fifth world championship with it. How is he…?
He can land these jumps?
He's landing them perfectly, one after the next! Everything is there, that lovely expression on his face that says he loves the music and every move, the flawless execution that we never see in his competitions! He has to have trained on this tirelessly, and over months to be able to do this so well.
Why did he do that?
Why my program?
Damn it! What is going on with him?
What's going on with me? My mouth has gone dry. My heart is pounding. His performance riled me that much? I'm feeling something inside that I haven't felt for too long.
I feel inspired!
It's like going back to that moment at the banquet, when Yuuri was drunk and he forgot his humiliation. He danced with me, then he put his arms around me and he asked me to be his coach. My head knows he would never have done that if he hadn't been drunk, but I can't look at this performance and not do something…because…more than anything right now, I want to compete with the skater I see in this video!
How can I do that?
I've heard that Yuuri stopped training with Celestino. The rumors are flying that he's going to quit skating. I can't look at this and not do something. I have to do something. I want to skate with Yuuri in competition again! Only this time, I want to see him skate like this!
How do I do that?
I hear Yuuri's drunken voice in my head, asking me to be his coach. It's spooky and echoing, and it's making my heart pound even harder. My heart that was feeling so empty before, suddenly feels full! What should I do?
No, that's just crazy, isn't it?
I can't just drop everything, leave competition, leave Russia, go to Japan and be his coach, can I?
"What do you think, Maccachin?" I ask my old poodle.
Maccachin wags his tail and whines a little. He's a dog, and he probably knows I'm crazy to be thinking about doing this. But the truth is…if I stay here, and I keep doing what I'm doing, I am going to lose my motivation and my career will be over. The only way that I can help myself is to help this Japanese skater, who just inspired me. I guess if I wanted to surprise people, this will surprise them.
It will be a surprise to Yuuri too.
I wonder how he'll take it.
Oh, so I've decided to do this?
It takes me by surprise, as I begin to make inquiries and plans, that it's not so hard to drop everything and go to him. He's home in Hasetsu, probably wondering how he'll go on. I'm going to go there to answer that question. I've never been a coach, but right now, I can't be a figure skater either. I have one goal in mind and that's to make Yuuri Katsuki return to skating and win the next Grand Prix Final. If he can do that, then I know he'll keep skating!
It takes a few days, and Yakov swears first that he's going to kill me for being so reckless, then he threatens me that I can never come back if I do this. He doesn't understand that I was already dying on the inside. I was losing my inspiration, and my future as a skater was already a question mark. What I'm doing now, by getting on this plane and flying to Japan is I am saving my career and Yuuri's. I won't think about anything else. Just that. What could go wrong, right?
It's a long flight, and I have plenty of time to come to my senses, but I don't. And the next thing I know, I am stepping off the plane, picking up Maccachin and telling the airline where to send my things. I take a cab to Yutopia Katsuki and arrive late morning. Strangely, even though it's April, there's snow coming down. Maccachin gives me a look like he thinks I'm a little bit off my rocker, and he follows me inside, where an older Japanese man greets me. He greets me in Japanese, the switches to English when he realizes we have that language in common.
"Yuuri?" he says in response to my inquiry, "I think he's still sleeping, but he'll be along soon. Why don't you go and have a soak in the hot spring while you're waiting for him? It's that way. Here, take a robe for after."
"Thank you. I will."
I follow his directions and in moments, I find myself in a place more heavenly than any I've been in for a very long time! It's nice to soak in a tub. I have a lovely one at home, but it just doesn't compare to this one at all! The whole room is decorated to give it a homey, comfortable feel. It's simple, but in a way that just makes your barriers fall. I'm naked in a second and sinking down into the hot water, breathing in the lazily drifting steam and feeling the tension leak out of my body, leaving me completely at ease.
I can slow down and think now.
No, not here.
Thinking isn't possible right now.
Oh god, this feels so very good!
I didn't even see him come in.
Yuuri's panting like he ran at top speed to get in here. He's flushed, maybe from exertion, from the heat of the room, or maybe because I stood up to get a better look at him, and now I'm standing in front of him, totally naked. It's a little bit of payback maybe, for him undressing and dancing with everyone so provocatively at the banquet. He's staring at me so wide-eyed.
"What are you doing here?" he asks, so softly I can barely hear him.
"Hello, Yuuri," I greet him, giving him my best smile, "starting today, I'm going to be your new coach. You're going to the Grand Prix Finals, and you're going to win!"
I give him a sexy wink to seal the deal.
He howls out something that sounds like "What?" then he stares at me like he can't think of an answer.
"Come on in," I invite him, sitting back down in the hot water.
"N-no," he stammers, "I uh…I'll wait outside for you."
He's out the door again before I can say anymore. I guess this could be a little bit of a challenge. I did take him by surprise, so I should probably try to calm him down. He does suffer from sensitive nerves. I take my time bathing, then walk out to the changing room, where I find him sitting on a bench, waiting as promised, but he looks so nervous, I know we won't get anywhere until he calms down. I put on the robe that Yuuri's father gave me, and he takes me to a room with a low table that has a meal already laid out for me.
"I didn't know what you would like, so I had them bring a variety of things to try," he tells me.
The smells coming up from the table are so heavenly and the food is all steaming and hot, like the hot spring was. I'm a little sleepy from the long trip, but I'm starving, so I dive in and eat to my heart's content. I'm not skating now, right? I can be a little indulgent. Besides, I'll still be skating while I train Yuuri.
I'm kind of surprised that Yuuri doesn't ask me any questions. He just sits there, watching me eat and looking at me like he's not sure I'm really here. I did give him a pretty big shock, so I let him stare. I'm used to people watching me, so it doesn't bother me at all anymore. Yuuri's still blushing, even though we're in a cool room now.
Oh, my top's open quite a bit…
I think I might be blushing a little too.
So, is Yuuri attracted to me?
I didn't think about that at all. I didn't think about what might have made him spend months learning my free skate. Maybe I just thought it was hero worship or that he was challenging himself. I did wonder why he picked my program, but I didn't think it through.
What if Yuuri is attracted to me? I've never had a relationship with another man. I did think he was cute at the banquet. I reacted to him when he grabbed me after we had danced together. I'm twenty-seven. I know what it will probably be like if we have sex, and it doesn't bother me. I'm kind of curious. But, I don't think we're going there anytime soon, and that's fine with me. This isn't about starting a romance. I want to skate with Yuuri again in competition. That is my goal. I will give him whatever he needs to reach that point. And if my love is what Yuuri needs, then I will give him that.
Right now, it looks like Yuuri's going to need time to just grasp that I came here and that I'm going to coach him.
He looks like if I blow a little in his direction, he might fall over.
Let's just let him adjust.
I turn all of my attention to savoring every last bite of the food he put in front of me. I don't think I've ever eaten so much, but everything just tastes so good and I can't stop myself, so pretty soon, the food and sake are gone, and I'm so tired, I ask for a pillow and just lie down right there. I fall into what feels like the deepest, most relaxing sleep I've had in twenty years.
I don't know what's going to happen, but I do know one thing.
I love Hasetsu already!
Chapter 2: Yutopia Katsuki
As Victor prepares to train Yuuri, Yuri Plisetsky arrives to stir things up.
I don't know when it was that I realized I had become so very tired and insatiably hungry. I ate until I couldn't hold anymore, but I was hungry again the moment I woke. I've never slept in anything but a bed, yet after bathing in the grand hot spring here at Yutopia Katsuki, I was so tired that I laid down on the bare floor with just a pillow and no blanket. I didn't move for hours, and when I did, I woke to find Yuuri kneeling nearby, looking at me with the befuddled expression he's worn almost constantly since he ran into the hot spring room and found me there, naked and bathing.
"Is there more food? I'm so hungry?"
"He's still hungry after all he ate before?" asks the brown-haired woman sitting next to Yuuri.
"We've got tons of food," Yuuri says, looking a little frantic, "What do you like?"
He looks completely intimidated.
Why does he look at me that way? With that flustered expression? There's pleasing a guest, and then, there's what he is doing, which seems more like trying to avoid being squashed by something big and scary. Am I that frightening to him?
God, I'm still so sleepy. I can barely think. I haven't slept like that in years. I wonder if I've just been saving it up all of this time.
I give him the friendliest, closed mouth smile I can. And he still looks ready to jump out of his skin.
"What's your favorite food?" I ask him, "If I'm going to be coaching you, that's something you should tell me, right?"
Something between my smile and the mention of his favorite food makes the invisible wall between us drop for a moment and Yuuri nods and smiles widely. Moments later, his mother plunks down in front of me the hottest, tastiest looking mix of rice, vegetables and something perfectly fried, that I have ever seen. The smell makes my mouth water instantly.
"It's a pork cutlet bowl," Yuuri announces proudly.
I think this is the most he's relaxed since I arrived. He's actually smiling and his shoulders dropped to a normal position. But a moment later, his lady friend snaps him back with a sternly worded explanation.
"The rule was, because he puts on weight so easily, that he could only have one when he won an event."
"So, have you had a pork cutlet bowl lately?" I ask.
I don't really need to ask. And although Yuuri looks attractive, even with the extra weight, if he is going to be launching his body into the air and wanting to look graceful at all, we have to deal with the facts of a skater's life.
"Yes," he answers enthusiastically, "I love pork cutlet bowls. I eat them all of the time."
"Why is that?" I ask without a beat, "You haven't won anything."
"There's not much I can do with you as long you have that piggy gut and those love handles. You need to get back to your weight before the Grand Prix Finals, or I can't coach you."
I think he's shrinking visibly.
"So, why don't you lay off the pork cutlet bowls, okay little piggy?"
For just a moment, I think I might have been too harsh, but although he's clearly staggering, he's not crying. In fact, his face still smiles and he looks giddy. Not sure at all what's happening there, but he manages to mumble something that sounds like agreement. Good. Before he can be at his best, performance-wise, Yuuri has to build confidence. Physical well being is important to being confident. He handles my announcement that I'm staying with him at Yutopia Katsuki with equal stunned acceptance and gets to work right away on slimming his body by carrying a steady stream of boxes into my assigned room.
After living in a house in a lovely part of Saint Petersburg, the room is very small, and there isn't really any furniture, but I'm still so full and happy from the pork cutlet bowl and hot bath, I'm good. I corner Yuuri among the boxes and do my best to make a connection. He blushes very cutely when I slip a hand beneath his chin and start asking him more personal questions, but before he can answer even one, he backpedals so hard that he crashes into the wall behind him.
Was it something I said?
Why is he looking at me like I hit him and he was surprised at finding he didn't dislike it? He mumbles an apology. This really isn't going as well as I hoped it would. Yuuri's so nervous, he can't talk to me at all. And when I suggest sharing his room for the night, he runs into his room, slams the door and refuses to open it.
I'm being as friendly as I can be.
What am I doing wrong?
I go back to my room and curl up with Maccachin for a good night's sleep, and despite not having a bed, I find the atmosphere of Yutopia Katsuki so very soothing and friendly that I fall into another deep sleep that lasts until morning. Yuuri seems calmer when he arrives at the breakfast table and joins me. Good. He's getting a little more comfortable with me being there, though occasionally, he seems to still get surprised when he looks up and sees me there, or when I talk to him. I decide to focus him on his training, and we leave for Ice Castle Hasetsu. I get to ride a bicycle, which I haven't done in years! Yuuri runs behind me, huffing and puffing, sounding like he's dying. But he keeps going, and we reach the ice rink. We head inside and I introduce myself, then I leave Yuuri to catch his breath as I put on my skates and get some exercise.
It's so strange, how different it feels to skate just because I feel like it, not because I have to develop a program or train for one. I love the sound of the music that plays, and it's heaven to skate with only the purpose of enjoying the sound and motion. Under the pressure of competition, a figure skater forgets that kind of beauty and many skaters lose their love for the sport. I've been lucky to have held onto my motivation for so long. I see now that this is something I have been missing, this freedom.
I feel eyes watching me and look over to find Yuuri leaning against the rink wall beside Takeshi Nishigori. Yuuri's face looks completely happy…well, until I say something to him.
"You're not setting foot on the ice until you lose some weight, little piggy!" I call out cheerfully.
It might be harsh, but it's a fact of life, and I've always been taught that if it's a fact of life, it's better to be up front. If I'm too indulgent, then I won't be giving Yuuri the best chance to be successful. And he reacts right away by setting out for Minako's dance studio to train. The next week, he trains impressively hard, working off the extra pounds. I go with him some of the time and try to talk to him, but he continues to shut down every time I start getting personal.
If I can't get inside Yuuri's mind, I'm not going to understand him well enough to train him properly. But, how do I get him to open up? I can get most people's attention just by giving them a smile and a wink, but my most exhaustive efforts only seem to make Yuuri run away faster. The only relief from this is when we talk about something less personal, like the great food available all over this town or the castle near the rink that's really a ninja house. But just as soon as I start trying to get personal again, he snaps shut like a clam.
What am I going to do?
In the end, I'm completely surprised by what happens that finally reaches him.
It's late morning when Yuuri arrives at the ice rink, out of breath and ecstatic that he's finally reached his goal weight. He rushes in to tell me, only to be waylaid by my fellow Russian skater, Yuri Plisetsky.
What is he doing here?
"Hello, Yuri! What are you doing here? I'm surprised Yakov let you come. You want something?"
He gives me a look that could kill and clenches his teeth.
"That's not a happy face," I chuckle, "Let me guess. You're here because of something I forgot to do, right?"
It takes Yuri awhile and a lot of yelling before he gets it out, then I remember.
"You promised to give me a program after I won the junior gold with no quads!"
"Right, right! I forgot all about that. But you know I sometimes forget things, right?"
"I'm painfully aware of that," he answers, clenching his teeth again, "But a promise is a promise. We're going back to Russia!"
I do owe Yuri a program. But there is no way I can go back to Russia now. Yuuri is ready to begin training. And even if not for that, I don't want to go back. I was losing my motivation there, and to go back now would just leave me back where I was before I left. I really don't want to do that.
Wait a minute! There was something I noticed about Yuuri when I challenged him to lose weight. He seems to respond well to that kind of challenge. So, I just need to give him a challenge that includes both training Yuuri and helping Yuri learn the program I promised him. Maybe…
"That's it! I've got it! I'm going to develop a program for each of you, using the same music!"
"What?" the two shout together, "I have to use the same music as him?"
"I will develop a program for each of you. I will reveal them in one week. You will compete to see who can surprise the audience more. I warn you, if you aren't up to my standards by the time you compete, I won't coach either one of you!"
It's hard not to laugh at their reactions. They look scared to death, but then, they start to look determined. I think this will be fun. Things get even more fun when we return to Yutopia Katsuki and Yuri announces that he's going to stay with us there.
"I'm not letting you have Victor all to yourself. It will give you too much of an advantage. I'm staying here!"
He stomps into the large closet where my things are stored and slams the door. Yuuri and I barely have time to exchange glances before we hear a loud rumble through the door and it slams open again.
"I want food! And a bath!"
Like me, Yuri loves the hot springs, and he devours the pork cutlet bowl put in front of him like it's the best thing he's ever tasted…which, let's face it, it is! Yuuri's older sister, Mari comes in as he's finishing, and she slides to a stop, staring at Yuri like he's a rock star or something.
"His name is Yuri too," Yuuri's mom says cheerfully, "Isn't that funny?"
"Now, that's just plain confusing. So, we'll call you Yurio!"
"WHAT?" Yuri yells.
"Where's Yurio planning to stay?" Mari asks.
"In the storage room, I guess," Yuuri answers uncertainly.
"Then, I've got to go and give it a major cleaning! Yuuri, come and help me."
Yuuri disappears out the door, but even when Yurio's room is done, he doesn't come back. I learn from Mari that he isn't at Yutopia Katsuki, but that he left before even helping her with the storage room. Sounds like something's bothering him. Yurio being here, probably, but I think I need to know more. Mari suggests going to Minako's, so I head to the pub where she works at night.
"He's not here. If she said to check my place, she meant my ballet studio. See, when Yuuri gets anxious, practice chills him out. He goes to Ice Castle Hasetsu, and I usually go with him. I think he only came as far as he did as a skater, because he always had a safe place to practice by himself. He's not a genius, but he works hard, and he truly loves to skate."
So, Yuuri is anxious. The challenge to compete with Yurio is putting him under pressure. I expected that, but I need to know what that pressure is doing to him, mentally. I head for the ice rink and find that he is, indeed there, and training. He turns in slow circles, and I can see right away, this is why Yuuri's foundations are so strong. When he is anxious, he returns to his center, to the core skills that every great skater needs to have. It's not about jumps and spins. It's about making every move beautiful, even the small turns and adjustments between the big moves. Yuuri has done this repeatedly over the years, so every move he makes is fluid and practiced.
Is this why?
I remember thinking, while I was watching him perform my free skate, it seemed that, as he moved, music was streaming out of his body. For that to happen, he had to be sure of every stroke of his foot, every sweep of his hand, every turn, every jump, every spin. For the music to flow out of Yuuri the way it does when he skates, he has to have a solid core…and this, what I see as he moves alone on the ice, this explains it.
So, all I have to do is turn a little piggy into a prince.
I know what I have to do.
While in Russia, I was preparing two different routines and I was agonizing over which one to use. I even had music composed for both, because I was so torn about which one would be better. The first is On Love: Agape, a flowing stream of music that radiates innocence, someone who has not yet experienced love. The moves that go with the music are complex, and must be done with arms, legs and a face that resonates with that same feeling of innocence.
I could put all of that into the routine, of course, but I worried that the audience wouldn't be able to look past me, the experienced skater and, okay, it's true…playboy. I can't help that that's my image. Honestly, I haven't had that many lovers. Who has time to skate and be a good partner? I would have to date another skater, and I don't know anyone available that I like that much, male or female.
Why am I suddenly distracted by Yuuri?
Anyway, the other piece is On Love: Eros. Eros, of course, is about sexual love. The music is lively and seductive, like the moves that go with it.
Damn it! My heart is pounding, thinking of Yuuri…stop it!
Getting back to Eros. The music is made to work with confident posture, proud eyes, sensuous moves and arms and legs that convey, Come closer. Be drawn in. See what I have here, waiting for you.
It's getting harder to breathe and I feel a little dizzy and more than a little aroused, thinking of Yuuri looking like that, moving that way. Oh my god, I want to see that! Wouldn't that be the surprise the audience needs? And for a little firebrand like Yurio to attempt to convey any kind of sweetness or innocence? I think I know how to assign the parts.
I sit down with a bottle of sake and sketch out the routines before collapsing into the bed I bought for my little room at Yutopia Katsuki.
I don't know if it's the wonderful food, all of the relaxing dips into the hot spring, the music of the programs or imagining Yuuri being Eros, but even though I sleep, it's not restful. I wake up several times in a sweat, with my heart pounding and feeling aroused.
Damn, maybe I do need to find someone to date, but I don't want to be distracted. I need to focus on Yuuri and Yurio. The sooner I give Yurio his program and send him on his way, the sooner I can get back to training Yuuri.
Did you think for a moment that Yurio would defeat Yuuri when they compete?
I already know Yuuri well enough to know that if it's to keep me here in Hasetstu (where, of course, I want to stay), he's going to succeed. Anxiety or no anxiety…
…Yuuri Katsuki is already in love with me…
He is immature and doesn't have a clue how to express it, but it's there.
And I'm starting to understand now why I've been so distracted. Yuuri's inner Eros is already luring me.
Oh god, I can't wait to see it!
Damn, is it morning already?
Chapter 3: The Audition
Yuuri and Yurio face off to see who Victor will coach.
There is one hard truth in competitive figure skating, and that is that anyone who really wants to be taken seriously, to attract a good coach, to interest sponsors, basically to draw in all of the things needed for success, a skater must prove himself or herself. This is sometimes done through a formal audition, but even if an audition is not required, one is always informally auditioning. So, if Yuuri is to be successful, he needs to learn to function well in that kind of high stress environment. Some skaters, myself included, have built up a wall of confidence that lets us do that, almost without thinking about it.
Yuuri is different. I noticed that before I even knew who he was. His reputation as a talented skater who needs to work on his nerves preceded him before I ever met him on the ice as a competitor. Yuuri definitely has what it takes to perform high difficulty programs at a competitive level, but when his nerves act up, he reverts to looking like a beginner. What I have to do is to find ways to push him in stages, to slowly build up his resistance to stress. Along the way, I need to stay close to him, giving him both gentle support and the right pushes, so that he will be motivated to shake off his tense emotions and perform his best in competitions.
Sounds easy enough, right?
But there are plenty of skaters, everywhere you look, who have failed because they could not master that very thing. Yuuri was on the verge of becoming one of those forgotten skaters when I saw his performance and stepped in to stop his fall. There is no way that I can let Yuuri's talent go to waste, simply because it isn't easy to help him. As much respect as I have for coaches, and as much as I know the fact that there are so many talented skaters without problems like Yuuri's that coaches don't really have to take on troubled talents, I think that the sport gains something from having people like Yuuri succeed. It's great when someone like me, a person who has grown up with all of the advantages, succeeds. But it is just breathtaking when someone like Yuuri, who has had to struggle with something really hard, shakes off his weakness and rises to the challenge.
I feel a shiver of excitement just thinking about that.
This competition I have dreamed up for Yuuri and Yurio will give me both the chance to give Yurio the program I promised him, and to begin to challenge Yuuri to grow into the competitor I know he can be. I get started right away by announcing the assignments.
"Yuuri, you get Eros," I say cheerfully, "and Yurio, you get Agape!"
Yuuri looks like he's ready to faint and Yurio spouts off an objection that's full of insults.
"You want to do the thing that's going to surprise the audience most," I say, smiling, "That's my motto. The truth is, you're both rather mediocre. You need to become more self aware. It's funny you think you can develop your own image. If you want to skate for me, you will learn your routines and use them to surprise the audience, or I won't continue with either one of you!"
The scolding shakes them, but Yurio snaps back almost immediately with an angry exclamation about how he will skate Agape, but it better get him a win.
"Whether or not you win, is up to you," I tell him in a purposefully mocking voice I stole from Yakov, "It would be a winning program if I skated it."
Yurio's toe pick strikes the ice, firing ice chips in my direction.
"Fine! I'll skate to Agape, but if I win, then we'll go back to Russia and you'll be my coach. Do you agree to that?"
Noting that Yurio looks satisfied, I turn my attention to Yuuri. His hands are clenched and I can feel his fears welling up.
"What about you, Yuuri?" I ask, looking into his eyes, "If you win, what do you want from me?"
Yuuri still looks fearful, but there is a determination that rises up, underneath it, and even though his face goes pale and he starts to shake a little, his voice is full of determination when he answers me. Something warm tickles the inside of my chest with each word.
"I want to…eat with you, Victor. Pork cutlet bowls. I want to keep on winning and eating pork cutlet bowls with you, so I'll skate to Eros, Victor. I'm going to give it all the Eros I have in me!"
I'm not even sure how I answer. I feel too giddy. Yuuri is so motivated now, there is no way that Yurio is ever going to beat him!
But, there is still the problem of keeping Yuuri occupied for awhile, so that I can teach Yurio his program. I give it some thought as I run Yurio's program by him for the the first time. It's composed of a complicated set of moves. I chose them specifically because learning to do them will challenge Yurio to improve his execution of the step sequence in his programs. He wasn't challenged as a junior, but he's moving into a much more competitive group now. His jumps and spins are there, but he is lazy about his step sequence. The Agape program should make him aware of this, and force him to work on it extensively as he brings himself to peak at the Grand Prix Final.
Yuuri's Eros program is one I made to maximize his flawless execution of spins and step sequences. We'll work on his jumps, but more importantly, we'll work on ramping up his sex appeal, while making use of his solid foundations.
Yuuri seems a little bit stunned when I finish showing him the Eros program, and for some reason, his friend Yuko has been stricken with a rather serious looking nosebleed that Yurio is trying to help with.
"So," what did you think?" I ask him.
Yuuri flutters and struggles for a moment to come up with an answer.
"Um, it was very Eros!" he answered diligently.
"I know, right? Now, what quads do you think you can land?"
He's proud enough of his toe loop to announce it normally, but when he speaks of knowing the salchow, I feel his confidence disappearing.
"Let's just stick with your fundamentals for now. I'll teach Yurio first. I don't want to spend half the day trying to teach you something you can't do."
Okay, it's mean, but he's not going to get better if I don't push him, right?
"You've shown you have the skill to win," I remind him as he begins to deflate, "Why can't you?"
"Well," he says, looking down, "I guess it's because I don't have a lot of confidence."
"That's right," I agree, "So, it's my job to help you find that confidence."
I peek through my messy bangs, letting my Eros ooze out. After all, the best way to bring his out is to coax it with mine. His eyes get wide and look up into my narrowed ones, and he starts to quiver and sweat nervously.
"Unleash the Eros that's inside you, Yuuri," I tell him, running my thumb over his lower lip and bringing my face close to his, "I know it's there, maybe somewhere deep down inside you, where no one in the world has ever seen it. Will you show it to me? Can you do that?"
I feel a really strong urge to kiss him, and I'm ready to ignore the million reasons I shouldn't and just do it, but Yurio is Yurio and chooses that moment to interrupt…loudly.
"HEY! You're supposed to be training me, not chatting with the little piggy!" he complains.
"Right," I tell him, keeping my eyes on Yuuri, "Yuuri, while you're training, I want you to be thinking. I want to know what Eros is to you."
He looks scared to death, and I'm pretty sure it'll be awhile before he has any kind of answer. Yuuri is sweetly naïve. He radiates a delicious, innocent sexuality that will win his audience over, but he has to be able to unleash it at will. While he stumbles off to start figuring that out, I turn my attention to Yurio.
I've known Yurio for a few years now, and he's grown a little too comfortable with me for me to be coaching him. While Yuuri is still in awe of me and is intimidated enough to just do what I tell him, Yurio thinks of himself as more of an equal. He's not, but because he's been in the junior division and there's been no serious challenge for him, he has grown cocky and lazy. Almost from the start, he gives me trouble, arguing about everything I say as he struggles with the complicated step sequence that goes with the Agape program. This drags on until neither one of us can stand it anymore.
"Stop! Stop!" I shout at him, "Something's just not right."
"I'm doing it just the way you showed me!" Yurio shouts back.
"Your desire to win is too obvious," I explain, "You're not projecting the gentleness and innocence of Agape. There's a place for your kind of confidence, but it isn't here, in this program. It shouldn't be front and center."
"When you skate, your confidence is always front and center. So, why don't you tell me what Agape means to you!"
"It's a feeling," I explain, "It can't be put into words. When you skate, it's about how you feel, not what you think. Haven't you figured that out yet?"
He lets of a string of obscenities in Russian.
"Now, on to the temple."
He needs a few good smacks…
And while he's at it, I have time to start working with my little Eros-chan, Yuuri. Almost from the beginning, he has my own Eros out and panting for him. I love the way that Yuuri's body moves to the music. It's like the music isn't outside him at all, but is inside and flowing out, and into my ears. He moves in perfect time to the music, pulling me in and hypnotizing me, teasing me shamelessly. I think if Yuuri had any idea how aroused he makes me, he would probably run away, screaming. But, I treat it like a game we play, and he seems blissfully unaware that he is torturing me to the point of near insanity. I hold out for the rest of the afternoon, but by the time Yurio's back from the temple, I need a break. I figure they need a good soak, so we all go to the hot spring.
I can see as I sink down into the hot water, that Yuuri is really giving thought to his task. It's obvious he's tired, but he runs his fingers through the ends of his hair, giving me a little inward shiver and he sighs in frustration. I try to break the tension by asking him to take a photo of me in the hot spring, but it only seems to make him look more frustrated.
Ah, well, there's time for that tomorrow.
I soak with them for awhile before stumbling off to my room to curl around Maccachin and sleep for the night. My dreams are filled with tormenting visions of Yuuri, with him dancing on the ice, tempting me with his beautiful body, teasing me until I can barely stand it. In the dream, I don't bother with restraint. I skate out onto the ice and together, we take things to the next level. I wake the next morning, sore, tired from lack of good sleep, and needing to put a fresh set of linens on the bed.
Yuuri, my little tease…someday.
To my relief, time seems to speed up a little after that, and we work our way towards the Hot Springs on Ice competition. We work hard every day, retiring to the hot spring in the evening, then sitting down to dinner after. Yuuri looks jealously at the pork cutlet bowls that Yurio and I devour, while he eats his vegetables and bean sprouts. He stews on the idea of Eros endlessly, until his head drops onto the table, and he mumbles incoherently. He must be getting close. Any time, now, he'll…
"I've got it!" he yells, sitting up suddenly, "Pork cutlet bowls! That's what Eros is to me."
I'm pretty sure I couldn't have heard right, but Yurio is smirking and rolling his eyes. Yuuri thinks about what he's just said, then he blushes.
"I'm an idiot!" he shouts, "I take it back."
"It's okay," I assure him, trying not to laugh, "It's at least original."
"Seriously?" Yurio taunts him.
Yuuri runs out of the house, groaning to himself.
"Pork cutlet bowls? Really? I'm gonna go crawl under a rock and die!"
But he doesn't die of embarrassment, or anything else. He continues to train, and we use the pork cutlet bowl as a source of motivation. It's been awhile since he's had one, and Yurio and I eat them in front of him daily. It's not nice, but it makes the point, and it makes Yuuri hungry for them. That's going to come in handy as the days wind down and we get to the competition day.
"What will you guys be wearing?" Minako asks as we sit at dinner together one night.
"I don't know," Yuuri says, glancing at me.
"I didn't bring anything," Yurio muses.
"I've got you covered," I assure the two of them, "I've had all of my competition costumes flown over from Russia. I'm sure you can each find something useful for your programs."
The two dive into the stacks of clothes, and Yurio comes up with a lovely silver and white see-through costume from my junior days. It's perfect for his Agape program, so he stumbles off with that.
I have to say I'm pleased as I see what Yuuri has chosen. He's smiling beautifully and holding up another costume from my junior days, one that I wore when I had long hair and a more androgynous look. It's a perfect match for Yuuri and for the program and music he is using. And it looks like it gives him an idea. I see him thinking really hard for the rest of the evening, and as I'm getting ready for bed, I hear him pass my room, heading out, probably to Minako's place.
I am so curious!
I almost decide to follow him to see what he's up to, but in the end, I think I want to let myself be surprised by him. What could Yuuri be up to? How is he going to evolve now? Up to this point, he has mastered the building blocks of the program. His step sequence is perfect, his spins flawless, and his jumps have been improving steadily. But what has been missing is the heart of his program. There is something that skaters must bring to a program to make it their own. Yuuri still struggles with his vision of Eros.
Just maybe, his night visit to wherever he is going will help him resolve it.
I'm up early the next morning, first running a final training session with Yuuri and Yurio, then leaving them to prepare while I see to the final preparations with the staff and media at Ice Castle Hasetsu. Newscaster Morooka, in particular, seems to have an interest in how this is going to play out. I've known him for a long time, because he's covered many of my events. He's supportive of skaters in general, but since even before Yuuri's disastrous first Grand Prix Final, he has kept Yuuri's name in the news, and since he learned of my intent to coach Yuuri, he has been to interview us several times. I am not sure how Yuuri got this man in his corner, but it's an opportunity I'm not planning on wasting. Together, we plan an interview for before the performance, then it's back into the skating rink for a quick run through. Everything seems to be in place, so I take the two boys aside, out to the beach, where it's a little quiet. We take a slow jog there and do a few breathing exercises to prepare mentally. Yuuri seems fine during that, but as soon as it's time to go back to the skating rink, I see him starting to fray around the edges.
I just hope that he keeps his mind focused on the challenge, here. He wants very badly to beat Yurio, so that I will stay with him in Hasetsu. That needs to be enough to help him overcome his fears and skate his best today. We don't talk about it, but I make sure to look him in the eyes and tell him how much I am looking forward to seeing him skate. The words of encouragement seem to steady him, and he remains quiet, but focused as the minutes count down to the performance. Outside the rink, people gather and come inside. We do a final warm up, then retreat to the preparation room.
After the introductions, Yurio's program is first. I have to admit, I am surprised that he doesn't seem perfectly confident when Yuko arrives to call him to the ice. But it is his first performance as a senior male skater, so I suppose it makes sense…or perhaps Yurio is being changed a little bit by this experience.
He skates his routine beautifully through the first half, showing grace and poise, as well as a growing ability to capture his inner Agape. I wonder as he skates if maybe he does have it. His moves are eye-catching, and they tell me that he will be a top contender this year. Yuuri sees this too, and I see the anxiety creep back into his eyes. He watches as Yurio finishes his program, then bows as the audience applauds vigorously. At rinkside, Yuuri stiffens and covers his face with both hands. I move close to him, but he doesn't see me, and he is clearly startled when I speak to him.
"Yuuri, it's your turn."
He sucks in a sharp breath and pales. I continue to look steadily into his eyes. We both know that this is the moment when he has to make his decision. What impulse is going to be stronger…the impulse to panic, or the impulse to keep me close to him. I gaze at him silently, knowing there is nothing more I can give him. He has to make the next move.
"Um…I'm," he stammers, his voice shaking.
Then, I watch as new strength seems to pour into him and determination fills his eyes.
"I'm going to become a super tasty pork cutlet bowl!" he exclaims.
His arms wrap around me almost desperately.
"You'll watch, won't you?" he asks hopefully.
"Of course I will," I tell him, speaking into his ear, more in the way of a lover than a coach, "I love pork cutlet bowls."
The words seem to bolster him, and there is more confidence in his body as he takes his place on the ice. I watch closely as the music begins, and almost immediately I see it.
His performance has changed.
The moves are the same, but more sensuous. The crowd sees them, but I know right away that those moves are directed at me. An appreciative whistle escapes me, then I'm too captivated to look away for the rest of his performance.
I was right.
I knew when I saw that video of Yuuri, that all he really needed was a boost to his confidence and a high difficulty program to match his strong foundations. There is no question in anyone's mind who the stronger skater in this match is. Yurio's performance was beautiful, engaging, and I know he will be a force to be reckoned with, but no one can look away as Yuuri's beautiful Eros emerges for the first time, and pulls them all in. By the time Yuuri finishes and takes his bow, Yurio disappears from my side. I escort Yuuri to the stand and Newscaster Morooka asks Yuuri to say a few words. Yuuri tenses, but I curl an arm around him, and he relaxes visibly.
"This is the beginning," he says with almost startling confidence, "With Victor, I'm going to try to win at the next Grand Prix Final. Thank you all for your support."
Something releases inside my chest and I feel a moment of relief. I didn't think, at any point, that Yuuri was going to lose to Yurio, but I guess I was more nervous than I realized. I didn't want to go back to Russia with Yurio.
Thank you, Yuuri.
I knew that I could count on you to rise to the occasion and win.
Chapter 4: The Scent of Innocence
As Victor and Yuuri begin their private training sessions, Victor realizes that his attraction to Yuuri is becoming stronger.
I don't know exactly what it is, but waking up to find myself still in Hasetsu is like living some kind of beautiful, ongoing dream, and this morning, it's even better because I know that Yurio has vacated the storage room next to mine, and I am free now to give my full attention to training Yuuri. Well, at least I could if I wasn't distracted by all of the different things in this place. Saint Petersburg is a large city, and the part I live in is beautiful. Hasetsu is beautiful too, but in a completely different way. There is so much color in the buildings, trees and flowers. I love the ocean breezes and watching the petals fall from the trees. Everyone here is so friendly too. And don't get me started on the food. I'm surprised that I haven't gained as much weight as Yuuri has lost in the last couple of weeks.
Yuuri's still sleeping when I wake up, so I dress and Maccachin follows me to the room where Yuuri's mother has breakfast waiting for me. Yuuri's parents are so different than mine. My parents were more stern, and because we were wealthy, there were a lot of rules I had to follow. I couldn't escape that fast enough, opting to move into the dormitory near the skating rink where I was training, as soon as I could convince my parents to let me. There, the rules were more lax, and I got into plenty of trouble. I grew distant with my parents, until they just seemed like people I knew, rather than real family. Yuuri is much closer with his family than I ever was with mine.
I think I am already closer to Yuuri's family and friends than I was to my own in Saint Petersburg.
Yuuri's parents and I eat together, kneeling on pillows, around a low table. It's so different from the way I live in Russia, and I am loving every minute. I almost hate to leave for the ice rink, because I'm having so much fun laughing and talking with Yuuri's parents and sister. But, if we are going to get Yuuri ready for competition, we have to start now.
I have so many ideas about how to begin. There are so many possibilities. With Eros completed, we need to turn our attention to Yuuri's free skate program. I think it will be best to encourage him to learn to produce this on his own, with just support from me. After all, I have to return to Russia sometime, and by the time I do, I want Yuuri to be comfortable with doing this on his own.
God, I don't want to even think about leaving. Hasetsu is so beautiful, and I'm getting so spoiled.
But that's months away, so I just put it out of my head and set out for the ice rink. I get there with lots of time to spare, and since we don't yet have music or an idea for the theme of Yuuri's free skate, I'm free to just put on my skates and enjoy myself. I so rarely get to skate just for the fun of it. I'm usually putting together a routine, making alterations or practicing until my legs shake and I'm sweating all over from the exertion.
Given at least a half hour before Yuuri's arrival, I warm up, then gradually start moving in longer, more sweeping movements, stretching while I glide, then going into a spin and gliding out again. There is no set of moves that guides me. There's not even any music. It feels like meditation because I can feel how deep and slow my breaths are while I'm moving. It's so relaxed, such a departure from the more frenetic pace of training. I wish it could last longer, but Yuuri will be here soon, so I slow and come to a stop,
Our start time arrives and passes. Ten minutes go by, then twenty…and Yuuri is still not there. I check under my fingernails for dirt, daydream a little to pass the time, then lift a foot and tap the ice with my toe pick.
Where is he?
Nearly forty-five minutes pass before my cute pork cutlet bowl dashes through the entry doors and skids to a stop behind me, stammering as he apologizes frantically. I admit that it was a little annoying being made to wait, but he looks so adorable and completely intimidated. So, instead of being mad, I turn and give him a bright smile.
"Well, good morning Yuuri! I have to say you are impressively late. Only Aeroflot has kept me waiting longer."
He tumbles onto the ice in his street shoes, still apologizing as he remains on hands and knees,
"Oh, how fun! Japanese dogeza."
He continues to look like he expects me to be mad, even as I reassure him. With a little encouragement, he scrambles back off the ice and quickly puts on his skates. There's a very sweet moment as he glides onto the ice and heads out to meet me. I can see that he's smiling just a little, now that he knows he isn't in trouble. It's ever so clear that Yuuri can't believe this moment is happening. He's apparently been dreaming all of his life about sharing the ice with me, and he never ever dreamed that it would happen because of me coming to Hasetsu to coach him.
I didn't dream of such a thing happening before, either. But that video of him changed everything, and now, here we are, both a little shocked and overwhelmed we've reached this moment.
We start with a gentle warm up, a series of moves we make, side by side, and from the moment we begin, skating feels different to me. It's not solitary anymore as I feel Yuuri's presence and see his body moving, out of the corner of my eye. Sometimes, the solitude I feel when I skate is relaxing and comforting, but as I've aged and begun to struggle with each new program, it started to feel less pleasant and more lonely. And I don't know why or how it happened, but the more famous I became, the more distant I began to feel with the people around me. Yuuri has admitted to putting me on a pedestal, and I think I let myself be lifted onto one. I didn't mean to lose touch with other people, but there's something strange that happens when so many eyes watch you. People start to act as though you're not human, because you do one thing amazingly. I am a great skater, but I have other interests and needs too. Those things seemed to be pushed out by the focus on that one part of me everyone noticed.
There's also the ticking time bomb of advancing age that works against the mind. I am well aware that all of those eyes that watch so closely now, will eventually turn away, when age begins to steal away the beauty of my skating. It's sad, but it's a fact of life. As I've grown older, the threat moves closer and closer each year, slowly pushing back on my confidence and inspiration. And honestly, if Yuuri hadn't come along, I don't know how long I could have continued. I was at the top and already seeing the inevitable fall from that high place. Everyone else was still wrapped up in my success, but I was already stepping over the edge.
Yuuri appeared in front of me, and all of a sudden, I wasn't at the edge anymore. When I looked at Yuuri Katsuki, I saw the span of the top of the mountain I stood on, begin to extend. The number of years I have left as a competitive skater haven't changed, but knowing that Yuuri will be there to compete with, changes everything. I feel my focus shifting back from the inevitable fall to the here and now. We may not have forever, but Yuuri and I have this moment. We have this place and the ice that lets us be graceful and beautiful together. I know that when we finish our practice time and step off the ice, Yuuri will go back to being quiet and intimidated, but while we move together, it's heaven. I feel that his eyes have watched me for so long, he could follow my every move with his eyes closed. He looks happier than I've ever seen him so far.
I don't want this to end…ever.
We run through his Eros program, tweaking it here or there to prepare for his first competition, then the focus moves to the free skate that has to be made from scratch. We first discuss the quads he can do. Yuuri is convinced he wants to compete with three quads in his program, even though he is terribly inconsistent with landing the quad salchow. I decide not to press that issue for the moment, and we talk about the other jumps. I finish by asking him to consider what kind of music and theme he favors. I can see right away that he has no idea what he wants. I'll give him time to think about it. We spend the rest of our skating time playing with moves. I'm really just enjoying skating with him, and it's encouraging that Yuuri is starting to get more comfortable with me too. This is good. As cute as it is when he panics just being close to me, I want him to relax and trust me more. I want Yuuri to trust himself more. But…one thing at a time.
Right now, as we're gliding across the ice together? I just want to us both to enjoy sharing that feeling with each other. It's the love that Yuuri and I have in common, and it's heaven on earth being in this place together. I want to cry when our time is up and we leave the ice to change back into our street clothes. Yuuri is quiet as we walk through the streets, heading back to Yutopia Katsuki.
"You did well for your first day," I praise him.
The most adorable flush creeps onto his face, giving me a little tickle inside.
"Thanks," he manages.
He moves forward with me, his eyes sparkling a little.
"Actually, it still feels a little unreal, like I'm just dreaming it's all happening like this."
He says such cute things sometimes.
"Well, if you're dreaming, then I am too," I tell him, "and I'm pretty sure I didn't dream flying all of this way. I know I'm not dreaming up the delicious food and hot baths. No, this is real."
"I'm glad you like being here."
"Who wouldn't like being here?" I laugh, "Hasetsu is great, and everyone here is so welcoming."
"Well, you probably get that everywhere, being a skating god, right?"
Yuuri gets quiet again, and he stays that way as we make our way home. He's still being quiet, and he looks like he's unhappy about something as we retire to the hot spring to relax. Yuuri sinks down into the water, but he doesn't look relaxed, he looks worried about something.
"You know," I say, sitting on the edge of the spring and spreading my legs to indulge in a few stretches, "I'm thinking that maybe three quads is too many for your free skate."
Yuuri's head lifts and he immediately objects.
"But I need those quads if I want to win!"
"Not true," I remind him.
Yuuri should know this.
"You could get by on one quad. Just get a perfect score on your performance components and you're good to go."
The very idea seems to crush him.
"I'll never win this way! I have to do more."
He needs encouragement, but I'm not sure how to give him that. I take his hands and look into his surprised eyes as I pull him up, partway out of the water and hold him there.
"Yuuri, do you know what made me come to Hasetsu to be your coach?"
He looks back at me like he has no idea at all.
"I was drawn to you because of the way your body moves to the music, like the music is already inside you and you are using your body to release it. You need a high difficulty program to help you maximize that potential. I knew I could give you that. And the short program proved it!"
He looks completely distracted by the fact that I've got hold of his ankle and I'm lifting his foot high into the air, giving him a good stretch.
"I think you should produce the free program yourself," I suggest.
He looks terrified at the thought.
"But my coach always chooses my music!" he objects.
"You should do it on your own," I insist.
"But Victor, I've never…and I wouldn't know where to begin."
"Just use your instincts."
"But my coach…!"
"Who was your last coach?"
We realize suddenly that we have an audience. Several of the bathers in the next room are peeking in. Yuuri jerks his extended leg out of my hand, blushing all over as he ducks back into the hot spring, waiting until the observers have gone away. He shuts down after that, and I'm too tired to try to do anymore. I suppose it will have to wait. I head off to bed, forgetting to eat anything, and as soon as I'm asleep, I find myself in a sweet dream, replaying our skating together from earlier, but this time, Yuuri isn't quiet or intimidated.
This time, Yuuri smiles as we move, then he turns and I catch his hands in mine and we dance a little together. I love his sweet, innocent scent.
Innocence has a scent, right?
His smile and the beautiful sparkle in his eyes lure me. I move in closer and breathe in more of his scent. My heart is pounding from more than the fact we're still skating. Then, Yuuri lifts a skate and uses his toe pick to trip the two of us. The next thing I know, we're falling together, only I never feel an impact with the ice, because his hands are on me, holding me, then sliding beneath my clothes as he crawls on top of me and starts kissing me.
It's so strange.
I know a lot of male skaters who are gay, but I've never been attracted to a man before. Women are beautiful, but Yuuri seems far more than that as his fingers slide along my skin and his lips and tongue glide along my throat, sending electric tingles down, between my thighs. If there was any doubt before, it disappears as Yuuri's touch awakens the long neglected place between my thighs.
I didn't think I missed sex. When you know that it would be easy to get someone to touch you, it ceases to feel like a challenge. And the complication of relationships can be draining when coupled with the hectic life of a competitive athlete. I couldn't be a good partner to the women I dated, so my relationships never lasted long. It's less complicated to just pleasure myself when I feel aroused. At least, that's what I've thought, up until now.
But in this dream? With Yuuri on top of me, his pale fingers tearing at our clothes, and that pretty, smiling mouth biting at my throat, then trailing downward to attack my very erect nipples? It sends little jolts directly to my groin, and I'm breathless and panting in moments. I arch my back, rubbing against him and praying that he won't stop. He continues to blush cutely and smile as he nibbles his way down to my belly button. He plays a little in there with his tongue, letting his smoky brown eyes tease me before he moves down between my thighs and takes me into his hot, relentless mouth.
Everything around us seems to disappear…the lights, the music we were skating to…and the chill ice under my back. The air hisses with steam and Yuuri's devouring mouth licks and sucks shamelessly. He savors me like one of those pork cutlet bowls he so loves, lingering over every inch of my flushed, needy skin. The fingers of one hand play with my nipples, while he takes me to the very edges of bliss, then stops and gives me a look of truly wicked intent.
The fingers of his other hand push into my mouth, stealing the saliva that has been building up there as he has tormented me. He gathers some on his fingers, then slides them slowly down the length of my body, sending chills through me, because I know where this is going, and I don't know if I'm ready to go there.
As I said, I've never been attracted to a man before.
I try to tell him, but one of his dampened fingers touches me in a place I've never had stimulated before. My heart goes into overdrive and I feel a moment of complete panic that brings me awake, just as the dream-Yuuri's ministrations send my shocked body into orgasm. I sit up in bed, panting and shaking all over, and my belly and thighs are damp with semen.
There is a moment where I'm not sure if I'm going to throw up or pass out. My ears ring loudly and my heart throbs until it hurts.
I drop back onto my pillow, working to slow my breathing and trying to make sense of what just happened.
The inescapable truth is that I'm very attracted to Yuuri. I knew that I liked him, and I even realized that the feelings I was having were more than platonic, but I didn't take them seriously before. It feels serious now. But, it's also impossible. Yuuri isn't ready for a relationship. He can barely be in my presence without freaking out. I think if I dared to lay a hand on him, he would run away screaming in terror. Whatever happens, I don't want to scare him. I don't even know if he shares my feelings, or if his interest in me only extends to skating.
We need more time.
I climb out of bed, wrap a robe around myself and head for the nearest shower. I bathe slowly, breathing in and out, and reminding myself why I'm here in Hasetsu. I didn't come here to seduce Yuuri, although it would be a delicious side dish. I came to Hasetsu to guide Yuuri to becoming the competitor I know he can be. Everything else is not so important as that. The attraction I feel needs to be leashed and kept quiet or it could become a threat to my mission.
I leave the shower and start back to my room, but I bump into Yuuri's mother in the hallway.
"Oh, you're up late, dear," she says, tilting her head and smiling, "You look a little flushed. Are you feeling all right? You didn't eat dinner. Do you want me to make you something?"
I start to refuse, but my stomach chooses that moment to growl, and a short time later, I'm filling up on a pork cutlet bowl, drinking sake and listening to Hiroko's stories about Yuuri's childhood.
God, I never want to go back.
I love Hasetsu and everyone here.
I'll just ignore, for the moment, how Yuuri is distracting me and focus on that.
Chapter 5: Where We Meet
Victor works at getting Yuuri to open up.
As a young skater, I learned early on that to win, a skater needs to be a good storyteller. I don't mean with words. Because we tell the story with our music and our movements, we have to be clear in our message and also precise in how we relay our message. It all begins with choosing a theme for the program.
I've noticed that the most effective way of grabbing an audience's attention and keeping it is to be unpredictable, to be able to surprise them with a program's bold message and eye catching technical components. During my years as a junior, I often felt trapped by Yakov's vision for me which sometimes ran counter to my own. During those years, we developed an interesting mixture of him telling me how he wanted me to execute the program and me taking it apart and putting it back together again, then getting yelled at and told I was impossible, before he would settle down and we would compromise. More often than not, I would still do what I wanted. He shouted, called me childish and reckless, and half a dozen times he threatened to quit coaching me, but as I approached my debut in the senior men's division, he backed away some, still putting in his two cents worth, but trusting me to choose well. We still butted heads, and I was still impossible, but what came out of those years was beautiful and inspiring work that carried me to the top of the skating world.
For Yuuri to be successful, he needs to make a journey more like mine. He needs to have the confidence to choose something he wants to express and to produce a program that brings his message across. We start with music because I've noticed that even if I haven't nailed down the theme, when I choose the music I want, I find the theme already inside it. It's almost like the message is non-verbal, and when I find the music that expresses what I want, I pull the theme out of it. Yuuri has no concept of any of this, so I just ask him to pick some music he thinks he would like to skate to. I'm surprised as the days go by and I keep asking, and he continues to say that he is still trying to choose.
"You need to trust yourself more," I tell him as we stand at the edge of the skating rink, me on the outside and him on the ice, "Try thinking about a memory you have that motivates you…like when someone said they loved you."
Yuuri's face turns three shades of red and I'm sure steam will come out of his ears.
"WHAT?" he yells.
Damn it. I forgot…
"S-sorry!" he apologizes hastily, "I shouldn't have snapped at you. I'm just really stressed out right now."
"No, it's my fault," I reassure him, "I forgot that you haven't had a lover before."
He looks ready to shrink through the ice, and he is completely unable to focus for the rest of our training session. I feel bad for him, but there isn't a lot I can do. This has to come from inside Yuuri. He may lack the experience of having a lover, but he could draw on other relationships he has.
And I suppose I can best support Yuuri by bringing his focus to our own still pretty undefined partnership. Over the next several days, I try to make some meaningful connections with him, so that we can relax with each other and maybe explore this a little. I ask him to go and eat with me, to bathe in the hot springs, to have a slumber party with me. But where he would go along pretty easily with me before, he makes excuses and avoids me. When he comes to practice, he doesn't look me in the eyes. I know he's dreading the question about his progress on the music for his program. Then, one day, he doesn't arrive for practice at all, and I know we've reached the breaking point.
People put up walls between themselves and the world for all kinds of reasons, and Yuuri is building and fortifying a big one between the two of us right now. I think that, up until now, he was still responding to the shock of me arriving unexpectedly and turning his life upside down. Now that Yurio has gone back to Russia, and it's just the two of us, it's becoming clear to Yuuri that there are obstacles he has to climb over if he wants to reach the Grand Prix Finals. It's one thing for me to fly into town like his guardian angel and tell him he can win. It's another thing for Yuuri to believe in himself.
He has to believe he can do this.
There is no question in my mind that the person I saw in that viral video is more than capable of winning, but although Yuuri is clearly talented and has shown that he has the skills to win, he constantly doubt himself and he chokes in competition. He needs motivation to break through his doubts, and to deliver performances that reflect the skater he really is.
How do we get there?
I stand for almost an hour, tapping my toe pick on the ice and thinking about that. Then, when it's perfectly clear to me that Yuuri is not coming to practice, I know I have to do something. Yakov would have come to the dormitory where I lived near the skating rink, and he would have yelled at me and dragged me down there, himself, if I refused. When your parents are paying a man hefty sums of money to train you, one way or another, the training get done. What is between Yuuri and me is different. It's not based on money, but trust. I have no problem trusting in Yuuri to deliver a beautiful performance, but he has to trust me and give his all to his training. How do I motivate him to do that?
I think about it as I leave the ice rink and walk back to Yutopia Katsuki. When I get there, I don't find Yuuri when I look in the dining area, television area or hot spring…which means he's hiding in his room. I have a little snack and a bit of sake while I think a little more, then I head down the hallway and throw open the door to Yuuri's bedroom. I keep my eyes shadowed for a moment, first looking at the situation. Yuuri is cowering beneath a blanket, literally shaking, and I'm sure that, because I have scolded him for messing up in practice, he's sure I'm going to yell at him for standing me up. We both know that I didn't just come to Hasetsu for the hot spring and food. I came here to help him find the confidence he needs to win. We won't get anywhere as long as he holds back like this.
I don't think delivering the lecture he is expecting is going to take this in the right direction. And besides, when someone is expecting something painful or bad, the way to take them off their guard…is to surprise them. I do it all of the time when I skate. Maybe this is no different. I put on my brightest smile and greet him as if I hadn't noticed how rude he was to keep me waiting for him.
"Hello Yuuri!" I greet him enthusiastically, "Why don't we skip practice today and go down to the beach?"
For a moment, I wonder if I've made a mistake and should have yelled at him. Then, he quivers under his blanket refuge and peeks out at me like a scared puppy.
"Y-yeah, okay," he answers tentatively.
As we walk to the beach together, I start thinking about what to say to him. I need to get him to reach down more deeply inside himself. I know from experience that the themes of my programs come from emotional places inside me. They come from things that have caused emotional reactions in me, and then, through my programs, I share those emotions with the audience. Yuuri hides his emotions inside, so this kind of personal sharing is probably intimidating for him.
But this wall of intimidation also has a bright side. The fact that Yuuri suffers from anxiety, that he gets overwhelmed by the strength of what he feels, means that there is a gold mine inside him of possible themes that he can develop. Deep feelings create deep, meaningful performances that completely charm an audience. If I can coax out his emotions and give him a little guidance on how to use that, I know he can produce a winning performance.
I need to get him more relaxed first. He looks like he's still expecting to get yelled at. I kind of feel like yelling at him, too. But that's not going to get us where we need to go. So, we take a jog along the beach with Maccachin, and I lighten the mood (and get a little revenge for him standing me up) by suddenly shoving him into the water. Yuuri splashes down impressively and he coughs and sputters, brushing wet hair out of his eyes.
"That wasn't very graceful," I laugh.
"Victor! That water's cold!"
"You should try living in Russia," I tease him, "then you'd know cold."
He can't really argue as Maccachin and I run into the water and splash around. Yuuri looks at us for a second, like he doesn't know quite what to make of this. Seriously, did he ever play as a boy? He had a dog like Macca. Didn't they ever play on the beach together?
Maccachin seems to feel the way I do. He runs to Yuuri, barking and splashing water all over him. Finally, Yuuri starts to smile and laugh, and in a few minutes, he's forgotten to be anxious. When the wall between us drops, we can laugh and play together, and I make sure that the play involves a lot of incidental touching. Not in a sexual way. That would be too intimidating for him. But a little playful pushing and shoving, some grabbing and dragging each other down, puts Yuuri in a much more pleasant mood. Macca hasn't played so hard since he was a puppy, so he tires after awhile, and shakes water all over us, before going to lie down in the sun. Yuuri and I head to the shower on the beach to dry off. I reach over and ruffle his hair, and it makes him laugh. It feels pretty good when he returns the gesture. He's getting more comfortable, trusting me more. This is good.
We shake off the excess water and go sit down on a log. I think his defenses are low enough now to get more serious, but I'm not sure where to begin. I need to speak to Yuuri's emotions, to understand what it is that touches him.
It's right then that I happen to blink as a seagull squawks. More squawks follow, and I'm reminded of waking up to that sound at home, in Russia. It makes me feel a little homesick. Not that I don't love Hasetsu, but I never expected to leave home for a long time like this. that produces a strong emotion, so I use it to try to bring the same out of Yuuri.
"Seagulls," I say, looking up into the sky.
"Black tailed gulls," Yuuri adds.
"It reminds of the ones I used to hear when I'd wake up in the morning in Saint Petersburg," I tell him, "I never thought that I would leave that city, so I never took the time to notice the seagull's cries. But now, I find them kind of comforting. Has something ever made you feel like that?"
Yuuri tells me the story of a time when a rinkmate was injured, and he was waiting for word on how his friend was doing. A girl hugged him to comfort him, but he shoved her away because it made him feel like she was saying that he was weak. She intruded on his feelings and he didn't like it at all.
I feel a little shocked for a moment, but then I remember the walls that Yuuri builds to protect and hide his emotions. And it seems that he does this to hide his insecurities from people who might judge him for them. It makes some logical sense, but at the same time, he needs to know that it's not a sign of weakness to have strong feelings, or to share them.
"You aren't a weak person," I respond sincerely, "No one who knows you would ever think that."
He's quiet, and I can see that his defenses have completely come down. I think it's time to work on defining a bit more, how things are going to go from here. I need Yuuri to trust me completely if I want to be able to motivate him to work through his anxieties.
"Will you tell me what you want me to be to you?" I ask, "A father figure?"
"A brother or just a friend?"
So, he may be wanting more than just a friendship.
I have to stop here and say that, while I've had relationships with women, I've never seen a man romantically. There were, of course, opportunities if I'd been interested. Before Christophe Giacometti became involved with his current boyfriend, there were opportunities, if I'd felt inclined to pursue them. And in my junior years, before Yakov became my coach, there was another male coach who offered to improve my performance on the ice by giving me an intense experience to help me grow as a person. I've never been attracted to a man, but I've never really thought seriously about it either. Knowing that Yuuri may have that kind of interest in me doesn't offend me like that former coach did. And I don't lack interest in pursuing that, if it happens, as I did in Chris's case. Yuuri is physically attractive. I think he's pretty adorable as a person. So it's not a stretch when I give my answer to him.
"So, your lover, then. I'll try my best."
Instantly, the walls that had disappeared, snap back into place, and he hurries to backtrack.
"No, no no!" he says, waving his arms like I'd tried to jump on him.
All I did was convey that I'm open to a relationship with him.
"I just want you to be who you are!" he exclaims, "I look up to you. I always have. I guess I was avoiding you because I didn't want you to see my shortcomings."
Ah, now we're getting somewhere…although, now I kind of wish he'd take me up on the offer to be lovers. The idea is new, but it's growing on me. I've been thinking a lot about Yuuri, even when I sleep, and the dreams haven't been completely platonic. I'm careful not to move or to say anything about that as he continues. I can tell it's not the right time.
"I'll make it up to you by skating my best."
I can feel my heart skipping in my chest, but I ignore it and take Yuuri's hand.
"You have a deal," I tell him, "And I won't go easy on you. That's my way of showing my love."
I love Yuuri, but he's not ready to hear something like that. And besides, that's not why I'm here. I came to Hasetsu to find the competitor I saw in that video. I didn't come here to seduce Yuuri. Still, he has already seduced me. It's going to be hard not listening to my instincts. I sometimes don't have a lot of self control.
But the rest can wait, right? Let's just work with what we have. Anyway, I have to leave eventually. Competitive skaters lead frenetic, fast paced lives. We are terrible partners because we have so little time that's not taken up with planning, ballet and skating. And I don't know how I would do in a long distance relationship. I'm the first to admit that I'm impulsive. Something would probably get broken, either in my work or in any relationship we would have. It's best not to think about that now.
If only my mind would cooperate. All of the way back, I'm noticing all of the things I find attractive about Yuuri. He has a sweet scent for a man, and I think his messy hair is cute. His brown eyes are expressive, even though he is quiet. I love the sound of his voice. God, I want to put an arm around him and walk closer to him.
Yuuri doesn't seem to notice at all how he is affecting me.
Damn it, that's painful.
I wonder if anything we've done today will help Yuuri to open up a little and get more in touch with his feelings. We're both quiet as we bathe in the hot spring and we don't talk much during dinner. Yuuri goes to his room early, so I spend some time drinking with Minako, then I go to bed feeling very much alone. I have Maccachin to hug, of course. But I feel empty inside, like something is missing.
I suppose I know what.
But the one I'm missing is down the hallway, probably already asleep…or maybe he's thinking about what we talked about today. Whatever, I'm sure he has no idea that I'm lying here, thinking about how warm and comforting it would feel to fall asleep next to him. Sex is great, but I crave the feeling of skin contact. I sleep naked, and when I am with a lover, the part I most enjoy is pressing up against my lover and sleeping curled around them. I enjoy burying my face in my lover's hair, being able to touch her…erm, or him, if it happened, while they're asleep and completely open and vulnerable.
I drift off to sleep, imagining how it would feel to sleep naked with Yuuri, to bury my nose in his hair and smell his scent, to run my hands over his soft skin and press up against his back.
I wake up in the morning, alone and a little sticky along the belly and thigh.
Maybe I should wear clothes when I sleep…
Chapter 6: Fading Rose, Blossoming Sakura
As Yuuri and Victor wait for the free skate music to be composed, Victor is faced with an uncomfortable fact of life.
The morning after our beach trip, Yuuri arrives for our training session, not only on time, but seeming much more motivated. There was a piece, it seems, that he had made by a conservatory student, and it was the only piece he had ever shared with Celestino. I gave the piece a listen, and honestly, I didn't think it had what we were looking for. I think Yuuri fully expected I would feel that way about it. That may be why he didn't show it to me until Celestino outed the fact it existed. In any case, this morning, Yuuri tells me excitedly that the young woman has agreed to rework the music for him.
"And," Yuuri says, clenching his hands emphatically, "while we're waiting for the music to be done, I want to learn all of your jumps. I want you to show me everything you can do!"
But when I think of sitting there in my house in Saint Petersburg, watching that video as Yuuri crashed through all of my preconceptions about him…yes…I think he can do this. I'm not necessarily sure it's what he should be focusing on, but with Eros well in hand and while we don't have the music, so we can't start working on the free skate, he's got to do something useful. Yuuri's foundations are already solid, so the only logical place to go is jumps and spins.
I would never admit this out loud, but I think the wear and tear on my body is going to be an issue soon. I've been working with Yuuri, so I haven't gained any weight, but I've also been gorging on wonderful food and too much sake. My stamina is usually good, but Yuuri is younger than me, and he already has an amazing amount of stamina.
I did not just think about how that would present itself if we ever went to bed together…
It turns out I'm not wrong about Yuuri's stamina. We start with the lutz, working through double, triple, then trying the quad. He can do it, but his landings are rough, and he touches down with one hand pretty often. We work on loops, but he's just not at the point where he can make that quad. I've landed it in practice, but not in competition. I did do it in an exhibition once, though. Yuuri lights up when we work on the triple and quad flip. He gives it a good try, and I get the feeling it won't be long before he can land it all right. Still, one thing at a time. We have to focus on the Grand Prix Series. It will be here before too long, and we want to be ready.
We get into the later part of our practice, and Yuuri starts working on spins. I'm out of breath, but I catch my breath while he practices the spins from the Eros program and we pause to talk about what spins we might use in the free skate. Yuuri asks to finish with more jumps, so I indulge him for awhile, but pretty soon, I'm not just out of breath, I'm beginning to ache.
I'm not stupid. I know age is beginning to catch up with me, but does it have to show itself here? Now? We finish the planned jumps and skate to the edge of the rink, where Yuuri stops and gives me a determined look.
"Maybe we should do it one more time," he suggests.
I give him a weary smile.
"We've already done it a hundred thousand times, haven't we?" I remind him.
"No, actually, it was only thirteen," he corrects me.
Thanks, Yuuri. I suppose my ego needs a reality check, now and again.
"I've been thinking this for awhile, but you actually have very good stamina."
"Yeah," he sighs, "at least I have that."
I start to speculate on why that might be. I shouldn't compare the two of us, but we have been competitors before, and I plan on competing against Yuuri again someday. Yes, I think we both want that.
"It could be that your nervous eating gives you additional energy," I speculate, "You also haven't suffered any major injuries, and you are younger than me."
Did something just touch me on the head?
I freeze for a moment, leaning over because I was cleaning the ice from one of my skates. I catch sight of Yuuri looking at me with a surprised expression and withdrawing his hand. I reach up to touch the spot he just touched, and I feel like the air just got sucked out of my lungs.
"Is it getting that thin?" I groan, collapsing onto the ice, still holding a hand to my head.
"Oh, no, no no!" Yuuri shouts, "It's very thick and shiny!"
"You've wounded me," I tell him weakly, "I don't know if I will ever recover."
"I'm sorry!" Yuuri yells frantically, falling onto his knees in front of me, "I didn't mean to. I won't do it again. Please get up!"
I don't usually feel self conscious, but I suppose because so much of my reputation is based on how I present myself, thinning hair really makes me feel vulnerable. Think about it. The media was already pointing to my age, twenty-seven, and speculating I would retire. If it's noticeable that my hair is thinning, how soon would the old age jokes begin? Ugh! I don't want to think about such things. Eventually, I let Yuuri help me up, and we walk back to Yutopia Katsuki together. But as soon as he heads for the hot spring, I give up my daily chance to see him totally naked, and I go out to a wonderful dinner that I barely taste, and a nightlong drinking binge.
I stop by the pub where Minako works on the way back, thinking I want to drink even more.
"Victor, um, are you, you know…all right?" she asks, giving me that disapproving frown that she usually saves for my little pork cutlet bowl, not me, "Cause you look more drunk than usual. What happened?"
She's a good bartender, and I gather from what Yuuri's said, a good friend.
"What do you mean, what happened?" I ask, doing my best to look unconcerned, "I get drunk a lot. The booze is good here, you know?"
She gives me a look that tells me she sees right through my bullshit.
"Come on, Fess up," she says, arching an eyebrow, "You know, the bar's only open for another hour. You better start talking now. I'm not going to drag it out of you."
Ah, tough love. She is a good friend.
"Did you and Yuuri have a fight or something? He came by my studio earlier, before my shift here. He was looking for you, but I guess he gave up and went home. He looked a little worried. Should he be?"
"What? Should Yuuri be worried about me?" I say casually, "No, no I'm fine. Really."
"You know, Victor," she says, pouring me a cup of coffee, "you're a shitty liar. C'mon, out with it. What's on your mind? Is Yuuri not living up to your expectations or something?"
"Yuuri?" I repeat, blinking, "No, he's doing great. We need the music for his free skate, but everything else is just fine. He's doing well."
"Then, if things are so great, why are you sitting in my bar, looking more wasted than the guys I usually have the bouncers call a cab for?"
She doesn't mince words. Straight to the point. She's a damned good barkeeper. But, she's not getting this out of me.
"Do you think I look old?"
How the hell did those words get out of my mouth? I didn't mean to say something like that at all!
Minako gives me a surprised look.
"Do you look old?" she repeated, glaring at me like I'm crazy or something, "What kind of stupid question is that? You're twenty-seven, not fifty."
Why is she scolding me?
"You do know how many women you have here in Hasetsu, no…in Japan. Oh wait, try in the entire world, who practically faint when you look at them, right? I don't think you have a wrinkle on your whole body, and you show it off enough that I would know. No, Victor, I don't think you look old, but I think I'm getting why you would ask me that."
I look at her and I have no idea what to say.
"Ah, that's right. You were a dancer."
"Yup," she says, nodding to the bouncer to lock up the place, then pouring herself a drink.
I give her hopeful look, but she glares at me and points to the coffee cup she's given me.
"I get it," she tells me, "You work really hard. You climb to the top of the world, and it's great while you're there."
"But then, you start to hear something like a clock ticking."
I don't know when she stopped talking and I started.
"And you know that the only place to go from the top…is back down. A young person doesn't stay young forever. It's a fact of life. I've always known that. So, why…?"
"What happened?" she chuckles, crossing her arms, "because I know it was something. Someone said something or did something that made you focus on this. What was it? Did Yuuri do it?"
I'm sure I don't want to admit this out loud.
"Augh, I'm sure he didn't mean to."
"He never does," she laughs, "C'mon, what was it? What did that idiot say to you?"
It must be the booze is finally eating away the last of my brain cells because I'm laughing too.
"He didn't say anything," I admit, "He found a thinning spot in my hair."
"What? Your hair?" Minako says, "Let me see. What? That? That's nothing! Your hair looks great. You look perfect, except for looking like you're going to fall out of that chair. Why don't you let me walk you home?"
She walks me back to Yutopia Katsuki and turns me over to Hiroko, who's seen me drunk a few times since I arrived and knows how to get me settled. Yuuri went to bed long ago, and his mother tells me he seemed troubled.
He was troubled?
I'm the one losing hair.
Oh god, I want another damned drink.
I wait until I'm alone with Maccachin, then curl around him, dropping off into a poor sleep that is filled with nightmares about waking up with a bald spot. Although, come to think of it, neither the relatives on my mother's side or my father's had trouble with bald spots. Sure, their hair thinned a little, but that doesn't mean I'll get a bald spot.
But, what if I do?
It's almost dawn before I stop repeatedly waking, and I oversleep and wake up with a terrible hangover. It's Hiroko to the rescue, then, with a family remedy. She's gotten some experience dealing with Toshiya's little binges, then later, Yuuri's. She's even kind when I have to excuse myself to throw up in the bathroom several times. Yuuri comes in as I fall back into bed, and he brings some soothing ginger tea.
I think he suspects why I'm such a mess, but he doesn't bring it up…ugh…thank god. I'm suffering enough. I don't want to talk about it.
We don't practice, because of the mess I am, but we do have a talk about costume design, since he knows in general now what he wants for his performance. We both agree that blue should be the main color. I sketch a few designs, then have him choose what things he likes. Then, I go back and make a final drawing of the costume. We can alter the design later, depending on how what we have fits with his music and theme. By nightfall, we are both feeling better than we were. Yuuri finally leaves my room to go to sleep, and I find myself rolling over and resting my face against the pillow he was leaning on for much of the day. It still carries his scent, and I breathe it in shamelessly. I sleep a lot better that way.
The next morning, I'm back on my feet and coaching Yuuri again. We work on fine tuning Eros, doing our best to maximize his awareness of his audience, in this case, me. I'm a fellow skater, and a five time world champion. I'm not going to be seduced as easily as the usual audience member. I will notice the little mistakes and hesitations, and it will cause little cracks in the spell that his performance weaves around me. Honestly though, when he skates Eros, I lose track of time, and I have to really work to pay attention to all of those details. I'd much rather place my concentration on Yuuri's graceful, feminine moves, his wide eyes or fluttering bits of hair. But I didn't come here to be distracted by all of that, so I force myself to nitpick every little thing, until he's sure I'll never be completely happy with what he does. His performance of Eros improves to the point where I see him dancing it in my dreams. It's hard to find things to pick at.
But even with how well things are going with Eros, we are still waiting for his free skate music, and we are also not yet dealing with his anxiety. It is something that has destroyed his performances before, and it will sneak up on us.
"It seems to me that having something that motivates you can help you overcome your anxiety," I theorize, "Think of how nervous you were when you saw Yurio's performance, and you worried that you couldn't beat him," I recall for him, "You were petrified for a moment, but something made you determined to go out there and win. You made little mistakes, but overall, you gave a great performance, and you won what was so important to you. How can we use that?"
"I don't know," Yuuri sighs, "Maybe when the assignments come and I see who I'm competing with, I can think of something."
"That is possible," I agree, "but for now, let's focus on what's working for you."
"Pork cutlet bowls," he says, looking a little unsure.
"And seducing me with your lovely moves," I add, narrowing my eyes, "After all, you know how demanding I am."
"And if you can enthrall me, then you can bring the audience to their knees. You can do this, Yuuri. I know you can. If I didn't believe it, I wouldn't have flown all the way from Russia to be your coach."
"That's right," he says, more to himself than me.
I push Yuuri hard over the next few days, and he becomes more and more confident. His quad salchow is still inconsistent, but he lands it with greater frequency, so we decide to leave it in both of his programs.
After about a week of this, the music finally arrives.
The conservatory student is foreign, so the piece arrives in the middle of the night. Yuuri is so excited when he hears the notification sound, that he is out of his room and in mine before he even thinks. He forgets entirely that I sleep without clothing, and when he jumps onto the bed, he lands on Maccachin's tail, making poor Macca yip and howl.
"Sorry!" he apologizes, petting Macca gently, "Victor, the music is here!"
He sets the headset on me, and I close my eyes, thinking a silent prayer that this will work. We're not in time trouble yet, but we do need to get moving on the free program. The first chords play, and I already like it. Where the original piece sounded tentative and radiated a sort of frustration, this composition opens with loneliness radiating through it that matches perfectly the way Yuuri described his feelings from before I arrived in Hasetsu. There are then flickers of hopefulness and something beautiful begins to build, as though in the background. As the music goes on, I know it is perfect for Yuuri. I give him a happy nod of affirmation, and he looks ready to fly over the moon. Neither of us can sleep, so he sits next to me on the bed, still not paying any attention to the fact that I'm inches away and wearing only what God gave me.
All that either of us can think of is how good the music sounds and what moves will bring out the emotions that Yuuri wants to convey. I've been through this process with my own programs before, but I never had someone sitting beside me, sharing ideas as I went, laughing and talking, touching a little. I start to realize as we work together, that I wasn't just losing inspiration because I was aging and having trouble finding motivation. I was lonely.
Okay, I know that sounds funny, when getting people to notice me is never a problem, and if I wanted a companion, I only had to wink and I'd get what I want. But, it wasn't that kind of attention I wanted. Strangely, I think it's because Yuuri isn't focused on sexuality at all, but it sweetly innocent and completely sincere, that I feel I can trust in the reality of all of our interactions. When I appear in public, I'm not myself. I'm the Victor Nikiforov that people expect to see. I'm beautiful, well-mannered, perfect. But when I came to Hasetsu and met Yuuri's family and friends, I found a place where I could be completely myself, and not have to put on any kind of show for anyone. Sure, there are plenty of raving fans here, but there are closer friends who I can be myself with. I have lots of free time to sleep, to eat, to walk on the beach, to play with Maccachin and to give my attention to this very attractive Japanese boy who has somehow gotten into my heart.
All of that without us ever having sex or even kissing.
Without any of that, I am having the most satisfying affair of my life.
Okay, I do eventually want to kiss him, and I may want to have sex with him too.
But he's not ready, and maybe I'm not quite ready. That's okay. There's time. We'll get to all of that later, I suppose.
For now, I step out onto the ice and watch as Yuuri takes his place with the program we've produced together. For the first time, today, we put the movements and the music together. From the moment Yuuri starts to move, I know that we have made something incredible. I can't take my eyes off of him as he turns, as he moves gracefully into a quad toe loop, then a double toe loop. He doesn't land the salchow, but I'm so mesmerized that I barely notice. My heart pounds and I feel a little weak. I haven't felt something like this for a long time.
I can't wait to show this to the world.
Yuuri, you really are going to surprise everyone.
Chapter 7: A Night of Cuddling
Victor and Yuuri prepare for the Japanese Nationals.
The month leading up to Yuuri's first competition in September is a more hectic one, with many things influencing the drive of his training. First is the fact that Yuuri self destructed in the last Japanese Nationals, so if he wants to compete in the Grand Prix Series, he will need a win in this year's block championships to qualify for that. It's actually good, I think, that there is a competition I am sure Yuuri can win, prior to the Grand Prix series, because it will give the two of us a chance to see where we are in Yuuri's development, and will give us a way of setting goals for each competition after that one.
Because of his failure in the last nationals, Yuuri is nervous, even a few weeks before the competition. I try to keep him focused on the mechanics of the short and free skate programs, and we take long walks on the beach to keep things as calm as possible. I know we will have to deal with his nerves, but there's not much I can do before we actually get there.
Yuuri's not the only one who is a little nervous. Before deciding to come to Hasetsu to coach Yuuri, I had never considered coaching to be something I wanted to do. I really just lived from moment to moment, avoiding thinking about the future, because I was so focused on the present. And while it's good to enjoy the here and now, it's not good to completely avoid looking ahead. I always knew that the time would come when I couldn't compete professionally anymore. It was a like a drum beat in my head that, when I was younger, I couldn't hear at all. As the years have gone on, I started to hear it, first softly, then ever louder and louder. When it got too loud for me to ignore, when it began to drown out the other things, that is when I knew I had a problem. It's hard to maintain your inspiration when you become too cognizant that time is beginning to run short. I hate to admit it, but at twenty-seven, I am in the later years of my competitive skating career. Many skaters lose their motivation well short of the time they might actually want to retire. There are many pressures…changes in the body that affect performance, alterations one has to make in performances, to relieve the stress on a still young, but aging body, and the louder and louder public questions about retirement. I know everyone is curious, but all of that talk can be hard on an athlete, who is aging, but still has good years left in him or her. These are the challenges that have been testing me, and taking on the responsibility of coaching Yuuri is my way to renew my confidence and motivation.
But, stepping into this new arena isn't easy.
The truth is that while just being a skater, I had to be polite, animated and engaging, so that I could get people to like me. You can be the best skater in the world, but if people don't like you, sooner or later, it is going to sink you. As a coach, your job isn't to be nice or to make friends. A good coach has to be a little bit of a bastard…demanding, dominating, unyielding, so that he or she brings out the best in a skater, making sure that their student performs at the best of his or her capacity. I love Yuuri very much, but I didn't come here to get close to him for nothing. I have a job to do, and it requires pushing Yuuri to find his limits.
The thing about pushing someone that way, is that you have to apply enough pressure without overdoing it. That's a delicate balance, and I am new to it, so we do butt heads a little in practice sometimes as Yuuri gets more comfortable with me. I have had a good example of a coach in Yakov. He yelled at me all of the time, scolded me until he was blue in the face. When everyone else saw perfection, all he saw was my shortcomings. He pushed me and I rebelled. I think we made a great team. I wouldn't be the skater I am today without him. I want to push Yuuri to his limits the way Yakov did that for me. It's not always easy. Part of what I must do is to push Yuuri through physical pain. He is middle-aged for a skater, so he gets out of breath sometimes, and he aches all over after his workouts. The pressure on his feet leaves them sore, and sometimes bruised or bleeding. Yuuri wants both to please me, and he wants very much to win, so he pushes himself as I also push him. He makes great progress as we approach his first competition, and when the time comes, I feel he is ready for the challenge.
It's not a terrible challenge he faces, and I'm grateful for that. He will be one of only four skaters to compete in the senior males division of the block championships, and the other competitors are significantly younger and much less experienced than Yuuri is. This will be a good test of his confidence and fitness for the Grand Prix Series, and will also give us a chance to debut his new programs in a relatively safe place, competitively, while building up interest in him and support for his run at the world championship.
I can see in the days leading up to the competition that Yuuri's anxiousness about it is gradually increasing. It starts showing in smaller ways…a moment where something like muted panic enters his eyes as he pauses to think about how close that moment is getting. Then, there are the times during our training sessions, where he will be practicing something difficult and failing that hundredth time, which seems to him to be the straw that breaks the camel's back. He starts to doubt himself, and that makes him mess up on things that he clearly knows how to do. I can usually straighten him out with a sharp word, or by shifting our training to focus on something else, heading off his worries with a simple We'll go back to that later, when we're both more relaxed. Then, sometimes, he suffers from panic attacks that are not during training and don't even seem related to anything in particular. I was struggling with those, when Hiroko told me her way of handling them. It's best, she told me, to take Yuuri to a quiet, dark place and have him breathe slowly while having him ground himself by using his senses to notice his exact surroundings. For some reason, that does help. I am worried, though, about what we will do if he has one of these more clinical panic attacks while in competition. I suppose we will have to take that as it comes.
The days wind down to the last few before the Japanese block championships, and one day, I wake up to find that Yuuri isn't in bed, but has gotten up before me. I assume he must be down at the ice rink, getting in some extra practice, and I hurry up to dress and join him. Strangely, when I arrive at the ice rink, I find he's not there. I leave the ice rink and go to Minako's studio, but he's not there either. I try a few other places before walking down to the beach. I find Yuuri sitting silently on a piece of driftwood, his arms wrapped around his knees and his chin resting on them. He seems to sit this way when he's doing deeper thinking.
I sit down beside him, not saying anything at first…just letting him know I'm there and being open to whatever he wants to do. For a few minutes, he just sits, looking out at the water and still thinking. But once he realizes that I'm not going to take the lead, he steals a glance at me out of the corner of a brown eye and a little smile touches his lips. I take that as an invitation and I slip a hand into his. He lets out a little sigh and leans against me a little.
Sometimes we seem to say a lot to each other without saying anything.
"I was wondering where you'd disappeared to," I comment, now that he's invited me to interact with him, "Are you all right"
"Yeah," he assures me.
He sounds sincere, so I think this must be him gathering himself for the competition. He needs to feel safe and reassured, so I focus on the mechanics of things…the details like telling him about the travel and hotel arrangements. This seems to bring home the reality that it's all really happening. I finish, and Yuuri sighs again and looks out at the seagulls flying over the water.
"It sounds like everything's done."
"Mmhmm," I agree, "we'll leave in the morning."
He's quiet after that, but I feel like it's a positive kind of quiet. When we leave the beach and go on to the ice rink, he gives me the best practice session yet, even landing his quad salchow in both programs. We walk back to Yutopia Katsuki and enjoy a last hot soak before our departure. We have a large meal with Yuuri's family, then go off to bed for the night. I go right to sleep, but after a few hours, when the house has gone quiet and dark, I am awakened when Yuuri slips into my room.
I open my eyes and sit up, studying him for a moment and reading the worry beneath the still relatively calm surface.
"Are you okay, Yuuri?" I ask.
"Yeah, I guess," he says, then he reconsiders, "Well, maybe not. I don't know. I suppose I'm kind of nervous. I'm having trouble sleeping."
I nod and give him a little smile.
"Come and lie down."
He looks at me curiously for a moment, but I don't say anything else to him. It's his choice to make those steps to join me or to refuse.
I move over to make room for him, and he lies down on his back, beside me. A moment later, he blushes and looks at me.
"Victor, do you mind putting on a yukata while I'm here?"
I give a little laugh and wrap something around me, then lie down again.
"Do you want to talk?" I ask him, "or do you want to try to fall asleep there?"
"I'm not sure," he says in a flustered voice.
"Okay, wake me up if you want to talk to me," I yawn, closing my eyes and curling around my pillow, facing him.
I fall asleep again quickly, and he doesn't wake me up until he wakes in the early morning and finds we've done some incidental cuddling while we slept together. He sucks in a surprised breath and I give him a sexy smile and wink.
"Good morning, Yuuri," I say cheerfully, "I hope you slept well. I know I did."
"Victor!" he scolds me.
"Sorry, you're just cute waking up in my arms," I tease him, "You're welcome to join me anytime, although Maccachin doesn't like having to sleep on the end of the bed."
"Victor!" Yuuri laughs, blushing.
He slips out of my bed, looking like he did manage to sleep some. I guess the cuddling helped to calm him. I turn and flop with my face in his pillow, breathing in his warm scent and wishing that I hadn't slept so deeply. Damn it! I often sleep hugging Maccachin, but when I woke with my arms around Yuuri, it felt so good and he smelled so sweet. He's adorable with sleepy eyes and messy hair.
Is it wrong to hope he's like this before other competitions?
When did he come back into the room?
I let go of his pillow and sit up, looking at him questioningly.
"Were you, um…? Uh, never mind!"
He turns and runs out the door. I hear footsteps and then his bedroom door closing. I wouldn't be surprised if he was standing on the other side, his back against that door and his eyes opened wide, his mind trying to make sense of the fact that he just saw me literally acting like a lovesick puppy with his pillow. Okay, at least I wasn't humping it, but I was very obviously enjoying its scent.
But why does that frighten him so much. I didn't do a thing to him the whole time he was in bed with me. Okay, I did cuddle a little with him, but that just happened because he was in the place where Maccachin usually lies, and I cuddle Maccachin.
Luckily, he comes down from the rafters in time for us to leave, and we're off to the competition. Yuuri doesn't say anything about the awkwardness before, and I choose to let it be. It'll probably be a little awkward when we sleep at the hotel, but we'll do our best.
We arrive and settle in, and we have a couple of days before the competition to do some final practice sessions. Given the surroundings, he settles down and becomes more like himself. He seems ready as we go to sleep the night before the short program. The next morning, he looks a little anxious, but he seems to be holding up well as we head to the rink. He looks a little less sure of himself as a small army of journalists flock around us and begin asking questions.
"What's your plan for the competition today?" one of the journalists asks.
"Yuuri is well prepared for the competition today, so his focus will be on earning a personal best," I tell them.
"Victor!" Yuuri objects under his breath, "I know I've told you this a million times, but in last year's competition, I bombed everything! I did so incredibly bad that they thought I must be injured. But there was nothing physically wrong with me. I lost, despite being a top contender because I was mentally weak. But no pressure, right?"
I head off a few more questions and Yuuri and I move on to the drawing for performance positions. He doesn't look happy about having to perform first. But, I reassure him, first, last, it doesn't matter. He has far more experience than these skaters, and he also has me. Yuuri blinks and looks more closely at me upon hearing the second part, and I see him relax slightly. He goes off to find a couple of friends and I duck into the bathroom to change into the new suit I want to surprise Yuuri with.
I arrive just as he's starting to panic at not being able to find me. He, Minako and Takeshi look at me in surprise, and Yuuri's jaw drops.
"Victor, why did you change your clothes?"
"Well, it's my debut as your new coach, so I thought I should look the part. Do you like it?"
"Oh my god…" Yuuri groans.
We head to rinkside and I start to give Yuuri a little pep talk, only to have him skate away while I'm in the middle of it. I watch him as he warms up, and it's clear that he is nervous. I need to do something to head that off, to shock him into focusing, not on his anxiety, but on his performance. So, I wait until he comes back, then give him a stern look.
"Yuuri, turn around."
"I said, turn around!" I snap, sounding like I do in our practice sessions sometimes.
The sharpness of my voice snaps him out of the fog he was in, and he turns to face away from me. I wrap my arms around him from behind and close my eyes, breathing my next words into his ears in a lover's voice.
"Seduce me with all you have," I tell him, "Remember, if you can enthrall me, you can bring the audience to its knees. Isn't that what I tell you in practice?"
I smile as I feel his body relax in my embrace.
"Right," he answers.
He skates away, and I see his confidence returning. His beginning is perfect, and the step sequence leaves my knees feeling a little weak. He begins to look a little nervous going into the triple axel, but he lands it just fine. He touches down on the salchow, but that's not completely unexpected, and in this group, he will still score well. His moves look a little choppy moving into the sit spin, but he comes out of it all right, and I think things are going better. He lands his quad toe loop, but his triple toe loop turns into a double, and he is just a little off the beat at the end. But it's still a performance that can win, and he managed to grab the audience. I'm not happy with it exactly, but it's a beginning.
I see Yuuri looking at me as he exits the ice, and I give him the truth. I know it sounds odd to give him a scolding while the audience is still clapping, but this was not a stellar performance, and I have to be honest about that. He takes the criticism well, but as I finish, the score comes back, and it's in the mid nineties…plenty to win this competition, but not yet a score that will win in the Grand Prix Series. Yuuri looks at me again, and I give him a chill smile.
"Not bad, but I was thinking that since you weren't under any pressure, you would have scored in the hundreds."
"Oh right," Yuuri laughs with an edge of sarcasm, "You've won a lot of competitions, scoring in the hundreds, so it must be easy."
With the first round under our belt, we wait as the others perform, talking to the newsfolk, who have lots of questions. Amidst the chatter, a boy's voice breaks through, calling Yuuri's name.
"Did you see it?" he asks, "Did you see my performance?"
Yuuri smiles at his competitor politely.
"Sorry, I was being interviewed, so I missed it."
The poor thing looks mortified.
"But I had a new costume made that was modeled after the one you used."
I feel a little surprised as Yuuri's jaw drops and he blushes fiercely.
"Oh no, a costume from my dark past!" he gasps.
The boy glares at Yuuri and scolds him furiously.
"A talented skater like you doesn't have a dark past! When you look down on yourself, you also look down on people like me, who look up to you. I'm going to go out there tomorrow and give my best, and you'd better too, or I won't forgive you!"
It's at this point I learn that this boy standing in front of us is the boy who won the nationals last year when Yuuri failed so miserably.
I think Yuuri and I will be having a talk about this tonight. There's no way I'm letting him continue to see this boy as a threat. If he's going to be nervous, we'll work from an area of strength. I'll have him lower the difficulty of the free skate and focus on refining the program.
Yes, that will reassure him, and it will give him less places to go wrong. There's time enough to build up to the Grand Prix finals, and that is where he needs to peak. He's still far beyond these younger skaters.
We will show everyone that tomorrow.
Chapter 8: The Rebellion
The first performance of Yuuri's free skate.
I think that I might be as anxious as my Yuuri as we have dinner the night before the free skate. This will be the very first public presentation of the free skate program that Yuuri produced and I choreographed. As important as his success is to his future as a figure skater, it's also a critical moment for me, as a coach and choreographer who is breaking new ground. Yes, this could make or break both of us.
I think it was a good thing to bring down the number of complicated jumps and to start simply. This is a typical move for figure skaters debuting a new program. Yuuri has a very comfortable lead after the short program. Common sense says that lowering the difficulty of the program is a good choice in that it will a) give him time to adjust himself and refine the program, b) give him less to be nervous about and lessen the chances of missed jumps or mistakes, and c) will reinforce in Yuuri's mind that he is a powerful competitor. I can't say enough about how important his self-image is. His problem has always been with his level of confidence, so this will address that.
I have tried several times to explain all of this to Yuuri, but it seems like talking to a brick wall. He looks at me, but he doesn't seem to hear a word I say. I suppose he's trying to focus, but it reminds me of how he didn't listen to me at all before the short program. It's becoming annoying, and is something that we have to deal with before the race to the Grand Prix Finals begins. But, first things first. We have to get through the competition.
We arrive on time at the venue and I can already see that Yuuri has put up his invisible wall. He barely acknowledges anything I say as he prepares for the warm up.
"Hey, Yuuri, good luck!" a youthful voice shouts.
Next to me, Yuuri stiffens for a moment, then unexpectedly, he says nothing and turns away, leaving the boy who called out to him a pile of mush on the floor.
I don't understand this behavior at all. In competitive figure skating, or in any competitive sport, really, there are different ways that the competitors handle themselves around other skaters. Let's be honest. We're out there competing to win. And there are those competitors who consider it part of the competition to attack the confidence of other skaters as a strategy for securing their own win. It's a nasty tactic, but I see it a lot. To avoid having their emotions played with, some skaters go into a shell, which it seems that Yuuri has done. The obvious problem is that if you are too far into a shell, you get nothing from the outside, good or bad, and you are left with your own inner voices. Yuuri's inner voices are fearful, so he can sabotage himself pretty well.
I look at competition differently, but that's easy when you're the one sitting on top of the sport and watching everyone try to reach you. Okay, I lied. It's not always easy. I just love good competition, and in fact, I didn't like being alone on the top, because it's hard to be inspired when no one is challenging you. How can you evolve and grow if no one is close enough to touch your level of ability. I want other skaters to excel. I want to be challenged. There is nothing more thrilling to me than seeing someone rise to the occasion and really give me something to worry about. But, I'm sure in the next few years, I'll get more and more of that as my body ages and begins to show the wear and tear of my years in competition.
I just won't think about that right now.
My focus is on Yuuri, and we need to nip this problem of the shell in the bud…or, I mean, the shell has to go. No one benefits from a skater who slips into his shell when he competes. Not the skater, not the competitors and not the sport. Certainly not the coach, who left his own career after becoming a five-time world champion, in order to mentor the little crab in a shell. I consider what to say as Yuuri warms up, then as he comes off the ice, I give him a plain, direct message.
"Yuuri," I call out to him in an annoyed tone.
He looks at me, finally.
"If you don't have the strength to motivate someone who looks up to you, how can you find the strength to motivate yourself?"
There's some time before he has to perform his routine and I think this is a good time for him to think about what I've said.
"I'm disappointed in you," I tell him, slapping down his blade covers on the ice rink wall.
I leave him without looking back and there is perfect silence behind me.
I sit down in a set of bleachers, close enough to watch out of the corner of my eye as Yuuri stands, staring and not doing anything. Well, at very least, I hope he's thinking about what I said. It may seem heavy handed, but he wasn't even listening to me, and I'm not that used to being ignored.
I get my answer a few minutes later when the one who called out to Yuuri, who is also the one who issued the challenge to him yesterday, takes the ice, preparing to perform his free skate. I watch without looking like I'm watching as Yuuri glares in the boy's direction and starts to turn away. But in the middle of it, he turns back, stiffening like it's taking all of his energy to do so, and he yells at the top of his lungs.
"Hey, Minami! Good luck!"
I have to bite my lips not to laugh as the boy on the ice looks back at Yuuri like he can't believe his ears. And who can blame him. Yuuri was a shit to him before, and everyone saw that.
"Good luck!" Yuuri shouts again, to drive the words home.
I have to say, when Yuuri does something, he puts his whole self into it. I don't know if Minami should be happy Yuuri noticed him or scared. I can see Yuuri glancing in my direction, but as I start to turn my head, he looks away.
I get it.
I'm his mentor, and I embarrassed him. I took him to task in a personal way that stung. He needs to cool off before he'll be ready to mend things with me. I've screwed up too. I know. So, I let him walk away and leave the area to warm up on his own. I then watch as Yuuri's odd and sort of frightening gesture either motivates or scares young Minami into getting a personal best in his free skate. The other two skaters who come up next both attempt quads and manage personal bests. It's a shame that Yuuri isn't here to see how he is beginning to motivate other skaters right and left, but I'm not sure he would recognize it if he did see it. We definitely have to work on that.
I start to get a little worried that I pushed Yuuri too hard as the skater before him moves into the last part of his program. I move to where he will enter and look around. A moment before I'm ready to start getting really worried, a door opens nearby and Yuuri walks in, wearing an expression of determination. He acts like he's going to walk right past Minami, who stiffens at the expected lack of attention, then is nearly floored when Yuuri smacks him on the back in a plain, Little twit. Did you think that you could really challenge me?
Seeing Yuuri with that determined expression and watching him do something to acknowledge his fellow skater is…really…sexy.
He walks towards me, and I give him a charming smile to let him know that I'm not holding a grudge.
"This outfit is perfect for you, and you look beautiful in it."
He looks a little stiff in his movements, and he doesn't answer.
"Your lips are a little chapped," I note, pulling out a container of lip balm and applying it.
Still, nothing from him. I may not be holding a grudge, but I think he is. I wrap my arms around him, and he doesn't stiffen, but it takes a moment before he sighs and hugs me back. He's so moody. But I'm sure he'll be fine once he gets onto the ice. He skates out and takes his position, while I watch.
The beginning of Yuuri's free skate program represents the time when he felt like he was fighting alone. I very much see that in his facial expression and his opening moves. He looks good proceeding into the quadruple toe loop and triple toe loop combination.
That was a quad-double.
Why is Yuuri changing the jump elements? Is he going to add a triple in the second half? Or…is he ignoring my advice about lowering the difficulty at the beginning and refining the program as the skating season progresses?
He looks so stiff and his face looks a little angry. It's supposed to be the part that represents when I arrived to be his coach. Yuuri has told me so many times what a good thing that was. But, he looks like he didn't like it at all.
What's wrong with him?
He turns and begins his triple salchow…and instead, he does a quad and steps out of the landing.
So he is going back to having three quads in the program and ignoring my advice.
Yuuri…shake that last one off.
His triple loop makes me feel a little lightheaded, but as he moves into the Ina Baur, I can see the signs of fatigue. But he lands the triple axel perfectly. He lands a little awkwardly on his triple flip, but it seems like I'm the only one noticing, because the audience continues to look mesmerized. His next combination has a little hiccup, but the final one is so beautiful, I get a little shiver. He moves into a blindingly lovely step sequence that makes me forget everything else. For just those moments, everything else disappears. I feel a closeness to Yuuri that makes me almost euphoric. This is the reason I dropped everything and came here.
I want to see him like this, and keep seeing him this way, his face so serene and contented, his body moving so sweetly, so seductively. I feel helpless and unable to tear my eyes away. I'm completely under his spell…until he enters the last quad and staggers on the landing, smashing his face into the rink wall.
Yuuri, I told you to make the last jump a triple for the points!
He recovers quickly and performs his last moves perfectly, and applause breaks out around the arena. I have to think of what to do. Most skaters wouldn't rebel against their coaches the way he has. There is an unspoken rule that we are all told as we are trained. Stick to the program. Of course…some deviate.
I wonder who he takes after.
I close my eyes for a moment, and I can almost hear Yakov yelling at me for doing the same thing.
I guess…he takes after me.
I see Yuuri starting to look in my direction, and I know that if it was Yakov and me, it would have been an instant lecture. I've done that as Yuuri's coach, but it's hard to think of scolding him while the crowd is cheering so enthusiastically. Still, as much as grabbing the audience is important, Yuuri will not become a better skater by ignoring me. I have to find a way to express that, so when he looks at me, I cover my face with my hands and shake my head. I can feel him cringe, even though I can't see it. Then, I give him something more. I uncover my face and open my arms to him, still wearing a stern expression. It's the only way I can think of to tell Yuuri that he doesn't have to be perfect, and I am going to scold him, but I am also going to support him. I know that part of the reason that he looks so afraid in times like this, is that he still doesn't understand quite why I came to him. He doesn't know why I stay with him. He only knows that it hurts him to think of me leaving. This is how I tell Yuuri that he can make mistakes, big mistakes, and I will still stay and keep supporting him and believing in him. It's a critical step in building trust between us.
Yuuri reads the gesture, and he grows a helpless smile. He skates towards me, calling out to me. I stay where I am and grin back at him and holding my arms open…then move just in time to avoid the blood that is leaking from his nose that smashed into the wall.
"Oops! Watch the nosebleed!"
Okay, maybe I also did it to get him back a little for ignoring my advice and rebelling like that. Yuuri sits on the floor for a moment, blinking in confusion, then I help him to his feet as his score is announced. It's better than he deserves, so he got lucky with the judging, but I'm still very proud of him, so I hug him tightly.
"I wouldn't have thought you'd score so well after smashing your face into the wall on an ugly jump like that. Thank you for proving to me once again your ability to get such a high PCS score."
Yuuri looks happy as we leave the rink, and because he didn't eat enough before the competition, he's also hungry. We stop at a little café and relax a bit before we go back to the hotel. Yuuri's a little quiet and after our food is served, he gets up the nerve to ask me something.
"Victor, are you mad at me?"
I give him a curious frown.
"Why would I be mad?" I ask him.
"Well, I did just ignore what you said about lowering the difficulty and refining the program."
"And you gave a sloppy performance that affected your score, but still allowed you to win. So, why don't you tell me how that helped you as a skater?"
Yuuri sighs and frowns, giving the matter some thought as our food is delivered and we start eating.
"I was afraid I was going to lose," he admits, "Even though I was far ahead, and even though I knew I should trust you, I was worried that I would score too low if I lowered the difficulty, so I changed it back."
"You were not going to lose."
"How do you know?"
I arch an eyebrow and give him a curious look.
"How do I know? I've seen it over and over. That's how I know. You were leagues ahead of those other skaters, and you were ahead by plenty, going into the free skate. The only thing you had to worry about was your confidence, your faith in yourself, Yuuri."
"Yeah," he sighs, resting his chin on his hand, "I know. You're right. I should have listened to you."
"But you had too little faith in yourself, so when you heard the other skaters talking and supporting each other, you incorrectly assumed that you had something to worry about. Yuuri, this is where your faith in yourself and your ability to connect with other people becomes, not just important, it's critical. Do you know why I told you to support Minami tonight?"
"Eh…I don't know. Good sportsmanship?" he asks.
"That's part of it," I explain, "Another part of it is knowing your exact situation in a competition. You should have known that your ability put you higher than the other skaters in this event, and that should have been able to make you feel relaxed enough to compete in comfort and not worry. It should have allowed you to have fun competing."
"Do you think that's why I had so much fun tonight? Because I supported Minami and felt more connected? Because, I did. I was upset when you said what you did, but I suppose that you had to, because I was acting too nervous and trying not to connect with the other skaters."
I give him a much warmer smile and reach over to lay a hand on the one he's not using for eating.
"For me, part of the joy of being a figure skater is connecting with other skaters who love the sport as much as I do, and focusing on their accomplishments, as well as my own. You asked me why I came to Hasetsu. Well, part of what let me do that is that I looked at you and saw a person who loves skating as much as I do. I saw your love for the sport, and I knew that there was something I could do to help you skate better. I'm not suggesting you should run off to another country every time you see a promising skater, but I am saying that you should try to look at and enjoy your connection with the other people around you. It's a beautiful thing, going onto the ice, wearing a beautiful costume and dancing for everyone. It's also good to feel that you're not alone in loving to do that."
"Yeah, you're right about that."
Yuuri is quiet as we finish eating and go back to the hotel. We shower together, mostly because we're used to bathing together. I don't have to ask before starting to wash his back, but he looks a little surprised and blushes as I wash his hair. And it really gives him a start when I ask him to do the same to me.
"What? You think I'm not tired too, after nearly getting a heart attack from my student ignoring me and smashing his face into a wall during the competition?" I tease him.
Yuuri laughs and some of the nervousness goes away. He accepts the soap from my hands and his touch is gentle and respectful as he bathes me. While his fingers are in my hair, I get a feeling like I really want to turn and kiss him. But I know that Yuuri's not ready for something like that yet.
So, I just close my eyes and lean into his hands, enjoying what he is able to do. The rest can come slowly. It has to happen when we're both ready. After all, I've never loved a man either. I'm nervous too. Even though Yuuri's touch is not sexual, I am blushing.
"Did you fall asleep?" he asks, jolting me a little.
Yuuri smiles and I can't help smiling back at him.
"I'm fine. I was just…thinking."
"About what to do for the next competition?" he asks.
No, I was thinking about us being lovers someday.
"Yes," I lie, "I was thinking about that."
Yuuri, you are reaching a place inside my heart that hasn't ever been touched.
Now, I'm the one who feels a little afraid.
Chapter 9: Shifting Tides
Victor falls deeper into love with Yuuri.
(Inspired by "Rewrite the Stars")
I think Yuuri and I both feel more relaxed as we return home from the first competition. Not only is Yuuri now fully qualified for his run at the Grand Prix series, we also have a picture of where we are, as coach and student. There are things both of us must do to hold up our end of this relationship. As much as it's Yuuri's task to improve in his execution of the program elements, it's my job to see what goes well and to make adjustments that are likely to earn him higher scores.
I know that Yuuri is capable of scoring at or near my level. He's not ready to hear that yet. He would never believe it, but that much I know, without question, just by watching his performance in the viral video that brought me here. Yes, I want to bring out that skater he can be. Right now, he only performs that well when there is no pressure, no expectation. I need to help Yuuri be able to do the same thing under the lights of the filled arena, with all of the noise and stress of competition. It is an ambitious task, but at the end, figure skating will have a new Katsuki Yuuri, one who everyone will see is capable of standing as my equal.
But first…a dip in the hot spring.
"So, uh, I have to go to the interview tomorrow to reveal my theme for this season," Yuuri reminds me as we undress and slide into the hot water.
I forgot about that.
"You forgot, didn't you?" he says, giving me a disapproving look.
"Sorry, I was focused on the competition. We barely got home from that. I would have remembered."
"I'm kind of nervous about it," he confesses, looking up at the darkening sky.
"Because I won't be there?" I ask, smiling at him, "You've got nothing to worry about. You hold up your card and you tell them. It's not like a competition. There's no challenge there."
"What if I look stupid?"
"What are you talking about?"
Yuuri's so funny sometimes.
"Yuuri, after your performance at the last competition, I think everyone knows that you are going to be a top contender this year."
"Oh yeah?" he says, looking at me skeptically, "Then why did you scold me so much after the short program? And I know you wanted to after the free skate too."
"You deserved it."
"Yeah, I guess so."
"I scold you because I'm your coach and it's my job to challenge you," I explain, "I know you're capable of more, so I'm going to go after you to deliver that. The audience only knows you from what they have seen. I just see more than they do, because I am a top competitor. I know what to look for."
"Eh, I guess that makes sense."
"Of course it does. I'm very sensible," I remind him.
"As long as you're not drinking."
"That reminds me. Do you want to go out for drinks after this?"
"No!" Yuuri snaps, glaring at me like I should have known how he would answer.
I give him a questioning look.
"I have the interview tomorrow, out of town?" he says impatiently.
"Right," I agree.
"You forgot again already?" he complains, "Are you even going to remember to watch it?"
"Of course!" I laugh, "I'm having lunch with your parents, Mari, Minako, Yuko, Takeshi and your new friend from the competition."
"What? Minami is coming here?" Yuuri asks, looking surprised.
"I invited him on your behalf."
"Well, you did such a good job motivating him, he scored personal bests in his programs. He looks promising. And he worships the ground you walk on. You should be nice to him."
"Uh, okay, if you think it's important."
"Yes," I say firmly.
Yuuri needs to make stronger connections with his peers.
"It is important for you to acknowledge the respect given to you by other skaters and by your fans. As more people come to know you and to support and follow your career, you need to acknowledge them. You wouldn't be able to do what you're doing…to do what you love, if it wasn't for your fellow skaters and your fans."
Yuuri thinks about that for a moment, and I can feel new understanding growing inside him.
"You're right. I wasn't thinking about that before. I was kind of shocked and upset when you scolded me for not doing that. I guess it was because I never really thought about it. I was so focused on myself, on trying to calm myself for the competition, I didn't see how it was upsetting Minami when I ignored him. It's kind of like…by ignoring him, I was sabotaging both him and me."
"It's good you see that," I say approvingly, "I'm sorry that it was a painful lesson."
"That wasn't your fault," Yuuri says, lowering his eyes.
God, I love the way he blushes!
"I needed to hear what you said. I'll never get better if you don't point out my shortcomings and I don't fix them. I was angry at you, but…"
"But I shouldn't have been. You wouldn't have said what you did unless I needed to hear it. You weren't trying to hurt me, Victor."
"I came on a little strong. I do that sometimes," I admit, "Maybe a lot of the time."
Yuuri gives me a really cute smile.
"Well, I did tell you I wanted you to be who you are."
I am the person who is enchanted by you.
I am the person who is falling in love with you.
I wonder how long it will take for you to realize that, Yuuri.
"Victor, will you tell me something?"
"Do you miss it?"
I don't have to ask what he means. I can't answer right away. It takes a little bit of thinking before I can verbalize what I'm feeling.
"Sometimes," I confess, watching his expression carefully as I answer, "But, there are reasons I am here with you and not competing. I was losing my inspiration."
Yuuri's smile is so warm.
"And you found some here?"
"Right here," I say, slipping an arm around him, "It's kind of like helping you is helping me."
"I'm not sure of the best way to explain. Before I came to you, I was putting together routines. I was planning to continue, but I knew that something wasn't right. It ate away at me every time I went onto the ice to practice. I thought about it when I was supposed to be sleeping. I drank a lot to try not to think about it. But, I knew. More and more, lately, everyone has started to question whether I would retire. It's not about my performances. My scores are high and I am achieving. But, we all know it's a matter of time. People just seem to be pointing it out more every year."
"I hear that," Yuuri sighs.
All of a sudden, it hits me that Yuuri is leaning against me. He really doesn't usually do that. I'm always the one who initiates us touching in whatever way. There's a tickling feeling in my belly and my face feels even hotter than the water of the hot spring usually makes it.
And Yuuri seems completely, adorably oblivious…
"Do you think any of them realize what it does to a person's confidence when they hear other people talking about that?"
I capture his hand and give it a squeeze.
"You have to make yourself ignore that. It's just that the newsman need something to talk about."
Yuuri sighs and rests his face against mine.
"It's like, I had just bombed in the Grand Prix Finals. I didn't need anyone to remind me how badly I did. But every news outlet was speculating that I was going to retire…and that maybe I should."
I turn my head. Our lips are almost touching and I am aching all over, wanting to kiss him.
"You are going to surprise them," I assure him, "When you compete in the China Cup, you are going shock the life out of them. And all of the people who doubted you are going to instead applaud you."
"You sound so sure of that," he says more softly, "But, how do you really know?"
"I have faith in you, Yuuri," I answer, compromising with myself, by giving him a little peck on the cheek.
That should be all right, shouldn't it? It's not too much.
"You should have more faith in yourself."
"Everyone's always telling me that," he complains.
I want to cry as he turns his head away to look up into the stars above us.
"You're doing well," I compliment him, "You had the confidence to produce your own free skate program, and you have begun to share that confidence with other skaters. That is also going to give you more support as you compete."
"I didn't think about it before, because I was so caught up in how anxious I always felt, but I do have a lot of support, don't I? Mom, Dad and Mari…Minako, Yu-chan and Takeshi, and now Minami."
"And…?" I prompt him, "Did you forget me, Yuuri?"
"No," he laughs, "Of course, you. I was getting to you."
He sighs and leans against me again.
"It doesn't feel so scary when I think about that."
"That's right. Feeling the love that comes from other people around you will help you to have more faith in yourself. That should help you feel less anxious."
We get quiet again. I know we should be getting to bed soon, but I really just want to stay here with him leaned against me like this all night. I can't make myself move, so I just wait until Yuuri straightens and yawns.
"We should get some sleep," he suggests.
"Mmhmm," I mumble.
I am already half asleep, but somehow I know I won't be able to sleep when I go to my room. Still, I drag myself out of the water. I feel a strange heaviness in my body and my heart as we dry off and each head to our separate rooms. I want to try to sleep, but it feels like my nose keeps catching bits of his scent, and I want to breathe it more deeply. And every time I think about him suddenly leaning up against me, I have that little tickle in my stomach. I feel happy and sad at the same time, and I want to think of a reason, any reason, for him to come and sleep next to me.
I watch Yuuri's door close behind him, and I stand in the hallway, looking at that closed door.
"Are you all right, Vic-chan?" Yuuri's mother asks as she enters the hallway and sees me standing there, "Are you hungry? I can make you something."
I'm starving, but not for food. I could go out and drink. I've been doing a lot of that. The last thing I need is to stuff my stomach just because my heart is hungry, but…damn it, they do make the best pork cutlet bowl anywhere.
"Do you mind?" I ask, "I know it's late."
"Of course, Vic-chan! You want a pork cutlet bowl, right?" she laughs, giggling like it's her absolute pleasure to be inconvenienced in the middle of the night to cook for someone.
I follow her into the kitchen and she gives me a curious look.
"Will you show me how you make them?" I ask, suddenly feeling an ache in my chest, "You see, I have to know how, because I will probably not be able to find a good one when I go back to Russia."
She looks at me like I just said the cutest thing ever.
Why the hell do I feel sad?
I do miss Saint Petersburg and I do miss training and competing, but I'm in a wonderful place and it makes me sad to think of leaving. Still, it's months before I have to worry about that. I have a lot of time with Yuuri and his family ahead of me. Why am I thinking of things that are far away?
It's hard, but I put my focus on Hiroko and I listen and watch carefully as she guides me through the process. I catch on pretty quickly, because even though I usually don't have the time, I can cook for myself. I'm just lazy. I work hard all day and I don't want to stand on aching feet, cooking for myself, when I get home.
"You know, you look like something is bothering you, Vic-chan," Hiroko notices, "Do you feel like talking about it?"
I give her a charming smile.
"Time is moving quickly," I say, watching the pork cutlet sizzle in the oil, "The season will move pretty fast once it starts."
"Are you worried about Yuuri?" she asks, "He did great in the competition this time, didn't he?"
"He did very well," I agree, "I'm not worried about that. Yuuri is coming along fine. I think I'm just worried I'll starve when I go home, because I've gotten so spoiled with all of the delicious food and nice people here. Yuuri is really lucky."
Hiroko gives me a sympathetic look.
"You know, you can still come here to visit us anytime you want, Vic-chan. Everyone here loves you."
Was that supposed to make me feel better or worse? I don't get moody. What is wrong with me?
"Thank you. I'm sure that I will come to visit. Takeshi already told me that I can practice at Ice Castle Hasetsu anytime, even once I go back, so that will make it easy for me to visit in the off season."
We carefully avoid talk about my future as Yuuri's coach.
Hiroko and I finish the pork cutlet bowl and she sits down at the table with me, keeping me company as I eat. I am only a few bites in when I hear Yuuri's footsteps approaching. He appears in the doorway and looks covetously at the pork cutlet bowl.
"Are you having trouble sleeping too?" I ask him.
"Want me to make you a pork cutlet bowl too?" his mother asks.
"It's okay," I laugh, "Yuuri can share mine."
Yuuri looks happy at the prospect, but then he gets a little frown on his face.
"What is it?" Hiroko asks him.
"W-well," Yuuri says, glancing at me, "I'm supposed to get a whole pork cutlet bowl if I make the podium, so…"
I give him a nod.
"So, this means that I'll share another pork cutlet bowl with you later," I offer, patting the pillow beside mine.
"Okay," he says, kneeling beside me and picking up a set of chopsticks.
"Don't take more than half," I tease him as we begin to do battle with our chopsticks, "You're still in training."
"Then, I should be able to eat more, not less…if I'm burning a lot of calories in training."
"I'm burning calories training and thinking," I joke, "Hey, I wanted that piece!"
Yuuri laughs and holds it in his mouth teasingly. Our eyes lock for a moment, and I feel myself starting to lean forward. But just when it seems he'll let me take the bite from between his lips, he blushes and snaps the piece into his mouth, then he blushes and grins at me.
"Oh, that wasn't nice," I complain, "to tease me like that."
Neither of us notice Hiroko leaving the room.
I don't think I've ever had so much fun eating a meal. We keep crossing our chopsticks and laughing too much while we try to eat. We make a mess on the table, but pretty soon the bowl is empty and Yuuri and I are left kind of smiling at each other.
"Are you going to be able to go to sleep now?" he asks.
"How did you know I was having trouble sleeping?" I ask.
"Well, you had dinner already and we soaked in the hot spring. Usually, you wouldn't be hungry again after that unless you were having trouble falling asleep and your stomach started growling. I'm just surprised you didn't go out drinking or something, like you usually do when you can't sleep."
"This is more fun," I tell him.
His blush gets darker.
"I had fun too," he admits.
"Are you going to be able to sleep, Yuuri?"
"You can come into my room and we can talk about our plans for the China Cup until we're both sleepy. How's that?"
His eyes narrow and he starts to say something.
"I know, I know," I sigh, "I'll wear pajamas…bottom half only, though. I get too sweaty if I wear pajamas on top."
We clean up and walk back to my room, where we lie in my bed, side-by-side and talk about the China Cup. Eventually, Yuuri gets sleepy and heads off to bed. I wait until I'm sure he's gone to sleep, then I steal the pillow he was resting on and switch it with mine. Maccachin comes in and climbs up with me, so I hug him and lie there, breathing in Yuuri's scent from the pillow.
It's still awhile before I fall asleep, and when I do, Yuuri is there, skating in my dreams.
I love you, Yuuri.
Don't take too long to love me back, okay?
Chapter 10: Opening Blossom
Yuuri and his family take care of Victor when he catches the flu.
(Inspired by the Westlife cover of "The Rose")
There are times when I am sleeping that I'll be dreaming, and right in the middle of all, I suddenly realize I'm just dreaming. Sometimes it's good, because the dream isn't such a good one. But this time, when it happens, it's crushing, because the dream I have is so beautiful.
I find myself walking into an empty arena that's perfectly quiet. The only sound is my own footsteps as I walk to the edge of the ice and remove my blade covers. I step onto the ice and skate out to the middle, where I stand by myself, waiting for my music to begin. The music starts, and I'm confused, because it isn't the music that I was expecting. But even though the music isn't what I expected, strangely, I know exactly how to dance to it. I close my eyes and I feel my legs moving, and it's like all of the weight has left my body. There is the most wonderful sensation like flying. I enter a spin, and while I'm still turning, I hear another skater approaching. I come out of the spin, and I feel a hand take hold of mine.
I feel, even before I open my eyes, that this person is an angel. And when I look to see, I'm not disappointed. Everything about him is breathtaking. From is fluttering hair to adoring brown eyes, a smile that makes me feel warm all over. Even more enchanting is the way he moves, like he knows every step I'll take before I begin, like everything in my mind and in my heart is an open book, and we're reading the pages together. We move in harmony and sometimes in counterpoint, and through it all, the music just seems to flow out of our dancing bodies. There seems no weight at all to him when I lift him up, over my head and we continue in a slow spiral, then I let him down and we turn together.
I never, ever want this dream to end.
I didn't see his lips move.
"Victor, it's late for you to still be sleeping."
Someone's hand touches my face and it feels so cold that it makes me shiver.
"Victor, are you all right?"
I try to open my eyes, but they feel heavy, and my head aches and throbs.
Did I just make that awful sound?
"You're really hot, Victor!"
God, I wish that meant something else.
My body feels like there are weights all over it.
"Don't try to get up, Victor. Doctor Nakano comes here every morning before work to soak in the hot spring. I'll go and bring him."
Maccachin whines, and I'm sure it isn't that loud, but it echoes and makes my head hurt more. I push him away when he tries to lick my face.
"Ugh, not now, M-macca."
My voice sounds strange and my throat feels sore and dry.
Can I just go back to that dream? That felt a lot better than this.
It feels like I have sand under my eyelids and the throbbing in my head is getting worse. It's so cold I can't stop shivering. I try, but I can't remember that last time I even had a cold. I don't get sick.
I hear Yuuri coming back, and he's speaking urgently in Japanese and being answered in the same. He enters the room alongside an old man who I know I've seen here a lot of times.
Why isn't Yuuri…?
"F-for god's sake, Yuuri," I scold him, with my teeth chattering, "put on a damned s-surgical mask! D-do you think you c-can risk getting sick so c-close to the China Cup?"
"Oh, right," he says, turning out of the room and leaving me with the old doctor.
It's probably already too late and he's been exposed.
"All right, Victor, let's have a look at you," the doctor says in a thick accent as he puts a thermometer in my mouth, "Can you tell me when you started to feel bad?"
"I was f-fine when I went to sleep a few hours ago," I tell him, glancing at the clock, "I didn't know anything was wrong until Yuuri j-just woke me up."
The thermometer beeps and he takes it out of my mouth and studies it for a moment.
"You've got a pretty high fever and it looks like you've got some chills. Do you hurt anywhere?"
"Everywhere. I have an awful headache and my throat is scratchy."
The doctor smiles sympathetically.
"Looks like you have the flu."
"Will you tell Yuuri not to come back? And tell him to wash his hands. He touched my face before."
"Don't you worry about a thing, Victor. We'll take care of you and look out for Yuuri. What I want you to do is let your friends here spoil you."
I give the guy a weak smile.
"That's all they do here is spoil me."
We start to laugh and it makes me cough, then everything hurts more. Hiroko scurries into the room with hot tea, soup and some cool water.
"Rest as much as you can," the doctor goes on, "and drink lots of fluids."
I know my hands are too shaky for me to be picking up the tea or eating soup, so I try the water instead, but I only manage a little before groaning and setting it back down.
"Maybe in a little while," Hiroko says sympathetically.
The doctor talks to her for a moment in Japanese, then he smiles at me and straightens.
"You'll probably feel pretty bad for a day or two. If your chills are keeping you from sleeping, you can have Hiroko whip up my special cure for you."
"What's that?" I ask him.
"Hot water, a bit of lemon…"
He leans closer and gives me a cheerful smile and a wink.
"And a couple tablespoons of good whiskey," he chuckles.
"I've got that!" Hiroko says, dashing out of the room again.
The doctor leaves and Yuuri comes back into the room and sits down in a chair by the bed.
"Idiot," I complain, "You should stay away from me and you should be down at the ice rink, working. We only have a few more weeks of t-training."
He gives me that stubborn look that usually means he's going to ignore anything I tell him.
"I'm going to help take care of you."
I groan and roll over so I'm facing away from him.
"Get out, Yuuri. I don't want you to get sick."
He gives me a petulant scowl and ignores me while he fishes a soft t-shirt out of my drawer and helps me put it on.
"Wash your hands after touching me and don't touch your…"
"I know. I know," he says impatiently, "Stop grouching at me so much."
"I can't help it. I feel terrible," I complain, "and I'll feel even worse if I give it to you."
"I'm probably already exposed, and I'm wearing a mask now," he assures me, "I'll wash my hands and I won't touch my eyes, nose or mouth. Victor, I know how to try to keep from getting the flu. Just try to go to sleep and let Mom, Mari and me take care of you."
He untangles the sheet and blanket and smoothes them over me, then I feel his hand start rubbing my back comfortingly.
Oh, that feels good.
I peek over my shoulder and Yuuri gives me a cute little smile, then I curl up around my pillow and close my eyes while Yuuri continues to rub my back. I perk up again when Hiroko arrives with Doctor Nakano's cure.
"You want to just bring the bottle of whiskey?" I ask her, making her laugh as Yuuri takes the cup from her and dribbles the hot liquid carefully into my mouth.
For feeling like hell, I'm starting to feel pretty good.
"A few tablespoons is all you get," Yuuri says firmly, "Drinking too much alcohol when you have the flu will make you dehydrated. You get just a little bit to make you feel calm and warm so you can sleep."
I'm too sleepy to argue, so I curl around my pillow again and close my eyes. Yuuri climbs onto the other side of the bed and sits on the covers, listening to music through one earbud, while reading. I'm asleep in minutes, but I wake up again later, feeling hot and kicking off the covers.
"You shouldn't do that," Yuuri says, trying to cover me again.
"I'm too hot and I feel dizzy."
"Okay, just the sheet, then," he says, patiently pulling that over me.
"My clothes are all sweaty," I complain, "I feel itchy."
"I'll get you something else to wear."
"I don't like wearing clothes to bed."
"Well, Mom and Mari are helping to take care of you, and even though you feel hot, you should have something light on you. In five minutes, you'll probably be shivering again."
"Ugh! You're mean, Yuuri."
"Shh," he says soothingly, "try this."
He spoons some crushed ice into my mouth and it feels really good.
"Oh, more of that."
I take another few mouthfuls of ice chips, then go back to sleep for longer this time. The next time I wake up, I can tell it's late at night and my chills and headache are back. Doctor Nakano is there, too, and I hear the Japanese word for hospital.
"N-no, Yuuri!" I complain, "I don't want to go there."
"Calm down. It's okay," he says, rubbing my back some more, "He was only saying if it seems like you're getting dehydrated, we should think about it."
"I'll drink whatever you give me," I groan, "just don't take me there, okay? I hate hospitals…and hospital food…and needles."
I pause and sneak a glance at Yuuri's worried face.
"The nurses, I don't mind so much, as long as they're not the grouchy ones."
"Victor!" Yuuri snaps, looking offended.
"I was kidding," I laugh, squeezing his hand that's holding mine, "You're the only nurse I want taking care of me."
Now, he blushes and I hear Hiroko giggling.
"Yuuri, I need to go to the bathroom. Can you help me?"
He wraps a steadying arm around me and helps me onto shaky legs. My head spins a little as I get up and I have to lean against him most of the way. He leaves for a moment, then comes back with fresh pajamas and helps me change.
"No, wait. Can I have a little shower? I still feel itchy."
"Can you stand up that long?" Yuuri asks.
"I can if you help me."
He blushes a little, but he doesn't object. Instead, he starts the water running and helps me out of my clothes. I step in under the spray and it feels so good that I want to fall asleep there. Yuuri steps in with me and lets me lean against him while he bathes me. I'd enjoy it more if I wasn't feeling so weak and dizzy, but because I am, Yuuri doesn't complain when I cling to him and put my head on his shoulder.
"Victor is such a baby when he's sick," Yuuri laughs.
"Don't be mean, Yuuri."
"It's not mean," he says, looking amused, "Babies are cute."
I'd grouch at him more, but it's good to see him smiling and his hands feel wonderful when he touches me. I feel much, much better as we get out of the shower and he dries me off and helps me dress.
When we get back to the bedroom, it's empty and the bedding has been changed. There are also a lot of vases full of fresh flowers with cards attached to them.
He gives me a sweet smile.
"When people heard you were sick, they sent flowers to cheer you up. You weren't feeling well enough to be cheered up by them, but it cheered me up to look at them. I already sent thanks for you."
"Thank you, Yuuri."
I sink down under the covers, sighing at how good it feels as I curl up around my pillow, already starting to drift off. I feel Yuuri slip into bed with me, and I want to complain he shouldn't do that, because I don't want to get him sick too.
"It's okay," he says into my ear, "You don't have a fever anymore. Go to sleep, Victor."
I turn over, grinning as I flop onto his chest.
"Then, you don't mind if I do this?" I ask.
It surprises me when he wraps an arm around me and puts his fingers in my hair. He smells really good.
"I don't like it when Victor is sick."
"Because I act like a baby?" I ask, snuggling closer to him.
"Because it makes me scared."
"I'm fine now, Yuuri. I had the best nurse in the world."
He's laughing as he says my name.
"I think you scared that flu bug away."
"Go to sleep," he chides me, "Victor still needs lots of rest."
"I'll rest as long as you stay close to me," I tell him, closing my eyes.
"I'm not going anywhere."
True to his word, Yuuri stays with me all night. In the morning, I'm still a little weak, but I feel good enough to get out of bed. I start to dress to go to the ice rink, but Hiroko and Mari won't let me out of the house. Instead, they send me to have a soak in the hot spring. When I get out, I find Yuuri's already gone to Ice Castle Hasetsu and Hiroko and Toshiya keep me distracted with all of the delicious food they can stuff into me. I feel like it's been a week since I ate anything! Macca sticks to me like glue while Yuuri is gone and I spend time reading all of the cards that came with the flowers and listening to music. Minako drops by and we talk for awhile, until Yuuri returns from practice.
His cheeks are still a little pink from the cold air, and his hair is messy. He plops down on the other side of the bed and picks up a magazine I was reading to pass the time.
"How did your practice go? Did you fix your quad salchow?"
"Mmmm, it was better."
"I landed all of the other jumps just fine, and I improved my timing on the spins in my short program."
"That's good. We'll work on the salchow tomorrow."
"Are you sure you'll be…"
"I'll be fine," I tell him shortly, "I've laid around enough."
He gets quiet for a moment, and I wonder if I offended him. I look over at him, watching as his fingers play with the edges of the magazine he's holding.
"Victor, when you get sick in Russia, who takes care of you?" he asks.
"What a funny question," I comment.
"You live alone, right?"
"Yes, I do."
"Who takes care of you?" he asks again.
"I take care of myself, Yuuri. Or, if he's not too busy, Yakov comes over and he complains at me while he makes me soup and something like Doctor Nakano's cure, but with more alcohol."
"Why did you ask me that? Did you think I have a team of doctors standing by when I get a sniffle?" I tease him.
He looks a little uncomfortable and I can tell he's struggling to find the right words to say something to me. He has these awkward moments, more and more now as he's opening up with me. It's actually a good development, but I wish I knew what he's thinking.
"Do your parents live far away from you? Aren't they able to come?" he asks.
"They live near Moscow, so it's pretty far to come for a sniffle. They did come when I fell in practice once and got a concussion. I was in the hospital overnight."
"I remember reading about that."
"Yuuri, why are you so worried about this?" I ask him, "I'm fine now, and I hardly ever get sick anyway. And besides, it's a long time before I'll go back to Russia. I'm right here with your family, and they already take care of me. And I have you."
He gets quiet again and his eyes sparkle. His lips tremble a little and then the words tumble out all at once.
"If, when you go back to Russia, you get sick…I'll come and take care of you again!" he shouts.
I think I just melted.
Yuuri's so cute!
I give him a big smile and a tight hug.
"You have a deal!" I shout back, "But be careful, I might be tempted to get sick a lot, just to get Yuuri to come and see me."
"Relax, I was kidding."
I don't want to leave you and you don't want me to go. There are still a few months left to the skating season, but we're feeling it already. I knew where I was mentally and emotionally, but I wasn't sure where he was. Now I know.
Yuuri is definitely starting to realize he has pretty deep feelings for me…and he doesn't know yet what to do with that.
There was a time when I was like that too.
Chapter 11: Loving with the Soul
As the China Cup approaches, Victor struggles with his longings for a closer physical relationship with Yuuri.
As Yuuri and I begin to close in on the day when we’ll leave for Beijing and the China Cup, our training becomes more intense. I nitpick constantly, and Yuuri snaps at me, although he never fails to do what I ask. Minako was right when she told me that Yuuri is hardworking. He throws everything in and I make sure that when he is finished, I check his feet for blisters and give them a good massage before we soak in the hot spring together. I was worried earlier on that my constant nagging would distance him from me, but he seems to have taken to heart when I told him that not letting him off easy was my way of showing him my love.
Yuuri is exhausted at the end of the day, and he usually goes off to his room to wind down and fall asleep after dinner. Because I don’t burn as much energy coaching him, and probably because I love the new freedom I have, here in Hasetsu, I set out for clubs on some nights where I try out as many different types of food and drink as I possibly can. I don’t think there’s anyone in this town who doesn’t know who I am, so there is always someone to talk and laugh with, or to dance with.
Unfortunately, being with Yuuri all day in such a close, but completely platonic way leaves me wanting some physical connection. So, I dance at the clubs with whoever is there. There are, of course, moments when I’m feeling a longing to be held and loved, times when I have to avoid meeting the eyes of the person I’m dancing with, because plenty of them would be perfectly willing to sleep with me. Now, it might not exactly be wrong if it was just the case that I was training Yuuri and there was nothing romantic between us. But, Yuuri and I are in this unusual place…one where there isn’t anything overt between us, but there is a lot going on that does not require the use of words or much thinking to define. I know when he looks at me, that Yuuri loves me. It’s not physical love, and I don’t really know if it will be. What I do know is that it would hurt Yuuri if he heard that I was giving my physical love to someone else. He never says anything like that, but I feel in his hands when we do come into physical contact…like when I was so sick and he held me in his arms after to help me sleep. Yuuri is giving me the love he is capable of giving me. If I want to reach the point where he will have sex with me, then I need to invest in our relationship and not kindle others.
Still, it’s hard sometimes to be dancing with a lovely woman and to have the knowledge that all it would take would be one certain smile and a look in my eyes and I could slake my thirst for physical love. I used to drink at that fountain a lot when I was younger. Of course, I knew most times it would never be for more than one night and I knew very well it was wrong, but I get lonely. And right now, even though Yuuri is easily fulfilling my desires as far as growing into a genuine challenge for me on the ice, we are in this strange place as just regular people. We love each other, but there is a barrier we haven’t crossed. I can see him clearly, but we can’t seem to connect that way.
So, I resort to the one thing that eases that longing, that loneliness. I started drinking while I was still underage, and it’s where I go when I get lonely. It makes things numb and distorted, so that I can relax. When I’m drinking, I can smile and laugh easily like nothing is wrong. I can even fool myself for awhile into thinking that. If Yuuri’s with me, it also gives me an excuse to be pretty free with my hands. I can cling and hug him a lot and he doesn’t complain. He just kind of rolls his eyes and puts up with me. I know it’s not great for my body, but I’m not competing right now, and I really need the relief.
“You look kind of tired. Do you want to go to my place for a nightcap?” asks the girl I’m dancing with.
As is the case on most nights, Yuuri isn’t with me. But…at the same time, I feel a little bit like he is.
I do look into her eyes with genuine gratitude, but I give my head a little shake and keep dancing. When the song ends, I sit down and drink a little more before going back out to dance with a new partner. I go home in the early morning and only sleep for a couple of hours before waking and starting all over again.
Strangely, even though I barely sleep, I perk up immediately when I reach the ice rink. Yuuri is always a little later than me, so I have a bit of time each day to stretch and do some of my own practice. I haven’t said anything to Yuuri yet, but I have started to put together programs for next year. Yes, this time with him has been just the inspiration I needed to wake up and start creating again. I even have an idea about what kind of music I want. God, just being here and knowing he is on his way to meet me, knowing we will have another full day together makes me so energetic and happy. It’s easy to think of new things as I wait for him to arrive.
And I feel a sudden urge to try something I never have before.
It’s a well-known fact that I love to surprise people, and I’d been having trouble thinking of a way to do that. Working with Yuuri so much on jumps got me into the mood to try a new jump myself. It’s not one I should be trying for the first time without a coach and probably a training harness, but damn it, I’m Victor Nikiforov and I want to try it, so…
I look around to make good and sure that I’m alone, then I start with the triple axle. I land it easily, but I do it a few times to get up my nerve. When I feel ready, I take a deep breath and start building speed. I turn and get ready to jump, but as I rise into the air, I see Yuuri about to step onto the ice. I try to dial the quad back to a triple, but over rotate and crash down onto the ice. I’m unhurt and on my feet again almost immediately, but the damage is done. Yuuri is looking at me with the oddest expression…like he’s never seen me fall and can’t quite believe I did. We look at each other for a moment and I narrow my eyes, silently warning him not to say a word about what he saw.
“Good morning, Victor,” he greets me, a little stiffly.
Holding back his obvious question like that has to be killing him, but he forces himself not to ask what exactly he just witnessed. So…for all intents and purposes, I did not, in fact, try a quadruple axle for the first time, stupidly without my coach or proper gear. Of course not. That would be crazy.
“Good morning, Yuuri. You look well rested. That’s good. Let’s warm up together.”
We have a routine that we do together every day, then I have him step off of the ice and I check his flexibility and add a few extra stretches if he needs them. He’s nice and limber this morning, so we get started right away.
“Let’s start where we left off yesterday,” I tell him, “In the long program, I want to see the two mid-program combinations again. You were over rotating on the toe loop after the single loop. We need to focus on that.”
“Sorry,” he apologizes, “I think I was just tired when we were working on that part yesterday.”
“Okay, so let’s just start by having you run through the whole free skate and see how it goes.”
“Okay,” he agrees, moving out to take his place.
I watch closely from rinkside, noting several places where he misses a landing or wobbles. When he finishes, I start nitpicking and he loses the smile he came in with. It’s okay, it’s just how we are when he trains. It’s nothing personal.
“You’re still over rotating on the quad salchow and the toe loop at the…”
“…the end of the combination,” he sighs, scowling, “I know.”
“Again, from the quad salchow. And if you miss the landing, don’t go on to the combination. Start again.”
What takes place next is a constant replay of Yuuri missing that same landing and having to repeat the damned quad salchow. He improves his success rate a bit, which is encouraging. I don’t expect perfection. It’s early in the skating season, so there is time to continue refining thing as we go along. But I keep him going until he’s obviously tired, then I turn on something slow and take his hand, pulling him into a nice, relaxing ice dance. He’s too tired to object, and besides, I think this is the part of our training that we both enjoy. I started putting in the slow ice dance as a way to relax Yuuri and connect with him while we were still getting to know one another. Now, it’s an easy way to wind down a little, and we can talk while we’re skating together.
“Sorry,” he apologizes, “I’m really trying to get that salchow down. I know you still think we should take it out, but…”
“But you said that you wanted to keep it, so I’m going to give you every chance to make the jump successfully,” I assure him, “Yuuri, I am your coach, but you have the last word on your program. You need to be thinking about what feels right to you. I will tell you when I think your judgment might be off, but when it comes right down to it, you are the one dancing the program, not me. As you showed me at the block championships, I don’t control what happens once your music starts. You need to trust yourself. If what we planned works, you need to stick to that, but if something feels different or goes wrong, you need to be able to reassess and adjust while you skate.”
“Right,” he sighs, closing his eyes and letting me lead him, “I’m trying.”
“Maybe we should practice what you can do if you flub certain jumps. It’s good to have a plan.”
“Sounds good to me,” he agrees, “Let’s do that.”
“In a minute, when this song is over.”
We spend the next hour going over the different places in his programs where things could go awry and making plans for what to do, then practicing those situations. We finish with some last run-throughs of his short program and free skate.
“That was almost perfect,” I compliment him after the short program. I want you to do it one more time, but I want to see you working harder to seduce me. The way you did it before, it looked like you knew how easy it is to keep my attention. While it’s pretty easy here, in privacy and with no audience, I’m still going to want you that focused while you are in the arena with all of that noise and cheering going on.”
I can hear in his voice that he’s already nervous. I take his hands in mine and look into his eyes.
“You can do this, Yuuri,” I say reassuringly, “You’ve worked hard and you have improved greatly since I arrived in Hasetsu. You will do well in Beijing. I know you will. You need to believe that too, all right?”
He still looks unsure, but he takes a little breath and smiles at me.
I start to let go of his hands, but he holds on a little longer, looking at me with a lost expression.
“Yes, Yuuri, what is it?” I ask him.
“Victor, are you going out tonight?” he asks.
“I’m not sure,” I answer honestly, “Why do you ask?”
He bites at his lip and he has to work to force the next words out.
“Could you not go out tonight?” he asks, “Do you think that you could just…stay home with me?”
I give him a questioning look, inviting him to explain.
“We’re leaving for Beijing in just a couple more days,” he says, looking down at his hands, “and I’m already feeling pretty anxious. I don’t know if there’s anything specific that I want to do, but being with you…in a quiet place…that makes me feel more comfortable, you know?”
He takes a shaky breath.
“So, do you mind?”
“Not at all,” I answer, giving him a warm smile, “I haven’t been sleeping well this week, myself (It’s mostly his fault since I’ve just been hanging out at bars and clubs to drink away my longing for him, but I won’t tell him that.).”
“Well, it’s not just going to be your return to the Grand Prix Series. It’s also my first time in the series as a coach. I want to do well.”
Yuuri gives me the cutest smile.
“You’re a great coach, Victor. I’ve learned so much from you.”
“I’ve seen,” I tell him, “You are ready for this challenge, Yuuri. I know that you’ve been questioning that, but you don’t need to worry. Your short program is nearly perfected, and we can improve your free skate as we go. It will be all right, I promise you.”
“Yeah,” he sighs, “as long as my nerves don’t…”
“Look at me,” I say, squeezing his hands that I suddenly realize I’m still holding, “You can do this, Yuuri. I know you were anxious before, and if you get that way again, just remember that I’m here. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe that you could do this. I know you get anxious, but you performed very well in the block championships and you belong in this competition. You’ve earned it with both your talent and your hard work. Now, if you want to spend a quiet evening with me, we’ll do that…whatever it takes to make you feel ready for the competition, okay?”
“Okay,” he says, and his smile gets brighter, “Thank you, Victor.”
We head back to Yutopia Katsuki, where we soak in the hot spring, then I have a big dinner, while Yuuri sticks to his training diet. I’m sleepy after, so we go to my room and settle down on the bed, where we replay video of my past programs and his, talking about the details that relate to the programs he is skating this season. By the time we’re done with that, I’m starting to nod off. I climb in under the covers and turn off the TV. Yuuri gives me a curious look for a moment, then he climbs under the covers with me.
I have to take slow, deep breaths and work to convince myself that just happened. I know he’s nervous and looking for comfort. That’s fine by me, because just holding Yuuri while we sleep is such heaven to my contact starved body. I turn to face him, snuggling up beside him and admiring the little blush that puts on his face. I don’t have to say anything. I just lie there holding him and I let myself fall asleep that way. I sleep longer than I have on any night since I first arrived in Hasetsu, and when I wake, I find Yuuri still sleeping in my arms, and his face very close to mine.
The new couple of days are just like this one. The time seems to fly, and all too soon, our bags are packed and I’m hugging poor Maccachin and saying goodbye.
“You be good,” I tell him, hugging him and tugging on his fur gently, “and don’t steal too many pork buns, little glutton.”
“C’mon, Victor!” Yuuri calls impatiently, “We’re going to miss the plane if we don’t go soon.”
It’s hard to say goodbye to Yutopia Katsuki. I’m so in love with Yuuri’s family, the food and the hot spring, but there is important work to do in China, so we hurry off to the airport and get on the plane just in time.
“It’s been a long time since I flew in coach,” I muse, looking around as we reach cruising altitude, “Do you have to ask for the champagne?”
“Let’s just try to get a little sleep, okay?” Yuuri chuckles.
“Okay, but how can you sleep in these tiny little seats?” I whisper.
I solve the problem in the best possible way…by turning my body and resting against Yuuri. He’s so warm and he smells so good, I drift right off to sleep. Some hours later, we touch down in Beijing and deplane, then we grab our luggage and head for the hotel. It’s filled to capacity for the event, but I made sure we got VIP check in, so we’re in our room quickly.
“Yuuri, we should go and get something to eat,” I say excitedly, looking out the window of the high rise.
“But, we just got here, and besides, I need to rest. We have public practice tomorrow. I’ve got at least one interview I have to do.”
“But I’m starving, and there’s so much to see here. Maybe you can rest here and I’ll just go and grab a bite.”
“Please just don’t be out all night, okay?” he pleads, “You’re supposed to be with me when I’m interviewed tomorrow.”
“That’s not until tomorrow night. Come on. Beijing is interesting. You should come with me.”
“I’m still really tired,” Yuuri complains, “I didn’t sleep well on the way here.”
“Of course not in those cramped seats,” I agree, “Next time, we’re flying first class. I’ll pay for the upgrade. It’s definitely worth it.”
“If you say so,” Yuuri sighs.
I leave him resting in our room and head out to dinner. Checking on my phone, I find out several of the skaters are having dinner nearby, and I stop in. A few of them are in pairs skating, and the rest are women. In a short time, I’m settled at a table with a group and trying a little of everything we’ve ordered served family style. There are so many different things to taste! The booze is strong and soon I forget to mind the time.
I wish Yuuri liked to socialize more. He’s such a little hermit! I’m going to have to work on that. Spending time with the other skaters would be good for him. It’s good to have friends out there when we’re competing. Damn, my head starts spinning from the long day and the noise and the alcohol. I’m barely able to find my way back to the hotel, and Yuuri’s mad when I collapse onto the wrong bed and try to cuddle up to him.
“Oh, come on, you’ve spent three nights in a row with me. Why not tonight, Yuuri?”
“I have to be up early!”
“I’ll wake you. It’s no problem.”
“Get back in your bed, Victor! I’m trying to sleep here.”
“You’ll sleep better if we’re cuddling. You do at home.”
“Ugh, you have alcohol on your breath. I don’t like it when you’re drunk and hanging all over me! At least go and take a shower and rinse your mouth or something!”
“You’re so mean, Yuuri,” I sulk, rolling over onto my bed and burying my face in my pillow.
There’s a long silence, but eventually my bed moves and Yuuri cuddles up to my back.
“At least you’re too drunk to remember to undress,” he mumbles unhappily.
He lets out a long breath and I feel sad at what he says next.
“I don’t like it when you drink so much, Victor. And it’s not just because you usually take off your clothes and hang all over me. I worry about you. The alcohol’s not good for you. And even worse…I’m worried you’re doing it because you’re unhappy…with me.”
I can’t think of an answer at first, but just as we’re both drifting off, something comes to me.
“I’m not unhappy, as long as you are close to me, Yuuri. It’s when I feel far away from you that I feel sad.”
I hear him suck in a little surprised breath, then Yuuri’s arms tighten around me and don’t let go again all night.
Chapter 12: The New Eros
The China Cup competition brings out a new side of Yuuri that Victor finds extremely alluring.
The next morning, Yuuri sleeps in, and while he’s catching up on his rest, I do something that, as a skater, I never had time to do. I explore a bit in Beijing. About all I ever usually see are the skating arenas, hotels, clubs and restaurants, but given the extra time now, I go on a tour of the city that would have been even more fun if Yuuri had been there to share it with me. The world is so much bigger, with so many things I’ve never seen before. Being in Hasetsu gave me a hunger to experience more new things. I fill my day with as much as I can see, then hurry back to meet Yuuri to head over to the skating rink for the public practice the day before the event.
“Where have you been?” Yuuri asks, frowning as he zips up his jacket and we head down to the waiting car, “I was about to leave without you.”
“Sorry,” I laugh, “My tour just got back and I had to run the last few blocks to get here. Oh, Yuuri, there was so much to see. They drove us out to the Great Wall and I saw the…”
“I’m glad you had fun, but I just hope we’re not late.”
“We won’t be late.”
“What if there’s traffic?”
“There’s always traffic,” I chuckle, “It’ll be fine, Yuuri.”
“I don’t like the public practice,” he complains, “If I fall, they make a big deal and they’ll start talking about last year.”
“Don’t think like that,” I scold him, “This isn’t last year. You’ve done very well leading up to this. You beat Yurio in the exhibition and you took first at the block championships.”
“This is a little bigger pond than that was,” Yuuri complains, “These guys are way more experienced skaters.”
“You’re going to do well. Relax. Let’s take some slow breaths, while we ride there.”
“Oh…okay,” he sighs, relaxing slightly as we breathe together.
Yuuri is relatively calm by the time we arrive, and he actually manages a smile as we pass by the flashing cameras and the cluster of excited reporters. We head inside and Yuuri warms up on the ice, then he runs through his programs, while spectators watch and the reporters take video, then interview the skaters after. They spend quite a lot of time talking to Yuuri. I put up with it for as long as I can, but my stomach gets the best of me, and I finally tug on his sleeve.
“This is boring and I’m hungry. Can we go get hot pot now?”
“I’m kinda in the middle of an interview,” Yuuri says, brushing me off.
I spot Yakov and figure he’d probably enjoy the hot pot too.
“Hey, Yakov!” I call out to him, “We’re going out to have hot pot. Want to come?”
“Victor,” he growls crossly, “Seeing you play pretend coach makes me sick to my stomach. Don’t talk to me, unless it is to beg for me to salvage your pitiful skating career.”
I see that Yuuri’s finally finished talking to the reporters and wrap an arm around him, heading out.
“Yakov doesn’t seem hungry. Let’s go.”
We walk to the hot pot restaurant and I’m starving by the time we arrive and get seated.
“Look, Yuuri. Shanghai crab! Drunken shrimp! Duck blood!”
But nothing seems to dig him out of his reverie.
“I really shot my mouth off at the theme reveal interview,” he sighs, “Man, what if I lose now and don’t even make it to the Grand Prix Finals.”
“Don’t be silly. Of course you’ll make it to the finals,” I laugh, “Come on, try some of the shrimp.”
“Eh, you know I don’t eat raw food before a competition,” he reminds me.
“Oh, I forgot.”
“Doesn’t surprise me,” he mutters under his breath.
He gets so moody before competitions.
“Hey Yuuri!” calls a cheerful voice.
Good, this should calm him down and cheer him up a little.
“Hi Phichit!” he says more happily, “it’s good to see you.”
“Yuuri, we should call Ciao Ciao to join us.”
“Um,” Yuuri says uncertainly.
“You wanna see him, don’t you?”
“W-well, not really,” Yuuri mumbles, but it’s too late.
In a few moments, Yuuri’s former coach arrives at our table. Finally, someone who will drink with me! I order a couple of bottles and distract Celestino from talking to my anxious student. Celestino is happy enough to oblige me, although he ducks away when I offer him the shrimp, which it turns out, he’s not fond of. He is fond of booze and talk, so we exchange stories, while Phichit and Yuuri catch up, and Phichit invites a couple more friends to join us. My head gets a little fuzzy as Celestino and I tackle the second bottle, and I start to feel too warm, so I strip off my top. That gets me to thinking about taking a dip in the nearest hot spring we can find.
“Yuuri, let’s go find a hot spring!” I suggest, hanging onto him.
He doesn’t seem very enthusiastic. I’m still feeling too warm, and my head’s even fuzzier. I hang onto Yuuri and I lose track of what exactly happens after that. I just hear Yuuri’s garbled voice and I finally don’t feel so hot. Did we go to a hot spring? What happened to our hot pot? I’m so confused.
What I do know is that I wake up naked on the floor of the hotel room bathroom and Yuuri refuses to talk to me for the first hour we’re both awake, then he yells at me while we’re getting ready to leave the hotel for the competition.
“You don’t need to yell. I can hear you just fine,” I tell him, covering my ears, “I told you I was sorry. You’re right. I shouldn’t have opened a second bottle.”
“I can’t believe you did this the night before my first major competition!” he snaps, “Victor…!”
“Did you not hear me just tell you I was sorry?”
“That doesn’t make it all better!” he shouts.
“Yuuri, you’re hurting my head.”
“How are you supposed to coach me when you’re hung over from last night.”
“Yuuri, I’m fine,” I tell him, “Calm down.”
“You’re fine? You don’t look fine. THOSE ARE MY PANTS YOU’RE WEARING!”
“Oh, sorry. Wrong suitcase,” I laugh, moving to fix my mistake.
“Will you please hurry and finish dressing?” Yuuri fusses, “We’re never going to get there on time.”
“We’ll get there in plenty of time. Take a few breaths.”
I probably shouldn’t have told him to do that, because he uses those breaths to yell at me until we’re at the rink, then he jumps out of the car and goes in without me. By the time I catch up to him, I get to the room just in time to see Chris wrap a hand around Yuuri’s round bottom and give it a squeeze. Maybe something like that should make me feel jealous, but it’s actually pretty funny, that look on his face. So, I take a picture, then walk on, pretending I didn’t notice the friend who put a hand on my cute boyfriend’s ass.
“Victor, I’ve lost all motivation for this year,” Chris complains.
“Yes,” his coach agrees, “Without you, Chris can’t get serious. It’s time for you to come back to the fold.”
“You’ve committed a grave sin, stealing Victor from the sport,” Chris teases Yuuri, making him blush.
A couple of female skaters call me over and go on a little, saying I should break up with Yuuri and come back to skating. I have no intention of doing that and I notice that Yuuri is looking anxious, so I take his hand and we move on to the warm up room. I’m a little concerned as I watch him warm up. I can see right away that there’s something different about him. There’s a tension that I might have thought was anxiety, but it begins to look more like a kind of aggressiveness as he continues to warm up.
“Is he all right?” Chris asks, as we watch Yuuri jog up and down the hallway, “He looks different today.”
“He does,” I agree, “I’ve never seen Yuuri act like this.”
The aggressiveness remains in his eyes as Yuuri watches his friend, Phichit’s performance, and by the time it’s Yuuri’s turn, his usually gentle brown eyes look beautifully strong, even proud. I give him a warm smile and a nod of approval.
“The time for imagining pork cutlet bowls and beautiful women to seduce me is over,” I tell him, stroking his hand, “You can do it with your own personal charm now. You’ve figured that out, haven’t you?”
It’s as much as asking him for sex after we’re done here and I expect he’ll at least blush, but he instead takes me completely by surprise. His hand moves fast and takes hold of mine in a way that feels so sexy and possessive. His voice is deeper, almost growling when he speaks to me again.
“Watch me, Victor. Don’t take your eyes off of me.”
I’m left speechless because this boy who has never had a date in his life, just stole the breath away from the world’s hottest bachelor.
God, my heart is pounding and I feel aroused by him already…and the music hasn’t even started. Yuuri’s so very different today. I don’t know what, but something lit a fire under him.
I don’t need any reminders not to look away.
He licks his lips as he begins, then he turns his head and gives me a truly seductive look he hasn’t used before. I’m almost blushing at the fact that I’m already sucked in and staring at him like a lovesick teenager as he makes his first moves. I feel dizzy, like when the alcohol starts to catch up with me, but instead of feeling playful, I feel his Eros igniting mine, and if he wasn’t on the ice, I’d be on the floor underneath him in a heartbeat.
I guess because I’ve always made love to women, I always felt like I needed to lovingly dominate…although some of the women I slept with were into some kinky things that were also fun. Even when I’ve thought of being with Yuuri, I have to admit, I’ve thought of myself guiding him. The truth is, neither one of us would have any experience if we did have sex, so…this Eros driven Yuuri I see performing in front of me, could definitely overcome my own Eros.
It’s a good thing that he’s on the ice, because if he was this way off the ice, in a bedroom? I don’t know if I would walk out of there in one piece. I can’t take my eyes off him as he dances his way through the step sequence, and when he begins his jumps, I’m sweating, not from nerves, but from desire. I don’t look away for a second, and Yuuri’s jumps and spins feed something inside me. I feel like I’m addicted and I’ll never be able to breathe if he doesn’t continue to feed me. As he makes the quad-triple at the end of the program, I don’t want him to stop. But he moves into the final spin and I realize as I start to come out of the trance he had me in that he hasn’t made a single mistake. It was a beautiful performance that will surely get him high marks. The music ends and the crowd explodes with cheers and clapping. The feeling of arousal drains out of me, and I call Yuuri’s name.
“The kiss and cry is that way,” Chris scolds me.
I race off and meet Yuuri, then we wait to see what his score will be.
“How did it feel being out there?” I ask him.
He’s still breathing hard and he’s flushed.
“It felt good,” he sighs, “But mostly I wanted the people watching me to feel good.”
The words surprise me a little, coming from Yuuri. It just goes to show that he is taking my advice about having awareness of his audience and the other skaters as he performs. There must be no walls between the performer and the ones he wants to enchant. Yuuri has certainly worked his magic on this crowd. They give him a standing ovation and the announcer is still heaping praise for his performance. When the score appears, a fresh round of cheers sounds in the arena. I can’t contain myself at seeing his score is over a hundred. I grab him as he squints and stares, looking like he can’t believe his eyes.
“Of course they felt good!” I praise him, “Who could help feeling good after a performance like that. I couldn’t ask for a better student, Yuuri!”
I notice there’s some tension in his body when I am hugging him, but I suppose it could be that he was so angry with me before. I ignore it and continue to praise him, both directly and to the reporters who flood the exit as we leave after the competition. Yuuri’s quiet as we ride back to the hotel, and strangely, he wants to eat in.
“Are you kidding me?” I complain, “Yuuri, you just got the highest score in the competition so far. You should be happy about that. What’s wrong?”
“Eh, nothing’s wrong, really,” he tells me, “I just…I’m tired from the competition and I want to eat somewhere really quiet. Is that okay with you? I mean, you can go out if you want, Victor. Just…please don’t drink too much?”
I give him a warm hug and nod.
“I’ll have no more than two drinks, but I want to go and tease Celestino a little, seeing as how you’re crushing this with me this year.”
“Victor!” Yuuri complains.
“What? You don’t want me to be proud of you?” I laugh, “There’s no way I’m not going to be proud of you. You’ve worked so hard. You deserve this, Yuuri. You should enjoy this more.”
“I am enjoying it,” he answers, but his eyes aren’t really smiling when he says it.
He looks anxious.
“I’m just not used to being in first place.”
“Well, get used to it,” I say, smiling, “because from what I see, you are going to be in first place a lot more often now, Yuuri.”
My phone buzzes and I look down to check it.
“Ah, Celestino is down at the pub at the end of the street. I’ll be close to here if you need me, okay?”
“Two drinks, right?” Yuuri calls out as I start to go.
“Two drinks,” I call back.
I drink more like one bottle, but I hold my liquor better this time and what Yuuri doesn’t know about that won’t make him mad, right? I’m considerate and come in before midnight, and I slip into the shower to clean up before bed.
I’m surprised, but at the same time not surprised when the shower door opens and Yuuri slips into the shower behind me. His arms wrap around me and he rests his head on my shoulder from behind.
“What are you still doing up?” I ask him, “You should be sleeping.”
“I’m a little too nervous to sleep,” he admits, “The warm shower might help.”
He gives me a measured look.
“Did you only have two?” he asks.
I absolutely intend to lie to him, but I’m shocked at what comes out.
“I won’t lie. I had a little more like a bottle, but you see, I’m fine. I’m sure I’m legally drunk, but I kept my clothes on and found my way home…and when you asked me, I told you the truth, Yuuri.”
He doesn’t say anything right away. He rubs his cheek against mine as I continue to wash myself. When he does say something, he sounds, not mad, just curious.
“Victor, you know that you made me a promise and broke it, and you knew I wouldn’t be happy about that…so…why did you tell me the truth?”
The answer comes as easily to me as the truth that tumbled off of my lips before.
“What is the first thing I said we needed in our relationship?” I ask him, “I said…”
“A relationship like this should be built on trust,” he recalls, “I guess I didn’t think about that.”
I give him a cheerful smile.
“Neither did I,” I confess, “The truth just came out because there was more harm in hiding it. I felt comfortable that even if you were mad at me for breaking my promise about how much I would drink, you would be more angry if I lied to you.”
I don’t tell him that the reasoning didn’t come to me until after the truth fell out of me.
“Thank you for being honest with me.”
“Thank you for being willing to forgive me.”
“Huh,” he huffs in my ear, “Who said I was going to instantly forgive you?”
“Oh no,” I say, turning and meeting his eyes with pretend fear, “You aren’t going to make me sleep naked on the bathroom floor again, are you Yuuri? It was so humiliating waking up that way!”
“Wait a minute!” he objects, missing the smirk I give him, “I didn’t make you sleep naked on the bathroom floor. You stripped off your clothes and crawled into the bathroom to vomit. I just made sure you got it in the toilet and that you were lying on your side. I would’ve given you a blanket, but you might’ve just thrown up on it.”
“So, does this mean you will sleep with me tonight?” I ask, grinning and fluttering my eyelids seductively.
“I was kind of hoping you would ask,” he says, the tension plain in his voice, “I mean, I know I’m in first place, but…you know, the free skate has always been where I crashed and burned, when that happened.”
I put my hands on his worried face and kiss him on the forehead.
“This isn’t like those times, Yuuri,” I remind him, “I came to coach you, because I have absolute faith that you can win. Just try your best, and if you get nervous, I will be there for you.”
“Yeah,” Yuuri sighs, “I know you will.”
“Will you wash my hair, Yuuri?” I ask, mostly to distract him, but also because I like the way his fingers feel, running through it.
By the end of our shower, I’m more than ready to curl up with him. But he feels guilty when his tossing and turning keep waking both of us up, and he retreats to his own bed after awhile. I’d object, but I’m so sleepy by then that I can’t keep my eyes open.
I nod off, just hoping that Yuuri is able to drop off too. Tomorrow is an important day for both of us. We will both need to be at our best.
Chapter 13: The Best Gods Are Imperfect
Victor comes face to face with the terrible challenge of Yuuri's burgeoning anxiety during the China Cup Free Skate.
The morning of the China Cup free skate, I wake, as usual, before Yuuri, and I’m dressed and off for a morning walk. It’s an important day, so I want to be at my best, so I can help Yuuri be at his. The technical and performance aspects of his program are in order, but I’m concerned, of course, about how Yuuri’s been growing more and more nervous the closer we get to the event. Competition stirs up emotion, and competitors in all areas deal with the emotion in different ways. There are people like me, who love the feeling of adrenalin, the excitement of anticipation and the moments of surprise when another competitor threatens to surpass me. There are others who see any competition as a battlefield and the competitors as enemies to vanquish. Some see competition as an adventure, a journey or a chance to shine. But there are those who, even though they might love what they do, become anxious during competition and have a tendency to underperform if the anxiety becomes too strong.
This is Yuuri.
My job as his coach today will be to manage his stress level and to give him the best chance to perform well, so that he can advance in the Grand Prix series. Last year, I competed against Yuuri in two competitions, the Skate Canada competition and the Grand Prix Finals. In the first competition, he skated well and seemed to have no problem reaching the podium, taking the bronze medal. In all fairness, the field of competitors was not terribly challenging except for me, and Yuuri wasn’t well known, so it was easy for him to surprise them with his best qualities.
Things were different in the Grand Prix Finals. Although Yuuri did fairly well in his short program, something seemed to happen between that and the free skate. He told me during our training sessions in Hasetsu that it was in that in between time that his dog died suddenly and he was anxious because of that, and because it was his first Grand Prix Final. He’s not going to have either of those stresses today, so hopefully, he will be more relaxed. I, too, have to be completely relaxed if I want to give him a feeling of comfort to work within. So, whatever worries I may have about Yuuri’s possible anxiety, I will focus on the fact that I know he is perfectly capable of topping this field and taking the gold medal.
I return to the hotel to find that Yuuri is up and already gone to the arena. It’s unusual for him to go on without me, but he may have just wanted extra time to prepare mentally. I shower and change, then head down to join him for the public practice. I can see immediately that he looks poorly rested.
“Yuuri, did you sleep at all last night?” I ask him.
“Uh, yeah…sure, I totally did!” he exclaims.
It’s more than obvious he didn’t. But there isn’t anything I can do immediately. I have him run through his programs, but he looks half out of it, and things don’t go terribly well. I try to be encouraging, but it’s clear enough that Yuuri needs some rest before the evening’s competition. As soon as the public practice ends, I drag him back to the hotel and get him out of his clothes to lie down.
“Don’t worry,” I tell him in a soothing voice, “I often slept right up until the start of competitions too.”
“Eh, Victor? Did you set an alarm?”
I’m worried he might get up, so I stretch out on top of him with the blanket between us. Unfortunately, although this puts me in a blissful state, it doesn’t seem to have any effect on Yuuri. I drift right off and get plenty of rest, but when we get up and return to the skating rink for the competition, I can see clearly that he may have been lying there with me, but he wasn’t resting properly.
“You didn’t take a nap, did you?” I say, trying not to sound angry and smiling at him when I ask.
“I did! I did! I did!” he shouts nervously.
“Yuuri,” I say, placing my hands in his upper arms and looking him in the eyes, “you’re not to do any jumps in your warm up.”
“What?” he yelps.
“That’s an order from your coach. No jumps.”
I may not have been a coach before, but I know that if he falls during his warm up, it will shake his confidence even more. And with the way things are, I’m worried about that. I watch him closely during the warm up, and I can see Celestino and Yakov are watching too, and shaking their heads.
This is not going well.
And just as I’m thinking that, Yuuri ignores my advice and tries a jump. He lands badly and falls, prompting sounds of disappointment and concern from the people who are there to watch the public practice.
Damn it, Yuuri. Why didn’t you listen to me?
Newscaster Mooroka noticed it too, and doesn’t miss the chance to speculate.
“Let’s hope skater Katsuki is all right.”
There is none of the confidence I saw in Yuuri before the short program. It’s like he’s suddenly become another person entirely, and it’s hard to know what to do with that. I continue to try to reassure him as we leave the ice alongside the other skaters.
“Lots of skaters fall in practice and go on to do it perfectly in the performance. It happens all the time. Let’s just keep warming up, nice and easy.”
He doesn’t look reassured at all.
And as the first group begins, he can’t help watching on the video screens in the warm up area. Then, when the pressure gets too much, he starts turning them off. He sits down and puts his face in his hands and I can see he’s shaking. It’s like the panic attacks he had sometimes in Hasetsu. I remember what his mother told me about helping him ground himself. I also notice the press people about to turn cameras on him. That would not be good right now.
“Let’s go and warm up where there are less people,” I suggest, hustling him away from the reporters.
He can barely stay on his feet right now. He shouldn’t be answering their questions. I need to find a place with less people…or no people. The only really quiet place turns out to be the parking garage. But even there, Yuuri continues to look anxious.
“What are the standings right now?” he asks, looking around as though he expects there to be some way to know from here.
“You don’t need to know. Come on, now. Let’s take some deep breaths.”
I hear applause and see Yuuri shudder at the sound.
“Put your earbuds in.”
“Yuuri, trust me. Put them in.”
Thankfully, he listens and puts the earbuds in. It’s a good thing, too, because from the sounds of the applause, Yuuri’s friend, Phichit is performing beautifully. My own heart is pounding and I’m feeling unnerved, because even though I know what state Yuuri needs to reach, I don’t know how to get him there. He does seem to calm slightly now that the earbuds are blocking out the sound. My apprehension grows as Phichit’s performance ends and thunderous applause begins to sound.
Damn it, what can I…
My mind goes blank for a moment as I look back at Yuuri and see he’s pulled the earbuds out and is wearing a completely terrified expression. My reaction is purely instinct. I clap my gloved hands over his ears and resort to asserting dominance.
He still looks terrified. And now, I’ve probably made it worse because while dominance triggers an obedient response, dominance is based on fear. More fear is not what Yuuri needs right now. But what does he need?
My eyes are as hard and cold as I can make them and neither one of us is drawing a breath. I know I have scant moments to do something and yet there is nothing in all of my experience that I can think of that will help him.
It’s common for less experienced skaters to be anxious over the other skaters’ scores, but Yuuri should be past that point by now. He has to snap out of this. How can I motivate him?
“Victor,” Yuuri says in a shaky voice, “it’s almost time. Shouldn’t we be getting back now?”
He starts to walk past me and it’s like time slows for me. In my head, I realize that I am about to fail him in the ugliest and worst way possible. After coming to Hasetsu, after pouring ourselves, body and soul into getting him this far, I am going to fall short of being able to bring him through this internal upset.
I can hear in my mind all of the things that I’ve overheard Yakov and Celestino say, both about Yuuri’s tendency to choke in competition, and also about my inexperience as a coach. I suppose they are right. They have been coaching for far longer than I have, and Celestino couldn’t motivate Yuuri through this.
Yuuri’s footsteps seem to echo as he walks away, and I can barely breathe, because I don’t just hear his footsteps, I can hear Yuuri’s heart already beginning to break because I promised him something that we both know I am right now failing to deliver.
A skater’s heart is as fragile as glass…so maybe, I should see what happens if I completely shatter his.
I don’t even think, until it’s too late and the words have already escaped me.
“Yuuri,” I say, stopping him and making him turn back to face me, “if you mess up in your free skate and miss the podium, it’s at least partially my fault. I’ll take responsibility and resign as your coach.”
Yuuri freezes and stares blindly at me as the words strike home. Neither of us moves for a moment and I’m at a loss at what to do. Then, just when I think I’m going to have to say something more, large tears well up in the corners of his eyes and start to slide down his face.
I watch in dismay as Yuuri dissolves into tears in front of me.
“Victor! Why would you say something like that to me? Like you’re trying to test me?” he sobs.
“I’m sorry, Yuuri. I didn’t mean it. I was just saying that.”
“I fail a lot, so I’ve gotten pretty used to it over the years, but this time, I’m anxious because I’m worried that my mistakes will reflect on you! I’ve been wondering if you’ve secretly been wanting to quit.”
“Yuuri, I don’t…”
“I KNOW!” he screams.
I stare at him as he keeps crying and can’t seem to say anymore.
“I’m not good with people crying,” I tell him honestly, “I don’t know what to say. Should I just kiss you or something?”
“NO!” he shouts, as angry as he is hurt, “Just have more faith that I’m going to win than I do. You don’t have to say anything, just stay close to me, Victor!”
I feel stupid.
God, it should have been obvious.
I wrap my arms around Yuuri and hold him against me, just comforting him as best I can. Time is running out for both of us as we hear that Georgi Popovich is about to take the ice. It feels there are too many steps between here and there, and I know we have to start walking.
“I’m here,” I tell him, “I’m holding you. I’m not going to anywhere, whatever happens out there. Come now, I’ll walk you back.”
Yuuri doesn’t say anything, but he wipes his eyes and falls in beside me as we walk back into the arena. Georgi’s music is playing, music for a prince who is determined to save his beloved. But I’m no prince and I can’t rescue Yuuri. I can show him everything I know. I can tell him I have faith in him, but he’s so far away right now, I don’t think I can reach him. In the worst of his anxiety, I did something that brought everything crashing down. And if he goes out there and he crashes and burns, it’s going to just confirm to everyone that I am no coach and Yuuri is not meant for this kind of competition.
But I know he can do this.
Despite how it looks, something won’t let me give up on him. I don’t know where the feeling comes from. Maybe it’s that even at his worst, after he tanked in the last Grand Prix Finals, he got drunk, danced with me, then propositioned me to become his coach. Maybe it’s because I was so desperately unsure about my own future as a skater, and I needed something that the viral video of Yuuri showed me at the time I most needed it. Maybe it’s that when I showed up out of nowhere and told him, out of the blue, I was going to be his coach, he overlooked the craziness of the idea and had the courage and love of skating to take my hand and trust me. But all of that is exploding in front of my eyes as we walk towards the rink. Every little hope we had between us is disappearing, and there is nothing at all that I can do to save either one of us.
Yuuri deserves better than that.
He deserves better than me…what was it Yakov called me? A third rate coach? I thought he was being mean, at the time, but maybe he was right.
These steps we are taking seem so slow. It feels like we’ll never get there. But why the hurry? The eyes of everyone I see are telling me the same thing. They are telling me that I was stupid to think that just because I am a skating god and Yuuri’s lifelong idol and inspiration, that I could overcome what everyone else couldn’t. I took a promising athlete and I broke his heart and threatened to abandon him when that was the last thing I should have done.
But he walks to his destruction with graceful steps, even though his face is still sad. There is nothing left that I can give Yuuri except a couple of tissues as he prepares to skate. If I wasn’t so conditioned not to cry, I think I would. But that wouldn’t help either, so I watch quietly as he blows his nose and he crumples the tissues and starts to hand them back to me. He moves his hand.
Did he do that on purpose?
The crumpled tissues, like our hopes and dreams, start to fall to the ice. I lean forward to catch them, then I feel something touch near the back of my head.
“Is it getting that thin?”
“No, no, no! It’s very thick and shiny!”
“You’ve wounded me. I don’t think I’ll ever recover.”
Although I would have thought it was impossible for me to feel like more of a shit than I already do, the fact that Yuuri is comforting me when he is the one who needs comforting breaks my heart as easily as I broke his. I put a hand on the top of my head and I can feel Yakov’s amused eyes on me as Yuuri takes his place and his music begins.
Why is he smiling?
He looks strangely relaxed as he moves into the quad-double at the beginning, and he makes the combination perfectly.
Good, we’re not out of the woods, but this is a good start.
His next moves are lovely, and seriously, it reminds me more of how he is in his practice sessions. His quad salchow is perfect too.
He touches down on his triple axle and the audience groans. It’s going to trouble him, but surprisingly, he doesn’t look too rattled by his mistake. Instead, he just moves on. He over rotates at the end of his next combination, but redeems himself with a beautiful triple lutz, triple toe loop combination.
God, if he clears the last quad toe loop, he’ll surely take third or fourth, and we might still have a shot at making the finals.
His step sequence is a slice of heaven, and his face just radiates with new confidence. I don’t know where this is coming from, but I feel fresh hope for Yuuri building up inside.
Just that one…last…quad toe loop.
I see the position of his skates as he turns to make the jump and my heart sinks for a moment, because it looks wrong. Yuuri rises into the air, turning, and it dawns on me what he is doing.
It’s a quad flip!
I can’t move or even think.
Yuuri falls on the landing, but it doesn’t matter. There were enough rotations. He earns extra points for attempting such a difficult jump at the end of his program. He won’t get first, but he will take second or third, I’m sure.
Why that jump?
My signature move.
Why now, when I’m the one who just failed him?
Why honor me like that when I was least deserving of it?
He finishes with one hand extended in my direction, and I’m reminded of the boy I saw in that viral video, the one who watched and imitated me for years, the one who was about to quit when I saw his potential and dropped everything to go and coach him. Yuuri never stopped reaching for me. Despite all of his fears and all of that crippling anxiety, he kept reaching for me.
He was right before. I didn’t have to say anything. I just had to be there and to let him see how close and how real I am. I am who Yuuri thinks of when he dreams of winning the gold. I’m who he thought of all of this time, who he admired and copied and worked to equal. I am his skating god.
But aren’t gods supposed to be perfect? Aren’t they supposed to know what their worshippers need and deliver that without fail? I haven’t been any kind of perfect. And yet…he didn’t really need me to be perfect, did he?
I think of all of the times in my life that I did have to be perfect, and I have to cover my face because the feeling is so crushing. My parents needed me to be their perfect son, to succeed to make them proud. My coaches needed me to be the perfect skater and not to make mistakes. My fans needed me to be their idol and to win and keep on winning. My former lovers needed me to be perfect in attentiveness, availability and everything else. No one ever said to me that it was okay for me to be less than perfect.
Just Yuuri Katsuki.
What can I do to surprise him like he just surprised me?
I feel like all of the weight just lifted off of me, and I run to the kiss and cry and watch as Yuuri skates to meet me.
How can I thank Yuuri for giving me something that no one ever has?
“Victor!” Yuuri calls out, wearing a wide smile, “I did great, right?”
You have no idea, Yuuri.
After this, I hope you don’t have any plans for the rest of your life, because I am head over heels in love with you and I am never, ever leaving you.
And I don’t just want you to know that.
I want everyone to know.
So…why not make it obvious…after all, you were the one who said that you just wanted me to be who I am. I’m Victor Nikiforov, a skating legend and reformed playboy, who is throwing myself at you.
I don’t even feel myself leave the ground, but I feel the impact as my Eros driven eyes lock on Yuuri’s widened ones and my mouth clamps down on his. There’s such incredible warmth…his scent and slightly sweet taste. Everything else around us disappears for a moment. I don’t feel it at all as we come down onto the ice. All that reaches me is that I’m kissing the love of my life…and Yuuri Katsuki is…well, he’s surprised, even shocked, but…he is…returning my kiss!
It’s torture letting it end, but the real world is beginning to close in on us again. There is rapturous applause and such a rush of adrenaline.
“I wanted to surprise you as much as you surprised me. This was all I could think of.”
“Really? Well, it worked.”
I help him to his feet and we sit down in the kiss and cry. A fresh round of applause begins as his score is announced. That quad flip pushes him past Chris and into second place. A silver medal, and a chance to move on to the finals. Next stop: That Rostelecom Cup.
I feel so happy for him, so proud of him and so in love with Yuuri Katsuki that I don’t know what to do.
Oh my god.
What happens when we go back to the hotel tonight?
Chapter 14: Yuuri on Champagne
Victor and Yuuri begin a sexual exploration...this is part of why the explicit rating.
Chapter 14: Yuuri on Champagne
I would probably take time to worry about the fact that Yuuri and I are woefully unprepared to begin a physical romance right now, but the competition is over and both Yuuri and I are starving. So, together with Minako and Celestino, Chris and his boyfriend, Masumi, and strangely, Yakov, who sits with his arms crossed and speaks to me only grudgingly. (Is this his way of acknowledging that I am not a third rate coach or something?) We head out to a nightclub for dinner, drinks and dancing.
I’m not just on top of the world because my skater won silver, I’m also very happy because, since the competition is over, Yuuri will finally drink with me. At least, for tonight he will. Once we are back in Hasetsu, he’ll be on a training diet again and both pork cutlet bowls and drinking will be out until after the Rostelecom Cup. We haven’t discussed sex yet. It’s an old wives’ tale that men shouldn’t have sex right before sporting events. I’ve done it plenty and never underperformed in bed or on the ice. Yuuri’s kind of superstitious, so I have a feeling that while he’s swearing off pork cutlet bowls and booze, he might add me to the list.
I just won’t think about that.
There’s so much to do. We order a round of drinks, and Yuuri and I dance a bit together while we’re waiting. He’s shy and blushing at first, but once the drinks arrive and we start putting them away, he loosens up nicely. He smiles, laughs and talks much more than he usually does, and he doesn’t mind at all that I frequently want to kiss him and have my arms around him. I want to fill his mouth with champagne and lick it up like a cat, but when I try it, Yuuri starts laughing and spits the booze all over us. Chris offers his mouth for the task and I really like and laugh at the uncharacteristically aggressive glare Yuuri gives him.
Yuuri’s arm curls possessively around my waist and he pulls me back to the dance floor. The music is slower and has a deep, throbbing beat. I can feel Yuuri’s still aggressive eyes giving me a sideways stare. But I’m sure it’s not that which is making my cheeks turn pink. It’s just the warmth of all of the writhing bodies around us…I think. He buries his face in my shoulder and I turn my head to breathe in the sweet scent of his hair and skin. I feel a little bite on my neck and a shiver runs down my spine. I use my chin to nudge him enough for me to connect with his lips again, then he grins and dips me so that our lips part.
“You like teasing me in front of other men, Victor?” he asks in a low, sexy voice.
“Was I teasing you, Yuuri?” I ask, smirking.
We both know I was.
He pulls me back up lifts me in a lunge position, then lets me down to spin around his back, then I meet him, face to face again. A lot of eyes are watching raptly as we move in a way that suggests some kind of bondage, rather than the more innocent act of dancing. I find it especially sexy when our fingers lace together or he wraps his hands around my wrists or an arm around my waist. I’m usually the aggressor, so it feels especially hot to have him grab me and hold me like that. I lay back so that I’m looking upside down behind me, where I find that Chris and Masumi have begun their own sexy dance together. Yakov, Minako and Celestino are drinking heavily and enjoying appetizers. I catch my breath as I feel Yuuri grind against me erotically, then I straighten and go for his mouth, doing my best to give it a thorough exploration.
The food arrives just as Yuuri is reaching the point of being hungry enough to take an actual bite out of my flesh. We drop into our seats, flushed and panting slightly, swallowing mouthfuls of champagne and diving into our meals. We eat some, but we drink a lot and we dance until we see that Celestino and Yakov are facedown on the table and Minako is laughing at them for not being able to handle as much as she does. We help them back to the hotel and Minako catches me by the arm while Yuuri is inside one of the coach’s rooms, helping him settle in.
“Hey, I know it’s not my business, but it seems like you and Yuuri are getting pretty serious,” she comments.
“It seems that way,” I answer.
It’s serious, so we’re not smiling, but it doesn’t seem like she has any problem with the idea.
“I don’t have to tell you Yuuri’s innocent and we’re all pretty drunk tonight, so just be sure that he’s really okay with…whatever you two decide to do, okay?”
“You say that like I know what I’m doing,” I say, glancing at the room Yuuri’s in.
“Don’t you?” Minako asks, “C’mon, Victor, everyone knows you’re a playboy. You know, world’s hottest bachelor and all?”
“Mmhmm,” I agree, “but up to now, my reputation was with women.”
Minako gives me a funny look, then covers her mouth and giggles.
“What?” I ask, frowning because I feel annoyed at her for making fun, “What’s so funny?”
“Victor Nikiforov, the world’s hottest bachelor with such a long list of conquests has never been with another guy? Really?”
I give a little shrug and shake my head.
“I was never attracted to another man. I am now. It’s pretty simple. I’m in love with Yuuri.”
“Yeah,” Minako snickers, “we all kinda figured that out when you tackled him and kissed him in front of everyone. And it’s clear that Yuuri is in love with you, too. Just be careful with him, okay? He looks up to you and he’ll probably go along with anything you say, especially while the alcohol is making him bolder than usual. Just be sure you don’t hurt him, or…or, you know, I might have to come and kill you in your sleep.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
She gives me a conspiratorial look and lowers her voice.
“I know Yuuri hasn’t got a clue about things like this, but what about you? If you’ve never been to bed with a guy before, are you at least prepared, so that you two don’t hurt each other?”
God, I think I might actually be blushing…
I try to think of how to answer, then blink in surprise as she reaches into her purse for a moment, then she shoves a handful of condoms and a bottle of personal lubricant into my pocket.
“Bases covered,” she says, smiling at me, “You two have fun, okay?”
“We’ll do that,” I answer, watching as she heads down the hallway to her room.
Yuuri comes back out into the hallway a moment later, and we board the elevator to go back to our room. Our faces are still flushed from all of the fun and my heart’s skipping a little.
“It was fun tonight,” I tell him, nuzzling close and nipping at his lips, “Did you enjoy it also, Yuuri?”
The elevator stops on our floor and the doors open before he can answer.
“It was fun, da?” I add, tilting my head and giving him a wink and a little smirk.
His brown eyes that are usually gentle or widened and flustered still look more narrowed and aggressive.
“Yeah, it was fun. I had a really good time.”
We haven’t talked about me kissing him on the ice, or about what it means that we’ve been mauling each other at the club all evening.
“Maybe when we get inside,” I say, stopping at the door, “we should talk about a few things.”
I get two steps inside the room, then I get my breath taken away as the door closes and Yuuri pushes me up against the wall, holding me by the wrists and pressing his body up against mine. I’m taller, but he’s more solidly built, and I wasn’t expecting the surprise offensive. His eyes are like they were that first night he danced with me…narrowed and full of mischief.
“Is that what you wanna do, Victor?” he says, slurring his words a little, “You wanna talk?”
There’s a haziness in his eyes that makes this feel more dangerous. Always one who enjoys a little danger, I smirk at him playfully.
“I suppose it can wait if there’s something you’d rather do.”
He’s more interested in action than words, and the booze he drank has brought out his Eros. His mouth crashes into mine and his hips move, sending a hot jolt through mine. I wrap a leg around his waist to cause more friction as he rubs against me. He pushes his slick tongue between my parted lips and I bite it playfully, then allow him to plunder my mouth sensuously while we dry hump until we’re both pretty much breathless and very aroused. He steps back a little and I pitch forward, letting him steady me as we start undressing each other. As Yuuri removes my jacket, he feels something in the pocket and pulls out the items that Minako gave me.
“You were prepared,” he laughs, “Good, cause I wasn’t. I don’t really know what I’m doing, but Victor’s a good teacher, you know?”
“Maybe not as good as you think.”
He looks at me more closely and frowns.
I shrug and give a little laugh that sounds unusually anxious for me.
“I’ve never been to bed with another man before, Yuuri.”
The booze must be wearing off or something, because his eyes get wider and he looks like he’s surprised.
“What? Never?” he asks.
“I was never attracted to a man before,” I confirm for him, “Only women.”
“I haven’t been to bed with anyone in more than five years, Yuuri.”
He looks confused.
“Why do you think?” I ask, taking the condoms and lubricant from him and setting them on the nightstand, “I wasn’t in love with anyone.”
I think a little more, but it makes my head ache.
“Were you in love with the women you slept with?” he asks.
I knew I’d have to answer that question for him eventually. I know the smooth, evasive playboy answer. I know how to lie. I know he may not like it if I tell him the exact truth, but Yuuri isn’t any of those women, and he didn’t throw himself at me like all of those women did. Yuuri is gentle, usually shy, sexually innocent, and right now, probably feeling unsure how I see him.
“Look at me,” I tell him, slipping my arms around him and pressing our partially undressed bodies together, “I will be honest with you. I was a lot younger and I was surrounded by women who offered me their bodies for pleasure. I did see a few women for longer, but eventually those relationships ended.”
He looks unsure, maybe like he’s disappointed in me.
“Honestly, I didn’t know any better,” I go on, “But it got harder as time went on. You know what kind of life we lead, being figure skaters. It’s hard work, and we have to focus on our training, sometimes to the point of neglecting other things. I couldn’t hold up my end of a relationship, so what relationships I tried to have…failed.”
“But…you feel different…about me?” he asks.
When I breathe in, it feels shaky and sweat is breaking out on my skin. I feel dizzy, not just from the booze, but because it’s hitting home with me just how hard I’m falling for Yuuri, and if I say the wrong thing, I’ll upset him.
“What do you think, Yuuri?” I ask him, “From everything you know about me, have you ever heard of me quitting skating for a year? Dropping everything to go to a foreign country to live? Have you ever heard of me pouring my soul into helping someone?
Yuuri looks back at me with a stricken expression that makes me laugh a little.
“It’s not at all unselfish,” I go on, “I’ll confess that what was first in my mind when I saw the viral video of you skating my program was my desire to skate with you in competition.”
Yuuri gives me a heartbreakingly beautiful smile.
“I’ve always wanted that too,” he admits, “You know I’ve idolized you all of my life.”
“So, there is something for both of us in me being with you,” I tell him, “but while I came to Hasetsu thinking just about training you, I fell in love with you, Yuuri…and that love feels different from anything anyone ever made me feel. Do you understand that?”
He’s sobered up enough to be blushing and it darkens when my fingers curve around his face.
“You say that you have idolized me. You wanted to skate in competition with me. And you are well on your way to doing that. But, I have to ask you, Yuuri, do you love me too?”
I cover his mouth as he starts to answer, and he looks at me in confusion.
“Wait,” I whisper into his ear, “and think before you answer. You shouldn’t just do this because you think it’s what I want you to do. You told me to be myself and now, I’m telling you to be yourself, even if you think I won’t like what you tell me. The greatest thing about Yuuri Katsuki is his heart, so listen to that and then tell me what it says.”
“What my heart says?” Yuuri repeats, pushing me back slightly, so that he can look up into my eyes, “I kind of thought that it was shouting so loud that you would have heard it already.”
It almost hurts how hard my own heart is beating.
“You heard it all of the way from Russia, didn’t you?”
“You’re still too drunk to make sense,” I laugh.
“No, no I mean it,” he says, taking my face in his hands, “There’s a reason why you didn’t stay in those other relationships and there’s a reason that I never had one. I think we’ve been hearing each other’s hearts forever. It just took us a long time to understand. I can’t love anyone but Victor Nikiforov.”
“And I can’t love anyone but Yuuri Katsuki.”
We embrace and just hold each other, breathing in the truth that’s become like air we need to survive. It’s a feeling like coming home after getting lost, like seeing stars for the first time after months of clouds and rain. We’re half naked and still very aroused. We both know what direction we’re going. I take a step towards the bed and Yuuri moves with me, his eyes clearer and so trusting. We remove the rest of our clothing, letting them slide, piece by piece, to the floor, then we press our bodies together, kissing open mouthed.
Yuuri’s mouth is soft, lightly sweet and so warm. It’s not like any other I’ve tasted and I feel like I’ve been starving for it for as long as I can remember. It’s like I didn’t know for all of that time what I was longing for. But now that I’ve found it, I never have to wonder if this is the right person.
I think for a moment of the way I was raised. In Russia, a majority of people practice as orthodox Christians. That is what I belonged to as a child. As I grew up and left home to become a skater as a teen, and then a young adult, I rebelled. I knew when I was drinking too much and chasing women, partaking of their bodies with no intention of staying with them…all of that was sinful. I felt it was wrong when I did those things, but I didn’t care. That was part of the rebellion.
Being with Yuuri sexually also falls under the definition of a sin in the Orthodox Christian faith. Homosexuality, bisexuality, pansexuality…they all are considered sinful. But being with Yuuri, holding his beautiful and fully bared body against mine doesn’t feel wrong or perverse. I’m not holding him against me in rebellion and it’s something far too beautiful, innocent and pure to be a sin. I think religion exists with the best possible intentions in mind…people…human beings searching for a closeness to whatever universal power created everything. I think that we each have our own connection to that power, and its truth is revealed in our hearts. I feel that nearly blinding, overwhelming and shocking truth now that Yuuri and I are completely naked and holding each other.
That force that holds everything together for us as humans is love. And the love that Yuuri and I have is real. It is right. It is perfect. There is no rebellion and no sin in laying him down on the bed and admiring the beauty of his body, the connection I feel with him and the strength of the bond that is holding us together. There is no conflict in my heart or his as I lie down on top of him and start to kiss him again.
“Victor, do you think it will hurt?” Yuuri asks, sounding more than a little anxious.
I glance at the condoms and lubricant, then give Yuuri an encouraging smile.
“I’m not going to make love to you tonight,” I reassure him.
“You’re not?” he asks, frowning, “But…”
“We need to get used to each other. We took a long time getting here. We shouldn’t rush. Besides, I think that our first lovemaking should be special for both of us, don’t you?”
He gives me the loveliest smile.
“Yeah. I just thought that…since you’d done it before with other people.”
“Shh, don’t think about that. We’re both with another man for the first time. Let’s just pleasure each other tonight, all right?”
I make a line of kisses along the side of his throat, moving my hips and sliding my naked penis along the shaft of his.
God, that feels so good!
I’ve dry fucked women plenty of times and it felt good, but mostly just made me want to move on to having sex. With Yuuri, I feel like staying with this for awhile. I still see a bit of fear in his eyes, so I stop moving my hips and kiss him on the mouth to reassure him.
“I trust you, but…you don’t really know what you’re doing either, right?” he says nervously.
“I told you I won’t go all of the way with you tonight. You have nothing to worry about. When I touch you, I am appreciating your beauty, Yuuri. There should be nothing scary about that, right?”
“Right. Nothing scary…”
But he shivers when I reach over to pick up the lubricant.
He’s so cute!
“I’m going to put this on us to make it warmer when we rub against each other.”
The lubricant is a good one that causes warmth when you add friction.
“Do you mind if I touch you to apply it, Yuuri?”
“Eh, n-no. It’s fine.”
“Would you like to put some on me?” I ask, biting my lips and trying not to laugh as he turns red and chokes on his words.
“It’s fine. I’ll do it myself. See?”
I climb off of him and kneel beside him, letting him watch as I dribble the fluid onto my fingertips, then run them along the thick shaft of my aroused penis and tease the damp head.
Oh, it might be hard stopping short of taking him.
Yuuri watches quietly while I stroke myself, then he tentatively extends a hand and I dribble the lubricant onto his fingers. He sits up, then kneels in front of me. His face is still blushing and his hand shakes a little, but he wraps his fingers around my cock. I can’t help sucking in a sharp breath and letting out a little moaning sigh as his hand pauses, just holding me for a moment, then moving up and down the shaft like I’d been doing. We start kissing again and Yuuri barely notices when I dampen my fingers again with the lubricant and slide a hand down between us to stroke his extremely large erection.
I think I need to be more worried about being hurt by him. I’ve never seen Yuuri aroused before. I didn’t know he was so big!
We continue to stroke each other and kiss and I reach over with my free hand and play a little with his erect nipples. He gasps and pre cum leaks out of the head of his penis.
I think it’s swelling even more!
“V-victor, I really want…!”
“You want me to make you climax?” I ask, tickling the head of his penis.
“Y-yeah!” he pants.
“Okay, if you’re sure.”
I push him back so that he’s resting on his elbows, then I lie down between his thighs.
“It’s fine. I’m just going to use my mouth, Yuuri.”
He smells so different than a woman and I like that. Yuuri stares and makes a little funny sound as I bury my nose in his pubic hair and breathe in and out slowly. He nearly jumps out of his skin when I give his testicles a little lick just to taste them.
“Victor, I didn’t shower after the competition!”
“So, the sweat of victory is still all over you! You smell good, Yuuri.”
He flinches as I take one into my mouth, treasuring it for a minute or two before letting it go and trying the other. I wrap my hand around the base of his penis. I don’t want this to end too quickly, after all.
Yuuri’s eyes start to sparkle and he can’t look away as I wrap my mouth around his cock and run my tongue over the wet head.
“Um…Victor, is the lubricant…?”
He makes a sound like he’s almost crying as I let his cock go for a moment to answer him.
“It’s edible and it tastes pretty good. We should thank Minako when we see her next.”
I giggle as Yuuri’s eyes get round.
“What? Minako knows we’re…we’re…?”
“She knows,” I say, smirking as I head for his penis again, “She said she’d kill me in my sleep if I ever hurt you. She’s a good friend.”
“Oh my god! It’s going to be all over the…!”
“No, she won’t say anything.”
“Ugh! How do you know?”
“And why do you care? Don’t you want to tell the world that you’ve got the world’s hottest bachelor at your feet and panting after you?”
He starts to answer, but I sink down on his cock, sucking hard for a moment and squeezing with the hand that’s holding him. Yuuri gasps and arches his back, making me have to grab hold of his hip to stop him.
I slide my mouth off the end of his cock.
“Don’t thrust or you’ll choke me, okay?”
I alternate then between long licks on his shaft, warm suction and running my tongue over the head. In moments, Yuuri has dropped onto his back and is gripping the bedding and moaning so erotically, I’m tempted to go back on what I said and try taking him right now. I fend off the thought and draw back slightly, loosening the fingers that are holding him back from climax. I feel a little worried that I might choke, but I think if I…
Ah, well, I suppose I’ll get better with practice.
I start to cough and the next thing I know, Yuuri’s got his arms around me and is holding me crushingly tightly in his arms.
“Victor, are you all right?”
“I’m f-fine,” I answer, coughing a few more times, then resting on his shoulder, “I was just curious to taste that part of Yuuri too.”
“Stupid Victor!” he complains, rubbing my naked back and using tissues to wipe the fluid off of my lips and chin, “Don’t try to swallow it next time!”
“It’s not bad,” I say, kissing him and making his eyes widen as I share his flavor with him, “See? I think I like it better than katsudon.”
And that is saying something, because I love pork cutlet bowls so much.
But…I love my Yuuri more.
“Victor, do you, um…want me to…?”
We look down at the mess between my thighs and I laugh at his question.
“You don’t have to. You didn’t have to touch me to make me do that. You are amazing, Yuuri!”
Chapter 15: The God and the Katsudon
Victor and Yuuri explore each other in a different way...another chapter with explicit content.
When I wake up very early the next morning, I have a little moment of confusion as I find myself alone in my bed in the hotel. Turning my head slightly, I find, first, that I drank enough to give me a hangover headache and second, that my cute zaychonok (little bunny) escaped my arms after our play left me senseless, so he could shower without me and dress in his pajamas. It looks like he crawled into his own bed after that to sleep.
Is there a word for ‘cuter than cute?’
Although I’m tempted to feel a little sad, I’m not exactly waking up alone. He’s well within my reach, and I’m sure, knowing Yuuri, that he was just a little embarrassed and uncomfortable when the alcohol wore off completely and he woke up and maybe couldn’t go back to sleep with me practically suffocating him. It’s a little odd and I do wish he liked to cuddle more, but it’s one of those quirks that Yuuri has. I’m not going to worry about it.
I’m a little conflicted about what to do, myself. I should probably shower, but I find it kind of sexy to dip my nose under the sheets and breathe in the lingering scents from our playfulness. It gives me a little bit of a desire to crawl in with him, but even when you really love someone, there are times when you should give them a little space. He’s sleeping peacefully and he’s smiling so adorably too.
God, I hope it’s because he liked playing with me last night!
In addition to feeling happy and sexually satisfied, I also feel relieved that our play confirmed that both Yuuri and I enjoy our homoerotic explorations. I’m still not sure about whether or not I’ll like anal sex. I’ve never been touched there by a lover. Although anal penetration and play are something that occur in a lot of heterosexual relationships, too, no woman that I was with ever seemed to have an interest in it, and it just wasn’t something the occurred to me to experiment with. But with Yuuri and me being likely to cross over that line soon and having anal sex, I need to be clear on my feelings about it.
I wonder if Yuuri has thought about it. I wonder if the idea makes him feel aroused or if it frightens him. Was he thinking about that when he left my bed last night and didn’t come back? Did he not enjoy our play as much as I did?
I need to stop worrying about that.
I slip out of bed and walk naked to the bathroom, where I see the towel Yuuri used to dry himself hanging on the shower door. I head inside and turn on the water, making the bathroom hot and steamy, and giving myself more time to think.
Maybe it’s good that Yuuri’s asserting himself with me and setting a little boundary. I do tend to be overwhelming to him sometimes. I get overexcited and I intimidate him. I don’t mean to, of course, but it’s just a difference in our personalities. Yuuri gets flustered by it, and he sometimes shies away, but he seems to understand it’s just us being ourselves, and he doesn’t really try to stop me from being myself. He even tells me that I should be myself. It’s like what he did this morning in leaving my bed and going back to his. He’s giving us both space to be who we are. It isn’t exactly what I want, but I do think it’s a little bit cute, so I’ll put up with it, to a point. Once we actually have sex, I will be more insistent on him not leaving me alone afterward. That, too, is me being me.
But that is for later, after we take the next step.
If…we take the next step.
I wonder if he will like me touching him there, penetrating him. And I don’t know for sure I’ll like being touched or penetrated. I suppose there’s time to explore that.
Maybe now would be a good time to start. I’m alone and Yuuri will sleep for a few more hours. We have nothing on schedule for today except flying home much later. And smelling our mingled scents when I woke up made me aroused again. I get a little more aroused, thinking about the experimentation I’m about to do, but just as I get up the nerve to move my hand, I hear the bathroom door open, and I see Yuuri’s silhouette through the shower’s frosted glass door. He moves hesitantly towards the shower and I angle my body so I don’t give away that I already know he’s there.
The door to the shower opens, and I give him my usual warm smile and happy greeting, although honestly, I’m feeling a little less happy and more worried about what he might say about last night.
“Good morning, Yuuri. It’s a little early for you to be up. I hope everything’s okay.”
“Oh,” he says, blushing, “everything’s fine. I was just…um…”
“Do you mind coming all of the way in, so we can talk?” I ask cheerfully, “It’s a little cold with the door open like that.”
“Erm, yeah…okay, sure,” he stammers, first undressing, then stepping in and closing the door.
I want to grab him, but I know it would fluster him and he might regret coming to join me.
“I’m, uh, sorry…”
“For what?” I ask, watching the water droplets strike and roll down his slim body, “Did you do something wrong? Did I?”
He looks so adorable when he blushes.
“W-well, I don’t think so. I don’t know. Did it bother you that I went back to sleep in the other bed? I wasn’t sure, you know…what to do.”
“Yuuri, come closer.”
“Don’t be so nervous,” I reassure him as he steps into my arms, “I didn’t take offense that you cleaned up and went back to your own bed. Just because we’re getting intimate doesn’t automatically mean I’ll start expecting you to be with me every second. Sometimes people need space. It’s okay…as long as you weren’t leaving because you didn’t like what we did together. If you didn’t enjoy it, or if you regret it, you should be honest about it and tell me now. I might be disappointed if you didn’t like being with me, but if you’re not comfortable doing those things with me, I don’t want it to make things awkward. Just tell me, if that’s the…”
I don’t quite finish because Yuuri stops me with a sweet, wet kiss.
“Stop it,” he chuckles, “I didn’t dislike being with you.”
His blush gets darker and swallows hard before continuing.
“The truth is, I woke up and it was strange being sticky and naked. I took a shower and then I didn’t want to climb back under the sticky sheets, so…um…I moved over to the other bed because of that. That’s all.”
“You don’t have to explain,” I tell him, “I figured it was something like that.”
“I thought you’d understand, but I felt like I should tell you, just to be sure you didn’t get the wrong idea.”
“So, you feel okay about us doing sexual things together?” I ask.
His blush gets even darker and cuter.
“Yeah. It’s probably good that I drank a lot before, so that I wouldn’t be nervous the first time we tried it…but I liked it a lot. It felt really good. I hope I made you feel good too, Victor.”
“Hmm,” I say, rubbing my wet chin and giving him a skeptical look.
“Huh?” he gulps, looking alarmed, “You didn’t like it?”
“Oh, I did like it too,” I tell him, giving him a smirk, “I was just thinking that it seems kind of wrong for you to be so formal when you talk to me now…at least in private, Yuuri. I mean, you have a cute name for Yuko, your friend for so long. Doesn’t your lover get a cuter name than your best friend?”
“Uh…I um…really hadn’t thought about it,” he stammers, giving me a stymied look, “You’re my coach, so…”
“It can just be for when we’re alone, if you want, but maybe you could just call me Vitya. Only my parents, Yakov and the reporter, Stephane, who I’ve known since I was a child call me that.”
Yuuri’s eyes get big and they start to sparkle.
“But, you’d like it if I called you that? At least, in private?”
I give him a little shrug.
“Call me that everywhere you feel comfortable doing so.”
“Okay, but…do I get a pet name too?”
“What? You don’t just want to go by katsudon?” I tease him, “You know I can’t resist you any more than I can resist a pork cutlet bowl.”
It’s adorable the way he rolls his eyes.
“Yurio calls me that. He’s never going to let me live down how immature I was before.”
“I love how innocent you were before I corrupted you,” I laugh, “and it’s different when your lover calls you something, isn’t it?”
I bring my lips close to his ear and give his earlobe a little lick.
“You’re delicious, katsudon!” I breathe into his ear.
“Oh!” he gasps a little and quivers, “You’re right. That is different. Okay.”
We start kissing again as the water rains down on us. He’s quiet, like he’s thinking deeply about something, so I don’t say anything either. He looks up, into my eyes and I feel a little shiver go through him.
“What is it, Yuuri?” I ask him.
He looks so rattled for a moment, I wonder if he’ll tell me what’s on his mind. But, after a moment, he settles and takes a steadying breath.
“After I showered and before I went to bed, I…um…searched on my phone to learn more about…about how to please a male lover.”
I can’t stop the huge smile that gives me.
“Did you?” I ask, “I think you know you pleased me very well, and quite a lot before we finally fell asleep last night.”
“Yeah, I know, but…we weren’t really ready, and I didn’t know what to do. I’d never been with a lover before, so I was probably pretty awkward. I’m kind of glad we were drunk, so I don’t remember exactly how awkward I was with you.”
“You weren’t awkward at all!” I laugh, “Yuuri was cute and blushing a lot!”
“Yeah, I remember that much, and I remember how good you made me feel. I wasn’t sure that I was able to do a very good job of pleasing you, though.”
“That’s very thoughtful of you,” I answer, touching his face and kissing him again, “But you don’t have to worry.”
“I do though,” he insists, “You, at least, have had lovers before, even if they weren’t men. You know how to act with a lover.”
“You acted fine, Yuuri. Don’t worry about that.”
“No,” he says in a voice so serious that it makes me stop and stare at him curiously, “I want to learn to please you…to really satisfy you.”
He pauses and gives me a shy smile.
“So that you’ll like me more than katsudon.”
I hug his naked body tightly.
“You know I already do!” I scold him playfully, “You’re so funny, Yuuri! You don’t have to do anything like…”
I freeze as I feel a firm bite on the side of my neck and then suction. One of Yuuri’s arms holds me still, while his other hand slides down the front of my dripping torso. My breath catches and I instantly react to the brushing of his fingers on the head of my suddenly attentive penis.
“Do I have your attention now?” he asks, narrowing his eyes.
He can be this way without adding alcohol?
“You do,” I answer, trying not to sound too surprised, but I’m sure he can hear my heart because it’s pounding so hard.
“Good,” he purrs into my ear, resting his head on my shoulder and sliding his hand up and down, while I move my hips just a little to encourage him, “You need to be relaxed for me to do this.”
I suck in a little breath, because I know where he’s going next, and I don’t know if I want to…yet.
It takes me a second to notice that he stopped, and he’s looking closely at the expression on my face.
“Vitya?” he whispers, tracing my lips and looking into my eyes, “Did I upset you somehow?”
I was going to do this first alone, so that if I didn’t like it, he wouldn’t…see? But, if I don’t like it, then is it really fair to hide that from Yuuri? I could decide to let him do it, even if I didn’t exactly like it, but I’m sure Yuuri would figure it out. What do I say to him? Should I let him touch me like that now?
“It’s okay if you don’t feel like doing anything now. Just tell me,” he goes on, “Are you feeling more shy because we haven’t been drinking?”
And yet, if you need alcohol to feel attracted to a lover, then…that could be a problem right there. Still, Yuuri is attractive to me all of the time, so I don’t think that’s a problem. The problem is I’m so scared to hurt or frighten him with new things, I’m shutting him out a little. I’m probably being stupid. I should tell him what’s worrying me.
“Do you want to be alone, Victor?”
The switch between my lover name and my coach name snatches me out of my head.
“No,” I reassure him, “I want you to keep doing what you were going to do. I was just a little surprised.”
“I think it was more than that,” he says skeptically.
“I think it was easier for me before you started paying attention to other people’s emotions,” I say dryly.
“Sorry. Please, go back to what you were doing.”
I hope this isn’t a mistake.
“Okay, if you’re sure…but, you know…you could do it to me first,” he suggests.
“Eh, do what, exactly?”
His blush and all of his shyness comes roaring back.
“Oh…” he says with his voice shaking a little, “I was…”
He stops and swallows, blushing so much I think he’s red all over. But, he’s grown since I first came to Hasetsu. As uncomfortable as it makes him, he stiffens and forces the words out.
“I w-was going to get you relaxed and then I was…um…going to p-put my f-fingers…inside you.”
I may be nervous, but hearing Yuuri say something so lurid makes me instantly harder. His hand is still gently wrapped around the shaft of my penis, so he knows exactly how much that got to me.
Not so innocent anymore, are you my tasty little katsudon?
“All right,” I answer, trying really hard to not sound anxious, “Go ahead.”
He gets quiet again and thinks for a minute.
“I think you should do it to me first,” he suggests.
“Are you sure?”
“Eh…yeah,” he says hesitantly, “See, I…already know it doesn’t bother me.”
My eyes narrow and I forget some of my own nervousness.
“So,” I say, glaring at him a little, “you tried this while you were showering before…and you didn’t even invite me to join you?”
“W-well, you were sleeping! And I didn’t know what it would be like. And…and I was worried it might upset you if I had a bad reaction or something, so I just…”
“I think I’m offended,” I tease him.
“S-sorry!” he apologizes hastily.
“Oh, I don’t think sorry is enough,” I say, pushing him back from me gently, “I think you need a lesson. So, I am going to do this myself…while you watch, katsudon. Maybe that will teach you about hiding things like that from your lover!”
I conveniently forget that I was about to do the same exact thing before he walked in.
“Stay right there,” I say, using my coaching voice to make sure he listens.
His eyes are cutely widened, and his mouth is open a little.
He stares and his breaths shorten as I slide a hand down the front of my wet torso and I tease him by playing with my hardness right in front of him, while looking into his eyes.
“You should make sure you’re really relaxed,” he says softly.
“Shh, you’ll break my concentration,” I scold him.
I continue to stroke myself for awhile, pausing to lick my lips and to play with the sensitive head of my very aroused penis. Yuuri’s mouth closes and I can see him swallow, then it drops open again in appreciation as I slide my hand further down to caress my testicles.
“Is it torture, Yuuri?” I tease him, “Are you sorry you didn’t share with me?”
“Y-yeah…” he whimpers.
His own penis is beautifully erect now…almost distracting me.
“You shouldn’t leave me out of you doing something like that again, right?” I ask, deepening my voice.
I extend a hand and touch his lips with my fingers, and he opens his mouth, letting me drench them in his saliva. I lift my testicles with one hand and slowly slide the other hand down.
“You’re closing your eyes,” he whispers.
I make him pay for speaking to me like that by opening my eyes and giving him my sexiest fuck me look. He’s practically panting as I touch myself there, and a shiver goes through his whole body as I push one finger past the tight ring at my entrance.
I was so focused on teasing Yuuri that I forgot to be nervous.
Honestly, it feels kind of strange, and I don’t know right away if I like it that much. But it isn’t like I dislike it, and I’m sure when a lover does it, it will be…”
“You have to push it in pretty far and there’s a place that feels really good when you rub it.”
Okay, now I feel nervous, and a little stupid. I mean, I knew that. I was just taking my time.
“Sorry. Are you mad?”
I work a little, until two fingers are in, then I turn my sexiest eyes on Yuuri and follow his directions to the letter. I get a solid jolt at the first touch, and it starts to feel really, really good. I notice that Yuuri’s looking at my face closely and I make a motion with my head to have him come closer. When he’s reached me, I put my lips to his ear and breathe my next words into it.
“I want you to do it now, and I want you to put your mouth on me while you’re doing that.”
His knees shake a little as he slides down my torso with his hands and he kneels in front of me. His mouth wraps around my very aroused cock, and his fingers replace mine inside me. I’m panting and frozen in place in seconds, and I have to use my fingers to forcibly hold myself back. There’s no doubt in my mind that I don’t just like this…it is…amazing to do this with my lover! I’m unable to hold back for very long after that, and I let go with my fingers and watch as Yuuri treats me to the most intense orgasm I’ve ever experienced. My legs go weak and my head swims. I hear Yuuri’s garbled voice and the next thing I know, we’re both on our knees and he looks scared that he did something bad.
“Vitya, are you okay?”
“I am better than okay,” I laugh as my ears ring loudly.
I narrow my eyes playfully.
“And now, it’s your turn, katsudon!”
Chapter 16: My Inspiration
Victor finds himself in a frustrating situation as he and Yuuri prepare to leave China.
You would think that with how well things are going between Yuuri and me that we would have gone all the way before even leaving Beijing. But despite indulging in a lot of sexual play, our efforts are held back, first by time, then by a few other things that jumped in to interfere too.
“Yuuri,” I say as we get out of the shower, “we have some time. Let’s go shopping before we leave.”
Yuuri gives me a confused look.
“You wanna go shopping now?” he asks, “You mean like, to get souvenirs or something?”
“Kind of,” I answer, giving him a sexy wink.
Instantly, he starts blushing and the pitch of his voice rises.
“Oh, come on,” I coax him, “Yuuri, China is a wonderful place to find lots of great sex toys. Look!”
I show him my phone and he squawks and pushes my hand away.
“Victor, stop! I’m not going shopping for sex toys with you. It’s embarrassing!” he complains.
“Would you rather I buy some in Hasetsu?” I ask, arching an eyebrow, “Everybody knows us there. And you think that would be less embarrassing?”
“Why don’t you just order them online or something?” he suggests, “Just make sure that the company says discreet packaging.”
He turns away from me and looks out the window at the cloudy sky.
“But, I don’t want to wait for them to be shipped,” I argue, “I want to try them out now. We have time for a little bit of experimentation before we go.”
“No!” Yuuri snaps, turning back from the window and clenching his hands.
“Look,” he says in a flustered voice, “Victor, I really like what’s happening between us. Don’t get me wrong, okay? It’s not that I don’t want to explore with you.”
I feel the air go out of my lungs and I get worried. I don’t like what I see on his face. It doesn’t bode well for our sex life at all. Yuuri sits down on the bed, facing the window and I sit down beside him.
“What is it, Yuuri?” I ask him.
I don’t really want to hear it, because I already know I probably won’t like what he’s about to say, but nobody said that loving someone was going to be easy all of the time. I love Yuuri more than I’ve ever loved anyone, so I’ll hang on through the bad times too.
Of course, I have no idea what he is going to say.
“Victor,” he says, taking my hand and looking up at me, “I feel kind of bad. I mean, I like everything that we’ve been doing. All of it…kissing and exploring together…”
He takes a shaky breath and I feel my heart sink a little.
No, it sinks a lot.
“I was so happy after I won the silver medal,” he goes on, “and because there isn’t another competition right away, I could let down, you know, drink and fool around. But…once we get home…”
He breaks off and I find myself unable to answer.
“You’re mad, aren’t you?”
“You know, it’s all lies, what they say about having sex before matches,” I tell him, “I’ve done it before lots of competitions and I never…”
“Victor, you told me that it’s been over five years since you had a sexual relationship, right?”
“Yes, Yuuri, but…”
“And in that five years, you won five consecutive world championships.”
“I watched your interviews during those five years, and there was something different about you.”
Oh my god, talk about the past coming back to bite me. It’s extremely ironic that it’s the years I spent not doing anything sexually that are being used to create distance between us. I thought that the fact I’ve had so many other partners before him would be more troublesome to him. Leave it to Yuuri to go the opposite way. He surprises me all right, but the surprises aren’t always good ones…
“You wanted to be the world champion more than anything,” Yuuri goes on, “So, you focused on that and you didn’t let yourself get distracted.”
Now, I’m not a lover, I’m a distraction.
“I’m not saying that I don’t want to see you romantically. I do,” he reassures me, squeezing the hand he’s holding, “I love you, Victor. You mean the world to me. But, think about the reason that you came to Hasetsu. Whatever play we do in practice, you and I both know that you didn’t come to my home in Japan to seduce me. You didn’t come there for me to seduce you. You saw potential in me and you left skating to coach me. It was…a miracle for me, and it saved my career. The last thing in the world that I would ever do is to disrespect what you’ve done for me. I mean…look at me! I just won a silver medal in the China Cup. I am one competition away from clinching a spot in the Grand Prix Finals for the second time. I have a chance to show everyone that it wasn’t a mistake that I got there the first time. I can win. I know that now. But, if I want to do my best, I have to make responsible choices.”
“So,” I say, frowning, “does this mean we can’t have just sex for right now, or are you saying that there will be no sexual play at all when we get back to Japan?”
“W-well,” he says, shifting like he’s uncomfortable, and his blush comes back, “We’ll be living with my parents, and I don’t really know if I’m ready to tell them that we’re…”
“You don’t think that they, and everyone else in Hasetsu were watching when I tackled you and kissed you on national television, Yuuri?” I ask in a scolding voice, “I hear what you’re saying, and I understand maybe you don’t want to do sexual things where other people might see or hear something, but we can be discreet. We can be quiet and not do anything in front of anyone!”
“I…I don’t know,” he says in an exasperated tone, “I just don’t know how to be sure we don’t upset my folks or have everyone talking about us.”
“I don’t care if people are talking about us, Yuuri. Let them talk. I can understand not having sexual play just before a match, if you want, and being extra quiet or something, but telling the man you just told you love that you don’t want to have any sexual play for months and months is just…just torture!”
“I’m sorry!” Yuuri shouts, “I’m not trying to torture you. I just…augh! I’m not doing this very well at all. I’m not trying to upset you, Victor, really!”
“You just don’t want me putting my hands on you.”
I know I’m being sulky, but there are times when that’s called for, and I think now is one of those times.
“You put your hands on me all of the time when we’re training,” he says anxiously, “We’re always flirting with each other and making jokes about me trying to seduce you.”
“And that would be fine if you hadn’t teased me by making me think we would continue what we started!” I complain, “Why did you even do this, if you were just going to turn around and say you don’t want me doing anything with you once we go back?”
“It’s not…I mean, we’ll be able to…sometimes, I’m sure times will come up when no one’s around and…”
“So, now we have to sneak around?”
I’m really starting to feel angry.
“Yuuri, I’m not used to people being embarrassed to admit we’re dating. What is wrong with just being honest with…with your family at least?”
“Honestly?” he sighs, looking down at our still joined hands, “My family’s a little old fashioned. It’s kind of a cultural thing that we aren’t overly obvious about romantic stuff. So, I’m just not used to it. I’m sorry that I’ve upset you, Victor. That’s…the last thing I wanted to do.”
I don’t think I’ve ever, not in my whole life, been rejected like this.
“Well, I suppose it would be good for both of us to think about this,” I say, letting go of his hand and standing.
“Victor?” he says.
He sounds scared.
“I’m going out. I need to stretch my legs before the long flight back.”
“Can I go with you?”
“No, Yuuri. I need to think about a few things.”
I step into the bathroom and exchange the robe I was wearing for a pair of slacks and a casual shirt and scarf. When I walk out again, Yuuri is near the door, looking down at the floor and I can see he looks distressed.
“Please don’t go, Victor,” he says, “I feel really bad about upsetting you. I didn’t mean to.”
“It’s fine,” I say, trying to brush him off, “I really just need a breath of fresh air and to stretch my legs.”
“Are you…going to a bar, Victor?”
“What kind of question is that?”
“Well, you do drink too much when you’re mad about something. And when you do that, it scares me.”
“Yuuri, you don’t get to…to stir me up with sex, then tell me that you don’t want me touching you, then complain about what I do while I’m not touching you! Do you even know how much you’re confusing me right now?”
I don’t mean to shout at him, but I’m barely holding back my temper as it is.
“I just…I’m afraid something bad will happen to you…and I couldn’t forgive myself if it did, especially if it was my fault, too.”
It’s not the words that stop me, but Yuuri’s sincerity. As much as I want to feel angry at him, I don’t want to frighten him.
“What do you want to me to do?” I ask him, “I’m hurt inside. I don’t want to take that out on you.”
“Well, maybe I’d rather you did than to have you leave and go somewhere to drink away the pain,” Yuuri says in a very soft, wounded voice, “If I’ve hurt you, then let me say I’m sorry, and let me find a way to make it up to you. I’m doing the best I can. I never had anyone love me before and I don’t want to mess this up. I know I’m making mistakes right and left, but it’s because I don’t know what to do. You said I’m confusing you? Well, I’m really confused too.”
It’s the second time in two days that he’s crying because of me. I may not like what he asked of me, but I do understand that it’s hard for him, because he’s never had a lover. And we are coming from different cultures. I did read about Japanese culture before coming to Hasetsu, and there was something about Japanese couples being less publicly demonstrative. I’m used to public displays of affection, but Yuuri is not. He’s always been flustered about my overtures in public places. It’s actually pretty cute.
Oh damn, I’m going to miss doing sexual things with him!
I really hope he wasn’t wrong about us finding some times at least when we can hold and touch each other.
I was dying of loneliness until we opened that door together. And it’s like Pandora’s box. I don’t think we can just close it again. I don’t want to close it again. I want to feel hurt by him pushing me away, it’s so frustrating. But at the same time, he seems sincere about this being because he has worries about how he’ll perform on the ice. The sexual tension in our practice sessions is very high, and that does motivate both of us. It has improved his performances, and honestly, I have been very creative in the development of my own new programs since we began. Yuuri isn’t saying that we’ll never continue this, just that we’ll move in slower steps. If the end result is that we are together, then is he really asking too much of me?
What is the value of lifelong love?
What should I be willing to do to make it last forever?
I put my arms around him and hold him against me.
“Don’t cry, Yuuri. I won’t leave.”
“Really?” he asks, blinking and sniffing, “because if I was you, I probably would. I insulted you with the way I acted. I didn’t mean to.”
“I know that,” I answer, brushing his tears away, “I’m not angry anymore.”
“But…I know you want…”
“We can figure out the details later,” I suggest, “Why don’t we just get going and have dinner together at the airport before we leave?”
He still looks worried, so I wrap my arms around him and hold him against me for a few minutes, just kissing him gently and talking to him quietly until he looks more settled. When he’s calm, we gather our things and call for a driver. We’re both a little quiet as we drive to the airport and even when we have dinner, he doesn’t talk very much. We move on to our gate and board the plane, taking first class this time, because I really didn’t like trying to fall asleep in the tiny coach seats.
“It will be good to get back home,” I comment, looking out the window as the plane rises into the air, “I’ve really missed your parent’s cooking.”
“Me too,” Yuuri agrees.
“And I really want a pork cutlet bowl.”
“I do too,” he replies, “Hey, I still get one, right? I got onto the podium.”
“You did,” I agreed, “So, you’ll have one pork cutlet bowl when we go back.”
“I’m looking forward to that. I feel like it’s been forever since my last one.”
“It wasn’t so long ago,” I tease him, “and you had a half of mine two times, so it was spread out to two times. I don’t know what you’re complaining about.”
“Yeah, because you can eat as many of them as you want, and you never gain any weight. I have no idea how you do that.”
I give him an amused smile.
“Good genes,” I chuckle.
“Right, I guess those missed me,” he laughs.
Things settle into a more normal pattern for us as we make the trip back, and after he’s fallen asleep and things are quiet, I start thinking about what makes my relationship with Yuuri so very different than other relationships I’ve had. It’s true that his quirks drive me kind of crazy sometimes, but there’s something there with us that was never in any of those other relationships. Even though, before, there was a lot of sex, there wasn’t a lot of connection. I didn’t feel such a strong desire for their company all of the time. I wasn’t so invested in feeling close. I actually kept things purposely casual. Thinking back, I wasn’t a very good person. I wonder now if I left my former lovers feeling a little empty with the way I acted.
I steal a little glance at my sweet katsudon and I feel a warmth that I’ve never felt with anyone else. I may be hungry for Yuuri’s affection, but sex or no sex, I don’t want that warmth to go away. I feel it even more when I lean over and rest against him, and even in his sleep, his arm curls around me. And it hits me then that Yuuri really is doing his best to show his love for me. He’s stepping out of comfortable territory all of the time and he does try to understand my needs. Besides, I survived for over five years without any sexual play, I can survive a few more months of him teasing me.
But I am going to have sex with Yuuri eventually. And I know already that it will be as amazing as he is.
I fall asleep on his shoulder, still relishing that thought, and I sleep most of the way back like that. When I wake up again, his fingers are laced together with mine and the fingers of his other hand are playing very gently in my hair. It is the farthest thing from a sexual touch, but it’s so affectionate that I pretend to still be asleep for awhile, just so he’ll keep touching me. It’s such a beautiful feeling, I don’t want it to end. I’m almost sorry when the plane starts to descend, but I sit up and yawn and Yuuri smiles and squeezes my hand.
“We’re back,” he says happily.
“Great,” I say, reverting to my normal, cheerful self and really feeling it this time, “I can’t wait for a hot bath and a pork cutlet bowl!”
We touch down at the airport and hurry back, where we find Yuuri’s family and Minako waiting for us. Maccachin runs out and I drop down to give him a hug. He’s so happy and he wags his tail so hard, I think it might fall off. In minutes, Yuuri and I are relaxing in the hot spring and already talking about the next day’s practice.
And when we dry off and dress, and find the pork cutlet bowls steaming and ready, I feel a sense of home that I haven’t felt since I left home ages ago to pursue my career in skating. I deflate a little when it’s bedtime and Yuuri gives me a kiss in the hallway, then walks away to his room, but I put my arms around Maccachin and I tell him how much I love Yuuri. Then, I fall asleep dreaming of what I’m going to do to my delectable lover when he lets me touch him again.
It isn’t perfect, but what ever is?
What it is, is worth it.
Chapter 17: Radiance
Yuuri gains a new perspective about Victor and himself from a trusted and wise person.
As Yuuri and I settle back into our routine in Hasetsu, he learns pretty quickly that, while I may be doing my best to respect the boundaries that he set with me, having my burgeoning Eros teased, day in and day out with his very sexy skating, then being denied any sort of outlet is almost maddening, and I respond to the situation by nitpicking and scolding him constantly during his training, over every little detail. It’s my job, of course, to nitpick, but I gravitate more towards snapping. Yuuri handles it all pretty well, until evening comes and we’ve bathed together, and instead of eating at Yutopia Katsuki, I leave and find a restaurant I haven’t yet visited…one that includes a full list of mixed drinks, which have become my only way of coping.
At first, Yuuri tries to ignore what I’m doing. He works hard in training and he is talkative while we’re bathing together. When he asks about my plans for dinner, I can tell he’s disappointed and worried I’m going out to get drunk, but he doesn’t say anything at first. He looks sad when I’m sometimes hungover in the morning, but he doesn’t call me on it.
Honestly, I’m not doing this to hurt him. I don’t know why he riles me the way he does, and I already know that even though I talk, laugh and dance with a lot of people, male and female, I have no interest in anything but distracting myself with human company, food and lots of drinking to escape the empty feeling I have, going to bed alone every night.
I survived for twenty-seven years without sleeping next to Yuuri Katsuki. I don’t know why my stupid body craves doing that so much now. It’s beyond a distraction. It’s become a compulsion. And there is a building tension that eventually, Yuuri and I have to face. The night comes when Yuuri decides he can’t take anymore of the situation, and he waits up most of one night to be there when I come home. I see him standing in the hallway, beside my bedroom door, and I smile and kiss him goodnight, then walk past him and close the door between us.
Well, he wanted me to keep my hands off of him, didn’t he?
“Victor, please open the door.”
His voice is calm, but it’s a forced kind of calm that could degenerate quickly if I don’t answer. So, rather than waiting, I stumble back to the door and open it.
“What do you want, Yuuri?” I ask him, blinking and squinting at the two of him that my eyes register.
“I want to talk to you for a minute.”
“Well, it’s late and we have training in a few hours, so we’ll do this later, Yuuri. Go to bed.”
I start to turn away, but his hand touches my arm and I freeze, facing away from him.
“I’m sorry,” he says in a very soft, sad voice.
My jaw clenches a little, but I give him the response that I think will get him to leave and will give me time to clean up and sleep a little before we both have to be down at the ice rink and working.
“You don’t need to be. You’re not doing anything wrong with what you’re asking. I simply am not a good enough person to be that unselfish…to just…”
“I’m being unfair to you,” he continues, “I don’t want to do that, but I don’t know how to balance what I need with what you need.”
“It’s not complicated,” I sigh, blinking my stinging eyes, “just focus on your training and do your best there. I will take care of myself.”
“Will you?” he asks pointedly, “Is that what you call this, Victor? Because, it looks like you’re hurting yourself.”
“I am fine,” I spit back at him, giving him an indignant look, “I’ve skated hopped up on emotion, booze and sex a hundred times, and I still out-skated you and the rest of the goddamned world, Yuuri. Get out of my room and go to sleep now.”
The fact that I’m drunk is the one and only reason I would ever say such a thing to him.
It does get him to leave, but I see the tears that well up in his eyes as he goes past me.
I start to follow, but I only get as far as my bedroom door before my body gives me the message that I pushed things too far tonight.
God, I know Yuuri’s right that I’m losing control of the situation, but how else do I give him what he needs and not go out of my mind, missing his touch so much every night?
I turn back and run into the bathroom to expel everything I put into my body, then after, I clean up a little and head to Yuuri’s room. I know he won’t be sleeping. He’ll be lying there, crying because I’m an asshole and I said something horrible to him while I was drunk and horny. I stop short of his bedroom door, because I hear voices in the room. Hiroko seems to be inside, talking to him…strange, considering the insane hour.
“I’m sorry I woke you,” Yuuri apologizes, “I just don’t know what to do!”
“Try to calm down and drink some tea,” Hiroko suggests, “We can talk, if you like.”
“Yeah,” he answers in a dispirited voice, “I feel like I need to, but I don’t know if there’s an answer to this.”
“What’s wrong? Did you and Vic-chan have an argument? I know you’ve been worrying a lot about Vic-chan.”
If everyone’s noticing his unease, we have a real problem.
“He’s hurting himself, Mom, and it’s because of me!”
“Oh, I don’t think that’s true,” she objects, “What is happening?”
“Victor seems pretty normal, during the day,” Yuuri explains, “He always looks happy to see me in the morning, and he’s demanding during our practice sessions. He even seems okay when we relax in the hot spring. But, every night, after that, Victor refuses to eat with me. Instead, he goes out and he dances and drinks a lot of alcohol. I didn’t tell him, but I’ve been following him…”
Yuuri’s been following me?
“Not because I’m jealous or anything,” he explains, “It’s just that I’m worried for him. He eats a lot, which never seems to make him gain any weight, and he dances a lot and drinks until he’s too drunk to keep dancing. Then, he comes home and sleeps for just a few hours. No one can do that and not have it affect them, Mom. Victor tries to say it isn’t, but his stamina is getting worse and a few times, he hasn’t even used his skates during practice.”
It’s that noticeable?
I didn’t realize.
“Well, you know that not all coaches train on the ice with their students,” Hiroko points out.
“Victor does. We always skate together, and we share an ice dance at the end to relax and talk. But, he hasn’t been doing that. Maybe he’s too tired from…from everything, but maybe he’s really doing worse physically.”
He thinks for a moment, then he sighs and rests his head on Hiroko’s shoulder.
“And why is that your fault?”
My thoughts exactly.
“It’s my fault, because…Mom, while Victor and I were in China…”
“We know, Yuuri,” Hiroko chuckles, putting her arm around him, “We saw him kiss you.”
“Yeah, well, after the medal ceremony, we did more than just kiss.”
He realizes exactly what he just implied and his face turns very red.
“No, no no! I didn’t mean we did that! We just…kissed more and touched and…”
“I get the idea,” Hiroko giggles, patting his red face.
“You don’t have to apologize, dear. We all knew from the time he arrived, that Vic-chan was very interested in you.”
“That was for my skating. This…well, it was different. I was happy, because no one ever looked at me like Victor does. No one wanted to touch me or kiss me, and I didn’t really care before, because I was so focused on skating and trying to be like Victor…”
“And you fell in love with him a long time ago.”
Yuuri gives a shakier sigh.
I didn’t mean to. I just admired his skating, at first. He was so graceful and talented, and everyone loved him. I loved skating, and that was part of it, but…the other part of that, is that I wanted to be beautiful and graceful and have people love me too.”
“Of course you did. Everyone longs for something like that. And you wanted that so much that when Vic-chan saw you skating, and honoring him by skating to his music and moving the way he did, he couldn’t help love you too. You see that, don’t you?”
“Uh-huh. I didn’t know at first that he was interested in me like that, and when I did start to realize it, I was kind of scared. But, when Victor kissed me, the scared feeling went away, and I felt something really different. There was something about being held and kissed by Victor that felt like…being at home.”
“That is the way a lover is supposed to make you feel.”
“Mom…I’m not sad about us loving each other. I’m sad because Victor is unhappy, and it’s because he’s trying to coach me, and coaching me isn’t good for him.”
“What do you mean, dear? Do you mean because he is drinking too much and not sleeping enough?”
“Victor’s only doing that because he probably wants to be sleeping with me.”
There’s a little quiet pause before Hiroko answers.
“Hmm, you know that you are twenty-three years old, and you can make your own decisions about that. Don’t worry about…”
“Oh, I know that you and Dad would just ignore it, but I’d feel like it was disrespectful. And besides, I really think it would hurt my performance if I took my mind off of training and started to focus too much on our…love.”
He stops for a moment to think, and Hiroko rubs his back gently.
“I don’t know what to do. I want to skate. I want to compete with Victor someday. But, if he keeps abusing his body because he’s upset about us not sleeping together…I…I just couldn’t live with myself if I did something that would make him retire! He’s already taking a year off for me, and he’s…”
“Yuuri,” Hiroko says softly, taking his hand in hers, “there is something that you need to understand about Vic-chan. It’s something that your father and I saw right away, but only because we are older and we’ve seen a bit more than you.”
“What is it? What did you see?” Yuuri asks, starting to sound panicked.
“There now, don’t worry. It’s not something you need to fret so much over. But, I think when you understand, you will feel better, and something will occur to you that will help you and Vic-chan both get what you need.”
“O-okay. Tell me. What did you and Dad notice about Victor?”
Hiroko’s smile is so warm and motherly. My mother was pretty normal as mothers go, but she never held me the way that Yuuri’s mother holds him. We were comfortable with each other…loving. But…
“Vic-chan is like the sun, Yuuri,” Hiroko explains, “He is the warm center of a lot of universes, and everything around something so bright and so beautiful is attracted to it.”
Yuuri manages a sad little smile.
“That’s definitely Victor.”
“Vic-chan warms the people around him with his friendliness, his laughter, his beauty and his charms, but…like the sun, he sees nothing brighter than he is, nothing to keep him warm.”
“Oh, well, Mom…you know that Victor’s had no problem getting lots of women to sleep with him. He can get plenty warm if he wants to.”
“But, didn’t you tell me, just a little while ago about how you argued and you pointed out Vic-chans many relationships, and he confessed to you that he stopped going with those women five years ago?”
“Yeah, and he focused everything on his skating…and he won five consecutive world championships too.”
“He did,” Hiroko agrees, “But, did you ask him why he stopped going with the women?”
Yuuri looks back at her blankly.
“And did you ask him why he focused so very hard on his skating?”
“He wanted to win.”
“Vic-chan wanted to win,” Hiroko agrees, “but I think there was something he wanted even more.”
“Something he wanted more than winning?” Yuuri repeats, sounding mystified.
I think I just fell in love with Yuuri’s mother all over again.
She is everything a mother could hope to be, and then more.
“Vic-chan is like the sun in our universe, Yuuri,” she explains, “But in Vic-chan’s universe, there was no sun. He searched for it, looking for it in all of those pretty women he seduced. He searched for it in his skating. He did get very good at skating and seducing women, but there was still no sun in his universe, so Vic-chan suffered from being too cold and lonely.”
“You think Victor was lonely? But he had…”
“Vic-chan had the love of his family and friends, he had his skating, and the ability to seduce whoever he laid eyes on. But, the one thing that was missing from Vic-chan’s universe was you, Yuuri. You are that young man’s sun…the one who gives him warmth. He is happy when he is with you.”
“I don’t think he’s very happy.”
“Because Vic-chan is giving you all of his warmth…and you are giving him only your cold side.”
“I am? I mean, guess you’re right, but it’s not like I want to! I’m trying, but if I…”
“I know you are trying,” Hiroko says calmly, “and Vic-chan is trying. But, if you want to be able to each give the other what he needs, then you need to go and talk to Vic-chan.”
“Talking doesn’t help. He just gets mad and tells me to go away.”
Hiroko smiles and pats him on the face.
“Then, just be as persistent about talking to him as you are about skating well. You and Vic-chan will be fine.”
I see that she’s standing and I hurry back to my room and close the door. My heart is pounding a little, because when you hear someone understanding you better than you understand yourself, it’s a little frightening. I cross the room and head for the shower to give myself time to think.
I never once thought about what I was really doing before. I didn’t think about it in that way at all. Everything that Hiroko said, makes perfect sense. And now, I feel really shitty for torturing poor Yuuri the way I was. I thought I was just coping, but I wasn’t just doing that. I was doing something I knew would hurt both Yuuri and me, and I did this callously. I…
My thoughts come screeching to a halt as I feel warm arms wrapping around me from behind.
I didn’t even hear him come in.
My eyes were closed, so I didn’t see him.
I’m feeling him, though.
Yuuri’s arms are holding on for dear life and his body is pressed up against my back. If I hadn’t just overheard what I did, I would just tell him to go away. But, the truth is that I’m lonely and cold, just like Hiroko said, and the warm sun in my universe just started to shine in my face. Instead of responding with cold, I turn in Yuuri’s arms and hold him too. I’m thankful for the water running all over us, that hides the tears that escape my eyes when I feel his fingers running through my hair.
God, I love that feeling!
“Sorry,” Yuuri apologizes.
His lips stop mine with a long, knee-weakening kiss. He meets my eyes after and think for a moment before speaking.
“Do you think that me sleeping naked with you will make things better than they are…or will they make it worse?”
I did not just make that agonized sound I heard.
“Victor, are you okay?”
“Yes, Yuuri, I’m fine now.”
I close my eyes and rub my face against his. This touching is more than enough to make me feel warm again.
“If you’re asking me if it will be too much torture to sleep with you and not make love to you, then my answer is…it will be a little bit of torture, but it will be much more comfortable than sleeping without you.”
Yuuri blushes brightly.
“Sh-should I wear clothes to bed, then?” he asks.
His blush darkens so cutely!
“But…if it makes you more comfortable, after you hold me a little naked in the shower before bed, you can wear your pajamas.”
“But, I’m not going to.”
Everything after that is not lovemaking or even much in the sexual way, but one thing it is…is very warm.