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Never Look Away

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Ice Castle Ice Rink, Hasetsu, Japan
Yuuri (12 Years Old)


Out of breath laughter filled the air as Yuuri, Yuko, and Nishigori made their way to the locker room, hobbling on their skates on the dry ground.

Yuko pushed the on button to the television and joined the boys on the benches to remove their skates and throw on their street clothes for the lingering winter outside.

“Oh look; it’s highlights from the World Juniors Championship last night!”

Nishigori didn’t bother looking up, while Yuuri quickly finished unlacing his skates to watch.

A tall and lean teenager with the longest hair Yuuri had ever seen on a boy flashed on the screen. He recognized the music as The Lilac Fairy from Sleeping Beauty. Cameras panned out to show him achieving a triple salchow - flawless touch back onto the ice, perfect form. Faux diamonds and sequins glistening off the black mesh, skin-tight costume, half skirt twirling. The skating world had a variety of costumes for skaters to wear, and Yuuri was so used to seeing them lean so heavily on one way or the other, he was transfixed by the representation of both genders in clothing and physique of the boy.

“It’s Viktor Nikiforov!” Yuko swooned.

The cameras zoomed in on the skater’s face. Serene features. Eyes piercingly blue like the ice he skated on, that were soon covered by light-colored lashes as he rotated into an Ina Bauer, arms raised.

Yuuri hears clipped words from Yuko like “debut”, “breaking records”, and “sixteen”. He didn’t need to hear it to know - feel - just how amazing the boy on the television was.

 


 

 

Finally, the marathon his heart was running reached the finish line.

Yuuri face-flopped onto his bed after carefully stowing away his collection of Viktor Nikiforov posters.

The real Viktor Nikiforov was staying in his family’s banquet room down the hall.

Why? Because… because Yuko’s triplets had been recording him skating to Viktor’s last season’s program and uploaded it for the world to see and somehow that had inspired his idol? How was that even possible? Viktor was the one that inspired him all these years!

He chose you! Minako’s words echoed in his mind and the heart palpitations came rushing back and he fisted his sheets.

A knock at the door paused his internal suffering. “Yuuri?”

Head shooting up, Yuuri answered, “Come in.”

Mari stuck her head inside. “Hey, I was walking down the hall and I heard sniffles coming out of your Prince Charming’s room.”

“Like, crying?”

She shrugged and took a drag of her cigarette. “Dunno. Just thought I’d let you know. G’night.”

He frowned after her as she closed the door. The room had been unoccupied for a while, maybe it was really dusty. Yuuri was sure Japan had a lot of allergens that weren’t native to Russia. Curiosity had its way moments later and he rolled off his bed and opened the door, peering into the dim hallway. Mari was gone, but his mother padded down the hall with a tea tray in hand, not seeing him. Softly she knocked on the door and called out for Viktor. He assumed Viktor answered as she balanced the tray to slide the door open.  

Oh good… Mom would take care of it. Whatever it was.

Sighing, he closed his bedroom door and retreated to his bed, foot grazing his phone. The movement didn’t wake the lock screen, and then he remembered that he’d turned it off. Bracing for the barrage of notifications, he pressed the power button.

Pings and vibrations erupted from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Email, Skype, and IM.

One swipe of his finger and poof they were gone. It wasn’t worth seeing the world’s opinions and speculations of Russia’s Champion coaching Japan’s loser.

With apps cleared, his missed call notifications flashed along with two unread texts. These were at least safer to check.

Missed calls from: Minako. Minako. Yuko. Nishigori. Minako.

Unread texts from: Minako and Phichit. Phichit - in all caps ‘CALL MEEEEE ASAP~’

He’d already spoken with Minako, so he didn’t need to respond. He could call or visit Yuko later. Phichit, though…

Taking a breath, he opened the video chat app. Phichit's name with a photo of one of his ten hamsters in a skate as his icon was the first contact on the list.

[I’m here.]

Immediately a dial tone sounded at Phichit calling. The icon screen shifted to his friend from Thailand’s grinning face. “You're alive!”

Yuuri chuckled. “If I were dead, you'd be the first to know.”

“That's true. I was getting worried, though, you weren't answering any of your IMs or anything so...”

“Yeah I had my phone turned off.”

“For priiiiivacy?”

“Part of it…”

“I liked your video. It was really good!”

People - friends - like Phichit (and Yuko), he didn't mind seeing the video. Willing to share, actually. Being roommates in Detroit for two years earned him that right. He felt the prickle of blush at the compliment. "Yeah?"

"It was just like Viktor's! Not sure how you made those jumps with the hamster chub, but you looked really great. You could hardly tell. Really amazing.”

"I was pretty winded afterwards,” he admitted, scratching his neck.

“It's good that you're skating still. And I guess he liked it, too~?"

"I can't give up on it, completely." He knew Viktor would come up eventually. Not like the whole world didn't know he left Russia by now. Still didn't help the surreality of it all. "Yeah. A little too much."

"Ooh? Too much?" That mischievous and curious glint in his eyes was always something to be wary of. “That could mean SO many things…”

"He wants to be my coach. Taking a break in his own career to get me to the GPF."

"Are you freaking out?"

Yuuri slumped forward, leaning his phone against the wood paneling of his desk. "How can I say no to someone I've admired for a large portion of my life? Packed up his life to coach me..."

"Is he amazing? In person, so close? Just like you’ve imagined?" Phichit waggled his eyebrows in ways Yuuri thought was impressive when it wasn’t directed at him.  

He knew this was coming, too. Yuuri didn't exactly try to hide. Being so close to him at school, of course Phichit caught glimpses of just how much Yuuri admired Viktor. It wasn't fair... Using it against him.

Viktor liked to be close. For some reason. He liked to touch him. For some reason. Wanted to sleep with him. For some reason.

"He's a little... Intense, I guess,” Yuuri admitted after prolonged silence. He was grateful his friend had quickly learned to be patient with with.

"Intense how?"

"Uh... he-” Yuuri clenched his fists in his lap, fidgeting. “Personal boundaries do not exist."

Scandalized, Phichit covered his mouth, hiding a laugh as well. "Yuuri! What did he do? Wait, what did you do?"

"Jeez! Stop! It's not like that! My family runs a hot spring... so I got to see ... more of him for our first meeting."

Another grin and a gasp, "YUURI! You saw Viktor Nikiforov NAKED in the BATH!" A dramatic pause, and then- "Were you in the bath, too?”

"It was... very unexpecte-- NO! No I was not!"

Phichit fell onto his back in a fit of giggles, hamster plushes and shaped bed pillows squished underneath him.

"I was out shoveling snow when he came in. I get back and Dad tells me there's a foreigner in the bath. Me, an intellectual, decided it was a good idea to go find him... because... obviously he'd be naked. But I didn't expect him to stand up!"

"'Me, an intellectual' -- that's so you!”

He ran his hands down face. "Shut up… I wasn’t purposefully trying to look.”

"Okay okay," he tried to sober, biting his lip. "But the real question is: did you like what you saw?"

Yuuri purposefully didn’t look at the screen, heat coming back to his face, and he was met with more laughter.  “I'm hanging up!!"

"Yuuri, wait, no. I'm sorryyyyy. After all of the posters in our dorm and everything I can't help it..."

Sighing, he tried to rub away the blush on his cheeks. "I know. It's not your fault."

"As I’ve told you a million times before: It's so cute."

"Is it? I’m feeling kind of pathetic right now.”

"Why? I think it's great! I mean, as long as he's not being a creeper… He's not, is he?"

Yuuri thought back to before they parted ways tonight. How he touched his face, fingers sliding along his jaw and holding his chin, proposing getting to know one another. Knocking on his door wanting to sleep with him... "H-huh? Oh, I don't... know. He's certainly... friendlier in person than I thought he'd be."

Thick brows furrowed. "Yuuri... I'm sincerely happy that your heart wish is coming true, but as your best friend in the whole wide world, I'm obligated to break him in half if he does anything... unsavory. He does have a reputation.”

Yuuri decided it was best to not ask what his definition of unsavory was. "I'm sure I'm just freaking out... And you know I don't really believe in a lot of his reputation." The term ‘Playboy’ never fit well with Yuuri when the media threw it around. The scandals that did happen always seemed so forced and out of character from the man on screen and interviews, televised, or written. When one was famous, of course you’d gain attention of suitors, and Yuuri didn’t fault that lifestyle… just slapping playboy on him seemed like a stretch. Gossip, only. Publicity stunt wouldn’t be a far cry, either.

Huh, maybe he had offered sex as way of paying for the coaching fee. Clearly Yuuri wasn’t rich, so he was being kind? Being a creeper… but not really being a creeper?

Phichit drew him back from his thoughts. "Yeah, that's true. And I guess you're supposed to be naked in a bath house. So. Is he really going to coach you? Are you really going to come back?"

"Sounds like he's not leaving me a choice, he’s already putting together a weight loss regimen for me. I'm competing again."

"Yay! That’s great!”

“I didn't leave graciously. Firing Ciao Ciao...  he wasn't too beaten up about it at the time. He still has you at least.”

"Ciao Ciao is fine. Annoyed, but he'll get over it. I'll actually get to compete against you this time! Now I'm getting MY wish! I hope you're ready to lose.”

“Even on the same team we'd still be competing for gold, Phichit."

"I wonder if you'll be too distracted to skate..."

“No faith in me, thanks.”

"It's not your fault - he does have a nice butt. Riiiiight, Yuuri? That's what you’ve said before!"

Yuuri opened his mouth to clarify he saw full frontal Viktor, but figured that would be digging his grave further. "Yeah... That's true."

"What were the chances your idol would come coach you personally? Just think: now you don't have to kiss your posters anymore; the real thing is right there!"

His glasses pinched his face as he hid on the desk, voice a smooshed mutter. "We agreed you wouldn't bring that up!”

"Sorry, sorry." He actually did sound sorry. For once.

Adjusting his glasses, he sat up again. "And he's here to coach me. Students don't kiss coaches."

"Not usually, anyway.” Yuuri didn’t answer, so Phichit continued. “Not unless you want him to, because otherwise I will have to beat him up. You never know, Yuuri; he's supposed to be really romantic. Unless that's part of his reputation that isn't true?"

Once more, he fidgeted his hands in his lap. "It's not that I wouldn't want it... Just... Why would he with me?" Even as a coaching fee it wouldn't be worth it. That wouldn’t be gaining Viktor Nikiforov anything.

"I dunno, because you're Yuuri and you're great? Maybe he thought your skate was super sexy.”

No. He couldn’t think about this and set himself up. "Anyway... How are you?"

Clearing his throat, thankfully dropping the subject, Phichit answered, "I'm good! Just skating and managing your social media stuff... your page has been blowing up with comments, by the way. Ciao Ciao wants to know why you didn't skate like that under him. I told him you were under a lot of stress and he said it was an excuse. But you know him."

"Well, neither of you are wrong.”

"Oh, Kanda had babies!"

It took a moment for Yuuri to realize what his friend was talking about: he’d changed the subject to his hamsters. Just as well, he wasn’t wanting to talk about him more, either. "Oh? Which one was she, again? The tan one with spots?"

"The brown patches, yes! Six pups! I'll show you!" The camera view showed the ceiling for a moment as Phichit rolled off the bed and walked over to a glass tank with white fluff bedding where the mama hamster was with her six pink and hairless babies. “I tried to tell you last night, but you went all Black Out on me.”

Their dorm room was a hamster sanctuary. Before Phichit, Yuuri had never seen one in person. He quickly became fond of them, grateful for a furry friend while abroad. "You running out of room, yet?"

"I'll find them homes when they're old enough! Aren't they cute?"

"Yeah. Very!"

"Make sure to check your phone! I'm going to post photos every day."

"I will now that it’s on. I want to see their fur come in."

"I'll name one after you."

"Haha really?"

"Yeah! Viktor'sbiggestfan5ever."

"... That is the longest name ever"

"It can be Yuuri for short."

"Sounds right."

"So where is he staying? Is it near the hot springs?”   

Damn, and here Yuuri thought Phichit would have given up by now. "Uh, he's... Staying here in the unused banquet room.”

Phichit took a moment to process that and then his eyes widened. "....Wait what?"

“He showed up with so much luggage. I think he thought we were an inn."

"So, he didn't even call first? He really just showed up?"

"He-- Yeah. I guess he did..." Wow, he really did.

"He's gonna be living in your house?!"

"Mom didn't have the heart to correct him..."

"Living together!"

Yuuri shielded his face. "Stop....'

"Oh! Did he bring his dog?!"

"Yeah, he jumped on me, actually."

"You have a dog again! A dog and your crush as a coach. This could be your year, Yuuri," Phichit said with a wink and finger gun.

"If I don't die of a heart attack, first."

"You better not! I need you to defend my honor if someone assaults me, too! My hamsters need someone to take care of them!"

"Oh yes, can't forget the hamsters."

"Yeah! So don't die. I don't care how sexy your coach is."

"It’s hard to make that kind of promise." Figuratively, he died from Viktor’s sexiness before, he supposed he could keep doing so.    

“Well, you'd better. I'm your best friend, right?"

"Sure are."

"Okay, so promise, because I want to compete against you!"

"I will compete against you."

"Okay, good! Well, I guess I better let you go to bed so you can be rested for training with your sexy coach in the morning. You better let me know how it goes. I want all of the deets."

"Details of what?"

“Just how things go. Keep me updated, how’s that?”

“If you’re wanting coaching secrets, you can forget it,” Yuuri teased.

“True, true. Let me know on other things. Night, Yuuri!” The screen chimed and Phichit was gone.

He sure ran away fast…

Yuuri leaned back in his chair and noted the time on the clock. It was getting late. Pushing out from under his desk, he slipped into his pajamas and crawled into his bed, laying on his back.

“Coaching secrets…” he said to the darkness of his room, thoughts wandering back to dinner.

”Have you ever coached anyone before?” Yuuri asked while Viktor slurped a bowl of miso.

“Oh, I've assisted Yakov a few times. And I was trained at the academy. But this is the first time I'll be doing it as a full-time coach. But don't worry! I know what to do. It helps that you're not a green skater, either. I've been doing this for a long time, obviously... and you made it to the top six last season, you just need some refinement, really. The greatest challenge will be finding what motivates you as an individual skater - inspiring confidence for you, specifically. I don't think your coach-- sorry, I forget his name --knew how to handle that. So that's what I'm gonna focus on. Ooo what’s this dish?!” And then Viktor was distracted by Yuuri’s mother bringing him more food to try.

What benefits would teaching Yuuri give Viktor? It all felt one-sided. Even if he were in charge of uploading the video, he didn’t specifically ask for him to come. Well… that wasn’t entirely true.

Skating Viktor’s routines were something he always did when he wanted to reconnect. He was the reason he got to where he was, the good and the bad.

For now, Viktor was staying in his house and signs pointed to it being slim he’d be leaving soon. Maybe Yuuri didn’t have to know the whys right now. His idol was within reach, going to teach him directly under his wing, and that’s more than his dreams ever wanted. Who knew failing a goal could still give something similar in such a roundabout way? Could he make it to the final six again? Podium? Would Viktor coaching him make all the difference? Either way, if he didn’t make it, he’d at least get to say he skated on the same ice as Viktor Nikiforov as his student. As uncertain and embarrassed as it all left him, above all, the rushing of his heart actually felt happy and that was something he hadn’t had in months.