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Sic mea vita est temporaria
cupit ardenter caritatem aeternam
Wide eyes stared at the ceiling of the building, shocked. He felt the cold on his back, a gloved hand cradling his head and the frame of a body pressed against his. A million thoughts raced through his mind before the weight lifted off his chest. He focused on the man above him, searching cerulean eyes for an answer to what had just occurred.
“This was the only thing I could think of to surprise you more than you surprised me,” Viktor explained, corners of his mouth turned up into a sweet smile.
Yuuri lifted his head slightly and gazed lovingly at the man. He had been conflicted with so many emotions during his program: Irritation, relief transforming to strength, wonder, love. He wanted to please Viktor. He wanted to show his coach that he was the best thing that had happened to him by surpassing him. It was true Viktor was an idiot at times and didn't know how to handle Yuuri's insecurities, but he always stood by him.
“Most definitely. You did great. Come on,” Viktor said as he stood, holding a hand out when he was on his feet. He held Yuuri's hand as they walked to the kiss and cry, not letting go as they awaited his scores. Even with the mistakes he had placed in second, earning him the silver. Yuuri was amazed. The day had started off in chaos. Anxiety and insecurity had almost eaten him alive. Then the parking garage happened. He felt like he was going to break. He knew Viktor was trying to motivate him to do well, but it was his greatest fear come to life. If his journey ended now Viktor would leave. His emotional breakdown had caused stress between the men, but Yuuri had time to think as they walked to the ice. He knew Viktor was inexperienced as a coach. He knew he didn't completely understand Yuuri's emotional state when it came to competitions. But Viktor continued to stand by him. He poured everything he had into making Yuuri a better, more mature and confident skater. Everything began to click when he entered the rink. After silently telling Viktor everything was ok, he skated with more emotion than he ever had before. And this was the outcome. He couldn't be happier, but he knew they had to have a serious conversation about where to go from here.
“Yuuri! I am so proud of you! Russia, here we come!”
Viktor embraced him in a tight hug, rocking back and forth. He pulled back and pressed a kiss to Yuuri's forehead. He lowered his head and smiled at the young man.
“I think you have a podium to get to?”
Yuuri nodded, silent from shock and disbelief. He stood and made his way to the ice. Viktor didn't let go of his hand until the last possible moment.
Hours had passed since the awards ceremony. They had joined a few other skaters and coaches for a celebration at a local hot pot restaurant. Viktor never left his side. He was extremely attentive to Yuuri and showered him with praise. Viktor seemed interested in his friends as well. He swapped tips with Phichit about Instagram and selfies. He had to know the Thai skater's tricks on how to get so many followers. He graciously listened to Leo and Guang Hong as they fawned over him, starstruck by his presence. Viktor treated everyone like a friend instead of someone beneath him. He was polite to the other coaches and listened to their constructive criticism on his coaching style, as well.
Yuuri smirked to himself while they walked back to the hotel. This was not the Viktor Nikiforov he had expected. While he wanted to exceed Viktor's expectations of him, he realized the man was exceeding his. He knew once they reached the hotel he wanted to talk to Viktor. Not just as skater to coach, but man to man. He needed a clear picture laid out in front of him to keep his insecurities at bay. This could be the best thing that happened in his life, he didn't want overthinking to ruin it. He was brought back to the present when gloved fingers laced through his and squeezed gently.
“Where did you go?” Viktor asked quietly.
Yuuri turned his head and smiled wistfully. He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.
“Things that have been going through my mind lately. We need to talk. When we get back to the hotel.”
Viktor's eyes widened in surprise and he halted, slowing Yuuri in the process. Vulnerability had taken over the man. He stared at Yuuri for a moment longer then cleared his throat.
“This doesn't sound good. Should I be worried?” Yuuri's eyes softened slightly and his smiled became gentler.
“I don't think so, but we need to get everything in the open. I can't handle anymore of what happened tonight. Ok?”
He watched as Viktor nodded, the Russian's eyes reflecting the unease coursing through him. Yuuri tugged on his hand, urging him to follow.
“Come on. Let's get this out of the way.”
They were silent on the way up to their floor. Yuuri could feel the tension that had grown on the walk back and it made him nervous. He hoped he could remain brave as he poured everything at Viktor's feet. He was about to expose himself more than he had ever before, and the thought daunted him. He took a deep breath when the elevator doors opened and he stepped into the hallway. Viktor followed him, eyes downcast as he waited for Yuuri to unlock the door when they reached his room. Yuuri entered his room, took off his coat and hung it up. He looked back to the door. Viktor was standing in the room awkwardly, unsure of what to do.
“May I take your coat?” Yuuri asked, holding out an arm. Viktor shrugged out of his Burberry and handed it to the young man. Yuuri gestured to the desk chair before sitting on the edge of the bed. He waited until Viktor took a seat before giving the man a small, encouraging smile.
“Viktor, when you came to Hasetsu it was like a dream come true. I was going to have my own coach at my disposal any time of the day or night. But the best part of it is it was Viktor Nikiforov. I've looked up to you for so long, and here you were in my family's onsen. It was unreal. I had a certain set of expectations when you decided you were going to stay. To say the least you haven't met them...,” he stopped when Viktor interrupted.
“I'm sorry. I know I'm not a very good coach,” he said sadly. Yuuri chuckled softly.
“No, you're not,” he said, watching the man's mouth drop open, “but I'm not a very good skater. I think we fit each other well. My doubts and lack of confidence didn't start yesterday, Viktor, and you've been working with me on them. Thanks to you I have grown, as a skater and a person. Your assurance has helped me so much, but I still have a long way to go. I'm going to break down, I'm going to fall apart. I need you to stand by me when I do. I need you to be my strength. We can't have what happened today ever to happen again.”
“I am so sorry, Yuuri. I never meant to hurt you. I thought I could motivate you to do well by basically giving you an ultimatum. I don't know how to react in situations like that. I can teach you moves, routines and tell you how to improve your programs, but I have a very hard time reading and helping people,” Viktor said, “Tell me what I need to do to make it better.”
“I told you this afternoon. I just need you to stand by me. Be you. I need Viktor, not Viktor the coach or Viktor the superstar skater. I need you. I need you to believe in me.”
He was surprised when Viktor took both of his hands and rested them against his thighs. The Russian's gaze softened and he smiled.
“Yuuri, I've always believed in you. I know you have the ability to achieve anything you set your mind to, we just need to get you to believe that. You're your own worst enemy, you know that?”
Yuuri smirked and nodded.
“Yeah, not the first time I've heard that. But you know what? You're the only one that hasn't chided me about it. You may not know what to do or how to handle it, but you accept it. Do you know how much that means to me?”
He watched Viktor shake his head, eyes pleading for him to continue.
“It means the world. No one has ever done that. I really don't know how to act. So please be patient with me while I'm patient with you.”
“Of course, Yuuri. I'll do everything in my power to help make you a better skater. I think we need to work on our communication. You need to tell me what's bothering you before it festers inside you. I will do everything I can to understand and help you with your doubts,” Viktor replied, “Sound like a plan?”
“Yeah. I think that will work,” Yuuri said. Viktor smiled and squeezed his hands.
“I think we should start now,” he continued, watching Viktor's shell-shocked expression.
“There's more?” he asked. Yuuri nodded.
“I think I know what the main problem is,” he said slowly. Viktor gulped and settled back into the chair. He let Yuuri's hands go and ran one through his hair.
“Ok. Tell me.”
“You know when you asked me what I wanted you to be to me?” Yuuri asked, watching the man nod slowly, “I told you I wanted you to be you. Now I'm asking you, but a little differently. We've been working together for a while now. What am I to you? Am I your pupil? Am I your friend? Am I just someone there while you figure out what you want? We've done some things I would never do with anyone else. Am I a passing fancy? Am I something else?”
Yuuri could feel the anger build within him. He hadn't planned on this. He wanted to have a rational conversation with Viktor, not let his emotions get in the way. He should have known better. He jerked his head up, staring into cerulean eyes.
Viktor was astonished by Yuuri's questions. He had never seen Yuuri get angry. Viktor knew the young man was very sensitive and he had a hard time dealing with Yuuri's emotions. He closed his eyes and placed a forefinger to his lips while he thought.
“You're a couple of those plus a few others. You are my pupil, that's obvious. That's what brought me here. I knew you had the capability to be an exceptional skater and I wanted to help you with that. You're my friend. I enjoy spending time with you. You've helped me settle into Japan. We do some pretty fun and crazy things,” he said, laughing about the time they ran on the beach screaming and yelling just because they could.
“You're my confidante. I can tell you anything and you won't judge me. Yeah, I do some stupid stuff and you get after me, but you respect me as a person. I love that quality about you,” he continued. He paused, taking in the surprised look on Yuuri's face. If Viktor had to guess, he had never heard anyone bear their soul to him like this. It had to be especially surreal for him as it was about him.
“R-really?” Yuuri stuttered. Viktor smiled at his skepticism.
“Yes, really. But I'm not finished,” he said, amusement in his voice.
“Oh, sorry. Go ahead,” Yuuri muttered. A blush had crept across his cheeks and was spreading up his ears. Viktor loved this about him. It endeared Yuuri to him. He was thinking about how much he should tell Yuuri about how much he meant to him.
“You're my inspiration. You pulled yourself up from the depths of depression and fought to get where you are now. I don't know anyone who has put forth as much effort to redefine who they are, and it doesn't look like an easy task. I wish I could be half the man you have become,” he said. Yuuri's jaw dropped.
“But Viktor, you are so much better than I am! You have it together, have had a successful career and are so confident. I don't know if I'll ever be like that,” he said, tapping his forefingers together as he looked down at the floor in embarrassment.
Viktor placed a finger under Yuuri's chin, lifting his head. He stared straight into Yuuri's eyes. Viktor leaned closer to him.
“I'm going to tell you a secret,” he whispered. Eyes wide, Yuuri's breath caught at their nearness.
“I've had a successful career because that's all I've done for the past twenty years. The confidence is a facade. It's expected of me so I play that role. And I'm far from having it together. All I do is skate. I haven't had time to do anything else in life except practice and compete. My friends are all skaters. I only see them at competitions. All I have are flings with people whose faces I don't even remember. I've been empty, Yuuri. I've been lonely for so long. I'm more than just a skater,” Viktor said sadly. He closed his eyes and huffed. It hurt to admit the truth, but he felt a weight lift from him. He felt free. He now knew he could tell Yuuri how he truly felt.
“Is that what I am, Viktor? Am I a fling as well?” Yuuri asked, tears filling his eyes, “Because if I am we need to end this now. I can't take that.”
“That brings me to the last thing you are to me. You're my love, Yuuri. You make me feel alive. You see past the fabricated Viktor. You are patient with me. You want to spend time with me...ME....because you see the real me. You brought me down from that pedestal that everyone places me on. Do you know how happy that makes me?” Viktor asked, waiting for Yuuri to respond.
“No, I don't,” he said, a single tear slipping down his cheek. Viktor raised a hand to Yuuri's cheek and wiped the trail away with the pad of his thumb.
“I feel like my heart is going to become so overwhelmed with love and gratitude it's going to explode. I want to feel like this forever,” he breathed.
Yuuri suddenly lifted his hands to his face and burst into tears. His body shook with powerful sobs. Smiling tenderly, Viktor enveloped Yuuri in a loving hug and pulled him into his lap. He held Yuuri until his sobs turned to sniffles. He reached behind him and felt around for the box of tissues. He pulled a few out of the box and handed them to Yuuri. He thanked Viktor, blew his nose loudly and sat up. He started to stand but Viktor held him.
“This is going to be the cheesiest line ever, but stay close to me right now. Please?” Viktor asked, pleading with his eyes. Yuuri chuckled through the tears that remained. Viktor had never seen a more beautiful sight. Yuuri's hair was askew from leaning against the Russian's chest while he cried, his face was splotched. But what captured him was the smile the man was giving him. It was so full of love and hope.
“Viktor, I didn't think it could be done but you've managed to outcheese yourself. Is that even a word?” Yuuri looked up thoughtfully, pressing a finger to his lips. Viktor laughed.
“It is now. Yuuri?”
“I want to kiss you again.”
Yuuri searched Viktor's eyes and saw the love, the compassion they held for him. He had never been happier in his life. His idol, his coach, his friend, and if he was honest with himself the love of his life had admitted he loved him. He would have laughed at anyone who told him he would ever be at this point, but here he was. This was beyond a wish come true.
“Please,” he whispered. Slightly chapped lips brushed against his before pulling back. Viktor gazed into chocolate orbs, eyes darting down to Yuuri's lips before capturing them in a kiss. It was a slow, sweet and calming kiss. It let Yuuri know that Viktor wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. He knew they would have to talk about their future at some point, but he would take every minute he had with the man. They pulled apart hesitantly moments later.
“Would you like to take a shower with me?” he asked, blushing slightly. Viktor raised an eyebrow and opened his mouth slightly.
“As much as I would love to, I don't think that's a good idea. You're emotionally raw right now. You don't need anything else to worry about,” he said, a tinge of regret in his voice.
“I don't want to do anything sexual. I want to hold you and feel you against me. Besides, it's been a busy day and we both need one. Kill two birds with one stone?” he chuckled nervously. Viktor closed his eyes and breathed deeply. He was truly conflicted as he didn't want to do the wrong thing.
“Ok,” he agreed. Yuuri smiled brightly and rose from Viktor's lap. He went into the bathroom and minutes later the sound of running water filled the room. Viktor chuckled to himself, stood and walked to the bathroom. Yuuri was already in the shower with the curtain pulled closed. He removed his clothing quickly, folding the garments and placing them on the countertop. He dragged the curtain back and climbed into the raised stall. It was barely big enough for the two of them. The young man had his back to him. He pressed against Yuuri and kissed him softly on his neck.
“Viktor...” Yuuri warned.
“That's as far as I'm going. I promise,” Viktor explained. Yuuri nodded and leaned his head against Viktor's shoulder. The Russian smiled and hugged him tightly.
“I'm glad you don't want me just for my body. Now that I said that it sounds totally wrong,” Yuuri said, raising his hands to his face in embarrassment. Viktor turned Yuuri so he was facing him. He wrapped his arms around the young man's waist and pressed his forehead against Yuuri's.
“As much as I love your body, I love you for this,” he said, lifting his head and pressing a forefinger to Yuuri's forehead, “and this.” Viktor placed a hand on the young man's chest, right over his heart.
“Really?” Yuuri asked in amazement.
“Yes. As nice as sex is, those are so much more important.”
Yuuri threw his arms around Viktor's neck and hugged him tightly. They stayed that way until the water turned lukewarm. They quickly washed each others' bodies and exited the shower. With towels wrapped around waists, they returned to the room and Yuuri selected pajamas from his suitcase. He tossed a pair of sweatpants to Viktor. The Russian chuckled and looked at the pants.
“So I take it I'm staying the night?” Viktor asked, silently hoping Yuuri would agree.
“If you don't mind. I want you to myself tonight.”
“I will gladly stay. I loved watching you when you spent that one night with me.”
Yuuri blushed deeply as memories of that encounter came rushing back to him. It had been the first time he had ever done anything like that, but he was so glad it had been with Viktor. His thoughts were disrupted when he heard Viktor laugh softly.
“What?” he asked.
“I'm wearing liederhosen to bed, you know?” Yuuri burst into laughter and waited for him to dress. Viktor lifted the sheets and climbed into bed, stretching his arms out for Yuuri to join him. The young man crawled to him and settled into his arms. His face snuggled against Viktor's chest as the Russian held him tightly. Just like the last time they had spent the night together, exhaustion of the day quickly claimed Yuuri and he felt sleep threatening to claim him.
“I'm going to fall asleep soon, but I want you to know I love you too. With all my heart,” he confessed sleepily. Lips brushed against his forehead quickly followed by a contented sigh.
“I know, Yuuri. I love you so much. Sleep well, my Yuuri,” Viktor said softly in his native tongue.
He didn't know what the last part meant, but he knew Viktor told him he loved him too. He fell asleep quickly, a tender smile on his face and love in his heart.