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interlude

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Viktor insists that he and Yakov both go to pick Yuuri up from the airport.

"Vitya," Yakov sighs, put-upon. "I can handle transporting one skater alone, even if he is your beloved. And you shouldn't be wasting valuable practice time on unnecessary outings."

"Unnecessary," Viktor says, high-pitched and horrified. "Yakov, how can you say that? Every moment I spend away from my Yuuri is another moment of hopelessness, of agony, of—"

Good god, Yakov groans internally. Out loud, he cuts Viktor off and says, "Okay, why don't you pick him up yourself, then?"

Viktor looks carefully away, lips curling into a smirk. "Ha," he says. "We might get...distracted, alone."

"Ugh." Yakov covers his face. "Fine. Fine."

 

They take Yakov's car to Pulkovo airport, Viktor sitting in the passenger seat because no way does Yakov trust him to drive. Viktor is distracted, his right leg jostling and his hands pressed anxiously between his thighs. He looks like a little boy, Yakov thinks. Giddy and off-kilter.

But then again, had Viktor ever really been this way before, even as a boy? Yakov doesn't think so.

Katsuki Yuuri has changed him. Only time will tell if it's for the better.

 

They arrive ten minutes before Yuuri is scheduled to land, and they wait in the arrivals area in comfortable silence.

Viktor has stopped fidgeting, and is staring, silent and still, at the gate Yuuri will be coming out of. He looks like Makkachin used to, when he knew that Viktor was supposed to be returning home after a long trip. Yakov snorts aloud at the image.

Hearing the sound, Viktor turns to look at him. "What?"

"Nothing," Yakov waves him off. Viktor smiles at him, a little puzzled, before going back to gazing expectantly at the gate.

When Yuuri comes through the gate, Yakov sees it on Viktor first, before he turns around to see the man himself. Viktor's face lighting up, Viktor's eyes going wide and shiny.

"Go on," Yakov starts to say, but Viktor's already leapt out of his seat.

"Yuuri!" he shouts, heedless of the crowds around him, like it's been months and not days. "Yuuri!" and Yuuri's there too, drops his bag on the floor and slams into Viktor, full speed.

"Oh, here we go," Yakov grumbles half-heartedly, but his heart warms unbidden at the way Viktor's arms come up around Yuuri. He looks like he wants to absorb Yuuri into him, cheap, too-bulky coat and all.

"You two lovebirds can cuddle at home," Yakov says dryly. "Let's go."

Yuuri catches sight of him over Viktor's shoulder and jolts, going bright red. "Viktor!" he whines, hitting Viktor on the shoulder.

"Whaaat," Viktor laughs, bending to kiss Yuuri's neck. Yuuri giggles and then freezes, seeming to forget and then remember again where they are. "Embarrassed?"

Yakov sends a quick prayer up to the heavens for patience. "Please," he says loudly, not really a request at all. "You have an apartment. I have a car. Let's go."

Viktor looks reluctant to let go, but quiets when Yuuri takes his hand. Viktor looks at him soppily, kisses his knuckles, and tucks their joined hands into his jacket pocket.

Yakov pictures Yuri being here—how he would gag and roll his eyes—and his lips twitch.

Yuuri makes to pick up his bag and Viktor pulls a face. "Let me," he says.

Yakov, who has never known Viktor to be that chivalrous, laughs out loud. He picks up the bag.

"Oh, Coach, no—" Yuuri protests, but Yakov waves him off.

"I'm not that old," he says. "Besides," and here he rolls his eyes like Yuri would, "your hands are full."

Viktor laughs, bright, bell-like. He seems happy.

 

The bag rides up front with Yakov, while Viktor and Yuuri both pile into the backseat because Viktor won't let go of Yuuri's damn hand.

Yakov peels away from the curb, and they drive in silence for a minute before Yuuri clears his throat.

"Did you bring it?"

Yakov looks up into the rearview mirror, curious despite himself. Viktor looks shifty.

Yuuri narrows his eyes. "Viktor."

"Yuuri."

"Viktor."

Viktor huffs, pouts, crosses his arms. Again looking every bit the stereotypical teenager he never really was. Yakov snorts and focuses back on the road.

"Yes, I brought it, okay?"

"Where is it?"

There's some rustling, and then—

"You had it in your jacket pocket the whole time? Viktor! What if somebody stole it?"

At that, Yakov has to look back again.

Viktor has his silver medal from Russian Nationals dangling loosely from his grasp. Yakov's never seen Viktor this incredibly upset about not winning gold, but he's been like this since the competition itself. He looks utterly, bitterly disappointed in himself.

Yuuri, on the other hand, looks determined.

"Put it on me."

"What?"

"Viktor, I swear—"

"Okay, okay!"

This road isn't too dangerous anyway; Yakov can watch the drama unfold.

Viktor loops the ribbon around Yuuri's neck. Yuuri exhales, then smiles. "Thank you. Hold on a second."

He leans forward until he can reach the passenger seat. "Sorry," he says, flashing an apologetic smile Yakov's way as he unzips the bag.

"As long as you get him out of this mood." Yakov scowls.

"I'm working on it." Yuuri smiles, sticks his hand in, searches for a bit, and then pulls out his own Nationals gold medal. Yakov blinks. What on earth are they...

"Here," Yuuri says, settling back in his seat. "Come here." Viktor bends forward automatically, and Yuuri slips the medal over his head, adjusting it until it sits neatly in the center of Viktor's chest. "There."

"Yuuri, what..."

"Viktor." Yuuri inhales. "I want you to pretend it ended up like this: you got gold, and I got silver."

"But you—"

"Shh, just," a heavy sigh, "just pretend, okay?"

"...okay."

"Now, knowing that I got silver—would you be upset with me?"

"What? No!"

"You wouldn't be disappointed in me?"

"Yuuri, no, why are you—"

"You wouldn't blame me at all, or reconsider our..." He stalls out. When Yakov glances back at him, he's blushing and looking away. Yakov silently wills the boy a little strength. "Our partnership?" The word is layered with meaning. Yakov really didn't need to know that much, but, well.

"Of course not," Viktor stresses.

"Good." The lesson seems to sink in for Viktor finally, and he sighs. Yuuri tugs lightly on the gold medal around Viktor's neck. "You know to me," he says, "you're always gold, right?"

There's a pause, and then:

"Yuuri," Viktor says, choked with what Yakov hopes is just laughter but knowing Viktor probably is not. That's one thing about the Vitya he knew that hasn't changed one bit. "Yuuuri, that was so romantic, I'm so proud of you!"

"Sh-shut up," Yuuri says, shoving him away, but he's laughing too.

Viktor pulls Yuuri into a kiss, one hand curling on his knee and the other on the back of his neck. Yakov hastily turns his eyes back forward.

"I love you," he hears one of them whisper—he isn't sure which one—and then the sound of medals clinking against each other. When he chances another look back, they're still nearly in each others' laps, but have stopped kissing. Good. Yakov thinks of Viktor like a son, has for a decade, and he very much doesn't need to see his son engaging in any more public displays of affection than absolutely necessary, thank you very much.

But he thinks of Viktor like a son, which is why when he sees that a part of Viktor that's been tense since Nationals finally seems relax, he lets his mouth curl into a tiny, private smile.

Yuuri has changed Viktor. Only time will really tell how everything else ends up. But at least for here, for now—Viktor is definitely much, much happier than this time last year.

And that can only be for the better.