No matter how many of Russia’s best doctors Victor made his beloved mother visit, they all were at a loss for the cause of her rapidly declining health.
Mama smiled patiently each time, insisting it was heartbreak that rapidly consumed her health. After one particular visit, she had reached out to Victor, gripping his shaking hands in her own, giving him a delicate but weak smile.
“This blood of ours is cursed, Vitya,” Mama rasped, her blue eyes, identical to Victor’s own, pleading for him to understand. “The moment we fall romantically in love with someone, we curse them with death. The moment we realise what joy we have attained with another person, our curse will take them away from us, forever. All we have left is a hole in our hearts.”
Victor had never met his father, never even seen a single photo of him. He had died before Victor was even born. It was always just him, Mama, and the ice.
“Mama, I don’t get why we’re cursed,” Victor asked one day, his brain arguing against the logic of magic and curses, crying out for a scientific reason for his Mama’s illness.
“Rejection is a brutal thing," Mama began, her gaze focused away from Victor. "Our ancestor rejected the wrong person, and our bloodline was cursed never to be able to happily live with their loved one.” Mama looked away once she finished speaking, her eyes lost in the memories of time.
Victor was fourteen when his mother finally succumbed to her heartbreak, pining for a true love long since lost in the flow of time.
Victor swore then never to fall in love, determined to avoid Mama’s fate. It was not worth it. How could anything be worth suffering so much pain in the aftermath?
The ice was all he needed.
Victor’s face felt frozen as it continued to maintain Smile #15 (pretend that you are genuinely interested) with the woman in front of him, desperately wishing for the moment her overly-red lips would finally stop moving. His brief hope was dashed when it turned out the woman had simply taken a deep breath and continued on with whatever mundane topic she insisted on sharing with him. Victor took another brief glance of his surroundings, blanketed by the babbling of excited conversation, and the chinks of champagne glasses meeting one another and dearly wished for the night to be over. His smile may have morphed to #22 (don’t snap at the children or they’ll start crying) as she continued, patience wearing thin.
Another gold medal won, another banquet, and another meaningless night. The routine was so familiar to Victor that it had all but morphed into one indistinguishable blur that belonged to the mess of Victor Nikiforov’s life.
Victor grabbed another glass of champagne from the nearby waiter, needing something to prevent him from openly dozing off, before feeling a hand rest on his shoulder as he started raising the glass to his mouth.
“Victor, drinking so much already?” Christophe all but purred as he slid his arm across Victor’s shoulder, pulling him into a semi-hug. He gave the startled woman in front of him a wink, finally stunning her into the silence that Victor had started wishing for a good fifteen minutes ago. “Do you mind if I borrow Victor here?”
“N-no of course not,” she stammered.
“Thank you.” With a final wink, Christophe all but dragged Victor across the banquet room without a word of explanation, making it clear to anyone who wanted to approach that Victor was unavailable.
“Victor, I fetched you all the way from your fascinating conversation because I think you’d enjoy this very much.” Christophe threw another wink at Victor as he slowed to a sudden stop. Victor was about to voice his confusion before he saw it, the one scene that would change everything.
He instantly recognised the blond hair belonging to Yuri Plisetsky, face fierce as he aggressively breakdanced on the banquet floor. But what truly drew Victor’s attention was his opponent, his black hair disorderly from a combination of sweat and practiced movements across the floor. His deep brown eyes, wide and glistening with excitement, holding more joy in them than Victor ever felt he had experienced. Victor recognised him as Yuuri Katsuki, the Japanese skater that had looked rather glum at the start of the banquet.
Victor wasn’t sure whether it was the infectious smile on Yuuri’s face as he danced off against Yuri, or just the sheer break of routine the dance off was compared to the usual tedium of the banquet, but Victor felt a smile that was not pre-programmed into his facial muscles appear for the first time in years. A strange, bubbly feeling ran throughout his veins as he continued to watch in awe.
Victor Nikiforov felt warm, warmer than he had in years as he pulled out his phone and started recording the scene in front of him.
Is this what it is like to truly live?
The banquet continued on, and for the first time Victor did not want it to end. It was as if Victor had truly felt the warmth of the sun for the first time, and he was reluctant to ever let it go. Was this the kind of feeling that Mama had chased, willing to have her heart broken if it meant a few moments of fleeting joy?
The dance off morphed into a pole dance, and Yuuri Katsuki continued to enchant Victor with every lithe movement of his body. Victor laughed at the outraged faces of other guests surrounding them, and continued laughing as Yuuri and Christophe attempted steadily more difficult pole dancing moves in an attempt to outdo each other. Brilliant, just absolutely brilliant.
As Victor started swaying to the music in the room, he knew he was no longer content to remain on the sidelines. Filled with the buzz of champagne, and of the increasing feelings of excitement, Victor could not entirely remember the sequence events for the night – one moment he was clutching a handful of Yuuri’s discarded clothing, jokingly reminding Yuuri how to properly put on his tie (“No Yuuri, your tie goes around your neck, not your head!”), the next he recalled struggling to remember long-forgotten ballroom skills as he danced across the banquet floor with none other than Yuuri himself.
The feeling that coursed through Victor’s veins, it was more than excitement. Yuuri Katsuki was giving him fun, and Victor never wanted to take his eyes away from him. Used to being the person delivering surprises to the world, Victor himself had forgotten the feeling of being surprised himself.
It was just like a dream.
A dream that Victor never knew he longed for.
This was the life that Victor had willingly rejected in order to protect himself from his family’s curse.
As the night went on, a dangerous thought slid into Victor’s mind. Who said Victor had to completely give up living his life? He just needed to avoid falling in love.
He wasn’t falling in love with Yuuri Katsuki, not at all.
“Be my coach, Victor!” Victor had been completely unprepared for Yuuri to actually hold him in a tight hug, whilst simultaneously grinding himself against Victor. It was his eyes. The look in his eyes. Victor could not look away from Yuuri’s bright brown eyes as he begged Victor to coach him, the purity of the gaze heading straight towards Victor’s heart like an arrow fired by Cupid himself.
The combination of unwanted sunlight and the harsh tones of Victor’s phone going off dragged Victor away from his hazy recollection of the night before, his head absolutely throbbing. Sitting up in bed, Victor could not help the smile that appeared on his face as his thoughts again turned to Yuuri, the buzzing of his phone finally stopping.
How have I gone through my life without you, Yuuri Katsuki?
Victor let himself bask in the glow that the mere thought of Yuuri set off before another, darker thought suddenly came to mind.
Was it love?
Had Victor somehow fallen in love with Yuuri Katsuki?
No, not that quickly.
Now all but panicking, Victor roughly grabbed his phone, ignoring the five missed calls from Yakov and the likely angry text message from Yuri, hurriedly typing Yuuri’s name into a search engine. Victor scrolled quickly through several pages of search results, letting out a breath he was not aware of holding when no headlines screaming of Yuuri’s sudden death came at him.
Yuuri was fine. Victor absently threw his phone across the bed, wondering at his overreaction. Yuuri was fine. But the small sensation of unease in the back of his mind remained, and Victor knew that the sooner he confronted it, the better.
Victor had separated himself from truly feeling and experiencing life for so long that he wasn’t sure what love felt like. He still remembered Mama’s words.
This blood of ours is cursed, Vitya.
This was the 21st century, curses were just the stuff of stories and movies. But this didn’t stop the small, negative part of Victor’s mind from wondering whether it was true. After Mama had died, Victor had just moved in with Yakov to fully dedicate himself to figure skating. No one calling themselves family had ever come for Victor.
Victor checked his phone one last time, noting that there also had been no contact from Yuuri. Maybe it was for the better. He couldn’t risk falling in love with him, because it would be the most utterly selfish thing that Victor had done in his life, and there was no way he could justify Yuuri’s life just for his happiness.
No, it was better this way.
Victor forced himself to stop thinking about Yuuri as he finally rolled out of bed to deal with the aftermath of the banquet.
The typing of the same two words every morning became a routine for Victor. The quick browse to make sure nothing had happened to Yuuri. It seemed that whatever Victor had felt for Yuuri, it wasn’t the romantic kind of love that had seemingly killed his father. Yuuri remained alive, although the lack of search results regarding his participation in current figure skating events concerned Victor a little.
There had been no mention of Yuuri participating in the Four Continents. Still, Victor came to the realisation that he might encounter Yuuri again at Worlds, particularly as they were going to be held in Japan. That led to the next question.
How should he act around Yuuri?
Yuuri hadn’t contacted Victor once since the banquet either. Victor was not quite sure how to take that silence, however it was probably a good thing considering how Victor’s heart beat reacted every time he thought about Yuuri.
Should Victor act overly friendly, treating Yuuri as an old friend as he would with Christophe? Or should he take more of a senior skater role and try to give Yuuri some advice? Yuuri for sure could take some advice on his jumps after his Grand Prix performance.
Two hours later, the notebook where Victor had painstakingly brainstormed different ways to approach Yuuri (and remain chill at the same time) was covered in about twenty different ideas, all in various stages of being buried under hasty scribbles.
Victor had done his usual search on Yuuri’s health more thoroughly the next morning.
Yuuri wasn’t at Worlds. That had been the immediate sinking realisation Victor had felt when arrived at the skating venue in Tokyo, deaf to the cheering and noises around him as he quickly scanned his competition. There were many familiar faces around him, but the face of a certain dark-haired, bespectacled skater was glaringly missing. The only comfort Victor could derive was the lack of need to worry about how to interact with Yuuri without making a complete fool of himself. That notebook could safely remain in the garbage.
Yuuri remained on his mind as he slid onto the ice, legs moving in practiced motions and stopping in the middle of the ice as he waited for the familiar melody to start. He raised his head to the ceiling, raising his arm then slowly slid it down his body as he moved to the familiar music of Stammi Vicino.
Sento una voce che piange lontano
Anche tu, sei stato forse abbandonato?...
Victor’s body felt it was moving on auto pilot as the lyrics that he once wrote absent-mindedly purely for the story of his free skate took on a sudden, much deeper meaning. Victor felt the years of self-imposed isolation in his fear of getting too close to someone and falling in love, and his new longing to be with someone suddenly come out.
Yuuri’s face appeared in his mind again. There had been something so inherently interesting, surprising about the skater that Victor could not let go of. Longing was clear in every crisp movement of Victor’s body as each step sequence, each jump enthralled the crowd.
Stammi vicino, non te ne andare
Ho paura di perderti…
Victor realised with each lyric sung that in his attempt to avoid the heartbreak that had consumed Mama, he had made himself just as unhappy even with his heart seemingly whole. He could no longer live like this, not with a taste of what warmth, excitement, truly feeling life was.
Ora sono pronto…
As Victor stepped out of his combination spin and into one final pose for his routine, he wondered if Yuuri was watching him and could see the message that he had danced out on the ice for him.
Victor wondered at the meaning of his feelings for Yuuri, even as he felt relieved at the lack of mention of any sudden deaths in the aftermath of his Worlds free skate. What were these feelings, if it were not love? Victor continued his routine scrolling of news on his phone, a sense of boredom creeping in until a new message arrived from Yakov.
As was his usual routine, Victor was about to swipe the notification away to deal with Yakov later, but the differing contents of the notification preview caused him to pause mid-swipe. Just one link?
[Katsuki Yuuri] Tried to Skate Victor’s FS Program [Stay Close to Me]
Victor’s finger shook over the play button as the words of the description sunk in. He did not understand what it was that he felt for Yuuri. But he feared watching this video, what Victor felt was a reply to his performance at Tokyo could be the final straw that triggered his curse. Was Victor willing to lose Yuuri, no, to let someone innocent possibly die because he could no longer control himself?
Victor knew, even before he pressed the play button and watched Yuuri skate, that he had made up his mind.
Just like his ancestors, who had clearly not been able to resist the call of love, Victor knew he must have fallen in love with Yuuri Katsuki. He could no longer walk away from the light, not when Yuuri’s rendition of his free skate called out to him, a reply to Victor’s own cry for help.
Lonely souls in need for company to stave off the pain that came from loneliness.
All Victor wished for was the one opportunity to speak to Yuuri in his own terms, and maybe, just maybe, he could be as happy as his Mama before fading away over heartbreak.
There was no hesitation in Victor’s fingers as he booked his flight to Japan.
The words that a drunken Yuuri had said to him that night guided him as he finally touched down in Japan, refreshingly alone from the entourage and noise that came from travelling for a competition. It was just Victor and Makkachin.
Hasetsu was a beautiful town, surrounded by the sparkling ocean and comforting in a way that returning home to St. Petersburg was after a long competition. Yu-topia Katsuki was not the hardest place to find, being the only onsen in town, and Victor was quickly running through possible greetings as he approached the entrance with Makkachin.
Hello, Katsuki-san, my name is Victor Nikiforov and I’m here to visit your son. By the way, did I mention that he’s going to die because I fell in love with him because of a that curse has been haunting my family for generations?
That was going to go down absolutely great. Victor was completely stuck for words as he entered the homely interior of the onsen, Makkachin running excitedly towards the first person he saw, a short, but gentle looking woman with glasses that gave Makkachin a good pet on the head as he approached.
As she looked away from Makkachin towards Victor, the soft smile that she wore on her face suddenly dropped, to be replaced with one of stunned surprise.
“Katsuki-san?” Victor asked, using his minimal knowledge of Japanese in his attempt to be polite.
“Call me Hiroko, Vicchan,” the woman replied in English, the shock on her face lessening as she leaned forward slightly to take a better look at Victor.
“Sorry, sorry, it slipped out!” Hiroko laughed as Makkachin ran back towards Victor, tail wagging around in excitement. “Yuuri has so many posters of you in his room, and I’ve heard so much about you that it’s like you’re part of the family.”
Hiroko’s expression turned slightly more serious as she looked Victor directly in the eye. “You are here for Yuuri, yes?”
Victor nodded once, not trusting himself to speak. How could he, knowing very well that his actions would lead to?
Victor was not prepared for the sudden hug that Hiroko gave him as she leapt forward, Victor awkwardly moving his arms around her.
“I did not realise you were the one,” Hiroko murmured, stepping back but looking at Victor with a new light in her eyes. “I can see the red string that ties you to Yuuri – the stories of a curse cast by our ancestor has been passed down, but I always thought it was a mere story until you walked in.”
“A curse?” Victor felt his heart beat accelerate. Was this where Hiroko, devoted to protecting her son, cast him away for what was about to happen?
Hiroko nodded sadly, the look in her eyes suggesting she was thinking about a conversation held long ago. “Grudges can be held for a long time…I can see it in your eyes, the fear you hold in them.” Hiroko embraced Victor in another hug. “The curse breaks when the descendants of the two lovers fall in love.”
Victor felt himself stiffen at Hiroko’s words. Hiroko released him, giving him another wide smile. “It’s alright now. You’ve already fallen in love with Yuuri, haven’t you? For quite a while.”
Victor felt something wet and warm drip down his cheek as he continued staring at Hiroko, disbelieving of her words. His hands were shaking as he held them out, finally seeing the tears that were leaking out. What an unusual sight. “Is this what this warm feeling is to me? Love?”
Victor had forgotten what the warm embrace of a mother’s hug felt like. Hiroko held him tight as he sobbed, finally breaking down, feeling the years of pent up loneliness well up from within him. It was also a feeling of relief that spread throughout him, at the thought that he could actually find happiness.
“Wait for Yuuri in the onsen, Vicchan,” Hiroko eventually said, after Victor sobs had died down. “He will come find you.”
The remainder of the stress in Victor’s body faded away in the steamy and warm atmosphere of the onsen, even as Victor delighted at the new feeling of hope and optimism he felt. Life. Love. The two L words he had always neglected out of fear. He felt he could finally reach for them with his own two hands.
Victor raised his head when he heard the onsen door nearby slam open, and was met with the sight of Yuuri running in, hands on his knees and out of breath. Even though Yuuri looked completely different to the person he had danced with at the banquet, Victor still found the Yuuri in front of him adorable.
Victor stood up from the warmth of the onsen, extending his arm towards Yuuri, his arm reaching out for the hope, the joy, the sun that Yuuri offered.
“Yuuri, starting today, I’m your coach!”
Even as Yuuri let out a scream of shock, Victor knew it would be the start of a magical relationship.