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The Power of Love

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If asked, Yuuri could genuinely not tell you a single thing that happened at the press conference after his declaration.

Yuuko assures him, much later, that he’s all the gossip magazines talked about for weeks. Apparently, it was even exciting enough to land them a mention on national news. Yuuri and Yuuko’s fall from grace—followed by a storm of theories and media coverage—followed by understanding. Forgiveness. But Yuuri doesn’t care about those things—doesn’t care about media, or sponsors, or his fans' opinions, or even competitors.

For once, Yuuri refuses to let regret rule him.

For Viktor, Yuuri will be embarrassed and foolish and blinded with love, will climb up onto rooftops and shout out proclamations with every last breath of air in his lungs.

Still. It’s one thing to say it to a press mob and his best friend. Quite another to look the man in his eyes, knowing that every part of him is laid open and vulnerable. Viktor said he was happy that Yuuri wasn’t romantically involved with Yuuko; Viktor said he would wait. Viktor seemed to think that Yuuri was worth it.

Reporters and competitors can try to talk him down. Right now, none of them matter like Viktor does. He has to see him.

After the press conference, Celestino gets a cab to drive them back.

Yuuko doesn’t invade, doesn’t speak, just gestures to the seatbelt he’s forgotten to buckle. “Yuuri.” Viktor would buckle it for him. “You look exhausted.”

“Doesn’t matter,” he says automatically. With his stamina, being worn down is so rarely an issue. His best trait can’t give out on him now. “I have someone I need to talk to.”

Yuuko smiles, patient, pulls a tangle of headphones from her pocket along with her phone. “Want to listen to some music?”

“I know what you’re trying to do,” he mutters, but takes the offered earbud anyway. Piano and strings slip from it, set his mind afloat. It won’t work; it can’t work. He has to talk to Viktor—sleep, rest, pulling himself together? None of that is necessary. Viktor deserves to see the mess, deserves to have all of Yuuri so he can decide if…

Celestino shakes him gently by the shoulder, which only partially wakes him up. Together he and Yuuko stumble inside, to their neighboring rooms. Yuuko hangs in his doorway, and Yuuri collapses bodily onto the mattress with a sigh, curls up into himself.

Before he can fully descend into unconsciousness, his phone vibrates against his thigh. He pulls it out without a second thought.

Just a Twitter notification. It’s not from @v-nikiforov, but it still has Yuuri awake and scrabbling with his phone, dialing out the number by heart.

He takes a moment to remind himself: things might not change.

Even if they haven’t, Yuuri has. He presses the call button with no hesitation, because he and Viktor belong to each other in a way where, even if he crashed and burned and said too much at a press conference, he knows Viktor will still pick up the phone.

With a soft click, they’re connected.

“Yakov said you would call.”

Yuuri’s tired brain can’t make the leap. The voice is a woman’s. “I… wrong phone number?”

“Katsuki Yuuri, right? This is Mila. Mila Babicheva.” There’s brief shuffling, and Yuuri’s chest constricts. “Ah, ah, Viktor said I should keep talking, not let you assume anything. He’s making a press statement, and then Yakov has threatened him with… something… to get him to go to bed. I was designated as the keeper of the phone.”

“Oh.”

“If it helps, the press statement is about you.”

Oh.”

“Right,” she finishes, lightly. “Though I’m told he’s going to deflect most of the questions. So, I must ask, what kind of gossip has Viktor managed to keep to himself? We were all shocked that he’d be able to keep his mouth shut about a romance.”

Mila is… seventeen? Yuuri has to think about it.

“I should probably let Viktor speak for himself.” He pauses. “Don’t you have his phone?”

An exaggerated, pitiful sigh. “It’s locked.”

“Would you,” Yuuri hesitates. “Would you tell him sweet dreams from me?” This is hardly the medium he wants to say it in, through a seventeen year old messenger. Yuuri is desperate.

“Is this how skating’s resident playboy breaks hearts?”

Playboy?” Yuuri coughs.

“You’ve made public love confessions to two current world record holders.”

Yuuri has to remove the phone from his ear, stare incredulously at it for a few moments. “…I guess that’s true?”

“You guess,” Mila laughs.

Yuuri doesn’t have to put up with this. “Please,” he says. “Tell him?”

Yuuko’s murmured addition from the opposite side of the room is playful, fond. “That’s all you want to say?”

“That’s all I want to say… tonight.”

“I’ll tell him,” Mila replies, not unkindly. “Also. For the sake of spying on my rinkmate and Russia’s most famous man, when you and Viktor are together—“

Yuuri doesn’t have to put up with this.

“The password to Viktor’s phone,” Yuuri interrupts, “I know it.” This probably isn’t even a lie.

Really?” She’s delighted. “I’d love to—“

“Have a nice night, Mila,” Yuuri concludes calmly, and hangs up. Then all he’s left with the dimness of the room, the soft hum of Sochi outside. Yuuko, tsking in the doorway with a smile.

“She adores us, you know. Though I think she’s a bigger fan of Sara.”

“Mmm. It’s just—I need to talk to Viktor.” Just two days ago, he’d spent a whole hour in Viktor’s arms, and somehow that had made the craving worse, left him parched and longing.

Love can be too powerful, sometimes. Love has been dominating him, forcing him to his knees, but this is just because Yuuri has been straining to keep it close to his chest, rather than letting it go free.

He’s ready to let everything go.

“I don’t have long hair anymore,” he says. “How are we supposed to do our nightly ritual now?” She sits on the edge of the bed, right next to his hip. Runs a hand through his hair to fluff it, to push it up and away from his eyes. He raises an eyebrow at her, challenges her to admit the look is silly. Like he knew she would, she giggles. Bright.

With this Yuuri is confident, sated and calm, lets the feeling ease out along with their aching muscles as they do loose stretches on the floor. Feels it, warm and filling, when they share late night tea.

The feeling of confidence. Confidence in one thing: it’s never just been about their hair. The hair, or the skating, or even holding onto home. Yuuko and Yuuri, Yuuri and Yuuko, the two kids that won’t quit. That don’t want it to end here.

Never give up on what you love, that’s what Yuuko means to him.

When he closes his eyes that night, he dreams of Viktor, skating in the dark—the blue and purple of the rink, his hair shimmering silver. Arms outstretched towards Yuuri.

Never give up on what you love, what you love, who you love.

Yuuri won’t. 


 

Despite everything—or maybe because of it—Yuuri sleeps in.

His dreams are so full of Viktor, he half expects to wake up to silken hair and broad shoulders in his bed—he could almost swear he feels it, that whisper of warmth left behind by another body.

But no. Viktor isn’t here. Viktor isn’t his—not yet.

Apparently, half of the internet disagrees.

Scrambling for his pathetically buzzing phone, Yuuri silences Twitter, flinging the notifications from his screen, heads straight for his texts.

Mari

Why have three reporters called me about you and Viktor?

They seem surprised to find out you’re pledging yourself to him

I could’ve broken this story ten years ago, is this supposed to be news?

Yuuri quickly backs out of that conversation. Looks for the number he needs to see. Looks and prays and—

Nothing.

His stomach drops, leaves him in lurching vertigo.

Just strained texts from months ago— the cracks in their foundation.

And one long text:

Yuuko

About the exhibition skate today…

Knocking on her door is futile. She’s already at the rink. For a moment, with his hand on the wood of her door and a restless fear of being late, he almost forgets.

Vicchan. The free skate. His failure. God, the press conference.

Yuuri won’t be showing at the exhibition in his own slot. Strange, after so many years. Should he attend, much less do what Yuuko’s asked? After the grand mess he’s made, showing his face seems foolishly arrogant.

But Viktor is skating. Yuuri would never miss a chance to see Viktor skating in person, will never again miss a chance to support his best friend.

So on goes his cold mask, and a pair of pants Yuuko and Phichit had gifted him, a sweater he’d worn on one of his and Viktor’s outings over the years. Always so blue, Yuuri? He is his own man, Katsuki Yuuri to the core, burrowed safe deep inside himself—now he’s shielded in these pieces of other people. His mother’s cheeks and father’s steady fingers, Minako’s light grace in his step.

The costume, the simple one he’d thought he would never wear, is stuffed into the bottom of his skate bag.

As he goes, he calls Mari to check in on Vicchan.

“He’s doing better,” Mari says, quietly. “Don’t get your hopes up, but the vet says he’s through the worst.

And then, because he can’t put it off any longer, he calls Hiroko.

“Mom,” he says, frame bowed, eyes on the cloud-silver sky, “I’m sorry. I messed up. It’s going to be a bit longer until I come home.”

 


 

Yuuri arrives at the rink, unsure of what to do with himself—but there’s a spot at Celestino’s side. His coach’s surprise doesn’t quite hide itself, but he pats his student on the back, once. “Glad to see you out today, Yuuri.”

“Mm.”

“An hour, before Yuuko’s up.” Longer, until Viktor takes the ice.

Yuuri expects the fellow skaters in the stands to at least pass him questioning, pitying looks—last place at the GPF, ridiculous enough to confess to Viktor Nikiforov on international television—but only a few make wide, awed eye contact before ducking away.

Then, Yuuko is hanging over the barrier, thirty feet away, red-rimmed eyes still so bright. This GPF has been her reaching the mountain’s peak and falling from its sheer cliffs all at once.

“Yuuri,” she calls. “Come on.”

He’d accepted, over text. He should have known she wouldn’t let him back out.

“Is this what the change in program music at the last minute was about?” Celestino questions.

Any answer to that will be woefully inadequate to explain, exactly, what this whole situation is about. Yuuri stands, swings his skate bag over his shoulder, and heads to the locker room.

 


 

Strictly speaking, he and Yuuko have never rehearsed this, but it’s been their go-to in practice for over a decade now.

He’s already exposed everything he has to the world, for just a fleeting chance that it would bring Viktor into his arms and keep him there. What’s one more admission?

The music comes on, he and Yuuko out on that ice together, like they always have been. All it takes is a few chords for the seasoned fans to begin to scream.

Viktor Nikiforov’s first world-record breaking performance, reworked as a pair skate.

Triple axels in tandem, step sequences flashing, laughing in the middle of a performance. The only break in the push and pull of it all, that seamless rhythm, is in the lead-up to the triple flip.

Yuuko veers, skates singing, twirls behind to give him enough room to—ah.

He lands it, clean, pressure sparking beneath his skates rather than weighing on his shoulders.

His free skate had been a scream in an empty, collapsing room—and this, this is him climbing atop that rubble, jumping to airy freedom, Yuuko’s hand pulling him to his feet. This is how he should have skated, to say what he needed to say.

To Viktor.

There’s cheers, and raucous screaming, a million pairs of eyes— and Yuuri isn’t even sure if Viktor has seen.

In fact, Viktor is nowhere—not in the stands, when Yuuri sweeps them with his eyes as he and Yuuko exit, waving. Not in the skater-only area, where he nervously darts through, Yuuko at his elbow.

“Yuuri,” she says, her voice forcefully calm, despite the trembling joy in her fingers, the bounce in her step as she tugs him back to the stands, places him beside Celestino. “You’re going to see him. Soon.” Yuuri’s only ever been looking at him, for him. When he finally sees him, it shouldn’t be a surprise: Viktor, taking the ice.

So familiar, and so uncertain, his heart pressing its fears and hopes loudly into his ears, body awash in light and excitement.

Will you skate for me?

The first few notes of Stammi vicino ring out—nothing has changed.

Yet when piano joins the violin and a deep, rich tenor joins the lone voice—oh, everything does.

Everything.

Viktor receives a standing ovation, and even Yuuri manages to take his feet, clapping hands stinging, awed tears blurring the shining lights, the blue ice. So many years of never speaking, so many skates that failed to bridge the gap. But this—just this. The confusions clear to reveal an uncertain, open future.

Yuuri is still terrified of the unknown, but if there was ever anything worth fear and sacrifice and hope, it’s Viktor.

Mine, Yuuri thinks. God, he wants to be mine.

 


 

Over his lifetime of training to be a professional skater, Yuuri has run thousands of miles. Slow ones, at the beginning. Huffing and puffing on pudgy legs, his sister blinking at him each time he circled back to the onsen’s front, pausing in her sweeping to sleepily smile, hesitant but encouraging. Miles at sunset, after a disappointing day in the studio. Miles in the dead of night, sneaking out of his bed, the glossy eyes of Viktor Nikiforovs the only ones on him, Vicchan bounding at his heels. Miles in the afternoon with Phichit and Yuuko, going until they weren’t sure if the stitches in their sides were from the running or the laughter.

Miles in the early morning, Viktor’s voice soft in his ear, sharing their day.

Because they shared everything. Everything, except for those important things, those vital things, those shards of secrets embedded in the heart.

These few steps he’s running now are the most important.

He reaches the rink’s exit before Viktor does, chest empty and straining for breath.

“I saw,” Viktor calls, face alight and still so careful, sweeping towards him, “Yuuri, I kept my eyes on you, did you watch—“

It’s not a kiss, but from the audience reaction, it may as well be. A hug, as he tackles him down onto the ice, twisting them midair so he takes the brunt, freezing blow of the ice on his back. Yuuri forgets to mind his head.

Viktor cradles it for him. Clings to him, tight, warm, both their chests heaving.

“I see you,” Yuuri breathes, “I see you, Viktor, you’re so beautiful—“

“You said you’d been skating for me,” Viktor says, “I wanted to do the same. To be where you were.”

To meet Yuuri where he was.

As though Viktor was the one who had to catch up. As though Viktor was the one who had just failed spectacularly at the Grand Prix Final, rather than Viktor having to slow down, to turn around, to reach below his podium.

But this isn’t about the podium, or the glinting of gold, or the screaming crowd. This is about Yuuri and Viktor, Viktor and Yuuri—everything is about sharing the heat in their hearts, the ice beneath their feet.

And everything on the ice is love.

Yuuri doesn’t have to be perfect. He just has to summon that infinity of love and desire and stupid, unstoppable stubbornness within him—to try.

“You are where I am,” Yuuri says, and pulls Viktor’s hand to his chest. To his frantic, hopeful pulse. “Here. Always.”

In his eyes. In every motion of his hands, his blades. In his heart.

Viktor’s face, that beautiful collection of color, curving up, up, into a smile—all jarring joy.

On the ice, together, they are love.


After that, it’s like the noisy bustle of Sochi’s great ice skating stadium has become the ocean, in Hasetsu. Ever present, breezes and the lapping of waves echoing throughout the town—but quiet. Dazed and peaceful.

After the exhibition skate, Viktor holds his hand.

They’re mobbed by the press, who Yuuri thinks should’ve had their fill of him by now. Surely, after his press conference last night, they already have plenty of material to work with.

“Viktor! Does this mean you have a more concrete answer to the question, ‘what will you do next?’” A journalist exclaims, microphone weaving in front of their footsteps. “Both with skating, and with Katsuki?” At least three more breathless, heaving questions follow this.

It’s all noise, so mild compared to Viktor’s hand in his own, this feeling that’s going to shake the world apart.

“We’re working on it,” Viktor says. “You can imagine that our last twenty-four hours have required us to live in the present, and not the future.”

The onslaught doesn’t stop, not even as they reach a cab where Yakov sits in the front, scowling; in the back, Yuri Plisetsky catches a whiff of the press and of them—a unit—and sours. Viktor sluices the questions off, holds the door open for Yuuri to clamber through.

But one question is thrown between him and the leather of the cab’s backseat.

“How long,” is all the reporter asks, “how long have you been skating for him? A year? Two?”

Yuuri’s publicist had always told him to answer questions with questions, if you wanted to really intrigue the public. Watching interviews stampede past him, crushing the things he meant, Yuuri had always felt too clumsy for wordplay. He speaks the truth, and that’s all. So that’s what he does here.

“What year,” he begins, “was Yuuko’s exhibition skate originally from?”

The reporter’s face folds—a tabloid reporter, then. Here for the scandals; not for the skating. She knows about Viktor’s supposed ex-lovers, but not his programs. Not Viktor. Another journalist steps in, eager to try and supply what she lacks.

“That! That was from Nikiforov’s debut back in—“

“That was a rhetorical question,” Yuuri murmurs, and climbs into the taxi.

I already know the answer.

Moments later, Viktor settles in beside him, and they’re sealed off from the swallowing world.


The cab hits a pothole. The miniscule spaces between his and Viktor’s fingers sew shut, automatically bracing. Yuuri’s confessed to him on international television and in a stadium filled with millions of people, and Viktor—Viktor has confessed back.

All they’re missing are the actual words.

Well, that and a bit of privacy.

“I thought nothing was worse than skating without quads that I can already do,” Yuri Plisetsky snarls, “but clearly I was wrong. So you and Asada are what, best friends?”

“Yes?”

“She’s too good for you anyways!”

Yuuri pauses, shifts awkwardly in his seat. “…yes.”

“Why would the second-most idiotic skater in the world throw this shitshow off and on the ice during a GPF that was supposed to be his?!”

“I… who’s the first?” This conversation is making his head hurt. “And do you always talk about Viktor like this?”

Viktor is the most idiotic skater,” Yurio snaps.  “You’re the second-most! The silver medalist. Congratulations. Let me put something heavy around your neck, and then I’ll show you the Black Sea.”

“Yuri,” Viktor sighs, and that’s not fair, those syllables are supposed to belong to Yuuri, not a hissing fourteen-year-old. “Are you so frightened of Yuuri’s talent that you’ll drown him before facing him in Seniors?”

“Scared my ass, after disappointing everyone today he should—“ a Russian swear, Yuuri notes vaguely, “retire. And then you can stop fawning over him, and choreograph a Senior debut for me!”

Retire.

As though he could. Yuuri is greedy, stubborn and tireless, willing to pay any price, suffer any embarrassment, to keep his loves. Skating, Yuuko, Phichit, dance, and…

Yuuri hasn’t looked at him, not once, since they entered the car. It feels like an impossible effort, Herculean—if he looks, will it truly be Viktor holding his hand? Yuuri’s Viktor? All Yuuri’s ever allowed himself is looking—besides two days ago, and that night. And that night, Viktor rejected him.

Or did he? Has he ever?

Yuuri’s spent so long living in a reality where Viktor rejected him that even now, knowing it’s Viktor’s knee gently brushing against his in the cab, Viktor’s fingers gripping his own, Viktor who now leans and rests his forehead against the soft, inky mess of Yuuri’s hair—

“I’ve been waiting to see you smile.” Viktor’s voice, against the shell of his ear.

Yuuri’s been smiling, ever since Plisetsky underestimated the lengths he’d go to.

Yuuri turns, fiercely presses his forehead to Viktor’s own, that startled spark arcing up between them. To take every liberty beyond looking that he can, to ravage and burn, to build up something that’s spent so long hoping.

“I’ve been waiting for you to smile.”

A sputtering, still-beautiful laugh. “I’ve been smiling since last night.”

There’s a flicker of it, deep in Viktor’s eyes, but Yuuri knows his lips are lying.

He pulls back, looks at his lap, squeezes Viktor’s hand. “Not like that,” he says, softly, “I want you to really smile.”

They need words for this, too. This knot they’ve made of their relationship that still sits, aching, where Yuuri’s heart should be. The tension he can feel in Viktor, too. Overjoyed, but unsteady. Yuuri made a mistake—but Yuuri’s made millions of those, before. There’s no one better at making silly mistakes than Yuuri—and no one more practiced at recovering from them.

“I’m going to throw myself from this car,” Plisetsky announces. Yakov soundlessly goes for the master door lock switch, and does not turn around.

The hotel looks just the same as when they left it.

When they get out, Yakov takes Viktor by the shoulder, the same one Yuuri is next to.

“Don’t you need to get ready for the banquet?”

“Ah, Yakov—“

“You usually spend hours preparing, won’t listen to a single word I say, and now that you finally are able to look your best for him rather than just in front of him, you want to attend in your sweaty exhibition costume?”

The dusting of pink on Viktor’s cheeks is enough for Yuuri’s hand to loosen, Yakov’s tone enough for him to understand.

If he wants to talk to Viktor, he should speak to Yakov first.

Viktor goes, albeit hesitantly. They’ve been separated for years; they can wait a few hours more. Especially if those few hours mean Yakov’s blessing, which Viktor might force himself not to care about…

But Yuuri doesn’t want Viktor to have to force anything, not anymore.

Yurio stomps off, and then it’s just Yakov—bundled and grim, judging and harsh. And they walk.

Yuuri is just surprised that Viktor actually left.

“Vitya might choose to ignore most everything that I say,” Yakov grunts, “but I couldn’t be a successful coach to him without knowing how to appeal to the side of him that still desires things. If I meddle and he resists, he at least knows that I have in mind what’s best for him. Whether he rebels against it or not.”

The snow crunches beneath their feet, a soft blanketing made rough by freezing wind. Sochi is cold beauty and falling from grace—someday, Sochi will be snowmelt. A cool, hesitant spring.

“I don’t really know…how to convince you,” Yuuri says. “That the one true thing— among all the lies and press and everything else— is that I’ve been skating for him.”

Yakov turns, and his eyes—they’re blue.

Not Yuuri’s blue—Viktor’s eyes are his favorite color—but surprisingly blue, nonetheless.

“Explain, Katsuki,” Yakov says grimly. “Just try.”

Yuuri summons that reserve inside him, all that love and hope—exposes himself, no matter his fear—and tries.

 


 

Yuuko’s banquet dress is a swirling watercolor of pastels—blue, purple, pink.

“Save a dance for me,” she laughs, arms above her head, a twirl that belongs on the ice rather than on the worn carpet of Yuuri’s hotel room.

“Although I’d love a dance where everyone isn’t drooling over our ‘romance,’ we all know you’ll be too busy dancing with Sara to pay me any mind,” Yuuri retorts with a grin. Yuuko just shakes her head. Oh. A lot has been happening; not every relationship can survive horrendous press, an intense international competition, and a fake romance—especially one that’s breaking down. “Are you and Sara…”

“Just save it for me,” she insists, “before you run off with Viktor again.”

Yuuri is laughing before he even realizes it, soft and disbelieving.

“We’re not running away,” he says, “never again. From now on, I’m only going to run towards him.”

 


 

Yuuri may not belong at this banquet—last place by a hundred points is hardly worth celebration, in most people’s eyes—but Viktor is here.

Yuuri grabs one, just one, flute of champagne and downs it. His skating, his secrets, his public image, were already destroyed yesterday. He doesn’t need alcohol to dilute his pride, to dilute his fear, so that he can say what he’s really thinking.

Yuuri doesn’t have anything to lose.

So he walks past wide eyes and mouths, harried whispering behind hands, right up to the person he’s looking for.

“Yuri Plisetsky,” he says, “I have a proposal.”

Ah. Maybe he shouldn’t have used the word proposal—Viktor’s cheeks pink, eyes going wide and vulnerable. But surely Viktor wouldn’t think of that, not when they’ve barely…

Yuuri’s been thinking it, though. Just thinking about it—in that vague, dreamlike way, all desire and no certainty, not yet.

Viktor, his, for all of their lives. No matter the mess that Yuuri has made of them.

“You said I should retire. Beat me, and I will. But if I win… you and Yakov give Viktor a break after Worlds. Before he choreographs for your Senior debut.”

Plisetsky is just staring at him, mouth twitching, pride and fury clearly too much to contain in his graceful, pixie-like stature.

“Fine, you idiot!” Yuri readily agrees—Yakov looks like he’d rather not. “You’ll be sorry, when I whip your pathetic self in…” There’s a pause. “Are we skating, Katsuki, or what?”

“There’s no rink here,” Yuuri says, “don’t be ridiculous.” He takes a step back towards the floor. “We’re having a dance-off, Plisetsky.”

 


 

It’s been so long since he danced with Viktor that he’d forgotten.

This is what it was like, to have the person you loved in your arms, heartbeats in time with each other and the music. This is dancing.

Yuuri’s body still remembers, intrinsic, the way it feels to have Viktor’s hand on his shoulder. Their breaths, in that ever-smaller space between them.

He dips Viktor, and the way his back arches, his leg raises up, head thrown back, his whole self surrendering—Viktor remembers, too. He remembers a late-night ballet session in Quebec, mirrors and red curtains pooling, two people balanced on the cusp of understanding: this is love.

It had been love for Viktor, too, and through dance Yuuri knows. That he’s loved and been loved, for years, is suddenly an intrinsic truth of the world.

Viktor tilts his head up, slow, the vulnerable line of his throat still so close. His forehead presses to Yuuri’s, both sweat-slick and shaking, blue eyes lidded low.

“You’re…”

“In love with you,” Yuuri whispers, because truths should be told. “Yes.”

And there, in his face, is that vulnerability again. That burning, intent hope. A reflection of everything Yuuri has felt, their feelings matched.

“I wasn't sure. I didn't know.”

“You do now. I’m sorry you had to wait so long.”

“If not for you, I might have waited my whole life, Yuuri.”

They rebalance, and Viktor smiles.

“I can’t wait,” he says, “to take the podium with you.”

Never give up on what you love, that’s Yuuko.

But you don’t have to fight alone, trust yourself, you don’t have to be perfect, you are so loved: these are Viktor. These are what Viktor means to him, what he wants to mean to Viktor too.

Viktor still believes in him, in his skating, and always will.

“Well,” comes a new voice, one that seems far too knowing. “Wasn’t that romantic. Hardly the steamy, catty affair the tabloids broadcasted, no?”

A pinch, and Yuuri is certain of who it is.

“Hi, Christophe.”

“Everything good here, cherie?” That’s directed at Viktor.

“Amazing,” Viktor replies, eyes shining.

“Yuuri’s danced with two gold medalists tonight—I think it only fair that the temporary silver medalist get a turn. Come along, darling.”

Yuuri almost wants to protest—but that look, in Viktor’s eyes. There are still things left unsaid. This, at least, is guaranteed to give Viktor a bit of joy.

 “Your instructor in Detroit and I were once on very close terms, Yuuri. Why don’t we try some special dancing?”

“I—is that a pole?”

Wow,” Viktor breathes, and oh, god, no.

But he’s already decided. For Viktor, Yuuri will do anything.

 


 

Perhaps it was a bad idea to leave his trousers with Viktor. At his side, Plisetsky is still fluffed up with rage and determination.

“You have to put them back on?” Viktor whispers.

“Yes! Don’t—“ Luckily, Viktor isn’t that tall. Yuuri reclaims them.

“I have so many ideas for programs, I want us to—“

Plisetsky scowls. “Well, isn’t that nice. So many programs and not enough competitions to use them in before you keel over—why don’t you hand one to me?”

Yuuri rounds on him, even though he’s still struggling with the buttons on his dress pants and that’s probably not very intimidating. “I won the dance-off, didn’t I? After Worlds, if he wants it, you’ll give Viktor a proper break.”

“A break? He doesn’t even know what the word vacation means, it’s always crosstraining this and staying at the rink till 8pm that!”

“There are things,” Yuuri finally manages, even as he’s rapidly realizing he doesn’t want to voice them in front of the gathering crowd of nosy skaters, “that Viktor could do. For example, I—I’m going back home. To my family’s resort, in Japan.” He meets Viktor’s eye. “To show them my gold medal, from Worlds.”

“Oh hell—“ interrupts Plisetsky, but Yuuri speaking is a train wreck and he’s crashing, crashing, he can’t stop and he doesn’t want to.

“You should come, Viktor,” he says. “If that’s what you want. Come and work on those programs with me.”

A little gasp-- just a intake of surprised air, Viktor's eyes sparkling-- and Yuuri is allowed to dream. “You inspired them.” His face is warm wonder. “It’s only right to work on them together.”

Promise and hope, crystallizing, becoming reality.

Viktor doesn’t say a word more, so Yuuri leans, fills in the space, takes his hand. “Oh. Yuri, even though I beat you, you’re welcome to join us for a little, too. Yuuko may be there—I know you admire her.”

“Ah,” Yuuko laughs, “it’s not me, you know.”

“What?”

“Yuuri, I can’t believe I used to have the best blackmail on you, and now I have nothing in comparison to everyone at this banquet.”

“Oh god, don’t remind me.”

“We’d better hope nobody gets their grubby little hands on my laptop without asking.”

He’d complain, but she’s already shaking hands with Viktor Nikiforov and pulling him off to the floor.

“One dance,” she says, “you promised. One dance, before I hand you over to Viktor Nikiforov and you disappear from my life for five years.”

He twirls her, once. “I’m never going to do that.”

“Oh? I feel like you might have, in the past. I’d have understood. I was always glad you stayed in Detroit, you know.”

Thank god for a lifetime of ballet—he doesn’t even stumble.

“Where would I have gone?”

“Oh, I don’t know… Russia?”

Yuuri scoffs, and then thinks about what he would have done if Viktor had asked, had hinted, had so much as blinked at him in a way that offered.

He'd have packed up all his belongings and flown, no regrets. He's not sure, at first, that he could have looked back.

“I might have,” Yuuri admits. “I wouldn’t disappear now. You’re so important to me, Yuuko, and I’m not—we go for our dreams, together. I know, even if I never achieve my dream, that you’ll always support me. And I’ll support you.”

Even if he leaves—if Viktor asks him—Yuuri will stay in contact. He’s not going to disappear.

They’ve settled into simple steps. The music is slow, the crowd around them focused on their partners—not Yuuri and Yuuko, Yuuko and Yuuri, the romance that’s never been.

“We’re here,” says Yuuko, and squeezes his shoulder, grins up at him. “And we always will be. You’re my best friend.”

Yuuri won’t cry, can’t cry, shouldn’t—but he is. “You’re mine, too.”

“I’ll see you back in Detroit. For training. And vegetables—so many vegetables.” He nudges sadly at her foot, and she giggles. “What, it’s the truth!”

“We’ll give it our all. I’ll get gold at Worlds,” Yuuri promises, “and we’ll bring our golds home.” She deposits him back into Viktor Nikiforov’s waiting arms, and he knows.

He came in last place at this GPF, but there’s so much he’s already won.

Katsuki Yuuri’s career isn’t over yet.

 


 

They’ve already run away together from one banquet—it doesn’t bear repeating. This time, when everything winds to its natural close, they leave together. Hand in hand. Plisetsky huffs at them, Christophe winks, and Sara and Yuuko look on from where they are delicately, carefully dancing.

The elevator ride is exactly what all of the other elevator rides should have been.

“Which floor,” Viktor gasps between kisses—Yuuri lets Viktor start them all. The question is irrelevant—the small of his back has already lit up the wall, pressed into the rows of buttons by Yuuri’s roaming hands.

“Mm, Vikt—there—no, no, not my floor. Which floor are you?”

Viktor pulls back, still punch-drunk and liquid in Yuuri’s hands. “Sixth floor. Why my room?”

My hotel room will have a Twitter account with a million followers sleeping in it.”

Two more kisses, from Viktor. “Yuuko has—?”

“Phichit Chulanont,” Yuuri explains through gritted teeth, then rolls his hips, and god he does not want to be saying his best friend’s name in the middle of this. “My—ahh— roommate from Detroit? We like to bring him along. You’ve met him.”

Viktor’s already flush with color, but he goes darker. “I thought you lived with Yuuko.”

Yuuri jams the button for the sixth floor with his thumb, hits the 10th floor button with it. “What? Why would you… we weren’t going to—to play house for the press,” he pants, “she was our neighbor, Viktor.”

“You were just always in her room, so I thought—“

He looks like he’s about to bite his lip, so Yuuri thumbs at it instead. Gently.

“Fake.” The reminder is practically breathed into Viktor’s mouth. “Fake. Relationship. I wasn’t in her room on purpose, I just didn’t want to Skype from mine because…” he buries his face in Viktor’s shoulder, confesses into the clean silken lines of his suit. “I had so many posters of you. Embarrassing.”

The elevator dings. Yuuri feels terrible for the next person to get on it, but he tugs Viktor out into the hall, waits. The doors slide shut behind them, and they’re still alone.

“There’s so much,” Viktor whispers, “that I misunderstood. Enough that it makes things hard to believe, I— I can’t even begin to untangle it all in my head. I pride myself on being perceptive, and still… I suspected it was fake at first. But I was so terrified of hearing that you loved her, that you'd never consider being with me, that I couldn't even really bring myself to ask. Then, suddenly, everywhere I turned, there you were— together and happy. All those times. Times where you had to have been talking about Yuuko, times when you rejected me, those all happened.”

There’s a reason Viktor can’t let everything go.

"I love her like a sister, Viktor. That's all." Yuuri swallows, blinks back tears. His lips are bruised with kisses, now, to match his heart. “Besides, I am—or I was— pretty sure you were the one rejecting me.”

Viktor starts, turning to grip Yuuri’s hand. “How could I— Yuuri.”

“I mean,” Yuuri begins, feeling a babble begin to come on, hand coming up and jerking defensively, “I see now that it was because you thought I was with Yuuko, that’s understandable. Me not telling you was wrong, nothing can excuse it, I'm so sorry, Viktor, I just…”

They stare at each other. But they’ve done enough of that—now is the time to move.

“Come on,” he says, “Viktor. We need to talk.”

 


 

Viktor’s room is spacious, suits hung up carefully on the rack, travel bottles of his hair regimen stacked neatly on the marble tub’s rim.

Flitting over to a dresser, coffeemaker and hot water heater perched atop it, Viktor wordlessly fusses with cups and packets while Yuuri toes off his dress shoes. Looks for slippers, before he realizes there won’t be any.

“Tea?”

Yuuri shakes his head. “No, thank you.”

“Is the temperature all right in here?” Yuuri’s lips, his whole body, are still burning. It’d be impossible to tell.

“I’m fine.” He takes a few steps in, looks at the carpet.

“Wonderful.” Pulling off his vest, Viktor moves to the window.

When it comes, there’s little warning.

“The Olympics,” Viktor begins. “After the aquarium. When you told me your commercial was a message to me about you and Yuuko, and how in love you were, and that I needed to back off and be your friend.”

The Olympics? The Olympics where Yuuri had tried to tell him that every single word he’d spoken in that now-viral commercial about love was actually…

No,” Yuuri sputters, “Viktor, god, no. I was trying to confess to you! That whole commercial, from my end, was about you. I’m so sorry I never told you we weren’t really dating—I thought you knew. I thought everyone in the skating world knew. I was so wrapped up in my shame and insecurity that I couldn’t bear to bring it up. I couldn’t say a convincing word in that commercial’s interview unless I thought about…”

Flushing and still so stubborn, he ducks his head in the other man’s direction.

Me?”

Nodding is nausea. Yuuri’s arms crossing, his eyes squeezing tightly shut. “Does it bother you?” He manages to ask, hushed, the black of his field of vision his only comfort. “That I’ve wanted you for that long?”

Slowly, too slowly, Viktor shakes his head.

“I wanted you then. But in Fukuoka… when you kissed me, after you already knew I wanted you so much, you said it could be—“ Viktor nearly hiccups the next word, hands trembling where they’re laced behind his back, “—casual.”

Yuuri’s stomach drops. “I’d never—“ But no. Yuuri had proposed that, as a last-ditch scramble for his pride while Viktor rejected him. Of course Viktor didn’t have to love him—Yuuri had already thought that was impossible—he just had to want to kiss him. For a moment he’d thought that if Viktor could want Yuuri, for even a few hours, it’d be enough. Yuuri’s prideful, but he’s not stupid enough to lie. “I said it,” he agrees, voice trembling. “But that’s not what I wanted.”

Viktor swallows. “It seems like there’s a lot you claim to have wanted, but never said. Are you sure?”

Claimed? Is Yuuri sure?

Yuuri was a fool, true, but at least he was a genuine one.

“Who would fake love, Viktor? Why would anyone…” But this is his Viktor. His Viktor, smiling like there’s a hole in his heart. “I wouldn’t pretend to love you. Yuuko and I—that was an accident we couldn’t escape, something we agreed on together. Look around: there’s no press here. Just us. And… you shouldn’t have fake any emotions, either.”

“I’d never—“ Viktor starts, but all it takes is a leveling stare.

They were best friends. Yuuri knows him.

“Don’t. You’re beautiful no matter what, Viktor, but I see how hard you work sometimes to be someone you’re not.”

“So when you said you needed space, after all of that…”

 “You’re the one who said what we had wasn’t love and that my crush was ruining your perfect life.” Yuuri ignores the burning in his throat, the things that want to pour out of his mouth, the sorry and please and I love you, I’ve always loved you, I want you to be the one I always say goodnight to. “In Fukuoka, you were the most important person to me. You’d already rejected me twice, and I still loved you, couldn’t stop. I wanted to hold on to our friendship, to let you come to me as you were. I—I didn’t want to lose you.”

The bed creaks, when Viktor tenderly sits on it. He cradles his face in both hands, and Yuuri gets to watch him breathe.

In. Out. There’s something brokenly peaceful in it. Resigned.

Then, quietly, comes that deep voice: “I meant your perfect life.”

Nothing makes any sense.

“Mine?” Yuuri whispers, and comes to sit beside him, to pull each pale finger from his face, to kiss the tears away, if Viktor will let him. “You have to talk to me. Viktor, please. We’ve spent years saying everything but this.”

Viktor breathes, one last time. Looks at the window, as though there’s someone out there he can drive away. Like Viktor can’t bear to look at Yuuri.

Or be looked at. Seen.

“For so long,” he says, “I couldn’t tell what you wanted me to be to you. It seemed like every role in your life was filled—you had the perfect lover, a successful coach who loved you all like family, a best friend who lived next door instead of a world away. You had sponsors and fans, step sequences and the support of your entire country. When long hair no longer worked for my image, I cut it, and there you were—topknots and private smiles with Yuuko. You even had… had my quadruple flip. There was no place for me, except as an old idol for you to knock off the podium.” He makes a noise low in his throat, bows his head. “I thought you had love, whereas I didn’t and never would, and it made me…”

A perfect life.

Viktor thought Yuuri had it all. Years, and they’d held up each other’s public images like they were real, like Viktor and Yuuri weren’t always calling to talk in the dark of the night or the early glow of the morning, like they couldn’t be close enough.

They’re still not close enough.

“My quadruple flip was for you. Everything,” he takes a deep breath, “it was for you.”

Viktor’s voice is even, but Yuuri can see the trembling of his hands, takes them in his own with all the courage he can summon. “You said that in the press conference. I wasn’t sure, with all our history, if you meant… Now, even knowing all of that, I still don’t know what I have to give you, Yuuri. If you tell me what you want me to be to you, I’ll do my best. Let me try, I swear— I will make your life even happier. You deserve to be happy. To love and be loved. You deserve everything.”

This takes a moment, to sink in. When it does, he can feel his response, smoldering deep in his chest.

Love isn’t some kind of trade. Love isn’t what he had with Yuuko for the public—playing a role for a million eyes, the approval of sponsors or coaches. Love is so much more. Power and sacrifice, yearning and letting go, appreciating things both temporary and lifelong. He’s spent years in a heartbreaking dance with Viktor, spinning away and coming back together over and over again.

Now, Yuuri just wants him close.

“You never needed to fill a role with me!” Yuuri bursts, feeling the tears welling in his eyes. “I want you as you are! As Viktor! Just… come to me as you are, and I’ll love you.” He shudders, buries his face in his arm, feels the tears wet his sleeve. “I’ll love you, Viktor. Always.”

For so long, he’s been scared to look Viktor in the eye. He does it now— stubbornly, firmly. Viktor’s so picturesque, all paleness with pleasing streaks of colors. Sharp blue eyes, a rosy blush that starts low in his neck and creeps up to his cheeks. Does it start over his heart? Yuuri doesn’t know. Yuuri wants to know.

Yuuri’s not sure he’ll ever know, not yet.

“I’m the one you want,” Viktor says, sounding firm but looking dazed, eyes far away. Yuuri doesn’t think it’s a question, but he answers anyway, squeezes Viktor’s fingers gently to bring him back.

“Yes. You, Viktor.” Rejection, failure, is the monster that always carves away at Yuuri’s heart and eats it. But it is Yuuri’s turn to hurt, to offer himself up. “I’ve spent so many years being silent and stupid and stubborn—hurting you. Will I make you happy? Even if I give you a press barrage and, well, me?” He closes his eyes, and the last words slide out so easily; truth is here, in the room with them, finally. “You’re the one that deserves everything, Viktor.”

A perfect life. The best life. Every happiness in the world.

“Whether I deserve everything or not,” Viktor says, “all I want is you.”

Yuuri has never felt capable of much. But this—this, he can give.

“Viktor.” He pulls on Viktor’s fingers, long and smooth, leads the dance he’s about to begin. Their dance, one they’ve never done before. That’s all it takes for Viktor to lean in, helpless and yet so sure. “I feel like I should ask, this time. Can I?”

Viktor’s lips, those of the man he’s always watched, so determined and so casually careless, at times. It occurs to Yuuri that he hasn’t spent a day without thinking of Viktor Nikiforov, not a single day in over ten years.

The things he thinks about now are different than they were ten years ago. Different than even five years ago, three years ago. When he was younger, at the cusp of puberty, he wondered how Viktor’s lips would taste, how warm he’d be to the touch. How quickly he’d pull away. Whether, when he left, if a strand of hair would be abandoned as a memento on Yuuri’s jacket, his cologne in the air with all the crisp, empty glory of a snowstorm that had long-ago passed.

Now. Now, he wonders how Viktor will melt. Viktor, Viktor, his Viktor—if he’ll give that small smile against his lips that Yuuri’s seen a handful of times, unconsciously delighted. If he’ll sigh, like he has when they streamed a skating competition together once, and their shared admiration for the beauty of it all was in perfect harmony.

When he pulls away, will he beam? With a heart-shaped smile, and palms seeking touch anywhere and everywhere on Yuuri’s body? If Viktor has wanted—no, if he’s wanted like Yuuri’s wanted—please want like I want, please Viktor

“Kiss me,” Viktor whispers.

Please be mine.

And Viktor is, oh, he is.

 


 There is something that Viktor learned, a long, long time ago. Before half of his universes came to be. You trade life and love and passion for shining lights and skill and ice; you trade shining lights and skill and ice for gold; you trade gold for fame and fortune.

You do all of that, and you just want the life and love and passion again.

But all the fame and fortune in the world can’t be traded back for what you might have had in the first place.

Please, Viktor had thought, for years, eyes trained on the back of a man who had so much. Please, let me gain something valuable enough, powerful enough, to trade for his love. Anything.

His aging body. His time.

But he should have known Yuuri’s love was priceless; he’d take those things, but he cost more. He wants nothing and everything from Viktor: a glimpse of his soul.

“Love’s not a trade,” Yuuri murmurs, quiet and reverent, when they’re wrapped up in each other’s arms. Viktor’s hotel room is dark; outside the curtains on their window, snowflake shadows fall in front of streetlamp glow.

As long as you try, it just is.


 

Viktor, with charm and his much better grasp of the Russian language, works with the airport and reroutes Yuuri’s trip so it passes through Japan. Just for a few days—enough to see Vicchan. Enough to say hello, and maybe goodbye.

Yuuri’s not going to miss that chance.

This is all done in bed, Yuuri’s head pillowed on Viktor’s chest as he drifts in and out of sleep.

He finally wakes up to Viktor’s eyes on him, dry but dreaming, heartbreakingly blue.

“Good morning.” This is what Viktor’s breath feels like, the sound of his heartbeat, steady under Yuuri’s ear. “Something on your mind, Viktor?”

“Yes.” He pulls Yuuri’s face in with gentle hands, even though he doesn’t need them—Yuuri is helpless to do anything but meet him for a kiss. “You. And the way that you’re here with me.”

“Mm hmm.”

“How we’re going to Skype when you go back to Detroit, and I’ll still get to see this bedhead in the morning—except now I’ll know how it feels.”

“Every day,” Yuuri promises. “And before I get back to Detroit, you can Skype with my poodle.”

“Your poodle?”

“Viktor, the love of my life.”

Viktor swallows, heart stuttering beneath Yuuri’s palm.

“Viktor,” Yuuri reminds him, with a kiss on his pink nose, “is my dog’s name.” A pause. “But I could’ve been talking about either of you.”

“You tease.”

“You clearly haven’t been teased enough in your life.” With a flick of his arms, he pulls the covers back, exposes sleep-warm skin to air. “I’m going to change that.”

Yuuri wants to stay here and tease him until he’s flushed and laughing, shameless and excited, breathless with the power of love.

Cold, Yuuri,” he gasps, and Yuuri tosses a leg over him. “I—“ Viktor is so easy to bruise—the smattering of lovebites down his neck and chest are a path Yuuri’s already treaded. One he’s going to carefully mark, every time he passes through. “I’ve been thinking—“

“Yes?”

“Thinking about how I’ll—Yuuri—join you, in Japan, once Worlds is over—“

His roaming fingers and teeth settle, eyes traveling back up over blooming red and dusky pink, pale white under Yuuri’s golden hands.

“You’ll come?”

“I chose you a long time ago, Yuuri. There’s nothing I’d like more.”

He moves up, kisses right above Viktor’s heart, feels elation burst up in him.

So happy.

“My parents and sister will love you. Minako will learn to. Nagahama-san won’t be able to feed you enough. Vicchan is going to love on you until you convert to worshipping toy poodles—don’t make that face, Viktor. No, don’t hide it, either, just, nevermind. Yuuko already loves you, and Nishigori just wants to know what all the fuss has been about this last decade—“

Viktor laughs, hips moving unconsciously against Yuuri’s, that vulnerable, hopeful smile.

“That sounds like a whole lifetime’s worth of love.”

“All of it’s yours,” Yuuri promises, returning to the trail he’d been marking on Viktor’s skin, the touches they’ve spent so long without. “All of it and more. So come to Japan—come and be with me, Viktor—be with me, Viktor, come on, come on, be with me here and now—“

He flies out that night, the lights of the city glimmering beneath him—Viktor, the man he loves, impossibly small and lost in the spaces between them.

Yuuri might be leaving him, for now, but they’ll still stay close.


 

His family hardly had warning, but Mari still meets him at the train station.

Bundled up in her arms is another Viktor that Yuuri's loved, for years and years, and wants to be close to.

"Hi," he says, and Vicchan licks his face, squirms in his blankets. "Hi, boy. I missed you."


 “Yuuri!” Someone is knocking on his bedroom door. “Yuuri, if you don’t pick up your phone and get out of bed, Yuuko says she’s gonna text Viktor pics from your middle school entrance ceremony! And I’ll help her do it, too.”

“Traitor,” Yuuri tries to growl with vengeance, but it comes out in a sleepy slur.

His phone is ringing, though. He slides receive call with one finger before plopping it onto his dresser and tossing through his clean clothes chair.

“Hi, Vitya.”

Zolotse.” He beams, takes a spoonful of soup. “I’m ready for my morning Japanese lesson!”

“Just because I sometimes forget how to speak English before the sun rises doesn’t make it a Japanese lesson.”

“Immersion is the best language learning technique,” Viktor recites immediately, which Yuuri does not point out must be from his massive Beginner’s Japanese text that he’s seen in the background of their Facetime for weeks.

“Ah, Vitya, I forgot to take a shower last night. I’m sorry. Can I—“

“Take me with you!”

“Yuuko used up all of our Ziplocs making,” he shudders, “these, um, healthy snack… clusters. I think Phichit and I are going to feed them to the rabid squirrels outside our apartment.”

“I bet the bears would like them.”

Yuuri stops tugging his shirt off. “Exactly how many bears are there in Russia, Vitya? Can I… can I still jog outside without getting tackled and eaten by one?”

“Hmm, Makkachin will tackle you,” Viktor says, which is not reassuring. “In Japan we’ll get to bathe together, won’t we? So go on. Abandon me this morning, and we’ll make up for it later.”

Yuuri kisses the camera. He doesn’t even think about how silly it must look. “Say hi to your rinkmates for me.” Snapping open his bedroom door, he calls, “Phichit! Do you want to gossip with Viktor?”

There is a pause, then a crash. “A hamster is currently behind our television, so I’m going to have to hit him up on Insta later!”

“Give him to me.” Yuuko peeks around the corner. “I haven’t gushed at him about his photoshoot with Gucci, yet. Someone needs to love on him.”

Yuuri smirks and tosses her the phone. “Don’t steal my boyfriend, Yuuko.”

“Your boyfriend, who once lectured me about sleeping around while fake dating you?” From the phone, Viktor makes a soft ah. “I think you’re safe. I’ve never seen two people so in love.” Yuuri almost ducks into the bathroom. Almost. “But does he know that you’d probably give up a whole week of kisses for a bowl of katsudon?”

“He’d what?” Comes Viktor’s voice from the phone. “Yuuri? What is she talking about? It’s not true, is it? Yuuri!”

Yuuri shuts the bathroom door.

“You’ll understand,” Yuuko assures him, voice muffled, “when you come to Japan. We’re going to take such good care of you, Viktor.”

Yuuri will take care of him for the rest of his life.

Now he's with Viktor, who is more than he’s ever dreamed—but Yuuri is greedy. He’ll take another few years of the ice in Detroit, in Japan, in Russia. More early mornings and late nights and straining muscles, more of his friends competing at his side.

He’ll take gold.

Viktor, at Worlds, I’m coming for you.