The first time they meet, it’s under the football stands. Yuuri is wearing a cheerleading uniform that wasn’t too tight two days ago, before he ingested a whole pint of ice cream flavored with his own tears, though the uniform now pinches uncomfortably around his stomach and rear.
“You’re Katsuki Yuuri,” Viktor says, “right? Congrats on your squad making it to Nationals.”
His squad came in last at Nationals, and it was all his fault. He’d smashed his face on something as simple as a backflip, nearly dropped a teammate in their pyramid and broken her arm. Yuuri doesn’t deserve to be crushed beneath Viktor’s football cleats, much less have a conversation with him.
So he stands up, brushes off his too tight cheerleading shorts, and runs. Running, at least, he’s still good at.
The football team that Viktor is the quarterback for, much unlike the squad that Yuuri leads, destroys the competition at Nationals. When they come home, there’s no question about whether a raging party will be happening at the Nikiforov mansion.
“Come on,” Yuuko pushes. She’s a backspot, his next door neighbor, and one of the most dependable people Yuuri has ever met. “The captain of the cheerleading squad can’t just not go to a party.”
“She’s right,” Phichit agrees. “Besides, I already told the Groupme you were going. Lead us, oh great captain. Lead us in shots.”
Yuuri still has Vicchan’s collar hidden under his pillow. He drinks until he forgets everything. Everything.
Yuuri can’t forget the day after, though, when he’s running laps on the track to punish himself for the hangover. Viktor Nikiforov falls into step beside him, smile so pretty and bright Yuuri’s sure the opposing team is probably blinded before the snap, and that’s why he’s so successful.
“Can I run with you?”
“Uh,” says Yuuri. He wonders if Viktor can see his legs wobbling with every step. “If you want to…?”
They don’t even make it around the track once before Viktor is blurting, “running is so boring!” Yuuri nearly trips. Running with him is boring, of course it’s boring. He should’ve run right off the track instead of following the curve, should’ve disappeared into the bleachers. “We should talk. You go first!”
“I—I don’t know what to say,” Yuuri huffs, bewildered.
“Oh! Then I’ll go first. Let’s talk about the people we’ve dated.”
“Oh my god,” says Yuuri, and his legs tangle. He goes down in a puff of red track dust, looks up just in time to see Viktor bent over, hands on his knees, staring at him.
“Yuuri! Are you okay?”
“Fine,” he says through gritted teeth. “I’m gonna go to the nurse’s office.” His ankles aren’t twisted, but his knee might be bleeding a little. Mostly, it’s about his pride.
“Let me carry you,” says Viktor, which is a ridiculous idea. Yuuri had no idea that Viktor liked mean-spirited jokes, or making fun of poor cheer captains who are forced to talk to impossibly attractive quarterbacks. Eyes tearing up, he stands and refuses to look at Viktor directly.
“I’ll talk to you later,” he says, even though he’s fairly sure they’ll never speak again. After all, he’s been fanatically cheering Viktor on from the sidelines for years, even before he became the cheer captain. He’s always been his biggest fan. They won’t speak—they can’t.
Yuuri is wrong. Viktor shows up to their one shared class the next morning with a stack of band-aids. Yuuri’s a junior in a class of seniors, and he doesn’t know why any of this is happening.
“Let me put them on,” Viktor says. He is kneeling in front of Yuuri’s desk, and Yuuri has the strangest, most embarrassingly erotic idea that Viktor is going to kiss his foot, his knee, before climbing higher and kissing everything in his path.
“That’s really not necessary!” He blurts instead.
“Viktor,” says Christophe Giacommetti, another senior and Viktor’s best linebacker, “come over here and help me with my homework. Leave Katsuki alone.”
Yes, Yuuri thinks, please leave Katsuki alone before I have a heart attack.
Viktor does not leave Yuuri alone. Suddenly, he’s there running laps with Yuuri in the mornings and afternoons. When Mrs. Baranovskaya assigns them a group project, he grabs Yuuri’s hand and fixes him with a look so heartbreakingly, deceivingly sweet that Yuuri almost doesn’t gape when he dramatically announces,
“I can’t find a partner!”
“She announced the group project two seconds ago,” Yuuri blinks. “Don’t you always work with Christophe?”
“You noticed that? Anyway, Christophe has a partner,” Viktor says with an easy wave of his hand. “He’s got…” He hardly looks before pointing at a brunette right behind the Swiss boy. “Uh, what’s your name?”
“You can call me Matthieu,” he says dryly. “And thanks for volunteering me. Christophe and I have never talked before.”
“What a great time to start,” Viktor asserts. “You’ll be best friends. You’ll be thanking me.”
“Uh huh,” says Matthieu. Christophe doesn’t even turn around in his chair, just shrugs at Yuuri with a smirking smile.
“We better start on this group project,” Viktor says.
“It’s due in two months,” Yuuri replies in utter disbelief.
“Give me your phone number.”
Yuuri can’t say no. He doesn’t say no when he’s invited to the Nikiforov mansion, either.
“You have a poodle!” He gasps.
“Oh, right,” Viktor beams, “you haven’t met her yet. I always put her away during parties. This is Makkachin. She likes belly rubs and this toy—here! Let’s see if she likes you!”
By the end of his visit, Yuuri doesn’t even know what their group project is about.
“Finally,” Sara sighs, stretching a calf. The cheer uniform looks perfect on her. “We’ve been waiting for you two to start dating for forever.”
“What,” Yuuri hisses. He nearly rolls out of his splits.
“You know,” Sara prompts. “The captain of the football team and the captain of the cheer team are supposed to date. They’re high school royalty, and they’re supposed to rule the school together with their mutual good looks and popularity.”
“Viktor’s the only one with any of that,” Yuuri mutters. “And that’s just a stereotype. He’s probably already dating someone.”
“I am so single,” Viktor moans. Yuuri’s heart traitorously thumps a little faster. “And prom is coming up soon!”
“Better find a date quick,” Yuuri teases, “or they’ll all be gone.”
They’ve been running together, and “doing their group project,” for nearly a month now. He can’t believe he once found Viktor Nikiforov intimidating. The man before him is sweet, and easily excitable, and… okay, he’s still a little intimidating, because besides being tall and handsome and commanding an entire army of football players, he also wants to know Yuuri. Really know him.
So it’s easy to tease Viktor now. It’s even easier to want to spend every moment with him, and to give into it.
On a Thursday, just a few weeks before Prom, Yuuri’s last class lets out early. He walks into the hallway, mind already on the mats in the gym where they’ll practice today. Then, his mind focuses in on something else.
He’s helplessly, utterly doomed. A fever dream that Yuuri once had is here in the flesh, because there’s Viktor. There’s Viktor Nikiforov, bent over and carefully placing blue rose petals on the floor.
Rose petals that Yuuri has just stepped in.
Even though he’s stomped on them, the half-finished message is still clear.
ULD YOU GO TO PROM WI ?
“Oh,” he squeaks.
“Shit,” says the blonde freshman and field goal kicker, Plisetsky. He’s currently putting the finishing touches on the question mark. Chris is crouched too on the floor, fingers still clutched around a petal in the letter U. Since Yuuri’s arrival, they haven’t stopped staring at him. “Shit,” Plisetsky repeats.
“I’m so sorry,” Yuuri says. He steps back, dragging the whole of one of the Os with his white sneakers. “I—I’m so sorry, Viktor, I messed it up. Sorry. Let me help. We can fix this before…” before Viktor’s crush arrives. Before the prom-posal happens.
“Don’t worry about it, Yuuri,” Viktor says. His smile scares Yuuri, just the tiniest bit—displeased and still too gorgeous to look at directly.
So Yuuri skirts around the ruined prom-posal, scurries off to the gym and desperately, firmly does not look back. Doing back-handsprings and dance routines until his muscles ache is the only thing that can stave off the vision of Viktor his mind has now—crouched on the floor, hopeful and intent and crushing on someone that’s probably Yuuri’s polar opposite.
“Oh my god,” he whispers in bed that night. “I like him.”
“Yuuri,” Phichit sighs later at this revelation. “Of course you do. You guys have been hanging out non-stop for like a month, and you already admired the guy and were drooling over his looks at every opportunity.”
Of course, Yuuri thinks to himself, of course I realize this when Viktor’s about to ask someone out to Prom.
There is a moment, when you do a somersault, where you are suspended in midair, spinning and vulnerable, and you have to trust in yourself and the ground to land properly.
Yuuri never thinks he’s going to make it. He almost always does, anyway.
He still feels awful about stepping on Viktor’s prom-posal, so when he sees the quarterback’s silver head duck into a classroom the next day after school, he follows after only a few minutes of hesitation. Viktor had texted him earlier asking if he had time free after school, anyway, so surely he’d want to talk to Yuuri at some point.
He opens the door, and can hardly see.
There’s a shower of confetti, fluttering over him, on his mouth and being breathed into his nose and—
“Are these,” he pauses, sneezes, “a-are these poodle shaped confetti? What is going on…”
Through the shining haze, he can barely make out three figures. But oh, he recognizes the voice he hears.
“Shit,” says Yuri Plisetsky. Off to the side, there are three gigantic, painted signs that together say “will you go to prom with me?” Chris is holding a canister with icing and Viktor is holding a box of donuts—Yuuri knows they’re donuts, because he drops the box and all five of them roll across the floor, one knocking into Yuuri’s foot. Someone has decorated the top of its glazed surface with a blue ‘R.’
“You,” comes Viktor’s voice. He sounds so strained, but his smile is locked into place. “Ahh. Yuuri. You can… you can have that donut.”
It’s chocolate, and Yuuri can see a hint of raspberry filling peeking out the side. His favorite. His favorite, and the thought of eating it has his throat closing off.
“That’s okay,” he whispers. “I’m really sorry about interrupting. Again.” He looks down. “And… making you lose your donuts.”
“Oh, Yuuri,” Viktor says, and he steps forward. “No, of course it’s okay, just can I—“
Yuuri turns, rips open the classroom door, and flees.
“He likes someone else,” he whispers into Phichit’s shoulder. “And I keep messing up his promposal. Am I—am I subconsciously trying to sabotage him? Is that possible? I’m the worst, Phichit. I’m the worst. You know those awful queen-bee bitchy cheer captains? He probably thinks I’m one of those.”
“Yuuri, you don’t have sabotage super powers,” Phichit teases. “And you’re not a Mean Girl cheer captain.” Then, more gently, “I’m really sorry about Viktor. The whole squad was convinced he liked you.”
“He doesn’t have to like me just because I’m the captain,” Yuuri groans. “That’s just a stereotype, Phichit. I keep telling everyone that.”
“Not because of that,” Phichit says with a shake of his head. “But nevermind that now. Yuuko and the rest of the squad are going to take you out to try and get your mind off of him.”
“Oh, right,” Yuuri realizes, “I thought you were busy tonight. I’m so sorry, Phichit. What am I keeping you from?”
“It’s a who,” says Phichit with a shrug. “It’s that boy I’m tutoring in biology so he’ll tutor me in math.” The hot Korean one. Yuuri knows him—well, maybe knows him is the wrong phrase. He’s never spoken to him, but that’s probably because Seung-Gil’s too busy being the captain of the chess team and having no facial expressions to talk to anyone else.
“You’re going to get tutored on a Friday?”
“Yuuri,” Phichit sighs, “my sweet summer child. No. We’re going on a date. And if he asks me to Prom, I’m going to make out with him before gently letting him know that I’m accompanying my best friend, Katsuki Yuuri, instead.”
“Phichit,” Yuuri chokes out. “You don’t have to do that.”
“I know.” Phichit squeezes his hand, smiles devilishly. “That’s why I’m so nice.”
When Yuuri walks into Mrs. Baranovskaya’s history class, the one he shares with Viktor, he is terrified for a minute by the huge card that’s sitting propped up on her desk.
“Shh!” Viktor hisses. He beckons Yuuri over into the corner where he’s standing.
“Oh my god,” says Yuuri, “did I screw it up again—“
“No, no!” He beckons more frantically, and Yuuri steps over to him. Then, someone else comes through the door. Christophe stands up from where he’s sitting behind Madame Baranovskaya’s desk.
“Matthieu,” he says, “will you go to Prom with me?”
“Wow, Chris, we hardly know each other,” Matthieu intones.
“Yes, well, I’ve quite enjoyed our… study sessions.”
“I suppose you have proven you know the material up and down.” Both of their faces have the tiniest smirk.
“I let you use my classroom,” says Mrs. Baranovskaya, “please keep this innocent, Mr. Giacometti.”
“Ha,” Viktor hums in Yuuri’s ear, and squeezes his arm so softly, “I told them so. Do you think it’s romantic, Yuuri? What kind of prom proposal would you like best?”
One from you, Yuuri wants so desperately to say.
“Does it matter?” Yuuri asks instead. “There’s nobody asking to say yes to.”
Viktor is pinker than Yuuri’s ever seen him.
“Is that what you think,” he states carefully.
“Of… of course?”
“I think someone is going to ask you very soon,” he states confidently. But Viktor can state anything confidently—Yuuri’s heard him make up answers in class, and he almost believed that the United States Civil War really did start in 1532, that it was fought with light sabers. “What are you going to do if someone you like asks?”
Yuuri considers it, imagines Viktor giving him a box of donuts and showering him in blue rose petals.
“I’ll do something not appropriate for Mrs. Baranovskaya’s class,” he admits truthfully. From this close, sitting on a desk across from Viktor, he can see the pupils dilating in icy blue eyes.
Oh, he thinks, mind scattering to the wind. Oh, I want him to do that again.
“Seats, ladies and gentlemen,” says Mrs. Baranovskaya.
The Nationals competition is over for cheer squad, but there’s always next year to consider. Yuuri spends a whole practice running drills and showing the other cheerleaders his ideas for their new routine, and by the time he and Sara wander out to the parking lot, the sun is kissing the skyline.
When Yuuri and Sara reach the asphalt, Sara’s brother is already there.
Michele’s a linebacker, tall and fierce, and he’s currently in the middle of a grim discussion with Viktor Nikiforov.
Sara’s Camry is filled with bright blue balloons. Chalked on her parking spot in swooping letters are the words, “would you go to Prom with me?”
For a moment, Yuuri could imagine Sara’s car was his, that he was the one Viktor wanted. They were the same make and color, after all. But Yuuri couldn’t pretend forever.
Viktor has flowers. Yuuri feels like he’s fallen from the top of a cheer pyramid. At his side, Sara grabs his wrist and begins marching towards the two football players.
“Leave him alone, Mickey,” she scolds. Traitorously, she deposits Yuuri right in Viktor’s line of view, and starts a conversation with her brother in rapid Italian. Yuuri thinks of donuts with blue icing, ones that probably spelled out Sara.
“Hi,” says Viktor, very softly. He is holding the bouquet almost limply, eyes locked on Yuuri’s. His pale face is pink from the sun—Yuuri’s sure he spent the last hour out here, preparing Sara’s car, pushing balloons through the rolled open window and painstakingly writing out the words.
“I,” Yuuri whimpers. Viktor presses his lips together, takes a step forward. Here Viktor is, trying to ask Sara out, and Yuuri seems to be in the way every time. “I don’t know w-why I’m here.”
Fumbling in the pocket of his shorts, he pulls out his keys on his stupid blue poodle keychain, and rushes to his car.
“Yuuri!” Viktor calls. But then Yuuri’s engine is roaring to life, and he’s pulling out of his parking spot and the lot as fast as he can, wind whipping through his already messy hair. “Yuuri!”
Yuuri doesn’t look back.
His phone rings at 8pm.
“I’m at your door. Can I—can I talk to you?”
Yuuri’s already clothed in ratty old pajamas and has set his blue frames down somewhere, so he pads hopelessly down the stairs and to his front porch, squinting. The captain of the cheer squad is supposed to be prettier, he knows, and this is one of the reasons why all those stereotypes can’t be true. The quarterback doesn’t like the head cheerleader. High school movies are a lie.
Viktor’s so handsome, even with ruffled up hair. He’s wearing nice pants and dress shoes, and Yuuri wants to kiss him.
“I have something to say,” Viktor says. He looks so determined, like when he takes the football field and looks over the lineup for the first time. “I’ve been messing things up. Will you listen to me?”
“Can I,” Yuuri blurts. “Can I talk first?” Viktor looks surprised, but nods. With a deep breath, Yuuri thinks of Makkachin and running three miles with Viktor in the mornings. He thinks of one of the many evenings where they were not working on their group project, instead just curled up on Viktor’s couch reading their English assignments, sharing humorous lines. He thinks of teasing the quarterback, calling him a nerd, watching him flush red until his freckles stand out, listening to him protest would a nerd do this, Yuuri? Before reciting three of Shakespeare’s sonnets. God, he has to… he has to. “I have a crush on you, Viktor Nikiforov.”
Viktor’s jaw drops. Yuuri grips his home’s doorframe. “I,” Viktor begins, and Yuuri can’t let this finish, doesn’t want to have to bear the rejection, the confirmation that he’s not desirable.
“Huge crush,” he babbles. “Massive crush. I was the one leaving secret admirer notes in your locker when you were in sophomore year and first became the quarterback.”
“Those notes were you? Yuuri, oh my god, I—”
“Creepy, I know,” Yuuri lets out in a rush. “And then you started talking to me, and I got to know you and now, oh, I really actually like you. I know you like someone else, though! Sara! And I’m not going to get in your way, even though you probably thought I was sabotaging all your attempts to give her a promposal and! I’m not a queen bee bitch! I—I just like you.” He pauses, chest heaving. “…please get off my porch.”
“What,” says Viktor. He still sounds dumbfounded, almost dreamy. “Why?”
“I can’t look you in the eye,” Yuuri says, “please leave me alone.” Then he shuts and locks the door.
Two minutes later, his phone rings. Viktor Nikiforov, his phone screen sings happily. Normally, that sets the butterflies in his stomach going. Now, it just fills him with dread. He does not pick up.
There’s a soft rapping at his door.
“Hey,” Mari says flatly. She’s home from college for a few days. “There’s some kid trying to climb the trellis up to your room outside.” She waits, and Yuuri says nothing. “I’ll tell him to leave.”
Yuuri burrows himself inside his covers, and refuses to look at his phone, no matter how many times it vibrates.
There was no point in hiding, Yuuri quickly realizes. Stammi Vicino High has a game the next day, and as head cheerleader, Yuuri is expected to lead the cheerleaders there. He has to do lifts and backflips and cheers all while knowing that Viktor Nikiforov is fully aware of Yuuri’s horrible crush on him.
The match is fierce. The other school’s quarterback is brilliant, the strategies she chooses complex and her aim true.
“Nobody can take on my Isabella,” says the head cheerleader of Maple High, whose team has come along to cheer. Yuuri has met him before in competitions, and doesn’t mind him, although Yuuri knows several of the other cheerleaders wince at the sight of him. Yuuri waves at him before the halftime show, and the resulting facial expression is one that Yuuri can only describe as fear.
“Oh,” Phichit says, as they’re setting up on the field, “JJ’s terrified of you. He thinks you’re a huge stereotypical cheerleader queen bee bitch.”
Yuuri laughs until it’s time to start the performance. He’s lucky, he realizes as the music’s heavy beat begins coursing through his body, because otherwise he’d have been thinking about Viktor and how anxious he is about having Viktor’s eyes be looking anywhere near him.
Backflips. Winks. Splits. Blow a kiss or two. Yuuri knows all of the moves; he choreographed them, after all.
“YOU’RE SO HOT!” Some freshman with a red hair streak screams from the stands when they finish. “I WANNA BE JUST LIKE YOU!” Briefly, Yuuri wonders who he’s yelling at.
They have to run by the football players, and when Viktor’s eyes catch his, Yuuri tries to smile at him. I can do this. I can be normal. Viktor mouths something, and Yuuri’s brain is too busy malfunctioning to even try and read his lips.
Overtime looms, as there’s only one minute left. Viktor’s team has the ball.
Mila dances into the endzone and catches Viktor’s pass with seconds to spare. Yuuri swears that the redhead tosses a kiss towards their cheerleading section, and that Sara catches it. There’s screaming, and crying, and Yuuri gets ready to lead the cheerleading team into a frenzied cheer session when he hears it, over the loudspeaker.
“Will Katsuki Yuuri please take the field?”
“Heck yeah,” says Phichit. “Heck yeah you will take the field. You will take that boy and do godforsaken things with him if I have any say in the matter.” He turns, suddenly, and Yuuri anxiously follows his gaze up to the stands, where the only person sitting down juts out of the crowd like a sore thumb. It’s Seung-Gil, and he’s staring at Phichit like he has x-ray vision, far too intense. But Yuuri has other things to worry about, now.
Yuuri walks out onto the green. Viktor is standing there, hands empty, helmet still on.
“Yuuri,” he says. “I’ve not been handling this very well.”
Surely Viktor wouldn’t bring him out onto the middle of the football field after a major victory, in front of a huge crowd, just to tell him he doesn’t want to ask Yuuri to Prom.
“Oh my god,” Yuuri realizes, “you like me too.”
“Katsuki Yuuri, I— Yuuri! I can’t believe you even interrupted this one, can I not have—”
But Yuuri is already running towards him, grabbing his helmet in what’s surely an illegal move before tossing it off to reveal imperfect silver hair, sweet blue eyes. Yuuri and Viktor quickly follow the helmet to the grass in the best tackle ever executed on Stammi Vicino’s football field.
“Been wanting to kiss you for so long,” Viktor pants afterwards. “Been in love with you since I saw you drunk table-dancing at my house and you told me that I was terrible at reading offenses but looked like dance in motion. Also, I have a pack of response letters to give to you, now that I know you’re my mystery admirer.”
Yuuri pauses, strokes at the silver fringe and looks down at his red lips. “Did I knock you in the head? What are you talking about?”
Viktor furrows his brow. “What do you mean?”
“Never mind,” Yuuri breathes. “Just. Just shut up and ask me to Prom.”
Viktor leans up, kisses him again, hot breath between them. “Be my boyfriend, Katsuki Yuuri. Be my boyfriend, you gorgeous, oblivious, interrupting—“
Yuuri interrupts him on purpose, that time.
“Will the head cheerleader and quarterback please stop kissing on the football field,” the loudspeaker blares. “This is not a stereotypical high school movie.” Nobody pays it any attention.