Apparently, Viktor’s father was mourning the sudden closure of Vertu, the elite British phone manufacturer.
(Yuuri’s Dad had once told Yuuri that Vertu was expensive, techno-trash.
Of course, he’d said it in kinder terms, with a big smile, before giving Yuuri a pat on the head and proceeding to look completely horrified when Yuuri said, “Viktor’s Dad loves his Vertu, though. Maybe you should ask him about it!”
Yuuri hadn’t meant any offense. But Yuuri’s Dad was a smart business man and he wasn’t about to risk the potential opportunity for one of his best partners to suddenly back-out of a multi-million-dollar deal over a minor disagreement about smartphones. So, Yuuri had been sworn to secrecy and ended up with three corgi puppies that he couldn’t take to Yale.
It didn’t matter, though. He’d taken a million pictures and sent them all to Viktor, his boyfriend. It was still weird to call Viktor his boyfriend, considering that they’d only met in person for the equivalent of a week at their last family vacation and, since then, kept in touch during the busy spring semester of their Junior year of college.)
Yuuri kept his iPhone pressed close to his ear as he looked out the window, feeling only a little rude that he was ignoring Phichit for Viktor, again. Phichit didn’t seem to mind, holding on to two of the corgi puppies: Southern Charm and Sushi. Vicchan II was still asleep, nudging Yuuri’s thigh with his wet nose.
“It’s so depressing, Yuuri,” Viktor whispered, “he’s just holding his Aster, rubbing his thumb over the hardened titanium back plate. And I know he’s doing it because he tells us that he’s touching the titanium back plate and side rails, like that’s supposed to mean something to me when I told him years ago to switch over to iPhone. Mama keeps telling him to cut it out, but I think he’s actually sad, Yuuri, and I haven’t seen my Dad look sad since Yuri accidentally locked Potya in one of the million house bathrooms and we thought the cat had been kidnapped. And not even then did he actually bring out one of his Kentucky Derby mugs from storage…”
“You mean one of the gold-plated mugs with the sterling silver straw?” Yuuri sat closer to the edge of the seat, gasping in surprise like a good boyfriend should when a potential future fiancé shared that his maybe, someday father-in-law had decided only a drink from a gold bucket could cure his angst.
(Each year, the Kentucky Derby sold 50 special edition mint juleps to their wealthiest patrons for $1000 per drink. Yuuri’s sister Mari had let him have a sip one year. He still had dreams about the Kentucky bourbon on crushed Arctic ice, sweetened with hand-ground sugar from Mauritius, and topped off with fresh Moroccan mint. The mug was a collector’s item, highly sought and bedded in a custom-made box with silk handkerchief bedding.)
“I know,” Viktor sighed, and Yuuri could almost imagine him stretching on his bed. “When are you getting here?”
“I’m probably three minutes away. We had to stop to get some extra water bottles for the puppies.”
“Ah, my sons!” Viktor gushed, making Yuuri blush. “How are Southern, Sushi, and Vicchan II?”
“Sleepy,” Yuuri chuckled, “they can’t wait to snuggle with their big brother Makkachin. Oh, we’re just pulling up now. Meet me in the driveway?”
Since Yuuri’s parents were going to get there a week later, the Nikiforovs had kindly let him and Phichit stay with them at their home in Martha’s Vineyard for the interim.
“Already way ahead of you, roll down your window,” Viktor instructed, waving at Yuuri. Yuuri smiled as he hung up the phone. Viktor was looking amazing, as always, dressed in a casual linen button-down in powder pastel blue, with a cashmere cardigan draped over his broad shoulders. Part of the reason Yuuri had felt so attracted to Viktor was because Viktor understood style; he knew how to look good, and he always did look good. Except, apparently, that day: Yuuri tried to hold back a horrified cringe when he noticed the salmon-colored breaker shorts with stitched blue whales all over.
Panicked, Yuuri rolled up at the window, barely missing Viktor’s surprised face.
“Oh my god, Phichit,” Yuuri whimpered, scooping up Vicchan II in his arms for comfort. “He’s a Vineyard Vines boy, like the type that wears whales on his butt.”
Phichit arched an eyebrow, laughing, “What? Yuuri, you have a few VV pieces yourself. Need I remind you, I also wear pastel shorts. I’m wearing some now.”
“Yes, and the clothes from my shameful past are stuffed in the very back of my closet where I can’t see them anymore, and you wear solids. Who wears mismatching pastels with stitched whales on their butt? Maybe my Dad was right. First the Vertu and now the whales…”
“Who wears penguins on their butt?” Phichit grinned, referencing the pair of dark blue shorts with light blue penguins Yuuri tended to pack with him for every trip. “Yuuri, come on, you’re not seriously judging your own boyfriend for wearing an ugly pair of shorts.”
Yuuri was relieved his best friend at least was still decent enough to admit the shorts were ugly.
“Excuse you: Original Penguin has muted, classic colors and designs,” Yuuri scoffed, pressing a kiss against the fur of his puppy. Vicchan II remained completely asleep, a heavy weight on his arms. He might as well have been holding a sack of potatoes. Meanwhile, Yuuri’s distress was growing only more apparent by the second. “Do you think he’d notice if we just kept driving?”
The chauffeur turned to stare at Yuuri almost in question.
“And where exactly would we go with three dogs and three hamsters?” Phichit asked. He addressed the driver shortly after, saying, “ignore him. We’re staying here.”
“I don’t know, but I just don’t think I can ever look at him the same way now that I know the truth. How did I not see it before?”
“Yes,” Phichit rolled his eyes, voice deadpan as he said, “How did you not see it before? A man doesn’t just start wearing signature VV shorts overnight, Yuuri. Those were there before you and they’ll probably be there after you.”
“I just. You really think there’ll be an after me?”
“No, I was just saying whatever came to my head. Yuuri, calm down.”
“His sister is so classy, Phichit. When I met her, Mila was a vision in Lilly Pulitzer,” Yuuri sighed, remembering the brighter times just some months ago. Yuuri had met Viktor wearing a Lacoste polo and smelling of fresh Banana Republic cologne. It had been like seeing Spring in France, only during Winter in the United States, but just the vision of International PrepTM had been enough to keep Yuuri’s fantasies going for weeks during the semester.
“Maybe it’s only one pair?” Phichit shrugged, “you know, everyone has that one pair, right? If you haven’t seen tons of them before, maybe it’s his one, single pair, like you and your Penguin-print shorts.”
“You’re right. I do only have one pair of penguins in a sea of respectable Southern Tide,” Yuuri agreed, feeling marginally better. He smiled, relieved as he thought about how this was a one-time fluke. Viktor couldn’t be the type of person who wore bright, gaudy pastels and refused to get his bow-ties to match. He’d always been classic elegance in front of Yuuri; neat, clean, and sexy. This was obviously a mistake. Of course, Yuuri would be a forgiving boyfriend and make the sacrifice to kiss Viktor while he was wearing the salmon shorts with the happy whales. He’d do it for their corgi babies. “Right. Yes, you’re right, I’m being silly!”
“You are,” Phichit laughed, proceeding to open the door to walk out with two corgis.
Yuuri opened his door, strutting out to meet his boyfriend in the driveway, where an expensive sportscar in bright red winked at him under a sunny sky.
“Yuuri!” Viktor beamed, heart-shaped smile on overdrive as he looked at the sleeping puppy in Yuuri’s arms. “They’re perfect!”
“I know,” Yuuri said, taking a step forward to kiss Viktor, only to step back at the last minute when Vicchan II began to stir. “Ah, sorry. I need to get the children settled,” he lied, stepping away from Viktor. Even his puppy-son couldn’t let him kiss someone wearing eyesore shorts.
“Oh, yeah!” Viktor nodded, following behind Yuuri and Phichit. He was so innocent in ignoring Yuuri’s dismissive glance. “Here, I’ll get you guys some mint juleps while you get them settled in our room. Makkachin’s bed is huge so there should be plenty of room for them!”
Yuuri should have known. Where one whale docks, a second and third are sure to follow.
He stared at the offending shorts’ brothers for a long while, unsure how to deal with the realization that his boyfriend – beautiful, talented, smart, rich, Viktor – was a serial offender of the Happy Butt Whales Club. It was too painful for words. His boyfriend had a lifetime membership in faded Lobster Reef, Flats Blue, Hibiscus, and Neon Melon. There were things people said about boys in Neon Melon shorts.
Yuuri sat on the edge of the bed, hands fisted over his thighs. How had Yuuri, a member of Branford, come to fall for a Harvard boy with whale print shorts?
In the corner, Makkachin and three chubby corgis were sleeping, all huddled together like a mountain of fur and adorable fat. Meanwhile, Yuuri continued to secretly mourn the loss of all his expectations.
Not even the knowledge that he was looking amazing, in a pair of slim fit khakis with a respectable blue polo and a cashmere sweater tied around his neck, made him feel better. He didn’t feel better, either, when he applied a fresh coat of gel to slick his hair back. Naturally, he only felt worse when he accidentally knocked over a bottle of Viktor’s La Prairie’s Cellular Swiss UV Protection Veil sunscreen. Now his boyfriend would be blotchy in his Hibiscus shorts.
“Nothing good ever comes from happy whales,” Yuuri told his sleeping children. “Whales are majestic creatures. They don’t smile. This, this is just disrespectful, boys. Your father has no sense of style. Who would be so cruel as to keep whales trapped in a bad fashion staple? I just, I don’t understand. I know he told me he’d had a difficult semester, but I didn’t think it had been so traumatic.”
Makkachin simply snored, completely unaware of Yuuri’s angry glare at the drawer full of pastel shorts with stitched whales.
“At least penguins are funny creatures. We know they’re natural-born entertainers; they even danced in some movie or other,” Yuuri said to the sleeping dogs, “it’s more acceptable to have them stamped on shorts, but whales? I’ve never understood why whales.”
Yuuri’s only consolation was that, when Viktor came into the room, Viktor didn’t even protest when Yuuri pulled off his belt with a flourish, whispering, “Take off your shorts.”
And, Yuuri had also never felt as much genuine satisfaction as he did when he stuffed the ugly shorts under the bed, all before crawling over his boyfriend and asking Viktor: “Can you fuck my thighs tonight?”
It was an absolute win when Viktor never bothered to find the shorts the next day, giving Yuuri an excellent opportunity to dump them in the trash bin.
It was too bad that the next day, Viktor was wearing another set of breaker shorts. This time, the shorts were a sky-blue tinted aqua-marine (Flats Blue, his mind screamed,) with dark blue whales. Yuuri could have forgiven the shorts, thanks to the color scheme, if Viktor hadn’t paired them with a dark blue, short-sleeved sports button-up with American-flag patterned whales sprinkled over tiny white stars. It was an insult to whales and wholesome, East Coast Americana.
Yuuri thought he was going to be sick.
Phichit, though, had made it a point to congratulate Viktor on his daring fashion choices. Yuuri couldn’t believe he’d let Viktor’s dick anywhere near his glorious thighs (which he had only dubbed glorious thanks to years of being told his thighs were, in fact, a gift).
“If you can’t beat them, join them,” Christophe Giacometti, the son of a wealthy swiss banker, and recently accepted into the Divinity School at Yale, told Yuuri as they brunched on some lobster spaghetti with Pomodoro sauce over at the Boathouse restaurant while Viktor and Phichit had a tennis match in the club field. “That’s what I always say.”
“I can’t even stomach seeing him in them and he’s a ten,” Yuuri reminded Chris, shivering as he reached for his drink, “How can I be expected to wear them when I’m, well, not a ten?”
“I don’t know, Yuuri, but if you love him, you’re going to have to overlook his distasteful preferences,” Chris advised. Yuuri almost wanted to take out his iPhone and record him. Chris had been with his boyfriend for almost a year now. He had the healthiest relationship Yuuri had seen in his short lifespan. “Do you think Alex is perfect? I mean, for goodness’ sake, Yuuri, his last name is Mystery. Alex Manny Mystery, like a cartoon character. He has absolutely no concept of etiquette—his parents own a farm—or money, which was all easy enough to forgive, really. Sometimes money does not breed pretty children, but the American Midwest has created some beautiful specimens. But, I felt just like you when I discovered he actually re-uses his sex toys.”
Yuuri furrowed his brows, confused by the last piece of information (and trying not to mull over the fact that Yuuri was probably not ever again going to meet someone as gorgeous and sweet as Viktor if he didn’t get over the whales on his shorts), “Don’t you reuse your sex toys, Chris?”
“Me? No!” Chris squeaked, horrified by the very implication, “Who does that? Who can’t afford fresh sex toys and a ride in an Aston Martin to get some in a moment’s notice? Wait, Yuuri, do you reuse your dildos? Sacrebleu, is this some strange new fad? I swear it’s an epidemic. First Alex, then Viktor, now you?”
Yuuri pretended not to hear Chris, “Okay, so the lesson here is that relationships require compromise and communication. Thanks, Chris.”
“What?” Chris gasped, again, “Yuuri, no. The lesson here is not to judge a book by its cover, or an ass is an ass whether in pastel whale shorts or khakis. And, if that ass is hot, rich, and gay, then you should feel encouraged to turn a blind eye to any minor indiscretions or fashion faux-pas to maintain conjugal bliss.”
“But we’re not married yet,” Yuuri pointed out, pushing a piece of lobster around his plate.
“Exactly! And if you want to be, you’ll ignore the whales,” Chris said, nodding vigorously.
Yuuri couldn’t ignore the whales. Everywhere he looked, they were on Viktor’s butt, glaring at Yuuri with mocking, laughing mouths.
By the time Viktor offered to take them sailing, things had escalated into Neon Melon territory.
“You’re wearing your penguin shorts!” Phichit said, clapping excitedly as they got on the boat. Viktor was going to take them sailing—all of them, including the dogs. Makkachin seemed to be taking his responsibilities very seriously, teaching the corgis to stand in a single line as they entered the boat. Yuuri was glad to see Viktor had prepared in advanced, getting all the dogs some life vests. “Does that mean you’re coming around on the pastel whales?”
“I’m trying to rise above it, yes,” Yuuri sighed, feeling uncomfortable.
He hadn’t realized that he had gained some weight last semester, meaning his shorts were just a little snug around his hips. But, if Viktor was going to wear Neon Melon shorts with whales, Yuuri was going to support him in spirit with fashionably subdued penguins in classic darks.
“Come on, puppies, let’s go indoors,” he tried to usher the dogs into the safety of the small cabin.
The corgis didn’t need to be told twice, following like a cloud of white and tan fur behind Makkachin. Wherever Makkchin went, the corgis seemed to follow, winding around the poodle’s long legs.
“How are my sons doing so far, Yuuri?” Viktor preened, pressing a kiss against his boyfriend’s cheek.
“They seem to be scared, I think,” Yuuri shrugged, trying to offer Makkachin a treat to get the poodle to help him lead the dogs into the cabin. “I’m going to take them indoors for a bit and give them the relaxing treats. Phichit’s going to help you get set up?”
Viktor nodded, heart-shaped grin sending Yuuri’s heart hammering against his ribcage: “Yup! Don’t worry about a thing. We’ve got it all under control.”
“Great,” Yuuri said, turning around and away from Viktor. He took a moment to pull his pants down, feeling them ride up against the crack of his butt. A part of him desperately wished he’d brought a change of clothes.
“Yes?” he froze, worried that maybe Viktor had just caught him trying to re-adjust himself to avoid a wedgie.
Viktor looked uncomfortable, eyes focused on Yuuri’s hips, “Are those penguins on your butt?”
Yuuri laughed, relief flooding through his entire body. So, that was it, the penguins, not the fake wedgie, that had Viktor looking alarmed.
“Ah, yeah. I figured we’d match today. Do you like them? They’re Original Penguin.”
Viktor nodded, licking his lips, “Right, of course I like them. They, uh, they look great.”
Yuuri simply smiled, blowing his boyfriend a kiss. However, he didn’t miss that the entire boat ride Viktor seemed to be glaring at his shorts. With three nervous corgi puppies, though, Yuuri had no time to bother with Viktor, far too busy trying to train his dogs to get used to the gentle rock of the boat.
Yuuri had been lounging by the pool when Viktor sat on the edge of his pool chair, looking so distressed Yuuri would’ve thought someone had told him the club had banned Dom Pérignon (and champagne fountains). In fact, Viktor looked so serious that a part of Yuuri was starting to worry that, maybe, the club really had banned Dom Pérignon. He sat up, setting his book aside.
“Viktor? What is it?”
“Yuuri,” Viktor took in a deep breath, “Now, you know I love you and our puppy children.”
“I do,” Yuuri nodded. “And I love you, too.”
“And there is nothing that could come between us and our future union. I mean, we’re perfect for each other. You practically know the Country Club Prep catalogue by heart and will surely graduate top of Harvard Law and be a Senator by the time you’re thirty.”
“You’re only eligible to run at thirty, Viktor,” Yuuri sighed, pushing his sunglasses to rest on top of his head.
“And I am so looking forward to being your trophy husband during the electoral season, even though we both know I’ll have to take breaks to take care of our award-winning purebred horses and four dogs,” Viktor said, eyes shining as he reached for Yuuri’s hand. “And that’s why I am so ashamed to admit that there is one thing that is coming between us and that it could end us.”
Yuuri snatched his hand back, “What?”
“Yes, Yuuri,” Viktor admitted, gulping hard.
“Well, what is it?” Yuuri asked, growing nervous by the second. He ventured bravely to say, “Or, is it a who?”
“Yuuri, how could you ever think anyone else could compete with your thighs? Of course it’s an it! It’s those penguin shorts.”
“My Original Penguin shorts?” Yuuri arched a curious eyebrow. “What’s wrong with them?”
“I’m jealous of the penguins!” Viktor cried, throwing a hand over his forehead as he looked away.
“Wait, what? That’s insane!”
“I know,” Viktor sobbed, seemingly as perturbed as Yuuri by his own confession, “Oh, Yuuri. If there was any other way, but, like, the insolence! They sit on your gorgeous butt all day. They mock me. Those smiling penguins, peppered all over your butt, like they’re saying, Viktor, look, you can’t be on Yuuri’s butt like we can! But we also won’t let you see his glorious butt because we’re evil! Not to mention those shorts are so tight, Yuuri. So tight. I almost crashed the boat yesterday. There’s no other way around it: You need to get rid of the penguins. And—and if you can’t, if, if you choose the penguins over me—”
“Viktor, do you realize—wait.”
Yuuri smiled, pressing both hands on either side of Viktor’s face to pull him into a kiss. How had he not thought of this before? – This was exactly what Chris had advised: If you can’t beat them, join them, Chris had said, and now it was paying in dividends. Yuuri almost questioned if he should apply to Business School instead of Law School.
“Viktor, that’s it!”
Yuuri laughed, “I can’t believe I didn’t think of it before! I can get rid of the penguin shorts, but you will also need to get rid of the whales.”
Viktor frowned, exceedingly put-off, “my whale shorts? But they’re VV, Yuuri. Like, some of the color combinations were limited edition.”
“I know,” Yuuri pouted, playing with the collar of Yuuri’s crisp linen shirt. It was a classic white, matched with a pair of sensible khakis. Yuuri was in love again. “But just think about how I feel about the whales on your butt, too. It’s not fair, Viktor. Those whales are always laughing at me.”
“Oh, Yuuri!” Viktor gasped, wrapping his arms around his boyfriend, “I can’t believe I didn’t think of it before. Of course, if I’m jealous of the penguins, you must also be jealous of the whales. I’m so sorry I have been hurting you this way this whole week. What an inconsiderate partner I have been to you and my puppy sons. Of course. We’ll dispose of them together.”
Yuuri clapped, shimmying in happiness, “Oh, Viktor. You’ve made me so happy!”
Viktor grinned, “Yeah? Want to go home and see if I can make you even happier?”
“I don’t think anything could make me happier than if you burned all the neon pastels in your closet,” Yuuri said, practically drunk from the good news he’d received. Soon, he would see the whales disappear. Victory felt sweeter than any fruit wine.
“Nothing. I was just saying that we should go get the shorts and throw them overboard before we celebrate by having sex on a boat,” Yuuri beamed, pulling down his sunglasses and tugging his boyfriend away from the pool.