It’s far too late for Yuuri to still be awake. Yet there they are, the slivers of light seeping through the gaps of his bedroom door that indicate he’s up. He should be asleep. They have a flight to Beijing tomorrow. Viktor isn’t really one to talk though. Before a competition, he’d go to bed somewhat early and lie awake for hours until he eventually drifted away, and sleep in until the last possible second. Yakov always chastised him for that.
Viktor approaches the door, his footsteps light. He strains his ears, but it appears that Yuuri is silent. Perhaps he fell asleep with the light on? Maybe he’s not even there. He raises a hand and raps on the door with his knuckles twice, tentatively. He remembers Yuuri’s vehement objections to letting him into his room. He doesn’t want to breach his privacy.
There’s silence for a moment, then a low, barely audible reply.
So Viktor opens the door, listening to the quiet swish of wood sliding against wood. Japan is so different to Russia, he muses. There are no tatami mats in Russia, no paper-thin shoji screens and no fusuma walls. No ridiculously comfortable jinbei or futons that are rather quaint to sleep in, but hurt his back a little. Japan is so refreshing.
Viktor expects to see Yuuri lying in bed awake, maybe even on his phone, but he’s actually sitting at his desk, his torso twisted to look in Viktor’s direction. The colours catch his attention first. Bright pops of blue and green and purple and red, scattered all over Yuuri’s desk and spilling onto the floor. They’re origami, he realises, dozens of delicate paper shapes. Yuuri has a piece of half folded yellow paper in his hands. His glasses are perched atop his head.
Viktor takes half of a hesitant step into the room before stopping, wordlessly asking for permission. Yuuri gives the slightest nod and he steps through the doorway. He’s especially careful not to step on the paper butterflies and cranes and flowers that litter the floor as he moves closer.
“What are you doing up, Viktor?” Yuuri asks softly, his fingers toying with the corners of the yellow paper in his hands. It looks like a diamond shape with the edges folded inwards.
“I was going to get water,” Viktor responds, watching him fiddle. “I saw your light was on. I thought I’d check on you.”
“I’m fine. Just nervous.”
Yuuri turns back around in his chair and continues folding his yellow paper. Viktor picks up butterflies and cranes and flowers and gently places them back on his desk. He watches Yuuri’s fingers work deftly to fold and crease, fascinated. He doesn’t know what Yuuri does, but the next moment, the paper has transformed into a flower.
“A tulip,” he remarks, wondering how a square piece of paper had turned into a rounded yellow tulip bulb. Yuuri nods and flicks his gaze to him, giving him a brief smile. He reaches for another sheet of paper, a green one this time. Viktor guesses that he’s making a stem. In a minute or so, he’s finished, and he slides the tulip bulb into a pocket on the green stem. It stays there snugly without the use of glue or tape, something about origami which Viktor finds incredibly clever. Yuuri sets it down on his desk before taking a piece of brown paper and beginning to fold once more.
“I do this to calm myself,” he says as he does some complicated looking folds that confuse Viktor. “It helps with my anxiety,”
His creases are sharp and exact. Viktor can’t follow the movements of the paper for the life of him, but he can understand the calming effect of doing origami. The precision and close attention to detail required must take Yuuri’s mind off of whatever is going on at the time.
“I started doing it when I was younger. Mari taught me how to fold a crane first, and the onsen patrons taught me how to make other things if they had spare time. I ended up doing it out of habit when I was nervous.” Yuuri continues. He holds up his finished piece and Viktor gives a chuckle of delight. It’s the side profile of a sitting dog.
“It doesn’t look much like Makkachin, but I don’t know how to fold poodles,” Yuuri muses, smiling. He sets the dog down on the table and it stays upright.
“It’s wonderful,” Viktor replies, smiling too.
“I could teach you how to make something, if you want…”
“I’d like that.”
Viktor decides that he wants to make a crane. It sounds simple enough, and it looks rather nice too. Yuuri teaches him about a variety of different folds with different names and Viktor doesn’t want to admit that it kind of went over his head, so he just nods and follows what he’s doing. He finishes the square base easily enough, but he struggles a little with the petal folds to turn it into the bird base. Yuuri only smiles and tells him that his creases aren’t sharp enough.
He reaches over to fix Viktor’s half-finished bird base and their hands brush. Viktor ignores the way that heat rises to his cheeks. Yuuri has not mentioned last year’s banquet in Sochi, so he won’t push it. Despite what happened, if Yuuri isn’t interested, he’ll respect that. Even if his heart aches dully when he thinks of the way Yuuri had danced with him that night.
Yuuri shows him the petal fold once more and eventually Viktor ends up with a somewhat respectable bird base. They start on folding the actual crane now and Viktor follows along surprisingly well. The inside reverse folds are a bit tricky though. In the end, his crane looks a bit squashed, the points aren’t clean and he was a little sloppy with his folds, so it obviously pales in comparison to Yuuri’s sharp, refined one. Yuuri tells him it’s good for his first try anyway.
Viktor tries a couple more while making idle small talk. They get better each time, that’s for sure. His first attempt now looks positively terrible compared to the rest. He looks around at the pile of origami figures cluttering Yuuri’s desk and wonders how long he’s been doing this tonight.
“I think I’ll leave it to you, Yuuri,” Viktor laughs, brushing his cranes into the ever growing pile. “My hands are too big for this fiddly stuff.”
“A lot of practice, that’s all you need,” Yuuri responds as he collects three pieces of blue paper and three green. “You should be perfect at them after you make a thousand.”
“Yeah. There’s an old Japanese legend, that if someone folds a thousand cranes, they get a wish,”
“Ah, I read about that once. There was that girl, Sadako, I think her name was?”
Viktor watches Yuuri fold and crease until he’s got three blue pieces and three green pieces. He slots them together and tucks in the flaps to make a cube which holds itself without adhesives, just like the tulip. When he pulls at the blue sides, they loosen into an angular shape resembling the swirl of a rose, complete with green petals. He then pushes down on them and they flatten back into a cube.
“Sorry, I’m just showing off now…” Yuuri smiles sheepishly at Viktor’s amazed expression. He sets the rose cube aside and picks up yet another sheet of paper. In just a few moments, he neatly folds a green butterfly. “Want to try? Butterflies are easier than cranes.”
Butterflies turn out to be much easier to fold than cranes, and Viktor gets so excited that he ends up folding about seven, one for every colour of the rainbow. Yuuri shows him a couple of different ways to fold butterflies, but he decides that the Yoshizawa design is his favourite. It’s oddly satisfying to fold the butterfly in half and see the points of the wings match up exactly, Viktor learns. Yuuri even lets him use the fancy patterned paper with a pink gradient and floral outlines. Soon, he’s amassed his own little pile of brightly coloured paper shapes.
They talk as they fold, voices hushed so as not to disturb anyone else. When there’s a lull in conversation, Viktor is still content just to listen to the quiet crinkling of paper and the sound of fingernails running along folds to crease well. When Yuuri yawns and rubs his eyes, he reaches for his phone and checks the time. His eyes widen at the numbers on the screen and he turns to Viktor with a worried expression.
“It’s nearly two,” he says apologetically. “I’m sorry for keeping you up, I know you only wanted to get water…”
“It’s fine. It was fun… I like getting to know you better.” Viktor responds. He chastises himself mentally when Yuuri blushes lightly and doesn’t reply to that. Yuuri gets up and walks over to the shelves at the foot of his bed, pushing past some figure skating trophies to retrieve two cardboard boxes. He sets them down on the desk and opens both. One is large and about a quarter full of even more paper shapes, the other is smaller and empty. Viktor wonders how many more boxes on those shelves are filled with origami.
Yuuri piles his work from tonight into the larger box, scooping up handfuls of butterflies and cranes and flowers and dropping them in carefully. He gently places Viktor’s butterflies into the smaller box and after a moment of hesitation, he puts in the blue rose cube as well. Viktor is a little surprised.
“Are you sure you want to give it to me?” he asks, gesturing vaguely at the little paper creation. Yuuri smiles and nods. He digs through his box of origami and pulls out another cube, a pink one this time.
“Yeah, I have plenty others. I want you to have it.”
There’s something else to be said here, perhaps about the symbolism of a blue rose compared to one of a different colour. Maybe Viktor is just looking into it too much. He looks around at the walls and the tiny holes which suggest that something used to be pinned there. Okay, he’s definitely looking into it too much.
Yuuri hands him the box with his butterflies and Viktor thanks him. He only leaves after Yuuri promises to go to bed in the next ten minutes and they’ve bid each other good night. He goes back to his room and sets the box down on his table. After some contemplation, he takes out the cube and turns it delicately in his hands, loosening the sides like Yuuri had done. It blooms into the blue rose and he smiles.
Placing it on his bedside table next to the lamp, Viktor climbs into bed. He’s being careful not to wake Makkachin, who has remained asleep this whole time. He drifts off himself as soon as his head hits the pillow. In his dream, he stands in a field of grass and tiny flowers. Suddenly, Yuuri appears, sitting with his back to him, surrounded by stacks of delicately patterned origami paper. He tosses a butterfly into the air and it flutters away, soaring into the sky as several others follow.
Yuuri turns to look at him over his shoulder. He smiles before dissolving into a thousand paper cranes, and blue roses begin to bloom at Viktor’s feet.
Viktor wakes up early the next morning, running on about four hours of sleep. Hiroko is a godsend however, handing him a cup of fresh coffee as soon as he walks into the kitchen with his hair still a mess. Yuuri is still fast asleep, she tells him. Their flight isn’t until the afternoon so he’s likely going to sleep in as late as he can. Katsuki Yuuri is not a morning person.
Viktor heads out with Makkachin for a run, hoping that he knows Hasetsu well enough by now that he can find his way back to the onsen if he gets lost. If not, the locals will surely help him out. They love him, though rather oddly, they like to refer to him as ‘Yuuri’s handsome foreigner boyfriend’. He just laughs it off every time with a charming smile, ignoring the way his heart clenches.
He gives everyone they pass by his best ‘ohayou gozaimasu’, which is always returned cheerfully. Hiroko and Toshiya tell him his Japanese is getting better every day, which makes him rather pleased. If only he could understand what Mari keeps saying to Yuuri that makes him turn bright red in about three seconds, though. Their rapid Kyushu Japanese is a little different to the phrases in Viktor’s dictionary.
He and Makkachin pause for a short break near the markets and he spots a little craft store opposite the street. Giving his poodle a quick command to stay in Russian, he pops into the store for a brief look. A couple of minutes later, he walks out with a small pack of gorgeously patterned origami paper that was a lot pricier than he expected. The lady at the counter had tried to give a discount for ‘Yuuri’s handsome foreigner boyfriend’, but he wouldn’t have it. He feels kind of honoured though, that Hasetsu seems to like him so much.
They walk the rest of the way back to the onsen, Viktor carefully carrying his purchase. The paper is thin and delicate (not to mention costly), so he’s got to be gentle. Makkachin wanders off somewhere, probably to doze, as Viktor sits at his table and gets to work. Selecting a blue sheet of paper with a beautiful pattern reminiscent of a kimono, he folds and creases firmly, Yuuri’s instructions echoing in his head. The petal fold is much easier this time and he’s extremely careful not to rip the thin paper.
When he finishes, pulling the wings slightly to expand the crane’s body, he sets it down and smiles rather proudly. One down, nine hundred and ninety-nine to go. Hiroko pops in to ask him if he’d like breakfast. He accepts and thanks her, and she comes back not only with a tray of food, but also with coloured strings and a container of beads.
“For the cranes.” she says simply, smiling as she places the tray down. Nodding in understanding, Viktor takes the materials and thanks her again. He ends up having to google what to do with the string though. He threads a blue bead on and ties a firm knot before sliding on his first crane. He holds it up and watches it dangle in front of him, the crane spinning slightly in the air.
Toshiya comes by next with a large stack of paper, saying it’s a gift from him and Hiroko. Despite Viktor’s protests, he presses it into his hands, eventually pressuring him into accepting it. He runs his thumb along the stack, flipping through dozens of patterns and colours.
“Are you sure?” Viktor asks, hesitantly holding the papers. The pack he had bought this morning only has about fifty sheets, and it was expensive. He can’t possibly allow Yuuri’s parents to give him this much paper for free.
“For Yuuri, we bought lots,” Toshiya replies, a fondness in his tone. Yuuri is so lucky to have such a wonderful family, Viktor thinks. The Katsukis are ridiculously kind and a delight to live with. He’s got to pay them back for their hospitality sometime in the future.
“At least let me pay you-”
Toshiya cuts him off with a cheerful ‘nope’ in Japanese. “You make our Yuuri happy. That’s enough.”
Speechless, Viktor blinks as Toshiya pats him on the shoulder. He gets out one more quiet ‘thank you’ before the older man takes his leave. He takes another piece of blue paper, this time from the stack that was given to him so graciously, and folds another crane. Two down, nine hundred and ninety-eight to go.
By the time Yuuri wakes up, it’s about an hour before they have to go to the airport. Viktor has folded eleven blue cranes so far, keeping count on his phone because it would be a huge pain to lose track and have to count each one all over again. The quality has increased dramatically, the points sharper and the folds neater. He contemplates taking them on the plane, to have something to do during the flight, but they might get crushed in his bag. He finishes another and threads it onto the string.
Twelve down, nine hundred and eighty-eight to go.
Yuuri appears in his doorway just as he’s packing away his sixteen cranes and the rest of his materials. His shirt is rumpled and his hair is sleep-tousled. Viktor has the extreme urge to walk over and smooth down the flyaway strands. He’s squinting slightly even though he’s got his glasses on.
“Viktor, have you seen my JSF jacket?” he asks, voice slurred ever so slightly with sleepiness. He’s too cute.
“Yuuko texted me to let you know you left it at the rink yesterday,” Viktor smiles fondly. “She also wants me to tell you that you should really turn your phone on.”
Yuuri walks off, muttering something about how he has to run all the way to Ice Castle now. At the very mention of the word ‘run’, Makkachin magically shows up with his tongue lolling out of his mouth as he pants in excitement. Yuuri leans down to give him a scratch behind the ears, smiling. Then, the two of them are off to the rink to retrieve Yuuri’s jacket.
Viktor waves at them as they leave, smiling like a love-struck idiot. Then it dawns on him that he is a love-struck idiot. He’d better get on folding those thousand cranes quickly.
Later that afternoon, he and Yuuri are sitting on the train to Fukuoka Airport, their shoulders almost touching. Viktor takes great pleasure in watching the scenery blur as the train rumbles away from Hasetsu Station. About halfway through the trip, Yuuri pulls out a book from his backpack and flips through the pages. There’s a flash of colour and he flicks back until he finds the two pages where a few sheets of origami paper are nestled. Viktor looks at him in surprise.
“I didn’t want them to get crumpled.” Yuuri says simply. With no other available flat surface, he takes a sheet and rests on the cover of his book. He turns it into a lovely purple lily which is a little messier than his usual quality, but Viktor can’t blame him. He’s working against the cover of a book and the train is shaking, after all. Wordlessly, Yuuri draws another piece of paper and hands it to Viktor along with his book.
Viktor smiles gently as he accepts them, and sets to work on folding his seventeenth crane.
(As it turns out, his wish comes true nine hundred and eighty-three cranes early after Yuuri’s free skate in Beijing. Viktor’s going to have to come up with a different one, but he thinks he’s got a good idea of what he could wish for already.)