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moments from his grasp

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Viktor will see Yuuri soon.

The thought resounds with clarity, echoing through his brain every time he lingers over which shirt to bring, which tie to pack, which cologne to wear, easily dragging him into fantasy. Viktor packs without noticing half of what he puts into his suitcase, until the baggage is nearly bulging with clothes that he will never use.

He imagines Yuuri laughing at him and quickly empties the whole suitcase, determined to pack properly. He doesn't need ten pairs of socks; both the hotel and Yuuri's home will have laundry facilities.

Viktor will see Yuuri soon, and he will stay at Yuuri's home.

He nearly packs another five pairs of socks, then abruptly realizes he is being ridiculous and forces himself to work on his toiletries instead.

An hour later, Viktor finally has all of his bags neatly packed and set by the door. He collapses on his couch and sighs, reaching for Makkachin for a cuddle, then abruptly remembers that his dog isn't home right now. Makkachin has already been dropped off at the kennel. Viktor doesn't like sleeping without her, but he will not have time in the morning to drop her off, so he took her a day early. He sighs again, deeply enough to blow his hair off his face, and tilts his head back to stare at the ceiling.

Viktor will see Yuuri soon, he will stay at Yuuri's home... and after this week, he will never compete again.

The thought seems unreal to him. Even after finalizing everything with Yakov, he still cannot believe that he will be retiring. Skating has been his life since he was a child, since he first set blade to ice and realized he could fly. Competitions, traveling, ice shows -- he cannot imagine giving his work up. Yet he looks forward to the days after Worlds, when his only responsibility will be taking care of Makkachin and Yuuri, if Yuuri allows it.

He will still do ice shows at least, as well as continue many of his contracts for modeling, brand promotions, and commercials. He has a farewell tour planned for the summer after he makes his announcement, and he plans to host another ice show with his friends. That will keep him busy during the off season, while Yuuri rests and prepares ideas for the next season.

So long as Yuuri agrees to let Viktor be his coach.

He wants to believe Yuuri will accept him. He suspects it, with the way Yuuri has been smiling every time Viktor mentions coaching. The invitation to Hasetsu is very telling, but Yuuri has kept silent on the topic, letting Viktor plead and whine without even hinting at his response. Viktor can read between the lines, but until Yuuri actually says yes, he is left in limbo, suffering at the mercy of the man he loves.

Yet Yuuri still invited him to Hasetsu, and he wouldn't do that if he planned to reject Viktor's proposition, right? He even invited Viktor to stay at his home -- to meet his family. Viktor has never been introduced to any of his lovers' families. He can't imagine what he will say to Yuuri's parents or his sister -- do they even speak English?

Frowning, Viktor sends off a text to Yuuri with that very question, then sighs and slumps a little more. His Japanese is terrible, but he will make do if necessary.

Thinking of Yuuri brings his dreams to mind. Viktor hasn't experienced one of the strange visions in almost two months. A few nightmares of Yuuri dying, but nothing like the memory dreams, as Viktor has come to think of them. He still has yet to tell Yuuri about them; he has been waiting for the right time, and yet...

After a moment of thought, Viktor stands and walks to his bookcase, kneeling to pick out the notebook he keeps there. Several books and a few academic journals have been added to the pile, but Viktor leaves those, instead carrying the notebook over to the couch and sitting down, opening it to the first page.

'I first dreamed of Katsuki Yuuri's death on Sunday, March 29, 2015. In my dream, he...'

Viktor drags his finger over the words, remembering that bitter cold from his dream, unwillingly calling up the image of Yuuri lying still in death, lips blue and eyes closed. After a moment, he unlocks his phone and pulls up his very first picture of Yuuri, laughing with Phichit Chulanont the weekend before Worlds. He looks at the warm, sparkling eyes of the man he loves, long enough to banish the nightmarish image in his head, and sighs.

Four dreams, and Viktor still does not know what they mean. He has filled his notebook with exact descriptions of his dreams, followed by pages and pages of theories, research, and his own fears. He is terrified of Yuuri dying like in his dreams. Yuuri has come to mean so much to him, and to lose him... it would break Viktor.

Viktor can bear the pain of his dreams, as long as he can keep Yuuri safe in real life. Nothing else matters -- not his career, not the world, not even skating, so long as Yuuri remains safe.

He believes the dreams are a warning, but he has yet to figure out the puzzle of them. Perhaps if he shared them with Yuuri... maybe Yuuri could help him understand.

Yuuri's fear of water, his depression, and the way he looks at Viktor sometimes -- as if he can't believe Viktor is real... everything must be related. If only Viktor could understand, then he could start working on keeping Yuuri safe from the terrible visions.

For a long while, Viktor reads through pages of notes, absently finding a pen and adding a few thoughts here and there. When he finishes the notebook, he closes it carefully and exhales. Then he stands and walks to his carry-on bag, sliding the notebook into a pocket inside.

He will talk to Yuuri, the first chance he gets.

~*~

When Viktor lands in Tokyo, he finds out that Yuuri has already checked into his hotel. All of the skaters have been clustered in either one of two hotels, and Viktor is dismayed to find out that he and Yuuri have different hotels for this competition. He pouts about it all the way through baggage claim, while Yakov rolls his eyes and herds Viktor, Mila, and Georgi to their waiting taxis.

Viktor settles for texting Yuuri to appease his sulk.

To: Yuuri ♡ ♡ ♡
This will make it so much harder to sneak into your room!

From: Yuuri ♡ ♡ ♡
You're not sneaking into my room during Worlds. The press will lose their minds

To: Yuuri ♡ ♡ ♡
I don't care! I want to be with Yuuri 。゚・ (>﹏<) ・゚。

From: Yuuri ♡ ♡ ♡
You are ridiculous. We'll have plenty of time to be with each other after Worlds ends
I mean see each other!

To: Yuuri ♡ ♡ ♡
Oh? You want to be with me that badly, Yuuri? (*´♡`*)
I'll do my best to take care of you ♡

From: Yuuri ♡ ♡ ♡
oh my god
I'm not talking to you anymore

Viktor laughs to himself, pleased that Yuuri responds in such a way to him now. His messages used to be very polite and distant, but as their relationship has deepened, Viktor has learned so many new things about Yuuri and his emotions.

He really is in love with him. Somedays, he cannot believe that, either.

Check-in takes little time, as does accreditation, Viktor receiving his badge, meal vouchers, and information packet in short order. For a little while, Viktor gets caught up in an interview and several happy fans, content to appease his loving audience, then escapes as soon as an opportunity arises. He happily ignores Yakov rolling his eyes as he ducks out of the hotel in a hat and sunglasses and makes his way down the street.

When Yuuri opens his hotel door, Viktor steps in close to hug him immediately. The feeling of Yuuri in his arms after months of not seeing him makes Viktor want to cry. He resists the urge, though.

"Viktor," Yuuri says in surprise, but he does not hesitate to hug Viktor back for a long moment, before taking him by the wrist and tugging him into the room before any paparazzi or fans can see them. Viktor catches Yuuri's face in his hands and studies him.

Yuuri looks a little tired. After his stress surrounding Four Continents, Viktor is not surprised, but he is pleased to see that Yuuri no longer has such dark circles under his eyes, as Viktor had seen in his videos. He resists the urge to kiss the soft skin beneath Yuuri's lashes and smiles brightly at him.

"Hello, Yuuri," Viktor says, letting him go stepping back a little to look at him. Yuuri is wearing jeans and a black zip-up jacket, his hair a little damp. Viktor lets himself breathe in Yuuri's clean scent and sighs.

"Hi, Viktor," Yuuri replies, a small smile on his face. He looks happy to see Viktor, which makes Viktor happy. "You didn't have to come all the way over here, you know... we could have met at a restaurant."

"And miss seeing you as soon as possible?" Viktor asks, putting a hand to his chest in affront. "I would never miss the opportunity to spend time with my Yuuri! I cannot believe they put us in different hotels."

Yuuri laughs, his eyes twinkling even as a tiny blush touches his cheeks. Viktor realizes how possessive he sounds and chides himself, sighing deeply.

"I'm happy to see you too, Viktor," Yuuri says, a little quiet. Yuuri's hand touches his after a moment, making Viktor's heart speed up a little. He carefully entwines their fingers, and when Yuuri doesn't pull away, Viktor cannot help a happy smile.

The world will be sad to see Viktor go, but Viktor has this new, wonderful feeling in his hands, filling up his heart with warmth. He thinks he can give it all up, if it means he can keep Yuuri.

He just hopes that Yuuri accepts him.

~*~

The week passes as if in a dream.

Viktor goes through each event with something building in his mind. The words are on the tip of his tongue -- I'm retiring -- but he holds them back, carefully navigating his fans' expectations and hopes. During each interview, the reporters focus on Viktor's current season, but they often ask him about his plans for the future. Each time, Viktor puts on a mysterious smile and says I'll tell you after this season. He does it to his fellow skaters and the fans he meets as well.

He will surprise the world one last time. He can't wait to see their reactions.

His sponsors already know, since their money is tied to his image, but they have kept the secret, as has Yakov. The only other person to know is Yuuri, who avoids reporters like the plague and ends up spending most of his time practicing or hiding in his hotel room. Viktor has to coax him out for meals, which are usually taken in the hotels' restaurants with their vouchers. The one time they tried to go out on the town with their fellow skaters, they were mobbed -- for Yuuri's presence.

Being Japan’s Ace at the World’s competition in Tokyo meant that everybody wanted to talk to Yuuri. Yuuri nearly had an anxiety attack in their attempts to get away. After that, Viktor kept Yuuri at the hotel, wanting to protect him from his rabid fans.

Worlds this year does not feel like a competition. Viktor finds himself exasperated and impatient with the event coordinators. Should they really wait so long between events? Can't they see he wants to be done with it?

The thought catches Viktor by surprise. He has never wanted a competition to end so quickly. He tries to slow himself down, making a point to watch the pair skates and ice dancing events. Yuuri sits beside him for both, making quiet noises of awe every time the pairs do a fantastic lift or throw. Viktor wonders if he and Yuuri could pull it off; he keeps thinking of Yakov's words at their meeting two weeks ago.

He and Yuuri could skate together like that. What would the world say...

When Viktor does finally compete for his short program, he hardly remembers what he does. First place, of course, but Viktor spends more energy watching Yuuri's skate, barely paying attention to the other skaters as they try to reach his standards. Yuuri and Christophe come the closest, neck and neck for second place, but Viktor only has eyes for Yuuri.

Christophe notices, of course. He has always paid close attention to Viktor's moods and activities. Viktor once thought Christophe was in love with him, but when Christophe got a boyfriend, he put that thought aside.

Still, Christophe wastes little time in cornering Viktor, catching him alone the night before the free skate. Yuuri has already retired for the night, but Viktor has chosen to stay out a little late, lounging by the hotel pool. The room is otherwise empty, yet Christophe manages to surprise Viktor when he walks up to the pool, a martini glass in one hand.

"Thought you might be here," Christophe says. Unsurprisingly, he has sunglasses on, despite the time and location.

Viktor gives him a lazy smile. "Shouldn't you be asleep?"

"Shouldn't you?" Christophe returns, raising an eyebrow and pushing his sunglasses up. He is wearing a bathrobe and likely intended to swim naked if Viktor wasn't around. Viktor has never been one to stop Christophe when he chooses to strip.

"Merely enjoying the lovely evening. Tomorrow will be a grand day," Viktor says, returning his gaze to the glass walls that look over the city. The pool is near the top floor of the hotel, which grants them a beautiful view of Tokyo.

"If you mean the day I finally defeat you, then yes, it will." Christophe sips his martini and slips off his bathrobe, revealing a small pair of swimming briefs. Viktor raises an eyebrow, amused.

"You say that every year, Chris, and yet I still manage to beat you."

"I make you work for it," Christophe returns easily. Despite their rivalry on the ice, there has never been any negativity between them. He sets his drink on a little table with his phone, then steps into the pool, sinking into the water with a sigh. "I would have thought you'd be with your lover."

Viktor's heart speeds up a little. He keeps his voice even. "If you mean Yuuri, he went to bed already. He isn't my lover." Yet, Viktor doesn't say, but Christophe seems to hear it anyway.

"Not for lack of trying," Christophe replies with a knowing look. "I never imagined it before, you and him. I am happy for you two, though."

"I told you, it's not like that," Viktor says, a little more softly. He is grateful for Christophe's support, even if Christophe doesn't know all that lies between him and Yuuri. He wonders if Christophe would be so supportive if he knew Viktor has decided to retire to coach Yuuri.

He will not say so. Telling Christophe such a thing before tomorrow might throw off his skate, which would be unfair.

"I want invitations to the wedding," Christophe says lazily, swimming closer to Viktor and turning onto his back. "Front row. I deserve it after I hooked you two up."

A shiver runs up Viktor's spine, as he recalls a flash of a gold ring from a dream. The ring has a snowflake engraved inside it. Viktor has never touched that ring before, yet he is certain that he slid it onto Yuuri's finger, once upon a dream. He sighs a little, wondering how he could ever convince Yuuri to marry him, then realizes abruptly what he is thinking about.

"Marriage," Viktor laughs, a little too loudly. "Whatever are you imagining, Chris?"

He makes the mistake of looking at his friend. Christophe is staring at him with interest and a bit of worry, the only hint of emotion he will show other than his usual, graceful cheer. Viktor feels his cheeks warm, then dunks his head under the water to cool off.

He swims for a while, and Christophe keeps his distance. Eventually Viktor moves to drift on his back in the water. He hears a splash and turns his head; Christophe has swum closer, his gaze on Viktor's face.

"Something is different about you," Christophe says quietly. "You would never have acted like this before over a boy. You've been acting different this whole week, but I don't understand why."

Viktor stays silent for a long moment. "I've never met anyone like him, Chris."

"Do you remember that night you called me?" Christophe asks, off-hand, and Viktor goes tense. Christophe doesn't seem to notice, turning his gaze to the glistening lights outside the pool room. "You were so panicked over this boy you had never met... a boy who idolized you, whom you never even noticed before. You told me that you were close to him in that dream, and that you saw him die."

"I remember," Viktor says after a long moment, tilting backwards to float in the water. He hears a soft splash as Christophe moves nearby.

"I've never seen you want to protect someone so much," Christophe continues, then lets out a low laugh. "It made me a little jealous. Sweet little Yuuri, who loved you to the moon and back... and you were dreaming of him. I wondered..."

Viktor stays silent, listening, waiting. He stares up at the ceiling, his heart beating strangely fast as he waits for Christophe to continue.

"I wondered if I should introduce you, to see if you'd act the same in real life," Christophe finishes with another small laugh. "And you have. To everyone's surprise, you have. Do you really intend to retire, Viktor?"

Viktor turns so fast that his head spins. "What did you say?"

Christophe stares back at him evenly for a moment. Then something in his expression falls. "So it's true."

"Where did you hear that?" Viktor demands. He doesn't want anything leaked before he goes to Hasetsu.

"We share a sponsor," Christophe replies, putting a hand over his face. "One of their representatives let it slip to my coach, who told me. I believe he also spoke to your coach, who was not happy about it. They went to talk to the sponsor to put a stop-gag on the rumors, I think."

Viktor doesn't know what to say to that. He turns away, pushing his hair back, then doing nothing when it falls in his eyes again. "They weren't supposed to tell. I'm going to announce it in two weeks."

"Two weeks?" Christophe says sharply, his hand dropping. "What happens in two weeks?"

Viktor stays silent. After a long moment, he swims to the ladder and climbs out of the water, offering a hand to Christophe, who pulls himself up and out. They stand at arm's length for a moment, and Viktor realizes that Christophe's fingers are trembling in his hand.

"Why are you retiring, Viktor?" Christophe whispers.

"Because I found someone I want to protect," Viktor replies quietly. He gives Christophe a little half-smile, letting go of him and reaching for a towel, dropping it over Christophe's curly hair. "It isn't marriage, but I am going to ask him to stay beside me. Next season will be a surprise for everybody, I think."

Christophe says nothing, reaching up to grip the towel, his gaze darkening and his cheer gone. Then he takes a deep breath and puts on a smile. It hurts Viktor to see that mask on his face, but he doesn't intend to lie to Christophe to make him feel better. He hates that Christophe knows the truth now and can only hope it doesn't affect his skating tomorrow.

"I won't tell anyone," Christophe promises quietly. "I believe I'm too tired for swimming. Good night, Viktor."

"Good night, Chris."

Christophe leaves as quietly as he came, taking his martini and robe with him. Viktor wonders what Christophe is thinking; they have long been rivals, ever since Christophe joined seniors and began competing against him directly. Christophe has said more than once that Viktor is his motivation for skating; truly, Viktor has not had a better rival in years... until Yuuri, anyway.

Viktor isn't going to change his mind, no matter how Christophe feels about it. He can only hope that Christophe will continue to be his friend after he finds out the truth.

Viktor has decided on his future. No one can change his mind, now.

~*~

At last, Viktor comes to stand on the ice for the final time.

Stammi Vicino begins, the solemn notes ringing across the ice. Viktor lifts his head and reaches out for the lover he seeks. Yet he reaches for more than that; this song was never just about love lost, but also about the inspiration Viktor couldn't attain this past year. He found that inspiration in Yuuri, creating joy that has infused his life with new meaning.

Even before Viktor knew Yuuri, he was reaching for something he could not have through only skating. Stammi Vicino has always symbolized that longing for something more -- the life and love he ignored for twenty years.

Skating has been his life for so long. He has dedicated his entire soul to the ice, to the applause of the audience and the feeling of skates on his feet. His life has been work, work, work for years, with a heavier cost than Viktor realized: his life and love, the two things that Viktor should have never neglected... Yet, when Yuuri stepped into his world, Viktor realized he could not go on like this.

He wants to rest. He wants the new, exciting emotions that Yuuri has created in him. He has someone he wants to protect now, not just himself. Christophe and the world, they may judge him all they want -- but Yuuri has become precious to him, and Viktor will do everything in his power to safeguard Yuuri's happiness.

No matter what his dreams mean. No matter what anybody says. No matter if he loses everything else. He will always, always fight to remain at Yuuri's side.

Each moment of skating to Stammi Vicino stands out as crisp and clear, his body and hands moving through each motion with grace. The lyrics are all the more meaningful to him now. He pours himself into each jump, each turn, wanting to give the audience everything. They have supported him all this time, and he would not be here today without his fans, without his coach and peers and sponsors giving him courage to continue forward. They deserve to have the best skate of Viktor's life; he can only hope it is enough that the world will forgive him later, after he steps away.

Let's leave together, I'm ready now.

He finishes with his arms crossed over his chest, gazing up at the lights of the arena, breathing harshly. He is more winded than he would have been normally, but the burn in his chest and legs feels good, satisfying in a way that no other feeling can compare. He drops his arms with a faint groan, then looks up to the audience, tears coming unbidden to his eyes. The arena is silent, caught by the emotion of his skate, and Viktor wonders what they are thinking. Did he surprise them?

When he puts his hand to his chest and bows to them, the audience erupts with applause and screams, calling his name in a way that makes his heart ache.

"Thank you," Viktor whispers to the ice, then straightens to receive his accolades, unable to stop himself from smiling.

It is over.

~*~

The gold medal has barely landed in Viktor's hands before he makes his escape to Yuuri's side.

Throughout the weekend at Worlds in Tokyo, Viktor has focused on being the best version of himself possible, knowing in his heart that this would be the last time he would compete in men's singles. He skated Immortelle and Stammi Vicino with no faults, earning his highest ever free skate score and winning gold.

Yuuri didn't let him win easily, though, skating just as hard as Viktor, but Viktor managed to edge out over him. The true surprise of the competition was Otabek Altin, another dark horse of the skating world, stealing third place from Christophe while nobody was looking.

Viktor wonders how Christophe reacted to that. Christophe had smiled when the results were announced, charming to a fault, but Viktor knows Christophe better than most of his other competitors. He doubts Christophe will take his retirement well; he hopes that his friend doesn't give up skating, though.

All too quickly, thoughts of other skaters vanish from his mind, as Viktor focuses on Yuuri.

"Congratulations, Viktor," Yuuri says, breathless as he watches Viktor. His own silver looks good on his chest, but Viktor wants to see gold there instead. Knowing that several dozen cameras and thousands of pairs of eyes are fixed on them at this moment, Viktor puts one hand to his chest and bows to Yuuri, a smile touching his lips. When he glances up through his bangs, he sees Yuuri's eyes gleam with determination, acknowledging Viktor's challenge.

Next year, there will be a new king.

Then Yuuri pulls him out of his bow, laughing with an embarrassed flush, and Viktor beams, presenting him with a rose from his bouquet. Yuuri's blush only gets worse, but Viktor is happy to catch him in a one-armed hug after Yuuri takes the rose, unable to resist pressing a kiss to Yuuri's dark hair.

"Viktor!" Yuuri protests, laughing, and Viktor smiles to himself.

Yuuri, who is a mild celebrity in his own country and has to sneak around in a heavy coat and sunglasses as big as his face, is filled with effusive congratulations. "You were amazing, Viktor," Yuuri says earnestly as Viktor pulls him close for a pose, smiling at the cameras flashing in their faces.

"As were you, solnyshko," Viktor replies, loud enough that the cameras pick it up. He doesn't care about hiding his love any longer.

After the ceremony, Viktor settles into interviews, in which he plays cat and mouse with the constant question of "What are you doing next season?" He toys with the interviewers, refusing to give an answer either way, only saying that soon he will have an announcement for everybody. He has decided to wait until after his vacation with Yuuri to make his statement of retirement. Yakov wasn't too happy but has agreed to return to Russia, as long as Viktor comes home in a timely manner.

First, though, Viktor and Yuuri must get to Hasetsu.

Viktor arranges to move into Yuuri's hotel for two more nights, lucking out with a room on Yuuri's floor. This enables both of them to sneak around easily, as Yuuri wants to avoid his fans and Viktor wants to spend as much time with Yuuri as possible.

Still, they manage to have a fun time. Yuuri takes him to tiny restaurants with amazing food, shopping centers that stretch up to the sky, and neighborhoods with streetside markets full of interesting wares. They go to a park, where cherry blossoms are just beginning to bud on the trees, and walk close together, hands brushing each other as they talk. Viktor would call them dates, but he respects how Yuuri does not wish to define what is between them, not quite yet.

What will happen in Hasetsu remains unspoken, yet the promise lingers between them, hiding beneath every exchange. Viktor can only hope that Yuuri's smiles and soft looks mean that he will be rewarded for his patience.

After a pleasant two days of sightseeing and not-dates, Viktor follows Yuuri home to Hasetsu. He worries the entire way about whether Yuuri's family will like him. Yuuri insists that they will love him, but Viktor has not been close to anybody's family in years, other than Yakov and Lilia. He barely talks to his own parents; he just hopes that Yuuri's parents and sister accept him.

Yuutopia is a beautiful traditional Japanese inn with a warm, welcoming lobby that smells heavenly, the scent of delicious food wafting from the kitchen mixing pleasantly with the scent of the hot springs. Yuuri looks just like his mother, who stands in the middle of the lobby and smiles warmly at Viktor when he steps into the inn and toes off his shoes.

"My mother Hiroko, my father Toshiya, and my sister Mari," Yuuri murmurs, nodding to each of his family members as he sets their suitcases aside. He turns nervously to his family and introduces Viktor to them, and Viktor bows.

"Hello, I am Viktor Nikiforov," Viktor says in halting Japanese. Toshiya smiles serenely, amicable and kind, while Hiroko steps forward, beaming at him. She has a round face and soft brown eyes, the same eyes that Yuuri has.

"Vicchan, welcome to our home," Hiroko says in English, her accent charmingly thick, bowing before taking Viktor's hands and drawing him up the step. Viktor follows her in confusion, feeling rather tall next to her diminutive, round figure, thrown by the nickname and her warmth. He glances back at Yuuri, only to find Yuuri smiling widely at them, his eyes misty.

"Come in, come in! We have been waiting for you, Vicchan! Yuuri always talks about you," Hiroko tells him, patting Viktor's arm several times as she leads him deeper into the inn.

"Okaasan!" Yuuri whines behind them. Hiroko tuts and ignores him. After that, Yuuri sighs and leaves them to it, letting Hiroko guide Viktor on a tour of the inn, only stepping in to translate when Hiroko's English falters.

Viktor is torn between keeping an eye on Yuuri, excited to see him in his natural habitat, and reveling in the attention Hiroko bestows on him. She tells him all sorts of interesting details about the inn, from when it was founded to how many times Yuuri has tripped on the bottom step of the stairs that lead up to the family rooms. Her smiles and soft touches warm his heart; he can scarcely believe how much she seems to like him.

Hiroko is nothing like Viktor's mother, who was always cool and distant when he was younger. She is the embodiment of warmth and kindness, always aware of when Viktor starts to get flustered, while remaining ever vigilant of the locations of her two children and husband. She treats him like he always imagined a mother should, and for a brief moment, Viktor almost wants to cry. He could easily love this woman.

Toshiya disappears into the kitchen at one point, while Mari returns to her work, but not before teasing her brother. Viktor doesn't catch what they say, only that Yuuri doesn't let his sister fluster him too much. While Hiroko walks ahead, Viktor pauses beside Yuuri, giving him a curious look.

"Sorry, my sister was saying something to me," Yuuri explains, only blushing a little. Viktor glances past him at Mari, who watches them with a faintly curious look on her face, and flashes a small smile. After a moment, Mari returns the smile with a smirk of her own and disappears down the hall.

"Vicchan! Yuuri! Come here, let's show Vicchan the onsen while it's empty," Hiroko calls. Viktor and Yuuri turn to follow, when suddenly they hear barking behind them. Viktor sucks in a breath, as Yuuri turns with a smile.

"Vicchan!"

Viktor turns on his heel to see a small, furry body launch itself into Yuuri's arms. He stares, breathless with awe at the tiny dog that resembles a puppy version of Makkachin so much, his fur darker in color. Yuuri laughs and greets his dog happily, before standing and turning to Viktor, glancing up at him nervously.

"This is Vicchan, my dog. Vicchan, this is Viktor."

Viktor covers his mouth to hold in the loud exclamation he wants to make. "He's so cute," Viktor whispers, then holds out his hand to Vicchan to sniff. At the sound of his voice, Vicchan starts wiggling, and to Yuuri's surprise, he propels himself off Yuuri's chest into Viktor's arms.

Viktor catches him quickly, surprised when Vicchan happily licks Viktor's face. He starts laughing in joy, rubbing his fingers through Vicchan's curls and marveling at how soft he feels. This is the dog that Yuuri named after him, and Viktor loves him.

"He recognizes my voice! Yuuri, he knows me!" Viktor says happily, cuddling Vicchan close. "Oh, Vicchan, you are the most beautiful toy poodle I have ever seen! Ooh, he's giving me kisses!" Viktor tears his gaze away from Vicchan long enough to see Yuuri wipe at his face, worrying briefly that Yuuri is crying, but Yuuri is smiling instead.

"I'm so glad he likes you," Yuuri says quietly, his gaze soft with happiness.

Viktor smiles back at him, thinking of the fact that Yuuri asked for a poodle puppy because of him, to the point of naming that puppy after him. He feels honored that Vicchan likes him, so much that the small dog stays in his arms for quite some time as they continue the tour of the house.

The last room Hiroko shows them is an old banquet room, cleared out and cleaned for Viktor to sleep in, and conveniently right next to Yuuri's room. Viktor eyes Yuuri's door longingly, wanting to see the childhood room of the man he adores, but he holds himself back for now. Hiroko pats him on the arm one last time, then leaves them alone, while Vicchan sniffs at Viktor's luggage. Viktor can't help but kneel down and scoop Vicchan into his arms again, petting the happy dog gladly.

Viktor glances at Yuuri, who is gazing intently at his phone. Upon noticing his attention, Yuuri puts the phone away and takes a deep breath.

"Viktor, would you like to see my home rink? There's something I want to show you."

A shiver runs through Viktor at the way Yuuri looks at him. "I'd love to, Yuuri. Let me get my skates." He stands and gently deposits Vicchan in Yuuri's arms, then walks over to his suitcases to pull out his skates and a change of clothes more suited to the ice. Yuuri leaves briefly, then returns with a backpack slung over his shoulders and secured across his chest.

Viktor smiles, tucks his skates into his own bag, and stands to follow him. Together they leave the inn and walk down the hill toward a long bridge that crosses the small river that leads up to the nearby bay.

Seeing Yuuri so close to the water makes Viktor break out in a sweat, his nightmares flashing before his eyes. When Yuuri shows no signs of avoiding the bridge, Viktor swallows back his fear and makes certain to stand between Yuuri and the rail. When Yuuri visibly tenses at the sound of a particularly large wave hitting the foundation, Viktor tries to distract him with excited chatter about Yuutopia. Yuuri remains quiet for the most part, but he relaxes a little, leaning into Viktor's side.

Soon they leave the river behind, to Viktor's relief, and he puts his protective worry aside for now. Their destination is Ice Castle, a small skating rink that Yuuri explains has been his local rink as long as he has been skating. A young couple is working the counter, greeting Yuuri in Japanese and giving Viktor wide-eyed stares of recognition.

Yuuri speaks with the man for a few minutes, who then walks over to the door to hang a sign on it. Yuuri watches him, then looks up at Viktor. "We have the rink to ourselves, Viktor."

"Oh? Is something special going to happen?" Viktor asks teasingly. Yuuri only smiles, which makes Viktor pester him for details, excitement lighting up his nerves with hope.

He wonders if this has to do with whatever Yuuri has been hiding from him for the past few weeks. Practicing late at the rink... yet not practicing his own skates. Yuuri has been good about keeping it a secret, but Viktor has noticed he is up to something interesting. He looks forward to finding out what it is.

After changing into his black skating clothes, Yuuri leads him to the rink, which is empty of visitors, leaving Viktor alone with Yuuri. He notices the couple in the sound room -- Nishigori Takeshi and Yuuko, old rink mates of Yuuri's -- but pays them no mind, his attention on Yuuri, who has asked him to remain at the barrier while he steps onto the ice.

Yuuri's gaze flicks up to Viktor's eyes nervously when he approaches, stopping at the barrier in front of Viktor.

"Um... so." Yuuri swallows nervously, then squares his shoulders and meets Viktor's gaze. He looks beautiful standing there on the ice, like everything Viktor has always dreamed of, and some of the tension in his chest eases. Whatever Yuuri wants to show him, Viktor trusts in him. "When I was a kid, I would practice your skates... my friend and I, we would skate them together, and it made me feel closer to you. It made me love skating."

Yuuri slides off his glasses and folds them carefully, and Viktor holds out his hand for Yuuri hand them over. Yuuri gives him a brief smile in gratitude.

"At the Grand Prix Final, you asked to be my coach. I wasn't ready to answer then, but... I've thought about it, like you wanted. I have my answer now."

Viktor scarcely dares to breathe as Yuuri meets his eyes again.

"Please watch me," Yuuri says softly. Viktor nods slowly, closing his fingers around Yuuri's glasses.

Yuuri breathes out and pushes off the wall, skating to the center of the rink. He tucks one foot behind the other and drops his chin to his chest, closing his eyes and waiting. A shiver of surprise runs through Viktor's body. He knows that pose intimately.

Stammi Vicino begins to play over the speakers, and Viktor gasps softly. He covers his mouth as Yuuri lifts his head and arms, beginning to skate the same intricate dance that Viktor skated to gold just days ago.

The emotions that Viktor poured into Stammi Vicino... Yuuri heard every one of them, and now he returns those feelings. Yuuri is just as ready for a new life as Viktor is; he skates like he is dreaming of something wonderful, each movement all but singing of longing and hope. No longer is Yuuri afraid of the future, because he has Viktor.

He wants Viktor. To be with him... to be his coach. Viktor has never been more certain of anything else in his life.

At the climax of the music, after Yuuri lands the triple flip, he turns and skates toward Viktor, mirroring Viktor's actions at the Grand Prix Final. Let's leave together. I'm ready now, Yuuri tells him, beckoning him with love in his gaze. Viktor cannot help the tears in his eyes as Yuuri reaches out to Viktor, one arm over the other, before smiling at him and skating backwards, opening himself up before spinning around for the last jump.

Yuuri lands the combo perfectly. The music fades, and Yuuri stands alone on the ice, arms crossed as he stares up at the ceiling. Viktor reacts without thinking, leaving Yuuri's glasses on the barrier before ripping off his skate guards and taking off across the ice. Yuuri turns to face him, apprehension clouding his gaze, but Viktor wastes no time in throwing his arms around Yuuri to chase that worry away.

Yuuri gasps a little and melts into him, and Viktor closes his eyes tightly as Yuuri's chest expands beneath his hands, his heart racing against Viktor's ear. He is sweaty and panting and beautiful, and Viktor has never loved him more.

"Yuuri," he says fiercely, unable to help his tears. Yuuri lets out a tiny noise, burrowing himself deeper into Viktor's arms.

"Please, be my coach," Yuuri whispers into Viktor's shoulder, his voice choked. Viktor almost sobs in surprise and happiness, suddenly feeling light-headed at Yuuri's plea. "Please stay with me. I'll go anywhere with you, I'll do anything, just --"

"I'll do it. I'll be your coach. You can trust in me, Yuuri." Viktor tightens his arms around Yuuri, one hand sliding back through Yuuri's messy hair when he notices that Yuuri is crying as well. "Shh, don't cry, solnyshko. This is a happy moment."

"You're crying, too," Yuuri mumbles into his shoulder, making Viktor laugh.

They hold each other for several moments, their tears running dry as elation fills them both. Viktor runs his hand down Yuuri's back, relishing his warmth, the way Yuuri fits against him so perfectly, then lets out a shaky sigh.

"I've already planned everything. Yakov has the contract ready. You can stay with me, and your home rink will be my rink, and it will be amazing. I can't wait to show you around St. Petersburg!"

The second Viktor says St. Petersburg, something changes. Yuuri shivers, going a little tense, and a sense of foreboding fills Viktor. He thinks of his dreams, then quickly changes tactics. If going to St. Petersburg upsets Yuuri, then Viktor can easily stay here in Japan.

"Oh, but are you sure you want to train in Russia?" Viktor asks, glancing down at Yuuri anxiously. "We can train here. This rink is perfect, and it's much more private. I don't mind living in Japan to coach you."

Yuuri hesitates a long moment, frowning in confusion. "What about Coach Yakov? If we're here, we can't train with him..."

"I know," Viktor agrees, hating the thought of letting go of Yakov's deal... but he will, if he can protect Yuuri. He hesitates over his next words, then decides to be honest. He promised himself that much before he came to Japan. "It's just that... you know the Neva River is in St. Petersburg, right? I walk by it every day. I don't want to make you uncomfortable by..."

Something in Yuuri's expression changes, dread flashing across his face. He opens his mouth to speak, but nothing comes out, his grip tightening on Viktor.

After a long moment, Yuuri lifts his gaze to look at Viktor. "Why do you think I would be uncomfortable with the N-Neva?" he asks, as calm as he can, but his eyes widen when he meets Viktor's gaze. Viktor wonders vaguely how transparent his own emotions are.

Viktor licks his lips nervously. He promised to be honest and to talk to Yuuri properly about his dreams and suspicions. He refuses to back down now, though he wants to be careful, since the topic clearly bothers Yuuri.

"Yuuri, I have noticed that you are uncomfortable with large bodies of water."

At those words, Yuuri's gaze goes wide and dark with something old and horrible, and Viktor's heart beats faster. "It's fine!" Viktor adds quickly. "I can't say I understand why..."

Though I think I do.

Yuuri blinks once. "You're lying," he says faintly. Viktor winces as Yuuri calls him out on his tiny lie, briefly battling with himself. He wants to be honest, but Yuuri is already upset... but Viktor wants to know. He wants to help Yuuri, to protect him from everything that upsets him. This conversation was never going to be easy... but with Yuuri staring at him like this, seeing into him, Viktor cannot help but be honest with him.

"Alright, maybe a little. I don't know for sure, but... I have an idea why," Viktor says quietly, watching Yuuri's expression closely.

Yuuri looks briefly horrified, then afraid, his eyes going a little glassy. Viktor has no idea what to make of his expression, and he wonders if he should stop now. Yet... Yuuri wants to know, and Viktor wants to understand. "You... what? I don't..."

"I've been having these dreams," Viktor says quietly, the secret of the past year spilling from his lips. His chest feels lighter for finally saying it. "Of you... drowning. They began a year ago. I've had other dreams... strange dreams, wonderful dreams, but they always end with you drowning in the Neva. I don't know why. I hadn't even met you when I began having them. I've been trying to understand what they mean, but nothing I've read explains them. Then I noticed that you don't like rivers or lakes or anything similar, and... I wondered."

Yuuri is still staring at him, a faint tremble running through him. Viktor takes another deep breath to center himself, rubbing Yuuri's arms gently to reassure him of his presence, unsure how Yuuri will react to any of this, but he cannot go back now.

"I wondered if you once had an accident, but I couldn't find anything online about it. Then I wondered if it was something else... but I don't know. It doesn't make any sense to me, and I don't know what it all means, or why it bothers you. I will never push you though."

Viktor takes both of Yuuri's hands and lifts them, his blue gaze clear. "You don't have to explain it if you don't want to. But please understand, Yuuri. I care very deeply for you, and I want to protect you. If you don't want to go to St. Petersburg, we will stay here. Whatever my dreams mean, that is what I promise -- to take care of you."

Something flashes across Yuuri's expression, and in front of Viktor's eyes, he collapses onto the ice. Viktor can hear a high-pitched wheezing sound, realizing that Yuuri is hyperventilating, his eyes wide and unfocused.

He panics and drops to his knees beside Yuuri, grabbing his shoulder and hand. "Yuuri? Yuuri! I'm sorry, solnyshko, I didn't mean to upset you! Oh, Yuuri, please -- please breathe! Breathe, Yuuri! It's okay, you are safe, you are with me, please, calm down!"

Suddenly Yuuri takes a breath, filling his lungs with much-needed air, and Viktor sags in relief. He realizes how tightly he is gripping Yuuri and relaxes his hold, moving his hand to Yuuri's back and gently rubbing as Yuuri catches his breath and calms down. When Yuuri gives Viktor's hand a faint squeeze, Viktor lets himself relax.

"Better?" Viktor murmurs, and Yuuri nods slightly. His gaze is distant now, unfocused with something strange and old and terrible. Viktor has no idea how to reach past the thoughts clouding his mind, so he focuses on what he can do: take care of Yuuri.

Getting Yuuri out of the ice rink is easy enough. Yuuri goes along with everything he does, willing to let Viktor pull off his skates and massage his feet, then staying at his side as Viktor walks him home. He barely speaks to his friends as they leave, nor to his family at dinner, and Viktor spends the whole meal watching him worriedly. As if sensing that something has happened, Yuuri's family does not press Yuuri too much, instead asking Viktor about his life and interests. Viktor is glad for the distraction, but he never takes his attention off Yuuri.

The warmth from Stammi Vicino and Yuuri's decision to accept Viktor's offer is gone, replaced by something otherworldly, creating a distance between him and Yuuri that Viktor worries he cannot cross. He wants to talk to Yuuri, but he is afraid of causing another panic attack. That moment on the ice terrified Viktor. He never wants to see Yuuri in such agony ever again.

Viktor decides to forego the onsen that night. He is too worried about Yuuri, and Yuuri must sense his anxiety, because he turns to Viktor as they reach their floor, taking his hand.

"I haven't changed my mind, you know. You don't need to look so worried," Yuuri says quietly, glancing up at Viktor.

"Are you certain?" Viktor asks after a moment, lifting a hand to cup Yuuri's cheek. "You collapsed earlier. It scared me, Yuuri. I just... I need to know you're alright."

Yuuri nods slightly. "I'm okay. I just... I need some time, Viktor. I'm sorry for scaring you."

Viktor watches him a moment longer, then leans in and presses a kiss to his forehead. "Do you need me to sleep with you?"

Yuuri blinks, staring up at him, then turns pink. "No! I'm, um, that's okay! I'll be fine, you just... you sleep in there." He looks so beautiful standing there that Viktor feels the urge to kiss him properly, but he resists, not wanting to spook Yuuri any further than he already has. After a moment, Viktor chuckles, smiling down at Yuuri, who manages a small smile back.

"Good night, Viktor."

"Good night, Yuuri."

Viktor reluctantly releases him, watching Yuuri step into his room and close the door, before sighing deeply and retiring to his own room. A futon has been laid out on the floor, a set of dark green clothes folded on the pillow, and Viktor slowly changes into them, not interested in sleeping. He fishes his dream notebook out of his bag and sits down on the futon, turning the pages without really reading what he wrote inside.

He told Yuuri about his dreams, and Yuuri had a panic attack.

What does it mean? What traumatized Yuuri so much that he collapsed upon hearing Viktor's suspicions? What happened to him? Viktor has more questions than he did before he came to Japan, and he is afraid of asking again, afraid of the distance between them. How can he reach Yuuri? How can he protect him?

He isn't certain of anything anymore.

So deep in his thoughts that Viktor almost doesn't notice the door opening. He turns to find Yuuri standing in the doorway, achingly beautiful and uncertain, wearing a simple t-shirt and shorts. They gaze at each other for a moment, before Viktor shifts to the side and pats the futon. Yuuri closes the door and goes to him unquestioningly.

As soon as he sits down, Viktor wraps an arm around his shoulder, gently tucking Yuuri against his side. Yuuri melts against him with a deep sigh, easing the ache in Viktor's heart as he rests his cheek against Yuuri's hair. If Yuuri has come to him, then maybe they can make this work after all.

After a long moment, Yuuri finally speaks, his voice barely more than a whisper.

"I've been keeping a secret from you. It's... it's bigger than you or me. I want to tell you so badly. I'm afraid to, though. I can't... I'm... mm."

Viktor wonders at this secret that Yuuri has not told him, his heart beating faster in anticipation. Yuuri sounds heartbroken and terrified, and Viktor hates that he has put Yuuri in this position. He wants Yuuri to feel comfortable talking about this with him, but he wants to protect Yuuri's mental state as well.

"Yuuri, if you're not ready talk about it," Viktor says gently, trailing off as he waits for Yuuri to respond.

Yuuri seems to battle with himself, then gives in and sags against Viktor. "You're right, I'm not ready to talk about it, but you deserve to know... and I want to know about your dreams, too, but..."

Viktor closes his eyes for a moment. He could curse himself for the rest of his life, for hurting Yuuri this way. "I'll tell you everything you wish to know. You don't have tell me now, or ever if you don't want to. I can wait. I'm happy to support you."

Yuuri shakes his head, bringing his hand up to grip the back of Viktor's robe. "But Viktor, that's not... it's not fair, to keep asking you to wait, to keep holding you at arm's length. You keep meeting me, reaching for me, and I'm so afraid... of, of dragging you down with me."

Viktor thinks of Yuuri drowning, disappearing into the dark depths of the Neva. He vows never to let that happen, nor to let Yuuri believe such a fate.

No, my love.

"Yuuri, I reach out because I want to lift you," Viktor murmurs, tightening his arm around Yuuri. His cheeks heat up as he speaks, aware of how intimate the words are, yet they are his truth. "When two skaters work together, they can lift each other, support each other... they can show the world amazing things together. Our love is the same. You don't need to shoulder this burden alone."

Yuuri is silent for a long moment. "Love..."

When he turns in Viktor's arms, sitting up to face him with a determined expression, Viktor does not expect the kiss. He goes stiff as Yuuri presses against him, his lips as soft and sweet as Viktor always dreamed, before he slowly relaxes and kisses Yuuri back, just as fervently. When Yuuri pulls back, flushed pink and beautiful with uncertain hope, Viktor cannot help a smile, joy filling his heart.

"Yuuri, that was..."

"Yeah," Yuuri agrees softly, blushing. "You really don't mind waiting?"

"Yuuri, my dear, I will wait forever for you. Though... you have surprised me, once more." Viktor lifts a hand to draw his thumb over Yuuri's flushed lips, his gaze misty. After a moment, he asks softly, "Is this really okay?"

Yuuri smiles, almost shyly. "Yes... this, everything between us, it's okay. So long as it's okay with you. I want to be with you, Viktor. I... really, really want it --"

Viktor cuts him off with another kiss, unable to hold himself back, and Yuuri melts into him. Viktor lets himself taste Yuuri properly, not pushing him too much, but willing to take what Yuuri has so freely offered. He loves how right it feels to kiss Yuuri, to be with him like this.

Always, Yuuri reaches him where he is, and Viktor can only hold onto him.

"Can I stay with you tonight? Just to sleep. I want to lay beside you," Yuuri murmurs when he pulls away, making Viktor breathe in sharply. He can imagine doing so much with Yuuri, but after the day they had, he would love nothing more than to fall asleep with Yuuri in his arms. He wraps his arms around Yuuri's shoulders and pulls him close, his silken hair falling against Yuuri's cheek.

"Yes. Yes, Yuuri."

Yuuri leans in to kiss him again, and for a while, Viktor loses himself in Yuuri's soft kisses, in the way their bodies press together, fitting against one another like pieces to a puzzle. He thinks of the notebook sitting at his hip, then deftly reaches back without looking to slide it under his pillow, before gently pulling back.

"You've had a long day, solnyshko. Let us rest now."

"We've had a long day," Yuuri corrects him gently, smiling. "Okay, Viktor."

Viktor leaves him on the futon while he changes out of his inn clothes and into a pair of pajama pants, guessing that Yuuri would probably not be okay with Viktor wearing his usual sleep clothes -- which is only his underwear. He glances over to see Yuuri watching him, looking a little dazed at Viktor stripping right in front of him. Viktor's lips twitch into a smile, flattered by Yuuri's obvious attraction, which makes Yuuri turn red for a moment.

"Come on," Yuuri mutters, lying down under the futon covers. Viktor chuckles and moves to join him.

The way Yuuri settles against him eases the rest of the worry in Viktor's heart. He fits into Viktor's arms perfectly, resting his cheek against Viktor's bare chest with a low sigh, and Viktor cannot resist running his fingers up and down Yuuri's back, breathing in his scent.

They stay like that for a long time. Though Viktor doesn't think he could sleep after what happened, Yuuri's warmth lulls him to slumber, and for a while, he does not dream. When he does, they are nothing like his nightmares or memory dreams, yet they trouble him all the same.

~*~

Viktor wakes slowly, and as his dreams fade, he remembers the warmth in his arms and has to smile. When he opens his eyes, he finds Yuuri resting close against him, one arm wrapped around Viktor's waist. This close, Viktor can smell him, the faint scents of his shampoo and soap.

"Viktor," Yuuri says quietly, lifting his head. Viktor blinks, somewhat surprised that Yuuri is awake before him.

"Hm?"

Yuuri's gaze is strangely intent in the early morning light. The sun has begun to cast light through the windows, brightening the room and highlighting the worry in Yuuri's expression.

"Can we talk?" Yuuri whispers. Viktor softens a little, reaching up to brush Yuuri's hair from his face. Seems that his sleeping beauty had a hard time slumbering, just as Viktor did.

"Of course."

Yuuri leaves him for a little while to get dressed, while Viktor cleans himself up and changes into a set of running clothes. As he grabs his running shoes to bring downstairs, he wonders what Yuuri will tell him. After last night, Viktor suspected that Yuuri would avoid the topic for a while, but it seems as if Yuuri wants to discuss everything now. If so, Viktor will be honest with him.

Yuuri slips into his room several minutes later, carrying his backpack. Viktor gives it a puzzled look, and Yuuri shrugs self-consciously.

"Not my skates. Um, it's something else," he mumbles, and after a moment, Viktor pulls his notebook from under his pillow and stands.

"May I put this in your bag as well?"

"Sure." Yuuri watches Viktor curiously as he steps behind him and unzips his bag, tucking the notebook in next to what looks like a journal, a blanket, and a couple bottles of water. Viktor asks no questions, though, instead sliding his hand into Yuuri's and squeezing.

Yuuri gives Viktor a tiny smile and squeezes his hand back. Together they head down to breakfast.

By silent agreement afterwards, they set off running together, Vicchan joining them. Yuuri leads the way, and Viktor runs beside him, pleased to see more of Hasetsu in the daylight. When they veer off the main road and onto a side road, Viktor realizes they are moving toward the sea, which makes him worry. To his dismay, Yuuri takes him out to a long beach where clouds have gathered on the horizon. The beach is empty of anybody, the spring air a bit too chilly for leisure, but the occasional fishing boat can be seen out on the waterfront. In the distance, islands dot the horizon, surrounding the edge of the bay.

Abruptly Viktor stops when he reaches the sand, his heart dropping to his stomach. He recognizes this beach. The seagulls, the horizon, even the boats on the water, he recognizes all of it.

He saw it once in a dream.

When he turns his head, he finds Yuuri staring at him closely, his eyes wide and dark, filled with hope and grief at the same time. Yuuri glances briefly at the deep blue waters, then turns away, closing his mouth tightly. Alarmed, Viktor reaches out to take his hand, stepping close to him, and Yuuri lets out a short, shuddering breath.

"Yuuri, if this place upsets you..."

"It's fine," Yuuri says forcefully, then gentles his voice. "Sorry, it's... it's fine. Vicchan's here, and he's been helping me... you know, deal with it. I didn't think it was possible, but... he's helped me a lot, since I moved back here. Besides, we're just here to talk." After a moment, Viktor accepts this, hiding a grimace as he thinks of his dream. As long as he keeps Yuuri away from the water, it will be fine.

After unhooking the leash from Vicchan, who bounds off with a happy bark, Yuuri pulls off his backpack and takes out the blanket. He spreads it open and lays it on the sand, then sits down on top, leaving his shoes on the corners. After a moment, Viktor copies him, glancing nervously at his notebook as Yuuri sets it down with the journal. He accepts a bottle of water and drinks slowly, unsure who should lead this conversation.

"I'm not sure how to start," Yuuri says quietly, reaching out to catch Vicchan as he wanders back and plops down at Yuuri's feet. "There's so much I want to tell you, but... I can't make sense of any of it. I thought I understood everything, but after what you told me last night... I... I just don't know."

Viktor picks up his notebook and sets it in his lap, gripping the worn pages tightly. He watches Yuuri for a moment, then feels himself relax. Whatever it is, they can face this together.

"How about I try to guess?" Viktor offers, smiling a little when Yuuri stares blankly at him. "I'm not completely oblivious to everything, solnyshko. Let me share my knowledge, and you can confirm or deny it."

Yuuri worries his bottom lip with his teeth, then nods silently. Viktor strokes a finger down the pages of his journal and gathers his thoughts.

"I told you last night that I have been having dreams of another life. A life with you... where you died. At first I thought they were simply dreams, but I keep having them, and they all end the same way. They feel different to any other dream I have ever had. I spent a long time struggling to understand it." He opens his notebook to the fourth page and pulls out an often-read article on multiple realities. Yuuri takes the sheets of paper and stares at them, his face white as he scans the document.

"There are scientific theories out there for this sort of thing, though I have not found quite the right one that suits my beliefs and experiences. Whether it is science or magic, I have yet to decide. The important theory is that there are multiple realities of our world. Other worlds where you and I never met, or where we met later, including one where, I believe, I was your coach. But... you died there. I do not understand how, but I believe the dreams are warnings, spilling over from that other reality, so that I can protect you from that fate."

Viktor exhales hard as he finishes his theory, watching Yuuri's expression worriedly. Yuuri reads through the article silently, lips pursed tightly, before he hands it back to Viktor with a shaking hand. Then he remains silent, staring out at the sea watching the clouds roll in.

Viktor waits, giving Yuuri his space to formulate his thoughts. He wonders if Yuuri thinks him insane for his theory, but Yuuri has yet to get up and run away screaming, so Viktor can only hope. He distracts himself with Vicchan, who rolls onto his back and lets Viktor pet his fluffy belly.

"They're not dreams."

Viktor's head jerks up, startled. "What?"

Yuuri doesn't take his eyes off the horizon. "The dreams you're having. They're probably not just dreams... well... I don't know what they are, but the alternate reality theory probably isn't that far off. Maybe it's more an alternate timeline, but I'm still not sure how it works." He takes a deep breath.

"I was there. In that other reality where you and I were together. You were my coach, and we went to the GPF together. We lived together in St. Petersburg. Then... I was out running one day in January. I was going to meet you for practice. Before I could meet you, I got hit by a car on the bridge over the Neva. I came back in time somehow. Two years of my life, of our life together... gone, because I died. I drowned, and I died."

Viktor's thoughts race as he considers the implications. Yuuri... came from the future? Another future, maybe. It makes sense in a way. No wonder Yuuri is terrified of the water, if he truly drowned in another life. If he remembers it...

Dying. Yuuri died.

Viktor's heart has surely stopped. The dreams are real? No -- how could the universe put Yuuri through that pain? How could it take someone so precious away? His dreams suddenly make sense. That first nightmare, that first time he saw Yuuri fall into the Neva -- all of it truly happened.

Yuuri was his. His beloved, his other half, the person closest to him -- and Viktor lost him in another life. He tries to put aside the wonder that Yuuri, who is beauty and light and perfection, fell in love with him, swallowing back his awe. Yuuri loved him in another life... and he came back and loved Viktor again.

Yuuri looks so small and cold, sitting there on the blanket, which makes Viktor ache. He reaches out to pull Yuuri into his arms, hugging him tightly. Yuuri goes stiff, then slumps into his embrace, reaching up to grip the back of Viktor's jacket tightly.

"I'm so sorry, Yuuri," Viktor whispers, closing his eyes. "You must have been so scared... I can't imagine what you went through, but I am here for you, my love."

Yuuri lets out a low, pained noise. "You believe me?"

"Of course I do," Viktor tells him, unable to comprehend his disbelief. Between his dreams and everything he knows of Yuuri, this feels truer than anything else in Viktor's entire life.

Yuuri sags against Viktor, curling into himself. "I can't believe it... I've wanted to tell you for so long, but I was afraid..." He glances past Viktor at the sea, which makes Viktor tense.

Viktor suddenly wants to pick Yuuri up and take him far away, the conversation be damned. He forces himself to remain calm, though. Viktor holds Yuuri for a long time, until he feels he can continue without frantically dragging him home. Yuuri leans against his side, gripping his hands tightly in his lap.

"Tell me about it," Viktor whispers.

Yuuri closes his eyes. "I remember the cold... it was so cold. Then I woke up in bed in Detroit, like I'd never lived any of it, except I remembered everything. I traveled back in time somehow, and I had to relive everything."

Viktor wishes he had been there for Yuuri. He hasn't always been the most empathetic of people, but he finds it unfair that Yuuri has been alone with this secret for so long, while Viktor has lived in oblivion. His dreams aside, Viktor should have supported Yuuri. He supposes it couldn't happen any other way, though; since Yuuri has never dared to tell him, and Viktor could scarcely bring himself to talk of his dreams.

He is glad they are talking now.

Yuuri squeezes his hands, absently digging his thumb into his knuckle. He doesn't dare look at Viktor, who hasn't said a word -- can't say anything. "I didn't know where I was at first, and I... I tried to call you. You weren't in my phone, and it scared me, so I tried calling your number, and... you... you didn't recognize me. You didn't know me, and then I noticed the date, and..."

"You called me?" Viktor interrupts, going tense. "When was this? What did I say?"

Yuuri flinches slightly. "Um... a year and a half ago. It was October when I came back. I doubt you remember it but --"

"No, I do." An old memory, of getting a strange call in the middle of practice, from a foreign number. The voice had been afraid... and it had been Yuuri's voice. Viktor hadn't known. Yuuri had needed him, and Viktor had abandoned him. "I... was cruel to you, wasn't I? I hung up on you. You called me for comfort, and I hung up."

Yuuri's eyes widen, and he shakes his head quickly. "No, Viktor, I don't blame you. You didn't know me then, so why would you have comforted a stranger? It's okay."

Viktor fights back a scowl, wishing he could go back in time and change his reaction that day. He reaches for his phone, trying to find his call history, but the call was so long ago that it must be gone now. He shoves the phone in his pocket and takes a deep breath. "No, it is not okay. You were afraid, you had just gone through something horrible, and I was not there for you."

"Viktor..."

With a small sigh, Viktor takes Yuuri's hands, gently unclasping them from their tight grip. "I'm sorry, Yuuri. For what it is worth now, I'm sorry." Yuuri meets his eyes briefly, then looks down as he bites his lip. Viktor reaches up to smooth the bite, smiling slightly as he takes Yuuri's hand again. "Tell me more, solnyshko. Tell me everything."

After a long moment, Yuuri takes a deep breath and grips Viktor's hands back. "Okay. I came back... and I don't know how I did it. But I remember everything that happened. Two years... gone, and no one else knew about it. Though, um, Phichit knows. He was my roommate then, you know, so when I woke up, I panicked... I had an anxiety attack. Phichit talked me through everything... he helped me get better."

"I am glad you had someone to support you," Viktor says softly.

Yuuri lets out a low noise. "Phichit has been great. He's been cheering me on this whole time. He helped me with the decision I made." Yuuri grips the fabric of his pants, his mouth twisting a little. "I... well. I knew you, and I knew how you were unhappy with your career. I was too afraid to try and be with you again... I thought that everything had changed, and I wouldn't be able to have the same relationship with you, if I tried again. So I decided to be something else for you... a good rival. Maybe that way, you wouldn't lose everything by deciding to coach me."

"Lose everything?" Viktor repeats, stunned. "Yuuri... last night, when you asked me to coach you, it was the happiest I have ever felt. I have been waiting for this day for months. How could you think of it as my loss?"

"I mean," Yuuri flounders, ducking his head, "it's just, when you decided to become my coach, you kind of... dropped everything else. You put your entire career on hold, and you suffered for it... you lost your friends, and your coach, and your reputation. All because of me."

"Impossible," Viktor decides. "Coaching you would not have such repercussions."

"No, I mean you dropped everything. Viktor, you flew out to Hasetsu two weeks after Worlds and didn't go back until December. Coach Feltsman stopped speaking to you."

"Oh." Viktor considers it for a moment. He tries to imagine Yakov's reaction to that sort of behavior and winces. "Ah... perhaps I might be that hasty."

"Just a little," Yuuri agrees, a small smile quirking his lips before fading. "I didn't want to see you go through that again. So... I tried something else. I tried to be a better skater, and... then it just kept going. I started winning, and then we skated against each other... it didn't happen like that, the first time. I mean, when you befriended me... I couldn't even believe it. It changed everything. Everything was different from the beginning, but it's already changed so much, even my relationship with you... it's different, and I still don't really understand it."

Viktor hates that Yuuri suffered so much. Thinking about it, when Viktor had met Yuuri, he had been so sad... so lost in turmoil. Viktor had thought it was because of losing his lover, but...

A shiver runs through him as Yuuri speaks of their relationship so frankly. If they had been together in that other future, then Yuuri had come back to find that his lover -- Viktor -- had forgotten him. He had lost his life, his love, his career, his family... and he had been alone.

He inhales sharply with realization. "You lost everything."

Yuuri lifts his gaze, blinking. "Mm?"

"That is why you were so sad. You lost it all. You lost everything... your life, your career, your family..."

"You," Yuuri whispers. "I lost you, Viktor. Then you started talking to me, and... I couldn't believe it. We came together so easily and naturally, like we were never apart, and... I've been trying so hard not to want you, but I failed. I love you too much to stay away from you, and I'm worried... that I made you fall in love with me, when maybe it wasn't supposed to be this way."

Viktor can hardly believe his ears. He can feel his face starting to warm at the blatant words of love, but he manages to keep his focus on what Yuuri is saying. "Yuuri... how can you think that? You made my life better. You gave me love and sunlight and laughter and warmth when I had nothing before. It must be fate that I fell for you again without knowing anything about our other life together. Besides, I was interested in you long before I began having those dreams, long before we ever spoke. I fell for you because you are Yuuri."

Yuuri turns to stare at him, beautiful and fragile in his hope. Viktor smiles softly, lifting Yuuri's hand to kiss his palm. "If we were not meant to be, then we would have simply passed each other, like ships in the night."

"You're right. I'm sorry. I'm just... it was rough," Yuuri whispers. His cheeks have blossomed with pink, surely matching the color on Viktor's face. He leans into Viktor's hand. "It didn't help that I dreamed of you. Like... I guess like the dreams you described."

Viktor's heart skips a beat. "Dreams?"

"Mm... dreams of you. I dreamed of going back, but... I was dead, so I was a ghost there. I talked to you. You were so sad... you were empty and lonely and sad, and I left you there all alone." Yuuri's voice breaks on the last word, and he breaks apart, letting go of Viktor and covering his face. "I left you alone! I couldn't reach you, I couldn't see you again, and here I was in the past and you didn't know me. You were gone, and I was alone, and I've been trying to keep going all this time, but then we met again and now you're here, telling me you're dreaming of me dying, and... it's too much, it's..."

Viktor realizes that Yuuri's breathing has quickened with panic. He grasps Yuuri by the arms and pulls him into the circle of his legs, holding him tightly and tucking Yuuri's head under his chin. "Shh, Yuuri, it's okay. Whatever is happening, we can understand it together. Take deep breaths, okay?"

Yuuri gasps softly, then burrows his way deeper into Viktor's chest, trembling against him. Vicchan wriggles between them and tucks himself into Yuuri's arms, whining softly in worry. Yuuri hides his face in Vicchan's soft fur as he slowly calms.

Viktor thinks about what Yuuri told him, his mind whirling with the new information. Suddenly, his dreams make more sense than ever before, along with all of the curious little behaviors he has caught from Yuuri. The way Yuuri looked at him in the beginning, like he didn't believe Viktor was really there. His sadness at Worlds last year, and the sudden improvement of his skating... if Yuuri came from two years in the future, he would have gained that skill and knowledge.

"You are amazing, Yuuri," Viktor says quietly, rubbing his hand down Yuuri's side as he stiffens. "Coming back alone and reliving it all... you must have been frightened. I'm so sorry I left you alone."

Yuuri shakes his head sharply. "No, I left you alone. It's my fault you're so sad --"

"There is no way in the world that I would ever blame you for it," Viktor tells him, pulling away enough to lift Yuuri's chin to meet his gaze. "I will carry a thousand years of sadness if it means you will be safe. I am not alone there. I'm here with you. I wish I could remember that life with you. Everything you have told me, Yuuri, all of it is okay. Neither of us may understand it, but I am here for you in every way that I can be, solnyshko. Trust in me."

Yuuri stares at him with wide eyes, dark with sadness and awe, and Viktor smiles softly, entwining their hands together. "Perhaps the dreams are memories, then. How, I do not know. But if I am dreaming the same things you lived, then surely my dreams are from your other life. They must be a warning of some kind."

Yuuri is quiet for a long moment. "Is that why you pushed so hard to become my coach?"

"Perhaps," Viktor allows, returning his arm to Yuuri's waist. Yuuri takes a deep breath, then settles more comfortably against him, less tense now that he is no longer panicking. "Part of it, yes. I dreamed of coaching you and being with you, loving you... and I wanted it. I wanted to be that person for you, that man in the suit at your competitions cheering you on."

Yuuri starts a little, turning to look at him. "Your dreams... will you tell me about them? I just don't understand how you could dream about us..."

Viktor nods, a little thrill of nerves tightening in his chest, before he reaches for the notebook at his side and opens it against his leg, so that both he and Yuuri may look at it. "I wrote them down," he says with a faint hitch of his breath. "Every dream, I wrote it down because it seemed so strange. The first one... it was just before Worlds last year. That was when I dreamed of your death."

For a moment, Viktor lets himself breathe in Yuuri's scent, centering himself with the assurance that Yuuri is safe here in his arms. Yuuri is nowhere near the Neva, and even the sea several yards from them cannot hurt him. He hides a grimace as he thinks of taking Yuuri back to St. Petersburg... back to the place where he died. He would rather keep Yuuri as far away from the Neva as possible.

Yakov will understand —and even if he doesn't, Viktor doesn't care.

He lets Yuuri read the pages, his heart aching as he rereads the words he wrote a year ago. Yuuri stays silent, as Vicchan wriggles out of his grip and curls up on the blanket beside them.

"That's... yes," Yuuri whispers, pushing his fingers against the lines that say, he went into the water, and they didn't pull him out in time. "I drowned. I didn't see the car coming, but I felt the cold..."

A deep shiver runs through Yuuri, and Viktor tightens his arms around him. "It will not happen," Viktor says lowly, fiercely. "I will not let that happen to you again."

"You might not be able to stop it," Yuuri says, a little frantically. "What if -- what if I'm meant to..."

"No!"

Viktor's shout wakes Vicchan, who sits up halfway to blink at them. Yuuri twists to stare at him, shocked, and Viktor takes a deep breath to calm himself, reaching up to cup Yuuri’s cheek.

"No, Yuuri. You are not meant to die. Otherwise you would not be here with me, you would not have come back to this time. I am meant to save you -- I know it. That is why I keep having these dreams. You are meant to live, and I am meant to make sure of that. I will never accept you dying. I will stop it. What else are these dreams good for, if not to save you? I will not let it happen."

"But what if you can't?" Yuuri asks desperately. Viktor shakes his head.

"Then we will not go to St. Petersburg. We will stay here, and then you will be safe from that awful river."

"Viktor! You made a deal with Coach Feltsman, you can't back out of it now!" Yuuri says in shock, sitting upright.

"He will understand. I will coach you from here, and --"

"No, no -- I... Viktor, you can't give that up again. Last time, everyone treated you terribly because you decided to stay here and coach me, and I can't let you go through that again!" Yuuri pushes his hair back in frustration. "Coach Feltsman stopped talking to you, and no one respected you, and... it infuriated me. I know how much it hurt you! Will hurt you! You can't give that up again, not for me."

Suddenly Yuuri's words from the banquet make sense.

"You can't give everything up for me again! I've been working so hard, so that you wouldn't have to, and now... you can't just offer me that, when I'd already decided not to!"

"Oh, Yuuri," Viktor says softly, his mien melting into a smile from his stiff, cold expression. "I care about you more. If it is a matter of my career versus your safety, I will choose your safety every time."

Yuuri lets out a low noise, not backing down. "No. I want to go to St. Petersburg."

Viktor's smile fades abruptly. "St. Petersburg killed you. The Neva killed you. No."

"Anything can kill me!" Yuuri says, shrill, then looking horrified at himself. "I mean..."

Viktor takes a deep breath to center himself, then gently catches Yuuri's face in his hands, meeting his eyes. "Yuuri. I will not let you die. Let me protect you, please."

Yuuri breathes in sharply over a sob, reaching up to grip Viktor's wrists, but he doesn't pull away. A shuddering breath escapes him, before he turns his face into Viktor's palm. "I don't want you to suffer for me. It's... that time is so far away. If it happens, it will be in January. We can still go to St. Petersburg for training if we leave in January... right? It's important to me, that you stay with Coach Feltsman. The facilities there are better, and you're more at home there, and..."

"It is not worth your safety," Viktor says quietly, discomforted that Yuuri seems to value himself so little. Yuuri’s argument does make sense, but... Viktor does not want to take any risks. "Why should we chance it? The Neva is situated between my apartment and the rink. I cross that bridge every day, and you will have to as well. I do not trust that river."

"Viktor, please," Yuuri whispers, and for a moment, Viktor aches at the sight of him like that, tears clouding his dark eyes.

"Don't look at me that way, solnyshko. I cannot simply let you go back to that place." He cannot imagine watching Yuuri break down again like he did on the rink. His trauma from dying is far too great to ignore in favor of Yakov's skating club. Viktor thinks of all the times Yuuri tensed up near water. How much worse would it be if he was faced with his killer? "You were unhappy in Detroit, and Boston, and even here. It will be worse in St. Petersburg. Your peace of mind is more important to me."

Yuuri stays silent for a long moment. His eyes fall closed, his dark lashes creating soft crescents against his skin. "Can we talk about this later? I... I don't know what to think anymore. I'm so confused..."

"Shh, of course, Yuuri," Viktor says, softening and drawing Yuuri into his arms again. "I am sorry for upsetting you. I simply... mm. Surely you must know how much I adore you. The lengths I would go to protect you."

Yuuri swallows, heat coming to his cheeks for the first time in a long while. "I'm starting... to understand. I'm sorry. It's just... it's been so hard, keeping all this in. I had no idea you were dreaming of this, and... I wish I had said something earlier."

Viktor shakes his head. "I am sorry you had to go through it all alone, Yuuri. I am here now, at least. You can tell me everything now. We can figure this out together."

"Okay," Yuuri whispers, then leans in and rests his forehead against Viktor's cheek, unaware of his racing thoughts.

Viktor will do anything for Yuuri. He considers moving to St. Petersburg like Yuuri wants for a moment, thinking of all the plans he had made... of Yuuri living with him, training with him. He had not realized how treacherous the Neva was, and now he cannot bear the idea of letting Yuuri anywhere near that dreadful river. If he agrees -- which would take a lot to convince him at this point -- Viktor would do everything in his power to protect Yuuri from that river.

Perhaps if he got an apartment closer to the rink... perhaps if he began campaigning with the city to put better rail guards on the bridge. Perhaps he should do those things and remain in Hasetsu anyway.

Perhaps they should move somewhere else entirely, far away from rivers and cars and anything that could harm Yuuri.

"Um... your other dreams," Yuuri says after a moment, shifting against Viktor. "What else did you dream?"

"I dreamed of this place, here," Viktor says quietly, putting thoughts of the Neva aside for now. "I dreamed that you and I sat on the beach together after we had a fight. We talked about what it felt like to belong. I told you that you weren't weak, and you told me you wanted me to be just Viktor. It was like... you were meeting me where I was."

Yuuri starts in his arms, lifting his head. "But... that happened. We did come here. I snapped at you during practice, and then I brushed you off, and then I was too ashamed to face you... so you came and dragged me out of bed and brought me here. That was... it was the first time I felt like we could make it work, you coaching me."

"Wow," Viktor whispers, his eyes widening at the implications. If the dreams are truly memories of his other life with Yuuri, then somehow information is being transferred. He wonders at the source of the memories, likely his other self in some way... Viktor wouldn't put it past himself to attempt time travel to save Yuuri. "Yes. It was easier after that... wasn't it?"

Yuuri turns to face him, keen as he grips Viktor's arms. "Viktor, how much do you remember? If these aren't dreams, then..."

Viktor shakes his head slowly. "Not everything. I remember the dreams, but the life I spent with you... I do not remember it. I am sorry." When Yuuri's face falls, Viktor's heart clenches. "The dreams must be memories, at least. How... I do not know."

"I don't understand," Yuuri whispers. "When I talked to you -- in my dreams, I visited you in the future, and I talked to you -- you said you wouldn't try to follow me. You promised. But you're... gaining your memories? Are you alright, the other you? What if you're -- what if he's hurt?"

"Shh," Viktor soothes, running his hands up and down Yuuri's arms. "Yuuri, I am fine. I am here with you now, see? I may not remember everything, but I am here."

Yuuri refuses to relax, desperate in his emotions. That pain is for Viktor, and Viktor cannot stand to see him so miserable. "But you're alone in the other future, and the way I know you now, he doesn't remember this! So he must be alone, separate --"

"No, Yuuri. You must not think of me like that. How can I be there when I am here? This is me. That was me, too, but now I am with you, I am happy," Viktor says, suddenly fierce, his conviction in his words solidifying as he grips Yuuri's arms. "That other me cannot be completely separate from who I am, because I am dreaming about you, am I not? I am here, loving you, being with you, am I not? He is me, and I am him -- and I have not lived that life, not yet. But I can remember some of it, and I am here with you."

Yuuri just looks at him, miserable, and Viktor gentles his voice. The thought comes unbidden to him that he must have tried to convince Yuuri to take care of himself in that other future, as soon as he could communicate with him. He knows exactly what he would say. "What did I tell you in your dreams, Yuuri?"

Yuuri chews on his bottom lip, then reaches up to wipe at his eyes with his sleeve. "You kept telling me to believe in you and tell you everything. That you're the same person, even if you don't have the same memories. You told me... to make new memories."

Viktor reaches up to cup Yuuri's cheek, leaning in to press their foreheads together. "You have done that, haven't you? You reached out to me at Worlds. You worked hard to become my rival... you let me be your friend, your lover, even though it must have hurt you to talk to me every day. You fought so hard even though you were alone... and you let yourself love me again, even though I hurt you."

"You didn't hurt me," Yuuri protests, and Viktor can't help but smile.

"I did," Viktor murmurs, lifting his head to kiss underneath Yuuri's eyes, catching the tears gathered there. "I hurt you when you called me and I hung up on you. I hurt you by leaving you alone in this new life. I didn't protect you, and I am sorry, my love."

This time, when Yuuri starts to cry, Viktor doesn't hesitate to pull him back into the protective circle of his arms, hugging him tightly. He presses a kiss to Yuuri's forehead, rocking Yuuri slowly as he cries. He has never been good with tears, but with Yuuri, slowly, he has come to understand what he needs.

He will never leave Yuuri alone again. Not after knowing what Yuuri went through all this time. Coming back to the past alone... he must have been terrified, and Viktor never knew.

He knows now.

"Better?" Viktor asks softly when Yuuri's sobs have faded away. Yuuri nods a little and pulls back, taking off his glasses and wiping at his face. Yuuri glances around while gingerly touching his running nose, and Viktor takes off his jacket and offers it, grinning a little at the look Yuuri gives him.

"I'll wash it when we get home," Yuuri mumbles, then uses the edge of the sleeve to blow his nose. "Mm... tell me more about your dreams. I want to know everything you remember."

"Okay," Viktor replies quietly. "Everything is written in that notebook, if you want to read it later." Yuuri glances at the book and nods, but his attention returns to Viktor, so Viktor takes a deep breath. "One of the dreams was about you skating in a competition. I do not know which one, but it was a free skate. You were dressed in blue and you skated a beautifully poignant program. You were a vision," he sighs, smiling a little when Yuuri goes pink.

"Yuuri On Ice," Yuuri mutters.

"Hm?"

"My free skate. Yuuri On Ice. You made me produce it, since you had already choreographed my short program with a song you ordered," Yuuri explains, shifting a bit nervously. Viktor blinks, then smiles in delight.

"I did? Wow! Your skills are amazing, Yuuri!"

Yuuri smiles a little at that. Viktor wonders which music he chose for Yuuri's short program, suddenly thinking of all the amazing ideas he had when Yuuri first agreed to let him choreograph for him. He has sketched countless ideas and programs, but he draws a blank at the knowledge of what he would have chosen in another life. Something beautiful to reflect Yuuri, surely, but...

"I wonder which competition it was. You were at my free skate for most of my qualification rounds for the GPF, and my prefectural skate..." Yuuri trails off, frowning a little.

Viktor makes a considering noise. "I am unsure. You were upset about something, I know that much. You had been crying, and we had fought. But your skating was filled with peace, and at the end, you surprised me with a quad flip... then I kissed you on the ice," he says with a smile. Yuuri's eyes widen as he stares at Viktor.

"That was Beijing," Yuuri says in a small voice. "I... well, I had an anxiety attack before the free skate. You tried to help, but you ended up making it worse, and we argued. You didn't know what to say. I told you that you didn't have to say anything, as long as you..."

"Stay by your side," Viktor murmurs with him, his head aching oddly for a moment. He doesn't recall that detail from his dream, yet it feels like the truth. For an instant, his vision doubles. He can see Yuuri crying, but he is wearing a Team Japan jacket, and they are in a parking lot. He frowns to himself, struggling to draw more details from the odd vision, but it fades quickly. He puts a hand to his head in confusion.

"Viktor?"

Viktor glances up to find Yuuri staring at him again. He gives a small smile, putting the strange sensation out of his mind for now; he can write down the experience later. He does not want to worry Yuuri. "You surprised me then. Just as you surprised me at Worlds, here... with your quad flip. I must have taught you that."

Yuuri nods slowly. "You taught it to me. You taught me everything."

"Good. Though I will have to test you," Viktor says, winking. "I would not mind seeing the skates we made together, either."

"You want to see them?" Yuuri smiles, slow and delighted, which relieves Viktor to see. "I want to show you. They mean so much to me... the skates you made for me."

"We will go later, then. Though I still have yet to see the other skate in my dreams," Viktor says thoughtfully.

"How many of these dreams have you had?" Yuuri asks after a moment, quiet.

"Four distinct ones. The first, your free skate, and talking to you on the beach... and last, a banquet. In that memory," Viktor says, trying out the word instead of dream, "we danced all night, and you made me fall in love with you. You asked me to coach you."

For a moment, Yuuri stays frozen in his arms, before he suddenly lets out a loud groan. "You dreamed of the banquet? How? That isn't fair!" He slumps sideways in Viktor's arms, despondent, and Viktor pulls him back up with a quizzical smile, bemused at how Yuuri is acting. Usually he is the dramatic one.

"What do you mean?"

"I can't remember it," Yuuri whines. He slides down to the blanket beside Viktor and reaches out to ruffle Vicchan's ears as he snoozes. "I got so drunk that night because I bombed the GPF, and I don't remember dancing with you, or begging you to be my coach, or anything! It was such a mess too, you thought I remembered the whole time you were coaching me, and it caused a lot of problems..."

Viktor thinks of sixteen champagne glasses and the thrill of dancing with a beautiful man, remembering how fascinated he was, how Yuuri invigorated him and enthralled him. He starts to smile, reaching down and drawing his hands through Yuuri's messy hair, away from his face. Yuuri glances up at him, eyes still reddened from crying.

"We made a new memory though, didn't we?" Viktor offers, smiling. "Surely you remember the way we danced that night this time. The way you swept me off my feet, and the way I begged you to let me coach you."

Yuuri swallows, not looking away from him. "I remember," he whispers. "You shocked me that night. I had no idea you wanted to coach me. And all this time, you've been dreaming of us... together?"

"Together," Viktor affirms, shifting to lay on his side. When he settles his hand on Yuuri's stomach, they both let out a little sigh. Touching him like this, being so close to him, free to kiss him and touch him and love him... Viktor cannot believe how lucky he is. For all that Yuuri suffered, for all that his dreams have haunted him, Yuuri has never given up, and Viktor loves him more with every passing moment.

His light. His miracle.

They will have their trials in the future, Viktor is certain. Yuuri has lived with Viktor as his coach before, but Viktor does not remember that life, and his inexperience will frustrate them both. They will argue, but they will also grow even closer, and Viktor cannot wait for those new experiences. He knows Yuuri will surprise him again and again, and he looks forward to every new memory they will create together.

He wonders at himself in another future, risking everything to protect Yuuri. However Viktor came by the memories... it matters little in the end, because what matters is protecting Yuuri.

He will do anything to protect Yuuri.

After a little while, Viktor notices a shiver run through Yuuri. The day is still early, and the sea breeze is cool against his skin. "Are you cold?"

"No," Yuuri whispers after a moment, reaching up to wrap his arms around Viktor's neck and pulling him down. Viktor finds himself lying prone against Yuuri, creating warmth between them and warding off the chill. Yuuri smiles at him. "Not since you're here."

Viktor does not resist his invitation, leaning down to kiss him softly. The nearby sea, the cries of the seagulls, and even Vicchan, curled up on the blanket beside them, are all forgotten for a time. All Viktor remembers of these moments is Yuuri's warmth and the joy of loving him.

~*~

Three days of uneasy sleep and blissful time together pass. In quiet agreement, Viktor and Yuuri do not press each other on their dreams and memories again, letting the knowledge rest for a while in the back of their minds. Viktor needs to absorb what he learned, to fully understand what he can do now.

He ends up sitting in the onsen for a long time every evening, watching the stars and thinking. Yuuri joins him every time, lacking the shyness Viktor expected of sharing a space naked with him, but still keeping distance between them. Viktor tries to keep his interest polite to respect Yuuri's privacy, but he cannot help thinking about what Yuuri told him -- that they were lovers in another life. He peeks a few times despite his best efforts, but if Yuuri notices, he does not chide Viktor for it.

Some other version of him has held Yuuri before him. Viktor can admit to a bit of jealousy, but mostly he just feels awe, that someone as beautiful as Yuuri chose him.

Viktor did consider exchanging his notebook for Yuuri's journal, though he held back at the last minute. He feels vulnerable knowing that his precious notebook, filled with his dreams and theories and worries, could end up in Yuuri's hands. Yuuri has not offered to share his journal, either, though Viktor is endlessly curious about it.

Despite Viktor's worries, Yuuri shows no sign of anxiety for these few days, so either he is hiding his emotions well, or the meltdown he had the other day has cleared away his anxiety for now. Viktor knows Yuuri too well; he doubts Yuuri has perfected his mask so quickly.

Viktor goes back to sleeping alone. He leaves his door open in invitation every night, but Yuuri merely bids him good night after their dinners and baths, likely lost in his own thoughts.

Half of the week goes by in a quiet daze. Viktor wakes later than he usually does every morning, and his inattention leaves him feeling strange. He wonders if this is to be his new normal, if his relationship with Yuuri will ever go back to familiarity and happiness. Perhaps this tension is what Yuuri has felt all this time -- and if it is, then Viktor needs to feel it as well, to bear the pain his lover has been hiding.

Just as Viktor starts accept this new, uneasy feeling between him and Yuuri, he has another dream.

~*~

Yuuri has to win. He has to -- he has to --

Because Viktor cannot go back to that old life. He cannot fit into that shell any longer, that cracked mask that has hidden his longing, his loneliness. He wore it for four months, and he refuses to wear it again, because it hurts him every time he puts it on. Yakov and even his fans -- they cannot understand how much it tears at Viktor to keep going for them. He has a chance with Yuuri, to be something more than just a skater, to take someone else to the heights he has seen. He wants it so badly. He doesn't want Yuri Plisetsky to beat Yuuri in this contest.

Yuuri's turn is next, yet Yuuri is hiding in the shadows, his hands covering his face. Viktor hides his worry and steps closer to him, calling Yuuri's name. Yuuri's attention snaps to him, and a blush blossoms across his cheeks at the yelp he makes. Viktor watches, enchanted.

"I'm going to become a super tasty katsudon, so please keep your eyes on me," Yuuri tells him fervently. "It's a promise!"

"Of course," Viktor murmurs, his ears ringing with the words Yuuri does not say: watch me and only me. "I love katsudon."

When Yuuri steps onto the ice, Viktor's heart lodges in his throat. The familiar music begins, and... the way Yuuri moves...

Every sensual shift of his hips takes Viktor back to the banquet. That night, he was light in Yuuri's arms, and now Yuuri is the sun to his endless sky, shining brightly for Viktor to hold, to admire, to love. His breath catches in his throat, and he has to cover his mouth, his smile. Love. What a silly emotion; something Viktor only skates about, but rarely has he encountered such a simple feeling.

This man... this beautiful, anxious, frustrating, brilliant, daunting, amazing man. If Viktor can come to know him, and if Yuuri can accept him... perhaps that silly emotion will become truth for both of them. Seeing Yuuri skating like this, like the dreams that Viktor had for months since the banquet, makes Viktor hope for the future. Yuuri has the talent, and Viktor has the vision: together they can create beauty.

Ah, but watching Yuuri... he truly encompasses Eros, even if he never realizes it. Pleasure upon pleasure... and oh, how Viktor wants him. If Yuuri wasn't so skittish, Viktor would have seduced him already. Perhaps that is only right, because Yuuri deserves a slow romance, the kind Viktor has never dared to have.

Perhaps together, they can have the perfect love.

The music crests. Yuuri lands his jumps and spins to a stop, his face shining with exertion, determination, exhaustion. He looks up as if in a daze, and Viktor can no longer hide his smile, opening his arms for Yuuri to come to him.

"Yuuri!"

Yuuri's face lights up with joy. He begins to skate toward Viktor, and the ice beneath him shifts strangely -- then suddenly, the ice is the water of the Neva, and Yuuri is falling, drowning, and Viktor cannot reach him --

~*~

Viktor sits up with a gasp, throwing the blanket off him in terror. He stares unblinkingly into the darkness, only hearing his heart pounding, the splash of water, water so cold that it took his beloved from him. He blinks, and he recognizes where he is.

Yuutopia. Yuuri is next door. Yuuri is --

Viktor throws the blankets off him and scrambles to his feet, not caring about how little he is wearing or what the time is. He races for the door and all but runs down the hall to Yuuri's room, pushing Yuuri's door open and nearly tripping in his haste to get inside.

"Viktor?" Yuuri says sleepily, pushing himself up in bed. His hair is a mess and his glasses are missing. He squints at Viktor and rubs his eyes. "Is everything okay?"

Viktor lets out a breath that he didn't realize he was holding. Without waiting for Yuuri to give his permission, he strides forward and pulls Yuuri into his arms, holding him tightly, bracing one knee against the bed in his desperation to feel Yuuri's warmth, his life. He buries his face in Yuuri's shoulder, inhaling shakily against the soft cotton of his shirt. He smells real, alive, like everything Viktor has always wanted, nothing like the cold or the stench of the Neva.

Yuuri lets out a shocked little noise, his hands landing on Viktor's back. "V-V-Viktor?"

"You're okay," Viktor whispers harshly, focusing on the beat of Yuuri's heart against his chest. "You're okay."

"I'm okay," Yuuri whispers, one hand coming up to rub Viktor's bare back. "It's okay, Viktor."

Viktor doesn't know if it really is okay. The images from his dream echo in his mind, and he shudders, wanting to crawl into Yuuri's arms and never let him go. It was just a dream. Yuuri is alive, safe. After a long moment, in which Yuuri stays silent in his confusion, Viktor reluctantly lets go of him, reaching up to wipe at his eyes. He doesn't look at Yuuri's face.

"I am sorry, Yuuri. I... had another dream. The dream itself was lovely, but the end... the ends are always horrible, and I overreacted. I should go back to bed." Viktor starts to pull away, but Yuuri shakes his head, pulling on Viktor's arm.

"No, it's okay. Um... here." Yuuri lets go of Viktor, only to scoot back on the bed and lift his blanket in invitation. Viktor finally dares a glance at his face, his heart twisting to see Yuuri looking soft and rumpled and worried. Yuuri's gaze drops briefly, before his face warms and he looks away, and finally Viktor allows a small smile.

"Perhaps I should put pants on first."

"It's okay," Yuuri repeats. He lies down against his pillow, still holding the blanket up, and looks up at Viktor.

Viktor cannot resist such an expression. Carefully, he climbs into the narrow bed and slides down to rest beside Yuuri, glancing at him briefly before wrapping his arms around Yuuri and pulling him close, cupping the back of his head with one hand. He breathes out when he feels Yuuri's warmth pressed against him, turning his damp eyes into Yuuri's hair. Slowly but surely, Yuuri relaxes against him, his arm curling around Viktor's waist.

Yuuri is alive. It was only a dream. A beautiful, sorrowful dream of impossible things -- of another future where Yuuri suffered.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Yuuri whispers. His breath tickles Viktor's collarbone, and he sighs to himself.

"Another memory dream. They... always end in your death. No matter what the dream is, at the end, you are always taken by that damn river. I hate it," Viktor whispers, his embrace tightening when Yuuri tenses against him. "I would do anything to protect you from that."

"Viktor..."

Viktor nearly begs for Yuuri to stay with him, never to go to St. Petersburg, but he does not want to bring up that argument again. Instead he forces himself to focus on the rest of the dream, the beautiful program Yuuri skated for him. With a start, he realizes that he recognizes the music as a piece that he ordered a couple months ago.

"On Love: Eros."

Yuuri starts against him. "Eh?"

"Your short program. You skated it for me... perhaps for the first time. You were wondrous," Viktor whispers. Yuuri shifts slightly, then pulls back to look at his face, his eyes wide.

"You... saw me? Skating Eros?"

Viktor nods. Yuuri stares at him, absently chewing on his lip, drawing Viktor's attention to his mouth. In his dream, Yuuri's mouth had been soft, flirtatious -- blowing secrets and smirks across the ice to catch in Viktor's heart.

"Prove it."

Viktor blinks and looks up. "Hmm?"

"Prove it," Yuuri repeats quietly. "Give me... something else. Something tangible, to show that you really had this dream, that these dreams are happening. It just seems so unreal to me. It's so weird for you to dream of Eros right after we talked about it..."

Viktor thinks that is fair. He knows his story is fantastic, just as fantastic as Yuuri saying that he died in another life. Somehow, though, he understands that Yuuri is not asking to convince him of the truth. Yuuri already believes him, but he is afraid of that belief, of the truth of the dreams. He is afraid of what it means for Viktor to be dreaming of a life Yuuri left behind. He needs reassurance, and Viktor will give it to him gladly.

In response, Viktor begins to hum the song to Eros. He makes it about twelve notes into the refrain before Yuuri covers his mouth, his eyes wide. Viktor stops humming, reaching up to stroke Yuuri's cheek comfortingly.

"That's it," Yuuri says weakly. Something hard settles in his gaze, bright with so many emotions, that it almost hurts Viktor to look at him. "I want to show you in the morning. I'll skate it for you."

"Okay," Viktor whispers, the words a kiss against Yuuri's fingers. He wonders if Yuuri will skate the programs again for this year. He wants it suddenly, fiercely; he wants the fragile hope on Yuuri's face when he skates it for the first time in front of a crowd. He wants Yuuri to race toward him with joy after finishing a skate. He wants to kiss Yuuri for the first time on the ice.

But he already has, hasn't he? He has had two first kisses with Yuuri. One in his dreams, and one in real life. Both of them count, somehow, yet mean something completely different to him.

He is starting to understand why this double reality seems so strange to Yuuri.

"You were amazing," Viktor says quietly. He resists the call of rest, as he doubts whether he will fall asleep after his nightmare. He can still see Yuuri's fearful face in his mind's eye, the Neva rising up around him.

He suppresses a shudder and nuzzles Yuuri's hand, comforted when Yuuri's arm tightens around him. He usually stays up to write out his dreams, or cuddle with Makkachin, or busy himself with research, but having Yuuri in his arms like this makes him feel safe enough to relax. The Neva is far away, and Yuuri is alive in his arms.

He can write the dream down in the morning. It isn't something he can ever forget.

"I wanted you to stay," Yuuri whispers. "I needed you to stay with me. I didn't want to lose to Yurio and lose you too."

"Yurio?" Viktor frowns. He does remember Yuri Plisetsky, vaguely, but the focus of his dream had been on Yuuri. He wonders what Yuri skated.

"When you came to Japan, he followed you. He wanted you to be his coach, and you organized Onsen on Ice, and it was... ridiculous. If I lost, you would go back to Russia to coach him."

"No wonder I was nervous," Viktor says without thinking, and Yuuri pulls back a little to stare at him in question. Viktor smiles slightly. "Watching you on the ice was nervewracking. I needed you to win. You were my chance to be something else... someone new."

"To be you," Yuuri whispers, and Viktor starts at the words.

'I want you to stay who you are, Viktor!'

Something inside Viktor trembles from the memory of Yuuri saying those words, the words which made Viktor hope that Yuuri could love him, too.

"To be me," Viktor says softly in wonder. "I didn't have to be the Living Legend anymore. I didn't have to be a skater, or Yakov's protege, or world famous. You never wanted any of those masks. I had been wearing them for so long, and when you looked at me and asked me to be someone new, someone important to just to you... it inspired me. That is why I followed you, why I decided to coach you."

"I always wanted it," Yuuri whispers, his voice caught on a ragged emotion. Viktor tightens his arms around Yuuri, tilting his head up to kiss Yuuri's forehead. He feels Yuuri's soft sob against his neck, the way he trembles against Viktor. "It was my secret desire for so long. Then I blurted it out to you at the banquet, and... you accepted. You came to me, and you stayed. I was so afraid you would leave with Yurio."

Viktor closes his eyes as he listens to Yuuri, his lips pressed warmly to his forehead. When he turns his head, he leaves kisses along Yuuri's cheek, his soft hair. "I would have found a way to stay with you. Either by manipulating things so that you came with me to St. Petersburg, or making both of you my students, or simply ignoring the results. I don't think I could have left you for anything in the world."

Yuuri's fingers dig into his back for a moment, as if seeking something to grip, before twisting to hold onto the blanket.

"I want to skate them again," Yuuri says suddenly. "Eros and Yuuri on Ice. This season, I want to skate them again and give them my all. They're our programs, the ones you and I made. If you're going to be my coach again, I want to show the world that you chose right."

"I know I did," Viktor whispers, his heart lighter with Yuuri's devotion. The last of his dream's fear fades away as he begins to plot, his mind whirling with ideas and plans. He is determined to be the coach he saw in his dreams, always at Yuuri's side, supportive and brilliant and strong. The world will hate him for quitting, but if Viktor's plans are successful, then they will love Yuuri in his place.

He will make sure of it.

~*~

Even though Viktor tries to put it off, he must return to St. Petersburg at the end of the week. Yakov would have his head if Viktor avoided his retirement announcement, despite every cell in Viktor's body demanding to stay with Yuuri.

He spends the rest of their week together at the tiny rink where Yuuri first skated for him, watching Yuuri perform Eros and Yuuri on Ice with a critical gaze. The programs are good -- he can tell that he produced Eros and heavily influenced Yuuri on Ice. He can see his own emotions and desires in Eros, matching the feelings inspired by Yuuri's actions at the banquet in their other life.

He wants to see them performed at the GPF. Yuuri has said the same; the fire in his eyes matches the determination Viktor feels.

The programs were not without their mistakes, and Viktor wants to adjust the flow in a few places, but he can see that Yuuri has them well in hand. While having his programs established early before the season will be beneficial, Viktor has no intention of allowing Yuuri to slack off in his training. He wants to see how far Yuuri can go, and he suspects it will be nearly impossible to keep Yuuri from the ice.

No matter that Yuuri once said he wanted to retire. Viktor has not forgotten, but he has no idea how to handle that issue. Yuuri has not brought it up again. Though he once professed to be tired of skating... Viktor can see the excitement and love that shines through him whenever Yuuri steps onto the ice.

He hopes to use this season to convince Yuuri to keep skating. He knows Yuuri is hurting, but every day that Viktor stays with him, Yuuri seems better. If his presence can help heal Yuuri's heart, toward skating and toward his other life, then Viktor will stay with him forever.

He won't leave Yuuri alone again.

They spend their last day together walking through Hasetsu, Viktor admiring the town as Yuuri points out different restaurants, buildings, and spots. Some of them give him odd headaches, as if he has seen these places before he cannot remember, but he tries not to think too hard on it, suspecting the phenomenon has something to do with his dreams.

He should tell Yuuri, but he doesn't. He needs to study his mind more and write down the feelings and knowledge. Once he understands it, then he can talk to Yuuri.

They end up at the beach once more, a few hours before dinner. Viktor has to get up very early in the morning to take the train out to Fukuoka Airport, but Yuuri has promised to go with him and see him off. Viktor doesn't want to leave. Partly, he can admit, because he wants to avoid the media circus that will erupt when he announces his retirement and decision to coach. Mostly because he is afraid to let Yuuri out of his sight.

Yet Yuuri has been safe for months in Hasetsu. Viktor is just overthinking things.

His plan is to return to Hasetsu to begin coaching Yuuri as soon as the first of his ice shows are done. He will fly back to Russia as needed throughout the summer to finish the rest of the shows, but he wants to focus on Yuuri. Moving into Yuutopia will not be a problem; Yuuri had implied that Viktor had stayed in the same room as he slept in this time. Once he retrieves Makkachin, everything will be set.

He just has to leave Yuuri first, and he does not want that.

"Are you really going to announce that you're coaching me in your interview?" Yuuri asks quietly. They are sharing a blanket on the sand once more, the cool sea breeze ruffling their coats and hair. Vicchan is curled into a little ball between them, snoozing from playing fetch with Viktor earlier. Yuuri's hand is clasped with Viktor's, his grip tight despite his mild tone. Viktor squeezes his hand, his gaze drawn to Yuuri's knuckles, pinkened with the breeze. He smiles a little, admiring how strong Yuuri tries to be, even when he feels vulnerable.

"I am. Have you told anyone? Your former coach, perhaps?"

"I should call him," Yuuri mumbles, pulling his legs up to his chest and pressing his chin between his knees. "And Minako-sensei... she'll be surprised."

"You can do that during my flight. Since I won't be able to text you," Viktor sighs. He glances up at Yuuri's face in time to see him hide a smile.

"You can text me when you land," Yuuri says lightly, then shifts to the side a little, leaning his weight against Viktor. He glances up at Viktor, his dark eyes bright with worry. "You're coming back after the first ice show?"

"I am," Viktor says, smiling softly as he watches Yuuri's face. He loves looking at Yuuri. "You'll have to forgive me for going back to do the other two shows. But I will return quickly to you."

"I want to see one. It's your last show, after all."

Viktor only shakes his head. He has made his decision -- he will not risk Yuuri's life by taking him to St. Petersburg, even for a moment. Yuuri fought him long and hard, but eventually stopped arguing with him, though his face remained set in a mulish glare for a long while afterward. Viktor is glad that Yuuri caved, because he hates fighting with Yuuri almost as much as he hates the idea of Yuuri being anywhere near that river.

Yuuri gazes up at him for another moment, then sighs under his breath, looking away with a faint frown. He softens the expression by resting his head against Viktor's neck, and Viktor cannot help a smile, drawing his thumb along the bone of Yuuri's wrist. He cannot wait to get back to Hasetsu in two weeks, so that he can have this all the time.

He searches for something to shift their conversation, not wanting to dwell on the unhappy decision. "Will you watch my press conference?" he asks instead. Yuuri nods, his hair brushing against Viktor's skin, and Viktor sighs in relief.

"I'll watch it. And then I'll turn my phone off, because everyone is going to be trying to ask me questions." Yuuri sounds petulant over his likely future of being stalked by the media, but Viktor trusts that Yuuri can handle the press long enough for him to return and extend his own protection.

"I'll do my best to keep them busy," Viktor teases, earning a small smile. The dark mood doesn't seem to lift from Yuuri, though, and Viktor wonders what else he can say. He refuses to give in on St. Petersburg, but he doesn't want Yuuri to remain upset at him while he is gone.

Yuuri seems to make the decision for him.

"Viktor," Yuuri murmurs, turning and deftly climbing into Viktor's lap, gently nudging Vicchan to rest against the jacket he leaves on the blanket. He looks cold like that, so Viktor winds his arms around Yuuri's waist, shivering a little as Yuuri fixes dark eyes on him. He has seen that look before, but only in his dreams. Yuuri seems too shy otherwise.

He isn't shy now.

"How lewd of you, Yuuri." Viktor's voice does not reveal his nerves, which are churning at the sensuality Yuuri is offering him. "Aren't we in a public place?"

"There isn't anyone around," Yuuri says, his lips twitching upward, as if he can read Viktor's excitement. "We're not going to do anything lewd. Just... a kiss."

A telltale flush touches Yuuri's cheeks. Viktor softens a little, seeing that Yuuri is nearing embarrassment; unsurprising for Yuuri, who gets flushed at the most ridiculous things sometimes. Viktor leans forward into Yuuri's space, reaching up to push Yuuri's glasses up, before sliding his fingers back through Yuuri's hair to cup the back of his head.

"Just a kiss," Viktor murmurs, his lips brushing Yuuri's. "Just a kiss might be too much for any innocent passerby... with the way you make me feel."

"Nothing lewd," Yuuri breathes, then closes the remaining distance between them and kisses Viktor in a way that makes his toes curl. Viktor gives back as good as he gets, until Yuuri is trembling in his arms, holding onto him tightly.

He has imagined this kind of intimacy with Yuuri for ages, but never has Viktor acted upon his desires before. Viktor has barely let himself think much on it, between learning all of Yuuri's past this week and getting used to the feeling of being in a relationship with him. Not that it feels much different than their usual friendship, but for the knowledge that he loves me keeps lighting him up every time he looks at Yuuri.

The hints are there, though. That Viktor is Yuuri's beloved in another life means that Viktor has loved Yuuri before and will love him again. In another lifetime, he held Yuuri in his arms like this. He kissed Yuuri like this. He made Yuuri weak in the knees -- perhaps even made love with him.

Yuuri knows his touch, but Viktor has yet to learn the feeling of Yuuri against him. Part of him wanted to wait, to get used to the changes in their lives, but... another part of him is jealous of the other lifetime he has yet to remember, because he wants everything with Yuuri.

Perhaps not on the beach in Hasetsu, public enough that anybody could walk by and stare. Viktor doesn't want to share this side of Yuuri with anybody.

Yet when Yuuri kisses him, needy and determined, Viktor cannot deny him. His fingers entangle in Yuuri's hair, tilting his head the way he wants, so that he can sweep Yuuri's mouth with his tongue and taste him properly. Yuuri opens for him easily, letting out a little whimper that sends fire racing through Viktor's veins.

Viktor draws him closer, needing more of Yuuri's mouth, his lips, his tongue, his moans. He needs to hear Yuuri's voice making more of those noises, sweet and succulent like his lips, begging for Viktor to ravish him. How can he possibly leave this man to return to Russia? He wants the next two weeks to fly by, so he can return to Yuuri's arms as soon as he can.

He ends up lying on his back, the cold sand and blanket cushioning his head as Yuuri straddles his hips and kisses him senseless. Yuuri's thighs are hot beneath Viktor's hands, and he cannot help but squeeze, enjoying the way Yuuri shivers against him. He would love nothing more than to roll Yuuri over and drink his fill of his sweet sighs and moans, but not out here.

When they pull apart to breathe, panting softly against each other's skin, Viktor carefully rolls them both onto their sides, sliding his hand up Yuuri's back as he gasps and buries his face in Viktor's neck. Viktor kisses his hair soothingly.

"Sorry," Yuuri whispers, his fingers clenching in Viktor's shirt. "I just... I wanted..."

"You can do that to me anytime, solnyshko," Viktor murmurs with a smile. His heart feels light to know how affected Yuuri is by their kisses. "I want it, too."

Yuuri takes a shuddering breath. Viktor can feel his heart beating under his hand, under layers of cloth, and his chest goes tight with love. "You have to pack... We should go back."

"We should," Viktor agrees, making no move to get up. Yuuri just pulls him closer, hiding his face against his chest, his ear pressed to Viktor's heart.

~*~

Yuuri escorts Viktor to the airport, taking him via train to Fukuoka, staying quiet all the while. Viktor doesn't push him, as they both have a great deal on their minds, and everything important has already been said.

Just before Viktor passes through the checkpoint, Yuuri pushes something into his hands. Yuuri glances up at him, then down at the object, his gaze blank, with a frown that seems to carry more than Viktor can read. Viktor blinks, staring down at the object in surprise.

It's Yuuri's journal. Viktor considers Yuuri's expression, his lips tightening at the thought of Yuuri feeling so anxious.

"Are you sure?"

Yuuri nods. "Yeah. I think... I need you to read it. Maybe it'll help. If we can understand it..."

Viktor considers Yuuri's request, his heart aching. Despite wanting to read it, Viktor hadn't asked to see Yuuri's journal once during the week; he couldn't bring himself to dare. Something about the journal seems sacred, like Viktor shouldn't trespass, but if Yuuri is giving it to him... then how can Viktor deny him?

It only seems fair to share his own secrets.

"Alright, solnyshko." Viktor reaches into his carry-on bag and pulls out his notebook, handing it to Yuuri silently before carefully sliding the journal into its place. Yuuri takes the notebook and holds it tightly to his chest, his gaze unfocused for a moment, before he puts it in his bag and looks at Viktor.

"Thank you, Viktor. Have a safe trip," Yuuri says quietly.

Viktor smiles, reaching out to wrap his arms around Yuuri to hold him tightly. Yuuri all but melts into his arms, fitting against him perfectly, as if he has always belonged there. "I'll see you soon," Viktor murmurs into Yuuri's hair.

"Sooner than you think," Yuuri promises, drawing back after a moment, his cheeks flushed faintly. Viktor admires him, tempted to lean in for a kiss, but Yuuri seems to read his intentions and steps back. "Bye, Viktor. Text me?"

"Always, my dear." Viktor throws a wink, catching Yuuri's smile before turning away and striding toward security. When he reaches the line, he glances over his shoulder. Yuuri lifts a hand in a wave, and for the first time in days, his eyes are clear, his smile real. He stays until Viktor disappears behind security.

The loss of his presence leaves Viktor cold and worried for the entire trip, and he spends every moment he can texting Yuuri to reassure himself. Yuuri seems just as anxious, because he texts Viktor more often than usual, even during his normal sleeping hours. Viktor suspects both of them will be wrecks for a while.

Viktor returns to St. Petersburg without any delays. Yakov meets him at the airport. Something in him seems tired, as though a great weight has settled on his shoulders. Viktor, who has never felt lighter since he decided to retire, spares a few thoughts for how Yakov will react to his decision to return to Hasetsu. Yakov will be unhappy, certainly, but Viktor has already decided. He does not wish to lose his mentor for his new career, but Yuuri's life is more important.

Better to tell him later.

"How did it go?" Yakov asks, after settling into the passenger seat of Viktor's Cadillac. He drove it to the airport so that Viktor could take it home.

"It went very well. You're looking at Yuuri Katsuki's new coach," Viktor says with a smile. Yakov says nothing, but the heavy aura around him seems to lighten a little. Viktor stays silent for a moment, thinking again of how Yakov will react, and how Yuuri seemed to believe that Yakov would start ignoring him.

The thought hurts a little. Yakov has looked after him since he was a boy. To lose his support and respect... but what else can Viktor do? He refuses to bring Yuuri to St. Petersburg. Even if the accident is meant to happen next year, Viktor does not want to risk anything. What if Yuuri gets hurt in a different way? Surely it would be better to stay in Hasetsu, where it is safe. Even if he loses Yakov, he will still have Yuuri -- and someday he can regain Yakov's respect.

Yet Yuuri does not want Viktor to lose his reputation. As if that is more important than Yuuri's own life.

Viktor shakes his head of the dark thoughts and turns on the car, setting off toward home. Yakov starts grilling him after a few minutes on his plans for Yuuri, and Viktor focuses on answering about the training he intends to put Yuuri through, ignoring the other questions about where Yuuri will stay.

At one point, he has to drive over the Tuchkov Bridge. The Neva gleams beneath the late afternoon sun, a lurid orange that sets off Viktor's nerves. He glares at the water as they pass over.

You cannot have him. I will never, ever let you take him.

Yakov gives him a strange look. Viktor tries to ignore the feeling that he may have said that out loud.

He doesn't bother explaining, instead driving Yakov home, before he crosses the city to his pet setter. Makkachin is overjoyed to see him, and some part of Viktor relaxes, knowing that he will get to spend a lot of time with Makkachin now. She settles on the passenger seat in Yakov's place, panting happily at him and earning several pats and scratches as Viktor weaves his way through St. Petersburg.

Finally, home.

The apartment he thought of sharing with Yuuri seems dark and empty now. Viktor ignores the odd feeling and unpacks after getting Makkachin settled, until his bag is empty, but for one thing.

Yuuri's journal.

Viktor picks up the journal to stare at it. The binding is a dark blue, the edges a little worn, the pages occasionally crumpled. After a moment, he runs a finger down the blank cover, his lips tightening in a small frown.

It feels strange to have Yuuri's journal instead of his notebook. At the airport, it unnerved him to leave such information somewhere where anybody could steal it and read. Yet the only person who has any right to it is Yuuri, so Viktor left it all with him, so that Yuuri could try and make sense of Viktor's dreams while he is busy with his retirement. Perhaps reading the dreams will help Yuuri accept Viktor's decisions more easily.

Perhaps it will make him stop loving Viktor. Or, perhaps Viktor is merely overreacting with that thought. It wouldn't be the first time.

Baring his secrets, his dreams... He has never felt so vulnerable in front of a single person before, yet never has Yuuri made Viktor feel any discomfort. Grimly, Viktor sets the journal down and goes to finish getting ready for bed.

He doesn't settle in bed, though, instead taking up space on the couch next to Makkachin, who happily lays against his side and goes to sleep. Viktor sets down a steaming cup of tea and touches the cover again, his heart beating a little faster. Then he opens the journal.

January 17, 2015. On this day in two years, I will die.

My name is Katsuki Yuuri, and I'm from the future. I've tried to understand it and I still don't know why it happened. All I know is that I lived to January 17, 2017, and on that day, I was hit by a car, thrown into the Neva River, and killed. I woke up in the past on October 24, 2014.

I lost everything. I lost Viktor, Makkachin, Vicchan, my family. I lost two years and woke up in the past, knowing no one and nothing, except that I died.

I don't want to forget any of them. I'm the only person who has these memories, and I want to write them down here, so I never lose them. The Viktor who loved me is still in my heart. Maybe I won't get to be with him again. The future has already changed, but Viktor is still important to me. At least I can try to make him happy.

Viktor reads on, the tea forgotten. He reads about Yuuri skating under Celestino, losing his dog, and coming in last at the GPF. He reads about Yuuri dropping out of his competitions, then waking up one day to find Viktor in his family's inn, proposing to be his coach. He reads about the beach, about a short program to seduce the world, a free skate for himself. He reads about competitions and trips and moments between two people who didn't understand each other and yet somehow made it work.

He reads about the Neva and the nightmares that haunted Yuuri. He reads about Yuuri's fear, his terror that he felt in that dark, cold place. He reads about the dreams that still haunt him, the steps Yuuri takes to try and overcome his trauma, the determination he pours into his skating and schoolwork so that he can keep going.

He reads about Yuuri's love for him.

The worst part is, I left Viktor. I left him alone in the future. We were going to get married -- married! Me, marrying Viktor Nikiforov. He promised we would marry after I won five gold medals to match him. Viktor, my inspiration... my love, my life, my fiancé. I miss him so much. Viktor doesn't know me now; we haven't met yet, and he'll never know me. He'll never love me like he does in the future, because how can I live all that again? I've already changed things. It can't happen the same way. I'll never have him again.

But I have to try. I love him, and I want him to be happy. The Viktor I remember and love is gone, but there is another Viktor whom I love just as much. I'm going to protect him from that pain, if I can.

There is one good thing that has happened so far. I got to see my dog, Vicchan. He died in my last life before I could come home. I hadn't seen him since I was eighteen. This time, I came home for Nationals and got to be with him and my family. I want to save him if I can. Vicchan died from a bladder infection last time, but if we keep an eye on him, maybe we can prevent it. If I can convince my family to take him to the vet, maybe I can save him... I have to try. I know he is getting older, but... I got to see him again, and that's more than I ever got before.

Maybe... the future can be changed, and I can be saved, too. I don't know. I don't want to die again. What if I die, and I come back again? What if I get caught in a constant cycle of death and rebirth? I want to live on. I want to grow old with Viktor. But even if I can't be with him, I just want to know him, to make sure he's happy and safe. I don't want him to hurt and suffer like before.

I love him. Seeing him on television, even hearing his voice the night I called him... it isn't enough. I have to be stronger so I can see him again and skate against him. I want to become someone he can respect. I can't have the other future with him, but I can give him something else, something just as special.

I have to try.

Viktor doesn't sleep a wink that night. He never finishes his tea, either. He only sets down the journal when dawn creeps into his living room, pale and cold, his phone lighting up with a good morning, Viktor from Yuuri.

He blinks at the sight of the sun, feeling as if he has woken from a long dream.

~*~

Viktor manages a few hours of sleep, then wakes late with nothing to do. A little bemused, he calls Yuuri while cooking himself lunch, hoping that the circles under his eyes aren't obvious. He simply wants to see Yuuri, after

When Yuuri answers the video call, Viktor sets the phone on the counter, propped against a canister of pasta. Yuuri smiles at him, looking a little tired but pleased to see him, and Viktor gives him a smile, wishing he could reach through the phone and hold Yuuri. He distracts himself with fixing a cup of tea.

"Hello, Yuuri."

"Hi, Viktor," Yuuri replies softly. His eyes are a little red, perhaps from not enough sleep, but Viktor wonders if Yuuri read his notebook. A little frisson of tension runs up his spine at the thought. "You look like you just woke up."

"Perhaps I did," Viktor says loftily, setting a few ingredients on the counter and beginning to crack eggs into a bowl to whisk. A simple omelette with plenty of greens. Viktor pauses, remembers that he does not need to stick to his strict diet any longer, and adds a few sausages to his breakfast, setting them to fry. "Am I not allowed to sleep in?"

"Of course you are. What are you making?"

"An omelette and sausages. I can hear your stomach growling from here." Viktor grins a little when Yuuri blushes, scratching his cheek with a gloved hand. He notices then that Yuuri is not at home, as he first thought, but in Ice Castle wearing practice clothing, and his eyes narrow.

"My dear Yuuri," Viktor says with a sharp smile, "It appears that you are at the rink again, even though you should be resting."

Yuuri averts his eyes. "Er..."

Viktor's smile widens. "You are simply having a day of fun at the rink, aren't you, Yuuri?"

"I'm not practicing," Yuuri says quickly, though Viktor notices him rolling his eyes. "I just wanted to do some figure eights. I... well, I read your notebook, and... I just needed to think about some things."

Viktor softens a little, glancing over at the notebook on his table. He pours his scrambled eggs into the pan, carefully stirring the eggs as they cook, his eyes drawn again and again to Yuuri. The ceiling behind him is moving, as Yuuri skates slowly around the rink. They enjoy the quiet for a few moments while Viktor cooks.

"I wondered," Viktor finally says. "You seem a little tired this morning, too."

"It was really... um. It affected me a lot more than I thought," Yuuri says, his voice a little distant. His eyes have gone dark and sad, echoing the hollow feeling inside Viktor. "I have a lot of questions, but I can't even think of them right now. I just... I'm glad I can see your face."

Viktor manages a small smile. "I like seeing your face, too."

"Viktor," Yuuri sighs, the darkness in his eyes fading a little. "I am glad you called, though. I wanted to talk to you about St. Petersburg."

Viktor's humor fades abruptly. He does not reply, instead focusing on finishing his meal, setting the omelette on a plate beside the cooked sausages. He moves everything to the table, then carries the phone over and props it up against the bowl of fruit he keeps as a centerpiece to the table, letting Yuuri watch him as he eats. He sets the meal on the table beside the journal and sits down, picking up his tea to steady himself.

"There is nothing to talk about."

"You haven't even listened to my side of it," Yuuri says sharply, then groans. "I'm sorry. I don't want to fight about this. But I want to come to St. Petersburg. You haven't bought your ticket to Hasetsu yet, right? I can buy my ticket today --"

"I already bought it," Viktor interrupts, sipping his tea slowly as Yuuri shuts his mouth. The statement is true; he bought the ticket before he left the airport the previous day. He tries to ignore the hurt on Yuuri's face. "You do not need to buy a ticket to St. Petersburg, as you will not be traveling to St. Petersburg. That is final."

"It's not final! Viktor, will you please just listen?"

"No. I have no intention of changing my mind, Yuuri." Viktor focuses on his breakfast, waiting to see if Yuuri will continue to argue with him, though the food has little flavor in the face of their fight.

Yuuri stays silent for a long moment, biting down hard on his lip, and Viktor aches to see the anger and frustration in his expression. He cannot understand why Yuuri is so willing to risk his life just for Viktor's sake. He grimaces a little, thinking of the journal he read last night, and exhales.

"I understand that you are worried for my reputation and career, but everything will be fine. I will explain everything to Yakov, and he will understand." Viktor notices Yuuri's look of alarm and thinks better of what he said. "Do not worry, I will not tell him about the dreams. I will find a sufficient excuse. Until then, please... just wait for me. I will take care of everything, your training, your dietary needs, all of it. I'm not incapable."

"I'm not saying you are," Yuuri mumbles. He wipes at his eyes, and Viktor panics a little, realizing he made Yuuri cry. "I know how good you are at being my coach. I'm just..." He sighs deeply, staring off to the side before looking back at Viktor. "Fine. Whatever you say."

"Thank you," Viktor says, relieved that Yuuri has given in. The silence that settles between them is a little uncomfortable, and Viktor strains for something to say. He glances at the ceiling beyond Yuuri's head, watching how it spins as Yuuri skates.

He clears his throat. "Will you spend a lot of time at the rink? I would prefer it if you rested."

Yuuri sighs, a little harder than Viktor expected. "No... I won't push myself. I'll make sure to rest. I have a few games I need to finish..."

"Oh? Will you tell me about them?" Viktor asks hesitantly, and Yuuri gives in, telling Viktor all about the latest Assassin's Creed game, which Viktor barely understands. He never played games like Yuuri did, but perhaps now that they will be living together, Yuuri could show him some games during their downtime.

Yet Yuuri seems distracted, and Viktor is no less preoccupied. Soon he lets Yuuri go back to his figure eights, standing with a sigh and going to empty his plate into the trash. He lost his appetite before he even started eating.

Instead of returning to the table, Viktor takes the journal and his tea to the couch. Makkachin joins him, laying over his stomach while Viktor reclines across the cushions. He strokes a finger over the journal, then sighs and rests it against his chest, picking up his phone to browse his social media.

He sees a link from Christophe, a video with a Japanese title, and clicks on it -- and as soon as the video loads, his head begins to hurt.

His vision goes oddly gray. On his screen is a video of a very familiar figure -- Yuuri, skating Stammi Vicino in a blue shirt and black pants. He is chubbier than Viktor knows he should be, but he skates just as beautifully as he did for Viktor in Ice Castle. He turns toward the camera and smiles, and a shiver runs through Viktor.

The vision fades, and Viktor realizes his heart is thundering, sweat beading on his forehead, while Makkachin lifts her head and whines worriedly. The video on the screen is still Stammi Vicino, but Yuuri is thinner, wearing a black shirt instead of blue. The video is nearly over.

At the very end of the video. Viktor sees himself race across the ice and wrap Yuuri in his arms. To his relief, the video shows nothing that happens after that -- not Yuuri's collapse, nor their conversation.

Who filmed them?

He calls Yuuri back immediately, not bothering with video call.

"Hi again, Viktor," Yuuri says, sounding a little tired.

"There is a video of you skating Stammi Vicino online," Viktor says flatly.

"What?!"

"Christophe sent me the link," Viktor explains. He doesn't mention the way he feels as if he has just run a marathon, nor the strange vision he saw. "Apparently, someone was filming us. The end of the video shows us embracing, but it does not have our conversation. I do not know how much they saw after you finished skating, nor how much they heard."

"I bet it was the girls again," Yuuri whispers. "Yuuko-chan's children. They did the same thing last time, too. If they heard our conversation, or saw me fall... Hold on, Viktor."

Viktor listens to the silence as Yuuri makes his way across the rink, a door opening and closing, before Yuuri speaks up again in Japanese, and a woman in the background answers.

Viktor listens closely as Yuuri speaks with a woman -- Nishigori Yuuko from Ice Castle, if he remembers correctly -- converse, but he makes little sense of the conversation. Finally Yuuri returns to English, sounding both relieved and worried. "It's okay. Yuuko says she caught them just as I finished my skate and pulled them away. None of them heard anything. It's just... now the video's online. They'll know that you were with me."

"That is fine," Viktor reassures him, exhaling. "It does not spoil the press conference. It just means that more of our privacy was violated, but I can deal with that."

"I'm sorry," Yuuri says, sounding wretched. "I should have thought of this. They did the same thing last time, too. It was the reason you came to Hasetsu. You saw the video, and I guess you remembered the banquet and me asking you to coach me, and..."

Viktor stays silent, thinking of the vision he saw moments ago, his head aching strangely again. He wishes he had his notebook, but Yuuri still has it. He will have to get a new notebook and write everything down.

"I said it's fine, Yuuri," Viktor says, a little more gently. His head hurts a little less, now. "How old are Yuuko's children?"

"Five. They're triplets."

"Just kids being kids. I take it they are fans?"

"Huge fans," Yuuri sighs. "It's because Yuuko is a fan, and they always watch competitions with her. They know my stats better than me."

Viktor chuckles, ignoring the ache in his head. "How resourceful. If any reporters bother you about the video, just ignore them and tell them you have no comment at this time. I really should get you a publicist..."

"A what," Yuuri asks flatly. Viktor laughs, absently rubbing Makkachin's ears as she watches him curiously.

"As your coach, I have every intention of being thorough in my management of you. A publicist is only the beginning. You also need a nutritionist, a personal trainer, a location to work out and practice your dance, not to mention a physician experienced with athletes..."

Everything Yuuri could get in St. Petersburg, if Viktor would only allow it. He puts the thought out of his mind, tensing as he waits for Yuuri to bring up their argument again.

"That's ridiculous, Viktor," Yuuri sighs, and Viktor relaxes as he realizes that Yuuri did not take the bait. "I don't need all that. You handled everything yourself, with some help from Minako-sensei."

"Well, I am talented, after all."

"I'm aware." Yuuri's voice warms as he says the words, and Viktor cannot help a small smile. He feels as if everything will be alright, when Yuuri speaks to him like this, soft and intimate. Perhaps their argument is not over, but Viktor has made his decision. He can only hope that everything works out.

"Speaking of coaches, I should call Yakov about the video. Will you be alright?"

"Yeah. I'm going to go home and turn off my phone. Love you," Yuuri says, then makes an odd noise, like a squeak.

Viktor blinks, then realizes his own face is hot. He smiles at their mutual embarrassment. "I love you too, solnyshko. Be safe and text me when you get home, alright?"

"Okay," Yuuri says weakly, then quickly ends the call before Viktor can embarrass him further. Viktor chuckles as he sets down the phone, musing over Yuuri's slip of the tongue, wondering at how easy it was to say the words.

Soon though, his humor fades. He stares down at the phone, thinking of the odd double vision he experienced a few minutes ago. He experienced something like this before, with Yuuri at the beach. Other moments, too... more like knowledge, but...

Viktor shakes his head. He cannot think about this right now. Instead, he calls Yakov and explains the video. Yakov is not pleased, but it changes nothing about their announcement.

With that out of the way, Viktor goes to find an empty notebook and a pen. He has some new experiences to write down. Carefully, Viktor details every part of both visions, detailing the pain he felt, the fact that he was awake both times, and the circumstances leading up to the visions. He also jots down a few other pieces of information that have come to him over the past few months, which weren't featured in his dreams.

Such as the fact that he knows that the ring he gave Yuuri has a half a snowflake etched inside it. Such a detail could not have come from his dream, because Viktor did not see the inside of the ring. No... this information came from another source, and Viktor intends to find out what.

The two visions must have come from the same source. Yuuri had mentioned the video in his journal, though not with that level of detail. No, that was a vision -- a memory, perhaps, of Viktor's other life, the one that he shared with Yuuri in the other reality. Symptoms of what is happening between him and Yuuri... somehow.

If only Viktor could understand.

After writing furiously for half the afternoon, Viktor stops and shakes out his cramping hand, reading over what he wrote. He feels better knowing that the details are written down, but he still wishes he had his notebook, to see if there were any other details that he remembered outside of his dreams.

He sighs and realizes that his head is hurting badly, a combination of staying up all night and having the strange vision. With a grimace, Viktor stands and goes to fetch some painkillers, frowning to himself. As he returns from his room, he pauses beside the second bedroom, which he has used primarily as a storage room since he moved into the apartment.

Carefully, Viktor opens the door. He had planned for Yuuri to stay here... but the room is still filled with junk -- medals from his youth, boxes of costumes and clothes, even old pairs of skates. Yuuri shouldn't have to sleep in here.

Viktor closes the door slowly, thinking of his argument with Yuuri. He turns away and returns to the living room, picking up the journal and spending the rest of the day rereading everything.

~*~

The next day, Viktor starts clearing out the second bedroom of his apartment.

He tells himself that the reason is because he needs to pack everything to send to Hasetsu. Yet he has no excuse for buying a bedframe and mattress set, nor for the blue damask sheets he puts on the new bed. As he smoothes down the comforter he bought to match -- dark blue with soft gray stripes -- he sighs at himself. He knows why he is doing this.

The plan is easy. Train, practice, and win enough competitions to skate against Viktor at the GPF and Worlds. Even if, by some miracle, we meet again and come to know each other, I won't ask him to be my coach.

Tearing Viktor away from professional skating destroyed his reputation. The world said he wasn't good enough for me. They said he was too young, he was too impulsive, he couldn't do it. Yakov Feltsman stopped talking to him. Everyone told him to leave me and come back to skating. It wore on him. He drank more, and he lost a lot of his contacts, even his work. He spent so much time focusing on me that he forgot everything else, and it hurt him. I ruined his career.

They said I wasn't good enough for him. I already knew that, but I hated how it made him feel. I wanted to be good enough -- I wanted to show the world that only I could inspire Viktor. That out of everyone in the world, he chose me, and I wanted to keep him for myself. I wanted to prove them all wrong, and maybe I did, in the end. But it wasn't enough.

I still wanted him to keep skating. I thought he wanted to return to skating too, with the way his eyes sparkled as he watched other skaters. I thought it would be great if we could skate against each other, now that I was good enough to beat his records. But... thinking back on it, I wonder if Viktor really wanted to return. I know he was tired, and that coaching me was something new, something that excited him more than anything else he had experienced recently. Ultimately, he decided to return to skating, but... it was because I had tried to retire, and he didn't want that.

It was our worst fight. We still didn't resolve everything. We put it aside to focus on Nationals and moving to St. Petersburg, but the thought of it always lingered. I wish I could talk to him again and find out what he was thinking. If he was really happy coming back to skating, or if I should have kept my mouth shut and let him retire.

Sometimes, watching him in this life, I see it. That tiredness, that frustration. Maybe I'm the only person who can, because I know Viktor better than anyone else. It terrifies me that he could become that sad again. Out of everyone in the world, Viktor deserves to be happy.

By some miracle... maybe we'll meet again. Maybe we'll skate together. Maybe he'll still want to be my coach. But if that happens, I won't let him throw everything away for me. I'll sign with Yakov Feltsman if it means keeping him in St. Petersburg. Even if it means going back. Even if it means facing the Neva again.

Please, let me protect him. I'll do anything so that he can be happy.

Viktor still doesn't agree with it. He doesn't think his own professional pride is worth risking Yuuri's life. Yet... Yuuri's determination is clear, and Viktor cannot help but respect how much Yuuri cares for him. He can concede, a little, that the future is unknown, and that anything can happen. Yuuri isn't truly safe anywhere, except at Viktor's side. He is only planning for all possibilities.

In between fretting over the state of his apartment, Viktor has several meetings with Yakov, and he doesn't mention a word about going to Hasetsu in any of them. Yakov seems excited -- for Yakov, anyway -- to take Viktor under his wing as an assistant coach. Viktor doesn't have the heart to ruin his good mood. His own dream of coaching at Yakov's side has already been destroyed.

So Viktor sorts through contracts and schedules and training regimens, all the while wondering if Yakov will truly stop speaking to him if he leaves. He struggles to come up with a proper excuse for running away to Hasetsu that doesn't involve his dreams or Yuuri's death. What would make Yakov understand?

Viktor just doesn't know.

~*~

Then comes the day of the press announcement.

"You'll tell them only what we decided on, Vitya. It's all in your notes," Yakov tells him roughly, focused on straightening Viktor's tie. Viktor could do it himself, but he is still trying to be nice to Yakov, with the knowledge that in less than a week, he will abandon everything Yakov has arranged for him.

"I know, Yakov."

"Be polite. None of your usual flirting. You want to appear professional! Don't let them walk over you."

"Okay, Yakov."

"And no winking!"

"I make no promises," Viktor says with a smile, laughing when Yakov glowers at him. Yakov shakes his head and pats the tie on Viktor's chest, then steps back and observes him critically. Viktor glances down at himself, pleased with the dark blue suit and grey tie -- his subtle homage to Yuuri, who will be watching the announcement live.

"I suppose you'll do," Yakov grumbles, and Viktor laughs.

"Don't worry, Yakov! You know I'm excellent at handling the press." He winks, much to Yakov's annoyance, enjoying the resulting eye roll. He will miss these interactions when he goes to Hasetsu.

The thought makes his heart ache a little, but he ignores the feeling. Best to focus on the press conference for now.

The cameras train on him as soon as he walks into the room, Yakov following like a great protective wall. The podium stands in the center at the front, and Viktor takes his place behind the microphone, smiling at the reporters who have come to listen to him. The room is crowded, filled with reporters and cameramen from both Russian and international stations. Tiny red lights blink at him, reminding him that on the other side of the world, Yuuri is watching.

His smile widens.

"Thank you for coming here today," Viktor says, touching the microphone to adjust its position, before resting his hands over his notes. He doesn't bother to read them. "I am sure that many of you are curious about my announcement, after the way I have teased you over the past few weeks. I have a few things to address today, and I ask that you hold your questions until after I have said my piece."

He waits for a moment, thinking of the thousands of people on the other side of those cameras, of the people who have cheered his name for years, of Yakov standing behind him. He thinks of Yuuri lying on the beach beside him, eyes soft with an emotion he hasn't been able to name until this past year.

"As of this past season, I will retire from figure skating."

The reaction is immediate. The reporters begin to talk over each other, standing up from their seats and shouting questions at him, a clamor of shock, indignation, and amazement. Viktor says nothing, instead holding up a hand until the room goes silent, the reporters slowly sitting down again, hands poised over their recorders, phones, and notebooks.

He lowers his hand, absently gripping the side of the podium. "I am certain that this is a shock to you. Why would I retire after winning gold at Worlds, the best of my career? Yet I have worried over this decision for months, and I ask for your patience in explaining my reasoning."

Viktor's smile softens. "I am not in the best shape anymore, physically. My right knee suffers from patellar tendonitis, which has flared up from time to time despite physical therapy. I have worked through this pain before, but my physician has advised me that my knee will deteriorate if I continue to train as I have before.

"In addition to my knee problems, I have a few other reasons for retiring. I am at a point in my career where I wish to advance to the next level. For me, that is not another competition, but a new job completely. It is my intention to step down as a skater and become an assistant coach under Yakov Feltsman's tutelage at the Sports Champions Club. In addition to assisting Yakov with his students, I will take one student to coach for the 2016-2017 season. That person has already agreed to sign with me.

"The most important reason for my retirement is something far more personal. In the past year, I have discovered something new and amazing, and I wish to share that with the world. That something... that person has changed me for the better, and I want to support him. I would like to focus my attention on that person and my dog Makkachin, who is growing older and needs me at her side."

Viktor falls silent for a moment, thinking of his darling dog, who has faithfully stayed with him all this time. He hopes she likes Hasetsu, and Yuuri and Vicchan. He cannot wait for them to meet.

He lifts his head and smiles at the cameras and the silent reporters. "My first and only student for the upcoming season will be Yuuri Katsuki of Japan. I hope that you will support my decision to retire and become a coach for Yuuri, who I believe will show you great things on the ice.

"Lastly, I want to extend my gratitude to every single one of my fans, sponsors, fellow skaters, and most of all, my coach Yakov. I would not have made it this far without any of you. Meeting my fans and hearing how I have inspired them has always given me great joy. All of you, from the tiny skaters who look up to me to my friends on the ice, are my reason for skating. Thank you all."

Viktor glances over at Yakov, who has a few tears in his eyes despite his frown. He winks, and something in Yakov's expression softens into a smile. Viktor turns back to the reporters. "I will have a farewell ice show in honor of my retirement, called Love on Ice, to take place this summer, and I hope that many of you will attend! Do not worry! I will continue to have ice shows and appear in television and modeling work, in between my work as a coach.

"I know this announcement will be hard for everyone, and not all of you will agree or approve. I want to assure you that I am happy with my decision. This will be a good change for me. I look forward to coaching Yuuri and learning all I can from Yakov. I hope you accept my decision. Thank you, everyone, for your support for all of my career."

Viktor bows his head and takes a deep breath. The room is silent, and he cannot bring himself to look at the faces of the people watching him, for fear of seeing the thousands behind the cameras. He doesn't want to see their disappointment or anger, their shock at his decision.

Yet he is startled when someone begins to clap. The noise is quickly echoed until the room is full of applause, the reporters and cameramen both standing, abandoning their devices and cheering for him. Viktor stares at the crowd, then looks over at Yakov in confusion. Yakov merely smiles and motions to the microphone.

Viktor turns back to the world with a smile, waiting for the applause to die down. "Thank you, everyone. Now, first question."

~*~

"I can't believe that reporter had the nerve to ask if we're dating."

"We are dating, Yuuri," Viktor says calmly, smiling as he wipes his face dry after washing up. Tonight was his first performance show of Love on Ice, and the show itself was quite exhilarating. While the program was not nearly as intense as most of his competitive skates, Viktor still worked hard for his fans.

The response to his retirement from the skating world has been overwhelmingly positive, though many of his fans have sent him messages with their disappointment and desire for him to come back to skating. Still, the vast majority have expressed their love and gratitude, many of them sending him presents at the rink, while more have posted video compilations of his skates. Still more have been analyzing Yuuri, who has received a great deal of attention since Viktor's announcement.

Viktor has been evasive on the subject of Yuuri, whenever reporters or fans have asked, only reiterating his decision to coach Yuuri. A few of his fellow skaters have asked if they are dating, but so far, the media has not cottoned onto that fact -- until tonight, anyway.

Yuuri makes a small noise. He called Viktor half an hour ago without their normal video chat, having stayed quiet for most of the day while Viktor focused on his ice show. Viktor has been happily talking his ear off about the show, as well as the reporter that cornered him after his ice show to ask about his retirement. Yuuri was not pleased about the invasive questions from the reporter.

"That's beside the point. It's none of their business."

"I know, love. Still on your walk?" Viktor asks. He needs to sleep soon, but he wants to stay on the phone with Yuuri for a bit longer.

"Yeah," Yuuri says, sounding a little breathless. Viktor hears a small chime in the background of the call. "Um, I might cut out for a minute."

"That is okay, Yuuri," Viktor replies. Yuuri must be walking through an area of low reception. "Do not worry about the reporters. We are not obligated to tell them anything about our relationship. They should be focusing on your career, not our personal lives."

"I suppose," Yuuri says doubtfully. "I mean, I'm used to it, but it's still annoying that they don't change."

Viktor chuckles. Now that he knows Yuuri's secret, their conversations have been a lot easier in many ways, and more difficult in others. Yet when Yuuri drops little hints of his other life like this, Viktor cannot help but feel exhilarated.

"Reporters never change, my dear. Now, as much as I wish to keep talking to you, I must sleep soon. I still need to finish packing a few things before my flight tomorrow."

"About that..."

The doorbell rings, and Viktor frowns, leaning away from the mirror. "I wonder who that could be. I didn't order anything."

"Why don't you answer it?" Yuuri says. Viktor sighs and stands up, tossing the towel into the laundry and picking up the phone, turning the speakerphone off to keep his call private. He walks through the apartment, wondering who it could be at this time of night, and pauses in front of the door to unlock it. Makkachin follows him, her tail wagging with interest.

"Hold on, Yuuri, I'm answering the door."

Yuuri makes a noise in acknowledgement, and Viktor hears an identical soft hum on the other side of the door. His nerves prickle when his hand nears the doorknob. He knows that voice.

"Yuuri," Viktor says slowly. Yuuri has been awfully quiet on the topic of St. Petersburg lately. He was also very quiet today, not sending Viktor any messages until an hour ago, which was ten o'clock. Thinking back, Viktor thinks the last message before that must have been at about six this morning.

About fourteen hours. Long enough for a trip by airplane between St. Petersburg and Fukuoka, Japan.

He didn't...

"Open the door, Viktor."

Viktor grips the doorknob tightly, then pulls the door open, staring blankly at the man standing in his doorway. Yuuri lifts his head, smiling a little as he meets Viktor's eyes. He has a large suitcase behind him, and a small cloth carrier on the floor by his feet. As Viktor stares, Yuuri lowers the phone from his ear and ends the call between them, sliding the phone into his pocket. Viktor does not move, even as the phone by his ear goes silent.

"Hello, Viktor."

"You cannot be here," Viktor breathes. "You're supposed to be in Japan."

Yuuri's smile fades, but he does not look away from Viktor. "I know. Can I come in? I'd like to have this conversation inside, and I need to check on Vicchan."

Vicchan. Viktor's eyes dart down to the pet carrier, noticing little brown paws beyond the mesh. He takes a deep breath, holding in his first reaction of anger, and steps aside, only to watch as Makkachin rushes forward, bowling Yuuri over and landing on his chest with a happy bark. Yuuri goes down with a shout, and from the carrier, Viktor can hear Vicchan's tiny yips of confusion at his master's yelp.

Viktor covers his face for a minute, then takes a deep breath to fortify himself. Then he reaches down to grab Makkachin's collar, gently hauling her off Yuuri. She whines and strains against his grip for a second, trying to lick Yuuri's face more, but Viktor pushes her into the apartment and offers Yuuri a hand.

Yuuri's face is glowing with a smile as he reaches up to take Viktor's hand. The expression fades a bit when he looks up at Viktor, but he seems too happy, his gaze moving to Makkachin quickly and softening. Viktor steps aside so that Yuuri can walk inside, his carrier in hand, then grabs the suitcase and pulls it in after them.

He does not mean to slam the door. Well, perhaps he does. He is angry. He is angrier than he has ever felt in his life, and he has no outlet for that anger. His fury is unknown; Viktor's temper is long and slow, and rarely has he ever lost it.

Yet Yuuri has pushed him to his limit, and fast. Viktor isn't sure how he feels about that.

He puts it aside to focus on Yuuri, who has knelt down to open Vicchan's carrier, while Makkachin sniffs around him. As Viktor watches Yuuri coax Vicchan out to meet Makkachin, who is all but dancing in excitement, something cold fills his chest. He acknowledges the warmth of the scene in front of him, of Makkachin and Vicchan cautiously sniffing each other, but he cannot draw happiness from it.

Yuuri is in St. Petersburg. Yuuri lied to him. He put himself in danger, and for what? To prove something? To show Viktor up? To protect Viktor's career? Nothing is worth Yuuri's life. The arguments build inside him, ready to lash out at Yuuri, his fury reaching a height Viktor has never seen before.

Yuuri must have driven over the Neva to reach the apartment. Viktor's gaze sharpens. Yuuri has one hand hanging at his side while he watches Vicchan and Makkachin, and when Viktor looks closely, he can see Yuuri's fingers trembling. Yuuri's face is a little pale, his gaze darker than normal.

The fury inside Viktor abruptly drains, leaving him exhausted.

They can fight about this later. He needs to take care of Yuuri.

Silently, Viktor crosses the room and kneels down beside Yuuri, pulling him into a tight embrace. Yuuri goes stiff in his arms, and this close, Viktor can feel him shaking. His heart aches, wondering how Yuuri must have felt to cross that river, to build up the courage to come to this haunting place despite every one of his fears telling him to stay in Japan.

"I have you," Viktor murmurs, and Yuuri lets out a little sob. His hands come up to grip Viktor's shirt, and Viktor sighs softly, reaching up to cup the back of Yuuri's head and stroking his hair.

Half an hour later, the dogs are fed and settled. In silent agreement, they leave Vicchan and Makkachin to sleep in the living room, while Viktor escorts Yuuri past the boxes in the hallway to his bedroom. Yuuri sits down on the end of the bed, his gaze on his hands, while Viktor stands by the window, his arms crossed.

"I know you're mad."

"I am," Viktor agrees quietly. His fury upon seeing Yuuri left him scorched, and he still does not feel calm. He wonders if he will ever feel calm again, knowing that Yuuri is so close to the Neva. "Mostly I am in shock. I did not expect you here at all."

"I didn't want to tell you," Yuuri tells his lap. "I planned it out ages ago. I know... I should have talked it over with you --"

"Yes, you should have." Viktor is surprised at his own voice, at how flat it sounds.

Yuuri flinches, then squares his shoulders. "I'm sorry for deceiving you."

"It is no matter, Yuuri. What is done is done. I will buy your ticket back to Hasetsu tomorrow --"

"I'm not going back," Yuuri interrupts, finally lifting his head. His eyes are bright with determination and an echo of fear. "I'm staying here with you. This is important to me, Viktor. Being here with you, training here with you, it's very important to me. It's not fair that you decided we should stay in Hasetsu without listening to my side. Please, can't we talk about it? I'll, I'll pay for your flight cancellation tomorrow, we can figure it out together -- just please don't send me back without even talking to me!"

Viktor stays silent for a long moment, before crossing the room and kneeling down in front of Yuuri. He leans forward with a heavy sigh, resting his forehead on Yuuri's thighs, the tension draining out of him. They sit together like that for a few moments, before Yuuri rests a hand on Viktor's head, petting his hair gently.

"Having you here is like every one of my nightmares coming true," Viktor murmurs, hearing Yuuri suck in a breath of shock. "All I can see is you falling into the water. What if I cannot protect you? I will not be able to live with myself if you get hurt."

"I'm sorry," Yuuri whispers, a tremble to his voice. "I just... I wanted you to listen to me. I wanted us to talk this over and figure out a good solution. But you wouldn't even listen to me. I guess it made me mad..."

Viktor exhales softly, turning those words over. He had not listened to Yuuri. He had barely entertained the possibility of coaching Yuuri in St. Petersburg upon learning the truth. Yet part of him knew that it was a possibility -- or else he would not have cleared out his second room and turned it into a bedroom. He would not have looked up driving laws in the city. He would not have held off on telling Yakov about his decision.

He knew this might happen, and that is what he hates most of all. He lifts his head after a moment, looking up and aching at the sight of Yuuri's misery.

"Why not Hasetsu?" Viktor asks, meeting Yuuri's eyes.

"Because this is the home we were going to make together," Yuuri whispers. His eyes are wet, and the pain in his voice makes Viktor want to hold him again. "Because I really like it here. I like it in Hasetsu, too... but Hasetsu is only home because you are my home. And I want to have that with you here. I don't... I don't want to be afraid any longer."

Viktor closes his eyes briefly, thinking of Yuuri's journal, of the pages and pages of fears and dreams and hopes. His expression hardens, and he hears a soft inhalation of breath, as if Yuuri is fortifying himself against whatever Viktor has to say. Viktor opens his eyes and pushes himself up, closing the space between them with a kiss.

Yuuri gasps a little, hands flying to grip Viktor's shoulders. Viktor continues to move, pushing Yuuri back against the bed, one leg between Yuuri's as he pushes him upwards a little. Yuuri arches into him, the air between them turning hot as Viktor slides his tongue into Yuuri's mouth, tasting him. The kiss is not out of passion, nor lust, but a need that Viktor cannot express, something deep within him that he cannot put into words.

He does not want Yuuri to be afraid any longer, either. He does not agree that St. Petersburg will be safe, even if the accident is months away, but... he cannot deny Yuuri, even if having Yuuri here makes him unhappy. Yet he would do anything to keep Yuuri safe, to make him happy.

If that means giving up Hasetsu, then so be it. As long as Viktor can keep Yuuri away from the Neva, he can protect him.

Viktor draws away slowly, opening his eyes halfway to admire the beautiful flush on Yuuri's face, the way his glasses have fogged up. He gently picks the glasses off Yuuri's face, smiling a little at the way Yuuri's eyes fasten onto him. Yuuri's lips are pink and flushed, a rare sight indeed, one that Viktor cannot help but admire.

"If home is where I am, then you will not mind if we move, will you?" Viktor murmurs.

Yuuri stares up at him, before his face lights up. "You mean...?"

Viktor sits up, exhaling hard. "I am not happy about you being here. But I understand that the future is not set in stone, and that this is important to you. I read your journal, and... it helped me understand your feelings."

"Viktor..."

"I am sorry for having made the decision without listening to you," Viktor says quietly. "I want us to be equal in everything we do together, including our decisions. I will... try to listen. But I ask that, if you are to stay here, that you make a few concessions as well."

"Okay," Yuuri agrees, a little breathlessly. "What kinds of concessions?"

"First, I want to drive you everywhere," Viktor says with certainty. Yuuri nods, much to his relief. "I have a car, and as your coach, I am happy to take you anywhere you need to go."

"Right, the Cadillac," Yuuri mumbles, which makes Viktor smile.

"Ah, you know of it? It is the best car, truly." At Yuuri's doubtful look, Viktor lets out a short laugh, before his amusement fades. "The second concession is that, if at any point you change your mind, or you feel uncomfortable, I want you to tell me. If I feel like this place is hurting you, I wish to take you back to Hasetsu. We can train there. I do not care if it ruins everything with Yakov and the world. You are more important to me. Please... if your nightmares get worse, or if you suffer in any other way, tell me."

Yuuri takes a long moment to digest that, then slowly nods. "I'll tell you if things get worse. But I still want to try. Can we at least talk things out before you take me back?"

Viktor nods once. "Fine, we can talk about things if it comes to that. Thank you. Lastly, I want to limit your exposure to the waterfront. Since I have to travel over the Tuchkov Bridge every day to reach the skating club, I think it would be better if we moved across the river, closer to the rink. Are you very attached to this apartment?"

Yuuri glances past Viktor, looking around the room with a small smile. "Well... it is where we lived together. But I meant what I said. About... you being my home," he says, his cheeks darkening. Viktor smiles softly.

"Good. Those three are the most important. Anything else, I will discuss with you when it comes up." Viktor sighs to himself, realizing that if he is to stay in St. Petersburg, then Yuuri will get to work with Yakov and the full training staff of the rink. He had meant to arrange things when he got to Japan, but if they will stay here... well. He supposes that makes it easier, at least.

He has no intention of letting the matter rest, though. Something needs to be done about the Neva.

"I agree to all of that. Thanks... for listening to me, Viktor. Um... can you let me up?" Yuuri asks with a blush. Viktor blinks, then smiles slowly.

"Hmm... should I?"

"Viktor!" Yuuri whines, which makes Viktor laugh. He steps back and helps Yuuri sit up, then strokes his fingers over Yuuri's cheek affectionately, leaning down to kiss his forehead.

"I will not lie... I am still very, very upset with you. But I am happy to see you, my Yuuri. You are incredibly brave for traveling all this way alone. Please... from now on, let me be at your side, always."

"That sounds like a proposal," Yuuri says weakly, leaning into Viktor's hand.

Viktor smiles and says nothing. He remembers the ring that was on Yuuri's finger in his dream.

'We were going to get married -- married! Me, marrying Viktor Nikiforov. He promised we would marry after I won five gold medals to match him. Viktor, my inspiration... my love, my life, my fiancé.'

It might as well be, at this point.

"Come here," Viktor says quietly, drawing Yuuri to his feet. He opens the door silently and steps down the hallway to the other bedroom, bracing himself before pushing open the door. Inside is the bed he bought over a week ago, along with a matching wardrobe and a few relaxing abstract art pieces in soft grays -- no rivers or oceans in sight. Viktor steps aside for Yuuri to look at the room, oddly nervous.

For a few moments, Yuuri only stares, his eyes wide. Viktor waits for his reaction.

"You put a bed in here," Yuuri says faintly. "But... you were going to come to Hasetsu..."

"I think part of me wanted to prepare for all eventualities. I wanted you to have a safe space, if by some chance you did end up in St. Petersburg, or if we survived this mess and you came to stay here later. But... yes. As long as you stay with me, this will be yours. Well, at least until we move, but I'll make sure to get an apartment with two bedro--"

Viktor is cut off when Yuuri's arms wrap around him, soft lips pressing against his mouth for a moment before Yuuri pulls away, smiling at him sheepishly. Viktor softens, wrapping his arms around Yuuri's waist and leaning in to kiss him again, taking it more slowly, loving the feeling of having Yuuri in his arms. He ached for Yuuri these past two weeks, and having him here is a wonder. Even though this is not what he planned, Viktor is still happy to see Yuuri, to be able to love him openly.

Having Yuuri in St. Petersburg is terrifying. Having Yuuri in his arms gives him hope for the future.

"Thank you," Yuuri whispers, rubbing his nose against Viktor's as he pulls away, just a little bit. Viktor gazes at his long eyelashes, his heart light despite the anxiety churning in his gut. He can believe, just a little, that they will be okay. That Yuuri will be okay.

He cannot let it be anything but okay. He will do whatever it takes.

"Whatever happens, Yuuri, I will protect you," Viktor promises. The vow is something he has said before, something he thinks many times a day, but it rings with something more this time. Yuuri shivers in his arms, falling silent for a moment. Viktor thinks of how Yuuri trembled even after he reached Viktor's apartment, reached home, how the Neva haunts him from here -- how it will always haunt him.

"I'm afraid," Yuuri whispers. Viktor closes his eyes, his resolve hardening. "I'm so tired of being afraid. Of fearing this, of fearing a future where you and I can be together. I want it so badly."

"I'm sorry," Viktor murmurs, his grip tightening on Yuuri. "When it comes to you, I cannot stop myself anymore. If you must be afraid, then know that I am afraid, too. I am frightened of the intensity of my feelings for you."

Yuuri lifts his head, meeting Viktor's eyes, scarcely a breath away. "I've never been afraid of my feelings for you. Everything I've done, I've done for you. I love you."

"I love you, too, Yuuri," Viktor murmurs, closing the distance between them once more.

Whatever it takes.

~*~

Viktor awakens when the door opens, though he does not realize what is happening until a cold hand slips into his grip, holding onto him tightly.

"Viktor," Yuuri whispers. The strain in his voice makes Viktor push himself up, opening his eyes to see Yuuri standing beside his bed in a t-shirt and shorts, pale and trembling. Wordlessly, Viktor opens his arms.

Yuuri lets out a faint noise and moves forward, crawling into Viktor's arms and pressing in close, not caring or even noticing that Viktor is shirtless, only seeking warmth and comfort. Viktor hugs him close, tucking Yuuri's head against his neck and murmuring soothingly, before gently laying them both down and pulling the covers up over Yuuri's shoulders.

Yuuri is crying softly against his neck, the tears dampening his skin. Viktor gazes past his head at the window, silently hating that cursed river. He rubs Yuuri's back until the trembling fades and the tears stop. The silence between them lasts long enough that Viktor thinks Yuuri must have fallen asleep, until Yuuri speaks.

"I d-dreamed of standing next to it. I couldn't move, and the w-water was getting closer..."

"It was just a dream," Viktor whispers. "You were traumatized by what happened, and your mind is creating images to help you sort through those fears. Coming here... ah, I wish you had told me you were coming, so I could have met you at the airport. I would have driven you here myself."

"You would have put me back on the plane," Yuuri says with a faint, wet laugh. Viktor cannot deny the words. "It's... it's okay. I know it was just a dream... I'm just... I'm afraid of it taking me again. I mean, I still don't know how I came back... if it was because of the river, or..."

"We may never understand what brought you back. Yet here you are... and here you will stay, with me. I will not let you die again, Yuuri." Yuuri flinches against him, and Viktor exhales softly, turning his head to kiss Yuuri's hair. Yuuri no longer feels cold. "Just say the word, and we will go back to Hasetsu."

"Not yet," Yuuri whispers, and Viktor lets it rest. He wonders briefly if Yuuri should return to his own room... yet he cannot bring himself to suggest it. He does not want to let Yuuri out of his sight, nor the safety of his arms. Just for now... just for tonight, it would be alright if they stay together.

"Rest, solnyshko," Viktor whispers. "I am here. I will always be here."

Yuuri does not reply, but soon his body relaxes, as he eases into slumber. Viktor does not sleep for a long time afterward, gazing out the window, wondering if this is truly the right decision, to stay in St. Petersburg.

What else can he do to protect Yuuri?

~*~

With great reluctance, Viktor cancels all of the flights he booked to Hasetsu. Yuuri winces at the cancellation fees, but Viktor assures him that the price is no trouble, refusing to let Yuuri pay him back. He throws all of his energy into getting Yuuri and Vicchan settled, arranging for groceries to be sent to the apartment, and finding a new place for them to live together.

Yuuri does not have any more nightmares; at least, none that he tells Viktor about. If he sneaks into Viktor's bed more often than not during the week, Viktor says nothing about it, merely pulling him close every time. It feels strange, sleeping beside someone who is not Makkachin, but somehow Yuuri feels like home when no one else ever has.

To his joy, Makkachin loves Yuuri and Vicchan. She spends most of her time sitting happily at Yuuri's feet, snoozing on his bed, or urging Vicchan to play. Vicchan, who has to take medication every day, tires much more easily than Makkachin, but she is perfectly content to lay on the floor with him in the sun, while Viktor and Yuuri work on packing together. Viktor notices Yuuri watching the dogs sometimes, a melancholy smile on his face.

He knows why. Vicchan never knew Makkachin or Viktor, in Yuuri's other future.

Hunting for an apartment takes much less time than Viktor expected, partly because of his name, and partly because one of his rinkmates found out he was looking and told him about a place. Their new apartment is on the other side of the Neva and close enough to the skating club that he and Yuuri can jog to practice if they want, with a nicely sized grocery store nearby.

The apartment is still too close to the waterfront for Viktor's peace of mind, but then again, all of St. Petersburg is too close, because several rivers wind through the city to the sea. Viktor pays the deposit immediately, then sets up an appointment with a company to move everything.

Yuuri's family forwards a few boxes of Yuuri's belongings, which Viktor directs to their new apartment. In the week after Yuuri's arrival, the two of them spend most of their time moving, packing, and unpacking, until at last, Viktor and Yuuri stand alone in their new living room.

Their new home.

The apartment is one of the new high rises with a park just down the street. Viktor lucked out on one of the corner apartments on an upper floor, which afforded them a lovely balcony. The hardwood floors gleam, while the large windows reveal the late afternoon sun. Makkachin is been nosing around the kitchen, where Viktor left her and Vicchan's water bowls, and boxes sit stacked against the wall, some emptied of their contents while others remain full. Vicchan is snoozing on the couch, tired after the long day.

The couch does not look quite right in this warm, brightly lit space, compared to the cold, narrow walls of Viktor's old home. The table only looks marginally more familiar, with two half empty cups of tea resting on top.

Yuuri's hand slips into his, clasping his fingers. "Does it feel as weird to you as it does to me?" Yuuri asks softly.

Viktor exhales. The apartment is different, to be certain. More spacious, with a bigger living room and an office space for them to share. They still have much to do, more unpacking and decorating, grocery shopping, among other things. Viktor needs to change his address with his bank and his various business contacts. Yet all of that will fall into place. What matters is that he and Yuuri have a new home together.

Perhaps too fast a step in their relationship, yet... Viktor feels like this moment has been a long time in coming. Between their dreams and his feelings, he cannot imagine living with Yuuri any other way. Even the idea of living in Yuutopia with Yuuri's family, as kind as they are, does not compare to the reality of having their own space, together.

"I think it will be just right. Do you like the view from your room?"

"It's nice. I think I'll be able to see the sunset most days," Yuuri says, his hand tightening on Viktor's. "It's different than the other place... but that's okay. I like it."

"Shall we go put the linens on your bed?" Viktor offers after a moment.

"I was thinking of staying with you tonight," Yuuri says in a rush. Viktor looks over at him to see Yuuri's cheeks turn pink. "Not to do anything. Just... it's our first night in our new place..."

Viktor smiles slowly, squeezing Yuuri's hand reassuringly. "I would like that very much, Yuuri. Shall we go put the linens on my bed, then?" he offers teasingly, and Yuuri gives him a look, opening his mouth to scold him.

Viktor leans in for a kiss before Yuuri can try. The setting sun is warm on his face, Yuuri's lips taste like his favorite blend of tea, and the world seems a little safer in this place, this space just for them.

~*~

"Sign here, and here," Yakov says, pointing at the papers on the desk. Yuuri signs carefully, while Viktor watches in silence. After the ink has dried, Yakov makes several copies and hands them over in manilla folders to Viktor and Yuuri, a smile on his face.

"Welcome to my skating rink, Yuuri Katsuki. You don't mind if I call you Katsuki from time to time, right? We have another Yuri on the team, so it might get confusing."

"I don't mind, Coach Feltsman," Yuuri says with a small smile, standing to shake Yakov's hand. Viktor stands beside him, beaming with pride. His first student!

"Yakov is fine. I will call you Yuuri when it is just us and Vitya. Many of us speak English here, but if you need help learning Russian, we get a discount at one of the local colleges for classes."

"I speak some," Yuuri tells him in Russian, his pronunciation careful, his cheeks turning a little pink. "I studied it in college."

Yakov's eyes widen, and he looks very pleased. Viktor winks at Yakov, who immediately loses his smile and frowns at him, which leads Viktor to believe they should relocate to the rink.

"How about I show you around, Yuuri? We can introduce you to your rinkmates, too. If you are done, Yakov...?"

"Go on, take him," Yakov sighs, sitting down again and waving a hand. "I need to go over the training schedule you submitted. I want you back in here after lunch, Vitya. We have a lot of work to do."

"Yes, Yakov," Viktor all but sings, pushing Yuuri out the door quickly. He keeps his hands to himself while they walk through the Sports Champions Club, despite wanting to take Yuuri's hand. He prefers to hold himself to a professional standard when they are in the club, though, to keep everything proper. Yakov had already lectured him about being too affectionate as a coach, though Viktor had mostly tuned him out.

He leads Yuuri around, pointing out his new office, the different training rooms, the cafeteria and the nutritionist's office, and the dance studios. Yuuri follows contentedly without looking lost, and as they move closer to the rink, Viktor realizes that Yuuri trained here for a little while in his other future.

"I apologize, I forgot that..."

"It's fine, Viktor," Yuuri says, giving him a smile. "It's mostly the same, but it's nice to get a refresher. Please don't hold back on telling me everything."

"Alright. Well, the last place to show you is the rink, of course. Today is everyone's first day back from vacation, so they will all be excited to meet you. Sadly, we share the rink with the local hockey team, but they tend to practice in the evenings and on weekends, because many of them are in school..."

Viktor tries to keep his disdain out of his voice. He has never approved of the hockey team, nor do they approve of him. The years of mutual dislike have left their mark, with many members of the skating club openly jeering the hockey team, while others completely ignore them. Shaking his head at Yuuri's smile, Viktor walks ahead of Yuuri and pushes the door leading to the rink, holding it open for Yuuri.

"Viktor!" someone calls, and Viktor turns to see Mila Babicheva and one of her friends skating toward them, their eyes lighting up when they see Yuuri. Beyond them, Georgi Popovich and Yuri Plisetsky turn and stare. Yuri's expression instantly darkens, but Viktor pays him no mind.

"Come over! Let me introduce you," Viktor says with a smile. "My new student, Yuuri Katsuki."

While Yuuri introduces himself, Georgi and Mila both taking up the space at the rink wall while other members of the club crowd behind them, Viktor watches in satisfaction. He does not notice until too late that Yuri has snuck up behind him, until a small hand grabs his elbow and yanks him backwards. Viktor turns to see Yuri glaring at him, and he obligingly steps away from the small crowd around Yuuri, to give them some privacy.

"What the hell, Viktor?" Yuri hisses in Russian. Viktor observes his fury for a moment, wondering where this anger came from. He thought Yuri liked Yuuri. "Why did you bring him here?"

"You knew I was going to coach him," Viktor says evenly. As if someone like Yuri had missed the announcement.

"I know, but --!" Yuri makes an angry gesture, then pushes his hair out of his face. "It's not fair! I should be your student, not him!"

Viktor raises an eyebrow slowly, watching as Yuri flushes and covers his mouth after shouting. He hopes that Yuuri is not listening. "I never made such an agreement with you, Yuri. You have never once expressed a desire to become my student. As it is, Yakov is your coach, not me. I'll certainly assist you during practice, but --"

"No. Drop him and be my coach. Send him back to Japan."

Viktor's gaze goes cold, and he is gratified to see Yuri flinch. "No. He's here to stay. What is this about, Yuri? I thought you looked up to him."

"Shut up!"

Viktor waits patiently for an explanation, while Yuri stews in his anger. He is rewarded when the boy glances past Viktor and crosses his arms again.

"You promised me, and you forgot," Yuri bites out grudgingly. Viktor raises an eyebrow in question, and Yuri exhales explosively. "A program. You promised me a program for when I entered seniors. You're good at them. I thought, if you were ever going to retire, I'd ask you to be my coach. But then he snatched you up --"

"First of all, there was no snatching. I asked him first," Viktor says evenly, sighing when Yuri just gawks at him. "Second of all, I don't remember having promised you a skate, but if I did, I'll certainly take care of it. Now, you need to be polite to Yuuri. He will sense this needless antagonism, and it will not be good for the team if you act like he should not be here."

"He shouldn't," Yuri mutters. "You stole him -- I mean, he came here to steal you --"

Ah... it makes sense now.

He had forgotten about Yuri's little crush. After all, Yuri had been the person to make Viktor notice Yuuri, so he supposes he does owe Yuri for that, at least. He does, vaguely, recall speaking to Yuri after a juniors competition, where he promised something or other... but that had been ages ago, and he had been preoccupied with his dreams and plans to retire.

He sighs, wondering what sort of program he could give to Yuri that would appease him enough to leave Yuuri alone. If he remembers correctly, On Love: Eros had a companion piece.

He fixes Yuri with a look and lowers his voice. "I will take care of your program. In the meantime, do not treat Yuuri badly for my choices. You can hate me all you want for bringing him here, but I have my own reasons for it. Yuuri is someone I want to protect, and I will not let anyone stand in my way. Even you, Yuri Plisetsky."

Yuri stares up at him, his hands slowly closing into fists, his expression darkening with some sort of rage. Viktor holds his stare evenly, wondering at this boy who gets so wound up over Yuuri, yet hardly knows him. As long as Yuri keeps his foul opinions to himself, then Viktor will have no reason to argue with him. Yuuri's mental health is far more important than Yuri Plisetsky's pride.

"Viktor?"

Viktor turns with a smile to see Yuuri making his way over, ignoring the way Yuri tenses. "Ah, solnyshko, I was just speaking with Yuri about training. Did you meet everyone?"

"I think so," Yuuri says, looking a little frazzled. His expression lights up at seeing Yuri. "Hello, Yurio! It's nice to see you again. I look forward to training beside you."

Viktor gives Yuri a sharp glance, but thankfully, Yuri behaves, hiding away his anger and giving Yuuri a stiff nod. "You too. I'm going back to practice." Yuri turns abruptly and hurries away to the rink, all but ripping off his skate guards and throwing himself onto the ice. Viktor watches him go with a small frown, then hears a sigh from Yuuri and glances over.

"I was afraid of that," Yuuri says quietly.

"Hm?"

Yuuri turns away from the rink, shrugging and crossing his arms to ward off the cold. "Yurio wasn't happy that you were my coach last time. He even came to Hasetsu to argue about it."

"Right. That short program challenge. Onsen on Ice, correct?" Viktor remembers the competition in his dream clearly. The desire for Yuuri to win, to defeat Yuri Plisetsky and become his student, to skate for him. Yuuri nods slightly, and Viktor puts one hand on his shoulder and leads him away from the rink, into a warmer part of the building.

They walk in silence for a moment, Viktor leading the way to his office, before letting Yuuri in and closing the door. The office was a gift from Yakov after his retirement announcement, and Viktor finally decorated the space this past week. The window looks over the same courtyard that Yakov's office does, being right next door, and while it might be a bit smaller, Viktor can't help the swell of pride at this space being his.

He would have given it up in an instant for Yuuri. At least here, they have a small space where they can speak privately, particularly about any problems Yuuri might have that Yakov will not understand or be able to handle.

"I can always arrange another challenge between you," Viktor says, half-joking, but the look of consideration on Yuuri's face surprises him.

"That might not be a bad idea. Yurio is... someone who only accepts facts through wins and losses. I don't think he'll respect me or my place here unless I give him something absolute."

Viktor smiles a little, amused at Yuuri's insight to a boy who regularly irritates everyone in the rink, while missing the most obvious part of Yuri's psyche. "You might be right about that. I think his lack of respect has more to do with the fact that you are here in part as my boyfriend, and he hates me for it."

Yuuri blinks once, then lifts his head and stares blankly. "What?"

Viktor raises an eyebrow, then winces slightly at revealing Yuri's secret without even thinking about it. He sighs deeply. "Yuuri... Yuri Plisetsky's crush on you is an open secret, here. He is likely overjoyed that you are skating at his rink, but because I am involved, he is jealous. He never did respect me," Viktor muses, then shakes his head.

"In any case, I can speak with Yakov about a possible competition between the members of the club. Perhaps the winner can star in the next ice show."

"That sounds great," Yuuri says weakly, then rubs his hand over his mouth. "Yurio... likes me? Really? I never realized... I mean, he's always been so antagonistic..."

Viktor chuckles and walks around the desk, leaning his hip against it and patting Yuuri's hair, absently stroking his fingers through the messy black locks. "He has always looked up to you. He enjoyed watching your videos and complaining about the scores the judges gave you. Then he would try to imitate your step sequences and jumps. That is how you caught my attention, by the way. I looked you up and quickly became even more enamoured than young Yuri is."

Yuuri lifts his head, staring at him with wide eyes. "That's... how you noticed me?"

"Mm. You didn't realize, did you?" Viktor asks softly. Yuuri shakes his head mutely, and Viktor chuckles, sliding his hand down to Yuuri's chin and tilting his face up. "My dear, you can be oblivious to other people, sometimes."

Yuuri flushes a little, then stands and wraps his arms around Viktor, hiding his face in his shoulder. Viktor smiles and pulls him close, Yuuri standing between the vee of his legs, rubbing his back slowly. Yuuri breathes out and nuzzles into his arms, fitting against him like he has always belonged

"Are you alright? Simply say the word, and I will book us tickets to Hasetsu."

"I'm fine," Yuuri murmurs. He turns his head and kisses Viktor's cheek lightly. "We don't need to go back to Hasetsu yet."

"Yet," Viktor repeats, then sighs softly, sliding his hand up Yuuri's back. He opens his eyes partway. "I am still mad at you, by the way. However, I will let you try and earn my forgiveness."

"I know," Yuuri whispers. Viktor wonders if he is smiling. Yuuri pulls back briefly and glances up at Viktor, making him realize just how long Yuuri's eyelashes are. To his amusement, Yuuri is quick to hide his small smile, instead putting on a solemn expression. "So... how much forgiveness is a kiss worth?"

Viktor pretends to consider it, touching one finger to his chin, while Yuuri gazes at him. He waits until Yuuri has started to frown, his lips twitching, then leans in to brush their noses together. "Just enough to be substantial, I think," he murmurs, their lips just barely touching.

The kiss Yuuri gives him is more than enough.