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APRIL


Victor hadn’t noticed it at first, but then again, he hadn’t noticed a lot of things during the initial whirlwind of his arrival in Hasetsu. He’d been feeling far too confused and dejected and out-of-place to do much more than put all of his energy into training Yuuri, hoping to wear out his own body and mind before he had time to rethink his spontaneous decision to fly to Japan.

Everything had been strange and unknown, a whirring buzz of unfamiliar sights and sounds and smells, so Victor was grateful to have Hasetsu’s Ice Castle. Once Victor set foot onto the ice there, it was just like being in an ice rink anywhere else, and he could almost forget he was in another country. The feeling of his blades upon the ice spoke to Victor the same way it always did, and the sound of them rang out crisp and clear, echoing throughout the rink and filling Victor with a rare moment of stability. The ice was always a comforting familiarity when everything else around him was so foreign, and even if Yuuri’s rejections stung, being on the ice still acted as a cooling salve on his hurt feelings. The ice was something Victor had mastered long ago, something he understood inside and out, something that rarely surprised him these days.

Yuuri wasn’t like the ice, dependable and predictable.

Yuuri was different.

Yuuri’s verbal responses often came as a panicked “no” even though his eyes said a definitive “yes” as they darted over Victor’s body with undeniable hunger in the onsen when he thought Victor wasn’t looking. Yuuri had asked Victor to come coach him, and then he acted almost offended when Victor followed through and showed up. It felt like there was no rhyme or reason when it came to Yuuri, who’d seduced Victor during one of the best nights of Victor’s life and then gone on to spur Victor’s (fairly mild, if he said so himself) advances like they were totally unexpected and uncalled for. Victor often found himself looking through photos of the banquet on his phone when he lay in bed at night, wondering where he’d gone wrong. It felt like aiming for a quad and flubbing the landing spectacularly with Yuuri, with the shock of the impact of Yuuri’s words and actions shaking him to the core.

No, the language of skating was so much easier to understand--it couldn’t be misconstrued or muddied by any words, couldn’t be tainted by doubts or turned upside down by a fickle, beautiful boy--and so Victor decided to comfort himself in it.

It was only after Hasetsu on Ice ended that Yuuri finally started to relax, and Victor started to notice more things. More of the language of Yuuri’s life started to become comprehensible in the same way that bits and pieces of Japanese trickled into Victor’s vocabulary, changing into something meaningful. There were things like what a particular frown on Yuuri’s face meant, what story was told in the crease of his brow. How to tell when Yuuri’s stubborn insistence that he was fine and could keep going was, in fact, not fine at all. The fact that Yuuri’s swift rejections came from a panicked, instinctive response and didn’t have any real vitriol or intent behind them. How a certain soft smile seemed reserved just for Victor.

The way Yuuri would roll up the cuffs on his pants before they went out, leaving his ankles exposed.

It had seemed a curious thing, but Victor didn’t think much of it at first. Yuuri wasn’t exactly fashion-forward, so Victor could only assume that Yuuri bought some pants that were too long and never had them tailored, choosing instead to roll his pant legs up to an acceptable length every time he put them on. Victor felt a bit sorry for Yuuri, but he decided to let it go.

It never stopped, though. Day after day, Victor saw an endless stream of pants getting meticulously rolled up with each departure from Yutopia, and Victor started to feel like he was stuck in an alternate dimension where the absurd suddenly became everyday behaviour. Yuuri would leave his track pants alone, but jeans and khakis and slacks and sweatpants alike were all fair game for getting rolled up. It didn’t happen every day or with every pair of pants, but it happened often enough that it was clearly a habit of Yuuri’s.

Eventually, it came to a point where Victor couldn’t take it anymore. Yuuri deserved to have pants that fit, deserved to break out of this bizarre cycle he was clearly trapped in.

Victor needed to step in and save Yuuri from himself.

If Victor had spoken more Japanese than basic greetings, the names of his favorite foods, and some choice but inappropriate phrases the triplets had taught him, he would’ve sneaked off with Yuuri’s pants to have them hemmed, then secretly returned them. Unfortunately, since Victor’s main forms of communication in Hasetsu at this point were limited to wild gestures and exaggerated facial expressions, this left him with only one option, and that option might have been more difficult than somehow finding a tailor and getting them to secretly adjust all of Yuuri’s pants: Victor needed to take Yuuri shopping.

It took a carefully schemed and flawlessly executed plan to get Yuuri into a shopping mall on one of his rest days, but once Yuuri was stuck there, he seemed resigned to his fate and faithfully followed Victor around from store to store like a dejected puppy. Since Victor loved shopping to begin with, it wasn’t hard to do some shopping for himself first so Yuuri wouldn’t get overly suspicious when Victor suddenly suggested that Yuuri should try on some clothes, too.

It was only after a fair amount of pouting, pleading, poking, and prodding that Yuuri relented and accepted an armful of various pants that Victor swiped up for him to try on. When Yuuri finally emerged from the dressing room several efforts later in a perfect pair of jeans that hugged the curve of his ass like a second skin, accentuated those beautiful thighs, and tapered down tastefully to end right where they were supposed to, Victor knew his efforts had been worth it.

Victor had a selfish moment of weakness immediately after where he realized that Yuuri looked so mouth-watering it might not be a good idea to let everyone else see Yuuri like that, but he strengthened his resolve and reminded himself this was all for Yuuri’s sake. All for Yuuri’s ankles.

When Yuuri changed back into his street clothes and emerged again, Victor plucked the pants out of his hands and made a beeline for the register, ignoring Yuuri’s protests. “You can make it up to me by translating the menu for me at this restaurant I’ve been wanting to go to!” Victor said breezily, and he didn’t even have to resort to using his backup plan of somehow turning the act of buying pants for Yuuri into a demand as his coach.

With that accomplished, Victor waited. When most people got new clothes, they’d be eager to wear them as soon as possible, but Yuuri apparently operated under a different internal schedule, rotating through his usual collection of drab, earthy colors without any change. Victor barely contained himself for a week until the new jeans finally came into play, and when they did, oh, they looked just as good as they had in the store.

Victor realized that the sight was too beautiful to keep to himself, really, and it was only fair to let the rest of Hasetsu have a glimpse of Yuuri’s beautiful behind. He made an excuse to drag Yuuri out and around town, and if anyone they ran into happened to be jealous of Victor for being the one accompanying Yuuri (even if it was only as his coach… for now), well, even better.

When they were getting ready to go outside, standing in Yutopia’s genkan, Victor watched as Yuuri sat down on the step there, grabbed his shoes, laced them up, and then carefully rolled up the bottom of his jeans.

His brand new, perfectly fitting jeans, which didn’t need to be rolled up. His brand new, perfectly fitting jeans, which were now leaving a small spanse of calf exposed in addition to his ankles.

Victor could only stare down at Yuuri’s feet in transfixed confusion as all of his previous theories were blown away, but when Yuuri interrupted his thoughts with a gentle “Victor?” and that particular soft smile, Victor forgot all about it.

For a while, anyway.


MAY


Victor hadn’t exactly done the most thorough of research before flying to Japan, so Japan’s rainy season came as a shock to him.

Victor loved chatting with locals about the weather because it was one of the few conversations he could hold in Japanese--if you could even call it a conversation, and he chose to call it that to preserve his pride. He’d picked up phrases for asking about the weather and the important words for answering: things like yuki, ame, hare, samui, atatakai, and kumori, which he’d happily parrot back at bemused locals.

He had a strange feeling of accomplishment whenever he happened to overhear a conversation about the weather and got the gist of what was being said, so when conversations suddenly changed from familiar territory into tsuyu tsuyu tsuyu over and over again, it had all sounded like some kind of mysterious chant, barely even words at that point.

Victor tried his best to piece it together from context and puzzle it out for himself, but he never figured out the meaning of the word from eavesdropping on conversations. After that, he tried to gauge the weather every now and then, point at the sky, and ask Yuuri, “Is this tsuyu?”

Yuuri would only laugh with a slight shake of his head and tell him, “Not yet, Victor,” which didn’t help much.

Victor perked up when the Katsukis had the news running on their TV and the weather report came on, but even with visuals, the meteorological map didn’t look any different than it had prior to suddenly becoming not-yet-tsuyu. Sunny days weren’t tsuyu. Rainy days weren’t tsuyu. Hot, cold, it didn’t matter. It wasn’t tsuyu yet.

Victor refused to look up the word in a dictionary, as he did with many Japanese words. He liked that moment of realization when something clicked naturally, when a word in Japanese suddenly shifted from being beautiful but incomprehensible syllables into something meaningful, purposeful, useful. Once he learned a new word, he would snatch it up and squirrel it away for use later, adding to his vocabulary bit by bit. And so he decided to bide his time and wait for tsuyu to be added to his collection.

When the weather changed from not-yet-tsuyu to tsuyu, Victor didn’t need to ask anymore.

Victor woke up one morning to the roar of rain pelting down on the roof of Yutopia, and when he peeked out the windows, he was half-certain he was trapped in the middle of a hurricane or a typhoon or a flood or some other kind of horrible natural disaster he was completely unfamiliar with and totally unprepared to deal with. When he went downstairs, however, Hiroko and Toshiya Katsuki were sitting calmly at one of the low tables in the main room eating their breakfast like nothing was wrong, like nature hadn’t suddenly turned its back on the beautiful town of Hasetsu to assault it with a torrential, windy downpour.

“Ah, Vicchan! Ohayou!” Hiroko waved him over to the table where breakfast for Victor was already set out at one of the empty seats.

“Hiroko, this is tsuyu, right?” Victor asked, pointing up at the ceiling.

Tsuyu ga hajimatta ne!” she replied with a nod.

Victor took it as a yes.

Tsuyu, apparently, was a rainy nightmare. On that first day of the rainy season, Yuuri asked Mari to give them a ride to Hasetsu Castle, telling Victor that even if they tried going outside with umbrellas, chances were good the umbrellas would just snap inside out instantaneously and be blown away into the streets. Victor was a little horrified at the thought, and he wondered if Yuuri might be exaggerating. He soon forgot about it, though, because Yuuri was walking over to grab his sneakers, still chatting away, and his pants were already rolled up at the bottom of each leg.

This was brand new. This was an escalation. This was bad.

Yuuri always rolled up his pant legs right before they went out. Victor knew this because he’d suffered through watching Yuuri do it day after day for over a month now, each time as baffled as the last. But now? Yuuri had shown up ready to go with his pant cuffs already rolled up, which he never did. What did it mean? It had to mean something, right? Was this, too, part of the mysterious tsuyu?

Victor fretted over the thought intermittently throughout the day’s practice, but he couldn’t figure it out, and the more he thought about it, the more of an enigma Yuuri seemed to him. Victor’s head was spinning from trying to understand the conundrum of Yuuri’s endless parade of exposed ankles. It was like something in a Lovecraftian horror, some terrifying, alien unknown that could drive a man to insanity just from glancing at it once, but Victor couldn’t stop himself from diving right in.

He wasn’t about to be distracted and thrown off of the mystery this time. Not even when he saw Yuuri’s beautiful smile and shout of triumph after a difficult jump went well, and he felt his heart melt a little bit. Not even when Yuuri’s Eros was a little too effective, and Victor had to excuse himself to the restroom, adjust himself, splash some cold water on his face, and give himself a pep talk in the bathroom mirror. Not even when Yuuri asked Victor to check his ankle after an awkward fall, and when Victor gently ran his hands over the arch of Yuuri’s bare foot, he glanced at Yuuri’s face to see Yuuri looking back in a way that was equal parts hesitant and enticing.

… OK.

So he got distracted and forgot about it, but who could blame him?

Victor remembered it the next morning, though, and he was ready to spot the exact pivotal moment Yuuri adjusted his routine.

He watched Yuuri like a hawk from the moment Yuuri shuffled downstairs for breakfast with a yawn, and they chatted for a bit over breakfast about their plans for training during the rainy season. Yuuri mumbled responses with his eyes still half-closed, looking like he might nod off again and faceplant into his miso soup at any moment, but Victor was ready for any potential disasters. He’d long since learned that Yuuri was half-conscious at best in the mornings, so he was ready to swipe any kitchenware out of harm’s way should his sleepy pupil give up on staying awake and fall back asleep with an unceremonious crash onto the tabletop.

Victor continued to keep an eye on Yuuri when Yuuri dragged himself back to his room to get changed and ready for the day, and he did his best ninja impression as he followed Yuuri upstairs once he was out of view. He dived into his own room, sliding the door into the hallway open just enough to poke the top of his head through and stare at the door to Yuuri’s room. It wasn’t like Victor had X-ray vision and could see Yuuri inside as he got changed, but he stared at the door and tried to piece together Yuuri’s morning routine from the rustling sounds within. Makkachin padded over to sniff at her foolish owner’s face as he peeked out of his bedroom on his hands and knees, but she gave up on hoping for attention once she realized Victor was completely focused on his silly, pointless task.

When Victor finally heard the sound of Yuuri’s door opening, he shot up with a jump, backing into his own room and trying to look casual as he leaned against the wall inside. He kept his eyes down as Yuuri walked out of his room with his gym bag slung over one shoulder and slid the door open to Victor’s room, and then he saw: Yuuri had his pants rolled up already.

It definitely had to mean something.

After a week of this new habit, Victor came to the conclusion that this had to be a result of the rainy season, and it was probably even for practical reasons. The streets outside were often flooded a few inches with small streams of rainwater, and even though he and Yuuri weren’t outside much when the weather was so awful, it seemed likely that Yuuri was rolling up his pants to keep the bottom of them from getting wet outside. It was possible that once the rainy season kicked in, Yuuri instinctively started rolling up his pants at the start of the day without even thinking about it.

Victor decided to sacrifice himself to test out this theory. If this new development in ankle exposure was a result of the weather outside, then if he could get Yuuri to go outside in some truly terrible weather, would there be any further developments? Would Yuuri start hiking up his pant legs all the way to his knees? He had to know.

--------------

“Yuuri, I want to go to the conbini!”

The weather outside was dreadful. Visibility was near-zero through the sheets of rain cascading down from an ominous grey sky, and it was clear from even a momentary glance outside that the wind was just as bad as the rain, if not worse. There was no way that anyone in their right mind would possibly want to go outside.

It was the perfect opportunity to do just that.

“Victor, what could you possibly need from the conbini at this hour, in this weather?” Yuuri raised a brow and gave him a skeptical look.

“I heard from Ishii-san down the street that the Lawson usually starts putting stickers on food for 50% off at this time of day. Yuuri, I could stock up on breads in one trip and try so many new kinds right now! Can we go?” Victor included his best pleading look, putting all of his energy into channeling the essence of Makkachin when she begged for scraps. Victor didn’t care that much about saving money, to be honest, but he’d learned that Yuuri was a frugal spender, so appealing to his thrifty ways would be a good start to convincing Yuuri to go with him.

“Victor, are you sure? I’ll go with you if you’re serious because I don’t want to leave you out there by yourself, but... We’re going to get completely soaked. What about your clothes?“ Yuuri gestured at the window. “I know you’re always wearing designer clothes with special cleaning instructions and everything, and this weather can’t be good for it,” he said with a frown.

Shit. Victor had studied the best ways to convince Yuuri of all kinds of things, but he’d forgotten that Yuuri had just as much opportunity to think about the reverse, if not more considering how long Yuuri had been his fan. Victor couldn’t back down now, though. This was for science. For Yuuri’s ankles. For Yuuri’s sake, really, so Victor could better understand him as his coach.

“Great thinking, Yuuri! I’ll go get changed into some of my training clothes instead, and then we can head out.” Victor silently applauded himself for his quick thinking. “I know it’ll be pretty bad out there, but I’ve never been in a rainy season before I came here! I want to see what it’s like outside! I mean, when will I get a chance like this again, right?”

Something in Yuuri’s expression darkened for a moment, flitting across his features, but it was gone in an instant. “You’re right, Victor. I’ll go get my coat,” Yuuri said a little stiffly before dashing up Yutopia’s stairs and out of view.

Victor’s theories were once again brought to ruin when Yuuri came back to reluctantly slip on a pair of sneakers and stand beneath the entryway outside, watching the raging storm with a look of dread. Yuuri’s pants were exactly the same as they’d been earlier in the day, rolled up to some precise point that only Yuuri seemed to be able to calculate but no further than that. Victor was no closer to working out a formula to the mystery, and now he had to pay the price for his curiosity.

It was even worse outside than it looked. Victor had to scrunch his eyes against the rain pummeling him from what felt like every direction, and even breathing felt like an ordeal as they struggled forward. Victor had the feeling that the sky itself was trying to drown him from above, with drops of rain somehow getting up his nose and stinging with every breath he tried to take. Trying to take a step forward against the wild winds reminded him of the occasional dreams he had where walking felt like being stuck in slow-motion. Yuuri didn’t seem to be faring any better, and his glasses were almost completely fogged over from the rain.

The Lawson was usually only a 5-minute walk away at most, but it had never felt so far away. By the time they charged in through the doors of the convenience store to the startled “I-irrashaimase” of the store clerk, Victor and Yuuri were so drenched that they left a puddle beneath them where they stood. Victor thought about the damage his hair had just suffered and took a minute of silence to mourn it while Yuuri tried to wipe his glasses off on his sleeve.

“Victor, you were right!” Yuuri had composed himself quicker than Victor, and he stood in front of the shelves of snack breads. “These are all half-off. It’s your lucky day!” Yuuri beamed at him, looking like a complete mess with his hair plastered to his face and his glasses fogging up again, and Victor had never felt more charmed. Suddenly it seemed like a lucky day indeed.

They scooped up a bunch of breads and a few custards into a basket, with Yuuri giving recommendations or putting back items he didn’t think Victor would like. Victor knew they were being loud and way too excited and silly considering the circumstances, but he felt giddy as he watched Yuuri walk around grabbing carb-loaded calorie bombs for Victor. Victor couldn’t stop himself from hugging Yuuri in front of the checkout, and he didn’t even feel offended when Yuuri shrugged him off with a blush and a grumbling complaint about Victor’s clammy wet hands all over him when he was already cold and wet.

When they finished shopping and paid, Victor paused in front of the automatic sensors that would open the doors outside. He did his best to work up the nerve to go back out into the watery hellscape, but he was already soaked through, and not even thoughts of relaxing in the warmth of the onsen back at Yutopia could inspire him to move. He was too proud to give Yuuri any impression that he thought the whole endeavor had been a bad idea, though, so he tried to stay light-hearted.

“I know, Yuuri! Let’s run back and only slow down when we reach a covered area. We’ll have to dash a little bit, but if we go as fast as we can through the open spaces, it should go a little faster and keep us drier, too! It’ll be fun.” He said it partly to reassure himself along with Yuuri.

“I don’t know, Victor, it’s pretty slippery out there.” Yuuri sounded hesitant, but when Victor followed up by teasingly asking if Yuuri just didn’t think he could keep up, Yuuri got that familiar competitive spark in his eyes, tossed the shopping bag into Victor’s arms, and immediately barged outside.

Victor felt like he was a child again as he ran down the sidewalk with Yuuri, stopping to pause under awnings and trees where the rainfall didn’t penetrate as thickly. Yuuri gave him a teasing smile and told Victor he’d need to speed up if he wanted to keep up, and somehow it seemed like they were back at the gates of Yutopia in a flash. Victor didn’t even notice the cold seeping through his clothes as he slowed down to walk under the awning in front of Yutopia.

Yuuri fidgeted in front of the door as he waited for Victor to approach. “Victor,” he started, but he stopped when Victor drew near. Yuuri’s fists clenched by his side for a moment before one hand reached up tentatively. Victor felt the cold brush of Yuuri’s fingers against his forehead as Yuuri wiped a clump of Victor’s fringe out of his face. “You’re ridiculous,” Yuuri said with a soft, fond look in his eyes. If it had been anyone else, Victor would’ve sworn he was about to be kissed, but he was semi-fluent in Yuuri Katsuki now, so he wasn’t disappointed when Yuuri snatched his hand back like it was burning and turned away to go inside with a shout of “Tadaima!

If only Victor could be so fluent in the language of Yuuri’s clothing habits.